The USA’s Federal Communications Commission voted yesterday to allow unlicensed low-power use of "white spaces", the soon to be unused part of the radio frequency spectrum assign to analog TV. This had been requested by Google, Microsoft, and a group of other technological companies who envision it as the basis for national mobile broadband services. It was opposed by broadcasters and other parties who felt that unlicensed white space usage would interfere with their own spectrum usage.
So where’s the pony for Microsoft? Well, since Microsoft currently makes few devices itself, it seems mostly to be hiding in the general growth of the personal electronics industry that a white spaces "Wi-Fi on steroids" would enable. Per Microsoft’s Craig Mundie from before the FCC decision was made:
If the FCC votes in favor of the white spaces rule, Microsoft and other advocates will likely move to "make products as quickly as we possibly can."
He declined to say what those products might be. "There can’t really be a specific plan until there’s a specific ruling," Mundie said.
In a more general sense, however, Mundie speculated that white spaces will enable Microsoft to expand the reach of its Wi-Fi enabled products – from Windows-based laptops with Wi-Fi access to the Zune music sharing component and Windows Mobile.
Back in March, Microsoft submitted a novel device to the FCC which would utilize the unused “white spaces” in the US TV spectrum (which vary from city to city) for portable personal digital communications. Last week, the FCC’s assessment came in and it wasn’t a pretty sight because the prototype failed to correctly detect when frequencies were in use and would thereby cause interference. This week, more details came out it and it was revealed that Microsoft’s prototype was defective:
A flurry of miscellaneous Microsoft News:
For customers who acquired a full or upgrade version of Windows Vista from retail or pre-installed, we’ve got a pretty sweet deal. We’re announcing the Windows Vista Additional License program, which provides the ability to install the same edition of Windows Vista on any other additional computers you may own. The program allows customers to purchase up to 5 additional licenses for PCs they own at 10% off the suggested retail price.
Although slightly more realistic than the Family Discount Plan, it has the same basic problem - the vast majority of consumers will only acquire Vista via a new PC purchase.
Dell launches low-cost PC in China running either Windows XP or Linux. No Vista. Well, Microsoft will still get paid for XP.
Virtualisation causes IDC to cut server forecast. Virtualization allows customers to buy fewer, bigger servers. Both units and revenue are predicted to be down from prior forecasts. There should also be a similar effect on Microsoft’s server revenue.
Microsoft Disappoints Zune Users Waiting For Firmware Update, particularly since it is supposed to fix a “skipping” problem on purchased music.
Windows Live Search Italy gets owned by a truly skillful malware deployment combined with search engine optimization. Check out the screenshots too. The problem of bogus websites in search results is a problem for all search engines though, as some Microsoft researchers demonstrated.
You may recall an odd device under development by Microsoft that caused a stir in early February when it was mistaken for a Zune phone. Well, it’s back in the news and may cause even a bigger stir as John Letzing explains at MarketWatch:
When Microsoft Corp. delivers a mysterious prototype for government testing this coming week, it will mark a crucial juncture for a high-stakes bid to change the way consumers get their Internet access.
That bid has cast Microsoft and a group of powerful allies from Silicon Valley in the relatively unfamiliar role of Washington policy players.
Microsoft’s prototype, delivered on behalf of the group, is a wireless device that could provide the public with free and more widespread access to the Web instead of relying on networks owned by big telecom and cable firms.
That breakthrough, tapping into an unused part of the nation’s airwaves, is politically charged because it threatens to shift the Internet-access business away from telecom and cable companies that are historically well-connected in Washington, throwing open the field to a brand new batch of competitors.
It all hinges on how well the prototype performs in tests by the Federal Communications Commission. Microsoft and allies must prove that such devices, which can connect users via unlicensed portions of the nation’s wireless spectrum known as white spaces, won’t interfere with airwaves that major license holders acquired for large sums. While the FCC is obligated to protect license holders from such interference, several “white spaces” bills introduced in Congress have placed added pressure on the commission to wrap up the tests in a hurry.
Analysts say that if the white-space group succeeds, consumers could see a flood of new devices enabling them to bypass the networks of incumbent service providers like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to get online. White spaces, which sit between bands used for TV, could theoretically be licensed; but the tech group is explicitly pushing to allow unlicensed use — or use similar to picking up WiFi signals at a cafe.
The group lined up with Microsoft includes Google, HP, Dell, and Intel which, while mighty in the tech world, are novices in the corridors of power compared to the telecoms and cable companies. The opposition is already on the case as well they might be:
“The telephone companies are terrified they’ll lose 40% of their wireless minutes, because you’ll be able to connect from work or home and bypass their wireless networks,” said J.H. Snider, research director of the wireless future program at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based policy institute that has long advocated to allow use of white spaces.
There’s much more in the full article, but the FCC has until July to complete testing and may decide on the matter by October.