August 4, 2006
AOL Decides to Compete, Gives Away 5 Gigabytes Storage Accounts
AOL is busy these days. First the recent announcement that it would offer free email and other services to broadband users, while still charging dedicated dial-up users. That makes sense. Hi-speed users have plenty of places to go on the web that wouldn't otherwise include AOL, and the dial-up people have to start somewhere. Then the company announced that it was shedding 5,000 jobs. Time Warner needs a leaner money-making machine here.
The latest news is that AOL is offering 5-gigabyte digital storage lockers. That includes storing any type of document, no charges for uploads, a drag and drop interface, and permission based access by others. What drives this beyond low storage costs? Advertising. Every online tech giant lusts after the numbers that Google brings in with its advertising supported free services and ad placements. It's a great model to follow but hard to get right. Just ask Microsoft.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft continually up the ante on each other, whether its blogging feature, photo storage, free email, calendaring and other online amenities. AOL usually never comes up in the conversation. Five gigabytes is the most storage that any one of these companies has ever offered. Yahoo and their telco partners don't give anything nearly close in that amount of space even to the paying customers. Five gigabytes should attract a few eyeballs and probably a few competitive responses.
August 3, 2006
Real, Mozilla, and Google Cross-Pollinate
For good or ill to the consumer, Google and Mozilla announced a deal with Real to have the Google Toolbar and Firefox as download options with RealPlayer installs. eWeek has a great article on it by Steve Bryant that describes RealPlayer as a "loathsome yet inexplicably popular media player." The statement is less controversial than it seems, but the comments at the site comparing RealPlayer, Quicktime, and Windows Media Player are entertaining, especially if you have beefs with any of them (who doesn't?). And while we're at it, the Inquirer reports that Mozilla reaches 15% of the browser market. There must have been a very short moment in time when Internet Explorer had that market share.
Public Urinator Outed by Facebook, Fined by Campus Cops
There's a fascinating article on the Chicago Tribune web site about two University of Illinois students who got in trouble with campus police. The bar-hopping friends troubles began when one of them urinated on a bush near a fraternity. Campus police confronted them and the leaky one of the two ran from the scene. The other claimed he didn't know the identity of the fugitive. In the old days that would have been the end of the story. Not today.
The second individual's cell phone rang and police talked to the caller who gave them the name of the first individual. They went on Facebook.com and identified not only the first individual, but through profile descriptions that the two guys were best buddies. The result was a ticket for each, one for public urination ($145) and the other for obstruction of justice ($195). Both students were bummed by the whole thing because they were busted by Facebook.
In reality they were busted by their own statements on Facebook identifying their friendship. Schools are warning students about the amount of detail they put in their social profiles online because predators may harvest details for identity theft or more serious criminal activity. Students may have some idea about that, but hardly anyone thinks of this as a law enforcement tool, as if cops have no imagination. Well, surprise, with Facebook as a public web site, police have access to it and its content. They don't need a warrant either. The moral of the story? No one is going to read you Miranda rights when you decide to put up incriminating information about yourself on the web.
August 2, 2006
Blackboard Gets Patent
Government Appeals AT&T Suit Non-Dismissal
The Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit against AT&T for give access to its networks to the National Security Agency took an unexpected turn when the judge hearing the case turned down the government's request to dismiss the suit on state secrets grounds. Not unexpectedly, the government has appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The government expected to win at the trial level with a slam-sunk dismissal. State secrets as a defense always seems to work as it has in other cases involving NSA activity. The judge, however, felt that with all the publicity and the detailed amount of material of the central issues available on the web and in the press, the secret in question is hardly a secret. No purpose would be served by dropping the trial at this point. This case has the potential to wind up at the U.S. Supreme Court no matter what the Ninth Circuit does.
CNET has a detailed story on the case with links to significant documents.
August 1, 2006
Moussaoui Evidence Posted to Web by Court
In an unprecedented move, the trial court overseeing Zacarias Moussaoui's sentencing hearing has placed online 1,202 exhibits used in evidence. The exhibits are organized by party, trial phase, and number. The materials include PDFs of documents, and audio and video from the 9/11 attacks. The collection is quite detailed and is hardly typical of a court's web offerings. Then, Moussaoui's is hardly typical.
Cingular To Charge More for Older Tech Phones
Got an older cell phone and Cingular Service? You might be paying $5 more per month starting this September. Most Cingular customers are on the GSM network, but a about 8% of customers still use the old TDMA and analog network. Cingular is stuck with them until 2008 under an FCC requirement that the company support analog users until then. They would like to shut their TDMA network at the same time. However, when you're a company owned by AT&T nee SBC, make lemonade out of those lemons. Charge those early adopters but slow upgraders for their (bad) habits. Cingular would bring in about $23.5 million per month under those circumstances. That should add about a quarter of a billion dollars plus to the bottom line. Switching phones to GSM connections avoids the charge.
Cingular says that having to support the older system takes away resources from GSM calls. It would make sense to for the company to get everyone on GSM. That would reduce expenses (but not necessarily the standard monthly charges for service) and theoretically improve GSM service for customers. From the customer perspective there is a great opportunity not only to upgrade your phone, but possibly your carrier.
July 31, 2006
Microsoft Charging for Office Beta
Speaking of Microsoft, the public beta of Office 2007 proved so popular that the company is going to charge a nominal downloading fee starting Wednesday. The question is why? Is it server overload? A company that has revenues in the several billions and is not an oil company should be able to afford an infrastructure to serve downloads to the world. Or is it an attempt at getting the population used to the idea of micro-payments as Windows Live starts to make its appearance. Someone's going to have to pay for those services, especially since Google has most of the audience for an ad driven business. Will this extend to Windows as Windows? Look for messages that implore us to turn on automatic updates for only $39.99 per year. Sure it's a joke...now.
Microsoft Gives EU Windows Documents
Microsoft delivered a hefty pile of documents to the European Commission today in an effort to comply with the Commission's order that the company provide documentation to allow competitors to easily connect to Windows. The company has been hit with heavy fines twice by the Commission. Previous sets of documentation Microsoft delivered were deemed out of compliance by the software referee nominated by Microsoft. We'll just have to wait for all the appeals to sort out this mess.