Wednesday, October 28, 2009

IBM IOD 2009 second day highlights (videoblog)

Here is my video of what I thought were highlights of the second day of IBM's Information on Demand conference (IOD 2009) in Las Vegas. I also shot a lot of footage of Malcom Gladwell's address on the third day, but I may not be able to post that until I am back in Latvia.

A look at SPSS, IBM's new predictive analytics acquisition

I had a chance, while at IBM's IOD 2009, to talk to Jason Verlen, the chief product strategist at SPSS, a predictive analytics company recently acquired by IBM. Here is a video, unfortunately filmed near a source of green light which I did not notice. Did my best to make Jason look less Martian with iMovie :).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Anyone sending an AYPFC? message to Tele2 Latvia?

An AYPFC message is one that starts with " Are you people fucking crazy??" Maybe it should be sent to Tele2, Latvia's biggest mobile operator (it claims) in terms of customer numbers. It was Tele2 that organized the "meteorite falls in Latvia" stunt that got the country its 15 minutes (or more) of underserved international fame. As if a meteor strike on top of a devastating economic crisis was something positive. It was certainly not something that Latvia "caused" by its own activity.
The publicity stunt, which caused underpaid Latvian firemen, police and soldiers to rush to a huge smoking crater outside Mazsalaca, a kind of Latvian Podunk, certainly had no message about mobile telecoms services. It had the unintended and black humor effect of causing some totally batshit* local lady (reputedly a local town councilor, where they don't check if you are batshit or not) to stand in a road selling tickets for 1 LVL apiece to curiousity seekers.
I am beginning to wonder whether Tele2's marketing director Jānis Spoģis has gone off the deep end. Maybe not, because the previous goon-show style Tele2 commercial, with adults skateboarding off rooftops into swimming pools and doing burnouts on a kitchen floor with a motorscooter reputedly came from Sweden, where the Tele2 group is headquartered. So the Vikings are back to eating those mushrooms again...
By contrast, the local Latvian commercials for the Zelta Zivtiņa (Golden Fish) prepaid cards have been charming even when bizarre, such as when the cow Gauja moves into the "Friends" - style apartment with the usual characters. Or when one of the characters sews a huge crocodile for "nothing" -- the price of calls to a circle of friends on the Tele2 network.
Apparently this is not the end of the Viking mescalero (people who chew hallucinogenic cacti) campaign. We will probably see fake sea (lake) monsters rising from a Latvian lake or perhaps UFO-style balloons floating high in the sky (we'll see if Tele2 will be as ready to pay for scrambling NATO F-16s as it was to compensate the fire department). Well, the balloon thing was already done by a family of wackos in America.
I am in Las Vegas as I write, the capital of "unreal" in the US, though at a a very real IBM Information on Demand (IOD2009) conference and the whole meteorite incident seems even beyond building a second Eiffel Tower (where you can get married) which the Vegas folks have done.

* from the urban dictionary :)

batshit insane

When someone has crossed into extreme insanity.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Highlights of day one at IBM's IOD2009

I am in Las Vegas on assignment from my day job at IBM's Information on Demand (IOD2009) and recorded some highlights of the opening day's presentations by Ambuj Goyal and Frank Kern.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No one first to name a price in Latvian telecoms deal?

NOTE: I got tweeted by an executive at Lattelecom, see below.

The Latvian government seems to have re-opened the seemingly dormant issue of selling its holdings in fixed network operator Lattelecom and mobile operator Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT). During an October 16 television talk show, where this blogger was one of the journalist participants, Minister of Economics Artis Kampars said the government was ready to consider selling its telecom assets, but added that the most eager (and probably only) potential buyer, Sweden's TeliaSonera, had not named a price in talks with the Latvians in early September. By Kampars' account, that meeting was one where the sides got nowhere by saying: "What do you want for the companies?" "No, you tell us what you are ready to pay." "No, you please tell us what you want..." and so on.
Kampars also repeated what he had said publically a few days earlier, that state assets, including Lattelecom and LMT, would not be sold "on the cheap." TeliaSonera recently completed acquisition of all remaining shares in Eesti Telecom (which, unlike Lattelecom and LMT, is a traded company and already had a majority holding by the Swedes). Telia Sonera was less successfully with Lithuania's TEO, failing to get the necessary percentage of shares to delist the company and force the sale of any remaining minority shares.
I haven't been in touch with my Swedish sources about the latest chapter of the neverending story of trying to buy Lattelecom and LMT, but will try to do so before I leave for the States on Wednesday to attend an IBM conference in Las Vegas (October 25 -28).
Latvia is in dire need of any revenues to patch its budget deficit and, considering that telecoms have not suffered too badly in the crisis and against a background of rising stock markets in Europe and the US, the two unlisted companies could probably be sold for a decent price. Of course, Kampars and the Latvian government will never see another LVL 500 million bid by the Swedes, as was made a couple of years back in one of the "fat years" of real-estate bubble and lending frenzy. Interestingly, the sum is exactly as much as international lenders want Latvia to cut from its spending in 2010 and 2011 (for a total of LVL 1 billion). But that chance was blown. Maybe they could try for, say, LVL 400 million and settle for LVL 375 million -- these are just my wild guesses. Even without the deep recession, which I think will last at least until 2014 in Latvia, the value of any fixed-line network will decline as everything goes mobile and 4G networks appear. So the best bid has already been lost -- maybe it is time to seize the opportunity.

From Twitter: A Lattelecom executive tweeted me that he believes the company will gain in value because of broadband, IP TV and content distribution (IP TV, video on demand and the like). Welcome to the new web order :).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Bite honcho talks about mobile broadband, free call business model

Fred Hrenchuk, the CEO and board chairman of mobile operator Bite Group, talks about mobile broadband (a forthcoming jump to 14.4 Mbps), the effects of the economic downturn and the BiFri free calling business model.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Lattelecom announces jump to 500 Mbps fiber to the home

Lattelecom will start offering upgrades to 500 Mbps of its fiber-to-the-home (office)or FTTH service in the second half of November, Raivis Mackevics, the head of Lattelecom's optical technologies unit told this blogger. The current top speed to its around 2 600 FTTH subscribers is 100 Mbps. Another 700 connections are on order.
Lattelecom says just under 25 % of Riga's households (more that 77 500 housing units) will have access to FTTH by year end, with an FTTH build-out to start in the cities of Jelgava and Daugavpils by year end as well.
The slow uptake of FTTH, which in some package deals is priced under Lattelecom's existing DSL services, may reflect the operator's slow and cautious approach with the new technology. Rival cable TV, telecoms and internet service provider IZZI suffered from a Twitter-driven public uproar earlier this year when its 100 Mbps DOCSIS-based high speed internet suffered glitches.
Also, Lattelecom may see FTTH as the last great hope for its IPTV service, which recently chalked up 30 000 subscribers, compared to well over 100 000 subscribers each at Baltcom TV and IZZI, who offer conventional and digital cable TV. FTTH at 500 Mbps is more than adequate to feed several TV sets watching high-definition programming and Lattelecom says multiple watching of different channels will be enabled with its optical internet.
However, viewing habits may be hard to change -- cable has been around since the 1990s, and Latvian viewers will be reluctant to switch, rip out old cables and set-top boxes and adjust to a new assortment of channels. Also, in times of economic crisis, the number of HD flatscreens owned by households is unlikely to rise rapidly, never mind multi-screen households.
As I put it in my Latvian-language blog, Lattelecom's FTTH "beast" isn't loved by very many people yet. Given the chance, of course, I will get the service as soon as it is offered in my downtown (Center) Rīga building. Lattelecom, however, is prioritizing the so-called bedroom areas of Riga with their large, Soviet-era multi-unit high-rises (9 stories is "high"), which makes sense.