Sunday, December 28, 2008

Digital Prognostications for 2009

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With 2009 just a few days away, the year ahead in technology promises to be tumultuous as the troubled economy that has already knocked around smaller tech companies looks like it will get much worse. This blogger gazes into the proverbial crystal ball and sees...

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

With the astounding growth of smartphones, the iPhone will remain on top, however Microsoft's Windows Mobile will fall further behind as the much Google's Android will appear on handsets made by those other than HTC on carriers other than TMobile. Rumors have already surfaced that Motorola is developing an Android based handset. It would be most probable to see the next Android based smartphone on Sprint in an attempt to regain subscribers lost to AT&T and Verizon.
For handset makers looking for something that can help them to compete with Apple's iPhone, Motorola, Samsung, and LG will probably put out Google Android and Windows Mobile will fall to wayside.

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

Bell, Rogers and Telus will be getting new competion in the end of 2009 or 2010 and to saturate radio, television, print and online media with advertising to try to tell cell subscribers of all the reasons that they should stay with their current cell carriers. Everything from better coverage, more relabile established networks, and bundles with television and Internet service will be reasons that the big three of Canadian cell carriers will give to prevent subscribers from jumping to the startup cell carriers.

3. Yahoo! Fire Sale

In the aftermath of the Microsoft's failed bid for the dot-com pioneer, the share price has plumeted and hasn't recovered. Investors in the troubled Yahoo will look to get out. While Microsoft may pick it up at a bargain basement price it is more likely that one of the traditional media companies will buy up Yahoo looking to expand it's online presence. That may be a 1999 business model but for a print media company that's a big step forward.

4. Apathy towards Windows 7 gains momentum

In preparation for the release of Windows 7 scheduled for 2010, Microsoft's marketing machine goes into overdrive to attempt to get over the hostility that some people feel towards Windows Vista. Microsoft hoping to make a new version a hit with PC users after a previous version bombed (Windows XP after Windows ME). Even if there is nothing wrong with Windows 7, Microsoft hasn't given a compelling reason for people to move from their current operating systems to Windows Vista let alone Windows 7.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Digital Prognostications Revisited

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2008 is rapidly drawing to a close which makes it a perfect time to revisit the predictions that I originally made in my blog post "Digital Prognostication for 2008"

1. Bands leave recording companies to distribute direct to fans

I thought that online music distribution and retailing had come to a point that singers and bands could sell direct fans while escaping the bondage of the recording industry. Radiohead may have blazed a new trail but few dared to follow. I totally struck out on that one!

2. WiMax deployment begins, Municipal WiFi dies a quiet death

This is one that I got right. The first consumer broadband service using WiMax was deployed in Baltimore. In the past year less was said about Municipal WiFi than last year.

3. Adoption of Windows Vista continues to flounder even after Service Pack 1 drops

This one was dead on. Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista came and went and attitudes about Windows Vista stayed the same. Even with the improvements that Service Pack 1 brought, corporate IT departments are still avoiding Windows Vista. It is now estimated that there are as many corporate desktop systems running Windows Vista as there are running Windows 98.

4. Dot-com bubble II

This one was as wrong as wrong could be. I expected that Social Networking would be next big thing that venture capitalists would try to make money from. With the metaphorical belly flop that the economy took in 2008 startup money disappeared and layoffs in many small web sites came about.

That's how I saw 2008, a couple of dead on hits and a couple of wide misses. What's in the crystal ball for 2009? Stay Tuned

Monday, December 22, 2008

RIAA Drops Lawsuits, Expects ISP to Enforce

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The Recording Association of America (RIAA) AKA Big Music, has announced that they will stop filing lawsuits against users of peer to peer networks to download music because it was costing more to sue music downloaders than they recover. Instead the recording industry will be working with Internet service providers to cut off Internet access the heaviest downloaders.

While the big guys such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon will play ball with the RIAA, resistance is mounting among the smaller independent ISP's. According to a CNET story Jerry Scroggin owner and operator of Bayou Internet and Communicatons says that the RIAA had better bring their checkbook. Independent ISP's looking for an offer of cash will probably will get an offer, an offer they can't refuse.

Suing seven year olds and their grandmothers didn't work, hiring ISP's to be goons won't work ether the only thing that will work is to follow the money. Most Peer to Peer file sharing clients come with some kind of adware or spyware bundled with it. If the RIAA would have sued the companies that make the adware and spyware they would have put most peer to peer download clients out of business, and would have made them look good. What if the RIAA would have sued Gator, oops I mean Claria out of existance back in 2002 imagine how much different things would be today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is Pulling Out of MacWorld Expo A Smart Thing To Do?

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The event that kicks off the year for Apple Fanboys is no more, Apple Inc. has announced that they are pulling out of the MacWorld, and along with it the yearly iconic announcement of new products dubbed the 'Stevenote' is history as well.

Undoubtedly the decision on the part of Apple executives to drop announcing new products at MacWorld comes in part to leaks of announcements. While this can be seen as a way to quash the rumour mill. In turn this will help Apple's own hardware and software developers, they will no longer be presured to rush new products through the development cycle just to be ready to demo at MacWorld.

This may mean waiting for new Apple products a little longer but may not be as buggy. For Apple this will means giving up the fanfare that products announced through the annual Stevenote. While it may be understandable to advertise to a wide audience instead of hooting and hollering fanboys but is a mass market advertisng campaign after a press release really the way to go?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Palm Nova, A new OS from an old name in PDA's and Smartphones

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Palm, the one time kingpin of the PDA world, floundering in the age of smartphones is preparing to release a new version of it's operating system for their smartphones at the upcoming 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. The Palm OS which has been is serious need of a revamp for years is finally getting it, code named 'Nova' the new operating system is supposed to bring new life into Palm's smartphones.

With the new war of supremacy between Google's Android and Apple's iPhone it is needless to say that any new Palm OS will need to be above and beyond insanely great, just to catch the eye of the consumer. Even Microsoft's Windows Mobile has been sidelined as cell phone subscribers are now choosing their carrier just to get an iPhone or G1.

Even Research in Motion has been struggling to bring new phones to market with the wow factor that attract subscribers. With mediocre reviews for the Blackberry Bold and downright frosty reviews of the Storm even RIM will have some tough sledding ahead.

With Palm trying to engineer a renaissance of their own operating system there leaves very little doubt that 2009 will be the year of the smart phone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

BCE Deal Dies, And What It Means For The Rest Of Us

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The deal that would have seen Canada's largest telco, Bell Canada brought under private ownership of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan has fallen apart. While there may be very little effect on most Canadians at first there will be impact further down the road.

In coming troubled times if Bell's bottom line starts sinking, then look for Telus to come back proposing a merger, if Bell doesn't opt to merge with Telus then a hostile takeover would come next. After Bell and Telus unite then it wouldn't be too long before the last two remaining regional telcos, MTS and Sasktel get gobbled up.

While the idea of having a single national telco may scare many consumers, it should be especally worrysome to those that don't have a competitve alternative such as telephone service from a cable company.

Bell and it's CRTC endorsed traffic shaping is seen as the biggest threat to Net Neutrality in Canada. With Bell as a majority part of a single national telco would practically guarantee Net Neutrality would be a memory without any kind of legislated intervention. That could also mean that in some communities where DSL is the only high speed Internet service is available, moving telephone service to Vonage or some other VoIP service wouldn't be practical or even possible.

With a national monopoly telco becoming a possibility in just a couple of years. It's time to support alternative broadband technologies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Canadians To Get Fleeced Even Further

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Living in Canada comes with a premium cost to enjoy modern technology. From the highest prices for broadband service in the industrialized world, to system access fees on cell phone plans being a geek in the great white North means many numerous hits to the bank account. One biggest hits in the wallet is going to hit harder in 2009. The recordable media levy that is charged on blank CD's audio tapes (remember those?) and minidiscs is going up as much as 40 percent.

The levy intended to compensate musicians and songwriters for any potential revenue loses from home recording of copyrighted songs was applied to recordable media about ten years ago. In 2001 the levy on blank CD's was raised from 5 cents per CD to 21 cents due to the rise of peer to peer file sharing networks.

The Canadian Private Copying Collective is the body in charge of collecting the levy and dispersing it, but instead of musicians and songwriters the money collected has been going to recording companies. In the past I have been of the opinion that the term 'Corporate Welfare' was used by extreme left wing nut jobs to describe any favorable treatment that any private sector company gets from government but even I can't find any other phrase that more accurately describes the recordable media levy.

While the recording industry is getting a hand out taken right out of the pockets of Canadians many of which are using blank CD's for data backup, not music, the recording industry practically authored previous copyright bills that would have seen Canadians fined $500 per song downloaded from a peer to peer file sharing network.

Unlike other tech rip offs the recordable CD levy is one you can get away from. Because this is a levy and not a tax, it's not collected by Canada Customs on blank CD's that are imported from outside of Canada. So get on E-Bay buy your blank CD's, it's your duty.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Why Apple Needs To Do a Netbook

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Apple has always been the one of the names that been associated with the leading edge of computing, but surprisingly absent from the netbook market. During troubled economic times, it's been ultra compact, ultra inexpensive netbooks that have been driving sales for PC manufacturers. It was the original netbook the Asus eeePC that was giving Linux it's much sought after foot in the door before Microsoft caught on and extended the shelf life of Windows XP and put out a version of Windows XP just for netbooks.

Apple has put a lot into the iPhone and iPod touch but as great as users of those devices think they are, it's netbooks that are the big thing in portable computing. In the upcoming hard times it will be especially hard to try to use a 17 inch MacBook Pro in an economy airline seat.

It was the original iMac back ten years ago that brought Apple back from the brink of extinction because it was a economical alternative to Windows PC's with their security nightmares at the time. An Apple netbook especially if priced under $400.00 that would make living without Windows an easier choice to make.

The next Stevenote at the next MacWorld in January will show if Apple will jump off the fence and ship a netbook or will sit it out and let Microsoft own the netbook market.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Yet Another Patent Troll Lines Up To Take a Shot At Apple

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Apple has found itself as a target yet again of a patent troll. A company called EMG Technology LLC has sued Apple alleging that the web browser that reformats web pages to be easier to read on the small screen on the iPhone.

EMG Technology LLC is a company based out of Tyler, Texas and has only one employee and doesn't even have a web site. EMG Technology LLC was founded by Elliot Gottfurcht who has never even worked at tech company, he is actually is a real estate developer.

EMG Technology is only out make money from aquiring techology related patents and suing successful companies based on these patents. Many tech giants are being unjustly knocked down because of patent trolling, and a legislated end to patent trolling is needed, now.

My original commentary about Patent Trolling

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Microsoft Kills OneCare and Offers It's Replacement For Free

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After two years of offering OneCare, the security suite and capturing a tiny portion of the security software market, Microsoft has announced that they are pulling the plug on OneCare on June 30, 2009 to replace it with an anti-malware program code named Morrow in the second half of 2009.

Morrow is being promoted as a lightweight alternative to other security suites offered by Symantec or MacAfee. Morrow is targeted at people who have underpowered PC's or who are bandwidth impaired. Many more are expected to be attracted to Morrow because of the price that Microsoft has set for it, Free.

There have been free lightweight Anti-Virus programs such as AVG and Avast around for years, but Microsoft's Morrow will be the first from software maker that every computer user knows.

Microsoft isn't expected to bundle Morrow with the upcoming Windows 7 but the other makers of security software are going to have a problem competing with free. With a Democrat back in the White House it won't take very long for Symantec or MacAfee to cry Anti-Trust.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Microsoft's Xbox 720 Dilemma

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In preparation for the next next generation console wars expected to start in 2010 or 2011, Microsoft announced that the third generation of Xbox console will be named Xbox 720. Some of the expected improvements over the Xbox 360 are faster frame rates, Dolby True HD digital surround sound and again the promise of better graphics.

Microsoft faces a dilemma when it comes to the media that games are distribuited on. Currently Xbox 360 games are distribuited on DVD however at 8.7 GB on a dual layer DVD that means Microsoft's competitor Sony's Playstation 3 can already hold more six times the data because it uses BluRay technology which can store 50 GB on a game disc.

Microsoft backed HD-DVD a couple of years ago and got the short end of the stick. Microsoft needs a new option for distribution media for any future generations of Xbox consoles. Somehow selling games on up to 6 discs may not be the best option. The idea of switching discs during installation or during game play only brings only one word to mind, cumbersome. Microsoft may have the option of licensing Blu Ray from Sony but Microsoft has already ruled that out.

Microsoft could try to revive HD-DVD by buying the intellectual property for HD-DVD from Toshiba. This would give Microsoft higher capicity media to sell games for the Xbox 720. Another option would be some kind of read only flash memory. That may banish loading screens to the history books but would add to the overall cost of games. Pumping out games on discs only costs Microsoft about a dollar per copy. Going to a flash memory would cost at least 20 dollars per copy.

Microsoft could forgo distribution media altogether and sell games online only, which would work well for those customers with an upper tier cable broadband connection or a Verizon Fios connection but for those with a 1Mbps DSL downloading 20 or more gigabyte Xbox 720 game would be an overnight download. Not what Microsoft would want to offer to to customers who want to buy now and play now.

There would be another downside to the paid download to sell the games and that would be the resentment that would foster to the retailers who would be expected to sell Xbox 720 consoles. What incentive would Wal-Mart have to sell Xbox 720 consoles if they didn't have the games to sell with consoles.

There is another two to three years before the Xbox 720 hits store shelves the decicion that Microsoft makes on distribution media is critical. The wrong choice would help Microsoft lose the title of console game market leader back to Sony or even back to Nintendo.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Google Android Phone, Coming To Canada

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Google and HTC recently launched the G1, the first smartphone to use Google's Android operating system. Once again just like the original iPhone before it Canadians have to ether stand on the sidelines or order an unlocked phone on places such as eBay. Unlike the original iPhone there will be multiple manufactures making Android powered smartphones. This of course could lead the way to having both CDMA and GSM Android phones in the market. Out of Canada's cell phone carriers who is most likely to offer Android phones, let's see.

Rogers/Fido: The honeymoon between Rogers and Apple hasen't even ended yet, while Rogers still sells Blackberries and Windows Mobile phones, it isn't very likely that Rogers will take on the most hyped competitor to the iPhone.

Bell: While Android would be an excellent opportunity to attract customers back from Rogers and the iPhone they haven't exactly carried the most trendy phones in a very long time. Bell's recent reputation of lame phones comes from carrying the same lineup as Sprint. If Sprint doesn't pony up the money to provide Google Android to subscribers then Bell won't ether.

Telus: Most of the time Telus carries the same phones offered by Verizon in the states, if Verizon gets the first CDMA Android phone then Telus will be the first Canadian carrier to offer it.

New Carrier (Yak,Videotron,etc.) Canada's new hopeful cell phone carriers will need a high profile type phone as a way to attract customers away from the established cell phone carriers. Billions spent on spectrum licenses and building networks will be need to be recovered. Will a Google Android phone help them, stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tech Issues After Tory Re-Election

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The election of 2008 is over (in Canada at least) and not one of the parties addressed the tech related issues. There was not a single reference to copyright reform or net neutrality by any of the party leaders. So what will this mean in the upcoming parliament?

Copyright reform will once again appear the expected son of C-61 is expected to be reintroduced but maybe not right away. With the growing economic challenges pandering to the music and movie industries with Canada's DMCA clone will take a back burner for a while.

Net Neutrality legislation won't come from the government side of the house, but it would be an excellent issue for the opposition parties to flex their muscle and show Canadians that they can work together.

Electing a minority government was probably the best thing to help make sure that these issues don't get swept under the rug.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Steve Ballmer Wrong Again

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has once again made another prediction that makes me start to think that it is possible to have one foot on their mouth while having their head stuck up another orifice. Ballmer predicts that Apple and RIM will Nokia will lose and Microsoft will win the battle of the Smart Phone operating systems according to a CNET article.

Ballmer claims that because the competitors to Microsoft's Windows Mobile because they design proprietary hardware and tie it to proprietary software. In Ballmer's distorted view smart phones are just going to be like little PC's with most hardware manufacturers buying Windows Moble.

What goes to show that Steve Ballmer really has the blinders on is that he makes absolutely no mention about Google's Android which like Windows Mobile is designed to operate on just about any smart phone regardless of manufacturer.

Hardware manufacturers such as Motorola have have relied upon Microsoft's Windows Mobile to power their smart phones are now taking a serious look at releasing new phones that use Google's Android. While any Android phone may only join a line up smartphones that are powered by Windows Mobile, it's only a matter of time before smartphone manufacturers drop Windows Mobile and go Android only. Let's see what Steve has to say happens when Windows Mobile loses.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

WiMax, The Lost Potential

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October 8th will be the official launch of the first WiMax service to be offered to American consumers. Subscribers in Baltimore will be the first to receive broadband using WiMax technology. While that's a good thing to see an alternative to the cable and DSL services already in place, the new entrant into market in Baltimore from the same old club of telecom companies. Sprint is the first out of the block to provide WiMax.

WiMax was seen as a techology that would allow new companies to break the cable telco broadband duopoly instead of breaking the duopoly it will only extend it to rural and remote areas that the cable and telcos couldn't justify the cost of wiring for broadband.

There would be more than enough spectrum available to allow more than one provider of WiMax service but how likely would it be that startup ISP would spend the money on WiMax knowing that their competition is both DSL and WiMax service from the big telcos and the cable modem and WiMax service from the cable companies.

In short this probably will relegate WiMax as a supplemental service for the cable and telcos, and not as a competitive technology. The greatest potential for any technology has just been lost.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SanDisk Wants To Get You Back Into Stores To Buy Music

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Flash memory card maker SanDisk with four major recording labels have a new proposal to get people back into stores to buy their music. The initiative called SlotMusic sells MicroSD cards loaded with music and CD cover art. The proposed standard puts high bitrate MP3's onto the memory cards with no Digital Rights Management.

With most new cell phones having MP3 playback and MicroSD slots. There may be a new business model here but with very few of the dedicated MP3 Players with MicroSD slots then SanDisk is missing one important device that most turn to play music on.

With online music download stores well entrenched it will be an uphill struggle to get music buyers off their computers and back into stores. While SlotMusic uses no DRM for songs purchased on the cards, many of the music download stores have DRM free music.

The only retailers that have pledged support for SlotMusic are Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which will make any market adoption even more difficult. SlotMusic maybe an interesting idea, only five years too late.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Regulate and Tax the Internet? Only in Canada

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About a decade ago, Canadian government regulator of the broadcasting and telecommunications industries, the CRTC dismissed the possibility of regulating the Internet as too big and virtually impossible. According to a CBC News story the idea of the Canadian government regulating and putting special taxes on Internet access is again rearing it's ugly head.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission is going to review the regulation of "New Media". Eli Noam, drector of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information is recommending that Internet should regulated but special taxes should be collected to put more Canadian content on the Internet.

If the past decade of the web as mass media has shown anything, it's that having the Internet unregulated has helped Canadian content not hurt it. A decade ago the .ca subdomain was heavily regulated and as a result only goverment and academic web sites domain names ended in .ca. It was only when regulations were broken down that thousands of .ca websites appeared.

As if the idea of putting Canadian content regulations on the Internet is height of delusion, the Idea taxing Internet access takes the height of delusion into the stratosphere. If a Canadian content tax goes onto Internet access, then a tax for the recording industry and movie studios wouldn't be too far behind.

Such abusrd ideas usually don't come to light during an election campaign, let's just hope that those seeking elected office see these crazy ideas as insane as they are.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Canada Needs Election to Kill Copywrong Bill

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If an expected Canadian election gets called at the end of the week it will kill one of the worst pieces of legislation on the order paper. Bill C-61 the bill to "reform" Canada's copyright act which has been stuck having only made it past first reading won't even make it past parliament.

This hasn't been the first time that a bill dealing with copyright legislation was lost due to an election. When the Liberal minority government was toppled in 2005, there was a copyright bill that died on the order paper.

Like the previous bill this copyright bill contains provisions that would create a clone of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the highly unpopular legislation in the United States. A ban on circumventing Digital Rights Management (DRM) is one of the provisions that is contained in both the DMCA and C-61. This ban on removing DRM is considered by many to strip citizens of their right to fair use of copyrighted works that they own. Ripping movies off of DVD's onto a computer for viewing in another location at another time will become illegal in Canada as it is now in the United States.

Bill C-61 also implements the use of the Broadcast flag technology which is supposed to prevent recording of television shows that are transmitted in a digital format be it Digital Cable or Satellite or OTA DTV. The use of the Broadcast Flag was banned in the United States because the supreme court felt that it violated fair use rights.

The cries of "I don't want another election" still ring out from citizens from coast to coast. To them and the politicians who represent us and potential politicians wanting to represent us, I've got three words for them "Bring it on"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Has Barack Obama Thrown Away The Geek Vote?

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Since Barack Obama captured enough votes in the Primaries to become the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party election in November there has been widespread speculation on who will be the vice presidential running mate. The naming of Deleware senator Joe Biden has ended the spectulation.

Many of Biden's posistions on many tech issues is now making some wonder if Obama's really stands where he says he does on tech related issues. Biden supported the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and opposes any attempt to reform the DMCA. Biden has also supported bills that would have launched denial of service attacks against anybody if they tried to download from a peer to peer network.

One of the most talked about issues in tech is that of net neutrality. Legislated Net Neutrality ensures that people can use the Internet the way they want to with out intervention from Internet service providers. Two years ago Biden actually went out and said that was no need for Net Neutrality. In Biden's mind having Telco's restrict VOIP traffic and Cable companies restricting Bit Torrent traffic is just fine.

Where exactly does Barack Obama truly stand on these issues?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Patent Trolling Still Alive and Well

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As I originally reported about a couple of months ago successful technology companies often face getting sued by less successful companies or companies that have very little or no longer relevant this practice is known as Patent Trolling. The latest to get trolled is Nintendo. A company called Hillcrest Labs is suing Nintendo over the remote controller used on the Wii console. Hillcrest claims that the motion sensing controller infringes on three of their patents.

The motion sensing sixaxis controller used on the Playstation 3 would violate the same patents, but Hillcrest isn't suing Sony. If this was about protecting intellectual property rights then Hillcrest would have to sue both Sony and Nintendo, but they are just trying to knock down the most successful.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Telus Demands Federal Cash for Broadband Buildout, Give Me A Break

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According a CBC News Story The CEO of Telus Darren Entwistle calls upon the Federal Government to take the 4.2 Billion raised from the recent wireless spectrum auction and use it to build more broadband access to more smaller communities. It would be the giants of the industry that would offer service to customers in these smaller communities.

Given how telecom companies rake in billions of dollars from customers with scam-like fees like 911 fee, the system access fee, not to mention Telus' new fee for incoming text messages, the last thing that the big telcos needs is more government money.

Cable companies are mandated by their licenses from the CRTC to put 5 percent of their revenues into the Canadian Television Fund to provide funding to produce Canadian TV shows. Would it not be fair to mandate Telcos to put five percent of their revenues into building more broadband in traditionally underserved areas?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sprint to sell Nextel??

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The Third Place cell carrier in the United States, SprintNextel is being rumoured to be considering selling or doing away with the iDen cellular phone/two way radio network it acquired when Sprint bought Nextel in 2005. SprintNextel is currently facing pressure from the Federal Communications Commission to relinquish the wireless sprectrum that the Nextel iDen network uses in order to turn it over to public safety agencies.

Efforts to move users of iDen over to CDMA based walkie talkie services have so far proven fruitless. Corporate users like the instant access that iDen offers, two way radio over CDMA has a seven second delay from pushing the push to talk button until other person hears what is being said.

Pressure is mounting from within Sprint Nextel to control costs, The cell phone porton of the iDen technology is based on TDMA, which means running two parallel networks which costs more. For SprintNextel which has been losing subscribers for the past year, what did they get by buying up Nextel?

Monday, August 4, 2008

A is for Apple and A is for Antitrust

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In a surprise response to Apple's lawsuit against Psystar, the attorneys for the Mac clone manufacturer are preparing to use Antitrust law as their defense. Claiming that Apple is stifling competition by monopolizing the Mac OS computer market.

For most in the tech industry the last taste of antitrust litigation was unpleasant leaving Microsoft in charge of Operating System market without even a slap on the wrist. Microsoft squashed out the competition in web browser market share and got away with it.

If there was a credible antitrust case against Apple, wouldn't the last legitimate mac cloners raised it with the FTC or DOJ when Steve Jobs terminated the license agreements back in 1997? This maybe raised at sometime by the Psystar attorneys, but until a conclusion is reached it will be closely followed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

E3 Announcements in a Nutshell

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The Announcements from the big three video game companies at E3 2008


Greatest Hits coming for Playstation 3 starts with Resistance: Fall of Man and ports from Playstation 2 which include Ninja Gaiden, , Call of Duty 3, Fight Night, and Elder Scrolls

80 GB Playstation 3 to replace 40 GB Playstation 3

*** New Exclusives ***
Resistance 2
Little Big Planet
God of War III


Wii Speak, headset for chatting while online gaming

Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS) A surprise debut for the Grand Theft Auto franchise on a Nintendo system, and one of the first Mature rated game for the DS being the handheld system that appeals to the 6 to 16 year old set.
Wii Sports Resort: a follow up to Wii Sports the game that ships with every Wii Console
Wii Music: Nintendo's version of the music playing simulators like Guitar Hero and RockBand


XBox live will get redesign players will be able to create avatars.

*** New Exclusives ***
Fallout 3
Resident Evil 5
Fable II
Gears of War 2
RockBand 2
Final Fantasy XIII

Friday, July 11, 2008

Why Canadians Are Getting Fleeced By Cell Phone Companies

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The recent public outcries surround the pricing for the plans that Rogers charges for the use of the iPhone, and Bell and Telus announcing plans to charge for incoming text message have brought to light how much more Canadians pay for cell phone service than cell phone users in other countries. What has to be on the minds of many Canadians is how we got into this mess with a few companies charging high rates and fees on top of fees?

In the early days given Canada's large land area in compairson to the low population density meant that building the early cellular networks were very expensive. There were very low numbers of subscribers in the first few years which meant paying thousands of dollars for a bag phone which was required because the nearest cell tower may be as many as twenty kilometres away. Airtime minutes cost dollars instead of the pennies they are today. As the number of subscribers grew cellular infrastructure was built and phones got smaller and more convenient to use which meant costs could come down which it did but didn't come down as much as in other countries.

Everybody who has a contract with their cell phone pays a monthly system access fee of $6.95 ($8.95 for Bell subscribers) per month. Originally the system access fee was paid to the federal government but that ended in 1987, so what was originally a government tax grab became a profit grab for the cell phone industry. Another 'fee' which is a profit grab is the 911 fee just about every telephone (both wireline and cellular) subscriber pays, 911 is actually funded through municipal taxes not telco fees.

The Telcos and Rogers have consistantly agrued before the CRTC is that Canada is a small market for cell service, which in the first decade of cellular service in Canada may have been true. That is probably why only two companies (ClearNet and Fido )were allowed to enter the market in the mid 1990's when Digital cell service came to Canada. Clearnet was bought out by Telus in 2000 and Fido was bought by Rogers in 2004. Both had to pay millions to buy their CRTC licences through the auction process. The costs of buying licences through the auction process and building cellular infrastructure left both Fido and Clearnet with billions of dollars of debt which made them easy take over targets. Any new company entring the market now is already at a disadvantage because of license auctions.

There is very little doubt that the cell phone companies are gouging consumers, but don't forget that the feds have their dirty little hands in the pie too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rogers Caves in on iPhone Rates (Kind of)

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Reacting to public outrage Canada's exclusive carrier of the Apple iPhone has slashed rates. For thirty dollars a month users who sign up for a three year contract will get six gigabytes of 3G data transfer. A similar amount of data usage would have to pay 100 dollars a month. The thirty dollar per month plan is available to anybody who activates any 3G smartphone, not just an iPhone. The thirty dollar a month deal starts when the iPhone launches July 11th and lasts until the end of August. That thirty dollars doesn't include the $6.95 dollar per month system access fee that the cell phone carriers have been using to fleece Canadian subscribers for years.

If Rogers really wanted to put an end to the outrage then put out an unlimited data plan at a good price.

Bell and Telus Customers To Get Hosed For Receiving Text Messages

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Users of the post office don't pay for the mail they receive, but the mail they send. That's the way it's always been. That's also the way it's been for cell phone text messaging but that's going to come to an end next month. Canadian cell carriers Bell and Telus are going to change that. For customers who do not have a texting plan as part of their cell phone subscription. In August both carriers will introduce a charge fifteen cents per text message that they get.

This already has subscribers complaining that the cell carriers are just nickel and dimeing subscribers, but ultimately the goal of the cell carriers is to get subscribers to add text messaging packages to cell phone subscriptions.

The companies currently competing in the auction to enter the cell phone market in Canada will take about two years to get started, looks like it's going to be a very long two years.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cell License Auction is Just About Over, a Little More Competion Coming

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The auction for radio frequency licenses for Canada's new cell phone carriers is drawing to a close. It is starting to look like there will be only one potential new national carrier coming and half a dozen regional carriers. The only company that has a hope to become the next national cell carrier is a company called Globalive Communications, which is better known as Yak, a provider of discount long distance service. The current leaders for regional licenses are Shaw Communication in Western Canada, Quebecor in Quebec and Bragg Communications in Atlantic Canada.

Now that there is an idea of who the new cell phone carriers will be, now the next question is going to be is which cell technology will they use GSM or CDMA? For a new cell phone provider to go GSM would be the smart bet. For Globalive or any of the new regional carriers it would be easier to make one roaming agreement with Rogers than four agreements with Bell, Telus, MTS, and Sasktel. Even for Globalive who intends on making a national network, a roaming agreement will be needed because during the build out in the first couple of years Globalive will only have towers if the major cities with smaller communities won't have coverage without a roaming agreement with an existing provider.

There is another prize in 2010 for any new cell providers if they choose to use GSM the international roaming fees from the Vancouver Winter Olympics. If any new Canadian providers can make roaming agreements with foreign cell phone companies they will take what is expected to be a win fall away from Rogers.

Phones using Google's Android operating system for smart phones about to hit the market in the next year will also weigh heavily on the minds of the operators of any new cell phone carrier. In the United States it is expected that one of the underdog cell providers like T-Mobile or SprintNextel will be the first to offer the Google Android smart phone. If Google makes an exclusive agreement with ether T-Mobile or SprintNextel similar to the exclusive agreement that Apple made with AT&T for the iPhone could help sway any new cell carrier on this side of the border to ether GSM or CDMA. If an exclusive agreement is made with T-Mobile which is a GSM carrier then one or more of the upstart carriers will more likely go GSM. If an exclusive agreement between Google and SprintNextel a CDMA carrier comes then it will be likely that at least one of the new carriers will use CDMA.

If there is one downside of the conclusion of the Wireless telephony auction is the number of regional carriers that could come to the market. That would mean the return of roaming fees for subscribers when travelling outside of the home region. With the emergence of Telus as a national carrier in 2000, and Bell swollowing up Aliant in the past couple of years meant less competition regionally but at the very least roaming fees just about became a thing of the past. Only subscribers of MTS and Sasktel pay roaming fees when travelling outside of Manitoba and Saskatchewan respectively and Bell subscribers pay roaming fees when travelling to Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Subscribers to any to the new regional cell carriers will re-learn what a shocking experience opening the cell bill will be because of roaming fees. The next couple of years will be both an exiting time and a scary time to be a cell phone subscriber in Canada.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CRTC Gets One Right, For Once

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Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission stated to a television industry conference that their industry isn't taking the transition to digital seriously. Television stations in Canada have to be transmitting in digital and shutting down analog transmitters by 2011 two years behind deadline their American counterparts have to meet.

Out of the hundreds of television stations operating in Canada only a couple of dozen have began transmitting digitally. While about ten percent of households receive their television exclusively with an antenna, Cable and Satellite providers still obtain signals from broadcast stations mainly over the air. The foot dragging by television stations means most people will see and hear inferior picture and sound quality compared to other channels.

While Television broadcasters are afraid of investing in digital over the air broadcasting, the competition from Digitally broadcast TV stations from south of the boarder received over the air or delivered through digital cable or satellite is something that Canadian stations will not be able to survive as long as they continue to hold on to analog broadcasting.

The lesson for Canada's broadcast industry is go digital or go out of business, It looks like we can already see which path they are choosing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Copyright Law Proposed, Canadians Still Take It On The Chin

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Thursday, June 12th Canada's government introduces new copyright law that despite claims that it's more balanced than previous proposed it's still a clone of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The only thing that is different fines for downloading from peer to peer networks is capped at 500 dollars. Bans on circumventing copy protection remain in place.

Recording content for the purpose of time shifting will remain legal,e but compiling personal libraries of recorded content will become illegal. This is absolutely absurd since many TV shows that people have archives TV shows that cannot be purchased on DVD.

Even among those who would ordinarily support the rights of creators there isn't wide support for the bill. Safwan Javed drummer of the Canadian rock band Wide Mouth Mason speaking on behalf of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition calls the proposed law an "American-style approach to copyright." He states that suing music fans is not going to prevent piracy.

The introduction of the bill comes just as the House of Commons is due to go into a summer break. If it fails to pass before the summer break it will die on the order paper just like the last few copyright bills even the bill the Liberals tried to pass before Paul Martin called the 2004 election.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Yet another Telco Takeover in the Works

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High prices and limited choice of cell phone providers has been the tune that Canadian consumers have heard for years. But sooner rather than later American cell phone subscribers will be hearing to too. Verizon communications announces a 28 billion dollar plan to acquire Alltel Wireless. This takeover is going to be sold to the FCC and the FTC as providing better service through better coverage for Verizon Wireless subscribers in mid-western and southern states, this takeover will still mean less competition for the American consumer.

This proposed takeover will leave Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile as the last major cellular only carriers in the American marketplace, which itself has speculated as the next potential takeover targets. There has been talk already that companies will merge in order to avoid getting swallowed up by AT&T or Verizon. Such a merger will ultimately mean that subscribers will lose out simply by having subscribers on one of the carriers would have to get new phones. With T-Mobile using GSM and Sprint Nextel using both CDMA and iDen technologies, there is no way that the merged company will let all three technologies co-exist.

Are we headed to a single telco? Does this mean the return of Ma Bell? Just wait and see.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Secret Copyright Gestapo

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It's generally thought that secret cloak and dagger operations with secret agents operating across boarders with rights to search and seize without requiring court warrants only existed on the other side of the Iron Curtain in the Cold War days. If 'they' get their way it could soon and it would come to be not in some oppressive regime but here in the free world.

There is a proposal to create an international copyright enforcement agency. The agreement called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement which the United States, Canada, The European Union Mexico and South Korea are involve would set up an enforcement agency that would have the power search, seize and destroy any device suspected to contain pirated content without having any court order or even a complaint from rights holders.

There has not even been any sort of international agreement on drug enforcement so how can this consensus come about so quickly? Why is it that legislators can be so concerned with the civil rights of drug dealers, but yet be so quick to take away little Sally's iPod just because it contains some songs that may have come from CD's that she borrowed.

Scary times people.

Original story from

Monday, May 26, 2008

Canada's New Potential Cell Phone Carriers Starting To Drop Out

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Like any race the the competition to create a fourth national cell phone carrier in Canada is starting to thin out. A consortium of American financiers known collectively as 6934579 Canada Inc. (sounds like a phone number than a company that sells cell phone service) has withdrew it's bid just after Primus Canada announced that they too would be dropping out.

Given how the auction process works it has become the norm for early entrants to drop out leaving those with the biggest wallets to win the title of new cell phone provider or satellite tv provider or what have you. Back in the days when both the FCC and the CRTC had open license application processes it was the market that chose who was going to be the successful TV network, cable company or cell phone provider back in the mid 1980's.

For all the billions of dollars spent by companies looking to get into providing Cell phone service, satellite tv or even high speed Internet using WiMax technology what is the public getting? For one thing more limited competition which could lead a fourth national cell phone carrier what acts like all the others.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Psystar Unveils Their Own Software Update System

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Legally unauthorized maker of mac clones Psystar has unveiled their own Software Update system allowing users of Psystar OS X based computers to get updates for the operating system, and application programs without getting bricked by Apple's Software Update system.

With Psystar pushing forward making OS X work on non Apple computers consumers wanting an easy to use alternative to Windows without having to pay the price for a computer made by Apple are those who ultimately come out ahead.

If Steve Jobs continues to try to keep OS X exclusively on Apple made computers it will take nothing short of an army of lawyers using their fingers to plug holes in a dam that is determined to burst. Millions of people with PC's wanting something other than Windows think about it Steve, just think about it.

Napster Goes DRM Free (So Everything Old is New Again)

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The original music download service, Napster is casting away the Digital Rights Management restrictions from the music they sell. Six million different songs are now available as unrestricted MP3 files which are just like the files that the original Napster helped people distribute way back in the day.

Napster is one of the growing number of online music stores that are now selling songs without DRM. The major labels are easing off the restrictions on what consumers could do with purchased songs partly to open up the market dominated by Apple's iTunes. While it's highly unlikely that the labels want a price war that would give consumers lower prices, they don't want Apple to be the gatekeeper between the labels and consumers.

It's great to see that despite the head planted in rear end thinking of the RIAA, Music bogged down with DRM restrictions is on it's way to becoming a thing of the past.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

EarthLink Pulls Plug on Philly WiFi, Helping to Kill the Muni WiFi White Elephant

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Earthlink announced that they are pulling out of the Municipal WiFi agreement with the city of Philadelphia, unable to reach an agreement with the city to take over the operation of the WiFi network the WiFi service will be turned off on June the 12th. Earthlink sank 17 million dollars of their own money and did not see any return on their investment.

Philadelphia's public private partnership with Earthlink was once seen as the model of how municipal WiFi networks were going to be built and operated. Earthlink seeing their dial-up subscriber base erode in the last few years was going to finally become a full fledged broadband provider. The city would provide low income earners a way onto the Internet, even if very few of them actually have computers.

The end of one of the most highly fiananced municipal WiFi projects is proving that one of the biggest eutopian dreams of the Internet age is proving itself to be the white elephant that it actually is. Network service providers simply have no interest being in partnership with City Halls when paying taxes to municipal governments and then have to compete against for residential consumers.

WiFi is a technology designed for small networks not as a broadband delivery techonology. Attempts to make this leap has resulted in poor performing broadband service which makes Municipal WiFi an idea that was dead on delivery.

Monday, May 12, 2008

3G Iphones coming June 12th, all signs point that way

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According to a story on Apple is going to announce the next generation of their iPhone that will operate on AT&T 3G wireless network to provide faster Internet surfing speeds when not using WiFi. Support an imminent release of a new iPhone is that on Apple's US and British online stores are sold out of the original iPhones. What remains to be seen is if other countries will get the 3G iPhones right away or will have to wait until carriers outside of the United States and the United Kingdom have HSDPA based 3G networks that will support the advanced functions of the iPhone.

What still remains to be seen is what iPhone will Canada get when the iPhone launches on Rogers towards the end of 2008. 3G on Rogers only works in a few of the major cities and everywhere else is still stuck with EDGE or GPRS.

Friday, May 9, 2008

New E-bay Policy About To Get Test Run Down Under

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E-bay proposed policy that would require all transactions to use PayPal is going to get a trial run in Australia. The new policy that E-bay claims is going to reduce fraud and other disputes is already drawing fire from Australia's banks. Many claim that it's just a money grab for E-bay since PayPal charges larger fees than Australian banks charge for transferring money.

However in North America banks charge more for money orders and direct transfers than PayPal charges on their transactions. It's going to be the little guy who uses post office money orders to pay for items bought on E-bay that is going to be the worst affected. While having a credit card isn't a requirement to use PayPal, not everybody has a bank account that can authorize electronic funds transfers.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Clueless RIAA Executives Claim That DRM Isn't Dead Yet

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As if anybody needs any proof that RIAA is still so very totally out of touch and out to lunch, David Hughes the head of the technology unit for the RIAA claimed that the death of DRM is greatly exaggerated and that DRM will re-emerge.

That's incredibily gutsy but incredibly shortsighted since Apple's iTunes, and even the Zune Marketplace offers parts of their catalogs of songs without DRM. The entire catalog of songs available for download at is completely free of DRM.

The movement towards the end of DRM isn't about enabling piracy, it's about consumer choice. Selling downloaded songs without DRM allows anybody to use any online music store with any portable music player. People can buy songs from for use with their iPods.

Mr. Hughes claims that DRM is required for services that offer songs using a monthly subscription model. Selling music through a monthly subscription is an idea that has fallen flat on it's face. Customers of Napster, Rhapsody and the Zune Marketplace largely buy downloaded music outright with very few to pay a monthly subscription fee. This is most likely due to the DRM restrictions placed on subscription music.

Consumers are choosing to buy music without DRM and even the recording companies themselves are giving in to consumer demand. It's just the RIAA that is holding on to the draconian vision that they can tell consumers where and when and on what devices can play music. Copy protected CD's died a quick death it's time for DRM on downloaded music to follow suit. It's the consumer who are buying downloaded songs and yes even buying CD's which pay the salaries of anybody working for the RIAA. It's consumers who are in charge not the RIAA.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Qwest picks Verizon And Dumps Sprint for Wireless

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Qwest Communications largest seen as the target of the next big telco merger is ending it's agreement with Sprint Nextel and makes a new agreement with Verizon to provide cellular service to Qwest wireline customers.

This breaks with the theory that Sprint Quest merger was only a matter of time. Sprint having no local wireline exposure and Qwest without their own cellular infrastructure and just reselling other cellular services would join and create a company that would be able to compete against the behemoths of telecom, Verizon and AT&T.

Now the spectulation is going to be when a Verizon Qwest merger will happen. Get ready to pay more and get even worse customer service from the phone company.

Mid June the Zune Officially Arrives in Canada

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Just days after Rogers and Apple announce an agreement that will finally allow Canadians to get iPhones legitimately, Microsoft comes out with their own announcement that affects the Canadian tech marketplace. In mid June, the Zune portable music player arrives in Canadian stores. The Zune software is already available for download for potential Canadian Zune users, however the Zune Marketplace online store is not yet available to sell songs to Canadian customers. Microsoft hasn't even announced when or even if songs will become available in Canada.

The Zune hasen't even put a dent in the portable media player market that is dominated by Apple's iPod. Using the most restrictive Digital Rights Management technology by any online music store is probably why the Zune's market share has dwindled into the low single digits. Canadians largely more resistant to DRM than American consumers which means that Microsoft will have an even tougher time selling the Zune in Canada.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Canada Gets iPhone

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Rogers Communications announced that they have tentative agreement with Apple to be the provider of the iPhone in Canada. What isn't known the pricing, date of availability or even Canadians will get the expected 3G iPhone or get stuck with first generation iPhone that used the EDGE standard for data delivery. Providing only the EDGE based iPhone will allow Apple to use Canada as a dumping ground for their old technology simililar to how Tivo uses the Canadian market to dump their standard definition DVR boxes, while Americans have the latest technology.

What else remains to be seen is if Apple caved in and will allow Rogers to continue to charge a King's ransom for their data plans, or did Rogers cave in and charge rates comparible to those charged in the United States and Europe.

Look for the price for an unlocked iPhone on eBay to drop sometime soon.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another Bright Idea From California Democrat

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Democrat Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has introduced a Bill allowing the auctioning of 2.1 GHz spectrum but it comes with a catch: The winner of the auction would have to use the spectrum to provide free wireless broadband nationwide within ten years. The service provided would have to provide at least 200 kbps connection speed and come with a built in filtering system to prevent people from accessing adult content.

What makes this bill nothing but absolute nonsense is the billions that potential bidders would have to spend to win an FCC auction and then billions more spent to build a national wireless broadband network only to mandated by law give away the service. Chances are this bill will hit the waste paper baskets on Capital Hill before even coming before to congressional committees.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Apple Clones reappear this time without Apple's blessing

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When it was discovered that company called psystar was selling computers with Apple's Leopard operating system, a commotion arised and their web server crashed. Using crackes published by OSx86 Psystar becomes the first computer manufacturer to sell OSX based computers without Apple's blessing. The End User License Agreement for the OSX prohibits installation on computers that were not manufacturered by Apple.

This is not the first time that computers not made by Apple have been made to run Apple's operating system software. In 1995 Power Computing was the first to make and sell a clone of Apples' computers. Making the money from the operating system instead of the computer and the operating systems was former CEO Gil Amelio's business plan for Apple. When Steve Jobs came back as the head of Apple, he couldn't stomach the idea of other companies making computers that were cheaper and faster than the computers built by Apple and ended the licensing agreements with the Mac Clone manufacturers.

Back in those years creating Mac clones was expensive because everything in a Mac was different from the CPU to the expansion bus and even the RAM was different that what was used in Windows based PC's. Now Apple's computers use Intel processors, have serial ATA disk drive controllers and have a PCI express exansion bus. The only thing that is different is some of the programming in the firmware of the computer and even that is changing as PC manufacturers are moving from the traditional BIOS to the Extensible Firware Interface that Apple uses.

Back in the days of the original Mac clones Apple didn't have much direction when it came to the design of the computers that they made. Now with bleeding edge computers like iMacs and the MacBook Air, Apple can make it as both a manufacturer of computer and a publisher of the operating systems for their own computers and computers made by other companies.

There has bever been so much demand for an alternative to Windows as there is now due mostly to that stinkbomb called Windows Vista. Apple is best suited to meet that demand. Now Steve Jobs and Apple can step up and meet this demand and grow the Mac OSX market share or continue on their narrow minded way. Choice is yours Steve!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why do Tech Companies Hate Canada?

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If you ask any geek in the Great White North what the most wanted gadget on every geek's must have wish list, you'll probably get Apple's iPhone as the top response. Now almost a year after Apple's iPod, Internet surfing and oh yeah it makes phone calls too gadget went on the market, the Canadian launch is still nowhere in sight. Most blame sky high rates that Rogers Wireless charges to users of data devices like the iPhone, but it's not the first time that Canadians have denied the latest tech toys.

Tivo is another example of technology that has been delayed or denied to Canadian consumers. Tivo launched in 1998 and has been a hit with users ever since. For most of that time Canadians could only watch references to Tivo on their favorite American tv shows. Tivo simply ignored the Canadian market for nine years. Prompted by Canadians hacking the Tivo to load Canadian TV listings on the boxes (a move that Tivo calls piracy) Tivo now sells the model that Americans bought two years ago. No HD recording no other Internet content that new Tivo boxes can do.

Microsoft's Zune music player the current laughing stock of the portable music player market is also not yet available in Canada. The only appearences of the Zune in Canada are in liquation stores, Microsoft is just trying to get rid of their original poop brown Zunes. Most likely that Microsoft still has to reach a deal with Canadian recording companies to sell songs online to Canadians. When Microsoft was developing the Zune and reaching the deals with the American recording companies, they could have also been talking to the Canadian recording companies too.

Undoubtely there is still a bad taste in the mouth of some executives who may have worked at DirectTV as some point, because they were banned from Canada does that mean that Canadians have to be denied the latest technologies? There were no regulatory issues with Tivo, the Zune or even the iPhone.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wake up Canada, We're losing the battle for Net Neutrality

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Undoubtedly anybody who follows the American primary races, and the race for the presidency will hear the term net neutrality as a top issue. The pure and simple definition of Net Neutrality is that anybody can use the Internet how ever they want without interference from their ISP. For example anybody subscribing to the Internet service from their telephone company could use a VOIP service like Skype or Vonage without their ISP (the telco) inhibiting or prohibiting third party VOIP services.

In the past couple of years, a few bills have been launched in Congress to help ensure that Americans can use the Internet how they please even if conflicts with the Internet providers' corporate interests. Cable megaopoly Comcast faced harsh crititism for their practise of choking peer to peer network traffic. Comcast claimed that peer to peer network traffic was degrading performance for all subscribers. Many of the video files transferred across peer to peer networks are very large and legally questionable because video files are often movies and television series transferred illegally. It was seen as more legal butt covering than network performance conservation. Citing negative public reaction to the traffic shaping, Comcast recanted and lifted the restrictions of peer to peer file sharing.

In the Great White North, the largest Internet Providers, Rogers Communications and Bell Canada engage in similar practises that threaten the freedom to use the Internet freely. Both Rogers and Bell restrict Bit Torrent traffic. Despite public outrage they continue to do it. How long will it be until third party VOIP traffic and IP TV services like joost will face similar restriction?

A solution to the threat to Net Neutrality in Canada is going to have to come from parliment. The free market is not going to bring a solution. WiMAX the closest challenger to Cable-DSL duopoly will not help ensure Net Neutrality for Canadians. The only company licensed by the CRTC and offering broadband using WiMAX a company called Inukshuk Wireless is actually a partnership between Bell and Rogers.

It may seem that writing your MP may not to be an effective way to deal with this issue but right now it's the only thing ordinary citizens can do even if the telephone and cable companies have parlmentarians in their back pockets.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Craig's List worth 5 Billion WTF??

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Stock analyst Henry Blodget has valued online classified web site Craig's List at 5 billion dollars. Given that the only revenue that Craig's List generates is from posting fees from real estate brokers in certain cities. Over blown evalation, I think so. A more down to earth value is around 150 million dollars, the value placed on Craig's List from Classified Intellegence.

This speculation about the value of Craig's List is not much more than the dipping the proverbial toe into the water to find out if there is any interest in an IPO. For Craig's list to be attractive to investors then they would have to consider other forms of generating revenue such as on page advertising and charging listing fees to all commercial sellers. I see the wand coming out of the bottle of dot-com bubble liquid.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Warner Music calls for Internet Tax to Support Their Poor Industry

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Now a recording company is joining a chorus sung by certain songwriters' rights holder groups that Internet service be taxed and the proceeds to compensate those whose songs are downloaded for free over peer to peer networks. Warner Music has hired a music industry insider to spear head a push to have a tax on Internet service enacted to make people pay (or pay for twice for users of legitimate online music services such as iTunes).

Unlike previous Internet service tax proposals aimed to help the poor suffering musicians and songwriters, the Warner Music proposal only helps the poor suffering recording companies. Yet just like previous proposals Internet service tax proposals, doesn't treat people fairly. Anybody who has access to municipal WiFi could just pop open their laptop, connect to their favorite peer to peer network and download just like they did using the Internet service that they pay for.

Just days Sony Music announced that they were exploring setting up a subscription service that allows unlimited downloads for about ten dollars a month, this announcement just goes to shows that backwards tyranical thinking still fills the heads of certain music industry executives. Sony's approach that is more likely to turn us all into legitimate paying downloaders is the way forward. Looks like some in the Music Industry still need a firm kick in the part of their bodies where they do their thinking.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Five Tech Issues that need to be addressed this Election Season

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This year like ever one out of four is a political silly season, the presidential election in the United States. While technology related issues could potentially get lost among the big issues like ongoing war in Iraq, and the floundering economy. Issues affecting technology don't just affect the technology industries but users of technology. It's not just Americans that can put questions to those seeking votes about policies that affect how they use technology. Canadians could face an election depending on how the wind is blowing, and in Canada technology and it's use will be a political issue when an election is called or when the minority government gets toppled. When an incumbent politician or those looking to take their jobs come knocking make sure that you get the answers and vote accordingly.

Do you support Net Neutrality?

One sticky issue that has been batted around by legislators but not seriously been debated is how to ensure equal access to online content or service regardless of Internet provider. The big telcos and cable companies want to allocate bandwidth to friendly content providers or to inhibit services that compete against the Internet provider. Potentially telcos could inhibit the use of VOIP services like skype or Vonage because it could take people away from tradition telephone service. There have been bills to prevent allocation of bandwidth but nothing has been passed yet.

Do you support allocating wireless spectrum for new carriers?

With analog over the air television getting eliminated in the next couple of years many radio frequencies are opening up to new services like WiMAX and expanded cell phone coverage. 40 of the 105 MHz of the new 2.0 GHz band is set aside for new companies entring the industry. Although the traditional telecom companies are crying foul, they currently hold licenses for hundreds of megahertz of radio frequency spectrum that aren't even being used. In order for the free market can truly be free is for new carriers in cellular and wireless broadband can easily enter the market. Those seeking elected office must support consumers' right to choose over the telco lobbyists.

Do you support funding education in emerging technology?

The one thing that is required above all else to sustain the current rapid evolution in technology is an educated workers entering the work force. As it stands now those educated workers are coming from India, China and Japan. If North America hopes to keep up funding has to come from both Government and the private sector. If the top employees are educated in foriegn countries then it will be those foriegn countries that will be supplying technology to North America, if we want to keep jobs in North America we have to do better.

Do you support preserving fair use provisions in copyright law?

Copyright laws around the world are getting re-written to protect the creators of intellectal property to ensure rights to make a living from creating intellectal property. The rights of creators have to be balenced by the rights of consumers. In 1998 consumers in the United States lost the right to make back up copies of such things as DVD's with the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Such narrow intrest groups as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America are disguising corporate greed as an arguement for creators' rights. Some in the recording industry want all music sold online to come with digital rights management which inhibits what consumers can do with downloaded music and spoken word content. Consumer rights groups favor a ban on DRM so that music can be purchased anywhere and can be used on any portable player. Musicians songwriters, filmmakers, and authors deserve to make living but needs of consumers need to be taken into consideration too.

How do you protect children online?

Social networking has only been popular for a couple of years but is now considered to be the biggest threat to young people online. Once upon a time parents only had to worry about chat rooms but now sexual predators are finding victims on myspace, facebook, bebo and other sites. Law enforcement needs more resources for the protection of young users of social networking sites. There are changes to laws that need keep overzealous cival liberitans at bay. The right to online safety for our children is way more important than any rights for pedophiles.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dell About to Launch a Smartphone (yawn)

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The latest rumor in the tech industry is that computer manufacturer Dell is about to launch a smartphone running the Windows Mobile operating system. Unknown is the sales model Dell intends to use for their new phone. If they use their traditional direct to the consumer model then how does the consumer go about activating the phone with a carrier. Cell carriers have been so far been unwilling to activate or support any cell phone they didn't originally sell. That is supposed to change when Verizon is going to open up their CDMA network to unlocked phones. A deal with Verizon would be a good fit for Dell.

The problem with any upcoming smartphone from Dell is that it's going to be just like every other smartphone running Windows Mobile. It's true that Dell built their company selling PC's that worked and looked like every other PC on the market but in smartphone market Microsoft's operating system doesn't dominate the market. Blackberry with their own operating system is still the market leader.

The best approach is to partner with Google and put some money to speed along development of the Android operating system for smart phones. That's what will make consumers who aren't Blackberry or iPhone fanboys want to buy Dell's smartphones

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

CBC To put reality show on BitTorrent without DRM

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The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is going to make their new reality show "Canada's Next Great Prime Minister" available for download on BitTorrent without using DRM to restrict online viewing. It comes as very little surprise that it would be a public television network that would make such a move. It was PBS that put a made for the Internet show called Nerd TV up on BitTorrent. The online distribution of "Canada's Next Great Prime Minister" would be the first time that a show produced for broadcast will be distributed using BitTorrent and without DRM.

While the private networks are distributing content online, it's with heavy restrictions, the move by the CBC is going to be interesting to watch, while it's highly unlikely that the private broadcasters will follow suit. Unrestricted online distribution will help CBC build an audience for their original content. Some broadcast industry pundits may speculate that distributing TV shows this way will be risky, for CBC it maybe the kind of crazy thinking that they need.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Verizon Plans to speed up Peer to Peer

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In a surprise move Verizon announces to make improvements to their network to make downloading through peer to peer networks faster in a time that competitors such as Comcast and Time Warner are inhibiting P2P network traffic to appease the Recording industry and the movie studios. This is a move that could be seen as risky by Verizon as a way to sway customers away from competing broadband providers which Verizon could face billion lawsuits from the giant media corporations.

Verizon does have a history of standing up to the recording industry on behalf of their customers. Several years ago when the RIAA started suing end users of peer to peer networks, ISP's were required to turn over the names of P2P networks even without a court order. Verizon refused to turn over the names of their customers. The RIAA took Verizon to court and Verizon stated that the RIAA didn't have substancial proof just circumstancial evidence that Verizon's Internet subscribers committed illegal acts of copyright infringement.

When ISP's defend their customers' rights to use the Internet as they feel, they'll have more customers to defend.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

AOL buys Bebo, 850 Million for what?

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AOL the once high and mighty provider of dial up Internet service now a floundering web portal has purchased Bebo, the third most popular social networking web site for 850 million dollars. While Bebo has a high popularity in Britian, Ireland and New Zealand, in North America social networking is dominated by Myspace and Facebook.

The acquition of Bebo will give AOL a presence in Europe and in New Zealand, it's doubtful that Bebo can gain a foothold in North America, becase of dominant position that Myspace and Facebook in the social networking scene.

AOL is pinning it's hopes on Bebo users adopting AIM as their instant messenging client and AIM users becoming users of Bebo.

The early reaction of technology analysts is that 850 million is a lot for AOL to pay for Bebo. Will AOL get it's money worth. Somehow seems doubtful

Monday, March 10, 2008

News Corporation passes on Yahoo

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Rumored suitor News Corporation announced that they will not be buying Yahoo as way to keep Microsoft from launching a hostile takeover. The parent of everything Fox and Myspace says that the over 40 billion price tag was just too much. This leaves Time Warner in the list of potential suitors.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who's The Best Buyer for Yahoo!?

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After the board of Yahoo shot down Microsoft's proposed 40 billion plus dollar takeover offer, Microsoft's board who just can't take buzz off for an answer will likely reply with a proxy battle to acquire Yahoo. There are rumors among the chattering classes of stock market analysts and technology journalists about a friendly merger with another tech or media company. Who are the likely friendly corporate suitors and who is the best fit for Yahoo?

News Corporation AKA Fox Interactive. The most widely rumored to be in a position to buy Yahoo to beat off Microsoft is Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The owner of myspace has pockets big enough to out bid Microsoft. News corp. hasn't been in the online media business very long, only since acquiring Myspace a few years ago. Linking the services of Yahoo with Myspace is believed to be a stop gap of people leaving myspace to facebook.

Time Warner After merging with AOL with 34 million dial up subscribers AOL has been run down to yet another web portal. Life jackets and Life boats had better be ready at Yahoo offices.

Comcast, AT&T A buy out from the largest cable company or largest telco isn't about the vertical integration of content and distribution, this is a hedge against any net neutrality law that may be passed when Barak Obama becomes president (face it Hilary is going down, accept it). "How can we give Google equal access to bandwidth when we own the Yahoo servers"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What does the death of HD-DVD mean for the rest of us?

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Tuesday's announcement from Toshiba that they will cease manufacturing and selling HD-DVD players has brought to an end of the High Definition disc format war and made Blu-Ray the winner. Now that Toshiba has conceded defeat all that is left is to hire an army of lawyers for the class action lawsuit from the 1.3 million of buyers of HD-DVD players.

The winner by far is Sony who will forever will make money from licencing fees when ever somebody buys a blu-ray player or content on blu-ray.

On the surface it appears that consumers win because the choice becomes a lot easier but the problem for the consumer is that blu-ray is more expensive and because it's the only choice now consumers will be paying the premium price forever.

It may eventually be that lower tier electronics manufacturers will end up making so many blu-ray players and selling them at mass sellers like Wal-Mart that it will force prices down like when companies like Apex Digital brought the price of a DVD player to under 200 dollars.

The format war is over and we are still treating the wounded, and Toshiba is carrying way their dead.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Google's Android, What does it mean for the Cell Phone Industry

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A prototype of Google's Android operating system for cell phones was shown off at a recent trade show in Spain. Many expect Android to be the iPhone killer especially CDMA carriers who have seen customers defecting to AT&T to get an iPhone. Selling the Mobile phone operating system to cell phone manufacturers and cell carriers will give Google a revenue source from an actual product instead of advertising.

Those who should shake in their boots are Microsoft whose Windows Mobile operating system hasn't exactly the mobile world on fire and Palm the PDA pioneer turned fledgling smartphone maker whose best days are long past. Both companies are getting new competition from a new offering that is cheaper and has more capabilities.

Unlikely unaffected will be Research in Motion because Blackberry is so very entrenched in the corporate world and in the halls of power their users are so loyal they won't even consider switching to something else.

So where does this leave Apple, Android promises to bring iPhone type capabilities to phones made by other companies on all cell phone carriers. The fanboys who are replicating faster than tribbles will always carry iPhones.

We have so far since the days of the StarTac 3000 which I was using up until a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The World's Fastest Dot-Com Fizzle

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Monday a company called Qtrax announced that they were launching a peer to peer music sharing network with deals in place with the recording companies where advertising shown in the client software would go to pay musicians and songwriters. In just a day the network failed to launch and the big music companies stated that while they had talked to Qtrax there were no deals in place.

If this announcement was an attempt to jump start stalled negotiations then Qtrax has just played it's final card. Vaporware announcements are risky at least. It is also rumoured that songs distributed on Qtrax will use Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format with DRM.

This already means that songs from Qtrax will not work with iPods, which if they are trying to launch an online music service, iPod compatibility is so very essential because of Apple's huge market share in the portable music player market. If most people can't use the songs that Qtrax is offering on their iPods, then Qtrax probably won't get getting very far trying to convince the recording industry to let Qtrax to distribute music for free.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Canadian ISP's Push Back Against Foreign Copyright Bullies

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In a rare show of unity, Canada's largest Internet service providers have announced a flat out rejection of the recently released report from the British based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) that Internet service providers should be mandated to block peer to peer network traffic. According to the IFPI report music sales fell another ten percent.

Rejecting this proposal isn't about condoning piracy, it's about preventing censorship. Just because a communications technology can be used for illegal purposes, crippling it is not the answer. Crimes can be committed using the telephone but nobody is calling for controls on who people can talk to and what they can talk about.

Parliament is about to debate and pass a new copyright law. If Foreign lobbying groups like the IFPI and the RIAA are allowed to push around the elected officials chosen by Canadians, it is you the Canadian Internet user that will be worse off.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Telus Mobility Considers Technology Change

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It's being reported that Canadian cell phone carrier, Telus Mobility is considering converting their current CDMA network over to GSM. This would make Telus only the second carrier to use GSM. This would effectively would end the GSM Monopoly that Rogers Wireless currently has. This would or should mean that travelers to Canada would pay cheaper roaming rates. With less than two years until the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Telus would have to move fast to get cash in on foreign athletes and media and the thousands of their cell phones.

The most conservative estimate of the cost of a network technology change is 500 million dollars, which would mean having to sign up a lot of new customers just to save money on carrier subsidized phones. Even though the newest cell phone come out on the market using GSM first 500 million is lot just to launch the iPhone in Canada.

Even though 500 million for what may seem a minimal benefit, there may seem to be a hidden motive to migrate, Using a competing technology would help make a take over of Telus unattractive to Bell, who was in merger discussions with Telus in 2007.

Dumping CDMA in favor of GSM is not unheard of, in recent years. Telstra, Australia's largest cell carrier made the change over in 2006, Brazil's Vivo and Reliance Communications in India are in the process of switching from CDMA to GSM.

GSM Cell phones are considered to be much more customer friendly because an unlocked GSM phone can be can be moved from carrier to carrier just by changing the sim card. Now that people can keep their phone numbers when change carriers, and for the first time since the days of Analog cellular people will be able to keep their phones again. Will the future be friendly? We'll see.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Guess Who's Claiming They're Getting Ripped Off By Internet Piracy

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After fueling the growth of Internet subscription rates in the 1990's, pornography industry executives are claiming that their bottom lines (pun intended) are being hurt by Internet piracy. Industry executives blame distribution of copyrighted porn on peer to peer networks and x-rated video sharing web sites, like you-tube for porn (call it you-boob if you will). What the porn executives aren't telling is that they are having trouble competing with all the home made porn on peer to peer networks and video sharing sites.

Like the mainstream entertainment industry, maybe the porn industry needs to take a look at it's own employees in production facilities that upload copyrighted porn. Chances are that if the latest high definition movies starring Ron Jeremy, Nina Hartley, or Jenna Jameson (I'm not buying an HDTV for that) are available online, they were uploaded from the Avid suite at the production facility.

Sure technology that is used to produce and distribute porn has improved, the porn is still the same, the same silicone bodies even the same non-plots and even the same music for over 25 years. Why shouldn't people download porn for free, they paid for it years ago.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Stock Fraud Spammer Indicted, Facing Serious Prison Time

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In the past year is has been virtually impossible to open your e-mail and not find dozens of spams promoting ridiculously cheap stocks with the promise that substantial profits are just around the corner. This is the classic pump and dump stock scam just using e-mail to promote worthless companies so that the scammer can sell their shares for a profit. Those who bought in are left holding the bag as they lose their investments.

One of those responsible for the pump and dump spam e-mails is now facing charges of stock fraud and violating the CAN-SPAM act. Alan Ralsky who has a long history as a spammer is facing 41 counts against him.

This shows that Spamming is not a victimless crime, that those who commit it cannot hide behind their computers. Even though billions of spams originate from server farms in Asia and South America and are routed through compromised computers in millions of homes and businesses the spammers will get caught. Everything they pitch is a scam in one way or another and that's why spammers have to be caught and brought to justice.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Digital Prognostications for 2008

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Now that another year is here, what will the quickly evolving world of technology bring in 2008? Here's my attempt to gaze into the crystal ball and this is my theories of the trends in technology seen in the year to come.

1. Bands leave recording companies to distribute direct to fans

This past fall's experiment by the band Radiohead to let fans download their latest album and pay what ever they want shows that many bands hate the recording industry just as much as the fans to. There is an endless trail of bands and solo artists who may have a cult following who have been dropped by record labels due to poor sales. Even artists who sell well have at times have had tumultuous dealings with their labels. Now that online music stores like iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody now are available to use pretty much around the world. 2008 will be the year the year that artists that have been dropped or in dispute with their labels will make deals with the online music stores and sell tracks direct to the consumer.

2. WiMax deployment begins, Municipal WiFi dies a quiet death

WiMax a technology to delivery broadband wirelessly has been slow to get off the ground due to unavailability of radio frequency spectrum. With the FCC mandated abandonment of analog television broadcasting now on the horizon, the needed spectrum will be available very soon. Potential service providers are already getting ready to buy in. WiMax will finally provide those in areas underserved telcos and cable companies with a way to get high speed Internet. Small towns in these underserved areas are where the first Municipal WiFi projects started but projects in major cities have only been nothing more than taxpayer funded failures, City halls will have to start pulling the plugs soon with WiMax companies providing some much needed competition for the telcos and cable companies in well served urban areas.

3. Adoption of Windows Vista continues to flounder even after Service Pack 1 drops

It's little secret that a lot of people just have no interest in Windows Vista including a lot of corporate IT departments. Many people and companies simply state that Windows XP works just fine. Many also say that incompatible hardware and software are another reason for avoiding Windows Vista. To address many of the problems with Windows Vista Microsoft is planning to release the first service pack for Windows Vista in the first quarter of 2008. With computers getting faster and better in the past couple of years many people simply have no reason to upgrade their operating system or their entire computer. Microsoft needed a killer app to sell Windows Vista and they simply haven't found it, even with service pack 1 coming the killer app simply isn't there.

4. Dot-com bubble II

The stock price of Google has soared in the few years that it's been trading on the stock market. Social networking web sites are seen as the highly financed by venture capitalists that will be next to see IPO's that will launch the next generation Dot-com boom. While social networking web sites will provide opportunities to show people advertising customized previously unseen in any other web sites. It's still a business model where advertising is the sole source of revenue. It's not exactly a firm foundation worth investing in but hype will dominate and shares will be snapped up.

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