27th > February > 2003 Archive

HP talks networks

HP is looking to grow its share in the networking market by reducing the complexity associated with network rollouts. Last month HP introduced its ProCurve Network Adaptive Edge Architecture as a framework designed to deliver control at the edge of a network. The architecture is designed to make it simpler for users to manage complex applications, such as mobility, security and voice/data convergence. Historically, the brains of networks have been located at the network core. But deferring security and traffic management to the core increases cost and complexity, HP argues. The approach also leaves networks exposed to security risks between the points where access is made and where authorisation is granted. A better, and more scalable approach is to build intelligence into access devices, leaving core networks to manage aggregation and traffic routing. At a pan-European conference in Barcelona this week, HP execs outlined their approach to the networking market. HP, a strong number three in the switching market behind Cisco and 3Com, is targeting enterprise users for further growth. Its strategy is solid, if somewhat unexciting, just like its products. John McHugh, VP and general manager of HP's ProCurve Networking Business, told journalists HP was trying to remove the black-arts reputation still sometimes associated with networking. In moving from the "esoteric to the mainstream" HP is taking a similar approach to networking it previously applied to printing. That means making networking more reliable and secure. It doesn't mean, however, that HP wants to see networking commoditised. Perish the thought. McHugh told us that technological advancements will prevent commoditisation of the market for the near future, despite the entry of Dell into the networking market. Here HP is talking about innovations such as iSCSI, which might allow storage to be run over Gigabit Ethernet rather than more complex Fibre-Channel networks, roaming between wireless LAN and telco networks (still three-five years away, according to McHugh) and Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop. But few applications need Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop and HP's enthusiasm for iSCSI is cautious. "The softness in the storage market has dampened enthusiasm in iSCSI," McHugh told us. Softly, softly catchee BOFH That answer is symptomatic of HP's conservative approach to the networking market, which is not necessarily a bad thing. HP doesn't plan to introduce 802.11g wireless networking kit until the high-speed 2.4GHz wireless networking standard is ratified this summer, thus sparing customers the potential grief non-compliant kit may bring. HP isn't firmly committed to either 802.11g or 5Ghz 802.11a kit for the future of wireless LAN deployments, McHugh told us. On wireless LAN security, HP is a firm backer of 802.1X port-based access controls. The 802.1X standard provides for dynamic changes in WEP keys. Many vendors back VPNs as a means to keep secure wireless data. Techies running a demo on wireless networking security argued that VPNs introduce a performance overhead. Using 802.1X will guard similarly against the perils of war driving while making it easier for users to use the same log-in system (based on Radius servers) when connecting via fixed or wireless networks, they argued. HP is extending its architecture, which is similar in many respects to Cisco's AVVID framework, via firmware upgrades to its networking kit. For example, earlier this month provided a software upgrade to its ProCurve Switch 5300xl series to introduce support for access control lists (ACLs). This allows access control between different VPNs via Layer 3 and 4 filtering. Previously HP introduced Layer 3 (routing) firmware upgrades to its Layer 2 switches, such as the ProCurve 4100, 2650 and 6108 series. These are useful, though hardly exciting, innovations. Much like HP's networking strategy in general then. ®
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2003

Greenpeace whups Esso

Greenpeace has heralded the decision of a French court to lift an injunction against an Esso protest site as an "important victory for free speech on the Internet". In July last year Esso France began legal action against Greenpeace in France over the StopEsso Web site. The site used a logo which parodied Esso's own brand by putting a double dollar sign ($$) in place of the "SS" in the oil giant's red and blue "ESSO" logo. At the time a French judge upheld Esso's complaint to remove the logo. But this was overturned yesterday by a French court, which ruled that the use of the logo was allowable under the right to free speech. In a statement Greenpeace said: "The decision by a French court today to lift an injunction against the use of a parody logo on the StopEsso Web site was an important victory for free speech on the internet, a victory for the climate, and evidence that Esso's strategy to silence critics using the courts was futile. Said Greenpeace International campaigner Stephanie Tunmore: "Esso is sabotaging climate protection in order to continue its dirty business and has attempted to use the courts to silence its critics. Today that strategy failed." Esso said it was "disappointed by this court's decision" Régis Mallet, Esso's corporate affairs manager in France said that Esso does not object to Greenpeace's right to protest. "What we object to is their blatant disregard for the facts and their antics such as the distortion of our corporate logo," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2003

Borrow a supercomputer for free

Fancy a free supercomputer? If you come up with a good enough project to use it on, NEC will lend you an eight gigaflop SX-6i vector computer worth €120,000 (£80,000) to try out for three months. Dr Joerg Stadler, NEC European Computer Systems' marketing manager, says that while some trial users may then go ahead and buy or rent their SX-6i, there is more to the scheme than that. "We're trying to find new application areas," he says. "We expect researchers in physics, chemistry and engineering to be interested, but we would especially love to hear brilliant ideas from biology or genomics, for example." NEC's supercomputer group has met strong competition in recent years from relatively cheap PC-based Linux systems using Beowulf clustering software. So as well as seeking new markets for the SX-6, it is saying 'If you can't beat them, join them' and extending its product range to include both Linux clusters and multiprocessing boxes housing up to 32 Intel Itanium processors. The various approaches to supercomputing each suit different application areas, according to Stadler. For example, if a problem can be broken down into many independent smaller problems, a Beowulf cluster is ideal. But where areas of the problem are not independent of each other, such as modelling earth systems or aerodynamics, he says that an SX-6 system, with a smaller number of more powerful processors, is a better option. "One SX-6 generates the power of four to 12 cluster processors and is much easier to program," he adds. The SX-6i uses an NEC-designed vector microprocessor with an architecture similar to the original Crays. Its advantage over general purpose chips is not just compute capability but memory bandwidth - it has nearly ten times as much as Itanium. It is also used in multiprocessor machines. A recent customer here is the UK Metereological Office, which is installing a system for weather modelling, including 30 eight-processor SX-6 modules. Project proposals for the loan of an SX-6i need to be in by the start of April. ®
Bryan Betts, 27 Feb 2003

Analysts squabble over Nintendo's future

Two conflicting reports on Nintendo's market status and future prospects have been released today, with research firms Strategy Analytics and DFC Intelligence almost entirely at odds over where the Japanese giant stands. The research released by Strategy Analytics concludes that Nintendo must abandon its current console hardware strategy, and instead "do a Sega" by focusing on third party development instead. The group predicts that the GameCube will face a serious decline in 2003, with sales falling by 4 per cent while sales of the rival Xbox rise by 12 per cent. DFC Intelligence, on the other hand, points out that Nintendo is the second largest company in the games industry, with $4.6 billion in revenue last year (behind Sony, with $8.2 billion; we assume that the exclusion of Microsoft here means that only games-related revenues are being counted) and predicts that the company will continue to pursue a console hardware strategy, describing it as "one of the true industry innovators". Although DFC acknowledges that Nintendo has made poor strategic decisions in the past, and criticises the company for failing to engage the adult gaming market effectively, it believes that the company may be changing its ways - with aggressive bundling deals on hardware, and newly forged relationships with key third parties such as Namco, Square, Capcom and Sega. The one factor which links both reports is that both research groups are critical of Nintendo in many ways, but both acknowledge that the company should not be underestimated - with Strategy Analytics predicting that it could be the market leader in the software market if it abandoned console sales, while DFC Intelligence suggests that the GameCube may not be the dismal failure predicted elsewhere, and points out that the company has a chance to reinvent itself with the next generation of hardware in 2005 regardless. ©
gamesindustry.biz, 27 Feb 2003
Cat 5 cable

Supermicro preps dual Itanium 2 mobos

Supermicro is tipping its toes into the Itanium 2 market, with some dual processor mobos for the OEM market. They'll be out in volume in the summer, presumably to coincide with Madison. The mobo maker OEM market around Itanium is not exactly active, and Supermicro's entry does not suggest to us that this will change real soon. But at least there will be some alternative mobos, and prices, for OEMs to choose from. Supermicro will ship the Itanium 2 "server solutions" in 1U, 2U, and 3U as well as tower form factors Both Supermicro and Boston will be exhibiting these exciting new solutions at this year's Cebit Show in Hanover. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003
Cat 5 cable

Divine Inc. files for Chapter 11

divine inc filed a petition to reorganise under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy rules on Tuesday. Coincidentally (or not) it cancelled plans to make its fourth quarter and end-of-year 2002 statement, which was due on the same day. No doubt it would have been covered in red ink. divine was founded by Andrew 'Flip' Filipowski whose previous claim to fame was that he was the founder of Platinum Technology. After he collected a bundle from selling Platinum to Computer Associates he set up divine, which was incorporated in 1999 as an incubator (at that time the company was known, with some presumption, as divine interVentures) that would encourage and grow small technology companies with innovative ideas. However, for various reasons, notably to do with the dot com bubble and its subsequent bursting, the company reverted to a more conventional model. Like Platinum, divine has been driven by acquisition, with the company buying up literally dozens of companies in the last couple of years. Also, like Platinum, it has never been very successful at integrating the products it has bought, and was better at buying market share than gaining customers by actual real-world sales and marketing. Where it has differed from Platinum is that divine has been operating within a market that is in retreat, rather than one that was growing. It has been able to buy companies more cheaply as a result but many of them are probably worth less now than when they were bought. In particular, a major focus has been on content management, with acquisitions of companies such as Open Market and Eprise. While this market continues to have potential, it has hardly been the ideal money-spinner over the last couple of years. The writing first started to appear on the wall last year, when the company started to scrabble around for money, suing as many customers as it could find for infringement of copyright. In particular, one of the company's acquisitions, Open Market (the ex-content management vendor) had patents on various Internet shopping cart technologies and divine has been able to exploit this to take legal action against a variety of companies. Since this is hardly the way to make friends and influence people, it seems likely that the company had some inkling of the dire financial mess it was getting itself into. What it didn't know was that one of its subsidiaries was fiddling the books. Or, actually, the magazines. Rowecom, one of divine's companies, had collected some $50m worth of subscriptions for magazines and other publications on behalf of a variety of publishers but had then used the money to pay off its own debts and to cover running costs rather than coughing up to the publishers. This all burst onto the scene last December but it has (to divine's credit) more or less been resolved already. The Rowecom operation world-wide is being sold off and a settlement has been agreed with the various injured parties. However, this was no doubt the straw that broke the camel's back. Last week divine announced that in the wake of this unpleasantness, it was calling in financial advisors with a view to considering its options. Now it has filed for Chapter 11. It has stated that a number of other companies have expressed interest in purchasing some of divine's technologies or subsidiaries and it seems quite likely that a shrunken, reduced divine, will emerge from Chapter 11 in due course. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 27 Feb 2003

South Africa scraps PC import tax

South Africa is to scrap excise duty on imported PCs, which should result in a five per cent reduction in retail prices. According to SA reports, the tax was inconsistent and easy to circumvent, as imported PC components were not included in the excise. Also the tax raised a puny amount of revenue for the government - R572m, compared with a total tax take of R325 billion. The tax cut, coupled with improved rand performance means that in local currency terms, PCs will be 25 per cent cheaper than a year ago. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

Bloomberg hacker convicted of extortion

A Kazakhstan man was yesterday found guilty of trying to extort $200,000 from Michael Bloomberg, founder of the Bloomberg financial news service, by a New York jury yesterday. Oleg Zezov, 29, was convicted of hacked into Bloomberg's computer system, then emailed Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg threatening that the financial news service's reputation would be put at risk if he wasn't paid. The court heard the threat was made in March 2000, prior to Bloomberg's election as New York's mayor in 2001. After receiving this threat, Bloomberg contacted the FBI and arranged to meet Zezov and alleged accomplice Igor Yarimika in London, where the pair was arrested in an FBI sting operation. The two men were subsequently extradited from the UK to face trial in the US. The case against Yarimika is due to go to court later this year Bloomberg was the star prosecution witness in the trial against Zezov. Zezov, who reportedly "yelled obscenities at prosecutors and made other outbursts during his trial", now faces up to 20 years in prison, AP reports. Zezov is due to be sentenced on May 23. ® External Links The indictment against Zezov and Yarimika Related Stories Bloomberg extortion, hacking case opens in New York Extradition hearing in Bloomberg hack/extortion Bloomberg involved in Net sting
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2003

Post Office touts Virgin.Net sign-up CDs

Virgin.net is trying to expand its customer base by distributing its registration CDs in posts offices across the UK. The ISP - which has more than half a million punters - has done a deal with Postmasternet, a company set up to help generate more revenue for the UK's 17,000 independent local post offices. The deal goes live on March 1 with around 45 post offices distributing Virgin.net's CDs. However, the exact number of post offices taking part depends on whether they want to opt-in to the scheme and offer the CDs, since it's up to individual post offices to decide whether carrying the CDs is worth the hassle. For those that do, Virgin.net will pay a one-off fee to each post office every time a new customer joins the ISP as a result of picking up a free CD in that outlet. Details of the commission were not disclosed. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2003

Brits! Play the PayPal currency speculation game

Reports are coming in from British users of Paypal who are pointing to its astonishing exchange rate today - ¢£1 for 97¢. One reader informed us that he converted US $150 in his account today - he got £145. "I then withdrew it to my uk bank account with no hassles!" We left a message with a Paypal PR person this morning, informing the company that we proposed to write a small article at 5pm UK time. But then as another reader points out: Paypal is "charging £1 for 97c so for gods sake don't buy anything in USD at the moment." So don't get caught out. It must have been so much simpler for PayPal when it acted as if the world outside America did not exist, and those from elsewhere who insisted on signing up, had to pay in US currency, and were subject to worse Ts&Cs. Here is the way it used to be. In October 2002, PayPal introduced euro and sterling accounts. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003
Cat 5 cable

Tiscali UK in discount phone call venture

Tiscali UK is offering punters the chance to make discounted international phone calls. The SimplyDial scheme - which was soft-launched at the beginning of the month and has just started being advertised - offers punters up to 60 per off the cost some international calls, compared with BT prices. Tiscali claims tens of thousands of people have already used the service, which doesn't need punters to set up an account or tap in their credit card details. Instead, the cost of the calls appears on the user's existing phone bill. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2003

Internet telephony protocol riddled with security bugs

Security clearing house CERT this week warned of "numerous vulnerabilities" in multiple vendors' implementations of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), an important standard for next-generation Internet telephony systems. SIP is used to initiate communication and data sessions between users and it is riddled with potential problems, it emerges. "These vulnerabilities may allow an attacker to gain unauthorized privileged access, cause denial-of-service attacks, or cause unstable system behaviour", CERT warns. The flaws came to light after Oulu University Secure Programming Group (OUSPG) ran a series of tests on a variety of SIP-enabled products. Most of the problems identified relate to the INVITE message, which is used in setting up sessions. OUSPG's previous testing work led to vulnerability advisories on LDAP and SNMP, so its work is to be taken seriously. The vulnerabilities identified with SIP are fairly esoteric and, according to security researchers, are not yet being actively exploited. So we have a little breathing space. This is just as well as many vendors' products are potentially affected. CERT helpfully provides links to advisories by vendors of the subject and mitigation advice, which you can find here. An advisory by Cisco supplies more background and an insight into how much work may be needed to guard against vulnerabilities involving SIP. Many vendors, including Microsoft, are still researching the extent to which the issue affects their products. ®
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2003

Get hold of your dream .uk domain

UK register Nominet is planning a complete revamp of its domain re-registration service that may see millions able to sign up for their dream domain. The organisation's Policy Advisory Board (PAB) is asking for comments on a consultation paper for a new "wait listing service" which will enable people to pay a fee to put their names down for a domain they want but which is currently owed by someone else. The responses will form the basis of Nominet's future policy but you only have until 12 March to make your voice heard. So far, just three responses have been received, so any input you give may help shape the future of the UK domain system. The issue is hardly academic either, with an incredible 750,000 UK domains currently listed as "detagged" - meaning that they are currently owned by no-one and will soon be released back into the market. This means that 19 per cent of all UK domains are up for grabs. We spoke to the man behind the WLS consultation - Nominet director and PAB member Alex Bligh - about the possible change to the system and also to Chris Holland of CHC Internet, who offers a service called DropCatcher which enables people to grab hold of domains put up for sale. Do we need a WLS? Wait listing services have traditionally been controversial, with the recent introduction of one in the US creating a furore. Mr Bligh tells us that Nominet hopes to learn from others' mistakes and put everything up for discussion so the best method can be found. "First of all we haven't decided for definite that we will introduce a WLS," he tells us. "There are a couple of problems we are looking to solve." The demand for domains not renewed and so put up for sale is huge, he admits. However, due to the current Nominet set-up, the market has had to invent systems that achieve this aim. The result, he says, is something technically inefficient that eats up vast resources. With the companies that sell renewal services living or dying on how efficiently they can get hold of released domains, Nominet has entered into a game of cat and mouse in which it tries to outsmart those monitoring its systems in order give ordinary members of the public the chance of getting hold of released domains. In the end, most domains are released using the same method: a "drop" of several thousand domains into the system at once, without notice and at a different time of day or night each time. This had led to those companies that attempt to scoop up the domains being termed "drop catchers". With such unpredictability, drop catchers therefore monitor Nominet's systems 24 hours a day. Chris Holland explains how it works: "There are two ways of monitoring a drop. One is via the Whois technology - constantly pulling the information for domains out and asking if they are available to be registered - if so, you fire off a PGP-signed email asking to register it. But Nominet now tends to turn the Whois system off when it makes a drop. "The other is through speculatives - many times a day you send a subscription request for a certain domain to the automaton. If you send it frequently enough you can frequently guarantee you will get it." All this activity is automated using first-rate web servers and specially designed and written code that Mr Holland reckons would take a couple of man years' of work to recreate from scratch. Alex Bligh points out that this constantly hammering of Nominet's systems not only uses up valuable resources but also makes it harder for normal requests from business and individuals to go through. As such, Nominet has been forced to choke the questioning services. This stands at 50 speculative requests per five minutes (Nominet's system is updated at exact five minute intervals) and one Whois request per IP address per second, Mr Holland tells us. Creating a fairer system The question then is whether Nominet should become involved in creating a system that allows people to stake a claim on a particular domain before it is released and so bypass the current drop method. This, it is felt, will lift the weight off Nominet servers and also allow for a fairer system in which individuals have a chance to get the domain they want. Mr Holland is, unsurprisingly, not persuaded and has outlined his objections in a response to the PAB. The demand on the servers could be greatly reduced if Nominet said it would only release domains at night, so drop catchers could turn their systems off during the day. Also, setting up a separate Whois server that returns only whether the domain is registered or not would hugely reduce resources needed (Alex Bligh says he believes this server has already been agreed to within Nominet). As for the fairness of the system, Mr Holland argues that a WLS system would be no more or less fair than the current system. Individuals will still have virtually no chance of getting hold of a premium domain name like "taste.co.uk" (recently sold to Sainsburys for an estimated £120,000) or "shopping.co.uk" - sold for £50,000. As for personalised domains such as "jonesbookstore.co.uk", it is unlikely there will be a rush for the domain as it is too specific. Plus, he argues, someone can 90 per cent guarantee getting hold of it by signing up to DropCatcher's £29 service. Mr Holland argues that since his service includes two years' registration and free change of the DNS and Tag details, he will work out far cheaper than if a WLS system and an extra layer of bureaucracy were introduced. Philosophical difference At the bottom of these arguments however is a philosophical difference. Nominet increasingly sees itself as an organisation that ought to better serve its "stakeholders" - namely, normal UK Internet users. Mr Holland on the other hand, believes Nominet ought to put its members' interests before stakeholders. It costs £500 to join Nominet and a whole lot more to set up the systems that enable the UK domain system to exist as it does. By pulling domain re-registration under its power, Nominet is effectively building a control economy in domain names. Mr Holland fears this is empire and monopoly building, Mr Bligh explains slightly tongue-in-cheek that Nominet prefers the term "unique market position". Mr Bligh points out that while in the States, VeriSign was lambasted for seizing control of renewed domains, this was mostly because it was guilty of blatant profiteering by charging eight times the amount it cost to run the service. Nominet, he says, will charge on a cost-recovery basis. As for the risk that with many domains now worth small fortunes, the possibilities for corruption within Nominet are enormous, he says that that is also currently the case but at least with an open WLS system it would make any dodgy deals more transparent. If you assume that a WLS is the way forward, there remain a large number of questions over how it could and should be run. Should a WLS subscription apply only to one domain name? Should it run ad infinitum, for two years, or until the domain is either released or re-registered? Should more than person be allowed to put down a request on a domain? If so, how do you decide which person gets the domain in the end? How long should a domain owner be given before the domain is passed onto the person with the WLS request? Should a WLS fee include two years' registration? The questions are many and varied and Alex Bligh says he wants to attract as many views as possible. So if you would like to express your opinion, first read the consultation report (pdf file) available for download on Mr Bligh's site. Then email any comments to pab-feedback@nominet.org.uk, marking your email WAITLIST SUBCOMMITTEE. The detagged question And for those of you interested in why on earth Nominet still has 750,000 detagged domains hanging around doing nothing, here's the reason. Nominet assumes it has a contract with the registrant of the domain, so before it releases it, it attempts to contact the owner to make sure they don't want to re-register it. Alex Bligh tells us that "large chunks of these domains have inadequate contact details", causing a massive backlog. But 750,000!? "This is something that is brought up board meeting after board meeting. The reason is history. The key thing when we first started was to make sure the registration systems worked. Then it was to work out how to bill for them. Then renewals became the most important aspect. But those that people didn't try to renew, well it was an area that hasn't been touched." It seems that the original templates for registering domains bizarrely didn't include contact details and since Nominet is under an obligation to contact owners, this created a headache that continues to build and will only fade once the backlog is cleared and the new registration templates are two years old and their renewals come in. We are assured that a big project is underway to sort out the detagged backlog that will be completed in less than six months from now. "But it's a bit like painting the Forth Bridge," explains Mr Bligh. Crucially, he says that with the dotcom boom over, Nominet's business is now really domain renewals. Therefore the main aim is to make the re-registration system much more efficient. The call for views on the introduction of a WLS is just one way in which Nominet hopes to achieve this. ® Related Links WLS consultation document (pdf) Chris Holland's domain grab service
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Feb 2003

Beijing signs MS deal with Gates, Linux deal with IBM

The Register's department of strange coincidences notes the announcement of not one but two software co-operation initiatives in Beijing this week. Today Microsoft announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding between it and the Beijing Municipal Government, while earlier this week IBM China and the Beijing Municipal Government announced the set up of the "China-IBM Linux Solution Cooperation Center." IBM worldwide seems to have chosen to be bashful about this one, but it's been released in China, and the start date for the Linux Center was February 24th, three days ahead of when Bill Gates himself was scheduled to sign on the dotted line. The Linux Center is intended "to promote the development of Chinese software system which has China independent intellectual property," which we take to mean it will be working on Chinese versions of Linux software. IBM's Linux partner Red Hat may be involved in this, but if so the company is also being shy. That announcement may have provided some useful leverage for Gates' trip. In both cases the Municipal Government's Informatization Office was involved, and the Government and Microsoft "will carry out cooperation in e-government, software outsourcing and training of software professionals." As a sweetener Microsoft is investing in a PC Innovations Lab in Beijing. Microsoft said it was investing $2.2 million in this, but The Register's sources say Microsoft's total planned spending in China has several more zeroes on the end of it. The Lab will provide quality assurance and driver compliance testing for local PC manufacturers, which will be helpful for exporting, and will also "collaborate with Chinese companies to jointly develop valuable IP and bring to market cutting edge PC technologies." Interestingly, "Microsoft will directly or indirectly provide software outsourcing orders to software companies in Beijing," and is backing this with training, which sounds like it will be helping the Chinese to position themselves to benefit from Microsoft's global outsourcing plans. ®
John Lettice, 27 Feb 2003

Downing St webmasters plot Duchess of Hacksaw's return

A usually reliable source directs us to the newly polished-up web site of Number 10 Downing Street, suggesting we might care to take a look at the interesting choice of metatags for the site. So off you go everybody, over to the site, look at the source of the page, and up near the top you have... "10 Downing Street, Prime Minister, United Kingdom, Tony Blair, UK Government, News, PMQs, Prime Minister's Questions, press briefings..." Which all seems logical and fair enough. "E-petition, E-mail updates, Winston Churchill..." Again, logical enough because although Winston may not have been prime minister for a while now, he's the most famous of the lot, isn't he? "Margaret Thatcher, Cabinet, Ministers, Whitehall..." Hang on, what was that? "Margaret Thatcher?" You've got the current prime minister, the most famous prime minister, and... her. What's she doing there? Have the last of the loyalists got jobs as Number 10 webmasters to further a plot to engineer the return of the dictatorship of the Duchess of Hacksaw? That thought's terrifying enough for you to forget to wonder what "war on terrorism" is doing there, isn't it? ®
John Lettice, 27 Feb 2003

UK e-commerce sites: Top 10 flaws

UK customer credit card details and sensitive data is at risk because of simple e-commerce flaws, according to a study published this week. Web server flaws, poor authentication mechanisms and faulty log-out facilities are the most widespread problems, with most flaws caused by relatively basic mistakes, according to security testing outfit NTA Monitor. The top ten most common e-commerce flaws discovered by NTA Monitor, listed in order of frequency, are: Lack of security behind the 'front door' exposes 'root' access Web server flaws Logout facility not working: although the web site tells users they have logged out, they are actually still logged in, so anyone using the PC directly afterwards can continue the session with full access to their account Predictable authentication tokens: this makes it possible to guess valid authentication tokens to access other accounts on the system Web server allows unencrypted access to secure areas: this allows information to be sent in the clear across the Internet - and sniffed in transit Authentication token cookie is cached on disk: anyone using the PC directly afterwards can log back into the session with full access to their account Authentication fields are not obscured during entry: so people looking over a victim's shoulder can see access details Account lockout mechanism does not work: leaving data unprotected from malicious 'brute force' attacks No protection against keystroke loggers: this allows an attacker to log confidential information entered by the user Weak password mechanisms: system allows users to choose insecure passwords, or there is no facility to change password Account enumeration possible: this enables an attacker to repeat attempts until valid user accounts are confirmed Roy Hills, technical director, NTA Monitor, said, "Our experience shows that simple faults are worryingly common - and on a level that can be exploited even by the most unsophisticated hackers. Given that security issues are the biggest inhibitor for online buyers, we were surprised to find that companies are not sealing their defences more thoroughly." NTA Monitor recommends that companies should enforce security policies to take account of the flaws it highlights. More detailed advice can be found here. NTA Monitor's research was conducted from October 2002 to January 2003 and is based on flaws commonly discovered by NTA during security assessments of authenticated web access and e-commerce systems. Further details of the Top 10 list are available here. ® Related Stories Want to know the ten most critical web app vulnerabilities? FBI names 20 most unwanted security flaws
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2003

PayPal: How many Brits were robbed today?

LetterLetter PayPal's dollar-sterling exchange rate today at £1 = 97¢ made some quick-witted individuals very happy. The real rate, as published at Xe.com's very fine currency converter, is £1 = US$1.57861. So what about ordinary Joe Punter who simply wanted to pick up a bargain or two? Today was not the day to use PayPal if you were paying in sterling, as this sad tale from Reg reader Bryan MacErlean, shows. I paid $669 for a watch today got charged £680 pounds. Contacted paypal support initially they were adamant that 'the rate is blended and calculated by the computer so must be right'. 20 minutes later at international rates I managed to get put through to someone in finance only to get fobbed off to yet another person. They still didn't admit it was their fault - they think the USD is worth more than sterling. I am unsure about my legal position on this one... Us too, Bryan. Usury is forbidden in some countries and sharp practice in most. But incompetence? So here's an easy question that surely even PayPal can answer: How many Brits were robbed today? And another easy one: why should Bryan lose £256.25, simply because a bogus currency rate was used today? (again to XE.com where we find that US $669.00 = £423.746). Now a piece of advice for PayPal: perhaps it's time to swap your computer for something that can tell the difference between sterling and the euro. ® Related Story Brits! Play the PayPal currency speculation game
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

Intel touts Wi-Fi in Marriott hotels

Semiconductor giant Intel and Marriott are expected to reveal details of a marketing alliance to promote the availability of Wi-Fi access in 400 Marriott hotels. According to the Wall Street Journal, the two companies are expected to announce the alliance on Thursday, in a move aimed at luring more business travellers to Marriott properties, which include hotels under the brands of Renaissance, Residence Inn and Courtyard. Last December Marriott announced that Wi-Fi would be available by spring in 400 of its hotels in the United States, the UK and Germany. Wi-Fi technology delivers wireless, high-speed Internet access to users without the need for them to plug into an access port. Marriott's Wi-Fi service, which the company claimed is the largest deployment of wireless high-speed Internet access in the hotel industry, will only be available in conference rooms, lobbies and public areas and not inside guest rooms. Although no pricing was available in December, the Wall Street Journal reports that guests will be charged USD2.95 for the first 15 minutes and USD0.25 per minute thereafter, with the service provided by STSN Inc. Internationally, the joint marketing muscle of Intel and Marriott should give an unprecedented boost to the technology, helping raise the profile of Wi-Fi as an amenity for guests. The marketing push is expected to include advertising and direct-mail, as well as signage in hotels to indicate the availability of hotspots. Intel has already hitched its cart to Wi-Fi in a big way, announcing last year that it will invest USD150 million in companies who are developing the technology. And on 12 March the company will unveil its long-awaited Centrino mobile technology, which will include integrated Wi-Fi networking ability and exceptionally low power consumption, a boon for laptop users. According to researchers, the explosive growth of Wi-Fi is expected to continue until at least 2006 or 2007. Gartner Dataquest predicts that shipments of wireless WLAN equipment will total 26.5 million units this year, up from 15.5 million in 2002, and by 2006, Forrester estimates that fully two thirds of corporate laptops will be Wi-Fi ready. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 27 Feb 2003

UK Net cafe chain offers cut-price Wi-Fi

A chain of UK Net cafes is offering WiFi access at 30 locations in the UK at up to a quarter of the cost of a similar service offered by BT. Internet Exchange says its wireless high-speed Internet connections will enable punters to use their own wireless-enabled laptops for online access. The hotspots operate on the 802.11b industry standard and can be used to access the Net without cables by anyone with the right kit. Charges start at £5 for 24-hours unlimited use or £20 for a month's unlimited access. By comparison, BT subscription for its "Openzone" service starts from £20 a month for 300 minutes or one hour for £6. There are 17 Internet Exchange WiFi hotspots in London plus others in Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, York, Bristol, Southampton and Cardiff. Those using the service also have freedom to roam up to 50 metres around the hotspot enabling them to move outside of the Internet Exchange locations. The WiFi kit issupplied by northern California-based Surf and Sip (SNS). SNS is funding the roll-out of the service with the Internet Exchange getting a slice of the revenue. SNS is understood to be keen to team up with other companies in the UK to roll-out its service. ® Related Story BT unveils more Wi-Fi hotspots
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2003

OpenWave phone suite challenges S60, Symbian

3GSM3GSM You're a handset manufacturer. Why pay Symbian and Nokia license fees when you can have 90 per cent of the functionality running on much cheaper hardware? That's OpenWave's proposition, and the company that gave you WAP and the world's most widely distributed (if unused) browser has a fairly spectacular demo to prove it.   PhoneTools Version 7.0 sounds evolutionary but it's pretty revolutionary for OpenWave. Normally, I'd rather have gone to the dentist than attend an OpenWave demo (I'm kidding). I'd expected a browser like its predecessors - WAP is dreadful and the browser synonymous with green and black screens that only a QCOM shareholder would ever think was state of the art.   But soft, V7 looks spectacular. It's a suite including messaging, browser and file manager, and it's a very small chunk of code - about 1.4MB in all. But the clincher is the graphics engine.   "All the assumptions we had in 1995 were wrong," OpenWave's Tim Hyland told us. As you'd expect from a team led by Benoit Schillings, ex-Be and the former QuickDrawGX guy Mike Reed, it has some unexpected tricks - alpha blended previews of pictures of overlays, and a full transformation matrix that supports shearing and scaling. The graphics engine is about 50kb. Quite something.   Benoit told us that there's no Java VM in the package - "we're VM agnostic" - so evidently the customers have their own arrangements for Java. (Benoit had left his stationary gravity accelerator back in California.   Now you wouldn't have marked OpenWave and Symbian down as competitors at the start of the week, but they're almost bumper to bumper now. Nokia's intention is to move the very rich Symbian-based Series 60 down into the mid-tier, while OpenWave's little suite - it's not really a platform, and there's the rub - gives manufacturers a reason not to.   Opting for OpenWave might seem short sighted - it was none other than Juha Christensen who this week cited a report suggesting that operators get over 50 per cent more loyalty from smartphone users than users of the cheaper models - but they do allow the manufacturers to offer cheaper phones to cash-strapped handset manufacturers, who want to save money wherever they can, and if pennies saved today means quids foregone tomorrow, then so be it. OpenWave will probably argue this is a smartphone, on the cheap.   (OpenWave denies that opting for V7 condemns users to a world of WAP, which if the carriers have their way, is a walled-garden world of WAP, which is even more stupid and revolting. OpenWave says that the browser does real http now - so it's up to enlightened carriers not to turn this off.)   A theme of the week, as we have already suggested, is that carriers want to dictate terms to the handset manufacturers. And OpenWave's proposition plays very nicely with this.   Now this was a very good week for Symbian but the biggest competitive threat to its platform - as it has always acknowledged - isn't Microsoft or Palm but "mu", which is VoOS plus Java: where VoOS is the Vendor's Own Operating System.   Uh, look out! ®
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2003
SGI logo hardware close-up

Photos expose cellphone biz's steamy underbelly

3GSM3GSM Every February the mobile phone world holds its own Comdex in Cannes, on the French Riveria, and it's almost as big as Comdex itself. Unlike Comdex, however, it's in no danger of going bust, even though many of the participants are vendors with more debts than you can reasonably count. You're talking red ink with lots of zeros, here. But they keep on coming, in fact, everyone keeps coming, and this year we took a camera along with us. Most of them enlarge to a VGA-sized image if you click. This is Cannes harbor, and after two weeks in the gloom of Northern France and England, you're struck by how beautiful is the light on the Cote'd Azur really is. Fortunately, I'd packed my thermal underwear, as it was actually freezing cold. Damart proved to be the big technology winner for me, here. And this is the quintessential GSM World Congress scene. Men in suits doing business, on their mobile phone, on what little beach space there is outside the exhibition halls. Here's Juha Christensen, speaking for the dark side. In common with many Microsoft staff stateside, Juha's business card doesn't have a cellphone number. This is worth noting as Juha is one of the most important people in the cellphone industry, by dint of his present position (being Microsoft's youngest ever and first external VP hire) and past form (as an architect of the Symbian alliance). Now when you meet Nokia staff, their cellphone number is the most prominent on the card, and a few folk I've noticed, such as the VP of software I met this week, don't have a landline number listed at all. Juha's absence of cellphone is a puzzle. So text it me, Juha! [report link below]. And this jolly fellow is Johan Sandeberg, whose business card describes him as "CEO of UIQ". UIQ is the user interface for the Sony Ericsson P800 smartphone, the Motorola Paragon phone and anyone else who wants to license it. So really, he heads the Symbian lab in Ronneby, Sweden where UIQ (formerly "Quartz") is developed. He looked particularly happy, I guess, because I won't be writing any leakware about the P800 now that the phone is finally available. He did tell me that themes would be coming in a future version of UIQ. We met on the Symbian yacht. All the evening business at Cannes is conducted on yachts which are hired out to vendors at World Congress and other shows. In winter, one boat owner told me, they're hauled into dry dock for maintenance. So you jump from yacht to yacht, over a rather precarious gangway. The busiest yacht of all was hired out to a venture capitalist, Atlas. That was so busy the party spilled out onto the quay, because of safety limits. This, I thought, was a good indicator of the respective health of the European and US wireless economies. (But when you see what kind of Einsteins US VCs employ as their wireless experts, that isn't too surprising.) Some companies had bigger ambitions... Rather mysteriously, Siemens sponsored this ancient cruise ship in the middle of the bay, painted it corporate yellow, and it dominated the horizon. For many people, cruise ships are associated with electric shock-inducing nylon carpets and singalong bingo, so this ancient hulk was a curious choice of advertising vehicle for a company that wants to reinvent itself as the most fashion conscious handset vendor. Siemens other presentation and product material was amazing - graphic design of the first order. And it launched its Xelebri series - quite the most outré range of phones yet seen - at London Fashion Week. "People will have many of these," predicted Siemens' Rudy Lamprecht . And it also launched an unusual but very stylish phone the SX1 [report] based on Nokia/Symbian Series 60, that relegates the buttons to the outer limits of the device. So few phone numbers are manually punched in now that de-emphasizing the keys is an understandable idea. But it begs one question: how do you compose text messages on this? You don't have the traditional ABC reminders to prompt you. But good luck to Siemens with its designer-led Apple strategy. It's decided that handsets are already a commodity, will leave the R&D to others (such as Nokia/Symbian and Infineon who make the guts of the phones) and differentiate itself on design. Why not? For a second tier vendor with single digit market share it has nothing to lose and already the strategy is paying off. No other handset manufacturer has got four paragraphs in this round up! And here's OpenWave's technical lead, or distinguished fellow, or head of R&D - neither of us was sure which, but you get the idea - Benoit Schillings. Better known to some of you for his astronomy pictures, and to others for his work at Be Inc, where he designed the frameworks, Benoit has starred in The Register before, talking about file systems and databases with Dominic Giampaulo. In that photo, Benoit was demonstrating his stationary gravity accelerator, so we felt we owed him a decent photo this time. You also get to see the OpenWave software, in its alpha-blended glory. Qualcomm spends much time and money dissing UMTS (the European-Japanese flavor of 3G) but as we've pointed out before and as this advert shows, they're a far more pragmatic company than many people appreciate. They know where the money is. Quite by chance, Qualcomm's director of engineering was in front of me at one of the X-Ray checks at Charles De Gaulle Airport on the return flight to San Francisco. He'd set off the metal detector, and he'd been asked to remove his shoes, which had to go through the X-Ray machine again only without a Director of Engineering attached. On a side note, the French evidently take terrorism far more seriously than in the USA. At least when it comes to baggage. I inadvertently managed to carry a small pair of scissors through the X-Ray machine at San Francisco airport in a washbag as hand luggage. But I had no less than separate three X-Rays inspections at CDG. However, you'll know that after 9/11, the airline security companies in the US successfully lobbied to keep the inspection staff unregulated, ie so they could keep an untrained staff free from meddlesome federal regulation in low paying jobs. So France not only rejects McDonalds, but McJob-style security staff. I certainly felt safer on the return leg than on the outbound leg. Interesting, no? Anyway, I joked with Mr Director of Engineering if this was just another example of the Europeans unduly causing grief for Qualcomm. "No, my shoes always set off airport metal detectors," he told me. And do you know what? When I saw the X-Ray, I could see why. The shoes did indeed have long thin metal strips running from the heel almost to the toe. What could this be? Perhaps it they were concealed weapons, as demonstrated by Bond villain Lotte Lenya in From Russia With Love? But Mr Director of Engineering didn't look the type to kick me to death. He might even be the first Qualcomm employee not to want to kick me to death. Possibly those metal strips were a cunning way of improving CDMA signal quality. But given past form, they were probably a sophisticated surveillance device, I concluded. ® 3GSM World Congress - Our Incomparable Full Coverage Nokia on Linux, Symbian and NGage Whatever didn't happen to Microsoft's Marc Brown? OpenWave phone suite challenges S60, Symbian fastmobile turns phones into walkie-talkies Microsoft explains (inaudible) phone behavior Symbian takes charge at Symbian Intel takes Manitoba phone chip to 3GSM Samsung takes 5% stake in Symbian TTPCom pitches 'sub-$200' platform for mobile gaming Siemens demos Series 60 phone, open sources Symbian
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2003

Nokia 3650 goes worldwide

Nokia today starts shipping the Nokia 3650, its new flagship Symbian/S60 camera phone, worldwide. The phone has more features than the 7650 - a memory card slot for games and video, video recording and playback, and longer battery life - 4 hours talk time and 8 days standby. And it's tri-band GSM, meaning that Europeans can, unlike the 7650, use it in the US. On the downside it's a bit "plasticky", but hey, the consumers will love it. So how much will it cost? Nokia does not release suggested prices, deferring instead to the retailer/operators. Our usual font of wisdom on this front, Carphone Warehouse, has not fixed a price yet - the 3650 merely makes an appearance in the "coming soon" section of next month's catalogue. A quick scan of the Web suggests that the 3650, presumably without a contract, a goes for US$450-$500, in east Asia. Here is Nokia's press release and here is our story from last September on the 3650 announcement. You wanna see what it looks like? Here. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

Finland's other mobile phone maker pulls through

Benefon, Finland's other mobile phone maker, has survived to fight another day. Two weeks ago, the company revealed that its ability to survive was contingent on an immediate cash injection of €20m. On Tuesday (Feb 25), the firm announced on its website that it has received "subscription commitments" for €11.6m from investors and creditors. This includes bridging finance of €0.45m, presumably to tide the company over until the rest of the money comes through, and "debt offsets" of &euro 1.1m. Which means that there's only €10m or so of new money. In return, subscribers are getting new shares or convertible bonds. But who are the providers of the new money. It looks like there is only one big subscriber, a company called NRJ International LLC (Who they? -Ed), which is stumping up a maximum of &euro 10.03m in equity by Jan 31, 2006. Half of this comes in the form of shares and half in convertible bonds. ® Related Story Finland's other mobile phone maker needs cash. Or else
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

Update on Nokia 3650 pricing

Thanks to everyone who wrote in about Nokia 3650 pricing - all six of you. The 3650 is available -sim free - now in Finland for €550, a whopping £376.11 at today's currency rate. That sounds like very early adopter price to us. UK retailers expect sim-free prices to kick off in at around £320 inc. VAT (approx €469) That's sounds more like the US $450-$500 being quoted in Asia. But as volumes ramp up, prices should come down a little in Europe. UK retailer mPhone is offering a sim free Nokia 3650 on pre-order at £279.65 inc. VAT (approx €409). But it is quoting an estimated delivery date of May. As the price quoted is very close to what we understhand Nokia's wholesale price to be, it is difficult to see the sims-free version falling much further, Unless, of course, the 3650 is an absolute turkey and punters stay away in droves. And with a contract? Argos, of all places, is touting the 3650 with a T-Mobile Pay as You Go in its catalogue for £299.95. (not £229 as we said earlier) It's available from March 15. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

fastmobile turns phones into walkie-talkies

Instant messaging between phones is hot, but text IM is already passé and the real interest at 3GSM is voice push-to-talk technology, mostly based on the IMS spec agreed this week by Nokia, Ericsson and Siemens. Push-to-talk streams an audio message from your phone to someone on your buddy list over GPRS. Don't talk too loudly about the possibility of using it as a cheap way of making international voice calls, though - if you do, the software guys get edgy and start looking around to see if anyone from the networks is listening. For a start, it is not a real-time service, says Kang Lee, founder, president and CEO of fastmobile, one of several companies working on push-to-talk software. "There's the transport delay from GPRS, and our servers add another 1.5 seconds delay," he says. "It's usable as a walkie-talkie but it's not a threat to voice revenues." His company's fastchat software is for Symbian-based Nokia 7650 and 3650 handsets, with Ericsson P800-compatibility on the way. Rival developer Sonim has similar software for Microsoft-based smartphones. Kang argues that fastchat is not a threat to MMS either, even though it also allows photos to be sent easily, whether it be to an MMS handset or to users on other IM systems such as MSN Messenger. The technology is server-based, not peer-to-peer, and fastmobile is looking for iMode-style revenue sharing agreements with networks or service providers. The challenge will be to prevent the carriers from hedging it round with so many restrictions that it becomes impossible to sell. ®
Bryan Betts, 27 Feb 2003

Psst: wanna buy a mobile phone testing co.?

Our attention is drawn to an ad touting touting Concept Telecom for sale in today's FT deadzone. Based in Nottingham, Concept is in adminstrative receivership and turns over £5m a year, of which £3.5m comes from the provision of mobile comms software engineers and £1.5m comes from a mobile phone testing division. Customers "include blue chip mobile phone companies" and are based in the UK and other European countries. According to the receivers, Patrick Ellward and Dilip Dattani, Concept has also developed software for wireless testing technologies (inc. 3G). But sales appear to be pedalling backwards, judging from Concept Telecom's entry in "The Times Tech Track 100, published in September 22, 2002 Entry on such lists is an invitation to a slow painful death). 64. RUSSELL MEAKIN and Anthony Gardiner founded Concept Telecom in 1996 to test SIM cards for Nokia, the mobile-phone giant. The Nottingham company then began designing and manufacturing its own devices for testing mobile phones, including those being developed for third-generation (3G) networks. This has helped increase sales by 80% a year from £2.4m in 1999 to £7.9m in 2001. Still interested? Call Tenon Recovery on 0115 918 4446.
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

MS revs Orange SPV software

Orange slipped out an update to the Microsoft software used on the SPV smartphone yesterday. Two new apps are included: Picture manager, for viewing and storing pics in one place; and Sound manager, for creating your own sounds (what's wrong with your voice?). The rev also delivers better battery life, but Orange is not saying how much. You can find out more, but not much more, on Orange's web site. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

SonyEricsson P800 survives the hype, and some

First ImpressionsFirst Impressions For almost a year the hype has been gathering around the SonyEricsson P800, which is easily the most talked-about phone on Slashdot. It must be the most hyped handheld device since the Apple Newton. I've had two weeks with one and generally, I'm as pleased as punch with it. As early reviews indicate, it's a great phone and a thoroughly respectable PDA, all in one, at a price that undercuts todays PDAs. One dealer in the UK, where it began to go on sale for as little as $300 towards the end of last week, described it to me as the best ready for market phone he'd seen, and he's probably right. But for the real news, and why I called it 'revolutionary', you can thank Opera. This is the first handheld that does the full web - Opera's native Symbian browser is quite amazing. I think this is the beginning of the end for two quite horrible, but related ideas: repurposing content through WAP gateways or "clipping" (the Palm VII/Danger Hiptop model); and closed-garden carrier services. People want the full web, and want to go where they please - not where some phone company wants them to go. This they can now do, at a very affordable price. For three days at CodeCon I passed it around anyone who wanted to have a look. The reaction was generally positive, until people discovered Opera. Then, usually after some "fsck%7ng h311!" expletives, the reaction was ecstatic. "Now that's convergence," said one CodeCon speaker. The Opera browser handled everything I could throw at it in normal mode, where you pan around the page with the screen as a viewport. But the killer is "small screen rendering", as illustrated here (where you can even see how it handles El Reg), which shrinks the JPEGS to fit the screen. So what else is there to like? Highlights First of all, it's very fast indeed. I'd expected it to lag, given the demanding specification, but it feels snappy even under heavy load:- an ssh session, Opera and taking pictures. I didn't try playing Doom at the same time, because I only got as far as loading the engine, not the WADs. But multi-tasking only goes so far: the P800 suspends a data session when you get a voice call, so you can't talk and surf. Battery consumption is good enough. Which sounds like a back-handed compliment but really isn't. It's good enough to leave Bluetooth on all the time, which I didn't dare expect. The P800 comfortably gets through the day, and the only time I felt obliged to turn it off was on the TGV train from Marseilles to Paris last week. At 200 mph, it was noticeably draining the battery as the phone tried to keep track of which cell it should be in. That shouldn't trouble Americans, however, as trains simply don't go that fast here, given the country's preference for Stealth bombers. (Marseille to Paris is an incredible journey, by the way - not for the view but for the giddy sensation of tunnelling your way through the earth at such speed). Contact management is excellent - for me it's the best on the market out of the box. You can do more with a third-party add on, such as Iambic on Palm OS, or a specialist package like Act!, but you have to pay for it. I found the camera on the Nokia 7650 (and the forthcoming, US-ready 3650) to be much better all round, especially in low-light conditions, but simply having a camera there is an added bonus for me, in such a gizmo. If I want to do photography, I take my Canon. The camera in a cameraphone is for serendipitous discoveries, visual notes-to-self, or snaps to friends or loved ones: lo-fi, spontaneous stuff. Composing MMS messages is a treat - but one for the future, as networks haven't worked out interoperability issues yet. And one-handed use is terrific. The phone has a five-way jog dial, and pressing it away from you takes you through the default icons of phone, messaging, calendar, contacts, and the applications list. Still, this is The Register so you must get the grumbles, too. Room for improvement I rated Psion's old calendar software very highly, but Anniversaries seem to have got lost in the transition to UIQ, which is a shame. How can I remember anyone's birthday? [Update: In fact Anniversaries are there, but not as a unique class of entry. The clue is in the "Set Repeat" field which allows you a number of options, including "Yearly by date" or "Yearly by day".] There's no video recorder with the phone. (Nokia will bundle Hantro's recorder with the 3650). I still can't decide whether to leave the detachable keypad flip on or off. With the cover off, it's much slimmer, and only a little harder to use as a phone. But using the virtual keypad means three clicks to secure the device against accidental calls, if you slip it into a pocket. One prominent key on the case, or a better software interface would be enough to secure it. And UIQ, while excellent, can still learn a few tricks from the Palm folk. Although Palm has decided to adopt the handwriting system used by default by the P800, Jot, Grafitti is indeed less prone to errors. Also, applications don't save their state: it's frustrating when returning to a Jot, for example, to see the list of Jots, not the Jot you were working on. If you switch away from writing a text message, it saves it in the Drafts folder. Grrr. SonyEricsson tells me that this behaviour is likely to remain, unless you all ask nicely that it changes; nor are there plans to implement PalmOS-like short cuts. The Handspring Treo also has one external button to silence the device. With the P800 it's more fiddly, at least in tablet mode with the flip removed. [Note to self: RTFM. If you hold down the 'C' button, it goes into Silent Mode] The P800 does for some reason, however, have an "Internet" button, put there I suspect at the request of carriers rather than users. Mac relief My fellow Macintosh users should be particularly pleased with the P800, as it feels exactly like the kind of phone you could expect Apple to make itself. And unlike Microsoft, which regards these devices as a mortal threat (literally), Apple appears to welcome them. And that means good support for Bluetooth. So although there's no Mac-native suite on the CD, Apple's relationship with SonyEricsson which has produced such excellent support for the T68i phone in iSync and iCal ought to be mirrored on the P800. I see ought to, because right now it doesn't sync contacts. I've no doubt it will. Now, barmy old Walt Mossberg seemed to have trouble getting it to talk to Bluetooth on his Mac, while I had no trouble at all. And this goes for the many Macs in evidence at CodeCon. What does that tell you about Walt? [Behave - ed.] In all, it's a pretty compelling device. SonyEricsson will be relieved that the vast expectations won't lead to a Newton-style disappointment. It should sell by the bucketload. End this WAP madness Now onto the infrastructure significance of this. There may be some reasons for carriers continuing WAP gateways, but one of the biggest has just disappeared. Perhaps they can continue as the mobile phone world's CeeFax - a reliable public information service. OpenWave, for one, certainly believes that it can produce a good experience on cheaper devices. That puts the pressure on the smartphone manufacturers who offer a much more capable device to keep the cost down. I don't expect we'll see such a quantum leap as the P800 again anytime soon, and I'm sure that cheaper, less capable phones will take the majority of the market for the near future. But the P800 means carriers must justify supporting full-Web devices like this, alongside WAPized bretheren. And there's simply no justification for supporting expensive "WAP" gateways any more, now that punters can get the full web. Phone networks still believe they can extract more money out of users (ARPUs, or Average Revenue Per User, it's called) by luring them to their own portals. But they don't have to. Flat rate pricing and the Net we've already got will do just fine now, thank you. The killer sites that will drive up ARPUs are not these portals, but Hot Or Not?, alt.religion.kibology, and... well, you've no doubt got your own favorites. Carriers should do what they're good at: and compete honestly (well, it's a hope?) on service, quality and pricing. Ask CompuServe. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2003

A P800 for £49

On Monday we told you that UK dealers had set aggressive pricing for the SonyEricsson P800. OK, scrap that. Mobile Shop will do you a P800 on the Orange network for £49, although really it's £49 per month, with bundled minutes. The details are here. This is a common model in the US, although still quite novel in the UK. On this side of the pond, a reliable phone store here in San Francisco told me that shipments would arrive in town next week, but to expect to pay $600. The pricing with a contract may be lower, but remains murky. Price is pretty important to where the P800 will be pitched in the marketplace. The going rate for a Treo now is $399, and for a Nokia 9290 with contract is $449. ® Related Stories SonyEricsson P800 survives the hype, and some Aggressive pricing set for SonyEricsson P800 Photos expose cellphone biz's steamy underbelly
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2003

World+Dog goes Centrino Crazy

IDFIDF Today is Client Day at the IDF, so where better to begin than the keynote delivered by Anand Chandrasekher, Intel's top mobile guy. In today's briefing mobile equals Centrino, Intel's wireless-enabled, low power flagship CPU. Out on March 12, Intel is claiming huge industry support for Centrino - with four times more OEM wins on Day One than the Mobile Pentium 4 achieved for its launch day. Chandrasekher's Big Pitch for Centrino is not the integrated wireless, but the longer battery life. This is achieved without any loss of performance, he says. According to Chandrasekher, Centrino typically delivers 316 minutes of battery life, compared with 215 minutes on the Pentium III-M, hitherto the world's lowest voltage mobile PC chip, and 163 minutes on the Mobile P4. Of course, this beggars the question of what, exactly, is typical. Anand also displayed a 300mm wafer containing Dothan CPUs, the 90nm iteration of Centrino. This chip, scheduled for release in the second half of 2003. delivers more performance along with a 30 per cent reduction in cost, Intel says. The Dothan design is 100 per cent compatible with Centrino, so will fit into all existing Centrino designs. This will ensure a rapid volume ramp-up for the chip, Chandrasekher says. Presumably, the new Dothans will feature in the Newport, the mobile PC concept design for 2004. A few more details were released - Newport mobiles will have six hours battery life and in tablet PC mode, 2.5 hours. Newports will work with 11a, 11b, GPRS and Bluetooth. Battery life, or lack of, is the bane of mobile warriors everywhere, as Chandrasekher acknowledges. So what is Intel doing about this? Well, the company is working on reducing power consumption beyond the CPU - and with mobiles, backlit LCD screens are an enormous drain. Chandrasekher showed off a prototype notebook-sized low temperature polysilicon display (LTPS), which should translate into live product in 2004. This monitor operates at 3 volts. Intel is also helping to fund a start-up called PolyFuel to produce direct methanol fuel cells. Chandrasekher showed off the world's first prototype. This delivers 150 watts hour battery capacity, three times greater than the best mobile PC batteries a day; so a Dothan- PolyFuel combo should deliver 15 hours capacity, almost meeting Intel's goal of all-day battery life. The fuel cell should reach the market in two-to-three years, handrasekher says. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

Whatever didn't happen to Microsoft's Marc Brown?

The Microsoft/Sendo battle is the thing that is definitely on everybody's lips, here at Cannes 3GSM. And one question has many people here puzzled: "Whatever happened to Marc Brown?" - or more accurately, what didn't happen to him?. Marc Brown, for those who didn't read the trial transcripts, was a Microsoft employee, who was Microsoft's official nominee to the Board of phone maker Sendo. He was given the job because Microsoft bought 5% or so of Sendo's shares, as part of their "strategic partnership" which ended in tears last October/November, and in fisticuffs soon after. That was when Sendo cancelled the contract, and then sued Microsoft for a long list of horrible things, including fraud. But from the date when the "alliance" was announced, Brown was on the board of Sendo. Nobody disputes that much. And he was also still employed by Microsoft; that, too, isn't in dispute. My question to Microsoft is this: Does Marc Brown, director of Microsoft's corporate development and strategy group, still have a job at Microsoft? For some reason, this question has an answer which is top secret. After gossip here at Cannes, I think I understand why: and the clue, people are saying, comes in Microsoft's counter-suit against Sendo. Here's the problem. Sendo pulled out of the deal to produce the Z100 smartphone, on the grounds that Microsoft was trying to bankrupt the phone company, and steal its secrets - and that it had, in fact, already pre-empted this coup by giving these secrets to Taiwanese hardware builder, HTC. The trick, according to Sendo's court statement, was in the contract. The deal between Microsoft and Sendo said that Microsoft would give Sendo money to build the phone, and provide software to make it work. Sendo would build the phone, and deliver it by end October 2002. If this didn't happen, then Sendo would be in breach of contract. And (the sting) - if Sendo at any stage went bust, all its assets would become the property of Microsoft. Microsoft, says Sendo, deliberately attempted to bankrupt the smaller company; because it didn't deliver the software necessary to make the phone work, and wouldn't provide the money until the phone worked - thus effectively starving Sendo of working capital, and forcing it into bankruptcy. That much is all in the official claim. And the counter claim, by Microsoft, is that Sendo was in financial trouble, and hid this from Microsoft which, when it found out, naturally tried to have Sendo wound up to protect its interests. What people here in Cannes can't understand, is how this was concealed from Microsoft. As far as anybody can find out, Marc Brown - a Microsoft employee - attended every Sendo Board meeting, at which the ongoing financial situation with Microsoft was widely discussed. There are minutes of every Board meeting. They are on file. Marc Brown, therefore, knew everything there was to know, surely? So if Microsoft didn't know what Marc Brown knew, we have some interesting options. Either, Brown carelessly forgot to mention the impending financial disaster which threatened Sendo, which many employers would regard as culpable misbehaviour. Or, alternatively, Brown deliberately concealed these figures from Microsoft and was a party to the fraud. Or, perhaps, he slept through all the Board meetings. Whichever way, the question comes back to the one we started with. If Brown failed to notice, or failed to report, the significance of these figures, it would sound to most of us like a severe dereliction of duty - with the phrase "culpable and severe misconduct" often mentioned in conversations here in Cannes. Indeed, most HR staff would find such behaviour hard to forgive. So is Microsoft employing him? Still? And if so, wouldn't this ever so slightly suggest that Microsoft doesn't honestly think there was any fraud at all, but that it is simply a way of drawing out the lawsuit? Or are we discovering a hitherto unsuspected soft, forgiving, and warm cuddly-bunny side to Microsoft? © NewsWireless.Net Related stories MS goes on attack in Sendo case Microsoft's masterplan to screw phone partner - full details Sendo sues Microsoft over 'secret plan' Sendo junks MS smartphone, joins Nokia camp
Guy Kewney, 27 Feb 2003

Microsoft vs. Nokia

A recent article in The Economist about the battle between Microsoft and Nokia for operating system supremacy on wireless instruments (Smartphones) concluded that Nokia with its Symbian OS based Series 60 SDK was already the victor over Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 SDK, writes Rick Rowell. The victory declaration was based on the number of licensees that each had signed and the number of models that would be shipped with either SDK in EMEA and forecasted in the US and APAC. The reason given for the Nokia victory was the 'fear of Microsoft' extending their hegemony to the mobile device market. Not even close, I'm afraid. Based on its stock market value, Microsoft is the most valuable corporation in the world. By comparison, Palm looks small and anaemic having seen both its growth days and stock price wither on the vine. Yet, Microsoft has not been able to eliminate Palm. In fact, Palm increased the number of licensees for its OS last year (2002) while Microsoft essentially lost a major one (in the HP/Compaq merger). Palm OS is currently shipping in more Smartphones as well. Why? Palm OS was built from the ground up for devices with limited computing power, memory and screen size. Microsoft 'shrank' its Windows OS to 'fit' the PDA market. Apparently the diet was ineffective. Pocket PC is still a bloated OS for a portable device by any measurement. Can anyone introduce me to a PDA user who regularly edits Excel and Word files on their PDA? The same can be said of the Smartphone market. Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 is an oversized OS requiring high computing power, sufficient memory and high resolution screens that all conspire to drastically shorten battery life. Series 60 offers the same functions as 2002 while requiring moderate improvements from a base phone with a slight reduction in battery life. We all know that battery life is the key to portability and utility in a mobile device of any kind. Series 60 was developed from the ground up for a small platform (from the original Psion OS). However not all of the Symbian partnership are using the same Symbian OS SDK. Series 60 is Nokia's own internally modified version. Most of the other licensees, until recently, were modifying or using other versions of Symbian OS SDK. Until the current acceptance of Series 60 as the standard, none of the applications written for one manufacturer's Symbian OS device would operate on another manufacturer's device. Surprising isn't it. So why did Series 60 become the standard? Look at worldwide cellular handset shipments and you know the answer. Nokia is the king. Smartphone 2002 is another tribute to Microsoft's belief that users want to edit Word files on whatever device is in their hands. So they started with the Windows OS and began cutting. But there is a limit to the amount of weight you can lose and still maintain 'necessary' Windows compatibility. Look at the Orange SPV versus the Nokia 7650 or SonyEricsson P800. The functionality is impressive in the SPV, but the memory and processor overhead are significant for a cellular device. The Symbian OS devices were both able to incorporate the cameras into the body of their handsets; the SPV camera is an external add-on. The SPV requires plug-in memory cards to support some of its features. The P800 accepts memory sticks, but has 12MB of internal memory still available for file storage after the OS and features are loaded. The SPV has 100 hours stand-by time; 7650 and P800 each have 400 hours stand-by time. Then there is the cost per device for Smartphone 2002 SDK. The royalty was reported to be about $5 per shipping device. If the Symbian partners were to ship a total of 400 million units per annum and just 10% of them were Smartphones, then $200 million in royalties would go to Microsoft. Clearly, it is cheaper to support the Symbian development only. The Symbian partners can also recapture costs from licensing the OS to those manufacturers who are not Symbian partners, and selling the SDK to independent developers. The figures don't make a decent proposition for Smartphone and Microsoft is thus a loser. It appears that the first portable OS competition Microsoft will win is for Tablet PC's - but there it has no competition, and we have yet to see if there is a sizeable market. ©' IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 27 Feb 2003

Neither Nokia nor MS – Motorola makes Linux play

Motorola, which is widely-suspected of membership of the Symbian consortium, this week plumped for a Linux-Java combo for its new handset, and said there would be a lot more where that came from. The A760, which has colour screen, camera, video and MP3 player, Bluetooth and PDA functionality, will ship in Asia later this year, then be rolled out to Europe and the US. The timing of the rollout will however be key, because although the A760 looks attractive right now, Nokia and Sony-Ericsson already have tough competitors shipping, and undoubtedly tougher ones still in the works. Motorola's long-term identity crisis (in phones and much else) has been a source of some wry amusement round these parts, but this time the company might just be making a good call. It has always been the sulky and disaffected one in Symbian, with good reason; Symbian is working handsomely for Nokia, Nokia's Series 60 has been doing handsomely for Nokia, poor, wounded Motorola surely could not bear the humiliation of tagging along behind Nokia with the rest of them. There is a strange absence of compelling Motorola Symbian devices that actually shipped, and one wonders (as we're sure Motorola often does) what the blazes Motorola is doing in Symbian anyway. And although there are still noises of Motorola Symbian devices in development, given the track record it's reasonable to wonder if we'll ever actually see them. And do we hear sighs of relief from Symbian Central? After all, the Linux move now makes it pretty unlikely that this year's ambush at 3GSM next week will be Motorola-Microsoft. With the A760 Motorola is using Montavista's Linux for mobile phones, rather than something home-grown, so it will be able to fast-track development of other Linux handsets, and these will have plenty of application support via Java. There's obviously a danger that a Linux-based Motorola line won't have much unique to it, if everybody else piles in, but the plan is surely to seize a lead then keep it. And perhaps also to do a Microsoft and try to licence a Linux-Java platform reference design. so, at the eleventh hour, Motorola seems to be making a 'third force' play. It's not with Microsoft, not with Nokia, and if it's cute and quick, it has a shot at re-establishing itself as a leader. A long shot, maybe, but what's the alternative? ®
John Lettice, 27 Feb 2003

WLAN hotspots cost more in Europe

Although it contains only 12 percent of the world's hotspots, Europe has been identified as the most expensive region to access a public wireless LAN. According to recently published numbers, of the 37 percent of public Wi-Fi providers that sell monthly subscriptions, European providers charge the most. The average price of a subscription in Europe is USD62 per month, compared to USD39 in the US and USD16 in Asia. These figures, contained in a new report from UK-based BroadGroup, compare with the global average of USD41 per month. Another type of pricing scheme, 24-hour pricing, which allows WLAN access for one day, showed wild variances in costs to consumers as well, ranging from USD3.40 in Sweden to over USD33 in Switzerland. The average price of one 24-hour session in Europe came in at USD14.39. Nevertheless, so-called 24-hour access has proven to be popular, with 40 percent of global hotspot companies offering this kind of service. The BroadGroup report said that this service has proven to be especially popular in Europe, where the most developed public hotspot regions are in the Nordics, Germany and Austria. Public WLANs have range of about 100 metres and are typically based on 802.11b, which allows users to connect to the Internet at speeds of up to 11Mbps -- substantially faster than GPRS or dial-up services. In Ireland, hundreds of these so-called hotspots have already sprung up in offices across the country, but they are only now beginning to be deployed for public use, mainly in hotels. Further analysis in BroadGroup's report made it clear that pricing and billing varies dramatically from region to region and from provider to provider as the burgeoning sector continues to expand and evolve. Philip Low, managing consultant at BroadGroup said that three dominant models have emerged among service providers that he characterises as "mobile," "location" or "Internet subscription." The "mobile" model tends to allow for hour-by-hour or even minute-by-minute pricing and treats billing and service provision in manner similar to that of mobile telecoms. "Location" billing tends to bill based on day-by-day access in a single location while the "subscription" model charges uses a flat fee and assumes they will access the Net from multiple locations throughout the year. Which of these models will prove most successful was not yet clear, Low said, although the mobile model is the weakest contender. "You can't treat [billing for] this kind of service in same way you do for mobile [phone] billing. It's a completely different kind of service." Low also noted differences in how providers in Europe and North America were attacking the market, with American firms far more willing to enter into aggregation models whereby revenue sharing agreements with location owners are entered into. "European and Asia service providers seem to want to control all aspects of the value chain." Low also told ElectricNews.Net that public Wi-Fi access will, in the medium term, remain a business-user driven sector, although the consumer market will grow in importance over time. "But some figures show that between 4 and 8 percent of travellers in Europe are business travellers, which is a sizeable market," he noted. Roaming or other means to create ubiquitous WLAN networks and billing systems are among the top demands from users, Low said. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 27 Feb 2003

Symbian confirms BenQ gig

Symbian today confirmed that BenQ, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, is to make Symbian OS smartphones for 2.5G and 3G networks. A little thunder in the announcement was stolen when the deal leaked out last month from notoriously leaky Taiwan. BenQ's first Symbian OS product, a "data-enabled smartphone", will incorporate the UIQ user interface, developed by Symbian's wholly-owned sub, UIQ Technology. So our inference that the company would plump for Nokia Series 60 was, err, wrong. BenQ's first Symbian OS phone should make its debut in public in Q3, 2003. ® Related Story BenQ preps Symbian phone
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

P800 smartphone to be first to run mobile Opera

Sony Ericsson's P800 smartphone is to be the first handset to run Opera's Symbian OS mobile browser. The browser will be available for free download for the P800 here, from Monday. Mobile Opera uses Small Screen Rendering technology, which reformats the page contents into a "one dimensional" form. This is explained in a little more detail here, but from the user's point of view it gives you the page contents in a long scrolling column, and on a decent-sized colour screen like those on the P800 or the Nokia 7650 it looks quite reasonable. El Reg remains mildly sceptical, because although we've seen the demo we haven't seen it in live action yet; it looks promising, we'd like it to work, but we'll believe it when we see it. And, come to think of it, Opera should surely now be in a position to comp us that 7650 implementation we've been nagging them for. We do not anticipate many being killed in the download rush following Monday's grand unveiling. Eval units of the P800 are starting to trickle out, and it'll be on general release soon, but the current user base consists largely of techies, journalists and special friends of Sony-Ericsson. Ace Register reporter Andrew Orlowski is one of these, but we fear he may not be for long, if he continues using it in public places without figuring out a) How to set an acceptable ringtone and b) How to turn the darn thing down. More on the P800 and Opera RSN, provided he does. ®
John Lettice, 27 Feb 2003

Finland's other mobile phone maker needs more cash. Or else

Benefon, Finland's other mobile phone maker, is negotiating for an immediate cash injection of €20m. Its survival depends upon a "succesful financing solution". If it gets the money, it intends to "re-direct the Company more into the provision of services and service solutions". Benefon's announcement, published on its web site yesterday (Feb 11), has prompted the Helsinki Stock Exchange to place the company on its surveillance list. Benefon makes specialist handsets for companies and service organisations. It describes itself as the "world's leading provider of GSM and GPS based mobile telematics instruments". Here is a product sheet. But where are the customers? In its report for FY 2002, Benefon says: The sales of GSM products Benefon Twin, Benefon Twin Dual SIM and Benefon Q as well as of the NMT 450 phone Benefon Exion were very low in the final quarter causing a significant drop of the total sales in the final quarter. Even though the down-ward trend of the NMT 450-market got stronger, the NMT 450 production is planned to be continued as long as there is reasonable demand.. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

130 UK Nokia jobs under threat

Some 130 jobs are under threat at Nokia's UK head office in Camberley following the mobile phone company's decision to axe 550 jobs in its Nokia Networks infrastructure division. The UK job losses have not been confirmed since they are currently under review as part of a consultation process with employees. In a statement today Nokia said it was cutting 550 jobs in the US, UK, Sweden and Finland but hoped that some of the jobs could be re-allocated elsewhere within the company. The company announced the cuts in a bid to "improve its efficiency" by reducing the number of R&D sites and centralising work into larger groups within the organisation. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2003

New wireless 11g ‘standard’ ends in tears

It is nearly a year since NewsWireless Net warned of the disasters looming if American wireless manufacturers went ahead with 802.11g - the go-faster WiFi standard. Now, we hear of incompatibility problems between rival 11g products - discovered in "secret" testing sessions. Are we really supposed to be surprised? You can, today, buy an 802.11g (pre-standard) device. This story was written on a PC connected over a Linksys WRT54G "Wireless-G" broadband router. It really is running at 54 megabits a second, giving a pretty good working approximation of 20 megabits per second throughput. And, the good news: it will work fine with my old WiFi cards on the 11b standard too, even though it slows down to 11 megabits (5 megabits throughput) to do so. So why is this bad news? The answer is that since it works, in a one-off situation like this, people will, quite naturally, buy it. And then, the fun will begin; because there's no guarantee of compatibility with other 11 "pre-g" standards. It was Nick Hunn, managing director of TDK Grey Cell, who first pointed out that there were serious problems with the idea of rolling out a 50 megabit version of the normal WiFi LAN technology, back in May last year. Now, the WiFi Alliance has been forced to act as rival 50 megabit wireless systems have been launched on the market - without even the benefit of a finally agreed IEEE standard to conform to, and with no compatibility testing between the rivals, either. As predicted, the result is a monumental cockup. A scale of the disaster is the giveaway quote by Broadcom's Jeff Abramowitz, senior director of wireless LAN marketing: "Manufacturers understand what interoperability means to them, and they are moving in that direction." This statement says, as honestly as you could ask for from a man speaking under NDA, that we aren't there yet. Abramowitz can't say "they don't interwork" even though he may know for sure which ones cause the problems. He's not allowed to, because the tests where this bad news was established are secret. WiFi specialist site, Unstrung, reports: "Fueling industry anxiety is the fact that the results of the first interoperability trials, sponsored by the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab, won't be made public." Not only will they not be made public, but the people who attended them have actually been obliged to sign a non-disclosure agreement saying that they may not discuss them. There would be no need to make the results secret if they all showed interworking. Today, Nick Hunn responded angrily: "In my belief, 'standard' means something that everyone adheres to for the common good. Within the IEEE, former home of engineering, but now merely court jester to vested interest, standard seems to mean 'I'm already shipping it - look how big my wallet is,' or something very similar." Hunn believes that the 11g concept is redundant, and should never have been developed. "I've already said that .11g is a bastard concept - it should have been put down eighteen months ago, but the chip vendors can't take the medicine of having to throw away their competing development," he commented. "As regards interoperability, at least the standard has taken a leaf out of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and comes with the comforting phrase "These are working drafts. Do not build product" on the front cover." Our own tests here at NewsWireless Net have been hampered by samples which worked poorly. One vendor shipped faulty 54g equipment for review, and we found that not only was the signal indecipherable by an 802.11b adapter, but it was also jumbled when the mobile units moved more than 20 feet away. A replacement unit shipped two weeks later works correctly. However, from reports leaking out of the New Hampshire University tests, it's clear that there have indeed been 54g and rival chip sets which did not work correctly with 11b "legacy" network equipment. It isn't a trivial matter. To some, it will seem trivial, of course. They have PC notebooks with plug-in PC card adapters. Throw away the old 11b adapter, plug in the new 54g or alternative, and you're back online, four times faster - where's the downside, apart from the upgrade price? But to many, there is a different problem; they have notebooks or pocket PCs or other devices which have the WiFi wireless built in. Many PC makers have already started shipping dual standard PCs, with 11b and 11a, not 11g, built in. They will perhaps be able to plug a new adapter card in, but the support costs for a corporate user of wireless are going to be substantial. The other problem is that while 11b and 11g are supposed to be compatible, that comes at a cost. The cost is speed. As long as there is an old legacy 11b unit broadcasting packets, the 11g devices will have to switch mode to 11b, and run at a maximum of 11 megabits. Some fear that manufacturers will deal with this the cruel way; they will simply make 11g units that go diplomatically deaf when an 11b card walks into the room, and ignore it. Hints from the test laboratory suggest this has already happened. Back in May last year, we quoted Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds saying: "Think of the wireless spectrum as a three-lane highway in which all drivers are required to change lanes every 10 seconds — not so bad when the roads are empty, but a probable disaster when traffic mounts. The ruling makes life easier for designers of devices supporting multiple protocols." The biggest loser, here, is almost certainly the WiFi Alliance, which was the watchdog that ran away in the night when it saw the burglar. The Alliance made its reputation by insisting that only compatible equipment could carry the WiFi logo. It organised tests where compatbility was assured, and issued accreditation, and the result was a wireless industry where wireless adapters became commodities, and you could pick the cheapest. This didn't suit the manufacturers. They like the idea of "winning big" - of being the guy who sets the standard. They want to be first out the door, forcing everybody else to follow in their footsteps, and maybe, even, pay a licence fee for doing so. They hate commoditisation; so why they praise the standard in public, they try their hardest to undermine it and create their own statute in the background. If this standard is rescued, it will take time; and by the time it is sorted out, many dismayed buyers will find themselves with obsolete gear. The WiFi Alliance turned out to be helpless to intervene, and its credibility will be hard to re-establish. © Newswireless.net
Guy Kewney, 27 Feb 2003

Juniper goes for wireless LAN sweet spot

Juniper Networks, chief competitor to Cisco in the high-end routing market, this week announced technology to make it easier for telcos to set up wireless-LAN services. The company has released extensions to its E-series broadband remote access routers, commonly used by service providers in DSL and cable networks, and SDX-300 network operations software, to make the technology more suitable for wireless LAN rollouts. According Alan Taylor, UK technical director of Juniper Networks, the firm's technology provides more customisation features and is more scalable than current wireless-LAN gateways. The Juniper pitch is simple enough: service providers can more easily scale hotspot networks and add new services by consolidating the user authentication and service creation functions from many hotspots around its platform. E-series technology lets hot spot providers offer additional differentiated services such as guaranteed bandwidth, virtual private networks, Quality of Service (QoS), added security, and controlled access to premium content, the company says. The SDX-300 provides Web-based login via customisable service portals and provides for dynamic self-selection of additional wireless LAN services. Together, the products are designed to make it cheaper and easier for mobile and fixed line operators to offer additional wireless LAN services to their existing customers. When in roam Juniper says its system is complementary to technology in development which allows mobile users to roam between wireless LAN and mobile phone networks. On which note: HP on Monday signed a deal to combine its telecoms middleware with authentication software from Transat. The goal is to build a combined mobile phone and WLAN services billing package. ® Related Stories When in Roam: Crossing mobile, WLAN and IP networks Intel's Centrino 'a serious threat to WLAN chip makers' Mobile infrastructure spending to rebound
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2003

Intel takes Manitoba phone chip to 3GSM

Intel, like Microsoft, isn't a player in the phone business; and like Microsoft, it is starting to realise that the phone business is at least as big as the PC business; so it has designed an integrated processor and DSP chip for the market. It will be shown at the 3GSM Congress in Cannes in two weeks' time. At an informal meeting in London last night, Intel executives said that the new chip would incorporate the ARM processor variant - the XScale - plus a high performance digital signal processor, together with a substantial chunk of flash memory, all on a tightly integrated "sandwich" construction. The motivation for this isn't just the perception of a new market for Intel silicon; it's also an attempt to avoid any more embarrassments of the sort that have surrounded Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone launches, which couldn't have Bluetooth integrated into the designs. Key to the design is a 16 by 16 way interconnect, one of the most parallel connections known in the embedded processor business, and designed to ensure that there is always a pin - or set of pins - ready to carry signals from one half of the Manitoba chip to the other. According to EE Times the DSP side of the chip was designed by Analog Devices, using a part ADI calls the "Othello" direct-conversion radio unit, plus a DSP circuit Intel and Analog Devices developed together. The lack of multiple links between RF/DSP and computer halves of the Microsoft designs has meant that it isn't possible to use a standard Bluetooth headset with these phones. The processing delay in shifting the data from the phone side to the computer side was sufficient to take the designs beyond what was permissible in a GSM phone, if it was going to be approved for use on GSM networks. Intel will reveal more details of Manitoba on February 13th, next week; and will have a massive presence at 3GSM in Cannes the following week, as it prepares to make an impact on wireless. © Newswireless.net Two recent articles at Newswireless.net Wireless to be changed by photonics Nokia set to clash with Microsoft in new "wireless middleware" code market
Guy Kewney, 27 Feb 2003

Ericsson ‘stabilises’ despite another loss

Ericsson, the ailing telecoms equipment maker, has posted yet another loss. However boss Kurt Hellström remains optimistic and asserts that the business is beginning to "stabilise". "Our overriding objective is to return to profit at some point in 2003 and improve cash flow," he said. "Our cost cutting is proceeding as planned with a significant reduction of operating expenses already evident. We will intensify our efforts to lower cost of sales to meet our gross margin target." Snag is, the company reckons that the mobile systems market has declined by around 20 per cent in the last year and believes it could reduce by a further 10 per cent over the next 12 months. Sales for Q4 2002 slid 37 per cent to SEK36.7bn ($4.25bn) from SEK58.5bn in the last three months of 2001. Sales for the whole of 2002 were down 31 per cent at SEK145.8bn ($16.9bn), down from SEK210.8bn in 2001. Ericsson made a pre-tax loss in Q4 2002 of SEK2.2bn ($250m) a marked improvement on the SEK 5.1bn posted a year earlier. For the full year pre-tax loss fell from SEK21.1bn to SEK14.5bn ($1.7bn). Ericsson confirmed that during the last three months of the year 7,100 jobs were lost, bringing its year-end headcount down to 64,600. It expects staff numbers to be below 60,000 by the end of 2003. Looking ahead, Ericsson reckons that the "worst of the market decline is behind us" but that the "market remains unpredictable". ® Related Story Ericsson sinks deeper in the mire
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2003

MS goes on attack in Sendo case

Microsoft's legal attack dogs are snarling at last in the legal battle with Sendo, the niche British mobile phone designer. The company has filed a counter-suit against Sendo in a federal court in Texas and is seeking to have Sendo's suit that it stole its former partner's secrets dismissed. Microsoft also wants to change the court venue - Texas, after all, is not the most obvious place to have a legal fight between companies based, respectively in Washington state and Birmingham England. So let's rewind a bit. Sendo was Microsoft's partner to build a smartphone for the MS 'Stinger' platform, now called Smartphone 2002. After many delays, Sendo was ready to ship the Z100 in November 2002. But days from launch, the company pulled the launch. Sendo thought it had a straight run on Smartphone 2002 exclusivity, but those assumptions were shattered when Orange plumped for HTC of Taiwan to build its SPV, Stinger smartphone. The first SPVs have been somewhat buggy, but they are available - to date more than 40,000 have been sold. In December, Sendo filed suit in Texas, accusing Microsoft of fraudulently passing on secrets to Taiwanese rivals and of deliberately undermining the company. Microsoft filed its counterclaims on Monday (Feb 3) and Reuters once again appears to have a copy of the documents. The failure of Z100 was, Microsoft says, due to various breaches of contract, as well the British company's "fraudulent course of conduct in repeatedly misleading Microsoft as to Sendo's financial situation, Sendo's progress in designing and developing the Z100, and Sendo's commitment to that project". Does Microsoft have a smoking gun? Reuters reports that "in documents submitted to the court, Microsoft said it had received an unsolicited report from a Sendo employee describing Sendo's efforts to make the Z100 phone as a "runaway train," with management determined to release an unstable and unreliable product". ® Related stories Sendo junks MS smartphone, joins Nokia camp (lots of links to happier days with Microsoft) Microsoft's masterplan to screw phone partner - full details Sendo sues Microsoft over'secret' plan' Taiwan flocks to MS Smartphone standard
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

Hutchison 3G handsets ship ‘mid-March’

Hutchison 3G is to start taking pre-orders in the UK for handsets and price plans online on February 22. Fulfilment of "confirmed pre-orders" will start happening mid-March, Hutchison 3G says. So what's the difference between an order and, err, a confirmed pre-order, then? Handsets start from £400, but the first 20,000 customers opting for price-bundle contracts, get a 50 per cent discount. The High Street push for 3 UK, Britain's first 3G network, starts early March, with the likes of Carphone Warehouse, Phones4U, The Link and Uncle Tom Cobbley and All, touting Hutchison 3G services. In November, 3 announced three price plans, of which the cheapest was not cheap - £60 a month. The company has addressed criticism by tweaking the contracts. It will now offer a 'pay as use' tariff with no monthly line rental. There are also two price bundle contracts which are, 3 claims, cheaper than the current mobile data services. Here is the pitch: All of 3's price plans are based on a simple and transparent event-based charging system linking payment to specific items of content downloaded by the customer - in contrast to existing mobile data services where access is charged by the megabyte. Additionally there are no complex peak and off-peak charges: voice and video calls are billed according to fixed tariffs, regardless of the time of day or day of the week. Simplicity and transparency is always welcome, but prices could soon rack up on the pay as you go option, where video calls are charged at 50p a minute, video downloads cost from 50p each, picture messages tip in at 25p and texts at 10p a pop. The bundled price plans cost £59.99 and £99.99 a month for one year minimum. There are more details here. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Feb 2003

Nokia N-Gage: First impressions

Several months ago, mobile phone giant Nokia slipped out something of a bombshell when it announced its new range of phones for 2003. Nestled among the various futuristic looking handsets was one that looked radically different from the rest of its kin; a peculiar little device called N-Gage which was clearly designed from the ground up as a merging of mobile phone and handheld games console. Nokia had officially declared war on Nintendo - game on. Big N vs. Bigger N Fast forward to the present and it's finally time for Nokia to show the world how it plans to take on the company that has ruled handheld gaming without any serious challengers for over a decade. Few people expect Nokia to actually beat Nintendo at its own game - for a start, Nokia doesn't sell phones at all in Nintendo's heartland, Japan - but if N-Gage can't make a decent showing, it may put a question mark over the entire future of the mobile phone gaming sector, which many operators and content companies are currently betting the farm on. There are a lot of eggs in this basket. With this no doubt in mind, Nokia arranged one of the flashiest launches possible for the device, gathering journalists from all across the media in a plush riverboat on the Thames in London for a press conference before letting them loose on the N-Gage hardware and games in the rotating cabins of the massive London Eye ferris wheel. Obviously keen to see how the device stacks up against the GBA - and perhaps more importantly, the soon to be released and significantly sleeker GBA SP - we went along to put the new machine through its paces. First, the essentials Actually, much as we'd love to bring you up to date on the essentials, we can't - because Nokia had precious little to offer in terms of hard facts about the launch of the system. What we do know is that it's still almost nine months off; the company plans to ship it in time for Christmas in all GSM-enabled areas around the world, significantly later than most of us had expected. As for price, the company completely refused to be drawn on that thorny issue, stating only that the price of the games would be competitive with existing software. It was even more elusive over hardware pricing, saying only that the system would cost less than 500 euro (it would bloody well want to!) but making ominous references to Nokia's corporate policy of never subsidising its hardware. This is a bad start. The games industry works on the basis of a "razors and razorblades" business model, where companies sell consoles at a loss on the basis that they'll make the cash back from sales of first-party software and licensing fees on third-party software. Nokia seems to want to ignore this model by charging the consumer full price for the console - which will make N-Gage attractive to publishers by removing the license fee, but will equally make it hugely unattractive to consumers because the basic cost of the thing may be as over twice the price of a full-power home console like the Xbox or PS2. Smooth curves But what about the hardware itself? First impressions count, and N-Gage is certainly a desirable piece of kit. It's very obvious that this is a slice of technology designed by a company which has vast experience of creating consumer electronics that consumers really want; the unit is sleek, shiny, bristling with light-up buttons and sculpted with smooth metallic curves. It's surprisingly small and feels very light in your hand, and on the whole it makes the GBA look like a heavy, blocky lump of plastic. The screen - which has a strange aspect ratio, taller vertically than it is wide (perfect for arcade vertical shooters!) is brightly backlit and colourful, although it's got a very poor viewing angle - you have to be looking at it head-on to be able to make out any details. Nokia has also shoved in some other desirable features - the phone has a built in speakerphone, an FM radio and an MP3 player, as well as some basic web browsing and email functions which will be familiar to anyone who owns another Nokia Series 60 mobile. Equally, however, it's painfully apparent that this is a unit designed by a company with precisely zero experience of building game systems. For a start, the number of buttons on the front of the unit is ludicrous, and it's extremely easy to brush the wrong button while playing a game and find that you've inadvertently managed to quit out or bring up a pause menu; but despite the millions of fascia buttons, Nokia hasn't seen fit to include any shoulder buttons. Doh! It gets worse, too; games are distributed on postage-stamp sized MMC memory cards, which is a bad choice in itself as MMC memory is flimsy and expensive (expect to have to store your games in plastic cases for protection outside the unit, a far cry from the near-indestructible robustness of GBA cartridges), but worse again than this is the fact that the act of slipping in a new game involves removing the back of the unit, taking out the battery and sliding the game home into a SIM card style slot. This, needless to say, is a stunningly bad piece of design and the need to juggle about five separate bits of kit in order to play a new game isn't going to win the unit any fans. Content Is King Obviously, a game platform isn't much without some games (however difficult they may be to actually put into the console), and Nokia is promising a lot on the software front. Obviously the N-Gage has capabilities other platforms don't - it's capable of playing local multiplayer games over wireless Bluetooth links, and more wide-ranging multiplayer options are available over GPRS or GSM mobile networks. The system also has 3D capabilities, something other mobile platforms lack - although Nokia's claim that it is on a par with current consoles is rather a long way off the mark. The company is obviously keen to encourage the development of new content for the device, and as well as the obvious tactic of developing first party games and signing up big name publishers - Sega, Taito, Activision, THQ and Eidos have all committed their support to the platform already - Nokia is attempting to engage (sorry) the wider development community as well by offering a free SDK and development support for the platform on its developer website, Forum Nokia. One serious concern here is that by providing a free SDK and giving the ability to develop for the console to all and sundry, Nokia will open up the device to all manner of rubbish software. Existing consoles have basic quality checks in the form of TRCs (Technical Requirements Checklists) which ensure that buggy games or games which can crash or damage your hardware don't get released; the N-Gage appears to lack this, providing instead an open platform which could be susceptible to viruses, malicious programs or - more likely - downright badly written games. Start me up Like most other actually tricky details, Nokia refused to be drawn on what software will be available for launch - the hardest facts they'd offer being that there would be "as much as possible" and that the quantity would be "sufficient". Thanks, guys! However, Sega has pledged a Sonic title (Sonic N, which appears to be a remake of old Sonic 2D games) for the launch, Eidos is promising a port of Tomb Raider, and THQ will release a version of Moto GP for the console with online multiplayer abilities. In terms of the software we actually got a chance to play with, there were early versions of Sonic, Tomb Raider, Super Monkey Ball and a simplistic multiplayer title called Kart Racer on offer. Of the games, Sonic is certainly the most polished at this early stage, and its 2D gameplay remains as addictive as ever - but realistically, this is no way to sell a brand new console, even if Sonic Advance does continue to be one of the GBA's biggest sellers, and it's hardly a demonstration of the allegedly awesome power of the N-Gage. Eidos' Tomb Raider is obviously a port of the PocketPC version of Tomb Raider which surfaced some time ago, and although it's certainly impressive to see the PlayStation-era graphics on a handheld device, the framerate of the game is currently terrible and the strange aspect ratio of the screen makes it quite difficult to see what you're doing - it's like a bad case of tunnel vision. However, it does prove that on a technical level, the N-Gage is capable of giving the GBA quite a kicking; however, as Nintendo know only too well, the most technologically advanced product isn't always the one that consumers go for. Super Monkey Ball appeared to be in early alpha, and was a poor choice of title to show to the press, since the current code is significantly inferior to Super Monkey Ball Junior on the GBA - with framerates in single figures on even some quite simple levels. It's certainly nice that the N-Gage will have a port of the game, and the prospect of downloadable extra levels for it is a superb one, but for now, the title seemed to be showing off little more than the disappointing 3D performance of the unit. The final title on display, Kart Racer, was graphically as simple as they come - a pseudo-3D racing game in the style of Burnin' Rubber. The key feature, however, was Bluetooth multiplayer - and what can we say, it works. You start a game, the other player joins, and you race against each other. The prospect of wireless multiplayer gaming is certainly an attractive one - and Bluetooth is an infinitely better solution to this problem than infra-red is - but it'll be up to the developers to create compelling content that uses the feature. Worryingly, the main thing we can think of people wanting to use this feature for is, er, Pokemon. Conclusions In summary, we're a bit underwhelmed by Nokia's effort. The company seems to be making some basic and potentially fatal mistakes, both with its hardware and with its business model, and the existing software for the device - even taking into account that it's in a pre-Alpha state - isn't shockingly impressive. Super Monkey Ball and Tomb Raider would probably be more stunning if they weren't already available in handheld form on the GBA and PocketPC respectively. Nokia promises that more software will be shown and more publisher deals announced over the coming months, and we certainly hope that these new announcements will pique our interest. Most importantly of all, though, we want to see pricing details. The company's reticence when talking about price, and its schizophrenic approach to whether the device will be priced like a games platform (cheap, subsidised by the manufacturer, paid for by software licensing) or like a mobile phone (bloody expensive unless a network subsidises it and pays for it by signing you up to an annual tariff) makes us worry very deeply that Nokia will price itself out of the market completely. Either way, there'll be a new handheld console available to buy at your local videogame store or mobile phone shop next Christmas, and it's fairly certain to be a hot toy for the festive season. Whether it'll ever be anything more than a curiosity, and whether it'll meet Nokia's vague sales target of "many millions of units", is entirely down to what Nokia do with it between now and October. © gamesindustry.biz Also from GI Nokia: How to N-gage mobile gamers Is Nintendo's future online?
gamesindustry.biz, 27 Feb 2003

BT unveils more Wi-Fi hotspots

BT has announced it now has 80 Wi-Fi 'hotpots' in the UK - more than double the number it had back in October - enabling punters to access the Net on the move. In an update of its programme to roll-out a Wi-Fi network it's also revealed that it has agreements in place for another 40 hotspots in the UK. However, it's particularly pleased to be able to announce that it's cut a deal with BAA (British Airports Authority) to create public wireless LAN hotspots in Heathrow terminal one, Gatwick, Stansted and Aberdeen airports. There are also plans to create 27 new sites at Welcome Break service stations and a further 36 hotspots at Hilton Hotels in England, Scotland and Wales. Prices for this wireless broadband service starts at £20 a month for 300 minutes. One-off hour-long vouchers cost £6. For more info, including coverage, check out BT's Web site here. ® Related Stories BT blends Costa and Wi-Fi in Openzone deal BT slips out BTOpenzone hotspots
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2003

Occidents will happen: China rips up the 3G rulebook

My, how times have changed for American business since the early 1970s. Doing business with the rest of the world was so easy, back then. In those days, if a strategic American business, say, someone like a United Fruit Company or a Kennecott Copper found oversees dealings meddlesome, it could always find a sympathetic voice in the state department and the necessary arrangements would be made. But now those golden days of "public-private partnerships" are gone, so what's a Qualcomm to do when China refuses to pay the CDMA tax that it requests from the rest of the world? Qualcomm has uniquely managed to identify itself with the American national interest, even though this has been detrimental to the American economy by handicapping its manufacturers, who just want to sell lots of stuff that other people might want to buy, adding to the national balance of payments. When international trade negotiations are held, the US bats for Qualcomm. It's official. This in itself is fascinating - how did great American manufacturers like Texas Instruments and Motorola find themselves playing second fiddle to a small, upstart IP-hoarder? That would take a book to explain. Some suggest CDMA's heritage as a technology favored by the US military, noting the presence of high profile mil-ind complex regular guys such as Brent Scowcroft - a former spook-minder in his capacity as national security advisor - on the board. But you have to look at the relationship between tech huckster George Gilder and finance capitalists looking to engineer a speculative bubble is for the real clues. Their mutual willingness to suspend traditional business relationships and investment rules to allow a Qualcomm to happen so defies rational common sense, that it borders on the occult. Not surprisingly, a lot of the company's defenders sound like complete dingbats. Very sorry to know you You see, 3G is CDMA-based. Ericsson and Nokia had also decided that CDMA techniques were inevitable but lacked the focus or urgency, or maybe the engineering brilliance of Qualcomm's wireless warriors - and the skirmish left Qualcomm holding a small but significant (40 per cent) number of CDMA patents. So the company had two options ahead of it. It could have chosen the high road. Qualcomm could have become a godfather to all the world's CDMA, 3G manufacturers and adopted an appropriate business model, much like ARM did by licensing its cores. ARM, not x86, is the most popular CPU instruction set in the world. In this position, Qualcomm would have had the added bonus of asking for lucrative consulting fees, as testing and integration are extremely difficult, and carriers and terminal manufacturers would have been grateful to have field engineers who knew how to make this work. And this is an option that Qualcomm actually considered at great length. Or it could have taken the low road. It could come to the negotiating table with the assumption that it had simply invented everything already, that the furreners across the table were a bunch of ignorant, and very definitely European hicks, and should pay what was required. This involved the more lucrative - in the short term, at least - option of manufacturing chipsets. Guess what they did? Of course having read this far, you already know. Qualcomm's misfortune is that it's a telcomms company headed by the least appropriate telcomms-type personalities you could imagine. Dropping the Jacobs into the wireless business was like dropping polecats into a kindergarten. The existing wireless leaders engaged in much patent trading to build a market from which they could all benefit. But Qualcomm didn't want to play by those rules. Qualcomm's patent portfolio wasn't enough to take over the world, but crucially, it was enough to screw everyone else if they chose to play dirty, and that's what Qualcomm chose to do. And it's been playing polecat politics ever since. Er, this isn't some weird vendetta of ours, and for once, we're not being contrarian for the sake of it. We actually think Qualcomm morally deserves its dues, because it's earned them. No, it's just the opinion of every wireless manufacturer - many of whom are Qualcomm partners - that we've ever met. And we talk to a lot of people. A "trade", by definition, is an exchange of mutual interest to both parties. An exchange which follows a demand such as "I'll hit you with this stick if you don't take my product" is at its very basest, a mutual exchange of interests. Because the buyer doesn't want to be hit by a stick. But it's very demeaning to the buyer, and isn't exactly conducive to harmonious future relationships. And Qualcomm is a company that's unloved even by its closest allies: "Seven years ago we did not have international experience, we are just now starting joint venture work," Seon Jong Chung, president of Korean Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) once said. "So seven years ago we followed Qualcomm and the US way. At the time, the US way was more advanced than ours. Later on we found that the US way was not the international way. I'm very sorry, but we committed to such a mistake. We didn't use the modern, standardization approach." Of course choosing to go Polecat™ [patent pending] requires an expensive and elaborate campaign of deception, one that persuades the trade press to parrot the line that Qualcomm owned all the CDMA patents. [Which has worked: cf."CDMA, which runs about 20 percent of the world's wireless networks, is a proprietary standard . Qualcomm owns the patents." Hello, fact checker?] But with the Europeans agreeing to pay a 5 per cent royalty to Qualcomm for using their patents in their own flavor of CDMA, WCDMA, what would the Chinese do? Surfing the Sino wave Well, naturally the Chinese went off and did their own thing. And very clever it is, too. Shunning both Qualcomm's CDMA and the multi-vendor alternative WCDMA, it developed a cheap overlay to the popular GSM networks that are the already most prevalent in China, that it calls TD-SCDMA. Qualcomm made noises that all CDMA-type technologies developed in China naturally deserve to earn Qualcomm a royalty. The instruction was aimed at China's Datung, which had developed the TD-SCDMA technology with Siemens. And Datung told Qualcomm to piss off. The news was only slightly worse for the Europeans, who had banked on the vast Chinese market plumping for their commercially more attractive (i.e., there is more than one supplier) but technically less attractive (i.e. it doesn't work, yet) WCDMA option. Which caused a rare simultaneous cry of anguish from Espoo, Stockholm and San Diego. Something you don't hear very often. But the cannier European manufacturers have not been slow to see the opportunity. Last week Philips, Datung and Siemens announced a partnership, "T3G", to bring the Sino-flavored 3G to market. When we took soundings before Christmas, the consensus was that the Chinese flavor of 3G was but a negotiating ploy. Now it looks like they're deadly serious. Back to Beijing OK, why is any of this relevant to you, patient reader? Well, let's conduct a simple thought experiment. Let's imagine that China, having pioneered a simple and cheap overlay for their 2G GSM networks had offered the same royalty-free technology back to Europe. And let's imagine that Europe had adopted it. Of course this could never have happened. China has a peculiar and quite unique relationship to western capital that neither bombs nor patents can define. It isn't another Chile. Western capital desperately wants to tap into this emerging market but must do so on China's terms - and this is a form of state owned capitalism quite unlike the Korean chaebols, or the German and Japanese models producer-partnerships that Harold Wilson tried to forge in Britain. This is a whole new ball game. Microprocessor designers like to compare their work to moon landings - shooting at a target years into the future. So far, China's home-grown technology work has looked to occidental eyes as naïve and opportunistic: part larceny, part Rube Goldberg. I think this is very patronizing and gravely underestimates the Chinese intelligence. This a country with a great engineering tradition. Now, China's development of TD-SCDMA isn't a successful moon landing, but it must count as a very near miss. TD-SCDMA could quite conceivably have been a global, royalty-free 3G standard if it had been ready three years earlier and the European manufacturers had trusted it, and been bold enough to tell Qualcomm and the US trade department negotiators to order their tanks to retreat from the lawn. A lot of "ifs", for sure. But the point is, China could be a global partner in developing technological standards, rather than a receptacle for dumping goods. Some economists have long suggested that the curse of overproduction that bedevils Western economies will be cured by the vast, new Chinese market. Uh, that might exactly the wrong way to look at it. China as the new Microsoft or Intel? Heck, that future is almost here. ® Related Stories Trade Wars II: China shuns Qualcomm - no CDMA tax! Qualcomm monoculture is 'killing American wireless Gang of Four set W-CDMA royalty cap EU frets over China's 3G plan Qualcomm accounting practices under fire US 'doesn't need wireless data' - readers[letters - and two modest proposals]
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2003

Mobile infrastructure spending to rebound

Spending on wireless network infrastructure will rebound in the next couple of years led by the much-criticised 3G networks. Research firm IDC has forecast that although spending on wireless equipment fell by 22 percent last year and will drop by a further 6 percent to 7 percent in 2003, continued demand for mobile solutions from businesses and consumers will eventually drive up investment. IDC predicted that annual spending on wireless and mobile network infrastructure will grow from USD38.3 billion in 2002 to nearly USD49 billion in 2007. A lot of this spend, said IDC, will be on 3G networks, which have been dismissed in some quarters as expensive white elephants. However, IDC believes that 3G will deliver its originally envisaged benefits for network operators. "The essential rationale for deployment of 3G networks -- gaining spectrum efficiencies, easing network capacity constraints, lowering operating costs, and expanding revenue opportunities through provisioning of data services – remains intact," said Shiv K. Bakhshi, research manager for IDC's wireless and mobile network infrastructure program. Bakhshi added that the rising popularity of MMS and picture messaging, as well as the proliferation of public WLANs and hotspots, will encourage greater data consumption in a mobile environment, which will spur deployment of network infrastructure. However, voice will still remain the killer app for many network operators, according to IDC. "Traditional voice services will attract a fair share of network infrastructure spending in both developed and developing markets. In developed economies, voice-related spending will be driven by the increasing salience of quality of service issues related to voice offerings; in developing economies, it will be driven by the massive pent-up demand for voice connectivity," said Bakhshi. He also predicted that 2.5G mobile networks will enjoy a longer shelf life than originally argued by infrastructure suppliers. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 27 Feb 2003

WCDMA wins boosts Qualcomm earnings

Those of us you who like to view the Qualcomm story as a parable of American isolationism and bull-headed stupidity - and that's a narrative Qualcomm executives and their creepy, militia fringe supporters (including Qualcomm sock-puppet Stewart Alsop) have done little to discourage in recent years - have one slight problem to contend with. It isn't entirely true. Although the bare-knuckle San Diego pugilist makes a virtue of being unpopular, it's actually a hell of a more pragmatic company than its shrill marketing would have you believe. For a few years it's been determined to portray its own version of CDMA, CDMA-2000 as the version that the rest of world will eventually adopt, as opposed to the technically inferior but more widely supported WCDMA standard, it's quietly and carefully positioned itself to win whichever standard becomes ascendant. Which is a very smart move. The headline earnings saw sales of Qualcomms chipsets rocket: QCOM earned $1.1 billion, up 27 per cent from the previous quarter. This was due to the recent range of 2.5G phones despite having a slightly lower average selling price (this is how Qualcomm determines these royalties) than their predecessors. QCOM says it will ship between 105 and 112 million in the next year, a drop in the ocean compared to the vast quantities of handsets shipped using the global standard GSM standard. (Nokia and Motorola each estimate the global market to be in the region of 400-400m units) So you can see how economies of scale desperately handicap Qualcomm. But although it talks tough, it's actually been stealth-selling systems based on the WCDMA alternative that it so vehemently disparages. The WCDMA licensees must actually pay a royalty to Qualcomm, so in a way it can't really lose. "Twenty-seven subscriber licensees reported sales of [Qualcomm's own] CDMA2000 1X products and seven subscriber licensees reported sales of [the unspeakable alternative] WCDMA products. "Twelve infrastructure licensees reported sales of CDMA2000 products and seven infrastructure licensees reported sales of WCDMA products" So as you can see, WCDMA is increasingly important to Qualcomm's business. Some years ago, Qualcomm mulled, but rejected an ARM-like licensing model in which it would position itself as the CDMA expert to all the world's 3G carriers, and open the chipset business to encourage multiple suppliers. That was rejected and it chose instead to market its own partisan flavor of CDMA as the sole supplier (of this CDMA2000 standard), and pour a relentless marketing barrage of horseshit on the WCDMA alternative. Unfortunately that left Qualcomm as the only supplier of its own CDMA flavor of chipsets. As a result the Qualcomm-CDMA industry moves at a glacial pace, and no market endures a single-supplier monopolist for very long. Several anguished QCOM shareholders are quite aware of this and have been muttering to us about "class action" for some time, reasonably reckoning that Qualcomm could take a much smaller share of a much bigger market, rather than a vast share of a tiny market, and be rather better off. We surmise that Qualcomm has wisely recognized this, and is bending quite pragmatically to satisfy all comers. Which is good news: the company pioneered CDMA and deserves to reap the reward. The only trouble is the anti-WCDMA marketing now looks distinctly hypocritical. And the company has to lure those militia rednecks who have formed the mainstay of its propaganda efforts in recent years down from their caves. ® Related Stories Trade Wars II: China shuns Qualcomm - no CDMA tax! Qualcomm monoculture is 'killing American wireless' US 'doesn't need wireless data' - readers
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Feb 2003

UK relaxes 802.11a regs

The UK Government is to open up part of the radio spectrum in a bid to encourage operators to deliver new broadband services. The deregulation means that telecoms operators will be able to offer commercial broadband services through public networks without the need for a Wireless Telegraphy Act licence. As a result, commercial network operators and other public and private users will be able to set up Radio Local Area Networks (RLANs) to operate 802.11a services in parts of the 5 GHz radio spectrum. The changes will come into effect on 12 February. If this relaxation of the rules is taken up then more "wireless hotspots" could spring up in hotels, airports, cafes and schools enabling people to access the Net using wireless broadband. Said eminister Stephen Timms: "Opening up this radio spectrum will encourage telecoms operators to deliver new and innovative public services. It will offer the possibility of 'broadband on the go', with services based in public places." ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Feb 2003

Become a wireless ISP: for £300

FeatureFeature While the learned are laughing at Negroponte's fantastic "futuristic" vision of a mesh of interconnected wireless LANs "like lilypads which you hop from one to another" a UK company has produced Mesh wireless technology which you can buy and install, today, for under £300. Fancy setting up as a rival to BT Openworld? Even in a remote village? Easy: buy a Locustworld MeshBox; half the price of a home PC. You're in business. The software is the key to Locustworld. Written by text-message pioneer Jon Anderson, it configures a group of wireless access points into a coherent "mesh" and connects them to any broadband Internet node available. Most experts regard the mesh approach as hugely complex, because of the effort needed to set up the mesh. The system used to be known as a "parasitic network" - although the fashionable term these days is "symbiotic" - the idea is that you turn a group of wireless nodes loose, and tell them to introduce themselves to each other. Then you set up routes through the mesh. It can be fiendishly complex, but Locustworld's mesh does this for you. You just buy the node from them: the current model is £250 plus VAT. The last legal obstacle, according to founder Richard Lander, was the decision by Oftel, allowing people to share their broadband with up to 20 others. The excitement in the UK hasn't been quite as high as it was in the US, but even there, it seems only "nerds" really picked up on it - probably due to an article by Anderson which was flagged on SlashDot in December. It should have hit the headlines big time, since it allows a street to share all their broadband nodes, at a huge cost saving. It would allow a vicar in a small village to hire a leased line, and share the costs with all his parishioners - without any technical expertise. In the article, Anderson describes the cheapest way of setting up a mesh node; by installingthe software, from a CD onto any PC. It's only 32 megabytes of code, and it is also available in a Flash memory card. The response, however, was a typical Linux community one: "Why doesn't he use this open source utility rather than that one?" and "I bet I could buy a fanless PC for less than that, and set it up" and "There's a better motherboard available from Taiwan." Now, Locustworld has released the full Meshbox: a standalone 500 MHz (fanless) PC, suitable for installation in any living room next to the audio equipment. Its simplest form is with a single antenna, which works on WiFi (802.11b) standards anywhere in the world, and provides shared access to the PC, but also looks for other Meshbox installations in the neighbourhood. There's a second option; an additional, long-range antenna, which you can mount on the roof of your house, to pick up signals from other Meshboxes further away - across the village, perhaps. And of course, since it is actually just a PC, the Meshbox can be used as one. You can plug in a monitor and surf the web or do email. It does network address translation for sub-net members, and issues DHCP leases. In short, you plug it in, and it works, more or less. The impressive part is the ability to combine several broadband feeds. This is an option (it doesn't happen out of the box, but it's built in) - if there are 20 houses in the Mesh, but only four of them have broadband, all users can share all of those lines. It does add to network traffic; there's an estimated 10% increase in wireless load, says Lander. That's the easy part. And (without doing a full review) it does seem that this has been within the capacity of quite inexperienced computer users to set up. However, there are going to be some controversial areas in the Locustworld experiment. The cheekiest move was the setting up of an IP address numbering authority, WIANA, or The Wireless Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. "If you have two meshes expanding towards each other, and each assigns IP numbers without regard to what else is going on in the world, you will end up with a numbers clash at the borders," said Lander. "Our WIANA makes sure that no two meshes ever conflict." The achievement is pretty startling, considering the number of people who have tried to do a wireless mesh technology, and discovered it to be very expensive. Perhaps the most startling contrast is with Mesh Networks in the US. This is a heavily funded R&D-based organisation, which has developed its own proprietary 2.4 GHz wireless technology (requiring special licensing) and which charges in the region of $2,000 for a client access card (a WiFi card costs under $100 these days) and the node computer fetches $4,000. But the irony is that in the same edition of Wired magazine in which Negroponte recently speculated about the feasibility of "lily-pad" networks, there was a brief mention of Locustworld... which excited no comment at all. So far, scepticism has been the main reason for caution. "Parasitic networks are pretty damn complex," remarked one expert inside BT's research department. "We're close to releasing some technology, but there's a lot of testing to go through." Another example of "it's complex" was the approach to linking sites by wireless taken by Radiant Networks, which uses a very high-bandwidth wireless technology to distribute broadband to a number of antennae. The masts are tall and expensive; the wireless technology is licensed, not 2.4 GHz, and two trials have been set up under the watchful eye of the DTI, which has yet to report whether it's viable as a way of providing rural broadband. So far, Locustworld sales have been encouragingly global, but not yet large-scale in implementation. That's hardly astonishing: the network hasn't been available until late last year, and the announcement of a self-contained mesh node for half the price of a PC was made just before the end-of-year holiday season, and got missed by most potential readers. But there is something to see. There's a pioneer network at Kingsbridge in Devon, and there are trial sites in Macedonia, India, USA, the Netherlands, and of course, in several UK counties. The implications if this technology starts to get mass market availability are scary. The Guardian guessed that the biggest sufferer would be third-generation phone networks, which are counting on high-data usage, not voice, for their revenues; but a universal WiFi mesh in all inhabited areas would deprive them of the bulk of their income. On the face of it, the mesh network could grow instantly. You can download the software itself from the Locustworld site and set it up on any machine capable of booting from compact-flash or CD. But experience teaches that mass market products need mass market support. That means distributors, resellers, installers, advertising, promotion and branding. None of that, clearly, is yet available from Locustworld itself, nor is it feasible to predict that it will be inside the next two years. Not only is Locustworld designed to be a grass-roots, subversive structure for personal "empowerment" but it also undermines the credibility of any well-funded commercial enterprise; on the face of it, how could you supply such products with a margin, if people can read about it on your advertising, try it out at your expense, and then build it themselves? At some stage, some enterprising company will get the point, smell the toast, and start packaging a solution. It may be a company like Richard Nuttall's Invisible Networks which is currently using rather more expensive techniques to bring broadband to rural areas. It may be someone much bigger, like Telewest or BT Openworld or it may even be a company like Hutchison 3G which first sees the writing on the wall and decides that if anybody is going to pinch its profits, it will be Hutchison itself. But it won't happen overnight. The bad news is that the first response is most likely to be a rash of rivals, energetic and opinionated nerds who think they can improve on the Locustworld model. And, of course, some of them will like the idea of WIANA, but think that IPv6 addressing will be a superior way of resolving it. Lander doubts this: "It's just another way of giving big ISPs blocks of addresses, it won't solve this problem." But that won't stop people from producing meshes that don't interwork with Locustworld, and getting largescale adoption by whole communities. By the time a genuinely global corporation with the power to co-ordinate a standard solution gets the scent of profit, there could well be a Tower of Babel of other networks, things like Sputnik or Boingo who focus far more on the enterprise markets, where Locustworld will have trouble reaching, and all clamoring to be accepted as the best. But it is a step in the right direction, isn't it? © newswireless.net
Guy Kewney, 27 Feb 2003

Intel prepares for Centrino launch

Intel Corp cut prices across its mobile processor line at the weekend as it paved the way for the launch of its Centrino wireless notebook technology in March. Intel's 2.2 GHz Pentium 4 M dropped by 38% to $348. Other cuts ranged from 31% to 10%. While Intel's desktop division used the launch of its 3GHz Pentium 4 in November to raise its top bar on pricing after a summer of furious price cutting, the mobile unit is not expected to follow a similar strategy when it launches Centrino, which is expected to take pole position in the vendor's mobile line-up. The mobile market has not suffered from the same kind of downturn in recent years as the desktop sector. Centrino comprises the Pentium-M CPU, previously code-named Banias, a chipset, and wireless networking silicon. Intel CEO Craig Barrett confirmed last week that Centrino would debut in March. There had been some confusion over the product's shipping date. At the Intel Developer Forum last September, executives had referred to a first quarter launch. However, Intel's official line had only been that the product would appear in the first half of this year. Don Macdonald, director of mobile marketing at Intel, said that at launch, the Centrino package would support 802.11b wireless networking. Intel has always said it would be agnostic on wireless networking standards and a dual band version will follow quickly. Macdonald also played down suggestions that Intel was strong-arming vendors into taking the whole Centrino package. While the company would prefer OEMs to take the whole Centrino offering, he said, they would be free to use just the processor and choose silicon from other suppliers for the other components. However, this will mean they can only use the Pentium-M branding, not the Centrino branding. This presumably also means they will not be able to fully exploit the marketing push Intel will throw behind Centrino. The dubbing of Banias as Pentium-M also means that the vendor's mobile Pentium 4 line will lose that suffix. Macdonald confirmed that the notebook version of Intel's mainline desktop processor would in future be known simply as the Mobile Pentium 4. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Feb 2003

Intel's Centrino ‘a serious threat to WLAN chip makers’

Wireless guru Nick Hunn has predicted the death of several silicon suppliers who make wireless LAN (WiFi) components, following the decision of both Intel and AMD to provide the bulk of the circuitry needed, on the motherboard. Suppliers of WiFi components, especially client PC Cards, could find that their market vanishes over the next twelve months, argues Hunn, who is managing director of TDK Grey Cell, a specialist Bluetooth design house. In a White Paper, Hunn points out that Intel's Centrino chip set (formerly code-named Banias) provides almost everything a PC maker needs to provide wireless support on the motherboard. AMD has come up with something very similar. Hunn writes: "Although the customer will benefit, the introduction of Banias poses a very serious threat to the raft of silicon companies who have invested in wireless LAN. The fact that both Intel and AMD have a low cost, native solution to Wi-Fi on the motherboard excludes these vendors from the market for new laptops." The market for legacy laptops and add-on USB adapters for desktops, is not great. But there is worse news, because the perceived "fair price" of such devices is about to plummet, Hunn says. The problem is simple: add-in cards will be available for trivial prices; and the general buying public won't realise that some of these rely on the presence of Banias style support on the motherboard. "A crucial concern for this legacy market will be the perceived cost of adding wireless to a laptop." says Hunn. "It is not yet clear what percentage of laptops will have the full RF solution placed on the motherboard. For those that do not, some manufacturers may provide connectors for a wireless LAN transceiver module to be added. Intel has already identified this, and suggested that it will supply mini-PCI transceivers, with an anticipated market price of $45 for 802.11b and $65 for multimode in June 2003." That price looks unthreatening, he admits. "But once again, the emergence of alternative RF chip suppliers suggests to us that these process will rapidly be undermined by third party offerings. If this is the case, the list price of these transceiver boards may well be advertised below $30, setting a price expectation for the consumer, who is likely to be unaware of the distinction between this and a full PCMCIA card." The inevitable result, says Hunn, "will be fierce price competition, further commodifying wireless LAN products and ensuring that there is little opportunity for margin either for the silicon supplier or the peripheral manufacturer." Instead they will be forced to concentrate on the legacy laptop market, (where price competition will be fierce) the desktop USB market, the PDA market (which is small and power sensitive) and the access point manufacturers. These markets will also be attacked by Intel and AMD with "soft" Wi-Fi solutions that remove the baseband processor cost and benefit from the economies of scale both will enjoy from their integrated PC market, concludes Hunn. © Newswireless.net Some recent articles at Newswireless.net Will Tablet PCs drive ordinary printers? Microsoft forced to rethink Smart Display as Viewsonic announces pricing
Guy Kewney, 27 Feb 2003

Wi-Fi takes to the skies

A big fat Register hello to Hans Reiger, Fujitsu Siemens PR bunny, who sent us an email today - from 30,000 feet in the air. And he replied to our reply. OK, so it's not exactly an Alexander Graham Bell moment, and the pricing for emails from airplanes, will probably be horrendous, but yes, we were impressed. Hans emailed us from today's Lufhthansa 747-400 flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Washington, DC which is using an onboard broadband network for the first time on a commercial flight. The PC hardware is supplied xourtesy of Fujitsu Siemens, which is lending 50 Lifebook S6010s with integrated WLAN technology for use in the Lufthansa trials. British Airway is set to introduce on-board broadband services next month. Connexion By Boeing, the mobile information services division of the aircraft manufacturer, is providing the infrastructure that allows two-way-live data between the plane and the ground, with speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 128 Kbps upstream. Cisco Systems is providing the technology for the onboard network with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b) compliant wireless connectivity, in addition to Ethernet connectors in the passenger seats (in first and business class). The service will be delivered at no extra charge to passengers, with plans to offer wireless to economy seat passengers too as the trial progresses. Connexion By Boeing has received to go ahead from the US Federal Aviation Administration to use WiFi networks with satellite links aboard planes, after satisfying the authority that the technology is safe. Five Cisco Aironet 350 Series Access Points have been fitted throughout the plane, along with one Cisco 3640 Router and nine Cisco Catalyst 3548 XL Series Switches. The Cisco standard equipment has been modified, tested and certified by Lufthansa to meet civil aviation regulations. The passenger trial on the Frankfurt, Germany to Washington, DC route will last for three months. If successful, Lufthansa hopes to roll out broadband connectivity on its entire intercontinental fleet over the next two years. Cisco has embarked upon a major push to deliver broadband connectivity to vehicles and planes. The Cisco 3200 Series Mobile Access Router is specifically designed for incorporation into mobile vehicular systems, such as airplanes. It meets requirements for seamless mobility while roaming among wireless networks with Mobile IP in Cisco IOS Software as well as well as power, size and weight specifications suitable for airplane deployment. ® Related Stories British Airways flies high with broadband CAA mulls ban on laptops which don't exist Get online from low-earth-orbiting research craft
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2003

When in Roam: Crossing mobile, WLAN and IP networks

Networking firms Motorola, Avaya, and Proxim are to tie together mobile, wireless LAN and IP Telephony networks. The trio are to develop kit which will allow seamless roaming between enterprise and mobile networks, a natural progression for WLAN technology that has become a key goal for vendors over the last year or so. By combining resources there's reason for the three companies to hope they can jump to the head of the queue of product development. Unusually for a strategic agreement, this one has the potential to pose a real competitive challenge. The three companies are promising an array of new products, including a Wi-Fi/mobile dual-system phone from Motorola, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-enabled IP Telephony software from Avaya, and voice -enabled WLAN infrastructure from Proxim. Their jointly developed, standards-based technology will support contiguous voice and data service to users across enterprise networks, public mobile networks, and public WLANs hot spots. In a statement, Proxim said the convergence of IP telephone, mobile and Wi-Fi technologies will enable businesses to gain new cost savings, user efficiencies, and enhanced communications capabilities (with applications such as on-demand conference calling and speech access to business applications, like email). Voice-enabled Wi-Fi WLAN infrastructure from Proxim and SIP-enabled communications applications from Avaya are expected to be available "early in 2003", establishing a base for converged communications. Trials of the joint products/technologies are expected to begin in the second half of 2003. ®
John Leyden, 27 Feb 2003