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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 patent arsenal proving its worth in fight against Android

18 Apr 2013

Microsoft logo at its Redmond headquarters

Microsoft has quickly become one of the most powerful patent licensing firms in the world. Following its deals to license patents to original design manufacturers (ODM) like Foxconn it has amassed a flow of cash on all the patents it has created during its illustrious career.

Redmond has reported that 50 percent of the world's Android phones are now made by firms that license its patents. According to a 2011 report from paidcontent.org, license fees actually made more money for Microsoft than Windows Phone devices.

That figure will likely roll over to the new line of Windows Phone if the firm continues to muscle Android makers into paying licence fees. Not to mention, if Windows Phone continues to struggle to gain a foothold in the market.

As Microsoft continues to licence its patents it will continue to make money hand over fist. Nothing about what the firm is doing is illegal. The last time a competitor argued that it was they lost.

Barnes & Nobles tried to fight Microsoft in court last year. The Nook maker argued that Microsoft tactics were of the anti-trust variety. Of course, a US judge dismissed that thought and Barnes & Noble ended up signing a licensing pact with Redmond.

The only one who has really put up a fight with Microsoft and its patent portfolio is Google. By way of its subsidiary Motorola, the search giant has fought hard to avoid paying fees to Microsoft.

If anyone could put up a true fight it is Google. However, precedent has already been set because of the Barnes & Noble case and it's hard to see a government authority stepping into to stop the Windows maker under current law.

After all, Microsoft did develop the technology completely above board. The R&D department in Redmond is one of the best in the world. So it's not like Microsoft hasn't invented truly ground-breaking tech.

It's just good business for Microsoft to make money on its patents. Perhaps that's part of the problem affecting the wider software industry when it comes to patents.

Microsoft, Apple and Google will continue to use their patents as a weapon until the powers that be do something to stop it. Using a patent portfolio to make money is not a good thing for the public.

Overtime, Android handset makers may have to increase their prices because a piece of the pie goes to the licence owner. To cover overheads the next Galaxy phone might cost an even crazier price tag because of patent licence fees.

It hasn't affected prices yet. But that is mostly because margins are still pretty high in the smartphone market.

However, Microsoft may eventually end up being responsible for price hikes on phones it didn't have any effect on making, to cover the cost of licensing its patents.

Hopefully, it may not get to that point and lawmakers will clamp down on patent trolls before it gets out of hand. Unfortunately, they are the only ones in a position to srop it.

Google's latest Motorola job cuts raise more questions on mobile firm's future

08 Mar 2013

Motorola Razr I V3

The news that Google is cutting more staff from its Motorola subsidiary has raised further questions over the future of the handset maker after Google swallowed up the former Motorola Mobility division in a $12.5bn deal in 2011.

That move was quickly followed up with 4,000 job cuts, and concerns over Google's future intentions for the long-established phone handset maker.

Many industry observers questioned whether the acquisition would lead to other Android licensees such as Samsung and HTC switch to other mobile platforms - particularly if Google was seen to be giving privileged treatment to its own subsidiary.

However, Google seems to have gone out of its way to be even handed, perplexing many by refusing to give any special treatment to Motorola. The firm has yet to use Motorola to deliver one of its Nexus branded devices, for example.

With the latest move, Motorola has lost another 1,200 staff, or 10 percent of its remaining workforce, as the firm's share of the mobile phone market declines.

But things may not be as black as they seem. The company said that the cutbacks were part of an effort to scale back activity in areas that were not proving profitable, and make more high-value smartphones rather than low-end handsets.

To this end, rumours abound regarding a possible next-generation X-Phone and maybe even an X-Tablet from Motorola, which Google is said to be planning to use as the launch vehicle for Android 5 Key Lime Pie.

So while the shedding of jobs in the US, China and India is bad news for the employees involved, the move could presage a comeback for the battered Motorola brand.

Motorola has proven it can deliver excellent smartphones, like the Intel-based Razr I, but it needs a bit more in the way of support from its Google parent if it is to avoid the death spiral that is so often the fate of companies that get swallowed up by a much bigger industry giant.

Apple design guru Jonathan Ive claims iPhone was almost scrapped

31 Jul 2012

Apple design chief Sir Jonathan Ive told onlookers at the British Business Conference that the iPhone almost never happened.

According to The Telegraph, Ive told conference attendees that fundamental issues with the Apple phone could have very well derailed the entire iPhone design process.

"We nearly shelved the phone because we thought there were fundamental problems that we can't solve. With the early prototypes, I held the phone to my ear and my ear [would] dial the number," Sir Jonathan said.

"You have to detect all sorts of ear shapes and chin shapes, skin color and hairdo... that was one of just many examples where we really thought, perhaps this isn't going to work."

Ive's words on the iPhone come at a peculiar time for Apple. The company has been on a global campaign of design patent litigation targeting the likes of Samsung and Motorola Mobility since 2010.

So while Ive didn't touch on the cases during his speech, the mere mention of Apple's design philosophy is sure to generate some speculation.

It's hard to known what a world without the iPhone would look like. If Apple is right about the design patent infringement charges then many of today's smartphones wouldn't even exist.

No Galaxy Nexus, No S3, and even no Galaxy S. Almost every touch-screen phone built after the iPhone looks a whole lot like an iPhone. Their just isn't much of a difference from a design standpoint. So if Apple is right and the iPhone designs were purposefully lifted by competitors, then the smartphone market would look a lot different.

RIM may still be relevant, Palm might still be rocking a stylus, and keyboards would be way more popular.

Of course, if Apple is wrong than somebody else would have built an iPhone-like phone and be going around suing the world for design patent infringement.

Anything is possible.

Google set to replace Motorola chief as doubts over its independence grow

24 Feb 2012

Google logo

When Google announced its decision to splash out $12.5bn on Motorola there was immediate speculation that the deal could alienate other Android manufactures, chiefly HTC and Samsung.

At the time Google went to great lengths to reassure those firms, and the market in general, that the deal would not upset the Android apple cart, with Motorola receiving no preferential treatment despite being a part of Google.

Executive chairman Eric Schmidt even said during a visit to South Korea, the home of Samsung, that Motorola would remain an independent business unit.

His words at the time: "We're not going to change in any material way the way we operate."

However, in an all-too-predicatable twist, the firm is now said to be on the verge of booting out current chief executive Sanjay Jha and replacing him with the Google man who oversaw the deal, Dennis Woodside, according to sources quoted by Bloomberg.

Google has not responded to a request for comment on that report.

This looks like a clear contradition - after all parachuting in your own man to replace the leader of a firm you are buying seems to present a pretty substantial material change. How independent can Motorola be if headed up by a Google executive?

No doubt those at Samsung, HTC and the rest of the Android collective will note this development with interest and reconsider what Google is up to.

The rumours will also be of great interest to Microsoft, which will be hoping to entice any concerned Android vendors to its Windows Phone operating system, particularly as the platform continues to garner positive reviews.

The relationship between Google and Microsoft have reached an all-time low, and so the folks at Redmond are probably considering how best to further stir the waters of the Android community - although V3 hopes it doesn't involve anything as awful as this video that hit the web this week:

 

Google in $12.5bn swoop for Motorola Mobility

15 Aug 2011

Google has announced a sensational swoop for Motorola Mobility in a $12.5bn deal which will see the web firm move into the mobile hardware space for the first time and provide a ready avenue to accelerate the development of Android.

The deal, unanimously approved by both boards, will see Google pay a premium of 63 per cent on the closing price of Motorola Mobility shares on Friday, according to the firms.

The companies have already worked closely on the Android platform, and Google chief executive Larry Page explained that the acquisition will enable them to "create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem".

"In 2008, Motorola bet big on Android as the sole operating system across all of its smartphone devices. It was a smart bet and we're thrilled at the success they've achieved so far. We believe that their mobile business is on an upward trajectory and poised for explosive growth," Page said in a blog post.

"Motorola is also a market leader in the home devices and video solutions business. With the transition to Internet Protocol, we are excited to work with Motorola and the industry to support our partners and co-operate with them to accelerate innovation in this space."

However, it may be in the hotly contested area of patent protection that Motorola really comes into its own for Google, which has already accused rivals including Apple and Microsoft of banding together to deny it Nortel's patents.

"Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies," said Page.

However, patent expert Florian Mueller told V3 that Motorola's portfolio may not be hugely useful to Google.

"Apparently Microsoft sued Motorola without being concerned about Motorola's own patent portfolio, and Apple became embroiled in litigation with Motorola later that same month," he said. "I wouldn't overestimate the strength of Motorola's patents."

Motorola Mobility came into being in January 2011 after Motorola was split into two separate organisations, the other being Motorola Solutions.

Motorola Mobility will remain a separate business and a licensee of Android, which has helped raise its fortunes in the smartphone market and halt a worrying slump.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

Motorola Xoom comprehensively outsold by iPad 2

07 Apr 2011

Motorola has got off to a slow start in the tablet market, after analysts at Deutsche Bank estimated that the firm has sold only 100,000 units after two months on sale in the US.

The figures are based on Android distribution statistics from Google, which show that 0.2 per cent of all Android devices are currently running Honeycomb out of an install base of 50 million.

"There is probably some rounding error in our calculation, but any such differences
are likely minor," Deutsche Bank said in an investor note sent to V3.co.uk.

"This level of tablet sales is in line with our estimates of 50,000 units in Q1 and 150,000 units in Q2. While we believe street expectations may be a bit higher, 100,000 unit [sales] after only two months on the market is a decent start." 

Given that the Motorola Xoom is the only device to run the Honeycomb operating system, the figures could be in the correct ball park.

The main reason for the tepid sales could be the high price. In the US, a SIM-free Xoom retails for $799, and even subsidised versions require customers to pay $599 upfront.

In comparison, the iPad 2 is estimated to have sold 2.6 million units, according to widespread reports.

If the figures are accurate, it would mean that Apple is selling 26 iPad 2 devices for every Xoom that is sold.

The biggest problem that Apple appears to be having is keeping up with demand. Apple stores in the US and UK are quoting a two- to three-week shipping time.

V3.co.uk contacted Motorola and Apple to confirm the sales figures. Motorola noted that the figures from the US were not official and declined to comment on the speculation. Apple had not responded at the time of writing.

Motorola has yet to confirm the official UK release date of the Xoom, but the pre-order price has been reduced ahead of its imminent launch. The device now has the same price as the iPad 2.

Carphone Warehouse has reduced the price of the 32GB 3G model by £20 to £579. The price of the Wi-Fi-only model is now £479 and the device is available from PC World.

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