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Posts from January 2007

Wi Apple?

Being that we're all speculating about iPhone let me ask this question? Wi Apple?

Sorry for the tongue in cheek headline and teasing journalist license, as this time the typo is INTENTIONAL.

The question in my mind is "why was Apple able to include Wi-Fi in their phone with Cingular/AT&T and companies like Nokia with the E62 and Samsung with the Blackjack forced to castrate the phones and sell them minus Wi-Fi?"

Did Apple cut a deal with Cingular that was "exclusive" or "primary" of "first to have?" If they did, it sure would explain a lot to many of us who just sit back and say things like "if Cingular only sold the E61...."

Candidly I'm biased because Nokia is a client, so let me step away from the above and go in this direction.

Have you ever wondered why the mobile carriers in the USA like Cingular and Verizon worked so hard to make WiFi so unimportant to their services mix? If you're a Mac user have you every wondered why Sprint made logging on to their WiFi networks so hard? (Did you ever try to log on at Sprint HotSpot with a Mac like at Oakland Airport without Internet Explorer?) It's only recently that Sprint has started to really make WiFi a factor and I'll contend that has more to do with WiMax and their Intel relationship versus because they believe in WiFi.

Then there's T-Mobile, which embraced WiFi but has no real mobile high speed wireless play (UMTS or HSPDA) yet so they don't count. Their embracing of Wi-Fi was purely an opportunistic buy when MobileStar went bankrupt, not by design.

When I compare things to say, Europe, where Vodafone, Orange, SFR, T-Mobile make such a big deal about Wi-Fi, tie it together with their data card marketing, allow you to buy Wi-Fi service via an SMS, I just sit back and wonder Wi?

No, what's interesting here is that it's okay for Apple to have Wi-Fi in their whateverPhone and not the more established players who already have distribution and a longer standing carrier relationship. It tells me there is more to this story, I just don't have the the facts (yet). And now with SBC/AT&T running Cingular, we may never know. Then again, we might as more Bell South and Cingular folks get the axe.

Side note: Jeff in his post questions why Apple, long a revolutionary, chose to be evolutionary. In my mind it's that he'd rather play and become a part of the mobile phone industry around the world than take on what is really like a cabal. Steve Jobs is smart enough to not take them on head to head. They could shut down his chances overnight. Instead he has so much to win by playing ball with making iTunes the defacto standard for downloaded content by providing and end to end solution for sales, downloading and settlement.

With so much to win, Jobs and company can easily play it the carriers way. Unlike start up with big ideas, Apple can afford to wait.

Tom The Lawyer

For those of you who grew up watching Cheers, you'll get the point of my headline. For those of you who didn't, Tom the lawyer was played by character actor Tom Babson, now part time drama instructor, and a former member of the Celebrity All Start Hockey Team who went on to coach Women's Hockey in Boston, . Tom is a friend from my past in the world of hockey. On Cheers, Tom would occasionally provide advice to his bar mates and of course to Sam, the bartender the star and for the most part, the regular focus of the show in the early days.

So when I read Tom's post I couldn't help but have a vision of the gang at Cheers all sitting around postulating on Sam's chances to sleep with the next young lady who would walk in to the bar. In essence that's what Tom Keating's post yesterday and so many others are like. We're speculating about things we are not experts on.

The Apple-iPhone situation and all the speculation from everyone else around the blogosphere and in the press is an example of the gallery of those that have opinions vs. those in the know commenting. It's what we all do every day and it's public banter. Unfortunately, there's a lot more to this that we don't know.

1) Did Cisco's legal department start sending out a form letter like Cease and Desist letters like I used to get from Jeep when we ran a promotion that featured a Jeep as the prize, which our client bought and paid for, and which even carried a disclaimer that our client recognized that Jeep was a registered trademark of American Motors?

2) How long have Cisco and Apple been trying to work things out? We don't know...we don't even know if there was a real agreeement

3) Was there ever an agreement or was one tendered by one side of the other, agreed that it might work and then both sides went off on their merry way?

4) Is Apple using the courts as a promotional tool? Yes folks, some companies recognize that getting press around a product or service, or using the courts as a discounting method, is better than paying now or changing thing. Besides, other than Steve Jobs standing up and saying this is the iPhone, what advertising or promotion has Apple done behind the iPhone? ZERO. It has all been publicity. Not one lick of money has been spent ADVERTISING the iPhone. However, tons of free press coverage has helped propel it to be on everyone's mind and the Cisco lawsuit will even further propel it.

Now, lets look at it this way other wise known as it's my turn to open my mouth at the bar...

Suppose the first court that hears the iPhone trademark case rules in favor of Cisco, a ruling which I expect to see in the next 180 days one way or the other--(Note I'm not speculating which side will prevail. Update--I've just read friend, client and now blogger Peter Csathy's take..worth reading.

So the name has to change. What harm has been done other than Apple has gained tons of publicity about their mobile phone. People will still walk in and ask to buy the iPhone, even if it's now the Aphone (thanks Om I had the same idea walking towards MacWorld yesterday). iPhone stops being used before one item is sold and then one has to prove that the infringement led to those sales and the revenue from them. Of course Cisco contend that their brand has been harmed, Apple thus agrees to promote Linksys products in their stores (oh, that's right Linksys doesn't want to work with Apple...darn.) and to give them dozens of feet of shelf space for xx months without any slotting allowance. (Darn, Linskys saves millions). Oh..and iChat becomes Telepresence compatible and the two companies agree to work together to have Telepresence work on all Apple devices from the Macs all the way down to the xPhone..(darn iChat not one of the things Apple has promoted yet on the WhatEver Phone..)

But back to the court cases outcome....

Apple of course points out the cost involved in changing the brand over so close to launch being in the millions of dollars and they need some time to do this. The court agrees and grants Apple so many days to do comply with the court's order. In reality Apple likely already has another name in the oven complete with graphics, copy and all things marketing, and off they go. Apple's too smart and if all it means is having to slap an A over the "i" in the logo with a sticker, so what...all that does is make the iPhone, turned aPhone a collector's item, which causes a mad rush to buy. The court could of course could honor Cisco's request that all product destroyed but that would be overkill because of course Apple simply has to say, "we're willing to comply" or "gee your honor we really tried to work this out with them. We wouldn't have gone as far as we did.......If you think about it Apple really doesn't lose much in court and that's because they don't go to summation that often.

No, this thing gets worked out. Both Cisco and Apple end up stronger and in the end the only harm done is a bunch of trees get killed around all the paper motions that are sent to the courts.

So like Sam, who didn't get "That Girl" but instead got the "next girl," Apple changes the name and still sells the phones.

You see, it is not about the name. It is about the phone. In the end the Apple mobile phone will sell not based on the name iPhone, but because it does things that people want, looks the way people want a phone to look, feels the way people want the mobile phone to be in their hands and offers people something they don't get from their current phone. It will sell because it has the Apple brand. Jobs and Company can call it the WhatEver Phone...because it's an Apple.

You see, it's all about Apple, not about i.

A Nice Note from An Informed Source

I've known Dave Burstein for a few years, largely via the FOJ (Friends of Jeff--as in Pulver) circle that gets acquainted at VON events. Without being asked Dave jumped to my defense after the Nick Carr commentary on my poor typing and lousy spell checking. Dave sent Nick and I a note, and then he gave me permission as he only has a newsletter, not a blog over at DSLPrime. Burstein is someone who knows a lot about the DSL and network market. A lot more than I ever will. Whenever those kinds of questions get served up to me by a mainstream media member I almost always refer them to Dave. He knows his stuff and he's super credible. That only adds more reason why when I read his note I had to sit back and say...WOW. To say the least, I'm touched. To say more would be too much. All I can say is with friends like Dave it's a really good feeling to know sometimes just how other really do admit to knowing me.

Here's Dave's very honest note of his feelings to Nick Carr....Thanks Dave!!


I'm a regular reader of your often very original and imaginative blog, but I think you were "uninformed" in your piece about Andy, a friend.

Easy to find rough spots in the piece by Andy, partly because like most bloggers he doesn't have the editor in the middle to catch things like that. (My dad did 20 years of re-write at The Daily News. Reporters without an editor suffer, myself included.)

But if you had read more of Andy's reporting, you'd probably come to a a different conclusion. By traditional standards, he's done some excellent reporting. He's had a series of legitimate scoops that would be impressive for a typical tech reporter.

Beyond that, the analysis and ideas in his reporting typically outclass most of the telecom reporters in the major papers. Unfortunately, that's not a very high standard these days. Only a handful of telecom reporters match the depth Andy (and Jeff Pulver, Om Malik, James Enck and several others) bring. The result, sometimes even in the world's best telecom team at the WSJ, is not just shallow work but far too often incorporates hype and propaganda.

This came clear recently when online media actually read the AT&T/BellSouth merger agreement and discovered a loophole big enough to make it hollow. The "IPTV exclusion" happened to cover the main method AT&T intended to use to prioritizes traffic, which was obvious to those who knew how the system was designed. Mike at Techdirt, Jeff Pulver, David Isenberg, Susan Crawford, and I picked that up Thursday night and Friday morning when the text came out; by the end of the day when the deal officially went through, our work was picked up in every newspaper account. Knowing most of the reporters on the telecom beat and being in the middle of this story, I think it would have been completely missed without the online journalists.

I'm sure you can think of your own examples. While you certainly can find fault with some of Andy's work, and should, he doesn't deserve the dismissive tone of your piece. He's done plenty of work you'd respect if you had seen it.


Editor, DSL Prime

Contributing Editor and Publisher, Future of

Author, DSL, a Tech Brief (Wiley, 2002) with Jennie Bourne

Producer, Jef

Being Labeled A Minute Stealer..It Puts You In Good Company (Maybe)

Back in the day of when there was one choice in telcos knows as the series of regional Bells you were required to use AT&T for your long distance. Along came MCI and Sprint and a host of others who provided a dial up number locally or via an 800 number and you could start saving money on Long Distance. They were the first minute stealers.

There is nothing wrong in my mind with "minute stealing" but it's a Robin Hood play. The Minute Stealers of today buy bulk minutes from the wholesale side of carriers and route the calls over lower costing service options, sometimes the same carrier who sells service already to the same customers. The difference, by buying in bulk the "minute stealers" hope to arbitrage and settle minutes at better margins or sell more volume.

Along the way came divestiture and something called "Equal Access" which required, as part of the breakup of MaBell to allow customers of the local Bell company access to carriers other than AT&T. Instantly this moved the new carriers from "minute stealers" to direct competitors.

At the time this then gave rise to a new breed of companies who offered services that could handle "least cost routing," call-back, dial arounds, calling cards via other carriers at lower rates. It opened up competition and began the erosion of minutes over the "traditional" carriers AT&T, Sprint, MCI, etc. and opened up the door for more savings.

So while the calls are on the network, and while the carrier is still seeing some minutes, the lass of their high margin long distance business is where the minutes are being stolen from. So while one side of the house looks really healthy, the other side starts to see erosion on LD. This means that other services that would have cost less now have to make up the ARPU to the carrier.

Hey, don't get me wrong..I want to save a buck as much as the next person, but shifting dollars from the P&L, and eroding the gross margin ends up cutting into something. That something is usually R&D first, then Admin, then Marketing and Sales and eventually the network itself. So while the money flows to the mother ship, because it ends up in wholesale it may never see it's way back to where the core of the network needs it.

I'm all for the JaJahs, RebTels, Mint Telecoms to do exactly what they long as their suppliers recognize that shifting where the money comes from to pay for minutes doesn't mean you stop putting the profit where it needs to be.

ETel and GigaOm - Announce VoIP LaunchPad

As if the Telco 2.0 conference isn't going to be hot at the end of March, a new wrinkle has been added to ETel, my personally favorite conference for new and emerging VoIP companies to be at.

Pal Surj Patel and Om Malik along with the O'Reilly folks have cooked up a new event called LaunchPad and it will be the place new VoIP companies can Demo what they have to offer.

Ironically this is exactly the kind of event I suggested to the folks and friends at Pulver last year following the March Spring VON. Personally I'm very happy to see that early stage companies will have a "LaunchPad" to get introduced.