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hone 6, iPad Air, Samsung Galaxy gear and big cheap TVs among the hottest electronic deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2014.

Black Friday is upon us
Word is that more retailers will relent to public pressure – I mean do the right thing for their employees – and close on Thanksgiving Day this year. But that won’t prevent them from going all out online, where much is automated and the workers are less prominent. Here are some of the best deals on network and technology offerings for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and in between. (Compare with last year’s deals)

Dell: Inspiron 15-inch laptop
Powered by an Intel Celeron processor and running Windows 8.1, this system boasts 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Dell’s special pricing for those getting through online beginning at 12 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28, is $190, a $110 discount off what Dells calls the “market price” (though Dell appears to regularly sell the laptop for $250.

Target: Apple TV
Like other retailers, Target has a number of deals on Apple products. Among them: $11 off an Apple TV device, which you can get for $89 on Black Friday.

Target: iPhones, iPads and gift cards
Apple gives retailers little leeway in terms of discounting its products, so Target and others often resort to selling the Apple products for the regular price, but bundling the with gift cards. Target is offering a $100 Target gift card with an iPad Air 16GB WiFi tablet ($400), iPad mini 3 16GB WiFi tablet ($400) or iPad mini 2 16GB WiFi Tablet ($300).

Best Buy: Samsung Gear Fit Fitness watch with heart rate monitor
Best Buy is slashing the price on this gadget, which comes in black, from $150 to $100. Count your steps taken and calories burned in style, with this device, which syncs up with various Android phones. Best Buy’s online sales will run Thursday/Friday, with stores opening at 5 pm on Thanksgiving Day where allowed, and again at 8 am on Friday.

Best Buy: Surface Pro 3
The retailer is cutting $50 to $150 off the price of Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablets with 128GB of storage or more (they start at $1,000 before the discount). Note that this does not include the keyboard for the flexible 12-inch touchscreen device.

Best Buy: Panasonic 50-inch LED TV doorbuster
This 33-pound Panasonic TV, which serves up a 1080p and 60Hz HDTV picture, usually costs $550. The pre-Black Friday price is down to $500, but will go for just $200 in this in-store-only deal on Thanksgiving/Black Friday.

Microsoft: Tablets and games
The Microsoft Store lists a slew of deals, some for which you need to wait until Thanksgiving or Black Friday, and others that you can snag ahead of time. Among the early bird specials is a Lumia 635 phone for 1 cent with a new service contract. The phone has a 4.5-inch screen, runs Windows 8.1 and has 8GB of storage. Microsoft also has lots of Xbox and game deals available in its store this holiday shopping season.

Staples: Asus x205-TA Laptop computer
This bare-bones Windows 8.1 machine, with a 32GB hard drive and 2GB of RAM, normally goes for $250. It’s already been marked down to $200, and for Black Friday, Staples is cutting that price in half. The laptop, featuring 802.11abgn WiFi, is powered by an Intel Atom processor and has an 11.6-inch screen.

Staples: JLab Pro-7 Tablet
OK, can’t say we know this brand either, but for $40, it could be worth a shot if you just want to play around with a small Android tablet. The device usually sells for $70. It only packs 8GB or storage, but has a MicroSD slot for adding up to 32GB more.

RadioShack: RC Surveyor Drone
Satisfy your drone curiosity and freak out your neighbors with this 2.4GHz quadcopter that’s been marked down from $70 to $35 for Black Friday. This lightweight flyer comes with a built-in 1080×720 camera, can be controlled up to 65 feet away and can even do stunts. RadioShack will be opening on Thanksgiving morning, again late in the afternoon, and then at 6 am on Black Friday.

Costco: HP Envy 15.6-inch TouchSmart Laptop
This computer is powered by an Intel 4th generation Core i7 processor, runs Windows 8, features Beats audio and a 1TB hard drive. Costco, which is tossing in a second-year warranty, is slashing its $800 warehouse price by $150 for Black Friday shoppers who come into the store.

Office Depot/Officemax: Samsung Galaxy Tab 4
The price on this 10.1-inch Android tablet has been axed to $250, which is $100 off the usual price. Yes, this isn’t Samsung’s latest model, but it only came out in April. The device features a 1.2GHz quad core processor, and 16GB of storage, expandable to 64GB.

Meijer: Samsung Galaxy Tablet Lite
This 7-inch, 8GB tablet will run you $99 on Black Friday, which is $40 off the regular price. Plus, you’ll get a $20 coupon for your next shopping trip. The touchscreen tablet boasts a 1.2Ghz dual-core processor.

Sears: 55-inch Samsung LED TV
This 1080p Smart HD-TV, usually priced at $1,400, is available for $800 starting on Thanksgiving night (though note that Sears already lists TV for $1,000, not $1,400). It comes integrated with services such as Netflix and Pandora.

Belk: iLive Bluetooth Soundbar
This 32-inch black bar will enable you to wireless boom your tunes for $70 — $30 off the usual price. Works with iOS gadgets and most Android and BlackBerry devices. Can also sync up with your TV, game systems and more. This is an online deal.

Shopko: Kindle Fire HD tablet
This lightweight 7-inch WiFi tablet (with 8GB of storage, 1GB of which is internal memory) will have its price shaved by $20, so you pay $80. The retailer’s Black Friday deals start at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day, though look for additional doorbusters as early as Wednesday.

Various retailers: Record Store Day specials
Got an MP3 hater in your life who prefers to spin big ol’ discs? Record Store Day, an annual April event designed to accommodate record lovers, expands for a Black Friday event that will feature limited-edition offerings from a variety of singers and bands, including The Afghan Whigs, The Beatles and Chvrches.

Walmart: iPhone 6
The monster retailer, which has said it will match Amazon prices in all its stores to kick off the holiday shopping season, has a pretty fine deal on the iPhone 6, which will cost $179 for a 16GB model with a two-year contract (typically $199). What’s more, you’ll get a $75 Walmart gift card, plus another $200 gift card for a smartphone trade-in. (Some industry watchers have warned about whether the 16GB size will only lead to frustration for iPhone 6 users…)

Walmart: iPhone 6
The monster retailer, which has said it will match Amazon prices in all its stores to kick off the holiday shopping season, has a pretty fine deal on the iPhone 6, which will cost $179 for a 16GB model with a two-year contract (typically $199). What’s more, you’ll get a $75 Walmart gift card, plus another $200 gift card for a smartphone trade-in. (Some industry watchers have warned about whether the 16GB size will only lead to frustration for iPhone 6 users…)

Walmart: 65-inch Vizio LED TV
This behemoth set will go for $648 this Black Friday, a savings of $350. Walmart says a 60-incher last holiday season went at $688, so you can see where pricing for big TVs is going…

Walmart: Xbox One Assassin’s Creed Unity Bundle
This package, including the Microsoft game console, the new edition of Assassin’s Creed and Version IV: Black Flag, will be available for $329 starting on Thanksgiving Day at Walmart. That’s down from the usual price of $400, though actually that price has already been marked down to $349.

Toys R Us: 5th generation iPod touch
You don’t hear about these much anymore, but it makes sense that Toys R Us would sell this Apple mainstay. The 16GB model is selling on Black Friday for $150 — $50 off the usual price. It comes in many pretty colors, too!

Kohl’s: Innovative Technology portable power bank
Kohl’s isn’t the first retailer we think of for tech products, but we did come across this possible stocking stuff: a Justin 2200mAh Power Stick Portable Power Bank for $10, which is $15 off the regular price. USB-pluggable, works with most smartphones to keep you from running out of juice when not able to plug in.

Hhgregg: LG 50-inch smart LED TV
The electronics retailer has a ton of TVs on sale, with many prices slashed by $100 or more. One example: The LG 1080p 120Hz LED WebOS Smart HDTV, which will go for $658, down from $800. You get a free 6-month Spotify subscription to boot.

eBay: LG 60-inch Plasma Smart TV
The online auction site is offering this big HDTV, with two pairs of 3D glasses, for $750 starting at midnight EST on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 26.

Newegg: CyberpowerPC Gamer Xtreme H710 Desktop PC
This machine, boasts an Intel Core i7 4790K (4.0GHz) processor, 8GB DDR3 and 2TB of storage, and runs Windows 8.1 64-bit. The price has been slashed from $1,100 to $800.

Newegg: Asus 13.3-inch Chromebook
The online retailer is knocking $50 off a $250 Asus 13.3-inch Chromebook with Intel Celeron N2830 (2.16GHz) processor, 2GB of DDR3 memory and 16GB SSD.

Amazon: HP Chromebook
Amazon’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday lines are blurred big time, with the online retailer rolling out deals early and often. Among them: This 11.6-inch Chromebook with 2GB of SDRAM and a 16GB solid state drive for $150 — $130 off the regular price.


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CEO Tim Cook is clearly running things now

Apple certainly had a lot to announce and preview during its almost-two-hour media event for the launch of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which included not only new phones but the company’s new mobile payments system known as Apple Pay and the first preview of the Apple Watch — set to debut sometime early next year.

The event, for which Apple built a special facility at the Flint Center of DeAnza College, the Cupertino facility where both the original Mac and the first iMac were introduced by Steve Jobs, was also significant because it was also the first truly post-Jobs Apple product launch.

Although CEO Tim Cook and his team have launched several products since the iconic co-founder and CEO died three years ago, including three generations of the iPad and two generations of iPhones, they were all iterations on existing product lines. (The only product that you could truly call post-Jobs to date is the iPad mini, which took Apple into the small tablet market, something Jobs publicly derided before his death.)

The first real look at Apple under Cook happened during the company’s annual WorldWide Developers Conference keynote in June. That keynote very much illustrated that Apple had found its bearings again in the post-Jobs world. Yesterday, however, offered the first glimpse of the products and services that Apple has taken on without Jobs’ influence — and it should finally put to rest the ridiculous idea that Apple was no longer capable of innovation.
Right is better than first

Yesterday’s showcase melded both the classic Apple showmanship with a slightly different, more open company. And it reinforced a hallmark of Apple’s strategy: It’s more concerned with doing a product right than doing it first.
Apple iPhone 6 / iOS 8 Apple

Apple rolled out the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which will be available for pre-order on Sept. 12, and in stores, Sept.19.

Apple announced a larger iPhone and its first phablet. Neither category is new, and neither smartphone was a surprise. It also introduced an NFC-powered, contact-less mobile payments system. There have been several attempts by Apple’s competitors and industry consortiums, including Google Wallet and Softcard (the industry group formerly known as Isis). Indeed, Apple was long thought to be working on such a system and many people assumed — correctly — that Apple’s Passbook was a stepping stone to that goal. Apple is also far from being the first company to produce either a wearable fitness tracker or a smartwatch (or a combination of the two).

The same could be said of the first iPod (not the first portable MP3 player), the original iPhone (not the first smartphone), and the iPad (not the first tablet — and if you consider the Newton line, not even Apple’s first tablet). Yet, Apple threw out the design and user interface rulebook for each of those categories, went back to the drawing board on how to best design a device for them, and then created category-defining products that turned obscure technology into mainstream sensations and disrupted whole industries.

That same innovative fire was particularly evident in the previews offered up of the forthcoming Apple Watch. Note that innovation isn’t cheap. The Apple Watch will sell for $349.
Doing the smartwatch right

The most Apple-like and innovative part of the Apple Watch isn’t that the company built a smartwatch. It’s that it went back to the user interface (UI) and experience (UX) drawing board. Delivering a clear jab at Samsung (and Android Wear devices in general), Cook noted that Apple deliberately didn’t try to shrink an iPhone and put a strap on it. That’s what most of Samsung’s watches are like, particularly the original Galaxy Gear and the Tizen-powered Galaxy Gear S announced last week.

Instead, Apple looked at how people would use a smartwatch and actually developed a device with a unique mix of UI elements. Yes, there’s a touchscreen, but it’s not the only input mechanism. Although I think the term “Digital Crown” is a little ridiculous — it’s nothing more than a tiny knob — it is something unique in smartwatch design. The closest comparison is the Pebble’s brilliant four-button approach that allows you to scroll, select and go back a step without having to touch the screen — an approach that more closely matches what people might do on a watch, though it is a bit basic and limited.

By combining the Digital Crown with a touchscreen, Apple took the best of both types of interfaces — touch and swipe when it makes sense, scroll or zoom or return to the homescreen using the Digital Crown when that makes sense. The ability to integrate a press along with a touch or swipe thanks to a pressure-sensitive screen adds another intuitive input option. Each alone would deliver a subpar user experience — the Pebble is limited because its interface is scroll-and press-based (like Apple’s Digital Crown, albeit with buttons and not a knob or scroll wheel).

In order to be truly functional, many touchscreen watches already on the market need to be larger than most people feel comfortable wearing. Size and style were clearly on Apple’s list, which is why the Apple Watch will come in two sizes, both sporting the same intuitive experience.

Apple also recognized that a watch or wearable needs to be less geeky and more fashionable than its competitors. The Apple Watch is, in many ways, the antithesis of Google Glass. It’s designed to look fashionable, yes, but it’s also designed not to draw attention to itself. It actually looks like a high-end watch. Even the taptic notification experience allows the user to be aware of an incoming message or other event while not making noise or vibrating loudly or obviously, something that people in meetings and restaurants the world over will undoubtedly appreciate.
Going the distance for fitness and well-being

There is already a sea of fitness trackers on the market. What really stands out about Apple’s take is that it doesn’t try to track everything the same way. Walking isn’t running, running isn’t biking. And while lifting weights or doing pilates are both types of exercise, they’re very different from each other. This is one of the things where many health trackers fail — they may excel at tracking one type of activity and a handful of metrics, but not others. Apple offers a dedicated experience for general activity tracking and training, as it should. They aren’t the same thing.

Apple iWatch includes infrared, visible-light LEDs, and photosensors to monitor health. Apple

The Apple Watch is more than just a simple health and fitness tracker.

Even within the general fitness or wellness category, Apple breaks out tracking into three separate rings on this device. That gives you a much fuller sense of what it takes to maintain wellness than most devices. Given all the research we have about the importance of standing, in particular to postural or musculoskeletal health it’s great that Apple has broken out standing as a metric in its own right.

This will all tie back into Apple’s HealthKit platform in iOS 8. Having worked in healthcare IT, I was already excited about HealthKit’s potential to consolidate a diverse array of health and fitness information, along with actionable medical data that could be securely integrated with clinical systems like electronic health records. Given the direction Apple is taking with sensors in the Apple Watch, I think healthcare developers will be able to devise a lot of interesting apps for it. Linked to HealthKit, one app I can envision would remind you not just to just to stand, but to perform certain physical therapy exercises, including those assigned by a doctor or physical therapist throughout the day. Then it would report back to the provider about how often you do them and whether you do them for the requisite amount of time.

Apple spent a lot of time putting together a catalog of fitness and medical experts, including regulatory experts, in developing how both the Apple Watch and HealthKit would function and ensuring they’re on the right side of regulations. I think that we’ve only scratched the surface of what these technologies will ultimately offer.
Apple iWatch Apple

Apple showed that design still matters, especially when it comes to something as personal as a watch.
Apple makes geeky ideas mainstream

With both the Apple Watch and Apple Pay, Apple is taking concepts that were once far outside the mainstream and making them something everyone is aware of, even if they don’t use them or if they choose an alternate already on the market. This has always been one of the company’s strengths — along with its ability to step back and rethink how human beings can best interact with a technology. Together, they represent much of how Apple has always innovated: by pushing the technology sector forward and new ideas into the mainstream.

Tuesday’s event demonstrated that Apple is still adept at doing just that. Even Tim Cook showed a new level of comfort and confidence onstage, aside from the weird overly rehearsed moment with Bono, and looked like he was having the time of his life at some points. This is the new Apple. It really isn’t much different from the old one.

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Microsoft and Apple will ship fewer devices in 2014-2015 than earlier estimates, while Android will ship more
Gartner today scaled back its forecast of Windows’ near future, saying that while Microsoft’s operating system will power an increasing number of devices this year and next, the gains will be smaller than it projected six months ago.

For 2013, Windows’ share of the operating systems on all devices — smartphones, tablets, PCs, ultra-light form factors, and PC-tablet hybrids — dropped 5.8% compared to the year before, an additional half-percentage point from the 5.3% the research company pegged in January 2014 for the year prior.

This year, Windows’ share of the device operating system market will grow 2.3% to 333.4 million devices, the bulk of them traditional PCs and what Gartner dubs “ultramobiles, premium,” or the top-tier notebooks. Windows’ growth, however, will come from smaller systems — smartphones in particular.

“Windows phones will exhibit strong growth from a low base in 2014, and are projected to reach a 10% market share by 2018, up from 4% in 2014,” said Annette Zimmermann, a research director at Gartner, in a statement Monday.

In 2015, said Gartner today, Windows will power 373.7 million shipped devices, a year-on-year increase of 12.1%.

Gartner’s numbers today were different than those in January, when it was much more bullish about Windows. Then, analysts projected that Windows device shipments would grow 9.7% in 2014, with another 17.5% increase in 2015. In the latter year, 422.7 million devices of all kinds were to ship that ran Windows.

Although Windows will continue to grow, Gartner’s estimates today were significantly down from those it made six months ago. Most striking was the downgrade of Windows’ 2014 gains to about one-third of the earlier forecast.

The revised estimates also mean that Windows will account for a smaller share in both 2014 and 2015 than projected previously. In January, Gartner said that Windows would capture 14.3% and 16.1% of all device shipments this year and next, respectively. Today’s numbers put Windows’ share at 13.7% (2014) and 14.4% (2015) instead.

The reason Windows forecasts were downgraded, said Gartner analyst Mika Kitagawa, was twofold: a softening of tablet shipment growth and the continued reliance of Microsoft on traditional PCs for the bulk of its licensing sales.

“Microsoft will stay in the traditional PC market,” said Kitagawa.

Those systems will continue to struggle, with downturns in 2014 and 2015 of 6.7% and 5.3%; in January, Gartner said that the category would be down 7.2% this year and 3.4% next. Adding in its “ultramobile, premium” numbers, the total personal computer market is now forecast to shrink 2.9% in 2014 and grow by 2.7% in 2015.

Previously, Gartner had pegged ultramobiles to grow much faster, with the total personal computer market believed to be flat this year (0.3% growth), with a more robust 4.6% increase in 2015.

The expected increase in Windows phone shipments will not be enough to make up the difference.

Windows wasn’t the only platform that Gartner said would grow slower than it had believed before: Apple’s iOS and OS X combined number were also downgraded.

For 2014 and 2015, Gartner now forecasts that iOS/OS X will power 271.1 million devices in 2014 — most of them iPhones — and 301.3 million in 2015, for year-over-year growth rates of 14.8% and 11.2%.

Six months ago, Apple’s estimated shipments were more optimistic: 344.2 million and 397.7 million for this year and next, respectively, representing increases of 29% and 15.4%.

Not surprisingly, Android will take up the slack, said Gartner, which predicted Google’s mobile operating system will become even more dominant. Where six months ago Gartner projected that Android device shipments would grow by 25.6% and 13.8% in 2014 and 2015, today it modified those estimates to 30% and 17.3%, respectively.

This year and next, Android will account for 48% and 52.9% of all device shipments, Gartner forecast today, upgrades from January’s numbers of 44.6% and 44.7%.

Gartner is now pegging total Android device shipments for 2014 and 2015 at 1.17 billion and 1.37 billion, up from previous bets of 1.1 billion and 1.25 billion.

 


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iPhone big screen or big screens, curvaceous, and pressured

Fortunately for the iOSphere, Bloomberg found a “person familiar with Apple’s plans” to spill the beans and provide a week’s worth of rumor cud-chewing over the iPhone 6 display.

While many iOSpherians are convinced that the iPhone 6 will have a bigger display and a curved display, there is Deep Uncertainty about how big, or which way the curve will, you know, curve.

But let’s not quibble. This one source, in a story written by two reporters, was also familiar with Apple’s plans to introduce not one but two Bigger Screened iPhone 6 handsets. Thanksgiving Day has come early this year.

You read it here second.

“I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Apple is investigating curved displays… That doesn’t mean, however, that just because Apple looked at something that they’re going to release it.”

Avi Greengart, analyst, Current Analysis

“Analyst Debunks Curved Display On iPhone 6 Release Date”

Kristin Dian Mariano, International Business Times, with the iOSpherian translation of Greengart’s commonsense observation.

iPhone 6 will have two screen sizes, curved “glass,” and maybe pressure sensors

Talk about a cornucopia of Innovation, eh? This abundance of information overflows from a Bloomberg story, “Apple Said Developing Curved iPhone Screens, New Sensors,” by Tim Culpan and Adam Satariano.

And where did it come from you ask? From “a person familiar with the plans.” Or, as experienced iOSpherians like to say, a PFWP.

Maybe they caught Tim Cook or Phil Schiller when he was in a chatty mood in an elevator. Or maybe they talked to the drycleaner of the next door neighbor of the best friend of a coworker who has a cousin who plays online games with an engineer who overheard an Apple designer talking to someone before the subway door closed. But somebody who’s not just anybody.

“Two models planned for release in the second half of next year would feature larger displays with glass that curves downward at the edges, said the person, declining to be identified because the details aren’t public. Sensors that can distinguish heavy or light touches on the screen may be incorporated into subsequent models, the person said.

BGR’s Zach Epstein argues in his post on the Bloomberg story that the phrasing “with glass that curves downward at the edges” is not a reference to a curved displays “but rather that the glass covering the panels will be curved.” Which doesn’t clarify much: does he mean the display is flat but it’s covered with a convex glass cover? Or that the glass cover is flat but it curves down over the edge of the phone?

Curved screens – both convex and concave – have been an obsession with the iOSphere for months, even years, though with little analysis on how or why curving the screen, or the “glass,” actually improves the phone. The obsession has been intensified by Samsung’s Galaxy Round smartphone, which curves upward from the two sides, and the just-announced LG G Flex, which curves upward from the top and bottom.

The latter design at least has the sense to mimic traditional wired handset designs going back 70 years, as shown in this Wikipedia image of a rotary phone from the 1940s.

The Bloomberg reporters suggest that perhaps it’s a curved BIG screen that’s vital to Apple’s future, because the Galaxy Round is Samsung’s “latest phone in an array of sizes and price points that’s helping keep Samsung ahead of Apple in global market share.” The PFWP says the screens will measure 4.7 and 5.5 inches, which would make them, as Culpan and Satariano astutely point out, “Apple’s largest iPhones,” since the current 5S and 5C measure just 4.0 inches.

It “seems rather curious that Apple would introduce two new displays sizes at the same time,” posted a skeptical John Gruber at his DaringFireball blog. “Apple has only introduced one new iPhone display size since 2007, but they’re going to introduce two at the same time next year? That smells fishy to me.”

Bloomberg’s PFWP didn’t have much to say about the new pressure sensors, which apparently are intended to detect how firmly someone is pressing on the screen and then do…well something very cool and magical as a result.

The PFWP did add “that the company probably would release [the new phones] in the third quarter of next year.” A person familiar not only with plans but probabilities.

iPhone 6 won’t have a curved display

Or maybe it won’t not have one. It’s hard to tell from reading InternationalBusinessTimes.com.

The headline of Kristin Dian Mariano’s post is emphatically assertive: “Analyst Debunks Curved Display On iPhone 6 Release Date”

Yet the post’s first sentence changes that completely: “Apple may not show off a curved display on iPhone 6 release date, according to an analyst.”

The analyst is Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis, who is simply making the utterly common sense observation that Apple, like other companies, creates a whole bunch of ideas, tests many of them out, throws most of them out, and finally eventually comes up with improved or new products.

“I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Apple is investigating curved displays and any other component coming on to the scenes. That’s what Apple does. Apple tests things out internally to see if they make sense,” Greengart is quote in Mariano’s post. “That doesn’t mean, however, that just because Apple looked at something that they’re going to release it. They probably have watches, glasses, hover boards, and who knows what else just to see what it’s like.”

In short, he’s admitting “I have no idea whether they’re planning to have a curved display on iPhone 6.” In Mariano’s skilled hands this becomes “analyst debunks curved display on iPhone 6.”


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Apple Developer Center is back online
After a week long outage, Apple’s Developer Center is back up and running

After an outage that lasted about a week, it appears that Apple’s Developer Center is now back up and running, with developers now being able to access the site. If you recall, the Developer Center went down last Thursday after an intruder, who has since claimed he was doing security research, potentially nabbed personal contact info from Apple’s developer database.

In any event, Apple’s satus page now indicates that many of the Developer Center subsections are up and running, though a few still remain offline, including technical support, videos, and the developer forums.

Apple notes:
We appreciate your patience as we work to bring our developer services back online. Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles, software downloads, and other developer services are now available. If you would like to know the availability of a particular system, visit our status page.

If your program membership expired or is set to expire during this downtime, it will be extended and your app will remain on the App Store. If you have any other concerns about your account, please contact us.

Thank you for bearing with us while we bring these important systems back online. We will continue to update you on our progress.

Well, that’s a start.


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Analysts say there’s more to the story, contend that users blame browser makers — not advertisers — for over-zealous data collection

An online advertising group this week attacked Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, for being anti-business, hiding behind a veneer of populism and harboring “techno-libertarians and academic elites who believe in liberty and freedom … as long as they get to decide the definitions of liberty and freedom.”

In a long — almost 4,000 words — and often-rambling blog post, Randall Rothenberg, the CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) took Mozilla to task over the open-source company’s revamped third-party cookie blocking scheme, a point of contention between the online ad industry and the browser builder since the latter unveiled plans to block some of the cookies used by online advertisers to track users’ Web movements, then deliver targeted ads.

Without ads, specifically targeted ads, the free content on the Web risks vanishing, argued Rothenberg. At best, the elimination of targeted ads means more advertisements, a claim the IAB has made before.

Although Mozilla ditched its original concept of third-party cookie blocking, acknowledging that the mechanism was generating too many erroneous results, the company instead announced last month that it was partnering with Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society to create the “Cookie Clearinghouse,” or CCH.

The CCH’s main job will be to create and maintain a centrally-managed set of lists that will finger sites whose cookies will be blocked and those awarded exemptions.

While the most provocative of Rothenberg’s criticisms were aimed at what he called Mozilla’s values, his biggest beef with the Firefox-CCH plan seemed to be that Mozilla had set itself up as an unelected “gatekeeper” with the power to decide the fate of online businesses.

“The company’s own statements and explanations indicate that Mozilla is making extreme value judgments with extraordinary impact on the digital supply chain, securing for itself a significant gatekeeper position in which it and its handpicked minions will be able to determine which voices gain distribution and which do not on the Internet,” charged Rothenberg.

“The browser is certainly the gatekeeper and the gateway to the broad landscape of the Internet,” agreed Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner, acknowledging the realities of the Web. “But most users are not aware of privacy, or simply don’t care, whether it’s in the browser or on Facebook. It certainly doesn’t loom large in the minds of the average consumer [although] it is a hot-button issue for a small part of the user population.”

Al Hilwa, a researcher with IDC, concurred. “The browser makers are definitely in charge and are indeed the gatekeepers,” he said.

Much of the problem that online advertisers have with Mozilla — and Microsoft — ultimately stems from that gatekeeper role, which the ad industry believes has been abused through unilateral decisions to, for example, block third-party cookies by default (Firefox) and switch on the “Do Not Track” privacy signal (Internet Explorer).

The browser makers’ response is that users have expressed a desire for more online privacy.

But Hilwa sees more at play than a Manichaean view of business versus anti-business, as Rothenberg contended.

Saying Mozilla was “caught in the middle,” Hilwa argued that the company was reacting to pressure — perhaps, as Valdes said, to a vocal minority — because its users blame the browser, not necessarily advertisers, for privacy failures. “There is no doubt users will hold browsers accountable for any breaches of privacy or excesses of the advertising industry in siphoning data,” said Hilwa. “[Browser makers] feel under pressure to control the type of data that can seep through their browsers.”

The recent disclosures of widespread government surveillance has added fuel to that fire, Hilwa noted.

For its part, Mozilla declined to directly rebut Rothenberg’s denunciations, and instead issued a statement that walked a line similar to what it has said before when it’s butted against advertisers.

“Mozilla feels advertising is an important component to a healthy Internet ecosystem, and over the coming months we’ll be working to address valid commercial concerns in our third-party cookie patch before advancing it to the general Firefox release,” said a company spokesman, again intimating that the cookie-blocking plan was far in the future. “We’ll continue gathering input while keeping the dialogue open with the hope that advertising industry groups will respect the choices users make to form the Web experience they want.”

Mozilla, ironically, indirectly relies on advertising revenue for the vast bulk of its revenue. In 2011, the last year for which it reported financials, Mozilla earned $162 million, or 99% of all revenue, from deals with search engines, which pay the firm to make their services available to Firefox users.

Those deals are predicated on Firefox users clicking on ads within the ensuing search results.

Mozilla has been aggressively moving on to other projects, however, including Firefox OS, as a hedge against the decline of desktop browsing and a concurrent reduction in search-based revenue. But the desktop versions of Firefox, which until late 2009 were consistently gaining browser user share, have budged little over the last 12 months.

According to Web analytics firm Net Applications, Firefox on the desktop accounted for 19% of the browsers used worldwide during June. In mobile browsing, where Mozilla has devoted significant resources, not only to Firefox OS but also to an Android browser, Firefox held an almost-invisible 0.03% user share.


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Retailers share part of the blame for poor Windows 8 sales and the ensuing decline of PC shipments, analysts contended today.

Microsoft’s radical overhaul of Windows has been cited by some to explain plummeting PC shipments, but the very organizations whose best interest is served in selling those systems were at least partly at fault.

“Windows 8 brought a brand new UI [user interface] that had not fundamentally changed since DOS,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in a blog post Tuesday. “[So] how did big-box retail respond? The same way they have for the last 20 years.”

Moorhead was critical of big retailers — Best Buy is the largest in the U.S. — for not modifying how they sold PCs when Windows 8 landed on their stores’ shipping docks.

“There exists a massive disconnect between what consumers want to and need to know about the latest generation of PCs” and what retailers did, and continue to do, to sell those PCs,” Moorhead argued, ticking off a list of retailing blunders, such as tying down devices so that they can’t be hefted for weight, PCs that can’t be turned off and on again to gauge boot speed, and a lack of touchscreen displays.

“The stores just do not provide, for many, the environment that meets the needs of someone trying to buy a new Windows 8 notebook,” said Moorhead.

Stephen Baker of the NPD Group, and an expert in technology retailing, agreed. “Nothing happened at launch,” Baker said of in-store changes when Windows 8 hit. “Everyone treated it as if was another Windows 7.”

And the same old-same old was definitely not what was necessary. “Does the in-store experience need an upgrade [because of Windows 8]?” Baker asked. “Absolutely. Are the in-store mechanisms up to snuff? Absolutely not.”

But Baker disputed the idea that retailers alone were to blame for how they sold Windows 8. The operating system was so different, he said, that retailers were either unprepared or unsure how to merchandise the goods.

And in some cases, they didn’t even have the goods — and largely still don’t — to sell.

“Part of the problem was driven by lack of product,” said Baker. “There weren’t very many high-quality products available. At launch maybe four out of 40 SKUs [stock-keeping units] in retail were touch. That’s headed north. By back-to-school and the holidays, it’ll be 15 out of 40. But we need to see an upgrade on that, too.”

Microsoft must assume some of the blame for the poor retailing, Baker implied. But rather than directly criticize Microsoft, he simply noted, “They did not do anything different” at Windows 8’s launch to prepare retailers or assist them. “But hindsight is really easy six months later.”

The bold direction of Windows 8, with its emphasis on touch as a selling point, presented retailers with problems they’d never encountered — detachable displays for example — a core feature of the so-called “convertible” devices that morph from a notebook into a tablet by swiveling the screen to a new position or removing it entirely. “That isn’t the norm of what we’ve had in the market before,” Baker said, referring to retailers’ confusion over how to secure those detachable screens or show the mutating nature of the device in the absence of a salesperson.

Baker highlighted the end-cap — one of those displays at the end of an aisle — that Lenovo and Intel created for the former’s IdeaPad Yoga as an example of a top-notch retail presentation for a Windows 8 device.

“You can’t go to market with the same old stuff,” he asserted.

Moorhead cited Apple’s retail stores as the right way to promote and sell today’s computers — and other computing devices, like tablets. “Interestingly, I never see the [retail problems with Windows 8 notebooks] at an Apple store. Never, ever,” Moorhead said. “I can sit at the Apple store there for hours and literally do a test drive like I would a car.”

Microsoft, of course, has its own, albeit much smaller, chain of retail outlets, designed in Apple-esque fashion and staffed with many more salespeople than a big-box store. Even so, Baker downplayed their impact.

“They face the same challenges [with Windows 8] as most retail stores,” Baker said of Microsoft’s outlets. “They may have more people, but they have the same challenges. And they’re not a unit volume driver.”

He did have hope, however. “Anything Microsoft does learn about what can be successful, I expect they’re trying to port as quickly as possible to the retail industry overall,” Baker said.

And retail, while contributing to Windows 8’s problems, perhaps even to the drop in PC sales, is the least of the industry’s worries at the moment.

“I really don’t think that [Windows 8’s slow uptake] has had a lot do with merchandising,” Baker said. “It’s far more to do with the trajectory that the marketplace was already on.”


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