FryUp: Time to modernise telco charging

NextWindow sale raises patent issues once more

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Jon Stewart has the final say on Apple setting in motion a heavy-handed police raid at Gizmodo contributor Jason Chen’s home. Chen had computers, storage, documents and other things confiscated, on top of having his door smashed down by The Man. Maybe that’s poetic justice for Gizmodo hanging out to dry the engineer that lost the iPhone 4G prototype, but Apple has a history of slamming journos and bloggers who scoop their new stuff hard. And, getting away with it too, because Apple makes such lovely desirable devices. The clip is eight minutes and forty seconds, but you have time for Jon. Yes, you do. It’s Friday, damn it. Incidentally, would The Independent (the UK variant) and its associated story reprinters please stop saying that Chen was arrested? - iPhone case: seizure of Gizmodo computers ‘illegal”Steve Wozniak on Apple security, employee termination, and Gray Powell

Who’s that under the bridge? We hear a great deal about how hard it is for New Zealand innovators and tech start-ups to find funding to get going or to take the great leap overseas and grow big. Now there seems to be another issue related to being small, namely getting intellectual property spanners thrown into your wheels. These are at times instigated by so-called patent trolls who buy or resurrect patents of dubious merit and sue the stuffing out of anyone with money. Defending such lawsuits can be costly and take a long time. It was curious therefore to read that Calgary-based Smart Technologies purchase of New Zealand’s touchy-feely screen champions NextWindow “grew out of negotiations on how to settle the lawsuit”. That’s right; Smart Technologies was in the middle of a patent-licensing legal stoush with NextWindow and bought the Kiwi company. It would be interesting to hear exactly how the patent dispute influenced the purchase decision, especially at NextWindow’s end. Does make you think that and perhaps too appreciate the government’s decision to reject software patents in New Zealand a bit more. Second, guess this means start-ups with great ideas have to factor in protection measures against marauding IP Pirates. Actually… that’s business idea. Think I’ll do that next. Can haz sum captal pleeze? NextWindow buy was motivated by IP dispute

This is not the modern world Flabbergasted and flummoxed. Those words describe the sentiments of executives both at Vodafone and Telecom this week, most probably. Vodafone dropped prices for its customers, a move that outraged everyone from user groups to politicians. The UK-owned telco should’ve extended its latest offer for pre-pay customers to mobile calls outside Vodafone as well, but it didn’t. That was a major blunder and Vodafone now faces regulation. Telecom hiked prices, over 26 per cent in the case of standard national off-peak calling rates and that was deemed quite in order. To sweeten the pill, the telco has kindly set up “a specifically designed service called Budget Link with cheaper line rentals and a number of free services.” Families who can’t afford basic phone service can avail themselves of this option if they go a budget advisory service affiliated to the Federation of Family Budgeting Services. And that’s three services in one sentence. It’s a reasonably safe bet that the above convoluted and confusing pricing strategies would go away if telco charging was modernised. It’s based on a circuit-switched model, as per the last millennium. However, telcos are moving, if they haven’t shifted already, to a cheaper packet-switched model where traffic termination charges aren’t relevant. Telco customers however aren’t migrated to the new model yet, and are paying dearly for the tardiness unless of course they use Voice over IP. Telecom price changes Regulate MTRs, say Labour and 2 Degrees Vodafone’s retail plan could trigger MTR regulation

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Robert X Cringely

Apple comes down hard on iPhone leakers What do you do when one of your employees takes your company's top-secret prototype and leaves it behind in a beer garden, only to have it end up in the hands of a gadget blog? Call in the authorities and let them play the heavy. The whole Gizmodo iPhone prototype story just got a whole lot stranger after a team of high-tech police investigators broke into Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen's home last Friday night and hauled off an impressive array of equipment -- including three MacBooks, an iPad, a ThinkPad, a Dell machine, two digital cameras, two cell phones, five external drives, a home server, business cards, and a letter from Gizmodo's chief counsel claiming their search warrant was invalid -- allegedly relating to the "theft" of that iPhone. This all began some time last month, when unlucky Apple engineer Gray Powell left the Gourmet Haus Staudt in Redwood City with apparently a nice buzz but not the fourth-generation iPhone model he was carrying in his pocket. According to Wired's Evan Hansen, the as-yet-unnamed individual (let's just call him "John Phoe") who found the lost iPhone made some effort to attempt to reconnect it with its rightful owner (or as close as he could come to it). To wit: The finder attempted to notify Apple and find the owner of the device but failed, even going so far as to search alphabetically through Facebook, the source said. Thoughts then turned to contacting the press about the device to confirm its authenticity and help locate the owner, but early attempts to drum up interest went unanswered. After a few days with no response, the finder expanded the search. From there, though, the details get a bit murky. Allegedly John Phoe emailed Engadget, Gizmodo, Wired.com, and possibly others seeking to "confirm [the phone's] authenticity and help find the owner," but that email also contained "a thinly veiled request for money," per Wired. To their credit, Engadget and Wired declined the offer, though Engadget still ran photos of the device, sent to them along with that email, in an attempt to scoop archrival Gizmodo -- so don't give them too much credit. Gizmodo took the bait, wrote a check for $5,000, posted the story, basked in millions of page views, and then returned the phone to Apple. Apple could have dropped the matter right there. According to that report in Wired, the company already knew the location of John Phoe -- probably via the model's Find my iPhone feature -- and had sent people to his house, though they didn't actually speak to him. There was no need to call in the cops to unmask the leaker, if that's what Apple wanted. But Apple didn't drop the matter. According to the San Jose Business Journal, Apple officials called the local DA and requested an investigation. Why? Because Apple wants to send a message. It's not looking to quietly punish transgressors; it's looking for a public execution. This is totally in line with Apple's attempts to squash leak-happy blogs AppleInsider, PowerPage, and Think Secret back in 2004 and 2005; only this time, actual felonies may be involved, so it don't have to file a civil suit. Everybody in this one looks bad. Gizmodo doesn't come off smelling like roses. First, checkbook journalism is considered one of the slimier forms of the art. Second, there was no reason for the site to out the identity of the poor guy who lost the phone. It was both gratuitous and amateurish -- in other words, absolutely in keeping with how Nick Denton has run his Gawker blogging empire. Third: Gizmodo claims it's protected by California laws that shield journalists from being forced to reveal their sources. Unfortunately for them, such laws tend to be moot when it comes to criminal cases -- and purchasing an item from a person whom you know is not the rightful owner is a felony. According to Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Jennifer Granick, the cops blew it by obtaining a warrant to search Chen's apartment instead of a subpoena. The latter is required under federal and state laws when questioning journalists, so media organizations can challenge the order in front of a judge before the source materials are confiscated. Do these laws still apply in a criminal case? That's unclear. "John Phoe," of course, blew it by demanding cash for a gadget he clearly did not own. The smart play would have been to offer his story to Gizmodo for $5,000 -- take the thing apart, snap photos, write up his conclusions, possibly under the guidance of a professional gadget monger -- and return the lost device to Apple. There's no law against that, as far as I know. Then there's Apple. No doubt it felt wronged when news of its unreleased iPhone slipped out into public. But it's not like it's going to have a negative effect on sales or reveal some groundbreaking technology its competitors will steal. (They're already plenty busy trying to imitate Apple.) As I speculated, at first this whole affair sounded like a clever marketing ploy to get attention for a product that might not otherwise have received the usual fawning adulation from an Apple-saturated media. Now it's been in the headlines for weeks. So how did the company get harmed, exactly? The sporting thing would have been to acknowledge defeat and move on. But doing the sporting thing is not Steve Jobs' way. Does this just further Apple's reputation as a bully? Yes. Does Steve Jobs care? Hell no. Like Hebrew National, he answers only to a higher authority. Even then, I'm not entirely sure who's giving the orders. Who would you throw the book at in this courtroom drama? Present your verdict below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com . This story, "Apple comes down hard on iPhone leakers ," was originally published at InfoWorld.com . Read more of Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog

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