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Sharp to join e-reader business war

Notebooks able to hold off iPads in Asia-Pacific: IDC
Singapore (AFP) July 20, 2010 - Notebook computers will be able to hold their own against Apple's iPad and other tablet devices in the Asia-Pacific region, technology industry analysts IDC said Tuesday. Regional personal computer (PC) sales in the second quarter this year grew 36 percent year-on-year, an IDC statement said, one percentage point below IDC analysts' forecasts, "Portable PC shipments in markets like China and Indonesia came in short of our aggressive forecasts this quarter," said IDC analyst Bryan Ma. Dipping notebook sales were offset by stronger-than-expected desktop shipments.

But Ma was convinced that notebooks would continue to drive regional PC sales and weather competition posed by tablets such as the wildly popular iPad. Apple announced on Monday that the iPad will go on sale in nine more countries this week including Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore, after going on sale earlier in Australia and Japan. "Heavy demand for notebooks will still be a key driver in the upcoming years despite potential competitive pressure coming from media tablets like Apple's iPad," Ma stated. Chinese computer maker Lenovo continued to lead in the region with a 20.3 percent market share, while Hewlett-Packard continued its downward slide with 11.6 percent compared with 14.1 percent in the previous quarter, IDC said. Dell held 9.6 percent market share and Acer garnered 8.7 percent, it added.

Group unveils 'watch anywhere' plan for digital content
New York (AFP) July 20, 2010 - A consortium of entertainment, technology and electronics companies announced plans Tuesday to launch a platform that would allow users to buy digital content and play it on multiple devices. "UltraViolet," as the project is called, would let consumers store movies or television shows in a sort of "digital locker" on the Web and then play it on the device of their choosing. The venture is backed by Adobe, Best Buy, Cisco, Comcast, Fox, Intel, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, NBC Universal, Netflix, Nokia, Paramount Pictures, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Warner Bros. and others. The nearly 60 companies have joined forces in what they are calling the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, or DECE. Several major players including Apple - which distributes movies, music and television shows through its online store iTunes - Amazon and The Walt Disney Co. are not members.

"With UltraViolet, consumers will be able to purchase a title once, and enjoy it anywhere and anytime they wish," said Thomas Gewecke, president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. DECE said UltraViolet "represents a new way for consumers to have greater choice, confidence and freedom in how, when and where they enjoy digital movies, TV shows and other entertainment." "UltraViolet will allow consumers to watch their digital entertainment across multiple platforms, such as connected TVs, personal computers, game consoles, smartphones and tablet PCs, in an easy, consistent way," it said. "Our goal is to firmly establish UltraViolet as the symbol for digital entertainment - one that gives consumers the freedom of access wherever they are," said DECE president Mitch Singer, the chief technology officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment. DECE said it would release technical specifications and licensing details for companies who want to take part in UltraViolet later this year.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) July 20, 2010
Sharp said Tuesday it would launch an e-reader this year able to handle text as well as video and audio content, in a bid to challenge Apple and other rivals in the lucrative market.

The Japanese electronics giant said it had updated its e-book format with the "next-generation XMDF" platform, an advanced multimedia version of the XMDF format for text and still images that it launched in 2001.

"The next-generation XMDF enables easy viewing of digital content including video and audio and allows automatic adjustment of the layout to match and meet publishers' needs," Sharp said in a statement.

Sharp plans to begin the service and sell two types of e-readers, which resemble Apple's iPhone and iPad, by the end of the year in Japan and will then also export the gadgets.

"Now there is a lot of attention on the e-publishing business," Masami Obatake, a senior Sharp official, told a news conference. "Launching it by the end of this year will be good timing."

Asked if Sharp can cope with the competition, Obatake said: "Since we have a new system, I think we will be able to compete sufficiently."

Sharp said it had already reached basic accords with major Japanese publishers and newspaper companies on content, adding it would be open to further collaboration to establish an e-book market.

In late May, Sony announced a similar plan jointly with telecoms operator KDDI, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper company and the Toppan printing company, with each company taking a 25 percent stake.

That came just a day before the launch of the iPad in Japan and other countries outside the United States, where print media face a steady decline in advertising and have turned to e-readers as a way to win new revenue.

The Japanese electronic book market is now estimated to be worth 46 billion yen (about 500 million dollars), with most titles distributed via mobile telephones and conventional computers.

Japanese news media had until this year taken a wait-and-see approach to the devices, contrary to US peers.

Newspaper circulation has held up better than in the United States, having fallen only six percent between 1999 and 2009 to 50.3 million sales daily, the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association said. However, magazine circulation in Japan has slumped by a third over the decade.

earlier related report
Apple posts big quarter on iPad, iPhone, Mac sales
San Francisco (AFP) July 20, 2010 - Strong debuts for the iPad tablet computer and the new iPhone powered gadget maker Apple to a record quarter which blew past the expectations of Wall Street analysts.

The Cupertino, California-based company said Tuesday its net profit rose 78 percent to 3.25 billion dollars in the fiscal third quarter which ended on June 26.

Revenue increased to a record 15.7 billion dollars from 9.73 billion dollars a year ago, surpassing the 14.75 billion dollars forecast by analysts.

Earnings per share of 3.51 dollars were also well above the expected 3.11 dollars per share.

"It was a phenomenal quarter that exceeded our expectations all around, including the most successful product launch in Apple's history with iPhone 4," Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said in a statement.

"iPad is off to a terrific start, more people are buying Macs than ever before, and we have amazing new products still to come this year," Jobs said.

Apple said it sold 3.27 million iPads during the quarter, raking in an additional 2.1 billion dollars in revenue and nearly matching sales for Macintosh computers.

Apple, which only began selling the iPad in April, said it sold a record 3.47 million Macintosh computers in the quarter.

It sold 8.4 million iPhones in the quarter, up 61 percent over a year ago, including 1.7 million new iPhone 4s.

The latest version of the smartphone went on sale in five countries on June 24 and Apple has been dogged by complaints about reception problems due to its unusual antenna design.

Apple announced last week it will offer free rubber-and-plastic cases designed to address the antenna issue to customers and Apple executives dismissed speculation that "Antennagate" had hurt sales.

"We are selling every unit we can make currently," said Apple's chief operating officer Tim Cook.

Sales of iPod music players were down eight percent in the quarter from a year ago to 9.41 million, Apple said.

In a conference call with analysts, Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said the company was "very pleased with sales of iPad and iPhone 4."

"We're working hard on catching up with customer demand for these great products and we look forward to rolling them out to even more customers in more countries this quarter," he said.

"We are selling them as soon as we can make them," added Apple's Cook. "We are working around the clock to have supply and demand in balance.

"It's a good problem to have," he said.

Oppenheimer said Macintosh sales of 3.47 million in the quarter exceeded the record set in the December quarter by over 100,000 and surpassed research group IDC's estimate of 22 percent growth for the PC market this quarter.

Oppenheimer said that while iPod sales fell to 9.4 million from 10.2 million a year ago, sales of the more expensive iPod Touch had grown 48 percent year on year, generating revenue growth of four percent.

Oppenheimer also said Apple expected revenue of around 18 billion dollars in the current quarter and earnings per share of 3.44 dollars.

Apple shares leaped 3.65 percent to 261.08 dollars in after-hours trading after the fiscal third quarter results were released, after gaining 2.57 percent during the day.

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Amazon says Kindle sales leapfrog hardback sales
Washington (AFP) July 19, 2010
Online retail giant Amazon said Monday that sales of electronic books for the Kindle have overtaken hardcover book sales. Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos also said the growth rate of sales for the Kindle has tripled since the company cut the e-reader's price from 259 dollars to 189 dollars a month ago. "We've reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle," Bezos said ... read more

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