Friday Grab Bag: What Grades Did your Team’s NFL Draft Receive?

A report from ABI Research shows that while tablets such as Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle are constantly in the news as the latest and greatest laptop use is still strong, but does find that tablets are taking sales away from netbooks.

The research found that approximately 1/3 of those surveyed planned to buy a laptop in the next year while 16% planned on purchasing a media tablet in the same time frame. It looks like netbooks are being relegated to emerging markets and out of the US market.

Mustaches making a comeback in baseball?
There was an amusing piece in The Wall Street Journal about a week ago talking about the return of the mustachioed man in baseball. In the modern era it probably reached its peak on the Oakland A’s of the Charles Finley ownership era and has since seemed to fade away.

However just last year John Axford, a reliever with the Milwaukee Brewers won the very coveted ‘Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American’ from the American Mustache Institute, a notable win for a Canadian. No real insights here just kind of an interesting read- also I did not know that they were also known as Lip Sweaters.

Microsoft takes big hit in German court

A German court has ruled that Microsoft cannot sell its Xbox 360 game console and its Windows 7 operating system in the German market. The court, based in Mannheim, said that Microsoft breached an agreement that it had with Motorola Mobility in using certain video compression software in Microsoft products.

However Microsoft is not likely to remove its products from German shelves right away as Microsoft has won a ruling in U.S. District court in Seattle that

Do you have a social media will?
The joke that a friend will clear your browsing history if you die suddenly has some bearing in reality, or so I have heard. But do they know your passwords? The Government seems to understand the issues families of recently deceased trying to gain access to social media and has offered a bit of advice.

Posted here on the USA Gov blog it has a piece entitled “How and why you should write a social media will” that entails you giving passwords to a trusted person to close Facebook, email etc that are open in your name. And clear browsing history.

London Olympics to have world’s largest McDonalds?

I for one have always associated McDonalds with fitness and athletic excellence so this of course does not surprise me. The AP and Christian Science Monitor has reported that a two story McDonalds that can seat 1500 people will be built in Olympic Park.

According to the piece, it is just one of five that will be built for the Olympics, one just for the athletes. Guess who the official food sponsor is for the London Olympics.

Nokia planning tablets and hybrids
Departing Nokia Chairman Jorma Ollila said that the company is looking to expand into tablets and hybrids, but did not give any type of timetable or details on the move. The company just lost its crown as the top handset maker after a 14 year run to rival Samsung.

It has invested heavily in developing for the emerging Microsoft Windows Phone standard and it seems likely that it might expand that partnership to include supporting Windows 8, Microsoft’s tablet OS when that is available.

iPad 4G claims false?
Apple is facing some heat from Australia and the United Kingdom on the claims that the recently released iPad works on 4G networks. The battle about connectivity has been going on for some time down under but now the U.K. has joined the fray, Red Orbit reports.

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) claims that the ads are misleading since the iPad does not connect at the frequency that the fledgling 4G networks in that country operate, the same problem it has in Australia. In Australia Apple simply removed references to 4G and is expected to do the same in the UK.
You would think that something this basic would have already been found bulletproof prior to releasing the device but who knows?

Target boots Amazon’s Kindle
Target, one of Amazon’s largest brick and mortar partners has opted to cease carrying Amazon’s Kindle tablet. The issue is that customers visit the stores and look at the devices and then return home and buy them direct according to the New York Times.

Amazon even encouraged its customers to do so, offering a discount f they purchased a product direct from Amazon after scanning it n a store. So instead Target will increase Apple’s presence and other tablets including Barnes & Noble’s Nook its 1,800 stores

Kickstarter favorite Pebble gets first app
Pebble, the watch that connects to your smartphone now has its first app, one from RunKeeper. The details for what exactly the app will do are not available yet but RunKeeper develops programs that track workouts. The company said that when the Pebble is commercially available it will have the RunKeeper app available as well.

Grading the NFL draft graders
Now that the NFL Draft is over and the wait begins for the start of the regular season there is still one NFL stone that appears to be untouched-looking at how all of the major NFL pundits team grades compare.

Now you could arm yourself with a spreadsheet and spend time traveling to all of the various web sites to garner what they said and how it compares to their rivals prognostications, but the good folks at Football Outsiders have taken it upon themselves.

They took the posted grades from nine NFL writers and draft experts and show how they rating each team, how that compares to what the competitors said, and how teams ranked overall. It is well worth a read.

U.S. Justice Department Charges Apple, 5 Publishers with Price Fixing

High flying Apple, whose market value recently topped $600 billion, has been hit by charges from the United States Justice Department alleging that Apple and five publishing partners have engaged in price fixing.

The charges allege that Apple and five publishers: Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin Group (USA), and Macmillan conspired to end competition on ebooks and set a higher price, with Apple being guaranteed a 30% commission on each sale.

The deal was reached in 2010 the reports said, right when Apple introduced the iPad and was aimed at Amazon and was intended to limit Amazon’s ability to discount ebooks, which it was then selling at $9.99 for new and recently released offerings.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal three of the publishers have already reached an accord with the Justice Department and have said that they will terminate any such agreement with Apple. Those are Hachett, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins.

The overall outcome of this will be interesting to see. In the past the Justice Department has gone after some other major players in hi-tech, notably IBM and Microsoft, and has won its cases. Apple has been increasingly litigious in recent years but this is a much bigger foe than someone such as Samsung or Motorola Mobility.

However when you ask people about what Apple does, very few would mention that it makes a competitive e-reader. In fact some may not know that is a very valuable use of the iPad, showing that this is not really a major market for its products.

So why not settle? It has been reported that three of the publishers already have, but also that Apple has been fighting the charges. I suspect that in the long run Apple will find that it is cheaper simply to tag along on the settlements negotiated by its former partners.

Mobile Sports Report TechWatch: BlackBerry still in the Red

Research in Motion has revealed in its quarterly earnings call that revenue for its current quarter was down 19%, $4.2 billion compared to $5.2 billion in the previous quarter, for a net loss of $125 million. The results that have resulted in a management shift and a change on corporate focus. For the quarter the company shipped approximately 11.1 million BlackBerry phones and 500,000 tablets.

Out is former co-CEO Jim Balsille who has resigned from the board of directors. Also gone are COO of Global Operations Jim Rowan and CTO David Yach. This coincides with a much stronger emphasis on developing and delivering products focused on the needs of the coporate IT department and the corporate user.

So security, reliability, manageability and messaging services will be the keywords going forward as it seeks to leverage what it views are corporate strengths-enterprise services and devices that handle them. On the flip side areas such as consumer oriented capabilities such as media consumption will be placed on a backburner.

The key to all of this, and for the company to successfully rebound, will hinge on the BlackBerry 10 launch, executives said. The release is due at some point later this year and will finally give the company a high end smartphone to compete with the Android and Apple devices that are already so prevalent. It has been working hard to develop a strong app ecosystem as well.

Nano-SIM standard vote delayed
The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) after dueling proposals caused a rift. On one side is Apple, and select allies, and on the other is Nokia, Research in Motion and Motorola Mobility. TechWorld reports that a vote was scheduled last week but was postponed for at least a month due to strong differences between the two camps. The purpose is to develop a new, smaller form factor SIM card, officially called 4FF or fourth form factor.

Slow Tablet sales not Google’s fault?
An interesting piece from the good folks at The Motley Fool, or at least from Evan Niu, ponders why Google has not been able to transfer its tremendous success with its Android operating system in the smartphone market to the Tablet market. There are a variety of reasons mentioned but much of it boils down to the fact that many of the apps are simply slightly altered smartphone apps. It then ponders how Microsoft will do when it makes its big splash with its Windows 8 OS.

Google to sell self-labeled tablets?
An interesting sidebar to the while Android tablets are not doing well is the current rumors that not only will Google sell its own line of tablets, but will do so from its own store. Originally reported by the Wall Street Journal, the story is that Google will turn to partners, possibly Samsung and Asus to build tablets that Google will then sell under its own label.

In addition to selling under its own label it will also be selling them direct, much like Amazon does with its Kindle offerings and Apple with its iTunes store, among others. It is also expected to subsidize the cost of the tablet, a move that could alienate some of its hardware OEMs.

Google has already gone down the co-branding path once with HTC Nexus One a few years ago. Know anybody that has one? Well Google execs have said that the company plans to double down on Android tablets this year so it will be an interesting time. According to eWeek Google admitted that it has 300 million Android smartphones but only 12 million tablets in customers’ hands.

EU antitrust about to step in on Apple/Motorola Mobility/Microsoft patent issue?
Reuters is reporting that the head of the EU’s antitrust agency said that the group is considering opening an investigation into the patent disputes that are ongoing between Apple, Microsoft and Motorola Mobility.

While the EU has given the Motorola/Google $12.5 billion purchase a thumbs up it also said that it retained the right to investigate ongoing issues including the patent problems that have been a source of considerable litigation.

The group is already investigating if Samsung’s tactics in this area against Apple are a violation of EU antitrust rules. Google has said that it will offer Motorola patents on fair and reasonable terms once the deal is completed.

More Money = Less Entertainment apps on phones

The research firm The Luxury Group has done a study that shows that the wealthier an owner of a smartphone is the less likely to use it to play games or send tweets. It studied app usage among wealthy consumers, ones with income over $150,000.

The news is not really that startling as the users that fell into this area tended to have families and demanding jobs and tended to select apps that met those needs rather than ones for personal entertainment. Still it is sad on which side of this discussion I fall.

Hi-Tech a boon to local bookies
Automation has led to efficiency in so many areas since the days of Henry Ford, and now it looks like local bookies are getting in on the action, according to the New York Times. Rather than stand on street corners singing ‘Luck be a lady tonight’ all they need do these day is set up a web site, post odds and then direct the locals to it to place bets. Must make it real easy at tax time to see what you owe the government, and yes I know that is not where the song was sung in the movie.

Barnes & Noble May Look to Spin Off the Nook E-Reader

High production costs may mean partners or a spin-off

After a worse than expected quarter and with the growing realization that developing hardware and keeping it competitive is a costly business executives at Barnes & Noble have indicated that it may seek to separate the e-reader business.

The red ink is expected to continue and the company said that it expects to double its losses this year. According to the Wall Street Journal the company does not appear to be seeking to kill the platform but rather to put it on its own to sink or swim as the market dictates.

With its mainstream book selling business being hurt by digital competitors it has been slow to exploit that space, and ceded it to growing rival Amazon with its Kindle and to other tablet makers’ primarily Apple and its iPad.

It had strong holiday sales, with a 70% increase over last year, but failed to meet expectations in sales over the holiday season and that has had a domino effect on sales of related products that are used with the Nook, the company said.

The Nook Color

Barnes & Noble said in a release that it is in discussions with strategic partners including publishers, retailers, and technology companies in international markets that may lead to expansion of the Nook business abroad.

However the company cautioned that it will create a separate Nook business. William Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble said “we have a NOOK business that’s growing rapidly year-over-year and should be approximately $1.5 billion in comparable sales this fiscal year.”

A top rival to the Nook is Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which came out of the door hot and sales have been tremendous since then, with it being Amazon’s top selling product the last 13 weeks. Amazon’s ability to tout the platform every time you visit its web site certainly had to help in the marketing of the platform.

However a tear down by iSuppli, that is the disassembly of the product to determine its component cost, shows that it costs more to build a Kindle Fire than Amazon sells it for, and that does not account for the software engineering and other aspects of the device.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out in the next year or so. The product appears to be a strong platform that performs as users would want. Right now it seems likely that it will find a system manufacturer to partner with to help shift costs, but only time will tell.