A major Research In Motion investor has proposed that all shareholders vote down the current governance structure of the company, and ensure that the chairman of the board is not also the company's CEO. Co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are both also co-chairmen of the board. Northwest & Ethical Investments filed a resolution asking RIM to change its bylaws. It plans to hold a vote at RIM's July 12 general meeting. RIM has asked investors to vote against the resolution. RIM has earned the ire of its investors of late due to its stagnant product roadmap and shrinking market share.
Sprint has shrunk its voting power in Clearwire from 53.7% to 49.8%. The move was made to alleviate investor concerns that its stake in Clearwire could eventually become a liability. "Sprint is proactively providing protection and flexibility with respect to its debt agreements and eliminating ongoing investor concerns about any potential cross-default risk," Scott Sloat, a spokesperson, said in a statement. The change in voting rights has no impact on Sprint's ownership stake in Clearwire nor its relationship with the WiMax provider.
Google today announced a new feature for Google Maps for Mobile that will alert public transportation users when their train and/or bus will actually arrive. When users click on a transit station or plan a transit route with Google Maps and there are delays or alerts related to the planned route, users will see "live departure times" and alerts that may be associated with that transit line. Google says it has teamed up with transit agencies in a handful of cities and countries to add this feature. The initial batch of cities including this capability are Boston; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; San Francisco; and Madrid and Turin. Google said it is working with other cities and transit agencies to expand the reach of this service. Live transit data is available in Google Maps for Android (devices running Android 1.6 and up), as well as most mobile browsers and the desktop version of Google Maps.
The Free Press has filed a lawsuit against Verizon Wireless, alleging that the company is violating the net neutrality conditions placed on the C Block of 700MHz spectrum it won at auction in 2008. Specifically, the Free Press says that Verizon is blocking third-party tethering applications on its Long Term Evolution 4G Android smartphones. A number of those apps inexplicably disappeared from the Android Market last month. "When Verizon purchased the spectrum licenses associated with its LTE network, it agreed that it would not 'deny, limit, or restrict' the ability of its users to access the applications and devices of their choosing," said the Free Press in its filing. Verizon denies any wrongdoing, and said it doesn't block its users from accessing apps in the Android Market. The Free Press believes Google removed the third-party tethering applications from the Android Market at Verizon's behest. The Free Press is asking the Federal Communications Commission to rule against Verizon.
During the keynote address at its WorldWide Developer's Conference, Apple today provided details about what iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users can expect to see in iOS 5. Apple called it a major new release, with 200 new features and 1,500 new APIs for developers. A significant change to iOS 5 will include a revamped Notification Center, which offers all notifications accessible from a drop-down shade (similar to Android). Notifications can appear here from apps such as email, the calendar, stocks, weather, SMS, Twitter, and include animations and alerts. iOS 5 will include a new lockscreen that contains a better view of notifications. iOS 5 adds a new application called Newsstand, which will be a way for newspapers and magazines to sell content to iOS users. Newsstand can download new issues/content in the background, so it is always up-to-date. iOS 5 adds native Twitter support across the platform, such as the camera, photo library, Safari, YouTube, Maps, and contacts application. iOS 5 makes changes to the Safari web browser, including an easier-to-read format, a Reading List for saving articles (syncs across iOS devices), and full tabbed browsing. Another new application is called Reminders, which serves to help with note-taking and other repetitive tasks, This app will be location aware, and can trigger alerts based on user location. Changes to the camera application include a lock-screen shortcut to the camera for faster access, the volume up key on the iPhone will become a physical shutter button when in camera mode, pinch-to-zoom will work instead of the slider for zooming in on subjects, and iOS will be able to perform edits on photos, such as cropping, red-eye reduction, and enhancements. The mail application gains rich text formatting, indentation control, better message search, message flagging, and support for encrypted email. iOS 5 also adds support for PC-free syncing: users will be able to buy iOS-based devices and activate them without the need to hardwire sync with a PC. Software updates for iOS devices will also be performed over the air. iOS 5 ushers in iMessage, a new, BBM-style messaging service for all iOS devices that encompasses texts, photos, video, contacts, group messaging, and more. It includes features such as delivery receipts, read receipts, and it works over 3G, Wi-Fi, and is encrypted. Other features include more multitasking gestures, iPhone mirroring on TVs, and more. iOS 5 will be available in the fall.
Speaking at the AllThingsD conference today, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo showed off how Twitter's new photo-sharing feature will work. The new feature, which will compete with third-party solutions such as TwitPic and yfrog, will let Twitter users share images directly in their timeline. Twitter says that the service will be rolled out over the next few weeks to the desktop version of Twitter followed later by a mobile client for most smartphone platforms. The photos will be hosted by Photobucket, and Twitter is working with wireless network operators to allow images to be uploaded to Twitter via MMS messages. In addition to the new picture service, Twitter also announced new search tools that it says will deliver more relevant results.
Samsung has requested that it be given access to the unreleased, unannounced iPad 3 and iPhone 5 (or whatever it is that Apple calls these potential products). The request is being made in response to a recent ruling in the legal case between Apple and Samsung. Apple filed a lawsuit earleir this year claiming that Samsung willfully copies its products. A judge ruled that Apple's lawyers should be allowed to see unreleased versions of a number of Samsung devices, including its Galaxy S2 smartphone. Apple's lawyers will be allowed to examine these products for any similarities between them and Apple's products. A key difference puts Samsung's request on tenuous ground, however. Samsung has already released images and data about the devices Apple says are copies to the public and media, and in fact, some of the products are already available for sale. Samsung's request, on the other hand, is for products that haven't been announced and may not even exist. Samsung's request was made late in the day Friday and Apple has yet to respond.
Senator Al Franken has sent a letter to both Apple and Google requesting that they take steps to increase the security measures available customers so they may better protect their privacy with respect to location data. Franken wrote, "I ask that you require all location-aware applications in your app stores to provide privacy policies that clearly specify what kind of location information is gathered from users, how that information is used, and how it is shared with third parties." Franked noted that he believes more transparency is needed, but thinks this would be, at the very least, a good first step for Apple and Google take. Both companies have spoken in front of senate hearings regarding user location data.
Pardus Capital Management, a firm that has invested in Clearwire, has sent a letter to interim Chief Executive Officer John Stanton asking that he reconsider his position on selling some of Clearwire's spectrum. Earlier this month, Stanton ruled out a spectrum sale as a way to increase capital. Pardus argues that the move is keeping Clearwire's stock artificially low ahead of a suspected Sprint buyout of Clearwire. Pardus believes that if Clearwire were to sell spectrum and raise capital, its stock price and overall value would also go up, meaning it could sell for a higher amount. Clearwire has been plagued by money problems, despite Sprint's recent commitment to give Clearwire $1 billion, and continues to seek out additional sources of funding. Clearwire acknowledged the receipt of Pardus' letter, but wouldn't offer comment on the matter.
Twitter has purchased TweetDeck for the sum of $40 million. TweetDeck makes desktop and mobile software for interacting with Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has been clamping down on how third party software accesses its services. Twitter has not said what it intends to do with TweetDeck.
Senators John Rockefeller of West Virginia and John Kerry of Massachusetts today proposed new legislation asking congress to approve laws for regulating the privacy of user location data as it pertains to smartphones. They said smartphone apps are "totally unregulated" with respect to consumer privacy. The privacy bill would seek to give consumers more control of how their location data is collected, used, and shared. "I believe that companies collecting people’s information - whether you’re a tech titan or not - ought to comply with just a basic code of conduct," Kerry said. "We need to establish what we as a society, in a country that has always valued privacy, believe is the basic, proper treatment of information." The legislation was proposed during a senate hearing Thursday on Apple and Google's location-tracking practices.
Slacker Radio today announced an expansion of its service offering. In addition to its basic, ad-supported radio and $3.99/month Slacker Radio Plus services, it now also includes Slacker Radio Premium for $9.99 per month. This new service provides all the same features of the other two, but adds full control over Slacker's library of music. Slacker Radio Premium subscribers will be able to enjoy ad-free listening, unlimited song skips, news radio, complete lyrics and the ability to store stations and playlists on their mobile phone. It also lets users listen to any artist, album, playlist, or genre at any time, create radio stations containing a single artist, and listen to albums from start to finish, and create finely detailed playlists — all of which can be cached on mobile devices for offline use. Slacker didn't immediately what devices the mobile component of Slacker Radio Premium works with.
AT&T executive John Stankey today revealed that the company plans to introduce security services for its consumer customers starting in 2012. AT&T already offers security services for its business customers, but with the rising adoption of smartphones, AT&T says more attacks on consumers are occurring. "Hackers always go to where there's a base of people to attack," Stankey said at a Reuters event today. "I do believe it'll become as relevant in the mobile space as it is today in the desktop." So far, widespread losses to hackers on consumer smartphones have been small. As they grow larger in scale, Stankey believes the issue will gain enough visibility to become important to those wishing to be protected. Stankey didn't provide details on how the service would work.
During its keynote at Google I/O, Google today announced two new content services coming to Android devices. The first is a new movie rental service that is available from the online version of the Android Market, from Android tablets, and Android smartphones. Users will be able to rent "thousands" of movies for $1.99. They'll have a 30-day window in which to watch the movie, but it will expire 24 hours after first played. Google also announced Google Music beta. Google Music beta will let users upload up to 20,000 songs to their Google account for free and then stream them to desktop and mobile devices. The service will be available in beta first, and the general public may request invites. Google is also released a new version of the Android Music Player application that can interact with the new streaming service. it will support local caching so music can be played offline, and also allows users to make playlists on the fly, and use an "ingenius" automatic playlist creator. Users can upload files up to 320Kbps, and Google will stream the music back to the user at whatever bit rate the file is ripped in. It will roll out to more users over the coming weeks.
Microsoft today announced its intent to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in cash, pending approval from the boards of both companies. Microsoft will use Skype to increase the capabilities of its products' real-time voice and video communications tools. Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live, etc. Microsoft said it will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms. Skype will become its own division within Microsoft, headed by current CEO Tony Bates. Skype maks video/voice chatting software for a number of mobile platforms, such as Android and iOS.
Verizon Wireless today made Rdio available via its V CAST store for Android smartphones. Rdio is a social music application that lets users create their own cloud-based music library and then stream it or download it to their mobile device. The software also lets users see their recent activity across devices, look at what music is topping the charts and/or what their friends are listening to, as well as create playlists and transfer the listening experience from desktop to mobile. Rdio costs $9.99 per month and can be billied directly to user wireless accounts. Verizon didn't say how this impacts its partnership with Rhapsody. Separately, Rdio today also released a playback API (application programming interface) for the iOS and Android platforms. The API will let developers add Rdio's functionality to their own apps.
Sprint today announced that all its Android customers can now take advantage of Google Voice. It was previously being rolled out to a small set of beta testers. Sprint customers can choose to keep their Sprint number and activate it within Google Voice, or use a brand new Google Voice number. Either way, Google Voice will fully replace Sprint's voicemail system, and international calls will connect through Google Voice. Customers can use Google Voice to manage their voicemail, text messages, and access it both from their Android handset and the desktop. The service is free to set up.
The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with AT&T regarding class action law suits versus individual arbitration. The Court said that AT&T can force litigious customers to arbitrate legal differences individually rather than as members of a class. The decision was split 5-4, with the conservatives in the majority. Justice Antonin Scalia said that using the class action status in this case would conflict with existing federal laws that favor arbitration. The Supreme Court's decision reverses the decisions of two California courts. The decision is a loss for consumers, who will now face the arduous task of suing AT&T on their own rather than in a group.
Skyfire today announced the availability of version 4.0 of the Skyfire browser for the Android platform. The new version of Skyfire adds a number of features, including new ways to customize the SkyBar and use it to interact with social networks. The SkyBar gains eight new functions, such as integration with Twitter and Groupon, a "share" button, Google Reader, sports, news, and finance feeds, and faster access to the browser's settings and tools. Skyfire 4.0 also has a separate video optimization tool available that must be purchased from within the Skyfire application itself. The video optimization tool will be free for all Verizon Wireless customers for a limited time, and will also be free to existing users of the Skyfire video beta. It normally costs $2.99. The browser can be downloaded from the Android Market.
Rockmelt has made a version of its social networking-based web browser available to the iPhone. It offers a different "browsing" experience by allowing users to sign into both their Facebook and Twitter accounts, which are then integrated into the browser itself. The browser will alert users when Facebook/Twitter contacts post updates and can be used to view Facebook photos and friends' walls. Rockmelt users can also see their Twitter stream, as well as mentions and @replies. It allows for direct sharing from the browser to Facebook/Twitter as well as the ability to save links and other content for viewing later. This function syncs with the desktop version of Rockmelt, as will bookmarks, and unread item counts. Changes made to the Rockmelt browser's settings on the iPhone will be automatically synced and reflected by the desktop version (and vice versa). The Rockmelt browser is free to download.
Skype has issued an update to the Android version of its mobile application. The update serves to fix a security hole reported last week that allowed third party apps to access user data. In addition to the security fix, the new version of Skype also adds the ability to make VoIP calls over 3G data connections. The 3G calling feature is not supported for Android phones on Verizon Wireless's network. The update is free from the Android Market.
According to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, Twitter is in advanced talks to purchase Tweetdeck for about $50 million. Tweetdeck makes software clients that access and use Twitter, Facebook and other feeds both on desktop computers and mobile devices, such as smartphones. Tweetdeck is available to the iOS and Android platforms, for example. It is unclear how Twitter might use Tweetdeck. Twitter bought the Apple desktop client Tweetie, and eventually relaunched it as Twitter. It did something similar for the official iPhone application. Twitter has been consolidating the look and functionality of the Twitter client across mobile platforms (iOS, Android, BlackBerry), and recently asked developers to stop creating new stand-alone Twitter clients. Neither Twitter nor Tweetdeck have confirmed the Journal's story.
Skype said in a blog post today that it is looking into reports that its mobile application for the Android platform exposes end-user data. The company said, "It has been brought to our attention that, were you to install a malicious third-party application onto your Android device, then it could access the locally stored Skype for Android files. These files include cached profile information and instant messages. We take your privacy very seriously and are working quickly to protect you from this vulnerability, including securing the file permissions on the Skype for Android application." Skype didn't say when it might have a patch ready for the application. In the mean time, it suggests that users are careful about which applications they choose to install.
During its MIX 2011 conference today in Las Vegas, Microsoft demonstrated a number of features and applications that are expected to become available to its Windows Phone 7 platform later this year. Microsoft's Joe Belfiore said that the Mango update, which includes multitasking, IE9, Twitter support in the People Hub, and better support for Office documents in SkyDrive, will be released this fall. (Microsoft previewed the Mango update at Mobile World Congress earlier this year.) Microsoft also showed off a number of new applications, such as Skype, Spotify, and Layar, that take advantage of a new set of software developer tools that will be released shortly. The new tools will give developers the opportunity to tap into WP7 device's cameras, gyroscopes and other sensors, which Microsoft says should be enough to support augmented reality applications.
Speaking at the National Association of Broadcasters' annual trade event, Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski said the FCC wants Congress to give it the authority to auction off the spectrum owned by television stations. "I believe the single most important step that will drive our mobile economy and address consumer frustration is authorizing voluntary incentive auctions," he said. The owners of any spectrum sold would be compensated for giving up their airwaves. The auction would be voluntary, "However, voluntary can't mean undermining the potential effectiveness of an auction by giving every broadcaster a new and unprecedented right to keep their exact channel location," Genachowski said. The FCC wants to grab 120MHz from TV broadcasters in order to provide more resources for mobile broadband. "This growing demand is not going away. The result is a spectrum crunch," Genachowski said. "The only thing that can address the growing overall demand for mobile is increasing the overall supply of spectrum and the efficiency of its use." The NAB and its constituents are understandably dubious about the merits of the FCC's plans.
Nokia recently introduced a new application called Drop, which mimics Google's Chrome-to-Phone for the Android platform by making it easy to send web links and/or photos from the desktop browser directly to a Nokia phone. Drop works with Nokia's Symbian devices and a handful of S60 5th Edition phones. Users need to install the app on the phone itself, as well as a plug-in in their browser. Drop works with Google's Chrome browser and Firefox. The free application is being offered as a beta.
Speaking at a recent conference, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson indicated that the company will likely have to drop some markets in order to garner approval of its proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile. "We anticipate there will be some markets we will have to divest," he said, though he didn't name those markets. AT&T says that it needs to acquire T-Mobile in order to proceed with its 4G roll-out, and plans to use T-Mobile's 1700MHz spectrum (in addition to its own 700MHz holdings) for LTE. According to the Wall Street Journal, Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead has already indicated that his company would be interested in acquiring any divested markets/assets. AT&T's Stephenson also took the time to defend the acquisition. "This industry is anything but a duopoly," he said. "The industry is intensely competitive now, and will be intensely competitive after the deal." Sprint disagrees, and said it intends to fight the proposed acquisition. It has already asked the government to block it.
Google today announced that it has agreed to new terms with the Federal Trade Commission over the botched launch of its Buzz social networking service and the resulting privacy violations. Google said that it has agreed to an independent review of its privacy procedures once every two years. It will also ask users to provide affirmative consent (i.e., users must opt in) before it changes how it shares user data. Google apologized, again, for what it calls a failure to meet its own standards. Buzz lets users share content via desktop browsers and mobile phones.
Amazon today launched a new online web service that allows users to store their music on Amazon's servers and then stream it to their Android handset, Android tablet, or desktop computer. The service offers 5GB of storage for free, but will supply 20GB of online storage for those who purchase any MP3 album from Amazon's digital download store. The Cloud Drive Player for the Android platform is a brand new application that combines a media player, the Amazon MP3 store, and a mobile version of the Cloud Player. It lets users play media stored on the device, purchase tracks from Amazon, or stream their music from the cloud. Cloud Drive supports most file types, including AAC and MP3, and streams the media back at the full bit rate of the original file. It an also be used to store other files, such as photos, videos and documents. It requires that users have an Amazon account. Amazon didn't say if it plans to support other platforms.
Mere days after being handed a loss by the U.S. International Trade Commission in a patent lawsuit against Apple, Nokia today filed a brand new lawsuit against the Cupertino-based maker of the iPhone with the ITC. Nokia alleges that Apple violates seven of its patents in nearly every product that Apple makes. "Our latest ITC filing means we now have 46 Nokia patents in suit against Apple, many filed more than 10 years before Apple made its first iPhone," Paul Melin, Nokia's vice president, intellectual property, said in a statement. The new patent complaint centers on multi-tasking, data synchronization, GPS and positioning, call quality and Bluetooth accessory use. Apple has yet to respond to the new complaint. It is being sued by a number of technology companies for patent infringement and has counter-sued many of them.
Historically, AT&T hasn't permitted non-Android Market apps to be installed on its Android devices. This was underscored last week when Amazon introduced its own Android app store. AT&T customers were effectively blocked from accessing the apps available from Amazon. AT&T appears to have a change of heart brewing, however. "AT&T plans to offer the Amazon application store for Android smartphones and we're working to give our Android customers access to [other] third party application stores," the company said in a statement. "This requires updates to our systems and finalizing arrangements with Amazon." AT&T had previously contended that off-Market apps presented a security risk to Android handsets. The company didn't indicate when this change might take place. It also didn't specify which non-Market sources it would trust, aside from Amazon's.
On March 22, four U.S. senators sent letters to Apple, Google and Research In Motion requesting that the companies remove applications from their respective app stores that help drivers avoid sobriety check-points. Democratic senators Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Frank Lautenberg and Tom Udall contributed to the letter, which said, in part, "Giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern." RIM has complied, and said that the offending applications will be removed from its BlackBerry App World by the end of the day. In a statement published today, New York's Democratic senator, Charles E. Schumer, said, "RIM's decision to remove these apps from their online store proves that when it comes to drunk driving, there should not be an app for that." Apple and Google have yet to respond to the senators' request.
Adobe pushed out version 2.0 of PhotoShop Express for the iPhone today with several new features. Chief among the new powers of PhotoShop Express is the in-app ability to purchase the Adobe Camera Pack (for $3.99), which offers noise reduction, a self timer, and auto review features. The application also supports the Retina Display, and multi-tasking. The application requires iOS 4.2 or higher, though it doesn't work with the new iPad 2. Adobe told CNet that it is working on a similar revision to its Android application.
The Rural Cellular Association filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission on March 11 asking the agency to block AT&T's purchase of 700MHz spectrum from Qualcomm's MediaFLO business. The RCA argues that this would further empower the AT&T-Verizon Wireless duopoly that dominates the U.S. market and would be bad for consumers. RCA President & CEO Steven K. Berry said in a prepared statement, "If the FCC chooses to grant the transaction, despite the obvious competitive harms, it should require interoperability of devices across all 700MHz band licenses and require AT&T to reach automatic data roaming agreements with any interested carrier. The continued dominance of the two largest carriers must not be further promoted, and it is time for the FCC to take action to ensure a competitive marketplace."
Skype and Qik today announced the new Qik Video Connect chatting application for the Apple iPhone. Qik Video Connect for iPhone builds on what Qik offers to the Android platform and offers a wide range of features. The application can be used to conduct live two-way video chats between Qik phones (including between Android and iPhone) over 3G or Wi-Fi. It also allows users to stream video live to their online Qik channel, where videos can also be stored and/or retrieved by users. The application can also take all the native videos on the iPhone and upload them to Qik and vice versa. There are two versions of Qik for iPhone. The free version offers the features mentioned above, and the Premium version, which costs $2.99, adds HD quality video, video editing, and real-time video effects. The Premium application should become available starting later today from the iPhone App Store. The free version has yet to be approved by Apple, but should become available later this week.