Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Apple's new-found India love signals a rethink


As BlackBerry launches the first smartphone from its make-or-break BB10 line in India, one of its most loyal markets, the company faces new competition from a formidable rival that has long had a minimal presence in the country.
More than four years after it started selling iPhones in India, Apple Inc is now aggressively pushing the iconic device through instalment payment plans that make it more affordable, a new distribution model and heavy marketing blitz.

"Now your dream phone" at 5,056 rupees, read a recent full front-page ad for an iPhone 5 in the Times of India, referring to the initial payment on a phone priced at $840, or almost two months' wages for an entry-level software engineer.


The new-found interest in India suggests a subtle strategy shift for Apple, which has moved tentatively in emerging markets and has allowed rivals such as Samsung and Blackberry to dominate with more affordable smartphones. With the exception of China, all of its Apple stores are in advanced economies.


Apple expanded its India sales effort in the latter half of 2012 by adding two distributors. Previously it sold iPhones only through a few carriers and stores it calls premium resellers.


The result: iPhone shipments to India between October and December nearly tripled to 250,000 units from 90,000 in the previous quarter, according to an estimate by Jessica Kwee, a Singapore-based analyst at consultancy Canalys.


At The MobileStore, an Indian chain owned by the Essar conglomerate, which says it sells 15 percent of iPhones in the country, iPhone sales tripled between December and January, thanks to a monthly payment scheme launched last month.


"Most people in India can't afford a dollar-priced phone when the salaries in India are rupee salaries. But the desire is the same," said Himanshu Chakrawarti, its chief executive.


Apple, the distributors, retailers and banks share the advertising and interest cost of the marketing push, according to Chakrawarti. Carriers like Bharti Airtel Ltd, which also sell the iPhone 5, run separate ads.


India is the world's No. 2 cellphone market by users, but most Indians can't afford fancy handsets. Smartphones account for just a tenth of total phone sales. In India, 95 percent of cellphone users have prepaid accounts without a fixed contract. Unlike in the United States, carriers do not subsidise handsets.


Within the smartphone segment, Apple's Indian market share last quarter was just 5 percent, according to Canalys, meaning its overall penetration is tiny.


Still, industry research firm IDC expects the Indian smartphone market to grow more than five times from about 19 million units last year to 108 million in 2016, which presents a big opportunity.


Samsung Electronics dominates Indian smartphone sales with a 40 percent share, thanks to its wide portfolio of Android devices priced as low as $110. The market has also been flooded by cheaper Android phones from local brands such as Micromax and Lava.


Most smartphones sold in India are much cheaper than the iPhone, said Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta.


"Where the masses are - there, Apple still has a gap."


'I love India, but..'


Apple helped create the smartphone industry with the iPhone in 2007. But last year Apple lost its lead globally to Samsung whose smartphones, which run Google's free Android software, are especially attractive in Asia.


Many in Silicon Valley and Wall Street believe the surest way to penetrate lower-income Asian markets would be with a cheaper iPhone, as has been widely reported but never confirmed. The risk is that a cheap iPhone would cannibalise demand for the premium version and eat into Apple's peerless margins.


The new monthly payment plan in India goes a long way to expanding the potential market, said Chakrawarti.


"The Apple campaign is not meant for really the regular top-end customer, it is meant to upgrade the 10,000-12,000 handset guy to 45,000 rupees," he said.


Apple's main focus for expansion in Asia has been Greater China, including Taiwan and Hong Kong, where revenue grew 60 percent last quarter to $7.3 billion.


Asked last year why Apple had not been as successful in India, Chief Executive Tim Cook said its business in India was growing but the group remained more focused on other markets.


"I love India, but I believe that Apple has some higher potential in the intermediate term in some other countries," Cook said. "The multi-layer distribution there really adds to the cost of getting products to market," he said at the time.


Apple, which has partly addressed that by adding distributors, did not respond to an email seeking comment.


Ingram Micro Inc, one of its new distributors, also declined comment. Executives at Redington (India) Ltd, the other distributor, could not immediately be reached.


BlackBerry, which has seen its global market share shrivel to 3.4 percent from 20 percent over the past three years, is making what is seen as a last-ditch effort to save itself with the BB10 series.


The high-end BlackBerry Z10 to be launched in India on Monday is expected to be priced not far from the 45,500 rupees price tag for an iPhone 5 with 16 gigabytes of memory. Samsung's Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2, Nokia's Lumia 920 and two HTC Corp models are the main iPhone rivals.


Until last year, Blackberry was the No. 3 smartphone brand in India with market share of more than 10 percent, thanks to a push into the consumer segment with lower-priced phones. Last quarter its share fell to about 5 percent, putting it in fifth place, according to Canalys. Apple was sixth.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lord Balaji at arm's length in a new luxury watch worth 27 lakhs


If you are a devotee of Tirupati's famous Lord Balaji, you can take comfort in knowing that He can be with you at all times.

What you need is Rs. 27 lakh.

A limited edition luxury watch with His image, engraved in gold, embellished with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, has been made by a Swiss firm and is being sold globally.

However, the powerful trust that manages the Tirupati temple, the richest in India with annual earnings of Rs. 2000 crore, is not thrilled about the initiative, but says it could not have stopped the venture, and has agreed to accept a part of the sales for its charitable hospital.

"We have no agreement on this because statutorily, we have no right to sell Lord Venkateswara's photo. It is available. People can take the photograph. They can put it on the Internet. They can put it on their products. They can advertise. One can't protect that at all. Only when they use in a derogatory sense, we have the persuasive power to go after them," says LV Subrahmanyam, CEO of the trust.

A total of 333 watches have been made so divine intervention is at hand, if you can afford it, and are quick enough to snap one up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Forget 100 crore, aim for 1000 crore, says Karan Johar


Filmmaker Karan Johar, co-chairman of the FICCI Frames 2013, says the focus on the Rs 100 crore benchmark, is limiting the growth and content of Bollywood films at a time when the aim must be to mint Rs 1,000 crore from one film.

"Rs 100 crore is restricting the limits of our self. We must add one more zero the Rs 100 crore films and take it to the next level. Rs 100 crore is limiting the growth and content (of films). The possibilities are endless, and we must focus on Rs 1000 crore mark instead," Karan said here.

"In next five years, we will be in a position... it might sound aspirational, but there is a possibility that we may have achieved all that," added the filmmaker.

He spoke on Monday at a press conference of FICCI Frames 2013 -- an entertainment and business summit of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) starting on Wednesday in Mumbai.

The theme of the conclave this year is - "A Tryst Destiny: Engaging a Billion Consumers".

It will serve as a platform for dialogues between thought leaders, studio heads and academics, who will talk on a range of topics like digitisation, censorship, marketing, exhibition, distribution, the future of content consumption in an era progressively getting defined by the digital media, innovation and planning required in various policy issues within TV, cinema, animation and gaming.

Talking about the state of theatres in the country, Uday Shankar, who heads FICCI Media and Entertainment Committee, said: "The number of theatres in our country is very few and the films releasing is more. We need to have more theatres for screening."

Adding to this, Karan said: "Hollywood is a much bigger market. It has six to seven films releasing on a Friday. Here, if more than one film releases, it is considered as a war. There is so much made out of two films released in a single day."

The FICCI Frames this year will especially tackle issues related to censorship.

One of FICCI's Policy Representation on the media and entertainment industry mentions that "the Cinematograph Act needs to be urgently amended, so that there are no impediments to its screening once the censor board passes a film".

"There is a special emphasis on the Cinematograph Act this year, especially with regard to what happened to 'Vishwaroopam' (which was banned in Tamil Nadu after being passed by the Central Board of Film Certification)."

"This needs an immediate attention. We believe that the censorship should be the final authority on a film's release. Censorship on satellite has already been tackled," said Karan.

FICCI Frames 2013 will be held March 12-14 at Hotel Renaissance in Mumbai.

Russia asks: How do you stop space objects hitting Earth?


What can man do to prevent Earth being hit by meteorites and asteroids?

Russia has found, to its cost, that it has no answers. But United States and European experts may be able to help with a few ideas that at first glance seem straight out of science fiction, including smashing spacecraft into asteroids, using the sun's rays to vaporise them, or blasting them with nuclear bombs.

That should come as some relief to the many worried Russians who want something done immediately, even though scientists say the explosion of a meteor over central Russia on Friday was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

"We must create a system to detect objects that threaten Earth and neutralise them," Dmitry Rogozin, a first deputy prime minister in charge of the defence industry, wrote on Twitter.

For all their nuclear missiles, he said that neither the United States nor Russia could shoot down such meteors. Even President Vladimir Putin held up his hands, saying no country was able to protect against such events.

But there is hope for Russia as it looks for a solution. Last week's near miss from an asteroid half the size of a football field, the same day as the meteor explosion, has heightened awareness of the dangers Earth faces.
 
At a conference in Vienna on Monday, scientists said it was time for man to do more to spot objects hurtling towards the planet and to counter their threat.

LASER BEAMS AND GRAVITY TRACTORS
 
The European Union-funded NEO Shield consortium, whose aim is to investigate the best ways to deal with an object hurtling towards Earth, outlined some of its ideas in Vienna.

These included creating a "kinetic impactor" to fire a huge spacecraft into an asteroid to alter its path; another was making a "gravity tractor" by parking a big spacecraft near an object and using thrusters to lead it away by using the weak gravitational force as a cosmic tow-rope.

Exploding a nuclear device on or near an asteroid would be a method of last resort, it said.

A U.N. "action team" for dealing with near-Earth objects (NEOs) proposed setting up an International Asteroid Warning Network, plus advisory groups on mounting space missions to handle threats and planning for an impact disaster.

Timothy Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center (MPC) at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory which collects asteroid data, called for "rapid all-sky search capacity" using a space-based infrared survey to detect objects much faster than now.

The U.S. and European space agencies, NASA and ESA, warned that man should also prepare for impacts that are unavoidable - such as having procedures in place for wide-scale evacuations.
 
Detlef Koschny, responsible for near-earth object activity at the ESA's Space Situational Awareness programme, said separately that it was now possible to determine possible impact zones with just a few hours' notice.
 
He cited the example of an object that hit the Sudan desert in 2008. It was spotted only 20 hours before it hit and the initial estimated impact zone of 2,000 km was narrowed down to an area of the desert within a few hours.

"In a similar case in the future, civil authorities would be able to tell the population in the narrowed-down area to stay away from windows, glass or other structures and stay indoors," he said in emailed comments to Reuters.

ESA experts in Darmstadt, Germany, plan to set up a survey to monitor the night sky using automated telescopes capable of spotting objects before they enter the atmosphere, he added.

 "NOT OUT OF STAR TREK"

In California, scientists are working on a system to harness the power of the sun and convert it into laser beams that can destroy, evaporate or change the course of asteroids.
 
"This system is not some far-out idea from Star Trek," said Gary B. Hughes, a researcher and professor from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
    
"All the components of this system pretty much exist today. Maybe not quite at the scale that we'd need - scaling up would be the challenge - but the basic elements are all there and ready to go."
 
A University of Hawaii team of astronomers is also developing a system with small telescopes called ATLAS that would identify dangerous asteroids before their final plunge to Earth.
 
The team predicts the system will offer a one-week warning for a 50-yard (45-metre) diameter asteroid known as a "city killer" and three weeks for a 150 yard (137 metre)-diameter "county killer."
 
"That's enough time to evacuate the area of people, take measures to protect buildings and other infrastructure, and be alert to a tsunami danger generated by ocean impacts," said astronomer John Tonry.

Russian experts said, however, that constructing an early warning system would hardly be worth the money as such events are so rare - the last known meteorite strike on such a scale in Russia was reported in 1908.
 
One Russian expert estimated the cost of such a system would be $2 billion. Others put it higher.
    
"Also, spotting is one thing, but preventing impact is yet another thing," Igor Marinin, editor of a space journal published by Russian space agency Roscosmos, told Reuters.

Referring to the injury toll of almost 1,200 after Friday's meteor explosion, most of them cut by glass, he said: "Compared to the number of victims of car accidents or cancer every year, this affected relatively few people."

Back in Russia, some people are simply trusting in fate.   

Konstantin Tsybko, a legislator from the city of Chelyabinsk in the Ural mountain region, said on Monday: "Chelyabinsk residents may feel safe because nothing like this will happen in the next few hundred years."
    
"This is the first town in the history of our civilization to come under a space attack, survive this attack, and survive it successfully," he said.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Project seeks to build map of human brain


The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.

The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain's billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness.

Scientists with the highest hopes for the project also see it as a way to develop the technology essential to understanding diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, as well as to find new therapies for a variety of mental illnesses.


Moreover, the project holds the potential of paving the way for advances in artificial intelligence.

The project, which could ultimately cost billions of dollars, is expected to be part of the president's budget proposal next month. And, four scientists and representatives of research institutions said they had participated in planning for what is being called the Brain Activity Map project.

The details are not final, and it is not clear how much federal money would be proposed or approved for the project in a time of fiscal constraint or how far the research would be able to get without significant federal financing.

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama cited brain research as an example of how the government should "invest in the best ideas."

"Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy - every dollar," he said. "Today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer's. They're developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation."

Story C. Landis, the director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said that when she heard Obama's speech, she thought he was referring to an existing National Institutes of Health project to map the static human brain.

"But he wasn't," she said. "He was referring to a new project to map the active human brain that the NIH hopes to fund next year."

Indeed, after the speech, Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, may have inadvertently confirmed the plan when he wrote in a Twitter message: "Obama mentions the (HASHTAG)NIH Brain Activity Map in (HASHTAG)SOTU."

A spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy declined to comment about the project.

The initiative, if successful, could provide a lift for the economy.

"The Human Genome Project was on the order of about $300 million a year for a decade," said George M. Church, a Harvard University molecular biologist who helped create that project and said he was helping to plan the Brain Activity Map project. "If you look at the total spending in neuroscience and nanoscience that might be relative to this today, we are already spending more than that. We probably won't spend less money, but we will probably get a lot more bang for the buck."

Scientists involved in the planning said they hoped that federal financing for the project would be more than $300 million a year, which if approved by Congress would amount to at least $3 billion over the 10 years.

The Human Genome Project cost $3.8 billion. It was begun in 1990 and its goal, the mapping of the complete human genome, or all the genes in human DNA, was achieved ahead of schedule, in April 2003. A federal government study of the impact of the project indicated that it returned $800 billion by 2010.

The advent of new technology that allows scientists to identify firing neurons in the brain has led to numerous brain research projects around the world. Yet the brain remains one of the greatest scientific mysteries.

Composed of roughly 100 billion neurons that each electrically "spike" in response to outside stimuli, as well as in vast ensembles based on conscious and unconscious activity, the human brain is so complex that scientists have not yet found a way to record the activity of more than a small number of neurons at once, and in most cases that is done invasively with physical probes.

But a group of nanotechnologists and neuroscientists say they believe that technologies are at hand to make it possible to observe and gain a more complete understanding of the brain, and to do it less intrusively.

In June in the journal Neuron, six leading scientists proposed pursuing a number of new approaches for mapping the brain.

One possibility is to build a complete model map of brain activity by creating fleets of molecule-size machines to noninvasively act as sensors to measure and store brain activity at the cellular level. The proposal envisions using synthetic DNA as a storage mechanism for brain activity.

"Not least, we might expect novel understanding and therapies for diseases such as schizophrenia and autism," wrote the scientists, who include Church; Ralph J. Greenspan, the associate director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California, San Diego; A.Paul Alivisatos, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Miyoung Chun, a molecular geneticist who is the vice president for science programs at the Kavli Foundation; Michael L. Roukes, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology; and Rafael Yuste, a neuroscientist at Columbia University.

The Obama initiative is markedly different from a recently announced European project that will invest 1 billion euros in a Swiss-led effort to build a silicon-based "brain." The project seeks to construct a supercomputer simulation using the best research about the inner workings of the brain.

Critics, however, say the simulation will be built on knowledge that is still theoretical, incomplete or inaccurate.

The Obama proposal seems to have evolved in a manner similar to the Human Genome Project, scientists said.

"The genome project arguably began in 1984, where there were a dozen of us who were kind of independently moving in that direction but didn't really realize there were other people who were as weird as we were," Church said.

However, a number of scientists said that mapping and understanding the human brain presented a drastically more significant challenge than mapping the genome.

"It's different in that the nature of the question is a much more intricate question," said Greenspan, who said he is involved in the brain project. "It was very easy to define what the genome project's goal was. In this case, we have a more difficult and fascinating question of what are brainwide activity patterns and ultimately how do they make things happen?"

The initiative will be organized by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, according to scientists who have participated in planning meetings.

The National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation will also participate in the project, the scientists said, as will private foundations like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md., and the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

A meeting held on Jan. 17 at the California Institute of Technology was attended by the three government agencies, as well as neuroscientists, nanoscientists and representatives from Google, Microsoft and Qualcomm. According to a summary of the meeting, it was held to determine whether computing facilities existed to capture and analyse the vast amounts of data that would come from the project. The scientists and technologists concluded that they did.

They also said that a series of national brain "observatories" should be created as part of the project, like astronomical observatories.

Transparent mobile phones could be a reality by end of this year


In a revolutionary development, a Taiwanese company claims to have developed a gen-next transparent mobile phone which it says will be in the market by the year end.
The company, Polytron Technologies, has already begun marketing a transparent multi-touch phone. Its prototype uses a 'Switchable Glass' technology.

That is a conductive Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) using liquid crystal molecules to display images, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

When the phone is in off mode, the molecules align to form a milky composition, but when switched on they re-align to form text, icons, and other images.

Electric current is carried through transparent wires.

"It will happen near the end of 2013. Trust me," said Polytron general manager Sam Yu.

The device still contains some parts that are not transparent, including a SD card and SIM card. The microphone, camera, and batteries are also visible, and will be hidden behind a dark glass cover when the model goes into production.

The company, according to Yu, will develop a smaller lithium ion battery that would be much less noticeable. When complete, the phone will have a dual-sided multi-touch display in front and back.

The prototype phone has yet to feature any software or operating system, the report said.

A Japanese company recently used a transparent liquid crystal display (LCD) in its wristwatch but had trouble adding hardware to the smaller frame.

"The challenge of using a transparent display in a wristwatch, and I suppose other wearable technology, is that you need to store the batteries somewhere else (usually they are stored behind the LCD panel)," Tokyoflash marketing manager Paul Cooper said.

It remains to be seen whether the phone's transparency by itself will attract buyers, as the prototype does not offer significantly different functions than most smartphones.

"Display quality is paramount," Avi Greengart, research director at Current Analysis, told The Verge.

"If the display quality is not up to par with the best of today's AMOLED and LCD screens, a phone using it won't sell even for its novelty value," said Greengart.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

India's defence ambitions hinge on 'over-extended' firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited


India wants to throw off the tag of world's biggest arms importer and produce its own top-class weaponry, but its ambitions hinge on a state-run group renowned for its inefficiencies.

HAL, or Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, has a near-monopoly in the country's aerospace industry and its presence was unmissable at this year's India air show, which wrapped up in Bangalore on Sunday.

Its huge stand and ubiquitous branding underlined the scale of a company that already produces under licence the British-supplied Hawk trainer aircraft, Russia's SU-30 multi-role fighter jets, and European helicopters among others.


It is also the crucial player in the world's biggest arms deal for 126 Rafale fighter planes, the first of which will be made in France by Dassault Aviation with the remaining 108 to be assembled by HAL in India until 2018.

The government is forcing foreign arms suppliers to share their technology with HAL in the hope that it can one day manufacture its own products of the same calibre. 

But an Indian industrialist, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, was scathing in describing the management culture of the heavily unionised public sector giant and its 35,000 employees.

"What could be done in 10 minutes may take 10 months. Nobody takes responsibility," he said.

Unrealistic expectations? 

James Hardy, an analyst at the defence consultancy IHS Jane's, says that HAL is "overextended", expressing an opinion largely shared by observers at home and abroad.

The group posted sales of 142 billion rupees ($2.6 billion) last year but is aiming to almost quadruple this to $10 billion in the next seven years, chief executive R.K. Tyagi told reporters at Aero India.

Tyagi, who took up the job in March 2012, detailed new plans for the company to expand into airport infrastructure, as well as plane and drone maintenance.

But Dipankar Banerjeee, a retired army general who founded the New Delhi-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), says HAL's "deliveries are too slow and indigenous development has been less than satisfactory.

"The Indian public and Indian armed forces are not very happy with HAL," he says.

India's reliance on foreign weapons is due to the inadequacy of its own sector, which comprises HAL, the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), its affiliates and a few smaller private players.

One notoriously late and over-budget project was for home-grown light combat aircraft called Tejas, which have taken more than 25 years to develop and are still several years away from being inducted by the airforce. 

HAL's helicopters are also seen as inferior to foreign products, leading India to negotiate with European, American and Russian manufacturers for hundreds of new choppers.

The only show in town 

But the group represents the doorway into the huge Indian market and foreign groups queuing for business for New Delhi know they must embrace it.

"It's a client and a partner which cannot be ignored, with very significant volumes," said Eric Lenseigne, the head of Indian operations for French group Thales which has been in India for the past 60 years.

Eurocopter, which sold its helicopter licences to HAL in the 1960s, praised the group. "If you have a happy marriage, why would you divorce?" said chief executive Lutz Bertling. 

The heads of the Indian armed forces are known for their more frank assessments.

"Unfortunately there is no other big aircraft company," said IPCS's Banerjee, who hopes that private companies will play a bigger part in future.

"The armed forces are very keen that the private sector takes a bigger role in research, development and production in collaboration with foreign firms," he said. 

The chief executive of Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier, has signed a partnership with one of India's biggest private companies, Reliance, which despite having no prior experience will be brought into the Rafale deal.

Its role is set to be defined in the ongoing negotiations for the sale, which Dassault is striving to sign this year after several delays since the company was chosen as preferred bidder in early 2012.

The purchase and amount of technology that will be transferred to India in the deal are issues set to be taken up by French President Francois Hollande during a trip to India on Thursday and Friday.

French President Francois Hollande holds talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sees progress on $12bn fighter jet deal


The leaders of France and India said negotiations on a $12 billion fighter jet contract, the world's biggest defence deal, were making good progress after talks Thursday in New Delhi.

French President Francois Hollande is hoping his first visit to Asia will help push India to ink a deal to buy 126 fighter jets from France's Dassault Aviation which has been on the negotiating table since January 2012.

Mr Hollande and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also discussed agreements on issues ranging from nuclear power to short-range missiles on the first day of the French president's two-day visit, which will also take him to Mumbai.


But the deal on the Rafale jets was the most burning issue, with the head of the Indian air force having said last week that he hoped it would be finalised by the middle of the year.

"The discussions on the MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) contract are progressing well," Dr Singh said at a press conference with the French President.

Mr Hollande said, "The Prime Minister and myself noted that some progress has been achieved in the discussions and I do hope we can reach a conclusion."

Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier, who is part of a large business delegation accompanying Mr Hollande, told AFP last week the group hoped to conclude the sale this year.

In a welcome showcase for Dassault, the jets have been deployed during the French-led military campaign to drive out Islamists from northern Mali.

India last year chose the French firm for exclusive negotiations to equip its air force with new fighters. While it says the discussions are proceeding smoothly it has already said the contract will not be signed during Mr Hollande's visit as it is being fine-tuned.

Another major project up for discussion was a contract for France's Areva to build a 9,900-megawatt nuclear power plant in the western state of Maharashtra.

The $9.3 billion framework agreement was signed during a visit to India in 2010 by then-president Nicolas Sarkozy. But it has run into stiff opposition from environmentalists concerned about seismic activity in the area and safety fears following Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

But Dr Singh said India remained committed to the project.

"We reiterated our commitment to its early implementation as soon as the commercial and technical negotiations on which have we made quick progress are completed," he said.

Mr Hollande has brought some of his most senior government figures including Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to India.

He is also accompanied by his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, whom India has decided should be treated as if he were his wife.

After being accorded a red-carpet reception and gun salute at the residence of his counterpart Pranab Mukherjee, Mr Hollande spoke in English to thank his host for granting him the "great honour" of a state visit.

Following the line of his predecessor Nicholas Sarkozy, Mr Hollande endorsed India's campaign to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. France is one of the five existing permanent members.

"Our partnership is based on a number of principles that we strengthened today, such as defence," said the French President. "Our cooperation goes back over a long period," he added.

Dr Singh said France had "given us strong and steadfast support" throughout India's post-independence history.

"Our relationship is defined by the breadth and diversity of our cooperation as well as by the intensity of our dialogue," he said.

World's biggest airline: US Airways, American announce $ 11 bn merger


American Airlines and US Airways say they have agreed to merge in an $11 billion deal that would create the world's biggest airline.

The combined carrier will be called American Airlines but run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker.

The boards of the two airlines unanimously approved the deal late Wednesday, and the companies announced the agreement Thursday.

The merger would reduce the number of major U.S. airlines to four: the new American, United, Delta and Southwest.

The deal is a coup for smaller US Airways Group Inc., which pushed for a merger almost as soon as American parent AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011.

While Mr Parker runs the company, AMR CEO Tom Horton will serve as chairman until its first shareholder meeting, likely in mid-2014.

"The combined airline will have the scale, breadth and capabilities to compete more effectively and profitably in the global marketplace," Mr Parker said in a statement. "Our combined network will provide a significantly more attractive offering to customers, ensuring that we are always able to take them where they want to go."

AMR creditors and shareholders including creditors will own 72 per cent of the new company and US Airways shareholders 28 per cent.

The companies said merging would create savings of more than $1 billion a year. The merger will be part of AMR's plan for exiting bankruptcy protection.

The airlines said they expect $1 billion in combined savings.

The companies had negotiated since August, when creditors pushed AMR to conduct merger talks so they could decide which earned them a better return: a merger or an independent American.

The deal would need approval by AMR's bankruptcy judge and antitrust regulators, who have permitted three other big airline mergers to go ahead since 2008.

The rapid consolidation has allowed the surviving airlines to offer bigger route networks that appeal to high-paying business travelers. And it has allowed them to limit the supply of seats, which helps prop up fares and airline profits.

The new American would have more than 900 planes, 3,200 daily flights and about 95,000 employees, not counting regional affiliates. It will be slightly bigger than United Airlines by passenger traffic, not counting regional affiliate airlines.

Worldwide mobile phone sales decline 1.7 per cent in 2012: Gartner


Worldwide mobile phone sales totaled 1.75 billion units in 2012, a 1.7 per cent decline from the previous calendar year, according to technology researcher Gartner, Inc.

Smartphones continued to drive overall mobile phone sales, and the fourth quarter of 2012 saw record smartphone sales of 207.7 million units, up 38.3 per cent from the same period last year, it said.

"The last time the worldwide mobile phone market declined was in 2009," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.

"Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year."

Demand for feature phones remained weak in 2012 and in the fourth quarter. Feature phone sales totaled 264.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, down 19.3 per cent year-on-year. Gartner analysts expect feature phones sales to continue to fall in 2013.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple and Samsung together raised their worldwide smartphone market share to 52 per cent from 46.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2012. Samsung ended the year in the number one position, in both worldwide smartphone sales and overall mobile phone sales.

Rumours of Apple buying German luxury TV maker Loewe surface again


Shares in German luxury TV maker Loewe surged on talk of a bid from Apple, rumours that first surfaced in May last year.
"Apple supposedly wants to bid 4 euros a share for Loewe," said a trader.

Shares in the maker of high-end home entertainment sets, founded in 1923 in Berlin, rose 33 percent to 3.63 eurosby 1440 GMT, having hit 3.93, valuing the company at 53 million euros.

A Loewe spokesman said it was unaware of any offer. An Apple declined spokesman declined to comment.

Web blog AppleInsider reported in May last year, citing a person familiar with the matter, that Apple would bid 87.3 million euros, then a 48 percent premium, for Loewe.

Loewe is axing a fifth of its 1,000 jobs after losses almost tripled to 29 million euros in 2012 and it is trying to strengthen its cooperation with Sharp.

Sharp owns 28 percent of Loewe shares, and Loewe's management owns 13 percent. A further 11 percent are held by LaCie, while 49 percent of the company's shares are freely traded, according to Thomson Reuters data.

It would not be the first foray into television for Apple, whose products stream Netflix, YouTube and iTunes content.

The company has been long rumoured to be working on a television but has so far deflected questions on its existence. Apple hasn not launched a new line of products in almost three years, apart from a smaller version of the iPad.

Apple's 'magic' and innovation its biggest strength, says CEO Tim Cook



Apple remains ahead of its rivals in the ability to innovate and "create magic" despite tougher competition in key sectors like smartphones and tablets, chief executive Tim Cook said Tuesday.
Cook said Apple still has strong growth opportunities because of its ability to work simultaneously on hardware, software and services, brushing aside suggestions that Apple has passed its peak.

"Apple has the ability to innovate in all three of these spheres and create magic," Cook said during a question-and-answer session at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference.

"This isn't something you can just write a check for. This is something you build over decades."

Cook declined to talk about any new products, but said he remains upbeat on Apple's ability to boost sales of its popular iPhones and iPads in markets around the world.

"I'm incredibly bullish about the future and what Apple can do," he said.

"Apple has skills in hardware, in software and in services. There is no better place for innovation."

He said Apple was not planning to make a "cheap" product that failed to live up to its standards, but that he was aware that some consumers could not afford some Apple devices.

"Our North Star is always great products, not how to hit a price point," he said.

He maintained that Apple's iPhone has "tremendous momentum" in a market which is expected to triple in the coming years.

"The iPhone is available only to around 50 percent of the subscribers in the world," he said when asked if Apple had reached a plateau. "I see a wide open field. I don't think about that word called limit."

When asked if Apple was being overtaken by rivals, he maintained that the appeal is not based on a single details such as screen size or processor speed.

"Customers want a great experience, and they want quality, and they want that 'aha' moment," he said.

"What Apple does is sweat every detail. The customer experience is always broader than what can be defined by a simple number."

He said Apple's iPads have outsold the entire line of computer maker Hewlett-Packard and that this market is still growing, even though Apple's market share has slipped.

He argued that in terms of usage, the iPad has been measured to be used "twice as much as the total of every Android device... It's because it's an incredible experience."

Asked about a recently filed shareholder lawsuit, Cook said the company was examining ways to distribute more cash to shareholders but claimed the litigation was "a silly sideshow."

"This is a waste of shareholder money," he said of the suit filed by Greenlight Capital which seeks to block a shareholder vote that includes a management-backed proposal to make it impossible for the Apple board to issue preferred stock without shareholder approval.

Cook said it was "an incredible privilege" to be in the position of deciding what to do with the company's $137 billion cash stockpile, and maintained that "we will do so deliberately and thoughtfully."

But he maintained that the lawsuit was not about returning cash, but about "the right of shareholders" to authorize any special stock issue.

"Frankly, I find it bizarre that we would find ourselves being sued for doing something that's good for shareholders," he said, adding that the company would likely seek shareholder approval even if not required.

"My preference would be for everyone on both sides of this would take the money they are spending and donate it to a worthy cause," Cook said.

Google pays Apple $1 billion per year to be the default iOS search engine

As per a recent Morgan Stanley report, Google is paying close to $1 billion to Apple, every year, for keeping Google as the default search engine on iOS devices. The finding is part of a report called 'The Next Google is Google' by analyst Scott Devit, who had put Google on his 'best ideas' for investment list last week. The amount is just an estimate but in a way reaffirms analyst firm Macquarie's claim that pegged the figure at $1 billion last year. 

However, Macquarie's Ben Schachter had calculated the figure after estimating that Google search on iOS and Safari contributed $1.3 billion in gross revenue assuming that Apple represented about 66 percent of Google's total Traffic Acquisition Cost (TAC). Out of the gross revenue, 75 percent was Traffic acquisition Cost, leaving Google with $335 million and the rest going to Apple. This means that for every $1 that Google generates through search advertising via iOS devices, 75 cents go to Apple.

Morgantable.pngDevitt is of the view that Apple has not inked a revenue sharing deal with the search giant, and instead charges a fee per device for making Google the default search engine when users enter a term in the browser search box or look for web results for terms keyed-in on the Universal search box. Devitt believes that paying $1 billion for retaining its hold on the search business is a good deal for Google.

In March 2012, the US FTC (Federal Trade Commission) had asked Apple to provide information including the financial terms related to Google being present as the default search engine on iOS devices, part of the US Government's anti-trust investigation of Google. However, the data was never made public.

American retailer plans to dump 10,000 BlackBerry phones in favour of iPhone 5


Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry was handed a crushing setback for its glitzy new handsets when its major customer Home Depot confirmed on Tuesday it was switching to Apple's iPhones.
Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes told AFP almost 10,000 BlackBerry handsets used by its company executives and store managers would be dumped in favor of the iPhone 5.

While BlackBerry helped create a culture of mobile users glued to the smartphones nearly a decade ago dubbed "crackberry addicts" many of those customers have since moved to Apple or Android-based phones.

Having fallen far behind Apple and lost ground to other smartphone makers such as Samsung, BlackBerry last month launched two new devices the Q10 and the Z10 in a bid to revive its fortunes and regain market share.

Home Depot's announcement is the first shock for the company which has otherwise been touting strong sales since unveiling its comeback smartphones.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Where Dick Tracy and Apple may meet


Dick Tracy had one. As did Inspector Gadget and James Bond. A watch that doubled as a computer, two-way radio, mapping device or television.

Though such a device has been lost to science fiction comics and spy movies of the era before smartphones, the smart watch might soon become a reality, in the form of a curved glass device made by Apple.

In its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company's explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products. Such a watch would operate Apple's iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company's understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.


Apple declined to comment on its plans. But the exploration of such a watch leaves open lots of exciting questions: If the company does release such a product, what would it look like? Would it include Siri, the voice assistant? Would it have a version of Apple's map software, offering real-time directions to people walking down the street? Could it receive text messages? Could it monitor a user's health or daily activity? How much will it cost? Could Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive, be wearing one right now, whispering sweet nothings to his wrist?

Such a watch could also be used to make mobile payments, with Apple's Passbook payment software.

Although it would take Dick Tracy to find the answers to those questions, and it's uncertain when Apple might unveil such a device, it's clear that Apple has the technology.

Last year, Corning, the maker of the ultra-tough Gorilla Glass that is used in the iPhone, announced that it had solved the difficult engineering challenge of creating bendable glass, called Willow Glass, that can flop as easily as a piece of paper in the wind without breaking.
Pete Bocko, the chief technology officer for Corning Glass Technologies, who worked on Willow Glass, said via telephone that the company had been developing the thin, flexible glass for more than a decade, and that the technology had finally arrived.

"You can certainly make it wrap around a cylindrical object and that could be someone's wrist," Bocko said. "Right now, if I tried to make something that looked like a watch, that could be done using this flexible glass."

But Bocko warns that it is still quite an engineering feat to create a foldable device. "The human body moves in unpredictable ways," he said. "It's one of the toughest mechanical challenges."

To add to the excitement of an Apple watch, late last year the Chinese gadget site Tech.163 reported that the company had begun development of a watch featuring Bluetooth and a 1.5-inch display.

"Apple's certainly made a lot of hiring in that area," said Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst who specializes in wearable computing and smartphones. "Apple is already in the wearable space through its ecosystem partners that make accessories that connect to the iPhone," she said, adding: "This makes Apple potentially the biggest player of the wearables market in a sort of invisible way."

"Over the long term wearable computing is inevitable for Apple; devices are diversifying and the human body is a rich canvas for the computer," Epps said. "But I'm not sure how close we are to a new piece of Apple hardware that is worn on the body."

Investors would most likely embrace an iWatch, with some already saying that wearable computing could replace the smartphone over the next decade.

"We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation," Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said in a report last month. "These devices are likely to be cheaper than an iPhone and could ultimately be Apple's best answer to addressing emerging markets."

Cook is clearly interested in wearables. In the past he has been seen sporting a Nike FuelBand, which tracks a user's daily exertion. The FuelBand data is shared wirelessly with an iPhone app.

Bob Mansfield, Apple's senior vice president for technologies, who previously ran hardware engineering, has also been particularly interested in wearables, an Apple employee said. Mansfield is engrossed by devices that connect to the iPhone, through Bluetooth, sharing information back-and-forth from the human body to the phone, including the Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up.

If smartphones do become smart watches and smart glasses, Apple seems to have the technology to make standout wearable computers.

Last year the company filed patents for displays that sit over the eye and stream information to the retina. Given that the iPod Nano is about the size of an overfed ant, the company clearly knows how to make small devices, too.

But, maybe there are other devices coming before wearables. Apple has long been rumored to be working on a television-like experience. And, there is the possibility of an Apple car.

In a meeting in his office before he died, Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and former chief executive, told John Markoff of The New York Times that if he had more energy, he would have liked to take on Detroit with an Apple car.

In August, during the company's patent trial with Samsung, Philip W. Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for worldwide product marketing, said on the stand that Apple had explored making "crazy stuff" before development of the iPhone and iPad, including a camera or a car. While Apple continues its experiments with wearables, its biggest competitor, Google, is pressing ahead with plans to make wearable computers mainstream.

According to a Google executive who spoke on the condition that he not be named, the company hopes its wearable glasses, with a display that sits above the eye, will become 3 percent of revenue by 2015. Olympus is also working on wearable computers.

Google is holding private workshops in San Francisco and New York for developers to start building applications for its glasses. At the event in San Francisco last week, Hosain Rahman, chief executive of Jawbone, the maker of the Up, a wrist device that tracks people's energy and sleep, said that "a decade from now we won't be able to imagine life without the wearables that we use to access information, unlock our doors, pay for goods and most importantly track our health."

Apple working on iOS-running wristwatch-like device with curved glass


Dick Tracy had one. As did Inspector Gadget and James Bond. A watch that doubled as a computer, two-way radio, mapping device or television.
Though such a device has been lost to science fiction comics and spy movies of the era before smartphones, the smart watch might soon become a reality, in the form of a curved glass device made by Apple.

In its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company's explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products. Such a watch would operate Apple's iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company's understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.

Apple declined to comment on its plans. But the exploration of such a watch leaves open lots of exciting questions: If the company does release such a product, what would it look like? Would it include Siri, the voice assistant? Would it have a version of Apple's map software, offering real-time directions to people walking down the street? Could it receive text messages? Could it monitor a user's health or daily activity? How much will it cost? Could Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive, be wearing one right now, whispering sweet nothings to his wrist?

Such a watch could also be used to make mobile payments, with Apple's Passbook payment software.

Although it would take Dick Tracy to find the answers to those questions, and it's uncertain when Apple might unveil such a device, it's clear that Apple has the technology.

Last year, Corning, the maker of the ultra-tough Gorilla Glass that is used in the iPhone, announced that it had solved the difficult engineering challenge of creating bendable glass, called Willow Glass, that can flop as easily as a piece of paper in the wind without breaking.

Pete Bocko, the chief technology officer for Corning Glass Technologies, who worked on Willow Glass, said via telephone that the company had been developing the thin, flexible glass for more than a decade, and that the technology had finally arrived.

"You can certainly make it wrap around a cylindrical object and that could be someone's wrist," Bocko said. "Right now, if I tried to make something that looked like a watch, that could be done using this flexible glass."

But Bocko warns that it is still quite an engineering feat to create a foldable device. "The human body moves in unpredictable ways," he said. "It's one of the toughest mechanical challenges."

To add to the excitement of an Apple watch, late last year the Chinese gadget site Tech.163 reported that the company had begun development of a watch featuring Bluetooth and a 1.5-inch display.

"Apple's certainly made a lot of hiring in that area," said Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst who specializes in wearable computing and smartphones. "Apple is already in the wearable space through its ecosystem partners that make accessories that connect to the iPhone," she said, adding: "This makes Apple potentially the biggest player of the wearables market in a sort of invisible way."

"Over the long term wearable computing is inevitable for Apple; devices are diversifying and the human body is a rich canvas for the computer," Epps said. "But I'm not sure how close we are to a new piece of Apple hardware that is worn on the body."

Investors would most likely embrace an iWatch, with some already saying that wearable computing could replace the smartphone over the next decade.

"We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation," Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said in a report last month. "These devices are likely to be cheaper than an iPhone and could ultimately be Apple's best answer to addressing emerging markets."

Cook is clearly interested in wearables. In the past he has been seen sporting a Nike FuelBand, which tracks a user's daily exertion. The FuelBand data is shared wirelessly with an iPhone app.

Bob Mansfield, Apple's senior vice president for technologies, who previously ran hardware engineering, has also been particularly interested in wearables, an Apple employee said. Mansfield is engrossed by devices that connect to the iPhone, through Bluetooth, sharing information back-and-forth from the human body to the phone, including the Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up.

If smartphones do become smart watches and smart glasses, Apple seems to have the technology to make standout wearable computers.

Last year the company filed patents for displays that sit over the eye and stream information to the retina. Given that the iPod Nano is about the size of an overfed ant, the company clearly knows how to make small devices, too.

But, maybe there are other devices coming before wearables. Apple has long been rumored to be working on a television-like experience. And, there is the possibility of an Apple car.

In a meeting in his office before he died, Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and former chief executive, told John Markoff of The New York Times that if he had more energy, he would have liked to take on Detroit with an Apple car.

In August, during the company's patent trial with Samsung, Philip W. Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for worldwide product marketing, said on the stand that Apple had explored making "crazy stuff" before development of the iPhone and iPad, including a camera or a car. While Apple continues its experiments with wearables, its biggest competitor, Google, is pressing ahead with plans to make wearable computers mainstream.

According to a Google executive who spoke on the condition that he not be named, the company hopes its wearable glasses, with a display that sits above the eye, will become 3 percent of revenue by 2015. Olympus is also working on wearable computers.

Google is holding private workshops in San Francisco and New York for developers to start building applications for its glasses. At the event in San Francisco last week, Hosain Rahman, chief executive of Jawbone, the maker of the Up, a wrist device that tracks people's energy and sleep, said that "a decade from now we won't be able to imagine life without the wearables that we use to access information, unlock our doors, pay for goods and most importantly track our health."

Apple working on smart-watch that could run on iOS


Apple Inc is experimenting with the design of a device similar to a wristwatch that would operate on the same platform as the iPhone and would be made with curved glass, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

The article cited unnamed sources "familiar with the company's explorations".

The watch-like product that could be used to make mobile payments is currently in the experimental stage and would operate on Apple's iOS platform, which is the foundation of its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch consumer devices, the Times said.

An Apple spokesperson did not immediately return a call for comment.

The Wall Street Journal separately reported that one person briefed on the effort said Apple discussed such a device with its major manufacturing partner Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, also known as Foxconn, which has been working on some technologies that could be used in wearable devices.

The Taiwan-based company has been working toward making more power-efficient displays and its technologies are aimed at multiple Foxconn customers, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing the same person.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I am very bullish on India: Mukesh Ambani


Reposing faith in India's vibrant democracy, Reliance Industries' (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani today exuded optimism over the country's long-term growth saying its 100 billion people, each one of whom is a part of the system, will ensure prosperity with their aspirations.

"I am very bullish on India because it is really the aspiration of a billion people and ours is a county where all the billion count. There are some countries in the world where one person counts, there are some where the Politburo or 12 people count.

"The Treaty of India is that all our billion people count and they have aspirations," Ambani said in an interview to a news channel.

Stating that the India's story is a "really a bottom-up" one and not the other-way round, he said, "We are on long-term growth trajectory and this is just not growth in terms of GDP numbers, this is really for well being of each and every Indian and that's the aspiration."

However, it is not just India, Ambani is also bullish on the prospect of other economies like China and European Union and the US.

"I think that China is maintaining steady growth, it is not decelerating. Europe has found its own transition path and they will transgress through the financial system in an orderly way and it is my expectation. India has had some slow growth. But, I am very optimistic on India," he said.

On the US, he said, "I am more optimistic than the most. My view is that this year, we will see the beginning of a recovery, particularly in the US. There has been a fundamental transformation in the energy scene in the US."

To a question on growing inequality in India, the richest Indian said, "If you think about inequality that is not only a problem in our country, it's really a problem for all across the world. Income comes from  opportunities."

Taking a cue from the story of RIL, he said the company has gone a long way in improving the lives of its shareholders since the days when his father Dhirubhai started the business with a paltry $100.

"...when I joined Reliance in 1980, the market value of RIL was $30-40 million and in 30 years, the opportunities that were provided by this country has enabled us to create wealth for India," he said.

"My father was a big believer that any business that has the sole purpose of making money is not worthwhile. Business must serve a larger societal purposes. RIL raised all its money from the capital markets and from the individual small shareholders. So, we have created a million millionaires just by investing in RIL out of the ordinary Indians and that is the process of creating wealth for the country," Ambani said.

Asked whether he himself thought he has a special responsibility to bring in equality, he answered in the
affirmative.

"Yes, of course. I have really my father as my role model and he started off with nothing. One of things he said to me that you really don't know, Mukesh, what it is to be poor and make sure that you maintain everybody's self-respect."

Apple and Samsung, frenemies for life


It was the late Steve Jobs' worst nightmare.

A powerful Asian manufacturer, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, uses Google Inc's Android software to create smartphones and tablets that closely resemble the iPhone and the iPad. Samsung starts gaining market share, hurting Apple Inc's margins and stock price and threatening its reign as the king of cool in consumer electronics.

Jobs, of course, had an answer to all this: a "thermo-nuclear" legal war that would keep clones off the market. Yet nearly two years after Apple first filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Samsung, and six months after it won a huge legal victory over its South Korean rival, Apple's chances of blocking the sale of Samsung products are growing dimmer by the day.

Indeed, a series of recent court rulings suggests that the smartphone patent wars are now grinding toward a stalemate, with Apple unable to show that its sales have been seriously damaged when rivals, notably Samsung, imitated its products.

That, in turn, may usher in a new phase in the complex relationship between the two dominant companies in the growing mobile computing business.

Tim Cook, Jobs' successor as Apple chief executive, was opposed to suing Samsung in the first place, according to people with knowledge of the matter, largely because of that company's critical role as a supplier of components for the iPhone and the iPad. Apple bought some $8 billion worth of parts from Samsung last year, analysts estimate.

Samsung, meanwhile, has benefited immensely from the market insight it gained from the Apple relationship, and from producing smartphones and tablets that closely resemble Apple's.

While the two companies compete fiercely in the high-end smartphone business - where together they control half the sales and virtually all of the profits - their strengths and weaknesses are in many ways complementary. Apple's operations chief, Jeff Williams, told Reuters last month that Samsung was an important partner and they had a strong relationship on the supply side, but declined to elaborate.

As their legal war winds down, it is increasingly clear that Apple and Samsung have plenty of common interests as they work to beat back other potential challengers, such as BlackBerry or Microsoft.

The contrast with other historic tech industry rivalries is stark. When Apple accused Microsoft in the 1980s of ripping off the Macintosh to create the Windows operating system, Apple's very existence was at stake. Apple lost, the Mac became a niche product, and the company came close to extinction before Jobs returned to Apple in late 1996 and saved it with the iPod and the iPhone. Jobs died in October 2011.

Similarly, the Internet browser wars of the late 1990s that pitted Microsoft against Netscape ended with Netscape being sold for scrap and its flagship product abandoned.

Apple and Samsung, on the other hand, are not engaged in a corporate death match so much as a multi-layered rivalry that is by turns both friendly and hard-edged. For competitors like Nokia, BlackBerry, Sony, HTC and even Google - whose Motorola unit is expected to launch new smartphones later this year - they are a formidable duo.

The way they were
The partnership piece of the Apple-Samsung relationship dates to 2005, when the Cupertino, California-based giant was looking for a stable supplier of flash memory. Apple had decided to jettison the hard disc drive in creating the iPod shuffle, iPod nano and then-upcoming iPhone, and it needed huge volumes of flash memory chips to provide storage for the devices.

The memory market in 2005 was extremely unstable, and Apple wanted to lock in a supplier that was rock-solid financially, people familiar with the relationship said. Samsung held about 50 percent of the NAND flash memory market at that time.

"Whoever controls flash is going to control this space in consumer electronics," Jobs said at the time, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

The success of that deal led to Samsung supplying the crucial application processors for the iPhone and iPad. Initially, the two companies jointly developed the processors based on a design from ARM Holdings Plc, but Apple gradually took full control over development of the chip. Now Samsung merely builds the components at a Texas factory.

The companies built a close relationship that extended to the very top: in 2005, Jay Y. Lee, whose grandfather founded the Samsung Group, visited Jobs' home in Palo Alto, California, after the two signed the flash memory deal.

The partnership gave Apple and Samsung insight into each other's strategies and operations. In particular, Samsung's position as the sole supplier of iPhone processors gave it valuable data on just how big Apple thought the smartphone market was going to be.

"Having a relationship with Apple as a supplier, I am sure, helped the whole group see where the puck was going," said Horace Dediu, a former analyst at Nokia who now works as a consultant and runs an influential blog. "It's a very important advantage in this business if you know where to commit capital."

Samsung declined to comment on its relationship with a specific customer.

As for Apple, it reaped the benefit of Samsung's heavy investments in research and development, tooling equipment and production facilities. Samsung spent $21 billion (23 trillion won) on capital expenditures in 2012 alone, and plans to spend a similar amount this year.

By comparison, Intel Corp spent around $11 billion in 2012, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) expects to spend $9 billion in 2013.

But component expertise, cash and good market intelligence did not assure success when Samsung launched its own foray into the smartphone market. The Omnia, a Windows-based product introduced in 2009, was so reviled that some customers hammered it to bits in public displays of dissatisfaction.

Meanwhile, Samsung publicly dismissed the iPhone's success.

"The popularity of iPhone is a mere result of excitement caused by some (Apple) fanatics," Samsung's then-president, G.S. Choi, told reporters in January 2010.

Privately, though, Samsung had other plans.

"The iPhone's emergence means the time we have to change our methods has arrived," Samsung mobile business head J.K. Shin told his staff in early 2010, according to an internal email filed in U.S. court.

Later that year, Samsung launched the Galaxy S, which sported the Android operating system and a look and feel very similar to the iPhone.

Standoff
Jobs and Cook complained to top Samsung executives when they were visiting Cupertino. Apple expected, incorrectly, that Samsung would modify its design in response to the concerns, people familiar with the situation said.

Apple's worst fears were confirmed with the early 2011 release of the Galaxy Tab, which Jobs and others regarded as a clear rip-off of the iPad.

Cook, worried about the critical supplier relationship, was opposed to suing Samsung. But Jobs had run out of patience, suspecting that Samsung was counting on the supplier relationship to shield it from retribution.

Apple filed suit in April 2011, and the conflagration soon spread to courts in Europe, Asia and Australia. When Apple won its blockbuster billion-dollar jury verdict against Samsung last August, it appeared that it might be able to achieve an outright ban on the offending products - which would have dramatically altered the smartphone competition.

But Apple has failed to convince U.S. judges to uphold those crucial sales bans - in large part because the extraordinary profitability and market power of the iPhone made it all but impossible for Apple to show it was suffering irreparable harm.

"Samsung may have cut into Apple's customer base somewhat, but there is no suggestion that Samsung will wipe out Apple's customer base, or force Apple out of the business of making smartphones," U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh wrote. "The present case involves lost sales - not a lost ability to be a viable market participant."

Samsung, meanwhile, came under pressure from antitrust regulators and pulled back on its effort to shut down Apple sales in Europe over a related patent dispute.

A U.S. appeals court recently rejected Apple's bid to fast-track its case, meaning its hopes for a sales ban are now stuck in months-long appeals, during which time Samsung may very well release the next version of its hot-selling Galaxy phone.

The world is ours
The legal battles have been less poisonous to the relationship than some of the rhetoric suggests.

"People play this stuff up because it shows a kind of drama, but the business reality is that the temperature isn't that high," said one attorney who has observed executives from both companies.

Still, the hostilities appear to have put some dents in the partnership. Apple is likely to switch to TSMC for the building of application processors, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs, Sanford Bernstein and other firms. But analysts at Korea Investment & Securities and HMC Securities point out that Apple will not be able to eliminate Samsung as a flash supplier because it remains the dominant producer of the crucial chips.

Apple declined to comment on the details of its relationships with any one supplier.

Meanwhile, both companies are deploying strategies out of the other's playbook as they seek to maintain and extend their lead over the pack.

Samsung has developed a cheeky, memorable TV ad that mocks Apple customers, and dramatically ramped up spending on marketing and advertising, a cornerstone of Apple's success. U.S. ad spending on the Galaxy alone leaped to nearly $202 million in the first nine months of 2012, from $66.6 million in 2011, according to Kantar Media.

For its part, Apple is investing in manufacturing by helping its suppliers procure the machinery needed to build large-scale plants devoted exclusively to the company.

Apple spent about $10 billion in fiscal 2012 on capital expenditures, and it expects to spend a further $10 billion this year. By contrast, the company spent only $4.6 billion in fiscal 2011 and $2.6 billion in fiscal 2010.

But Apple and Samsung retain very different strategies. Apple has just one smartphone and only four product lines in total, and tries to keep variations to a bare minimum while focusing on the high end of the market.

Samsung, by contrast, has 37 phone products that are tweaked for regional tastes and run the gamut from very cheap to very expensive, according to Mirae Asset Securities. The company also makes chips, TVs, appliances and a host of other products (and its brethren in the Samsung Group sell everything from ships to insurance policies).

Apple devices are hugely popular in the United States; Samsung enjoys supremacy in developing countries like India and China. Apple keeps its core staff lean - it has only 60,000 employees worldwide - and relies on partners for manufacturing and other functions. Samsung Electronics, part of a sprawling "chaebol," or conglomerate, that includes some 80 companies employing 369,000 people worldwide, is far more vertically integrated.

It is those differences, combined with the formidable strengths that both companies bring to the market, that may render quiet cooperation a better strategy than all-out war for some time to come.

Said Brad Silverberg, a former Microsoft executive who was involved in the Mac vs. Windows wars, "Apple had learnt a lot of lessons from those days."