Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CDMA iPhone Could it Come to Canada?

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

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

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Japan To Consider Banning Cell Phone Lockdown

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

ESRB Ratings of Classic Video Games: Q-Bert

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wind Mobile To Add Ottawa Today

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

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Xbox 360 Motherboard Means New Version of Console Coming

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

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

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

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

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

Related Content:
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Conservatives Vow To Shoot Down The Return of The iPod Tax

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In a rare statement responding to a private members' bill, Canada's heritage minister James Moore has slammed the proposed law that would reinstate a levy on MP3 players introduced into parliament by NDP MP Charlie Angus.  The levy that was first implemented in 2003 but was struck down by the federal court of appeal a year and a half later.  There have been attempts to bring back the levy, this is the first time a bill has hit the floor of parliament that would bring back the levy on MP3 players. 

The Liberal/NDP approach of taxing anything that can contain or play music treats all Canadians like criminals and makes even law abiding Canadians who pay for the music they listen to pay fines for those who get their music from peer to peer networks who would be paying the same fines.  The conservative approach has been just as heavy handed nail in a stick, with two previous copyright bills that tried to implement a clone of the hugely unpopular Digital Millennium Copyright Act, entering Canada into the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which authorizes search and seizures without even so much as a court order to find potentially pirated music and movies.

The conservative approach may be unpopular but at least it trusts Canadians to do the right thing.  Which is a lot better than the approach of taxing every blank CD, DVD, MP3 player, hard drive, flash memory product, that we can expect from the other parties.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why Does Sasktel Hate Android?

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Any flatlander who lives between the 102 and 110 degrees longitude West, and between the 49th and 60th parallel North, sees many, many TV ads featuring Little Red Riding Hood proclaiming the how great the smartphones from Saskatchewan's government owned telco, Sasktel.

Sasktel gives smartphone users two choices, Blackberries or Windows Mobile.  While Blackberries are still hugely popular, they are not everybody's cup of tea.  While Windows Mobile sticks out like the math league, chess team, glee club geek at the senior prom.  So far, the king of the smartphones the Apple iPhone is still only available on Rogers in Saskatchewan since Telus has not been able to offer their new line up of phones because they don't actually own their own network, they just piggyback off of Sasktel.  Since Apple refuses to even consider the thought of a CDMA iPhone because of the cost of paying licensing fees to Qualcomm, and the limited shelf life of CDMA in the United States there will not be an iPhone on Sasktel as long they stay on CDMA.

Other popular smartphones like the Palm Pre (Exclusive to Bell) and Pixi (Exclusive to Telus with HSPA coverage) pass right by and are not even available in The Land of the Living Skies.  The biggest rising star of smartphone operating systems, Google's Android can be found in Saskatchewan, but just like the iPhone it's only available on Rogers.  It's not like Sasktel can't offer an Android smartphone because of competing network technology, There are CDMA Android phones out there.  There is Motorola's Droid that is offered by Verizon in the United States, Sasktel chose to ignore it, and Telus grabbed the Droid's GSM/HSPA cousin the Milestone and is now the exclusive carrier for that phone across Canada even if they can't offer it in Saskatchewan or Manitoba.

Google's own Nexus One is coming out with a CDMA version in April with service in the United States provided on Verizon Wireless.  Since Canada's last two CDMA carriers have to let go of their we only activate the phones we sell before the CDMA Nexus One can be made available in Canada.  There is an economic incentive for Sasktel and MTS to do this, With the Nexus One the end user pays the whole cost of the phone, not the cellular service provider. HTC offers the Hero and Eris models running Android on CDMA.  Neither of these phones have a found a home with a Canadian carrier yet, if there's somebody listening to what subscribers want, then both Sasktel and MTS need to provide one of these HTC models a home on the prairies in order to prevent the kind of subscriber defections to Rogers to get an Android phone just like the migration to the iPhone that caused the subscriber loss that Sasktel has faced in the past two years.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What Will Sony Need To Do To Make Playstation Move Successful

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At the Game Developers' Conference Sony has unveiled their answer to Nintendo's Wii Remote and Nunchuk.  The Playstation Move is due to hit stores before Christmas shopping season and cost less than one hundred dollars.  Sony hopes to lure casual gamers currently attracted to Nintendo's Wii.  For Sony to take just a little bit of market share away from Nintendo they have a pretty daunting task ahead of them.  Many Wii players are the kind that just don't care about high definition graphics or a BluRay player.  Sony will need to do a lot to convince these gamers to spend double the money on a Playstation 3 and the Playstation Move.

Sony will need to see the popularity of sports and driving games on the Playstation 3 and work with developers such as EA and 2K Sports to get support for the Playstation Move into the next versions of the popular franchise sports games.  Final Fantasy a long mainstay on Playstations, should get even better with a motion sensing device such as the Playstation Move.

Sony has to keep an eye over their shoulder at Microsoft's Project Natal, their attempt to knock Nintendo down a notch.  Playstation Move will need to arrive before Project Natal and for a lot less money.  Although the Xbox has never appealed to anybody outside the mature rated shoot em all crowd, although if Microsoft can attract developers of family friendly games then it will an even more uphill climb.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Shaw's Wireless Wait And See Game

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For Canadian cell phone subscribers, the long sought competition is starting to arrive.  The launch of Wind Mobile at the end of 2009, and two more new carriers Mobilicity and Public Mobile are expected to launch in May.  While the promise made in 2008 when Industry Canada opened up new frequency bands for new cell phone carriers is starting to come true, one of the big winners in the wireless telecom spectrum auction hasn't even announced a launch.  Shaw Communications won licenses for large chunks of the new cell phone spectrum, but hasn't even announced any plans to launch a cell phone service of their own.

Playing the waiting game allows Shaw to acquire ether Wind Mobile or Mobilicity if they end up in trouble from debt mounting from paying for winning bids in the spectrum auction, building networks, and marketing to attract subscribers.  This is similar to the way that Telus expanded from their Western Canadian base to become a national carrier by buying out Clearnet back in the year 2000.  Some may think this may be an underhanded way of getting into cell phone industry.  With changes to the way Canada's telecommunications industry is regulated it will be an easier way to become a cell phone carrier.

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