Archive for May 2011
This article titled “Over 3m homes rely on mobile broadband for internet, finds Ofcom” was written by Charles Arthur, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 26th May 2011 21.56 UTC
Around 7% of UK households, or 1.5m of the total 21.3m, use mobile devices exclusively to connect to the internet, and a total of 3.6m, or 17%, used mobile broadband for internet access, according to new research by communications regulator Ofcom.
The study, carried out between September and December 2010 with broadband monitoring specialists Epitiro, found that the number of homes using mobile devices for exclusive access had doubled from 3% in 2009.
The average mobile broadband speed was 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps), which meant that basic web pages took an average of 8.5 seconds to download. The Digital Britain report, which has been taken up by the coalition government, aims for a minimum 2Mbps connection for every home via mobile or fixed broadband.
By contrast fixed broadband over telephone lines offers an average 6.2Mbps in a study done in November and December 2010; with that, the same pages loaded in less than 0.5s.
The research involved over 4.2m tests and measured average speeds as well as the performance of the five mobile operators in areas of good 3G network coverage. However, it did not include smartphones, looking only at 3G dongles and datacards.
While the concept of using the web to share “stuff” — from cars to apartments to tools — is still relatively new to many consumers, the business model is being adopted by a growing number of companies and I think has started to reach a tipping point and become more of a mainstream concept.
So-called collaborative consumption has also started to make some companies a significant amount of money. Here are 10 signs that I’ve seen that a web-based sharing economy is movin’ into the mainstream:
1). Airbnb $1 Billion Valuation: The peer to peer apartment and house rental startup Airbnb is reportedly raising a $100 million (or more) sized round, at a $1 billion-plus valuation, led by Andreessen Horowitz. Previously the Y-Combinator company had only raised $7.8 million. No doubt such a large leap in funding will help the company rapidly grow, and continue to bring in more users beyond the early adopter crowd.
2). Zipcar’s IPO: In mid-April car sharing company Zipcar debuted on the Nasdaq at an eye-opening $30 per share, up over 60 percent from its offering price of $18. The company’s stock is trading around $25 at last close. Zipcar has been growing its business over the past decade, but decided this was the year investors would embrace the IPO. They were right.
3). New Innovative Startups Emerging: It seems like new websites using this type of business model are emerging on a regular basis. Baby clothing swap site thredUP launched in April 2010 and has been growing its business well ever since. Neighborgoods is another newish site that is organized around finding objects for rent via neighborhoods and locations, instead of around specific items. Toygaroo is like the Netflix for kids toys, where parents can rent toys for use, and then return them, and get new ones.
PayPal’s suit against Google claiming the latter misappropriated trade secrets reflects the urgency around being the first to market with a viable mobile payments solution.
Both companies are trying to build a presence for themselves in the growing mobile payments space, which industry believes has significant potential even though there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how it will work. In the suit, eBay-owned PayPal says it has been developing capabilities to provide large retailers with next-generation “mobile payment” point of sale technology and services and that Google is also exploring this market.
“I think the case has to be understood in the larger context of the rush to be the first to market with a viable mobile payments solution,” said David Carter, an attorney at ArentFox, NY.
“This is an area where the first-mover is going to have significant advantage,” he said.
There is a lot at stake here.
This article titled “PayPal sues Google over electronic wallet” was written by Charles Arthur and agencies, for guardian.co.uk on Friday 27th May 2011 07.28 UTC
Google’s first payments from its new “electronic wallet” system may be to the online transaction company PayPal, which claims that the company and two of its executives stole trade secrets for the project.
Unveiled on Thursday, the Google Wallet project uses a technology called Near Field Communications (NFC) to allow contactless transactions between consumers’ phones and merchants’ terminals.
But PayPal has filed suit in California following the launch in New York, alleging that Google lured away PayPal executive Osama Bedier earlier this year to obtain trade secrets that are now being used in Google’s service. The suit also names Stephanie Tilenius.
Both Bedier, now Google’s vice president of payments, and Tilenius were among those showing off the technology in New York.
The wallet app itself will require a PIN, as will each transaction. The payment credentials will be encrypted and stored on a chip, called the secure element, inside the phone. The app itself will be free to users.
Google emphasised that the wallet service would be open to all businesses and invited other banks, credit card issuers, payment networks, mobile carriers and merchants to work with it. If the phone was stolen, the credit cards inside could be remotely disabled. Consumers would have the same “zero liability” for unauthorised transactions made with their phone as they would with their plastic cards.
Read the whole story via PayPal Sues Google Over Electronic Wallet – PSFK.
Samsung Seemingly Unconcerned Over Apple Lawsuit, Hints Dispute Could Continue to Escalate – Mac Rumors
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal discussing Samsung’s push to embrace Android for its future tablet products, Samsung’s president of mobile communications J.K. Shin notes that the company is seemingly unconcerned over Apple’s lawsuit alleging that Samsung has copied the design and technology of the iPhone and iPad
with its products. Shin does note, however, that the dispute could continue to escalate, although he apparently has not elaborated on potential scenarios.
“We didn’t copy Apple’s design,” Mr. Shin said. “We have used many similar designs over the past years and it [Apple's allegation] will not be legally problematic.” He suggested the scale of the lawsuit could grow, though he didn’t provide more details.
Apple last week was granted access to unreleased (albeit already announced) Samsung hardware as part of the discovery phase in which Apple’s lawyers build the background for their case. In response, Samsung filed a motion requesting access to Apple’s next-generation iPhone and iPad models, despite the fact that Apple has yet to even acknowledge that such devices exist.
Samsung andApple are of course significant partners in the mobile industry, a relationship that makes the competition between the two firms in the marketplace and in the courtroom all the more interesting.
Updated: In the wake of a number of events, including the use of Twitter as a real-time reporting tool by New York Times writer Brian Stelter during the aftermath of the recent tornado in Missouri, media theorist and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis has written a post about how the “article” or traditional news story may no longer be necessary. With so much real-time reporting via social networks, he argues that the standard news article has become a “value-added luxury.” But I disagree — while real-time reporting is very powerful, we still need someone to make sense of those streams and put them in context. In fact, we arguably need that even more.
As anyone who has read my posts on social media and the future of media knows by now, I am a big fan of the way that social tools such as Twitter and Facebook and Flickr and YouTube have democratized the production of content of all kinds — journalism and non-journalism. The fact that those on the ground in Tahrir Square and in Libya can tell their own stories to some extent instead of relying on reporters from mainstream media outlets is hugely powerful. And so is the kind of journalism that Brian Stelter did from Joplin, and the way that Andy Carvin of NPR has been using Twitter as a live news-curation tool.
Engineers from one of the main players responsible for the development of the MP3 codec, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, have developed a new audio coding technology that aims to provide telephone calls and video conferences with sound quality approaching that of direct communication, while at the same time cutting delay times that often sees both speakers talking over each other. The solution is called Enhanced Low Delay Advanced Audio Coding – or AAC-ELD – and researchers claim it results in long-distance communications that appear almost as if the participants are sitting across from each other.
The MP3 codec uses a lossy compression algorithm that essentially reduces the accuracy of certain parts of sound that are considered beyond the ability of most people to hear. The result is much smaller audio files that can be transmitted much faster while still sounding fairly faithful to the original audio. However, since the audio first needs to be encoded and then decoded at the listener’s end, the Fraunhofer engineers faced a bit of a balancing act in developing something similar for interactive communications.
“The algorithm requires a certain amount of time to encode the data and to decode it again at the other end of the line. The process requires data that is still in the future, as it must wait for the data to arrive. This can result in a situation where interactive communication is very difficult,” explains Markus Schnell.
After several years of trying to strike an optimum balance that gave the best possible quality with the shortest possible delay, the team decided on an algorithm that produced a delay of only about 15 milliseconds. The engineers say that is this timespan the algorithm manages to reduce the audio data to less than one-thirtieth of its original size without a major loss in sound quality.
The Fraunhofer team says the improved speech transmission offered by AAC-ELD could have applications not only for telephone calls, but also for video conferencing applications used on mobile devices and real-time chat during games.