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Samsung’s stormer, Map Wars, Lumia Push and ‘Social TV’ - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed. It’s the EMEA Brainstorm in London next week (9th-10th November), and the key themes are: strategies for defending and extending voice, Customer Experience 2.0, M-Commerce 2.0, Cloud 2.0, M2M 2.0, CDNs, Payments 2.0 and dealing with the disruptors - Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft/Skype, and Amazon. We hope to see you there - the speaker line up is fantastic, and it promises to be an extremely stimulating couple of days.]

Samsung announced impressive Q3 results this week, showing strong profitability across its telecoms division in both devices and infrastructure. Unfortunately, they don’t provide a breakdown of device shipments by type, but Strategy Analytics reckons that they were the world No.1 smartphone vendor in Q3, pulling ahead of Apple, and in second place for handset shipments overall behind Nokia with a comfortable lead over LG. Horace Dediu (who’s covering ‘OS Wars’ next week) pieces together the data and reckons that they gained both in volume and in average selling price, and notes that Samsung is quite rapidly increasing the percentage of smartphones in its portfolio - but not as quickly as Sony Ericsson.

Samsung is also planning to launch something using its flexible screen technology next year.

AllThingsD covers HTC’s Q3s, which show an apparently impressive 68% rise in profits. However, it seems that HTC’s average selling price is flat, and the company’s growth is being driven by expansion into China, which suggests that they will struggle to raise their margins and will have to depend on volume. They predicted that Q4 would be tough and promised that they would hold the line above $100 as the entry-level smartphone price point.

The new Nokia Windows phone is here, and it’s very much the design that was repeatedly trailed over the summer and used for the N9. Nokia calls it the Lumia 800, with a slightly lower-spec version to follow as the 710. Nokia’s navigation app, rebranded Nokia Drive, ships with all the devices, as does a new iTunes-clone music player. There’s a highly enthusiastic review here.

Ars Technica reports on the massive channel marketing operation Nokia has prepared to support the new phones, and points out that no Microsoft mobile product has ever had anything similar. On the other hand, Orange UK is offering to give away Xboxes to new Nokia 800 subscribers. Ah, the sweet, sweet smell of vendor financing.

Ars also has some good interviews on why enterprise IT departments still love BlackBerrys. Meanwhile, RIM pushed back the PlayBook OS 2.0 to early next year in an effort to “get it right”.

And Motorola Mobility/Google Hardware is cutting 800 jobs.

We mentioned that Nokia is giving what used to be Nokia Maps, then Maps on Ovi, then Ovi Maps, and then Nokia Maps again a major push. This week, Google made a radical change to the iconic Google Maps API, the wedge of JavaScript that transformed how we work with maps, launched the very idea of mashups, created an entirely new user-interface pattern, and visualised a zillion data sets. From now on, once your app passes 25,000 requests a day or 2,500 for more complex “styled” maps, you’re going to be asked to fork out $4 per 1,000 calls. Alternatively, you can pay $10,000 for a premium licence and unlimited traffic.

As High Earth Orbit points out, not only has Google Maps been historically superb in terms of data quality, geocoding, and service reliability, it’s not as if Google hasn’t tried hard to monetise it with in-map ads. It is argued in comments that Google may be trying to push more app developers to monetise in general via AdSense.

Over at Apple, it looks like they’ve bought a Swedish defence industry spin-off that produces very high quality 3D mapping, and they’re also collecting traffic information - so it would seem quite probable that Apple is going to declare independence from Google Maps on iOS.

And Microsoft is planning to launch a commercial SDK for the Kinect controller very soon, good news for those of us who really want to point a laser at the TV.

Social-TV hype is building fast. Anthony Rose’s Zeebox, local to us in Silicon Roundabout, launched into beta this week. Their USP is that it’s social TV without the special TV - all the action happens on a mobile device or PC in parallel with the stuff on the telly.

Wired’s Tim Carmody tries to decipher the hype and buzz, and argues that TVs aren’t very much like smartphones, but shouldn’t just be big monitors either. His colleague Jon Phillips takes a tour of the new version of Google TV, which will be pushed out as an update to the (very few) Sony and Logitech devices that run it in the next few days.

AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka reports that Google has solved one of Google TV’s biggest problems - the embarrassing lack of content. It’s been reasonably well known that Google has been offering Hollywood producers financing for their new projects in return for the right to distribute them on YouTube, but this is the first time it’s gone official, with a launch expected some time this week.

Horace points out that hardly anyone is buying the TVs, and the people who do often don’t bother to hook them up to the Internet. He argues that the real problem is that TV programmes don’t make use of the additional capabilities of the smart TVs and therefore there’s not much point. Zeebox seems to be trying to address this by pulling in content from third parties, such as the Twitter firehose API and the broader Web.

Elsewhere in content, US cablecos seem to be holding up well against the Internet rivals and doing rather well as ISPs. Visa and MasterCard are thinking about using credit-card transactions to feed some sort of targeted ads play - now that’s going to be the mother of all privacy rows. Mobile advertising takes off - says mobile ads firm.

That all adds up to a lot of broadband. Broadband Trends has a detailed read-out of the FCC’s new Connect America Fund, the successor to the Universal Service Fund. This will be devoted to broadband deployment, and will be somewhat smaller than the USF. At the same time, US fixed intercarrier payments will start to transition from calling-party-pays to bill-and-keep over a period of nine years. There are complex changes to issues like CLI. Dave Burstein has a detailed discussion here - it may be a problem for services like Google Voice if they want to send their numbers as CLI rather than that of a mobile device.

The European Commission has come up with a proposal for harmonised LTE800 bands across Europe. In the UK, this BT R&D presentation suggests that the national carrier is only lukewarm about the technology and sees the TV white spaces as a more likely solution for rural broadband. On the other hand, last week’s rumour that Verizon would soon launch an LTE fixed-wireless service has been confirmed by their CFO. Tech discussion is at Burstein’s.

BT announced this week that it was a year ahead of schedule on its UK FTTC rollout (the paper linked above is interesting on their plans to up speeds on VDSL2). They’ve also recruited 520 more installers.

The Femto Forum appears to be working on a WLAN offload standard, which seems an odd thing for them to be doing until you find out the standard is about letting the mobile network decide when your phone uses the WLAN. Rethink Wireless reports, meanwhile, that AT&T is carrying much more traffic on its WLAN offload network.

Google Fibre may come to Europe. HSPA evolution has a long way to go, says the 3G & 4G Wireless Blog. Optical Ethernet vendor Brocade up for sale - again. The Internet is broken in Pakistan. 150 years of the transcontinental telegraph in the US.

Facebook’s better data centre club, the Open Compute Foundation, launches this week.

Running StackExchange’s fleet of giant question-and-answer sites is a major engineering challenge, and High Scalability reports on how they did it - specifically, they decided not to put anything in the cloud, and claim that running the company in Amazon Web Services would cost 4 times what they’ve spent on hardware.

Amazon reserved instances - they’re what you want if you’re concerned about a comet taking out your Amazon Availability Zone, apparently. For their part, AWS announced more IPv6 support this week. Apple’s iDatacentre may run on solar power. And RIM has integrated Microsoft Office 365 cloud services with BlackBerrys.

In voice news, the Freespee blog reports that you can now buy calls from Google AdWords like you can buy clicks, opening up a new source of advertising options and revenue. Google’s pricing suggests that a call is worth five times a click. There’s more at Search Engine Land, where the point is made that you have to use Google Voice Call Metrics to take part, and that the call-through rate will be used in Google’s ranking algorithms.

Is the new Skype API coming? Dan York thinks so, after Skype cleared the decks this week by rebranding the existing one as “Skype Desktop” rather than “Skype Public” and expanding its “Plugged into Skype” partner branding.

Users of Samsung’s hit Galaxy S II are displeased that it is impossible to turn off the Vlingo voice-command app without root access.

Freespee launched its latest version in a Thursday night deploy, giving it more features, notably the ability to have conditional rules in the dial plan. And Dean Bubley argues that Voice 2.0 needs a lobby of its own.

HP isn’t selling its PC unit any more and might even keep WebOS. Facebook users are mobile. Apple Macs infiltrate the enterprise. Tencent buys into Kaixin001.

Anonymous declares war on Mexican drug cartel. RIM lets the Indian police in. IMSI catchers of Scotland Yard. Loving the BBC Micro. When apps go bad - which should worry you about this Android-powered EPOS terminal. The war on bloggers. Mac GPU malware mines Bitcoins. China denies hacking satellite. A museum of Nokia. Eulogy for Steve Jobs.

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