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Apple To Go Big With iPad Next Year

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

First there was the iPad at around 10 inches and then there was the iPad Mini that is closer to 8 inches. Now Apple Inc is gearing up to roll out a larger, 12.9-inch version of its once dominant iPad for 2015, with production set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter as saying on Tuesday.

The report comes as Apple struggles with declining sales of its tablets, which are faltering as people replace iPads less frequently than expected and larger smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  and other rivals have taken a bite out of its sales.

Apple has been working with its suppliers for over a year on larger touch-screen devices, Bloomberg cited the sources as saying.

It is expected to introduce larger versions of its 4-inch iPhone next month, although the company has not publicized plans for its most important device.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Apple Replacing Some iPhone 5 Batteries Free Of Charge

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has agreed to replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.

The program, which was announced last week, only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”

According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.

Computerworld‘s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.

Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.

This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.

In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.

Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility onApple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.

Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.

 

 

 

Unity Starts Pushing Open Source Plan

August 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Unity Technologies has stepped up its commitment to democratising game development by making key components of its ubiquitous engine open source.

At present, that applies to the Unity Test Tools and the engine’s new graphical user interface system, which was demonstrated in the opening keynote of Unite 2014. The features will be available under the MIT/X11 license, giving users the freedom to “control, customise and extend” their functionality.

The source code for the components will be hosted on BitBucket, and Unity has prepared a guide for any interested open source contributors. The source for the Unity Test Tools is already available, with the GUI to follow.

“Beyond that, we don’t have a concrete plan, but we have a lot of things in the pipeline,” the company said in a statement. “These components will all be isolated from Unity in such a way that you can modify them and use your own modified version with the official public Unity release.

“Although Unity Technologies has been active in the open-source community for quite some time, this is the first time we’ll be opening the source to components of Unity itself.

“We’re excited to see what you do with it.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will Activision Launch An Entertainment Group?

August 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Sources are suggesting that Activision is planning to launch an entertainment division that would be responsible for creating movies and TV shows based on Activision intellectual properties. The move might leave many scratching their heads if true since so many others have failed at trying to turn video game IP into gold.

Word is that CEO Bobby Kotick is taking to folks in an effort to secure the right talent to make this happen. Kotick has to be aware that this has not gone well for its competitors, but he apparently thinks that Activision IP is different and they will have no problem giving the people want they want.

Our take on this is that we will wait and see what happens, but it will not be easy to be successful, regardless of the IP that you have in your stable. The bigger question might be is it really worth the money and effort to try and make it work?

Courtesy-Fud

Are Physical Games On The Way Out?

August 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Numbers added up by research firm DFC Intelligence, show that few physical games are being bought and that digital sales are where all the money is.

According to DFC, 92 per cent of PC game sales in 2013 were digital and it thinks this trend will continue and rise in 2014.

Gamers are starting to favour digital downloads over physical copies of the game, which is not really surprising given that who actually wants to own boxes and DVDs and manuals when all you really need is the game.

DFC Intelligence goes on to add that PC games outsold console games in terms of revenue so it means that channel is not the way gamers are playing. But then again the specs of consoles are well below PCs.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Is EA Finally Listening To Gamers?

August 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

By his own admission, Andrew Wilson still “geeks out” at EA’s press conferences, despite his position as the company’s CEO demanding that he take centre stage. When we meet after the Gamescom media briefing, he enthuses in great detail and at considerable length about a FIFA 15 video demonstrating the capabilities of the new game’s goalkeepers. What that team has accomplished since he ascended to executive level, Wilson says, never fails to make him smile.

And Wilson has spent his first year in charge identifying the ways to spread that enthusiasm to EA’s customers. That hasn’t always resulted in success, of course: with Battlefield 4 the company stumbled once again on the unpredictable landscape of online gaming, and with EA Access it met with resistance from Sony on the grounds of value. In this interview, Wilson discusses both of these issues, and outlines EA’s renewed dedication to listening to its customers and following wherever that might lead.

Q: The last time we spoke you were still with EA Sports, and you’ve had a promotion since then – quite a big one, in fact. You’re coming up on a year as CEO now. Have we started to see evidence of the mark you wanted to make on the company?

AW: I think…no, I know that I didn’t approach this role thinking about making a mark or leaving a legacy. It wasn’t personal in nature. I took on the role because of how I feel about the company. This company has been very good to me and my family over the years, I loved the people I worked with inside the company and I loved the games we made together.

“Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months”

As I worked in the company in a variety of different roles, it became apparent to me that in some areas we’d lost our way a little bit. When I came in [as CEO] I really wanted to bring to the forefront the things that I thought made the company great, things that had delivered for us over the years. That really meant building this foundation of ‘player first’. I get that there are things we have to think about: we’re a big company, we’re a public company, we have shareholders, we have 8,000 people working for us. But all of that is for nothing unless you deliver for your number one constituency: the players. Without that, it’s for nothing.

Q: So the idea that the CEO is stuck trying to serve two masters, the shareholder and the customer, that isn’t how you see it, then?

AW: Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. Financial return is what happens when you achieve the right objectives. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months. We are engaging with our player-base more regularly, through more platforms to ensure that we’re doing what they want, and to make sure that we’re listening to them when we’re doing something that they don’t want. It’s as much about eliminating what doesn’t inspire or entertain as it is about the stuff that does.

Q: Is that how we should think about the problems that Battlefield 4 faced? You’ve publicly addressed the complaints already, but was that just a consequence of trying to deliver on an ambitious objective?

AW: If I promised you that nothing would ever go wrong [on future projects], that would be very disingenuous of me. The reality is that we come to work every day and challenge ourselves and our teams to do creative and innovative things. What I can say, however, is that living up to that commitment to engagement and action I mentioned before means that we will make tough decisions in service of the player.

Titanfall for Xbox 360 was coming in hot, it needed a few more weeks, and we moved it out of the fiscal year to get a great game. I don’t think we would have done that before. Need for Speed is a franchise we’ve released every year for 17 years – it’s as sure a thing as FIFA. But the team said that they couldn’t do what we challenged them to do in a year. It wasn’t possible, so for the first time in 17 years we decided not to launch a Need For Speed.

More recently, Battlefield: Hardline, moving out of the holiday quarter would traditionally be seen as catastrophic in this industry.

Q: Particularly that franchise. Battlefield 3 and 4 were both holiday releases.

AW: Yes, but it was the feedback. We brought gamers in earlier, we let them play the beta earlier. And the beta was very stable, so we’d solved a bunch of the problems that existed in Battlefield 4. But what people said to us was, ‘This is pretty cool, but we think you should go deeper. We want more out of this.’ So we’ve given the team more time. That’s a tough decision to make, and it has a financial impact in the near-term, but long-term, for the player and the franchise, that’s the right decision.

Q: Do you see EA Access in the same way? You’re the first publisher to pull the trigger on something like this on console. I remember a talk you gave at the Develop conference a few years back, where you held up services like Netflix as a model for the games industry to emulate. Was this idea in your mind all the way back then?

AW: It’s not completely the same, but yes. But, again, I wouldn’t take credit for that programme in its entirety. I’ve been involved in that programme, but we’ve got a great team that’s been looking at challenging the standard by which certain people access products. It’s early days – we launched it yesterday – but for what it’s worth all the positive intent is there. It will evolve, but what we’ve come to understand – and what I believed back then – is that this concept of, ‘I want to give you an amount of money each month that makes sense, and for that I want a bunch of cool stuff’, we want to live up to that.

Does that mean people will stop paying $60 for games? No, but there’s a big part of the population for whom that [EA Access] is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games.

“There’s a big part of the population for whom EA Access is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games”

Q: And potentially it’s a way for people who wouldn’t ordinarily play, say, Madden to get acquainted with the franchise. For a lot of people, FIFA and Battlefield would be enough to justify for the annual fee, and anything else is a bonus.

AW: Yes, but there will be many different types of players. For some people that will be how they want to play all content, for others it will form some part of it. There’ll be others who might use it just to trial games. Again, the price point is low enough that it’s pretty cool as a trial mechanism. We want to build a service that players can use in a way that makes sense to them.

Q: It gives the catalogue longevity, too, which is something that the games industry hasn’t been particularly good at.

AW: EA makes great games. Stuff that we made ten years ago is still good, and so in ten years time the games we’re making now will still be good.

Q: It’s early days, as you point out, but even in the near term are you planning to grow the selection on EA Access, to be additive?

AW: Absolutely. We wanted to launch it at a point where we could put things into the catalogue, into The Vault, and it would have value. We thought that four [games] was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point. Over time, the value will just get better and better and better, in much the same way that Netflix does. When I started subscribing to Netflix, there was no House Of Cards, there was no Orange Is The New Black – there is now.

Q: I have been surprised at my preference for buying games digitally in the generation so far. I thought it would take a bit more time.

AW: Convenience is a wonderful thing.

Q: Is that sort of behaviour behind the decision to get EA Access out there now, this year? Is that transition happening faster than you expected?

AW: No. Listen, we – and certainly myself – have matured in the understanding over the years about how people consume content, irrespective of the industry. One of the stats that I hear frequently is that 40 per cent of music is still bought on CD. Now, I haven’t bought a CD in 14 years. I’ve bought vinyl, by the way, a bunch in the last 14 years, so I consume media in different ways through different business models based on what I’m looking for. The way my view has evolved, I’m a bit like you: I haven’t bought a disc for my PS4 or my Xbox One; I click a button and it turns up, and that’s good for me. But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants it the same way. I’ve moved from a belief that there will be one access model to rule them all, to the belief that our objective as a company is to provide access to our entertainment in ways that make sense to the growing population of players.

 

Q: Services like EA Access to make sense in the context of this generation, which seems to largely about choice, whether that’s variety of games, how you want to buy, how you want communicate with other players. The experience is very open now.

AW: One of the things that we’re learning as we make the digital transformation is that we don’t need to guess what players want any more. For the longest time we had to guess, and the first opportunity to find out whether you got it right or not was when you saw the game on the shelf. Now, we’re getting better at listening. We haven’t always been great listeners, but we’re getting better, and what that’s telling us is that people want choice. They want to be able to choose what’s right for them at a given moment in time. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all any longer. We’ve got to build a core platform, game engines and games that facilitate that.

Q: Are you concerned that Access will alter your customer’s perception of value? FIFA 14 is still a game that can be played all year whether the new one is out or not. That $60 has got to feel like a better decision than before, surely.

“We thought that four games was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point”

AW: It doesn’t matter whether you spend a $1, $10 or $100,000, as long as you’re getting value from what you’ve spent then you’ll feel good about that. EA Access feels like tremendous value, and whether you continue to feel good about paying whatever it is for a frontline product comes down to our ability to to deliver value.

The commitment that we’re making to those frontline products is that they will be bigger, more engaging, service oriented, with new and dynamic content every time you log in. People are now playing FIFA and Battlefield all year round. When I started a game would get played for four weeks, and then it was on to the next one. The value that we deliver today, we have games that can be the only thing you play for an entire year.

Q: Certain products have started to feel out of time to me. I won’t mention the name, but I bought a game digitally that cost the same amount as, for example, FIFA, and it took me six or seven hours to finish and that was it. I felt cheated in a way that I wouldn’t have with the exact same game at this point in the last generation.

AW: That understanding of value is really, really important, and I’m trying to push that into the organisation – irrespective of business model. Back in the day it was all about delivering $60 of value; now, I want to deliver $1 of value if you want to spend $1, I want to deliver $10 of value if you want to spend $10. I want to deliver value on your investment and on your investment of time. As you get older you realise that time is the most important resource. Part of your issue with that other game is that it took six hours, and you didn’t feel the value returned. We should think about the investment of money, but also the investment of time.

Q: You’ve mentioned the value of EA Access several times, and obviously Sony came out and disagreed on that point. For now, at least, Access won’t be available to PlayStation customers. Was that disappointing, particularly with the reason Sony gave?

AW: What I can say is that we launched it yesterday. We believed when we launched it that it was great value, and gamers, for the most part, have fed back that it’s great value. We’re going to continue to put things into that service that make it even better value. It will evolve and go through lots of permutations over time as we listen and learn from players who engage with it. My hope is that we can deliver that kind of service to many millions of players for years to come.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Apple Changes Policy, Begins Storage Of User Personal Data In China

August 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has started the processing of keeping the personal data of some Chinese users on servers in mainland China, marking the first time the tech giant is storing user data on Chinese soil.

The storage of user data in China represents a departure from the policies of some technology companies, notably Google Inc, which has long refused to build data centers in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.

Apple said the move was part of an effort to improve the speed and reliability of its iCloud service, which lets users store pictures, e-mail and other data. Positioning data centers as close to customers as possible means faster service.

The data will be kept on servers provided by China Telecom Corp Ltd, the country’s third-largest wireless carrier, Apple said in a statement.

“Apple takes user security and privacy very seriously,” it said. “We have added China Telecom to our list of data center providers to increase bandwidth and improve performance for our customers in mainland china. All data stored with our providers is encrypted. China Telecom does not have access to the content.”

A source with knowledge of the situation said the encryption keys for Apple’s data on China Telecom servers would be stored offshore and not made available to China Telecom.

Apple has said it has devised encryption systems for services such as iMessage that even Apple itself cannot unlock. But some experts expressed scepticism that Apple would be able to withhold user data in the event of a government request.

“If they’re making out that the data is protected and secure that’s a little disingenuous because if they want to operate a business here, that’d have to comply with demands from the authorities,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei.com, a research firm focused on Chinese media, internet and consumers.

“On the other hand if they don’t store Chinese user data on a Chinese server they’re basically risking a crackdown from the authorities.”

Goldkorn added that data stored in the United States is subject to similar U.S. regulations where the government can use court orders to demand private data.

A spokesman for China Telecom declined to comment.

 

Apple Wants To Jumpstart iPad Sales, New Production Begins

August 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc’s suppliers have begun churning out new iPad tablets in an attempt to revive flagging sales of the tablet, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Apple, which was at the forefront of creating the tablet market in 2010 with its first iPad, has seen growth plummet from 2012, as larger phones became more popular and people delayed replacing their tablets.

Mass production of the iPad with a 9.7-inch (24.6-cm) screen has already started, and it is likely to be unveiled by the end of current quarter or early next quarter, Bloomberg said, citing two people familiar with the matter.

A new version of the 7.9-inch iPad mini is also entering production and is likely to be available by the end of the year, Bloomberg said.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment on the report.

International Business Machines Corp said in July it would partner exclusively with Apple to sell iPhones and iPads, which could rejuvenate the tablet’s sales by entering into a largely untapped corporate market.

Apple shipped 13.2 million iPads in the June quarter, 8 percent less than a year earlier. Sales of the devices, which accounted for 15 percent of revenue, fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for the second quarter in a row.

 

Will Bioware Announce A New IP At Gamescom?

August 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Word is circulating that the new BioWare IP which is rumored to be called Shadow Realms could be on EA’s agenda to finally be revealed at Gamescom. While rumors have been making the rounds for some time, so far EA has been mum about its existence.

We do know that EA’s is planning to provide more details on FIFA 15, Battlefield: Hardline, The Sims 4, Dragon Age Inquisition, and Dawngate at its Gamescom presser which will take place on Wednesday, August 13th at 9am BST.

While EA might reveal Shadow Realms, it is likely that BioWare has it on the release schedule for late 2015 at the soonest, but it is possible that it could even be a 2016 title. Let’s hope EA puts some of these rumors to bed and tells us what Shadow Realms is all about.

Courtesy-Fud

Activision Blizzard Depends Heavily On Digital

August 7, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Activision Blizzard reported its financial results for the quarter ended June 30 today, revealing an unprecedented reliance on digital revenues.

The publisher reported revenues of $970 million in sales on a GAAP basis, 49 percent of which came from digital channels. On a non-GAAP basis (excluding the impact of changes in deferred revenues), the digital percentage was actually 73 percent of the company’s $658 million in sales. Activision attributed the digital strength to Blizzard’s lineup of titles (World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Diablo III), combined with digital sales for Call of Duty.

However, not all of those digital sales drivers posted strong numbers for the quarter. World of Warcraft in particular lost about 800,000 subscribers over the period, and as of the end of June was down to a paying player base of 6.8 million gamers. However, Activision Blizzard characterized this decline as a “seasonal” dip in advance of the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, which is set to launch later this year. The publisher likened the downturn to the subscriber losses that happened in 2012 ahead of the Mists of Panderia launch.

On a GAAP basis, Activision Blizzard revenues were down nearly 8 percent, with net income down 37 percent to $204 million. However, the publisher still beat its previous guidance. On a non-GAAP basis, revenues were up about 10 percent to $658 million, while non-GAAP net income was reported at $45 million, down 50 percent year-over-year.

The quarter’s performance gave Activision Blizzard enough confidence to update its previous guidance for the full year. For calendar year 2014, the publisher had previously forecast total GAAP revenues of $4.22 billion, but moved that up to $4.24 billion today. The company also projected earnings per share of $0.91, up from $0.89.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Xiaomi Takes Samsung’s Position As China’s Largest Smartphone Vendor

August 5, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

In another dose of bad news for Samsung Electronics, the Korean tech giant has lost its ranking as China’s top smartphone vendor, after holding onto the position for two straight years, according to research firm Canalys.

In this year’s second quarter, Chinese company Xiaomi overtook Samsung to become the country’s largest smartphone maker with a 14 percent market share. Samsung held on to the second spot, with a 12 percent share, slightly ahead of third place Lenovo, outshipping it by 200,000 units.

The Korean electronics giant had been China’s leading smartphone maker since 2012′s first quarter, said Wang Jingwen, an analyst with Canalys. At the time, the company’s market share was 22 percent.

In China, Samsung sells a large range of handsets, from high end to low, and benefits from a strong brand and a vast reseller network. But its Chinese rivals are increasingly putting pressure on the company, especially when it comes to selling lower-end phones, Wang said.

“In the mid-to-low end segment, Samsung devices have not represented great value for money in China,” she said. The country’s largest mobile carrier, China Mobile, is also partnering more with domestic handset makers to launch phones built for its new 4G network, Wang added.

Xiaomi, on the other hand, has been growing fast, largely by selling feature-packed smartphones at just above cost price. This marks the first time the Chinese company has taken the top spot in China, after only starting to sell phones three years ago.

Xiaomi’s low-end series of phones, known as Redmi, are driving the company’s shipments in China, which reached almost 15 million in the second quarter, according to Canalys. The Redmi phones can start as low as 699 yuan (US$113) when bought without carrier subsidies.

Xiaomi’s aggressive pricing is leading the company’s success, Wang said. The company has already sold 26.1 million phones in this year’s first half, with the goal of selling a total of 60 million by the end of this year. Although not a big name outside of China, Xiaomi is expanding to ten foreign markets this year.

 

 

Free iPhone App Available To Encrypt Voice Calls

July 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

An open-source project has released the first free application for the iPhone that scrambles voice calls, which would ward off government surveillance or eavesdropping by hackers.

Signal comes from Open Whisper Systems, who also created RedPhone and TextSecure, both Android applications that encrypt calls and text messages.

The application is compatible with RedPhone and eventually RedPhone and TextSecure will be combined in a single Android application and called Signal as well, according to a blog post.

Signal is notable for two reasons. First, it’s free. There are many voice call encryption products on the market for various platforms, most of which are not cheap and are aimed at enterprise users.

Second, Signal is open source code, meaning developers can look at the code and verify its integrity. That’s important because of concerns that software vendors have been pressured into adding “backdoors” into their products that could assist government surveillance programs.

The beauty of Signal is its simplicity. Setup requires verifying the device’s phone number through a one-time code that is sent by SMS. Signal displays only the contact details of the other user who has it installed.

It provides end-to-end encryption of voice calls over a data connection. Signal displays two words on a screen during a call, which are meant to be verified with the party on the other end to ensure a man-in-the-middle attack isn’t underway.

Signal adds to a growing number of mobile encryption offerings from software vendors. Silent Circle, based in Washington, D.C., offers encrypted calling and texting services for a monthly subscription, and is a partner in Geneva-based SGP Technologies which makes the BlackPhone, a security minded device released last month.

 

Huawei’s Smartphones Gaining Ground, Sees 62% Rise In Devices Shipped

July 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei Technologies shipped 62% more smartphones in the first half of 2014 than the same period last year, with sales to some countries outside its home turf doubling or even tripling.

It shipped smartphone 34.3 million units, boosted by sales of flagship phones the Ascend Mate 2 and the Ascend P7, it said on Tuesday. In the second quarter alone it shipped 20.6 million units, an 85% year-over-year increase.

Much of that growth is coming from emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, where its smartphone shipments are doubling or even tripling compared to the previous year, the company added.

Other Chinese vendors are also reporting booming smartphone sales, but Huawei ships a higher proportion of its production to foreign markets, said Melissa Chau, an analyst with research firm IDC.

“It has the most number of shipments outside of China, roughly 40%,” she estimated. “If you look at Lenovo, ZTE, or Xiaomi, they are nowhere near that.”

In this year’s second quarter, Huawei will hold on to its ranking as the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor, behind leader Samsung Electronics and second place Apple, Chau added.

In foreign markets, Huawei is driving growth by selling low-end models, while flagship products such as the Ascend P7 find most of their buyers in mainland China, Chau said.

Huawei has ambitions to rival Apple and Samsung in the smartphone arena, so is spending more on marketing and raising brand awareness. But its market share in this year’s first quarter was only 4.7%, still far away from second place Apple, which had a 15.2% share.

“They are making some progress, but they are still not anywhere near being a super top-tier player,” Chau said. Android smartphones are also becoming commoditized, which risks dampening Huawei’s attempts to stand out from the rest of the competition, she added.

 

Xiaomi Sets Sights On Premium Smartphone Market With Mi 4 Device

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi introduced on Tuesday its new flagship Mi 4 smartphone, aimed primarily at the premium handset market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The Mi 4 has a 5 inch, 1080p screen and a Qualcomm Inc Snapdragon 801 2.5 Ghz processor, said Chief Executive Lei Jun at a launch event in Beijing.

But sheathed in iPhone-like metal sides, the Mi 4′s similarities to Apple’s smartphone drew murmurs from the crowd of ‘iPhone’ when showcased by Lei.

Founded in 2010 by Lei, Xiaomi seeks to cut costs by eschewing brick-and-mortar stores in favor of web-based distribution and word-of-mouth marketing.

Xiaomi became the world’s sixth-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2014, according to data firm Canalys, after repeatedly doubling its sales. The company was valued at $10 billion last year.

Xiaomi sold 18.7 mln smartphones in 2013 and on Tuesday maintained a 60 million sales target for 2014. For comparison, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has said it is targeting 80 million smartphone sales for the year.

The latest phone was unveiled at a glitzy launch event at the National Convention Center in Beijing, where Lei Jun and Vice President Hugo Barra – a former Google executive – posed for photos with a winding queue of fans decked in Xiaomi-branded red T-shirts.

Barra told Reuters in an interview this month that the company was actively targeting the Indian market.

 

Apple Agrees To $450 Settlement In E-book Antitrust Case

July 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has agreed to pay $450 million to settle U.S. state and consumer claims the iPad manufacturer conspired with five major publishers to fix e-book prices, according to court records filed Wednesday.

The settlement, which would provide $400 million for consumers, is conditioned on the outcome of a pending appeal of a New York federal judge’s ruling last year that Apple was liable for violating antitrust laws.

A ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York reversing the judge could, under the settlement, either reduce the amount Apple pays to $70 million, with $50 million for consumers, or eliminate payments altogether.

“While we cannot predict the outcome of the appeal with certainty, we are confident in the case we made against Apple at trial,” Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said in a statement.

Apple in a statement denied that it had conspired to fix e-book prices and said it would continue pressing its case on appeal.

“We did nothing wrong and we believe a fair assessment of the facts will show it,” Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, said.

The settlement, which requires approval of U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, had been announced in June. Terms were not disclosed at the time.

It came ahead of an Aug. 25 damages trial, in which attorneys general in 33 states and territories and lawyers for a class of consumers were expected to seek up to $840 million.

The deal follows earlier settlements with five publishers that provided $166 million for e-book purchasers.

Combined with the $400 million from Apple, the recovery is “among the exceedingly rare cases that provide consumers nationwide with double the amount of their estimated damages,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in a motion.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the state attorneys general sued Apple and five publishers in April 2012, accusing them of working together illegally to increase e-book prices.

In July 2013, Cote found Apple liable for colluding with the publishers to impede e-book competitors such as Amazon.com Inc after a non-jury trial.

The publishers include Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster Inc and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan.