Ring! Ring! Hot News, 15th December 2008
In Today's Issue: Chinese 3G is go; China Mobile wants to get on to 4G ASAP; Lenovo's mystery iClone; Orascom unwiring North Korea; access line growth stalls, dongles boom; ChinaTel implants CDMA phones in employees' cranium; doom! rush to flog stock; doom! ALU managers slaughtered; doom! US R&D shuttered; Amazon: still investing; government hydroelectricity - it's the secret sauce of cloud computing; EC2 comes to Europe; Mobile Windows Live out; Gphone hits data roamers in the wallet; fascinating new ForNok app; Stallman vs Cisco; Safaricom faces M-PESA audit; more faster Internet now in Holland; Comes With Music hackedAaaand it's here...! The Chinese 3G licences are out, and the complex reorganisation plan associated with it is a go. We liked this quote:
"We think that China Mobile will muddle through in 3G and concentrate all resources on directly leaping into LTE," says a scholar who is part of a government-affiliated industry think tank.You could say that...China Mobile never wanted TD-SCDMA anyway, so the oppportunity to ditch it for LTE will be all the more tempting. As we said not so long ago, the standards wars are over.
Lenovo, having swallowed the IBM PC division, is stepping into the smartphone business with a big-touchscreen gadget supposedly running Google Android. It's rumoured to be exclusive to China Mobile; so is it a TD-SCDMA puck?
Not so far from China, Orascom has just confirmed its reputation as the industry risk lover; after Palestine and Iraq, they're opening a network in North Korea, where mobiles are actually illegal. Apparently the Great Helmsman has promised to let ordinary citizens have them. It shows how far you have to go for subscriber growth these days.
Speaking of which: fixed-line broadband access growth in the UK grinds to a halt. Telco 2.0's Keith McMahon reckons they haven't taken account of the boom in HSPA datadongles, though; update your backhaul before the traffic wave hits. Whilst we're on the subject of subscribers: China Telecom has been accused of forcing its employees to sign up for its new CDMA2000 network.
For everything else, the week's basic theme was doom, as Nokia complained of a frantic rush to get rid of stock at any price. Frantic unit-shifting was blamed on the fear of approaching deflation, a major threat for a business where prices have been falling structurally for 30 years, and the risk of having to take huge accounting charges on the value of inventory. Ben Verwaayen, meanwhile, announced his crisis plan at Alcatel-Lucent, which involves hanging on to the mobile division, consolidating R&D in Europe, and 6,000 layoffs.
(We may be in a world without Bell Labs, Nortel, or General Motors by January.)
Some people are still investing, though; Amazon is buying clue, with the recruitment of database guru James Hamilton (hey, he wrote IBM's C++ compiler) to its infrastructure division, and capacity, with the construction of a giant new containerised data centre in Oregon. The valley of the Columbia River is rapidly becoming a huge concentration of computing power; Google has a huge facility, Amazon is building, Microsoft isn't far. The reason? Cheap, state-owned hydroelectric power and cooling water from the Bonneville Federal Power Administration. Cloud computing is a brutally industrial business. And something like this may be coming to a valley near you, as Amazon pushes EC2 machines out around the world.
Interesting things are happening over at Forum Nokia, where David Caabeiros is showing off an application that tags whatever is in front of the camera with a data overlay. And the Free Software Foundation is suing Cisco about the open-source code used in the hackers' favourite WLAN boxes.
We've said before that mobile payments have special problems. Safaricom's world-famous M-PESA is to be audited by the Kenyan government; its managers say they are keen for the audit to provide further proof of their trustworthiness, as M-PESA operates outside the law as it regards banks. Some might say Safaricom is financially more trustworthy than the Kenyan government, but this is a great example why Orange's strategy of signing up a bank as a partner in each country it has an Orange Money operation is sensible.
Finally, we wondered if there was any way Nokia could make money out of Comes With Music. Here's one way: the DRM has been cracked and it's a great way to fill your boots for Christmas.