Archive for March, 2010

Nokia Buys Into Browsers

Nokia has agreed to buy privately-held U.S. mobile browser firm Novarra to improve Web surfing on a wide range of its low-end and mid-range phones.

Wireless Internet usage is set to surge in 2010 and beyond as operators and phone makers continue to play catchup with Apple’s iPhone, with many handset vendors are pinning their faith on their own browsers.

Novarra’s rivals, including Opera and Myriad are increasingly refocusing their efforts to sell browsers to telecoms operators, who have a key role in phone distribution on many large markets.

Nokia did not disclose the value of the deal for the company which employs more than 100 staff, adding it aims to close the deal in June quarter.

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Windows 7 Phones Support Flash 10.1

Adobe has confirmed that it is working with Microsoft to bring full Flash capabilities to forthcoming Windows Phone 7 Series devices. In a blog post this week, Mike Chambers, product manager for developer relations for the Flash Platform at Adobe, confirmed that “Adobe and Microsoft are working together to bring Flash Player 10.1 to Internet Explorer Mobile on Windows Phone 7 Series,” though he did not provide further details. Support for the full version of Flash is seen as a key advantage for smartphone vendors looking to compete with the iPhone as the Apple device does not support the technology, which is used by many websites. Google announced at the recent GSMA Mobile World Congress that its Android mobile operating system will also soon add support for Flash 10.1.

ChannelWeb notes that Microsoft is unlikely to use Flash for native application development and will prefer to use its own Silverlight technology. However, Flash will allow it to support many different types of content. “It seems like a smart strategy for Microsoft,” Dave Meeker, director of emerging media and co-director of Roundarch Labs, a web development firm, told ChannelWeb. “Consumers don’t care if it’s Flash, HTML5, or Silverlight. They want a good experience – bottom line.” The first phones running Windows Phone 7 Series will be on the market for Christmas 2010; major handset vendors such as Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson have pledged to support the platform.

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First Android App For Microsoft

The BBC reports that Microsoft has developed its first application for Google’s Android platform. Called Tag, the free software uses a handset’s camera to turn it into a mobile barcode reader, enabling barcodes to effectively become coupons that link people to websites, pass on information or give visitors a discount in an online store.

Microsoft’s move may seem odd in light of the fact it has its own mobile platform that is struggling to compete with rivals. Indeed, last month the company announced the planned launch later this year of Windows Phone 7 Series, regarded by analysts as Microsoft’s last opportunity to remain a major player in the mobile operating system space. However, Microsoft has already made the Tag application available on the iPhone, BlackBerry and Symbian handsets, as well as, of course, on Windows phones. The BBC report notes that Microsoft’s Android launch is made against a background of greater co-operation among operators on phone software. Last month at least 24 of the world’s largest mobile operators announced an agreement to create an open international applications platform, regarded by many as a move by operators to wrest control of the lucrative apps market away from software firms and phone makers.

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Online Reading Is More Popular Than Newspapers

Online news has become more popular than reading newspapers in the US, according to a survey.

It is the third most popular form of news, behind local and national TV stations, the Pew Research Center said.

“News awareness is becoming an anytime, anywhere, any device activity for those who want to stay informed,” it said.

Newspapers in the US and UK have been going through financial difficulties, leading many to examine charging for their news online.

The survey showed that news aggregators such as Google News and AOL were most commonly used, along with the websites of CNN and the BBC.

Changing habits

Sixty-one per cent of readers surveyed said they got their news online on a typical day, compared with 78% from local news channels and 71% from a national TV network such as NBC or cable channels such as CNN or Fox News.

Fifty-four per cent said they listened to radio news programmes at home or in the car.

More than 90% use more than one method to get news, and 57% consult between two and five websites as part of their newsgathering, the survey found.

The last print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was sold in March
“Americans have become news grazers both on and offline – but within limits,” said Amy Mitchell, deputy director for the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

“They generally don’t have one favourite website but also don’t search aimlessly. Most online news consumers regularly draw on just a handful of different sites.”

Regular readers of newspapers – either local ones or national papers such as the New York Times – have dropped to 50%, the survey said.

Newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic have been going through difficult times as advertising slows and more readers migrate to the internet.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was among many that closed last year, while the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle have gone through huge job cuts.

In 2009, the Daily Mail and General Trust cut 1,000 jobs at its regional arm Northcliffe Media, which publishes more than 100 newspapers in England and Wales.

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corp, also shut down the London Paper and announced that his group of papers will charge for online news.

The group owns the Sun, the Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, as well as Fox and Sky brands.

Mr Murdoch has accused firms such as Google of profiting from journalism by generating advertising revenue by linking readers to newspaper articles.

The New York Times will also charge for access to the website by 2011.

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Android & iPhone Growth Better Than Windows & BlackBerry

Android and Apple’s iPhone OS were the fastest-growing smartphone platforms in 2009, with sales of the iPhone OS overtaking those of Windows Mobile, research company Gartner said. Symbian and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry still lead the market, it said.

Worldwide sales of smartphones running Symbian totaled 80.9 million in 2009, up from 72.9 million a year earlier. Because total smartphone sales grew faster, to 172.4 million from 139.3 million a year earlier, Symbian’s market share declined to 46.9 percent, Gartner said. Second-place RIM’s market share rose to 19.9 percent from 16.6 percent in 2008.

Apple’s smartphone OS took third place. Apple sold 24.9 million iPhones in 2009, compared to 11.4 million in 2008, taking its share of the market to 14.4 percent.

Microsoft’s smartphone OS dropped to the fourth spot as its market share fell from 11.8 percent to 8.7 percent, and sales dropped by about 1.5 million phones. The launch of a new version, Windows Phones 7 Series, appears to make it a more competitive platform, but as phones based on the rewritten OS won’t show up until late this year, sales will continue to struggle during most of 2010, according to Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Linux, in which Gartner includes LiMo but excludes Android, also continues to struggle in the smartphone market. Its share dropped from 7.6 percent to 4.7 percent in 2009.

Android was only the sixth largest smartphone platform in 2009, with a market share of 3.9 percent. However, that looks likely to change soon. Android phone sales really started to pick up during the fourth quarter. Four million out of a total 6.8 million units were sold during the last three months of 2009. Sixty-nine percent of those were sold in North America, driven by Verizon Wireless’s promotion of the Motorola Droid, Cozza said.

Palm’s WebOS is a newcomer on Gartner’s list in seventh place, with a 0.7 percent market share.

While the smartphone market is booming, total worldwide mobile phone sales of 1.2 billion units were down about 1 percent compared to 2008, according to Gartner.

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Europe Limits Online Surfing For Phone Users

Mobile phone operators must now limit how much they charge customers for using the Internet within the European Union, after new rules went into effect Monday.

Customers have until July 1 to set a maximum monthly cost with their network, and those who do not will by default have a euro50 ($68) limit set.

Networks will send a warning when customers use up 80 percent of their allotment. At the limit, they will be cut off.

The European Commission has pressed networks into slashing roaming charges, leading to a 35 percent drop in the average cell phone bill to about euro20 a month, according to EU data.

But until now the cost of online surfing had remained unchanged. The EU office noted that German traveler was billed euro46,000 after watching a TV show in 2009 while roaming online in France, and a British student was charged euro9,000 for a month’s roaming while studying abroad.

By setting a monthly Internet limit, the European Commission hopes that “the tendency for operators will be to bring the price of surfing the Web down,” EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said.

Neelie Kroes, the new EU digital issues commissioner, called the new measure a step in “building customers’ confidence to surf the Internet when traveling in Europe.”

Network operators can now charge each other no more than 1euro per megabyte for downloading. National telecoms regulators are responsible for enforcing the rules with mobile phone operators, and the EU commission will report on the issue by June 2011.

Arlene McCarthy, a British Labourite in the European Parliament who was instrumental in pushing through the roaming legislation, said “European consumers can now determine just how much they’re willing to spend on their mobile while they’re abroad.

“It’s a shame that despite the huge numbers of complaints, mobile operators dragged their feet and we have had to use the full force of the law to get consumers a fair deal on prices,” she added.

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