Waiting for XOHM

Saw this story on Ars Technica earlier today. XOHM is going live in Baltimore, MD. I am still patiently waiting for it to show up in the greater Boston area. Ever since I have been testing my WiMAX capable N810 I have been itching to try this out. Right now I have to remain happy with wi-fi networks and 3G via Blue Tooth connectivity, which I don’t use often because it increases the battery drain both on my E71 and the N810.

When I scan the available networks i would see the XOHM icon pop up in the connection selection box. So it is out there hiding somewhere. On a few occasions I have been able to maintain a sustained connection. But 99% of the time the connection gets dropped immediately. I guess it recognizes my device is not an authorized one. 🙂 Sprint XOHM site says it will soon be available in Boston area. May be one of these days it will be for real. The service plan they have going seems to be decent with $45/month with no subscription contract, with all you can eat data. Stuff like Gmail supported email account comes packaged with it. We have already heard stories about Google and other ISPs talking to Sprint. Not sure how the pricing works with voice services; whether its a data only service or are they bundling voice services on top of it. I guess I can install Skype, Gizmo etc. on my device, but unless I have a for-fee subscription account to them I can’t make a call to a real phone involving a PSTN/PBX in the middle.

But I think besides the data speeds I really like the *idea* of being able to use devices built on open platforms like Maemo, Android, etc. and not having to deal with the proverbial operator (or Apple) walled gardens. Assuming I am able to buy them unlocked. Unlike unlocked iPhones which are selling in Hongkong for almost a grand, devices like N810 do not cost that much, granted they are lacking in the slickness department.

More than being worried about being locked to a provider’s network, what I really want is the ability to easily download and tryout 3rd party apps. I can point my N810 app manager to a repository and check out the latest apps out there. I like the idea of being able to treat my handheld device like a PC and have unfettered access to applications and services. XOHM has a service option for home use and if XOHM@home does not control what I download and install on my home PCs, then they should adopt the same philosophy for my mobile device and not cripple my application manager directly on indirectly. Much has been said about Apple’s tight control of its Application store. Android apparently is going to have its own marketplace too. Nokia seem to be lacking in this department. But I have paid for and installed a number of 3rd party S60 apps from Handango and other sites. Needs little more legwork (or keyboard work) I guess. Application stores have a purpose in letting people easily discover applications of interest and there may be applications that can compromise the integrity of a device and the network it sits on. We have already seen and grown up through that in our desktop realm. We the consumers are much more savvy now. If we are really moving into an era of mobile internet that is open and ecourages innovation of the masses (crowd-sourcing is the buzzword I believe) I would rather see us consumers better educated and better equipped with tools to deal with threats rather than being told what app we can or cannot install. I would much rather have access to premium and open respositories out there and being able to decide what works for me and what does not. And I am willing to pay a bit more for my devices to be able to do that.

May be majority of the consumers don’t feel the need for this level of openness and may be they are happy with whatever apps they are told to use. But I strongly believe that attitude will change over time as we move into an era where seem to be going from cradle to grave with mobile devices in our hands.

XOHM being new, Sprint will probably do all it can and make things as unfettered and open as possible to attract us. But I wonder, once the usage picks up and p2p apps start flooding the network, whether all that openness will last too long. Next month onward Comcast will start putting cap on my downloads. Will have to see how that works out.

Update: Yeah looks like the language is in place after all for the *caps*. Wonder what constitutes heavy use.

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