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Bad MEN Of Wireless 121

justbeatit wrote to us with an article from Red Herring about the bad MEN of Wireless. MEN, of course, means Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia.
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Bad MEN Of Wireless

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  • I'm sorry, but I'm getting tired of hearing how this company or that company is stifling innovation. We should expect this by now.

    Every company in a position of power in their particular market will do whatever they can to stay in that position.

    Are we really suprised that Microsoft isn't the only company in the world that likes to choke out its competition?
    • It may just be me, but I doubt that there are people working for every single SuperMegaCorp who go in on Monday morning and spend all week trying to think of ways to stifle innovation across the board. I'm sure there are some decisions made for the sole intent of putting direct competitors under pressure, but just because a large corp doesn't help out every single startup that walk in the door doesn't mean they are out to destroy them.
      THE PRIMARY GOAL OF A BUSINESS IS TO MAKE MONEY! Investing in new technology is a risk. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes you lose big. If a large corporation carefully chooses the right technology to cultivate they will survive. If not, then they will eventually be knocked off their high horse by another company with the Next Big Thing (TM).
  • Its not like we havent seen companies playing dirty tricks before, have we?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      In your sig you cast the return value of malloc(). Please do not do this. Since the language was standardized and malloc() returns a void pointer, the cast is not necessary. At worst, it can hide a very serious error in your code if you forget to include stdlib.h. (If you do this, the compiler assumes malloc() returns an int and the returned value may be improperly aligned .. but since you explicitly cast the return value, you're all but preventing the compiler from ever warning you about this.)

      That is all.
      • I dont know about how other people code, but when I write in C - I always think about what library needs to be there. Its instinct for me to add appropriate .h files.
        Its like driving a don't put the car into first gear without first depressing the clutch...Likewise I never use a library call without first making sure its .h file is there.

        But, yes, you are correct...the cast is unnecessary. I leave it there cause 1) it looks cool (it IS just a .sig afterall), and 2) the compiler I always used gave me a warning about not casting.
      • Unless you are using malloc in C++ which is more strongly typed and the compiler will bitch if you do not cast it in this way.
  • So whats new.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by h4mmer5tein ( 589994 )
    It's business, and big business at that. What MEN are doing is nothing more than standard commercial tactics. Dubious ones admittedly, but nothing that hasnt been done before or will be done again in the future.

    The continuous pressures from the stock markets, share holders and investors to keep stock prices high means that companies are venturing further and further into the grey areas of business practice in order to achive and maintain high stock valuations.

    Controlling technology is just another way of doing what Enron, Westcomm and KPNQWest did though dodgy financing. In this case its not quite as effective in terms of boosting share prices in the short term, but it's a whole lot more legal.
    • Yeah, I mean, great economies of scale can be achieved in colluding and consolidating to reduce competition and innovation. I mean, look at all the successfull monopolists of the past. It's just normal for capitalism to destroy itself. Nothing illegal about that. Oh wait, IT IS.
      • Your missing the point. What Enron et al did was clearly and obviously illegal, at least to those in the Finacial world.
        Three companies working together to develop new standards and opening them up to others.... Thats a whole new ball game and one the lawyers can keep playing for years before anyone decides whats wrong or right.
        As I said before, it's one of those grey areas of business practice where legalities can be argued while the profits are being made.
        Cooking the accounts is clearly illegal, what MAN have done isnt. It _may_ be illegal but not obviously so, and they have taken the business decision that the money they stand to make from doing this outweighs what it _might_ cost them _if_ the SEC ( or whoever ) decide that they are going to investigate.
      • Yeah buddy, so many people act like they have no idea that monopolies are nothing new.
        Doesn't the fact that the game Monopoly where most of us first came across the term is a product of the 30s mean anything to anybody?
  • by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @10:17AM (#3951005) Homepage
    MEN, of course, means Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia.

    Who cares? I wanna see the WOMEN of Wireless []!
  • WAP anyone ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @10:24AM (#3951042) Homepage
    Not invented by the big three, hyped and failed.

    Part of the issue here is that there are a few basic tennets for the wireless industry

    1) Open Standards, strange to say but the folks at these three are actively pushing such standards

    2) Security and reliability, the operators have to support the hardware so they won't buy that which isn't reliable as it costs them more.

    3) Investment, these three have invested huge amounts of cash already, and don't want to see Mr Johnny come lately investing 3c and getting a totally different level of ROI.

    4) Fear. Of Microsoft, Of diminising returns, Of competition. This is a tough marketplace and they would prefer to be the last man standing, and so anyone new isn't being blocked out by a cartel, but blocked out by 3 companies who see newcommers as potential allies of their competitors.

    For someone to complain that they are blocked out of the "wireless messaging" meetings when they don't manufacture handsets is a bit rich. This is like me complaining that I get cut out of UN Security Council meetings just because I'm not a country and don't have an army.

    Big business is often bad, but these aer three companies that act against each other to drive down prices and drive up inovation. Small fry on the side who bitch that $1,000 doesn't buy them the same seat at the table as $1,000,000,000 are just as clueless as the .com "millionaires" who bitched that suppliers wouldn't give them as good a deal as they gave Sears.

    Welcome to capitalism, if you don't like it... become an accountant.

    • Re:WAP anyone ? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Zayin ( 91850 )

      Not invented by the big three, hyped and failed.

      According to this [] document, WAP was created by the WAP forum, which originally consisted of, Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola. So it _was_ invented by the big three. (plus

  • Duh... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jacer ( 574383 )
    If you're having a hard time coming up with a great new idea, what's the easiest way to stay in buisness? keep others from coming up with great new ideas, or prevent them from using them. We all know money is the root of evil, and we all yearn for it, are we not all evil? Being evil, you'd have to agree with their practices, in their position, but if what they do affects you in any negative way, you bitch.
    • Re:Duh... (Score:3, Informative)

      by JimPooley ( 150814 )
      We all know money is the root of evil
      This is a common misquote. The actual phrase is "The love of money is the root of all evil"
      • I wasn't quoting anything, I was saying money is the root of all evil. If it's so commonly misquoted then maybe more people think it's the other way around.
      • No, no, no.

        The actual phrase is "*I* am the root of all evil!"

        telnet RootOfAllEvil

    • Consider this pedantic but, money is not the root of all evil, it's the LOVE of money. Check out this [] for more information.
  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @10:34AM (#3951091) Homepage
    On the other hand, slashdot was recently complaining that Japan gets all the cool stuff [], which includes cooler cell phones with higher data throughput, full-color screens, and video telephony. Seeing as how the MEN have failed in the japanese market, are the MEN even very relevant?
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @10:39AM (#3951112)
    I worked at the M in MEN for about 5 years, in the cellular division. Believe me, they don't really know what they are doing. It may sound logical to say they know that they are stifling competition, but nobody there could wipe their butt unless there was an SOP document showing them how. It was a huge, iceberg of a company, where it took months to get anything done. We had an intern who was there for 4 months, and he never got his UNIX account created. We had to submit the proper paperwork to someone, and they had to interoffice mail it to someone else, who then gave it to the manager of the sysadmin, etc etc etc. It was excruciating. We submitted the papwork the day after he started. We called, emailed, you name it for 4 months. No account was ever created, it was always "in process".

    So as a company they may be part of a group (MEN) that collectively keeps their own interests to heart, but there is no grand conspiracy as far as I could tell. Unless it is between the VPs or CEOs, or other people who make those important decisions. I was just a grunt that got sick of working for a lumbering giant with a cult-like company culture.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Believe me, they don't really know what they are doing.

      Yeah, I can coroborate that. Example: One of our customers wants our software to interface with their switch. When we went to the manufacturer (Who isn't one of MEN but whos name begins with S) to get a spec for the interface that their equipment has. They swore blind that what we trying to do was impossible.

      So, one of our developers spent a week with access to said model of switch. Lo and behold, he achieves the (apparently) impossible! I'm not even sure we've bothered to tell the manuacturer.

      Mobile Telecoms a funny 'ol business though.
    • Strange used I worked for E. They could'nt tell there arse from there elbow either. I think it was more a case of the blind leading the blind. They said we will lead you into the future and then went over a cliff, taking there customers with them
      • by Anonymous Coward
        They could'nt tell there arse from there elbow either.

        Maybe it was because their employees didn't know where the ' goes in COULDN'T, and didn't know the difference between THERE and THEIR...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I work at the M now, in cellular. Things are a lot leaner now, and they move a lot faster.

      Generally, no-one knows where the wireless industry is headed. The one thing that everyone does know is that 3G has the potential to become the most expensive suicide note in history!

      There are still a lot of folks emplyed in the wireless industry. If 3G doesn't work there are going to be a lot of unemployed engineers.

      • Hey, can you tell me who I can kill^H^H^H^Hthank for writing the iDEN documentation? Sweet mother of shit, sentences like "CCITT SS7 signaling is used between the MSC and the HLR and the MSC and the SMS-SC." are rife throughout it. I don't think I've ever read something with so many acronyms.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Believe me, they don't really know what they are doing.

      I think this isn't universally true at Motorola. I worked there several years ago in one department that was SW-CMM Level 5, and most people there seemed pretty sharp. However, their general UNIX network and their network admins left a great deal to be desired. Their UNIX servers were vintage early-90's (really old Sun servers, I believe), couldn't handle the load they subjected them to (lots of users using new software on old computers tends to suck), and the reliability was poor (due to poor network architecture, I believe). Since then, they may very well have improved things; at least, I really hope they did.
      • I think this isn't universally true at Motorola. I worked there several years ago in one department that was SW-CMM Level 5, and most people there seemed pretty sharp. However, their general UNIX network and their network admins left a great deal to be desired. Their UNIX servers were vintage early-90's (really old Sun servers, I believe),

        Heh, probably the same equipment that they used when I was there. ('93-'98) When I started, we had the old black and white Sun boxes. The kind where you could get screen dumps of anyone else on your server, or you could change their background. Man, those were unsecure pieces of crap. Then we upgraded to newer servers. Those are probably the same ones that you used.

        I agree, there were bright people there, but they were caught in the same mess as everyone else, and it still took forever to get anything accomplished.

        Wanna know how to bring a server to it's knees?

        write a shell script called "hose", with this as the contents:
        ./hose &

        When you run it with (hose &), it will eat all the cpu on the server, but it probably won't crash it, it will eventually taper off and stay at a really high level. Nobody else will be able to log in, and even if they do, they can't kill the process (it is constantly changing). I did this on accident once, and went immediately to our Unix admin. They were going to reboot the server. I said "wait a minute" and went back to my terminal. Can you guess what I typed to get it to stop?

        rm hose

        I wonder if that will still work today, I haven't tried it lately.

        • FYI, I was curious and just tried in on a Sun Blade 1000 running Solaris 8. Brought the machine to it's knees. Isn't responding.

          Pretty funny, though. Luckily it wasn't a server and we don't really even use the darn thing.

        • We had some users write a script that essentially did the same thing. I had set up the root account so that I could get in with a barebones shell... /sbin/sh. I stopped it by renaming the script. Then I went over and kicked a little ass. These same folks set up a cronjob with * * * * * because they were to lazy to write a daemon.

          Sometimes my arm gets tired of beating users with the cluestick.
    • As a former employee of M also, I completely concur. After graduation, I worked there for two years after in paging/cellular. Of the five projects I was assigned to, all of them were cancelled. The beauracracy was stifling and they were struggling to get a pulse on what products there customers needed. The company was in a constant state of restructuring in attempts to recapture it's identity.
  • Childish whining (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mlofroos ( 549209 )
    The Red Herring article quotes "complaints", "claims" and other loosely justified attacks on the companies, which, quite frankly, border on slander. At the same time, many are missing a crucial point; it's not MEN that are making technological mischoices so much as the carriers.

    If I had a grocery store and customers wanted to buy yesterday's bananas, then, by Jove, that's what I'd be selling them!

    On the lighter side, how about this for an acronym: Siemens, LUcent Technologies, Nortel Networks?
    • Maybe you missed the part about the carriers maybe voiding their warranties if they went with non-vendor approved solutions.

      Similar leverage to the MAP (Minimum Advertised Pricing) that got the labels dragged through court (they lost) 2 years ago.

      The carriers may have made the mistake in borrowing so heavily in the first place, but I think you're missing the big picture - that we shouldn't have to make laws and rules to prevent companies from behaving in fasions that run counter to the purpose of capitalism (to raise everybody's wealth) .. in acting out of pure self interest and not in the interest of technology or the market, they are spoiling the change for everybody who enjoy the fruits of capitalism.

      Or are we just so disillusioned these days, we don't expect anyone to do anything good unless we have a team of riot police standing by to enforce the order? If we are, fuck that. People are forgetting that altruism is the most 'profitable' course of action in the end for everybody. Any other action designed to profit at the *expense* of progress and co-operation (and it can be done quite easily as we have seen) should be publicly condemned.
      • Granted, I didn't pay much attention to the part on warranties - but similar practices are in place in most industries, right? You overclock your processor -> warranty voided.

        Of course it would be cordial if companies cooperated with 3rd party solution providers to approve these solutions, but seeing as how that competes with MEN's own products, I understand their reluctance. At the end of the day, capitalism isn't altruistic. The purpose of any company is to produce return on the investment of it's owners, not to serve some greater purpose of technological development.

        I agree with you that this is not how things necessarily should be. So far, there just haven't been viable alternatives.

        • If you can't see the difference between telling a carrier that they cannot upgrade part of their system with a competitor's product without voiding the warranty of the entire system, and voiding a warranty of someone who deliberately operates equipment beyond it's designed voltages, clock rates, and temperatures, then I don't think we can have a rational discussion.
        • > So far, there just haven't been viable alternatives.

          There is something called public opinion that is more powerful than anybody can comprehend.

          If everybody just started disliking folks that operatate in the world of "is" instead of "should", we'd be fine. As it stands, going "Hey, thats how it is" is part of the reason that we can't seem to find a viable alternative.

          > capitalism isn't altruistic

          Sure it is. Competition can be altruistic if everybody participating understands that a little competition will fuel people's desire to make stuff better, faster, cheaper, etc. It's only once its participants start beliving that using every single possible advantage and loopwhole to exploit their leverage is fair game does it cease to be. That's not capitalism, because capitalism was never meant to be that. Gains are meant to come on the back of development and innovation; any other means of competition is abusing the rules of the game and ultimately doing the league a disservice.

          I know thats not how it is right now, but that sure as hell isn't going to make me excuse anybody from straying from the noble goals of capitalism. I won't be sympathetic because some company sinks to whatever low the next company does even if it's the only means to that company's economic survival. Manipulating grey areas of rules and laws is as inexcusable as abusing the black and white rules and laws, doubly so when most people seem to agree that the aforementionned questionable behaviour is not the kind of behaviour capitalism was designed and enforced to encourage.
  • Just yesterday, Virgin (as in airlines/music stores/etc.) brought their line of mobile phones to the US market. Being questioned on Fox News last night, Richard Branson said that the US looks like a good market because only 45% of people have cell phones (where in England it's 85% and in some other European countries, as high as 90%). He claims that in doing research with the 18-25 market, he found that the average non-mobile phone user doesn't feel there's a good brand name they can latch onto (in spite of MEN apparently). They've co-branded their phone with MTV and have gotten it into over 12,000 retail locations - as of yesterday. In addition, they're adding some kind of musical function to their phones - but he didn't elaborate in the interview.

    So, I dunno - it all sounds like capitalism to me. Maybe it's a screwy Major Corporation vs. Major Corporation capitalism with no place for the small business person, but it's capitalism just the same.
  • I get it... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @10:47AM (#3951153) Homepage
    MEN are the NME.
  • Reality? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dexter77 ( 442723 )
    Atleast there is competition between those three, at PC OS market there is/was no competition at all againts M$.

    All of those three are now starting to support Symbian OS and Java. Would the situation be the same if there were 20 companies with each having 5% share of the market?

    To me as a customer it's alot easier when there are only few models to choose from and even those have the same OS.

    As a programmer it's very nice to see my Java code working in all of those phones.

    How do you define optimal market? Thousand companies, hundred companies, ten companies or just a one company?

    • Not only are they supporting Symbian - most are agressively promoting it. All three of these companies are very worried of the MS threat on the horizon. MS would love to leverage its current market control to make an MS OS the defacto standard on portable devices.
      • Except that if you look at the PocketPC 2002 spec wireless devices you see that the whole point of using WinCE is to overcome the measly storage that was the market reality of years gone by. While chip performace gaince may be hitting some serious obstacles, storage is still going nuts perhaps more so than ever. That being the case, it's a bit silly to suspect that either WinCE or Symbian is all that relevant to the development of wireless devices. It's already possible to run Debian with KDE and even Quake on a wireless IPaq. The only catch is you need enough storage. As it turns out, the future of storage is probably the brightest area in hardware these days. Cell phones are cell phones, stripped down mini OSs aren't going to make or break anything.
  • Ericsson (Score:4, Interesting)

    by little1973 ( 467075 ) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @11:09AM (#3951275)
    I am working for Ericsson and IMHO, Ericsson is not a bad company. And I think it does not have a market dominance which it had a few years ago. Its shares are standing quite low at the moment and from the inside its future is not so bright.

    IMO, Ericsson troubles can be traced back to one problem which name is AXE. AXE is a telephone exchange and the most successful product of Ericsson. All over the world you can find AXEs in exchanges. The problem is that everyone already bought an AXE, so there is almost no market to sell more. Another reason is that AXE is quite old. It was developed in the '70s and it starts showing its age. There were projects to create a new type of AXE, but they failed.

    This is the reason why Ericsson partnered with Juniper. The future is IP telephony and Ericsson needs a partner to develop its next flagship product.

    As for the article, it claims that MEN are holding back wireless technology. I think this is not true. From the inside it seems the carriers do not have the money to buy the state-of-the-art 3G and UMTS equipment because they threw away their money at the UMTS tenders. Ericsson hopes in 2003 the carriers will overcome their predicament and start buying. Otherwise, lay offs will continue...

    Everything I wrote in this comment is my personal opinion only and NOT an official statement from Ericsson.
    • Re:Ericsson (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gnalre ( 323830 )
      True, one problem Ericsson has is that it's telephone exchange market is mature so there is no growth(Of course that what ENGINE was suppossed to solve). However it has a few others.

      Mobile phones. Ericsson has shown again and again they cannot produce consumer products. Phones,PDA'a, bluetooth,etc. The company is to slow moving to meet consumer demands. They were just a black hole to poor money down. They should of sold the mobile phone division off years ago. However the management believed you needed a finger in all mobile pies.

      Secondly lack of direction, the number of cancelled projects in ericsson is legendary, and most departments spend there time in fighting. As for juniper, it was the kind of company that ericsson needed. However I think they sold there stake months ago.

      Ericsson spent heavily betting on 3G. Unfortunately I do not think it is going to happen.
      • The SonyEricsson joint venture seems to have sorted out the phone side - the T68 and T68i are big hits in Europe, and far better than the preceding Ericsson or Sony phones (small, light, colour, GPRS, Bluetooth, and T68i has MMS for multimedia messaging). Also the recently announced phones seem pretty good.

        I got a T68 in Nov 2001 and within 3-6 months about 10-15 colleagues had bought one.
    • The future is NOT IP telephony.
      Cellular carriers have already got exactly enough bandwidth in the ground to carry their cellular traffic, both 2, 2.5 and 3G. Bandwidth is expensive.
      VoIP only makes sense if you have infinite amounts of bandwidth, or if you believe the Cisco BS, which is about the same thing. The latency and packet delay will kill VoIP if used on a carrier scale as the bandwidth requirements are uneconomic, or if are interfacing with a cellular network for the same reason.
      They need to look for something else to save them. It won't be 3G either.
      • Like it or not, VoIP is being used already for international calls - you may already be using it without knowing in some cases. The bandwidth is something of a red herring - they are massively expanding their IP networks using SONET/SDH rings and/or DWDM in order to carry a great deal more data traffic, so adding VoIP alongside this is relatively easy (much smaller amount of bandwidth). Latency is not a problem given suitable QoS and link-level fragmentation on slow speed links - in fact some VoIP carriers even use multiple Internet links, switching between them as required to maintain latency (though personally I'd prefer a non-Internet VoIP network, and most carriers will use this).

        VoIP is also mandated by the UMTS Release 4 and 5 standards - some operators will launch with Release 4, so they will be using VoIP for cellular calls.
  • by kirkb ( 158552 ) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @11:31AM (#3951460) Homepage
    Is it just me, or does "bad men of wireless" sound like one of those "beefcake" calendars, possibly featuring shirtless RF engineers in provocative poses [shudder...]
  • With so much need, the dominant positions of MEN are anything but guaranteed...MEN are vulnerable...go beat the crap out of MEN...MEN's dominance could soon be over...

    Is 'Dan' Briody actually
    (a) a pseudonym;
    (b) a feminist?

  • It just might be worth a subscription to Red Herring. I saw this in print 2 (two) months ago.
  • And at a time when so many economies are struggling around the world, the need has never been greater for wireless carriers to have access to next-generation technologies that increase efficiency and that might get businesses and consumers spending on telecommunications again.

    Has he seen how the carriers are doing lately? MEN couldn't sell the new technology to the carriers no matter how badly they wanted to. The carriers have no money to buy the infrastructure or even pay someone to go out and set it up! It is really expensive to buy the equipment considering that its only your early adopters that will actually use it to begin with. That's a pretty small niche market.

    Couple that with the fact that there is no killer app for 3G networks. People don't know what to do with all of that bandwidth that you'll be getting with 3G. Hell, MEN don't know what to do with it. Even if you are just talking about coverage increases, you'll have to buy a multi-mode phone to work in your new 3G systems (we'll say IS-2000 CDMA) then be able to switch down to IS-95 CDMA, our current CDMA systems, and also be able to work in AMPS, lovely analog mode that for some reason, I believe (though I could be dead wrong here), is required of phones by some government regulatory body; most likely the FCC.

    Early adopter phones are expensive, getting all of those modes into one phone can be a challenge which leads to higher phone prices. I'd love to see it, but I don't think that its going to happen all that soon.
    • To clarify the situation with AMPS-
      Individual phones are not required to support AMPS, but carriers who operate in the 800 MHz band are still required to maintain AMPS compatibility on their networks. The theory being (at least in part) that anyone with an AMPS handset should be able to at least place an emergency call wherever there is an 800 MHz network. Hopefully the US will take the European approach and finally permit carriers to start turning this off soon and reclaiming some bandwidth.
  • Red Herring Indeed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mellifluous ( 249700 ) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @01:58PM (#3952511)
    I think the facts here are much simpler - the economy is down, and all of these companies are suffering. Even Nokia's stock is a small fraction of its peak despite consistent profitability. They aren't deploying new technologies as fast as some would like because these things all cost money (surprise!). Believe me, Nokia, Motorola, and Ericsson, would all love to deploy new technologies because it would drive equipment renewal. In fact, all of these companies have been moving towards licensing more of their technology, so that others can develop upon it.

    The article has it backwards: These three all rely on product renewal for growth.

  • M.E.N. := M.E.N. Endander Networking
  • The author has got quite a few of the supporting "facts" in his articles wrong, not to mention the fact that his conclusions are all backwards. From the inside of at least part of a wireless infrastructure division of MEN, things are going faster and more frantic with shorter product cycles just over the past couple years. The earlier comment was dead-on, profits for MEN are driven by upgrades to new technology, not by expanding existing networks. Ripping out all that 2G and 2.5G hardware and replacing it with backward-compatible 3G hardware is a pretty profitable enterprise, and the prospect of doing the same thing to convert the network backhaul to packet/IP is also lucrative.
  • A friend of mine insists that if he ever comes up with some great product that will endanger another big corp's profits, he says he will go to the corp and ask to be bought off to hold out with his new technology/product for X amount of years for Y amount of money.

    I think it's an interesting idea, but it sucks for the consumers not to be able to use better stuff


God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker