Archive | June, 2009

AT&T Eyeing Stake in Reliance Communication..Update

29 Jun

As we had reported earlier, we can confirm that the two companies are talking about AT&T taking a majority stake in Reliance Communications.

One potential deal breaker is the first right of refusal that  Mukesh Ambani, older brother of Anil Ambani, head of Reliance Communications has on any potential sale.
In 2006, the Reliance empire was split between the two brothers. As part of the settlement, Mukesh Ambani negotiated the first right of refusal. More from CNBC India here http://www.moneycontrol.com/india/news/cnbc-tv18-comments/att-seeks-clarityrils-first-refusal-rightr-comm/403662

Nokia N97 to get software update on July 1?

28 Jun

It has not even been a month since Nokia launched the N97 and we are already hearing murmurings about an impending firmware upgrade… The folks at Nokia Conversation are claiming that they have heard a new firmware upgrade will be introduced on July 1 for the first variant of the N97. We are not sure at the moment which ‘first variant; they are talking about, in which markets it was launched or what new the firmware will bring. However, they point out that the version will be called SW 1.1 (11.x.021). Well, we will know for certain in three days from now.

via @nokconv

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HP iPaq KB1 checks in!

28 Jun

After a long period of silence, it looks like HP is set to re-enter the smartphone space with its iPaq range of devices. We have received the Wi-Fi Operability certificate for one iPaq KB1. Yeah, as usual the certificate reveals little but its name and we’ll have to wait for some more time to figure out what it is going to be like.

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Can Surya (Sun) and smart global engineering help rural India have a voice?

26 Jun

Having been born and raised in India, I fondly remember the “road trips” I would take with my family to different parts of the country. We would often walk into villages with no electricity. Although, the penetration of electricity has improved in the last thirty years, even today more than 400 million people in India and about 1.6 billion globally live without electricity. A reasonable percentage of these people have the ability to purchase a phone and a cell phone plan but do not have access to electricity.

At the  Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, we were impressed by the developments in chipsets that enable cell phones with built in solar cells. Intivation, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands provides chipsets to power low cost handsets that uses sunlight to charge phones using photo cells and it’s chipset. Intivation’s core technology is based on a step up convertor invented by Mr. Anne Osinga in 2001, He was was working on developing a solar powered automatic awning system. “The serially connected solar cells were extremely inefficient and were very ugly, says Mr. Osinga. Shortly, he came up with a better idea and started working on the first generation chip that lead to the genesis of Intivation.

Although LG, Samsung and a few others announced and showed solar based phones, the only phones that we could touch and feel are being designed and marketed by US and Taiwan based startup Commtiva Technology and Chinese major ZTE. Both companies are using Intivation’s chipset that essentially acts as a step up convertor.

If the solar cell on the phone is exposed to the sun for an hour – the customer should be able talk on the phone for 15 minutes or have it on standby for 15 hours. “A newer more integrated chipset is expected later in the year that should be 10%-15% more efficient than the existing chipset,” according to Frans W. Biegstraaten, VP Asia Pacific Region of  Intivation who until recently was the CEO of the company.

Intivation appears to be like a “classic” startup where value is created over a long period where management continues to find innovate approaches and the investor group has faith in the core technology and supports management.

DIGICEL VALUES THE TECHNOLOGY

Intivations’s technology gained true legitimacy when Digicel, headquartered in Ireland and operator of networks in the  Caribbean, Central America and  the South Pacific endorsed Intivations’s approach and placed an order for ZTE’s’s Coarl-Solar 200 .  This phone is ideal for market like Haiti where 25% of Digicel’s customer base does not have access to electricity. Solar-based cell phones are the obvious choice for these customers as the price differential between the Coral-Solar 200 and the phone with the exact same specifications (excluding the solar panel) is $10.

“Digicel had subsidized 400,000 solar chargers to its customers and noticed that average revenue per user (ARPU) increased,” according to Tom Bryant, Vice President of Digicel. Industry experts told us that it is possible to achieve ARPU increases in the 10%-15% range.

 Digicel/ZTE Coral-Solar 200

“The ZTE Coral-Solar” should be launched in June”, According to Mr. Eric Zhang, General Manager of ZTE, Central America and Caribbean. He believes the price of the phone will be $40. The company was not able to provide us with any detailed specifications of the phone.

COMMTIVA Siene Solar

Commtiva  Technology was started in late 2007 by veterans on Motorola.’s handset division.  The company is planning to ship product in 90 days and start sampling in 4 weeks. According to Mr. Jonathan Nattrass, Vice President of Marketing, “Commtiva’s Siene Solar is being tested by customers in Latin America & Africa.” Responding to our concern about the potential of the solar panel being damaged if the phone accidently dropped, Mr. Nattrass confidently mentioned  “the durability of the Siene Solar is similar to those of other devices in its non-solar category”.

We will not be surprised to see the company announce partnerships with operators in the coming months.

2010 and beyond should be the hyper-growth phase of solar integrated cell phones

The technology created by Intivation and integrated in the Commtiva Seine and ZTE Solar 200 is going to help consumers who do not have access to electricity. These customers will no longer have to travel long distances on a regular basis to “charging stations” and be victimized by “charge sharks” who demand exorbitant rates.

The market for solar-based phones is in early stages. We know there is considerable effort being undertaken at chip companies and handset manufacturers to provide products across different segments of the handset market.

We expect to test a couple of phones with built in solar panels in the next few months, Stay tuned for our experience.

For the mid to higher end segments of the market, we expect more announcements by major cell phone manufacturers in the coming months. Samsung and LG’s announcements are impressive and we are reasonably confident that these companies will ship devices in the coming year. Moreover, we expect a solar powered Andriod device ito be available later this year especially given Google’s commitment to green technology.

SUNTRICA

Suntrica is a Finland based company funded and by Juko Hayrynen, an executive with 25 years of wireless experience who has spent a significant part of his career at Nokia. Mr. Hayrynen recently became the CEO of the company. Suntrica provides:

Solar Strap: High end product to charge miscellaneous consumer devices

Solar Badge: Targeted to the developing world

According to the sanguine Mr. Hayrynen, “Suntrica’s solar devices contain highly efficient electronics and also the drainage of power is less when compared to competitive products.

We believe products like Suntrica and others can help the editor of our magazine who lives in a suburb of Delhi where there are 6 hours of scheduled power cuts daily. Jokingly, I wonder if we really want him to have his electronic devices working all the time – it may lead to more work for me.

Nokia files patent application for wireless charger

25 Jun

A Nokia patent has been published today by the USPTO that envisions a wireless battery charger. The concept ain’t new as there are many such chargers – the most high profile one being the Palm Touchstone for the Pre) – that rely on a process called inductive charging in which the device has to be in close proximity of the charging pad rather than having to plug it in. Of course, publishing of the patent application does not always translate into a commercial product but it is refreshing to know that Nokia is looking at something ‘cool’ rather than relying on the fact that it is the world’s largest cellphone vendor in the world.

Motorola binges on Cadbury, calls it VE440

25 Jun

Okay, it might not be a pretty sight but what you see on the left is the Motorola Cadbury VE440. While there are no technical specs available at the moment but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that it is a low-end phone probably with some music element to it. However, we do know for sure that it runs on CDMA and will be available on an American carrier (Verizon or Sprint, take your pick). Well, it certainly ain’t one of those expected Android phones that would stop us from saying ‘Goodbye Moto.’

Accompanying text from the Bluetooth SIG listing:

CDMA Mobile Phone with Bluetooth technology. The Phone supports VCard 3.1. The phone supports Dial Up Networking Profile, Basic Printing Profile, Object Push Profile, Basic Imaging Profile, Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, Interoperability Test Specification, Hands-Free Profile 1.5, Phone Book Access Profiles.

Nokia 6790 gets official, Bluetooth SIG style!

25 Jun

We are now in the possession of the official picture of the Nokia 6790 aka Mako that was leaked a few weeks ago. Thanks to a listing at the Bluetooth SIG, we can now confirm that it is indeed heading for AT&T and will be available in North America only. Well, we ain’t complaining about that, it ain’t a pretty enough for us. Anyway, for the record, here is how Nokia describes the 6790:

The Nokia 6790 is messaging focused and optimized for landscape use to enhance the messaging and media experience. The optimized UI and multitasking ability of S60 combine to create a powerful device targeted for those that choose to browse, text, IM, or email rather than voice call.