Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thirty-Percent Dropped iPhone Calls in NYC? That's Normal!

I experienced a ton of dropped calls on my iPhone 3G in the San Francisco Bay Area before last year's 2.1 ROM update that "fixed" (or at least reduced) the problem. I still drop calls, but at a lower rate. What's unacceptable (to Apple and AT&T), however? A Gizmodo reader went to an Apple Genius Bar and found out: 30%.

ExpansysWhen AT&T said nothing was wrong with their network, Giz reader Manoj went to said Genius Bar where the Genius downloaded stats from his iPhone 3G (purchases in July 2008). The stat dump showed the iPhone 3G had dropped 22% of his calls. But that's good, Manoj was told!

Why? The average for New York City is 30%. That means that despite the high drop rate, his phone was fine and the network was operating as expected.

And people wonder why consumers are clamoring for Verizon to pick up the device. At the same time, however, it's interesting that Manoj didn't complain until recently. My question would be: has it gotten progressively worse? That might show that oversaturation of the network has occurred as more and more iPhones populate the area.

It's still a mystery to me that if such a thing is happening, why isn't ever AT&T customer in that area complaining. You'd think it would affect all AT&T phones. Or maybe they are, and we just don't hear about it because it's not the "device of the moment." - Unmask Blocked Calls

doubleTwist Spoofs Apple's Famed "1984" Ad

doubleTwist, which purportedly wants to "liberate your media" (by removing DRM) and which earlier this year took the particularly gutsy step of putting an ad outside of Apple's San Francisco retail store, has skewered Apple again. They took Apple's original "1984" Macintosh ad and revamped it, pretty much shot-for-shot (but with animation), with Steve Jobs as the despot.

Really, thinking about the iPhone, the draconian system of app approval, and things like Apple suing over infringing (but non-infringing) products like the ProfitPod, it's easy to think of Apple as the new IBM, and tyrannical.

The original ad was set in an Orwellian world, and a host of people sits staring blankly at a broadcast of a monolithic figure on a giant screen, until a woman clad in track-and-field garb runs in (with security hot on her heels) carrying a sledgehammer. Spinning around much as in the Olympic hammer throw event, she hurls the sledgehammer at the screen, resulting in a bright explosion whose light washes over the audience. And then, the message:
On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984."
The animation doubleTwist's ad reminds me of "Heavy Metal," and the tagline after the ad ends is:
"on October 6th, doubleTwist brings you Choice"
doubleTwist's co-founder DVD Jon is famous for reverse engineering DRM, and in particular Apple's DRM. Apparently, a major new release will be coming out that day for Mac users, followed a week later with Windows (yes, that's backwards from what most people expect). It's unclear what the new feature being released is, however.

Here's the doubleTwist ad:

Here's the original Apple ad. Compare, contrast, and comment.

CNN Launches iPhone News / Reporting App

CNN on Tuesday announced an iPhone app, one that will actually charge users to get news from CNN. However, CNN is smart enough to realize that the best model for iPhone apps is a small fee upfront, so they're charging just a one-time $1.99 fee.

The software also monetizes itself with logo placement and banners for advertisers.

You won't be able to access CNN programming, although you can get streaming video. Here's how CNN describes the app:
NOW you can get live streaming video of breaking news, the most important headlines of the day with location-based news, weather and traffic from the palm of your hands. With the NEW CNN App for the iPhone and iPod Touch, you can also iReport directly from your phone using the phone's advanced photo and video capabilities.

  • Breaking news, top stories, US, world, politics, health, entertainment news and more
  • Snack-sized highlights or full stories
  • Local news, weather and traffic
  • Sharing via e-mail, SMS, Twitter and Facebook
  • Live breaking news video
  • Top video from all categories, most popular and the best of CNN TV
  • Optimized for your connection
CNN iReport
  • Contribute to CNN’s coverage on stories that are important to you
  • View, record and submit video and photo iReports directly from your phone
  • Save stories and videos to view around your busy lifestyle
  • Catch up on the news even when you can’t be online
  • Freedom to stay informed whenever and wherever you want
  • Follow topics that most interest you
  • Be alerted when story updates are published
  • Easily stay connected as stories develop
The personalization and ability to save, follow, and watch video (even if I can't watch Larry King Live) has the potential to make this app a game-changer, even if it does cost money.

At the same time, CNN will be getting content from end users as well: the app allows iReporters to record and submit photo and video iReports directly from their iPhone, as well as get local assignments. Can you imagine how many more iReports will be generated by this app? That alone means CNN will not just be getting revenue and exposure, but could also receive real-time breaking news. Can you imagine how coverage of say, last year's November terrorist events in India, could have unfolded?
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Windows 7 OEM Versions About 50% Cheaper Than Retail

Newegg on Tuesday posted pricing for OEMs versions of Microsoft's much-hyped upcoming Windows 7 operating systems. The pricing shows around a 50% difference between retail and OEM pricing for full (not upgrade) versions, bringing the full software below the price of an upgrade version.

This is OEM software, however, so there are a bunch of caveats. First, it's supposed to be sold for pre-installation on a new personal computer for resale. The system builder is supposed to provide tech support. That means, if you install it yourself, you can't get any support from Microsoft.

The license does not allow transferring the operating system from one PC to another. That doesn't mean you can't do it, but it does mean that technically you can't do so legally (and you'd probably have to call for re-activation as well).

You have to do a full install as well. There are no upgrade versions. Personally, I prefer a full, clean install anyway, but that's just me. It would mean having to restore all the programs and data that were loaded on the computer, but that's not a big deal for many (just time-consuming).

Also, the OEM versions do not supply both 32- and 64-bit versions on the DVD. They only supply one of them, which is, once again, not really that big a deal.

Here's a pricing comparison:

Windows 7 Home Premium
Upgrade: $120
Full: $200
OEM Full: $110

Windows 7 Professional
Upgrade: $200
Full: $300
OEM Full: $140

Windows 7 Ultimate
Upgrade: $220
Full: $320
OEM Full: $190

To make things still better, Newegg is offering pre-order discounts of from $5 to $15 until Oct. 20th.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vodafone to Join Orange, O2; Sell iPhone in U.K., Ireland From 2010

On Monday, Orange announced it will have access to the iPhone in the U.K. starting "later this year," with O2 losing its two-year exclusivity. Tuesday, Vodafone announced that it too has arranged a deal with Apple, and will be launching the device in both the U.K. and Ireland early in 2010.

Just as with Orange, pricing and tariffs will be announced later. Vodafone set up two sites, one for the U.K. and one for Ireland, for users to register for email alerts.

Analysts expect that there might be price wars, with the three carriers jockeying for iPhone users. With cracks appearing in the exclusivity of one-carrier iPhone countries like the U.K., can the U.S. be far behind?

Many who haven't bought the iPhone in the U.S. have said it is because of AT&T's substandard 3G network. Still more who have bought the iPhone said they would switch in a heartbeat if Verizon acquired the device.

While no solid dates are known, it's believed that AT&T has exclusivity on the device through 2010, and is trying to get an extra year on top of that.
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Microsoft's Free Security Essentials Anti-Malware Product Goes Live

Microsoft's new Security Essentials anti-malware product has just gone live. The site has been updated in the past hour or so, since I last checked it, and users can now download Microsoft Security Essentials for 32-bit Windows XP, and 32- and 64-bit Windows Vista/7.

That's correct, in case you're wondering. There is no support for 64-bit Windows XP, at least for now.

Microsoft's reasoning behind the free security software is, according to the company, to be sure that users in emerging markets are protected, as many of those users can't afford to buy antivirus software. As you probably know (and as Apple loves to trumpet), malware writers focus their efforts on Windows (understandably, considering its dominance).

On the other hand, the product Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) replaces, OneCare Live, certainly did not duplicate the dominance of the OS. It never really gathered much market share, and also was a poor performance, at least at first, with poor results in third-party AV tests such the VB100.

Symantec and McAfee, the big guns among security software, have not expressed much concern over MSE, but realistically, the word "free" combined with the word "Microsoft" is bound to attract users. There are a number of free AV products on the market, such as Avast, AVG, Comodo, and others, but they don't have that huge "Microsoft" logo and the trust (??) associated with it.

Microsoft has maintained the "simplistic" attitude in terms of alerting the end user of problems. As Microsoft says, "when you’re green, you’re good," just as with OneCare Live.

The question is, will this reduce the number of botnets and infections in emerging markets? Additionally, will consumers in places like the U.S. and Europe grab onto it? Readers, will you try it?
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webOS 1.2 Emerges From Hiding

Sure, it was leaked a couple of weeks ago, so we knew to some extent what was coming, but it wasn't until Monday that webOS 1.2 was officially released. The big news is (finally) support for paid apps in the App Catalog, but besides that, Palm notes a bunch of new features (and doesn't tell us about all the bugs they fixed):
  • Filter emails in the current folder just by typing a search term.
  • Download files in the browser.
  • Amazon MP3 Store can now download songs from either WiFi or WAN.
  • Tap a phone number in a calendar note to dial it
  • Pause a podcast and, by default, you’ll pick up where you left off when you unpause.
  • Web pages and emails are now cut-and-paste-able.
What's missing: still no video recording, and sorry, iTunes fans, that's still broken. At least for now, iTunes 9.0.1 still can't sync with the Pre.
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O2 UK to Lose iPhone Exclusivity to Orange

The rumors have been confirmed: O2 is losing its iPhone exclusivity in the UK. The statement from Orange says:
Orange UK and Apple have reached an agreement to bring iPhone 3G and 3GS to Orange UK customers later this year.

Orange, which has the largest 3G network covering more people in the UK than any other operator, will sell iPhone in all Orange direct channels including Orange shops, the Orange webshop and Orange telesales channels, as well as selected high street partners.

More information on pricing, tariffs and availability dates will be released in due course.
Later this year, eh? Not even 2010. That could mean a boost to Orange's bottom line in the holiday season.

Meanwhile, O2 released the following statement:
We’re proud that we’ve been able to offer an exclusive iPhone deal to our 20 million customers for the last two years. We always knew that iPhone exclusivity was for a limited period of time, but our relationship with Apple continues and will be an ongoing success. We have over 1million iPhone customers and they remain very important to us.

We aim to offer our customers the best devices on the market, including becoming the home of Smartphones and we are really pleased to now add another device in the Palm Pre. We also offer award-winning customer service and benefits, which is why more people choose O2 than any other network in the UK.
Does this portend a similar event for AT&T? It's been widely rumored that AT&T's exclusivity on the iPhone ends in 2010, although it's also rumored that AT&T is trying to stretch that one more year.

For many dissatisfied AT&T iPhone users, a switch to (likely) Verizon can't come fast enough.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Secret Service Investigating Facebook "Kill Obama" Poll

The Secret Service is investigating a Facebook poll which had been posted Saturday and was taken down Monday morning after the Secret Service alerted Facebook. The poll asked "Should Obama be killed?"

The responses included:
  • yes
  • maybe
  • if he cuts my health care
  • no
You can see an image of the now-deleted poll above. It shows that at least at one point there were over 700 votes.

Here is a statement from Facebook:
“The third-party application that enabled an individual user to create the offensive poll was brought to our attention this morning. It was immediately suspended while the inappropriate content could be removed by the developer and until such time as the developer institutes better procedures to monitor their user-generated content. We’re working with the US Secret Service but they’ll need to provide any details of their investigation.”
The Secret Service naturally takes anything like this quite seriously, and is investigating. The Huffington Post noted that another user quickly created a poll asking "Should the creator of 'should Obama be killed' be arrested?"
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Microsoft's Free Security Essentials Software Ships Tuesday

Microsoft has confirmed that its free security software, codenamed Morro and now known as Security Essentials, ships Tuesday. The free offering replaces the highly criticized OneCare Live product, which never really caught on (and which I wouldn't have trusted with my PC).

The Microsoft Security Essentials product (MSE) will be available in the morning hours, reports say, but no specific time has been confirmed. It will be a 4.7MB download.

Should companies like Symantec or McAfee be worried about Microsoft Security Essentials (or Morro)? Those two giants of security probably are not, as they control most of the security software market. But how about smaller firms, like ESET (NOD32) or Kaspersky?

While no one was particularly impressed with Microsoft's first antivirus product, the key word with MSE is free. Free tends to make people notice, and although there are actually plenty of free AV programs out there, free by Microsoft makes people take notice still further.

Still, Microsoft has a tendency to blow it with the first version of any product. I wouldn't recommend you install MSE unless you want to test it, for some reason.
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EU Tells MP3 Manufacturers to "Turn Down the Jam"

No "pumping up the jam" in the EU, as the European Union on Monday ordered MP3 and mobile phone makers to turn down the volume of their MP3 players. There have been many studies which show that, particularly when used with earbud headphones, MP3 players and MP3-playing cell phones can damage hearing when used improperly.

Besides warnings about MP3 player use and possible hearing loss, which could either be labels or on-screen alerts, the new plans require that MP3 players adopt a default volume setting of about 80 decibels. This is the level deemed safe for 40 hours of use a week.

Don't worry, freedom fighters. Users can override this setting, but they will first to receive a warning from their device and will further reminders if they continue use a volume level over 80 db.

It should be noted that under current EU rules, a noise level of 80 db would require an employer to provide hearing protection for workers. Given that, it's small wonder that the EU wants to protect the ears of consumers' from MP3 player volumes higher than that.

The EU Consumers Affairs Commission plans to adopt the proposal after a 24-month comment period with scientists, industry and consumers. European Union Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva told a news conference:
"The evidence is that particularly young people, who are listening to music at high volumes sometimes for hours each week, have no idea they can be putting their hearing at risk."
These new proposals follow the findings of an EU scientific committee last year that said that between 5 and 10% of consumers risked permanent hearing damage, because they listened to too much music at too loud a volume --- above 89 db, the level deemed safe, but only for up to an hour a day.
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Apple: Over Two Billion App Store Downloads Served

One has to wonder, given the growth of App Store downloads for the iPhone and iPod touch, if the App Store could ever pass McDonald's in terms of those "served." Obviously, it would seem eating would outdo even the iPhone, but still, you never know ... at any rate, on Monday, Apple announced App Store downloads have surpassed 2 billion, and applications are now at 85,000.

To imagine the pace at which downloads are happening, remember the numbers Apple gave at the new iPod announcement on Sept. 9th, Apple reported that the App Store had over 75,000 applications and 1.8 billion downloads. So in 19 days, the App Store has added over 10,000 apps and users have downloaded an additional 200 million applications. That's more than 10 million downloads a day during that timespan.

More numbers: last December, Apple announced the App Store had reached 300 million downloads. So over the last 9 - 10 months the downloads have nearly shot up sevenfold.

Apple also added that there are more than 50 million iPhone and iPod touch customers worldwide and over 125,000 developers in Apple’s iPhone Developer Program. In a statement, CEO Steve Jobs said:
“The rate of App Store downloads continues to accelerate with users downloading a staggering two billion apps in just over a year, including more than half a billion apps this quarter alone. The App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it.”
Wait, "I'm lovin' it," isn't that an old McDonald's slogan? Another McDonald's coincidence. Time to start a pool on the next billion downloads, I think.
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Apple Back to Old Games, Pushing Unneeded Software Updates

I noticed this earlier this week, but it didn't annoy me until Ed Bott brought it up. Apple is using its Apple Software Update utility to push unneeded "updates" on end users.

Now, Ed's pretty upset, and I understand his point. First, the iPhone Configuration Utility listed above isn't something anyone but Enterprise users would require. Second, I got the same update message, but as with Bott, I didn't have the software installed on my system. In other words, why is an update utility telling me to update software I don't have?

The same thing happened early last year when Apple was pushing its Safari web browser via the same update utility, even if end users didn't have the software in the first place.

Really, given the propensity of many to simply click OK when an update notification like this shows up, it gives Apple a way to get stuff installed on people's systems they may not need, or want. In this case, the iPhone Configuration Utility is definitely not needed by consumers.

Personally, I think its a goof of some type. Apple knows this utility is only for Enterprise users. And I'm not as outraged as Ed Bott is. However, I do believe that Apple needs to get its act together with this Update utility. Update means updates, not fresh install.
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Hackers Close In on Video Recording on the Palm Pre

It was clear when the Palm Pre was released that the darn thing should have supported video recording out of the box. It was believed that video recording would arrive soon, but it's been about four months and no sign of it. A report indicates, however, that hackers have been able to get some decent (though not flawless) results, however.

It would be a good move on the part of Palm to get video recording on the Pre as quickly as possible. Apple was soundly criticized for the missing feature, and rightly so, when they didn't offer video recording on the iPhone or iPhone 3G. Even now, the feature, available on non-smartphones, is only available on the iPhone 3GS.

Of course, the older iPhones can record video, but only if they have been jailbroken.

Since the Palm Pre can reported record video at up to 720x480 @ 30fps, a native solution for the Pre in the webOS platform would be a great addition.

Hackers have been working on video recording tools, and they've been able to achieve some progress, but video is limited to 320x480 comes out by default badly encoded, such that most video players won't be able to play the file. Still, there are some that reportedly work, including SMPlayer.

So Palm, we know it can be done. Don't wait as long as Apple did in getting video recording out, will ya?
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why is Google Googlle Today?

Look carefully at today's Google doodle on their homepage, or you might miss it. Yep, Google is spelled Googlle today, so the question is, why does Google have two l's today?

First off, it's not because Google's gotten sloppy. And fortunately for us who can't wait for the answer, they're not going to draw out the mystery as they did earlier with their H.G. Wells series of tweets and doodles.

Instead, the answer to the question "why does Google have two l's today?" is: it's birthday time (more or less). Mouse over the doodle and you'll see the message "Google's 11th birthday" pop-up.

Those who were brought up on that old, late, lamented technology known as the typewriter will also recall that a lot of typists used the character "l" as a replacement for the number 1. So that's another in-joke, for those old enough to remember what a typewriter is.

Since the exact date of Google's creation has been changed a few times over the years, a few years ago, Google posted a page saying, "Google opened its doors in September 1998. The exact date when we celebrate our birthday has moved around over the years, depending on when people feel like having cake."

That means, to be perfectly precise, that the the answer to the question "why does Google have two l's today?" is actually because Google employees want some cake. Hard to believe that Sunday is cake day, since it's not a work day, but oh, well. I certainly would love some cake right now. Tiramisu, please!
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Palm Pre Now Available For As Low as $79

While Palm has seen its share of good news, and bad news over the last few days, it's hard to judge this news. The Palm Pre is as low as $79 (including rebate) or $99 (sans rebate), and that's as much as another $70 cut in price.

While a lower price might mean still more purchases of Palm's first webOS device, why the price drops? The price had already been cut from $199 to $149 after the announcement of the Palm Pixi, so why cut it more? Desperation?

Wal-Mart, with a $100 rebate from Let's Talk, is selling the Pre for $79 (with a new two-year contract). The rebate comes in the form of a LetsTalk Visa Prepaid Card; it appears this only applies to new customers as well.

Meanwhile, has the Palm Pre for $99. No rebate required, and less risky. How many of you have tried to get a rebate and then had it rejected for what appeared to be a lame reason? Right.

Another possible reason for the cuts? Sprint may know that its exclusivity on the Palm Pre is ending and may want to try to sign up as many subacribers as possible as soon as possible.
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Small System Builders to Ship Windows 7 Early

Some small system builders are advertising that they will start shipping Windows 7 early, basically building systems as soon as they gain access to the code. Microsoft will start shipping Windows 7 to OEMs starting Oct. 12th, though the much-hyped new OS is not scheduled to launch until Oct. 22nd.

For example, Puget Sound Systems says on its website that it will begins shipping systems with Windows 7 installed as early as Oct. 13th. I previously wrote about Puget Sound Systems in reference to its free offer to update your system from Windows Vista to Windows 7 for you, saving less technical end users the effort.

Shipments will begin on a first-come, first-served basis. Microsoft tried to play down the announcement, saying that if you include time for building the systems and moving through the supply chain, it will be close to Oct. 22nd anyway.

Nice tap-dancing, but in reality I'm sure Puget Sound Systems will ship a bunch of systems on Oct. 13th. All they have to do is pre-build them, and then install and burn as much as possible on Oct. 12th when they get the software images.

This also brings up another question: why don't other system builders, even large ones such as Dell, allow you to pre-order Windows 7 with the proviso that the system does not ship until Oct. 22nd? We're less than a month from that date anyway, and anyone who thinks in terms of efficiency would be waiting, if they want Windows 7.
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Palm Pre Definitely Coming to Verizon: Report

A report from earlier this week stated that Verizon was snubbing the Palm Pre, which would have dealt a major blow to Palm's comeback chances. Other analysts disagreed with the initial report, and we not appear to have confirmation that the Palm Pre is coming to Verizon after all.

According to the report by BGR, their contacts say that Verizon is indeed taking the device.

In reality, I'd be more likely to say Palm webOS is coming to Verizon; although it would be simple to port the Pre from one CDMA carrier (Sprint) to another, it could be the Pixi that's coming to Verizon rather than the Pre. At any rate, this report jives with statements I've seen as well, that some webOS device of some type will be coming to Verizon in Q1, 2010.

Now about all that lost money for people bailing on Palm after's report ...
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AT&T Accuses Google of Violating FCC Regulations

AT&T, still smarting from all the flak it took over the Google Voice rejection from the App Store*, fired off a letter to the FCC on Friday, charging Google with violating FCC regulations by blocking calls to certain rural areas from its Google Voice service.

Google Voice, currently invitation only, allows users to connect all of their phone numbers, wireless or landline, to one common number and manage the calls and messages through a Web site or by calling the number itself and accessing functions through a phone interface. According to AT&T, Google blocks calls to certain rural communities, something telecommunications companies cannot do; they are required to provide equal access despite the fact that some rural companies may charge high access fees to reach certain customers.

Robert Quinn, AT&T's senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs, said:
Google Voice has claimed for itself a significant advantage over providers offering competing services. By openly flaunting the call blocking prohibition that applies to its competitors, Google is acting in a manner inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the FCC’s fourth principle contained in its Internet Policy Statement. Ironically, Google is also flouting the so-called ‘fifth principle of non-discrimination’ for which Google has so fervently advocated.
Google, on the other hand, responded quickly to AT&T's letter, and reminded all that it's not a traditional telecommunications company. Once again, as with many rules and regulations written for days when people were lucky to have radios, much less HDTVs, times they are a-changin' and the old rules need rewriting, or at least, another look.

In a blog post, Richard Whitt, Google's Washington Telecom and Media Counsel admitted that Google does block some of these calls. The reason is as I outlined above: some of these rural carriers charge egregious rates, and Google has chosen to block these. He added the follow differences between Google and traditional telecoms:
  • Unlike traditional carriers, Google Voice is a free, Web-based software application, and so not subject to common carrier laws.
  • Google Voice is not intended to be a replacement for traditional phone service -- in fact, you need an existing land or wireless line in order to use it. Importantly, users are still able to make outbound calls on any other phone device.
  • Google Voice is currently invitation-only, serving a limited number of users.
AT&T is trying to make this about Google's support for an open Internet, but the comparison just doesn't fly. The FCC's open Internet principles apply only to the behavior of broadband carriers -- not the creators of Web-based software applications. Even though the FCC does not have jurisdiction over how software applications function, AT&T apparently wants to use the regulatory process to undermine Web-based competition and innovation.
It's hard to fault the argument that the service is free. And to be honest, AT&T is no fan of Google Voice anyway, which is why some feel it had a hand in its App Store rejection. The only thing easily predictable about this is that it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
* Which it may or may not have had anything to do with, and which may or may not actually have been rejected, depending on whom you ask
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Verizon Not Snubbing the Pre: Analysts

A post yesterday at had to send both Palm employees and Palm stockholders into a tizzy. The site said that Verizon had decided to pass on any webOS devices, but Friday, other sites and analysts disputed that claim.

Thr original rumor noted that Verizon was not happy with Pre sales so far (though realistically, Verizon should take the fact that it was Sprint that was selling the device, considered the #3 carrier in the U.S.) and also that Verizon wanted to focus on its VCast application and download store, rather than Palm's App Catalog.

However, today analysts are chiming in, disagreeing with that report. An example is Deutsche Bank’s Jonathan Goldberg, who in a research note this morning, dismissed the report as “off base." He wrote:
“We believe the press reports late Thursday afternoon that Verizon would not launch the Palm Pre are incorrect. Our checks continue to point to healthy carrier demand for the Pre early in calendar 2010. We believe Palm has placed orders with the supply chain for another version of the Pre with features highly consistent with a Verizon launch.”
Tavis McCourt at Morgan Keegan & Co, was just as skeptical. He said:
“Palm reiterated its FY2010 guidance, which we believe REQUIRES a launch at Verizon (you just can’t get there with just Sprint and AT&T). Verizon has carried just about every Palm product in its history, and the Pre is clearly the best. We do not have insight as to the marketing support Palm will get from Verizon, but we see little risk in not getting a placement at this carrier. The timing of the rumor post-deal makes it equally as dubious as the timing of the ‘Nokia will buy Palm’ rumor during the roadshow.

“Feb. holds the potential to be a strong Pre quarter as shipments to Sprint likely stabilize and distribution expands to Verizon Wireless (our assumption). Palm’s success at Sprint has typically been a good barometer for shipment trends at VZW and, with a postpaid sub base that’s roughly 3x as large as Sprint’s CDMA business, the market opportunity at VZW is much larger. However, Pre trends at Sprint were aided by the device’s near term exclusivity and a large base of existing Palm users upgrading their devices, both factors that VZW lacks.”
Besides all that, does anyone notice the strong resemblance between Palm's recently announced Pixi and the Centro? Add to that the fact that the Pixi will likely come in at $99, which was the Centro's price, and then remember that Palm sold boatloads of Centros. Those Centro owners will be coming up on the ends of the contracts. What better device to move to than the Pixi?

Additionally, you might recall that Verizon was the last to jump on the Centro bandwagon after seeing how well the device was selling for Sprint and AT&T. It would be hard to imagine them missing this boat.

Still, if Verizon did pass on webOS, it would be a major blow to Palm. The company needs all U.S. carriers to take its products if it is to survive.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

After Months, AT&T Launches iPhone MMS

It only took, what, 3 months (more or less), but iPhone MMS has finally been activated on AT&T's network. As the flagship carrier for the hot device, AT&T took a lot of flak over the missing feature, available on most other carriers from the day the iPhone 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0 launched.

What should you expect? While there were reports of AT&T sending an SMS message to iPhone users, telling them that MMS was available, that didn't happen for me. Instead, in late morning, I plugged my iPhone into a USB port, started up iTunes, went to my iPhone in iTunes, and clicked "Check for Update".

There it was. As shown above, and as I expected, what you'll get is a small carrier update that enables iPhone MMS. When I say small, I mean small, as well; compared to a ROM update it takes mere seconds.

Once you've downloaded the iPhone MMS carrier settings update, Apple recommends you restart your iPhone. To do this, hold down the power button until the red "Slide to power off" prompt appears. Power off your iPhone. Once it is off, press the power button to turn it back on.

After your iPhone restarts, verify MMS is active by creating a new text message. You should see the camera icon to the left of the text field as shown above. Voila, AT&T and iPhone MMS are one. Now, about Google Voice ...
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Microsoft Blasts Google Chrome Frame; Cites Security

Microsoft (ironically) pulled out the security card when addressing the idea of Google Chrome Frame on Thursday. Google Chrome Frame is a plug-in for Internet Explorer that replaces Microsoft's rendering and JavaScript engines with Chrome's.

Here's what Microsoft said in a statement:
"With Internet Explorer 8, we made significant advancements and updates to make the browser safer for our customers. Given the security issues with plugins in general and Google Chrome in particular, Google Chrome Frame running as a plugin has doubled the attach area for malware and malicious scripts. This is not a risk we would recommend our friends and families take."
Some might call this laughable, given Microsoft's history, but it is true that NSS Labs performed two separate browser security tests in July and IE8 came out on top. On the other hand, the sponsor of those tests was none other than Microsoft.

It's also true that plug-ins often raise security risks for a longer period of time as they typically go unpatched for longer, this is Google we're talking about, not some small independent developer. It's unlikely any vulnerabilities would remain unplugged for long.

At any rate, it's hard to understand the use case for Google Chrome Frame anyway. The reasoning behind it appears to allow those whose IT departments won't allow them to use anything but IE, a way to use Chrome. One big problem with this is that a lot of Intranet pages still don't work with Chrome. What good is it to use Chrome inside IE if things don't work?

Right now, the only way to activate Chrome's engine is to use a tag in the page itself, prepend cs: to the URL, or insert URLs into the registry. That's not going to get a lot of usage. In the future, who knows?
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AT&T About to Release iPhone MMS. So?

AT&T is about the set MMS free for iPhone users. The lack of the iPhone's MMS on the flagship network for the device, AT&T, has been a source of embarrassment for the carrier since iPhone OS 3.0 and the iPhone 3GS launched earlier this year. The feature should go live later today sometime, barring any unforeseen issues. I say: so?

MMS is an old technology. Yes, it allows you to send multimedia messages back and forth between phones that may not support email, but really, while the addition of MMS to the iPhone is really just a checkbox addition to the feature set. It allows AT&T to say, "yes, we support MMS on the iPhone." Strictly speaking, it's not a big deal.

AT&T is trying to get some positive PR out of adding iPhone MMS (as well as eliminating all the grousing about its lack). The carrier really needs that good press, as customers continue to complain about dropped calls, poor signals, and lack of the 7.2 mbps HSPA support that was noted as a major advantage to the iPhone 3GS (the S is for speed), and which is non-existent for almost all customers.

Other things still missing from the iPhone include the promised tethering feature, another feature that was promised when the iPhone OS 3.0 was announced earlier this year. Tethering allows you to connect your smartphone (not just an iPhone) to your laptop or PC and use it as a modem for times when you're not around wi-fi. Personally, that would be a far more enticing feature than iPhone MMS.

Google Voice would also be a great addition for the iPhone. Although Apple continues to say that it has not rejected Google Voice from the App Store, Google disagrees and says the app is dead. Google Voice is the sort of app that makes one want to jailbreak one's iPhone. Once again, way more important than iPhone MMS.

Still, AT&T's "switch" for iPhone MMS will be flicked on later today, if all goes well. Some users have already seen MMS activated on their iPhones over the past week or so; AT&T has been rolling the feature out randomly to users to prevent a huge hit to their network.

Current plans for actually turning on the feature include a late morning (local time) launch with a text message sent to your iPhone when the AT&T network is ready for iPhone MMS. You'll then have to plug-in to iTunes to get what's probably a small carrier settings update for your device.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Palm Pre Mindshare Second Only to iPhone: Study

A new study (.PDF) by market research firm Interpret has much better news for Palm than its latest financial report. In fact, the study states that in terms of mindshare, the Palm Pre is second only to the iPhone.

Mindshare is the development of consumer awareness or popularity. In its study, Interpret noted that "Palm has seemingly demonstrated that other brands can successfully launch smartphones that not only match the iPhone’s glow, but can stand alone in their own right" and that "consumers intending to purchase a smartphone no longer feel that the iPhone is the only player in the smartphone market."

Interpret identified the key drivers of smartphone purchasing decisions as perceptions that the device is, in order of ranking:
  • Smart (intelligent, adept, 53%)
  • Cool (hip, trendy, 48%)
  • Productive (efficient, organized, 44%)
More info from the study:
  • It appears the most highly publicized signature smartphones are no longer expected to simply accomplish advanced tasks, but they must also project three key attributes (those listed above)of their owners to others.
  • Even though the Pre has not sold millions, its significant role in jumpstarting Palm’s revival has put the brand in a place to expand to different carriers—and increase its market share by developing similar handsets. Palm delivers a prime example for other vendors on how to market and position a phone to not just match the iPhone, but to establish a unique place for the handset to flourish on its own merits.
Anyone looking at Palm's Pixi announcement and thinking about the success they had with the Centro can see that Palm is aiming the Pixi at the same crowd. It will likely have the same price as the Centro did ($99) and, Palm obviously hopes, grab those people whose contracts are ending and might want a smart, cool, inexpensive (and productive) new smartphone.

Palm potentially could sell a boatload of these.
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Microsoft Opening a Paris "Windows Cafe"

Microsoft, apparently not satisfied with its upcoming retail stores, is opening a cafe in Paris, France. To be exact, a Windows 7 cafe, to help launch its new operating system.

The Windows Cafe will open on Oct. 22nd, the day Windows 7 launches, at 47 Boulevard Sebastopol. The Cafe will reportedly have plenty of Microsoft stuff to play with (PCs, Xboxes, mobile devices), but it's not one of Microsoft's retail stores, so you'll only be able to buy coffee / snacks there.

Microsoft told C|Net:
"This initiative expresses our intention to meet with the general public and show the new Windows experiences on PC, mobile and on the Internet. People will be able to discover Windows 7, the Windows phones and the Windows Live services."
The Cafe will naturally have free wi-fi. In fact, that wi-fi might be live already. The writing on the window apparently reads: "The Windows Cafe will open its doors on October 22. Don't hesitate to browse the web on the sidewalk in the meantime."
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