Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Apple May Face More Antitrust Issues This Time Over iTunes

Apple has undoubtedly seen some major growth over the past several years, growth that is now starting placing the company directly in the headlights of government regulators. According to many reports the DOJ and FTC have been keeping an eye on Apple, the App store and their recent stance on mobile advertising. Now it appears as though the Justice Department isexamining Apple’s tactics in the market for digital music.

According to the reports Apple is facing an antitrust inquiry is in the early stages involving the company's use of its dominant market position to persuade music labels to refuse to give online retailer Amazon.com exclusive access to music about to be released.

In March, Billboard magazine reported that Amazon was asking music labels to give it the exclusive right to sell certain forthcoming songs for one day before they went on sale more widely. In exchange, Amazon promised to include those songs in a promotion called the “MP3 Daily Deal” on its Web site.

The magazine reported that representatives of Apple’s iTunes music service were asking the labels not to participate in Amazon’s promotion, adding that Apple punished those that did by withdrawing marketing support for those songs on iTunes.

Apple has been the top music retailer in the US since early 2008, now holding as much as a 69 percent market share. Amazon, the second largest music retailer only holds and 8 percent share. This dominant position in the market is undoubtedly the reason why the DoJ has taken a special interest in the company's tactics.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Futuremark Announces 3DMark 11, Releasing 3Q 2010

Futuremark, the developer of the world’s most popular benchmarking software, today announced 3DMark 11, the latest version of their industry standard benchmark for real-time 3D graphics. Designed to measure the performance of DirectX 11 gaming PCs, 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine created in-house. To accompany the announcement Futuremark has released a trailer and screenshots taken from a 3DMark 11 tech demo called "Deep Sea". http://www.3dmark.com/

3DMark 11 will be released in the third quarter of 2010. There will be a free edition available at launch. 3DMark 11 will join existing Futuremark benchmarks 3DMark Vantage for DirectX 10 and 3DMark06 for DirectX 9.

Read more

Best Buy Advertised Price May Not Be A Deal After All

Popular consumer affairs blog The Consumerist is reporting that Best Buy may be taking advantage of uninformed customers by advertising computers and laptops at slightly higher than regular prices and passing them off as incredible deals without actually calling 'sales'.

According to the report users have caught sales advertising where some laptops and computers are actually advertised at prices higher than their regular price. The sales ads show Dell and HP laptops for $649.99 and $699.99 respectively, these prices are apparently $20 and $50 higher than their regular price. Not only is Best Buy's advertising misleading consumers but the stores are taking things a step further by placing "as advertised" signs on the laptops in store -- thereby giving consumers the impression that they're getting a great deal.

Image from page 15 of the BestBuy ad valid from May23-29

The tipster to Consumerist, known only as Donald, points to this week's sale ad pictured above. Donald writes:
Best Buy has been doing something sort of tricky lately on their laptop pricing. Each week, advertised prices on a number of laptops are higher than regular pricing.

In this week's ad, there is a Dell, sku 9693191, for $649.99. Regular price is $629.99. An HP, sku 9705373, is advertised for $699.99; regular price is $649.99. Last week, a Toshiba, sku 9705221, was advertised for $499.99, this week it's back to regular price, $479.99. Likewise, a Dell, sku 9693191, was advertised for $649.99 last week, and this week it's back to its regular price of $629.99.

This is certainly legal, because nowhere is the word sale used. The ad doesn't say that the price is reduced, and the in store signage just says As Advertised. Still, it appears that they are attempting to gouge the uninformed.

Its hard to believe a major retailer could be so unscrupulous in this day and age, none the less given Best Buy's past history will pricing it really doesn't shock me. This definitely lends credence to the adage buyer beware! I for one have always preached that consumers need to be better informed before making purchases. You should do as much research as possible before heading off to the store to make your decision and now days with the proliferation of smartphones and web enabled devices you should be able to check prices right there in-store.

There are tons of sites out there that are very helpful in finding or comparing prices of products. Consumers should always check these before making their purchases.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Want Android 2.2? Get One Of These Phones

Now that Android 2.2 is official and we have a list of all the mouth watering new features its time to figure out which phones will and won't support the updated OS.

At last weeks I/O Google revealed what looks to be the final list of handsets getting the Froyo update, they include:
  • Motorola Droid
  • Google Nexus One
  • Droid Incredible
  • HTC Desire
  • HTC Evo 4G
  • myTouch Slide

In addition to the above phones HTC will likely include Android 2.2 on all their phones launched in 2010. Most, if not all those new phones will be released in the second half of this year. We can also expect several new Android based smartphones as well as tablet PC later this year, full details are speculative at best but I'm sure we'll see several by years end.

This list might not be representative of all the phones that will support the upgrade considering at this time there are more than 60 different Android phones globally. This is just the list as we know it as of now.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Walmart Launches New Online Gaming HUB 'GameCenter'

Walmart has launched their new online gaming hub aptly called GameCenter. Gamecenter will be the mega store's new one-stop online destination for the latest video game previews, first-look exclusives and special Walmart only savings for gamers.

To celebrate the launch, Walmart is offering a $50 eGift Card to customers that preorder a total of three or more of the year’s most anticipated titles including Medal of Honor, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas and more.

“Walmart Gamecenter combines incredible savings with exclusive gaming content all in a compelling and interactive experience online,” says Kelly Thompson, vice president of merchandising for Walmart.com. “Gaming enthusiasts will be drawn in by the exclusive content and developer interviews, while moms will appreciate the special savings only Walmart can offer on the hottest video game titles.”

Each month, Walmart Gamecenter will feature new video games, exclusive content, special offers and more for each featured title. In addition to the new features the site will also offer customers easy access to Walmart’s online Trade-In program, which allows customers to trade in their used video games and earn Walmart prepaid Visa cards in return at http://walmart.gazelle.com.

Used gaming consoles as well as video games are eligible for trade-in. Walmart Gamecenter is co-sponsored through a media partnership with Unilever. More information is available at http://www.walmart.com/gamecenter.

Source: Walmart Press Release

HP Recalls Hundreds of Laptop Batteries

In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and/or other safety regulatory authorities, HP announced voluntary recalls and replacement programs for some of the battery packs used in certain HP notebooks.

Recall programs were announced on the following dates:
HP and the battery manufacturers believe that certain battery packs shipped in some notebook PC products may pose a potential safety hazard to customers. The batteries can overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard. Check to see if your model is listed below and then hit the validation site to confirm if you've got one of the bad ones.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

THQ Becomes Second Game Developer To Charge for Playing Used Games Online

According to sports gaming blog Pastapadre video game producer and the makers of the popular UFC Undisputed series, THQ is playing on implementing a $5 charge for playing used games online.

THQ's UFC Undisputed 2010, due out next Tuesday, May 25th, will come with a one-time-use code on the back of the game's instruction manual, and players will need to type in the code if they want to play the game online. Similar to an activation code for your OS the code will be a one time use type deal. Once the code is used and registered to a user it will be none transferable. Meaning if you buy UFC 2010 used or rent it, you'll need to purchase a new code from the Xbox Live Marketplace or the PlayStation Store in order to play the full online version.

Gaming site Destructoid received the following official statement from THQ regarding online play in UFC Undisputed 2010:

THQ is delivering a truly unmatched online gaming experience for fans of UFC and across all fighting games in general. The main enhancement of UFC Undisputed 2010’s premium online content is the new “Fight Camp Mode” in which players can assemble ranks of up to 40 people and train together. This is a significant value-add to the game as players can continually improve their skills by training with their friends and bringing teams of MMA specialists together.

This multiplayer content for UFC Undisputed 2010 will be available via a one-time code included with the game at purchase. Codes for accessing the content will be available for second-time buyers for an additional $5.

Details for acquiring the codes and how this will work will be available via the UFC community site.

Keep your eyes on the UFC Undisputed community site for further details.

THQ is the second major game developer to confirm a fee for second hand games. Earlier this month we reported that starting with July's release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 EA would begin charging users $10 for using used games for online play.

Unfortunately it looks like the EA plan might be snowballing. Several gaming sites believe its only a matter of time before other major game developers enact similar programs. Ubisoft is already reportedly milling plans to implement a program similar to those announced by THQ and EA and with major gaming houses such as these already jumping on-board I'm sure its only a matter of time before more join in.

Update: Apple Controls iPad Sales Just Says No To Cash

Yesterday we covered the story of a California woman, Diane Campbell, who had worked hard saving her cold hard cash in the hopes of going to an Apple Store and buying an iPad.

Today it seems Apple has recanted their stance on "no cash sales" for the iPad.

Campbell had contacted ABC television affiliate KGO, which ran her story on 7 On Your Side, a watchdog group fighting for consumer rights. According to KGO after hearing the story, in which Campbell asked Steve Jobs to "give a sister a break," Apple decided to reverse its no cash policy and allow cash customers.

"We want to make sure it's as fair as possible for people to get iPads," Ron Johnson, a senior vice president at Apple, told KGO, adding that the company decided to change its policy after hearing Campbell's story. He also had two Apple employees personally deliver an iPad to her house for free.

According to Apple, anyone who would like to pay cash for the iPad at an Apple Store can now do so. The only catch is that cash buyers must create an Apple account in the store. Those who pay with a credit or debit card can set up their Apple accounts at home.

Google Teams With Sony, Intel To Introduce Google TV

Google may have revolutionized the way we search the web but can they do the same for the way we watch TV? That is goal of a recently announced join venture with partners Logitech, Sony and Intel on the development of Google TV.

Announced at the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco, Google TV looks to combine the entire Web and all available TV content in one place, with one interface – eliminating the need to move back and forth between multiple screens.

Google TV devices will be based on the Android platform running the Google Chrome web browser. Users can access all of their usual TV channels as well as a world of Internet and cloud-based information and applications, including rich Adobe Flash based content – all from the comfort of their own living room and with the same simplicity as browsing the web. Devices will be coupled with the Intel Atom processor CE4100, Intel's latest system-on-a-chip designed specifically for consumer electronics, the new platform will offer home theater quality A/V performance.

Sony and Logitech have already committed to delivering products based on the new Intel Atom processor and running Google TV. Those new devices are slated for launch later this year.

Logitech will be building a companion box featuring a special remote control, along with a wireless keyboard for the system while Sony announced plans to introduce "Sony Internet TV," the World's first TV lineup incorporating the Google TV platform. The first models are planned to be introduced in the U.S. market in the fall of 2010 with the lineup featuring both a standalone TV model and set top box-type unit incorporating a Blu-ray Disc drive.

Additionally Google TV will be available to Dish Network customers through an optimized Google TV DVR which allows for a seamlessly experience that integrates traditional TV and web content.

Google TV devices will be sold at Best Buy locations nationwide later this year.

Read More:

Official Google Blog - Announcing Google TV: TV meets web. Web meets TV
Sony - Sony To Introduce Sony Internet TV
Intel - Industry Leaders Announce Open Platform to Bring Web to TV
Reuters.com - Google, Sony, Intel join on Web television project
Wired.com - Google Introduces Google TV, New Android OS
Logitech - Logitech + Google TV

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Apple Controls iPad Sales Just Says No To Cash

Apple is dead set on limiting users to buying no more than two iPads, so much so that the company is not allowing customers at Apple stores to make purchase using anything other than credit or debit cards.

In a story recently ran from San Francisco based ABC affiliate KGO an Apple customer, Diane Campbell, chronicles her adventures attempting to buy a new Apple iPad.

Campbell is disabled and on a fixed income, forcing her to hold off on buying a computer or iPad until she could save up enough money. When they iPad made it's debut she figured the small mobile device and perfect for her needs. So, little by little she saved up the $600 she needed to get one.

"It took quite a long time for me to just save up this small amount of money to go down and purchase one," she said. "I had my cash in the backpack and I went up proudly to the counter and told them, 'I would like to purchase an iPad.'"

She was at the Apple store in Palo Alto, about to pull out the big wad of cash and take home her first computer. Instead, she received a terrible blow.

"They said, 'Sorry, we don't take cash.' And, so I looked at her and I said OK she's kidding," Campbell recalled.

However, the clerk was not kidding. The Apple sales policy says if you want an iPad, you must pay by credit card or debit card, gift cards will not work either. Diane didn't have any plastic and amazingly her cash was useless.

Campbell contacted KGO's 7 On Your Side, a watchdog group fighting for consumer rights. 7 On Your Side said Apple would not respond to request for an explanation of the policy, however, the store clerk told Campbell it was to prevent con artists from buying lots of iPads and selling them overseas.

The U.S. Treasury Department says there is nothing in the law that requires companies to accept cash as payment, even though it is "legal tender." The Apple no-cash policy applies only to iPads and iPhones, although you can at least use a gift card to buy an iPhone.

My Thoughts

I completely understand Apple's stance on the situation and I understand wanting to limit sales of the device when the iPad first hit the market that should however not push the company to place such tight restrictions on accepted payment. It would be one thing asking for suitable ID but limiting based on payment method is a bit ridiculous. Most people I know have at least one debit card and as many as two credit cards. What's to stop them from buying up to 6 iPads?

I know Apple want to keep a tight reign on their devices but I'd think there would be a much better approach than this one.

Google Announces Chrome App Store

Google today has announced the formation of a Chrome Web Store, an open marketplace for developers to sell (yes I said sell) their web apps.

According to the announcement the new app store will be launching later this year with early invited going to developers. It is Google hope that the new Chrome Web Store will become a centralized repository for web based apps for Google Chrome users to quickly and easily find their favorite web apps.

Google has also promised developers will have the option to easily sell their apps through the store using a convenient and secure payment system. To find out how to prepare your web app for the store, read our preliminary documentation and join our developer discussion group.

Frequently asked questions

Are applications in the Chrome Web Store different from other web apps?

No. Web apps listed in the Chrome Web Store are regular web applications that are built with standard web tools and technologies. The same web applications will run in other modern browsers that support these technologies.

What's the advantage of "installing" an app from Chrome Web Store?

When Google Chrome users "install" a web application from the store, a convenient shortcut is added for quickly accessing the app. Installed web apps can also request advanced HTML5 permissions. For more information, read the preliminary documentation about installable web applications in Chrome.

How will I add my web application to the store?

We will invite developers to start adding their web apps later this year before the Chrome Web Store opens. To find out how to prepare your web app for the store, read our preliminary documentation and join our developer discussion group.

When is the Chrome Web Store opening?

The Chrome Web Store will be available for users and developers later this year. Subscribe to our developer discussion group and the Chromium blog for updates.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

iPhone Case Coupled With microSIM card Turns Your iPhone Into A Visa Card

Visa along with mobile payment provider DeviceFidelity, Inc. today announced the availability of its In2Pay solution for iPhone. The new contactless payment system allows you to use a a removable In2Pay microSD equipped protective case turning you iPhone into a credit card.

DeviceFidelity and Visa collaborated to combine Visa's contactless payment technology, Visa payWave, and In2Pay technology to transform a mobile phone with a microSD memory slot into a mobile contactless payment device.

The In2Pay case uses Visa's PayWave contactless payment system where you hold your credit card up to a scanner, and your credit card information is transmitted from a small chip embedded in your card. Instead of the standard RFID chip the In2Pay iPhone case utilizes removable and reprogrammable near-field communications (NFC) MicroSD card that stores and transmits your credit card information.

Once your chip is programmed and inserted into the In2Pay case simply activate the iPhone application, wave your phone in front of the Visa payWave terminal and your payment will be made automatically.

Use Office 2010 For 180 Days with 'Rearm' Trick

Want to try out Microsoft Office 2010 but don't like the idea of being cut off after only 30 days. Well thanks to a very easy 'rearm' tick you can now Office 2010 for free for 6 mo's. Microsoft recently confirmed on its TechNet site that they incorporated a simple rearm to extend the grace period in Office. Here's how you do it:
  1. Make sure all office 2010 applications are closed
  2. Open an elevated command prompt (Click Start, type CMD, right-click cmd.exe and select Run as administrator)
  3. Go to %installdir%\%Program Files%\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\OfficeSoftwareProtectionPlatform. If you installed the 32-bit edition of Office 2010 on a 64-bit operating system, %Program Files% is the Program Files (x86) folder.
  4. Run ospprearm.exe.
The above rearm trick can be used up to five times, and if used at the tail-end of each 30-day grace period will allow you to run Office 2010 for up to 180 days without inputting an activation key.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Google Voice Now Available For Those With .EDU Email Addresses

Google announced today they will be sending out Google Voice invites for students. If you’re a student, or someone with an EDU email address simply submit your email address and a Google Voice invite will arrive in your inbox within 24 hours. To get an invite, just visit google.com/voice/students and enter an email address that that ends in .edu.

Don't have an EDU address and still want to get in. In the past users have used australia.edu, which offers a free Gmail based EDU mail account, to gain access to these types of deals. I've just registered and will be trying it out to see if it works.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

File-Sharing Dealt A Major Blow In LimeWire Infringement Case

Earlier this week a US District Court judge leaved a major blow against file-sharing when she found LimeWire and it's software makers liable for inducing copyright infringement and engaging in unfair competition.

The ongoing case, Arista Records LLC et al v. Lime Group et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 06-05936, was originally filed in August 2006 but it wasn't until earlier this week that U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood agreed with the record companies that LimeWire's parent Lime Wire LLC and its founder Mark Gorton were liable.

"The evidence demonstrates that Lime Wire optimized LimeWire's features to ensure that users can download digital recordings, the majority of which are protected by copyright, and that Lime Wire assisted users in committing infringement," Wood wrote in her 59-page ruling.

Wood has granted a summary judgment against LimeWire which could amount to millions of dollars. The RIAA along with their partners: Arista, Atlantic, BMG Music, Capital, Elektra, Interscope, LaFace, Motown, Priority, Sony BMG, UMG, Virgin and Warner Brothers are the 13 record companies that sued Lime Group were seeking $150,000 per copyright violation, though the final damages in the lawsuit have not yet been determined. The lawsuit claimed at least 93 percent of LimeWire’s file sharing traffic was unauthorized copyright material. For a site that claims 50 million unique monthly users that could amount to a very hefty fine!

Judge Wood scheduled a June 1 hearing to determine how to proceed.

View the full summary (pdf) and more details via Wired.com and for further reading checkout Ars Technica "LimeWire sliced by RIAA, liable for massive infringement"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

HTC Looks To Stop The Sale Of iPhone, iPad, iPods

The HTC Corp has filed a patent infringement case against Apple Inc asking the U.S. (ITC) to halt the importation and sale of the iPhone, iPad and iPod in the United States.

“As the innovator of the original Windows Mobile PocketPC Phone Edition in 2002 and the first Android smartphone in 2008, HTC believes the industry should be driven by healthy competition and innovation that offer consumers the best, most accessible mobile experiences possible,” said Jason Mackenzie, vice president of North America, HTC Corporation. “We are taking this action against Apple to protect our intellectual property, our industry partners, and most importantly our customers that use HTC phones.”

HTC is accusing Apple of infringing five HTC patents and asked for an immediate halt of the importation and sale of the Apple most popular mobile devices. Apple has yet to respond.

Read more

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

EA Charging Gamers $10 Fee For Using Used Games Online

Beginning with July's release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 on Xbox 360 and PS3, EA Sports is introducing Online Pass, a unique access code which enables online functionality for a EA Sports title. The catch? These codes will be supplied with new copies of games.

Andrew Wilson, Senior Vice President of World Wide Development, EA SPORTS says, "It’s quite simple – every game will come with a game-specific, one-time use registration code with each unit sold new at retail. With your Online Pass, you’ll have access to multiplayer online play, group features like online dynasty and leagues, user created content, and bonus downloadable content for your game including, for example, a new driver in Tiger. If the original access code has been redeemed and fans wish to get access to the online content (for example, if you pick up a used copy), you can access a free 7-day trial or additional Online Passes will be available for $10."

Obviously most gamers gamers are fairly unhappy about this, and many view it as a used game tax. User C-lo_3o5 writes, "This is ********! Whether i buy a game at the store or i buy a used copy EA has already made money off of that sale! Why should I have to pay extra to allow me to do something the game is supposed to come with? It just looks like a way for you guys to make more money."

It looks to me like RA might really be trying to stick it to the second market user!

Million Dollar Prize Handed Out For Perfect Game In Major League Baseball 2K10

It took gamer Wade McGilberry only 90 minutes of playing MLB 2K10 to net a cool million dollars thanks to 2K Sports.

According to 2K Sports, McGilberry was one of several dozen entrants in their Major League Baseball 2K10 Perfect Game contest, but was the very first to throw a verified perfect game and took home a cash prize of $1 million because of it. Wade only needed seven tries, most of which was spent ignoring his in-game catcher's suggestions. Instead, he threw a bunch 2-seam fastballs as weak as possible, keeping them low and out of the strike zone.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do it, but I was going to try my hardest to," Wade said during a phone interview with GamePro.com. "I already told [my wife] that I was going to be taking the TV for the next couple of weeks or so until I did it."

And my mom told me playing video games would never get me anywhere! Not a bad way to spend 90mins if you ask me.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

RapidShare Posts Rare Win For File-sharers

RapidShare has announced a rare victory for the file-sharing community. The site is reporting that a German court of appeals has overturned a previous courts ruling demanding that the service take more steps to control online infringement. According to the new ruling, because RapidShare does not make uploaded files publicly available (those who upload them can control access) the site can not be held liable for distribution and that running filename filters on all uploads would produce too many false positives.

Christian Schmid, founder of RapidShare: "We are very happy about the judgment. The court has confirmed that RapidShare is not responsible for the contents of files uploaded by its users. The judgment shows that attempts to denounce our business model as illegal will not be successful in the long run. With its 1-click-filehosting model, RapidShare responds to legitimate interests of its users and will continue to do so in the future."

More reading:
NewTeeVee - RapidShare Wins in Court
Ars Technica - Court: RapidShare doesn't need to filter user uploads

Intel Unveils New Lower Power Atom Platform for Smartphones, Tablets

intel logoIntel has officially announced a new generation of lower power Atom processors today. The new Atom platform, formerly codenamed Moorestown, requires significantly less power than previous generations of Atom processors allowing Intel to enter into the smartphone and tablet PC market.

Along with the new 'Moorestown' chips Intel also introduced the new Intel Atom processor Z6xx Series Family (formerly "Lincroft" system-on-chip [SoC]), the Intel Platform Controller Hub MP20 (formerly "Langwell") and a dedicated Mixed Signal IC (MSIC), formerly "Briertown."

New Intel Atom Processor-Based Platform Using Significantly Lower Power Readies Intel for Smartphone, Tablet Push

  • Based on Intel's leading silicon technology and manufacturing capabilities, chips deliver >50x platform idle power reduction while increasing performance and reducing size.
  • Platform brings unlimited "PC-like" experience with fast Internet, multi-tasking, full 1080p video, 3-D graphics, multi-point videoconferencing and voice in pocketable designs.
  • New Intel Atom processor Z6xx based on Intel's new 45nm low-power process, packs 140 million transistors into the SoC. The platform also includes a Controller Hub (MP20) and a dedicated Mixed Signal IC.
  • Highly integrated platform capable of scaling a range of operating systems and market segments including high-end smartphones, tablets and handheld devices.

Fore more details checkout the full Intel Press Release

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

DOJ-FTC Mulling An Apple Antitrust Probe

According to the New York Post, two heavy hitting government regulators are mulling over which agency will handle an antitrust inquiry into Apple's new iPhone 4.0 SDK policy, which blocks software developers from using cross-platform compilers such as the one Adobe offers to Flash programmers when they build programs for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which both are capable of handling antitrust issues here in the US are said to be only "days away from making a decision about which agency will launch the inquiry."

Similar reports on Reuters.com quote David Balto, a former FTC policy director as saying, "What they're (Apple) doing is clearly anticompetitive ... They want one superhighway and they're the tollkeeper on that superhighway."

At this time neither government agency will officially acknowledge an inquiry but several industry insiders believe that it might be inevitable. An inquiry doesn't necessarily mean action will be taken against Apple, which argues the rule is in place to ensure the quality of the apps it sells to customers. Typically, regulators initiate inquiries to determine whether a full-fledged investigation ought to be launched. If the inquiry escalates to an investigation, the agency handling the matter would issue Apple a subpoena seeking information about the policy.

At the foundation of the inquiry is the issue of whether or not Apple's new iPhone 4.0 developer TOS, which took effect last month, discourages competition by forcing programmers to create apps that run only on Apple's mobile devices the iPhone, iPod and iPad or across "platform neutral" mobile operating systems like Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Mobile software. Analysts say the restrictions set forth by Apple may cause many programmers with limited funds to have to choose one platform and foregoing another, effectively hampering competition.

Apple's stance has been that allowing third-party tools would result in "sub-standard" apps. But many developers and critics (including myself) feel that the company is abusing its position.

"For us and the whole developers community, it really locks us into a single platform," said Michael Chang, chief executive of mobile ad network Greystripe, of Apple's rules.

Chang said a basic iPhone app might cost $75,000 to build on Flash, and a few thousand dollars more to convert it to work on Google Inc's Android mobile platform. But with the new restrictions, a developer may be forced to spend another $75,000 to build the app from the ground up for a non-Apple platform.

"For a small or medium-sized company, it becomes a real financial issue, and that's how it becomes anticompetitive," he said.

Most reports suggest that Apple could avoid a possible FTC antitrust investigation by changing the strict terms of the iPhone 4.0 SDK. The FTC may choose to leave Apple alone if it let developers write iPhone apps using other tools, such as Adobe's Flash CS5 or MonoTouch.

Given the heated argument and recent statements from Apple CEO Steve Jobs over the inclusion of flash and the reliance of third party development tools it seems unlikely that Apple would change the iPhone SDK TOS, even if the company faced a little pressure from the DOJ or FTC.

Until now Apple has enjoyed the ability to play the role of the underdog, calling for inquiries into the monopolistic behavior of its competitors. With the success of the iPhone, however, Apple is now the giant in question, with its actions subject to review.

The iPhone has generated huge interest from app developers, who have created more than 200,000 programs, or apps, for the platform. Having sold more than 50 million iPhones since its debut in 2007, and 1 million iPads since its April 3 debut the companies new found popularity means extra scrutiny about every Apple move related to the smartphone platform and the very popular App Store.

My Thoughts:

It really should be interesting to see where this goes. On one hand I agree that Apple should be allowed to regulate the quality of apps it allows in the App Store but I don't think they should be allowed to rule out apps just based on platform development or based on some of the other ridiculous reasons they have given for disallowing apps. ("duplicating" standard features, objectionable content ect)

Reading some thoughts written in an article on ComputerWorld last night kind of made me wonder if there really is a case here or not.

Hillard Sterling, an antitrust attorney at Chicago-based law firm Freeborn & Peters LLP said, "The government has to show that Apple's conduct is adversely affecting competition for consumers, and that requires that it show the absence of choice."

Well clearly when you are talking about a single platform, Apple's, then yes you are talking about an adverse reaction for developers and consumers. However when you look at the greater scope and the total number or percentage of users affected then the numbers are a bit skewed. Apple may only hold a 16% market share world wide but they hold a greater number of the US and AT&T market, how much I don't know for sure but the number is much higher than 16%. When you take those numbers into account then yes they, at least in my eyes, are acting an in antitrust/anti-competitive nature!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Adobe Vs. Apple, A War Of Words Part 2

Last week the fight between Apple and Adobe over the inclusion, or rather the lack there of, of Flash on Apple's mobile devices reached a bit of a boiling point with the CEO's of both companies sound off in a war of words.

In our previous post we discussed the open letter written by Steve Jobs and the key points he made as to why the company has decided not to add Flash support for the iPhone, iPad and iPod. The Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray interviewed Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen about Jobs' comments and here are a few of the highlights:

  • Adobe believes in open content; Apple is threatened by Adobe's penchant for creating cross-platform software.
  • Narayen likens the fight between Apple and Adobe to the rift between Jon and Kate Gosselin.
  • The technology problems that Mr. Jobs mentions in his essay are "really a smokescreen," Mr. Narayen says. He says more than 100 applications that used Adobe's software were accepted in the App Store. "When you resort to licensing language" to restrict this sort of development, he says, it has "nothing to do with technology.".
  • Narayen refutes the assertion that Adobe Flash is the main reason why Macs crash.
  • Jobs' comments about poor battery life on machines using Adobe Flash are "patently false".
  • "It doesn't benefit Apple, and that's why you see this reaction".
  • Narayen asserts that the consumer should be able to decide which technologies they want to use and he thinks that a multi-platform world is where the future is headed.

You can view the full interview here at the WSJ's Digits blog.

To me this ultimately comes down to choice. Choice for developers and choice for end users. The Apple vs Adobe debate over Flash debate comes down to principle. Apple wants to keep their overly restrictive tight control over the experience people have on iPhone OS devices, ostensibly for the benefit of consumers but partly for the company's own good.

The problem here is that they keep saying its for the good of the consumer. Well one of the great thing about Flash is that if you don't want it you don't have to have it. You can choose not to install Flash in your Web browser or on your OS. Much like most things its an option, one seemingly that most people want to have. Apple should keep in mind that having choice is a wonderful thing. Why not let us try it on our iPhones, iPad ect and decide?

Get Free Copies Of Windows 7 From Microsoft Bus Tour

Microsoft wants you to jump on the Windows 7 bus, literally! Begining May 21st the company will begin its multi-city bus tour were they will be handing out free, yes free, copies of their newest operating system. Supplies will be limited to 50 copies of Windows 7 Ultimate for the first 50 attendees to get on the bus at every stop.

Week 1
  • May 21st — Montreal QC, Canada
  • May 24th — Boston MA
  • May 25th — New York NY
  • May 26th — Philadelphia PA
  • May 27-28 — Washington DC
Week 2
  • Memorial Day Holiday — no events
  • June 1st — Richmond VA
  • June 2nd — Raleigh NC
  • June 3rd — Charlotte NC
  • June 4th — Atlanta GA

Check out the full details here.

*To receive your free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate, be one of the first 50 people who are US residents (includes D of C) or Canada 18+ to arrive at a Microsoft Get On the Bus Tour afternoon event. 50 copies of the software title are available. Limit one gift per person. This offer is non-transferable and cannot be combined with any other offer. This offer ends on June 4, 2010 while supplies last, and is not redeemable for cash. Taxes, if any, are the sole responsibility of the recipient. There is no shipment of your gift – all gifts will be distributed onsite.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

ASUS Launches the EeeKeyboard PC

ASUS today continues to deliver on its promise of cutting edge technological and design innovations with the launch of the EeeKeyboard PC—a fully-functional PC concealed within a svelte and stylish keyboard. First unveiled to a tremendous reception at CES 2009 and subsequently garnering 1st place at the CeBIT-PreView 2009 Awards, the portable 1kg EeeKeyboard PC works with any HDTV, monitor, or projector to turn itself into a full-fledged PC. It provides users with a wireless computing platform, with Ultra-wideband (UWB) Wireless Display connectivity enabling it to stream HD 720p videos up to a 5-meter range (maximum 10-meter range for non-video transfers). Its built-in 5" multi-touch panel provides users with an interactive and intuitive means of directing the on-screen cursor to launch programs, send instant messages, and control its media player.

asus EeeKeyboard

The Complete Compact PC for Mobile and Versatile Indoor Computing

The lightweight, space-saving EeeKeyboard PC lends itself perfectly to a myriad of uses at home and in the office. The high-speed wireless multimedia and communication capabilities of the EeeKeyboard PC can be enjoyed with any HDTV, monitor or projector. Connect the EeeKeyboard PC to a HDTV in the living room to turn it into the family multimedia entertainment center; hook it up with a monitor in the study or office and use it as a normal PC; or pair it with a projector in a conference room for presentations.

The EeeKeyboard PC comes with a durable and shock-proof solid state drive to ensure all stored data is kept safe during transit, while built-in conveniences such as the microphone and high quality stereo speakers allow users to enjoy all of the EeeKeyboard PC's features without requiring additional accessories.

Ultra-wideband (UWB) Wireless Display Connectivity

The EeeKeyboard PC features Ultra-wideband (UWB) Wireless Display connectivity and is able to stream HD 720p visuals to a designated display device within a 5 meter range. UWB Wireless Display connectivity also brings with it higher data transfer rates, and ensures a reliable link during data transfers.

5" Multi-touch Panel for an Intuitive and Interactive User Experience

The EeeKeyboard PC has another ingenious feature—an interactive 5" multi-touch panel designed to enhance the user experience by adapting its functions to suit the task at hand. At its most basic level, it serves as a touchpad for controlling the main display cursor. It can be set to display quick launch keys and shortcuts to enable users to easily access programs and web content. It can also display the media player's interface, allowing users to browse, select, and play songs with a tap of a finger.

ASUS has taken user feedback into account and ensured that the EeeKeyboard PC's LED-backlit keys are precisely calibrated to ensure consistency in mechanical responsiveness, latency, and actuation pressure. The EeeKeyboard PC is engineered for both quality and durability, with its aluminum cover and UV-coated underside ensuring it looks brand new even after years of use.

Source: ASUS

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Adobe Vs. Apple, A War Of Words

The battle between Apple and Adobe of the inclusion of Adobe's Flash on Apple's portable devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod has been coming to a head over the past few weeks. This week the CEO's of both companies fired shots at one another in what so far has only been an internet slug fest. One that we personally hope will end in some sort of court battle.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs fired the first shot when he released a 1700+ word open statement on his 'thoughts on flash'. Jobs outlines his 6 main thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics(like us) may better understand why the company continues to not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Here's are Job's 6 reasons for not including Adobe's Flash:
  1. Openness Vs Proprietary - Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

    Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.

    Apple even creates open standards for the web. For example, Apple began with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine that is the heart of the Safari web browser used in all our products. WebKit has been widely adopted. Google uses it for Android’s browser, Palm uses it, Nokia uses it, and RIM (Blackberry) has announced they will use it too. Almost every smartphone web browser other than Microsoft’s uses WebKit. By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.

  2. Full Web Experience - Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access “the full web” because 75% of video on the web is in Flash. What they don’t say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads. YouTube, with an estimated 40% of the web’s video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever. Add to this video from Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, People, National Geographic, and many, many others. iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren’t missing much video.

    Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.

  3. Reliability, Security and Performance - Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.

    In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?

  4. Battery Life - To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware; decoding it in software uses too much power. Many of the chips used in modern mobile devices contain a decoder called H.264 – an industry standard that is used in every Blu-ray DVD player and has been adopted by Apple, Google (YouTube), Vimeo, Netflix and many other companies.

    Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained.
    When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them without using Flash at all. They play perfectly in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome without any plugins whatsoever, and look great on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

  5. The Touch Interface Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on “rollovers”, which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

    Even if iPhones, iPods and iPads ran Flash, it would not solve the problem that most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.

  6. Slowly Released Development Tools - We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

    This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.

    Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe’s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.

First things first the ridiculous side

While I can understand most of the objections Jobs and Apple have to adding Flash support some of their ideas strike me as utterly ridiculous, I mean come on using battery life as a defense? What's next are they going to put a timer on each device that allows it to shut down after a prolonged session of usage because continuous use would drain the battery faster than intermittent usage? Are they now going to block addicting games because those lead to me using my iPad longer than normal?

Is this a pot calling a kettle black

The pot calling the kettle black on this openness vs proprietary debate also seems a bit ridiculous. I will say this at least Jobs has the stones to admit Apple has many proprietary products but to call out Adobe and say they are any worse than Apple...COME ON REALLY!! You are running a closed OS, a closed App Store and by all means accounts an entirely closed device. Everything about the iPhone, iPad and iPods are 100% proprietary. You are in no position to call out another company no matter how proprietary they are, and trust me I hate Adobe and their pricing.

Secure, security and the lack of

Mr. Jobs and Apple need to site in on the next Pwn2Own if for one second they think having Flash on the iPhone or iPad will in anyway hurt or hinder their security efforts. Yes Flash is know as a gaping wound in many PCs, but the fact of the matter is Adobe products, especially Flash and Acrobat Reader--are ubiquitous on virtually every platform. This makes them an easy target for would be hackers. Its much the same as the debate over MS operating systems as well as IE. Why would hackers spend time trying to hack a small OS with few users when they can target billions at once.

Second the lack of true multitasking support on the iPhone and iPad provide the devices with a much better level of protection against malware attacks (the majority of Flash based attacks). Adobe software may be one of the weaker links on other platforms, but probably wouldn't fundamentally impair the security (or lack there of) on the iPhone or iPad.

Toss the Flash argument aside, even without adding an additional level of 'insecurity' these device are not nearly as secure as many users seem to think they are. Every day we are seeing more and more reports of potential vulnerabilities leading to malware, viruses and hacks for smartphones. Adding Flash support may not help that but it certainly would not be the end-all.

Platform dependence, touch and beyond

I'll give Jobs points for the lack of touch support statements. Admittedly I've never used Flash on a touch based system but my understanding is the mouse pointer is a fairly critical element for interacting with Flash. This might not be a big issue with videos but it certain would be with games or other apps. There may be a fairly easy work-around for this issue, I just don't know so I'll give Jobs his due here and say lets see it Adobe!

Platform dependence is one area that I have to cry foul. Not because I'm a coder, hardly and far from it. Rather I don't see that Apple should say they are open and pushing an innovative internet then block apps on a cross-platform environment. Apple may not want the advancement and innovation of the iPhone or iPad applications to be at the mercy of a third-party but I don't see that that alone should be a deciding factor.

Apps by nature are third part, its up to the devs to create them and implement the changes they see fit. Its not Apple that keeps these applications up to date its the devs. If they originally use a tool like Flash and then port it for the iPhone where is the issue? Why should Apple be banning iPhone and iPad apps that are ported from Flash? It seem pretty petty to me. Trust me if a third party platform which an app developer is using isn't keeping up those devs will move to another tool that will. So shouldn't that be left up to the developers to decide? Why does Apple care?

Personally I think it all boils down to Apple wanting to maintain tight, proprietary control over app development and their tight reign over the App store. More and more it seems like they aren't wanting to share the pie. It also seems more and more suspicious that Apple would continue to block flash given the company's foray into mobile advertising with the iAd platform, which will be competing directly with the fairly ubiquitous Flash-based ads.

Part 2 Adobe responds!