Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Executive Director’

On Demo, a $25 1080p Camera Module For Raspberry Pi

November 23rd, 2012 11:05 admin View Comments

Input Devices

hypnosec writes “The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced a new add-on – a camera module that will enable the credit card sized computer to snap pictures as well as record 1080p videos. Showcased by RS Components at the Elecontrica 2012 in Germany [watch video here] the £16 (apprx) module will be equipped with a 5MP sensor and will plug into the otherwise unused CSI pins of the Pi. The camera module’s board is still in prototype stage and is expected to reach production sometime soon. Liz Upton, Executive Director of the Foundation said in a blog post, ‘We’ve a (very) little way to go before we’re able to send it out to manufacture.’ According to Upton, testing slots have been booked in December to check on electromagnetic radiations from the ribbon cable.”

Source: On Demo, a $25 1080p Camera Module For Raspberry Pi

ReadWriteWeb DeathWatch: 38 Studios

June 22nd, 2012 06:02 admin View Comments

On its own, “Game Developer Fails to Wow, Folds” is hardly newsworthy. But add lies, possible criminal behavior, and a $100 million bill to taxpayers, and you have a DeathWatch Candidate. Throw a controversial baseball icon into the mix, and you have a winner! 38 Studios collapsed under the weight of its own ego, and the shockwave took down hundreds of people along with it.

The Basics

In 2006, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling launched Green Monster Games (renamed 38 Studios after his jersey number a year later). In 2009, the company acquired Rise of Nations developer Big Huge Games. Schilling, a vocal opponent of big government, then relocated to Rhode Island after negotiating $75 million of state-backed loans – claiming the company could create an estimated 450 jobs. 38 Studios found creative ways to spend that money, attracting top-tier talent, including Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and author R. A. Salvatore.

But in six years, 38 Studios released only one game, this February’s “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.” Reviews were mixed but generally positive, and the game found decent commercial success.

The studio’s crowning achievement was to be Copernicus, a much-hyped Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO) that, judging by the official fly-through video below, should have been at least visually stunning.

 The Problem

Last month, 38 Studios ran out of money. It missed payroll, canceled employee health insurance, bounced a check to the state of Rhode Island and ultimately closed up shop, firing more than 400 employees in multiple locations.

Then things got ugly. According to a letter published by gaming site Gamasutra, Schilling had been missing health insurance payments for several months, knew the end was coming and failed to give his employees any warning. He even kept job postings on the site, as well as a blurb about the company’s “commitment to quality of life” for its workers. The Gamasutra letter and dozens of similar stories paint a picture of Schilling as a sleaze and a liar. At worst, he might be a criminal.

That would be par for the course for Rhode Island, which Newsweek once claimed to have “the most corruption per capita.” Schilling was reportedly cozy with the state’s then-governor, after meeting at a Republican fundraiser. According to a Boston Globe article, Keith Stokes (the Economic Development Corp.’s Executive Director at the time) used his influence to stop a budget amendment that would have capped loan guarantees like the one given to 38 Studios at $10 million, just before the company’s controversial loan went through.

Two years later, the cash-strapped state is on the hook for more than $100 million of principal and interest, and Stokes has resigned. The State Police, Attorney General’s office, FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office have launched a joint criminal investigation looking into, among other things, potential misuse of funds.

On June 16, Schilling fired back, accusing the state’s EDC of bailing on $8.7 million of tax credits that were due to the studio. On Friday morning, Schilling told a Boston radio station that the lack of those credits cost 38 Studios a $15 million third-party investment that would have saved the company. Schilling blamed Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee for many of the company’s problems. “I think he had an agenda and executed it,” Schilling said on air.

The wheels haven’t stopped turning. Michael Corso, a broker who helped negotiate an $8.5 million loan for the studio based on expected tax credits, is associated with a movie shooting in Rhode Island that just received $625,000 in new tax credits.

The Player

Curt Schilling has never shied away from the spotlight, even when it got a little awkward (like the time he talked trash about World of Warcraft after being comped a pass to its creator’s conference). Schilling is an exciting presence, but by most accounts, he’s a lousy CEO. While his star power helped attract investors, one product every six years won’t pay the bills.

Even if none of the mud sticks, Schilling’s inability to perform basic arithmetic will write him into the history books as one of the tech and gaming industry’s most inept leaders. As CNN’s Dan Primack wrote, Schilling, 400 employees, and Rhode Island taxpayers had to learn the hard way that venture capital is best left to those who know how to make money.

But Schilling still doesn’t seem to understand his own role. In the radio interview, Schilling acknowledged some responsibility for the situation, yet claimed “the amount of hatred [he was receiving] is surprising, given that I’ve never hit my wife, I’ve never driven drunk, I’ve never taken drugs, I’ve never done steroids, I’ve never done the things that a lot of people have done.”

The only fan Curt Schilling has left might be Roger Clemens, who is no longer the most reviled former Red Sox pitcher in New England. He may have used steroids and played for the Yankees, but Clemens was acquitted of the criminal charges he faced.

The Prognosis

Studio 38 is dead, and Schilling claims to have lost $50 million of his own money in the process. But the true victims in this saga are the hard-working employees who bought into the dream, lost tens of thousands of dollars of income and benefits, and created a beautiful piece of work that may never make it to market. In response, the gaming world has reached out to the former employees: Epic Games announced plans to hire 100 of them.

Can This Company Be Saved?

There’s no hope for the company, or for Schilling’s business reputation, but Copernicus may yet ship. Rhode Island is examining its options and will be courting buyers. Anyone interested in the intellectual property would need the resources to maintain and expand the game over time, limiting the list of suitors and reducing the expected price.

The DeathWatch So Far

ReadWriteWeb’s DeathWatch series highlights businesses and technologies facing potentially life-threatening challenges. Each week we examine a vulnerable company, check for a pulse and look at its chances for recovery.

Research In Motion: No change in status.

HP: No change in status.

Nokia: No change in status.

Source: ReadWriteWeb DeathWatch: 38 Studios

ReadWriteWeb DeathWatch: 38 Studios

June 22nd, 2012 06:02 admin View Comments

On its own, “Game Developer Fails to Wow, Folds” is hardly newsworthy. But add lies, possible criminal behavior, and a $100 million bill to taxpayers, and you have a DeathWatch Candidate. Throw a controversial baseball icon into the mix, and you have a winner! 38 Studios collapsed under the weight of its own ego, and the shockwave took down hundreds of people along with it.

The Basics

In 2006, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling launched Green Monster Games (renamed 38 Studios after his jersey number a year later). In 2009, the company acquired Rise of Nations developer Big Huge Games. Schilling, a vocal opponent of big government, then relocated to Rhode Island after negotiating $75 million of state-backed loans – claiming the company could create an estimated 450 jobs. 38 Studios found creative ways to spend that money, attracting top-tier talent, including Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and author R. A. Salvatore.

But in six years, 38 Studios released only one game, this February’s “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.” Reviews were mixed but generally positive, and the game found decent commercial success.

The studio’s crowning achievement was to be Copernicus, a much-hyped Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO) that, judging by the official fly-through video below, should have been at least visually stunning.

 The Problem

Last month, 38 Studios ran out of money. It missed payroll, canceled employee health insurance, bounced a check to the state of Rhode Island and ultimately closed up shop, firing more than 400 employees in multiple locations.

Then things got ugly. According to a letter published by gaming site Gamasutra, Schilling had been missing health insurance payments for several months, knew the end was coming and failed to give his employees any warning. He even kept job postings on the site, as well as a blurb about the company’s “commitment to quality of life” for its workers. The Gamasutra letter and dozens of similar stories paint a picture of Schilling as a sleaze and a liar. At worst, he might be a criminal.

That would be par for the course for Rhode Island, which Newsweek once claimed to have “the most corruption per capita.” Schilling was reportedly cozy with the state’s then-governor, after meeting at a Republican fundraiser. According to a Boston Globe article, Keith Stokes (the Economic Development Corp.’s Executive Director at the time) used his influence to stop a budget amendment that would have capped loan guarantees like the one given to 38 Studios at $10 million, just before the company’s controversial loan went through.

Two years later, the cash-strapped state is on the hook for more than $100 million of principal and interest, and Stokes has resigned. The State Police, Attorney General’s office, FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office have launched a joint criminal investigation looking into, among other things, potential misuse of funds.

On June 16, Schilling fired back, accusing the state’s EDC of bailing on $8.7 million of tax credits that were due to the studio. On Friday morning, Schilling told a Boston radio station that the lack of those credits cost 38 Studios a $15 million third-party investment that would have saved the company. Schilling blamed Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee for many of the company’s problems. “I think he had an agenda and executed it,” Schilling said on air.

The wheels haven’t stopped turning. Michael Corso, a broker who helped negotiate an $8.5 million loan for the studio based on expected tax credits, is associated with a movie shooting in Rhode Island that just received $625,000 in new tax credits.

The Player

Curt Schilling has never shied away from the spotlight, even when it got a little awkward (like the time he talked trash about World of Warcraft after being comped a pass to its creator’s conference). Schilling is an exciting presence, but by most accounts, he’s a lousy CEO. While his star power helped attract investors, one product every six years won’t pay the bills.

Even if none of the mud sticks, Schilling’s inability to perform basic arithmetic will write him into the history books as one of the tech and gaming industry’s most inept leaders. As CNN’s Dan Primack wrote, Schilling, 400 employees, and Rhode Island taxpayers had to learn the hard way that venture capital is best left to those who know how to make money.

But Schilling still doesn’t seem to understand his own role. In the radio interview, Schilling acknowledged some responsibility for the situation, yet claimed “the amount of hatred [he was receiving] is surprising, given that I’ve never hit my wife, I’ve never driven drunk, I’ve never taken drugs, I’ve never done steroids, I’ve never done the things that a lot of people have done.”

The only fan Curt Schilling has left might be Roger Clemens, who is no longer the most reviled former Red Sox pitcher in New England. He may have used steroids and played for the Yankees, but Clemens was acquitted of the criminal charges he faced.

The Prognosis

Studio 38 is dead, and Schilling claims to have lost $50 million of his own money in the process. But the true victims in this saga are the hard-working employees who bought into the dream, lost tens of thousands of dollars of income and benefits, and created a beautiful piece of work that may never make it to market. In response, the gaming world has reached out to the former employees: Epic Games announced plans to hire 100 of them.

Can This Company Be Saved?

There’s no hope for the company, or for Schilling’s business reputation, but Copernicus may yet ship. Rhode Island is examining its options and will be courting buyers. Anyone interested in the intellectual property would need the resources to maintain and expand the game over time, limiting the list of suitors and reducing the expected price.

The DeathWatch So Far

ReadWriteWeb’s DeathWatch series highlights businesses and technologies facing potentially life-threatening challenges. Each week we examine a vulnerable company, check for a pulse and look at its chances for recovery.

Research In Motion: No change in status.

HP: No change in status.

Nokia: No change in status.

Source: ReadWriteWeb DeathWatch: 38 Studios

With Backing of Donors and Facebook, Don’t Expect a Big CISPA Fight

April 20th, 2012 04:59 admin View Comments

Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy, wrote in a blog post last week that the company has “no intention” of sharing “sensitive personal information with the government in the name of protecting cybersecurity,” explaining why the company is supporting CISPA but did not support SOPA, which would have required such sharing.

The question for privacy advocates is whether or not Facebook can be trusted.

“CISPA would erode existing legal protections and leave the door wide open for the government to obligate companies to hand over sensitive personal information without a subpoena or warrant.” – Evelyn Castillo-Bach, the founder of two private social networks.

“A company’s promise that it will not abuse its authority to disclose user information is not legal protection for the public,” said Evelyn Castillo-Bach, the founder of the private social networks Umenow.com and Collegiate Nation. “Facebook in particular is not well positioned to make any promises regarding its role in protecting privacy. Let’s not forget that this is the same company with a long history of playing fast and loose with people’s privacy settings, including allowing third-party apps and games to extract personal information and photos without consent.”

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 is a bigger, badder version of the Stop Online Piracy Act that was defeated earlier this year. One of the biggest differences this time around, however, is that some of the big tech companies that threatened to go dark if SOPA moved forward are jumping to support CISPA.

Privacy Advocates Want Clearer Rules

On Monday, ReadWriteWeb’s Dan Rowinski wrote about everything you need to know about CISPA, but for our purposes, the biggest difference is that the tech companies would voluntarily share information with the government. The government also promises to warn tech companies about pending cyber attacks, which is the obvious incentive for companies like Facebook to support it.

“Facebook’s main gripe with SOPA – that it stifled innovation and openness on the internet and forced companies like itself to provide the government with more access to private data of users – is apparently not an issue with CISPA,” said Kate Brodock, Executive Director of Digital & Social Media at Syracuse University. “With no requirements to share data with the government, they are able to suggest that they will maintain their standards of safeguarding and protecting private data.”

The problem is that the language of the bill is vague and leaves lots of issues unresolved or ill-defined. Castillo-Bach says she believes smaller social networks and social networks that put a premium on user privacy – such as the ones she runs – may be particularly vulnerable under certain interpretations of CISPA.

“CISPA would erode existing legal protections and leave the door wide open for the government to obligate companies to hand over sensitive personal information without a subpoena or warrant, with no rights accorded to the individual to sue the company for wrongfully targeting them for interception, and no right to know that one has been intercepted,” she said. “This would undermine, if not altogether destroy, the ability of new startups with privacy-focused brands to exist or compete with the giant social networks, or other tech companies – that are ad-based, use tracking as a core feature of their business model, and don’t have a strong commitment to genuine privacy protection, anonymity or total control of one’s personal data and communication.”

Don’t Brace For the Big Fight

The anti-SOPA backlash was so strong that the bill, and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act, were withdrawn in January. But with big tech – and big money – supporting CISPA, the opposition has more of a grassroots feel to it.

Sopatrack, which monitored contributions and positions of lawmakers on SOPA and PIPA, has been reconfigured to track CISPA positions and related campaign contributions. A new feature also tracks the percentage of time individual lawmakers vote “with the money.”

According to Sopatrack, groups supporting CISPA have donated $31.6 million to lawmakers, as opposed to $2.4 million from groups opposing CISPA. On average, Congress votes “with the money” 73% of the time.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: With Backing of Donors and Facebook, Don’t Expect a Big CISPA Fight

ISOC Hires MPAA Executive Paul Beringer

March 23rd, 2012 03:01 admin View Comments

The Internet

First time accepted submitter imwilder writes “The Internet Society has hired Paul Beringer to head up its operations in North America. Beringer was formerly Chief Technology Policy Officer for the MPAA, and Executive Director of Internet and Technology Policy for Verizon Corporate Services. Does this challenge the notion that ISOC is a ‘trusted, independent source of Internet leadership?’”

Source: ISOC Hires MPAA Executive Paul Beringer

Nervous Medical Students Await Next Week’s Match Day

March 9th, 2012 03:02 admin View Comments

nrmp.jpgImagine looking for a job at the same exact time that everyone else is doing it, and you have to adhere to rigid interviewing and application standards. Now imagine that to get the job you have to be matched with your prospective employer by a national computer system. The program is designed to take into account your preferences and your prospective employer’s. That is precisely what is going on next week, when medical students from all over North America participate in what is called Match Day. For more than 50 years, Match Day has happened in March, on the third Thursday, which is next week.

Medical students around the country are finishing up their studies and have spent the last several months trying to figure out where they will next spend their residency years: going to interviews, studying the online reputations of their schools, and filing out applications. The program is administered by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) out of Washington DC, part of the American Association of Medical Colleges that represent the 150 North American accredited academic medical schools. To give you an idea of the numbers involved, there are 38,000 applicants, 27,000 positions to be filled in 4,000 residency programs. Each school has several specialty programs, such as internal medicine or surgery, for example.

Future physicians in both the U.S. and Canada must decide what program to apply to and rank their top five choices of residency programs they desire according to a rigid schedule. The tens of thousands of students all submit their preferences and hear about where they have been chosen next week, and as you imagine it is a nail-biting sleepless night for many of them.

There are actually, two pieces of software behind the matching process, according to Mona Signer, the Executive Director of NRMP. The first is the outward-facing registration software that is used by both schools and students to specify their preferences. Once everyone registers this information, the data is then downloaded into a separate PC that sits behind NRMP’s firewall. This runs the actual matching algorithm itself. As you might imagine, this PC isn’t connected to the Internet for security reasons.

“The matching algorithm is unique,” said Signer. “It handles couples as participants and links their lists to the requests of both partners, and it also matches applicants simultaneously to both of their first and second year training requests. Plus, program directors can donate unfilled positions in one program to other programs. There are a lot of subtleties.” She told me that the actual software run takes about 10 minutes, but that is the easy part. “We have to verify everyone’s credentials for each applicant, and do other clean ups of the data. That is what takes some time. Once we processed the algorithm, we have to create individualized emails and Web pages and prepare a lot of reports that we post on our Web site. All of that is done before Match Day begins.”

The results are available electronically for all concerned parties. The schools receive a special secure file with the consolidated results, which they then download and print out and mail to their prospective students. Many schools plan Match Day events so everyone can open their envelope together. “I like the fact that you still get to open an envelope, at least for your residencies,” said Dr. Jeff Lowell, a Professor of Surgery at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis. “The old school touch is still nice and has more drama than just logging into a website and you get to do it with classmates and family.”

Fortran and Visual Basic

This is actually the second version of the matching algorithm. The original one was written in Fortran, it was rewritten a few years in Visual Basic, and this was done for maintenance reasons: “Few people know Fortran anymore.” NRMP is in the process of looking for a new outsourcing partner for its IT and operations. Currently, they are using the services of the medical college association but haven’t been happy with the service disruptions. Plus, the outward-facing software is a decade old and in need of refreshing. They will make the decision later this year.

As Signer said, one of the interesting factors of the algorithm is the way it matches couples who want to have their matches considered together as well as singles, and she is proud of the fact that the success factor on couples is close to what it is for the single students. Dr. Karl Weyrauch is a former family practice physician who met his wife in medical school. She is also a family practice doctor. “We had a lot harder time because we were trying to match as a couple to go to the same program. It wasn’t as stressful as initially applying to med school because we had both applied under an early decision program, but it was still a bit tricky to understand the process and make sure that we both filled out our matches exactly the same. While we were both attractive as potential residents, it could have been a problem if my wife and I weren’t close in terms of our rankings.”

The residency matching program is just one of 25 other matches that NRMP runs all year, including matching for fellowships and other medical programs. We hope all the students get their first choice next week!

Source: Nervous Medical Students Await Next Week’s Match Day

How to Print From iPads Across Your Enterprise

March 5th, 2012 03:15 admin View Comments

aerohive-logo.jpgAs more iPads enter corporations, IT support folks are understanding their limits of what can be accomplished in terms of a business computing device. I am not talking about the lack of support for Flash, although that is frustrating. How about printing?

Yes, Apple has included its Bonjour protocol for printing from their tablets, but until today it hasn’t been a routable one. That means if you are lucky enough to be on a network segment with a printer that supports AirPrint, you can print. If you have a large network with several routers, you are out of luck.

Today Aerohive changes that game with its Enterprise Bonjour Gateway (PDF available here). It is more of a bridge or a router, but basically you can purchase some hardware from them and set it up to support all kinds of Bonjour networking, including the ability to send video from your iPad across a network (AirPlay) too. Bonjour is Apple’s services protocol and the way other networking hardware can easily configure themselves.

Aerohive is known for its wireless networking products, but this represents an interesting expansion for them. Their gateway can be used with existing network security policies, too.

Phil Hardin is the Executive Director of Technology for the Rowan-Salisbury School System and an early user. “Our programs use these mobile devices to improve the teaching and learning environment in the classroom by enabling teachers and students to share information and multimedia projects through AirPlay. Aerohive’s new technology will enable us to use AirPlay and AirPrint with multi-subnet network architectures and will preserve the ease of use we have and expect from our Apple devices.”

You can watch this video demonstration of how it works across two simple network segments.

Each Access Poing sells for $449, and you will need at least one AP to enable the gateway feature. It should be available midyear.

Source: How to Print From iPads Across Your Enterprise

Panelists: The Endgame for AT&T and T-Mobile

December 9th, 2011 12:00 admin View Comments

111209 Panel of Esteemed Grown-ups.jpg

“The landscape has clearly changed,” U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle told a hearing into AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom, according to this morning’s Wall Street Journal. When the deal was proposed in March, it appeared to be rolling like a juggernaut, and the Justice Dept. sought expedited proceedings to address the urgency. Today, federal attorneys are seeking to slow down the case, after AT&T withdrew its petition for approval of the deal from the Federal Communications Commission, while immediately afterward AT&T said it would continue to pursue the merger.

As of Friday evening, the deal was, as one veteran telecom industry attorney told Reuters, “pretty close to dead.” If that’s the case, does T-Mobile soldier on? Or is it, to coin a phrase, pretty close to dead? ReadWriteWeb has convened the Panel of Esteemed Grown-ups to discuss no less than the fate of the U.S. wireless industry (left to right):

Ross Rubin, Executive Director and Principal Analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence

Mark Beccue, Senior Analyst for Consumer Mobility, ABI Research

Jan Dawson, Chief Telecoms Analyst, Ovum

Carmi Levy, contributing analyst, CTV News Channel

Just what did they expect?

“My feeling from the beginning has been, this felt like it was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” says Ovum’s Jan Dawson. He’s talking about the part of the proposed deal that AT&T has said from the beginning was its key objective: the integration of the two companies’ 4G LTE wireless networks.

“If the objective really was just to get spectrum, access to cell towers, then spending the $39 billion to acquire the entire company just felt like overkill. If you look at T-Mobile on paper, those are the main assets they have,” Dawson goes on. “They have a customer base that they’ve struggled to grow; the brand is pretty good, but it does look like AT&T was planning on eliminating that. So you’re kinda wondering, do you really need to acquire the whole company to get this? You wonder if somewhere, in all of this, part of the motivation was that AT&T had lost the #1 spot in terms of number of subscribers to Verizon awhile back, and they felt the best way to get it back on a pretty permanent basis was to cement its position as the largest wireline carrier, the largest DSL carrier, and the largest wireless carrier in the U.S.”

“ There’s no reason why competitors can’t partner up on initiatives. Bell and Telus built a consolidated 3G network, recognizing that the size of the market and the geographic coverage to reach that market did not justify a single-company investment.”

Carmi Levy
Contributing analyst, CTV News Channel

After AT&T announced its intentions last March, telecoms analyst firm ABI Research went on the record as believing “at the end of the day, the deal will go through in one form or another.” Granted, the day has not ended, but this deal may already be history.
In fact, ABI’s Mark Beccue isn’t prepared to stick a fork in it even now. As he explains to us, “AT&T’s very clear about what they want [T-Mobile] for. They want the spectrum, because they’re succeeding and they need it.”

But T-Mobile’s cell towers make for a nice little prize on the side, Beccue goes on. When you consider the licensing and construction costs for building cell towers on a local level, he says, it’s too great an expenditure of both money and time now for a company of any size to undertake on its own. AT&T would gain increased capacity and better service, and one might be surprised to learn that even at a $39 billion price tag, that’s a bargain.

Beccue disagrees entirely with Dawson’s assessment of AT&T’s motives. “At the highest level – AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon – what do they need? They don’t need subscribers. They’ll go get them on their own. What they need is assets.”

What did the government think it could accomplish?

While the FCC claims it’s upholding a principle of preserving free and fair competition in presenting its objections to the merger deal thus far, Beccue believes that the current free and fair market does not necessarily want competitors to be artificially preserved like jellies and jams. “It’s puzzling to me why the government would be opposed to this merger. They’re not thinking about what would happen if they don’t allow it to happen. And I think that’s pretty dangerous.”

The ABI analyst points out that T-Mobile has been trying to sell its U.S. property to someone for years. Its parent company, Deutsche Telekom (T), never put its heart into T-Mobile, he says. And in a way, the act of not wanting to put the effort into T-Mobile to make it competitive, to make it leapfrog over #3 Sprint, creates a kind of Darwinian competition, the result of which being that only AT&T would want to buy it.

“The government’s saying, ‘You can’t sell it to somebody who wants it.’ And nobody else wants it,” Beccue remarks. Although government regulators make the argument that preserving T-Mobile makes Sprint stronger, he believes, Sprint itself demonstrated the opposite by not wanting to buy T-Mobile when it had the opportunity.

NPD’s Ross Rubin disagrees with several more of Beccue’s points, including that no one else but AT&T would want T-Mobile’s assets. “If the merger falls through, then a number of things could happen, but clearly Deutsche Telekom has indicated that they want to divest themselves of this operation. And there’s been some discussion over whether it could be acquired, perhaps, by a satellite provider such as Dish.”

Now that Sprint will be moving to LTE along with its competitors, Rubin says, it could conceivably add T-Mobile’s spectrum holdings in the 1.7 GHz band to its own. LTE is not only a more expensive infrastructure to build and maintain, he points out, it requires sophisticated smartphones that will remain on the high end of the value scale for some time to come. What every competitor needs in this market needs to compete is a type of scale that Beccue didn’t mention.

“It is difficult or impossible to compete if you’re not offering subsidies on smartphones,” states Rubin. “You can’t just be a post-paid wireless carrier in the U.S. without doing that. So to the extent that T-Mobile – as an independent entity or part of another organization – would continue to be in the consumer cellular business, it would need to continue to offer subsidies to be viable.”

“If the objective really was just to get spectrum, access to cell towers, then spending the $39 billion to acquire the entire company just felt like overkill.”

Jan Dawson
Chief Telecoms Analyst, Ovum

Doesn’t that mean, we asked Rubin, that any prospective post-AT&T purchaser of T’s U.S. assets would have to be at least no smaller than Dish Network, in order to continue to have enough cash on hand to subsidize at least a few brand-name 4G phones? Not if multiple companies are willing to pool their resources, Rubin responds, pointing out last week’s deal by Verizon to purchase spectrum held by cable companies, including Comcast, in exchange for scaling out their triple-play service offerings.

The word that’s used to describe a deal that may enlarge a company’s reach in a (presumably) good way, without entering it into too many monopolies in a bad way, is “horizontal.” Verizon’s deal with the SpectrumCo alliance could be described that way; it was used by the FCC in 2004 to describe what it then perceived as the positive benefits of a merger between the old AT&T Wireless and Cingular; and it’s also been used by AT&T and others to characterize the potentially positive buildout of its 4G holdings while maintaining competitive par with Verizon and Sprint.

“It’s difficult to escape the irony. A horizontal combination of service is a euphemism if ever there was one,” states Carmi Levy. “It’s essentially another word for less competition.

“In 2004, when you had more players on the playground, the FCC might have found it acceptable to have relatively fewer, more bulked up players providing those horizontally combined services. But in 2011, where you’ve already gone through an additional seven years of industry consolidation, and now the giants loom that much larger, the FCC is probably looking at the end of the era of consolidation, and asking itself, ‘When do we begin to say no? When is horizontal combination too much for consumers to bear? When does it begin to erode competition to the point that we essentially have a monopolistic landscape?’”

Next: Why not a joint venture instead?

Page:  1   2  Next  »

Source: Panelists: The Endgame for AT&T and T-Mobile

NPD’s Ross Rubin: Is There No ‘Joy’ in Android?

November 23rd, 2011 11:30 admin View Comments

Last month, Android’s user experience lead, Matias Duarte, spoke to The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky about the emerging design ethic for the mobile operating system, which Google hired him to help create. At that time, Duarte told Topolsky that there’s a special difficulty in maintaining a single design ethic that must be applied to multiple variations of an operating system simultaneously. “You want to be sure that your design ideas will survive, and also allow for customization,” he said.

Topolsky’s story inspired Slate’s Farhad Manjoo on Monday to write that even Android 4.0, whose design was influenced by Duarte’s contributions, does not have a consistency of overall experience that evokes an experience, as Duarte described it, of “love.” “Of the three major smartphone operating systems,” Manjoo wrote, “Android is still by far the most confusing. It’s also the least likely to inspire joy.” (For those of you keeping score at home, the #3 system on Manjoo’s list is Windows Phone, not BB OS.)

“There’s a dichotomy. Specific implementations of products that consumers ultimately use are generally the product of many cooks being in the kitchen: the carrier and the handset maker being the two most prominent,” explains the Executive Director of Industry Analysis for NPD Connected Intelligence, Ross Rubin, in a discussion with RWW this afternoon. “But Android as an offering from Google is really beholden to nobody. And as a result, it’s been able to be adapted to a wide range of experiences, and that’s ultimately what consumers fall in love with. It’s the experience, not any particular element of it such as the consistency of the user interface – that’s a component. Consumers may have a strong emotional reaction to having a first-class Gmail client, if that’s where they’re living their lives.”

Divvying up the joy

Variation of implementation is no stranger to the iPhone, added Rubin, especially with respect to all the games that don’t have to follow a standard usage model. In fact, if they did, they wouldn’t be unique and valuable. Individual PC games over the last three decades have had highly stylized usage models; when they look and feel like Windows, frankly, they’re no fun.

Ross Rubin (300 px).jpg“Certainly what Microsoft has tried to do is simplify the experience, and one way they’ve done that is maintaining more consistency among the various handset brands, setting a higher bar for minimum specifications in terms of screen resolution, camera resolution, etc. But what Microsoft is doing now is expanding the degree of supported hardware to appeal to a wide audience.”

Perhaps the increased degree of consistency and attention to specifications that Microsoft has shown with respect to Windows Phone 7 should mean it loves its phones even more than Apple. But maybe it’s easier to talk about love as a component in the context of Apple.

Rubin concedes that UX consistency implies a certain degree of forethought, which some may rightly conclude comes from care. But Google, he adds, may be a world leader in forethought. “They’re putting more forethought into supporting a wider range of devices and scenarios. You could argue that what they should be thinking about is the end user experience, not what’s important to their licensees. Historically, that’s where Apple has focused; and increasingly, it’s where Microsoft is focusing.”

Android remains in a transition period (“maybe one that it will never exit,” quips Rubin). Currently, it’s adapting lessons learned from the Android 3.2 “Honeycomb” tablet platform to the forthcoming 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” platform, which will tie together both form factors. That’s an added element of consistency that Slate’s Manjoo may have neglected, says Rubin. “Now that everything is unified on the same software release, [Google] can bring together all of the mobile devices instead of just some of them reaping the benefits of that greater consistency.”

Would consistency mandates constitute affection or punishment?

I suggested to Rubin that, if four years ago, Google had published a massive set of software and hardware specifications for how Android phones and apps must look and feel – how buttons must appear, how sliders must work – the degree of consistency the company would have been perceived to enforce would not have evoked feelings of “love,” but rather quite the opposite. “Fragmentation is a high-class problem,” NPD’s Rubin responded. “You need to have a large number of devices out there in order for the issue of them having such significant variation to register with developers. If some of those form factors are shipping in such low volume, then it’s not a priority for developers.”

Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, both of which are Android-based, don’t rely on Google’s services or Android Market, he reminds us. But both manufacturers allow Google’s developers to leverage their knowledge in developing for their tablets. This kind of “sub-ecosystem” established by B&N and Amazon speaks to the wide range of Android flexibility, says Google – something never before seen within any Linux-based platform heretofore.

In the end, I asked Ross Rubin, is “joy” – the missing element in Manjoo’s story – only a prerequisite for an Apple phone, as opposed to a phone that a guy like me would use. (I can be happy enough using a phone without feeling I haven’t received my daily dose of joy.)

“What Apple has been very good at is reinforcing each element of the experience with the other elements,” he responds. “The design of the device reinforces the design of the software, which reinforces the design of the retail experience. And it’s all a virtuous circle, so that if you’re looking for a well-curated experience, something that is torn down to its essentials but executes those essentials with very high quality, then you’re going to get a heavy reinforcement of those attributes through the entire Apple product experience. But there’s a wide array of experiences. You have to believe that a phone that can execute well on providing video chat between a grandparent and grandchild is going to provide a lot of joy to that grandparent. You can’t underestimate the value that compelling content and services have to play.”

Source: NPD’s Ross Rubin: Is There No ‘Joy’ in Android?

The Internet Will Get a Peer Review Layer Next Year

November 20th, 2011 11:00 admin View Comments

A project lead by some of the most-respected leaders of the Internet has secured $240,000 in funding to build a prototype system for both expert and peer review of all the content on the web, sentence by sentence. Called Hypothes.is, the project is lead by early search engine innovator and climate change activist Dan Whaley and backed by advisors from John Perry Barlow of the EFF to Garret Camp of StumbleUpon to Kaliya Hamlin of the Internet Identity Workshop to Nate Oostendorp of Slashdot, and many more.

We wrote about the Hypothes.is fundraising effort on Kickstarter last month. That effort succeeded, including with a large matching pledge by cleantech and web venture capitalist Sunil Paul. And so Hypothes.is will be built. What do people want out of it and does it stand a chance to change the web? Opinions differ.

Hypothes.is is planned as a peer review system to check, verify and critique content all over the Web – and beyond. “Improving the credibility of the information we consume is humanity’s grandest challenge,” Whaley says. I can’t help but suspect that Whaley’s work on climate issues, which are challenging to understand, deeply contentious and of the utmost importance to humanity’s future, played a role in his coming to feel this way.

Topic experts will be enlisted in addition to crowdsourcing, a reputation system, browser plug-ins and APIs are on the roadmap and all the data will be stored at the Internet Archive.

It sounds like Google’s ill-fated Sidewiki project and countless other startups that have sought to enable annotation of distributed web content, but it also sounds a lot more sophisticated.

Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, is one of the project’s advisors and it’s not hard to imagine something like this shipping as an optional plug-in for every browser. Google acquired contextual-search plug-in Apture this month and said that functionality like that, highlight a word anywhere to learn a lot more about it, would be baked into the Chrome browser as soon as possible. Why not bake in something like Q&A site Quora, where answers to questions are voted up and down by users and topics are easy to track over time, into every browser regarding every sentence on every web page?

Topic experts could be invited to participate the way that Google did with that Wikipedia-killer project no one even remembers, Knol, but they could also be discovered Quora-like by tracking which users of Hypothes.is got answers voted up the most in reviewing content on a topic in multiple instances.

Expertise may be a subjective matter, though, and is often deeply swayed by persistent participation. Just showing up. Wikipedia, for example, is alleged by some not to be the world’s finest, neutrally written encyclopedia, but rather a domain dominated by pushy know-it-all youngsters who bully their way into describing the world in a particular way.

Hypothes.is offers a list of twelve principles that indicate it’s already looking out for concerns like this. Those principles include the following:

  • Open source, open standards.To the extent practical.
  • Work everywhere. Without consent.
  • Non profit. Sustained by social enterprise.
  • Neutral. Favor no ideological or political positions.
  • 100% community moderated. Bottoms up, not top down.
  • Merit based. Influence based on track record.
  • Pseudonymous. Credibility without public identity.
  • International. By design.
  • Transparent and audit-able. In systems. In governance.
  • Think long-term. Infrastructure for 100 years? Or longer?
  • Many formats, many contexts. HTML, PDF, video, books. News, blogs scientific articles, legislation, regulations, Terms of Service, etc.
  • Work with the best. Remain humble.

If this works, it sounds great. Imagine having a channel in StumbleUpon that just serves up pages from around the web that have been validated by experts in marine biology, for example.

I can’t help but think there will be an enormous user experience challenges, too, though. Most people in the world don’t know what a browser is, they Google for Facebook and they fall for phishing and spam often enough to make such tactics extremely profitable. Maybe something like Hypothes.is could help with all that, but it will probably be a challenge to get a critical mass of engagement, too, across the unbounded expanse of content on the web.

How will unpopular opinions fair? That’s another question I’ve got.

None the less, I’m really excited to see how this project unfolds. I’ve reserved my Hypothes.is username already, so that my reviews of content can appear under my usual handle. Hypothes.is says it aims to have a prototype available early next year.

Source: The Internet Will Get a Peer Review Layer Next Year

YOYOYOOYOYOYO