Sep 112013
 
skydiver

Today I was at a media lunch hosted by IP telephony company Nexon to promote their new cloud based unified communications service.

One aspect of the Nexon Absolute service is the company offers a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for customers, while I’m always suspicious of SLAs they are essential in making business clients comfortable with buying cloud services.

For Nexon, those SLAs are huge risk as they are reselling other company’s products. If Microsoft and Telstra fail to deliver, then it’s Nexon who carries the can with their customers.

While Nexon undoubtedly has their own SLAs with their suppliers, a major outage will see the company carrying the bulk of the refunds or rebates to their customers.

Essentially Microsoft and Telstra have outsourced much of their business, continuity and even reputational risk to Nexon and their other resellers.

For a reseller, even a substantial one like Nexon, that’s a risk they can’t control — what’s more, the finger pointing between suppliers in the event of a major outage could take years to resolve.

All of this suits major suppliers fine as it shifts risk and work from their businesses.

The IT and telco reseller game is not an easy one as margins fall and risks increase, one has to applaud the courage of the investors and entrepreneurs who want to play it.

Aug 142013
 
ship-flag-communications

An innocuous, short 1917 message between Admiral Jackie Fisher and Windows Churchill, then British Minister of Munitions, tells us much about how language and communications evolve around the technology of the day.

The focus on the page linked is the World War I use of OMG – Oh My God – which became common with SMS text messaging, and it illustrates how our language evolves around the limitations of the era’s technologies.

Fisher’s message short, sharp and succinct message is good example of this – a legacy of spending a career communicating between ships by flag. By necessity, messages had to be brief, accurate and work within the limitations of the medium.

At the time Fisher wrote that note, ships’ officers were adapting from flags to the radio telegraph where morse code created a whole new argot to take advantage of the medium and its limitations.

Which brings us to today, where similar economies of communications have evolved around the SMS text message, Twitter post or social media update where OMG, LOL, BRB are part of the common dialect.

Jackie Fisher’s message to Winston Churchill is a good reminder of how we’re all creatures of our time.

Image of nautical flags courtesy of c_makow on sxc.hu

May 102013
 
hauwei-wi-smartphone-running-windows-phone

One of the truisms of modern business is that no incumbent is safe, Microsoft, Nokia and Hauwei are good examples of just how businesses that five years ago dominated their industries are now struggling with changed marketplaces.

In the last two days there’s been a number of stories on how the smartphone and computer markets are changing.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s tech blog, PC manufacturers are hoping Microsoft’s changes to Windows 8 reinvigorates the computer market.

Those hopes are desperate and somewhat touching in the face of a structural shift in the marketplace. These big vendors can wait for the Big White Hope to arrive but really they have only themselves to blame for their constant mis-steps in the tablet and smartphone markets.

Now they are left behind as more nimble competitors like Apple, Samsung and the rising wave of Chinese manufacturers deliver the products consumers want.

All is not lost for Microsoft though as Chinese telecoms giant Hauwei launches a Windows Phone for the US markets which will be available through Walmart.

Hauwei’s launch in the United States is not good news though for another failing incumbent – Nokia.

Nokia’s relationship with Microsoft seems increasingly troubled and the Finnish company is struggling to retain leadership even in the emerging markets which until recently had been the only bright spot in the organisation’s global decline.

Yesterday in India, Nokia launched a $99 smartphone to shore up its failing market position on the subcontinent.

For the three months to March, Nokia had a 23 percent share of mobile phone sales in India, the world’s second-biggest cellular market by customers, Strategy Analytics estimates. Three years ago it controlled more than half the Indian market.

India isn’t the only market where Nokia is threatened – in February Hauwei launched their 4Afrika Windows Phone aimed at phone users in Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Angola, Morocco and South Africa.

The smartphone market is instructive on how many industries are changing, almost overnight the iPhone changed the cell phone sector and three years later Apple repeated the trick with the iPad, in both cases incumbents like Motorola, Nokia and Microsoft found themselves flat footed.

As barriers are falling with cheaper manufacturing, faster prototyping and more accessible design tools, many other industries are facing the same disruption.

The question for every incumbent should be where the next disruption is coming from.

In fact, we all need to ask that question as those disruptions are changing our own jobs and communities.

Mar 272013
 
Apple has a new iOS6 for ipad and iPhone

One of the points that came out of Blackberry’s Z10 launch last week was CEO Thorsten Heins’ talking about the company’s ‘one screen’ strategy.

Blackberry sees the smartphone as being the centre of people’s computer usage with them replacing personal computers and tablets as the main computing tool.

This is at odds with the rest of the phone and computer industries who are struggling with managing the three or four devices that most people use.

Apple overcame this by having different operating systems – OS X and iOS – and even then the mobile iOS is subtly forked for the different ways people use tablets versus  smartphones.

With Windows 8, Microsoft chose to go the opposite way with an operating system which works on all devices. Sadly it doesn’t seem to have worked.

Blackberry’s strategy is to assume smartphones will be their main communications device. It’s a big bet which doesn’t align with what seems to be experience of most people.

Over the last few years Blackberry’s smartphone market share has collapsed from 40% to 4%, so it’s the time for brave bets although its hard to see that customers will use smartphones instead of PCs or tablets is the right call.

It’s an interesting question though – can you see your smartphone being your main computer?

Mar 062013
 
Cisco networking head office

“Last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000.”

That little factoid from Cisco’s 2013 Virtual Networking Index illustrates how the business world is evolving as various wireless, fibre and satellite communications technologies are delivering faster access to businesses and households.

Mobile data growth isn’t slowing; Cisco estimate global mobile data traffic was estimated at 885 petabytes a month and Cisco estimate it will grow fourteen fold over the next five years.

Speaking at the Australian Cisco Live Conference, Dr. Robert Pepper, Cisco Vice President of Global Technology Policy and Kevin Bloch, Chief Techincal Officer of  Cisco Australia and New Zealand, walked the local media through some of the Asia-Pacific results of Virtual Networking Index.

Dealing with these sort of data loads is going to challenge Telcos who were hit badly by the introduction of the smartphone and the demands it put on their cellphone networks.

A way to deal with the data load are heterogeneous networks, or HetNets, where phones automatically switch from the telcos’ cellphone systems to local wireless networks without the caller noticing.

The challenge with that is what’s in it for the private property owners whose networks the telcos will need to access for the HetNets to work.

One of the solutions in Dr Pepper’s opinion is to give business owners access to the rich data the telcos will be gathering on the customers using the HetNets.

This Big Data idea ties into PayPal’s view of future commerce and shows just how powerful pulling together disparate strands of information is going to be for businesses in the near future.

But many landlords and wireless network owners are going to want more than just access to the some of the telco data — we can also be sure that the phone companies are going to be careful about what customer data they share with their partners.

It may well be that we’ll see telcos providing free high capacity fibre connections and wireless networks into shopping malls, football stadiums, hotels and other high traffic locations so they can capture high value smartphone users.

One thing is for sure and that’s fibre connections are necessary to carry the data load.

Anyone who thinks the future of broadband lies in wireless networks has to understand that the connections to the base stations doesn’t magically happen — high speed fibre is essential to carry the signals.

Getting both the fibre and the wireless base stations is going to be one of the challenges for telcos and their data hungry customers over the next decade.

Paul travelled to the Cisco Live event in Melbourne courtesy of Cisco Systems.

Feb 202013
 
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Paul Wallbank joins Tony Delroy on ABC Nightife across Australia to discuss how technology affects your business and life. For February 2013 we’ll be looking at the software rip-off, smartphones for seniors and Telstra’s roadmap for the mobile economy.

The show will be available on all ABC Local stations and streamed online through the Nightlife website.

Some of the topics we’ll discuss include the following;

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on the night on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

Tune in on your local ABC radio station or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to @paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.

Jan 292013
 
fibre_optic

I’ve covered what the NBN is previously on the ABC for Tony Delroy’s Nightlife and on Technology Spectator last year looked at the challenges ahead for the project in 2013.

The National Broadband Network was always going to be one of the key issues in the 2013 Federal election, The Liberal Party’s policy launch on Sunday and Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on ABC Radio station 702 Sydney on Friday illustrated how critical it will be.

His assertion that wireless should be affordable is laudable, but the indications are that it is increasingly going to become less affordable.

It also puts the coalition in a bad position, losing the three to four billion dollars expected from the spectrum auction wouldn’t help their budget position.

One comment from Malcolm that particularly sticks out is on subsidies;

If I could just make one other point Linda, possibly the most important. The government as we know is spending a stupendous amount of money on building a national fibre to the premises broadband network. And the subsidies there run into the tens of billions of dollars –

The member for Wentworth is facturally wrong; there are no subsidies for the NBN, the government is providing the capital for the project which they hope will be paid back by 2018.

the value of the network once completed will be a fraction of what the government is spending on it.

On what basis? Certainly fibre has a 25 to 40 year expected life cycle, but that’s true of a roadway or an office building; does Malcolm suggest we don’t spend on that as well.

you could make a very powerful argument that the form, the channel of broadband communication which adds the most to productivity is in fact wireless broadband.

Possibly, but let’s see that argument. Currently data downloads to fixed lines still dwarfs mobile, both are growing exponentially.

Malcolm actually touches on the problem we’re facing with wireless — the shortage of bandwidth.

The government has been very slow at getting it out. As of the last report there was only about eight and a half thousand premises connected to the fibre optic network that they’re building throughout all of Australia

This is true, the rollout so far of the NBN has been disappointing. This is what observers are watching closely on this.

The Fibre to the Node setup also creates another problem – that of ownership. If Telstra retain ownership of the copper cable from the node to the premises, it means providers have to deal with two wholesalers one of whom is their competitor.

In fact it creates a whole rabbit’s nest of problems for retailers and could very quickly find us in a situation where telco access requires dealing with two monopolies — Telstra and NBNCo.

One the disappointing things about the National Broadband Network has been the poor debate around the topic, indeed the whole debate at times has been wrong headed. Any hope it’s going to improve during the election campaign isn’t likely