AT&T to throttle data for top five percent of user base

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 14:06
Category: iPhone, News

attlogo

There’s a price to pay for using a ton of data on your iPhone plan…

Per Macworld, AT&T announced late on Friday that it will begin throttling data throughput for heavy users of its unlimited smartphone data plans beginning on October 1.

According to the wireless provider, data throttling will affect only those smartphone customers on an unlimited data plan who fall into the top 5 percent of data consumption. Once users are counted among that number, their data speed will be reduced, but their overall capacity won’t be touched—they can still consume as much data as they want, just at a slower speed.

Unfortunately, AT&T isn’t alone in that decision. In February, Verizon Wireless announced it too would throttle the top 5 percent of its smartphone data users. At the time, Verizon was offering unlimited data plans; earlier this month, it switched to a tiered model similar to AT&T.

An AT&T spokesman stated that it isn’t specifying a hard and fast data threshold that will signal the speed reduction—likely because data consumption patterns will shift from month to month. That seems to mean that the top 5 percent of smartphone customers in any given month will likely see their data speeds throttled, despite how much data they actually use. However, in its statement on the matter the carrier says it will provide notices and a grace period before imposing the speed reductions, and the customers will find their data speed returned to normal at the beginning of the subsequent billing period.

AT&T points to specific type of data most likely to trigger high levels of data consumption, such as streaming very large amounts of video and audio and transferring large files over the cellular network. The company suggests instead using Wi-Fi for these purposes, especially since its customers get free access to the company’s network of 26,000 hotspots around the country.

Smartphone customers subscribed to one of AT&T’s tiered data plans—the US$15 per month 200MB plan and US$25 per month 2GB plan—will not be affected by the data throttling. So if speed is the ultimate concern—and you don’t mind paying for additional data capacity on your smartphone plan—AT&T suggests you can always switch to a tiered plan.

This isn’t the first time AT&T has tried to get unlimited data customers to shift to its tiered data plans, which it introduced last summer. Prior to then, unlimited data was the norm for iPhone customers; upon tweaking its plan, AT&T also introduced the much-awaited ability to tether the iPhone’s 3G connection to a laptop—but only for users of its tiered plans.

According to AT&T, the decision to throttle the heaviest data users is part of a plan to combat “a serious wireless spectrum crunch.” Data throttling is only one part of the moves AT&T says it is making, with the company also investing money in building our its wireless network as well as trying to “acquire additional network capacity.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV units moving briskly, no signs of updated models for Q3

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 10:42
Category: Apple TV, News

Albeit not as popular as some of its other products, the Apple TV unit seems to be achieving moderate success, selling roughly 500,000 units per quarter as the 2011 holiday shopping season approaches.

The latest update to Apple’s US$99 streaming media box arrived last fall and within just a few months went on to sell a million units. Even so, Apple has provided no update on sales of the device. Per AppleInsider, Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo tells has stated that his industry checks indicate the company shipped 480,000 units during the second calendar quarter of the year, representing more than 70% year-over-year growth.

Although Apple continues to see Internet television devices as a nascent category, frequently referring to the Apple TV as a “hobby,” when sales of the device are pit against its peers, the Apple TV appears to be a runaway success.

For instance, Logitech said this week that “very modest sales” of its US$249 Google TV-based Revue set-top-box were exceeded by returns of the product from unhappy customers, prompting the company to slash pricing by 66% to match Apple TV’s US$99 price point.

The move will reportedly cost the device maker some US$34 million in one-time charges as it hopes to “remove price as a barrier to broad consumer adoption.” The failed partnership with Google also contributed to a US$29.6 million loss for Logitech during its fiscal first quarter, prompting the exist of chief executive Gerald P. Quindlen.

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, Kuo said his industry checks have turned up no evidence that Apple plans push a hardware revision to the Apple TV into production during the third quarter. Instead, the Cupertino-based company will reportedly take a more measured approach to advancing the platform in 2011, relying instead on an Apple TV Software Update this fall that will allow devices such as the iPad 2 and upcoming iPhone 5 to beam their content to the big-screen.

The technology, dubbed AirPlay, essentially allows devices equipped with Apple’s A5 processor and the forthcoming iOS 5.0 update to mirror their video content from supporting applications to HDTVs hooked up to an Apple TV. While ideal for sharing video with friends and family, the feature is even more significant for Apple’s encroachment on the gaming market, as it will allow any iOS game developer to offer console-style gaming (demos below) by which the the iPhone or iPad transforms into a wireless controller, equipped with gyro sensors and touch-screen controls.

Even so, Apple continues to struggle with the second prong of its Apple TV strategy: HD video content. Unlike the inaugural Apple TV that offered a trove of archived television content priced between US$2 and US$3 an episode, the company continues to face opposition from networks who feel the new Apple TV’s US$0.99 per episode HD rental model devalues their content, according to people familiar with the matter.

Over the past year, Apple has failed to reach licensing agreements with content producers that would have them join Fox and partner Disney, for which Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is a director and largest individual shareholder, in providing their television content to Apple TV users. As such, Apple is now reportedly in talks to grow its streaming video business through a potential acquisition of Hulu, an ad-supported streaming service that offers video content from NBC, ABC, USA, Bravo, FX, A&E, and numerous other television networks.

“[W]e love the product. It’s clear that customers love the product,” Apple chief operating office Tim Cook said this month of the Apple TV. “We really guided right when we went to the new Apple TV just last fall. But right now, it’s still a hobby status that we’re continuing to invest in it because we think that there is something there.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

MacBook Air examined, found to be using scaled-down Thunderbolt controller

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 06:28
Category: MacBook Air, News

The new MacBook Air is getting positive feedback and being regarded as nifty.

And the cool nerds at AnandTech found out why.

Per AnandTech, Apple is using a scaled-down “Eagle Ridge” controller chip from Intel instead of the “Light Ridge” chip found in larger Thunderbolt-enabled machines.

Eagle Ridge is available in two form factors (normal and SFF [small form factor]) and is effectively half of a Light Ridge chip. That means you only get two Thunderbolt channels and one DP output. Apple used the small form factor version of Eagle Ridge in its new MacBook Air to cut cost and save on motherboard real estate.

With Eagle Ridge only supporting a single DisplayPort output, MacBook Air users are only able to drive a single external display via the Thunderbolt port, although the machine’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 would also preclude the use of two external monitors on the MacBook Air as it does on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Thunderbolt adoption has thus far been limited to high-end devices in part due to high costs associated with inclusion of the technology. Use of the scaled-down Eagle Ridge controller could help push Thunderbolt into lower-end products, presuming that the smaller chip carries some cost savings for manufacturers.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on a brand new MacBook Air, let us know what you make of it via the comments.

Analyst: Apple unlikely to purchase Barnes & Noble retail chain

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 06:44
Category: Finance, Rumor

With the recent closing of Borders, the rumor mill’s been in full force with regard to competitor Barnes and Noble.

Responding to a new rumor that Apple is considering a purchase of bookseller Barnes & Noble, one Wall Street analyst has said he doesn’t think such a deal would make much sense for the iPhone maker.

According to AppleInsider, Brian Marshall with Gleacher & Company said in a note to investors on Thursday that he doesn’t think Barnes & Noble is a likely acquisition target for Apple and its US$76 billion cash hoard.

In fact, if Apple’s sole goal was to obtain brick-and-mortar locations, the company would have been better suited to purchase another bookseller, Borders, which has about 400 stores in liquidation.

Marshall said that Barnes & Noble’s real estate footprint is “impressive,” with more than 700 stores totaling 18.4 million square feet of space from an average store footprint of 26,000 square feet. But he also says a potential US$1.5 billion vestment would not be a wise use of Apple’s money.

Apple is currently making an aggressive push in the retail space, and plans to add 30 stores in the September 2011 quarter. Most of Apple’s planned expansion, though, is set to take place internationally, and the vast majority of Barnes & Noble’s retail space is in the U.S.

“We would much prefer to see AAPL use cash for strategic purposes and balance sheet optimization (e.g., acquisition of content rights, dividend initiation, share repurchases, etc.),” Marshall wrote.

The analysis came in response to a story published earlier on Thursday, in which an “unproven source” claimed to have knowledge of negotiations between Apple and Barnes & Noble.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.