Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    Affordable mobile data rates and other items for 2008’s technology hope chest

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver January 8-14, 2008; issue 950
    High Tech Office

    In 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:

    •Affordable 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
    his 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.

    •Along 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.

    But 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.

    •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. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
Search WWW Search