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E-reading SaaS wars next to e-reader wars

Monday’s announcement from Amazon, Free Kindle for Android App Now Available [June 28], has generated quite a stir on the web. My time duration (of the first 24 hours) and subject specific search brought back ~277 000 hits. From these I would just mention two which might best express the reasons for this excitement:

With Kindle for Android, Amazon’s Winning Strategy Is Complete to which I would add the following image and acompanying text from the Amazon Kindle site to make it crystal clear:Our Whispersync technology synchronizes your Kindle library and last page read across devices, so you can always pick up right where you left off. Buy a book once, and read it anywhere.

Let the e-Reader Content Wars Begin which I would rather call: e-reading SaaS wars.

This is in addition to the device wars started a week before:
War of the e-readers: Kindle, Nook & Kobo
Barnes & Noble Introduces NOOK Wi-Fi® and Lowers NOOK 3G Price, Giving Book Lovers Greater Choice and Even Greater Value [June 21]:
– At Only $149, Wi-Fi-Only Addition to NOOK Family is the Most Full-Featured, Low-Cost eBook Reader on the Market, Now Available Online at http://www.nook.com
– Bestseller NOOK 3G is First Dedicated eBook Reader with Free 3G Wireless and Wi-Fi Connectivity Available at $199
– Latest Software Update to Both NOOK Models Offers NOOK Customers Complimentary Access at All AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots and Improved Reading Features
Amazon Kindle Now Only $189 [June 21]
• to which Barnes & Noble responded with a Product Comparison Chart, NOOK 3G and NOOK Wi-Fi and eBookstore factsheets, emphasizing that on $189 Kindle 2 there is no:
– color touch screen;
– Wi-Fi®/802.11b/g, Free Wi-Fi® in all Barnes & Noble stores and Free Wi-Fi® in all AT&T hotspots;
– memory expansion (via MicroSD);
– browsing and exclusive content in Barnes & Noble stores;
– EPUB and eReader formats supported;
– digital lending; and
– replaceable battery
(indicating just Word document support and text to speech as missing features)

The 3d, latecomer to this competition, Kobo has been represented in this battle by his business partner/shareholder, the US Borders Group:
Borders Offers Best eReader Values on Market [June 22]
– Company Bundles $20 Gift Card with Purchase of Kobo eReader
– Company introduces application for the iPhone and the iPad
which were added to Borders’ previous market offensive actions
:
Borders(R) and Aluratek Partner on ‘Libre’ eBook Reader Pro [June 1], First $119 Device Featuring Link to Borders eBook Store Available for Pre-Order at Borders.com
Borders Launches New E-commerce Site [May 27]
– Borders.com features unique Magic Shelf™ technology and exclusive video programming that brings a real bookstore experience online
In-store kiosks will introduce Borders.com shopping option in Borders stores nationwide
for which they have secured all the necessary vendor alliances.
Borders(R) Launches Digital Initiative [May 07]
– Pre-Orders Now Open for Kobo(TM) eReader;
– eBook Store and Apps Unveiled Next Month
Spring Design and Borders Announce eBook Agreement [Jan 7]:
“an agreement in principle to feature the upcoming Borders eBook store powered by Kobo on the new dual display Alex(TM) eReader later this year”
Borders Partners With Kobo to Deliver eBooks [Dec 15, 2009]:
“Through the partnership, Borders will launch a new eBook store integrated into Borders.com and powered by Kobo. In addition, Kobo will power a Borders-branded eBook store for multiple mobile devices. Sales through these Borders-branded eBook stores will be booked by Borders. Kobo’s mobile applications are device neutral, which will enable consumers to purchase eBooks from Borders on popular smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Android, as well as other devices. Borders and Kobo plan to launch these new services within the second quarter of 2010.”

Borders’ offering is therefore coming quite close to that of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Because of the choice of e-readers it is even technically more flexible. From e-reading SaaS point of view their current [June 30] state is as follows:

It looks quite similar in concept and plan to that of current Amazon (see the picture in the beginning) and Barnes & Noble as well.
Note: from B&N’s product comparison chart it is clear that they are equal to Amazon’s offering from e-reading SaaS point of view, only the Android smartphone support is not there yet, see B&N Reader for Android Phones?.

Such a look however is deceiving. First of all the Kobo e-reader has just USB and Bluetooth connectivity (see Kobo’s eReader Device Comparison) nothing like Kindle 2’s USB and 3G, or Nook’s USB and 3G/WiFi. Also the $120 priced Aluratek‘s Libre Pro has just USB connectivity. For at least this very reason the “last page read across devices” functionality is not available in Borders’ current e-reading SaaS experience, supplied by Kobo. Competition however will force both Kobo and Borders to introduce e-readers with WiFi and/or 3G connectivity when their e-reading SaaS should also be upgraded for the smooth sharing and syncing experience provided now by both Kindle and Nook.
Note: without the WiFi / 3G connectivity – in addition – you cannot get e-books directly to your reader, your free e-reader desktop app (PC or Mac) should be used first and then the purchased e-books loaded over through the USB or Bluetooth connection. This is considered to be rather inconvenient by today’s standards.

The wars for both e-reading SaaS and e-readers is therefore very important to create a level playing field (in the US) in terms of complete experiences and affordable offerings. We should therefore welcome these wars as essential to mass adoption of e-reading (in the US, which then could be followed by other countries quite soon).

Additional information:

Kobo e-readers are already sold in other countries as well: currently in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Canadian Indigo Books & Music Inc, Canada’s largest book retailer, is actually the 58% majority shareholder of Kobo, while – in addition to Borders’ – there are other shareholders from Australia and Hong Kong as well. This coalition is definitely aiming at taking the international market not only in e-readers but in e-reading services launched by local book retailers as well. See: Kobo Powers its First International eBook Store.

The hardware used by Aluratek in his Libre Pro is from the Chinese manufacturer, JCNIP:
JCNIP M218A e-book device coming this month
[Sept 5, 2006]
JCNIP new ereader—M218B [Oct 11, 2007]
which appeared under Dr. Yi brand for their original Chinese market as: Dr. Yi-M218ADoctor M218A + EasyDoctor M218A + enhanced tradeDr. Yi M218B (sources translated by Google). Their latest model, the rechargeable battery powered M218C is sold currently in China for 999.00 yuan, i.e. for ~$150.

This hardware has also been introduced into the US market much earlier by ECTACO:
New jetBook e-book reader from ECTACO set to change the way we read forever! [Mar 21, 2008]
ECTACO Inc. releases the most affordable eBook Reader – the jetBook-Lite [Oct 27, 2009]
Ectaco Jetbook – a brief review [Feb 5, 2010]
Ectaco jetBook Lite eBook Reader Now $99 [June 17, 2010]
The $99 price is clearly showing that e-reader wars will continue to that price level, which could be reached by some other e-readers eas early as by Christmas this year.

All these devices are using a really low-cost, unique and almost unknown screen:
TOSHIBA MATSUSHITA DISPLAY TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD. STARTS MASS PRODUCTION OF 5-INCH VGA MONOCHROME REFLECTIVE-TYPE TFT LCD
[Jan 16, 2007] Features both High Resolution and High Reflectance
This manufacturer has since been renamed:
Toshiba to take over LCD joint venture with Panasonic [Apr 1, 2009]

Barnes & Noble Introduces NOOK Wi-Fi® and Lowers NOOK 3G Price, Giving Book Lovers Greater Choice and Even Greater Value

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WiMAX/WiBro TD-LTE and LTE in general

See also: Mobile Internet (Aug’11) which is a total update on Aug 26, 2011 with a lot of additions to the original July 19, 2010 content on the following subjects:
– LTE and LTE Advanced — HSPA Evolved (parallel to LTE and LTE Advanced) — Heterogeneous networks or HetNets — Femtocells and Picocells — Qualcomm innovations in all that — Ericsson’s LTE Advanced demo — Current roadmaps on evolutions of current 3G+ broadband mobile networks

Intel’s Bad Bet on WiMAX Pays Off for TD-LTE was the original post on last Friday. The title – for some, not-communicated reason – has been changed later to Intel’s Losing Big Money on WiMAX. Whatever the title is this has got quite a broad replication over the web in 3 days showing its significance.

… WiMax operators in the U.K. and The Netherlands are closing and … U.S. operators are considering re-applying their spectrum to other technologies.

… but LTE basestations are only just being rolled out in production quantities. “LTE basestations are on 18-month lead times and there is a problem with a lack of suitable sites for basestations.”

Whereas a 3G basestation cell could support 4,000 users, an LTE cell is smaller and can only support 600 users, so seven times as many basestations are needed to support the same number of users …. That means additional sites have to be found and, in addition, placing LTE equipment on the roofs of tall buildings doesn’t always provide street-level coverage as it normally did for 3G basestations.

The result is likely to be an inability to service the demand created by sales of smartphones. …

Comment by alan.varghese: The assertion that a 3G basestation cell can support 4000 users, while an LTE cell can only support 600 is not entirely accurate and needs further clarification.

… What the analyst may be referring to is that if you deploy LTE in the 2.6GHz band, and compare that to 3G in the 850 or 1900MHz bands, the LTE cell size looks smaller. But this is due to penetration and coverage limitations of the higher frequency, and is obviously not a valid apples-to-apples comparison.

To find more information regarding this bold statement one should get a paid subscription from the publisher GigaOM, so I will provide a couple of sources here which could clarify that statement equally well.

First, TD-LTE itself is a quite long discussion worth a more detailed essay on this blog (this is put on my essay plans now). So I will just recommend here a nugget-type brief overview from Mattias Ganslandt on the TalkStandards.com: TD-LTE’s Place in the 4G Wireless Landscape [June 17].

Second, the impetus for such a strong statement has come from the June 11 conclusion of the BWA (Broadband Wireless Access) spectrum auction in India, for which I could offer the view of a leading local analyst, Shiv K. Bakhshi: BWA spectrum auction leaves a changed telecom landscape in India. He is even daring to write:

In an earlier column, I had suggested that the BWA auction in India could finally put to rest the debate whether WiMAX or TD-LTE will triumph in the 2.3 GHz band unpaired TDD spectrum across the world. Unfortunately for WIMAX, this may well be the case. All data points suggest that WiMAX signals – hopes, if you prefer – may be beginning to fade in India.

Worse, this might be a precursor to a similar scenario unfolding across the world.

This is all despite of:
CommunicAsia 2010: Intel Still Bullish on WiMax [June 15]
LTE, WiBro to be global 4G standards [June 16, The Korea Herald]
WiMAX vs LTE: The battle continues [June 28, The Jakarta Post]

Even the latter source is arguing:

Personally, I would still think that, although the worldwide market share of WiMAX is not going to grow as fast as it was first expected and that LTE will become the mainstream, will still have some hope. Let us not forget that Intel throws its weight behind WiMAX.

Just imagine if Intel, the world’s largest supplier of processors for personal computers, comes up with a new specification — akin to the Centrino — then combines the chipset for its processors with a built-in WiMAX module.

Meanwhile the biggest force behind LTE (original FDD variant), NTT DoCoMo is closing his LTE actions (started in 2006 as “Super 3G”) as follows (slide #26 of the June, 2010 Facts presentation):
・DOCOMO introduced its W-CDMA-based 3G service in 2001, and then eventually launched HSDPA(※) for high-speed data communication up to 7.2 Mbps
・DOCOMO’s 3G network is being overlain with HSPA(※), and later LTE(※) (Super 3G), for even faster data speed and greater data volume
・DOCOMO is developing a next-generation network to smooth the migration to a 4G (IMT-Advanced) service offering ultra high-speed communication of up to 1Gps


More information:
DOCOMO to Begin Pre-launch Operation of LTE Network [June 8]
Focus on the future – views of DoCoMo’s chief strategist on LTE deployment [May 28]
NTT DoCoMo Achieves 250Mbps Downlink in Super 3G Field Experiment
— Key Step toward Realization of New High-Speed Mobile Network —
[March 26]
Dual W-CDMA/LTE remote radio equipment [introduced in Dec 17, 2009]

With this NTT DoCoMo is actually ahead of even TeliaSonera, launching LTE worldwide first in December 2009, because:

TeliaSonera decided not to conduct LTE trials so that it could be first to launch the next-generation mobile broadband technology, according to Ljunggren. “My advice is don’t make any trials,” he said. …

TeliaSonera’s LTE service, which uses LTE-only USB dongles from Samsung Corp. , is limited to a few thousand users. The operator expects to have soon multimode dongles supporting 2G, 3G, and LTE.
[TeliaSonera on LTE: Just Do It!, May 18; see also the video record of LTE: Tommy Ljunggren, Teliasonera interview]

Verizon Wireless will also launch LTE (FDD version) operations in the US this year:
Verizon: LTE’s launch on the horizon; not worried about WiMax [March 24]
A step closer to 4G: Verizon moves to ‘user trials’ in LTE [June 18]

Major rival AT&T will “… upgrade its 3G network to provide [3.75G] HSPA+ network access to 250 million people by the end of the year. AT&T still plans to begin its LTE roll out in 2011 [Feb 10]” as per:
Exclusive: The Details on AT&T’s Bridge to LTE [May 17]
AT&T refreshing backhaul efforts for LTE [June 24]

Other important information:
Seybold’s Take: Developers need realistic view of LTE data speeds [June 21]
LTE World Summit Interview Series by James Middleton[May 18 – June 10]
・the actual drivers encouraging carriers to follow the LTE route: Different strokes [25 June]
Asian 4G developing rapidly but in fragmented pattern [June 2]
LTE Tutorial – What is LTE? (the rest is quite technical)
WiBro (Wireless Broadband) on wikipedia: “the South Korean service name for IEEE 802.16e (mobile WiMAX) international standard.”
IMT-Advanced (4G) Mobile wireless broadband on the anvil
New ITU radio interface standards to revolutionize mobile communication [Oct 21, 2009]

Mobile search SaaS battle

Excellent essay on the subject by Krishna Subramarian on TechCrunch:
Clash of the Titans: The Battle To Become The Mobile Search Leader.

The essence is well summarized in the introduction:

Mobile search is still one of the big unclaimed prizes on the mobile web. Everyone from Google and Yahoo to Apple is going after it, but Microsoft’s Bing may stealthily become the king of the castle by aggressively promoting Bing through mobile apps. Let’s look at each player’s mobile search strategy.

Update: there is a specific battle under formation in China which could significantly alter the worldwide search SaaS battlefield as well
China Mobile Challenges Baidu With Plans for Online Search [Sept 16] which is making the mobile operators’ position pretty clear by observing that: « The operator joins carriers in the U.S., Europe and Japan in turning to data services to spur earnings as the Chinese phone market saturates. “For China Mobile to get a meaningful contribution from new businesses, they really have to turn into big successes to make a difference, as the company is so big,” said Jim Tang, who rates the stock “neutral” at Shenyin Wanguo Securities in Shanghai. “China Mobile gets about 70 percent of its revenue from voice, and growth is completely flat there.” »
China Mobile: 4G network coming soon [Sept 15] is stating that “4G data card is close to debut and the carrier and partners are working on the research of 4G handset chip … China Mobile is expected to launch 4G mobile communication services as early as 2011 to boost its high-margin data services, according to the GSM Association.”
China Mobile to set up device sourcing company [Sept 17] is telling that “The planned device-sourcing company will begin to purchase TD-SCDMA-enabled [3G] feature phones with prices below 1,000 yuan (US$148) at the end of the year and then shift to smartphones [likely with integrated 2G, 3G and 4G] priced below 2,000 yuan in the first half of 2011″.

Background information on this blog:
3.9G TD-LTE rollout in 2012 with integrated 2G, 3G and 4G? [July 19, with updates till Sept 17 and beyond]
OPhone OS (OMS) 2.0 based on Android 2.1 [July 5, with updates till Sept 17 and beyond]

The operator joins carriers in the U.S., Europe and Japan in turning to data services to spur earnings as the Chinese phone market saturates.

“For China Mobile to get a meaningful contribution from new businesses, they really have to turn into big successes to make a difference, as the company is so big,” said Jim Tang, who rates the stock “neutral” at Shenyin Wanguo Securities in Shanghai. “China Mobile gets about 70 percent of its revenue from voice, and growth is completely flat there.”

Microsoft strengths for the PC -> cloud transition

Great interpretations of the recently published Microsoft by the numbers post in TechCrunch: Decoding Microsoft’s Fantastic Passive-Agressive Numbers Post.

To understand the real short-term perspective on Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 based clients for the cloud read my another news nugget: Intel SoC for Cloud Clients.

To make more sense of all that you could read/watch:

  • Whether tablet PCs can become market segment is still uncertain, says Microsoft VP particularly the quote: “Microsoft will not offer new Windows versions to support non-Intel architectures that are targeting tablet PC development”
  • Steve Guggenheimer: Computex Keynote when quite detailed explanation is needed on what Microsoft is going to do in this whole PC -> cloud transition, mainly from client perspective (although back-end / cloud server perspective has been given at the end as well). Here the kind of leading light quote for everybody is: “We have a tremendous opportunity to deliver the technology that at one point was only on the PC, and the content that at one point was only on the PC, across a much wider range of not PCs, but phones, TVs, and alternative devices.”
  • Regarding the TV opportunity, as an example, there is a just 4 min long excerpt from the video record of the keynote worth to see: COMPUTEX 2010: Guggenheimer Keynote, Windows Embedded Standard.
  • Regarding Microsoft updated, current way of thinking as platform software provider, there is also just a 6 min long excerpt from the video record of the keynote worth to see: COMPUTEX 2010: Guggenheimer Keynote, Platform Software. An essential quote from that: “… the truth of the matter is, technologies converge, but devices don’t. So, all of these devices start to share more and more technology over time, but we actually get more and more devices not less. At the same time we see more and more content going digital, right, we see more and more of the devices starting to move forward.”

So Microsoft’s strategy is to expand his main “Windows for PCs” platform as much as possible both downwards (the tablets/slates being the smallest, mobile devices) and upwards (TVs, larger interactive surfaces for the biggest, stand-alone devices) while continuing to stick to the Intel x86 platform hardware.

Note 1: Microsoft is continuing to support other hardware platforms (mainly ARM) with his, Windows Embedded CE derived, complementary offerings, mainly in the “true” mobility space:

as evidenced by the latest Microsoft Outlines Commitment to the Future of Enterprise Handheld Devices announcement, complementing the already announced Windows Phone 7 (Q4 2010 delivery)

while the next version of Windows Embedded CE, renamed to Windows Embedded Compact 7 (Q4 2010 delivery) will also continue to have the broadest possible appeal, with vision reformulated now as “… to create a device that seamlessly connects with PCs, media, online content, and data. You want to reinvent the way people interact with their devices”. So OEMs/ODMs could work on their own (building their own higher level software) as well, even for the tablet/slate area if they found the non-x86 hardware platform (mainly ARM) better for their offering but want to have Microsoft technologies as much as possible, at the same time.

Note 2: The above mobility strategy picture may confuse my statement about the more general role of Windows Embedded Compact 7. In order to prove the validity of that I am copying here the roadmap for the Windows Embedded Handheld.

Intel SoC for Cloud Clients

While ARM system-on-a-chips (SoCs) are dominating the fast growing cloud client segment (smart phones, tablets, e-readers etc.) Intel has finally begun marketing his 1st generation Moorestown to generate design wins needed for next year’s Medfield 2nd generation SoC “product delivery en-mass” successes. Marketing in a true, positive sense by giving professional quality SoC information.

This week the CTO and Research Chief, Justin Rattner first time has given a “behind the scenes” look into their effort. See Gizmodo’s: Intel’s Chief Wizard Conjures the Cloud, Apple and a Phone That Keep Secrets. His answer to the question “Why is Intel not really in mobile phones yet?” is worth to be quoted here:

There was a lot of concern that what became Atom would cannibalize the laptop business, which didn’t materialize. Instead we created a whole new category around netbooks! But that was the big fear, and that cost us probably a good two, maybe even three years, before everybody was convinced we could introduce a cheaper, slower, more energy efficient product and not damage the main revenue.

Not by coincidence we have had this week another “behind the scenes” look given by Shreekant (Ticky) Thakkar, “father of Centrino” and lately (for years) the leading authority on Moorestown. See the interview with him in tom’s hardware: Tom’s Talks Moorestown With The Father Of Centrino. Here we have another quote worth to be included here:

[Re: Why did it take Intel until now to come out with its own SoC?]

That’s kind of a complex question. Let’s talk about the notebook, which was my last platform before I worked on this one. The notebook platform has very little motivation to shrink in size, especially in desktop replacements. Several years ago, we were trying to get the desktop side to adopt a lot of the notebook’s capabilities. [Ed.: Presumably, this refers to the mobile-on-desktop effort back from the Core Duo days.]

But the desktop industry and users had very little motivation because of the developed component ecosystem for power delivery, heatsinks—the whole nine yards needed to build a desktop. And a similar thing has evolved around the notebook. The need for space and capabilities are very different between these platforms. When not driven by the constraints of size and capability, these platforms can use existing components and programable logic to do, for example, video decode and encode. There’s little motivation for them to move to an SoC-like environment.

But when you come to such things as handheld devices, set-top boxes, and embedded systems, all of these have size and power constraints. Constraint is the mother of necessity that drove us to designing SoCs. We needed a such-and-such size chip with certain capabilities and power—high performance CPU, memory controller, graphics controller, video controller, decoder/encoder. You have to wire all of those things up into that limited real estate. That’s what drove us into building an SoC for this class of devices—need more than anything else.

When reading those articles I’m suggesting to go through the comments as well. They will give you an idea of typical external reactions to the views of these most competent Intel insiders.

And a final remark. This is first time Intel clearly communicates why Microsoft Windows (as we know it today) is not running on these x86 processors:

Ticky Thakkar: We had a great, ultramobile, PC-class device platform before. It was low power…but not low enough. So the big challenge for us was to figure out how to deliver low idle power in this kind of form factor. We have work going on in our labs with OSPM—OS Power Management. We want to use Intel’s process strength to get as much out of the process as possible in terms of performance integration and the low active power you can get from the smaller transistors. We introduced the notion of power gating at the island level. We want to use only the power needed to do the activity that you’re doing, not switch on anything else. Today, most operating systems, such as the larger Windows-style OS, do quite the opposite. It’s like opening your front door and the whole house lights up. That’s not what we wanted to do here.

Tom’s hardware: Which explains probably part of why Moorestown for phones doesn’t support PCI and thus Windows, but larger form factor Atom platform versions, including the forthcoming Oaktrail platform, do.

Ticky Thakkar: There are many factors at work here. … In transitioning from a PC to a handheld device, we don’t need to use some of the PC I/Os. We kind of got rid of PCI Express and put in handheld I/Os that are more pertinent to what we need. Things such as MIPI I/Os. MIPI is the handheld I/O organization. To give you an idea, the difference between LVDS and the MIPI interface, just the interface link power is about a 125 mW difference. All these kinds of things allowed us to get to lower power.

To understand the essence of Windows capable “Oak Trail” SoC derived from Moorestown and to be made available in “early 2011” read this Gizmodo news nugget:
Intel “Oak Trail” Is Official: Tablet Processors With Windows, Android, and MeeGo Support.

Server CPUs designed for the cloud

AMD Opteron 4100 processors (announced availability this week) represent a new class designed for the cloud. Imagine a 12-core server node at 100% utilization drawing just 130W. That is less than 11W/core at the platform level! (Supporting information for that).

More information: AMD Opteron 4000 Series Platform Press Kit

The best “nugget type” news report: AMD unveils new Opterons, Firestream add-in boards

Glocalisation

Rising glocalisation. Glaring new examples of the Craigslist and Meetup category from Most Exciting Part of Web Isn’t ‘World Wide’.