November 29, 2000 5:55 PM   Subscribe

<drool> Oh boy, do I want one of these. Unless, of course, the idiots at Kyocera/Qualcomm blew it again, and *didn't* make it capable of using CDPD to get to the Internet. [calls, gets wrong answer, screeches loudly enough that everyone on MeFi can hear...]
posted by baylink (17 comments total)
Jeezus Keerist, am I tired of wireless carriers.

No, the phone doesn't do CDPD.

It does CDMA-Data, which is *not* static IP, is connection-oriented, and worst -- unlike Verizon Wireless (formerly GTE Mobilenet)'s CDPD for Palm service ($25 a month all you can drink) -- those connection minutes come out of your airtime budget.

[ anguished wail ]

When are these people *ever* going to get it together?

I'm going to call the product line manager tomorrow and ask him whether he's prepared to defend the anti-trust lawsuit when I accuse his corporation of colluding with the airtime carriers to drive up revenue at the customer's expense.
posted by baylink at 5:59 PM on November 29, 2000

Of course it doesn't do CDPD. If you want CDPD, get a sled from OmniSky or Novatel directly to put on your Palm. Alternatively, get both a VisorPhone module and a CDPD module for your visor.

- old and an analog overlay.
- The CDPD network is not being built out anymore
- cranky. Ask an OmniSky user.
- available in, what, 60% of US?
- available from AT&T and Verizon only

The reason Verizon CDPD is $25/month unlimited (and that OmniSky is $40/month) is that the network is old and they're trying to get *somebody* to use it before they tear it down. They've been trying for years to get anybody to use it.

CDMA is a *voice* network, and the Kyocera phone is, after all, a phone. As you might realize as a mobile phone user, there's a limited amount of mobile phone capacity -- that's what those dropped calls and unanswered calls are about. Every time you tie up a circuit for a data call, a voice call can't be made. If you're not paying by the minute = lost revenue.

[Folks in the industry will also tell you over drinks this is the same reason why publicized 128K-512K wireless data rates will be a fiction for a while. You'd be using the entire capacity of the base station meaning and telco will have to charge you 10x a voice call rate for the privilege.]

If you want to tell me that paying circuit-switched rates for data is crazy, or that we should all be using packet data networks, or that flat-rate is the ultimate way to go, or that Ricochet will give you up to 128K right now: I absolutely agree.

That being said, it's a cool Palm phone that's a lot better than the original pdQ.

posted by troyer at 8:00 PM on November 29, 2000

still doesn't have a built-in MP3 player though...tisk tisk
posted by physics at 8:57 PM on November 29, 2000

I also want to have the makers of car ignition systems and door lock systems create an electronic bypass so I can just Graffiti in a PIN, point the IR, and open up the door.

I also want a downloadable Visa / Mastercard / Amex / Cirrus app so that, also with a PIN, I can use the Palm and the IR as my credit cards and ATM card.

Bottom line: replace wallet, PDA, phone and keys with one appliance, with a roll of $20s and singles in my pocket as the security blanket.

But maybe I'm just a dreamer...
posted by MattD at 6:59 AM on November 30, 2000

We engineers have a saying: "Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself."
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:53 AM on November 30, 2000

Every time you tie up a circuit for a data call, a voice call can't be made. If you're not paying by the minute = lost revenue.

Yes, I understand that. Why do you think is that I'm so incensed that there's a perfectly serviceable non-circuit-switched alternative that this Smartphone can use that the only one wasn't technically capable of using (the new one has an 800 AMPS RF deck; the old one was CDMA-1900 only) and yet, they're still *not* using it?

It's this simple: Wireless IP has to be packet-based. There's no rational excuse for trying to do it as a circuit based overlay, certainly not in a new air-interface design.

And indeed, the GPRS folks appear to know this.

As for CDPD, does anyone have documentary evidence about what the actual fill percentages are?

Or anecdotal evidence about how well they actually work, with enough data points to give statistical significance?

As for I also want to have the makers of car ignition systems and door lock systems create an electronic bypass so I can just Graffiti in a PIN, point the IR, and open up the door....

do it yourself. There's an SSH client for the Palm; building a system around that oughtn't be too difficult.
posted by baylink at 12:41 PM on November 30, 2000

I used to work with bank machines, and CDPD was used for bank machines that went on ferries, handheld Interac devices in restaurants, and basically any other Interac device that was wireless.

In Canada, it was only available from Manitoba on westward (places where Telus is the telecom), and in the Atlantic provinces (not sure of the telecom there, since we didn't actually have any CDPD devices out east). Ontario and Quebec use a different standard.

At the point I left (december 99) there were some 50 devices using CDPD that we controlled. A few of them (10?) were floating Casinoes, and they'd do a transaction every 2 minutes, on average.

CDPD itself never caused a problem, any problems we had with them were configuration issues, with the device itself or with our side of things.

It's anecdotal, but not really enough data points, considering the vast amount of space from Manitoba to BC.
posted by cCranium at 1:32 PM on November 30, 2000

I'm going to call the product line manager tomorrow and ask him whether he's prepared to defend the anti-trust lawsuit when I accuse his corporation of colluding with the airtime carriers to drive up revenue at the customer's expense.

That's Kottke's job. :-)
posted by ethmar at 2:44 PM on November 30, 2000

Baylink, since I worked for three years in the group at Qualcomm which designs phones, before it was sold to Kyocera, I can speak with some small knowledge on this subject and make the following simple declaration:

You don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about.

I'm sorry, but that's the simple truth. There's far more to it than you realize. What you think is "obviously simple", isn't.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:50 PM on November 30, 2000

Well, Steven, *that* was informative. Do expand, won't you? I have plenty of free time, and everyone else can ignore the rest of the thread...
posted by baylink at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2000

It's this simple: Wireless IP has to be packet-based. There's no rational excuse for trying to do it as a circuit based overlay, certainly not in a new air-interface design.

Actually, I imagine the rational excuse is that these device makers and service providers have invested heavily in CDMA and aren't willing to throw away that investment by using another technology. If they can make everyone use their inferior (for wireless IP) technology that they've already invested in, they can make oodles of cash. That's their rational excuse.
posted by daveadams at 8:25 AM on December 1, 2000

Baylink, the reasons why are proprietary and I signed an NDA as part of my employment contract. Despite the fact that I'm no longer employed there, the NDA still holds. And my professional ethics do not permit me to reveal proprietary info about former employers anyway.

Just this: there's a lot more going on in the phone than you understand. There really are very good reasons why they did what they did.

I can say the following things:

1. CDPD is privately owned and would have had to have been licensed. Those kinds of license fees are usually per-unit; it would have raised the sales price of the phone. These products are very price sensitive; one of the reasons pdQ failed was that it was too expensive.

2. Implementing it would have required time, engineers, ROM and RAM -- and all of those are in very short supply.

But those are the less important reasons. I am not at liberty to tell you most of the reasons why it would have been a blunder.

By the way: the Palm and the phone use separate CPUs with separate memory spaces. It could not have been implemented in the Palm; that's architecturally impossible. It couldn't have been an "optionally load into the Palm's RAM" kind of thing. It would have to have been implemented in the phone's CPU.

I'm not at liberty to reveal any more than that.

When you see some company do something you don't like, don't necessarily assume they're idiots. Maybe they actually know more about it than you do and maybe they really do have good reasons for what they did.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:22 AM on December 1, 2000

Those good reasons are usually "we can stiff more money out of the users if we do it this way", alas.

It's ok, though; that usually ends up translating as "we don't mind alienating the 90% of the possible customer base that aren't early adopters and will actually make us some *money* on the things.

I'm aware that the phone and Palm are separate devices; I don't recall suggesting that I thought otherwise.

As for licensing the protocol, nothing I've seen in some fairly indepth investigation of CDPD suggested that the air interface was patented or copyright in anyway.

As I noted above, though, it doesn't matter in the long run; it's just another poor architectural implementation decision that will backfire on a company and lose it money. It frustrates me, sure, because I *like* Qualcomm and DSSS inherently... but it doesn't frustrate me any more than a QCP-1900 that loses calls in a 4-bar signal area because I'm on a bridge and it can see *too many* cells at once. Or at least, that's what PrimeCo's engineering people told me...

The audience that a device like this is *really* intended for will tolerate having to wait until they get what they're looking for.

The problem, of course, is that the "real customers" will have been burned too many times by then, and won't buy it even once they've done it right.

As for whether CDPD is *usable* or not, I did a reasonably extensive websearch last night for "Omnisky experiences". Overall they were pleased... most of the horror stories I saw concerned setup teething pains, not usability and coverage.

A search of roughly similar depth for "PDQ phone experiences" turned up a lot of pieces about how great it was going to be, a few allusions to how much it sucked, and no user reports that I could find.

So... *which* service is more useful on a portable with a full size screen and TCP apps?
posted by baylink at 5:39 PM on December 2, 2000

I'm sorry, but you're still completely off target. (You're not even close.)

But I regret that I cannot tell you why. You can believe or disbelieve, but despite what you think this was not a stupid decision by Kyocera.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:51 PM on December 2, 2000

Jeepers, Steven, it sounds like you're going to wait 'til you can baptise Baylink before spreading the Good Word. :-)

Are there any white papers or other research that you're aware of that you could point us to ('cause it's not just Baylink that's interested in this, he's just doin' most of the talking :-) that would help us understand the decision a little more, or it is all under lock and key?

I do appreciate the constraints of a NDA and (more importantly) your respect for the former employer's proprietary information, but I'm still curious.
posted by cCranium at 4:34 AM on December 3, 2000

Look, it goes like this:

All companies have things they want to do, and a certain amount of resources available with which to accomplish them.

There's always more you want to do then there are resources to accomplish them with. You have to prioritize. Perfectly good features are not going to get done because there aren't enough people to do them and other things are more important.

You evaluate each potential product and feature across your entire business in terms of its anticipated expense, its riskiness, and its potential for increasing sales and profit. Then you assign your resources so as to minimize risk and maximize profit.

All of this discussion by Baylink has been based on the assumption that this is the only product this company has, or that this company has infinite resources. That's not so. He's been discussing this particular feature in a vacuum, and that's not real.

It would have required a certain number of engineers a certain amount of time to implement this feature. What other things could those engineers have been doing at the same time, perhaps on completely different products? Would that alternative effort have been less risky and more profitable? THAT is the kind of thing I can't talk about.

See what I mean? The decision may not have had anything whatever to do with the actual merits of CDPD as a consumer feature at all; it may have been based on other things entirely which to an outsider would seem completely unrelated. Indeed, they may have thought it was a good idea -- except that there were other ideas on other projects/products which were better (read "less risk, more profit"), and not enough engineers to do everything.

Baylink is not in a position to judge whether this was a good decision because Baylink is not privy to what other products and plans the company has and how many resources they have available. And that's why I said "You don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about." If they had implemented CDPD, what would they not have implemented and how much money would they have lost because of it? Baylink doesn't know, therefore Baylink can't actually judge whether this was a smart decision or a stupid one. All he really knows is that he wants this feature and didn't get it. But his interests and Kyocera's interests don't necessarily coincide. What's best for Baylink isn't necessarily best for Kyocera, and vice versa.

There are other issues, too, but I really can't talk about them at all. This at least I can talk about in general terms.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:34 AM on December 3, 2000

Smart decision == "design in features that people will want to, and be able to, use given *their* consumer budgets" be they corporate or personal.

If people won't buy it because it's not cost effective to use it, then the reasons the product line manager and his team had for not choosing to implement the more widely rolled-out and billed-in-a-more-popular-manner data technology don't really matter a damn.

And yes, I *can* make that judgement from outside the black box. Reliably. Because, you see, it really doesn't matter to me what those reasons are. By inspection, I can see that wireless Internet access has remained and will remain a curiosity -- certainly not a big enough market to support the sales quantities necessary to produce a consumer device -- unless and until it can be sold on a flat rate basis.

Just as wired access did.

That it *can* be sold on that basis is already proven by the CDPD carriers. As for build-out; CDPD uses the AMPS-800 RF infrastructure, with some added data modems and a processor in each cell site. You can bet cash that if it caught fire even more than it has -- as the introduction of yet another round of "consumer products" would help ensure -- that the carriers who still operate the AMPS-800 analog gear could and would build out fairly rapidly to cover the areas they don't already cover.

As for "licensing fees" -- CDPD is, as I'd forgotten until I read this paper, an ANSI standard.

So that licensing fee is about $200 to buy the standards document. If you're disinclined to do it yourself.

I would be *very* surprised if the hardware in the 6035 couldn't be made to do CDPD without too overly much extra firmware, just based on that general knowledge of such systems that Steven firmly believes I don't have.
posted by baylink at 9:42 PM on December 6, 2000

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