Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Digital Prognostications for 2011

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Now only days remain in 2010, the time has arrived to take a look ahead to what I think 2011 holds in the technology industry. 

1. Digital Disaster August 31st: Now that the switch over from analog to digital is less than nine months away there still hasn't been much if any public education from television stations leaving those who use antennas to receive over the air broadcast television in the dark.  Retailers selling electronics have plenty of television sets with digital tuners in stock, but converter boxes that are required for the millions of existing TV sets that are hooked to antennas are very few and far between on store shelves.  Unless massive public education happens between now and the 31st of August many people who are dependent on over the air signals to get television will be staring at snow after the 31st.

2. No Installment of Call of Duty coming in 2011:  In the past few years many gamers have picked an early Christmas present, the latest installment of Call of Duty.  Early in November 2011 the shelves of retail stores will have a big hole on the shelves where a new installment should be.  All this is because the gutting of executives and employees from Infinity Ward one of the developers of the Call of Duty games.  As a response to controversy over the decision not to have dedicated servers CoD publisher Activision demanded changes at Infinity Ward, and most of the company tendered their resignations.  While there is a Modern Warfare 3 already in development it's expected until 2012.

3.  EA vs. Zynga: Let the legal b***h slapping begin:  At the end of 2010 the surprise success story of social network gaming, Zynga launched Cityville a game where players build (or destroy) their own virtual city.  If this sounds like a game you've probably played before that's because it is.  Electronic Arts is probably watching Cityville very closely and getting their army of lawyers ready to launch lawsuit claiming that Cityville infringes on EA's SimCity patents and copyright. 

4. Video Game Industry Downturn Becomes A Crash and Burn:  Between mid 2009 and the present video game software sales have gotten soft so to speak.  Most game publishers reporting sales down from a year ago which were down from the year before that.  Most sales declines can probably be blamed on the excess of titles to choose from but a shortage of quality games in the market.  Many games are launching at the average retail price only to fall to bargain bin prices in just weeks.  Some games are rushed through development to get into stores, such as EA Sports MMA.  Game publishers will need to cut down on the number of games being developed in order to get better games into stores.  Otherwise the current downturn will turn into something we haven't seen since the video game crash of 1983.

5.  If the Verizon iPhone launches it will be on LTE only:  It has been rumoured since launch of the original iPhone in 2007, an iPhone that runs on Verizon Wireless.  There were rumors that Apple was ordering chips from Qualcomm for a CDMA iPhone.  However the iPhone for CDMA networks has not yet materialized.  Now that Verizon now launched 4G LTE network Apple will be considering an iPhone for Verizon.  While CDMA was a popular technology, it's now outdated.  Cellular bandwidth on CDMA is limited to under 1 Mbps which was just not enough required for many Apps.  As advertised by both Apple and AT&T making a call on a CDMA phone disables any ability to use any other data requiring application such as surfing the web or retrieving an e-mail.  LTE does not have any of these constrictions.  To make sure that the iPhone experience is the same for all users regardless of their cellular carrier (you know that Apple is all about the user experience.)  That means that the dream of a CDMA iPhone will be a dream left in the past.  If Apple announces a Verizon iPhone it will be announced at the start of the year but won't launch until the end of 2011 to give Verizon time to expand their LTE network coverage.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2011 Will Be The Year of The Handheld Gaming Wars (Again)

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2011 is now just less than two weeks away, and it’s already looking like new handheld systems are going to be the biggest sellers to come from the video game industry in the year ahead.  There is already a new DS with 3D graphics coming from Nintendo.  The retail release of the 3DS is scheduled January for Japan and March for North America. 

Sony, still bruised from the thud made by the PSP Go when it hit the market at the end of 2009, will be looking for redemption from two new handheld systems.  The first isn't exactly a Playstation Portable, It's a smartphone that runs Google's Android operating system with a PSP shoehorned into it.  The controller slides out from the screen similar to the PSP Go.  Like the PSP the games will delivered exclusively as digital downloads.  What is not known is that the games downloaded for the PSP and PSP go will be the same game files that play on the PSP phone, or will the games for the PSP Phone be special versions for the PSP Phone.

Looking to launch their own next generation of handheld gaming the next system Sony is expected to launch the next system that is already dubbed PSP 2. Like the PSP Go and the expected PSP Phone the PSP 2 will only hold games downloaded from Playstation Network.  Some circulating rumours state that the PSP 2 will have a touch screen, and virtual analog control, an where moving a thumb on the surface of the PSP 2 will have the same effect as moving an analog stick on a game console controller.

Sony has not yet announced if downloadable games that play on PSP and PSP Go will work on the PSP 2.  It is highly likely that the PSP 2 will not have a UMD drive, which means games on disc will be stuck on the original Playstation Portable.  Whatever the form the PSP 2 and PSP Phone take, Sony will need find their target audience in order to be successful with the new PSP systems. The youth market continued to be dominated by Nintendo and Panasonic targeting the hardcore gamers with their Jungle handheld system that could launch by the end of 2011, there could be little room for Sony if they don't stake their claim with gamers now.  Nintendo, Sony, and Panasonic all have to compete against Apple's iOS based devices which Apple argues is the world's most popular handheld gaming platform.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Technology Predictions Revisited

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As another year draws to a close it's time to revisit the predictions made about a year ago on this blog.  To review:

1.  Beginning of the end of CDMA: Metro PCS, and Verizon launched LTE at the end of 2010, Sasktel turned on HSPA, leaving MTS as Canada's CDMA only carrier this on was right on the mark.

2.  No iPhone on Verizon this year: While rumors ran rampant the whole year long there was no Verizon iPhone to be seen.  Got this one right too.

3.  Palm offers WebOS based GSM smartphones: Here's one I missed: Palm gets bought out by Hewlett Packard and is MIA ever since.

4.  Facebook IPO:   Got another one wrong, I guess Mark Zuckerberg already a billionaire, then the thought of making easy billions selling shares of Facebook on the stock market hasn't entered his mind.

2 wrong, 2 right, my geek crystal ball was a little cloudy after all, for a look ahead to 2011 stay tuned.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Canada's Long Term Wait for LTE

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Any Canadian cell phone junkie who watches any American television has undoubtedly has seen the commercials for Verizon's 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network and is already is wishing that it was available in Canada.  LTE is going to be one of those technologies that Canadians will get that familiar outside looking in feeling.  Like Small dish satellite TV, Tivo's and iPhones Canadians will have years to wait until LTE will make it's way over the border. 

The first barrier to getting LTE in Canada is the 700 MHz band needed for LTE is currently occupied by TV stations operating on channels 52-69.  The 700 MHz band will be cleared when Canada's DTV transition happens on August 31st. All TV stations will have to move to lower channels, even the rebroadcast relays even though those will be allowed to stay on Analog will have to move to a lower channel.  Once the spectrum is cleared, then Industry Canada in consultation will hold an auction to sell licences to operate LTE services in the 700 MHz band.  The process of the Auction could last a year or more.

After the auction process, the carriers that won licenses have to upgrade their networks in the case of incumbent carriers or build their networks in the case of startup carriers.  This could take another year or more.  At minimum it will 2013 before any LTE 4G service can launch in Canada.  Rogers and Bell are currently field testing LTE in Ontario but their networks are already traffic heavy with current HSPA traffic and legacy GSM and CDMA traffic which will remain on their networks for several years to come.  The incumbent carriers will need to win some licenses in the 700 MHz band before they can roll out LTE service.

Shaw Communications already owns licenses to offer wireless communications services using the Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) bands found at 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz. Shaw has stated that they intend to use LTE as the technology to deliver Wireless service to consumers.  It will be advisable that Shaw will wait to bid on 700 MHz spectrum to supplement their existing licenses on AWS.  Subscribers on Wind Mobile and Mobilicity have discovered AWS has proven to be notorious prone to dead sports in densely populated urban areas.  Service on the 700 band will be less prone to dead spots.   

Subscribers on regional carriers such as Sasktel and MTS, as well as subscribers on startup carriers Wind Mobile and Mobilicity will have a longer wait as financing network upgrades for LTE will be an additional issue that these carriers will have to face.  Building or upgrading networks to support current HSPA has added an incredible debt load that these carriers will have to carry for many years to come.  Upgrading to LTE will add to this existing debt which will lead to a couple more years of delay.

Long Term Evolution seems aptly named especially for Canadians, because we'll see LTE sometime- in the long term.

More information on Long Term Evolution (LTE)

Monday, November 22, 2010

CTV Globemedia Has To Put The Grey Cup On CTV

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My blog is about technology and impact it has in Canada, but I do write about technology and Canadian media. For once I will write about Canadian media and my weekend passion, football.  For the forth year in a row many fans of the Canadian Football League, including my parents who only subscribe to a basic cable package which doesn't include TSN will not be able to watch the Grey Cup (or any other game from the previous four seasons).  Despite owning both TSN and the CTV network, CTV Globemedia chooses to air the No Fun League from south of the border on CTV for all Canadians to see and punt the CFL onto their cable sports channel.

The nine percent of Canadian homes that use antennas as the only source of television signals combined with the larger proportion of homes that subscribe to cable and satellite packages that don't include TSN, leaves about one in five households with no access to the CFL on TV.  The potential lost ratings and advertising revenue has to be something that somebody at CTV Globemedia or the Canadian Football League has to be at least aware of. 

Undoubtedly CTV Globemedia would argue the carriage issue revolves around access to CFL games in High Definition, If Canadians from coast to coast with high definition service could watch on an HD feed from CTV (CFTO Toronto) through their digital cable or satellite service wouldn't generate as much revenue as viewership on TSN.  Since cable and satellite providers pay for the TSN signal, versus not having to pay for CTV.  It clear how much CTV Globemedia only sees revenue from the cable and satellite providers and not to mention the already big revenue TSN makes from advertisers, they don't see the 20 percent of Canadians who would watch CFL if they could.  Including that 20 percent by moving the CFL to CTV would generate far greater advertising revenue for CTV Globemedia.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DTV Canada Transition Update: Saskatchewan

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Broadcast television is set to make the big switch from analog to digital in the Great White North in less than 10 months the stalling tactics on the part of the broadcasting industry are going to make the transition messy that will make the American version of the DTV transition a year and half ago organized and orderly.   With rebroadcast relay transmitters staying on analog and some stations changing the channel they send out their signals on, without massive public education those who depend on over the air signals to get their television will wake up after the 31st of August and have nothing to watch.  For my home province of Saskatchewan: here's how things will shake out on August 31st.


CKCK (CTV) Analog on channel 2 ends, and digital on channel 8 begins
CFRE (Global) Analog on channel 11 ends, and digital 11 begins
CBKT (CBC English) Analog on channel 9, digital 9.1:
CBKFT (CBC French) Analog on channel 13, digital 13.1:


CFSK (Global) Analog on Channel 4 ends, and digital on channel 42 Begins
CFQC (CTV) Analog on Channel 8 ends, and digital on channel 8 begins
CBKST (CBC English) Analog on Channel 11 ends, station gets eliminated
CBKFT-1 (CBC French) Analog on Channel 13 Ends, station gets eliminated

CBC has stated that digital transmitters for Regina and Saskatoon will not be ready for the analog shutoff deadline on August 31st, 2011 because of a funding shortfall.  CBC has August 31st 2012 as the target date to have digital transmitters operational.  Under the current regulation that will leave over the air viewers without CBC service up to one year.  While CBC has applied for an extension to keep the Analog transmitters operating it is unlikely that the CRTC will approve.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Does Sasktel Still Hate Android

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In a previous blog entry I pondered why Sasktel was apparently one of the last cell carriers (MTS being the other) not to offer Smartphones running Android.  In one of the comments to that entry the commenter said that Sasktel couldn't offer Android phones because of operating a CDMA network at the time.  Despite mentioning in the blog entry multiple times about the CDMA Android phones offered in the United States by Verizon and Sprint. 

Since then Sasktel launched a new UMTS/HSPA network that will expand province wide and eventually will replace the older CDMA network.  With a new network come new phones and one of them is the Samsung Galaxy S which does run Android, but that's the only Android phone they sell.  Sasktel sells Blackberries for both UMTS and CDMA like they are going out of style (That's because Blackberries ARE going out of style) 

Even MTS that telco to the east that still is CDMA only offers more Android Smartphones than Sasktel does.  MTS offers the HTC 6250 and a CDMA version of Motorola's Milestone, the same one that Verizon calls the Droid.  Not bad for a network "the couldn't support Android"

It's not just a surprising lack of hardware running Android that shows that the telco that believes that Saskatchewan is some kind of magic kingdom has some kind of chip on their shoulder towards Google and their smartphone operating system.  Mobile Apps from Sasktel for looking up phone numbers are available for Blackberry and oddly enough the iPhone considering that Sasktel hasn't been able to sell iPhones because Apple won't sign a distribution deal with Sasktel which isn't expected to change anytime soon.

As Saskatchewanians start looking for alternatives to their Blackberries as cellular service contracts expire, they will start to look for Android phones, iPhones, and even Windows Phone 7 handsets, to get those phones they will start looking for an alternative to Sasktel

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Gaming Advocates Are Way Off The Mark

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In an upcoming hearing by the Supreme Court of the United States California's video game sales law, the first of many state laws that ban the sales of Mature rated games to minors, will be ether upheld or struck down because it supposedly violates the right to freedom of speech.  Two advocacy groups have sprung up to push the issue beyond the courts and into the legislative spotlight.  The Entertainment Consumers' Association and the Video Game Voters' Network claim that making Mature rated video games is the same as censorship.

One big hole in the arguments that these groups make is that none of these laws dictate to game developers what they can or can't put into games.  These laws make the voluntary guidelines set out by the ESRB that most retailers adhere to the law of the land.  Those who argue that making little Johnny show some photo ID to buy the next Grand Theft Auto is some how unconstitutional,  then that would make denying admission to an R rated move unconstitutional as well.  Striking down any law restricting the sales of Mature rated games would mean that the law requiring TV sets to carry the 'V chip' would have to be struck down as well.

Selling video games at retail, I am required by provincial law to check photo ID to make sure that purchasers of Mature rated games are over the age of 17.  It's no different than when I had to show my ID the first time I went to a R rated movie on my own.  Was my right to freedom of speech violated? Without a doubt it wasn't so what's the big deal about restricting Mature rated games?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Windows Phone 7: When Can Canadians Get Theirs

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For those potential smartphone subscribers looking for an alternative to Blackberries, iPhones, and Android phones in the Great White North, Windows Phone 7 the smartphone operating system from Microsoft that is being watched with some interest by technology industry journalists and analysts launches on November 8th will be available in Canada on the Launch day through the big three cellco's Telus, Rogers, and Bell.

For subscribers on Wind Mobile and Mobilicity there will be a little bit of a wait, while the models launching on T-Mobile in the states will work on Wind and Mobilicity, the startup cell carriers will need to make deals with Microsoft and handset manufacturers before they can offer Windows phone 7.

For those on Sasktel there will be a wait for six months to a year, their new HSPA network supports the same Windows Phone 7 handsets that Telus, Rogers and Bell offer, the big national carriers will have short term exclusivity agreements with handset manufacturers to carry those phones.

Subscribers on MTS and Public Mobile are out of luck for a year or more.  Microsoft has chosen not support CDMA in Windows Phone 7.  Support for CDMA is supposed to be added sometime in the end of 2011, depending if handset manufacturers choose to make CDMA phones with Windows Phone 7 will remain to be seen.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Not For Tablets: Microsoft

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Despite having a user interface and a low CPU and memory requirements that would make Windows Phone 7 perfect for tablets, Microsoft still insists that Windows tablets will be running the full Windows 7 Operating System.  According to Microsoft's Senior Product Manager, Greg Sullivan "Windows 7 will provide a richer touch and applications experience and will be necessary on tablets."  It maybe true that Windows 7 has large third party support from software developers, and Windows Phone 7 like Windows Mobile before it virtually none, it's not a good reason to burden a tablet with chore of running an Operating System designed for full sized PC's.

Even though Google's Chrome OS was designed to be lightweight for tablets, it's Android, that is becoming Operating System of choice for hardware manufacturers that are hoping to compete against Apple's iPad.  It's unlike Microsoft to just let others take all the market share for something like an operating system for tablets.  Google had the foresight to allow device manufacturers to allow Android to be put on tablets, Microsoft will need to do the same with Windows Phone 7 if it going to gain market share in both tablets and smartphones.

Any potential tablet OS war shouldn't be a two way fight between Apple and Google, with HP still going to wade into the water with a version of WebOS for tablet, it's foolishly unlike Microsoft to concede because they couldn't think outside of the box (PC's)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Could Handheld Gaming Get New Competition

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In the past decade the home console market has had three players that have done well in their own ways.   Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have made a lot of money selling consoles and games.  The market for portable handheld has been much different though.  Nintendo had been the 800 pound gorilla of the handheld gaming market.  It has only been in the past few years that Sony's Playstation Portable has held it's own but the overwhelming majority of the market share has belonged to Nintendo's DS system.

While the market for portable handheld video games is so much smaller than the home console market, a third player wants to put their system into the hands of gamers.  Rumours have surfaced that Panasonic is developing a handheld system called the Jungle.  Any new system Panasonic wouldn't be their first entry into gaming, the often slagged and virtually forgotten 3DO back in 1993 was Panasonic's debut in the gaming market.  The early online marketing material from Panasonic promoted the Jungle as a handheld system for online gaming.

Who exactly would be the target audience for the Jungle?  Trying to go after gamers playing on existing handhelds is probably won't be the best way to get their foot in the door and establish market share.  Going after the hard core home console gamers whose shooters have been poorly ported to handheld systems when attempts have been made to bring those games to handheld systems. 

Even though Nintendo owns the market in handheld video games there is potential for Panasonic to do well simply through the multitude home console players whose games are unrepresented on handheld systems.  Even though Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch have been seen as the third player in the handheld gaming market. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Zune Pass & Marketplace Content Coming To Canada (Some of it anyway)

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For some of those who were looking (in Canada) for a viable alternative to Apple's iPods and iTunes, who bought Microsoft's Zune media player only to find that the online music store, the Zune Marketplace wasn't available outside the United States.  The only sources of legally obtained music was through importing songs from CD's or other online music stores such as puretracks.com that sell songs as regular .mp3 files without the restrictions imposed by digital rights management.  Microsoft later introduced a music by subscription service called Zune Pass, again only available in the United States.  It was not long after that Microsoft pulled the Zune players from the Canadian market. 

It has finally come to pass that Zune Pass and Marketplace content will be available outside the United States.  Just about all Zune content will be available across Europe, Zune Pass Music Subscription will not be available in Germany.  Canada, Australia & New Zealand  will get video rentals and purchases but no music.  Looking on zune.ca shows that Microsoft is using Zune as a service for video rental and purchase on the Xbox 360.  There is very little mentioned about the portable media players.  Even then, wouldn't Zune Marketplace customers also want to buy the songs as well, without having to deal with a third party online music store?  Some analysts no longer consider Microsoft to be a leading edge technology company, I wonder why?

When, Not If The Samsung Tab Comes To Canada

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Tablet computers designed to compete with Apple's iPad have been rumoured to be in development for months now, It appears that Samsung's Android powered Galaxy Tab will be the first to go head to head with the iPad.  In a rare move for any manufacturer of devices that operate on cellular networks, the Galaxy Tab is compatible with both CDMA and GSM/HSPA networks.  Samsung has already announced that the Galaxy Tab will be available through all four of the national carriers in the United States.

What will remain to be seen if the Galaxy Tab will be sold through the regional carriers as well as the big national carriers.  Don't subscribers to MetroPCS, Cellular One and Cricket deserve access to the top devices just as Verizon or AT&T subscribers have. 

For subscribers in Canada the big question is if not when the Galaxy Tab comes north of the border.  There will be very little doubt that Bell, Telus, and Rogers will support the Galaxy Tab on their networks.  One thing that cellular subscribers in Manitoba will want answered.  Will it work on MTS?  The short answer is Yes if they sell it directly.  Canada's last CDMA only carrier will not activate any device they didn't originally sell. If the Tab is sold through general electronics retailers that don't sell or activate other MTS cellular products then it's highly unlikely that MTS would activate service on a Galaxy Tab.

For those in Saskatchewan wanting to use a Galaxy Tab on Sasktel, will be able to without any problem on the new HSPA network.  For those who need data service on the older CDMA network because CDMA coverage is more expansive since HSPA covers the cities and the highway corridors could be out of luck unless the subscriber lives in a CDMA only coverage area.

Competition from Samsung is exactly what the tablet computing market needs right now,  The cell phone industry's hardware subsidy business model may not appeal to some but it does make the cost of a tablet easier to take compared to the price that Apple charges to the iPad  which will make Samsung's Galaxy Tab an even more compelling competitor in both the United States and in Canada.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Super WiFi Won't Fly In Canada

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South of the 49th parallel, the regulator of all things that transmits signals, the Federal Communications Commission is working on a new standard for wireless networking that promises faster speeds and greater range (up to 2 kilometres) and better able to penetrate through walls.  Already dubbed 'Super WiFi' would abandon the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands that WiFi networks have traditionally used.  SuperWiFi networks would be transmit in the 'white spaces' between TV stations created when America's television industry made the switch from analog to digital back in June of 2009.

Super WiFi will be something like Hulu in one way, it will only be available in the United States only.  Canada's half hearted approach to switching broadcast TV from analog to digital means that there will be no white spaces opened up for Super WiFi or anything else that requires radio frequency spectrum that gets freed up from the DTV transition.

The main transmitters in the major cities will need to be switched from analog to digital but station relay re-transmitters that serve small towns and rural areas will be allowed operate in analog after August 31, 2011.  All TV stations have been assigned alternative channel assignments by the CRTC to operate on if they are providing both digital and analog over the air signals between now and August, 31. 2011.  Many stations will be moving to their assigned digital channels.  Any transmitter operating on channel 52 or higher must be moved to channel 52 or lower regardless if it's a main station transmitter that will be switched to digital or a station relay  re-transmitter that will continue to operate in analog.  Stations operating on channels 2-6 are choosing to move due to the better performance on the VHF hi and UHF bands. 

To illustrate how filled the TV bands will get even if just a few networks operate stations in any given area, Regina has CTV (CKCK-TV) on Channel 2, CBC (CBKT) on Channel 9 and Global (CFRE) on Channel 11.  The CRTC has assigned channel 8 to CKCK-TV for digital broadcasting, it is expected that CKCK will move from channel 2 to 8 as part of the digital television transition.  CBC is assigned channel 26 to operate CBKT-DT but have applied for a one year extension to complete their digital build out in smaller cities in Canada.  If in the unlikely event this extension is granted there will be a digital station operating right next to an analog station.  CFRE is likely to stay on channel 11 using their assigned digital channel 40 unused due to the lower operating cost of operating on VHF.  That leaves very little room in the Hi VHF channels for everybody and their dog to operate a SuperWiFi network.

Complicating things even more moving out into areas away from the cities where station relay re-transmitters operate.  In Moose Jaw CKCK operates a re-transmitter on channel 7, and CBKT operates a re-transmitter on channel 10 out of Willow bunch south of Moose Jaw.  Moose Jaw lies in the fringe area of CBKT channel 9 expected fringe area of CKCK-DT channel 8.  If the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation gets on year extension, channels 7,8,9,10,11 and 13 will be occupied.  That's why there will be no SuperWiFi coming to Canada and all those wireless broadband services and cell phone bands probably won't be available here ether.

Monday, September 13, 2010

BCE buying CTV: The Demise of Net Neutrality in Canada

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For the past few years legislators in the United States have been debating how to ensure net neutrality for all Internet users south of the border.  Net Neutrality ensures free access to all content or services available online regardless of the subscriber's Internet service provider.  Meanwhile in Canada, Net Neutrality isn't being debated, it's not even being mentioned.  Instead mergers between Shaw and Canwest Global and now CTV and Bell Canada are going to be rubber stamped.

Canadian Internet users will be steered towards content owned by their Internet service providers.  Access to other sources of online video could potentially be inhibited.  The big ISP's have been targeting bit torrent and other peer to peer networks for throttling because they can and do argue that most content peer to peer networks is pirated and uses a high amount of bandwidth that degrades performance of other users' broadband service.  When Netflix launches in Canada within the next couple of months how will the big ISP's respond to that?

One of the effects that the merging the cable/telco/ISP's with broadcast networks is the apathetic attitude towards the transition to digital television that is now just eleven months away.  Shaw built their business providing better picture and sound quality to broadcast television networks such as Canwest Global.  The move to digital television will give over the air viewers the same sound and picture quality that cable and satellite subscribers get.

The DTV transition will also free up wireless spectrum required to open up the Canadian market to new competition for cell phone and wireless broadband service.  Will Bell rush to convert transmitters of CTV stations to digital.  Somehow I didn't think so.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Growing Danger of 'Tap and Go' Credit Cards

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While this Blog covers technology, this is an entry about the technology behind how products and services are paid for.  For the past few years Canada's banks and other credit card issuers have been issuing credit cards with smart chips in them where the card is inserted into a slot in point of sale terminals and the user keys in their PIN, this has made credit card transactions more convenient, more reliable and most importantly more secure than the older magnetic stripe technology that has been around since the late 1960's.  For one step forward to making credit cards more secure the industry has taken two enormous steps backward.

Another new technology that has appeared called PayPass by MasterCard and PayWave by Visa allow card holders to pay for purchases without signing a credit card slip or punching in a PIN.  Non contact payment systems use a technology called Radio Frequency Identification or RFID to store cardholder information on a microchip embedded in a credit card that can be called up by an RFID reader at a merchant's point of sale system.

The biggest downside to non-contact credit transaction systems is that there is no verification that the person making a purchase is the actual person that the credit card was issued to.  While MasterCard puts a limit of fifty dollars on PayPass transactions and Visa has a twenty five dollar limit on PayWave transactions.  The biggest fault isn't from the use of stolen or somebody's lost card that is found and used by somebody else, it's that RFID technology being in wide spread use.  RFID card readers can be purchased easily and inexpensively.  With minor modification RFID readers can capture information from cards as far as four feet away.  The information from captured credit cards can be recorded and used to produce clone cards.

MasterCards issued through Bank of Montreal or a retail chain in Canada are PayPass enabled, but MasterCards issued through credit unions are not.  Visa cards issued by RBC and TD have PayWave but ScotiaBank and CIBC do not have it.  If you have a credit card that is due for renewal soon ask them for a card that doesn't have PayPass or PayWave.  Some credit card issuers will issue a non RFID credit card upon request but some will not.

The potential for credit fraud from RFID harvesting has already spawned a cottage industry of companies providing metal protective sleeves to put credit cards in when they are not in use.  The metal sleeve keeps the signals from the RFID reader from reaching the credit card. 

Like some other technologies, Non contact credit card transaction were probably put out into the world without being thought out properly.  Until RFID credit cards can be better protected then maybe cardholder should hold off getting RFID credit cards even if it means changing credit cards.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

364 Days Until DTV Day Canada

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With the rise of the sun today, September 1st 2010 the day analog over the air television is now less than a year away.  While for the most part Television stations have failed to provide transition simulcasts of their programming in both analog and digital instead opting for a flash cut on 11:59 PM on August 31st of next year.  Television stations in the Great White North, who have done nothing to communicate that the change over is going to happen, now is the time to start. 

For those using antennas for one or more TV sets, not too much is knows on what to expect.  A few things are certain:

To keep receiving programming after August 31st older TV sets with analog tuners will need to be replaced with a set with a digital tuner or a digital converter box will need to be connected to between the antenna and the older TV set.  The antenna may be replaced as well.  Many areas especially in western Canada where for the most part TV signals have been exclusively been broadcast on VHF channels, Many TV stations will be switching from their current VHF channels to UHF channels.

The main transmitters for TV stations will be required to switch to digital, but station relays (retransmitters) will be allowed to remain analog provided that they are not using channel 52 or higher, any station relays using channels 53-69 will be moving to a lower channel to free up the 700 MHz band for public safety communications, cell phones and wireless broadband services.

For TV viewers there will be confusion in a year from now, both the CRTC and TV stations will have to clear up how people watch over the air TV and what channel to watch, stay tuned Canada, if you can.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Could Microsoft Get Shut Out Of Tablet Computing?

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The introduction of Apple's iPad earlier this year has made tablets the fastest growing segment of the computer industry.  Multiple hardware manufacturers are said to be ready to launch competing tablet computing devices featuring Google's Android operating system by the end of the year.  HP is working on a tablet of their own running WebOS, the operating system HP acquired when HP bought Palm last year.  Research In Motion is also rumoured to be working on a BlackBerry tablet as well.  With all these tablets about to go head to head with the iPad, running different operating systems, one question is top of mind. Where is Microsoft in all this?  Where is their operating system for tablet computers?

Just before the announcement back in January when the iPad went from rumour to reality, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show, Ballmer announced that tablet computers running Windows 7 were on the way from HP, Dell, and other PC manufacturers.  Since HP bought Palm all the talk of a Windows 7 based tablets have vanished.  Potentially Microsoft could find themselves on the outside looking in if the tablet computer market takes off when more tablets from more manufacturers end up in consumers' hands.

Just shoehorning Windows 7 onto a tablet would be the wrong path to take to try to move into the tablet computing operating system market.  Despite calls from many tech industry analysts and journalists to put a full version of OSX onto the iPad, and went with iOS instead because Apple understands that a full sized computer operating system is just unworkable on a tablet.  The Windows Phone 7 OS and user interface would be much better suited for a tablet than a full version of Windows. 

Could it be that Microsoft executives are asleep and are just not seeing the potential that the tablet market holds, or are they consciously forfeiting the tablet market to Apple, Google, HP, and Research In Motion?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do Canada's New Cell Carriers Hate Android?

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Less than a year out of the gate Wind Mobile has announced that they have already attracted 100,000 subscribers.  Mobilicity has just a couple months of service under their belt but have already signed up thousands of subscribers as well.  Just like the launches of Fido and Clearnet over a decade ago, these new cell carriers using new technology, their selection of phones isn't that great right now.

Both Wind and Mobilicity both offer the Blackberry Bold 9700 and smartphones running Windows Mobile.  Both carriers have networks that are not compatible with the iPhone.  There are plenty of phones running Google's Android operating system that are compatible with the AWS networks operated by both Wind Mobile and Mobilicity neither one offers any Android based smartphones.

For incoming cell carriers who need to do everything they can to get cell phone subscribers to switch, it's a mystery to see potential customers looking for an Android based phone having to stay with Rogers, Telus or Bell.  For the new carriers the price they have to pay for phones is much higher than what the incumbent carriers have to pay for similar phones.  The incumbent carriers have to buy more phones which means they get lower prices from handset manufacturers.  While that is big factor that determines which phones the new carriers sell, the cost of Android operating system isn't a factor.  Google provides Android to handset manufacturers for free.

The only way for Wind Mobile and Mobilicity subscribers to get a phone running Andorid is to buy an unlocked phone off the shelf and put in their SIM card.  T-Mobile runs their 3G using AWS bands.  When hunting for an Andorid phone compatible with Wind Mobile or Mobilicity won an online classified or auction site, a phone has to be unlocked of course and will need to be compatible with Advanced Wireless Spectrum or AWS, if a listing says 1700/2100 MHz or 1.7/2.1 GHz then it is an AWS model of phone.  The cost of buying an Android online for Wind Mobile or Mobilicity may be pretty high, but it's the price that needs to be paid, for now.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Call To Delay Canadian DTV Transition

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The transition to digital over the air broadcasting similar to what happened in the United States in June 2009 set to happen on August 31 2011, just a little more than one year away.  While most Canadian viewers who use antennas to get TV signals haven't seen any difference yet, since only five of Canada's largest cities have digital TV signals available from broadcast stations. 

Already one of Canada's broadcast networks is already claiming that they can't switch all their stations by the deadline.  It's not the impoverished (yeah right) CTV or Global, it's network with big pockets of Canada's taxpayers funding it.  CBC has announced that they won't get all their transmitters changed over to send out digital signals.  CBC stations in Yellowknife, Regina, Winnipeg, Windsor, Saint John/Fredericton, Charlottetown, Halifax and St. John's will not be switched in time according to the CBC. 

The current regulation as set out by the CRTC is that Analog broadcasting will end after 11:59 PM. While the CBC is asking for a one year extension to keep CBC broadcasts operating while they make the change over.  Under the DTV transition regulations as they are today CBC broadcasts in those cities will cease on August 31, 2011 and will resume when Digital transmitters are in place. 

Since Canada's private networks are able to make the deadline although probably just barely in some markets there is no reason that the CBC with all their access to taxpayer money can't make the switch on time as well.  The CRTC should not give CBC any special treatment, giving the CBC an extension means that the private television broadcasters will want an extension as well.  That could potentially snowball into years and years of delay before some areas of Canada will be switched over to digital TV.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When Will The Blackbery Torch Launch in Canada?

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Research In Motion, having just announced a new Blackberry, a new model called the Torch launching on AT&T on 12th, now technology analysts and journalists north of the border are wondering when the new Blackberry will be available in Canada and with which carrier.

The Torch is a GSM/UMTS/HSPA smartphone which means that it will not be available on MTS or Public Mobile.  It doesn't support Advanced Wireless Spectrum so Wind Mobile and Mobilicity won't be able to offer the Torch ether.  That leaves the incumbent national carriers, Rogers, Bell and Telus.  For Bell and Telus offering the Torch would let both carriers to retire CDMA based blackberries such as the Storm and the Tour.  For Rogers offering the Torch will help re-establish the reputation that Rogers had as Canada's Blackberry leader.

One of Canada's smaller regional carrier has a special interest in offering the Blackberry Torch,  Sasktel will be relaunching their network using UMTS/HSPA about the time that the Blackberry Torch is going to launch.  So far Sasktel's HSPA phone line up is pretty limited, With Blackberry Bold and Pearl that are the same that Rogers offers, There are a few Nokia models as well.  That's about as interesting as Sasktel's CDMA phone linup which is limited and sucky at best.

The smart bet is that there will be at least two national carriers, I would suspect Telus and Rogers are the most likely to land the Torch.  It would be highly unlikely that Research In Motion will enter into an exclusive agreement with a carrier.  Learning the lession from how the Palm Pre died in Canada because of only being available on Bell.  RIM needs to successful with the Blackberry Torch to claw back some market share lost to the iPhone and Android.  Fragmenting down to subscribers of just one carrier would be counterproductive to that goal.

What RIM Will Need To Do To Sell The 'BlackPad'

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Research In Motion, Canada's smartphone pioneer and current market leader showing that they are not going to let Apple eat their lunch, is launching a new version of their operating system and launching new models of blackberries, and according to recent rumours preparing a tablet computer similar to the iPad.  Already dubbed the 'BlackPad' the tablet from RIM will have a challenge ahead of it going head to head against Apple's iPad.  The tablet market is pretty young which will make it easy for a RIM tablet to get a foothold with both businesses and consumers.  There's a few things RIM can do to make the 'BlackPad' tablet a hit.

1. Price it below the competitor: While the iPad is the current tablet that is the hot gadget, it takes at least 550 dollars just to buy one.  If RIM can get the price down under 400 dollars then that's what it could take to get consumers to rethink getting an iPad. In order to be a successful competitor to the iPad, the Blackpad will have to be the first competitor to the iPad.  There are already are tablets running Google's Android operating system on the way to the market and their manufacturers will undercut the iPad, RIM will need to get in fast and inexpensive.

2. Embrace CDMA: Even though many consider CDMA to be a technology that has one foot in the grave, since Canada will only have cell carrier, MTS that will be CDMA only by the end of 2010. Stateside both Verizon and Sprint will be at least two years away from widespread deployments of their 4G technologies.  Their combined base of 120 million subscribers have been green with Apple envy since the launch of the original iPhone.  Being able to use a RIM tablet with the 3G service they already subscribe to makes the iPad less attractive to subscribers on Verizon or Sprint.

3. Do Flash:  Apple's well known cat fight with Adobe over flash has left users of iPads, iPhones and iPod touches unable to use features on most web sites.  If the 'BlackPad' does flash then that opens up all the videos on YouTube, all the shows on Hulu and just about every video and animation on  the web. 

4. Don't forget the corporate world:  Blackberry has enjoyed a stranglehold in the corporate world, while the stranglehold has eroded somewhat since the introducion of the iPhone RIM can still use that stranglehold to sell the 'BlackPad' Features to make the Blackpad attractive to corporate users just have to be there.

Despite the popularity of the iPad, Research In Motion can and will find their place in the tablet market because of it's small size.  The tablet market will be open to all players large and small.  Apple was first RIM is coming in next.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Sasktel Will Keep Charging The System Access Fee

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The System Access Fee is as Canadian as maple syrup, beavers and lumberjacks.  That extra fee 6.95 that gets charged on top of cell phone plans that Canadians know and hate is on it's way to becoming a part of history.  It started when subsidiary brands such as Fide, Koodo and Solo from the national cellular carriers started dropping the fee.  At the end of 2009 Rogers dropped the system access fee on new activations and contract renewals, Telus followed suit eventually Bell and MTS have done the same leaving Sasktel as the only carrier to charge the system access fee. 

The revenue typically generated by the system access fee went to pay for the phones that carriers offered to subscribers for free or at a deep discount.  Since Rogers, Bell and Telus are the large cell carriers they buy handsets in the largest volumes which allows them to get lower prices than smaller regional carriers such as Sasktel. 

Sasktel operates a large number of towers in very sparsely populated areas of Saskatchewan which adds cost to operating their network, revenue from the system access fee charged to subscribers in more densely populated areas goes to subsidize the operation of cell towers in the middle of nowhere. 

In order to update to newer technology so that Sasktel can offer phones that don't suck as bad as the phones they offer now is in the process of upgrading to a UMTS/HSPA network (sort of the son of GSM technology).  The cost of this network upgrade is being financed on the open market and has put Sasktel in debt.  The days of network upgrades paid by Saskatchewan taxpayers has come to an end under the Brad Wall government.  

Cell phone subscribers in Saskatchewan who may find system access fee objectionable do have alternatives such as Rogers and Telus.  There is word that Bell Mobility will be coming to the land of living skies within the next couple of years.  Wind Mobile and Mobilicity are also going to be coming to Saskatchewan as well.  Cheaper alternatives are here now with more on the way.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Guess Who Is Coming To Canada: NetFlix

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Being white and nerdy in the Great White North has always come with a downside: wanting technologies that Americans enjoy.  One of the technologies that Canadian geeks have been coveting this past decade or so is Netflix the popular DVD & BluRay through the mail and video streaming service has announced their debut North of the 49th parallel this fall. 

The announcement posted on www.netflix.ca only mentions online streaming service and not the discs through mail service that made NetFlix famous.   That's a good thing for everybody who has had to go to the video store when it's -40 in the middle of January.  For those hosers who are into high def, they'd better have a really good broadband service which is available in Ontario and Quebec for those who high speed connections top out at 5 megabits per second particularly in Western Canada, Netflix maybe should consider offering BluRay discs sent by Canada Post.

NetFlix entering Canada is an encouraging sign, and competition that cable and satellite companies need.  No longer will Canadians be limited to the video on demand provided by the local cable company or the pay per view service provided by the national satellite carriers.  Yes it is possible to cut through red tape to get the Canadian distribution rights and distribute video content online, so to Hulu I say, your turn now.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Notice To Sploggers:

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With the advent of instant online communication and publishing, there are those out there who look to use online media to advertise questionable products or online content without the permission of those who publish or communicate online.  Most people are well aware of the menace of e-mail spam. As online communications and publishing had evolved, so too has spamming.  The more people use instant messaging, blogs, social networking so do the spammers to sell questionable products or promote adult entertainment.

My blog which you are reading has been affected too by spammers who advertise through posting comments which contain links to adult web sites.  I check my blog two or three times a day and remove these comments.  The are not growing traffic to their web sites.  They are not improving their page rank.  They are just wasting their time. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Preview of Apple's Next iPods

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Apple's annual revamp of their iPod product line is still a couple of months away but speculation about the next portable media devices from Cupertino that come with white earbuds is here now.  Here's a few things that are likely to become the next iPods when they are announced in early September:

1. iPod Touch gets an A4 CPU update but no camera:  After the introduction of iPad and the iPhone 4, the iPod Touch is next to get updated to Apple's A4 processor.  Unifying all iOS devices on the A4 processor makes it easier Apple and developers. An iPod touch based on the A4 Processor would run Apps faster.  It is likely to see the enhancement in screen technology introduced with the iPhone 4 to come to the iPod touch.  The one thing that will not be coming to the iPod touch is the camera that is coveted by iPod touch owners.  Not offering a camera on the iPod touch is one way that Apple gets iPod touch owners to upgrade to iPhones, Apple just won't sacrifice that by adding a camera to the iPod Touch.

2.  iPod Nanos to get a memory upgrade and a price drop:  In order to prop up waning sales of the iPod Nano Apple will be upgrading the Nano with a 16 GB model and possibly a 32 GB model as well.  To counteract the tendency of consumers that choose between Shuffle and the Touch, expect a price drop down as low as 99 dollars.

3.  iPod Classic to get SSD or go away:  The traditional iPod classic have used regular laptop hard drives since the original 5gb first generation iPod, however the mechanical hard drive is the Achilles's Heel of the iPod Classic.  Solid state storage has come down in price enough to produce iPod Classics.  The iPod Classic sells such very low volumes Apple may just consider dumping the Classic altogether.

4. iPod Shuffle get a price drop: At the entry level Apple has to compete with every other entry level MP3 player on the market.  With plenty of 2 GB mp3 players starting as low as 19 dollars, charging 60 dollars for a 2 GB iPod shuffle isn't the way to attract buyers of a basic music player.  While the iPod shuffle has the same cool factor as every other iPod, Apple will still need to appeal to buyers of basic music players.  Apple will need to bring down the price to at least 49 dollars and should at least consider the 39 dollar price point for the 2GB Shuffle. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

How Can PC Manufacturers Compete With The iPad?

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Although Apple's iPad isn't the first attempt to create a segment of tablet computers within the computer industry, but so far it's been the most successful to date.  With over two million iPads sold in just a few months since the introduction of the iPad, manufacturers of Windows PC's haven't even come close to selling a tablet computer that can come close to what the iPad can do.  Is there anything PC manufacturers can do to get back into a game that so far they haven't even shown up to play yet?

1. Ditch Microsoft:  So far the big boys from Redmond the only operating system for a tablet computer they have ever shipped was a version of Windows XP modified to be controlled by a stylus instead of a mouse and a keyboard.  The sign that big M will be on the outside looking in is Hewlett Packard's purchase of Palm and rumours of a WebOS based tablet abound.  Google's Android is another leading choice for an operating system for a tablet computer.

2. Let Users Choose Their 3G/4G Provider:  While the iPad is great for AT&T it may not be so great for those who subscribe to AT&T's competitors.  Any competing tablet computer had some kind of capability to insert a 3G or 4G modem into some kind of special slot would be an attractive feature for those who have aversion to AT&T.

3. Break down the Price Barrier:  The iPad is a hot trendy gadget it also has a price tag to match.  Smaller price tags have kept Windows PC's sales far and beyond Apple's Macintosh computers.  PC manufacturers may be able to use price to steer people looking to buy an iPad to their products, but that won't be a guarantee of success.  There are hundreds of models of MP3 players that are priced at a fraction of comparable iPod, but it's the iPods that remain the top selling portable music player.

4.  Cash in on iPad's short comings:  There are some who are still complaining about the features that the iPad lacks.  If any potential iPad competitors come out with a 16:9 display or printing support, it will at least will appeal to the complainers. 

Apple's iPad has been successful where others have tried and failed but Apple doesn't own the tablet computer market yet.  There is still time for competitors make their mark on the industry but in order to do so they have to get it right given how huge a head start that the iPad has.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Nokia Introduces New Smartphone OS That Nobody Has Heard Of

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Worldwide leader in cheap basic cell phones, Nokia is introducing a new operating system for their higher end smartphones that doesn't replace but complements Symbian their other smartphone operating system that very few have heard of.  MeeGo is being launched by Nokia on smartphones for the North American market.  Nokia executive Anssi Vanjoki wrote on a company blog that "There is no denying, that as a challenger now, we have a fight on our hands. The first battle is to bring you products and services you will want to own and use."

In the market dominated by iPhones, Blackberries and Android, Introducing another smartphone operating system is gamble at best.  Palm originally and now HP has had an uphill climb getting WebOS a foothold in the market.  Microsoft will have at best extreme difficulty getting Windows Phone 7 accepted by cellular carriers and consumers. 

For cell phone carriers even the giants like Verizon and AT&T supporting an OS with such a small market share would take a lot of resources that would be far from worthwhile to support MeeGo.  All isn't lost for Nokia though.  Regional carriers such as Metro PCS, Cricket, MTS and Sasktel have only had Blackberries and Windows Mobile devices that consumers view the smartphones offered by these regional carriers as outdated and lame.

Executives at Nokia have reisisted Windows Mobile and Android opting to put out their own operating systems on their smartphones.  For the North American market Nokia will have to get rid of this wanting to be their own product mentality, to get their smartphones available on a mainstream national carrier, Nokia will have to get onboard with an operating system that is accepted and supported by the mainstream national carriers.  With Google's Android handset makers and cellular carriers are making customizations that make their smartphones stand out from other smartphones running Android.  An example of this is Motorola's Motoblur which incorporates social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and backs up people's contacts to the cloud.  Nokia has picked the path less traveled, the path that only Nokia has traveled, to get to acceptance and success in the North American market maybe they should try the paved highway.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Canadians Deserve a Price Break on Game Consoles

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One of the newest capabilities of new game consoles that has been talked about since the recent E3 convention isn't the new motion capture technologies from both Sony and Microsoft designed to compete to Nintendo's Wiimote and Nunchuk control system on the Wii.  The attention of many in the video gaming speculators and analysts ability to watch Hulu on the Playstation 3.and Xbox 360.  Hulu complementing the service for the consoles unveiled by online streaming video store Netflix last year.

This leaves Canadian Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 buyers paying the same price as American consoles but getting less functionality since both Netflix and Hulu have never been available in Canada.  Could Sony and Microsoft recognize that and offer some kind of price break for Canadians, of course they can.  Even a small price break even if it is five or ten dollars off the price of the systems would offer an olive branch to console buyers north of the 49th parallel.

Sony and/or Microsoft could work with content creators to secure the rights for streaming video content to create online stores to sell and rent online video and keep the profits for themselves instead of handing it over to Netflix and Hulu.  That would mean treating Canadian consumers like intelligent people who understand watching online video through legitimate means is better pirating.  Could Microsoft and Sony understand that? All signs are doubtful.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Three Good Reasons To Avoid Modems With Integrated Routers

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With the popularity of multiple and networked devices both wired and wireless Internet service providers are cashing in from those who want to hook up just about every device that they own to the Internet but who may not be technically adept to hook up, configure and secure a home network router.  Devices known as a 'home gateway' combines a cable or DSL modem with a router that on the surface may look simple but maybe an option that is best avoided once some facts are known.

1. Upgradeability- Now that every 802.11N is a ratified standard, just about every WiFi device is 802.11N compatible except just about every integrated modem/router which still uses the older 802.11G standard.  With a separate router upgrading from G to N only take disconnecting the old router and connecting a new router.  Not so easy with these home gateways which requires waiting for 802.11G home gateways to get into the market and the ISP to start distributing the new gateways, and even then some ISP's probably won't upgrade existing customers with the new version of the home gateway.

2. Security- Wireless security with a standalone router lets the user choose the level of security required to access the wireless network which should always be set to WPA2 with AES authentication.  With integrated home gateways, the wireless security is set by the manufacturer or the ISP.  2Wire, a brand integrated DSL modem and router used by Telco's as giant as AT&T to as tiny as Sasktel uses the weakest most easily wireless security, WEP.  Home gateways can be remotely configured by the ISP or an outside hacker.  This could allow a Telco to shut off access to Skype if they feel that their long distance revenue are being threatened.  This isn't just a threat to security but net neutrality.

3.  Cost- While 40.00 dollars or more is an up front cost that could be avoided by using a home gateway from an ISP, the home gateway might come with a rental fee which could cost a lot more over the long run.  Even if an ISP charges five dollars a month that rental charge would pay for a basic router in under a year. 

Despite the simpler process of just letting a technician from the cable or telephone company hook up a home gateway, it requires paying more for old technology that puts private data at risk.  When signing up for Internet service just tell the ISP, to provide just a modem please.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stop Annoying Telemarkers With A Fax Machine

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From the beginning of telephone service in the early 20th century there have been telemarketers to sell just about every product and service over the phone.  In the past couple of years due mostly to the advent of VOIP services computer dialed telemarketing has been on the rise.  A telephone call during a meal, while taking a shower or some other inopportune moment a recorded message trying to sell extended vehicle warranties, low interest rate credit cards, or some kind vacation that the recipient of the message supposedly won comes from the other end of the line.

Legislated measures have proven to be ineffective, tightening the laws on telemarketing and do not call registries have only chased the telemarketers off shore making healthy profits using inexpensive VOIP plans.  Technological solutions such as the Telezapper helped for a while but the telemarketers got wise and ignored the tones generated by devices like the Telezapper designed to make them think that the numbers they are dialing are nonexistent or disconnected.

One device that can be attached to a phone line that can get the telemarketers to scatter like cockroaches when a light is turned on has been around for the last twenty five years but has fallen is less use in the age of e-mail, the fax machine.  Using a fax machine to answer the line when no phone calls that are actually want, a telemarketer will call and get the screeching tones of a fax machine trying to make a connection to another fax machine.  That will tell the telemarketers that your phone line may be active but there won't be a person to answer the call.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why Nintendo Needs 'Grand Theft Auto' To Get Onto The Wii

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Prior to launching the Wii in 2006, Nintendo survived because of core of devotees to their systems.  After gamers moved to the Playstation, the devotees bought Nintendo 64's and later Gamecubes.  This brand loyalty to Nintendo systems has gone out of the window four years after the launch the Wii.  A lot of kids in this generation of gaming have gotten their start on the Wii but as they have gotten older they are trading their Wii-motes for couch bound button mashing with a Playstation or Xbox controller.

Grand Theft Auto may be one of video gaming's most raunchy and controversial franchises but is also one of the most popular too.  Grand Theft Auto is the polar opposite to the squeaky clean family friendly image that Nintendo has created for itself.  GTA made it's debut on a Nintendo platform last year when GTA Chinatown Wars launched on the DS. 

In order to stay in the leadership position the big N will need to keep the fourteen year olds on their systems.  To do that Nintendo will need to attract the big franchise games to the Wii, including Grand Theft Auto.  Nintendo may shun anything that carries the 'M' rating but was it not Resident Evil the most popular franchise back in the days of the Gamecube?

For Nintendo keeping the teenagers in the Nintendo camp will be a challenge but not one they can't overcome it will require loosing up on content restrictions.  At one time the Mortal Kombat for the Super Nintendo had to be toned down and didn't have the blood and gore that Mortal Kombat for the Sega Genesis had, it wasn't the developer and publishers of Mortal Kombat that were hurt by it, it was Nintendo.  There will be one thing that Nintendo can do to stop young adult gamers from fleeing to Playstations or Xboxes, drop the restrictions and let Grand Theft Auto on the Wii.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Legalizing Internet Gambling Just Won't Work

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The battle over Internet gambling that has been taking place in the past fifteen years now even has legislators divided between both sides of the issue.  On one side some elected officials see Internet gambling as an easy source of new tax revenue.  On the opposing side are those legislators who still have concerns grave enough to keep existing bans on Internet gambling in place.

Surely enough most web sites that let people play poker for free wouldn't exist if there is at least some potential that they will some day be allowed to let people to play for real money.  Despite the potential for new tax revenue and high paying IT jobs there would be more pitfalls than benefits from lifting bans on Internet gambling. 

Games in real world casinos are tested by government regulators to ensure that players have a fair chance of winning.  Their online counterparts are not scrutinized to ensure that odds are not unfairly tilted in favor of the house.  The rigorous video security used in casinos doesn't just check for players who are cheating but dealers as well.  It's this system of checks and balances insures that casino gaming is being played fairly, Internet gambling has no such system.

Casinos, Lotteries, Bingos, and Horse Racing are all regulated to prevent minors from partaking in gambling.  Internet gambling has no definite way to ensure that all players are of legal age.  While bets are made with a credit card which is a method of age restriction since one has to be eighteen to hold a credit card, but anybody who can get a hold of a credit card even if it's somebody else's credit card can make a bet.  In most jurisdictions in the United States the legal age for gambling is 21 years of age.  For those between 18-20 they can legally hold a credit card but legally cannot gamble makes using a credit card as a method of age verification ineffective.

The new tax revenue from Internet gambling that legislators want use to fill government coffers with may not be as generous source of new money that legislators make it out to be.  Internet gambling companies like any other business can find the jurisdiction with the lowest tax rates, tax rates low enough to attract online gambling operators will probably be found in the island nations of the Caribbean or Eastern Europe where they operate from now.

Legalizing Internet gambling will open a Pandora's box of pitfalls both known and unknown.  A decision to allow people to bet online must not be made blindly.    

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Your Fault if Google Spied on Your WiFi

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 The gathering of WiFi network information by the vehicles that gather pictures that comprise the pictures that used in Google's street view feature on Google Maps has lead to the latest privacy furor Google faces.  While driving through cities around the world the Street View cars gathered the SSID's and MAC addresses of every WiFi router found.  Google originally claimed that they did not capture any WiFi network traffic, but a review of the captured data did contain data transferred from WiFi networks.

The only data that was captured that could be reassembled is data from WiFi networks that run totally in the clear with no encryption at all.  Users of WiFi networks that run in the clear are just lazy or foolish not to set up good WiFi security.  For those who insist on running their WiFi networks with no security on the public airwaves cannot expect data to remain private.  The only way that keep computer network traffic private is to go to an exclusively hard wired Ethernet network or secure a WiFi network with WPA 2 encryption.

Keeping WiFi network traffic private or letting it go to everybody who can receive it is a conscious choice that WiFi network owners make.  Keeping WiFi networks in the clear doesn't leave a person open to getting their Internet service mooched off of, but their other data to be collected by Google or anybody else.  That's a choice people made to keep their WiFi in the clear, they only have themselves to blame how their data is used.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shaw's Wireless Wait And See Game - Redux

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In a previous entry to this blog I speculated about when and why Shaw Communications is waiting until next year to launch their own cell phone service.  I thought that Shaw was going to buy up another emerging cell carrier Wind Mobile or Mobilicity at a bargain basement price when one of those new service providers crumbles when the debt stacks up.  Other industry analysts believe the Shaw is going to be using Long Term Evolution technology for their wireless network.  Shaw is waiting the year to let that technology mature and to let LTE wireless products come to market.

LTE based networks have so much bandwidth that client connections can move so much more data than what is needed for cell phone calls and mobile Internet use.  Internet access using LTE is fast enough to challenge other ISP's using hardwired infrastructure.  In areas where Shaw isn't an incumbent ISP, that could give them a foothold in those markets.  Using an LTE network to deliver IPTV television service in areas where Shaw isn't the local cable company would give Shaw access to subscribers to TV service with on demand programming, something that even Shaw's own satellite TV service can't deliver.

It may seem like a year is a long time to wait to launch a wireless network especially given how much Shaw had to pay to get the license from the CRTC, it may be a small price to pay to build a network that has potential to go beyond cell phones.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

EA To Lock Out Buyers of Used Games, Unless They Pay

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Electronic Arts the giant publisher of games for just about every device for with a microprocessor has a new plan to stem the tide of what they claim to be lost revenue from those who buy copies of their games second hand.  staring with the 2011 versions of the EA's popular sports games on both PC's and consoles there will be a code that will unlock online features of those games.  For those buying previously enjoyed copies of future games from EA, they will need to hand over an additional ten dollars to play online and unlock other online features.

Those wanting to play Madden 11 or Tiger Woods PGA 11 will have to buy a brand new copy, pay the extra 10 dollars if they buy a second hand copy or don't play online since EA has exclusive licenses with the NFL and PGA.  Puckheads on the other hand have another option, Online players who wish to play with a second hand copy will get to do so at no additional charge with NHL 2K11. 

Demanding more money from people just because they choose to buy a second hand copy of a game is a form of digital extortion.  As much as the music and movie industries would like to people to buy used CD's and DVD's to pay the big record labels and movie studios they can't.  Firstly there isn't the technical means to detect a used CD or DVD and report it to get people to pay up.  Secondly the RIAA and MPAA face consumer animosity because of the heavy handed approach to fight piracy of music and movies.

EA's Online Pass isn't even an anti-piracy move, it's just a way of collecting yet more money from people who are buying legitimate copies of their game software even if it's not brand new.  It would be different if they were collecting money from people borrowing copies of games to make it more of rental but that would still be heavy handed and greedy.  This just shows how heavy handed and greedy EA is.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Who Will End Up Saving SCN?

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Saskatchewan Communications Network, the provincially owned cable network that was slated to fade to black on the 30th of April was given a stay of execution when twelve interested parties stepped forward to acquire the broadcast license from the provincial government.  It would only seem natural that other broadcasters or broadcast distributors would be interested in a channel that is normally carried on analog cable on one of the lower channel numbers.  Here's some likely candidates of potential both local and national companies that could become the future owner/operator of SCN:

Access Communications: Saskatchewan's cable television co-operative has a large amount of locally produced programming through the many community channels they operate.  By amending the SCN license to turn SCN into an advertising driven network, would give Access a revenue stream apart from subscriber fees.

Shaw Communications: That other Cable TV operator in the province could be looking picking up the SCN license as yet another troubled broadcaster they they can use to build their broadcasting empire.  Shaw is already in the process of buying Canwest Global for more than two billion dollars.

Sasktel: The government owned telco is already getting SCN's broadcast assets handed over to them for free why not get the license to and own the whole thing?  It would be another channel to plaster with Little Red Riding Hood commercials but that would probably lead to SCN getting dropped by cable and satellite companies.

SMPIA: The membership Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association produces a large portion of the programming on SCN.  Getting the license for SCN and running it as a commercial network would give members a place for their shows and feature length productions to be seen and a revenue stream that could be put back to fund new productions.  Saskatchewan made productions both present and past would fill the SCN schedule,  and you thought The Comedy Network was full of Corner Gas reruns.

CTVGlobeMedia: Getting SCN's broadcasting license would allow CTVGlobeMedia to replicate in Saskatchewan what they did with Access Alberta, the educational cable channel that CTVGlobeMedia got when they acquired ChumCity television. 

CBC: On the surface there may not seem to be much value in getting SCN's broadcast license, after all the CBC is supposed to be everything to all Canadians in both official languages, but given the political climate what it is, getting the cable network license and move CBC's french language television to spot on cable and satellite TV where SCN used to be, and shutting down the transmitters that spread CBC french television across the province would save a lot of money.  The cost of Electricity to run those transmitters is very high given the very small size of Saskatchewan's french speaking community.  Any bean counters looking to save their jobs could do exactly that.

Those are just a few of the most likely suspects that could save SCN, it will only take another three weeks to find out if somebody can save SCN.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Could Microsoft's Kin Phones Make It In Canada?

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Next week, Verizon Wireless subscribers will be the the first to get new phones that implement Microsoft's new mobile phone strategy, out with the downscaled version of Windows, and in with an interface similar that used by Microsoft's Zune portable media players.  On the 13th the Kin One and Kin Two will be available through Verizon Wireless stores.  Both the Kin One and Two are both are slider type phones, that do more than a regular cell phone but not as much as a smartphone. 

According to leaked information obtained through some reverse engineering on other blogs, there are provisions in the Kin phones' operating system for both the CDMA version that Verizon will be carrying but also for a GSM version that will be compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile.  For Canadian subscribers looking at the Kin as their potential next cell phone, the same information extracted from the firmware of the Kin shows Fido as the only Canadian carrier for the Kin.  That's not to say that Fido will have the Kin as an exclusive.  It would just take a Firmware update to add other carriers to the Kin, since Rogers owns Fido, Rogers could end up with the Kin as well.

Bell and Telus could carry the Kin as well, since their new HSPA networks are compatible with that version of the Kin that Fido and potentially Rogers would carry.  Bell and Telus' older CDMA networks are also compatible the version of the Kin that Verizon will be carrying but for their main branded services launching new CDMA handsets would be highly unlikely since a GSM/HSPA version of the phones would also be available.  If the CDMA version of the Kin ends up anywhere it would be on the discount brands offered by Bell and Telus.  The lineups of phones offered by Telus' Koodo Mobile and Bell's Solo Mobile are still CDMA.

The CDMA version of the Kin phones can also find homes at the smaller regional CDMA networks of MTS and Sasktel. Microsoft is trying to market the Kin phones as having a younger cool factor, it's the young cool phones that the regional carriers have been lacking for a very long time. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

What HP Will Need To Do To Make Palm Successful

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Silencing technology industry analysts last week when announcing their 1.2 billion dollar purchase of smartphone pioneer Palm Inc Hewlett Packard made the move beyond computing and printing and is going into the mobile device market in a way unlike other PC manufacturers that are getting into smartphones.  Instead of producing yet another Android or Windows Mobile device, HP has gone an entirely different direction.  It's a bold step but one that some say will be impossible to compete with the iPhone or Android, while it will be an uphill climb with the right steps HP can make WebOS a formidable challenger to Apple and Google, which is something Palm was unable to do an an independent company, to be successful with WebOS HP will need to:

1: Get WebOS phones on all be big carriers but don't forget about the small carriers

One of Palm's missteps when launching WebOS as picking Sprint as the first carrier to sell WebOS, Palm was getting ready to launch the Pre and Pixi on Verizon but that came as too little too late. Palm needed to be on AT&T and T-Mobile as well.  That's where HP needs to get the Pre and Pixi as well.  Ask any subscriber leaving smaller regional carriers such as Cricket, Metro PCS, MTS or Sasktel and chances are poor choices of phones and especially smartphones is going to to be the top reason for switching to a national carrier.  Offering WebOS as an alternative to the Blackberries and Windows mobile devices that these regional carriers were traditionally stuck with will help the regional carriers keep existing subscribers and maybe even attract some new ones.

2. Bring some more developers, developers, developers to the WebOS platform

Palm Pre and Pixi owners can buy and download apps just like people with iPhones and Android phones, but they don't have too many apps to choose from.  There are 150,000 apps available for the iPhone, 50,000 apps for Android, but less than a thousand for WebOS.  HP is huge company with thousands of developers in house which will help bulk up the selection of Apps which should help bring more subscribers which will help attract third party developers.

3. WebOS Tablet

In order to expand the user base for WebOS it will need to move from the smartphone to something else.  Since everybody else has been taking pages from Apple's book, why not take WebOS and build a Tablet around it.  It can be marketed at those who want the iPad but may not be ready to pay Apple's price.  Maybe even throw in some Verizon 3G and it should be able to sell.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why NetFlix Isn't Coming To Canada

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Netflix, the popular DVD rental by mail service that has transformed itself into the Internet's most popular streaming movie service is now one of the forbidden fruits for Canadians.  Just like Google Voice and Hulu despite popularity south of the 49th parallel is not available in Canada.  While there are Canadian companies seeking to replicate Netflix in Canada, but so far they have stuck to the old DVD's by mail business model. 

Any hyper critical Canadian blames the Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for keeping Netflix out of Canada.  It would be easy to the CRTC to consider Netflix to be a foreign programming service that is not licensed by the CRTC to offer service to Canadians.  That would be the way it would be if Netflix was a traditional Cable network, but because Netflix is an online streaming service it faces no opposition from the CRTC.  In 1999 the CRTC declined to regulate the Internet because any attempt to do so would be pointless.  That's why Vonage can offer service to Canadians without a CRTC license.

The big American movie studios are the usual suspects that are still keeping Netflix.  Netflix says that their service is not available because of licensing issues.  The movie studios accept millions of dollars from Netflix to send DVD's and BluRay discs through the US Postal Service or stream across America through the Internet, but when it comes to licensing rights in Canada, movie studios will allow Canadian companies to send movies on discs through Canada Post to Canadians but online streaming in Canada is still off limits. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Are The Potential Suitors For Palm?

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Pioneering maker of PDA's and Smartphones, Palm is seeking to get bought.  There has been speculation about who would be a suitable buyer, since the announcements that sales of the WebOS based pre and pixi smartphones have been disappointing to tech industry observers and investors.  These companies have already been named as potential buyers looking to buy Palm:

Microsoft:  The big boys in Redmond are seen by some as a likely buyer for Palm mostly just to get another smartphone hardware manufacturing asset.  Additionally for Microsoft, buying Palm gets two competing smartphone OS's (Palm OS and Web OS) out of the way in advance of the release of Windows Phone 7 Series at the end of 2010. 

Google:  For the king of search also being the provider of the Andoid operating system, seen by many as the rising star of the cellular industry buying Palm would provide Google with Palm's large library of Patents.  With HTC facing lawsuits from Apple from Apple's claims that HTC's Android handsets violate Apple's patents.  With Google potentially on Apple's lawsuit hit list, owning Palm's patents would give Google some rear end protection.

Apple:  Buying Palm would bring former Apple engineers who worked on development of the iPhone who bolted from Cupertino to join Palm to create WebOS.  Apple would expand their own library of patents to use against the makers of other competing smartphone operating systems.  But that would make Apple a patent troll, not a maker of insanely great products.  Apple wouldn't do that, would they?

Those are the likely suspects but there are other tech companies would benefit from owning Palm and are most likely to be looking at bidding:

Nokia:  Nokia's Symbian OS based smartphones maybe popular in Europe, but has virtually no users in North America.  After Nokia's licencing fee scrap with Qualcomm half a dozen years ago Nokia found themselves vanquished from CDMA carriers.  Buying Palm would give Nokia a Smartphone operating system that have market share in North America and Palm's licensing agreement with Qualcomm wouldn't hurt ether.

Samsung or LG:  The big two from South Korea sell a lot of cells in North America, but attempts to make the leap to Smartphones have fallen flat.  Making WebOS phones for a lower cost, rather than having to buy Windows Mobile or Google's Android would be more attractive for cellular carriers who would not have to spend as much money on subidizing the cost of smartphones.

Amazon:  For one of the Internet's most successful online retailer, selling WebOS Smartphones would be a similar business model as the Kindle, buy content such as e-books and music on a device that people have to buy from Amazon.  Adding smartphones to the Kindle would help Amazon compete against Apple. 

Intel: Smartphones are going to be the largest segment of the devices with CPU's market in the next few years, and so far Intel is on the outside looking in.  Buying Palm would not just give Intel a smartphone hardware business, but an operating system that could be used to spotlight Intel's mobile CPU's

The sale of Palm is expected to happen very quickly, the interesting question is not when Palm will sell, but to who and for what purpose.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Could Sprint Land The CDMA iPhone

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As the rumors of version of Apple's iPhone that runs on CDMA technology are now supported by sightings in manufacturing plants, it has become a foregone conclusion that a CDMA iPhone would automatically be carried by Verizon Wireless.  Nobody who has speculated about the development of a CDMA iPhone has even considered the fact that America's other CDMA carrier, Sprint would be the carrier that provides CDMA iPhones to subscribers. 

Is it worth considering that Steve Jobs would be so spiteful to Verizon for referring to the iPhone as a misfit toy?  It would not be outside the realm of possibility.  For Apple the choice of a carrier for the CDMA iPhone has yet to be made since there was no EV-DO support built into the iPad.  For Apple choosing Sprint over Verizon means getting access to better technology faster.  While Verizon will start the process of deploying an LTE network in the next couple of years, Sprint is deploying WiMax now.  Perhaps Apple is going to wait for the second generation of iPad to put in WiMax support, the service for a WiMax based iPad can only come from one company, Sprint.

Apple's claim to fame is making insanely great tech products. Can Apple afford not to be on Verizon meanwhile being able to create insanely greater iPhones, and iPads on Sprint's network. It's easy to yes they can.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Canadians Will Need To Know About The iPad

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This past Saturday's launch of Apple's iPad has Canadians asking where's ours.  Apple says that the iPad will be sold in Canada and other countries by the end of April even though they haven't set a date that iPads will be in stores in the Great White North.  Some would be iPad owners are questioning why reason for the delay getting the iPad to Canada.  Likely Apple reserved all the iPads from the first manufacturing run for the American launch. 

For Apple delaying the launching the iPad later in other countries than in the United States allows Apple to make 3G service agreements with cellular carriers that normally provide service to subscribers with iPhones.  In Canada, Apple will have to make agreements with Bell, Rogers and Bell.  In most of Canada, all three carriers will be compatible with the iPad but in Manitoba and Saskatchewan Rogers is the only carrier that will work with the iPad, MTS and Sasktel are not compatible with the iPad. 

One of the abilities that is much hyped by Apple is the e-reading capabilities with their own electronic book store.  Apple needs the three week delay to make agreements with non-American publishing companies to get their books onto the iPad, just like the Kindle before it.

Apple without a doubt will use the international launches of the iPad for marketing purposes to help spur a second wave of buying in the United States.  For what ever reason for delaying the launching iPad in Canada, Apple will benefit in some way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CDMA iPhone Could it Come to Canada?

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The rumour mill is once again spinning the story that a new version of Apple's iPhone that runs on mobile networks that use CDMA technology will soon hit the market.  For most Canadian cellular subscribers this about face from Apple probably won't get too much attention.  Canada's two largest CDMA network operators, Bell and Telus have started a switch to GSM/HSPA networks and currently offer iPhones to their subscribers.  For Canada's last two CDMA only networks, MTS and Sasktel it may mean a chance of finally being able to carry the iPhone, but highly unlikely.

Most of Canada's incumbent CDMA carriers have traditionally partnered with Sprint to buy phones from handset manufacturers, MTS and Sasktel included carry the same lineup of phones that Sprint carries.  Since the CDMA iPhone is supposed to be coming to Verizon whose phone line had traditionally been offered by Telus in Canada.  The best chance of getting the CDMA iPhone in Canada would be if both Sprint and Verizon were to offer it in the states.  There maybe a possibility that Telus will carry the CDMA iPhone for Saskatchewan and Manitoba, since Telus has no HSPA in those provinces.  For the last two CDMA only networks on the Canadian prairies, one of them in the process of getting upgraded.  MTS is in process of building their own HSPA network in partnership with Rogers.

For some it may not seem right that one carrier can offer the in demand smartphones and another cannot but in these next couple of years of network upgrades that's the way it is.  To get the new hot in demand people will have to be ready to switch carriers despite any blind loyalty to the carriers they have now.  It's called letting the market decide.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Japan To Consider Banning Cell Phone Lockdown

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In a country where cool heads prevail, cell phone carriers will be forced to abandon the practice of locking down cell phones so that they can only be used with the carrier that originally sold and activated the phones.  Legislators in Japan are considering such a ban to allow cell phone subscribers to keep their phones when switching carriers and to use their own cell phones while traveling in other countries just by popping in a foreign carrier's SIM card into their phone.

Cell carriers have swiftly come out against any attempt to ban cell phone lock down, claiming that forcing cell phone carriers to sell unlocked phones limits the kind of phones and services the carriers can offer to subscribers.  This is the weakest excuse I have ever heard for keeping the most customer unfriendly business practice ever known.  Yes, the cell carriers subsidize the cost of cell phones, and in order for the carrier to make their money back that's why cell phone subscribers have to sign three year contracts for post paid service. If the subscriber wants out of their contract, the early termination fees more than make up for the cost of subsidizing the cost of a cell phone.

Cell phone subscribers that switch carriers when contracts expire are highly unlikely to want to use a three year phone when signing up for service with a different carrier.  Banning carrier lock down helps the international traveler use their phones without getting charged a fortune in roaming fees.  When a subscriber relocates to another part of the country where the cell phone carrier doesn't offer service, it's the subscriber that ends up having to pay the early termination fees and has a phone that won't work where they now live.

Banning cell phone lock down gives a little bit of flexibility back into the hand of the subscriber, and should become the law in every country where cell phone service is offered.  Big telco will lobby elected officials on ensure that doesn't happen.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

ESRB Ratings of Classic Video Games: Q-Bert

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Q-Bert is the adventure of a cute little orange puff ball with some kind of a tube for a nose.  He jumps on cubes arranged in a pyramid to make the tops of the cubes change colour.  The goal is to make all the tops of the cubes the colour that the game tells you to change the colour to. 

Q-Bert was originally released in 1982, twelve years before the Entertainment Software Ratings Board started handed out ratings that are slapped on every packaged video game sold. 

Chasing Q-Bert around the pyramid are a the nasty critters, such as snakes and gremlins.  When one of the enemies jumps on Q-Bert, we discover that inside that bright orange puff ball is a mouth, and a rather foul mouth at that.  Given the limited capabilities of  the Atari 2600 and the ColecoVision, Speech synthesis or voice recordings within the games weren't possible.  Instead Q-Bert's outburst of swearing is shown as random punctuation marks that are shown in place of swear words.

Had there been the ESRB when Q-Bert was released their lack of tolerance of cussing in video games would have meant that Q-Bert would have earned a mature rating.  Most kids playing would have to get mommy or daddy to buy the game for their home consoles, but back in those days most video game playing was done out side the home at a place called an arcade.  Every little kid wanting to crank every quarter from their allowance would also would have needed a fake ID.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wind Mobile To Add Ottawa Today

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Canada's newest option for cell phone service, Wind Mobile throws the switch and launches service in Canada's Nation's Capital today (March 25th).  While some technology industry consider the 30,000 subscribers that Wind has signed up since launching less than five months ago unimpressive, the Wind Mobile's current pool of subscribers is far greater than Clearnet and Fido had five months after launching thirteen years ago. 

Those who like the CRTC state that international investment in Canada's telecommunications industry is a bad thing need to look at how quickly Wind Mobile has been able to provide in more places faster than any other cell carrier has before.  If competition in broadband is as badly needed as it is needed in the cellular industry, then open up to let providers financed outside Canada come in to provide service that the home grown duopoly doesn't.  There is virtually no doubt that a monopoly in any industry is bad for consumers, but when there is a duopoly where both companies collude as much as they do in the Canadian broadband industry, it's just as if there is a monopoly.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Xbox 360 Motherboard Means New Version of Console Coming

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Pictures of a new version  of the motherboard that powers the Xbox 360 code named 'Valhalla' have leaked and from what it shows it means a new version of the console is on it's way.  As I speculated in a previous blog entry Microsoft should do away with the proprietary memory cards, and the new motherboard shows that Microsoft has done exactly that.  A software update is adding USB flash drive support to current Xbox 360's. Microsoft has added a optical SPDIF output so there is no need for the HDMI cable with the breakout box to get an optical audio output.  The picture from the Engadget page shows a couple metal contained boxes marked 'not sure' could just some other jacks or could potentially be RF shielding for onboard WiFi, and standard Bluetooth.  It would be nice for Microsoft to do away with the separate WiFi adapter, and the proprietary wireless headsets.

While Microsoft has been beating Sony on the lowering cost of the console alone, the big boys from Richmond have been losing on total cost of ownership since PS3 owners get WiFi as standard equipment and can use standard Bluetooth headsets that cost less than half than the wireless headsets for the Xbox 360.  While the use of proprietary accessories has kept players buying Microsoft hardware and accessories, it's now starting to cost Microsoft customers.  Since some of the last generations stragglers are starting to upgrade from their PS2's and have chosen to to upgrade to a Playstation 3 since the price drop on that console.

Adding a great big honkin' heat sink and fan is proof that Microsoft is taking cooling a lot more seriously, but could be admitting fault with previous 360's and could potentially open themselves up to a class action lawsuit, since after five different versions of the motherboard and RROD's are still happening.

With a smaller motherboard coming, will that mean a smaller console is coming, potentially yes.  Going to a slot loading DVD drive similar to what Nintendo uses on the Wii would be a good way to reduce the size of the console.  Using an off the SATA laptop hard drive, instead of that hard drive wrapped in that proprietary hunk of plastic would be another excellent way to shave inches off the size of the console. 

The last question that remains to be asked is when will it be available in stores, probably about the same time that Project Natal is available at the end of the year would be a good guess.  Let's hope that Microsoft has an answer at E3 in about three months from now.

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