The BBC is developing an app that will allow its reporters in the field to file video, stills and audio directly into the BBC system from an iPhone or iPad. The software is being adapted for the Apple phones from an existing app used by the BBC and is due to be in use within around a month. As part of a new strategy which will see the broadcaster focus on getting the most out of smartphone technology, it is also aiming to obtain iPhone licenses for existing app Luci Live, allowing reporters to broadcast live from the phone using 3G signal. Martin Turner, head of operations for newsgathering, said developing the software for iPhone was “a logical extension of what the BBC can do already” but added that it was a “significant development”. “Reporters have been using smart phones for a while now but it was never good quality. Now it is beginning to be a realistic possibility to use iPhones and other devices for live reporting, and in the end if you’ve got someone on the scene then you want to be able to use them.” He added that the development was part of a wider strategy at the broadcaster to make better use of smartphones in its field reporting.
Ping – Apple’s new social media network, will allow users to follow friends’ music interests working in a stream of updates similar way to Facebook or Twitter Having cornered the MP3 player, mobile phone and computer tablet markets with the iPod, iPhone and iPad devices respectively, last night Apple announced its latest expansion – into social media – with Ping. Ping will be integrated into Apple’s latest iTunes software update and will enable users, or “Pingers”, to follow musicians, friends and others to see details including what music they’re buying and what concerts they’re attending. Steve Jobs, Apple’s chairman and chief executive, said the information will arrive in a long stream of updates, similar to the way Facebook and Twitter work. “Be as private or as public as you want. The privacy is super-easy to set up,” he said adding that users can choose to automatically accept followers or decide on a follower-by-follower basis – similar sounding controls to those on Twitter. The service is available immediately to more than 160 million iTunes users, Jobs said, and will also be available across the iPhone and iPod Touch ranges.
Jake Lee knew he would have a long, cold night ahead – but wasn’t troubled: the 17-year-old from Theydon Bois, Essex had his father’s thick coat – plus the assurance of being the first to buy an Apple iPad at the company’s Regent Street store in London when it opens its doors at 8am tomorrow.
“I didn’t order online because I wanted to get the experience of buying it, of being in the queue,” said Lee, who has been saving from his part-time job after school “for months” to be able to afford the £429 low-end version.
Yet judging by the length – or brevity – of the queue outside the store, which by mid-afternoon comprised just five people, Apple’s latest offering – a 9-inch touchscreen tablet computer operated like its hit iPhone – is not drawing the crowds in the same way as previous product launches, which attracted scores of patient buyers.
However, online demand has apparently been strong: Apple was this week warning people who ordered iPads through its website that delivery may be put back to 7 June. It has already delayed the international launch of the iPad, which Steve Jobs showed off in January, by a month after strong sales in the US used up production capacity. So far it has sold more than 1m of the machines, which means it is already the single largest maker of tablet computers this year – capturing a market that Bill Gates, of Microsoft, tried and failed to create and corner in 2001.
Sales in the US have outstripped expectations , where the 1m mark was reached only 28 days after the 2 April launch, compared with 74 days for the iPhone.
Peter Buckley, the British author of the Rough Guide to the iPad, who has been using a US-bought model for the past five weeks, says that while it cannot replace a laptop machine for producing content, it is an ideal machine for a new era of “sofa computing”.
Critics have focused on the price, which ranges from £429 to £699, and point out that “netbook” computers with full keyboards are available for about £350.
There has also been criticism of Apple’s use of the Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, where 10 people have apparently committed suicide this year due to work pressure. Simon Middleton, a brand expert, said: “I think we need to call on Apple to take the leadership role in its sector and to form a coalition of companies who would specify, monitor and maintain the highest standards of worker conditions: and to insist that the suppliers they deal with comply.” Foxconn workers claim that they have to work up to 15-hour shifts, and that the company has put up a huge safety net around the factory to prevent roof suicides.
Rival companies are also looking to build on Apple’s lead by launching their own tablet machines: the Joojoo, made by the Thailand-based Fusion Garage, launched in April, while HP is expected to launch models later this year using Palm’s WebOS software, having acquired the company last month. Other companies including Archos are also expected to launch tablets built on Google’s Android or Chrome software.
Buckley says that the success of the rivals “will depend on how quickly software developers feel compelled to develop apps for it. The draw of the iPad is partly to do with Apple’s design – but also that developers are working to write software for the platform.”
The success of the iPhone has accelerated as its App Store, opened in July 2008, has grown to offer more than 180,000 third-party applications, which have had more than 4bn downloads.
For the iPad, many have been rewritten to take advantage of its larger screen – including magazines such as Condé Nast’s Wired and GQ magazines, which have special £2.99 iPad electronic editions. The US version of the iPad Wired sold 24,000 copies in its first day, generating $120,000.
While those figures were being announced, Chris Thompson, a motor racing memorabilia dealer from Epsom, was taking his place at the end of the iPad queue. Why wait? “Well, patience is a virtue,” he replied. “I’ve come for the atmosphere. It’s more fun being outside here than sitting at home looking out the window waiting for a van to come.”
A new publishing company is betting that readers will bypass electronic readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader in favour of reading bite-sized stories on mobile devices they already own. Ether Books will launch at the London Book Fair on Monday, and will offer a catalogue of short stories, essays and poetry initially via Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, by authors including Alexander McCall-Smith and Louis de Bernieres. Well over 1 billion mobile phones are expected to be sold worldwide this year, compared with just a few million e-readers. Apple alone has already sold more than 85 million iPhone and iPod touch devices, and has just launched its iPad tablet PCs. “At Ether Books we’ve made the decision to go straight to distributing short works via our iPhone app to devices people already own, are familiar with and are happy to use when they have 10-15 minutes to spare,” Ether Books Digital Director Maureen Scott said
Newspaper outcry prompts BBC Trust to examine initiative
The BBC has postponed plans to release free iPhone news applications after concerns about an unfair market advantage.
A report on BBC News said that the BBC Trust had decided to halt the planned April release of news and sports applications for the Apple handsets, after newspaper publishers claimed that the BBC would unfairly influence the market for news apps.
The BBC Trust will review the plans, and decide whether the apps would violate its public service agreement.The row comes as newspaper publishers seek to capitalise on Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad platforms amid slowing sales of print editions.
Major papers such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have announced agreements with Apple to offer special subscription offers formatted for the iPad tablet
Recent media reports claim that the BBC intends to reduce its web operations by as much as a half.
Conflict sparks debate about online censorship and highlights Apple’s control over software platform
The International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP) is considering making a complaint to Apple over the computer firm’s request that German publisher Springer censor the naked girls on one of its iPhone apps. Springer-owned tabloid Bild’s “Shake the Bild Girl” app allows iPhone users to undress a model. Each time the user shakes the phone, the girl strips an item of her clothing. While Bild features naked women daily in its pages, Apple ruled that the girls in its iPhone app should wear bikinis. The Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ) asked FIPP last week to approach Apple over the issue. FIPP is debating the issue, but has no further comment at the moment. The VDZ chief executive, Wolfgang Fuerstner, has warned that Apple’s move might represent a move towards censorship. Apple asks publishers of general interest apps to respect its US “no nipples” policy. In November, German weekly Stern’s app was dropped from the App Store due to an erotic photo gallery. Apple’s intervention has made it clear to publishers that they find themselves in a new role in a digital world. When Apple announced at the end of February that it would “remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store”, publishers had to follow that request. It is Apple that has final control over its platform, not the publishers.
Microsoft has made an application that works with Google’s Android phone.
Called Tag, the free software uses a handset’s camera to turn it into a mobile barcode reader. It is the first application Microsoft has made for the Android operating system – one of the key rivals to Windows Mobile. Android is among the last to get the Tag application which is available on Windows phones, the iPhone, Blackberry and Symbian handsets.
Using Tag and similar programs, barcodes can become coupons that link people to websites, pass on information or give visitors a discount in an online store. Releasing the application for Android continues Microsoft’s program of making software for rival phone firm. In December 2008 it produced its first iPhone app, called Seadragon, and followed it up in early 2009 by releasing Tag for the Apple handset.
Apple has the most mature mobile apps store. In early January, Apple said more than three billion applications had been downloaded from its store. Microsoft’s launch is made against a background of greater co-operation among operators on phone software. In February, 24 of the worlds largest mobile network phone operators banded together to create the Wholesale Applications Community. This will try to make it easy for application developers to make and sell phone applications.
It is widely seen as a move by operators to wrest control of the lucrative apps market away from software firms and phone makers. Microsoft recently unveiled a revamp of its mobile operating system called Windows Phone 7 Series, which will be publicly launched later in 2010.
The Washington Post, which launched a paid news application for Apple’s iPhone on Wednesday, is also looking at other platforms but has no plans to charge for its website, a Post executive said. Goli Sheikholeslami, Post vice president and general manager for digital operations, said the iPhone and iPod Touch application “gives us sort of a sandbox to experiment in and get an idea of what consumers find of value.” The iPhone program, available through Apple’s App Store, costs 1.99 dollars for 12 months and offers breaking news, reporting, analysis, features, blogs and other coverage from the newspaper. With US newspapers facing a decline in print advertising revenue and circulation and a challenge from free news online, publishers have been searching for new ways to make money. Sheikholeslami said the Post was looking at other mobile platforms including Google’s Android and the Blackberry from Canada’s Research in Motion. “We’re definitely looking at the iPad,” she added. As for the Washington Post website, Sheikholeslami said there were no plans to start charging online readers as The Wall Street Journal already does and The New York Times plans to do starting early next year. The New York Times also has an iPhone application but it is currently free. A Times executive said last month that it has been downloaded more than 3.2 million times
The European giants that pioneered the mobile telecoms industry are now stumbling in the wake of American and Asian rivals
When Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, takes to the stage in Barcelona on Tuesday evening to deliver the keynote address to hundreds of mobile phone industry executives gathered for the Mobile World Congress the industry’s biggest trade show, the message will be clear: well done, Europe, for getting mobile communications this far. We’ll take it from here.
For two decades, Europe’s mobile telecoms sector has considered itself to be a world leader. It had the biggest names, the technological knowhow, the most customers. Over the past year, however, that hegemony has been smashed. At a time when Europe is mired in economic turmoil and facing a demographic timebomb, one of its great hopes for fuelling future growth is slipping away.
“Europe has become the ‘flyover states’ of the mobile industry,” says a senior European executive, referring to the disparaging term used to describe middle America by high-powered business travellers shuttling between California and New York.
“All the service innovation is being done on the west coast of the US, and all the manufacturing and technical innovation is being done in the Far East. All we’re doing is selling other people’s products.”
His customers now care only about access to services such as Google, Facebook and Twitter on their phones, and the devices they covet are the iPhone or the latest BlackBerry, which has proved a great hit with teenagers. This year’s hot handsets, the executive says, are being made by HTC, the Taiwanese manufacturer, which will use this week’s show to unveil its latest devices, featuring Google’s Android software. While Apple lords it over the high end of the market, China’s Huawei and ZTE are creating cut-price smartphones that will democratise the mobile internet in the coming years.
Sensing the change blowing in the wind, even Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, is turning up in Barcelona to front the software group’s latest attempt to break into a market that it was once shut out of by Europe’s gatekeepers, Nokia and Ericsson. As for Apple itself, the iPhone maker would never do anything so vulgar as actually appear publicly at the event, or have a stand in one of the eight exhibition halls; but its executives will be in town, holding meetings behind closed doors with suppliers and networks as it looks for more wireless partners to back its latest invention, the iPad, outside the US.
After a week in which the turmoil in Greece has shown the fragility of the eurozone and a new acronym, “Pigs”, has entered the economic lexicon as a harbinger of doom, the evidence the Mobile World Congress will provide of Europe’s loss of control over the mobile phone industry is a harsh blow.
It leaves European policymakers, many of whom have bought in to the idea that the future lies in the creation of innovative technologies, to pin their hopes on new areas such as green energy or fall back on old stalwarts such as biotechnology. But the green sector has yet to prove the breakout success that will give Europe its own version of Silicon Valley, while biotech has always been the saviour that never quite seems to arrive. After the dotcom crash at the start of this century, biotechnology was looked to expectantly, especially in the UK, as the next big thing. In America, meanwhile, graduates from Stanford and drop-outs from Harvard were quietly getting on with building Google, Facebook and Twitter.
The impressive lead in mobile communications that Europe once held over the rest of the world was created by the European Union. In the 1980s, when wireless communications went mass-market, America’s Motorola vied with Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson for dominance of the nascent global market. Europe’s players were handed the advantage when the EU officially adopted and set aside specific wireless spectrum for a digital mobile technology called GSM.
The first networks appeared in 1991 and overnight the European technology players that had helped create the standard had a huge market. Seeing its success, other countries soon adopted GSM, expanding the market for Ericsson, Nokia and others throughout the 1990s. Even America’s largest network, Verizon Wireless, is switching to the super-fast version of GSM later this year. So where did it all go wrong?
“As soon as the mobile business opened itself up in such a way that internet technology could become available on mobile networks, that was the end,” according to Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media. “Maybe Europe had a chance but it blew it, in my view, because there are too many sets of interests, each so obsessed with their own sphere of influence that they could not co-operate.
“You had operators and device manufacturers never pulling in the same direction, and I cannot see any way in which Europe can regain the ascendancy. Essentially the future of communication services is that people want access to the cloud of services called the internet.”
The industry did see it coming. It tried several times to create a mobile internet that was not going to be beholden to the American giants. In the late 1990s, a pared-down wireless internet service called WAP was being pushed by several GSM operators. Customers, many of whom were used to dial-up internet access, were unconvinced and soon started summing up the service by replacing the “w” with “cr”.
A few years later, O2 tried to create its own mobile web by importing the i-mode standard from Japan. Again, it was a dire failure. When the “true” web started turning up on the next generation of 3G phones, the operators tried to keep their customers within “walled gardens” – as they were called – creating content portals that offered customers what the operator thought was the best of the web. Usage was paltry. Having spent billions buying licences to run 3G services, the operators had to prove to investors that there was consumer appetite for mobile internet services, so they demolished their garden walls.
Ironically, the operators’ initial intransigence over the mobile web brought both Apple and Google into the industry. The former saw a way of bringing the vertically integrated approach that had worked so well in music – where it controls both the device, the iPod, and the store, iTunes – into the mobile market. The latter made its move because it feared that the combined effect of Apple and market leader Nokia could shut it out of the mobile internet altogether.
In fact, Google needn’t have worried about Nokia because the runaway success of the iPhone changed the game. The arrival of the 3G version of Apple’s device a year and a half ago dramatically altered the mobile industry and proved that consumers, given the right device, will do much, much more than use their phone to make calls and send texts.
Nokia is still the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world. But the Finnish giant, a former rubber boot manufacturer whose success created hundreds of millionaires and helped pull the country out of recession when the Soviet Union collapsed, has been sideswiped by the success of Apple and the encroachment of Google’s Android platform. It has been forced to make Symbian, its own software platform, free to developers and handset manufacturers, as Android is, and last month took the desperate decision to give users of its smartphones free access to its satnav services to make its devices as attractive as the iPhone. Only three years ago it spent €6.5bn on the map firm Navteq but it is now effectively giving that intellectual property away as it tries to protect its market share.
The crisis into which Nokia has been plunged by Apple has pushed it into bed with another American giant, Intel. The two companies will use Mobile World Congress to announce new microchips that Nokia hopes will help it to compete with HTC’s latest devices. Apple already has its own in-house chip design team, having bought fellow Californian company PA Semi two years ago.
Ericsson, meanwhile, spun its handset business into a joint venture with Sony. However, after initial success with ”featurephones” based on Sony’s Cybershot (camera) and Walkman (music)technologies, Sony Ericsson’s share of the billion-device-a-year market has collapsed under the onslaught of Apple and BlackBerry, halving from about 10% three years ago.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, says Olaf Swantee, who runs Orange’s mobile operations across Europe. He reckons that Europe’s big mobile phone operators, such as Orange, Vodafone and O2, have the opportunity to leverage their huge customer service bases to get themselves back into the game.
“Yes, the [US] west coast and Asia have really taken very strong positions,” he admits. “If you take equipment manufacturing, companies like Huawei have grown really strongly and we have seen traditional software manufacturers like Google and Apple enter the mobile market as it becomes a more software-driven environment. But, as the market moves to a more mature phase, what is becoming more and more important is the customer interface.”
The importance of direct customer contact, whether that be through shops or call centres, was proved this year when Google launched its Nexus One mobile phone. It sold it only through its website, and those customers who had problems with the phone had to email Google, rather than talk to its network partner, AT&T. Many found themselves waiting days for issues to be dealt with.
In the race to increase revenues – not least to pay for the network investment required to deal with the traffic generated by devices such as the iPhone – the mobile phone operators have the chance to claw back money from the likes of Apple and Google, which aggregate other people’s content through their iTunes and Android marketplace stores.
“Once the markets top out,” says Patrick Bossert, director of strategy at global billing services expert Convergys, “and growth slows and margins get tighter, then those aggregators will be looking to solutions for local-language customer care and marketing.
“They cannot afford to establish a base in every market in which they operate, but the service providers are already there. They may not have a lot of leverage now but, boy, do they have a lot of assets that are actually quite desirable.”
It’s a theme that the GSM Association, which represents all these networks, will be picking up this week as it tries to wrest some of the initiative back from Google and Apple.
“I don’t feel that we are being left behind, but there are areas that the mobile operators need to address,” says Michael O’Hara, the GSMA’s chief marketing officer. “And getting their assets into the developer world, finding a way to get into the value chain, is really key.”
Being great at customer service is hardly the white heat of technology, but for Europe it might just be the start of some sort of fightback. For now, though, the story is going to be – for home-grown talent, at least – depressingly familiar. As Informa’s Newman warns: “In 2010, Apple is going to make hay. I can’t see anyone catching them up this year.”
The group behind the world’s most popular smartphone operating system – Symbian – is giving away “billions of dollars” worth of code for free.
The Symbian Foundation’s announced that it would make its code open source in 2008 and has now completed the move. It means that any organisation or individual can now use and modify the platform’s underlying source code “for any purpose”. Symbian has shipped in more than 330m mobile phones, the foundation says.
It believes the move will attract new developers to work on the system and help speed up the pace of improvements. “This is the largest open source migration effort ever,” Lee Williams of the Symbian Foundation told BBC News. “It will increase rate of evolution and increase the rate of innovation of the platform.” Ian Fogg, principal analyst at Forrester research, said the move was about Symbian “transitioning from one business model to another” as well as trying to gain “momentum and mindshare” for software that had been overshadowed by the release of Apple’s iPhone and Google Android operating system.
Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia bought the software in 2008 and helped establish the non-profit Symbian Foundation to oversee its development and transition to open source. The foundation includes Nokia, AT&T, LG, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone. The group has now released what it calls the Symbian platform as open source code. This platform unites different elements of the Symbian operating system as well as components – in particular, user interfaces – developed by individual members.
Until now, Symbian’s source code was only open to members of the organisation. It can be downloaded from the foundation’s website from 1400 GMT. Mr Williams said that one of the motivations for the move was to speed up the rate at which the 10-year-old platform evolved. “When we chatted to companies who develop third party applications, we found people would spend up to nine months just trying to navigate the intellectual property,” he said.
“That was really hindering the rate of progress.” Opening up the platform would also improve security, he added.
Symbian development is currently dominated by Nokia, but the foundation hoped to reduce the firm’s input to “no more than 50%” by the middle of 2011, said Mr Williams. “We will see a dramatic shift in terms of who is contributing to the platform.” However, said Mr Williams, the foundation would monitor phones using the platform to ensure that they met with minimum standards. Despite being the world’s most popular smart phone operating system, Symbian has been losing the publicity battle, with Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iPhone dominating recent headlines. “Symbian desperately needs to regain mindshare at the moment,” said Mr Fogg.
“It’s useful for them to say Symbian is now open – Google has done very well out of that.” He also said that the software “may not be as open and free as an outsider might think”. “Almost all of the open source operating systems on mobile phones – Nokia’s Maemo, Google’s Android – typically have proprietary software in them.” For example, Android incorporates Google’s e-mail system Gmail. But Mr Williams denied the move to open source was a marketing move.
“The ideas we are executing ideas came 12-18 months before Android and before the launch of the original iPhone,” Mr Williams told BBC News