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The TechDay Weekender - Apr 21st 2012

21 Apr 12

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

That’s the impression a person from the future might have gotten had they travelled back in time to attend the Tel.Con12 telecommunications conference held in Auckland this week.

Two presentations in particular, from Orcon CEO Scott Bartlett and TelstraClear CEO Dr Allan Freeth, showed remarkable disparity in their tone, the former celebrating the opportunities in new avenues like cloud and content, and the latter comparing ISPs to frogs in pots of boiling water, slowly being cooked to death.

"Telecom too may yet emerge as an aggressive and smart velociraptor, in contrast to the old vegetarian brontosaurus days, but the fact is it’s still going to be a dinosaur,” said Freeth, a former evolutionary scientist.

To be fair, Freeth himself acknowledged his gloomy tone, and added some reasons to be cheerful, saying the industry is ‘amazing’, and ‘helps create wealth and changes the course of people’s lives through connection and the dissemination of ideas’.

Bartlett, though, was totally upbeat – despite the post-lunch timeslot – saying carriers have a unique opportunity to take advantage of so-called ‘over the top’ businesses like Google and Facebook.

"What the carriers need to think about is how you form meaningful partnerships with these people,” Bartlett said.

Of course, both companies also took the opportunity to unveil new offerings to the market, Orcon with its new jumbo data plans via its Genius device, and TelstraClear with its 100MBps ‘warpspeed’ broadband, for customers on its cable service (available in Wellington, Kapiti and Christchurch).

Another topic which emerged at the conference was how the copyright law introduced last year has been faring. Several ISPs admitted having recently sent their first ‘third strike’ notices (including Bartlett, although his statement was later retracted); however, Labour Party ICT spokesperson Clare Curran told TechDay the real concern is that the Ministry of Economic Development is reviewing the fee which ISPs can charge to rights holders for sending the notices, despite clear gaps in information.

For example, most or all notice requests have been for music copyright infringements, with movie rights holders sitting back despite pushing hard for the legislation in the build-up, Curran says.

"Is it the cost, or are they holding back for some other reason?”

In international news, reports last weekend claimed that Apple CEO Tim Cook had visited the headquarters of Valve, who are responsible for the Steam gaming platform as well as titles like Half-Life and Portal.

Speculation swirled as to what crazy projects the companies could be working on – particularly given Apple’s historic weakness in gaming, despite its dominance in virtually everything else – but after almost a week Valve founder and CEO Gabe Newell quashed the rumour, saying no-one at Valve had met with the Apple boss (although he had ‘a long list’ of topics for discussion if Cook ever felt like dropping by).

Speaking of Cook, the former COO is to meet with his Samsung counterpart, Choi Gee-sung, to try and resolve the rivals’ bitter patent dispute.

Although it sounds like a promising step, the meeting has been ordered by a judge, not brokered by the parties themselves, and both CEOs will have teams of lawyers present who will most likely make sure nothing actually gets resolved.

In an interesting side-note, Twitter jumped into the patent fray this week with the announcement of a new patent usage policy. Essentially the policy is a commitment to use employee-created patents like the good side of The Force – for defence, never attack – unless the employee gives their okay.

It’s a nice idea, but as one US writer noted, when push comes to shove it’s hard to say whether the commitment will hold up should a rival start attracting users with their innovative instant messaging system, ‘Critter’.

Finally, one last thing we discovered at the conference was that New Zealand broadband testing company TrueNet is looking for internet users who are willing to be part of their national measurement network. Check out our story if you’re interested.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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