Apple May Push into Gaming Industry with Controller for iPhone and iPad

  • Rumors are circulating that Apple is working on a gaming controller for the iPhone and iPad. The new product could launch Apple into the gaming industry, allowing developers to create apps that go beyond touch controls.
  • Currently, iPhone users are downloading more than five million games each day. This figure continues to grow with the success of other iOS devices such as the iPad and iPod Touch.
  • “The touch controls in these games played a part in the dramatic success of iOS as a gaming platform, but it has also held Apple back from truly conquering this market,” Mobiledia writes. “The success of gaming on iOS devices slowed sales of portable gaming systems like the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, but hardcore gamers shun Apple’s devices because they do not offer the traditional control scheme necessary to play games like ‘Madden,’ ‘Call of Duty’ and other popular console titles.”
  • If Apple did create an iOS controller that worked universally with all Apple devices, developers would likely jump on board with games that support it.

Turning Up the Heat: Amazon Tests In-App Purchasing System on Kindle Fire

  • Amazon came into the tablet market a little late after Apple and Android had already developed their app stores. Now the online retailer is taking a stab at its competitors as it tests an in-app purchasing system designed to strengthen the Kindle Fire’s ability to make money.
  • Amazon will receive a 30 percent cut from in-app purchases like add-ons or game extensions to existing apps.
  • “This new development is likely to attract app developers to Kindle Fire, as they will keep most of the revenue. The profits for these kinds of sales are growing, and analysts expect they will make up 64 percent of app revenue by 2015,” Mobiledia writes.
  • Although it is a step towards larger profits for Amazon, the company still has a long way to go before it will be able to edge out Apple of its strong market share — especially after Consumer Reports named the new iPad the best tablet available.

Sony PS3 is First Game Console System to Offer Amazon Instant Video

  • Sony announced it has made Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video available via its PlayStation 3 console.
  • The new addition offers Amazon’s nearly 100,000 movies and TV shows on the PS3 as well as about 17,000 streaming items available with a $79 Amazon Prime subscription.
  • The PS3 app is downloadable from the console’s XMB menu, but users won’t be able to buy content using their PlayStation digital wallet. Instead, they’ll have to connect Amazon’s service to the console over the Web.
  • “One benefit of that is cloud sync, however,” reports The Verge. “You can start a movie on your PS3 and resume on a Kindle Fire, or vice versa, for instance.”
  • “The announcement may not be as exciting as a live TV service, but it’s a major video service that the Xbox 360 doesn’t have… unless you count the grueling process of downloading shows in advance on a Windows computer and streaming to your Xbox using Windows Media Center,” The Verge points out.

Google Planning its Own Online Store to Market Android Tablets

  • In 2010, Google unsuccessfully attempted to sell co-branded smartphones on its own. Now, the company is at it again, this time with tablets.
  • According to insiders, the Internet giant is working on an online store like Apple’s and Amazon’s through which it will sell Android tablets directly to consumers.
  • “By selling tablets directly to consumers, Google is upping the ante against Apple, which debuted its market-leading iPad two years ago. Android-based tablets made by Samsung and others have been slow sellers by comparison. Last fall research firm Gartner estimated Apple would capture 73 percent of the tablet market versus 17 percent for Android,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • A co-branded tablet from Asus is expected to be released later this year and might be sold on Google’s online site. Google will also be manufacturing its own tablets once its acquisition of Motorola Mobility is approved by Chinese authorities.
  • “Google is seeking to increase adoption of its Android software so that its search, maps and other services — which generate the vast majority of its mobile revenue through the sale of ads — become mainstays in the mobile-device world,” the article states.
  • The company has considered various ways to successfully launch the online store, including subsidizing the cost of future tablets like Amazon’s Kindle Fire or lending its wealth of mass-marketing skills to promote the site.

Amazon Appstore Upgrade: 20MB 3G/4G Download Limit Increased to 50MB

  • The Amazon Appstore is upgrading to version 2.3 after having reached the one year marker.
  • “The update raises the filesize cap on APK application bundles from 20MB to 50MB — a welcome increase that matches what’s available from Google’s own Play store,” reports The Verge. “Unlike Play, however, Amazon’s Appstore doesn’t support secondary downloads, which bring the actual maximum Play download size to a much higher 4GB.”
  • The update also resolves the problem previously experienced of app update notifications popping up even after being disabled.
  • The Amazon Appstore is only available in the U.S. and has far fewer apps than Play, but “the frequent sales and free apps of the day definitely make it worth checking out,” the post states.

Google Earns More Revenue from Apple Devices than Android Ads and Apps

  • In 2011, Google made $38 billion in total revenue, mostly from its advertising on PCs which earns the company about $30 per PC annually. In contrast, the company’s mobile OS, Android has made less than $550 million for Google since 2008, coming out to around $10 per handset.
  • The Internet giant offers the OS free to smartphone manufacturers and makes money from advertisements and app sales (a 30 percent cut on all Android devices).
  • Google has said that mobile will be central in its future and reported “seeing a huge positive revenue impact from mobile, which has grown 2.5 times in the last 12 months to a run rate of over $2.5 billion,” said CEO Larry Page in an October earnings call. Ironically, Google made more than four times as much revenue from Apple devices that employ its Maps and Google Search than it did from Android in the same time period.
  • These figures became public in a damages offer with Oracle in anticipation of a patent and copyright infringement trial. Google has offered to pay Oracle a percentage of revenues from Android amounting to $2.8 million.

Online Video Growth: Netflix May Be the Answer for TV Distribution

  • Netflix has faced a lot of ups and downs in recent months and is often viewed by studios as “the service that killed their cash cow named DVD,” Mobiledia reports.
  • However, a new report from IHS predicts online video viewing will surpass DVD consumption, taking over 57 percent of all movie watching in 2012. The transition suggests that studios may want to reconsider their aversion to Netflix, at least for TV.
  • Recent Nielsen ratings found that shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Mad Men” saw a sizable boost in ratings after having been available on Netflix. “How I Met Your Mother” is in its seventh season, so a jump in ratings is typically rare.
  • “Netflix’s ability to increase the ratings of shows that have been on for years makes it much more attractive for studios to strike licensing deals with the company. A show with higher ratings makes the program much more valuable to networks, putting more money into studios’ pockets,” the article states.
  • “Netflix is not raking in the money for studios the way DVDs once did, but the number of people flocking to it and similar services is going up, while the number of people buying movies at their local retailers is falling,” Mobiledia reports. “Consumers’ rising interest in watching movies online makes it clear that studios will not be able to cling to DVD and Blu-ray sales forever. At some point they’ll at least have to consider the question, ‘Is Netflix the answer?'”

Will Siri Voice Control Be Available on the MacBook Pro this Summer?

  • A new patent filed by Apple suggests Siri could be coming to MacBooks or even third party devices.
  • The “Voice Control System” patent has the iPhone 4S connecting wirelessly to notebooks, laptops and third party devices such as cameras.
  • Siri’s popularity on the iPhone 4S has led to many asking when the functionality will be available for Mac computers. If the patent filing is any indication, Siri will at least be able to control a Mac via the iPhone.
  • “Apple may well use this system with the iPhone 5, but judging by the patent image… they could bring it to the iPhone 4S before the next level iPhone is released later this year,” reports SlashGear. “This type of generational jump in functionality is generally reserved for new device releases, so perhaps it’s going to come with the next version of the Mac computer instead. Perhaps look to the MacBook Air-thin MacBook Pros of this mid-2012 instead.”

CNBC Says Apple Devices Can Be Found in Half of U.S. Households

  • A new CNBC survey suggests that more than half of all U.S. households own at least one Apple product.
  • “Of the households that own Apple products, they own an average of three, making the overall ownership rate of the American public 1.6 Apple products per household. About 25 percent plan to buy another Apple product in the next year,” reports Mashable.
  • “The survey shows Apple buyers tend to skew male, young, with higher education and incomes (77 percent of households making $75,000 or more have an Apple product),” adds the post. “If you have kids, the likelihood of being an Apple household grows — 61 percent compared with 48 percent if you don’t.”
  • CNBC polled 836 Americans during three days in March to conduct the study, and suggests the margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percent.

Netflix Makes New Changes to Distinguish DVD Rentals from Video Streaming

  • Although Netflix isn’t bringing back the dreaded Qwikster concept completely, the company is taking steps to differentiate its DVD-by-mail rental business from its unlimited video streaming service.
  • Some customers can no longer rate and review movies and TV shows on the main Netflix listing anymore. They are instead redirected to the solely-DVD site, “dvd.netflix.com.”
  • The move looks to divide DVD from instant, but separates the reviews for the same movies across two different sites.
  • “Over the last week subscribers have also noticed that searching for titles that are only available for rental as a DVD, won’t show up in the results,” VentureBeat reports. “Instead, search results return unrelated streaming titles. The recommendation interaction between DVDs, unreleased titles, and streaming titles has apparently also been altered.”

Comcast’s Xfinity TV App Offers New Interpretation of Net Neutrality

  • Comcast may be ignoring the concept of net neutrality as it looks to make its Xfinity TV app more competitive on Xbox Live.
  • Going up against top streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go and Vudu, the Comcast app is setting itself apart by offering free data usage when streaming via Xbox 360.
  • Comcast allows its customers 250GB of data per month before they charge overage fees. VentureBeat says this cap is “generous,” enabling about 80 hours of content on streaming services as well as regular Internet use. While using Xfinity on other devices or Xfinity.com will still use up the allotted monthly data, the Xbox Live app doesn’t contribute to the data cap.
  • Comcast has said that “since the content is being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet, it does not count against a customer’s bandwidth cap,” differentiating it from other usage that relies on “public” Internet.
  • VentureBeat writer Tom Cheredar suggests the move “takes the concept of net neutrality, and throws it right out of the window,” and that the private network justification seems like a bit of a stretch.
  • “I’m not sure I buy this logic. Arguably, Netflix also has its own ‘private’ network that is only accessible through the ‘public’ Internet,” he said.

Universal Music to Sell Three Catalogs in Preparation of EMI Purchase

  • As Universal Music prepares its acquisition of EMI, the group is selling three music-publishing catalogs as well as real estate holdings in France and Germany.
  • The catalogs — classical, Christian and German schlager — have already attracted 12 bidders and may draw up to $200 million, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
  • The proposed acquisition is still under investigation for antitrust concerns by the European Commission, which extended its decision deadline until August to allow for a more in-depth analysis.
  • “The commission’s initial investigation into the merger showed that the combined firm would be ‘almost twice the size of the next largest player’ on the EU market, the regulator said March 23,” reports Bloomberg.

Kinect for Windows 1.5 to Feature Skeletal Tracking and Speech Recognition

  • As the Kinect for Windows hardware rolls out in the coming months, its SDK is already getting an update.
  • Microsoft’s Craig Eisler offered a sneak peek of the SDK in a blog post this week.
  • “The Kinect for Windows 1.5 SDK, due in late May, will see the release of Kinect Studio — a new app that allows developers to record, playback, and debug clips of users interacting with applications,” reports The Verge. “Microsoft is also planning to support a new ‘seated’ 10-joint skeletal tracking system, which lets developers track the head, neck, and arms of seated and standing users in default and near mode.”
  • The update will also include new support for French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese speech recognition in addition to new language packs from Microsoft that enable regional speech detection.

Survey Suggests Smartphones on the Rise in Prepaid Device Sales

  • “Smartphones accounted for 29 percent of all prepaid device sales in 2011, compared to just 5 percent three years ago, according to new survey data from marketing research group the Stevenson Company,” GigaOM writes.
  • Prepaid consumers generally pay full price for new handsets, unlike contract subscribers who get sizable discounts on their smartphones.
  • In 2011, 50 percent of all mobile phone purchases — both prepaid and postpaid contract plans — were smartphones and the gap between prepaid and contract users is closing, researchers found. Customers are also purchasing their prepaid services from other retailers like Walmart, not directly from the operators.
  • “Stevenson drilled deep into the demographic data and found that half of prepaid buyers had a household income of $35,000 or more, compared to 76 percent of postpaid buyers, and more than 55 percent of prepaid buyers owned their own home. Income and credit are no longer the sharp dividing lines between prepaid and postpaid,” the article states.

SIM Card Standard: The Battle Escalates Between Nokia and Apple

  • It’s Apple versus Nokia, RIM and Motorola in the battle for the new standard in smaller SIM cards. Nokia contends that Apple has bypassed the standards-setting process, ignoring rules for its own interests, so the phone manufacturer is fighting back.
  • “Nokia holds more than 50 patent families covering SIM related technologies that we believe may be essential to Apple’s proposal,” the company said in a statement. “We have informed ETSI that, if Apple’s proposal is selected, then Nokia will not license its relevant patents to that standard.”
  • Nokia seems more concerned about how the rules have been followed or broken and less worried about intellectual property. The company says Apple doesn’t even have the proper patents for its proposed design.
  • The tech giant has said it won’t require royalties if its proposal is accepted. However, “Nokia’s decision to withhold any of its patents that are ‘essential’ to Apple’s SIM design, should it be selected, would make life difficult for all ETSI members, not just Apple, when it comes to deciding on a future SIM card design,” GigaOM reports.
  • Nokia claims Apple’s behavior isn’t in the best interest of the industry or consumers, but hasn’t said which aspect of Apple’s design it objects to. Moreover, the article points out that a prolonged standards battle over this critical mobile technology doesn’t benefit consumers.

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