Comcast and Verizon Decide They Don’t Need to Compete With Apple, Google and Everyone Else, After All

never mind

Last year, when Verizon Wireless and Comcast were trying to get lawmakers to sign off on a giant wireless spectrum sale/noncompete pact, the two companies also said they were going to create a technology/R&D joint venture. It was supposed to come up with really cool tech products that consumers would love.

That JV is now dead. Verizon announced its demise today during the company’s earnings call, but said the partnership actually ended in late August.

The news here is that the most important part of the Comcast/Verizon deal hasn’t changed. Verizon still owns valuable spectrum it purchased from Comcast, and the two companies are still agreeing not to compete – or at least not to compete very vigorously.

It’s not surprising that Comcast and Verizon have concluded that their JV didn’t make sense. Most JVs don’t. And if there is an example of two companies at the scale of Comcast and Verizon successfully working together to create cool consumer tech, I’d love to hear about it.

For the record, though, the two companies didn’t seem to have those doubts back in March 2012. Back then, when the companies were still trying to get federal approval for the deal, they were pointing to the JV as a big win for consumers.

Here’s what Comcast executive vice president David Cohen told a Senate subcommittee back then:

“By enhancing the Cable Companies’ and Verizon Wireless’s own products and services, the Joint Venture will compete with similar solutions that AT&T, Dish Network, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others already have introduced into the marketplace. This, in turn, will spur other companies to respond, perpetuating a cycle of competitive investment and innovation.”

And here’s what Verizon is saying, via a spokesperson, today:

“The joint venture was formed to bring innovation to the marketplace and enhance the customer experience through technology that integrated wireline and wireless products and services. Evolving technology and market changes since the joint venture was formed have led all parties to conclude that a joint venture, per se, is no longer needed to deliver innovative services to customers. Verizon Wireless and the cable companies will continue to explore ways to collaborate on technology in the future. Each company remains committed to bringing innovation to its customers and will continue to find ways to optimize the user experience for each company’s products.”

If you’re a skeptical person, you might think that Comcast and Verizon were overselling the benefits of the JV from the start. You might think that they never really thought they could successfully compete with the likes of Apple and Google, but were holding out the idea because consumer groups were unhappy with the other parts of their pact, which seemed likely to reduce competition between the two companies.

On the other hand, both Comcast and Verizon did assign people to work on this stuff together, and they did do some work. Comcast, for instance, points to the Xfinity TV Player app, which lets you download movies and TV shows to your iPad and iPhone and take them with you, as an example of the joint venture’s output. [Update: Strike that. A Comcast rep tells us we had bad information: The app was made in-house, not via the JV.]

So, if you were a different kind of skeptical person, you might think that Comcast and Verizon really did think they could successfully compete with the likes of Apple and Google. And the fact that it only took them 17 months to realize they were wrong – and pull the plug – is a good thing.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Carlos Caetano)

Ion Air Pro 3 Adds New Image Sensor, Swims Deeper

Since launching nearly a year and a half ago, action-camera maker Ion has been pumping out a new model about every six months, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Today, the company announced its third-generation camera, the Ion Air Pro 3 Wi-Fi. It will be available in early November for $350.

Air Pro 3 (2) EMBARGOED 10 30 2013

New to the camera is a 12-megapixel sensor that allows you to capture 1080p video at 60 frames per second; the previous model could only shoot 1080p video at 30fps. The Air Pro 3 also utilizes a new fog-free lens with improved light transmission and 160-degree viewing angles.

In terms of design, the camera looks largely the same as the Air Pro 2, but the casing is now waterproof in up to 49 feet of water (up from 30 feet) and features a metal tripod screw mount instead of a plastic one.

One of the advantages of Ion’s cameras is that you don’t need a separate case to bring it with you in the water, and its unique pod system allows you to add different functionality to the camera without any cumbersome accessories.

Ion faces stiff competition from market leader GoPro, which just released its latest Hero 3+ camera in September. Sony, JVC and Garmin all have action cameras, as well.

Ion CEO Giovanni Tomaselli said the company has about 3.5 percent of the market share right now, but it’s not all about numbers for them.

“All we’re looking for is for people to just appreciate what we’re creating,” said Tomaselli in an interview. “Here’s something that’s best in class, and that’s what it’s all about in the end. We do that, and we can get that recognition, the rest will come.”

Going forward, Tomaselli said the company will focus on improving optics, connectivity and mounting systems. Ion is also working to make its cameras available through larger retailers, like Best Buy.

Air Freshener: What They’re Saying About Apple’s Latest iPad

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With Apple’s new iPad Air headed to market on Friday, the first reviews of the device began publishing last night, and they are positive to a one, with more than a few extolling the device as not just the best iPad ever, but the best tablet on the market. Here’s a quick rundown of reviews:

Walt Mossberg, AllThingsD:
This new iPad isn’t a radical rethinking of what a tablet can be, but it’s a major improvement on a successful product. It is the best tablet I’ve ever reviewed. … The battery performance of the iPad Air simply blew me away.

Damon Darlin, the New York Times:
The iPad Air is noticeably lighter than its predecessors. If you are the least bit interested in the new tablet computer from Apple, you probably already know that. The company’s engineers shaved just short of a third off the weight of the earlier version; the 9.7-inch Air weighs only a pound. What you may not know is this: Those 6.4 ounces make all the difference when, as you recline while reading or watching a movie, you conk out and the iPad falls forward to bonk you on the nose. The Air won’t hurt you the way the old iPad did.

Rich Jaroslovsky, Bloomberg:
I’ve been using the iPad Air, which goes on sale Nov. 1, for a week now, and it’s hands-down the best tablet on the market. Apple has recrafted the hardware and packed in new software and services that make it more useful for creating content, not just consuming it. … Not that long ago, the iPad so dominated the tablet market that it would have been unthinkable to buy something else. With the rise of quality tablets from Google, Amazon and others, it’s no longer the only choice. But it’s still the best choice.

Anand Lal Shimpi, AnandTech:
This is the iPad that Apple likely wanted to launch on day 1, it just took a bit over three years to get here. … The iPad Air is the most significant upgrade to the 9.7-inch iPad in its history. It’s lighter, more portable, more usable and faster than any previous iPad. It doesn’t fundamentally change what you can do with a tablet, but if you’re in the market for one the iPad Air really is the best iPad to date. Competition is definitely more stiff among the smaller tablets thanks to the Nexus 7, but in the nearly 10-inch tablet space it seems like Apple is going to continue to enjoy a great position there.

Charles Arthur, The Guardian:
It’s only when you get hold of an iPad Air that you realise how well Apple has crafted this device. It’s lighter and the internals are faster. Add in the free software, and it has raised the bar on what you can do out of the box with a tablet. The iPad now isn’t just something to do a few functions around and about. It’s a device to replace your computer for almost everything.

Ed Baig, USA Today:
… This latest full-size Apple tablet is the most tempting iPad yet, better than its already best of breed predecessors, superior still to each and every rival big screen slate that I’ve tested. Apple dominates the tablet apps ecosystem. Its tablet remains the easiest to use.

Tim Stevens, CNET:
Functionally, the iPad Air is nearly identical to last year’s model, offering only faster performance and better video chatting. But factor in design and aesthetics, and the iPad Air is on another planet. It’s the best full-size consumer tablet on the market.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball:
To me, the comparison that is most interesting is to that of my MacBook Air. In exactly three years, Apple has produced an iPad that outperforms a then-brand-new MacBook. Three years is a decent chunk of time in this industry, and the MacBook Air has made great strides since then, but this (a brand-new iPad Air versus a late 2010 MacBook Air) is a credible comparison. In many ways the iPad Air is not just the superior device, but clearly so – it has a retina display, the MacBook Air does not; it gets 10 hours of battery life, the MacBook Air was advertised at just 5 hours back then (and as an old and much-used device, my personal MacBook Air gets significantly less than 5 hours of battery life today).

Brad Molen, Engadget:
Surprise: The iPad Air is the best iPad we’ve reviewed. In addition, though, it’s also the most comfortable 10-inch tablet we’ve ever tested. Not every manufacturer can produce a thin and light device without also making it feel cheap or flimsy, but Apple nailed it. Factor in a sizable boost in performance and battery life, and the Air is even more compelling. The last two iPads served up relatively few improvements, but the Air provides people with more of a reason to upgrade or even buy a tablet for the first time.

Vincent Nguyen, SlashGear:
The iPad Air is the no-compromise tablet. Beautiful display, crisp design, premium build quality: It’s the gold-standard by which tablets are judged, and rightly so. If Apple’s full-sized slates had fallen into the shadow of their mini brethren over the past twelve months, the iPad Air brings the larger tablet right back into the spotlight.

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch:
The iPad Air is a huge improvement over the iPad 4th-gen, or the iPad 2. … Its form factor is the best currently available for a 10-inch tablet, and it provides a great blend of portability and usability that leans towards the media device end of the spectrum.

Ben Bajarin, Techpinions:
With the iPad Air, Apple has created the world’s thinest and lightest full size tablet. And by adding their 64-bit A7 processor they have made it extremely powerful as well. After using the iPad Air for the past week I’m convinced that the iPad Air is the perfect personal computer for the masses.

David Pogue, A note from Pogue:
At $500, an iPad probably doesn’t need replacing every year or even every other year; if you have a 2012 or 2013 model, stick with what you’ve got. On the other hand, you’ll find the Air a fantastic leap into the future if you’re upgrading from an original iPad, or if you’ve never owned a tablet before.

LinkedIn Kicks Off Its Pulse Integration

Icon_Pulse

For the world’s largest professional network, content is king. No surprise, then, that LinkedIn has fully integrated social newsreader app Pulse into its mobile and Web properties.

That means that after downloading and opening Pulse for iOS or Android, users will see article recommendations based on the subject categories and people they follow on LinkedIn and – if they used the app previously – on Pulse as well. Users will be prompted to sync their LinkedIn profiles with their Pulse accounts after downloading.

Pulse’s integration also marks the replacement of LinkedIn Today, the company’s front door for delivering news and “Influencer” posts – penned content from high-profile members of the business and media world written specifically for LinkedIn. Pulse, too, will deliver the news from the desktop to LinkedIn visitors from within the LinkedIn site.

It’s another step in LinkedIn’s big push to provide a mix of original and outside content on its site, an effort to bolster the number and frequency of users returning to it on a regular basis. In the past, the company has been seen widely as a repository for resumes, visited sparingly by job-seekers.

linkedinpulse

With the $90 million acquisition of Pulse seven months ago, LinkedIn hopes to change that image. Along with a suite of redesigned mobile applications – like LinkedIn’s iPad and Android apps – the focus is more on the LinkedIn “stream” of content flowing down the center of a user’s page. Much like Facebook or other social networks, LinkedIn users have a wealth of material to click on as it moves through their feed. That means more interactions and, ultimately, more time spent on site.

Beyond that, LinkedIn has even moved into users’ email mobile apps with Intro, the company’s way of displaying LinkedIn bio information from people you receive emails from within the email itself. It’s a smart way for LinkedIn to break out of the silo of its own apps or website, while potentially drawing people to the company’s properties if they click on the info inside the email.

And with the new app integrations, users should push more items from Pulse back to LinkedIn by sharing it with their network. They can “Like” or comment on items they see in Pulse, activity which will sync with their LinkedIn accounts. When those actions show up on LinkedIn, it’s ultimately a net win for the network, keeping it healthy and flowing with fresh content.

The new apps are available today in the iTunes and Android app stores.

What to Expect From Apple’s Fall iPad Event (Spoiler: New iPads!)

hugo-ipad

In the invitation to its Oct. 22 fall event, Apple said it has “a lot more to cover” before the year is out. And indeed it does – more so this year than in recent years past, sources tell AllThingsD.

So what can we expect to see Apple unveil at Yerba Buena Center come Tuesday?

The obvious, really. As we’ve previously reported, the event will focus on the fifth-generation iPad and the second-generation iPad mini. Sources said the former will feature a thinner, lighter design akin to the iPad mini’s, and an improved camera. It will run Apple’s new 64-bit A7 chip. As I noted earlier this month, the new iPad mini will be outfitted with a retina display. It, too, is likely to see the A7 incorporated into its innards, as Apple shifts its mobile device lineup to 64-bit (more on the short and long term benefits of that here).

Also expected on Tuesday, the announcement of a street date for OS X Mavericks – which is scheduled to launch before the end of the month – and for the new cylindrical Mac Pro, as well. I’m told both will be given stage time. A potential wildcard here: A new display to pair with the Pro. Apple hasn’t fielded a new monitor since introducing the Thunderbolt LED display in 2011. Its latest Mac Pro has enough horsepower to drive three 4K displays simultaneously, and it’s hard to imagine the company debuting it without a new monitor that can take at least some advantage of that.

Finally, I’m told we’re likely to see a slate of new MacBook Pros upgraded with Intel’s latest Haswell processors. Apple brought Haswell to its MacBook Airs earlier this year, giving them a nice boost in battery life and graphics. It has been expected to do the same for its professional laptops ever since. Tuesday may well bring with it the announcement of that move.

Beyond that, it’s tough to say. Haswell Mac minis are certainly a possibility. Once the MacBook Pro makes the leap to the chip, the mini will be the Mac without it. Also possibly on tap for release, iWork for iCloud (from beta) and iLife, whose newly redesigned icons slipped out onto the Web last week.

Join AllThingsD Tuesday morning at 10 am PT for live coverage of the event.

Apple Unveils the New Thinner, Lighter MacBook Pro

macbookpro

Just like AllThingsD reported previously, Apple on Tuesday announced the latest iteration of the 13-inch MacBook Pro at its fall event in San Francisco.

Surprise! It’s thinner and lighter than the previous generation, weighing in at 3.46 pounds and 0.71 inches thin, slightly less cumbersome compared to 2012’s line.

The biggest draw, however, is the new line of Intel’s latest Haswell processors installed inside, which should provide better battery life and graphics performance. Those were already brought to the refreshed MacBook Airs earlier in the year, and indeed gave both areas quite a boost.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,300 and comes with OS X Mavericks, the company’s latest desktop software release. It begins shipping today.

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New Bluetooth Basketball Analyzes Your Shooting, Dribbling Skills

It’s called “madness” for a reason — the college basketball frenzy in March is enough to convince many that if they only had a better handle on the ball, or a higher arc, they, too could have made it to the Final Four.

InfoMotion Basketball

Now there’s a basketball for that.

An Ohio-based company called InfoMotion has created a high-tech, Bluetooth-equipped basketball that senses the player’s motions with the ball and, after analyzing the data, shares it wirelessly to a compatible iOS or Android smartphone app.

InfoMotion has kicked off a Kickstarter campaign today to raise money for the production of the ball.

Mike Crowley, InfoMotion’s CEO, says the app doesn’t just spit out data; it’s supposed to offer advanced diagnostics to help players improve their games. “Five years ago, when we started the company, we knew consumers needed data. But the next evolution, beyond just activity tracking, is, how do I get better?”

The sensors in the ball can measure the direction of the ball’s spin and how quick your release is after catching the ball. In terms of ball handling, the Bluetooth ball knows the efficiency of your left hand versus your right hand, and how hard you dribble with each — in a sense, how confident you are with the ball.

Using this data, the app will recognize patterns and offer suggestions to shoot with a higher arc, or use your legs, or change the trajectory of the ball.

While the ball can sense when it has hit backboard, rim or net, InfoMotion’s “hit-or-miss” technology is still in development, so right now the app won’t tell you how many shots you’ve made — only how many you’ve taken.

The app also has a multiplayer mode, in which you and up to three other friends can take turns shooting 10 shots at a time and compete. InfoMotion’s goal is to create a kind of virtual playground, in which ballplayers around the world can compare scores within the app.

InfoMotion_Basketball App

The sensor-laden basketball is made of indoor/outdoor synthetic leather, courtesy of Spalding. Despite the fact that the ball comes packed with an eight-hour battery, Crowley says it meets regulation weight and size. It’s Qi-compatible, so it can be charged wirelessly, and comes with a charging sleeve.

If you can already feel the synthetic leather pimples under your fingertips, here’s the part where you might get a little, um, deflated: InfoMotion doesn’t expect the ball to ship until the third quarter of this year. And it will retail for a whopping $295. That almost makes these basketball sneakers look reasonable (not really).

To be fair, this new offering is much cheaper than InfoMotion’s first high-tech basketball, which launched in 2011 and ranged in price from $2,500 to $5,000. That ball was aimed mainly at high-level coaches and players.

But $295 is still a lot for a synthetic-leather basketball. Here’s a little free advice, kids: High-tech or not, just get out there and shoot — a lot!