MediaFile

Tech wrap: Apple involved in legal battles

Samsung can sell its latest iPad rival in most of Europe again after a German court lifted most of an injunction it had imposed at Apple’s request.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line of tablet computers has taken the market by storm and is considered the most credible alternative to the iPad, selling about 30 million since its launch a year and a half ago.

In other legal news, the shoe is on the other foot for Apple as smartphone maker HTC has sued the tech giant, seeking to halt U.S. imports and sales of Macintosh computers, iPads, iPods, iPhones and other devices because of alleged patent infringements.

HTC is alleging infringements of three patents obtained in 2008 and 2010, and which relate to Wi-Fi capability and other functions. It seeks compensatory damages as well as triple damages for willful infringement.

A day after Google’s $12.5 billion deal to acquire Motorola Mobility, Emanuel Derman wants to know if Google will tackle their lacking customer support or user interface.

A new-found app-etite for the web

A funny thing happened on the way to the Apple Store … Apps were supposed to be the salvation for publishers when the iPad morphed from unicorn status to the real thing last April. Plenty of publishers — newspapers, magazines and books — have built apps. Apple’s newest rules on subscriptions are placating many more.

But there is already a bit of a backlash, and a new awareness that the world wide (open) web may compare favorably to the walled gardens available on the iPad and other tablets.

Why are publishers already starting to re-think the future of media again? For one thing, there is that kickback to Apple —30% off the top — for selling through the iTunes store. Then there are those rules that seem to favor the functionality of Apple apps, like in-app purchasing. And, most ironically, there is the “Aha!” moment that the iPad itself has provided by highlighting what the optimized, mobile web can really be like.

The Financial Times blazed the back-to-the-web movement, abandoning the iTunes store in lieu of an HTML5 site that is still behind their paywall. Apple primed the pump by forbidding in-app sales. Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble moved their stores from their iOS apps to the web.

Tech wrap: Microsoft’s Office shines, Windows lacks luster

Microsoft reported a greater-than-expected 30 percent increase in fiscal fourth-quarter profit, helped by sales of its Office software, but profit from its core Windows product fell on soft PC sales. Microsoft posted net profit of $5.87 billion, or 69 cents per share, compared with $4.52 billion, or 51 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. That easily beat Wall Street’s average estimate of 58 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“These are great results given a slower PC environment and it highlights how the company has multiple revenue streams. The $17 billion unearned revenue, which is a forward indicator of business, shows they signed a lot of deals this quarter,” said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

AT&T posted better-than-expected subscriber growth for the second quarter, pushing its profits and sales past Wall Street estimates despite the loss of exclusive U.S. rights to sell the Apple iPhone.

Live Coverage: Apple Q3 earnings call

Surprise. Apple is expected to report another dazzling quarter on Tuesday, propelled by strong demand for its bestseller iPhone and the sleeker iPad 2 tablets.

Apple share rose nearly 2.5 percent on Monday to $373.80 in anticipation of better-than-expected results for the fiscal third-quarter, which saw an easing of the supply constraints surrounding iPad2.

The stock, which touched an all time high of $374.65 earlier in the session, appeared to have emerged out of the limbo it has been since Chief Executive Steve Jobs took leave last January for unspecified medical reasons.

HP’s TouchPad tablet: The reviews

Hewlett-Packard’s decision to enlist funnyman Russell Brand to promote its new TouchPad tablet in a series of online videos seems to have been the right one. People love the ads. Whether consumers will warm to the device itself remains to be seen, though.

HP pitches the TouchPad as a workhorse that’s a boon to productivity and a marvel of multitasking, but which can also hold its own as an entertainment device. The Wi-Fi enabled tablet, which hit U.S. shelves on July 1 (at $500 for 16 GB model, $600 for 32 GB), is up against some serious competition from Apple’s standard-bearing iPad models and a stable of well-regarded Android alternatives.

HP is smart to trumpet the TouchPad’s ability to play Web video and multimedia formats such as Adobe Flash, which Apple has refused to support on its devices despite demands from its own customers. But reviews of the 9.7-inch tablet, which runs on Palm’s webOS mobile software, could so far be characterized as tepid at best. Overall, they seem to suggest that while HP should be praised for some of the TouchPad’s features, it falls short on too many other crucial elements. Here’s a sampling of what’s been said so far:

Hear the plea of the Kindle orphans

By James Ledbetter
The views expressed are his own.

I bought a Kindle in early 2009, which makes me an “early adopter” of tablet e-readers (translation: I overpaid).  In addition to downloading books, I eagerly signed up for some heavily discounted subscriptions: The New Yorker, $2.99 a month; Fortune, $2.49 a month; New York Times, $13.99 a month (it later went up); etc. I did this knowing that most of the time the content was free online. But the digital subscriptions were often much cheaper than print and the Kindle provided many conveniences, particularly when traveling.

This year, my wife bought me an iPad2, and my Kindle now feels like a cassette tape in a CD world; I think I last spotted it gathering dust on my desk a few months ago. You might think, though, that years of paying for digital content from America’s publishers would translate into goodwill on the shiny new platform. I envisioned publishers leaping at the opportunity to help me make a seamless transition from the Tablet 1.0 era, especially because they know I’m already a paying customer.

After all, iPad owners are treated like magazine royalty. Just open up The New Yorker’s iPad app, for example, and you’ll be immediately whisked into an elite land of witty cartoons and bon mots—assuming, that is, that you are a print subscriber or have paid for the iPad-only version. But if you’re a Kindle subscriber? As far as The New Yorker is concerned, you might as well be the old lady from Dubuque. In general, having a Kindle subscription buys you very little in the iPad world, except an unshakable feeling of second-class citizenship.

Tech wrap: FTC seen deepening Google probe

Google will receive the civil equivalent of a subpoena from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as part of a probe into the Web giant’s Internet search business, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The FTC plans to send the civil investigative demand with a request for more information, the civil equivalent of a subpoena, within five days, according to the report. U.S. antitrust regulators have been concerned about Google’s dominance of the Web search industry, and the giant Internet company has been under investigation by the European Commission since last November.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop showed images of his company’s first phone running on the Windows phone OS. Codenamed “Sea Ray”, the phone appeared to be a near copy of Nokia’s N9 smartphone, unveiled earlier in the week.

The chairman of Yahoo voiced support for Chief Executive Carol Bartz, who has become a lightning rod for criticism as the company struggles with stagnant revenue growth and a rift with its Chinese partner. Yahoo’s efforts to mount a turnaround remain a work in progress, said Chairman Roy Bostock at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. But he said he was confident that the company was headed in the right direction and that Bartz had put Yahoo on a “clear path forward to accelerated revenue growth.”

Is a Facebook iPad App finally coming?

In the nearly 15 months since Apple launched its iPad, there’s been one conspicuous absence for users of the tablet: a Facebook app.

That will change in the coming weeks, as Facebook, the world’s No.1 Internet social network, prepares to unveil an app specially-designed for the iPad, according to a report in the New York Times today.

In development for almost a year, the Facebook iPad app is now in its final stages of testing and has received close attention throughout the process from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Times reported, citing anonymous sources. The report said the app will have capabilities beyond what’s available on Facebook’s website, such as specialized video and photo features.

Tech wrap: Nintendo debuts Wii U

Nintendo took the wraps off a high-definition version of its hit Wii, with a 6.2-inch touchscreen-equipped controller that the leading videogame hardware maker hopes will appeal to a more hardcore audience. Early reviews of the Wii U were mixed, with analysts saying the device stopped short of being game-changing. But some liked the innovation in the controller, a device slightly larger than Apple’s iPhone and whose touchscreen, video-call capability and extra functions may appeal to gamers who play longer and more intensely.

The new device will go on sale between April and December 2012, the company told reporters in LA without saying how much it would cost.

Data storage firm EMC offered to replace millions of potentially compromised “SecurID” electronic keys after hackers used data stolen from its RSA security division to break into Lockheed Martin’s network. RSA, which makes the SecurID keys, said in a letter published on its website that it had confirmed information taken from it in March was used in the attack on Lockheed Martin.

Rule Britannia? FT fires warning shot at Apple

The release of a Financial Times app that bypasses Apple’s App Store is a warning shot at the iPad maker’s quest to rule the high seas of digital publishing.

Launched just hours after Apple announced Newsstand, the iPad maker’s destination to access digital versions of mags and rags, FT made clear why it created the app:

“We are determined to make it as accessible as possible for the user,” John Ridding, chief executive of the FT told Reuters. “Readers will be able to get our journalism through whatever device or channel they may choose.”