Friday, August 29, 2008

Weird rumor-- Bite to sell iPhone in Latvia?!

I just heard the weirdest rumor for someone who is not a crackpot and has some contacts in the business, namely:

Starting Monday, September 1, Bite Latvia (of the Lithuania-based Bite Group) will start selling the iPhone3G in Latvia at various tariff plans and prices ranging from 400 to up to 600 LVL (both very pricey).

Theories: Vodafone, which has close ties with Bite, has influenced TeliaSonera (in charge of the iPhone business in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries) to let another operator distribute the innovative gadget. This also explains why LMT, the biggest mobile operator effectively controlled by the Swedes failed to launch the iPhone 3G on August 22, as was expected.

This, of course, could all be just Friday afternoon craziness...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Getting f-worded by E-fwording-Bay (eBay)

My youngest son turns 13 in a couple of weeks and my wife and I were thinking of getting him a Playstation 3 (PAL version). These are expensive in Latvia and Sweden, so I decided to look around at some of the professional sellers on eBay. It seems that I set up an eBay account in 2003, but if I remember correctly, the mo-fos  didn't allow folks based in Latvia to trade nor did they recognize international credit cards held here. So I thought, OK, f--k 'em. Now I tried to start a new account and was informed that my login name already existed, which is when I remembered that I had set up an account. I didn't remember my password, so I went through the whole song and dance to get a new one,  plus updated my credit card,  etc. only to be told that my account was locked down, so I had to place a call to my own mobile, which, as it turns out, didn't work, so I tried to change my number, but was told I could not change that information as I was locked out. All of this led to a series of attempts to get unlocked through an increasingly confusing sequence of menus.  So what do I do now? Set up a new account from scratch? 
I think it would be easier to get security clearance for the f--king CIA than to simply start buying stuff on f--king useless paranoid mo-fo eBay!

Lattelecom (?!) to sell iPhone for LVL695???

A strange Latvian language ad has appeared through Google Adsense on this blog that seems to indicate that Lattelecom will be selling the iPhone 3G (presumably unlocked) for LVL 695.
The ad (in Latvian) says

Esi stilīgs iegādājies jauno ābolu! Cenas sākot no 695Ls

Or the essence, in translation:
Be stylish, get a new Apple. Prices starting at LVL 695.

So what does this mean? A leak through the Google Adsense software? A misunderstanding? The only thing whose price "starts at" around LVL 695 is the 20 inch iMac, prices for Macs in general start at LVL 369 for a Mac Mini.
The mystery may resolve itself over the next few weeks. Unlikely (or not) that Lattelecom is jumping the gun on its seemingly estranged sister (under the common half-mother) LMT, which as this blog concluded, is not launching a bundled/locked iPhone 3G on August 22.

Taiwan subnotebook maker launches in Baltics

Mystar Computer (MSI) in cooperation with the Latvian-based IT product wholesaler Elko Group is launching its line of subnotebook and gaming oriented standard-sized notebook computers in the Baltic States. My first reaction to their Wind subnotebook (or netbook?) was "honey, I shrank the MacBook". What these need to be bigger sellers are large hard disks (not just 80GB) and HSDPA mobile internet access, which is the default service for the Latvian mobile operators. However, MSI representatives said that models with hard disks of up to 160 GB would be available later in the year, as well as 3G or HSDPA built in.

Here's my video, with a Latvian voice intro (my first loyalty is to my full-time employer, LETA).

Monday, August 18, 2008

No "iPhone 3g Friday"in Latvia

Despite an earlier announcement by Apple officials that the second wave of iPhone 3G launches would start in around 20 countries on August 22, only Estonia's Estonian Mobile Telephone (EMT), a subsidiary of TeliaSonera, has announced that iPhone sales would start on that date.
It looks like Latvia's LMT and Lithuania's Omnitel will launch the newest iPhone at a later date. Apple (together with TeliaSonera) is calling the shots on this and may see tiny, mobile & IT savvy Estonia as the best place to get its feet wet in the Baltics.
The blogs and portals have been full of news about iPhone glitches, and this may be another reason for caution.
In Latvia, LMT might be considering launching an iPhone business package for small businesses using its own Tiešpasts (direct mail) push email platform and wants everything to work right. Perhaps it will equip some key LMT staffers with iPhones as a proof of concept -- if it works for 10 -20 of their guys and gals, it will work for my little company. But that is mere guesswork. The only date one hears for the iPhone 3G in Latvia is the rather subjective "soon", which means different timescales for different folks and situations.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The significance of nothing?

Just met a former Lattelecom person on the street who wondered why I have written nothing on the blog for some time. First, I was in the US for more than two weeks. Second, nothing is happening.
On the other hand, that may be significant in and of itself. The most important area of nothing is with regard to a final ownership arrangement for Lattelecom and LMT, the mobile operator. Other than the government asking the Latvian Privatization Agency (LPA) to get an advisor/consultant (the guy who takes your watch and tells you what time it is) on this matter, nothing is, indeed, happening in the scheme to nationalize Lattelecom (then, maybe, resell 49 % to The Blackstone Group) and let Sweden's TeliaSonera take all 100 % of LMT.
My feeling is that getting an advisor is, in effect, another delaying tactic (though maybe not a conscious choice by the government). The advisor must, after all, study your watch, find the hands or digits and figure out how to hold it so as to tell you the correct time. I don't think this deal will get done by the end of the year. The Swedish side of it is in the summer doldrums, too. Only when schools start in mid-to-late August do things get rolling in the land of endless vacations and crayfish parties.
Once we are in 2009, we are in election territory. There will be bellweather municipal elections next year, followed by national elections in 2010. Surprisingly, there are signs of paranoia among the 100-strong monkey troop that forms the national parliament or Saeima after the failed referendum where around 97 % of those who did vote were in favor of an amendment making it easier for the electorate to dismiss the Saeima. They and the already unpopular government may not be ready to make any controversial decisions, especially about selling "national treasures" etc.
So I don't see the final ownership arrangements for the big players in Latvian telecoms being approved this year and probably not even in 2009 or 2010. Unlikely, at the least. But one must be ready for many surprises in Latvia and, rarely, one of them may even be pleasant.