a week in wireless

Covering up

Is the devices market about to implode in a mass of patents, fruit pulp and mechanical parts? You might be forgiven for thinking so, as issues that have dogged the industry in recent months show no sign of abating. Just like Scarlett Johansson has the FBI looking out to protect her image following the nude pics leak (SEO 101), Apple has the authorities on its side in its crusade against those who seek to take its own image in vain.

The shalt not make graven images, that’s what the book says. A notion that has been supported on Apple’s behalf by a Düsseldorf court which upheld the preliminary injunction secured by Apple in Germany , which claims that Samsung had infringed its intellectual property and copied the iPad.

The practical effect of the ruling will be limited to Germany, rather than the EU-wide ban – with the exception of the Netherlands – that Apple had initially secured, but it still prevents the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 device in these markets.

“The skirmish over the injunction is important not just for Apple and Samsung, but also for other tablet manufacturers, as well as consumers, because it means the product stays off the market in Germany,” says Colin Fowler, associate at specialist IP law firm Rouse. “However, the two central issues of whether Apple’s design survives a validity attack and whether Samsung’s product is too close to Apple’s design and therefore infringes it will not be finally decided for many months. If Apple is eventually successful Samsung will have to redesign or abandon the affected products and future designs for tablets from all manufacturers would have to steer clear of Apple’s design rights.”

This one will run and run and will see ridiculous amounts of money being spent on legal attacks and counters. Google this week acquired a further 1,023 patents from IBM, covering Java and wireless technology and bringing the web giant’s war chest to more than 20,000 patents, which it will use as a shield against attacks from Apple et al.

The CPTN Holdings consortium has reared its head once again – initially formed as a patent holding company led by Microsoft, which acquired patents from Novell, CPTN’s members are now believed to include Apple, Oracle and EMC, which Google accuses of an orchestrated and hostile attack on the Android operating system waged through “bogus patents”.

It’s a close fought thing and will surely see more casualties. Nokia is in decline, Palm/webOS has disappeared, Motorola has been bought by Google and now it looks like RIM is on the ropes. Net income for the Canadian BlackBerry maker plummeted to $329m in the three months to the end of August, from $797m the year earlier. The PlayBook tablet device, which has been poorly received, only shipped 200,000 units during the quarter, not great numbers, and down significantly from 500,000 in the previous quarter.

By way of indication as to where RIM is placing its future hopes, co-CEO Jim Balsillie, said: “We will continue to build on the success of the BlackBerry 7 launch to drive the business as we focus our development efforts on delivering the next generation, QNX-based mobile platform next year.”

The Informer spent a few days in sunny Istanbul this week, sailing up and down the Bosporus on a boat with Qualcomm, which held its annual Innovation conference in the city. There was much talk of next generation operating systems on that trip, Microsoft Windows 8 looks set to benefit from support from the Big Q from its next generation Snapdragon family of processors. The move is of interest as Windows 8 marks the arrival of Microsoft’s OS designed to span both the PC and mobile device form factors and Qualcomm’s foray into the same area.

Qualcomm’s head of product management, Cristiano Amon, said that the next generation of Snapdragon chips, dubbed the S4, would feature dual and quad core technology and would be available to the market during the first half of 2012. At its own Microsoft Build conference in Ireland, Microsoft demonstrated an early developer preview of Windows 8-based prototype PCs powered by Snapdragon processors.

But Qualcomm is facing some ARM-based rivalry in the form of Nvidia’s Tegra SoC offering, as the processor manufacturer this week launched its own Windows 8 developer program, with a nod to its next-generation, quad-core Tegra processor, code-named Project Kal-El, targeted at the tablet and notebook sector.

Qualcomm had some genuinely interesting tech on display in the form of gesture-based interaction, but the Informer struggles to see a use case for it, especially on mobile devices. Perhaps it would be better placed on big screen applications like home TV, although in discussions with member of the analyst fraternity after the demo, it’s natural application came down, as it often does, to the sort of experience that might involve the perusal of pictures of Johansson’s unclothed derriere.

On a more serious note, Qualcomm stands to lose more than $1bn and its wireless broadband service permits in India, after a spokesperson for the Department of Telecoms (DoT) said that the company’s application for licences was invalid.

A senior official from India’s DoT has said that the company did not apply for and acquire licences within three months of the wireless broadband airwaves (BWA) auction. Although the auctions ended in June 2010, Qualcomm did not apply for permits until December. As a result, the DoT concluded that “this was beyond the validity period for applying and acquiring the relevant licence”, and the official added that Qualcomm was informed about the application rejection over the weekend.

But Qualcomm denies this and claims it acted within the required timeline, telling telecoms.com: “We believe we have been in full compliance of all the regulatory requirements. Our four applications are in line with the NIA requirements and the undertaking submitted by us along with our bid application. The undertaking (page 94) clause (c) of the NIA explicitly requires new entrants to apply for an ISP license in the specified service area, in case the applicant is declared successful in that service area.”

Qualcomm has invested $1bn in India, one of the largest investments made so far by the firm outside the US, and said that this reiterates its faith and belief in the potential of this market. “Since we have followed all the stipulated rules in both letter and spirit, we believe that DoT should grant us license immediately, so that we can execute our plans of empowering India and its consumers with broadband connectivity. Any delay in this regard will dampen the spirit and decrease the momentum, and is not in the interest of the stakeholders and consumers.”

We’re not done with the tablet news yet either, as the alliances continue to be formed. The outsiders are getting together as Intel this week teamed up with Google to ensure that future releases of the Android operating system are optimised for Intel’s Atom processors.

Intel said that it wants to step up its efforts in the lucrative smartphone arena at the opening keynote of the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. President and CEO Paul Otellini, alongside Google’s senior vice president of mobile Andy Rubin, discussed the Intel’s recent efforts to accelerate its smartphone business and showcased a form factor reference design based on Intel Atom processor, and running the Android platform. The announcement builds on previous agreements that the two have had to enable Intel architecture on Google products, such as Chrome OS, Google TV and the Android Software Development Kit (SDK).

Microsoft may be taking a leaf out of Apple’s book with the next version of Internet Explorer to appear in Windows 8. Known as Metro, the browser will not support plugins, and as a result, will have no support for Adobe Flash. With the industry shifting more and more in favour of HTML5, which negates the needs for plugins, could this be another nail in the coffin for Adobe’s Flash? Maybe Jobs was right all along.

The internet guys are continuing to make waves in the telecoms sector, and eBay owned PayPal is no exception, as more of its plans in the m-wallet space were revealed. Over the coming months, new services released by Paypal will include functionality to allow users to pay for products in-store by scanning barcodes with their smartphones in-store and paying for them via an app. Another service will allow users to pay at a till in-store with their mobile number. The user simply keys in their phone number and PIN at the cash register in order to authorise a payment from a specified bank account.

“PayPal is re-imagining money and making it work better for merchants and consumers – whatever device you’re on, wherever you are in the world, and however you prefer to pay, whether that’s cash, credit, or instalments,” said Scott Thompson, president at PayPal. “We’re rolling out a one-stop shop for merchants to engage their customers directly during every part of the shopping lifecycle –  generating demand from consumers through location-based offers, making payments accessible from any device, not just from the mobile phone, and offering more flexibility to customers even after they’ve checked out.”

On the subject of “any device,” M2M caught some more limelight, as Telekom Austria and Telefónica announced separate European initiatives in the sector. The Austrian incumbent established a division dedicated to developing solutions for the M2M market, focusing on applications for eight sectors—automotive, consumer electronics, healthcare, logistics and transportation, retail and payments, security and surveillance, industrial and smart business, and energy and utilities.

Telefónica meanwhile, has signed an agreement with telematics specialist Masternaut to develop a fleet management service as part of its M2M portfolio. Masternaut will provide fleet management services, applications, platforms and technical support to the carrier, which will retain its brand and commercial network, including pre- and post-sales support, and customer care.

There was a bit of “me first” competition going on in the Middle East, with three 4G “firsts” arriving within hours of each other. Just a couple of days ago, Zain rushed in to tweet (in Arabic): “For the first time in the Kingdom and the Middle East, Zain brings superfast Internet with 4G LTE technology”. While Mobily for weeks now has been on the verge of its own LTE launch and released a casually modest announcement stating “Sorry, we kept you waiting, but we are the first in the Middle East – Connect 4G,” – in relation to its fixed-WiMAX [email protected] packages. While to make matters more complicated, STC swooped in by adding that its customers can now enjoy LTE in 400 locations in the Kingdom. All these claims seem to be a fancy PR battle aimed to confuse the uninitiated.

Meanwhile, seemingly in order to simplify matters, France Telecom is planning to drop its original name and become known solely as Orange. The move appears to be a nod towards the group’s more international presence, where Orange is the better known brand.

And that’s it for this week,

Take care

The Informer

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