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     Mar 19, 2011

Apple bruised, and again
By Martin J Young

HUA HIN, Thailand - Technology manufacturers around the globe are struggling to grapple with the consequences of Japan's cataclysmic earthquake, tsunami and subsequent rolling electricity blackouts as the country's position at the heart of the electronics supply chain appears increasingly insecure.

Apple is one such concerned company, as some of the components for the iPad 2, including the battery and memory, are made in Japan. Industry analysts iSupply stated "Logistical disruptions may mean Apple could have difficulties obtaining this battery, and it may not be able to secure supply from an external, non-Japanese source."

Toshiba is one of the suppliers of flash memory used in the iPad; it had briefly shut a flash memory facility in Japan over fears of

disruption of raw material supply and employees not being able to attend work. The touch screen glass also comes from Japan, as do the semiconductors for the built-in compass.

Apple's much-hyped iPad 2 went on sale in the United States on March 11, the same day the devastating tsunami swept into Japan, destroying everything it met. Demand has been strong, many stores have sold out, and waiting lists are now up to five weeks long. Estimated weekend sales have been put between 500,000 and a million units.

The launch of the tablet device in Japan has been delayed according to Apple, which declined to comment on the status of its chain of supply. Rising component costs could eat into Apple's profit margins - although considering the iPad costs under US$230 to manufacture while selling for more than double that, according to iSupply, the component supply bottleneck is unlikely to cause any real loss of sleep for CEO Steve Jobs and the most valuable technology company on the planet.

Apple came out worse off in a recent smart-phone face-off between its iOS 4 and rival platform Android from Google. A Canadian software company ran extensive tests on the iPhone and Nexus S to compare Internet connectivity and web speed, and the results showed the iPhone was slower accessing the web 84% of the time.

The Android phone ran 52% faster on average over a wireless network following more than 45,000 page views from 1,000 websites over a two-week testing period. The Google software also out performed its rival when rendering complex websites and web applications such as Twitter and Facebook.

Naturally, Apple's reaction was that the experiments were "flawed" as the Safari browser that people use on their iPhones has performance-enhancing capabilities that are not found in regular web apps. The fact that most people will access Facebook through their Facebook application and not via Safari seems to be lost on a company that rarely admits its mistakes or accepts its flaws.

Micro blogging website Twitter has gone from the original message posted five years ago by co-founder Jack Dorsey "inviting coworkers", to over a billion tweets per week. The websites' fifth birthday passed this week with some impressive stats; 200 million registered accounts, over 140 million tweets per day, and a 6,939 tweet per second record which occurred on New Year's Day in Japan.

New revenue models are being explored by the company, which has revolutionized instant message communications on the Internet. In order to see the kind of dollars that Google and Facebook are getting, Twitter needs to up the ante by getting more from its huge customer base.

An advertising campaign launched in 2010 is expected to draw US$150 million in revenue for the company this year. The self-service advertising platform will allow small businesses to buy and run ads on Twitter in a similar fashion to Google's Adwords on its search results pages.

The world's most used web browser was launched in its ninth edition this week, and Microsoft claims that Internet Explorer 9 was downloaded 2.35 million times within the 24 hours of its release on Monday.

One of the most notable features of IE9 is the adoption of Mozilla's "do not track" feature, which allows users to proactively decide which websites to allow monitoring of their behavior online. An additional feature called Tracking Protection Lists will block websites from tracking to offer a second level of protection from invasive websites such as Google, whose ads follow you around the web after recording what you have previously been looking at.

Microsoft's senior director for Internet Explorer business and marketing, Ryan Gavin, stated "2.3 million downloads in 24 hours is over double the 1 million downloads we saw of the IE9 Beta and four times that of the IE9 RC over the same time period".

Those numbers pale into insignificance though when compared to the much publicized 2008 launch of Mozilla's Firefox 3, which notched up over 8 million downloads in the first day [See Fans in frenzy for feisty Firefox, Asia Times Online, June 21, 2008). The next Firefox iteration has been slated for release on March 22, although it is unlikely that it will break the record set by its predecessor.

In addition to the tracking prevention functionality present in rival browser IE9, Firefox 4 will also have hardware-accelerated browsing, which uses the graphics processor of the computer to increase performance.

Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


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(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Mar 17, 2011)



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