Doubleplus ungood! Big Brother's designs on mobile

The carriers announced their visions at CTIA and Mobile World Congress -- here's how to interpret their real goals

The two mobile trade shows that feature the carriers and other major industry players -- CTIA and Mobile World Congress -- have now wrapped up, giving us the Big Brother providers' view of the mobile world they want to impose on you. (CTIA ended just yesterday; the congress ran a month ago.)

As always, the carriers and major device makers make a lot of promises that they often don't keep and continue to trot out promises they won't deliver. But some key trends are emerging from these industry Big Brothers that both IT and users should be aware of. Let me translate their announcements and intents for you, especially those that have hidden "Big Brother ungood" in mind.

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The carriers are looking for new ways to make you spend more
No surprise: The carriers' business models are all about luring you into their walled garden and extracting as much from you as possible while preventing you from leaving. Two-year contracts, high termination fees, and friends-and-family plans are how they trap you. Text messaging fees, data plan fees, and hidden surcharges on unlimited data and data services you didn't mean to use are all examples of how they want to strip you bare.

At the two conferences, the carriers continued to whine about how they can't support all that mobile data usage and why they need tiered pricing -- that is, higher rates. Trust me, it's coming: The Apple iPad's two-tier 3G access plan at AT&T Wireless is the first explicit test. (The carriers have always had hidden limits in their "unlimited" data plans.)

It's true that the carriers' profits increased negligibly in 2009 despite signing up all those iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry users, who pay more each month than regular users. This fact is what the carriers will use to justify the need for more fees and price hikes -- never mind their profit margins continue to be among the highest of any industry. As George Orwell's Big Brother would say, "Doubleplus ungood."

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