Entries tagged with “apple” from Paul Lopez Unwired

Apple iAd Rules ... Just say Yes

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Jobs-iAd-Small.jpgApple's recent change to its developer rules requiring their approval to collect and send device data to third parties for aggregation, analytics or processing, has created a firestorm in the mobile blogosphere. If Facebook had a mobile operating system, they would not qualify as "independent" according to the new rules and hence could be blocked. Recent legislation, such as the draft privacy bill from Rep. Rick Boucher, seeks to define and require opt-in approval for "sensitive information." That could be your exact geographic location or something similar. Of course users comfortable with geo-location applications shouldn't have a problem providing their approval, not many people read those fine print in pop-ups anyway - but they should.  We are seeing inconsistent privacy notices and policies in use across desktop and mobile applications. Apple justifies their approach under the "privacy" banner, but could attract the scrutiny of the FTC. The recent leak of AT&T ICC-ID data to obtain user email addresses brings Apple's privacy concerns up front and personal. While not necessarily Apple's fault, they still require an email address for iTunes. Mobile advertising has evolved from the desktop space with some innovation, although there have not been many break-through ideas. Apple's iAd experience is very clever in that users clicking ads are presented an HTML5 container without leaving the app. Delivery and bundling of iAds via iTunes supports their cash engine. By forcing developers to use HTML5, this further drives the standard away from Adobe. Perhaps Apple could use iTunes as a repository for user opt-in status thereby eliminating interruptions in the application itself. 

iPhone users still Gripe over Skype

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skype3-1-266x400.jpg With a four-way price war going on between AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, we have seemed to lost track of VoIP over 3G. Software from companies such as Fring or Truphone allow you to make VoIP calls on your iPhone, but only over WiFi. There are hacks (crash-x) that allow you to trick the iPhone into thinking you're connected to WiFi and make VoIP calls over 3G (or downspeed to EDGE/GPRS). I'm still wondering ... why bother? If the idea was to save minutes or money, the carriers have already responded by driving cheap voice with price reductions. Besides, VoIP over 3G needs massive data compression and low latency to battle quality of service issues that make the user experience poor.  Skype claims they only need a small amount of bandwidth - between 6 kbps and 40 kbps, but I don't think they can overcome latency issues. Many users were disappointed Skype 1.3 did not include push notifications or support VoIP over 3G. They still have usability issues using Skype when "real" phone calls come in (it logs you off). Eventually data plans will race for the bottom too so Skype could become irrelevant on 3G/4G handsets.

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The ingredient digital ink for Kindle, E Ink, is working with Plastic Logic to develop a reading tablet to display books, newspapers and magazines. Many content owners in the industry view Amazon's middle-man role as unfavorable in that they set the pricing and the layout of content for the Kindle. Since the early 2000's, firms producing the reflective layers of the nanostructured films of titanium dioxide that create the solid white background have come down the learning curve. This process improves reflectivity and contrast while eliminating the need for backlighting. Innovations in bistable voltage have optimized power management. Newer displays, for example, can operate on very low voltage that only charges when the image is updating. Amazon commercialized this type of technology in high volume with the Kindle. Publishers complain that the Kindle doesn't allow for advertising and it is a poor substitute for the feel of pages - they would. Warren Buffet said recently he would not buy any Newspaper publishing company "at any price" because of the business model erosion. I see potential consumer confusion with the proliferation of these devices, especially if the industry takes different directions from Amazon, Apple, Sony, Gannett, NY Times and other publishers struggling to re-invent themselves. 

Microsoft Pink and Verizon? Probably so.

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A WSJ article highlights recent discussions between Verizon and Microsoft to develop a new touch-screen multi-media device "in an ambitious effort to challenge Apple's iPhone." With Apple recently reaching over 1 billion application downloads, the bar is quite high for RIM, Google, Palm and Microsoft. Both Microsoft and Google prefer to stay out of the hardware design altogether. That makes sense because they are software companies. However, Apple has better control over the harmony between device and software. They recently hired AMD/ATI's CTO, Bob Drebin. A new CPU/graphics processor could be in the works under Drebin's direction utilizing talent Apple acquired from PA Semiconductor. Apple OpenCL is a specification that enables a single chip to do both graphics and computing. In chip-speak, it allows GPUs and multi-core CPUs to handle tasks like physical awareness & video rendering on a single die. Verizon seems set on retaining control by launching their own download store for a variety of applications and devices. I don't see them being too eager to introduce the device reported to be bigger than an iPOD and smaller than a laptop because it will have native WiFi & VoIP capability. Verizon is keeping their options open but they seem to be increasing subscribers fine without the iPhone ... for now.

iPhone Skype Downloads - Hype or Tripe?

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Peter Parkes, chief blogger for Skype reported there were over a million downloads of Skype for the iPhone in just two days. As reported here before, eBay failed to monetize their investment in Skype and realized a huge write-down. The surge in user interest is more a function of pre-release promotion, teasers & blog coverage, than anything else. The application does not work on 3G, only WiFi, therefore it automatically obsoletes those Skype WiFi phones. I like the application on a laptop and it's quite useful for international Skype-to-Skype calling. There are other alternatives; Truphone has an unlimited call package and other bloggers have tips to JailBreak your iPhone and install voipover3g to spoof the device in to thinking it's on WiFi. If you have a good connection, the voice quality is better than Fring or Truphone, but how many people will really use this application? If you already have Skype on your laptop at home and have a Skype contact list, all you'd be able to do is make calls from your handset unwired. We saw this pre-launch hype with the Palm Pre too and today they had some early looks at applications during CTIA 2009.

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Dell introduced the new Dell Precision workstations based on the Xeon product line from Intel today. As the master of PC industry road-map, Intel tells IBM, Dell, HP and other PC manufacturers what they are building next and when. These processors also power the new Mac Pro and Apple has a nice summary of the architecture on their site. Nehalem (Xeon 3500/5500) utilizes the 45nm process and features the latest micro-architecture. The next stop will be the shrink of the die called "Westmere" in a 32nm process. Intel has a well thought out roadmap - shrink, then innovate, then shrink again (Tick/Tock). This gives OEMs a good runway for product planning and price/performance curve forecasting. Now with Cisco's entry into the datacenter space, they will also be a key stakeholder in the future generations. Much has been said about virtualization enhancements with this architecture but the real key is on-chip memory control. Improved memory management is the key to supporting more VM instances on the bare metal. We'll see the rest of the industry show their hands on Monday.

Strengthening the Core - Apple

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Despite the lowest holiday sales in 40 years, Apple powered ahead in the fourth quarter with both a rise in profit and revenues and sending its quarterly sales past $10 billion for the first time. Tim Cook even took a shot at would-be copycats saying if anyone "rips off" Apple's IP, they will "go after anybody that does."  Former Apple executive, Jon Rubinstein was in opposition with Steve Jobs to the keyboard design of the iPhone. He left the company last year and with $325 million funding from Elevation Partners, he became Executive Chairman of Palm. My short evaluation of the Palm Pre was positive on the technology but negative on the business prospects. Maybe Jon should use some of that funding to pay royalties to Apple.

Google Shot across the Browser

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Google-Chrome150x150.pngGoogle has introduced their long awaited web browser, Chrome. It's receiving mixed reviews so far.  Microsoft Internet Explorer has 72% market share, followed by Firefox at 19.7% and Safari 6.3%. It took 3 years for Mozilla to go from zero to 20%. My prediction is Google will have 10% market share within one year. Browsers are the operating system of the Internet. Google wants to make your overall Internet experience better. They only want to get more people to use Google. They make no money distributing this software. This does nothing for their bottom line. How does this gain more market share for Google? This is a defensive move from Google. They want to promote more Google Applications but you still need operating systems to run browsers (at least for now).

It appears to run fast, has better memory management, but it will actually use more memory than IE. You can tear off the tabs, but you could already do that on Safari, speaking of which there isn't a version for the MAC. Some users have reported missing their Firefox plug-ins, problems scrolling on Dell touchpads and it doesn't run adblock. It has an Omnibox that combines the search box and the address URL box, which begs the question what happens when you get unresolved URI's? Will it redirect to the ISP's search page or Google? It's worth downloading and comparing to IE 8.0. As with other Google Apps, it's still in "beta."

yearofrat2.jpgThe Year of the Rat is often associated with "a time of hard work and renewal in many ways," and most would agree that is what we need this year. I believe we will see many positive things over the horizon -but first we have to get through some rough waters. That brings me to technology. I like Tech, but not Tech stocks right now. I know they look real tempting here and after Microsoft's announcement, Cisco's earnings call and disappointment in Google's results - the whole sector is down. Who would have thought you could buy Apple and Google at these prices a couple of months ago? These are not going to lead the momentum in the first half and after the Goldman Sachs tech conference later this month, watch out as all the tech investors (big funds) unload the rest of their positions and get in the early cycle recovery stocks (retail, banks, financial). Last November, Chambers said the next few quarters are going to be 'lumpy' and this week he gave guidance of just 10% growth for the current quarter. The growth in B2B this year will come from applications and services. Hardware-focused suppliers will continue to suffer declining margins and channel issues. Look at Motorola shedding its handset business. Dell is focused on growing their services to compete with HP and IBM. From the consumer perspective, Apple's MacWorld and introduction of their new iPod and iPhone failed to excite and it has fallen significantly over the past month. Content and social networking growth will continue to drive Web 2.0 adoption among consumers and will spill over into the enterprise. CBS and Facebook recently teamed up to offer NCAA March Madness coverage. CBS, like Microsoft, needs to figure out how to monetize these types of deals. They haven't sold any ads tied to this site yet. According to a Wall Street article, they only sold about $10 million last year related to their online digital advertising, TV is still king. This will be a good year for those who are resourceful and well prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. The Rat is a courageous, clever and an adaptable "person" - just don't take the bait.

Everybody wants you - Google Phone Part 2

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As Google approaches $700 a share, they are reported by the Wall Street Journal to be in "advanced talks" with the #2 and #3 wireless carriers in the U.S. As discussed here before, Google expects to create a new ecosystem around the Google phone - software development kits, handset OEM deals and multi-carrier availability. While Apple's iPhone initially did not come with an open API for third party development, the Google phone is expected to allow operating system access - thereby allowing developers to build additional phone features. Apple recently announced their iPhone SDK amid much enthusiasm from the developer community.

It remains to be seen how much Google will compromise to get handsets launched with the carriers. With this recent news the blogging community is taking the opportunity to throw Verizon under the bus - seeing them as crippling the Google phone. Originally, it was thought Google would release an open handset GSM device allowing customers to select the carrier of choice. Get your Google phone, insert your SIM and go - of course that is too simple! Most industry observers view an open handset as a long shot due to long standing stranglehold carriers have on devices. Apple moved the user experience in a new direction, but the carrier business model essentially stayed the same.  Advertising revenue from mobile phones is still small but the expectation is the market is growing and with the decline of voice revenue, carriers see it to build their top line revenue.For Google - the carriers want you, need you, just don't let them bleed you.

Gartner talked about Apple and Google

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Tom Austin from Gartner gave his presentation, "Google vs. Microsoft: Consumerization and Web 2.0." He started with a premise of what happens when you have a product that took a company 20 years to perfect and costs hundreds of millions of dollars to develop duplicated by a 4-man team in one year that is available free at the click of a mouse? He was referring to writely.com which was acquired by Google. I'd have to admit I've not considered any web-based office applications, particularly because they are not available when you are offline. What's interesting is Microsoft appears to be taking a shot at Google's coveted advertising revenue while Google is attacking them with SaaS office applications. There were a small group of IT users who were asking questions about Google's GAPE offering (Google Apps Premier Edition). The cost model looks like $50/year with 25GB of storage. You would have to take a serious look at it especially if you are paying high licensing fees to Microsoft. Maybe not everyone in the enterprise needsthe full suite of applications. I personally could not live without Office 2007 and now with more integration with Sharepoint 2007 and .Net for development, it still has compelling value. Apple faired quite high at the conference with lots of buzz about IT support. We now need new support models so that the IT community does not have suffer chaos from "rogue" users. There was good contrast between the iPhone and RIM Blackberry, especially in the area of security. The big point made was that now software developers have a reference design from which to design good mobile software - Apple. I also heard some substantiation of my analysis of the iPhone battery life. Gartner estimates the WiFi radio in the iPod devices cut battery life by 60%, higher than I estimated. Also we got a good data point on 3G, it turns out it reduces battery life by 30%. For browsing, you need 3G or better.

Skype and iTunes Not Impervious to Worms

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According to recent reports, pernicious code is being spread through an instant message syntax that sends a message to Skype users directing them to click on what appears to be a .jpg file. When the user takes the bait, it unleashes a worm (W32.Pykspa.D - a nasty bitmap file of soap bubbles contained in the Windows installation directory). Many IT professionals and analyst firms such as Gartner Group do not recommend enterprise users install or use Skype. However, surveys have indicated a high percentage of professional workers regularly download and install applications such as Skype onto their corporate laptops and PCs. With 200 million users, hackers cannot resist the installed base of Skype users. Even though these events set back the image of Skype, Skype still makes headway - note the recent announcement that Wal-Mart has agreed to sell Skype's service.

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Then there's Apple with a year-old QuickTime vulnerability that affects Firefox and iTunes. Petko Petkov (aka pdp) posted proof-of-concept code showing how QT formats can be used to hijack systems. Firefox recommends installing NoScript, a Firefox extension to protect. However, most users run software in default mode without knowledge of what to turn on or off that protects against malicious code. How often have you been browsing for WiFi access points only to find some SSID named 'linksys' with no security whatsoever? We have been accustomed to living with these sorts of threats, just look at how large the anti-virus and intrusion detection software has grown over the years.

As RIM continues to grow, most well capitalized companies lose their chance to acquire it. You begin to only have Cisco, Microsoft, IBM and maybe Motorola or Nokia with the financial ability to do so. Ostensibly, Microsoft buying RIM makes sense. One reason: RIM is growing; Microsoft is not. With RIM's licensing model they aim to be the Microsoft of the wireless messaging world and have made remarkable inroads over the years. RIM creates the dominant platform in wireless messaging and a stable technology stack that other vendors can build and sell hardware and software. (Sound like somebody you know?).

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RIM's email technology is built for the server and should be part of an operating system. Why would you want to handle messaging with the dependencies on the medium in which those messages travel? That's what RIM does when they install the server software in enterprises and in telecom carrier data centers. By integrating RIM messaging software in the OS, the solution becomes more economical and easier for IT to manage.

Developers writing software for the PC market are riding an anemic market in terms of growth. Not so with messaging and unwired devices. There is more innovative development of wireless applications as the number of installed devices reaches prodigious proportions.  The only challenge I've heard from developers is writing code for RIM is burdensome compared with writing on Microsoft platforms. Assuming Microsoft keeps the RIM operating system around (another blog topic indeed), they would need to include a robust RIM SDK and developer plug-in to their much-acclaimed Visual Studio.

The naysayers claim that Microsoft would have never let a real acquisition target get to $40B before taking it out. Also the incompatibilities between the two operating systems make it like mixing oil and water.

With $61B in cash, Bill and Steve have a fat wallet but that doesn't mean the money is burning a hole in their pocket. Could this a pairing off? Can Microsoft with RIM compete with Apple and Google in the long run?  I'm not sure buying RIM is enough. Google appears to be getting into the phone business as well. Think Gmail messaging on a Google platform funded by the Google ecosystem.

About Paul Lopez

Paul Lopez Paul Lopez is a 20+ year technology veteran whose career has spanned multiple disciplines such as product management, software development, engineering, marketing, business development and operations... read more

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