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 Thursday, 20 June 2002

The Markle Foundation has issued a statement (Word) on ICANN reform for submission to the US hearings on ICANN held on June 12, 2002 (see "US Congressional Testimony on ICANN").

Thursday, 20 June 2002 19:04:46 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

One sees lots of criticism in the press and elsewhere about the deployment of 3G mobile systems. This paper (Word, PDF) by Audrey Selian of the ITU provides some good perspective on the historical development of GSM and how we are moving to IMT-2000 (3G) mobile systems. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of GSM naysayers in its early days, just as there are today for IMT-2000 systems.

Thursday, 20 June 2002 17:11:23 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Wednesday, 19 June 2002

Reuters is reporting on British engineers who have have invented a revolutionary tooth implant that works like a mobile phone. The 'tooth phone', designed by James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau, consists of a tiny vibrator and a radio wave receiver implanted into a tooth during routine dental surgery. Even more bizarre, this comes at the same time that Reuters is reporting studies that show that mobile phone radiation can cause changes in human cells that might affect the brain.

Wednesday, 19 June 2002 22:45:35 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

From the myth-bashing department: Reason has an interview with Larry Lessig. In this interview, he repeats his arguments from his book, The Future of Ideas, concerning his views on the importance of the "end-to-end design principle", repeating a common mantra of Internet techies, who argue that the Internet is obviously a superior design to the telephone network because "the intelligence is at the end nodes and not inside the network". These theories are blindly parroted and even applied to cyber-political theory, typically as variations of David S. Isenberg's stupid network theme. Showing that the populist view often does not bear scrutiny, in this posting back in March 2000 on the Cybertelecom-L mailing list (no archives), Fred Goldstein takes the opposite view and argues convincingly, that on the contrary, "The telephone network has even more content-neutrality than the Internet, because as a circuit-switched network, it has zero visibility of the bearer channels. Once the call's set up, bits is bits. No firewalls, censorware, caches, or other content-invasive intermediaries a la the Internet as people tend to see it nowadays. Thus the amount of intelligence in the Internet's switches (routers) is many orders of magnitude above what goes into a telephone switch, even a huge one."

Whoops, so much for the stupid network theory...

Wednesday, 19 June 2002 22:27:32 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT), a regional intergovernmental telecommunication organization, in its preparation of common proposals to the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, 23 September - 18 October 2002, includes a proposal from APT members concerning the Role of Member Administrations in the Management of Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) and Addresses (Word), which would include an instruction to the ITU Secretary-General to promote effectively the role of Member States in the internationalization of domain names and address of their respective languages.

Wednesday, 19 June 2002 19:30:06 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The ITU-T is organizing a workshop on IP and Optical networks in Chitose, Japan from 9-11 July 2002. Participation is open to non ITU-T members. The relevant ITU-T Study Groups (SG13 and SG15) have made available their respective general work plans for IP networks (Word, PDF) and Optical Transport Networks.

Wednesday, 19 June 2002 18:58:31 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Every dial you take. The FBI is asking for more information about what you do on the phone, and no one is saying no.  []. On a related note, remember that VeriSign recently announced the somewhat unusually-named NetDiscovery Service "enabling carriers to meet June 30 CALEA Deadline with Minimum Expense", taking "full advantage of VeriSign's core expertise in security and bridges our telecom, PKI, and IP network assets".

Wednesday, 19 June 2002 13:37:31 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Wednesday, 19 June 2002 12:23:29 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Tuesday, 18 June 2002

This Internet-draft from Neustar staff is a great primer on numbering portability in the Public/Global Switched Telephone Network (PSTN/GSTN). Service provider portability, meaning the ability to switch service providers and retain existing numbering resources, is an important component of any pro-competitive telecom market liberalization. The concepts behind number portability, preventing service lock-in, is what made the IAHC propose a similar model for the generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) marketplace back in 1996 (as well as the pioneering work of Nominet in the split registry/registrar model). As an original member of the IAHC who pushed for this, there are times, five years later, when I wonder whether the regulatory costs of mandating portability and overseeing a large number of competing registrars are worth it.

Tuesday, 18 June 2002 17:09:14 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

[New York Times: Technology]: Telecom Outlook: First the Bad News, Then the Bad News. In light of a wave of bad news last week, some analysts say the telecommunications industry's problems could become worse before they become better. "This confluence of negative news, combined with the languishing bankruptcy proceedings of Global Crossing and persistent concern over giants like WorldCom, have prompted some analysts to forecast a more severe crisis in the industry, which has already endured the erasing of an estimated $2 trillion in the market value of its constituent companies since the telecommunications slump began about two years ago."  

Tuesday, 18 June 2002 11:20:13 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

George Gilder listened to the technology, and became guru of the telecosm. The markets listened to his newsletter, and followed him into the Global Crossing abyss. [Wired]. "None exemplifies Gilder's rise and fall more than Global Crossing, which filed for bankruptcy - the fourth-largest ever - in January. Even in a portfolio of flops, the scope and depth of this particular debacle stands out. ... I would've been willing to bet my house against it." In effect he did. Just a few years ago, he was the toast of Wall Street and commanded as much as $100,000 per speech. Now, he confesses, he's broke and has a lien against his home."

Tuesday, 18 June 2002 11:10:19 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

U.N. Conference Says Digital Divide Still Growing. The digital divide between rich and poor countries is growing despite the many efforts to help developing nations break into the global economy via computers. "Some countries have prospered while others have fallen behind,'' said Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union.  "If we do not take any action, the gap between the information 'haves' and 'have nots' will continue to grow.'' Utsumi said "information poverty'' remained a reality for much of the world. More than 80 countries had fewer than 10 telephone lines for every 100 inhabitants. And in three out of five countries, fewer than one out of 100 people used the Internet, he said. [New York Times: Technology]

Tuesday, 18 June 2002 09:11:42 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

There's been considerable debate on the IETF main discussion list about whether it'd be appropriate to deploy a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) on top of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS). As there is no single rooted deployed PKI system with a single root certificate authority (CA), this has lead to a deeper debate about what really is the right underlying model: the single root as argued for the DNS in RFC 2826 or some form of cross-recognition scheme across roots as pursued in the PKI world. (As background, this ITU paper from 1999 explains why there exists widely different approaches to PKI). The debate has deftly exposed a fundamental inconsistency in people's reasoning: there is wide acceptance of multiple root CAs but total intolerance of a multiple rooted DNS. In this post, Peter Deutsch was brave enough to point out the logical fallacy of holding both views simultaneously.

Tuesday, 18 June 2002 09:05:04 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Monday, 17 June 2002

ITU has issued a press release: World Leaders must shape the direction of the 'Information Society'; United Nations General Assembly told that 'global strategy' needed, in preparation for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which will be held under the high patronage of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, with ITU taking the lead role in preparations. The first phase will be held in Geneva 10-12 December 2003 and the second phase in Tunis in 2005.  "The transformation to the Information Society is every bit as profound as the movement from agrarian to industrial societies and just as in the past, such change has led to winners and losers. ' Some countries have prospered, while others have fallen behind,'  Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, told the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. ' If we do not take any action. The gap between the information 'haves' and 'have nots' will continue to grow.'

Monday, 17 June 2002 19:06:09 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

[BBC]: Privacy worries fuel domain name concerns. Nominet, the .uk top level domain administrator, plans to introduce changes in its whois.

Monday, 17 June 2002 15:15:33 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Europa Press is reporting (Spanish) on the deliberate sabotage of telecommunication networks in the Madrid, Spain area. Spain's Telecommunications Committee has asked that security contingency plans be put immediately into effect. Spanish consumer and user associations have also joined in expressing their concern about the interruption of fundamental services.

Monday, 17 June 2002 11:24:14 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The Australian has news about advances in quantum teleportation at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Using a process known as quantum entanglement, the researchers have disassembled a laser at one end of an optical communications system and recreated a replica a metre away. "The applications of teleportation for computers and communications over the next decade are very exciting" says physicist Ping Koy Lam, leader of the project. Some web pages at ANU explain some of the background on quantum teleportation.

Monday, 17 June 2002 10:37:45 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Legal Scholar Michael Geist, Commentator Lauren Weinstein, and ICANN counsel Joe Sims have engaged in a short debate on ICANN Reform on Dave Farber's IP mailing list and Declan McCullagh's Politech mailing list. It's an interesting read. Here's the exchange so far: (1) Geist post; (2) Sims Reply; (3) Geist Rebuttal; (4) Weinstein Comment; and (5) Joe Sims Reply to Weinstein. [icann.Blog]

Monday, 17 June 2002 08:29:35 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Saturday, 15 June 2002

The end of the revolution. "Ruling the Root" documents the sorry tale of how the Internet was brought to heel. []

Saturday, 15 June 2002 09:03:16 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

ICANN's Internationalized Domain Name Committee has posted two new discussion documents:

This comes after the recent announcement from VeriSign that they're getting ready launch some IDN resolution services on June 24, 2002. Some more details are in this ICANNWatch article.

Saturday, 15 June 2002 08:40:08 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The ICANN Protocol Supporting Organization (PSO) General Assembly 2002 will take place on Wednesday afternoon, 19 June 2002, starting at 16:00 CET, at ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in conjunction with the ITU-T-Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group Meeting (17-21 June, 2002). The meeting will be webcast.

Saturday, 15 June 2002 08:12:13 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The mobile operator O2 is launching the XDA, an integrated phone and PDA based on the Pocket PC operating system with support for General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). It's already available in the Netherlands according to Infosync. Infosync has an article on the XDA's Action Engine service framework which offers a browser-like interface to various operator services.

Saturday, 15 June 2002 07:49:38 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Ebone staff have announced that they've got a two week reprieve to keep their network operations going.

Saturday, 15 June 2002 02:04:26 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Friday, 14 June 2002

ITU-T Study Group 15, ITU-T's lead study group on optical networks, has agreed on a new global standard for Metro ‘Optical Fibre’ Networks that will expand the use of Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) in metropolitan networks.

Friday, 14 June 2002 14:43:14 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Update on KPNQwest bankruptcy on Total Telecom: Key European, U.S. groups to bid for parts of KPNQwest network. Update on Ebone: Since June 6, 2002, the employees of Ebone (part of KPNQwest) have occupied the European Network Operations Centre in Hoeilaart, Belgium and are maintaining the Ebone network on an unpaid basis. Their web site provides a running update on the state of things.

Friday, 14 June 2002 13:36:47 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The days when being on an airplane meant being out of contact with the office are soon over. Boeing has already signed up Lufthansa and British Airways to provide its broadband Internet Connexion service on commercial flights, using leased satellite transponders. Inmarsat is rolling out a similar service.

Friday, 14 June 2002 12:53:17 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Thursday, 13 June 2002
Thursday, 13 June 2002 17:21:45 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The European Commission yesterday refused to give the green light to the renegotiation of third generation mobile phone licences - despite pressure from the cash-strapped industry. However, Brussels left the door open to some licence changes in exceptional circumstances. It estimates European telecommunications companies have spent some €110bn ($104bn) in acquiring the 3G licences. [FT]

Thursday, 13 June 2002 12:55:34 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Nearly 200 of the world's leading mobile operators, device and network suppliers, information technology companies and content providers have announced the formation of a the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA).  

Thursday, 13 June 2002 12:21:11 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Wednesday, 12 June 2002

New Architect Magazine has a pessimistic editorial view on ENUM. "Of course, no matter what the preferences, marketers are bound to abuse the directory just as they have the phone book, the Whois database, and any other public list of contact information." This echoes similar comments made by INTUG on ENUM: "The success of ENUM... will rely on millions of individuals being willing and enthusiastic about entering their details and maintaining their accuracy. Central to this will be confidence in the security and privacy of the records. If, as might happen, they are the subject of identity theft, of yet more junk mail or are the basis for slamming, then the systems will quickly be brought into disrepute and fail."

Wednesday, 12 June 2002 18:18:53 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The International Telecommunication Users Group (INTUG) has posted a submission it has made to ITU-T Study Group 3 concerning Termination of international calls to mobile networks. The executive summary claims:

  • an increasing number of mobile cellular operators are creating a separate tariff for the completion of international calls to their networks 
  • these wholesale prices can be as much as 1500% more expensive than calls to a fixed network in the same country
  • the mobile operators are leveraging their domestic power in the call termination market into foreign markets for call origination
  • with the growing importance of mobile cellular networks, other operators have no alternative but to connect, even when they are unable to negotiate and must pay the price levied by the terminating network
  • consequently retail prices to foreign mobile networks can be higher by 10 to 30 cents (Euro or US) per minute
  • consumers are frequently unaware of these higher prices
  • even if consumers do know that a call will be at a higher price, they frequently have no obvious alternative
  • INTUG wishes to see the principle of cost orientation applied to the termination of calls on mobile cellular networks 
  • INTUG also wishes to see signatories to the WTO GATS Reference Paper enforce implementation of their commitments to the interconnection of international calls to mobile cellular networks

Wednesday, 12 June 2002 16:41:47 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

CNN has an article on the deployment of 3G systems in Asia: "People have long been hearing about the brave new world of "3G" or "third-generation" technology, which enables users to take photographs, play full-color games or browse the Internet, all on a cell phone." 3G is part of ITU's IMT-2000 initiative, a vision of global wireless access in the 21st century.

Wednesday, 12 June 2002 13:24:43 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Bret Fausett, who writes [icann.Blog], has written an insightful piece on what he would tell the US Congress if asked to testify in its hearings on ICANN on June 12, 2002. "The Internet's DNS is, and always will be, an international resource; if you try to nationalize it, it will slip through your fingers forever." The contrast with a stance reported today in Reuters "U.S. Should Control Internet Body, Senator Says" couldn't be more striking.

Wednesday, 12 June 2002 00:24:13 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Tuesday, 11 June 2002
Tuesday, 11 June 2002 19:17:51 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Tuesday, 11 June 2002 18:02:09 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Wind-up calls without the stress: "The wind-up radio, invented by the UK's Trevor Baylis, has become an icon of benign technology. Beloved of environmentalists and design gurus alike, it has already shifted over 3m units worldwide. Now the company that bought the idea from Baylis has moved into the mobile phone market" This month, Freeplay will launch a wind-up mobile phone charger... [Guardian

Tuesday, 11 June 2002 11:17:07 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Saturday, 08 June 2002

Slashdot is reporting in its article KPNQWest Admins Keep Bankrupt Network Running on how some dedicated staff are keeping the KPNQwest network running (but for how long?). See the earlier article on this: "KPNQwest Crisis and a lesson about Critical Network Infrastructure". Some of the NOC folks have got some web pages up to show they're doing their best.

Friday, 07 June 2002 23:26:34 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Friday, 07 June 2002

Salon has an article Getting a lock on broadband discussing how the regulatory environment in the United States is shifting vis-à-vis broadband. []

Friday, 07 June 2002 18:52:16 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Mobilennium, the on-line newsletter of the UMTS Forum, reports in its June 2000 issue, on the debates in the UMTS Forum about a mobile-specific Internet top level domain (M-TLD). The article also mentions ENUM. The newsletter report is somewhat more positive than the 60 page initial internal report entitled Benefits and Drawbacks of Introducing a Dedicated Top Level Domain within the UMTS Environment (2 page executive summary also available). The report indicates that at this time "a majority of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) were reluctant to favour the concept". This follows reporting in an ICANNWatch article on a .gprs top level domain being used for the private DNS of a GPRS Roaming Exchange (GRX) network.

Friday, 07 June 2002 12:28:13 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Thursday, 06 June 2002

In follow-up to my piece yesterday related to the last call on the IETF approach to implementing internationalized domain names, the Chinese Domain Name Consortium (CDNC), set up by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), Taiwan Network Information Center (TWNIC), Hong Kong Network Information Center (HKNIC) and Macau Network Information Center (MONIC)has rejected the approach taken by the IETF in the following statement:

  1. Currently, IETF IESG has begun Last Call on the set of core documents IDNA+NAMEPREP+PUNYCODE of IDN WG, but the architecture of IDN defined in the above three documents does not solve the traditional and simplified Chinese character variant problem: it’s a half-baked solution for Chinese users. That will cause serious delegation problem in the application of Chinese Domain Name.

  2. IETF IDN WG does not solve Chinese Domain Name technical problems. Under the current condition, if IETF approves these IDN drafts without publishing any complementary documents simultaneously, registrars will open Chinese Domain Name registration without considering the requirements of Chinese Domain Name and Chinese Domain Name will fall into confusion. This will damage Chinese Internet community seriously.

  3. What’s more, it stands a good chance that software vendors will not deploy or modify client software to support IDN too, because the current so-called IDN solution is a defective solution, which will be widely against end users, administrators and Chinese Internet communities, and bring them into much trouble.

For those who don't understand this problem (called the TC/SC equivalence problem), here's a greatly simplified explanation. Some languages, like Chinese, have more than one script: for example, traditional Chinese (TC), which is used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and simplified Chinese (SC), which is generally used in mainland China (although the Chinese also use the traditional script in some cases). Most Chinese can recognize the origin of the simplified script as it orginates in the traditional more cursive characters. It is argued by some that there should be an equivalence between Chinese domain names whether in traditional or simplified scripts and therefore they should resolve to the same entity. To understand the thoughts behind this argument, see this Internet draft.

Thursday, 06 June 2002 14:04:33 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

NTT DoCoMo announced that it will begin selling the FOMA P2002 3G mobile phone equipped for DoCoMo's i-motion video clip distribution service on June 13, 2002. The i-motion service enables compatible FOMA handsets to download audio/video content at up to 384 Kbps (uplink at 64 Kbps) from sites accessed via DoCoMo's official portal. The model has a 2.2-inch, 65,536-color TFD LCD.

Thursday, 06 June 2002 12:53:57 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Wednesday, 05 June 2002

The Economist has a good piece on how the US high-tech industry is getting cosier with government and notes that the "free-wheeling, libertarian stance of the industry, always somewhat hypocritical, has been changing since the mid-1990s". Eli Noam pointed this out back in July 1997 in his wonderful opinion piece in the New York Times: An Unfettered Internet? Keep Dreaming.

Wednesday, 05 June 2002 19:33:50 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Is there a bottom in the telecoms onslaught? The sudden collapse of KPNQwest, who operated a large pan-European data network carrying an estimated 25-30% of Europe's IP traffic is a hot topic of discussion on Total Telecom. The collapse is going to have an unknown impact on Internet infrastructure and connectivity within Europe and internationally. Ebone and GTS, who KPNQwest acquired only in March 2002, appear to be casualties.

The rapid collapse of KPNQwest provides an interesting lesson vis-à-vis contingency planning of critical network infrastructure. Besides the large numbers of customers who'll be left stranded or scrambling for new providers, KPNQwest's infrastructure provided DNS services (secondaries through*) for a number of Internet country code top level domains (ccTLDs). Those ccTLDs may need to rapidly find out whether they have enough distributed secondaries if vanishes. Update: RIPE NCC has made an agreement with KPNQwest to temporarily take over the hosting of

This reminds me that less than a year ago there was a partial unavailability of one of the Internet's master root name servers, namely, located in PSInet's network infrastructure, when a large backbone provider, Cable & Wireless, disconnected PSINet's peering connections because they no longer met C&W’s requirements. The result was that C&W customers were unable to reach that root name server until the peering arrangement was reinstated.

*EUnet was acquired by Qwest in 1999 before KPNQwest was created.

Wednesday, 05 June 2002 18:08:43 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Thousands of recently registered "dot-name" domains violate regulations governing the new Web addresses, according to a study released by Ben Edelman of Harvard's Berkman Center For Internet & Society. Also see the related article in the Washington Post.

Wednesday, 05 June 2002 16:00:36 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) started last week its last call for comments on the results of the Internationalized Domain Name working group standardization activities. There are three related Internet drafts:

The thrust of the working group's hotly debated approach is to maintain an underlying ASCII representation, based on using "Punycode": an encoding technique that uniquely and reversibly transforms Unicode (an encoding of the world's language scripts) into ASCII strings. For an overview on why this particular approach was taken and how it works, see the ITU's briefing paper from its December 2001 joint seminar with WIPO on multilingual domain names. It should be emphasized that even when a technical standard emerges, it will be the beginning of a very long process. In fact, the policy and coordination issues are likely to be even more daunting than the already contentious technical work. ICANN's IDN committee has produced a related discussion paper but I think if anything, they've greatly underestimated the issues that are likely to arise. Update: It didn't take long to confirm that last statement: see follow-up Chinese Domain Name Consortium Reject IETF Approach.

Wednesday, 05 June 2002 14:31:44 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

ICANN's Evolution and Reform Committee has published its recommendations for ICANN 2.0. [icann.Blog]

Wednesday, 05 June 2002 00:00:18 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Tuesday, 04 June 2002

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) is discussing the policy and regulatory issues related to the implementation of ENUM in Australia. A study group was established in Australia by the ACA to look at the implications and possibilities of ENUM in the Australian telecommunications environment. To that end, a meeting was held last week in Melbourne. In a recent article, Telstra's Geoff Huston's has given his views on ENUM.

Tuesday, 04 June 2002 18:25:53 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Monday, 03 June 2002

For those of us who use both a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and a mobile phone, the Holy Grail is a single integrated device. I've always wondered which side of the market would drive convergence of devices. On the one hand, the Palm OS and Windows Pocket PC devices have slick intuitive user interfaces with thousands of applications. On the other hand, the market clout and distribution channels of the major mobile handset manufacturers (e.g., Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson) suggested they could eventually dominate. So I kept my eye out for the perfect personal device hoping that this would suggest which sector would eventually be in the driver's seat. When Ericsson released their R380 smartphone, based on the Symbian platform and an innovative new form factor, I thought this might be a winner. Ericsson kindly lent to me one of the first versions but I finally put it aside. Despite its definite coolness factor it was still too large to comfortably carry around, somewhat too fragile and the software crashed too often. Later, when Handspring announced their Treo communicator and I read some glowing reviews, I thought this might be my perfect device. However, after seeing and handling one I still wasn't convinced. Something still wasn't quite right.

I had noticed during my trips to Asia that handsets in those markets are small, beautifully made and often hang around necks on cords - they're more like fashion accessories than phones. Slowly, it's been dawning on me that the perfect personal device is more about form factor and quality than anything. Last year, I was in Stockholm and met with Göran Skyttval, Ericsson's Director of 2G and 3G Terminals and Applications. I explained to him the "quality" problems I had experienced with my R380 and we got onto the general topic of quality in manufacturing as well as specifically with respect to handsets. Interestingly, Göran had just come back from a stint in Japan where he was in charge of Ericsson's i-mode handset development for the Japanese market. Now anyone who has had to do business in Japan knows that the average Japanese consumer is very demanding about quality, packaging and design. In fact, many companies have had to completely redesign and repackage their products for the Japanese market. Göran discussed with me these Japanese concepts of quality and demonstrated subtle differences such as in the texture of materials. He explained how he was trying to introduce these higher standards into Ericsson's handset manufacturing. Subsequent to our meeting, Sony and Ericsson combined their handset manufacturing and marketing.

This is a round-about way to say that I think I've experienced directly the results of Göran's efforts. My latest personal device, the Sony Ericsson T39m, is beautifully made, synchronizes with my contact list and calendar in Outlook/Exchange, provides GSM tri-band support, has a POP3 email client, T9 predictive text input, Bluetooth, GPRS, a long-life battery, and best of all, it has a small and elegant form factor which just feels right. It fits in any pocket and really is the first device that I don't mind having with me anywhere, anytime. So the T39m has my vote as the current perfect personal device. Bravo to Ericsson.

Monday, 03 June 2002 12:05:16 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     |