Look Ma, No Wires: Browsing at the Speed of Sound

Imagine opening your laptop or your hand-held anywhere you happen to be and instantly showing five full bars of muscular Wi-Fi service? Nirvana.

There would be no need to find a Starbucks, or a McDonalds, or any other place with a Wi-Fi hotspot. You’d be in a Wi-Fi hot-zone.

Current Wi-Fi technology is designed for very short-range use such as in your home, office or at the local coffee shop. Signals at the lower-end of the “white space” spectrum, or 700 megahertz, can travel long distances, muscle their way through walls and create a much larger Wi-Fi-type hot spot. It’s like bringing Wi-Fi over an entire community or city. You can skip the expensive cabling and go wireless.

A proposed Order implementing open access to the vacant TV channels in every media market nationwide will be voted on at the Federal Communication Commission’s September 23 Open Meeting. It will address the next step in its plans for unlicensed use of the TV whitespace (the portions of the TV band that are not used in a particular location to carry TV signals). It has been called ‘wi-fi on steroids’.

The regulatory move, generally supported by all five commissioners, could help alleviate pressure on mobile networks that have frustrated some smartphone users who deal with dropped calls and slow Web connections. Think AT & T in NYC.

Ironically, it was the switch from analog to digital signals by television that freed up the extra “white space.”

“TV white spaces“– the radio spectrum vacated when analog television broadcasting ceased last year operates at lower frequencies and higher power than Wi-Fi, so the signals reach much wider areas than your typical wireless Internet router.
  New devices would be capable of transmitting the Wi-Fi signal over a potential range of several miles, rather than just hundreds of feet, would not be interrupted by walls and other obstructions, and would be as fast as today’s broadband and DSL connections.

Some benefits will provide dynamic management of the air interface, adaptations for vehicular use, computing mesh operation, inter-working with cellular systems, and peer-to-peer link establishment.

Calling the communications technology “super WiFi,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that private carriers are increasingly relying on WiFi hot spots in urban areas to pick up data traffic where their own networks are overburdened.

Genachowski’s proposal would reserve two television channels in each local market for wireless microphones. This is not sitting well with some high-tech companies that argue that priority for wireless microphones subtracts from precious airwaves that could be used for a new wave of mobile broadband devices and uses.

And the new the move faces some opposition from broadcasters, Broadway performers and ministers. Huh? What did you say?? Those critics, who have filed suit against the FCC to prevent the release of white spaces, say users of that spectrum could interfere with television channels and would throw off wireless microphones that operate on those frequencies. News and sports broadcasters, church ministers and singer Dolly Parton have argued to the FCC that they need some spectrum reserved for their wireless microphones. (Dolly, say it ain’t so?)

Operators are likely to experiment with different pricing models as they try to better manage the use of their networks. And some are doing that already with AT&T — often criticized for struggling to keep up with the demands of iPhone users — were one of the first to do away with an unlimited data plan.

“Bandwidth as an end-user service is hard to sell; it’s hard to monetize,” said Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent‘s wireless division. “If you go to a person and say, ‘I’ll sell you a megabyte of mobile bandwidth, how much are you willing to pay?’ nobody can answer that.”

Instead, if users are asked to buy a book or game or sporting experience on their mobile phone or an app for the iPhone or android, they understand the value, he said.

Google, Microsoft and Dell have long lobbied to use white spaces. They want to use the waves to connect entire universities to the Web with wireless links that use fewer bay stations.  And my hunch is that Google would love to have use of this for when they release the Chrome OS licensed to many builders of a portable tablet, due up shortly to compete with the iPad.

Dell envisions that white spaces will spawn innovations for the home. Consumers could rely on refrigerators that automatically signal the home tablet computer when food is running low, and place an order with the neighborhood grocery. Microsoft hopes to connect more of its devices to information stored on its clusters of data centers – known as cloud computing – to allow access from anywhere to applications such as its Office suite of software.

Currently,  we have over 1 billion WiFi chips in every laptop in circulation, chipmakers need to develop chips that are compatible with the spectrum qualities. Then, device makers have to update their iPhones and Kindles to allow users to switch to white-space networks.

I simply want faster wireless speeds anywhere I go. I am tired of being ‘tethered’ to a broadband cable. I say, let it happen.

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Is Pandora’s Box About to be Opened? TV of The Present and Near Future – 4 Possible Scenarios

1.  Slingbox + iPad or gPad (this is the quickest way to get your TV experience at home with ALL your channels – a ‘bridge’ solution at best as it omits the web

2.  gPad or PC Tablets running android (and Googles upcoming OS, Chrome) with a receiver chip built in for wireless broadcasts (including youtube for movies , via PPV) – this can be any number of announced tablets ( Dell, etc.)

3. AppleTV + iPads with special chips + iTunes for movies and TV shows (this assumes an updated iPad version).

4.  3rd party hardware/software boxes: Logitechs Revue box (coming soon), Roku (here now), Boxee Box (coming soon), and others require you to connect these to your TV (and whatever else is there, like a DVR, cable TV box, etc). The average person will have some reluctance to doing this. And that’s most of us. They don’t call TV BROADcast for nothing – its for the masses, not just the technophiles.

All of the above solutions or alternatives will give you ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox + movies on an on-demand basis. Some will let you access Netflix or Hulu if you have an account and subscribe (read: an additional cost).

WHAT’S MISSING: your very own DVR Cloud for shows you watch and want to keep which you have purchased.

Despite Steve Jobs stating that consumers “don’t want a computer on their TV,” consumers DO want TV on their computers or more specifically on their mobile and wireless connected devices (iPads,  tablets, etc.) and especially on the go.  Business customers, more than consumers, especially need any of their purchases to do double-duty to make fiscal sense.

Some GPad TV reasons to exist:

Google has released an informational guide for would-be developers to create more applications specifically for Google TV. While many apps will probably be useless or purely for entertainment, there will likely be some useful programs for business consumers in the near future.

Some things worth noting are Google’s forthcoming Chrome OS: Android will be picking up Street View services in Google Maps, as well as voice-powered search so users can speak search queries rather than typing them into a keyboard or using a mouse.

Google TV will be built right in to new TVs from Sony, available on separate set-top boxes from Logitech (Revue), and those are just launch partners, with many more to come. Google has announced plans to roll out Google TV in the United States this fall, with a worldwide launch following in 2011. Google TV aims to fuse traditional television programming with Internet browsing and interactive capabilities.

Google TV will run on Intel’s Atom processor – the same chip powering virtually every netbook on the market. This enables it the additional horsepower to pump up full 1080p video, rather than 720p as the Apple TV maxes out at, it should leave room for additional upgrades, and maybe even the possibility of hacking the software to run other desktop apps (umm, now we shall see ‘jailbreaking your Google TV or gPads, I can virtually guarantee that one).

Google, meanwhile, has said nothing of opening a store for content. Every source will either come for free through the Web, from a cable box, or third-party providers. This might make the selection of popular shows smaller out of the box, but providers like Amazon on Demand, Vudu and Hulu Plus will line up to jump aboard Google TV, and it means that Google TV will be providing more content than what Apple alone can deliver- although it doesn’t mean that those same providers won’t want into the iTunes storefront as well.

To Googles point and possible advantage, Movies and TV isn’t everything.  Sometimes, you want to see photos from Picasa. Sometimes, you want to give directions to a friend using Google Maps. Maybe you want to want to read your favorite site without squinting on a mobile device or watch a YouTube video.  Google TV will integrate a browser based on Chrome to do all the above.

Google claims that existing Android apps should eventually be able to run on Google TV, as long as they don’t use smartphone-only features. Meaning it will be damn difficult to tilt your TV to play skillball or bowling using an app.

Dell is releasing later this year a Dell ‘Looking Glass tablet’. With larger screen Android phones and tablets coming to market in the second half of the year it only makes sense that content services will be supplying the increasing demand to watch content on these new screens and devices.

The Looking Glass is actually the big brother of the Dell Streak 5 and it comes with a 7 inch WVGA display. The tablet will run Android 2.1 on a 1 GHz nVidia T20 processor. The nVidia Tegra 2 is impressive because it is based on an ARM Cortex-A9 multicore processor design. Other spec highlights include 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, 512 MB ROM and 512 MB RAM, and 802.11n WiFi. Optional accessories for the Looking Glass include a 3G modem (mini card type) and a digital TV module. Expect the Looking Glass to launch in Q4 2010 on AT&T. Early renders for the device show U-Verse integration, which is AT&T’s fiber optic network.

Apple TV Reasons:

Apple recently redesigned the Apple TV to run on the same A4 processor powering the iPhone and iPad. Essentially, it’s a smartphone, without a screen, in a box.

Apple TV conveniently puts its storefront for iTunes in the middle of your living room, allowing you to buy Apple content from Apple. And hey, you can watch Netflix this year, too, YouTube and Flickr.  Apple has proven to make this closed shopping experience feel cozy and convenient as in the past it has done with all of its devices and media offerings. Being a proven solution is a BIG advantage here.  And Apple is so far the only ones that can say this.

Apple has got it down and has sold millions of iPhones, iTouch’s, iPads and other connected devices AND content for years now. This is not an easy trick – as it not only requires the hardware to be stupidly simple and easy to use for the masses, but its software must be self-healing and not require the ‘patches’ and the many problems we have all had with things like syncing your Outlook to a Palm or Crackberry and maintaining ALL of your information. How many of us have had problems doing this because we were running one of the many Microsoft operating system versions or incompatible updates for our MS Outlook or office.

Apple is also easing restrictions on the use of third-party development tools to create iOS app—a move that might clear the way for developers to create apps for the iPhone using Adobe Flash CS5. (Note this is not the same as letting Flash run on the iPhone.)

When Apple debuted iOS4 back in April (then called iPhone OS 4), it unveiled restrictive terms in its developer program license that prohibited developers from using third-party application development tools or middleware to create iOS applications. In an open letter later that month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Apple did not want the iOS platform to be “at the mercy” of third party development tools. Apple has not changed those provisions to permit the use of third-party development tools, so long as the applications do not download code to iOS devices. “This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need,” Apple wrote.

Slingbox Reasons:

For the uninitiated, Slingbox is a “places shifting device.” Connect it to a video source (cable or satellite box, DVR, TV antenna, and so forth), and the Slingbox digitizes the video output for access on a wide variety of PCs and smartphones and iPhones–essentially allowing access to your home TV anywhere you can access the Internet. People prefer the benefit of mobility and they will accept just about anything – even frequently dropped calls – for the ability to have a media session (voice call, video chat, whatever) while they are wherever they are.

If you can watch whatever is on your home DVR, TV or better yet live HDTV on your iPad, wherever you are, then the broadcasting companies have lost total control of advertising as it relates to geography. This is an interesting notion (Nielsen please take note).  This has huge implications. One example is sports blackouts. Often local TV stations will not carry a local team game to force local people to go to the game to see it, or a particular company owns the rights to the broadcasting and will not allow it to be shown in that area. The entire concept of locality is gone.

There are buckets of content that come through cable still unavailable from the Web. Google TV and third party hardware/software boxes connecting to cable boxes and other hardware can and does cause setup nightmares that negate all of its potential capabilities and benefits. After all – a home theater PC can already do pretty much everything Google TV will – but how many people do you know with computers under their TV sets?

All in all, its going to get very interesting in the very near future. For now, I’ll take my simple basic cable set-up, throw a slingbox in my house, download the iPhone app on my iPhone or iPad and I’m good to go anywhere. Keep it simple.



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“I am sure smarter people than us will figure this out,” he said. “But that’s why, when we say that Apple TV is a hobby, that’s why we use that phrase.”

Apple Said to Seek Show-Rental Deal

By BRIAN STELTER and MIGUEL HELFT

Apple, which is widely expected to announce a revamped product for television sets next month, is pressing the television networks to rent their TV series through its iTunes service for as little as 99 cents an episode.

The News Corporation, parent of the Fox network, and the Walt Disney Company, parent of ABC, are close to deals for iTunes rentals at 99 cents each, according to network executives with knowledge of the discussions who spoke Tuesday on the condition of anonymity. But the executives emphasized that there were still sticking points in the negotiations.

The executives said NBC Universal, parent of the NBC network; the CBS Corporation, parent of CBS; and Time Warner, parent of the TNT and TBS cable channels, all had reservations about the proposal. But the companies apparently have not ruled out a rental deal at some point.

The companies uniformly declined to comment on Tuesday. The executives spoke on the condition of anonymity because their employers had not authorized them to discuss the negotiations.

Apple declined to comment on Tuesday about any coming events or products.

Apple has been frustrated in its efforts to penetrate the living room, but many analysts expect the company to continue trying. The talks with the studios seem to indicate that the company is making a renewed push in that area.

The iTunes store currently sells TV episodes for $1.99 and $2.99 apiece, but its rental activities are limited to movies. The company is said to believe that inexpensive rentals of TV episodes would enhance its Apple TV and iPad products.

Allowing some rentals at 99 cents would be a shift in attitude for the networks, which were said to be skeptical of the proposal when Apple made it last winter. At the time, they fretted about the possible damage that low rental prices would do to sales of DVDs and electronic episodes on iTunes and Amazon.com.

Apple, however, has apparently kept up the pressure. Bloomberg News first reported on the renewed talks about the rentals on Tuesday.

The talks appear to be pegged to an Apple product introduction. Analysts anticipate that the company will hold an event in September to announce new products, including an updated iPod Touch and a revamped version of Apple TV, a product that Apple’s chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, has referred to as a hobby.

Apple TV helps to bring Web content to television sets, but it has been perceived as a dud. In June, Mr. Jobs laid out his frustration with the TV industry’s business model and seemed to suggest that any Apple efforts in that area would be modest.

“The problem with innovation in the television industry is the go-to-market strategy,” Mr. Jobs said at a technology conference, singling out the subsidized set-top boxes provided by cable and satellite companies.

“That pretty much squashes any opportunity for innovation because no one is willing to buy a set-top box,” he said.

Mr. Jobs suggested that until those industry dynamics changed, Apple was likely to continue tiptoeing.

“I am sure smarter people than us will figure this out,” he said. “But that’s why, when we say that Apple TV is a hobby, that’s why we use that phrase.”

The revamped Apple TV is expected to have a new user interface and employ the same iOS software used on the iPhone and iPad.

Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.

Steve Jobs is the most understaed man in the iTV biz – and brilliant too.  Read on:

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What’s to come in 2010

Some thoughts and predictions for 2010:

Computers/OS:

Google’s OS and Google’s Browser Chrome will further erode Microsoft’s OS dominance.

Phones:

Google’s Nexus One is not an iPhone killer but what would be much more powerful and meaningful would be for Google to offer a ‘subsidized’ cell phone service through a carrier in exchange for watching ads – no more cell bills. That MIGHT make me give-up my iPhone habit.

TV/Cable:

TV Everywhere will dominate as cable subscribers will WANT to get what they see at home on their PC’s, phones, etc. They will want this because its only a matter of time before Hulu (and other online content aggregators) lose their premium content or require a subscription fee. (Smell Comcast here?). Boxee, Roku, Sezmi and Zillion TV will have tough sledding IF Apple TV hopefully syncs a (rumored) TV subscription service with their upcoming iTablet/iSlate.  Apple MIGHT offer consumers an a-la-carte menu of the best of cable and network TV on their televisions through the AppleTV box, iphones and the iTablet  (along with several newspaper/magazine subscriptions) for a single monthly fee. Their version of  a cable ‘triple-play’ subscription. Do you remember when cable TV was “sold” as a way to escape the ads on free, OTA broadcast TV? Those were the days…

Movies/Music/Web:

iTunes will announce an iTunes web service, thanks to the Lala acquisition. Disney will move forward with their Keychest initiative and so will the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, or DECE. However, only one system will survive this year to avoid consumer confusion.

‘Live’ streaming video and UGV will replace the jpg /gif as the dominant content format of visual sharing online.

Facebook, Hulu, YouTube , Twitter, and other ‘weapons of mass distraction’ these days will be increasingly ‘filtered’ out from the workplace due to too much time by employees during work hours spent on ‘social media’ causing a huge traffic shift in several social networks most notably, Facebook.

Facebook will go public and the IPO will be a huge financial success until Facebook becomes the Borg unless it allows data portability. Its number of users will continue to climb until the network is as large as Google and people will confuse Facebook with “the Internet” like days of old when the internet was ‘AOL’ to many people.

And then one day…

A new social network will rise to join the big ones. It may offer the privacy that Facebook is moving away from; it may be mobile and location-centric; it may focus on personal content recommendations, but it will come and the minnows will swim like fishes to the next ‘big’ new network to be seen and heard on.

We are all ‘Paparazzi’s’ and ‘Jimmy Olsen’s’ now…with the Advent of ‘live’ broadcasting apps on the iphone and android makes paparazzi’s and Jimmy Olsen’s (instant news ‘scoops’) out of us all further diluting the worth of major news org’s that can’t be expected to be everywhere at all times.

Cloud computing heats up. AWS, Google, Microsoft and others begin price wars to compete for customers.

MySpace will try to become as important to online viewers as MTV was to cable subscribers in the 80’s.

MOG and Spotify will invade the US and give iTunes(lala) and MySpace a run for their money.

And hopefully:

Data portability will become more real, standard, expected and viable. Why isnt’ there a way for me to make 1 Avatar, use 1 password and login to store all this info in a central location that my ‘social networks’ and other internet related service use and fetch each time I access these services?  Here is where I’d place all my photos and videos and then simply choose which services get access to which photos and videos. So, when I leave a social network, my ID and photos and videos LEAVE too.  Go ahead and just try moving or populating another social network again with all of your pictures, comments and videos that you’ve uploaded at one time or another. Hard to do and time consuming beyond belief. It would be nice to able to take MY STUFF (and data preferences) with ME with 1 click.

Comments welcome.

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You’ll be able to go to Eagles.com (currently under construction) and get all their songs. They’re going to do it; it’s coming up in about 2 months.

And the music labels thought that the seas of music are calmer these days? Hoping to re-napster themselves and capture licensed music in a bottle this time around, the very core of the labels music is leaking and the ship might never really leave the store. The vast majority of music revenue is generated from its catalog. It sells way more than the current fare released on itunes, etc. ENTER: The copyright monster.

If an artist or author sold a copyright before 1978 (Section 304), they or their heirs can take it back 56 years later. If the artist or author sold the copyright during or after 1978 (Section 203), they can terminate that grant after 35 years. Assuming all the proper paperwork gets done in time, record labels could lose sound recording copyrights they bought in 1978 starting in 2013, 1979 in 2014, and so on. For 1953-and-earlier music, grants can already be terminated.  The Eagles plan to file grant termination notices by the end of the year, according to Law.com.
The record labels have two options for fending off notices of termination, neither of which looks good. The first is to continue to claim that albums are compilations, which doesn’t pass the common-sense test (compilations include songs from different artists), and probably won’t pass legal muster either. The second is to re-record the album in order to create new sound recording copyrights, which would reset the countdown clock at 35 years for copyright grant termination.
But wait, didn’t’ someone just try that? This might sound familiar, because BlueBeat.com employed similar logic in creating new copyrights to Beatles songs — right before it was sued by EMI and a judge barred them from continuing to sell the songs. So the music industry now needs to prepare for a new round of bleeding. And, its not just the Eagles, the same lawyer that represents the Eagles ALSO reps Barbara Streisand, Journey among others. Those three artists alone sell a significant back-catalog of music. Next year, it will all change.

Google will buy Apple by 2011, Part 2

Many of you had some interesting reactions and comments to this prior post. Thanks for your comments. Let me try and explain why I believe this will happen in one form or another in the next 3-4 years. Many of you have stated that Google can’t afford Apple as the market cap is too big for them to swallow today. True. But it’s not today I am talking about. 3 years on the web is like 21 years on the planet (web years and dog years are nearly equivalent). First, as you know things change rapidly on the net faster than anywhere else. Google MAY be able to grab the rest or nearly 100% of the market share in search over the next 3 years – and that share will increase their value (and market cap) tremendously. To do this, they will not need any hardware, nor will they need to introduce any gadgets/phones, what not. Its 100% software driven. And, given that the web will have an increasing percentage of ‘vertical’ search (vs. the Wal-Mart Google engine of today), Google will also begin to focus its sights on those verticals as well with its huge pile of cash. Google will buy their way into any search vertical they might miss. And that doesn’t take into account non-web advertising like billboards, radio, newspapers and traditional TV +. Now, let’s look at Apple. The market for cell phones is in a state of flux. How many iPhones can one buy? Saturation will occur and sales will eventually have to slow. Competition will appear and market share will s-l-o-w down and decrease over time. When Jobs makes the iPhone carrier-neutral, the walls all come down. So, how do you ‘sell’ more cell phones to people that they don’t need? One possibility is to give them away with advertising. Second, while ‘Goople’ may seem far-fetched to us today, lacing cell phones with ads (think Android) AND perhaps computers with ads or instead of buying an office suite from MS, using GoogleDocs with ads instead to help increase market share over the PC doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore. Would I choose to use a cell service that gave me a free handset combined with no monthly charges in exchange for watching a few ads? Could I and would I use that combination to replace my land-line eventually thereby sneaking this combination right into everyone homes? Would I choose to get a free laptop that does the same type of thing? I might. Would developing countries whose cultures don’t have the money to buy computers and cell communications use such a computer or cell phone? I bet they would.

The same way Apple introduced their new thin laptop without the traditional bells and whistles of all other laptops sounds so much like what Google did when they introduced Search and Adwords, then slowly but surely introduced itself into other traditional media, while their competitors just scramble around to keep up, and can’t so far. And finally, a merger or some combination of the two is not unthinkable. Both company cultures are similar in so many ways. So, think a new form or type of combination or new venture between the two. Maybe not an outright purchase NOW, but its not impossible in the future.

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Google will buy Apple by 2011

I believe that Google will buy Apple by 2011 or before. I think this for several reasons. Apple’s multimedia minded strategy fits in well with Google’s long-term media strategy, it would give Google a place on the OS, Apple is affordable for Google, it would be a deal with lot’s of sizzle that Wall St. would most likely embrace, Apple does what it does well (multimedia and .mac’s, iPhone and iPods) and Google does what it does well (advertising, advertising and advertising, wireless spectrum maybe) and both business’s do not appreciably overlap and finally it’s a deal that just seems inevitable. If I only had enough coin to buy a lot of Apple stock and sit on it…(stock price today is 127 )

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iPhone on WiFi for free…experiment over.

My friend who DID have an iPhone that he bought off of eBay that was ‘jailbroken’ finally decided to become ‘legal’. We played with this ‘free’ wifi calls for nearly 6 months. He did save a few coins from his sprint bill, did make and receive calls for free and had practically all of the other goodies on the iPhone working OK, but its not quite there yet. Meaning, we estimated that about 60-70% of all calls were either dropped or not received by him. This made the iPhone really not usable for business and a bit annoying. So, after nearly 6 months, he walked into an ATT store and is now totally legal. We enjoyed hacking the iPhone and making it do what its not suppose to do, but in the end, getting phone calls was key and until wifi gets stronger and the hand-offs’ more seamless, we will wait.

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gPhone update 3

(Courtesy of Bob Cringely):There are two gPhones gphone.jpg slated for release with the first coming in September and the second probably not appearing until after Christmas. Given that the first is the high-end model and the second is cheaper, Google will probably expect to make as much money as possible on the higher-margin units at Christmas before revealing the budget model even exists. How Apple-like, eh?

Both will include WiFi, which makes me wonder if a VoIP client will be there, too. The high-end phone will look somewhat like a Blackberry Pearl, but the screen flips up and there is a keyboard for texting. No word on pricing for the high-end phone, but the second model is intended to be less than $100 — AFTER Christmas.

The actual manufacturer of these gPhones will be Samsung (rumors to this point had indicated HTC, so this is a change) and Google is still talking with both T-Mobile and Verizon as potential carriers (rumors also said Verizon had passed — not). That means there are both GSM and W-CDMA versions in the works. Given AT&T’s success with the iPhone I can’t imagine Verizon will let the gPhone pass, but it will be interesting to see if Google will be able go with a nonexclusive deal and get both U.S. carriers.

Nice ‘eh?