Google Inc unveiled a music service on Wednesday that allows users to listen to unlimited songs for $9.99 a month, challenging smaller companies like Pandora and Spotify in the market for streaming music.
With its new service, announced at its annual developers’ conference in San Francisco, Google has adopted the streaming music business model ahead of rival Apple Inc, which pioneered online music purchases with iTunes.
Google’s “All Access” service lets users customize song selections from 22 genres, ranging from Jazz to Indie music, stream individual playlists, or listen to a curated, radio-like stream that can be tweaked. It will be launched for U.S. users first, before being rolled out to several other countries.
At the conference, Google also unveiled improvements to other services, including new mapping features and a voice-activated search. The focus was on giving more options to users of mobile devices using its Android operating system.
Google’s shares jumped more than 3 percent while Pandora Media Inc shares were down more than 1 percent on Wednesday afternoon.
The entry of the world’s largest Internet company amps up the competition in the nascent market for subscription-based, streaming music. Amazon.com Inc and Apple are among the Silicon Valley powerhouses sounding out top recording industry executives, according to sources with knowledge of talks.
Pandora is spending freely and racking up losses to expand globally. Even social media stalwarts Facebook and Twitter are jumping onto the streaming-music bandwagon.
All these companies see a viable music streaming and subscription service as crucial to growing their presence in an exploding mobile environment. For Google and Apple, it is critical in ensuring users remain loyal to their mobile products.
Music has been integral to the mobile experience since the early days of iTunes, which upended the old models with its 99-cent-per-song buying approach.
Now, as smartphones and tablets supplant PCs and virtual storage replaces songs on devices, mobile players from handset makers to social networks realize they must stake out a place or risk ceding control of one of the largest components of mobile device usage.
At $9.99 a month, Google’s service is costlier than the $3.99 required for Pandora, but on par with Spotify.
Google executives said their new service takes the work out of managing massive music libraries, noting the streaming model can be endlessly customized.
Analysts regarded the move — announced today at BlackBerry Live — as mostly positive, since it could help an improving BlackBerry expand its reach beyond its own new Z10 and Q10 smartphone customers.
Today, there are 60 million BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) customers, a tiny fraction of the number of messages sent via Facebook or Twitter. But BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said BBM users are very active, sending 10 billion messages a day, and half the messages received are read within 20 seconds.
Opening up BBM to iOS 6 devices and above and Android Ice Cream Sandwich devices and above will expand BBM’s reach, Heins said.
“BBM is so great that it’s too good to keep only to ourselves,”Heins said during an upbeat keynote presentation at the event, which is mainly for BlackBerry developers and partners. “Why now? It’s a statement of confidence, that BlackBerry 10 is strong and the response is so good that it’s time that BBM become multi-platform.”
BBM’s interoperability with Android and iOS is now in beta, and will launch commercially this summer, Heins said. At first, only text messaging will be available to individuals and groups on other platforms. Features already available in BlackBerry 10 on BBM such as voice and video and screen sharing will be added later this year, with updates every two to four weeks.
Google said it is expanding the amount of free storage for users of its cloud storage service Google Drive. Google Drive on Monday announced it’s increasing the amount of free storage it offers subscribers from 10GB for Gmail and another 5GB for Drive and Google+ Photos.
Combined, Google subscribers will get a net total of 15GB of free unified storage and will be able to share all the additional data among the Drive cloud storage service, Gmail and Google+ Photos.
Clay Bavor, director of product management at Google Drive, wrote in a blog that with the new combined storage space, “you won’t have to worry about how much you’re storing and where.
“For example, maybe you’re a heavy Gmail user but light on photos, or perhaps you were bumping up against your Drive storage limit but were only using 2 GB in Gmail. Now it doesn’t matter, because you can use your storage the way you want,” he wrote.
Google has been increasing its competitive pressure on other cloud storage providers since launching its Drive service last year.
Among Google Drive’s competitors is Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud, but the companies most threatened by Google’s move into online storage are smaller specialized service providers, such as DropBox, Box, SugarSync and YouSendIt, according to analysts.
Dropbox offers 2GB for free, and its first paid upgrade option is to 50GB for $9.99 a month or $99 per year.
“[Average consumers] don’t have much of a relationship with these smaller [cloud] companies,” Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said at the time of Google Drive’s launch. “The challenge for these smaller companies is reaching out to consumers or shifting to somewhat of a different market; the problem is that Google also wants the business market, the small business market and ultimately the enterprise IT market.”
Nokia will offer a new high-end smartphone through U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless, it said on Friday, hoping to expand its share in the high-margin premium market after years of falling behind Samsung and Apple Inc.
The new Lumia 928, priced at $99 if customers mail-in a $50 rebate and agree to a two-year deal with Verizon Wireless, is similar to the 920 model currently sold through AT&T, but is lighter and slightly different in appearance.
It weighs 162 grams compared with 185 grams for the 920, which some critics had said was too heavy.
The 928′s 4.5-inch screen also extends to the edge of the phone, giving a sharper impression than the curved edges of the 920. The new models also come in black and white compared with the colorful options of the earlier Lumia range.
Most other features, such as a 8.7 megapixel camera and 1.5-gigahertz dual core processor by Qualcomm, are the same as the 920′s.
The 928 is the latest in Nokia’s Lumia range of smartphones which use Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 software.
Nokia switched to Windows in 2011, aiming to compete with Apple’s iPhones and rivals using Google’s Android system. Sales of Lumia phones have grown in recent quarters, but at 5.6 million in first quarter, they still account for only around 5 percent of the market.
The company has recently launched new products in the lower and mid-tier range to protect its position in emerging markets, but analysts have said its success in the high-margin smartphone market will be crucial for its long-term survival.
Nokia is due to unveil its new Lumia strategy at an event in London on Tuesday.
It appears that the Ouya is going to be a bit delayed.
This is good news though, as it is being delayed because the console developers have more cash to spend on it, $15m more to be precise.
Ouya already raised around $7m on Kickstarter, and now, when it should be taking its last steps towards completion, it has had almost twice as much more injected into it by lovely venture capitalists.
We were expecting the console in early June, but that has slid back to 25 June. The time and money will in part be used to solve an issue with sticky buttons, something that usually only happens once consumers have taken some hardware home with them.
The money comes from venture capital firms and other companies including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), Nvidia, Shasta Ventures, and Occam Partners. KPCB’s general partner Bing Gordon will join the Ouya board of directors as a result.
“We want Ouya to be here for a long time to come,” said Julie Uhrman, Ouya founder and CEO.
“The message is clear: people want Ouya. We first heard this from Kickstarter backers who provided more than $8 million to help us build Ouya, then from over 12,000 developers who have registered to make an Ouya game, next from retailers who are carrying Ouya online and soon on store shelves, and now from top pioneering investors.”
Gordon is in charge of digital investments at KPCB and is a veteran of the games industry, having started at Electronic Arts in 1982.
“Ouya’s open source platform creates a new world of opportunity for established and emerging independent game creators and gamers alike,” he said.
“There are some types of games that can only be experienced on a TV, and Ouya is squarely focused on bringing back the living room gaming experience. Ouya will allow game developers to unleash their most creative ideas and satisfy gamers craving a new kind of experience.”
Ouya consoles should start arriving in living rooms on 25 June. If you want one, you are going to have to come up with around $100 dollars, plus another $50 dollars if you want two controllers.
SoftBank Corp President Masayoshi Son may get a less than enthusiastic reception when he comes to the United States this week to meet Sprint Nextel Corp’s major shareholders, as he tries to drum up support for the Japanese company’s proposed takeover of the No. 3 U.S. wireless service provider.
SoftBank’s billionaire founder, who proposed a $20 billion deal for a 70 percent stake in the U.S. wireless carrier, said on Tuesday that he would discuss the deal with shareholders in a bid to fight off rival Dish Network, a U.S. satellite TV provider, which offered Sprint a $25.5 billion bid.
The executive for the Japanese mobile operator may have a tough time selling the deal, as several shareholders have told Reuters that SoftBank would need to raise its bid in order to win their vote at Sprint’s June 12 shareholder meeting.
Two big Sprint shareholders, Paulson & Co and Omega Advisors, have publicly said the Dish offer looks better than SoftBank’s. Other shareholders said on Tuesday that they would go to meet Son during his trip but they were skeptical about his arguments against Dish.
While Dish’s offer would provide more cash upfront to shareholders, Son has argued that Dish would not be good for the company as it would require Sprint to take on a heavy debt load. He also promises a July 1 close for the deal and warned that Dish regulatory approval may not come until 2014.
Robert Lynch, the director of research for Westchester Capital Management, which owned over 14 million shares in Sprint at the end of December, said that the prospect of a quicker deal close would not be enough to win over his company’s vote.
“We think right now that Dish has a better offer on the table. We think SoftBank’s going to have to improve their offer,” Lynch said, noting that SoftBank’s comments about the prospective debt leverage from a Dish deal were overdone.
“We think the leverage is manageable. We think there are synergies here. While raising the leverage is something we looked at we think its not as big of a obstacle as SoftBank is saying,” Lynch said.
A big Sprint investor who asked not to be named said they were happy to meet with Son while he is in the United States but that they were hoping to convince him to raise his bid.
“If Mr. Son wants to own Sprint he will have to raise his bid,” said the person from a top 25 Sprint shareholder who did not want to be quoted by name ahead of the meeting.
SOA Software has launched an application programming interface (API) gateway today that allows businesses to expose their API’s with a built-in cloud based developer community, helping to grow their services and make it quicker for them to get up and running.
The firm’s CTO Alistair Farquharson said the API Gateway is unique due to it being a new concept in API and SOA management, aiming to “deliver new advantages in the application-level security space”.
“The new API Gateway provides monitory, security, and more uniquely, a developer community as well, so kind of a turnkey approach to an API gateway where a customer can buy that product, get it up and running, expose their API and expose the developer community to the outside world,” Farquharson said.
“[It will] support and manage the porting of mobile applications or web apps or B2B partnerships.”
Farquharson explained that there are three main components within the Gateway, which SOA Software has termed a “unified services gateway”, including a runtime component, a policy manager, and a developer community.
The runtime component handles the message traffic, whereas the policy manager component is capable of managing a range of different policies, such as threat protection, authentication, authorisation, anti-virus, monitorin, auditing, logging, for example.
“The whole objective here is to get a customer up and running with API’s as quickly as possible to meet some kind of a business need that they have, whether that’s mobile an application initiative or a web application, integration or syndication,” Farquharson added.
The third component is the API’s cloud-based “developer community”, which exposes an organisation to the outside world so developers can come take a look at its API, read its documentation, and see what APIs it has to figure out how to interact with them.
It’s this component that sets SOA Software’s Gateway apart form other firms doing similar appliances on the market, claims Farquharson.
“It essentially becomes the developer site for your organisation, with it all running on a single appliance which is rather unique,” he added.
“The interesting thing about the gateway is that it does API’s as well as services [that are] needed for mobile devices so you have old and the new encapsulated in the single appliance, which is very important to our customers.”
The developer community is offered through the API as a service, “like the Salesforce of APIs”, Farquharson said.
“Developers can go there and build their community and it provides them with high level service and availability and saglobla infrastructure and leverage the strength of their community to get themselves going.”
The Pentagon has cleared BlackBerry and Samsung mobile devices for use on Defense Department networks, a step toward broadening the military’s variety of technology equipment makers while still ensuring communications security.
Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman, said the department cleared the use of BlackBerry 10 smart phones and BlackBerry PlayBook tablets using its Enterprise Service 10 system, as well as Samsung’s Android Knox.
“This is a significant step towards establishing a multi-vendor environment that supports a variety of state-of-the-art devices and operating systems,” Pickart said in a statement.
The Pentagon said last Wednesday it also expected to clear Apple mobile devices using the iOS 6 system at some point in early May.
The move to open up Defense Department networks is expected to set the stage for an intensified struggle for Pentagon customers among BlackBerry devices, Apple’s iPhones or iPads and units using Google’s Android platform such as Samsung Electronics’ phones.
The Pentagon currently has some 600,000 users of smart phones, computer tablets and other mobile devices. The department has 470,000 BlackBerry users, 41,000 Apple users and 8,700 people with Android devices. Most Apple and Android systems are in pilot or test programs.
The move to open up the networks to a broader array of mobile devices is part of a Pentagon effort to ensure the military has access to the latest communications technology without locking itself in to a particular equipment vendor.
To ensure security, mobile devices and operating systems go through a security review process approved by the Defense Information Systems Agency. Once their Security Technical Implementation Guide – or STIG – is reviewed and approved, the devices can be used on the network.
The Iconia A1 is full-featured, has an “accessible” price and will raise the stakes in the tablet wars, said Jim Wong, president of Acer, during a speech at a press event in New York on Friday morning.
The tablet offers more than eight hours of battery life and an IPS display, also found on iPads. The tablet also has a quad-core processor, which is likely based on an ARM design. Shipment information for the product was not immediately available.
With the Iconia A1, Acer is entering a highly competitive low-cost tablet market, with vendors lowering prices as a way to gain market share. Acer’s new tablet comes just a few days after Hewlett-Packard started shipped the $169.99 Slate 7, which has a 7-inch screen and dual-core processor, but misses many basic features like GPS. Acer’s tablet has a larger screen and an equivalent processor to Google’s Nexus 7, which has a 7-inch screen and the latest version of Android.
Acer’s PC shipments have been falling over the last few quarters, and it is now the fourth largest PC maker in the world.
The company’s PC market share started tumbling as people moved to tablets and left behind netbooks, a market in which Acer was a leader.
Revenue for the social networking company increased to $1.46 billion for the quarter ended March 31, up 38% from $1.06 billion from the same period last year.
The company’s advertising revenue was $1.25 billion, representing 85% of Facebook’s total sales and a 43% increase from 2012′s first quarter, the company said. Mobile advertising revenue constituted 30% of the company’s total ad revenue.
Facebook posted net income of $219 million for the quarter, up 7% from the year-ago quarter. The company’s net earnings per share were 9 cents, less than the consensus expectations of 13 cents in a poll of analysts by Thomson Financial.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in the first few months of the year,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an earnings announcement, also citing “strong growth and engagement across our community.”
Facebook’s daily active users were 665 million for the quarter, 26% more than last year. Monthly active users increased by 23% to 1.11 billion, the company said.
On mobile, monthly active users increased by 54% to 751 million. Facebook did not disclose numbers for mobile daily active users.
The mobile ad revenue gains Facebook reported Wednesday were on par with the gains it reported in 2012′s fourth quarter, when its mobile ad revenue as a percentage of total ad revenue jumped from 14% in the third quarter to 23% in the fourth quarter.
Monetizing its services on mobile devices as more users migrate away from the desktop and onto their smartphone and tablets is one of Facebook’s biggest challenges today.
Eagle-eyed Twitlio developer Jonathan Gottfried noticed the apparent confirmation of a Twitter app for Google Glass, having seen someone tweeting a picture from the source “Twitter for Glass” .
Is @mogroothmuddler beta testing an official Twitter for Glass app? Certainly looks like it. twitter.com/jonmarkgo/stat…
— Jonathan Gottfried (@jonmarkgo) April 29, 2013
According to Allthingsd, this leak is likely to be the real deal. Why? Because Twitter restricts the creation of apps with “Twitter” in the name, so it’s unlikely that someon has knocked up a fake application with the word “Twitter” in its name.
What’s more, the tweet in question came from @MogroothMuddler, an account that has since been deleted. However, this Twitter account has been traced back to a man called Shiv Ramamurthi, who works as an engineering manager at Twitter. If anyone was going to get their mitts on an early release of Twitter’s Google Glass application, it would be a Twitter engineer.
It’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing the release of Twitter for Google Glass any time soon, given that Google recently said that it is unlikely to release its spectacles until 2014.
However the leak does suggest that other software developers like Facebook and Instagram might be working on apps for Google’s eyewear.
Twitter said that it was unable to comment.
According to the consumer advocacy magazine, Apple turned in a score of 86 — out of a possible 100 — based on ratings provided by over 6,313 owners of some 7,571 desktop and notebook personal computers who contacted technical support in the 12 months following January 2012.
The nearest OEM (original equipment manufacturer) rival was Chinese PC maker Lenovo, which scored 63, or 23 points lower than Apple. Other prominent OEMs that showed in the survey included Asus (which scored 62), Dell (60), Toshiba (59), Hewlett-Packard (58) and Acer (51).
Local computer shops which assemble build-to-order PCs for customers — so-called “white box” shops — took second place overall in technical support with an aggregate score of 78.
Apple also dominated the ratings for the percentage of problems solved by calls to telephone support or interactions with the OEMs’ online support offerings, said Consumer Reports.
Of those who turned to Apple for help, 82% said that their problem had been solved to their satisfaction, significantly higher than the white box shops, with a 71% solution rate, and dramatically higher than rivals who sell and support Windows-powered PCs.
Apple also aced the in-store technical support ratings battle, scoring another 86 out of a possible 100 for its free “Genius Bar” tech help. Of the Apple customers who posed a problem to a Genius, 88% said their problem had been solved.
Analysts for IBM have issued a new report concerning the growth of mobile commerce in the retail sector.
The report with the catchy title “Online Retail Index” shows that mobile commerce has been growing in popularity among mobile consumers that favor their smartphones and devices over traditional means of shopping. Many of these consumers have become comfortable with the concept of shopping online but are becoming less likely to remain tethered to stationary computers while they do it.
Mobile technology has allowed these tech-savvy consumers to shop wherever they are, enabling them to shop more frequently and, in some cases, spend more money. IBM said that mobile commerce grew by 31 per cent in the first quarter of this year, up from where it had been in the same period of 2012. It claimed that the tablet is a major contributing factor to the growth in mobile commerce. Apparently the tablet has become a convenient mobile shopping platform.
The report indicates that mobile commerce now accounts for 17.4 per cent of all online retail sales. This is expected to grow in the future as more consumers become acclimated to the concept of mobile shopping and purchasing products with nothing more than their smartphones or tablets.
Augmented reality and QR codes, have also helped to boost the adoption of mobile commerce. These technologies have been able to engage consumers in a new and dynamic way, encouraging them to make purchases of products that they are most interested in. In the case of QR codes, consumers have been able to make use of retailer discounts at a higher frequency, as long as they purchase products from a mobile device, the report said.
In 2013, the number of messages sent via chat app will climb to 41 billion per day, more than double the number of text messages sent globally, according to data from Informa shared with the Financial Times . London-based Informa didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Wireless carriers have noticed the trend to using chat apps for a while, and analyst firms started reporting the tipping point in favor of chat apps at the start of 2013. Informa estimates text messages will generate more than $120 billion in revenue for wireless carriers in 2013, but didn’t provide a similar number for chat apps.
The trend toward reduced texting revenues has been felt especially in Spain, the Netherlands and South Korea, according to Informa, but the trend is somewhat harder to define in the U.S., analysts said. That’s because some operators, such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T, are giving away free texting — along with voice — as part of shared data plans. At the same time, other U.S. carriers, like Sprint and T-Mobile USA, are pushing unlimited data plans, so that relying on a data connection for a chat app won’t add any cost.
Chat apps are often called a type of “over the top” service that doesn’t benefit a wireless carrier directly, at least as much as texting might.
Chat apps are seen by analysts as growing in popularity because of their flexibility. A chat app like BlackBerry Messenger — which is especially popular in Europe — can easily be converted with a touch or two to an audio or video call with the new Z10 smartphone and the coming Q10 on BlackBerry 10.
Other popular chat apps are Apple’s iMessage or Facebook’s Chat Heads. The latter can easily be reached with an account on Facebook, which has nearly 700 million regular mobile users.
Text messages, over the Short Message Service, operate over a separate network channel from a data channel used by chat apps. A single SMS is also restricted in length to 140 characters.
Internet chat app messages also have the flexibility of running over multiple platforms so that a desktop computer user can communicate with a smartphone or tablet user.
Six years after the sale of the first iPhone and 14 years after the first BlackBerry email pager was debuted, smartphone shipments have outnumbered sales of other types of mobile phones, according to IDC.
IDC said 216.2 million smartphones were shipped globally in the first quarter of 2013. The smartphone total accounted for 51.6% of all mobile phones shipped.
Shipments of other mobile phones, which IDC calls feature phones, totaled 202.4 million in the quarter. Total shipments of all mobile phones was 418.6 million, IDC said.
“The balance of smartphone power has shifted,” said IDC analyst Kevin Restivo in a statement. “Phone users want computers in their pockets. The days when phones were used primarily to make phone calls and send text messages are quickly fading away.”
IDC also noted the emergence of China-based companies, including Huawei, ZTE, Coolpad and Lenovo, among the leading smartphone vendors, .
Those newcomers and others have displaced longtime mobile phone leaders Nokia from Finland, BlackBerry from Canada, and HTC from Taiwan, in the list of top five smartphone makers, IDC said.
BlackBerry was producing what was essentially a smartphone before Apple introduced the iPhone in June 2007.
The first BlackBerry device was an email pager, introduced in 1999. Those devices were subsequently combined with voice calling.
Nokia has long been a top producer of mobile phones, though it slipped off the top five list for the first quarter.
A year ago, it was common to see previous market leaders Nokia, BlackBerry and HTC among the top five, said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC.
IDC ranked the top five smartphone vendors in the first quarter as: Samsung (70.7%); Apple (37.4); LG (10.3%); Huawei (9.9%); ZTE (9.1%). The rest made up 36.4% of the market.
IDC ranked the top five vendors of feature phones and smartphones combined as: Samsung (27.5%); Nokia (14.8%); Apple (8.9%); LG (3.7%) and ZTE (3.2%). All others combined to hold 41.9% of the market.