Research in Motion has New Identity as BlackBerry 10 Arrives


Research in Motion’s comeback attempt starts today with the long awaited release of its next generation smartphone, the BlackBerry 10, a device the company is hoping will be the cornerstone of a revival in its fortune.

You have to give the company credit, it is not launching the new phone in a half hearted manner with events in New York City, Toronto, London, Paris, Dubai and Johannesburg and its executives have informed the world that RIM no longer exists and that it will now be known as BlackBerry.

BlackBerry introduced a pair of phones, the BlackBerry Z10 which has an all touch interface and the BlackBerry Q10 that has touch features but also includes a physical keyboard.
The company originally made its name as a supplier of a phone that served as a top flight business tool and it has not abandoned its roots, although it has also taken major steps in providing features that general consumers demand as well.

Some of the highlights of the platform include a new fast browser that supports HTML5. The BlackBerry Storefront now features 70,000 apps for the BlackBerry 10 family, and while a far cry from the millions available for iPhone and Android platforms it is a good start. The phones also come with some very popular apps now pre-installed including Facebook and Twitter.

The BlackBerry Hub (BBH) is a place to manage work and personal e-mail and social media. It features a messaging app called the BlackBerry Messenger that includes call and voice chat features and a program that is designed to separate your work apps and data from personal content and keep them secure. There is a host of additional features, some smply enhanced from previous versions, included on the new phones.

The company desperately needs a winner here as its woes have been well documented as the once undisputed leader in first smartphones for businesses has witnessed a steady erosion of its sales and market share followed by its revenue and profits following the same downward spiral.

At the same time its rivals are keeping the pressure on BlackBerry. In what is becoming a common game of one-upmanship Samsung picked today as the day it also unveiled one of its latest smartphones, the Galaxy Express 4G.

Apple, one of the other major powers in the smartphone space has been regularly updating its iPhones on a regular basis and the Internet is full of speculation of a new iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and cheap iPhone or a mixture of all of the above. But you can be sure that the company has an aggressive rollout plan to attempt to maintain its position in the market.

Research In Motion takes wraps off Next Generation BlackBerry Platform

As Research In Motion struggles to retain relevancy in the smartphone market that it helped pioneer the company has started delivering a prototype version of its Blackberry 10 smartphone and development tools to developers at its BlackBerry World conference.

The company hopes that the device, along with the new tools for the development of apps for the platform will help revive its fortunes which have waned quite a bit in recent years that have included top management turnover and financial losses.

To help spur on development the company is promising that all of the developers at the conference will receive a prototype when the show is over. Better yet to developers the company has apparently promised that developers will receive $10,000 for top flight apps in their first year in the market.

The move to create a fuller ecosystem for the next generation smartphone is joined by an effort to fuel app growth in China along with subsidiary QNX Software Systems by encouraging university students to develop for both the smartphone and tablet platforms from the company.

The companies are launching a competition that will focus on apps developed in two categories-Mobility Lifestyle Use and Automotive Experience with the winners getting their apps made available at BlackBerry App World and receive internships at what it calls leading Chinese and multinational companies.

While BlackBerry execs claim that the new tools will developers to create apps that will wow the market, and that is exactly what it needs. With Apple still witnessing huge sales for its iPad and iPhone, Android growing strongly in the smartphone space and the pending Windows tablet and smartphone OS releases there is a lot of competition out there.

The company has already taken steps to hire a restructuring firm to examine it future, as it reported that it’s most recent quarter it lost $125 million as revenue dropped 19%. At that time the company said that it was going to increase its focus on the corporate market.

Mobile Sports Report TechWatch: Does Your Computer Have Malware?

FBI helping to block malware
An international hacker has apparently infected and taken control of a host of computers around the globe using an advertising scam to lure people into going to a site that downloaded the malware. When the hackers were arrested the infected systems still operated thanks to the use of government servers that replaced the crooks systems.

That program will be shut down in July and when it does and your system is infected you will find a ‘page not found’ alert when you try to access the internet. You can go here to have your system tested.

Amazon’s Kindle touch 3G is here
Apparently a week earlier than expected the Amazon touch 3G has started shipping out to customers around the world. The $149 e-reader stands apart from other offerings from Amazon and others in that it provides free 3G connectivity on a global basis. Users do not need to sign up for a plan with a carrier or add service on an existing plan to get the wireless capability.

Verizon to introduce multi-device plan this summer
Verizon dropped some good news to owners of multiple devices that can access the Internet wirelessly- it is developing a plan that will allow customers to bundle all of the devices under one roof rather than be forced to have a plan for each device.

This will appeal to people that own both a tablets and a smartphones and can now have all of the data on a single plan. Verizon now joins T-Mobile and Sprint in offering this capability. I suspect that this will be a boon for tablet makers as it removes a barrier to acceptance of these devices.

Smartphone compatible watch draws big interest from investors
The Pebble, a watch that can wirelessly connect to an iPhone has been getting tremendous play from backers via Kickstarter. If you are not familiar with Kickstarter it is a place to raise funding by setting a level that you need and then hoping that enough individuals or larger investment groups promise funding. If you do not reach your goal you get nothing.

Anyway Pebble was seeking $100,000 and so far has raised $1.5 million and growing. Early investors, for a set sum, get a slight discount on one of the watches. The Pebble can support multiple apps and operating systems and communicates with the smartphone via Bluetooth. A similar technology is used in rival products such as the Garmin S3 Golf Watch, among others.

A Crab Computer?

Author Sir. Terry Pratchett has developed computer that runs on ants in several of his Discworld novels, and now it appears that Japanese scientists have taken it one better and developed one that runs on crabs.

Maybe runs on crabs is a bit too inexact, let’s say that live crabs are used as logic gates in the system developed by scientists at Kobe University. I wonder how you go to get a project like this funded? Hey I think crabs are better then microcircuits and they have less gate leakage? Anyway drop over to Gizmag and see if you can figure out what they did.

Research-in-Motion hires firm for restructuring help
RIM, the company that makes the BlackBerry has hired the law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy LLP to develop a restructuring plan for the company according to Yahoo! News. RIM is looking at a variety of options including the possibility that it might sell off some of its assets, developing joint ventures or engage in the very popular patent sell off.

Gemini Devices delivers inexpensive tablets-in UK market

While there is a growing wave of high end tablets, and two more are expected this week, there are alternatives for users that have simpler needs or a constrained pocketbook, and Gemini Devices is looking to meet your needs.

The company offers a series of JoyTAB tablets that include two 10-inch models, a 7-inch and an 8-inch JoyTAB. They have last generation technology for the most part, with single core CPUs and lower resolution screens than what are coming out now. The do have the latest version of the Android operating system, v 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich.

With a starting price of around $200 for the 7-inch color model they might make a good solution for users that have simpler needs than the users that want/need all the bells and whistles associated with the iPads and others of that ilk.

Xtex has an even less expensive Tablet-and lackluster reviews
The $200 JoyTAB too rich for your blood? Well there is the $150 Xtex My Tablet 7, a 7-inch color tablet that also uses older technology to hit a low price point. The tablet includes a single core processor and has an 800 x 480 pixel resolution. Chris Burns at Slashgear has taken one for a test ride and warns that you will get what you pay for.

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.

Mobile App Startup Fund expands to New Platforms

For developers looking to break into the market for sports apps, or any other type of app, and that are looking for funding there is a new financial resource available as ATP Capital has expanded into new markets with its latest effort.

Some might remember ATP as the company that manages a fund that is seeking to help cultivate an ecosystem of developers on behalf of Research in Motion BlackBerry via its Blackberry Partners Fund program. While RIM goes through some painful issues right now both internally and externally Capital is looking to expand its reach in the app space.

With that in mind it has refocused its efforts on a new fund that will be platform agnostic and look to invest in startups in not only the BlackBerry space but also look for new companies that have Android, Apple iOS and Windows 8 developments underway.

As a first step the company, which aside from the BlackBerry fund also manages Clairmont Capitol and JLA Ventures, has rebranded itself and will now be called Relay Ventures and along with the new name is a new $150 million fund, which will go by the name of the BlackBerry Partners Fund II. The new fund will continue to be an independently managed, platform agnostic, early stage venture fund with a singular focus on mobile computing.

The funds lead investor is Northleaf Capital Partners and includes partners Corus Entertainment, Thomas Rueters and of course Research in Motion. ATP has had success with its efforts in funding mobile app startups, with 32 having received some level of funding and six have already been acquired.

Relay Ventures is also uprooting itself from Toronto and is moving to new offices in Menlo Park, Calif. This reflects on the fact that the company has made almost half of its investments in startups from that area.

Government Intervention in On-line Privacy Issue Likely

Users to have select rights about when and how data is collected

With growing reports of data harvesting from people’s accounts with and without permission coming out in a constant stream, and many major on-line players only paying lip service to the idea of individual privacy it now looks like state and Federal Governments will intervene to differing degrees.

Google will be changing privacy rules March 1.

From California to Federal level efforts are now being made to rein in the app developers and afford a level of privacy, or at least provide upfront information about information sharing policies prior to purchase and installation.

On the Federal level the Obama administration has proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a seven point proposal that will seek to dramatically increase the privacy of users of the Internet that seeks to protect Americans’ privacy as they use the internet.

The core of the Bill of Rights has seven points:
INDIVIDUAL CONTROL: Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data companies collect from them and how they use it.
TRANSPARENCY: Consumers have a right to easily understandable and accessible information about privacy and security practices.
RESPECT FOR CONTEXT: Consumers have a right to expect that companies will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers provide the data.
SECURITY: Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data.
ACCESS AND ACCURACY: Consumers have a right to access and correct personal data in usable formats, in a manner that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data and the risk of adverse consequences to consumers if the data is inaccurate.
FOCUSED COLLECTION: Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain
ACCOUNTABILITY: Consumers have a right to have personal data handled by companies with appropriate measures in place to assure they adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

While this is only a guideline it is being proposed as a regulation that would be administered by the Federal Trade Commission after details of each of these is worked out. The White House has said that it will be working with industry groups and web app developers and publishers on this issue.

In at least one case a state is simply enforcing privacy standards that are on its books. In California the State Attorney General Kamala Harris has announced a deal with the state’s six largest mobile web app providers.

The companies, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Research-in-Motion and Amazon, which according to Harris account for 95% of all mobile apps distributed worldwide, must now adhere to the California Online Privacy Protection Act that was passed in 2004.

Under the agreement, the companies will place prominent and easy to understand privacy disclosures before a user downloads an app. The push will cover both app developers as well as the larger players such as Apple that distribute the apps.

A lot of players have a vested interest in this. Google and Facebook are massive data harvesters and in a number of ways they will remain unaffected. However Google’s recent move to change its privacy policies looks like one of the many events that have helped quickly push this to the forefront.

Another issue was the discovery that a number of apps were downloading users’ cell phone contacts and address books without clearly letting the user know that they were losing that information.