Business Internet and Telephony, since 1985

Unlocking Your New Phone Becomes Illegal tomorrow - But the Bryck is Coming...

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend by emailSend by email

Thinking about purchasing a new smartphone on the cheap, with the intention of unlocking it? Think again. It's almost too late to do that, and tomorrow you could be a felon for doing so under the DCMA.

Every piece of legislation has the potential for either inflicting abuse, or being abused. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is no exception, and a ruling by the Librarian of Congress, who is responsible for interpreting the intent and determining exemptions to this anti-cracking legislation, makes unlocking your newly purchased phone illegal - starting tomorrow...

There's a lot of misinformation circling about on this issue, yet the gist of the matter centers on your freedom to use the software you choose, as well as how you want that software configured.

Does this mean you can't unlock your phone? Not at all. Of course you can.

Does it mean you will be committing a felony if you do? Perhaps it does.

Whenever the death throes of a dying industry giant becomes the most vocally intense, with the flailing of limbs, and accompanied by froth emanating from the mouth of said giant, governments have historically provided a temporary safety net for them which, allows them to pass peaceably - Like the administering of Morphine to an end stage hospital patient, if you will.

The actual intent, however, is often the implied understanding that many times, such a safety net actually allows the industry giant to retool, divest itself of business models and processes that are no longer effective in the ever changing world of commerce - like a phoenix bird or larval caterpillar, these organizations can often emerge as a reborn thing of..., profit making machinery.

This is actually happening right now in the telecommunications industry.

Eventually, sooner than later actually (and over the next three years), we're going to be seeing less and less dependence upon cellular phone technology in the form of phones as we knew them. What is happening before our very eyes at this time is an emergence of communication democratization, where mobile computing technology is concerned.

Where this new ruling by the Librarian of Congress is concerned, such a move serves to shield cellular telephone providers from the almost deprecated telephone while they retool to accommodate the new paradigm, one where people rely more exclusively upon data communications to transceive voice communications.

Phone numbers are almost obsolete. It doesn't mean we're going to stop using them soon, but even iNUM, an allocation of country code phone numbers not attached to any country, is a concept that many have little use for when infrastructure supporting the likes of Skype, Jitsi, AIM, ICQ, Jabber, and others, provide a method of end to end communication via voice, text, and file/screen sharing, indexed by a schema tied more to usernames than phone numbers.

Right now, if you want a new smartphone, and you want it cheap, you can lock yourself into a two year plan, for example, with a major cellular provider that still seeks to separate and charge independently for (or at least make the distinction between) voice and data on their network.

At the point of sale, you can inform your GSM cellular network provider that you wish to have them, or get permission from them, to unlock your phone; meaning that you can activate that phone on any competing network providers system.

This makes sense, to some degree. You can already buy a new smartphone that is unlocked - but it costs more. The providers are only selling you the phones at a steep discount so they can make up the difference from this loss leader by charging you for service under an extended term agreement.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

The cellular service providers want you to stay with them and pay them every month, and locking you into their network helps to ensure this. Early termination penalties also help to ensure that you will eventually pay for that phone on their network.

But what does the savvy consumer want?

More and more, as the people the consumer communicates with adopt the newer technologies, the consumer wants data only. Yup. Internet access is all the consumer needs. With Google Voice apps and clients like Jitsi that connect you to all of the IM networks with video and file/screen sharing capabilities, why should the consumer pay voice AND data service from a cellular provider?

Whereas one methodology of delivering voice telephony is dying, these providers understand that the future is 17G, or at least at this juncture they're calling it 4G ;)

Yet there are many providers out there already that aren't subject to the same sort of governmental regulation that traditional telephone companies (including cellular providers) are. These companies, promoting their services under such kewl sounding buzzwords as WiFi or WiMAX cater to consumers who, although may have a phone, have no need for cell service and use the Internet itself for all of their telephony, and other communications requirements.

The smartphone is already dead, or at least, if it hasn't been shown the door it has indeed been handed its hat. But only one role of the so-called smartphone is sounding the death knell, the other aspect is hardly out of the gate, so to speak.

Enter the Bryck - a new paradigm in mobile and desktop computing.

Within the next five years, what we can expect to see, is the computer brick. Or maybe it will be called the computer puck, or computer plate, or some other, more cleverly inspired term. Initially, this intelligent device will be approximately the same form factor of your smartphone.

The tablet PC, as a smart device, will be obviated by the computer brick. The "Bryck" as I'll refer to it hereafter, will in most flavors, come with a screen just like your  smartphone, but it doesn't have to.

Your Bryck will be able to serve as the only intelligent device you actually need to have, and if you harbor any doubts, you need only look as far as what is being done with the Raspberry Pi - a device which demonstrates such potential for under 50 bucks.

Perhaps the now common touch screen integrated with current smartphones will a 'clip on' accessory for your Bryck, but the touch screen itself has no inherent intelligence, other than to dock, communicate, and be activated by your Bryck, as an input/output device.

The Bryck will have a few ports, perhaps a USB 5.0 port, an HDMI port, and of course miniplugs for your ear pieces. It will be bluetooth and WiMAX capable, or whatever sort of wireless LAN/WAN capabilities are the contemporary services five years from now.

When you go to work, you simply drop your Bryck onto your desk, or into a drawer, or even leave it in your pocket or purse. It will activate the nearby keyboard and mouse and monitor - the latter perhaps via the wired HDMI port, while the former two it will interface with wirelessly.

When you get home the same thing. As you walk into your living room it will activate the TV in that room and begin streaming the movie you were watching when you left for work that morning - where you left off. And when you walk into the bedroom it will activate the 72" flatscreen on the wall of that room, continuing to stream the movie you were watching in the living room.

As you sit at your desk in your study, the keyboard and mouse there will light up, and if we're still tethered to wired technology to communicate with display devices at the rate they need to be served, then you'll plug the HDMI cable from your  display into your Bryck.

When you need to make a phone call, the clip-on touch screen can provide you with chat, video, and voice communications (At this point, can we really still call it telephony?), or you might just talk to the Bryck saying, "Call Mom", into your  bluetooth headset.

There won't be any voice/data plans from the cellphone companies when this happens - no one will buy voice service

But what about Mom and Dad? You're thinking right now, "But they can hardly grasp the concept of a browser, and don't know the difference between a Google search, an email client, or an URL." True. But already, you don't need to use historic voice telephony methods from the standpoint of your client in order to connect to, and communicate with people on the PSTN - Google Voice, is one example of a system that merges Internet IM communications with the voice-only PSTN.

In the meantime, however, most people are still subscribing to cellular provider services for voice telephony, yet their making the migration to what the IM services are evolving into more and more all the time, with Android WiMAX enabled devices

These providers need time to adapt and retool, the competition even between themselves is fierce, and the best way that they can ensure that they maximize the revenue potential for the dying cell phone industry and evolve into Internet Service Providers before it's too late, is to have the government slow you down by taking away some of your freedom to choose other providers.

Already, Many smartphones don't even need traditional cell service, neither GSM or CDMA. With WiFi, or more specifically, WiMAX, you have it all; but the powers that be need a little more time become attractive enough to retain you when those existing services are universally acknowledged as obsolete.

Sure. There are currently big coverage holes for wireless Internet at this time where cellular phone service will work. But many folks are already abandoning the expensive voice/SMS/MMS system anyway, but by offering you a loss leader price for a phone they hope that you will you help them migrate their services to that of the new paradigm - and that's understandable.

Especially since you can always pay full price for an unlocked GSM phone and BYOD to any other provider who solicits such customers - Like T-Mobile, who openly courts the iPhone user, even though they sell no iPhones.

CDMA phones are a little differently, with those, your local cellphone store flashes the onboard firmware to work with a competing network, instead of unlocking the to accept another provider's SIM Card.

Unlike the so-called jail-breaking of smartphones, which is still legal and quite a common practice that iPhone users perform as soon as they buy their phones, unlocking a phone pertains to enabling the freedom of choice where your  provider network is concerned, while jail-breaking a phone literally breaks you out of the jail so you can use the software applications you want on your phone.  

Whereas that's not a big distinction when you consider that Apple would like you to only use apps they allow, which ideally would only allow you to use their approved communication clients (IMs, if you will) and internetworking services.

Ironically, it is in fact illegal at this time to jail-break the Apple tablet PCs (iPads) while it is not illegal to jail-break the iPhone. Hm... I guess size does matter ;)

The Bryck is not the future.

The Bryck is not science fiction, or even really the future - it exists now. A quick browse among the myriad of Chinese manufacturers of tablet computing and VoIP products at sites like alibaba.com, shows you that although it may be a little larger than I'm saying it will be in five years, when consumer pressure forces manufacturers to ship the Bryck computing device, the technology to deliver this into your hands does indeed exist at this very time.

The coming of the Bryck is also bad news for these companies - especially ones like Apple, who would prefer to sell you a different device for each of the different aspects of how you use computing technology - a Mac for your desktop, a PowerMac for your laptop, an iPhone for telephone communication and text messaging, and an iPad for everything in between.

In the future you'll simply keep something akin to a braindead tablet PC in a laptop bag, along with a wireless keyboard and mouse, because your Bryck will turn those dumb devices into the input output devices that enable you to perform desktop computing from anywhere, except for.... maybe the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I'm sure that Richard Stallman will have something to say about this new determination by the Librarian of Congress, which is going to create almost as many felons over the next few months as we now have imprisoned, in the form of casual drug users - so keep a watch out for that.

Make no mistake! The objective here is to lock you into a monopolistic provider/client relationship. These companies need you to stay with them for just a little longer, during which time world governments will seek to regulate the Internet Service Provider industry even more, and while these current providers of cellular phone service perfect the art of selling you a Bryck that only works with their ISP service network... But that's another story :)