Tag: apple

US tech economy suffering because of paranoia

Senator McCarthy On 'Face The Nation'The US economy is officially suffering because its government is not reigning in its paranoid security services.

One of the world’s biggest markets, China, has said that it is no longer using high-profile US technology brands for state buys, amid ongoing revelations about mass surveillance and hacking by the US government.

That means that key brands, including Cisco, Intel, Apple and McAfee — among others — have been dropped from the Chinese government’s list of authorised brands.

The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list.

Chinese companies were said to offer “more product guarantees” than overseas rivals. Some claim it has cost the US government many billions of dollars figure on the impact of the leaks.

US companies have been moaning that the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. However, the US government has claimed that its aggressive spying plan meant that Americans were safer and spying on everyone was the only way to catch terrorists.

This included backdoors being placed in US products sold overseas. Those revelations sparked a change in Chinese policy by forcing Western technology companies to hand over their source code for inspection. That led to an outcry in the capital by politicians who accused Chinese companies of doing exactly the same thing, when they hadn’t.

Microsoft said its fourth-quarter earnings that China “fell short” of its expectations, which chief executive Satya Nadella described as a “set of geopolitical issues” that the company was working through.

HP said its fiscal first-quarter earnings had “execution issues” in China thanks to the “tough market” with increasing competition from the local vendors approved by the Chinese government.

However Cisco has been suffering the most. Earlier this month at its fiscal second-quarter earnings, the networking giant said it lost 19 percent of its revenue in China, amid claims the NSA was installing backdoors and implants on its routers in transit.

Tablets slow right down

cheap-tabletsOnly 221.4 million tablets will ship worldwide this year – a drop of 11.9 percent compared to 2014.

That’s according to Digitimes Research (DR), which predicts that Apple will continue to take the lead, managing to ship over 54 million units this year. While this sounds healthy, that’s a predicted decline of 16/6 percent.

The so-called “white box” market will see the biggest decline, with a drop of 20 percent. Margins on these products are super slim.

DR gives estimates for the different vendors’ shares of the market – with Apple accounting for 24.5 percent, Samsung 16.3 percent, Lenovo 5.3 percent, Asustek 4.2 percent, Google 1.7 percent, Acer 1.7 percent, and Amazon only 1.6 percent.

Meanwhile, a report in Chinese language Economic Daily News said that Amazon has cut orders of tablets, sourced by Compal and Quanta by as much as 30 percent.

Compaq has the lion’s share of Amazon tablet business, churning out 80 percent of them compared to Quanta’s 20 percent, the Economic Daily News said.

 

Apple has to pay troll toll for use of iTunes

trollFruity cargo cult Apple has gone up against the Troll Gods of East Texas and ended up having to pay $532.9 million.

A federal jury found Apple’s iTunes software infringed three patents owned by Texas-based patent licensing company Smartflash. Smartflash wanted $852 million in damages.

The jury deliberated for eight hours and said that Apple not only used the Smartflash patents without permission, but also did so wilfully.

Apple claimed the outcome was another reason why reform is needed in the patent system to curb litigation by companies that do not make products themselves, such as Smartflash.  Although it has done rather well itself by patenting the rounded rectangle, which it did not really invent.

“We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system,” an Apple spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters.

Smartflash sued Apple in May 2013 alleging the Cupertino, California-based company’s iTunes software infringed its patents related to accessing and storing downloaded songs, videos and games.

The trial was held in Tyler, the hub of the East Texas region, which over the past decade has become a focus for patent litigation in the United States. Some of the biggest jury verdicts have been awarded in the district. Smartflash is also based in Tyler.

Apple tried to avoid a trial by having the lawsuit thrown out. But earlier this month U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who presided over the case, ruled that the Smartflash’s technology was not too basic to deserve the patents.

Apple argued that it did not infringe the patents and asked the jury to find they were invalid because previously patented inventions covered the same technology.

Smartflash’s suit said that in 2000, the co-inventor of its patents, Patrick Racz, met with a man named Augustin Farrugia to discuss the patents’ technology. Farrugia, the complaint said, later joined Apple and became a senior director there.

Peak Google is the latest daft rumour

Google's Eric "Google Glass" SchmidtThe US tech press is full of a bizarre story that Google might have hit its peak.

According to NPR, some tech industry observers aren’t sure that Google will be ready for the next big thing and there is talk of something called “Peak Google”.

Farhad Manjoo wrote in The New York Times:  “Technology giants often meet their end not with a bang but a whimper, a slow, imperceptible descent into irrelevancy.”

Now apparently Google is having trouble mastering mobile. When you look at the fact that most of the world uses Google Android this one might be a little hard to swallow, but apparently it is all because smartphones and mobile computing have killed off the PC and no one wants to buy adverts.

In a world cantered on a fragmented mobile advertising market, Google could suffer.

Google has also not had much luck with getting its innovations into the market. Resources have been directed toward lots of flashy ideas that, in many cases, ultimately lack in financial follow-through.  Google Glass was a case in point.

Other reasons include the normal esoteric decline which always follows businesses which get too big. It is normal among technology companies for a dominant company to be unable to dominate the next big thing. Industry giants lack the manoeuvrability of a younger company.

However there is are some reasons to believe that all this is total rubbish. Google has so much money sitting in the bank it can just buy the new technology it needs. It bought Android in 2006 and Nest in 2014. There is no reason that it just can’t buy its way into the next big thing.

In addition, it is curious that few people are saying the same thing about a tech empire with even less ability to adapt – Apple. If Google goes then surely Apple will be long gone before the search engines demise.  After all tablets are tanking, ipods have long vanished, the smartphone market is saturated, and Apple, unlike Google, is out of ideas.

US leans on Indonesia over smartphone law

page_detail_zoom_3315The US government is leaning on Indonesia to daring to set up laws that forbid foreign smartphone makers from coming into the country.

The country is one of the few where smartphone makers have not been able to penetrate, and Indonesia has insisted that companies make 40 percent of their phones locally.

This of course destroys the US model of making cheap phones in China and having them shipped to foreign parts.

From January 1, 2017, smartphone makers that sell smartphones and tablets in the fast-growing economy of 250 million people to produce 40 percent of their content locally.

We are not sure why the US Trade Representative (USTR), is involved in strong arming Indonesia to have a change of heart. If he wins, it is not as if he is protecting US jobs.  He is in fact protecting Chinese jobs and the bottom lines of big multinationals who do not pay much tax in the US.

Apparently critics of the “made in Indonesia” rule, including an influential US business group, say it could increase costs and restrict access to technology.

“The United States shares these concerns, and strongly supports ensuring that information and communications technology, which can be instrumental to economic development, be openly available in Indonesia,” said a USTR spokesman in Washington.

Less than a third of Indonesians own a smartphone, a much lower rate than China’s almost 80 percent, according to figures from research firm Canalys.

Samsung has already begun producing phones in Indonesia after opening a factory near Jakarta last year, but Apple’s supplier Foxconn has been dragging its feet as it negotiates with the Indonesian government over a proposed investment that would include manufacturing smartphones.

Apple Air gets Broadwell

27151_1_intel_rejects_the_idea_that_they_are_going_bga_only_fullIntel’s disappointingly delayed Broadwell chips have found a customer in the fruity cargo cult in the shape of Apple’s MacBook Air.

From Intel’s perspective this is great news.  Not only will it get a customer for its silicon, the Tame Apple Press will start chanting that the chips are brilliant, innovative and state of the art.

Sure enough ITPro talks about how the “silicon giant’s fifth Generation Core processor” promises 90 minutes extra battery life compared to Intel’s fourth generation.

What appears to be happening is that Apple will use Intel’s new Broadwell-Y Core M processors. Apple thinks that the fact they have 4.5W performance and fanless.

However Apple is not the only one to use this chip. Panasonic is also set to use the chipmaker’s latest release, revealing that the Broadwell processor powers its Toughbook 54 laptop, so has HP.  Toshiba has used the fifth generation Broadwell processors to improve the battery life of its Kira Ultrabook laptops, claiming they now have a 13 hour battery life.

What is a little odd is that the Core M is more of a business chip, being designed for Intel’s wireless offices rather than Apple’s normal consumer users.

It is also very late into the shops as Intel wrestled with the production process.  Apparently, the process took ages to fix the yields. But Intel is into high yields now, and in production on more than one product, with many more to come later this year.

 

Apple blows money on two data centres

Apple's CEO Tim Cook - shot from WikimediaApple has so much money swilling around in its bank account that it can easily afford to spend $2 billion on data centres in Europe.

And that’s just what it’s doing, according to a report from Reuters.

The centres will be based in Denmark and Ireland and will be powered by renewable energy and offer several hundred jobs.

The data centres will be used to support Apple’s online services such as iTunes and its App Store, and will open in 2017.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said in a statement that the investment is the company’s biggest in Europe to date.

The Irish centre will be based in Galway and will hire 300 people. Ireland is a favourite spot for US tech multinationals, largely because of the tax breaks it gives the company.

Mobile market set to change

smartphones-genericThe Mobile World Congress starts in Barcelona at the beginning of next month and Gartner has decided to give us its thoughts on changes that are afoot in this ever changing business.

What’s apparent is that it’s hard for the vendors to continue releasing phones that are very different from the competition. Gartner thinks that the smartphone manufacturers will continue to concentrate on the quality of photographs and video.

Apple, in particular, will find it hard to come up with anything that’s radically new, while so called “white box” vendors in mainland China will continue to undercut the market.

And the incumbents have more to contend with too – Wiko has entered the European market and is doing particularly well in Germany and Framce, selling its products at between 100 and 150 Euro.

Other players could well be Kodak which introduced an Android phone at a trade show in January. Kodak has expertise in the camera market, of course, but may find it hard to contend with other mid range vendors. Polaroid, too, is apparently venturing into the smartphone market.

 

Apple might troll its way into VR control

apple-disney-dreams-snow-white-Favim.com-142405Famous for operating its reality distortion shield, Apple might have taken control of the Virtual Reality market with an ancient patent application.

Apple was granted a patent for a Gear VR-like mobile headset which would use a portable device (like a smartphone) as the primary display. However the patent is similar to Samsung’s Gear VR and a swath of VR smartphone adapters out there like Google Cardboard.

According to patent attorney, Eric Greenbaum the patent could kill off all competition for mobile VR headsets and patent troll the market to oblivion.

In 2008  Apple filed a patent for a “Head-mounted display apparatus for retaining a portable electronic device with display.”

The patent describes a device which sounds an awful lot like Gear VR and other VR smartphone adapters. Eric Greenbaum, told Road to VR  that the Apple patent may have broad ramifications for mobile-device based head mounted displays.” Which I take to mean, Apple could have a case on their hands if they wanted to challenge Gear VR or similar devices in court.

He thinks that Jobs’ Mob may have pressed to get the patent through the system after Gear VR was announced.

Greenbaum  warned that Apple has not yet announced a plan to build any VR products. However their patent filings indicate a strong interest in the field and I would expect them to be planning something.

This Apple HMD patent is significant. I would say it introduces potential litigation risks for companies that have or are planning to release a mobile device HMD.

There is no duty for Apple to make or sell an HMD. They can sit on this patent and use it strategically either by enforcing it against potential infringers, licensing it, or using it in forming strategic partnerships.

In other words, Apple without actually inventing anything could take control of the entire market.  It could cherry pick the best technology out there and then release its own product.

 

Apple poaches staff to get new tech

How-to-Poach-Eggs_725x408After years of enforcing an illegal cartel which forced staff to stay with it, Apple is now going the other way and poaching staff in a way to get new technology, a court was told.

Electric-car battery maker A123 Systems has sued Apple for poaching top engineers to build a large-scale battery division.

The Tame Apple Press does not question the legality of the move, but just has become all moist about the fact that the iPhone maker may be developing a car.

The court heart how around June 2014, Apple began aggressively poaching A123 engineers tasked with leading some of the company’s most critical projects, the lawsuit said. The engineers jumped ship to pursue similar programs at Apple, in violation of their employment agreements.

These agreements are in place to stop big companies like Apple from gaining access to technology they have not developed.

“Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123,” the lawsuit read.

A123 Systems has not been doing very well. It filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and has been selling off assets.

The engineers who left were of such calibre that the projects they had been working on had to be abandoned. One of the five defendants, Mujeeb Ijaz, of helping Apple recruit among its ranks.

“It appears that Apple, with the assistance of defendant Ijaz, is systematically hiring away A123’s high-tech PhD and engineering employees, thereby effectively shutting down various projects/programs at A123,” according to the lawsuit.

They are doing so in an effort to support Apple’s apparent plans to establish a battery division that is similar if not identical to A123’s, in competition with A123.”

Apple has been carrying out similar programmes at LG Chem, Samsung SDI, Panasonic, Toshiba  and Johnson Controls Inc.

A123 presented evidence from one of its partners SiNode Systems that “confirms that his work on behalf of Apple is at least substantially similar (if not identical) to his work at A123.”

 

 

Samsung starts mobile payments

Samsung advertising in TaipeiSamsung has bought US mobile wallet startup LoopPay, which is seen as an  intention to launch a smartphone payments service.

Mobile payments have been slow to catch on in the United States and elsewhere, despite strong backing. Apple, Google, and eBay PayPal have all launched services to allow users to pay in stores via smartphones and the stores themselves are expected to release a new standard of their own.

Most of the problem is that retailers have been reluctant to adopt the hardware and software infrastructure required for these new mobile payment options to work before a standard is sorted out.  There was no point in investing in BetaMax when VHS kills it.

LoopPay’s technology differs because it works off existing magnetic stripe card readers at checkout, changing them into contactless receivers, they said. About 90 percent of checkout counters already support magnetic swiping.

“If you can’t solve the problem of merchant acceptance…, of being able to use the vast majority of your cards, then it can’t really be your wallet,” said David Eun, head of Samsung’s Global Innovation Center.

Injong Rhee, who is leading Samsung’s as-yet-unannounced payments project, said the Asian giant will soon reveal more details of its envisioned service. He would not be drawn on speculation the company may do so during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

He said new phones such as the new Galaxy would support the service.

Samsung had invested in LoopPay, along with Visa and Synchrony Financial, before its acquisition.

Rhee said in an interview that the company intends to roll out accompanying services that go beyond merely turning the smartphone into a wallet, such as by allowing users access to information such as spending.

Top hedge funds trim Apple

hedge

Despite claims by the Tame Apple Press that the fruity cargo cult is at the top of its game after the launch of its new bendy iphone 6, Wall Street hedge funds do not agree.

David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital and Philippe Laffont’s Coatue Management, have been selling their stakes in Apple during the last few months in a sign that they are predicting a slump.

To be fair, Apple did well in 2014 with its shares rising nearly 38 percent. This year the company’s stock is up more than 16 percent year to date and reached an intraday record high of $129.45 per share.

Yet Wall Street’s cleverest money men do not think it is going to get much better. Although Apple is the biggest position in Coatue Management’s portfolio, the firm sold 1.7 million shares at the end of the quarter, or more than 15 percent of its stake, leaving it with 8.9 million shares.

Greenlight said it cut Apple holdings by 6.2 percent to 8.6 million shares during the quarter.
Eric Mandelblatt’s Soroban Capital Partners sold 4.3 million Apple call options, liquidating the fund’s position. And David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management hedge fund said it had dissolved its stake in Apple, while Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors sold 808,000 Apple shares to own 383,790 shares at the end of the fourth quarter.

Last week, billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn tried to talk up his technology company’s shares claiming that they should be trading at $216 apiece.

It seems that few others agree.

 

Sony starts to sell smart glasses

glassesWhile Google is sitting back and having a think about the smart glass project it initiated, it appears that Sony is pressing ahead with its SmartEyeglass, a product that will set you back a not so very cool £600 or so.

The glasses come with a software development kit (SDK) so you can sit down and code away to your hearts content, and supports the Android operating system.

The glass include a three megapixel camera, a microphone, weigh 77 grammes, and include a number of features familiar to smartphone users such as gyroscopes, compass, image and brightness sensors, according to the BBC, which adds they come with a controller, to be worn on the body, with loudspeaker, a touch sensor and a battery.

You’ll also be able to see text on the lenses in green.

The CEO of Apple doesn’t think much of smart glasses, according to the New Yorker. He told that magazine that people wouldn’t want to wear them.

 

2015 brings is crunch time for smart watches

Swiss Watches the BrandApple releases its watches this year and that’s led CCS Insight to propose that this year is make or break time for the relatively new category.

It estimates that shipments of wearables will reach 75 million in 2015, a 158 percent increase compared to last year.

And the Apple watch will account for over a quarter of wearables that ship this year, it believes.

Analysts at the company believe that Apple will sell about 20 million watches by the end of this year. But if Apple is wrong – and the jury is still very much out on the future of such devices, it’s likely to hurt the entire wearables category of technology.

Right now, it’s fitness bands that are driving growth with products from companies like Fitbit and Jawbone.

It thinks that sales of these devices will double in 2015 to 40 million units.

It also says action cameras was the second biggest category in 2014, with six million of them selling in 2014.

 

Tablet shipments set to slump

gala_appleApple is likely to hit a pothole for sales of its iPad this year with one report estimating shipments will slump by 40 percent in this calendar quarter.

But it won’t just be Apple that will be hit by the slump, according to a report in Taiwanese wire Digitimes.

All manufacturers are likely to see a fall as shipments of large screen smartphones – so called phablets – start to erode the tablet market.

Digitimes quotes its own intelligence unit saying that shipments of tablets worldwide will be 244 million this year, a drop on last year of something like 11.8 percent.

The tablet market also faces competition from low end notebooks which are to some extent being subsidised by Microsoft and other vendors.

Tablets are not generally seen by people as products that need upgrading. Apple will have to rethink its strategy on the sector as it prepares to launch more iPad models this year.