The Online Reporter 720 February 18, 2011

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THE ONLINE AND INTERNET TV REPORTER

Thinking ahead about tablets and smart TVs …and the content and infrastructure they’ll need.

The Online and Internet TV Reporter 720 February 18, 2011

Published weekly by Rider Research

 

– Entertainment Technology – Online Music & Movie Services –

– Wireline & Mobile Broadband plus Wireless & Wired Home Networking –

– Web, Mobile & 3D TV –

 

THIS WEEK IN CONTENT DEALS

THIS WEEK IN FINANCE DEALS

APPLE IPAD

BROADBAND BEAT

ENABLING TECHNOLOGY

HOME NETWORKING

LEGAL MATTERS

LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS

MOBILE MEDIA

ONLINE MUSIC SERVICES

SHOW TIME

SMART TV

DIGIGRAMS

 

THE ONLINE AND INTERNET TV REPORTERis published weekly by Rider Research; 13188 Perkins Road; Baton Rouge, LA 70810, USA Telephone:  1-225-769-7130; Fax:  1-225-769-7166; www.riderresearch.com

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Quote of the Week…

“Adding 13 million more potential gamers on the iPhone [due to the Verizon Wireless version] is going to be a watershed moment for mobile gaming.”

– Peter Relan, Chairman of OpenFeint

Stat of the Week…

Apple shipped more than 10.2 million notebooks and tablet PCs combined, nearly a million more units than HP in the fourth quarter of 2010.

 

 

MWC Week: The Hardware Wars

 – Tablets, Smartphones and Chips Galore

 – A Crowded Market Despite Only a Few Available Products

 – The Future May Thin the Herd

As this year’s Mobile World Congress came to an end, the mobile space was left somewhat shaken by the changes to its software side. Nokia and Microsoft are pairing up, Intel is seeking new MeeGo partners, Android is trucking on, Apple’s iOS is staying mostly mum and the industry is seemingly overlooking other players. For the consumer, however, the big news isn’t in the change of operating systems but the changes in hardware that are coming down the pipes.

With fragmentation and changes to the OS, users are likely to stick to what they know, which is good news for Apple and Android device makers. As these two jockey for the top spot in the tablet and smartphone race, the user isn’t faced with a major OS choice – they’re faced with a major device choice. Especially in tablets, there are now full-fledged iPad rivals, so a customer with an Android preference now has options.

Price is typically king, especially with the reaction to the rumored $1,200 Xoom price at Best Buy, but it is unlikely there will be major price differentiation for machines that are very similar. For smart devices, especially tablets, the hardware wars have begun.

HTC: Flying High

HTC has entered the tablet game with its announcement of a 7-inch 1024 x 600 resolution Android slate that will arrive in Q2.

Called the HTC Flyer, the tablet looks like a beefed up smartphone, something that HTC likely had in mind when it decided to include dual-band HSPA 3G connectivity, plus 2.4GHz 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0. Other specs include a 1.5GHz processor, 1GB of Ram and 32GB of storage.

Video calling is likely to be one of its first device-specific apps as the Flyer features a 1.3 megapixel Web cam and a 5 megapixel back camera that takes photos and shoots video.

HTC said it will be running its Sense UI on top of an undisclosed version of Android – likely 3.0. The Sense UI is already on a variety of its smart phones, so the feel and interaction will likely continue — the major interaction differences, such as many-fingered gestures, will get support from Android and shouldn’t take issue.

This tablet may be more for the corporates, writers and students as an announced “Scribe” digital ink system suggests that stylus usage will be emphasized on the device.

HTC also said it is bringing its own branded VOD service to the device. It promised more details closer to the launch of the device, but did say that users should expect hundreds of HD movies from major studios.

The Flyer is ‘go’ for Q2, but there’s no announced price yet.

Google: Even A New Device Screams for Ice Cream

Names don’t have to make sense, they just have to be catchy. Google has been good at this with its Android updates — please take note, Nokia — including its upcoming version named Ice Cream.

According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, Ice Cream will combine the tablet features of Honeycomb with all the phone features of Gingerbread. This could be a move to push against all those fragmentation woes and worries that seem to plague Android in the press but not necessarily on the user’s end.

Andy Rubin, head of Google’s Android project, said that this upcoming combination was the real deal, not “just a thought experiment.” As the OS update rolls out, Rubin said that we should expect more devices to come too: “each software release will be accompanied by a hardware component.”

Rubin wouldn’t say anything on the new device or who was making it, but the big rumors are around HTC, Samsung and Motorola. Rubin said the sales of HTC’s Nexus One exceeded Google’s expectations; Samsung made the sequel, the Nexus S; and Motorola produced the first official tablet and the first one with Honeycomb.

Schmidt said the goal of all of this is to make sure that users are “Not lost, never lonely, never bored.” Android presents, he said, “A future for the masses, not the elites; two billion people [who] we’ve never heard from will enter our conversation in the next year.”

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LG: Life is Good in 3D

3D has always been a big hit at trade shows, but its inability to really hit home with the average consumer is a major concern, and one that LG is hoping to combat.

To help with 3G adoption, LG will be giving users a smartphone to watch their content on, all without glasses. The company demonstrated its Optimus 3D in Barcelona, drawing big crowds trying to get a look at what LG calls the world’s first “full 3D experience.”

The full experience means the device allows the creation, viewing and sharing of content.

The device itself has a 4.3-inch WVGA screen and offers full 1080p HD viewing for 2D content. Its processor is powerful enough to belt out 720p HD 3D video. The device features dual 5 megapixel cameras that can create HD 3D videos and photos.

“This is the world’s first smartphone that puts the power to make 3D content into users’ hands,” said LG.

For content, LG has turned to YouTube. The two have worked together to give the Optimus 3D quick uploading of 3D content to the video hosting service, as well as giving users an ever-expanding location on the site to watch 3D content.

The model being demoed also showed several 3D games and menus, with the company saying more 3D content will begin arriving once the phones arrive on store shelves.

LG did say that the 3D effects and features can easily be adjusted to address any eye-strain problems or can be shut off altogether.

Motorola: Updates Xooming By

While no US release date has been announced, Europe can eagerly await Motorola’s Xoom tablet in Q2 of this year. Motorola did confirm that both 3G-plus-Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-only versions will be sold throughout Europe.

Motorola is hoping to sell Xoom, the first to use Honeycomb, through traditional retailers instead of individual network operators. There’s no exact date announced, but it appears that the first round of partners have been announced. Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy are expected to get the 3G version, while Currys and PC World will launch the Wi-Fi only versions.

There’s no UK or Europe pricing yet, but in the US the two models are expected to sell for $799 and $599, despite Best Buy’s $1,200 placeholder. The rumored launch date in the US is next week, so US users will just have to wait and see.

RIM: A Full PlayBook

Research In Motion announced plans for two new versions of its PlayBook tablet at the World Mobile Congress, despite not yet beginning sales on its first two models already announced.

PlayBooks for LTE and 3G HSPA+ networks will go on sale by the end of the year, according to RIM, joining their Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-plus-WiMAX brethren that are going on sale next month.

The two newly announced devices will also support Bluetooth tethering — connecting to the Web when smartphones or other mobile CEs act as Wi-Fi hotspots — and the new BlackBerry Bridge, which is software that allows users to run BlackBerry device features like Messenger and E-mail on a PlayBook.

RIM was quiet on what network operators will feature the new models.

RIM also made a few other announcements, including:

  – Expanding its BlackBerry App World to 27 new countries and areas: Azerbaijan, Botswana Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, French Guyana, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Iceland, Kenya, La Réunion, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Martinique, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Tanzania.

 – Users will soon be able to buy airtime, apps and other services for another subscriber on pre-paid and post-paid accounts, calling this a mobile gifting platform.

 – RIM said Telefónica will begin billing customers for applications from App World, directly on their mobile phone bill, instead of making users have a separate App World billing account. This is expected to expand to others soon.

Samsung: One Galaxy Isn’t Enough

Samsung is expanding the universe, announcing two new Galaxy devices at this year’s MWC.

It unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S II phone and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, both Android-powered devices that feature dual-core processors.

Their predecessors, both the Galaxy S and the Tab, were good original entrants into the market, but the new breed faces a much stronger set of competitors.

The Galaxy S II feels a bit like the Samsung Infuse 4G on AT&T. It uses a Samsung dual-core processor and is one of the thinnest dual-core phones on the market. The device has a 4.27-inch, 800 x 480 Super AMOLED Plus screen that by all accounts is one of the prettiest around. It features a 2 megapixel camera on the front and an 8 megapixel camera on the back that can capture 1080p video.

The phone will run Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but Samsung put a TouchWiz skin on top and is bringing a lot of apps to this version. Among them are its Media Hub, Social Hub, a new Reading Hub for newspapers and eBooks, the new Music Hub music store and a new Games Hub, an alternative to the Android Market just for games that are such big downloads Google won’t let them in on its market. This is also one of the first Androids to run a Cisco VPN client and use its Wi-Fi calling and WebEx login offering.

The Galaxy S will arrive this month in Europe and Asia, but there were no US plans announced.

Samsung was quick to point out that the new Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a companion to the existing Tab, not a successor. The new 10.1 runs Android Honeycomb on a 10.1-inch screen, and it was one of the nicer-looking tablet devices unveiled at this year’s MWC.

The tablet uses the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and appears to run a pure version of Google’s Honeycomb, not a software extension or overlay in sight. The question here is how will the device differentiate itself from current and future competition?

Design and its graphics processing may be able to help it compete now, but it’ll be a tough road ahead. This puppy is thin (0.44 inches) and sports a textured back that’s easier to grip than most on the market. It’s a light tablet, and its 10.1-inch, 1280×720 screen is bigger than the iPad’s.

Other features include an 8 megapixel camera on the back and a 2 megapixel camera on the front, HSPA+ 21 cellular network with no voice, Wi-Fi 802.11n support and storage of either 16GB or 32GB. There was no battery life given and with the powerful screen it is unclear how long the device will see between charges.

The 10.1 could be the biggest tablet coming to market, so there may be a push to pick it up by a company with a video component. Vodafone will be picking up the tablet for Europe.

As far as tablet heralds go, so far in the US Verizon has the Xoom, T-Mobile has the G-Slate and Sprint has RIM’s PlayBook, leaving AT&T out there without an established “this is mine!” on any device. Samsung hasn’t confirmed a US version or a Wi-Fi version, but both of these seem to be somewhat desirable, at least by consumers.

AT&T’s U-verse pay-TV service plus a 10.1-inch tablet that has some great video capabilities may be just what the doctor ordered.

Orange: Branded Tablets Are Here

Orange, not wanting to be outdone at MWC, has announced its 7-inch Orange Tablet running Android for four markets: Spain, Romania, Poland and Slovakia.

Orange says its device will lower the entry level for tablet computing and bring a broader range of customers interested in its portfolio of tablets.

The device will run Android 2.1 and has 3G/Edge connectivity.

Yves Maitre, senior VP of group devices and mobile multimedia for Orange, said “Tablet computing is an extremely popular and growing segment of the consumer technology market and we want to offer our customers the best possible choice of device to suit all budgets and requirements. By providing the widest choice of seven- and 10-inch touchscreen tablets, Orange is providing new ways to access the content and services our customers want. We will continue to expand our tablet and smartphone portfolio throughout 2011.”

Each of the four markets will get special pricing and deals on the tablet, but Orange didn’t say anything specific. It did hint it would look into other markets, with the UK being a top possibility.

Huawei: The Price Approach

You can’t throw a stone at MWC without hitting a new tablet. You can, however, throw as many stones as you like with little risk of hitting a price tag.

Chinese hardware maker Huawei is one of the few exceptions, looking to distinguish itself from the rest by being upfront about its pricing options.

Huawei plans to bring to market a tablet that retails for roughly $300, with goals of reaching stores like Best Buy.

One tablet, called the S7 Slim, is a 7-inch Android tablet with front and back cameras and a 1GHz processor. The company also has plans for a square tablet and a 10-inch model that looks very similar to the iPad. They’re all currently Wi-Fi-capable and have slots for a SIM card.

“We’re not yet in the minds of most US consumers, but may we can get in there by starting at the price point,” Alix Khadiri, a spokesman for Huawei, told the New York Times.

Beyond that, not much else has been said about the devices.

Dell: Leaking for Joy

Dell announced the Streak 7 at the CES 2011 and was rumored of working on a 10-inch tablet, which seems to have been confirmed.

Two Web sites appear to have gotten their hands on both Dell smartphone and tablet roadmaps that point to new products coming soon. Dell’s smartphones include one Windows Phone 7 model and two Android Ice Cream models. The tablets have plans for two more devices this year, followed by three next year.

The smartphone roadmap looks like this:

 – Dell has already introduced Android-based Venue and WP7 Venue Pro.

 – Wrigley is next. This is a QWERTY slider phone with a 4-inch WVGA screen running WP7 Next Gen. It has a 1GHz processor and an 8 megapixel camera able to record 720p HD video. It is set to arrive in August.

 – Hancock will follow. This is a dual-core processer smartphone running Ice Cream. It has a 4-inch HD screen, 8 megapixel camera that can record 1080p video and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera. It’ll appear in September.

 – Millennium is last up, also featuring a dual-core processor and Ice Cream. Its 4.3-inch screen will feature the best resolution of the bunch with cameras on the same level as Hancock. It is also DLNA-certified and expected to launch in October.

The tablet roadmap has a similar feel with four announcements:

 – Peju is a Windows 8 tablet with a 10-inch display set to launch in Q1 2012. The big expectation is for this to make its debut at next year’s CES.

 – Rosemount: Dell’s first Windows 7 tablet bearing 1366×768 HD resolution on a 10-inch screen. It is set to arrive in June.

 – Two Android 3.0 tablets scheduled for a 2011 release. The 10-inch Gallo will hit in April while the 7-inch Sterling will arrive in October.

 – For Honeycomb tablets in Q1 2012, there are a 5-inch Opus One and a 7-inch Silver Oak scheduled.

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Sprint’s Gloom and Doom

According to Sprint, the tablet market will likely see a big cut in manufacturers within two years due to competition forces.

“You’ll probably have a good dozen players by the end of this year, and then in two years you’ll probably see just five that are really playing in the space,” Fared Adib, VP of product development for Sprint, told Bloomberg.

Sprint, the third-largest US wireless service provider, is set to introduce the RIM PlayBook tablet this year to sit alongside the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Sprint confirmed it will have at least one more tablet for sale this year, but that version will work on its 4G service — this could end up being another version of the PlayBook.

Many tablets on the market or coming to market are “essentially a phone operating system on a tablet,” instead of using OS and software that are made for the specifics of the tablet build, Adib told the news service.

Broadcom: Everything Can Fit in Just One Chip

Broadcom has announced a new combination chip designed to include everything but the kitchen sink.

The chip, aimed at smartphones and tablets, has the goal of supporting as much media and data apps as possible without impacting device size or battery life. The new BCM4330 integrates 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + HS and FM radio technologies.

Some key stats on the chip include:

– Broadcom says it is the first combo solution to be certified as integrating Bluetooth low energy (BLE), which allows ultra-low power implementation.

– Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth High Speed are supported, enabling the device to connect to another device first, without the need of a central access point or traditional network connection.

– This chip is “40% smaller than its predecessor.”

– It includes software and hardware support for WAPI, the Chinese security protocol.

– In both Android and Windows Phone devices, the chip will support ‘Soft Access Point’ features, allowing the Wi-Fi component in a device to function as an access point for sharing a broadband connection with others.

Qualcomm: Snapdragon Blooms

Qualcomm debuted its next mobile processor architecture for the Snapdragon family, including the single-core MSM8930, the dual-core MSM8960 and the quad-core APQ8064, offering speeds of up to 2.5GHz per core.

The chipsets will include a new Adreno GPU series with up to four 3D cores, and an integrated multi-mode LTE modem.

Qualcomm said all of its new chips will integrate Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, FM, NFC and stereoscopic 3D video and photo capture and playback, including support for 3D gaming.

Samples of the MSM8960 will be available in Q2 and samples of the MSM8930 and APQ8064 are anticipated in early 2012.

Qualcomm also announced that future Android-powered devices running on the Snapdragon platform would have access to streaming TV shows and movies from Netflix.

“We’re excited about this collaborative effort to help bring the Netflix application to Android devices running on the Snapdragon platform,” said Liat Ben-Zur, senior director of software strategy and ecosystems for Qualcomm. “Qualcomm is in a unique position to help bring the most optimized and advanced Android apps to market through working closely with the strong ecosystem of Snapdragon developers like Netflix.”

Nvidia: Tablets Go Four to the Core

Nvidia demonstrated the next-generation Tegra chip, codenamed “Project Kal-El,” at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Superman-inspired chip will be a quad-core designed chip for mobile devices and will make its way into the hands of consumers this August.

Quad-core Tegra processors in tablets will mark a dramatic shift in the capabilities of devices hitting the market in Q3 and Q4 — remember, a big hubbaloo in current tablets is simply getting a decent dual-core processor.

Nvidia demonstrated the latest four-core processor running video on an Android tablet at a resolution of 1440p on a screen that was 2560 x 1600 pixels. The resolution is much higher than what’s considered true high definition, it is the highest possible resolution for a 10-inch screen with 300 pixels per inch.

When demonstrating the chip running games, video or Web sites, Nvidia said these actions were five times faster than the current Tegra 2 chips.

Qualcomm and Texas Instruments have similar chips planned, as do other ARM chip manufacturers. Intel is eyeing the space too, but it may take a little longer than the rest as it works to reduce power consumption on smaller devices.

The chips are a big deal because they give users the ability to do real-time processing, 3D gaming, switching between multiple HD content streams and other things that haven’t been initiated yet because the hardware hasn’t been there.

Nvidia also showed a roadmap for its Tegra processor, listing code names but no other details. The 2012 lineup is Wayne followed by Logan and Stark — aka Batman, Wolverine and Iron Man.

Marvell: A Mantra of Performance, 3D and 1080p

Marvell’s big MWC announcement is its world phone platform based on the Marvell PXA978 processor with a Marvell HSPA modem.

Marvell said the PXA978 is the industry’s first single-chip solution to feature 3G UMTS and China’s TD-SCDMA standard with HSPA support, and it is intended to let mobile developers design 3D devices for global support.

“The PXA978 integrates both 3G and TD-SCDMA basebands, a powerful application processor, all advanced 3D graphics capability, with a very low-power profile and affordable cost structure ideal for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets,” said Weili Dai, Marvell’s Co-Founder. “I envision that a true world phone will transform the global economy by lowering the cost and barriers to entry for billions more consumers and innovators.”

Marvell said that its platform will also feature another “first,” namely, a mobile MIMO, an 802.11n 2×2 dual-band Wi-Fi SoC designed to support high data rates on next-gen devices.

Marvell also demonstrated the latest version of its social mobile Web browser, Kinoma Play.

Marvell will demonstrate the newest version of Kinoma Play in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress (Courtyard CY15). For those unable to see Kinoma Play in person, a video showing the speed, elegance, and simplicity of Kinoma Play is available on the Marvell Web site.

What to Look For

As glum as Sprint’s prediction of the future may be, it is likely that Fared Adib is spot on. Costs and market pressures are definitely going to drive some out of the tablet business after 2012, but figuring out just who will be trickier task.

One thing to watch is how devices begin differentiating beyond just a simple skin overlaid on Android, WebOS, WP7 or perhaps even iOS. Content management is one issue where certain operating systems have a bit of an advantage, but that won’t translate into a benefit for a particular device.

While some bank on brand loyalty, others will try to reduce price and some will keep prices relatively high in hopes of maintaining a cool factor. What the market is uncertain of is how to quite include content that has mass appeal and is different across different platforms. Tablet makers will have to strike a balance between convincing developers to create content for their specific device and finding a novel way to package and deliver content that spreads across multiple devices and platforms.

Warner Bros unveiled the first App Editions of movies — “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” are up first — making them available for iOS devices. They’re free apps with built-in social networking, bonus content like games, soundtracks, trivia and clips of each film. Users can unlock the rest of the film through an in-app purchase. While this differentiation isn’t necessarily coming from Apple, these apps give it an advantage right now over Android devices, and trends like this may be a sign of what’s to come.

Back to Headlines

Nokia Jumps on the Microsoft Bandwagon

 – Symbian’s Death Knell, MeeGo’s Hibernation

 – Wait… How Long Until a New Device?

 – Was Ditching MeeGo Ignoring a Bigger Market?

Nokia has put out the fire on its “burning oil platform” and jumped ship to join up with Microsoft. Initially it seemed like a smart move as both Microsoft and Nokia wanted to give Google and Apple a bit more competition — RIM seems to have been mostly overlooked in the talks about the smartphone sector — so Nokia very excitedly shifted to Windows Phone 7 (WP7) as its “primary smartphone strategy.”

The two are hoping to leverage a single OS and a myriad of Web services as a unified platform, but this is about as risky a move as the two companies could muster. Microsoft has repeatedly been two steps behind in both the mobile and tablet space, failing to transition its lead in the PC market into the mobile personal computing space. Nokia has done well in emerging markets, but its Symbian OS has recently lost the lead in smartphone market share because it seemed to lack any response to the popularity of Google’s or Apple’s platforms.

The News Feed

While there has been a lot of knee-jerk reactions and time to recoup from the big announcements, they’re the best place to begin when looking at the new Nokia-Microsoft offerings.

The big points from Nokia’s recent announcement include:

 – Nokia has restructured again to reflect the merger of its Web services with Microsoft’s. Nokia is returning to its roots to become a device maker with two main divisions: smart devices and mobile phones. Nokia’s software division is gone and Microsoft’s units will take over any research or development.

 – WP7 will be Nokia’s primary smartphone platform and it will integrate a variety of services with Microsoft’s. The first integration will come from things like Web tools, Web services, marketing, development and shifting existing platform R&D.

 – Symbian will be reserved for carrier-based devices and emerging markets where phone demand and preferences tend toward feature phones and limited smartphones. WP7 will eventually be pushed to these lower devices. Nokia plans to sell roughly 150 million new Symbian devices with a goal of developing a way to transition these devices and users to the newer platform.

 – The quick app choices are Bing, Nokia Maps, Microsoft Marketplace, Microsoft’s adCenter, Zune subscriptions and Xbox Live integration. Nokia’s apps and music brands, which were already on their way out, are now being rolled into Microsoft’s offerings.

 – Microsoft said that the full details, largely those centered on Nokia’s ability to customize its offerings and leverage usage fees from others, have not been completely released but are wrapping up and will be available soon.

 – MeeGo is heading to the backburner, and its current head Alberto Torres is leaving Nokia. MeeGo will be kept as a project for new device formats, but there seems to be little interest in it. Nokia reiterated its commitment to sending a MeeGo smartphone to market by the end of the year, but it could be the only Nokia MeeGo phone for quite some time, if not ever.

No Need to Tweak

Nokia’s deal with Microsoft allows it to tweak the UI on its mobiles in the future, but Nokia CTO Rich Green told developers that the company has no such plans for changing the UI.

“We have a right to manipulate user experience, UI, but why would you?” Green said at the event held at Mobile World Congress.

Green said that the user experience was a key strength of WP7.

While it sounds like a good move since Nokia has had a tough time defining a UI users were clamoring over, it also means the mobile maker will seem very much like one of the herd if it doesn’t differentiate on the WP7 experience — Nokia will initially be fine since it won’t have much competition in terms of WP7 devices across multiple price points.

Making Money Elsewhere

In a conference at the Mobile World Congress, Microsoft executives touted the new merger and also provided a bit more clarification in what was going on.

Microsoft group product manager Greg Sullivan said that the next round of WP7 devices will mostly be “refreshed hardware in conjunction with the [software] update.”

Sullivan also said that Nokia should encourage everyone under the sun to build WP7 devices and to do it quickly. According to Sullivan, Nokia will make money from services on all manufacturers’ WP7 devices.

Sullivan gave the example of Nokia taking a cut of location-based advertising on devices from the likes of Samsung or HTC because their WP7 devices will feature Nokia Maps.

“We’ll be using their map technology, and they’ll have opportunities to monetize their location- based services,” Sullivan said. “There’s a range of possibilities in terms of how they can monetize this, and those possibilities are increased if the ecosystem is larger and more robust.”

“Will there be new ways that Nokia and other OEMs can differentiate and build some uniqueness to their offerings? Yes. Will the UI on those products still obviously be the Windows Phone UI, and will the platform APIs be consistent? Yes,” Sullivan said.

Paying Their Dues

Despite a lot of acclaim over the deal, Nokia’s stock price fell by 25% since its virtual merger was announced with Microsoft at the beginning of the week. It isn’t a big surprise since shareholders typically look at short-term financials, but Nokia isn’t getting hit just there.

Finnish trade unions are causing some issues given Nokia’s plan to lay off a significant number of workers. Estimates put Nokia laying off around 25% of its workforce, or roughly 5,000 people. The unions are calling for the company to provide 100,000 Euros as well as severance costs for each fired employee to cover re-education costs.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop also has to prove himself every day now. One of the most odd things to come out of the merger is the call that Elop is a ‘Trojan Horse’ sent by Microsoft to sabotage Nokia’s mobile goals. This is likely just a mix of anger and Elop being Nokia’s first ‘foreign-born’ CEO. It doesn’t help that Elop worked for Microsoft and owns a fair amount of stock — which is now being traded for Nokia shares according to reports — so he has some proving to do.

The only worry over this theory is that, if convinced of it, shareholders might opt to oust Elop if at all possible.

A Peek At WP7

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took center stage at Barcelona and made a mass of announcements largely around WP7. Here are the highlights:

 – In March, Microsoft will update the WP7 OS with a focus on boosting performance, introducing cut-and-paste offerings and adding CDMA compatibility.

 – Verizon and Sprint will get WP7 mobiles sometime in the first half of the year as CDMA-based devices become available.

 – In Q3 or Q4, Microsoft will release a more significant update to the OS, including a significant upgrade to Internet Explorer 9, quicker multitasking and switching between third-party apps, and hardware acceleration for WP7. “We will bring multitasking to Windows Phone this year,” Ballmer said, and will “give people the full Internet on their phone [so the Internet] will be a first-class citizen on the phone.”

 – In Q3, WP7 will get a Twitter integration called the “People Hub” area of the home screen. The device will also get document storing and sharing through Windows Live SkyDrive. Support for things like Xbox Live and Xbox Kinect are expected to have full integration by the end of Q3.

 – A WP7 device with Internet Explorer 9 and hardware acceleration was shown to perform better than Safari running on an iPhone. Unfortunately there were some system errors for the WP7 device.

 – When invited on stage Elop referred to Nokia’s ability to create a “three horse race” against Apple and Google.

 – Elop did not repeat the claim that Microsoft will be paying Nokia billions of dollars over time as part of the merger deal.

The Industry Weighs In

Google head Eric Schmidt laid out his company’s plan for the future in mobile, but said the one thing not in its utopian Android future is Nokia. “We would’ve loved if they would have chosen Android; they chose the other guys,” Schmidt said during a keynote at Mobile World Congress. “I think we were pretty straightforward. We would like them to adopt Android at some point in the future; that offer remains open [but] we’re sorry they made a different choice.”

Orange, Europe’s fourth-largest operator in terms of revenue, can influence consumer phone selection because of its purchase power and subsidy offerings. Chief of marketing and innovation Jean-Paul Cottet said of the merger, “We want a mobile ecosystem that is open and allows our clients to use all the services they want, not closed systems that benefit one company or another.” Cottet continued, “Nokia’s new platform with Windows is planned for 2012, so what happens until then? We know what we sell of Nokia’s lineup for the first half of this year, but we are wondering what they will propose to us to sell in the second half of the year.”

Verizon CTO Tony Melone said his company would probably not offer any Nokia WP7 smartphones. Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and RIM BlackBerry OS were ‘enough ecosystems’ for him.

Intel is disappointed at Nokia but life goes on,” said Renee James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s software and services group, during a press conference. “Our decision and resolve on MeeGo is only stronger.”

MeeGoing, Going, Gone into the Future

Intel said it will still focus on MeeGo development, but it seems Nokia isn’t going to help with that. Microsoft could cause a bit of a fuss here since MeeGo will likely compete with versions of Windows not only for tablets but also other CE-like set-top boxes and embedded platforms.

So, what’s the future of Nokia look like? Let’s look to the words of its CEO from this year’s Mobile World Congress.

“You’ve heard a lot about smartphones this week, but they’re only one part of our strategy,” Elop said, showing a map of the world with one pixel of light for everyone currently using a Nokia phone — it was brightly lighting every continent and an effective visual. “We believe there is an opportunity to make that much brighter,” Elop said.

For right now, Elop said, the future is in emerging markets. While Nokia’s feature phones and app-light devices, typically its Series 30 and 40 devices, are seen as largely outdated in areas where smartphones are becoming the norm, Nokia ships one million of these devices every day.

For millions of consumers in the developing world, these devices are the most available and at the best price points. The future, said Elop, is about getting these users online. “Eighty percent of people around the world are within cellphone range, but only 20% of the global population is online.”

By the end of the year, Elop said, Nokia would add maps and IM services to Series 40 phones, as well as ship millions of developer kits to local vendors in the developing world, allowing them to create apps relevant to their customers and region.

It was a very similar message to Nokia’s 2010 CES keynote.

A billion people on the planet have no bank account but do have a mobile phone, Elop said, so why not bring Nokia Money to this enormous market opportunity?

Now, Elop has to figure out how he’s going to balance all this out. He is faced with a situation in which he must deliver feature devices to the developing world at prices and with functions they want, while simultaneously impressing big markets in the US, Europe and Asia where Android and iOS take the stage and Series 30 and 40 devices are naught but a memory.

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Microsoft on Nokia Phone: 2011 or 2012?

“These Windows-based products will be on the market from 2012 onwards,” said Nokia board chairman Jorma Ollila in an interview with Finnish broadcaster YLE. However, new Nokia CEO and ex-Microsoft executive Stephen Elop said earlier in the week that Nokia is feeling the pressure and aims to produce a phone running Microsoft’s operating system by the end of 2011.

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Yahoo Announces Livestand Digital Magazine

Yahoo last week announced the launch of a digital newsstand available initially on the iPad and Android tablets.

“Livestand from Yahoo” will deliver personalized content results from various publishers, starting with Yahoo’s content portfolio of branded sports, news, finance, Flickr and the Yahoo Contributor Network.

Displayed in a magazine-style format, content is chosen based on a user’s selected interests as well as their location and the time of day the app is launched. Livestand will launch in the first half of 2011 on tablets and then to mobile phones and browsers later this year.

“With Livestand, we’re using ad formats that evoke the emotion of TV advertising with a highly visual magazine-like experience,” said Blake Irving, executive VP and chief product officer of Yahoo. “And they’re combined with the effectiveness of an Internet ad that’s data-rich, actionable, even location-aware. It’s all personalized and in context — just like our content.”

Facebook users can receive an early invite by heading over to the Livestand homepage and clicking to “like” it.

Yahoo joins the ranks of AOL’s magazine-style app Editions, News Corp’s The Daily and the magazine-style social news aggregator Flipboard.

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Apple Wins Best Mobile Device Award at Mobile World Congress

Apple Wins Best Mobile Device Award at Mobile World Congress

Apple did not have a booth at Mobile World Congress but its iPhone 4 still managed to win the award as the best mobile device. “Also rans” were devices based on Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and Google’s Android. The award was given for the iPhone’s “great screen, sharp design, fantastic materials, and phenomenal ecosystem for app developers.” (Whatever happened to Antennagate?)

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New Report on Chrome OS

Few people took Google’s Android seriously when it first appeared, but it has become a dominant operating system for touchscreen products like smartphones and tablets. It threatens to replace Apple as the bestseller in smartphones.

The same could happen to Chrome, which Google has positioned as THE operating system for a coming avalanche of cloudbooks and other devices that could substantially cut into the market for portable PCs and tablets. It is aimed at both the consumer and business market.

Intel was showing two low-power PC portables with Chrome OS in its booth at CES. They were fast — fast to load and only a few seconds to get on the Web and begin running applications.

Chrome devices will have a full keyboard, unlike tablets, and be used only for cloud-based computing and storage.

Rider Research has prepared an executive briefing paper on Chrome — what it is and its likely impact.

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THIS WEEK IN CONTENT DEALS

eBay, Telefonica, O2

Online auction Web site eBay inked a deal with Telefonica to preload the eBay mobile application on select handsets it sells through O2 in the UK.

Aspiro Music, Telenor

Mobile media publisher Aspiro Music partnered with mobile network company Telenor to launch a streaming music service in Sweden called WiMP.

Nokia, Microsoft

Nokia inked a deal to partner with Microsoft to utilize its Windows Mobile 7 software on future handsets and will also use Bing as the default search engine.

 

THIS WEEK IN FINANCE DEALS

Tango

Mobile video chat company Tango received $8.7 million in new funding from previous individual investors and undisclosed new backers.

Outbrain, Gemini Israel Funds, Carmel Ventures, Rhodium, GlenRock Israel, Lightspeed Venture Partners

Content discovery technology company Outbrain closed a Round C of funding with $11 million from prior backers Gemini Israel Funds, Carmel Ventures, Rhodium, GlenRock Israel and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Songkick

Online concert listings provider Songkick landed $1.9 million from a group of undisclosed investors.

Kaltura, Nexus Venture Partners, Silicon Valley Bank, Intel Capital, .406 Ventures, Avalon Ventures

Open source online video platform developer Kaltura received $20 million in a new round of funding led by new backer Nexus Venture Partners, with participation from Silicon Valley Bank, Intel Capital, .406 Ventures and Avalon Ventures.

Pandora

Internet radio music streaming service Pandora filed a registration statement with the SEC for a proposed IPO that would raise up to $100 million.

Slacker

Online streaming radio provider Slacker secured $3 million in debut funding in an undisclosed deal.

EchoStar, Hughes Communications

Satellite TV company and DISH Network founder EchoStar acquired satellite firm Hughes Communications in a deal valued at $2 billion, stipulating that Hughes stockholders receive $60.70 a share in cash.

TuneUp Media, IDG Ventures

Music library clean up and organization application provider TuneUp Media received $2 million in new funding from prior investor IDG Ventures.

 

APPLE IPAD

Apple to iOS Subscriptions: 30% of Yours Is Mine

This is an archived edition, for the latest copy and a chance to see evaluate current analysis, please write paperboy@riderresearch.com or register for a four week free trial.

Apple has fully unveiled the details of its new subscription model for the App Store, confirming what most believed by saying it will charge magazine and newspaper publishers 30% of their cover price per issue.

Apple has taken a one-size-fits-all approach, allowing publishers the ability to “set the price and length of subscriptions,” (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly) a payment which Apple will process and is “keeping the same 30% share that it does today for other in-app purchases.”

Surprisingly, the 30% cut also extends to non-print content, such as music subscriptions.

Apple did say it would allow publishers and others to use alternative approaches for getting users to subscribe outside of the app, such as selling digital subscriptions on their Web site or bundling them with physical media. The caveat here is that these apps will have to develop and provide “their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app.”

Sony’s recent app troubles aren’t solved here because that offering took users from within an app to a Web page via the browser for its purchases, and this workaround is still a no-no. Apple made it clear that publishers can’t provide links within apps that allow customers to purchase any content or subscription outside of the app.

A few of the other important points the announcement made are below:

 – Walking on razor-thin margins: at first glance, it appears the 30% cut could hurt a lot of digital content publishers. The biggie here is Amazon who is likely faced with either now taking a loss on many sales or raising its prices on its Kindle app. The third option is that it may simply shut down its iOS Kindle app, or at least the app’s ability to make a purchase.

 – Don’t know your users: besides the 30% cut, Apple is also giving publishers less user info. Now the process will give buyers the “option” of providing their name, e-mail address and zip code to the publisher.

 – This is a ‘must-have’: Apple said if a publisher sells a digital subscription outside of the app, it must offer the same subscription at the same price or less to customers who want to subscribe from within the app.

 – No faith within the community: the newspaper industry made a large move to ignore and speak ill of Project Alesha, a unified payment platform for digital print media content, because it came from Rupert Murdoch. Looks like they had it coming.

 – Users score at least one win: perhaps the best news is a somewhat secondary feature for the user, namely a personal account page that allows them to cancel automatic renewals and manage existing subscriptions. Can’t beat a one-touch solution to halting a recurring payment.

“Our philosophy is simple — when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30% share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100% and Apple earns nothing,” said Apple’s Steve Jobs. “We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”

All in all, this could be a good thing for both consumers and companies offering their content, provided those companies can survive the 30% cut, that is. Consumers tend to come out ahead when services have to compete for that bottom dollar. Companies that can afford the cut can very likely see some good from this model because of the volume of consumption Apple provides. App developers have been paying that price for initial sales and in-app sales already, but app usage and purchasing is only going up.

The person who looks to suffer the most is likely the consumer who isn’t an iOS user as there’s a chance services will bump up their prices across the board to compensate for the 30% cut. Since companies have to offer the subscription at the same price or less from within the app, any price increases to compensate for Apple’s share will have to happen everywhere. It is possible that service will charge more for an iOS subscription compared to an Android one, but such a price difference seems unlikely because the consumer will direct their wrath at the service provider instead of at Apple.

 The Unhappy Response

There’s dissension in the ranks over the subscription policy, with Rhapsody being openly and viscerally hostile, while others mull possible litigation.

A Sony representative said that Apple is essentially holding publishers ransom. A representative for the Online Publishers Association, which represents Time, Bloomberg and other media outlets, seemed miffed about the setup and was worried over how it would affect sales. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple will likely face anti-trust scrutiny because the move can be seen as putting “anti-competitive pressures on price.”

Rhapsody went for the jugular when President John Irwin said that “an Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30% of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable. The bottom line is we would not be able to offer our service through the iTunes store if subjected to Apple’s 30% monthly fee.” Irwin also threw down the gauntlet, “We will be collaborating with our market peers in determining an appropriate legal and business response to this latest development.”

Apple’s foray into the publishing arena is looking a bit too much like ‘How to Lose Friends and Irritate People.’

This is an archived edition, for the latest copy and a chance to see evaluate current analysis, please write paperboy@riderresearch.com or register for a four week free trial.

Quick on Its Feet, Google Responds

Shortly after Apple’s plans emerged, Google CEO Eric Schmidt unveiled the company’s One Pass payment system for digital content, offering publishers a better cut than what’s been recently offered by Apple’s App Store.

Google’s One Pass will take typically around 10% of sales from publishers. “Each publisher gets in the 90% range of the revenue,” said Google.

Google’s payment service, yet to be launched, will be powered by Google Checkout.

One Pass will let publishers set prices and terms for digital content that can be delivered to devices via Web sites and Android apps. It also provides a single interface for users to manage and access multiple devices and content subscriptions.

The announcement was a direct hit against Apple.

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Opera Mini: iPad Ready, Waiting on Apple’s Go

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Opera was demonstrating a version of its Opera Mini Web browser for Apple’s iPad, and the oohs and aahs could hardly be contained.

Opera Mobile calls itself the fastest smartphone Web browser and recently jumped past the 100-million-user mark. Initially its iPhone app was stopped short by Apple since it was a direct competitor with the Safari mobile Web browser native to the phone, but it is unclear if Apple will be lifting the ban across all iOS devices.

Opera works a bit differently from most Web browsers on the market. Essentially the user connects to a central Opera server. This caches and optimizes Web pages and delivers them to the app, allowing the Web pages to be delivered more quickly than normal and with more support.

Besides competing with Safari, Opera Mini butts up against Apple’s ban on non-Webkit browsers and presumably has the ability to run external code which goes against Apple’s App Store agreement.

Opera did say that Apple has yet to approve the browser but was confident in its approval “soon.”

Opera is already available for Android and Windows 7 tablets.

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Splashtop Releases MeeGo-Based OS for OEMs

While MeeGo’s mobile phone future is up in the air, Splashtop has released a new version of its MeeGo-based Splashtop OS targeting OEM and ODM partners for their next-generation tablets and netbooks.

Splashtop, which focuses on instant-on computing, said its flagship OS has already shipped on millions of notebooks and netbooks from OEMs including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG and Sony, among others.

“If you’re an OEM, you should choose a software partner the way you’d choose a spouse,” said Mark Lee, CEO of Splashtop. “It should be someone you trust, someone who understands how you operate, and someone who can help you bring a beautiful product into the world. But in the computer industry, experience really counts — the more the better. The Splashtop installed base of 60 million shows that we offer tried and true solutions. Plus we’re a great long-term partner.”

All awkward baby analogies aside, Splashtop is an impressive OS in how quickly it allows users to boot up and get online — in a couple of seconds, a user is able to go from nothing to sending an e-mail or opening a chat program. One solid feature of the latest version is its connection with Intel’s AppUp platform. AppUp is an app store for Intel-based machines that gives users access to free and pay-for apps, and the Splashtop integration means that users can boot their MeeGo PC and then directly jump into a favorite app or service, extending the instant-on functionality of the device.

“MeeGo’s open and flexible software platform on Intel architecture gives mobile device manufacturers both the freedom and the powerful capabilities to deliver exciting user experiences,” said Ram Peddibhotla, system software marketing director for Intel. “Intel welcomes Splashtop and other software vendors to the MeeGo ecosystem to apply its deep software knowledge to help manufacturers bring mobile devices to market quickly.”

Splashtop also said its Remote app will be extended to all devices running the new OS. The app lets users on MeeGo Android, Windows or iOS devices fully access and run content on a main Mac or Windows PC through their mobile.

Splashtop is an active contributor to the MeeGo project. Its CEO and co-founder, Mark Lee, serves on the board of directors of the Linux Foundation and two of its bigwigs promote MeeGo in Asia on behalf of the foundation.

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The Cable Show

June 14-16, 2011

McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois

 

Major UK Retailers to Offer Moto’s Xoom Tablet

Motorola’s 10-inch Xoom, the first tablet with Google’s new Honeycomb version of Android developed specifically for tablets, is off to a good start in the UK. The combination Wi-Fi/3G models will be sold through traditional retailers such as Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy and the 3G only model through Currys and PC World.

European prices haven’t been announced but the Xoom models are $799 and $599 in the States. In the UK the Wi-Fi only models of the 10-inch iPad start at £439 ($710) and the Wi-Fi/3G models start at £541 ($875). We expect similar pricing for the Xoom in the UK.

Let’s hope Motorola does better than Samsung did with its 7-inch Galaxy Tab tablet. It claimed it sold two million of them, but it turns out that it was only sold to retailers, so many of the tablets have not been sold to consumers. Return rates may be high because most consumers will want the Xoom with its newer and tablet-intended Honeycomb version of Android.

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BROADBAND BEAT

New Zealand Favors 3G, Not LTE, For Rural Broadband

The New Zealand government is to use 3G rather than LTE for its rural broadband program and is in final talks with Telecom NZ and Vodafone.

Steven Joyce, minister for communications and IT, said that the shortlist for the rural broadband rollout had been narrowed down to just the joint Telecom/Vodafone bid, and he hoped a contract could be signed by the end of the quarter. If negotiations are completed successfully, Telecom will be responsible for building the fiber network linking schools and hospitals, cell sites and rural exchanges and cabinets, while Vodafone will be responsible for the design and building of open access tower infrastructure, the companies said previously.

This was one of five original bids for the project and was chosen because it harnesses existing infrastructure, reducing time and cost and improving the ROI case. Another proposal, based on TD-LTE, came from the OpenGate FX group, made up of Kordia, fixed wireless operator Woosh Wireless and fiber optic network operator FX Networks.

Kordia’s CEO Geoff Hunt issued a statement that said “This decision effectively condemns rural communities to suffering from same old duopoly services that continue to under-deliver and hold rural New Zealand hostage. The government had an opportunity through the RBI to provide a technology step-change in services for rural New Zealand that would have laid a future-proof and highly competitive foundation for the next 15 years.” He added: “The 3G element of the Telecom Vodafone solution is being superseded all around the world by 4G technologies like TD-LTE.” Vodafone does not currently have spectrum to upgrade to LTE.

Testing TD-LTE across the water, Australia’s VividWireless, part of the Seven Group, said it had hit peak speeds of 128Mbps in live trials in inner Sydney, using Huawei gear. Consistent download speed was between 40Mbps and 70Mbps. Vivid’s existing networks run on WiMAX (in Perth and parts of Sydney) or pre-WiMAX technologies.

This first appeared in Wireless Watch.

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ENABLING TECHNOLOGY

Telefónica Unveils Multi-Platform App Strategy

Telefónica has introduced a new multi-platform app service, codenamed “Frigo,” which it aims to let customers access, manage and use apps on their mobiles, tablets, netbooks, PCs, STBs and many other devices.

The service, basically a multi-platform applications folder, backs up content to the cloud and enables the user to access this content through a personal profile that can be retrieved on another device as they move. Users will link their devices to this centralized folder, though a limit on devices or a cost per device has not yet been released.

The commercial brand will be formally unveiled in the spring with a launch to follow later this year, initially in seven Telefónica markets: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Spain and the UK.

Telecom Italia will be the first operator outside of the Telefónica Group to get the service and offer it to customers. The company said the service would be available in April. This most likely means that the initial unveiling and launch date will occur in around mid-March.

The new service is scheduled to work across a variety of operating systems, including Android, Windows Mobile, Java and Symbian. There was no word on iOS compatibility, but the service will likely see its expansion move more toward Linux-based operating systems initially.

Frigo uses Qualcomm’s Xiam content recommendation engine, while its app store functions are powered by Ericsson’s Mobile Service Delivery Platform.

The service is key to watch because it is one of the largest pushes into single-source content for multiple devices. The service will give everyone a strong indication of which features and functionality users want shared instantaneously across multiple devices and what they want separate and compartmentalized. It will also provide a strong look into user-consumption preferences, mainly if they’re willing to use a shared UI across devices or if they prefer the custom-built iterations of apps per each device that cannot necessarily talk to each other.

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Nokia Leaves MeeGo’s Future to Intel

Nokia’s seemingly desperate lunge for Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS and its abandonment of Symbian and MeeGo leaves Intel holding the MeeGo bag.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini said at the Mobile World Congress that Intel believes MeeGo has a bright future in smartphones, tablets and smart TVs.

Nokia said it will use MeeGo in at least one smartphone before the next version of Windows Mobile is completed but will then switch its engineering staff to Windows. The first Nokia smartphones with Windows are not expected until year-end or perhaps in 2012. Major technology changes always seem to take longer than expected.

Otellini said mobile phone operators are still looking for an open, operator-friendly OS. If everyone else is selling iOS and Android devices, they’ll certainly be looking for products that can differentiate themselves.

At CES, Intel was showing a number of smart TV adapters that use MeeGo. It also said it expects MeeGo-based tablets this year and that MeeGo will be embedded in devices for the automotive industry — smart cars.

MeeGo came about when Intel and Nokia decided to merge their efforts to develop an OS for mobile devices and the automotive industry.

Otellini also said there will be smartphones using its chips this year.

The Battle of the Operating Systems

iOS                      Only on Apple products. One OS for smartphone, tablet and Apple TV.

WebOS                For HP’s smartphones and tablets.

Windows Phone 7 Microsoft with Nokia as a major backer.

MeeGo                 Intel aims at automotive (smart cars), smart phones  and tablets.

QNX                    RIM’s first tablet uses the QNX OS that it acquired.

Android                Google has seen it become the most used OS on smartphones.

Chrome                Google aims at the coming cloudbook market.

 

Complicating Intel’s business is that old chum Microsoft, which has signed a deal with ARM to develop the next version of Windows to also run on ARM-based microprocessors, which many companies make, in addition to Intel chips. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer showed at CES what he said was the next version of Windows running on what he said was an ARM-based processor.

Complicating life for Microsoft is Google’s success with Android, which strengthens its ability to make its Chrome OS the standard on a new generation of cloudbooks that only function fully when connected to the Net. Intel was showing two Chrome-based cloudbooks in its CES booth.

Otellini said open operating systems like Android and MeeGo have the edge over closed systems like Windows Phone 7. “Some closed models will certainly survive, because you can optimize the experience, [perhaps referring to Apple] but in general, if you harness the ability of all the engineers and developers in the world, open wins,” he said.

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HTML5 Will Be Finalized in 2014

 – Three More Years of Endless Hype on the Horizon

The standard for HTML5 won’t be finalized and finished for another three years, according to a recent note from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

This week the standards body said it has extended the charter of its group developing HTML5, with the proposed specifications getting a last-call status in May to be followed by a three-year wait. This will end up as one of those situations in which a piece of technology enters mainstream use and users simply don’t know or care if it is still in beta when they use it — somewhat similar to the path of the latest Wi-Fi standard.

The group said the wait is due to it developing a comprehensive test suite “to achieve broad interoperability for the full specification by 2014, the target date for Recommendation.”

Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO, said that testing is vital because of HTML’s role as a foundation for the Web. “Even as innovation continues, advancing HTML5 to Recommendation provides the entire Web ecosystem with a stable, tested, interoperable standard. The decision to schedule the HTML5 Last Call for May 2011 was an important step in setting industry expectations. Today we take the next step, announcing 2014 as the target for Recommendation.”

However, some groups like the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) are calling for the HTML5 standard to be considered finished. Last month, WHATWG called HTML5 more “mature than any specification to date” and said it only hurts the industry to continue calling it a draft.

WHATWG says it aims to represent those unable to join the W3C’s working group. It was founded in 2004 by Apple, the Mozilla Foundation and Opera.

So Why, Exactly?

The decision to push its finalization back a few years is likely two-fold:

 – It’ll combat some of the unrealistic hype building around HTML5 since last year when it was first heralded as the savior of Web video despite having very little browser support or supported content.

 – It also gives the body a chance to figure out ways to integrate new features, from augmented reality to interactive advertising, into the standard so that they are not only supported across multiple devices but also have a clear date for the market to fully adopt and react to these coming changes.

Some of the main HTML5 hype came from Apple in 2010, where the specification was used to justify keeping iOS devices Flash-free. Google also helped when it announced plans for a VP8 video compression standard, saying it was looking into shifting its YouTube service from Flash and H.264 to a mix of HTML5 and VP8. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer even told a developer conference that HTML5 would the glue that binds Microsoft’s “three screens and a cloud” strategy. Even the new Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate claims “extensive built-in support for various industry standards including HTML5.”

Even the W3C had their hand in the cookie jar, releasing an HTML5 logo that claimed to cover HTML5 with CSS, SVG and WOFF. W3C has taken a step back from supporting this, but just about any Web site can now add this logo to its page without any true testing or certification of its HTML5 support.

The W3C has said simply that HTML5 isn’t ready, something which those major PC and Web players have also admitted, either directly or by maintaining their services in alternate formats such as Silverlight or Flash. The industry appears to need time to shift, but no one wants to be the last on the bandwagon to say they fully support something they feel is the future of the Web.

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VP8 Squares off Against MPEG and MPEG LA

When looking at the industry and its acronym affection, sometimes it is hard not to think of the Jackson Five singing “ABC. Easy as 123. Or simple as do re mi.”

But alas, the latest codec war isn’t that simple, as Google’s open video codec VP8 is now set to fend off MPEG and a totally separate MPEG LA.

The MPEG standards body — not to be confused with the MPEG LA patent-pool organization — has said it will develop its own royalty-free codec for the future of the Web. At its upcoming meeting in March, the organization will begin accepting proposals for the new video compression technology that it hopes will be a step up from the performance from MPEG-2.

Last May, Google announced it was putting out its VP8 codec as open source under a royalty-free license with the aim of creating a new and completely open standard for Web video. Google came under fire from MPEG LA for allegedly violating patents associated with the H.264 codec — MPEG LA handles the licensing of this royalty-required codec.

MPEG LA has officially called on patent holders to submit patents they believe are essential to VP8. Securing these would allow the organization to create a patent pool for Google’s codec, likely creating a big challenge for Google to keep VP8 royalty-free.

Essentially, all three are separate entities with these stakes in the game:

 – Google: Keeping VP8 royalty-free means keeping YouTube costs low. It is pushing VP8 as a codec for HTML5 to help keep it at the forefront of codec development and keep its support costs down. It doesn’t control the standards but wants to maintain them as open and royalty-free.

 – MPEG: The “Moving Picture Experts Group” is a working consortium formed to set standards for audio and video compression and transmission. It has a wide variety of MPEG codecs and aims to set the standard for how video is handled in the home and on the Web. Their dog in this hunt is setting a standard its 350 or so members can all agree on and support.

 – MPEG LA: This is a Denver-based firm that licenses patent pools covering essential patents required for use of the MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Visual (Part 2), IEEE 1394, VC-1, ATSC and AVC/H.264. It also has a hand in some LTE patents and is seeking patents associated with WebM. This group does not control or set standards; it just makes money off of licensing associated with patent-covered codecs.

Google’s VP8 faces two main challenges: MPEG LA is aiming to make it so it can charge for the VP8 codec, while MPEG is trying to develop its own codec that remains charge-free. Google has some strong momentum behind it, namely the Mozilla and Opera browsers and hardware makers like AMD and Nvidia, but it seems one treacherous step away from seeing VP8’s appeal change dramatically.

This is an archived edition, for the latest copy and a chance to see evaluate current analysis, please write paperboy@riderresearch.com or register for a four week free trial.

New Broadcom Chips:

Smaller, Faster, Longer Battery Usage, New Functions

Want to know where technology is going? Watch what’s going on in chips and operating systems.

Broadcom, which makes chips for the wired and wireless communications markets, this week announced an ARM-based combination chip for the mobile market that’s designed to support more media and data applications without impacting size or battery life for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. The BCM4330 integrates Broadcom’s 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio technologies on a single silicon die to provide significant cost, size, power and performance advantages over separate semiconductor implementations of those technologies.

Broadcom said the BCM4330’s “extreme integration” reduces power consumption and makes the overall solution size over 40% smaller than its predecessor.

The BCM4330 is the industry’s first combo chip solution certified with the Bluetooth 4.0 standard that integrates Bluetooth low energy (BLE), an ultra-low power implementation of Bluetooth technology. It’s aimed at devices that require very long battery life such as wireless sensors, medical and fitness monitoring devices. It also supports Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth High Speed, which enable mobile devices to communicate directly with each other without having to connect to an access point as part of a traditional network. Bluetooth High Speed enables Bluetooth applications to be used over the Wi-Fi connection at Wi-Fi speeds.

Broadcom supports most major operating systems from Microsoft Windows and Windows Phone to Google Chrome and Android but not including HP’s WebOS, RIM’s QNX and Apple’s iOS.

Android and Windows Phone distributions feature support for “Soft Access Point,” which allows the Wi-Fi component in a device such as a notebook computer or smartphone to function as an access point enabling the sharing of wireless broadband with other devices

The BCM4330 is in production with volume shipments to phone manufacturers this quarter. It was demonstrated this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

It’s expected to appear in smartphones, tablets and cloud books.

Robert Rango, executive VP and general manager of Broadcom’s mobile and wireless connectivity group, said, “Broadcom’s wireless combo solutions are used in most of the Windows Phone 7 products shipped to date. The addition of Nokia to the Windows Phone ecosystem could drastically increase the addressable market for this platform.”

 

HOME NETWORKING

Wi-Fi Provides Boost for Ralink

Assuming that eventually all homes will have broadband and all CE products from picture frames to refrigerators and including automobiles will have Wi-Fi, the potential market for Wi-Fi and DSL chipmakers like Ralink Technology is enormous.

Taiwan-based Ralink reported that in the fourth quarter of 2010 it shipped 25.8 million units, including Wi-Fi and ADSL chips, a 15.2% growth in shipments compared to the third quarter of 2010, and a 49.3% shipment growth compared to the same period of last year:

 – The retail market accounted for 29% of total unit shipments.

 – Broadband accounted for 50%.

 – PC and notebooks accounted for 15%.

 – Consumer electronics accounted for 6%.

The share for ADSL and Wi-Fi were respectively 70% and 30%. Total shipments in 2010 reached 88.4 million units, a 67.7% increase over the prior year.

This is the first time that the company announced its quarterly financial results after merging with TrendChip Technology.

In the MIPS booth at CES, Ralink showed its video-over-Wi-Fi solutions that are based on MIPS technology.

Ralink develops wireless home networking and ADSL broadband semiconductor products. In addition to their use for traditional PC networking, the chips are used in digital media and handheld devices including PDAs, cameras, print servers, HDTV, video game players, and xDSL gateways.

The company is a member of the WiGig Alliance.

Ralink Technology was founded in 2001.

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LEGAL MATTERS

Congress Introduces Do-Not-Track Web Legislation

US Rep. Jackie Speier introduced the Do-Not-Track-Me-Online Act, a bill that would require firms that track the Web surfing habits to allow consumers to opt out, or else face fines.

The bill requires firms collecting data to notify users when data on them is collected as well as to provide details on the data collected and how it is used. “People have a right to surf the Web without Big Brother watching their every move and announcing it to the world. The Internet marketplace has matured, and it is time for consumers’ protections to keep pace,” Rep. Speier said in a statement.

Ironically, the bill allows Big Brother to keep on looking without cluing in the average users since government Web sites and services are exempt from tracking restrictions. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also given the power to set exemptions for standard tracking, such as the collection of IP addresses, browser history and OS information.

The proposed legislation follows the FTC’s call for browser developers to include the ability for consumers to opt out of tracking. Mozilla had added such a feature already while Google and Microsoft are expected to follow suit very soon.

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Labels Sue Canadian isoHunt

isoHunt, a search engine that helps users find files on BitTorrent, has been sued by 26 record labels for facilitating copyright infringement in its home country of Canada, TorrentFreak reported.

The suit against isoHunt and its owner Gary Fung seeks a shutdown of the Web sites isoHunt, Podtropolis and TorrentBos, and over $4 million in damages.

“The isoHunt Web sites have been designed and are operated by the defendants with the sole purpose of profiting from rampant copyright infringement which defendants actively encourage, promote, authorize, induce, aid, abet, materially contribute to and commercially profit from,” the labels’ complaint reads.

Some major hollywood film studios, represented by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), sued isoHunt in US federal court last year and the court handed down a permanent injunction against isoHunt. The ruling is currently under appeal, but isoHunt still must filter its search engine based on keywords provided by the MPAA.

This filter only applies to US users, but the Canadian lawsuit, if successful, could require a music-related filter for all of isoHunt’s users.

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US Government Shuts Down 84,000 Websites, ‘By Mistake’

The US Government has again shut down a series of domains led by the Department of Justice and Homeland Security’s ICE office. Initial reports said that these domains were largely related counterfeit goods and illegal adult content.

According to TorrentFreak, the one thing ICE didn’t say was that it targeted domains belonging to a free DNS provider and ended up taking off roughly 84,000 Web sites that were wrongfully accused of cyber-crimes against children.

As part of “Operation Save Our Children” ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center convinced a District Court judge to sign a seizure warrant, and then contacted the domain registries to point the domains in question to a server that hosts the warning message.

Somewhere along the way, a mistake was made and the domain of a large DNS service provider was seized. Eventually, the domain seizure was fixed and the old sites began appearing again instead of the accusatory banner. However, another three days passed before the federal warnings and accusations disappeared completely.

Most of the seized properties were for personal sites and small business Web sites, and search engines still list some of these sites as linked to illegal content.

In a statement on the seizure released after the sites were back up, the Department of Homeland Security touted its take down and made no mention of sites wrongfully accused.

Back to Headlines

New iBooks Hoped to Deter Hacks

– Jailbroken Soon Thereafter

Apple doesn’t like users jailbreaking their devices, even if the courts rule it perfectly legal. In the latest round of cat-and-mouse, Apple has released a new version of iBooks that adds a function to make it unable to open books on jailbroken devices.

The software basically runs a program before loading a DRM-regulated book. If a device is not jailbroken, the program won’t launch and the book will open fine. A jailbroken device will allow the program to run in the background and the book won’t open.

The latest jailbreak hit within under a day of the change showing up on anyone’s radar, but this new jailbreak also added in a few nice features for others devices. Top on the list is that a jailbroken Apple TV and some other devices no longer need the user to attach them to a PC when they boot up, basically re-jailbreaking them each time the device reboots. It has also fixed a lot of Wi-Fi issues that were reported with the last crack.

Apple TV’s jailbreak software gives it access to the Plex media browser (similar to Boxee), the Info On Demand weather and news feed app and a Last.fm app. Right now, Fire Core is offering the software for $20 as part of a bundle.

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LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS

Counting Tablets, Apple Leads in Mobile PC Sales

By combining tablets with portable PCs, DisplaySearch in its quarterly ranking of worldwide mobile PC shipments says Apple has passed HP to become number one. Most research firms have not traditionally counted tablets as portable PCs.

DisplaySearch says Apple shipped more than 10.2 million notebooks and tablet PCs combined, nearly a million more units than HP in the fourth quarter of 2010. It had a 17.2% market share.

It said Apple and Toshiba were the only two vendors that increased shipments of notebook PCs. Toshiba increased its mobile PC shipments 15% to over 5.1 million units in the last quarter.

DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim said Apple’s iPad has changed how tablets are used. “The traditional boundaries don’t really apply anymore. The iPad is a computing device that can run applications. It has a processor, uses memory and has local storage,” Shim told InternetNews.com. “How many years have consumers been asking for instant on and longer battery life? Apple has addressed those needs and consumers have voted with their dollars.”

Looking ahead, Shim said, “We’re projecting the tablet market will reach 55.7 (million) units in 2011 and Apple will have the leading market share by far. You have to remember the competition is coming but it’s not even really out there yet.”

Tablets based on the version of Android called Honeycomb that Google says is intended for tablets have only recently been available, most notably Motorola’s Xoom. Earlier Android-based tablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab used an earlier version of Android that Google intended for smartphones.

Tablets with proprietary operating systems like HP’s WebOS-based TouchPad and RIM’s QNX-based Playbook have not yet shipped.

Shim said, “Apple has the benefit of momentum, and there’s nothing holding them back. When other devices come out they’ll have to compete with each other even as all of them are being compared to the iPad, which has set the standard to beat. And if Apple releases a new iPad as expected that could be another pregnant pause the rest of the industry is going to have to adapt to.”

HP was second in the quarterly rankings with 9.3 million mobile PCs shipped in for a 15.6% market share. Acer, Dell and Toshiba had a 14%, 9.9% and 8.6% share, respectively.

The mobile PC market is not booming. DisplaySearch said their sales were up 4% in Q4 from the prior quarter and only 1% from the same quarter a year ago.

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MOBILE MEDIA

Mobile TV App Store for Broadcasters Launched

Everything has an app store, or at least something that looks like one.

Mobile software developer SPB Software announced a major update coming to its mobile TV solution, SPB TV 3.0, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week: catalogs, premium content and VOD in an app-like package.

SPB TV 3.0 is basically an app store publishing platform that’s designed for TV channels, offering broadcasters and content owners the ability to send content to mobiles across the globe. Mobile operators with existing libraries can now fully deliver these to users across multiple handsets, and their services can now support premium channels and VOD content.

In the SPB TV 3.0 content directory, the user chooses from a wide range of paid and free content, which is laid out and presented much the same way apps are in an app store. Broadcasters here have the ability to offer free, pay-for or ad-based content, and the user is presented with these as sorting features.

The service said it offers several benefits for TV channels, including having more than four million users; having cross platform support that “covers smartphones, tablets and desktop computers”; the ability to give back user statistics; and the ability to target users by region.

Back to Headlines

Second Phone Numbers Now Available from the App Store

Barcelona’s fonYou, a global technology company, has launched a free iPhone application that lets users download mobile numbers from the iTunes App Store.

After users install the app, they can activate and use a “fonYou number” from their existing handsets. The app creates a virtual second phone line that gives users two numbers on the same mobile, without requiring another SIM card.

One potentially useful feature is “call control,” which allows users to filter calls from unknown or specific numbers. Once users implement the filter, they can block numbers or send them straight to voicemail. However, another feature seems ripe for abuse: the company said its service “automatically creates and backs-up a full online register for calls, texts and voicemails as well as an online address book.”

So far, it works with any Spanish mobile operator, according to the company. fonYou said it will soon make the service available in other territories. Since the service isn’t based on VoIP tech, it should offer the same call quality as any mobile phone service offers for other devices.

fonYou is currently developing versions of its virtual phone number app for Android and BlackBerry devices.

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RIM Supports $150m for Mobile Developers

BlackBerry smartphone maker Research in Motion (RIM) announced on Monday that it has led a new $150 million investment in BlackBerry Partners Fund II that will be used toward mobile developers. The new fund will have more of an international flavor than the first. That fund has made 13 investments in firms including Appia, Buzzd, Digby, SocialDeck, Transpera and Xobni. “We are very pleased with the positive impact of the first Fund on our mobile ecosystem and we look forward to BlackBerry Partners Fund II bringing additional resources and support to mobile innovators in a broader range of international markets,” said RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie.

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ONLINE MUSIC SERVICES

Radiohead: Now Pay-What-We-Want

Radiohead made a digital name for itself by letting fans choose what they wanted to pay for its older album “In Rainbows,” but this time it wants a more structured pay grade, taking all that acclaimed power out of the hands of fans once again.

Its forthcoming new album, “The King of Limbs,” will be available as an MP3 copy for $9 and an uncompressed WAV version for $14. The band will again offer various bundles of physical and digital products: a double-vinyl set with a CD, MP3 album and related artwork will cost $48, while the same deal with the WAV downloads will cost $53.

The album in all of its various forms is available for pre-order at http://www.thekingoflimbs.com, though they’re all a bit above the $6 average paid for “In Rainbows.” For that album, according to comScore, only 40% of users paid any money since a legitimate free option was available.

Back to Headlines

Pandora Files to Raise $100 Million in IPO

Internet radio service Pandora has filed a registration statement for a proposed IPO that would raise up to $100 million. The underwriters are investment banks Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Securities. The number of shares and pricing information has yet to be determined. According to the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company’s revenue was “$55.2 million and $90.1 million in fiscal 2010 and the nine months ended October 31, 2010, respectively. Our net loss was $16.8 million and $0.3 million in fiscal 2010 and the nine months ended October 31, 2010, respectively.” The statement also said Pandora has a 50% share of all Internet radio listening time among the top 20 stations and networks in the United States, according to Ando Media.

Back to Headlines

UMG: ‘Streams of Music Are Eclipsing Everything’

While it may be a good kick in the shins to piracy, it may not necessarily be a great step forward for labels.

“Streams of music are eclipsing everything,” Universal Music Group UK chief David Joseph recently told the Guardian. “It’s a different digital currency to downloading. You’re dealing with 175 million single tracks bought a year compared to seven billion streams of music.” Though to be fair, many of those seven billion streams are repeats of the same songs to the same people.

The 175 million to seven billion market comparison begets the following question: Where’s the sustainable revenue stream in all of this?

UMG’s global digital head Rob Wells has said that piracy is the top concern for the company bar none, but the surge in streaming services from Spotify and Last.fm to Pandora and Rhapsody could easily be sliding into the number-two spot.

“Revenues are significantly growing and I fundamentally believe that streaming and subscription models with unlimited access on all devices are the future of our business,” Joseph told the paper. “But will people still listen to albums, or just single tracks, or send playlists to their friends? Answer: all of the above.”

The labels are jumping in the mix with their own efforts at streaming content, and that may end up being the best thing for the industry. While Sony, et al, have launched Qriocity in a wide range of countries on a wide range of devices, there are also local approaches being taken with direct label involvement.

UMG has confirmed that it has reached an understanding with Virgin Media covering a new service that it called “innovative” and “ahead of the times,” showing faith in the service that could backfire again if it doesn’t live up to the hype. Virgin is said to be in talks with other labels to secure content for the deal.

The labels are learning to adapt in the digital sphere, but there is a chance they may spread themselves a bit too thin if they aren’t working closely with each service they license. When they support services from major friends to major enemies — such as Rdio from the Kazaa founders — and have so far sunk an estimated $34 million in dedicated funds for startups this year, it may mean that the “all of the above” answer is coming because no one has quite figured it out yet.

 

SHOW TIME

Aiming For Every Device, Netflix Comes to Boxee

Netflix continues its seemingly inexorable spread with D-Link making it available on its Boxee Box, finally, in the US and Canada. The Boxee Box makes Netflix and other online services available on millions of non-smart TVs.

Netflix, which offers lots of highly-rated movies from Starz, has continued to grow. Its share price hit an all time high this week.

The Netflix Watch Now streaming service is only available currently in the US and Canada.

It’s on a number if set-top boxes like Apple TV and Boxee plus on almost all smart TVs and Blu-ray players.

At $9 a month with one free DVD rental at a time included (streaming only in Canada), it’s a heck of a deal for watching movies and TV shows. Content, even older black and white films like “Foreign Correspondent,” are shown in high-quality. Netflix also offers lots of older flicks plus a large number of foreign films with subtitles. The British, German, French, Swedish and Italian studios have made much of their better content available.

All three of the very well-made Swedish versions of Stieg Larsson’s three novels (currently at numbers 2, 3 and 4 on The New York Times best-selling books list) are available for streaming. Few of them made it to theaters outside of New York or Los Angeles. Many other very popular non-US made films are available, many of which did not get much showing in the States.

Implementation of the Netflix user interface varies significantly on the various smart TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. Some, such as what LG is offering, are hard to operate and don’t have fully implemented searches. Companies have different approaches to typing. Some make it difficult. Apple TV and the iPad have, as might be expected, among the easier to use implementations.

D-Link’s Boxee Box’ Netflix implementation includes:

 – Dolby Digital TrueHD bit streaming.

 – High resolution SRT subtitles.

 – Updated drivers for external IR remotes.

 – Support for Windows Vista class remotes.

Netflix is seemingly on every possible device. Its only major competitors in the US seem to be Hulu, although it specializes in TV shows and Apple iTunes. In Europe the now Amazon-owned LoveFilm has a big lead with a Netflix like service although it does not have as high a market penetration that Netflix does.

Back to Headlines

SMART TV

iOS 4.3: The Gaming Apple TV?

The rumor mill is in full swing this week thanks to a tougher competition for headlines now that the Mobile World Congress is underway, so some reoccurring themes are on the rise. One top contender is Apple TV, which is getting in on gaming.

At this point, rumor or not, Apple really needs to deliver here.

With the upcoming introduction of iOS 4.3 and the very limited existence of Apple’s “Game Center” introduced with iOS 4, the perfect storm for Apple TV gaming may be brewing. And what’s a storm without thunder?

In the 4.3 code, there are references to “ATVThunder” and “ATVGames,” both of which appear to point to the scheduling of games, an expansion of game rankings, streaming of live and archived games, and what appears to be either a brand new storefront or an updated section for an existing storefront. Apple basically has five stores right now, though they’re all variations on a theme, so the update has a bit of range it could possibly effect: iTunes for the Mac/Windows PC, iTunes for the Apple TV, iTunes for iOS devices, the App Store on iOS devices and the Mac App Store.

“Sedona” is also referenced in the update. Sedona handles Apple’s rentals and part of its streaming, which could easily be adapted for something like gaming or streaming more content from a computer or iOS device.

The new Apple TV only has 8GB of internal memory, so streaming seems to be the major way of playing games on the STB, though some smaller games could easily be momentarily cached and played, but that really isn’t a big issue because of the controllers. While Apple TV comes with a remote, why pair that experience with gaming when there are living rooms full of iPads, iPhones and iPods?

Apple TV could be opened up simply as a host for games, allowing users in the same home to play against each other from their own device. Existing apps also let users play games with others from around the globe, so the Apple TV could also provide some of the first experiences for global gaming interaction for users who don’t own a powerful PC or an existing game console.

Juniper Research said mobile gaming will push past $11 billion in revenue by 2015, so why not get in on that? Wouldn’t developers (and of course Apple) love to charge an extra dollar for the app version that also runs on an Apple TV?

Peter Relan, chairman of the social gaming network OpenFeint, said, “Adding 13 million more potential gamers on the iPhone [due to the Verizon Wireless version] is going to be a watershed moment for mobile gaming. I wouldn’t be surprised if the US mobile gaming industry doubles in revenue this year because of this deal.”

Right now Apple TV is still a bit of a hobby, but that’s okay since mobile gaming was originally considered a hobby too. As the platform developed, casual gaming expanded and opened up to more hardcore gamers, while still maintaining its mass appeal of killing a few minutes here and there.

Game consoles are actively seeking ways to integrate new music and video content. Their recent focus has largely been on developing licensing deals and partnerships, but this has been met with mixed success. Apple has the chance to come at this from an entirely opposite angle, first because it’s an entertainment hub with a huge catalog of content from iTunes and second because it’s a game platform that works with existing devices users likely already own.

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Rovi Adjusts Home Shopping

What if TV-based shopping moved from being on one channel to every channel? Who wouldn’t bite?

Rovi is trying to bring consumers just that through a purchasing system embeddable in electronic program guides (EPGs). Rovi and Delivery Agent have partnered up to introduce Delivery’s interactive commerce engine and product database to the EPGs offered by pay-TV operators.

Initially, the purchase-capable EPG will be used on NBC shows like “The Biggest Loser,” “The Office” and A&E’s “Pawn Stars.” Rovi is also looking to use its EPG to purchase products seen in both TV shows and commercials but hasn’t announced commercial partners.

Rovi and Delivery Agent will provide a service that includes designing, hosting and managing the commerce experience and transaction.

“The electronic program guide is often the first point of contact a viewer has with a program on any given day and guide-users visit the guide on average nine times daily,” Jeff Siegel, Rovi’s senior VP of worldwide advertising sales, said in a prepared statement. “The ability to shop-enable our guide by dynamically mapping products to listings can open up new opportunities for media companies to reach a highly engaged and active consumer audience.”

The guide feels close to what Yahoo is doing with its Broadcaster Interactive program, though initially Yahoo will have more of a focus on engaging users with content related to what they’re watching and then shifting to commerce options, while Rovi will likely shift from commerce to also include content-related extras.

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DIGIGRAMS

Aspiro, Telenor Launch Mobile Music in Sweden

Mobile entertainment publisher Aspiro Music has launched its WiMP streaming music service in Sweden, with mobile network partner Telenor. The service offers millions of licensed tracks at 99 kronor (about $15.27) per month. Telenor will also expand WiMP to its customers in Norway and Denmark. WiMP differentiates itself from other streaming services by having local editors select and recommend songs, albums, artists and playlists. Telenor’s Swedish customers will also have the opportunity to try the service free for 60 days.

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Barnes & Noble Goes for Ex Amazon Affiliates

Bookseller Barnes & Noble (BN) has sent an open letter to members of its rival Amazon’s affiliate program, inviting any that were dropped by Amazon over sales tax issues to join a new affiliate program from BN. Legislation makes Amazon collect sales tax on purchases made by residents of states including Rhode Island, Colorado and North Carolina, which Amazon responded to by dropping affiliate Web site partners in those states. “If Amazon doesn’t want you, we do!” reads the letter from the president of BN.com. “And, we will take care of collecting and remitting all sales taxes due on BN.com sales to its customers so you and our customers don’t have to worry about being hassled or prosecuted by state tax auditors.”

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iPad, Android Are a Boon for iPlayer

The new BBC iPlayer app for the iPad was downloaded nearly 55,000 times in the first 24 hours following its release in the Apple iTunes App Store February 10. According to the broadcaster, 55% of all program requests from the iPad that day came from the new iPlayer app, while its Android correspondent secured 50% of all program requests from Android devices. Comparing February 9 to 10, iPad requests grew 111% while Android requests grew 228%

Back to Headlines

GetJar Grabs $25m to Target Android

One of the more popular third-party app services, GetJar, has secured $25 million in third-round funding, signaling a strong backing for a cross-platform app store model not aimed at or coming from a single device maker or OS, such as Apple’s App Store or the Android Market. GetJar says that it will continue to support iOS and RIM devices, but this new round of funding will mainly go to developing better ways to target and gain Android users on a global scale.

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Zip, Xoom, Gone

Best Buy has removed the pre-order page for the upcoming Motorola Xoom tablet, the now infamous page where the device was listed at $1,200. Best Buy killed the page, which also listed a late February release, and nothing seems to have arrived in its stead. The listing did confirm that users must pay for one month of 3G service to access Wi-Fi, as well as the vast majority of other stats released for the device. The company has said Motorola’s Xoom will be the first tablet on the market to run Android 3.0, Honeycomb.

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Blockbuster May Sell Itself

In the latest round of rumors, a familiar name and tale has surfaced: Blockbuster is looking to sell itself to avoid a full bust. According to a new report, the bankrupt company is aiming to sell because of a disagreement with creditors. The report said a bidder would likely offer $300 million, as well as assuming all debt and leases. When it filed for Chapter 11, Blockbuster had an estimated $1 billion in debt and was using the filing to keep 3,300 stores open. The projected winner of a Blockbuster auction is Carl Icahn and a consortium led by the hedge fund Monarch Alternative Capital. Icahn and the group own roughly 80% of Blockbuster’s senior notes and gave it $125 million to fuel a relaunch, one that doesn’t seem to have done well in the recent holiday season.

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French Streaming Music Service Has International Dreams

Deezer, a French music Web site, has announced plans to expand into international markets by partnering with local mobile network operators. Currently it claims 700,000 paid subscribers and a total of 16 million members worldwide — that last part makes the ‘international announcement’ feel a little moot, but the service is internationally available on the Web, and the latest expansion is aimed at mobile handsets. Deezer wants to expand its service with global mobile partners similar to its existing agreement with Orange in France. Orange owns about 11% of Deezer, but it is unlikely other operators will get as big of a chunk, if any.

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DirecTV Debuts 3D Network

The 3D TV network 3net has launched on DirecTV’s satellite pay-TV service. The service, a joint venture from Sony, Discovery and IMAX, has added 10 additional programs to its previously announced programming lineup for February, according to the companies involved. It plans to bring in new partners next quarter, and so far, it has gotten good reviews from consumers.

Back to Headlines

Mobile Spectrum Sale Could Deliver $33 Billion

The Federal Communications Commission’s proposed auction of underutilized broadband spectrum could produce a little more than $33 billion in net proceeds for the US treasury, according to a new study. Mobile industry trade group CTIA and the Consumer Electronics Association recently wrapped the study. “With support from the UN and thanks to the efforts of President Obama, the FCC, the NTIA and numerous policymakers, it’s clear there’s a recognition that our industry needs more spectrum so we can remain the world’s wireless leader,” said CTIA head Steve Largent. “Our members are willing to spend billions to purchase unused or underutilized broadcast spectrum to fuel the ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation and competition.”

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E-Commerce Love Hits 6-Year Low

While some services like Amazon and Netflix continue to win consumer accolades, in 2010 the overall e-commerce satisfaction sank to its lowest point since 2004, according to the latest numbers from ForeSee Results. ForeSee said e-commerce satisfaction is at 79.3, down 2.6 points compared to last year. Results were dragged down largely by online retail, though these retailers did better than their brick-and-mortar competition. Meanwhile, Amazon took first place among retailers, beating out Netflix and a sinking Newegg, while Overstock and eBay finished up the top five. Online travel hit an all-time satisfaction high in 2010, despite many travel issues.

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THE ONLINE AND INTERNET TV REPORTER

– Intelligence for decision makers –

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THE ONLINE AND INTERNET TV REPORTER

Thinking ahead about tablets and smart TVs …and the content and infrastructure they’ll need.

The Online and Internet TV Reporter 720-I 18-24 January 2011

Published weekly by Rider Research

 

– Entertainment Technology – Online Music & Movie Services –

– Wireline & Mobile Broadband plus Wireless & Wired Home Networking –

– Web, Mobile & 3D TV –

 

THIS WEEK IN CONTENT DEALS

THIS WEEK IN FINANCE DEALS

APPLE IPAD

BROADBAND BEAT

ENABLING TECHNOLOGY

HOME NETWORKING

LEGAL MATTERS

LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS

MOBILE MEDIA

ONLINE MUSIC SERVICES

SHOW TIME

SMART TV

DIGIGRAMS

 

THE ONLINE AND INTERNET TV REPORTERis published weekly by Rider Research; 13188 Perkins Road; Baton Rouge, LA 70810, USA Telephone:  1-225-769-7130; Fax:  1-225-769-7166; www.riderresearch.com

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Quote of the Week…

“Adding 13 million more potential gamers on the iPhone [due to the Verizon Wireless version] is going to be a watershed moment for mobile gaming.”

– Peter Relan, Chairman of OpenFeint

Stat of the Week…

Apple shipped more than 10.2 million notebooks and tablet PCs combined, nearly a million more units than HP in the fourth quarter of 2010.

 

 

MWC Week: The Hardware Wars

 – Tablets, Smartphones and Chips Galore

 – A Crowded Market Despite Only a Few Available Products

 – The Future May Thin the Herd

As this year’s Mobile World Congress came to an end, the mobile space was left somewhat shaken by the changes to its software side. Nokia and Microsoft are pairing up, Intel is seeking new MeeGo partners, Android is trucking on, Apple’s iOS is staying mostly mum and the industry is seemingly overlooking other players. For the consumer, however, the big news isn’t in the change of operating systems but the changes in hardware that are coming down the pipes.

With fragmentation and changes to the OS, users are likely to stick to what they know, which is good news for Apple and Android device makers. As these two jockey for the top spot in the tablet and smartphone race, the user isn’t faced with a major OS choice – they’re faced with a major device choice. Especially in tablets, there are now full-fledged iPad rivals, so a customer with an Android preference now has options.

Price is typically king, especially with the reaction to the rumored $1,200 Xoom price at Best Buy, but it is unlikely there will be major price differentiation for machines that are very similar. For smart devices, especially tablets, the hardware wars have begun.

HTC: Flying High

HTC has entered the tablet game with its announcement of a 7-inch 1024 x 600 resolution Android slate that will arrive in Q2.

Called the HTC Flyer, the tablet looks like a beefed up smartphone, something that HTC likely had in mind when it decided to include dual-band HSPA 3G connectivity, plus 2.4GHz 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0. Other specs include a 1.5GHz processor, 1GB of Ram and 32GB of storage.

Video calling is likely to be one of its first device-specific apps as the Flyer features a 1.3 megapixel Web cam and a 5 megapixel back camera that takes photos and shoots video.

HTC said it will be running its Sense UI on top of an undisclosed version of Android – likely 3.0. The Sense UI is already on a variety of its smart phones, so the feel and interaction will likely continue — the major interaction differences, such as many-fingered gestures, will get support from Android and shouldn’t take issue.

This tablet may be more for the corporates, writers and students as an announced “Scribe” digital ink system suggests that stylus usage will be emphasized on the device.

HTC also said it is bringing its own branded VOD service to the device. It promised more details closer to the launch of the device, but did say that users should expect hundreds of HD movies from major studios.

The Flyer is ‘go’ for Q2, but there’s no announced price yet.

Google: Even A New Device Screams for Ice Cream

Names don’t have to make sense, they just have to be catchy. Google has been good at this with its Android updates — please take note, Nokia — including its upcoming version named Ice Cream.

According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, Ice Cream will combine the tablet features of Honeycomb with all the phone features of Gingerbread. This could be a move to push against all those fragmentation woes and worries that seem to plague Android in the press but not necessarily on the user’s end.

Andy Rubin, head of Google’s Android project, said that this upcoming combination was the real deal, not “just a thought experiment.” As the OS update rolls out, Rubin said that we should expect more devices to come too: “each software release will be accompanied by a hardware component.”

Rubin wouldn’t say anything on the new device or who was making it, but the big rumors are around HTC, Samsung and Motorola. Rubin said the sales of HTC’s Nexus One exceeded Google’s expectations; Samsung made the sequel, the Nexus S; and Motorola produced the first official tablet and the first one with Honeycomb.

Schmidt said the goal of all of this is to make sure that users are “Not lost, never lonely, never bored.” Android presents, he said, “A future for the masses, not the elites; two billion people [who] we’ve never heard from will enter our conversation in the next year.”

LG: Life is Good in 3D

3D has always been a big hit at trade shows, but its inability to really hit home with the average consumer is a major concern, and one that LG is hoping to combat.

To help with 3G adoption, LG will be giving users a smartphone to watch their content on, all without glasses. The company demonstrated its Optimus 3D in Barcelona, drawing big crowds trying to get a look at what LG calls the world’s first “full 3D experience.”

The full experience means the device allows the creation, viewing and sharing of content.

The device itself has a 4.3-inch WVGA screen and offers full 1080p HD viewing for 2D content. Its processor is powerful enough to belt out 720p HD 3D video. The device features dual 5 megapixel cameras that can create HD 3D videos and photos.

“This is the world’s first smartphone that puts the power to make 3D content into users’ hands,” said LG.

For content, LG has turned to YouTube. The two have worked together to give the Optimus 3D quick uploading of 3D content to the video hosting service, as well as giving users an ever-expanding location on the site to watch 3D content.

The model being demoed also showed several 3D games and menus, with the company saying more 3D content will begin arriving once the phones arrive on store shelves.

LG did say that the 3D effects and features can easily be adjusted to address any eye-strain problems or can be shut off altogether.

Motorola: Updates Xooming By

While no US release date has been announced, Europe can eagerly await Motorola’s Xoom tablet in Q2 of this year. Motorola did confirm that both 3G-plus-Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-only versions will be sold throughout Europe.

Motorola is hoping to sell Xoom, the first to use Honeycomb, through traditional retailers instead of individual network operators. There’s no exact date announced, but it appears that the first round of partners have been announced. Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy are expected to get the 3G version, while Currys and PC World will launch the Wi-Fi only versions.

There’s no UK or Europe pricing yet, but in the US the two models are expected to sell for $799 and $599, despite Best Buy’s $1,200 placeholder. The rumored launch date in the US is next week, so US users will just have to wait and see.

RIM: A Full PlayBook

Research In Motion announced plans for two new versions of its PlayBook tablet at the World Mobile Congress, despite not yet beginning sales on its first two models already announced.

PlayBooks for LTE and 3G HSPA+ networks will go on sale by the end of the year, according to RIM, joining their Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-plus-WiMAX brethren that are going on sale next month.

The two newly announced devices will also support Bluetooth tethering — connecting to the Web when smartphones or other mobile CEs act as Wi-Fi hotspots — and the new BlackBerry Bridge, which is software that allows users to run BlackBerry device features like Messenger and E-mail on a PlayBook.

RIM was quiet on what network operators will feature the new models.

RIM also made a few other announcements, including:

  – Expanding its BlackBerry App World to 27 new countries and areas: Azerbaijan, Botswana Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, French Guyana, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Iceland, Kenya, La Réunion, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Martinique, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Tanzania.

 – Users will soon be able to buy airtime, apps and other services for another subscriber on pre-paid and post-paid accounts, calling this a mobile gifting platform.

 – RIM said Telefónica will begin billing customers for applications from App World, directly on their mobile phone bill, instead of making users have a separate App World billing account. This is expected to expand to others soon.

Samsung: One Galaxy Isn’t Enough

Samsung is expanding the universe, announcing two new Galaxy devices at this year’s MWC.

It unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S II phone and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, both Android-powered devices that feature dual-core processors.

Their predecessors, both the Galaxy S and the Tab, were good original entrants into the market, but the new breed faces a much stronger set of competitors.

The Galaxy S II feels a bit like the Samsung Infuse 4G on AT&T. It uses a Samsung dual-core processor and is one of the thinnest dual-core phones on the market. The device has a 4.27-inch, 800 x 480 Super AMOLED Plus screen that by all accounts is one of the prettiest around. It features a 2 megapixel camera on the front and an 8 megapixel camera on the back that can capture 1080p video.

The phone will run Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but Samsung put a TouchWiz skin on top and is bringing a lot of apps to this version. Among them are its Media Hub, Social Hub, a new Reading Hub for newspapers and eBooks, the new Music Hub music store and a new Games Hub, an alternative to the Android Market just for games that are such big downloads Google won’t let them in on its market. This is also one of the first Androids to run a Cisco VPN client and use its Wi-Fi calling and WebEx login offering.

The Galaxy S will arrive this month in Europe and Asia, but there were no US plans announced.

Samsung was quick to point out that the new Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a companion to the existing Tab, not a successor. The new 10.1 runs Android Honeycomb on a 10.1-inch screen, and it was one of the nicer-looking tablet devices unveiled at this year’s MWC.

The tablet uses the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and appears to run a pure version of Google’s Honeycomb, not a software extension or overlay in sight. The question here is how will the device differentiate itself from current and future competition?

Design and its graphics processing may be able to help it compete now, but it’ll be a tough road ahead. This puppy is thin (0.44 inches) and sports a textured back that’s easier to grip than most on the market. It’s a light tablet, and its 10.1-inch, 1280×720 screen is bigger than the iPad’s.

Other features include an 8 megapixel camera on the back and a 2 megapixel camera on the front, HSPA+ 21 cellular network with no voice, Wi-Fi 802.11n support and storage of either 16GB or 32GB. There was no battery life given and with the powerful screen it is unclear how long the device will see between charges.

The 10.1 could be the biggest tablet coming to market, so there may be a push to pick it up by a company with a video component. Vodafone will be picking up the tablet for Europe.

As far as tablet heralds go, so far in the US Verizon has the Xoom, T-Mobile has the G-Slate and Sprint has RIM’s PlayBook, leaving AT&T out there without an established “this is mine!” on any device. Samsung hasn’t confirmed a US version or a Wi-Fi version, but both of these seem to be somewhat desirable, at least by consumers.

AT&T’s U-verse pay-TV service plus a 10.1-inch tablet that has some great video capabilities may be just what the doctor ordered.

Orange: Branded Tablets Are Here

Orange, not wanting to be outdone at MWC, has announced its 7-inch Orange Tablet running Android for four markets: Spain, Romania, Poland and Slovakia.

Orange says its device will lower the entry level for tablet computing and bring a broader range of customers interested in its portfolio of tablets.

The device will run Android 2.1 and has 3G/Edge connectivity.

Yves Maitre, senior VP of group devices and mobile multimedia for Orange, said “Tablet computing is an extremely popular and growing segment of the consumer technology market and we want to offer our customers the best possible choice of device to suit all budgets and requirements. By providing the widest choice of seven- and 10-inch touchscreen tablets, Orange is providing new ways to access the content and services our customers want. We will continue to expand our tablet and smartphone portfolio throughout 2011.”

Each of the four markets will get special pricing and deals on the tablet, but Orange didn’t say anything specific. It did hint it would look into other markets, with the UK being a top possibility.

Huawei: The Price Approach

You can’t throw a stone at MWC without hitting a new tablet. You can, however, throw as many stones as you like with little risk of hitting a price tag.

Chinese hardware maker Huawei is one of the few exceptions, looking to distinguish itself from the rest by being upfront about its pricing options.

Huawei plans to bring to market a tablet that retails for roughly $300, with goals of reaching stores like Best Buy.

One tablet, called the S7 Slim, is a 7-inch Android tablet with front and back cameras and a 1GHz processor. The company also has plans for a square tablet and a 10-inch model that looks very similar to the iPad. They’re all currently Wi-Fi-capable and have slots for a SIM card.

“We’re not yet in the minds of most US consumers, but may we can get in there by starting at the price point,” Alix Khadiri, a spokesman for Huawei, told the New York Times.

Beyond that, not much else has been said about the devices.

Dell: Leaking for Joy

Dell announced the Streak 7 at the CES 2011 and was rumored of working on a 10-inch tablet, which seems to have been confirmed.

Two Web sites appear to have gotten their hands on both Dell smartphone and tablet roadmaps that point to new products coming soon. Dell’s smartphones include one Windows Phone 7 model and two Android Ice Cream models. The tablets have plans for two more devices this year, followed by three next year.

The smartphone roadmap looks like this:

 – Dell has already introduced Android-based Venue and WP7 Venue Pro.

 – Wrigley is next. This is a QWERTY slider phone with a 4-inch WVGA screen running WP7 Next Gen. It has a 1GHz processor and an 8 megapixel camera able to record 720p HD video. It is set to arrive in August.

 – Hancock will follow. This is a dual-core processer smartphone running Ice Cream. It has a 4-inch HD screen, 8 megapixel camera that can record 1080p video and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera. It’ll appear in September.

 – Millennium is last up, also featuring a dual-core processor and Ice Cream. Its 4.3-inch screen will feature the best resolution of the bunch with cameras on the same level as Hancock. It is also DLNA-certified and expected to launch in October.

The tablet roadmap has a similar feel with four announcements:

 – Peju is a Windows 8 tablet with a 10-inch display set to launch in Q1 2012. The big expectation is for this to make its debut at next year’s CES.

 – Rosemount: Dell’s first Windows 7 tablet bearing 1366×768 HD resolution on a 10-inch screen. It is set to arrive in June.

 – Two Android 3.0 tablets scheduled for a 2011 release. The 10-inch Gallo will hit in April while the 7-inch Sterling will arrive in October.

 – For Honeycomb tablets in Q1 2012, there are a 5-inch Opus One and a 7-inch Silver Oak scheduled.

Sprint’s Gloom and Doom

According to Sprint, the tablet market will likely see a big cut in manufacturers within two years due to competition forces.

“You’ll probably have a good dozen players by the end of this year, and then in two years you’ll probably see just five that are really playing in the space,” Fared Adib, VP of product development for Sprint, told Bloomberg.

Sprint, the third-largest US wireless service provider, is set to introduce the RIM PlayBook tablet this year to sit alongside the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Sprint confirmed it will have at least one more tablet for sale this year, but that version will work on its 4G service — this could end up being another version of the PlayBook.

Many tablets on the market or coming to market are “essentially a phone operating system on a tablet,” instead of using OS and software that are made for the specifics of the tablet build, Adib told the news service.

Broadcom: Everything Can Fit in Just One Chip

Broadcom has announced a new combination chip designed to include everything but the kitchen sink.

The chip, aimed at smartphones and tablets, has the goal of supporting as much media and data apps as possible without impacting device size or battery life. The new BCM4330 integrates 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + HS and FM radio technologies.

Some key stats on the chip include:

– Broadcom says it is the first combo solution to be certified as integrating Bluetooth low energy (BLE), which allows ultra-low power implementation.

– Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth High Speed are supported, enabling the device to connect to another device first, without the need of a central access point or traditional network connection.

– This chip is “40% smaller than its predecessor.”

– It includes software and hardware support for WAPI, the Chinese security protocol.

– In both Android and Windows Phone devices, the chip will support ‘Soft Access Point’ features, allowing the Wi-Fi component in a device to function as an access point for sharing a broadband connection with others.

Qualcomm: Snapdragon Blooms

Qualcomm debuted its next mobile processor architecture for the Snapdragon family, including the single-core MSM8930, the dual-core MSM8960 and the quad-core APQ8064, offering speeds of up to 2.5GHz per core.

The chipsets will include a new Adreno GPU series with up to four 3D cores, and an integrated multi-mode LTE modem.

Qualcomm said all of its new chips will integrate Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, FM, NFC and stereoscopic 3D video and photo capture and playback, including support for 3D gaming.

Samples of the MSM8960 will be available in Q2 and samples of the MSM8930 and APQ8064 are anticipated in early 2012.

Qualcomm also announced that future Android-powered devices running on the Snapdragon platform would have access to streaming TV shows and movies from Netflix.

“We’re excited about this collaborative effort to help bring the Netflix application to Android devices running on the Snapdragon platform,” said Liat Ben-Zur, senior director of software strategy and ecosystems for Qualcomm. “Qualcomm is in a unique position to help bring the most optimized and advanced Android apps to market through working closely with the strong ecosystem of Snapdragon developers like Netflix.”

Nvidia: Tablets Go Four to the Core

Nvidia demonstrated the next-generation Tegra chip, codenamed “Project Kal-El,” at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Superman-inspired chip will be a quad-core designed chip for mobile devices and will make its way into the hands of consumers this August.

Quad-core Tegra processors in tablets will mark a dramatic shift in the capabilities of devices hitting the market in Q3 and Q4 — remember, a big hubbaloo in current tablets is simply getting a decent dual-core processor.

Nvidia demonstrated the latest four-core processor running video on an Android tablet at a resolution of 1440p on a screen that was 2560 x 1600 pixels. The resolution is much higher than what’s considered true high definition, it is the highest possible resolution for a 10-inch screen with 300 pixels per inch.

When demonstrating the chip running games, video or Web sites, Nvidia said these actions were five times faster than the current Tegra 2 chips.

Qualcomm and Texas Instruments have similar chips planned, as do other ARM chip manufacturers. Intel is eyeing the space too, but it may take a little longer than the rest as it works to reduce power consumption on smaller devices.

The chips are a big deal because they give users the ability to do real-time processing, 3D gaming, switching between multiple HD content streams and other things that haven’t been initiated yet because the hardware hasn’t been there.

Nvidia also showed a roadmap for its Tegra processor, listing code names but no other details. The 2012 lineup is Wayne followed by Logan and Stark — aka Batman, Wolverine and Iron Man.

Marvell: A Mantra of Performance, 3D and 1080p

Marvell’s big MWC announcement is its world phone platform based on the Marvell PXA978 processor with a Marvell HSPA modem.

Marvell said the PXA978 is the industry’s first single-chip solution to feature 3G UMTS and China’s TD-SCDMA standard with HSPA support, and it is intended to let mobile developers design 3D devices for global support.

“The PXA978 integrates both 3G and TD-SCDMA basebands, a powerful application processor, all advanced 3D graphics capability, with a very low-power profile and affordable cost structure ideal for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets,” said Weili Dai, Marvell’s Co-Founder. “I envision that a true world phone will transform the global economy by lowering the cost and barriers to entry for billions more consumers and innovators.”

Marvell said that its platform will also feature another “first,” namely, a mobile MIMO, an 802.11n 2×2 dual-band Wi-Fi SoC designed to support high data rates on next-gen devices.

Marvell also demonstrated the latest version of its social mobile Web browser, Kinoma Play.

Marvell will demonstrate the newest version of Kinoma Play in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress (Courtyard CY15). For those unable to see Kinoma Play in person, a video showing the speed, elegance, and simplicity of Kinoma Play is available on the Marvell Web site.

What to Look For

As glum as Sprint’s prediction of the future may be, it is likely that Fared Adib is spot on. Costs and market pressures are definitely going to drive some out of the tablet business after 2012, but figuring out just who will be trickier task.

One thing to watch is how devices begin differentiating beyond just a simple skin overlaid on Android, WebOS, WP7 or perhaps even iOS. Content management is one issue where certain operating systems have a bit of an advantage, but that won’t translate into a benefit for a particular device.

While some bank on brand loyalty, others will try to reduce price and some will keep prices relatively high in hopes of maintaining a cool factor. What the market is uncertain of is how to quite include content that has mass appeal and is different across different platforms. Tablet makers will have to strike a balance between convincing developers to create content for their specific device and finding a novel way to package and deliver content that spreads across multiple devices and platforms.

Warner Bros unveiled the first App Editions of movies — “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” are up first — making them available for iOS devices. They’re free apps with built-in social networking, bonus content like games, soundtracks, trivia and clips of each film. Users can unlock the rest of the film through an in-app purchase. While this differentiation isn’t necessarily coming from Apple, these apps give it an advantage right now over Android devices, and trends like this may be a sign of what’s to come.

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Nokia Jumps on the Microsoft Bandwagon

 – Symbian’s Death Knell, MeeGo’s Hibernation

 – Wait… How Long Until a New Device?

 – Was Ditching MeeGo Ignoring a Bigger Market?

Nokia has put out the fire on its “burning oil platform” and jumped ship to join up with Microsoft. Initially it seemed like a smart move as both Microsoft and Nokia wanted to give Google and Apple a bit more competition — RIM seems to have been mostly overlooked in the talks about the smartphone sector — so Nokia very excitedly shifted to Windows Phone 7 (WP7) as its “primary smartphone strategy.”

The two are hoping to leverage a single OS and a myriad of Web services as a unified platform, but this is about as risky a move as the two companies could muster. Microsoft has repeatedly been two steps behind in both the mobile and tablet space, failing to transition its lead in the PC market into the mobile personal computing space. Nokia has done well in emerging markets, but its Symbian OS has recently lost the lead in smartphone market share because it seemed to lack any response to the popularity of Google’s or Apple’s platforms.

The News Feed

While there has been a lot of knee-jerk reactions and time to recoup from the big announcements, they’re the best place to begin when looking at the new Nokia-Microsoft offerings.

The big points from Nokia’s recent announcement include:

 – Nokia has restructured again to reflect the merger of its Web services with Microsoft’s. Nokia is returning to its roots to become a device maker with two main divisions: smart devices and mobile phones. Nokia’s software division is gone and Microsoft’s units will take over any research or development.

 – WP7 will be Nokia’s primary smartphone platform and it will integrate a variety of services with Microsoft’s. The first integration will come from things like Web tools, Web services, marketing, development and shifting existing platform R&D.

 – Symbian will be reserved for carrier-based devices and emerging markets where phone demand and preferences tend toward feature phones and limited smartphones. WP7 will eventually be pushed to these lower devices. Nokia plans to sell roughly 150 million new Symbian devices with a goal of developing a way to transition these devices and users to the newer platform.

 – The quick app choices are Bing, Nokia Maps, Microsoft Marketplace, Microsoft’s adCenter, Zune subscriptions and Xbox Live integration. Nokia’s apps and music brands, which were already on their way out, are now being rolled into Microsoft’s offerings.

 – Microsoft said that the full details, largely those centered on Nokia’s ability to customize its offerings and leverage usage fees from others, have not been completely released but are wrapping up and will be available soon.

 – MeeGo is heading to the backburner, and its current head Alberto Torres is leaving Nokia. MeeGo will be kept as a project for new device formats, but there seems to be little interest in it. Nokia reiterated its commitment to sending a MeeGo smartphone to market by the end of the year, but it could be the only Nokia MeeGo phone for quite some time, if not ever.

No Need to Tweak

Nokia’s deal with Microsoft allows it to tweak the UI on its mobiles in the future, but Nokia CTO Rich Green told developers that the company has no such plans for changing the UI.

“We have a right to manipulate user experience, UI, but why would you?” Green said at the event held at Mobile World Congress.

Green said that the user experience was a key strength of WP7.

While it sounds like a good move since Nokia has had a tough time defining a UI users were clamoring over, it also means the mobile maker will seem very much like one of the herd if it doesn’t differentiate on the WP7 experience — Nokia will initially be fine since it won’t have much competition in terms of WP7 devices across multiple price points.

Making Money Elsewhere

In a conference at the Mobile World Congress, Microsoft executives touted the new merger and also provided a bit more clarification in what was going on.

Microsoft group product manager Greg Sullivan said that the next round of WP7 devices will mostly be “refreshed hardware in conjunction with the [software] update.”

Sullivan also said that Nokia should encourage everyone under the sun to build WP7 devices and to do it quickly. According to Sullivan, Nokia will make money from services on all manufacturers’ WP7 devices.

Sullivan gave the example of Nokia taking a cut of location-based advertising on devices from the likes of Samsung or HTC because their WP7 devices will feature Nokia Maps.

“We’ll be using their map technology, and they’ll have opportunities to monetize their location- based services,” Sullivan said. “There’s a range of possibilities in terms of how they can monetize this, and those possibilities are increased if the ecosystem is larger and more robust.”

“Will there be new ways that Nokia and other OEMs can differentiate and build some uniqueness to their offerings? Yes. Will the UI on those products still obviously be the Windows Phone UI, and will the platform APIs be consistent? Yes,” Sullivan said.

Paying Their Dues

Despite a lot of acclaim over the deal, Nokia’s stock price fell by 25% since its virtual merger was announced with Microsoft at the beginning of the week. It isn’t a big surprise since shareholders typically look at short-term financials, but Nokia isn’t getting hit just there.

Finnish trade unions are causing some issues given Nokia’s plan to lay off a significant number of workers. Estimates put Nokia laying off around 25% of its workforce, or roughly 5,000 people. The unions are calling for the company to provide 100,000 Euros as well as severance costs for each fired employee to cover re-education costs.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop also has to prove himself every day now. One of the most odd things to come out of the merger is the call that Elop is a ‘Trojan Horse’ sent by Microsoft to sabotage Nokia’s mobile goals. This is likely just a mix of anger and Elop being Nokia’s first ‘foreign-born’ CEO. It doesn’t help that Elop worked for Microsoft and owns a fair amount of stock — which is now being traded for Nokia shares according to reports — so he has some proving to do.

The only worry over this theory is that, if convinced of it, shareholders might opt to oust Elop if at all possible.

A Peek At WP7

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took center stage at Barcelona and made a mass of announcements largely around WP7. Here are the highlights:

 – In March, Microsoft will update the WP7 OS with a focus on boosting performance, introducing cut-and-paste offerings and adding CDMA compatibility.

 – Verizon and Sprint will get WP7 mobiles sometime in the first half of the year as CDMA-based devices become available.

 – In Q3 or Q4, Microsoft will release a more significant update to the OS, including a significant upgrade to Internet Explorer 9, quicker multitasking and switching between third-party apps, and hardware acceleration for WP7. “We will bring multitasking to Windows Phone this year,” Ballmer said, and will “give people the full Internet on their phone [so the Internet] will be a first-class citizen on the phone.”

 – In Q3, WP7 will get a Twitter integration called the “People Hub” area of the home screen. The device will also get document storing and sharing through Windows Live SkyDrive. Support for things like Xbox Live and Xbox Kinect are expected to have full integration by the end of Q3.

 – A WP7 device with Internet Explorer 9 and hardware acceleration was shown to perform better than Safari running on an iPhone. Unfortunately there were some system errors for the WP7 device.

 – When invited on stage Elop referred to Nokia’s ability to create a “three horse race” against Apple and Google.

 – Elop did not repeat the claim that Microsoft will be paying Nokia billions of dollars over time as part of the merger deal.

The Industry Weighs In

Google head Eric Schmidt laid out his company’s plan for the future in mobile, but said the one thing not in its utopian Android future is Nokia. “We would’ve loved if they would have chosen Android; they chose the other guys,” Schmidt said during a keynote at Mobile World Congress. “I think we were pretty straightforward. We would like them to adopt Android at some point in the future; that offer remains open [but] we’re sorry they made a different choice.”

Orange, Europe’s fourth-largest operator in terms of revenue, can influence consumer phone selection because of its purchase power and subsidy offerings. Chief of marketing and innovation Jean-Paul Cottet said of the merger, “We want a mobile ecosystem that is open and allows our clients to use all the services they want, not closed systems that benefit one company or another.” Cottet continued, “Nokia’s new platform with Windows is planned for 2012, so what happens until then? We know what we sell of Nokia’s lineup for the first half of this year, but we are wondering what they will propose to us to sell in the second half of the year.”

Verizon CTO Tony Melone said his company would probably not offer any Nokia WP7 smartphones. Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and RIM BlackBerry OS were ‘enough ecosystems’ for him.

Intel is disappointed at Nokia but life goes on,” said Renee James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s software and services group, during a press conference. “Our decision and resolve on MeeGo is only stronger.”

MeeGoing, Going, Gone into the Future

Intel said it will still focus on MeeGo development, but it seems Nokia isn’t going to help with that. Microsoft could cause a bit of a fuss here since MeeGo will likely compete with versions of Windows not only for tablets but also other CE-like set-top boxes and embedded platforms.

So, what’s the future of Nokia look like? Let’s look to the words of its CEO from this year’s Mobile World Congress.

“You’ve heard a lot about smartphones this week, but they’re only one part of our strategy,” Elop said, showing a map of the world with one pixel of light for everyone currently using a Nokia phone — it was brightly lighting every continent and an effective visual. “We believe there is an opportunity to make that much brighter,” Elop said.

For right now, Elop said, the future is in emerging markets. While Nokia’s feature phones and app-light devices, typically its Series 30 and 40 devices, are seen as largely outdated in areas where smartphones are becoming the norm, Nokia ships one million of these devices every day.

For millions of consumers in the developing world, these devices are the most available and at the best price points. The future, said Elop, is about getting these users online. “Eighty percent of people around the world are within cellphone range, but only 20% of the global population is online.”

By the end of the year, Elop said, Nokia would add maps and IM services to Series 40 phones, as well as ship millions of developer kits to local vendors in the developing world, allowing them to create apps relevant to their customers and region.

It was a very similar message to Nokia’s 2010 CES keynote.

A billion people on the planet have no bank account but do have a mobile phone, Elop said, so why not bring Nokia Money to this enormous market opportunity?

Now, Elop has to figure out how he’s going to balance all this out. He is faced with a situation in which he must deliver feature devices to the developing world at prices and with functions they want, while simultaneously impressing big markets in the US, Europe and Asia where Android and iOS take the stage and Series 30 and 40 devices are naught but a memory.

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Microsoft on Nokia Phone: 2011 or 2012?

“These Windows-based products will be on the market from 2012 onwards,” said Nokia board chairman Jorma Ollila in an interview with Finnish broadcaster YLE. However, new Nokia CEO and ex-Microsoft executive Stephen Elop said earlier in the week that Nokia is feeling the pressure and aims to produce a phone running Microsoft’s operating system by the end of 2011.

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Yahoo Announces Livestand Digital Magazine

Yahoo last week announced the launch of a digital newsstand available initially on the iPad and Android tablets.

“Livestand from Yahoo” will deliver personalized content results from various publishers, starting with Yahoo’s content portfolio of branded sports, news, finance, Flickr and the Yahoo Contributor Network.

Displayed in a magazine-style format, content is chosen based on a user’s selected interests as well as their location and the time of day the app is launched. Livestand will launch in the first half of 2011 on tablets and then to mobile phones and browsers later this year.

“With Livestand, we’re using ad formats that evoke the emotion of TV advertising with a highly visual magazine-like experience,” said Blake Irving, executive VP and chief product officer of Yahoo. “And they’re combined with the effectiveness of an Internet ad that’s data-rich, actionable, even location-aware. It’s all personalized and in context — just like our content.”

Facebook users can receive an early invite by heading over to the Livestand homepage and clicking to “like” it.

Yahoo joins the ranks of AOL’s magazine-style app Editions, News Corp’s The Daily and the magazine-style social news aggregator Flipboard.

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Apple Wins Best Mobile Device Award at Mobile World Congress

Apple Wins Best Mobile Device Award at Mobile World Congress

Apple did not have a booth at Mobile World Congress but its iPhone 4 still managed to win the award as the best mobile device. “Also rans” were devices based on Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and Google’s Android. The award was given for the iPhone’s “great screen, sharp design, fantastic materials, and phenomenal ecosystem for app developers.” (Whatever happened to Antennagate?)

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New Report on Chrome OS

Few people took Google’s Android seriously when it first appeared, but it has become a dominant operating system for touchscreen products like smartphones and tablets. It threatens to replace Apple as the bestseller in smartphones.

The same could happen to Chrome, which Google has positioned as THE operating system for a coming avalanche of cloudbooks and other devices that could substantially cut into the market for portable PCs and tablets. It is aimed at both the consumer and business market.

Intel was showing two low-power PC portables with Chrome OS in its booth at CES. They were fast — fast to load and only a few seconds to get on the Web and begin running applications.

Chrome devices will have a full keyboard, unlike tablets, and be used only for cloud-based computing and storage.

Rider Research has prepared an executive briefing paper on Chrome — what it is and its likely impact.

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THIS WEEK IN CONTENT DEALS

eBay, Telefonica, O2

Online auction Web site eBay inked a deal with Telefonica to preload the eBay mobile application on select handsets it sells through O2 in the UK.

Aspiro Music, Telenor

Mobile media publisher Aspiro Music partnered with mobile network company Telenor to launch a streaming music service in Sweden called WiMP.

Nokia, Microsoft

Nokia inked a deal to partner with Microsoft to utilize its Windows Mobile 7 software on future handsets and will also use Bing as the default search engine.

 

THIS WEEK IN FINANCE DEALS

Tango

Mobile video chat company Tango received $8.7 million in new funding from previous individual investors and undisclosed new backers.

Outbrain, Gemini Israel Funds, Carmel Ventures, Rhodium, GlenRock Israel, Lightspeed Venture Partners

Content discovery technology company Outbrain closed a Round C of funding with $11 million from prior backers Gemini Israel Funds, Carmel Ventures, Rhodium, GlenRock Israel and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Songkick

Online concert listings provider Songkick landed $1.9 million from a group of undisclosed investors.

Kaltura, Nexus Venture Partners, Silicon Valley Bank, Intel Capital, .406 Ventures, Avalon Ventures

Open source online video platform developer Kaltura received $20 million in a new round of funding led by new backer Nexus Venture Partners, with participation from Silicon Valley Bank, Intel Capital, .406 Ventures and Avalon Ventures.

Pandora

Internet radio music streaming service Pandora filed a registration statement with the SEC for a proposed IPO that would raise up to $100 million.

Slacker

Online streaming radio provider Slacker secured $3 million in debut funding in an undisclosed deal.

EchoStar, Hughes Communications

Satellite TV company and DISH Network founder EchoStar acquired satellite firm Hughes Communications in a deal valued at $2 billion, stipulating that Hughes stockholders receive $60.70 a share in cash.

TuneUp Media, IDG Ventures

Music library clean up and organization application provider TuneUp Media received $2 million in new funding from prior investor IDG Ventures.

 

APPLE IPAD

Apple to iOS Subscriptions: 30% of Yours Is Mine

Apple has fully unveiled the details of its new subscription model for the App Store, confirming what most believed by saying it will charge magazine and newspaper publishers 30% of their cover price per issue.

Apple has taken a one-size-fits-all approach, allowing publishers the ability to “set the price and length of subscriptions,” (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly) a payment which Apple will process and is “keeping the same 30% share that it does today for other in-app purchases.”

Surprisingly, the 30% cut also extends to non-print content, such as music subscriptions.

Apple did say it would allow publishers and others to use alternative approaches for getting users to subscribe outside of the app, such as selling digital subscriptions on their Web site or bundling them with physical media. The caveat here is that these apps will have to develop and provide “their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app.”

Sony’s recent app troubles aren’t solved here because that offering took users from within an app to a Web page via the browser for its purchases, and this workaround is still a no-no. Apple made it clear that publishers can’t provide links within apps that allow customers to purchase any content or subscription outside of the app.

A few of the other important points the announcement made are below:

 – Walking on razor-thin margins: at first glance, it appears the 30% cut could hurt a lot of digital content publishers. The biggie here is Amazon who is likely faced with either now taking a loss on many sales or raising its prices on its Kindle app. The third option is that it may simply shut down its iOS Kindle app, or at least the app’s ability to make a purchase.

 – Don’t know your users: besides the 30% cut, Apple is also giving publishers less user info. Now the process will give buyers the “option” of providing their name, e-mail address and zip code to the publisher.

 – This is a ‘must-have’: Apple said if a publisher sells a digital subscription outside of the app, it must offer the same subscription at the same price or less to customers who want to subscribe from within the app.

 – No faith within the community: the newspaper industry made a large move to ignore and speak ill of Project Alesha, a unified payment platform for digital print media content, because it came from Rupert Murdoch. Looks like they had it coming.

 – Users score at least one win: perhaps the best news is a somewhat secondary feature for the user, namely a personal account page that allows them to cancel automatic renewals and manage existing subscriptions. Can’t beat a one-touch solution to halting a recurring payment.

“Our philosophy is simple — when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30% share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100% and Apple earns nothing,” said Apple’s Steve Jobs. “We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”

All in all, this could be a good thing for both consumers and companies offering their content, provided those companies can survive the 30% cut, that is. Consumers tend to come out ahead when services have to compete for that bottom dollar. Companies that can afford the cut can very likely see some good from this model because of the volume of consumption Apple provides. App developers have been paying that price for initial sales and in-app sales already, but app usage and purchasing is only going up.

The person who looks to suffer the most is likely the consumer who isn’t an iOS user as there’s a chance services will bump up their prices across the board to compensate for the 30% cut. Since companies have to offer the subscription at the same price or less from within the app, any price increases to compensate for Apple’s share will have to happen everywhere. It is possible that service will charge more for an iOS subscription compared to an Android one, but such a price difference seems unlikely because the consumer will direct their wrath at the service provider instead of at Apple.

 The Unhappy Response

There’s dissension in the ranks over the subscription policy, with Rhapsody being openly and viscerally hostile, while others mull possible litigation.

A Sony representative said that Apple is essentially holding publishers ransom. A representative for the Online Publishers Association, which represents Time, Bloomberg and other media outlets, seemed miffed about the setup and was worried over how it would affect sales. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple will likely face anti-trust scrutiny because the move can be seen as putting “anti-competitive pressures on price.”

Rhapsody went for the jugular when President John Irwin said that “an Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30% of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable. The bottom line is we would not be able to offer our service through the iTunes store if subjected to Apple’s 30% monthly fee.” Irwin also threw down the gauntlet, “We will be collaborating with our market peers in determining an appropriate legal and business response to this latest development.”

Apple’s foray into the publishing arena is looking a bit too much like ‘How to Lose Friends and Irritate People.’

Quick on Its Feet, Google Responds

Shortly after Apple’s plans emerged, Google CEO Eric Schmidt unveiled the company’s One Pass payment system for digital content, offering publishers a better cut than what’s been recently offered by Apple’s App Store.

Google’s One Pass will take typically around 10% of sales from publishers. “Each publisher gets in the 90% range of the revenue,” said Google.

Google’s payment service, yet to be launched, will be powered by Google Checkout.

One Pass will let publishers set prices and terms for digital content that can be delivered to devices via Web sites and Android apps. It also provides a single interface for users to manage and access multiple devices and content subscriptions.

The announcement was a direct hit against Apple.

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Opera Mini: iPad Ready, Waiting on Apple’s Go

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Opera was demonstrating a version of its Opera Mini Web browser for Apple’s iPad, and the oohs and aahs could hardly be contained.

Opera Mobile calls itself the fastest smartphone Web browser and recently jumped past the 100-million-user mark. Initially its iPhone app was stopped short by Apple since it was a direct competitor with the Safari mobile Web browser native to the phone, but it is unclear if Apple will be lifting the ban across all iOS devices.

Opera works a bit differently from most Web browsers on the market. Essentially the user connects to a central Opera server. This caches and optimizes Web pages and delivers them to the app, allowing the Web pages to be delivered more quickly than normal and with more support.

Besides competing with Safari, Opera Mini butts up against Apple’s ban on non-Webkit browsers and presumably has the ability to run external code which goes against Apple’s App Store agreement.

Opera did say that Apple has yet to approve the browser but was confident in its approval “soon.”

Opera is already available for Android and Windows 7 tablets.

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Splashtop Releases MeeGo-Based OS for OEMs

While MeeGo’s mobile phone future is up in the air, Splashtop has released a new version of its MeeGo-based Splashtop OS targeting OEM and ODM partners for their next-generation tablets and netbooks.

Splashtop, which focuses on instant-on computing, said its flagship OS has already shipped on millions of notebooks and netbooks from OEMs including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG and Sony, among others.

“If you’re an OEM, you should choose a software partner the way you’d choose a spouse,” said Mark Lee, CEO of Splashtop. “It should be someone you trust, someone who understands how you operate, and someone who can help you bring a beautiful product into the world. But in the computer industry, experience really counts — the more the better. The Splashtop installed base of 60 million shows that we offer tried and true solutions. Plus we’re a great long-term partner.”

All awkward baby analogies aside, Splashtop is an impressive OS in how quickly it allows users to boot up and get online — in a couple of seconds, a user is able to go from nothing to sending an e-mail or opening a chat program. One solid feature of the latest version is its connection with Intel’s AppUp platform. AppUp is an app store for Intel-based machines that gives users access to free and pay-for apps, and the Splashtop integration means that users can boot their MeeGo PC and then directly jump into a favorite app or service, extending the instant-on functionality of the device.

“MeeGo’s open and flexible software platform on Intel architecture gives mobile device manufacturers both the freedom and the powerful capabilities to deliver exciting user experiences,” said Ram Peddibhotla, system software marketing director for Intel. “Intel welcomes Splashtop and other software vendors to the MeeGo ecosystem to apply its deep software knowledge to help manufacturers bring mobile devices to market quickly.”

Splashtop also said its Remote app will be extended to all devices running the new OS. The app lets users on MeeGo Android, Windows or iOS devices fully access and run content on a main Mac or Windows PC through their mobile.

Splashtop is an active contributor to the MeeGo project. Its CEO and co-founder, Mark Lee, serves on the board of directors of the Linux Foundation and two of its bigwigs promote MeeGo in Asia on behalf of the foundation.

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The Cable Show

June 14-16, 2011

McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois

 

Major UK Retailers to Offer Moto’s Xoom Tablet

Motorola’s 10-inch Xoom, the first tablet with Google’s new Honeycomb version of Android developed specifically for tablets, is off to a good start in the UK. The combination Wi-Fi/3G models will be sold through traditional retailers such as Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy and the 3G only model through Currys and PC World.

European prices haven’t been announced but the Xoom models are $799 and $599 in the States. In the UK the Wi-Fi only models of the 10-inch iPad start at £439 ($710) and the Wi-Fi/3G models start at £541 ($875). We expect similar pricing for the Xoom in the UK.

Let’s hope Motorola does better than Samsung did with its 7-inch Galaxy Tab tablet. It claimed it sold two million of them, but it turns out that it was only sold to retailers, so many of the tablets have not been sold to consumers. Return rates may be high because most consumers will want the Xoom with its newer and tablet-intended Honeycomb version of Android.

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BROADBAND BEAT

New Zealand Favors 3G, Not LTE, For Rural Broadband

The New Zealand government is to use 3G rather than LTE for its rural broadband program and is in final talks with Telecom NZ and Vodafone.

Steven Joyce, minister for communications and IT, said that the shortlist for the rural broadband rollout had been narrowed down to just the joint Telecom/Vodafone bid, and he hoped a contract could be signed by the end of the quarter. If negotiations are completed successfully, Telecom will be responsible for building the fiber network linking schools and hospitals, cell sites and rural exchanges and cabinets, while Vodafone will be responsible for the design and building of open access tower infrastructure, the companies said previously.

This was one of five original bids for the project and was chosen because it harnesses existing infrastructure, reducing time and cost and improving the ROI case. Another proposal, based on TD-LTE, came from the OpenGate FX group, made up of Kordia, fixed wireless operator Woosh Wireless and fiber optic network operator FX Networks.

Kordia’s CEO Geoff Hunt issued a statement that said “This decision effectively condemns rural communities to suffering from same old duopoly services that continue to under-deliver and hold rural New Zealand hostage. The government had an opportunity through the RBI to provide a technology step-change in services for rural New Zealand that would have laid a future-proof and highly competitive foundation for the next 15 years.” He added: “The 3G element of the Telecom Vodafone solution is being superseded all around the world by 4G technologies like TD-LTE.” Vodafone does not currently have spectrum to upgrade to LTE.

Testing TD-LTE across the water, Australia’s VividWireless, part of the Seven Group, said it had hit peak speeds of 128Mbps in live trials in inner Sydney, using Huawei gear. Consistent download speed was between 40Mbps and 70Mbps. Vivid’s existing networks run on WiMAX (in Perth and parts of Sydney) or pre-WiMAX technologies.

This first appeared in Wireless Watch.

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ENABLING TECHNOLOGY

Telefónica Unveils Multi-Platform App Strategy

Telefónica has introduced a new multi-platform app service, codenamed “Frigo,” which it aims to let customers access, manage and use apps on their mobiles, tablets, netbooks, PCs, STBs and many other devices.

The service, basically a multi-platform applications folder, backs up content to the cloud and enables the user to access this content through a personal profile that can be retrieved on another device as they move. Users will link their devices to this centralized folder, though a limit on devices or a cost per device has not yet been released.

The commercial brand will be formally unveiled in the spring with a launch to follow later this year, initially in seven Telefónica markets: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Spain and the UK.

Telecom Italia will be the first operator outside of the Telefónica Group to get the service and offer it to customers. The company said the service would be available in April. This most likely means that the initial unveiling and launch date will occur in around mid-March.

The new service is scheduled to work across a variety of operating systems, including Android, Windows Mobile, Java and Symbian. There was no word on iOS compatibility, but the service will likely see its expansion move more toward Linux-based operating systems initially.

Frigo uses Qualcomm’s Xiam content recommendation engine, while its app store functions are powered by Ericsson’s Mobile Service Delivery Platform.

The service is key to watch because it is one of the largest pushes into single-source content for multiple devices. The service will give everyone a strong indication of which features and functionality users want shared instantaneously across multiple devices and what they want separate and compartmentalized. It will also provide a strong look into user-consumption preferences, mainly if they’re willing to use a shared UI across devices or if they prefer the custom-built iterations of apps per each device that cannot necessarily talk to each other.

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Nokia Leaves MeeGo’s Future to Intel

Nokia’s seemingly desperate lunge for Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS and its abandonment of Symbian and MeeGo leaves Intel holding the MeeGo bag.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini said at the Mobile World Congress that Intel believes MeeGo has a bright future in smartphones, tablets and smart TVs.

Nokia said it will use MeeGo in at least one smartphone before the next version of Windows Mobile is completed but will then switch its engineering staff to Windows. The first Nokia smartphones with Windows are not expected until year-end or perhaps in 2012. Major technology changes always seem to take longer than expected.

Otellini said mobile phone operators are still looking for an open, operator-friendly OS. If everyone else is selling iOS and Android devices, they’ll certainly be looking for products that can differentiate themselves.

At CES, Intel was showing a number of smart TV adapters that use MeeGo. It also said it expects MeeGo-based tablets this year and that MeeGo will be embedded in devices for the automotive industry — smart cars.

MeeGo came about when Intel and Nokia decided to merge their efforts to develop an OS for mobile devices and the automotive industry.

Otellini also said there will be smartphones using its chips this year.

The Battle of the Operating Systems

iOS                      Only on Apple products. One OS for smartphone, tablet and Apple TV.

WebOS                For HP’s smartphones and tablets.

Windows Phone 7 Microsoft with Nokia as a major backer.

MeeGo                 Intel aims at automotive (smart cars), smart phones  and tablets.

QNX                    RIM’s first tablet uses the QNX OS that it acquired.

Android                Google has seen it become the most used OS on smartphones.

Chrome                Google aims at the coming cloudbook market.

 

Complicating Intel’s business is that old chum Microsoft, which has signed a deal with ARM to develop the next version of Windows to also run on ARM-based microprocessors, which many companies make, in addition to Intel chips. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer showed at CES what he said was the next version of Windows running on what he said was an ARM-based processor.

Complicating life for Microsoft is Google’s success with Android, which strengthens its ability to make its Chrome OS the standard on a new generation of cloudbooks that only function fully when connected to the Net. Intel was showing two Chrome-based cloudbooks in its CES booth.

Otellini said open operating systems like Android and MeeGo have the edge over closed systems like Windows Phone 7. “Some closed models will certainly survive, because you can optimize the experience, [perhaps referring to Apple] but in general, if you harness the ability of all the engineers and developers in the world, open wins,” he said.

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HTML5 Will Be Finalized in 2014

 – Three More Years of Endless Hype on the Horizon

The standard for HTML5 won’t be finalized and finished for another three years, according to a recent note from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

This week the standards body said it has extended the charter of its group developing HTML5, with the proposed specifications getting a last-call status in May to be followed by a three-year wait. This will end up as one of those situations in which a piece of technology enters mainstream use and users simply don’t know or care if it is still in beta when they use it — somewhat similar to the path of the latest Wi-Fi standard.

The group said the wait is due to it developing a comprehensive test suite “to achieve broad interoperability for the full specification by 2014, the target date for Recommendation.”

Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO, said that testing is vital because of HTML’s role as a foundation for the Web. “Even as innovation continues, advancing HTML5 to Recommendation provides the entire Web ecosystem with a stable, tested, interoperable standard. The decision to schedule the HTML5 Last Call for May 2011 was an important step in setting industry expectations. Today we take the next step, announcing 2014 as the target for Recommendation.”

However, some groups like the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) are calling for the HTML5 standard to be considered finished. Last month, WHATWG called HTML5 more “mature than any specification to date” and said it only hurts the industry to continue calling it a draft.

WHATWG says it aims to represent those unable to join the W3C’s working group. It was founded in 2004 by Apple, the Mozilla Foundation and Opera.

So Why, Exactly?

The decision to push its finalization back a few years is likely two-fold:

 – It’ll combat some of the unrealistic hype building around HTML5 since last year when it was first heralded as the savior of Web video despite having very little browser support or supported content.

 – It also gives the body a chance to figure out ways to integrate new features, from augmented reality to interactive advertising, into the standard so that they are not only supported across multiple devices but also have a clear date for the market to fully adopt and react to these coming changes.

Some of the main HTML5 hype came from Apple in 2010, where the specification was used to justify keeping iOS devices Flash-free. Google also helped when it announced plans for a VP8 video compression standard, saying it was looking into shifting its YouTube service from Flash and H.264 to a mix of HTML5 and VP8. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer even told a developer conference that HTML5 would the glue that binds Microsoft’s “three screens and a cloud” strategy. Even the new Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate claims “extensive built-in support for various industry standards including HTML5.”

Even the W3C had their hand in the cookie jar, releasing an HTML5 logo that claimed to cover HTML5 with CSS, SVG and WOFF. W3C has taken a step back from supporting this, but just about any Web site can now add this logo to its page without any true testing or certification of its HTML5 support.

The W3C has said simply that HTML5 isn’t ready, something which those major PC and Web players have also admitted, either directly or by maintaining their services in alternate formats such as Silverlight or Flash. The industry appears to need time to shift, but no one wants to be the last on the bandwagon to say they fully support something they feel is the future of the Web.

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VP8 Squares off Against MPEG and MPEG LA

When looking at the industry and its acronym affection, sometimes it is hard not to think of the Jackson Five singing “ABC. Easy as 123. Or simple as do re mi.”

But alas, the latest codec war isn’t that simple, as Google’s open video codec VP8 is now set to fend off MPEG and a totally separate MPEG LA.

The MPEG standards body — not to be confused with the MPEG LA patent-pool organization — has said it will develop its own royalty-free codec for the future of the Web. At its upcoming meeting in March, the organization will begin accepting proposals for the new video compression technology that it hopes will be a step up from the performance from MPEG-2.

Last May, Google announced it was putting out its VP8 codec as open source under a royalty-free license with the aim of creating a new and completely open standard for Web video. Google came under fire from MPEG LA for allegedly violating patents associated with the H.264 codec — MPEG LA handles the licensing of this royalty-required codec.

MPEG LA has officially called on patent holders to submit patents they believe are essential to VP8. Securing these would allow the organization to create a patent pool for Google’s codec, likely creating a big challenge for Google to keep VP8 royalty-free.

Essentially, all three are separate entities with these stakes in the game:

 – Google: Keeping VP8 royalty-free means keeping YouTube costs low. It is pushing VP8 as a codec for HTML5 to help keep it at the forefront of codec development and keep its support costs down. It doesn’t control the standards but wants to maintain them as open and royalty-free.

 – MPEG: The “Moving Picture Experts Group” is a working consortium formed to set standards for audio and video compression and transmission. It has a wide variety of MPEG codecs and aims to set the standard for how video is handled in the home and on the Web. Their dog in this hunt is setting a standard its 350 or so members can all agree on and support.

 – MPEG LA: This is a Denver-based firm that licenses patent pools covering essential patents required for use of the MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Visual (Part 2), IEEE 1394, VC-1, ATSC and AVC/H.264. It also has a hand in some LTE patents and is seeking patents associated with WebM. This group does not control or set standards; it just makes money off of licensing associated with patent-covered codecs.

Google’s VP8 faces two main challenges: MPEG LA is aiming to make it so it can charge for the VP8 codec, while MPEG is trying to develop its own codec that remains charge-free. Google has some strong momentum behind it, namely the Mozilla and Opera browsers and hardware makers like AMD and Nvidia, but it seems one treacherous step away from seeing VP8’s appeal change dramatically.

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New Broadcom Chips:

Smaller, Faster, Longer Battery Usage, New Functions

Want to know where technology is going? Watch what’s going on in chips and operating systems.

Broadcom, which makes chips for the wired and wireless communications markets, this week announced an ARM-based combination chip for the mobile market that’s designed to support more media and data applications without impacting size or battery life for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. The BCM4330 integrates Broadcom’s 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio technologies on a single silicon die to provide significant cost, size, power and performance advantages over separate semiconductor implementations of those technologies.

Broadcom said the BCM4330’s “extreme integration” reduces power consumption and makes the overall solution size over 40% smaller than its predecessor.

The BCM4330 is the industry’s first combo chip solution certified with the Bluetooth 4.0 standard that integrates Bluetooth low energy (BLE), an ultra-low power implementation of Bluetooth technology. It’s aimed at devices that require very long battery life such as wireless sensors, medical and fitness monitoring devices. It also supports Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth High Speed, which enable mobile devices to communicate directly with each other without having to connect to an access point as part of a traditional network. Bluetooth High Speed enables Bluetooth applications to be used over the Wi-Fi connection at Wi-Fi speeds.

Broadcom supports most major operating systems from Microsoft Windows and Windows Phone to Google Chrome and Android but not including HP’s WebOS, RIM’s QNX and Apple’s iOS.

Android and Windows Phone distributions feature support for “Soft Access Point,” which allows the Wi-Fi component in a device such as a notebook computer or smartphone to function as an access point enabling the sharing of wireless broadband with other devices

The BCM4330 is in production with volume shipments to phone manufacturers this quarter. It was demonstrated this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

It’s expected to appear in smartphones, tablets and cloud books.

Robert Rango, executive VP and general manager of Broadcom’s mobile and wireless connectivity group, said, “Broadcom’s wireless combo solutions are used in most of the Windows Phone 7 products shipped to date. The addition of Nokia to the Windows Phone ecosystem could drastically increase the addressable market for this platform.”

 

HOME NETWORKING

Wi-Fi Provides Boost for Ralink

Assuming that eventually all homes will have broadband and all CE products from picture frames to refrigerators and including automobiles will have Wi-Fi, the potential market for Wi-Fi and DSL chipmakers like Ralink Technology is enormous.

Taiwan-based Ralink reported that in the fourth quarter of 2010 it shipped 25.8 million units, including Wi-Fi and ADSL chips, a 15.2% growth in shipments compared to the third quarter of 2010, and a 49.3% shipment growth compared to the same period of last year:

 – The retail market accounted for 29% of total unit shipments.

 – Broadband accounted for 50%.

 – PC and notebooks accounted for 15%.

 – Consumer electronics accounted for 6%.

The share for ADSL and Wi-Fi were respectively 70% and 30%. Total shipments in 2010 reached 88.4 million units, a 67.7% increase over the prior year.

This is the first time that the company announced its quarterly financial results after merging with TrendChip Technology.

In the MIPS booth at CES, Ralink showed its video-over-Wi-Fi solutions that are based on MIPS technology.

Ralink develops wireless home networking and ADSL broadband semiconductor products. In addition to their use for traditional PC networking, the chips are used in digital media and handheld devices including PDAs, cameras, print servers, HDTV, video game players, and xDSL gateways.

The company is a member of the WiGig Alliance.

Ralink Technology was founded in 2001.

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LEGAL MATTERS

Congress Introduces Do-Not-Track Web Legislation

US Rep. Jackie Speier introduced the Do-Not-Track-Me-Online Act, a bill that would require firms that track the Web surfing habits to allow consumers to opt out, or else face fines.

The bill requires firms collecting data to notify users when data on them is collected as well as to provide details on the data collected and how it is used. “People have a right to surf the Web without Big Brother watching their every move and announcing it to the world. The Internet marketplace has matured, and it is time for consumers’ protections to keep pace,” Rep. Speier said in a statement.

Ironically, the bill allows Big Brother to keep on looking without cluing in the average users since government Web sites and services are exempt from tracking restrictions. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also given the power to set exemptions for standard tracking, such as the collection of IP addresses, browser history and OS information.

The proposed legislation follows the FTC’s call for browser developers to include the ability for consumers to opt out of tracking. Mozilla had added such a feature already while Google and Microsoft are expected to follow suit very soon.

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Labels Sue Canadian isoHunt

isoHunt, a search engine that helps users find files on BitTorrent, has been sued by 26 record labels for facilitating copyright infringement in its home country of Canada, TorrentFreak reported.

The suit against isoHunt and its owner Gary Fung seeks a shutdown of the Web sites isoHunt, Podtropolis and TorrentBos, and over $4 million in damages.

“The isoHunt Web sites have been designed and are operated by the defendants with the sole purpose of profiting from rampant copyright infringement which defendants actively encourage, promote, authorize, induce, aid, abet, materially contribute to and commercially profit from,” the labels’ complaint reads.

Some major hollywood film studios, represented by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), sued isoHunt in US federal court last year and the court handed down a permanent injunction against isoHunt. The ruling is currently under appeal, but isoHunt still must filter its search engine based on keywords provided by the MPAA.

This filter only applies to US users, but the Canadian lawsuit, if successful, could require a music-related filter for all of isoHunt’s users.

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US Government Shuts Down 84,000 Websites, ‘By Mistake’

The US Government has again shut down a series of domains led by the Department of Justice and Homeland Security’s ICE office. Initial reports said that these domains were largely related counterfeit goods and illegal adult content.

According to TorrentFreak, the one thing ICE didn’t say was that it targeted domains belonging to a free DNS provider and ended up taking off roughly 84,000 Web sites that were wrongfully accused of cyber-crimes against children.

As part of “Operation Save Our Children” ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center convinced a District Court judge to sign a seizure warrant, and then contacted the domain registries to point the domains in question to a server that hosts the warning message.

Somewhere along the way, a mistake was made and the domain of a large DNS service provider was seized. Eventually, the domain seizure was fixed and the old sites began appearing again instead of the accusatory banner. However, another three days passed before the federal warnings and accusations disappeared completely.

Most of the seized properties were for personal sites and small business Web sites, and search engines still list some of these sites as linked to illegal content.

In a statement on the seizure released after the sites were back up, the Department of Homeland Security touted its take down and made no mention of sites wrongfully accused.

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New iBooks Hoped to Deter Hacks

– Jailbroken Soon Thereafter

Apple doesn’t like users jailbreaking their devices, even if the courts rule it perfectly legal. In the latest round of cat-and-mouse, Apple has released a new version of iBooks that adds a function to make it unable to open books on jailbroken devices.

The software basically runs a program before loading a DRM-regulated book. If a device is not jailbroken, the program won’t launch and the book will open fine. A jailbroken device will allow the program to run in the background and the book won’t open.

The latest jailbreak hit within under a day of the change showing up on anyone’s radar, but this new jailbreak also added in a few nice features for others devices. Top on the list is that a jailbroken Apple TV and some other devices no longer need the user to attach them to a PC when they boot up, basically re-jailbreaking them each time the device reboots. It has also fixed a lot of Wi-Fi issues that were reported with the last crack.

Apple TV’s jailbreak software gives it access to the Plex media browser (similar to Boxee), the Info On Demand weather and news feed app and a Last.fm app. Right now, Fire Core is offering the software for $20 as part of a bundle.

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LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS

Counting Tablets, Apple Leads in Mobile PC Sales

By combining tablets with portable PCs, DisplaySearch in its quarterly ranking of worldwide mobile PC shipments says Apple has passed HP to become number one. Most research firms have not traditionally counted tablets as portable PCs.

DisplaySearch says Apple shipped more than 10.2 million notebooks and tablet PCs combined, nearly a million more units than HP in the fourth quarter of 2010. It had a 17.2% market share.

It said Apple and Toshiba were the only two vendors that increased shipments of notebook PCs. Toshiba increased its mobile PC shipments 15% to over 5.1 million units in the last quarter.

DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim said Apple’s iPad has changed how tablets are used. “The traditional boundaries don’t really apply anymore. The iPad is a computing device that can run applications. It has a processor, uses memory and has local storage,” Shim told InternetNews.com. “How many years have consumers been asking for instant on and longer battery life? Apple has addressed those needs and consumers have voted with their dollars.”

Looking ahead, Shim said, “We’re projecting the tablet market will reach 55.7 (million) units in 2011 and Apple will have the leading market share by far. You have to remember the competition is coming but it’s not even really out there yet.”

Tablets based on the version of Android called Honeycomb that Google says is intended for tablets have only recently been available, most notably Motorola’s Xoom. Earlier Android-based tablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab used an earlier version of Android that Google intended for smartphones.

Tablets with proprietary operating systems like HP’s WebOS-based TouchPad and RIM’s QNX-based Playbook have not yet shipped.

Shim said, “Apple has the benefit of momentum, and there’s nothing holding them back. When other devices come out they’ll have to compete with each other even as all of them are being compared to the iPad, which has set the standard to beat. And if Apple releases a new iPad as expected that could be another pregnant pause the rest of the industry is going to have to adapt to.”

HP was second in the quarterly rankings with 9.3 million mobile PCs shipped in for a 15.6% market share. Acer, Dell and Toshiba had a 14%, 9.9% and 8.6% share, respectively.

The mobile PC market is not booming. DisplaySearch said their sales were up 4% in Q4 from the prior quarter and only 1% from the same quarter a year ago.

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MOBILE MEDIA

Mobile TV App Store for Broadcasters Launched

Everything has an app store, or at least something that looks like one.

Mobile software developer SPB Software announced a major update coming to its mobile TV solution, SPB TV 3.0, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week: catalogs, premium content and VOD in an app-like package.

SPB TV 3.0 is basically an app store publishing platform that’s designed for TV channels, offering broadcasters and content owners the ability to send content to mobiles across the globe. Mobile operators with existing libraries can now fully deliver these to users across multiple handsets, and their services can now support premium channels and VOD content.

In the SPB TV 3.0 content directory, the user chooses from a wide range of paid and free content, which is laid out and presented much the same way apps are in an app store. Broadcasters here have the ability to offer free, pay-for or ad-based content, and the user is presented with these as sorting features.

The service said it offers several benefits for TV channels, including having more than four million users; having cross platform support that “covers smartphones, tablets and desktop computers”; the ability to give back user statistics; and the ability to target users by region.

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Second Phone Numbers Now Available from the App Store

Barcelona’s fonYou, a global technology company, has launched a free iPhone application that lets users download mobile numbers from the iTunes App Store.

After users install the app, they can activate and use a “fonYou number” from their existing handsets. The app creates a virtual second phone line that gives users two numbers on the same mobile, without requiring another SIM card.

One potentially useful feature is “call control,” which allows users to filter calls from unknown or specific numbers. Once users implement the filter, they can block numbers or send them straight to voicemail. However, another feature seems ripe for abuse: the company said its service “automatically creates and backs-up a full online register for calls, texts and voicemails as well as an online address book.”

So far, it works with any Spanish mobile operator, according to the company. fonYou said it will soon make the service available in other territories. Since the service isn’t based on VoIP tech, it should offer the same call quality as any mobile phone service offers for other devices.

fonYou is currently developing versions of its virtual phone number app for Android and BlackBerry devices.

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RIM Supports $150m for Mobile Developers

BlackBerry smartphone maker Research in Motion (RIM) announced on Monday that it has led a new $150 million investment in BlackBerry Partners Fund II that will be used toward mobile developers. The new fund will have more of an international flavor than the first. That fund has made 13 investments in firms including Appia, Buzzd, Digby, SocialDeck, Transpera and Xobni. “We are very pleased with the positive impact of the first Fund on our mobile ecosystem and we look forward to BlackBerry Partners Fund II bringing additional resources and support to mobile innovators in a broader range of international markets,” said RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie.

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ONLINE MUSIC SERVICES

Radiohead: Now Pay-What-We-Want

Radiohead made a digital name for itself by letting fans choose what they wanted to pay for its older album “In Rainbows,” but this time it wants a more structured pay grade, taking all that acclaimed power out of the hands of fans once again.

Its forthcoming new album, “The King of Limbs,” will be available as an MP3 copy for $9 and an uncompressed WAV version for $14. The band will again offer various bundles of physical and digital products: a double-vinyl set with a CD, MP3 album and related artwork will cost $48, while the same deal with the WAV downloads will cost $53.

The album in all of its various forms is available for pre-order at http://www.thekingoflimbs.com, though they’re all a bit above the $6 average paid for “In Rainbows.” For that album, according to comScore, only 40% of users paid any money since a legitimate free option was available.

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Pandora Files to Raise $100 Million in IPO

Internet radio service Pandora has filed a registration statement for a proposed IPO that would raise up to $100 million. The underwriters are investment banks Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Securities. The number of shares and pricing information has yet to be determined. According to the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company’s revenue was “$55.2 million and $90.1 million in fiscal 2010 and the nine months ended October 31, 2010, respectively. Our net loss was $16.8 million and $0.3 million in fiscal 2010 and the nine months ended October 31, 2010, respectively.” The statement also said Pandora has a 50% share of all Internet radio listening time among the top 20 stations and networks in the United States, according to Ando Media.

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UMG: ‘Streams of Music Are Eclipsing Everything’

While it may be a good kick in the shins to piracy, it may not necessarily be a great step forward for labels.

“Streams of music are eclipsing everything,” Universal Music Group UK chief David Joseph recently told the Guardian. “It’s a different digital currency to downloading. You’re dealing with 175 million single tracks bought a year compared to seven billion streams of music.” Though to be fair, many of those seven billion streams are repeats of the same songs to the same people.

The 175 million to seven billion market comparison begets the following question: Where’s the sustainable revenue stream in all of this?

UMG’s global digital head Rob Wells has said that piracy is the top concern for the company bar none, but the surge in streaming services from Spotify and Last.fm to Pandora and Rhapsody could easily be sliding into the number-two spot.

“Revenues are significantly growing and I fundamentally believe that streaming and subscription models with unlimited access on all devices are the future of our business,” Joseph told the paper. “But will people still listen to albums, or just single tracks, or send playlists to their friends? Answer: all of the above.”

The labels are jumping in the mix with their own efforts at streaming content, and that may end up being the best thing for the industry. While Sony, et al, have launched Qriocity in a wide range of countries on a wide range of devices, there are also local approaches being taken with direct label involvement.

UMG has confirmed that it has reached an understanding with Virgin Media covering a new service that it called “innovative” and “ahead of the times,” showing faith in the service that could backfire again if it doesn’t live up to the hype. Virgin is said to be in talks with other labels to secure content for the deal.

The labels are learning to adapt in the digital sphere, but there is a chance they may spread themselves a bit too thin if they aren’t working closely with each service they license. When they support services from major friends to major enemies — such as Rdio from the Kazaa founders — and have so far sunk an estimated $34 million in dedicated funds for startups this year, it may mean that the “all of the above” answer is coming because no one has quite figured it out yet.

 

SHOW TIME

Aiming For Every Device, Netflix Comes to Boxee

Netflix continues its seemingly inexorable spread with D-Link making it available on its Boxee Box, finally, in the US and Canada. The Boxee Box makes Netflix and other online services available on millions of non-smart TVs.

Netflix, which offers lots of highly-rated movies from Starz, has continued to grow. Its share price hit an all time high this week.

The Netflix Watch Now streaming service is only available currently in the US and Canada.

It’s on a number if set-top boxes like Apple TV and Boxee plus on almost all smart TVs and Blu-ray players.

At $9 a month with one free DVD rental at a time included (streaming only in Canada), it’s a heck of a deal for watching movies and TV shows. Content, even older black and white films like “Foreign Correspondent,” are shown in high-quality. Netflix also offers lots of older flicks plus a large number of foreign films with subtitles. The British, German, French, Swedish and Italian studios have made much of their better content available.

All three of the very well-made Swedish versions of Stieg Larsson’s three novels (currently at numbers 2, 3 and 4 on The New York Times best-selling books list) are available for streaming. Few of them made it to theaters outside of New York or Los Angeles. Many other very popular non-US made films are available, many of which did not get much showing in the States.

Implementation of the Netflix user interface varies significantly on the various smart TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. Some, such as what LG is offering, are hard to operate and don’t have fully implemented searches. Companies have different approaches to typing. Some make it difficult. Apple TV and the iPad have, as might be expected, among the easier to use implementations.

D-Link’s Boxee Box’ Netflix implementation includes:

 – Dolby Digital TrueHD bit streaming.

 – High resolution SRT subtitles.

 – Updated drivers for external IR remotes.

 – Support for Windows Vista class remotes.

Netflix is seemingly on every possible device. Its only major competitors in the US seem to be Hulu, although it specializes in TV shows and Apple iTunes. In Europe the now Amazon-owned LoveFilm has a big lead with a Netflix like service although it does not have as high a market penetration that Netflix does.

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SMART TV

iOS 4.3: The Gaming Apple TV?

The rumor mill is in full swing this week thanks to a tougher competition for headlines now that the Mobile World Congress is underway, so some reoccurring themes are on the rise. One top contender is Apple TV, which is getting in on gaming.

At this point, rumor or not, Apple really needs to deliver here.

With the upcoming introduction of iOS 4.3 and the very limited existence of Apple’s “Game Center” introduced with iOS 4, the perfect storm for Apple TV gaming may be brewing. And what’s a storm without thunder?

In the 4.3 code, there are references to “ATVThunder” and “ATVGames,” both of which appear to point to the scheduling of games, an expansion of game rankings, streaming of live and archived games, and what appears to be either a brand new storefront or an updated section for an existing storefront. Apple basically has five stores right now, though they’re all variations on a theme, so the update has a bit of range it could possibly effect: iTunes for the Mac/Windows PC, iTunes for the Apple TV, iTunes for iOS devices, the App Store on iOS devices and the Mac App Store.

“Sedona” is also referenced in the update. Sedona handles Apple’s rentals and part of its streaming, which could easily be adapted for something like gaming or streaming more content from a computer or iOS device.

The new Apple TV only has 8GB of internal memory, so streaming seems to be the major way of playing games on the STB, though some smaller games could easily be momentarily cached and played, but that really isn’t a big issue because of the controllers. While Apple TV comes with a remote, why pair that experience with gaming when there are living rooms full of iPads, iPhones and iPods?

Apple TV could be opened up simply as a host for games, allowing users in the same home to play against each other from their own device. Existing apps also let users play games with others from around the globe, so the Apple TV could also provide some of the first experiences for global gaming interaction for users who don’t own a powerful PC or an existing game console.

Juniper Research said mobile gaming will push past $11 billion in revenue by 2015, so why not get in on that? Wouldn’t developers (and of course Apple) love to charge an extra dollar for the app version that also runs on an Apple TV?

Peter Relan, chairman of the social gaming network OpenFeint, said, “Adding 13 million more potential gamers on the iPhone [due to the Verizon Wireless version] is going to be a watershed moment for mobile gaming. I wouldn’t be surprised if the US mobile gaming industry doubles in revenue this year because of this deal.”

Right now Apple TV is still a bit of a hobby, but that’s okay since mobile gaming was originally considered a hobby too. As the platform developed, casual gaming expanded and opened up to more hardcore gamers, while still maintaining its mass appeal of killing a few minutes here and there.

Game consoles are actively seeking ways to integrate new music and video content. Their recent focus has largely been on developing licensing deals and partnerships, but this has been met with mixed success. Apple has the chance to come at this from an entirely opposite angle, first because it’s an entertainment hub with a huge catalog of content from iTunes and second because it’s a game platform that works with existing devices users likely already own.

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Rovi Adjusts Home Shopping

What if TV-based shopping moved from being on one channel to every channel? Who wouldn’t bite?

Rovi is trying to bring consumers just that through a purchasing system embeddable in electronic program guides (EPGs). Rovi and Delivery Agent have partnered up to introduce Delivery’s interactive commerce engine and product database to the EPGs offered by pay-TV operators.

Initially, the purchase-capable EPG will be used on NBC shows like “The Biggest Loser,” “The Office” and A&E’s “Pawn Stars.” Rovi is also looking to use its EPG to purchase products seen in both TV shows and commercials but hasn’t announced commercial partners.

Rovi and Delivery Agent will provide a service that includes designing, hosting and managing the commerce experience and transaction.

“The electronic program guide is often the first point of contact a viewer has with a program on any given day and guide-users visit the guide on average nine times daily,” Jeff Siegel, Rovi’s senior VP of worldwide advertising sales, said in a prepared statement. “The ability to shop-enable our guide by dynamically mapping products to listings can open up new opportunities for media companies to reach a highly engaged and active consumer audience.”

The guide feels close to what Yahoo is doing with its Broadcaster Interactive program, though initially Yahoo will have more of a focus on engaging users with content related to what they’re watching and then shifting to commerce options, while Rovi will likely shift from commerce to also include content-related extras.

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DIGIGRAMS

Aspiro, Telenor Launch Mobile Music in Sweden

Mobile entertainment publisher Aspiro Music has launched its WiMP streaming music service in Sweden, with mobile network partner Telenor. The service offers millions of licensed tracks at 99 kronor (about $15.27) per month. Telenor will also expand WiMP to its customers in Norway and Denmark. WiMP differentiates itself from other streaming services by having local editors select and recommend songs, albums, artists and playlists. Telenor’s Swedish customers will also have the opportunity to try the service free for 60 days.

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Barnes & Noble Goes for Ex Amazon Affiliates

Bookseller Barnes & Noble (BN) has sent an open letter to members of its rival Amazon’s affiliate program, inviting any that were dropped by Amazon over sales tax issues to join a new affiliate program from BN. Legislation makes Amazon collect sales tax on purchases made by residents of states including Rhode Island, Colorado and North Carolina, which Amazon responded to by dropping affiliate Web site partners in those states. “If Amazon doesn’t want you, we do!” reads the letter from the president of BN.com. “And, we will take care of collecting and remitting all sales taxes due on BN.com sales to its customers so you and our customers don’t have to worry about being hassled or prosecuted by state tax auditors.”

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iPad, Android Are a Boon for iPlayer

The new BBC iPlayer app for the iPad was downloaded nearly 55,000 times in the first 24 hours following its release in the Apple iTunes App Store February 10. According to the broadcaster, 55% of all program requests from the iPad that day came from the new iPlayer app, while its Android correspondent secured 50% of all program requests from Android devices. Comparing February 9 to 10, iPad requests grew 111% while Android requests grew 228%

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GetJar Grabs $25m to Target Android

One of the more popular third-party app services, GetJar, has secured $25 million in third-round funding, signaling a strong backing for a cross-platform app store model not aimed at or coming from a single device maker or OS, such as Apple’s App Store or the Android Market. GetJar says that it will continue to support iOS and RIM devices, but this new round of funding will mainly go to developing better ways to target and gain Android users on a global scale.

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Zip, Xoom, Gone

Best Buy has removed the pre-order page for the upcoming Motorola Xoom tablet, the now infamous page where the device was listed at $1,200. Best Buy killed the page, which also listed a late February release, and nothing seems to have arrived in its stead. The listing did confirm that users must pay for one month of 3G service to access Wi-Fi, as well as the vast majority of other stats released for the device. The company has said Motorola’s Xoom will be the first tablet on the market to run Android 3.0, Honeycomb.

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Blockbuster May Sell Itself

In the latest round of rumors, a familiar name and tale has surfaced: Blockbuster is looking to sell itself to avoid a full bust. According to a new report, the bankrupt company is aiming to sell because of a disagreement with creditors. The report said a bidder would likely offer $300 million, as well as assuming all debt and leases. When it filed for Chapter 11, Blockbuster had an estimated $1 billion in debt and was using the filing to keep 3,300 stores open. The projected winner of a Blockbuster auction is Carl Icahn and a consortium led by the hedge fund Monarch Alternative Capital. Icahn and the group own roughly 80% of Blockbuster’s senior notes and gave it $125 million to fuel a relaunch, one that doesn’t seem to have done well in the recent holiday season.

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French Streaming Music Service Has International Dreams

Deezer, a French music Web site, has announced plans to expand into international markets by partnering with local mobile network operators. Currently it claims 700,000 paid subscribers and a total of 16 million members worldwide — that last part makes the ‘international announcement’ feel a little moot, but the service is internationally available on the Web, and the latest expansion is aimed at mobile handsets. Deezer wants to expand its service with global mobile partners similar to its existing agreement with Orange in France. Orange owns about 11% of Deezer, but it is unlikely other operators will get as big of a chunk, if any.

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DirecTV Debuts 3D Network

The 3D TV network 3net has launched on DirecTV’s satellite pay-TV service. The service, a joint venture from Sony, Discovery and IMAX, has added 10 additional programs to its previously announced programming lineup for February, according to the companies involved. It plans to bring in new partners next quarter, and so far, it has gotten good reviews from consumers.

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Mobile Spectrum Sale Could Deliver $33 Billion

The Federal Communications Commission’s proposed auction of underutilized broadband spectrum could produce a little more than $33 billion in net proceeds for the US treasury, according to a new study. Mobile industry trade group CTIA and the Consumer Electronics Association recently wrapped the study. “With support from the UN and thanks to the efforts of President Obama, the FCC, the NTIA and numerous policymakers, it’s clear there’s a recognition that our industry needs more spectrum so we can remain the world’s wireless leader,” said CTIA head Steve Largent. “Our members are willing to spend billions to purchase unused or underutilized broadcast spectrum to fuel the ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation and competition.”

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E-Commerce Love Hits 6-Year Low

While some services like Amazon and Netflix continue to win consumer accolades, in 2010 the overall e-commerce satisfaction sank to its lowest point since 2004, according to the latest numbers from ForeSee Results. ForeSee said e-commerce satisfaction is at 79.3, down 2.6 points compared to last year. Results were dragged down largely by online retail, though these retailers did better than their brick-and-mortar competition. Meanwhile, Amazon took first place among retailers, beating out Netflix and a sinking Newegg, while Overstock and eBay finished up the top five. Online travel hit an all-time satisfaction high in 2010, despite many travel issues.

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