Breakfast Briefing: Vodafone demands right to hike prices, Media Center EPG goes AWOL, Ubuntu phone mystery

4 Jan 2013
Breakfast Briefing

Today's tech round-up includes Vodafone demanding the right to increase contract prices and much more

Today's tech stories see Vodafone defend the right to raise prices, how a small UK territory is left in a web backwater, why the Ubuntu phone platform needs help and the numbers behind the Nexus 4 shortage.

Vodafone: fixed prices will "confuse customers"

It didn't take the mobile networks long to start bleating about Ofcom's tentative proposal to let customers walk away from fixed-term contracts if the networks decide to arbitrarily raise their prices.

"We simply do not control many of the charges faced by consumers," says a Vodafone statement sent to PC Pro. "Prices set by third parties such as BT, include those for directory enquiry services, premium rate and 08 numbers. Yet Ofcom appears resolved to introduce measures that would effectively prevent any rises in these prices being recouped while customers are still in contract.

"We cannot be held accountable should BT, for example, put up the price of calls to premium rate, 08 or its 118500 numbers. Nor can we be expected to swallow that sort of price rise ourselves."

Perish the thought.

Media Center EPG goes missing

How many people still use Windows Media Center? It might not be many, but the number was large enough to brew a New Year storm. That’s because on New Year’s Day at 11am - when any discerning viewer would surely have been enjoying Three Men and a Little Lady - the EPG disappeared for many people, and it hasn’t yet returned. The Register reports that this has left many "distraught", as it renders Media Center pretty much useless beyond live TV.

Has Microsoft turned it off on purpose? Or is it the fault of Red Bee, which supplies the EPG data? Neowin quotes a forum poster who claims to have been told by Red Bee that it’s Microsoft’s fault, and another who was told by a Microsoft technician that it’s a "large scale" issue that "covers a [whole] region of support" and he’d pass it to "a higher level technician".

Who would build an Ubuntu phone?

On Wednesday we reported on the launch of Ubuntu for smartphones. Now Slashdot's Nick Kolakowski is asking: who on Earth is going to build one?

Apple, RIM and Nokia are out for "obvious reasons", and Google-owned Motorola surely won’t break ranks from Android. HP’s had its fingers burned in the past by gambling on webOS, which leaves HTC and Samsung as the most likely contenders. But would either of those bother with Ubuntu, given that they’re already supporting Android and Windows Phone, and Samsung’s already dabbling in alternative OSes of its own?

"Unless Canonical can enlist significant hardware partners to build top-of-the-line devices, then Ubuntu risks becoming a minor footnote in the history of smartphones," says Kolakowski, reaching pretty much the same conclusion as our own Barry Collins.

Nexus 4 – a drop in the ocean

The Guardian reports that fewer than 400,000 of Google's Nexus 4 phone have been made, explaining why the handset has been in such short supply.

The handset was sold out shortly after going on sale, and research from XDA Developers looked at IMEI numbers for the handsets and discovered the tiny production run. For comparison, even Nokia's Windows Phone devices sold 4m handsets in the third quarter of last year. It's almost as if Google was trying to generate a sense of frantic demand for the flagship product.

UK islanders left stranded

The UK's refusal to sign up to a UN backed telecoms deal late last year came at a high price for 4,200 residents of British territory St Helena, a speck of rock and sand in the middle of the Atlantic.

The deal would have meant the UK was obliged to help outlying territories with broadband connectivity, but the Foreign Office says it has no reason to help out residents of St Helena, who are currently paying more than £100 a month for satellite connections, according to the BBC.

Perhaps the officials are saving the expected £10m that would be needed to provide a proper link to a passing transatlantic cable in case it's needed to help another territory down in the South Atlantic.

Gambling software developer going to jail?

Wired reports on an American gambling software developer who’s facing jail because his product "abetted" (Yes, really) illegal gaming in the US.

Online sports gambling is largely prohibited in the US, but Robert Stuart claims he only licensed his betting site software for use abroad. US prosecutors were unimpressed with his pleas, claiming that his company "abetted large-scale illegal gambling in the US and abroad," and "gave bettors an easy way to place illegal wagers, and created an appetite for further unlawful activity".

Stuart says the authorities haven’t revealed who he’s meant to have aided and abetted, but he should find out next week, when he appears in court.

How Irish newspapers tried to kill the web

Imagine if you were charged for merely putting a link to another website on your blog. That’s exactly what a collective of Irish newspapers tried to push through last year. The story - covered by solicitors McGarr - is a few days old, but worth a look for the sheer nerve of it. An Englishman, a Scotsman and a lawyer walk into a bar. Or something.

Read more

News