From innovative navigational elements to design based on customer feedback, Web 100 companies design for the user experience. These top digital destinations are also setting the bar and changing consumer expectations.
Here are six companies, one from each Web 100 category, that are improving their bottom line with design.
Design Takeaway: Listen to your users!
A clearer, simpler Chase.com arrived in late 2012. The redesign centered on cleaner, more user-friendly aesthetics, including clearer language and navigation that is more purposeful. For example, all of Chase’s products and services can be viewed in just one click.
The redesign was the multiyear product of incorporating feedback from customers on what they want to see from the number one most visited banking website. Even though customers wanted a new Chase.com, not everyone likes change, however, especially such a drastic one. The financial company took a ‘rip off the Band-Aid’ approach, but explained the new home page to users visiting the site for the first time since the re-launch and even made the login area take up nearly 50 percent of the page’s real estate.
Visitor cookies eventually take over and indicate to Chase to swap out the re-design content (for things like credit card offers) and a smaller login space. The image below is with cookies.
Design Takeaway: Break the mold.
Visit nearly any corporate website, and dull design is sure to follow. Visit Coca-Cola’s, and you’ll get a website that uses content marketing and visual elements to spark your interest and bring you into the Coca-Cola “journey”. The iconic brand completely reimagined the way a corporate website can look, feel and function. The site doesn’t fit into one category, but is a destination for investors, businesses and consumers. Its home page caters to all of these groups seamlessly.
Coca-Cola uses its above-the-fold assets to promote articles and videos, while the below-the-fold area features visually appealing company statistics, conversations and social elements. Again, it’s difficult to pinpoint the direction that Coca-Cola wants to take you to when arriving on the homepage, but that might be the goal – to get lost in the Coca-Cola Journey.
Category: News & Media
Design Takeaway: Images are everything.
When Pinterest pinned itself as a contender in the social scene, it did so in a way we had not yet seen. Its main content comes in the form of images, which users can pin, repin, like and comment on. Pinterest’s use of image tiles was the real groundbreaker, as many other companies – including eBay and Interscope – have imitated the design and have seen increased engagement levels. Pinterest also offers a streamlined navigational bar and search function that helps users sorts through the countless pins of Pinterest.
Moreover, while the social network still brings out all of our crafty sides, Pinterest has major e-commerce benefits, as merchants are increasing website traffic, conversions and finding creative ways to make the site grow their business.
Category: Retail/Consumer Goods
Design Takeaway: Leave a trail.
Between millions of dollars of ad spend on Facebook and its partnership with Commission Junction, Zappos knows a thing or two about acquisition. The customer-first brand also knows it’s their job to provide an effortless user experience. One of the ways Zappos achieves this is through its use of breadcrumbs, which can work by either showing users other available product options or by providing a list of refinements that users have made to filter their searches (this helps users trace their searching steps).
Besides easier navigation, breadcrumbs also make the structure of your site more transparent to readers.
Category: Service Providers
Design Takeaway: Never stop innovating.
AT&T is a ubiquitous think tank that drives and delivers innovation in seemingly impossible ways. Its website, att.com, keeps up with this momentum. In 2012, the brand made several enhancements as part of its continual improvement of the online experience for its customers. Upgrades to the site design and technology have made it easier and faster for customers to get what they need, whether they are shopping, managing their accounts or need help.
For example, AT&T redesigned its account management page to make the most common tasks and most requested information easier to find.
Design Takeaway: More is less.
There’s a reason why Apple’s product packaging is often kept as long as the products themselves. Not only is nothing about the wrapping wasteful (everything has a function), but the product inside is so high quality you are sure you’ll be able to repackage it and repurpose it.
Apple.com works in much the same way. The design takes a minimalist approach that makes the site easy to navigate and visually appealing – almost like a tablet or mobile-like experience.
By Timothy J. Toohey, Partner at Snell & Wilmer, LLP
It is a safe prediction for 2013 that public awareness of websites’ data privacy issues will continue to increase. In the last few years, popular websites, including Google and Facebook, have been almost constantly in the news regarding alleged privacy violations. For example, in 2012 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is the primary federal regulator of privacy issues in the U.S., settled privacy violations with several prominent companies, including a record $22.5 million settlement with Google regarding its misrepresentation of privacy assurances to users of Apple’s Safari browser. In another prominent case, the FTC entered into a settlement with anonline advertising network that had secretly gathered data from millions of consumers. In addition, the FTC alleged in a complaint that the default settings of a file-sharing application, which allowed sharing of all existing files on the device with people in the consumer’s immediate vicinity and throughout the world, was an example of “unfair design.”
When used in conjunction with website design, “privacy” typically refers to the protection of a user’s personal data in reference to certain “Fair Information Principles” or FIPs. FIPs typically include limits on the collection, processing and use of personal data, limits on data retention, notice to users, individual choice or consent regarding the collection and subsequent use of personal data and transparent data processing.
In recent years, public opinion surveys indicate that users are sensitive to the privacy of their personal data online. For example, a March 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Internet Project indicates that two-thirds of those surveyed disapproved of having their personal data used to personalize search results and that the same percentage views online targeted advertising negatively. Another report found that 81 percent of parents of teens were concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child’s online behavior.
Federal and state regulators are also increasing attention paid to privacy issues. In addition to the Google settlement, the FTC has recently settled prominent enforcement actions against Facebook, Myspace and other sites. In December 2012, the FTC also announced a major revamp to its rules regarding the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires companies to get parental approval before collecting online information from children under 13 and limits collection of information regarding children. Under the revised rules, the restrictions on collection of personal information will include geolocation information, photographs and videos, as well as persistent identifiers that recognize users over time and across different websites, including IP addresses. Covered website operators, which now include third parties collecting information, as well as the websites themselves, must also adopt reasonable procedures for data retention and deletion.
At the state level, application design is receiving increasing attention from regulators concerned about user privacy. For example, the California Attorney General has released a series of privacy best practices for mobile applications that would inform users before collecting data and has sued Delta Airlines for failing to provide notice to consumers that it is collecting sensitive information on its mobile application.
Facing this myriad of challenges, website designers may be tempted to leave privacy issues to lawyers or other professionals, if and when they arise. Experience indicates that this would be a mistake. Privacy is much better addressed in an early stage of website design than after problems arise. Moreover, this is consistent with the principles of “privacy by design” that are receiving ever increasing attention from regulators, including the FTC and the White House.
According to the FTC’s 2012 report Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change, privacy by design means that “companies should promote consumer privacy throughout their organizations and at every stage of the development of their products and services.” Rather than present consumers with lengthy privacy notices, privacy by design encourages companies to incorporate FIPs, including reasonable collection limits, sound retention and disposal practices, and transparency into the entire life cycle of a product or service. Context and user expectations are also key elements of privacy by design. For example, data collection by a website should be consistent with the context of the transaction. As stated in the White House’s 2012 report Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World, which proposes a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights for online transactions, the consumer should be seen as an active participant in the online experience. Companies that collect consumer data are “stewards of data” and as such must respect consumers’ expectations regarding the collection, use and disclosure of data.
Another important aspect of privacy by design is recognizing that the relationship between consumers and the company collecting personal information through a website may change over time in unforeseeable ways. As the White House proposal recognizes, “adaptive uses of personal data may be the source of innovations that benefit consumers. However, companies must provide appropriate levels of transparency and individual choice—which may be more stringent than was necessary at the time of collection—before reusing personal data.”
For website designers, the principles underlying privacy by design may seem abstract or inconsistent with current design practices. The challenge for designers therefore is to translate privacy principles, including transparency and respect for context, into practical design practices.
Privacy researchers Ira S. Rubinstein and Nathaniel Good have recently suggested one approach to this problem that incorporates privacy by design into the established principles of user-experience design (UXD). Because UXD focuses on obtaining information concerning the interaction between users and a design to promote positive user experience, Rubinstein and Good suggest that consumers’ privacy concerns could be incorporated as part of UXD research. Along with other matters of importance to the user, such as features and user interface, UXD research could include user expectations regarding privacy, such as collection and use of personal data, data retention, and sharing of information with third parties. Armed with this research, design professionals could incorporate privacy protections into designs from the outset, rather than waiting for privacy issues to emerge after the website has launched.
In order for this approach to succeed, professionals in the website design field first need to be equipped with an understanding of what works and does not work in website privacy. Although there is a wide variety of “privacy fails,” analyzing the experience of prominent companies, such as Google and Facebook, among others, helps highlight privacy issues that may arise when the flow of personal information is obscured or when users do not understand the scope of the use of their personal information and to whom it is being disclosed. As recent examples demonstrate, companies ignoring privacy concerns may suffer significant negative consequences, including loss of user confidence, negative publicity, or regulatory actions, including consent decrees and fines. Incorporating respect for users’ privacy into the design process may not only help avoid such consequences, but also confer a competitive advantage. Meeting user expectations therefore makes good business sense in our increasingly privacy conscious world.
About the Author:
Timothy Toohey is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. He is a U.S. Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) and an E.U. Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/E). His practice concentrates on complex litigation, intellectual property and privacy and data protection matters. Toohey has handled numerous matters related to privacy and data protection, including those involving federal, state and international laws connected to data breach and disclosure of personally identifiable information. He also has extensive experience in all elements of intellectual property counseling and litigation, including trademark, copyright and patent matters.
Mobile applications are a $30 billion business, according to new Market Data from ABI Research.
The market intelligence company reveals that cumulative mobile app revenues are forecasted to pass $30 billion by the end of this year, which is nearly double the amount that was reached by the end of 2011. The cumulative revenue includes money made from pay-per-downloads, in-app purchases, subscriptions and in-app advertisements.
“Consumers’ high interest in apps has for a long time been obvious from download volumes, but it’s 2012 that will go down in history as the year when the economic side of the business finally took off,” said ABI Research Senior Analyst Aapo Markkanen. “We’re no longer talking only about a short-term gold rush. Apps have become a major digital industry.”
It is also important to note that even though Apple was the catalyst behind monetizing mobile applications, Markkanen claims that Android developers are estimated to receive about one-third of annual app revenues.
Affiliate Window, one of the United Kingdom’s leading performance marketing networks, has unleashed upon the world its July report concerning mobile and m-commerce statistics.
Most curiously, the company found that the share of Web traffic through mobile devices actually dropped from over 12 percent in June to making up around just nine percent of total traffic in July. This isn’t terribly peculiar, as May saw a slight decrease, as well, following month-by-month increases for the first four months of the year.
On the upside, however, the volume of mobile clicks actually increased. And not only that, but the share of sales through mobile devices also rose, finally crossing the nine percent threshold at 9.42 percent. Ultimately, this figure, coupled with the drop in traffic, seems to show a closer alignment between mobile conversion rates and those of their desktop counterparts, as mobile conversion rates improved throughout July, increasing to 3.14 percent.
The report also breaks down mobile and m-commerce statistics by mobile device. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that Apple is (still) leading the pack, with the iPhone driving 38 percent of all mobile traffic by the end of the month. However, it’s not all sunshine for the brand, as iPad traffic actually ended up dropping below 40 percent. On the other hand, iPad sales reached a high of 63 percent of all mobile sales by the end of the month, and the iPhone ended up accounting for 24.87 percent.
Android devices saw traffic increases in July, with the number resting between 18 and 19 percent, up from June’s 17.5 percent. BlackBerry and “Other” devices both decreased, driving 1.5 and two percent of July’s mobile traffic, respectively. In terms of sales, Android saw another increase, ranging between 11.5 and 13 percent throughout the four weeks of July, while BlackBerry and “Other” devices both stayed below two percent.
From a year-to-date perspective, iPads have driven 57 percent of all mobile sales, with iPhones coming in second at 27 percent, and followed by Android (11 percent), BlackBerry (3 percent) and other devices (2 percent). Adding to this, Affiliate Window found that the iPhone, Android and “Other” devices allow showed an improvement in conversion rates in July; in fact, they were all almost identical at around 2.1 percent.
I think it’s fair to say that if you take anything away from this report, it’s not to put too much stock in the future of BlackBerry.
Apple Inc.'s chief executive responded to a wave of negative attention to conditions at overseas factories that make its products, saying the insinuation that Apple doesn't care about the welfare of its workers is "offensive."
"Unfortunately, some people are questioning Apple’s values today," Tim Cook wrote in an e-mail to Apple employees. "Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern."
A series of articles in the New York Times has brought new focus on Apple's highly profitable production strategy, which relies heavily on Chinese workers who live in dormlike factories and spend many hours assembling devices. The safety records and working conditions in those factories have been questioned, and Apple's labor practices received intense scrutiny in 2010, when more than a dozen workers at Chinese iPhone plants committed suicide.
The later New York Times article quoted former Apple and Foxconn employees saying that Apple prioritized profit and production speed above worker welfare.
The company was trying to address problems in its factories, one of the sources said, “but most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from.”
In Cook's note, first published by 9to5Mac, he said that Apple was a world leader in improving overseas working conditions, and will continue to work hard to find and fix problems.
"We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues," Cook wrote. "What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word."
– David Sarno
Image: A person injured by an explosion at the Foxconn factory in May 2011 arrives at the Sichuan People's Hospital in Chengdu in southwest China. Credit: Associated Press.
When asked if the emergence of new, lower-cost tablets was affecting the success of the iPad this week, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook said he wasn't seeing it.
"I looked at the data, particularly in the U.S., on a weekly basis after Amazon launched the Kindle Fire, and I wouldn't — in my view there wasn't an obvious effect on the numbers plus or minus," Cook said.
But one clear minus was Apple's declining share of the growing tablet market. Despite gang-buster sales last quarter, the iPad has lost more than 10 percentage points of market share to rival Android tablets since the fourth quarter of 2010, according to a new report from research firm Strategy Analytics.
The iPad dropped to 57.6% of the tablets sold during the most recent fourth quarter, from 68.2% a year earlier, while Android rose to 39.1% from 29.0% a year ago, the report said. While Apple shipped 15.4 million iPads during the quarter, Android makers shipped 10.5 million tablets, more than tripling the 3.1 million they shipped a year earlier.
The Android surge was led primarily by tablets from Amazon and Samsung, according to Strategy Analytics' Neil Mawston.
"Android is so far proving relatively popular with tablet manufacturers despite nagging concerns about fragmentation of Android’s operating system, user-interface and app store ecosystem,” Mawston wrote in a release attached to the report.
The report also noted that global tablet shipments rose to 66.9 million units in 2011, nearly quadrupling the 18.6 million shipped in 2010. Devices "shipped" are those that manufacturers sell to retailers, and do not always represent final consumer sales numbers, especially when tablet makers overestimate the demand for their products. But Mawston said the tablet shipment numbers in this case were a fair representation of the number consumers bought.
– David Sarno
Image: Tim Perkins checks out the $199 tablet from Amazon.com at a Best Buy store in L.A. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
The power of mobile technology: Never before have consumers been able to hold so many lawsuits in their hand.
Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. has just thrown another baton in the smartphone lawsuit parade that has stretched to courtrooms across the globe, as phone-makers sue one another over similarities in their mobile devices, which are packed with patent-protected circuits and widgets from dozens of companies.
Motorola has filed suit against Apple Inc., purveyor of the mega-blockbuster iPhone (the device lifted Apple to $46 billion in sales in its most recent quarter). Apple is an increasingly bitter rival of Google Inc., which agreed to buy Motorola in August, a deal that is still awaiting regulatory clearance.
As patent observer Florian Mueller noted, Google probably had to approve Motorola's lawsuit, given that part of the buyout terms appear to forbid Motorola from filing lawsuits without Google's explicit permission. Google has not directly sued or been sued by Apple in this matter — the two compaies are fighting their legal war by proxy.
Phones that run Google's Android operating system have collectively outsold the iPhone, and Apple is none too happy about that. The Cupertino electronics maker has initiated a flurry of lawsuits against Android phone manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics and HTC Corp., alleging that the companies "slavishly copied" the iPhone's signature look.
Now Motorola is trying to make things even more difficult for its rival. In its second action against Apple in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, the company wants the court to ban iPhone sales. Motorola alleges that Apple devices infringe on six of its patents, including one for a phone with a "concealed antenna," and another about keeping data on "multiple pagers" synchronized. Motorola, as children of the 1990s will recall, made a lot of pagers — they still do.
For updates in this saga, make sure to keep your pagers on.
– David Sarno
Image: "Hungry Evil Android". Credit: asgw / Flickr
Apple sold a record breaking 15.43 million iPads in the last three months of 2011, which means a lot of people are starting to use tablet computers. And with last week's news that Apple is planning to bring textbooks to the iPad — well, that's a lot more people who may start to use tablets, too.
But, do they know how to use them safely?
A new study published by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, in conjunction with researchers at Microsoft (a long-time Apple rival), is the first of its kind to examine the physical effects on the head, neck and shoulders of spending time staring at a tablet.
The good news is that it is not all bad news. The researchers found that people are more inclined to move around and shift positions when they use a tablet compared with people who are sitting at a desktop computer. That's definitely good. However, tablet users that hold the device almost at their lap, or rest the tablet in a case on their lap, are putting a lot of strain on the neck muscles — much more than someone using a laptop or desktop computer.
"If you think about your position when you are hunched over looking down, your head is hanging out over space, so you are using your neck muscles to support the weight," said Jack Dennerlein, director of the Harvard Occupational Biomechanics Laboratory, and lead author of the paper.
Definitely not good.
In the paper, published earlier this month in the peer reviewed "Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation," the researchers identified four ways that people use tablets — the lap-hand (holding the tablet down at your lap), lap-case (resting the tablet in a case on your lap), table-case (resting the tablet in its case on a shallow angle on a table) and table-movie (resting the tablet at a steep angle on a table).
They concluded that the best position is the table-movie position because it is the only position in which the user's posture approached neutral. All the other positions put a lot of strain on the user's neck muscles.
Dennerlein said those who use tablets should make sure to move around as much as possible — "Don't get stuck in one position!" he said. The next most important thing is finding a good case that allows you to prop up your tablet at the most comfortable angle. He added that companies that distribute tablet computers to their employees should make sure to give out cases as well, in order to prevent injuries.
Next up, Dennerlein and his team plan to tackle the effect of tablet computing on the arms and wrist.
One additional note: When we reached out to Apple to see if they had any comment on the ergonomics on using the iPad, a spokesperson pointed us to a large section on ergonomics on Apple's website. The section is impressive, but the suggestions and diagrams are all related to desktop computers, and the site did not have any recommendations on how to most safely use a tablet. We called the rep to see if we had missed anything, but we didn't hear back by press time.
Photo: A model looking at her iPad in a position that the Harvard study says is bad for your neck. Credit: Markus Schreiber / Associated Press
Apple Inc.'s blowout quarter has pushed the electronics maker back into a neck-and-neck race with Exxon Mobil Corp. for the title of the world's most valuable company.
On Wednesday, Apple's stock opened at $454, nearly 7% higher than it had closed on Tuesday, and an all-time high for the company. That put its market value at north of $418 billion, surpassing Exxon Mobil, which had a slower start to its trading day as its market value shrank to around $413 billion.
But the two later switched places as Apple shares erased some of their gains and Exxon climbed back into first place with a market cap of $416 billion, about a billion ahead of Apple.
[Update, 11:06 a.m.: Apple is back on top, $417 billion to $415 billion.]
Apple has passed Exxon a few times over the last year, only to be leapfrogged once again by the oil company. Both companies have seen their stock price and market value shoot up in the list six months. In August, when Apple first passed Exxon, the companies' market value was each closer to $339 billion.
On Tuesday, Apple said that during its holiday quarter it had sold 37 million iPhones and 15 million iPads, both sales records for the company, and far outstripping analysts' expectations. Chief executive Tim Cook said Apple had been having trouble keeping up with demand for the new iPhone 4S.
– David Sarno
Photo: Thousands of Chinese customers queue up outside an Apple store in Beijing. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Apple just reported its best quarter of all time, as covered by my colleague David Sarno here on the Technology blog.
The Cupertino tech giant reported a boost in sales of iPads, iPhones and Mac computers (but not iPods), pushing it into a record quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion and $13 billion in profit for the first quarter of the company's 2012 fiscal year.
Let's take a closer look at Apple's huge numbers for the quarter ended Dec. 31, which showed strong holiday sales and sent shares in the company up 8% after the markets closed Tuesday.
Cash balance — One major number to note from Apple's earnings report, as mentioned in its earnings call, is that the company has a cash balance of $97.6 billion, up from $81 billion a year ago.
That's a massive amount to be sitting in the bank and it's a sum Apple will spend in part on developing new products that will help it remain competitive against rivals such as Samsung, Sony, HTC and Motorola.
Revenue — Apple racked up $46.33 billion in sales in the 14-week quarter, which is up from $26.74 billion in the same quarter a year ago.
Profit — The tech giant reported a $13-billion profit last quarter, which is more than double the profit the company reported for its first fiscal quarter of 2011.
IPhones — Apple sold 37.04 million iPhones in the last three months of 2011, which marks 128% growth from a year earlier, when the company sold 16.25 million iPhones.
IPads — Sales of the ever-popular Apple tablet grew 111% when compared to the year-earlier quarter, with 15.43 million iPads sold for the company's fiscal 2012 first quarter versus 7.33 million iPads sold in the first quarter of 2011.
IPods — The iPod isn't dead yet, but it is on the decline. Apple sold 15.4 million iPods last quarter, down 21% from 19.45 million iPods sold a year earlier.
Mac computers — Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop PCs — which includes MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Minis and the Mac Pro — saw a 26% increase in sales from the year-ago quarter, with 5.2 million Macs sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2012 and 4.13 million Macs sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2011.
"Portables," which would include the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, made up the majority of Macs purchased, with 3.71 million units sold last quarter, up from 2.9 million sold a year ago. Apple sold 1.48 million desktops last quarter, up from 1.23 million sold a year earlier.
Looking ahead, Apple said Tuesday that it is projecting it will record about $32.5 billion in revenue in the second quarter of its fiscal year.
[Updated: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Apple's profit for the first quarter of its fiscal year was $6 billion. Apple reported a $13 billion profit last quarter and recorded $6 billion in profit a year earlier.]
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple Store in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Apple Inc. is selling a whole lot of just about every product it makes — and investors are loving it.
The company's stock shot up more than 8% after it announced that the holiday quarter was its best ever, with revenue and profit setting all-time records. Apple sold more iPhones, iPads and Mac computers than in any three-month period in its history.
The company smashed Wall Street projections with revenue of $46.33 billion in the three-month period ended Dec. 31, more than $7 billion more than analysts had expected and a 74% increase over its quarterly revenue from a year earlier. Profit was just as strong: Apple's $13.06 billion in earnings beat analysts' expectations by $3 billion, and the number more than doubled from the same quarter a year earlier.
"They just demolished it," said analyst Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co. "Everyone thought they were too big — that there was too much information out there and they couldn't pull off a surprise like this, but boy did they ever."
Apple's bestselling product continued to be its iPhone. The company sold 37.04 million of the devices, by far eclipsing its iPhone sales record of 20.3 million set in the April to June quarter. It also took a leap forward with its iPad, selling 15.43 million units of the tablet computer — more than 4 million more than it had sold last quarter in its previous quarter. Apple sold 5.2 million Mac computers, beating its mark of 4.9 million, also set last quarter.
“We’re thrilled with our outstanding results and record-breaking sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs,” said Chief Executive Tim Cook in a statement. “Apple’s momentum is incredibly strong, and we have some amazing new products in the pipeline."
Analysts expect that Apple will have a strong year of new products, possibly announcing a new iPad in March, a newly redesigned iPhone during the summer and potentially an Apple-branded television set later in the year.
– David Sarno
Photo: Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, discusses a new textbook initiative in New York last week. Credit: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press
For the second time, a Netherlands court has denied Apple its request for a ban on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, whose design Apple says illegally copies the iPad's.
The Samsung victory, first reported on the blog Foss Patents run by patent expert Florian Mueller, came Tuesday in The Hague, where an appeals court ruled that the Samsung device — which runs on Google's Android operating system – doesn't steal from the iPad's patented design.
The Dutch court's decision, which upheld a lower-court ruling made in August, is another setback for Apple in its worldwide patent battle against South Korea-based Samsung.
Last month, a U.S. district court in San Jose denied Apple's request for a ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 before a July trial on Apple's lawsuit in that court. Also in December, a temporary ban on the Samsung tablet in Australia expired. The dispute is set to go to trial in Australia in March.
Apple last week filed two new patent suits against Samsung in Germany, seeking a ban on 10 Samsung phones and five tablets.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Netherlands. Credit: Robert Vos / EPA
Remember when seeing an iPad on a bus, an airplane or the subway was a startling new experience? Now you might be startled not to see one.
Over the holidays, so many people bought tablets for each other (and, presumably, themselves), that U.S. tablet ownership nearly doubled among adults, to 19% in January from 10% a month earlier. The rate is growing quickly: In May 2010, shortly after the debut of the iPad, only about 3% of consumers over age 16 owned tablets, according to survey information from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The survey found a similar jump in e-reader ownership, as prices dropped below $100 for electronic book readers from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nearly 20% of U.S. adults now own an e-reader, up from 10% in November.
Tablet and e-reader adoption continues to grow quickly just as sales of traditional personal computers slow and even decline. In the U.S., PC sales last year had their worst year since 2001, dropping nearly 5% compared with 2010, according to research firm IDC. Analysts and PC industry executives regularly cite the increasing popularity of tablets when talking about the slowing growth of the PC businesses.
According to the survey, tablet adoption is now the highest among wealthier and more educated buyers. About 36% of those making more than $75,000 a year own a tablet computer, compared with about 16% of those making $30,000 to $50,000, although ownership rates in both groups appear to be growing quickly. The discrepancy is also substantial between college graduates, 31% of whom own tablets, and high school grads, at 15%.
– David Sarno
Photo: Boxes of Kindle e-readers sit at an Amazon.com distribution center. Credit: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg.
This week Apple announced a new textbook App called iBooks 2, as well as iBooks Author, a new book publishing app that allows normal people with little to no coding know-how to create impressive ebooks complete with photo galleries, video, 3-D images and other super cool graphic elements.
Nothing too controversial there, right? Wrong. By Thursday afternoon, tech bloggers began to complain about a clause in iBook Author's End User Licence Agreement that restricts how resulting ebooks can be sold, and by Friday the torrent of anger reached a fever pitch.
Here's the offending statement as it appears in the iBooks Author "About" box: "IMPORTANT NOTE: If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple."
In other words, Apple invites you to use its publishing software to do some really cool stuff that most of us could never dream of doing on our own, all for free. Just know that if you decide to sell what you've made, Apple will most likely get a cut of the profits.
Whether this is an unprecedented and gross abuse of power on Apple's part, or simply the company's way of making money off its new software, has been a hot topic of debate in the blogosphere.
In a scathing story headlined "iBooks Author: You Work For Apple Now," PCmag.com's Sascha Segan expressed his outrage over the clause in no uncertain terms.
"With iBooks Author, Apple just made a hideous play to kill authors' rights over their work," he writes. Adding later, "Apple owns the creative process of anyone who uses the tool. If you're looking to create an iBook, you've just given Apple total distribution control over your work. That's as good as partial ownership."
But Paul Carr, writing on the blog PandoDaily.com came to Apple's defense. Sort of. "Apple has released iBooks Author for free with one goal — to get more books into the iBooks store," he writes. "By taking a cut from all of the paid-for books produced in that way, they stand to make more than enough money to justify giving away the tools involved."
He adds that we are of course free to boycott Apple's new software if we don't like the terms of its agreement. "There are a hundred other ways to produce ebooks, and there are a half dozen other platforms on which to sell them. Pick one," he writes. "But we won’t. We’ll pick Apple, and we’ll like it. Because this is Apple, and that’s what we do."
– Deborah Netburn
Photo: Apple's iBook Author app on an iMac, and an iBook on an iPad. Credit: Apple
NEWS ANALYSIS: Alongside Apple stating that iBooks 2 and textbooks on the iPad would reinvent the textbook as we know it, the iPad-maker announced Thursday that it would also attempt to reinvent book-making by way of an app called iBooks Author.
The Apple-developed app, available as a free download from the Mac App Store, (ideally) makes it easy to make books for the iPad. But together, iBooks 2 and iBooks Author are moves to capture the future of education and self-publishing, and to continue to build on the success Apple had under the late Steve Jobs.
If you've ever used Apple's Keynote or Pages (or Microsoft's PowerPoint or Word) apps, then you should be able to hit the ground running in iBooks Author. There are templates for different types of book layouts, and adding the interactive 3-D models, photos, videos and diagrams that Apple demoed iBooks 2 textbooks on Thursday is as easy as clicking and dragging a built-in widget — provided you've already produced the video, photos, diagrams and models you want to use.
Want to see what your book looks like before you publish it to iBooks? Just connect your Mac to an iPad by way of a USB cable and you can preview the book on the tablet.
The aim of the iBooks Author app is to make it easy to get these impressive multimedia elements, as well as questionnaires and other educational materials, into a page of text and published as a book on the iPad as easy as possible — whether you're a self-publisher looking to write your first book, a teacher whipping up something quick for a special class, or a publishing powerhouse like the textbook trifecta of McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Before his death, Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he believed Apple could disrupt the $8-billion-a-year textbook industry. Jobs said in Isaacson's book, titled simply "Steve Jobs," that the iPad was the tool to make transformation in the textbook business a reality.
According to the book, Jobs' idea "was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple."
Jobs told Isaacson "the process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt … but if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don't have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money."
In announcing the iBooks 2 and iBooks Author products, Apple is beginning to bring a piece of Jobs' long-term vision to fruition. The company also noted Thursday that there are currently about 1.5 million iPads being used in schools and more than 20,000 education apps sitting in its iOS App Store.
But make no mistake, iBooks 2 and iBooks Author aren't just about textbooks. The two new apps are working together to entice students, teachers, educational institutions to embrace and buy the iPad in bigger numbers than they already have.
On Thursday, in announcing the new products, Apple made no mention of new discounts on iPads for students or schools — though Apple has offered such discounts in the past on Macs and even created special versions of the iMac for schools. Apple even built the now-defunct eMac line specifically to sell to schools.
Apple wants us to ditch the paperback and hardcover textbooks in favor of an iPad and digital downloads, that much is obvious. But the company also wants the iPad and Macs to become to go-to devices for educational institutions and publishing houses.
Although Apple's iTunes is the world's most popular online music storefront, Amazon is the world's largest seller of e-books. By adding a level of interactivity to books that Amazon and others simply can't match, and by making it easier to publish a book and sell it in the iBooks app directly from iBooks Author, Apple has made a move to challenge Amazon and its Kindle e-reader and Kindle Touch tablet as the preferred platform for self-publishers and digital textbooks.
In a statement announcing iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, Apple said as much (without naming Amazon and other e-book rivals such as Google and Barnes & Noble).
"iBooks Author is also available today as a free download from the Mac App Store and lets anyone with a Mac create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books and more, and publish them to Apple's iBookstore," Apple said.
The apps are also a challenge to Adobe, a company Apple has been known to partner with and feud with from time to time. Adobe's Creative Suite, Digital Publishing Suite and Touch Apps, available on both Windows PCs and Macs, are some of the most popular tools used by publishing houses and self-publishers looking to create a book, whether an e-book or a book before it heads to print.
Though capable of producing many different types of content for a broader range of devices, Adobe's software can cost thousands of dollars, while Apple's iBooks Author app is free.
Apple on Thursday also released an iTunes U app, which allows teachers from kindergarten to the university level to stream video of their lectures and post class notes, handouts, reading lists, etc., all within the app.
Previously, iTunes U was a podcasting service for college professors who wanted to put up video or audio of their lectures. Now it is one more reason for a teacher to consider an iPad and a Mac as tools to reach students at any grade level. And like iBooks Author, the app is free.
In my opinion, Apple is one of the best companies out there at providing lower-cost products that pull consumers into an ecosystem of apps and gadgets. It's one of the reason the company has so many cult-like followers.
For many Apple fans, their first purchase was an iPod or iPhone. With those purchases comes buying apps, music, movies and TV shows from iTunes. And for many, later comes a MacBook or an iMac computer. This strategy is repeating itself with iBooks 2 and iBooks Author.
First, get students and teachers to use more iPads in school by offering affordable and engaging digital textbooks. With iBook textbooks capped at a price of $14.99, I have to wonder whether or not textbooks will become shorter and more narrow, and thus students and teachers we'll have to buy more of them. Second, make it easy for anybody to produce their own iBooks (textbooks or otherwise) and then sell those books in the iBooks app, luring in aspiring authors. When those students, teachers and authors go to download music or a movie, set up a cloud storage service or buy a laptop, a phone, a new tablet — maybe someday a TV — what brand will be at the top of minds? Apple.
iBooks, iBooks Author and iTunes U, together are a move to fend off Google, Amazon, Adobe and other competitors in determining the future of education, publishing and book reading. Together, the launch of these apps is an attempt to not only maintain but also expand Apple's current success into the company's post-Jobs future.
Photo: Apple's iBook Author app on an iMac, and an iBook and an iPad. Credit: Apple
Apple promised to reinvent the textbook and offer a new experience for students and teachers by way of an update to its iBooks app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch on Thursday.
The app update — which Apple is calling iBooks 2 and is already released to the iOS App Store — will allow for textbooks to be sold through the popular app, which in the past sold novels, nonfiction and poetry, but not textbooks.
All textbooks sold through the free app, which is available only to Apple's i-devices, will be priced at $14.99 or less — a stark contrast to the high-priced paper books that fill college bookstores.
But the main allure might not be the price as much as the interactive features iBooks textbooks can offer.
Apple, which announced the iBooks update at a press event in New York at the Guggenheim Museum, said the iBooks textbook exceeds paper texts in terms of engagement, calling it a durable, quickly searchable book that offers easy highlighting and note-taking as well as interactive photo galleries, videos, and 3-D models and diagrams.
Digital textbooks can also offer immediate feedback with questionnaires at the end of chapters and automatically create flash cards of glossary terms for a student to study.
Apple said the move makes sense given that more that 1.5 million iPads are used in schools. "Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn, using the device they already love," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
One thing not mentioned by Apple on Thursday was any sort of program that would offer iPads at a discount to students, teachers or schools.
Apple also said there are more than 20,000 education-focused apps available in the iOS App Store.
The tech giant has enlisted the heavyweights of textbook publishing — Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt — to sell textbooks through iBooks 2. Combined, the three companies make 90% of textbooks sold in the U.S. Smaller publishers such as DK and the EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation will be publishing to iBooks 2 as well.
Just as iBooks does with other types of books, textbooks will offer a free preview of a few pages or even a chapter before a purchase is made.
EO Wilson is also publishing a new book through iBooks 2 called Life on Earth, and the first two chapters of the new title will be free with more chapters coming as they are written.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: Textbooks for sale in iBooks 2 on an Apple iPad. Credit: Apple
Apple rumors — they seem to work readers, writers and editors up into a frenzy producing an echo of reports around the Internet. These blips of salacious speculation seem to spawn anew multiple times each week and, from time to time, they also fail to line up with one another, instead butting heads in contradiction.
The latest example of such conflicting rumors is the recent reports published on the pending release of what the tech media has dubbed the "iPad 3," Apple's eventual follow-up tablet to the hugely successful iPad 2 of 2011 and first-generation iPad released in 2010.
Late last week, as many tech reporters were hustling to keep up with wacky gadgets and the evolutionary advancement of TVs, smartphones and tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Bloomberg News reported that Apple's next iPad would go on sale in March with 4G LTE connectivity (the first two iPads have Wi-Fi or 3G), a faster processor and a higher resolution touch screen.
Bloomberg didn't mention when it believed Apple would unveil the iPad 3, in its report, which cited three anonymous sources that reportedly have knowledge of Apple's plans.
Aside from the March-debut nugget of information, the rumored iPad 3 specs have been reported and re-reported countless times since Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad 2 on March 2, 2011, ahead of the tablet hitting U.S. stores on March 11, 2011.
On Tuesday, the Japanese website Mackotakara reported that the unveiling of a so-called iPad 3 along with an update to Apple's iOS 5 operating system would take place in February. According to PCMag and Apple Insider, Mackotakara cited an unnamed Asian supplier and an anonymous source in the U.S. for its report.
So, do the Bloomberg and Mackotakara reports line up or contradict? When is the iPad 3 coming — February or March?
In all likelihood, only Apply really knows when it will launch its next iPad. And Apple, which is known to reschedule its events and product launches up to the last minute, isn't saying. The company never comments on speculation about its product launches.
But it could be that both Mackotakara and Bloomberg are right? Maybe (and yes, I'm speculating here) the iPad 3 will be unveiled in February and go on sale in March?
Apple introduced the original iPad on Jan. 27, 2010, but it didn't go on sale until April 3, 2010.
Complicating matters is the Taiwanese website DigiTimes (which has a reputation for publishing inaccurate tech rumors). The DigiTimes has reported that the iPad 3 would be released sometime this month — but the site has also said its unnamed sources have also said the iPad 3 may arrive in March or April.
Well, here's one thing you can count on: Whenever Apple's next iPad is released, the Technology blog (and the much of the tech reporting world) will have plenty of coverage of the eagerly anticipated new tablet.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Apple iPad 2. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times
Apple has reportedly filed another patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung in Germany, this time calling for a sales ban on 10 smartphones it says violate its design rights.
Filed in Dusseldorf Regional Court, Apple's suit — which calls for a ban on the Galaxy S II, Galaxy S Plus and eight other models — isn't the only front in the ongoing international patent battle between the two firms, reports said Tuesday. Apple also filed a suit against five Samsung tablets "related to a September ruling" that imposes a sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, according to a Bloomberg report.
Apple alleges that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 copied the design of the Apple iPad in a way intended to confuse customers. After sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 were halted in Germany, Samsung released the re-designed Galaxy Tab 10.1N, which the Dusseldorf court said in December is different enough from the iPad that "it is unlikely to grant an injunction" against the new design, Bloomberg said.
"An appeals court also voiced doubts about the reach of Apple's European Union design right that won the company the injunction against the Galaxy 10.1," the report said.
For now, Apple's new smartphone suit against Samsung is set to "come before the court in August and the case against Samsung's tablets will follow in September," according to PCWorld.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, it is. Apple and Samsung have been suing and counter-suing each another across Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Australia for months, each alleging patent infringement over the design and operation of their respective phones and tablets.
According to the news site ArsTechnica, the ongoing patent battle between Apple and Samsung has caught the attention of the European Commission, which is conducting an antitrust investigation with the two companies regarding the suits.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in The Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency
"We understand that this decision will cause many of the fans disappointment, but please forgive us as there is no other alternative unless to have the blessing from Steve Jobs family," In Icons said in a rambling statement on its website, which features quotes from Jobs and numerous images of the doll prototype. "We will aim to have full refund to the fans who have pre-ordered."
In Icons had been taking pre-orders of the 12-inch doll, which cost $100 and came with "one realistic head sculpt and two pairs of glasses," "one highly articulate body and three pairs of hands," one black turtleneck, one pair of blue jeans and two apples — one with a bite taken out of it.
The company had planned to start shipping the dolls in February and said on its website that it was running out of stock.
In the statement announcing the company's decision to not offer the doll, In Icons said the figurine was adjusted "countless times" to achieve the Apple visionary's likeness. The company said making the doll was a tribute to Jobs.
"Regardless of the pressure, I am still Steve's fan, I fully respect Steve and his family, and it is definitely not my wish or intention that they be upset," said the statement, which was signed "inicons.com." "Though we still believe that we have not overstepped any legal boundaries, we have decided to completely stop the offer, production and sale of the Steve Jobs figurine out of our heartfelt sensitivity to the feelings of the Jobs family."
– Andrea Chang
Image: A screenshot showing In Icons' Steve Jobs doll. Credit: In Icons
IPad owners, get psyched: The creative people over at Moonbot Studios have just released "The Numberlys," a new iPad and iPhone app that is not quite a movie, not quite a book and not quite a game — although it includes elements of all three.
One might describe it as one of the few storytelling apps that takes into account the iPad's unique functionality.
"The Numberlys " is set in a black-and-white world inspired in part by Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," where only numbers exist until five little guys decide to create the alphabet by transforming numbers into letters. To do this they jump on them, spin them, smash them and pull them apart using various tools.
And you — the reader? the player? — have to help them.
Savvy iPad owners may know Moonbot Studios as the creators of "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," a magical story app that appeared on many top 10 app lists of 2011.
The creative studio, which was co-founded by artist, director and former Pixar employee William Joyce, has been open just a year and a half, but has already established a reputation for excellence. The studio's first project, the short-film version of "Morris Lessmore," just made it on the short list for the Oscars.
I spoke this week with Lampton Enochs and Brandon Oldenburg, two of the three partners in Moonbot Studios, about the company's process and the future of storytelling on the iPad.
Question: So, you guys make movies, paper books, iPad apps. How do you describe what it is that you do?
Enochs: We think of ourselves as a storytelling outfit. We try to generate our own internal projects half the time and the other half of the time we want to work on collaborative projects with outside parties.
Oldenburg: Part of our mission here is to bring the future that never was back to the forefront. There is a sort of retro nostalgic vibe to our company that is rooted in science fiction. We've all grown up reading about all this wonderful fantastic stuff, and then it doesn't come to fruition. We want to bring it to fruition.
Q: The iPad is so new. What is it like working in such uncharted territory?
Oldenburg: It harkens back to the early days of film. It's still very Wild West and experimental right now and it is really exciting.
Enochs: The first movies were a locomotive and a guy running and that was it, and everyone was thrilled. We are still a little bit in that stage, I'm sure.
Q: I imagine there must be tensions between what the creative types think is best for the story and what the programmers say can actually be done. How do you work that out?
Oldenburg: Definitely when you work with scientists, and I'm calling our programmers scientists, everyone has to be open-minded. When you are in a creative brainstorming session you want to go, "yes — and." A lot of times our programmers can seem grumpy, but keeping them engaged in the conversation from the get-go allows you to see what the actual possibilities are.
Q: You've translated "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" into a film, an iPad app and a physical book (not yet released). What do you think about when you tell a story in a different medium?
Oldenburg: It is very important that every time we take one of our stories from an iPad to a book that it is not the same experience regurgitated now on a printed page. We look at things from a kid's logic standpoint. I remember being a kid and seeing a movie and then buying the game for the movie and it was always a letdown. It never lived up to the movie. Kids can smell merch. We don't ever want to create merch.
Q: Have there been any apps that inspire you guys?
Oldenburg: I heard about an album that you can only listen to when you are in Central Park, and it knows if you are there because of GPS, and it would play differently depending on where you walked so nobody would ever hear the exact same album as anyone else. I thought — how beautiful is that.
– Deborah Netburn
As General Motors introduced its first efforts to bring apps from your smartphone into your dashboard at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford expanded its Sync AppLink system — which does just that and launched about a year ago.
When AppLink made its debut, Pandora was the only app a Sync user could operate via in-dash touch screen. Later, Stitcher radio gained Sync compatibility, which includes voice control as well.
Ford announced at CES in Las Vegas this week that apps for iPhones, BlackBerrys and phones that Google's Android would be added to the AppLink-friendly list, including NPR News, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio and Ford's own Sync Destinations turn-by-turn navigation app.
To see NPR News and Slacker Radio in action in a new Ford Mustang GT, check out our video from CES above.
Ford says that more apps that work with Sync's voice recogniton software are on the way. Oddly enough, Sync (which was developed through a partnership between Ford and Microsoft) has no AppLink compatibility with Windows Phone apps.
Just as with GM's in-car-app systems — Chevrolet MyLink and Cadillac CUE — AppLink can use apps only if it’s connected to a smartphone with the app installed, and it accesses data through the phone. Ford isn't selling any AppLink data plans.
For now, AppLink is available only in Sync-equipped Fiestas, Mustangs, Fusions, F-150s and Econoline vans, but the U.S. automaker is considering pushing AppLink out to other Ford brands, such as Lincoln, as well as to vehicles running older versions of Sync.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of Ford's Sync Destinations app. Credit: Ford
The report, which is issued annually, detailed Apple's efforts to monitor its suppliers to make sure they're operating within legal codes and its own policies regarding environmental standards, occupational health and safety, and human rights.
Apple did not, however, say why this year it decided to name each of its suppliers, though the company has come under scrutiny in the past over workplace problems with its suppliers, such as nearly a dozen employees committing suicide at the Shenzhen, China, plant of Foxconn in 2010.
After that shocking and public string of tragedies, Apple sent then-Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook to Foxconn, which also manufactures products for a number of Apple's competitors, with two suicide experts and other high-level company executives to evaluate the working conditions there. Cook is now Apple's chief executive, officially taking over for Steve Jobs just before his death in October.
As it does each year, Apple documented good and bad news in its report.
The tech giant said that its Supplier Responsibility team conducted a total of 229 audits in 2011, which was an 80% increase from 2010.
"More than 100 of these were at factories that we had not audited before," Apple said in the report. "Facilities where we conduct repeat audits consistently show fewer violations, and the vast majority improve their audit scores year-over-year."
Apple also said that in 2011 it trained its 1 millionth supplier employee as a part of its "worker empowerment program," which trains workers on Apple's supplier standards as well as "their rights as workers, occupational health and safety standards, and more."
The Cupertino-based company also found that just 38% of suppliers it audited were in compliance with its policy of no-more-than a 60-hour work week.
"93 facilities had records that indicated more than 50 percent of their workers exceeded weekly working hour limits of 60 in at least 1 week out of the 12 sample period." Apple said in the report. "At 90 facilities, more than half of the records we reviewed indicated that workers had worked more than 6 consecutive days at least once per month, and 37 facilities lacked an adequate working day control system to ensure that workers took at least 1 day off in every 7 days."
108 audited facilities "did not pay proper overtime wages as required by laws and regulations," Apple said. "For example, they did not provide sufficient overtime pay for holidays." In response to that finding, Apple says it required suppliers to repay workers the wages they were due and to "change their current payment system to prevent recurrence."
The iPhone-maker also said it increased the amount of money its suppliers paid out to workers to compensate for migrant laborers paying outrageously high fees to recruiters, middle-men and other companies just to get a job making parts found in Apple goods.
"We increased audits in Malaysia and Singapore, countries known to be destinations for foreign contract workers," Apple said. "As a result, suppliers reimbursed $3.3 million in excess foreign contract worker fees, bringing the total that has been repaid to workers since 2008 to $6.7 million."
Apple also said in the report that it found no incidents of underage workers at its suppliers last year and that it stopped doing business with one supplier over a repeated "core violation" though the company didn't say who the supplier was or what the violation was.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Workers assemble and perform quality control checks on MacBook Pro display enclosures at an Apple supplier facility in Shanghai. Credit: Apple
A riot over iPhones? It may sound extreme, but an angry mob pelted a Beijing Apple store with eggs Friday after Apple announced that it would halt the release of its iPhone 4S at retail stores in China.
Apple said shuttering the stores was necessary to protect its employees and customers from the unruly crowds, many of them scalpers, that had started assembling outside the night before the phone's release.
It's a sad fact of human nature that the drive to get our hands on gadgets and gear has the power to make us act completely insane. Remember the Wal-Mart customer who nailed 20 other shoppers with pepper spray on Black Friday 2011?
And some products are more likely to inspire a frenzy than others.
So join us in a trip down memory lane, where we examine the release of three products that, like the iPhone, have displayed the power to make people act crazy.
1. Air Jordans: You sneaker heads and your Air Jordans. Back in the '80s, when the shoes were first released, suburban kids were told not to wear the pricey basketball shoes in certain neighborhoods for fear they would be mugged for a pair of sneakers. Thirty years later, the shoes have lost none of their potency. When Nike released its much-anticipated Nike Air Jordan XI Concord ($180) in late December, there were reports of violence and mayhem all across the country as customers fought with fists, knives and guns to keep a coveted spot in the front of the line.
General Motors, Ford, Mercedes, Subaru and even QNX (owned by Research In Motion) each showed off their respectively differing approaches to getting apps into the dashboards of our cars at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
And while the idea of apps in the car is a dream for some, so far, most of the apps center around replicating smartphone or tablet experiences from the driver's seat.
OnStar, the GM-owned telematics company, has a slightly different idea to piggyback off the work developers are doing building apps for use in both smartphones and cars.
OnStar wants developers to create apps that use its wireless service to actually control cars in new ways that utilize what it already can do — automatic crash response, stolen vehicle tracking, turn-by-turn navigation and roadside assistance for subscribers of its wireless in-car assistance service.
OnStar RemoteLink enables users (who also own select 2010 or newer Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick or GMC vehicles) to view real-time data such as mileage, fuel in the gas tank, oil life and tire pressure from their car or truck. The app also allows users to remotely unlock doors, honk horns, shine lights, start the engine and, of course, contact a dealer.
It's these sorts of capabilities that OnStar is now offering developers through its API, and the first developer to build on that is RelayRides, a neighbor to car-sharing service. A new RelayRides app, which we got a preview of at CES (as seen int he video above), will launch later this year on Apple's iOS and allow car owners to unlock their cars remotely after the person renting their vehicle arrives, or even track where a renter has taken their car.
OnStar's API isn't yet available to all developers; company officials said that would take place in the first half of this year, but what RelayRides is working on shows a bit of its potential. GM said at CES that any developers interested in using the OnStar API should email the company at email@example.com.
RelayRides says its new OnStar integrated app, in both an iOS and Android-friendly HTML5 form, will launch "early this year."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screenshot of OnStar's RemoteLink app for Apple's iOS. Credit: OnStar
Pick. Thrash. Wail. Let out your inner Jimmy Page, Jack White or Yngwie Malmsteen — with an iPad.
The Guitar Apprentice app and controller from Ion Audio, which we looked at during the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, aims to help students learn the basics of playing guitar before they drop some cash on a full guitar and amp setup. Although playing iPad guitar isn't as sexy as the real thing, this might reduce the number of Squier Strats and practice amps languishing in the closets of frustrated students who never pegged down barre chords.
The most obvious comparison is with the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band video games, but Guitar Apprentice offers a more complex setup than the video game controllers, with buttons simulating the six strings on each of 14 frets on the neck, in a body similar to the classic Gibson SG. LEDs on the frets light up to show basic note or chord patterns, and students strum or pick simulated strings on the iPad screen. Effects such as delay, reverb and flanger are also available to customize distortion effects.
Guitar Apprentice is one in a series of music learning app-and-controller sets from Ion Audio, which also includes Piano Apprentice and Drum Apprentice, as well as Drum Master, which comes with a full-size electric drum kit. The plastic instruments connect to the iPad, and each shows students where or how to play, lighting up frets, piano keys or drum pads as appropriate. Teachers also appear on the apps to present basic lessons to users.
Apps are Core MIDI, which enables integration with other music apps such as GarageBand. The app and controller, when released, are to have a retail price of $99.
Just keep in mind: Although the frets on the controller are designed to simulate fretting real guitar strings, it doesn't look like the app will alleviate the sore fingers students will have if they ever move up to a real guitar.
– Armand Emamdjomeh
Photo: The fret board on the Ion Guitar Appretice. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we saw a bit of a scramble by TV makers such as Samsung and LG to show off what they working on or releasing in the coming year that would allow us to control our TVs using voice, gesture and facial recognition.
Many technology pundits and analysts have said these sorts of announcements, which also took place at last year's CES, are in response to rumors that Apple is working on an "iTV" that will offer a new way of controlling a TV and maybe even how we pay for or watch channels and TV shows.
But as many video-game lovers out there know, TV voice recognition, gesture controls and facial recognition are already here in the form of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing camera, which is an accessory to the Xbox 360 home gaming console.
However, Kinect is just getting started, and currently has a small number of apps. And it's still a device that sells for about $150 and requires an Xbox 360, which starts at $200. Make no mistake, there will be a cost of entry to the future of TV.
At CES 2012, Microsoft showed off a bit of what the future may hold for Kinect, the Xbox and TV with demonstrations of its latest Kinect-enabled app for the Xbox, called Sesame Street Kinect (you can see our demonstration of the app in a video atop this article).
Sesame Street Kinect is what it sounds like, episodes of the long-running children's program tailored to use the Kinect camera. And what Kinect can do is really impressive.
Since 1969, children around the world have sat in front of TVs repeating back the alphabet, colors, words and numbers to characters on Sesame Street (I did it when I was a child). Until Sesame Street Kinect, which is set to release later this year at an unannounced price, the characters on the screen couldn't respond to the viewer's actions. Now, to a limited extent, they can.
The demonstration we saw featured the Grover, Elmo and Cookie Monster characters prompting viewers to interact by either saying certain words or moving in certain ways.
For example, we took part in a demonstration in which Grover drops a box of coconuts and asks that the viewer pick them up and throw them back to him.
I f the viewer stands up and moves in the way that they would throw an imaginary coconut (don't throw a real coconut unless your trying to break your TV) then Grover catches each one in his box, even reacting to how hard the Kinect interprets the viewer's throw to be.
The experience was a lot of fun for a room of four adults, and I imagine kids will enjoy this sort of thing too. Jose Pinero, am Xbox spokesman, said a similarly interactive app from National Geographic is coming this year as well.
Although Microsoft has sold more than 66 million Xbox consoles and more than 18 million Kinect cameras, the tech giant realizes it has something bigger than just video games on its hands with Kinect.
Both Kinect and Xbox Live are headed to Windows 8 later this year. Hopefully, that will mean more interactive "two-way TV" apps like Sesame Street Kinect, and more apps related to media outlets such as ESPN and National Geographic.
There are also rumors that the company is working to get Kinect built directly into TVs, which would very likely place Xbox Live and Kinect in direct competition with Google TV and Apple's expected entry into the TV market. That's a living-room showdown I'd like to see.
Photos: Sesame Street Kinect in action. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
The event is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. EST at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, not far from Central Park.
The invitation looks cool, featuring a line drawing of the New York skyline with an apple in the center. The text is cute too: "Join us for an educational event in the Big Apple."
And, in typical Apple fashion, it includes almost no other information.
The lack of hard facts has not stopped mass speculation about just what the "education announcement" might be about. Some might argue that the invitation's cryptic nature encourages it.
The general consensus is that Apple will be announcing an initiative related to iBooks in education — perhaps the textbook-on-iPad plan that Steve Jobs discussed with his biographer, Walter Isaacson.
Or could it be something else? Stay tuned.
– Deborah Netburn
Image: The invitation to Apple's mysterious "educational event." Credit: Apple Inc.
One of the more notable and surprising reveals so far at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show has been the debut of Vizio's line of laptops and all-in-one desktop PCs. Vizio declined to detail the specifications or release date of its new products, but gave us some hands-on time with the PCs.
The All-in-One, as the desktop version of Vizio's PC debut is known, comes in 27-inch and 24-inch models, both containing high-definition 1080p resolution panels. The general approach is similar to that of Apple's iMac, with nearly the entire device in one self-contained monitor/base unit. Unlike the iMac, however, which positions its processing hardware behind the screen, CPU and hardware connection ports on the All-in-One are all positioned at the base of the device, which still manages to be very thin and is connected to the monitor through an aluminum neck.
The base includes USB 3.0 connections and inputs for two HDMI cables, allowing you to connect your computer, Xbox or anything else that can output HDMI. Vizio's director of product development, Tim Almeda, said the desktops could be configured with up to quad-core processing and 1 terabyte hard drives.
But not all of the device is contained in the base. The power source and subwoofer for the PC are housed in a mash-up external unit that connects to the. This makes it not quite all-in-one, but helps provide a 2.1 stereo sound setup that Vizio says will be included with the computers. User input comes from a wireless keyboard, trackpad and TV-like remote.
Vizio's upcoming laptop line includes two Thin + Light computers, basically in the ultrabook genre, which come in at 14 inches and 15.6 inches, and one more robust 15.6-inch notebook. The full notebook is a little thicker and heavier, but boasts a dedicated graphics card and a hard drive and SSD options. The "Thin + Light" models carry an SSD, and are geared to compete against computers such as Apple's MacBook Air and similar recently released ultrabooks. None of the computers carry an optical drive, but an external CD/DVD drive is available (Vizio wouldn't specify whether an external drive would be available on the larger laptop by default or at an extra cost).
Overall, sleekness and simplicity embody the design of both sets of computers — clean lines, an aversion to design flairs that don't serve any useful function, a brushed metal exterior and a very integrated look between the series. Industrial chic, if you will.
This is apparent even in the font used on the keyboards, which almost looks as if it were built for speed and my colleague Nathan Olivarez-Giles compared to the lettering used by Porsche Design. One can't ignore the design cues taken from Apple in both sets of computers, but if Vizio is successful in creating a stylish, sleek and lower-cost alternative to the iMac, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, it could be a challenge for the computing giant.
– Armand Emamdjomeh in Las Vegas
Photo: From back to front, Vizio's new 14 inch and 15.6-inch Thin + Light and 15.6-inch notebook computers, and separate optical drive. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
It's all fun and games for one company at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.
Seattle's Discovery Bay Games wanted to combine the modern iPad with the old-school arcade experience to give gamers the best of both worlds. The end result: Atari Arcade, a $60 console featuring a joystick and four push buttons that connects with an iPad or iPad 2, enabling users to play classic games such as Centipede, Pong and Asteroids using the tablet as a screen but the console as the controls.
"I think what people were missing was that real tactile experience of having the joystick and the buttons, because on the touchscreen you kind of lose the feeling," Discovery Bay Games spokeswoman Natalie Dent said. The tech and gaming company was giving demos of the device Monday at Digital Experience, a consumer electronics media event held in Las Vegas the night before the official opening of CES.
Created through a partnership with Apple and Atari, the Atari Arcade was released at Target, Toys R Us and Apple stores during the holiday season last year and was a bestseller for Discovery Bay Games, Dent said.
Consumers who buy the device have to download the Atari Greatest Hits app to their tablets to play the games; $9.99 gets you 99 classic arcade games.
Discovery Bay Games also released two other iPad-compatible devices, which the company calls "appcessories" on its website, over the holidays: the Duo Pop, a set of remote "poppers" (they look a bit like asthma inhalers) that operate as wireless game buzzers; and Duo Plink, a device geared toward younger children that sits on top of an iPad and acts as a scoring machine.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
He didn't start talking about the phone right away. Instead, he spent the first 20 minutes teasing the crowd with stories about the iPod nano, the success of iTunes and the number of movies and television shows downloaded on Apple TV — building anticipation.
He ragged on Microsoft's recently released Zune, which he joyfully told his audience had only snagged 2% of the market for MP3 players.
Then, as Engadget live blogged at the time, he said "Ahem."
And finally, he gave the people what they wanted.
Jobs described the phone as three products in one — an iPod player, a mobile phone and an Internet communications device.
He gloated about how the new phone eschewed both a keypad and a stylus and took advantage of the "best pointing device in the world — our fingers."
"We have invented a new technology called multi-touch," he said. "It works like magic, you don't need a stylus, far more accurate than any interface ever shipped, it ignores touches, multi-finger gestures, and BOY have we patented it!"
Then he took his enthusiastic audience through the phone's functionality — its compatibility with iTunes, the weather app, the Google maps, the ease of making a phone call right from one's contact list.
Ever the showman, Jobs demonstrated that last bit by making a live call to Phil Schiller on stage.
The iPhone wouldn't be shipped to stores for six more months, but those who were there were smitten.
"They may have created a new category," Tim Bajarin, president of consulting firm Creative Strategies, told the Los Angeles Times the day of the event. "Instead of smartphone, how about 'brilliant' phone? This redefines what a cellphone looks like."
– Deborah Netburn
Photo: Steve Jobs introduces the Apple iPhone during his keynote address at MacWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco on Jan. 9, 2007. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press
At the Consumer Electronics Show, models carried around wireless flat-screen TVs playing vivid nature films, executives waved next generation “magic” remote controls and audiences were treated to demonstrations of massive, wall-size TVs.
Also, Apple’s stock hit a record high.
Though the Cupertino, Calif., iPhone giant doesn’t attend the show, rumors are spreading that it has its own TV in the works, and analysts say established TV companies like Samsung Electronics, LG and Sony are struggling to make their TVs more user-friendly and better able to find music, movies and online video from across the Internet.
“The TV hasn’t gone quite through the big revolutionary change that we’ve seen on those other screens,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee. “These other players are trying to jockey for position ahead of Apple.”
But with industry observers expecting an “iTV” from Apple that will turn the industry on its head, not all observers were impressed with the latest TV improvements.
“They’re just throwing spaghetti up against the wall right now,” said Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. “I think Apple’s going to force a big change in the industry — and it’s hard for the companies to respond when they don’t know what iTV looks like yet.”
At the CES on Monday, LG showed off its “Magic Remote,” a device with few buttons that resembles a Nintendo Wii controller –- enabling the viewer to point at and select different images and buttons on the screen.
Sharp’s Aquos Freestyle flat-screens get their signal wirelessly, and as the models demonstrated by parading them down the showroom runway, they are light enough to be carried around the home, whether to the balcony, the kitchen or the powder room.
Samsung showed off a new line of smarter televisions with a suite of games and Web applications built in. The company, a major rival of Apple's in both the smartphone and tablet sectors, did hint at a gesture and voice control system for its upcoming TVs, but did not show those features in action.
Vizio Inc. unveiled three new high-definition sets that feature Google TV, the search-giant’s TV navigation software that will also run on TVs from Samsung Electronics and LG, and which comes with dozens of built-in apps that users can use on-screen to fetch sports scores, watch movies and play games.
Meanwhile, Google has had trouble getting its Google TV software to take off. Launched on a small number of devices last year, the product was coolly received by reviewers and failed to gain wide traction with consumers.
Logitech Inc., which made one of the original Google TV set-top boxes, discontinued the device in November, calling it a “big mistake.”
Still, Google has recruited a new cast of the biggest TV makers — Samsung, LG and Vizio — to test the waters with a suite of Google–powered TV sets.
“The manufacturers have no choice but to turn to Google because there’s no one else,” Misek said. But until Google can make its phones, tablets, and personal computers all talk to each other, the way Apple’s do, Google and its TV partners “won’t be able to catch up.”
– David Sarno in Las Vegas
Photo: LG Electronics televisions on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images
Rumors of a new quad-core "A6" processor for Apple's next iPad and iPhone have been circulating for months, and on Friday a bit of information came to light that will fuel the speculation.
The code for Apple's iOS 5.1 beta operating system, which developers can access for testing before the software is released to the public, hints at compatibility with quad-core CPUs, according to a report on the website 9to5Mac.
The report — by Mark Gurman, who has also delved into a bit of iOS app development — says iOS 5.1 beta describes three different processor variations, making reference to "/cores/core.3," as well as "/cores/core.0," which identifies a single-core CPU, and "/cores/core.1," which identifies a dual-core processor.
Based on Apple's naming convention so far, Gurman says, ".cores/core.3" would refer to a quad-core chip. The speculation is that such a quad-core processor would be called the A6 and be used in the expected iPad 3, following Apple's dual-core A5 (used in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S) and single-core A4 (used in the first-generation iPad and the iPhone 4).
"Apple leaving references to quad-core chips in the iOS 5.1 beta is notable because iOS 5.1 is the software currently being tested against the third-generation iPad," Gurman wrote. "We cannot conclude that due to iOS 5.1 including quad-core processor references, Apple's next-generation iPad and iPhone will include a quad-core chip, but it seems reasonable based on Apple starting with a single-core chip in 2010 and moving to dual-core in 2011. A quad-core chip in 2012 would fit the pattern."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Reading on a first-generation Apple iPad. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times
In an effort to expand its retail reach, Apple is reportedly planning to open mini Apple Store displays inside select Target locations later this year.
As many as 25 locations in smaller metro areas not large enough for Apple Stores of their own could end up with the in-Target Apple Store set-ups, "according to a source familiar with Apple's plans," the website AppleInsider reported Friday.
Officials at Apple weren't available for comment on the report — the company's usual practice is to decline to comment on rumors — but the tech giant has taken this type of approach before.
Hundreds of Best Buy locations feature Apple Store displays, with Apple signage and tables that match the look of what is seen in Apple's retail locations.
At some Best Buy stores, there are even Apple staffers on hand from time to time to explain products to customers and show off iPads, iPhones, iPods, iMacs and MacBook laptops as well as accessories.
Target sells iPods, iPhones and iPads but no Mac computers. That is likely to change with the Apple-Store-within-a-store plan, AppleInsider said.
The site also noted that although there are 1,752 Target locations and 245 Apple Stores in the U.S., there are also more than 600 BestBuy locations with mini Apple Store displays inside.
Photo: Shoppers look at Apple products inside of a Best Buy store in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 2011. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg
When it comes to rumors, Apple is currently unmatched by any other consumer electronics brand in the amount of hype and speculations its products generate.
And it can be argued that the iPad and iPhone are the top devices when it comes to spawning Apple rumors, many of them never panning out to be true and many conflicting with one another along the way — no wonder Apple always declines to comment on speculation.
With the iPhone 4S now a few months old and a next-generation iPhone (rumored to be called the iPhone 5) not expected until later this year, most of the hype over the last few months has been focused on the expected iPad 3 and the possible iTV project underway.
Here's a rundown of the current iPad 3 rumors that have been popping up around the Web recently:
The longest standing rumor about the next iPad, which many believe will be called the iPad 3, is that it will feature a high-resolution screen that will put the tablet on par with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S' retina display.
So, what's a retina display? That would be any screen that has a dpi (dots per inch, which is a measure of how many pixels can fit in a square inch) of 300 or greater. The name retina display is used because such a dense screen should allow pixels to be indistinguishable from each other to the human eye at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches away.
The first-generation iPad and the iPad 2 both feature a 1,024-by-768 pixel resolution touchscreen. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported the rumor that the iPad 3 would have twice the resolution of the first two models, upping the ante to 2,048-by-1,536 pixels with a 326 dpi.
It should be noted that the iPad 2 was, before its launch, at one time rumored to be outfitted with a retina display as well, but that didn't pan out.
Industry analysts have gone on to make the retina display prediction for the iPad 3 as well. Of the rumors out there, this one might make the most sense for Apple as its rivals are releasing tablets with higher resolution screens and the retina display on the iPhone 4 and 4S has been met with widespread approval by critics and consumers.
One screen size or two?
Another widespread rumor has been that the next iPad would be offered in not just one screen size, but possibly two sizes with the current 9.7-inch being complemented by a new, smaller model. That smaller iPad has been rumored to have a screen of a few different sizes, but a persistent rumor is that 7 inches would be the choice.
This is an idea that has also been shot down by a number of analysts and tech pundits and the late Steve Jobs shot down the idea of a 7-inch iPad as well, stating that, at that size, "the screen is too small to express the software," as reported by the website AppleInsider.
Quad-core A6 processor
The first-generation iPad ran on Apple's 1-gigahertz, single-core A4 processor. The second-generation iPad ran on a 1-gigahertz, dual-core A5 processor. The iPad 3 is rumored to included a new CPU that is expected to be called the A6.
The A4 and A5 were built by Samsung and that isn't expected to change (despite Apple and Samsung's ongoing patent battle), though there are reports that A6 production might take place in Austin, Texas.
The first two iPads were either available in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and 3G models. So far, each of the five generations of iPhones produced by Apple have all been 3G phones as well. But much of the mobile world is moving over to 4G networks.
Verizon's 4G LTE network has been up and running for about a year. AT&T is just getting started with its 4G LTE network and Sprint's network is under development with T-Mobile's 4G LTE service in planning stages.
The iPad 2 is currently only available in its 3G variation with AT&T and Verizon service. Rumors as to a Sprint-compatible iPad are circulating, as are rumors that the iPad 3 will connect to 4G LTE networks.
The tech news website CNET has reported that the iPad 3 might make use of Qualcomm's LTE Gobi 4000 chip and as noted by Wired in an iPad rumor roundup of its own, Qualcomm 3G chips are used in Apple's iPhones.
So, when will the iPad 3 (or whatever the next iPad will be called) actually make its debut and arrive in stores? That, like everything else, is up for debate.
Apple, so far, hasn't said anything about the next iPad, but usually the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant releases its products on something resembling an annual cycle. The first-generation iPad arrived in U.S. stores on April 3, 2010. The iPad 2 hit U.S. stores on March 11, 2011, not quite a year later.
Going off of the release dates of the iPad 1 and 2, a good guess might be that the iPad 3 could arrive in this year in March or April. However, Apple runs on its own schedule, as evidenced by the iPhone 4S going on sale Oct. 14, 2011, when the iPhone 4 first hit U.S. stores on June 24, 2010.
The most recent rumor, originating with the often-inaccurate DigiTimes, was that the iPad 3 will arrive earlier than the first two iPads and have a January 2012 release date — a rumor that, while popular among tech writers, was shot down by the Apple-centric website the Loop. The DigiTimes had also previously reported rumors stating that the iPad 3 could arrive in March or April — conflicting its own reporting.
Of all the rumors that have made their way around the Web, the iPad 3 launching on Jobs' birthday as some sort of tribute to the deceased Apple leader seems to me to be the most far-fetched.
What do you think? Any of these rumors seem off-base or accurate by your guess? What rumors not listed above have you seen out there? Are there any features you may or may not have seen rumored that you'd like to see in a production iPad.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Top photo: Media members look at Apple's iPad 2 after its unveiling at an event in San Francisco on March 2, 2011. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg
Siri, how do you say profit in Chinese?
One answer Apple's digital assistant might consider giving is: start selling the iPhone 4S in China. And starting on Jan. 13th, Apple will do just that.
The company said Wednesday that China will be among 22 countries that soon will get the newest iPhone, one of Apple's hottest-selling yet. The iPhone now accounts for nearly half of Apple's annual revenue, and some analysts believe it earns the company more than 60% of its profits.
China is one of the world's largest mobile device markets, with close to a billion cellphone users by some estimates. Apple currently partners with China Unicom, one of the larger carriers with close to 200 million cellular subscribers.
Apple said Wednesday it had no current plans to announce a partnership with China Mobile, the country's largest carrier with more than 630 million subscribers (a user base that, somewhat amazingly, is more than twice the size of the U.S. population). But for months now Apple has been rumored to be nailing down a deal with China Mobile, and millions of the carriers' customers are already using the iPhone by modifying the device to work on their network.
Will Siri actually be able to speak and understand Mandarin? Eventually, yes. An Apple spokesman said the company plans to add official language support in 2012 — and that will include Chinese. But Siri won't yet be multilingual when the phone hits Chinese stores this month.
— David Sarno
Photo: A couple look at an iPhone in Beijing in November. Credit: Diego Azubel / EPA
As Republicans focused on the Iowa caucuses and President Barack Obama made a pitch to Iowans of his own over streaming video on Tuesday, the Obama 2012 reelection campaign took its message to Instagram.
The president's campaign staff, which is also looking to reach voters on Tumblr and Google+ (along with a few Republican rivals), has posted two photos thus far, both of the president speaking with Iowa's caucus voters via video chat, making his case for another term in the White House.
Although Instagram — a photo-sharing app known for retro filters that allows people to share photos with one another from their iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads — is new territory for Obama, the move by his 2012 campaign shouldn't come as a surprise.
In the 2008 election, Obama's team was so well known for its use of Twitter, Facebook and blogging to help build up an overwhelming amount of support that the Technology blog described Obama as "the first social media President." And over the last four years, the White House has made great use of the photo-sharing site Flickr.
Instagram, which has seen its more than 5-million users share more than 150-million photos, said in a company blog post that it is "excited to welcome President Barack Obama to Instagram" and that it looks "forward to seeing how President Obama uses Instagram to give folks a visual sense of what happens in the everyday life of the President of the United States."
The Obama 2012 campaign is also looking for supporters to share their photos with the @BarackObama Instagram account by tagging their photos with "#obama2012," Instagram said.
The company also made sure to point out that political coverage on Instagram has been on the rise over the last year as the 2012 presidential election gets closer.
"News organizations such as NBC News, ABC World News and the Washington Post have been sharing behind-the-scenes photos at debates and town hall meetings across the country, offering a unique look into the 2012 elections," Instagram said.
Among the most interesting photos shared so far by news organizations covering the election on Instagram would have to be Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker's shot of Republican hopeful Mitt Romney typing on his Apple iPad in an airport.
— Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of President Barack Obama's first Instagram photo. Credit: Obama 2012 / Instagram
A Steve Jobs action figure? Just what you’ve always wanted!
Just three months after the death of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs, a company called In Icons has put images of a prototype Steve Jobs action figure on its website and the Internet is going crazy.
No one is surprised that the company thinks it can sell a 12-inch-high collectible action figure of Jobs for the proposed price of $99.
Rather, it’s the borderline disturbing level of detail that the company has put in the figure that is freaking everyone out. The prototype includes the pores on Jobs’ forehead, the subtle wrinkles under his eyes, even the veins on his hand.
The prototype also includes two extra pair of hands in case you lose the first pair, which is kind of freaky in a different way.
The Steve Jobs set also comes with two pairs of glasses, one black turtleneck, one pair of blue jeans, one black leather belt, two apples (one with a bite out) and one hard backdrop reading “ONE MORE THING.”
However, many media watchers are skeptical that the figure actually will ship.
Back in 2010, Apple blocked a company called M.I.C. Gadget from selling a Steve Jobs action figure on Ebay, saying that the action figure was a violation of its copyrights and trademarks.
– Deborah Netburn
Image: Screen grab of the Steve Jobs action figure pictured on InIcons.com. Credit: InIcons.com.
As of the new year Apple's head of design, Jonathan Ive, will be a knight of the British Empire. The London-born engineer has been the lead designer at Apple for more than 15 years and grew to become the "spiritual partner" of the company late co-founder Steve Jobs, according to Jobs himself.
The two collaborated on creating the look and feel of Apple's many successful consumer electronics products.
Reached by the BBC about the honor, Ive reportedly said it was "absolutely thrilling."
"I am keenly aware that I benefit from a wonderful tradition in the U.K. of designing and making," he said. "I discovered at an early age that all I've ever wanted to do is design."
As described in a Times profile earlier this year, Ive is responsible for the look of Apple's iPod music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet, all blockbuster products in their own categories.
– David Sarno
Photo: Jonathan Ive of Apple in Cupertino, Calif., in 2008. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press
For the last six months, three orangutans at the Milwaukee County Zoo have had the pleasure of playing with a donated iPad a couple times a week, and guess what: They love it.
"We show them the iPad, and read them stories or let them have different apps," said Jan Rafert, curator of primates and small mammals at the zoo. "We don't let them hold them, but they can do some of the paint apps by sticking their fingers through the mesh."
The orangutan iPad program, known as Apps for Apes, was started after the gorilla keeper at the zoo mentioned on her Facebook page that she'd like to get some iPads for her gorillas to play with, Rafert explained. It was kind of a joke, but a zoo volunteer took it seriously and donated a used iPad to the zoo. It turned out that the gorillas didn't really enjoy the iPad — "they are more stoic," said Rafert — but the orangutans went wild.
Now the orangutans' keeper, Trish Khan, lets the orangutans play with the iPad about twice a week. The orangutans are not allowed to hold it because they are so strong that they would probably wind up cracking it in half. Khan holds it up to their cages and allows them to interact with it.
The orangutan conservation group Orangutan Outreach is now involved with the project and is hoping to get Apps for Apes started at other zoos. Richard Zimmerman, executive director of the group, said Zoo Atlanta, the Toronto Zoo and the Phoenix Zoo are just waiting to get iPads for their orangutans to play with. The Houston Zoo already has an iPad, but has not yet introduced it to the orangutans.
Once the other zoos are on board, Zimmerman said zookeepers will arrange primate playdates — where orangutans from different zoos can see each other via the iPad.
Nobody has done research on how orangutans interact with iPads, but Zimmerman said that may be coming soon. For now, the Apps for Apes program has two main goals: providing stimulation for orangutans who are easily bored when in captivity, and raising awareness for orangutan conservation in Malaysia and Indonesia where the animals are suffering declining numbers and loss of habitat.
"Seeing the animals with the iPad has had an effect on the zoo visitors," he said. "They have this recognition that these are amazing, cognitive, curious creatures, which gets back to our message, that these are animals that need to be saved."
If you have an old iPad you'd like to donate to the orangutans, you can contact Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Deborah Netburn
Image and video: An orangutan at the Milwaukee County Zoo enjoys some iPad time. Credit: Orangutan Outreach
Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system has reportedly passed 50,000 published apps, hitting the milestone just 14 months after its launch.
The 14-month time frame for 50,000 apps is second only to Apple's iOS, which hit 50,000 published apps in 12 months, according to a report from All About Windows Phone, a website that tracks Windows Phone apps and hosts a Windows Phone app directory as well.
Google's Android reached 50,000 apps published in its Anroid Market in 19 months, the report said.
For its part, Microsoft declined to comment on the report, neither confirming nor denying that it has passed the 50,000 mark. All About Windows Phone, a site not affiliated with Microsoft, said it compiled its data "from our own tracking system," which is also used to power its directory of Windows Phone apps.
"It took just over a year to get to 40,000 apps, but just 40 days to add the next 10,000 apps," showing increased growth for the Windows Phone operating system, Rafe Blandford, who runs the All About Windows Phone site, wrote in the site's report.
But just because more than 50,000 apps published doesn't mean that every Windows Phone user has access to all of those apps, Blandford said.
"Of the 50,126 items published to the Marketplace, just under 6,000 are no longer available," meaning they were removed by Microsoft or withdrawn by the publisher, he said. "In addition, some apps are only available in select markets. This means the number of available items to a consumer, in a given market, is lower than the number of published items."
In the U.S., about 42,655 apps are available for download, the report said.
Of the apps published to the Windows Phone Marketplace storefront, about 58% are free, compared with about 69% of apps being free in Google's Android Market and about 43% free in Apple's iOS App Store, Blandford said.
Both Android and iOS have published about 10 times more apps than Windows Phone so far, he said, though the two rivals have been offering downloadable apps since 2008.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Foursquare app running on a Windows Phone handset. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Apple and Android mobile devices lit up like Christmas lights on Dec. 25 as people the world over pulled a smartphone from their stocking.
People fired up 6.8 million Apple and Android devices on Christmas Day, more than doubling the 2.5 million that they activated on the same day last year, according to Flurry Analytics, a mobile metrics firm that tracks activity from 140,000 apps.
On the days leading up to Christmas, people activated about 1.5 million Apple and Android smartphones and tablets each day.
But on Christmas itself, activations shot up more than 350%, to 6.8 million. (The report does not disclose whether Apple or Google-powered devices accounted for a larger share of that number).
Perhaps a bit predictably, Christmas Day app downloads began to rocket up around 6 a.m., and remained high throughout the day until they hit a peak around 8 p.m. — that is, after dinner, when sated revelers can play with their new toys in earnest. More than 15 million apps were downloaded between 7 and 9 p.m. alone, if you line up all the world's time zones.
The Flurry report notes that app downloads have shot up in 2011, with Apple users downloading close to 10 billion this year, as many as in the previous three years combined. Google's Android devices have seen similarly rapid growth.
– David Sarno
Italy has fined Apple 900,000 euros, or about $1.2 million, accusing the tech giant of selling consumers two-year AppleCare warranties when they were entitled to free two-year warranties under Italian law.
The Italian Antitrust Authority said in a statement that instead of offering consumers a no-cost two-year warranty and tech-support plan, Apple offered only a one-year plan and charged consumers an extension fee for the second year in the form of its AppleCare Protection Plan.
This resulted in Italian consumers being misled into paying for something they should have received at no extra cost, according the agency's statement, which was reported earlier by the BBC.
The one-year warranty and the second year as an AppleCare purchase is the same warranty that Apple offers in the U.S. and many other countries.
Apple officials were unavailable Tuesday for comment on the announcement.
In addition to the fine, the antitrust agency said, Apple has 90 days to update its Italian website to reflect that it now offers a free-of-charge two-year warranty.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of AppleCare two-year warranties being sold in Apple's online Italian store. Credit: Apple
The year 2011 was a pivotal one the Web, particularly as it relates the way people go about connecting
to their favorite sites.
The advent of fast-emerging and rapidly growing technologies
in the mobile sector has led to many users regularly accessing the
Web from mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and even feature phones.
But not all of these mobile devices are created equally, so WM takes a look at some of the past year’s best and most popular
gadgets for surfing the ‘Net.
When news of the iPhone 4S first dropped, some were
disappointed — to say the least. Users wanted an iPhone 5, and instead they got a revamped version of the iPhone 4. (Oh, and Siri.) Still, in the end,
it was the best-selling iPhone ever despite the initially lukewarm response.
The smartphone runs on the brand new iOS 5 and offers much
of the same functionality with which Apple fans and diehard iPhone users are
familiar, including the old standby Safari mobile browser. With the
introduction of the voice-controlled Siri, Apple also gives users a whole new
way to interact with the Web on their mobile phones, as information can be
accessed almost immediately. It’s likely that 2012 will finally see the release
of the iPhone 5, which will possibly be a drastic reinterpretation of the
device with even more sophisticated Internet capabilities.
Apple’s other major contribution of industry-changing
technology is the iPad 2, the successor to the device that standardized tablet
usage. It’s probably not a stretch to say that when people talk about tablets
and tablet browsing, they’re likely thinking of using an iPad, and that kind of
presence is what makes it such an important (and revolutionary) gadget.
Much faster than its predecessor, the second generation iPad
is actually quite similar to its big brother when it comes to navigating on the
Web, but it also presents itself as more of a content creation tool for
publishing on the Web, making it a device much better suited for two-way Web
needs. Like the iPhone, it comes equipped with a built-in, tablet-optimized
Safari browser, and there are some impressive third-party browser options
available for interested users. The second version is also powered by iOS 5.
Although it’s not nearly as revered or idolized as Apple,
Samsung has proven itself to be a beyond-competent mobile developer, and the Galaxy
SII is a great example of its acumen. Some have claimed that it is actually the
“world’s most powerful phone to date,” backed by a dual-core 1.2GHz ARM
Cortex-A9 processor and running on the Android Gingerbread operating system
(with an Ice Cream Sandwich update on the way).
And while being a powerful tool is critical to the demands
of Web users today, the Galaxy SII goes the extra mile by providing users with
a great interface for browsing that consists of a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus
display. One review called it “the yardstick by which every other phone
competing [this year] in terms of hardware specs was measured.”
Running on the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS, this is widely considered to be the best Android phone
ever created. By building on the successes of the Galaxy SII, Samsung was
able to craft a superb device that is “everything Android ever aspired to be.”
Featuring a 4.65 inch HG Super AMOLED Contour Display and a
powerful processor specifically built for faster Web browsing and multitasking,
this phone is ideal for browsing the Web. So far, no better iPhone alternative
has presented itself or, perhaps more importantly, had the opportunity to
challenge Apple’s dominance in terms of the general public’s perception of what
a smartphone can be.
No product was more hotly anticipated this year than
Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet. At $199, a considerably lower price point than the iPad
2, the 7-inch tablet is a great alternative to Apple’s
industry-dominating device, especially as it allows for easy access into any of
Amazon’s other online properties, most notably the Kindle Store, Amazon Prime
and Amazon Cloud Storage.
The Kindle Fire runs on a customized version of the Android
Gingerbread OS and features a brand new Web browser, Amazon Silk, which has
received mixed reviews so far. Though the Kindle Fire may not be the optimal
mobile device for using the Web, there is no denying the impact it has had on
the tablet market. By dropping the price point significantly, Amazon has opened
up tablet adoption to a whole new range of consumers, and the screen size was
successful enough that there isn’t any shortage of rumors that Apple will
release a 7 inch “mini” version of the iPad 3 in 2012. In short, thanks to
Amazon and the Kindle Fire, tablet consumption is becoming even more
Got an Apple iPhone this Christmas? Well, you're doing pretty well for yourself. It may or may not be Santa Claus' smartphone of choice and you successfully avoided waiting in long lines as many Apple fanatics do once a year when a new iPhone launches.
But marketing and hype aside, the iPhone is one of the best smartphone lines on the market and each of the devices currently available — the 3GS, the 4 and the 4S — run iOS 5, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system. With that in mind, here are five places to get started if you're a first time iPhone owner.
1. Photography apps: Apple's App Store (the only place you can get iPhone apps), with more than 140,000 apps available, is a major bragging right for the iPhone versus its competitors, but not all apps are created equal. However, no other smartphone platform can currently match the iPhone for slick apps that produce fun and artistic photos. The best place to start is likely Instagram, which combines a solid selection of filters to make photos look like they were shot on vintage film cameras and a social network of other users so you can see the world through other lenses. Hipstamatic is another popular choice, which takes the vintage filter approach to another level with the ability to mix and match digital lenses, flashes and film choices to create a more customized look than in Instagram. Another app, called SwankoLab, allows you to alter photos already taken using a simulated dark room.
2. Games: The iPhone is also arguably the best gaming smartphone out there and the choices here are plentiful. Angry Birds is one of the most popular games available on smartphones and is a good place to start. But other choices such as Robo Surf, Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings, Bumpy Road and Kosmo Spin are worth checking out too — each combining unique art styles, enchanting soundtracks and simple touch screen controls. For those looking for a bit more of a gaming challenge, the third-person shooter Minigore and puzzle game Scribblenauts impress. The sword fighting games Infiniti Blade and Infiniti Blade II show what the iPhone is capable of with detailed 3-D graphics and fast-paced action.
3. Music: Apple's iTunes allows for easy music buying, but there are plenty of other music related apps worth checking out as well. Shazam can listen to and then identify thousands of songs. Band of the Day is a great way to discover new music. Soundtracking is a unique social networking app that allows you to share what you're listening to with others, as well as check out what tunes they like. And if you're a Spotify Premium subscriber, the Spotify app is a must.
4. Built-in Twitter: If you're a big Twitter user, as I am, or even if you're new to Twitter, you're likely going to appreciate that the social network is baked into iOS 5. Checking out a website you care to share in the iPhone's Safari web browser? You can tweet that directly from Safari without having to go and open up a Twitter app. Same goes for photos, videos and locations in the maps app.
5. Ask a friend: As always, talking to a buddy can generate suggestions that may line up with your interests on just about anything — same goes here. Ask a friend who uses an iPhone what they like about the phone or available apps and you're bound to find something you may enjoy too.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A newly purchased iPhone 4S smartphone outside an Apple Store in New York. Credit: Michael Nagle / Getty Images
So, you got a new iPad for Christmas? Congratulations! You've totally been wanting one of those. But you also may be feeling overwhelmed. Your new iPad can be a digital recording studio, an alarm clock, and it can help you study for the Bar exam. So where is an iPad novice to begin?
Right here! We've put together a list of some our favorite iPad magazines, games, and books to help you get started with your new super-sleek super computer.
1. Get yourself some apps: Apple says it has over 140,000 apps in its store, and its adding more every day. That sounds like a lot to sift through, but do not panic. Trust in the wisdom of the masses and take a look at Apple's top-10 list of apps across various categories. Start by downloading a few free apps to see what you like. Some basic ones are Netflix, which lets you stream movies and TV shows right on your iPad, and Flipboard, which will arrange your Twitter and Facebook feeds in a magazine-style format.
2. Check out Apple Newsstand: The magazine publishing industry is hoping that tablets like the iPad will breathe new life into its faltering business, which is why major publishers like Conde Nast and Hearst are pouring resources into the iPad versions of their magazines, packing them full of photo galleries, how-to videos and animated spreads. Martha Stewart Living, Wired, Sports Illustrated and The New Yorker are all definitely worth looking into in iPad form. You'll find them all in the Newsstand app that is preloaded on your iPad.
3.Explore iBooks: This is another app that comes preloaded on the iPad. According to Apple, there are 700,000 titles in the store. Again, don't panic. Either search for a book you've been wanting to read or check out the best-seller lists if you don't know where to start. Publisher's Weekly just gave a great review to a poetry book app called Chasing Fireflies: A Haiku Collection. A lot of people love Penguin's Amplified ebook series version of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." Our three-year-old can't get enough of "The Monster at the End of This Book" and "Miss Spider's Tea Party."
4. Want to play games? You'll find a dizzying number of them in the app store, but here are a few suggestions from the L.A. Times tech desk to get you started: Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. And for those who want a real 3D game experience, tech blogger Nathan Olivarez-Giles says Infinity Blade is the best.
5. Talk to friends: We gave you a few places to start, but the easiest way to find great apps is to talk to people who already have an iPad and can tell you what they enjoy most.
Image: A customer tries out the iPad 2 at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York in March. Credit: Emmanuel Dunland / AFP/Getty Images.
For the Kindle Fire, Amazon's first tablet and a hot-selling item, the update promises to improve the responsiveness of touch navigation and the speed of actions on the device, such as loading webpages in the Fire's Web browser.
However, the biggest new feature might be the ability for users to edit what shows up in their "carousel" of recent apps and content displayed on the Fire's home screen.
Before the update, a Fire user couldn't remove any items — books they've read, games and music played, movies watched or websites visited — in their carousel.
The ability to remove items from the carousel was a highly requested feature and in this case, Amazon was pretty quick to deliver — the Fire was released Nov. 14.
The iOS Kindle app updates the user interface for periodicals and text books, with access to the same selection of more than 400 magazines and newspapers that are offered on the Fire, Amazon said in a statement.
For the first time, Amazon is also offering "print replica textbooks" to iOS Kindle app users, which allow for full-color pages and the ability to zoom in and out or take notes as needed, the company said.
And the update also now makes the Kindle iOS app a PDF reader as well, Amazon said, which will allow users to view their own documents — a feature offered by iBooks for some time now.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
The first Steve Jobs statue was unveiled Wednesday in a tech park in Budapest, just two and a half months after the Apple visionary's death.
The bronze statue is 6 1/2 feet tall. It was commissioned in mid-October, just days after Jobs died, by Gabor Bojar, the founder of Graphisoft, a Hungarian software company that develops software for architects.
The news went out over the PR Newswire and is also displayed prominently on Graphisoft Park's website, but we're choosing to believe that the unveiling of the statue is not solely a publicity stunt for the software company.
It turns out that Graphisoft and Jobs had a long history that began in 1984 when Jobs came across some of Graphisoft's software and was impressed enough to help the company out.
"Apple's support included cash and computers at a time when Graphisoft was a small company with limited resources, working within the economic and political confines of what was, at the time, communist Hungary," Bajor said in a statement. "Apple also introduced Graphisoft to its worldwide distribution network, which we rely upon to this day."
The statue was crafted by Hungarian sculptor Erno Toth. He depicted Steve Jobs in his trademark attire: jeans, turtleneck and little round glasses.
We'll admit that we don't fully understand the meaning of the kind of grotesque hand/claw, but it does give the statue a sort of Rodin-esque gravitas.
– Deborah Netburn
Photo: Hungarian sculptor Erno Toth with his statue of the late Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, at Graphisoft Park in Budapest. Credit: AFP / Getty Images.
Microsoft Corp., a 20-year stalwart of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, has decided to fold up its booth and move on after the 2012 show in January.
The company, which for years highlighted its own products and broader tech trends at the show's main keynote, said it felt that it would be better to make announcements on its own time. The company will no longer give the keynote or host a booth on the trade show floor.
"Our industry moves fast and changes faster," the company said in a statement. "And so the way we communicate with our customers must change in equally speedy ways."
The company said its decision had come after it asked itself, "Are we doing something because it’s the right thing to do, or because 'it’s the way we’ve always done it'?"
CES is one of the world's largest trade shows and annually attracts more than 100,000 visitors from far flung parts of the electronics industry. This year the show will have close to 2,700 exhibitors and more than 1.8 million square feet of floor space.
But the show, once a marquee launchpad for some of the biggest new technologies, has struggled to stay in the headlines as big companies increasingly announce new products on their own timeline. In 2011, no eye-openingly new products were announced at the Las Vegas show, and most companies chose to introduce televisions, tablets and smartphones that largely resembled existing products.
Apple Inc., arguably the industry's most popular and innovative company, does not participate in the show.
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer will give the final keynote Jan. 9.
– David Sarno
Steve Ballmer speaks about the Xbox 360 system during his 2011 CES keynote. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
A factory explosion at an Apple supplier in China has left dozens injured and sparked concerns about whether iPad supply would be affected.
The blast took place over the weekend at a Riteng Computer Accessory Co. factory, owned by Apple supplier Pegatron, in Shanghai's Songjiang district, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The Chinese government is investigating the cause of the explosion and has ordered safety checks at the plant, the AP said.
Chinese media reported that 61 people were hurt in the explosion and that more than 20 had to be hospitalized, though none of the injuries were considered life-threatening, the AP said.
Apple officials were unavailable for comment on the explosion Tuesday, but company spokeswoman Carolyn Wu told the AP that "our hearts go out to the people who were hurt in Songjiang. We are working closely with Pegatron to understand the cause of this accident."
Pegatron told the AP in a statement that the blast was the result of "dust collection equipment."
Forbes magazine reported Tuesday that the explosion could produce shortages of Apple's big-selling iPad 2 tablet, noting that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami earlier this year and an explosion at Apple supplier Foxconn last year also resulted in difficulties for iPad production.
Apple has faced criticism in the past for troubles at its suppliers' factories. Foxconn, which also supplies products for many other top consumer electronics companies, has also recently dealt with employee suicides, prompting Apple's then-COO (and current CEO) Tim Cook to visit Chinese factories in person over workplace concerns.
The iPad, like many other Apple products, makes use of aluminum and, as the AP noted it its report, aluminum dust is "highly combustible."
Photo: The Apple iPad 2. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times
Apple landed a potentially major victory against HTC on Monday after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in its favor and found that some of HTC's Android smartphones and tablets violated one of its patents.
In its ruling on the patent dispute between Apple and HTC, the ITC also handed down a ban on the importing of specific HTC Android devices that goes into affect April 19, 2012.
The decision doesn't specifically call for an import ban on phones running newer versions of Android such as 2.3 Gingerbread, 3.0 Honeycomb or the new 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Most newer HTC phones and tablets run on Android Gingerbread, and some (such as the HTC Rezound) are due for upgrades to Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
In its complaint to the ITC, Apple accused HTC of violating a number of its patents, each of which are older than smartphones themselves.
But the ITC found HTC in violation of only one of Apple's patents — patent 5,946,647, which Apple was awarded in February 1996 and covers the "system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data," or basically a patent for handling the actions that take place in the background when you do something as simple as tapping a link in an email to open it in a Web browser.
In an emailed statement, HTC lawyer Grace Lei said that the company was pleased that the ITC found that it wasn't in violation of all the patents Apple accused it of infringing. As for the one patent it was found to be in violation of — patent 5,946,647 — HTC said it would alter its use of Android to avoid the problem.
"We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it," Lei said. "However, the 647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon."
Apple officials were not available to comment on the commission ruling Monday.
From here, the ruling still has to be approved by the ITC's president, who has 60 days to sign off on the decision or veto it.
If the decision sticks and the import ban comes to fruition, HTC will still be able to sell whatever it has in the U.S. before April 19 of next year. The Taiwanese company also has until Dec. 19, 2013, to import refurbished devices "to be provided to consumers as replacements under warranty or an insurance contract (whether the warranty or contract is offered by HTC, a carrier, or by a third party)," the ITC said in its ruling.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The HTC G1, left, and Apple iPhone 4S smartphones. The G1 was one of a number of HTC smartphones found to be in violation of an Apple-owned patent. Credit: Eric Risberg / AP
That's right, it appears that Samsung has initiated a lawsuit against Apple governing the company's use of emoticons.
According to a report from patent observer Florian Mueller, who has been dependably covering the worldwide patent wrestling match between Apple and Android manufacturers, one of four new patent lawsuits filed by Samsung in German court is over, once again, yes, emoticons.
Believe it or not, Samsung does indeed own a patent on smartphone use of emoticons. It won the European rights to that "technology" in 2000, and interested readers can see the actual patent here.
The bizarreness of two global electronics powerhouses fighting over emoticons is only deepened when you see that the symbols at issue are not the newfangled illustrated and colorful emoticons you see in apps like this, but rather the old-fashioned parentheses-and-colon kind that many of us have come to abhor. Or adopt. :0).
What appears to be specifically at issue is a smartphone function for allowing users to quickly add prefabricated emoticon strings with a single touch. Some of those strings are rather involved. Like
If you're wondering where the iPhone comes in, it turns out, you can find the iPhone menu pictured at above right by turning on the Japanese keyboard under Settings–>General–>Keyboard–>International Keyboards. Then when you try to write a text message with the Japanese keyboard, you'll see an emoticon option that will trigger the above menu. It is a veritable dictionary of inscrutable and cheery character sequences. To be fair, they are apparently much more recognizable in the East, where the population had been texting en masse for years by the time we started here in the U.S.
Indeed, the feature is apparently important enough in some countries to sue over. Which to me is just
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Bonus question: Identify the meaning of the following lengthy emoticon pictured in Samsung's patent:
– David Sarno
Samsung Electronics is making Apple chips in Texas.
That's according to a Reuters report noting that, perhaps a bit surprisingly, the Korean electronics giant – also a major smartphone rival of Apple — is producing the sophisticated A5 processing chip that lies at the heart of Apple's iPhone 4S and iPad 2 devices.
The factory complex in Austin, called Samsung Austin Semiconductor, is pictured above and in the Google map below. It's the largest foreign investment in Texas, according to Reuters. Construction of the complex, which lies along Samsung Boulevard in Austin, started in 1996, and the first semiconducter fabrication facility began operating in 1998. It builds high-precision microchips — chips such as Apple's A5.
The company opened a second wafer factory in Austin in 2008 to build NAND flash chips, the fast memory storage elements that work in computers and mobile devices.
Reuters notes that the Austin facility is located there in part because it's close to the University of Texas' engineering school. The two factories employ about 3,500 total workers, according to Reuters.
– David Sarno
Image: A satellite photo shows a Samsung factory in Austin, Texas. Credit: Google Maps
In the case of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, that wish may come true.
Isaacson told Fortune senior editor at large Adam Lashinsky during a talk in San Francisco that he might expand the 630-page book.
That could mean an annotated version or an addendum that describes the period around Jobs' death in October.
"This is the first or second draft," Isaacson said. "It's not the final draft."
The biography topped Amazon.com's list of top 10 bestselling books in 2011.
– Jessica Guynn
Photo credit: Albert Watson / Simon & Schuster
Google's Zeitgeist crunched billions of searches in 2011 to find the most popular and fastest-rising search terms. The result of the 11th annual survey is the online equivalent of climbing into a time machine.
Web celeb Rebecca Black was the fastest-rising query with singer Adele, reality star Ryan Dunn and Casey Anthony following quickly behind. Google+ nabbed the No. 2 spot.
But even as Hurricane Irene struck the U.S. and earthquakes shook Christchurch, New Zealand, and Japan, nothing took a bite out of Google's Zeitgeist like Apple (as GigaOm pointed out).
Three Apple queries appear in the list of the top 10 fastest-rising searches, including Apple's iPhone 5 (which still has yet to make an appearance), the iPad 2 (which did make an appearance and is burning up holiday sales) and the man who helped make it all possible: Steve Jobs, who peaked as a search term in October when he died.
Apple makes other appearances as well. The briskly selling iPhone 4S, for instance, is second-fastest in the consumer electronics category (the iPad2 and the iPad3 also ranked). But it was bested by Amazon's Kindle Fire.
Sure to get a big bump in Google searches today: Google Zeitgeist.
– Jessica Guynn
Tech analysts are predicting massive sales for Apple's popular tablet. Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research is estimating fourth-quarter iPad sales of 13.6 million units. That's in line with what Gene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, estimates: He predicts Apple will sell 13.5 million iPads in the December quarter, an 84% increase over the same quarter a year earlier. That amounts to $8.26 billion in sales for the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant.
In a recent analyst note, Munster said Apple products were popular wish-list items for teens in the firm's biannual survey of young people. The iPad was the second-most-requested Apple product, behind the iPhone.
The analyst also noted that teens of average income seemed to be drawn more toward the iPad, while upper-income teens preferred the Mac.
"In short, it appears that the iPad is appealing to more price-sensitive buyers, while the Mac has retained a premium appeal," Munster said.
Buzz over a new iPad grew last week when a Citi analyst said Apple was preparing for a February release.
As my colleague Nathan Olivarez-Giles reported, rumors say the new device will be similar to the iPad 2. But it will also include Apple's high-resolution retina display technology found on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S by doubling the iPad 3's screen resolution, said analyst Richard Gardner, who predicted fourth-quarter iPad sales would total 12 million to 13 million units.
Gardner reportedly said "several sources" told him that Apple could launch the iPad 3 as early as February, which would put its debut ahead of the first two generations of Apple's tablet. The first iPad hit stores in April 2010 after being unveiled the month before, and the iPad 2 was released this March.
The analyst also said that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to prevent the launch of a high-resolution iPad, which contradicts previous reports that fitting such a dense screen into an Apple tablet was one of the reasons the iPad 2 maintained the 1024 x 768 resolution of the first iPad.
Tell us: With rumors of an iPad 3 swirling around, will you wait for the next-generation Apple tablet or cave in this Christmas? Or are you buying a tablet from a competitor instead?
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Shoppers check out iPad 2s at an Apple store in San Francisco on Black Friday. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg
The Android operating system's share of smartphone sales grew to 53% from January through October, up from 42% in 2010, and Apple's iOS share rose to 29%, up from 21% last year, research firm NPD Group said Tuesday.
Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, continued to see its share of the smartphone market decline, plummeting to 10% in the first 10 months of this year. In 2010, it held one-fourth of the market.
Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, Symbian OS and Palm/webOS had tiny shares of the market, with each operating system capturing no more than 3%.
"The competitive landscape for smartphones, which has been reshaped by Apple and Google, has ultimately forced every major handset provider through a major transition," said Ross Rubin, executive director of Connected Intelligence at the NPD Group. "For many of them, 2012 will be a critical year in assessing how effective their responses have been."
Motorola is seeking to rebuild its share of the market, which was 36% five years ago but had fallen as low as 1% in the third quarter of 2009. After adopting Android, Motorola rose to 16% of the market in the fourth quarter last year but fell to 12% in the third quarter this year. But Rubin said Motorola is at least back in the game.
Another smartphone maker hoping to rebound next year is RIM. Rubin said few companies "have felt the impact of the shift to touch user interfaces and larger screen sizes as negatively," but noted that the company is beginning anew with a strong technical foundation and has already made incremental improvements this year with the release of its BlackBerry 7 operating system. In the second quarter of 2006, RIM held half of all smartphone sales, but by the third quarter this year, it had fallen to 8%.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: An iPhone 4S. Apple's iOS share of smartphone sales grew to 29% from January through October. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters
Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) sent a letter to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook requesting that the tech company immediately remove the "License" app from its App Store.
"I believe this application poses a threat to public safety and national security….It can be used in a way that allows criminals to create a new identity, steal someone else's identity, or permit underage youth to purchase alcohol or tobacco illegally," he said in the letter. "National security systems depend on the trustworthiness of driver's licenses."
The app by DriversEd.com for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad enables users to electronically insert a digital photo and personal information into a template for a driver's license for a state of their choosing; the app contains templates for driver's licenses for all 50 states.
The user is then able to send the digital image of the completed template to an email account; from the email attachment, the image can be printed and laminated, creating a high-quality counterfeit driver's license that is difficult to discern from a legitimate one, according to the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Screen shot from DriversEd.com
Apple's MacBook Air is poised to remain the dominant player in the ultrabook market next year, despite a wave of new ultra-thin notebooks slated to debut in the coming months, one analyst predicts.
Apple's super-thin, super-light laptop has been a hit with consumers, and its momentum "is sustainable and likely has upside potential," JP Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz said in a note to investors Monday.
Previously, "we highlighted the MacBook Air as potentially becoming a $2-[billion to] $3-billion-plus revenue opportunity," he said. "Our latest view is that this ultra-thin notebook PC appears on track to becoming a $7-billion-plus revenue driver at Apple."
Moskowitz said that ultrabooks continue to be highly discretionary devices and that pricing for rival offerings must fall below $800 before posing a real threat to the MacBook Air. And beyond price, he said, other devices simply don't look as good or offer as much.
"In our view, Apple's first mover advantage and optimized feature set and form factor command a higher price that early adopters, productivity users, and Apple enthusiasts are willing to absorb," he said. "In contrast, we think that the first round of ultrabook offerings lacks the right blend of features and attractive price points to grab market share from Apple."
The MacBook Air costs $999 to $1,599.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Apple's MacBook Air. Credit: Apple
Apple has hit 100 million downloads from its online software shop, the Mac App Store.
When the company opened the digital shop in January of this year, its goal was to put an end to the old days of PC software on a box — the kind users bought from brick and mortar stores like Best Buy or Fry's, or Babbage's, or Software Etc., or Egghead Software, or the Softwarehouse, or CompUSA. (Am I missing any obvious ones?)
After all, the logic goes, software is just 1's and 0's — so why would you need to drive somewhere to pick up a shrink-wrapped package full of it?
So far, the approach appears to be working. The store is averaging 8 million downloads per month this year. That includes the summer launch of Lion, the latest version of its Macintosh operating system, which sold more than 1 million digital copies in its first day, far outpacing sales of any previous OS X release.
What the company did not say is how many of the 100 million apps downloaded were, specifically, its operating system — or how many of them were counted from the many free apps available on the store.
However, some companies do approach online software sales by offering free and paid apps. Autodesk Inc. offers a simpler, free version of its AutoCAD software through the store, and its $900 AutoCAD LT version for pros (or amateurs that get hooked).
Apple also said its iPhone and iPad-based App Store hit 18 billion total downloads. That store went online for the iPhone and iPod Touch in 2008.
– David Sarno (@dsarno)
Image: Graphic of Mac App Store Logo. Credit: Rob Boudon / Flickr
Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet is back on sale in Australia after a temporary sales ban on the competitor to Apple's iPad expired on the device due to a patent lawsuit between the two companies in that country.
The lifting of the sales injunction is a win for Samsung, since it finally can start selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 after the South Korean tech giant voluntarily pulled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from shelves in August and an Australian court order made the ban official in October.
Samsung, however, won't be able to sell the Galaxy Tab until next week as it wasn't allowed to import shipments of Galaxy Tab 10.1 into Australia as a part of the sales ban, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Apple and Samsung are suing each other over alleged patent infringement related to technologies used in their respective tablets, and the expiration of the ban is the latest development before the dispute goes to go to trial in March.
But as we've reported the clash in Australia is just one part of a larger international patent battle between the two consumer electronics heavyweights that cover touchscreen technology, the look and feel of products and even how the devices connect to the Internet.
Apple and Samsung are suing one another in the U.S., France and 30 other European countries, as well as Japan. And in other countries, the litigation has spread to encompass Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones, other Galaxy Tab tablets (all products that run Google's Android operating system), and Apple's iPhone and iPad products.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency
According to a Citi analyst, Apple is prepping a next-generation iPad — likely called an iPad 3 — for a February release.
Such a device would be similar to the iPad 2, but include Apple's high-resolution retina display technology found on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S by doubling the iPad 3's screen resolution, said analyst Richard Gardner in a research note first reported on by Business Insider and PCMag.
Gardner reportedly said that "several sources" told him that Apple could launch the iPad 3 as early as February, which would put its debut ahead of the first two generations of Apple's tablet.
The first iPad hit stores in April 2010 after being unveiled the month before, and the iPad 2 was unveiled and released in March 2011.
The analyst also said that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to prevent the launch of a high-resolution iPad, which contradicts previous reports that fitting such a dense screen into an Apple tablet was one of the reasons Apple iPad 2 maintained the 1024 x 768 resolution of the first iPad.
Both the first iPad and iPad 2 displays have a pixel density of 132 pixels per inch (or ppi).
Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S have what is classified as a retina display, with a resolution of 960 x 640 resolution, and a 326 ppi. Any display with a ppi of 300 or greater is said be so dense that pixels are indistinguishable from each other to the human eye at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches — and thus, those displays can be dubbed retina displays.
Tablets with higher screen resolution have been released by Apple rivals and more are on the way, but nothing close to a retina display tablet has surfaced yet — though Samsung has been working on it for months.
Among the most anticipated iPad competitors coming soon is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, which features a screen resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
Gardner also estimated that Apple would sell about 12 million to 13 million iPads in the final three months of this year.
The major sales competitor to Apple's iPad is widely considered the Amazon Kindle Fire, which boasts much lower specs than iPads and Eee Pads. The research firm IHS iSuppli has estimated that Amazon will ship about 3.9 million Kindle Fire tablets before the end of the year.
In the past, Apple normally released new generations of its products about a year apart, though the iPad 2 did arrive 11 months after the first iPad, and recently the tech giant waited 16 months before releasing the iPhone 4S after the iPhone 4.
Apple is currently the leading tablet seller worldwide, with an estimated 65% share of the market.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A man uses his Apple iPad to take a photo of Pope Benedict XVI outside the pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, southeast of Rome, on Aug. 28. Credit: Andreas Solaro / AFP/Getty Images
Apple has been denied the rights to the trademark for the term "iPad" in China in a legal battle with Hong Kong-based Proview Technology that registered a trademark back in 2000, according to reports.
At the core of the dispute is whether or not a 2006 agreement between Proview's Taiwan-based subsidiary, Proview Electronics, to sell Apple the "global trademark" for the "IPAD" name for £35,000, or about $54,000, applies to China, according to a report from the Financial Times.
Apple says the agreement should include trademark rights in China, and Proview disagrees, Reuters reported.
Proview is arguing that the Chinese trademark owned by its Shenzhen-based company, Proview Technology, is different than the trademark formerly owned by Proview Electronics, the reports said.
Apple has sued Proview Technology for trademark infringement in the Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court, the Financial Times said, adding that while the court has rejected Apple's ownership claim, the U.S. tech giant can appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, Proview Technology has sued Apple resellers in China in an attempt to block the sale of Apple's iPad tablets, the reports said. In October, Proview Technology also filed a suit against Apple seeking 10 billion yuan, or about $1.5 billion, from Apple over alleged infringement of its Chinese "iPad" trademark.
But despite the legal back-and-forth, Proview spokesperson Li Su said told the Financial Times that a the company is open to a settlement.
"We hope that this decision will make our negotiations with Apple a bit easier," Su said in the report.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, running the Tabletop app. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
The plans were posted on Cupertino.org this week, revealing that the roof of the circular main building will be covered in photovoltaic solar panels.
"Apple proposes to create Apple Campus 2 — an integrated 21st century campus surrounded by green space," the updated plans said. "This new development will provide a serene and secure environment reflecting Apple's values of innovation, ease of use and beauty. The state-of-the-art office, research and development facilities include strategies to minimize energy demand, reduce car travel and increase the use of reclaimed water."
The main building totals 2.8 million square feet in four stories and can accommodate as many as 13,000 employees, the plans said. Jobs, when he proposed the new campus to the Cupertino City Council in June, said that Apple had about 12,000 employees in the Silicon Valley city.
"Campus amenities will include a striking cafe within the main building, a separate corporate fitness center and a corporate auditorium seating 1,000 people," the plans said. "Parking will be provided under the main building and in one multistory parking structure."
Apple is promising that its new campus, which is expected to open by about 2015, will be environmentally friendly with an on-site power plant "that will supply the majority of the power needed for the campus."
The website 9to5Mac has estimated that the solar-panel-covered roof will make the new Apple campus one of the largest solar power generators in the U.S.
The new site will also be home to 300,000 square feet of separate research facilities that "will house technical support functions that need to be located adjacent to the main building."
The exterior of the main building will be covered in curved glass. Apple has said that landscaping will make up 80% of the 150-acre site that it purchased from PC-maker Hewlett-Packard Co.
"It's a little like a spaceship landed," Jobs said of the proposed building before the Cupertino City Council. "It's a circle, and so it's curved all the way around. As you know if you build things, this is not the cheapest way to build something. There's not a straight piece of glass on this building, it's all curved.
"And we've used our experience in making retail buildings all over the world now, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world for architectural use."
Check-out some of the new renderings Apple has submitted after the jump.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A rendering of the proposed Apple Campus 2 facility. Credit: Apple Inc.
The U.S. Justice Department's antitrust arm said it was looking into potentially unfair pricing practices by electronic booksellers, joining European regulators and state attorneys general in a widening probe of large U.S. and international e-book publishers.
At a Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on Wednesday, Sharis Pozen, the acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's antitrust division, said the agency was "investigating the electronic book industry" but gave fewdetails.
A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed that the probe involved the possibility of "anticompetitive practices involving e-book sales."
The acknowledgment comes a day after European regulators said they were investigating five of the largest international publishers: France's Hachette Livre, News Corp.-owned Harper Collins, CBS' Simon & Schuster, Britain-based Pearson Group's Penguin and the German-owned Macmillan — as well as Apple Inc.. Investigators said they were trying to determine whether the companies had "engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition."
Attorneys general in Connecticut and, reportedly, Texas, have also begun inquiries into the way electronic booksellers price their wares, and whether companies such as Apple and Amazon have set up pricing practices that are ultimately harmful to consumers.
When Amazon.com and its Kindle were the sole major player in the electronic book market, the company set the price of e-books at $9.99. But publishers found that the price was artifically low and sought a way to circumvent Amazon's pricing control.
When Apple's iPad came out last year, the company had deals in place with five major publishers to use a new pricing model, in which the publishing companies were able to set the prices and the retailers (such as Amazon and Apple) took a fixed cut of the retail cost, about 30%.
Soon after, e-book prices on Amazon and elsewhere began to rise, and now many bestselling books retail for $14, $15, $16 or more.
– David Sarno
Photo: Amazon.com's Kindle Fire, right, is displayed with an Apple iPhone 4 at a Best Buy store in New York. Credit: Scott Eells / Bloomberg
Microsoft has released new details on its Windows Store for Windows 8 — no it's not called App Store a la Apple — which will be its online storefront selling applications to run on Windows 8 laptops, desktops and tablets.
The Windows Store will sell "Metro-style" apps. Microsoft Metro is the design language of flat, actively updating "live tile" icons for apps that debuted last year on the Windows Phone 7 operating system, and is making its way over to the Xbox 360 video game system this week in a software update.
Most Windows 8 Metro apps available in the Windows Store should adhere to touch, stylus or keyboard and mouse input, since they'll have to run on traditional PCs and tablets as well.
Microsoft will also have a tiered system of what its cut of an apps revenue will be. Apple famously takes a 30% cut of revenue for all apps sold in its iOS App Store (for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) and Mac App Store (for Mac computers).
Microsoft will take a similar 30% share of revenue for each app sold in its Windows Store, but once an app passes $25,000 in total revenue, the tech giant will drop its share down to 20% for the remainder of time that the app is sold, the company said in a statement.
To access the new Windows Store, the masses will have to wait until Windows 8 officially launches sometime next year. But developers will be able to access the Windows Store, in a beta release, if they've installed the Windows 8 Developer Preview version of the new OS, which is a free download available to all.
Microsoft is now taking Windows 8 app submissions and has launched a "First Apps Contest," which the tech giant will use to choose the first eight apps available in the Windows Store when it officially opens.
The new Windows Store isn't the first time that Microsoft is taking a stab at replicating the success Apple has had with its App Stores. The much-maligned Windows Vista had an app store called the Windows Marketplace, though both the operating system and the Marketplace never found much popularity.
Still, Windows is the most widely used PC operating system in the world. Microsoft says it has sold more than 500 million Windows 7 licenses worldwide to date and the company is hoping that Windows 8 will continue dominating PCs as well as give the company a significant stake in the growing tablet market that it lacks.
Microsoft also said that the Windows Store will launch globally in 231 markets and more than 100 languages, with the ability to accept payments in 58 currencies.
Follow the jump to see screen shots of the Windows Store in action.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of the Windows Store in Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft
European Union antitrust regulators are investigating Apple Inc. and the e-book business model it uses to sell digital titles from five of the largest international book publishers.
Officials from the European Commission said Tuesday they were looking into the fairness of e-book sales agreements made by French publisher Hachette Livre, News Corp.-owned Harper Collins, CBS' Simon & Schuster, Britain-based Pearson Group's Penguin and the German-owned Macmillan.
In 2010 these companies switched en masse to a new pricing system for e-books, called the "agency model," in which publishers wrested away from retailers the ability to set prices. Before the agency model, e-book sellers such as Amazon.com Inc. sold e-books at any price they liked, much like bricks-and-mortar bookstores. (Once bookstores have purchased books from wholesalers, they can discount or mark up the prices at will.)
In the same way, before the agency model Amazon — then the only major player in e-books sales — was free to set its own prices. The company used that freedom to price its Kindle books at $9.99, a price so low that the company was generally thought to be losing money on most Kindle book sales — in the name of attracting a large group of Kindle book buyers who would be drawn to the low and consistent pricing.
But publishers did not want Amazon's cut-rate e-book sales to give the Seattle company total control of the e-book market, especially by getting customers used to buying e-books for less than the industry believed they were worth. So, at around the time when Apple's iPad debuted, the five publishers agreed to a model in which they alone could decide book prices, and booksellers such as Apple and Amazon would receive a fixed commission on each sale.
Not long after, e-book prices began to rise. At Amazon, many bestselling Kindle e-books are now priced above $9.99. For instance, only five of Amazon's 20 "best" Kindle books of the year are below $10.
That price increase may in part be what antitrust regulators are looking into. In March, EU officials raided a number of publishers, reportedly seizing contracts and executives' smartphones and computers.
"The Commission will in particular investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition," the group's statement on Tuesday said.
– David Sarno
Photo: Boxes of Kindle e-readers sit ready for dispatch in a distribution center in Ridgmont, Britain. Credit: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg
Google's Android Market has passed 10 billion app downloads, a major milestone for the world's most widely used mobile operating system.
"One billion is a pretty big number by any measurement. However, when it’s describing the speed at which something is growing, it’s simply amazing," said Eric Chu, director of the Android Developer Ecosystem, in a company blog post. "This past weekend, thanks to Android users around the world, Android Market exceeded 10 billion app downloads — with a growth rate of 1 billion app downloads per month."
The massive number is even more impressive when considering the fragmentation found on Android, with companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Yahoo hosting Android app stores of their own, in addition to independent app stores such as GetJar.
Apple passed 15 billion downloads from its App Store in July, noting that there are more than 200 million iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users worldwide.
More than 200 million Android smartphones and tablets have been sold and about 550,000 new Android activations take place each day, Google has said.
To celebrate passing the 10-billion-download mark, Google and a number of developers are offering selected apps for 10 cents for a limited time, Chu said.
"Starting today for the next 10 days, we'll have a new set of awesome apps available each day for only 10 cents each," he said. "Today, we are starting with Asphalt 6 HD, Color & Draw for Kids, Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro, Fieldrunners HD, Great Little War Game, Minecraft, Paper Camera, Sketchbook Mobile, Soundhound Infinity & Swiftkey X."
Each day, until the 10-day period is up, Google will offer another 10 apps for 10 cents each, as listed on the Android Market.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A screen shot of Google's Android Market. Credit: Google
On Friday, a new Apple Store will open in Grand Central Terminal, on the balcony above the stairwell that leads down to tracks 100-117.
Missed your train and have an hour to kill until the next one comes? No more slumping dejectedly against the wall glaring at the clock while texting your mom an apology. Soon you can pass the time by messing around with the latest iPad.
Apple has not released the exact square footage of what will be its fifth retail space in New York, but media reports have put the number at about 23,000 square feet. That would make it one of the world's largest Apple outlets.
In a story about the new store, the Wall Street Journal posted some renderings of how the store will look: open to the station and its ceiling dotted with constellations, the pale wood of the tables holding the Apple products matching the pale marble interior of the iconic building.
The location is also pretty cool for Apple. Roughly 750,000 people pass through Grand Central every day, and more than 1 million during the holidays, according to the terminal's official website. It also says that half the terminal's commuters have household incomes of more than $100,000.
– Deborah Netburn
Photo: An exterior view of the Apple Store location under construction in Grand Central Terminal in November. Credit: Jason Kempin / Getty Images
Samsung chalked up a victory in its ongoing patent battle with Apple when a federal judge ruled against a proposed sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S.
Apple had requested a ban similar to the temporary injunction placed on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, but the U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday decided that such a move wasn't necessary before the dispute goes to trial in July, according to Bloomberg Businessweek
Australian's ban on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is set to lift on Dec. 9, with the patent battle there headed for trial in March.
The two consumer electronics titans are involved in a running legal war over the rights to technologies used on tablets and smartphones in more than 10 countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, France and Italy, and with more than 20 lawsuits filed between the two companies.
So far, sales of Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones have been temporarily banned in 30 European countries, and Germany has placed a preliminary sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 7.7 (all devices which run on Google's Android operating system). Samsung went so far as to redesign and then re-release the German version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, but Apple requested a new ban of that tablet in that country as well, according to the Times of India.
When Apple and Samsung aren't fighting to keep each other's products off of store shelves, the two are actually business partners. Samsung, for example, manufactures Apple's A4 and A5 processors found in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPod Touch, among other components, such as flash memory, inside of i-devices.
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency
The Syrian government has reportedly banned the use of the Apple iPhone in an effort to prevent activists from documenting the ongoing uprising in that country and government violence against protesters.
Activists in Beirut were notified of the iPhone ban in a letter from the Syrian Finance Ministry that reads "the authorities warn anyone against using the iPhone in Syria," according to reports from the Haaretz newspaper in Israel and the U.S. website the Next Web (which quoted the Lebanese site El Nashara).
Since the Syrian protests began Jan. 26, opposition groups — who are calling for political reform and the ouster of President Bashar Assad, an increase in civil and human rights and a democratic government — have used devices such as smartphones to document online, in photos and video, the government's violent response to their actions.
The United Nations has said that more than 4,000 people have been killed in Syria since major protests began in March and fears of civil war have arisen as well.
According to Ria Novosi, a Russian news site, protest groups have built and distributed an iPhone app, called Syria Alone, that offers independent news reports and "a collection of videos and jokes" that mock Assad.
According to both Haaretz and the Next Web, no other smartphones have been banned yet. But unnamed protesters reportedly did say, in both reports, that the ban has made it so that "it is enough for any tourist or guest visiting Syria to own an iPhone to be a spy suspect."
In the Haaretz report, a protester added that "Steve Jobs must be turning in his grave on learning that his iconic device is banned in his home country."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Pro-Syrian regime demonstrators gather in Damascus on Dec. 2 during a rally against sanctions by the European Union against the Syrian government. A banner of President Bashar Assad hangs from a building. Credit: Bassem Tellawi / Associated Press
Samsung was set back again, temporarily, as an Australian High Court put back in place a sales ban on its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in an ongoing patent lawsuit the South Korean company is involved in with Apple over tablets and phones.
This go-around, the temporary sales injunction is on for just one week as High Court Justice John Dyson Heydon blocked the overturning of the ban through Dec. 9, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek.
"A stay for one week will cost Samsung, in effect, one week's trade," but lifting the ban would probably "be injurious to Apple," Heydon said, according to the Bloomberg report.
The reinstatement of the preliminary sales injunction, which was overturned on Tuesday, will delay Samsung's plans to get the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which many see as the Apple iPad's current top competitor, onto store shelves as consumers are ramping up their holiday shopping.
Samsung has said it plans to give up on releasing the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which runs Google's Android operating system, in Australia if it can't sell the device there before Christmas.
Katrina Howard, a Samsung lawyer, told Heydon in court that "even one day can make a difference" and that holiday sales were crucial for the company. Samsung has no doubt already missed many sales opportunities for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 because of its suit with Apple — the sales ban has been officially in place since October, but Samsung voluntarily pulled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from shelves in August.
Apple and Samsung, which are suing each other over alleged patent infringement on the technology used to make their respective tablets, are set to go to trial in Australia in March to settle their dispute.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Visitors walk past Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on display in Seoul, South Korea on Oct. 13, 2011. Credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters
Microsoft on the iPad: So far there isn't much of that happening outside of the Bing app.
But that might change next year, according to a report from the Daily, News Corp.'s e-magazine delivered each day to Apple's iPad.
According to some unnamed sources of the Daily writer Matt Hickey, Microsoft is prepping iPad-versions of its Office suite of software.
"With the iPad making up over 80 percent of the tablet market and millions of people worldwide using Office, that could mean big bucks for the tech giant based in Redmond, Wash.," Hickey wrote in his report. "In addition to an iPad-ready version, a new edition of Office is expected for OS X Lion sometime next year."
Microsoft's current Office for Mac offering, Office 2011, lacks the ability to take advantage of new features found in Mac OS X Lion. "A Lion version, likely available via the Mac App Store, is widely expected," the report said. "Windows, too, is due for an update, with Office 2012 currently in beta form."
If Microsoft were to challenge iWork on the iPad (and maybe even iPhone) with Office, apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint could go head-to-head with Apple's own productivity apps.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Apple's Numbers app for the iPad. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times
We have a saying in the media business: Find three examples of anything and you've got yourself a trend. And so, we feel confident in officially declaring that iPhone cases are most definitely getting more insane.
See below for the definitive proof.
1. Opena: When an iPhone case is also a bottle opener (pictured above).
How to explain the thinking behind Opena, the iPhone case that can be used to both protect one's iPhone, and…open bottles! The company's tag line is: "The world's first iPhone 4 case with a slide out bottle opener included in the back." Superfluous? Yes. But there is logic behind the madness. As the Australian founders of the company say on its website: "If you're anything like us you like to travel light. The one thing we always have on us is our phones. The one thing we always seem to be looking for is a bottle opener." And apparently people on the Internet agreed with them. The company reached 188% of its initial funding goal on the website kickstarter.com in less than a month.
Price tag: $39.95.
2. Talk about an earful!
What's not to love about this impractical, totally ridiculous, way-too-embarrassing-to-even-contemplate-using iPhone case? The name of the product — Through the Ears – is almost as cumbersome as the product itself. It's available for purchase at Urban Outfitters' website, where a sage and balanced reviewer who received it as a birthday present said that it was an instant and hilarious hit with friends and family, while also acknowledging that when it came time to actually use the phone, "those who were on the other end of my calls often could not hear me and I would end up removing the ear in order to speak to them, leaving my phone temporarily unprotected and eliminating the effect and purpose of the ear."
Price tag: $16.
3. The iPhone as teether case.
A Fisher-Price iPhone case for baby? You know it! Search the Fisher-Price website and you'll find the "Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case" under baby items. According to the company the case is dribble- and drool-proof, and compatible with iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and the second, third and fourth generations of the iPod Touch. Fisher-Price also makes apps for baby.
Price tag: $15.
Looking for something slightly more practical? See more iPhone cases in the gallery below.
– Deborah Netburn
Images from top to bottom: Opena, the iPhone case that is also a bottle opener, with image courtesy of Opena; Through the Ears giant ear iPhone case, with image courtesy of Through the Ears; and Fisher-Price's Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case, with image courtesy of Fisher-Price.
An Australian court has lifted its temporary sales injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, landing the Korean company a win in its patent battle against Apple in that country.
No doubt, Samsung has to be pleased with the reversal of the preliminary injunction, given that the holiday shopping season is in full swing.
This is just the latest development in the Australian patent battle between the two tech giants, which is set to go to trial in March.
And as we've reported, the Australian dispute is just one piece of the puzzle. The patent battle between the two companies is raging in the U.S., France and 30 other European countries, as well as Japan, and has spread to encompass not only the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but also Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones, other Galaxy Tab tablets (all products that run Google's Android operating system), and Apple's iPhone and iPad products.
The suits and counter-suits cover disputes over touchscreen technology, the look and feel of products and even how the devices connect to the Internet.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is displayed in Seoul last month. Credit: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images
Cisco Systems Inc. sees a cloudy future.
By 2015, cloud computing will account for nearly 34% of traffic at the world's data centers, the huge computing stations that now process and distribute most of the Internet's information. Last year the cloud accounted for only about 11% of data center traffic.
The trend comes as data centers become an ever larger part of the way the Internet works, acting as the digital jet engines for the Internet's most-used services: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple's iCloud and many others.
Cisco's first "Cloud Index" report says that overall traffic at data centers will more than triple by 2015, to 4.8 zettabytes from about 1.5 zettabytes in 2011. Cisco is one of the world's largest vendors of the networking hardware that sends data around the Internet and between servers in a given data center.
A zettabyte is an astronomical amount of data, equal to 1 billion terabytes. A terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes. Many current PCs contain about 500 gigabytes of storage. So the amount of data that will be processed by the world's data centers by 2015 is roughly what you could fit on 2 billion modern PCs.
None of that may be very surprising, as the benefits of cloud computing — including the substantially lower cost of storing and retrieving data to consumers and businesses — have been widely extolled in recent years. Cisco differentiates between "traditional" services and cloud servers; the latter is a more elastic type of computing that can grow or shrink depending on the number of active users or the types of tasks it is performing.
That can make for economic and energy efficiency gains by reducing the number of data center servers that sit idle while, for instance, people in North America are asleep. With cloud systems, those otherwise unused servers can be shifted over to perform needed functions — often for different companies on other continents.
The rapid movement of data that goes along with cloud computing has raised a number of concerns about online security, including whether consumers and businesses can know precisely where their private data is located and the extent to which cloud data is vulnerable to hackers or accidental disclosure.
– David Sarno
Image: An artist's rendering of Facebook's newest data center in Lulea, Sweden, on the edge of the Arctic Circle. Facebook picked the location because the cold climate allows it to keep its servers cool more cheaply. Credit: Associated Press
Research In Motion announced on Tuesday that it will soon launch software that will bring security and management features once only found on BlackBerrys over to Android and iOS phones and tablets.
The new tools, which RIM is calling BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, will allow businesses to set up and control Apple's iPhone and iPad, as well as smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system, as they have done for years with BlackBerry phones and more recently, the slow-selling PlayBook tablet.
"We are pleased to introduce BlackBerry Mobile Fusion — RIM's next generation enterprise mobility solution — to make it easier for our business and government customers to manage the diversity of devices in their operations today," said Alan Panezic, RIM's vice president of enterprise product management and marketing, in a statement.
"BlackBerry Mobile Fusion brings together our industry-leading BlackBerry Enterprise Server technology for BlackBerry devices with mobile device management capabilities for iOS and Android devices, all managed from one web-based console," Panezic said. "It provides the necessary management capabilities to allow IT departments to confidently oversee the use of both company-owned and employee-owned mobile devices within their organizations."
In announcing Mobile Fusion, RIM touted itself as "the leading provider of enterprise mobility solutions with over 90 percent of the Fortune 500 provisioning BlackBerry devices today," a nod to its still-large market share of the business market for smartphones.
But the Canadian company also acknowledges that when it comes time for consumers to buy phones and tablets for themselves, they're increasingly choosing rival devices and then bringing those gadgets into the workplace.
"The enterprise market for smartphones and tablets continues to grow in both the company-provisioned and employee-owned (Bring Your Own Device or BYOD) categories," RIM said. "BYOD in particular has led to an increase in the diversity of mobile devices in use in the enterprise and new challenges for CIOs and IT departments as they struggle to manage and control wireless access to confidential company information on the corporate network. This has resulted in increased demand for mobile device management solutions."
Among the features RIM said Mobile Fusion will offer for Android and iOS phones and tablets is the management and configuration of devices, as well as security features such as remote locking and data wiping, the creation of multiple user profiles on shared devices, app management and control over how a device connects to the Internet, among other settings.
While some would seem to love having an iPhone or an Android that's as secure and easy to manage at the scale a large business would require, others such as ReadWriteWeb has asked if RIM isn't "shooting itself in the foot with Mobile Fusion?"
GigaOm described RIM's stance with Mobile Fusion as "If you can't beat iOS and Android devices in the market, you might as well secure them."
Currently, Mobile Fusion is in "early beta testing with select enterprise customers," RIM said. But the company is accepting "customer nominations for the closed beta program which will start in January." The commercial rollout of Mobile Fusion isn't expected until late March.
— Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPhone 4S. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters
Cyber Monday deals lured a record number of online shoppers, leading to a 33% jump in U.S. sales compared with the Monday after Thanksgiving last year, according to a new IBM report released Tuesday.
Consumers spent an average of 2.6% more this year than they did in 2010, with the value of an average online order rising from $193.24 to a record $198.26 this year, according to IBM's fourth annual Cyber Monday Benchmark study.
Also increasing this year was the number of shoppers who made purchases on their smartphones and tablets, the study said. On Cyber Monday, a record 10.8% of people used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, up from 3.9% in 2010. Mobile sales also grew to 6.6% on this year's Cyber Monday purchases, up from 2.3% a year earlier, the tech giant said.
"Consumers flocked online, with shopping momentum hitting its highest peak at 11:05am PST/2:05pm EST," IBM said in a statement. "Consumer shopping also maintained strong momentum after commuting hours on both the East and West coast."
Two statistics not included in IBM's study was an estimate of how much in total was spent or exactly how many people were shopping on Cyber Monday. IBM produces its Cyber Monday shopping report by "analyzing terabytes of raw data from 500 retailers nationwide," the company said.
And, as a tech firm that sells software, tech infrastructure and consulting services to businesses, IBM's analysis of this data is a bit of a marketing opportunity for the company founded in 1911.
"Retailers that adopted a smarter approach to commerce, one that allowed them to swiftly adjust to the shifting shopping habits of their customers, whether in-store, online or via their mobile device, were able to fully benefit from this day and the entire holiday weekend," said John Squire, the chief strategy officer of IBM's "Smarter Commerce" team, in a statement.
So, how did Cyber Monday compare with Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving? IBM has some data on that too, reporting that it found Cyber Monday brought in 29.3% more online sales than Black Friday did (though many shoppers on Black Friday were in brick-and-mortar stores and not online).
According to a few other Black Friday reports, that day was a shopping sales record too.
Most people who purchased items online on Cyber Monday and Black Friday did so using Apple's i-devices, which "continued to rank one and two for mobile device retail traffic" with 4.1% of shopper Web-surfing taking place on the iPhone and 3.3% on the iPad, IBM said.
Android came in third with a solid 3.2% of Cyber Monday and Black Friday Web traffic, the report said.
"Shoppers using the iPad also continued to drive more retail purchases than any other device with conversion rates reaching 5.2 percent compared to 4.6 percent," on other devices, IBM said.
Photo: Cyber Monday specials on Target's website. Credit: Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images