Ring! Ring! Hot News, 8th December, 2008
In Today's Issue: IWF denounces Wikipedia, mysteriously lets Amazon off; fighting HIV with SMS; Orange launches another m-bank; man literally SMSs arm off; EDGE gets progressively faster; putting ads in your SMS; Facebook as malware-delivery network; unlocked developer G1s; EFF seeks DMCA sicknote for iHackers; Nokia launches N97, prophesies doom; lastminute.com widgets; S60 GPS alerts; AT&T wants two single smartphone platforms; Sprint XOHM - Is an MVNO; Obama presses Keynesian button, Renesys angles for FTTH; should Alcatel-Lucent try doing less?
Digital rights and digital wrongs; the UK's discreet Internet-censorship provider, the Internet Watch Foundation, seems to have accidentally eaten Wikipedia this morning, hilariously due to the cover of a heavy metal album. Some users of participating ISPs are reporting degraded service as literally all the UK's eyeball network traffic tries to make its way through a transparent proxy server (or should that be poxy server?). Killer detail: the album in question is available on Amazon.com and the image appears in Google image searches, and for some strange reason the IWF didn't feel confident enough to nullroute either of these dastardly porn pushers.
In less chuckleheaded news, here's a fine example of what you can do just with SMS. In KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa is using SMS messages as the basis of an anti-HIV campaign. Specifically, they're using an interesting feature that developed locally. As in quite a lot of emerging markets, it's common to send a text message reading "Please Call Me" rather than paying for a call; local mobile operators have taken to offering these messages free of charge and inserting an advert in the remaining 146 characters. Now, instead of an advert for whatever, you get a message about condoms, testing, or anti-retroviral drugs. As KwaZulu-Natal has an HIV rate of 39% and a GSM penetration rate of 80%, you can see the benefits -- especially as the people most likely to use PCM are the poor, who are also most likely to get HIV and the hardest to reach by other media.
In other emerging market news, Orange launched its latest mobile banking operation in the Ivory Coast. As Telco 2.0 speaker Mung Ki-Woo presented at last Mobile World Congress, Orange has evolved something like a standard operating procedure for these. On this occasion, BNP Paribas is the banking partner, which may not be very local but who probably know what to do when a depositor dies and both his wives claim his balance.
It would be remiss not to mention the doctor in the Congo who carried out a difficult operation following instructions sent to him from London by SMS, either. When you think telemedicine, you usually think really, really high-grade teleconferencing/telepresence gear. However, sometimes 160 characters is enough. However, don't forget the EDGE; NSN's latest update to "the poor man's 3G" is now faster than the first version of HSDPA...
God knows what kind of adverts he would have seen had he been using free-SMS social network Wadja, which is trying to answer the question "cool! er, how can we make some money?" by letting advertisers sponsor individual words, a bit like Google AdWords but with SMS messages. (Speaking of social networks, watch out: Facebook is the latest malware delivery network.)
Meanwhile, if you're a developer you can now get an unlocked Gphone, by dint of forking over $424. And then you'll be able to do anything you like to it, including installing a different OS. How soon before someone decides they'd rather have OpenMoko? Things are of course very different in the Apple world, so the EFF is trying to get legal protections for iPhone tinkerers fearing fruity lawyers.
Nokia, meanwhile, launched its new flagship gadget, the N97, and revised down shipments for the year.
In other apps developer news, there's a widget out for Nokias that lets you drive travel site Lastminute.com from your phone. Interesting question -- where's the two-sidedness? If Last had any sense here, they'd sign up the developer as an affiliate and pay them a cut of the incremental sales. But then, if they did that they'd be Amazon.
Symbian developers now have a ready-made application to generate alerts based on GPS location data, which can also be used as a sort of location message bus to call other applications. Not great fun in itself, but more importantly, it could be right handy for developing almost anything location-based.
AT&T, it seems, wants a single platform for smartphones, and rumour has it that it will be Symbian S60. Unfortunately, AT&T also wants to keep the iPhone, so "single" here actually means "two". Things, meanwhile, are stirring beneath the surface of Sprint XOHM: it looks like the service is actually an MVNO and Clearwire is the wholesaler.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama announced a huge public works programme as treatment for the economic crisis. Some of it will apparently go into "broadband", so this article on FTTH as an economic stimulant from the CTO of Renesys is unusually topical. That would, of course, be very good for makers of optical Ethernet kit and big routers -- like Alcatel-Lucent, who are being advised to try doing less in 2009.