The ground is shifting below RIM’s feet. The Canadian phone maker is struggling to survive in the industry where rivals are leaving very little room for it to breathe. A lot has taken place in Waterloo in the last few days. Bearish sentiments… Impending job cuts… Bad quarter forecasts… Even the most anticipated BlackBerry 10 has been now delayed till 2013.
Amidst all the new generation smartphones, BlackBerry has somehow started to look ancient. But then there are some like me, who still prefer the good old ‘QUERTY keyboard’ way of doing things. Yes, it is one of its key strengths. But the lack of rich apps makes it look very dull. BlackBerry has to somehow bridge the gap between its strengths and the current consumer trends.
It’s time, I think, for RIM to do something radical. It ought to preserve itself for the future by adapting itself to other mobile operating systems. It is already too late – and by the way things look, 2013 will be a disaster. There are of course two choices – Microsoft’s Windows, or Google’s Android. Now if RIM was to join the Android bandwagon, things would not look that great either. Android, the most popular smartphone platform in the world, has issues of its own – most importantly, the fragmentation issue. The platform is everywhere – it has become the choice for every low-end phone manufacturer, stripping it away from providing its true mobile experience. One has to invest in a high-end device to truly experience the Android platform. But that is not the whole point. RIM will have to be unique in its offering of the Android platform. It is likely that if they don’t, they will surely be lost in the big crowd. Now, let us take a look at Microsoft’s Windows Phone. It is struggling to make its mark, with its future still uncertain. However, the upcoming update to the platform looks promising. Windows Phone 8, also known as Apollo, has a lot of features to offer. Yes, Windows Phone has the issue with the availability of popular apps that most of us have grown used to while using an iDevice or an Android. But there are good apps available too – most of us will find the Windows app store sufficient for our needs. The platform lets you get your work done, is easier to use, and is more beautiful to look at. Compared to Android, RIM has better chances of standing apart from the crowd with Windows Phone. Moreover, there’s Nokia. If RIM were to choose Windows Phone, together with the fact that Nokia is already with it too, it would surely catch people’s attention. There’s brand loyalty at the end of the day. Some of us might want to give them a chance if they manage to turn this to the right direction. When the synergy among them sparks, I am sure it will create an interest in the Windows Phone platform from both the consumer and the developer end.
Let us hope the company survives long enough to even consider all these. It is unlikely that the company will run into bankruptcy anytime soon. It has $2 billion in cash, and it is Canada’s most valuable technology company. Something tells me that they will bounce right back up. Well that is what a BlackBerry loyalist like me can hope for, at the least…
One can now avoid data charges by saving any map for later use in the recent version of Google Maps. The company updated this new feature quite discreetly, thus taking many by surprise, reports Softpedia.
However, with any new update, bugs are a common issue. Android phones, running the Ice Cream Sandwich build, are reporting some negative issues. The general consensus is that the latest version is broken, & needs to be de-bugged. Some users, for instance have complained that they cannot see their friends in Latitude, & that the compass has stopped working. It is worth mentioning that the Compass Mode for Street View lets one to look around places as though he/she was there, using the device’s gyroscope.
Android users running build 2.2 & higher should be able to use the app. The latest version (6.9) can be found in the official Android app store, Play.
Win8China reports that the upcoming Windows 8 might have the classic ‘Windows Explorer’ changed to ‘File Explorer.’ Subtle changes are seen, as the upcoming Windows 8 is reaching close to the RTM (Release To Manufacturing) phase.
This maybe a step towards ‘unifying’ the interface in all of their upcoming devices, discussed last week in TechED 2012. Having a minimalist feel to it, Windows 8 may really shine on tablets. Full-screen interface (that gives priority to content over chrome) have replaced toolbars, start menus & other features.
It will be now interesting to see whether Microsoft changes the name other applications such as Windows Media Player, the Windows Update, the Windows Media Center, Windows Defender, Windows Journal, Windows Speech Recognition & the likes.
The company confirmed in a press conference, a day after the keynote at TechEd EMEA 2012, that the main idea was to bring them in line with Windows 8’s design philosophy. “We love the Metro UI… We’re aiming at providing the same experience across products, including Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox.” said the corporate vice president of Management & Security, Brad Anderson.
Microsoft is looking to provide a fresh, better experience to developers, by redesigning the developers’ tools, aligning them with the visual language of Windows 8. Network administrators and IT managers have been so far impressed by the changes that have been implemented in Windows Server 2012.
While presenting the new capabilities in Windows Azure and Windows Server 2012, some of the UI elements from the Metro were seen. It shows clearly that the UI will not only be found in Windows 8, but in many others.
“People will either love it or hate it,” said Brad Anderson, while noting that at the end, people will have to get used to the change.
Amidst widespread speculation that RIM will be bought-out in order to salvage the sinking ship, an analyst at Wedge Partners thinks it’s hopeless…
Forbes reports that Brian Blair, an analyst at Wedge Partners, shared his thoughts about the future of the company.
“We don’t see an M&A opportunity near term, mainly because we don’t believe RIM has much to offer,” he notes. “If there was value in the Network Operating Center back in the day, it seems to have faded. If we have learned one thing from the iPhone, it’s that the device’s security is ‘good enough’ for the government and ‘good enough’ for the enterprise. We have seen every type of company replace BlackBerry with the iPhone over the last 3 years. If there is value in RIM’s Blackberry servers placed around the world in large numbers, that value is in decline, as those same servers continue to get ripped out on what seems like a monthly basis.”
Acknowledging that the company has some prized technical expertise, he goes on to say that they may not be enough. “Yes, the company has real IP around email delivery, and they still do some things that companies like Apple can’t but overall, their manufacturing capability isn’t worth much in our view,” he points “Their distribution is great but it’s hard to assign a value to it, and we don’t think anyone would consider buying the OS at a premium price. Even Amazon, who we could make an argument for, seems to be standardizing on Android. We also don’t think Samsung has any interest, as their Bada platform is more advanced than BlackBerry.
“RIM finds itself in such a situation with an aging product line and nothing that appears able to change its fate in the pipeline. We see a steep drop off in revenues and units near term, punctuated by a drop in subscriber adds, and an OS refresh that is largely ignored by carriers and consumers alike, driving RIM into a forced sale in 2013.”
Even the upcoming Blackberry 10 does not provide him any solace. “We don’t see any scenario where BB10 can compete meaningfully against the three major smartphone operating systems,” he notes. “The potential for RIMM to offer a more appealing, completely new and different OS, without a keyboard (and the initial one won’t), and with no apps and no ecosystem to enterprise/ consumers is incredibly slim. RIM is not a software company at its heart, and it’s been knocked out of the ring by three players that ARE software companies. Now it’s hoping to reinvent itself with new hardware and a re-worked BB10 OS that the company hopes will be good enough to be considered competitive.”
CNET reports that the next version of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, Fire 2, will be out soon.
It expected to be launched this summer, targeting July 31st. On the speculative side, DigiTimes reported the Amazon was “considering launching” a tablet with higher resolution of 1,280 by 800-pixel “at the beginning of the third quarter,” priced around $199.
Although the higher resolution display is still unconfirmed, the new tablet may have a camera & volume control buttons (physical ones, unlike the older version). Moreover, nothing has been mentioned about expanding the built-in memory of 8GB, Bluetooth connectivity & the processor power it would have.
On the competition side, Amazon is expected to introduce the new tablet at a lower price point, compared to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. More importantly though, Amazon has to match the upcoming tablet rival, the Asus-made Google Nexus Tablet, running the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) at 1.3Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 processor & a GeForce 12-core graphics processor & many other features.
It looks like Amazon has to match not only the pricing points, but also the specs to be at an advantage.
Japan was the scene of a high-profile malware incident, resulting in the arrest of six individuals (including two IT executive and one former tech executive), reports TechEye.
They were arrested in connection with an Android malware campaign, which stole more than $265,000. An incident of this sort is the first that has happened, landing the perpetrators in jail. The app disguised itself as a video player & circulated through an adult website. Presumably offering adult materials, the app, once installed, stole users’ personal information, including email addresses & phone number. These were then stored in a server outside of Japan.
After the data was stolen, the app would display a message, demanding a payment of $1,260 per person, every five minutes.
The app was, however, not distributed through the official Android app store, Play. Only third-party sites were believed to have them.
A Microsoft executive has denied reports that the company will bring out its own smartphone, reports InformationWeek. “No, we do not,” was the answer Greg Sullivan gave, who is the marketing manager for Windows Phone.
“We have a strong ecosystem of partners that we are very satisfied with,” Sullivan said Friday. While Microsoft officials usually give a ‘no comment’ statement, the outright denial of the speculation is significant here. The rumor that Microsoft will have its own branded smartphone grew last week when it announced plans for its own tablet, the Surface.
However Rick Sherlund, a Nomura analyst, thinks it’s still blurred. “We would not be surprised if Microsoft were to decide to bring their own handset to market next year given that Microsoft has decided to bring to market their own Windows 8 Surface tablet/PC products.” he said. Sherlund released a note to clients saying that Microsoft has a deal with a contract producer to manufacture Windows Phone 8 phones. “It is unclear to us whether this would be a reference platform or whether this may be a go-to-market Microsoft-branded handset,” said Sherlund.
What remains to be seen is, if Nokia is ultimately acquired by Microsoft now that it is investing millions of dollars in the Finnish phone maker. If so, Microsoft could most likely end up in the phone business.
Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak, on a visit to New Zealand last week, was photographed next to Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload. Although the photo had generated quite some press, Wozniak had yet to make a comment about the photo. And now, CNET reports that Kim Dotcom has full support from Wozniak. Kim Dotcom, arrested in January for charges of online content piracy, is embroiled in a legal fight against the US government. His file-sharing site, Megaupload, has been shut down.
Wozniak in an interview, made it clear: “When governments dream up charges of ‘racketeering’ for a typical IT guy who is just operating a file-sharing service, or accuse him of mail fraud because he said he had removed files [to alleged infringing content] when he’d just removed the links to them, this is evidence of how poorly thought out the attempt to extradite him is. Prosecutors are attempting to take advantage of loopholes.”
Even before the US forced the site to shut down, Wozniak says, Megaupload was deleting the link to infringing content, and that such stern measures by the government only “halt” digital innovation. “When you can’t stop something like a steamroller, get out of the way.” stated Wozniak.
The Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), is taking a step further to deter illegal uploads in the country, reports TorrentFreak. Japan, having revised their copyright laws earlier this week, has made downloading of copyrighted video & audio files illegal – the sentence carries a minimum jail term for up to two years.
Having developed a system that is capable of automatically finding out illegal music uploads before they hit the Internet, ISPs are being asked to implement this to their network. The ISPs have to integrate them to the system; or else it won’t work.
The connections of users are first spied on; then the data is compared to an external database having digital fingerprints. Gracenote, with intermediate systems by Copyright Data Clearinghouse (CDC) will provide the fingerprinting technology.
The rightholders want the ISPs to automatically block the illegal content as soon as a match is found – with most likely a warning letter to the uploaders.
Once installed, the ISPs can potentially avoid being held responsible for copyright infringements. Promoted to them as a benefit, the license will cost around $600/month.