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Oracle Must Pay Google $1 Million in Legal Fees


Oracle’s legal woes aren’t over yet. On Tuesday a federal judge ordered the company to reimburse Google $1,130,350 in legal costs stemming from the high-stakes copyright battle earlier this year.

Google originally wanted Oracle to fork over more than $4 million to cover the expenses they racked up in the patent trial that Google ended up winning in May.

Oracle attempted to dodge the costs by claiming the trail was “a landmark issue of national importance,” but Judge William Alsup disagreed, saying Oracle did not place a heavy emphasis on copyright claims until late in the trial.

“While it is true that a copyright issue presented, copyrightability of APIs, was of great importance to the computer industry, this is not enough to deny costs,” Alsup said in his ruling. “Oracle did not bring its API copyright claim for the benefit of addressing ‘a landmark issue of national importance,’ but instead fell back on an overreaching (albeit somewhat novel) theory of copyright infringement for its own financial interests late in litigation.”

Judge Alsup called Oracle’s copyright infringement “ultimately overreaching,” and the company’s crafting of those claims led to increased media attention. He also pointed out that Oracle’s first damages report barely touched on copyright claims.

Oracle sued Google in 2010 over its use of the Java programming language and software tools. Oracle orignally sought $6 billion in damages. On May 23, 2012, a California federal jury ruled in Google’s favor, saying it did not infringe on Oracle’s patents in developing the Android system.

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Apple Sells Out of All iPad Mini Models


Apple iPad mini

Apple has sold out of its initial inventory of all iPad Mini models just three days after the new device became available for pre-order online.

The shipping times for all three Wi-Fi versions of the black and white iPad Mini have now been pushed back to two weeks, indicating that the initial stock is sold out. The LTE-enabled iPad Mini models have not yet gone on sale.

Apple worried some investors with its decision to the price the new 7.9 inch tablets starting at $329, significantly more than competing tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire, but the sales so far suggest that demand for the iPad Mini is strong even with the higher price.

Have you ordered an iPad Mini? Let us know in the comments below.

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Why the iPod Still Matters to Apple


Apple was widely expected to announce a press event for a brand new product on Wednesday — the iPad Mini. Instead, the company doubled down on an old and sometimes overlooked product, the iPod.

Apple aired a new commercial for the iPod on Wednesday night, which was the first new iPod ad since November of last year, according to TBWA/Media Arts Lab, the agency behind it.

The commercial is the latest sign that Apple isn’t giving up on the 11-year old product just yet. Apple announced a major refresh of the iPod line last month, updating the iPod Touch with a bigger screen and several new color offerings, and releasing a much thinner iPod Nano with built-in fitness features.

The iPod re-energized Apple’s brand in the early 2000’s and helped kick start its transformation from struggling has-been to the world’s most valuable company. In recent years though, the iPod has taken a back seat behind Apple’s two other hugely successful mobile i-Products, the iPhone and iPad. The ads showing silhouettes dancing to music on their iPods are a distant memory, replaced now by lonely celebrities yammering to Siri on the iPhone.

Even though the iPhone and iPad now account for far more of Apple’s revenue than the iPod, the line of music players does still have a role to play in Apple’s business.

A Billion Dollar Business

For the most part, iPod sales have declined year-over-year since 2008 — the year after Apple released the original iPhone — but the product still brings in more than $1 billion in revenue each quarter for the company.

Apple sold 6.8 million iPods in the June quarter of this year, resulting in $1.06 billion in revenue. That represents about 3% of Apple’s overall $35 billion in revenue for the quarter, but it’s still more than the company makes from software and peripherals.

However, those numbers don’t give a complete picture about the value of the iPod.

Dominating the MP3 Player Market

As Apple pointed out in its last earnings call, the iPod continues to dominate the market for portable music players, making up more than 70% of the market in the U.S. Some might roll their eyes at the idea that Apple touts being the leader of a market that it itself is cannibalizing. That said, the iPod continues to be one of the leading ways that people consume music.

According to the most recent data from the NPD Group, 43% of online users 13 and older listen to music on portable music players, a category that does not include smartphones or tablets. The same percentage of those surveyed say they consume music through online radio services. So the iPod dominates a means of music consumption that is as popular as Pandora and Spotify.

Russ Crupnick, an analyst covering the entertainment and music industries for NPD Group, suggests that part of the reason for this is that many consumers continue to prefer to have a “dedicated music device” for specific use cases.

“Apple has usage situations that are unique to the form factor of the iPod,” Crupnick told Mashable. For example, many consumers may be more comfortable taking the iPod Shuffle to the gym than their iPhone, for fear of losing or breaking the latter, not to mention the fact that the Shuffle is smaller.

A Gateway to Apple’s Ecosystem

Perhaps the biggest reason that the iPod is still useful to Apple is that it serves as a gateway to its brand, and more importantly, its ecosystem of products.

Crupnick and NPD have found that the iPod and iPod Touch are far more popular among children 14 and younger than the iPhone, iPad or Android smartphones. In total, about 28% of U.S. households surveyed by NPD say their children use iPods and iPod Touches regularly, compared to 7.4% for iPhone and 7.5% for iPad. The iPod Touch is particularly popular among those at the upper end of that age bracket.

“When the kid starts to get older and deserves their own device, parents aren’t spending the money on a full-blown tablet, or on a data plan, but an iPod Touch is a perfect compromise,” Crupnick said. As a result, he says that the iPod gives Apple a way to reach younger consumers.

Children aren’t the only demographic that Apple can reach with the iPod. As Crupnick points out, half of Americans still don’t own smartphones. “There are lots of people who think the economics of a smartphone don’t make sense, or they don’t have a need for it, or else the kids are a little too young or the adults are a little too old,” Crupnick says. For many of these consumers, an iPod — or more likely an iPod Touch — can serve as a substitute.

What’s more, considering that the iPod Touch is essentially an identical experience to the iPhone minus the data plan, it may just condition some of these hesitant consumers to eventually transition to the iPhone, which is now Apple’s core business, even if it’s not as exciting as a new iPad Mini.

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Apple, It’s Time to Make Something New


Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Something truly astonishing happened in San Francisco Wednesday. And it had nothing to do with the iPhone 5 launch.

In the blue above the city, three skywriting jets hired by an artist and a design company wrote the first 10,000 numbers of Pi — yes, 3.14159 and 9,994 more — in dot-matrix numerals a quarter-mile high.

Carefully coordinating each plane to write every third character, they looped the number-string 150 miles around the Bay Area, a feat that made geeks everywhere gasp and think of three more characters: O, M and G.

Meanwhile, down on the ground, a technology company released a phone that was a little bit taller.

I don’t mean to begrudge Apple‘s big day. The launch event was a lot of fun. The iPhone 5 is a superior gadget with plenty of under-the-hood incremental innovations, and seems certain to become the world’s bestselling smartphone. The LTE battery life thing is a cool achievement. We get it. If I were on the iPhone 4 two-year upgrade cycle, rather than being halfway through my 4S contract, I’d probably be lining up for one come Sept. 21.

But the “Pi in the Sky” project served as a timely reminder of how much technology can awe and inspire, and that technology companies should try hard to make new things that push the boundaries of that. In fact, it put me in mind of Sergey Brin’s fantastic aerial display at Google I/O.

At that launch event, the Google co-founder bounded on to stage, in an unscripted moment that would make Tim Cook blanche, and asked us if we would like to see a demonstration of his mysterious experimental glasses-with-a-tiny-screen project, Google Glass. Why yes, Sergey, yes we would.

We were rewarded with a jaw-dropping live stream from the glasses of skydivers in a Zeppelin, one of the world’s only three Zeppelins, which happened to be flying right over our heads. The skydivers parachuted onto our roof, jumped on bikes, did tricks, then zoomed into the hall to deliver the glasses. And the crowd went wild.

A stunt? Certainly. But it spoke of the daring risk that Google is taking with Project Glass, an entirely new kind of user interface. The kind of roll of the innovation dice that it’s unfortunately hard to imagine Apple making under its current leadership.

The world’s most valuable company has chosen to play it very safe indeed, throwing all its engineering know-how into microscopic levels of innovation in a handful of hardware products. What’s the only new Apple gadget on the horizon for sure right now? A smaller iPad.

And that’s great. More power to them. I can’t wait to see the iPad Mini either. But at some point soon, Apple might have to look around and admit it has ceded the title of Silicon Valley’s most innovative and inspiring company to Google.

As a loyal Apple user who can’t bear to imagine Android fans getting that smug, I implore Tim Cook: Please don’t let that happen.

Tim Cook’s Walter White Moment

If you’re a Breaking Bad fan, you know this recent and resonant scene (spoiler alert) where Skylar White drags her husband to a storage locker. Here she’s been keeping his surplus cash, spraying it for silverfish, unable to count it because each bundle is stuffed with too many denominations. Skylar turns to Walt and asks: Is this, finally, enough?

(Not quite a spoiler alert:) It does the trick.

I’d like to think that at some point Tim Cook will be taken to a storage locker, or rather an aircraft hangar, and shown the entire pile of Apple’s cash on hand. The company had $100 billion just sitting around in early 2012, and that could grow to $200 billion in 2013.

Apple has grudgingly announced it will start to give $45 billion of that to shareholders, in the form of dividends and stock buybacks (the latter is more an investment for Apple than a giveaway). For the rest, it won’t account.

You can look at this all sorts of ways, but economists tend to get very frustrated at the fact that Apple simply refuses to reinvest this money in the economy — take chances, grow the company, design lots of new things, hire lots and lots of people to make and sell them.

That’s the way money is supposed to work. That’s the way it has worked, historically, in America. And when the world’s most valuable corporations choose to sit on their hoards like feudal lords — especially at a time of high unemployment — the economy suffers. People suffer. And Apple itself suffers, because it’s leaving even greater growth on the table.

It makes sense that Tim Cook would want to keep a healthy hedge against the future, a rainy day fund. Like Walter White, he’s been burned. The scars of 1997 and ’98, when the company was teetering on the edge of going out of business, are still there.

Cook was the inventory guy Steve Jobs hired to fix that problem, and he became the master of delivering just a few products in massive quantities very quickly. This was what part of what took Apple from zero to $100 billion in 14 years.

But the other half was innovation. Specifically, a leader who worshipped it. Who invented entirely new product categories. Who would constantly pepper Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, with product proposals that began: “Hey Jony, here’s a dumb idea.”

Jobs was a restless innovator. Toward the end of his life, he was not only coming up with supposed breakthrough ideas for a television — the still-rumored iTV — he was sketching out designs for planes and boats that outshone those of his billionaire pal Larry Ellison.

The “just a few products” limitation was something Jobs imposed on the company reluctantly, as a way to make it focus, to get out of its rut. But he always wanted to stretch the limits of what technology could do — such as saving the music industry from itself.

Cook has earned the right to run the company the way he wants. And for all we know, Jobs-like innovations at the macro level continue quietly in the most secret bowels of Apple. (They’d have to be a whole lot more secret than the iPhone 5 features.)

But the signs don’t point to that. They point to a company that is spending just 2% of its revenue on R&D, is focused on exquisite tiny details (those shiny diamond-cut edges!) at the expense of big ideas, and is satisfied with being ever more dominant in a few categories with reiterated products.

Jobs’s comeback was Apple’s second act. Now comes its third, in which the old rules and careful constraints don’t apply. An act in which the company has to decide in what way to expand, now that it has so much cash it could build more than 50 Space Shuttles.

So here’s hoping we’ll see some moonshot product launches, ones that surprise and even risk making us laugh (remember how we joked about the iPad name?). Here’s hoping Apple gets what SpaceShipOne builder Burt Rutan once told me. “If you don’t have a consensus that it’s nonsense, you don’t have a breakthrough.”

Here’s hoping, even though — especially when — it’s pie in the sky.

BONUS: A Look at the iPhone 5

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With Falling Newsstand Sales, UK Newspapers Push Subscriptions


A volatile advertising market isn’t the only reason British newspapers are pushing print and digital subscriptions — it’s also to combat a sharp decline in the number of copies being sold at the newsstand.

An article published in The Economist this week shows how British newspapers are slowly becoming “more American” — not in the scope or style of their coverage, but in their business models.

Historically, British newspapers have sold most of their copies on the newsstand: Even now, 42% of UK citizens get their newspaper from a newsstand or shop, while just 12% have a print or digital subscription, according to a Reuters Institute survey. In the U.S., those numbers are reversed: 30% of news readers have either a print- or digital-newspaper subscription, while 12% get them from a newsstand. (The rest, presumably, get their news for free, entirely online.)

Screen shot 2013-07-28 at 2.48.02 PM

As The Economist points out, it’s easier for people to stop buying newspapers at the newsstand every day than to cancel a subscription, which is largely why papers like the Financial Times and The Times have tightened up their online paywalls, and funded big marketing campaigns to promote their subscriptions (even throwing free tablets into the mix).

British newspapers are making good on their efforts. Collectively, the Daily Telegraph, FT, The Guardian, The Independent and The Times have boosted the proportion of their circulation revenue from 26% to 41% between Dec. 2008 and May 2013, according to Enders Analysis.

Image: Getty Images and Reuters Institute

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Amazon Kindle, Google Nexus 7 Ads Shamelessly Rip Off Apple Ads


Did you see that cute ad with that new tablet thingie? You know, the one with the adorable kids and that mellow guitar strumming?

Chances are you did, but you may not remember exactly what it was promoting. That’s because Amazon and Google have finally perfected the art of imitating Apple’s warm and fuzzy ads. Of course, Amazon’s not the only company that wants to be like Apple these days.

“As an agency, we often hear ‘…we want to be more like Apple…’ from clients, so it isn’t surprising that Amazon’s new Kindle ads have a familiar look and feel,” says Jojo Roy, CEO of Sequence. “Half the tech companies out there want to copy Apple, and most aren’t that successful.”

Chuck McBride, the president of ad agency Cutwater and a veteran Apple ad creator, judged Amazon’s ads a misfire:

These Kindle ads view/read like a brochure. Very functional voiceover with a little verbal twist at end. Obviously, there are iPad comparisons in terms of demonstrating what the product does. Yet somehow I get more of a sense that amazing possibilities might come from the iPad even though they, too, are quite functional. Apple speaks of how it will change the way you view content. Kindle speaks to simply being able to do it save a few technical functions like no glare. Like we didn’t know that already. Unfortunately, in the end, the ads are less powerful than the product itself. And they deserve better.

What do you think? According to our chart, Amazon and Google hit upon most of the key elements of an Apple ad. Are they missing anything?

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Apple-Samsung Patent War and Two Other Stories You Need to Know


Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. Today, we’re looking at three particularly interesting stories.

Apple’s Patent War With Samsung Heats Up

It’s official: Despite Samsung’s appeal, the sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 stays. It’s possible that the same fate will happen to Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, and even its flagship Android smartphone, the Galaxy S III.

This series of setbacks probably won’t significantly hurt Samsung’s sales, but it’s definitely bad news for the company as well as Google, who develops the Android OS. The patent trial is scheduled to start July 30.

Nokia: Google’s Galaxy Nexus Infringes on our Patents

Google’s recently launched Jelly Bean tablet, the Nexus 7, infringes some of Nokia’s patents, claims Nokia.

“Nokia has more than 40 licensees, mainly for its standards essential patent portfolio, including most of the mobile device manufacturers. Neither Google nor Asus is licensed under our patent portfolio,” a Nokia spokesperson told The Inquirer.

Twitter’s Transparency Report: ‘We Comply With 63% of Government Requests’

Twitter released its first transparency report Monday, admitting it handed over user data in some form to governments in 63% of cases. On the other hand, Twitter claims it refused all requests for censorship of tweets.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

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Pogoseat App Spares You From Seat-Swapping Humiliation on Gameday


It’s a familiar scenario for any sports fan: Go to the game and settle into your nosebleed seats, only to spot a bunch of empty primo spots closer to the action. So you give it a few minutes, and then move down. Everything is awesome and you’re engrossed in the game — until an usher shows up and asks to see your ticket stubs. Red-faced, you’re forced to take the walk of shame back to the boondocks.

Pogoseat aims to kill that humiliation once and for all.

The California startup allows fans to upgrade to better seats while at the game, and lets teams recoup some of the money lost on good tickets that go unsold. Pogoseat just launched in the App Store for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, and co-founder Evan Owens tells Mashable he expects the free app to be available for Android devices within the next week.

Here’s how you’d use it at a game: First, notice a slew of empty seats, and decide to see what’s out there. Then, fire up the app and sign in using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a separate Pogoseat account. Peruse the app for available upgrades — which, in many cases, will be dynamically priced to provide discounts closer to game time or after the action starts — and pay the difference between your new seats and the old ones using PayPal, Amazon or credit card. Your new ticket will be delivered electronically, giving you the green light to prance down to your new location. Pogoseat and the team split the money you pay for the upgrade.

“When you’re actually there in the moment with your fellow fans around, you’re much more willing to pull your wallet out and pay for that better seat,” co-founder Abel Cuskelly says.

Pogoseat comes embedded in the Golden State Warriors’ official team app, its first ongoing partnership with a professional team. The company has also done one-off deals with Stanford football, and is aiming to finalize partnerships with up to 10 more NBA teams this season, as well as a few NFL franchises during the second half of the pro-football season.

Pogoseat was named “Next Wave Shopping and Commerce Winner” at last month’s iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Austin, which has helped lead to increased attention from non-sports brands, the app’s co-founders say. A phone carrier, for example, could pay for upgrades for a few dozen customers. It would then send texts informing them about the promotion, resulting in more publicity should customers choose to share the deal via their social networks.

Pogoseat raised $500,000 in seed funding last year, and is currently in the midst of raising another comparable seed round.

Would you use Pogoseat? Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, adamkaz

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In-Store App Smartly Syncs Shoppers And Sales Staff


The Spark of Genius Series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. Each post highlights a unique feature of a startup. If you’d like your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Signature

Quick Pitch: iPhone app connects customers with sales associates 24/7.

Genius Idea: Leveraging mobile to provide an unprecedented level of customer service.

Though online shopping has undergone multiple transformations over the past two decades, the same can not be said for brick-and-mortar retail. Shoppers are still brought in using approximately the same marketing tactics (think direct mail catalogs, window displays, seasonal sales). Product is still refreshed at the same rates and customers still line up and check out, with few exceptions, at cash registers.

Signature, a mobile app company that bills itself as the “ultimate personal shopping assistant,” is looking to reengineer the way consumers shop in stores — namely, the stores of upscale clothing retailers. The San Francisco-based startup has partnered with Neiman Marcus to develop a custom iPhone app to better facilitate communications between stores and customers.

The app, called NM Service, is currently being piloted at four Neiman Marcus locations: San Francisco, Calif.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Neiman Marcus’s flagship store in Dallas, Texas.

It has two interfaces: one for shoppers and one for sales associates. Shoppers are able to able to browse event schedules, new arrivals and promotions. As they browse, they can favorite products and even arrange for them to be placed in a dressing room ahead of arrival, Signature CEO David Hegarty tells Mashable. They can also make appointments and leave messages for associates, and see which ones are on the floor. A built-in QR code reader lets them scan signage for trend and product information displayed in-store.

Sales associates’ version of the app has tools designed to help them provide better service. They can view a shoppers’ online and in-store purchase history, helping them better understand their preferences and suggest items that might compliment previous purchases. They can also see which products a customer has favorited. They will be notified when a preferred customer arrives in-store, accompanied by a Facebook photograph.

All sales associates have been provided with iPhones and app training, Ginger Reeder, VP of corporate communications at Neiman Marcus, tells Mashable. Customers can learn about the app by picking up booklet instructions in kiosks around the store, and by speaking to their regular sales associates.

Hegarty says that future iterations of the app will be more personalized. Users will receive notifications about new merchandise based on their previous purchase history, and have the option to list not just favorite products but also favorite designers.

Beyond the custom app he and his team have developed for Neiman Marcus, Signature also has a general platform app which works with two Seven for all Mankind locations: one at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., and another in the Flatiron district of New York City. A few more retail partners will be onboarded later this year, and an Android version of the app should also arrive in time for the holidays, he says.

Signature currently has eight employees and has raised $1.1 million in angel funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Triangle Peak Partners, Amicus Capital, Don Hutchison and Dave Pell.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

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Google Overtakes GE as Fifth Most Valuable U.S. Company


Google‘s stock has been on a tear in recent months, rocketing from about $559 a share on June 14 to an all-time intraday trading high of $764.89 on Tuesday. The stock closed at $749.38 for the day.

Thanks to this stock surge, Google’s market cap has ballooned by more than $60 billion in that time period to roughly $245 billion. In the process, Google has gone from being the tenth most valuable company in the United States to the fifth most valuable, passing other juggernauts like Chevron and IBM along the way, according to data from the Bespoke Investment Group.

Most recently, Google overtook General Electric, whose market cap currently sits at around $236 billion. Google is also on the verge of passing Walmart, whose market cap is just shy of $250 billion, to become the fourth most valuable company in the country.

Apple is far and away the most valuable company in the country, having passed Exxon Mobil earlier this year, with a current market cap of more than $631 billion.

Google’s stock surge isn’t attributed to any one factor so much as a combination of strengths in the company, including positive reports about its display advertising and Android activations, as well as strong consumer demand for its Nexus tablets.

GOOG Chart

Image courtesy of Flickr, TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

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