Telco 2.0 News Review

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All the 'sparkle' at last week's Mobile World Congress seemed to be about software and developers. While Nokia chose this year to keep off the conference site itself, Google showed up for the first time. Eric Schmidt made a show-stealing keynote speech which we reviewed here after the stardust had fallen from our eyes. Alternative views are here.

In addition, anyone who had anything to do with Google Android had rockstar status, Google told the world that it was willing to invest in 1Gbit FTTH projects, and launched a virtual tour of the Trans-Siberian Railway. To which we can only quote the view of someone on Gordon Cook's listserv, to the effect that telcos spend money on lobbyists and lawyers, but when Google feels the need for influence, it carries out a small but spectacular tech project and everyone loves it.

Further, Telco 2.0 was able to speak to representatives of the LiMo Foundation at the conference.They argued that there was a major effort on to integrate the WAC, JIL, BONDI, and LiMo - so the carrier vision of the future is based on a common set of terms for app developers, an HTML/CSS/JavaScript widgetry layer next to native C development, and a common Linux distribution to drive it all. Samsung is also on board with the idea, only with a different name and a flock of very shiny gadgets. And Phillip Carter, Head of Integrated Terminal Products at Vodafone, is on the new LiMo board.

Even AT&T is selling their gadgets. However, that didn't mean that Google got what it wanted from Android; OHA vendors are very keen on the "free" element of Android, and they're willing to pay for third party technologies to extend this into cheaper devices. Developing better sub-elements of Android is becoming a little industry in itself - at least in part to outflank Google's IPR.

The GSMA and 28 global operators announced the launch of the Wholesale Apps Community, which aims to standardise app stores and technologies around those already chosen by the JIL and BONDI. It's worth noting that Vodafone seems to be a key actor in this effort. Also, everyone needs to watch out for RIM, who produced a fearsome showing of developers and third-party APIs - and a charming little robot. (Also, Mike Lazaridis seems to be worried about staff partying with models. We want to know what they were models of.)

We're especially concerned about RIM's plans for a two-sided in-application advertising platform. Telco 2.0 analysis is here.

Some Nokians were there in the guise of the open-source graphical user interface Qt, which has a book out.

As far as voice went, Skype announced the first clients for Symbian devices, and Telco 2.0 turned its friends into guinea pigs in order to establish a median opinion score of sorts. Verizon Wireless announced a deal to deploy the VoIP application to its customers, and the GSMA said that IMS will fix the LTE voice problem. VZW promised to test it, and also promised that their 2G voice net would run on for 10 years at least.

Rivals Fring, meanwhile, promised a wave of carrier deals, and also had a damn good party.

The world has lost one mobile operating system. Intel and Nokia announced a deal to cooperate on mobile Linux, under which Moblin bites the dust and their technology is rolled into Maemo. The new new thing will be called "Meego". In related news, a new version of Python for S60 is out, and it's the first that lets Python devs release software through the Ovi Store. There's also a library for augmented reality applications on Symbian.

Nokia has also pulled a planned NFC device, a decision we're totally on board with - we've never seen the purpose of these things, especially not for mobile money applications, as they suffer from a terrible first fax problem. We're also amused by the people who plastered QR codes (those things that look like a cubist chessboard and work like a barcode with much more data) as URIs all over the conference site - let us see. It's a URI that's entirely unreadable by human eyes, but that most devices will load automatically, with their entire browser context? What could possibly go wrong?

Comcast's famous and controversial usages caps are apparently being deployed at last. Brough Turner cites data to suggest that the panic is not as close as previously thought - mobile data is going through a step-change like that experienced by Internet traffic in general in 1995-1996 or Japanese Internet traffic when cable, fibre, and ADSL rolled out. Learn more with our new broadband report.

AT&T, it seems, is tracking VZW's plans for LTE steadily.

Cleanup efforts continued after Google Buzz committed a major privacy fail, while a US school district gave away laptops and monitored the kids' homes by keeping the cameras on all the time.

In remarkably mundane operator M&A news, Bharti Airtel wants to buy Zain. And finally, this year's guest of honour, after Lara Dutta and Isabella Rosselini, was Queen Rania of Jordan. They kept her far from the likes of us, but fortunately we had Andrew Bud's society.