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When is technology really yours? June 17, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, IT Services, Software.
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Can you remember the furore caused by Amazon two years ago when their system automatically deleted copies of books by George Orwell on remote Kindle devices? That’s right, books that were already bought and paid for and loaded onto a reading device were remotely deleted because of a rights issue with the publisher. How ironic to find Orwell’s 1984 subject to such a scandal.

Yet the news today that Apple has been developing technology to control when and where you can use the video function in an iPhone seems even more controlling.

The idea is that it is illegal to video most events such as live music concerts because of the potential copyright infringement. So Apple will offer artists and theatre owners the ability to send an infrared signal to all iPhones in the vicinity of the live show, switching off the video function.

Apple has stated that they have filed patents related to this technology and the idea is possible, but it may be many years before we see it as a commercial product.

So that’s all right then.

This raises many more questions than answers though. Many artists want their music to be recorded and shared online, even if their publishing or record company does not and the recording a live music experience does not automatically imply that it will be shared and broadcast.

But perhaps when we start getting to the point where theatres are going to start controlling how and when you can use the phone in your pocket, it’s time to start asking if the copyright laws creating the need for this corporate behaviour are in fact flawed and of another time?

Cloud: What about regulated environments? April 29, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services, Outsourcing, Software.
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The cloud changes everything. That’s the consensus view. Whether it’s remote infrastructure management, software as a service, or utility computing or all of these strategies combined in some way, the cloud is changing the IT services market.

But forget the hype you read in a lot of the business and tech press. Most of us are already using cloud-based services with photo-sharing, video-sharing, document-sharing services, or even tools like Google Apps and Gmail. Facebook and LinkedIn are both tools that exist in the cloud and most executives probably use them each and every day.

The question is really how do we move from acceptance of consumer tools to a place where these applications can be used in a bulletproof and robust corporate environment?

It’s a tall order. IT leaders have a different focus to personal end users, particularly when it comes to availability and security. These are particularly important factors when the IT service is purchased from a supplier and will translate into key performance indicators applied to a service level agreement. The small print of the publicly available services does include information about service levels, but it will usually just excuse the provider from any responsibility to give you a reliable service.

If Google Mail was never available when you wanted to use it then it would be abandoned and never used, but it’s reliable enough for most of us most of the time – even with some occasional well-documented failures. Google does offer a paid version of their mail product, with SLAs, so it works better for corporate users who want that guarantee.

But can real companies make this work? It’s more than two years now since Guardian News and Media Group in the UK switched 2,500 users over to Google Apps and with it being such an easy financial decision, more will follow – so it can be done and stepping away from email on individual PCs is no longer seen as such an unusual move.

The cloud is coming and it will change more traditional bread and butter IT services such as ERP and CRM for the supplier market. But how does all of this work in a regulated market such as the public sector, banking, or for a utility. What are your thoughts ahead of the Thomas Eggar Technology and Enterprise Forum on Thursday May 12?

Bill shock to end? March 16, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services.
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This month, new EU laws to protect users with roaming mobile devices came into effect. The aim of the new legislation is to prevent what the media has termed “bill shock” as many users of telephones or Internet dongles have found that roaming data charges can be extremely high – especially when compared to the charge (often in contract anyway) when used in the home market.

Look at the case of William Harrison, a student at Nottingham University who visited Paris last year to begin an internship. Mobile phone company Orange advised him to use a 3G dongle, but Harrison never counted on his first month of internet use costing £8,000.

Other examples recently documented in the Sunday papers include a £4,900 bill for downloading a copy of The Apprentice on the BBC iPlayer and a £31,500 Vodafone bill for similar TV downloads. Vodafone did slash that bill to a more manageable £229, but how can such huge bills be racked up in the first place?
It’s all about data use. A laptop or phone that is using broadband on a roaming package – rather than the locally agreed fixed monthly price – will rack up additional charges based on how many megabytes (mb) of data are downloaded. The March 2nd edition of Eastenders on the BBC can be downloaded in 319mb. At the Virgin mobile roaming rate of £5 per mb, that’s going to be a cool £1,595 on your phone bill, just for catching up on the latest happenings in Albert Square.

So will the new legislation work? It’s aimed at ensuring mobile operators cap roaming usage to no more than €50 per month, and they now have until July to implement the procedures. If every provider implements the new rules then it should prevent further “bill shock”, but what if one company doesn’t, or their systems fail to give warnings in time? Who’s liable for the bill then?