Week that was

PG.biz week that was: Steve Jobs passes away at 56, Apple both excites and disappoints with iPhone 4S, and BlackBerry set for wipeout in US

PG.biz week that was: Steve Jobs passes away at 56, Apple both excites and disappoints with iPhone 4S, and BlackBerry set for wipeout in US
Keeping tabs during one of the most eventful weeks in recent history, it's been an extraordinary few days here at PG.biz: the home of news and views on the business of app stores, smartphone platforms, developments in mobile game making and assorted technology.

The lead story here – and, indeed, around the world – was the death of Apple co-founder and, until very recently, CEO Steve Jobs.

The man largely attributed with turning around the companies fortunes around during the course of the last decade passed away aged 56, seven years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

His death came one day after Apple finally lifted the lid on the next iPhone – disappointingly for some, not iPhone 5, but rather the more modest iPhone 4, equipped with Apple's A5 chip (already strutting its stuff inside iPad 2) and sporting what the firm claims is seven times the graphical performance of its predecessor.

Let down or not, iPhone 4S will go on sale in both the US and UK on October 14, and – if Apple's numbers are anything to go by - it'll have a lot to live up to.

Indeed, as well as pulling the covers off new hardware, Apple also took time out to celebrate the successes it's already banked. iPhone 4, it revealed, is the best selling iPhone on the planet, accounting for more than half of all platform sales to date.

No face-off with Facebook

Its close relation iPod touch, meanwhile, was branded the most popular portable game player on the planet, while Game Center – which will soon sport a host of Xbox Live style features – already boasts 67 million users.

One other thing missing from Apple's Let's Talk iPhone conference, however, was Facebook's pending Project Spartan reveal.

The social network's HTML5 app platform was expected to make its public debut at Apple's Cupertino HQ, but never turned up. Blogger Robert Scoble claimed its no-show was as a result of Apple, which effectively cut ties with Facebook in the run up to the event as it turned its attention to Jobs' worsening condition.

True or not, Apple's iPhone 4S showcase proved one thing – it continues to set the pace of market, albeit on its own terms.

Particularly popular (or unpopular, depending on your point of view) this week was news editor Keith Andrew's suggestion that, the lack of an iPhone 5 announcement says more about Android's failure than it does any dilly-dallying about on Apple's front.

One firm making the most of Google's OS at the moment, however, is Amazon. The firm's first bona fide tablet Kindle Fire will be sold at a loss according to iSuppli, with the retail giant making its money back by drawing users into buying physical goods from its website.

Nonetheless, with a reported 250,000 pre-orders placed by the start of the week, that's a lot of new blood heading the firm's way.

Little wonder, then, that speculation about the firm's next move in the market is rife – indeed, Amazon is now favourite to pick up Palm from HP, employing webOS in some shape or form within Kindle Fire, which already runs a highly modified version of Android.

The case of two Sonys

It's not all sweetness and light on Google's platform, of course.

Sony Ericsson made the headlines twice this week – first owing to CEO Bert Nordberg's admission that the firm failed to take iPhone seriously enough when it launched in 2007, and secondly thanks to speculation Sony is set to make a $1 billion + buyout bid to secure the firm it helped found outright.

The suggestion is, the Japanese giant is looking to employ the PlayStation brand in the smartphone market to a greater degree, but doesn't trust the Swedish outfit to manage the transition on its own.

In far worse shape is RIM. The release of comScore's latest sweep of the smartphone market in the US revealed BlackBerry's share of the market has almost halved during the last 12 months.

Further analysis by asymco suggests the platform is losing 1.2 million subscribers a month – a rate that, despite its high base, will see BlackBerry wiped out before the end of 2012.

Moving into its spot in third place will more than likely be Windows Phone.

Microsoft has steadied the ship in the US post Windows Mobile, comScore reported, and according to our interview with senior PR manager for Windows Phone Casey McGee, getting more and more OEMs on board is the giant's next target.

"We believe that OEMs will increasingly value Windows Phone as the platform that positions them to compete in the global market," he stated.

Best of the rest

Windows Phone's performance to date, however, wasn't enough to ensure Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earned his full bonus this year, however.

Ballmer had to make do with a mere $682,500, though he was praised for seeking out the strategic alliance with Nokia – an alliance that will more than likely deliver the first phones from the Finnish firm at Nokia World on October 26-27.

Tablets, too, will follow for Microsoft – Windows 8 equipped devices expected in the spring – though for the moment, it's Android tablets that are offering the only genuine competition to iPad.

The latest research by YouGov, however, suggests price the only tool Android has in its arsenal to eat into Apple's share, dubbing Amazon's Kindle Fire as the model other OEMs should adopt.

"£250 ($390) is the price point where the tablet market will take off," read the report. "Tablets will fail to be a mass market product until the price comes down to this price point."

The next version of Android they'll be running – Ice Cream Sandwich – will be the first to cater for both smartphones and tablets at the same time. Arguably more interesting, however, was the unveiling of its launch date: the day before iOS 5 goes live.

If anyone needed any further evidence that Apple still sets the pace in this market, you've just found it.

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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