Weekly Wrap: Opening Windows
By Carlo Longino, Fri Apr 11 11:00:00 GMT 2003

Microsoft says it will license Windows CE, another wireless broadband standard, and more...


Software behemoth Microsoft said this week it would allow licensees to modify Windows CE, the OS underlying the Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms. Companies can now change the OS to better fit their products' needs and to differentiate it from their competitors' offerings. They now have access to almost all of the CE code, whereas previous restrictions meant they could see less than half of it, and were allowed to sell any products using modified code. This all comes with a few strings attached, of course - including a requirement that any modifications must be licensed back to Bill Gates and Co. for free for possible inclusion in future Windows CE versions. That sounds an awful lot like free R&D to me...

A number of wireless heavyweights, including Intel, Proxim, and Nokia, lined up with the WiMAX Forum to promote the fledgling 802.16 wireless transmission standard. Supporters say 802.16 can transmit at speeds of up to 70 megabits per second over a distance of 31 miles, making it ideal for wireless metropolitan-area networking, such as last-mile access or backhaul for 802.11 hotspots. It's a good thing these engineer-types are better at coming up with the actual standards than the names they give them - first its 802.11 aka "WiFi", now 802.16 or "WiMAX". What will be the next fantastic moniker to roll off this gravy train?

As we reported last week, rumors had it that Dutch mobile telco KPN was looking to buy O2's German unit. This week, investment bank Goldman Sachs downgraded KPN's stock, saying uncertainly over its German strategy was weighing its opinion of the shares. But over the weekend, the rumors gathered strength, with several reports in the British press saying that the two companies had held exploratory talks to merge the two companies to create a sizable pan-European operator. While the two carriers' networks have little geographic overlap, KPN's huge debt load and mmO2's lack of any real debt would make structuring any deal tricky.

Other operators around the world were hooking up like teenagers at their first school dance this week, with European carriers Telefonica Moviles, T-Mobile, and Telecom Italia Mobile announcing a strategic alliance to align their networks around the world and jointly market and develop new products and services. While on first glance, it appears they just got together because the initials of their names are so similar, in reality they're aiming squarely at global leader Vodafone.

Over in Asia, five operators started the Asian Mobility Initiative, a group that hopes to smooth things over for traveling data users in the region. Their first step will be to implement MMS and GPRS roaming and inter-operability among their networks, then in the future they plan to share content and services.

More reality this week in the networks sector: after already paring the forecast for their networks division, Nokia announced they were laying off 10% of the unit's workforce, some 1800 jobs, in an effort to cut costs and remain profitable. This comes on the heels of 550 job cuts a few months ago, as the division tries to weather the downturn in network spending by carriers.

Finally, we'd be amiss if we didn't point out US mobile carriers' latest efforts to resist mobile number portability. While they've known this was coming for a long time and have pushed through several delays in its implementation, they still argue that MNP is expensive, unfeasible, and unnecessary. They say that a market with 24% churn is competitive enough already, but guys, maybe it's because you all provide equally bad service and annoy consumers by tying them into long-term contracts with high termination fees? Just a thought that maybe delivering a high level of service and customer support would negate the need to fear competitive measures like MNP. Like I said, just a thought.