HUA HIN, Thailand - Apple Inc's instinct for style and ability to marshal
innovative technologies into an eye-catching product, in this case the iPhone,
has propelled the computer company into the ranks of the world's top three
largest smartphone makers by sales.
Apple racked up 1.7 million sales in the first quarter to secure 5.3% of the
market, according to an estimate by researcher Garter. That is a long stretch
behind Nokia, which tops the pile with 14.6 million units sold and a 45.2%
market share. Third-placed Research in Motion, maker of the business-friendly
BlackBerry, will however be looking over its shoulder as it seeks
to protect its 13.4% share with 4.3 million units sold.
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is coming gunning for BlackBerry and its large
contingent of business-related customers, with a third-generation iPhone that
will allow faster access to the Internet and speedier download of files.
At the same time, Apple is expanding the number of countries in which it has
secured network deals for its fashion icon, including it hopes China, the
world's biggest mobile-phone market.
The smartphone market continues to expand in the US despite economic concerns -
driven by strong advertising and promotions more devices reached mass market
prices - and overseas demand remains strong.
Since the launch of the iPhone last June, an estimated one third to half of all
units, originally designed to operate only on AT&T networks in the US, have
been shipped overseas. Hackers quickly found out how to unlock the phones so
that they can be used on other networks in other countries.
Apple announced a new iPhone this week for use on third-generation data
networks which, the company hopes, will stem the flow of unlocked phones. The
new 3G units will be available in far more countries that the original iPhone
as Apple has added 22 to the list. It hopes to reach 70 by the end of the year
and eliminate the main incentive for unlocking the phones.
Additionally, Apple is abandoning its previous arrangement with carriers, which
forced buyers into using their services only - unless they unlocked the phone
and enjoyed the freedom of choice. The new phone will be subsidized by the
service providers, which hope to make up the cost difference by locking
customers into two-year subscription contracts and charging them hefty fees for
Apple previously tried to secure the phones with software updates but that
approach failed. Numerous companies and websites offer unlocking services or
unlocked phones for a little extra cash to those who want the choice. Software
is also freely available online for individuals to unlock their phone, which is
perfectly legal under federal law.
The new iPhone itself is nothing revolutionary. It addresses a few problems
people had with the existing generation, such as low battery life,
international availability, 3G and pricing - the new phones will be priced at
US$199, half that of the original. Even so, these changes seem to be
compromised by the fact that users will still be locked into service contracts.
Hackers and companies offering unlocked units may have been initially worried
about the new release but people will always want the freedom to select their
service provider. International travelers wanting to avoid heavy roaming fees
from providers in their own countries are more likely to want an unlocked phone
as will the thousands of potential customers in countries that are not on the
Apple approved list.
Apple boss Jobs declined to deliver any surprises to the faithful who attended
the Apple World Wide Developers Conference 2008 in San Francisco this week. The
annual gathering is aimed at hardware, software and mobile developers,
computational scientists, IT managers, and system administrators. Jobs took the
stage on Monday to announce and promote the new 3G iPhone and the latest
version of OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard.
A number of guest speakers showcased some of their products and gadgets that
will work with Apple's systems. Most of these were third-party iPhone extras,
which included blogging and news tools, eBay plugins for mobile auctioneering,
a few fancy games, and friend-finding location applications.
Talk of a merger between software giant Microsoft and Internet pioneer Yahoo
has at last been killed off. The courtship is over but it is unlikely that
they'll still be friends. Yahoo on Thursday said it would be entering into an
advertising deal with Google that could boost cash flow by up to $450 million
in the first 12 months, with Google allowed to put its search ads on Yahoo's
The move could raise a number of antitrust issues, given the dominance Google
already has in the market. Yahoo shareholders won't be pleased with this latest
deal, especially billionaire investor Carl Icahn, and neither will Microsoft,
which is still seeking alternatives to increase its Internet advertising
Yahoo's shares tumbled 10% at one stage on Thursday after the company announced
that talks with Microsoft had failed. The shares at $23.52 on Thursday have
tumbled 21% from the high of $29.95 reached in early February after Microsoft
revealed its interest in the company.
Icahn, who has said a Microsoft takeover is the only way the two companies can
compete with Google, owned 10 million Yahoo shares and options to buy 49
million as of May 15, according to Bloomberg.
IBM researchers are working on a new system of water cooling for the next
generation of computers. A prototype device has been demonstrated using
thousands of ultra-thin cooling arteries which will assist in dissipating heat
from chips, which are becoming more compact with each new generation. The
inter-layer cooling will enable chips to be stacked vertically as opposed to
the traditional method of side-by-side placement, where data has further to
travel. Heat is one of the major hurdles for chip makers to overcome - as chips
offer more cores and components the heat produced by electron flow from data
transfer will also increase.
IBM's multi-layer, liquid-cooled 50 micron diameter tubes will offer far more
efficient cooling capabilities than conventional methods such as fans and heat
sinks. Liquid cooled computers are not new technology. However the new 3D chip
structure is and will need advanced cooling solutions to maintain the
performance increases that it boasts.
It seems that Google co-founder Sergey Brin is not content with just the Earth;
he wants the final frontier. The 35-year-old president of technology for the
search giant splashed out a $5 million deposit for a seat on a Russian space
craft, according to tourism company Space Adventures. The flight to the
International Space Station is expected to take place in 2011 and cost over $35
million for Brin's reservation. Scientific missions will be conducted on the
trip, which is expected to last for two weeks and involve 150 to 200 Earth
orbits. He will join an exclusive club of super-rich who have spent their
fortunes on the ultimate in adventure travel.
"I am a big believer in the exploration and commercial development of the space
frontier, and am looking forward to the possibility of going into space," Brin
said in a statement released by the adventure tour company. Space tourism is
growing though still within the grasp only of the obscenely affluent - even
economy class on the Soyuz rocket is still a dream for most of us who are stuck
on terra firma.
official launch date for Firefox 3 has been set by Mozilla to June 17. The
latest version of the popular browser could enter the Guinness Book of Records
for the most downloaded piece of software within 24 hours as over a million
people prepare to get their hands on product. The race for the world's fastest
browser is on but rivals Microsoft are lagging as their next iteration of
Internet Explorer, IE8, will not be ready until later this year.
as fast as IE7. Mozilla have dubbed Tuesday as "download day" as they encourage
users to grab the Windows and Mac versions of the browser.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.