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Are Verizon's Anti-Apple Ads Fair?

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Verizon's latest ads create a clever twist on Apple’s slogan ("There’s an app for that"), firing shots across the bows of both Apple and AT&T. But few things grow stale as fast as puns — even very clever ones.

Besides, are Verizon's ads accurate? If not, what led AT&T to legal action? We'll also tackle sharing networking Apple computers and the fallout over my last column on Apple's advertisements.

There’s a Flap For That!

Q: OK, so we know how you feel about the Mac vs. PC ads. What’s your take on the Verizon vs. AT&T commercials?

A: Well, they certainly created a flap! The fallout from these ads has been pretty interesting. AT&T sues Verizon, Verizon counter-sues AT&T. Both lawsuits are dropped. AT&T launches a new advertising campaign. Tech Writer criticizes Verizon for billing practices, FCC sends Verizon a certified letter asking about it. Wow!

I enjoyed the way Verizon's first few ads created a clever twist on Apple’s slogan: One describes At&T's nationwide network coverage as spotty, noting "there’s a map for that." The ads also fired simultaneous shots across the bows of both Apple and AT&T. But few things grow stale as fast as puns — even very clever ones.

But are they accurate? Technically yes, but somewhat misleading, in my opinion. AT&T thought so, too, which led to the first legal action.

When Verizon upgraded its second-generation wireless network to a faster third-generation standard, they implemented a technology that was backwards-compatible. The upside of this is that the company was able to upgrade its entire network simply by updating each cell site. The downside is that while the new technology can support both voice and data, it can’t deliver both to the same phone at the same time.

AT&T, on the other hand, uses a 3G technology that is not compatible with its 2G towers, meaning the company has to put up new cell sites without taking down the old ones. AT&T can support data and voice to the same phone at the same time — and its data speeds are a bit faster than Verizon — but the 3G buildout is far more expensive and time-consuming, and therefore not as complete.

Thus, Verizon has more pure 3G coverage than AT&T, but not necessarily more total coverage. The maps on the Verizon ad are clearly marked "3G Coverage" but it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. If AT&T wanted to, the company could respond with a map showing its 2G coverage compared to Verizon’s (essentially, an empty map) but it would be just as misleading.

Not to mention that stale technology is almost as bad as stale puns.

Now that the legal posturing is over, AT&T has hired comedic actor Luke Wilson to toss postcards over an outline of the United States, to demonstrate that AT&T really does have coverage all across the nation. AT&T emphasizes its strengths: a faster data network, access to a bajillion apps and "the most popular smartphones" (both allusions to the iPhone).

The ads fail to mention the company's weaknesses: the higher-than-normal rate of dropped calls, and the data network woes.

Accentuating the positive is the whole idea behind advertising, no?

To its credit, AT&T has just released a Mark the Spot app for iPhones, which lets customers report dropped calls and network problems in real time. It comes complete with a warning not to use the app while driving.

I sincerely hope AT&T isn't charging customers to report problems, but such cheekiness wouldn’t surprise me. Verizon, for example, just announced it was upping the ante on early termination fees. On top of that, it turns out that the company is charging $1.99 for "data access" if you accidently hit the wrong button on your smartphone.

The math David Pogue cites in The New York Times is astonishing. 87 million customers, times $2 per bogus data charge, times one to three bogus charges per month, times 12 months, gives us … lessee now …a little over $6 billion per year.

That’s a lot of wrong buttons!

Perhaps this is why the FCC just sent a certified letter to Verizon’s VP of Legal and External Affairs, asking to know how customers are notified of the new termination fees, how the prorating formula is calculated, and how "advanced device" is defined. Oh, and the FCC wants to know about those inadvertent mobile Web charges, too.

Your move, Verizon.

 

It’s Not a Network, It’s a "Don't Work"

Q: Just got my MacBook Pro (whatta nice bit of hardware, let me say again), running OS X 10.6.2. Got it set up to see our home wireless network in like 10 seconds. Now I want to set it up to print and file-share ... and that part's not going so well.

We have two printers attached to a desktop XP Pro machine, which is set up to share them — we have three Windows laptops that see the printers and happily print.

Not so much the Mac, though.

When I go to System Preferences > Network, the Mac shows up as connected to our home workgroup. When I go to the Finder, the workgroup doesn't show up. When I add a printer under System Preferences > Fax & Print > Windows, no workgroup shows up (and I waited like 10 mins).

Suggestions?

A: The short answer: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3049

The relevant section reads:

"1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.

2. Choose Print & Fax from the View menu.

3. Click the + button to add a printer.

4. Press the Control key while clicking the ‘Default’ icon (or any other icon on the toolbar), then choose Customize Toolbar from the contextual menu that appears.

5. Drag the Advanced (gear) icon to the toolbar.

6. Click Done.

7. Click the Advanced icon that was added to the toolbar.

8. Choose Windows from the Type pop-up menu.

9. In the URL field, type the printer's address in one of the following formats:

smb://workgroup/server/sharename

smb://server/sharename

Note: Workgroup is the name of the Windows workgroup to which the computer sharing the printer belongs. Server is the name of the computer sharing the printer (or its IP address). Sharename is the shared Windows printer's share name. If the share name contains spaces, replace each space with "%20" (without quotation marks).

Tip: You don't need a workgroup when specifying the IP address of the computer (such as when the printer is on a different subnet), or if your Mac belongs to the same Windows workgroup.

10. In the Name field, type the name you would like to use for this printer in Mac OS X.

11. Choose the appropriate PPD or printer driver from the ‘Print Using’ pop-up menu.

12. Click Add."

It sounds like you've already done steps 1-8, since you mention "Windows" — or else it's the default in 10.6.2. So go there, and start with step 9.

You should also do a System Update after doing the above, just to make sure you have the latest and greatest printer drivers.

 

Are Apple's Ads Fair?

As you might expect, the reaction to my column on Apple's ads was a mixed bag. This reply from Barry M was representative of the kudos:

WOW! Mr. Guy Briggs!! I can’t remember the last time I read such a well balanced article!!!!! Keep up the good work, we need more writers like you!

Thanks, and what an astute observation!

Some of you, however, were not quite so impressed. Vincent W. opines:

You are obviously a Windows fanboy who has never used a Mac. Not really a fair and balanced article, all you did was cherry-pick the issues you could argue in the PC favor.

Erm, no. I am Apple-trained, and under present circumstances, I spend the better part of each working day helping Mac users with various and sundry issues. One benefit to this arrangement is that I solve real computer problems — as opposed to every second or third call being virus-this or malware-that.

I want to address one point brought up by Eric G"

When going from Windows XP to Windows 7 you DO NOT have to "replace" your applications with new versions as you would with a Mac.

You will have to reinstall, reinstalling is completely different than replacing, reinstalling costs you nothing except the time to do it.

And there is no "legal" issue at all.

At least two Apple ads suggest that if you are going to move anyway, it's just as easy to move to a Mac. The clear implication is that the old Windows machine is being replaced — else there is no moving involved.

One doesn't pack up all their stuff in moving boxes (clearly depicted in the ads) if the existing apartment is only being repainted.

Now let me quote from the Microsoft Office License Terms, as found on Hukey Pukey, my venerable old HP laptop. I’m running Microsoft Office 2007 Pro. You can get there (in Outlook) by clicking on Help > About Microsoft Office Outlook > View the Microsoft Software License Terms.

2. INSTALLATION AND USE RIGHTS. Before you use the software under a license, you must assign that license to one device. That device is the 'licensed device.' A hardware partition or blade is considered to be a separate device.

a. Licensed Device. You may install and use one copy of the software on the licensed device.

As a lawyer, I make a pretty good programmer, know what I mean? But even to a programmer, the above language is unambiguous.

If you are making an apples-to-apples comparison (no pun intended), and wish to remain on the legal side of your license agreement, the replacement for the old Windows machine (the "licensed device") will require new software.

If you want to stay legal, that is.

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