MacOS KenDensed: Patent Soup, Apple & a Rant

Ken Ray: Renaissance ManIt looks like everyone is teaming up to buy Kodak’s patents, analysts can’t get enough of Apple’s iPhone, Google is taking a shot at Apple’s patents through Motorola Mobility, and Apple earned the title of the worlds most valuable company ever — sort of. All that, and Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray gets on his soap box over Apple’s new podcasting patent.

The Enemy of My Enemy, Or Something
One of the signs of the apocalypse may be upon us. It appears that Apple has gotten together with Google, Samsung, and LG Electronics among others to bid en masse for the intellectual property of film and camera pioneer Kodak.

That’s the same Google that’s both suing and being sued by Apple through various fronts, and the same Samsung with which Apple is locked in legal combat around the globe. Kodak is auctioning off its patent portfolio in the hopes of restructuring, paying its creditors and coming out of bankruptcy, though what Kodak is without its intellectual property is a bit of a mystery to me.

How did all of these tech competitors manage to come together on the auction? The Wall Street Journal thinks that they may be doing it to stay out of court. Or to avoid going further into it. Quoting the Journal,

If the consortium reaches a deal to buy some or all of Kodak’s patents, they would essentially be kept out of any one company’s hands and could prevent consortium members from using them in litigation against each other. A deal, however, could also attract attention from federal antitrust regulators.

Because, yeah. One of the beauties of an auction for the party auctioning stuff off is the chance that a bunch of people bidding against each other for that stuff could drive up the selling price. If everybody who might have bid against each other instead bids together… well… prices stay flat, don’t they? Then regulators do their regulatory thing. Which is sensible.

Perhaps disappointed, Kodak has indicated that it might just take its patents and go home. Quoting the Journal again:

In a statement Thursday, Kodak said discussions with buyers are active and that it isn’t ready to announce a result. The company added that it might decline to sell some or all of the patents, depending on how the auction progresses.

Analyst iPhone Love
Think you’ve seen financial analysts excited about Apple kit in the past? Maybe, though it is as Prince wrote and Sinead sang, nothing compares to iPhone 5. Which it’s not gonna be called. Also, that’s not how the song went, but I think you get my meaning.

AllThingsD has FBR Capital analyst Craig Berger saying Apple’s next iPhone will be the company’s “most impactful” device so far, which I think means you’ll be able to hit people with it.

In his estimation 250 million of the devices could be sold over its life cycle, though he doesn’t say how long he thinks that’ll be. You gotta figure three years, though, right? I mean the iPhone 3GS came out in 2009, it became Apple’s low-cost phone in 2010, and Apple’s free phone in 2011. I’d imagine it’ll go the way of the dodo this year, replaced by the iPhone 4. Assuming that’s the way things run for the foreseeable future, you can figure a three-year lifespan for the next iPhone.

Whatever portion of its potential lifecycle, though, Berger sure is stoked. Quoting his research note,

We expect the iPhone 5… has the potential to generate the most promising device upgrade cycle in Apple’s history. We calculate that the device represents an opportunity to generate earnings of $50 per share throughout its life cycle. We estimate that Apple should sell 250 million iPhone 5 units at an average ASP of $575, generating nearly $144 billion in revenue, $77 billion in gross profit, and $47 billion in net income.

There is a big variable in his equation, though: the arrival of the next iPhone on the number one wireless carrier in the world, China Mobile. China Mobile currently has about 683 million subscribers, which AllThingsD points out, is “more than twice those of Verizon, AT&T and Sprint combined.”

Sink the hooks and ride that worm… just mind the drum sands… and the little makers… and the sardaukar… and I’m just making Dune references now.

Google: Something Something Enemy
Google is finally suing Apple. Kind of.

Bloomberg says Motorola Mobility, a subsidiary of Android-developer and search giant Google, has filed a new set of complaints against Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission.

According to the piece, MotoMo has charged Apple with infringing seven of its patents, including something to do with Siri, “location reminders, e-mail notification and phone/video players.”

The company is looking for a ban on U.S. imports of a number of Apple products, including the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Motoroogle says, “We would like to settle these patent matters, but Apple’s unwillingness to work out a license leaves us little choice but to defend ourselves and our engineers’ innovations.” For its part, Apple has said in the past that Motorola Mobility’s demands are unreasonable and — oh, by the way — a lot of Moto’s Android phones are actually violating Apple patents.

Cases can take a year to 18 months to make their way past, through, or around the USITC so it’ll be a while before we know the fate of this one.

On Apple, Podcasts & Patents
Can I just say how appreciative I am of Apple? You know that, right? I like a lot of their stuff. I like where I think they’re going. I try to be objective, but I think it comes as a surprise to no one, I’m kind of a fan.

I’m also an Elvis fan, but I hate the song “Patch It Up.” It’s the same refrain sung about 173 times. Love “Love Me Tender,” love “Never Been to Spain,” love “An American Trilogy,” HATE “Patch It Up.”

All of this is to say, while being a fan of Apple, sometimes they do stuff I hate. Or at the very least don’t like much. Like the revelation, this week, that the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a patent covering “Techniques and systems for supporting podcasting,” including ways for “hosting, accessing, subscribing, managing, transferring, and/or playing podcasts.”

Let me pause here and say, I have really appreciated the support I’ve received in the Podcasts section of iTunes, for Mac OS Ken, for Mac OS Ken: Live when that was new, and for Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast, part of the Nerdist network with a new episode every Thursday!

I remember what a huge deal it was the day Steve Jobs announced that Apple was putting podcasts in iTunes. Here was this thing that people were already doing being recognized by Apple. This would put podcasting on the map. Sadly, it would also wipe a number of podcast businesses off the map, for having the audacity to use the word “pod” in their business name. I’m thinking of one in particular. One who’s lawyer said they could probably win a case, if they had anything like the money Apple had.

Otherwise Apple would just wear away and wear away until they had nothing left. Less a legal victory, more erosion.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog, which reported on the patent, says, “many of the techniques are activities you would expect from a podcast system including the automatic updating of podcast episodes and the use of a portable subscription file that contains episode information.” Which I’m pretty sure this other thing did, too.

I guess I don’t understand how Apple got this. They didn’t invent podcasting. They didn’t invent the first podcatcher. Or the second one, even. They just kind of took it over in 2005 and pretty much left it sitting there until the release of the Podcasts App a month or two ago, which was neat because it called attention to podcasts again, though speculation is that could come at the cost of podcasts being booted from iTunes proper. But why would they tell us that? We’re just the podcasters.

But seriously, I still love your work. Do “Blue Hawaii.” Or “In the Ghetto.”

AT&T’s Take on FaceTime
Sometimes, AT&T makes it pretty hard like them. Mostly on days ending with a “y.” The Mac Observer has the Death Star responding to the clamor over its limited FaceTime over cellular rules with hair splitting and technicalities.

Apple has said that, as part of iOS 6, its video chat system FaceTime will go from WiFi only to being available over 3G and 4G data connections as well. And AT&T says this is true, as long as customers are willing to move to one of AT&T’s new Shared Mobile data plans.

That move has some, including Public Knowledge’s John Bergmayer, thinking that AT&T was coming awfully close to violating net neutrality rules laid out by the FCC that “state that mobile providers shall not ‘block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.’” While he agrees that AT&T has a right to manage its network as it needs to, that does not seem to be the case here since it doesn’t seem to be about network capacity, but about which billing plan a user is signed up for.

And now we have the Death Star responding. AT&T Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer Bob Quinn said in a statement:

The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones. Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps. Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services. AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems.

The Mighty Quinn went on to say, “Although the rules don’t require it, some preloaded apps are available without charge on phones sold by AT&T, including FaceTime, but subject to some reasonable restrictions.”

So, it’s cool with AT&T if I download nine other video apps and use those on my grandfathered, unlimited data plan, but if I want to use the stuff built into my phone not by AT&T but by Apple… well, I should just be grateful AT&T lets Apple preload apps on the phones that pretty much made the cash streams from which AT&T and Verizon drink today and throw however much AT&T requests into that stream to use the stuff that Appel built.

So. The regulations are just for Apps consumers choose, not apps Apple chooses, though either way AT&T still thinks it’s clear of any FCC violation, pointing out that it doesn’t have any video chat apps, so how could regulating FaceTime be a violation?

So, video chat doesn’t compete with AT&T’s original communication service? I’m sorry, am I being obtuse or is AT&T?

Sprint, by the way, says it’ll make FaceTime available over cellular on its existing data plans. Verizon has yet to weigh in.

Apple: Most Valuable Ever! Or Not
And finally this week, a big congratulations to Apple and its shareholders today. AllThingsD, among other sites, says Apple is the most valuable public company of all time. Closing earlier this week in the $665 dollars-a-share range, the all things iMaker ended the day with a market cap of roughly $623 billion.

Quick aside, do you know there are a few financial analysts out there that are currently looking for Apple shares to hit heights as lofty as $500, $550, even $620? Fortune outlines a few of them. $500 and $550 are not people we normally pay heed to here, though Needham and Company analyst Charlie Wolf still has his Apple target at $620, Deutsche Bank’s Chirs Whitmore is at $650, and Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um is at between $640 and $660. And Apple shares are not. But at least Mr. Maynard was good until earlier this week.

So yeah. Big slap on the back and drinks all around for Apple’s executive team for the booyah that is the most valuable public company evah.

Unless you’re an economics wonk.

If you’re one of those, and if your recollection stretches as far back as the last year of the Clinton administration, and if you adjust for inflation, then the “most valuable public company ever” award goes to Microsoft. So says a separate Fortune piece.

Impressive as Apple’s $623 billion looks on paper, on December 30, 1999, Microsoft had a market cap of $618.9 billion, which adjusted for inflation would be about $850 billion today.

And so Gates and Balmer can get together for a whiskey and a happy dance. Maybe they can try out one of Gates fancy new toilets, too. I joke, but those are for a good cause. Still sounds funny, though.

There’s just one problem with the Gates/Ballmer whiskey dance: Microsoft is also not the most valuable public company ever.

Sure, you’ve gotta reach back to the Johnson administration, and you still have to know how to adjust for inflation. Is there an app for that, by the way? Holy cow there are several! That I’m not gonna download. ‘cause somebody else has done the work for me.

TechCrunch says if we set the Way-Back Machine for 1967, we find a little company nicknamed “Big Blue,” better known as International Business Machines — or IBM — showing a market cap of $192.3 billion. Wave your magic inflation app, though, and that $192.3 billion would have an adjusted value of $1.3 trillion today.

And so you see, the really truly really most valuable public company ever was IBM. For now. Give it another 24 hours, though, and I’d imagine we’ll have Standard Oil deemed the most valuable pubic company of all time. Give it another 48 and we may be back to the British East India Company. Or Honest Jansen’s House of Tulips, Circa 16-hasnfrumphen.

You do the math.