Weekly Digest Issue No. 497
'Smartbooks': poised for success? | Positive mood at CES
Nokia vs Apple revs up
Finnish mobile giant Nokia was straight out of the blocks in 2010, filing two new lawsuits against iPhone maker Apple. This latest move escalates a legal battle between the two titans which started in October last year when Nokia accused Apple of infringing 10 of its patents (Apple subsequently accused Nokia of infringing 13 of its patents). On 29 December Nokia filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC) in the US saying that Apple infringes seven Nokia patents in "virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers". The patents focus on the areas of user interface, camera phones, antenna and power management technologies. Nokia has also filed a suit in a US federal court in Delaware, which covers pretty much the same ground as the ITC filing. Essentially, by making complaints to a federal court and the ITC, Nokia could potentially be able to look for financial compensation from Apple and get the iPhone maker served with an injunction, if the complaint is upheld. Looks like this is one battle that could run and run, with industry analysts and commentators predicting it could drag on for as long as three years.
Apple tablet rumours in overdrive
Shrugging off the legal threat from Nokia, Apple has also hit the New Year headlines for a more positive reason. The rumour mill went into overdrive this week with more details emerging about Apple's widely-expected tablet computer, the so-called iSlate. For now Apple itself hasn't actually confirmed anything about the much-rumoured device, though sources have been quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying it is likely to have a 10- or 11-inch touchscreen and could ship in March. According to All Things D, Apple is expected to reveal the device on 27 January. Citing sources, Yair Reiner, an analyst for Oppenheimer & Co, last month said Apple could price the iSlate at around USD1,000, which seems quite pricey, although the WSJ writes that with this multimedia device Apple is focused on changing the way consumers interact with content, including newspapers and books. It must be said that all these little snippets of information about the iSlate have certainly been generating interest in Apple in the run-up to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which starts on Thursday and will likely feature other touchscreen tablet announcements, and of course the launch of Google's Nexus One smartphone. Apple doesn't 'do' the CES; however, with all these headlines it's certainly managed to steal some of the trade show's thunder.
'Smartbooks': poised for success?
Even as rumours of the 'iSlate' continue, Freescale Semiconductor this week unveiled its plans for an internet-enabled tablet computer. The device would be a third of the size of the average netbook and would fall into the category of what some are calling the 'smartbook': smaller than a netbook, bigger than a smartphone. The key features of the Freescale tablet will be a sub-USD200 price point, all-day battery life, constant internet connectivity, a touchscreen and the Android operating system. Freescale will unveil the device at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which will kick off on Thursday. Freescale's devices, known as reference designs, are likely to be copied by manufacturers and the company expects them to appear on retail shelves by this summer. Also at the CES, Chinese computer maker Lenovo is to debut its smartbook, the Skylight. The device will run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset and will weigh less than 2lbs. Lenovo will reportedly sell Skylight for around the USD499 mark, closer to the price of a typical high-end netbook. Over the past year netbooks have been the top-selling category in the overall PC market. However, analysts are unclear as yet whether a market exists for a device that sits in between the popular netbook and the increasingly popular smartphone.
Google unleashes Nexus One
After months of speculation Google unveiled its own smartphone this week, the Nexus One. Google has said the device belongs in an emerging class of smartphone it calls 'superphones', and it is the first of a line of handsets the internet giant plans to bring to market, via its own web store. Built by HTC, the Nexus One runs on the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android 2.1. It also features a 3.7-inch OLED display and a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. In the US T-Mobile will be offering the phone, and Google says it will also be released by Verizon Wireless eventually. In Europe Vodafone will be offering the handset, although not yet. There is also an unlocked version of the phone available at around the USD529 mark. Initial reactions to the phone have been positive enough, although reviewers don't seem to be jumping up and down with unbridled joy. Naturally the Nexus One will be compared to the iPhone, and presumably to other smartphones from the likes of Palm and Research in Motion (RIM); however, analysts are suggesting that Google's potential smartphone success is likely to be driven not by handsets but by its open source operating system and its direct sales model (through its new web store).
Positive mood at CES
If last year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas reflected the gloomy mood in the technology sector, then it's clear that this year's event is proving to be a reflection of the increasing optimism that's floating around these days. Though visitor figures are expected to be broadly in line with last year's tally of around 110,000, it's the raft of new product launches that's really getting the juices flowing. Arguably the hottest trend at the event this year is 3D television, with Sony, LG Electronics and Panasonic all expected to release 3D TVs. Consumer interest in 3D has been stoked by films like James Cameron's 'Avatar', and there is now a concerted push by the likes of Sony to get 3D into sitting rooms globally. Sony executive deputy president Hiroshi Yoshioka said in November that by 2013 a third to a half of all Sony TV sets sold annually will have 3D features. The Consumer Electronics Association, which organises the trade event, estimates that 2.2 million 3D TV sets will be sold in 2010 and that by 2013 more than 25 percent of all televisions sold will be 3D TVs. Also at the CES this week LG and Panasonic are expected to demonstrate a service that brings internet video calls to TV sets. As a result of a deal with internet telephony firm Skype both firms will release TV sets which support free video calls between Skype users. Touchscreen tablets and 'smartbooks' (as discussed above) will also be hot topics at this year's show. And with over 300 new firms exhibiting at the event, there's likely to be a whole host of weird and wonderful new gadgets being released this week.