Apple confirmed it will unveil the next iPhone on October 4, and Amazon showed off the Kindle Fire, its new tablet slated to go head-to-head with the iPad.
Apple Confirms IPhone 5 Event, Release to Follow
Apple invited members of the media to a keynote event on October 4 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time at its own Town Hall Auditorium where it is expected to unveil the iPhone 5. The invitation to the event features the iOS icons for the calendar, clock, Google Maps and phone applications. Beneath them is a tagline that reads, “Let’s talk iPhone.”
Analysts expect Apple to release the device shortly after the October 4 event. Apple reportedly instituted a vacation blackout for employees in the U.S. and the U.K. from October 9 to 12 and again on October 14 and 15. The dates back up earlier reports the company’s AppleCare divisions have been told to prepare for heavy traffic.
Consumers are excited about the upcoming iPhone 5, but Apple is already thinking further into the future. The company’s Xcode developer tool now includes support for Marvell’s quad-core ARM-based Armada XP chips. Apple may use the chips in prototypes of future iPhones and iPads as a placeholder while it designs its own proprietary next-generation processor.
Apple is also expanding so it will have more places to sell its future products. The company opened a Shanghai store and plans to open its first store in Hong Kong this weekend. The iPhone maker has already opened six of its planned 25 stores in China, but construction taking a slower pace than expected in the rapidly emerging market.
Despite growing demand in markets like China, Apple cut iPad orders by 25 per cent according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. The report didn’t list the companies affected by the cutback, and Apple would not confirm the news.
Analysts believe Apple cut orders from Chinese suppliers because it plans to build a new iPad plant in Brazil. Foxconn reportedly negotiated a deal to manufacture $12 billion worth of products in the country, starting in December. However, concerns over taxes and labour stalled the closing of the agreement. Foxconn and the Brazilian government are now reportedly discussing opening a smaller plant to salvage the deal.
Amazon Unveils Kindle Fire, Browser Takes Criticism
Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, a full-colour, touch screen device for $200 expected to launch on November 15. The Fire, which weighs just under a pound, features a 7-inch multi-touch display, dual-core processor, 8-gigabytes of internal storage and 8 hours of battery life. Amazon’s new tablet is powered by Android and runs the company’s new Web browser Amazon Silk.
Amazon did not reveal much about Silk, a browser powered by cloud-based features, but marketed it as one of the device’s key selling points. However, security firm Sophos said the browser connects users directly to Amazon’s servers, giving the company a record of customer’s browsing history as well as IP and MAC addresses for 30 days. The process leaves users private information on the server and vulnerable to hackers.
Google+ Adds Members
Google+ grew by 1,269 per cent after the social network officially opened to the public. The traffic still isn’t near Facebook’s, but it could overtake sites like MySpace and LinkedIn if it continues at this pace. The site had 15 million visits during the week of September 24, compared to Facebook’s 1.8 billion.
Google+ may be able to close the gap between itself and Facebook using games. Zynga announced its top game, CityVille, is coming to Google+. An estimated 70 million people a month already play CityVille on Facebook, with many buying tokens to continue playing. Zynga and Facebook earn millions of dollars from this venture and Google+ could see a similar stream of cash if it catches on with users.
Google CEO Larry Page is excited about the potential of Google+ and several of the company’s other projects. Page said Google’s biggest challenge going forward is itself. He said he agrees with chairman Eric Schmidt that the problems at a company with Google’s scale are always internal at some level.
One of the things Page said will challenge Google moving forward is adapting to the number of employees Motorola’s acquisition will add to the company. Google is facing increased scrutiny regarding its purchase from the Justice Department, which requested additional information on the Google-Motorola deal. Google’s senior vice president said the DoJ’s second request for information was “pretty routine” and expects the deal will still close.
Also, Google’s efforts to protect Android prompted it to get involved in the AT&T-T-Mobile merger case. Google filed a motion in federal court asking the judge for prior disclosure of competitively sensitive documents it gave the Justice Department regarding the investigation of the merger between the two companies.
Facebook to Fix Cookies, FTC May Get Involved
Facebook came under fire for letting browser “tracking” cookies stay active even after a user logs out of its website and agreed to fix the privacy breach. Australian blogger Nik Cubrilovic drew attention to the issue when he reported cookies continued to track his Facebook-integrated pages even after he logged off the social network.
Facebook promises to take care of the issue, but U.S. Congressmen are nevertheless asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook’s cookie tracking practice. Lawmakers are likely concerned the social network may drag its feet fixing the problem.
The company is also giving away $10 million in advertising credits to small businesses. The social media site is launching a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business to educate small businesses on how to promote themselves through Facebook.
The social network continues to dive deeper into politics as well. Facebook is forming a political action committee, or PAC, that it says will give employees “a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
Apple, Samsung Continue Legal Battle
Samsung accused Apple of “consciously structurally infringing” on it 3G patents in its devices. The claim comes as opening arguments begin in the Dutch lawsuit between the two sides. The South Korean electronics giant said Apple entered the market in 2008 without bothering to take care of licenses.
The battle between the two companies in the Dutch court is just one of many chapters in a book full of mutual lawsuits. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly tried to stop a patent battle with Samsung last year before it happened. Jobs personally called Samsung because of Apple’s close relationship with the company “to give them a chance to do the right thing,” according to senior Apple executive Richard Lutton.
The controversy continues in Dutch court but Apple and Samsung may be close to resolving their patent dispute in Australia. Details about the proposal weren’t discussed in Sydney court proceedings determining whether to stop the Samsung device from launching in Australia. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 debut was originally set for today.
Samsung got some help this week when Verizon and T-Mobile sided with the company in its case against Apple. The carriers asked the judge to rule against Apple’s proposed injunction on Samsung’s devices in the U.S. when the hearing is held October 13. The providers said banning phones like the Infuse 4G, Samsung Galaxy S2 and Droid Charge will hurt their business heading into the holiday season.
However, Apple does not believe Verizon has any right to interfere in the hearing. The company asked court officials to deny Verizon’s efforts to support Samsung saying “non-parties” should not be able to involve themselves in the ongoing patent battle.
Samsung Works on New OS, Unveils New Galaxy Phone
Samsung joined Intel in a new partnership that will see the LiMo Foundation and Linux Foundation merger the LiMo and MeeGo OS to spur industry and customer support. The product of the deal will be a new platform called Tizen, an open-source, standards-based software that supports smartphones, tablets, smart TV’s and netbooks. The companies expect the platform to be ready in the first quarter of 2012, with Tizen-based devices hitting the market in mid-2012.
Samsung is also busy working on devices that run more established platforms. The
company introduced the Galaxy S2 LTE and HD LTE, two Android-powered phones, and the Mango-powered Omnia W. The S2 LTE and HD LTE will be nearly identical, but the S2 will have a smaller 4.5-inch screen compared to the HD’s 4.65-inch display. The Omnia will be rebranded as the Focus Flash for AT&T this fall.
Federal Reserve Wants to Monitor Facebook, Government Battles Hackers
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York requested permission to monitor and analyse Twitter and Facebook conversations. The official request is titled “Request for Proposal for a Sentiment Analysis and Social Media Monitoring Solution.” The Reserve wants to identify online conversations by the public, bloggers, and other influencers for the department’s Communications Group.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is seeking to stem a rising tide of hacks on government contractors by conducting a pilot program to defend them against breaches. The new trial program is the first of its kind and involves 20 defence firms, who will participate through mid-November. During this time, the Pentagon plans to evaluate the pilot before expanding it to other companies and subcontractors.
The National Security Agency is also being proactive. Troy Lange, the NSA’s mobility mission manager, said he is developing a smartphone secure enough for spies to use, which will imitate user-friendly iPhones and Android models. The move could lead to all secret agents using smartphones to access classified data.
Isis, Handset Makers Team Up in Mobile Payment Venture
HTC, LG, Motorola, RIM, Samsung and Sony Ericsson all pledged to back Isis, a mobile payment venture between major carriers and credit card companies. The phone manufacturers agreed to install Device Fidelity’s NFC-capable microSD cards in their handsets, likely starting next year. The support furthers Isis’ goal coordinating NFC-based mobile payments amid a complex system of carriers, merchants, banks, credit card companies and phone manufacturers.
NFC adoption may skyrocket once Broadcom’s new chip, dubbed BCM2079x hits markets in 2012. The 40-nanometer chip is reportedly 90 per cent more energy-efficient and nearly half the size of any current NFC hardware available.
Square’s Keith Rabois, however, denounced NFC technology, saying it will force inconvenient changes on consumers and merchants. Rabois said NFC payments are good for “cocktail party chatter” but not much else. He believes merchants and customers will more readily adopt Square’s system, which consists of a small credit card reader that plugs into a smartphone or tablet’s headphone jack.
Microsoft Moves on Patents, Strikes Deal With Samsung
Microsoft hinted at a more aggressive strategy towards patent royalty agreements. “So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents,” said Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith.
The software giant took its first step at establishing more royalty agreements when it struck a deal with Samsung. The exact terms of the deal were not released, but Samsung will now pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount for every Android device it sells. Samsung also struck a deal with Microsoft to share certain patents when it develops phones for Microsoft’s mobile platform.
HTC was the first phone manufacturer to reach a royalty agreement with Microsoft and now it’s benefitting from its Windows Phone devices. The company revealed Windows Phone handsets make up 30 per cent of its sales. HTC expects that number will grow as Microsoft steps up its efforts in mobile and attempts to challenge Android.
AT&T officially released the Windows Phone Mango update to existing Windows Phone owners this week. The OS contains over 500 new updates to the original platform.
Nokia Cuts Jobs During Struggles
Nokia is planning to cut 3,500 jobs and close factories. The Finnish company said it will cut 2,200 jobs from a feature phone factory in Romania and slash another 1,300 employees from its Location and Commerce division starting next year. The company blames the downward shifting European market for the cuts.
The company is also experiencing problems with its suppliers, as consumers shift from feature phones to smartphones and reshape the global supply chain. Suppliers are trying to shore up revenue in reaction to Nokia’s lagging business by finding new niches and diversifying business partners. However, component makers are discovering dominant smartphone players like Apple and Samsung are cutting them out by manufacturing their own chip devices.
In addition to poor sales, Nokia is also dealing with bad PR. “Blood in the Mobile,” a new documentary about conflict minerals mined for mobile services, suggests Nokia is one of the companies turning a blind eye to the social and political consequences of using minerals “tainted” by the miserable working conditions of children miners. Nokia countered by saying it is doing what it can to address the issue.
Nokia’s public image may take a hit from the film, but it is looking to recover on the sales end by recapturing the low-end market. The company is developing a new Linux-based operating system called Meltemi. If successful, the project is expected propel the success of feature phones overseas and give the company an identity outside of just being Microsoft’s partner for Windows Phone.
T-Mobile Defends Android
T-Mobile announced the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy S2 and HTC Amaze will be its flagship devices, after publicly confirming it is not getting the iPhone 5. Devices running Google’s platform accounted for 90 per cent of T-Mobile’s smartphones this year, and the company will rely on the platform to bring even more new customers to the carrier.
One of T-Mobile’s most important Android devices, the Samsung Galaxy S2, is being threatened by Apple and Samsung’s patent lawsuit in the U.S. The carrier has asked the judge not to approve an injunction filed by Apple that would ban the S2 and several other Samsung devices from U.S. sales. T-Mobile maintains the ruling could “unnecessarily harm” the company’s business moving forward because it invested thousands of dollars to market the device.
T-Mobile announced it plans to sell a new non-Android device this holiday season as well. The company will offer the Windows Phone-powered HTC Radar 4G, a mid-range phone that features a 3.8-inch touch screen with a 1-gigahertz chip and 8-gigabytes of internal memory. The phone also has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and VGA front lens.
The carrier is also planning on redesigning its retail store. T-Mobile will overhaul 400 stores and slightly remodel 300 others. The company is aiming for a more open layout with hardwood floors, soft magenta lighting and better merchandise organisation. The carrier unveiled two pilot locations outside of Seattle and in New York, with plans to redo Boston and Washington D.C. stores by October 5.
Sprint Preps LTE Network for 2012
Sprint is holding a strategy update event on October 7 and is expected to announce a future launch of its own LTE network. The carrier may discuss other plans but sources say LTE expansion is the most likely. Sprint has already taken steps towards installing LTE equipment, including conducting field tests in some areas, and could launch commercial services as soon as early next year.
U.S. Government Promotes Non-Smoking Text Programs
The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled QuitNowTXT and SmokeFreeTXT, two non-smoking apps that are part of its health initiative Text4Health program. Both are funded by the department’s $5 million investment in mobile health. Adults and teens can sign up for either program to receive texts about quitting smoking as an extension of the SmokeFree.gov website.