Apple draws up battle strategy against Google at WWDC

The simmering rivalry between the two tech giants just got a lot fiercer as a result of changes to Apple’s mobile software.

Apple SVP of iOS software, Scott Forstall at the company's annual developers conference today.

Apple SVP of iOS software, Scott Forstall at the company’s annual developers conference today.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

SAN FRANCISCO–They are classic ‘frenemies,’ collaborating when the interest is mutual and going for the other’s jugular when the opportunity presents itself. So it was that on Monday Apple made clear that it’s willing to cut ties with Google if that’s what it takes to move its own agenda forward.

Among the product and technology announcements made at its annual developer conference here, Apple said was expanding its Siri voice assistant software, as well as offering a complete rewrite of its maps app. Apple also added deep integration to Facebook to its phones andtablets. If it all works out as Apple wants, the net effect will be to extend Apple’s lead at Google’s expense. Here’s how:

Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than the new version of Maps for iOS. Apple yanked Google maps from all its mobile devices, and took it in house.

Turn by turn directions will bring iOS users something Android owners have had for quite a while.Turn by turn directions will bring iOS users something Android owners have had for quite a while.

(Credit: Apple)

The results were striking. A new 3D feature lets users swoop around cities and see buildings using photography Apple captured on its own. Google demoed what was essentially the same thing in detail during a press conference last week, with a pledge to bring it to iOS later this year.

The move is just a greater part by Apple to differentiate its mobile OS from Google’s at a time when the two companies are at war with one another for the pockets, and pocketbooks of consumers. That clash began on store shelves when the two companies started competing with one another in the mobile device arena. It has since spilled out into courtrooms, with Apple attacking Android device makers, and patents related to Android features.

Where that can really hurt Google is in the flow of information. That information about where people are searching for and what types of information they want is absolute gold when it comes to product development, and advertising. Apple happens to have its hands in both of those pots, and now doesn’t have to share it with a rival.

Apple’s also doing something different by positioning its mapping app as a marketplace of sorts. During today’s keynote, the company noted that it will feature location apps made by other companies right through the app — although that simply could have been a concession toroadkill it made out of the other GPS apps for the platform.

The we-can-do-better-than-Google theme began almost outright with a demo of Siri that opened up the conference. The sassy voice assistant made cracks about Google and its products before the company’s execs even took to the stage.

“Hey, any of you guys been working with ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) or Jelly Bean?” the software asked in a pre-recorded video that started the show. “Who’s working up these code names? Ben & Jerry?”

Siri more car-friendly in the next year, Apple says.Siri more car-friendly in the next year, Apple says.

(Credit: Apple)

Siri is Apple’s voice assistant, and Apple wants to transform Siri into someone far more than aniPhone app. That starts with Siri for Apple’s third-generation iPad, and will extend to cars within the next 12 months. Several automakers, including BMW, General Motors and Honda, have signed up and will integrate Siri into steering wheels. This competes more with the Microsoft Sync technology, which is built into some automobiles. But in the way Apple is currently demoing it, everything will run through your iPhone, something that competes more directly with Android’s car mode.

Put simply, Siri is becoming Apple’s search engine. It may send users to Google or Microsoft’s Bing for some queries, but the idea is the same: It’s taking user queries and directing them towards something. Today that functionality expanded to new types of information, like movie information, restaurants and sports. Arguably, those are three things that users might have turned to Google for, and no longer have to. Other features, like being able to launch apps, were catch-up to features Google’s had on Android.

Name-calling only goes so far, which is why Apple made an effort to point out that its strategy of selling a more limited group of iOS-capable hardware (the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) resulted in more users staying up to date than those on rivals.

“Almost all of our users are running iOS 5,” Apple’s senior vice president of iOS Scott Forstall told developers, while standing in front of a large pie chart. “Now if you compare that to the competition, they released dairy product 4.0 about the same time we released iOS 5.”

That played well to the audience of developers for a good reason: with more users on the same OS, it makes developing easier. There’s no reason to produce multiple versions of the same app, with only certain features available to specific users — something Apple’s harped on Google for in the past, specifically with tablet apps.

In March, for instance, Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed Android’s tablet efforts, calling a number of third-party Android applications shoddy.

“It kind of looks like a blown-up smartphone app,” Cook said, while pointing to an on-screen example of Twitter’s Android app. “Because that’s exactly what it is.”

Today that message came back around in terms of the number of apps available to consumers, which now stands at 650,000 on the App Store, with 225,000 of those made for the iPad. And perhaps more importantly, the payout: Apple’s paid out more than $5 billion to developers since launching the App Store, Cook said.

Apple’s move to integrate Facebook into iOS isn’t a direct hit at Google, but it unites two companies against a common enemy. The new features let iOS 6 users post right to Facebook from within apps, as well as sync up their Facebook lives into their phone. Things like contacts and calendars get automatically ferried between the two companies.

Facebook integration in iOS 6.Facebook integration in iOS 6.

(Credit: Apple)

Apple also integrated Facebook into iTunes and the App Store. This is more promotional than anything, but is also a strong sign that besides Twitter, Facebook will be the only social network Apple’s giving users to promote its content.

“We believe the biggest takeaway is that Apple is strengthening not only the interaction within its own ecosystem, but also creating a consortium of powerful web partners to offer an experience that largely falls outside of Google’s walls,” Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster said in a note to investors today. “We believe this focus on integrating important web partners continues to meaningfully differentiate iOS from Android.”

In other words, the real move here is in just how many places Facebook is present in iOS 6, and in the upcoming version of Apple’s desktop OS. The idea is that if you want to share anything, you can do it basically from anywhere.

At this stage, Apple still prefers to talk around the hard edges. But make no mistake: Tweaking Google to get a few laughs out of the crowd hinted at the bigger stakes in this competition. For Apple, a roll of the dice is well worth the risk. In a race with Google to see who can get out the better technology first, Apple believes that it has grabbed post position. Game on.


New MacBooks, accessories debut at WWDC

The latest Mac laptops were the star of Apple’s 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference, but a few other surprise items popped up, too.

Apple’s kickoff press conference for its 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference is now history. While the show is arguably a show aimed at the company’s army of iOS and Mac software developers –and there was plenty of new iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion news on display — WWDC was once again used as a launching pad for a variety of new hardware products as well.

In addition to a line of updated MacBook laptops (including a first-ever high-end Retina Display model), Apple also delivered some notable hardware refreshes that it didn’t choose to highlight at its press conference: a new AirPort Express router, an updated iPad case, and a very slight upgrade to its Mac Pro desktop.

The new Apple hardware and accessories, in-depth:

MacBook Pro with Retina Display: This was the big news of the show: a redesigned 15.4-inch MacBook Pro that takes some design cues from the MacBook Air line (see video above). Starting at a whopping $2,199, this one is strictly for those with deep pockets, but the 2880 x 1800 resolution Retina Screen may make it well worth the price for imaging and video professionals. It also boasts an HDMI port (an Apple first), USB 3.0, discrete Nvidia graphics, and the requisite Intel “Ivy Bridge” CPU and Thunderbolt connections.

New MacBook Pros: The Retina Screen MacBook Pro lives at the high-end, but the standard MacBook Pros got a refresh as well. While the chassis is all but identical to earlier versions, the 2012 Pros get Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs, USB 3.0, 720p HD webcams, and — in the 15-inch model — discrete Nvidia graphics. The non-Retina Pros are also the only consumer Macs that retain an integrated DVD drive. Gone, however, is the 17-inch screen size (just 13 and 15 remain). Read the CNET first take of the 2012 MacBook Pros.

New MacBook Airs: Like the standard MacBook Pros, the Airs basically got a spec bump for 2012: Ivy Bridge, USB 3.0, and 720p HD webcams. Prices still start at $999 for the 11-inch model (albeit still with a very stingy 64GB storage) and $1,199 for the 13-incher. Except for that $999 model, all of the 2012 ones are $100 less than their 2011 predecessors. Read the CNET first take of the 2012 MacBook Airs.

(Barely) new Mac Pros: Despite earlier rumors, the desktop Macs were a no-show at the Apple presser. After the show, however, the online Apple Store showed “new” versions of the Mac Pro desktops. Upon further inspection, the only upgrade on the “new” Pros appears to be an ever-so-slight CPU bump. So once again, Mac Pro lovers are left sounding like old Brooklyn Dodger fans: wait ’til next year. Read: Apple desktops get (almost) no love at WWDC

New AirPort Express: Another product not shown at the press conference but popping up on the online store: an upgraded AirPort Express. The new model gets a design change (no more wall wart), an extra Ethernet port, and — most importantly — simultaneous dual-band wireless 802.11n. That means the potential for less interference from other devices on the crowded 2.4GHz wireless band. It also maintains AirPlay audio compatibility, so you can connect it to a stereo or powered speakers to stream audio from your Mac, iPad, or iPhone. Pretty cool for a $99 router. Read the CNET first take of the 2012 AirPort Express

New iPad Smart Case: The much-beloved iPad Smart Cover — which uses magnets to induce the iPad to “wake” and “sleep” when its opened and closed — debuted alongside the iPad 2 in March 2011. But it had one big flaw: it only covered the screen, while leaving the iPad’s backside (and edges) prone to scratching. Enter the brand new $49 iPad Smart Case — which now features a snap-on back cover. A no-brainer upgrade, but one that will likely be appreciated.

Microsoft gives away ‘free time’ to promote Windows Phone

Company sets up “free-time machines” with perks such as free meals, grocery delivery, and access to a personal shopper — all in a bid to generate buzz for the Lumia 900.

Nokia Lumia 900
Nokia Lumia 900, a Windows Phone — and a creator of time?

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

Microsoft wants consumers to really get its pitch that Windows Phones are more efficient than rival smartphones and can thus create more free time for consumers.

To drum up attention for the recently launched Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC Titan II, Microsoft has set up “free-time machines” in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. They are essentially offering freebies for meals, personal shoppers, grocery delivery, cleaning, and dog walkers. Personal concierges are also on-hand to handle tasks like waiting in line for a burger.

The promotion is part of the core Microsoft strategy centered on the Windows Phones as easy-to-use and efficient devices for personal tasks.

Microsoft, AT&T, and Nokia in particular are pushing hard to get Windows Phone into the minds — and pockets — of consumers. AT&T promised the biggest launch for the Lumia 900, although many stores were actually closed for Easter when it launched yesterday, The New York Times noted. Nokia blanketed Times Square on Friday with huge ads and sponsored a Nicki Minaj concert to promote its latest flagship phone.

Now Microsoft is getting in on the mix. The software badly needs the Lumia 900 to succeed, with its other smartphones having made little headway in the U.S., a crucial market.

For consumers not in NY, SF, or Chicago, Microsoft has set up a Web site offering similar promotions.

New iPhone to debut in October, Foxconn employee says

Apple’s next iPhone — rumored to be called the iPhone 5 — is launching in October, the head of human resources at Foxconn’s Taiyuan factory reportedly said.

Another day, another rumor surrounding Apple’s nextiPhone.

South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper is reporting today that Apple plans to launch its next iPhone in October. The publication heard the news from the head of human resources at Foxconn’s Taiyuan factory,according to Kotaku, which translated the story. The human resources head said that Foxconn “just got the order,” adding that the “release will be around October.”

It’s not often that the head of human resources would have information on Apple’s next iPhone, but according to the Korean paper, it spoke with the person because the Northern China factory has been looking to hire many people in advance of the launch.

But as with any other Apple-related rumor, this one should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Just last week, TV Tokyo recorded a conversation with a Foxconn recruiter, who told potential hires that it seemed likely that the iPhone will be going on sale in June.

Earlier rumors have also been mixed on the iPhone’s eventual launch. Back in February, Japanese blog Macotakara said the iPhone will be launching this fall. Less than three weeks earlier, a Chinese paper said the device would launch in June. Either launch period seems plausible, since the company has historically offered up its new smartphone version in both months. That said, it won’t make any indication when it’ll launch the new iPhone — or even admit that it’s in the works — until it holds a special event.

According to the latest rumors, Apple’s next iPhone — believed to be called the iPhone 5 — will launch with 4G LTE service and possibly come with a 4.6-inch display. Apple’s current iPhone boasts a 3.5-inch screen.

Apple did not immediately respond to GOSSIPBOYS’s request for comment on the latest report.




AT&T to spend $150M to promote Lumia 900, report says

That would be more than the telecommunications giant spends on the iPhone, according to Ad Age

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, and AT&T mobility chief Ralph de la Vega show off Nokia’s new Lumia 900.

(Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)

AT&T is putting some heavy cash behind its push to sell the Lumia 900.

The telecommunications giant plans to spend $150 million on its campaign to sell the Nokia smartphone — more than its budget for the iPhone, according to Ad Age.

Ad Age said the company wouldn’t comment on Lumia spending, but AT&T previously told CNET that it would launch its biggest campaign ever for the Lumia 900. The carrier is willing to spend so much on an unproven phone because it wants to break away from growing duopoly of Android and iOS. In particular, the carrier wants to get off its dependence on the iPhone, which is no longer its exclusive device.

Despite AT&T’s push to get more Android smartphones in its lineup, Android has largely been a strength of Verizon’s, thanks to its Droid franchise. In fact, many assume Verizon’s Droid brand is synonymous with Android.

So AT&T is looking to Windows Phone and Microsoft, which has long been a partner for the company.

The Lumia 900 is off to a nice start on Amazon, topping the cell phone best-sellers list.




Apple TV set said to be coming in 2013

A research group says that the long-awaited television set is in the works but most likely won’t debut until next year.

The newest in the long line of Apple TV set rumors is that indeed the device is on the way but most likely not until 2013.

“We continue to view Apple TV hardware as a 2013 event,” an Asian research group CLSA said in a note today, according to the news site Business Insider.

The note goes on to note that Foxconn, which manufactures Apple products, has decided to invest in Sharp electronics, giving more credibility to the notion that an Apple TV set is in the works. According to Business Insider, Sharp will provide the panels for Apple TVs.

Rumors have flown over the last couple of years that an Apple TV set will debut in the near future. At the beginning of January, sources were speculating a 50-inch screen, and at the end of January Apple was reportedly speaking to major TV component suppliers.


USA Today quoted Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak saying in January, “I do expect Apple to make an attempt [to get into the TV set business], since I expect the living room to remain a center for family entertainment, and that touches on all areas of consumer products that Apple is already making.”

Facebook amends IPO filing with Yahoo patent suit details

The world’s largest social network is filling in regulators — and potential investors — about Yahoo’s patent infringement allegations.

Facebook filed a third amendment to its $5 billion initial public offering filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission today.

There aren’t many changes to speak of — except that Facebook has included notes about the recent lawsuit that Yahoo handed the social network over patent infringement earlier this month.

Although the suit is not a secret to anyone, at this point, it’s a good idea for Facebook to disclose its potential liabilities — both to the SEC and investors.

Actually, Facebook hinted at a pending legal battle with Yahoo in Amendment No. 2 to its S-1 form, filed on March 7.

In that memo, Facebook admitted that it is “involved in a number of lawsuits.” That trend, it acknowledged, is likely to continue as it faces “increasing competition.”

Facebook received a letter from Yahoo on February 27 that “alleged that a number of our products infringe the claims of 13 of Yahoo’s patents.” At the time the second amendment was filed, Facebook was “still in the process of investigating the allegations contained in the letter.”

In Amendment No. 3, filed earlier today, Facebook updated the SEC with the following note:

For example, on March 12, 2012, Yahoo filed a lawsuit against us in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that alleges that a number of our products infringe the claims of 10 of Yahoo’s patents that Yahoo claims relate to “advertising,” “social networking,” “privacy,” “customization,” and “messaging.”

Yahoo is seeking unspecified damages, a damage multiplier for alleged willful infringement, and an injunction. We have not yet filed an answer or asserted any counterclaims, with respect to this complaint. We intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit. This litigation is still in its early stages, and the final outcome, including our liability, if any, with respect to these claims, is uncertain. If an unfavorable outcome were to occur in this litigation, the impact could be material to our business, financial condition, or results of operations.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet’s Between the Lines under the headline “Facebook updates IPO filing with Yahoo patent suit.”