HP has decided to end its recently launched TouchPad tablet and will take a $100 million loss on unsold inventory. (Interestingly, tech columnist Andy Ihnatko was getting ready to write a mixed but generally positive review of the TouchPad for the Chicago Sun-Times.)
Additionally, on the heels of the company announcing it would be integrating its webOS with smart appliances and other devices, HP now says there will be no more webOS phones. It did apparently leave the option open to licensing webOS to third parties.
In related news, AllThingsD reports that HP’s recent decision to stop the development of its webOS puts it’s personal computer business in a perilous position, and rumors are spreading as to what the company’s next step will be.
The most likely option involves a spin-off PC business as a separate company, much like Motorola did at the beginning of the year.
If HP decides to sell instead, it is likely that an Asian company will step forward to make the purchase — and the front-runner seems to be Samsung. The predicted price if a sale were to occur is placed at around $20 billion.
Despite the TouchPad’s dismal retail performance, HP is forging ahead with webOS.
HP is in talks to license webOS for use in smart appliances, cars, gadgets “and just about anything else that has a screen,” reports Digital Trends.
The company is taking a similar stance to that of Google with Android in terms of integrating the OS in smart appliances and other devices. HP plans to integrate webOS into all of its computers by next year.
“I happen to believe that webOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system,” said HP CEO Leo Apotheker during the D9 conference. “It’s not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices. There are all kinds of other people who want to make whatever kind of hardware they make and would like to connect them to the Internet.”
“We are fans of webOS,” explains Digital Trends, “but if HP hopes to expand the platform, it will have to deal with the performance issues we’ve seen on the TouchPad and Palm Pre devices and work to drum up more interest from the developer community.”
The Federal Trade Commission ruled Monday that W3 Innovations, the company behind popular mobile applications for kids, including “Emily’s Girl World” and “Emily’s Dress Up,” should pay a $50,000 penalty for collecting personal information from kids without parental permission.
The commission found the company in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, marking the first time that law has been applied to a mobile application.
“The F.T.C.’s COPPA Rule requires parental notice and consent before collecting children’s personal information online, whether through a Web site or a mobile app,” explained Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the commission. “Companies must give parents the opportunity to make smart choices when it comes to their children’s sharing of information on smart phones.”
The decision coincides with a period of increased concern about privacy and mobile technology, as the industry considers new privacy protections to fend off potential federal regulation.
What’s next for mobile devices now that capacitive touchscreens have become the standard?
According to Synaptics technology strategist Andrew Hsu (and inventor of modern touchscreen technology for mobile handsets), the answer could be haptic technologies that allow us to feel individual touchscreen elements.
“Where I see the next frontier of user interface control is that we now want to try and recreate the tactility we lost from traditional hardware interfaces,” says Hsu. “Now that we’ve gotten dynamic touch and visual interfaces, it’s time to look towards dynamic touch feedback.”
Hsu hasn’t make any final judgements on 3D technology yet, although VentureBeat sees it as less significant than haptics at this point: “There’s plenty of potential in mobile gaming (imagine actually feeling buttons and joysticks again), and it would also make modern touchscreen phones more accessible for the disabled and elderly. I’d much rather the mobile industry move towards screens that can dynamically generate braille text for the blind to touch, rather than focusing on making us cross-eyed with tiny 3D screens.”
As smartphones gain greater market penetration, and data-intensive applications become more popular, cellular carriers are creating limits on how much data customers can consume, and raising the price of that data.
T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon have all phased out their unlimited plans, and introduced tiered plans that charge customers based on how much data they consume. Only Sprint still offers an unlimited data plan.
Some developers worry that the caps will stifle innovation of data-intensive applications, and that customers may blame the applications if they go over their limits. This problem is compounded by the fact that consumers have no intuitive sense of how much data a given application may be using.
Industry analysts predict that the availability of data will become an increasingly important profit stream for cellular carriers, and a key point of competition between them.
Rdio has released a free iPad version of its streaming music app. According to the Gizmodo review: “Spotify may be stealing all the hype and pub for streaming music services but let’s not kid around here, Rdio still makes the best music apps across any platform.”
The review raves about the app based largely on its selection, album art, social aspects and quality music player.
Users can listen via their iPad headphones or through other devices thanks to AirPlay support — a feature that particularly appeals to the staff at Gizmodo: “I always thought it was funny to use the iPad as your music player but when you think about it, Rdio + AirPlay + Big Honking Screen gives you the biggest remote control in the house for the best audio system in your house with all the streaming music not in your house.”
For a better look at the interface, the post includes a brief video demo.
Time Warner launched the HBO GO platform earlier this year, with Android and iPhone apps that stream HBO content to mobile devices.
TG Daily reports that HBO GO may soon be “getting optimized” for TVs, with the platform becoming available on the PS3, Xbox 360, and other Internet-ready devices.
“It may seem like a pointless feature, because if you’re watching your TV, you could just tune into your cable box and watch HBO On Demand from there,” explains TG Daily. “But this way, you’d be able to take your HBO subscription to a friend’s house, or watch content on the app that may not be available on the current HBO On Demand library.”
In addition to regular programming content, HBO GO provides exclusive content (such as behind-the-scenes clips) and an intuitive video search interface featuring customizable lists.
While Apple has been working on the design elegance and overall quality of its iPhone, the existing business model with carrier partners has allowed the company to hide the true cost of the device in two-year contracts. Apple’s upcoming iPhone 5 launch may change this model.
The company is rumored to be considering a $350 price point for an entry level unlocked iPhone.
T-GAAP reports: “The main purpose for such a device is to penetrate China and other regions which are not fond of subsidized programs. If Apple can deliver an unlocked iPhone starting at $350, the impact in China will be stunning, and send U.S. and European carriers scrambling.”
If this is the case, consumers would be able to purchase an iPhone from the Apple Store and select any prepaid plan of their choosing (such as an “all-you-can-eat $50 month-to-month T-Mobile or Cricket or Boost plan”).
Carriers would most likely push other phones, but it may be too late for that based on consumer demand. Their next move could be lower entry prices for the iPhone.
“Plan on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint offering two-year contract plans for the iPhone 5 starting at $149,” suggests T-GAAP. “Carriers wil be scrambling to protect a model that has done them so well for the past 15 years. However, Apple is about to pull it all apart with a single product launch.”
The BBC’s popular iPlayer is an on-demand broadband television and radio service that has been available in Great Britain for four years.
As of last week, the service is now available through an iPad app to 11 countries in western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland) — with plans to launch in the U.S., Canada and Australia by the end of the year as a pilot program.
The app will allow users to stream programs over 3G and Wi-Fi, with the option to download for later viewing offline. International users will have access to some content for free, while full access will be subscription-based.
Luke Bradley-Jones, managing director of BBC.com, describes iPlayer as a VOD service: “We will have content from the last month, but also the best from the catalog stretching back 50 to 60 years.” He added, “What we’re trying to test in the pilot is the ability to drive exploration and discovery through a programming approach rather than an algorithm-based approach. We’re not trying to compete against a Netflix or a Hulu. This has to be tailored and hand-crafted, so we can create a tone of voice.”
Reports are circulating this week that Apple will reportedly release facial recognition capabilities for iOS 5 as an open API for developers.
The technology was made available as a result of Apple purchasing Swedish facial recognition algorithm specialist Polar Rose in 2010.
Polar Rose is the developer behind Recognizr, which Digital Trends describes as “a social media linking app co-developed with TAT that recognizes users and displays their network profiles on-screen.”
The iOS API can determine where a user’s mouth and eyes are located, and can process images for face detection, which introduces new possibilities for Faces and iPhoto. Since it is an open API, we should expect that third party developers will create more advanced facial recognition applications.
GigaOM reports: “It’s not something Apple is advertising about with the software update yet, but as it develops, it could become one of the most significant additions ever introduced to Apple’s mobile operating system.”
Facebook’s iPad app may be closer to launch than earlier reported, since a fully operational version was recently discovered “hidden” inside the current iPhone app.
The iPad app reportedly has a more modern look than the “tired old” iPhone version, resembling Twitter’s iPad app. The navigational features are said to be intuitively positioned whether the device is held vertically or horizontally.
According to Wired writer Charlie Sorrel: “Facebook has managed to fully port the signature confusion of its website to a tablet app, a not insignificant achievement.”
The iPad app has also been described as “spectacular.” For those who can’t wait for the official release, the CNN post includes a link for instructions to get it running from inside the iPhone app.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicts that the consumer electronics industry will grow 5.6 percent this year and will surpass $190 billion. This prediction is higher than the estimate that CEA offered in January.
Significantly, tablet computers are projected to grow 157 percent in 2011, with more than 26.5 million units being shipped ($14 billion in shipment revenue).
“Newer, innovative product categories, like tablets, not only meet consumer demand but also help bolster our industry and strengthen the overall American economy,” says CEA chief exec Gary Shapiro.
“One year ago, tablets were a new and unproven market, and now they, along with other mobile connected devices including smartphones and eReaders, are leading the entire industry to positive growth,” adds Steve Koenig, CEA’s director of industry analysis. “The revenue boost from these innovative products is undeniable as a number of other CE segments are reaching maturity and sales are naturally declining.”
The trade association also expects the market to reach a record $197 billion in 2012, led by sales of smartphones, tablets and 3D TVs.
Logitech’s LifeSize division — headquartered in Austin, Texas — is looking to the cloud in an effort to extend its videoconferencing reach.
The company is introducing the $1,499 LifeSize Passport Connect, a new videoconferencing system that integrates with the company’s cloud-based LifeSize Connections service.
The high-defintion endpoint system is built around a Logitech webcam and is priced below other LifeSize end systems.
Logitech also announced it has acquired Italian mobile video company, Mirial, which offers videoconferencing clients for PCs, Macs, and an array of mobile devices such as Android tablets, iPads and iPhones.
The company plans to integrate Mirial’s clients into LifeSize Connections.
Videogame maker Electronic Arts announced this week it would acquire PopCap Games, maker of games like “Bejeweled,” “Zuma” and “Plants vs. Zombies.”
According to the deal, Electronic Arts is expected to pay $650 million in cash and $100 million in new shares.
EA has long been a dominant player in the console gaming market; this acquisition plans to strengthen its presence in mobile and causal gaming.
Mobile games, like those played on Android and iOS devices, are the fastest-growing segment of the gaming market.
“EA’s global studio and publishing network will help PopCap rapidly expand their business to more digital devices, more countries and more channels,” explained Electronic Arts chief exec John Riccitiello.
Spotify has finally launched its U.S. service — and similar to its widely popular European version, users can listen free to any track, on demand.
Users can opt for ad-supported free listening, a $5 Premium ad-free service, or a $10 Unlimited service that allows users to store music offline and use Spotify on mobile devices (the iPhone app is now available). Users can also share their playlists or subscribe to those of other users.
Spotify has a reputation for fast, almost instantaneous playback and a catalog containing millions of songs. It will also scan a user’s iTunes library for access to personal tracks in the Spotify app.
Although the Wired review suggests “Spotify is just cloud music done right,” it also points out some minor flaws: “Spotify’s recommendation engine, and its radio selections (supposedly Pandora-like auto-playlists) are pitiful. And there is also no sign of an iPad native version, over a year after the tablet’s launch.”