The tech blogs and Treo sites are abuzz today with the news from a TreoCentral member Shadowmite (the same guy who was able to defeat the Sprint Bluetooth crippling) that he had been able to create a firmware hack (hosted here) on the Treo 650 that would allow Pa1mOne's Wifi card to work. The hack is still in "beta' if that term can even refer to a hack! The one problem is that in order to have both wifi capability as well as Sprint's "Vision" 2.5G data network, you need to do a hard reset during the install process, which will wipe all your data. This may not be a big deal for many for the reward of Wifi, and it also may just be a temporary hurdle. Now that the hack exists, it seems that third party companies may indeed take the initiative in developing a wifi card with drivers that will work on the 650 and maybe the 600 as well. The one issue remains that the added drain from the card may make the battery life of the Treo run out much faster than normal, so manufacturers may have to develop some kind of onboard battery for the wifi card, or users may just have to invest in additional batteries for the 650 (or external batteries for the 600).
When I started using the Treo 600 back in June, it was as a trial. A friend of mine had bought it several months earlier and was using it on his AT&T account, but he had recently switched to Verizon because of their better reception. I borrowed it from him to see if I could get it to work on my T-Mobile account. After doing lots of searching and playing around with it, I finally got it to work, but it was not easy.
As I talked about in my post yesterday, because smartphones are inherently tied up in the mobile phone industry, the carrier companies have a huge influence over the phone manufacturers. These companies don't want to make it easy for me to take my phone from one carrier to another. AT&T was notorious for locking phones and not allowing their unlocking for any reason, which kind of defeats part of the purpose of having a GSM phone. T-Mobile is a little bit better in that they let you unlock your phone usually after a short length of time as long as your account is in good standing. Cingular has historically been the best about unlocking, but now that they have merged with AT&T, I don't know if these policies will change. Of course you can usually find a completely unlocked GSM phone to work on your given network, but it will come at a premium. And CDMA users are pretty much SOL because they have no interchangeable SIM card.
No doubt, Pa1mOne was pressured by one or more of these companies to not provide wifi drivers for the Treo 600 or 650, and they complied. While this makes a lot of people angry at Pa1mOne, which I'm sure is at least somewhat justified, they are simply complying with the realities of the business. If they were to anger the providers, those providers might just decide not to offer the phone and then Pa1mOne would be giving up huge amounts of potential revenue. So while I too am angry that Pa1mOne did not have the guts to stand up to these companies, I can't really be too angry, because doing so would be extremely risky for them. With the carriers merging and thus gaining even more power to influence phone manufacturers (who are not merging at all, as far as I can tell!), the situation does not look that promising until manufacturers can gain some kind of strategic advantage that allows them not to be pushed around as much by the carriers.
Thanks to Shadowmite and those who helped him, we may have a hack that will give us the ability to do wifi that should have been included to begin with, despite what the carriers might want.
Link, link, link, link
posted Thursday, 16 December 2004
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