February 4, 2012

Apple reportedly shopping for TV display components from major supplier

By Josh Ong

Published: 11:15 PM EST (08:15 PM PST)
Apple has contacted at least one major Asian supplier about purchasing television display components, checks by one analyst have revealed.

Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster told investors on Tuesday that he had recently spoken to a “major TV component supplier” about Apple’s rumored plans to release a connected HDTV. Sources within the supplier reportedly told him that Apple had contacted “regarding various capabilities of their television display components.”

Munster said he viewed the news as “continued evidence that Apple is exploring production of a television.” Prior evidence that the analyst claims to have gathered surrounding an Apple television includes January 2011 meetings in Asia that suggested Apple was investing in manufacturing facilities for LCD displays as large as 50 inches and a September 2011 meeting with a “contact close to an Asian supplier” who claimed prototypes of an Apple set are in the works.

The firm believes Apple could be ready to release a television as early as late 2012, though Munster noted that “the timeline and stope of a revamped content solution is more uncertain.” Various reports have suggested that Apple has run up against resistance from movie and TV studios that are believed to be hesitant to license their content for an Apple television.

The analyst went on to speculate on several possibilities that Apple could make use of to address the content issue. For instance, Apple could simply enable the television to manage pre-existing live TV service from a unified interface, or it could make use of network programming and web-based video services such as Netflix and Hulu. Finally, Munster suggested that Apple could look to offer monthly subscriptions “on an a-la-carte basis” for live TV packages from content providers, but he noted that this is likely the “most challenging scenario” because of existing licensing arrangements.

A separate report claimed late last year that one of Apple’s most-desired features for an Apple television set is customized channel lineups. That report also noted that licensing for such a service would be “obviously much more complicated” than current offerings.

Piper Jaffray projects that Apple could sell 1.4 million of the 106 million internet-connected televisions estimated to be sold this year. The investment bank tentatively estimates that revenues from the device could reach $ 2.5 billion in 2012, $ 4.0 billion in 2013 and $ 6.0 billion in 2014.

Munster concluded his note by pointing out that Apple only enters mature markets in order to reinvent them. As such, he does not see Apple entering the TV market without a “revamped TV content solution.”

“Since we know Apple is exploring television hardware, we are therefore led to conclude that the company is exploring a solution for live TV, and this solution could be one that has not yet been taken mainstream,” he said.

Rumors of an Apple television set have persisted for years, with many of them originating from Munster himself. The likelihood of such a device arriving appears to have increased in recent months as numerous outlets have put forth evidence that Apple is working on a connected TV. Of course, the project also gained credence from a much-quoted excerpt from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ biography that revealed he believed he had “cracked” the secret to a simple and elegant TV user interface.

Earlier in January, the USA Today claimed Apple design boss Jonathan Ive had a 50-inch television prototype hidden away in a “locked-down studio.”

A number of patent applications discovered by AppleInsider for technologies such as advanced backlighting and a simplified universal remote also indicate that Apple is, at the least, investigating the possibility of a full-fledged television set.


FTC reportedly adding Google+ to antitrust investigation amid search controversy

By Josh Ong

Published: 01:00 AM EST (10:00 PM PST)
In the wake of a recent controversy surrounding Google’s decision to feature Google+ content in its search results, the company will face scrutiny of its social networking service from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as part of an antitrust probe, a new report claims.

Two people familiar with the situation have alerted Bloomberg to the federal agency’s plan to include Google+ in the investigation. At issue is the possibility that Google violated antitrust laws if it gave preference to its own services on its search engine, the sources said.

The alleged expansion to the FTC’s probe comes on the same week that Google attracted harsh criticism for its new “Search, plus Your World” feature. The Mountain View, Calif., company announced on Tuesday that it would begin including personalized results tailored to users’ Google+ profiles and serving up “related people and pages” from its Google+ service.

The changes were met with widespread disapproval after it was revealed that empty Google+ pages were displacing apparently more relevant results from rivals Facebook and Twitter. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan published a series of posts detailing the changes and possible implications.

Twitter quickly spoke up in opposition to the changes, claiming that the new results are “bad for people, publishers, news organizations” and its own users.

Google fired back on Google+ that it was “surprised” by Twitter’s comments because the company chose not to renew its agreement with the search giant. However, some pundits have suggested that the agreement between Twitter and Google broke up because of differences over money.

“We believe that our improvements to search will benefit consumers,” Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich told Bloomberg over email. “The laws are designed to help consumers benefit from innovation, not to help competitors.”

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said earlier this week that he doesn’t believe Google is favoring itself by suggesting Google+ pages. He also indicated that he was willing to talk to Facebook and Twitter about including them in the results.

Meanwhile, some groups, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center have begun calling for the FTC to look into Google’ s changes and “business practices,” the report noted.

Google confirmed last June that the FTC was conducting a review of its business and stated it would work with them to answer its questions. Sources have claimed that the FTC is looking into whether Google is preventing smartphone manufacturers from using competitors’ services on its Android operating system and allegations that it down-ranked rival websites while harvesting their data.

The company has also been on the hot seat recently over several troubling violations of its own informal “Don’t be evil” motto. Earlier this month, it came to light that some blog posts that claimed to be “sponsored by Google” were violating the company’s own guidelines against paid links. Google quickly disavowed the links as a mistake made by bloggers working with third-party advertising firm Unruly Media, which had been hired by Google to promote its Chrome browser. The company then punished itself by down-ranking its Chrome website for at least 60 days.

More recently, Kenyan business listings company Mocality released evidence that Google appeared to have been “systematically accessing Mocality’s database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners.” Recordings revealed Google representatives falsely claiming to have partnered with Mocality.

Google quickly responded that it was “mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented [its] relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites.” The company “unreservedly apologized” to Mocality and promised to take the “appropriate action with the people involved” after looking into the mater.


Pegatron reportedly lining up orders for third-gen iPad ahead of March launch

By Josh Ong

Published: 11:55 PM EST (08:55 PM PST)
Apple manufacturer Pegatron is believed to have received a “small volume” of orders for the third-generation iPad, which is rumored to launch in March, according to a new report out of the Far East.

Upstream supply chain sources claim Apple has shifted its outsourcing strategy to have Pegatron focus on production of future generations of the iPad while Foxconn focuses on iPhone manufacturing, DigiTimes reported on Tuesday. Pegatron will serve as an auxiliary for iPhone products in 2013, while Foxconn will continue to make a small amount of iPads, the publication noted.

“Pegatron Technology has reportedly already landed a small volume of orders for the upcoming “iPad 3″ (generally called by supply chain players),” the report read, adding that Pegatron declined to comment on the rumor.

The publication also added a less credible detail that Pegatron will see a “significant increase” in orders when Apple readies a so-called “iPad 4″ for launch in October with an initial volume of 7-10 million units.

The Taiwanese industry newspaper had originally reported last week that a high-resolution third-generation iPad was coming in March and a fourth-gen iPad with “killer applications” was planned for October. John Gruber of Daring Fireball described the March launch rumor as “completely accurate,” but dismissed the “iPad 4″ claim as “completely made-up nonsense.”

According to the report, insiders went on to allege that the Cupertino, Calif., iPad maker’s new strategy is intended to decrease risk while improving the quality of its products. Apple representatives have reportedly visited Pegatron’s facilities “several times recently” to check up on the shipment process.

DigiTimes reported last July that Quanta and Pegatron were vying for orders for Apple’s next iPad. Apple was believed to have been prompted to engage a second iPad manufacturer after a deadly explosion occurred at a Foxconn iPad plant earlier in the year.

Some reports have suggested that Foxconn will begin producing the next iPad this month, with large-scale production set to ramp up in February.

The third-generation iPad is widely believed to feature a doubled resolution of 2048 x 1536. The device is also expected to sport a faster A6 processor. Recent rumors have suggested that Apple may diversify its iPad lineup by selling high-end and mid-range models.


iPhone reportedly ready for China Telecom’s CDMA2000 network

The iPhone 4S is set to launch in China a few days from now via China Unicom, a GSM-based provider that has been the sole iPhone-compatible Chinese carrier thus far. According to AllThingsD, China may be getting ready to add a second carrier to the mix: CDMA-based wireless carrier China Telecom.

Apple has reportedly received regulatory approval for a device compatible with China Telecom’s CDMA2000 network, and with the iPhone 4S being a true world phone featuring compatibility with both GSM and CDMA networks, it seems it’s only a matter of time before China Telecom starts offering the iPhone to its 123 million customers.

Apple has to clear a couple more regulatory hurdles before sales can begin through China Telecom, but in the meantime, the iPhone 4S will go on sale in China via Unicom on January 13. If iPhone 4S sales are as brisk in China as they have been everywhere else, it’s going to be a good day for Apple.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple reportedly poaches Adobe exec to head iAd division

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 04:08 PM EST (01:08 PM PST)
After an almost five month worldwide search to find a chief for its iAd division, Apple has reportedly poached a high level Adobe executive to take over the position that has been without a permanent replacement since the departure of Andy Miller last year.

Citing a yet-to-be-published Bloomberg report, Business Insider said on Wednesday that Todd Teresi has been lured away from his position of VP and GM of Media Solutions at Adobe to take the place of former Apple Vice President of Mobile Advertising Andy Miller, who left the company in August 2011.

Teresi will be an integral player in Apple’s online marketing presence when he takes over the iAd division, which the company created to give iOS developers a new outlet to monetize their products. Apple has been actively seeking a replacement since Miller left his post for a spot on the board of venture capital firm Highland Capital.

Since Miller’s departure, the Cupertino, Calif., company’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue has been temporarily overseeing the division in lieu of a suitable replacement. However, Cue already wears many hats at Apple, and is charge of a significant portion of the company’s internet-related business including iTunes, the App Store and the iBookstore.

It is unclear how Teresi will interact with Apple’s top brass as the company has undergone multiple changes since co-founder Steve Jobs’ death in October 2011. Previously, Miller answered directly to Jobs, though circumstances could be different with CEO Tim Cook in charge.


Apple reportedly cracking down on App Store pirates

According to a post this morning on Ars Technica, Apple is taking legal measures to make it more difficult for pirated copies of App Store apps to make their way to the hands of iOS device owners. The company is sending takedown notices to Apptrackr, a site that commonly directs users to cracked versions of popular apps.

The takedown notices are being sent under the auspices of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is the US implementation of two treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization. Apptrackr developer “Dissident” says that Apple has scraped links from Apptrackr, and then sent takedown notices in an attempt to cut off access to the cracked apps. To combat Apple’s anti-piracy efforts, Apptrackr has moved to servers outside of the US, and — according to Ars — is “using a form of redirection to avoid ‘direct’ links to infringing content.”

Some developers have reported that piracy rates for their apps are as high as 80 percent, which would result in losses in the millions of dollars for individual developers and possibly billions of dollars to Apple. Apptrackr defends their activities by saying that their “service” is “for application trials, and nothing else.” On the Apptracker site “About Us” page, Dissident claims that “pirates who do not choose to purchase the applications they install are not lost sales. They were very, very likely never potential customers in the first place. Piracy’s conversion rate is absurdly low, and developers know that.”

Regardless of how you personally feel about software piracy, it’s fascinating to see that Apple is coming to the defense of App Store developers by attacking Apptrackr with takedown notices.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Designer Jony Ive reportedly has a 50-inch Apple television in his studio

By Neil Hughes

Published: 11:29 AM EST (08:29 AM PST)
A “slick” 50-inch Apple television is said to be housed in the secure California studio of Jonathan Ive, Apple’s acclaimed head of product design.

Citing an anonymous source who worked at Apple, USA Today revealed that the 50-inch television secretly resides in the “locked-down studio” of Ive. The person also reportedly said that Apple is looking to build an LCD television sized 42 inches or larger with built-in Wi-Fi functionality.

Aside from those details, the report offers little else that is new about Apple’s anticipated television set. Author Scott Martin notes that Apple’s rumored TV set is going to receive “big buzz” at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show, even though the Cupertino, Calif., company isn’t attending the event.

The story also features a quote from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who said he expects Apple will make “an attempt” to build a TV. He believes the living room will “remain a center for family entertainment, and that touches on all areas of consumer products that Apple is already making.”

The new details, if true, suggest Apple is not interested in building an HDTV with a screen size of less than 42 inches. That contradicts a story from a month ago, which claimed Apple was looking to build televisions with three screen sizes, starting on the low end at 32 inches, and maxing out at 55 inches.

Other reports have indicated that Apple plans to use custom chips, like it does with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, to power its new integrated television. The USA Today report reiterated those apparent intentions, and also suggested that the inclusion of AirPlay and iCloud integration could make such a product enticing to consumers.

The main hold-up, onlookers believe, is content licensing deals. Gartner analyst Mark McGuire believes that Apple will have to pay a high price to obtain the kind of access it seeks.

Rumors have suggested Apple wants to be able to offer customers customized channel lineups with its anticipated television set. Such a plan could offer customers the ability to choose whichever channels or shows they want for a monthly subscription fee.

But content providers are said to have resisted Apple’s offers for subscription-based plans. Networks similarly turned a cold shoulder to Apple’s plans for 99 cent TV show rentals, which were discontinued on iTunes last August.

Rumors of an Apple-built HDTV began to pick up steam earlier this year, when it was revealed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that he had “cracked’ the secret to building an integrated, easy-to-use television set. He said the device “will have the simplest user interface you could imagine.”


Apple’s January media event in NYC to reportedly focus on iBooks, publishing

By Josh Ong

Published: 11:07 PM EST (08:07 PM PST)
As reports have emerged of an Apple media event in New York City later this month, one insider has claimed that the event will feature industry-related announcements for publishers about the iBookstore platform.

TechCrunch reported on Monday that a source had independently confirmed plans for the end-of-January event, which was first noted by All Things D.

“According to the source the event will not involve any hardware at all and instead will focus on publishing and eBooks (sold through Apple’s iBooks platform) rather than iAds,” report author Alexia Tsotsis wrote, adding that attendance would be “more publishing industry-oriented than consumer-focused.”

The tipster also said Apple would take the wraps off of new improvements to its iBooks platform at the event, though the source described the announcement as not “major.”

Given that the original report had claimed that Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue will play a part in the event, speculation had arisen that the event would be related to either advertising or publishing.

Apple made minor improvements to the iBooks app last month with the release of version 1.5. The updated software added a night reading theme, full-screen mode and new fonts.

The Cupertino, Calif., company has faced an uphill climb against Amazon’s Kindle platform, which got an early head start on ebook sales. Amazon revealed late last month that it sold “well over 1 million” Kindle devices each week throughout December. In addition, Christmas Day represented the biggest day ever for Kindle book downloads.

Last November, Amazon branched out from its e-ink-based e-readers to tackle Apple’s iPad in the tablet market with the 7-inch Kindle Fire. Initial sales of the Fire will likely have propelled the device to take second place among tablets in the fourth quarter, behind only the iPad. However, Apple executives have said they are not worried about the Kindle Fire, as they believe it will actually drive customers to iOS in the long term.


Apple reportedly planning New York City media event this month

By AppleInsider Staff

Published: 04:45 PM EST (01:45 PM PST)
Apple is reportedly planning an event scheduled to take place in New York at the end of January, and although many anxiously await the announcement of a much anticipated iPad 3 or new Apple TV, a product launch is seen as unlikely.

Citing unnamed sources close to the event, All Things D reported on Monday that the Cupertino, Calif. tech company is reportedly planning to use the event as a platform for an advertising or publishing announcement, though specific services or deals were not mentioned.

Multiple sources made it a point to convey that the event will not see the debut of a next-generation tablet or a new Apple TV, which some think will be launched later in 2012. Apple usually reserves product launches and important announcements for its home-state like the latest iPhone 4S, which debuted on Oct. 4, 2011 at Apple’s campus.

Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue is said to have a role in the end-of-January event, causing speculation that an advertising or publishing announcement will be made.

Cue is currently heading up the iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, and the last event that he attended in New York was the debut of News Corp.’s e-zine “The Daily” nearly a year ago.

The sources note that Apple has been actively seeking a replacement for Andy Miller, who left as head of the company’s iAd division in August of 2011 to become a partner at venture capital firm Highland Capital while Cue took over operations of the mobile advertising division in September.


Nintendo reportedly planning ‘full-blown’ app store for next-gen Wii U console

By Josh Ong

Published: 10:13 PM EST (07:13 PM PST)
Nintendo is quietly working on an application store for its Wii U console that would compete directly with Apple’s Apple TV set-top box and iPad tablet when it arrives next year, according to a new report.

The Daily reported on Thursday that the Japanese gaming giant is working on a “full-blown app store” for its next-generation Wii U, which is set to arrive in late 2012.

Though the company currently operates digital applications stores via its DSi Shop and Wii Shop, the publication claims the next-generation store would go “far beyond” its predecessors. A personal familiar with the matter said the new store would offer a “wider variety of apps” than the selection of games and simple utilities on Nintendo’s current stores.

Given the console’s role in the living room, applications on the Wii U could pose a threat to the Apple TV. For instance, the report specifically cites MLB.TV as an app that could arrive on the console. Apple added MLB.TV support to the Apple TV earlier this year, with live and on-demand baseball games and stats, scores and standings.

The Daily also noted that developers may build apps designed specifically to run independently on the Wii U’s tablet-like controller, potentially offering direct competition with Apple’s iPad and App Store ecosystem. Even with the Wii U controller’s major limitation of having to stay within range of the console to operate, it could still challenge the iPad’s dominance in the living room, as one recent study revealed that 70 percent of all iPad use occurs in front of a TV.

Nintendo’s next-gen 6.2-inch touchscreen controller drew immediate comparisons to the iPad when it was unveiled in June. However, Nintendo executive Satoru Iwata dismissed the connection, claiming that the company had already begun designing the controller before the iPad was announced in January 2010.

The Wii U will arrive at a critical time for Nintendo. It 3DS handheld gaming system got off to a slow start this year, resulting in widening losses for the company. According to one study last month, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have struck a sizable blow against gaming incumbents Nintendo and Sony, with the two smartphone plaftorms capturing a combined 58 percent of portable gaming revenue in the U.S.

Investors have begun calling for Nintendo to bring popular franchises such as Super Mario over to iOS in order to restore growth, but the company has been adamant in its hardware and software strategy.

For its part, Sony released its own tablet-like gaming device in the form of the PlayStation Vita earlier this month. Sporting a 5-inch touchscreen as well as a range of other input methods, the PS Vita arrived first in Japan and will launch in the U.S. and Europe next February. However, software bugs plagued the handheld’s launch, even as initial sales failed to match the 3DS launch, which itself was viewed as a disappointment.