Archive for apple
As per news coming from Taiwan, trial production of the 5th gen iPad is set to kick off soon with volume production expected to begin in July. Initial plans call for the shipment to stabilize at around 2-3 million by September.
As for the iPad 5′s specifications, Digitimes has some interesting bits to share. For instance, the site is claiming the new iPad will come with the same display resolution of 2048 x 1536, though the differences lie elsewhere. This being that the glass substrate to be used in iPad 5 will be thinner by 0.2mm from the 0.25mm thickness as is seen in the iPad 4. The touch panel to be used in the iPad 5 will be based on GF2 tech, which employs 1 layer of glass and two layers of ITO film, whereas the same in case of iPad 4 was based on G/G bonding technique.
The sources further claim iPad 5 will be using “one LED light bar for backlighting” whereas the iPad 4 used two LED light bars. The report also confirms what has always been rumored, that the next gen iPad will be lighter and sporting thinner bezels.
The two South Korean companies, LG Display and Samsung Display, alongside Sharp are among those believed to have been contracted to supply the iPad 5 display.
The USA Justice Department was looking into allegations that Apple colluded with major publishers to establish agency pricing. This created an environment where the publishers dictated the pricing for digital books and created an outcry in Europe and the USA against price fixing. All of the publishers have settled their cases by abandoning the agency model for two years and allocating funds for refunds and discounts. Court documents made available today have Apple firing back at the Justice Department.
A court document filed April 26th and was made public today. It gives us an indication on Apple’s intentions. At the time, Apple said that the major publishers were locked in a battle with online retailer Amazon over selling books for too cheap. Apple has claimed that the publishers developed the agency model independently and were partly influenced by the 30% royalty that Apple demands from all digital content sales.
The essence of the 81 page document Apple submitted to the courts had the company exchanging proposals and counter-proposals with each other to get ebooks in the iBooks store with the launch of the original iPad. The trick was to offer ebooks where Amazon did not, and severely undercut them in price. Convincing publishers to offer ebooks with Apple for the same price as Amazon was not a very popular idea. In order for the publishers to not lose money selling through Apple, they had to establish unified pricing to even the playing field.
Who colluded with who? Did Apple parlay the deal directly with publishers? Did the publishers act in concert with each other to form a cartel? Did Apple mandate the price fixing measures? These are the main questions that Apple has to answer for the Justice Department, and it is likely this case will drag on for another year or two.
Tablet shipment figures for the first quarter of 2013 are already here and they present an interesting scenario. For instance, according to a Digitimes report, tablet shipment reached 31.93 million for the first three months of this year, which represents a decline of 26.1 percent on quarter but increased by 66.1 percent on year. However, IDC is reporting an even more optimistic shipment figure of 49.2 million for the quarter.
However, both Digitimes and IDC seem to be unanimous regarding the iPad, reporting shipments of 19.5 million of the Apple tablet during the period. However, while the iPad continues to be at the top of the heap, the trend seems to be on the slide. Apple still has 39.6 percent of the tablet market to itself, though it used to be 43.6 and 58.2 in the last two preceding quarters. Analysts claim it’s quite normal, as Apple generally records a weaker first quarter after strong sales during the holiday season. Apple has recorded a year over year growth of a healthy 65 percent.
Samsung and Asus make up the second and third slot with sales of 8.8 and 2.7 million respectively. The individual figures might not be too inspiring, but both companies have reported 288.7 and 267.6 percent increases in sales respectively compared to the same period a year ago. Microsoft, according to IDC, managed to make it among the top five tablet makers with shipment of 900,000 of its Surface devices.
However, there are some contradictions that come to the fore that pertain to the operating system that dominates the tablet segments. While Digitimes is claiming the Apple iOS accounts for a dominating 61 percent of the total tablets shipped in Q1, IDC is pegging the figure at lower than 40 percent for iOS, with the Google Android making up 56.5 percent of all the tablets shipped. According to Digitimes, Android and Windows make up 31 and 8 percent of the total tablet shipment.
Another interesting finding of the Digitimes research is that the smaller tablets measuring 7 inches or so that are in greater demand, accounting for 56 percent of the tablets shipped in Q1. Tablets measuring 9 and 10 inches make up 22 and 20 percent of the shipments.
The Apple App Store is about to reach an important milestone: the 50 billionth app download. To celebrate the landmark, Apple has announced a $10,000 worth of gift cards to whomever downloads the 50 billionth app. The download figure now stands at 49.2 billion and counting, which means there are about 800 million downloads to go before the benchmark is reached. The last time Apple has doled out such a prize money was when the 25 billion apps download figure was reached. The amount offered then was also $10,000, which went to Chunli Fu from China. Interestingly, that happened in just last March, which means the next 25 billion apps are being downloaded in just over a year’s time. The next 800 million downloads could take place in another 15-20 days. Apple has also stated those who download the next 50 apps will be rewarded with a gift card worth $500.
The tablet segment that generates the most noise, apart from the iPad range, is those that make up the $199 – $250 price bracket. Apple is the latest that has woken up to this fact, with rumors saying that the Connecticut company might even have a stripped down iPad Mini for this price bracket. Of course, these are mere speculations at this moment, though it does make a lot of sense for Apple to have a competitor for low cost tablets. Such a scheme will ensure Apple has a presence in the entire tablet price spectrum starting from $199 to all the way up to $929 for the 128 GB 4G enabled iPad, which happens to be the costliest iPad on offer right now.
As for the purported budget iPad Mini, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI Securities believe will include quite a few changes to make it cost effective enough to be fielded in the lower price range.
“To cut costs, Apple might push for lower component prices, use a more advanced process to produce the A5 processor, simplify metal casing production, remove the rear camera, cut storage to 8GB and find more component suppliers to lower costs. We think this cheaper iPad mini retail for US$199~249,” revealed Kuo.
Apple is believed to be into developing a retina display equipped iPad Mini 2, though the launch of such a device might have been pushed back to the fourth quarter. A budget iPad Mini 2 might be a reality before that. Also, such a development perhaps marks a change in the Apple mindset that so far has been relying on a premium tag for all its products. A lower priced iPhone is also rumored to be in development. No doubt an iPad Mini priced as low as just $199 could prove to be too much for many of the Android tablets that have been relying on a low initial cost to entice consumers. It will be interesting to note the majority of Android tablets had settled down at the lower price bracket after failing to make a mark as an iPad competitor earlier during the evolution of the tablet segment. It will be cruel if Apple now chases them down in their own turf. The iPad Mini range now starts at $329 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi only version.
Gadget sales only make a company money once, and that’s if the devices aren’t sold at cost, but the app stores account for a sustained source of steady income. That is how things stand for the biggies in the business, with Apple raking in $1.48 billion from sales via its App Store during the first quarter of the year. That accounts for a dominating 74 percent of the $2.2 billion dollar revenue that app store sales have generated during the first three months of the year. Google Play store came in at second with 48 percent of the revenue.
However, while the above figure might seem to be overwhelmingly in favor of Apple, things look impressive for Google from a different perspective. For instance, Google’s income from its Play Store grew at 90 percent compared to what it was just a quarter ago. A separate report by the analytics firm, App Annie, pegged Google’s revenue from Google Play to be 38.5 percent that of Apple. However, Google still has a lot of time, as analysts project it will be 2016 before the search giant can surpass Apple in terms of revenue from app store sales.
“Although Google is catching up, Apple has such a head-start in revenues that, on present trends, we would not expect Google to overtake Apple until sometime in 2016,” said Adam Daum, chief analyst at Canalys to Reuters.
This proves the steady growth of Android brought about by the rising sales of Android based tablets and smartphones. However, in revenue terms, Apple still leads. Apple’s success is attributed to its payment system, which is considered much simpler than that of the Play Store. With Apple, users of the iPhone and iPad have registered their credit cards with the Apple App Store, which makes it easier for them to carry out a purchase. With Google’s Play Store, the options are many, such as Google Wallet, credit card purchases, and carrier billing, which analysts believe is often detrimental to higher sales.
The research also predicted Japan and South Korea, two of the biggest Android consumers, could be seen fueling the next wave of growth of the Play Store. Android consumers in both countries are most interested in games, something Android ought to remember.
There have been a silent but far reaching changes in the consumer electronic scene over the last few years. It’s the slow but steady decline of the once mighty Japanese electronics industry; what we see today can be considered just a shadow of what it once was. Unfortunately, the shadow is only growing longer, which implies the sun might well be setting in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The likes of Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Hitachi, and other popular Japanese brands are fast losing their grip on the electronics scene. In fact, the situation is so drastic that Hitachi has resigned completely from the electronics scene and has instead taken refuge in heavy engineering, once its forte. The company has washed its hands of making entities (read electronics business) and is instead into selling heavy machines as well as taking on the engineering aspect of its products. Hitachi’s current boss, Hiroaki Nakanishi, 66, has claimed the move is paying off as the company is already out of the red and has regained profits.
Things aren’t near as rosy for the others, though Sony is still making a profit, albeit a marginal one by its own standards this year. Sharp, which has been bleeding profusely for the last few years, seems to have reached a terminal phase. It may even cease to exist, unless there is a big cash infusion soon to maintain the company. It might be slightly better for Panasonic, though it also is likely to report a huge loss, something to the tune of about $9 billion.
So why the sudden and violent crash from the high flying 80s and 90s to almost a non-entity in the new millennium? Japanese economist Gerhard Fasol claims it’s the digital revolution that proved to be the too much for the Japan based electronic powerhouses to deal with. Sony, Sharp, and nearly all of its compatriots have excelled in the mechanical side, but found the going tough when computer chips came to take over the working of a device. Of equal importance is the software, again something that the Japanese have traditionally never developed in-house.
“The Sony Walkman is a classic example,” said Gerhard Fasol. “It has no software in it. It is purely mechanical. Today you need to have software business models that are completely different.” No wonder, the once almost indispensable Sony walkman has been taken over by the likes of the iPhone or the iPod. The likes of Apple and Samsung are calling the shots in Sony’s own backyard.
Apart from the devices themselves, the way they are put together is another area where the Japanese giants are counting their losses. The manufacturing base has almost exclusively shifted to China and Taiwan, owing to the economics involved. It costs a fraction of what it would be in Japan to manufacture a device in China and Taiwan. Also, it’s not the best technology that determines a product’s success these days. Instead, a solid sales and marketing strategy has assumed significant importance towards a product’s overall success in the market.
Sony is ahead in the race among its domestic competitors, however, and has already made it known the company intends to be a significant player in the smartphone segment. Its recently launched Xperia Z is rumored to be doing well enough and Sony hopes to replicate the same with its Xperia based tablet offerings as well. It is also working hard to register a presence in the TV segment as well and has recently launched the 84 inch 4K TV, which will display it as leading the technology scene if not drive home huge sales. It will be interesting to note that Apple makes the bulk of its profit from the tablet and smartphone sales, as well as the ecosystem surrounding them. Sony also has a solid presence in the laptop or notebook segment with its Vaio series, though its survival here depends on what notebook/ultrabook/hybrid tablets it launches based on Microsoft’s latest platform, Windows 8. Sony has also stated its next gen PRS-T3 e-reader will be announced soon, another area where the Japanese giant does have a strong presence.
As for Sharp, it’s shaping out to be the LCD panel maker of choice for both Apple and Samsung, both of whom have picked up stakes in the ailing company. Interestingly, Apple’s enmity with Samsung has proved to be a boost for Sharp, as the latter is now slated to supply the panels that Apple had been sourcing from Samsung.
However, Japan still has a vast, extremely talented workforce that it can fall back on. Then the sheer number of highly educated men and women that it can deploy on a given task is another positive quality that can script the next turn around in the country’s favor. It will be interesting to see how things shape up in the next year or two.
It has been established that the PC market is under threat from the new crop of smart mobile computing devices. It is down to a struggle for desktop PC’s basic existence, as predicted, and the results have just begun to emerge. The first quarter sales report of desktop and laptop is no secret, and the sharp 14 percent decline in sales is demonstrative, to say the least. That’s the figure that International Data Corp has suggested, though Gartner has come up with the gentler figure of an 11 percent decline. Not surprisingly, with Microsoft having a vice like grip on the segment, it is considered to have contributed to the slide more than anyone else. The recently released Windows 8 is being held as the number one villain that analysts believe may have actually led to the slide rather than help prevent it. Blaming the shaky world economic scenario won’t help either, as the desktop is sliding faster into obscurity even when the economy is showing signs of bouncing back.
The reason behind the shift in consumer preference towards portable computing devices such as tablet PCs is understandable considering the tablet’s immense convenience. Tablet devices are handy, offer excellent computing power, and respond to touch based inputs, negating the need for external pointing devices such as a mouse. They offer extreme convenience for almost all general purpose computing needs. Compare these to the desktops that are bulky and immense compared to tablets. Tablets are even handier than laptop or notebook devices.
However, with this being the state of affairs in the traditional computing scene, putting the entire blame on Windows 8 alone would be a bit harsh. If the new gen platform from Microsoft alone is to be blamed for the poor show, consumers could still have bought the Windows 7 based PCs on the market. Besides, the trend isn’t just limited to the Windows based PCs. Apple is also having to cope with reduced demand for its PCs, while its iPad is scaling new heights in sales almost every quarter.
It’s the gradual but seemingly firm shift in consumer preference that should be held responsible for the decline in PC sales. Consumers have had enough with the desktops and laptops and nothing is more exciting now than the new sleek tablet devices. It’s something they can carry everywhere, does not need to be tethered to a single place, and can perform most computing jobs as well. Of course, there is also the cost factor associated with it as tablets typically cost just a fraction of what desktops and laptops cost (around $1500). A tablet can cost anywhere between $200 to $700, depending on the display size and other configurations.
Also, while still on Windows 8 and the decline in sales of PCs, what should also be taken into consideration is that the former has opened up an entirely new segment of computing, that of hybrid tablet devices. While demand for these is still in the early states, these are expected to be the future of personal computing. These offer the best of both worlds, a tablet when the display is used in isolation or a netbook offering 10+ hours of runtime when attached with the keypad unit. The way the computing segment might shape up in the future is that the tablet devices will be used for those who need it for entertainment or general purpose computing while the hybrid tablet could be the ideal solution for those who need some serious computing.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is working on an update to its Windows 8 OS in the form of Windows 8.1 Blue. Slated to be released this summer, Blue can do what Windows 7 did to Vista. While it would be interesting to see if it can arrest the decline in PC sales, it remains to be seen if Microsoft can turn things around. In short, we have reached a crossroads and there plenty of changes are happening very fast. We will let things settle down a bit before we jump to any firm conclusions.
The internet lit up on Tuesday after writer Brian K. Vaughan made this announcement: “Unfortunately, because of two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex, Apple is banning tomorrow’s SAGA #12 from being sold through any iOS apps.” On Twitter, Facebook, comment strings, and message boards, fans denounced Apple for a seeming double standard, refusing to carry a comic because of a gay sex scene although it carries plenty of mature content. A few commenters pointed out, though, that the scenes in question were more explicit than anything Saga had run before, so they may have crossed a line.
Everything changed on Wednesday, when comiXology CEO David Steinberger explained that comiXology, not Apple, made the decision, and that it was based on the explicit nature of the images, not the fact that the sex was gay:
As a partner of Apple, we have an obligation to respect its policies for apps and the books offered in apps. Based on our understanding of those policies, we believed that Saga #12 could not be made available in our app, and so we did not release it today.
We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance.
This took a lot of people by surprise, but it makes a certain amount of sense that comiXology, which works closely with Apple, would avoid submitting content they know will be rejected. What makes less sense is comiXology letting everyone, including Vaughan, think that Apple made the call. Given the weird hostility between Apple and non-Apple users on the web, there was a lot of flaming going on, with people choosing to ignore the fact that Apple has been gay-friendly since before that was cool; they have long offered benefits to same-sex couples, they opposed the odious Proposition 8 in California, and their current CEO, Tim Cook, is gay. They are also choosing to ignore that companies like Apple and comiXology are not monoliths, and there might be different people reviewing different issues of Saga at different times; Mark Waid has a pretty plausible scenario that explains how this all would have happened with all parties having only the best of intentions; as he says, “In all matters creative, never attribute to malice what can be explained by bureaucracy.”
In the end, Apple did not reject Saga #12, and it is now available in the comiXology and Image Comics apps as well as online. While those apps are more convenient for iPad and iPhone users, the conversation served to remind us when a comic is purchased i the comiXology or Image web stores, iTunes doesn’t take its 30% cut, so more of the cover price goes to the creator and the publisher.
Writer Brian K. Vaughan released a statement today saying that the 12th issue of his science fiction series Saga, illustrated by Fiona Staples, will not be available via comics iOS apps such as comiXology because of “two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex” that did not make it past Apple’s content reviewers. The comic will be available digitally from the comiXology and Image Comics web stores.
Saga, which launched with a bit of controversy over the cover early last year, is rated for mature readers, and it has featured sex scenes in the past, but it’s possible that it was the graphic nature of these particular images (which are small but quite explicit), rather than who was doing what to whom, that caused Apple to refuse to carry the comic in its apps. Heidi MacDonald posts the unexpurgated images at her site, and in the comments, creator Tyler James posts comiXology’s guidelines, which make it pretty clear why those images won’t be in the app (presumably comiXology’s guidelines reflect Apple’s).
Perhaps the folks behind the French comics app Izneo should have gotten a copy. Two weeks ago—on the eve of the long Easter week-end, the site IDBOOX notes—the Izneo folks got an order from Apple to remove the “pornographic” content from their app. With no clue as to what Apple would judge to be pornographic, the Izneo folks immediately took down 2,800 of the 4,000 comics in their app, cautiously removing anything that could hint of adult content, including Blake and Mortimer and XIII, both of which are published in print in the U.S. without any fuss. Then they reviewed those comics and put about half of them back, but that still leaves 1,500 titles that aren’t in the app any more. Izneo took quite a financial hit on this; turns out comics featuring “Les jolies filles un peu sexy” are their top sellers. (This story, it should be said, came from an anonymous source.)
Later, IDBOOX caught up with Thomas Cadène, one of the creators of the series Les autres gens, which contained all that Apple doesn’t want to see, he said: “Breasts, genitals, people making love, people who are not making love but are nude anyway—in short, life.” Cadène, of course, doesn’t regard his comics as pornographic at all, but he notes that at any rate, Apple is being hypocritical because the comic is still available on iBooks, Apple’s digital bookstore; the Izneo folks were simply told that iBooks was different from the apps. In another interview, Allison Reber of Aquafadas, another digital comics distributor, said that in 2009, Apple’s standards were so strict that an image of a nude man, seen from the rear, in the shower would be enough to scuttle a book, but that they have loosened up considerably; she hopes that the whole episode will turn out to be nothing more than a misunderstanding.
We already know a new iPad is in the making, and that the intervening period until the device is actually launched is always marked with a series of leaks and speculations. This makes it hard to judge which one actually reflects the truth. Take, for instance, the recent revelation at Digitimes claiming production of the iPad 5 is set to kick off in the July-August period. If that is true, we are looking at a market launch much later than that, maybe during fall this year. Apple had launched the iPad 4 together with the iPad Mini during November last year, and it’s likely that could be the new launch schedule Apple would be following from now onwards. The usual period for Apple to launch a new iPad used to be spring, during March and April. It was rumored some time back that Apple would be launching a new iPad towards the end of this month.
Meanwhile, what has also emerged is that the new iPad will be thinner and lighter than the current version, while sporting thin iPad Mini like bezels. Also, LG and Sharp will be supplying the touch panels.
Stay tuned for more updates as they become available.