Weekly Wrap: Watch Out For Cabir
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jun 18 09:15:00 GMT 2004

The first mobile worm's bark is far worse than its bite, music goes mobile, Nokia retools, and more...

The first worm to attack mobile phones was discovered this week by a Russian anti-virus company, though it poses little to no harm to users. The Cabir virus disguises itself as a security management utility, and after it infects a phone, it tries to spread to others over Bluetooth. It doesn't carry any malicious payload, only displaying the word "Caribe" on the screen, and also requires a user to ignore multiple warnings to let the app infect their phone. It likely signals the start of a trend, however, and it's doubtful future worms will be so toothless.

Mobile music is starting to take off, in a way beyond ringtones. Sony launched its StreamMan music service with Nordic carrier TeliaSonera this week, while record label EMI said it was starting trials of a mobile download service that lets users pass previews of tracks on to their friends. TeliaSonera is offering StreamMan free to Nokia 6600 and Sony Ericsson P800 and P900 users, who just have to cover the data fees, and the service lets users choose the music they want to hear and rate what they're hearing to influence what comes on later. EMI is using its service to be the first record label to latch onto the viral nature of mobile communications, allowing users to forward songs they like to their friends, who can listen to a DRM-wrapped preview and decide if they want to buy it. What remains to be seen is if the labels and carriers can make these projects work, or if they'll be hobbled by high costs and poor service.

Nokia announced some new handset models this week, attempting to fill the gaps in its product line that have caused some pretty serious issues for the company. The company also added a bunch of new features to its Series 60 platform, including support for multiple resolutions with scalable graphics, push e-mail, an HTML browser and support for CDMA and WCDMA-GSM devices. The new handsets and new S60 features highlight a pretty significant change for Nokia, which seems to have realized it can no longer force the market down the path it solely determines.

3G's back -- again -- says the press. The standard was in the news this week: The GSM Association trade body said it would work to integrate the TD-SCDMA standard with WCDMA, alleviating carrier concerns that the vast Chinese market would be shut off to their roaming customers, but also raising TD-SCDMA's chances for success outside the China, where the government is expected to mandate its use.

China's government isn't the only one casting an eye on 3G -- the Swiss may ban 3G in fear of its supposed negative health effects, based on the questionable results from a Dutch study last year.

Korean operator KT is the latest carrier to jump on the convergence bandwagon, with a product similar to the BT Bluephone system announced a bit back. It's the same idea, using a mobile phone that accesses a fixed-line via a Bluetooth access point when it's in range. Because of KT's dominant market position in South Korea -- 90% fixed-line share and more than half the mobile market -- the government has required it to open up its fixed network so other mobile carriers can offer similar systems.

Elsewhere in that country, its top three handset manufacturers, Samsung, LG and Pantech, said this week they'd have 3-megapixel cameraphones on the market by the end of the year. The three will all have 2-megapixel devices out by the end of June. The news comes as camera vendor Pentax said it will begin making 2- and 3-megapixel imaging modules for mobile phones in an attempt to expand its revenue base. Like other camera companies, Pentax is being hit by declining film camera sales, and an erosion of the low-end digital market by cameraphones.

It wouldn't be a week in wireless without some studies, surveys and figures: analysts The Yankee Group said this week that Africa will be the fastest-growing mobile market over the next five years. Of course, mobile penetration there is only 6 percent now, giving it plenty of room to grow, and the continent still won't come close to matching China in terms of raw subscribers just yet. Another survey, conducted on behalf of Telia, says 70% of Swedish workers want their employers to invest in mobile solutions.

Elsewhere on the site this week, Howard Rheingold takes a look at a hotspot of mobility research, Douglas Rushkoff talks up advertising-content convergence, Justin Hall reports on the current state of mobile entertainment and Kevin Werbach talks about the coming together of two of today's hottest technologies.