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The Three Kings of Wireless
The Kansas City Star, hometown paper for Sprint, went into great detail on the wireless transmission standard that Nextel currently uses and how its recent agreement with the FCC to swap spectrum could make it easier for the company to merge with Sprint: "Sprint and Nextel offer wireless service using distinctly different network technology. But that could soon change. Nextel ... operates using proprietary wireless technology in the same radio spectrum as that used for some fire and police emergency communications. Emergency workers across the nation have reported that the company's network often interferes with emergency radio calls. In July the [FCC] agreed to a deal that will allow Nextel to swap its less-valuable radio spectrum for new, higher-value spectrum to eliminate the interference. The deal calls for Nextel to pay about $3.2 billion to offset the difference in the value of the spectrum. ... Nextel has been studying how to deliver next-generation wireless services to its customers, Paul Saleh, Nextel's chief financial officer, told Wall Street analysts Thursday. Nextel has asked for proposals to convert its network to one of two technologies. The first, the next generation of code division multiple access known as CDMA, would mesh directly with Sprint's wireless network and upgrade plans. The second, proprietary technology developed by Bell Labs and being marketed by Flarion Technologies, would not mesh with Sprint. Nextel has been testing the Flarion technology, called FLASH-OFDM, in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area for more than six months."
The Kansas City Star: Merger Speculation Boosts Sprint Stock
Wireless Winners, Consumer Losers
While Wall Street investors benefited from the Nextel-Sprint rumors, consumer advocates are already pooh-poohing the deal. "Some consumer advocates worry that the deal could take pressure off the hypercompetitive wireless industry, potentially leading to more expensive calling plans and less pressure to improve service," The Wall Street Journal reported. "This is the signal of an ongoing trend to reduce competition," Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union told the paper.
Regulators will surely scrutinize the competitive repercussions of any new wireless industry merger, but in the meantime they're already taking a closer look at the cell phones themselves. "Camera phones may make great Christmas gifts, but people better not use them for peeping-Tom photos on federal property. In one of its last moves of the year, Congress passed a bill that would levy heavy fines and prison time for anyone who sneaks photos or videos of people in various stages of undress, a problem lawmakers and activists called the new frontier of stalking," the Associated Press reported today. "While camera phone voyeurism probably won't be high on the list of federal crimes the FBI and other federal agencies pursue, 'at least in theory there is now federal protection available so people can't unknowingly have their private parts photographed, downloaded and transmitted around the world,' said Hanan B. Kolko, a New York civil liberties lawyer."
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Illicit Cameraphone Clicks Could Mean Jail (Registration required)
Meanwhile, cell phone users may have the go-ahead soon to use their phones while flying on commercial flights. Federal regulators are slated to start talking about the issue later this month, Bloomberg reported yesterday.
Bloomberg via The Washington Post: Cell Phones In Flight Considered (Registration required)
CNN/Money: Cell phone calls in flight?
Yahoo's Search Dreams
Yahoo just couldn't let Google and Microsoft get all the attention for their desktop search tools. Yahoo is set to release its own software to rapidly scour files on a PC. "The competition between two leading Internet search engines is heating up anew as Yahoo Inc. plans to announce today that it soon will offer a free, high-speed way to search for information on personal computers, challenging rival Google Inc., which released a similar product this fall," The Washington Post reported. "Yahoo's search program, available in test form in January, will expand on Google's offering by allowing users to search for more than e-mails and other documents on their hard drives. It will enable people to comb through their MP3 music files, which Google's product does not, officials said. In addition, unlike Google, Yahoo plans to provide a way to search saved Portable Document Format files, or PDFs, often used to distribute documents." The tit-for-tat continues, with Yahoo claiming its search tool is faster than Google's. Does this mean the search engine wars are going to take on shades of the speed wars, made famous by dueling chipmakers Intel and AMD? Stay tuned.
The Washington Post: Yahoo To Release Desktop Search Tool(Registration required)
Yahoo is partnering with X1 Technologies on desktop search. According to CNET's News.com, "Financial terms of the partnership between X1 and Yahoo were not disclosed. X1, based in Pasadena, Calif., was founded by Idealab CEO Bill Gross, who also created Yahoo commercial-search subsidiary Overture Services. Desktop search is the latest frontier of development by major search providers, Web portals and software makers. Navigating desktop files can be cumbersome or clunky with current operating system 'search and find' features, and all the companies believe they can improve people's ability to organize or find massive amounts of personal data on the PC. For search companies such as Yahoo and Google, the desktop could also eventually be a new venue for delivering contextual or personalized advertising."
CNET's News.com: Yahoo To Test Desktop Search
More from The Wall Street Journal on what Yahoo plans to offer with its search tool: "Jeff Weiner, Yahoo's senior vice president for search, said the initial version of the Yahoo software will combine X1's desktop-search functions and Yahoo's Web search. He said the company plans to add features to permit searches of users' content on Yahoo's e-mail, address book, calendar, and instant-messaging services. Later, consumers will be able to search their photos and music online using the desktop-search software."
The Wall Street Journal: Yahoo To Release Desktop-Search Software (Subscription required)
First Yahoo, Then Google
Yahoo and Google have made a habit of releasing news on the same day, and yesterday was no different, with Google announcing a beefed-up banner advertising service. The company is "testing banner advertisements using animated images on some partner Web sites. The Mountain View, Calif., Internet-search giant published a note on its site telling AdSense customers -- the Web-site partners that display Google's keyword-driven ads -- that it plans to accept animated ads in the GIF format from a small group of test advertisers. The test is part of an effort to expand its image ad program, which has been in beta testing since May, to include more formats," The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Wall Street Journal: Google Tests Animated Banner Ads (Subscription required)
In other search news, Business Week has an interesting look at whether a new start-up can give Google a run for its money. Enter Accoona: "To what lengths will a new Web site go in 2004 to attract 1999-ish buzz? How about bringing in the President from the dot-com era? None other than Bill Clinton gave a speech at the lavish Dec. 6 launch party of Accoona, a search site that hopes to unseat category-killer Google by using artificial intelligence," Business Week's Amey Stone reported. But perhaps Google has nothing to fear after all, as Stone continued: "Early reviews of the site by search-engine buffs have found it lacking. Although most reporters didn't stick around after Clinton's speech to try out the new search engine, I did -- and what I found was that its results didn't quite measure up against Google on some searches that I had done that very same day. Accoona representatives promise that the search engine will 'learn' as it goes on and become far more robust. Accoona does have a strong buzz working in its favor, and that could help to keep it afloat until the technology is in gear. Accoona is partly owned by the government-sanctioned China Daily Information Services, the largest English-language site in China. In its press materials, Accoona states it expects more than 10 million daily unique visitors from China."
Business Week: Accoona: Should Google Worry?
Tech Scribe Hopes For Grassroots Splash
Dan Gillmor, the highly regarded (and prolific!) technology columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News, is leaving the paper to start his own grass-roots journalism venture. Gillmor said the project was in the seed stage still and more details would be forthcoming. Gillmor has been chronicling technology news and views from Silicon Valley for 10 years and his voice and sharp eye at the paper will be missed by readers and his editors alike. I will miss reading his commentary, for it offered a unique and experienced perspective on the Valley's tech newsmakers and key issues.