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Professor singles out mobile carriers for stifling cellphone innovation

Brian White

Do you believe that mobile carriers are to controlling in the actual design (hardware and software) of cellular handsets these days? If so, you'll probably love an opinion paper by Columbia law professor Timothy Wu. Wu suggests that cellphone design and innovation is being inhibited by cellular service providers. We all know why this happens, of course -- the carriers love the walled garden policy of controlling how and why subscribers use their handsets. Usually, the design of a carrier-branded handset is geared to goose subscribers into more services and more add-ons. But, the GSM world knows all to well that "free and open" handsets don't have these annoyances at all, much to the chagrin of the carriers (like AT&T and T-Mobile USA). Are the policies of carriers hurting consumers? Wu makes his case by bringing up features that are blocked by many carriers which come native with many handsets before being disabled by carriers. Features like WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, advanced SMS, browsers and photo and sound file transfer capabilities. The biggie that caught our eyes? Real-time call timers. You go, Mr. Wu -- stick it to the man.

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