First Coffee

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Rod Stewart’s absolutely glorious 1971 album Every Picture Tells A Story:

Evidently British Telecom is fretting over the “competitive impact” of AT&T merging with SBC and MCI with Verizon. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is too, but all it takes is a kid to buy out another kid’s lemonade stand for Spitzer to start picking at his shorts.

BT has gone so far as to meet with the FCC and ask them to block the two mergers, according to a filing just unsealed, saying that they would create a classic duopoly in the telecommunications market and consolidate control of the internet backbone, leading to less competition, higher prices, lower quality, reduced innovation, floods, earthquakes and a plague of ravenous locusts.

BT estimates that 50% of the relevant market is US-based and that SBCs and Verizon’s geographic franchises cover 70% of customer locations. Not that BT cares all that much about the American market, but they foresee a day when internationally it would be difficult for any other competitor – itself, Colt, Cable & Wireless, Global Crossing, Equant, T-Systems, Vanco, et al – to compete.

Spitzer hasn’t actually opposed the two mergers, but has asked the FCC consider whether Verizon should be forced to offer naked DSL, broadband internet connectivity without the requirement to take phone service, if it buys MCI. He also thinks Verizon should be dissuaded from preferentially routing IP over MCI's internet backbone.

Vonage, who’s just signed a deal with Verizon to handle 911 emergency calls, thinks the FCC should examine whether the merger will negatively affect the ability of standalone VoIP providers to gain nondiscriminatory and reasonable access to number porting, necessary access, Internet backbone facilities and wireless platforms.

First Coffee© hears that EarthLink threw their two cents in the filing as well.

BlackBerry has just signed up its three millionth user, going from two to three million in the past six months after needing five years to hit one million.

Mobile operators such as Vodafone and T-Mobile, resentful of having to offer a hardware product with someone else’s branding, have struck deals with ISVs developing rival push e-mail technology such as Visto and Seven. These are companies who effectively white-box their products to the operators, who then offer them to their subscribers on a range of mobile phones, rather than just on dedicated devices like the BlackBerry.

Research In Motion is fighting back, cutting licensing deals of its own for the software with such heavyweights as Nokia. Still, hardware sales made up 66% of its revenue in 2004, so it’s not rushing to abandon that market any time soon.

If you want to turn your landline phone into a VoIP phone you need a thingamajig to do that. Here’s a review on Hardware Zone of one such product, the Linksys PAP2.

eStarNetwork, a two year-old Texas-based network marketing company has partnered with Packet8 to add VoIP to their menu of services, which includes local phone service, high speed internet, cellular, long distance and satellite TV, among others.

Ben Sturtevant, who left a top position with Excel Communications (VarTec) before joining eStar as a start-up in July of 2003, said “while VoIP is still years away from being mainstream – meaning years from being a ‘mom and pop’ product – it will be a great addition to our product line.”

First Coffee© dearly loves wild guesses masquerading as “industry projections,” and so was pleased to see this morning that ABI Research is “forecasting” over 100 million cellular/VoWi-Fi phones in 2010 in its new study, “Voice over Wi-Fi.”

Isn’t this great? We’re talking about products, dual-mode handsets, that even ABI admits “are virtually unknown to consumers, and have not penetrated the enterprise space to any degree either.”

These dual-mode mobile phones can connect to either a conventional cellular service or a Wi-Fi network. Sure that sounds like a nifty product, and if the world were populated by four billion tech junkies sure, 100 million sales easy, but First Coffee©’s seen far too many neato techie toys flop on the open market, which unfortunately is comprised of, well, real people who simply want products to do a job.

According to ABI Research senior analyst Philip Solis, some of the giants of global telecommunications – he cites British Telecom and Korea Telecom – plan to offer dual-mode services by the end of 2005. “That could start a very large ball rolling,” he says.

“The advantages of dual mode handsets and services, when they arrive, can be summed up in two words: seamless and economical,” Solis says, noting that the full spectrum of capabilities won’t appear in the first generation of products – danger, Will Robinson, danger!

So what’s the big deal about dual mode? According to Solis, when these services are mature you will be able to start a phone call at home on your residential Wi-Fi network and broadband VoIP service, continue it in your car where the phone switches to your cellular provider’s network, and wind it up at work, where the phone switches to your organization’s 802.11 LAN, and VoIP. All the time the handset would sense the available signals and switch automatically from one network mode to another, “keeping you connected and saving money.”

Look, First Coffee© loves technological improvements as much as the next guy, but would like to ask why a simple cell phone couldn’t fill the above job for the vast majority of Americans, and who the heck has phone conversations that last from before they leave work until they get to their desk?

See, it’s one thing to have a product that can do gee-whiz things like that, it’s another thing to have a product that does things people need.

Anyway, there are those who bet on Giacomo to win the Derby last Saturday, maybe those who bet on dual mode handsets’ll strike it rich on a long shot too. But let’s at least let the product roll out and get a year under its belt before we start betting on how many users it’ll have in five years.

The Rolling Stones have announced an album of all-new material – “85% done,” according to Mick – and a world tour sponsored by Geritol and Depends adult diapers.

At the announcement at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan the Stones tore into their classic hit “Start My Pacemaker Up,” before offering a new song and their 1971 chestnut “Brown Dentures.”

The tour will kick off August 21st – First Coffee©’s birthday – in Boston at Fenway Park. They’ll continue through December in America before taking an Air Ambulance to South America, Asia and Europe.

Prices will average $100-105 per ticket, with seats for the first shows — in Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, N.C., and Calgary, Alberta — going on sale Saturday. Shows will continue next year in South America, Asia and Europe. The band will play a combination of stadiums, arenas and smaller venues equipped with wheelchair ramps.

Drummer Charlie Watts, the only Stone to have the decency to act his age and contract some form of cancer underwent six weeks of radiation therapy for throat cancer last year. Watts said this was the last Stones’ tour, but his band mates were quick to contradict that claim.

“We don’t plan that this is the last tour, and we certainly don’t announce it,” said Jagger. Besides, “they’re doing amazing things with cryogenic preservation these days,” he pointed out.

First Coffee© would like to remind the world at large, preferably with a substantial fine, that it’s “espresso,” not “expresso.”

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