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Nokia Outdesigns Apple

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Tommi Pelkonen tipped us through Facebook on this one.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when Microsoft was a top seller of smartphone software. And Nokia, the Finnish electronics company, was the top seller of mobile devices. Then both of them got blindsided by Apple’s introduction of the iPhone in 2007. At first they just laughed. Who would buy that crazy overpriced phone from Apple that doesn’t even have a keyboard? Lots of people, it turns out. Which is why Nokia has seen the market share of its Symbian smartphone platform collapse to 19 percent today from 63 percent in 2007, according to IDC, a market researcher. Microsoft once had 13 percent share but now has only 2 percent, IDC says, making its presence almost negligible.

But now, working together, these companies are trying to plot a comeback, and based on the phone they introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, they might actually stand a chance.

The sleek new Nokia Lumia 900 (PDF) has a 4.3-inch screen, an 8-megapixel camera, and runs on AT&T’s speedy new 4G LTE network. The phone “represents a new dawn for Nokia in the U.S.,” said Chris Weber, president of Nokia Americas, in a press release.

Nokia also released a YouTube video showing off the new phone.

The Lumia 900 runs the latest version of Microsoft’s mobile phone software, which is called Windows Phone 7.5 (code-name: Mango). This is a stunning piece of software that is radically different from what you get on an Apple iPhone or any of the Android phones. Instead of a bunch of same-sized icons, Microsoft uses big, bright-colored tiles. They can be moved around and customized. Some are “dynamic,” meaning they display information that is constantly updated when, for example, one of your friends posts something on Facebook.

Microsoft and Nokia struck a major partnership deal last February, with Nokia committing to make Windows Phone its primary mobile operating software. Previously Nokia had developed its own operating software. The deal was helped along by the fact that Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop, is a former Microsoft executive.

I recently I spent some time with the Lumia 900’s little brother, the Lumia 800, which has been a hot seller in Europe but hasn’t come to the U.S. yet. That phone also runs the Mango operating system and it’s a gorgeous device, with an elegant shell beautifully crafted from a single piece of polycarbonate plastic. The operating software is smooth and fast. In many ways the Lumia 800 was the nicest phone I’ve ever used. It makes the iPhone seem old and outdated, and makes Android phones seem big and clunky.

I usually have a bunch of different cell phones at any given time. I set them up so they all ring whenever someone calls my mobile number. Then I try not to think about it and just see which phone I tend to pick up when they all ring, and which phone I grab to toss in my pocket when I go out. Over and over again, the Lumia 800 was the one I picked up.

The Lumia 900 picks up from there. It’s bigger than the Lumia 800, which has a 3.7-inch screen. But it has the same sleek European modernist design feel.

Indeed, when it comes to design the new Nokia flagship devices have arguably leapfrogged past Apple, the company known for its cutting-edge design. It’s hard to predict whether the new Noka Windows phones will catch on in America. Apple and Android are so well entrenched that some pundits think whatever Microsoft and Nokia are doing will be too little too late. Not surprisingly, the folks at Nokia beg to differ. “I still believe that great products that are perceived as modern can change things very quickly,” says Marko Ahtisaari, the head of design at Nokia. “This is a long race that we are starting.”

As he puts it, the mobile phone market today is about where the automotive industry was in the 1890s, when standards had not emerged and people hadn’t even decided that a steering wheel was the best way to control a car.

Ahtisaari says the user interface of the iPhone “is becoming more dated as we speak. People think the iOS interface is the new generic and nothing will ever be better, but I disagree with that.”

Since joining Nokia in 2009, Ahtisaari has been trying to craft a new design language. “We share this focus on refining, taking away complexity, removing anything unnecessary, doing fewer things but better,” he says.

While pundits and customers in the U.S. focus on high-end devices, Ahtisaari says the bigger and more interesting opportunity lies at the other end of the market. “The big story is in Asia and Africa, it’s the next billion people and how we bring them online,” he says. “The line between smartphones and feature phones is becoming completely blurred. I’m as excited about making a breakthrough in a 10-euro phone as I am about a 1,000-euro phone. The next billion people coming online, that’s the real story.”

Indeed, the mobile market is so big that there may be room for everyone. I recently had lunch with a guy who works in the mobile space, and I asked him which platform he thought would win—Apple, Android or Windows. “All of them,” he said. The folks at Nokia and Microsoft are surely hoping that’s the case. With the new Lumia phones, they’ve made about as strong an effort as could be imagined.

Written by Kees Winkel

February 1, 2012 at 12:38

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Apple retail mastermind Ron Johnson leaves the company – TNW Apple

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Ron Johnson used to be the senior vice president of retail at Apple, but he announced his impending departure from Apple in June this year. He has now officially vacated that spot to take on the role of CEO at the department store chain J. C. Penny, according to a report by 9to5Mac. Apple hasn’t announced a successor for him yet.

Johnson, a Stanford graduate with an M.B.A. from Harvard, was lured away by Steve Jobs from his previous position as the vice president of merchandising for Target in January 2000 to head Apple’s yet-to-be-launched retail initiative. He has been phenomenally successful in that role, having overseen the launch of over 300 retail stores for the company all over the world. The company served the one billionth visitor to its retail stores this past July.

Referred to by J. C. Penny investor Bill Ackman as “the Steve Jobs of the retail industry”, Johnson pioneered the concept of the genius bar and is the man responsible for the amazing shopping experience that is the hallmark of every Apple Store. Now, even as his executive bio has been removed from the Apple website, we suspect that the company will continue coasting on his successes for years to come.

via Apple retail mastermind Ron Johnson leaves the company – TNW Apple.

Written by Kees Winkel

November 2, 2011 at 10:53

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Samsung to file for multiple injunctions against iPhone 4S — Apple News, Tips and Reviews

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Samsung revealed on Wednesday that it would try to stop the release of Apple’s new iPhone 4S  in France and Italy with filings seeking injunctions on the new smartphone. Samsung’s complaints (via WSJ) will center on two instances of alleged patent infringement related to WCDMA standards for 3G connectivity.

The patents in question are considered “essential,” which means that Samsung has an obligation to license them to any competitor on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms in the EU. Samsung has previously attempted to block the sale of Apple products on similar grounds in the Netherlands. In that case Apple argued that it had been attempting to comply with the FRAND licensing requirement but was still in the process of negotiations with Samsung based on price. A preliminary decision on the validity of Samsung’s complaint is expected next week.

It was a move that Apple likely saw coming, as reports have surfaced recently that this was indeed what Samsung had planned to do. It also makes sense that Samsung would want to retaliate against the multiple injunction attempts that Apple has consistently aimed at Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Galaxy smartphone devices in various global markets.

via Samsung to file for multiple injunctions against iPhone 4S — Apple News, Tips and Reviews.

Written by Kees Winkel

October 5, 2011 at 16:58

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Apple Unveils Global iPhone 4S with Groundbreaking Smartphone Advances | Mobile Marketing Watch

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Meet the iPhone 4S: Apple’s latest revamped touchscreen smartphone that presents several key improvements over the previous generation.

Powered by Apple’s lightning fast A5 processor, the iPhone 4S sports a new antenna design that facilitates CPU speeds almost twice as fast as those of the iPhone 4.

As anticipated, the iPhone 4S is a so-called “world phone” in that it is compatible with both CDMA and GSM networks. Despite not being a 4G device, Apple contends that iPhone 4S speeds are “competitive” with the performance of today’s 4G networks.

The new camera built into the iPhone 4S has a 8-megapixel sensor, 3264 x 2448 to print out an 8 x 10 glossy, and nearly two-thirds more pixels than in the iPhone 4 sensor. What’s more, the camera will now shoot full-high-definition 1080p video, in addition to serving up real-time video image stabilization and temporal noise reduction.

Despite a plethora of new features and, consequently, demands on the smartphone, iPhone 4S has an increased battery life up to 8 hours.

The iPhone 4S will be released October 14th, with preorders commencing October 7th. Black and white versions of the iPhone 4S will be made available: 16GB for $199, 32GB for $299, and 64GB for $399.

“When you look at each of these, they’re great, fantastic, and industry-leading,” Apple CEO Tim Cook says. “But what sets them apart and puts them way out front is how they work together so well. When you think about it, only Apple can bring all these things together in such a powerful and integrated experience. I am so incredibly proud of this company and all of the teams that work so hard to bring the innovations you’ve seen today to reality.”

via Apple Unveils Global iPhone 4S with Groundbreaking Smartphone Advances | Mobile Marketing Watch.

Written by Kees Winkel

October 5, 2011 at 15:49

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Apple to reset iCloud backup data on Sep 22; iOS 5 launch imminent

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Apple posted an announcement on its developer boards on Sunday, warning existing users of the beta builds of iOS 5 and Mac OS X that the backup data on iCloud will be removed from its servers on September 22, according to a report by 9to5Mac:

On Thursday, September 22, the iCloud Backup data will be reset. Backing up to iCloud or restoring from an iCloud backup will be unavailable from 9 AM PDT – 5 PM PDT. If you attempt a backup or restore during this time, you will receive an alert that the backup or restore was not successful. After this reset, you will be unable to restore from any backup created prior to September 22. A full backup will happen automatically the next time your device backs up to iCloud.

iOS and Mac OS X developers have been testing the cloud-based service since June this year and are currently on its tenth beta. The company has stated that iOS 5, along with iCloud, will be launched in the fall, and it looks like we’ll be able to lay our hands on the OS before the end of this month.

via Apple to reset iCloud backup data on Sep 22; iOS 5 launch imminent.

Written by Kees Winkel

September 20, 2011 at 08:29

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Microsoft spends millions on training as HTC shows Windows Phones

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FA show gives glimpse of new HTC Titan and Radar phones running Windows Phone Mango to arrive in October as marketing head says 20% market share forecasts are conservative


The new HTC Radar, which will run the Windows Phone Mango OS

Microsoft is investing millions of dollars in training “hundreds” of sales staff for phone companies worldwide to encourage them to sell devices running its Windows Phone operating system, as the company tries to catch up in the smartphone market.

The news came as Taiwan’s HTC unveiled two new smartphones on Thursday – called Titan and Radar – which are based on Mango, the next update to Windows Phone, and said that they will be available from October. They will almost certainly be the first using the Windows Phone 7.5 software to be available in Europe.

The Titan model will be priced somewhat above Apple‘s iPhone but carries a wider 4.7in display. The HTC Radar phone will be priced at similar levels to other smartphones.

Achim Berg, Microsoft’s head of Windows Phone marketing, told Bloomberg that forecasts by market analysts that the operating system will have a 20% share by 2015 are conservative – even though it is languishing with a 1.6% world market share in the second quarter of the year according to the analysts Gartner.

“This is a completely new platform, it takes time,” Berg told Bloomberg. “It took time with Android, it took time with Apple. We have to show that we’re very capable and that we have the fastest and easiest phone.” Part of that effort will involve tutoring shop staff selling the handsets in how to show off the phones to best effect.

Other analysts say that Windows Phone has a mountain to climb in order to reach the aim expressed by Stephen Elop, chief executive of Nokia – which will use Windows Phone in forthcoming smartphones – of becoming the “third ecosystem” in the field alongside Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

Horace Dediu, a former Nokia executive who now runs the independent consultancy Asymco, noted that in the US Android and iOS phones cumulatively outnumber Windows Phone devices – which there have a 4.5% share – by 12 to one: “To become the largest mobile platform in the US, as some analysts are predicting, Microsoft has a 12:1 disadvantage that looks to continue to grow. Those are some pretty tough odds.”

But Microsoft is undaunted. “I am confident on Q3. We see a strong Q4,” Florian Seiche, head of HTC’s business in Europe, Middle East and Africa, told Reuters at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. He said good demand for its latest models was continuing, despite macroeconomic worries and longer replacement cycles in some countries.

On 29 July, HTC gave a better than expected forecast for the third quarter, estimating sales of all its phones – which includes both Android and Windows Phone smarpthones – would double from a year ago to 13.5m, while its gross margin would be around 28%, down from 29-30% in previous quarters.

HTC’s shares have fallen as much as 40% from their peak in April because of the slowing growth, courtroom fights with Apple over patents and stiff competition. Microsoft has also won a per-handset payment – believed to be around $5 (£3) – for each Android handset HTC ships after claiming that HTC’s Android phones infringe its patents.

Analysts say HTC needs new markets to sustain growth and will have to call again on the speed and innovation that turned the once obscure Taiwanese company into a global brand in five years and propelled its market value beyond that of Nokia this year.

“HTC will be hoping the heightened awareness of Windows Phone as a result of Nokia cosying up to Microsoft will help kick-start interest in these new phones after the dismal reception of Windows Phone this time last year,” said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.

Nokia, still the world’s largest cellphone vendor by volume, has decided to dump its own Symbian software in favour of Windows Phone. The first devices, running Mango, are expected later this autumn, but analysts think that it will not be before late spring next year that the Finnish company will have a range of handsets with which to target the market. Meanwhile, the company fell into loss in the last quarter, and that is not expected to improve this year.

Microsoft first announced Windows Phone in February 2010, ditching its longstanding Windows Mobile operating system in the face of competition from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Windows Phone was launched in October 2010, but the company has given few details about how many handset licences have been sold as market figures have suggested a slow start.

Written by Kees Winkel

September 3, 2011 at 10:57

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Why Apple should consider more frequent iPhone updates — Apple News, Tips and Reviews

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New numbers from Nielsen released on Thursday show that Android’s market share grew in July while the iOS share stayed relatively flat. One stat in particular from Nielsen stuck out: Among early adopters, 40 percent would opt for an Android device as their next purchase, while only 32 percent would go for an iPhone.



Since the early adopter crowd is the group most likely to cycle through devices quickly, this makes sense. Android handset makers usually don’t adhere to any hard-and-fast update schedule, and they often release multiple devices or iterations of the same device within a single calendar year. If what you’re after is the latest available tech, Android has the edge, regardless of whether or not the overall user experience of iOS is arguably better.

Of course, it helps that Android has around a dozen hardware partners in the U.S. alone offering a variety of devices across all major carriers, but even among that crowd, some single device makers are beginning to pull away from the field with aggressive hardware upgrade plans.

The best example is Samsung, which announced a new 5.3-inch smartphone on Thursday at the IFA 2011 European tech conference. The new Galaxy Note, as the monster phone is called, also has a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor under the hood, as well as a pressure-sensitive touchscreen that can be used with a stylus for accurate drawing, sketching and writing. The huge 5.3-inch display boasts an impressive 1280×800 resolution, on par with many netbooks. Bristling with new shiny bits, it’s an early adopter’s dream device.

The features mentioned above won’t appeal to all, because as Steve Jobs has rightly pointed out in the past, most consumers are after an overall experience, not a list of specs. But one group, namely the early adopter group, is very much focused on the list of specs, and Samsung is showing that you can do well by appealing to that level of interest.

Early adopters buy early and buy often. The nature of Android devices makes it more possible for those on the edge to stay there, no waiting required. Given the rise in popularity of smartphones, combined with a generation of device buyers that grew up using them, we might see more and more consumers comfortable with device updates that are much more frequent than once (or less) yearly.

Apple doesn’t adhere to a strict yearly schedule with its Mac releases; approximately every six to eight months, it introduces minor overhauls and spec bumps when new processor tech is made available to keep its machines more or less current in terms of specifications. Doing the same with an iPhone might make sense and attract the wandering gaze of customers focused firmly on the horizon of mobile tech.

via Why Apple should consider more frequent iPhone updates — Apple News, Tips and Reviews.

Written by Kees Winkel

September 1, 2011 at 19:46

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