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April 2011

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Is TomTom the Most Unethical Company in Tech?

April 29, 2011

Recently, reports have surfaced that GPS manufacturer TomTom sold the information it collected regarding the speed of its customers to the government of the Netherlands so they could set up speed traps. In short, as a customer of TomTom in the country – assuming the practice is not more widespread, you are increasing the likelihood of getting caught by the police for exceeding the speed limit.

In my view, there is no more slimy practice than this – it is unfathomable to actually go out of your way to hurt your own customers – in the name of increased profits.

I must say my dealings with TomTom haven’t been much better as a year ago I called to turn off the Internet service associated with a TomTom GPS I purchased.

How to Watch The Royal Wedding

April 28, 2011

China Patent Wars: Huawei Sues ZTE

April 28, 2011



Huawei today filed lawsuits in Germany, France, and Hungary against ZTE a fellow Chinese manufacturer of telecom equipment - with strength in 4G/LTE technology among others. The interesting point here is the company is being sued for patent and trademark infringement and what this shows us is a greater concern for patents and trademarks in China. At least from Huawei.

According to the company, they paid US $222 million themselves in patent licensing fees to obtain the legal right to use patents and technologies of other companies in the industry. In fact TMCnet reported two weeks ago that Huawei and Motorola Solutions settled patent disputes.

This is great news as Huawei had a reputation years back for copying technology from companies like Cisco and after losing a  court case they seem to have become more serious about patents and trademarks.

Last month I pointed out how a sales boom for tech and media is being unleashed by China as a result of it announcing 3,001 people have been arrested for rampant product piracy and seized fake or counterfeit medicines, liquor, mobile phones and other goods.

This is all great news for western companies who have invented technology which China wants to and will continue to use.









Amazon EC2 Outage: What The Experts Tell Us

April 27, 2011

The recent Amazon outage of its EC2 service affected a number of leading-edge companies who in some cases used the fact that they housed little to no infrastructure on their premise as a selling point to investors. Certainly, the cloud computing market is in what we could call a post-evangelism phase where there seems to be universal agreement that the cloud has a role in most organizations – at least to help with some tasks – if not all. We know the concept of hosted solutions isn’t new – many companies outsource payroll for example or tax preparation.

But certainly, when the largest company providing cloud infrastructure has a major outage of one of its availability zones lasting days,  it’s time to sit back and reflect on the challenges of moving wholesale to the cloud without thinking the concept fully through.

Duh - Tech, Winning!

April 27, 2011

The Silicon Valley real estate market is going through a boom and you can thank the cloud, Google, Facebook and a slew of start ups for the latest wave of hiring and growth. This lends credence to my points last week that politicians should not be bashing technology like the iPad for killing jobs but instead they should be bowing down to tech leaders who allow them to live the awesome lifestyles they have. Its better than bowing down to foreign leaders - that's for sure.

I have been consistent in my concerns about how America is becoming a divided nation of people who finish high school and college and are skilled enough to hold a job in the information age and those who made it through life swinging a hammer or doing some other job which is more easily outsourcable. These jobs which rely on physical strength or are entry level factory jobs will continue to be at huge risk of elimination.

In the information age, where a replacement worker is a mouse-click away - we need America to be the best educated country in the world if we expect the entire nation to have a shot at living at a standard of living we are used to.

Oh, and just how good is the real estate market in northern California?





Nokia Lays Off Due to Apple Success

April 27, 2011

7,000 people will be laid off by Nokia because of loss of market share to Apple. How bad is the situation? Well, a five-year chart of Stock performance of Apple and Nokia shows Apple up 400% and Nokia down about 59% during the same period. Of course Apple sells more than iPhones but we know this device is bringing more buyers into its stores with open minds and open wallets.

Will the new Microsoft deal turn things around for the beleaguered cell phone maker forced to cling to non-smart-phone sales as a differentiator?

Apple Responds to Locationgate

April 27, 2011

With the controversy surrounding the data being gathered by smartphones with Apple and Google operating systems, Apple has decided to come out with an explanation of what exactly it is doing and why. Here are the salient points of what they call a location Q&A:

  • Apple says it does not track the location of your iPhone, and it never has or will do so.
  • The reason this has become an issue is companies such as Apple haven’t done a good job explaining the complex technical issues at work.
  • Apple is maintaining a database of WiFi hotspots generated by tens of millions of devices sending encrypted information regarding the location of hotspots so as to be able to provide accurate location information when GPS satellite tracking information is not available. It cites usage in a basement as an example of why it needs to do this.
  • This crowd-sourced database is too large to fit in an iPhone but a subset of it is stored on iPhones and can be encrypted or not – based on user settings in iTunes. Researchers were confused by this data which was being backed up onto local PCs – but Apple plans on updating its software soon and at this point it will stop backing up this information.
  • Apple cannot locate a user based on its geo-tagged WiFi information.
  • Apple has been storing up to a year’s worth of location data and the company says this is a bug and going forward they will only store seven-days’ worth of location information.
  • Another bug according to Apple is the device continued to update WiFi and cell tower data from the crowd-sourced database even if location data was turned off.
  • Apple is collecting crowd-sourced traffic data in order to provide accurate traffic data for its users.
  • Apple provides anonymous crash data to third-party developers and the company’s iAds platform allows anonymous geotargeting of ads but requires user approval before sharing location data with an advertiser.

C3 Technologies Advances 3-D Maps

April 26, 2011

Stunningly realistic 3-D mapping technology is coming out of C3 Technologies - a company using multiple cameras on airplanes coupled with missile-targeting tech to provide users with incredibly realistic maps which include pixel-depth mapping allowing you to know exactly how high in the air any area of the map happens to be. The technology is more cost-effective than laser-based LIDAR and is said to need manual intervention 2% of the time.

Another benefit is it produces 3-D maps which are are 360 degree explorable. Check it out - it is pretty amazing.

Obviously, this accuracy is greater than what is needed for GPS and it is slow to render - even on a powerful machine but certainly, the clearer the picture, the better. Keep a watch out for new augmented-reality applications which could certainly benefit from the increased clarity of the map images C3 has produced here.

Check out the Vegas strip where you can see the Mirage and Ceasar's Palace (click to enlarge)


More from Technology Review.








Is Apple Telegraphing A Tablet Market as Large as PCs?

April 21, 2011

I'm Predicting 500,000,000 tablets sold by 2015 (updated - an eagle-eyed reader noticed I left out 3 zeros for the various iPad estimates throughout!)


Through informal research I have seen iPad owners not giving up on their PCs – in fact they generally use both machines at different times for different purposes. For example, website surfing to sites which utilize Flash often requires a PC or laptop as they may not work on an iPad. Moreover, iPads and iPhones require PCs which they must plug into to receive software updates, etc. Many people find that they need to type large amounts at one time or another and they often choose a PC or laptop for this task – either not realizing they can purchase a keyboard for their iPad or just not caring.

Another important point I have noticed is iPads are being utilized by younger users more often than comparable laptops or PCs because they are so easy to operate and the App Store makes it a breeze to try new software. And another plus for tablets is they also act as a book replacement - as Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. reminds us.




eBay Buys Where.com for Hyper-Local Deal Offers

April 20, 2011

In the race to become a leader in the local deal market – companies seem to be tripping over one another. This includes Google who is working organically while making an unsuccessful bid for Groupon. Twitter and Facebook play in this market as well and eBay just acquired Where.com, a Boston-based local-deals and location-based services company for $135M.

PayPal’s Amanda Pires explains they plan to integrate PayPal into the WHERE mobile app to make it even easier for customers to take advantage of the local deals.

Super WiFi Hotspot Gives 3 Mile Range

April 19, 2011

One of the absolutely most disruptive technologies I have seen is Super WiFi and although, until now, the technology has been more theory than practice, there is a grandmother in Texas named Leticia Aguirre who has lit up a hotspot in her house with a range of three square miles – an absolutely staggering distance. Utilizing dynamic spectrum access the network shifts automatically between WiFi and a dormant digital UHF TV channel to provide the ideal coverage characteristics.

Organizations involved in this trial are Rice University, Houston nonprofit Technology for All (TFA) and the NSF who provided a grant to incorporate super WiFi into the network.

Coincidentally, this September will see the second occurrence of the world’s only Super WiFi Summit which will be cohosted by TMC where I am CEO and Crossfire Media where Carl Ford is a founding partner.

Which Kills More Jobs - The iPad or US Politicians?

April 18, 2011

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. recently went on a rant discussing how the iPad is produced in China and is responsible for killing jobs and is responsible for Borders going bankrupt. He continued to rail against universities who have adopted the iPad instead of text books. He went on to wonder what happens to publishing company and librarian jobs in such an environment.

The question on our minds must be why is the iPad the focus of his concern and not the digital camera which caused Kodak to go into a tailspin and local photo shops around the country to close down? Why not target IBM for inventing the mainframe and making it possible to use vacuum tubes and later microprocessors instead of humans using pencil and paper.

New Research Explains Why There is no Tech Bubble

April 16, 2011

VC funding analysis says we aren't repeating the dotcom-era funding environment of the last cycle

Here is the good news – venture capital investments are not increasing at rates which are typically commensurate with bubbles... At least according to a MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association which is based on data provided by Thomson Reuters. Although quarterly investment activity increased 5% in terms of dollars, it fell 11% in number of deals compared to the fourth quarter of 2010 when $5.6 billion was invested in 827 deals.

More ammunition for those who say we aren’t in a bubble - the quarterly deal count represents the lowest number of deals in a single quarter since the third quarter of 2009.



President Obama Needs to be at ITEXPO

April 15, 2011

I recently learned that President Obama isn't happy with the old White House telephone. According to Fox News he said:

The Oval Office, I always thought I was going to have really cool phones and stuff," he said during a small fundraising event at a Chicago restaurant. "I'm like, c'mon guys, I'm the president of the United States. Where's the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up?



Is Android Security Really an Issue?

April 15, 2011

Yesterday I showcased an interview with investing legend Roger McNamee, managing director and co-founder of Elevation Partners but what I didn't mention was the following comment he made, "I don't trust Android because some 16-year-old kid in the Eastern Bloc presses a button and erases everyone's hard drive."

McNamee also made a call to short Google as a pairs trade with buying Apple the day before the stock of the search leader dropped almost $50 or 8% after missing their earnings number.


But just as interesting is another big piece of news which has to do with Skype responding to an Android vulnerability which has to do with unencrypted SQLite information on the device which can be accessed by malicious software. Of course the challenge is - what software is malicious - it certainly isn't advertised as stealing data in its description in app stores. Moreover, in this case, the issue seems to be Skype not setting file permissions appropriately to avoid data from being hijacked.

Of course when I read about the controversy I thought of the comments about the 16-year-old kid.

And at a time when Android is so popular - in fact in South Korea there is an antitrust complaint against the company - one wonders, what happens if McNamee is right and the platform isn't so secure?

But then again, any platform with a degree of openness and massive adoption is a major target of hackers and if our experience with Microsoft products is a solid guide, we can expect more Android vulnerabilities to surface and potentially frequent patches to be released to counteract them.












Voice Carrier Wants a Big Piece of the SMB VoIP Pie

April 14, 2011

The business VoIP market has a tremendous amount of growth potential based on a recent FCC report I highlighted last week. And perhaps the most exciting aspect of the market is there is no single leading player which comes to mind – especially for the SMB. And losing and gaining marketshare in the segment can be done quite rapidly if you aren’t careful. Case in point are Comdial and Inter-Tel: two major players in the SMB CPE space just a decade-and-a-half ago.

Thanks Arianna, I'll Take a Nap

April 14, 2011

HTML5 to Allow 15-year Post Internet Boom Mega-Cycle

April 14, 2011

Investing legend Roger McNamee, managing director and co-founder of Elevation Partners was interviewed on CNBC this morning and explained why he is bullish on the tech sector. He goes on to say Apple is winning and tell us why. He continues by saying companies are trading down from Windows to tablets and saving thousands per year on support. This will free up $100B worth of revenue per year in this category.


Moreover, there is a titanic clash for Internet control - will it be app stores or HTML5?


Photobucket Outage

April 13, 2011

Updated 4/14/2011, 4/15/2011 and 4/19/2011 - see below.

Originally posted 4/13/2011

Apparently my Photobucket account is one of the ones unavailable due to maintenance. I have come to rely on this cloud-based photo sharing service more and more as it works on iOS and the Sony Dash. There is an Android app as well which I have found doesn't display photos as well as it does on other operating systems. Here is the message the company gives when I try to login via the web.



Update 4/14/2011: Its been more than 24 hours and the site is still out. This is without a doubt one of the challenges of moving to the cloud - but that doesn't mean as a customer of a free service I feel I have such a strong right to complain.

Jim Goss, the company's VP of Operations expressed his apologies (see below) for the site being inaccessible via the Sony Dash, the web and iOS - I've tried all three.









Regulatory 2.0 Video Feed is Live

April 12, 2011

Amazon Ad-Supported Kindle

April 12, 2011

The new Kindle with Special Offers costs $114 and shows ads as screen savers and so far has some high-profile customers - Buick, Olay, Visa, and Amazon.com Reward Visa Card (Chase Bank). Some of the offers are quite good, giving back an additional $70 if you get an Amazon Rewards Visa, a $10 credit on an Amazon gift card and more. The details are below:

  • $10 for $20 Amazon.com Gift Card
  • $6 for 6 Audible Books (normally $68)
  • $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 Store (choose from over 1 million albums)
  • $10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop or Amazon Swim Shop
  • Free $100 Amazon.com Gift Card when you get an Amazon Rewards Visa Card (normally $30)
  • Buy one of 30 Kindle bestsellers with your Visa card and get $10 Amazon.com credit
  • 50% off Roku Streaming Player (normally $99)
The question worth asking is why did it take so long for a mainstream player to come out with an ad-supported mobile device and will Google be far behind? How about Microsoft?

Regulatory 2.0 Conference in DC Tomorrow

April 11, 2011

In an age where the government is so crucial to shaping communications and technology through its decisions on mergers, net neutrality, spectrum and a host of others, it is imperative that we take these actions into account as we plan for the future. Lawyers, decision-makers, policy-makers and everyone who could see their business fortunes change as a result of government policy shifts should be in DC tomorrow for this event.

Thank you Google who is the Diamond Sponsor and Pillsbury who is the Gold Sponsor. You can register here, this press release has more details and the schedule is below:

April 12th, 2011  The ICC FUSF NPRM:  
A New Vision for the Future of Communications?


Hosted by
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
2300 N St. NW Washington DC



The Regulatory 2.0 Conference DC is going to focus on the following topics:

8:45  - 9:00 Opening Remarks:  Jim Kohlenberger, President, JK Strategies

9:00 – 10:00 Rumors of POTS Death have been “Greatly Exaggerated”.
While packetized technology dominates the backbone of our networks, most of the end user community still experiences the revolution through the traditional twisted pair. 





First the Unabomber and now Steve Jobs

April 8, 2011

You know you may have bad luck when you open up a package which was mailed by unabomber Ted Kaczynski and smoke starts to come out of it followed by a flash. Yale Professor David Gelernter survived a horrific attack from the deranged madman and the good news is the company he co-founded won a settlement for patent infringement from Apple worth $625M.

A happy ending to a terrible story right?

Not quite... Today TMCnet reported that the settlement was overturned and instead of having to pay $625M, Apple would have to pay a total of zero. This is an unusual occurrence according to Southern Methodist University law professor Bill Dorsaneo, overturning a verdict like this and eliminating instead of reducing the amount of an award is unusual.

This is a story of pretty bad luck it seems and the professor has vowed to fight on.





Bing For iPad: You Can Check Out But You Can Never Leave

April 8, 2011

Bing for iPad Home Page


The iPad gained a very valuable information portal today in the form of a new application from Bing which has impressed me a great deal. What is different about this software is it borrows from other well-designed apps and isn't afraid to throw in its own improvements and graphically appealing glue to tie it all together.

When you enter the app you are presented with the Bing image of the day and underneath the graphic are widgets which give you information about the weather, news, maps, movies, trends and finance. Many of these areas update, making this program a truly functional portal.

Bing for iPad Movies


You also have access to other information presented when you click at the top right of the menu. Some of these are repeats of the bottom widgets but items like images, shopping and history are unique.

Bing for iPad Map of TMC HQ Building


I've always been a fan of the Bird's Eye view of Bing Maps and you can use your iPad to pinch and zoom your way around the map like you would a mouse on a PC.














Commodore 64 Returns

April 8, 2011



My first computer - and the product which helped set me down the career path I now enjoy was a Commodore 64. Truth be told I was fascinated by electronic calculators at age 11 and then Pong and Space Invaders captivated me and this love of technology culminated with my parents being nice enough to get me one of these computers at around age 15. I remember spending hours in front of the TV with this thing plugged in as I wrote my own video games - trying to emulate what I would play in the arcade.

Long story short - around the same time as I learned how to program this computer, a consultant came to TMC where at the time I ran the mail-room. He installed a computer system but never came back to program it.



Facebook Opencompute.org Disrupts Data Center Market

April 8, 2011

And just like that, the vanity server gets decapitated



Google continues to suck the life out of profits in industry after industry for the benefit of consumers. For example, sure Garmin is worth $7B but it was once worth $25B! Why? In-part because you can now get free turn-by-turn GPS of excellent quality with your Android phone.



Charlie Sheen Spoofs Own Video

April 7, 2011

Important HD Voice Research Report Available

April 7, 2011

You probably know I have been a huge proponent of HD voice as to me it’s an inevitable outcome of transitioning away from the PSTN to IP-based networks which allow us to upgrade CODECs without having to downshift our conversations to technology which was invented many decades ago. When I was a kid, television was an 11 inch black-and-white screen which seemed to always have Walter Cronkite on it and changing the channels was a manual and rotary process.

Yet, the incredible tech advancements we have seen in the television space haven’t yet fully materialized in the world of telephony. Sure, I can have high-quality conversations if a call stays on IP networks and there is no need for transcoding or jumping onto the public switched telephone network.

11 Reasons Why Google Needs Retail Stores

April 7, 2011

It is becoming clear the world is gravitating towards everything Apple sells and even worse for the competition is Cupertino is setting the tone for product launches, making the rest of the tech world play perpetual catch up. Even worse, Apple is buying up all available inventory on components forcing companies as big and mighty as RIM to push back the launch of their PlayBook tablet! Of course one of the most important parts of Apple’s success is the stores – those minimalist tech nirvanas attracting people of all ages to literally trip over one another as they touch and feel the latest gadgets and computers connected to huge flat-screens with the latest in audio equipment.

Problems are Just Temporary Nuisances Looking for Solutions

April 6, 2011

Brady Bunch Videoconferencing Goes Mobile Thanks to fring

April 6, 2011

fring has launched a Beta app for mobile devices allowing Brady Bunch-style conferencing with up to four users at once. The importance of this announcement is that anyone can now take advantage of advanced video communications which until recently was not even available in an office without a high-priced videoconferencing solution with dedicated bandwidth and specialized equipment.

Indeed, the power of mobile devices has grown substantially over the years and soon dual and eventually multicore processors will be the norm. And as this evolution in mobile horsepower continues, apps like this one will continue to proliferate.

We have signed up for Beta accounts and I look forward to trying this app out to see how well it performs when all four users are moving around. I also wonder about screen lag and synchronization between audio and video.

The question now is how popular will video become on mobile devices and will the experience become compelling enough to make video the default for phone calls?





Leading SIP Client Bria Gets Upgrade to 3.2

April 6, 2011

Will Government Inventory Flood the Local Ad Market?

April 6, 2011



Cash strapped state governments and agencies are beginning to experiment by showing ads to visitors to its websites in order to try to bring in revenue to offset budget deficits. While it is unclear if this concept will be successful enough to become widespread, it presents us with the potential for some new and interesting pairings of services with messages. For example, might we see ads for abstinence on websites associated with family planning? Could we see ads promoting smaller government all over the sites of state agencies?

WorldGate Communications Closes Shop

April 5, 2011

Word has it that funding was pulled at WorldGate Communications two weeks ago with everyone being laid off. Requests for information to the company did not get an immediate response. The Pennsylvania-based organization which made high-end designer-looking videophones no-doubt faced an uphill battle competing with Cisco and Polycom - as well as low-cost players like Grandstream.

When the company launched - years back I remember a massive crowd around its products at ITEXPO and other events - but getting tremendous attention at a show does not obviously always translate into success in business. Those of you who recall Wildfire's booth at the Computer Telephony Expo know what I mean.

The company seemed to be in a perpetual state of financial trouble and the best news I heard from them a while back was when they either received or were about to receive an order for an organization who was to supply videophones to the hearing-impaired so they could communicate via sign language.

TMC's Tom Keating reported troubles brewing at the company in February, 2008 and then reported when things got better in the next month saying Ojo Phone Lives!





KenCast: Video Streaming Democratization in Action

April 5, 2011

One of the more interesting companies in the streaming video market is KenCast - and one area of growth for the company is live streaming of sporting events. Recently, the company launched a live streaming coverage online community on TMCnet - and this article The Truman Show: Self-Service Live Streaming Video in Real Time living on the community is worth a read.

One of the differentiators KenCast offers is technology which merges 3G and 4G broadband wireless signals from multiple carriers - allowing a transmission of higher quality than is allowed by the upload speed of a single carrier.

As more 4G networks are rolled out and bonding technology becomes more common, eventually everyone will be able to stream live video from virtually anywhere - rivaling the output from a major television network. And that my friends is the definition of technology democratization.

How to set up live streaming of a triatholon


Bill Steele Chairman and CEO of KenCast Inc. explains how the company does a tremendous amount of video work in the multicasting space as well as providing solutions for the military and applications in retail. He goes on to explain how mobile live video capture is a big area of growth for the company.










FCC Reports Highlights 8x8 Business VoIP Success

April 4, 2011

While many technology decisions are made based upon what analysts or the media think, these sources can be flawed as they involve relationships – sometimes financial which could potentially skew how a specific company may be rated by the media or analyst firm. Even if everything is 100% objective, there is a certain amount of guesswork related to determining share of market in any industry as much of the data is not available and has to be surmised from multiple sources which could include interviews. Typically though, there aren’t other places to go when trying to ascertain which companies are leading in a particular market.

But in the VoIP space, there is a relatively new source of information worth noting.

Cablevision iPad App Review

April 3, 2011

The battle to take control of TV 2.0 continues with a new application (iPad link) from Cablevision allowing customers with iPads to view about 300 channels and 2,000 videos on demand from anywhere in the house. I say in the house because you really aren’t supposed to watch outside of your home according to the company's terms of service and you must have a password-protected router, a secure WiFi network and you must not stream Cablevision content via Apple Airplay to other devices. Customers must further agree to use the app for personal, not commercial use and they can register three iPads and use two simultaneously. Support for other devices is said to be coming soon.

So Google Can Alter its Results Manually?

April 1, 2011



Recently it was reported that former CEO of Google Eric Schmidt tried to have his political contributions hidden from Google. The news reminded me that a few years back I wrote about the cozy relationship between Schmidt and President Obama and how it could be protecting a Google monopoly. Interestingly, based upon Schmidt's contributions - he seems to be fairly middle of the road - supporting candidates on the left and right. So it does seem his close ties with the Obama administration might have served the purpose of protecting his company from future lawsuits.

Microsoft, Google and EU Antitrust - Is Facebook Next?

April 1, 2011

In the recent antitrust allegations being brought against Google by Microsoft, some of the controversy surrounds Microsoft's inability to access YouTube content on its Windows smartphone as well as its Bing search engine. The challenge is being caused by the fact that Google not only has a dominant search position but has implemented technical road blocks to keep competitors from accessing YouTube properly.

Its an interesting argument  and one which can be applied to Facebook as well - if you don't have access to all the social networking data on the site, how can you compete with the company one might ask a regulator in the future.

If EU and other regulators agree and Google has to remove the technical wall blocking YouTube content, we have to wonder what's next. Does every company which becomes large enough have to open up its data to the world as well? These issues will become more and more important over time and Microsoft's ownership stake in Facebook will certainly come into play in this and future cases.

Many of us who have been in the tech space for years realize the irony of Microsoft being on the other side of the anti-competitive issue - but for Google, perhaps the worst company to have to fight is one which has the level of relevant experience Microsoft possesses in this matter.

Google has 90% market-share in Europe and this factor may be one of the most important in the case.







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