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.

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