Just weeks after threatening (and then backing down from) a lawsuit against Wicked Lasers for selling a laser device that supposedly resembles a lightsaber from the Star Wars franchise, George Lucas has turned his sights to Jedi Mind, Inc., which sells a wireless headset capable of detecting brainwaves and can be used to play games and run apps via thought control (think of OCZ's Neural Impulse Actuator).
Lucas and company sent a cease and desist letter to Jedi Mind way back in May, 2009, at which time the company's chief, Brent Fouch, said he would phase his company out of Jedi Mind trademarks. That was enough to appease LucasFilm, only Fouch allegedly hasn't followed through with his promise.
A second cease and desist letter landed at Jedi Mind's offices last September, but failing that, LucasFilm is now seeking $5 million in damages in injunctive relief and recovery of damages.
It should be noted that LucasFilm owns the trademarks for Jedi Knight, Jedi Power Battles, and Jedi Training Academy, but not on Jedi Mind. The company also claims legal rights to "all characteristics associated with the Jedi knights not memorialized in a registered trademark."
So what's the verdict on this one, should LucasFilm be compensated, or told to go pound sand?
A new analysis from firm JiWire shows that for the first time, free Wi-Fi hotspots are more plentiful than paid-access hotspots. In total, 55.1% of the hotspots surveyed were free to use. That's a 12.6% gain from last year. It's getting to the point that consumers are more likely to feel affronted when asked to pay for wireless access.
This trend is also taking place worldwide. Seven of the top ten countries for public Wi-Fi added capacity last year. The JiWire data indicates that one in four hotspots around the world is free. With numbers like this, paid models could be in danger. Starbucks recently dropped its semi-paid Wi-Fi system, and Barnes and Noble followed suit shortly thereafter. Do you find you're encountering fewer paid Wi-Fi networks?
Networking outfit Buffalo Technology this week announced a handful of new wireless products the company says take aim at budget shoppers looking for cost-friendly, easy-to-install solutions.
"Buffalo has always been committed to delivering high quality, high performance wireless solutions that consumers have come to rely on," said Ralph Spagnola, vice president of sales at Buffalo Technology. "With the latest additions to our wireless product portfolio, Buffalo is offering the best blend of robust value-model, entry-level, and high-performance wireless solutions on the market."
Buffalo's trio of products include a fairly standard wireless-N router (WCR-GN) with four Ethernet ports, a dual-port access point (WLAE-AG300N) that can be configured to operate in three different modes (Ethernet converter, access point, or repeater), and a USB 2.0 802.11n adapter (WLI-UC-GNM).
The WLAE-AG300N ($75), WCR-GN ($40), and WLI-UC-GNM ($40) will all ship later this month.
Shopping in Sam's Club is about to get high-tech, starting with Wi-Fi service being added to all of the chain's U.S. locations by November of this year.
"Our members are early adopters of technology and electronics, and we're excited to deliver an improved experience in our clubs," said Brian Cornell, president and CEO, Sam's Club. "This investment in connectivity allows us to showcase the high quality brands we offer in a new engaging way, provide an enhanced level of service, and bring to life our promise to our members of Savings Made Simple."
One way in which Sam's Clubs will utilize Wi-Fi service is by demoing IPTVs (Internet TVs) and other Internet connected devices. Customers could, for example, load up their Facebook page or favorite video streaming site on an in-store TV to see how it would appear at home.
In addition to in-store Wi-Fi, Sam's Club is also pushing out a smartphone app for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android platforms, which will include features such as access to eValues, product information, and extra discounts loaded onto Plus Membership cards.
Google opened a can of worms when it fessed up to possessing payload data from open Wi-Fi networks in over 30 countries. Although it immediately approached regulators around the world with a proposal to quickly dispose of the data gathered by Street View cars, not all regulators were willing to allow the internet giant's request. Some of them have even launched criminal probes into the matter.
“We intend to find out what kinds of data they have collected and how much. We will try to retrieve all the original data illegally collected and stored through domestic Wi-Fi networks from the Google headquarters,” the Cyber Terror Response Center of the Korean National Police Agency said in a statement confirming the raid.
Google has found itself mired in ever-increasing controversy ever since it fessed up to collecting payload data in over 30 countries. While data privacy watchdogs around the world are becoming more unstinting in their strictures on Google, Britain's data protection authority is not too concerned about the actual impact of the entire Wi-Fi snooping episode.
Britain's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found no “meaningful personal details” while vetting data samples it collected from Google. Unlike its counterparts elsewhere, the ICO was never too keen on probing the matter and had even asked Google to delete the data at the onset of the crisis in May.
"On the basis of the samples we saw we are satisfied so far that it is unlikely that Google will have captured significant amounts of personal data," the UK's leading data protection authority said in a statement. "There is also no evidence as yet that the data captured by Google has caused or could cause any individual detriment."
Charlotte, N.C. will be the second city added to AT&T's Wi-Fi hotzone pilot program, the wireless carrier announced this week. The program offers free Wi-Fi to customers in select areas in an attempt to bypass network congestion in heavily populated zones.
"Our first AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone in New York City has received praise from our customers, and w're excited to introduce this Wi-Fi solution in Charlotte," Angie Wiskocil, senior vice president of AT&T's Wi-Fi services, said in a statement.
AT&T has found itself under near constant fire for its spotty 3G coverage and inability to keep up with demand for data services on its network. As the exclusive carrier of the iPhone and, more recently, the iPad, AT&T said its mobile data traffic growth has spiked by 5,000 percent in the past three past years.
AT&T hopes to solve the problem by combining Wi-Fi and 3G networks.
Wi-Fi service in the air started out as a bit of a novelty, but it has since ballooned to encompass nearly 1 out of every 3 U.S. passenger planes. Despite the rapid growth studies have shown that less than 10% of passengers use the service, mostly because it's just too expensive to justify. Regardless of the numbers however, many airlines are reporting that they plan to finish adding this feature to their entire fleet within a few years, so clearly they must be making money somehow.
Aircell continues to lead the pack in terms of installed base in the U.S, but the competition could soon be heating up from a company named Row 44 who just recently managed to clear through the regulatory red tape that slowed their initial rollout. Aircell clearly has the first mover advantage, but Row 44 has the international roaming agreements that could make a difference in the long haul.
As the recession eases and companies loosen up restrictions on expense accounts we may see adoption of in-flight Wi-Fi rise, but it will still be difficult for the individual consumer to justify at $13. Tweeting "I'm texting from 30,000 feet" might sound like tons of fun, but the novelty has worn off long before the charge hits your credit card.
What is in-flight Wi-Fi worth to you? Does it need to be free?
Samsung's Vibrant smartphone (part of the Galaxy S series) debuted on T-Mobile yesterday, finally giving T-Mobile subscribers an Android phone to legitimately be excited about. And if you're a frequent traveler, it gets even better -- Gogo is offering up to one month of free inflight Wi-Fi data access.
"As smartphones become more prevalent, we want to make it easier for those traveling to access their email and favorite websites as well as Twitter and Facebook," said Aircell President and CEO, Michael Small. "We want to provide the Vibrant customers with a seamless way to continue their mobile experience at 30,000 feet."
Gogo is available on nearly 1,000 commercial aircraft and over 3,500 daily flights in the Continental U.S., Gogo said. The free month of service is valid for one month from registration or until January 31, 2011, whichever comes first.
We're almost at the point where we can consider landlines to be old school, or so suggests a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. According to Pew, 59 percent of Americans hop online wirelessly using their mobile phones or laptop.
To come up with that figure, Pew surveyed 2,252 American adults, 47 percent of which said they surf the Internet through Wi-Fi or a mobile broadband card. Another 40 percent said they surf, fire off emails, and IM friends and co-workers on their mobile phones, up from 32 percent one year ago.
"The growing functionality of mobile phones makes them ever-more powerful devices for on-the-go communications and computing," said Aaron Smith, a research specialist at Pew. "Cell phones have become for many owners an all-purpose chat-text-gaming-photo-sharing media hub that is an essential utility for work and a really fancy toy for fun."
It's not really young adults, either. While adults between the age of 18 to 29 use the Web more than anyone else, those who fall into the 30 to 49 age bracket are now "significantly more likely" to take pics, send texts, and surf the Web, record video, use email, and perform other online tasks with their mobile phones.