Apple’s Patent-palooza, Rumor-palooza & Godspeed

It's Mac OS Ken!The analysts think they have Apple’s secret plans all figured out, patent-palooza reads like a soap opera, HP announces new tablets faster than they can sell them, and consumers don’t know how fast their phones are. It’s like they’re begging Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray to say something.

Take One Tablet and Call Me Next Year
IDC had some interesting tablet news last week, along with some truly weird tablet analysis. Well, it sounded weird to me anyway.

Macworld has the firm raising its tablet shipment forecast for 2011, thanks to growing consumer interest in the slatey tablety things. Along with the introduction of new slatey tablety things through year’s end. The firm had been calling for 50.4-million tablets, though they’ve upped that now to 53.5 million.

Quoting the piece, “IDC raised its forecast despite a drop in shipments during the first quarter this year compared to the fourth quarter last year.” A tiny bit further down the page: “Research firms have been comparing tablet shipments on a sequential basis as Apple’s original iPad started shipping in April last year.”

That’s the beginning of the weird part, by the way. I mean, without a full-year against which to compare, you pretty much can’t do anything but compare a quarter to the one before it. But things are different in consumer electronics in general and tablets in particular.

As far as consumer electronics go, the fourth quarter of a year is always bigger than the first quarter that follows, right? Because of holiday buying and selling? As for tablets in particular, not only would a lot of people have bought iPads, and mostly iPads in the fourth quarter, anyone thinking of an iPad in the first quarter of the year may have done enough ear to the ground, finger in the wind, research to know that Apple — maybe just maybe — was going to come out with a second iPad… some sort of… iPad 2, say.

And yet, Bob O’Donnell, IDC VP for clients and displays, is saying something to the effect of consumer tablet demand dropped in the first quarter due to economic concerns. Well, that and the holidays in the quarter before.

Weird, right?

Either way, IDC says new tablets and increasing awareness of them should grow tablet shipments for the rest of the year, and won’t it be good next year when we have well over a year of tablet sales against which to compare.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ 3G
IDC’s Bob O’Donnell is coming seriously close to the Enderline to my way of thinking. Not so much for blatant Apple hating; more for the blind-spot he has for the Cupertino-company.

Computerworld has the IDC exec saying that 3G tablet sales are doomed as doomed can be, and for proof look no further than the “hundreds of thousands” of 3G tablets sitting — unsold — on the shelves of various carriers.

“The 3G thing on tablets is bogus,” says O’Donnell. “Nobody wants to pay for that data,” and “Sales of 3G tablets have been very slow.”

For me, actually, he’s right. My first iPad was “plus-3G” because I was worried about being places without WiFi. Then, after close to a year of using 3G on my iPad one time, my iPad 2 is WiFi only. But that was just about the added cost of the device, not the data plan since you don’t have to sign up for a monthly data plan with the iPad, which — by the way — is far and away the most popular tablet on the planet.

Here’s my issue with O’Donnell: He doesn’t even seem to be taking the iPad into account in his accounting, basing his belief that 3G tablet sales suck wind on “interviews with several large tablet makers, including Motorola and Samsung.”

“Tablets are a different animal than smartphones and are much more like a typical computer where you tend to sit in one place using Wi-Fi to work,” says O’Donnell.

Some tablet makers that make both tablets and cellphones, a la Samsung and Motorola, have focused tablet sales through wireless carriers, finding only “moderate” success says IDC. Sales of their devices were “largely stymied by many consumers’ unwillingness to sign up for the 3G/4G data plans that the carriers typically require along with those devices,” also says IDC.

“We believe [tablet] vendors who continue to focus on the telco channel for distribution will face serious challenges…” IDC says, and there’s not much wrong with what they’re saying, except for one trifling thing: they seem to be ignoring the iPad!

I know iPad is just one tablet, but it’s the biggest tablet.

It’s like a music analyst saying, “Sales of Juice Newton and Helen Ready tracks indicate that no one is buying music by female artists anymore.”

“Well,” says some guy with a podcast, “what if you add in Lady GaGa?”

“Im sorry, who?”

Of iPhones and… Genius Squads?
An AppleInsider piece has the Ticonderogan upping his iPhone sales expectations from 15.85 million units to 17.53 million, and raising his iPad sales expectations from 8.22 million units to 8.5 million.

Quoting his note: “With a dark cloud hanging over the market in recent days with renewed government debt concerns in the developed world and questions surrounding the health of the U.S. recovery, we believe Apple is a beacon of hope in an increasingly concerning world.”

But no pressure.

“While many larger tech companies rely on more cyclical trends to grow sales,” White continues, “we believe Apple enjoys the tailwind of strong secular industry trends, hot new products and market share gain opportunities.”

And if they miss those numbers, start pricing grain and explosives.

I’m kidding.

And armor.

I think I’m kidding.

UBS analyst Maynard Um is tired of other analysts doing story time, so he’s decided to do it, too. MacNN has Mr. Maynard making up fantastic tales of “Genius Squads” and Apple-branded TVs being the next big things for the kids from Cupertino.

Putting it kindly, MacNN says “The basis for the Genius Squad prediction is unclear…”

They’re so nice.

According to the Mr. Um, the Genius Squad would be a bit like Best Buy’s Geek Squad, which I’ve heard more than one person say would have to be a thing Apple did if they were ever going to get into actual TV Apple TVs.

Speaking of which: Yeah, Mr. Maynard’s hopping Gene Munster’s train, saying if Apple hits with TVs the way it has with phones and computers, it could see another $50 billion to $100 billion in market cap, and that’ll happen because Apple will do TVs better than anyone else out there.

Quoting Professor Umbledore:

From the beginning of 2007 through mid-2011, Apple’s market cap increased by $191 billion while key handset and PC competitors combined lost $216 billion. We expect similar value shift toward Apple to continue as it enters new markets. Additionally, enabling services such as iCloud and potentially Genius Squad could drive more hardware ‘halo effect’ sales.

One Big, Happy Family. Sort Of.
With its plethora of patent suits ongoing, one of the most important guys at Apple right now my be its Chief Counsel on Patent Issues.

Yeah, guess who’s packing his things?

Reuters cites a leak that says said patent person, Richard Lutton Jr., is leaving the Cupertino-company. The good news: His replacement has already been hired, that being former HP deputy general counsel BJ Watrous.

So there are the patent suits, there’s the big patent guy leaving, and now Samsung would like to a few other Apple lawyers tossed.

You’ve heard that Apple and Samsung are suing each other, right? Well they are. And now the Korean electronics maker has filed a motion to get some of the Cupertino-company’s outside lawyers removed from the case because they used to be Samsung’s outside lawyers.


According to the complaint, Apple’s outside firm, Bridges & Mavrakakis, has a conflict of interest since at least five of its lawyers represented Samsung when they were with Kirkland & Ellis. Quoting the piece: “The access, as recent as this year, provided a risk that Apple had access to inside Samsung information, according to the motion.”

For good measure, Samsung would like sworn statements from two other firms working with Apple that they didn’t receive sensitive information from Samsung. Apple says there is no conflict.

Samsung wants a hearing on its motion around the middle of next month.

Can’t Touch This
The land of confusion that is the HP TouchPad launch took another odd turn yesterday. BusinessInsider says Palm announced on its blog that there’s a new 4G TouchPad due out for AT&T this summer. They make this announcement less than two weeks after starting sales of a WiFi-only version of the device.

Let’s hope none of the early buyers actually wanted 3G or 4G service.

Interestingly, the piece says “the new model of the TouchPad will have a faster 1.5 Ghz processor. The original TouchPad has a 1.2 Ghz processor,” which they say probably caused some of the lag they experienced while testing the device.

So, let’s hope none of the early buyers actually wanted a speedy, less lag-laden tablet experience.

No word on pricing, no word on an exact launch date, and no word on what the 17 people who bought the first TouchPad should do about getting one that doesn’t hiccup and sputter.

It would be hard to call the first TouchPad “rushed,” coming as late as it did to the tablet game, but with an arguably better version announced just two weeks later, it’s kind of hard to not call it rushed as well.

Apple TV, Now with a Keyboard. Maybe.
I hate the hints and hidden things in Apple’s OS betas, partly because every time somebody breaks an NDA an angel punches a kitten in the face, but mostly because a lot of times people get excited about hidden features that are never fully revealed.

That said, The Unofficial Apple Weblog has word of something buried in the iOS 5 beta that could add to Apple’s digital living room play. According to their piece, there are “pretty clear indications of support for Bluetooth” for the current generation of Apple TV.

The piece indicates that the feature would be for Bluetooth keyboards, though it also says activation of the — now dormant — Bluetooth capabilities in the device could pave the way for game controllers and other Bluetooth peripherals.

I stole the kitten line, by the way. Well, borrowed.

But what about the other Apple TV? The REAL Apple TV; the big as you please TV-TV being built right now by the elves and aliens living at One Infinite Loop. CNBC says that TV could help put a serious hurt on the cable television industry, provided there are enough unicorn tears to power it.

Recent surveys from the Consumer Electronics Association and Credit Suisse indicate that up to 10 percent of households in the states could cancel their cable or satellite TV over the next 12-months, thanks to options offered by Netflix and other streaming services.

But but but… If Apple made a TV, that could hurt cable more, according to the survey, since that might let people buy shows, series or entire channels individually. Yeah, the channel thing is the interesting bit, since they can already do the other two.

So they have to reinvent what a television is, AND reinvent how TV services are obtained, while not making the well established TV industry skittish?

I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but why not do that with the $99 deal they already have? Or license the OS for Apple TV to people who are already making and selling televisions?

Wall Street wants what it wants, whether everyone else does or not.

4G? Give Me 7G!
And finally this week, one of those stories I chose to ignore until I saw it in just about every feed I follow. TechCrunch says a recent survey by gadget site Retrevo finds that 34 percent of iPhone owners think they’re already surfing at 4G speeds. That’s apparently because they think the “4″ in the iPhone 4 stands for 4G, not the fourth phone in the line.

You know this creates an interesting problem: You can’t call the next iPhone “iPhone 4G,” unless, of course, it has 4G, which most think it will not. On the other hand, you can’t call the next iPhone “iPhone 5,” then call the one after that “iPhone 4G,” because everyone knows that five is better than four, so people might not buy the better phone because they’ll think — thanks to the numbering — that they are trading down.

iPhone 4S seems to be the only thing you can call the next one, then maybe the one after that is iPhone 4GS. Then, making quite the jump, 2013 could see the launch of iPhone 7. Seventh phone in the line, which everyone will apparently think surfs at 7G speeds.

That’s like godspeed.

While I kind of make light of the marketing massacre Retrevo sees an actual problem. Namely, how you gonna sell people something they think they already have?

I use the word “problem” loosely.

Lest you think one third of iPhone 4 owners are a special brand of idiot, remember that “4” is likely what led them astray. Also, 24 percent of Blackberry owners think they’re phones have 4G, and I’m pretty sure they’re not all walking around with a BlackBerry 4.