Category: Telecom


Motorola Xoom, Atrix 4G sales fall flat

Despite a wave of hype, Motorola’s mobile device lineup, which includes the Android 3.0 Honeycomb-based Xoom tablet and the Atrix 4G smartphone, has failed to catch on with consumers, report Forbes and Business Insider.

The low numbers for the Xoom come via an estimate made by Deutsche Bank, which predicts that Motorola has only sold about 100,000 Xoom tablets since the device debuted on February 24.

Apple, by comparison, sold 300,000 iPad 2 devices in the first weekend alone. Since that time, it’s been nearly impossible for customers to get their wanton hands on the next-generation iPad. Experts predict that Apple has sold approximately 20 million iPad 2s, so far. So not only has the iPad 2, which went on sale on March 11, outsold the Xoom — a device many consider the closest competitor in the tablet market — but it’s done so having been available to customers for half the time.

According to Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette, who spoke with Forbes, the Atrix 4G is also selling “well below forecast” due to AT&T’s $49 price point of the Apple 3GS and the HTC Inspire.

The poor showing of both the Atrix — one of our favorite handsets currently on the market — and the Xoom, which was a show-stopper at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, has caused Pacific Crest to chop the amount of revenue it expects Motorola to generate in 2011 by $1.5 billion.

This is just the most recent round of bad news for Motorola and the Xoom, which Consumer Reports yesterday said compared more closely to the original iPad than the iPad 2. The iPad 2, on the other hand, received the renowned tester’s top marks in the tablet department, despite lacking a few key features available on in the Xoom, like built-in card readers and Flash support.

If even a stellar device like the Xoom can’t compete against the Apple iPad juggernaut, it seems as though the entire tablet market may go the way of the MP3 market: Apple in front, and nobody else anywhere to be seen.

Source: Consumer Reports / Yahoo! News

Is Blackberry Just In A Jam Or Is It Toast?

Friday, maker of Blackberry mobile devices – Research In Motion (RIMM) – disappointed analysts and investors with earnings and widening full-year guidance. The question is whether RIMM is just in a short-term jam or are they “toast”?

For some time, Research in Motion’s earnings reports have been manic-depressive. Midway through today’s trading session, RIMM was down about 11 percent. We’ve seen this before and we’ve seen the converse before as well. What does this mean? The likely explanation is uncertainty.

Blackberry devices were the unquestioned dominant player in the corporate smart-phone space. I myself have been a Blackberry user for the past several years. But, as technology has evolved, it seems that Research in Motion has been slow to adapt. While certain third-party applications have been available on the Blackberry platform, the broader “app” concept seems to have caught RIMM flatfooted.

With the success of Apple’s iPhone, but perhaps really more due to the emergence of smart-phones based on Google’s Android operating system, the share of Blackberry-based smart-phones is declining. We believe that as technology evolves, the declining price of application-rich smart-phones will make them a viable replacement to ordinary cell phones. And, if application-rich smart-phones become the standard, where does this leave RIMM other than in catch-up mode? Will the Blackberry OS go the route of the Palm OS? No one knows but the cards seem stacked against RIMM. We see RIMM as an underperformer in the sector.

As a matter of disclosure, my firm and its clients have neither long positions nor short positions in RIMM.

Source: Forbes

RIM Strikes Microsoft Partnership, to Debut PlayBook ‘Very Soon’

Research In Motion Ltd. is teaming up with Microsoft Corp. to handle the growing amount of data its customers are using on mobile devices and plans to release its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer “very soon.”

RIM is looking for ways to enhance the PlayBook’s appeal as it prepares to challenge Apple Inc. in the tablet market. Apple, which sold 7.33 million iPads last quarter, has said more than 65 percent of the Fortune 100 companies are testing or deploying the iPad, including Procter & Gamble Co., Lowe’s Cos. and Hyatt Hotels Corp.

RIM has shown the PlayBook to a “significant” portion of Fortune 100 companies and interest in the device is “very high,” Jim Tobin, senior vice president, software and business services, said in an interview today in Toronto.

The partnership with Microsoft is designed to make it easier for customers to use what’s known as cloud computing, or servers offsite that store information and can be accessed over the Internet. Tobin said he sees about a quarter of RIM’s large corporate customers shifting data into the cloud by the end of this year, with half having made the shift by 2012.

Data stored in the cloud currently represents about 5 percent of the $1.5 trillion in corporate information technology spending last year, according to industry data supplied by IDC and Gartner Inc.

“It’s a more efficient model for everyone,” he said. “As the smartphone starts to handle more of the work effort versus a desktop, and now you add the tablet, that’s the time” to move away from storing information on computer hard drives and local servers.

Trading Barbs

He declined to give any estimate of how much money the shift will save RIM or its customers.

RIM plans to introduce the PlayBook this month or in early April, co-Chief Executive Officer Jim Balsillie said last month. Tobin declined to elaborate other than saying it will be very soon. Apple’s iPad went on sale in April 2010 and the company has since sold over 15 million of the devices.

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, fell $1.25, or 2.1 percent, to $59.84 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The stock has climbed 24 percent since the PlayBook was unveiled Sept. 27.

With the PlayBook yet to appear in stores, consumers have been buying the iPad and tablets like Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.’s Xoom, which went on sale last month. Both have screens that measure about 10 inches (25 centimeters), compared to the PlayBook’s smaller 7-inch screen. Balsillie and Apple CEO Steve Jobs exchanged barbs late last year after Jobs said smaller tablets are “dead on arrival” because they are too small to compete with the iPad.

“One other tablet is making some inroads and lots of noise,” said Tobin. “The PlayBook is the only other relevant game for enterprises right now, and for enterprises that have embraced BlackBerry, it’s a natural game to jump on that bandwagon really quickly.”

Source: BusinessWeek

Laptops play catch up to the iPad, Xoom

Market researcher Gartner released a research note Thursday claiming that laptops are not meeting the demands of the social-networking era. So, will mobile PCs become more like the Xoom and the iPad, which are, in turn, larger versions of the smartphone? In a word, yes.

This theory–or fact, depending on how you look at it–can also be restated as the post-PC era, which is the Apple marketing-spin corollary to the Gartner argument.

But let’s stick to Gartner’s analysis about the unsuitability of laptops in the social-networking era. Here are the most significant points in the note about the average mainstream laptop:

  • Battery life: not capable of all-day “untethered computing”
  • Connections: constant and immediate connections are not possible (i.e., no standard 3G/4G)
  • Heavy: still too heavy, lack real mobility

What this means is more laptops need to be like the 11.6-inch MacBook Air: very light, very thin–just like a tablet and, by extension, like a smartphone.

Though small laptops aren’t for everybody, it does mean more people will gravitate to this style as companies like Apple upgrade to powerful silicon like Intel’s low-voltage Sandy Bridge processor (and its future Ivy Bridge chip) and upcoming power-efficient chips from Advanced Micro Devices.

And don’t count out a clamshell MacBook–or a variation on that theme–sporting a future Apple A6 processor or an HP laptop packing a Qualcomm chip.

More future laptops will be like the 11.6-inch MacBook Air--but with 3G/4G standard and longer battery life.More future laptops will be like the 11.6-inch MacBook Air–but with 3G/4G standard and longer battery life.

(Credit: Apple)

In the more immediate future, this trend stipulates that Apple seriously consider built-in 3G/4G capability in the next version of the Air, as an Apple survey about 3G in a future MacBook Air seems to indicate the company is doing. As always, battery life would need improvement too.

So, what about the Netbook, you might ask. That delivered on mobility but not–until recently–on long battery life, nor on standard 3G. Nor, most importantly, on adequate performance for a laptop that would serve as someone’s everyday machine. The Netbook was ahead of its time but has always been hampered by Intel’s too-specific ideas about what a Netbook should and should not be.

For better or worse, it’s going to take a company like Apple to take the lead in redefining the high-mobility laptop. With help, of course, from companies like Hewlett-Packard and Sony–the HP Pavilion dm1z and Sony Y series, respectively, are a good start.

A $999 MacBook Air with 3G/4G and monthly broadband plans similar to those of the iPad? That’s another good start. Any takers?

Source: CNET

The Nexus S is coming soon to Canada

It’s been rumoured for a few weeks now that the Google Nexus S will be hitting Canadian soil. Thankfully one of them just arrived at our doorstep and this Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) device will be launching across multiple carriers sometime in Q1 (so by the end of March). That’s all we know.

Google / Samsung Nexus S Specifications:

The Samsung Nexus S has a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor under the hood and comes with a 4 inch ( 400 x 800 ) Super AMOLED display ( aka The Contour Display — but more on that in a sec ), a rear 5MP camera with auto-focus and LED flash, a front-facing VGA camera for video-conferencing, WiFi b/g/n, A-GPS and HSDPA support.

One of the most important features of the Google / Samsung Nexus S smartphone is hardware NFC ( Near Field Communication ) support. NFC is essentially a technology which enables data-exchange between devices over a short distance. Therefore, Samsung Nexus S will be able to communicate with existing smart-cards and readers, being compatible with proximity cards already in use in public transportation and payment ( you have to admit — the possible uses of this technology are interesting to say the least ). For more about NFC check out the ever useful Wikipedia page.

Source: MobileSyrup / G Games

What Honeycomb Means for Apple and Microsoft

Overall tablet sales for 2011 are estimated in the tens of millions, and many of those new units will run Google’s tablet-specific mobile platform, Honeycomb. Though a number of the OS’s new features and functions—from a new graphics engine to support for a variety of device sizes—appear specific to slates now, some are sure to filter down to smartphones, bringing greater Android unification across device types. And while Apple’s (AAPL) iPad may have the current lead in the tablet market, Honeycomb puts Google (GOOG) in an excellent position to catch up, much as Android has done in competing with iOS. But Apple isn’t the only competitor Google’s got in its crosshairs: Microsoft (MSFT) is also likely to be affected, from both a mobile and a desktop computing perspective.

Much of Honeycomb is a bit of a catch-up effort from Google, as Apple’s iOS has a nearly 12-month head start in the tablet market. And while many Honeycomb features are similar to those available in iOS, a few standout functions actually jump past Apple’s tablet platform:

• Honeycomb supports multiple cameras, including 3D stereoscopic image recording. And its ability to provide Google Talk users with a front-facing camera for video chat is a direct strike against Apple’s FaceTime.

• Android Market apps can be purchased and sent over the air to either a Honeycomb tablet or any recent Android smartphone. Apple’s iPad has a built-in app store, just like Honeycomb tablets do, but doesn’t support app discovery and purchase over the air from a computer.

• Honeycomb supports various screen sizes, which offer hardware makers a way to differentiate their tablet against Apple’s “one-size-fits-all” iPad. With the relative success of the older Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google has proved there’s a market for smaller slates.

• An increased number of Android tablets strengthens Google’s advertising base. Put another way, every Honeycomb tablet sold is another lost opportunity for Apple’s iAd platform, which started with initial success last year but has been hampered by lackluster performance since.

Threat to Microsoft

Honeycomb affects Microsoft both from a mobile perspective as well as that of the desktop. Microsoft revamped its smartphone platform with Windows Phone 7, but as of yet, it has no mobile tablet operating system aside from the tablet integrations within Windows 7, which is not designed from the ground up for touch computing.

Without a true, light mobile operating system, Microsoft is left to stand by and watch iPads, and soon likely Honeycomb tablets, sell in the millions. Microsoft is already facing pressure on the desktop side as smartphones outsell traditional computers, since more platform revenues will be flowing to other companies. Yet Microsoft is only just beginning to fight back with Windows Phone 7, and has yet to mount a consumer tablet challenger. And therein lies the danger.

Simply put, Honeycomb looks to be the mobile platform and ecosystem that Microsoft should have built by now. Instead, Microsoft is behind and will be fighting among Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Research In Motion (RIMM), and others for smaller tablet market shares, if and when it ever creates a lighter version of Windows for tablets.

Source: Business Week

Cydia Blocked by Carriers in 3 Countries

There has been reports coming from 3 different countries that Cydia was blocked by carriers, making it impossible to load Cydia over 3G. So far, only 3 countries and 2 carriers have been reported to be blocking access to Cydia: 3 Ireland, 3 UK, and China Unicom.

When trying to load Cydia over 3G, iPhone users in these countries get an error message saying the page cannot be loaded. Cydia does work fine on wifi though.

I’m not as surprised by the blocking of Cydia as I am by the timing. It seems that the blocking from the carriers started at the same time, which leads me to believe this is an operation that has been discussed and planned in advance…

Did Apple request the blocking of Cydia from certain carriers? Could be.

Update: According to TUAW, it seems this was a mistake from a third-party service that 3 uses to filter content. Apparently, Cydia was accidentally blocked and should be back up shortly in UK and Ireland. It still doesn’t explain why China Unicom is blocking Cydia as well.

Update 2: @Pablo_Diablo tells me on Twitter that he had the same problem on 3 UK. He simply called 3 and had them remove the restriction.

Source: iPhone Download Blog

Intel’s MeeGo is a no-go for phones

Intel’s MeeGo software seems destined for obscurity, in the wake of the Nokia-Microsoft agreement announced yesterday.

Why do I say that? Intel made a splash at the Consumer Electronics Show last year by flourishing an LG phone with an operating system that would later be called, under joint ownership of Intel and Nokia, MeeGo. LG’s phone was due in the second half of last year–according to this video taken at the 2010 CES. But it has yet to appear.

That’s not in the least bit surprising. Why would LG build a phone with software that was being developed by a competitor (Nokia)? A high-ranking Intel executive confirmed this sticky situation to me last year in a meeting.

Needless to say, a MeeGo phone from Nokia is increasingly unlikely now.

“This is a Nokia decision. Yes, we’re disappointed with it,” said an Intel spokeswoman yesterday, reacting to the Nokia-Microsoft announcement. “But we still believe there’s a smartphone component to [MeeGo]. And we’re talking to other partners. But it’s also Netbooks, tablets, set-top boxes, automotive systems. So, it’s a lot more than just the phone element,” she said.

That statement notwithstanding, there’ a quick moral to this story. MeeGo is not an operating system for mass-market consumer devices, no matter how strenuously Intel would tell you otherwise.

I had a brief debate at the Consumer Electronics Show last month with Intel marketing chief Tom Kilroy about this. He put up a good defense. But he didn’t change my mind. And, quite obviously, Intel has not impressed Nokia.

So, what is MeeGo and why does Intel continue to hold on to it with a vise grip? MeeGo is what is called a reference platform. It’s a way for potential customers to try out Intel chips on an open source platform with full support from the chipmaker.

“That’s what Intel is known for. Building a lot of reference designs to show the industry what is possible. With MeeGo, they needed to get out there and demonstrate that their platform was viable,” said Richard Shim, an analyst with market researcher DisplaySearch. “That it could sustain and help nurture a robust mobile experience. They wouldn’t have objected if it had taken off as a full-fledged platform, but it wasn’t being taken up (by device makers) very rapidly. It definitely took a hit with the Nokia Microsoft announcement,” he said.

What else is MeeGo? It’s an operating system for the so-called embedded market, such as in-car devices and industrial equipment, where it is doing well, according to Kilroy.

So, MeeGo will be sticking around but don’t expect to pick up a consumer device at your local electronics retailer running the software. Friday’s announcement made that a moral certainty.

Source: CNET

Android source code, Java, and copyright infringement: what’s going on?

So it’s been a fun day of armchair code forensics and legal analysis on the web after Florian Mueller published a piece this morning alleging Google directly copied somewhere between 37 and 44 Java source files in Android. That’s of course a major accusation, seeing as Oracle is currently suing Google for patent and copyright infringement related to Java, and it prompted some extremely harsh technical rebuttals, like this one from ZDNet and this one from Ars Technica. The objections in short: the files in question are test files, aren’t important, probably don’t ship with Android, and everyone is making a hullabaloo over nothing.

We’ll just say this straight out: from a technical perspective, these objections are completely valid. The files in question do appear to be test files, some of them were removed, and there’s simply no way of knowing if any of them ended up in a shipping Android handset. But — and this is a big but — that’s just the technical story. From a legal perspective, it seems very likely that these files create increased copyright liability for Google, because the state of our current copyright law doesn’t make exceptions for how source code trees work, or whether or not a script pasted in a different license, or whether these files made it into handsets. The single most relevant legal question is whether or not copying and distributing these files was authorized by Oracle, and the answer clearly appears to be “nope” — even if Oracle licensed the code under the GPL. Why? Because somewhere along the line, Google took Oracle’s code, replaced the GPL language with the incompatible Apache Open Source License, and distributed the code under that license publicly. That’s all it takes — if Google violated the GPL by changing the license, it also infringed Oracle’s underlying copyright. It doesn’t matter if a Google employee, a script, a robot, or Eric Schmidt’s cat made the change — once you’ve created or distributed an unauthorized copy, you’re liable for infringement.*

Why does this matter? Because we’re hearing that Oracle is dead-set on winning this case and eventually extracting a per-handset royalty on every Android handset shipped. In that context, “those files aren’t important!” isn’t a winning or persuasive argument — and the more these little infringements add up, the worse things look for Google. Whether or not these files are a “smoking gun” isn’t the issue — it’s whether Android infringes Oracle’s patents and copyrights, since the consequences either way will be monumental and far-reaching. Ultimately, though, the only person who can resolve all of this for certain is a judge — and it’s going to take a lot more time and research to get there.

Source: Engadget

Android Handsets Outsell Apple’s iPhone in Third Quarter

Apple’s iPhone was the top-selling smartphone in the United States during the third quarter, according to a survey released Monday. However, the Android operating system running on multiple devices dominated U.S. smartphone sales overall, the NPD Group said.

Google’s Android OS was installed on 44 percent of all smartphones purchased by U.S. consumers in the quarter — an increase of 11 percentage points from three months earlier. By contrast, purchases of iPhones running Apples iOS’ grew only slightly to 23 percent — just one percentage point higher than in the prior quarter, the research firm observed.

Much of Android’s quarterly growth came at the expense of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion rather than Apple, noted NPD Executive Director Ross Rubin. “The HTC EVO 4G, Motorola Droid X, and other new high-end Android devices have been gaining momentum at carriers that traditionally have been strong RIM distributors,” Rubin said. “And the recent introduction of the BlackBerry Torch has done little to stem the tide.”

Apple Rises Overseas

NPD reports that four out of the top five mobile handsets purchased in the U.S. during the quarter were smartphones: Apple’s iPhone 4, RIM’s BlackBerry Curve 8500, Motorola’s Droid X (Android) and HTC’s EVO 4G (Android). However, the purchase of smartphones running RIM’s BlackBerry OS declined six percentage points on a sequential basis to 22 percent, and RIM’s OS unit share of the U.S. market fell 53 percent in comparison with the same quarter last year.

Based on the same year-on-year comparison, Apple’s iOS U.S. market share declined 21 percent. “The iPhone has held its own at AT&T, but Apple faces challenges in further expanding its domestic market share while still retaining exclusivity,” Rubin said.

Still, IDC reports that Apple claimed a 14.1 percent share of the global handset market overall during the third quarter, with the iPhone maker now ranking fourth among all mobile-device makers — ahead of number-five RIM’s 12.4 percent share. Even better, Apple and RIM posted the highest growth rates among the top five vendors worldwide in the third quarter, noted IDC Senior Research Analyst Kevin Restivo.

“The entrance of Apple to the top-five vendor ranking underscores the increased importance of smartphones to the overall market,” Restivo said. “Moreover, the mobile-phone makers that are delivering popular smartphone models are among the fastest-growing firms.”

Android To Challenge Symbian

Gartner expects the mobile OS market worldwide to be dominated by Nokia’s Symbian OS and Google’s Android platform through 2014, when the research firm believes the two operating systems will account for 59.8 percent of mobile OS sales. What’s more, Gartner believes Android will be in a strong position by 2014 to challenge Symbian for the top worldwide position.

Gartner analysts believe smartphones will continue to dominate mobile-device sales in the United States and other mature markets for the foreseeable future. However, it expects feature phones without an identifiable OS to continue to be the dominant device type on a global basis.

By contrast, IDC believes the worldwide mobile-phone market will be driven largely by smartphone growth to the end of 2014. “The smartphone is becoming the focal point of the personal communications experience,” Restivo explained. “As a result, new market growth will be increasingly generated by smartphones. This year, we are expecting the smartphone sub-market to grow 55 percent year over year.”

Source: Yahoo! News

Apple iPhone with SIM Card Would Be a Game Changer: Report

Apple is working with Gemalto, a manufacturer of SIM cards, to create a special SIM card for the iPhone, according to an Oct. 27 report from GigaOm. The Website cited several sources from inside several European carriers.

The integrated SIM would enable customers to purchase iPhones directly from Apple, whether in-store or over the Web, and to choose their carrier at the point of purchase. Reportedly, the activation of the smartphones—normally the role of the carrier—could be accomplished via a download from Apple’s App Store.

The Gemalto SIM, reports GigaOm,

…is embedded in a chip that has an upgradeable flash component and a ROM area. The ROM area contains data provided by Gemalto with everything related to IT and network security, except for the carrier-related information. The flash component will receive the carrier-related data via a local connection, which could be the PC or a dedicated device, so it can be activated on the network. Gemalto will provide the back-end infrastructure that allows service and number provisioning on the carrier network.

 

With Apple providing the SIM and activation, the customer contract could be with Apple, not the carrier, which would eliminate much of the carrier’s muscle and guaranteed two-year revenue, as well as create more options to customers—and revenue for Apple.

If successful and eventually brought to the United States, the model could let Apple succeed where Google failed with the Nexus One, which it tried to sell directly through its Website.

“Unlike with the Google Nexus One, customers could go to an Apple store and check it out… and walk through activation at the Genius Bar, instead of trying to do it on the Web,” Ken Hyers, an analyst with Technology Business Research (TBRI), told eWEEK. “I can see this working in the U.S., and it would be a real game changer. The carriers currently have had a strangle-hold on phone distribution, but Apple really does have the heft, the ability, to shift the market.”

While handset manufacturers traditionally teamed up with software makers, Apple made the move to offer—and control—both, a trend that Nokia, with MeeGo, Hewlett-Packard, with webOS, and Samsung, with Bada, have worked to copy. Taking on part of the carriers’ current role would be consistent with Apple’s desire to control all aspects of the iPhone ecosystem.

Feeling their control waning, the top five operators in Europe are currently in discussions to create a new operating system, which would provide them with more control, as well as additional revenue through applications. Were Apple to begin infringing on their turf with its own SIM, the move would provide greater impetus to pursue their own OS, as well as to more aggressively court other handset makers, says Hyers.

“The potential impact for U.S. operators could be huge, since Apple will hold a significant amount of leverage and be able to negotiate preferential pricing. Whether it actually passes on those price-savings to its customers is an open question, but it would have an opportunity to do so as needed to fend off competition from Android OS devices and RIM BlackBerry,” explains Hyers.

While Apple dominates the U.S. smartphone market, data shows Android to be quickly gaining on it. According to comScore, from July through August, Apple’s iOS ran on 24.2 percent of smartphones, while Android ran on 19.6 percent—putting the newcomer within 5 percentage points of the leader. In April, the report continued, iOS held a solid 25 percent of the market, showing Android to be eating away at Apple’s lead.

If Apple is already feeling competitive pressure from Android, a new model with the Gemalto SIM would likely force the market to further team up against it.

“I think that if Apple moves to this model,” said Hyers, “operators will more readily embrace other handset vendors in an effort to reduce Apple’s influence in the smartphone market.”

Source: eWeek