Rumor: Amazon to Launch 3 New Kindle Fire Models in 2012

Amazon launched the Kindle Fire to enter the booming tablet space in late 2011. The Kindle Fire has been a huge hit, selling millions of units, and is probably the most popular tablet after the Apple iPad.

According to a new report by a Taiwanese daily, Amazon may be planning to launch three new variants of the Kindle Fire in 2012. With the three new Kindle Fire models, it will target different segments of the market.

1. 7 inch Kindle Fire (1024 x 600 pixels)
2. 7 inch Kindle Fire (1280 x 800 pixels)
3. 8.9 inch Kindle Fire (1920 x 1200 pixels)

All three variants will likely have different hardware configurations as well. The low end 7 inch model will likely be priced at $199 and compete with cheap Android tablets, while the high end 8.9 inch one will compete with the iPad and premium Android tablets. All three variants will be assembled by Taiwanese manufacturers like Quanta.

Amazon will have to roll out a better budget tablet soon, if it wants to compete with the rumored Google Nexus tablet, which will supposedly be priced in the same range. It will likely price all these tablets as low as it can, and just barely break even, while making money by selling content on the tablets, like it always has.

Google I/O 2012 Completely Sold Out in 20 Minutes

Google I/O 2012, one of the most awaited developer conferences of the year, opened the doors for registration today, and has sold out completely in aroudn 20 minutes.

Vic Gundotra of Google confirmed this in a post on Google Plus:

Google I/O has officially sold out! It took just a bit over 20 minutes!

The Google I/O event had sold out completely in less than an hour last year. This year, it has sold out in around a third of that. The only other conference that could rival Google I/O in terms of developer frenzy would be the Apple WWDC.

Vic also added:

While we’re overwhelmed with the interest and enthusiasm around Google I/O, we know it can be very disappointing and frustrating when an event sells out this quickly.

So here is what we are going to do:

1) Keynote will be streamed live
2) All key sessions will be streamed live
3) All session videos will be available after 24 hours
4) Google I/O Extended viewing parties will be happening all over the world

One of the main reason why Google I/O sells out so quickly is because it gives away a lot of swag at the event, including free devices. At Google I/O 2011, it gave away a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to all attendees. In 2010, it distributed the HTC EVO 4G, and in 2009, it gave away the Google Ion smartphone. Since the value of the free devices is more than the price of registration, the event attracts a lot of scalpers who flood the event at the expense of developers.

Google I/O 2012 will be held from June 27 to June 29, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Attendees could possibly get the Nexus Tablet, which is rumored to be launched this year.


Angry Birds Maker Rovio Acquires FutureMark’s Gaming Division

After Zynga, it seems that Rovio may be the next big game developer to go on an acquisition spree. Zynga has been acquiring gaming studios and startups left, right and center, trying to maintain its scorching pace of growth. While Q4 2011 was good for Zynga in terms of new hits, it cannot continue to grow at the rate it has traditionally been growing at organically. It recently acquired OMGPOP, the maker of the surprise hit – Draw Something – for $210 million.

Rovio seems to have hit the same roadblock in terms of growth. It doesn’t have any major titles to its name except the Angry Birds series. It recently launched Angry Birds Space, which has been a huge hit, rising to the top app charts across the board.

However, to continue launching hit games, it will also need to choose the acquisition route. It has acquired the gaming division of Futuremark. It seems to be a talent acquisition, and will enable Rovio to focus on advanced mobile games with better graphics – possibly targeting the iPhone, the new iPad, and the new generation of Android phones.

Rovio had earlier acquired Kombo Animation Studio in 2011. The specifics of this deal weren’t revealed.

Zynga had tried to acquire Rovio earlier in 2011 for more than $2.25 billion, but was turned down. It seems like Rovio may become its greatest competitor on mobile.

Microsoft Aiming to Bring All Top Apps to Windows Phone

Despite having more than 70,000 apps, Microsoft’s Windows Phone is still far behind Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android in terms of sheer numbers. That is probably the biggest hurdle that Microsoft needs to cross, now that it seems to have figured the hardware conundrum, with its new focus on budget smartphones with Tango.

Microsoft has been surprisingly friendly to Windows Phone developers until now, and apparently has plans to become even more friendly, to attract more of them to its platform.

Nokia and Microsoft will be spending up to $12 million each to fund a new program called AppCampus at Aalto University in Finland. They will fund app developers who build apps for Windows Phone, as well as other Nokia platforms.

More details about Microsoft’s plans to address the lack of top apps were revealed in some leaked slides today. Apparently, Microsoft plans to set aside $10 million and use it to “ring-fence” top iOS and Android app developers who aren’t currently building for Windows Phone. Even if Microsoft isn’t able to match the numbers of iOS or Android, if it is able to get the top apps to Windows Phone, that might do it for most users. It also plans to reduce average app pricing to bring it in line with other platforms, and try to offer more exclusive titles on Windows Phone.

Microsoft plans to bridge the gap in terms of top apps by Q2 2012. We should know how it works out in the next three months.

Asus Wants to Be the Top Tablet Maker… After Apple

Samsung is currently the top Android tablet maker, thanks to its assortment of Galaxy tablets of various hardware configurations and sizes. However, Asus is aiming to become the top non-Apple tablet maker.

Asus has seen some amount of success with the Transformer and Transformer Prime tablets, which have been appreciated for their innovative form factors. It is rumored to be the manufacturer of the upcoming Google Nexus tablet, which will be a budget Android tablet priced at $149 to $199.

With the Nexus tablet, Google plans to regain control of budget tablet market, which is currently dominated by Amazon and Chinese tablet manufacturers who don’t use Google’s official version of Android, contributing to further Android fragmentation.

While Apple dominates the tablet market by a huge margin, there is no other competitor with a significant market share. With the Nexus tablet and Google’s backing, Asus has a good chance of becoming the #2 tablet maker globally.

Microsoft also plans to launch Windows 8 by summer 2012, with devices launching starting October 2012. It will probably compete with Apple in the premium tablet segment, as there is unlikely that any manufacturer will launch $200 Windows 8 tablets, at least initially.

It’s interesting how most tablet makers are realistically aiming for the number two spot in the tablet market. With Apple’s brilliant operational setup and economy of scale, it is almost impossible to beat it on price while offering a tablet nearly as good as the iPad, even if they sacrifice Apple’s generous profit margin.

Facebook Buys 750 Patents from IBM to Fight Yahoo & Other Patent Trolls

Yahoo recently sued Facebook for patent infringement over some ridiculous patents which shouldn’t have been issued in the first place, and was apparently expecting Facebook to approach it for a settlement instead of duking it out in the courts during its quiet period before the IPO.

After Yahoo, Facebook was hit with lawsuits by a Canadian IT company – Mitel – and even AOL was speculated to be going after Facebook with a revised patent application.

However, instead of starting talks for a settlement, Facebook has gone on the offensive itself. It has bought around 750 patents from IBM for an undisclosed amount, presumably to defend itself from litigation by Yahoo and other patent trolls. Instead of licensing patents from them for a fee, it will now look to cross license its newly acquired patents to them.

Facebook now has over 800 patents – 56 of its own, and the 750 it acquired from IBM. It also has 503 pending patent applications. It is good to see Facebook fighting back against these bullies, but other startups who are not as deep-pocketed as Facebook may not be able to. That is precisely why the patent system in the U.S. needs to rebuilt from scratch.

Update: Apparently, Yahoo has a license to many of IBM’s 750 patents, but the exact terms of licensing are not known.

Windows Phone Marketplace Passes 70,000 Apps

Windows Phone may have had a slow start, but it seems to be gaining traction lately. While it’s still far behind Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, Windows Phone has seen some substantial developer love in the last few months.

The total app count in the Windows Phone Marketplace is now up to 70,000 apps, according to stats by WP7AppList. It hit the 50,000 app mark in December 2011 and the 60,000 app mark in January. Windows Phone Marketplace now has over 18,000 approved developers. Apple’s iOS App Store passed the 500,000 apps mark almost a year ago, while Google hit the 500,000 apps milestone in October 2011.

Microsoft has been getting quite aggressive with Windows Phone lately. It recently officially launched in China, and is targeting the budget segment there with cheaper smartphones powered by Windows Phone Tango. It hopes to beat Apple in China, and eventually overtake Android to become the number one smartphone platform.

Though Windows Phone has been lauded for its innovative interface, all that praise hasn’t translated into as many sales, despite being backed by most of the top smartphone manufacturers like Nokia, Samsung, HTC and LG.

It is trying hard to fight the fragmentation problem that has plagued Android. Hopefully, it will become one of the top three smartphone platforms in the next couple of years.

Samsung GT-i9300 Images Leaked; Is It the Galaxy S III?

As the expected launch date of the successor to the Galaxy S II nears, rumors about the device have reached a fever pitch. We have already seen 3 leaked images of the supposed Samsung Galaxy S III.

Here are some new leaked images of the Samsung GT-i9300. The code name of the Galaxy S II was GT-i9100, so the GT-i9300 could be the Galaxy S III.

It seems to have a 4.7 inch display, and doesn’t have any hardware buttons. It runs what looks like Android Ice Cream Sandwich with TouchWiz. In this device, the Samsung logo is also below the display, instead of the top.

While it definitely seems like one of Samsung’s new upcoming devices, it may not be the Galaxy S III. Details of a GT-i9500 have also been leaked before, so it is possible that this may be a completely different device.

Until Samsung officially launches the device, we have no option but to wait and watch.

The Samsung Galaxy S III is expected to sport a 4.7 inch Super AMOLED Plus HD display, a 12 MP camera with 1080p HD video recording support and will be powered by a quad core Exynos processor clocked at 1.5 GHz and 1 GB of RAM. It will likely be the best Android smartphone of 2012.

Samsung GT-i9300

Rumor: Apple iPhone 5 to Sport 4.6 inch Retina Display

OK, here’s a new rumor for you – the next iPhone will sport a 4.6 inch Retina display, according to a South Korean media outlet.

While the Retina display part is a no brainer, I’m skeptical about the part which says that the iPhone 5 will have a 4.6 inch display. Apple had specifically said that it wouldn’t be competing on display size, as 3.5 inches was the optimum size for one-handed use in touchscreen displays.

Apple’s displays are supplied by Samsung and LG’s display units, but they haven’t commented on the rumor. According to the report, Apple has already placed orders for the larger display from its suppliers.

While Android smartphones have seen display sizes increase every year, Apple has stuck to its original 3.5 inch display size for every version of the iPhone, including the latest iPhone 4S.

The flagship Galaxy Nexus by Google and Samsung has a 4.65 inch display, while the Galaxy Note has a 5.3 inch display.

The report also suggests that Apple will be launching the new iPhone in Q2 2012, which is unlikely, as the iPhone 4S was launched only in late 2011.

I, for one, would prefer a larger display than the iPhone’s. So far, there have been rumors that the next iPhone would have a 4 inch display, which is much more plausible than this new one.

Google May Not Be Able to Pay a Dividend Even If It Wanted To

Now that Apple has finally caved in to the demands of some of its investors and announced a dividend and share repurchase policy, many analysts are expecting Google to follow suit. Google is one of the few other tech companies which has massive cash reserves, but hasn’t issued a dividend yet.

Google had close to $45 billion in cash and cash equivalents as of December 31, 2011. It may also be the right time for it to dole out some dividends, if only for the positive sentiment associated with it – Apple’s stock rose after it announced the dividend.

However, Google may not be in as good a position as Apple to pay out dividends even if it wanted to. Here’s why:

1. Like Apple, most of its cash is trapped overseas. So, Google can’t bring it back without a huge tax bill which would eat into a significant portion of it.

2. It has yet to pay out $12.5 billion for Motorola.

3. It is currently involved in a lot of litigation related to Android, which may lead to substantial payouts.

An analyst stated that after accounting for all these factors, Google would probably have only about $3.5 billion left in net U.S. cash reserves, which is why it cannot really pay out a dividend right now.