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Traveling tube

Technology | The mobile phone industry is promising its new phones will be able to receive TV-like content

Issue: "Rathergate," Sept. 25, 2004

Mobile phones will soon work as mobile TVs. That's the dream of Motorola, Nokia, and other manufacturers, who joined forces to create a broadcast standard for wireless handsets.

The Mobile Broadcast Services partnership, which also includes NEC, Siemens, and Sony Ericsson, promises a new generation of phones able to receive "TV-like content," such as home movies, news broadcasts, and live sports. These updated gadgets would have extra memory and high-resolution color screens.

Mobile TV is already appearing in Japan, which is usually one or two years ahead of the United States in phone technology. The partners also expect to see the service debut in Europe late next year.

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Sony and Nokia are part of an experiment in the United Kingdom that will deliver 16 TV channels next spring to the Oxford area. The test will help gauge phone users' interest as they receive conventional programming ranging from comedy and drama to news and sports.

The move toward mobile TV is partially fueled by a desire to attract more customers using the latest technology in a bulging market. If successful, the technology will make the up-and-coming smartphone even more powerful.

Soft target

Microsoft's antitrust battles are going local. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other California cities and counties are suing the software giant for allegedly charging too much for its products.

The accusations are familiar to anyone who has followed the ongoing legal brouhaha over Microsoft's Windows monopoly: abuse of market control, anti-competitive actions, and predatory tactics. The plaintiffs want a judge to approve the case as a class-action lawsuit, which could cost Microsoft billions if it succeeds. They want compensation for software purchased as long ago as 1995.

Such a filing is odd, considering that a San Francisco judge last July approved a $1.1 billion settlement between Microsoft and California consumers over similar issues. The company agreed to hand out up to $1.1 billion in vouchers for computer products.

Microsoft has faced suits in at least 16 other states. Several of these cases were settled, including a $104 million settlement in Arizona, a $34 million deal in Massachusetts, and a $31.5 million agreement in New Mexico. Critics say these suits are simply a way to tap the coffers of a cash-rich conglomerate.

These court cases may do more to hurt Microsoft's image than its finances. With major Windows improvements delayed, the company must work to show that "innovation" is more than a corporate buzzword.

Bits & Megabytes

  • German teenager who told authorities he created the Sasser computer worm was been charged with computer sabotage. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Eighteen-year-old Sven Jaschan took advantage of a flaw in Windows and created a bug that attacked tens of thousands of computers. The malicious program required no human "assistance" from someone opening an e-mail attachment; it scanned the internet looking for vulnerable machines and copied itself to victims' hard drives.
  • Auto insurer Progressive Corp. is promising discounts of up to 25 percent to 5,000 motorists who agreed to install "black boxes," experimental data recorders that track their driving habits. Each gadget detaches from the car and connects to an ordinary PC for sending a digital diary to the company. Ohio-based Progressive says it will not use uploaded reports to penalize drivers with risky behavior.
  • Once-powerful video game maker Acclaim Entertainment, which published "Mortal Kombat," "NBA Jam," and other titles for home consoles, is planning bankruptcy liquidation after telling a New York court that it has over $100 million in debts. The company received heated criticism in recent years over a raunchy BNX racing game that featured nudity. Acclaim was also one of the first major developers to show blood in a home console game.

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