Ring! Ring! Hot News, 20th April 2009
In Today's Issue: Nokia profits fall 90%; Intel: stockpile cleared, fabs fabbing again; Sony Ericsson in widely predicted dire straits; S60 for Intel Atom; EasyMeet, Nokia's mobile collaboration app; IMS fans come over all Telco 2.0; no fibre, no fibre, no fibre for you!; Dunston flogging CPW telecoms interests; Tesco: target CPW!; Time Warner drops metered broadband; Verizon sues fibre-cutting hacksaw ghost, seeks acquisitions, publishes LTE gadget spec; AT&T pals with Telkom; Vodafone in court over Telkom; AT&T loves iPhones too much; Telenor pours billions into Indian buildout; tearful PCCW shareholders in court; Skype to IPO; EU: give us the mobile VoIP; ORG signs up Amazon and Wikipedia to anti-Phorm alliance; CPW censors trade union web site; better voicemail for Gphones; HOWTO convert from S60 Web Runtime to iPhone; meet the first Apple Mac botnet
Nokia results are out, and unsurprisingly given the economic crisis, they were awful. Net profits were down 90% with sales plummeting, and sales at Nokia Siemens Networks were pretty bad as well; it may be true that the Eurovendors have still got it, but it's also true that the big contracts that have been announced recently have all gone to Alcatel-Lucent or Ericsson. However, the good news is that according to Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the market is "no longer falling in an uncontrolled manner".
Now there's confidence for you. He may have a point; last week, the CEO of Intel said that the excess stock in their supply chain had now cleared, and therefore that orders from the PC industry were rolling in again. Stockbuilding is a key indicator of the business cycle, and the tightly-coupled supply chains of companies like Dell are ideally suited to transmit fluctuations in demand; this may be good news.
Compare the position at Sony Ericsson, where they aren't just losing volume or margin, they're also losing market share. As we predicted after MWC, the crunch is especially crunchy for the vendors who specialise in the mid-market; the smartphone business has held up better, and the fatter margins on them mean that Nokia has scope to cut prices, and the ultra-cheap end is supported by subscriber acquisition in Africa and Asia, so the brunt of the overall pressure on demand is concentrated on the middle.
Speaking of Intel, and for that matter Nokia, the Symbian Foundation (that's Nokia in its dancing shoes these days) has persuaded Symbian S60 to run on the Intel Atom, the cheap as chips chip that drives the world's netbooks. They claim they don't aim to replicate Wintel, but aren't saying too much and what they will do. But either an Atom-powered smartphone/webpuck, or else an S60 tiny laptop, would make sense. (So, a bit like a Psion then...what did happen to them?)
Meanwhile, the code monkeys at Nokia Beta Labs came up with an interesting application - Easy Meet is a collaboration suite for mobile devices which lets users view and scribble on each other's powerpoint slides at a distance. You may remember this as being one of the favourite example applications for early IMS...speaking of which, even the remaining IMS fans think that the "telco of the future will be a software company".
BT, notably, likes to boast about going from "telco to softco"; however, they still aren't keen on fibre. Ian Livingston told the "Digital Britain Forum" that there was no demand for fibre-to-the-home; how there can be demand for something which isn't supplied is a paradox he didn't address. As Benoit Felten pointed out, if only there was real broadband in London, the video stream of his words might have worked.
Of course, one of the best arguments for open-access fibre is that we need it to save the ISP. In the UK, where the ISP business model is at its shakiest, it looks like, the land grab being over, Charles Dunstone wants to sell his ISP interests. However, it's possible that the retail bit might not be such a great deal any more; Tesco is planning to expand its telecoms retail operation in a big way.
Relatedly, Time Warner Cable has pulled back from imposing a bandwidth cap; as Wired points out, however, their costs for bandwidth actually fell 10 per cent last year despite both subscribers and revenue growing.
Verizon, meanwhile, is responding to last week's Bay Area mega-backhoe incident in the way it best knows how. They're going to sue. They're not sure who to sue yet; but they're going to sue anyway. They're also in the mood for an ill-advised monster foreign acquisition, it looks like. And they are publishing specs for LTE devices on their Open Development Initiative Web site.
Rivals AT&T are planning a push into Africa through a partnership with Telkom of South Africa, aiming to provide services to multinational companies operating there. Vodafone, of course, is trying to buy a chunk of Telkom, which is interesting when you note that Verizon has ruled out that the big deal could be buying Vodafone out of Verizon Wireless. (AT&T is also planning to extend its deal for the iPhone and concentrate on mobility in general.)
There is, however, some trouble on the way as a South African trade union takes legal action to stop the deal. Telenor, however, seems to do these things better; they're about to raise their stake in Indian mobile operator Unitech Wireless and kick in another $2.4bn of CAPEX.
Dramatic hearings in a Hong Kong court over the deal under which Richard Li and China Netcom are taking PCCW private; shareholders allege they were "mistreated".
The Open Rights Group has recently adopted a new strategy in protesting against Phorm; target high-traffic Web sites and demand that they exclude themselves from Phorm's traffic profiling, so as to render the information Phorm collects less valuable. So far they've got Amazon signed up, and it's hardly surprising that the Wikimedia Foundation signed as well. They're waiting on replies from Yahoo!, Microsoft, Facebook, Bebo, and Google.
On a similar theme, Carphone Warehouse has been using its internal IT system's cybernanny to stop people there reading evil things. Pornography. Nazis. And their trade union's web site.
Better voice & messaging; someone's done a better voicemail application for the G1 Googlephone. There's a HOWTO on converting S60 Web Runtime widgets to iPhone ones at Forum Nokia. And we have the first botnet made of Macs.