Friday, October 30, 2009

Could H1N1 Hysteria Cause Financial Disruption?

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In recent weeks news coverage of the H1N1 swine flu has become beyond impossible to avoid.  People have changed their habits in response to H1N1, most have been common sense changes in habit such as more frequent hand washing, and a few have become agoraphobic because of the scare of swine flu.  One of the changes of habit seen in people's shopping habits is not what people are buying but how people are paying for purchases.  Fewer and fewer people are choosing to use cash instead opting to use debit and credit cards instead.  Most medical experts view money as a harbinger for germs and viruses.

With the Christmas shopping season just a few weeks away fears are arising that Canada's Interac network that handles debit transactions that bogs down in the days leading up to Christmas in normal years could be completely brought down under the strain of millions of attempted transactions from those concerned over H1N1.  Even credit card transactions could face slow down as millions of more dollars that would have been handed over in cash gets put on plastic instead. 

The best way to avoid any disruptions when paying using a debit or credit card this Christmas shopping season is to shop early.  The later people leave Christmas shopping the greater the chance of disruptions to the financial networks that process debit and credit transactions will be.  If last minute shopping is unavoidable, then the best way to shop without problems is to face your fears and just hit the ATM and get cash, because cash is the only payment method that cannot be disrupted.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

First New Canadian Cell Carrier Isn't 'Canadian Enough'

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Cellular subscribers looking for better rates and better choices in phones probably won't see it in 2009.  That's because the review of the ownership structure of Wind Wireless and it's parent company Globalive by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission has found that the investment by Egyptian telecom company Orascom puts too much of the ownership of Globalive outside of Canadian hands. 

Welcoming this decision is Canada's established cell phone carriers who launched this inquiry into the ownership of Globalive.  Also welcoming the outcome of the ownership inquiry is DAVE Wireless one of the other cellular startups that will be looking to pull subscribers away from the big three.  What is still not known is how large the investment from the definitely not Canadian co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen. 

What Canada needs is strong telecommunications industry to support four, five or more national cellular carriers.  That won't happen with draconian regulations keeping some foreign support to help startups get into the business.  In Britain two of the three biggest cell carriers are French owned (O2) and German (T-Mobile) with the other one (Vodafone) under British ownership.  There the competition is more robust than what exists in Canada.

The Canadian ownership that the CRTC is responsible for defending applies more to broadcasting, so that Canadians can be seen on television and heard on the radio.  Applying the same rules to telecommunications simply allows for Canadians to get fleeced by Canadians.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Canada's Ugliest Cell Phone

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Back in May PC World compiled their list of the twelve ugliest cell phones in the world.  Out of the twelve only two of phones featured was offered was the Motorola Rokr and a Walkman phone by Sony Ericsson both offered on Rogers.  The Rokr was a little brickish that may have been more at home in 2001 than in 2005 when it was originally released.  The W350 is small and from my eyes could tell, far from ugly.  If the editors of PC World are compiling a list of dishonorable mentions in the looks, then the thirteenth phone that should be in the list is...Sanyo's Pro 700.  The Pro 700 is offered by Sprint in the United States and in Canada by Bell and Sasktel Mobility. 

The yellow and black finish of the phone makes it look like a device used at a construction site.  Bell offers a version of the phone in all black which is an improvement but does nothing to improve it's box like appearance.  This phone is proof that somebody that is legally blind get paid to design cell phones.  For those making a three year commitment to this phone maybe they should have had a vision test rather than a credit check when they subscribed to their cellular service.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Telus Sort Of Dumps The System Access Fee

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One of the most annoying things about subscribing to contract post-paid cell phone service is paying the System Access Fee that $6.95 a month that does nothing more than fatten the profit margins of the cell phone industry.  In anticipation of new competition coming just weeks from now, Vancouver based Telus Mobility is dropping the system access fee and the 911 fee.  Dumping the fees started last year when Telus' discount brand Koodo Mobile launched without the fees and Rogers' owned Fido dropped the fees.  This move follows Rogers' dropping the fees from their main branded service back in September.  That leaves Bell Mobility as the only national carrier and regional carriers MTS and SaskTel as the only cell phone service providers that still charge the fees.

Consumers hoping to bag big savings are going to be let down, when the fees come off the prices charged for cell phone plans will rise five dollars a month.  Average savings will only be about two to three dollars a month.  The savings won't be automatic, new subscribers will be put on the new plans without the fees.  Existing subscribers will get to switch to a new plan without the fees when their current contracts expire.  It's encouraging to see cell carriers ending this bait and switch practice of offering plans for one price and then tacking on fees that raise the total cost of the service by twenty percent or more.  If one of the effects of the upcoming competition is honesty in cell phone plan pricing, then imagine what it will be like when the new guys get their services off the ground and really giving the big guys a real run for their money.

Friday, October 23, 2009

No Subidized Netbooks In Canada

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It's been getting to miss all those ads for free and cheap netbooks while watching American TV or reading American magazines all one has to do is commit two years of their life to paying for a data plan from AT&T or Verizon Wireless.  These Netbooks come with onboard HSDPA or EV-DO 3G access.  Checking with the Telus, Rogers, and Bell web sites it's obvious that none of the cell carriers in Canada have yet to offer a Netbook with onboard 3G.

This is just another sign that Canada's cell phone industry is a triopoly and not real competition.  If there was real competition, Rogers would be offering me a netbook to win me back, Telus would offer me a netbook to keep me, and Bell would actually know where Saskatchewan is and would be offering service here and offer me Netbook to get me to jump to them. 

Canada's big three is just three to six months away from getting some competition from upstart competitors the new guys will be bringing subsidized 3G netbooks to attract customers from the incumbents, will the incumbents offer netbooks of their own to keep their customers?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Motorola's Droid Will It Make A Northern Appearance?

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Talk among some subscribers of Verizon Wireless is the soon to debut Motorola Droid smartphone running Google's Android operating system.  The Droid features a Qwerty keyboard that slides out.  Just like most other smartphones the Droid features WiFi and Bluetooth.  Verizon's EV-DO network provides the 3G data service for the Droid.  For the Verizon subscriber who is looking to jump to another carrier to get a smartphone that isn't a Blackberry or runs Windows Mobile, the Droid is most certainly a reason to put off jumping ship.

North of the 49th Telus Mobility subscribers have been facing a similar selection of Blackberries or Windows Mobile smartphones.  For Telus building market share among high end smartphone users has been a challenge with Rogers carrying iPhones, Android handsets from HTC, and Bell snagging the Palm Pre, the Droid is a must have for Telus.

With iPhones set to go carrier agnostic when Bell and Telus are set to flip the switch on their HSPA networks it could be easy for Telus to get caught up in their own we're getting the iPhone party they could very well overlook the Droid and Android operating system altogether.

With offering smartphones the smart move for Telus is to offer smartphones that use the older CDMA network along side with devices that operate on HSPA.  For many place that are off the beaten path in Alberta and BC will remain CDMA for some time to come.  In Manitoba and Saskatchewan Telus only rents the networks of incumbent providers which are CDMA and will be for next few years to come.  A CDMA smartphone running Android will be exactly what Telus needs and Motorola's Droid is the perfect fit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why There Is No Garth Brooks On iTunes

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Country super crooner Garth Brooks announcing that he is ending his retirement millions of fans are going to be searching online music stores when any new material is released, but they will come up with nothing to show for it. All the back catalog and any future works are not on any online music store including iTunes because Mr. Brooks doesn't want it that way. Mr. Brooks has a couple of beefs with how music is sold on the Internet. Firstly Mr. Brooks wants to right to variable pricing, which of course is a red herring. Since songs on iTunes sell for .69, .99 and 1.29 there is some variable pricing in the system as opposed to traditional retail which the retailer sets the prices, not the musicians, songwriters or recording companies.

The other problem that Mr. Brooks has with how music is sold online, every song from every album available for download as a single. Mr. Brooks wants to force consumers to buy the whole album. Isn't paying twenty dollars to buy a dozen or more songs just to get one or two songs that the buyer wanted the whole reason that original Napster took off in the first place and forced big music to rethink their business model?

This isn't the first time Mr. Brooks tried to dictate to music retailers how they should conduct business. In 1993 just before the release of In Pieces, Mr. Brooks got on his high horse and criticized music retailers that bought and resold CD's that people no longer wanted. Mr. Brooks' label at the time Capitol Records refused to ship copies of In Pieces to music retailers that engaged in the practice. The Music retailers retaliated and filed anti-trust lawsuits against Capitol Records. In Pieces eventually shipped to all music stores even those that sell previously enjoyed CD's.

Back then it Mr. Brooks didn't get his way, but now music retailing is so much different than when Mr. Brooks first retired some eight years ago. If his mind set doesn't change than any future new songs will be available online, on Limewire, Bearshare, Ares and Frostwire. Doesn't things will end very good for Mr. Brooks this time around.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh Canada, Record TV, Pay A New Tax

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As Canadians we are heavily taxed copyright infringing hosers. We pay a levy on every blank CD we buy to save the recording industry from all that illegal music that Canadians download. There have been proposals to extend the levy to memory cards, USB flash drives and hard drives just because they can be used to store music. There has been a proposal to put a special tax on Internet access just to compensate the music and movie industries from illegal downloading.

The latest proposal to pull money from Canadian consumers comes from a rights holder group that collects royalties for publishers and authors from public libraries. Canadian agency Access Copyright is putting forth a yearly fee to be collected from owners of any device that can record TV shows. Owners of personal video recorders (PVR's) would pay the fee through cable or satellite bill. Anybody with a VHS VCR would have to pay up too.

The proposal would not just affect TV time shifting but format shifting too. Somehow people should be forced to pay for digitizing TV shows, movies, and music to burn to CD or DVD or put on a portable media players such as iPods or Zunes. This of course goes to show how ridiculously unworkable this tax proposal is.

This makes me wonder why an agency that collects for the publishing industry is trying to tax video recording devices? Could it be that Access Copyright is just saying what the Canadian Association of Broadcasters is paying them to say? I think that the same networks that are looking for corporate welfare in the form of carriage fee to be charged to cable companies and handed down to cable subscribers have something to do with this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Bill To Help Silence Loud Commericals

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For so much of the past twenty years or so the bills created by congress that have by the most part been laughable. Some of them include letting the RIAA launch DOS attacks against any user of a peer to peer network, requiring all ISP's and all owners of home Internet routers to log all Internet activity for two years, just to name a couple. A new bill is a refreshing breakaway from the idiotic bluster that comes from Washington DC. The new bill called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act will silence the most painful part of watching television, loud commercials.

The proposed law doesn't just ban commercials with raised volume levels, but bans the tricks producers of commercials use to make the commercials sound louder than they actually are. Bringing down the volume levels of TV commercials started with the passing of spokes-blowhard Billy Mays, now if they can get rid of the ShamWow-SlapChop guy and pass this law then people will tolerate TV commercials again. Unlike the Digital Millennium Copyright Act this is a law that countries around the world should emulate.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kindle Goes International, But Not Coming To Canada

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In the season when the consumer electronics industry is full of announcements practically every day, one announcement comes as a surprise to many tech industry watcher, it comes from Internet ecommerce pioneer Their much hyped Kindle e-book reader which until has been only available stateside will be shipping to over 100 countries. The International version of the Kindle will support GSM cellular networks for wireless book buying, instead of the CDMA based version that has been selling so far in the United States.

That is great for everybody outside of the United States who have been waiting for the Kindle, not so great in two English speaking countries that will not be getting the Kindle, New Zealand and of course Canada. Why Amazon choose not to make the international Kindle available in the Great White North remains a mystery, it could be that there are Luddites in charge Canada's publishing industry? Possible but not likely, While services like Audible don't have Canadian web sites, Works by Canadian authors are on the American based web sites. Could it be the cellular industry? Possible, very possible the international version of the Kindle would have to use the Rogers Wireless network, Rogers may find it objectionable to have to sell access to their cellular network at wholesale rates to Amazon.

Leaving Canada out of such a world wide launch is simply unacceptable, so Amazon, publishing industry, and Rogers, you have some 'splaining to do.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Belus to get iPhone Next Month?

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According to an unnamed report from an unnamed source, Canada's the dynamic duo of telecom Telus and Bell will begin to offer Apple's iPhone when the exclusivity agreement with Rogers ends in November. Upgrades to Canada's two largest CDMA based networks to HSPA will allow Telus and Bell to offer the iPhone or any other HSPA based smartphone.

That would at least give most Canadian iPhone users choice of carriers, wherever Bell or Telus operates the incumbent CDMA network. Telus subscribers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba will not get a chance to get an iPhone. In Saskatchewan incumbent carrier Sasktel is planning to upgrade their network to another technology UMTS which is in direct competition, and in Manitoba MTS is making their upgrade to HSPA in conjunction with Rogers Wireless.

Since both Telus and Bell see Rogers as their biggest competitor, how likely would it be that they would have to operate under a roaming agreement with Rogers. Some within both Telus and Bell would see it as a deal with the Devil. Telus' market share in Manitoba and Saskatchewan has been low compared to the incumbent carriers, and Bell has no market share in those provinces since they do not even offer service in neither Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Telus and Bell will likely will wait it out until Globalive or Dave Wireless builds their cellular networks in the provinces.

This rumor of the iPhone coming Telus and Bell would be good for most Canadians, some of us will be left with the status quo.

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