by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 15th 2011 3:03pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 15th 2011 6:22am
from the ain't-that-always-the-way dept
However, there is one company that's quite worried about all of this: Microsoft. Even though it's not clear who will win the bid for Nortel's patents (and many expect Google to be outbid), Microsoft has officially objected to Google's attempt to buy the patents, saying that it has a perpetual royalty-free license to those patents, and under the terms of the sale, any buyer could end that deal.
And here's why Microsoft is a steaming pile of hypocrisy on this subject: Microsoft has ramped up its own anti-Android patent trolling efforts, lately. It's been demanding licensing fees and/or suing all sorts of companies who use Android. In fact, some reports suggest that thanks to all this effort, Microsoft makes significantly more money from Android phones than from its own mobile platforms. Clearly, shaking down others with patents is good money.
And Microsoft doesn't think it's fair that someone else could do the same thing to it:
For Microsoft to complain is pretty rich, of course. Here it is, using patents to attack companies employing Android in an attempt to slow down the uptake of that rival to its own Windows Phone smartphone system. That's a clear abuse of the patent system to dissuade companies from signing up with a competitor (which, interestingly, it doesn't attack directly), rather than to protect real innovation (an aim that was thrown out of the patent system long ago.)
After all, those deeply innovative ideas that Microsoft is claiming that companies are infringing include “natural ways of interacting with devices by tabbing through various screens to find the information they need, surfing the Web more quickly, and interacting with documents and e-books”. Tabbed screens - yeah, right.
And yet when there is the prospect that Google might be able to threaten in exactly the same way, by pulling existing licences - not, admittedly, a very nice thing to do, but all's fair etc. etc. - Microsoft suddenly wants the government to intervene to protect it from this bullying.
I mean, let's be consistent here: if you want to abuse the patent system, expect to be on the receiving end of similar abuse. On the other hand, rather more laudably, why not stop abusing, in which case you can take the moral high ground when others start abusing the system to attack you?
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 2nd 2011 1:06am
from the while-the-getting's-good dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 1st 2011 9:57pm
Yet Another Company Rigs Up A Silly Technical Setup To Let You Watch Broadcast TV On Your Mobile Device
from the legality's-a-mess dept
If you remember, ivi is the company that wants to stream broadcast television, and is claiming it's legal based on a questionable interpretation of current copyright laws -- an interpretation that (so far) the courts aren't buying. Zediva, on the other hand, is offering streaming DVDs by literally placing DVDs in DVD players and streaming just that one copy to users, relying on the Second Circuit court's ruling in the Cablevision case to suggest that if you can do something legally in your living room, it should also be legal to be done at a hosting center. In other words, it's arguing that the length of the cord shouldn't matter. If a DVD player is in your home or in a data center a few miles away, does it matter if the process (put DVD in player, watch on screen) is the same? The MPAA has sued and Zediva is currently fighting that lawsuit (with some impressive legal horsepower).
Bamboom basically appears to be using both of these arguments. It's streaming broadcast TV only, and is also assigning a single antenna to each user who is streaming.
The company is still going to get sued, of course. The TV companies wouldn't have it any other way. But, really, all it demonstrates is how ridiculous the laws are here. This company has to set up a ridiculously convoluted technical system that is not at all efficient and is downright wasteful, just to provide a simple service that is technically easy to provide if legal complications didn't get in the way. I don't think the service is particularly useful (do people still watch broadcast TV?), but that doesn't mean it should be illegal.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 27th 2011 11:16am
from the come-on-al dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 11th 2011 1:11am
from the save-that-for-home dept
"Browsing means looking at websites and checking email, but not watching videos, downloading files or playing games. We've got a fair use policy but ours means that you'll always be able to browse the internet, it's only when you go over the fair use amount that you won't be able to download, stream and watch video clips."Basically, this is T-Mobile UK announcing to the world that it doesn't have the bandwidth to actually give people what they want, and it hasn't invested in the necessary upgrades to offer a reasonable service. Or, a simpler way of explaining it, is that this is T-Mobile UK telling users in the UK who actually want to use mobile broadband to find another provider.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Oct 14th 2010 1:49am
from the could-have-saved-some-of-that... dept
I have to admit that after writing a few negative pieces on MediaFlo, I did get a nasty email from someone at Qualcomm, who insisted that I didn't know what I was talking about, and the demand for such a broadcast TV system, just for mobile devices, was "off the charts." Apparently, it was off the charts in the wrong direction. After spending so much money, Qualcomm recently announced that it's shutting down the effort (which is now called Flo TV). Next time, Qualcomm, if you're looking to throw away hundreds of millions of dollars, you can just give it to me, and I'll save you the trouble...
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 2nd 2010 2:15am
from the trends,-people,-trends dept
Usage-based pricing may be more fair. The top 6 percent of smart phone users are consuming half of all data. The vast majority of customers, 99 percent according to the 60,000 phone bills that Nielsen collects and analyzes every month as part of their Customer Value Metrics product, are better off with a pricing scheme like AT&T's new data pricing model than under flat-rate pricing where they are paying for much more than they ever use.Of course, the reality is a bit more complicated. Thankfully, Broadband Reports explains why these claims ignore important trends and other factors:
While many people are applauding AT&T's new data pricing plans as money savers for light users today -- they're not looking at tomorrow's big picture. One, Nielsen ignores the fact that carriers are now making data plans mandatory for smartphone users who previously only used Wi-Fi. That's not "more fair," nor does it save money. Nielsen takes the stance that light users somehow need to be "educated" into consuming more data -- yet many of those users simply prefer to use their device's Wi-Fi functionality alone. That's no longer possible.There's also the fact that, with the new plans, if you want to use tethering, it'll run you an extra $20/month -- not to mention that tethering will increase data usage. It also ignores the mental transaction costs when you know you have a cap and potential overages that discourages usage, just as more apps are coming online to encourage usage. The really damning part, of course, is just the basic trend that data usage is increasing and that's not going to slow down any time soon. AT&T smartly set its caps so that it could get analysts to make these kinds of claims, ignoring that a couple years from the average data will be much higher and more and more people will be pushed to higher, significantly more expensive options.
Two, the average user already consumes 298MB of data -- while AT&T's base cap is 200 MB. That cap's set just low enough to push today's average user to the higher, $25 a month tier (plus overages, ETFs, an endless assortment of fees). That average is going to quickly skyrocket and the heavy user of today will become the average user of tomorrow -- yet instead of having the option of a simple, unlimited data tier at a fair price -- they'll face heavy and often confusing overages just as smartphones begin seeing interesting video service integration (Netflix, Hulu). That's not about saving money, it's about making money.
Again, incumbent wireless companies are not in the business of making less money, and this new media meme that a shift to low caps and high overages is about saving consumers money, or fairness, or helping minorities -- is simply absurd. If telecom analysts want to analyze -- they should be noting that carriers and investors see the death of SMS and voice minutes heading their direction -- and are changing pricing models to compensate and cash in on an explosion in wireless video (or streaming wireless audio) use. But the suggestion that this shift is driven by altruism is bizarre and disingenuous.
What's kind of amazing here is how no one seems to look back at the consumer internet access costs for comparison. In the early days, when many people had AOL, there were caps and metered billing. And some people used it, certainly, but it was nothing compared to what happened when AOL finally dropped its caps and suddenly people could really embrace and use the internet without worrying about hitting their usage cap. Unlimited internet access is what helped drive internet usage, making it such a powerful and useful platform. Mobile operators seem to want to go in the other direction and are working hard to try to limit how useful many people find their phones, due to limiting data plans. That doesn't seem all that compelling or "fair."
from the wash-rinse-repeat dept
Some observers see this as little more than an attempt by broadcasters to head off the FCC, which wants to seize unused broadcast spectrum and refarm it for use by mobile broadband services -- just like the FCC did with analog broadcast spectrum. So the broadcasters want to launch a service "to provide content to mobile devices, including live and on-demand video, local and national news from print and electronic sources, as well as sports and entertainment programming" -- wait, doesn't that sound like the mobile web? But they want to use a variation of the ATSC digital broadcast technology to set up their own closed system, and also go out of their way to say that the network can be used to deliver public-safety information during emergencies. But they still don't explain just how they think they'll build any interest in these services. Maybe getting that government handout based on spurious public-safety claims is their only hope.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 2nd 2010 6:31pm
from the everything's-amazing-and-nobody's-happy dept
When I was a kid in the 1960s and we came back from a visit to my grandmother's, my mother used to call my grandmother, let the phone ring twice, and then hang up. It was important for my grandmother to know that we'd arrived home safely, but long-distance telephone calls were too expensive to indulge in unnecessarily. When I entered Vanderbilt University in 1971, my parents had to decide whether to pay for a telephone in my dorm room. They decided to do so, but most of the thoroughly upper-middle-class students on my floor did not have phones. Phones cost real money back then. Then came the breakup of the AT&T monopoly in 1984. Phone technology and competitive service provision exploded. In 1982, Motorola produced the first portable mobile phone. It weighed about 2 pounds and cost $3995. Within a very few years they were much smaller, much cheaper, and selling like hotcakes.But the point of the post is to question why some are now putting together an event about "Why Your Cell Phone is So Terrible," pointing out that it's a bit silly to complain when you compare it to what we had.
Today there are some 4.6 billion mobile phones in the world, and counting, or about 67 per every 100 people in the world. The newer ones allow you to carry in your hand more computing power than the computers that put Apollo 11 on the moon. You can cruise the internet, find your location with GPS, read books, send texts, pay bills, process credit cards, watch video, record video, stream video to the web, take and send photos -- oh, and make phone calls from just about anywhere. Unimaginable just a few years ago.
It's a really good point -- but I have to admit I can see both sides to this argument. It's the very fact that, even when we do amazing things, we can still see the faults with it and that drives us to keep improving and to keep innovating. It's the very "culture of improvement" that drives growth and innovation. So, while I can agree that it's sometimes a shame how much we feel a sense of entitlement towards making things better when those amazing things didn't even exist just a few years ago, it's hard not to sympathize with the feeling of wanting things to be even better.
And, by the way, I'm not alone in seeing both sides of all this. That Louis CK video at the top? The one where he mocks the guy sitting next to him on an airplane for getting upset that the WiFi in the sky suddenly stopped working? Yeah, he later admitted that it wasn't someone sitting next to him, but himself getting pissed off at the WiFi not working, even though he didn't even know in-flight WiFi existed until he got on the airplane. So yes, everything is amazing, and no one's happy... but maybe that's a good thing.