Comcast soft launches bundled MVNO service

The Boston area is the first trial market for Comcast’s new bundled wireless service. I accidently become one of the first 20 MVNO customers after I called this morning to switch my Comcast broadband service to my new place in Brookline.

Comcast’s new offering consists of bundled cable, VOIP, and wireless. The VOIP offering includes free calls within the US, and international calling is cheap (9 cents per minute to Japan).

The wireless offering runs on the Sprint network and they are selling Sprint phones including the Katana and Fusic at similar prices to Sprint with a two-year data plan. The service also includes some extra perks including bundled text messaging, the ability to call-forward from cell to home phone to optimize on night/weekend minutes, and free calls from the cell phone to the home phone.

Perhaps most significant is that you can receive your home cable channels as video on your EV-DO phone in a Slingbox type service. It requires that you subscribe to the Comcast standard home cable package including CNN, ESPN, etc.

Overall, a great sales pitch. The customer service was excellent, and I spoke with an extremely knowledgeable person who clearly explained the pricing and features to me.

Comcast’s MVNO launch is pretty interesting in respect to recent speculation about Sprint as an acquisition target (Forbes and Kansas City Star). With Sprint’s recent subscriber troubles, and the millions of existing Comcast subscribers who want simple pricing on a mobile phone service, this seems like a natural fit.

I’ve been free of home phone and TV for the past year, but looks like I’ve been recaptured by consumer culture and what seems to be a good deal. Now, back to packing…

Panasonic phone broadcasts your mood

There was some interesting press today about a Panasonic phone that can interpret your mood from your voice. From consultation with Japan, I’m not sure if this is a new phone, but over the past few hours it’s been getting a lot of blogosphere attention, mostly with a humorous slant.

This is a very significant concept. It’s called the ‘Feel Talk’ service (they probably need a better translation for the name). Basically, the phone interprets the tone of your voice, assigns a value for your mood, and then displays that as an LED light.

If your mood can be transmitted to others in your IM/email/social network, this takes the concept of ‘presence’ to the next level, much more sophisticated than an ‘away message’ or 30 second exchange about ‘how are things?’.

For those you care about, presence could be more than about what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, or how available you are. It could be about how you’re feeling at a particular moment.

There’s some info at MobileMag.

And more in Japanese at Panasonic.

The full moon really does cause strange behavior

Thought this was interesting…

We find strong lunar cycle effects in stock returns. Specifically, returns in the 15 days around new moon dates are about double the returns in the 15 days around full moon dates. This pattern of returns is pervasive; we find it for all major U.S. stock indexes over the last 100 years and for nearly all major stock indexes of 24 other countries over the last 30 years. In contrast, we find no reliable or economically important evidence of lunar cycle effects in return volatility and volume of trading. Taken as a whole, this evidence is consistent with popular beliefs that lunar cycles affect human behavior.

Via the Harvard Business Review.

Helio Buddy Beacon launched

It’s been fun watching the press pick up on the Helio Buddy Beacon since it went live last week.

Here’s our uLocate blurb:

When Helio looked for a partner and platform to build their Buddy Beacon service, they came to the North American leader in wireless location based services – uLocate. HELIO is a joint venture between SK Telecom, the world’s most innovative wireless carrier, and EarthLink, the next generation Internet service provider.

A few reviewers have confused Google Maps Mobile with the maps behind Buddy Beacon (they’re actually MapQuest maps) but mostly people are getting it right and giving a favorable view on the service.

The ‘friend finding’ space is heating up. Loopt recently revealed some subscriber numbers on Boost for their currently free application. And operators in South Korea have been very successful with buddy finders, a business in which they’ve been playing for many years with subscription numbers that would be unbelievable in the US. Of course, Korea has a different demographic for these services, a different culture, and perhaps most significantly allows location roaming across operators. It will take the efforts of standards-making bodies like the CTIA LBS Interop Working Group to make location roaming happen here.

There’s been some good research in this space, and it’s clear that friend finding can be extremely useful and comfortable so long as privacy is carefully managed. There’s no reason to think that friend finding services won’t take off over the next few years and become an ubiquitous part of the mobile landscape.

Trying out Ruby on Rails

I spent some time getting up to speed with Ruby on Rails this weekend.

It’s been a while since I’ve coded anything, so I wasn’t sure how hard it would be. Turns out, it’s not hard at all. First of all, the Mac is a great platform to develop on. Secondly, tools like Locomotive exist which package up Ruby on Rails and install it easily. I had a sample program up and running in a few hours. And yesterday I had a cross-country flight to check things out in detail.

My impressions so far … Ruby is very elegant and Rails is a very powerful way to create a modeled and organized development environment. It makes web development easy, and maintaining it easier. It feels minimalist, with simple commands. But these simple commands mask a very disciplined approach to development.

My next steps, when I have time, build something interesting and upload it to a live server.

Now I’m off to Mobile 2.0 and Widgets Live. Should be a good day.