Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Technology Predictions

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Now that the end of 2009 is just days away it's time to look ahead to 2010 to see what will happen with our gadgets, computers and in the online world. 

1.  Beginning of the end of CDMA: Code Division Multiple Access the technology used by about half of the cell phones in North America is going to start heading towards the end days.  Bell and Telus have already started to replace their CDMA networks with networks using GSM/HSPA technology.  Verizon Wireless the largest CDMA cell operator is already planning a migration to a 4G technology known as Long Term Evolution or LTE starting in 2010. 

2.  No iPhone on Verizon this year: The biggest rumor about Apple's iPhone is when it will be available on a carrier other than AT&T in the United States.  There have been a lot of gossip that Apple is developing a CDMA based iPhone for use on Verizon Wireless.  With Verizon's iDont and Land of lost toys commericals pretty fresh in the minds at Apple, it's likely that things have soured between Verizon and Apple that Apple isn't going to make the investment to make an iPhone for Verizon's CDMA network when the exclusivity agreement with AT&T expires at the end of 2010.  It is far more likely that Apple doesn't see the point in sinking millions of dollars into research and development when Verizon is going to deploying LTE to replace CDMA in 2011.  This it not to say that there will never be an iPhone on Verizon.  AT&T is going to be deploying LTE at about the same time as Verizon.  Expect to see an LTE based iPhone in about two or three years from now on Verizon and AT&T.

3.  Palm offers WebOS based GSM smartphones: The Palm Pre the darling of the cell industry for a few months at the beginning of 2009 will break away the shackles of being a CDMA only device.  Since Verizon, Google and Motorola stole Palm's thunder with the Droid, Palm will need something big to survive.  Originally choosing Sprint as the carrier for the Pre didn't help things one bit so Palm will need to make their phones available to every carrier under the sun.  That means bringing out a GSM based Pre and Pixi to offer through AT&T, T-Mobile, Rogers, and Telus.

4.  Facebook IPO:  Social Networking has been something speculated to be something big enough to invest in.  The major media companies have invested in a big way.  News Corporation bought Myspace, Google bought Orkut, and AOL bought Bebo.  Soon people will be able to invest in the biggest name in social networking: Facebook.  Speculation about Facebook going public have been going around since Facebook created two classes of shares current owned by the owners of Facebook back in October.  After Facebook goes for sale on the stock market, so will developers of facebook applications, and let the next bubble inflate.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Look Back At The Tech of 2009

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As families gather around decorated trees to unwrap both techie and non techie presents just before 2009 comes to a close a look back shows that 2009 was the year of...

1. iPhone Competitors

At the opening of 2009 at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, a company that many thought to be long left for dead unveiled a phone that promised to give Apple's iPhone would finally get some serious competition.  Where HTC's G1 on T-Mobile powered by Google's Android operating system failed to capture consumers' pocketbooks, Palm's new smartphone named the Pre became newest phone to get the 'iPhone killer' name.  Despite positive reviews for the WebOS that powers the pre, and strong demand when the phone launched in June, interest in the Pre has trailed off into obscurity, just as Motorola and Verizon start promotion for the Droid powered by Android which towards the end of 2009 is finally getting decent handsets that can properly run Android.  With more handsets from more manufacturers running Android, not too many people are talking about WebOS as 2009 draws to a close

2. Netbooks everywhere

The market for Netbooks exploded in 2009, cash-strapped consumers bought up netbooks as their disposable income for things like full sized notebook and desktop PC's evaporated.  Cell phone carriers began offering netbooks equipped with 3G connectivity in exchange for making a two year committment to 3G service from any of the cellular carriers.

3. Apple Fanboys Shattered Dreams

At Apple's last appearance at the annual MacWorld conference the much rumoured Apple tablet would be unveiled but that didn't happen, mid year at the World Wide Developers Conference Apple's tablet didn't become a reality.  The diehards are still waiting and rumourmongering about the Apple tablet.  At the product announcement on September 9th it was widely speculated from the date of the announcement 9-9-9 that the entire catelog of songs by the Beatles would be available for sale in the iTunes music store.  That again didn't happen.  One more thing... Apple fanboys were left with some pretty long looking faces in 2009.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Does Wind Mobile's Phones and Plans Mean For Consumers?

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Wind Mobile Canada's delayed but still first out of the gate new cell phone carrier unveiled their plans and the phones that they will be offering.  As expected Wind Mobile is undercutting the incumbent cell carriers with plans at 15.00 35.00 and 45.00 dollars per month.  All three plans offer free calling between Wind Mobile cell phones anywhere in Canada.  The 35.00 dollar per month plan offers free calling within the province where the subscriber lives provided that the subscriber is with in a Wind Mobile coverage area.  The 45.00 dollar per month plan offers free calling within Canada.  All three plans offer free unlimited incoming text messages. 

The selection of phones is pretty paltry right now, only four models of handsets are currently available.  A touch screen phone from Huawei, a chinese company, the Gravity 2 from Samsung, HTC Maple running Windows mobile, and the Blackberry Bold 9700.  What is unique to Wind Mobile is the requirement to buy a phone outright when signing up for service, phones are not subidized in exchange subscribers are on month by month billing and not locked into a contract for three years. 

Certainly the plans will entice consumers to switch, but paying the full cost of the phone will make many think twice.  That will give the incumbent carriers pleny of ammo in the ad war that is sure come in the new year.  Bell and Telus is sure to take aim with the 'C' word, coverage.  Wind Mobile currently covers Toronto and Calgary, Wind Mobile will be roaming on the Rogers network everywhere else in Canada.  Now the first new cell carrier has unveiled their service, two more to go, cell phone service is on it's way to getting better.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is Bell Mobility Planning an Expansion Into Saskatchewan?

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At a time when cellular subscribers across Canada await new competitors to provide cell service, meanwhile in Saskatchewan one of the new carriers arriving soon is actually one of the long time established cell carriers just about everywhere else in Canada.  Undoubtly many in land of the living skies have seen the commericals advertising for the iPhone on Telus and Bell on CTV and Global broadcasts including locally produced newscasts.  While Telus offers cell phone service in Saskatchewan, they are not able to offer the iPhone because the only GSM/HSPA network in the province is owned by Rogers, which Telus will not enter into a roaming agreement with.

Bell has never entered the Cellular market in Saskatchewan because of the network infrastructure sharing agreement they signed with Sasktel years ago.  The telco's share each other's networks in exchange they don't compete in each others service areas.  It could be argued that Bell has already effectively ended that agreement since their satellite TV services competes against Sasktel Max.  Bell mobility has brought in sideline revenue selling cell phones to affiliated carriers such as Sasktel and MTS, as Bell moves from CDMA to GSM/HSPA that's revenue that killed off as long as the regional carriers choose to stay on CDMA.

If or more likely when Bell mobility starts putting up towers in Saskatchewan, Telus is likely to share a GSM/HSPA network, so that Telus can offer their full lineup GSM/HSPA handsets.  Bell and Telus can bring a much better varitey of cell phones, smartphones, including the iPhone, Motorola Milestone (GSM varient of the Droid) and most other Android based smartphones that Rogers doesn't already offer.  Bell is a member of the Inukshuk alliance which offers WiMax based broadband service in the rest of Canada.  Bell mobility entering Saskatchewan will finally mean WiMax will finally come to the province.  Many from other provinces may have horror stories about high prices and poor customer service they get from Bell, but at least it competes against the high prices and poor customer service that we get from the service providers we have now.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Globalive's Wind Mobile Will Get To Launch After All

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The recent decicion by the Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission that prevented Globalive from launching their Wind Mobile cell phone service has been overtuned. The CRTC decided that because the ownership structure of Globalive doesn't have enough Canadian ownership and could not launch a national cell phone network.  Industry Minister Tony Clement has upheld Industry Canada's licensing of Globalive clearing the company to launch their cell phone network as soon as this Monday (December, 14th 2009) in Toronto and Calgary.

The incumbent cellular carriers are already voicing their displeasure over Globalive's reinstatement of their license.  Rogers chief executive officer Nadir Mohamed stated that the Canada's wireless market could not sustain a fourth national service.  Several years ago an attempt was made to introduce more compeition in the cell phone market in Canada.  In 1995 Microcell's Fido and Clearnet were licensed to provide cellular services that launched in 1997.  The costs buying the licenses in auctions and building cellular networks ran the startups into too much debt.  In 2000 Clearnet was bought up by Telus, which expanded Telus from their base of operations in Alberta and British Columbia into a national carrier.  In 2003 Microcell became the prize in a war of hostile takeover bids from Telus and Rogers. 

The launches of Wind Mobile and three other startup cellular carriers promised to be different that those of Clearnet and Microcell.  Canada's cell phone market is a lot larger now, there's about three times the number of cell phone subscribers now than there were in 1997.  Any claim that Canada's market won't be able to sustain any more cell phone carriers is questionable at best.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Playing The Odds on the Apple Tablet Computer

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After Apple's reluctance to pull the trigger and release the often rumored tablet computer in time for Christmas shopping season, rumours of a launch in March or April are springing up.  Lately the Apple tablet has been hyped as going to do to the book publishing industry what the iPod did to the music industry.  Just as gambling industry bookmakers give odds on sporting events here's the odds for certain rumors about the upcoming iPad as some people call it.

500-1 Apple releases the tablet at a reasonable price point something like $499 or less.  Being priced so above the rest of the PC industry doesn't give Apple a cachet of geek chic, it just makes them look greedy.

200-1 The Apple tablet will run a full version of OS X.  The smart money goes to Apple putting an iPhone/iPod Touch interface to pander to the masses who have bought those devices, instead of a device that bridges people to the full OS X experience.

80-1 Wireless data service provided Verizon Wireless, Verizon hasn't won any fans in Cupertino with their "land of misfit toys" and "There's a Map for That" ads, the 3G service is going to be coming from AT&T

20-1 Screen using OLED or colour e-ink technology, given how much of a power hog that backlighting systems for LCD panels can be.  If Apple goes to a small nonreplaceable battery they'll need some new display screen technology.

4-1 e-books, and audiobooks will come to the iTunes store.  Apple will need to sell books for their device designed for reading.

2-1 After feeding the rumour mill some more by constant denials, Apple will have a media event to introduce new products such as new macbooks and iPods but no tablet.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Droid, Milestone facts for Canadians

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Motorola's Droid smartphone on Verizon Wireless has to be the most advertised smartphone since the original iPhone a little over two years ago.  Motorola is putting out two versions of this smartphone the Droid the one that is already well known, that runs on Verizon's CDMA network and the Milestone that runs on GSM/HSPA networks.  Telus Mobility has already announced that they will be the exclusive carrier for the Milestone on their new HSPA network.

In some areas of Canada, Rogers is the only GSM/HSPA network available with the other cellular network available from a regional incument carrier such MTS or Sasktel who will be choosing to stay on CDMA for the forseeable future, people in these areas are out of luck when it comes to the Droid/Milestone since Telus rents the cellular network infrastructure in those areas where they don't own their own.  Exclusivity agreements similar to what Motorola has with Telus prevent offering the CDMA based Droid in areas where Telus doesn't offer HSPA service.  Palm makes a GSM version of the Pre for the European markets but is prevented by exclusivity agreements with Bell Mobility and Sprint from offering the GSM version in North America.

Former customers of Alltel (a former regional cell phone carrier in the United States) used to complain about the poor selection of phones until they got bought out by Verizon. For regional carrier subscribers in Canada, not having access to the latest selection of smart phones is just the price of subscribing to a regional carrier.

Monday, December 7, 2009

2009 Prognostications Redux

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The close of 2009 just a few weeks away, it's time once again to check up on predictions I made last year at this time and see how accurate my digital clairvoyance really was, so here's what I thought was going to happen in 2009 and what actually did happen:

1. Handset makers start dumping Windows Mobile and go to Google Android

On this one I get half a mark, while handset manufacturers and cell carriers have started to adopt Android, nobody has dropped Windows Mobile yet, that could still come in 2010.  Windows Mobile 6.5 was released to tepid reviews and Microsoft promises that Windows Mobile 7 will be better, Microsoft had better deliver.  Android will be seen by handset manufacturers as what they need to compete against Apple's iPhone.

2. Canadian cell phone carriers start marketing blitz in advance of arrival of competition

I wouldn't exactly call what the cell carriers have done to get ready for new competition as a marketing blitz, Canada's incumbent cellular carriers have dropped the system access fee on new cell phone accounts which is a good thing, Bell and Telus have started their change over from CDMA to GSM/HSPA which is another good thing because it moves Canada to a single standard system for Cellular communications, which is another good thing because it allows an unlocked phone to be used on any network. The cell carriers have gone and cried foul to the CRTC about the ownership structure of one of the new competitive carriers Wind Mobile, their decicion delays their launch well into 2010.  The incumbents have also gone after each other about their advertising claims this is another bad thing for subscribers, because the costs of all lawsuit damage rewards are ultimately will get passed down to you know who: cell phone subscribers.

3. Yahoo Fire Sale

This one is one I'm glad I got wrong, Yahoo getting bought up and sold off would have been a tragic end of one of the Internet's pioneering brands. A search deal with Microsoft is already threating to kill Yahoo's core product, web search.  The future of Yahoo as just an online media company will be uncertain at best.  This is a story that will conclude in 2010.

4. Apathy towards Windows 7 gains momentum

This is the prediction that I was the most wrong about.  Those who had to endure Windows Vista jumped over to Windows 7 in large numbers.  The Windows XP hold outs are making the switch as well.  2010 will be finally be the year the corporate IT community finally makes a switch to another operating system.  Windows 7, Mac OS X or something else. 

Half marks on a couple of predictions and complete wrong on a couple more shows that 2009 was an eventful year in tech, just as 2010 promises to be.  Stay tuned for the predictions for 2010.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What Will It Take For Nokia To Make A Comeback In North America

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About ten years ago when cell phones were used to make phone calls many cell phone owners in the United States an Canada used Nokia phones.  Back then the World's leader in cell phone was the leader in market share in North America.  Oh how times have changed, after getting mowed over by Motorola's razr, a price spat with Qualcomm, iPhone, Palm Pre and Google Andorid have relegated Nokia's handsets to the line-ups of convenience store prepaid services. 

If Nokia's executives want to get their phones back into hands of cell phone yakkers then there's much that has to be done to make there phones and their brand desireable in North America once again.  Nokia's Symbian OS may have a following in Europe, but it's nothing but dead weight in their attempt to sell a Smartphone in North America.  If Nokia doesn't put out a Android based handset in the year it's probably going to be game over for Nokia this side of the Atlantic. 

Even if just one phone has just one feature that no other phone has, cell phone subscribers will grab up the phones and bring Nokia back into the game.  One flaw that iPhones and other touch screen phones has is the fragile nature of their screens.  One doesn't have to look very far to find a smartphone with a shattered screen.  Just by bringing a shock resistant touch screen phone would attract subscribers back to Nokia

One of the things that lead to Nokia's fall from grace is their focus on the low end of the market.  Producing phones for prepaid MNVO's Nokia has become a ghetto brand.  Nokia will need to get phones into the lineups of the incumbent cell carriers once again, but for the incumbent carriers Nokia handsets would be a gamble since most of the subscribers they are trying to attract want iPhones, Palm Pre's or an Android smartphone.  For Nokia something has to be done to make the incumbent carriers to take that gamble, Nokia's future in North America depends on it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SprintNextel To Kill QChat

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America's third largest cellular carrier SprintNextel has announced that the Sprint branded QChat two way radio service over the CDMA network will come to an end.  No new phones with the feature will be sold effective immediately.  Users of the service will be able to continue to use the service for the remaining terms of their contracts.  The walkie talkie service sold under the Nextel and Boost Mobile brands using iDen technology will remain in service for years to come. 

Two way radio service over CDMA cellular networks that QChat is based on is sold as a service called 10-4 in Canada by Bell, Bell Aliant, MTS and Sasktel.  With the end of Sprint's QChat and Bell's move from CDMA to GSM/HSPA leaves the future of 10-4 uncertain.  Sanyo and Samsung being the only manufactuers to produce handsets for QChat and 10-4 likely to drop the feature from handsets in the short term.  Two way radio service by Telus Mobility sold under the Mike brand is not affect as it uses iDen technology.

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