Friday, September 19, 2008

Off to the States, and screw KLM!!

I am off to the US for 10 days again, so will be blogging here even more sporadically, although I do have a video interview with an Alcatel-Lucent honcho that I will try to get up.
I am writing this when I should actually already be well on my way to the US, with the ever-so convenient (though a bit extreme) 0555 AM Riga to Amsterdam to Boston connection with f**king KLM. The reason I am not is that KLM simply cancelled the flight and rebooked me and my wife on what appeared to be separate flights to Copenhagen and Stockholm respectively (OK, we don't have the same last name and used different credit cards for her business purposes). Since we booked via Expedia (who brings no small amount of business to KLM) and we saw  no visible onward connections to the US  from Scandinavia on the new information (we found them, via Newark, by investigating ourselves) KLM said it was our and Expedia's problem, not theirs. The flight cancellation was at KLM's initiative, it caused us serious concern and problems, yet KLM stubbornly and repeated (except for one person on the US reservations line, which I called via Skype and who got us reservations on Lufthansa, but not tickets) refused to resolve our problem and said it was up to Expedia, who were also pretty hopeless and helpless at it. So finally a lady at Lufthansa in Riga solved it, and we are flying over with them. I will repeat what I wrote in my Latvian language blog -- KLM are swine. Swine! Passanger hostile swine!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Swedish online video editing company looks East

Jaycut, a Swedish online video editing company, thinks Eastern Europe is an interesting potential market for its services. So far, the Stockholm-based company, founded in 2007, has a major customer in IKEA, the Swedish/global do-it-yourself furniture and home furnishings company. It has set up a website for customers to show off their home decoration solutions using IKEA's stuff, upload any raw video and edit it down to a presentable video spot.
While in Stockholm recently, I talked to Jonas Hombert, co-founder of Jaycut:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Swedish Momail spreads mobile e-mail to Latvia

I was in Stockholm briefly and met with Lars Aase, marketing director for Momail, a Swedish mobile e-mail aggregation service. Recently, they have started a beta version in Latvia (in English, Latvian to come upon official launch). Momail is a free service, but the business model apparently is to sell the plaform to mobile operators who will then offer it as "their"service.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Latvia's IZZI promises 100 Mbps internet in 2009

IZZI, the Latvian cable television, internet and voice services provider, will be able to offer 100 Mbps internet speeds to its cable customers during 2009, according to Helmut Kohl, a representative of Contaq Latvian Cable, the company's new owner (a consortium of four investment funds).
Kohl said the planned upgrade of IZZI's cable network means it will decisively beat Lattelecom's DSL offering, which presently tops at 10 Mbps. Short of a major and expensive replacement of the entire copper-based infrastructure, coaxial cable linked to IZZI's fiber optic network in certain urban areas will be the fastest internet service in Latvia, he said. Such speeds can only be exceeded by upgrading to fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), which is being implemented on a very small scale in Latvia by Latvenergo and Lattelecom.
Kohl also said that IZZI was planning to participate in a forthcoming tender to provide digital terrestrial TV broadcast services to reach some 400 000 viewers in areas outside Latvia's larger cities where broadcast TV is the only service presently available.
Kohl said that if IZZI were awarded the deal, it had the money, know-how and other resources to start digital broadcasting within one year of the award. The digital TV tender is expected in November. The Contaq executive said that around 80 % of the necessary hardware and software resources needed for digital terrestrial broadcasting already existed to serve IZZI's digital cable TV network.
Kohl also said that IZZI hoped to expand its high-definition offerings on digital cable (currently limited to VOOM, an English language HD channel and an HD channel in Russian) next year and offer HD terrestrial broadcasts if given the chance. He cautioned, however, that there were no local HD offerings and those available in Europe in major languages were in English or German.
Commenting on possible competition between cable and IPTV, Kohl noted that some of the investors in the consortium behind the recent buy-out of IZZI (from Latvian stakeholders) were invested in IPTV.
Kohl sees IPTV as an outlet for specialized content and narrow audiences, citing a golf channel as an example, while more mainstream programming would be supplied on cable. The Contaq spokesman said he was not concerned that Lattelecom was offering timeshifted programming, since this was mainly locally produced, whereas timeshifting content such as feature films using the operator's platform was "a gray legal area" that could not be compared to recording shows on hard disk or tape while absent from home.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More on the iPhone tizzy in Latvia

Finally Fred Hrenchuk, CEO of Bite Latvija, has written, apparently from vacation in Canada, that Bite is testing iPhones with selected customers and will start selling the gadgets once these tests are done.
So it now looks like sometime in the next few weeks, there will be two operators offering iPhone 3G packages on the Latvian market. LMT, which has remained largely silent and missed the August 22 launch date (only the Estonians have started selling iPhones).
If there are any Lithuanians reading this, what is the take on Bite selling iPhones in your country? Will Vodafone (through its "fatting calf") get the jump on TeliaSonera in the two other Baltic countries?
As for me, my employer has me chained to Tele2, which currently has no iPhone plans. Anything from big momma Tele2 in Sweden (not that I know of)? However, one of the senior people at LETA has been seen fingering* an earlier model iPhone and speaking very well of it. As for me, I might be interested in an unbundled iPhone if the price is not outrageous...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Bite to sell iPhone in Latvia = TRUE!

Bite will sell the iPhone (presumably 3G) to business customers in Latvia, a Bite representative told a journalist at the Latvian news agency LETA (my workplace, different department). This confirms the rumor that I reported on August 29. No prices or tariff plans have been published, but one commentator to my Latvian-language blog claims a price of LVL 399 for a subsidized phone. Pretty pricey, but within the 400 -700 LVL range that the rumor included.
Meanwhile Bite Latvia CEO Fred Hrenchuk, who is slightly out of the loop visiting his native Canada, e-mailed me:

Hey Juris, sorry for the late reply but I am in Canada visiting my mom. We are not selling iPhones at this time.

Have a good week.

Sent via Bite’s Blackberry Service

Which is not really a denial given that Fred is a little out of the loop and that nobody is running out of Bite boutiques waving around their iPhones yet.
LMT continues to say it will say something about the iPhone "soon". Meanwhile, it seems that the Latvian daily Diena reported on May 28, quoting Fred, that Bite could sell the iPhone in Latvia through its connection with Vodafone.
This again confirms my suspicions that Bite is parked with its present owners to be fattened for acquisition by Vodafone when the time is right.