Steve Jobs: I’m well thanks, but I have a weight problem

Apple investors and Apple fans heaved a collective sigh of relief on Monday morning after CEO and founder Steve Jobs finally made an attempt to end rumors that he’s on his deathbed.

Jobs sent a letter to his followers, who will be gathering at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco in his absence, explaining his recent weight-loss has been due to a hormonal imbalance.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority. Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

Jobs goes on to say the remedy is ”relatively simple and straightforward”  and that he’s already begun treatment.

Meanwhile, Apple fans at Macworld Expo will miss a Jobs appearance and the analysts over at Bernstein Research expect the show to be “relatively unexciting”. They expect the major highlights to include a demonstration of Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard”; new Mac desktops and a modest update to the AppleTV.

Apple, give us some new toys!

Despite strong sales of Apple’s iPod Touch and Macbook computers, bloggers are clamoring for Steve Jobs and his team to introduce a range of new devices, or significant upgrades to existing models, beyond the usual Mac rumor mill.

At Silicon Alley Insider,  they think it’s time for Jobs to consider a tablet Mac. SAI says the iPod Touch could be combined with the cheap, small ‘netbook’ laptops that are selling well for Dell and Asus.

It’s time for Steve Jobs to smash them together into a killer multi-touch tablet. We’re calling ours the iPod touch HD for now, and we’re hoping we can buy it before next Christmas.

iPhone comes to Wal-Mart with $2 discount

When rumors started flying around the blogs some weeks ago that Wal-Mart was going to get its margin-squeezing mittens on Apple’s iPhone, many predicted that the retailer might offer consumers a 4GB version priced at the bargain price of $99.

Alas, that’s not true.

Wal-Mart will start selling the black 8GB iPhone on Sunday for $197, just $2 cheaper than you can get it at your local AT&T or Apple store. The 16GB model, in black or white, will be priced at $297, also $2 less than at AT&T or Apple. These prices come with a two-year AT&T contract.

Though not as cheap as some as had hoped, having the iPhone in another 2,500 stores is nothing to be sniffed at.

iPhone App Store rings up 300 million downloads

For those Apple iPhone devotees out there, this may fall in the category of “duh,” but let’s just make it official: apps are popular. The company said Friday 300 million apps have been downloaded from its App Store, which only opened for business in July.

And it was Just a little while ago, on Oct. 21, that Apple reported 200 million app downloads, so iPhone users have been very busy since then.

App developers have also been busy, it seems. The App Store now offers many, many offerings – many useful, some just for yuks. The app count has pushed past the 10,000 mark, up from 5,500 in October and 500 in July.

iPods’ scarcity points to popularity, analyst says

With all the hand-wringing about consumer spending and the holiday shopping season, at least one technology device appears to be holding its own: Apple’s trusty iPod. In fact, the now ubiquitous music and media player is faring so well that Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu is beginning to see a shortage.

Wu said stocks of certain iPod models have been harder to come by at, Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart. He expects iPod sales to reach 21 million in the current quarter, down 5 percent from last year.

Wu says: “Frankly, we find these sell-outs on iPods surprising given how difficult the macroeconomic environment is, putting a crimp on consumer spending. From our assessment, we believe iPod is holding up better than most, due to its relatively low ASP (average selling price) and strong consumer understanding of the value it provides.”

New BlackBerry draws some lines, even some storms

The BlackBerry Storm was greeted with lines of hundreds of people when it went on sale Friday morning.

While it didn’t quite measure up to an iPhone launch day, where many people will have camped out for days, it created more of a stir than most phone launches.

Here are some scenes from a midtown Manhattan store to which police were called as would-be shoppers were annoyed they didn’t get a phone.

Latest BlackBerry: A Storm but not a killer

All eyes will be on Research In Motion on Friday when the BlackBerry Storm, the latest high-profile cell phone for the U.S. market, hits the streets. The CrackBerry maker’s much anticipated touch-screen offering is Verizon Wireless’ big bet for the holiday season this year.
But while Thursday’s reviews praised the device for its innovation and its advantages over iPhone, they by no means gave in to the hero-worship flattery that is bestowed on some devices.

In the words of Ed Baig of USA Today, “Verizon and Rim have not come up with a perfect Storm, but it does pack a wallop.”

    What he liked:
    -The battery “didn’t seem to poop out quite as fast as iPhone.”
    -It works as a tethered modem, has expandable memory, multimedia messaging, supports copy-and-paste and other features missing in the iPhone.
    -It has robust e-mail capability
    -It has backbutton and a video recorder unlike iPhone, and has a better camera

Et tu, Google?

Lots of eyes will be on Google, after its shares yesterday dropped below $300 for the first time since late 2005. What will today bring? In early trade, it was down 3 percent, adding to the 6.5 percent drop yesterday.

At the moment, it seems like every analyst is putting out a negative note on Google. Already today, another analyst today cut its price target and lowered its earnings estimates for the Web search company.

“Lack of consumer confidence has affected the online traffic growth. Traffic should be growing around this season as consumers begin to look for gift ideas,” Jefferies and Co said in a note to clients.

This phone is your phone, this phone is iPhone

That’s obviously what Woody Guthrie would have written had he been a more contemporary singer (Speaking of which, where’s our 2008 Woody Guthrie? Isn’t it depression time again?)

We thought of that headline after receiving this press release from comScore:

While 43 percent of iPhone owners earn in excess of $100,000 annually, the strongest growth in users is coming from those earning less than the median household income, particularly since the launch of the iPhone 3G. According to a new comScore report, “All about iPhone,” iPhone adoption since June 2008 rose 48 percent among those earning between $25,000 and $50,000 per year and by 46 percent among those earning between $25,000 and $75,000. These growth rates are three times that of those earning more than $100,000 per year. Overall, iPhone penetration grew 21 percent.

“As an additional household budget item, a $200 device plus at least $70 per month for phone service seems a bit extravagant for those with lower disposable income,” said Jen Wu, senior analyst, comScore, the report’s author. “However, one actually realizes cost savings when the device is used in lieu of multiple digital devices and services, transforming the iPhone from a luxury item to a practical communication and entertainment tool.”

iWhat? Now it’s all about the G1 Google phone

launchandroid.JPGIt was a more relaxed affair than the frenzied iPhone launches of last year and this year. In fact, the first customers who lined up to buy G1, the first Google-powered phone, were specifically looking forward to life outside of iPhone.

Justin Hay, 26, who supports trading systems at a bank, said he was lined up on this cold October morning to get his hands on the next new thing.

“Everyone has an iPhone now,” he said, politely declining a tray of pastries offered by a T-Mobile USA employee.