MediaFile

Teardown experts crack open Apple’s new iPad

The electronics hardware experts at iFixit find themselves again in the spotlight as they crack open the latest iPad to see what chips, display and other components make it tick. Teardowns, as they’re called, are closely followed by investors betting on which companies supply components for consumer electronics devices like Apple’s massively iPads and iPhones.

iFixit sent its engineers to Australia, where they managed to buy one of the first new iPads to be sold, and — fueled by cans of Red Bull –  proceeded to crack it open with tools ranging from guitar picks (to pry open the cover) to “spudgers” (for poking and prodding at wires).

They’re live-blogging the entire affair, but so many people appear to be watching that iFixit’s webpage is responding very slowly.

UPDATE – Photos from the teardown appear to show a Broadcom chip, which iFixit says is a baseband/WiFi/Bluetooth component. You can also see silicon from Avago, which specializes in semiconductors used to keep different kinds of radio frequency chips from interfering with each other, and another chip from Texas Instruments.

Being chosen for an Apple product may be a double-edged sword for chip companies. On one hand, inclusion in an iPad or iPhone suggests a company’s chips must be top-notch. But on the other hand, with Apple’s reputation for squeezing its suppliers to get the lowest price possible – these companies might not be making a ton of profit. 

‘Lorax’ beats Disney Mars epic at box office

Dr. Seuss movie “The Lorax” stayed firmly planted at No. 1 on box office charts over the weekend, easily trumping the debut of Walt Disney Co’s <DIS.N> expensive sci-fi flick “John Carter.”  

The animated “Lorax” notched its second win in a row with $39.1 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates released on Sunday. 

“John Carter” opened in second place with $30.6 million,  a low number for a hoped-for blockbuster. While the 3D space adventure grossed more than double that amount overseas, Disney is left with a big hole to fill just to break even. The film cost an estimated $250 million to produce, plus tens of millions more to market. 

Vevo relaunches with closer Facebook ties

Vevo, the music video company, has relaunched the popular site with a more personalized, social, long-play viewing experience getting closer and further away from that MTV experience at the same time.
One of the big changes is that you can now only get the full benefits of Vevo with a Facebook login in, which allows you to create a personalized Facebook playlist and share the videos you’ve watched with your friends on Facebook.

Vevo was the second most watched online video service in the U.S. in January with more than 51.5 million unique visitors watching an average of 62  minutes of video that month according to comScore. It is also YouTube’s number 1 partner.

A reminder that Vevo is owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group and the Abu Dhabi Media Company, It also features music videos from EMI and many independent labels but not Warner Music Group, the third largest label owner.

A new iPad, the same iEthics

Several days after the launch of the new iPad 3, HD, or whatever it’s called, we all know about it’s blazing 4G capabilities, including its ability to be a hotspot, carrier permitting, of course. We know about its Retina display, which makes the painful, insufferable scourge of image pixelization a thing of the past. We know about Infinity Blade. We know that to pack all this in, Apple’s designers had to let out the new iPad’s aluminum waist to accommodate some unfortunate but really quite microscopic weight gain. We know the iPad’s battery life is still amazing, and its price point is altogether unchanged. We know Apple has adopted a cunning new strategy of putting the previous-generation iPad, as it did with the iPhone 4, on a sort of permanent sale, to scoop up the low end of the high-end market. (We wonder if this was Steve Jobs’s last decree or Tim Cook’s first.) We know a lot about the iPad.

But what we don’t know: How many of Foxconn’s nearly 100,000 employees will harm themselves, intentionally or inadvertently — or their families or loved ones — in the manufacture of it? And will the developed world ever acknowledge the dark side of these truly transformative technologies, like the iPad, or will we continue to tell ourselves fables to explain away the havoc our addictions wreak on the developing world? Is a device really magic if to pull a rabbit out of a hat, you have to kill a disappearing dove?

Those of us who have been technology journalists have long been subjected to the cult of Steve Jobs’s Apple, and those of us who are fans of technology are mostly well aware of the stark elegance and extreme usability — even the words seem inadequate — that come with using, let alone experiencing, Apple products. But the rumblings about Apple’s manufacturing processes started years ago, and the recent New York Times series on the ignobility of Foxconn as an employer blew a hole in the side of that particular ship of willful ignorance. Few Apple consumers can claim not to understand the human sacrifice behind their glowing screens — the death, diseases, exhaustion, mental and emotional stress, and superhuman expectations placed upon the workers who bring these magic devices to life. It’s not just in the papers — Mike Daisey’s This American Life podcast exposé on Foxconn and Apple is a mere click away, and most mainstream media have given at least passing coverage to the working conditions reflected in the Gorilla Glass on our devices.

Tablets are shaking up the chip industry, even more

Tablets like Apple’s iPad are on their way to becoming a great equalizer of the semiconductor industry.

Sales of semiconductors used in tablets are ballooning and are set to nearly double to $18.4 billion by 2014 , according to a new report from IHS iSuppli.  Although still smaller than the  chip market for mobile phones and personal computers, that’s a massive market — and one that has not been dominated by one or two behemoth players. Last year, tablets were only the No. 8 destination for microchips.

Intel has long ruled over the PC industry and Qualcomm has enjoyed a similar position in cellphones, but the fast-growing tablet market is almost completely up for grabs, and each device needs a broad range of chips. Application processors attract the lion’s share of attention form from Wall Street investors but the iPad and other tablets are also packed with radio frequency chips, DRAM memory, NAND storage, sensors and analog semiconductors made by everyone from Avago to Samsung.

Apple, the new iPad, and being ‘sanely great’

Sometimes it’s best to start with the obvious. The “new” iPad announced Wednesday will sell like mad when it goes on sale next Friday. So confident is Apple in what it isn’t calling the iPad 3 that it didn’t even bother to give it a special name. It’s just iPad, even though there is a first-generation iPad (a retronym, of course) and an iPad 2. When you’ve achieved one-name status — Bono, Cher, Liberace — you don’t give that up lightly.

The new iPad has a bunch of hardware and design upgrades that do make sense, even though the impetus for incorporating them may or may not have been to play catch-up with some Android tablets that nobody is buying.

It’s nice to see 4G make its first appearance on an Apple device — one wonders why this wasn’t possible on the iPhone 4S that came out not that terribly long ago. This exponentially better network standard isn’t widely available yet, but where it exists. it spoils you quickly.

Could a Netflix-cable alliance spur HBO to go rogue?

A potential alliance between online video streaming company Netflix Inc <NFLX.O> and cable companies could spur cable television’s biggest premium player HBO to consider its options beyond the set-top box and go directly to customers on the Web.

But not anytime soon.

Analysts say Time Warner Inc’s  HBO, which has more than 28 million customers through its cable, satellite and phone partners, would be in no hurry to risk hurting their very profitable business based on a perceived threat from Netflix or any other newcomers.
“Why fix it if it’s not broke,” said Standard & Poor’s analyst Tuna Amobi. “You’re virtually jeopardizing billions of dollars, it seems remote from our perspective.”
People familiar with HBO executives’ thinking say this has been looked at and they ‘have done the math’ and are even more sceptical it makes sense.
Yet the question, which is often asked, comes up again with the news that Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings has opened early talks with cable operators for a partnership.

Reed Hastings, Netflix Chief Executive

If these Netflix talks come to fruition the alliance could start out as a billing partnership — with Netflix appearing as a line on cable customers’ bills. But the talks have also encompassed the possibility of Netflix shows one day being offered on-demand say people familiar with the talks.
On a financial basis the two could not be more different. Netflix has warned investors it will likely turn in a loss this year, while HBO will likely grow its $1.5 billion in operating profits. In creative terms, Netflix is dipping its toe into producing original shows, while HBO is a record-breaking Emmy-award winner nearly every year.
The concern for cable investors is that even though Netflix is still seen as a poor man’s HBO, with its package of older TV series and movies with few original shows, it will compete on a level playing field in the battle for customers’ time on a set-top box.
Hastings frequently says Netflix will look more like HBO in the future. Last month, his company launched ‘Lilyhammer‘, the first of five new original series on its service and likely will look at more as it tries to give its customers reasons to stay on even as programming costs rise.
But in a potential partnership with cable, Hastings focus will primarily be on pay television’s 100 million home distribution.
“We believe distribution agreements with the cable providers could materially increase Netflix’s subscriber base in a relatively short period of time,” said Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente. “The question for Netflix, however, is how to reach greater scale without sacrificing all the economics to its cable partners.” Such a partnership could also lower acquisition costs and improve profitability he added.
Even after guessing a fairly high overlap between Netflix’s 23 million subscribers and those homes. There would still be plenty of room for growth if Netflix is offered as some sort of discounted add-on deal to consumers.
“Netflix is at a point where they are trying to get as much distribution as possible. However, I think Netflix needs the cable distributors more than vice versa,” Morningstar analyst Michael Corty said.
Such a deal would not be a million miles away from something Comcast Corp <CMCSA.O> has already been announced the launch of Streampix, a Web-based extension of its on-demand programming with a wide range of older TV shows and movies.
Perhaps the earliest example of how this could work is seen with the lastest version of Apple Inc’s <AAPL.O> Apple TV set-top box, which now allows users to sign up and get billed directly for Netflix through the box.

Nvidia to Apple: thanks for the backhanded compliment

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Nvidia got some free publicity from Apple today. Well, sort of.

On Wednesday, its crosstown peer flashed a slide at the new iPad’s unveiling, briefly claiming that Apple’s A5X processor packed four times the graphics punch of Nvidia’s own next-generation Tegra 3. Nvidia product spokesman Ken Brown’s phone has been ringing off the hook since.

“People noticed. When Apple calls out your processor as the one to beat, it gets attention. We’ve gotten some questions about it,” he said.

“It almost looks like it’s a two-horse race between Apple and Tegra,” he added, deftly framing things in the best possible light for Nvidia.

More Bets on Virtual Casinos: Big Fish scoops up Card Ace

Casinos are the hottest real estate in today’s heady world of social gaming.

From Zynga to Caesars, deep-pocketed companies are increasingly looking to get a piece of the action.  On Tuesday, Seattle-based Big Fish Games staked its claim, acquiring the maker of one of the most popular social casino games, Card Ace: Casino.

The deal, gives Big Fish a seat at the table of the fast-growing social casino market, where consumers connect with other players in real-time using their smartphones, tablets and PCs to play poker, blackjack, roulette and other felt-table classics. The parties are not disclosing the price of the acquisition.

The games are just for fun – gamers can’t actually win any money. But the house still makes out OK, since many players choose to spend real money buying additional virtual chips to supplement the pile of free chips they’re given to start off.

Animated ‘Lorax’ leads box office with big debut

 A big-screen version of classic Dr. Seuss children’s book “The Lorax” rang up a massive $70.7 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over the weekend, the biggest movie debut so far this year.  

The popularity of the 3D animated “Lorax” far exceeded industry forecasts and helped lift total box-office receipts ahead of last year for the ninth weekend in a row.  

Danny DeVito provides the voice of the small orange Lorax who guards the trees in the film based on Seuss’ 1971 book about preserving the environment.