Monday, October 22, 2007

Lattelecom future in a muddle

First, sorry for the silence on this blog, I was in the US (Boston and Las Vegas, the IBM Information on Demand conference in the latter) and had little time to attend to this. With the uproar surrounding the Latvian government, it now looks like all options for the future ownership of Lattelecom will simply be put off and muddled away (how do you translate the wonderful Latvian expression nomuļļāts?).
As I wrote in my Latvian language blog, the current proposal for the MBO is threatened by ignorance, muddle(by the government, been at it since 2003 or so on these issues) and hounding (as close a translation of noriešana -- literally, to bark to death). At the moment, it looks like muddle will trump all other cards. However, the hounding has already started (several articles expressing suspicion, questioning the motives of the Blackstone Group, etc.).
One of the strongest critics has been Latvian MEP (member of the European Parliament)Inese Vaidere, allegedly representing right of center nationalist party, but proposing, instead of the MBO, a dirigist arrangement where Lattelecom remains majority owned by the state and is governed by a special law. Vaidere points out that the value of future dividends to the state is, in her opinion, higher than the LVL 300 million that will be paid for the company through the MBO. By this argument, some enterprises should be nationalized to provide revenues for the state instead of paying taxes. Classic socialism.
In a worst case scenario (though not "worst"for those who think a government that finds excuses for firing the head of the anti-corruption agency for minor violations should be dismissed along with the parliament backing it), the Saeima (Latvia's parliament) could be dissolved and new elections called following a referendum on the dissolution. This could drag well into 2008. At present, the government is in disarray, there is no Minister of Economics and even without the president dissolving parliament, the government may yet fall. Deciding the future of Lattelecom is the least of the government's worries.

So what will happen? The muddle will drag on to where the terms of the deal may have to be changed because of unstable financial markets globally and in Latvia (the inevitable crash of the real estate market must come soon). Then the possibly weakened or reshuffled (or caretaker) government will have to decide again. The clamor for a public auction of Lattelecom will increase, but such an event, I believe, will simply lead to it being purchased by TeliaSonera on the open market.

The MBO is not a bad idea, it has been tested with mixed, generally positive results in Europe and the USA, but don't hold your breath that it will go through in Latvia for Lattelecom.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Swedish touch phone - iPhone challenger?

Sweden's NeoNode will be launching (in Sweden) its very small touch interface phone. I met them last week in Stockholm, but have only gotten around to editing and posting the videoblog today. Judge for yourselves whether we will have an iPhone challenger here:

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click To Play

One more thing: If you are interested in any of the ads appearing here, please CLICK. I might make some money :)

Friday, October 05, 2007

XBox 360 Live -- A nightmare for parents and children

We bought an XBox360 for my 12-year old son' s birthday (in Sweden, Latvian prices were outrageous by comparison). We also picked up some games. The latest Halo 3 game (also bought in Sweden) came with a free 48 hour Xbox Live trial. The procedure for setting up an account in this service is one of the most time consuming, onerous, fucked-up experiences I have had with any online service -- and I go back to things like The Source in the 1980s. There are layer upon layer of data entry screens, all of which can only be operated by the Xbox360 controller, click and push  A, click and push A for endless repetitions. The code for a free trial of Xbox Live for 48 hours makes nuclear launch procedures child's play by comparison. Every possible piece of information, name, address, date of birth, credit card, gamer id, passwords, etc. has to be entered in this onerous way. Then the fucking service does not work for certain functions which should be available under the free test.
I think this is a classic example of downright customer, child and user-hostile design and policies by Microsoft

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sweden's Mondozer to launch widg... err...mondo platform

Mondozer, a 2007 Swedish startup, is going to launch its platform for creating easily accessible informational widgets (which it calls mondos) on  mobile phones (independent of the operator). Co-founder Karl Bohman talks about the company and its plans to offer the platform in the rest of the Nordic countries and, possibly, the Baltic countries.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tele2 Latvia negotiating a club music service

Tele2 in Latvia and Dub Tools, a Swedish mobile services developer, are negotiating to offer the club music platform R.FM in Latvia in the next few months. Dub Tools CEO Peo Strömberg talks about the new service below (note: the video was edited for my Latvian blog, so there are Latvian opening and closing titles and the "Latvian spelling" of Strömberg's name, plus some small errors).

An informal iPhone demo in Stockholm

I finally got to film an informal iPhone demo in Sweden, thanks to the manager of a Macoteket Apple dealership in Stockholm. Here it is...