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Vodarizon, Google I/O, AWS Redshift, Yahoo! x Tumblr: Telco 2.0 News Review

Have you booked your ticket for our EMEA event yet? Here’s the video review from last year’s show.

Vodafone results: “keep VZW” team buoyed by bag of cash

Waiting for the Vodafone results shoe to drop. It’s going to be an important moment for the Vodarizon story; last week, Verizon agreed to pay a £2.1bn divvy from Verizon Wireless to Vodafone, which will no doubt help. On the other hand, it’ll strengthen the camp that argues Verizon Wireless is too good to give up, especially if the alternative is more assets in bombed-out Mediterranean economies. Even SFR doesn’t look such a good idea in the light of the horrible macroeconomy.

That said, Vodacom had good news from South Africa, with its full year profits up 23%, driven by higher data revenues. Safaricom, meanwhile, reported full-year results - and its revenue from M-PESA is actually more than data, messaging, and fixed-line services combined.

In India, the government is planning to install 3,000 new cell sites in the country’s Maoist guerrilla zones, as part of a counter-insurgency strategy. They will be shared between the operators.

Optus, in Australia, outlines its 4G rollout plan. Complicatedly, they’re planning to do both FD-LTE (can we call it “classic” yet?) and also the TD version. Interestingly, they’re borrowing a trick from Softbank here - apparently they were impressed by Softbank’s 29,000-tower TD rollout, and as we blogged, Sprint/Softbank’s spectrum plan is to use FD-LTE for coverage and voice, and TD-LTE for capacity.

Or you could just do WiFi. Benoit Felten blogs an interesting presentation and extracts the following chart. The dark blue sector is data usage over non-carrier WiFi, the purple is cellular data, the rest is carrier WiFi.


Also, nice use of small-multiple charts, the visualisation solution today’s kids are going crazy for. In the light of the upcoming EU roaming consultation, though, perhaps this far simpler chart is more important.

Screenshot from 2013-05-20 11:46:08.png

Google I/O: not much product, quite a lot to think about

It was Google I/O week, and their developer conference was light on new products but rich in significance. We’re going to be discussing this in depth in a forthcoming Executive Briefing, so we’re only going to touch on it here. There was no new Android major version, not much news about Chrome, and many people remarked on the surprisingly low profile of the Google Glass wearable system.

That said, Google consolidated all its messaging products into the Hangouts feature of Google +, which itself benefited from a new look and feel. (And in case you wondered, Google Voice incoming calls show up in G+.) Google Maps underwent radical changes, aiming to create a map for everyone and every place. Apart from a major look-and-feel review, this means that the content of the maps will now be dynamically generated based on your search history.

But we thought the point of a map was to show you things you didn’t already know? This concern with predictive, push-notification applications ran through everything. Search is meant to get more like that, for example, and Google Now is really a preview of the vision.

A lot of Google products are getting a new look and feel, and here’s an excellent interview with Matias Duarte, the Android design chief responsible for a new company-wide UX strategy. That said, the inimitable WTF Mobile Web points out that the new look leaves something to be desired, even on the flagship Google +.

Ars Technica points out that Google may not have pushed a new Android major version, but it has updated many of the in-house Google apps, and that this represents a new update strategy to deal with the fragmentation of the Android installed base.

One thing we’re tracking at the moment is the growing Silicon Valley fascination with predictive, push-notification, ambient applications, and interestingly, a groundswell of scepticism and pushback against it. Facebook Home is one case in point. Another is the distinctly muted response to Google Glass. Both tendencies are illustrated in this ReadWriteWeb piece on Salesforce.com, and by the man who gave up Facebook “likes”.

Another facet of this on show at Google I/O was Google’s increasing interest in monolithic, packaged apps rather than the open Web. A good overview is here - messaging no longer supports XMPP federation (and how long will SIP last?), calendars and groupware don’t support CalDAV any more, some elements of the mapping/visualisation toolchain only cough up geocoding for other Google products, not for generic KML, spreadsheets don’t support user-generated apps any more. And they’ll decide which of your photos are best, and change them to be better, including making automatic animated GIFs. There’s no way that could possibly go wrong.

Part of the upshot - another row, this time with Microsoft. After Larry Page was so sad about all the negativity, too.

Cloud: New Google products, but AWS is already ahead

Up in the cloud, Google announced a range of new IaaS products, complementing the PaaS App Engine. The biggest was their Cloud Datastore…but was that the new Spanner columnar database technology Google published about not so long ago? If so, it was a radical step forwards. But it wasn’t, it’s the BigTable system they’ve had for some years, which is NoSQL rather than NewSQL, and weakly consistent rather than transactional. Apparently, they’ve “yet to decide how to surface Spanner”.

Amazon, meanwhile, already has a giant-scale column store in the field. Here’s a fascinating and highly technical blog post about working with AWS Redshift. You get the feeling AWS cloud products are the latest and greatest while Google’s are a somewhat dumbed-down version.

Meanwhile, they responded to the Google announcement in the obvious Amazon way, by slashing prices on the DynamoDB product and doing a feature dump on the Elastic Transcoder video ingestion service.

High Scalability has a fascinating talk about really high scalability that argues for something like a router design with segregated control and data planes for software.

Smartphones: 95% of Android profits go to Samsung

After all the Google I/O news, a sobering note: according to Strategy Analytics, 95% of global profits from Android smartphones in Q1 ended up inside Samsung.

4 weeks after launch, 10 million Samsung Galaxy S4s have shipped. It’s impressive, but the iPhone 5 did 5 million in the first three days. And those were to end users, not just into operators’ inventory.

It looks like Apple is draining the supply chain of MacBook Airs ahead of their WWDC event, strongly implying that a new MacBook will drop at the show, especially as a new Intel CPU in that class will be launched in the meantime.

Meanwhile, AT&T is going to drop the HTC First “Facebook phone” once the existing stocks are cleared. And the Facebook Home app is riding high at 16,877 in the charts. We were sceptical.

You should be able to buy a Jolla/Sailfish neo-N9 for €399 in Europe later this year. The Jolla team are essentially all ex-Nokians, so this is Nokia’s former employees and former software versus Nokia’s existing team. Only one can win (and it’s probably the one with the manufacturing and distribution).

NEC has the world’s first liquid-cooled smartphone, which as well as being gloriously overengineered means if you drop it will bleed. And here’s a solution that helps your phone identify gestures.

Look out! Malware signed with a valid Apple developer ID.

Content: Yahoo! buys Tumblr for $1.1bn

In content news, Yahoo! is spending a billion on skinny blog host Tumblr, while DirecTV is looking at buying Hulu, again.

In the Yahoo! announcement, Marissa Mayer promised to “not to screw it up”, alluding to the fate of a lot of Y! acquisitions. Well, this is going to be a challenge, as the company had $13m in revenue last year and Yahoo! has just spent $1.1bn on it. As seems to be typical, it’s also had $125m in funding from earlier rounds, so at the moment the ratio of its total equity funding to its revenue is over 1000/1.

Horace continues his exploration of iTunes data. It seems that as the iTunes user base grows, lower-spending users are being drawn in and cheap apps are making up more of the business relative to expensive content.


Indie record labels are delighted with streaming as a business.

Dan Rayburn’s event is coming up this week, usually a goldmine of data on CDN. We’re publishing an Executive Briefing into Mobile CDN’s later this week.

And Airbnb was struggling in 2009 until they realised they needed better photos of their upstream customers’ homes. Three points - as the post says, this was an example of “design thinking” rather than engineering. Secondly, Airbnb is a two-sided business, and going to see the upstream customers with a professional photographer is an example of looking after the upstreams, an important discipline in two-sided business models. And thirdly, how much did better cameras in post-2009 smartphones help?

Please press 1…

Here’s a nice Voice 2.0 story: a British developer has compiled an enormous archive of maps that help you make your way through major companies’ IVRs. His site is here, although you have to say it could really, really do with a click-to-call API. Readers with a reasonably long memory will recall that this was the original idea for Fonolo.

BlackBerry Messenger is officially an app for iOS and Android users. In parallel, BlackBerry announced BBM Channels, a broadcast function for the messaging network that lets you create a public stream of messages, content, etc independent of your own profile.

OnSIP tries measuring voice quality and latency on T-Mobile USA’s network. Nothing good results.

Making people dread the Rays

How do you convince people the WiFi is making them ill? A scientific experiment explains how.

Two emergency security updates for Internet Explorer.

Square’s cash register.

Zap your brain to win at computer games.

US investors “find Silicon Roundabout untidy”. Alternatively, all we need is “investors, infrastructure, community, talent, and identity”, so no pressure…

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