The little telco who could
TelstraClear seems to be in a bit of a predicament.
The newly anointed number two telco has to decide quite what it's going to do, who's going to do it and when and it has to do something now while it has momentum.
Unfortunately the first thing it really has to do is fire a whole bunch of people because when you put two companies together you generally get an overlap. That's not going to give it the good press it wants or needs and, while it's inevitable, it's going to hurt.
The other thing it has to do is work out just what market it's in. Clear had a large consumer base but was moving towards being a corporate telco and Telstra was doing exactly the same. Both had residential customers, Clear in tolls and Telstra in cable TV, that really weren't very high in value to the company. Telecom, of course, maintained its default presence in every market and fought tooth and nail to keep it that way, thus keeping margins to a bare minimum. Both Telstra and Clear have decided that really they'd rather concentrate on the business of business and the new network will reflect that.
But the problem is that the business market is rapidly reaching saturation point because all the telcos want a slice of it. The CBD market is full to overflowing with wireless, fibre and copper lines and offerings while the non-CBD buyer is pretty much stuck with the same old options. Nobody seems to care terribly much about companies on the fringes or, indeed, about the consumer market.
TelstraClear has repeatedly said it will build a $1.2 billion network in New Zealand linking Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and providing broadband connectivity to the masses. But that's looking less and less likely, especially since the purchase of Clear and the decision to focus on corporations over consumers.
Yet it still has this tricky resource consent request in place that has led to reports of 900km of streets being dug up in Auckland alone. Consumers immediately began licking their chops with dreams of cable TV, 512kbit/s internet connections and dancing girls all for $29.95 a month clouding their vision.
Will TelstraClear actually build this network? Will end users actually get their connections (with or without dancing girls)? I doubt it. How much money is there to be made from these consumers when you consider the costs of supporting them?
But TelstraClear is something of a white knight for many of these customers. How many are going to feel cheated if TC ignores them or simply resells Telecom's products, like JetStream?
TelstraClear is at a major crossroads and it will have to choose carefully. Go the wrong way and it may risk alienating a huge potential market. On top of that, if there is no competition in the consumer market then we are all justified in crying out "what was the point of the telecommunications inquiry?".
Kudos to the Herald crew for their coverage on this one ... really scooped me. Now go at once and hack their site, okay?
You've got mail
The problem is that it's not yours.
I left this one alone last week because, frankly, I like to give multi-corporations time to get their act together. I realise this can take a while so I figured a week would be about right.
Sitting to my left is David Watson, writer for Computerworld and user of Hotmail. You remember Hotmail – it's like hot cakes only less delicious.
David has a Hotmail account and he periodically checks it to clear it of spam. He doesn't use it as much these days as he used to because he's got a work email address and frankly needs to spend his time deleting spam from that instead.
So you can imagine his surprise when he opened up his account one morning last week and discovered 10 messages in his sent file that he'd never seen before.
Not only were these 10 messages from people David's never met, they were sent to people David had never heard of.
All the emails seem genuine, all the emails were sent to different people and all the emails were definitely not sent by David.
One of the emails contained an attachment called ACC.doc and being the privacy conscious fellow that he is, David called the ACC rather than read any further himself. If it had been me I'd have been in there printing them off like a rat up a drainpipe, but hey, it takes all sorts. (Can rats print, by the way?)
ACC verified that it wasn't one of its files, rather it's a letter about an ACC claim.
There was also information in another email about a bank transfer that included someone's account details.
Putting aside the tricky question of sending such emails via Hotmail you have to ask yourself whether Microsoft can be trusted with any email whatsoever following such a blatant security breach.
The emails are from a variety of sources and were sent on different dates, ruling out a glitch putting one person's sent email file in David's hands. Aside from that, it's pretty much anyone's guess as to how it happened and whether it can happen again.
And guessing is all we can do – Microsoft has yet to offer a serious explanation. A Washington-based PR firm called Wagged did send an email explaining that it was probably someone else's fault. And I quote:
"Many ISPs including Australia and New Zealand cache their webpages for faster downloads. Because of this, users will sometimes be served pages which are not their own. THIS IS NOT A SECURITY ISSUE OF MSN HOTMAIL."
Those capitals are Wagged's own.
Meanwhile my credit card details are staying well hidden from the world's newest superpower, and my own Hotmail account – set up so I can use Messenger – remains in Bill Gates's name.
And Microsoft – if you're reading this, give David a call, will you? Your time is up.
Are you feeling lucky, punk?
Today's the day. H-day. Those of you plucky volunteers who've signed up for HTML newsletters will be reading this and marvelling at the modern wonder that is hypertext markup language.
Basically put, you'll come out better off. Easier on the eye, colourful, slick. There's even an amusing photo of some guy we got out of the mugshots database who looks like he's just wet himself. Pity him. Send him money if you wish.
What it means is the whole thing might be running a bit late, so you may be reading this in the afternoon instead of the early morning. Usually that's my fault for getting the copy sorted too late in the piece but not this time. It feels good to blame someone else for a change.
So let us know what you think of it. If it works and works well we'd love to hear from you: we crave your kind words and sympathetic gestures. If it doesn't, we'll need to fix it (and I don't mean neuter) for next time. Contact details are at the bottom of the page.