advertisement
advertisement

Tech Watch: McCain Gets Telecom Favor; HP’s New Touch Laptops; BlackBerry Storm Takes on Palm

Did John and Cindy McCain receive special consideration, and free equipment, from Verizon and AT&T?

Did Telecoms Give McCain Special Treatment?

advertisement
advertisement

The Washington Post recently broke a story about the race between Verizon and AT&T to provide free and improved mobile phone service on the property of Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). Verizon first sought to install a permanent tower on a piece of property volunteered by Cindy McCain, but after much trouble (including a 200-page environmental assessment and the hiring of consultants, sub-contractors and archaeologists), abandoned the project because “it didn’t make sense,” according to a Verizon spokesman.

Instead, the company rolled in a portable truck-mounted tower for free. AT&T quickly did the same thing, also for free. Both companies are saying they’re responding to the requirements of press and Secret Service in the area because of the presidential race, but as Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said in the Post‘s article, “this was something that was being addressed before we were out there.”

As Joshua Green of the Atlantic notes, “Verizon plainly went to considerable effort and expense to pursue building a permanent tower on the McCains’ ranch,” thanks to Mrs. McCain’s efforts, and it was well underway as recently as August.

This could be a perceived conflict of interest, as the Post article explains: “Ethics lawyers said Cindy McCain’s dealings with the wireless companies stand out because her husband is a senior member of the Senate commerce committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. He has been a leading advocate for industry-backed legislation, fighting regulations and taxes on telecommunication services.”

The McCain campaign has yet to comment.

HP Denies Wrong-doing; Readies Touch Laptops

advertisement

HP obviously has a fetish for touchscreen technology, as evidenced by its nifty and well-received TouchSmart PC. Rumors have been brewing for a while that the company is going to port the technology to its mobile products, and now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that “people familiar with the matter” are tipping the paper that such a laptop will be ready by the end of this year.

The consumer-oriented touchscreen portable will not be just another convertible tablet PC, according to the Journal‘s sources. To get the design right, HP is said to be getting help from boutique design house Frog Design, which will help with both the look-and-feel of hardware and software. HP is also said to be working on a touchscreen mobile phone for European markets, and later the US, as well as a new 10-inch netbook.

Its interest in netbooks has been the source of some scandal lately, with DigiTimes accusing the company of using its heavyweight status with manufacturers to strongarm them into refusing business with Eee PC-maker Asus. HP’s people have denied the charge, saying, “HP did not send out any notice, nor did it communicate in any manner to its manufacturing partners that they not accept orders from Asustek,” and adding, “HP has strong ‘standards of business’ and policies and competes fairly in the market.”

RIM May Produce a Palm-Killer

Plenty of people are impressed with RIM’s new BlackBerry Storm, the company’s first touchscreen device. Unlike its competitors — Apple’s iPhone and now T-Mobile and Google’s G1 — the Storm has a responsive touchscreen that depresses slightly under your finger, and gives you gentle haptic feedback so you know you’ve clicked something. If that sounds like a lot of nonsense, you might be one of the consumers that RIM is apparently targeting with its next touchscreen offering: a hybrid, Palm-like device that combines a sizable touchscreen with a full QWERTY BlackBerry keyboard.

RIM itself hasn’t made these intentions public, but Boy Genius Report is reporting that their sources say the device will be announced at the BlackBerry conference WES 2009, which happens early next May. And while this isn’t official info, it’s worth noting that BGR has a pretty impeccable record with their BlackBerry leaks.

advertisement

It’s also worth noting that, whatever its intentions, RIM is horrible at bringing products to market within a scheduled timeframe. What is reasonably sure, however, is that when the device shows up, it will feature a screen similar to that of the BlackBerry Bold, only slightly larger, and touch-enabled. The device will come with 3G HDSPA data speeds, and be about the size of the present iteration of the Curve 8900 (but perhaps thinner). The hybrid phone is being called by the codename Pluto and will be model number 9900.

advertisement
advertisement