UNTETHER.talks: The TEDx of Mobile

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

The TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) talks, founded in 1984 by private non-profit Sapling Foundation, were created as an outlet to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.” Speakers address an increasingly wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture and are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.

As the years have passed, the conference has grown considerably and, as of last June, 2011, the videos of the talks – which are free for viewing online – have been viewed more than 500 million times by viewers all over the world.

What these talks haven’t touched on is the state of mobile, the it-never-stops-moving industry that has changed the way we communicate with each other on a regular basis.

Let us introduce you to the first annual UNTETHER.talks coming up in a week and a half in Toronto, a notable event that plans to fill that void and shed some light on the fast-paced industry.

With the potential to become the TEDx for Mobile in Toronto, the two-day event will bring together some of the brightest industry minds to discuss the future of mobile and how we, as a connected society, will get there. Scheduled speakers include: Amber MacArthur, Damien Patton, Rob Woodbridge, and Kunal Gupta. All extremely accomplished and respected in the industry, they will discuss their ideas and their predictions for the next five years in the mobile space.

So, why should you be there? And what makes it different?

Herbert Lui of TechVibes said it best:

“For those of you who manage businesses, you will need to keep up with the trends happening in mobile technology; they will affect your business regardless of your industry. This event is all about mobile technology—and how this force is not an industry, but a revolution that will seep into every organization and company we know of today. Every one of us saw a few years ago how the words “social media” began circulating around every entrepreneur, small business owner, and C-suite executives’ repertoire of jargon.”

Nowadays, everything is mobile. Everything. From the iPad that takes your order from your local coffee shop, to the digital menu housing entrees at a forward-thinking restaurant. Whether we are ready or not, mobile will seep its way into our day-to-day and UNTETHER.talks aims to explain this phenomena and enable us to understand and embrace it, rather than be confused and avoid the topic.

UNTETHER.talks hits Toronto on June 26th and 27th at Glenn Gould Studio.

Now, here’s the advantage of being a Notable reader: Use the coupon code ‘Notable’ (case sensitive) and save 25% off the full price. 

Click here to register for tickets.

Toronto’s Yorkdale Set to Welcome Microsoft Store

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

This past week was a big one for Microsoft. During their conference last week they announced (and revealed) their forthcoming OS iteration, Windows Phone 8, which is said to be a huge milestone for them – both handset and performance-wise.

But that’s not all the news coming from the Redmond, VA-based tech giant.

Microsoft has announced that they, too, following the footsteps of Apple and Samsung, will be opening their first retail store in Canada. Even better? Building permits have popped up online confirming Yorkdale Shopping center as the home for the store.

An official launch date and an exact mall location are both masked in secrecy and, as expected, representatives for both companies are declining to comment.  One can assume, however, that Microsoft would intend on having the store open for Q4 coinciding with both the holiday season and of course the launch of their forthcoming Windows Phone 8 and long-awaited “Surface” tablet.

So, what are my thoughts on Microsoft making the jump to retail?

To be blunt: mixed emotions.

It would be great for competition, considering Apple owns the one-stop-OEM-shop in Canada. But, it could also mean inevitable doom for the big box shops like Future Shop and Best Buy. Currently, if a consumer is on the market for a new gadget, non-Apple, they generally hit one of the aforementioned stores for advice. Then you have the buyers (like me) who are swayed from doing this solely based on the knowledge of overbearing commission-based sales guys who are eagerly awaiting my credit card (to be fair, Best Buy is not commission-based, only Future Shop is).

Having focused stores like Microsoft and Samsung (this summer) open up alongside the already-popular Apple and Sony could prove to be a breath of fresh air. Knowing beforehand that you will receive completely educated, non-forceful help could be the catalyst in driving both relationships and sales, especially in the cut-throat industry that is the current state of mobile right now.

At the end of the day, these brands all bring their loyal following of die-hards, so anything they offer will prove to be successful. This, mixed with the highly anticipated launches coming at the end of the year, and Q4 is going to prove to be both busy and very expensive!

Is the Prepaid Market in Canada Doomed?

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

This past week was a big one for telecom in Canada. Not based on actual announcements, but more because of the annual Canadian Telecom Summit that took place here in Toronto. More specifically, the charismatic, powerful keynote from WIND CEO Anthony (Tony) Lacavera; the man just knows how to keep a crowd engaged.

Among the many topics (spectrum) that were discussed during his keynote, he touched on something that has been an interesting point of discussion: prepaid vs. postpaid cellular plans and the struggle WIND has had with their previous prepaid strategy. Tony made no qualms about his feelings, going on the record with a very bold statement in regards to the current prepaid market in Canada:

“The prepaid market in Canada is doomed.”

A bold but fair statement.

Remember when WIND launched their service late 2009? They came out swinging with unlimited plans, offering customers no choice but to purchase a device outright. At the time it worked, as customers were disgruntled with the big 3 and needed an alternative. Looking back at this strategy, Lacavera stated, “In 2011 we determined that our original business plan of Metro PCS-style prepaid was doomed and have since shifted virtually all of our customer acquisition efforts to contract-free handset financing driven post-paid. We have all but abandoned any aggressive customer acquisition in the prepaid market.”

Interestingly enough, since shifting their focus from prepaid to postpaid, WIND has experienced a 7.7% national market share of postpaid in their current coverage footprint in Q1, 2012, up 116% from the previous year. Even more interesting is that Mr. Lacavera gave a bit of insight into their ARPU (Average Revenue Per User), stating, “WIND post-paid ARPU has now passed $34, while prepaid lags at $23.”

The only thing that Canadian consumers are lacking (other than a prepaid iPhone) now is an affordable roaming option, prepaid and postpaid wise. This is another topic WIND has touched on, and since launched. WIND now offers a flat-rate European add-on, which offers customers the ability to make calls from anywhere in Europe to Canada or the US for $0.20/minute (no long distance fees) and data will cost $1/MB. Texts messages are still $0.15 each.

In regards to my iPhone statement in the last paragraph, I touched on this topic not long ago on my personal blog. Canada won’t see a prepaid iPhone for a number of reasons, the largest being the population: we don’t have a fraction of the users the US does. The other, until Apple launches an AWS iPhone (compatible with WIND or Mobilicity), it just doesn’t make sense price-wise.

What are your thoughts on the prepaid market in Canada? Should it be phased out? Restructured? Weigh your thoughts below.

TELUS Not Planning to Turn Off Aging iDEN Network

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

If you’re reading this post, chances are you should have some recollection of what the title refers to.

Remember back in the day, around the same time PCS was making its way into the cellular market, the craze was push-to-talk communication? You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing one protrude from the hip of a belt. Those fat, Motorola “i” series phones, that had a never-ending battery, didn’t drop calls, and could take more than just your average beating – yup, incase you’re wondering, they’re still around to this day, giving the old “beep beep” notification on a construction site near you.

Well, as our phones have evolved, so has the network that powers them. iDEN, the network that the aforementioned phones run on,  operates on much narrower frequencies than current HSPA and LTE networks. It was initially developed to connect devices quickly using compressed audio, which worked seamlessly for the push-to-talk functionality and TELUS has kept this network (marketed as the Mike Network) running for an ever-fading number of business users.

News this week came from TELUS’ iDEN partner in the United States Sprint – whom they have a roaming agreement with – that they (Sprint) would be shutting down their 2G iDEN network on or around June 30, 2013, thus discontinuing their push-to-talk network.

So what does this mean for existing TELUS users rocking the old push-to-talk bad boys?

Jim Senko, Vice-President of Small and Medium Business Marketing at TELUS sent the following letter over to our friends over a MobileSyrup:

“Today’s Sprint announcement is as expected and we have received a 12 month notice to this effect from Sprint-Nextel. The Sprint iDEN turndown has no impact on the vast majority of our Mike base, and we are confident that our U.S. and international roaming capabilities on HSPA/LTE offer a great alternative for clients for whom roaming is an important business need.

TELUS currently has no plans to turn down our own iDEN network, but will evolve from the Sprint-Nextel iDEN partnership to launch a Push to Talk solution on LTE well before any shutdown of Mike.  TELUS is focused on developing LTE as a high speed data network with built-in Quality of Service and low latency perfectly suited for Push to Talk over IP, rather than launching interim solutions currently available on HSPA.”

In all likelihood, TELUS will follow Bell’s lead and implement push-to-talk over their much stronger LTE network as it expands. Nothing as of yet is confirmed, but this lends some reassurance to many a union worker to rely on the service for their day-to-day needs.

Are you still using an iDEN phone? If so, what’s the reason why you haven’t switched yet? Leave your comments below.