mobile data rates and other items for 2008’s technology hope chest
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
January 8-14, 2008; issue 950
High Tech Office
the spirit of new year’s predictions, High Tech Office presents here a
set of hopes: things that should have already taken place but haven’t.
Maybe we’ll see them this year.
I’m hoping for:
mobile data rates. Canada has some of the highest mobile data rates in
the world, which limits widespread mobile Internet access use. The big
three mobile carriers blame high rates on Canada’s small population and
large area. Late 2007 saw a crack in the high-rate common front with
Bell offering $7/month unlimited data access along with its
introduction of the HTC Touch smart phone. It hasn’t been aggressively
marketing that offer, but I hope that it will mark the beginning of
more aggressive price competition.
And maybe, just maybe, a Canadian mobile provider will offer Apple’s
innovative iPhone. T
would presumably be Rogers/Fido, whose network is built around the
iPhone’s GPS technology. In comparison, AT&T – the U.S. mobile
provider with the iPhone franchise – sells it with a $60/month rate
package, of which $20/month goes to unlimited data access. Rates paid
by iPhone users in the U.K., France and Germany are in line with this.
with sanity in mobile data pricing, how about sanity in high-definition
disc standards? This isn’t just a Canadian issue. The battle between
Blu-Ray (supported by Sony, Dell and HP among others) and the competing
HD-DVD (promoted by Toshiba, Intel and Microsoft) is worldwide,
reminiscent of the Beta versus VHS wars of the 1980s. Sony’s PS3 game
system uses Blu-Ray, while Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has an HD-DVD drive;
Hollywood movies are being released in one or the other, but typically
not both, confusing consumers and slowing the move to a higher capacity
high-definition replacement for DVDs.
Kudos to LG and Samsung
for selling drives capable of playing both format discs – one of the
few bits of sanity in a standards battle that should have been
concluded long ago.
•Speaking of overdue standards, the wireless
networking 802.11n standard, replacement for the widely used 802.11g,
WiFi was supposed to be finalized in 2006. With the .11n standard still
not ratified, manufacturers are selling hardware built to unofficial
“draft-N” versions; inevitably, these don’t always play well together.
Maybe we’ll see it in 2008.
don’t hold you breath waiting for citywide municipal WiFi in Vancouver
or elsewhere. Most of the cities and private-sector providers that
promised this sort of service over the past few years have been busy
backtracking. And dreams of widespread free services are proving to be
just that: dreams.
•I’ve hoped for sanity in mobile data pricing
and in various hardware standards. Is it too much to hope for sanity
regarding digital rights management (aka DRM)? 2007 saw some light on
the horizon as Apple negotiated the ability to sell DRM-free tunes from
some of the large recording companies (at least in the U.S.); consumers
would be well served if this became universal in 2008. Canadian
consumers have been paying a surcharge on sales of blank discs to
provide royalties to owners of digital content. An expansion of such a
system could provide a compromise between copyright owners and users.
Instead, a made-in-Canada version of the U.S.A.’s one-sided Digital
Millennium Copyright Act was proposed by the Tories in late 2007. The
legislation died in session, but may be back in 2008. I hope not.
slated to die in 2008: e-mail. An estimated 95% of it may be spam,
though reasonably effective filtering keeps most of that out of our
in-boxes. Young people – who are increasingly new employees – are more
comfortable with instant messaging than e-mail. And yes, wading through
full in-boxes takes up too much of the workday for too many of us. But
rumours of e-mail’s death are greatly exaggerated. This valuable
business tool won’t die in 2008. •