FryUp: Confusion as a writing tool

Porting gets volatile, Gattung gets even

Chart those ports

This chart appears to track the portion of ported phone numbers each network operator has received over the past three years. Obviously, the XT label includes CDMA and maybe even a tiny bit of 025 up until March 2007 for Telecom. Number portability kicked in with a bang on April 1, 2007 and it appears Vodafone has taken the lion’s share of migrating numbers up until May last year, when XT was launched. The new boy in the playground, 2degrees appears to have taken a good chunk of the ports since August 2009, but Vodafone is starting to spike again, possibly due to the XT network problems. TelstraClear’s 029 number range seems to be missing though and didn’t Vodafone’s Project Sam-induced PitStop fiasco affect number porting? Alternative interpretations of the chart would be welcome. SMERSH it up The Russians declare Trolololololololo war on Internet. YiYiYiYiYiYiYi!

Confusion as a writing tool

We’re eagerly waiting to read the candid account of Theresa Gattung sweating assets while at the helm of Telecom, and believe there may be something in what she says about the gender issues and how being male is protecting her replacement Paul Reynolds from scrutiny. When the going got tough for Gattung some years ago, the usual brigade of male chauvinist trolls reared their ugly heads and had a go at the “housewife from Rotorua”. The Callplus/Slingshot CEO Annette Presley might chime in with Gattung on this. That said, Gattung left a legacy of a Telecom that seemed uncaring and which thumbed its nose at New Zealanders in order to please the short-term interests of shareholders. Blaming the government for what was essentially Telecom’s failure to understand important social goals and that the incumbent is in a hugely privileged position in New Zealand feels like a throwback to the bad old days. Despite Telecom rubbing both National and Labour up the wrong way, it took many years before government intervention came about. Who hasn’t heard the story about Telecom being forced to build a CDMA network and were prevented from constructing a GSM one by the government? That and so many other decisions that didn’t work out lay with Telecom and nobody else, because the regulation in the past was extremely light-handed. Gattung and Deane would have been aware of public opinion and political disquiet as to where the all-important telecommunications sector was headed. Neither can have been surprised when the bear trap of tightened regulation triggered and forced their respective departures. As a result, Telecom faced having to find a top executive willing to deal with the mess, a government and a market that was hostile to the incumbent. Maybe they could’ve found someone cheaper than Reynolds to turn the situation around but in all fairness, the Scotsman hasn’t done a bad job of it. Unfortunately for Reynolds, he isn’t likely to be shielded by his gender much longer as he faces having his goolies held over the coals for the XT and Telecom’s dipping share price. — Gattung slams her successor's salary

Steve Biddle: Telecom mobile history and Rod Deane’s failing memory




Robert X Cringely

Apple vs. HTC: No matter who wins, we lose

Apple is taking aim at Google Android in the patent courts by suing Nexus One maker HTC. This is a bad idea for just about everybody, including Apple Apple has lawyered up and is out for blood — or at least, blood money. Its patent suit against Taiwanese handset maker HTC is further proof that the cold war between Cupertino and Mountain View is quickly escalating into a shooting match with live ammo. Apple could easily have chosen to sue Palm, whose WebOS functionality closely mimics the iPhone's. But it's not worried about Palm — it's worried about Google. And HTC makes most of the cool Android phones, from the G1 to the Nexus One. (Several HTC Windows Mobile phones are also implicated in the suit, but really, who cares? That's like Mercedes suing over the Yugo.) Among the 20 claims submitted to the Federal Court and the International Trade Commission are patents for the seemingly straightforward "Object Oriented Graphic System," the widely used "Unlocking a Device By Performing Gestures on an Unlock Image" and the brain-twisting "Method for providing automatic and dynamic translation of object oriented programming language-based message passing into operation system message passing using proxy objects." Whew. Interestingly, two of those (Nos. 1 and 3) predate the iPhone by more than a decade. Apple's really reaching deep into its patent toy chest here. I'm not a trademark attorney (thank god), and I truly believe people who invent groundbreaking technologies should reap the rewards — but not at the expense of stifling innovation elsewhere. Even if you created the first device that lets you make things happen when you smear your finger across a touch screen doesn't mean that you should be able to prevent other folks from making a better way to smear. That is the beauty of open source, which Google embraced with Android. Imagine how the automobile industry would have evolved if, say, Henry Ford managed to patent the steering wheel and the accelerator pedal, while Walter P Chrysler owned the rights to the stick shift and the rearview mirror. Every time we climbed behind the wheel — er, inside the driver seat — of an unfamiliar car, we'd be starting from scratch. Of course, there are companies who simply buy up patents on the open market and wait for an opportunity to pounce on somebody with deep pockets. The fact that the US patent system still keeps trolls alive and well fed (especially those who line up at the trough in the Eastern District of Texas) is an ongoing disgrace. Apple is not a patent troll by any stretch. It actually makes products people buy, and it filed suit in Delaware, not Texas. Still, it sends a chill through the air at precisely the time that mobile computing is getting really exciting — in large part because Apple finally has some serious competition. And you get the feeling Apple's lawyers are just getting warmed up. (Who will Apple sue next? Those snarky geeks at eSarcasm have some ideas.) These suits might serve Apple well in the short term — and cause angina for HTC, Google, Palm, and anyone else who gets locked into the Cupertino cross-hairs. But it won't serve consumers well. Litigation is expensive (guess who'll be paying for it?) and handset makers may grow timid about pushing the envelope on new features. Imagine buying your next phone in two years, only it does less than the one you have now. Who wins then? If these moves ultimately slow down the adoption of smartphones, even Apple will feel the pain. Should Apple sue to protect its patents (even though we all know they're just doing it to get back at Google)? Post your thoughts below or email me:

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