Business Impact Of Steve Jobs' Medical Leave Could Be Significant

Apple CEO Steve Jobs yesterday wrote to all employees at his company noting that he was taking a medical leave of absence. This is not the first time Jobs will be taking time away from his responsibilities as CEO. Steve Jobs is a former pancreatic cancer patient who also had a liver transplant two years back. There was speculation earlier that Jobs – who was becoming increasingly frail over the past few months – could be taking another leave of absence soon.

What has bothered industry observers however is the open-ended nature of Jobs’ letter. Unlike the earlier time, when the company founder had promised to return in a few months time, the latest email from Steve Jobs’ does not mention a possible return date. In addition, he also writes about the “exciting plans we have in place for 2011” – indicating that this time it could be longer.

Steve Jobs has been the face of Apple since he took over the company as CEO in the mid-nineties. The American stock market was closed on Monday that should have helped prevent frantic panic-selling. The Apple stocks (NASDAQ : AAPL) however tanked in Germany falling by over 6%. The impact on immediate stock prices at NASDAQ will be apparent when the stock market opens on Tuesday.

What is concerning though is Apple’s plans for the rest of the year. The company is expected to launch a number of new products including the iPad 2 and iPhone 5 this year. The next few months will be testing times for Tim Cook, the COO at Apple who will take over the company in Jobs’ absence. Steve Jobs meanwhile, will continue being the CEO and will take part in all major strategic decisions.

Apple Gadgets

Next Generation iPad Screen Size Half Of Current Model?

Yesterday we had published a few pictures of the casings purportedly made for the next generation iPad. While those pictures do not reveal a form factor vastly different from the iPad currently in the market, we are now hearing that Apple is in fact working on an alternative version of iPad that could come with a screen size that is nearly half of the existing model’s.

The report comes from Reuters and the source does not clarify if this is in fact iPad 2 or is another variant that could be released somewhere down the line.

“A separate supply chain source said Apple was preparing a significantly smaller iPad that is almost half the size of the current model. The current iPad has a 9.7-inch screen.”

Now this does not totally align with what Steve Jobs had said earlier this year. In October, the Apple CEO rubbished reports of a 7″ iPad saying that the screen size was too small. But then, you never know. Steve Jobs has pulled this trick many times in the past – most recently with multitasking which was earlier dissed off as something mobile phones didn’t need. So expect a smaller iPad to launch when The Jobs feels the time is right.

Apple Software and Apps

Apple Mac App Store Launching On December 13?

The Mac App Store – the desktop equivalent of Apple’s successful iOS App Store could be launched as early as next week according to recent reports.

According to sources, Steve Jobs has been keen on rolling out the new application store well ahead of the Christmas holidays and developers were in fact asked to be ready for a December 6 launch. However, that day having passed now, Apple is learned to be working closely with developers to make a December 13 launch a reality.

A December 13 roll-out would be significant since that would bring significant business to Apple via the sale of software products ahead of the Christmas gifting season. It will be interesting to see if and whether the launch actually happens though.

Apple iOS Software and Apps

AirPlay Wireless Video Streaming From All iPhone Apps Coming In 2011

If you had upgraded your iDevice to iOS 4.2 thinking that it would bring the highly anticipated AirPlay on your favorite iPhone app, you may have been disappointed to know that the wireless audio and video streaming feature is currently restricted to YouTube and the iPod apps alone.

We had recently written about an application called AirVideoEnabler that lets iPhones access AirPlay on all iOS applications including applications like Mobile Safari and VLC. However since this is a jailbreak app, it is not available on all iPhones – at least for users who do not want to risk a void on warranty.

Apparently, this feature may be coming soon to all applications. An email conversation between an Apple TV customer and Steve Jobs is doing the rounds that hints at the roll-out of the service by early 2011. Here is a transcript of the email conversation

Customer : Hi, I recently updated both my iPhone 4 and iPad to 4.2. I think my favourite feature is airplay. This is seriously amazing and makes sharing content seamless. I just purchased Apple TV and was wondering are you ever going to make airplay video work for videos in safari and 3rd party apps? I hope to get a response. 🙂

Jobs : Yep, hope to add these features to Airplay in 2011.

Now the authenticity of the email is not known. Anyway, we do hope that Apple brings AirPlay to all iOS apps sooner rather than later.


White iPhone 4 Launch Date Rumors Surface Again

By now, many of you may have already given up on your hope to lay hands on a white iPhone 4. After all the hype and hoopla during launch, the white iPhone today is more or less forgotten. While the device was earlier speculated to have been delayed just by a few weeks, Apple later confirmed that the phone will be available not until later this year.

We are just three months away from new year and so there are doubts over Apple’s launch plans. However, in a recent email exchange, Steve Jobs has purportedly indicated that the phone may be available by Christmas. While the authenticity of this email is questionable, this is what the Apple customer wrote in his email

“I want the white one but Apple said it won’t be available until later this year. I know you must be asked this question hundreds of times a day but do you think we can expect to get the white iphone for xmas?
I hope you can answer. Thank you Steve.”

And Steve is reported to have replied,

“Christmas is later this year.”

So there you go. Even though we are not sure if this is genuine, the launch of a white-colored model for the Christmas season does make sense and we hope it turns out to be true.


Why Is Apple Crazy About FaceTime Video Calling?

When Steve Jobs unveiled the FaceTime video calling during the WWDC 2010 event back in June this year, I did not anticipate the airtime that this nifty feature would garner moving forward. Yes, it was an interesting way to communicate between two iPhone 4 users and in all probability, the device could also make it to the iPod Touch when it had a front-facing camera. Back then, the feeling was that Apple brought in this feature simply to offer a reason for a group of friends to all go for the same iDevice – so they could all FaceTime with each other. Anyway, the feature works only Wi-Fi and so it should not find too much of a traction anyway.

But going by the way things seem to be panned out, it looks like Apple may have grander plans for this video calling feature. FaceTime is already making to the next generation iPod Touch and if recent speculations are anything to go by, an iPad with a camera is pretty certain and FaceTime is then very much likely on the iPad. This much was already known – Apple would definitely be looking to integrate the feature on all its iDevices.

But in recent times, there are also rumors about Apple developing a FaceTime client for Mac and Windows. Mac users will see this being integrated with iChat though we are still wondering how it would be available for Windows users. To be fair, all this is total speculation and based on hear-say and so there really is no proof to back up the claims that Apple is actually looking to bring FaceTime to these non-iOS devices.

Speculation, it is. But unlikely, it is not. Steve Jobs has noted on more than one occasion about FaceTime being based on open standards and that he would like to bring this functionality to other devices as well – non-Apple ones.

If you have been following Apple for any significant length of time, you will find this all to be slightly weird. FaceTime is a free application. In all probability, the application will also be made available for free when it comes to Mac and Windows. And it’s weird because Apple has never pushed a product so aggressively when it does not make money directly. Apple is no Google.

So what is it about FaceTime that makes Apple pursue it so aggressively? Looking through Apple’s moves in the past one year, it is clear that Cupertino sees Google as a sworn enemy. The counter may also be true. Beginning with the mobile OS platform, Apple and Google today compete against each other in so many areas – smartphones, ad networks, tablets, set top box, music. You name it.

So where does FaceTime video calling fit into the entire scheme of things? Looking into the Google files, it is pretty apparent. Mountain View has long been offering its Voice service. The offering got bigger recently with the launch of the voice calling feature that was integrated with Gmail. Google today offers free voice calls to USA and Canada with pretty cheap international calls. The service is expected to be made available outside the United States in the coming months.

Is FaceTime Apple’s counter to Google’s Voice call feature? In the present form though, FaceTime is nothing but a fancy video calling functionality. But this can be expanded over time to bring in voice-calling. By launching FaceTime over Windows and Mac, Apple could clearly be expanding its base since the company could connect to non-Apple users for the first time ever. It’s a free application that only requires an email ID to sign up. The popularity could clearly soar. And bring in the ability to voice-call from any internet connected device – Apple would be able to jump into the center of the VoIP business from nowhere.

Looks ambitious from where we are now. But I wonder if all the development and negotiations are already happening at Cupertino. What do you think?


New iTunes 10 Icon Does Not Suck. But It's Irrelevant

Did you have that ‘Where-did-that-come-from?‘ feeling when Steve Jobs unveiled the new iTunes icon during the media event earlier this week? Apple has a logical answer to the makeover. The sale of digital music is fast outpacing CD sales and is supposed to overtake the sale of these physical goods by next year. So it’s time the CD was pulled off the icon.

Old itunes vs. new iTunes icon

And like it is with most changes, many people thought the new icon sucked. Designer Joshua Kopac thought that way too. And he decided to write to Jobs about it.


Enjoyed the presentation today. But…this new iTunes logo really sucks. You’re taking 10+ years of instant product recognition and replacing it with an unknown. Let’s both cross our fingers on this…”

Jobs incidentally replied,

We disagree.

Sent from my iPhone

So, what’s the verdict? Does it suck or not? Doesn’t matter actually. People will get used to the new icon over time. But what matters is if the new design actually captures what the product is. And in this case, the new iTunes 10 icon does a poor job in reflecting what iTunes does. Of course, iTunes is still primarily an online music store and the icon perfectly reflects that. But what is not reflected is the change that iTunes has gone through in the past few years and what it will be moving forward.

iTunes today includes the App Store. And this means you can purchase not only music, but also movies, TV shows, ebooks, games, media tools, business applications,etc. The list is virtually endless. That being the case, the new iTunes store does not clearly reflect these changes.

So Steve, you are right. But you are also wrong.

Mobile Nokia

Apple's Antenna Performance Claims False – Nokia

This was to be expected – especially after Steve Jobs sought refuge under his oft-repeated fact of life that all smartphones are affected by death grip issues during the iPhone 4 press conference yesterday. Steve Jobs had said,

“To our knowledge, it’s not possible to make a phone that doesn’t have weakspots. You could make a really big one! I mean, some of these guys are making Hummers at this point. But no one’s going to buy that.”

Nokia, the Finnish giant that is still the leader in the mobile phone industry took exception to Jobs’ statements. In a media statement released yesterday, the company has said that while it is true that wireless smartphones are affected by death grip, the company has taken exceptional care to ensure that their users do not face these signal reception issues. Nokia explains,

“Antenna design is a complex subject and has been a core competence at Nokia for decades, across hundreds of phone models. Nokia was the pioneer in internal antennas; the Nokia 8810, launched in 1998, was the first commercial phone with this feature.

[…]In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held. That’s why Nokia designs our phones to ensure acceptable performance in all real life cases, for example when the phone is held in either hand. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design.”

Do you own a Nokia smartphone? Can you replicate the death grip issues? Voice off in the comments.

Apple Mobile

Poor Signal On iPhone? Steve Jobs Says It's Your Fault

Apple iPhone users have rarely enjoyed great cell phone connectivity on their handsets. Many users often carry two handsets – one iPhone for bragging purposes and another handset to actually make calls. Such is the level of network connectivity from the AT&T network.

Of late though, AT&T has promised to rectify their network. The carrier is in the process of building a next generation cellular infrastructure that can offer its subscribers much improved network connectivity. While this is expected to take some more time before it is completely incorporated, the carrier has also been trying out other strategies like the implementation of Wi-Fi networks in highly congested areas so that subscribers in these areas can consume much more data.

While AT&T seems to be improving their network, it appears that Apple customers’ worries are far from over. The Cupertino based company introduced its latest iPhone this week amidst much fanfare. To their dismay, many users have noted that the new iPhone 4 has a peculiar problem – the cell signal strength drops to nil when held on the bottom sides of the phone. The iPhone 4 has its antenna band – that helps in connecting to the towers along this region (You can notice the black seam running on either side of the phone on the bottom sides) and by holding the iPhone in this region results in blocking signals.

Steve Jobs had in fact bragged about this new technology during a meeting with developers at the Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month. Back then, he had noted that the stainless steel bands on the lower sides of the iPhone 4 was a primary structural element of the iPhone’s antenna system that will help in better connectivity and that this has never been done before. Check out the video below.

Now, users are no longer amused. In particular, left handed users who typically HAVE to hold the iPhone at these designated spots during a call have been particularly inconvenienced. Several left handed users who had recently emailed Steve Jobs ([email protected]) seem to have received this response from the man himself (or his assistant)

“Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.”

Well, no fact of life this. I just tried this on my lowly Samsung F480 – I simply could not succeed. Didn’t happen with my iPhone 3G as well. As some people have been noting, this could as well be a software bug that Apple has failed to take note of.

Nevertheless, as Apple has pointed out, you may either change the way you hold your iPhone (It’s your fault) or buy one of those colorful bumpers that are now available for sale at Apple Stores. It costs $29 only.

Apple Mobile

Flash Ads On iPhone Coming Soon

Steve Jobs may hate it, but Adobe may soon be able to bring Flash based advertisements to the iPhone. According to reports on IntoMobile, Adobe has partnered with rich media mobile ad network, Greystripe to allow developers to bring advertisements authored in Flash to the iPhone.

How will this work? The report notes that Greystripe’s technology will help in translating Flash content into HTML5 which is supported on the Apple devices. With several major advertising companies making use of Flash in their campaigns, it is definitely a shot in the arm for both the advertisers as well as Adobe.

Apple is closing in on the sale of the 100 millionth iOS device and these are some of the most sought after audiences among advertisers. Adobe’s parternship will thus greatly enhance advertisers’ ability to engage their audiences with their advertisements.

[via IntoMobile]