Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why Saskatchewan Needs To Sell ISC

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Information Services Corporation of Saskatchewan will soon to put up for sale despite objections from the official opposition and labour unions. The Governing Saskatchewan Party promotes the sale of ISC to private investors as an opportunity for ISC to grow and expand beyond operating the land titles and vital statistics systems for the provincial government.

In order ot diversify from a resource based economy and embrace what is often dubbed the knowledge economy expanding the information technology industry is one of the vital first steps.  The announcement by Fujitsu Canada of their proposed  data centre near Regina shows interest within IT companies in growing their operations in Saskatchewan.

Selling ISC is a key to the growth of the Information Technology industry in Saskatchewan to show the industry that the mentality of the Romonow-Calvert era of we are the government that taxes you, regulates you and also competes against you is over.  Today's Saskatchewan is open for business without government getting into your business.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If You're Trying To Find A Microsoft Surface Tablet In Canada...

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Microsoft's better late than never entry into the tablet market arrived a few weeks ago, for those potential buyers of the Microsoft Surface tablet have been doing more searching than buying. An online check at Walmart, Best Buy, London Drugs, Future Shop, and The Source shows that none of these big five retailers do not even carry Surface tablets. The only retail store that sells Microsoft's tablet is the Microsoft store. With only one Microsoft store in the entire country, it makes this Canadian think that the tablet market North of the 49th parallel doesn't really matter to the executives in Redmond.

For those who are not within convenient driving distance from the Microsoft Store in Toronto, the alternative for those who really want a Surface tablet is to order it online at  Selling at $519 the equivalent of an entry level iPad not including shipping charges.  For Microsoft, launching the Surface in a market that is dominated by the iPad and Android tablets, keeping the retail sales of Surface tablets within their own sales channels will end up hurting a product they are trying to launch into an already crowded market.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rogers Beats Sasktel Bringing LTE To Saskatchewan

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The wait for Long Term Evolution (LTE) the true fourth generation of cellular communications in the land of the living skies is over.  On Monday, October 1st. Rogers Wireless turned on LTE service in Regina and Saskatoon.  For iPad 3 and iPhone 5 users subscribers on Rogers will get the faster download speed that LTE brings. 

Subscribers on other carriers should get LTE service eventually.  Telus and Bell have been rolling out LTE across Canada, but in Saskatchewan Bell and Telus may have to wait for their landlord, Sasktel to upgrade their tower sites for LTE.  So far, Sasktel hasn't given a straight answer when LTE service on their network will launch. 

Sasktel subscribers will waiting later rather than sooner for several reasons, radio frequency spectrum allocated for LTE is currently being used for an aging fixed point wireless broadband system that Sasktel was starting to phase out and then had to give a one year extension ties up that frequency band for that year. 

Sasktel's growing debt load will further inhibit LTE upgrades.  Upgrading their HSPA cellular network upgrade and their recently announced fibre to the home upgrade will put the provincial government owned telco a billion dollars in debt, making securing financing another upgrade to the cellular network more difficult.   

Delays by Sasktel may force Bell to invoke a clause in their tower sharing agreement with Sasktel that allows Bell to install equipment on Sasktel's tower sites to begin offering LTE on their own.  As demand grows for the increased bandwidth on mobile devices that LTE delivers, switching providers maybe the price to pay to access the extra speed that LTE delivers.  That's the price that early adopters often pay.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Will There Be A Revamp of The iPod Product Come On the 12th

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Just a week away from Apple's worst kept secret becomes confirmed fact the iPhone 5 During Apple's announcement on September 12th.
Industry speculators that specialize in everything Apple are also expecting other new products to also be unveiled on the 12th as well.  Many think that an iPad mini with a 7 inch screen will be announced.  Apple's line of iPods has remained the same for over a year as is in need of an update that could be coming soon.

Just before new iPods are announced, shipments of older iPod models to retailers slow down and stop within a couple of weeks before any announcement from Apple.  Selling electronics for a retail chain including a few Apple products I am seeing very few iPod Shuffles, Nanos, and Classics coming from Apple in the past few weeks. 

The classic, the iPod that many technology journalists have been writing eulogies for the past three years may finally see the last iPod with a click wheel and a hard drive pass on to gadget heaven.  iPod Nanos are most likely to see the two Models the 8 and 16 GB versions merge into one model most likely 8 GB with Apple's new smaller dock connector.  Shuffle are most likely to get an upgrade from 2 GB to 4 GB and replace that sync though the headphone jack cable with a standard dock cable with the new smaller dock connector.  That's just a start how Apple could freshen up the product lines of iPods that some have described as stagnating.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is Nintendo Going To Skunk the Speculators?

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Nintendo's WiiU home console is the Japanese video gaming company's most awaited since home video game system since the Nintendo 64 came out a decade and a half ago.  Many game industry analysts, bloggers (including myself) are predicting November 18th as the most likely release date for the new system based on the release dates of the Wii and the Game Cube on the third Sunday of November.

There is reson to believe that the WiiU could be appearing before that.  Listings of upcoming video game for the rest of 2012 show games for the WiiU will start to be released on Tuesday, November 6th.  Holding to Nintendo's Sunday release rule, that would be put the WiiU release on Sunday, November 4th.  However there are no games scheduled for release on the 4th.  If Nintendo holds to a release on the 18th, why would there be games being released on the 6th? What would be the purpose of releasing games almost two weeks before the system to play them on hits stores? 

Three ways to interpret how Nintendo is going to move, Break with their own tradition of releasing hardware on Sundays and release the WiiU on Tuesday the 6th.  Release on Sunday the 4th leaving gamers with a system and no games to play up to two days, or give gamers almost two weeks of buying the games without a system to play them on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Official Launch of The WiiU Will Be On...

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Nintendo has been very hush hush about the potential launch date of their next generation game system the WiiU.  If history of Nintendo's product launches is any indication of when the WiiU launches it will be on a Sunday.  Just about all of Nintendo's product launches for both hardware and software in the past decade have been on Sundays.  Looking at the last two home consoles the GameCube and the Wii past launches will give gamers a clue when to expect to see the WiiU in stores.  The GameCube launched on November 18th, 2001 the third Sunday of November in North America.  Spring forward five years The Wii made it's first appearance in stores this side of the Pacific on November 19th, 2006, again on the third Sunday in November. 

Nintendo has stated that WiiU will arrive in time for Holiday shopping season in 2012, which the third Sunday of November fall right in the middle.  This year the third Sunday is on November 18th eleven years to the day after the launch of the GameCube.  Stay tuned around the time the Tokyo Games Show, Japan's video game industry trade show for more information from Nintendo.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shaw's LTSS Provides No Solution To Saskatchewan Francophones

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After Canada's digital TV transition last August, Shaw launched a program to help those who lost access to over the air TV signals.  Shaw's Local Television Satellite Solution (LTSS) provides a free dish, receiver and access to the nearest available TV stations carried by Shaw Direct.  Shaw's LTSS program is expected to see thousands of applications from over the air TV viewers when they lose access to CBC at the end of July when analog transmitters are shut down due to budget cuts.

For French speaking viewers watching Radio Canada near the Saskatchewan communities of Willow Bunch, Gravelbourg, and Ponteix when the rebroadcast transmitters carrying the signal from CBKFT-DT the Regina based Radio Canada station are shut off on July 31st, it will also end access to Television in French in these communities.  CBKFT-DT is not carried on satellite, not on Bell, and not on Shaw Direct.  Shaw at this time is unable or unwilling add CBKFT-DT to their line up on satellite provide replacement access to
CBKFT-DT to French speaking Saskatchewanians.  Cable service may not be able to provide access to CBKFT-DT in smaller communities after July 31st ether.  Cable TV headends in small towns depend on over the air signals for local channels that are not carried in Satellite.

Undoubtedly cutting off over the air service will hit minority language speakers worse than anybody else.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Will an Unlocked American LTE Phone Work in Canada?

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More than 15 years after the cellular industry divided itself under different network technologies after a decade under a common standard analog technology, cellular carriers will once again will be on a common standard network technology called Long Term Evolution or LTE. 

One of the advantages of GSM and newer HSPA networks is that phones can be unlocked and used on another carrier's network just by changing the SIM card.  Subscribers on GSM and HSPA networks were not limited to the phones offered by their carriers.  

Cellular carriers across North America are currently upgrading or planning to upgrade their networks to LTE.  LTE phones use SIM cards just like older GSM and HSPA phones.  Since many Canadian LTE subscribers on Rogers, Telus and Bell may be looking south of the border for unlocked LTE phones they like better than what their own carriers offer. 

Unlike buying an unlocked GSM or HSPA phone, one thing that needed to be considered when buying an unlocked LTE phone is original carrier that sold the phone.   All three of Canada's cell carriers offering LTE uses HSPA as their fall back legacy network for areas that do not have LTE coverage.  LTE handsets originally sold by AT&T are universally compatible on all three LTE networks in both LTE and HSPA coverage areas.

Those phones originally used on Verizon and Metro PCS are another story.  LTE equipment from Verizon and Metro PCS are designed to use CDMA as a fall back outside of an LTE coverage area.  If an unlocked LTE phone from Verizon or Metro PCS is used in Canada it will only wherever there is LTE service available.  If an attempt to use that phone in an area that doesn't have LTE service it will try to connect to any available CDMA network.  The legacy CDMA networks on Bell, Telus, MTS or Sasktel will recognize the phone as being foreign from it's Electronic Serial Number or ESN.  That phone's ESN will not have an active account with it's home carrier, an message "You are roaming on the Bell/Telus/MTS/Sasktel mobility network and cannot place calls at this time" message will be heard when attempting to make a call.  Unlocked LTE devices can cost well over 500 dollars on Internet auction and classified sites, Now in the biggest way, buyer beware, and check to see if you live in an LTE coverage area first.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why CBC Should Be Forced To Sell Soon To Be Mothballed Transmitters

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Two months remain until thousands of Canadian cottage owners,RV'ers and many more who by choice or circumstance use antennas to receive TV signals lose access to CBC television when the public broadcaster shuts down analog transmitters as a cost saving measure. 

While its the small towns and rural areas that are served through Analog over the air transmission.  Larger cities such as London, Ontario and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan will lose CBC TV service as well.  No matter if watched by many or just a few over the air TV is an important source of local news, weather and public safety information.  When cable TV infrastructure gets destroyed TV viewers would only have over the air broadcast to turn to.  The malfunctions with the Anik E1 and E2 satellites in 1994 and 1996 proves that satellite TV service cannot provide the reliability that terrestrial over the air broadcast can provide. 

If the CBC had to sell transmitters rather than shut down and dismantle the analog transmitters as they intend to, there could be many interested parties that be willing to take over all those transmitters.  Firstly CBC's competitors from the private sector would be willing to buy some transmitters for the right price to increase their coverage areas.  For example, Shaw can bring back advertising revenue back to Saskatchewan by taking over the transmitters serving Yorkton and North Battleford, Saskatchewan since Yorkton cable subscribers receive Global Winnipeg and North Battleford cable viewers get Global Edmonton.

Rogers Media is another potential beneficiary from having access to CBC analog transmitters as they look to grow their CityTV brand across the country.  Rogers may not seem like a company that would invest in over the air broadcasting given their large cable footprint, however in areas of the country served by other cable operators broadcasting CityTV and Omni over the air would make those stations mandatory to carry on basic cable.

Despite the consolidation in Canadian media in the past decade there are still independent broadcasting companies that still exist, such as Hamilton based Channel Zero owner and operator of CHCH and Newfoundland based NewCap broadcasting that owns and operates several radio stations across Canada and TV stations CITL and CKSA in Lloydminister, these companies could make a bargin basement purchase of transmitters from CBC and create new TV stations with CBC affiliation to reap all that advertising revenue from Hockey Night in Canada.

Demand on the CBC to keep the small town transmitters id coming from the small towns and surrouning areas they serve.  For the local news and public safety information relevant in those areas that the big city TV stations don't carry, it should mandated by the CRTC that those communities should have the opportunity to start their own community TV stations.  Over the air community TV stations would have a positive presence for the economics of small towns by giving small town businesses the opportunity to advertise on television that they wouldn't normally have. 

These ways to save small town over the air TV may be unlikely to actually happen, but do prove that there are ways that over the air television could have a bright future, not the future that the CBC and other public broadcasters are going to create on July 31st.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Which Canadian Carrier Will Get Samsung's Galaxy S-III?

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Now that Samsung's Android based smartphones are outselling Apple's iPhone in many markets around the world, the latest must have phone is Samsung's recently announced galaxy S-III.  The S-III sports 1.0 GHz quad core processor, up to 64 GB of onboard storage, expandable up to 128 GB and 1 GB of Ram, and 8 megapixel camera.  The Galaxy S-III ships with Android 4.0 preinstalled.  The vast majority of American cellular subscribers will have access to the Galaxy S-III, Samsung having distribution deals with both AT&T and Verizon.

With all the early enthusiasm comes the usual questions on this side of the 49th parallel such as when will it come to Canada?  Which carrier will distribute the S-III?  The leading rumour that supposedly coming from Samsung is summer of 2012, which carrier(s) is not yet known. 

The Galaxy S-III being an LTE device will be compatible with Rogers, Telus and Bell in certain areas where the carriers offer LTE service.  Subscribers on Canada's regional carriers MTS and Sasktel will miss out, since Neither MTS or Sasktel have LTE yet.  MTS will not be launching LTE until 2014 and Sasktel won't have LTE until 2015 or later. 

Since LTE is a standard across all carriers there is no reason that all three can't offer the S-III at the same time.  The exclusivity agreements that handset makers now last about six months now.  The most likely situation would be one carrier will launch the S-III in the summer and then another if not the other two big national cellular carriers will get it at the end of the year.

Bell having sold a lot of Samsung handsets over year would make them the most likely to get the he S-III first, Telus would follow since they really need a real popular high end smartphone for their lineup.  Rogers may also pick up up the Galaxy S-III as well.  The days of popular must have smartphones that got people to switch cellular providers are well past, but given the early popularity that Samsung's Galaxy S-III has already earned, it will be deja view all over again.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Why Payment By Cell Phone Probably Won't Fly In Canada

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Capitalism is practically as old as time itself, but in recent years paying for products and services has been going through a high tech makeover. Cash, cheques, and even magnetic striped credit and debit cards are giving way to smart chipped cards to improve security, and integrity of electronic payment systems, the smart chip cannot be duplicated like a magnetic stripe can. Now non-contact technology using radio frequency identification (RFID) also known as near field communication (NFC) is making it's way onto our credit and debit cards to help make small transactions easier and quicker.

The next step as proposed by Google is to replace the credit cards with an app on newer Android Phones that have an embedded NFC chip.  It is also rumoured that Apple is preparing a similar feature for the next version of the iPhone.  As much as NFC based cell phones are being promted as the payment method of the future, there is a major hurtle that that will need to be cleared before paying with your cell phone will be accepted in Canada. 

Interac, Canada's ATM network and debit payment processing company owned by the banks choosen not to support smartphone based NFC payment systems.  At least a couple of the banks are dipping their toes into the NFC water.  Scotiabank and RBC are already issuing debit cards that are NFC capable that are branded as Interac Flash.  The biggest reservation the banks may have against digital wallets is the potential security risk posed by devices acting in place of the plastic cards the banks issue.  Just about all the tap and go payment systems have no user authentication such as entering a PIN or signing a slip.  Many people lose their cell phone more often than they lose their wallet, the potential for fraudulent use is that much greater. 

Further resistance is going to come from retailers who have already spent millions of dollars in the last few years to update point of sale systems to accept smart chipped debit and credit cards.  Many of those retailers have not installed NFC readers for their point of sale systems because of that potential of fraudulent use.  It will come down to whether NFC smartphones can earn the trust of retailers, banks, and Canadians to determine if paying with by cellphone will revolutionize the way products and services are paid for.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Canada's Cyber-Spying Bill A Dangerous Thin Edge of the Wedge

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The new bill was introduced into the house of commons but instantly withdrawn and sent to committee for amendments that would allow law enforcement agencies open access to Peoples' Internet activities without a warrant.  Bill C-30 forces Internet service providers to turn over information about the online activities of any subscriber that is suspected of producing or distributing child pornography.

As detestable as child pornography and pedophilia are, passing a law to allow free access to the Internet activities of all Canadians has caused an uproar that sent the bill to committee to be reworked even before first reading.  Although this bill is supposed to be used to prevent the distribution of child pornography, it can and probably will be expanded to other crimes online.  The music, movie and TV industries will make sure that every peer to peer file sharing user can be hunted down. Surely the Canadian Private Copying Collective is undoubtly watching and waiting for the day they can find out the identities of everybody who buys CD-R and CD-RW discs from the United States in order to avoid paying the recordable media levy.

Warrentless search and seizure of peoples' data will make Canada's Internet look like a totalitarian regime rather than a free nation where a person only needs to be suspected of trading child pornography, movies, music and TV shows.  Nobody including Vic Towes can say where the limits that prevents C-30 from creating a cyber police state.  The biggest supporters are police forces across the country, the only way to get bill C-30 scrapped is to contact local police to tell them to withdraw their support for bill C-30 because protecting children cannot come at the cost of the freedom to use the Internet freely.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Rogers' Purchase Of SCN Needs Strings Attached

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For the second time in under two years Saskatchewan Communications Network has been sold.  Just a year after buying SCN from the government of Saskatchewan, and just weeks making a deal with Rogers Media making SCN to turn SCN into Saskatchewan's CityTv affiliate, Bluepoint Investments is selling Saskatchewan's educational cable channel to Rogers making SCN a owned and operated CityTv station.  The new CityTV Saskatchewan will differ in a few ways from CityTV stations in other Canadian cities.  If Rogers maintains SCN's signal distribution system the way it exists, Saskatchewan's CityTV will be the only CityTV that will not be available over the air. Saskatchewan already has little selection of OTA TV as it is now. Nothing short of forcing Rogers Media to build tranmitters as a condition of approving the sale of SCN will improve the choice of TV stations available to over the air TV viewers. The other difference that other CityTV stations all have local newscasts, and Saskatchewan's CityTV most likely will not. Regardless of which signal supplier viewers subscribe to, Saskatchewanians have the fewest number of local newscasts to choose from. When Rogers' purchase of SCN gets approved it will need attach the condition to add a local newscast. Saskatchewan will finally get a fourth broadcast network but that should also bring a fourth choice for local and national news that needs to be available to all viewers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When Will The Hopper Come To Bell

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Right from the start of the 2012 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show, one of the first product announcements right after the giant screen OLED TV's was a new Satellite receiver with personal video recorder from Dish Network, dubbed the hopper. The Hopper is the first Multi-room PVR on Dish Network. Up to three remote access units dubbbed Joey's by Dish Network connect the TV's in other rooms by regular coaxial cable to the main receiver. With 6 tuners the Hopper can record three shows while watching three other shows. With support for IPTV the Hopper isn't just another satellite TV receiver. Hooking up the Hopper to a broadband connection provides access to Dish Network's Blockbuster on demand service, although there an alternative non broadband version that allows up to ten movies to be downloaded from the downstream from satellite and stored on the Hopper.

Just like other hardware built by echostar for Dish Network the Hopper is expected to be available to Bell TV Satellite subscribers.  It's a question of when, not if the hopper will be available to Bell TV dish heads.  For Bell launching the hopper in Canada bring multi-room PVR ahead of Shaw Direct.  As well the IPTV support will allow Bell to offer the interactive features that are available on their Fibe IPTV service offered in parts of Ontario and Quebec.  From the early announcement the hopper satellite receiver PVR is already one of the coolest gadgets to come out this year.  It will come North of the border Bell is certain of it.

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