Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has denied that the company plans to make a direct competitor to the iPhone, saying that it plans to focus on its Windows Mobile software instead. “No, we won’t do that. In the so-called smart phone business we will concentrate solely on software with our Windows Mobile program,” Gates said in an interview with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “We have partnerships with a lot of device manufacturers from Samsung to Motorola and this variety brings us significantly more than if we would make our own mobile phone.” Previous rumors had suggested that Microsoft was planning to build its own handset to challenge the iPhone; the company currently competes with Apple’s iPod with its Zune portable media player.
Delphi has demonstrated its Wireless Vehicle Access software running on an iPhone this week at CES. Described as a concept, the new system utilizes a Bluetooth link between the iPhone (or other device) and a new smart key fob to allow users to check their car’s vitals from up to a mile away. Functions include the ability to turn on the engine, turn on the climate control, roll down the windows, check door unlock/lock status, monitor tire pressure, check how much gas is in the car, and even tell the condition of the oil and brake fluid. It is unknown when/if the new system may find its way into production vehicles.
Speaking during a panel discussion at CES, Travis Boatman, vice president of worldwide studios for Electronic Arts’ mobile division, hailed the iPhone as “capable and powerful,” while stating that it has had a negative impact on the mobile gaming industry. “But it’s a replacement for someone who had a Razr before,” said Boatman of the iPhone. “They [consumers] still want their content but there’s no distribution platform in place so there’s a negative impact on the industry.” “These devices are capable and powerful,” he continued. “They’ll be great in the long term but it will take some time as people adapt to devices.” Boatman also described the challenge facing game publishers as consumers upgrade their phones to new devices that may or may not be compatible with games purchased for their previous cell. Apple has received much criticism for its decision to charge iPod owners for new versions of iPod games, updated to support the iPod nano (with video) and iPod classic, regardless of whether the customer previously purchased the game for the fifth-generation iPod. “If you bought a PlayStation 2 and you buy an Xbox ‘790’ four years later, do you think EA games is going to redevelop that game and not charge you for it?” he said. “It’s not inexpensive.”
In a recent meeting with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, O2 CEO Matthew Key has said that 200,000 iPhones should have been sold in the UK by early January, in-line with expectations. Speaking ahead of his meeting with Jobs, Key told the Financial Times, “The big question for us is ‘What does the future look like in terms of product roll-out?’.” Key has said that he is confident that O2 will carry the 3G iPhone when it is released next year, and also revealed that iPhone customers are using large amounts of data. About 60 percent of iPhone users are sending or receiving more than 25 megabytes of data per month, while only 1.8 percent of O2 ‘s other mobile customers on monthly contracts are consuming data at that rate. According to Key, the iPhone is also helping the carrier steal customers from its rivals; about 60 percent of iPhone users are new to O2. [via MDN]
NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s top mobile operator, has confirmed previous reports that the company is in talks with Apple to carry the iPhone. “It is true that Mr Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. and our president (Masao) Nakamura held a meeting,” an NTT DoCoMo spokesman said, declining to reveal the timing or content of the discussions. Citing unnamed sources, Japanese news agency Kyodo News reported that Apple sees DoCoMo as its top choice in the region; however, the carrier may be opposed to Apple’s demands for a share of subscriber revenue. Earlier this week it was reported that Apple is in talks with both DoCoMo and Softbank Mobile, a DoCoMo rival, to carry the iPhone in Japan.
According to figures provided by Canalys and published by Symbian, the iPhone accounted for 27% of all smartphone sales in North America in Q3, besting the entire lineup of Windows Mobile-based smartphones, as well as others running Symbian, Linux, and Palm operating systems, and placing second only to the RIM Blackberry. The iPhone’s debut in second place (Q3 was the first full quarter of sales for the handset) is particularly notable because its competition was available from multiple carriers, and in Mexico in Canada, while the iPhone was only available in the region from AT&T in the U.S. Perhaps not coincidentally, Symbian has stopped publishing detailed stats on its Fast Facts web page, as it has done in the past, instead placing them in a separate, little publicized document.
According to a new report, Apple is in talks (Subscription req.) with Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and Softbank concerning the launch of the iPhone in the country. The Wall Street Journal reports that people familiar with the situation say Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently met with NTT DoCoMo’s president, Masao Nakamura, to discuss a deal to offer the iPhone in Japan. NTT DoCoMo is Japan’s largest cellular provider, and it has been suggested that it is likely to be Apple’s first choice as partner, as the company has shown a strong preference for signing agreements with top mobile operators. The same sources also said that Apple has also been in discussions with No. 3 operator Softbank Corp., and that executives from both companies have made multiple trips to its Cupertino, Calif. headquarters. None of the three companies has yet commented on the report.
Contrary to a claim published today, iLounge has confirmed with Orange that unlocked iPhones sold by the company are not limited to French-only SIM cards. A story claimed that unlocked iPhones sold by Orange were somehow “country locked,” and unable to work with SIM cards other than those from other French carriers. “Once legally (through Orange Customer Service) unlocked, the iPhone will operate with any SIM card, including foreign ones. But some applications like ‘Visual Voice Mail’ may not work abroad,” Orange’s Louis-Michel Aymard told iLounge in an email. In addition to offering clarification to the unlocking issue, Aymard also told iLounge that the percentage of unlocked iPhones sold by Orange was “a lot smaller than 20%.”
Apple has posted a new support document, “How to create custom ringtones in GarageBand 4.1.1,” that describes how to make iPhone-compatible ringtones using the audio editing program. The document states “With GarageBand 4.1.1 you can export your original song, your original audio recordings, or use Apple Loops and iLife jingles to create a custom ringtone for your iPhone.” The process involves loading the song into GarageBand, setting up a “cycle region” of 40 seconds or less in length, and choosing the “Share > Send Ringtone to iTunes” menu option. GarageBand 4.1.1 is available as part of Apple’s iLife ‘08 software suite.
You can also read iLounge’s 10 step guide to Creating Ringtones with GarageBand ‘08.
A new third-party iPhone application from Monster and Friends can record video up to 45 frames per second via the iPhone’s built-in camera. The developers are still working on a final version, but have released a limited beta which records a five second video and immediately plays it back. The final version will be able to record unlimited-sized clips (until the available storage runs out) up to 30 fps and will include an interface to save your videos. While impressive, this release is most noteworthy as a confirmation of video recording on the iPhone, a feature that is likely to be implemented either by Apple or through a third-party solution once the developer kit is released in February. [via Gizmodo; Thanks, Max]
A new Apple job posting for an “iPhone Windows Outlook/Exchange QA Engineer” points to possible future support for the Microsoft email protocol on the handset. Many users have pointed to the iPhone’s lack of Outlook/Exchange support as a roadblock to wide-spread corporate adoption of the device. The job description says “The iPhone Quality team is looking for a motivated, highly-technical Exchange test/sync engineer with excellent problem solving and communication skills. You will join a dynamic team responsible for qualifying the latest iPhone products. Your focus will be testing Exchange and Outlook functionality with Apple’s innovative new phone. The successful candidate will complete both documented and adhoc testing to ensure high quality releases.”
Fox News has launched its Fox News for iPhone website. Designed for the iPhone and iPod touch’s interface, the site allows users to read headlines, search the Fox News archive, and watch every video available on Foxnews.com. The videos will automatically stream in the correct size for the user’s current connection, whether it be EDGE or Wi-Fi. In addition, users can also share stories, and get quick links to Fox News podcasts on the iTunes Store. Fox News for iPhone can be accessed by visiting iphone.foxnews.com from an iPhone or iPod touch. [via MDN]
Google has launched a new interface for its Picasa photo sharing service, optimized for the iPhone and iPod touch. The interface lets users “quickly see all your albums that you’ve uploaded to Picasa Web. If you click on any of the albums, you can get a full view of your picture with comments from your friends.” Other features include a Slideshow view, a search mode that lets users search for photos in their albums or through community photos, and the ability to view your friends’ albums through favorites. To try out the new interface, visit picasaweb.google.com from an iPhone or iPod touch.
A security forecast released by Arbor Networks suggests that the iPhone will be a major target for hackers in 2008. Arbor’s Security and Engineering Response Team, who put together the forecasts, believe that the iPhone will be the victim of a “serious attack” next year. These attacks are “likely to be in the form of drive by attacks - malware embedded into seemingly harmless information, images or other media that actually perform dangerous actions when rendered on the iPhone’s Web browser.” In addition, the team suggests that “hackers will be enticed by the possibility of attacking Apple users and the opportunity to ‘be the first’ to hack a new platform.”
Apple has officially raised its sales limit on iPhones from two- to five-per-person. In October, Apple imposed a two-per-person sales limit on the iPhone in hopes of discouraging customers from reselling the phones, and to help reduce strains on inventory heading into the holiday shopping season. The sales limit was raised in both the U.S. and U.K., however, cash-only iPhone sales are still prohibited.
Despite its lack of Exchange support, push email (other than Yahoo!), and 3G wireless, the iPhone is gaining ground in the business world, according to a Reuters report. Recently, software maker SAP announced that it will introduce a version of its upcoming customer relationship management software for the iPhone before releasing versions for Blackberry phones and Palm devices. “It’s fun,” Mike de la Cruz, senior VP with SAP, said. “It’s so popular.” According to Bob Stutz, SAP senior vice president in charge of developing customer relationship management software, the reason for the move was internal demand for the software, with SAP’s salespeople saying that the iPhone was easier to use. “This isn’t necessarily iPhone deployment by way of the IT department, but it’s by people who really want to use this device and IT is responding in a really positive way,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with market research firm Jupiter Research.
According to the article, the iPhone still faces challenges in the business market, mainly due to its lack of corporate push email support and its virtual keyboard. These challenges can be overcome, the article suggests, by adding support for Microsoft’s Exchange server, as well as adding tactile feedback to the phone’s keyboard. “What really made the iPod take off was when they made it compatible with Windows. So if they made the iPhone compatible with Windows e-mail, meaning Outlook, that would really make sales take off,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst with American Technology Research. “If they get those pieces together, it would make iPhone a much stronger competitor.”
SmugMug, a photo and video sharing website, has launched several new features, including video playback support on the iPhone and iPod touch, as well as iPod-formatted video downloads. The company now offers dynamic resizing of photos, a feature it calls “SmugMungous,” which allows for easier viewing on devices with different resolutions and screen sizes, such as the iPhone and iPod touch. In addition, SmugMug is now accepting high definition 720p video uploads, which are automatically encoded in three sizes — Web, iPod/DVD, and HiDef — for different viewing situations. Also new is the ability to export your video collections as iTunes-friendly video podcasts, as well as a update to the service’s iPhone/iPod touch interface that allows users to browse and playback videos through Quicktime. [via TechCrunch]
Several retailers in the Sim Lim Square shopping center in Singapore, as well as some local online outlets, have ceased sales of unlocked iPhones following legal threats from Apple. According to The Straits Times, retailers in the area say that Apple threatened in an email to pursue legal action against them should they continue to sell illegally unlocked iPhones, which could make them liable for penalties of up to $1000 for each phone sold. “For a couple of tens of dollars, it’s not worth breaching the law for,” said one online retailer, who told the paper that the email was a factor in its decision to stop reselling the devices. Despite a check of 12 electronics and cellphone retailers in Sim Lim that saw not one openly offering the iPhone, a single store did indicate that the device could be “brought in” for interested customers.
Incoming O2 chief Matthew Key has said that iPhone sales are currently in line with expectations and that in time, three out of four iPhone buyers will be new O2 customers, coming from other networks. “Over time, three out of four customers of the iPhone will be new O2 customers, because you can only get the iPhone by becoming a customer of O2,” Key told reporters in London. Key, who is set to take over as CEO of O2 when Peter Erskine steps down at the beginning of 2008, declined to reveal exact iPhone sales figures. Key also suggested that the good relationship between O2 and Apple might speed up the product’s arrival in Spain, most likely as Telefonica as the carrier.
Google has announced the release of a new iPhone web application that integrates the company’s services, such as search, Gmail, Calendar, Reader, and more, into a single, iPhone and iPod touch-friendly interface. Google says that the new application takes advantage of browser technologies like AJAX that allow for Gmail and Google Maps on the desktop, stating, “In supporting these advances in web technology, the iPhone’s Safari browser not only delivers an excellent mobile Internet experience; it enabled our product and engineering teams to create an optimal Google experience on a mobile device.” To access the new application, simply visit google.com on an iPhone or iPod touch.