a week in wireless

Erase and rewind

In a week during which the UK distinguished itself as the “Whiplash Capital of Europe” thanks to its rep for filing dodgy insurance claims, The Informer is pleased to note that, in the technology world at least, injury-preventing U-turns have been the order of the day.

First out of the blocks and over the crash barrier was German enterprise software giant SAP, with its announcement that it had partnered with Amazon to roll out its applications on the EC2 compute cloud. Mammoth it might be, but SAP demonstrated none of the elephant’s famed capacity for memory. Proudly punting the bookseller’s new status as a “certified global technology partner” it had clearly forgotten that, a mere two weeks ago, one of the company’s biggest wigs, Sanjay Poonen, said Amazon’s recent outages were making it harder for companies to sell cloud services to businesses.

Perhaps the close proximity of Disney’s Magic Kingdom – the announcement was, after all, made at SAP’s user conference jolly in Orlando – had an osmotic, feel good effect, but according to SAP, the pair are now whistling while they work on benchmarking and testing Amazon’s cloud to make ready for the arrival of BusinessObjects along with ugly sisters CRM and ERP. Presumably, the powers-that-be at SAP are hoping that Amazon’s cloud carriage doesn’t turn into a pumpkin, as it did in April, when EC2 went offline, taking high-traffic sites such as FourSquare and Reddit with it.

Sony Ericsson wasn’t so much looking for the reverse gear as pulling into the lay-by, as it announced the dropping of its lawsuit against Clearwire this week. In January this year, the Swedish kit maker claimed that Clearwire’s swirl logo looked far too similar to its own and it sought an injunction to prevent the carrier from using it as it moved towards a launch into the smartphone space. In a move that surely has nothing to do with a managed services deal between the Clearwire and SE parent Ericsson, Sony Ericsson has now said that it will drop the suit, although it can fire it up again in the future should Clearwire start to get stroppy. Also extremely unlikely to have had any bearing on the decision is Clearwire’s announcement that it had decided against launching any smartphone device for the time being.

The managed services deal between Ericsson and Clearwire suggests that further U-turns are in the offing; Ericsson’s disinterest in WiMAX seems to suggest that both Clearwire and its parent company Sprint are about to switch nags and abandon the technology in favour of LTE, which is now established as a global standard. The two carriers’ impending technology shift has been all but an open secret in the industry for some time, with only the timing up for debate.

The deal will see Ericsson absorb some 700 Clearwire employees and assume responsibility for network engineering as well as operations and maintenance of Cleawire’s core, transmission and access networks. It will no doubt come as a welcome respite from some of Clearwire’s financial pressures, not least in terms of human resources. As well as bolstering Ericsson’s already sizeable managed services customer base, the deal further entrenches the Swedish vendor in the US market where, just five years ago, it was a bit player.

Apple is also apparently readying itself for a turnover. The next iPhone now seems unlikely to hit the market in its usual summer time slot. It’s also unlikely to ship with LTE. The only thing that seems less likely than improvements beyond the cosmetic is the notion that the herds of iSheep will hold off buying it and wait for the LTE-enabled version. While St. Steve is rumoured to be champing at the bit to get an LTE iPhone into the market, the company has, apparently, decided to park things for a while until it’s happy that chipmaker Qualcomm’s offering is beautiful, sorry, good enough to grace Apple’s devices.  This hasn’t stopped China Mobile from announcing that it has “reached a consensus” with Cupertino regarding the use of a future iPhone on the carrier’s TDD-LTE network, however. While chairman Wang Jianzhou said that talks with Apple were ongoing, he wouldn’t be drawn on the specifics of a release date for an LTE iPhone.

If Apple haven’t completely closed the door on LTE this year, it’s far to say that Nokia is all but slamming it in the face of its Ovi service. Hot on the heels of Symbian, Ovi (which is the Finnish word for door) is being, er, metamorphosed into the “powerful master brand” that is Nokia, according to the Finnish giant’s marketing department. From July this year, Ovi will be known as Nokia services, which The Informer thinks will probably be just in time for the manufacturer to be swallowed whole by the Borg over at Redmond.  Whether a beautiful butterfly or a toad emerges before the end of the year is anyone’s guess, but Nokia says users of Ovi services will see no difference beyond branding once software updates start to kick in.

Speaking of strange metamorphoses, Korean vendor Samsung, better known for its devices than its network prowess, announced this week that it was going to try to break into the European LTE network equipment market. Maybe the promise of a revenue stream and product range that Apple can’t accuse it of ripping off is too tantalising a prospect for the company, but the cellular infrastructure market is one of the toughest operational spheres in the world. The exit of once substantial players like Motorola and Nortel and the enforced mergers of Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Siemens Networks are testament to this, and the rise of Chinese players Huawei and ZTE has turned the market into a small pond full of big fish.

If some think Samsung unwise to engage in handbags with Apple, it’s likely that even more will view the company’s optimism regarding its chances in the European market as wildly misplaced. Talking about its newly-formed task force for European network domination (a.k.a European Network Operations, or ENO), Youngki Kim, EVP and general manager of Samsung’s Telecommunication System Business said that “We believe that ENO will play a pivotal role for Samsung in helping us achieve significant 4G LTE success in Europe, through the introduction of our advanced LTE technologies.” The world loves a tryer, as The Informer’s granddad used to say.

Pop Quiz: What’s Orange and wants you to pay?

If you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger the answer is Mildred Patricia Baena, but if you’re not Arnie, whose American Dream triumvirate of Hollywood, power and disgrace is now complete, and you live in the UK, then the answer is QuickTap.

QuickTap is the new NFC mobile wallet service launched by Orange UK on Friday, a day after O2 tried to steal its thunder by announcing the partners it will be working with on its competing service when it launches later this year. Orange has buddied up with Barclaycard and Gemalto for its service, which lets users load up to £100 onto a payment app, which can be used to make purchases at participating retailers up to the value of £15.

Sounds good, but it’s not without restrictions. First up, the only compatible phone for the time being is the Samsung Tocco, an entry level touch screen toy that doesn’t even have 3G. If carriers, including Orange, are to be believed, mobile data is a mass market phenomenon. But if that really is the case, who the hell’s going to want a touch screen handset that can’t go over the EDGE? That’s the first problem with the new offering.

(Come to think of it, the Informer has a touch screen handset that is restricted to EDGE, but that’s because it’s an iPhone 3GS on the O2 network.)

The second restriction is that you have to be a Barclays Bank customer, or owner of a Barclaycard or Orange Credit Card in order to load money onto the application in the first place. And that counts a lot of people out of the equation. The only conclusion the Informer can reach is that Orange must be wanting to limit uptake in the initial stages of the service offering.

The firm said that more handsets “are expected to follow”, a choice of words that makes it seem as if Orange is not sure if and when that will actually happen. A press office lady told the Informer that Orange is “in discussions” with a number of vendors, so if the discussions are still ongoing, that Samsung Tocco might have the stage to itself for a little while.

So where can you use QuickTap? The handful of name-checks that Orange supplied included McDonalds, Subway and roadside slop house Little Chef. Hey, Orange: we’ve got enough of an obesity crisis in this country without you trying to get everyone eating fast food all the time! The carrier seems to be going after that segment of the market that was once memorably described to the Informer by a One2One (later T-Mobile) executive in a Gerry Ratneresque moment as “Johnny White Socks”.

And with that lovely image to occupy your mind for the weekend, the Informer bids you adieu for another week.

Take care,

The Informer

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.