Friday Grab Bag: Firefox Smartphones and No Nook Future?

NFL has Concussion iPad app

The NFL is providing team doctors with an iPad application that is designed to help the doctors more accurately judge weather a player has a concussion or not. It was demonstrated last week at the annual NFL scouting combine.

It has creating a scoring system that can be used to quickly check if there is a large difference between the players’ baseline score and his gameday score. It will be used as one of the tools that a doctor will use to make gametime decisions.

Firefox for Phones
Mozilla has started showing its first commercial build of the Firefox operating system and has unveiled partners as part of its effort to move into the smartphone space, a move that has already garnered support from both phone makers and carriers.

The initial phones are expected to be from Alcatel One Touch, LG Electronics and ZTE, with Huawei Technologies also planning a late in the year release, according to Computerworld UK. 8 operators are also lining up behind Firefox OS, including América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Japan’s KDDI, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor, with the operators planning to first launch phones in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela.

Nook on the chopping block?
There has been talk that the founder of major bookseller Barnes & Nobles, Leonard Riggio, who just happens to be its chairman and largest shareholder, is looking at buying back the retail portion of the business.

He filed a plan with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the plan has no mention of its Nook and e-reader business. That portion of the business lost $262 million last year and reported a huge decline in sales over the recent holiday season, with revenue falling 25.9% in its Nook business.

2013 World Baseball Classic Starts Today
Or rather it starts broadcasting on the MLB Network, as teams have been fighting for position over the past several months in qualifying rounds. The first game pops up on the air at 11:30 p.m. ET and the network continues with all 39 games of the tournament including the Championship game that is scheduled to be played on Tuesday, March 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

There are four pools of teams playing, each with four nations represented in each pool. The United States is matched up with Canada, Italy and Mexico and the games will be played in Phoenix between March 7-10.

Hewlett-Packard unloads webOS
Lost amid Hewlett-Packard’s announcement of a low cost Android tablet was the fact that the company has sold its webOS mobile operating system to LG Electronics which plans to use it in forthcoming Internet connected televisions.

HP’s current tablet, the Slate 7, is powered by the Android operating system but its first shot at the market was with its TouchPad, a tablet that was powered by the webOS operating system and was met with a very poor reception.

Barnes & Noble Expected to Offer Nook Video Services

Barnes & Noble is planning on offering a video streaming and downloading service later in the fall as it faces increased competition not just from Amazon but also from the expected Apple iPad Mini and the upcoming Windows 8 tablets from Microsoft and its OEMs.

The company, which has been pondering the fate of its Nook e-reader for some time despite its popularity when released, said that the service will enable Nook users to buy movies and television shows from Time Warner’s HBO; Viacom; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; and Walt Disney Studios. It said that it is planning to add additional media content in the future.

It is commonly viewed that Amazon’s Kindle platform is the primary rival to the Nook and recently Amazon provided a huge upgrade to that platform in terms of quality of tablets and added a new larger model.

However the physical tablets are only part of the equation as Amazon offers both a streaming video service via its Prime offerings, but users get two day shipping on many items purchased using Amazon. Amazon has added a huge new library of videos via a deal with Epix as it seeks to also steal customers from Netflix as to help differentiate its offerings.

Aside from the Amazon threat is the looming issue of just additional competition in the overall tablet space. Intel has said that there are almost two dozen new tablets pending using its processors that will be running one of the versions of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system.

Microsoft will also be entering the space with its own tablet, called the Surface. Google’s Nexus 7 was released just a few months ago to very favorable reviews and looks to be a long term contender. Then Apple, the overall market leader in the tablet space, is expected to enter the smaller form factor sector next month with a 7-inch iPad.

Barnes & Noble has not yet provided a pricing structure for the video service. Amazon offers its streaming video by the year while Netflix has a per month charge.

Barnes & Noble Partners with Microsoft to Create Subsidiary

Barnes & Noble has entered into a relationship with Microsoft that will create a Barnes & Noble subsidiary that will handle all of Barnes & Noble’s digital and college businesses in what may be the first step in spinning off the unit as a separate company.

The new unit is as yet unnamed but goes by the temporary title of Newco and with Barnes & Noble throwing in its business units Microsoft will be providing a $300 million investment in the company, a move that will give the software giant a 17.6% equity stake in the new company.

Barnes & Noble will retain the remaining 82.4% equity in the company and Newco will maintain a relationship with Barnes & Noble’s retail outlets. The company said that the move was important for it because it will help it to capitalize on its Nook tablet and help it grow not only in the education market but also in the consumer space.

As part of the deal pending patent litigation Microsoft launched last year against Barnes & Noble was settled and B&N now has a royalty-bearing license under Microsoft’s patents for its NOOK eReader and Tablet products. The first expected product from this partnership will be a Nook application for Windows 8.

There has been speculation for some time that Barnes & Noble might look to spin off its hardware Nook business because wile it has seen solid acceptance, unlike many of the ereaders and tablets available, it is not viewed as a core competency of the company. B&N said that it is exploring the option of completely separating the business but will not comment on the matter unless it reaches a decision on the matter.

The Nook Comes in From the Dark

Credit Barnes & Noble with understanding an issue that plagues a host of readers, particularly ones that read in bed; it’s hard to get the lighting right on the page without straining a reader’s eyes or without annoying a partner in bed. But no more as the company has added a backlight feature to its latest Nook e-reader tablet, the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.

The GlowLight automatically comes on and is user adjustable to meet individual needs. It is an array of LEDs that are in the frame and shed a light across the reading surface of the tablet.

Barnes & Noble did not use just anecdotal evidence to make the decision to add backlighting to the Nook. In a survey the company found that 64 percent of people read in bed, and people with ereaders are the most likely to read in bed with 72 percent responding that they did.
This ties in very closely with the results that found 77 percent of respondents say they or their partner requires light for their bedtime reading, while 90 percent said that they prefer a sleep environment that is completely dark.

It is interesting that color screen tablets have the exact opposite issue that black and white ones do. Black and white displays do pretty well in direct sunlight, while the opposite is true with color. But turn off the lights and the color displays really show their stuff.

The company is currently taking preorders for the $139 Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight and said that it is expected to ship in May.The company needs a shot in the arm because despite doing relatively well with its Nook, fears are growing that Amazon will be the beneficiary of the recent DOJ investigation into Apple and 5 publishers.

Friday Grab Bag: Kindle and iPad Drove Q4 Tablet Sales

Global tablet sales surged in the 4th quarter of last year, driven by the demand for Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad tablets. An IDC study as reported by Cnet shows that overall tablet shipments grew by 56% on a sequential basis in the fourth quarter of 2011, to 28.2 million units, and a 155% increase from the same period in 2010.

The top players in this sector were led by Apple with a 55% market share with 15.4 million tablets. Second was Amazon’s Kindle Fire at 4.7 million in the quarter, good for a 16.8% market share. Samsung trailed with a 5.8% share and then Barnes & Noble with a 3.5% share.

IDC has upgraded its estimation for worldwide tablet sales in 2012 to 106.1 million, up from its previous estimation of 87.7 million. I wonder what percentage of those sales would have gone to PCs a few years ago?

Did the NFL collude against the players?

The NFL’s very odd decision to fine the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys a combined $46 million in cap space could turn out to be a major mistake, if the league actually goes through with its decision, multiple outlets are reporting.

Dallas and Washington’s crime was apparently spending more money during the uncapped year than the other owners wanted, giving them an ‘unfair advantage’ by actually investing in their teams rather than simply pocketing the money.

It looks like the owners of the two teams are now considering suing the league, a move that looks like it might then result in an additional lawsuit from the players union as it would show collusion and violation of antitrust. While the league has limited antitrust immunity, it does not cover this kind of action. Baseball did the same thing some time back and was expensively slapped by the courts. I suspect the NFL may quietly backtrack on this issue.

Apple and Motorola talked cross licensing–last year?
A series of talks between Motorola Mobility and Apple last year regarding a proposed deal to cross license their patent portfolios, or portions of them, has come to light as part of the EU’s discovery process on the Google/Motorola merger.

It looks like Motorola was demanding that it gain access to Apple’s entire patent portfolio in order for Apple to get access to Motorola’s standards-essential patents (SEPs). It was noted in The Register that usually SEPs are cross licensed for other SEPs, not the entire portfolio.

They did discuss the ‘scope of a possible settlement’ after Google announced its purchase of Motorola for $12.5 billion. According to Foss Patents, Motorola wanted to broaden the scope of the deal to include all Android licensees while Apple wanted it between the two companies.

Yahoo sues Facebook over patents
Yahoo has dropped the other shoe in its face-off with Facebook and has filed a lawsuit contending that the social media giant has violated Yahoo patents that cover a range of features including news feed generation, social commenting and advertising.

The issue initially emerged a few weeks ago and many thought that the effort by Yahoo was just part of a positioning move by the company to show that it has a valuable patent portfolio as it seeks a buyer. The timing of the move is interesting because it coincides with Facebook’s IPO.

Now it looks like it may get the chance to prove that contention via court filings and possibly rulings on its patents. Yahoo is seeking unspecified damages, and has requests that any such amount be tripled due to Facebook’s willful actions.

Sony’s Xperia smartphone features ‘floating touch’ technology
Sony, using something that sounds like it came from a Geisha house has incorporating ‘floating touch’ navigation that allows a user to browse the web without touching the screen, simply by hovering a finger above the screen and moving it to move the cursor.

The phone also features a 1GHz dual core processor, Android 2.3, upgradeable to 4.0 later this year, and a 3.7-inch Reality Display.

Nokia working on Windows 8 tablet
Nokia, one of Microsoft’s strongest supporters in the Windows smartphone market has said that it will be joining Microsoft in the tablet space in the near future. Reuters reported that the company’s design chief is spending a third of his time developing the tablet and that the company is seeking to take a different approach from rivals in creating a product that will challenge market leader Apple and its iPad.

Intel invests in eye-tracking company
Intel Capital has invested $21 million in a third funding round for Swedish company Tobii, that has been working on eye-tracking technology that can be incorporated with laptops, tablets and other hardware. Tobii said that the investment will give Intel a 10% stake in the company.

Tobi has previously raised $14 million in 2007 and an additional $26.8 million in 2009. It said that the investment will help the 12 year old company maintain a steady research and development schedule. Tobii recently unveiled its latest eye-tracking device last week at CeBIT, the Tobii IS-2 Eye Tracker.

It is interesting that Intel is investing in this type of technology. Over a decade ago I saw a demonstration of eye tracking technology at an Intel Labs demonstration and have wondered why it has never seen the light of day. I guess it was red lighted and so the company is now looking to outside sources.

Going to London for the Olympics? Free Wi-Fi!
Well at least it will be free in the Tube, or subway system. The service will run from July 27 to August 12 and will be provided by Virgin Media. After the Olympics end the service will be available to Virgin subscribers.

USC football players live for Twitter
Interesting read at CBS Sports about Twitter and specifically on how a pair of USC athletes use it. Shows how prevalent that technology is becoming.

Mobile Sports Report TechWatch: Mashable to sell for $200 million?

TV makers missing the boat on apps?
The NY Times has a nice, short pierce on how other forms of streaming video are increasingly sidelining television viewing and that they need to add a greater degree of connectivity to compete with developments such as Apple TV and even smartphones. It asks some of the questions that likely be the basis of this conversation going forward.

How is Twitter’s Finances?
Gawker has come forth saying that the micro blogger’s revenue and profits are poor, based on leaked information that that site has received. Twitter has been pronouncing that it has seen an uptick in its performance but Gawker says otherwise.

It claims that in 2010 Twitter had total revenue of $28.5 million, a pretty good number for a startup until the fact that it had to spend three times that to earn the revenue and that for the year it reported a net loss of $67.8 million.

The company, which has 100 million active users, does not appear to have a comprehensive plan to maintain steady revenue, according to the article, which claims that it could be the greatest tech bust ever.

March Madness is here- so are the apps (for iPhones)
Appolicious has taken the time to track down and do a nice short write up on 5 apps that can help you track the tournament and follow your teams. They are both free and paid apps and cover just scores to ones that include analysis, news updates and bracket creators and tracking information.

Generation C?
Labeling generations seems to be an art, although I have always wondered why the first I had heard of was Generation X. I mean why start at the bottom of the alphabet? Well the good folks at Nielsen have come up with another, Generation C.

At least this one makes sense as the C stands for connected and its members are Americans in the 18-34 age group, or 23% of the overall population. Gen C make up 27% of online video viewers, 27% of those that visit social networking sites, represent 33% that own a tablet and 39% of the smartphone owners.

Mashable on the block?
Reuters is reporting that CNN is in talks to purchase social media news site Mashable for more than $200 million. Mashable covers a range of areas in the tech and social media sector including startup news and issues related to major players. CNN declined to comment.

One interesting aftereffect of the big Apple iPad announcement is that it seems to have unleashed a wave of rumors about pending rival products. While there is always talk about company A planning to do such and such with its next generation platform, it seems much more pronounce these days. Of course it could be that I am just now paying more attention, anyway here are a few of the more interesting ones.

Google and Asus to team on 7-inch Tablet?
DigiTimes is reporting that Google and Asus are teaming to deliver a 7-inch Android tablet that will be shipping in May. Targeted directly at the e-reader space that is currently dominated by two players, Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook the tablet is reported to be in the $199-$249 price range.

Padfone to ship in April?
It looks like Asus will be delivering its Padfone convertible next month, at least in select markets. I have to say that this is the device that I am very interested in getting my hands on. The reason is that the phone snaps into the tablet and the phones processor powers the entire device. This way a user can get a tablet with 3/4G without a separate contract, a major drawback on connecting tablets to digital networks.

The Padfone is a three piece product with the first being 4.3-inch smartphone designed for the Android 4.0 operating system powered by a Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual core processor. That can be inserted into the top of a 10.1-inch tablet, and there is a keyboard dock as well

This and that

Instagram looks to Android
Instagram is coming real soon to the Android. Founder Kevin Systrom showed, but did not give a full demo of the app at SXSW. The company said that it currently has 27 million users.

Some iPads will be late

Apple’s recently introduced iPad, set for delivery this Friday, will be missing in some areas due to an overwhelming demand for the product. The company said that it has sold out and that some buyers will have to wait as long as three weeks to get their orders.

Nvidia vs Apple Rd 1
Nvidia disputes Apple’s claim that the iPad is 2x faster than nVidia’s Tegra 3 processor. Its response can be boiled down to simply- let’s see the data. Wonder if this is the first shot in a benchmark war a la Intel/AMD from a decade ago?

Path now syncs with Nike +
For users of the iPhone app that makes a journal of your life for your friends it now enables you to share your workout stats using Nike’s Nike + technology, with more forthcoming when Nike releases the Nike + Fuelband product.