<IT WORLD> Sour edge to Apple success
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Apple has been dominating the tech headlines this week for
both good and bad reasons. According to the company, it took Apple less than a
month to sell a million iPads. Chief executive Steve Jobs boasted "One million
iPads in 28 days - that's less than half the 74 days it took to achieve this
milestone with the iPhone."
The million marker was reached on April 30, the day Apple launched the newest
Wi-Fi version of the tablet device - which allows to users to get online using
any nearby "hotspot". This also sold out within a couple of days.
Once again Apple has lived up to the hype and has satisfied its loyal followers
who, it seems, can't get enough of the company's products despite talk of
economic woes and low consumer
confidence. Its strong sales have helped Apple's stock power from US$192 in
early March to above $270 last month.
The iPads used in the United States are locked into contracts with AT&T, as
are iPhones, but hackers are working on software to release or "jailbreak" the
devices from their digital chains, giving the consumer the freedom to choose
another carrier and download non-Apple approved applications.
The company's problems with Adobe Systems Inc have also attracted attention.
Since Jobs and co decided to ban Adobe's Flash web animation software from the
iPhone and iPad, claiming that it is a battery hog and will hinder performance,
they have been accused of hurting innovation, stifling freedom of choice on the
Internet, and becoming the Big Brother of technology. This last comment is
ironic since Apple has always marketed itself as a free-thinking alternative to
existing monopolies such as competitor Microsoft. It seems Apple is becoming
exactly the entity it fought against for so long.
Adobe chief technical officer Kevin Lynch unleashed a scathing attack following
the Apple ban on his company's products, which are prevalent elsewhere on the
web. "Apple's playing this strategy where they apparently want to create a
walled garden around the applications that people use ... it's like 1984 in a
lot of ways".
The heavy-handed way Apple dealt with the Gizmodo fiasco emphasizes this point
- the tech blog reviewed a prototype iPhone that was left in a bar by an Apple
employee; police were then sent to ransack editor Jason Chen's house. (see
You shall not ... , Asia Times Online, April 24, 2010).
US regulators are considering an antitrust probe of Apple over the way it
requires developers to use its own tools to write applications for the iPhone
and iPad and for anticompetitive behavior such as blocking the products of
Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007 independent developers have created more
than 200,000 programs for the platform; they get 70% of the revenue while Apple
takes 30%. Apple demands that applications are only written using its software
and holds a tight guard on what is accepted for its App Store. Its latest
rejection this week was an app for New York gays to find the best spots in the
The public perception of Apple being the master of innovation or an evil empire
probably comes down to whether a consumer has paid for for an Apple product or
not. Diehard aficionados remain loyal to the core, but critics are being given
more ammunition by the day.
The market share of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser has slipped below
60%. Not so long ago the little blue "e" commanded 96% of the browser market,
as the company bundled it with Windows and so gave people little choice over
their portal to the Internet. Today, superior browsers such as Firefox and
Chrome are eating away at Microsoft's diminishing but still considerable lead.
Internet Explorer's descent to 59.95% in April was good news for Google, whose
Chrome browser, introduced in September 2008, reached a 6.73% share. Mozilla's
Firefox nudges towards the milestone 25% marker with a 24.59% share, according
to industry analyst Net Applications. Apple's Safari accounted for 4.72% and
the long-established Opera still struggles to gain momentum with 2.3%.
Microsoft is pinning its hopes on IE9 to claw back some of the lost market but
with advances in other browsers and the already bad reputation for security
shadowing it, Internet Explorer is unlikely to make a big come back soon.
Microchip giant Intel is taking aim at the smartphone market by launching its
own platform that will compete with the ubiquitous ARM chips that at present
dominate the market. The Moorsetown Atom platform will include a 45-nanometer
Z6xx Atom processor that has been designed with power consumption and 3D
performance in mind.
Industry leaders such as Apple and Google currently rely on ARM architecture to
power their devices and software, and Intel would need to be part of the next
big thing in portable technology for its platform to take off. Smartphone
manufacturers will now have a choice, so we could be seeing more powerful
devices on the market, which is good news for consumers.
After six years of steady increases, the company behind the innovative Wii
motion-sensing gaming console has just posted its first fall in profits since
2004. Nintendo net profit for the year to March 31 dropped 18.1% to US$2.45
billion, despite the Wii outselling Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox
360 in the US. Competition from the rival platforms proved to be fiercer last
year causing Nintendo to slash prices for its console by 25%. The company
predicts another decline this fiscal year, of around 13%.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.