If there's one thing that is great about living in Australia - other than our crappy Internet - its our consumer laws. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking up warranty issues with Apple, something that the iPhone maker has gotten away with for years.
Claims have pegged Apple with misleading consumers in respect to the details of faulty product replacement, refund and repair, the ACCC has hit Apple with a court order, which demands changes be made in Australia. The ACCC claims that Apple employees have been enforcing its own internal policies, which is a 14-day return and 12-month manufacturer warranty, versus those put in place by Australian law.
Apple will now offer a 24-month warranty in Australia, as well as beef up its repair and return policy. For those based in Australia, and consumers of Apple goods, this is a good win for consumers!
Microsoft is currently narrowing down its short list of potential CEOs to take over after a tumultuous tenure of current CEO Steve Ballmer. There are only a handful of potential candidates that have the skillset and experience to lead the Redmond, Washington-based company, which has more than 100,000 employees worldwide.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally was rumored to be a potential replacement, but Ford confirmed its CEO will lead the company through 2014. Meanwhile, Qualcomm COO Steve Mollenkopf was also a potential candidate, but Qualcomm announced Mollenkopf will be promoted to CEO as on March 4, 2014. Microsoft is reportedly looking for a replacement both internally and externally, and it's difficult to try and predict who will step in and lead one of the most powerful computer companies in the world.
In late August, Microsoft announced Ballmer would step down as acting CEO, which immediately put the rumor mill into overdrive. Over its 38-year history, Microsoft has only had two CEOs, founder Bill Gates and Ballmer, and the next CEO will have a very interesting task ahead - Microsoft is still a software giant, but has had trouble trying to break into the mobile market, and is adjusting to a cloud-based market.
The Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablet models are selling out and have been difficult to find this Christmas shopping season. The devices are selling out at the official Microsoft Store and Walmart.com, while a quick look at Amazon.com shows a small supply of the surprisingly popular tablets.
It's plausible Microsoft released smaller shipments to retailers - or the devices are truly becoming popular - but we won't know until early 2014, when analysts are able to estimate sales numbers. Microsoft and the retailers aren't confirming shipment figures, so analyst groups will be left to estimate how the Microsoft tablets did against rival tablets.
Microsoft has found it difficult to compete with the extremely popular Apple iPad and Android-based tablets, but the Windows 8-powered devices are best suited to make a major impact in the enterprise. Meanwhile, analysts believe the Surface 2 tablets will continue to fight for market share in 2014, as Microsoft continues a massive marketing and advertising campaign.
Coby Electronics 32-inch flat screen HDTVs with the model number "TFTV3229" are being recalled due to potential fire risk, according to media reports.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) confirmed there have been at least six reports of TVs overheating, emitting smoke, or igniting in small fires. No reported injuries related to the faulty TVs.The TVs were sold starting in August 2011 until November 2013 at Best Buy, Fry's Electronics, H.H. Gregg, Toys 'R' Us, ABC Warehouse, P.C. Richard and Son, Sears/Kmart, and Nebraska Furniture Mart.
Coby was a Chinese-based high-definition TV manufacturer that is known for selling low-cost, entry-level HDTVs that are drastically cheaper than rival models from Samsung, Sony, LG, Sharp, and other competing companies. Unfortunately, Coby USA is no longer in operation, so the retailers are handling the recall.
Visit the CPSC website to see if your Coby TV is currently being recalled.
Is Google feeling festive, or is the Mountain View-based giant feeling a little T-101ish? Well, Google has acquired robotics engineering company Boston Dynamics, which is best known for its quadrupeds, and super-impressive robots.
We've already seen BigDog, a motorized robot that is capable of walking through ice and snow, the Cheetah - which is capable of running at 29 miles per hour, and a convincing humanoid known as
Arnold Schwarzenegger PETMAN. We don't know the business side of the deal, or the exact amount of money it took to acquire the robot maker.
We do know that a $10.8 million contract that the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had with Boston Dynamics would still be honored after it has been acquired by Google. Something else I find fishy, is that a year ago the Director of DARPA left the defense agency, moving to... Google. Now Google acquires a high-end robotics maker? Yeah... Skynet is getting closer, folks.
Today VIA announced that it has filed suit against a subsidiary of Asustek as well as four of its employees over allegations of misappropriations of trade secrets. The civil lawsuit has been filed in the Taipei District Court with VIA seeking damages equating to $138 million US.
The lawsuit states that misappropriation of VIA intellectual property related to USB technology occurred and names Asmedia Technology, Asustek, Asmedia Chairman Jerry Shen, Asmedia President Lin Chewei, and other Asmedia employees as those responsible for the misappropriation.
"As a long-time leader in IC design and technology innovation, VIA strongly believes in the importance of protecting intellectual property rights," commented Wenchi Chen, CEO of VIA Technologies, Inc. "In addition to protecting interests of VIA and our shareholders, the aim of this suit is to ensure our industry operates in a healthy market environment that fosters innovation and promotes fair competition."
There are some multimillionaires out there thanks to the digital currency, Bitcoin, but now you can purchase a $7.85 million Las Vegas home with Bitcoins. A casino owner who is now a commercial developer, is selling the Vegas home, accepting Bitcoins as payment.
Jack Sommer said he thought of the idea to sell his $7.85 million mansion from his two sons, who make and trade Bitcoins. Sommer said: "The advantage is that we're expanding our market and adding some notoriety." The house itself sounds gorgeous, as it features marble from China, Iceland and Brazil, a full basement, staff quarters with Jacuzzis, and a secret garden. It also has 39 air-conditioning zones fed from a 120-ton cooling tower.
Back in January, Bitcoins were trading at $10, now they're trading at around $870. Transferring $7.85 million in Bitcoins, and then a flash crash happening a few days later, plummeting the real-world value of Bitcoins would hurt, a lot.
Michelle Lee, was an executive with Google, but is now the new Deputy Director of the United States Patent & Trademark Office. Lee was previously in charge of patents and patent strategy at the search giant, so this new job isn't too far from her previous position.
Lee will be in the position at the USPTO in an interim position, with the former director of the USPTO, David Kappos, stepping down in February to pursue interests in the private sector, with Teresa Stanek Rea as the acting director since. Lee will now be the Deputy Director until the USPTO finds a permanent replacement, but there's no word on when this might happen.
Apple has just landed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, under US Patent No. 8,603,574, which is for a "Curved touch sensor' that details a manufacturing technique that would make an accurate, curved touch surface, without deficiencies caused by substrate warping or deformation.
The iPhone maker notes that current touch panel technologies are hard to work with, due to "desired thinness of the substrate and thin film". In order to escape these issues, Apple's newly awarded patent allows for a technique that deposits a conductive thin film over a flexible substrate, while it's in a flat state. AppleInsider reports: "Once the electrodes are in place, the substrate package is joined to a curved "forming substrate" and subsequently heated. The process results in a non-deformed curved touch sensor stackup with a thin film that benefits from the high-temperature anneal."
This should mean that we'll see a curved iOS-based device in the future, but how much longer will it be before we see it? Will it be the iWatch? Maybe a curved iPad? Most will expect a curved iPhone, to keep up with the Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex smartphones.
It looks like Apple is taking control of Japan's tablet market, where its iPad and iPad mini slates make up six out of every ten tablets sold in the country, according to BCN, which measures electronic sales across the country.
The top of BCN's list was the iPad Air, which was followed closely by the iPad mini. On BCN's charts, one variant of Apple's iPad was listed as first, second, fifth, eighth, ninth, and tenth place - total domination by the Cupertino-based giant. The slates on the top ten list that weren't built by Apple, were Google's Nexus 7 tablets (both the 2012 and 2013 editions).
Something that shouldn't be stated, but has been, is that Samsung is looking to "lower its dependence" on its smartphone business. The news is coming from Korea's ETNews, who says that Samsung wants to not rely on its smartphones business as a revenue generator.
Instead, it will look at other areas to beef up its massive profits, instead of just smartphones. ETNews' sources say that Samsung's "focus will be placed on smartphone derivatives in the short term, such as peripherals and accessories" while it works on wearable devices, like its Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
Just 10 days ago we reported that Bitcoins reached over $1000 in value each, which at the time was a meteoroic 4000% increase, year-over-year. Now? The digital currency has dropped to around $800 each, from their peak at $1200 just days ago.
Few thought that Bitcoins would reach parity with gold, some thought there was no end in sight, but you can't dispute the fact that the digital currency has stumbled, with no exact science or past on how it will react. Will it go down to $100 each? Will we see another country completely embrace it and see it skyrocket past $2000?
With China's central bank refusing to consider Bitcoins as legal tender, the drop in price quickly happened. But, the Chinese government didn't put an all-out ban on the digital currency, with all citizens still able to use Bitcoins legally. The central bank's refusal to use them is what hurts the most, as it could spread quickly throughout the world.
If you want to support independent games, and didn't want to use that pesky fiat-based, central bank currency - well, this is music to your anti-mainstream ears!
Bitcoins can now be used to purchase Ouya consoles, which is great because it means you don't need to use a credit card. Unfortunately, if you want to purchase games on the Ouya console, you'll still need your credit card - which I don't get. If you're going to support Bitcoin, do it all the way, or not at all. Ouya does state that PayPal support is coming soon.
Yesterday we reported that Apple had inked a deal with China Mobile for the iPhone, but now China Mobile itself has denied the report. This is strange, especially given that it was The Wall Street Journal's sources who were talking about the deal.
China Mobile spokeswoman, Rainie Lei said: "Talks between China Mobile and Apple on cooperation are still going on and we currently do not have anything to announce." I'm sure we'll hear something in the coming days, but for now there is no deal reached between the two giants.
As I first reported yesterday, the US House of Representatives has been hearing arguments on a new bill that could put an end to many of the frivolous patent lawsuits filled each year by so-called patent trolls. As expected, the bill has passed in the House with support from both sides of the isle.
Known as the Innovation Act 325-91, the bill will now make its way to the senate where it is expected to pass with a bipartisan majority as well. Once it is finished in congress, the bill will make its way to President Obama's desk and he also is expected to sign it into law. If this does happen, we could see an end to the era of east Texas shell corporations that exist only to file and buy low-quality, low-detail patents that are so vague that they can be claimed as part of many technologies.
This is the first step into patent reform, and hopefully the next step will be a complete overhaul of the United States Patent and Trade office. With companies now patenting seeds, human, animal and plant genes, and even specific code, we need to work hard to prevent these sort of things from happening. If not, then I am afraid that we may see an immense slowdown in technological and scientific innovation and breakthroughs for decades to come.
The saga over who will become Microsoft's next CEO has taken yet another step forward today after a board member at Ford told press that Alan Mulally will not be leaving the car maker for Redmond, Washington. Since this news began to spread earlier this week, Microsoft's stock has fallen about 3.5-percent, equating in a $12 billion fall in market cap for the company.
The news came from Ford board member, Edsel Ford II who stated that "Alan is staying through the end of 2014," a time frame far past Steve Ballmer's departing date. This is good news for Nokia's Stephen Elop, who is also in the running to take the CEO seat. Today's news does not surprise me at all though, as I have expected Elop to be the "Chosen One" since Microsoft announced its acquisition plans for Nokia. Other reports suggest that Microsoft's head of Cloud Services Satya Nadella could head up the company, but I see that as a far stretch at this point.
Another step to ending the endless stream of patent lawsuits filled by patent trolls is almost complete. Today AllThingsD is reporting that supporters are confident that a bill designed to stifle abusive patent lawsuits will pass in the House of Representatives later this week.
"The Innovation Act from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) is aimed at discouraging patent holders from filing frivolous lawsuits in hopes of extracting a settlement. The bill would give judges more discretion to limit discovery or award legal fees when a lawsuit fails to prove infringement," the report read.
With major corporations such as Newegg.com losing frivolous patent lawsuits to known patent trolls such as TQP Development something must be done, or innovation could be suppressed for decades while inventors, developers, and designers wait for existing patents to expire. Personally, I feel that the entire US and UK patent systems need a complete overhaul. They worked well during the industrial revolution and even somewhat well since them, but in today's world of 0's and 1's, we need to pay very close attention to what we allow to be patented, or we may miss out on the next big breakthrough in science.
Billionaire activist is at it again, and this time he is pushing Apple to buy back $50 billion worth of its shares from investors. Today Time Magazine reported that Icahn has filed a proposal that he hopes will pressure Apple into increasing its share buyback program to a whopping $50 billion.
Apple has confirmed that the proposal has been filed, but no comment on the actual proposal was made. Apple could more than afford the buyback, but it would cut its cash reserves significantly. On the other hand, with Apple's stock falling over the course of the last 12 months, the buyback increase could see some investors make back some of their lost investments.
The MPAA has won a 3-year long lawsuit against Hotfile, a file sharing service that payed users to upload and share various files including pirated movies. Today the two parties agreed on an $80 million settlement, and Hotfile was ordered to cease all operations unless it implement's digital fingerprinting of files.
"This judgment by the court is another important step toward protecting an Internet that works for everyone. Sites like Hotfile that illegally profit off of the creativity and hard work of others do a serious disservice to audiences, who deserve high-quality, legitimate viewing experiences online," said MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd.
This is yet another big win for the MPAA against online piracy, and even though only a fraction of the $500 million the MPAA was seeking was ordered, Hotfile may not survive this outcome. At the current time, Hotfile has removed all premium offerings from its service, and it is unclear if any future payments will be made to it users.
Spotify has just launched a new set of tools that artists, managers and others can use to track the popularity of their music on the music streaming service. Spotify continues to focus on communicating to the music industry that its service is great for artists, and that all of the bad words you hear about music streaming isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
Spotify provides an analytics dashboard, which allows artists a real-time look at just how much their content is being listened to. Also included in this, are details on listeners, such as age, gender, location of their listeners and more. Spotify one-ups this though, providing details on just how the royalties are paid out from Spotify.
It also shows other avenues where Spotify exposes artists to the public, with the music streaming company saying that it pays "more than two times more" than ad-supported services like YouTube, and "significantly" more than traditional and online radio services. Spotify holds just 30% of the profits, giving the remaining 70% to its artists.
If unlocking your iPhone via your fingerprint was not easy enough, Apple has been granted a patent on yet another unlocking method. The new method would all you to unlock your phone by simply looking at it. This time Apple wants not only your fingerprint to be saved on the device, but for your face to be digitized and saved as well.
Apple says that in addition to simply unlocking the device, this facial recognition could be used to launch or open up specific apps on the device. Android has had this functionality for a while now, and so has Apple. About two years ago, Apple was awarded a similar patent that used different control methods for facial recognition. With the companies recent purchase of PrimeSense, they could take this patent very far.