MediaFile

RIM tops iPhone with consumers in Q1

In a rivalry that should only grow more heated in the months to come, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Curve moved past Apple’s iPhone in the first quarter to become the best-selling consumer smartphone in the U.S., research group NPD said on Monday.

RIM had three of the top five best-selling consumer smartphones in the period, with the Storm at No. 3 and the Pearl at No. 4, NPD said. T-Mobile’s G1 ranked No. 5.

NPD credited a “buy-one-get-one” promotion by Verizon Wireless for the Curve’s push past the iPhone.

“The more familiar, and less expensive, Curve benefited from these giveaways and was able to leapfrog the iPhone, due to its broader availability on the four major U.S. national carriers,” NPD’s Ross Rubin said in the release.

RIM’s consumer smartphone market share climbed 15 percent from the previous period to nearly 50 percent in the first quarter, as Apple’s and Palm’s share both fell 10 percent. But don’t be surprised if those numbers change soon. Apple is widely expected to unveil a new iPhone in the coming months, while Palm’s highly-anticipated Pre smartphone is set to launch some time in the second quarter.

Apple App Store hits the big 1,000,000,000

One billion makes for a catchy and memorable milestone. The world’s population passed the 1 billion mark in 1804. McDonald’s sold its 1 billionth hamburger in 1963. The 1billionth PC shipped in 2002.

Apple’s App Store hit that mark today, in just nine months, with much fanfare.

Granted, downloading a small program to your iPhone or iPod Touch is an entirely different sort of commerce than selling a burger or a PC, but Apple’s app universe has managed to acquire a remarkable amount of cultural currency in a short amount of time.  As evidence, look at the controversy over the “Baby Shaker” app, which Apple quickly removed and apologized for on Thursday (the company’s statement said in part “this application was deeply offensive and should not have been approved for distribution on the App Store”).

Apple and the netbook question

Given the phenomenal success of netbooks — small, cheap, lower-performance PCs — everybody wants to know what plans Apple, the only major PC player that doesn’t have a netbook offering, might have for the space. Netbooks are one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak PC landscape.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs openly dismissed netbooks.  And when the company was asked again asked about them on the conference call following its quarterly results Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook sounded similarly unimpressed. Current netbooks, he said, suffer from “cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware.”

“Not something that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly. And so, it is not a space as it exists today, that we’re interested in. Nor do we believe that customers in the long-term would be interested in. It is a segment we would choose not to play in.”

Apple raises ruckus with baby-shaking app

It used to be that Apple could do little wrong, if the unrelenting mania among the masses for the iPod and iPhone is any indication. Now, the company may have made an unusual and embarassing mis-step in selling a 99-cent “Baby Shaker” application for the iPhone.

Designed by Sikalosoft, the program encourages users to silence an incessantly crying baby by shaking their iPhone until the infant desists, and two red crosses replace the baby’s eyes.

On Wednesday, the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, whose mission is to spread awareness of infant brain injury incurred through abuse or disease, condemned Apple for hosting the application.

Las Vegas telecoms show fizzles out

The CTIA’s annual U.S. wireless technology showcase in Las Vegas was quieter than usual this year as vendors sent fewer employees and rented less floor space for their booths in an effort to crimp spending due to the recession.

Aside from a lot of talk about cellphone applications and a software store launch from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, the show offered few surprises.

A handful of operators and vendors, however, offered insights into their technology strategies — even if they were less than keen to indicate how their businesses were faring exactly. Some even launched new gadgets.
    
AT&T, the exclusive operator for the iPhone, used the show as an opportunity to talk up application sales for its less fancy phones, which have brought it $1 billion in revenue in the last few years. In comparison, it does not get a revenue share for iPhone apps, which kicked of the craze for application stores when they launched last year.

Palm Pre at CTIA: Look, don’t touch

At a show where reporters have cellphones and other devices thrust into their hands around every corner, Palm took a novel approach: treat its hot, unreleased handset like Forbidden Fruit.

Palm showed off its upcoming Pre smartphone at the CTIA annual wireless showcase in Las Vegas. The company was still very, very coy about its launch date for the device except to say that it will appear on Sprint’s shelves before July 1.

It was also very careful about letting reporters play with the device to the extent that the product demonstrator, Tina, would not let it fully out of her hands. Reporters were allowed to play with the keyboard — as long as the demonstrator was able to keep her hands on the phone. One reporter asked if she could feel the weight of the phone in her hand, but TIna again kept her hands on part of the phone.

Apple’s App Store seen growing at rapid clip

Apple’s App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch is growing at a pace of 38 percent a month, with 200 new applications being added everyday, according to new data by analytics company Mobclix.

Mobclix expects the App Store to be a $1 billion marketplace over the next 2 years, and Mobclix co-founder Krishna Subramanian said that estimate is conservative.

By the group’s latest tally, there are 31,000 applications in the store — above Apple’s official count of 25,000 — with the largest category being games, more than 7,000 of them. Some more interesting stats:

Apple schedules June conference

With the Apple’s developers conference now formally on the schedule for June 8-12, that leaves more than two full months for the rumor mill to really crank up.

With updates of Mac laptops, desktops and iPod shuffles already on the books, whispers, speculation and conjecture abound about what — if anything — the company has in store for the gathering, to be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

A new iPhone is a distinct possibility, analysts say. Apple released the 3G version at the event last year.

Twitter invites all shades of green

Twitter is now free for all, but it may not be for much longer. According to co-founder Biz Stone, the micro-blogging site plans to offer commercial accounts for businesses to pay a fee to receive an enhanced version of Twitter starting some time this year.

The move is part of Twitter’s accelerated plan to start seeking revenue in 2009, despite the economic downturn and cutbacks in advertising spending online. The company recently closed a round of venture capital financing pegged at $35 million by media reports, following two earlier funding rounds totaling $20 million. The recent round valued Twitter at $255 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Stone says:

We think there will be opportunities to provide services to commercial entities that help them get even more value out of Twitter. If these services are valuable to companies, we think they may want to pay for them.

iPhone Apps mean money for game publisher ngmoco

Given the popularity of downloadable apps for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, many folks — namely some prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists — are confident there’s plenty of money to be made from app developers as well.******Ngmoco, which makes games exclusively for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, said Monday it has closed $10 million in Series B financing led by Norwest Venture Partners. The company’s previous investors –- Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Maples Investments — also participated in the funding. Ngmoco received $5.6 million in its first round of financing.******Ngmoco — which stands for “next generation mobile company” — was born last year along with Apple’s App Store, and the company’s profile has risen in tandem with the store’s popularity. Users have downloaded more than 800 million apps in total and the store now features more than 25,000 offerings.******Ngmoco’s games have been installed more than 7 million times. The company currently has seven titles –- its most popular is the $9.95 “Rolando Orlando” -– and 12 in development.******Neil Young, ngmoco’s chief executive and one of its co-founders, said in an interview that he was surprised by the “voracious” appetite for games on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Although he wouldn’t rule out making games for other platforms, he said the devices provide a unique opportunity for game makers.***

It’s just a blend of amazing capability with this awesome usability. And its clearly those two things that are enabling this new type of usage patterns both in terms of how people are consuming games and how much they’re consuming. And also the ease at which they’re able to get them. Until there are any other platforms that come close to that I think we’ll certainly remain focused on these devices.

******Young, who left game publishing giant Electronics Arts to launch ngmoco, declined to disclose a revenue figure for the company, which has 26 employees.******The App Store is estimated to offer some 6,000 games. Many see the iPhone and iPod Touch as legitimate competitors to Nintendo’s DS and Sony’s PSP handheld gaming consoles, and that battle should play out over the coming months and years. IPhone games are expected to be much on display at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.******Keep an eye on:***

    *** EBay’s Skype plans to announce on Monday a version of its Internet calling software for small and medium-sized businesses (WSJ)

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    *** Former Yahoo Chief Operating Officer Dan Rosensweig will take over Activision Blizzard’s Guitar Hero franchise (All Things Digital)

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