Weekly Digest Issue No. 519
Tech jobs boost for Leinster | Roaming charges cut gets green light
Apple rolls out iPhone 4
This week saw Apple launch the fourth generation of its hugely popular smartphone -- the iPhone 4 – which Steve Jobs unveiled at the firm's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The device, which Jobs called "the biggest leap since the original iPhone", will go on sale in the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan from 24 June, and in 80 other countries by the end of the year.
Industry analysts have been hailing the arrival of Facetime, a video conferencing platform, to the iPhone, with Gartner's Carolina Milanesi calling it the "most telling announcement… on how Apple continues to drive innovation". For now though Facetime will only work between iPhone 4s and using Wi-Fi rather than 3G.
Along with Facetime, Apple has introduced a number of other improvements from the iPhone 3GS, including the long-awaited multi-tasking ability. Powered by Apple's A4 chip, the new device also boasts higher screen resolution than its predecessor at 960 x 640 pixel (Retina Display), a front-facing camera, longer lasting battery, and a gaming gyroscope that allows for more motion recognition when playing games.
The highly-publicised leak in April by Gizmodo of the upcoming iPhone appears to have done little to damage reaction to the new device. Although that's not to say all is forgiven. According to reports Apple refused to answer Gizmodo's requests to attend the WWDC. It's anyone's guess as to how long Apple will punish the tech blog for its actions.
Meanwhile, also at WWDC, Apple revealed details of its new mobile advertising platform, iAd, which Jobs claimed has already pulled in USD60 million worth of advertising for the second half of this year. The platform will be built into the new iPhone 4 and will be available from 1 July. iAd will allow developers to incorporate sophisticated, interactive advertising into applications they create for the App Store.
Google, however, has taken a dim view of iAd, and US antitrust regulators plan to investigate whether Apple is unfairly restricting rivals in the market for mobile ads, according to sources quoted in the Financial Times. In a rare public dispute between Google and Apple, the internet giant claims that its mobile advertising network is about to be unfairly excluded from Apple devices.
Tech jobs boost for Leinster
A significant 100 new tech-related jobs were created in Leinster this week by two multinationals. On Tuesday, internet giant AOL said it would create 50 new software engineering jobs at its Dublin Development Centre over the coming two years. The jobs are solid high-value software engineering and management roles. AOL said over 20 positions are to be filled immediately, the majority of which are for candidates with Java and .Net qualifications and two to three years of industry experience.
The move by AOL comes as it looks to reposition itself globally as a provider of internet advertising technologies, services and user content. The Dublin Development Centre currently employs 110 people, who focus mainly on AOL's advertising services -- ADTECH and AOL Advertising -- as well as developing user applications for use on platforms like AOL Search and properties such as AOL Money & Finance. The internet firm also announced that it is moving its Dublin headquarters into the city centre from Citywest.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Drogheda had some welcome jobs news when online firm MFG.com said it was to create 50 new jobs in the town. MFG.com is an online sourcing marketplace for the manufacturing sector; it essentially connects buyers with suppliers and facilitates online trading between them. The 50 new positions will be in MFG's new Operations Centre in Drogheda, which will serve Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The roles include customer technical support, sales and human resources. Recruitment has started already and the 50 roles will be filled within the next two years.
Finally, Dublin-based software company Celtrino announced that it is to double its workforce as it expands internationally. Celtrino provides software for pricing, ordering, delivering, accounts payable and accounts receivable. The firm currently employs 25 people and the latest recruitment round will bring its workforce up to 50.
Roaming charges cut gets green light
As July fast approaches, European consumers can look forward to lower mobile phone roaming charges in the region. On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg upheld the European Commission's original 2007 ruling, which sets price caps on the costs of using a mobile phone while in another EU Member State. Mobile heavyweights Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile and Orange wanted the legislation, which forces them to slash mobile roaming charges by up to 70 percent, overturned. The operators argued that market forces should be left to determine a fair price for using a mobile phone abroad; however, the court said that the EU rules were "justified... to protect the proper functioning of the internal market."
Roaming costs were first reduced in 2007 to EUR0.46 for making a call and EUR0.22 for receiving one, and then further reduced in 2008 to EUR0.43 and EUR0.19, respectively. From 1 July, these charges will be reduced still further to EUR0.39 for making a call when abroad and EUR0.15 for receiving a call, before VAT. In addition, from 1 July users will be required to set a limit for how much they want to pay for using the mobile internet while abroad. Users who do not set their own limit will be set to a default limit of EUR50. All users will be given a warning when they are approaching their limit and when they exceed the limit their mobile internet connection will be cut (for more information go to europa.eu .This particular measure is designed to avoid "bill shock" for customers returning from holidays to massive phone bills.
The European Commission, which is behind the roaming regulation, has welcomed the court's decision. There could well be some more tension between the Commission and mobile operators in the coming years on this issue. According to the Financial Times, EU telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes said last month that she wanted to see roaming fees disappear entirely by 2015, though she has not yet announced any steps to regulate the area further.
Mobile moves heat up Irish market
As well as the roaming fees reduction, there was more positive news for Irish mobile users this week. Last Friday Ericsson completed a trial of next generation mobile broadband technology which achieved speeds of up to 80Mbits/sec in Dublin. The Swedish network equipment maker completed tests of its Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, delivering high-definition television and video conferencing to laptops in the back of a Dublin taxi. Ericsson launched the world's first commercial LTE network in Sweden in December 2009, and said more commercial networks would be launched later this year.
"With speeds such as this, there are very few services that cannot be delivered over a mobile broadband connection in the future. Think of this as a preview of the way consumers will consume broadband, TV and radio services in the future," said John Hennessy, country manager and managing director of Ericsson in Ireland.
Ericsson's super-fast mobile broadband test was made possible through ComReg's test and trial licensing programme, which allows industry players to use Ireland's "clean radio frequencies" to trial "new services and smart technologies", said ComReg Commissioner Mike Byrne.
Also this week, An Post launched Postfone, its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which will piggy-back on Vodafone's mobile network. An Post invested over EUR2 million in the service, which will offer pre-pay 'any network, any time' rates of EUR0.20 per minute and EUR0.09 texts, as well as a range of mobile phones and mobile services.
Perhaps optimistically, An Post said it is targeting a 5 percent share of the mobile market in Ireland, although it didn't say when it aimed to reach that target. The service will come on stream at over 300 post offices nationwide over the summer months.
Social networking outpaces search in UK
Social networks hit a somewhat momentous milestone this week in the UK when they overtook search engines in the internet traffic stakes. According to Experian Hitwise, during May, social networks accounted for 11.88 percent of all UK internet visits, compared to 11.33 percent for search engines, making it the first month ever that social networking sites proved more popular than search.
In perhaps unsurprising results, the research reveals that social networks have consistently grown in popularity each month since May 2007, while search engine visits have remained fairly static, just dropping slightly in recent months. "Although social networks and search engines perform different functions, they both act as gateways to the wider internet. This data perfectly illustrates the key role that social media now plays in so much online behaviour," said Robin Goad, research director for Experian Hitwise.
Facebook blows all the other social networks out of the water in popularity terms, according to the research, which showed that it accounted for 55 percent of all visits to social networking sites. Experian Hitwise considers YouTube a social network, though some industry commentators disagree with this assertion, and the video sharing site is noted as the second most popular social network site with 16.5 percent of social networking traffic. Twitter has now skated past former favourites MySpace and Bebo to rate as the third most popular social network with 2.1 percent of the traffic.
However, it is search engine Google that remains the most visited website in the UK, accounting for 9.3 percent of all visits during May. "The majority of online marketing spend is currently diverted towards search, and this is likely to remain the case in the short to medium term. Search remains the primary source of traffic for most websites... Many marketers and brand owners have yet to grasp the full potential of social media marketing, but spending on the channel will increase as more proven success stories emerge," concluded Goad.