Last Thursday, Apple unveiled a new software update for the iPhone, iPhone 4.0 OS. One change that SearchEngineLand.com reported was that the Google search button in the iPhone mobile web browser was replaced by a generic search button. The search still goes through Google, but SearchEngineLand.com speculates that this could mean that Apple is looking to break away from Google in the update’s final release, which could have huge ramifications for search engine optimization (SEO).
Google and Apple have been on less-than-friendly terms ever since Google entered the smartphone market with the Android. By using Google as their default mobile search engine, Apple has allowed Google access to iPhone users’ search statistics and preferences, which could potentially be used to further the development of the Android.
Dropping Google for another search engine wouldn’t necessarily help Apple, though. Bing and Yahoo, the two leading search engine competitors of Google, are both tied to Microsoft, which also has a competing smartphone. Analysts have predicted that Apple will create its own search engine so it doesn’t have to rely on competitors, but that could take a few years to develop.
Microsoft updates its Bing Maps application with more features, including one that integrates Flickr photos into its Streetside view, which presents an eye-level view of terrain. In the future, Microsoft plans to add real-time video, interior panoramas and constellation viewing to Bing Maps. The Bing road map for 2010 includes an increased focus on knitting together data from multiple sources for its results pages and structuring results more efficiently with help from third parties.
Microsoft has integrated new features into its Bing Maps application as it continues to battle Google for U.S. search engine market share. The latest features continue the bulking-up of Bing Maps that has taken place over the previous few months and follow the road map for Bing that Microsoft laid out in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.
One of the new features is a technology preview of the Streetside Photos application, which attaches geotagged Flickr photos to a particular location in Bing Maps’ eye-level Streetside view of terrain. Historical photos will also be incorporated, allowing users to see a particular neighborhood as it looked in the past. Microsoft is working on video overlay technology that will attempt to unite real-time video with street-level imagery, something it promises to demonstrate in more depth by the end of 2010.
Photoshop.com Mobile app for iPhone and iPod touch is now available in the iTunes app store for free. The Photoshop.com Mobile app allows you to edit and share photos directly from your iPod touch or iPhone. It connects to your online Photoshop.com account if you have one, or you can use it to edit the photos stored directly on your device. If you don’t already have a Photoshop.com membership, the free basic plan will give you 2GB of online storage. A Plus membership is $50 per year and gives you 20GB of storage.
I don’t have an iPhone, but I have been playing with the app on my iPod touch and I think Adobe did a really nice job with this app. I can access all the photos synced to Photoshop.com from Photoshop Elements, as well as the photos I have synced to the iPod’s storage. You can also upload photos from your device to your Photoshop.com account–a useful feature for those who have an iPhone with built-in camera. (more…)
Citing anonymous sources, the Apple news site says the functionality of the application will be similar to what Apple built into the iPod Nano. That includes the ability to pause live FM transmissions and fast-forward when you resume playing.
According to 9 to 5 Mac, the delay in getting the app to market is Apple’s decision to integrate it with the iTunes Store, which is built into the devices. With this integration, people will be able to tap on a song they hear on the radio and buy it through iTunes.
Of course, Apple wouldn’t be the first company to offer some type of FM functionality on the iPhone. Applications like Wunder Radio have been around for over a year and enable people to stream Internet radio to their iPhone and iPod Touch.
The big advantage Apple would have is linking its application to the iTunes Store, which creates the potential for more
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T is still working to fine tune its network before allowing iPhone customers to tether computers to their mobile device.
“Whenever we offer new features, we want to offer the best possible customer experience,” an AT&T spokesperson told the publication. “For tethering, we need to do some additional fine tuning to our systems and networks so that we do deliver a great experience.”
Earlier this week AT&T announced that it will support voice applications using the iPhone’s 3G network connection. Applications like Skype and Google Voice were previously barred restricted to using only WiFi connections, as we reported this summer.
AT&T did not announce a time frame when customers would be able to use the iPhone’s tethering feature.
With its large subsidies to Apple, AT&T doesn’t break even on iPhone accounts with high data-usage until the 17th month of a 24-month contract, according to a new report from Yankee Group.
The report, titled “The Golden Subsidy Egg’s Goose is Cooked: Welcome to the Brave New Subsidy-Free World,” looks at the downside of subsidies paid to manufacturers by cell phone carriers. The report cites AT&T’s iPhone contract with Apple as a prime example.
Subsidies have typically helped mobile carriers offer customers free or low-cost devices in order to lure them into buying long-term service contracts. Smartphone owners are happy because they’re getting the latest devices at rock-bottom prices. But the surge in data use and the rising cost of grabbing new customers are cutting profit margins for providers, says Yankee Group.
With the mid-2008 launch of the iPhone 3G, AT&T struck a subsidy deal with Apple that slashed the price to consumers to $199 for the low-end version but forced the carrier to bear the upfont costs of each unit. Several published reports have estimated that AT&T’s subsidy is at least $300 per phone. (Neither AT&T nor Apple responded to requests for confirmation.)
At the time, AT&T acknowledged that the new deal would impact profit margins and dilute earnings. The company’s second-quarter results did show a dip in both revenue and earnings.
AT&T went along with the subsidy because it felt that lower iPhone prices would bring in more customers. But in a catch-22, more customers have also put a strain on the carrier’s network, both for voice and data. Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said in August that AT&T’s wireless data usage jumped almost 5,000 percent from 2006 to 2009.
That strain has made for some unhappy iPhone users and has forced AT&T to scramble in order to beef up its wireless infrastructure.
Removing the subsidy for AT&T would win the company a total return of 33 percent over a two-year contract and reduce the break-even point to eight months, Yankee Group said.
Moreover, unless mobile carriers in general can cut their reliance on subsidies, Yankee Group noted, they may see profit margins fall even further.
“Until now, North American operators have been kings of the devices market, controlling distribution and bearing many of the risks,” Andy Castonguay, Yankee Group director and author of the report, said Thursday in a statement. “Rising customer acquisition costs, exclusivity fees and flat-rate pricing are squeezing margins for coveted smartphone users. To reverse this trend, operators must spread the control and risks across OEMs and retailers to offer more affordable options and establish greater levels of clarity and trust with consumers.”
One sector of the online economy that has been quietly growing for some months now is that of online coupons. As with most print advertising, the traditional coupon is in decline, so advertisers have moved to the web to distribute enticing offers of discounts.
The recent launch by search engine Ask.com of Ask Deals, a massive coupon clearinghouse, means that companies doing business through the new site utilize search engine optimization (SEO) to boost the online profile of their discount offers. Ask Deals will also work via Facebook and Twitter to offer online coupons to interested customers.
Experts say that search engine optimization (SEO) could prove pivotal in driving traffic to a company’s internet coupons. Large conglomerations of coupons like Ask Deals will, necessarily, have to be easily searchable, and the volume of coupons on the site will lend itself to intelligent efforts at SEO.
As search engines merge more and more deeply with online commerce, search engine optimization (SEO) will become a more and more critical function to help businesses develop and maintain a customer base.
For the lovers of the iPhone, it’s like daddy and mommy are getting a divorce. If that wasn’t the case–if Apple and Google weren’t calling it quits–why would Apple buy a mapping company?
Steve, tell us it isn’t so!
The tight integration between the iPhone and Google, especially its mapping products, is a big part of why people love their iPhones. Hearing the Apple has bought its own mapping company, Placebase, is unsettling.
The deal, which supposedly happened in July, added talent to a supposed “Geo” unit inside Apple. Nothing wrong with that, but before Apple starts messing with Google Maps on iPhones, it needs to think very seriously about the consequences.
If a new Apple mapping product is to replace Google Maps, it needs to be done by offering customers a choice of mapping providers. If Apple is good enough, people will switch and eventually the rest can be moved over by force, if necessary. But, only after Apple Maps does everything that Google Maps does–and then some.
There are reasons why this may be a much ado about very little. Apple can find plenty of location-based applications or features to add to iPhone and Mac OS that could run on top of Google Maps. New mapping apps might use new Apple technology while the existing ones could remain on Google Maps and be improved upon.
There doesn’t have to be a conflict here, but we’re sure Apple and Google aren’t as chummy as they once were. Apple’s penchant for secrecy makes matters worse and leads to speculation that perhaps exceeds reality.
As for Placebase, the Los Angeles startup was founded to sell a mapping system to businesses, which is hard to do when Google offers such a service free. GigaOm has a nice story that explains what founder Jaron Waldman hoped to accomplish. Here is an example of Placebase and its PushPin Java API in action at a site called PolicyMap.
Waldman’s LinkedIn profile says he now works at Apple, after four years at Placebase.
There is a strong possibility that Apple didn’t actually buy Placebase, just hired Waldman (and others?) when the company failed. That’s the rumor inside the mapping business and makes as much sense as anything else. Regardless, Waldman’s arrival at Apple demonstrates that the company is seriously interested in mapping.
There is much to be done in the mapping space and Google has brought tremendous value to the iPhone with its cool mapping application. Apple is rarely a stupid company, so I have to guess it will think long before dumping Google Maps for something created in-house.
While Apple may someday offer a mapping platform of its own, the company would be wise to remain tied to Google until it has something truly incredible to offer.
Google Maps will be much easier to add value to than for Apple to beat.
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–Apple told the Federal Communications Commission last month that it hadn’t rejected Google Voice for the iPhone. Google’s new phone service hasn’t yet been approved for the iPhone app store, but Apple said it is still studying it.
Google, Apple and AT&T Inc. (T) all were asked by the FCC about reports that Google Voice had been rejected for the iPhone store. The iPhone is carried exclusively on AT&T’s network, which allows the telecommunications company to subsidize the cost of the phone.
Google originally kept confidential its response to the FCC’s question about the company’s discussions with Apple. But Google notified the FCC on Thursday that it was lifting its request for confidential treatment.
In a blog posting Friday, Google’s Washington telecom and media counsel Richard Whitt said the company at first asked the FCC to redact that portion of its letter because it “involved sensitive commercial conversations between two companies.”
According to the now-unredacted parts of Google’s letter, Apple informed the company July 7 that it was rejecting the Google Voice application for the iPhone. “Apple believed the application duplicated the core dialer functionality of the iPhone,” Google’s letter said.
Apple told the FCC last month that Google Voice “appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface.”
Apple didn’t redact any portions of its letter.
Whitt said several people submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the FCC for access to Google’s redacted content.
“In light of Apple’s decision to make its own letter fully public and in the interest of transparency, we decided to drop our request for confidentiality,” he said.
The unredacted version of Google’s letter to the FCC was posted on the FCC Web site Friday.