Rumor: Apple to Launch iPod Touch with 3G in September

A very interesting rumor about the new version of the iPod Touch is working its way through the tech media right now. Apparently, a Dutch blog, Applespot, has reported that Apple might be working on 3G version of the iPod Touch.

According to their sources, Apple’s new iPod Touch 3G will launch in September, and it will work just like the iPhone. You can buy a 3G data plan from your ISP and insert the SIM card into the iPod Touch. It will, obviously, not support voice calling, since then it would be exactly the same as the iPhone.

Apple iPod Touch

While the source of the rumor isn’t very credible, I wouldn’t be very surprised if this did turn out to be true. Like the iPad, the iPod Touch could also have a 3G version. It’s only the logical next step for Apple, but what I’m worried about is, how it might affect iPhone sales.

Since the iPod Touch is substantially cheaper than the iPhone, launching a 3G version of the iPod Touch might actually cannibalize Apple’s iPhone sales. Using apps like Skype for VOIP calls and iMessage for text messaging, it could very well function just like an iPhone. One thing’s for sure, the carriers will definitely be happy with the increased data usage, though they might lose some voice revenue.

If Apple does launch an iPod Touch with 3G, it could also double up as an inexpensive version of the iPhone, sans the voice calling. It might be just what Apple needs to capture more market share and fight off competitors like Android and Windows Phone 7.

Why Google+ Can’t Replace Your Blog

We all know how well Google+ has been received by the early adopters and geeks. Ever since Google made entry to the Google+ club exclusive, people have been clamoring to get invites. I, myself, have been using it since it launched and I really love it.

You can check out our reviews of Google+ here:

Everything+: How Google+ Changes (And Will Change) The Social Landscape

Google Plus After One Week: Can it Challenge Facebook?

Today, Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg, announced that he would be forwarding his personal blog to his Google+ profile.

Kevin Rose:“Decided to forward to my Google+. G+ gives me more (real-time) feedback and engagement than my blog ever did.”

While I agree that Google+ is an awesome service, and that it’s finally good to see a competitor to the almighty Facebook, moving your personal blog to Google+ is a very bad idea.

While it may be easier to maintain your Google+ account, and way cheaper (actually free), you still need your own personal space on the web.

Here’s why!

1. You won’t make any money off it

While you do save hosting and domain costs, you also cannot make any money off your Google+ account. Except maybe by doing paid status updates (which I’m sure will come soon), which is sure to piss off your circles.

2. Google WILL make money off it

This is what annoys me more. While you definitely won’t be able to make a dime off your Google+ profile, Google definitely will. Google has confirmed that it will be bringing ads to Google+. Like Facebook or Twitter, I don’t think they will be offering any cut to you for the visits you get them through your profile.

3. The novelty will wear off

While it’s still exclusive, everyone wants to get in. After a while, it might become boring. Most social networks die that way. They become uncool. It happened with Friendster, Myspace, Orkut and now as some are suggesting, Facebook. And once it does, you won’t see the same levels of ‘feedback’ or ‘engagement’ on your Google+ profile. In which case, you are screwed, because…

4. You might not be able to get off

Suppose, that Google+ doesn’t manage to make it. It may seem unlikely now, but it is a possibility. Once you have invested your energy in your Google+ account, you may have to migrate to some other platform, or maybe your own blog. Google may even offer you a way to export your posts, but how will you build up your link equity again? You will have to start from scratch again, which any blogger will tell you, is very difficult.

5. A blog is a blog

Twitter is great for sharing short updates, Facebook is great for stalking people, rearing virtual cows and building virtual farms, Google+ is great for compartmentalizing your friends into different circles, and selectively share content, but a blog is a blog. Nothing can ever replace your own blog. No social service, however cool it may be, can ever represent you on the web as well as your own personal blog can.

Besides you can always share your blog posts on Google+ to get more traffic from your circles if you want.

I think Danny Sullivan pretty much hits the nail on the head when he says: “With respect to +Kevin Rose, you should no more move your blog to Google+ than you should have to Geocities. Tap into social networks, use them to build your engagement, sure. But your own domain is for life. Google+ is not. Tomorrow, Google could close it, and while you can export your content, you cannot export all that link equity with it. Your posts will 404; that’s not engagement. That’s annoying. Being master of your own domain isn’t just a funny Seinfeld episode. It’s common sense, and it shouldn’t be forgotten the moment a new flavor of social media Kool-Aid comes along.”

Android Version Distribution Update: Gingerbread Gaining, Honeycomb Not So Much

The Android developers team at Google have updated the chart which shows the current distribution of the software being used in various Android devices. The data is collected from all the devices that access Android Market over a 14 day period, so it is a pretty accurate representation of the various versions of Android running on devices out there in the world. The recent figures offer some very interesting insights.

Android Versions Distribution

The Rise of Gingerbread

Android 2.3.3/2.3.4 Gingerbread, the latest version of Android for smartphones has gained significantly in market share. It’s now on almost 18% of all phones. The first version of Gingerbread – Android 2.3 – is on just 1% of all devices.

Froyo Still Dominates

Android 2.2 Froyo, by far the most popular version of the Android OS, still dominates in terms of market share. It has nearly 60% market share, and still ships on some phones.

Ancient History

The very primitive versions of Android – Android 1.5 and Android 1.6 now run on about 3-4% of all devices. These are probably devices which cannot be upgraded to later versions due to hardware restrictions.

Android 2.1 is still on nearly 17% of all Android phones. Presumably, these are either budget phones which cannot be upgraded due to hardware issues, or those which have been discontinued by the manufacturer.

So, How’s Honeycomb Doing?

Finally, we come to the elephant in the room. The question on everyone’s mind in the last few months has been: how is Android doing on tablets?

Well, from these figures, it doesn’t look like it has been doing very well. Android 3.0 and Android 3.1 have a combined share of less than 1% of all Android devices. More Android devices still run Android 1.5 than Android 3.0 or 3.1.

What Google Needs to Do

Well, Google is trying hard to ensure that it releases new updates to Android frequently, and gets them pushed to devices as soon as possible. However, since most manufacturers use a custom UI over the Android OS, they take a lot of time passing on those updates to users. The situation is improving slowly, but there is still a lot of work to be done, both by Google and its hardware partners, to ensure that the update process is seamless and rapid.

Apple and Amazon Expect to Sell Most Tablets in Q3 2011

Apple iPadSo the third quarter of 2011 has already started, and it seems that the folks at Digitimes have gotten their hands on some really interesting data. In a post today, they have posted a list of the supply volume of tablets by all major manufacturers. Since most of the tablets are now manufactured in Taiwan and China, this could be quite an accurate indicator of the total tablet production by these companies.

According to the list, Apple, obviously, is the most optimistic about its tablet – the iPad. It has ordered close to 14-15 million iPad units from its hardware partners. The total orders are close to 22 million, so iPad production volumes will be close to 65-70% of the entire tablet market.

After Apple, the second largest order for tablets was given by Amazon. As we already know, rumors are that Amazon is planning to launch its own Android powered tablet by August 2011. Following the success of the Kindle, they seem to be quite optimistic about their tablet prospects. They have ordered close to 1.2 million units from their supply partners.

Every other Android tablet manufacturer, including Acer, Asus and Samsung has ordered between 750,000 and 900,000 units. HP and RIM have also ordered around the same number of their tablets – the TouchPad and the Playbook.

HTC, Motorola and Dell don’t seem very optimistic about the sales of their tablets. They have ordered less than 400,000 tablets each.

I was expecting Samsung to order much more, considering that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is currently the best Android Honeycomb tablet around. If Amazon can replicate the success of the Kindle in the tablet space, which seems very likely, it will have a much larger order in the next quarter.

LG Cuts Down Smartphone Sales Target by 20%

LG hasn’t seen much success with its Android smartphones, except for a few moderately successful ones like the dual core LG Optimus 2X or the budget LG Optimus One. It is, however, one of the largest phone manufacturers in the world.

Compared to LG, other manufacturers including Samsung and HTC have been successful in creating really popular devices like the Samsung Galaxy S, Galaxy S 2 and the HTC Sensation. The Samsung Galaxy 2 recently broke records by selling more than 3 million devices in 55 days.

Since LG doesn’t offer its smartphones at a significantly lower price point than Samsung or HTC, it hasn’t been able to attract customers from their camps.

Today, Park Jong Seok, the head of LG’s mobile business stated that LG expects to sell 24 million smartphones this year. This estimate is down 20% from the original estimate of 30 million units.

LG’s mobile phone division isn’t even breaking even right now; it had a $94 million operating loss in the first quarter of 2011. They don’t expect the mobile division to turn profitable in the second quarter as well.

Consumers are flocking to Samsung and Apple’s flagship devices – the Galaxy S 2 and the iPhone 4. LG recently launched the LG Optimus 3D, but it was overshadowed by the Samsung Galaxy S 2 soon after its launch.

LG is apparently working on a new device which will sport a 4.5 inch HD display. It may also launch the LG Optimus Pad in some international markets soon.

I wouldn’t be very bullish about LG’s prospects right now.

How Mark Zuckerberg Acq-Hires Startup Talent and Attracts Rockstar Employees

The Backstory

The battle for developer talent is raging on in Silicon Valley. The average salary of an engineer in Silicon Valley has jumped up by almost 50-60% in the last couple of years. Everyone, ranging from biggies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple, and successful startups like Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and Groupon are on a hiring spree.

Despite offering a very high salary, and bucket loads of equity options, they are still not able to hire all the talent they want. Many of the rockstar developers which Google and Facebook want to hire are working on their own startups. In an economic environment where getting millions of dollars in funding with just an idea and an iPhone app prototype has become quite easy, they would be foolish not to.

Yet, Facebook has been quite successful in attracting top talent and convincing them to work at Facebook. I always wondered how Zuck convinced all these startup founders and rockstars to join Facebook, instead of working on the next potential Facebook or Groupon.

Today, thanks to this article in the NYTimes by Nick Bilton, I now know. Apparently, all it takes is a walk in the woods with Mark Zuckerberg.

The Process

Normally, the hiring process comprises of an online application, multiple interviews and sessions with Facebook employees. But a “handful of rock-star engineers and designers get to leapfrog that entire process.”

“Several people who have been courted by Mr. Zuckerberg told the same story. The 27-year-old chief executive surprises them with the idea of a walk through the woods. A little startled by the invite, people often agree, and are then led across the Facebook parking lot where they eventually end up hiking along a trail that reaches a Silicon Valley lookout. This is where Mr. Zuckerberg delivers his pitch.”

Since Facebook is flush with cash, it can much higher than the standard compensation for the top talent. It also has employee stock options to offer, which will be worth more than their weight in gold, when it finally does have its IPO.

To add to that, Zuckerberg also delivers a very convincing pitch.

The Pitch

“Zuckerberg said money wasn’t an object and that if I wanted the job — and why wouldn’t I, he questioned — the paperwork was already ready to go back at the office,said the person who ran a small start-up Mr. Zuckerberg was trying acquire. The entire experience was totally surreal. I really felt like I was on a date. He pointed out Apple’s headquarters, then Hewlett-Packard and a number of other big tech companies,the individual explained. Then he pointed to Facebook and said that it would eventually be bigger than all of the companies he had just mentioned, and that if I joined the company, I could be a part of it all.

After all that courting, who wouldn’t want to join Facebook. Except the next Mark Zuckerbergs, of course.

Apple App Store Now Boasts of 425,000 Apps and Over 15 Billion Downloads

Apple App StoreApple officially announced some statistics about the App Store today. In a press release, it revealed that over 15 billion apps and games have been downloaded from the App Store. The App Store now houses over 425,000 apps, the largest collection of apps in the world, on any platform.

Even the iPad has been a huge hit with developers, with over 100,000 native iPad apps now available. Other tablet platforms like Android, Blackberry QNX and webOS only have a couple hundred apps each.

“In just three years, the revolutionary App Store has grown to become the most exciting and successful software marketplace the world has ever seen,said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. Thank you to all of our amazing developers who have filled it with over 425,000 of the coolest apps and to our over 200 million iOS users for surpassing 15 billion downloads.”

Apple also announced that it had paid out over $2.5 billion to its developers to date. Since it has a 30% cut, this would mean that apps worth about $3.6 billion have been sold to date.

The App Store has been instrumental in making millionaires out of many developers. Many funds like the iFund have been launched by leading VC firms, in order to capitalize on the popularity of iOS apps.

The App Store has revolutionized the way in which applications are delivered. Almost every major smartphone and tablet platform now comes with an application store. Even the Mac OS now has an App Store, and Windows 8 is rumored to launch with one as well.

Apple to Launch Sprint iPhone by the End of 2011?

An analyst from Citadel Securities, Shing Yin, has sparked off rumors that Apple may be planning to launch an iPhone on Sprint-Nextel by the end of 2011.

With the iPhone already available on AT&T (which is in the process of buying T-Mobile) and Verizon, Sprint is the only major national carrier on which the iPhone isn’t present.

Offering an iPhone on Sprint could be a great way for Apple to stem the growth of Android and gain some additional market share. Since Sprint offers much cheaper service plans, as well as an unlimited data plan (unlike AT&T, or Verizon which recently announced that it would be offering only usage based data plans), it may become the carrier of choice for many iPhone users.

Sprint could offer an attractive proposition for more price-conscious users (a demographic that we think is increasingly important to Apple following the rise of Android) could be a relatively stronger seller than the Verizon iPhone. We believe Sprint could capture more than its fair share of iPhone sales, especially if it gets the new model at the same time as AT&T and Verizon.states Yin.

The next version of the iPhone – the iPhone 5 / 4S will probably launch on all three carriers – AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. With all the patent issues with Microsoft and Oracle, and now this, Android’s prospects aren’t looking so good.

Sony S1 and S2 Tablet Captured on Images and Video

Sony announced the new Sony S1 and S2 tablets powered by Android 3.1 Honeycomb back in April, but we hadn’t seen any actual images of those devices. Today, thanks to Notebook Italia, we have some close up shots of both the tablets – the Sony S1 and S2.

As we had posted earlier, the Sony S1 sports a very stylish curved design and comes with a 9.4 inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. It is powered by the Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset.

The Sony S2 comes with a dual display, like the Kyocera Echo, each measuring 5.5 inches. It has a resolution of 1024 x 480 pixels. Both the tablets are Playstation certified and will support all the new Playstation titles.

I don’t quite like the Sony S2, but the Sony S1 is very appealing. Anyway, here are some of the images of the Sony S1 and Sony S2 Android tablets:

Sony S1 S2 Android Tablets

Sony S1

Sony S2

And here’s the video of the Sony S1 and S2.

Android: Microsoft’s New Cash Cow

The Rise of Android

Android is, without doubt, one of Google’s greatest successes to date. Millions of Android devices have been sold until now, with over 500k Android devices activations happening daily. It is the number one smartphone OS in the world and it has the second largest application repository after the iPhone App Store; with over 300,000 apps and games in the Android Market. Android is also a large profit driver for Google now. Google is expected to make close to $1.3 billion dollars from mobile advertising revenue on Android devices in 2012.

Patent Wars!

In the most recent development relating to the patent wars between the major tech companies, Microsoft has asked Samsung to pay it $15 for every Android device it sells, as part of a patent licensing arrangement. Microsoft has been going after many Android device manufacturers and has been successful in getting royalty payments from companies like HTC, Onkyo, Wistron etc.

With Samsung being the number one Android phone manufacturer, that may amount to a huge figure. Samsung sold more than 3 million Galaxy S 2 units in the first 2 months itself, which means a $45 million payoff for Microsoft from one handset itself.

A Win for Microsoft

If Microsoft is able to coerce every Android manufacturer into such deals, assuming an average royalty of $10, it may make billions from its greatest nemesis in the mobile arena – Android. Such a scenario would be a win-win for Microsoft, as the only other viable option for device manufacturers except Android is its own product – Windows Phone 7. Whether manufacturers use Android or Windows Phone 7, Microsoft would be smiling all the way to the bank.

Google’s Troubles

Google’s troubles are only beginning. After losing the Nortel patent auctions, it still has only about 700 patents in its portfolio. With Oracle suing Google, demanding billions of dollars up front as well as 15% of all Android ad revenues, and Microsoft gunning for its hardware partners, Google is in a tough spot. Manufacturers may refrain from producing Android handsets and tablets if they fear litigation by giants like Microsoft and Oracle. Google is in a very vulnerable position, and it cannot defend its partners unless it builds up a huge patent portfolio. Microsoft, Apple, RIM and others are spending billions to ensure that it stays that way.

The biggest gainers might turn out to be Windows Phone 7. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Windows Phone 7 and iOS as the major players in the smartphone market in the next couple of years, with Android being relegated to the sidelines, however low the chances of that happening may seem now.