I hate to say I told you so.

Six months ago I suggested that RIM would be giving up its competitive advantage over the iPhone if the eliminated they keyboard.

It seems that now that the BlackBerry Storm is out David Pogue agrees with me:

The first sign of trouble was the concept: a touch-screen BlackBerry. That’s right — in its zeal to cash in on some of that iPhone touch-screen mania, R.I.M. has created a BlackBerry without a physical keyboard.

Hello? Isn’t the thumb keyboard the defining feature of a BlackBerry? A BlackBerry without a keyboard is like an iPod without a scroll wheel. A Prius with terrible mileage. Cracker Jack without a prize inside.


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Mobile? Not so much.

I’m flying to New York on Air Canada tomorrow, and today I received an email telling me that I could check in and print my boarding pass, or I could use their paperless checkin on my mobile phone:

You can now use Web Check-in or Mobile Check-in up to 24 hours prior to departure every time you travel. Select your seat, print your boarding pass, and even stand-by for an earlier flight or upgrade if eligible.

For Mobile Check-in, log on to mobile.aircanada.com and try out our new paperless boarding pass. Be sure to have your boarding reference number (XXXXXX) ready.

So I immediately went to use the mobile checkin on my iPhone, the pre-eminent mobile phone, only to see this message:

Only WML enabled devices are authorized to use this application.

Apparently the folks at Air Canada haven’t yet considered the possibility that mobile users might have full featured browsers.

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So desperate they’re giving them away?

Best Buy Canada currently has a promotion on where purchasers of a 16GB Zune get a free 4Gb Zune:

Best Buy Canada is currently having an online promotion that gives buyers a free 4GB Microsoft Zune music player for every 16GB Zune purchased. The 16GB Zune is priced at $180 CAD (about $141), with the 4GB Zune thrown in for free is valued at nearly $100. Canadian and US 16GB Zunes have recently been reduced to $180, among price drops to other Zune models.

Is it possible that Microsoft is so desperate to increase market share that they are now just giving them away?Strangely the website currently says that they are out of stock, but also claims a quantity remaining of 57.


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Taxing toilets? Wait, you’re serious?

Yes, water experts in Australia want to tax toilets:

HOUSEHOLDERS would be charged for the amount of water they flushed down the drain under a radical new blueprint to cut consumption, the Sunday Mail reports.

The scheme would replace the current regime which sees sewerage charges based solely on a home’s value and not its waste water output.

In Canada sewage charges closely mirror the water input so it is pretty much the same thing. It just sounds worse when you call it a toilet tax, but that’s pretty much what it is.


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Rogers. Where the customer is always wrong.

I’ve been a customer of Rogers Cable since we moved to Canada from Boston. I’ve had a digital cable box for most of that time. The other day I received a letter saying that my digital box may be incorrectly connected. I use it every day so I’m not sure how that could be, but I do often have problems using their On Demand service, so I thought I’d take a look.

The website – rogershelp.com/boxfix – asks me to enter my account number from the upper right hand corner of my bill. My account number looks like this: 9-9999-9999. The application says this:

Your account number does not appear correct – it should follow the format 999-999999999 (3 digits, dash, 9 digits).

Now I’m willing to bet that this is happening because I receive a single bill for all of my Rogers services, but I’m sure that they should know that. So here’s a note for the people at Rogers: Get your act together before you insist that I’m wrong when I do exactly what you tell me to do and it doesn’t work.

But then again, Rogers service sets the bar pretty low so I’ve come to expect very little in the way of actual service. I signed my son up for a new mobile account recently and he got a new phone, which came via courier a few days after I ordered it. We didn’t get around to trying it until almost a month had passed and it didn’t work at all, and I called them about it pretty much on the 30th day after we got it,

Customer service insisted that I only had 30 days to call from the time the phone was purchased, regardless of when I received it, and I would have to send it in to be repaired. I asked them to pass me on to the Customer Relations group. Yes you need to know that it exists and ask for it specifically – they won’t tell you about it. When I explained the problem to these folks they told me that they would send me a new phone and I could return the old one, which seemed to me like the obvious solution.

Honestly, how hard is this kind of thing? Doesn’t it seem like common sense?


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Southern California

I’ve been listening to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys since I was a little kid, and it never fails to brighten my no matter what else is happening. But by far the nicest song I’ve heard in a long time is Southern California from Brian’s new album That Lucky Old Sun.

It’s a sweet ballad about his life with the Beach Boys and how dreams do come true. It does seem to make me want to be in California more than usual.

And as always, it makes my day.


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$337.5 million.

As Mark Evans notes, that’s what you could buy Nortel for yesterday. The entire company.

When I worked for Nortel ten years ago that was what they would pay to acquire a small company. Now the company has essentially been mismanaged into the ground. Yet the executives have benefitted handsomely, often based on what appeared to be completely made up revenue numbers.

I was working for Bay Networks when Nortel bought them. Bay had about 8,000 employees to Cisco’s roughly 18,000, and they were doing about three times our revenue. The merged Bay-Nortel had about 90,000 employees, and Cisco was still beating us every time. I wondered at the time what all of those people did; I can see now that it was mostly nothing since they are somewhere south of 30,000 and the situation is pretty much the same.

Perhaps they’ll make a nice acquisition target for Cisco now, They they can keep the useful products and kill the rest. Then maybe my stock will be worth more than $10. And I don’t mean per share. The current executive team has failed miserably and should just voluntarily resign.


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Shortage of truth?

When I moved to Canada from Boston I went to the state-run liquor store to buy some tequila only to find that a 26 oz bottle was around $45. When I asked why the price was so high, the store staff told me that it was because of a worldwide shortage of tequila. When I was in California a few weeks later, the local BevMo store didn’t seem to be suffering from any shortage, with row upon row of 60 oz bottles for as low as $13.

Clearly there was no worldwide shortage of tequila; it is just an example of liquor price gouging. Even when the Canadian dollar was at par, a bottle of Patron that would be about $40 in the US was selling for $100 Canadian.

Today I saw this article about certain brands of scotch being pulled off the shelves in Canadian liquor stores:

NB Liquor’s spirits sales grew by 3.5 per cent last year to roughly $90 million. So Clendenning said it isn’t as if New Brunswickers aren’t drinking enough scotch, but the supplier is just trying to capitalize on more lucrative countries.

"There are more profitable markets in the world," he said. "I’m told there is a worldwide shortage of scotch that may be driving up these prices."

A price of a bottle of some of the blended scotches starts at $23 and the single-malt scotches went up to $80.

Once again, the dreaded world shortage.You would think that this would be headline news. But lo and behold, a quick Google search shows that the only news about a shortage is the above article. It’s a lot more likely that the more expensive scotches are being replace by those with a higher profit margin.


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Depends what you mean by “buy”.

If you buy something, but you aren’t allowed to resell it to anyone else expect the manufacturer you bought it from, did you really "buy" it? Or are you just leasing it until you return it to the manufacturer?

Motorola seems set to do that with its new Aura mobile phone, contractually limiting you from reselling the phone, except to them, for some as yet unknown price.

With an unprofitable phone business and a just announced layoff of 3000, perhaps this is not the best time for Motorola to antagonize customers with these kinds of ridiculous tactics.


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