FryUp: Upping the ante

Killer App apps, citizen journalism and making sense of Telecom's big 3G decision

The iPhone killer app Don’t get me wrong, I think iPhones are cool, but… I just can’t justify the cost of one because of that. The RjDj sensory input application that “generates and controls the music you’re listening to” changes that game however. Must put up my rates now. RjDj

It’s 110/70 After last week’s round of financial meltdowns around the world, and the fake citizen-journo story on CNN about The iJobs having a heart attack, what was the key message at Apple’s new device launch this week? It definitely wasn’t the new and rather nicely designed Macbooks and Macbook Pros, or the LED backlit monitors. Aluminium billets, environmentally friendly manufacturing, powerful dual-Nvidia graphics chips… not important. The really really important message was that The iJobs ain’t dead yet. His blood pressure is 110/70 (which is probably better than mine, should go and check actually) and while he looks a bit skinny and wan, Steve should be going strong for a little longer. Doesn’t matter though. Investors still poured hate on Apple’s shares and dumped them. Apple's new MacBooks carved from blocks of aluminium

Windows Vista Service Pack 2 Microsoft is already putting place-holders on its website for Service Pack 2 of Vista, plus a range of other operating systems. Guess that means we shouldn’t hold our breath that Windows 7 will appear any time soon. Vista SP2

Upping the ante There’s plenty of confusion around Telecom’s announcement that it will deploy a 3G WCDMA network with HSPA+ capability by June next year. Some stories even say Telecom doesn’t have a 3G network now, which of course it does (EV-DO Rev 0 and Rev A). The confusion is understandable. Not only is mobile phone tech a vile mess of acronyms that don’t mean anything to normal people, Telecom has also changed its corporate mind a few times on its WCDMA plans. This is in fact the second new WCDMA network Telecom has announced to replace its CDMA/EV-DO one. This time around, Telecom’s saying it’ll go fully WCDMA at 850MHz nationwide with 2100MHz deployed in cities. There will be no 2G GSM voice service, which is a brave but possibly necessary decision, as it would be difficult to implement as WCDMA requires wider (natch) frequency bands, likely causing interference. Using 850MHz aligns Telecom with Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the US, with 2100MHz for other areas around the world. Depending on the handsets Telecom is able to source, and deals with overseas providers global roaming should be sorted. No more handset loaners or Worldmode phone kludges for (rich) Telecom mobile customers travelling overseas. Likewise, inbound roaming on Telecom’s network requires handsets that support either one of the above frequency bands or both. Data roaming overseas and in New Zealand will work the same. Interesingly enough, Telecom says its handsets will support WCDMA on 850 and 2100MHz, as well as quadband GSM. This is for global roaming. However, with no GSM network in New Zealand, won’t Telecom miss out on some inbound roaming customers? Can Telecom handsets be used on Vodafone’s network? I checked, and Telecom says yes, in the 2100MHz coverage areas at least. You will be able to slot in a Vodafone SIM into a Telecom handset, as the incumbent promises not to SIM-lock them. No doubt Vodafone will do the same. I was curious to see that the HSPA+ data overlay for the WCDMA network will provide typical speeds of 4Mbit/s down and 1Mbit/s up when the theoretical maximum figures are 44Mbit/s down and 22Mbit/s up respectively. Even allowing for reduced throughput to save battery, the real world speeds seem a bit low. Ultimately, the success of Telecom’s new-new network will depend on the handsets and data devices that it sources with partner Brightstar. Devices that support both 850 and 2100MHz WCDMA aren’t very common at the moment, but that’s not to say Telecom won't be able to source some nice ones to match at least part of Vodafone’s range. Telecom is coy about wholesale on the new network, but it’s a safe bet that TelstraClear will go onto it as soon as possible. Vodafone is not an option for Freeth’s Gang at Smales Farm, not after the very public bust-up over the old agency agreement to resell mobiles. Should Vodafone be worried? Maybe, but it does have a massive lead on Telecom at the moment, thanks to the latter fumbling and taking too long to get the WCDMA network out of the door. Telecom will have to start working its customers now, and not wait until next year, to ensure that they’ll stay with the incumbent as Vodafone is certain to introduce tempting, cheap offers with a two-year contract ball and chain. It is good to see that Telecom is spending big money in New Zealand; $2.4 billion over two years is not chump-change, and very welcome news in the current financial meltdown climate. As Ernie of TUANZ puts it, “Telecom did have a choice. It could have put the Australian opportunity first, for reasons of face as much as anything else. In earlier days under different management, it quite possibly would have done so.” Thankfully, Doc Reynolds sees things differently than Gattung and Co did. Touch wood, this means that from next year, New Zealanders will no longer pay some of the highest costs in the OECD for mobile phone services. - Media slides for Telecom’s W850 announcement (Thanks @freitasm) Telecom NZ investor presentation on WCDMA 850 network Telecom to roll out $574 million 3G network by June Vodafone CEO challenges Telecom’s 3G claims

XKCD Going west

Robert X Cringely AdSense, nonsense: Does Google have too much power?

When Google sneezes, thousands of small businesses catch pneumonia. Does the search giant wield too much power over the online ad market? Google's ad programs have made it possible for thousands of small businesses to a make a go of it in the Net economy. Get on Google's bad side, though, and it's like waking up a hibernating grizzly bear — you'll be lucky to escape with all your limbs intact. Mac developer M P found this out the hard way last June when, practically overnight, Google stopped carrying search ads for one of his company's new products. The reason? They claimed his ads were infringing on Apple's trademarks. As a longtime member of Apple's Developer Connection, M P begged to differ. He even got Apple's attorneys to say as much in a letter to Google. Google responded with a thank you note to the Apple attorney but did not reactivate the ads. When we asked about the ads, they wrote to say they didn't get the letter. I guess they didn't see the cc to us in the note to Apple. We asked Apple to send the letter again. As before, after receipt of said authorisation, a note from Google to Apple acknowledging the authorisation and... then... nothing. M P tried again to get Google to reinstate the ads, resubmitting them multiple times for further review. Weeks passed. Finally, nearly two months after the de-activation, his ads were quietly reinstated. That was too late for his company, which had designed a Google-centric marketing plan for an upcoming trade show. In the search ad business they call this getting “Google Slapped.” Last month, the New York Times ran a profile of - a “business-to-business search engine” that also found itself on the bad side of the G-men. Sourcetool owner Dan Savage had been spending about US$500K a month on Google AdWords to drive traffic to his site, and pocketing a little over US$600K per month in pay-per-click AdSense revenue — a tidy little profit. One day Savage woke up to discover his traffic had fallen off a cliff. After some digging, he discovered ads that used to cost him 5 cents per click now cost a minimum of $5 dollars per click — which means Google had stopped displaying them. Savage says that when he demanded to know why he'd been singled out for this treatment, Google told him to go away and stop bothering them. Savage believes Google saw his site as a competitor and was jacking up its prices to put him out of business. The more likely reason is that Google didn't like Sourcetool's business model; it's an “ad arbitrage” service that acts as a middle man between Google ads and consumers. Its profit is the difference between what it pays for ads and what it collects from clicks. Along with malware and data collection sites, ad abitragers fall into Google's blacklist for “poor landing page quality.” Of course, Google is still happy to take their money, it just wants a lot more of it. I'd have more sympathy for Savage if Sourcetool wasn't so godawful. It's really just a series of nested directories, with unalphabetised listings that are often incomplete or inaccurate. It took me seven or eight clicks on average to reach an actual URL for a company. You could find them all a heckovalot easier using — yes — Google. Still, thousands of online businesses are totally dependent on Google. When the search giant changes its policies or even its search algorithms, entire companies can get chewed up in the process. But the problem is not with Google's algorithms as much as its accountability — or lack thereof. Google makes its decisions, and we either obey or suffer the consequences. Case closed. This is one reason Microsoft and others are lobbying so heavily against the Google-Yahoo ad deal — because it would remove the last barrier to Google world domination. In other words, it's Google's world, we just click in it. And if you don't like it, well, go start your own internet.

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