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Apple re-thinks iAd, BT sues Google, and Verizon / Netflix? - Telco 2.0 News Review

[Ed: STL Partners would like to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and we hope to see you at one of our events next year. New Digital Economics is coming to Silicon Valley again on the 27th-28th of March, and then we pull into London again on the 12th-13th of June for our spring EMEA event.]

Apple backtracks on their iAds platforms’ controversial business model. You may remember that iAds was intended to be a high-concept, high-touch, but mostly high margin magazine ad service by contrast to Google’s micro-advertising model, and Apple expected the advertisers to commit to buying at least $1 million of ads as the entry ticket. Further, Apple also wanted to keep the pay-per-click model and charge for every touch. It was always going to be interesting to see if this would work, and by extension, whether the whole idea of the iPad as a luxury magazine format for big brands made sense.

It looks like it doesn’t - Cupertino has cut the minimum buy-in from $1m to $500,000 and then to $400,000, introduced a cap on how much advertisers have to pay in pay-per-click, and sent a lot of employees to their media buying agency to learn about the business. Meanwhile, developers who signed up for in-app advertising are complaining that there’s no money in it, mostly because there aren’t enough ads to fill the inventory.

As well as sending Apple people to Madison Avenue, Apple is also bringing advertisers to Apple HQ, where according to the Wall Street Journal they:

concluded the tour with a visit to the Apple company store where they were able to make purchases with a discount

Subsidised shiny - is there nothing it can’t fix? Meanwhile, GigaOM looks over the latest round of rumours about the future of Apple TV and reports essentially that there’s nothing new (detecting devices on a wireless network is Bonjour multicast-DNS, a technology that Apple invented and has been shipping as part of iTunes for a good decade).

Elsewhere, Ars Technica reports that some people have discovered that iMessages are still delivered to iPhones that they no longer use, even if they’ve been remote-wiped and deactivated and a new device is registered to that Apple ID and phone number. Such is the joy of inventing a new authentication mechanism in parallel with the SIM.

And Samsung, its increasingly embittered patent disputes with Apple notwithstanding, has moved production of the Apple A5 chips from China to Austin, Texas, where they have built an enormous new fab. Too bad they didn’t do that with the iPad back panel plant…

Ever wondered about the Indian Web? Here are numbers. We especially like the 30% cash-on-delivery return rate, on the 70% of total e-commerce that’s COD - surely there’s a huge opportunity in mobile payments out there.

ISIS, this week, announced that it’s signed up massive SIM manufacturer Gemalto to support its intercarrier m-payments initiative, both by manufacturing the NFC-enabled SIMs and by writing the management software for the platform.

Google’s rival Google Wallet project is looking decidedly pasty by comparison - it’s stuck with Sprint as its carrier partner (which doesn’t really do SIMs, being non-GSM), the banks seem to be keener on ISIS, and now Gemalto, one of those remarkably important companies nobody outside the trade has ever heard of, has plumped for the competition. No doubt they’ll still be delighted to sell them units, but they’ve chosen their camp. And Verizon Wireless doesn’t want it in their ‘droids. This week, Google Wallet hit some more trouble as security researchers discovered that it stores rather a lot of data in the clear on your device, although at least the card numbers are encrypted. Still, Wallet is meant to be accessible by NFC, and do you really want someone with a souped-up NFC dev kit to know your card balances and last few dozen transactions?

Meanwhile, the enormous consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble has decided to go with a lower-tech solution for its coupons - just put the bar code on the screen and scan it. Apparently quite a lot of shops’ barcode scanners won’t read off a screen for some reason, though, so they’ve signed up a startup whose mobile app will flash the bar code at the reader. Telco 2.0’s always been pleasantly surprised with QR codes and bar codes on screens - we especially recall getting into XOYO’s 1st birthday party with one, to the amazement of the queue, the bouncers, and to be honest, ourselves. But then, QRs are rather different and one presumes from internal evidence their reader had been installed in the last 12 months.

In other payments and transactions news, Trend Micro gives those annoying “Verified by Visa”/”MasterCard SecureCode” popups a richly deserved fisking.

One thing you can pay for on the Internet is of course content. Mmm, content. Would Verizon really buy Netflix? asks Rich Karpinski at Connected Planet. They certainly seem to be plotting something video-related, with the expansion of their TV-anywhere offering (i.e. “not just on FiOS”), their cooperation with DISH satellite TV (i.e. “sensible distribution for mass TV off the fibre footprint”), and their acquisition of more LTE spectrum and the integration of LTE into the satellite devices (i.e “replace the copper and provide the lolcats’n’porn over the airwaves”).

Elsewhere, the Internet Society and the EFF both pile in against SOPA, the latest attempt to legislate away file-sharing (aka “let Google profit from our stuff”). EFF is taking credit for preventing the bill from going through on the nod, and kicking it into the new year.

Meanwhile, a new web tool, YouHaveDownloaded.com, will tell you what your IP address has been used for in BitTorrent. Cue enormous amusement as the RIAA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the French President’s Palace all turn up. (Whoever the Elysée pirate is at least has enough class to insist on loss-free FLAC formats for their music.)

Last week, MegaUpload brought off a PR coup by getting an all-star group of musicians to put out a song endorsing the file-sharing site. This week, Universal Music stuck it with a takedown notice. But it’s not Universal’s copyright? It turns out UMG and Google have a private understanding outside the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that seems to let UMG take down anything it likes and also submit it to the ContentID system, which explains why a news podcast that covered the story was zapped as well. Evenyone’s going to court, but YouTube did tell Ars Technica that they restored the video because the agreement covers “live performances subject to exclusivity”.

And here’s a must-read post from Salford’s finest - and we don’t mean Keith McMahon, but rather the BBC’s user experience design team, on designing the BBC’s iPlayer app for the iPhone. There’s more about the ugly network guts here - we note that the BBC has started transitioning the iPlayer CDN infrastructure over to HTTP Live Streaming with adaptive bitrates rather than Flash.

Trying to design around censorship - a good, critical take on the problems of wireless mesh networks.

In British news, our national incumbent telco has leapt into the patent wars by suing Google over some patents of varying quality. One of them - to “use your location to tailor a list of options or sources to be made available to you” - sounds like the Platonic ideal of a cheeky business-method patent, but “how a device can detect if it is connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi network and then stream data depending on the situation” at least describes some actual functionality, even if picking which of two network interfaces to use on the basis of some criteria describes the basic functionality of all Internet routers in the world, ever.

Those of us with long memories will remember when BT decided it had patented the hyperlink. Well, it’s not as embarrassing as the £1m bill for admin and salaries at “Tech City”. As an honest-to-goodness Silicon Roundabout startup, we can report that we’ve seen not a penny of it.

Meanwhile, Samsung sues Apple again, dipping into its pile of core mobile network patents. Which shows what you can do if you didn’t sell all your bor-ring optical networking assets to Nortel back in the .com boom, eh.

In carrier news, the AT&T-T-Mobile deal looks deader by the day. Theoretically the two operators are looking at what assets they could divest to get past the FCC, but Reuters reports that the talks are going nowhere. Elsewhere, Greek telco OTE sells its stake in Telekom Srbija back to the Serbian government. China Unicom has 196 million subs.

Sonic.net is planning to deploy FTTH into San Francisco, where AT&T’s FTTC rollout is held up by planning permission for the “green monster” street cabinets. It’ll be interesting to see if the objectors are equally offended by Sonic’s equipment and if not, whether AT&T has the cheek to file its own planning grievance.

Telstra has licences to deploy in various Asian markets, notably Singapore and Japan. And The Voice of Broadband reviews the upshot of NSN’s sale of its broadband access business to Adtran.

Did you know ETSI is still doing interoperability plugfests for IMS? We remember our first back in 2005…

Up in the cloud, Emerson Power reckons there are 500,000 data centres in the world.

Todd Hoff from High Scalability has an interesting writeup of this even more interesting presentation on keeping Netflix flying - a must read if you’re interested in big cloud systems and online video. Which you should be if you’re reading this.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services deploys into Brazil with a new South American availability region based in Sao Paulo.

Denouncing cloudwash.

In voice news, the FCC held a seminar last week on the future of the PSTN. You can watch the video and download the documents here. Meanwhile, Americans annoyed by political campaigns’ robocalls retaliated with a website that lets you robocall the entirety of Congress and the President.

Here’s an interesting Voice 2.0 app - Mercedes Benz’s advertising agency devised a web-based game to promote their cars, and at one point, you need to make a call from within the game (which is within your web browser, let’s remember). It’s all done with Tropo.com and the Phono jQuery SDK. Also from the Tropo blog, Zapier is a platform for mashing up enterprise applications.

Meanwhile, Google + gets improved group video features and more Android integration, with the useful feature that you can archive Google + Hangout video to your YouTube channel. We seem to remember suggesting that this would be one of the features Microsoft might want to give Skype….

Get a good API, says Hurwitz & Associates, and expect up to 70% more traffic to your Web app.

Sprint flees CarrierIQ. The full list of affected devices, at least for the US. Google kills off 10,000 premium-SMS dialler apps. Microsoft apps for your iPad. Migrating out of Del.icio.us. Facebook’s Timeline - it might just seem like a blog, but this is complicated when you started out being all key-value and eventually-consistent… The IPv6 Buddy, an extra keyboard with the double colon as a key! A jQuery plugin for making network maps. Your strangest programming language features. Top 10 RSS tricks of the year. Fake-antivirus scammers and their user interface requirements.

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