What every cellphone user wants for Christmas
Stocking stuffers, despite what my father tells me, are all the rage these days. Baubles are being dangled in front of us, their shiny lights dazzling to behold. The tiniest cellphones in the world are on offer and each company has finally developed design cues all of its own that make these products look as tasty a range of morsels as we could hope for in the very early 21st century.
Cellphones are, I feel, the modern day equivalent of the digital watch. It's important that we observe a moment's silence here for Douglas Adams who was completely correct in his written sneer at users of digital watches with their calculators and their stop watches, an irony that seemed lost on the manufacturers.
Today we have the cellphone, overloaded with gadgets. True story: Nokia's new phones, launched
yesterday at an appalling time of the day (0730), boast an incredible array of functions: some have FM radio, some have MP3 players. One has a digital camera and one has a thermometer.
I am not joking. This is true. The 5210 comes complete with a built in thermometer that is "another fun and handy feature ... which provides users with the approximate temperature of their surroundings." Cries of "but does one place it under the tongue?" and other unprintable suggestions were heard by those standing nearest to me. The question of it having an internal antenna was also raised.
Aside from that, the range is quite stunning. GSM and GPRS, the new high-speed network at Vodafone, of course, but also music and pictures -- the 7650 has a built-in digital camera -- along with the usual games, battery and voice quality issues and the ever decreasing size.
Of course, Nokia's neighbour and arch rival Ericsson has already stolen the march on size with the T66 -- a phone so small the only way you'll know you actually own one is if it rings.
Best of all, these phones are all developing their own physical characteristics far more than ever before. Most phones are bought at least in part for how they look and while Nokia has rubberised shells for its 5210 and the PlayStation controller-look for its 5510, Ericsson has its own look and feel going on with its blunt, cut off design cues. Alcatel is also off on its own path with the new 511 and a look that's different again.
Telecom's new network, of course, is CDMA-driven, and suffers a tad from having phones that can't take advantage of the upcoming upgrade to CDMA 1x, due early next year. Then it will really fly along and data users should come flocking.
It's also hamstrung somewhat by the lack of interest in CDMA from the big three cellphone names - in turn it has gone to Southeast Asia to Hitachi, Samsung and Kyocera for its phones, which are all nice enough on their own but don't as yet have the brand recognition in New Zealand.
The more the merrier, I say. Cellphones with Bluetooth (wireless communication protocol) so I can have a hands-free headset without the wires; highspeed connectivity; funky covers ... really it's all too much. I should start a list!
Now if only I could get my crusty old work phone to download the "Imperial March" properly I could set that for all my work-related calls to match the "Addams Family" I use for my father.
For some reason this was the most read story this week by a mile. Don't you all have work to do or something?
Voice, Data disintegration - IDGNet
Of course, these things are mobile tracking devices ... it would pay not to forget that.
Handhelds give up secrets - IDGNet
Broadband gets busy
I had the chance to hear communications minister Paul Swain talk about broadband this week and he said it's become the most important issue in his portfolio. He said when the telecommunications inquiry was looking at the industry, broadband was only one of the areas that needed looking at - now it's the most important.
That's interesting because it really means it is finally dawning on people that broadband is more than simply surfing the net that much faster. On a dial-up connection, surfing is more about reading web pages, getting email, perhaps chatting online. With broadband it becomes what we all wanted it to be - interactive and multimedia. Interactive is possible because of the size of the connection and so we have online gaming where players can experience as much if not more than they do playing against the machine, but also things like telecommuting, tele-medicine, tele-education ... . Can't get that accounting teacher for your sixth form class? Hook up to a school that has one. Don't want to face the commute any more? Don't have to.
Multimedia, of course, opens up a whole new range of possibilities. Forget the video store - like the dinosaur, video stores are too large and unwieldy to realise they're dead, but dead they are. Why move from your chair when you can watch video on demand over your high-speed connection? It might not play on your PC either, but since your new digital TV is hooked up to your home area network (HAN), there's nothing to stop you.
Of course, that's a few years off. We still have teething troubles with JetStream and all that hassle of getting broadband competition going.
JetStream, Telecom's DSL offering, isn't designed for business to do anything more than surf the net and get email, apparently. There are a number of companies using JetStream for virtual private networking (VPN), something that requires the "always on" connection to be, well, always on.
Telecom, however, says JetStream isn't stable enough for this and even though it has vowed to fix a couple of technical problems with JetStream customers that want higher quality assurance should move up the food chain to IP.Networking, a product Telecom admits it has failed miserably to market effectively, although it's about to change all that.
Meanwhile over at Ihug, Tim and Nick Wood have relaunched Ultra, their satellite-based wireless offering. Users can now sign up, (once you've bought your dish and PC card of course) to use Ultra on either a monthly or, intriguingly, a casual basis. Users can surf away happily on their dial-up modems using their existing ISPs and when they get to some giant bandwidth-hogging application they want to use, simply click on the Ultra icon and launch high-speed access.
It's targeted at the low to medium user, but even on the monthly plan, excess megabyte charges are far lower than they are on Telecom's JetStream plans.
This is also a good thing because it means competition in broadband in a way we really haven't seen in the home market outside the rarified atmosphere of Wellington with its TelstraSaturn network. Whether TS and its new best buddy Clear offer such a service to anyone else is really up in the air as Telstra has indicated that the new TS will focus on the business market. How saturated is that market? I'll leave it up to you to judge, but remember that consumer spending is up while business confidence is down. Now, who wants my money?
And as if by magic, the Herald has a story today about the latest OECD report on broadband telecommunications - New Zealand is squarely between Spain and Italy and although on the surface the cost of JetStream seems comparable with other nations, true costs once the highly restrictive download caps are taken into account are a major impediment to uptake.
Telecom to fix DSL - IDGNet
No guarantees over JetStream fixes - IDGNet
NZ slow in race for online speed - NZ Herald
Bloody stupid story of the week
It must be just that it's late in the day, or perhaps it's getting close to the end of the year but frankly my tolerance is running low and since I don't suffer fools gladly at the best of times, this particular story is coming close to sending me postal.
In brief, British Telecom is suing US-based ISP Prodigy Communications for patent infringement because of Prodigy's unauthorised use of a hyperlink.
That's right. BT claims to own the patent on the hyperlink despite doing nothing to develop it in the first place and discovering it owned the patent by accident.
Quote of the day from the story: "BT said that it would not pursue patent claims with individual users, as it would 'not be practical'."
Hyperlinks, for those of you out there who are too afraid to ask, are those links to other web pages that you see dotted around any site you visit. They're the heart and soul of the internet and they're what make the whole thing work.
I know the whole US patent thing is ridiculous but this one particularly narks me and I'm not sure why. It's kind of like claiming a patent on drinking water from a sipper bottle instead of a cup - that's not something that should be patented. By all means, patent a particular nozzle type or a new grade of plastic used in sipper bottles, but come on ...
This is ridiculous. BT, you are ridiculous. Patent lawyers who indulge their clients like this, you also are ridiculous.
The patent is due to expire in 2006. I say we boycott all links until then just to show them who's really boss. What do you all say?
Hyperlink patent trial date set - IDGNet