FTC bites Google; Facebook Voice cometh; Whatsapp +75% / qtr - Telco 2.0 News Review

Posted on

[Ed. Diary note: it's just over two months to the brainstorm in Silicon Valley, 19-20 March 2013, and then on to our European Brainstorm, 5-6 June 2013. We'll also be at the Mobile World Congress - email us at contact@telco2.net to find out more.]

Google vs the FTC: the decision is in. The US Federal Trade Commission ordered Google to stop screenscraping specialist search providers who opted out of integration with Google search, to change its terms of service for AdWords in order to let advertisers integrate the API with other advertising products, and to comply with FRAND requirements on Motorola's patent portfolio. Google has to report on its progress to the FTC Compliance Division within 60 days. Politico reports on the $25 million lobbying campaign Google staged in Washington.

The FTC action on patents, though, does make you wonder how worthwhile the Motorola Mobility buy was, especially now Google has sold the Motorola home solutions business and closed or sold off much of Moto's manufacturing. Interestingly, one of the buyers, Flextronics, is looking at moving production back to the US.

During the second world war, British spies discovered that they could use the serial numbers on German tanks to estimate the total production run, the monthly run-rate, and the distribution of production between factories. The XDA-Developers crowd adapted the trick to do something similar with Google's LG-manufactured Nexus 4, demonstrating conclusively that the Google flagship phones and tablets are only produced in small quantities, and that the order-to-shipment cycle is about three days.

Top German app developer meets the Nexus 4 and gives up on iOS. Matt Asay thinks Google is "the mobile company of 2012 and 2013".

Elsewhere, Facebook is testing a new voice feature. You may remember that back in 2010 we predicted that Facebook would look to move into core communications, and again to support our top valuation of $30bn in 2011 (to which it is increasingly nearing, having started at over twice that mark). Interestingly, Facebook has gone with a messaging/voicemail rather than a telephony paradigm. You click to record a message that then gets pushed to your friend - similar to the existing "Poke". There's also a more call-oriented feature on test, only in Canada so far. It's amazing, apparently.

Voxeo Labs has snagged its biggest gig yet - AT&T's new call management API is actually Tropo under the bonnet, rather like the voice features in DTAG's Developer Garden.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp hit 7 billion inbound messages a day, showing 75% growth in the quarter.

And here's a HOWTO on using Twilio with MailChimp and Netsuite CRM to create an integrated e-mail/voice/web marketing campaign and report data from it.

Over at Yahoo!, ad sales gets a new boss, and reorganises to mimic Google, while the redesigned homepage begins to ramp up.

The first peering war of 2013, or something more interesting? Dave Burstein thinks Free and France Telecom are demanding paid peering from Google or possibly Cogent.

What seems to be happening is that Free users are complaining about YouTube videos loading slowly. Free seems to peer with Google, but not with Google's YouTube-specific network, and its main transit provider, Cogent, doesn't peer with a Google-run network that provides YouTube peering for large transit providers. Cogent has a long history of peering rows, brought about by its highly aggressive pricing policy, and it seems that they've sold capacity they can't provision.

But why don't Free and YouTube just peer? Well, Google has lots of peering capacity, just not in France. So why not? It's been suggested they don't want to create too much infrastructure in France, in case their presence would no longer be considered just a "representative office" for tax purposes. By comparison, there are no fewer than 10 locations in London where Google peering is available. Reaching them wouldn't cost Free that much, seeing as they already peer at the LINX, but perhaps Cogent "quoted them happy" and offered a price so low as to beat that option

Then, the story took a new and interesting twist. A software update to Free's Freebox Revolution set-top box has been pushed out that filters advertising out of web pages as they cross your home router. Actually, it's simpler than that - it looks like the local DNS resolver has been updated, pointing ad-serving domains to localhost. Free points out that using Adblock Plus is perfectly legal, so why not this? Hitting ad revenues is certainly one way to get Google's attention.

Elsewhere in France, SFR said it would invest $2bn this year. The Register reviews UK femtocells. OFCOM prepares a consultation on price changes during contracts. Sprint offers an unlimited prepaid plan. Deploying a network in a suitcase.

Samsung's Q4 estimates show a profit of $8.7bn, with Galaxy Note II sales possibly already reaching 8 million. That would mean profits were up 65% year on year. On the other hand, HTC's Q4 profits were down 91%, crashing through the forecasts. At this rate, it could be a lossmaker by the summer. The CEO said it wasn't so bad and the problem was marketing. ReadWriteWeb points out that's what RIM said, and unlike RIM, HTC doesn't have a major new technology in the offing.

Horace reckons the featurephone will die by 2015, with the US going 80% smartphone by 2014.

Will this be the most boring CES ever? It's not that bad. NVIDIA announced the LTE, quad-core Tegra 4 chip and demonstrated an Android-based portable games console/phone/multimedia device with high-def audio, 720p video, and the ability to stream gaming visuals to a 4K TV over HDMI.

A neat M2M application: the gadget you put in your bags so you can find out where the airline sent them. The manufacturer partnered with a small US GSM operator to get access to their roaming agreements. And it knows when the plane takes off from its accelerometer.

A clever dynamic QoS WiFi router. A USB stick that plugs into your laptop so you can control it with your eyes.

Lenovo offers a huge, 27" touchscreen all-in-one "table computer" intended for group use.

Here's the first sight of Ubuntu Linux on a smartphone - more details are here. The controversial Unity GUI looks rather good in the mobile context.

Meanwhile, JP Morgan revises down its estimates on Microsoft. Samsung promises Tizen shiny by this year's MWC, and sells more Chromebooks than you might expect. How much does patent peace cost? $50m, between RIM and Nokia. You may wish to be sceptical of market-share estimates based on ads.

If you don't clean up the data, you might discover something like this: Sony and Universal Music's YouTube channels suddenly saw their view counts drop by 2bn over Christmas. Cue much conspiracy theorising.

It turns out that Google decided to implement an adjustment to remove spam from the count, but that only accounted for a tiny percentage of the total. The big change came from a data cleaning exercise that removed videos that had moved to the VEVO channel.

Usually, when it's CES time, there's a barrage of "smart TV". This year, not so much. It's been more about relatively small, useful improvements. Google announced that Android users can stream YouTube videos to many more TVs from within the app.

Roku signed up a string of partners for its Roku Streaming Stick, a USB device that plugs into a TV and turns it into a Roku.

And here's a joint BBC Research and Google call for papers on TV UX design.

In the cloud, here's the AWS crash investigation into the Christmas Eve outage. A telling question: why don't you run it on your own hardware, it's so much cheaper? And scrapping a supercomputer.