Apple Making a Siri Watch, Summonsed by Australian Parliament for Price Fixing

In today’s mobile news roundup: Apple supposedly developing a new device called the iWatch; Samsung and Apple may finally settle their patent dispute; several tech companies summoned to explain price fixing in Australia; Apple alone in e-book pricing battle; and Surface Pro launch hampered by low supply.

Apple developing an iWatch


According to unnamed sources, Apple is working on a wristwatch-like device that features a curved glass and will run on iOS.  The iWatch, as some have dubbed the device, will most likely function like an iPhone, send SMS, e-mail, call, create notes, set appointments on calendar, and possibly feature Siri.

Corning, the makers of the ultra-tough Gorilla Glass used on most smartphones and tablets available in the market, has a bendable, durable screen called Willow Glass which Apple is likely using on its curved screen device.

“You can certainly make it wrap around a cylindrical object and that could be someone’s wrist,” Pete Bocko, the chief technology officer for Corning Glass Technologies, said. “Right now, if I tried to make something that looked like a watch, that could be done using this flexible glass.”

The timing may be right for Apple to develop a product with flexible glass.  Rival Samsung has been showing off flexible screens all year, and the very promise of flexible glass could revolutionize mobile products from here on.

See here for other Apple gadgets that could wow us with fresh design

Samsung and Apple may settle patent dispute


Samsung and Apple have what some may call a love-hate relationship.  Apple benefits from Samsung as its largest supplier for smartphone components, but hates it at the same time for producing competing products.  The late Steve Jobs’ dying wish was to go thermonuclear on Android and Samsung, but now, it seems like the war may soon be over.  There’s a possibility for a settlement between Apple and Samsung, the tech industry’s best frenimies.

According to a report for Reuters, current Apple CEO Tim Cook never wanted to sue Samsung in the first place because of its huge role as components supplier.  And even though Apple won the $1.05 billion case last year, the company still can’t prove that Samsung’s copying of its devices has actually hurt sales of Apple devices.  People still line up for days outside retailers selling the latest Apple product, undeterred by Samsung’s rival gadgets.

It’s been a long road for Apple and Samsung, and the two companies will have to reach an end to this battle by working better together, or completely cutting each other off.  Apple has been making moves to become more independent from its lead supplier, while Samsung has been taking similar steps to directly sell its own products.

Tech firms summonsed to explain price fixing in Australia


Microsoft, Apple and Adobe have all been summonsed by the Australian Parliament to speak at a public hearing on March 22 in Canberra, Australia, to answer questions regarding price fixing.  The Committee wants to know why the three companies price their technology much higher in Australia compared to the US.

In the past, the three companies have avoided the questions of the IT Pricing Inquiry regarding their unfair pricing practice.  Perhaps if the three companies had been more cooperative and transparent, the Committee’s actions wouldn’t have been needed.  And if the three companies fail to send representatives to the public hearing, there will be direct legal consequences.

It wouldn’t be the first time tech firms have faced such inquiries.  Last year several television screen makers in southeast Asia were caught price-fixing in an ongoing scandal that spanned multiple years.

Apple alone in e-book pricing battle


In April 2012, the US Justice Department filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple and five of the six major publishing houses, but Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster Inc., and HarperCollins Publishers LLC chose to quickly settle while  Apple, Penguin and Macmillan chose to battle in court.

Penguin settled last December and Macmillan, Apple’s last ally, opted to surrender, stating that if it continued its battle and lost, that would have put it out of business.

The settlement will “immediately allow retailers to lower the prices consumers pay for Macmillan’s e-books,” DoJ lawyer Jamillia Ferris said.

Apple now has to decide whether to fight this battle alone, or surrender like its previous allies.

Surface Pro launch hampered by low supply


Microsoft’s official launch event for the Surface Pro last Friday was cancelled due to an expected blizzard that hit New York City.  Though the event was cancelled, retailers stated that the Surface Pro sale at midnight, was still on schedule.

Microsoft did not allow consumers to pre-order the 64GB or 128GB Surface Pro, so buyers were left with no choice but head to the nearest Microsoft Stores, Best Buys, Staples and Future Shops in the US and Canada to get their hands on the device on February 9.  Unfortunately, most retail shops were only given a handful of 128GB Surface Pro tablets, with some even reporting they got only one 128GB Surface Pro delivered to them.

Even the 64GB version quickly flew off shelves, but some shops still have them in stock.  None of the retail shops allow consumers to pre-order the devices so anyone who wants to get their hands on the Surface Pro will have to wait as Microsoft replenishes the shelves of its retail partners.

This might be Microsoft’s way of starting a fire, especially after less than stellar demand for Microsoft’s initial hybrid tablet, the Surface RT.  It’s easy to conjecture that Microsoft staged the stock shortage to create a buzz around high demand, so high that retailers have run out of tablets to sell.  Sparking consumer curiosity could be the ultimate goal here, though Microsoft isn’t necessarily the most experienced in hardware sales.  Google faced a similar circumstance with early demand for the Nexus 4, underestimating sales and having to delay orders as new shipments came in to replenish the quickly sold out stock.

Here with more analysis on the Surface Pro’s impact on consumer buying behavior is contributing editor John Casaretto, who appeared on this morning’s NewsDesk show with Kristin Feledy.