China's smartphone leap, new global M2M alliance, more pain for RIM, and Network and Cloud outages - Telco 2.0 News Review

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(Ed. Join us next at Digital Arabia in Dubai, 6-7 November. The Agenda covers the Digital Economy, Digital Commerce and Digital Entertainment in the Middle East and North Africa.)

The Chinese Ministry of the Information Industry announced this week that smartphones have overtaken featurephones in the Chinese market. In H1 2012, 195 million phones were shipped and 48% of those were classified as smartphones. Since April, though, each successive month has been over 50% and June hit 56%. The 2G/3G split corroborates this, with 58% of the devices shipped being 3G.

Comment on this centres around the definition of "smartphone", with Gartner putting the numbers much lower. But it would be foolish to insist that only iPhones count. Meanwhile, it seems that China has become the world's biggest smartphone market, and Apple claims 17% of the market on Gartner's definitions. Analyst Charlie Wolf is probably on to something in noting that the big change is that the lower end of the smartphone market is becoming price competitive with the upper end of the featurephone market, and that the growth is being captured by "second-tier Chinese vendors".

Meanwhile, Lenovo was reported to be closing in on the No.1 slot for PC sales, held for many years by HP. The bigger question, as Horace points out, is whether this prize is good for more than bragging rights in the light of iPad sales.

Even the TDSCDMA world is showing signs of life, as Taiwanese manufacturers start tooling up for TD-LTE handsets.

On the other hand, ZTE announced a massive profit warning, saying that its net profits might be down 80% year-on-year. The shares plummeted. Chinese analysts suggested that the problem was with their line of low-cost handsets, rather than the infrastructure business.

In Telco 2.0 themes, seven global mobile operators have formed an alliance for M2M services and applications. KPN, NTT Docomo, Rogers, SingTel, Telefónica, Telstra and Vimpelcom are standardising on Jasper Wireless (KPN took a stake in them back in 2010, of course) and its web interface for their management tools, and developing a global SIM product.

In Poland, the mobile operators have agreed to provide a single interface to their core networks in order to compete with OTT players more effectively. OpenCloud is providing the API bridging Orange.pl, Polkomtel, and T-Mobile.pl.

Vodafone bought New Zealand's second fixed operator. They also started an infrastructure-sharing agreement with 3 in Ireland and KPN Mobile in the Netherlands.

But is network sharing all that great? The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog has a fascinating discussion on the challenges and opportunities. It requires a lot of commitment from all parties involved, and usually aims beyond just reducing costs. And what happens if you need to disentangle the deal? After all, in Sweden, the transition to LTE caused one such deal to unravel. This leads us to a really excellent T-Mobile presentation from Kim Larsen:

And if that isn't enough slides for you, here are 72 on Telefonica's LTE trials.

In other Telco 2.0 news, Econet Wireless in Zimbabwe is taking off as a m-payments player, the GSMA MMU Blog reports, and Tele2 launches an international VoIP app in a dose of own-brand OTT.

In this week's Chart of the Week, it looks like VC investment is at levels not seen since the .com boom, and quite a lot of it is going into mobile. Specifically, the way to tap it is with a mobile photo- or video-related startup, as 29% of investment in mobile is following the Instagram hype.

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Here's a detailed interview with RIM CEO Thorsten Heins.

As the crisis mounts, Developer Relations VP and Calliflower founder Alec Saunders goes after critics who predict an exodus of devs from the platform, spruiking its developer toolkit. At the same time, one of the company's pair of corporate jets is up for sale, in what looks like either a desperate search for cash or else a very public gesture of humility after the 5,000 layoffs last week.

(Although, perhaps they had two jets because they had two CEOs.)

When it rains, it pours. RIM lost a patent lawsuit and might have to pay $8 for every BlackBerry connected to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Weirdly, the court was happy to impose this despite the claimant having filed for the patent after RIM started using the technology.

Benedict Evans charts that the emerging markets, having driven all the growth at RIM recently, have suddenly turned downwards.

Perhaps they should partner with Microsoft? Or perhaps not. AT&T just halved the price of the Nokia Lumia 900 to $49 on a two-year contract, which prices it between the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4. Horace explains why - they're not selling.

Failure, then, is a theme this week. After France Telecom's mammoth outage last week, O2 UK was down for 21 hours, with users advised to turn off 3G in order to get online. As is traditional, after the crash comes the crash investigation / blame casting.

Elsewhere, Slovenia gets LTE and Uruguay gets fibre to the home. Fujitsu drops out of the UK Broadband Delivery project, leaving only BT and the possibility of a European inquiry.

What's the betting the UK is actually going to be last at this rate? Some money from the LTE auction will be used to make sure Freeview works with it. Neelie Kroes wants to make sure telcos are providing dark fibre and ducts on a nondiscriminatory basis.

Does Verizon think it can "edit the Internet"? It's the latest net neutrality row. Frankly, the document involved seems to refer to content they provide themselves, but then we are not lawyers.

Saudi Mobily's profits are up 22%.

This week saw some more cloudfail. Salesforce lost 6 regions, three of which belonged to its developers and three in production, after a power failure at an Equinix data centre on the US West Coast.

Heroku, meanwhile, published its crash investigation after the Amazon outage last week. Interestingly, Amazon EBS volumes seem to have been a problem, rather like they were the last time Amazon fell over. And, as with everyone, the control plane issues made recovery and failover much harder.

On the other hand, AWS deployed a tool that helps you optimise SQL queries, and there are some jobs going in the developer tools team.

It doesn't have to be the cloud, of course. Evernote, as if annoyed to be left out of all the excitement, had an outage of its own when a migration of user metadata to a new pair of dedicated servers went wrong.

Strategies for managing peak load, via High Scalability.

Yahoo! engineer Mike Christian has a fascinating talk on the causes of outages, including fires, explosions, false alarms leading to the sprinklers being activated, and a remarkably large number of incidents involving squirrels (note that Level(3) has also been hit by the furry menace).

Meanwhile, Y! lost 450,000 passwords to hackers, and Declan McCullough of CNET analysed the data dump. The depressing thing is that surprisingly few people used "password" as a password compared to the number who used "123456".

Groupon shares are down 70% on the IPO level and traffic on the Web site is down 15%.

And is Google's new tablet likely to be profitable?

Interior mapping - it's the new mapping. Google will let you upload the floor plans of any building you might own that's open to the public. Here's a new startup providing interior location.

And here's a quick look at Spotify numbers.

When routing attacks - India accidentally censors the Internet in Oman. Instant DuckDuckGo results with XMPP. Pinterest strips advertising, affiliate marketing, and tracking material from all links. Bridging Android and iOS games to the TV. Bruce Schneier discusses locking mobile devices. Apple in-app purchases send passwords in the clear. Blocking the Pirate Bay helped - for a week. Microsoft researchers play swordfighting, with smartphone sonar.

And it's fifty years since Telstar.