Ciena’s surprise announcement of its plans to acquire Ethernet access vendor Worldwide Packets left some analysts scratching their heads yesterday, largely because Ciena declined to offer many details on key justifications for the deal and its terms. more…
Siemens released its line of 802.11n product line today, joining a growing number of wireless LAN vendors — which includes Cisco Systems, Meru Networks, Aruba, Trapeze, Colubris and Ruckus Wireless — that are designing high-capacity wireless LAN gear for the enterprise. There seems to be little doubt that 802.11n will eventually displace its a, b and g predecessors (IT research firm The Burton Group believes that 802.11n will even replace wired Ethernet LANs in the next two years). The question is whether the enterprises need them, or can even support them, today. more…
Mobile TV chipmaker Telegent Systems today unveiled the TLG1120, a single-chip CMOS mobile TV receiver supporting all major worldwide broadcast TV standards, including NTSC, PAL, and SECAM TV broadcasts. According to the three-year old startup, the TLG1120 is the first mobile TV receiver to provide global access to free-to-air content. more…
Telephone and Data Systems has launched a WiMAX network in Madison, Wis., tapping into the economies of scale generated by Sprint’s upcoming Xohm launch. While Sprint has launched trial networks in only two markets, its planned nationwide launch is expected to produce WiMAX devices, modems and infrastructure at the 2.5 GHz frequencies from a plethora of vendors–all of which can be used to fuel WiMAX launches from any carrier owning similar spectrum. more…
Nokia’s eight-gigabyte model of the N95 today became the first wireless handset to receive Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) certification, an important step in the drive for a fully connected digital home. This recognition, typically reserved for home networking technologies, means that consumers will be able to connect to their computers wirelessly to stream content like photos, music and video from their N95.
The DLNA, an organization that advocates the interoperability of wired and wireless consumer devices, essentially allows for connectivity between any DLNA-certified home electronics device and a consumer’s personal computer. The alliance has certified the Nokia N95 8GB as a mobile digital media server, acknowledging what Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president of markets for Nokia, calls a prime example of the direction mobility is taking. Vanjoki said the handset is “personal, powerful and fits seamlessly into your life inside and outside the home.”
Although, with a price tag of $750, it had better. Consumers would have to find the mini-computer compelling as a complete entertainment experience to make the purchase. That being said, Nokia does appear to being making good on its promises of openness and seamless interoperability between devices and services from different brands.
The main perk for consumers is that they can use the Nokia N95 8GB to take pictures, listen to music or watch videos and then share that content wirelessly on any of the 1,800 computer or consumer electronic products that share the DLNA certification. Plus, the DLNA support is free for subscribers and integrated into both the North American and European models of the phone.
As mobile phones continue to gain traction as multimedia computers and social networking and content sharing continues to entrance thousands of consumers, the seamless mobility functions may prove significant to Nokia’s success. It is fair to say more carriers will try to get aligned with the certification body. As long as the telcos’ in-home network bandwidth can support it, the more DLNA-certified devices in the home, the better.
Perhaps Steve Jobs’ mock location demo wasn’t so mock after all. Tuesday at his keynote at MacWorld, the Apple CEO showed off the iPhone’s ability to pinpoint his location in Moscone West using information from the wireless networks the phone was linked to. Google has had this rather useful feature enabled for several months on all of its stand-alone versions of Google Maps , so the demo seemed to be old news as well as far-fetched, since cellular location isn’t that accurate.
But it turns out there was more to the demo than met the eye. The iPhone wasn’t just triangulating location from cell towers, but tapping into location data from the dozens of Wi-Fi routers that litter Moscone. Apple has contracted out with Skyhook Wireless to provide Wi-Fi location. Shyhook is one of several companies that have wandered around major metro areas with a signal sniffer, mapping the Media Application Control (MAC) addresses of every access point it can find. It doesn’t matter if a Wi-Fi network is private, the access point still reveals its address to the public, giving Skyhook hundreds of thousands of quasi-unique identifiers which it then maps to GPS coordinates. When the iPhone detects a signal, Skyhook knows where its owner is within the radius of the Wi-Fi router, and if it detects more than one signal, additonal software can pinpoint an approximate location.
According to Skyhook, cellular location can put as much as 1000 meters off from your location–not good for vehicle navigation–while Wi-Fi positioning is accurate to within 50 meters most of the time. The problem is, Wi-Fi may seem like it’s everywhere, but it’s not everywhere. Being in the middle of a convention center that is crammed with Wi-Fi, Jobs had no problems, but try getting it on the freeway or on a train or outside of a dense residential area. All it needs is a weak signal, but in some cases a weak signal is hard to come by. The other issue is that access points, unlike base stations, are fairly portable. They go online and offline, people move them about in a house or they just plain move. A MAC address registering in New York one week can wind up in Cleveland the next.
Skyhook adjusts its maps accordingly when a displaced MAC address is detected, but Jobs doesn’t appear to be taking any chances. The iPhone is using both Google’s cellular-location and Skyhook’s Wi-Fi positioning simultaneously. Not bad, but wouldn’t it have just been easier to embed GPS in the thing?
I take back my initial reaction to the iPhone’s new configurable interface after digging into a few of the details–and some chastisement from Telephony Senior Editor Rich Karpinski. Said Rich:
“The ‘re-arrangeable’ home screen isn’t all fluff but a nod to the still-to-come iPhone SDK, which will let third parties build applications which now — at the user’s choice — can apparently bump Apple apps to the background. At first glance at least, Apple is moving from a locked-down apps and deck to something fairly user-configurable.”
As Rich points out, Apple seems to be doing more than just rearrange icons. It’s allowing iPhone users to tailor the interfaces of their phones, initially allowing them to turn a bookmarked Web site into a Webclip that can be pasted as an icon on the iPhone home screen. It’s a nifty feature, but as Rich points out, its true potential lies in what the user can do when the SDK comes out and suddenly hundreds of Safari and Mac OS apps become available for the iPhone. Like Mapquest instead of Google Maps? Well, supposedly you can replace the latter with the former on the interface.
The significance of this may not be readily apparent, but anyone who has ever downloaded a third-party app onto a feature phone or smartphone knows how hard it is to find your pet application afterwards. It’s usually buried down in the applications folder among dozens, if not hundreds, of icons. One of the primary reasons the iPhone is so successful is because of its ease-of-use and the sleekness of its interface. The reason it’s so sleek, though, is Apple now controls every application on the deck. Once you start introducing third-party apps (like the ones Google is now offering) the seamlessly organized interface of the iPhone suddenly begins to look like a touch-screen mess. Apple is obviously trying to get ahead of that problem–so much so that it is actually creating the ability to have up to nine home screens which you can flip through with the flick of finger. I assume that means you can have a gaming home screen, a navigation home screen and an e-mail screen, if you like. Whether the average iPhone user takes advantage of all of these new functions is anyone’s guess, but Apple seems to be doing as much as it can to let people bring their own content to the forefront–something the carriers and even the more innovative handset makers like Nokia have really failed to do.
Want the update? Chances are, you already have it. Apple is automatically updating the iPhone software during synchronization to iTunes 7. A Quicktime Demo of the the new configurable interface is available on the Apple iPhone site as is an MPEG-4 or Quicktime video of Jobs’ keynote (why Apple doesn’t webcast it live, I have no idea).
As for the location-based services hoopla, I still stand by my initial assessment. As you may recall, Google introduced this element to mobile versions of Google Maps across the board a few months backs after it grew impatient with the lack of GPS penetration in phones. Jobs demoed the app on the iPhone at MacWorld, but I–and a lot of other people–suspect that Jobs had his coordinates pre-programmed for the network to pinpoint him so quickly in Moscone Center in San Francisco. The network triangulation Google uses is handy, but it’s not exactly the most accurate means of determining location. Don’t get me wrong–it’s an incredibly handy feature–but Jobs might be selling us some false expectations again just like he sold us on the lightening-fast browsing speeds of the iPhone.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs dispelled the anticipation of a second major wireless announcement at MacWorld: the prospect of WiMAX-embedded Apple notebook computer. Apple did release a new laptop, and it has a new radio interface, but the new eco-friendly MacBook Air comes embedded with an IEEE 802.11n chip, the new high-capacity, long-range Wi-Fi solution that has yet to become fully standardized.
While the new laptop is definitely a win for Apple’s environmental critics (mercury- and arsenic-free in the housing, with caustic chemicals removed from the circuitry) as well as for the Draft N sector, the WiMAX industry might be a bit disappointed. (For more details about the Air and other up-to-the-minute updates and photos from MacWorld check out Gizmodo’s live blog.) But then again, the likelihood of Apple releasing a WiMAX laptop anytime soon was pretty slim. So far Sprint has only two live networks up and running and not a single commercial subscriber online while Clearwire still hasn’t migrated its networks to WiMAX. Apple supports new technology (well, with the exception of 3G), but it also has to have a market. So we can just chalk this one up to overly high expectations.
The iPhone is another story. Jobs announced that Apple has sold 4 million of these suckers now. That’s an impressive feat, and as long as he can keep milking the EDGE device for all its worth, he probably has little incentive to come out with the highly anticipated 3G version of the iPhone. Stay tuned for Associate Editor Sarah Reedy’s podcast with the Yankee Group’s John Jackson about the wireless implications of Apple’s new wares. Also, check back with Telephony Unfiltered for more analysis of the new configurable aspects of the iPhone.
Jobs didn’t neglect AppleTV — designed to be an accessory for iTunes, but now so much more — “Take 2” if you will. Jobs announced that movies, including new releases from all major studios, will be available through rental through iTunes and playable anywhere — Macs, PCs, iPods and iPhone and AppleTV.
Now, with its new user interface, no computer is required for AppleTV. Movies can be rented directly onto AppleTV and, here’s the biggie, watched in high-definition with 5.1 surround sound. Users can also view video and audio podcasts, photos from Flickr — both your own and your friends’ photos — or .Mac, YouTube, buy TV shows and music streamed back to the computer.
At least for the demo, movies take about 30 seconds to load and work the same way they do on iTunes on your PC. As with the iPhone, the software update to get these new features is available free, but the AppleTV is priced at $299. Although, for the love of Macworld, starting today its only $229 and Apple will ship the free software update to existing owners and new units in two weeks. Jobs said he wants everyone to have the new software, so that’s not a bad start.
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