Week that was

PG.biz week that was: Jobs steps down, Cook steps up, and the world reacts with both panic and patience to all change at Apple

PG.biz week that was: Jobs steps down, Cook steps up, and the world reacts with both panic and patience to all change at Apple
Coping with monumental announcements unveiled in the middle of the night, it's been an especially busy seven days at PocketGamer.biz; the world of app stores, smartphone platforms, developments in mobile game making and assorted technology.

Even before the revelation that needs no introduction, it had hardly been a slow week, with the continued fall out from TouchPad's unceremonious demise and the likelihood of a ban on Samsung Galaxy S phones across Europe generating an article or two (more on those two later).

And then Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.

Describing said move as a shock would be inaccurate, but Jobs' decision – gradually leaked out as Wednesday came to a close – managed to capture the world's attention nonetheless.

"I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know," delivered Jobs in the letter. "Unfortunately, that day has come."

Who would follow? Current COO Tim Cook, recommended by Jobs himself, was pushed into the spotlight, and the internet began a heated conversation about how his tenure would go – many an American blog cheaply dubbing him the 'most powerful gay man in America'.

Cooking up a storm

Sidestepping duff jokes about restoring Apple's old rainbow-laden logo (and that was one of the tamer quips), Cook looked to reassure his very vocal audience by claiming he had no plans to alter Apple's DNA.

"I cherish and celebrate Apple's unique principles and values," he stated. "I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is."

Still, despite Cook's experience at the firm, and the fact many herald him as being the guy who filled Apple's coffers by outsourcing the bulk of their manufacturing, the PG.biz Mobile Gaming Mavens' view was typically split – some suggesting things will tick over as normal, for the time being at least, others predicting total catastrophe for the firm within a matter of years.

Bizarrely, the last decision made under his rule was to remove the unique device identifier (UDID) from iOS 5. It's a fundamental shift in Apple policy that will make it far harder for firms to track individual iOS users and runs the risk of fragmenting any analytics sourced on the platform.

Up stepped OpenFeint, jumping on the opportunity to move in on the space Apple will leave behind by announcing it will streamline its sign-on system to enable developers to identify and track individual gamers who have logged into the system via their OpenFeint universal ID, or OFUID.

We'll know just how successful the GREE-owned outfit is when iOS 5 rolls out this autumn.

Price point

The impact of another major shift within the industry – HP's decision to drop TouchPad and all Palm handsets – could be far harder to predict long term than many believe.

For now, HP's fire sale stands as firm evidence of the one area all tablet manufacturers can offer an advantage over the almighty iPad – price.

Whether the likes of RIM, Motorola or even Samsung will learn anything from TouchPad's short shift is unknown, though the BlackBerry manufacturer is already aware PlayBook suffers when it comes to apps, with the Canadian firm having already confirmed it plans to offer support for Android apps on the device in the future.

This week saw said policy extended to cover all the firm's forthcoming QNX based handsets - according to unnamed sources reportedly "familiar with the plan", anyway.

But while RIM courts Android, others appear to be heeding Microsoft's warning and moving away from the platform following Google's acquisition of Motorola.

First to make some noise was London based outfit INQ – not a major player, but one with secured niche in serving up Android based 'social phones'. The company is now looking into offering support for Windows Phone to ensure it isn't tied exclusively to Google's platform, while both Samsung and LG are working with the Korean government to deliver an open source alternative to Android.

Microsoft hasn't limited its courting to Android OEMs, however.

The firm also took time out to offer webOS developers a hand in bringing their apps over to Windows Phone, all while also sticking two legal fingers up at Google's new play thing Motorola, dragging the manufacturer in front of the ITC in Washington over an alleged infringement of seven patents.

Android attrition

Microsoft is looking to ban the importation of Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq XT, Devour, Backflip and Charm phones. The end result is unclear (as in all such legal cases, the actual likelihood on a full-on ban appears unlikely), though it's the long term future of another Android OEM is also up in the air.

According to market analyst Horace Dediu, LG's inability to make ground with its 3D handsets (and the financial hit it has taken as a result) means selling its mobile business is the only legitimate option.

"LG wouldn't get much from the sale," he added. "They should have sold it long ago before the overall landscape got tougher."

Samsung, too, has found itself in a sticky situation. A preliminary ruling in Apple's favour in the Netherlands threatens to pull all Galaxy S and Ace branded handsets from sale across Europe owing to the Korean firm's distribution system.

"With regard to the single infringement cited in the ruling, we will take all possible measures including legal action to ensure that there is no disruption in the availability of our Galaxy smartphones to Dutch consumers," countered Samsung UK in a statement.

"This ruling is not expected to affect sales in other European markets."

Still, while Android OEMs are enjoying, or suffering, mixed fortunes, developers finally appear to be getting to grips with its userbase.

At the start of the week, Godzilab reported its freemium release Stardunk is now monetising roughly as well on Android as it is on iOS, albeit with more users.

Even better was DeNA studio Gameview's (revised) assessment that, in the case of a portion of Android releases, monetisation rates are actually 30 percent higher per user than on iOS.

A small story

One other major Android player is social network PapayaMobile, which coupled its announcement of 25 million users on board with an attack on its new found western rival, DeNA's Mobage platform.

"As you can see, there is little market traction for these apps four weeks after launch," said head of developer relations Paul Chen, claiming most games have under 5,000 installs each.

Google itself continues on its drive to push Android into new markets. Next up is Google TV, which the company announced would begin to sport Android apps in the near future.

Developers can now convert their apps for release thanks to a new preview plug-in for the SDK – the whole affair designed to steal a march on rival Apple TV.

As Google expands, so its social rival Facebook appears to be shuffling its existing pack. The firm quietly announced it is to drop check-ins when its mobile apps next update, tagging locations to status updates instead.

It's a significant triumph for the likes of Foursquare, considering many had predicted the service's demise when Facebook entered the arena almost a year ago to the day.

Further good news for smaller players came in the form of AppyNation – a UK based publishing consortium formed by six indie studios from across the country. What's more, though the group is yet to launch officially, it already has the backing of NESTA, TIGA and UKIE.

In a week of such big developments, it's fitting it should draw to a close on the story of a somewhat smaller fightback.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.


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