Growth in global smartphone shipments will fall sharply this year and will continue to slow down through 2018, with average prices dropping significantly as demand shifts to China and other developing countries, according to market research firm IDC.
Annual growth in 2014 is expected to be 19.3 percent and then decline to 6.2 percent in 2018, IDC said in a recently released report. That follows a 39.2 percent jump in 2013 when smartphone shipments topped 1 billion units for the first time.
The forecast reinforces concerns on Wall Street that the explosion in smartphones that began with Apple’s iPhone in 2007 is coming to an end, at least in the United States and other developed countries where consumers favor pricey, top-tier handsets.
Smartphone growth in North America and Europe is expected to shrink to single digits and Japan could even see a slight slowdown in shipments in the next few years, IDC said.
Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on China where many consumers are upgrading from basic cellphones to smartphones selling for under $300.
“New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and ‘premium’ will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth,” IDC analyst Ryan Reith said in a report.
The average selling price for smarpthones last year was $335, already far below flagship devices like the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S4, and will fall to $260 by 2018, IDC said.
In a keynote conversation with Entertainment Software Association boss Mike Gallagher at the Digital Entertainment World conference, Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore talked about industry lessons learned as the business transitions more to digital games.
For now, games remain a hybrid of physical and digital, and the quick sales of the new consoles are enabling the industry to coalesce around two great platforms that offer a tremendous competitive environment, which ultimately benefits the market. While he believes the console sector’s in great shape, Moore does see mobile gaming thriving, and digital revenues should surpass that of physical game sales in just two years, he said.
Looking back at the music industry’s transition to digital (which it still hasn’t recovered from), Moore said that the games industry must embrace “creative destruction” – there’s nothing an industry can do to stop a shift in consumer tastes and habits. The most important thing for EA – and much of the industry is headed this way with the digital transition – is that games are becoming live operations. That means they require a massive infrastructure with customer service and global billing. Moore noted that it’s a completely different industry now, with a global network running live ops, and gamers deserve their games to be always up and available, and it’s EA’s job to provide this access. Moore acknowledged that EA is still learning a lot about what that takes.
The online environment has been incredibly valuable to EA in building a direct customer relationship. Moore said that EA’s customers used to be the retailers, but now they’re the gamers. In fact, EA has tripled its customer facing support staff resources in the last five years. It’s changing how the publisher interacts with, and markets to, gamers. He eschews “marketing” and prefers “engaging”. Social media has become crucial to success, and Moore noted that on Twitter a gamer will get a response from EA within 30 minutes to resolve a problem.
On the marketing end, Moore said that EA’s TV spend is down 20 percent while the company has actually doubled its digital spend and engagement. Social media and community management are changing the rules. Don’t spend tens of millions on TV to see if it lifts sales, Moore said; instead game companies can more effectively use digital channels and focus on performance-based marketing.
“TV ads today are chum in the water. It attracts customers, then reel them in with digital media so you can engage instead of pushing a message out,” he remarked.
BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM, is a messaging platform that offers collaboration tools such as BBM Groups, BBM Voice and BBM Channels and competes with services such as WhatsApp, which Facebook bought last week for $19 billion.
BBM will be available as a free download from the Windows Phone Store this summer, while BBM for Nokia X will be available from the Nokia Store when the Nokia X platform launches, BlackBerry said in a statement released to the press.
BBM was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp and other upstarts, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms.
WhatsApp, with a user base of about 450 million, on the other hand has grown rapidly. Its service works on Apple Inc’s iOS platform, Google Inc’s market-dominating Android operating system and with devices powered by both the Windows and BlackBerry operating systems.
BBM remains popular, even though BlackBerry devices have waned in popularity. Late last year, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company finally opened the messaging platform to users of iPhones and Android devices, and the number of the service’s active users has grown to more than 80 million.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, which has built a lot of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, has struck a deal with Google to build robotics for the company.
Google declined to comment this afternoon and Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Andy Rubin, Google’s former Android lead and now the head of the company’s robotics efforts, recently went to Taipei to meet with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou about the deal, reported the Journal, citing unnamed sources.
The deal would benefit both companies, giving Google a robotics manufacturer and giving robotics technology to Foxconn for its manufacturing business.
“Well, that should speed up development cycles for Google,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “Foxconn is one of the industry’s largest contract manufacturers and what they do best is build things. Google, on the other hand, invents things but its core competency isn’t building things, particularly hardware, quickly and efficiently.”
The pact, he added, would bring hardware manufacturing scale to Google — a must, if Google wants to mass produce robots at an affordable price.
“Pretty soon we’ll have an army of Google robots, like in Star Wars II,” said Kerravala.
Google, a company known worldwide for search, Android and its ubiquitous Maps service, has been taking a deep dive into robotics in the past six months or so. The company announced late last month that it was acquiring DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company.
In December, Google bought Boston Dynamics, a robotics company known for its four-legged BigDog robot, as well as six-foot-tall, 330-pound humanoid robot, Atlas.
Those acquisitions came on the heels of a six-month buying spree in which Google bought seven other robotics businesses.
In addition, Google has been working for the last several years to develop autonomous automobiles. The self-driving car effort has logged thousands of miles on the road and even had Google executives approaching Detroit car makers in the hopes of finding business partners.
According to Jaime Sanchez, the security researcher who discovered the issue, authorization tokens accompanying Snapchat requests from authenticated users don’t expire.
These tokens are generated by the app for every action — like adding friends or sending snaps — in order to avoid sending the password every time. However, since past tokens don’t expire, they can be reused from different devices to send commands through the Snapchat API (application programming interface).
“I’m able to use a custom script I’ve created to send snaps to a list of users from several computers at the same time,” Sanchez said. “That could let an attacker send spam to the 4.6 million leaked account list in less than one hour.”
Hackers exploited a different vulnerability in Snapchat at the beginning of January to extract over 4.6 million phone number and user name pairs from the service. They then posted the list online.
However, in addition to spamming a large number of users, the new issue discovered by Sanchez can also be used to attack a single user by sending him hundreds or thousands of snaps using unexpired tokens.
When this attack is performed against a user who uses Snapchat on an iPhone his device will freeze and the OS will eventually reboot itself, Sanchez said.
The researcher demonstrated the attack against the iPhone of a reporter from the Los Angeles Times with his approval by sending 1,000 messages to the reporter’s Snapchat account within five seconds. A video of the demonstration was also posted on YouTube.
“Launching a denial-of-service attack on Android devices doesn’t cause those smartphones to crash, but it does slow their speed,” Sanchez said. “It also makes it impossible to use the app until the attack has finished.”
There is a limiting factor to this attack: the default privacy setting in Snapchat that only allows accounts in a user’s friends list to send him snaps, meaning the attacker would first have to convince the targeted user to add him as a friend. According to Snapchat’s documentation, sending a snap to a user without being in his list of friends will result in the user receiving a notification so they can add back the sender.
Users who changed their account’s default privacy setting so they can receive snaps from anyone would be directly exposed to the attack described by Sanchez.
Snapchat did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The two companies, both major players in the smartphone industry, said they have agreed on a “patent and technology collaboration” that will settle all outstanding litigation.
Precise details were not revealed, but the companies said HTC will pay Nokia an undisclosed sum and the collaboration will involve HTC’s patents on LTE technology. LTE, often called 4G, is a high-speed wireless data transmission technology being rolled out by carriers in many countries.
Nokia’s chief intellectual property officer, Paul Melin, hailed the agreement as validating Nokia’s patents while HTC’s general counsel, Grace Lei, said her company was “pleased to come to this agreement.”
Nokia had asserted since 2012 that HTC infringed on about 50 of its patents and engaged in unauthorized use of proprietary innovations.
The cases had been making their way through the courts in countries including the U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S.
In March 2013, Nokia won an injunction in Germany against some HTC smartphones that were found to infringe upon a power-saving technology.
In September, the U.S. International Trade Commission A ruled HTC infringed two patents held by Nokia related to cellphones and tablets, and in October the High Court of England and Wales ruled that some HTC devices infringed on a Nokia mobile network standard patent.
Nokia won a sales ban against the HTC One Minismartphone in the U.K. as a result of that latter judgment.
Patent battles between major smartphone manufacturers have become a common part of the industry in the years since Apple introduced the iPhone and sparked the smartphone boom. Faced with a highly competitive marketplace, companies have been suing each other when one considers a competitor’s products look too similar to their own.
Nobody seems to be terribly happy about the new Dungeon Keeper game. That’s a sentence I hoped I’d never write, given how much I loved the original Bullfrog games – but that fact alone places me firmly within the least happy demographic of all: the original fans of the franchise. The rest of the unhappy parties can form an orderly queue behind us; that means you, game critics who think the game is terrible, mobile gamers who think it’s not nearly as good as its most obvious inspiration, Clash of Clans, F2P advocates who could do without another awful example being used to unfairly crucify the entire business model, and, well, EA themselves, I expect.
Lots has been written about Dungeon Keeper in the week since it launched, almost all of it deeply critical and a good deal of it entirely fair. Dungeon Keeper is a nicely presented but mediocre game in the mobile/F2P genre it inhabits. Within the franchise it inhabits, however, it’s a disastrous, idiotic travesty of a thing, a game whose design process wouldn’t be out of place in the imaginative dungeons of the original titles – involving, as it did, the snapping of limbs and crunching of bones in order to stuff the screaming body of a much-loved core gamer title into a box that is distinctly too small and painfully the wrong shape. It’s enough to make a Dark Mistress’ eyes water.
I like the free to play business model, in principle. More than that – I think the free to play business model, still in its infancy and thus still making countless mistakes, is actually an inevitable step for the games industry. It’s not going to replace other business models, which will continue to be a better fit for certain types of game and certain types of audience, but it’ll probably be the most important and profitable business model in future (some would argue, convincingly enough, that it already is). From the moment it became possible to distribute games for free, it was certain that someone would do that, and devise a system for making money later, once an audience had been built up. Under the circumstances, carefully considered and ethically implemented F2P is probably the best, and fairest, system possible.
So I reject the notion that Dungeon Keeper is an illustration of F2P’s intrinsic evils. It’s not, any more than any number of terrible boxed games were an illustration of intrinsic evils of the retail game business model. F2P isn’t intrinsically evil or bad, but it’s open to abuse – just like the old boxed game model was plenty open to abuse, as you’ll know if you’ve ever preordered an expensive game only to find that reviews were withheld until after launch, previews had been based on glimpses of unrepresentative sections of the game, screenshots and trailers were a cocktail of lies and the whole thing is actually a massive stinker. F2P trips up more often because it’s new and many developers are still feeling out the parameters of the business model – and moreover, because it requires developers whose core skill is designing games to also design a business model in tandem with their game, which is a new skill that doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
That means that if we’re being reasonable, rather than just howling pointlessly into the wind because it makes us feel better, we need to consider Dungeon Keeper not as an omen of doom but as a learning exercise. It’s obviously a mess. It’s disappointed lots of people and made a core group of those people – people who ought to have been its most rapt advocates – very very angry indeed. But why is it a mess? What does Dungeon Keeper actually do wrong?
You could say “microtransactions”, and you’d be right in one sense – it does microtransactions wrong, but not because microtransactions themselves are intrinsically wrong. Plenty of games handle them rather nicely and fairly. Supercell’s games are pretty good examples – Hay Day is, I think, the only F2P game I’ve bought premium currency in, and I’m perfectly happy with the few quid I spent there, as I knew perfectly well what my money was buying and what the alternative was to acquire the things I wanted in-game. I mentioned last week my Japanese friend who has spent the equivalent of $500 in Puzzle & Dragons, and doesn’t regret it in the slightest – from my own experience, P&D, the biggest-grossing F2P game in the world, is also scrupulously fair and up-front about its micro-transactions, and generous to a fault at handing out premium currency for free, thus allowing you to save up for things you want instead of feeling forced to fork out.
Those games – and Clash of Clans, the Supercell game to which Dungeon Keeper owes much of its genre heritage – get F2P microtransactions right. Even Candy Crush Saga, a game which I personally dislike quite intently (I think that describing yourself as a puzzle game and then confronting the player with randomly generated levels which are actually impossible to solve is a miserable failure of fundamental game design), is far from being abusive in its approach to microtransactions; a solid majority of players who complete all its levels do so without ever spending any money. I played Clash of Clans for months without spending, and I’m coming up on a year in Puzzle & Dragons without spending – both of which I still find fun, and both of which, I think it’s fair to say, are genuinely living up to the promise inherent in the words “free to play”. I’m quite convinced, incidentally, that they’re among the world’s most profitable games precisely because they allow most players to continue enjoying them for free, rather than in spite of that seemingly foolish generosity.
Dungeon Keeper isn’t a generous game. It’s a grasping, unpleasant game – which is a shame, because with a more likeable, generous approach to its players, it wouldn’t be a terrible game. It’s certainly among the better of the Clash of Clans clones, a multitude of which fill the App Store with game mechanics and art styles shamelessly copied from Supercell’s hit and absolutely zero effort at innovation. Dungeon Keeper – though I say it through gritted teeth, since the franchise abuse still rankles – has the guts of a decent mobile game that builds worthwhile variation onto the Clash of Clans formula. The problem is, you advance through that experience at a snail’s pace, halted every few seconds by a glowing gem icon that invites you to spend expensive premium currency to speed up your progress. That premium currency itself arrives in an absolutely miserable trickle, rendering the notion of saving up to buy things into a sad joke.
Slowing down progress to encourage players who are really engaged with the game to spend a bit of money to advance is a core tenet of F2P design. Some people hate that, which I perfectly understand, but it’s not necessarily the end of all things – it’s worth pointing out that lots of non-F2P games also stretch out tasks artificially for a variety of commercial and gameplay reasons (I’d point to World of Warcraft in the first instance and Animal Crossing in the second as good examples of this). The point is that in doing this, designers need to make sure they’re not compromising the fun of the game, and err on the side of generosity rather than grasping. Dungeon Keeper fails these tests. It starts asking for money almost straight away, long before any player has a chance to become really engaged or engrossed in the game, and continues to wheedle at players to pay up on an ongoing basis, ramping up within a couple of days to the point where it’s taking 24 hours to complete simple tasks like digging out a square of rock, and literally weeks to finish a tunnel or room unaided by a dip in your wallet. Good F2P design is about making people really love your game and then giving them opportunities to spend money on it. Dungeon Keeper is a grubby chancer who tries to steal your wallet before the main course has even arrived on your first – and last – date.
There’s an even more fundamental problem at work here, though. Making a bad, greedy F2P game with the beloved Dungeon Keeper license is inexcusable – but to be honest, making any kind of F2P game with this license was a terrible idea. Dungeon Keeper is an old franchise, one which never came to consoles – making it much loved by a significant group of gamers who are older and significantly more “core” than the primary market for mobile F2P games. If you weren’t a PC gamer in the 1990s, Dungeon Keeper has almost certainly passed you by entirely. On the other hand, if you were a PC gamer in the 1990s, I think it’s fair to generalise and say you’re probably firmly in the camp that by and large dislikes microtransactions and considers F2P in general with suspicion – suspicion which you’ll consider to be all but confirmed by Dungeon Keeper’s many transgressions.
So why did EA do this? What on earth did they believe they stood to gain from resurrecting a franchise like this in a form which would be utterly despised by the only people who recognise it, while the potential audience it might reach successfully – gamers who like mobile F2P and are looking for something different in flavour and approach to Clash of Clans – will have zero brand recognition with Dungeon Keeper, but may be dissuaded by the outpouring of one-star scores on the App Store with which gamers are registering their dislike. Note too that while it’s conventionally and reasonably held that the specialist games media has no impact on mobile game performance, the hatred for Dungeon Keeper has spilled over into the mainstream press – and while “no publicity is bad publicity”, newspaper articles accusing your game of greedy monetisation tactics aren’t the ideal way to introduce it to the public at large, while Google results populated with fiery critique and all manner of accusations don’t help much either.
Ultimately, EA could have avoided this by making essentially the same game (although doing a lot more careful consideration of monetisation tactics and trying not to destroy the game’s hopes of retaining players by being too greedy too early wouldn’t go amiss) without the Dungeon Keeper brand and the vaguely ghoulish overtones of corpse-robbing that go with Dungeon Keeper’s pilfered, ill-matched mechanisms and characters in this game. Alternatively, it could probably have made quite a decent commercial success out of a premium-priced Dungeon Keeper game carefully updating the original and launching on Steam and iPad – a game with a significant built-in audience and a huge store of goodwill, much of which has now been squandered. It could even have included some IAP further down the line for deeply devoted players, although more in the line of cosmetic items and so on than game-changing consumables. Hell, EA could have done both of those things, resuscitating a much-loved franchise and creating a brand new F2P franchise, thus ending up with two successful IPs rather than one battered, bruised and sorely abused one.
This comes back to a point I made earlier – there is an audience for F2P, a huge audience with a significant amount of spending power, but it’s not the only audience (even if it’s the biggest). There are other audiences who crave other genres, other business models, other price points. The notion that the vast expansion in the demographic reach of videogames is going to be attended by an absolute contraction of the possible business models for videogames is a transparent nonsense – F2P is an inevitable and by no means negative consequence of the reduction in distribution costs to (just about) zero, but it’s not the only business model or price point enabled by recent technological change. The first challenge for designers, producers and executives in this new era is to figure out what business model best fits the franchise, the genre and the audience for your project. EA isn’t the first company to fail that challenge, nor is Dungeon Keeper the last game which will do it – but for those of us with fond memories of Bullfrog’s glory days, this is the one that leaves the most bitter taste. The lesson, however, must not be “F2P is bad” – it must be, “Do F2P where appropriate, do it with care, and do it well”.
LinkedIn launched Intro last October, as part of a larger push into becoming a “mobile first” company. The service was made for the iPhone, and was designed to grab LinkedIn profile information and insert it into emails received on phones. The service displayed that information to the recipient from the email’s sender if the sender was also on LinkedIn.
Intro was meant to add more professional context to email and draw more users to LinkedIn.
But it quickly sparked questions from security experts, who were concerned about the way the service routed emails through LinkedIn’s servers. The security consulting firm Bishop Fox said that the service essentially amounted to a “man-in-the-middle attack,” and that it was only a matter of time before someone used it to launch a phishing attack.
LinkedIn, in its announcement Friday of Intro’s closure, did not say anything about security. The decision was about “focus,” LinkedIn said. “We are making large, long-term investments on a few big bets, and in order to ensure their success, we need to concentrate on fewer things,” wrote Deep Nishar, senior VP of products and user experience.
Intro will be shut down as of March 7, LinkedIn said. The company did not say what it would be doing with Intro users’ email data that it might have stored on its servers. LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Upon receiving word of LinkedIn’s announcement, Bishop Fox said that it was unlikely that LinkedIn shut down the service for security reasons alone. “Tech products come and go these days and many have short lifespans,” said Vincent Liu, a partner at the firm, via email.
“But this app exemplifies why it’s important to pay attention to privacy and security when installing features, whether short lived or not, on your mobile devices,” he said.
LinkedIn also said it would be shutting down some other services. Slidecast, which let people upload digital presentations with audio, is going away as of April 30. Support for the LinkedIn iPad app on iOS versions older than 6.0 will also be eliminated as of Feb. 18, the company said.
Did a British Spy agency linked to GCHQ attacked hacktivists of the Anonymous and Lulzsec collectives, according to leaked US National Security Agency (NSA) documents?
NBC published documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showing that the group codenamed the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) proactively attempted to shut down and spread misinformation throughout the Anonymous collective.
The leaked document allege that the unit attempted to phish Anonymous members and launched attacks designed to disrupt and infiltrate its networks as part of an operation called Rolling Thunder.
The documents show the spies mounted a sophisticated espionage campaign that enabled intelligence officers to phish a number of Anonymous members to extract key bits of information.
The documents include conversations between intelligence officers and Anonymous members G-Zero, Topiary and pOke in 2011.
One log shows that a GCHQ spy duped the hacker pOke into clicking on a malicious link dressed up to look like a news article about Anonymous. The link used an unspecified method to extract data from the virtual private network (VPN) being used by pOke.
The documents allege pOke was not arrested, but that the information acquired during the phishing attack was used in the arrest of Jake Davis, who was known as Topiary, in July 2011.
Davis’ arrest was taken as a key victory for law enforcement. British citizen Davis was believed to have acted as a spokesman for many Anonymous cells and is credited as having written several of its statements.
A GCHQ spokesman declined The INQUIRER’s request for comment on NBC’s report, but reiterated the agency’s previous insistence that all of its operations are carried out within the letter of the law.
“It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework,” read the statement.
Experts in the security community have questioned the GCHQ’s argument. Corero Network Security COO Andrew Miller said that the secret unit’s use of blackhat tactics was at the very least morally questionable.
“We have to remember that cyber-spooks within GCHQ are equally if not more skilled than many black hat hackers, and the tools and techniques they are going to use to fight cybercrime are surely going to be similar to that of the bad guys,” he said.
“Legally, we enter a very grey area here, where members of Lulzsec were arrested and incarcerated for carrying out DDoS attacks, but it seems that JTRIG are taking the same approach with impunity.”
The campaign against Anonymous is one of many revelations from the leaked Snowden files.
The files initially were leaked to the press in 2013 and detailed several intelligence operations carried out by the UK GCHQ and US NSA. Documents emerged in January alleging that GCHQ and NSA used mobile apps such as Angry Birds to spy on citizens.
Mark Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook” from his dorm room at Harvard University on Feb. 4, 2004. The site was conceived as a way to connect students, and let them build an online identity for themselves.
It has since expanded to cover a large swath of the planet, with more than 1.2 billion people — one-seventh of the world’s population — using its site on a monthly basis, according to the company’s own recent figures.
Zuckerberg reflected on the 10-year milestone at an industry conference in Silicon Valley this week. Not surprisingly, at the start he never envisioned Facebook becoming so large or influential. After launching the initial version, “it was awesome to have this utility and community at our school,” he said at the Open Compute Project Summit.
He figured at the time that someone, someday would build such a site for the world. “It didn’t even occur to me that it could be us,” he said.
Since then, Facebook’s site and its business, now a public company, have changed dramatically. There are now more than a trillion status updates, text posts and other pieces of content stored within its walls — the company is trying to index them as part of its Graph Search search engine.
The company was slow to react to the important mobile market, and when it went public in 2012 investors were skeptical it would be able to monetize its service on smaller screens. But this week it reported that more than half its ad revenue now comes from mobile devices.
All the while, Facebook is making its ad business smarter, using targeting tools to show ads it deems most relevant.
The company is also experimenting with new ways to present content. Next week it will release Paper, an iPhone app that provides a new way to share photos and published articles.
It’s part of a larger effort Facebook hinted at this week to release a variety of standalone apps for different tasks.
The company is also trying to bring the Internet to more people in the world, an effort that’s part philanthropy and part business sense as Facebook aims to reach its next billion users. Asked this week why he launched the project, called Internet.org, Zuckerberg suggested he feels a weight of responsibility.
“There aren’t that many companies in the world that have the resources and the reach that Facebook has at this point,” he said.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd sold a record 86 million smartphones in the fourth quarter and increased its lead over Apple Inc even after the U.S. firm reached a new iPhone sales high, data from research firm Strategy Analytics showed.
Samsung took 29.6 percent of the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter, ahead of Apple’s 17.6 percent, as strong low-end market growth led by Chinese vendors continued to shake up the smartphone industry, the data showed.
Apple sold a record 51 million iPhones in the year-end quarter although its market share slipped from the previous year’s 22 percent, as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Lenovo Group Ltd rose to become the world’s No.3 and No.4 respectively.
Huawei sold 16.6 million smartphones and Lenovo sold 13.6 million, each taking 5.7 percent and 4.7 percent of the market.
“There is clearly now more competition coming from the second-tier smartphone brands. Huawei, LG Electronics and Lenovo each grew their smartphone shipments around two times faster than the global industry average,” Strategy Analytics analyst Linda Sui said.
“Samsung and Apple will need to fight hard to hold off these and other hungry challengers during 2014.”
For the entire 2013, global smartphone shipments grew 41 percent to reach a record 990 million. Samsung sold 319.8 million units to take 32.2 percent, up from 30.4 percent in 2012.
BlackBerry has requested that a California court block U.S. sales of the Typo keyboard, an add-on keyboard for the iPhone that BlackBerry says is an “obvious knock-off” of the keyboards on its phones.
The move,intensifies a battle between the two companies that began in January this year when BlackBerry accused Typo of patent infringement. The lawsuit garnered considerable attention, in part because Typo was co-founded by popular U.S. radio and television personality Ryan Seacrest.
The keyboard is designed to slip onto an iPhone 5 or 5S to provide a physical keyboard. The $99 device is currently available for pre-order through the company’s website, which advertises it has already sold out of an unspecified number of keyboards for January and February delivery.
Such keyboards have been a main selling point of BlackBerry devices since the company was making radio pagers and despite the recent popularity of on-screen virtual keyboards, there remains many users who value a physical keyboard.
BlackBerry alleges infringement of two patents: U.S. Design Patent 685,775and U.S. Patent 7,629,964. The former covers the design elements of a “handheld electronic device” and the latter “an electronic device with keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs.”
BlackBerry is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to prohibit Typo from “making, using, offering to sell, or selling within the United States, or importing into the United States, the Typo Keyboard.”
“Typo’s blatant copying of BlackBerry’s keyboard presents an imminent threat of irreparable harm to BlackBerry, and that threat is magnified in combination with the significant market power of the iPhone,” BlackBerry said in a proposed motion to the court.
Seacrest comes up in the BlackBerry motion. The company notes he was a well-known, long-time user of BlackBerry devices and cites interviews where he said that the inspiration for the keyboard was trying to bring together the best of the BlackBerry typing experience with everything else an iPhone had to offer.
The motion also cites several reviews that note the visual similarity between the Typo and BlackBerry keyboards.
In response to BlackBerry’s proposed motion, Typo said it believes BlackBerry’s claims “lack merit and we intend to defend the case vigorously.”
The comment repeats, almost word for word, a portion of a statement the company issued earlier in January when the lawsuit was first filed.
For BlackBerry, the issue is perhaps about more than just the visual similarities.
The company has been struggling to keep up with the fast pace of change being driven by Apple and Android phones and recently regrouped to focus more tightly on the government, military and enterprise customer.
That’s the company’s core business audience and the users that value a physical keyboard the most. If comparable keyboards become add-on accessories to Apple and Android phones, it would be more difficult for BlackBerry to compete.
The tame Apple Press has enthusiastically been running storied about how well Apple is doing in China. Reuters for example has been saying that the one million pre-orders that Jobs’ Mob has just collected is a triumph for Tim Cook’s negotiating ability. Getting a deal out of China Mobile was something the sainted Steve Jobs could not manage.
However saner heads are urging caution, While it is true that launching its iPhone on China Mobile vast network on Friday, opening the door to the world’s largest carrier’s 763 million subscribers and giving its China sales a short-term jolt, it is not likely to last. For a start the deal could start a war which China Mobile would not want. Some analysts predicting a costly subsidy war as rival carriers compete to lure customers. If China Mobile does not make its targets on sales for these phones, they are going to increase the subsidies.
China Mobile’s iPhone sales are expected to reach 12 million in its 2014 fiscal year, but its subsidies will leap 57 percent to $7 billion. In addition, the prices are still really high for the Chinese market. For the basic 16GB iPhone 5S, with no subscriber contract, China Mobile is charging $870.
China Unicom and China Telecom slashed their iPhone prices by as much as $210 following the announcement that a deal had been struck between Apple and China Mobile. The pair have also offered a range of cut-price deals on contracts. But there are also some problems with the pre-orders. Reuters checks showed that there were multiple registrations using fake ID numbers which means that people are buying up hoping to make a swift buck on resales.
All this is the least of Apple’s Chinese worries. The outfit has fallen out of favour with consumers who are increasingly opting for domestic products. Those who want an iPhone do not need to pay excessively to get one through China mobile either. In China, you can buy handsets typically smuggled from Hong Kong and then sign up for a China Mobile contract. This is a swings and roundabouts for Apple. If people buy from China Mobile, they will not buy from Hong Kong so it will lose sales there. If they don’t then the China Mobile contract is rubbish.
Although the new iPhone app is meant to be funny, its creators are hoping it will take off and people will use it to leave jobs.
The Quit Your Job app takes users through a series of steps to determine why they are leaving and then crafts a text message that is sent directly to their boss.
“Despite all the advances in technology we still quit our jobs the same way we did hundreds of year ago,” said Alex Douzet, chief executive officer of TheLadders, a New York-based employment company that produces the app.
“There’s a lot of anxiety around the resignation process, so we used technology to ease the pain in that moment and make it seamless to breakup with your boss,” he added.
About 2.3 million Americans left their jobs last October, citing reasons such as dissatisfaction with career growth, compensation or simply feeling unrecognized, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Douzet said the first few months of a new year are the busiest time for job searches. Many people wait for their end-of-year bonuses before making a move to a new position.
“It always correlates with New Year’s resolutions. People think ‘I’m not happy and want to make a move’” he said.
Quit Your Job was inspired by another app called BreakupText. Its designers teamed up with the TheLadders to create the new app.
BreakupText, which lets users leave their significant others via a text message, costs 99 cents and is available for the iPhone.
With Quit Your Job, after sending their resignation users can browse open positions on another app called, Job Search by TheLadders, which targets positions based on the user’s job profile and career goals. The free app was launched as an iPhone app in July and released on Android last week.
“This is unchartered territory,” he said of the Quit Your Job app. “It’s an experiment to see if people will actually use it seriously. If thousands of people download the app and only one ends up using it seriously, that’s interesting because it’s changing behaviors,” he said.
Douzet added that before leaving a job people should have another one lined up.
“It’s more appealing to know you’re in demand. You’ll have more power and leverage since you already have a pay check coming in,” he explained.
Newly appointed BlackBerry CEO John Chen is on a mission to restore the wounded company to financial health, largely by restoring faith in BlackBerry among corporate CIO’s and other traditional enterprise customers.
It’s a big task.
The former Sybase CEO has been meeting with enterprise customers since taking the BlackBerry post on an interim basis on Nov. 4 after the departure of Thorsten Heins and a failed attempt to take the company private.
“I have spoken with carriers and CIOs and distributors and the conversation is always very positive,” Chen said in an interview with Computerworld at the International CES conference here. “They see why it’s good for the market to have a successful BlackBerry. I seem to get meetings easily. They want us to be successful. There’s a lot of good will out there.”
Chen, who analysts call a no-nonsense administrator, has been busy reorganizing BlackBerry’s top management. On Monday, BlackBerry hired Ron Louks, who will serve as president of devices and emerging solutions reporting directly to Chen.
Louks was most recently CEO of OpenNMS Group and previously was Chief Strategy Officer at HTC America and Chief Technology Officer at Sony Ericsson. Handpicked for the job by Chen, Louks will focus on BlackBerry’s long-term product roadmap, including hardware, software and design, along with the company’s joint development efforts.
Chen said he still owns a Sony Ericsson cell phone that Louks helped design there. “It was small and thin and had a tiny keyboard, but was not good for surfing the Web,” he said, pointing to a historical Web browsing problem with earlier BlackBerry phones.
“I hired him because I am an enterprise guy and I needed a device guy,” Chen said.
Chen agreed that if BlackBerry phones of six years ago had a browser like that in the latest Z10, Q10 and Z30 models, the company might not have fallen so far behind Apple’s iPhone and an array of Android phones.
He also agreed that the boot time on those new BlackBerry devices is “too long — we will fix that.”
Computerworld reviewed all three phones and found the average boot time exceeds 70 seconds — double that of many other new phones. Chen attributed that to the time needed to load all of BlackBerry’s famous security software.
BlackBerry hasn’t yet said what its next phone will be called or when it will hit the market, although in the months before Chen took over, BlackBerry seemed headed to developing only enterprise-class smartphones. Then, in December, BlackBerry announced a five-year strategic partnership with Foxconn to build smartphones for Indonesia and other fast-growing markets where low cost phones, sometimes with fewer features, are more popular.
“I do have a consumer play with Foxconn … especially outside the U.S. I don’t want to leave those markets, but the main focus of mine is to restore enterprise confidence,” Chen said. “For the immediate future, I’m going to be in the enterprise.”
One potential way to win back enterprise users, Chen hinted, could be with an enterprise-grade BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, one that uses the SMS channel as a way for companies and government agencies to have an emergency communications network during catastrophic network outages.
“I could make BBM the enterprise emergency [channel] for people who want serious” connectivity, he said. BBM could be used for voice calls, and eventually for videoconferencing. “There’s a lot of value, a lot of stuff to deliver to customers,” he said.
Some government customers have told Chen that BlackBerry’s network stayed up when others failed during various crises and emergencies. That gives Chen confidence he can win back enterprise customers despite the recommendations from some analysts that their clients find alternatives to BlackBerry.
Part of his job is going is to convince CIO’s to take back some of the control they have lost in recent years as workers increasingly used their own devices in a sometimes chaotic bring-your-own-device world. “In some companies, the CIO has completely lost control and I’m trying to convince them they need to regain control,” Chen said. “There’s has been a loss of way.”
“BlackBerry is definitely still the most secure [mobile] solution,” Chen said. “The question is, does that [argument] bring me enough business? In the long term, it will.”