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субота, 24 грудня 2011 р.

HTC to remove feature that infringes Apple patent

HTC, Asia's second-biggest maker of smart phones, can tweak the technology in its handsets to avoid a U.S. trade agency ban. Dealing with the threat from Apple's and Samsung Electronics' new devices may prove tougher.

The U.S. International Trade Commission said Monday that, beginning in April, it would ban the sale of HTC phones that infringed an Apple patent on so-called data detection, such as touching a phone number or an address in an e-mail to dial or find the address on a map. HTC responded by saying it will remove the offending features from its phones.

Keeping the handsets on the market solves HTC's immediate challenge after becoming the top selling vendor in the United States. Samsung's Galaxy Nexus and Apple's faster, Siri-enabled iPhone hit the market within the past quarter, posing a new threat to HTC's place in the $262 billion global mobile-phone market. The Taiwanese company is forecast to post its slowest annual sales growth and first profit decline since the 2009 economic crisis.

"Things were going great at HTC two years ago, their products were so successful, and they were the hottest company in mobile phones," said Will Stofega, an analyst at researcher IDC. "They didn't keep the momentum going, and now we're seeing products that haven't wowed audiences as much."

HTC's revenue will climb 11 percent next year and profit will drop 6.7 percent, according to analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg, marking its worst financial performance since the 2009 global economic crisis. HTC's revenue climbed fiftyfold from 2000 to 2010, according to Bloomberg data.

Last month, stiff competition prompted HTC to cut its sales guidance for this quarter by 20 percent. That announcement, on Nov. 23, prompted the stock to drop by its daily 7 percent limit in Taipei for two consecutive days, worsening the year-to-date loss to 45 percent.

At least six brokers downgraded HTC since the revised guidance, with more analysts recommending investors sell HTC than buy for the first time in at least two years.

The ITC, the agency empowered to block imports of products that infringe the patents, found in Apple's favor for one of four patents the Cupertino company alleged HTC breached. Apple's patent covered a feature in which the phone recognizes a telephone number so it can be stored in directories or called without dialing.

The result, while less than Apple sought, marks its first victory in patent cases and strengthens the argument that Google's Android "ripped off the iPhone," as the company's late founder, Steve Jobs, once claimed. The ruling is the first definitive decision in the dozens of patent cases that began to proliferate last year as smart-phone makers battle over a market that Strategy Analytics Inc. said increased 44 percent last quarter from a year earlier to 117 million phones worldwide.

Apple also has civil patent infringement cases against HTC and Samsung. Both Asian rivals have also filed their own retaliatory actions to the ITC and in U.S courts. The Android operating system has led the global market since last year, climbing to 48 percent of all smart phones in the second quarter of this year and ahead of 19 percent for Apple's iOS platform, according to British researcher Canalys.

Market data provided by Bloomberg News

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Apple is Granted 12 Design Patents in China and More

On December 23, 2011, Apple filed for the trademark and icon for "Available on the App Store" under applications 302118690 in China and 010520054 in Europe. Apple has filed their trademark under three International Classes covering such things as advertising and marketing services, downloadable computer software accessible via the internet and software for gaming and virtual reality. Additionally, Apple has been granted twelve design patents in China covering the iPad dock and many iPad 2 components.

International Class 009: Apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; calculating machines, data processing equipment and computers; computer gaming machines; telecommunications apparatus and instruments; tablet computers; digital music and/or video players; personal digital assistants, electronic organizers, electronic notepads; computer software; downloadable computer software accessible via the internet and wireless devices; software for portable electronic devices; software for mobile telephones; computer and electronic games.

International Class 035: Advertising; advertising and marketing services; promotion services; promoting the goods and services of others; retail store services featuring computer software provided via the internet and other computer and electronic communication networks; retail store services featuring computer software for use on handheld mobile digital electronic devices and other consumer electronics; retail store featuring computer, electronic and entertainment products; retail store and online store services featuring computer, electronic and entertainment products provided via the Internet and other computer, electronic and communications networks; subscription services, namely, providing subscriptions to text, data, image, audio, video, and multimedia content, provided via the Internet and other electronic and communications networks.

International Class 042: Design and development of computer hardware and software; installation, updating, maintenance and repair of computer software; computer programming; support and consultation services for developing computer systems, databases and applications; information relating to computer hardware or software provided on-line from a global computer network or the Internet; design and development of computer game software and virtual reality software; design and development of networks; development of computer codes; development of computer languages; development of computer software application solutions; website development services.
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Hedge funds are bullish on Apple these days

Of 350 funds tracked by Insider Monkey, 125 are long on Apple

Source: Insider Monkey

Apple is a perennial favorite among hedge funds, and a recent survey of insiders and hedge fund managers suggest that it may be more popular than ever among the folks with the power to move the market up or down.

In a list of companies with recent insider trades posted on Seeking Alpha by Insider Monkey, a free (after registration) site that lists the holdings 350 hedge funds, Apple was No. 1 among the hedge funds with bullish positions. No. 2, Qualcomm (QCOM) wasn't even close.

Here, in full, is Insider Monkey's entry on Apple:

Apple Inc (AAPL) is the most popular stock among hedge funds tracked by Insider Monkey. There are 125 hedge funds reported to own AAPL at the end of September. For example, Ken Griffin's Citadel Investment Group had $928 million invested in AAPL shares as of September 30. The stock was also purchased by one insider over the past month. On November 29, Robert Iger bought 1370 shares at $374.4856 and another 1300 shares at $375.3292. Now the stock is trading at $396.19. AAPL has a market cap of $368B and a P/E ratio of 14.31. It returned 20.14% since the beginning of this year.
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Apple Has More Online Shoppers Than Walmart

Apple got more traffic online last month than Walmart Stores. In fact, Apple is the only retailer other than Amazon and eBay in the top 15 most-visited websites in the U.S. in November, according to ComScore.

How is it possible that the technology maker can trump the world's-largest retailer online? Because of iTunes. The digital-content store made up about 30% of Apple's more than 79 million in U.S. unique visitors last month. Apple gets almost as many web visitors as the largest newspaper site, that of The New York Times.

Huge iTunes traffic is good news for publishers looking to sell their products online. Digital content, which includes books, music and TV shows, is the fastest-growing e-commerce category by sales this holiday shopping season, ComScore has found. Overall e-commerce sales are up about 15% from last year, but digital-content sales growth is double that.

More content is downloaded on Christmas Day than any other day of the year. It has been named "Download Day," because consumers load up new gadgets, which this year are likely to include Apple iPhones and iPads as well as Amazon Kindle Fires. The week between Christmas and New Year continues to be the heaviest download period of the year.

Apple was the No. 13 web property ranked by U.S. unique visitors in November. Amazon is the biggest retailer by this measure, at No. 5. Ebay ranks No. 15, and Walmart No. 18.
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Android, iOS Squeezing Out Blackberry, Windows Phone

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS practically put the mobile market in a head lock in 2011, combining for 82 percent market share, according to NPD Group.

The market research firm said Android commanded 53 percent U.S. smartphone share, compared to 29 percent for the iPhone. Android started the year at approximately 30 percent market share, with Apple wielding around 20 percent.

With a one-two punch like that, it begs the question: can Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone stop losing market share and shake free from the sales doldrums?

It's a fair question. RIM is struggling worse than Palm did before it sold out to HP. Microsoft partners Samsung and HTC just aren't selling many Windows Phone handsets.

Conversely, Google just launched its Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, while Apple launched iOS 5 to power its new iPhone 4S device. Both platforms are significant upgrades over previous versions.

Compare those new OS builds to the underwhelming BlackBerry OS 7 and the Windows Phone Mango update, which, while praised by critics, is not getting developer momentum. The odds get steeper for RIM and Microsoft.

Noting that innovation velocity is "extremely high between Apple and Google," Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdry posited that there "may not even be a third player" in the smartphone market next year.

"[Google and Apple] are creating products in the market, which are probably a generation ahead of both RIM and Microsoft," wrote Chowdry in a December research note. "Competitive rivalry between Apple and Google in [the] mobile space is probably driving RIM and Microsoft out of the mobile market. Every indication as of now tells us that probably 95 percent of smartphone market may be shared between Apple and Google."

That 95 percent share figure in the United States seems a bit high to us, especially when NPD, comScore, Gartner, IDC Nielsen and others on average have RIM hovering around 10 percent to 17 percent share, with Windows Phone at 1 to 2 percent.

But Chowdry's point that Android and iOS are eating the industry alive is well taken, even by some other analysts. IDC analyst Al Hilwa acknowledged that the idea that Google and Apple have hijacked the smartphone market in the United States is "a scenario that has to receive some consideration."

iOS and Android are bracketing the market, covering all of the necessary bases for consumers. iOS is capturing the high-end, brand-conscious crowd, while Android is luring a huge swath of consumers with varying price points and form factor choices, Hilwa said.

Of course, others would say one can never have enough choices in the market; the two-horse race is hardly ideal for carriers and OEMs. One thing to remember is that Android's continued lead is shrouded in uncertainty thanks to the ongoing intellectual property litigation and fragmentation concerns the platform faces.

A third ecosystem can take advantage of these weaknesses if it is able to make the right investments quickly enough, Hilwa told eWEEK, adding Microsoft is in the best position to harness its PC ecosystem and converge it with the mobile world. He is looking for Microsoft to open up its forthcoming Windows 8 architecture and embrace application developers from the Web and C/C++ worlds.

Still, Hilwa acknowledged: "I think 2012 will shape up to be a critical year for whether we end up with a two-, three- or four-platform market in mobile."
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TECH ROUNDUP: New Apple Store in Construction; Facebook's Move to Menlo Park

Palo Alto is swimming in a virtual sea of technology companies. Here is a look at how some of them made it into the news this week.

Apple is constructing a new store just down the street from its original one in Palo Alto. The $3.5 million construction will borrow designs from its other stores, and occupy two stories over 15,000 square feet. The city issued a building permit for the store, and construction is to begin “any day now.”

Jacob Goldman, who helped found the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) as Xerox’s chief scientist in 1970, passed away Tuesday from congestive heart failure. PARC was the birthplace of many technologies, namely graphical use interface, Ethernet, the laser printer, and object-oriented programming.

Facebook completed its big move this week from Palo Alto to Menlo Park, where its official new headquarters are located. The move started in August with the first relocation of 5,000 employees to the new office, located at 1601 Willow Road. Formerly the home to Sun Microsystems, the new HQ features 10 offices buildings spanning two campuses.

After an audit at its international headquarters in Dublin on Wednesday, Facebook agreed to make several changes to better shield the personal data of its users outside of the U.S. The changes include asking its European users if they want to partake in facial recognition and altering its policies about retaining private data.

On Friday, Hewlett-Packard released a firmware update to stop hackers from remotely taking control of their LaserJet devises. The move followed a report by Columbia University researchers, who stated that the printers were not secure and could be commanded to perform several dangerous tasks from afar.

Tibco Software Inc., a business software provider, announced some good news Wednesday: fourth quarter profit rose 38 percent due to higher sales. They were able to boast a profit of $51.9 million, or 30 cents a share, up from $37.5 million, or 22 cents a share, a year earlier.

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Apple, HTC: Bernstein Sees Happy End to Patent Wars

Sanford Bernstein’s Pierre Ferragu, who rates Taiwan’s HTC (2498TW) Outperform, today writes that his impression of the patent wars in the smartphone business is that most of it will not lead to product bans.

Monday evening, of course, Apple was handed a partial victory against HTC when the U.S. International Trade Commission sided with Apple as regards two claims pertaining to one patent regarding Apple’s iPhone, but dismissed several other accusations by Apple that HTC had infringed in numerous ways with its own phones based on Google’s (GOOG) Android software.

Ferragu, writing Tuesday, had argued HTC will come up with a workaround to resolve the matter.

And then yesterday, as Ferragu notes in his report today, a judge in Dusseldorf, Germany, sided with Samsung Electronics (SSNLF) in saying the company’s revamped “Galaxy Tab” tablet computer, saying that Samsung had sufficiently moved past what Apple could protect in terms of design, according to the report by Reuters’s Matthias Invervardi.

Hence, Ferragu today concludes:

We see this as a strong data point in favour of our view that workarounds are very easily implemented by manufacturers and are welcome by courts. Samsung was able to bring its modified 10.1N tab rapidly to the German market after its 10.1 Tab was banned. Courts favour workarounds, as they promote differentiation, while avoiding disruption to competition in the marketplace [...] We believe manufacturers will converge progressively towards partial settlements in which they will share essential and quasi essential IP, but keep most important non-essential IP for themselves in order to “encourage” competitors not to copy their products. We see these settlements as being beneficial to the whole industry, as they will favour differentiation. We also believe that the large amount of ongoing litigation, will generate, on the way to these settlements, a lot of noise but little disruption on current competitive dynamics.
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Apple, Google – Both Undervalued Stocks by the Numbers

Some questions just seem so far-fetched that they practically answer themselves. Is it really possible (or even plausible) to think that the stock of tech giants Apple (AAPL) or Google (GOOG) could be considered undervalued? Although Apple is trading for over $380 per share and Google for around $625, it actually takes some investigation to come up with answers that may surprise more than a few investors. Share price does not accurately portray the standing these leaders have or their ability to react positively, even in the currently unstable markets found worldwide.

Although Saxo Bank (with its prediction of a 50% drop in AAPL share price in 2012) seems to think otherwise, most analysts agree that the strength and momentum of these two powerhouse companies will carry them to continued success in 2012. Great metrics, market domination and incredible momentum are likely to keep both companies moving forward well into the future.

Apple Inc. – The $400 bargain

Apple's growth in share price and market cap at Apple has been nothing short of astounding. Selling for around $6 per share in 2003, the stock climbed to $80 in just three years, and sits at approximately $400 now, about five times its 2006 price. Once on the verge of collapse, Apple was insulted by rival Dell’s (DELL) CEO, Michael Dell in 1997, who said if he ran Apple, he would, "shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." Nine years later, Apple’s market cap exceeded that of Dell, and today, it stands at an amazing $368.5 billion.

In spite of Job’s passing in 2011, Apple’s future looks incredibly bright. Declared by many analysts as the “most undervalued large-cap stock in America,” the company appears poised to make another move. Due to its strong growth, its impressive product offerings and swelling profits, the company's earnings have allowed it to consistently outpace competitors like Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ) and Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM) In 2011 alone, Apple recorded a year-over-year quarterly growth rate of 39%, while Hewlett-Packard dropped to -3.5% and Research In Motion stumbled by a troubling 9.8%. Apple’s P/E of 14.32 dwarfs that of HP at 7.66 and Research In Motion’s 2.52.

Looking ahead, Apple Inc. appears prepared to experience more success. Buoyed by upcoming releases of the iPad3 table and iPhone5 cellular, its 1-year target of $510 suggests upcoming growth. Using PEG to predict its future trend, it is possible to analyze the P/E of a stock against is annual EPS. Most experts who use the metric consider anything over 1.0 to indicate that a stock is overpriced. Apple currently stands at a scant 0.61 for its five-year estimate, while HP struggles at an unnerving 1.43. Of its usual list of competitors, only RIMM at -1.29 and Google at 0.73 join Apple as stocks that appears to be undervalued.

Value shopping for Google’s $625 stock

Much like Apple, Google has been overlooked as an investment by many people. Size, sustained growth and dominance of its market sector have all helped to push the share price up to the $625-$640 range. While it’s easy to dismiss a high-priced stock as having little room to grow, the numbers don’t suggest that is true for this Internet juggernaut.

Much like Apple and RIMM, Google's PEG suggests that the stock is under priced. With a current P/E of 21.33 and an EPS of 29.34, it flaunts a PEG of 0.73, well below the mean valuation line of 1.00. Neither AOL Inc. (AOL) nor Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), two of Google’s biggest competitors, has fared very well. AOL's PEG is an unsettling 10.36, while Yahoo! appears to be overvalued as well, sneaking in at 1.48.

Beyond its PEG, Google has a number of other strong metrics, all suggesting that the stock is still a great value. While its competitors are experiencing negative year-to-year quarterly growth, (AOL at -5.8% and Yahoo! at -24%) Google continues to build on its strong performance. Over the past six months, the stock has continued to grow, with the low in each cycle outperforming the previous.

While the metrics confirm Google’s previous success, they indicate continued growth as well. In addition to its PEG, the company’s one-year target estimate indicates its climb still has legs. Google’s one-year target is just under $732, or almost a 15% increase over its current price; meanwhile, AOL is a little over 14% and Yahoo! at 11%. Simply put, the numbers support the fact that Google, like Apple, is an undervalued stock.

Looking for bargain amid the heavyweights

The value of a stock is a combination of share price and strength of the company within the market. Apple and Google continue to show investors stability in their sectors and a dedication to excellence that makes them leaders. This commitment is evident in their products and in their profitability.

As 2011 draws to a close, investors have a variety of places to look for values on the stock market. In spite of their higher share prices, tech giants Google and Apple are both primed to continue their runs, capitalizing on their technical success to register solid fundamentals in the investment market. When compared to their metrics, both companies are undervalued and appear to be excellent investments to consider for 2012.
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BNY Mellon, New Star, Apple, Chevron, NCAA in Court News

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Bank of New York Mellon Corp. will pay $1.3 million to New York, Texas and Florida to resolve a probe into manipulative trading of auction-rate securities.

The joint investigation by the Texas State Securities Board, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was tied to the actions of Mellon Financial Markets as an intermediary broker on behalf of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. of Florida, according to statements from Schneiderman’s office and the Florida and Texas agencies. The settlement includes penalties, fees and costs.

Auction-rate securities are municipal bonds, corporate bonds and preferred stocks whose rates of return are periodically reset through auctions. The market for the securities collapsed in February 2008 after major dealers withdrew their support for the auctions, causing most of them to fail.

From January 2008 to February 2008, Mellon Financial enabled Citizens Property to buy large quantities of its own auction-rate securities by placing bids in its own auctions as if it were an independent third-party buyer, Schneiderman’s office said in a statement.

Citizens Property knew that broker-dealers who were managing the securities would have rejected the bids and asked for help from Mellon Financial Markets, which agreed to submit the trades to help the Florida insurer avoid detection, Schneiderman’s office said.

Citizens Property’s bids were below market rates and resulted in the auctions clearing at rates lower than they would have had the insurer not intervened, Schneiderman’s office said. Investors earned $6.7 million less in interest than they would have had Citizens not joined the auctions, the Texas State Securities Board said.

Mellon Financial “traders and their managers understood that CPIC’s bidding would set clearing rates lower than they would have been in the absence of such bidding, and that this would be both detrimental and objectionable to other investors bidding on or holding CPIC’s auction rate securities,” Schneiderman’s office said.

“BNY Mellon Capital Markets is pleased to have resolved this matter, which centered on the isolated conduct of three individuals who are no longer with the company,” Ron Sommer, a Bank of New York Mellon spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

It would be inappropriate for Citizens Property Insurance to comment on the settlement, Christine Ashburn, director of legislative and external affairs for the Tallahassee-based company, said in an e-mail.

“It is important to recognize that Citizens was vigilant in obtaining guidance from outside legal counsel prior to engaging in these transactions,” Ashburn said. “We continue to believe that our actions were legally permissible, and we remain committed to providing any information regulators may request.”

For more, click here.

Ex-New Star Founder Refutes Former Fund Manager’s Bullying Claim

John Duffield, founder of New Star Asset Management Holdings Inc., denied claims made by a former fund manager that he bullied his staff.

Patrick Evershed made “extreme and colorful statements” at an employment tribunal hearing in a dispute that was subsequently settled this month, Duffield said in comments on a website. The case was settled before New Star could fully refute them in court, he said.

“Patrick made a number of statements that were exposed as misleading during cross-examination or were refuted under oath by New Star’s witnesses before he truncated the hearing,” Duffield said on his website.

Evershed sued New Star for unfair dismissal after being suspended in 2008 by the fund’s chief executive officer, Howard Covington. The suspension came shortly after Evershed wrote a letter to New Star’s human resources department complaining about Duffield’s conduct.

“I’d love to give a detailed response to some of the points, but I can’t,” Evershed said of Duffield’s comments in a telephone interview yesterday.

Evershed and New Star “reached an agreement which resolves the employment tribunal proceedings without admission of liability,” Henderson Group said in an e-mailed statement. “Both parties are satisfied with the terms of the agreement, and have agreed to keep them confidential.”

Ex-Secret Service Official Wins Dismissal of Conspiracy Charge

Conspiracy charges were dismissed against a former Secret Service official and five other security-company executives in the first prosecution of alleged foreign bribery based on a government sting operation run inside the U.S.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon yesterday threw out the conspiracy charge at the defendants’ request after the government finished presenting its case to a federal jury in Washington. Five of the executives still face additional foreign bribery charges.

Prosecutors allege that R. Patrick Caldwell, former chief executive officer of Protective Products of America Inc. and an ex-deputy assistant director at the Secret Service, joined an illegal business deal by agreeing to make payments to an FBI agent posing as a representative of the west African country of Gabon.

Leon’s ruling, which he made from the bench after 12 weeks of trial, resulted in the acquittal of Stephen Giordanella, Caldwell’s predecessor at Protective Products.

“Judge Leon followed the law and made a correct and just decision,” said Paul Calli, lawyer for Giordanella. “Mr. Giordanella should have never been charged. He was innocent.”

Alisa Finelli, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.
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Mozilla Firefox, Apple, Facebook: Hot Trends

Google will pay Mozilla roughly $300 million a year for three years, totaling nearly $900 million after the price was reportedly bid higher from Microsoft(MSFT_) and Yahoo!(YHOO_). This will mean about three times the amount of money in 2012 as Mozilla took in 2010, when $100 million of its $123 million in revenue was due to its search deal with Google at the time.

Google and Mozilla haven't commented on the financial terms of the agreement, though Mozilla has confirmed the deal is good for the next three years.

Mozilla will drive all searches from its Firefox search box to Google.com, and Google will in turn pay Mozilla a portion of ad revenue generated from those searches.

Apple(AAPL_) is trending as the company appears to be considering using fuel cell technology in future products.

Apple applied for two patents that signal its interest in powering notebooks using hydrogen fuel cells. The patents are called "Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device" and "Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device."

Powering a notebook using hydrogen fuel cells could potentially give laptops battery life for weeks without recharging. The cost will reportedly be the key, as it is said to be difficult to make devices incorporating this technology at a reasonable cost.

Facebook is another popular search -- but no surprise there.

The social network was the No. 1 most-searched-for term in the U.S. of 2011 for the third year in a row. According to Experian Hitwise, who compiled the data, Facebook accounted for just over 3% of all searches in the U.S. -- a 46% rise on the year.

Four variations of the term Facebook were among the top 10 searches in the U.S. for the year. Facebook was the most visited Web site for the second year, accounting for more than 10% of all U.S. visits from January through November.

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Apple at the retail crossroads

I’m often asked at what point should someone short high-flying Apple AAPL -0.07% shares? My response is simple: When the company starts closing stores and pulling back from retail, then the tide has turned.
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2011's biggest tech products

Walt Mossberg wraps up the technologies that made a splash in his year-end review.

While we all know that Steve Jobs was the motivating force behind Apple, we should also note that the company has gotten too big to be totally dominated by his personality, as was the case in the early years.

Although Jobs nixed a lot of dubious ideas, it’s now clear that he was overridden in many cases. The sheer number of moxie consultants involved in various initiatives such as Apple’s retail effort is staggering.

The proof will be in the pudding with the opening of the next-generation store in Palo Alto, Calif.

The first Apple store opened in 2001, and 10 years later it has 368, with more to come. They have proven to be a bonanza. This is despite the conventional wisdom that online sales are to be preferred over brick and mortar.

There are two critical ingredients to a retail outlet promoting a single brand such as Apple’s. This was learned by the car-dealership business.

First of all, customers can kick the tires and play with the equipment. Secondly, you control the sales pitch.

I’ve never been a fan of selling though once-popular outlets such as CompUSA, where various brands compete for shelf space and mind share. On top of that, sales staffers in generalized stores basically are influenced by bribes called spiffs.

In other words, you make extra commission by pitching product A rather than B because product A’s company gives you a bonus for the sale. This kind of corruption cannot take place at brand-specific operations.

So how much more can Apple grow the retail business?

In terms of saturation, we can look at some other numbers. For example, Macy’s Inc. M -0.65% , the big retailer, has more than 800 stores. McDonald’s Corp. MCD -0.16% , while not really comparable, has more than 31,000 restaurants worldwide.

I see no reason why Apple cannot have 1,000 stores that would all be successful. Staples Inc. SPLS +0.18% , the office-supply chain, has 2,000-plus stores.

Apple seems so adept at retail that there is no reason to doubt that it could go out and buy a company like Staples to expand in the sector. Why not?

Apple does have more than $75 billion in the bank, and Staples is worth about $10 billion. Do the math on any retail chain. Opportunity lurks.

So right now, the sky is the limit. I wouldn’t be betting against Apple anytime soon
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Hynix, Micron turn to Taiwan following Apple’s Anobit buy

News broke earlier this week that Apple has acquired Israel-based fabless flash memory firm Anobit for as much as $400 million according to TheMarker, adding another leading chip maker to the company’s portfolio. Anobit’s NAND flash memory is already used in Apple products including the iPhone and iPad, and the firm’s technology is said to offer several advantages over that of its rivals. As DigiTimes pointed out in a recent report, the move also means Anobit’s other clients are now forced to look elsewhere as Apple becomes the exclusive owner of Anobit’s chip technology. Major players including Hynix and Micron were Anobit partners in the past, taking advantage of the company’s proprietary technology that improves the performance and lifespan of its flash memory products. Hynix, Micron and others are now reportedly looking to Taiwan-based companies including Phison Electronics and Silicon Motion Technology following the acquisition. Direct gains from Apple’s Anobit buy include the company’s technology and talent, but another advantage over rivals now emerges as a clear secondary benefit — smartphone vendors that used NAND flash memory chips made by soon-to-be former Anobit clients will no longer be able to utilize Anobit’s class-leading technology.
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Apple above $400

Helped by an overall positive market sentiment fuelled by the passage of the payroll tax cut extension by Congress this morning, the stock of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) crossed the $400 mark for first time since last November. Apple’s stock must have also been helped from end of the year “window-dressing,” as it has gained roughly 24 percent for the year, compared to an almost 4 percent gain for Google (GOOG), and a 2 percent decline for the overall Nasdaq market (NASDAQ:QQQ).

Apple’s stock has been dragged below $400 because of a rather disappointing earnings report for the previous quarter, leadership transition concerns after the loss of its legendary founder Steve Jobs, and a slow-down in Europe. Actually, the company has been losing market shares for its iPhone in the majority of European countries, especially in Germany, where Android-based Samsung’s Galaxy S II maintains a lead. In the meantime, both Apple and Google have been gaining market shares against Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK).

Would the stock hold on to the $400-mark and eventually head for a new high? It is hard to say, especially in this unsettled market that trades more on political headlines and less on economic fundamentals.
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Will Apple Dominate Yet Another Industry?

The following video is part of our "Motley Fool Conversations" series, in which, Andrew Tonner, technology editor and analyst, and Austin Smith, consumer-goods editor and analyst, discuss topics around the investing world.

In today's edition, they discuss the rumors about Apple TV that keep getting stronger. Andrew and Austin break down how Apple could leverage its massive cash balance and media skills to made this product a real game-changer.

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Apple Stays Fresh Despite the Turmoil

It's been a tough year for makers of personal computers as well as for those who manufacture DRAM modules used in PCs. A combination of worsening economic conditions, a shortage of hard drives, and the ever-growing competition from tablets such as Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad drove down PC shipments in the third quarter of 2011.

The mobile-PC market was hit hard with a 12.6% drop, pushed by a more than 40% crash in shipments of mini-notebooks. The consumer segment has also taken a huge beating, down 18.8% compared with last year. Though the migration to Windows 7 was estimated to boost sales, the professional segment slumped 2.1%.

While HP (NYSE: HPQ ) maintained its No. 1 position despite a 7.5% fall, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) saw a 10% decline. The biggest loser was Acer, with a jaw-dropping 45% fall in demand in comparison with last year.
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New studies highlight app gap between Apple, Android

As Google and Apple continue their battle for mobile dominance through their Android and iOS operating systems, a pair of new studies report some interesting findings.

The first, a report by Xyologic, finds that “iPhone is for games, Android is for apps.” It found that of the top 150 downloads in November from the Apple App Store, 100 were games, and game downloads outnumbered app downloads by nearly a 3-1 margin (71.5 million to 25.6 million). Only one app developer (Instagram maker Burbn) was on the list of top 25 publishers of 2011 — the rest were game-makers.

On the Android side, 85 of November’s top 150 were apps, and those outnumbered game downloads by an almost mirror image 3-1 ratio (91.5 million apps to 33.4 million games). A number of game-makers were among the year’s top 25 publishers, but that list was topped by Google and Facebook, and included app developers such as Adobe, Skype and Yahoo, all of whom were missing from the Apple list.

(Personal note: That sounds about right — I have significantly more games on my iPad than on my Android phone.)

What’s it all mean? That the Apple platform is more friendly to game developers, for one, reports Venture Beat. Xyologic co-founder Matthaus Krzykowski tells them that payment issues have kept developers from the Android market, which tends to monetize more through advertising, while Apple games lean toward the booming free-to-play model where users purchase upgrades within the game. But Dan Rowinski at RedWriteWeb wonders if there’s a more sociological reason — are Apple users more affluent and do they have more free time on their hands?

Apple users certainly spend more money on apps. That was the finding in a second study, by analysis firm Distimo, that compared the top 200 apps in both the Apple and Android markets. Based on those sales, the combined App Store for iPhone and iPad reaped six times the revenue of Google’s Android market despite Android’s wide lead in smartphone market share. Distimo co-founder Remco van den Elzen tells Wired that he attributes the difference to ease of use — “Google Checkout is considered to be more cumbersome than iTunes.” With Apple, “the threshold for purchasing the first application is lower,” he said.

While none of this data is particularly new or groundbreaking, it is interesting to note the differences between the two platforms, and where future opportunities may lie.
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IPCom, Broadcom, Apple, Facebook: Intellectual Property

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Adds Broadcom Corp. item in patent section.)

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- IPCom GmbH & Co. sued stores of Metro AG’s Media-Saturn unit in Germany for selling HTC Corp. 3G mobile phones that it says violate IPCom patents.

IPCom sued about 25 stores, said Thomas Empt, a spokesman for the Pullach, Germany-based patent-licensing company.

“Since the retailers are fully aware of the court decisions of patent infringement against HTC, and continue to sell the handsets despite our request to stop doing so, the retailers risk being held liable themselves for willfully infringing our patent,” Bernhard Frohwitter, managing director of IPCom, said in a statement.

HTC hasn’t seen a complaint or been contacted by retailers about any IPCom lawsuit and “is committed to protecting its partners’ and customers’ interests,” according to a statement from an outside spokeswoman in London. Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC is still involved in litigation over the validity of the patent.

Dusseldorf, Germany-based Metro’s consumer-electronics chains Media Markt and Saturn didn’t return a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment on the suits.

Rambus, Broadcom Settle Patent Litigation for Undisclosed Terms

Rambus Inc., a technology licensing company, settled patent disputes with Irvine, California’s Broadcom Corp., the Sunnyvale, California-based company said in a statement yesterday.

The agreement ends all litigation, including claims related to Broadcom’s alleged past use of patented Rambus technology, according to the statement. The offending products are in Broadcom’s broadband communications, mobile and wireless, and network infrastructure lines, according to the court papers.

The license runs for five years, with undisclosed financial terms, Rambus said in the statement.

Rambus had sued Broadcom for patent infringement and also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, a body that has the authority to bar the importation of infringing products.

The dispute between the two companies dates back to 2006, when Rambus made its first approach about a license. Rambus filed the trade complaint in December 2010, alleging that Broadcom infringed patents through its sale of semiconductors known as dynamic random access memory controllers. At that same time Rambus filed the patent infringement suit against Broadcom in federal court in San Francisco.

That case is Rambus Inc. v. Broadcom Corp., 3:10-cv-05437- RS, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more patent news, click here.


Apple Unlikely to Win German Ban on Samsung Galaxy 10.1N

Apple Inc. is unlikely to win a ban on sales of Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy 10.1N tablet computer, a modified version introduced after sales of the original tablet were blocked, a German court said.

The Dusseldorf court that banned sales of the Galaxy 10.1 on Sept. 9 is unlikely to grant Apple an injunction against the Galaxy 10.1N, Presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann said at a hearing yesterday. Samsung has changed the device’s design sufficiently to distance it from the iPad, she said, adding that the view is preliminary. A ruling was scheduled for Feb. 9.

“Consumers are well aware that there is an original and that competitors try to use similar designs, so buyers are vigilant when looking at products,” Brueckner-Hofmann said.

Apple has faced setbacks in its legal fight against Samsung, its closest rival in tablet computers, since its initial September success in Germany. The iPad maker failed to convince an Australian court on Dec. 9 to reinstate a ban in that country and two days ago, a Dusseldorf court voiced doubts about the reach of Apple’s European Union design right that was the basis for the company’s Sept. 9 injunction.

The new Samsung tablet has thicker edges and the front screen has speakers which distinguish it from the iPad, the court said. There is also a broad Samsung label that ensures consumers aren’t confused, according to the judges.

Apple’s lawyer Matthias Koch argued that Samsung is still exploiting the reputation of the iPad.

“That’s the typical strategy: You try to come as close as possible to the original and if you can no longer do it you introduce marginal changes,” Koch said.

Samsung lawyer Thomas Musmann argued that Cupertino, California-based Apple is trying to monopolize the tablet format.

“It’s not that there were no other tablets around and that all that came after the iPad are an illicit copy,” Musmann said.

Yesterday’s case is LG Dusseldorf, 14c O 292/11.

Mark Zuckerberg v. Mark Zuckerberg Facebook Case May Be Filed

An Israeli entrepreneur who Facebook Inc. threatened to sue because he set up a service commercializing the social network’s “like” functions has changed his name to that of the Palo Alto, California-based company’s founder.

Rotem Guez said on his website that he’s officially changed his name to Mark Zuckerberg following his receipt of a letter from Facebook’s counsel telling him to cease and desist operating his Like Store business. Businesses could use this service to offer incentives to Facebook users in return for their clicking the “like” button on the business’s listing.

Counsel for Facebook told Guez that he was violating the terms of service for the use of the social-media site, and demanded he close down his company and never again access the Facebook site, he said on his website.

Guez, now known as Mark Zuckerberg, left visitors to his website with a cliffhanger question: “Will Facebook sue Mark Zuckerberg? Or maybe the opposite? Stay tuned!”

For more trademark news, click here.


Electronic Arts Must Defend Activision Contract Claims at Trial

Electronic Arts Inc., the second-biggest U.S. video-game publisher, lost a court bid to dismiss the $400-million contract-interference claims by its larger rival Activision Blizzard Inc.

California Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle, at a hearing Dec. 21 in Los Angeles, denied Electronic Arts’ request to throw out the claims, saying Activision had provided sufficient evidence that a jury should decide whether Electronic Arts broke the law by talking to two creators of Activision’s “Call of Duty” franchise while they were still under contract.

Berle rejected Electronic Arts’ argument that it was perfectly lawful for the two top executives of Activision’s Infinity Ward studio, Jason West and Vince Zampella, to explore future employment opportunities. It was “a whole different scenario” if Electronic Arts approached the two executives while there was still more than two years left on their contract, the judge said.

Activision, based in Santa Monica, California, last year added Electronic Arts as a cross-defendant to a lawsuit that was initially brought by West and Zampella after they were fired. They had sued for $36 million, saying Activision fired them to avoid paying the royalties they were owed for “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” the top-selling game the previous year.

Robert Klieger, a lawyer for Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts, declined to comment after the hearing.

“We’re pleased with the ruling and look forward to proving our case at trial,” Steven Marenberg, a lawyer for Activision, said after the hearing.

Activision’s lawyers said in court filings that Electronic Arts wanted to lure away the “Call of Duty” developers because the game had displaced “Medal of Honor” by Electronic Arts as the dominant combat-game franchise, helping Activision to overtake its rival as the largest video-game publisher.

“EA dangled before West and Zampella a lucrative deal that incentivized them to terminate their Activision contracts prematurely, either by quitting or by behaving so badly that Activision had no choice but to fire them, which, of course, is exactly what happened,” Activision said in its opposition to Electronic Arts’ request to throw out its claims.

After they were fired, West and Zampella set up an independent studio, Respawn Entertainment. Electronic Arts said in court papers that it has no involvement with Respawn beyond an agreement to publish and distribute the studio’s games.

In addition, about 40 current and former employees of Infinity Ward sued last year, alleging they weren’t paid bonuses and royalties for their work on “Modern Warfare 2.” Their case has been consolidated with the case by West and Zampella against Activision.

The case is West v. Activision, SC107041, California Superior Court (Los Angeles County).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Ex-Dow Scientist Who Stole Secrets Gets 7 Years, 3 Months Prison

An ex-Dow AgroSciences LLC researcher who stole trade secrets from his former employer to benefit a Chinese university was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, prosecutors said.

Kexue Huang, 46, was sentenced Dec. 21 by U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence in Indianapolis, according to an e- mailed statement from U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett’s office.

“The United States Attorney’s Office takes seriously its obligation to protect Hoosier businesses from economic espionage,” Hogsett said in the statement. Hoosier is a nickname for people from Indiana.
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Awesome 2012 Start for Apple, 30 Million iPhones Could Be Shipped in Q1

Investment firm Susquehanna published a report revealing its estimates on Apple’s iPhones performance on the market in the first three months of 2012. Projected Apple shipments of its well known smartphones: 30.3 million units. Susquehanna readjusted its predictions as previously announced Apple would sell 27.1 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2012. During the full fiscal year, which for Apple started in October, the Cupertino based company is expected to sell 111.4 million handsets, up 6 million from the previous sales forecast.

The investment firm readjusted its predictions regarding Apple’s sales due to iPhone 4S’ exquisite performance on the market. The latest iPhone, pushed by Apple with unprecedented force domestically and worldwide, broke some sales records even from the early days of availability. In addition, some previous issues in the supply chain have been resolved, which allowed Apple to increase the orders to manufacturers for larger volumes of iPhone to be shipped around the world.

Jeffrey Fidacaro Susquehanna analyst explained in his report that “Demand appears solid as iPhone 4S continues to ship in one to two weeks online and stores are generally sold out for in-store reservation and pickup (still hoping Santa has a few left). These factors, combined with positive color from Best Buy and AT&T, led us to increase our iPhone shipment forecast for North America and modestly for Western Europe and Asia Pacific.”

In continental Europe, the latest iPhone failed to impress customers and industry observers point to many reasons, starting to weakening economic conditions that make customers more budget-conscientious. In addition, rival Android smartphones emerged as high quality products and yet with more consumer friendly price tags.
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Apple vs. Android: A grueling patent war of attrition

Many commentators took at face value HTC's declaration of "an actual victory" after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that it had infringed Apple's (AAPL) patent on software that allowed a user to dial a number embedded in an e-mail simply by clicking on it. That particular feature was only one of 10 patents Apple had tried to assert, HTC argued, and the Taiwanese manufacturer of Google (GOOG) Android phones had already found a way to remove it.

Now it looks like Motorola (MOT) may have to do something similar about Apple's patented method of flipping through pages in a smartphone photo gallery and zooming in on a particular image. According to FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller, a court in Munich is likely to rule in February that Motorola's Android phones infringe this patent as well. Another Android phone manufacturer -- Samsung -- was already forced to drop the feature by a Dutch court's injunction in August.

Neither case constitutes a knockout blow for Apple, but Mueller argues that the company is making headway in a war of attrition in which Android manufacturers have to modify their smartphones one feature at a time to work around Apple's original ideas -- which, he says, is what Steve Jobs wanted all along.

"While one or two wins of this kind won't be enough to change consumer preferences," Mueller writes, "the aggregate effect of the enforcement of half a dozen or more patents of this kind could make an appreciable difference in user experience."

Apple, he says, is fighting for long-term opportunities.

"As long as it doesn't come under enormous pressure, it can afford to crack one nut at a time, country by country. In this you-win-some-you-lose-some game, a substantial drop-out rate is less important than steady progress."
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Apple iPhone struggles in Europe as Android dominates

Another year, another 12 great months for Apple. Ever since Steve Jobs unveiled the very first iPod all those years ago, it has seemed like everything Apple touches turns to gold.

The giant of tech industry has some of the most impressive customer retention rates of any company in the world.

The simple design, easy-to-use products have people clamouring to get their hands on every new device Apple unveils.

And, of course, we now have pretty much universal syncing and cloud computing. This new technology means that Apple customers will be compelled to keep buying the products, rather than risk have to start again with a whole new range of gadgets.

But it seems Apple’s dominance is not all-conquering. It is human, after all. The tech giant has seen sales of its iPhone actually go down in mainland Europe, as the Euro zone crisis takes its toll on people’s spending habits.
Apple sales boosted by iPhone 4S

While the release of the iPhone 4S earlier this year boosted sales for Apple in most parts of the world, it was a different story in Europe.

While we might be tightening our belts a little here in Britain, in Europe they are really gearing up for a storm, and are turning away from Apple’s expensive products.

In France, Apple saw its share of the smartphone market drop from 29% down to 20%. And in Germany, it slipped from 27% down to 22%, with similar drops seen in Italy and Spain.
Android dominance

As other tech companies muscle in to the smartphone market, Apple has struggled to justify its high prices during the economic turmoil Europe is experiencing.

Google’s Android has taken advantage of this, increasing its share in the European market to become the dominant smartphone force.

In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, Android has now taken the majority of the market. The iOS alternative now holds an impressive 61% share.
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China City Woos Apple Supplier With Workers, Low Wages

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- The Chinese city of Zhengzhou will help Foxconn Technology Group recruit more than 100,000 workers next year for its local factory, matching the number it helped the maker of Apple Inc. iPhones and iPads hire in 2011.

Zhengzhou has a large workforce, with labor costs that are about two-thirds of those in China’s wealthier coastal cities, Deputy Mayor Xue Yunwei said in an interview. That’s given Zhengzhou, the capital of the mostly rural province of Henan, an advantage luring investment from manufacturers, he said.

“You can’t find entry-level workers in Shanghai offering only 1,500 yuan ($237) of monthly salary,” Xue said in Beijing yesterday. “But we can.”

Efforts to sway companies including Foxconn, Intel Corp. and Ford Motor Co. to invest inland instead of moving production to nations such as Vietnam and Bangladesh as wages rise in China’s coastal areas may help sustain economic growth that’s averaged 10 percent in the last three decades. In addition to helping find workers, authorities are offering reduced tax rates and preferential access to land to attract companies.

“In the past 30 years, China created what might be the world’s greatest miracle by attracting global capital to its coastal cities,” Xue said. “The new story for the next few decades will be the inland story.”

Economic Growth

Zhengzhou’s economy may grow 13 percent this year and maintain a double-digit pace of expansion for the “next few years,” Xue said. The national economy may grow 9.2 percent this year and 8.5 percent in 2012, according the median of 15 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Foxconn, which began exporting goods from its Zhengzhou factory in August, has been a major factor for the city’s growth, Xue said. Zhengzhou’s exports and imports combined will exceed $15 billion this year, triple what it was in 2010, he said.

Foreign direct investment in the city, with a population of more than 8 million, has grown 43 percent in the first 11 months of the year, Xue said. Nationally, foreign investment gained 13 percent during the same period.

To help Foxconn, Nissan Motor Co.’s local vehicle venture, and other companies to find workers, Xue said, the Zhengzhou government has encouraged some of the more than 21 million people from Henan working in other parts of China to return to the province. The government has also organized students from 40 universities and over 100 technical-training high schools in Henan to do internships at the plants in the city, he said.

Intel and Ford

Edmund Ding, a spokesman for Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taipei-based flagship of Foxconn, didn’t answer several calls to his mobile phones today.

Intel announced plans in February 2009 to close down its assembly and test operations in Shanghai and move the work to the western city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. In September of this year, Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally broke ground on an engine transmission plant in the western municipality of Chongqing.

Annual wages of private companies’ urban manufacturing workers in coastal Guangdong province averaged 21,644 yuan last year, compared with 16,391 yuan in Hunan and 15,495 yuan in Henan, according to government data.

“Nobody was available to meet us three to five years ago when we wanted to persuade them to do business here,” Xue said. “But now, all kinds of foreign and domestic companies visit us every week.”

Airport Plans

To make Zhengzhou even more attractive, Xue said the city also wants to spend as much as 30 billion yuan in the next decade to expand its airport to accommodate more cargo transport. The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planner, and the nation’s aviation regulator have already approved plans to start building a second runway at Zhengzhou’s airport next month, he said.

Local authorities want five runways as part of a 30-year blueprint for developing the city, Xue said.

The local government hasn’t taken on much debt to make these investments, Xue said. Zhengzhou plans to merge about 10 companies the city set up to finance products into three larger entities, each with assets in the tens of billions of yuan, he said. These three companies will focus on investing in selected industries, infrastructure projects and property development, he said, without giving more details.

Xue said the city government wants to make Zhengzhou an industrial base, a transportation hub and a large metropolis. “That’ our vision,” he said.
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Apple's Santa TV spot deemed best ad of holiday season

Apple's TV commercial depicting Santa Claus interacting with Siri on his iPhone 4S was named the most effective ad of the 2011 holiday season, and topped 34 other Santa-themed spots.

According to viewer reactions measured by TV ad analysis firm Ace Metrix and released on Friday, Apple's commercial collected enough points to be named the most effective ad during the crucial holiday season, beating out advertising veterans like Coca-Cola, Pillsbury and Nintendo, reports GigaOM.

The Santa Siri ad garnered 652 out of a possible 950 points, eight percent higher than other tech brands, from a group of randomly selected viewers who rated selected commercials by relevance, persuasion, watchability, information and other metrics. Ace Metrix says the reviewers are "representative of the U.S. TV viewing audience."

“It’s cute and funny,” Ace Metrix CEO Peter Daboll said of the iPhone maker's TV spot.

In general, companies that used Santa in their commercials performed above other ads in their repsective categories, proving Ace Metrix's point that "Santa sells." Old St. Nick was the star of at least 35 ads this holiday season.

Best Buy took away top honors for most effective campaign with its "Game On, Santa" series, which featured passive-aggressive moms outdoing the Jolly Red Elf by shopping at the big-box electronics store.

Apple's ad shows Santa interacting with the iPhone 4S, tasking Siri with a number of actions that show off the feature albeit with a tad of whimsy. A message from Mrs. Claus tells him to "go easy on the cookies," and the ad finishes with a humorous interpretation of Santa's upcoming schedule.

In usual Apple fashion the ad highlights the product first and foremost, though the introduction of Siri has made the company's traditionally wordless commercials more about interacting with the device instead of merely highlighting its physical attributes.
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Since the iPod campaign, Apple's ads for its mobile devices have been fast-paced music video-like spots that mostly feature music by independent bands. However, Siri has offered a new opportunity to create commercials that are stark contrasts of previous iDevice ads, just as the company hopes Siri will set its products apart from the competition.

Apple picks up legal win, a chip company, and a Grammy

Welcome back to Apple Talk Weekly. We're back from hiatus with a weekly dose of the top Apple news and rumors.

Despite the holiday season being in full bore, it's been a busy week for Apple, starting with a win against HTC in its complaint to the International Trade Commission. That was followed shortly thereafter by the apparently successful purchase of an Israeli memory chipmaker, and another legal volley against Samsung in an Australian court.

There were, of course, other goings-on, like some changes to the iTunes store, talk of "prototype" Apple retail stores, and a posthumous Grammy win by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Read more about those stories, and the rest of this week's Apple happenings below.

Apple Talk Weekly rounds up of some of the top Apple-related news and rumors. It appears every Saturday morning and is curated by CNET's Apple reporter, Josh Lowensohn.


Apple sees victory against HTC in ITC patent case
The International Trade Commission this week ruled in favor of Apple in its complaint against HTC, alleging that the Taiwan-based company was infringing on 10 of its patents with its mobile devices. The ITC ruled that HTC was in fact, violating one of those patents, and gave the company until April of next year to comply with a software fix. Later in the week, HTC said it already a workaround for the issue ready to go. See also: HTC loses key patent battle: How does it affect you?
Anobit's mobile storage technology, now reportedly Apple's.

Anobit's mobile storage technology, now reportedly Apple's.
(Credit: Anobit)

Apple spends reported $400-500M on memory company
Israel-based flash memory maker Anobit is now owned by Apple, according to reports this week. A story from Israeli news site Calcalist says the deal has gone through, and cost Apple somewhere in the $400 million to $500 million range. The apparent acquisition should beef up Apple's in-house hardware efforts, and adds to its previous hardware acquisitions including Intrinsity and P.A. Semi.

Apple takes aim at Samsung in Australia, again
A federal court in Australia was the scene of another Apple legal volley against Samsung this week. In a hearing, Apple said Samsung was infringing on "at least 10" of its design patents with the designs of its smart phones and 10-inch Galaxy Tablet. This follows moves by Samsung to change its tablets in that market to comply with a previous Apple complaint.

Steve Jobs nabs a Grammy
Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs will be posthumously awarded a Grammy this year. The Recording Academy this week said that Jobs was to be given one of the organization's Special Merit Awards for helping how people consume music, TV, movies and books. Apple itself nabbed a technical Grammy in 2002 for its audio software efforts.

Apple building "prototype" store in Palo Alto
Apple is planning to give its Palo Alto, Calif., retail store a reboot as part of an upcoming construction project that will build a new store just a block away. The $3.15 million project will bring a 15,030-square-foot store to the area, which Apple says will serve as a prototype of sorts. It's the latest in a series of projects to revitalize some of Apple's retail locations.
Bought a TV show from a series? Apple now offers the option to get the whole season at a discount.

Bought a TV show from a series? Apple now offers the option to get the whole season at a discount.
(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)

Apple tweaks "complete my season" and "album" iTunes Store services
Apple made two key adjustments to its digital media store this week, the first being the quiet removal of a policy that would only give users 180 days to complete an album at a limited price after purchasing selected tracks. The second bit adds the completion feature to TV shows on iTunes, letting users subscribe to an entire season after having purchased an episode or two, without having to re-buy those same shows when purchasing a whole season.

Apple replacing overheating first-gen Nanos with new models
Despite having promised those with recalled first-generation iPod nanos replacements from the same generation, some users have been getting back Apple's latest model instead. Apple's original stance on the issue when the recall went out last month was to provide users with refurbished versions of the same model.


Apple chatting up TV plans with media execs
A report from the Wall Street Journal earlier this week noted that Apple's been talking to a handful of media executives about TV, particularly with how it could make use of voice and physical movement. Apple is expected to debut a TV set as soon as next year. The company's current living room effort centers around its $99 set top box, the Apple TV.

Apple working on wearable Siri gadgets
Apple and Google are said to be working on gadgets that can be worn, things like wristwatches and curved glass iPods. Those details, which came from a New York Times report this week, said such ideas were still in the conceptional phase, and could tap into Apple's recently-released, iPhone 4S exclusive Siri voice assistant to become more useful.
A smaller iPad 2012? Nope says analyst.

A smaller iPad 2012? Nope says analyst.

No 7-inch iPad in 2012, analyst suggests
With a recent rumor pointing to a smaller version of the iPad being on the way, analyst Brian Blair of Wedge Partners this week told investors that such a product would be unlikely. "(Steve) Jobs was emphatic in his view that 7-inch tablets were dead on arrival, and we believe it would be unlikely to see the company test the waters in this category anytime soon," Blair wrote. As an alternative, Blair suggested that Apple would keep the iPad 2 around, like it does with previous versions of its iPhone, and selling it at a lower price point.

iPad 3 launch to coincide with birthday of Steve Jobs
A report out of Focus Taiwan this week (via 9to5Mac) claimed that Apple was pushing its suppliers hard to get the next iPad ready to go in time for the birthday anniversary of late company co-founder Steve Jobs on February 24. That included making employees at Apple's manufacturing partners avoid taking vacation during the holidays.
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Apple details iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match international availability

Apple has finally made it very clear exactly which media content can be made available in the cloud in which countries for Automatic Downloads and Apple TV streaming, as well as where iTunes Match is available. A support document, newly added to Apple’s site, provides a handy resource for those thinking about investing in Apple devices who want to know more about the media ecosystem in their neck of the woods.

The support article includes a chart that lists countries alphabetically, and then shows in columns what kind of iTunes Store content is available for iTunes in the Cloud access. Content types include Music, Music Videos, TV Shows, Apps and Books. The entire range of media options is only available in four countries: Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. Many more countries offer everything except for TV shows, and Apps and Books are available in every case.

Apple also includes a chart indicating where iTunes Match is available worldwide. There are 17 countries currently on that list, including all those who got the service last Thursday after a slightly premature slip allowed a little bit of access the day before. Apple doesn’t include Brazil in the support document, however, even though that country also has access to iTunes Match.

If iCloud media access is a big part of your Apple device buying decision, or if you just want to see what’s available in your country laid out in black and white from the most authoritative source possible, Apple’s newest support doc should come in handy.
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Apple to release iPad 3 on 24 Feb: 4 must have features in new iPad

The tech giant is all set to release Apple iPad 3 on 24 Feb coinciding with the birth anniversary of Steve Jobs. Here are 4 must have features in the new iPad

With the year 2011 coming to a close, and the new year beginning very shortly, reports have started doing the rounds about the possible launch of iPad 3, the Cupertino based tech giant’s super successful tablet’s forthcoming edition. Reports appearing in different media outlets have suggested that Apple may release the new iPad version as early as the fourth week of February.

Reports suggest that Apple may launch the new generation iPad may be released earlier than expected and reports indicate that Apple seems to have made its mind of launching it on the birth anniversary of the late company founder Steve Jobs.

A PCMag report suggests that the new iPad 3 will be released on 24 February, the birth anniversary of late Steve Jobs, the iconic founder of Apple, the largest technology company in the world. There are two probabilities, one is that Apple unveils iPad 3 on that day and then release it in the market in early March.

Meanwhile there are rumors that Apple may come up with major up-gradation for its new iPad tablet to leave competitors further behind. Now it is time for Apple to notch things up to a whole new level. And this can be done by introducing the immensely powerful quad core A6 processor. According to senior analyst Kevin Krewell, a quad core A6 can be a direct competitor to Nvidia’s much touted Kal-El series. As a matter of fact, A6 can tip the scale to its favor by having a cost (and power) effective 28 nm semiconductor technology (as compared to 40 nm of Kal-El).

Another important aspect where Apple iPad can get further improvement is its display. The Cupertino based tech giant has made it almost clear that they will look forth to integrate an advanced Retina Display like feature in iPad 3′s 10 inch screen. If integrated, the forthcoming iPad will have a whopping 2,048×1,536 resolution ‘dense’ display. Though, according to some experts, this may not be required for iPad’s larger screen (as it is not held close to the eyes). Even an intermediate 1,600×1,200 resolution display will appeal to the (tablet) users.

Another aspect that will certainly be integrated into the new iPad is cloud computing. With iOS 5 it can be easily integrated on iPad 3. With this function at the tip of their hands, users will now be able to have access to better storage and sharing of media not only in their device, but also through cloud features.

With Apple already putting 8MP camera in its new iPhone 4S, people are looking forward to having similar camera in the new version of the top selling tablet.
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Apple’s iPad still beating Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet in sales

As holiday retailers make their final pushes for a spot in consumers’ stockings, the latest numbers show that Apple’s iPad was still leading the tablet market headed into the holiday season.

Research firm IDC released figures last week showing that tablet sales overall were lower than expected, but were predicted to pick up in the fourth quarter during the holidays. That boost will be, in part, thanks to the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes and Noble Nook tablet, the research firm said.



Weigh In



 It seems like a new tablet hits the market every day. Here’s a look at a few that are vying for people’s attention.


 It can be hard to give tech gifts on a budget. Here are a few suggestions for great gadgets that cost $100 or less.

IDC Research Director Tom Mainelli said in a release that “Amazon and Barnes & Noble are shaking up the media tablet market, and their success helps prove that there is an appetite for media tablets beyond Apple's iPad.”

Success of those tablets will help bolster Android in the operating system battle, though it could come at the expense of other, higher-priced Android tablets.

Right now, IDC found, Android’s rise on the smaller slates has been eating into BlackBerry and Apple’s share of the operating system market. But with an impressive 61.5 percent market share, Apple is expected to remain on top for quite a while.

“I fully expect Apple to have its best-ever quarter in 4Q11,” Mainelli said, “and in 2012 I think we'll see Apple's product begin to gain more traction outside of the consumer market, specifically with enterprise and education markets.”

As for webOS, HP’s now open-source platform, IDC said that it doesn’t expect the platform to “reappear in the media tablet market in any meaningful way going forward.” The system’s market share slipped from five percent to zero percent following the company’s announcement that it would no longer make webOS devices.
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Apple’s iPad 2 satisfaction is 84 percent, many install top iPad apps

A report suggests that Cupertino based tech giant Apple’s iPad 2 satisfaction is 84 percent among users and many install top iPad apps. iPad is very satisfactory. A new survey has proven this fact, and now can make even more non-iPad owners crave for the Apple tablet.

Software Usability Research Laboratory conducted a study of user satisfaction and found that an overwhelming majority of iPad owners are satisfied with their tablet from Apple. It also revealed some information on when and where people use their iPad.

Jim Dalrymple of The Loop highlighted the study entitled iPad Usage Patterns On-the-Go and at Work this Thursday. In the study 52 respondents ranging in age from 23 to 80 were polled on a 75-item survey.

The survey revealed that 83.65% of respondents were satisfied with the iPad. 62% Apple users ranked Apple’s device as “excellent,” 10% considered it the “best imaginable,” and 21% thought it was “good.”

The survey also tried to find out how people are using the device. 52% of participants reported carrying their iPad only when traveling, 21% carry their iPad every time they go out, and 17% only carry it to work.

On the application use, the survey found that 17% of respondents have more than 80 applications on their iPad. 29% have between 1 and 20 applications installed, while 33% have 21 to 40 applications.

However, having 80 applications does not mean the users use these regularly. 35% of the respondents use between 1 and 5 applications, 40% use between 6 and 10 applications and a mere 4% regularly used more than 20 applications.

The survey also revealed that iPad users commonly use their iPads in the living room, followed by the bedroom, kitchen and dining room. The iPad is most commonly used to browse the Web, followed by checking e-mail, reading news, and social networking.

A similar poll was conducted in 2010 following the release of the first-generation iPad showed that Apple’s new product category carried a 91% satisfaction rating.

User satisfaction is a critical criterion in the success of a tech company and ensures user loyalty, also decreasing the risk of customer hopping away to some other firm.

The most popular thing about the iPad, according to the users, is the apps. The apps were unanimously declared to be ease-of-use, screen size and portability.

In the report about the survey, SURL wrote, “Overall, it seems as though Apple is listening to its customers. Many participants from the original study mentioned the lack of a camera and ability to multitask as being the LEAST liked features of the iPad. These were not mentioned as frequently in the current study, as Apple introduced cameras in the iPad 2 and made multitasking abilities available for both the original iPad and iPad 2.”
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Apple makes up 56 per cent of MENA's mobile internet users

Around fifty-six per cent of mobile internet users in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) used Apple devices in the month of October, according to a recent study by digital media planning solutions company Effective Measure (EM).

Around 7.3 million internet mobile users in the MENA region used Apple devices including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. iPhone amounts to a total of 29 per cent of e-mobile users, 24 per cent to the iPad and 2 per cent iPhone.

The study indicated that Egypt comes in first in the use of iPad with 29 per cent of the local internet mobile using the device. In the UAE, 18.8 per cent of Apple users favor the tablet device.

In Saudi Arabia 64.5 per cent of the local e-mobile population used apple products, and the iPhone is the trendiest device as 34.3 per cent of apple users use the above $300 Phone.

Lebanon came in second with 61.1 per cent of e-mobile users using Apple devices. The iPhone is also the most popular Apple device at 30 per cent.

Morocco and Jordan ranked next with 59.4 and 44.6 per cent of e-mobile customers using Apple products.

Egypt came in the fifth place with 44 per cent. UAE lagged behind with thirty-three percent of e-mobile users in the UAE using Apple devices.

The study, which examined e-mobile data of the MENA region 2 to 11 October, indicated that 9.1 million e-mobile users in the MENA region (69 per cent of the total) used devices made by Apple, RIM (Blackberry) and Nokia.

Blackberry and Nokia lagged behind Apple with 7.6 and 5.3 per cent, respectively.
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New Apple Store Coming to Palo Alto; Steve Jobs to Receive Grammy

Every week, Apple makes news with technology developments, business deals and, more often than not, controversies.

That’s where our weekly "Core Bytes" column on Apple comes in. We’ll relay the past week’s news highlights from our favorite backyard tech giant.

A German court stated it is unlikely to ban Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1N from being distributed in the European Union, as Apple requested of them. The Galaxy, the Duesseldorf regional court argued, noticeably differs in design from Apple patent-protected iPad, with features such as “a contrasting frame and loudspeaker openings.”

New Products
Apple is constructing a new store just down the street from its original one in Palo Alto. The $3.5 million construction will borrow designs from its other stores, and occupy two stories over 15,000 square feet. The city issued a building permit for the store, and construction is to begin “any day now.”

In the future, Apple computers could last weeks without needing a recharge. That is if Apple utilizes two patents it published this week, describing a ”portable and cost-effective fuel cell system for a portable computing device”.

Business Deals and Developments
While there’s been debate over whether Steve Jobs should have received Time’s Person of the Year, one award is clear: Jobs will posthumously be receiving a Grammy award in February. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is granting their Trustees award to Jobs, the only industrialist to receive one this year, because he “revolutionalized the way music is distributed and purchased.”

Apple was the 13th most visited website in the U.S. in November, according to a news analyst by comScore. It drew 79.2 million visitors during the month, rivaling 12th place New York Times, which had 79.6 million users that month. Apple, Amazon and eBay were the only retailers to make it to the top 15.

This holiday season, “Santa sells.” Especially when he’s featured in an Apple iPhone 4S advertisement. According to Ace Metrix, a TV ad analyst firm, Siri was 2011’s most effective holiday advertisement.

Apple’s iTunes Match service, which makes your iTunes library available through a cloud, is now available in 17 countries. Now you will have no problems pulling up your favorites songs in locales such as Australia, Germany, Mexico and the U.K.
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