The high costs of the cloud

How great is it that high-definition video is now portable? Thanks to cloud computing, superfast 4G networks and tablets with high-resolution screens, we can watch thousands of movies and TV shows in lush, beautiful clarity wherever we go.

In a way, that is pretty great, as the millions of people who have bought the new iPad with retina display and LTE connections have already seen. But in another way, it’s going to quickly become not so great: As hi-def video – or rather, the data bandwidth to deliver it – becomes a commodity for more people, that commodity will start to become much more expensive. Not just for consumers, but for the companies that will increasingly need more wireless spectrum and wired infrastructure to handle the surge in data demand.

Call it the curse of the cloud. The proliferation of online video services and portable devices to watch them on have added congestion to data networks even as wireless carriers impose fees on its biggest data users. According to Bytemobile, video accounted for half of all mobile data traffic in February, up from 40 percent only a year earlier.

And that was before the arrival of the new iPad, which has four times as many pixels as the iPad 2. More pixels can enhance hi-def video but requires more data. Demand for wireless data will rise even higher once more LTE smartphones – including, most likely, the iPhone 5 expected this year – start streaming video and other high-bandwidth content on them. If carriers are overwhelmed by the demand, as AT&T was with its notoriously unreliable 3G networks, wireless service will grow more spotty over time. But we’ll be paying more for it.

We’re already seeing some of this happening with the LTE iPads. Just ask the guy who used his brand new iPad to watch NCAA games while attending NCAA games, blowing through his 2GB allotment in less than two days. Or the USA Today columnist who says he did the same just by downloading apps. Meanwhile, complaints were surfacing on message boards that AT&T’s LTE networks were dragging in some urban areas as people played with their new iPads.

Dear Gizmodo, we want our secret iPhone back

Tech blog site Gizmodo set the Internet on fire on Monday when it released photos and spec details of what they said was Apple’s next-generation iPhone.

Speculation ran rampant over how this whole scoop came about, including questions over whether the site paid money for the device. Gizmodo’s Nick Denton confirmed that they paid $5,000 for access to the phone. Other questions being bandied about: Was the whole thing an Apple plant so the company could gauge user reactions to the redesign? Will Apple or analysts mention the leak during their earnings conference call today?

The site has shared their version of how Apple lost the next iPhone, including tidbits on the poor Apple employee unwittingly involved:

Is WiMax the Betamax of mobile space?

Is WiMax wireless technology headed for the same fate as Betamax, which lost the battle against VHS as the video cassette standard in 1980s? A senior Verizon executive thinks so.

Recall that WiMax and Long Term Evolution (LTE) are key technologies for operators to cope with surging data traffic from smartphones and laptops with mobile data cards. At the moment, it’s a heated fight to become the industry standard.

“It’s going to be like VHS-Betamax thing,” Stuart Curzon, vice president of Verizon Business unit, told a news conference in Helsinki, Finland. “WiMax has been around for a few years now. If it would’ve taken off, it would’ve done it by now.”