4th > October > 2003 Archive

Cat 5 cable

Telecoms Ombudsman handles ‘lots and lots’ of complaints

The Oftel-backed Telecoms Ombudsman has received a rubber stamp from the regulator to go-ahead and resolve industry disputes. The "seal of approval" - a necessity under the recently introduced Communications Act apparently - means that the Ombudsman has "met a rigorous set of criteria set out by Oftel to provide a free, independent and effective service to consumers who are unable to resolve complaints directly with their telephone company". In fact, under the Act telcos have to offer an Oftel-approved alternative dispute resolution procedure to their customers, other than their own internal complaints system. But they don't have to use the Telecoms Ombudsman - aka "Otelo" - if they don't want to. In fact, two other so far unnamed organisations are currently in the process of seeking approval to offer dispute resolution services. So far Nineteen companies have signed up to Otelo, representing 95 per cent of the fixed line market and 30 per cent of the mobile market with several other companies waiting in line to join. So, how have things been since the Ombudsman opened its doors for business in January? Well, it's already dealt with a wide range of complaints including mis-selling, billing and customer service issues. And how many complaints has it received? "Lots and lots," said a spokesman. Hmmm. "Lots and lots" hey? That is a lot. Never mind, our spokesman was far more precise on the number of complaints it had received about ISPs. Exactly none - so far. ® Related Story UK gets Telecoms Ombudsman Oftel to become independent and impartial! Situation Vacant: Telecoms Ombudsman
Tim Richardson, 04 Oct 2003

ICANN demand sees VeriSign pull SiteFinder

VeriSign has pulled its controversial SiteFinder application after ICANN demanded in a formal statement and letter that the company shut it down by Saturday or face the consequences. In an official statement and a letter to VeriSign’s general manager Russell Lewis on Friday, the overseeing organisation accused VeriSign of disrupting the DNS (the Internet’s underlying technology) and breaching its contracts. "VeriSign's actions are not consistent with its contractual obligations under the .com and .net registry agreements. The contractual inconsistencies include, violation of the Code of Conduct and equal access obligations agreed to by VeriSign, failure to comply with the obligation to act as a neutral registry service provider, failure to comply with the Registry-Registrar Protocol, failure to comply with domain registration limitations, and provision of an unauthorized Registry Service," the statement read. ICANN president and CEO Paul Twomey made clear his displeasure: "ICANN is disappointed that VeriSign has not suspended the service despite the widespread reports of adverse effects from these changes. Although ICANN takes this step reluctantly, we are left with no choice but to enforce the provisions of our contract with VeriSign." The decision by VeriSign to introduce the "service" which points all traffic to unused domains to its own webpage has seen widespread criticism and three lawsuits. "Without so much as a hearing, ICANN today formally asked us to shut down the SiteFinder service," said Russell Lewis in a statement. "We will accede to the request while we explore all of our options." Somewhat rich considering VeriSign introduced SiteFinder without consulting a soul. Of course this is all much more than a simple argument over SiteFinder. With ICANN given a three-year extension on its contract with the US government and a recent reorganisation under new head Twomey, the Internet is about to embark on its most significant transistion since ICANN was formed. By the end of those three years, ICANN will most likely be left in sole charge of running the Internet and VeriSign - which predated ICANN and built the Net’s foundations - is trying to stamp its authority early on. It is to Twomey's credit that he came out all guns blazing. This is the first big battle between the most powerful Internet company - VeriSign essentially owns and runs all non-country domains - and the organisation that plans to become its boss. There will be other battles but this one may well set the course for things to come. That VeriSign has backed down is possibly an indication that it was surprised by the stength of ICANN's attack. It is clear that Twomey means business. It is also interesting since VeriSign looked set to embark on a stalling legal action. It is legendary for refusing to budge even against the most fierce criticism. Whether ICANN would be able to tackle VeriSign head on is still very unclear. The decision to remove SiteFinder will also strengthen ICANN's hand. Possibly VeriSign - after numerous and widespread criticism on a whole range of issues - has finally learnt some humbleness and has decided to pick its fights more wisely. Only time will tell. Related links ICANN statement Twomey letter to Lewis
Kieren McCarthy, 04 Oct 2003

Why Handspring came home to Palm

Handspring's roadshow to promote the Treo 600 swung into town this week, and it was an event full of resonances for anyone in the Palm community. It marked Handspring's farewell as an independent company, and its first product launch for the company its founders created, Palm. Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky created Palm and left, reluctantly after Palm's owners 3Com refused to spin off the company in 1999. Now they've come full circle. The Handspring name goes, but the Treo brand will be retained by palmOne. (The two companies plan to move into the same office after Thanksgiving). There was plenty to celebrate. The Treo shares the same name as its ugly duckling predecessor, but is a very different beast. Handspring's final product as an independent company, the Treo 600 smartphone, deserves to fly off the shelves. But did Handspring President and COO Ed Colligan, co-founder, have any regrets? He told us that Handspring had just raised another round of funding and wasn't in a such dire straits it was looking for a fire sale. The executives had talked to other potential buyers, both in the computer and telecoms space, but he wouldn't say who. It was made no sense for the family in exile to duplicate so many functions with Palm. And he told us that one of the first questions asked at the launch was a great illustration of why Palm made sense as an owner. A member of the audience asked if extended warranties - a corporate tick-list item - would apply to the Treo. Colligan said that with Palm's enterprise acceptance he could now walk into a major company and get a hearing. (The absence of extended warranties has kept Sony out of the corporate market; and Palm-licensee Sony was mooted as a potential savior of Handspring). Of potential rivals, Colligan cited the SonyEricsson P800 as the biggest competitor, at least in Europe. Hand shakes the Palm Palm and Handspring competitive relationship was marked with plenty of stürm and drang. An exodus of talent followed the departure of the founders to start Handspring. Palm then failed, as Hawkins had predicted, to keep the new product pipeline busy. After Handspring launched by undercutting Palm on price and by adding features such as more memory and USB, Palm responded by cutting prices and, when new product did arrive, releasing such a glut of inventory into the channels that any chance of establishing products with healthy margins disappeared for Handspring. (The stylish Visor Edge was one major casualty). That disastrous decision by Palm cost it much of the $1 billion it gained from its IPO. Was there anything Colligan regretted about the Handspring years? There was a long lull between Handspring phasing out development of standalone PDAs and the introduction of a profitable volume product. He wouldn't be drawn on that, but told us "the bubble" had had what he called a "ruinous" effect on the market. The bubble inevitably led to a crash, and far fewer people were prepared to spend $500 on a gadget. And operator subsidies, too? Well, operators still subsidize devices but not as much as they used to, he agreed. We had a brief chat with Joe Sipher, Handspring's VP of marketing, and a Palm veteran from 1993 until he left after leading the Palm VII project. He said the project had taken a year, with work starting in August 2002, which must make it the most rapid piece of product development he's been involved with. Although he joined Handspring after its first phone project - a GSM Springboard plug-in for the Visor PDA - was completed, we wondered if life had got easier for the phone designer? The radio, in this case from Broadcom, was now much more integrated. We wondered if the vintage Ericsson-era antenna was really necessary on a GSM phone? (The Treo 600 comes in both CDMA and quad-band GSM/GPRS). He said it was, and the flakey reception inside the nightclub Handspring was using as a venue bore this out. With the move to higher frequencies, US networks simply don't have the penetration of European networks). Sipher said that there were aesthetic considerations too. The team could have wrapped an internal antenna around the top of the device, but it wanted to leave the expansion slot at power button there. Earlier Sipher had shown many of the user interface features which make the Treo 600 so appealing. Rivals, take note: it isn't good enough having great technology for its own sake, the technology has to be made accessible, or people won't use it. On the Treo you can add a hotkey to a phone book entry (or bookmark) and a long-press from any application will make the connection. For example, press and hold the 'r' key down to connect the The Register. The inbox threads SMS messages together, much like an IM conversation. Sipher and Hawkins fielded some tough questions. There weren't any Bluetooth drivers yet, but support was on its way, probably supporting wireless headsets first. Voice dialing or voice memos aren't supported out of the box, and one audience member saw the ability to perform a DIY flash upgrade as an essential item. (It's hard to think of a handset vendor that permits this, although Motorola has been talking about OTA, or over-the-air upgrades). Colligan promise of "a nice discount" for existing Treo users might have caused his next CFO a shudder: but palmOne shouldn't worry. With the Treo 600, it deservedly has a hit on its hands. ® Related Products Treo 600 available to order from the Register's PDA store
Andrew Orlowski, 04 Oct 2003

‘Blogosphere’ to reach 10 million, almost all dead – report

The "blogosphere" will number ten million souls by the end of 2004, but almost all of them will be dead. That's the conclusion from one of the first comprehensive studies of weblogging conducted by research company Perseus, which has analyzed over three thousand weblogs. Perseus finds that the fad is most popular amongst teenage girls. More than half of the weblogs surveyed are run by teenagers and 91.1 per cent are under 30. "Blogging is many things, yet the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life," the report notes. (We had noticed). However, parents can breathe easy. Unlike many varieties of hard or soft drugs enjoyed by today's teenagers, weblogging isn't habit-forming. No less than a million of the 2.7 million weblogs surveyed had been abandoned after a day, and 132,000 would-be webloggers gave up after a year. So like the Hula Hoop, the Pogo Stick or the skateboard, most teenagers will experience but a brushing pass with weblogging, and will continue unscathed to develop normal and healthy lives. Perseus' study doesn't see a 'community' as much as a graveyard. The average weblog is only updated once every fourteen days, and Perseus concludes that "the majority of blogs started are dissolving into static, abandoned web pages." Well, maybe people have simply got better things to do. This is not a bad thing. Junket Meanwhile, in the parallel universe constructed by weblog tools vendors, junketeers, and unemployed HTML coders (who desperately hope that the dotcom tide will roll back in), momentous and world-shaping decisions are being made! For weblog software vendors, no less than a "second superpower" is being created. Let's pan over to Harvard University, where, this weekend, a 'Second Superpower' presidential candidate (and erstwhile weblog tools vendor) Dave Winer is holding a fundraising Meet-Up, charging everyday webloggers $500 a head to attend. What makes the Second Superpower unique? Millionaire Berkman blogger Dave Winer may pose this very question to his fellow millionaire Berkman blogger Jim Moore this weekend. They share an office at the techno-utopian Berkman 'law school', which is hosting the presidential Meet-Up. But Jim, umm… who? Well, management consultant Moore is a man already notorious with NGOs we discovered, at the global N5M conference last month, for Googlewashing the phrase 'Second Superpower'. Until Moore co-opted it for a sappy Apple-pie essay in April, the phrase had been used by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to refer to the global antiwar movement. Moore borrowed the phrase 'second superpower' to refer to affluent types who were using the Internet, rather than the millions of grubby proles who were then taking to the streets. Not surprisingly, NGOs and activists resent this kind of semantic bowdlerization. And not so surprisingly, Moore has achieved the status of a minor Antichrist. We caught this fragment of a promotional tape published on the Harvard website, before the line cracked, hissed and faded away. Maybe you'll have more luck than us, piecing it together - it's a 6MB MP3 file. interviewer: Locate us in this blogosphere. Where the hell are we? Moore: We're at an amazing time, right? We're at the time when, somehow collectively, we're creating a new kind of a mind… Interviewer: hmm Moore: It may be scary or it maybe quite wonderful. But we're creating a kind of mind. Interviewer: I like it! You didn't say place. You said time. And mind!" Mind! Wow! But what can it all mean? I once occupied a large shared mixed apartment with a very elegant greyhound, which belonged to the landlord. It was an elusive animal, but once it knew it had an audience (and the audience only had to number one person), the dog would proceed into a very elaborate display where it licked its own testicles - quite theatrically - for two or three minutes. Then it turned to whoever was watching, with a 'how about that?' look. I couldn't quite work out this inscrutable doggy stare until, by chance, I found myself reading the $500-a-head man's own website yesterday. And then it all made sense. "Whatever happened to singing around the campfire, or family singing at holidays? Just because a handful of people do it so perfectly, does it mean that the rest of us should be deprived of the pleasure of self-expression," he wrote. Surely no one is depriving Winer of the pleasure of self-expression, any more than we can resent a dog licking its own balls. ® Related Link The Blogging Iceberg - Of 4.12 Million Hosted Weblogs,Most Little Seen, Quickly Abandoned
Andrew Orlowski, 04 Oct 2003