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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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December 6, 2012 11:09 AM

T-Mobile finally getting iPhone, inks Apple deal

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA will finally start offering Apple products in 2013.

T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, confirmed today that the companies have reached a deal after years of effort by T-Mobile.

The news was released at an investor conference in Bonn where the company said Apple products and a massive investment in LTE wireless broadband are part of a broad plan to reinvigorate growth at Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA.

Details of the Apple hardware weren't included but T-Mobile has upgraded its current network to accommodate current iPhones that customers bought elsewhere. More than 1.7 million iPhones are now on the network.

T-Mobile is preparing to launch LTE service next year, which could support the iPhone 5 unless Apple reserves its latest model for larger carriers.

Reports today said the deal will involve a new, unannounced iPhone model.

That would track with deals T-Mobile has made with other handset makers. Nokia, for instance, provides T-Mobile with the Lumia 810 - a variant on the Lumia 820 series that larger carriers such as AT&T offer. Perhaps T-Mobile will get the iPhone 4T.

It could also mean that T-Mobile won't get the iPhone until Apple releases the next model, which tends to happen in the fall.

T-Mobile USA Chief Executive John Legere told investors in Bonn that the carrier suffered because a "certain number" of customers wouldn't come to its stores if it didn't have the iPhone.

Legere said the company won't see cash flow benefits from the deal until 2014, but T-Mobile didn't bet the farm on the iPhone like Sprint did with a $15 billion commitment to Apple.

"This is not a volume commitment the size of what Sprint agreed to or anything close to it," he said in the presentation, which was shared via YouTube.

Legere said he can't discuss details of the Apple device coming to T-Mobile but said it "will be a dramatically different experience," adding that "it is different, it is unique."

Perhaps it comes in magenta?

An Apple spokeswoman confirmed the deal but declined further comment.

Of greater importance than any particular handset are plans to boost capital investments "considerably" over the next three years. This includes increased spending by T-Mobile USA following its merger with MetroPCS, which DT expects to close within the first half of 2013.

Overall DT expects capital investments of 9.8 billion euros next year, up from previous plans to invest 8.3 billion. That's mostly for wireless broadband in the U.S. and Germany.

Specifically, the company plans to spend around $4.8 billion next year on T-Mobile USA's network modernization and blending of the MetroPCS network. It plans to investment $3 billion in 2013 and again in 2015.

Here's the Apple mention in the DT release:

T-Mobile USA has entered into an agreement with Apple to bring products to market together in 2013.

A T-Mobile USA spokesman in Bellevue said the company won't be expanding upon the statement.

Here's a slide from Legere's presentation:

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Here's a video of Legere's presentation:

Comments | Category: Apple , Gadgets & products , Nokia , Phones , T-Mobile , Telecom , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 7, 2012 2:23 PM

Paul Allen releases app -- for iPad

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is enthusiastic about Windows 8 tablets but a new entertainment app he's releasing this week is coming first to Apple's iPad.

Allen is releasing an app called Fayve, which helps users choose movies and TV shows by sorting through recommendations generated by streaming-video providers and Facebook friends.

The free app is scheduled to be released on iTunes on Thursday. Versions for Windows and Android devices are being developed and should be released soon.

Allen has invested in many entertainment ventures, including Ticketmaster, Dreamworks and independent movies. He also restored the Cinerama theater in Seattle.

A spokesman said Allen isn't trying to make money at the moment with the app. The first priority is "to get it in the hands of movie buffs and TV hounds and get their feedback on it."

"This is connected primarily to Paul's interest in media. He is a huge media consumer and has always enjoyed keeping a large collection of a wide variety of media," spokesman Erik Davidson said via email. "He realized it would be useful to have a tool that could filter through the masses of content and find good content based on a person's existing preferences. He thought this would be useful for himself and decided to build something others could use as well."

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Comments | Category: Apple , Apps , Billionaire techies , Digital media , Entrepreneurs , Microsoft , Paul Allen , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 5, 2012 9:15 AM

Review: Windows Phone 8 on Lumia 920, HTC 8X

Posted by Brier Dudley

It turns out the old saying about Microsoft applies to Windows Phones, as well: Wait for the third version of its products because it takes the company a few tries to really nail it.

Maybe that's why so few people bought Windows Phones when the new platform debuted in 2010.

Those who waited will be pleased with the new Windows Phones going on sale later this month, including potent new models from Nokia and HTC that I've been using.

IMG_4024.JPGThe Lumia 920 offered through AT&T and the HTC 8X from multiple carriers are great phones that combine Microsoft's elegant software with fresh and powerful hardware that will appeal to technophiles and first-time smartphone buyers.

They offer refreshing, modern alternatives in a market dominated by Google and Apple. But there are some trade-offs, particularly if you're attached to iPhone or Android apps not available on Windows.

Both the Lumia and HTC have distinctive, colorful cases fronted by big, vivid displays. They have fast dual-core processors, 8-megapixel cameras (8.7 on the Lumia) and near-field communication radios that do tricks like sharing photos by tapping phones together.

The Lumia has a bit more technology packed in. Highlights include more-advanced photo capabilities and a free music service, plus the ability to wirelessly recharge by setting it on accessory charging pads.

But Nokia declined to join the cult of thinness with its new flagship.

The Lumia 920 feels stout compared with the more tapered 8X and the twiggy iPhone 5. You don't forget which pocket is carrying this phone. In a pinch you could use the Lumia to hold down a tarp in a windstorm, or put it in the trunk for added traction on icy roads.

I expected the Lumia to be the hottest model in the new lineup, but the svelte 8X is stealing some of its spotlight, as well as its color scheme. The 8X has a grippy, rubberized back and sleeker case that feels better to hold and elicits more oohs and aahs.

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Both are based on Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8. The moniker highlights the affinity with Windows 8 for PCs, which borrowed its touch-friendly, dynamic desktop interface from the phone software.

Microsoft has been making smartphones for eons, but it rolled out an entirely new platform that it called Windows Phone 7 in 2010.

Last year it released a big update in version 7.5, and now -- with Windows Phone 8 -- we've got the magical version 3.0.

Unfortunately for those who took the plunge earlier with Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, Microsoft won't let them upgrade to 8. At least the power connectors are staying the same.

Microsoft's platform still lacks the amazing variety of apps available on Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platform.

It's unlikely to catch up before these phones are obsolete, but the number of apps should accelerate now that Microsoft has improved tools for app developers and made it easier to write apps for both Windows phones and PCs.

Meanwhile, the situation is partly compensated for by some excellent new apps developed by Microsoft and its partners that are available only on Windows Phone. They include photo apps that Nokia built to take advantage of the Lumia's top-notch camera.

Windows 8 also has a new feature called "Kid's Corner," which lets parents create a kid-friendly sandbox on their device. When it's activated -- with a few swipes on the screen -- kids playing with the phone can access only apps, music and videos selected by the parents.

Microsoft is adding a Skype app that will keep the phones continuously connected to the service, so you can make or receive calls through Skype or your wireless carrier. It wasn't yet available on my review hardware.

Also coming is a new feature called "Data Sense" that will reduce data usage by compressing images, offloading some tasks to Wi-Fi and adjusting data usage as you approach the limits on your wireless plan.

Perhaps the best apps on Windows phones are the Microsoft online services that you can use to stay connected with friends and family, share photos and keep your digital life synchronized across different devices.

These have been there since the first version, but they've been improved -- especially the online storage locker SkyDrive, which is really polished now. It also helps to connect to these services on the latest, 4G wireless networks.

Over the past week, using various flavors of Windows 8, I grew accustomed to having photos I took with the phones automatically backed up to SkyDrive so I could look at them at my desk or when using a tablet. Then it was a snap to email relatives a link to the SkyDrive folder containing our Halloween pictures.

Tapping the phones to share photos worked, but it was relatively slow.

Another feature, Microsoft's "People" hub, collects your contacts and social-network pals. You can view their updates and tap their names or pictures to place calls or send email. New to Windows Phone 8 is the ability to create groups of contacts and "rooms." You can invite friends or family to join a room where you privately share messages, calendars and photos.

All the new Windows Phones use Nokia's great mapping software. The Lumia also has a gee-whiz augmented-reality app called City Lens that displays nearby attractions, shops, bus stops and other map items when you point the camera in their direction. These items are overlaid on the image of the streetscape that you see though the lens. It makes finding a coffee shop feel like a video game.

For now the Lumia 920 is exclusive to AT&T and uses its 4G LTE network. AT&T loads a default search page that doesn't do justice to the software's clean design.

UPDATE: AT&T announced that it will sell the Lumia 920 for $100 and the smaller 820 for $50 starting Nov. 9. Later this month AT&T will offer the 16 gig HTC 8X for $200 and an 8 gig version for $100.

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LTE is great, but it's a battery hog. The Lumia ran a full day on a charge, but Nokia needs to tune the power consumption further to catch up to the battery life of newer LTE Droid phones such as the Razr M, which can last multiple days with light usage. The Lumia's charge messages can be misleading; one time it said I had 13 hours left, but the battery was dead a few hours later.

I can't really compare the battery life on the 8X because I was using a foreign model on T-Mobile's 3G network, though it lasted several days on a charge in that mode. HTC claims 14.7 hours of talk time and Nokia claims nine hours on a 3G network.

T-Mobile will begin selling the 8X on Nov. 14, starting at $150 for a 16-gigabyte version. Verizon soon will be offering the 8X starting at $200.

If you're shopping for a smartphone this holiday season, I suggest at least taking a look at these phones to see the new direction Microsoft, Nokia and HTC are taking in phone design and technology.

(Here are the full specs for the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X.)

Comments | Category: 4G , AT&T , Android , Apple , Gadgets & products , HTC , Microsoft , Nokia , Phones , Windows Phone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 29, 2012 2:11 PM

Apple iOS chief Forstall leaving in shakeup

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apparently there has also been a storm in Cupertino, Calif.

Apple today abruptly announced a reorganization of its executive ranks that includes the departure of Scott Forstall, head of its iOS mobile software group.

Forstall will be an adviser to Chief Executive Tim Cook until he leaves the company next year.

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Forstall -- who grew up in the Silverdale area, interned at Microsoft and still has family in the area -- was a close protege of and possible successor to Steve Jobs before Cook's ascendancy.

A BusinessWeek profile in 2011 called Forstall "the sorceror's apprentice" and said he "may be the best remaining proxy for the voice of Steve Jobs, the person most likely to channel the departed co-founder's exacting vision for how technology should work."

The story noted that Forstall is named on about 50 Apple patents, including a key one in 2009 that named him, Jobs and other employees as co-inventors of a touchscreen device controlled by finger commands.

More recently Forstall's group has come under fire for glitches with the launch of iOS 6, including a faulty mapping program that led to a rare apology by Apple.

Apple chose to release the news on a day it would have the least effect on its stock, which has lost some of its momentum since September and following the launch of the iPad mini last week. It announced Forstall's departure and the executive shakeup during the storm-related closure of Wall Street.

Also leaving in the shakeup is John Browett, head of Apple's retail business, after less than a year in the position. Cook will directly lead the group while a replacement is sought. Browett was hired in January from British consumer-electronics retailer Dixons.

Executives Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi are being given additional responsibilities.

Ive, head of industrial design, will now also lead human interface design, a position giving him more authority over software as well as hardware.

Federighi will lead iOS in addition to OS X software development. Cue will add Siri and Maps to his online services group. Hardware engineering chief Mansfield will lead a new "technologies" group that will work on wireless products and semiconductors.

"We are in one of the most prolific periods of innovation and new products in Apple's history," Cook said in a release. "The amazing products that we've introduced in September and October, iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini, iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod touch, iPod nano and many of our applications, could only have been created at Apple and are the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services."

The release didn't provide any information about Forstall's next career move and the company has not yet responded to a request for more details.

Forstall, a Stanford graduate, joined Apple in 1997 through the acquisition of NeXT, a computer company that Jobs founded after he resigned from Apple in 1985. Forstall was one of the original architects of the OS X operating system and its Aqua user interface.

Forstall rose to become senior vice president of iOS software and part of the small circle of executives that guides the company. Last year he was paid a salary of $700,000 plus a 100 percent bonus of $700,000, plus stock awards, and received a raise to $800,000 for 2012.

Here are a few images I took of Forstall at the side of Jobs during the iPad 2 launch in March 2011:

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Comments | Category: Apple , Tablets , Tech work , iPad , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 23, 2012 10:24 AM

Apple unveils thinner iMacs, new iPads, MacBook Pro

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple is trying to spoil the party in Seattle, announcing new PCs and a mini iPad ahead of Microsoft's launch of Windows 8 on Friday and Amazon.com's launch of its 10-inch Kindle Fire next month.

WIth the PC industry gearing up for a major refresh around Windows 8, Apple hopes hoping to lure buyers with new models of its desktop and portable computers. But while Apple's new hardware is gorgeous, it's also very expensive, which will limit its chances of taking over the desktop and laptop PC market that's still dominated by Microsoft.

A new version of the desktop iMac unveiled today is 80 percent thinner than the current model. Apple also is offering it with a hybrid hard drive -- combining a spinning hard drive with flash storage -- similar to what Windows PCs have been using to boost performance.

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(SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 23: Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller announcing the new iMac during the event at the historic California Theater on October 23, 2012 in San Jose, California. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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The base model iMac with an i5 processor, traditional hard drive and 21.5-inch display costs $1,299 and ships next month. The base 27-inch model is $1,799 and ships in December. They no longer have DVD drives. (Apple is livestreaming the event to users of iOS, and it's being blogged by Apple's selected group of reporters.)

Apple refreshed its MacBook Pro line by adding models with high resolutoin "Retina Display" technology. A 13-inch model with USB 3.0 ports, a Core i5 processor and 256 gigabytes of storage but no DVD drive starts at $1,699. A 15-inch model starts at $2,199.

The new version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro - the best-selling Mac - is 20 percent thinner (0.75 inches thick) and nearly a pound lighter, at 3.57 pounds.

Apple is aiming at Amazon.com with a new version of its iBooks store and reading app. Despite the hype of previous versions they failed to get much traction against Amazon's Kindle platform, which also runs on Apple devices.

Apple also is trying to deflect the new challenge of tablet computers running Microsoft's Windows RT software that will debut on Friday, including Surface models made by Microsoft.

Its biggest weapon here is an updated model of the iPad announced today -- its fourth-generation -- with the same exterior but a faster processor and wireless radios. It starts at $499 or $629 for a model that connects to wireless phone networks. The starting price of the previous-generation "iPad 2" remains at $399.

As widely expected, Apple also unveiled an entirely new, smaller iPad -- the iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch display -- that's a defensive move against the successful 7-inch Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7 tablet. It's about a fourth less heavy than the full-size iPad and has a slightly more squared-off design.

The iPad Mini is also less resolutionary than the bigger iPads, with less than HD 1024 by 768 resolution, but it still runs the same apps. Its case is 5.3 inches by 7.87 inches and 0.28 inches thick, and it weighs two-thirds of a pound.

Apple declined to compete on price, perhaps counting on its brand cachet and slightly bigger screen to lure buyers from competing pads in the space between smartphones and full-size tablets.

The iPad Mini will start at $329 -- which is $130 more than the starting Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. The $329 model has 16 gigabytes of memory and Wi-Fi; a version that works on phone networks starts at $459. Wi-Fi versions ship starting Nov. 2.

Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs famously dismissed 7-inch tablets, saying they were destined to fail, but he's no longer running the company.

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(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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Comments | Category: Amazon.com , Apple , Apps , Gadgets & products , Google , Microsoft , PCs , Tablets , Windows 8 , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 8, 2012 10:39 AM

Q&A: Nintendo boss on Wii U vs. AppleTV, Google, Xbox 720 ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here are edited excerpts of my interview with Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America. (Photo by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff photographer)

The conversation in his Redmond aerie led to today's column on the upcoming Wii U and its potential as a new TV interface.

Among the topics we covered was competition with Apple, Google, Microsoft and others developing new entertainment hubs.

Q: Could Nintendo TV be the killer app in the Wii U -- even more than its gaming capabilities?

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A: The way that I would say it is Nintendo TV is certainly going to be something that every member of the family picks up and engages in at least once a day. If that helps them get more comfortable with the GamePad and in the end adds to more games being played, then that's great. But fundamentally it's part of the overall proposition of games, TV plus social.

Q: Do you think you've designed a superior TV interface for a family?

A: We think we have. In terms of a way to find what you want, to actually watch it on the big screen or on the small screen and then to be socially engaged on it, yeah, we do think we've created a better mousetrap.

Q: Will that broaden the appeal of the Wii U beyond gamers?

A: We believe so.

Q: Will people buy the system just for home entertainment, similar to the way many early buyers of Sony's PlayStation 3 were looking mostly for a great Blu-ray player?

A: You know it could be, but I do think in the end the consumers we're talking to are those consumers who want a game console in their home. So they want the best Nintendo entertainment, they want the best of the third-party entertainment.

So I think it's going to be that larger community of gamers which now is like two-thirds of all households today. But once they get it in the house we think that Nintendo TV is certainly going to be a great value add.

Q: Lots of people are looking to "digify" their TVs with devices that connect them to the Web. Are you looking to fill that niche with a device that makes it easy to get Hulu and Netflix on their TVs?

A: Certainly. But I think more than that. If the consumer just wants to add VOD [video on demand] to their TV, there are a lot of different ways to do that. I think the value we bring is by providing the consumer a better way to find all of that content.

And here's the example: if you have Amazon video services ... for you to find what's on there, what's hot, what's trending, is pretty tough. Now say you've got Amazon plus Netflix plus Hulu Plus and you're trying to figure out what it is you're trying to watch -- that's what Nintendo TV really solves.

Based on the way you watch TV -- which is based on shows, based on the actors, based on the genres, based on what your friends are watching -- we solve that equation by letting you search that way across all of your entertainment. For us, we think that's the big idea.

Q: Google's also trying to build a new TV interface with search and social capabilities ...

A: There are a lot of people who've been trying to do this and I think the challenge has been how do you build the economics, how do you drive the installed base, and how do you drive the relationships.

Our approach was, because it's on the back of the gaming platform, that's what's going to drive the installed base. Because we're clearly a games and entertainment company, Netflix and us have a fantastic relationship. We've got a fantastic relationship with the Amazon video people, a fantastic relationship with Hulu Plus, a growing relationship with the cable companies and dish companies.

Essentially we were the perfect vehicle to drive this type of innovation into the home. Whereas all of the other competitors have maybe an issue from a partnership standpoint that is tough to solve.

Q: You don't have a video store that's competing directly (like Sony and Microsoft ...)?

A: Exactly.

Q: But are you still getting commissions on the video rentals through the Wii U?

A: We're not going to talk about the business relationships that we have, but suffice it to say we've got very mutually beneficial relationships with all of the entities that participate in Nintendo TV.

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Q: Will you make as much money on the platform from services such as video as you will from video?

A: As a first-party publisher, there's a large part of the value chain that we make on the game side ... so I doubt we will make the same profitability on the services side as what we do on the games. But it's still going to be a very healthy business for us.

Q: I talked to companies a few years ago that were working on ways to identify who was using the TV at a particular time so they could target ads to, say, mom, dad or the kids. How are you going to take advantage of that information, which you'll see through your system?

A: Certainly the way the system works, it gives us access to a lot of information, as long as the consumer agrees to share it with us. How we utilize that, we'll find out as we go.

Again, we're not in the ad-serving business. We're not in the micro-targeting business. But certainly I can imagine as we build out the service that's something that Comcast or AT&T or any of the cable companies are really going to be interested in, potentially.

Q: So it could give you leverage, negotiating to work with them?

A: Sure.

Q: Apple TV is also a rival of yours, including the current adapter and the rumored actual TV set. If it comes to pass I'll bet that it's something comparable to the interface you've developed (blending services, adding search, social and messaging, plus a simple and elegant remote).

A: We're all working off of the same public statements but it seems like they, too, want to be your cable box and they want to own that direct relationship with the consumer based on the content.

Again I think that's the sticking point for how they're going to bring their vision to life. Because I don't think any of the established players are willing to give that up.

Q: Over the life of this console the landscape's going to change, more video is going to move to on-demand, cloud services instead of cable.

A: Potentially. One of the beauties of what it is that we're doing is that essentially Nintendo TV is a cloud service, right? It's delivered over the Web. It's interactive. It can change on the fly.

Q: If this really grows, will it change the character of Nintendo? Will it become more of a consumer electronics company vs. a game company?

A: We've always been an entertainment company, going all the way back to the hanafuda cards and our key equities. We're an entertainment company. I think what the Wii U does is further show that our vision is this broader entertainment landscape.

Because in the end the time that consumer spends in any form of entertainment that's not on our device is a missed opportunity for us. It's that type of thinking that led us to create "Brain Age," same type of thinking that led us to create "Wii Fit." It's looking at the broadest landscape possible as to what constitutes entertainment.

Q: Do game companies have to evolve this way because the box and games business is declining?

A: From a Nintendo perspective this makes sense for us because we view ourselves from this broader entertainment landscape. We view every potential consumer as an opportunity. Whether they're 95 years old or 5 years old, we want to create entertainment that's going to speak to that consumer. In our view whether we deliver it in a handheld device or in their home, it's an opportunity to engage with that consumer, make them smile, give them something positive.

You look at the way we've managed the Mario franchise, the Zelda franchise, all our of our key franchise characters, utilizing a variety of different gameplay styles -- it's always been about driving entertainment.

Q: Will future versions of the 3DS handheld be more entertainment focused. Will there be a way to get Nintendo TV onto the 3DS or 4DS?

A: Today you can connect your DS to the Wii in terms downloading demos, downloading bits of entertainment. Second point is one of our key developers has already aid that they're working on a key franchise -- "Smash Brothers" -- that will have some form of connectivity between the 3DS and the Wii U.

Certainly because we manufacture the devices, we can enable some sort of connectivity. But beyond that on your 3DS today you can watch movies, on your 3DS today you can have a variety of deep experiences. We're certainly leveraging the learning we have in the broader space across all of our platforms.

Q: How about things like the timeline -- the interactive chatting about a show in Nintendo TV -- will that come to the future 3DS?

A: It could. But the piece to recognize and the reason we're able to bring that to life is that your signal, from either your cable box or your dish, this system has access to it through the IR codes. ... Who's to say the next iteration, ... the 4DS or whatever it is, might be able to do that, maybe.

But it just highlights the way we think about hardware development is we envision scenarios, we envision what can be done technically, that the current system doesn't do and then we build it into that new device.

For example, if we hadn't built the IR capability into the GamePad, the work we're doing with Nintendo TV couldn't come to pass. That's another key advantage we have, for example, vs. tablets or other handheld device. Not all of them have IR blasting capability. In fact, most of them don't.

Q: Speaking of tablets, how are you going to surface this against all the new tablets this holiday season?

A: We're working very hard to make sure that consumers understand that this is an entire system. It's the console, it's the GamePad itself, it's an entire proposition. It's not just a tablet that you're going to have in your home.

So the first step is really making sure that the consumer understands what is the entire proposition. The second step is making the consumer understand all of these great experiences that they can get that they're not going to be able to get on a tablet, and they're not going to be able to get on a tablet somehow connected to a gaming system like what our friends down the street are trying to do.

The only way we can deliver an experience like "New Super Mario Bros U" or like Nintendo TV is that this is an entire connected system , the way the GamePad talks to the console, the way the console is connected to the TV, the way it speaks to your entertainment provider. Your cable box or your dish provider. That entire ecosystem is what we're providing.

In our view the best way to bring that to life is to talk about the actual experiences, to talk about Nintendo TV and show it is unlike anything you can do today. To talk about the games and show that it's unlike anything that you can do today.

(Below is a screenshot of EA's FIFA Soccer 13 on the Wii U, with control details on the GamePad)

Q: You must have made a decision that linear TV was still going to be first-class on here. Your competitors, say, Google TV, didn't pony up for a guide. You did, deciding that people still watch a lot of linear (broadcast) TV. (Note: Google does not license a standard guide for live TV broadcasts, but a spokesman said there's a "TV & Movies" app available that pulls show data from online sources.)

A: There were just some numbers that were put out that ... in terms of TV viewing households, it's still something like 95 percent of all households. Linear TV is not going to go away, despite what anyone else says. It's certainly going to be driven by sports; it's going to be driven by event type programming. And so for us we absolutely embrace that in the way we're approaching Nintendo TV.

Q: Will you sell this system through Comcast or other TV partners?

A: It's certainly possible.

Q: Why didn't you just buy TiVo and go the whole DVR route?

A: That's not what we do.

Q: I wonder if Nintendo 30 years from now will be seen as more of an entertainment/video company?
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A: I think that we already see ourselves as an entertainment company. I think that certainly as we launch the Wii U, as consumers experience Nintendo TV, I think consumers will also see us as a broader entertainment company.

Q: Consumers may also think you're crazy to launch a system built around a tablet and a social network when there's a dominant tablet company and dominant social network already .... How will your Miiverse social network compete against Facebook?

A: We believe we're going to get traction with Miiverse because it's going to be dedicated to your gaming friends and your gaming community.

Here's the example: Yes, I belong to a few different social networks. But on that social network am I going to be posting how, you know, challenging this particular part of this particular Mario game is and asking for help? Probably not.

But I will post that type of information on Miiverse. And that's the difference. We're trying to cater to a specific opportunity around gaming and gaming conversations that we know our audience is passionate about.

Whether they're the most active consumer or whether they're the brand new game player, they get passionate about a game, they get passionate about questions of how to beat a level, the background for a level, what to play next. And we believe all of those social conversations are going to be best served by something like Miiverse vs. an existing social network.

Q: How about conversations about a football game or TV show that they're watching?

A: For those types of conversation, we're letting the consumer decide what's the best social network to use, whether it's through Miiverse or Twitter or Facebook. All of that's possible through Nintendo TV.

Q: Would you prefer that all those conversations happen through Miiverse?

A: For non-gaming conversations, we are ambivalent as to how the consumer wants to have that conversation. But we're passionate that when it comes to gaming, they're going to want to have that conversation through Miiverse.

Q: Are you going to monetize those conversations and social activity?

A: Right now we see it as a service. We see it as something that's going to be free to the consumer and a built-in part of the value proposition that is Wii U. Do we believe that potentially it's going to be a way for consumers to discover more content -- a way for consumers in the end to buy more software? Hopefully.

But we think making sure it's the best service possible for the consumer in the end is going to be good for us.

Q: Consumers might think the Wii U is expensive. Will the price slow the adoption?

A: That's why we've provided the two different price points and the two different SKUs. We certainly think that the basic model at $300 is a fantastic value. We think the deluxe version at $350 with "Nintendo Land" packed in is an exceptional value. We think whether you're looking to spend $350 or only want to spend $300, we've got something for everyone.

Q: What's your view on consumers' spending this holiday season? have they already spent their money on phones, or are they looking for a big new thing this holiday?

A: We think there's a variety of consumer situations out there. We certainly believe that there are quite a number of consumers looking for the next big hot product and looking to buy Wii U. That's millions of consumers.

We also think that there are going to be a few million consumers who are very late adopters who are going to be looking for a lower priced home console that has fantastic games. The Wii is for that customer.

We think that the Wii will have a strong holiday as well because there certainly are many consumers who are still feeling some financial pressure who only want to spend a certain amount of money but still want to play Mario and Donkey Kong and all of these great franchises.

There are going to be other consumers where they want a handheld and we've got a full range of different handhelds all the way from a DSi for $99 to a 3DS XL for $199. So I think that we have positioned ourselves regardless of the consumer's economic situation to find happiness with Mario.

Q: Will the Wii U and its capabilities last you through the next console generation?

A: We think so. It's based on having great graphics, it's based on having a robust online execution. We believe that this system is going to have a very long life, and it's going to be very well supported by third-party publishers.

Q: Will you refresh it through its life by adding big new partners, such as new video partners?

A: Certainly. It's going to be based on who the players are, and how they fit into the ecosystem that we're building. But as we drive the installed base of Wii U, we think there's going to be a lot of additional partnerships there for us to have.

Q: Can you fend off the Xbox 720 and PS4?

A: Once you talk about what that is, we can probably fend it off.

Q: What about goggles? Microsoft may be adding goggles. How can you make it without goggles?

A: Tell me if 3-D TVs with goggles have worked so far.

Here's Nintendo's demo video of Nintendo TV on the Wii U:

Comments | Category: 3D , Apple , Digital TV , Digital media , E3 , Gadgets & products , Games & entertainment , Microsoft , Nintendo , PlayStation , Video games , Wii U , Xbox |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 1, 2012 9:56 AM

Microsoft's visa plan: More needed

Posted by Brier Dudley

I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

That's the gist of Microsoft's ambitious proposal to revamp U.S. immigration policies regulating the flow of foreign tech workers into the country.

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Microsoft wants the government to let companies bring in more skilled workers from overseas with special visas. It also wants the government to release more green cards that were allocated but unused.

To make this more palatable to a country suffering from widespread unemployment, Microsoft proposed fees of $10,000 to $15,000 that companies would pay for extra visas and green cards issued through the program.

Microsoft estimates this would raise $500 million a year, which could be earmarked for science and math education to better prepare students for tech industry jobs. That's tomorrow's payout for the fresh meat Microsoft wants today.

You have to give the company credit for floating a creative solution to one of the thornier political issues facing the country. But more has to be done to get Americans to accept the deal proposed by the crafty software giant.

Really, how many politicians will agree to fill jobs with more foreigners, when millions of Americans are struggling to find work?

A generation is entering the workforce with little hope of ever receiving the wages, job security and stable pensions that enabled their parents and grandparents to buy homes and send them to college.

At the same time, the country's future depends on its ability to continue being a font of creativity and innovation and a beacon of hope and opportunity for the rest of the world.

Building higher walls along the border isn't the solution. This is a nation of immigrants, and the recent waves built and lead some of its largest employers. The tech industry is full of examples.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin was born in Russia. Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer's father immigrated from Switzerland.

Then there's Steve Jobs - the late Apple co-founder and icon of American ingenuity, prosperity and business prowess. He was the son of a Syrian Muslim immigrant, put up for adoption and taken in by an Armenian family in California.

None of that is any solace to American workers who can't find work today. Especially those with technical skills or training that don't sync precisely with the thousands of job openings advertised by companies like Microsoft.

Also outraged by talk of a "talent shortage" that underlies Microsoft's visa proposal are smart, capable people whose careers were derailed by imperfect management systems or office politics.

Microsoft's "stack ranking" system, which evaluates employees on a curve, regularly empties seats, raising questions about just how critical the talent shortage is in Redmond.

It's hard to keep it in perspective.

While employees are gritting out their annual job evaluations and the unemployed are sending off their hundredth job application, a new crop of software developers is emerging from schools around the world.

We want it all. We want to help our neighbors. We also want Microsoft and other American tech companies to lure as many of the best and brightest as they can, so they work hard, build careers and invent the future here.

This is a tricky puzzle that has stymied Congress for years. It's not getting easier with both presidential candidates talking tough about foreign economic competition while pledging to create more jobs.

President Obama went so far as to block a Chinese company's purchase of four Oregon wind farms last week. Is he going to sign a bill allowing Chinese to take more American software jobs, just not our windmills?

To make its proposal fly, Microsoft and the tech industry need to offer more than just $500 million worth of math and science funding. Here are few ways they could make progress:

1. Create an online portal giving more details about what jobs can't be filled domestically. Tech companies need to be more transparent about this to prove m

ore visas are needed. They also need to show special visas aren't being used to fill jobs with lower-cost labor.

2. Use this reporting to create a system that helps government employment agencies and colleges better place job candidates. The data could also be used to focus education and retraining programs.

3. Use the $500 million in visa fees to invest in job retraining and placement services that address the current unemployment. Earmark a portion to retrain and place veterans, who could connect with programs such as Microsoft's Military Outreach to transition to private-sector jobs. This may not produce top-tier software developers -- some people have the gift, many don't. But it would be a faster way to offset the job importation and make extra visas more palatable.

4. Before tinkering with visas, boost K-12 and college funding by eliminating offshore tax havens the tech industry uses. Microsoft alone used these to trim its federal contribution by $7 billion since 2009, a Senate panel disclosed Sept. 20.

Microsoft is correct in saying tax law is too complex, enables these schemes and needs to be revised. But then the company turns around and suggests an elaborate new visa program.

(Don't get me started on Microsoft's tax breaks in Washington state, which is boosting computer -science programs but too broke for just about everything else.)

5. Link the call for additional visas with an equally bold call for broad tax reform, and a pledge to pay more taxes. That would provide more stable, continuous funding for education than unpredictable visa fees that will rise and fall with demand for foreign labor. It would also send the message that U.S. tech companies are doing everything they can to help their country.

As for the jobs at stake, the 40,000 new visas and green cards per year that Microsoft calls for won't make a dent in unemployment. But they could actually help improve the situation.

In August, there were 12.5 million people without jobs in the U.S. The 40,000 positions are equal to 0.32 percent of that population.

The 40,000 new jobs are more likely to reduce unemployment as the imported workers buy food, cars, clothes and housing during their stay. This is obvious to everyone in the bustling area around Microsoft's Overlake campus.

Even so, Microsoft's proposal is a hard sell, especially when you have 12.5 million jobless voters.

No matter what happens, Microsoft gets points for using its megaphone to put an important and sensitive issue on the table during the election season.

It may want to pay us Tuesday for extra visas today, but it's not being wimpy.

Comments | Category: Apple , Asia , Billionaire techies , Google , Microsoft , Public policy , Seattle , Steve Ballmer , Tech work |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 14, 2012 12:11 PM

Jimmy Kimmel's iPhone 5 test

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's a fun take on the iPhone 5 mania.

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September 10, 2012 9:43 AM

Thoughts on Amazon's new Kindles: Ads, phones and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Here are six more thoughts on Amazon.com's Kindle launch -- one for every new model the ambitious Seattle tech giant introduced at Thursday's launch gala inside an airplane hangar here.

Don't dismiss the rumors of a Kindle smartphone just yet.

It's still early days for Amazon's Kindle business, which could release phones and other wireless devices next.

Chief Executive Jeff Bezos dropped a huge clue when he described in detail the new 4G LTE modem Amazon developed for its Kindle devices.

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The modem is just 2.2 millimeters -- thin enough for a phone -- and works with multiple bands of 4G LTE, not just those used by AT&T.

Would Amazon invest in a modem like that and then use it in a single device with a single carrier? I don't think so, either.

Dave Limp, the vice president in charge of Amazon's Kindle business, told me the modem will work with other carriers but "we're starting with AT&T."

"We had a lot of things going on, so we thought we'd simplify and start first and foremost with AT&T," he said.

So does that mean the modem also will be used to make a phone? Limp sidestepped my question but didn't say no.

"If I had a dollar for every different rumor that came out over the last two weeks ... ," he said. "I'm flattered that people are paying attention, but I think the six products we announced today is pretty good. We're off to a good start."

Amazon's new Kindles may challenge the Apple iPad, but Google's a closer competitor.

Both Google and Amazon are building devices to draw people further into their online services, where the real money and customer connections are made.

The LTE service offered with the upper-end Kindle Fire HD reminds me of the wireless service bundled with Google's Chrome laptops.

Both Chrome and Kindle devices are built around online services. Connecting has to be cheap and easy to get people to embrace the concept. Google worked with Verizon Wireless to provide Chrome laptop users with 100 megabytes of free wireless access per month for two years, with additional data available for purchase a la carte.

Amazon worked with AT&T to provide 250 megabytes per month -- plus 20 gigabytes of online storage -- for $50 per year.

It's not as revolutionary as the free 3G wireless bundled with some Kindle e-readers, but it's an interesting new wireless option.

For data-hungry users, 250 megabytes seems pitiful. It's not enough to watch a single high-def movie. But it's probably fine if you mostly use the device at home or places with free Wi-Fi and want LTE service to occasionally check mail, maps or websites while on the go.

From the Kindle, you can sign up for additional data plans -- 3 gigs a month for $30, or 5 gigs for $50. Or AT&T will happily add the device to one of its new shared data plans for customers using multiple devices.

I'll bet more of these cheap-but-limited cloud-access plans are coming. Perhaps Microsoft will be next, offering access and cloud-storage bundles with Windows 8 systems.

Amazon doesn't seem too concerned about a nasty patent fight with Apple.

Apple is busy waging war on hardware companies using Google's Android software. The Kindle Fire line uses Android -- version 4.0, heavily modified -- but Amazon apparently hasn't been put on notice.

This is what Limp said when I asked if he expected a patent suit from Apple:

"We don't comment on unknown things."

All the new Kindles have ads by default.

Instead of selling versions of the Kindle with and without ads, at different prices, Amazon decided to have all new models display ads by default. Ads can be permanently removed by paying an extra $15 on Fire models or $20 on the black-and-white Kindles.

Amazon's stance evolved over the weekend. For a time it was going to make ads mandatory on the new Fires, but it decided Saturday to let buyers opt out, for a fee.

Amazon is reaching beyond consumers, aiming the Kindle Fire at business customers, too.

Company executives didn't push this last week because it could cloud perceptions of the device, but they didn't deny it's a priority.

"We've got a great new mail application with best-in-class Exchange integration. We have a new calendar application, we have a new contacts application," said Peter Larsen, vice president of Amazon's Kindle tablet business.

"We also worked with third parties such as Cisco to make sure that their VPN [virtual private network] client is ready and waiting in our app store. Those are some examples of how we're making it better for enterprise."

There actually was a business reason for Amazon unveiling its new Kindles in a hangar at the Santa Monica Airport.

Larsen told a Los Angeles Times reporter that the company wanted to change things up. Previous launches were in New York, the hub of book publishing.

The new tablets "are really about entertainment -- movies, apps, games, TV shows," he said, and L.A. is still the entertainment capital of the world.

That, or somebody at Amazon received a half-price coupon for hangar rental on a Kindle "with offers."

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Here's Amazon's video of its Kindle press conference last week:

Comments | Category: 4G , AT&T , Amazon.com , Android , Apple , Billionaire techies , Chrome OS , Gadgets & products , Google , Kindle , Tablets , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 4, 2012 11:21 AM

Phone phrenzy: iPhone 5, Windows 8 and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you're in the market for a new smartphone, I suggest you wait a few weeks.

All sorts of new phones are surfacing this month, for those who want the latest model. Others may find deals as phone companies mark down 2011 and early 2012 models.

Every major phone manufacturer is releasing new models shortly. Some have teased the releases early and others have been pre-empted with leaked images.

Here's a summary of what's coming up:

Sept. 5 - Microsoft and Nokia are announcing new Lumia models -- the 820 and 920 -- built on Windows Phone 8 software. New features include wireless charging -- using magnetic induction -- and cases in gray, yellow and red, according to The Verge, which reports that the 920 will have 32 gigabytes of memory and a 4.5-inch display.

The same day, Google's Motorola Mobility and Verizon Wireless are having an event where they are expected to launch the Razr M Android phone with a 4.3-inch display and dual-core processor.

Sept. 6 - Amazon.com is holding an event in Santa Monica that's expected to feature the next Kindle Fire devices. There have been rumors of an Amazon phone surfacing as well, but that's a longshot.

Sept. 12 - Apple's expected to release the iPhone 5 at an event in San Francisco. Invitations to the event don't say anything about the phone but show the number 5 in a patent-pending shadow effect. Early glimpses suggest the phone will have a larger screen but similar design to the current iPhone. The iPhone is likely to finally be available with 4G LTE wireless capability.

Sept. 19 - HTC is holding an event in New York, presumably to announce three new Windows 8 phones, which surfaced last month. The "leaked" images suggest that at least one of the models will have a Lumia-like color case, 8 megapixel camera and 4.3-inch display.

Early 2013: If you can wait until next year, a completely new BlackBerry dubbed "London" is expected. Images are surfacing this week, perhaps so Research In Motion won't be left out of the current buzz around new smartphones.

Also coming out soon is a Samsung Windows 8 phone called the Ativ S. It was revealed by the company in August, but a release date wasn't specified. Here's an image shared by Microsoft:

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Comments | Category: 4G , Android , Apple , Gadgets & products , HTC , Microsoft , Nokia , Phones , Telecom , Windows Phone , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 25, 2012 4:58 PM

What's PopCap creative chief playing lately?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Sitting next to PopCap's Jason Kapalka at lunch has its advantages.

Today, over tuna tartare at Seattle's RN74, he shared a few of the games that he's been playing lately.

Besides PopCap titles, of course.

Kapalka has a pretty good eye for games. He's a co-founder and chief creative officer of Seattle-based PopCap, which was acquired a year ago by EA in a deal worth up to $1.3 billion.

Here's what he's been playing lately:

"Ski Safari," a deceptively simple "runner" game in which you try to outrun an avalanche chasing you from the left side of the screen. Kapalka called the 99 cent iOS game "probably the coolest one I've seen recently."

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"Puzzle & Dragons," a puzzle-monster game (pictured) that really is big in Japan, where it's available through the Japanese version of iTunes. Kapalka is intrigued by the serious player-to-player competition seen in Japanese games and expects to see more intensely competitive games to show up in Western markets.

"Spelunky," a challenging, underground exploration game in which a whip, bombs and other tools are used to progress and to collect treasures. The players' haul is lost when they inevitably die, sending them back to start the section over again. "Spelunky" started as an indie PC game but was released this summer on Xbox LIve Arcade.

Kapalka likes the unforgiving challenge of "Spelunky." PopCap makes games that are more accessible to a broader range of players, but he thinks it's still important to make games hard enough that people feel rewarded when they succeed.

"You do lose something if games are always easy," he said.

Kapalka said PopCap is on the sidelines for now with Nintendo's upcoming Wii U console. "We're going to wait and see how it turns out," he said.

Looking farther ahead, Kapalka predicted a breakout of gaming on Web-connected TV sets. He's not sure if this will be via hardware from Apple, Google, Sony or another company, or through sets that connect directly to the Web.

"That's a potentially crazy thing that could come up in the next year or two," he said.

Comments | Category: Apple , Apps , Asia , Casual games , Games & entertainment , Microsoft , Nintendo , PopCap Games , Video games , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 20, 2012 1:05 PM

Startup, UW docs collaborate on very personal app

Posted by Brier Dudley

You'd think the last thing the world needs is an iPhone app that guys can use to take pictures of themselves in full glory.

But there is a medical purpose for the self-recording app that's the latest product of Seattle App Lab, a startup working with the University of Washington Department of Urology.

Its app also provides an interesting look at navigating the privacy challenges around using personal mobile devices for medical purposes.

It's designed to help people affected Peyronie's disease, which "is characterized by a deformity or curvature of the penis with a buildup of scar-like tissue that can make intercourse painful or even impossible," the company noted in its release.

Capturing data about the condition is something men may prefer to do at home rather than in a clinic.

The iPhone app can be used to create a sort of diary for monitoring changes in the curvature over time. Patients then present this diary to doctors.

"It's really a tool for the doctors," said John Nelson, App Lab president.

The condition affects millions of men each year, Dr. Thomas Walsh, UW assistant professor of urology, said in a release.

"Unfortunately, the current tools that we have available for both diagnosis and treatment are limited," he said. "Placing this device in the hands of urologists and men in need will truly advance this area of medicine and surgery -- it will allow patients and doctors alike to make the most informed and personalized decisions about the treatment of their disease."

This is delicate territory, with considerable privacy issues, so the app won't be used to transmit images. Instead they'll be recorded on the patient's phone and presented in person to the doctor.

The photos are also masked, so the diary displays a sort of gray cylinder.

"You're not saving actual photos," Nelson explained.

The app will be submitted to Apple for distribution through iTunes by August. It will be free and available to anyone, whether or not they are UW urology patients. Versions for other platforms may come later.

App Lab, a mobile technology consultancy, was started in January. Nelson said it hopes to specialize in medical diagnostic tools.

Nelson sidestepped my questions about whether the company will repurpose the software for less serious applications.

"It could work for diagnosing any kind of body deformity," he said.

Comments | Category: Apple , Apps , Education , Entrepreneurs , Gadgets & products , Research , Seattle |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 11, 2012 10:19 AM

Apple gives Macs latest Intel chips, high-res Pro laptop

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple just announced that its Macs are getting the latest Intel processors, the third-generation Core series that Intel announced last week during the PC-focused Computex conference in Taipei.

With dozens of new Windows PCs coming to market this year with Windows 8, Apple upped the competition a bit in the post-PC era by also announcing a new MacBook Pro (shown) with a thinner case and Retina Display technology. It starts at $2,199.
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Apple laptops are also getting USB 3.0, which is becoming a PC standard. The new MacBook Pro doesn't have Ethernet or FireWire jacks, though; instead Apple's offering dongles to connect those cables via its optical Thunderbolt ports.

These are nice upgrades to the trend-setting MacBook Air especially, which now starts at $999. But don't stop the presses just yet.

UPDATE: As previewed by Tim Cook a few weeks ago, Apple's integrating Facebook into the new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6, surfacing today and releasing this fall. The Siri voice assistant is coming to the iPad, and Apple's working with carmakers (other than Microsoft buddy Ford ...) to enable Siri to work via an iPhone docked in the vehicle and sync'd with dash controls.

Also being added to the mobile OS is "Passbook," a sort of wallet for storing loyalty cards and tickets, similar to a feature in Google Wallet that keeps various accounts stored on Android phones.

Apple also unveiled a new mapping system with navigation and location information. It was built in-house, to replace the Google maps the company has been using on its devices.

(I'm not attending Apple's event at its developer conference in San Francisco but am watching some of the live blogs.)

Comments | Category: Apple , Gadgets & products , iPad , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 4, 2012 12:24 AM

Apple's Cook and the iPad versus PC question

Posted by Brier Dudley

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- Did Tim Cook really say that?

I couldn't believe my ears at the All Things D conference, the annual powwow of tech and media tycoons.

Maybe I had too much sparkling water and shaved prosciutto at the oceanfront reception.

But sure enough, last Tuesday, Apple's new chief executive came right out and said the iPad isn't a personal computer.

"In my view, the tablet and the PC are different," Cook said to hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

Nobody paid much attention to that line. It was the backswing for a slam aimed at Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 tablets.

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It may seem obvious tablets and PCs are different, but I'd argue that most people aren't so sure. For many, it's been an open question since Apple introduced the iPad in 2010. This ambiguity helped Apple straddle the markets for mobile devices and PCs, broadening the reach of its wildly successful tablet.

Cook's predecessor, Steve Jobs, was coy about the distinction at first. He let pundits, fans and buyers work through the question themselves.

Apple's news release at the first iPad launch called it a device "for browsing the Web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more."

That's mostly what people do with PCs, and the iPad is like a computer, so it was natural to see it as a sort of PC.

Early reviewers nudged this along. Drawing on the old Apple vs. Microsoft storyline, they suggested the iPad could take the place of a PC.

This added to the appeal of the iPad. People shopping for a PC they'd use mostly for the Web and entertainment saw Apple's gorgeous tablet as a nice alternative.

As more people saw the iPad as a newfangled PC with productivity potential, companies bought them for employees. Sales snowballed.

This happened during a low point in the PC sales cycle, after the Windows 7 launch in 2009. Sales of the new iPad soared as PC sales slowed, and pundits began questioning whether Microsoft was finally losing its dominance of the PC market.

Jobs ran with it.

At the All Things D conference in 2010, Jobs said the "post PC" era had begun, a phrase he used again to launch the iPad 2.

Nowadays, everybody's a tech enthusiast and gadgets are the elixir of youth. Yet few have time to keep up with all the new products and sort out their different capabilities.

Jobs made it simple, implying the iPad is the computer of the future. It's kind of true.

As a bonus, it also sounded like a death blow to his nemesis, Microsoft. Especially if you took "PC" to be his shorthand for Windows-based computers.

Many people still wonder if their next PC should be an iPad.

Adding to the confusion are productivity apps and accessories for the iPad, such as external keyboards. These add-ons turn the iPad into a quasi-laptop.

Research firms aren't helping. Some declare the iPad to be a PC and count it in tallies of PC sales. Others classify tablets separately.

This will get more confusing in the fall, when PC makers unveil Windows 8 systems, including some that look just like iPads. More than 100 different models are in the works. A number of these will be thin, glass-fronted slabs with touch-screen input. Some will function like traditional PCs and have Intel hardware, while others will be based on mobile chips like the iPad's. Also coming are new hybrids that convert from laptops into tablets.

Microsoft and its partners hope to produce systems that are fast, light and easy to use like an iPad, with the flexibility and variety people expect from PCs.

So it's time for Apple to start clarifying what's what. I think that's what Cook was doing, when Mossberg asked about the new competition from Redmond.

There were no more sly hints about the iPad displacing the PC. Cook drew a sharp line between tablets and PCs, saying the former are "not encumbered by the legacy of the PC." Instead of blending a tablet with a PC, Apple made something new and different, he said.

"I think convergence is great in many areas, but I think that products are about trade-offs, and you have to make tough decisions, you have to choose," he said. "And the fact is, the more you look at a tablet as a PC, the more the baggage from the past affects the product."

Swisher asked, why still have a PC?

"Because I don't see the tablet replacing the need for all PCs, or all Macs -- I don't mean to imply that at all," Cook said. "What I see is that the tablet for some people takes over what their PC was about for them. It will probably also extend the purchasing cycle for others -- where they'll say, you know I want both but I've got to budget, and so I'm going to buy this tablet more often than I buy my PC or my Mac in some cases."

I guess things are moving so fast we flew right through the post-PC era and into the PC-plus-tablet era.

We'll find out this fall whether Microsoft has too much baggage to ride this train.

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May 30, 2012 5:28 PM

D10: Steve Jobs videos released on iTunes

Posted by Brier Dudley

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. _ As a memorial to Steve Jobs, the All Things D conference is giving away full-length videos of six interviews he gave at the annual tech event.

They include the moving, joint interview with Bill Gates that was the highlight of the 2007 conference.

All Things D has released excerpts of the interviews before but hadn't freely shared the entire sessions.

Co-host Walt Mossberg announced the videos were being given away on iTunes, before a session in which Pixar's Ed Catmull and Oracle's Larry Ellison shared lessons they learned from the late Apple co-founder.

Here's a link to iTunes where the interviews are available in high-def video or as audio podcasts.

Here's a video of the session with Mossberg, Catmull and Ellison, including Ellison's anecdote about an issue with Jobs' peacock:

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May 29, 2012 6:11 PM

D10: Apple's Tim Cook on iPad vs PC, outsourcing and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. _ Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said he's "loving every minute" of his new job and he thinks "everybody at Apple's loving every minute of it, too."

Cook - during an interview on stage at All Things D with hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher - was intensely upbeat, touting Apple's recent success and teasing that even better things are in the works at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

In a rare quasi-public appearance, Cook declined to preview any new products, but hinted that Apple's working with Facebook on improving usage of the social network via Apple devices.

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Cook also said he's not trying to duplicate the visionary role of Steve Jobs, who left a strong team of executives to lead the development of new products. None of which he revealed.

"Never have I seen the things I can't talk about today - the juices are flowing and we have some incredible things coming out," he said.

Apple's under pressure for the working conditions at Chinese factories where it outsources manufacturing. Cook said the company is working to be the most transparent company in the world and is publishing monthly reports on its progress, posting information such as compliance with limits on overtime in the factories.

Asked if Apple would ever resume manufacturing in the U.S., Cook said components such as glass and semiconductors are already manufactured here. One challenge is the decline of tool and die makers in the U.S., he said, noting that all of those companies couldn't fill the room.

"There has to be sort of a fundamental change in the education system etcetera to bring back some of this but there are things we can do," he said.

So, Mossberg asked, will Apple device manufacturing ever return to the U.S.

"It may," Cook said.

Cook earlier drew laughs, joking that "we've had a few decent quarters," before talking about the runaway success of the iPad and its challenge to the PC business.

"I've never seen a product in technology that consumers loved pretty instantly and business loved and education loved and people of all ages loved," he said. "The iPad has just been unbelievable, it's been a knockout, and I think we're in the first inning."


After Cook talked about the iPad potentially surpassing the PC business, Mossberg asked about competition from upcoming Microsoft Windows tablets that have more PC-like capabilities.

In response, Cook stated that they are different products, which is a powerful statement in a tech industry that has increasingly blended the iPad and PC. Some research firms even lump their sales together now.

But combining the products into a single category diminishes the differentiation that Apple has sought to establish with the iPad.

"In my view the tablet and the PC are different," Cook said. "You can do things with the tablet if you're not encumbered by the legacy of the PC, if you view it as different. If you take a view that says this is another PC, all of a sudden you're pulling all of the leg weights of the PC market and you wind up something that may not be that dissimilar to what the tablet was two years ago."

Cook said Apple "invented the modern tablet."

"I love convergence and I think convergence is great in many areas but I think products are about tradeoffs, you have to make tough decisions, you have to choose.
The more you look at a tablet as a PC, the more the baggage of the past affects the product."

Cook also said the tech industry's patent wars are "a pain in the ass" but Apple will protect its innovation.

"From our point of view it's important that Apple not be the developer for the world. We can take all of our energy and all of our care and finish the painting and have someone else put their name on it," he said. "We can't have that."

Pressed on why Apple doesn't produce a lower-priced phone, similar to the way it produces iPods at different price points, Cook said the company didn't set out to produce a mix of products at different prices.

"Who knows what we'll do in the future ... but on the iPod it wasn't that we sat around and said we need a $49 one and a $99 one and so forth," he said. "It was 'we can do a pretty cool product called the iPod Shuffle.'... So each of the products were great products and the result of that, one of the results, it didn't start as the objective, but one of the results were we could have different price points.''

"Whenever we can do some fantastic products and they yield different price points we're all for that," he added.

Mossberg and Swisher pressed Cook on whether Apple is going to produce TV sets. Cook didn't answer directly, saying the company's now focusing on its AppleTV set-top box device.

"We're going to keep pulling this string and see where it takes us," he said.

TV "is an interesting area, we'll have to see what we do," he continued. "Right now our contribution is Apple TV."

If Apple were to enter a new business it would consider whether it can control the key technology, make a significant contribution "far beyond others" and make a product that Apple employees want.

"Those are all the things we would ask about any new product category," he said.

Cook declined to say what the key technology would be in a TV set.

In response to Swisher's questions about acquisitions, Cook said Apple continues to buy companies for talent but not revenue. It didn't look at buying Instagram, he said.

"We're not looking at a big one right now, but I wouldn't rule it out," he said.

Mossberg asked about Apple's relationship with Facebook and why the social networking giant isn't better integrated into Apple products. Cook hinted that the companies are working together on improvements.

"Stay tuned on this one," he said.

The interview concluded with questions comparing and contrasting Cook to Steve Jobs. Swisher asked if Cook is a visionary

"Steve was a genius and a visionary," Cook said. "I've never really viewed that my role was to replace him. He's an irreplaceable person. Steve was an original. I don't think there's another one of those being made. I've never really viewed or felt the weight of trying to be Steve - it's not who I am and it's not my goal in life. I am who I am and I'm focused on that, and being a great CEO of Apple, and it's incredible everyday to work with what I consider to be the smartest and most innovative people on earth."

Mossberg asked who curates products, serving as the final arbiter. Cook said there are many experienced people on the executive team.

So, Mossberg asked, it was a myth that Jobs did it all?

"If he was sitting here he would tell you no one person could do it all," Cook said. "He brought in great people ... and set a standard for who they brought in and that built an incredible company. His legacy will be leaving that foundation - his spirit will always be in the DNA of the company. So I wouldn't get overly focused on who does what piece."

Asked what convinced Cook to leave Compaq 14 years ago and join Apple, Cook said he was drawn to Jobs independent vision, the striking loyalty of Apple customers and the potential to help Jobs rebuild the company.

"If a customer got angry with a company, they would yell loudly, but they would continue to buy," he recalled. "At Compaq, if people got angry at Compaq, they would just buy from Dell. At Dell, if they got angry with Dell, they would buy at that time from IBM. People were moving freely to and fro but the Apple customer was a unique breed."

Cook continued:

"I knew that was different," he said, "and when I looked at the balance sheet of the company I thought I could add something and participate in turning around what I thought was a great American company."

Cook appeared after a gospel choir sang and a marching band came through the ballroom at the Terranea resort to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the conference. Taking in the spectacle from the front row was News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch.

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May 29, 2012 2:40 PM

D10: Apple's Cook opens AllThingsD, where's Windows 8?

Posted by Brier Dudley

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- The timing would have been perfect for Microsoft to unveil the next public version of Windows 8 at the All Things Digital D10 conference starting today.

Windows boss Steven Sinofsky unveiled Windows 8 and its signature interface a year ago at the last AllThingsD conference, and he's on the guest list again this year. But he's not included on the lineup of speakers.

Perhaps there are too many cooks in the kitchen.

The conference headliner this year is Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, who is making one of his first quasi-public presentations since he took over after Steve Jobs' death last summer.

Cook will be interviewed by conference hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher starting at 6 p.m. I'll be blogging from here at the event during Cook's presentation and through the rest of the conference, which concludes Thursday afternoon.

Former Microsoft research chief turned patent mogul Nathan Myhrvold is speaking Wednesday and will likely touch on his culinary adventures and encyclopedic cookbook.

Also on the agenda are the heads of LinkedIn, Spotify, Oracle and Zynga, along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. A session on lessons learned from Jobs includes Oracle's Larry Ellison and Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar animation studios.

Closing speakers Thursday include Google ad executive Susan Wojcicki and Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Google's Chrome and apps business, which today announced new laptop and desktop versions of PCs running the Chrome operating system.

Also appearing in Thursday's finale is Tony Bates, president of Microsoft's Skype division. Bates is likely to be pressed on Microsoft's plans to further integrate Skype into its consumer and business products.

The appearance by Bates comes a week before the Xbox group's big presentation at the E3 games conference, so perhaps he'll preview news about a new Skype feature for the Xbox 360. Or not.

Maybe Bates will do the Steve Jobs "one more thing" trick and bring Steven Sinofsky on stage to demonstrate Skype's integration with the "release preview" version of Windows 8 that's expected to be launched any day now. Stay tuned. I'll be blogging from the session, which begins at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

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May 14, 2012 9:50 AM

Startups at Microsoft: Inside story of Xbox wins, Zune losses

Posted by Brier Dudley

The truly inside story of starting the Xbox and Zune businesses at Microsoft was shared in a remarkable lecture Friday by Robbie Bach, the retired president of the company's entertainment and devices business.

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Bach shared his unique perspective on why the Xbox was a success and the Zune was not during a presentation on intrapreneurship, or how to operate like a startup and launch new ventures within a large, existing business.

The lecture included advice for companies looking to foster entrepreneurial culture, and for all sorts of entrepreneurs entering competitive new markets. It was a breakfast event held by the Northwest Entrepreneur Network in South Lake Union.

Bach described the corporate retreats where the Xbox business was hatched and how Sony fumbled its lead and gave Microsoft the opportunity to get ahead in the console business.

"When the luck happens, you take advantage of it and run with it," he said.

It also helped that Bach's startup had $5 billion to $7 billion in funding available, he joked.

That wasn't enough to help the Zune, though. Bach admitted that Microsoft quickly realized it was too late to prevail in the portable media player business and in hindsight he would have built a music service rather than devices. Apple executed well and didn't give Microsoft the sort of breaks it had in the console business, he noted.

Bach's now focused on philanthropic organizations, serving on the board of audio gear company Sonos and looking to buy a mid-size family business like the food-service supplies distributor that his father operated in retirement.

Here's a raw video of the event. Apologies for the quality; it was taken with a new smartphone that was supposed to capture high-def video ...:

Comments | Category: Apple , Digital media , Entrepreneurs , Gadgets & products , Games & entertainment , Microsoft , Sonos , Startups , Steve Ballmer , Tech work , Xbox , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 8, 2012 6:00 AM

Pirq lands Apple deal, California bound

Posted by Brier Dudley

Just when you think the "daily deals" business has crested, along comes Pirq and its celebrity chief executive with a new twist.

Today Pirq is announcing that it's been chosen to be the exclusive mobile dining deals app for Apple employees in Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and Mountain View.

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Chief Executive James Sun said the deal will accelerate the company's expansion, with Apple's imprimatur giving Pirq an extra boost.

The Pirq smartphone app will be offered through an Apple employee benefits program run by Pirq's corporate uncle, Kirkland-based Passport Unlimited.

It's already opening up doors with other companies and associations, Sun said via e-mail.

"It's also a lot easier to sign up restaurants when you can say Apple has agreed to offer this dining app to their employees at work. Every restaurant wants Apple-like employees to come dine with them," he said.

Sun - who gained fame as a finalist on "The Apprentice" - launched the Pirq service in Seattle last September, providing discounts of 20 to 50 percent at participating restaurants.

The Apple deal's the start of Pirq's expansion beyond Seattle to California, where it's now available only to Apple employees. Pirq will expand the service to San Francisco proper by July and open to the general public there by the end of 2012.

I wonder if Pirq will also offer deals at the private, off-site restaurant that Apple is developing just for employees near its Cupertino headquarters, so they can dine and chat without worrying about eavesdroppers or leaving a prototype iPhone 5 on a bar stool.

Apple is among several tech giants working with Passport Unlimited to provide discount programs for employees. Passport Unlimited's client list includes Microsoft, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Qualcomm.

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March 29, 2012 3:02 PM

Google to make tablets, Amazon planning iPad-sized Fire?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Get ready for even more tablet options this summer.

Google is working with Asian PC makers to produce a Google-branded Android tablet that will be priced at $199 to complete with Amazon's Kindle Fire, according to reports in Taiwan's DigiTimes and the Wall Street Journal.

The move could add to the downward pressure on the price of Android tablets made by other companies, which are competing with the $199 Fire at one end and the $399 entry-level iPad at the other.

They'll all be competing with new Windows 8-based tablets expected in fall. Windows 8 tablets are likely to be far more capable than the flood of cheap Android tablets -- and cost much more than $199. But perhaps consumers and business users will be willing to pay more for computers that aren't bound to the advertising, marketing and web-tracking systems of Google and Amazon.

Google's new device -- the Gpad? -- is expected to appear in time for the "dads and grads" sales season in early summer. DigiTimes said Asustek is working on a model with a 7-inch diagonal display.

The Journal's story followed up with a few new details, including word that Google will sell the Google-brand tablets directly from an online store, an approach that didn't work too well with its Nexus One phone.

DigiTimes is also reporting that Amazon is working on several new Kindle models to go on sale this summer, including an iPad-sized 10.1-inch model that will cost between $249 and $299.

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March 29, 2012 10:47 AM

Apple news bites: $15 for iPhone owners, patent wars, TV ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

There are more than enough Apple stories to make blog cobbler today.

Here's a quick roundup:

Apple's easing off the vow by Steve Jobs to go "thermonuclear" on Google and destroy its Android platform, according to a great Business Week report on Apple's patent war. It notes that Apple's litigation backfired in some ways, revealing that Apple's iPhone and iPad designs weren't as original as it argued, and the company's now looking to settle with its largest target, Samsung, after failing to skewer HTC.

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Owners of the iPhone 4 can now apply for $15 payments obtained through a class-action settlement over the phone's flawed antenna design. The site for filing claims is now live, Engadget reported.

Apple received a patent yesterday that may be related to its rumored TV device, according to Patently Apple. The same report speculates that Apple partner Hon Hai Precision's investment in Sharp is also leading up to production of the Apple TV sets. This is bubbling up as Apple CEO Tim Cook is touring one of Hon Hai's notorious Foxconn factories.

But one analyst is now saying that the hallowed Apple TV may not arrive until 2013 instead of late 2012 as some had hoped. Unfortunately that means the endless speculative stories will continue that much longer.

Google's making more money on the iPhone than it is on Android, which has netted the search company a relatively tiny $550 million from 2008 through 2011, according to filings in the Oracle patent suit that were reported by The Guardian. Google apparently makes four times as much from the iPhone platform, but smartphones are still peanuts compared to the PC platform where Google makes almost all of its money with advertising, the report notes.

The grand finale: A report on iFans.com notes that Apple has stopped mimicking the "your entertainment, everywhere" slogan of Microsoft's Zune music service.

An excerpt:

"It was unknown if it was purely a coincidence or if Apple had blatantly copied Microsoft, but the Cupertino-based company has seemingly discovered the copycat situation and changed the slogan to read as "entertain all the possibilities."

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March 15, 2012 11:45 AM

Peek inside Apple's new iPad, plus early reviews

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you've been dying to see what's on the inside of Apple's new iPad, gadget repair firm iFixit has the goods.

Taking advantage of the time difference in Australia, iFixit flew an executive from San Luis Obispo, Calif., to Melbourne, where he was first in line at a Telstra store to buy the new iPad. Then he cracked it open, using a heat gun, guitar picks and other tools.

Here's the big reveal of the iPad's A5X processor, manufactured by Apple's frenemy Samsung:

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Here's the higher resolution screen, also apparently made by Samsung. During this procedure iFixit could "hear the cries of 3,145,728 pixels being removed from their homes inside the iPad 3."
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Here's the bigger battery:
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For external perspective, Apple's preferred reviewers posted their first takes on the new iPad last night.

Walt Mossberg noted that it's thicker and heavier than the last iPad and is no longer the thinnest and lightest tablet. But "despite these trade-offs, its key improvements strengthen its position as the best tablet on the market," he wrote. "Apple hasn't totally revamped the iPad or added loads of new features. But it has improved it significantly, at the same price."

Mossberg loved the "spectacular" display but said iPad 2 owners "shouldn't feel like you have to rush out to buy the new one. However, for those who use their iPads as their main e-readers, and those who use it frequently while away from Wi-Fi coverage, this new model could make a big difference."

David Pogue at the New York Times said the new screen is "very, very sharp" but it doesn't make much difference for apps that haven't been rewritten for the higher resolution display:

In most apps, text is automatically sharpened, but not in all of them. After enjoying the freakishly sharp text in Mail and Safari, you'll be disappointed in the relatively crude type in, for example, the non-updated Amazon Kindle app. (Amazon says that a Retina-ready update is in the works.)

Similarly, high-definition videos look dazzling. This is the world's first tablet that can actually show you hi-def movies in full 1080p high definition. But Netflix's streaming movies don't come to the iPad in high definition (yet, says Netflix), so they don't look any better.

The iPad's 4G LTE connection is "really, really nice" Pogue said, but he's not encouraging iPad 2 owners to rush out and upgrade, either:

The new iPad doesn't introduce anything that we haven't seen before, either in the iPhone or in rival tablets. There's no Steve Jobs "one more thing" moment here; Apple just took its white-hot iPad and added the latest screen, battery and cellular technologies.

If you're in the market for a tablet, here's the bright side: For the same price as before, you can now get an updated iPad that's still better-looking, better integrated and more consistently designed than any of its rivals.

And if you already have the iPad 2, here's an even brighter side: At least this time around, you don't have to feel quite as obsolete as usual.

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January 10, 2012 3:04 PM

CES 2012: Whoa -- back to the future?

Posted by Brier Dudley

LAS VEGAS -- It's easy to feel deja vu at the Consumer Electronics Show this year.

Some of the new gadgets on display look awfully familiar.

Behold the smart watch, from Casio. No, this isn't the smart watch that Bill Gates showed at CES in 2003 or the "Dick Tracy" watch that LG showed in 2009.

Casio's GB-6900 uses new Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology -- which has ultra low power requirements -- to share information with wearers' smartphones. For instance, the watch has alerts for incoming calls and SMS messages and the phone's ringing can be stopped by tapping the watch.

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Then there's the new home phone with a built-in camera and video display.

Similar concepts have been shown at CES for over five years, but the new Canna runs a 1.2 gigahertz processor and the Android operating system (version 2.3) behind a 7-inch touchscreen.

The phone, which should go on sale at the end of the month for about $249, won an "Innovations" award from CES organizers. It's made by HFC Technology of Beijing, which is also showing a 10-inch model without the physical buttons. It should list for $349.

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This one really takes you back -- all the way to ancient Easter Island.

They're sensor devices that monitor rooms for temperature, smoke and fire, carbon monoxide, ozone and dust. They also function as motion detectors and take pictures, in case there is an intruder.

To equip a home with this advanced monitoring system, each room would have one of the devices, called Moai, after the Easter Island sculptures upon which they are modeled.

Designer Francis Riquet (below), who hails from Montpellier, France, said they should retail for around $100 apiece. He's looking for partner companies to begin distribution.

Moai2.jpg

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November 21, 2011 9:56 AM

Hands-on Acer S3: Can new Ultrabook PCs catch air?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Everybody loved the sleek design of Ferraris in the late 1960s, back when cars were the coolest gadgets around.

So it was monumental when Datsun introduced the 240Z in 1969 -- a Japanese sports car with Italian looks for less than half the price. It wasn't as exquisitely handcrafted, but the 240Z looked great, ran well and a lot of people could afford one.

That helped convince Americans that Datsun -- now Nissan -- and Japanese carmakers really could build sexy machines and not just boxy, cheap sedans.

There's a new generation of laptops appearing this holiday season that may have a similar effect on the Windows PC industry, which in recent years has fallen under the shadow of Apple's glamorous new hardware.

These laptops blatantly lift design cues from Apple's MacBook Air, an elegant, impossibly thin wedge of aluminum that first appeared in 2008, and they're approaching half the Air's price.

Intel calls them Ultrabooks, a brand PC makers can use if they meet Intel's criteria. Ultrabooks basically have to be thinner than a finger; run five to eight hours on a battery charge; use Intel's latest mobile processors; and have a solid-state hard drive, or SSD.

The SSD, which is like a big version of the memory card in a digital camera, is crucial because it improves performance and startup times.

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I've been testing one of the first Ultrabooks, the Acer Aspire S3 (left), which takes only a few seconds to wake from sleep and less than a minute to reboot.

It's a beautiful laptop with a brushed aluminum cover, a 13.3-inch screen and a total thickness of about a half an inch. Closed, it looks like it could be a Web tablet, and it makes mini-netbooks look chunky. At 3 pounds it weighs about the same as a MacBook Air. (Below are pictures of the S3 with a Kindle Fire and a pencil)

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Inside the S3 runs Windows 7 Home Premium on a second-generation Intel Core i5 processor.

There's also a dual drive system -- a 20 gigabyte SSD plus a 320 gig standard hard drive.

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Blended drive setups will appear on several new Ultrabooks. It's a way for PC makers to provide the performance boost of an SSD without the crazy expense of a full-sized Flash hard drive. A spokesman for drive-maker Seagate said its new hybrid drives add only $30 to $60 to the cost of a standard laptop drive at retail.

There are other ways that PC makers are trying to keep Ultrabook costs down.

The S3 has "chiclet" style keys similar to the MacBook Air. There's a bit of wiggle in the keys and I was concerned about the small space bar and Enter key, but I could type reasonably fast without misfires. The keyboard felt just right to my wife and daughter, who have smaller hands.

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With more plastic parts, it doesn't have the exquisite, machined feel of the Air. It also lacks the fast, new USB 3.0 ports (it has two USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI port) and full SSD drives used on some other Ultrabooks.

But these things depend on your perspective. If you're upgrading from a thick, standard laptop, the S3 or other Ultrabooks may be thrilling.

Keep in mind, though, that the S3 and other ultrathin laptops don't have DVD drives. If it will be your only computer, you may need to connect an external DVD drive at some point.

The S3 lists for $900, but I've noticed some discounters are already selling it for just under $850. That's expensive, especially when you can get really powerful laptops for $400 to $700, and Thanksgiving sales are just around the corner.

Still, the S3 looks like a deal if you've been pining for an ultrathin laptop and unwilling or unable to pay for one. Windows PC makers have made gorgeous, thin laptops for years, but they're usually aimed at executives and cost $1,500 or more.

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A 13-inch MacBook Air costs $1,299 to $1,599, for models with 128 or 256 gigabytes of SSD storage.

You could say that the S3 and other Ultrabooks are just copying the Air.

That's partly true.

Also at play is the cost curve. Premium components that Apple used to build such a thin machine are coming down in price. That's enabling other PC makers to build similar systems and sell them for $1,000 or less. If component prices keep falling, most laptops eventually may look like this.

Intel expects 40 percent of consumer notebooks sold by the end of 2012 will be Ultrabooks. But research firm IDC says that's optimistic; it's predicting they'll take 16 to 19 percent of the consumer laptop market next year.

With consumers paying an average of $686 for laptops nowadays, according to IDC, Ultrabook prices need to fall before they take off, said IDC Vice President Bob O'Donnell. "The issue is this first batch is really expensive, unfortunately -- too expensive," he said. "In my view it needs to be $799 or less before it really gets attention from people."

O'Donnell said the combination of Ultrabooks and Windows 8 will be appealing, in part because the new operating system will further improve startup times.

Another research firm, HIS iSuppli, projected Ultrabook sales will grow from 1 million this year to 136.5 million in 2015.

For now, Intel's requirements for Ultrabooks -- especially the SSDs -- are a challenge for PC makers trying to lower prices, O'Donnell said. He met last week with Taiwanese manufacturers who are working on "Ultrabook class" systems with less expensive components that don't quite meet Intel branding standards.

Perhaps Intel will be more flexible with processor prices. It's about to introduce the next generation of the "Core" processors that are the basis of its Ultrabook strategy. These processors, code-named "Ivy Bridge," are supposed to have better performance, power savings and improved graphics.

Ivy Bridge PCs will go on sale in the first half of 2012. It's a safe bet that laptops and tablets built on the platform will be shown in January at the Consumer Electronics Show. Apple's also likely to upgrade its computers to the new processors.

Having "old" and "new" processors on the market could lead to a broader range of prices for Ultrabooks and they'll all be upgradeable to Windows 8.

Meanwhile, the S3 is worth a look if you're in the market for a laptop, especially if you need a fast, light, full-powered Windows PC. It's not the Ferrari of laptops, but it's still a pretty nice ride.

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November 17, 2011 1:08 PM

What kids want for Christmas: Apple gadgets, PC, 3DS, Kinect ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple tops the Christmas wish lists of kids surveyed by Nielsen, which released its annual take on which gadgets people want to receive this year.

Among kids 6 to 12, some 44 percent would like to receive an iPad, up from 31 percent in 2010.

Apple's iPod Touch and iPhone are the next most-wished-for items, followed by a computer, non-Apple Web tablet and Nintendo 3DS. Microsoft's Xbox Kinect sensor is next, followed by Nintendo DS and a TV.

I hope the kids are flexible. That's a pretty pricey wish list for kids in a country where nearly one out of 10 people is unemployed.

Apple's tablet is also the most-wished for item among American consumers 13 and older, with 24 percent wishing for one. Computers and e-readers are equally wished for, with 18 percent of respondents hoping for them, followed by TV sets and non-Apple tablets.

Here are the results in graphics provided by Nielsen:

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November 10, 2011 11:00 AM

Tip of the day: Don't call 911 for iPhone tech support

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's the lesson learned by an Illinois man, accused of calling 911 five times to complain about his malfunctioning iPhone, according to this report.

There's an Apple Store about 16 miles from the town of Bristol where he was arrested, but it probably wasn't open in the middle of the night.

Maybe he should have just waited - Apple today released iOS 5.0.1, the promised update that fixes bugs affecting iPhone battery life. Macworld said it also includes security patches, fixes to iCloud file syncing and improved Australian voice recognition.

G'day, mate!

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November 8, 2011 1:37 PM

iPhone 4S gets Consumer Reports blessing, not tops though

Posted by Brier Dudley

The influential Consumer Reports ratings team finally gave Apple's latest iPhone its blessing, adding the iPhone 4S to a list of "recommended" smartphones.

Consumer Reports declined to recommend the previous model, the iPhone 4, because of an antenna glitch that causes signals to drop of the phone is held a certain way. In a blog post today, the organization said the glitch remains and was found in new iPhone 4 models it recently tested.

Consumer Reports said it found "no notable" battery life problems in its testing of the iPhone 4S, contrary to concerns among some buyers whose complaints prompted Apple to disclose last week that it's fixing software bugs that may affect battery life in the new phone.

But other smartphones are still ranked higher by Consumer Reports, it said in a blog post today.

Overall, the new iPhone 4S scores higher in the Ratings than the iPhone 4, thanks to such enhancements as an upgraded camera, a faster "dual-core" processor, and the addition of the intriguing Siri voice-activated feature, which accepts and responds to verbal commands in a conversational manner, using a synthetic-sounding female voice.

These pluses were not enough, however, to allow the iPhone 4S to outscore the best new Android-based phones in our Ratings.

Top scorers included the Samsung Galaxy S II, Motorola Droid Bionic and other models running on faster 4G networks, the organization said in a blog post today.

Also outscoring the iPhone 4S were the LG Thrill, which has a 3-D camera and display.

In the organization's December magazine, two Windows Phone 7 models were noted on the "top rated" list but held the bottom positions in each category. Consumer Reports noted that they are older models and it didn't have time to review models with the new "Mango" version 7.5.

The iPhone 4S is mentioned in the issue but not listed in its smartphone ratings, because it hadn't yet tested the model at press time, apparently.

Here are the highest rated phones in the issue, listed by carrier:

Verizon: HTC ThunderBolt

Sprint: Motorola Photon 4G

T-Mobile: Samsung Galaxy S 4G

AT&T: Samsung Infuse 4G

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September 22, 2011 10:00 AM

Gartner: iPad holding lead over Android, Win8 late

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple will continue dominating the Web tablet market until 2014, according to a new report from research firm Gartner.

The firm poured cold water on the prime challengers, saying Android tablets are selling slower than expected because of their shortcomings and Windows 8 tablets are too late to win over consumers.

Global tablet sales are on fire. Gartner predicted 63.6 million tablets will be sold this year, up 261 percent from the 17.6 million sold last year.

Growth will be strong through 2015, when the firm expects sales to reach 326.3 million units. By then, the line between Web tablets and PCs will blur as Windows-based tablets will be on the market, but Gartner's forecast blends both platforms.

Apple's share of the Web tablet market will fall about 10 percent this year, to 73 percent, but it will continue to hold more than 50 percent of the market share until 2014, the firm said.

Google's Android platform will account for 17.3 percent of the market this year, up slightly from its 14.3 percent share last year, the firm said.

Android's growth is slower than expected and Gartner lowered its growth forecast by 28 percent. It would have lowered it further if it weren't for strong sales of low-end tablets in Asia and expectations that Amazon.com will release an Android tablet this year.

"So far, Android's appeal in the tablet market has been constrained by high prices, weak user interface and limited tablet applications," analyst Carolina Milanesi said in the release.

Gartner's cool to the prospects of tablets based on Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system. It said buzz generated at the company's Build conference last week "might be short-lived if Microsoft's push to use the new OS across devices comes at a compromise in usability. Moreover, the late arrival might limit its appeal, especially to consumers, as Apple and Android will be more entrenched by then."

The firm sees the biggest opportunity for Windows 8 tablets in large copmanies where IT departments will like the way it works with other Microsoft products.

Research In Motion's new QNX platform is "promising" but it will be a challenge for RIM to attract app developers while it's under pressure to maintain its smartphone business, Gartner said.

A chart included with the release:

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September 21, 2011 9:32 AM

Report: Apple iPhone 5 launches Oct. 4, plus WinMango news

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple's iPhone 5 will make its public debut at a company event Oct. 4, according to an All Things D report.

That's nearly in sync with the Oct. 7 event that Sprint is holding in New York, where it's expected to announce that it will carry Apple's new smartphone.

It also gives Apple a jump on Nokia and Microsoft, which are announcing new Windows Phones later in October, presumably at Nokia's global conference in London on Oct. 26.

UPDATE: Microsoft is also playing launch hopscotch. This morning it announced that the new "Mango" version of Windows Phone will be released "in the next week or two." The revamped operating system is appearing on new phones and will be streamed out to current Windows Phone 7 devices via the hardware companies.

There's been a flood of early iPhone 5 rumors and reports based on whispers from unnamed sources.

But the early line on the new iPhone is that it will look roughly the same as the current model but have a bigger screen and 8 megapixel camera -- par with the latest Android and Windows phones -- and a new antenna design that fixes the iPhone 4 issue that cuts signals if the device is held a certain way.

The phone may be pitched as a 4G device if it works with AT&T's HSPA+ network, but there's no indication yet that it's going to work with the new LTE networks operated by AT&T and Verizon.

The All Things D report focused on the importance of Apple's new chief executive, Tim Cook, making a splash at the event.

But given the way the tech press treats Apple product launches, no matter who unveils the iPhone 5, he or she will get a warm reception.

Windows Phone owners, meanwhile, will see major changes and feature additions as Microsoft rolls out the first major update to its year-old mobile platform.

In a blog post today, the company advises phone users to use the official version of the "Mango" software provided by phone manufacturers and not install "unofficial or leaked copies." An excerpt:

"During the official Windows Phone 7.5 update process, every Windows Phone will also receive software from the handset manufacturer. This matched and paired firmware has been painstakingly tuned so your phone--and apps--work with all the new features of Windows Phone 7.5. Since your phone requires the proper firmware to function as designed, my advice is simple: steer clear of bootleg updates and homebrew tools."

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September 9, 2011 9:43 AM

iPhone 5 with unlimited data coming from Sprint, report says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Sprint's going to offer unlimited data consumption with the iPhone 5 it will begin selling in October, Bloomberg's reporting.

Sprint would be the only U.S. carrier to offer an unlimited data plan for the device, since AT&T and Verizon offer it only with tiered data plans.

The companies declined to comment for the article, which cited "people familiar with the matter."

Pricing of Sprint's iPhone 5 plan wasn't specified but the company offers a $100 per month plan that provides unlimited data and voice usage.

Sprint's been rumored to be getting the next iPhone for some time but hasn't confirmed the arrangement with Apple. Sprint is holding a high-profile press event in New York on Oct. 7, which suggests the timing in the Bloomberg story is correct.

The story also said that Sprint postponed the release of a new 4G device that was planned for September to clear the way for the iPhone.

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August 29, 2011 9:48 AM

HP follows Wall Street to nowhere

Posted by Brier Dudley

Steve Jobs did his old employer one last favor.

By resigning from Apple last week, Jobs made everyone briefly forget that Hewlett-Packard, where he had one of his first jobs, had just hobbled itself.

It may seem like ancient history, but HP's debacle isn't over yet, and the outcome will reshape the tech industry and the lives of tens of thousands of employees across the West.

The world's largest PC maker and cornerstone of Silicon Valley announced Aug. 18 that it was killing its new flagship Web tablet and may jettison its PC business.

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Simultaneously, Chief Executive Leo Apotheker (left) doubled down on its higher-margin corporate-technology business, bidding more than $10 billion for a relatively low-profile British enterprise software company.

HP's stock was in the $40s in the spring, the mid-$30s in early summer and then plunged below $25 on the news (see chart). HP lost more than $10 billion in value, and the fabled company may be a takeover target, ready to be sliced and diced.

There's no doubt the PC industry is in a slump, and HP's TouchPad tablet was a dud.

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But the PC industry is cyclical, and in past years its growth lifted other parts of HP's business. In the fiscal year that ended last October, HP's personal-systems group -- the unit that sells PCs -- accounted for half the company's net revenue growth.

The group's sales were up 15 percent in fiscal 2010, to $40.7 billion, and its profit grew 5 percent to $2 billion.

Yet, in 2009 and 2010, HP cut the percentage of the group's revenue spent on researching and developing new products.

That's a far cry from the legendary invention factory that gave Jobs a summer job in his teens and served as an early role model for Apple.

What's most striking is that HP has been acting just the way Wall Street encourages tech companies to behave. It's been ruthless on costs, and unsentimental in deciding to slash core businesses and chase products that, for now, have higher margins.

But instead of applauding these bold moves, investors have savaged HP. Ratings agencies raised red flags and several research firms downgraded its stock after the announcement.

Some Wall Street sirens still praised the approach, if not the execution. Credit Suisse's Kulbinder Garcha told The Wall Street Journal that HP had the "correct strategy" in buying the British company, and Gleacher & Co.'s Brian Marshall told the paper, "HP is undergoing a sound strategy transformation by focusing on high-growth, high-margin opportunities."

We may hear more of this in a few weeks when Microsoft holds its annual meeting with financial analysts. They've perennially asked the company to slash costs. In recent years, as Microsoft stock lagged despite the company's steady growth, some began calling on Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to break the company apart.

This would enable investors to choose only the most profitable groups, instead of having to bet broadly on the whole company.

It's a cynical and greedy approach.

Global tech companies that take the long view use proceeds of their hits to develop new products that may take years to crystallize and become profitable. Eventually this broadens their reach into new markets, grows profit and stabilizes companies that employ tens of thousands of people and provide tools the world depends upon.

Multiple businesses balance each other through cycles. Strong Xbox sales made up for slowing Windows sales during Microsoft's last fiscal year.

Instead of laying people off when its core product slowed, Ballmer announced across-the-board compensation increases that take effect in September, because "success comes from the people who work here," he said in an April memo.

Microsoft hasn't charmed Wall Street in years, and Ballmer doesn't seem to bother.

That's one way to deal with Wall Street. Another is Apple's approach, which is to play the Street like a Garageband guitar.

For instance, the day before Jobs resigned, someone told The Wall Street Journal that the iPhone 5 will debut in October on Sprint as well as AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Who would sell Apple stock right before an iPhone launch, Jobs or no Jobs?

Then we have HP's approach. Apotheker is still trying to make his mark, in the footsteps of past HP bosses who cut thousands of jobs and spent heavily on acquisitions to boost growth and woo investors. I'll bet he takes the fall for clumsily attempting to give the queen of the PC industry a quick and dirty makeover.

When it comes to tech companies of a certain age, Wall Street is like a rude old man who presses his wife to get a radical face-lift and boob job because he can't see her beauty and lusts for a young filly.

HP is the latest reminder that you'll never be happy in a relationship like that: It went under the knife and still ended up forlorn, dumped on the curb.

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August 23, 2011 9:53 AM

Cheaper iPhone soon, report says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Reuters added to the growing pile of rumors about upcoming Apple hardware with a report today on a cheaper version of the iPhone 4 that could launch "within weeks."

The report said Asian suppliers have begun manufacturing a model with reduced memory - 8 gigabytes instead of the current entry-level 16 gigs.

It's unclear how much the cheaper iPhone would cost and where it will be distributed, though it may be headed for emerging markets.

The report, citing "two people with knowledge of the matter," said Apple will also launch an upgraded version of the iPhone 4 around the end of September. It's been dubbed the iPhone 5, though it's basically the same chassis as the iPhone 4 but with a larger display, better antenna and 8 megapixel camera, the report said. That would bring its specs closer to carriers' flagship Android and Windows Phone 7 devices.

Other sources have been reporting that Apple's testing an LTE version of the iPhone but it apparently won't go on sale until sometime in 2012. That's to be expected since the two largest wireless companies are now operating LTE networks and Apple's a major phone manufacturer. What would be surprising is if Apple weren't yet testing LTE technology.

There's also a very thinly sourced report out of Japan about Apple releasing new Macs by the end of the year. There's speculation that it's a refresh of the MacBook line.

It also seems likely that Apple will eventually offer touchscreen PCs that can take better advantage of touch apps developed for the iPhone and iPad.

My guess is that Apple will time the phone launches to take the wind out of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" launch and the debut of the first Nokia Windows phones, which may surface by October.

Similarly, it could time the unveiling of new Macs to steal thunder from Windows 8 and the new generation of Windows PCs running Microsoft's new operating system. The full unveiling of Windows 8 is expected at a developer conference beginning Sept. 13.

Both Windows 8 and "Mango" phones will be highlighted at the Microsoft conference, which is a major event for the company's new mobile platforms. So you can expect the flow of disclosures about exciting new things from Apple and Android will increase in the coming weeks.

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June 22, 2011 10:10 AM

New iPhone in September, new iPad in testing, apparently

Posted by Brier Dudley

A strong voice joined the chorus saying that Apple will release the iPhone 5 in September. Bloomberg's reporting that the device is coming with a more powerful chip and an 8 megapixel camera, up from the current 5 megapixel version.

Apple's also testing a new iPad with a higher resolution screen like the one used in the current iPhone, the report said.

It cites "two people familiar with the product" and said Apple declined to comment.

But the report comes as a wave of competitive new phones are being released, some for the fast new wireless networks that Apple hasn't yet enabled the iPhone to use.

Firmer reports about the new iPhone create uncertainty among phone buyers considering recently released phones, and cast a shadow over Microsoft's Windows Phone launch and new Nokia hardware coming later this year.

The Bloomberg story said the phone will look similar to the current iPhone. It suggests more common hardware between the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone 5 will use the A5 processor that's used in the iPad 2, while the tablet device is getting a display with resolution similar to the current phone.

The report also said Apple's working on a smaller, lower-priced iPhone aimed at overseas markets.

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June 16, 2011 12:00 AM

Smith & Tinker back with Marvel iOS superhero game

Posted by Brier Dudley

Smith & Tinker, a once high-flying Bellevue game startup, is resurfacing this week with a new Marvel superhero game for Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

"Marvel Kapow!" features characters such as Thor, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America. Players uses touchscreen gestures such as flicks to slash enemies with Wolverine's claws or shoot them with Spidey's web.

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Smith & Tinker was started in 2007 by Jordan Weisman, a former Microsoft creative director. The company raised more than $29 million from a-list backers including Paul Allen and a group of venture capitalists.

The money was mostly used to develop a line of handheld game players aimed at young boys and built around a sci-fi monster game called Nanovor that launched in 2009.

That project was dropped last year after a restructuring that eventually cut the number of employees from around 55 to under 10. A recent check found Nanovor gear for 99 cents at Amazon.com, although the game's no longer supported.

Weisman remains on the board and contributes to creative work but the company's now led by Disney veteran Joe Lawandus. The company also relocated from Bellevue to space near the downtown Seattle waterfront.

"We've had a pretty interesting ride over the past few years," Lawandus said.

Lawandus said the company still has enough cash to build at least one more game based on Marvel characters. The company last year reached a licensing deal with Disney, Marvel's owner, that enables it to build casual games based on all characters in the Marvel universe.

"We're super excited about what we think tablets can bring to the mobile gaming space," he said, adding that the company is trying to reach big audiences with the brands used in its games.

"Marvel Kapow!" is available through iTunes in free versions with seven levels and advertising, or ad-free versions with 26 levels and additional characters that cost $1.99 for iPhone and iPod or $3.99 for iPads. Later the company may develop versions for Android and perhaps Windows, he said.

Marvel_KAPOW!_ Screenshot2_1024x768.jpg

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May 9, 2011 10:07 AM

"Angry Birds" iPad's killer app?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Spreadsheets and word processors persuaded people to buy early PCs. Messaging and mobile browsers did the same thing for smartphones.

If you haven't bought an iPad or tablet computing device yet, maybe it's because you're not yet hooked on "Angry Birds."

The addictive slingshot game is the killer app for these touch-screen gadgets filling the gap between smartphones and portable computers.

People buy tablets thinking they'll use them instead of computers, but most don't. They end up playing "Angry Birds."


Last week a Nielsen survey said most tablet owners are using their PCs as much or more than they did before buying their tablet. Earlier, the firm said games are the most downloaded mobile application, and the best-selling app, is "Angry Birds."

The game, made by a small Finnish company called Rovio, has been downloaded more than 140 million times, and at least 40 million people per month are playing. They're collectively spending more than 200 million minutes per day tapping and flinging birds across the screen, trying to knock down a series of structures built by obnoxious pigs.

"Angry Birds" was originally designed for the iPhone in 2009, but it's best on a tablet, where you can see more of it and have more room to control the aiming.

"It's certainly the most dominant game on tablets. There's nothing close to it, I believe," said Rich Wong at Accel Partners, a Silicon Valley venture firm that backed Facebook and invested in Rovio in March.

It makes you wonder if Microsoft hooked up with the right Finnish company to resuscitate its mobile business. Maybe it thought Nokia was behind the birds.

After handling more tablets than an Egyptian librarian, I've come up with a shopping guide, for those willing to spend $250 to $800 for the best "Angry Birds" experience.

Motorola Xoom, $599-$800

"Angry Birds" is prominently featured on the Xoom packaging, and the game works well on the device.

The Xoom's 10-inch screen is a good size for displaying both the launch area and target structure, even on upper levels with passages, outbuildings and stashed explosives on the far right side of the screen.

Although it's the first Android tablet with a dual-core processor, there wasn't a noticeable difference in loading. Nor did it reduce the wait time between levels.

On a bus, the Xoom's considerable heft steadies the device enough to play on bumpy roads.

The Xoom did cause one embarrassing birds incident.

During a discreet session Friday, before my deadline, the app abruptly froze. When I restarted it, it launched with the mute button off. There was no warning of this changed setting, and I was busted by the loud theme music.

Frantically tapping the screen and pressing the power button didn't stop the telltale flute. It took forever to power off, and paused to ask "are you sure?" before it stopped.

Otherwise, the Xoom scored well in the "quick exit" test. I could close the game and pretend to be working with a single click.

Barnes & Noble Nook Color, $249

After updating the Nook's operating system, you can download the original version of "Angry Birds."

The Nook market offers only the original "Angry Birds," for $2.99. Later versions and the free, ad-supported ones aren't available yet.

The Nook is the most economical option for tablet birding and doubles as a browser and electronic book with a 7-inch touch screen.

It also fits in a large pocket and weighs just less than a pound. However, this portability made it difficult to hold the device steady on the bus, where I experienced a number of misfires and errant shots.

Resolution on the Nook didn't seem as crisp as on higher-end tablets. I could see jagged edges on the blades of grass.

The Nook fared the worst in the "quick exit" test, requiring six clicks to exit in the middle of a game.

Apple iPad 2, $499-$829.

The iPad's big, bright screen is terrific for "Angry Birds" and provides plenty of room to aim.

Action is crisp and Rovio seems to put extra sparkle into the iPad version, highlighting edges of structures, for instance.

Both free and paid versions are available from iTunes, where the latest version of the game is the best-selling paid app. Two earlier versions are in the top 10.

There are a few niggles, though. The iPad version takes it upon itself to adjust the horizontal scroll mid-game, which gets annoying.

Also, every time you start a game, the iPad suggests creating or signing in to an account with Apple's "Game Center" service. There isn't an obvious way to disable this nagware, so you have to hit "cancel" every time. Then you get a message saying that "Game Center" is disabled, and you have to hit "OK" to start playing. This reminds me of Windows Vista.

It takes one click on the iPad to exit a game, return to the home screen and appear to be working.

BlackBerry PlayBook, $500 to $700

The PlayBook is a pocketable, 7-inch touch-screen device that's widely available. But "Angry Birds" is not yet available on the BlackBerry market. An emulator that will run Andoid apps is being developed.

T-Mobile G-Slate, $530.

The G-Slate has an unusual 9-inch widescreen display format that's particularly well suited for "Angry Birds."

However, the screen also partly cuts off the information displayed on the Android Market, including the "more" button listing additional version of "Angry Birds" available from the store.

Like the Xoom, the G-Slate is based on Google's new Android 3.0 software.

Currently, only free versions of "Angry Birds" are available for Android but paid versions are expected later this year.

Loading the game via T-Mobile's 4G network was significantly faster than it was on the Xoom over Verizon Wireless' 3G network, but the Xoom should be upgradeable to 4G before new "Birds" are released.

It takes a single click to exit a game and return to the home screen of the G-Slate.

Dell Streak 7, $200-$450.

The Streak has a 7-inch screen that's just a hair smaller than the Nook, but overall the device is smaller and fits easier in a pocket for portable play.

It's more like a computer than a Nook, and both its launch area and target can be displayed at a reasonable size. That makes the game more enjoyable than on a smartphone with a 3-inch or 4-inch screen.

However, the Streak resolution isn't as crisp as the larger tablets and the device would re-size the game between levels, requiring a tedious extra pinch to get the game properly aligned in the screen.

The re-sizing isn't a game-breaker, but these little design decisions lead to wasted time that adds up fast.

Seriously, how do they expect us to get any work done with these things?

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May 5, 2011 12:22 PM

iPads not displacing PCs, consoles yet, report finds

Posted by Brier Dudley

Nielsen today released a report on how U.S. consumers are using their iPads and other tablet computing devices.

The research suggests that the risk to the PC industry from the iPad is there, but awfully overstated. It also makes me wonder how pleased buyers are with their expensive new tablets.

The majority of people told Nielsen that buying a tablet hasn't led to a reduction in how often they use PCs, netbooks, portable media players, game consoles, smartphones or connected TVs.

A tiny number of tablet buyers said they've stopped using their computers since their purchase - 2 percent said they're no longer using their laptop, 3 percent stopped using their desktop and 5 percent stopped using their netbook.

But a greater number of people said they've been using their computers more since they bought an iPad or other tablet. Nielsen found 22 percent are using their netbook more often, 13 percent are using their laptops more and 9 percent are using their desktops more since buying a tablet.

Can you imagine the conversation between spouses in those households? "Why did you have to spend $800 on that thing, honey? You're just spending more time on the plain old computer ..."

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We'll have to see what the next few installments of the survey say about computing trends. So far it sounds like tablets are being used as computer accessories more than computer replacements.

It would be helpful if Nielsen provided information on whether tablets are meeting buyers' expectations. How many buyers thought they were getting a computer replacement?

The survey says 68 percent of people who bought tablets are using their laptop the same or more since the purchase, and 72 percent are using their netbooks the same or more.

Were they expecting the tablet to take the place of other gadgets in the home?

Of those that had another e-reader, like Amazon.com's Kindle, 72 percent said they're using their e-readers the same or more since buying a tablet, and 89 percent said they're using their Internet-connected TVs more since buying the device.

Then again, these are people who bought a tablet when they already had computers and perhaps a Kindle, Web-connected TV and game consoles. Maybe they just don't have much time for their latest toy.

About a third of tablet buyers said they're using their computers less or not at all. Nielsen provided a few reasons why, after asking tablet buyers why they're using the new device for things they used to do on a laptop or desktop.

Here are the reasons, which should be a roadmap for PC makers designing their Windows 8 machines:

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May 3, 2011 11:05 AM

Report: Amazon tablet PCs coming, to challenge iPad 2

Posted by Brier Dudley

Taiwanese tech publication DigiTimes has a nice scoop today, if true: It's reporting that Amazon.com has hired a company to start building tablet PCs that will arrive in the second half of 2011.

It said Taiwan-based Quanta Computer will build up to 800,000 units per month for Amazon. Quanta's also building tablets for RIM and Sony and hoping to build the next "LePad" device for Lenovo.

DigiTimes didn't name its sources and said Quanta declined to comment. It reported that "Amazon internally plans to reduce Kindle's market price to attract consumer demand from the education and consumer market, while (it) will push tablet PC using its advantage in software and content resources to challenge iPad2."

The device will have touchscreens made by E-Ink, DigiTimes reported. E-Ink began showing its new color displays in November.

I've asked Amazon to clarify and will update if I get a response, but I'll bet my lunch money it will be some form of "no comment."

Perhaps Amazon is preparing to release a tablet based on Google's "Honeycomb" version of Android, preloaded with Kindle software and linked to Amazon's new Android application market.

Or maybe the report's terminology is off and Quanta will merely be building the next vesion of Kindle, which may have a color touchscreen and be more PC-like but still a limited-purpose reader with a screen optimized for reading and not Web apps.

Today Amazon's Zappos store announced that it now has an Android app, joining its iPhone and iPad apps, but that's surely a coincidence.

Meanwhile Barnes & Noble's Nook reader has morphed into an Android tablet and it's been awhile since we've heard about new Kindle hardware, other than the ad-subsidized entry-level model announced a few weeks ago.

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April 27, 2011 10:43 AM

Phone race! T-Mobile pays $1,000 if your iPhone wins

Posted by Brier Dudley

The publicity-stunt-of-the-day award goes to T-Mobile USA for an iPhone speed race it announced this morning.

The Bellevue company is challenging iPhone owners to race their phones against its Samsung Galaxy S 4G model in Seattle area stores this weekend.

If your iPhone beats the Galaxy in a "head-to-head, best-of-three" speed contest, T-Mobile will pay you $1,000.

The test will use Speedtest.net to measure download speeds. It's a tough race for the iPhone: The Galaxy has a radio capable of downloads up to 21 megabits per second, while the latest iPhone is designed to download at up to 7.2 Mbps over cell networks.

Really, it's a blatant ploy to get Verizon and AT&T customers into T-Mobile stores, and talk up the company's fast HSPA+ service.

I'll bet it will still draw a bunch of people hoping for the $1,000, which they may then use to buy one of the white iPhones that are finally going on sale Thursday.

T-Mobile is hosting the iPhone races Friday through Sunday at 10 stores in the Seattle area:

Downtown Seattle
Factoria Village (formerly Loehmann's Plaza)
Bellevue Square
Redmond Town Center
Aurora Ave. N. & 135th St.
45th & Stone Way
NW 85th St. & 15th Ave. NW
Lake City Way NE & NE 125th
Bothell & 208th St.
Northgate Mall

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April 26, 2011 9:28 AM

Consumers want Android phones over iPhone, survey says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Android devices are now the most preferred choice among people shopping for a smartphone, according to a Nielsen survey released today.

Google's phone platform is the preference of 31 percent of U.S. consumers shopping for a smartphone. Or at least it was when the surveys were done between January and March.

Apple's iOS was the preference of 30 percent of those surveyed. Another 11 percent are interested in RIM BlackBerry devices and 20 percent are unsure of what to choose next.

That's changed from surveys last summer, when Apple was the clear choice, Nielsen said in a blog posting today. Surveys done from July to September found 33 percent of smartphone buyers wanted an iPhone and 26 percent and 13 percent wanted a BlackBerry.

Poor Microsoft. Just 6 percent of buyers are interested in Windows smartphones. Their interest has actually fallen since the Windows Phone 7 launch last October, before which 7 percent were intrigued by the platform.

A few charts from Nielsen's release:

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April 14, 2011 11:24 AM

Report: Apple nabs Microsoft datacenter boss?

Posted by Brier Dudley

The general manager of Microsoft's datacenter operations has left, apparently to help Apple expand its cloud infrastructure, according to a report today in Data Center Knowledge.

Kevin Timmons came to Microsoft in 2009 from Yahoo and worked on the modular design Microsoft's now using at its Quincy datacenter.

Here's a Microsoft video about the Quincy center:

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April 13, 2011 2:13 PM

PC sales tumble, worst showing in years

Posted by Brier Dudley

The big two PC research firms both said first quarter PC sales were awful. Gartner and IDC had predicted it would be a slow quarter and it turned out to be worse.

Events in Japan and the Middle East were factors, as were the economic situation and Apple's iPad. But mostly people are doing fine with the PCs they have and aren't in a rush to upgrade, apparently.

"While it's tempting to blame the decline completely on the growth of media tablets, we believe other factors, including extended PC lifetimes and the lack of compelling new PC experiences, played equally significant roles,'' Bob O'Donnell, IDC vice president, said in the release.

IDC said global PC sales fell 3.2 percent compared with the first quarter of 2011, much worse than the 1.5 percent growth the firm had predicted. In the U.S., shipments fell 10 percent from the high demand seen in recent years.

Gartner said global sales fell 1.1 percent, below the 3 percent growth it had predicted. It blamed the decline on weak demand for consumer PCs.

"Low prices for consumer PCs, which had long stimulated growth, no longer attracted buyers. Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics," Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst, said in its release. "With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs."

Corporate spending on replacement PCs kept the market from "one of the worst declines in recent history," Gartner said. It expects the corporate replacement sales to continue into late 2011 or the start of 2012.

IDC said spiking fuel and commodity prices were also a factor -- you may hold off on that new PC when a tank of gas costs $75 -- and sales in China cooled after big growth in 2010.

Both firms said HP held its position as the world's biggest PC company. IDC puts Dell in second place, followed by Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba. Gartner puts Acer in second place, followed by Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba.

In the U.S. market, Lenovo is bumped from the top five by Apple, which is fourth or fifth place with 8.5 percent to 9.3 percent market share depending on which research firm you ask.

Here's Gartners rank of the top global PC makers:

gartner.jpg

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April 6, 2011 10:19 AM

Apple iPad 2 as ultimate remote control? Someday, perhaps

Posted by Brier Dudley

Ever since the first rumors of the iPad began, I've been curious about its potential to become the ultimate remote control.

This seemed more likely when Apple gave the iPad 2 the ability to stream video to an Apple TV adapter and share media with computers running iTunes on a home network.

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Streaming media is one of the killer apps for mobile devices. You've been able to do this with music for a while, and Netflix and Hulu are taking it to the next level with video, getting people comfortable with paying $10 per month to have anywhere access to huge video libraries.

Amazon.com just launched a "locker" service for streaming, storing and buying music and RealNetworks is preparing a similar service called Unifi that also handles photos and video.

Apple, Google and Microsoft are also working on new online media services that will probably appear over the next year.

I think there's a huge opportunity for iPads and other tablets to become the control panels for these services. Their touch screens, browsers and fast wireless seem made for finding movies, beaming them onto a TV and checking messages from the couch during slow parts.

Apple's starting to put these pieces together with the iPad 2 and its latest Apple TV that connects TVs to home networks. They work well together, but the combination is underwhelming, and the iPad is still better for directly consuming content.

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In other ways, the iPad 2 is a wonderful gadget. I'm still not sure I'd buy one -- I've been using a loaned unit from Apple -- but I can see why others will.

If you're in the market for a Web tablet, it's hard to recommend anything other than the iPad. It defines the category and set expectations for silky performance, elegant design and an endless supply of applications.

The iPad 2 starts at $499 for the basic Wi-Fi version. If you want to connect on the road, you'll want one with 3G wireless capability on either AT&T or Verizon networks. They range from $629 to $829, depending on storage capacity, but supplies have been tight since its March 11 debut.

New to the device are basic cameras and a more powerful processor. At 1.3 pounds and 0.34 inch thick, it's noticeably lighter and nicer to hold with more curved edges than the first version.

But it still has a few oddities that prevent it from becoming a laptop replacement. They include the lack of a back button, memory card slot or USB port. I also find the keyboard and cursor system awkward.

Those things aren't an issue for casual browsing and entertainment. But combined with the closed nature of a device that has to be managed through Apple's iTunes, they put the iPad in the category of computing accessory versus essential computing tool.

Still, the iPad 2 is dramatically nicer to use than similar devices I've tried recently, including the Android-based Motorola Xoom with a 10-inch screen.

The Xoom (below) has been called a contender but I found its "Honeycomb" software interface to be confusing and raw.

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Even the Xoom hardware isn't quite done; to get it to work on Verizon's 4G LTE network, buyers of the initial units will have to send them to Motorola for an upgrade that will take about a week. Unlike the iPad, the Xoom has a slot for a memory card, but it can't be used without the hardware upgrade.

This is too geeky for most users and too much of a hassle for an $800 device. (There's now a Wi-Fi only version for $599.)

The iPad is a hit, but my sense is that most consumers are intrigued but not yet convinced they need one or that it's worth the price.

I'm guessing that will change if prices come down and if Web tablets come to be seen as handheld consoles for managing online media.

For the iPad to become this über remote, Apple has to let it work as well with other services as it does with iTunes. Its "Remote" app also has to improve.

You can use an iPad to control an Apple TV, play media libraries stored on a home network and access Netflix and iTunes to rent and play movies. You can use its keyboard to search for a title, for instance.

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But navigating Apple TV's menu with the iPad is not great. It's done with gestures -- flicking a finger across the pad's screen to move the "cursor" around the menu on the TV. (In the picture at left you can see the navigation screen; the TiVo remote is just for comparison.)

This is harder than it should be. While flicking across a mostly blank iPad screen, you have to watch the TV to see what you're doing. It's like a coordination test and it's easy to select the wrong thing with an errant tap.

Several companies offer remote apps and even infrared adapters to control a TV and other devices with an iPad. They generally depict a remote control on the iPad, and you tap its buttons to make things happen.

It's handy to stream content from the home network, but I wish Apple would also accept the DLNA networking standard used by most PCs, game consoles, networked receivers and some phones. Then you'd be able to stream media directly from those devices without first putting it in iTunes.

You can theoretically play streaming videos on the go if you have an iPad with 3G wireless. But this barely worked for me.

Over AT&T 3G, Hulu stalled and Netflix downgraded the quality -- to compensate for the connection -- to the point it was unwatchable.

Video streaming worked well on Wi-Fi, but I wish the Netflix app let you select a movie on the iPad and play it through a connected TV, similar to how Netflix works on a PC. That would be a step toward making the iPad into a great remote, for Netflix users at least.

Still, there are other reasons to buy an iPad. I'd buy one if I spent my days in business meetings, traveled all the time or was facing an extended period in a medical facility.

But I'll probably wait until a 4G model comes out. Then I'll start wondering about 5G networks. Hopefully, the trusty laptop and pile of remotes in the living room will hang in there a little longer.

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March 29, 2011 10:39 AM

IDC: Windows Phone to overtake iPhone and BlackBerry

Posted by Brier Dudley

Hooking up with Nokia will help Microsoft overtake Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry within a few years, according to a new report from research firm IDC.

The combination should boost Windows phones to second place among smartphone platforms worldwide by 2015, IDC said in its latest Mobile Phone Tracker report.

For now, the big story is Google's Android software. IDC expects Android will become the most-used smartphone platform this year, after zooming up to second place in 2010.

"For the vendors who made Android the cornerstone of their smartphone strategies, 2010 was the coming-out party," Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst, said in the release. "This year will see a coronation party as these same vendors broaden and deepen their portfolios to reach more customers, particularly first-time smartphone users."

Overall sales of smartphones will continue growing but not at the same pace as 2010, it predicted. Smartphone sales are expected to grow 49.2 percent this year - to 450 million units - as consumers and business users continue upgrading their devices, it predicts.

Llamas said the Nokia deal will reverse Microsoft's phone slide.

"Up until the launch of Windows Phone 7 last year, Microsoft has steadily lost market share while other operating systems have brought forth new and appealing experiences," he said in the release. "The new alliance brings together Nokia's hardware capabilities and Windows Phone's differentiated platform. We expect the first devices to launch in 2012. By 2015, IDC expects Windows Phone to be number 2 operating system worldwide behind Android."

The chart from the release:

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March 10, 2011 10:04 AM

iPad 2 review roundup: Nice but not perfect

Posted by Brier Dudley

The first batch of iPad 2 reviews are out, ahead of its debut in retail stores at 5 p.m. Friday.

Apple's latest gadget swept away a few of the usual suspects, but not all.

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They noted a modest performance improvement from the new processor and praised the new design, but said the new cameras on the front and back of the iPad 2 aren't that great. I'll write about it soon; it apparently takes longer for review units to reach Seattle.

A quick roundup:

Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD said the new design feels "much airier" and the weight reduction was "noticeable when carrying around the device." Yet the new design "makes it harder to plug in cables and accessories."

"I didn't find the speed difference on iPad 2 to be dramatic, but it was noticeable. Apps launched and ran a bit quicker and the whole device felt very snappy," he wrote.

Mossberg's testing found the iPad 2 had an hour less battery life than the first iPad and the new iPad cameras "take mediocre still photos" and "are disappointing." (The headline on his review: "iPad 2: Thin, Not Picture Perfect")

It's still "the best tablet for average consumers," Mossberg said, but he chided Apple for crippling its browser so it won't play Adobe Flash video and for not enabling the device to use the new and faster 4G wireless networks.

Mossberg doesn't advise iPad owners to race out for the new version "unless you are desperate for the cameras or feel you are laboring under the greater bulk of the original model." He also noted that the first iPad is now on sale for $399 while supplies last.

David Pogue of the New York Times gushed more overt the redesign, calling it transformative:

"There are no new features except two cameras and a gyroscope. I mean, yawn, right?

And then you start playing with it.

My friends, I'm telling you: just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience."

Motorola's new Xoom Android tablet, by comparison, "looks obese," he said.

Pogue said using the camera on the tablet's big screen is "a treat" despite Apple's "baffling" choice to use a camera that only takes 0.7 megapixel stills.

Sorting through the AT&T and Verizon data plans for the iPad "require a graduate degree in forensic accounting" but the new HDMI adapter "works automatically and effortlessly."

USA Today's Ed Baig said the iPad 2 "makes what was already a splendid slab even better, even if the overall upgrade is relatively modest."

Baig noted that Apple didn't improve the screen resolution, enable 4G wireless or include a USB port or SD memory card slot.

"But these are nitpicks," he said, lauding Apple for keeping the price the same - $499 to $829, depending on storage and wireless options.

The cameras are fine for FaceTime videochats but pictures Baig took indoors in low light were grainy. Baig's testing found the battery life "fell a little short" of Apple's 10 hour claim - he got 8.5 hours while continuously streaming movies at full brightness.

Streaming movies from an iPad to an AppleTV adapter using AirPlay wasn't good for Baig. Streamed movies "were slow to start and occasionally froze" but it could be a network hiccup, he wrote.

"The iPad 2 doesn't deliver everything on your tablet wish list. But when it comes to the ever-evolving state of the art, iPad 2 is second to none," Baig concluded.

Here's Mossberg's video:

Here's Baig's video:


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March 7, 2011 12:28 PM

Google's Android tops U.S. smartphone market, comScore says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Google's Android operating system topped the U.S. smartphone market in January for the first time, with 31.2 percent of the market, according to a new comScore report.

The firm said Android's market share grew 7.7 percent from October through January, while Research In Motion fell 5.4 percent and Apple was nearly flat at 0.1 percent growth. Microsoft's share fell 1.7 percent.

Among handset makers, Samsung led the U.S. market with 24.9 percent of the market in January. The market leadership didn't change much; Samsung was followed by LG, Motorola, RIM and Apple.

The report's based on a survey of more than 30,000 U.S. mobile subscribers.

Here are the charts from the news release:

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March 7, 2011 9:50 AM

Q&A: Epic co-founder on iPad 2's gaming potential

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- One of the most enthusiastic people at last week's Apple iPad 2 launch was Mark Rein, co-founder and vice president of Epic Games.

Epic, based in Cary, N.C., is known for full-bore, action blockbusters, such as "Gears of War" on the Xbox. Its "Unreal" game platform is also widely used by other studios to build games on multiple platforms.

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Apple has highlighted Epic's work on "Infinity Blade," a high-definition fantasy title released in December for the iPhone and iPad.

Rein (left) said the iPad is on its way to becoming a game console, with the new version coming Friday having a dual-core processor, improved graphics system and a new accessory for connecting the device to a digital TV.

"For us, it's like Christmas," he said, when we talked at Apple's launch event.

Here's an edited excerpt of our conversation:

Q: I've heard a lot about the iPad being great for casual games. Will this power boost make it better for hard-core action games as well?

A: That's what "Infinity Blade" was -- the first core, triple-A game designed specifically for these environments. So we already think it is.

It means that now, even [with] the casual experiences, you'll be able to make those look even better. Even "Angry Birds" could take advantage of having more computing power.

Q: When will games appear that take advantage of the new iPad's increased power?

A: I don't think it will take very long. "Infinity Blade" (below) will already run faster and better because of this, and we can now turn up the texture detail and turn on some of the effects that we'd turned off on iPad because iPad was a more challenging development environment than iPhone, given the higher resolution screen.

An iPad has 20 percent more pixels on the screen than an iPhone 4, yet the CPU [central processing unit] and GPU [graphics processing unit] in the iPad were introduced before the iPhone 4, so the iPhone 4's more powerful and has more features.

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Now this leapfrogs that again, and gives plenty of power to take advantage of the full resolution of the machine.

Q: If you bought the game for an iPad 1, then upgraded to an iPad 2, would you have to buy a new version of the game to get the improvements?

A: No, we will just adjust the game to take advantage of what it can do, the same way we adjust the game for iPhone 4 and 3GS. For us, it's just settings.

Q: Will game developers take advantage of the new HDMI adapter for displaying iPad content on a big TV screen? Could that make it more like a handheld console?

A: Yes, absolutely. I've been actually saying that since the first iPad came out: This is a great way to play games.

It's going to get more feasible -- your game console could be a tablet you walk around with, and you use it as a controller in your home game experience. Or eventually you'll put this down, you'll pick up a DualShock [game controller], this will talk wirelessly or through HDMI to your TV, and you'll play.

That's the future, and Apple has clearly made a big step toward that with their digital [AV] adapter.

Q: Does the iPad 2's processor have enough oomph for big-screen games?

A: I hate to say it, but there are game consoles you buy today that you connect to your TV that don't even hold a candle to this.

Q: Are you talking about the Nintendo Wii?

A: I didn't say a name. This is now more powerful than the first-generation Xbox. This is probably more powerful than a PlayStation 2 or a PlayStation 1 for sure. This is on the road to that, if it's not already.

You can set this down, connect it in and get like a PlayStation controller -- a controller that has Bluetooth -- and away you go. I'd love to see where we could use a controller and play the hard-core experiences on these because that would be great. Especially with a stand, you just stand the thing up and play.

You know, like Microsoft's Kinect -- there's a camera in here and some pretty good processing horsepower. You could make a "Dance Central" game for this thing. The possibilities are getting better and better every year.

Q: Are you going to release Epic's "Bulletstorm" on the iPad now?

A: Would "Bulletstorm" or "Gears of War" be on here? The IP [intellectual property] could be, but I don't think that we'd make that kind of dual-stick type game unless this thing spawned dual sticks -- you know what I mean?

It's just a different experience, what you do for this and what you do for a game console.

The really best experiences for [the iPad] are ones that are really designed for what you do on a touch screen.

But I play "Call of Duty" on it, I like shooters on it. It can be all things.

If you want to be super successful, you have to make the thing that people really want to play on this instead of a game console.

Q: So when will Epic open a Seattle office?

A: When we buy Microsoft.

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March 3, 2011 10:48 AM

Report: Apple offering $100 rebate to recent iPad buyers

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple's giving $100 back to people who bought an iPad in the two weeks ahead of yesterday's iPad 2 launch, according to a Cnet report.

With the release of the iPad 2, the company cut the price of the remaining first-generation iPads by $100.

Cnet's report said customers who bought online must call to get the refund, and those who bought in stores need to bring in their receipt.


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March 2, 2011 1:48 PM

Video: Demo of iPad 2 with "smart" cover

Posted by Brier Dudley


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March 2, 2011 1:38 PM

Photos: Apple iPad 2 launch

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Here is a batch of photos from Apple's iPad 2 launch event today. After the presentation by Steve Jobs and other Apple employees, the crowd moved to a room for hands-on time with the new device.

Jobs was right -- the device feels noticeably lighter than the first iPad -- but the biggest changes are inside, in the new processor and software upgrades.

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The new version of iOS lets third-party applications use media-streaming capabilies on a home network. There was no word about extending the streaming over wireless networks:
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Here's a close-up of the setting that lets you change what the slider switch does on the iPad 2,- allowing it to be used as a mute switch, instead of just a screen rotation lock:

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March 2, 2011 9:53 AM

Live from iPad 2 launch, with Jobs, new design, white, March 11

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Can Apple keep the revolution going with the second version of the iPad?

Amid intense competition from nearly every computer and phone maker on the planet -- and growing regulatory concerns about its dominant position and business practices -- Apple is launching the next version of its tablet computing device today.


The device is slimmer, more powerful and has a camera, but it may need more than just a performance boost to maintain Apple's roughly 90 percent share of the incendiary market for slate-like computers.

Thumbnail image for overview_facetime_20110302.jpgApple may also use the launch event to announce new online "cloud" services that would bring new capabilities to the iPad and other connected devices.

Adding to the drama are ongoing concens about the health of Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who took a medical leave in January.

Jobs opened the event with a big applause. "We've been working on this product for awhile and I didn't want to miss today," he said.

Apple just passed 200 million accounts with credit cards and one-click purchasing, he said, suggesing that it's outpacing Amazon.com.

Jobs said 2010 was the "year of the iPad" with 15 million units sold, taking 90 percent of the market. Jobs said that's more than all TabletPC's ever sold, and that Microsoft's slate computer didn't invent the modern concept - it "crashed and burned," he said.

Apple also recently sold its 100 millionth iPhone and royalties on applications sold through iTunes reached $2 billion.

The new iPad, Jobs said, is based on a new "A5" processor. It's a dual-core processor that's up to twice as fast and graphics are up to nine times faster than the A4 processor used in the first iPad.

Others are starting to ship dual-core tablets but the iPad 2 will be the first to ship "in volume," Jobs said.

The new iPad has a rear-camer and a front-facing camera and now includes the gyroscope used in the iPhone and iPod Touch.

It's also "dramatically thinner -- not a little bit thinner, a third thinner," he said.

The iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner -- from 13.4 millimeters to 8.8 millimeters -- and thinner than the iPhone 4. It also weighs a bit less -- 1.3 pounds, vs. the previous 1.5 -- and it comes in white as well as black.

"We're going to be shipping white from Day 1," he said.

Battery life will still be 10 hours for the iPad. The prices will be the same as the current iPad -- $499 to $829, depending memory size and wireless capabilities.

The new iPad will be available with 3G service on both AT&T and Verizon networks at launch.

"We think 2011 is going to be the year of iPad 2," Jobs said.

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It's going to ship on March 11 in the U.S., quelling recent concerns that the device had slipped to June.

An additional 26 countries will get the device on March 25.

Jobs also announced a new $39 HDMI video cable and new "smart" covers to protect the iPad's glass face. The covers wake the iPad when opened automatically, and use magnets to attach and align the covers. They'll cost $39 for a polyurethane version and $69 for a leather version.

Also announced is version 4.3 of the iOS software used in the iPad. New features include a home-sharing feature and update to AirPlay for streaming media in the home.

The new software also lets iPad users choose whether to use the slider switch that locks the screen rotation to instead mute the iPad.

With the software and the new iPad's front-facing camera, the device can be used with Apple's FaceTime videoconferencing feature to chat with users of newer Apple phones and Macs.

The new software will be available free, also on March 11, to iPad, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS devices.

Also announced were new iMovie and GarageBand applications, each of which will sell for $4.99 starting March 11.

Jobs concluded with a soliloquy about Apple's approach and the iPad being a "post PC" device that will prevail over competitors developed from a PC perspective.

"It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough -- it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post PC devices. A lot of folks in this tablet market are rushing in and they're looking at this as the next PC. The hardware and software are done by different companies and they're talking about speeds and feeds just like they did with PCs.

Our experience and every bone in our body says that is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be even easier to use than a PC ... where the software and the hardware and the applications need to intertwine in a more seamless way than they do on a PC. We think we're on the right track with this."

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February 28, 2011 10:30 AM

Call me Gadget: White iPad spotted, plus Verizon Windows Phone

Posted by Brier Dudley

This is going to be a big week for gadget news.

Apple is headlining it with the iPad 2 that it's unveiling Wednesday in San Francisco. The early line on the device is that it's slimmer, more powerful and has a camera.

A new leak at 9to5mac.com says there will be a white version of the iPad, based on a white bezel that surfaced in China.

Also appearing today is an image of an HTC Trophy smartphone running Windows Phone 7 on Verizon Wireless.

Verizon hasn't yet said when it will carry WP7 devices, and its executives have talked down Microsoft's mobile effort, but the phones were still expected to arrive soon.

Engadget's report on the Verizon WP7 Trophy also says it has copy-and-paste capability.

If that's not enough, more hints that Apple may offer lower-cost iPhone options were floated in a Bernstein Research report that was picked up by Forbes blogger Eric Savitz. It quoted Apple CFO Tim Cook saying the company is planning "clever things" to serve the lower-end, prepaid cellphone market.

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February 16, 2011 4:08 PM

Not many AT&T-to-Verizon iPhone switchers, apparently

Posted by Brier Dudley

You never would have guessed from the breathless press and stock analyst coverage earlier this year, but there wasn't a huge rush of iPhone users from AT&T to Verizon, apparently.

The latest "evidence" comes from a report today on the Boy Genius Report blog, which said it received sensitive sales information from an Apple source.

Its data shows that in the first week after Verizon iPhones went on sale, they outsold AT&T models in Apple stores but not by a huge margin.

Nor was there a stampede of AT&T customers, according to BGR's report. It said just 14 percent of people buying the Verizon iPhone were AT&T iPhone owners making the switch.

Thirty percent were Android users switching to iPhones, and 25 percent were trading from BlackBerry devices.

This contrasts with Verizon's jubilant announcement that it sold more iPhones on its Feb. 10 debut than any other phone launch in its history.

Still, the 14 percent figure stuck out. When I polled AT&T iPhone users in the Seattle area on Feb. 3, asking how many would switch to Verizon for better service, 15.5 percent said they're absolutely making the switch.

I wonder if there will be a rush of Windows Phone 7 owners to Verizon and Sprint if and when they start carrying the devices later this year. Or maybe the WP7 fanboys will wait for a Nokia model.

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February 7, 2011 3:04 PM

Inside Verizon iPhone 4: HSPA+ chip, softer vibrator

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you haven't heard enough about the Verizon iPhone yet, there's a new analysis of its components from iFixit.

The company's teardown reveals that the phone contains a Qualcomm chip that supports HSPA+ data rates up to 14.4 megabits per second, even though Verizon uses a different technology.
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The same chipset is used in the Droid Pro world phone that supports both GSM and CDMA technologies, iFixit notes. It makes you wonder if Apple's working toward a universal model that would run on multiple carriers.

Verizon's iPhone also has a different vibrator than the iPhone 4 carried by AT&T. Verizon's has a linear vibrator for call and message alerts, unlike the rotational electric motor with a counterweight.

The result, according to iFixit tests, is that "the new vibrator has a quieter, softer feel and makes a better sound when on a table."

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February 4, 2011 11:47 AM

Seattle iPhone users mostly fine with AT&T, not switching

Posted by Brier Dudley

The results of our poll of Seattle-area iPhone users are pretty interesting.

Despite all the fretting about AT&T service that you read about, the majority of iPhone users responding to the poll believe the network's fine or even great.

The poll, which ran in my blog for the past 24 hours, received 1,837 responses before I shut it down a few minutes ago. The results were pretty mixed, which isn't surprising given the variation in cell service that people experience in different locations.
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Asked if they're happy with their iPhone on AT&T's network in the Seattle area, 53 percent said yes and 5 percent said they don't care too much about the network. Another 44.8 percent said the network is not great or awful.

That satisfication tracks to the percentage of iPhone users wanting to switch to a Verizon model.

Asked if they'll buy a new Verizon iPhone to get better service, 58 pecent said no or probably not. About 4 percent said they don't care.
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Among those leaning toward a Verizon iPhone, 15.5 percent said they're absolutely making the switch, right away; 23 percent said maybe.

Next we'll have to see how the Verizon iPhone buyers feel about their new service, and whether they're affected by Verizon's plans to limit data usage and degrade iPhone photos and videos if needed to maintain service levels.

Thank you to those who participated in the survey.

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February 3, 2011 11:39 AM

Poll: Is the iPhone so bad on AT&T you'll switch to Verizon?

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's hard to tell what's really going on with iPhone network coverage in the Seattle area.

AT&T coverage problems in New York and San Francisco are magnified because of the concentration of media outlets in those cities.

Some reports have suggested AT&T is actually better in the Seattle area than Verizon, but you wouldn't know it from the attention the Verizon iPhone is getting.

So i've got to ask iPhone owners - is your AT&T coverage that bad, and are you going to switch to Verizon? (Especially now that word's out that Verizon may throttle heavy data users ...)

(UPDATE: After getting a lot of response I've upgraded this account so the poll should run faster. I'll post the tally Friday.)

(UPDATE 2: The poll closed after 24 hours and the results are posted here. Thank you for participating)

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

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January 20, 2011 10:57 AM

Video: Eighth grader behind hit iPhone game

Posted by Brier Dudley

How can you resist a video interview of the Utah eighth-grader who wrote Bubble Ball?

Since the game for the iPhone and iPad was released Dec. 29. it's been downloaded more than 2 million times, topping the list of free iTunes apps.

The boy, Robert Nay, has more poise than Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Take that, Tiger mom.

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January 13, 2011 3:24 PM

Report: New iPad, iPhone losing home button

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple rumors are a dime a dozen, but Boy Genius Report is pretty convinced that the new iPads and iPhones coming out later this year won't have a home button.

The one physical button on the front of the gadgets would be replaced by on-screen touch controls, using the multitouch capability in a new beta version of the iOS software, according to the report based on an "Apple source."

This may provide room for a bigger display and/or front-facing camera. It could also reduce Apple's manufacturing costs.

Removing the button would also be an opportunity for Apple to demonstrate its expertise in interface design. It would be a challenge to remove the devices' most obvious and consistent control and continue to improve their usability, but the pull of minimalism is strong for some.

From the BGR report:

In addition to the home button disappearing from the iPad, we're told that this change will make its way over to the iPhone as well. Our source said Apple employees are already testing iPads and iPhones with no home buttons on the Apple campus, and it's possible we will see this new change materialize with the next-generation iPad and iPhone devices set to launch this year.

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December 28, 2010 4:43 PM

Paul Allen tries again with suit against Apple, Google, Facebook ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

Mercer Island billionaire Paul Allen today renewed his effort to sue Apple, Google, Facebook, eBay, AOL and other companies for patent infringement.

Allen's case was rejected on Dec. 10 by a federal judge in Seattle who said it was too vague. U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman told Allen he had until Dec. 28 to file an amended suit.

Just meeting the deadline, Allen filed an expanded version of the original suit with more details of how the companies allegedly infringed. The filing also includes 40 exhibits, many of which are screenshots of Web sites with modules highlighted.

Here's the filing: 2010-12-28 Interval First Amended Complaint for Patent Infringement (2).pdf

The companies being sued declined to comment on the allegations when the suit was first filed in late August.

Experts have said Allen's case is a longshot but the potential payoff is large - perhaps $500 million or more if he wins.

Defendants named in the suit are Apple, Google, Facebook, eBay, AOL, Netflix, Yahoo, Google's YouTube, OfficeMax, Office Depot and Staples.

Patents at issue in the case were generated by Interval Research, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based research venture that Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, and Xerox veteran David Liddle started in 1992. Allen closed it down in 2000.

Allen's suit alleges that his patents cover, among other things, systems that automatically call up and display related content. The approach is widely used by online retailers and other sites across the Web.

For instance, when viewing a product on Apple's iTunes store, the store automatically suggests related content that may be of interest. The suit filed today argues that this infringes on at least 20 claims made by a patent Allen holds.

Here's the exhibit submitted to illustrate the Apple violations:

allenappleexhibit.jpg

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December 13, 2010 3:27 PM

Microsoft iPad challengers surfacing in January

Posted by Brier Dudley

Curious timing: Goldman Sachs issues another report saying the iPad and tablets are hammering Microsoft, then anonymous sources tell the New York Times that Windows 7 tablets are part of Steve Ballmer's CES keynote.

The Times piece says Ballmer will show Dell and Samsung tablets running Windows 7 and may even give a peek at a device running Windows 8.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment, saying "we are not talking at all about CES."

Ballmer already said these devices are coming. He told analysts in July that Microsoft's big push into tablets will come in early 2011 with the release of new Intel hardware for mobile devices.

One of the analysts he was talking to was Goldman's Sarah Friar, who is unlikely to be convinced by a whispery blog entry saying "wait until January!"

Still unanswered are key questions about the next generation of Windows tablets: When exactly will they go on sale, and how much will they cost?

If they're $1,000, they'll die the same quick death as Microsoft's ultra-mobile PC concept, which debuted on Samsung hardware in 2006. The device Ballmer will show in January is "similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad, although it is not as thin," according to "people familiar with the device" who spoke to the NYT.

An appearance at CES doesn't mean the devices will go on sale in January. The show is really for retailers to see products that they'll carry later in 2011.

Hewlett-Packard, for instance, waited until late October to finally, and quietly, take orders for the Win7 Slate PC that Ballmer showed last January. HP was a special case, though, as it's trying to build consumer tablets on its own operating system now.

I'm curious to see whether the "Windows 7" operating system on the tablets will be the full-blown version or stripped-down versions designed for consumer-electronics and portable devices.

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December 3, 2010 12:25 PM

White iPhone 4 spotted in Seattle, with antenna fix

Posted by Brier Dudley

TJ Mullinax, a news producer at the Yakima Herald-Republic, had an interesting chat Thursday at the Whole Foods in South Lake Union.

There was an Italian man waiting for coffee sporting what looked to be one of the long-awaited iPhone 4 models in white.

Apple has repeatedly delayed the release of the white model and reports have surfaced of the company having trouble with manufacturing and discoloration.

The Italian said he was testing the device for Apple and it will go on sale in Europe in February. That's a bit earlier than the last release date -- the spring 2011 target that Apple provided in October.

The Italian told TJ his group at Apple was struggling to keep the edges from yellowing after several weeks of use but he was confident the new body will hold up, according to a writeup on TJ's blog.

TJ said the man also showed him how the antenna had been redesigned to fix a problem with signals dropping when you hold the phone a certain way.

I called Apple for more information and will update if I hear back.

It sounds legitimate, but I don't understand why an Italian visiting Seattle chose to get his coffee at Whole Foods.

Here's the picture TJ snapped and gave permission for me to post here:

iphonewhite.jpg

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October 18, 2010 2:03 PM

Apple sales strong, but iPad sales less than expected

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple is reporting record third-quarter sales driven by strong sales of the Mac -- up 27 percent -- and the iPhone, up 91 percent.

But iPad sales of 4.19 million were well under the 5 million or more that Wall Street analysts were expecting. Apple stock dropped about 7 percent in extended trading, falling back under $300. The quarterly results were announced after regular trading closed.

The earnings won't settle the open question of whether the iPad is cannibalizing sales of low-end netbook computers.

Perhaps the question is whether the iPad is cannibalizing sales of Apple's iPod. The company said iPod sales fell 11 percent during the quarter, to 9.05 million units.

Apple's total sales during the quarter were $20.34 billion and net profit was $4.31 billion, or $4.64 per diluted share. Analysts on average were expecting $4.06 per share.

Apple's EPS forecast for the key holiday season was lower than expected -- "about $4.80" vs. analysts' consensus of $5.04.

Investors may be a little nervous about the mixed numbers - a really strong quarter, but a low forecast and less-than-expected iPad sales - but Apple's still getting favorable headlines. Consider the first batch:

"Apple Earnings: Crushin' It" -- Wall Street Journal MarketBeat blog

"Apple blows past earnings expectations again, extends string of record quarters" -- Los Angeles. Times

"Apple Crushes Estimates On Surging IPhone Sales" -- Forbes

"Apple earnings soar on iPhone, iPad sales," -- Marketwatch

Some are more sober:

"Instant view: Apple iPad sales light, shares slide" -- Reuters

"Apple's Q4 Earnings: Golden Delicious or Granny Smith?" -- paidContent

"Apple Crushes Earnings But iPad Misses Big" -- Silicon Alley Insider

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October 14, 2010 10:08 AM

Verizon selling iPads, no iPhone yet

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple and Verizon are pouring jet fuel onto the crackling rumors about an upcoming Verizon iPhone.

The companies today announced that Verizon will sell Apple's iPad in its network of retail stores starting Oct. 28.

But Verizon's not handling the 3G wireless capability built into upper-end iPads. That service is still provided by AT&T, which also has the apparently dwindling exclusive U.S. rights to carry the iPhone.

Verizon instead will sell the iPad in bundles with its MiFi wireless hotspot device. They'll be priced from $630 to $830. Verizon's also offering an iPad data plan for the MiFi that costs $20 per month for 1 gigabyte of data, $35 for 3 gigs and $50 for 5 gigs, plus $10 per gigabyte overage fees. Verizon will also sell WiFi-only iPads.

"We're thrilled to be working with Verizon Wireless to get iPad into the hands of even more customers this holiday season," Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, said in the release. "iPad allows users to connect with their apps and content in a more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before, and together with Verizon Wireless we're offering an easy way to stay connected wherever you go."

Simultaneously, AT&T announced that it will begin carrying the iPad in its stores on Oct. 28 as well. Cook's apparently not quite as thrilled by that deal, though. His comment in the AT&T release:

"We look forward to expanding the reach of iPad allowing even more customers to experience the magic of iPad for themselves. As we approach the holiday season, we are very happy that customers will now be able to buy iPad Wi-Fi + 3G at AT&T stores."

Apple's been making lots of deals lately to extend the reach of its tablet device, which will face intense competition this holiday season and in 2011 from new tablets running Google's Android software and Windows devices. Apple recently made deals to sell the iPad in Target and Wal-Mart stores, although apparently it won't be discounted in them.

Verizon's not just another retail outlet because of the intense speculation and anonymously sourced stories coming out about Apple working to develop a Verizon version of the iPhone in early 2011, ending the exclusive deal AT&T had since the phone's debut in 2007.

Verizon and AT&T will also soon be selling an Android-based tablet made by Samsung.

The tablets may draw more customers into their stores this holiday season, although the iPad is on its way to becoming as prevalent on store shelves as the iPod.

At the very least, Verizon's probably thrilled to have a way to sell its MiFi units for $130 (that's about how much more the iPad costs when bundled with a MiFi unit).

Verizon gives the puck-sized MiFi units away to people who sign up for two-year data plans, and the device is facing lots of competition from similar mobile hotspots available on faster networks such as those operated by Sprint/Clearwire and T-Mobile.


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October 6, 2010 3:22 PM

More details on Verizon LTE, iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

More details are coming out about Verizon's LTE (4G) rollout and the rumored arrival of the iPhone on the company's network.

For starters, don't count on an actual 4G iPhone from Verizon anytime soon.

The company's LTE network will go live in Seattle and 37 other metro areas by the end of the year but will only work with laptop wireless cards and USB sticks to start. Verizon won't be selling LTE phones until the middle of 2011.

It doesn't sound like Apple's iPhone will be the debut smartphone on the network. Verizon today said Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt will be on stage in January when the first batch of LTE devices are announced, according to Tricia Duryee's writeup of Verizon's CTIA press conference today.

That means Android phones will be the first on Verizon's LTE network.

At the same CTIA event, Verizon President and Chief Operating Officer Lowell McAdam tamped down the latest rumors of a Verizon iPhone, a story in the Wall Street Journal saying a Verizon iPhone will be available in early 2011.

McAdam said the story "is something that rolls out every few weeks," Tricia reported.

The key McAdam quote suggests Apple may be aiming toward the LTE network, but that would mean mid to late 2011 at the earliest:

"Apple has to be the one that makes that announcement. I expect at some point in time our business interests will align and I think LTE is a reason why they'd want to have a device or tablet on our network."

In the meantime, Verizon's LTE network will bring superfast mobile speeds but incomplete regional coverage. The company's announcement said service will extend from Lynnwood to Fife and Issquah to Seattle's waterfront, but a spokesman told me Vashon will also be included.

Kitsap County will have to wait, as will much of Pierce and Snohomish counties and the rest of Washington.

"This is just the first phase. Each year we'll be adding substantially," spokesman Scott Charlston said.

The Journal story on the iPhone quoted anonymous "people briefed by Apple" saying it was developing a CDMA version of the iPhone 4 for Verizon, to sell in early 2011. That means it would be another 3G phone with a misleading "4" in the name, but maybe switching to CDMA will fix the antenna flaw.

You've got to wonder if the leak to the Journal was perhaps intended to keep Apple stock's momentum going. Otherwise it could have been a rough week, heading into Monday's launch of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.

On Tuesday Apple lost a $625 million patent suit, for infringing on a Yale professor's work.

The same day, Nielsen reported that Android phones overtook the iPhone in smartphone sales over the last six months. That lead's probably going to continue with the new Android G2 and MyTouch phones announced recently by T-Mobile USA, the first to use the fast HSPA Plus service.

AT&T is also preparing HSPA Plus service, promising 4G-like speeds until its LTE network is ready, but the faster speeds will require a new phone.

Meanwhile, AppleTV's arrival late last week was underwhelming, and may be overshadowed by GoogleTV announcements today and Tuesday.

Quick, someone float the Verizon iPhone story again!

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October 4, 2010 3:57 PM

Apple TV review, with pics

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's column is a review of Apple TV. Here's a version with a few pictures of the devices mentioned and their remote controls:

With the appropriate level of awe and reverence, I carefully removed Apple's latest magical product from its apple-sized box and marveled at its sleek design.

Within a few minutes, the Apple TV device - a $99 puck that wirelessly connects a TV to the Internet, and became available last week - was streaming video into my living room.
TVbox.jpg
The Apple TV connected to the Wi-Fi network in my house, plugged into the TV with an HDMI cable and, voila, there was a virtual video store on the screen.

Had Apple done it again? Did it revolutionize TV and reveal the future of video entertainment?

Continue reading this post ...


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September 29, 2010 3:21 PM

AppleTV arrives, sort of

Posted by Brier Dudley

The new AppleTV device -- Apple's latest attempt to crack the set-top-box market -- arrived in stores today, briefly, and a few reviews have surfaced.

The $99 AppleTV device was sold out by early afternoon in Seattle. University Village had "a few" in the morning and Bellevue Square had "a limited" number that were gone quickly, store representatives said.

AppleTV is basically a puck-sized wireless adapter that connects a TV set to computers and devices running Apple software for playing and renting movies and TV shows. It also streams photos and music from a computer.

Engadget pounced on one for a review that concluded AppleTV isn't yet a solution for replacing cable TV service. It said content available on the device is still limited. An excerpt:

If you just want a dead simple movie rental box and you're not that picky about content, the Apple TV is a no-brainer. If, like us, you're looking for options good enough to make you can the cable, Apple's new box still feels a lot like a hobby.

It may not be a no-brainer to pay $99 for an AppleTV if you already have more content available through video playback devices connected to your TV, such as a current-generation game console or networked Blu-ray player.

Gadget repair outfit iFixit secured one of the devices for a teardown and found that it contains an 8 gigabyte memory chip -- presumably to cache shows while they're streaming -- plus 256 megs of RAM and an A4 processor like the one used in the iPad and fourth-generation iPod Touch.

The device also has a 10/100 Ethernet jack and 802.11n Wi-Fi capability, but its maximum resolution is 720p.

I'm still waiting to try an AppleTV but the thing will have a hard time drawing my attention away from the Xbox, on which I've been testing the new high-def ESPN3 streaming service coming in November.

It doesn't include NFL games, but it has MLB, NFL, soccer (including English Premier League), college football and basketball. It worked pretty well, with only a few buffering instances when I started or paused a game.

When you call up the feature, it shows three big screens playing current and recent games, in a mock stadium populated by cheering Xbox avatars. When you make a selection, the game plays full screen, with controls to pause, rewind and fast-forward.

The system also lets you chat about the game with up to seven friends watching the game on their Xbox systems.

The ESPN feature will be free for Xbox Live "gold" subscribers who get Internet service through a cable company affiliated with ESPN.

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September 28, 2010 4:02 PM

Steve Jobs hires Bill Gates' architect for new house

Posted by Brier Dudley

For his new house in Woodside, Calif., Steve Jobs turned to the same architectural firm that worked on Bill Gates' waterfront mansion in Medina in the early 1990s.

After getting ribbed for decades about cribbing from Apple's graphical user interface back in the day, Gates might get a small chuckle out of the choice.

Jobs isn't exactly cribbing for his crib, though.

Since working for Gates, the Pennsylvania-based architecture firm -- Bohlin Cywinski Jackson -- worked for Jobs on Apple stores, notes Gizmodo, which posted renderings of the new Woodside house today:

jobshouse2_02.jpgDesign of the Gates house was also done by James Cutler, working with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

After a long battle with preservationists, Jobs is replacing a huge, circa 1925 mansion on the site with the proposed five-bedroom place. It's smaller and groovier but at 4,910-square-foot it's still no Mac mini.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson also designed Seattle's latest City Hall, by the way. Seattle residents are still waiting for its genius bar.

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September 24, 2010 1:37 PM

Feds sue Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe for anticompetitive moves

Posted by Brier Dudley

The U.S. Department of Justice this afternoon sued six high-profile tech companies for making anticompetitive moves to protect employees from poaching.

Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Pixar and Intuit made agreements "that restrained competition between them for highly skilled employees," the department said in a news release.

They agreed not to cold-call each other's employees, which "distorted the competitive process," Molly Boast, deputy attorney general in the antitrust division said.

Starting as early as 2005, the companies agreed to create "do not call lists" of each other's employees and lists of companies that were "off limits" for recruiting.

An example listed in the release:

Beginning no later than September 2007, Google and Intel executives agreed not to cold call each other's employees. In its hiring policies and protocol manual, Google listed Intel among the companies that have special agreements with Google and are part of the "Do Not Cold Call" list. Similarly, Intel instructed its human resources staff about the existence of the agreement.

The companies were named in a civil antitrust complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Simultaneously, a proposed five-year settlement was filed that would end the suit.

From the release:

Although the complaint alleges only that the companies agreed to ban cold calling, the proposed settlement more broadly prohibits the companies from entering, maintaining or enforcing any agreement that in any way prevents any person from soliciting, cold calling, recruiting, or otherwise competing for employees. The companies will also implement compliance measures tailored to these practices.

The suit came out of a larger, ongoing investigation into high-tech firms' employment practices.

Google acknowledged the settlement with a blog post, in which Amy Lambert, associate general counsel, still defended the company's behavior. An excerpt:

In order to maintain a good working relationship with these companies, in 2005 we decided not to "cold call" employees at a few of our partner companies. Our policy only impacted cold calling, and we continued to recruit from these companies through LinkedIn, job fairs, employee referrals, or when candidates approached Google directly. In fact, we hired hundreds of employees from the companies involved during this time period.

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September 7, 2010 10:33 AM

Google TV in autumn, Chrome tablets coming, CEO says

Posted by Brier Dudley

The TV platform that Google is developing with Sony, Intel and Logitech will debut in the U.S. this autumn, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt told reporters at a Berlin trade fair.

Schmidt also said Google will be announcing deals with computers makers to use the company's Chrome operating system on tablet computers, according to a Reuters report.

A number of tablets have already appeared with Google's Android operating system, which was designed primarily for phones, but the Chrome OS has been mostly vaporware so far.

It's a little confusing because Chrome is also the name of Google's browser.

Samsung is mulling whether to add Google software in its TVs, according to a Bloomberg report from Seoul. Samsung is already selling TV sets with similar capabilities, including an application platform for developers.

Google is having a press event Wednesday in San Francisco but it sounds like an update to Google search technology and not the Chrome tablet announcement Schmidt previewed.

The Reuters report said Schmidt declined to comment on the music service Google's expected to announce soon. He did say he was "angry" that Google Street View camera vehicles collected private data from WiFi networks, prompting action by German regulators.

"I was very angry about that," Reuters quoted Schmidt as saying.

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August 31, 2010 4:00 PM

More digital video news: Amazon pursuing subscription service

Posted by Brier Dudley

On the eve of Apple's fall product announcement Wednesday, Amazon.com is surfacing with plans for a subscription video service that could appear by the holidays.

Both The Wall Street Journal and Associated Press are reporting that Amazon is talking with studios about streaming their catalog of older content, perhaps through a monthly service affiliated with its $79 per year Amazon Prime service.

If nothing else, the reports could get Amazon mentioned in the wave of news coverage coming Wednesday when Apple is expected to announce a new version of its AppleTV device and a video subscription service.

Amazon already competes in the space, offering video rentals on demand to PCs and connected devices such as TiVo digital video recorders.

Next we'll be hearing about Microsoft's Zune Marketplace and the video it offers through Windows Phone 7 and the Xbox.

And don't forget Hulu and its pay service, or rumors that YouTube will offer a video rental service soon.

Just in case there's nothing to watch on TV.

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August 31, 2010 1:51 PM

Report: Netflix on new $99 AppleTV, what else?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Citing "three people with knowledge of the plans," Bloomberg is reporting that Apple on Wednesday will announce a $99 version of its AppleTV device that streams video from Netflix.

Other expectations are that Apple will present a new version of the iPod Touch with a forward-facing camera and perhaps a redesigned nano, its low-end iPod.

There's also been talk of a "cloud" version of iTunes. Maybe it will update iTunes so it's easier for users to manage and access their pool of rented and purchased material on different devices, including a TV.

The AppleTV device could then be more of an adapter than a standalone video storage and playback device -- more of a connector for securely transmitting protected content.

The new AppleTV will join a huge crowd of devices in the same price range that connect televisions to online video stores and subscription services.

It also comes as TVs and Blu-ray disc players are increasingly connecting directly to those services through Wi-Fi or wired Internet connections. If you're planning on buying a new TV, game console or disc player in the next three to 12 months, you might want to see if a device like AppleTV will duplicate the capabilities of what you'll be buying.

Access to Netflix has become a nearly universal feature on set-top devices, similar to having HDMI connections on a TV or Wi-Fi on a computer.

Every current game console connects TVs to Netflix, as do TiVo boxes, Windows PCs with Media Center capabilities and various gadgets that add connectivity to current TVs. The latter includes the $69 Roku box and the $100 Western Digital TV Live devices.

What's really intriguing, I think, is the rise of $200 to $300 Media Center computers the size of a box of frozen spinach, designed to hang on the back of a TV.

In addition to providing access to Netflix, iTunes and all the other Web video rental services, these tiny PCs also work as digital video recorders with slick channel guides. They also give viewers access to all the content and sites on the Web -- taking TVs beyond the restricted pipeline created by applications designed for video rental and sales.

Apple will no doubt introduce a beautiful new piece of hardware, but the real advance would come if the device makes it easier for people to access the whole Web through their TV, and not just pre-screened applications and subscription video services.

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August 30, 2010 12:58 PM

Why Paul Allen is suing Apple, Google, Facebook, et al

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's column is my take on why Paul Allen's suing some of the biggest names in tech. The top:

Something's up with Paul Allen.

His bombshell Friday -- a lawsuit against Apple, Google, Facebook and others for patent infringement -- was just the latest symptom.

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August 27, 2010 11:21 AM

Paul Allen sues Apple, Google, Facebook, much of tech industry

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen today filed a lawsuit against many of the biggest names in tech, alleging they're infringing on patents obtained by Interval Research, a venture Allen and Xerox veteran David Liddle started in 1992.

Interval's research generated about 300 patents, four of which are the basis of the suit. The group operated in Palo Alto, growing to more than 100 researchers, until it was shuttered in 2000.

Named as defendents are Apple, Google, Facebook, eBay, AOL, Netflix, Yahoo, Google's YouTube, OfficeMax, Office Depot and Staples.

Most of the companies declined to comment, but Facebook said the suit's without merit and a Google spokesperson said it's part of an "unfortunate trend of people trying to compete in the courtroom instead of the marketplace."

If Allen is successful, he could go after additional companies, seeking royalties for Interval patents that touch on much of the current Web experience.

One of the patents in the suit lays claim to the concept of automatically showing related information on a website, so people viewing a news story online could be presented with related stories, for instance.

"The invention enables some or all of a body of information to be skimmed quickly, enabling a quick overview of the content of the body of information to be obtained," states a 2001 patent for "browser for use in navigating body of information." "The invention also enables quick identification of information that pertains to a particular subject."

Allen has already tried to make money with that concept, starting a company called Evri, which developed a widget that media sites could embed into their sites and generate clusters of related stories.

It's unclear at this point how Allen sought to license the technology. Asked whether the lawsuit follows attempts to negotiate licensing deals with the named companies, Allen's spokesman David Postman said, "The defendants were informed that we had patents of interest."

The belated pursuit of compensation for research conducted more than a decade ago puts Allen at risk of being labeled a patent troll. Postman characterized the move as "part of an ongoing process for years to monetize that portfolio."

"Other patents were licensed to other people," Postman said. "Now we're to the point of reviewing that portfolio and seeing at the same time if technology in the marketplace has caught up to where Interval was. It's clear that these patents cover a variety of key processes in search and e-commerce. We're to the point where litigation is the next step on that."

Within Allen's circle of billionaire Microsoft veterans is Nathan Myhrvold, who started a Bellevue company called Intellectual Ventures that collects patents and makes money charging licensing fees. Bill Gates is invested in the group and helping with its research.

Intellectual Ventures' rise contributed to the debate over reforming the U.S. patent system and raised questions about how much the system encourages innovation vs. enriching license holders.

But Postman said Allen's situation with Interval is different, partly because Interval was formed to be a research organization developing new technologies for the "wired world" Allen envisioned. Postman also denied that Allen is enforcing his patents at the suggestion of Myhrvold or others.

"Ever since Interval was operating he's known there was value in those patents," Postman said. "That's why he was able to sell some, spin some off and license others. It is not at all a case of someone influencing him to do this. This was driven by Paul's interest in protecting his interest in innovation."

Facebook, at least, is going to fight back hard. The company's statement, provided by spokesman Andrew Noyes:

"We believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously."

A spokeswoman for eBay provided a similar statement, saying "we are reviewing the complaint filed today. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously."

An Office Depot spokesman said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation. AOL also declined to comment.

Google's statement said, "This lawsuit against some of America's most innovative companies reflects an unfortunate trend of people trying to compete in the courtroom instead of the marketplace. Innovation -- not litigation -- is the way to bring to market the kinds of products and services that benefit millions of people around the world."

Microsoft is not named in the suit. The company has not obtained licenses to use the technology, according to Postman.

Postman declined to say why the lawsuit went after particular companies, but said more companies could be pursued later.

"The companies that were named today all were informed of the patents that we hold," he said.

The patents at issue involve navigating with a browser for information, capturing a computer user's attention and alerting users to information. They were filed starting in 1996 but some weren't approved until as late as 2004.

Specifically, the patents cover:

-- "Browser for Use in Navigating a Body of Information, With Particular Application to Browsing Information Represented By Audiovisual Data."

-- "Attention Manager for Occupying the Peripheral Attention of a Person in the Vicinity of a Display Device."

-- "Alerting Users to Items of Current Interest."

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Seattle, also mentions that Interval was an early supporter of Google's founders.

For example, Interval Research served as an outside collaborator to and provided research funding for Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page's research that resulted in Google. Indeed, a Google screenshot dated September 27, 1998 entitled "About Google!" identifies Interval Research in the "Credits" section as one of two "Outside Collaborators" and one of four sources of "Research Funding" for Google. See Sept. 27, 1998 Website "About Google!" attached as Exhibit 1.
Later in the 15-page complaint, Google is alleged to be infringing on the browser patent by "making and using websites, hardware, and software to categorize, compare, and display segments of a body of information as claimed in the patent."

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August 17, 2010 10:14 AM

Report: Apple prepping smaller iPad -- the mini pad? -- for holiday

Posted by Brier Dudley

More reports are surfacing about a smaller iPad that Apple could launch by the end of the year.

The device will have a 7-inch diagonal touchscreen, potentially making the device small enough to fit into a purse or large coat pocket and closer in size to Amazon's standard Kindle, which has a 6-inch screen.

First generation iPads have a 9.7-inch diagonal screen.

Taiwan's Digitimes last week reported that the 7-inch iPad will be released in the first quarter of 2011, along with an improved version of the 9.7-inch model with a new processor.

A smaller iPad would be more portable and presumably cheaper and lighter, improving its odds of being chosen by people shopping for an electronic reading device.

Already the success of the iPad and the Kindle are snuffing out competition from other electronic reading books, Ars Technica noted in a story listing recently scuttled slates. They include the Hearst-backed Skiff and Plastic Logic's Que.

A new iPad screen size will add another complication for the application developers who were key to the iPhone's success, although it's nothing compared with the array of Android devices emerging this year.

In the meantime Apple's lined up a key iPad distributor. The company reached a new deal with China Unicom, the government-controlled phone conglomerate that's China's exclusive iPhone carrier, to sell the iPad as well.

I wonder if we'll start hearing gripes about Unicom's coverage and capacity, unless that's a capital offense.

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August 4, 2010 9:22 AM

Clearwire releases iSpot 4G for iPhone, iPad

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland 4G broadband provider Clearwire today announced a special version of its mobile hotspot for people using Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The iSpot is a puck modem similar to 4G Sprint Overdrive, but it's white and "made exclusively for Apple mobile products," Clearwire said in its release.

The iSpot also supports more simultaneous users - up to eight devices can connect at once via WiFi, versus the five with the Overdrive.

Clearwire's selling the iSpot for $100. An introductory data plan costs $25 per month and provides unlimited data at speeds of 3 to 6 megabits per second, with bursts up to 10.

Strangely, the iSpot will only support Apple devices with a $25 per month plan. Higher priced plans are available to open the hotspot to all WiFi devices, similar to the Overdrive. A spokesman said the device limits access to Apple devices by filtering MAC addresses, allowing only devices in the range used by the Apple products.

iSpot_Hero_StandAlone_white_R1(2).jpg

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August 2, 2010 9:42 AM

Microsoft's iPad: Wi-fis and bigger GBs, please

Posted by Brier Dudley

(Today's column ...)

Have you seen that hilarious (and profane) YouTube cartoon - done after work by a Best Buy employee - about a woman shopping for an iPhone 4?

No matter how many ways the clerk explains that they've only got the more advanced HTC Evo, she keeps saying "I don't care, I want the iPhone 4."

Believe it or not, a troupe of Wall Street jokesters and tech journalists acted out the Web sensation last week in Redmond, during Microsoft's annual Financial Analyst Meeting.

To make it fresh, this chorus substituted "iPad" for "iPhone 4" and cut the f-bombs.

Seriously, it was the highlight of the day.

With apologies to the creator of the "iPhone4 vs HTC Evo" video, here's how it went down.

Chorus: "iPad! Where is the iPad?"

Continue reading this post ...


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July 16, 2010 10:08 AM

Apple: iPhone 4 has problem, so free cases for buyers

Posted by Brier Dudley

Steve Jobs came out on the defensive during a press conference this morning responding to the iPhone 4 antenna problems, according to live blogs from the event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino.

Jobs acknowledged that there is a problem with his company's new phone but said it's only affecting a small number of users.

In response the company's giving free cases to iPhone 4 buyers through Sept. 30 and refunds to people who bought the $30 "Bumper" cases (the green accessory pictured here) from Apple already. The company can't make enough Bumpers for everyone right away so Apple will offer alternate cases. Buyers can apply for the cases and refunds on Apple's Web site next week.

MC671_AV3.jpg

Apple's also waiving restocking fees and providing full refunds within 30 days for people who want to return their phones.

The response is probably comparable to what Apple would have been forced to do if it lost in class action lawsuits filed over the phone's problem.

But the Sept. 30 deadline is curious and raises the question of what will happen to people buying the phone later. It may be a clue that Apple's working on a hardware fix that it hopes to have done by then.

Apparently investors aren't terribly worried about the moves, which will cost less than a recall of the phone. Apple stock (AAPL) is hovering a bit below its opening price of $253, trading recently at $251.

The company this week updated the iPhone software to fix its signal strength overstatement and a bug it had working with Microsoft's Exchange message system. Jobs said the company's also fixing a problem with the iPhone 4's proximity sensor and is finally going to start shipping white versions of the phone at the end of July.

Jobs was asked if Apple's going to do more to address the antenna situation and perhaps change the hardware. He said "I don't know" whether changing the design will help, according to Engadget's blog.

Jobs also denied Apple knew about the antenna problem before the phone was released.

Despite the antenna glitch, Apple sold more than 3 million of the phones since it launched three weeks ago.

Jobs said the company's been "working our butts off" to find a solution to the antenna problem, even though only 0.55 percent of users have called AppleCare about the problem. (So at least 16,500 people have contacted Apple about the problem.)

AT&T data shows the iPhone 4 drops a bit more calls than the iPhone 3GS, but it's still less than 1 percent more than the 3GS. Jobs provided the number of dropped calls in relation to Apple's earlier phone, but apparently didn't provide an overall percentage of calls dropped.

It has also been apparently working hard to find other phones that have a similar problem; Jobs asserted that the BlackBerry Bold 9700, Samsung Omnia II and HTC Droid Eris can have an antenna drop if held a certain way.

Jobs also talked about how much testing Apple does and how well the iPhone 4 has been received, even mentioning Consumer Reports on a slide describing the iPhone 4 as the "#1 Smartphone."

UPDATE: Nokia - which Jobs used as an example of another company with similar antenna issues - distributed a statement defending its antenna design. Nokia noted that it chooses phone materials carefully - a subtle dig at Apple for making the antenna part of the iPhone 4's stainless steel exterior band:

Antenna design is a complex subject and has been a core competence at Nokia for decades, across hundreds of phone models. Nokia was the pioneer in internal antennas; the Nokia 8810, launched in 1998, was the first commercial phone with this feature. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying human behavior, including how people hold their phones for calls, music playing, web browsing and so on. As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict. In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held. That's why Nokia designs our phones to ensure acceptable performance in all real life cases, for example when the phone is held in either hand. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design.

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July 12, 2010 11:36 AM

iPhone 4 review: Nice phone, too bad about antenna problem, LTE

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple's iPhone 4 is a beautiful device, one of the nicest in the growing field of amazing smartphones on sale this summer.

The software gives its touch-screen controls a buttery smoothness, plus a few handy new features.

Inside is a snappy processor and a new battery that keeps the phone going all day with moderate use.

Apple gave the phone a new case that's more blocky, masculine and Teutonic. It looks like a robot's ice-cream sandwich â€" two slabs of glass with a stainless steel middle.

gallery09-20100607.jpg

The iPhone 4 also works better than its predecessors as an actual phone, with dual microphones that help cancel out background noise.

Overall it's a great upgrade for the standard-bearing smartphone.

Which makes it too bad there's an elephant in this elegant, ultra modern room. The iPhone 4 has a glitch that can lead to its wireless signal abruptly dropping if you hold the phone a certain way.

Continue reading this post ...


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June 28, 2010 3:24 PM

Microsoft spokesman plays the numbers, gets flak

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw caused a minor stir over the weekend with a blog post showing how the company stacks up against a few competitors.

It's an interesting response to the big numbers Apple releases after its new products launch, although Shaw notably didn't say much about Microsoft's phone sales.

A sample of his post, which is like a bloggy version of the "fast facts" fixture of Microsoft.com's press page:

7.1 million -- Projected iPad sales for 2010. 58 million -- Projected netbook sales in 2010. 355 million -- Projected PC sales in 2010.

10 -- Percentage of US netbooks running Windows in 2008.
96 -- Percentage of US netbooks running Windows in 2009.

0 -- Number of paying customers running on Windows Azure in November 2009.
10,000 -- Number of paying customers running on Windows Azure in June 2010.
700,000 -- Number of students, teachers and staff using Microsoft's cloud productivity tools in Kentucky public schools, the largest cloud deployment in the US.

173 million -- Global Gmail users.
284 million -- Global Yahoo! Mail users.
360 million -- Global Windows Live Hotmail users.
299 million -- Active Windows Live Messenger Accounts worldwide.
1 -- Rank of Windows Live Messenger globally compared to all other instant messaging services.

I hate to join the embarrassing parade of tech reporters commenting on this item, but I was a little irked by the section comparing newspaper subscriptions to Xbox Live subscriptions.

To show how big Xbox Live has become, Shaw compared its subscribers (23 million) with Netflix (14 million subscribers) and the top 25 U.S. daily newspapers (16 million).

Xbox Live is a good success story for Microsoft, but it's an apples to oranges comparison with newspapers.

By using the tally of the top 25 papers, he missed two-thirds of the newspaper subscribers in this country. The total is more like 46 million paying subscribers, and 100 million readers daily.

That long tail is significant -- it's how a majority of people in the country still get their news.

If you want to get even more specific, Xbox Live links subscriptions to individuals, while newspaper subscriptions are per household, so the 100 million readers is probably a better comparison.

Xbox Live is an international service, so the comparison should be to global newspaper subscriptions, which for the time being are probably 20 times greater than Xbox Live.

The newspaper business was a $164 billion industry globally last year, compared with $55 billion for the video game industry, and more than 500 million people buy a newspaper every day.

Maybe newspapers should play up the fact that they're delivering interactive games (think Sudoku and crosswords) and entertainment as well as news.

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June 25, 2010 10:37 AM

Apple iPhone 4 problem: Don't hold it that way, Jobs says

Posted by Brier Dudley

"Just avoid holding it that way," Steve Jobs told a customer who complained that his new iPhone 4 loses reception when he touches the metal band framing the device.

That's according to an e-mail posted at Engadget.

Unbelievable. I hope other business leaders don't try to emulate Jobs this way. Especially the ones making cars and airplanes. Imagine this exchange:

"Hey Boeing, we've got some cracking in the tail of our new 787 and it looks like there's an assembly problem with the horizontal tail. Any plans to fix this?"

"Just avoid flying it that way."

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June 24, 2010 11:44 AM

Uh-oh: A few Apple iPhone 4 problems reported (UPDATED)

Posted by Brier Dudley

Don't tell the thousands of people who lined up at Apple stores around the world to buy the iPhone 4 today - or the 14 (!) Associated Press reporters covering the story - but a few early glitches with the device are being reported.

One of the top searches today on Google is for "iPhone 4" problems, displacing the Droid X that appeared on Google's hot list yesterday. But who knows, maybe Google, Microsoft, HTC, Nokia and RIM assigned hundreds of thousands of employees to spend today Googling that term.

The issues include a yellowing of part of the display that may be the result of a glue used in its assembly, according to the word surfacing on AppleInsider.com. New Jersey Twitterer Jasmine LeChelle said the "screens have jaundice." That sounds like something that can be sorted out in the factory and addressed with warranty coverage; AppleInsider.com called it a "temporary" problem.

Another - acknowledged by Apple after spreading on Web comment threads - is a possible hardware design issue that reduces wireless signals when a user's hand touches the bottom-left side of the phone. Some are saying this degrades the signal by interfering with the antenna built into its metal frame. MacRumors.com posted a users' YouTube video demonstrating the signal drop and how it can be remedied with an add-on plastic case:

UPDATE: Apple spokesman Steve Dowling acknowledged the antenna issue, telling the New York Times that it can be an issue with any cell phone. An excerpt:

"Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, depending on the placement of the antennas," Mr. Dowling said. "This is a fact of life for every wireless phone."

Dowling declined to say whether Apple experienced the issue during testing of the phone and suggested that users not hold the phone in a way that covers both sides of a small black strip on the lower left side. Alternatively, he said, they could use one of many available cases.

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June 23, 2010 11:12 AM

If iPhone 4 is sold out, how about a Droid X?

Posted by Brier Dudley

You've got to love the spat between Apple and Google. Especially if you're shopping for a new phone.

Today, the day before Apple launches its iPhone 4, Google, Verizon and Motorola announced their cutting edge smartphone -- the Droid X -- with a noisy press event in New York.

Droid_X_Front_Home_Default2.jpg

Apple's phone is more svelte, has a new high resolution display, dual cameras and more available apps. (The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg loved his early review unit - "It has some downsides and limitations ... But, overall, Apple has delivered a big, well-designed update that, in my view, keeps it in the lead in the smartphone wars" - and the New York Times' David Pogue thinks his is "beautiful, and since there's no more plastic, it feels solid and Lexus-like.")

But the Droid X has a better camera, a bigger screen and supports Adobe's Flash platform.

Both of them add tethering -- so you can use the phones as wireless modems for your computer -- but it costs an extra $20 per month.

They both have 1 gigahertz processors, start at $199 and require data plans.

Most people won't be able to get either one for a month or so.

Apple doesn't have a lot of iPhone 4's ready to sell yet. It will have a limited supply at its stores starting Thursday, and AT&T stores will have some on June 29. Both companies are pointing customers to the Web where they can order iPhone 4s to be shipped by July 14

Verizon is going to start selling the Droid X on July 15.

Meanwhile, smartphone shoppers can decide whether they want a Chevy or a Ford, a Whopper or a Big Mac.

Or they may consider something more cutting edge, like the HTC Evo from Sprint, which is still the only phone available with 4G mobile broadband service.

If they spend enough time shopping, instead of leaping at the launch, more options will become available.

Rumors are circulating about a coming version of the iPhone for Verizon's network, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 phones are coming this fall, and more 4G phones beyond the Evo are just around the corner.

Here are some specs of the Droid X:

Talk time: Up to 480 minutes
Standby time: Up to 220 hours
Band/Modes: CDMA 800/1900, EV-DO Rev. A
OS: Android 2.1, update to Android 2.2 late summer
Weight: 155 g / 5.47 oz
Dimensions: 2.6 x 5.0 x 0.4 (z) inches
Browser: Webkit HTML5 based browser; Adobe Flash 10.1 after update, pinch-to-zoom
E-mail Support: Gmail, Push E-mail, Corporate Sync, IMAP/ POP3
Connectivity: Stereo Bluetooth2 Class 1.5, Version 2.1+EDR, 3.5mm, USB 2.0 HS, OTA, HDMI, Over the Air Sync, PC Sync, DLNA
Display: 4.3" WVGA (854 x 480)
Display Resolution: WVGA display houses 400,000 pixels
Video: 720p HD Capture, HD Playback via HDMI or DLNA, H.263, H.264, MPEG4, WMA v10
Camera: 8.0 megapixel, Digital Zoom, Auto Focus, Dual LED Flash and image editing tools
Memory: 8 GB onboard, 16 GB microSD pre-installed, supports up to 32 GB micro SD - total memory expandable up to 40 GB
Location Services: aGPS (assisted), sGPS (stand alone), Google Maps, Google Maps Navigation, Google Maps with Google Latitude, Street View, and eCompass

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June 22, 2010 2:21 PM

AT&T says it's getting iPhone 4 a bit later than expected

Posted by Brier Dudley

AT&T clarified how it's going to roll out the iPhone 4, which is going to appear in its stores five days later than expected.

AT&T stores will have the phone starting on June 29, but it expects the supply to be limited. It's also fulfilling orders for customers who pre-ordered the phone on June 15.

Pre-orders were 10 times higher than they were for last year's iPhone "so we are working hard to get these devices into customers' hands as soon as possible," the company said in a release.

Even so it's a relatively jumbled launch, suggesting Apple pushed hard on the release schedule.

AT&T is starting to call customers this week who pre-ordered for store pick-up, to let them know when their phones are ready.

On June 29, AT&T will sell its inventory on a first-come, first-service basis and then take orders for delivery or store pick-up.

Meanwhile, some people are starting to receive pre-ordered phones shipped early.

Apple stores will have a "limited" quantity of the $200 to $300 phones available on Thursday, June 24. Its Web site says phones ordered online today will ship by July 14.

That's all despite news that users of the new iPhone won't be able to turn off Apple's location tracking capabilities.

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June 9, 2010 9:34 AM

Microsoft's Mehdi on Bing's iPhone deal, new social search & more

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft's adding a new "social" search feature to Bing today that shows trending topics on Facebook and Twitter.

The beta feature was demonstrated by Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi at the SMX Advanced search conference this morning. It's supposed to appear on Bing later today (here's the Bing announcement and link to bing.com/social).

It's the first time the full "firehose" of Facebook updates has been incorporated into a search engine. Bing did the same thing with Twitter last October and is now blending both networks' update streams into its social feature. The sources appear in the left column of the page, which appears designed to add additional sources in the future.

UPDATE: The social feature still isn't live late this afternoon but a Bing manager said it's coming shortly. He said it's happening in concert with back-end upgrades.

Mehdi said Microsoft plans to continue its massive investment in Bing's technology and marketing to lure new users to the company's search service. Although it still trails Google by a mile, Mehdi said Bing's showing progress and getting new users.

"We've grown every month since we launched. That's truest proof case of whether its working or not," he said.

"Knock on wood, long ways to go, it's working."

To demonstrate how far Bing has to go, Mehdi showed a handwritten page of market research done by his elementary school-aged daughter, showing only four Bing users and a long list of her friends using the competition.

"She goes, 'Daddy, we have a lot of work to do.'".

Host Danny Sullivan pressed Mehdi for details on Microsoft's deal with Apple that put Bing onto the new iPhone. Mehdi said the discussion started when Microsoft developed a Bing iPhone app and was helped by Bing's visual interface that works well on the touch interface.

"They said our customers said they'd love to Bing and choice is good for consumers," Mehdi said, adding that "It was a very easy discussion."

Sullivan pressed Mehdi on whether Microsoft paid for Bing's placement on Apple's phone but Mehdi declined to say or provide details on the business arrangement.

Talking about Bing's office tower in Bellevue, Mehdi said they're interested in putting Bing's logo on the side of the building but "there's some issues with the city or the policy."

Mehdi hopes to revisit the sign issue but in the meantime an employee figured out how to have the building's interior lights spell out "Bing" at night.

"We find ways to overcome," he said.

It ended with Sullivan presenting Mehdi with a cake to celebrate Bing's one year birthday and the audience of search marketing experts singing "Happy Birthday."

"I don't think we deserve cake and candles - we have a lot of work to do definitely ... but it's been a great year," Mehdi said, thanking the industry for its support.

DSCN1884.JPG

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June 7, 2010 10:12 AM

Apple: new iPhone gets Bing, better battery, starts at $199 6/24

Posted by Brier Dudley

Steve Jobs announced iPhone 4 -- the redesigned, iPad-like model that surfaced in April in prototype form -- during his morning keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco.

Apple is also adding Microsoft's Bing search engine to the phone, confirming speculation that has swirled for several months. Bing is a listed search engine option on the phone, along with Yahoo and Google.

The iPhone 4 will cost $199 for a 16 gigabyte model and $299 for a 32 gig and come in white or black. It goes on sale June 24. The iPhone 3GS will now cost $99, and AT&T will let people out of their contracts up to six months early to upgrade.

Jobs said the iPhone 4 is 24 percent thinner the iPhone 3GS. It has glass on the front and back and a metal band forming the border and supporting the antenna. The phone also has a front-facing camera, HD video capture (720p) and a screen with Apple's new higher-density "retina display."

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jobsiphone4.jpg

As expected, the phone's software -- which also runs the iPad -- is being upgraded to support multitasking.

It's biggest advance, though, may be in battery life. Jobs claims it has seven hours of talk time, six hours of browsing on 3G networks, 10 hours on Wi-Fi, 10 hours of video playback and 300 hours of standby. If the battery claims prove true, it will be more interesting to some buyers than which network the phone uses.

Apple is calling it iPhone 4 because it's the fourth generation of the iPhone, not because it has 4G wireless service.

iPhone4-withgame.jpg

Thankfully, Apple didn't call it the iPhone 4G, but the name may still confuse some consumers and provide fodder for online comment spats between iPhone 4 and HTC Evo 4G fans. One point for the Evo crowd: The iPhone 4's new iPhone-to-iPhone video chat feature will only work on Wi-Fi this year, while the Evo's streaming live via Qik.com.

I'm watching the live blogs along with a jillion others this morning.

Engadget noted that Jobs also had a demo gaffe when the iPhone 4 he was showing froze while downloading The New York Times. "Deadly silent here," the blog noted. Later Jobs said it was because there was so much Wi-Fi activity in the room and asked the audience to shut down their network cards and mobile hotspots. I wonder how the phone will work a busy conference session or an office with a bunch of different networks running.

Earlier standouts were the announcements that Netflix will stream to the iPhone starting this summer and that PDF support will be built into the iPad via an update coming later this month.

Jobs said the iPad's bookstore has captured 22 percent of the electronic book market already, and saw 5 million downloads in the first 65 days. The big question, though, is whether all those iPad buyers will continue to use the thing as an e-book after their initial burst of downloads.

He also noted that more than 5 billion apps have been downloaded via iTunes, and Apple's royalty payments to developers recently crossed $1 billion.

The iPhone's new software will be provided free to owners of the iPhone 3GS and 3G and iPod Touch but the latter two won't support all the new features.

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June 2, 2010 2:07 PM

D8: AOL should have bought Apple, put Jobs in charge, Case says

Posted by Brier Dudley

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- Another interesting bit of tech history that surfaced at the D8 conference: AOL co-founder Steve Case said his company considered buying Apple and putting Steve Jobs in charge, to help sort out its troubled merger with Time Warner.

At the time Apple's market value was only about $1 billion.

It was during an AOL board meeting in 2002, where "one suggestion was we acquire Apple and put Steve in charge," Case said during an interview with co-host Kara Swisher.

"There wasn't a lot of support for the idea," he said, explaining that at the time people had different perceptions of Jobs' company.

"Apple was this Mac operating system company with a 2 percent market share."

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June 1, 2010 6:02 PM

D8: Steve Jobs says surreal to surpass MSFT, tells of iPad genesis

Posted by Brier Dudley

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs may look frail nowadays but he showed plenty of fight - and humor - in a wide-ranging discussion Tuesday night at the All Things Digital conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal.

For nearly two hours, Jobs jousted with hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, who pressed the Apple co-founder on his company's strained relationship with Google and Adobe, competition with Microsoft and Apple's push into the ad business.

Even at a conference full of celebrity chief executives, Jobs received rock star treatment. A crowd was waiting behind velvet ropes outside the ballroom at the Terranea Resort and surged when the doors opened at 5:45, jockeying for the best seats.

Swisher jumped right into the interview with Jobs, asking for his thoughts on Apple surpassing Microsoft's market capitalization last week.

"For those of us who have been in the industry a long time it's surreal," Jobs said. "But it doesn't matter very much, it's not what's important ... it's not why any of our customers buy our products. So I think it's good for us to keep that in mind."

Walt Mossberg kept up the pressure, asking Jobs about his controversial decision not to support Adobe's Flash technology on mobile devicies and how it's affecting consumers and developers.

jobs at d8.jpg

Jobs said Apple's makes technical decisions to support what it sees as emerging technologies such as its early decision to support the 3.5-inch computer disc over the 5-inch floppy disc and to drop serial ports on the Mac. He said Apple believes Flash is on the "wane" and HTML5 is in its spring phase.

"Sometimes when we get rid of things like the floppy disc drive in the first iMac people call us crazy," Jobs said.

"Or at least premature," Walt said.

"No they call us crazy," Jobs said.

Mossberg said consumers may not agree it was the best choice when their iPads show Web sites with holes where Flash items should be displayed.

"What if people say the iPad is crippled in this respect," he asked, drawing a heated reaction from Jobs.

"Things are packages of emphasis," Jobs said. "Some things are emphasized in a products, some things are not done as well in a product ... so different poeple make different choices."

Jobs said Apple has "the courage of our convictions."

"We're going to take the heat because we want to make the best product for customers. .... they're paying us to make those choices. That's what a lot of customers pay us to do - to try to make the best products we can. If we succeed, they'll but them. If we don't, they won't. I.... so far I have to say that people seem to be liking iPads. We've sold one every three seconds since launching it."

Swisher and Mossberg also pressed Jobs to discuss the more tense relationship Apple now has with Google. They also tried to pin him down on whether Apple will replace Google as the search service on its mobile devices - some have speculated Microsoft's Bing may take its place - but Jobs sidestepped the question.

What changed in the relationship between Apple and Google?

"They decided to compete with us and so they are," Jobs said.

How about PC operating systems with Google's Chrome O.S.?

"Chrome is not really baked yet so we'll see," Jobs said.

Asked about Apple's long platform war with Microsoft, Jobs said he never thought about the competition that way.

"We never saw ourselves in a platform war with Microsoft," Jobs said. "Maybe that's why we lost - we saw ourselves buiding the best computers we could build."

jobs2.jpg

Jobs also drew laughs talking about why he prefers the consumer market over the business enterprise market.

"What I love about the consumer market and I always hated about the enterprise market is we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it and every person votes for it themselves. They vote yes or no," Jobs said.

"The enterprise market, it's not so simple - the people that use the product don't decide for themselves. The people that make those decisions sometimes are confused."

Their conversion elicited an interesting story about the genesis of the iPad. Jobs said he'd asked his team to develop some kind of display he could type on early in the decade and they produced an amazing touchscreeen system. Scrolling and other features made him think, "my god, we can build a phone out of this."

Phones were a more important market so the tablet was shelved while the iPhone was created.

"When we got our wind back and thought we could take on something next, (we) pulled the tablet off the shelf, took everything we learned from the phone and went to work on the tablet."

Jobs predicted that PCs going to be used less and less as new computing devices emerge. PCs - including Macs and Windows systems - "are going to be like trucks but they're going to be used by one out of x people."

What the dominant computing device will be is unclear.

"Is it the iPad? Who knows. Will it happen five years or seven years from now, who knows?" Jobs said. "But I think we're headed that direction."

Swisher asked Jobs about future plans for the iPad and how it could help the struggling news industry. Jobs said he hopes that he's helping newspapers "find new ways of expression so they can afford to get paid, so they can keep their news gathering organizations intact."

"Even more than magazines, some of these newspapers - the news gathering and editorial organizations are really important," Jobs said. "I don't want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers myself. I think we need editorial more than ever right now."

Apple's also going to enter the advertising business itself, but Jobs said the company won't make a lot of money with the new venture. He said the objective is to help developers make money so they can keep providing free or low-cost apps.

"We're not going to make much money in the ad business," he said. "We're doing it for our developers."

During questions from the audience, Jobs told an iPhone owner frustrated by poor network service in Houston that improvements are on the way. Jobs said he's been told that the network is being upgraded with faster connections and switches and improvements should be there by the end of summer.

Jobs said he's been told that "things - when they start to fix them - get worse before they get better. If you believe that, things should be getting a lot better soon."

News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch opened the event, recalling how Steve Jobs appeared at the first D conference eight years ago. Jobs talked then about misunderstandings between technology and content creators, a gap that Murdoch believes has since narrowed.

The worlds of technology and content have moved much closer since our first gathering," Murdoch said. "In fact sometimes the line between them has been completely erased."

Content is also key to technology products such as music players and e-readers, Murdoch said.

"You need content too - after all, what is an iPod without music?"

Murdoch used his introduction to assert the need for content to be paid for online, and noted that the Wall Street Journal is growing circulation despite it's subscription approach. He also noted that the paper already has more than 10,000 iPad subscribers.

"We need a fair price for our content," he said. "There's no great secret here. In response to skeptics who say technology is killing the news business, I believe technology is ushering in a new golden age for those willing to embrace it."

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June 1, 2010 1:57 PM

D: All Things Digital: Project Natal vs the iPhone 4G?

Posted by Brier Dudley

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- They aren't scheduled to be on stage together, but Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer are both appearing this week at the D8: All Things Digital conference, organized by the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

I'll be blogging from the event starting with the Jobs appearance at 6 p.m. today. As if Jobs wasn't interesting enough, the session also includes News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch.

Jobs could shake it up by demonstrating the upcoming version of the iPhone. I'll also keep an eye on barstools at the Terranea Resort just in case.

Microsoft's show begins Wednesday morning when Mossberg and Swisher will demonstrate the Project Natal controller that's coming to the Xbox this holiday season. It's a relatively public appearance for the motion/voice controller, which Microsoft's been showing behind closed doors for more than a year and will formally launch on June 13 and 14 at the E3 game conference up the road in Los Angeles.

IMG00189-20100601-1357.jpg

The Natal demo follows appearances by Comcast President Steve Burke, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton.

Others appearing Wednesday include FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs and movie director James Cameron.

Ballmer is highlighting a session Thursday with Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, before sessions with Microsoft allies, HTC Chief Executive Peter Chou and Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

Also appearing at the event are the chief executives of eBay, NPR and AOL (plus AOL co-founder Steve Case).

Tech companies doing formal demos at the event include Kno, a company making a tablet computer for students; Dell, which is apparently going to show its upcoming Streak tablets that I saw in Belltown recently; OnLive, a new on-demand game service; and Wordnik, an online dictionary.

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May 19, 2010 4:42 PM

Delve boss dissects Google's new Web video standard

Posted by Brier Dudley

Seattle video startup Delve Networks is jumping onto WebM, a new Web video standard announced today by Google, Mozilla and others.

WebM is intended to offer a royalty-free alternative to commercial video standards -- namely the H.264 codec that's widely used for Web video today and favored by Apple.

Microsoft said its upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser will support WebM's "VP8" video codec, as will Mozilla's Firefox, Opera and Google's Chrome browser.

The jumble of video standards and jousting between platform companies is confusing to consumers but good for companies like Delve.

After a few different approaches to the video market, Delve has a growing business converting Web publishers' video to multiple standards for different devices. today it jumped on the WebM bandwagon, announcing its support of the standard.

In an interview, Chief Executive Alex Castro, a veteran of Microsoft and Amazon.com, also offered some insights on WebM and what's happening with Web video standards.

Castro is enthusiastic about WebM but expects it will take awhile to get established.

"It's sort of like HTML 5 -- it's not going to change the world in the next six months, but in 18 months it could have a big effect," he said.

Castro said "Adobe stands to be the biggest loser" although Adobe is among the initial companies supporting the WebM project.

With "the combination of this new WebM format along with a lot of people getting behind HTML 5, you start to say, 'Why do I care about Flash and Silverlight?' " he said.

Castro said the complexity of the situation helps Delve, which has also benefited from the format spat between Apple and Adobe. The fight has generated business with publishers needing their video converted to play on the iPad.

"The only way you can play video on the iPad is to support HTML5 and H.264," he explained. "Our customers ... they don't care about the standard politics, they care about 'can my customers watch my content.'"

How will consumers be affected by the video standards battles?

"Unfortunately in the near term there's going to be some confusion for users and some poor experiences," Castro predicted.

"I think unfortunately consumers are caught in the middle as all these major technology vendors are vying for the highest ground," he said. "Right now consumers are getting the shortest end of the stick. If I spend $500 or $700 for an iPad, it kind of sucks a lot of Web sites I go to don't have support for HTML5."

Does Google have enough clout to establish the WebM standard?

"They have YouTube and that's great, but what they don't have is enough browser market share to do it by themselves," he said. "That's why they need Opera and Mozilla, but even if you add those guys up they don't have 50 percent market share. In some ways it would be good for consumers today if Google had the oomph to make this a standard. As soon as someone wins, the sooner consumers aren't caught in the middle."

"I think the sad reality here is this is probably going to play out for another year or two while these guys jockey for position."

Meanwhile, Delve's doing fine, Castro said. He said its sales grew 400 percent last year -- to more than $1 million -- and he's expecting around 290 percent sales growth this year.

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May 4, 2010 9:44 AM

AP confirms Apple facing antitrust investigation

Posted by Brier Dudley

It looks like Apple may be emulating Microsoft in one regard.

The Associated Press is reporting that federal regulators are preparing to investigate whether Apple violated antitrust rules with its application development platform for mobile devices.

The story follows up on a report yesterday by the New York Daily News, which first disclosed that the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are discussing which agency will lead the examination.

From the AP report:

A person with knowledge of the inquiry tells The Associated Press that officials at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are sorting out which agency will examine Apple's policy. The policy could prevent developers from using outside tools such as those from Adobe Systems Inc. to design apps for Apple's devices.

At issue would be the control Apple exerts over developers of middleware on its platform. Which would be awfully familiar ...

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April 30, 2010 11:59 AM

Phone sales up 19 percent, Apple up 130 percent, report says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Phone sales grew 19 percent in the first quarter, according to a new report from ABI Research, which noted that sales of 3G handsets overtook those of 2G handsets. The company is predicting 1.3 billion phones will be sold this year.

Nokia is still selling the most phones, followed by Samsung. Apple has 2.9 percent of the world market, but grew the number of phones sold by 130 percent in the quarter.

Sales grew the fastest -- 20 percent -- in the Middle East and Africa, followed by the U.S., where they were up 11 percent, according to a summary provided by ABI.

Handset-vendor-market-share.jpg

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April 27, 2010 1:58 PM

"CSI: Apple" finds iPhone finder, expanding probe

Posted by Brier Dudley

People used to say Seattle was the best place in the world to have a heart attack, because of our great Medic One emergency response system.

Now we know the best place in the world to lose a phone: San Mateo County, Calif., where a coalition of police investigators is pulling out the stops to find the person who picked up a prototype phone left in a Redwood City bar.

The highest profile police action in California isn't going to stop with Friday's raid of a Gizmodo journalist's home. CNET is reporting that the criminal probe is going to expand, perhaps beyond Gizmodo.

The phone is safely back in Apple's hands, so perhaps the manhunt's really about hunting down and punishing the opportunist who sold it to Gizmodo.

(UPDATE: The Silicon Valley Business Journal's reporting that police found and interviewed him, but they haven't charged him with anything yet. "We're still not saying it's a crime," said San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the paper.)

Imagine what would have happened if someone took an Apple employee's prized car. They'd probably activate the National Guard, with the "Terminator" leading the charge.

I wonder if "CSI: Apple" checked for DNA left on the phone and used credit card records and traffic cameras to interview everyone who was in the bar that fateful night. Perhaps they used GPS and AT&T records to triangulate the location of the opportunistic gadget enthusiast, who apparently tried the phone before Apple remotely shut it down.

The story will really get interesting if the manhunt expands to other Gizmodo contributors with a keen interest in Apple's next phone.

Like Bill Gates, who wrote for Gizmodo last summer. As long as the police are on a fishing expedition, they should know the really big ones are on east shore of Lake Washington.

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April 26, 2010 2:40 PM

Steve Jobs goes Jack Bauer on Gizmodo, police raid editor's house

Posted by Brier Dudley

Steve Jobs is apparently trying to go Jack Bauer on Gizmodo, the blog that ended up with an iPhone prototype that an Apple engineer left in a bar.

Apple has the phone back, and Gizmodo has already run its story. Plus followups, such as a piece explaining how the guy who found the phone tried to return it to Apple but was rebuffed by customer service.

Nevertheless, police in San Mateo County, Calif., raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen and seized computers, cameras, business cards and other equipment. Word of the Friday seizure is coming out today, including a report in the New York Times where Gizmodo's parent company argues that the home was used for journalistic endeavors and the search warrant was illegal.

A search warrant Gizmodo posted alleges the property was used to commit a felony.

This ought to erase some of the good will Apple built up with the media when it sent Steve Jobs around to big newspapers this spring, encouraging them to sell iPad subscriptions.

P.S. I've had a few people asking where I'm coming from here.

Here's my take: Apple opened the door for the police by characterizing the missing phone as something taken from the company. If Apple had chosen to characterize it as a lost or misplaced phone, it's unlikely police would have sought or obtained a search warrant.

When was the last time police raided a house after a phone was misplaced, especially after the phone was already returned?

P.P.S. Yahoo News is reporting that the raid was undertaken at the behest of a computer crimes task force, and Apple's on the task force's steering committee. Bloomberg talked to a deputy prosecutor who suggested the target is the person who found the phone.

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April 26, 2010 12:05 PM

Dilbert does Apple's lost iPhone snafu

Posted by Brier Dudley

Scott Adams penned a pretty funny pair of Dilbert cartoons riffing on Apple's lost iPhone prototype, but decided not to publish them in print.

So he published them on Dilbert.com, as an online bonus for fans.

The first one starts with Wally asking to borrow a prototype phone ...


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April 19, 2010 12:36 PM

What's more amazing: the new iPhone, or Apple losing one? (UPDATED with backstory)

Posted by Brier Dudley

The new iPhone is going to go down in tech history, not because of its innovation, but because of the incredible things that have happened to its prototypes.

Last summer a worker at Apple's iPhone factory in China lost a prototype, then apparently killed himself after his employer -- Foxconn -- searched his apartment.

Today's story of the day is that another prototype -- this one apparently a near final, working model -- was lost at a bar in Redwood City, Calif., and ended up in the hands of gadget blog Gizmodo. A screen grab of the page:

newiphone.JPG

The new phone looks more like the iPad, with a squared and beveled metal border. Gizmodo says it has a bigger battery and smaller (but sharper) screen than the iPhone 3GS. It also has a better camera and a flash. It speculated that it's going on sale sometime in 2010.

Apple made it known through blogger John Gruber that it "considers this unit stolen, not lost."

If Apple puts pressure on Gizmodo, maybe the blog should remind Apple about this story it ran last year -- about Apple refusing to return a stolen iPhone to a woman in New York.

UPDATE: Gizmodo revealed the name of poor the Apple engineer who lost the phone - a 27-year-old who apparently hasn't been fired yet. The guy left it on a bar stool and the guy sitting next to him picked it up. This opportunistic tipster apparently received $5,000 from Gizmodo for the device, even after figuring out who owned it by a Facebook profile it displayed.

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April 16, 2010 9:26 AM

How Apple friendly is your town? Seattle kinda Mac-ish, SF tops

Posted by Brier Dudley

File this in the "kinda obvious" bin.

The San Francisco region is the most Apple friendly part of the country, with 32.3 percent of the people in Apple's hometown area likely to own a Mac, iPod or iPhone, according to a new report from Experian Simmons.

This comes just after the latest PC sales reports that showed Macs holding fifth place with 6 to 8 percent of the U.S. market share, behind Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Toshiba.

Californians must be loyal. Four of the top 10 most Apple-ish metropolitan areas are in the Golden State.

You could probably draw a similar conclusion from Seattle's ranking. The hometown of Microsoft is the 14th most Mac friendly community, with 989,163 out of the 3,614,840 adults owning some sort of Apple device. That's 27.4 percent of the population.

Prosperous urban centers have the most dense Apple ownership, as expected.

But even places like Yakima and the Tri-Cities made the top 100, with 20.50 percent of adults owning one of its devices. That's surprisingly ahead of Eugene's 19.7 percent.

Portland, the Linux epicenter, ranks 30th with 24.4 percent Apple ownership, behind cities like Detroit (24th, with 25.6 percent) and Boise (25th, with 25.4 percent).

The top 10 market areas, plus a map from Experian Simmons' report:

1. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Calif: 32.3%
2. Boston: 31.3%,
3. San Diego: 42%
4. New York: 30.4%
5. Washington, D.C: 30.1%
6. Chicago: 29.4%
7. Denver: 29.1%
8. Monterey-Salinas, Calif.: 28.1
9. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo, Calif.: 27.9
10. Las Vegas: 27.9

apple map.JPG

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April 15, 2010 11:47 AM

More iPad challengers coming, from Toshiba

Posted by Brier Dudley

There will be plenty of options for holiday shoppers looking for tablet computing devices from major computer companies.

In addition to the iPad and Hewlett-Packard's Slate, Toshiba will be selling similar devices based on Windows 7 and another line based on Google's Android software, according to a Reuters story quoting Jeff Barney, general manager of digital products for Toshiba America.

Toshiba is looking at a variety of form factors for its slate PCs, including a dual-screen model running Windows, and one with a roughly 10-inch screen, he said.

"We definitely see a place for the slate, we see there's a market there. It'll be expansive like netbooks, it won't be cannibalistic," he said.

Toshiba could really shake it up if they include the Intel WiDi technology that's on some of its laptops, enabling them to beam high-def video onto a nearby TV.

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April 8, 2010 11:43 AM

Steve Jobs: Apple may serve 1 billion ads a day to iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

Multitasking on the iPhone and iPad is a nice addition to the platform, but I think the jaw-dropper at Apple's news event this morning was the mobile ad platform called iAd that Steve Jobs unveiled.

Both additions were expected but the ambition and scope of iAd was surprising.

It's a huge potential market for the company if users accept the advertising that may soon be woven deeply into their Apple devices.

"The average user spends over 30 minutes every day using apps on their phone," Jobs said, according to Engadget's live blog at the event. "If we said we wanted to put an ad up every 3 minutes, that's 10 ads per device per day. That would be 1 billion ad opportunities per day."

Users may benefit from more free apps supported by ads. Maybe that will offset any resentment about immersive ads on a mobile device for which they pay monthly fees to use, and temper app price escalation that came with the iPad.

Apple's going to take 40 percent of the revenue from iAds that it's going to sell and host. In response to a question, Jobs said developers can use other ad systems besides iAd, according to the Wall Street Journal's coverage of the event.

I wonder how it's going to work to have multiple systems feeding ads into the apps. Will other ad systems have the same access the new ad serving and display capabilities Apple's building into the operating system without paying the 40 percent?

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April 5, 2010 4:56 PM

Details leak on HP's "iPad killer" -- $549, Win 7, 1080p

Posted by Brier Dudley

A convincing looking slide comparing the specs of Hewlett-Packard's upcoming "Slate" tablet with Apple's iPad appeared this afternoon on Engadget.

If accurate, HP is going to undercut Apple with a more powerful tablet device, but Apple already has the mindshare. I mentioned the Slate in Sunday's column on the iPad.

The slide says the Windows 7-based Slate will cost $549 for a 32-gig model and $599 for a 64-gig. Apple's iPads with the same capacity cost $599 or $699.

HP's device will have a 1.6 gigahertz Intel Atom processor, compared with the iPad's 1 GHz processor, and it will support 1080p and have a USB 2.0 port and SD card slot. It's a bit smaller than an iPad but weighs the same, at 9.2 by 5.7 inches, 0.57-inches thick and 1.5 pounds.

But the iPad has double the battery life -- 10 hours vs. the Slate's 5 hours -- and the Slate strangely only has 802.11b and g Wi-Fi and not the faster "n" flavor that the iPad includes. The Slate also supports a mobile broadband card, presumably 4G.

HP highlighted the ports -- which the iPad lacks -- in a teaser video it released this morning:

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March 31, 2010 6:17 PM

First iPad reviews appear, mostly thumbs up

Posted by Brier Dudley

As expected, Apple gave the New York Times' David Pogue , USA Today's Ed Baig and the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg an early crack at the iPad for reviews that just appeared.

The device, of course, goes on sale Saturday starting at $499. The chosen few apparently loved it, but had a few quibbles.

Both Mossberg and Pogue found the iPad battery life better than Apple's promised 10 hours, with Pogue getting 12 hours of video playback and Mossberg more than 11.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for IMG00068-20100127-1017.JPG

Mossberg agrees with Steve Jobs, that it's a revolutionary device:

After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades.

With an iPad on hand, Mossberg found himself using his laptops less and less.

My verdict is that, while it has compromises and drawbacks, the iPad can indeed replace a laptop for most data communication, content consumption and even limited content creation, a lot of the time. But it all depends on how you use your computer.

If you're mainly a Web surfer, note-taker, social-networker and emailer, and a consumer of photos, videos, books, periodicals and music--this could be for you. If you need to create or edit giant spreadsheets or long documents, or you have elaborate systems for organizing email, or need to perform video chats, the iPad isn't going to cut it as your go-to device.

Pogue split his review in two, praising it as a wonderful new gadget for non-techies, while ripping its shortcomings from the geeky perspective.

The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they're absolutely right.

From the geek perspective, Pogue said Apple's selection of digital books for the iPad is meager and its on-screen keyboard is "horrible" when the device is upright and "just barely usable" when it's turned 90 degrees.

There's no multitasking, either. It's one app at a time, just like on the iPhone. Plus no U.S.B. jacks and no camera. Bye-bye, Skype video chats. You know Apple is just leaving stuff out for next year's model.

The bottom line is that you can get a laptop for much less money -- with a full keyboard, DVD drive, U.S.B. jacks, camera-card slot, camera, the works. Besides: If you've already got a laptop and a smartphone, who's going to carry around a third machine?

Baig called the iPad "a winner" that is "rewriting the rulebook for mainstream computing":

The first iPad is a winner. It stacks up as a formidable electronic-reader rival for Amazon's Kindle. It gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money. At the very least, the iPad will likely drum up mass-market interest in tablet computing in ways that longtime tablet visionary and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could only dream of.

Here's the quickie iPad review I wrote after trying it at the January launch event.

Here's USA Today's video that ran with Baig's review:


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March 29, 2010 3:02 PM

WSJ: New iPhone this summer, plus one for Verizon

Posted by Brier Dudley

As if Apple needed any more buzz the week before its iPad goes on sale, the Wall Street Journal today is reporting that a new iPhone is coming this summer and Apple's preparing a CDMA version of its hit phone for Verizon Wireless.

It credits "people briefed on the matter" and received no comments from the companies.

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March 26, 2010 5:01 PM

Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt appear together

Posted by Brier Dudley

Gizmodo has a funny analysis of the joint appearance today by Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Eric Schmidt over coffee at a Palo Alto, Calif., shopping center, asking a former federal agent to assess their body language.

It doesn't answer the big question, though, of whether the appearance was staged to offset stories about their nasty fallout.

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March 17, 2010 9:01 PM

HTC fires back at Apple, says it will fight lawsuits

Posted by Brier Dudley

Two weeks after being sued by Apple for patent infringement, Taiwanese phone maker HTC is responding with a formal statement defending itself against the allegations.

The company's statement is a prelude to a legal response, still being drafted, that challenges the patent suit Apple filed in federal court, as well as a complaint it made to the International Trade Commission.

An HTC executive at its U.S. headquarters in Bellevue said the company has the support of partners such as Google. That reinforces the notion that Apple's suit is part of a bigger feud under way between tech giants that are all building roughly similar touchscreen smartphones.

"HTC strongly disagrees with Apple's actions," said Jason Mackenzie, vice president of HTC America in Bellevue. "We plan to use all of the legal tools that are at our disposal to both defend ourselves and set the record straight to the general public."

Mackenzie noted that HTC introduced touchscreen smartphones long before Apple's iPhone appeared in 2007.

"We started working on the first touchcscreen smartphone way back in 1999," he said.

That work led to the Pocket PC phone launched in 2002 with Bellevue's VoiceStream Wireless, which is now T-Mobile USA.

Since then, HTC has released more than 50 smartphones and worked with all U.S. phone companies, "vs. one single product at one single carrier," Mackenzie said, in another dig at Apple's iPhone business.

"We would not have achieved what we've achieved today -- including the partnerships weve developed with people like Microsoft, Google, all the U.S. operators, Qualcomm -- if we were a company that did not respect intellectual property rights."

Apple accused HTC of making and selling products that "incorporate, without license, many technologies developed by Apple and protected by patents issued to and owned by Apple and its wholly owned subsidiaries, including NeXT."

It asked the trade commission to block the importation of a number of phones, including the Nexus One that HTC makes for Google, the myTouch 3G sold by T-Mobile, the Droid Eris sold by Verizon and the new HD2 based on Windows Mobile.

Apple's suit specifically calls out phones running the Android platform backed by Google. A Google spokesperson referred by HTC, Jill Hazelbaker, didn't say whether the company would participate in HTC's legal defense, but provided a statement praising HTC for helping to make Android a success.

"The Android platform has seen tremendous adoption all over the world, and we are proud of all our partners who have made it such a success," she said via e-mail. "In less than a year and a half since HTC shipped the first Android device, there are now 26 devices with 60 carriers in 49 countries and 19 languages powered by Android."

Mackenzie wouldn't comment specifically on the lawsuit but said Apple's responding to HTC's success.

"We are experiencing more success than we've ever had in the U.S. market today. We've got great products at all the major operators," he said. "We're obviously having this conversation because of that and because of those successes we've had."

So far the lawsuit hasn't had an effect on HTC's business or plans for upcoming phones.

"I haven't seen any impact to our business since this case,'' he said.

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March 17, 2010 10:58 AM

Mobile apps $17B market soon, app seller claims

Posted by Brier Dudley

London-based mobile app seller GetJar created a stir today by releasing a study saying the mobile apps business will grow to $17.5 billion by 2012.

With 4 billion-plus mobile phone users around the world, that suggests an average of $4 per user generated by mobile apps.

appschart.jpg

Downloads of mobile apps will grow from 7 billion in 2009 to nearly 50 billion in 2012. The value of apps sold would then be greater than sales of music CDs, the study said.

Also predicted is a continuing shift away from "on deck" apps distributed by phone companies toward downloads from app stores, such as GetJar. The study predicted that on-deck applications' share of sales will fall to 23 percent, from 60 percent in 2009.

By 2012, Europe will be a bigger market for apps than the U.S., spending $8.5 billion versus $6.7 billion.

Asia now accounts for the most downloads, but consumers there spend far less on them than North Americans -- they're spending an average of 10 cents per app, vs. the $1.09 spent in this region.

The study predicts the overall average selling price of apps will fall 29 percent, from its current level around $1.90, but ad revenue from apps is expected to stay flat.

GetJar also predicted a shakeout in the number of app stores, which grew from eight to 38 last year and will continue growing this year.

"This report signifies a battle for survival of the fittest among app stores worldwide -- with app revenue and growth opportunities growing significantly," Chief Executive Ilja Laurs said in the release. "There is no way that this many app stores will survive in the long term and while the value of the global app economy is set to be astoundingly high by 2012, we think only a few app stores will share this revenue."

The study was done for GetJar by Issaquah mobile consultant Chetan Sharma. GetJar has other local ties; its vice president of sales, Bill Scott, is a Seattle native who used to work at InfoSpace.

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March 15, 2010 10:13 AM

Microsoft getting closer to Apple, more clues

Posted by Brier Dudley

(Today's column ...)

Every time I turn around, I'm hearing Microsoft's top brass praising Apple.

It's like seeing a big, white rabbit. Can't everyone see it, right over there?

First it was Steve Ballmer at the University of Washington, praising iTunes' App Store.

Then a few days ago it was Brad Smith, the company's general counsel and senior vice president.


Continue reading this post ...


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March 8, 2010 3:29 PM

Valve gives Mac first-tier gaming status, Portal 2

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bellevue's Valve Software may get credit for the next jump in Mac market share.

The company today announced that it's extending its hugely popular Steam game distribution service to the Mac platform, which has long had relatively few games compared with Windows PCs. Steam and Valve's library, including "Left 4 Dead 2," "Counter-Strike," "Team Fortress 2" and the "Half-LIfe" series, are coming to the Mac in April.

Valve is also going to release future versions of its games on the Mac simultaneous with their release on the PC and Xbox platforms starting in the holiday season with "Portal 2," a sequel to the hit puzzle game initially developed at Redmond's DigiPen Institute of Technology.

"As we transition from entertainment as a product to entertainment as a service, customers and developers need open, high-quality Internet clients," Gabe Newell, Valve president, said in the release. "The Mac is a great platform for entertainment services."

Valve's Steam service will let players switch between Mac and PC versions at no extra charge.

John Cook, director of Steam development, explained further in the release:

"We looked at a variety of methods to get our games onto the Mac and in the end decided to go with native versions rather than emulation. The inclusion of WebKit into Steam, and of OpenGL into Source gives us a lot of flexibility in how we move these technologies forward. We are treating the Mac as a tier-1 platform so all of our future games will release simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and the Xbox 360. Updates for the Mac will be available simultaneously with the Windows updates. Furthermore, Mac and Windows players will be part of the same multiplayer universe, sharing servers, lobbies, and so forth. We fully support a heterogeneous mix of servers and clients. The first Mac Steam client will be the new generation currently in beta testing on Windows."

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March 2, 2010 9:49 AM

Apple sues HTC over iPhone, after Android gold rush story

Posted by Brier Dudley

I wonder if the timing of Apple's lawsuit against HTC over iPhone patents has anything to do with an Android developer that surfaced this week.

HTC is the primary manufacturer of Google Android phones, which have been on sale since late 2008.

Apple has dominated mobile developer mindshare with the iPhone's App Store. But that story began to wobble over the past year or so as developers realized they weren't making as much money as they thought they would.

Then on Monday, word, came that the gold rush is now happening on the Android platform.

At least it is for Eddie Kim, who told the world he's making $13,000 a month selling his "Car Locator' app for Android.

The headline on ReadWriteWeb.com: "Watch Out, iPhone Devs: One-Man Android App Nets $13K Monthly."

"There's money to be made there, and the userbase is only getting bigger," gushed the RWW blog, which is influential with developers.

Apple surely has been exploring the patent suit for some time, but is it a coincidence the filing comes a day after Android finally gets its Klondike Kim story?

HTC is based in Taiwan but its U.S. headquarters -- named in the suit -- are in Bellevue. Its software interfaces targeted in the suit were probably partly developed in HTC's secretive (and Apple friendly)Pioneer Square software development lab. A picture I took last year in the lab:

DSCN0982.JPG

Apple came out with its horns blowing, issuing a press release with a sharp statement from Steve Jobs:

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it," Jobs said in the release. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Who knows who stole what, but squabbling over patents is a cornerstone of the tech industry. Most every player -- including Apple -- has been found to have poached someone's technology at one point or another.

An HTC spokesman in Bellevue said the company is still digesting the suit. He provided a statement noting that HTC "is a mobile technology innovator and patent holder that has been very focused over the past 13 years on creating many of the most innovative smartphones" and "values patent rights and their enforcement but is also committed to defending its own technology innovations."

The statement:

"HTC only learned of Apple's actions this morning via media reports, and therefore we have not yet had the opportunity to investigate the filings. Until we have had this opportunity, we are unable to comment on the validity of the claims being made against HTC."

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February 26, 2010 11:22 AM

Analyst: Apple iPad will be hit, lower cost iPhones coming

Posted by Brier Dudley

People are underestimating what a hit Apple's iPad will be, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty.

In a note to clients today, Huberty predicted Apple will sell 6 million iPads this year -- way more than the 3 million to 4 million consensus estimate.

Huberty believes "recent negative sentiment" since the iPad unveiling have set Apple's stock up for a bounce after the device launches in March and new iPhones appear in June.

She reiterated her target of $250, up from the current $205 (the stock's up about 3 percent today).

The report predicted new iPhones coming in June will have new capabilities, perhaps including new gesture controls, and lower cost of ownership -- suggesting a lower device price and perhaps lower service plan options.

From her comment on the iPad:

We expect Apple to ship its first iPad and announce additional content deals in late March to better than expected demand. We see the iPad targeting the sub-$800 consumer notebook market, which equates to 30M annual units just in the US (120M globally). We expect iPad points of distribution to expand through CY10, both in the US and International markets, which could add 500K-1M units from channel fill alone.

From her comment on the iPhone:

"We expect Apple to launch new iPhones in June that offer both a lower total cost of ownership and new functionality, potentially including gesture-based technology. As we've highlighted in the past, the cost of device + service plan is currently the biggest barrier to incremental demand in both mature markets like the US and emerging markets like China."

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February 11, 2010 9:40 AM

Bill Gates: Apple iPad not as great as iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple's iPad is "nice" but it's nowhere near as great as the iPhone, Microsoft chairman and former chief tablet enthusiast Bill Gates told Bnet's Brent Schlender.

Part of his quote:

"So, it's not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, 'Oh my God, Microsoft didn't aim high enough.' It's a nice reader, but there's nothing on the iPad I look at and say, 'Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.'"

Gates was more enthused about a demonstration of the Hayden Planetarium's Virtual Universe that he saw this week at the TED conference, calling it "very cool" in a Twitter post yesterday. Maybe if Apple could get the vritual universe on a pad ...

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February 4, 2010 8:54 AM

iPad lament from Microsoft's former e-book boss, in NYT

Posted by Brier Dudley

Dick Brass, who led Microsoft's efforts to develop e-reader technology a decade ago, couldn't take it anymore.

The now-retired executive wrote a long, thoughtful essay outlining how Microsoft's culture stifled creative work, including some that was later mirrored in successful products from Apple.

Brass, a former journalist now living on San Juan Island, launched Microsoft Reader with ClearType rendering technology in 1999, eons before the Kindle and iPad. But, he revealed in his essay published today in the New York Times, it fell victim to internal turf wars in Redmond.

An excerpt:

Although we built it to help sell e-books, it gave Microsoft a huge potential advantage for every device with a screen. But it also annoyed other Microsoft groups that felt threatened by our success.

Engineers in the Windows group falsely claimed it made the display go haywire when certain colors were used. The head of Office products said it was fuzzy and gave him headaches. The vice president for pocket devices was blunter: he'd support ClearType and use it, but only if I transferred the program and the programmers to his control. As a result, even though it received much public praise, internal promotion and patents, a decade passed before a fully operational version of ClearType finally made it into Windows.

Brass defends Microsoft against its haters:

The company's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, has continued to deliver huge profits. They totaled well over $100 billion in the past 10 years alone and help sustain the economies of Seattle, Washington State and the nation as a whole. Its founder, Bill Gates, is not only the most generous philanthropist in history, but has also inspired thousands of his employees to give generously themselves. No one in his right mind should wish Microsoft failure.

But he concludes by saying that its "dysfunctional corporate culture" is snuffing out its creative spark.

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February 3, 2010 11:05 AM

Report: New iPhone, Xbox Natal to be made in same factory

Posted by Brier Dudley

Taiwanese manufacturer Pegatron Technology was chosen by Apple to build the next-generation iPhone coming out later this year, according to a report in Taipei-based DigiTimes.

It noted that Microsoft has also hired Pegatron to build the "Project Natal" controllers for the Xbox 360 that will go on sale later this year.

Imagine if they jumbled things up and shipped motion-sensing iPhones or Natal controllers that synced to iTunes.

Pegatron "has reportedly landed a contract to undertake OEM production of the next-generation iPhone scheduled for launch later in the year, joining Foxconn Electronics which manufactures current iPhones for Apple, according to industry sources," the report said.

Not much was said about the Natal device, which has been kept largely under wraps. Here's an image I took of one of the prototypes that Microsoft has provided to studios developing Natal games; this one's mounted on a camera tripod:

nataldev2.JPG

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January 28, 2010 12:07 PM

Apple iPad: Steve Jobs, MLB and more pics

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's a quick little gallery of some iPadalooza pics I sent earlier to Twitter. This will be my last iPad post for awhile, promise.

Steve Jobs perusing his new bookstore:

IMG00068-20100127-1017.JPG

The MLB app for the iPad will stream live games to the device and display stats and other information. But will you be able to order beer like you can on the Nintendo DS?

IMG00075-20100127-1051.JPG

Fake Steve Jobs - in red - finally getting his hands on an iPad:

IMG00080-20100127-1215.JPG

Chasing Jobs, just like America:

IMG00081-20100127-1229.JPG

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January 28, 2010 8:11 AM

Apple iPad: Father of Microsoft "Origami" slate PC weighs in (updated with video)

Posted by Brier Dudley

The launch of Apple's iPad is bittersweet for Otto Berkes, a Microsoft manager who led the company's earlier effort to develop a handheld, wireless, touchscreen slate computer.

Microsoft's "Origami" project surfaced in 2006 and gave early definition of a new category of devices between phones and laptop computers. It led to the Ultra-Mobile PC category that never caught on after early models were priced over $1,000 and the device was caught in the Windows Vista turbulence.

Berkes, who now works in Microsoft's entertainment and devices group, shared his thoughts on the iPad on his personal blog, where he said the iPad is nicely designed but won't be the last word on the slate computer. He also posted a photo of Bill Gates displaying a handheld device in 2004 that points toward yesterday's arrival of the iPad.

A few tidbits:

Apple gets credit on execution and good packaging of available technology. That said, their thin slate is an unsurprising product in the context of an evolutionary timeline that spans decades of innovation and effort chasing the slate computing dream.

On the size of the iPad:

As a device, the iPad seems somewhat large and ungainly to me. With the 7"-display-based Haiku/Origami, I aimed for greater mobility in the tradeoff between mobility and display real estate. Not having a way to write on a pure slate device the size of piece of paper also seems pretty unnatural to me. One of the iPad demos shows a legal-pad background for note-taking, but then you have to use the on-screen keyboard. Say what? There's a real cognitive disconnect there. Of course, display size is highly subjective (hence the many variations in laptops) as is the relative importance of stylus functionality for different users and uses. There is plenty of room for continued development of and innovation with the slate form factor, and it will be interesting to see how the industry responds to Apple's interpretation.

UPDATE: Here's a video with Otto outlining the history of Microsoft's ultra-mobile PC effort:

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January 27, 2010 3:12 PM

Apple iPad: Bad name choice?

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's legendary reality distortion field couldn't protect its new iPad from the sanitary napkin jokes.

The Wall Street Journal pounced on the story, noting:

Jokes about the sanitary napkin connotations of iPad's name abounded at offices and on the Internet. "But does it have wings?" tweeted one user. "They decided to call it the iPad? was iTampon taken?" wrote another.

Fast Company's headline: Apple's iPad Name Not the First Choice for Women. Period ...

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January 27, 2010 2:47 PM

Apple iPad: Hands-on first impressions

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- After spending some time with the long-awaited Apple iPad, I see why it starts at $499.

At that price it seems like a very nice accessory for a wired home, where it would become a shared Web kiosk and media browsing device, tapping into the home's wireless network.

Instead of waiting to use a shared computer to check e-mail, you could just grab the iPad. Especially one that's docked with the $69 accessory keyboard, taking the place of iPods that a lot of people keep on the kitchen counter.

It's also the perfect iPod for middle-aged consumers who may squint at previous iPods' small screens and have trouble with their small buttons and controls.

The device looks and feels just like a big iPod Touch. It's solid and smooth, but the bigger expanse of screen had me wondering how well the device would resist being sat upon and dropped off of sofas, where it's probably going to get most of its use.

The iPad also has a little bit of that "too light to be true" feeling of the MacBook Air --- as though you're holding a piece of glass supported by a few wafers of metal and plastic. The iPhone seems sturdy in comparison.

Younger buyers with an iPhone may wonder what all the fuss is about, and it's not going to be a must-have device for anyone happy with their iPhone, iPod touch or laptop.

Flicking through photo galleries is fun and pictures look great on the device, although it's pretty similar to the photo handling applications that come with touchscreen PCs.

Controlling iTunes is nice on the device -- so nice I think it's going to hurt sales of touchscreen media control systems like the Sonos and Logitech's Duet system. The iPad can function like a remote control for computers running iTunes in the home, but you can't stream media directly from the device. There are no connectors for plugging one to a TV, although Apple's offering a VGA adapter intended mostly for business uses, such as making presentations.

Books on the device are pretty to look at and have a high-def, glistening feel. Pages of text are about the size of a mid-size paperback and it's a breeze to slide your finger across the screen to turn them.

I didn't have time to immerse myself in a book -- there were 20 devices in a room with 250 journalists and analysts at a time jostling to try one -- but I wonder if the books are too bright and crisp to comfortably read for a long period of time. The bookshelf interface seemed awfully similar to the Library application built by Seattle's Delicious Monster software company.

Games were a little underwhelming, but it could be a nice device for casual and social games like "Bejeweled" or digital Scrabble.

Electronic Arts' "Need for Speed" iPhone game looks great when enlarged on the iPad. It has sensitive enough accelerometers to control the racing game by tilting the device, but if I was at home I'd put down the iPad and play the game on a console connected to a TV.

Newspapers on the device are nicer than on a phone or Kindle but pretty similar to how they appear on a computer. The demo units I saw only had papers' Web pages and not the special iPad versions that the New York Times and others are developing.

The killer iPad application for newspapers may be their puzzle pages. Crosswords, Sudoku and the Jumble will work great on the touchscreen device, especially if they could be zoomed to a larger size for the middle-aged readers thrilled to have an iPod they can use without reading glasses.

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January 27, 2010 12:41 PM

Apple iPad: Steve Jobs sees "giddy" press

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's Steve Jobs must be expecting positive news coverage of the iPad computing device he just unveiled.

"I haven't seen Walt this giddy in a long time," he told a few employees clustered around him in the demo room afterward.

Jobs was apparently referring to the Wall Street Journal's influential technology columnist, Walt Mossberg, who was elsewhere in the room.

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January 27, 2010 8:19 AM

Live from Apple iPad launch: $499 & up, 3G, 9.7", 1.5 lbs, with iBook

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's called the iPad, it looks just like what everyone expected -- like a supersized iPod Touch -- and it's first and foremost a Web and media tablet.

Introducing Apple's much anticipated new gadget at a launch event in San Francisco, Steve Jobs said, "it is the best browsing experience you've ever had ... way better than a laptop, way better than a smartphone. ... To see the whole web page is phenomenal."

Apple is set to begin delivering the devices in 60 days and models with 3G wireless service from AT&T in 90 days.

Prices will start at $499 for a Wi-Fi-only version with 16 gigabytes of storage.

"At $499 a lot of people can afford an iPad," Jobs said.

A 32-gig Wi-Fi model will cost $599 and a 64-gig version will be $699.

Versions with 3G wireless capability will cost an additional $130, or $629, $729 and $829 for 16-, 32- and 64-gig models.

Apple is also selling a keyboard/docking station accessory that could enable people to use the iPad as a low-powered desktop workstation.

"The iPad, if you were to sum it up, is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price," Jobs said.

At its starting price, the iPad will compete with lower end laptop computers, media browing devices and electronic reading devices such as Amazon.com's Kindle.

In a direct challenge to Amazon, Jobs announced a new online bookstore called iBooks that links to the iPad, has one-click purchasing and places your purchased books onto a rendering of a wooden bookshelf.

Jobs praised Amazon's early work with the Kindle, but said the iPad will "make a terrific e-book reader."

"We're going to stand on their shoulders and go a bit further," he said.

Some models of the iPad will come with AT&T 3G wireless available in two plans for iPad owners. One provides up to 250 megabytes of data per month for $14.99 per month, while the other offers unlimited data for $29.99 per month -- "real breakthrough prices," Jobs said.

The AT&T service is contract-free, available month-to-month, and is activated from the device. Internationally, the company plans to have service plans available by June, but in the interim carriers' GSM micro SIM cards may just work in the "unlocked" device.

After a quick review of its features to start off today's presentation, Jobs sat in a cushy leather chair for a full demo -- simulating the at-home experience of using the iPad. He began by showing how the New York Times renders on the device, whetting the appetite of media companies.

The device has a nearly full-sized on-screen touch keyboard that can be called up for doing e-mail and other text-entry tasks. The only button on its front bezel is a home button, just like an iPhone or an iPod Touch.

"Watching it is nothing like gettiing one in your hands and feeling all that right in your hands and right underneath your fingertips," he said, beflore listing specs:

-- It's 0.5 inches thin and weighs 1.5 pounds. "That is thinner and lighter than any netbook," Jobs said.

-- It has a 9.7-inch IPS display with full capacitive multitouch.

-- It has a 1 gigahertz Apple-engineered "A4" chip and 16 to 64 gigabytes of Flash memory storage, 80211.n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1.

Jobs said the device has 10 hours of battery life and a month of standby battery capability, drawing big applause. "I can take a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo and watch video the whole way on one charge," he said.

Jobs demonstrated e-mail and a calendar on the device and searched maps (Paris and Napa ...). He also used the iPad to peruse photos and show a quick slideshow of a trip to Paris.

The device also has a "built-in iPod" -- he flicked through a media collection and tapped to play the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, all while sitting back in the leather chair.

Despite the tension between Apple and Google, Jobs used Google Maps in a demonstration of the iPad's mapping capability and a YouTube video to show its video playback.

Earlier Jobs said Apple wants to kick off 2010 with a "magical" product, but first he's going to deliver a few updates, including news that the company sold its 250 millionth iPod a few days ago, 3 billion apps have been downloaded from iTunes and Apple just reported $15.6 billion in quarterly revenue.

"That means Apple is over a $50 billion company," he said.

Apple is a mobile devices company, Jobs said, noting that its revenue comes from iPods, iPhones and Macs that are mostly laptops nowadays.

"It turns out that by revenue Apple is the largest mobile device company in the world now," he said.

That was a setup for him to explain that there's an opening for a new product sized between phones and laptops:

"All of us use laptops and smartphones now. Everybody uses a laptop or a smartphone. The question has arisen lately is there room for a third category of devices in the middle, something that's between a laptop and a smartphone? We've pondered this question for years now...

"Those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks ... better than the laptop, better than the smartphone."

Netbooks were a solution seen by some, but "the problem is, netbooks aren't better at anything -- they're slow, they have low quality displays and they run clunky old PC software,'' he said.

Apple's software senior vice president, Scott Forstall, later demonstrated how the iPad runs iPhone applications.

"All of those iPhone apps that you know and love will run on the iPad," he said.

But it looks like iPhone apps may look best in a roughly iPhone-sized window that runs in the middle of the screen. That's how he demonstrated the "SnoCros," a snowmobile game, before enlarging it to run full-screen.

Apps made for the iPhone will run on the iPad, but developers wanting to take advantage of the device's larger screen are being offered a new software developer kit.

"We think it's going to be a whole nother gold rush for developers as they build apps for the iPad," Forstall said.

Apple also announced new word processing, spreadsheet and presentation productivity applications developed for the iPad with touch controls. The new iWork apps will sell for $10 apiece.

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January 25, 2010 9:41 AM

Apple's tablet: Why would you want one?

Posted by Brier Dudley

There's one big question remaining about the mythical tablet device that Apple is expected to unveil Wednesday.

We've already learned, from whispers of those in the know, that it's basically a supersized iPod touch with a 10-inch diagonal screen and it may cost about $1,000. (Here's a speculative rendering by Jeroen van Goor, a Dutch Flash developer.)

tablet.jpg

In addition to playing music and video, it's going to display digitized books, newspapers and magazines.

It will have a browser, Wi-Fi, the ability to run Web applications and probably an option to connect through a wireless phone network.

So the unanswered question is, why would you want one? A few possible reasons, if you're so inclined:

Continue reading this post ...


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January 21, 2010 9:34 AM

Amazon ups ante battling Apple tablet, calls for Kindle apps

Posted by Brier Dudley

Someone's taking all the rumors about Apple introducing a tablet/slate computer/digital reading device pretty seriously.

On Wednesday, Amazon.com more than doubled the royalties it offers authors and publishers using its Kindle self-publishing system.

Today, the Seattle company went after Apple developers and others building applications for mobile devices, opening up the Kindle to outside developers and providing them with a new Kindle software developer kit.

"We've heard from lots of developers over the past two years who are excited to build on top of Kindle," Ian Freed, Amazon Kindle vice president, said in a release. "The Kindle Development Kit opens many possibilities -- we look forward to being surprised by what developers invent."

Early participants include games giant Electronic Arts, which Apple has used in the past to show off the gaming capabilities of the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Other applications being developed now include a Zagat guide and casual games from Sonic Boom. Amazon said the applications will be available in the Kindle store "later this year."

Apple hasn't said anything yet about the tablet computing device it's expected to announce on Jan. 27, although its success would depend on Apple's ability to make it an attractive platform for software developers whose applications were key to the iPhone's success.

Among all the stories speculating on Apple's device, the definitive one so far is today's piece in the Wall Street Journal that describes how the company's been talking to book publishers, newspapers, magazine publishers and movie and TV companies about getting content onto the device (including media conglomerates such as News Corp., the WSJ's parent company ...). Its sources say the device will have about a 10-inch diagonal screen and cost around $1,000.

The device may also have some of the standard applications that come with touchscreen PCs such as "sticky notes" for posting messages on the shared device.

One tidbit in the WSJ story that stood out was Apple's plans to offer an online version of the iTunes store that it would proliferate with "buy this song" type buttons that could be added on all sorts of Web sites - replicating Amazon's online store and affiliate program.

Amazon has long worked with Web developers who use its commerce and online computing platforms, but it has been obsessive about controlling the Kindle and the experience it provides to users.

Today's announcement suggests the company's not opening up much -- it's limiting access to the Kindle developer kit and imposing various controls on its usage, which won't help woo iPhone developers. From Amazon's release:

Starting next month, participants in the limited beta will be able to download the Kindle Development Kit, access developer support, test content on Kindle, and submit finished content. Those wait-listed will be invited to participate as space becomes available. The Kindle Development Kit includes sample code, documentation, and the Kindle Simulator, which helps developers build and test their content by simulating the 6-inch Kindle and 9.7-inch Kindle DX on Mac, PC, and Linux desktops.

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January 20, 2010 10:01 AM

As Apple haggles with publishers on tablet, Amazon ups Kindle royalties

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple's reportedly haggling with book publishers over deals to put their content on the slate computing device the company's expected to announce next week.

But it's not the only "A" company that's hustling its book platform this week.

Amazon today announced new royalty rates for books distributed via its Kindle platform, offering authors and publishers a 70 percent royalty after distribution costs, as long as they keep their Kindle editions priced below $9.99 and 20 percent less than paper editions. The rates apply to authors and publishers using the company's self-service Digital Text Platform for self-publishing.

Whether that rebuffs Apple is unclear as the new royalties are aimed at smaller publishers using the self-publishing platform. The price limitations attached the royalties are also a sore spot for publishers, according to a Publisher's Marketplace story relayed by Bookseller.com's on Apple's talks with publishers:

"What is clear is that US publishers are desperate to combat the $10 Kindle price tag pushed by Amazon.com, and believe that if enough weight is given to it other retailers will be forced to follow. But PM notes that Amazon executives are also in New York meeting with publishers and agents this week with "simultaneous ebook release of new titles and pricing" foremost in their minds."

Apple would be the latest of many competitors challenging Amazon's nascent Kindle business, with more reading devices being introduced by startups with intriguing new technology and consumer electronics giants such as Sony and Samsung.

But with the hardware's evolution still in its early stage the real battle now is over whose standards and publishing tools will dominate the business. Will Amazon, Apple, Google or someone else run the iTunes of publishing?

Amazon's Digital Text Platform terms have offered a 35 percent royalty after various charges. Its press release suggests publishers generally receive about a 25 percent royalty for books

"Today, authors often receive royalties in the range of 7 to 15 percent of the list price that publishers set for their physical books, or 25 percent of the net that publishers receive from retailers for their digital books," Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle content, said in the release. "We're excited that the new 70 percent royalty option for the Kindle Digital Text Platform will help us pay authors higher royalties when readers choose their books."

All they need now is a color, touchscreen Kindle. Or maybe just a nice Kindle app for the Apple iTablet.

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January 18, 2010 12:00 AM

Q&A: Rob Glaser on leaving Real, politics and why Apple leads

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's column is a Q&A with RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser on his departure as chief executive, plans for the future and outlook for the digital media industry.

Here's a longer version with more Q&A than what fit into the paper:

Rob Glaser's resignation last week from RealNetworks seemed abrupt, but it was actually in the works for several years.

Glaser said he had the first "serious conversation" with Real board members about stepping down more than two years ago, not long after his first kids were born.

But the discussion was interrupted before it went too far.

"When the great recession hit, I just put my head down and I'm like 'I can't even think about this for 2008, most of 2009. I've just got to focus on helping the company through this rough period of time,'." Glaser said Friday in a wide-ranging interview about his past, future and final days running the pioneering Seattle digital media company he founded in 1994.

Glaser, who turned 48 Saturday, stepped down as chief executive Wednesday afternoon, then flew to Washington, D.C., for a White House meeting with a group of executives providing advice on federal technology spending plans. It was the longtime Democrat's second visit in the last month; President Obama also invited him and his wife to a Christmas party in December.

On Friday, Glaser was back in Seattle, reflecting on where he and the digital media industry are headed next. He already helped Real develop a new strategy that will be revealed in a few weeks by Bob Kimball, its general counsel and now acting chief executive.

Glaser has been under pressure from investors who watched Real's leadership position and value erode over the past decade. But he characterized the decision to find a new chief executive as his, and one made amicably.

"I feel very, very happy with the decision," he said. "It's something I wanted to do for a long time. I'm very proud of the company and thrilled I get to stay associated with the company in my capacity as chairman, a signicantly shareholder."

Here's an edited transcript of the interview:

Q: It seemed abrupt when you stepped down and immediately left town.

A: Literally, I sent the message to employees and did the final tweeting of it sitting on the plane going to D.C. It was one of those photo-finish kind of deals.

Q: You said you'll get more involved in civic projects. Like what?

A: There are two or three projects associated with the [Glaser Progress] Foundation that I'm very excited about. There's some AIDS relief work we're involved with in Rwanda, a team on the ground in Kigali that does amazing work. I'm hoping to get there this summer. That's an example. Rather than going to Rwanda every five years maybe I can go every one or two years now.
After our kids were born in 2006 I pulled back. I have not engaged in much of that because my life was 110 percent full being a husband and a dad and my day job.
Before 2006 we would give two, three or four political fundraisers a year; since then we've probably given one a year. To some extent it's about getting back to the level of civic engagement I had before we had kids.

Q: Will you run for office?

A: I think that's pretty unlikely. As much respect as I have for [politicians]) and as mch respect I have for the importance of what they do, I'm not sure that role on an executive level or a legislative level is the best fit for me personally.
I think you've got to say 'never say never' when you're 48 years old, and you've had the incredibly lucky life that I've had, but I would say it's definitely in the unlikely category.

Q: What's next for Real?

A: We kicked off a strategy process in the middle of last year, the most thorough and rigorous review in the company's history. We did great work. Bob and the team will talk more about it soon, when the time is right. It's not my place to initiate the discussion about it.

Q: Is there animosity between you and the board?

A: These are people I've known for a long time . The right way to think about this is, once you decide to do something like this, the interesting debate is, "Do you do it slow or do you do it fast"?

Q: Looking back, what are you most proud of, and what would you do differently?

A: I can give you the proudest one: I'm incredibly proud of the team here and the innovation that we've created. I can think of three or four things we've done that had never done before, going back to creating streaming audio 1995, making streaming video practical in 1997, what we did with sort of birthing the casual games industry in the early 2000s, weathering the dot-com crash in some pretty intense competition that might have involved questionable practices from an antitrust standpoint.
But rather than curling up in a ball we weathered that and came out stronger on the other side, pivoted the company in some interesting ways around first consumer services and then carrier applications and services solution like ringback tones and music on demand and video on demand and the like.
There's some stuff in the pipeline that will rival those innovations in my view if we do a good job with it, rolling it out in the market, so I feel like I'm passing the baton at a time where not only did we weather the downturn . The pipeline for where we go next is in great shape.

Q: What's going to happen to the digital media business five years out?

A: Speaking from a conceptual level, when I got involved in this I thought digital media is going to be a 25-year thing, which is to say there's going to be a long period of time before the innovation flattens out. We're 15 years in -- we launched RealAudio in April 1995. The industry as a whole has taken tremendous strides and there's a lot of work to do.
Think of it from a consumer standpoint. You want to be able to watch any piece of video you have a right to watch anywhere at any time. There are pieces of the solution, but the thing you really want is that seamless "it just works." It's not 10 minute videos on YouTube or buying things on your iPhone that you may already own.
There's enough of the pieces in place where you can envision how it all comes together, but it will be three to five years before that seamless thing that Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner dubbed "TV Everywhere." Rhapsody is the best of that in the music world, but today those are not mainstream, seamless experinces that work for tens, 100s of millions of people. Big picture, for audio-video, that's the biggest set of things that I think are coming.

Q: It seems like pieces are falling into place like 3G and 4G networks and cloud services.

A: I would say the barriers at this point are as much business models and alignment of rights as they are technology. I knew it 16 years ago, but I would say I understand it more vividly now. The technology is a necessary foundation element but it's not sufficient.
You have these industries that set up windowing of content, methods of distribution, different rules for rental vs. purchase that make sense in a physical context. But in a digital world you need to harmonize and integrate all those rules and business models and it's a hard thing to do that.
Really, in my view, it's the intersection of the technology and the business model/economics. That's where the complexity lies and frankly where the opportunity lies if you can fit those pieces together in a way that works for everybody.

Q: Why is Apple now the dominant digital media company and not Real?

A: Fundamentally we've been in area where it didn't all work seamlessly. The best way to make it work seamlessly was to go vertical. You make the hardware, you make the software, you connect it to your services. That's a totally different business than the historical business that most companies were in that were in the software-services business.
On one hand, you can count all the companies that have fit all those pieces together. It's a huge undertanking. I'd say BlackBerry pulled it togoether in their space of messaging. Apple's done it twice, first witht the iPod and now with the iPhone/iPod Touch, and you could say Amazon's on the road to doing it with the Kindle.
Think of the IT industry. IBM was vertical. The minicomputer industry was vertical, then the PC came along and it was horizontal. Those of us that grew up in that area made the supposition that the horizontal model was going to the dominant model in this business.
It's very complicated to go from being horizontal -- like Google is or like Microsoft and Real -- to go vertical. There are many successful companies but you have to say that in the digital media space the biggest successes have been these vertical successes. That's something that's incredibly hard for a startup to do.
If I knew in 1995 what I know now, would I have approached the vertical-horizontal thing differently? Maybe, but the wreckage of companies that tried to go vertical - Go/Eo, WebTV, I can go down the list, there are dozens of companies -- it's super, super hard to do that vertical thing. I'm very proud of the success and scale we got to taking the horizontal approach we did.
If you take the long view - the next five or 10 years view -- I think there's going to be a renaissance of that horizontal model as the standards come together to link together all these things.
This next decade, I think it's a very interesting strategic question, which model is going to be dominant.

Q: Has Seattle's opportunity passed?

A: No, I would say the opposite. The Seattle high-tech community is alive and well for sure. Hopefully, we played a role helping seed the ecosystem.

Q: Will you get involved with other companies, as well as civic affairs?

A: I don't know what the mix is going to be yet. I turn 48 tomorrow [Saturday], not 84. I feel like I have time in my life to pursue a mix of things depending in what captures my passion."

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January 5, 2010 3:17 PM

Superphone bills: Cost of Google Nexus vs. iPhone, Droid and Pre

Posted by Brier Dudley

BillShrink.com updated its handy dandy phone cost comparison chart, adding Google's Nexus One.

Bottom line: It'll cost you $2,579 over two years, a hair more than a Palm Pre but less than an iPhone or Droid.

nexus-one-total-cost.jpg

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January 4, 2010 2:13 PM

WSJ: Apple tablet on sale in March, 10 or 11-inch touchscreen

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Wall Street Journal added a few more details to the unfolding story of Apple's long-awaited tablet computer.

It's reporting today that the device will have a touchscreen 10 or 11 inches diagonally and will go on sale in March. That would follow a launch event expected around Jan. 26 or 27 in San Francisco.

The brief story doesn't pinpoint the price but referred to analysts expecting the device to cost around $1,000.

An excerpt:

While the shipping time hasn't been finalized and could change, people briefed on the matter said the new tablet device will come with a 10- to 11-inch touch screen. An Apple spokesman said the company doesn't comment on rumors and speculation.

Meanwhile blogger Mary Jo Foley is wondering if Apple's making everyone forget all the work Microsoft did to advance tablet computing and questions whether Microsoft will resume its push this year:

Though you'd never know it from reading most of the recent iSlate posts and stories, Microsoft actually had a pioneering role in the tablet space.

Both Microsoft and Apple may face new competition from Google. Australia's Smarthouse is reporting that Google's not only working on its own branded phone, it's developing a Google tablet device with HTC -- an Android Shift, perhaps?


Comments | Category: Apple , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 4, 2010 11:30 AM

CES preview: Xbox Natal, Orb rings and more ...

Posted by Brier Dudley

(An illustrated version of the preview column that ran in today's paper ...)

Las Vegas always seems like it's in another dimension, but this week it will be even more so when the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show takes place.

More than 20,000 new products will be shown by 2,500 companies starting Thursday.

IMGA0026.JPG
They're expecting to sell $166 billion worth of TVs, phones, stereos and other gadgets in the U.S. alone next year.

You'd never guess the economy's limping and millions are out of work.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Apple , CES , Gadgets & products , Google , Kindle , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 30, 2009 4:56 PM

Apple Tablet hype meter approaching 10

Posted by Brier Dudley

FoxNews.com nudged up speculation about Apple launching some sort of Tablet or supersized iPod Touch in January.

The news site on Wednesday said "a source inside Apple" confirmed there will be a "big" event that "will focus on the mobility space" in San Francisco.

It follows a Financial Times piece last week that broke the story of Apple planning a January 26 launch event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, where Steve Jobs launched the newest iPods in September.

Comments | Category: Apple , CES , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 4, 2009 1:26 PM

Report: Apple buying Lala; iTunes to get streaming service?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bloomberg News is reporting that Apple is buying music-streaming service Lala, which would give the company a platform to finally add streaming services to iTunes.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Lala lets users hear a song once for free, and build online playlists and collections. It also sells songs with a tiered system, with online-only songs selling for 10 cents and downloadable tracks starting at 79 cents.

Bellevue's Ignition Partners is among Lala's backers.

Comments | Category: Apple |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 2, 2009 10:41 AM

Best wireless carriers & phones, according to Consumer Reports

Posted by Brier Dudley

A big batch of information about mobile phones and carriers is appearing in the January issue of Consumer Reports, including results of a survey ranking the top carriers in 26 U.S. cities.

Verizon is tops -- nailing customer support, voice and data service -- "but it tends to be costly," with one in five saying high cost is their top complaint, the mag's release said.

T-Mobile USA was the next highest rated provider "in overall satisfaction, and worth considering as a good value for some. However, the carrier received lower marks in voice, messaging, Web and e-mail services."

Sprint and AT&T were ranked lowest, taking hits for customer service. "While AT&T's main weak spot is voice connectivity, they also scored below average in every attribute except Web access and texting," the release said.

"America is in love with the cellphone, but they are lukewarm about cellphone service," said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor at Consumer Reports. "They're especially concerned about its cost in these tight economic times."

Yet the magazine and its survey respondents are still huge fans of the AT&T exclusive iPhone. Here's a summary of its phone picks, by carrier.

On Verizon: The $100 LG enV Touch is "an impressive phone and multimedia device enhanced with touch-screen navigation and a Qwerty keyboard for easier e-mailing and texting." The $40 LG VX8360 "is a very good, straightforward cellphone at a bargain price."

Verizon's $147 Samsung Jitterbug has "large buttons, free directory assistance and a comfortable earpiece. Negatives include pricey service and a thick phone that lacks common features."

Among Verizon's smartphones, the mag likes the $200 HTC Touch Pro2 and $50 BlackBerry Storm 9530.

On T-Mobile: Consumer Reports especially likes the $200 Samsung Memoir with its 8 megapixel camera and the $130 Samsung Comeback "with a keypad that facilitates phoning and a 2.6-inch screen and keyboard to satisfy texters."

Among Tmo's smartphones, it called out the $150 myTouch 3G as "the best choice for multimedia use with intuitive navigation, easy access to main functions and direct downloading of music, games, applications and services."

(I'm partial to the T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 2 9700 I began using a few weeks ago, and found out yesterday that its power cable -- which I'd misplaced -- uses the same connector as Amazon's Kindle.)

On Sprint: Consumer Reports calls out the $80 Samsung Exclaim as "a good bargain" with a "dual-slider design that slides up to reveal a keypad for phone calls and slides right to reveal a keyboard for e-mail and text messaging." Sprint's $150 Palm Pre "is a good bet for multitaskers with the ability to link contacts, calendars and messaging."

On AT&T: The magazine recommends the $150 LG Xenon, $125 Samsung Impression and $100 Samsung Solstice, which all have "large touch-screen displays and are compatible with AT&T's Video Share, which streams live, one-way video to a compatible phone."

The magazine said the $200, 16 gigabyte iPhone 3G S and $100 iPhone 3G from AT&T "ranked highly for multimedia use, with the best MP3 player Consumer Reports has seen in a phone to date." Its survey found a "staggering 98 percent of iPhone users were satisfied enough that they would buy the phone again, despite below-par ratings for AT&T."

Only 54 percent of readers it surveyed were completely or very satisfied with their mobile phone service, and 38 percent had switched carriers in the past two year to get a specific phone.

Comments | Category: Apple , Gadgets & products , Phones , T-Mobile , Telecom , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 26, 2009 3:58 PM

Video: Urbanspoon co-founder demonstrates "Rez"

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's Ethan Lowry showing the new reservation feature of Urbanspoon, which is detailed with screenshots in this post.

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October 26, 2009 10:00 AM

Urbanspoon shaking it up, entering reservation business

Posted by Brier Dudley

Something big is shaking at Urbanspoon, the Seattle company behind a hugely successful iPhone restaurant-finding application.

The company is launching a reservation service called "Rez" that adds a new dimension to its eponymous app and Web service.

urb5.PNG

Continue reading this post ...


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October 21, 2009 10:31 AM

Google taps iLike for new Web music service

Posted by Brier Dudley

Google's going to raise the profile of digital music in its search results, offering people ways to discover and buy music through a partnership with Seattle-based iLike and Lala, according to reports out of the Bay Area today.

But Google's "One Box" initiative doesn't sound like a full-blown music destination/distribution service like Microsoft has tried various ways, Amazon's doing with its MP3 store and MySpace is building.

Techcrunch's initial OMG story said Google's building a music service with major record labels on board. Then it added news that iLike and Lala will stream music from the search results and it will all be announced Oct. 28.

Cnet's report suggests its going to be enhanced search results that present not just links but music information and buying opportunities via iLike and Lala, a Palo Alto-based Web music service.

Why hasn't Bing done this sort of thing already? You'd think it could pretty easily tap the Zune service, if Zune's licensing deals would allow it, or surface MSN's rich music features.

Google's service sounds cool but nowhere near a YouTube for music (gTunes?). If it was going there, perhaps it would have bought iLike or some other startup that indexes and infers people's taste in music.

This also sounds like a middle finger extended toward Apple during its messy divorce from Google.

Comments | Category: Apple , Google , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 14, 2009 1:26 PM

Microsoft, Apple shift backup awareness month to October

Posted by Brier Dudley

Backup Awareness Month is usually in June, but I think Apple and Microsoft must have decided to move it to October.

Both companies are giving users spectactular reminders of why you must regularly backup important files.

Microsoft's getting most of the attention for the glitch that lost contacts and other files stored online by users of the Sidekick mobile phone, which its Danger unit developed and powered for T-Mobile USA. It began with an outage last week and is still being analyzed by the companies.

Microsoft should check and see if its $500 million purchase of Danger -- which closed in April 2008 -- is still under warranty.

Meanwhile, Apple acknowledged Tuesday that some people who upgraded their Macs to Snow Leopard, then logged into "guest" accounts they had created earlier on their computers, had their personal files erased.

Apple told InformationWeek the company is "aware of the issue that occurs in extremely rare cases, and we are working on a fix" but didn't specify when it will be ready.

From the story:

According to Apple discussion forums, the problem is related to a change in the way Snow Leopard handles guest accounts. Users who upgrade from Leopard to Snow Leopard with guest account enabled have found that opening the guest account in Leopard can destroy personal data.

I wonder which glitch erased more files. Either way, it's time to save your stuff somewhere safe.

Comments | Category: Apple , Microsoft , T-Mobile |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 8, 2009 12:24 PM

Woodland Park Zoo joins iPhone App stampede

Posted by Brier Dudley

Well-to-do parents who get lost or bored taking their children to the zoo have a new lifesaver: The Woodland Park Zoo just released an iPhone App.

The 99 cent program uses the phones' GPS system to pinpoint location and nearby exibits, play areas, restrooms and concession stands. It also provides a schedule of activities, animal fact sheets and a "friend finder" that locates other iPhone users at the zoo.

Additionally, the app ties into Facebook and Twitter, so users can keep their online pals updated while roaming the zoo.

The zoo contracted with Austin, Texas-based Avai Mobile Solutions to develop the software. Proceeds from its sale "go toward the zoo's animal care, education, conservation and operations costs," the release said.

A photo by the zoo's Ryan Hawk:

RHawk050PenguinIphoneSq.jpg

Comments | Category: Apple , Gadgets & products , Public policy , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.