Leaked photos show 'Apple iPhone 5C' packaging

29 Jul 2013

iOS 7 will be available on the iPhone 5A new photo from China is showing what could be the casing for at least one of the next iPhone handsets.

The photo, which was posted to the WeiPhone BBS board, shows a crate of empty plastic boxes embossed with the “iPhone 5C” logo. The boxes appear to match the dimensions of the iPhone, and the simpler casing has led to speculation that the case could be for a low-cost addition to the iPhone line.

Various reports have suggested that Apple is planning to launch a pair of new models with its next iPhone rollout – a higher-cost model along the lines of previous iPhones and a lower-cost model. The company currently offers its previous-year model at a discounted price for customers looking to obtain a cheaper iPhone.

Reports from Asia on new Apple products have not been confirmed by the company and are not necessarily considered to be reliable sources. But such leaks from the region's many manufacturing facilities – many of which are tasked with manufacturing and assembling new handsets in the weeks and months prior to their release – are about the only previews available for new versions of the iPhone and other sought-after handsets.

Thus far, the strategy has served the company well as the iPhone was one of the few bright spots for Apple last quarter.

The iPhone refresh, expected to take place in the late summer or early fall, will also be accompanied by a new version of iOS. That update will include an overhauled user interface, another possible indication that the company will be looking to produce new packaging for the handset.

Penguin agrees to EU deal to avoid Apple verdict

26 Jul 2013

iBooks' controls for PDFsPublishing firm Penguin has settled charges of price fixing with the European Union in a case that will involve Apple.

Penguin said it would agree to similar terms as other publishers to settle charges of price fixing. Penguin is among a group of firms accused of using Apple's iBooks platform to fix prices for ebook titles. Other defendants in the case include Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette and Holtzbrinck.

The European Commission said: “The Commission considers at this stage that Penguin, together with the aforementioned four publishers and Apple, may have breached EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive practices by jointly switching the sale of ebooks from a wholesale model to agency contracts containing the same key terms (in particular an unusual so-called 'Most Favoured Nation' (MFN) clause for retail prices).

“In the proposed commitments, the five companies offer to terminate existing agency agreements and refrain from adopting price MFN clauses for five years.”

Apple has long been the target of antitrust cases over its handling of ebook titles. Opponents have argued that the Apple model, which charges a share of retail costs, violates retail models by dictating the price that vendors can charge for titles.

The case has forced Apple to shed new light on its inner workings and the management style of co-founder Steve Jobs, whose dictatorial management of the company was notorious in Silicon Valley.

Jane Austen beats Alan Turing to Bank of England £10 note fame

24 Jul 2013

Alan Turing was born in 1912 and hearlded as the father of modern computing

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a WiFi connection. So starts Pride and Prejudice (Are you sure? – Ed), the most famous work by Jane Austen, who will appear on the new £10 notes from 2017, replacing Charles Darwin.

This is to ensure that there will be a woman represented on UK banknotes, after the decision to replace Elizabeth Fry on £5 notes with Winston Churchill was agreed by the Bank of England.

But while Austen is a worthy choice, it does mean Alan Turing’s chance of financial fame has gone.

V3 has reported in the past how the famed codebreaker and genius of World War Two, who helped the Allies win the war, was a candidate for the new £10, with a petition issued by programmer Thomas Thurman racking up huge numbers of signatures – over 27,087 to be precise.

“Alan Turing is a national hero. His contribution to computer science, and hence to the life of the nation and the world, is incalculable. The ripple effect of his theories on modern life continues to grow, and may never stop,” Thurman wrote in the introduction to the petition.

Sadly, it appears these efforts were in vain, but it was still refreshing to see at the time that so many people wanted to celebrate Turing in this way.

“Most importantly, it got the country talking: people are debating the work of Turing and discussing his legacy, and as long as that continues, he cannot be forgotten,” Thurman told V3 in March.

However, some good news for the Turing brigade has come from the Bank of England's announcement: it will be reviewing the decision-making process for selecting future historical figures, as outlined by governor Mark Carney.

"We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields. The Bank is committed to that objective, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity," he said.

Still, if Turing has been denied his chance of wider fame and recognition, the government could at least do the decent thing and quash his historical conviction for homosexuality. Earlier this week Lords called on the government – once again – to overturn the ruling he received after the war he helped them win.

By V3's Dan Worth, who loves a fistful of £10 notes

Slow PC market finally catches up with Apple

24 Jul 2013

apple-imac-21-late-2012For more than a year and a half, we have been hearing about the declining PC market. It began with analysts warning of slow sales from component makers and forecasts that sales would fall short of expectations.

Before long, the PC vendors themselves were confirming the predictions, warning that their revenues would in fact be taking a hit as consumers migrated towards the sleeker, cheaper allure of the tablet. By the end of the year, the PC market saw its first overall decline in over a decade as sales fell from the previous year.

Apple, however, had largely defied that trend. The company was able to pick up market share with its line of Mac desktops and notebooks as the PC vendors saw losses mount.

Now, however, it appears that the trend has even caught up with Apple. Over the last quarter the company reported that the Mac line saw a decline from the previous year's quarter. While the decline was still slight, it was the first time Apple has had to acknowledge that it too is seeing its own desktop and notebook brand suffer from the tablet surge.

Of course, Apple is in a much better position than the likes of Dell, HP and many other Windows PC vendors. The company owns one of the chief culprits for the PC market's decline, the fantastically successful iPad. The tablet is not only helping to cut into PC sales, but it also brings in a tidy profit for Apple due to the firm's generous retail markup.

Furthermore, Apple's decline is hardly comparable to what many PC vendors have been hit with since early 2012. The company noted that while it lost some sales, the PC market has seen an even bigger drop over the same time period, suggesting that Apple actually managed to pick up market share due to attrition.

Still, the numbers remain significant in what they say about the market. Tablets are winning, PCs are losing, and not even Apple is immune to a trend that looks as if it will shape the way we look at both the consumer and enterprise IT markets in the coming years.

NASA craft captures Earth and the moon from 1.5 billion kilometres away

23 Jul 2013

A view of the Earth from Saturn

We often wax lyrical on The Frontline, but today we're going to let an image do the talking. This image, taken by the NASA's Cassini spacecraft, captured Earth and its moon on 19 July from 900 million miles away. That's 1.5 billion kilometres.

Cassini was perching just behind Saturn when it took the photograph, which is the first ever image taken by the craft's camera and shows the Earth and the moon as two distinct objects. What's even more touching even to us cynical journalists is that more than 20,000 people on Earth were looking up at the sky, waving and smiling as the photo was taken.

Earth and the moon shown as two separate objects in photo taken from Saturn

While Earth itself barely takes up a handful of pixels in these images, it's still rather heartening to know that there were some smiling faces saying "cheese".

Linda Spilker, a project scientist on Cassini, summed it up perfectly: "Cassini's picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space, and also testifies to the ingenuity of the citizens of this tiny planet to send a robotic spacecraft so far away from home to study Saturn and take a look-back photo of Earth."

By V3's Michael Passingham, who needs his own space

Apple seeks market for giant 13in iPad

23 Jul 2013

Apple iPad 4 vs Microsoft Surface Pro vs Google Nexus 10 iPadThe latest reports from Cupertino say Apple is working on a 13in iPad model to complement its existing 9.7in iPad and 7in iPad Mini.

The larger tablet would no doubt be a sight to behold. The bigger retina screen would only further shine if given a bigger canvas, and no doubt developers would be chomping at the bit to bring innovative touchscreen features to their iOS games.

But what about consumers? Buying trends have already indicated that, for many people, a smaller size is in fact preferable. The 7in tablets have long outsold their 10in counterparts, and while cost might be a factor, there is also enough evidence to suggest that as far as tablets are concerned the form factor and portability are also a primary concern.

Given that the consumer market has largely driven the direction of the tablet space thus far, a 13in iPad could prove to be both too expensive and too unwieldy to really make the sort of market splash Apple prefers with its products.

But what of the enterprise angle? Apple has always been a powerhouse in areas such as digital photography and design. This is where a 13in iPad could have major appeal. Imagine being able to use the touch interface of iOS with a large-screen canvas? Such a device would be hard for many media professionals to resist.

But even then there are concerns, primarily over the cost. Along with the higher price a bigger screen would command, there's the bigger hardware requirements that would come from being able to drive a device that size. This could push the cost of a 13in iPad to the point where, for only a couple of hundred dollars more, you could simply purchase a MacBook Air and have all the hardware benefits and more without losing the portability a large-screen iPad could offer.

It's important to note that such a device is far from a sure thing, at this point Apple is said to be doing nothing more than looking to build a prototype. But at this early juncture there remains plenty of doubt that there is even a real market for an even bigger iPad.

Motorola, Apple preparing for handset releases

22 Jul 2013

iOS 7 will be available on the iPhone 5Apple and Motorola are both preparing to release new smartphones this year, with rumours that Apple's new iPhone and Motorola's Moto X are on the horizon.

For Motorola, the release will be at a 1 August event in New York. The firm will also use the occasion to unveil its Moto X handset, which will be the first handset release since the company's acquisition at the hands of Google.

Despite owning Motorola, Google had vowed to continue to work with other mobile vendors and the company has maintained its Nexus hardware line. Google has said from the start that it will allow Motorola to function on its own, and analysts have speculated that the $12bn deal was largely made in order to beef up Google's patent portfolio.

Apple, meanwhile is said to be nearing the arrival date for its new iPhone. The handset, known in the media as the iPhone 6, is set to arrive this autumn and is likely to include a number of new hardware improvements.

According to a report form the International Business Times, the arrival for the new iPhone will be slated for 27 September. The publication speculated that the new iPhone will hit the market a few days after the release of the iOS platform.

The release would fall in line with Apple's release schedule, which usually involves new iPhone models being released in early to mid-September and iOS updates are usually showcased several months prior to release at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Microsoft and BlackBerry lose $1.5bn chasing Apple iPad glory

19 Jul 2013

Surface with Windows RTFor the last couple of years Microsoft's been having a tough time of it. Competitors such as Apple and Google have been rolling out a host of new software, services and hardware that, to some commentators and a vast section of the general public, make Microsoft products look like something from the Stone Age.

One of the biggest parts of this criticism was the PC giant's stuttered entry into the tablet space and previous lack of ARM support for its Slate PCs, which – using fully blown computer processors – featured woefully short battery lives compared with their Android and iOS, non-Windows rivals.

Because of this when Microsoft unveiled its two brand-spanking-new Windows RT operating system and own-brand Surface RT tablet it made perfect sense, at least on paper. After all, the tablet technically ticked all the boxes, featuring an ARM mobile processor that while light on power offered decent battery life and a new touch-based tile user interface.

However come release the Surface RT suffered the same fate as BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet, with consumers and businesses by and large ignoring the device and sticking to their existing iPad and Nexus devices. As a result Microsoft's been forced to radically cut the price of the RT, leading to a massive $900m write-off on the quarter – for those who can't remember BlackBerry took a $485m hit on its 2012 third-quarter revenues when it slashed the PlayBook's price. In total that's almost $1.5bn in trying to enter the tablet market dominated by Apple and its iPad.

Of course there are multiple possible reasons for both tablets' poor sales, but for me there's one key explanation; they both boast woefully underdeveloped app stores. Unlike the Surface Pro, which runs using the full version of Windows 8, the RT uses the stripped-down version. This means unlike the Pro, the RT isn't legacy application compatible and can only run apps in the main Windows Marketplace, which sadly, like the PlayBook's, is woefully lacking when compared to iOS and Android's.

While there are of course other reasons for the RT's poor performance, for me it's the biggest as the understocked marketplace shows developers – a key component in any ecosystem's success – aren't interested in Windows RT. Time and time again we've seen that technical prowess means nothing unless developers are interested in the device's software ecosystem – remember MeeGo and Symbian?

For this reason it seems more than fair to say the Surface RT is the new PlayBook.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

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