As a London cyclist, the Informer has been known to bellow profanities at car and van drivers breezily using their phones for voice and non-voice services as they barrel down the city’s roads. They are either oblivious to or unconcerned by the fates of their two-wheeled colleagues, and that text message they’re sending is just so important.
So it was with interest this week that the Informer read of a significant drop in the number of accidents and fatalities on the roads of the UAE, attributed in part to last week’s Blackberry service outage. Accidents in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were down by as much as 40 per cent according to local police forces, and there were no fatalities during the absence of service. There is apparently a fatality on the Abu Dhabi roads every two days, under normal circumstances.
Not that the authorities were quite saying: “When Blackberry is working, seven people die on our roads every fortnight!” But they were, nonetheless, making connections – a lot more connections than Blackberry users were making, for sure. The head of the Abu Dhabi traffic police was quoted as saying: “The roads became much safer when Blackberry stopped working”.
The Research in Motion spin team, which admittedly has been pretty busy, missed a trick here. There was a glorious opportunity for them to spin the outage as a public safety exercise. “Dear valued Blackberry Customer. That couple of minutes during which you would ordinarily be replying to another pointless corporate e-mail can now be spent in silent contemplation of the miracle of life. Not just your life, but the lives of your fellow road users.”
Instead of mining this PR gold, the RIM fixers decided to give away a bunch of apps in a bid to mollify disgruntled users. A selection of premium apps will be available between now and Christmas for consumer users, while corporate customers will be offered a month’s free technical support. While the outage was clearly RIM’s problem, some operators, including two in the now ever-so-slightly more populous UAE, moved to offer compensation to customers themselves.
RIM said that it is confident it will win back its customers’ trust, as UK MD Stephen Bates explained to Telecoms.com here.
In a bid to put the whole thing behind it, RIM this week unveiled its new smartphone OS, a cross-breed of the Blackberry OS and the QNX operating system used in the PlayBook tablet. The new platform will support Blackberry cloud services as well as HTML5. As with the PlayBook, it will also run Blackberry Runtime for Android apps, making a far wider range of applications open to Blackberry users.
This rather threatens the viability of ongoing Blackberry-specific app development. Ovum’s chief analyst Jan Dawson warned that with the new platform RIM is “arguably providing better support for existing Android developers than it is for existing Blackberry Java developers as it seeks to drive up the number of apps on the platform rapidly.”
And there was more downside for RIM shortly after it launched the new platform, with software firm Basis claiming it infringes a trademark. Basis has its own OS, dubbed BBx.
RIM isn’t the only handset vendor wading through the slop at the moment, and Nokia’s financials this week made for grim reading. The firm posted a $97.5m (€71m) operating loss for the third quarter of 2011, a sharp fall from the €403m profit the firm recorded in the same period of 2010. Nokia’s net sales decreased 13 per cent to €8.98bn, €1.2bn down from the €10.3bn it amassed in the same period last year.
Despite the results, CEO Stephen Elop sported the brave face Nokia pays him to wear so well.
“I am encouraged by the progress we made during Q3, while noting that there are still many important steps ahead in our journey of transformation,” he said. “With each step, you will see us methodically implement our strategy, pursuing steady improvement through a period that has known transition risks, while also dealing with the various unexpected ups and downs that typify the dynamic nature of our industry.”
What the firm desperately needs to do is get its Microsoft WP7 handset(s) into the marketplace and an announcement on this very topic is universally anticipated at next week’s NokiaWorld event in London. The firm has a history of unveiling devices that do not become commercially available for another few months, so it seems likely it will miss this year’s traditional Christmas boom. And given the state of many economies at the moment, it’s probably a good Christmas to miss.
Another vendor with a new handset imminent is Korean player Samsung. The Galaxy Nexus, unveiled this week by Samsung and Google, and likely to go head to head with Apple’s new iPhone 4S, will be the first handset to run Android 4.0, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich in Google’s increasingly laboured confectionary-based naming policy. Available from November, the Galaxy Nexus will support LTE as well as HSPA+ and everything backwards from that.
Whether or not it will get to market in the scheduled timeframe remains to be seen, of course, because Samsung doesn’t seem to be able to do anything smartphone related at the moment without Apple attempting to slap some sort of injunction on it – and vice versa.
Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson has been busy leaking sensationalist extracts from his book, available for purchase next week, in a bid to drive sales. In reports surfacing as the Informer sits and types this very newsletter, Isaacson quotes Jobs as claiming that Google “ripped off the iPhone” and pledging that: “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40bn in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android.”
Much as Jobs is and was revered at the company he founded, the Informer is pretty confident that there will be a number of quiet sighs of relief within those hallowed walls that Jobs’ last dying breath came ahead of his (reportedly) stated ambition to blow $40bn on a megalomaniacal crusade that would have been bad for the entire industry.
As a quick aside, the Informer would like to extend his apologies to any Telecoms.com readers and cyber-pilgrims who might recently have clicked the ‘Jobs’ tab on our home page expecting to find a picture of Him and a chance to leave an embarrassingly overwrought message of condolence. The Jobs tab on Telecoms.com actually links to a page displaying jobs that are open in the industry. Sorry for the confusion.
Had Jobs lived long enough to put his Android destruction plan into action, he’d have a bit more money to play with, following yet another set of spectacular financials from Apple. The firm increased its net profit by 85 per cent to $25.9bn for the year to end September 2011. So gilded is the firm’s financial reputation, though, that many on Wall Street were actually disappointed, leading to a five per cent share price slump. Total revenue for the year was $108bn, up 66 per cent on 2010. Incredible.
In other results news Ericsson was going ok, with net income up six per cent for Q3 to SEK3.8bn (US$575.6m). Sales were up 17 per cent, and growth came from demand for mobile broadband infrastructure and increased services revenues, the Swedish vendor said.
As always, the firm’s joint ventures, ST-Ericsson and Sony Ericsson, are the blots on the landscape. The chip unit lost $211m for the quarter, while the handset play dropped from €49m profit in 3Q10 to a nice round zero for the same period this year. A perfect balance, at least.
US carrier AT&T also had some numbers out this week, and revenues for the quarter were down a smidgen – 0.3 per cent – to $31.5bn. Net income took a steeper slide, though, down $8.7bn to $3.6bn. Last year’s figure was boosted by a tax settlement and a subsidiary sale, though. And with those elements discounted, net income was actually up by $400m year on year. For more on that, check out the story here.
AT&T plays second fiddle to Verizon Wireless in the US market, and Verizon this week was named in a partnership, along with Telefónica, by software developer VMware that will bring to market a solution that will make it easier for Android users to schizophrenically separate their work and non-work selves in a smartphone self. The personal and corporate profiles on the device are entirely separate thanks to the new solution, Horizon Mobile. Devices are expected in the “coming months”.
Sticking with Telefónica, the Spanish incumbent’s collaboration with China Unicom has extended to include M2M solutions covering cellular, RFID and GPS technologies. The newly created Telefónica Digital unit will run purchasing, testing and market analysis activities with Unicom and the firms will join forces on the creation of new M2M platforms.
Telefónica’s UK subsidiary, O2, announced this week that it is working with an electric vehicle charging services provider called Chargemaster, providing the M2M connectivity that will allow Chargemaster to manage its ‘Polar’ charging network. Each charging point will be SIM-enabled, which should make for easy authorisation for customers.
The thing about electric vehicles, of course, is that you can’t hear them coming. Which is another thing that gives the Informer cause to squeal from time to time on his daily bicycle commute.
Will regulators ever be able to catch up with the rate of change in the telco/tech industry?
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