MediaFile

Apps take center stage at Apple event

As Apple events go, Tuesday’s iPhone 3.0 operating system preview at the company’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters lacked some of the panache of past Apple gatherings. Although the iPhone’s software update and new kit for application developers are undoubtedly important and closely-watched, they don’t quite stir the imagination in the same way as the launch of a new gadget or computer.

The event did provide a showcase for plenty of nifty new iPhone features, and the company trotted out a number of developers to demonstrate the remarkable applications being designed for the smartphone.

One of the highlights was a musical interlude by Ge Wang, an assistant professor at Stanford and the co-founder of Smule, which makes the Ocarina app for the iPhone. The hugely popular program allows users to “play” the iPhone like a musical instrument by blowing in the device’s microphone. Dr. Ge gave a brief demonstraton on stage to a healthy round of applause.

“It is fair to say that without the iPhone and the SDK [software development kit] there would literally be no Smule,” he said.

Apple held a brief Q&A after the main presentation. During the media session, the company was asked why it took so long to add cut-and-paste functionality to the iPhone, as the company is doing for version 3.0.  Scott Forstall, senior vice president for iPhone software, said it wasn’t as easy as it looks.

Windows to iPhone: been there, done that

Yes, yes everybody’s still talking about iPhone, but during Apple’s presentation of some new phone software today, Microsoft happened to call and couldn’t help mentioning that they’ve sold more phones with Windows Mobile, which has long had some of the stuff iPhone users are foaming at the mouth to get their hands on.

Despite the hype about the iPhone, Greg Sullivan, a senior product manager for Windows Mobile noted that Windows-based phones outsold iPhones in 2008, but he said…”If you talked to 10 people on the street I’m not sure how many people would guess that.”

However, not to sound like that unfortunate PC guy taunted by the Apple guy on the TV ads, Sullivan was quick to point out that while copy and paste, universal search and other features are new to iPhone, Microsoft has had them for some time.

U2 world tour, brought to you by RIM

The megawatt Irish rock band U2, which has had a relationship with Apple going back several years, surprised a few people on Monday when it announced the sponsor for its upcoming 360 Tour: Research in Motion.

Of course, Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry are fierce rivals in the emerging smartphone market. But U2 has a history with Apple, appearing in iPod commercials and performing at a blockbuster Apple event back in 2004. There was even a special-edition U2 iPod.

U2 manager Paul McGuinness had this to say about the band’s new relationship with RIM:

Can’t get enough of that (Kindle) reading thing

Just as we’re getting over the buzz and acclaim for the new Kindle e-reader, Amazon comes right back at us. This time, it is selling    e-books for the iPhone and iPod — that’s right — through a Kindle application that can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store.

Here’s how the Wall Street Journal describes it: “Amazon’s software application, which can be downloaded free of charge, allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to read books or periodicals purchased on the Web or through their dedicated Kindle device, usually for $9.99. Using a service that Amazon calls whispersync, the program keeps track of a readers’ latest page in any given book across both a Kindle and iPhone.”

Amazon has competition, of course, from Google as well as other e-book sellers. Still, give credit to Amazon for creating big hype for its Kindle (which is still a relatively small market, regardless of all the press it gets).

from Shop Talk:

Blogosphere not kindled on Kindle 2 launch

AMAZON-KINDLE/Resembling a larger, whiter, thinner, but not-as-sexy iPhone, the Kindle 2 got its high-profile launch on Monday by Amazon, the Seattle-based online retailer.
 
Analysts, media and gadget hounds filled New York's Morgan Library to hear Chief Executive Jeff Bezos touting the slimmer, faster new version of the e-reader that at $359 is still hardly a steal.
    
The press conference even featured an appearance from horror author Stephen King, whose novella "Ur" -- about a college instructor who orders a Kindle (no joke) to frightening consequences -- is only available on the Kindle.
    
But despite the advance hoopla -- read Reuters' preview of the Kindle launch here -- the blogosphere was surprisingly low-key about Monday's unveiling -- perhaps given leaked photos of the supposed device that could be seen on the Internet beginning last fall.
    
"Wow, even Amazon is jumping on the iPhone-killer bandwagon," said one blog, http://www.boygeniusreport.com, adding that the new Kindle is 25 percent thinner than the iPhone. Gizmodo, calling its new design a success, wrote: "It looks like Amazon got a few clues from Apple and Braun's design guidelines." The www.Techcrunch.com blog summed it up even more succinctly: "It's much less ugly."
    
Bloggers praised its thinness, more storage, better battery life, better display and faster page turning, but some still griped at its price tag and design, with one blogger saying the new Kindle is "still not pretty." 

"If I'm going to spend $370, why wouldn't I buy an iPod Touch or a Netbook and get way more functionality," asked one posting. Another referenced the ubiquitous debate in cyberspace over open devices: "Where is the universal open device that consumers really want? Limited consumers just so you can direct all sales through Amazon will not play out in the long run."
 
For an interesting read on how Amazon is currently cornering an underserved market niche, but how competition from tablet PCs could be an issue in the future, read here.    
    
Few bloggers commented on the new "read-to-me" feature, which allows users to hear their content read by either a female or male voice -- although one blog said it "should be fun." That may steal away some sales of books on tape, but Kindle said the feature was still experimental.
    
Amazon won't disclose how many advance orders for the Kindle 2 it expects -- nor how many of the first version it sold. And still a mystery is whether or not the Kindle is cannibalizing sales from the company, whose highest margin business is physical book sales, according to Bernstein Research's Jeffrey Lindsay.
 
Bezos said last month for every physical book an Amazon customer with a Kindle buys, he or she buys 1.6 to 1.7 Kindle books.

(Photo of Bezos/Reuters)

dellPhone a rumor at best – Michael Dell

The Web may be buzzing with stories about whether computer maker Dell should or shouldn’t get into the cell phone market, but the company itself  has tried to stay out of the public discussion. 
Michael Dell said on Friday that reports of Dell’s cell phone ambitions were “best described as a rumor” when chased by reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

The analysts had this to say about the computer maker doing battle with rivals such as Apple in the cut throad phone market as well as in computers. 

 Some were encouraging:

“This strategy makes a lot of sense. Smartphones are a big opportunity and in a way they’re canibalizing notebook and netbook sales to a degree,” said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu. “It’s probably minor today but could become bigger over time as smartphones get more powerful. It’s better to go embrace the threat than doing nothing.”

Walking around with the Financial Times

Having a copy of the Financial Times poking out of your valise is one way of telling the world that you are a sophisticated business type. Another way is to show people the new FT mobile service on your BlackBerry.

Here’s the news from the press release:

The Financial Times today announces the launch of a new FT.com website optimised for mobile devices available at m.ft.com. The site is consistent with the new FT.com design unveiled in November 2008 and follows the news that FT.com has broken the one million registered user barrier for the first time.

The idea is to loop a younger generation into the FT, particularly young people who think that any newspaper showing up on any part of their person is like driving a chariot to work in the morning rush hour.

Apple, Jobs and health: A Reuters roundup

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs told the world Wednesday that he discovered that his health issues are more complex than he had previously thought, so he’s taking a medical leave of absence. Jobs, who earlier this month said his recent weight loss was caused by a hormonal imbalance that was relatively easy to treat, plans to be off until the end of June. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will mind the shop in the interim. Once Apple shares resumed trading after-hours, investors knocked off about 10 percent of their value.

Here’s a quick roundup of what we found online about these latest developments (And of course, here’s the Reuters story before we get to the other ones):

Silicon Alley Insider:

Tim Cook should do fine as Apple’s interim day-to-day leader. He took control of the company last time Steve went on a leave of absence to treat his pancreatic cancer. Steve says he plans to “remain involved in major strategic decisions” while he is out.

CES: Video – Palm’s Pre in action

Palm surprised many and racked up cool points with the introduction of its new mobile phone, the Pre, here at CES. How much Pre will cost at retail, whether Palm can deliver it on time, will Apple eat Palm’s lunch with the next iPhone — all those hugely important questions remain unanswered for now.

So with that in mind, we strolled into Palm’s swanky mood-lit lounge at CES, and recorded bits of the demonstrations of the Pre.

Here’s how the phone takes pictures, with its 3 megapixel camera:

Check out the curved view of the Pre, and the peek-a-boo mirror that pops up: Yes, a viewer at my demo said “The Ladies love that.” O-K…..

Obama greenlights analog TV for another season

After all the excitement, endless public service announcement ads and electronics retailers salivating over anticipated high-definition TV sales, it turns out that the United States might not be switching to digital television just yet.

President-elect Barack Obama is backing a move to delay a mandatory switch to digital TV signals on Feb. 17 because viewers might not be prepared. Also, the government has run out of $40 coupons to help pay for converter boxes.

The idea that as many as 8 million homes (according to Nielsen data) might lose TV reception in a few weeks is not the kind of headache a new White House administration wants to deal with so it’s perhaps not surprising talk of a delay, possibly up to four months, is gathering support.