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Saturday, 10 September 2005 12:42

9 September 2005

Apple unveils a new IPod and a phone music player

Apple moved on Wednesday to extend its dominance over the digital music marketplace, introducing a compact iPod called the nano and confirming a widely reported digital music partnership with Motorola and Cingular.

The New York Times reports (8 September) that, with his usual showmanship, Apple's chairman, Steven P. Jobs, saved the introduction of the new solid-state version of the iPod for last, slipping it from the change pocket of his blue jeans at the end of a press event at the Moscone Convention Center here.

The iPod nano, which stores either 500 or 1,000 songs and is priced at US$199 and US$249, is intended to replace an existing model, the iPod Mini. The new device will be available in the United States, Japan and Europe this week.

The newspaper reports that, in an interview after his presentation, he called the new player, which is one of the industry's smallest, a "bold gamble."

By replacing the Mini, which accounts for more than half of all iPods currently sold, the company risked a huge revenue shortfall if the new product had been delayed, Mr. Jobs said. Despite that risk, he said, the nano reflects several innovations.

The NYT reported that Mr Jobs focused on the shift away from the small disk-drive storage device used in the iPod Mini to the solid-state flash memory at the heart of the nano. He said the custom chips and the miniaturized circuit board used in the nano had also been potential stumbling blocks.

Several analysts said that Apple had moved the introduction of the nano ahead to ensure it would be widely available for the holiday season.

The newspaper adds that most of the event on Wednesday was devoted to the unveiling of a Motorola cellphone called the Rokr E1 (pronounced rocker), which will incorporate Apple's iTunes music software and be capable of storing 100 songs. The phone, long anticipated, will be available exclusively on the Cingular Wireless network in the United States.

The phone, which will sell for US$250, has a color display, but requires that songs be downloaded from an iTunes-equipped personal computer by a U.S.B. cable. Cingular will not offer an iTunes service for buying songs directly over a cellphone connection.

The NYT reported that, in what appeared to be a direct challenge to the music industry, which has been struggling with him behind the scenes over Apple's growing influence in the music world, Mr. Jobs outlined in detail the strength of his digital music business.

He said Apple had sold half a billion digital songs and had 85 percent of the world market for digital music sales. The iTunes music service is now available in 20 countries, he said.

The newspaper said Mr Jobs noted that Apple had sold 6.2 million iPods of all models in the third quarter, comparing that figure to Sony's PlayStation Portable game machine, which sold two million during the same period.



Sony to offer advanced Walkmans to tackle iPod

Sony said on Thursday it would sell advanced Walkman portable music players later this year, aiming to move out of Apple Computer's shadow in a market the Japanese company created a quarter of a century ago.

Reuters reports in The New York Times (8 September) that the announcement comes hours after Apple unveiled the pencil-thin ``iPod nano'' digital player and a long-anticipated mobile phone that plays music in a bid to extend its domination of the market.

Sony, which created the portable music market 26 years ago with its now-legendary cassette-playing Walkmans, has lost out to Apple in the portable digital era as it focused on its mainstay CD and Mini Disc players, reports Reuters.

Sony will offer two hard disk-based music players -- one with a storage capacity of 20 gigabytes (GB) and the other with 6 GB -- and three flash memory-based players that will keep the existing models' perfume bottle appearance.

The Reuters/NYT report says that Sony's new models will add the ability to automatically select and play the songs a user listens to most, and also to pick songs released in a certain year -- a function Sony calls the ``time machine shuffle.''

The new models will go on sale in Japan on November 19 and Sony, which introduced the first Walkman in July 1979, aims to launch them overseas by the end of the year.

According to reuters, Sony aims to sell a total of 4.5 million hard disk and flash memory portable music players in the year to next March, up from 850,000 units a year earlier.

Apple has sold about 22 million iPods worldwide since their introduction in October 2001, making it by far the most widely used player in a market that research firm In-Stat expects to nearly quadruple to 104 million units a year by 2009.



Ruling in Microsoft, Google case expected

A Washington state judge said he would rule on Tuesday whether a top Microsoft executive who defected to rival Google can perform the job Google hired him for until his case goes to trial in January.

The Associated Press reports (7 September) that Kai-Fu Lee, who joined Microsoft in 2000, joined Google in July to lead Google's expansion into China.

Microsoft has sued Lee and Google, contending that Lee's job at Google would violate the terms of the noncompete agreement, which prohibits him from doing similar work for a rival for a year. Microsoft also accuses Lee of using insider information to get his job at Google.

The AP/NYT report says that, in a hearing that concluded Wednesday, Microsoft asked Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez to restrict what work Lee can do for Google until its lawsuit goes to trial early next year.

Google's immediate, stated reasons for hiring Lee were to have him create an engineering office in China, but Lee is also an expert in computer recognition of language -- an important field for search engines such as Google, reports AP.



Texas Instruments will offer a video technology platform

The New York Times reports (8 September) that Texas Instruments succeeded in transforming itself from the best-known maker of calculators to the largest seller of chips for cellphones, and now it wants to repeat that success in the market for video chips.

The newspaper says that the company plans to announce an all-in-one video chip technology that will make it easier for electronics producers to design and manufacture video products including digital cameras, video phones and portable media players.

According to the NYT, Texas Instruments' chief executive, Richard K. Templeton, said in an interview that digital video products are now limited by short battery life, long development time and high price. Texas Instruments' new video technology, called Da Vinci, aims to solve those problems by providing manufacturers with an integrated set of chips, software and development tools. This approach, it said, could help keep production costs down while ensuring that devices are compatible.

As the third-largest semiconductor company, Texas Instruments supplies nearly 60 percent of the chips for cellphones. It expects to have Da Vinci technology, including processors, software and tools, ready to market by the end of the year.

The newspaper says that in an era when companies are increasingly selling technology "platforms," rather than individual components, Texas Instruments' approach with Da Vinci is no surprise to analysts. Its announcement is coming two weeks after Intel announced its own new platform for digital home electronics, called Viiv. With Viiv, which will be marketed in the first half of 2006, Intel hopes to make it easier for users to share digital content over networks and make their personal computers compatible with other electronic devices.



HP chief Hurd sees "lot of work" to change company

Less than six months after taking over at Hewlett-Packard, Chief Executive Mark Hurd on Wednesday said there's still ``a lot of work to do.''

Reuters reports in The New York Times (7 September) that Hurd said that Hewlett-Packard managers need to take more responsibility for their business areas. In the past, they've turned to the chief executive to resolve conflicts, he said. ''We have got to get accountability and responsibility lower down in the organisation,'' he added.

Hurd, 48, was appointed chief executive April 1 after the company pushed out Fiorina, whose US$19 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer never produced the results she promised.

Reuters says that HP, the world's No. 2 computer maker, is shedding 14,500 jobs to cut annual costs by US$1.9 billion and boost profits.



Parental software to detect Dutch illegal file sharing

Dutch anti piracy organisation BREIN is to release free parental software on 22 September, that will detect file sharing programs such as Kazaa or illegal media files on PCs.

The Register reports (8 September) that the software will not be able to remove those files - parents have to do this manually if they wish.

According to The Register, BREIN says that the software is basically a public awareness campaign. Too many youngster do not seem to realise that it is illegal to make copyrighted music available online for others to download and that illegal file sharing is hurting the music and movie business, BREIN director Tim Kuik explains. The website where the free software can be downloaded is owned by Dutch entertainment industry organisation NVPI.

The Register reports that just recently, BREIN lost a court case against five Dutch ISPs who refused to hand over the names of 42 suspected song swappers. BREIN had hired US company Media Sentry, which monitors popular online forums and file sharing services for copyright infringement, to gather evidence against the file swappers.

However, according to the Dutch Data Protection Authority (CBP) the collection and storage of IP addresses is only legitimate if BREIN handled it themselves.

The Register says that free parental software could do this laborious job for BREIN perfectly, though the organisation insists that no information will be send back to its headquarters.



Sun tries to tempt thousands with reworked partner program

Sun Microsystems hopes to expand the number of ISVs building applications on Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris by 30 per cent before next summer following an overhaul of its iForce partner program, according to a report in The Register (7 SDeptember).

The Register says that Sun's goal is to grow its Solaris 8 partner network to 10,000 independent software vendors (ISVs) during the next year, following the diversification of the marketing, sales and development resources available to partners in the Sun ecosystem.

The company revealed its roadmap as it announced an important new tool to help it achieve the expanded number of developers - the Partner Advantage Program that replaces Sun's established iForce program.

The Register reported that the Partner Advantage Program will make 500 Sun internal training courses available, see rollout of technical readiness assessments, deliver expanded sales and marketing resources, and enable Sun's executives to participate in partners' sales engagements.

Partners will qualify for resources according to a four-tiered structure, where ISVs are categorised as either members, associates, principles or executive-level partners. Members are those who want more information about Sun products, associates are those who put their applications on just one Sun product like Solaris 10 on x64, and associates are ISVs who base their applications on multiple Sun technologies.

The Register adds that executive members are nominated by Sun based on their use of its technology, and get joint collateral along with early access to pre-release editions of Sun products.

Tuesday, 30 November 1999 11:00

Peter Dinham

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