Nothing like a bit of spirit of fair play to kick off the New Year is there? Well, this latest competition spat is nothing like that at all…
Microsoft has got on its high horse this week, writing a blog slamming Google for not playing ball and preventing access to certain YouTube data. This information is key to creating a specific app for the Windows Phone mobile operating system.
Instead, users have to go through the mobile website and viewing through a browser misses out on some specialist features apps on other OS’ offer, as well as the convenience factor.
Microsoft claims the reason Google is refusing to oblige is because it is a rival in the world of search. It is quite a sweet notion really. I mean, I know Bing is creeping up in the market share ranks but really, it is like Real Madrid’s defence being scared of our outsourcing editor approaching the half way line in bare feet.
Google has been aloof about the whole issue, with its spokesman telling me the HTML5 enabled mobile website offers Windows Phone users all it needs. Fair enough for not getting into a war of words but this defence is equally as purile.
As ever, the ones suffering here are users. As someone who actually enjoys using the latest Windows Phone software, it is frustrating the number of obvious seeming apps that are omitted from the store. YouTube is now a staple of mobile applications and to not have access to it, along with others, does make a user feel like they are missing out on something.
So, I see why Microsoft has kicked off as, as apps continue to be such a draw towards devices and their software, it could cause damage to its sales. But, writing a blog publically laying into Google and using words that make them sound like they are telling tales out of school to the teachers at the European Commission just smacks of desperation.
If your software is good enough and the devices you run it on are great, the lack of one app where users can still use a mobile-optimised website version is not going to sign your death warrant, Microsoft. Keep focusing on developing and building up your following through positive features on your phones, not drawing attention to the negatives.
And Google? Seriously? Remember Apple and the maps debacle? Please don’t subject us to an awful Microsoft YouTube rip off and start playing with the other mobile kids, ok?
Oh, and Happy New Year everyone!
Maybe I am just full of Christmas cheer, but I wanted to write another positive blog post this week and congratulate Mansfield’s Business Improvement District (BID) organisation on a job well done.
I spoke to its manager, Sarah Nelson, back in November about a new project BID was embarking on to crowd source funding for a public Wi-Fi network across the Nottinghamshire town.
Even at that early stage the group had already secured 18 pledges and £10,000 in government funding, but BID still had some way to go to reach the £38,000 target to get the project moving, setting itself a deadline of May 2013 to have raised the cash.
When I opened my email this morning I was delighted to see that just one month later the goal has been smashed and Mansfield has all the money it needs to bring free public Wi-Fi access to the residents and businesses of the town.
The statement said Wi-Fi equipment could be deployed early in the New Year, with the service going live as soon as spring 2013.
Congratulations Mansfield! This new connectivity will benefit the area greatly and I hope more towns and cities follow your lead and bring free Wi-Fi to their workers and residents.
Ministry of Defence (Photo credit: pixelhut)
Today, the mobile industry got another boost with the promise from government of even more spectrum to bid on.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed it would be releasing around 200MHz of frequencies between 2.3 and 2.4GHz, and between 3.4 and 3.6GHz, to be sold at auction to private companies.
Although the auction isn’t due to take place until 2014, it will put a smile on the faces of mobile operators which will still be looking to extend their coverage after building their 4G networks – made possible by the Ofcom auction due to start in a couple of weeks.
What pleased me specifically though was the sensible approach to the auction the MoD is taking. When I pressed a spokesman earlier for a figure on how much the auction will make for the government, he said, as an auction process, you couldn’t predict how much it would bring in.
That is very true. Now, what the MoD needs to do is drop a quick call to the Treasury and tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that.
If you remember, a couple of week ago in his Autumn Statement, George Osborne predicted the upcoming Ofcom auction would bring in £3.5bn and conseuently used it to boost his interim budget figures, despite the bidding process not even having taken place.
I had my say about it then, so only thought when a government department was doing things correctly, I should say so. Well done MoD. Now, don’t be dragged down to Osborne’s level and start plucking figures out of the air anytime soon, ok?
Today saw the slightly creepy Just William lookalike, George Osborne, present his autumn statement to the House of Commons.
He celebrated the coalition’s achievements in bringing down the deficit by a quarter, as well as slashing borrowing, claiming “we are making progress” and “fronting the country’s problems, not ducking them.”
However, despite not mentioning 4G throughout his 30 minute speech, it seems his figures have been skewed somewhat by the money he is hoping to bring in.
The government is due to auction off 4G spectrum to UK mobile operators later this year, although the process is unlikely to complete until early 2013. No-one expects the money raised to come anywhere close to amount raised by 3G – over £22bn – but estimates come in between £3bn and £4bn.
The Labour party announced what it would have done with the money if it had been in charge months ago – building 100,000 new homes and creating 600,000 new jobs – but Osborne stayed quiet in his speech, leaving us guessing where the cash would go when it came in
However, when MPs got to question the Chancellor after his statement, Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley, pushed for an answer.
It turns out old Georgie boy was using the cash, of which an amount hasn’t even been established yet, let alone handed over, to make his figures look better.
“Asked Osborne re budget small print,” wrote Austin on his Twitter account (@IamAustinMP). “Borrowing only down by adding £3.5bn from 4G auction which not yet happened! Wld be up £2bn otherwise!”
An onslaught of questions followed, which Osborne tried to escape from.
“George Osborne has now been asked four times about the 4g budget small print sleight of hand!” tweeted Austin. “It’s beginning to unravel.”
There may be a timeline in place for the 4G auction but it has been a very bumpy road getting this far and there are still obstacles that could trip the process up.
Even if all does go to plan, I couldn’t see the Treasury getting its hands on the cash until just before the next budget report is due in the spring.
I wouldn’t rely on 4G funding that hasn’t even come through your letterbox yet George. Perhaps we aren’t making this progress you were so keen on selling to us earlier….
EU symbol 1 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There always seems to be a spat between Westminster and the European Union, especially in these current days of having a government looking to get out of it at the nearest opportunity. However, the latest row has seen the EU grow a pair and bite back at what I think were unfair and harsh criticisms of its process.
Yesterday, the recently appointed culture minister Maria Miller got an ear bashing from David Cameron for her department “not doing as well as [it] should be” when it came to helping the UK economy grow and the slow progress of broadband roll-out was named as one of the culprits.
Miller used this as an excuse to lash out at Brussels, saying it was her “intervention” that had ensured the broadband plans it had been tasked with approving went through and she had brought them “out from under stifling EU bureaucracy,” essentially telling the PM he should thank his lucky stars to have her on his team.
This wasn’t the case though. Yes, the EU had to look at the BDUK project for rolling out broadband across the UK, but this needed to happen. It had to check it was competitive and stuck to the rules when it came to state aid.
With only BT and Fujitsu allowed to bid for the contracts worth hundreds of millions, a lot of us in the industry have raised eyebrows and wondered if all is fair in love and broadband, especially with BT being named the only winner in the seven programmes confirmed so far.
Having an extra set of eyes to comb through the government’s plans and the processes of BDUK gave me a bit more reassurance and, despite wanting broadband roll-out to happen as fast as possible, I was willing to wait to get the nod from Brussels.
For Miller to claim she was some saviour speeding up this process is a load of nonsense and luckily, for once, the EU has told her so.
Joaquín Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, said “Brussels bureaucrats worked faster than their London colleagues” in moving broadband roll-out forward and “the real origin of the delays… should also be made clear.”
He told the FT: “We asked the UK government last February to supply the necessary information to us and only received a complete answer in October.”
So actually between her and her predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, it was the lack of communication from our side of the Channel that was causing problems.
This is not the first time Miller has tried to take credit for something that she has no right to lay claim to.
In October she met with mobile operators to talk about the contentious issue of spectrum and who would be first to get 4G. After the meeting, she claimed she had brought peace to the mobile industry by ironing out the timetable for the spectrum auction and stopping the providers going to the courts over it.
The victory had actually been a technical one, where the two companies tasked with clearing the analogue television frequencies for the auction – Arqiva and DigitalUK – had completed the job five months ahead of schedule. It wasn’t down to you was it Miss Miller?
Yes, the broadband roll-out needs to happen for this country’s economy – excuse me whilst I die of shock from agreeing with Cameron here – but it is the lack of funding – £530m is a pitiful amount for such a big project – and the long winded process put in place by BDUK and the department for culture, media and sport holding things up.
Add to that the lack of imagination when it comes to the technologies that could be utilised rather than just being blinkered by fibre, and I think the blame falls squarely at the UK government’s door. And yes, that means you Miss Miller.
Stop trying to take the credit for other people’s achievements and start taking the blame for your faults.
DCMS headquarters in Cockspur Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This week the European Commission (EC) gave the go ahead for the BDUK project, which will see £530m of central government funding go towards rolling out broadband.
There have been a lot of complaints about this figure not being large enough, to which I totally agree. It seems mad that something as important to both home and work as connectivity is given such a measly sum when the government is willing to payout £33bn on a new train track or £9bn on a glamourised sports day.
But what has got me scowling today is how Whitehall is trying to take so much credit for ‘making Britain digital’ whilst paying so little towards the scheme and expecting everyone else to empty their pockets.
The figure the EC released for state funding was £1.5bn. When I asked where this was coming from, the spokesman said it was all public money.
If central government is only putting in £530m, that leaves a bill of almost £1bn at the local authorities’ door, when originally the BDUK project said they would only have to match funding from Westminster.
What was even worse was the attitude of the department of culture, media and sport (DCMS) towards this whole process. The spokesman I talked to today told me not to “pay too much attention to that figure as it might not be that much,” adding: “We had to give a figure to the EC for the purpose of the investigation.“
So, not only does the DCMS not have the figures in order of how much these plans will actually cost, it doesn’t care if it gives the wrong figure to the EC, which has just been carrying out a serious inquiry into the whole BDUK project.
Delving deeper into the original proposal for the BDUK scheme, the government said its aim was to get 50% of funding from the private sector.
Now, I am not against this investment at all. Private companies will benefit hugely from the roll-out and I believe they should put cash in.
However, the figures today show government expects £1.5bn from them, so suddenly it becomes very clear why BT is the only one winning the contracts.
There cannot be many ISPs in the UK who could afford to put down such a huge sum on the table, triple what central government is prepared to invest themselves, despite telling us all how important a connected Britain is for the economy and our wellbeing.
The EC may have given it the green light but it is clear there is a lack of variety when it comes to the providers involved in this project, as well as with the technology as I have ranted… I mean blogged about before.
Cameron, Clegg, all of you. I agree we need better broadband infrastructure in this country. I agree private companies should put in their fair share. But I believe you should be using tax money to fund this roll-out and bring connectivity to everyone in the country at a much faster pace.
You feel like the colleague from work who always makes sure he is last in the pub on a Friday and sips his pint the slowest so he doesn’t have to get a round in.
Stop relying on everyone else and make a valid investment into broadband. I hear there is a lot of spare cash you are thinking of wasting on something called Trident…
The Twittersphere is a very excitable place today. Why, you ask? No, it is not because of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks getting charged, although this has helped. It is because Apple has announced for one day only it is going to have a sale.
Yes fanboys, roll up, roll up, Apple will be slashing its prices this coming Friday in both its retail stores and online outlets, but just for 24 hours.
It is not clear yet what the discounts will be but we are already peering round the corner from our central London office to see if queues are forming on Regent Street yet.
What baffles me is why is Apple doing this. The company has never seemed to have a problem shifting its products before, especially in the run up to Christmas, and the premium price tag has ensured premium profits every quarter.
I think a sale shows Apple might be getting nervous. The smartphone market is not going in its favour as Samsung continues grow in its domination and the tablet world is becoming cramped with a number of low price and appealing products from the likes of Google and Amazon.
Consumers have a lot more choice than even 12 months ago and when you can get a premium smartphone for almost £150 less than the iPhone or a smart, budget tablet device with change from £200, the appeal of Apple’s innovations may be waning.
Don’t worry, I have not lost my mind. I know Apple isn’t going anywhere soon and its beautifully crafted marketing has many a man and woman hooked on all of its gadgets. There will still be significant sales figures coming in the next financial results and profits will still have so many zeros I will feel nauseous.
But, this one day sale means they want to get some attention and perhaps need to get some attention, dragging the spotlight away from devices like the Google Nexus 4 or Samsung Galaxy Note II that are getting way more coverage than the iPad or iPhone in the festive build up.
Do they know something we don’t know? I guess the sales figures in January will tell the story but I just hope they separate the sales from the one day extravaganza out from the rest of the quarter so we can see what is really going on.
Happy queuing guys! I’ll be in the pub with a book and a glass of mulled wine…
I will put my hands up and admit I rarely use this blog to talk about something positive and, in general, I am rarely called an optimistic soul. However, a piece of news caught my eye today that I wanted to share and enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling as a result.
Today saw the launch of The People’s Operator – a new mobile phone network with a charitable goal.
Piggy-backing on EE’s extensive network, the company offers pay as you go SIM cards with voice, text and data bundles, starting at £7.50, £2.25 or £4.25 per month respectively. Pretty standard so far, like the way wholesale broadband companies run over BT’s lines.
But here is the fuzzy part. A significant 25% of the TPO’s profits are given away to charity, to partners of Foundation, including the NSPCC, Dimbleby Cancer Care and Childline.
And, if you want to feel even warmer about it, you can donate 10% of the cost of all your call, text and data usage to the charity of your choice, whether a large, famous name or a local project you are passionate about.
The Shoreditch firm will still make money of course and I can’t see everyone leaping over to the new deals, but I will stick with my new found optimism and say well done TPO. If ever a new philanthropic company was needed, it is now and good on you for pushing the causes you are.
With Christmas coming up and new handsets flying all over the place, take a look at getting your SIM from TPO and get your warm and fuzzy feeling.
There has been endless coverage of EE and its 4G roll out hitting the UK, but who can blame us? It seems to have taken forever for the UK to get on the 4G train and it is exciting that it is now possible to get the much speedier connections.
I was given a wireless hotspot by EE for a week to test out its capabilities and I was suitably impressed. Being able to Skype with my work colleagues when out and about was of great use, being able to do my emails without having to try and resend several times when the signal drops out was fantastic and sitting on a night bus home being able to catch up on Eastenders… I mean a very interesting documentary, without any buffering or pauses, was a great experience.
But, I live and work in central London. I am one of the lucky ones that, if I decide to pay the rather high prices for a 4G device, will be able to get the signal in all my daily haunts. Not everyone is so lucky though.
Remember EE has only launched its 4G services in 11 cities to begin with. It plans for an extra five by the end of the year, but this is still a very limited number and the vast majority of UK citizens won’t be anywhere near the superfast speeds for some time.
Not that you would have guessed by the firm’s advertising campaign. I will admit I am a sucker for Kevin Bacon and the TV ads of him speaking in British slang was quite entertaining, but it does give the impression 4G is available in many more locations than it is in reality.
Now a conscientious citizen has taken the issue into his own hands after EE went one step too far.
The Telegraph has reported that Jon McKnight complained to Trading Standards after seeing a poster stating “4G is here” in his local store in Plymouth. The reality is the closest city with 4G capabilities is Bristol – 120 miles away.
“The poster claims that the iPhone 5 on the superfast 4G system is available now in Plymouth and is five times faster than phones on 3G,” he wrote. “That is a lie.”
“I believe it is misleading in the extreme to suggest that an iPhone 5 bought in Plymouth would work on 4G and operate five times faster than on 3G when that service is not available here and no date has yet been announced for its introduction.”
A leaked email from the Plymouth division of Trading Standards showed it agreed with the complaint and was concerned this could be a wider issue across the UK.
EE told me it was a “single wrong poster” and an “isolated error for which we apologise” and the poster has been removed, but I agree with Trading Standards that this is likely to happen again and many might be lured into EE stores with the false hope of faster connectivity.
Like Mr McKnight we should all be aware of what we are being sold and not let operators mislead us, whether it comes to speeds, costs or usage limits.
Despite the impressive performance of 4G on my trial device, I think we will all be better off waiting until next May when all the operators have their own offerings and we as consumers have more of a choice, as well as more coverage in the UK.
Today RIM finally made a public announcement that its new BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system, along with two handsets housing the software, will launch on 30 January.
Executives from the company have been leaking this information left, right and centre for a few months now, but RIM is hoping that a formal statement will whip the industry up into a frenzy and get people excited about the launch.
Sorry to sound like a broken record, but I still don’t understand why it has taken them this long. RIM is so far behind all its competitors to have a current mobile OS, developers for the system are few and far between and, let’s face it, who on earth buys a mobile in the poorest month of the year when there is nothing but cobwebs and receipts from Christmas presents in our wallets.
I have had a few hands-on experiences with BlackBerry 10 and I do think it is nifty software. The new ‘peek’ feature to allow a glimpse into apps without closing what you are working on, as well as the much more intuitive keyboard, are just a couple of top developments.
However, I think it will take more than this to convince the evangelical iOS users or the Android worshippers to convert to what is viewed by many as the handset of the 1990s business man, rather than the bring your own device professional of 2012 – or 2013 by the time these handsets launch.
Credit to RIM for keeping us talking about them but I fear the longer they drag this out, the more negative the coverage will get, and the industry will be bored of the OS before it even hits the shelves.
Stop procrastinating RIM and get the OS and the devices launched.