Archive for December, 2010

2010 in review: Apple as a business (Macworld)

Friday, December 31st, 2010

2010 in review: Apple as a business
(Macworld)

2010 was a great year for Apple the business. Though we won’t know the results of this holiday season until January, it’s worth taking a look back at Apple’s fantastic fiscal 2010 (which ran from October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010).

Bottom line: Apple had about as good a year as any business can expect to have. The company recorded $65.2 billion in sales, an increase of 52 percent from the previous year. And profits were up, too: in fiscal 2010, Apple made $14 billion in profit, a 72 percent increase over fiscal 2009. Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer quite rightly referred to it as “a monumental year for Apple.”

Look at a chart of Apple’s total revenue for its last six fiscal years, and you see a company that’s on a steady upward march, its year-over-year growth slowed only slightly by the global financial crisis and recession that hit during Apple’s 2009 fiscal year.

For the first fiscal quarter of 2011—that’s this current holiday season—Oppenheimer told analysts in October to expect revenue of $23 billion, which would be an increase of 47 percent over the previous year’s holiday quarter, but only a 13 percent increase over the last three months of fiscal 2010. Given Apple’s tendency to be remarkably conservative in its guidance, and given the tendency of Apple’s holiday quarters to improve on the quarter preceding them by between 25 and 50 percent when the economy isn’t imploding all around them, it wouldn’t be surprising for Apple to be at the end of a $30 billion quarter. We'll find out on January 18.

Product lines

This was a great year for both the iPhone and the Mac. In fiscal 2010, Apple sold 13.7 million Macs, by far the most it’s ever sold in a single year. That figure also represented a 31 percent increase in Mac sales from the previous fiscal year. And if you look over the past six years, it becomes clear that Mac sales are growing rapidly.

In the 2010 fiscal year, Apple sold 40 million phones, a 93 percent jump over 2009. During September, the company says it passed the 125 million mark for cumulative iOS sales of its iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch offerings.

Not all of Apple’s product lines are growing. The iPod segment continues to shrink, owing to a saturated MP3-player market. But the iPod’s share of the MP3 player market in the U.S. continues to top 70 percent, according to research firm NPD’s figures. With a new iPod nano and the beefed up iPod touch, the iPod is set up for a strong holiday 2010 quarter.

Overall, Apple is a collection of several different businesses, largely growing, but at different rates. If you plot a chart of total revenues across Apple’s different product lines, it’s apparent that for all the sturm and drang about the Mac’s role at Apple, the Mac business continues to grow in revenue, despite a dip during the recession year of 2009. Other revenue, including software sales and iTunes, is growing at a slower pace, but still growing. And the iPod line, after peaking in fiscal 2008, seems to have flattened out.

The two areas where Apple sees astronomical growth are in the iPhone and iPad lines. In just six months of sales, the iPad came close to eclipsing the iPod and “other revenueâ€

Apple retail stores

By all accounts, it was a great year for Apple's retail arm. Apple started the fiscal year with 273 stores, and finished it with 317, including 84 outside of the United States. Among the new showcase stores opened during the year were ones in Louvre in Paris, on New York’s Upper West Side, and in Beijing and Shanghai, China. Stores also opened in the UK, Germany, Australia, and Canada.

Look for the company to continue to expand internationally during 2011. It plans to open 40 to 50 stores during the coming fiscal year, with half of those slated for outside the U.S. The company also plans to start renovating several of its U.S. stores during 2011.

Quarter by quarter

Apple’s fiscal first quarter of 2010, covering the 2009 holiday season, was Apple’s best quarter ever, with sales of $15.68 billion and a profit of $3.38 billion. Apple forecast $11 billion in sales for the second quarter.

Just two days before the introduction of the iPad, Steve Jobs was quoted in a company press release as saying, “The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we’re really excited about.”

Three months later, the company revealed record non-holiday results for its second fiscal quarter, including sales of $13.5 billion and a profit of more than $3 billion. Company executives again credited the iPhone and the Mac for driving Apple performance. Since the iPad didn’t ship until April 3, the second quarter didn’t include any iPad revenue, but execs did mention that they were “shocked” at the level of demand for the iPad. Apple forecast $13 billion in sales for the third quarter.

In July, Apple’s third-quarter results set a company record for revenue, eclipsing the mark previously held by the first quarter of 2010. In the quarter, Apple generated $15.7 billion in sales and a profit of $3.25 billion. Mac sales hit record highs, and the iPad generated $2.17 billion in revenue during its first quarter of life. Apple forecast $18 billion in revenue for the forthcoming fourth quarter.

In October, Apple’s fiscal fourth quarter set yet another record, with $4.31 billion in profit and $20.34 billion in revenue. The numbers were so huge, Apple CEO Steve Jobs sat in on a conference call with analysts. “I couldn’t help dropping by for our first $20 billion quarter,” he said.

Apple will announced its fiscal first-quarter earnings for 2011, covering the holiday season of 2010, in mid-January. And as always, Macworld will be there to bring you the details.

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New virus threatens phones using Android

Friday, December 31st, 2010

New virus threatens phones using Android

New virus threatens phones using Android

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A virus infecting mobile phones using Google's Android operating system has emerged in China that can allow a hacker to gain access to personal data, US security experts said.

A report this week from Lookout Mobile Security said the new Trojan affecting Android devices has been dubbed "Geinimi" and "can compromise a significant amount of personal data on a user?s phone and send it to remote servers."

The firm called the virus "the most sophisticated Android malware we've seen to date."

"Once the malware is installed on a user's phone, it has the potential to receive commands from a remote server that allow the owner of that server to control the phone," Lookout said.

"Geinimi's author(s) have raised the sophistication bar significantly over and above previously observed Android malware by employing techniques to obfuscate its activities."

The motive for the virus was not clear, accoring the Lookout, which added that this could be used for anything from "a malicious ad-network to an attempt to create an Android botnet."

But the company said the only users likely to be affected are those downloading Android apps from China.

The infected apps included repackaged versions sold in China of Monkey Jump 2, Sex Positions, President vs. Aliens, City Defense and Baseball Superstars 2010.

"It is important to remember that even though there are instances of the games repackaged with the Trojan, the original versions available in the official Google Android Market have not been affected," the security firm said.

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iPads Dominate Holiday Gifts in Mashable Poll (Mashable)

Friday, December 31st, 2010

iPads Dominate Holiday Gifts in Mashable Poll
(Mashable)

If you got an iPad as a gift during the holidays, you certainly weren’t alone.

In a recent poll of holiday gift recipients, iPads accounted for a full 22.7% of all gadget or hardware gifts, making iPads the single largest category in our gift poll, outstripping the nearest runner-up by nearly 14% of votes.

That runner-up was Amazon’s Kindle — not surprising considering that the Kindle is the best-selling product in Amazon’s history.

In third place in the Mashable holiday gift poll were Android smartphones, another device category that’s had a blockbuster year by any standards.

But while Android smartphones continue to grow and dominate the mobile scene, Android tablets are just getting started. These gadgets accounted for around 2.5% of our holiday poll.

And while Windows PCs and Windows Phone 7 devices fared relatively poorly when compared to their Google- and Apple-made counterparts, Microsoft had a killer showing in the gaming department. The Kinect for Xbox has been predicted as the smash hit of the year for some time, so this is hardly a surprise to those who follow video game console happenings.

Here are some handy graphs and charts showing some of the more interesting Q4 showdowns in our poll.

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Virus attacks Android phones in China: researchers

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Virus attacks Android phones in China: researchers

BOSTON (Reuters) – A powerful virus targeting smart phones in China running Google Inc's Android operating system may represent the most sophisticated bug to target mobile devices to date, security researchers said on Thursday.

Anti-virus firm Lookout Mobile Security estimates that the number of phones that have been infected by the virus, dubbed Geinimi, ranges from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

Researchers said that the virus has yet to wreak havoc, though, and that they were unsure what its authors were seeking to accomplish.

"It is not clear to us what the purpose of it is," said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer for Lookout. "It could be anything from a malicious advertising network to an attempt to create a botnet."

A botnet is an army of enslaved computers that its controllers can compromise for identity theft, use to launch attacks to shut down websites or turn into spam email servers.

Still, the emergence of Geinimi underlines concerns that hackers are shifting from focusing on attacking PCs to targeting mobile devices as sales of the powerful handheld computers take off and users increasingly put sensitive data in their pockets.

Phones become contaminated with Geinimi when users download software applications that have been repackaged to include the virus, according to researchers from Lookout and Symantec Corp.

Tainted programs include versions of the video games Monkey Jump 2, President vs. Aliens, City Defense and Baseball Superstars 2010, according to Lookout.

Lookout researchers said that so far they have only found the tainted software at third-party apps stores targeting the Chinese market. Legitimate versions of the applications in the official Android market appear to be safe, they said.

Compromised phones call back to a remote computer for instructions on what to do at five-minute intervals. Then they transmit information on the device's location, its hardware ID and SIM card back to the remote computer.

So far the remote computers have been collecting data but have not issued any other orders to the infected phones, Mahaffey said.

Liam Murchu, a research manager with anti-virus software maker Symantec, said that infected devices could be ordered to make calls, send text messages and download other malicious software onto the phones.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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iPad in the House! Congress May Embrace the Tablet (LiveScience.com)

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

iPad in the House! Congress May Embrace the Tablet
(LiveScience.com)

When Henry Cuellar took to the Speaker's podium at the United States
House of Representatives with an iPad in his hand recently, the
congressman had no idea he was accelerating a course of change in the
august body.

"If you look at available technology, properly leveraged it can make us a more efficient
Congress," Rep. Cuellar (D-Texas) told iPadNewsDaily in a phone
interview. "There is so much immediate information we can gather with an
iPad."

Imagine, said Cuellar, being able to use the device for legislative
purposes like downloading a bill or searching for points in an
amendment that are being discussed on the floor in real-time. It can
mean the difference between introducing fact or hearsay.

It seems representatives aren't always straight with the mountains of information
presented on the floor. "Just from the standpoint of making more
effective and efficient decisions the technology is worth having," said
the 55-year-old, third-term congressman.

No tech allowed

However, for decades the House has shied away from new technologies,
instead opting for more staid traditions while keeping the chamber a
technology-free zone. Laptops, cell phones
and other communication devices are forbidden in the chamber - and for
good reason, Cuellar said. The U.S. House has 435 representatives and
when the floor is at capacity, distractions come easily.

But what about the iPad? It's not a laptop or a cell phone.
The tablet isn't as easy to peg as those technologies. And that is
precisely how the congressman found himself in the middle of a minor
maelstrom when he was spotted on C-SPAN with the device sitting on the
Speaker's podium.

"I'm not using it to play Angry Birds," joked Cuellar, who was called
upon to perform Speaker pro tempore duties that day by House Majority
Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California). Instead, he said, the device
provides an opportunity to have information brought to the floor in a
readable, usable format.

Cuellar uses the Congress in Your Pocket app to keep track of votes
from other members, as well as learn a bit more about their biographical
histories. "I like to use it to know something about the person
speaking; what college he went to; was the member a prosecutor before
becoming a representative," said Cuella.

He also uses the teleprompter app ProPrompter for speeches and says
he reads several different publications daily first thing in the morning
using the iPad including Politics Daily, The Hill, Washington Post, USA
Today, The New York Times and the Associated Press.

"As the Speaker pro tempore, sometimes I'm on the podium for three or
four hours straight. I can use the iPad to receive important
information," Cuellar said. "I understand and respect the traditions and
decorum of the House, and I assume other members would do same thing
with this type of technology."

[Read also "How to Buy an iPad: Picking the Right Model"]

iPad rules

While some congressional traditionalists criticized Cuellar for
bringing his iPad to the floor, the House Parliamentarian John Sullivan
ruled the congressman didn't break House rules by using the iPad, and
further advised the speaker that if an iPad is not being used to play
sound or as a transmitting device, it be allowed.

And now, it seems, the debate over the famous Congressional iPad has
generated enough interest to cause Congress to lighten up on its
anti-technology rules.

The incoming House Republican majority, led by Speaker John Boehner
(R-Ohio), has added into new rules a proposal to allow certain
electronic devices, including the iPad on the House floor as long as it
doesn't "impair decorum."

"If we are telling federal agencies to be more efficient with
information, certainly we can do the same in the House," said Cuellar.

LiveScience.com chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store.

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Malware infected apps threatening Android devices (Digital Trends)

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Malware infected apps threatening Android devices
(Digital Trends)

""A sophisticated trojan dubbed Gemini is threatening Android devices in China and could spread to devices in other regions, according to a new report issued by the security firm Lookout.

The firm claims the trojan may be the most advanced bit of Android malware to date and is the first to display “botnet-like capablities.” That means that once the trojan is installed on an Android phone, a remote server will be able to access the device and gain a level of control over it — frightening stuff, indeed.

So far Gemini has been observed grafted onto legitimate apps — primarily games — that are downloaded to Android smartphones by unknowing patrons of third-party Android app stores. The infected apps reportedly then request an abnormal level of access to devices and then, boom, it’s a zombie-phone.

Once a device is infected, Gemini is capable of doing a host of nasty things: sending out user’s location, transmitting device identifiers, and downloading apps and then prompting the user to install them. It’s also capable of delivering a list of installed apps to an outsider server.

Just last week, security firm McAfee cited mobile platforms — including Android and iPhone devices — as top targets for cyber-criminals in the year 2011.

It’s not clear what Gemini’s masterplan is just yet, but one possibility is that it’s part of the schemings of a malicious ad network. So far, Gemini has only been spotted in apps from third-party Android marketplaces in China. If you’re not in China and are hypersensitive to mobile malware threats, you may want to consider sticking with apps from secure and trusted sources just to be safe.

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Skype adding Wi-Fi, 3G video calling to iPhone app

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Skype adding Wi-Fi, 3G video calling to iPhone app

SAN FRANCISCO – A new version of the free iPhone app for Skype SA will let users make and receive video calls.

Users of the Internet calling and messaging service will be able to use both Wi-Fi and AT&T Inc.’s 3G cellular network. FaceTime software, which comes with iPhones, works only with Wi-Fi.

The app, which is being released Thursday through Apple Inc.’s iTunes Store, will let iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS users make free video calls to other Skype users who are using the app or have access to the feature using Skype on their computer or other video phone.

Those with the latest iPod Touch will be able to make video calls over Wi-Fi. The app allows the iPad and previous-generation iPod Touch to receive video calls, too, Skype said.

Skype’s software offers free services such as voice or video calls to other Skype users.

Users pay to do things such as make calls from a PC to a landline or cell phone.

In the first half of 2010, video calls made up 40 percent of all minutes spent using Skype’s free calling services, the company said.

The iPhone 4, which was released in June, was the first iPhone to include a front-facing camera for video chat. It includes FaceTime, which enables users to make video calls to others who have the iPhone 4, the latest iPod Touch or a Mac computer. So far, however, FaceTime doesn’t work over the cellular network and doesn’t allow calls to Windows-based computers.

Skype, which is based in Luxembourg, is not the first third-party app for the iPhone to allow free video calling over AT&T’s cellular network. Apps such as Fring and Tango offer the capability as well, although neither has as many users as Skype.

The updated app comes about a week after Skype suffered a major service outage that lasted 24 hours and cut off service for millions of users. On average, 124 million people use Skype each month, though the total number of registered users is more than four times that.

In a Wednesday post on the company’s blog, Skype’s chief information officer, Lars Rabbe, said the problem was caused by a bug in a version of Skype’s software for computers running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system.

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Android Mobile Malware Has Botnet-like Traits

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Android Mobile Malware Has Botnet-like Traits

Hackers are aiming for users of Google's Android mobile operating system with a malicious application that harvests personal information and sends it to a remote server.

The malware, which has been named "Geinimi," appears to be the first one that has botnet-like capabilities targeted at the Android platform, said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer for Lookout Mobile Security, which develops mobile security software.

Geinimi appears to target Chinese-speaking users of Android, and Lookout was tipped off to Geinimi after a user wrote a post concerned about it on a forum, Mahaffey said.

Lookout researchers, which posted a writeup on Geinimi, have found that it has been wrapped into legitimate free and paid games for Android users with those games' developers unaware their applications are being used as a lure.

"We have been in touch with developers to let them know," Mahaffey said.

Those tampered applications are appearing on third-party web sites offering Android applications that have not been vetted for security. Some of those programs have appeared to be downloaded thousands of times.

The company is still analyzing Geinimi, and it isn't clear what its creators are aiming to do with a victim's phone. But several aspects of the malware have already raised concern.

The malware communicates with a central command-and-control server. The server can issue commands to a phone remotely, such as to download or uninstall software. The user of the Android phone is prompted and must approve either action, but it still raises concern, Mahaffey said.

"It might be a vector to install other potentially malicious applications," he said.

Geinimi also sends the Android device's location and other hardware identifiers, such as the device's International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and SIM card information, to a remote server every five minutes. It can also send a list of the Android device's installed applications. The malware can contact up to 10 domain names that are used to upload the information to the remote server.

It is Geinimi's ability to contact multiple domains and obtain instructions from a command-and-control server that Lookout decided to say it has botnet-like capabilities, Mahaffey said.

Still, Geinimi has not revealed either a clear profit motive or decisive data-theft motivation, although Lookout is continuing its analysis. "It could be anything from a very invasive advertising network up to a full-blown attempt to create a botnet," Mahaffey said.

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Skype Adds Video-over-3G Capabilities to Its IPhone App

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Skype Adds Video-over-3G Capabilities to Its IPhone App

Skype has updated its free iPhone app, adding the ability to make video calls over 3G mobile networks. The updated app is available for download from Apple's app store, Skype announced Thursday.

The app runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and can make or receive Skype-to-Skype video calls over 3G or Wi-Fi networks, although to get the best quality, Skype recommends using a Wi-Fi network with a strong signal. Skype will not charge for the video calls, although network operators may charge for the data traffic, the company warned.

The new video calling feature — compatible with Skype's latest apps for PCs running Windows, Linux or Mac OS X — will provide additional competition for Apple's fledgling Facetime video calling service, which only runs on Apple hardware and cannot yet make calls over 3G mobile networks, only Wi-Fi or (in the case of the Macintosh version) fixed network connections.

Skype for iPhone 3.0 will run on the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and fourth-generation iPod Touch running iOS 4.0 or above. On the iPad and the third-generation iPod Touch, the app will only be able to receive video, not transmit it, because those devices lack a camera, Skype said.

Unleashing extra traffic from millions of iPhone owners will test the strength of Skype's peer-to-peer calling network, which suffered a major crash a week ago. That incident, between Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, occurred when late responses from an overloaded cluster of servers caused clients running a particular version of Skype's software to crash.

Some of those crashed clients were "supernodes" in Skype's network, responsible for coordinating calls between other clients, and their failure created additional load on the remaining systems, which quickly failed in their turn.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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Remains of the Day: Angry angry amoebae (Macworld)

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Remains of the Day: Angry angry amoebae
(Macworld)

Apple accurately predicted the Apple TV’s future, hackers continue to hack, T-Mobile is mocking AT&T again, and iPads are the best tablets around. Believe it or not, these are your remainders for Tuesday, December 28.


It’s Official: 1 Million Apple TVs Sold
(All Things Digital)

In the days leading up to Santa’s annual worldwide roadtrip, Apple’s PR folk noted an annoyingly-timed milestone. Thus, the company was forced to issue a press release declaring that sometime soon, right around Christmas, Apple would sell its millionth second-gen Apple TV. Apple has now confirmed to The Wall Street Journal’s All Things D blog that indeed, the company sold Apple TV number one million shortly before Rudolph began sleigh-guiding. So it's official: Apple clearly owns an iDelorean. 


iPod Nano Hacked, Will Soon Support Movies and iCalendars?
(MacStories)

Developer/hacker (develohacker? hackveloper?) James Whelton flexed all of his nerd muscles in developing what is essentially a jailbreak for the new iPod nano. You can’t do much useful with it yet, but the door is now open for the release of Angry Birds: Amoebae Edition.


T-Mobile blames AT&T again for iPhone’s FaceTime Wi-Fi cap
(Electronista)

While Apple has never pointed to AT&T as the reason that the video-chatting FaceTime feature won’t work over 3G and instead requires Wi-Fi, competing provider T-Mobile has no problem leveling precisely that accusation. In a new television commercial, harsh aspersions are cast upon AT&T (specifically, “not cool”), while praise is lavished upon T-Mobile and its myTouch 4G—which in fact does allow you to show off your double-chin without a Wi-Fi connection.


iPad ‘only game in town’ during holiday tablet sales
(Electronista)

An analyst you’ve never heard of concluded that the iPad was the only tablet that came to play this holiday season, citing the fact that “many of the [other] tablets hitting the market are junk.â€

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