Verizon cagey on phones, open about global ambitions

In a wide-ranging interview with Charlie Rose earlier this week, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg danced around questions about cellphones but was more forthcoming about the U.S. telecom giant’s long-term expansion ambitions.

Asked to confirm a report that Verizon will sell an Android-based phone from Motorola this year Seidenberg said, “It might be true what you said. I can’t quite disclose…”

And as for any plans to sell iPhone, the executive said that would be Apple’s decision.

Seidenberg was more comfortable talking about his dreams of global expansion and seemed to hint that the company would aim for an overseas acquisition in wireless.

“We want at some point a global retail play in wireless,” said the executive, whose wireless unit is 45 percent owned by U.K. based international service provider Vodafone. Verizon has long said that it would like to buy out Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Wireless, a move that Soleil analyst Michael Nelson said would likely be its first acquisition priority.

IPhone fans turn out early

It may not have been quite the crush of last year’s iPhone release or the first launch in 2007, but the new iPhone 3GS still saw its fair share of hardy, early arrivers and Apple enthusiasts on Friday.

The lines at the Apple store in downtown San Francisco saw a mix of men and women, young and old, some first-time buyers and plenty of upgraders.

It was the third launch day for Daniel Agonafer, who has bought a total of six iPhones, distributing some of them to various relatives. An admitted iPhone addict, Agonafer was in line at least 30 minutes ahead of the store’s 7 a.m. opening. He said he waited five hours on launch day last summer to get his hands on the the 3G version. But on Friday, he was on his way, iPhone in hand, before 8 a.m.

iPhone 3GS sales kick off

Hollywood has its blockbuster openings, and Baseball has Opening day: the gadget world has cellphone debut days — in particular iPhone launch days.

While the latest iPhone 3GS has not drawn the crowds that flocked to previous Apple phone debuts, a handful of shoppers were lining up a couple of AT&T stores in New York before dawn today.

AT&T employees at this store near Grand Central said that pre-orders would be satisfied at 7 A.M. and those walking in off of the street would get theirs at 8 A.M. if supplies last.

Braving stormy weather for iPhone: well, sorta

Braving a downpour at Apple’s New York flagship store in midtown, three college students were already lined up waiting to be first to nab the new iPhone 3GS when it goes on sale on Friday.******Oddly enough, none of the trio planned to buy an IPhone: two already had the iPhone 3G, and the other was saving up for a Palm Pre. Hunkered under broad umbrellas graciously supplied by Apple, they were holding a place for another buddy, Sidney Sanmartine — who was still at work. He owned the original iPhone from 2007, and is eligible for the lower priced upgrade.******”It’s more evolutionary than revolutionary,” said Matt Dodd, 18. “But for the kid who’s getting it, it’s a big deal — he’s going from 2G to 3G.”******Perhaps by 7 a.m. Friday, the line will look as long (and dry) as it did about a year ago when the iPhone 3G debuted. Until then, Keith Hobin, the lone rain-soaked student/shopper left when his two buddies took a break, seems pretty upbeat. (Only 15 hours to go…)******

Sirius unveils iPhone App: reviews not so good (updated)

Sirius XM Radio has launched its long-awaited App for the iPhone to mixed reviews. That’s not surprising, really, since the legion of Sirius subscribers has never been sheepish about the pay radio service.

Many users like it, so they can get unique programming in a slick iPhone App. Now they can take Martha Stewart Radio, Road Dog Trucking and the Praise Channel with them anywhere. But you can’t listen to exclusive stuff like Howard Stern’s programming, or Major League Baseball games or the Nascar channel. Ouch.

It’s true that only a handful of channels are excluded (for rights reasons) versus the 120 channels one can listen to. But many Sirius XM subscribers are drawn to the service primarily for Stern, Baseball and the NFL, and they are not pleased. Of 421 user reviews on the iTunes App Store, 261 rate it 1 (out-of-5) stars, and its average is 2 stars. By contrast, online radio app Pandora scores an average 3.5 stars (from a much larger survey sample).

Google’s YouTube money hole not as deep as feared

How much money is Google losing from YouTube?

Not as much as you think, according to a new report by an IT research and consulting firm.

The cost of streaming billions of videos a month, and Google’s difficulties monetizing those videos, has put YouTube on track to lose almost a half billion dollars this year, according to a famous report by Credit Suisse released in April.

But that report failed to take into account key aspects of the Internet infrastructure business that significantly lower YouTube’s costs, says RampRate, a San Francisco firm that consults companies on IT outsourcing practices.

Take the BlackBerry Tour

I’ve been pretty excited about the new BlackBerry Curve 8900 that my office handed me to replace a prehistoric 8800-series machine. Now there’s a new BlackBerry device, the Tour, which is making its debut this summer. So naturally, I rushed to check out the specs on the web to see what I missed.

Here’s what it’s got: 4.4 inches tall, 2.4 inches wide and 0.6 inch thick. There’s a 3.2 megapixel camera, enhanced media player with 256MB built-in memory, video playback and recording capability, and other consumer-friendly features. At under 5 ounces, it’s a little heavier than the Curve 8900, but it doesn’t look that much different.

But Research in Motion Co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie told Reuters this latest phone is a “big step forward.” They’re calling it a “world phone”, which means globetrotters can easily access voice and data services on networks outside their home country.

Dell and Palm – Who needs whom?

When Dell hired Motorola’s cell phone president Ron Garriques in 2007, the talk was that the PC giant was preparing to enter the smartphone market.

More than two years later, Dell is still without a handheld gadget.

Instead of trying to build its own smartphone, Dell should simply acquire Palm, said Collins Stewart analyst Ashok Kumar in a note to investors on Friday.

Kumar posits that a Dell acquisition of Palm would help both companies, giving Dell a hot new product in Palm’s recently-released Pre, while giving Palm the deep pockets necessary to hang with the big guys.

iSuppli Breaks down the Palm Pre

We know that Palm built the Pre phone, but who made its guts and brains? According to research firm iSuppli that distinction goes to Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Sony, and Samsung Electronics Co,  the leading component suppliers for the device.  iSuppli cracked up the phone to see what’s going on inside.

Among the highlights:

* The Pre uses an advanced Low-Temperature Polysilicon LCD display. The display, made by Sony (although Palm may get such displays from others too) is a 16-million color LCD.
* The touch screen controller chip is an integrated circuit from Cypress Semiconductor.
* Its applications processor portion centers on TI’s OMAP3430 applications processor
* Its wireless interface portion revolves around the Qualcomm MSM6801A baseband processor.
* Elpida was identified as the supplier of its SDRAM.
* Pre makes use of Samsung’s flash memory.

Andrew Rassweiler, director and principal analyst of iSuppli’s “teardown services” said Palm took a more expensive approach to build the Pre than other iPhone-like smartphones.

AT&T to customers: Have we got an iPhone deal for you!

Apple fans whooped it up yesterday when the company announced its first sub-$100 iPhone and a pair of faster, improved iPhone models.******But if you’re an existing AT&T customer and you’re looking to get your mitts on Apple’s newest gizmo, you might not be so excited by the fine print.******It turns out that the $99 iPhone is actually $499 for many existing AT&T customers. The new 16GB iPhone 3GS -0 the one that features video capture, faster throughput and a digital compass — which Apple unveiled for $199, will cost AT&T customers $599. And the new 32GB version is available to AT&T customers for the very special price of $699, which is significantly more expensive than the $299 price tag that anyone else can buy it for when they walk into an AT&T store for the first time.******The higher prices require renewing a 2-year contract with AT&T.******Update: AT&T said on Thursday that existing AT&T customers who renew their two-year contract can purchase the iPhones for $299 (for the 8GB model), $399 (16GB) and $499 (32GB), rather than the $499, $599 and $699 prices listed on Apple’s Web site. The higher prices are to purchase phones without any contract.******And the folks at AT&T also throw in an $18 activation fee. This activation fee applies to all AT&T customers who get a new device, whether it’s an iPhone or a more basic gadget. The problem is that the iPhone is such a high profile device that it brings everything from the carrier’s network quality to its contract fine print right into the forefront.******In fairness, it isn’t unusual for a carrier to hold off on selling its existing customers heavily subsidized phones until they’ve been a customer long enough to have repaid the debt. AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel explained:***

The key here is that the iPhone and our other devices are subsidized. The consumer is paying much less than the cost we will typically pay for devices.


As a way of offering those prices we ask them to enter a 2 year contract to cover the cost and give a return to our shareowners.

******Siegel noted that certain customers may still be eligible for the low iPhone prices, depending on how far along they’ve gotten in their existing contract and how promptly they’ve paid their bills. But he said there wasn’t a specific cut-off point in in the 2-year contract that guarantees the better prices — the terms are different for different customers.******So, if AT&T likes you, you’re in luck. Otherwise, you may have to shell out more duckets than your neighbor for Apple’s latest goodies.