Prepaid Data from Walmart/Alltel/US Cellular

U.S. Cellular and Alltel Wireless have joined with Wallmart to offer a no contract wireless service, in select Walmart Stores across 18 states beginning in May. The alliance, said to be the first of its kind in the industry, offers customers flexible payment options without signing a contract.

“Teaming with Alltel to gain distribution in Walmart gives us another opportunity to be where our customers want to shop and to offer more customers a prepaid service that helps them control their monthly budgets,” said Carter S. Elenz, executive vice president of sales and customer service for U.S. Cellular. “U Prepaid customers with U.S. Cellular will be backed by our high-speed network, which has the highest call quality and network satisfaction of any national carrier.”

The new alliance provides Walmart customers simplified, easy-to-understand service plan choices. Depending on where customers live, the U Prepaid service will run on either U.S. Cellular’s high-speed national network or Alltel’s advanced coast-to-coast network.

Four devices have been announced to go along with the launch of U Prepaid, including the Samsung Repp smartphone, Samsung Chrono, LG Attune/Exchange, and LG Saber. The plans will offer data and text package options in addition to voice and can work nationwide, but other details, like cost, have yet to be announced. U Prepaid is expected to launch in May.

According to Prepaid Reviews, in 2008 Alltel was the fifth-largest mobile operator in the United States, behind AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. During the year Verizon purchased the company, and the sale closed in January 2009. Most Alltel markets have since migrated to Verizon.

While the majority of markets have switched to Verizon, there are still a number of markets in which Alltel still operates. This includes their prepaid service.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless said Monday that it will offer a new $80 prepaid plan, offering unlimited talk, texting, and 1GB of data. Verizon’s new prepaid plan will be exclusively available on their Samsung Illusion which will cost $169.99. Verizon will begin the plan on May 1, at Best Buy, Target, RadioShack, and Walmart, the company said.

In addition, Verizon added a new prepaid Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot data plan. Prepaid 4G LTE Mobile Broadband plans are $15 for 250 MB of data weekly, $60 for 3 GB of data monthly or $90 for 10 GB of data monthly. Verizon recently launched an international roaming plan, as well.

Samsung and LG Announce Cloud Services

Just before Samsung launches its cloud service, Korea’s other technology giant has unveiled LG Cloud. LG’s cloud service offers 5GB free space as standard, while owners of LG’s Smart TVs or smartphones will get 50GB free for six months.

LG’s cloud service allows users to upload their content to the company’s servers and stream it to all of their devices. It will be compressed to save your phone’s data cap but remain in high definition for televisions. The free beta begins in South Korea and the US from May 1st, reports Engadget. LG Electronics is focusing more on Android smartphones, with Microsoft’s Windows Phone taking a back seat, reports Fierce Wireless.

The LG Cloud Android app (no announcements for iOS), will be able to download from Google Play or LG Smart World. The app automatically synchronizes what’s on your smartphone with LG’s back end, allowing you to view it on other devices “almost instantaneously.” 3D video and photos are supported.

The company says that LG Cloud will be available in both free and paid varieties, but that pricing plans will vary from market to market. Samsung’s S-Cloud service launches on May 3.

Engadget compares the newly announced Google Drive with Dropbox, Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud.

The Verge has a a cloud sync storage face-off between Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive, SugarSync, and others.

Digital Public Library of America

Google’s ambitious book-scanning program is foundering in the courts, says Technology Review. Now a Harvard-led group is launching its own sweeping effort to put our literary heritage online, called Digital Public Library of America

In 2002, the Google cofounder decided that it was time for his young company to scan all the world’s books into its database. If printed texts weren’t brought online, he feared, Google would never fulfill its mission of making the world’s information “universally accessible and useful.”

In 2004, Page and his colleagues went public with their project, which they would later name Google Book Search—a reminder that the company, at least originally, thought of the service essentially as an extension of its search engine. Five of the world’s largest research libraries, including the New York Public Library and the libraries of Oxford and Harvard, signed on as partners.

The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers sued Google, claiming that copying entire books, even with the intent of showing only a few lines of text in search results, constituted “massive” copyright infringement.

Google then made a fateful choice. Instead of going to trial and defending Book Search on grounds that it amounted to “fair use” of copyright-protected material—a case that some legal scholars believe it might have won—it negotiated a sweeping settlement with its adversaries. In 2008, the company agreed to pay large sums to authors and publishers in return for permission to develop a commercial database of books.

That only deepened the controversy. Librarians and academics lined up to oppose the deal. Many authors asked that their works be exempted from it. The U.S. Justice Department raised antitrust concerns. Foreign publishers howled.

Robert Darnton soon became the most eminent and influential critic of the Book Search settlement, writing articles and giving lectures in opposition to the deal.

His criticism was as withering as it was learned. Google Book Search, he maintained, was “a commercial speculation” that, under the liberal terms of the settlement, seemed fated to grow into “a hegemonic, financially unbeatable, technologically unassailable, and legally invulnerable enterprise that can crush all competition.” It would become “a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel, but of access to information.”

If libraries and universities worked together, Darnton argued, with funding from charitable foundations, they could build a true digital public library of America.

Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society eagerly accepted Darnton’s challenge. It announced late in 2010 that it would coördinate an effort to build the Digital Public Library of America and turn the Enlightenment dream into an Information Age reality.

However, the DPLA’s decision to call itself a “public library” has raised hackles. No consensus has been reached, for example, on the extent to which the DPLA will host digitized books on its own servers, as opposed to providing pointers to digital collections stored on the computers of other libraries and archives. Nor has the steering committee made a firm decision about which materials other than books will be included in the library.

Microsoft Buys B&N’s Nook Business

Microsoft is making a $300 million investment in a new subsidiary of Barnes & Noble that will include all of its Nook business as well as its educational College business, valuing the company at $1.7 billion in exchange for around 17.6 percent equity in the subsidiary, reports Tech Crunch.

Barnes & Noble will own approximately 82.4% of the new subsidiary, which will have an ongoing relationship with the company’s retail stores. Barnes & Noble has not yet decided on the name of Newco.

According to the Microsoft press release:

One of the first benefits for customers will be a NOOK application for Windows 8, which will extend the reach of Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore by providing one of the world’s largest digital catalogues of e-Books, magazines and newspapers to hundreds of millions of Windows customers in the U.S. and internationally.

The inclusion of Barnes & Noble’s College business is an important component of Newco’s strategic vision. Through the newly formed Newco, Barnes & Noble’s industry leading NOOK Study software will provide students and educators the preeminent technology platform for the distribution and management of digital education materials in the market.

Barnes & Noble and Newco will have a royalty-bearing license under Microsoft’s patents for its NOOK eReader and Tablet products. This paves the way for both companies to collaborate and reach a broader set of customers.

Amazon already offers a version of its Kindle reader app for Windows 8. Currently, Barnes & Noble relies on a customized version of Google’s Android operating system for products such as the Nook Color. It’s not clear if the new B&N company might opt to use Microsoft software going forward given the new partnership.

What Apple is attempting to do with free software and limited distribution is bound to fail, said Bill McCoy, executive director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), a global trade and standards organization for the promotion of electronic publishing.

The IDPF developed the EPUB 3 e-book file format that Apple’s free iBooks Author seems to adhere to when it creates an e-book file.

“To limit the distribution of an EPUB file to only Apple’s channel would be the equivalent of Google saying that you can only use the HTML created with Google Docs on the Google Chrome browser,” said McCoy.

EPUB 3 is built on HTML 5, which means that publishers can build JavaScript into their books. If allowed, remote data calls through JavaScript embedded in an EPUB 3 e-book will open up a whole new world of customer information and customer interaction for book publishers. The Nook platform supports E-Pub-2 and may eventually support the full EPUB 3 spec as well. Amazon’s Kindle, in contrast, does not currently support Epub-2.

Asus and Nvidia described a $250 tablet with Android 4.0, a 1280-x-800-resolution IPS display; 1GB of RAM; micro-USB, micro-HDMI and microSD ports; and two cameras, including an 8-megapixel rear-facing lens. Google is rumored to be working with Asus on a 7-in. tablet priced around the $150 to $200 range. The Google I/O conference this June might be a good time to announce such a product.

Amazon’s $200 Kindle Fire tablet has sold exceedingly well. Amazon sold 6 million of the $199 Kindle Fire in the fourth quarter, a Stifel Nicolaus analyst said. comScore says the Amazon Kindle Fire is 54.4% of US Android tablets.

Meanwhile, Apple sold 15.4 million iPad tablets in the last quarter of 2011, more than double the number it sold for the same period in 2010.

Gartner forecasts Android tablet sales increasing eight-fold over the next five years, but iSuppli says Apple will maintain a dominant market share. They predict total global media tablet shipments will reach 124 million units in 2012, up 90 percent from 65 million in 2011, with shipments projected to increase to 197 million in 2013, to 250 million in 2014, to 285 million in 2015 and to 311 million in 2016.

Forrester Research estimates e-books will generate $2.8 billion dollars in sales in the United States by 2015. That’s well up from 2009’s $301 million. And as of February, about 21 percent of American adults reported reading an e-book during the previous 12 months, a four-percentage-point increase from December, according to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project.

iPad and Android media tablet users have become and will remain avid app users over the next five years, says ABI Research, averaging more than 31 downloads per year per media tablet.

Falcone On The Way Out?

Hedge fund manager Philip Falcone is expected to eventually step aside as the public face of LightSquared in an effort to keep the foundering wireless broadband effort from defaulting on debt, The Wall Street Journal reports.

UPDATE: CNN reports Philip Falcone, founder of hedge fund Harbinger Capital Management, told investors Monday that he would soon cede control of LightSquared. Though he didn’t give a specific timeframe, Falcone said LightSquared will be handed over to an independent board.

The move is expected to prompt the company’s lenders to approve a debt extension that would keep the company from having to file for bankruptcy protection, reports C/Net. The holders of LightSquared’s $1.6 billion in debt have given Falcone until 10 a.m. Monday to strike a deal for restructuring Harbinger’s 96 percent equity control of the company, reports Reuters.

Falcone’s Harbinger Capital fund is the largest stakeholder in LightSquared. He said earlier this month that bankruptcy protection is one of several options he is considering as he tries to keep the company alive.

The Reston, Va., company suffered a possibly fatal blow in February when the FCC announced it would “suspend indefinitely” the startup’s conditional waiver to operate after it was determined that LightSquared’s interference with other devices, including GPS devices, was unavoidable.

FCC Kills Narrowbanding Deadline

Public-safety radio networks, operating on the T-Band (470–512 MHz), will not be subject to the narrowbanding deadline at the end of the year, the FCC stated in a public notice released yesterday.

The FCC narrowbanding rules had many state agencies worried. Expensive, state-wide, public safety radio networks, used by state police, highway departments and other public service and commercial users, would have to be trashed.

The FCC required all users of those networks to transition from 25 MHz-wide channels to 12.5 MHz-wide channels by the end of 2012. Replacing all the transmitters and receivers would have cost millions. Furthermore, new legislation would take the 470–512 MHz band away in ten years. Some police chiefs argued it was a waste of money.

When public service agencies nationwide were given the “D-Block” for LTE, legislators took away the T-Band. Public service users would have to vacate that spectrum entirely within 10 years, but that was not enough time to make new narrowband equipment cost/effective.

“Continuing to require narrowbanding could force many licensees in the band to invest in narrowband systems that may subsequently have to be relocated,” the FCC states in its public notice. “We conclude that it would be inequitable and contrary to the public interest to require PLMR licensees to meet the January 1, 2013, narrowbanding deadline with respect to frequencies in the 470–512 MHz band.”

The FCC public notice reiterated the agency’s intention to maintain requirements for narrowbanding in the other impacted bands, such as 150 MHz, which is often used by agencies such as the forest service.

Related stories on DailyWireless include; Public Service Gives Up 470-512 Mhz, FCC Gets White Space Autonomy, D-Block Gets a Hearing, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, State of the Spectrum, Phoney Spectrum Crisis?, Oregon’s $600M Public Safety Network Likely Killed