UPDATE, 11:39 AM: The event is over to introduce what Apple CEO Tim Cook simply calls “the new iPad.” It will be available March 16. The Wi-Fi only version with 16 GB of memory will cost $499, same as the iPad2 — and models that accommodate its new 4G LTE capability on Verizon or AT&T will start at $629. Add $100 to each price to move up to 32 GB and another C-note for 64 GB of memory. No word on how much data plans will cost. The iPad2 will continue to be sold — and for $100 less (i.e. $399 with 16 GB of memory).
The battery on the new iPad will run 10 hours, but 9 hours on 4G. Users can dictate text and commands. The company says it will have a sharp Retina Display, with 3.1M pixels — more than an HDTV. It also will have more power than the current iPad: it will run on an A5X quad core graphics processor. Execs talked up the iPad’s new power to create and manipulate photos. It will have a 5 mega-pixel iSight camera on back, with auto exposure, auto-focus, and face detection. It also can record video in HD and will have software stabilization. The iMovie application gets an update: users can create trailers in addition to movies. New iPhoto application allows users to edit images and transmit them directly to other devices. It will accommodate photos up to 19 mega-pixels. With a new journal feature, users can mix photos with text, maps, and calendars. CEO Tim Cook says the company has sold 15.4M iPads. “We set out to create not just a new product, but a new category.”
He also said that the company will revamp its Apple TV with a new user interface. The updated device will be available next week and cost $99. Also, movies and TV shows in the iTunes store will be available in 1080P HD quality. Users can re-download content. Read More »
Apple CEO Tim Cook vigorously defended his company today from charges that it has enabled the Chinese companies that produce iPhones, iPads and other products to mistreat workers with low pay, long hours, and unsafe conditions. “No one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple,” he told the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. “We care about every worker.” Although he says “the supply chain is complex” he adds that every worker has a right to competitive wages as well as fair and safe working conditions. “Apple suppliers must live up to this in order to do business with Apple,” he says. He added that hiring of children is “extremely rare in our supply chain, but our objective is to eliminate it totally.” He called use of child labor “a firing offense.” Apple also says it has found violations to its rule capping work at 60 hours a week but has begun to “manage working hours on a very micro basis….We can do better and we’re taking the unprecedented step of reporting this monthly on our website so its transparent.” Read More »
UPDATE, 3:05 PM: Everyone wants to know what’s up with Apple’s plan to introduce its own TV set, but CEO Tim Cook offered no updates in a conference call with analysts. He’s still upbeat about the Apple TV box, which ports Internet video to TV sets, but refers to it as a “hobby.” He’s unconcerned about the growing competition to the iPad from new tablets. His view is that people who are interested in the iPad won’t settle for devices with fewer functions. Even the Amazon Kindle Fire, one of the hottest-selling electronic products this past holiday season, has had no “obvious impact” on iPad sales. Indeed, Cook says that the iPad probably cannibalizes more Windows PCs. On the iPhone 4S, Cook says that Apple “made a very bold bet as to what the demand would be, and we were short of supplies throughout the quarter.” He adds that the company is still short in some countries. “We could not be happier.” It was just introduced in China and “the demand there has been staggering.” The company expects fiscal 2Q revenues to come in at $32.5B with earnings of about $8.50 a share.
PREVIOUS, 1:40 PM: Shares are trading +7% after hours following an amazing report for the last three months of 2011: Apple revenues came in at $46.3B, up 73.3% vs the same period last year — and well ahead of the $38.9B that analysts expected. And the company had $13.1B in net income, up 117.6%. Here, too, the results at $13.87 a share were well ahead of the $10.08 consensus estimate. Read More »
Dish Network is looking to make a splash at this week’s 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — but one announcement, which leaked out prematurely, could raise the ire of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Tech trade publications Dealerscope and TWICE broke news embargos tied to Dish’s press conference later today regarding a multi-room DVR called Hopper: It will have three tuners and a huge storage capacity of 2 terabytes. Hopper will make it possible for users to stop watching a recoded show in one room and resume where they left off in another, reports blogger Dave Zatz, who saw a posting of the TWICE article before it was taken down, and Multichannel News, which caught the one yanked from Dealerscope. But it also includes a feature called Primetime Anytime that will automatically record primetime broadcasts from local stations for ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC and retain those shows for a week — in effect turning Hopper into into a catch-up VOD service. Broadcasters have been licensing catch-up rights to Hulu and cable VOD. The TWICE article also notes that Dish is dropping the word “Network” from its name as it focuses more on technology. Read More »
Amazon stoked the hype around its new Kindle Fire tablet by shipping it a day ahead of schedule, the company announced today. That’s a smart move: In addition to the extra PR and customer goodwill it generates, the decision gives the online retailer one more day to sell videos, music, and books that will “offset the weaker margins (or even losses)” it may see this quarter by selling the tablet below cost, Caris & Co analyst Scott Tilghman says. Research firm iSuppli estimates that Amazon spends about $210 to make each Kindle Fire that it sells for $199. No wonder the promotion machine is in high gear: Hulu Plus — which is available on the iPad and Barnes & Noble’s new Nook Tablet — today joined the parade of content companies crowing about their Kindle Fire apps. A Hulu Plus subscription costs $7.99 a month, and can be used on any device that accommodates it. Hulu’s “never-ending mission is to bring you the world’s premium content when, where and how you want,” senior product manager Lonn Lee says in a blog post. Read More »
A Texas state court issued a simple denial today of Time Warner Cable’s motion to dismiss the case that pits it against Viacom so it could be heard by a U.S. District Court in New York City. Viacom argued that the cable company wanted to muddy the issues in two distinct cases: The one in Texas involves Time Warner Cable’s claim that CMT isn’t delivering the kind of programming it promised in a 2004 carriage agreement. The other case, in New York, is about whether Time Warner Cable’s programming agreements with Viacom include the right to stream shows to customers’ iPads. In the CMT case, Time Warner Cable says that it agreed to carry a channel largely devoted to country music. But the music on CMT, it says, ”has been replaced almost entirely by movies and television series, which for the most part bear no relationship to country music.” Viacom counters that “overall programming approach and brand filtering has remained consistent.” Country music fans, it says, now prefer “a greater variety of programming” including non-music shows that have the “same types of values and stories” embodied by country music.
This is sure to chill all of the newspaper and magazine companies that thought subscribers would return to the fold once the content became available on the sexy mobile devices. The finding comes from the most detailed study yet of the 11% of the country that owns a tablet, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in collaboration with The Economist Group. They found that 53% use their tablets every day to catch up on the news — making that the second most popular activity after Web surfing (67%). Tablet news fans like to check out different sources, including many they never look at on TV or their PCs. And it isn’t just for headlines; 42% say that they read long news articles or analyses. But only 21% say they’d be willing to pay as much as $5 a month for news on their tablets. That jibes with other data showing that 14% say that they’ve paid directly for news on their tablets, although 23% have subscriptions to newspapers or magazines that include digital access. For the most part, owners use the portable screens as a substitute for the news that they used to track on their PCs or laptops — but nearly six in 10 also use their tablets as a substitute for newspapers, magazines, and TV newscasts.
Talk about raining on Apple’s parade. America’s favorite tech company seemed ready for another great news day today: It says that it sold more than 4M new iPhone 4S’ this past weekend in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the UK. Not a bad follow-up to Friday, when Apple shares hit their highest-ever price — $422.00 — and a promising lead-in to tomorrow, when Apple’s expected to announce a big increase in 3Q revenues and profits. But before you become too giddy, consider what BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis says today in a report downgrading Apple to “hold” from “buy.” Following the 31% increase in the company’s stock price in 2011, “the company has to constantly set records just to meet expectations.” And he says investors may be disappointed tomorrow. iPhone sales in 3Q will reflect “a phone that was at the end of its refresh cycle, not the start of a new one — as has been the case in September quarters in the years past.” Read More »
HBO plays a bigger role than you might imagine in Apple’s negotiations with Hollywood to offer recent movies via the iTunes Store and its new iCloud service to devices such as the iPhone and iPad. HBO’s deals with studios including Warner, Fox, and Universal give it the exclusive right to digitally distribute their films during the premium TV window. (Others such as Starz have similar rights.) That’s been an issue for the new UltraViolet cloud initiative backed by most major studios and consumer electronics companies. Except Disney and Apple: UltraViolet is designed to reinvigorate home video sales by giving people who buy certain DVDs and Blu-ray discs the right to access their movies from the Internet cloud.
Warner Bros had to restructure its deal with corporate cousin HBO to clear the way for this week’s first UltraViolet release, Horrible Bosses. But Apple’s now talking to studios to secure the right to offer movies at the iTunes Store that can be accessed via the iCloud service — which was launched on Wednesday. That poses two challenges to Time Warner: The company has lot invested in UltraViolet as it reintroduces its web site Flixster as a user-friendly gateway for films stored in those digital lockers. And HBO is making a big push to promote its HBO Go digital streaming service. So keep an eye on Time Warner and HBO: The fate of their initiatives, as well as iCloud, will be shaped by the positions they take … Read More »
UPDATE: The question about whether Apple devices can show UltraViolet films is complicated, it seems. The folks at Warner Bros say that iPhones and iPads can handle them – but not through the traditional channel, the iTunes Store. Users must download an app to also register with Flixster, a site that Time Warner owns. Movies can be streamed, but not downloaded yet. Sony’s likely to have a similar work-around for its Dec. 2 release of UltraViolet-enabled Blu-ray discs for Friends With Benefits and The Smurfs.
PREVIOUS, 10:50 AM: There’s still a fair amount of skepticism about the entertainment industry’s long-awaited UltraViolet program today as it kicks off with Warner Bros’ home video release of Horrible Bosses — to be followed on Friday by The Green Lantern. The DVD and Blu-ray versions of Bosses will be first that make it possible for buyers to watch it on mobile devices from UltraViolet’s Internet cloud. Studios and consumer electronics companies have a lot at stake in promoting the “buy once, play anywhere” concept. It’s part of a process to slow the stomach-churning decline in home video sales. Consumers will spend about $16.9B on home video this year, down from $24.4B in 2004, SNL Kagan says. If UltraViolet catches on, then it also could give studios a lot of flexibility to control the way their films are presented and handled as consumers begin to abandon discs and just rely on digital streams and downloads.
The problem? UltraViolet movies won’t play on Apple gadgets such as the iPhone and iPad. The initiative also won’t include movies from Disney, which is preparing its own cloud-based system called Disney Studio All Access. “Not only is the ecosystem not fully launched, with a common downloadable file format a ways off, but there has been no consumer education on the technological transition from a pre-UV world to the new UV ecosystem,” BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says. Read More »
Hollywood And Amazon’s New ‘Kindle Fire’
A few surprises this morning in Amazon’s release of its Kindle Fire tablet. The bad news: It’s Wi-Fi only, which means you can’t download content when you’re away from a hot spot. Other tablets, including Apple’s iPad, can handle wireless 3G connections. But Amazon says it will offer free cloud storage for content bought from Amazon. The company also will deploy its Whispersync technology for movies and TV shows: If you’re watching a video on your Kindle and are interrupted in the middle, you can pick up where you left off later on another device including the TV set. The Kindle Fire will have a 7-inch screen and cost $199 beginning Nov. 15 when it goes on sale. The company also announced new, low-priced versions of the Kindle e-reader. Here’s the release:
SEATTLE, Sep 28, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — (NASDAQ: AMZN)–Millions of people are already reading on Kindles and Kindle is the bestselling e-reader in the world for four years running. Today, Amazon is excited to introduce an all-new Kindle family: three all-new Kindle e-readers that are smaller, lighter, and more affordable than ever before, and Kindle Fire – a new class of Kindle that brings the same ease-of-use and deep integration of content that helped Kindle re-invent reading – to movies, TV shows, music, magazines, apps, books, games, and more.
“We’ve now reached the magical two-digit price point for Kindle – twice: the new Kindle and Kindle Touch are only $79 and $99. Kindle Touch 3G is the new top of the line e-reader with free 3G – no monthly fees or annual contracts – and is only $149,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. “Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we’ve been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single, fully-integrated service for customers. With Kindle Fire, you have instant access to all the content, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, the convenience of Amazon Whispersync, our revolutionary cloud-accelerated web browser, the speed and power of a state-of-the-art dual-core processor, a vibrant touch display with 16 million colors in high resolution, and a light 14.6 ounce design that’s easy to hold with one hand – all for only $199. We’re offering premium products, and we’re doing it at non-premium prices.”
Read More »
Howard Stringer: Sony Will Overtake The iPad With Content
A rival has revolutionized the mobile computer industry and Sony hasn’t had a device catch on big with consumers in years. But worried? Not Sony, not if you believe CEO Howard Stringer. “Yes, yes, Apple makes an iPad, but does it make a movie?” he said at a Berlin electronics show today. “We will prove that it’s not who makes the tablet first who counts but who makes it better.” Stringer unveiled its two tablet models, priced at $599 and $499, about the same price as an Apple 2. But analysts and technology reviewers’ first impresssions were largely negative. Also today, Sony announced in Tokyo that it will merge its liquid-crystal display manufacturing efforts with Toshiba and Hitachi and use $2.6B of government-backed funds to fend off competitors in Korea and Taiwan. The merged entity will be the world’s largest maker of the LCD panels used in smartphones and tablet PCs.
‘The Kennedys’ Takes Acting Prizes At Canada’s Geminis
It may have struggled to find a buyer in the U.S. and drawn fire from both ends of the political spectrum, but the controversial miniseries The Kennedys was a winner tonight in Toronto at the Gemini Awards, Canada’s top TV honors. Barry Pepper won for lead actor for his role as Bobby Kennedy and Diana Hardcastle won supporting actress for her role as matriarch Rose Kennedy. The Pillars of the Earth was named the top TV movie or mini. The Jason Priestly comedy Call Me Fitz won for direction (Scott Smith), supporting actor (Ernie Grunwald), supporting actress (Rachel Blanchard) and writing (Pat Bullard).
Hulu Rolls Out Subscription Video Service In Japan
Streaming entertainment site Hulu is on the auction block, but that isn’t stopping it from making its first international foray. The company said today that Japanese audiences are “passionate about premium video content” and that the country is a “major producer of world-class TV and feature films.” Japan’s extensive broadband coverage and Read More »
The effort is still in “an R&D stage,” Matt O’Grady, Nielsen’s executive vice president of media audience measurement, cautioned. “Right now, iPad streaming is not having an impact on ratings,” O’Grady said. “But we’re taking [the project] dead seriously because our clients need to know what the viewing is on tablet and smart phone platforms.” Progress in measuring iPad viewership could help the two cable operators make peace with Viacom, which sued the two firms in April for breach of contract, in part over its Comedy Central and MTV content going out via the apps. Programmers say the apps violate their current distribution deals; the operators say they fall within their carriage deals. This is of tremendous significance because Viacom relies on Nielsen ratings to sell advertising time on its networks, and the greater the audience size, the greater the market value of the advertising time,” Viacom said in the original suit. “In June, the Viacom suspended the litigation with Cablevision in hopes of reaching an out-of-court compromise — which was reached and announced last week. TWC’s most recent numbers indicate its iPad has has been downloaded more than 600,000 times since its release in March. Cablevision’s Optimum App for iPad has been downloaded 200,000 times since bowing in April, according to the company.
Viacom sued Cablevision Systems today an an effort to remove its channels from the cable company’s TV Everywhere digital transmissions. Viacom told the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that Cablevision only has the right to offer services including MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central on cable TV. ”Over the last few months, we have had limited and unproductive discussions with Cablevision about licensing iPad rights,” Viacom says. ”We remain open to productive discussions, but we cannot wait indefinitely while our networks are being distributed without permission.”
Cablevision says that its iPad app “falls within our existing cable television licensing agreements with programmers – including Viacom. It is cable television service on the iPad, which functions as a television, and is delivered securely to our customers in the home on Cablevision’s own proprietary network.”
Viacom filed a similar suit against Time Warner Cable. But yesterday, the companies told the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that they had reached a standstill agreement, putting the case on hold while they try to work out a settlement.