September 2002


The latest news from California finds that state government has weighed in on the topic of mobile spam. A law! A law! Perhaps the good people of California will be protected from spam as long as there is legislation! Unfortunately, instead of attaching the ‘death penalty’ (perhaps the only true deterrent), ‘those people who receive mobile spam will be able to sue the sender to recoup the money spent to receive each unwanted message.’

With an amazing sense of timing, The Register also reported this week that a recent poll showed that nearly 90% of companies surveyed aims to increase their spending on ‘email marketing’ in the next year.

One may argue that there are more costs associated with mobile spam. It often costs real money in SMS fees or packet charges. Fetching your email from an internet server via mobile phone costs more. Spam consumes resources, in either a wireless or fixed line environment. But rather than enact a powerless and unenforceable law from government (good for press releases, but not much else), attack the problem from the mobile ISP side. If the people really want to be protected, the carriers will find a way to work through the problem in order to gain a competive advantage over the other carriers. Screen bulk attempts to access their servers. Allow users to register spammers and automatically block. Stop assigning the phone’s number as a permanent email address that can’t be changed (doesn’t anyone learn from the NTT DoCoMo experience in Japan?)

I think the real reason we see this is that Gov. Gray Davis must have received one of those unsolicited adverts for a Brittany Spears ‘video’ that he couldn’t explain to his wife…

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Last Wednesday the topic lit up the news services… Motorola security breach allows their 2003 plans to be published to the internet (see Yahoo! and similar news stories). But as quickly as the uproar started, it subsided and all of the ‘leaks’ have been plugged and the sites that originally published the information have removed it, presumably at Motorola’s urging.

But what exactly to make of all of this?

Anyone who has been anywhere around the Product Planning function of a large consumer electronics company knows that they have a great propensity to create wild fantastic product roadmaps with frequent wild wholesale changes to major blocks of features. Pretty easy to move things around in a PowerPoint presentation! Models come in and out of vogue with each iteration and conversation. The phones described were a wide range of models with features packed everywhere like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, plugin cameras, and multiple Symbian-based smartphones. So the information that was seen was likely speculative, dated, and not necessarily the basis of the engineering work in progress, even if it did come from a Motorola source.

But how exactly did it find its way on to a message board in the first place?

* Motorola itself? Not exactly in the habit of giving any useful information, let alone mistakenly posting sensitive confidential loot.
* Corporate espionage? But if you did all of the work to steal the secrets, you don’t give it away to everyone else for free.
* A disgruntled employee (or ex-employee)? What would they expect this to do to wound their former master?
* A partner company or carrier employee? I doubt if complete plans are given to anyone outside Motorola, and certainly they are going to know that it will be obvious where the leak came from.

So, my current guess is that this is a red herring. A little positive press about all of the wonderful inovations that are just around the corner from a company who’s stock has been in the dumpster for a while. Look at all of the wonderful things that will be shipping soon. And the best part is, the products don’t actually ever have to exist. Sometimes perception is reality, right?

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