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May 31, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed: New ‘Roadmap to Telco 2.0’ strategy report available now here.]

China has reached 900 million mobile phone subscribers in April, according to the Ministry of the Information Industry. So far, only 67 million of those are on a 3G network - this perhaps doesn’t say much for the wisdom of the MII’s massive reorganisation of the industry, forcing China Mobile to give up its UMTS network, etc. But the 900 million subs are there - a massive, undeniable demographic fact.

The UK market looks a bit pathetic compared to this. But there’s already one of the world’s biggest streamers of high-definition TV - the BBC iPlayer - and there’s the 2012 Olympic Games coming up. So there’s a good chance that whatever happens next in online video will happen right here. BT announced this week that it’s going to (finally) deploy IP multicast throughout its backbone network.

Interestingly, BT says that it didn’t do this before because it was relying on the DVB-T digital broadcast TV network to carry big TV events for its own BT Vision subscribers. Now, however, after they secured the right to offer live football on BT Vision, and in preparation for 2012, it looks like the cost of securing enough DVB-T bandwidth is prohibitive. Of course, without a very fancy set-top box solution, broadcast TV doesn’t help shifting all that over-the-top video. Multicast, however, can do this and BT plans to offer the service commercially, as part of its Content Connect CDN product.

This may all be a bit late, though, as new entrants make an appearance on the UK fibre scene. Benoit Felten says HyperOptic, which is focusing on London, “could be another HKBN” if it plays its cards right.

Meanwhile, Adobe has released its Extensible Metadata Platform to the ISO in order to create an open standard for content metadata. And Samsung is trying to seed the market for its SmartHub 3D TVs and other gadgets by offering buyers some special 3D content.

Verizon Wireless, for its part, is obviously feeling confident about its LTE network, as they’re bundling a Netflix streaming app with each HTC Revolution ‘droid they ship. You’ll need to get in quick to land one with an uncapped data plan, though. Of course, if Netflix is paying Verizon, that would both be impressively two-sided and also a good reason to push the content right to the base of the cell tower.

Google formally announced its much trailed NFC play this week. Google Wallet, a partnership with Citigroup, MasterCard, First Data, and Sprint, will provide an NFC mobile wallet application. They claim to have 300,000 merchant locations and to support various loyalty card systems.

The big issue here is whether this will be just another attempt to do “mobile wallet”. NFC is regularly re-announced by various alphabet soup groups of vendors, operators, and banks as the next big thing, but so far, it’s been a money pit. If you consider Google to be a vendor, this is the same setup and it’s not obvious why it would work any better this time. NTT DoCoMo actually bought a chunk of one of Japan’s biggest credit card issuers to try and get this going.

On the other hand, perhaps Google Offers, which was announced together with Google Wallet, might be worth having. This is Google’s Groupon-clone. The combination of the two makes interesting things possible around localised/targeted advertising and marketing, and could also be a reason to actually bother with the NFC app from a user point of view. The Achilles heel of NFC and RFID has always been a lack of anything like a use case.

But wait! A solution! Meet the world’s first home-shopping theme park, where the visitors will be able to query information about any object they meet using a “Technological Education Device” and then, of course, buy it. That device is, by the way, running Android.

In the wake of the announcement, it turned out that Google had originally considered using PayPal as a payments option for the Android Market and then - when this fell down - poached several key staff from PayPal to build their own. PayPal is now suing, alleging that Google stole trade secrets from them. It’s more fun than a “home shopping theme park”, any road.

Further, Google VP of Payments, Osama Bedier promised that they would “work with carriers” to get the handsets deployed rather than bypassing them. (Clearly the Nexus One experience left a mark.) That would be one of the chaps at the centre of the PayPal row, by the way.

Distimo reckons that the Android Marketplace is one of the hardest to make money in. As well as the structurally high level of free apps, it seems that it’s far less likely for any given app to make it into the hit parade. This is something we discussed at the Americas Telco 2.0 event - apps, as far as the big two app stores go, are a hits business rather than a long tail business.

Fascinatingly, the number of individual apps that get promoted in the top 10 and top 300 lists is much higher for the Apple app stores (both iPhone and iPad) than it is for their competitors. RIM’s App World comes off worst in this comparison, with Android doing just slightly better, while Nokia’s Ovi was actually quite good at it, coming in second behind Apple. This may reflect a genuine difference in philosophy - a priori, you’d expect Google to think in terms of search and Apple to think in terms of big brands.

Google has also been booting apps off the market recently - there are quite a few, some very popular, that provide an emulator for classic game consoles. The problem is that the console, its software, and the games are very proprietary indeed and it’s likely that Google is worrying about lawsuits.

Over at Apple, are they deliberately making local Web applications slow? It seems that the JavaScript engine used to run locally-hosted widgets (like WAC) is slower than the one in the iPhone’s web browser and has some interesting bugs - almost as if Apple didn’t want to let random web developers bypass the App Store.

Is Microsoft making more money from Android than from WP7? The story is that HTC has apparently settled a lawsuit with Microsoft by agreeing to pay them $5 per ‘droid. There’s more here, and both a sort-of confirmation and some more information here. If a comment there is believable, Microsoft is trying to assert patents regarding using a FAT32 filesystem on an SD card, which would be essentially everybody.

There’s some talk about the announcement of “Mango”, the long awaited WP7 update, here, and a review of progress with both WP7 and MeeGo here.

The non-smartphone market - it’s stagnating and the fastest growing vendor is “Other”.

Are 6% of UK Internet users relying on dongles? Telco 2.0 senior associate and sage of the UK broadband market, Keith McMahon, says no - rather, OFCOM’s survey design means that some WLAN users are being counted in with the cellular-dongle people.

France Telecom is expecting a succession of hard years, as it faces intense competition and needs to finance €18.5 billion in capital investment. They are therefore not expecting over 1% growth before 2014.

AT&T has a 78 page questionnaire to fill in regarding the T-Mobile acquisition, as the FCC demands a wide range of information on their spectrum policies, pricing, numbering plans, and much more.

Here’s an interesting story: Cox Communications, the US cable operator, has given up its effort to become a mobile network operator. This comes after a remarkably slow, although Huawei-powered, rollout. Instead, they’re just going to go wholesale instead.

Skype announced this week that Skype for Asterisk is no longer going to be supported. Tim Panton has an interesting post on the limited extent to which Skype ever did really support integration with Asterisk.

Phil Wolff has a fine example of the art of data visualisation, reorganising charts from Skype’s updated S-1 filings. The original shows that there is a significant drop-off in SkypeOut usage after the first year - but not that usage growth for the remaining users compensates for this after that.

Watch out for the phonetic VoIP hackers.

Voxbone has got the job of deploying the United Nations’ +888 country code for their disaster relief activities.

Tropo is starting a new series of posts on developing voice applications with their API and Python’s Django framework. Worth reading.

Voice & Messaging 1.0 watch: CIX, the storied bulletin-board service provider, is still going 25 years on and has just been sold to indie ISP ICUKnet, who want to radically overhaul it and (among other things) integrate it on smartphones.

Amazon Web Services pulls a One2One and brings about a self-inflicted denial-of-service attack. They offered cut-price Lady Gaga songs for anyone who wanted to move their stuff into Cloud Drive, which saturated their uplinks and brought the whole thing to a grinding halt.

In other AWS news, IPv6 support lands for Elastic Load Balancer, and Route 53 DNS goes generally available.

How Evernote scales up to handle enormous amounts of data.

Lockheed hacked. Apple iOS 4 hacked. The news, hacked. Sony, unhacked some time this week. KPN DPI in trouble with the law. Wall Street mispriced LinkedIn - downwards? South Tyneside Council: tougher than the Iranian secret police.

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May 26, 2011

Mobile Broadband Economics: LTE ‘Not Enough’

Innovation appears to be flourishing in mobile broadband. At the Telco 2.0 EMEA Executive Brainstorm earlier this month we saw working applications that enable a.) users to monitor and control their network usage and services and b.) operators to support ‘dynamic pricing’. Despite growing enthusiasm for LTE, delegates considered offloading traffic and network sharing strategies as at least as effective in managing costs. See the full analysis on our research site.

Ericsson’s Mobile Broadband ‘Fuel Gauge’
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May 23, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review: Chinese iPhone + new tech bubble?

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed. Diary reminder: next Telco 2.0 Best Practice Live! free virtual event is on 28th-29th June, covering Cloud Services, Digital Entertainment 2.0, Mobile Broadband Networks, Mobile Apps and Appstores, site here.]

China Mobile and Apple have agreed to do an iPhone that supports the Chinese TDD flavour of LTE, although they haven’t decided when. This would knock open a market of 600 million subscribers and significantly help China Mobile in its aim of keeping GSM subscribers from leaking to the new owners of their 3G network at China Unicom. However, it’s also obvious that only a relatively small subset of that user base could afford an iPhone, and this may reignite rumours that Apple might do a cheaper version. Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless strongly suggested that the next lot of iPhones will be LTE/UMTS/GSM/CDMA “world phones” - as long as Qualcomm’s chips are ready in time.

In other Apple news, their users’ brains behave as if they were undergoing a religious experience when they see a Mac, which is hardly surprising - but now it’s SCIENCE, dammit.

Meanwhile, there’s more talk about over-the-air provisioned Apple SIMs, and three workers were killed when the Foxconn factory that produces the iPad 2 blew up, after an “accumulation of dust” met a spark.

Verizon Wireless announced its first Windows Mobile 7 phone this week, the HTC Trophy, which has the typical set of hardware features based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor, including multi-radio support for both Verizon’s EVDO network and GSM up to HSPA. Multiradio is available, it’s just that Apple isn’t satisfied with the performance yet.

Not surprisingly, Nokia WP7 phones will also be built on Qualcomm chips. Time was, Nokia and Qualcomm were suing each constantly. Things have changed. The rumour of the week, of course, is that Microsoft might buy all of Nokia except NSN.

Silicon firm Omnivision announced a new mobile device camera module. It’s sampling now and will be in full rate production in the second half of this year, and the interesting bit is that it will record HD video at 1080p. Uplinks, watch out!

In the latest news from the smartphone scoreboard, Gartner reckons that only Apple iOS and Android are outgrowing the market overall. Symbian and RIM are struggling, and MS Windows Phone 7 has sold a mighty 1.6m devices so far. Asymco, meanwhile, points out that although Apple is taking a huge share of the profits pool, and vendors like HTC and LG are shipping vast quantities of devices, RIM is doing better in maintaining its margins - while Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, and LG are struggling to make money at all and Nokia’s going that way. They also have a truly excellent chart here and make the point that smartphones are still a big-brand business here.

Despite that, Vodafone has announced an own-brand Android for £80.

Sony Ericsson may be struggling, but few people are complaining about their latest lineup of phones. Vodafone New Zealand announced this week that the first shipment of Xperia Play devices have all been stolen.

Duelling rumour analysis: Boy Genius Report reckons the RIM PlayBook is a disaster and it’s missed sales targets by 90%, while also running up a huge rate of returns. RIM denies it. Silicon Alley Insider claims it’s selling far better than the Motorola Xoom and returns are normal.

Gadget review: Computer Weekly is pleased with the INQ Cloud Touch.

Sony announced a loss on its annual results, which were brought forward after the Japanese earthquake and the PSN security fiasco. Although the PSN is back on line, yet more security problems keep turning up. It turns out that you can get a new password for any account if you’ve got the e-mail address and date of birth - and every user’s e-mail and DOB are in the leaked data.

Meanwhile, hackers swarmed over Sony operating companies’ websites. Sony BMG Greece’s SonyMusic.gr cracked and leaked a large quantity of user data. F-Secure Labs discovered a credit-card phishing site operating inside a Sony server in Thailand. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Last week, LinkedIn went public in what turned out to be the bubbliest tech IPO for years. The shares doubled on day one, which will surprise some of its users who are more used to getting endless spam from the social network for suits. There’s an interesting discussion here as to whether LinkedIn’s bankers gave it full value, but the big question is surely whether we’re heading into Bubble 2.0.

On that score, legendary investor Steve Blank says yes, but argues that it’s a good thing - he thinks we’re in 1995 rather than Christmas, 1999, and points out that startups these days tend to hit the market when they have started making money. We don’t agree with everything he says (far from it) but it’s certainly worth reading.

Over in the core infrastructure, Benoit Felten notes the big divide in the politics of fibre deployment: central government says no, local government says yes. British MPs are onto the same theme - why is Broadband UK working on a “new framework agreement” when the JANET, NEN, and regional government ones exist already?

In the US, Owens Corning says that it’s struggling to keep up with demand after Verizon ordered about 20% more fibre than expected. Verizon’s CTO also said that he didn’t think you should use WLAN to cover up coverage problems and then promised to do just that, saying that they wanted subscribers to transition onto WLAN at home and in major venues.

Meanwhile, Sandvine estimates that about half the US’s Internet traffic consists of streaming video or audio, with P2P systems accounting for 18%. Interestingly, streaming video has taken over from web browsing as the biggest application by bulk - although this is a question of definitions, as most of that will be viewed as part of a web experience and some of it will be transported as HTTP progressive download. The biggest chunk of that is accounted for by Netflix streaming.

Vodafone and EverythingEverywhere are appealing against cuts to their termination fees and O2 is supporting their crusade. BT and 3UK, meanwhile, are lobbying the regulator in favour of the cuts.

Data point time: US operators Windstream and Zayo reckon that the demand for bandwidth for an average cell site is now 31Mbps per operator tenant - that’s up from 19Mbps a year ago. Their cell sites have an average of 1.5 operators’ equipment up the mast, making a total of 46.5Mbps and a strong case for investing in fibre. Not that long ago, the number was 4Mbps from the traditional pair of E-1 lines.

Data point the second: the costs of smart grid deployment have been revised upwards and so have the returns.

TalkTalk announced solid results, with EBITDA and revenues climbing steadily despite a loss of subscribers, and better revenues in broadband making up for losses in voice. Safaricom announced revenues up 12.9% and subscriber growth of 8.8%, but most of that was swallowed up by spending on the network. Subscribers and revenue from M-PESA are growing at 50% annually.

Telia is not keen on free VoIP services running over its LTE network. It’s keener on using LTE in the 1800MHz band along with DTAG and FTel. And AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is expecting “5 years of chaos”.

Google has been heavily criticised over dodgy online pharmacy adverts it accepted. It’s also abandoned its project to digitise newspaper archives, and it’s decided to give up on face recognition. You might think there was a certain loss of confidence around. On the other hand, the mobile Web version of Google Maps has just got many of the features of the Android app.

IBM has been saying for a while that business analytics and big data are a huge opportunity, and it just added another $100 million for R&D in this field.

Apple is buying another data centre even before the famous iDatacenter even takes the field. Facebook simulates its own data centres in its data centre in order to decide what to do. Terremark’s CEO resigns. Zynga develops in the cloud but deploys in house.

On Twitter, IBM’s Viswanath Srikanth says:

“Every 600 phones, means a new server in data center” - Cloud Computing being driven strongly by smartphones; tablets

And the government doesn’t know how many data centres it has or who owns them. However, they’re hiring the man responsible for The Guardian’s web activities.

Nokia terminates Ovi. Struggling with dongles. 100 terabits a second. Understanding Twitter spam. Doing speech-to-text in the cloud with Tropo.

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May 20, 2011

Telco 2.0 Strategy: New Growth needs New Metrics

‘What gets measured gets done’, and telcos need to use new metrics to uncover and develop new sources of value. They also need to make WAC a ‘JFDI’ initiative. These and other top level Telco 2.0 strategic themes from the May 2011 EMEA Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in our summary here.

Different Business Models Need Different Metrics
CROIC Chart Chris B may 2011.png
Source: STL Partners Presentation13th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, London, May 2011
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Amazon: the Hidden Empire

Readers who’ve been with us for any length of time will be aware that Telco 2.0 is fascinated by Amazon.com - the masters of two-sided business models, Internet retailing, and cloud-based developer platforms, to say nothing of engineering really enormous Web sites. We’ve written about them here, on transactions and platforms, here, about content delivery networks, here, on the Amazon Kindle, and here, here, and here on Amazon’s business model in general. And it was a real honour to have CTO Werner Vogels address the Telco 2.0 events. You can watch the video here.

So we think you’ll appreciate this presentation from FaberNovel as much as we did.

Amazon.com: the Hidden Empire
View more presentations from faberNovel

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May 17, 2011

Putting it in plain English: Customer Experience Management matters

This is a guest post by Alex Hawker, Global Head of Sales, Business Solutions, Nokia Siemens Networks, summarising key points that he made at last week’s New Digital Economics Executive Brainstorm in London.

Everywhere I look in our industry, I see an amazing pace of change. It’s really a brand new world out there and in the past year, in particular, there is no doubt that quality has become king. We are getting that message from many different sources. One of them is our Nokia Siemens Networks 2010 Business Needs Study, which showed that ‘Improve customer experience’ is the top business goal of 82% of CSPs.

So providing quality is more important than ever for CSPs, because their customers see quality, or more specifically, poor quality and the resulting poor experience, as the driver behind the growing tendency to churn and decreasing levels of customer loyalty. According to another study we conducted, the 2010 Acquisition and Retention Study, 40% of high value customers, so 4 in 10, are likely to churn within a year. The result is a steady erosion of loyalty and satisfaction, which are going down at a rate of 2% year on year.

From the same study, we have seen another related change. How customers perceive quality, so how they feel about the quality of their services, is now the most important retention driver in advanced markets, taking a back set to price, for example. In markets with strong mobile broadband growth, the number of people who cite quality as the number one reason to stay with their CSP has doubled since 2009.

So, what does this mean for the CSP business? In short, there is every reason to invest in experience, at the very least to counter the growing cost of retaining customers, and especially high value customers. Our 2010 Operational Efficiency Benchmark, another regular study that we conduct, showed that the cost to retain a customer is actually growing faster than the cost to acquire one, and is now 18% higher on average per contract customer in mature markets. In absolute terms, the average handset subsidy to retain a contract customer is 163 EUR compared with a cost of 138 EUR to acquire them.

Our benchmark also highlighted the common practice of offering a smartphone to contract customers if they extend their contract for another period. One European CSP mentioned that this is how they retain 90% of their contract customers. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for loyalty.

So, is there an alternative? Well, I think there is one, and that is to create an excellent experience throughout each and every stage of the customer life cycle, differentiated for each customer or customer segment. This approach is both more sustainable and more profitable.

But it doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by design. The more deeply CSPs understand and predict their customers’ expectations, behaviour and value, the better the customer experience they can provide. But first, they need to be able to correlate data from the network, devices and customer perception with the impact on customer experience and their business. Using this insight they can take the right action to achieve the right outcome, all in an immediate and unbroken real-time feedback loop.

But is this happening today? Our Business Evolution Study shows that 66% of CSPs do not actively use the data available in their network. Identity and profile data, which are essential to gain customer insight, are not widely collected, and while the collection of network-related data is stronger, it is not necessarily used to generate actionable insight into customer behaviour.

So, there is an opportunity here for CSPs to take greater advantage of the data in their systems. Taking data from multiple sources, they can turn it into insight about the actual experience, the perceived experience, and the impact on loyalty. Then they can link this insight to concrete business actions based on real-time, automated, personalized and proactive business processes, which are the key to driving an excellent customer experience.

Which is the imperative for our industry - and what the CSPs need to address.

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May 16, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review: ‘Micro-Skype’ Round-Up; Google Music & more

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

To badly mis-quote Monty Python “No-one expects the acquisition”, and after the rumours about either Google or Facebook, it turned out to be Microsoft that bought Skype, for $8.5bn. It sounds like a lot of money, especially when you think that this is the second time the founders have had a payout, but as Telco 2.0 ally Dean Bubley pointed out at our event last week (next events here), it’s the same price-earnings ratio as Cisco’s acquisition of WebEx was and nobody thinks that was a waste of money.

Skype will become a Microsoft division in its own right, rather than being folded into the vastly loss-making Online Services division or Windows Live or somewhere else, and CEO Tony Jacobs will report directly to none other than Steve Ballmer. So it looks like it’s quite a priority for Microsoft.

This is the biggest ever deal for Microsoft and must be considered to be a major strategic move into - you can’t get around it - telecoms.

Skype Journal covered the press conference - note some very Telco 2.0-ish slides regarding the future of voice and messaging. Phil Wolff has more reaction. Computing points out that, excluding some exceptional items that will probably become irrelevant within Microsoft, Skype could have been significantly profitable in 2010 - the work we did for the forthcoming Skype Executive Briefing agrees with this, showing that the company’s gross profitability is surprisingly strong although it has been spending heavily.

Dan York remarks on the end of Skype’s rebel phase. Om Malik looks back on its history and his relationship with it. It’s probably worth noting here that Telco 2.0 itself is a start-up that started-up on Skype - back in 2006-2007, it would have been true to say that this company existed as a network of Skype identities constantly messaging each other.

Skype’s now former owner Ben Horowitz points out that Google launched video for Google Talk and Apple launched FaceTime, but Skype just kept growing as if nothing had happened. He can afford to be optimistic, having more than quadrupled his money in 18 months. (So, it would seem, can Canadian pensioners, as their investment fund had a piece of the deal.)

Is the acquisition of PowerPoint, back in 1987, a model? Perhaps - especially if Microsoft is gambling that Skype is the future of meetings and will be as ubiquitous in business as PowerPoint presentations, and perhaps even as annoying…

For contrarian analysis, the Guardian’s Charles Arthur plays Eeyore the sad donkey - Microsoft is bound to ruin Skype, they won’t be able to sort out integration of Xbox Live or MSN Messenger, the Office division barons will reject integrating it into Office Communications Server or Lync or Outlook. And the P2P technology is “inherently unreliable” - although two major outages in its history compares well to many other services.

Elsewhere this week, it was Google I/O time. Google made very sure to keep the delegates happy, by slipping a Samsung Galaxy Tab in every bag. Beyond the shiny, Google announced the cloud-based music locker hackers had discovered a few months back. They were complaining about some rights holders being “unreasonable” - i.e. they wouldn’t licence them songs - but the related movie rental app that goes into the Android Market this week has got Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, and Warner Brothers on board.

In generic tech announcements, Google said that a version of Android was coming that would bridge the divide between the phone and tablet versions, and also showed off some home automation projects based on the operating system.

Last year’s biggest flash in the pan was surely Google TV (you may remember Google asked the vendors nicely not to bring their new gadgets to CTIA for fear of embarrassment), and unsurprisingly there’s a new version coming with a new user interface.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit between Skyhook and Google has caused the release of embarrassing e-mails, in which Google executives as good as admit that the Android Market is their way of keeping some control over the OS and therefore influencing the telcos’ behaviour. An enormous amount of detail is in this instant-classic blog post.

That said, I/O saw some enhancements to discovery within the Market. Google also boasted of performance enhancements in Chrome, but as this piece points out, they’re highly nonstandard. No wonder some people think Google’s turning into Microsoft - right down to the enterprise focus.

Google’s latest enterprise product is the Chromebook, a Chrome OS netbook with a full house of cloud-based applications. It’s provided as a service - $28/seat/month - including all the upgrades and maintenance you can eat. However, as ZDNet’s Ed Bott points out, there are plenty of flaws in this plan.

It’s an Intel Atom netbook, for a start, which rules out any applications that involve serious power - especially as they’ve got to run in the web browser. Can you do video-editing, serious graphics, software development in a compiled language, engineering CAD, etc in a browser? And it’s pricey - for the cost of one IT accounting period’s worth of Chromebook, you could just (as they say) get a Mac and not worry about what happens if the network goes down, you can’t find a decent WLAN hotspot on the road, or the cloud infrastructure suddenly has kittens like Amazon Web Services did the other week.

This point should be quite embarrassing for Google - this is the company where you need approval from the CTO to run Windows and where a large percentage of their PC fleet is made up of Apple hardware. Why? Because they save on cleaning up broken Windows boxes, administering Patch Tuesday, policing malware outbreaks etc. It reminds us of our mother’s advice about kitchenware. “Get a big, sharp knife. Whatever else you have, you’ll use a big, sharp knife every time you cook. So get a good one.”

Failure seems to stalk the clouds at the moment. Last week it was Google’s turn. Blogger experienced a 20.5 hour outage last week during which nothing new could be published, and some users’ data was corrupted, after a maintenance software release went wrong. For a while, there were fears that some of the content was gone for good, but as far as we know it was eventually restored from backups.

More worryingly for anyone considering moving their business’s IT to those Chromebooks, the problems also affected Google Docs. And, for a while on Friday, YouTube was returning a lot of 502: Temporarily Unavailable errors. It certainly looks like there was some sort of disturbance in the force, as if a million cute kittens cried out and were silenced. Mind you, Google’s presentation on energy efficiency in the data centre is pretty cool.

The CloudFail kept coming: Twitter reported it was struggling with “stability issues”, although it’s never had Google’s rock solid track record.

Telcos talk a good game about high availability, but the FAIL struck there, as well. Fans of hardcore 3GPP core networking will love this crash inquiry on Verizon Wireless’s LTE outage two weeks back. Was it the Nokia Siemens Networks HSS, the Cisco Systems PDN, or someone else’s customer information system? A little more here.

After weeks on end, Sony began to bring back the PlayStation Network this week. To begin with, the voice and messaging is coming online, but the credit-card functionality in the app store won’t be back for a while longer. Check out this interview with an admittedly cranky Bruce Schneier:

“Everyone is probably equally sucky,” he said of network security in general. “Some may be better than others.

“Unfortunately, the moral here is that you give your information to a third-party, blindly trusting them, a bank, a credit card company, a phone company, Amazon, J. Crew, or Sony. You are blindingly trusting that they will use the information wisely and secure it. And you have no say how they do that and you have no recourse if they f*** up.” But, the famously cynical Schneier adds, “Even with all of that, most people are really safe all of the time.”

There’s an interesting timeline of the whole fiasco here, although it doesn’t really say much more than “this could have happened, or something else could”. Meanwhile, it is speculated that the attack was launched from Amazon’s cloud computing service, EC2.

And the FAIL struck Microsoft, too: Microsoft apologised this week after its Business Productivity Online Service cloud failed, taking out customers’ cloud-based MS Exchange servers after weeks of slowly degrading performance. As one user pointed out, it may only be e-mail but the CEO only uses e-mail.

Fortunately, through all this, the FAILBlog stayed up. How did they do it? High Scalability has a great post on their video serving partner, Viddler, and how they serve bulk online video. They also have a post on HOWTO build a genuinely geographically diverse database system in Amazon Web Services. Don’t have nightmares.

Computer Weekly reports that Hewlett-Packard’s cloud and data centre products are almost entirely based on the technologies it acquired when it bought 3Com - $2.7bn well spent. And Intel announces OpenCL, a standard language for parallel computing.

Microsoft has been trying to make friends with Android and iOS developers, most recently by launching an SDK for people who want to build applications for those platforms based in the MS Azure cloud. Also, when hackers got fed up of waiting for WinPhone 7 updates and came up with an unofficial version, they refrained from using the Redmond death star on them and instead announced that they would “work with them” to sort out the official update because they’re “a clever bunch”.

Asymco Horace remains the web’s leading purveyor of smartphone-market line charts. This time, the take-home is that the crisis at Nokia is as bad as you feared. Something seems to have happened in Q1 2011 causing their shipments to dive as steeply as they did as the world went into recession in 2008. What can it mean?

Perhaps that they still think painting a phone pink and sticking Elle magazine branding on it will sell it to women.

Meanwhile, meet Apple, RIM, and HTC, the smartphone market’s growth stars, while literally everyone else is fighting for stagnation at best. He also has a crack at analysing his readership. Informa T&M goes to BlackBerry World. Apple organisation: only the CFO is responsible for costs, and every project has one and only one Directly Responsible Individual.

They also have some interesting LBS/advertising ideas.

It’s probably time for some packet pushing. In Hong Kong, they’re selling 1Gbps fibre in the street, but did you know you can get it in Turkey? The Senate hearings on AT&T-T-Mobile. Randall Stephenson claims prices will go down, but if that’s true, why is his company pointedly not promising to maintain the existing T-Mobile rate card? If the deal does break down, AT&T will have to fork out a $6bn break clause.

Meanwhile, you’ve heard of mobile operators buying subscriber growth with shiny gadgets. It’s less common that they just hand out raw cash, but Sprint is doing just that. Churn to Sprint, and you get a $175 golden hello if you’re a business customer. Intel, meanwhile, is quietly selling its Clearwire shares.

We’ve said this before, but here it is again: it’s not spectrum that gets you capacity, it’s cell subdivision.

And everyone’s favourite blogging ISP exec has a new product - an XML interface to BT’s provisioning system that lets him turn around service requests involving the incumbent faster than the incumbent can.

It’s always amazing how the content world manages to make things more difficult. The EFF reports on the legalities of music-locker services. Apparently, in order to keep the music industry happy, it is strictly forbidden to de-duplicate the stuff people upload - so every user has to have an identical copy of Bad Romance. Somewhere, another ton of coal is being shovelled into a power station furnace for this.

The LimeWire lawsuit has been resolved peacefully. The RIAA had demanded some $75bn in damages from the P2P filesharing company, which earned them a certain amount of scorn from the judge in the case. Eventually they agreed to accept $105 million in full and final settlement, 0.14% of their initial demand. Perhaps LimeWire should have held out on them a while longer, as at that rate the RIAA would have been paying them if the case had gone on another week.

Technicolor has pulled out of YouView, while former YouView boss Anthony Rose has launched a startup manned by YouView software engineers to bring “social recommendation” to the TV. He gave a fascinating presentation at last week’s event, too.

Jamie Zawinski is not entirely satisfied with YouTube’s privacy policy and believes it could be improved.

Integrics, builders of really big Voice 2.0 systems, have launched version 3.5 of Enswitch, their Asterisk-based telephony platform. Meanwhile, if you have Cisco desktop phones, watch out - there is a critical bug in Asterisk 1.8.4 that could let hackers activate the phone on the hook and listen to your conversations. Improving Google Voice.

Facebook has been caught using PR giant Burston-Marseller to smear Google as being a privacy menace. The PR firm has now terminated the relationship and says it regrets ever being involved. Follow the mess here. Mind you, they were let off a privacy case this week.

More trouble for NBN Co chief Mike Quigley in the Alcatel bribery case. What Symbian knows about your location. Regulator…to industry executive, in a bound! Are personal data regulators doing more harm than good?

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May 10, 2011

Guest Post: Minu’trade

Minu’trade is a Brazilian startup that specialises in new ways of generating customer loyalty, responding to a market which saw a simultaneous boom in GSM and credit card penetration. Air Miles and other existing loyalty schemes weren’t relevant to the great majority of the new middle class customer base. So they invented their own, mobile-centric version.

Read about it here (pdf). Minu’trade will be presenting at tomorrow’s New Digital Economics EMEA Event in London.

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May 9, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed. Telco 2.0’s EMEA Brainstorm is in London this week from Weds 11th to Friday 13th May, covering growth strategy, cloud, mobile broadband economics, online video, connected TV, M2M, Mobile Apps, customer experience and personal data. There’s also an evening AppCircus developer showcase event. If you can’t make it in person, you can now participate virtually - watch the presentations live online and even take part in the voting remotely and in real-time, from the comfort of your own desktop. Contact us for details

Apple is the world’s most valuable brand, as if you hadn’t guessed by now. The story is based on a “brand index” compiled by advertising agency WPP - one may well be sceptical of this sort of thing, but it’s hard to say that Apple’s brand isn’t enormously famous and surrounded by a gigantic user cult.

More seriously, Asymco has some notes about an under-reported feature of Apple - it’s a tight ship operationally, not leaking very much money in any direction. And it earns about $23 for every dollar it spends on product development. Actually, its R&D spending is surprisingly low, about 9% of revenue - but its resources are, of course, concentrated on very few product lines. It’s probable that an Apple product benefits from much more development spending than an equivalent SKU from the competition.

That has some downsides - notably that it enforces a premium price point, and requires a one-size-fits-all approach to each segment. But it seems to be going OK so far. At least until Steve Jobs leaves the building. Meanwhile, Chinese students survey working conditions at Foxconn. It’s not pretty. Elsewhere in China, a riot broke out at the Beijing Apple store in the queue for iPads. And here’s HOWTO use your iPad with Microsoft SharePoint.

IDC’s Q1 scorecard for smartphones in western Europe is out. Nokia’s sales are sliding 10% year-on-year in a market for all phones growing at 5%, while the smartphone sector grew 76% (how long before we stop using the word smartphone, you might well ask). Nokia’s smartphone market share has gone from 57% to 19.6% in two years.

Europe’s biggest handset maker is now Samsung and the fastest growing is HTC. The biggest platform is Android, with 35.7%, followed by Apple iOS on 20%, and then Symbian and BlackBerry OS.

It was the Nokia AGM this week, and Helsingin Sanomat reports CEO Stephen Elop as saying that Nokia tried to sign up a range of partners for MeeGo, including HTC, RIM, LG, Samsung, and Motorola, but that they were concerned that Nokia had too much influence over its development. 4 out of those 5 companies are heavily committed to Android, and two are also committed to Windows Phone, so you may wish to apply a credibility adjustment to this statement.

Also, this remark from Elop is not enormously encouraging:

“Data security and privacy are very important for us, and we need to take care of it in all of our business activities. We have comprehensive means for securing the privacy and data security of our consumers. Our phones have a completely different operating system than the Windows that is in a computer.”

Elsewhere, Steve Ballmer announced that RIM is going to integrate Microsoft’s Bing search and mapping product (isn’t that actually Nokia Ovi Maps now?) on its devices (i.e. “bookmark the search page” or is this too cynical?). Others think they need new management.

Microsoft might not be the place to look, though, as iOS and OS X out-earn Windows. On the other hand, things have come a long way since Paul Allen’s day, and here’s a chance to hear about the beginnings of Microsoft from the horse’s mouth. Including possibly the best quote about Steve Ballmer ever:

I had run into Steve a few times at Harvard, where he and Bill were close. The first time we met face-to-face, I thought, This guy looks like an operative for the N.K.V.D.

In the Android sphere, Sony Ericsson has announced the latest lot of Xperia phones. They’re keeping the Xperia Mini brand from the hit X10, and the Mini Pro gets a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Both run Android 2.3/Gingerbread and get a new Facebook app.

On the other hand, the Xperia Play (aka the PlayStation phone) has had some trouble getting to the start line after it failed O2 UK’s conformance tests at the last minute. After multiple firmware updates, the gadget should now be on its way.

The data fiasco at Sony’s PlayStation Network shows no sign of ending - the date for turning the service back on was put back again on Friday, while 2,500 records from the database were leaked on to the Web. IT forensics consultants have been called in, and the time-to-restore is now given as the end of the month. The impact has so far knocked back Sony’s shares by 6% and cost the company over a billion dollars.

In the other great data fiasco of the last few weeks, there’s now a solution for Android users worried about the phone reporting their location to Google: an app that implements a user-configurable firewall, so you can only approve the call-out to Google’s AGPS server when you specifically want GPS. The app also does full-disk encryption and you can get it here. Meanwhile, Apple has pushed out a software update to address the issue, and therefore avoided being raided by South Korean police.

Android Market is up to 295,000 apps, with 64% being free.

The app that spies on your driving for the insurance company. UK cell-site locations and the gentle art of burying useful information. Apparently, all UK local authorities receive lists of cell-sites on their patch, but most of them don’t do anything with the list…

EverythingEverywhere will be working on its cellsites pretty soon - they’ve hired Huawei to do a forklift upgrade of their 2G network, moving the whole thing to an all-IP transport, and putting in place the infrastructure for a Huawei 4G network.

TomTom in trouble about selling its data to the police in the Netherlands and Australia. Hacking Rapidshare. And find out what Google’s chief privacy engineer has to say.

AT&T had the idea of marketing “Enhanced Backhaul” service. Now there’s something only a telco could come up with. Unfortunately, and just as telco-ishly, there aren’t many cell sites that actually have the enhanced backhaul yet and therefore they’re unwilling to say which ones they are.

Sprint, meanwhile, is planning to appeal to every one of the 51 US states’ Public Utilities Commissions in an effort to stop the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile USA. T-Mob, for its part, is seeing strong (20%) growth in data ARPU but struggling to cope with churn. Its low-cost rivals, Leap and MetroPCS, are doing better now they have greater access to smartphones.

Clearwire is looking a little less pale after a good quarter that saw 1.8 million new subscribers and a $16.1m settlement from Sprint over the wholesale pricing issue. As a result, the plan to sell off a chunk of spectrum has been dropped.

The FCC has been asked to investigate into whether AT&T, among others, counts its own services in the usage cap it’s imposed on its broadband subscribers and whether, if so, this is anti-competitive. KPN, for its part, is threatening to start per-application charging, which will raise the question of whether a YouTube video in a Facebook page is a chargeable video or a non-chargable web page or something else. They seem to be especially hacked off about massive bandwidth hogs like, eh, instant messaging.

Arthur D Little and BNP Paribas reckons that the broadband element of the stimulus plan is a waste, although it’s worth remembering that they’re probably using the infamous definition of broadband as 200Kbps downlink.

Something more effective: an effort to impose a dig-once requirement on US highways.

Telenor has solid results out, with its Asian operations contributing and an unexpected windfall from the much-litigated share in Vimpelcom. TIM Brasil saw its profits up fourfold year-on-year in Q1.

And is upstream charging like hoping oil companies will subsidise cars?

The US telcos’ joint payments venture, ISIS, is being scaled down from a transactions processing network to a pure-play mobile wallet, apparently due to a failure to work out the relationship with Visa and MasterCard or rather, from their merchant customers. More is here.

The European Payments Council has issued a proposed standard for mobile payments security. We’ll be reading it. Of course.

Google, for its part, is talking to merchant terminal maker Ingenico, but it seems more likely that they want to do something NFC-inflected with money-off coupons rather than payments as such.

But then, no amount of security will stop people spending £35 million a year on “virtual flirting”.

In other content news, Vevo has a cunning plan - partner with Google and indeed anyone else who’ll sign up rather than locking the doors. You could call it a…two-sided business model.

For the first time ever, the percentage of US households who have a TV has fallen. Hearst and Conde Nast have signed publishing deals with Apple.

Tech disruption: Intel has demonstrated chips using a three-dimensional transistor design, building upwards off the surface of the silicon wafer. This should keep Moore’s law going a while longer and also have some benefits in terms of power consumption and cooling.

Tech disruption, the second: the World Wide Web Consortium has started a working group on a standard for a serverless Web, in which data could reside on users’ local machines and be distributed through a peer-to-peer network. Fascinatingly, the WG co-chairs are from Google and Ericsson. Some hints about the ideas involved are here and here. The WG web page is here.

Here is a flexible mobile phone. Now that’s a tech disruption, although the user interface is…interesting. However, that was part of the point - the device was intended to let the users define their own gesture controls so they could be studied.

Will Carlos Slim’s Telmex get trust-busted? It may help that his arch rivals in TV have just acquired a small cellular operator. Meanwhile, Netflix is planning to expand into Latin America.

Thinking of building a US data centre? Get in before the 31st of December to win a mammoth tax break.

Rumours are swirling that either Google or Facebook is interested in buying Skype. Everyone is furiously denying everything so far. Phil Wolff thinks it’s a dodgy proposition. A former CTO of Canonical reckons they should leave telephony to telcos.

As occasionally happens, Skype has lost its partner for inbound PSTN interconnect in Brazil.

But far more seriously, there’s a major vulnerability in Skype for Mac, which could be exploited by any Skype node anywhere on the Internet. Does anyone smell technical debt? A fix has been developed, but for some reason neither announced nor pushed out through the automatic update process. Skype for Mac users are strongly advised to go to skype.com and install the new version.

Skype on your TV. A glimpse of their database architecture. Is Skype investing in Voice 2.0 clue and better voicemail?

Elite founder David Braben and the $15 education computer. Pricing mobile service like insurance. Groupon: is two-sided.

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May 4, 2011

LTE & Wholesale: Time to Get Aggressive?

In this new free analysis on our research site ‘LTE & Wholesale: Time to Get Aggressive?’, we examine four examples of the growing trend of wholesale-oriented LTE operations, their key challenges and opportunities, and recommend that incumbent operators should be more aggressive in wholesale. More here.

We’ll also be exploring LTE and Wholesale networks further at the 13th Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in London next week, 11th-13th May 2011 - for more or to join us please see here.

Report Extract - Figure 46: Fixed and mobile broadband wholesale revenues

Telco 2.0 Broadband Wholesale Forecast

Source: Telco 2.0 Source: Telco 2.0 New Mobile, Fixed and Wholesale Broadband Business Models Report

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May 3, 2011

Telco 2.0 News Review: Amazon Autopsy and Handling Streaming Video Spikes

Telco 2.0 Top Stories

[Ed. The next EMEA Brainstorm is in London next week from Weds 11th to Friday 13th May, covering cloud, online video, digital entertainment, mobile internet, M2M, Apps, strategy, transformation, and personal data. See you there!]

After last week’s Amazonopocalypse, the clean-up effort is well under way, as are the recriminations. Amazon Web Services’ own report into the outage is here, basically confirming the view the last Telco 2.0 Review took on it. It seems that an internal router got misconfigured, dumping all the primary network traffic into a secondary network, which was swamped. That in turn led to a cascade failure of the control plane which manages the Elastic Block Service across multiple availability zones. Read it for much technical detail about the problems of really big cloud architectures.

It looks like Amazon is undertaking a considerable effort to explain more about the fundamentals of their systems to applications developers - their new Architecture Centre will be holding a succession of conferences on how to design services to work well with AWS. There’s more How I Won the War content here and here - the general tone of shock that AWS Availability Zones aren’t anywhere near as independent as advertised seems to be the same everywhere.

Jeff Atwood notes that Netflix, one of the heaviest AWS users to survive, uses a program called “Chaos Monkey” to randomly turn things off in order to test their systems’ stability. There’s a timely presentation on their architecture here. High Scalability’s list of articles is still being updated, but although there’s lots of How I Won the War out there, there are relatively few How We Completely Failed to Cope pieces - which is surely a missed opportunity.

The closest to that is probably this thread on the AWS Developer Forum from the customer whose cardiology monitoring application was entirely reliant on the US-East AZ. Whoops. Sensible points are made here.

Meanwhile, learn how to serve live streaming video from AWS. If you dare.

Last Friday’s UK Royal Wedding led to very heavy video streaming over the Internet. As a result, this classic NANOG discussion ensued on the challenges of Internet TV, the practicalities of running IP Multicast at very high scale, and the surprisingly complicated ways in which a very sensible technical solution interfaces with the law as regards the contracts between TV stations, content providers, and advertisers.

It seems that a major barrier in global multicast deployment - which everyone agrees would be a huge step towards solving the problems of delivering online video - is that TV stations want to count viewers and the terms of existing contracts enforce that this be done in a way analogous to cable TV. Who knew? There’s obviously an opportunity here.

The death of Osama Bin Laden lead to a very different global TV event this weekend that could have posed performance issues for major video-streaming Web sites. ZDNet UK has a detailed post on technical solutions for live video streaming of this event to its specific and very particular customer group.

Akamai reported that it caused very high levels of traffic, but nothing compared to those achieved during the 2010 World Cup. It looks like the global public prefers football to either monarchy or war, which is probably good news for the future of humanity.

Whatever the future is like, the present still has spammers.

More IP transit consolidation - CenturyLink, which already owns Qwest, just bought Savvis, making that the second merger between Tier-1 ISPs in a month. Renesys notes that this is likely to save a significant number of IP addresses. And here’s some practical experience with IPv6 and a beer festival.

Brough Turner has a useful discussion of paid peering between Google and France Telecom, although you might be forgiven for thinking that the bandwidth wars are a bit of a secondary issue after last weekend didn’t bring the Internet crashing down. Cisco thinks so too, forecasting that mobile data growth will converge down to the rates typically seen on the fixed Internet.

For its part, FTel hit its numbers for the first quarter, with a steady showing in France and good performances from its mobile operations worldwide.

In other operator news, Verizon’s LTE network experienced a major outage. Fortunately, the iPhone 4s were unaffected because they don’t have LTE…

It is, however, worth pointing out that, according to the NANOG thread we quoted, Verizon Wireless’s V-CAST media service is fully multicasted. As so often recently, VZ seems to have a distinct technical lead. (For example, they’re cross-marketing e-health applications with their FiOS fibre product.)

Meanwhile, AT&T’s HSPA uplink speeds compare poorly with T-Mobile’s, and CNET’s Marguerite Reardon has a very detailed round-up of the spectrum issues surrounding their merger. AT&T is being very bullish about the population coverage it could achieve with the additional spectrum, but are they really making use of the spectrum they already have? Also, it’s suggested that the speed gap is down to T-Mobile having been quicker to invest in backhaul fibre.

As Dave Burstein of DSLPrime points out, though, Verizon has a lot more LTE actually rolling out than AT&T even has planned.

In the UK, the planned Sky/TalkTalk fibre network has had the desired effect: BT Openreach announced that its infrastructure access pricing is coming down.

Here’s some M2M news: in Australia, someone stole the USIM from a smart electricity meter and ran up hundreds of thousands of Aussie dollars’ worth of calls. Why voice calls were even provisioned is an interesting question - as is just what Telstra was charging the utility company for its connectivity. That’s a lot of calls. The case, as they say, continues. (In comments, someone asks what would happen if the thief swapped an ordinary retail SIM into the meter…)

In other Australian news, Vodafone is trying to patch up after the outages by offering everyone 12 hours of free SMS.

Outages have been a theme lately, and Sony’s PlayStation Network crisis is still in the headlines. They are cautiously preparing to restart the service, after two weeks of downtime, and are planning to give away a lot of stuff in an effort to win back the users. The rebuild includes physically moving to a new data centre, although this is less dramatic than it sounds - they were already going to move.

On the other hand, they also discovered yet a further massive data leak, with another 25 million users’ data being compromised, including tens of thousands more credit cards. Meanwhile, the hackers have put the stolen card numbers on sale. Frauds are already being reported. What a mess.

There is speculation that the hackers might have been able to control the update process and might have intended to use a botnet of PlayStations to attack SSL keys.

Meanwhile, RIM issued a profit warning, as sales were both disappointing and skewed towards cheaper devices. A general sense of tension was apparent. However, very early reports on PlayBook sales were good. There’s more at ATD, but it’s worth pointing out that we’re still in the “going to shops and looking” phase.

Phone Scoop reviewed the new Bold 9900 and was impressed. Its new OS is apparently now to be known as BlackBerry OS 7 and isn’t backwards compatible, although this isn’t the new QNX-based platform yet as far as we know.

RIM demonstrated that it has a few more tricks up its sleeve, by announcing a new version of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server that can manage fleets of iOS and Android devices as well as BlackBerries.

In the latest news from the smartphone horse race, it looks like Apple and RIM are doing well and Nokia is suffering. At a different level, that of the handset vendors rather than the platforms, HTC is seeing spectacular growth rates.

Horace from Asymco, of course, remains the world’s most ebullient Apple bull. He may well have a point - Time, Inc. agrees to let its subscribers read their magazines on the iPad after all.

Not surprisingly, after Apple and Android were caught collecting enormous volumes of user location data, it turns out Windows Phone does it as well. As a result of the whole affair, Verizon Wireless wants to put a health warning sticker on every smartphone it ships advising you that it could be spying on you and to consult the user manual for advice on how to turn it off.

It could end up like cigarette packets, although how you’d implement that remains unclear. Perhaps a picture of a typical user at the moment a really creepy targeted advert leaps out at them (well discussed here)?

Microsoft’s Q3 numbers are out and everyone noticed that consumer PC shipments fell 8%, with netbooks off 40%.

If Microsoft was the iconic company of the PC years, ARM Holdings would be the one of the embedded and mobile future. If anyone outside the trade had any idea it existed. Their Q1 is in, with revenues surging 30% and margins over 40% as the world fills up with ARM-powered smartphones, tablets, TVs, STBs, cars, you name it.

CNET’s new The Social blog, for which they hired Caroline McCarthy away from Google, reports on a new blog which is trying to come up with new features for Facebook. What strikes us, so far, is that quite a few could be implemented with something like Greasemonkey, purely on the user side (you could call it Acebook, but you won’t make any money), and quite a few others (drag-and-drop group chat) already exist in Skype. Voice, after all, is the original social application.

Thanks to the wide range of voice APIs that are now available, meet OpenVoice, an open-source clone of Google Voice that provides a hackable API and full SIP support. There’s some detail here, with links to the code. So far it uses Tropo for the voice back-end, but the developers want to make it possible to hook up any media server and any carrier.

Google has added video to the Android Google Talk application, and here’s a good discussion from Phil Wolff.

Should you trust SSDs with your data? Jeff Atwood says you shouldn’t, because the failure rate seems to be terrible, but that they’re so fast it’s worth it.

High Scalability makes the excellent point that the real opportunity to compete in the cloud is the admin process involved in building, deploying, managing, and shutting down your systems. Amazon knows this (see CloudFormation). Also in the cloud, Data Center Knowledge reports on Cisco’s new containerised data centre.

Stack Exchange, the platform for big question-and-answer web sites spun out of Stack Overflow, explains how you can improve your SQL and save on data centre capacity. Mozilla announces its new JavaScript engine, a field that’s becoming a highly productive performance arms race.

Microsoft claims that this tool will help you port iOS apps to WP7. Alcatel-Lucent, meanwhile, is giving away the OpenPlug suite that lets Adobe devs automatically generate compiled binary files for iOS, Android, and basically anything else.

The US Army’s militarised app store. And the pain of apps that don’t sell. Fear and loathing in British government IT standardisation.

Shame, Adobe and Skype. The police take over and disable a botnet. Are the specifications of mobile device speakers changing our musical culture? Driving the Arduino hardware hacker toolkit with your iPhone.

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