Google Moves to Ban Apple U.S. Product Imports; Files Another Lawsuit

Google seems to be making good use of Motorola’s patent portfolio in its war against Apple. This week, it filed yet another lawsuit against Apple claiming patent infringement for features like Siri.

The new complaint by Motorola involves seven Motorola patents related to features like location reminders, email notifications, video playback etc. If Motorola wins this bout, we could see a ban on U.S. imports of the iPhone, iPad and the Mac from Asia.

Motorola has stated that it is willing to work out a licensing deal with Apple. Apple is also involved in a mega-lawsuit with Samsung, the top Android device manufacturer, which it seems likely to win.

Besides Google and Apple, Microsoft is the other major player in the patent wars, and it is already making a ton of money from Android patent licensing. We expect these patent battles between Apple and Google’s numerous allies to be drawn out over the next couple of years.

via Bloomberg

Kodak May Not Sell Digital Imaging Patents in Auction

Kodak’s patent auction promised to be one of the most exciting turning points in the ongoing patent wars, with its digital imaging patents touted to be worth billions of dollars. Kodak had put up more than 1,100 patents up for sale, with most of them related to digital imaging and image capture, processing and transmission technologies for digital cameras and smartphones.

We also saw prominent tech giants teaming up with each other to buy the patents, with the likes of Google, Samsung and RPX in one camp, and Apple, Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures in the other.

However, as the bidding progresses, it seems that Kodak may not be able to fetch what it expected to in the auction. Kodak had previously stated that the patents might be worth around $2.2 to $2.6 billion, but the current bidding rate is around $500 million.

Kodak has announced that it might decline to sell some or all of its patents if the bidding fails to push the prices up. It has already pushed the patent auction deadline twice, and may do it again to drum up interest in the auction and fetch a higher price.

Even if the auction does go through, there is no guarantee that it will be cleared by regulatory authorities due to possible antitrust issues.

Kodak filed for bankruptcy months ago, and owes nearly $1.4 billion to Citigroup and other bondholders.

via WSJ

Apple Drops YouTube App from iOS6 Due to Licensing; Standalone App Coming Soon

The war is officially on between Apple and Google with their competing mobile operating system; iOS and Android. Apple recently built their own Mapping system for iOS 6 and removed the integration with Google Maps. However, the most recent update to iOS 6 also drops the YouTube app.

According to The Verge, the removal of the YouTube app from iOS 6 was done because Apple and Google had come to an end of their licensing terms.

Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store.

However, this is not the end of the YouTube app on iOS 6 because Google is reportedly working on a standalone YouTube app for iOS 6. This was mentioned in the Google India event.

YouTube is probably the most popular app on the iOS operating system and Google will definitely come up with a replacement before iOS 6 is shipped to consumers. However, it looks like the default app will still be available on older iOS versions.

Apple’s decision not to renew the license for the YouTube app may be based on their thinking to get rid of as much Google dependency as possible. I won’t be surprised if Apple also decides to go with Bing as the default search engine in future. If that happens, it would be a huge blow for Google because they make a large chunk of their revenue from the search option in iOS.

Box Raises $125 Million to Dominate the Enterprise Cloud Storage Space

Box, the Dropbox for the enterprise, has raised yet another monster round of funding. It has announced a $125 million investment by General Atlantic Partners, at a rumored valuation of nearly $1.2 billion.

Box is one of the top enterprise cloud storage and collaboration services, and has grown at an explosive rate in the last couple of years. It has been expanding internationally and growing at a scorching pace, with enterprise sales up more than 200% year-over-year in the first half of 2012, and the average deal size almost doubling.

It has been adding data centers across the globe to support its expansion. It has more than 120,000 businesses signed up, and is used by individuals at 92% of the Fortune 500 companies.

Aaron Levie, Co-founder and CEO, Box, said:

“The confluence of cloud, mobile and social technology is transforming how every enterprise and individual manages information today. This new funding allows us to invest aggressively in the talent, technology and global expansion efforts required for Box to sit at the center of this shift and define the next generation of enterprise software.”

General Atlantic led this round with existing investors like Bessemer Venture Partners, DFJ Growth, New Enterprise Associates, SAP Ventures and Scale Venture Partners, as well as new investor Social+Capital Partnership. Gary Reiner, operating partner at GA, will join Box’s board of directors.

Box faces competition not only from other cloud storage startups, but also giants like Microsoft and Google, who are also eying the enterprise file sharing and collaboration space.

With this round, Box has now raised a total of $284 million.

via Box PR

Apple Looking to Invest in Twitter? Makes Sense!

Apple may be looking to make a strategic investment in Twitter, and has already discussed it with the social networking company in the last couple of months, according to a new report by NYT.

Apple tried to enter the social space with Ping last year, but that was one huge failure. Just like Microsoft has been struggling with Search, and has hardly been able to topple Google despite pouring in billions of dollars into its Online Services division, mentioning Apple and Social in the same sentence just doesn’t seem right.

Apple may have realized that social just isn’t in its DNA; after all no one company can do everything right. Apple considered investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Twitter at a valuation of around $10 billion earlier this year, but apparently the deal didn’t go through as planned.

It did, however, integrate Twitter into iOS during the launch of the iPhone 4S.

While Google has Google+, Microsoft has a strategic investment in Facebook and continues to partner with it for Bing and other endeavors.

Apple needs to be more social, and Twitter seems to be the right partner for it, as there seems to be no clash between their ambitions, which are clearly in different areas.

Apple has tons of cash, and while Twitter doesn’t really need any right now (it raised nearly $1 billion and is making progress with its advertising business), both companies need each other. Twitter has benefited greatly from integration with iOS and Mac OS X, and would like to maintain its relationship with Apple, which has also gotten a bit cozy with Facebook lately.

We’re not sure whether the talks are still on, but apparently, they’re not. However, Apple investing in Twitter makes a lot of sense, for both of them.

Google Adds A Full Featured Scientific Calculator To Search Results

Math nerds, heads up. Google has just added a full featured scientific calculator to Google search, thereby allowing you to perform complex scientific and trigonometrical calculations using only your mouse. Head over to Google.com, type in a simple calculation and you should see the 34 button calculator popping in, an example is shown below:

This is so very cool, far better than how Google used to show mathematical results previously. Moreover, you don’t have to type the exact expression in the search box over and over again. Once the scientific calculator shows up, you can just key in numbers directly in the calculator and perform mathematical calculations on the fly. Now that this has happened, I won’t mind unpinning Windows calculator from the taskbar. (related: use Google Chrome as a calculator)

Google’s advanced calculator supports trigonometrical, logarithmic, factorial and basic arithmetic functions e.g Pi(π) and factorial of a number (!). Classical Google specific calculation techniques have gone nowhere, Google has only aggrandized the functionality by amalgamating all the core methods into a newer calculator UI that just works.

For example, you can type “square root of [number]” (without quotes) to find the square root of any real number through Google search. That still works, only difference is that now you get the result displayed in the calculator itself.

However, here is a little catch.

The new calculator does not support square root of negative integers. At least, not yet. Try finding the square root of -1 or any other negative integer in the new scientific calculator of Google and you’ll get an error. (high school tip: square root of a negative number is the same as square root of a positive number, just add the imaginary “i” to it.)

But wait, you can still apply the old technique to get  the square root of a negative number from Google search. Here is how:

The best part : Google’s improved calculator supports voice commands, so you can use your microphone to type in numbers and the calculator will “listen”. It might take you some time to get accustomed to but once you master the operation, you will love it even more.

The new scientific calculator is by no means limited to PC’s or desktop computers; it works across all mobile devices e.g iOS, Android and so forth. Here is how the calculator looks when viewed from Android (just rotate your phone to get the full view)

Although separate from the new calculator UI, I am more excited about how Google has revamped the display of unit conversions. Previously, Google used to display the result of a conversion in the search result page, which has now been organized under a neat tabular format.

So when I am scratching my head over a math problem inundated with half a dozen different units, I can use the dropdown menu on the unit conversion page and convert the values in real time. Speed, mass, length, volume, area. temperature, time – Google has got you covered.

Google Reveals How It Valued Motorola Before Acquiring It

Google surprised everyone last year when it decided to acquire Motorola last year, for around $12.4 billion. It was an unexpected move by the search giant, which would put it in direct competition with its own hardware partners as well as Apple, its arch nemesis in the mobile space.

Acquiring Motorola would also give Google the capability to produce its own hardware devices, and compete more effectively with the iPad in the smartphone and tablet markets.

At the time of the acquisition, it wasn’t exactly clear why Google acquired Motorola — whether it was for Motorola’s sizable patent portfolio which was hot property in those days as the patent wars loomed large, or for its hardware business, which would help Google “supercharge “its Android business, as Larry Page put it.

Today, Google outlined how exactly it valued Motorola when deciding to acquire it.

Of the $12.4 billion price tag, $5.5 billion was the value it attributed to Motorola’s patents and developed technology. $2.9 billion was attributable to the cash reserves of Motorola, while $2.6 billion was a goodwill expense, attributed primarily to the synergies Google expects to derive following the acquisition.

Of the balance, $730 million was assigned to existing customer relationships, while $670 million was for other net assets acquired.

Google completed the Motorola acquisition last quarter. Motorola contributed $1.25 billion to Google’s overall revenues, but depressed its margins with a $233 million operating loss.

via WSJ

Google Acquires Popular Mac and iOS Mail Client – Sparrow

Sparrow, possibly the best email client available for Mac and iOS, have just announced that they have been acquired by Google. The company’s CEO announced that they are “joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision.”

Below is Sparrow’s CEO, Dom Leca’s full statement about the acquisition -:

We’re excited to announce that Sparrow has been acquired by Google!

We care a lot about how people communicate, and we did our best to provide you with the most intuitive and pleasurable mailing experience.

Now we’re joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision — one that we think we can better achieve with Google.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our users who have supported us, advised us, given us priceless feedback and allowed us to build a better mail application. While we’ll be working on new things at Google, we will continue to make Sparrow available and provide support for our users.

We had an amazing ride and can’t thank you enough.

Full speed ahead!

The acquisition by Google does not mean that Sparrow will be dis-continued. The developers will continue to provide support to its users. Google had earlier acquired a popular IM client earlier, Meebo, and with Sparrow’s acquisition, it looks like the big G is finally working hard on merging Gmail with its chat (Talk/Hangout/Messenger) services. Considering how talented the Sparrow team is, it will be really interesting to see what new features they bring to Gmail, and perhaps to the email?

Google Launches Gmail SMS in Africa

Google has launched a new service — Gmail SMS — which enables users to access, receive and send email from their phones via SMS. While smartphone shipments are at an all-time high, a significant amount of the population, especially in third world countries is still using feature phones with no mobile internet access.

In order to enable access to email for them, and grow its user base further, Google has launched Gmail SMS in three African countries – Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. This might be a test run, following which Gmail SMS would probably be rolled out in many other countries.

“Gmail SMS works on any phone, even the most basic ones which only support voice and SMS. Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS. You can control the emails received by replying with commands such as MORE, PAUSE and RESUME. Additionally, compose a new email as an SMS and send to any email address recipient – who will find your message in the right email conversation thread!”

Gmail SMS can be enabled from the Account tab in Gmail Settings. Users can just add their phone numbers and verify them to enable Gmail SMS on their numbers. They can also customize notification and forwarding settings on their phone.

Do note that while the service is free from Google’s end, users will still incur the standard SMS messaging charges.

All in all, a pretty cool move by Google to bring email to the unconnected masses.

via Google Africa Blog

Moon Race Team Recruits Google VIP

Moon Express, a “privately funded lunar transportation and data services company”, announced today that Dr. James (Jimi) Crawford has joined their team as Chief Technology Officer and Software Architect. Crawford had been the Engineering Director for Google Books since 2009.

Moon Express Logo

As CTO, Dr. Crawford will guide Moon Express’ technology to fulfill the company’s long term goals. He will also serve as a software architect, where he will develop software for the company’s space missions including the race to win the Google Lunar X prize. The Lunar X project is giving $30 million dollars to the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon. Moon Express is one of several teams that are competing for the illustrious prize.

In their press release, Moon Express co-Founder and CEO Bob Richards said, “We are thrilled to have Jimi join us as CTO and Software Architect…With Jimi’s combined space mission and software experience, our technical team just took another giant leap forward.” Dr. Crawford’s resume is quite impressive and one could see why the Moon Express team is encouraged to have him on board. This guy is not a newbie when it comes to space technology. He spent three years at NASA’s Ames Research Center as lead for Autonomy and Robotics. His teams “delivered the optimized activity planner used by both the Opportunity and Spirit Mars rovers, demonstrated next generation rovers with much higher levels of autonomy, and created optimized spacecraft antenna using genetic algorithms.”

For more information about the Google Lunar X competition, see the embedded video below.

[Video Link]