Scott M. Fulton, III

Amazon on FCC's 'Third Way:' 'It's not about regulating the Internet'

Amazon

We've always known that the Internet has evolved since 1996 (whose laws were based to some degree on the world circa 1978) to something that current US telecommunications law doesn't adequately describe. The whole court debate over whether the Federal Communications Commission could legally address how Comcast manages its network traffic wasn't really about whether it should, but rather whether current law designates that it can.

Up until yesterday, the two choices before the FCC were whether the broadband system it wants to regulate is more like a telephone (Title II) or a teletype (Title I). For years, its leaders argued that Title I of the Telecommunications Act, amended in 1996, was more fitting, making the case that since broadband services were usually piggy-backed over communications services anyway, its ancillary authority to protect information services could be attributed to its primary authority to protect communications services. In a decision very, very likely to survive judicial review, the DC Circuit said that's wrong.

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Early results: Second IE9 platform preview shows better scalability, stability

The Flickr photo browser test as rendered by IE9 Platform Preview 2. Download Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview 2 (v. 1.9.7.7.66.6600) from Fileforum now.

This week, Microsoft continued its public demonstration that it's working hard to improve the underlying Internet Explorer platform, with a release on Wednesday of the second preview of just the platform of the next IE9 -- not a fully functional Web browser, but a demonstration of where the rendering engine is going. Again, it's just a minimal front end on top of a rendering engine, and its main purpose is to show off the HTML 5, SVG, and JavaScript functionality pointed to on Microsoft's IE9 test site.

Once again, there's no doubting that Microsoft's next Web browser will take full effect of Windows' Direct2D rendering system; and because Direct2D is an open API, it's making Mozilla and likely others realize they may need to make similar changes in their platforms.

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The Third Way: FCC attempts strange 'Title 1.5' broadband reclassification

FCC Logo

Since 1996, the Federal Communications Commission accepted, and has positively argued even up until two months ago, that broadband Internet service is an information service under US law -- an enhancement to telecommunications service that is regulated under Title I of the Communications Act. But when the FCC made its strongest effort to censure a carrier for net neutrality violations -- its fine of Comcast for throttling BitTorrent -- the DC Circuit Court said that wouldn't fly under Title I.

So policy advocates pressed the FCC to simply redeclare broadband Internet service as a real communications service under Title II. That would put broadband on a par with wireless voice, and give the Commission the authority to tell Comcast, or anyone else, how not to police its network traffic. The downside of that approach could be that US carriers may pull back on broadband buildout investments, which could render the ambitious goals of the Broadband Plan unattainable.

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Congressman moves to make FTC enforce privacy, could impact Facebook's 'Like'

Congressman Rick Boucher (D - Va.)

The United States does not officially have an office, bureau, or commission for the oversight of online privacy policies and the enforcement of privacy laws. However, the Federal Trade Commission has acted in that stead, although with limited tools. Yesterday, one of Congress' leading advocates for Internet users' rights published an early draft of legislation he intends to offer on the floor of the House of Representatives, presumably this term, that would not only give the FTC enforcement authority, but also fine-tune the terms the law uses with respect to how a service provider may infringe upon users' privacy rights.

Now, some of the same rights advocates who had earlier pleaded for action against questionable policy changes, especially recently at Facebook, are expressing outrage that such action is apparently coming from the government.

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Ellen's spot-on iPhone parody evidently irked Apple

Ellen DeGeneres fumbles around with her iPhone

Technically, comedians and comedy writers cannot be held liable for certain copyright violations, especially if their parodies are presented in the context of a comedy show. But that doesn't mean major sponsors can't pull strings other than legal ones; and Tuesday morning, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres found herself apologizing -- in her own self-deprecating way, of course -- for a parody of an iPhone commercial that appeared on Monday's show.

As the show's own Web site admitted, "Apple wasn't thrilled with it, and now Ellen's in hot water!"

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Actual Analysis: Is HTML 5 already outmoded?

W3C accompanying graphic (300 px)

The latest political football between technology platform vendors that were already skirmishing with one another anyway, is HTML 5, the forthcoming standard for the layout and presentation of Web resources and the framing of interactive content. The way the World-Wide Web Consortium had planned it, HTML 5 would incorporate a number of new standards for audio, video, and interactivity, such that browser makers could incorporate those standards freely without anyone sneaking up from behind and charging royalties.

Telling the major vendors and W3C members to behave and to not seek platform supremacy over one another, is a bit like telling all the rhinestone-speckled characters from some 1970s championship wrestling show to sit down together in a nice circle, legs folded, backs straight, and stop throwing chairs. When W3C itself projects 2022 (no, that's not a typo) as the earliest date that a final HTML 5 specification can be completed and published, some are actually saying that date is optimistic.

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IE usage share continues its very gradual decline, not so much in Europe

Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE7, IE8) logo

The growing trend of Windows users at home trying alternative Web browsers continues, with data from the world's two leading browser analytics services suggesting that Google's front-page advertising for its Chrome browser is working as intended.

This morning, analytics service NetApplications trumpeted that, for the first time, it projects worldwide usage share for all versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer combined (IE6 through IE8 being the most active) at just below 60% in its estimates for the first time, at 59.95%. That represents a decline averaging at about 0.8% per month since last June. The service projects Google Chrome as having picked up the lion's share of converts, with usage share having risen worldwide to 6.73%, climbing over half a point per month since December.

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Visio comes of age, breaks new ground for functionality a second time

The new Quick Shapes palette in Visio 2010 anticipates the objects you're likely to draw next in a sequence.

At a conference 18 years ago, a company called Shapeware -- formed by some former Aldus folks I knew from my days as a Macintosh contributor for Computer Shopper a few years earlier -- displayed an add-on product for Microsoft Office that some Microsoft folks told me was the best example of a COM add-in they had ever seen. And since I was known for a particular Corel Draw review where I said the Corel folks figured out something about functionality that the Macintosh folks had missed, they made sure I had a first look and a review copy.

It was called Visio, and it was strong, lightweight (a couple of diskettes rather than a dozen), intuitive, and fast. My comment then -- to the Visio guys, to Microsoft, in print, and online -- was, and has been for two successive decades, this: Why can't PowerPoint be more like Visio?

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Report: DOJ, FTC scuffle over scrutinizing Apple on antitrust

Seal of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

On a day when investors began celebrating Apple's report of having already sold its one millionth iPad, news from this morning's New York Post -- which was the first with the story of the Sirius + XM merger -- has thrown a cold towel on investors' sentiments. The Post cites a single anonymous source as saying that essentially the only thing stopping a government inquiry into whether Section 3.3.1 of Apple's Developers' Agreement violates antitrust law, is a dispute over which government department gets first crack: the Federal Trade Commission, or the Dept. of Justice Antitrust Division.

That's the section that limits the types of applications that iPhone developers can produce. According to the Post, the focus is on the mandate that developers write their apps originally and exclusively for iPhone OS, rather than port over an app that may appear somewhere else, like Android or Symbian.

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'Free' and 'open' Web video may be impossible after Microsoft backs H.264 only

Microsoft Silverlight 4 streaming video on iPhone, as demonstrated by UX Platform Manager Brian Goldfarb.

The good news should be, everyone with a major stake in the outcome of the Web video standards debate has now publicly expressed support for something called "open" or "openness." But that's where the similarities, and even the niceness, end. Yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs personally weighed in on the subject by making it an "us against them" battle, with Adobe and Flash the villains.

Late yesterday, the head of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 project, Dean Hachamovitch, followed suit, representing the company whose decisions about what standards to support -- or not support -- have historically steered the course of Web development, for better or worse. Assuming a far more civil tone than Jobs, but with a message no less significant, Hachamovitch solidified Microsoft's stance on high-definition Web video standards by announcing that IE9 would support H.264 for HTML 5 built-in video...and only H.264.

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Microsoft aims to embed Media Center directly into HDTVs

Customizable screen from Windows Media Center in Windows Embedded Standard 7.

"More and more people are getting excited about the opportunity of what PCs can do for them in their living rooms to improve their entertainment experience." That was the message I was getting as far back as 2005, as companies including AMD, Intel, Microsoft, and yes, even Sun were exploring form factors for "entertainment PCs." Soon, we'd be seeing brands like Intel Viiv, AMD Live, and Microsoft TV at a store near you.

It's five years later, and reality has officially set in. "Most people, from a consumer perspective, would not like to have a PC in their living room," said Irena Andonova, the director of product management for Windows Embedded 7 at Microsoft -- the company where entertainment PCs were once all the rage. Today, with HDTV manufacturers embedding Internet connectivity and versatile functionality directly into their sets, the PC is just one more box. Microsoft realizes that now, so with Windows Embedded 7 -- which released to manufacturing Tuesday -- it's aiming to put the operating system and the media player in the TV where it now says they belong.

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Oh really? NAB head suggests to Congress FCC's Broadband Plan is 'voluntary'

Capitol Hill (Washington) top story badge

There are a handful of issues of contention that broadcasters (who transmit content over the public airwaves) have with the Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Plan. One such outstanding dispute concerns the FCC's proposed reallocation of unused digital spectrum from broadcast to broadband purposes -- a way to get at least some of the estimated 180 MHz of spectrum wireless operators say they need, without another complete re-auction.

On Tuesday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the formation of a so-called Spectrum Task Force, which many see as his way of connecting the necessary dots between the public airwaves (the FCC's natural purview), wireless, and the Internet (the FCC's disputed territory). In his announcement yesterday, the Chairman said, "To lead the world in mobile, the FCC must ensure that our nation's spectrum is being put to its highest and best use."

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Actual Analysis: NPD's Ross Rubin on the formula for making HP + Palm work

The HP iPaq Glisten smartphone

For the record, the connection between Hewlett-Packard and Palm, Inc. was not something most of us saw coming, and which very few reputable observers of this industry bet their reputations on.

In retrospect, one sees now some of the obvious connections we missed then: the fact that Todd Bradley, now chief of HP's Personal Systems Group, was Jon Rubinstein's predecessor as CEO of Palm; the fact that HP's smartphone market share fell last year to below one hundredth of one percent, and yet Bradley was still charged with the task of devising an instant comeback; and the fact that HP's latest iPaq, announced last December (pictured below) bears so little distinction from a BlackBerry Curve, Samsung BlackJack, or Motorola Q that it may as well be called the "Me2."

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HP execs: Fate of Palm's R&D team, iPaq, Pre, and Pixi still undecided

One of the few official photos of HP's 'Slate' PC, as yet unnamed.  [Courtesy HP]

If financial analysts had concerns about Hewlett-Packard's ability to resurrect Palm's flailing fortunes, those concerns may have actually deepened following HP's announcement call with analysts Wednesday afternoon.

During the call, which lasted under 20 minutes, Executive Vice President Todd Bradley told analysts that he expects HP's track record for building out communications infrastructure with eight of the world's ten largest telecom carriers will earn HP points when making its case for carrying Palm products.

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HP to acquire Palm for $1.2 billion

HP generic badge

Perhaps the headline here should be, "HTC doesn't acquire Palm." In any event, our question from last week, "What if nobody wants Palm?" has just been rendered moot: Hewlett-Packard has just announced it has agreed to acquire the assets of Palm Inc. for $5.70 per share, or approximately $1.2 billion.

HP's announcement cites webOS in the first paragraph, indicating that the operating system was key to the company's offer.

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