Archive for January, 2007

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January 29th, 2007

SF Muni Wi-Fi: Why 300 KBPS is Enough; Part II

According to our research, here are the top ten activities conducted online. All of them would benefit from faster download speeds, but none of them require faster connection speeds. If the goal is to provide a service to the city and bridge the digital divide, 300KBPS should be enough.

The list:

  1. Received and sent email
  2. Used a search engine/portal (e.g., Yahoo!, MSN, Google) to search for information
  3. Researched products and/or services
  4. Purchased products and/or services
  5. Gathered information on local events, restaurants, maps or traffic
  6. Viewed a bill or statement online
  7. Participated in contests or sweepstakes
  8. Paid a bill online
  9. Used the Internet to get the daily news
  10. Conducted online personal banking (e.g., account transfer, check balances, etc.)
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January 24th, 2007

SF Muni Wi-Fi: Why 300 KBPS Can Bridge the Digital Divide

The propoposal from Google and Earthlink that sits on the table in front of the SF board of supervisors is a great first step towards bridging the digital divide as well as serving the needs of most San Francisco citizens.

There hasn’t been much information put forth about how consumers use the Internet and whether 300 KBPS can satisfy that need. The top thing online users do is check their email. Yes, large attachments can slow things down a bit, but 300 KBPS is fine for email as well as the rest of the top ten and twenty things consumers do online – browse portals, use search, read news, shop, research products, etc.

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January 18th, 2007

SF Muni Wi-Fi – the last hurdle

The SF Gate posted a good piece on the SF Wi-Fi Muni debate today. There are two very good quotes in the article that sum up the situation.

The first from Gavin:

“I’m not going to take $10 million from poor people to pay for something that a private company has offered to pay for,” he added, suggesting money for a system owned or part-owned by city government would take money from social programs.

The second from Don Berryman of Earthlink:

his company [Earthlink] and Google have already invested a lot of time and money negotiating with the city with no guarantee that the proposed network will be profitable.

We do a lot of research on this very topic here. What Mr. Berryman is saying is true – there are a lot of risks and really no guarantees.

I posted on this a week or so ago.

I don’t think that there is a better deal to “be had.” Gavin got a good deal initially b/c we (San Francisco) were one of the first cities to sign on. They really don’t need us so much anymore. They have Cupertino and Philly up and running. They’ve proven they can do this.

The city doesn’t have the skill set to run or manage this type of network.

Yes, Wi-Fi has issues, but it’s free. Everything has a cost.

One of the responses sent to me from my last blog is the following:

I wonder if she would advocate outsource the city libraries as well to Amazon paid for based on ads they could send you correlated to your checkout records?

Not the craziest idea I’ve heard. Lots of people say they don’t want advertising, but they still watch TV and surf the Internet – two mediums which are heavily ad-sponsored.

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January 16th, 2007

Contextual Advertising … and a new season of 24

Lots of good advertising for the wireless industry in the new season. AT&T Wireless had commercials all ready to go with their change of brand message. Looks like Sprint is doing product placement in the show. They did last season as well.

What impressed me most when watching Sunday evening’s show was the placement of an application, Telenav. Typically, it’s just been the hand sets with no direct reference to the specifics of the applications. Telenav was prominently displayed on the show and then directly afterward in a commercial. I believe that contextual advertising is exactly the type of advertising that the industry needs to drive consumer adoption. Would be curious to know the terms of the integrated advertising agreement.

The one part I struggled with was Jack hot-wiring the 1982 Pontiac and finding a GPS-enabled phone in the car. (OK, not sure it’s a Pontiac, but an older American model)

And how about the 4-digit short code: Jack? Send “24″ to “Jack” for exclusive content and previews. Was very easy to download from the link – and quick. And, then … there was pre-roll advertising on the preview. A bit hard to see what it was, but I think it was men’s deo. Only fault I find with it is that they are still single carrier promotions. I tried the same from my Verizon Wireless phone and received no response at all.

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January 9th, 2007

Apple iPhone … what they didn’t say about the services

… and the questions I still have …

No discussion of the phone itself here … please refer to my colleague, Michael Gartenberg’s blog. He has a lot of posts about the iPhone. I will say though that I definitely want one. Was very cool.

My colleague David Card posted separately on the music capabilities.

I had the privilege of attending the Apple Inc.

MacWorld keynote today by Steve Jobs. As I sat there mesmerized by the amazing features, functionality, user interface (i.e., scrolling), sensors, etc., I kept asking myself, “Is Apple going to launch this as an unlocked phone? or with a carrier?” It was a very Apple-centric presentation. We knew early on it would be GSM as there was/is a slot for a SIM card (on the outside no less). Also, as soon as Jobs turned it on, we could see the “Cingular bars” at the top.

What we didn’t see was Jobs boot up the phone/turn it on. Will I see the familiar “apple” logo? or will I see the orange Cingular person/jacks symbol?

I didn’t see an icon on the “home” screen for Cingular.

Will iTunes begin selling games for the phone? Will glu and the rest develop games for the Apple platform? Will iTunes sell ring tones? (The demo’ed polyphonics were a bit ‘yesterday’ … I was waiting for him to go into the iTunes library and convert a song into a ringtone …ok, not happening)

What about their (Cingular’s) TV/Film relationships? Will the next version of the iPhone have a MediaFLO chip? or DVB-H? If I have the iTunes phone, will I be excluded from live TV and the Sopranos?

With Yahoo! and Google applications/services shipping on the handset, it seems to imply that Cingular is open to applications/services competitive with their own. With most announcements between the handset manufacturers and content providers/Internet portals/et. al., it’s hard to assess the impact as the carrier often – at least in the US – has the final say on what is shipped on the handset they are selling.

The Cingular branding wasn’t yet on this device – makes sense as it was Apple’s day in the spotlight. The Cingular announcement was made at the very end, and there wasn’t much detail around it.

I was a bit surprised by the carrier announcement at the end despite all of the rumors from the analysts and press. Everything seemed to be leading up to an unlocked phone. Subsidies from Cingular will help sell the $499/$599 phone. Will be interesting to see if Cingular has the same terms as many of Apple’s other distribution partners i.e., one price/no discounting. Most “hot” new phones launch at high prices (e.g., the Razr), but quickly come down in price. With a target of one percent market share globally, Apple/Cingular may not need to do so. I’m sure most folks left thinking that this was round one, and there would be subsequent phones at prices designed for higher adoption like the iPod.

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January 9th, 2007

… and the questions I still have … No discussion of the phone itself here … please refer to my colleague, Michael Gartenberg’s blog. He has a lot of posts about the iPhone. I will say though that I definitely want one. Was very cool. My colleague David Card posted separately on the music capabilities. I had the privilege of attending the Apple Inc. MacWorld keynote today by Steve Jobs. As I sat there mesmerized by the amazing features, functionality, user interface (i.e., scrolling), sensors, etc., I kept asking myself, “Is Apple going to launch this as an unlocked phone? or with a carrier?” It was a very Apple-centric presentation. We knew early on it would be GSM as there was/is a slot for a SIM card (on the outside no less). Also, as soon as Jobs turned it on, we could see the “Cingular bars” at the top. What we didn’t see was Jobs boot up the phone/turn it on. Will I see the familiar “apple” logo? or will I see the orange Cingular person/jacks symbol? I didn’t see an icon on the “home” screen for Cingular. Will iTunes begin selling games for the phone? Will glu and the rest develop games for the Apple platform? Will iTunes sell ring tones? (The demo’ed polyphonics were a bit ‘yesterday’ … I was waiting for him to go into the iTunes library and convert a song into a ringtone …ok, not happening) What about their (Cingular’s) TV/Film relationships? Will the next version of the iPhone have a MediaFLO chip? or DVB-H? If I have the iTunes phone, will I be excluded from live TV and the Sopranos? With Yahoo! and Google applications/services shipping on the handset, it seems to imply that Cingular is open to applications/services competitive with their own. With most announcements between the handset manufacturers and content providers/Internet portals/et. al., it’s hard to assess the impact as the carrier often – at least in the US – has the final say on what is shipped on the handset they are selling. The Cingular branding wasn’t yet on this device – makes sense as it was Apple’s day in the spotlight. The Cingular announcement was made at the very end, and there wasn’t much detail around it. I was a bit surprised by the carrier announcement at the end despite all of the rumors from the analysts and press. Everything seemed to be leading up to an unlocked phone. Subsidies from Cingular will help sell the $499/$599 phone. Will be interesting to see if Cingular has the same terms as many of Apple’s other distribution partners i.e., one price/no discounting. Most “hot” new phones launch at high prices (e.g., the Razr), but quickly come down in price. With a target of one percent market share globally, Apple/Cingular may not need to do so. I’m sure most folks left thinking that this was round one, and there would be subsequent phones at prices designed for higher adoption like the ipod.

Today was a big day for mobile video in the US. Verizon announced that they will launch a broadcast video service (MediaFLO) in the first quarter of 2007 while Modeo (Crown Castle) announced the launch of their beta DVB-H service in New York City. And, not to be upstaged, MobiTV sneaked in with an announcement about the new, interactive features added to their service. It’s a lot to absorb in one day let alone in a market where only one or two percent of mobile subscribers have video subscriptions on their cell phones.

My colleague Joe posted a blog on the MediaFLO launch with Verizon. He answers one of the questions that I am often asked: “Why would I want this service? Isn’t broadcast just like what we had 20 years ago with the Sony Watchman? And why do I have to pay now?” So the answer is “kind of.” Except now, it’s on this small handheld device that you carry with you anyway and you get access to some exclusive content that would never have been broadcast in the past. Joe also makes a good point about the on-demand expectations DVR-addicted consumers now have. At 4:18pm, I probably want a two-minute news summary. Consumers should like the price of broadcast if the economics that MediaFLO is promising trickle down to the consumer. There is content – maybe not the OSU game last night if you’re an Ohio fan – that consumers would like live, but not if they only have two minutes. A service like iTunes gives you a choice – summary or full length program. Verizon will do some of this initially at least by continuing to offer their Vcast service while rolling out their new broadcast service.

Modeo is interesting separately. Certainly they are rolling out a technology (DVB-H) that will be more popular globally and has been rolled out in some countries in Europe. They are launching a beta without a wireless carrier in the US. One might ask … “why do they need a carrier?” … the answer is “they don’t.” The technology could go into any one of many CE devices or a laptop computer. Someone, however, is going to have to go out and sign consumers up to a subscription service (unless it’s going to be offered for free through ad-sponsorships – unlikely though without a proven business/business model in a nascent market).

MobiTV’s announcement, however, sheds more light on the vision of TV on a cell phone. When people ask, “how is it different than my Watchman from the eighties?”, this answers the question, partially. A cell phone allows for interactivity. It’s a two-way communication device that offers a direct response mechanism to advertisers and consumers.

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January 4th, 2007

Why is the Bay Area Guardian Arguing Against Free Wi-Fi?

The San Francisco Bay Guardian posted an Editorial “Free Wi-Fi for Everyone” this week. The author is arguing against allowing Earthlink and Google to build a Wi-Fi network in San Francisco that would offer ONLY 300 kilobytes per second for free. As with many issues, there is another side to these arguments.

  • Yes, every mayor with political ambitions is seeking free Wi-Fi or more affordable broadband access for everyone. Why not? Gavin did well to announce his project early and offer up an attractive market (and test bed) early. With Earthlink and Google, he has great partners with the tech-savvy, experience and resources to pull off a project unlike any other to date – and without using taxpayer dollars. He still has a lot of work ahead of him to get computers into those same households that don’t have broadband today. And, yes, there may be some growing pains with being an early adopter, but are also significant benefits (e.g., terms of the deal).
  • The public sector doesn’t have the expertise to build and operate such a network. This may be one of the first instances of widespread use of unlicensed spectrum. Companies operating in the municipal Wi-Fi space are taking risks that the city can’t afford to take. Also, ownership by a private entity bypasses the legal issues associated with a city’s right to go head-to-head with the private sector on these projects. (Anyone remember the early discussions around the Philadelphia project?) In San Francisco, it adds a third infrastructure play and more competition.
  • 300 kilobytes per second ONLY for free. If I’m reading my broadband bill correctly, I think I’m paying $30+ per month for this now. On my laptop through a cellular service provider, it’s $60 per month for this speed. Not to state the obvious, but 300 is greater than zero. 300 kilobytes per second is sufficient for email, web browsing, chat, etc. – what people spend the majority of their time doing online. It’s sufficient for filling out job applications online.
  • And yes, both Google and Earthlink are for-profit companies. Why shouldn’t they make money? Why shouldn’t their vendors (e.g., Tropos) make money? In any case, both Google and Earthlink have their work cut out for them. Customer acquisition is tough and expensive whether you are Earthlink or Google. What’s wrong with more advertising options for local businesses?

Yes, I’d like to have fiber to my home. My grandmother has it in the town of Colo, IA population 900. I’ll leave a discussion around the economics and policy of this subject to the broadband analysts.

It’s not clear that the city is forever dooming itself to expensive, slow broadband by allowing for-profit companies to provide services.

There are a lot of cities out there that would take this deal. I’d be surprised if there aren’t some mayors ringing Earthlink and Google and asking them to bring the same deal to their hometown if things fall through in San Francisco. There are certainly easier pickings for consumer broadband in cities without the high level of adoption that exists in San Francisco.

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January 2nd, 2007

Video News Footage from your Cell Phone

The latest big news captured via cell phone came from Iraq. Someone actually recorded last week’s execution. See story. I checked out a version of it on YouTube. Yes, it was grainy and there were a lot of shots of the floor and chaos. The audio was sharp. The phone seemed to have a reasonable amount of ‘zoom’ capability. With as many shots of the steps and floor, it seems clear that the video was being taken surreptitiously. Besides, if they wanted video footage, they would have invited the media.

It’s not the first time that video footage taken from a cell phone has been spread around the Web, and it’s just a matter of time before this is done easily from phone to phone. It’s yet another category of user-created content or reporting from citizens without the restrictions put on journalists.

Such episodes, however, raise a lot of questions. What about individual privacy? Cell phones have been banned from locker rooms for years. YouTube asks viewers to register their age b/c of the graphic nature of the video, but who has responsibility for this longer term? Who will really verify ‘age.’ Who bears responsibility for accurate reporting or ensuring that photos and videos have not been doctored? Such content can be damaging even if not illegal. Who owns the content?

Certainly this issue is not new. Affordable video cameras have been around for a long time. Cell phones, however, are a form of hidden camera – most people expect that you using it to talk.

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