MediaFile

Apple, Google and the price of world domination

In his first appearance at the World Wide Developer’s Conference as spiritual leader of the Apple faithful, CEO Tim Cook made it clear that he intends to not just further Steve Job’s vision but expand upon it. It’s never been more clear that Apple is intent on world domination.

Conspiracy theory? No. Try inescapable conclusion.

What else are we to make of Apple removing Google Maps from the iPhone? Google Maps was a core feature on the very first iPhone, but it will disappear in an iOS software update announced Monday at Apple’s developer conference.

Apple’s tension with Google is legendary. They began as friendly neighbors in largely complementary businesses – former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was even on Apple’s board. But after the introduction of the Android, Steve Jobs’s anger at Google’s entry into the mobile phone business was palpable.

Now Apple is kicking Google out, creating its own “Earth”-like maps and Android-like turn-by-turn navigation. If executed properly, Siri voice command in the iOS 6 update will work like OnStar. You’ll have the ability to be interactive and spontaneous while navigating, asking where the nearest Starbucks is. This is leaps and bounds beyond verbal turn-by-turn instructions and so disruptive to stand-alone in-dash GPS units that some are predicting that it’s game over, smartphones win again – and Apple is setting the pace.

This is how it begins. Making an ally into a competitor; incorporating great ideas from small players and leaving the small guys out of luck (lock-screen message centers, home-screen backgrounds, personal hotspots – these are all borrowed from the underground developer community). These are the signs of an emerging bully regime. Leveraging the advantage of an unlevel playing field is pretty much the big criticism of the Microsoft of yesteryear.

Top Patch editor’s “bittersweet” exit

In case you haven’t had your fill of AOL news this week: Patch editor-in-chief Brian Farnham surprised employees today by declaring he will be out the door May 4.

The once-mighty Internet corporation stunned Silicon Valley just days ago by announcing it was unloading the majority of its patents to Microsoft for more than $1 billion. Now, Farnham’s imminent departure raised questions about the future of a once highly touted hyper-local news and community site that reportedly lost $160 million in 2011 alone.

AOL’s media business now also spans TechCrunch, Engadget, and the Huffington Post — all under the auspices of Arianna Huffington.

Tech wrap: Apple teases “Mountain Lion”

Apple released details on the successor to its “Lion” operating system for Mac computers, due out late this summer. OS X 10.8, dubbed “Mountain Lion,” will inherit features already running on iPhones and iPads such as iMessage, Notification Center and AirPlay mirroring, according to an Apple press release. Game Center will give Mac users the opportunity to square off against gamers on iOS devices as well as other Mac users. A new feature called “Gatekeeper” is meant to give OS X users more control over what apps can be downloaded onto their Macs, further distinguishing Apple-approved apps from third-party ones. The plan to introduce more iOS functions to Apple’s desktop and laptop OS comes as Microsoft prepares to make its desktop applications more mobile with a rumored fall release of Windows 8.

Four months after one of Japan’s biggest corporate scandals, police and prosecutors arrested seven men, including the former president of Olympus and ex-bankers, over their role in a $1.7 billion accounting fraud at the medical equipment and camera maker. Three former executives arrested, ex-President Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori and former auditor Hideo Yamada, had been identified by an investigative panel, commissioned by Olympus, as the main culprits in the fraud, seeking to delay the reckoning from risky investments made in the late-1980′s bubble economy.

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason said that the company’s location-based service Groupon NOW will likely not be a material contributor to results in the next one or two quarters. Mason said customers of the company’s daily deals are using Groupon NOW too. However, he stressed that the new service will likely take time to grow. Groupon NOW is a relatively new service that differs from Groupon’s main daily deal business. Groupon subscribers can check on nearby deals that are happening in the next one or two hours, based on their location.

Microsoft’s msnNOW targets hot news, gossip

Microsoft’s MSN portal, like Yahoo’s, is finding it tough to compete with Facebook and Twitter as people’s first port of call on the Internet.

The software giant is looking to grab back some buzz and appeal to younger users with a new service that delivers a snapshot at any minute of the day on news stories, people and topics that are most popular on the web.

The product, branded ‘msnNOW’, launches on Thursday at now.msn.com, and will be integrated into items on Microsft’s main MSN site.

Tech wrap: Kodak files for bankruptcy protection

Eastman Kodak, the photography icon that invented the hand-held camera, filed for bankruptcy protection and planned to shrink significantly after a prolonged plunge for one of America’s best-known companies. The Chapter 11 filing may give Kodak the ability to find buyers for some of its 1,100 digital patents, a major portion of its value. According to papers filed with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan, Kodak had about $5.1 billion of assets and $6.75 billion of liabilities at the end of September. Kodak now employs 17,000 people, down from 63,900 just nine years ago.

Kodak’s long decline can be traced back to one source: the former king of photography’s failure to reinvent itself in the digital age, writes Ernest Scheyder. Kodak’s film dominated the industry but the company failed to adopt modern technologies quickly enough, such as the digital camera — ironically, a product it invented. ”Kodak was very Rochester-centric and never really developed a presence in centers of the world that were developing new technologies,” said Rosabeth Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School. “It’s like they’re living in a museum.”

Apple unveiled a new digital textbook service called iBooks 2, aiming to revitalize the U.S. education market and quicken the adoption of its market-leading iPad in that sector. The move pits Apple against Amazon.com and other content and device makers that have made inroads into the estimated $8 billion market with their electronic textbook offerings. Apple has been working on digital textbooks with publishers Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a trio responsible for 90 percent of textbooks sold in the United States.

Shadowing a fund manager at CES

More than 140,000 people descended (or will descend) on Las Vegas this week to kick the tires on a new wave of consumer electronics gadgets. Of those, a relatively small contingent (estimared? 3,500) are portfolio managers and other financial professionals earnestly seeking to place informed bets on the Next Big Thing.

We tagged along as Hampton Adams, head of research and a portfolio manager at Pasadena, California-based Gamble Jones Investment Counsel, hiked around a CES showfloor spanning 30 football fields in a pair of comfortable loafers, taking a first-hand peek at the technology industry’s latest offerings.

Inevitably, Apple always features high on Adams’ agenda even though the consumer electronics trendsetter isn’t even officially there. He wants to see what might be gleaned about Apple from its competitors.

Tech wrap: Microsoft presses pause on Web TV

Microsoft has put its talks with media companies about an online subscription service for TV shows and movies on hold, according to people familiar with the discussions. The company had been in intense talks with potential programming partners for over a year and was hoping to roll out the service in the next few months. But it pulled back after deciding that the licensing costs were too high for the business model Microsoft envisaged, the sources said.  Microsoft is still working to distribute TV shows over the Web, focusing on delivering programming via its Xbox gaming system to existing cable subscribers.

Dell intends to launch its first consumer tablet computer in late 2012, marking its entry into a hotly contested arena that has already claimed arch-foe HP. The Texas company had dipped its toe in the waters with an enterprise-focused, “Streak” tablet. Chief commercial officer Steve Felice was coy about which operating system Dell might adopt — Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 or Google’s Android — saying both were viable options. But Felice did say he liked the feel of Microsoft’s touch-enabled OS, which would be well-timed when it emerges later this year.

According to an Ipsos/Reuters poll, more than 10 percent of parents around the world say their child has been cyberbullied and nearly one-fourth know a youngster who has been a victim. The online poll of more than 18,000 adults in 24 countries, 6,500 of whom were parents, showed the most widely reported vehicle for cyberbullying was social networking sites likes Facebook, which were cited by 60 percent. Mobile devices and online chat rooms were a distant second and third.

Nokia’s Weber devises U.S. plan of attack

If Nokia’s big challenge this year is getting back in with US consumers and operators, it should be a busy 2012 for Chris Weber.

Weber –  who heads the Finnish company’s business here – took a moment with us at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to lay out some of his plans a day after AT&T announced it would sell Nokia’s Lumia 900, and a day before the Lumia 710 goes on sale at T-Mobile USA.

Weber told Reuters that he has to first find a way to convince enough consumers to at least try out Nokia’s Windows Phone-based devices, to at least give them a chance.

Tech wrap: Huawei takes slimmest smartphone crown

Huawei, China’s largest maker of telecommunications gear, unveiled the “Ascend” smartphone, touting it as the slimmest on the market as it moves to boost its share on the global consumer market. Huawei unveiled the Ascend smartphones – available in black, white and pink – at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The 6.68-mm thin phone will be available in April 2012 in markets from North America, Europe to Asia and will cost roughly $400, but the final price has not been set, the company said.

AT&T announced plans to launch seven new smartphones and a tablet computer early this year for a new wireless network it is building. The product line-up will include a phone with a 16 megapixel camera from HTC using Microsoft software along with Microsoft-based smartphone from Nokia. AT&T said it will also sell three new high-speed smartphones from Samsung as well as a high-speed phone from Sony and Pantech. In an unusual pricing move, AT&T also announced that it would sell Pantech Element, a waterproof tablet based on Google Android software with a smartphone, the Pantech Burst, for a combined price of $249.

Olympus sued its current president and three ex-directors for several million dollars in compensation, sources told Reuters, as the company seeks to draw a line under one of the nation’s worst accounting scandals. The company filed suit against its president, Shuichi Takayama, with the Tokyo district court on Sunday, along with three former executives identified by investigators as having engineered or helped cover up a $1.7 billion fraud at the firm, the sources said.

Tech wrap: PayPal darling takes Yahoo reigns

Yahoo named PayPal President Scott Thompson CEO as the company plows ahead with a strategic review in which discussions have included the possibility of being sold, taken private or broken up. Thompson, a former Visa payments software platform designer, joins the company five months after the firing of previous CEO Carol Bartz.

Thompson has been credited with driving growth at eBay’s online payments division. After the Yahoo appointment, some questioned if he could replicate his success as CEO of Yahoo. ”The risk element is that his background was in payments. And this is not a payment company, it’s a marketing, technology company,” said Lawrence Haverty, a fund manager with GAMCO investors, which owns Yahoo shares.

Eastman Kodak is working on a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing that could be filed as soon as this month if it cannot sell its digital patents, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. The newspaper said Kodak is in talks with lenders to secure about $1 billion in debtor-in possession financing to sustain it through any bankruptcy proceedings.