September 26, 2006

4G Wireless in South Korea [8:44 am]

Wireless Networking May Soon Get Faster. Will Anyone Care?

Skeptics say the biggest danger is that the new system, while an engineering marvel, is not something that consumers will actually use. They say the sort of nationwide wireless networks being envisioned will be expensive to build and that the cost will probably get passed down to users in high fees. Fixed-line access like fiber optics and cable modems, they say, will continue to be cheaper, faster and more reliable.

“Four-G is just much ado about nothing,” said Edward F. Snyder, an analyst at Charter Equity Research. “There’s no business model here, just a lot of marketing and hot air.”

Even proponents are having a hard time defining exactly what they mean by 4G. About the only thing most agree on is speed: to be considered 4G, a network must be able to transmit a gigabit, or 1 billion bits of data, every second. That is fast enough to download an entire movie in under six seconds.

[...] Siavash M. Alamouti, chief technology officer of the service provider business group at Intel, dismisses the contention that consumers will not embrace wireless access to the Internet because they already have fixed-line access.

“That’s like saying you don’t need a cellphone because you have phones at home and in the office,” he said in an interview.

I love how the benchmark for network speed is tied to movie downloads.

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EU Privacy v US SWIFT Monitoring [8:30 am]

Europe Panel Faults Sifting of Bank Data

“We don’t see the legal basis under the European law, and we see the need for some changes,” said Peter Schaar, a German official who leads the panel, in a telephone interview. The group is to deliver a final report this week in Brussels, and Mr. Schaar said he expected it to conclude that the program might violate European law restricting government access to confidential banking records.

Earlier: So What’s Next? and Saw This In The Herald Tribune

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A Couple of Patent Stories, Including An IBM Bombshell [7:36 am]

  • A story of jurisdiction-shopping: So Small a Town, So Many Patent Suits

    What was remarkable about the trial was not the issue being tried or the arguments proffered by each side, but that these big companies — like dozens more from the East and West Coasts — wound up in the Federal District Court here in Marshall, the self-proclaimed Pottery Capital of the World and home to the annual Fire Ant Festival (sponsored by Terminix, the pest-control company).

    More patent lawsuits will be filed here this year than in federal district courts in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington. Only the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, will handle more patent infringement cases.

    On the surface, there is little to recommend Marshall as a locus for global corporations looking to duke it out over who owns the rights to important technology patents. [...]

    [...] What’s behind the rush to file patent lawsuits here? A combination of quick trials and plaintiff-friendly juries, many lawyers say. Patent cases are heard faster in Marshall than in many other courts. And while only a small number of cases make it to trial — roughly 5 percent — patent holders win 78 percent of the time, compared with an average of 59 percent nationwide, according to LegalMetric, a company that tracks patent litigation.

    Those odds are daunting enough to encourage many corporate defendants to settle before setting foot in Marshall. Add to that the fact that jurors here have a history of handing out Texas-sized verdicts to winners. In April, for instance, a Marshall jury returned a $73 million verdict against EchoStar Communications for infringing the patents of TiVo.

  • A move in the “open patent review” movement, and a statement on business method patents: Hoping to Be a Model, I.B.M. Will Put Its Patent Filings Online

    I.B.M., the nation’s largest patent holder, will publish its patent filings on the Web for public review as part of a new policy that the company hopes will be a model for others.

    [...] The policy, being announced today, includes standards like clearly identifying the corporate ownership of patents, to avoid filings that cloak authorship under the name of an individual or dummy company. It also asserts that so-called business methods alone — broad descriptions of ideas, without technical specifics — should not be patentable. [emphasis added!]

    The move by I.B.M. does carry business risks. Patents typically take three or four years after filing to be approved by the patent office. Companies often try to keep patent applications private for as long as possible, to try to hide their technical intentions from rivals.

    “Competitors will know years ahead in some cases what fields we’re working on,” said John Kelly, senior vice president for technology and intellectual property at I.B.M. “We’ve decided we’ll take that risk and seek our competitive advantage elsewhere.”

    [...] I.B.M. used Internet collaboration to develop its new patent policy. More than 50 patent and policy experts from the United States, Europe, Japan and China exchanged views for two months in May and June on a wiki, an online site that can be added to and edited collectively. The resulting document is posted on www.ibm.com/gio/ip.

    Unrelated, really, but worth noting: BM Asks Court to Toss SCO’s Entire Case

  • A representative of Audible US pointed out that there was an article in the Saturday (2006 Sept 16) NYTimes on the CEO’s fight with patent trolls. You can search the Internet for the text (”Tired of Trolls, a Feisty Chief Fights Back” by Joe Nocera) but, since it’s a TimesSelect article, I can’t post a useful link here. If Audible decides to post the text on their WWW site, I’ll be happy to link to it there.

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“TiVo Tyranny” [7:23 am]

The unexpected roles of new technologies in our cultural life: TiVo Tyranny — The Latest in Self-Loathing - pdf

In other words, if you already feel guilty about your piles of unread Sunday newspapers and New Yorker magazines, there’s a new form of self-loathing: TiVo tyranny. Ever since I got a DVR system, my television has become a source of dread. No longer a symbol of slothful refuge wherein I can while away a few hours watching whatever dreck happens to be on, it is now a taskmaster. My life is not only cluttered with unanswered e-mails, unreturned phone calls and unfinished novels but entire seasons of television shows I feel I should watch but haven’t and probably never will.

[...] Studies — including some conducted, oddly enough, by TiVo — have shown that DVRs do increase the number of hours people spend watching television. But according to Josh Bernoff, principal analyst at Forrester Research, the real news is that DVRs get affluent people to watch more television.

[...] I must not be as affluent as I thought. Caught in the shackles of my own personal TiVo tyranny, my DVR has reduced my viewing hours practically to zero. And it’s not just because the remote control somehow ended up in my car. It’s because turning on the TV is now less about escape than about being confronted with an electronic to-do list. There are the shows I want to watch, the shows I feel I should watch and shows the DVR thinks I should watch based on my prior selections. Faced with this monstrous inventory, the only logical thing to do is turn off the TV.

That’s because with choice comes paralysis and, in turn, convenience usually finds apathy nipping at its heels. In the pre-TiVo era, television was challenging. We had to hunt for something worth watching and, if we found it, we sat still and paid attention. In the same strange way that it’s infinitely more satisfying to hear a favorite song come up unexpectedly on the radio than to play it on a CD, there was a certain beauty to the old-fashioned TV experience. Even if we watched alone, we knew millions of others were watching the same exact thing, at the same exact moment. Even if there was nothing on that we particularly wanted to watch, there was something nice about settling on the best thing we could find and shutting off our brains for a while.

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