Sunday, April 11, 2010

Comcast Suckerpunches the FCC

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against the FCC

In case you don't know anything about the net neutrality battle, there's a great video made by yours truly here that will give you a good background on it. Basically, it's the idea that the ISPs shouldn't prioritize data from one website over another - the Internet should be neutral so that all websites are on an even playing field. The FCC, whom I agree with, believe that violating this would really hurt people's ability to access the content of their choice, but they've been slugging it out with Comcast over this for a while now and now a federal appeals court has ruled in Comcast's favor claiming that the FCC is overreaching in trying to regulate the Internet. There are arguments to made for and against this, but I ultimately don't think we should give ISPs the key to the castle - whether the FCC is the one to intervene or someone else, I believe it's vital to the long-term future of the Internet that innovative websites can grow because their visitors experience the same speeds as big competitors.

I believe the next level of appeal is the Supreme Court, and I'm sure the FCC will want to appeal because this is a key sticking point for Chairman Genachowski. Of course, the Supreme Court could refuse, which would implicitly support the lower appeals court, or they could overturn it and essentially make it legal for the FCC to regulate an ISP's network management practices. It's a really sticky situation because it's definitely unclear whether the FCC has this power but if they don't then who does? Wouldn't it be anti-competitive if companies like Comcast could take advantage of this uneven playing field to drive competition out of the market? They could help foster monopolies on the Internet.

I know I'm just beating a dead horse here, but I'm just trying to make sure people don't forget about this issue, especially when it comes time to pick their congressmen. The future of the Internet really is in our hands, don't let a big corporation convince you otherwise.

iPhone OS 4.0

In a pretty sudden special event (a bit out of character for a company known for being meticulous with these events), Apple finally announced the next iteration of the highly lauded iPhone software. If you don't want to read all the gory details, you can get the short version here. There are a number of new features, but the biggest ones are "multitasking", improved notifications, a totally revamped mail app, the iBooks app from the iPad, an online multiplayer video game network, and support for Bluetooth keyboards.

This is a pretty awesome update for iPhone users, all told. I'm not sold on the multi-tasking one, but the others seem great, especially the improvements to mail and that video game network. They may end up killing Windows Phone 7 out of the gate with an early counter to Xbox Live going mobile. Regarding multi-tasking - I don't think you can have background processes running persistently, I think it's more that you can just save state while the user does something else. The Palm Pre has true multi-tasking where your open cards can do stuff while not in the foreground. You've gotta love the irony (this is common with Apple, so no surprise) that for the longest time they've been lambasting multi-tasking and how much it'll hurt battery life and now they're saying (literally) that it will "change the way you use the iPhone".

You have to appreciate that they're towering over the competition in the US market but they're still working on pretty significant improvements and staying very competitive. They also dedicated a small portion of the event to enterprise users, which is going to have to be a huge growth market to them because they've been losing the battle thus far to the corporate favorite: RIM.

One thing they mentioned that hasn't gotten a whole lot of attention is their mobile advertising platform: iAd. This is them really locking horns with Google and adds another element to their already complicated love/hate relationship with Google. Between this and the growth of Android though, things are definitely heating up between the two giants. The platform will allow iPhone app developers to let Apple vend ads on their apps directly and collect a tidy 60% of those revenues. I think it's definitely a fair bit of competition to Google, especially considering that Android doesn't have anything comparable in its platform.

HP Slate Leak

Poor HP. Poor, confused HP. Engadget got a leaked memo from inside HP comparing the forthcoming HP Slate to the iPad and comparing its strengths to the iPad's threats. The real takeaway here is that it only really compares hardware. That's the problem with pitting a hardware company against a company that focuses on software but happens to also make hardware. I'm not saying that HP doesn't build software, but it's certainly not their bread and butter. They don't have an iPhone OS. They're missing the intangibles in their comparison. They don't take into account things like brand or ease-of-use or the fact that they don't have a release date and have virtually no press coverage legitimizing their product. While the iPad had a lot of negative coverage, it got people talking about it and considering it, and that's what's been driving its sales. What's going to drive people to buy a Slate, especially at a higher price than the iPad? Windows 7 is great and has been improved for touchscreen devices, but it may be too late for the HP Slate by the time it hits the market. While I think a tablet that can do everything Windows 7 can do is preferable to just a souped up iPhone OS, the people buying the iPad seem to really care about the simple user experience the iPad provides. Will they feel the same about the Slate?

This Week in Open Source

Ok, there's not that much open source news, but there are a couple of things worth noting.

WebKit, Apple's open source mobile browser engine, is getting an upgrade to allow for a split process model and a non-blocking API. The former is kind of like with Google Chrome where one bad tab isn't a poison pill that crashes all your tabs. The latter is really just a performance tweak for web developers to take advantage of. It's so exciting when I think back to the days of Blazer on the Palm Treo being the best mobile browser to see evolution like this in the mobile web. I believe that mobile websites are going to become more and more a key component of the Internet, especially with smartphones becomes so prevalent and affordable (though, obviously, we still have a ways to go in market penetration).

Even more interesting: Songbird is no longer going to support Linux in future releases. This is kind of a shocker because it has probably become one of the most popular, if not the most popular, music manager on Linux since its inception just 4 years ago. Given that it's open source, the community could always come forward and work on it, but the official creators of Songbird are focusing on Mac and Windows because they just can't afford to move forward with their Linux version. It is kind of interesting that Linux has received such a beating between Sony nipping it on PS3s and Microsoft no longer supporting it in Enterprise Search, but I don't think this is the beginning of the end for Linux by any means. Linux is a great OS for data centers and software development, and I think it will continue to flourish at least for business uses even if it doesn't gain much headway in people's homes.

Yelp's Advertising Gets Bit

It pains me to speak ill of Yelp because I love the site overall. I use it all the time. However, as much as I try to forget about it, Yelp has had a good amount of press (at least online) for questionable marketing practices in threatening businesses to promote worse reviews if they don't pay Yelp for their services to promote better reviews (and delete bad ones) instead. Amazon does nothing of the source and sorts reviews with a complicated algorithm to better serve customers, but I guess Yelp decided to go a different direction. A Miami lawyer is bringing up a somewhat high-profile case against Yelp and probably really hurting their PR. In response, Yelp has decided to no longer choose hat reviews appear first in its listings, but I'm guessing the lawsuit will continue on to get punitive damages.

The Quickies

Ok, it's been a long day so let's wrap this puppy up.

Unvarnished is a new site (in limited beta) that's akin to slam tables from college. It will allow you to write whatever you want about your co-workers to influence their reputation. I'm afraid that it could get dangerous (i.e. shills and slander), but it's a fascinating concept, to say the least.

Gmail has launched some really cool new labs including Sneak Peek to allow you to preview e-mails via right-click. There are some other features that have come out that I missed, like a preview of your Inobx while it's loading that I missed whenever they came out, so be sure to browse the the list of labs if you use Gmail.

This is a great roundup of the top videos that destroy iPads.

Anyone in IT will want to check out this survey to see how their salary compares to their local market. It's a somewhat biased survey and relies on self-reporting so it's not 100% accurate, but it's probably not a terrible ballpark - especially if you're considering a job in IT somewhere.

I love this Mashable article too much to pass it up - it's all about how Facebook influences how we date and I thought the timing was great given the recent Facebook Southpark episode.

This is a really nifty idea: surround vision. Imagine everyone in your living room having a personal device to look past the edges of your TV for more visual data in a scene. Seeing the little video is believing, but, of course, who knows if it'll end up being practical in the long run.

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