Nokia hogged the limelight this week with announcements that it was getting into the netbook market, launching mobile money services and forming a new business segment. Sony unveiled a new e-reader, and AT&T upped the ante against cable competitors with a triple-play bundle including wireless voice. Some old issues arose this week as well. The cell phone/cancer debate resurfaced and carriers including Verizon Wireless came under scrutiny for data charges.
Here’s a recap of some of the week’s news:
• The FCC formally approved a sweeping probe of the wireless industry at its first meeting with all five members of the commission under the new administration. Part of the investigation’s focus is how to best foster innovation and investment, but the agency is also stepping up its scrutiny of the wireless industry’s business practices. The FCC recently sent letters of inquiry to Apple, AT&T and Google over Apple’s supposed rejection of Google Voice. All three companies denied any wrongdoing, and Apple claimed it had not actually rejected Google Voice but was still considering whether to approve it.
• Nokia announced it would be getting into the netbook market with the high-end Booklet 3G. The miniature, beefed-up laptop weighs in at 1.25 kilograms, is slightly over two centimeters thin and will run on Windows. News of the device came shortly after Nokia announced it was partnering with Microsoft.
• Nokia is moving aggressively to diversify its revenue stream away from handsets. This week it also announced it was launching mobile money services through its $70 million investment in Obopay, and it is forming a new Solutions unit targeted at integrating its mobile Internet services and handset segment.
• Shortly after releasing e-readers that lacked wireless connectivity, Sony did an about face and released an updated version with wireless. The new Reader Daily Edition features 3G wireless connectivity from AT&T and a 7-inch touchscreen. The device is priced at $399 and is now a direct challenge to Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, which also has wireless connectivity.
• Early critiques of the Interphone study emerged this week. According to activist groups, including the EMR Policy Institute and the Radiation Research Trust, the Interphone study is systemically flawed and greatly underestimates brain tumor risk. The Interphone study began in 1999, but has faced systemic problems with its methodology and has yet to be published in a final report.
• AT&T launched a triple-play bundle with wireless just days after Verizon announced it would be integrating handsets with its FiOS television service. The move is a direct challenge to cable operators.
• It appears that Verizon is still trying to figure out how to avoid charging subscribers $1.99 every time they open a Web browser, which frequently happens on accident. Verizon spokesman Tom Pica said it was “obvious to us that we need to fix this aspect of our service.” Customers at AT&T and TracFone also report having the problem.