Walled Gardens of countries

Yerba BuenaHaving recently moved to Sweden but with business/friends/family in Denmark, I have experienced first-hand a phenomenon that has increasingly been discussed in various forms over the recent years: Walled Gardens.

According to Wikipedia, a walled garden refers to:

… a closed or exclusive set of information services provided for users. This is in contrast to giving consumers open access to applications and content.

This is a rather broad definition but well-suited for the purposes of this blog entry. There are several kinds of walled gardens. Some examples of walled gardens include social networking sites such as Facebook and Apple’s iTunes Store.

The walled gardens I have experienced recently are related to internet and cell-phone services between borders of countries. Here is the situation: My Danish cell-phone carrier, 3, offers the convenience of calling and surfing with the same prices in Sweden when connecting to their Swedish network. This allows me to keep in touch with friends/family and business relations in Denmark without added cost. However, there are three problems with this:

  1. 3 is the only company that offers this service, limiting my choice of carrier.
  2. If a Swedish person calls me while I’m in Sweden, they pay as if they were calling from Sweden to Denmark, i.e. with international rates instead of domestic rates. I feel bad that they have to pay more to call me and maybe they will actually call me less because of it.
  3. If I call a Swedish number while I’m in Sweden, I pay as if I was calling from Denmark to Sweden, i.e. international rates instead of domestic.

Now, the solution to all the above problems is pretty simple: Create a subscription that offers the same rate for calling both domestic and international numbers with no roaming charges. It is beyond me that I can travel freely between most of the European Union countries without border control (because of the Schengen area) but I am restrained by my Danish service provider’s walled garden when it comes to communication between borders.

I have tried different options such as buying a Skype Online Number and running Skype on my phone and I have clinged to my belief that it should only be necessary for me to carry one phone around. But I realize that I will probably soon have to carry around two phones at all times because there is also not a decent double sim-card phone out… yet.

Why are roaming prices so high? A survey by Eurobarometer from 2006 (in these days considered a very long time ago) finds that there are really no reason and suggests, among other things, to have a maximum roaming charge of 16.5 cents for receiving a call (about 1.24 DKK). Now, 5 years later, I can see that my carrier charges 1.39 DKK for receiving calls in many European countries. This is simply not good enough.

I think the above example outlines a problem that needs solving and needs it fast. Unfortunately, the cell-phone carrier business is not one I would dare entering but if someone came along and offered me 100 million as startup capital (or something like that), I would promise to devote my entire time to creating a company that would support this idea. Imagine not being restrained by borders and huge roaming charges. That would be something.


Why is Windows so expensive?

I am not sure that anyone can answer the question “why is Windows so expensive”. After all, most people get Windows when buying a new computer where Microsoft has a strong hold on the market.

First, how expensive is Windows exactly? Currently, I am looking at the US prices where Windows 7 Professional costs $200 for an upgrade and $300 for a full version. To compare, I have downloaded Ubuntu Linux three times within the last year for $0 but have donated $10 every time, just to make myself feel a little less guilty.

I understand that nothing comes for free and there are obviously many bright people at Microsoft that have high salaries. While being a student, one also enjoys the benefits of downloading tons of Microsoft software for free. But now, while starting my own business, $300 for just one Windows license is really a lot of money. And that is only the operating system. I won’t even get started on products like Visual Studio, SQL Server and so on.

There are two solutions:

  1. Use open source. Yes, I would like to do that, especially because there are excellent alternatives to proprietary Microsoft software. The problem is that Visual Studio is needed in certain situations.
  2. Swallow the bitterness and pay.

I would like to see Microsoft doing different pricing schemes on their software in the future. Until then, I will just have to pay.

Edit: The third option is to enroll inĀ Bizspark which we did. See the next blog post