Friday, 27 November 2009

Anti Piracy Laws May be Hard to Enforce for Those Using Mobile Broadband

Shortly after dinning with music industry big shot David Geffen on his yacht this summer Peter Mandelson suddenly announced plans to crack down on illegal online file sharing. Mandelson plans to criminalise vast swathes of the population and 'throw them off the internet' if they are caught sharing copyrighted material.

Many have suggested that the proposed law is flawed in many ways and seems to contradict the Government's 'Digital Britain' plans. Treasury secretary Stephen Timms claims that the main ISPs are "pretty supportive of where we have now reached" although Talk Talk and BT disagree. There have also been questions raised about the likely cost of the plans and how exactly they will be funded.

Mobile Broadband operators have expressed their concern at the proposed new law and suggested that tracking those who illegally download via a mobile connection may be problematic.
"[ISPs] are not allocating one IP address per customer. They can't backtrack, as things stand, to identify the customer. They would be required to build the databases that would be able to do that mapping, and that would be very costly."

Mobile Broadband Group chief Hamish MacLeod

The databases required would cost the industry around £35m at a time when they are looking to expand coverage and increase speeds. The industry is unsurprisingly not eager to shoulder this cost especially those who specialise in mobile broadband. As mobile broadband download limits can be lower than with fixed line broadband, mobile users are not thought to download as much copyrighted data.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Fring Video Call App Comes to Nokia Phones

Mobile phones have had 3G video calling functionality for several years now but it doesn't seem to have taken off. Many of us use use instant messenger applications such as Skype or MSN messenger in combination with a webcam on our laptops or PCs. So far video calling on mobile devices has failed to become widely popular, perhaps due to high usage costs.

Now that VOIP technology has come to mobile devices so we are able to instant message or make internet voice calls for free using applications such as Skype mobile or Windows live messenger mobile. These applications are free to download and free to run if you have unlimited web usage as part of your contract. Even if you have to pay for web access it is likely to work out cheaper than traditional calls. The next step was clearly going to be internet video calling and it would seem that it is now available.

Introducing Fring.

It is now possible to make free Skype video calls via your mobile phone using a service called Fring. Fring is an 'identity-aggregating app' which allows you to contact your friends via different social medias like, Skype, and Facebook all through one application. So far the video calling option is only avaliable to those with Symbian S60 Nokia phones. For more info see the video by Fing embedded below or visit their blog.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband Overtakes Fixed Cost

October sales figures have shown that for the first time pay as you go mobile broadband contracts have become more popular than fixed price contacts. According to 53% of new customers in October chose the pre paid option. This is the first time pay as you go has overtaken fixed usage contracts.

Pay as you go mobile broadband has been increasing in popularity over recent years particularly with infrequent internet users. The ability to only pay for usage rather than fixed monthly fee means that the contracts, like those of pay as you go phones, tend to work out cheaper. They also offer an alternative to the 12-24 month contracts often necessary for prepaid mobile broadband.

Recent years have seen an increase in 'light users' who only go on line occasionally to check their email or use Ebay etc. For these people a fixed line broadband connection is an unnecessary expense and mobile broadband a suitable alternative. Pay as go go offers the most competitive deals and has seen its popularity rise during the recession.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Is Offline Computing a Thing of the Past?

Microsoft have announced that their Cloud Computing Platform Windows Azure will 'come out of test mode' in January next year and be fully operational by February. This is a big step for Microsoft who know that they need to have a top notch Cloud Computing (simple explanation) offering in order to compete. It also shows that Cloud Computing is where tech is heading. Although this has been known for some time Microsoft's announcement may well speed things up.

While many are ready to write off Microsoft as an declining icon of computing's last generation, Ozzie sees Microsoft positioned to leapfrog some of the companies that tend to be thought of as the leaders of the cloud computing world--names like Amazon, Salesforce and Google. - Cnet

Most of use use Cloud Computing applications for our personal email accounts with providers such as Gmail or Hotmail. Looking to the future more and more computing will be achieved via a web browser without the need for offline software. Consider the following examples you may already use:

1. Spotify

Spotify allows you to stream music over the internet without having an offline copy. It means that you don't need to carry around your music collection on an mp3 player, you can access it from an internet enabled device.

2. Skype

Skype allows you to instant message your contact over the internet and can be downloaded to a range of web enabled devices. If you use the Skype Mobile or the mobile app you can make VOIP (voice over IP) calls and thus bypass the phones traditional call making technology in order to make free calls.


Picnik lets you edit photos via your web browser. It has all the basic functions the average users needs such as cropping, rotating and adjusting contrast. Once you are done editing your photo you simply download it back to your desktop.

As I said in a comment on a recent Independent article on Azure:

Cloud computing is a great idea (I use various online tools such as Gmail, Picnik and Remember The Milk) but it relies on users having a good connection speed so infrastructure improvements will help it to take off.
If you take Cloud computing to it's logical conclusion all we will need in the future is a device that acts as a browser with no need for offline tools of any kind. You can already see this happening on mobile devices with the increasing popularity of apps like Skype for mobile and Windows Live mobile messenger which bypass the normal call making methods in favor of VOIP calls.

Perhaps the future will see us carrying around mobile web devices with cameras and the ability to make traditional calls may be forgotten. If everything you need to do (or more realistically, want to do) can be handled by online apps all you really need is a portable web browser.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Decline in Home Phone Usage

The use of a fixed line home phone has become less popular as mobile phones have become more widespread. For many a fixed phone line is only necessary in order to receive broadband as calling costs are covered by inclusive minutes as part of a mobile phone contract. Those without an internet connection or with a mobile broadband contract may forgo having a phone line at all.

Not being able to make phone calls whilst on the move was the norm where now the idea seems strange. It seems odd to me that I once only had the ability to go online at home rather than being able to use an internet enabled phone whenever and wherever. The rise in email and applications such as Windows Live Messenger Mobile and the Skype mobile means that most forms of communication are always available.

"Having a landline is about having a commitment to place as much as anything. Mobile phones are about mobility in a much deeper sense than just convenience. It's about not being rooted in the same way as a landline, which gives a feeling of stability."
Ben Highmore, University of Sussex

In 2007 a survey found that 15% of households had at least one mobile phone but no landline. The recessions is likely to have increased this figure as households cut back on what they see as luxuries. Whilst most people seem to be unwilling to stop using the internet altogether mobile broadband can offer savings to those with less frequent usage patterns. Three million UK homes now have a mobile broadband contract and that figure is growing rapidly.

As a recent BBC article on the subject points out those in rented accommodation are reticent about paying £120 to have a phone line activated when that figure could pay for around 8 months worth of mobile broadband. BT is attempting to encourage us to use our home phone for important conversations. Unfortunately for them a lot of mobile phone contracts include unlimited calls and people are unlikely to pay twice for anything during a recession.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Spotify Helps to 'Curb Music Piracy'

A recent survey has shown that those who use Spotify to stream songs for free are less inclined to illegally download music. Of those questioned who admitted to illegally downloading two thirds said that using Spotify had encouraged them to reduce the amount they downloaded.

This makes you wonder if people want to own music or just want access to it? Now that it is possible to download almost any album for free has owning a collection lost its appeal? CD sales continue to fall whilst legal downloads become more and more popular. It will be interesting to see if the popularity of music streaming will have a negative effect on legal mp3 sales.

Whilst users with a free Spotify account cannot own or stream songs offline they can have round the clock access. Those with a premium account can stream offline and on mobile devices such as the iPhone or the HTC Hero for £10 a month. So far the mobile app is only available with a monthly contract rather than on pay as you go phones so bandwidth limits are not an issue.

Legal downloads continue to rise in popularity with Amazon's mp3 store being a positive example. It has become the second most popular provider of mp3s behind iTunes perhaps due to its household name and lack of DRM crippled files. As CD retailers close their doors it is clear that the music industry needs to change its model. Spotify may well be leading the change.

Monday, 2 November 2009

TalkTalk Criticize Broadband Tax Plans

The Government 's plans to introduce a broadband tax in order to cover the cost of providing 'broadband for all' has been criticized by telecoms company TalkTalk. The planned tax, announced as part of the Digital Britain report, would cost users around £0.50 per month and is likely to be leveled at those receiving fixed line broadband.

TalkTalk's chief executive Charles Dunstone (who seems to enjoy being provocative) has said that the £6 per year tax could force low-income households to give up their internet connections:

"This is an unjust and regressive tax on all phone customers which will subsidise mostly richer rural households that can afford high priced super fast broadband services. As well as being unfair we estimate that the increase in price will mean that over 100,000 mostly low income homes will be forced to give up their broadband lines. This is wholly inconsistent with the government's plans to tackle digital exclusion."

Whilst it is admirable to defend those who are on low incomes who stand to gain from having a broadband connection, the figures just don't add up. An extra 50p per month is unlikely to dissuade people from getting connected. Cheaper alternative such as pay as you go mobile broadband are available and the benefits of an internet connection are hard to ignore.

Only 10% of people polled by Ofcom this summer intended to cut back on broadband costs. With the money people are able to save by shopping online a broadband connection could pay for itself.

BT have previously suggested that the tax be paid by those who own a mobile phone in order to spread the cost. The Conservatives have opposed broadband taxation so the outcome of the general election might decide the fate of the tax.