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More ‘Forkdroids’; the power of HTML5; ‘dialler wars’ - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. To whet your appetite for our next Brainstorms in New York (5th-6th October) and London (9th-10th November) here’s a short video we made at the Spring 2011 Brainstorms.

It includes clips from senior execs from AT&T, Google, Telefonica and Telus talking about what they got out of the Brainstorm experience.]

Now, back to the ‘Forkdroids’ (OSs based on Android, using its open-source components but replacing the Google-specific apps and services): they’re here, there, and everywhere! After Baidu, Alibaba.com, Amazon, and QQ have all announced their own Android devices with their own special flavour. There are also a couple of ODMs who are planning their own take on it (Xiaomi and Tabco). Even if the idea of direct-to-consumer sales without boring telcos is even less likely to work than it was for Google itself (or Nokia), it seems to be true that once they broke the seal, everyone would do their own version. Rather like the original Unix, in many ways.

QQ’s version starts with advantages - they have an enormous and engaged user base and great brand values. It will be more than interesting to see both how well they do, and also to what extent any of these translate on the other side of the great firewall.

Meanwhile, Google’s practices with regard to Android source code have been confirmed after an internal presentation turned up in their lawsuit with Oracle. Google released data on the distribution of Android versions - Telco 2.0 would like to point out that it really is getting silly that our Android device still hasn’t got the upgrade from 2.1 and that our operator could really get a move on.

Ovum analysts expect Android to pass Apple for app downloads this year. The US Army likes it more and more. Stripping down the new Motorola Droid Bionic. LG is struggling.

We mentioned huge B2B site Alibaba.com, which has joined the wave of forkdroids. Its CEO, Jack Ma, denied being behind the sacking of Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz. Yahoo! owns 40% of Alibaba and Ma wanted them to sell the shares back to him, while the two parties also disagreed over the ownership of Alibaba’s payments processing business.

TelecomTV has a nice summary of Bartz’s foul-mouthed and chaotic exit and the general sense of turmoil at Yahoo! Elsewhere, there’s a summary of Yahoo! product launches during Bartz’s tenure, which is oddly telco-ish in its general conservatism. It is worth noting that Yahoo! as a tech company did come up with some innovative developer tools, but their product innovation hasn’t matched the improvements to their platform.

The new owners of Del.icio.us talk to the New York Times. Users will be delighted to know that there’s been one sign of a future for the service: the excellent Firefox extension now works again. Ars Technica discusses the possibilities of a merger with AOL, but concludes that it’s worryingly close to a coalition of the losers.

AOL, for its part, is having a violent row with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, a week after putting $10m of the firm’s money at the disposal of his new VC fund.

Elserwhere in the Valley, John Pazckowski of AllThingsD points out that iPhone 5 or no iPhone 5, there is little sign that sales of the existing iPhones are falling off at all, with even the iPhone 3GS still doing worthwhile business.

Daring Fireball joins the line-up of tech bloggers who have noticed that Apple is a very good industrial company, and points out that the “Steve Jobs” elements of the company - bevelled corners, black turtlenecks etc - can be copied while the “Tim Cook” bits - the supply chain, hardware engineering, manufacturing - can only be copied at enormous expense. He also makes the point that Apple benefits not just from scale but also from a high degree of commonality between products.

Adobe’s Flash media server, a workhorse product for practically everything online video, will support the HTTP Live Streaming standard developed by Apple out of the box and will be able to stream Flash content either as such or transcoded into HLS.

On the other hand, Apple is the much sought after third ecosystem in the UK, with Android winning the summer and RIM in second place according to Kantar Worldpanel’s numbers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that demand for BlackBerrys is booming in emerging markets, giving Indonesia as an example. AllThingsD reports BlackBerry Bold 9900 sales are coming on rather well, even if they’re concentrated in the business sector. That’s RIM’s core business, right?

There was, once, a pretty good mobile mapping application called Nokia Maps. Then it became Ovi Maps, gained more features, developed some odd things (like the website that only worked on MS Windows)…but now it’s just called Nokia Maps again. What’s really interesting, though, is that the whole feature set has been ported to a Web application. So even if you’re not using a Nokia, you can use Nokia Maps. On your iPhone. On your ‘droid, or BlackBerry, or whatever. As long as it has a proper Web browser, it will work and there’s nothing Apple can do to stop you. It’s the power of HTML5 for you. (We’ve just tried it at maps.nokia.com - it’s fast.)

Mind you, we don’t yet know if it supports one of the best loved features of the old Nokia/Ovi Maps. S60 users could pre-load their mapping, or indeed download it to a PC and sideload it, so as to avoid paying monstrous data roaming charges and to be able to use the mapping where no network coverage was available. After all, isn’t it pretty fundamental that you use a map if you’re in the wilds or somewhere foreign? HTML5 does have the capability to store persistent data locally, in either file or database form, so…

Nokians are also about to get a bundle of Microsoft applications ported to Symbian. Notably it includes the client for the Lync unicomms product, but only for instant messaging - no voice and no Skype as yet. It does look like Symbian is hanging on a while longer, though. Ewan at MIR discusses the potential pricing of Nokia Windows Phones when they eventually land, and points out both that the upfront price is effectively determined by the carriers and that they might choose to be generous with subsidy in order to boost a competitor to Apple and Google.

Over at GigaOm, Getjar CEO Ilja Laurs reckons that operators will soon become wholesale bit-pipes and that either mobile platform vendors or software will take over the dialler.

Interestingly enough, British Asterisk specialist Integrics, responsible for the current record biggest Asterisk installation, have launched their own mobile client app for Android devices that provides a full-featured unified comms client to go with their Enswitch voice platform. Taking over the dialler? Surely.

Fring tweaks its group video chat feature to be more like Google +.

Here’s some detailed coverage of the Microsoft-Skype deal. All that’s holding the transaction up now is clearance from the European Commission. Jim Courtney discusses the issues involved. And a Skype support point-of-contact has appeared on Twitter.

Bought a TouchPad at full price? HP is now offering refunds to anyone who did as long as they aren’t an HP employee.

In the carrier world, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam didn’t quite deny that there was any interest in a merger with Vodafone.

AT&T, according to the WSJ Deals Blog, is arguing that T-Mobile isn’t a meaningful competitor and therefore that there can be no objection to their merger. Sprint, meanwhile, sued to block the deal.

Telefonica reorganised this week, creating two operating groups for Europe and Latin America, putting Spanish execs in charge of what used to be called “Telefonica O2 Europe”, and establishing a new Digital division to be based in London, as a container for all its….Telco 2.0…activities. (“Video, advertising, health, finserv, M2M, and cloud”, apparently.) Vodafone, for its part, launched an R&D centre in Silicon Valley with a test network wired back to Newbury.

Iliad has failed in a court bid to stop the auction of 4G spectrum in France. Rogers Wireless has applied to become a bank, while 3UK is complaining to OFCOM that it’s been excluded from the British operators’ mobile payments JV.

Bharti Airtel, having bought the former Zain assets in east Africa, is having to offer free money transfers to drive traffic on their mobile money transfer service. We can’t help but think “Airtel Money” is a bit of a disappointing brand compared with the old “Zain Zap!” Meanwhile, Airtel landed a licence in Rwanda, the country’s third operator.

Leap Wireless’s music service is doing so well they had to cap all other data traffic. O2 More is doing pretty well too.

TalkTalk CEO David Goldie accused BT of deliberately stalling over open access to ducts and poles. Pricing is still meant to appear sometime this month, but there’s no sign yet and if OFCOM gets involved there might be a further delay of more than a year.

In Shanghai, the city government wants to force all new developments to include FTTH.

The international roaming, dual-mode EVDO/UMTS mobile hotspot. MIR clicks “like” on the Huawei e586. Reverse engineering 3UK pricing.

When router vendors have a beef.

Another industry beef is, of course, the great patent row. It turns out that the patents HTC is counter-suing Apple over have been lent it by Google, which has also bought an enormous quantity of restaurant reviews. Ars Technica has an excellent round-up article here. IBM, meanwhile strikes and signs up WellPoint as a massive source of health data.

Is Google about to announce a new programming language? High Scalability has a great discussion of the Google App Engine pricing changes. Is there a conflict of interest between users and the GAE scheduler and perhaps even the Googlebot itself? And do we need a Big Data applications platform?

Data centre investment in the UK surges 25 per cent. No wonder Internap is feeling confident in their organic growth plan.

Archiveteam hackers are determined to rescue your old data. Ubiquisys demonstrates some interesting femtocell apps. Data centre survival on 9/11.

And finally, the PowerPoint slides from Winston Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” speech.

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