The American Dream…in Europe

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Many recent developments in the mobile phone industry have had one thing in common and that is Europe, a place we left some 300 years ago and have largely forgot about except when they need help stopping Germany from from taking over and making everyone wear really tight leather pants.

Case in point the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition SmartPhone that has recently been gracing our televisions sets in Verizon adverts featuring the ‘can you hear me now guy’ speaking French and handing off the phone to some actor at a fake airport. The odd thing about the ad is that it is essentially advertising the companies massive flaw and that is their phones only work in the U.S. Why is this the case? Well gather around the campfire kids and let me spin ya a story about telecommunications in the good old USA.

You see in the late 80’s when U.S. cellular companies were starting to build out their networks they realized that analog networks (AMPS) had the potential to provide greater coverage area with less towers due to the basic technology involved. But as with everything in the US no one could agree on a single technology and each individual company developed their own version of the cellular network. The thinking behind this was that the individual companies thought they would dominate the market and then the other companies would have to eventually abandon their own technology and pay them for the use of theirs.

Of course this never happened as all these companies were too stubborn to consider what was best for the consumer and that is why we ended up with CDMA (Verizon) TDMA (Sprint) AMPS (McCaw Cellular). At this same time the European Union was having the same problem so they decided that they needed one standard and mandated that efforts would be put into a system that would be universal in all countries. This led to the GSM technology being implemented along side the old analog system and the two worked seamlessly together. They could travel virtually anywhere and their phones would work as well as when they switched carriers.

This certainly wasnt the case for any Americans traveling overseas when their only options was to rent a phone at their destination. This continued into the late 90’s until Voicestream Wireless used Hawaii as a test market for the first US GSM service and after that success, launched in a few western states promoting features and prices that were unheard of elsewhere in the country. The technology used data stored in a SIM card that could be moved from phone to phone and with it allowed a virtual phone book of personal numbers to be moved as well. The company grew rapidly and now for the first time Americans could take a phone from stateside and use it in Europe and Asia.

The others companies grew nervous of this development and it even caused AT&T to convert, at considerable cost, to the GSM technology. This caused a ripple effect and soon all these companies were gobbling up smaller ones, merging with larger ones, and even terminating roaming contracts that made it easier for customers to piggyback onto other networks. It seemed the battle had just escalated and with Nextel’s success another technology was thrown into the mix. All the while Europe was developing high speed data networks that would be years away in the U.S. all because they had focused on one technology and advancements benefited all the companies, not just one.

This is why technology developed in North America is now launching in Europe, simply for the reason that the U.S. market is just too slow to develop a high speed GSM data network that actually is available in more than a handful of cities. Case in point is T-Mobile whom was ahead of the curve on WAP, BlackBerry Server implementation, and data tethering. But for reasons that defied logic simply stopped developing anything after their GPRS network was launched and as a result fell behind in virtually every aspect of the industry. They are now paying for their mistake with a massive outlay of cash to build a UMTS network that if ever launched will be so late in the coming that it will nearly obsolete when it does.

And all this is why we see the perfect Blackberry 8820 being launched in the U.K. and the 8310 showing up in those oh so tight leather pants in Germany. So while we might have the iPhone before the rest of the world, we still have to settle for dial up speeds unless we want a phone that will only work if you never leave the cozy confines of a large metropolitan area and if you ever decide to leave that company for another you will have a very expensive paperweight mocking you for not having been born in London, Barcelona or even Tokyo.


Google and their G-Phone

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Reportedly, allegedly, and maybe even theoretically Google just might be giving a sneaking and a peeking to some manufacturers in hopes of getting some positive feedback in regards to both design and software capabilities of its oft rumored mobile phone. Rumors and conjecture are that it will be run on an open source Mobile Operating System but there really is no way to confirm that, however this does make sense as Google is new to the mobile phone game and will try to stay completely independent instead of having to purchase and license an OS from another company. Open source also opens up the possibilities of developers working to improve the device for nothing but the pure joy of it.

Of course at this point in development, no real concrete details have come to light but it will most likely have virtually every option for connecting to the Internet (Search & AdSense), blog administration (Blogger), video recording and playback (YouTube), not to mention VoIP products that correlate well to their recent acquisition (Grand Central). Of course all of these Google owned sites will have everything to do with the cell phone phone that will make them serious bank from some wireless provider who will do virtually anything to get in bed with the biggest player in the series of tubes that hold all those 1’s and 0’s.

Speculation will run rampant for the next few months but some early reports are saying that the G-Funk Phone doesnt have the beauty of the iPhone, the keyboard of a BlackBerry, the software of a Nokia N92, or even have sharks with freakin’ laser beams. Of course thats what speculation is all about and rarely do any of the rumors ever hit on the mark. I for one, look forward to an open source phone that has a huge company behind it willing to do almost anything to make a product successful up to and including being able to use the phone as a Wii-mote, a police taser, or as a mobile phone book that can only hold one number just as long as it belongs to super uber model Marissa Miller.


Nokia must be butter cause they are on a roll

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Nokia is leading the way in the mobile phone industry with innovation and massive profitability and its paying off huge for their stock holders. Lets break the recently announced numbers down and yes there is math involved so get out that number 2 pencil folks…just kidding.

Net Sales of 12.6 Billion (That’s Billion with a B people) which is an increase of 2.7 Billion over Q2 ‘o6 earnings. A Gross profit of 3.9 Billion (Thats nearly 4 Billion in 3 months) which amounts to an increase of 700 million over Q2 ’06 earnings. Nokia now has an estimated 38% market share which dominates the mobile industry.

This news caused Motorola to fall to its knees and start weeping uncontrollably like the dude that Jessica Alba just kicked to the curb. They pondered aloud that they have really really thin phones and that it is all customers want so what was the problem? I sent them a text message advising that direct sales and unlocked mobile phones are really what people want but they didn’t respond, which is really bad texting etiquette. Perhaps they were just really engrossed in TRL due to all of its cutting edge interviewing and just forgot to respond or maybe they were just using the T-Mobile network and it was one of the 25% of the messages that never reach their intended destination.

Whatever the reasons lets hope that not only they but the rest of the mobile phone manufacturers start to adopt the ways of Nokia. However with Apple and AT&T taking such steps to make sure that no one can unlock the iPhone its doubtful that a change in the industry will be coming anytime soon. One can understand the reason why AT&T would take the steps it did to ensure only its network would work with the Jesus Phone but Apple really shouldn’t care as sales is what they want and need. One can imagine what kind of sales that T-Mobile and every other GSM provider in the world rack up if they were able to sell the iPhone.

Why Sony Ericsson, HTC, Motorola, Palm, Samsung or even Research in Motion would allow other companies to unlock their products and sell them at a markup is beyond me. Nokia has proven the market exists for direct sales and as proof they shipped 9 million Nokia N-Series Phones and almost 2 million Nokia E-Series devices during the second quarter of 2007 alone. The focus on high end devices, like the Nokia N-95, allowed the company to gain an additional 4% of the handset market share. This has completely caught analysts off guard and they continue to be amazed at Nokia’s huge profits and sales.

This all points to the fact that Nokia’s dominance will continue as they take the chances that keep them ahead of the curve, CTO Tero Ojanper predicts when the features of the N95 are common place around the world in 2-3 years the mobile entertainment business will explode and Nokia will be there ahead of the pack once again. Few could argue with this assessment as focusing on the European and Asian markets have helped them stay on the cutting edge and that is exactly where the competition wishes they were.

[Source]


Cell Phones in an emergency

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Its not something you think about on an everyday basis but one of the main reasons we carry a mobile phone is for that unforeseen problem, be it a flat tire, a car accident, or even an emergency involving a family member. When times get difficult, challenging and possibly even life threatening the cell phone can be the difference between life and death.

They can provide the location of anyone using them and in one case helped save a person that had been kidnapped and placed in a cars trunk. Unknown to the kidnapper she used his phone while he slept to send a text message plea of help that reached her mother that helped police to be able to track her down and save her life.

Similiar stories have arisen about lost hikers who’s locations were able to be triangulated to assist search and rescue units to more accurately define the search area. The cell phone might have been out of the network area or even broken but at one point it was registered on a nearby tower, perhaps before they had gotten into trouble and that vital information can make all the difference.

Just a few days ago a hospital suffered a power outage right in the middle of a surgery. With the back up generator malfunctioning as well, family members collected all the mobile phones they could find and used the glowing screens to provide enough light to help the surgeons complete the surgery.

Floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis are tragic events but such tragedies can be lessoned with the instant communication a cell phone provides, vital information can be received that can help avoid the panic and confusion in a time of crisis.

More and more cell phone manufacturers are looking at ways of providing adding functionality like embedded flashlights and shock/weather proof casings designed to survive unforeseen damage and emergency situations.

Mobile Phone Lifelines

Mobile Surgery

Kidnapped SMS



AT&T Mobile Launches Mobile Music Service

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In a deal with eMusic.com AT&T has made it possible for customers to download songs over the air as long as you don’t have an iPhone of course. This omission seems odd until you remember that iTunes just sold its 3 billionth song and are direct competitors with eMusic. In what might not be a coincidence for the first time the Jesus Phone is no longer in a prominent role on the front page of the AT&T wireless website. Lets hope the love affair isn’t on the rocks due to that all important dollar because the world would weep if two massive companies were unable to spoon at night.

Image courtesy of Apple Insider

[Link]


Cell phones under attack

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Recently in the news there has been a decidedly negative slant to the media’s coverage of cell phones. The following stories have appeared but somehow my take is decidedly different.

Jail time for those that are in an accident where someone was using a cell phone.[Link]
But what about rewards if you can use a cell phone and not get in an accident, perhaps a free iPhone if you can text, talk and drive with your knees.

Cell Phones, kids and schools are a volatile mix. [Link]
Yes because nothing is scarier than a kid with a SideKick walking to school. That swinging screen will put your eye out kid!!

Using your cell phone to bank will invite hackers and identity thieves [Link]
Because we all know that your password is Tinkerbell tough guy

Cell Phones are killing bees…again umm… maybe [Link]
This definitive report confirms nothing except that Killer Bees are out to get us and are the ones creating all this internet buzz

But my favorite is how cell phones in jail are better currency than drugs [Link]
If you are willing to shove a phone up your hoo-haw than you deserve unlimited nights and weekends

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Verizon continues rural expansion

Today Verizon Wireless announced plans to buy Rural Cellular for $757 million to expand their rural market in 15 states. The deal should be approved in the first half of 2008, both companies said, subject to government and stockholder approval. Verizon Communications also announced wireless and wireline earnings of $1.7 billion in the second quarter, up slightly from a year ago, with $23.3 billion in revenues, up 6.3% from the second quarter of 2006.

Last month AT&T announced that it would buy Dobson Communications for $2. 8 billion, in its expansion of its rural network. This seems to continue the trend of the little guys being gobbled up by the big players and all the struggles that come with it are felt by the customers. Having been through two of these with Powertel and Omnipoint mergers where billing errors and grandfathered rate plans created issues that take quite awhile to clean up.


Google and Sprint marriage

Google is set to provide fee web search, interactive communications and social networking tools to Sprint’s next generation WiMax wireless data network. This is yet in another agreement from Google trying to firmly implant their presence into the mobile industry. This along with their interest to take part in the FCC wireless spectrum auction with a minimum required bid of $4.6bn they are determined to be part developer and provider, something that has made them what they are today.

With Sprint spending $3bn to build a nationwide 4G network that will dwarf anything its competition has planned they seem set on dominating the high speed wireless data business before T-Mobile or AT&T even have 3G. No matter the network or company Google has set its sight on on having the best of both worlds but one wonders after they become direct competitors if companies with be so eager to make deals for content.

MSNBC Story

Engadget Link


Launch news: The Sony Ericsson P1i

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Sony Ericsson has launched their 5th generation P-Series that has become synonymous with high end business users. This particular model has virtually everything you could want in a cell phone, with a 3.2 megapixel camera, WiFi, Integrated WLAN and VoIP, a business card scanner, Microsoft Exchange, BlackBerry Connect, Video Calling, and even a VPN client.

Full Feature Set:
Dual function keyboard – full alpha-numeric (e.g. QWERTY)
Exchange ActiveSyncâ„¢ and BlackBerry® Connectâ„¢
Integrated WLAN and VoIP enabled
Business card scanner
2.6” touchscreen with 262,144 colors and a 240×320 display
3.2 megapixel camera with Auto focus
Video recording/streaming/viewing
Mobile TV — H.264 playback
Bluetooth stereo (A2DP)
Media player
512 MB Memory Stick Micro
160 MB User Memory (internal)
FM radio
RSS Feeds
Picture Blogging
Microsoft – Exchange ActiveSyncâ„¢
Research In Motion- BlackBerry Connect
POP3, IMAP4, including IMAP IDLE
Operaâ„¢ Web Browser 8.0
VPN client from Certicom
Bluetooth 2.0
USB 2.0 mass storage
Speakerphone
Sound recorder
Java
Networks: P1c/i: UMTS 2100-GSM/GPRS 900/1800/1900
Talk time GSM/UMTS: Up to 10 hrs/3 hrs 30 min
Standby time GSM/UMTS: Up to 440 hrs/350 hrs
Video call time: Up to 2 hrs
Predictive text input
Handwriting recognition
Transflective Display for bright light conditions
Document editors and readers
VoIP support
WLAN (Wi-Fi 802.11b)
Video Calling

At this time no US wireless carriers are selling this phone, what a shock , but it is available in a couple of different places that will leave you with options as it will be unlocked and have a direct manufacturer warranty. These high end do everything cell phones are still absent in the US and will continue to be that way until we start demanding their availability.

With every launch of a UMTS or 3G handset it will continue to highlight the shortcomings of the GSM providers and their lack of foresight into building out their high speed networks. For once it would be nice to see the US catch up and perhaps even surpass the Europeans in this technologically driven business. Perhaps when speeds reach that of DSL the carriers will learn that many customers could use this service and drop their Internet providers allowing huge revenues to be generated. With everything going wireless these days it sure would make it easier for not only individuals but also businesses that depend on their services to be integrated in a seamless manner.

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Sony Ericsson P1i

Buy it now at CtiNyc

Sony Ericsson Press Release



Apple into the spin zone

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It what seems to contradict some of the news recently that the iPhone hasn’t been as much as a success as anticipated, Apple announced quarterly earnings today that beat street estimates and as a result the stock made up all of yesterdays losses. Even though the Leopard operating system has fallen flat of late the sales of Macs shot up 33% and with posted revenue of $5.41 billion and net quarterly profit of $818 million the company looks as strong as ever.

However when Jobs was asked of the iPhone he responded with ‘We’ve gotten off to a great start. Focus is not on initial sales, but instead a long term business’. This was an odd statement as many believe that reality is just the opposite in the wireless business where a new cell phone is seemingly launched every day. When you hear a CEO using buzzwords like long term then it just might be time to start worrying.

I had previously discussed how Apple has been so successful in terms of marketing, they now seem to be magicians in the category of spin. Recently anytime they are criticized or scrutinized in a negative fashion they bounce back quickly to refute the claim or announce a product or recent success. Case in point today when things were turning negatively in relation to the Jesus phones success and slower than expected sales they announce their higher than expected profits and drown out all criticism. Few wonder why the profits are so high and just think its because of all their recent success, but all that profit just might be from AT&T backing up the Brinks truck for those exclusive rights and next quarter might be a different story. It will be hard to see Apples sales not effected when they are effectively competing with themselves with iPods and iPhones. Why anyone would want both other than for vanity sake would be a mystery.

Mac Rumors Story

Gizmodo’s look at self competition