MediaFile

Tech wrap: AT&T/T-Mobile a done deal?

Reflections are seen in the window of an AT&T store in New York March 21, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermidAT&T’s planned buy of T-Mobile USA is ultimately expected to get regulatory approval, combining the second and fourth largest wireless operators to create a new leader that will control around 43 percent of the U.S. wireless market. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson suggested he had little choice but to do it as AT&T is in dire need of more wireless airwaves to increase network capacity for mobile Web services.

Google announced that it’s partnering with Sprint to integrate the free calling and texting service Google Voice with the carrier’s feature phones and smartphones. Sprint customers will be able to use their existing Sprint mobile number as their Google Voice number.

Nokia’s strategy for entering the tablet computer market may not include Microsoft, its recently announced partner for smartphones, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s thinking.

Microsoft widened its legal assault on devices running on Google’s Android system, filing lawsuits for patent infringement against bookseller Barnes & Noble over its Nook electronic book reader.

Facebook’s creation of a mobile payment subsidiary and registration of it in a number of states could signal the social network’s intent to get more broadly involved in the payments business, writes VentureBeat’s Owen Thomas. Bypassing credit-card processing fees from its Facebook Credits business and the possible creation of an ad network to rival Google’s AdSense were seen as potential driving factors.

Sprint: When all else fails, call a magician

davidblaineAfter bigger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T stole the limelight at the Consumer Electronics Show with promises of multiple advanced phones for this year, now Sprint Nextel is trying to grab some attention with a stunt of its own.

In an intentionally mysterious invitation, the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider says it has enlisted the help of illusionist David Blaine to show the world how “Sprint’s making the Impossible Possible” at a New York Event scheduled for February 7.

Sprint’s promising that the event will be “a lot of fun” but it is mum on whether Blaine plans relive his Times Square encasement in a block of ice or his vertigo stunt in Bryant Park.

Sprint gets iPhone too? Well, not really

While the rumor mill has been heating to a frenzy over whether and when Verizon Wireless will get its hands on iPhone,  Sprint Nextel has quietly found its own way to associate its brand with Apple’s i-empire, in the form of a wireless case for the iPod Touch. ZTE_3200_PEEL_GL

On Sunday Sprint will start selling  Peel,  a ZTE-made  case for the iPod Touch, that will connect the device via Wi-Fi to its cellular network.

This means Sprint customers will be able to connect their iPod Touch to the Internet via Sprint’s cellular network rather than depending on Wi-Fi, a short-range wireless technology that is widely installed in places such as coffee shops or airports but more limited in coverage than cellular networks.

Charlie Ergen: Satellite cowboy, TV viewer, pitchman

Charlie Ergen is best known in media business circles as the straight talking homely founder of satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp. He’s often been disarmingly honest on quarterly conference calls with Wall Street analysts by admitting that he had personally taken his eye off the ball when the company was losing customers a few years ago or putting his annual family vacation ahead of being present on the quarterly call.

Well Dish Network’s marketing team is hoping that Ergen’s southern gentleman charm can win over new customers or at least keep old ones in the pay-TV wars versus DirecTV Group and the various US cable operators.

Ergen appears in a new in-house produced campaign below talking about his pride in the company he founded, his “embarrassing” picture from his early days, and its recent success in customer service etc.

Verizon cagey on phones, open about global ambitions

In a wide-ranging interview with Charlie Rose earlier this week, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg danced around questions about cellphones but was more forthcoming about the U.S. telecom giant’s long-term expansion ambitions.

Asked to confirm a report that Verizon will sell an Android-based phone from Motorola this year Seidenberg said, “It might be true what you said. I can’t quite disclose…”

And as for any plans to sell iPhone, the executive said that would be Apple’s decision.

Take the BlackBerry Tour

I’ve been pretty excited about the new BlackBerry Curve 8900 that my office handed me to replace a prehistoric 8800-series machine. Now there’s a new BlackBerry device, the Tour, which is making its debut this summer. So naturally, I rushed to check out the specs on the web to see what I missed.

Here’s what it’s got: 4.4 inches tall, 2.4 inches wide and 0.6 inch thick. There’s a 3.2 megapixel camera, enhanced media player with 256MB built-in memory, video playback and recording capability, and other consumer-friendly features. At under 5 ounces, it’s a little heavier than the Curve 8900, but it doesn’t look that much different.

But Research in Motion Co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie told Reuters this latest phone is a “big step forward.” They’re calling it a “world phone”, which means globetrotters can easily access voice and data services on networks outside their home country.

Will Boost’s “so wrong” ads bring it to the masses?

How would you widen your appeal beyond an audience of  14-24 year-olds to say the 18-35 year-old demographic? Some companies might give their advertising a gentler or more grown up tone. Others might throw in a service credit or some airmiles. 
Boost Mobile has decided the right theme is “wrong”
Investors already thought its recently-launched $50 unlimited mobile service plan was so competitive their first reaction was to sell shares in rival companies. The plan’s arrival in a terrible economy plagued with job cuts is also expected to draw crowds. 
But to make sure Boost, a unit of Sprint Nextel, launched an ad campaign designed by Santa Monica-based ad agency 180 LA, to stand out from the clutter. 
One has a coroner eating lunch over a dead body and at one point holding an internal organ in one hand and sandwich in the other. Is this wrong? he asks. Not as wrong like high prices. 
Then there’s a girl on a bike questioning if there’s something wrong about her flowing long arm pit hair.  The answer is of course that its not as wrong as sneaky charges in phone bill.
And what about the cute pig who’s tucking into a plate of ham at the dinner table. 
“Is this so wrong? Its delicious.” says the pig. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong, a cellphone company that advertises one price and charges you hidden fees well north of that.”
Sprint said yesterday that Boost has been taking in 6 times more customers than it is losing since the new plan was launched Jan. 22. Now that  the campaign launched this week on national TV it will be interesting to see the effect on sales.
(Photos: Boost)

Picture gets darker for 8,000 Sprint workers

Employees of embattled wireless service Sprint had yet another reason to complain on Monday after the company, which has been losing customers for years, announced 8,000 job cuts.

However, even after they’ve been booted out in the cold, these workers will likely still be reminded of their previous job by the sight of their old boss Dan Hesse, when he moonlights as lead actor in Sprint’s sepia-toned TV commercials on top of his day job as CEO of a struggling wireless company. 
    While Hesse’s dual lead man/CEO role may be saving the company some money, a few experts have wondered whether the commercials are doing more harm than good to Sprint, which has been roundly criticized for its marketing message. 
    Or perhaps it’s just a coincidence that the company has continued to report steep customer losses since the ads started to run soon after Hesse took on the job just over a year ago.

(Photo: Still shot of Dan Hesse in Sprint ad)

CFO Brust looks to save Sprint, one pencil at a time

Bob Brust came out of retirement in May this year for the Chief Financial Officer job at Sprint, aiming to help the No. 3 U.S. mobile service turn around its business. Instead of looking to make himself popular, Brust has been spending his nights looking over purchasing orders.

In his first meeting with the company’s senior managers he admonished them over how much the company was spending on bottled water. Sprint employees now get their water from the tap. He has also tackled office supplies, putting an end to most purchases. Employees were forced to reuse things or share if they couldn’t find what they wanted lying around in closets. The results included savings of $17.6 million on office supplies, $15.6 million on travel and $1.41 million on 35.4 million sheets of printing paper. 

And today, as the company offers buyouts and contemplates layoffs for January, Brust is tougher than ever about waste.