David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer for Google, has posted an open letter in which he accuses Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, and others of waging “a hostile, organized campaign against Android” using what he calls “bogus” patents. “They’re doing this by banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents (the “CPTN” group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel’s old patents (the “Rockstar” group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn’t get them; seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Phone 7; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it,” he writes.
“This anti-competitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth,” Drummond continues. “The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion. Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means — which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop.”
Following the publication of Drummond’s post, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith stated on Twitter that Microsoft asked Google to bid jointly for the Nortel patents, and that they said no, a claim corroborated by screenshot of an email to Smith from Google General Counsel Kent Walker stating as much, which was published online by Frank X. Shaw of Microsoft. Notably, Google attempted to purchase the Nortel patents on its own, despite its inference that they are of a “dubious” nature; Apple has yet to respond on the issue.
Apple has been fined by the Korea Communications Commission over the iPhone location tracking issue that arose earlier this year. Reuters reports that Apple’s South Korean unit was fined 3 million won, or roughly $2,855, due to the fact that iPhones were, according to Apple, “maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around [the user’s] current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from [the user’s] iPhone, to help [the user’s] iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.” When the file containing the database was initially discovered, it set off a wave of speculation that Apple was secretly tracking the locations of its users, something the company expressly denied in its subsequent Q & A document.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has announced that it will investigate an Apple complaint filed against Samsung claiming patent infringement. According to an announcement on the ITC website, the investigation will include “mobile phone handsets and tablet computers, in addition to components such as software, touchpads, and hardware interfaces;” Apple is said to be seeking an exclusion order and cease and desist orders. As noted when Apple originally filed its complaint against Samsung in July, Apple is likely targeting models similar to the Infuse 4G, Galaxy S 4G, Droid Charge, and Galaxy Tab 10.1, all of which it is attempting to block with a preliminary injunction in the companies’ ongoing case in California.
Apple has once again lowered its shipping times for the iPad 2. For the first time since the device’s launch in March, all models of the iPad 2 are listed as shipping “Within 24hrs” on Apple’s U.S. online store. Apple most recently dopped the shipment estimate to 1-3 business days; the estimated wait for an iPad 2 as recently as July 1 was 1-2 weeks.
Apple has launched a beta version of its online tools for iCloud at iCloud.com, and has also announced pricing for the service. The online tools include revised versions of Mail, Calendar, and Contacts, with a “Find My iPhone” button that currently sends users back to me.com, and an iWork button that sends users to an Apple developer site where, if registered as a paid developer, they can download pre-release versions of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers that work with iCloud’s “Documents in the Cloud” service. In regards to pricing, Apple’s website states that all users get 5GB of free storage, but should they need more, 10GB of extra storage will be available for $20 per year, 20GB will run $40 per year, and 50GB of additional storage will cost $100 a year. Notably, purchase music, apps, books, and the user’s Photo Stream do not count against the 5GB total. Apple is expected to launch iCloud for all users this fall. [via Ars Technica]
Apple has rolled out extended 90-second song previews to the iTunes Store in several international countries. Launched last January in the U.S., the longer previews are available for all songs with a duration longer than two minutes and 30 seconds. Mac Rumors reports that the longer previews are now available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., and other parts of Europe. As noted in the report, it is unclear what caused the extended delay between the U.S. roll out of the feature and its appearance in other countries, as Apple told labels before the U.S. rollout that they could either leave their tracks on the Store and thereby indicate their acceptance of the longer preview standard or remove their tracks from the store.
Apple has released Apple TV Software 4.3, the latest update for its second-generation set-top box. According to John Gruber of Daring Fireball, the update adds the ability to purchase TV show episodes directly from the device, and to access and stream any TV show episodes previously purchased using the iTunes Store account tied to the device. In support of this feature, Apple has added a listing for TV shows to the “Purchased” section of the iTunes Store, allowing users to download previously purchased TV show episodes, and the update also adds support for Vimeo.
Notably, the ability to re-download previously purchased TV show episodes seems to be tied to the particular network or studio that owns the rights to the show, as iLounge has discovered that certain shows—including, specifically, episodes from series that originally ran on Comedy Central and FX—do not appear under the Purchased section and are therefore unavailable for re-download. Apple TV Software 4.3 is available now via the device’s software update feature.
Apple became the world’s number one smartphone vendor in the second quarter of 2011, according to the latest data from Strategy Analytics. Apple’s 20.3 million units were good for the top spot and 18.5 percent of the market, besting rival Samsung, which shipped an estimated 19.2 million units, good for 17.5 percent of the market. Both companies blew past former market leader Nokia, which shipped 16.7 million units during the period, good for 15.2 percent of the market, but down susbstantially from 23.8 million units shipped and a 38.1 percent of the market in the year-ago quarter.
According to June data from Nielsen, Apple is the top smartphone manufacturer in the United States, but iOS remains behind Android as a whole for the title of most popular smartphone OS in the country. Apple holds a 28 percent share of the handset market, followed by RIM and HTC, each of which account for 20 percent of the market. When looking at operating systems, iOS again accounts for a 28 percent share of the market, while Android represents 39 percent of the market, and BlackBerry OS holds a 20 percent share.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has agreed to investigate Samsung’s claims that Apple is infringing on its patents. Samsung filed a complaint against Apple with the ITC last month, and as Reuters reports, is accusing Apple of infringing five patents with the iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone. Apple filed an ITC complaint of its own against Samsung earlier this month; both companies are seeking to ban imports of the other’s products into the U.S.
Apple has been sued by Texas-based Affinity Labs, which claims the iPod and iPhone violate patents related to media playback. According to AppleInsider, the suit states that the “iPhone, iPod touch, and iPhone line of products” violates a patent entitled “Content delivery system and method,” while only the iPhone is accused of violating the second patent, entitled “Method for managing media.” Affinity Labs previously sued Apple in 2009, accusing it of violating three patents related to the streaming and downloading of content. Notably, third-party accessory manufacturer AAMP is also named in the suit, which seeks damages, applicable attorney fees, and a judgement that prohibits either company from further infringement.
HTC has said it’s willing to negotiate a settlement with Apple after both parties received favorable judgements from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in their various ongoing patent disputes, Bloomberg reports. “We have to sit down and figure it out,” said HTC CFO Winston Yung. “We’re open to having discussions.” HTC recently purchased S3 Graphics less than a week after the ITC ruled that Apple was in violation of two of its patents; the ITC later ruled that HTC was in violation of two Apple patents related to data detection and transmission technologies. “We are open to all sorts of solutions, as long as the solution and the terms are fair and reasonable,” Yung said. “On and off we’ve had discussions with Apple, even before the initial determination came out,” he added, noting that he was unaware of any talks between the two companies since the two rulings were announced.
Apple has started to air its latest TV commercial for the iPad 2. Entitled “We’ll Always,” the 30-second advertisement is similar in tone to the company’s prior iPad 2 commercials, and features a voiceover by Peter Coyote which states, “We’ll never stop sharing our memories, or getting lost in a good book. We’ll always cook dinner, and cheer for our favorite team. We’ll still go to meetings, make home movies, and learn new things. But how we do all this will never be the same.” The new commercial is available for viewing on Apple’s website.
Apple has launched the App Store in 33 new territories, bringing the total number of countries in which it is available to over 100. The new countries are, in alphabetical order, Algeria, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Dominica, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Montserrat, Nigeria, Oman, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Suriname, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
Apple has released its fourth beta version of iOS 5. Available to paid iOS developers, the release—listed as build 9A5274d—is accompanied by matching beta versions of the iOS 5 SDK, iTunes 10.5 and Apple TV Software. It is unclear what major changes, if any, may be present in the new version. iOS 5 beta 4 is available now to paid iOS developers from the iOS Dev Center.
Update: 9 to 5 Mac reports that the update can be installed on devices running iOS 5 beta 3 via the over-the-air software update feature found within the Settings app.
Apple is considering making a bid for the online video service Hulu, according to a new report. Citing two people with knowledge of the auction, Bloomberg reports that Apple is in early talks that may lead to an offer. An acquisition of Hulu would give Apple new ad-based free and subscription video service offerings, and would also likely include a five-year extension of program rights, including two years of exclusive access. Apple already sells TV programming from Hulu’s owners Disney, News Corp., and NBC Universal; notably, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the largest single shareholder of Disney. The report states that the service has also drawn interest from Google, Yahoo, AT&T, and Microsoft, the latter of which dropped out of the bidding, according to the report.
A portion of text in Apple’s third-quarter 2011 Form 10-Q filing (PDF Link) reveals that the company is liable for more than half a $4.5 billion dollar bid to acquire the patent portfolio of Nortel Networks. As noted in the filing, Apple, “as part of a consortium, participated in the acquisition of Nortel’s patent portfolio for an overall purchase price of $4.5 billion, of which the Company’s contribution will be approximately $2.6 billion. This asset acquisition is subject to approval by various regulatory agencies.” Also involved in the consortium were EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion, and Sony. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple has passed Nokia to become the world’s largest maker of smartphones by volume. The Financial Times reports that Apple’s June quarter iPhone shipments of 20.3 million units easily surpassed those of former market leader Nokia, which shipped 16.7 million units during the same period, a 34 percent decline. As noted in the report, Apple was already the world’s biggest smartphone maker by revenue and profits, but the April-June period was the first time it had surpassed Nokia in volume.
Apple has been sued for the second time by the non-practicing entity Personal Audio, which accuses Apple of patent infringement related to downloadable playlists. FOSS Patents reports that the new filing comes just weeks after Personal Audio was awarded an $8 million jury verdict in a case involving the same patents in relation to the iPod classic, iPod mini, iPod shuffle, iPod nano, iPod touch, and iPhone. The new case focuses on the sixth-generation iPod nano, fourth-generation iPod shuffle, fourth-generation iPod touch, iPhone 4, and iPad 2. As noted in the report, the damages awarded in connection with the iPhone and iPad could be substantially greater than those from the first suit, which focused primarily on iPods; in any case, the report suggests it is likely that the two parties will settle their dispute soon.
Apple has released iTunes 10.4 adding support for some of the new features in Mac OS X Lion and a number of important stability and performance improvements. iTunes 10.4 now works with Lion’s new Full-Screen App feature allowing the app to be placed in its own full-screen window. Version 10.4 is also now a 64-bit Cocoa application on OS X Lion, and the release notes indicate that this may render some plug-ins no longer compatible. The latest version of iTunes is available for via Apple’s Software Update tools or from http://www.itunes.com/download.