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Telco 2.0 News Review: HTC beats Nokia, Cloud & More

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[Ed. We’re nearly over the jet-lag on our return from the excellent New Digital Economics brainstorm in Palo Alto last week of which more soon, so we’re now looking forward exactly one month to the EMEA Brainstorm in London, 11-13 May. Hope to see you there.]

Asymco Horace hails HTC’s market capitalisation overtaking Nokia’s - however, it’s worth pointing out that despite their spectacular, Android-fuelled volume growth, their average selling prices and margins have been flat at best for years. In late 2009 they briefly tried to jack up the prices and restore some margin power but saw their volumes hit a wall. There’s more in our Android executive briefing.

Thankfully, we’ve so far never been the subject of one of his analyst-bashing posts. In the latest instalment, Gartner gets a terrible beating for publishing 2015 forecasts with seven significant figures (!) of accuracy, which assume linear growth rates, that Windows Phone 7 smoothly takes over the entire Symbian market share without either gaining or losing ground net-net, and neither RIM, Android, or Apple iOS devices gain or lose share. Taking other forecasts into account, we can apparently expect Android shipments to peak in 2015 and decline sharply while no other player sees very much change in their market at all, except for Windows, which will see a sharp drop in 2015-2016 and then an equally strong recovery. Very confusing.

Back in the cloud, Facebook announced details of a massive new datacentre infrastructure this week. Like Google before it, the company has found it necessary to design its own servers and its own datacentres, and even its own power supply units. Exact details are at the link.

They’ve also published the designs as open-source specifications as part of the Open Compute Project, an unusual step in the datacentre/cloud world, which tends to be quite secretive. As a result, their work is likely to be available to customers of Dell and Hewlett-Packard’s server businesses, Rackspace hosting, and perhaps many more companies. HP has apparently already got a power supply unit out that implements the spec. There’s a roundup of reactions at Data Center Knowledge (where else?).

Interestingly, they may also be considering moving to ARM chips in their servers, which would permit them to do massively-multicore processing with the low power draw of what are, fundamentally, mobile-optimised devices. At the moment, the barrier is that ARM’s architecture has a hard limit to the maximum size of RAM it uses, and Facebook relies heavily on keeping things in RAM for performance reasons. It’s a fascinating piece, especially when Google’s ‘King of Data Centres’ (not quite his job title but close) weighs in.

Ars Technica points out that some of Google’s secret sauce in software, like MapReduce, was not only replicated by the open source community but bettered, and argues that Facebook (and the other Open Compute Project partners, basically a Silicon Valley who’s who) is hoping for something similar with the hardware designs.

Whatever Dell’s server business may be selling, Dell’s consumer business is buying. It looks like a major cloud play is in the offing, as the company prepares to build a network of big data centres around the world. E-mail archiving, online backup, and remote-desktop sharing are named as possible applications. Elsewhere, Apple is buying a lot of storage, and it looks like Oracle and HP are about to have a hell of a row down Highway 101. Oracle wants to stop supporting its software on Intel Itanium processors, which may not sound relevant to HP until you realise that the main reason to use HP’s flavour of Unix is to run a huge Oracle database on Itanium. As usual in the Valley, it’s co-opetition all the way down to the ground.

What makes the difference between the public and private cloud? Connected Planet reckons that if your customer has more than $1bn in turnover, go private. They also point out that:

It is in the years of trusted relationships that telecoms have built that their true value proposition lies over most other cloud providers. Already AT&T, BT, Orange Business Services and Verizon Business have started to beat out established players from the IT industry for that very reason.

Meanwhile, when biotech firm Genentech needed a really enormous batch job processing, they turned to Amazon Web Services. Consultants Cycle Computing put together a Linux cluster on EC2 with some 10,000 processor cores - enough that it might have briefly made the Top 500 supercomputer list - for eight hours’ protein-folding data mangling. It took 45 minutes to spin the beast up, and the bill came to $8,500. That’s a top 500 supercomputer for less than some suits cost. You couldn’t buy a decent car for that much. No wonder everyone’s obsessed by the cloud. Cycle’s blog post is here.

Amazon celebrated with some new features, for example letting you request EC2 clusters but only start them up when their price is running below a target level (i.e. when Amazon’s infrastructure has spare capacity). Also, four new use cases.

IBM announced its public cloud this week. It comes with a 99.5% availability SLA and consists exclusively of 64 bit Red Hat Linux machines.

In cloud communications news, here’s a nice HOWTO from the Tropo blog on building messaging and publish-subscribe applications with their service and the Redis database. One of their users is Opiniator, which provides Fizzback-like live customer feedback and analytics.

Want to implement IVRs in Skype? Here’s how, with sample code. To general astonishment and disbelief, this week saw an update for the Linux version of Skype, which brings in many of the features that have long been available in the Windows, Mac, and other versions, but not yet the adverts, and fixes a large number of bugs. There’s also a new version for Windows, with bug fixes and a couple of detail improvements.

Toktumi Line2 is targeting Skype with a variety of voice features, such as better integration with the cellular voice network and auto-attendants. We also saw lately that Fring is offering group video conferencing, like Skype, with the exception that it’s free. How long will that last? And here’s Dan York filming himself at EnterpriseConnect.

All this is nothing without connectivity. Here’s some roundup of reactions to Vodafone’s sale of its SFR stake, £7bn worth of just that. Telco 2.0’s Keith McMahon is not happy.

Armenia lost its Internet access last week when a 75-year old woman dug up a cable to steal the copper it didn’t contain. It’s somehow telling that the Russian air force and the massed hackers of the RBN couldn’t knock Georgia off line in the 2008 war, but an old lady with a shovel and a mercenary glint in her eye could take out Armenia without much trouble. (She’d have got Georgia as well had she been further upstream.)

A company is advertising special non-copper cables for use on cell sites, but this surely won’t work as the thieves typically only find out after they move the cables that they are worthless.

RevK curses the week before last’s BT Openreach outage.

Are British subscribers paying too much for mobile service? Billmonitor reckons that on average, they spend £200 worth a year on either overage or else on minutes, messages, or data they never use. Also, there are now 8,134,979 possible tariff options in Britain.

There was an absolute lobbyfest at the FCC’s workshop on inter-carrier pricing. Read on for some interesting shenanigans with termination fees and conference calls. Meanwhile, the FCC is opening gradually to the idea of “signal boosters”, but would much rather have femtocells (as would essentially anyone with any knowledge of mobile networks).

But who needs dodgy radio devices when AT&T iPhones drop two-and-a-half times as many calls as Verizon ones? Interestingly, it’s not the CDMA - Sprint is considerably worse than VZW, and GSM/UMTS operator T-Mobile beats both AT&T and Sprint into second place.

And Google’s acquisition of airline reservation company ITA is clear for take-off with a raft of anti-trust conditions attached. The G has to keep developing the software, hide third-party data from itself (good luck with that), and accept binding arbitration.

Meanwhile, Google attempted to clear up its patent problems by buying up $900 million worth of Nortel’s IPR. They also announced new enterprise device-management features for Android, which will be integrated in Google Apps for Business.

Andy Rubin blogged this week to clarify Google’s position on the various rows about Android, although it’s a statement that’s mostly remarkable for how little it says.

Google is apparently having a reorganisation, AllThingsD reports, in which it would give more authority to product-based divisions that would however all report directly to Larry Page as CEO. It does remind more than a little of the early days when they abolished managers and had all product engineers report straight to the chief engineer - unsurprisingly it didn’t work and Eric Schmidt had to bring back the bureaucrats. Page has now dropped the pilot, of course, and Schmidt is no longer involved in the day-to-day business…

In other Google news, they’ve acquired a music-sync company, Pushlife, which among other things knows how to integrate iTunes with RIM products. Numbers on the Moto Xoom Android tablet. And here’s something amusing - reciting poetry into Google Voice voicemail and blogging its attempt to transcribe it. That particular post seems to suggest that the system tries to classify calls into types, doesn’t it?

Video search firm Blinkx just bought an online ads company, Burst.

Nokia’s long-time PR chief leaves, and is interviewed about making the trip from being a paper company to mobile supremacy and some of the way back. GigaOM has a discussion of dead companies (although the E7 did ship to North American customers this week).

There’s still more trouble at SSL certificate authority Comodo, where even more compromised accounts have been discovered. The EFF’s SSL Observatory also keeps discovering that people have been signing SSL certs for domains that don’t exist. Amusingly, ThreatPost’s own SSL cert has expired, or at least it had when we visited. Fortunately, the UK government’s report-a-pervert page avoided any such risk by just sending everything in the clear.

In ironic security news, MySQL.com got hacked and, inevitably, it was an SQL injection attack, which seems to have disclosed a large number of passwords. As it’s a website for database developers and adminstrators, they are likely to be unusually sensitive. The Epsilon hack, meanwhile, looks like it may cost $100 million to clean up.

There will be no prosecution over the Phorm case.

Apple may not want Adobe Flash on iOS, but they have no such qualms about Adobe’s Creative Suite graphics products. We suspect using an iPad as a video- and photo-editing palette may be quite a lot of fun. Time Warner has had to drop 12 channels from its iPad app. Complaints about Verizon iPad 2 issues are legion.

And Steve Wozniak says he’d be willing to return to Apple.

Dave Birch wars with mobile payments doubters. Google has joined 31 other companies in the NFC Forum, but as Connected Planet asks, does it matter? Perhaps the ISIS NFC trial in Salt Lake City will help answer that.

Here’s an interesting interview on mobile money in Haiti, from the GSMA MMU Blog.

How the Guardian makes data visualisations. Asking the wrong questions about open data. Yes, people are that stupid. Russia, where LiveJournal is the free press. A British government agency finds some personal data rather than losing it, for once. Opera launches better e-mail. The world’s first laptop, 30 years ago this month. How “StartupBritain fooled me”.

And eComm founder Lee Dryburgh needs your help.

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