Google provides info about its forthcoming Glass computer concept

Google has provided some information about its forthcoming ‘Glass spectacle-mounted’ computer concept with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, but has requested that most of details be kept away from the public eye…

However, the eight PDF files that the FCC did make public (!) comprise correspondence between Google and the FCC and the results of some tests conducted by third-party labs on a Glass device.

One of the PDF documents, a letter from Google’s regulatory and compliance specialist Warwick Wong, reveals that Google requested the FCC *not* to release the filings that included photos of the device and it’s accompanying technical manual.

The reason for such a request is that “The market for the technology that is the subject of the certification application is a highly competitive one and if Google’s rivals become aware of the facts set forth, it could have an adverse effect on Google’s competitive standing and deprive the company and its shareholders of the marketplace benefit it otherwise might achieve by virtue of having a product available before other market rivals.”

The remaining documents don’t reveal an awful lot of new information about Glass, but by displaying Google’s Glass concept computer hints strongly that the device is close to being ready for sale very soon.

A few things we can learn from the documents include the fact that Glass users will be denied 802.11n, as only the slower 802.11b and 802.11g will be included. There’s also a Bluetooth radio– Broadcomm supplied the radios for testing purposes, so perhaps the company will score big once Glass goes into production, assuming that it does some day.

The available documents contain no mention of a 3G or 4G radio which may mean that Glass relies on a Bluetooth or WiFi connection to a mobile phone to deliver its augmented reality (AR) services beyond a WiFi hotspot.

But there is a hint of how Glass might work in the description of one test that says “A video stored within the device was played on the heads-up display with audio running to the vibrating element and transmitting the low-energy Bluetooth mode.”

But this could also be a reference to a pending Google patent for a bone-conduction speaker, some observers are speculating. We will keep you in the loop, as always.

In other mobile news

Only thirty-six short hours after it saw life in its new implementation, Apple’s shiny new iOS 6.1 operating system had already been downloaded and installed by about 26.3 percent of the 13 million iOS iPhone and iPad users around the globe.

Released on Monday by market analytics firm Onswipe, Apple’s latest OS update was downloaded by almost a quarter of iOS users.

Among the iOS users tracked by Onswipe, 24 percent were iPhone owners and about 21.2 percent were Apple iPad owners.

Furthermore, various Onswipe data reveals that about 11.3 percent of users had already upgraded to iOS 6.1 within the first 24 hours.

Based on these stats, the latest iOS version hit a record for the quickest adoption rate. The data doesn’t include all iOS users, just those tracked by Onswipe.

The firm provides wireless customers with tools to create Web sites designed to be viewed on mobile devices. As such, Onswipe’s platform tracks only about 13 million active iOS users, up from 10 million in December.

To be sure, that’s rather a small share of the total number of iOS users, even those who’ve been running iOS 6. Unveiling iOS 6.1 on Monday, Apple marketing vice president Phil Schiller said that iOS 6 reached almost 300 million iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users in just five months.

Apple introduced its over-the-air (OTA) update feature with iOS 5 in October of 2011. As such, users can update their devices directly without having to go through iTunes as the middleman.

Some wireless industry observers believe that people have finally grown comfortable with the OTA feature and know how it works, making it easier for them to update their devices quickly and bug-free.

In other wireless industry news

This morning at 10.00 AM EST in New Yorck City, Research In Motion will finally unveil its long-anticipated BlackBerry 10 operating system and the first BlackBerrys running on the new platform.

For RIM, there’s a whole lot riding on the success of BlackBerry 10, which represents a wholly different platform than the older BlackBerry operating system. Some wireless industry analysts even say that this could kill the company if BB 10 doesn’t live up to the tremendous amount of hype that RIM has generated in the last 12 months.

RIM is betting that the more advanced software and improved hardware will convince its base of users to stick with BlackBerry, as well as lure in new users tired of other platforms. But which other platforms RIM is talking about isn’t sure.

Nevertheless, Research In Motion hasn’t been standing still these past few months. Beyond working out the kinks of BlackBerry 10, it has rallied the support of app developers, drummed up some enthusiasm from wireless carriers, and test-driven the new hardware.

Thanks to the developer test units RIM released early on, there have been several good looks at the operating system. But this will be the first time we get a full look at the hardware.

RIM is essentially starting over with a brand new platform, and is competing against another operating system in the case of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 OS.

Meanwhile, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS tower over both platforms, literally. Android has gained a lot of new users as of late, and the trend appears to be increasing.

In other mobile news

An order issued over the weekend by the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress will make unlocking a cell phone in the United States illegal under certain conditions.

An amendment to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) will also apply to all cell phones purchased after Jan. 26, 2013 and is aimed less at individual subscribers who buy their phones at subsidized rates, but rather at stemming what CTIA alleges is large-scale phone trafficking operations that buy large quantities of prepaid phones, unlock them, and resell them in foreign markets where wireless carriers don’t subsidize handsets.

Nevertheless, even if implemented against trafficking operations, the new rules open up the door for penalties against individuals and companies who unlock mobile devices in the U.S.

People who unlock their devices are now subject to $2,500 fines, while larger operations could be fined as much as $500,000 and imprisoned for 5 years, according to Public Knowledge.

The new rules overturn a previous ruling from June of 2010, when the Library of Congress said that cell phone users who unlock their phones are not in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

That ruling stemmed from a previous request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that asked the Librarian of Congress to renew a 2006 rule exempting cell phone unlocking so that mobile handsets can be used with other telecom carriers.

At the time, the EFF said mobile phone unlockers had been successfully sued under the DMCA even though there was no copyright infringement involved in the unlocking itself.

Sherwin Siy, of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, says there’s a lot of issues with this most recent ruling. “For one, it’s a little ridiculous to think that copyright laws are intended to prevent people from switching between different phone providers easily,” Siy wrote in a blog.

“Instead of being used to reward authors and creators (it’s not like the phone firmware is a big cash cow for anyone), it’s being used to lock customers in to their existing providers, hurting their ability to vote with their feet and switch to a competitor. Two, why limit the choice to so many consumers?,” added Siy.

In other mobile news

A new Chinese startup firm says it has successfully ported Google’s Android operating system to Windows. The application is still in beta, with the usual caveats about crashing the host system, but the interest promptly took down a Google server.

But before you get all excited, running Android apps on Windows isn’ new, it’s been around for over a year. BlueStacks already does a reasonably good job of that and locks into various retailers including Google Play and Amazon’s Appstore.

But to be fair to Google, Bluestacks’ support for the more challenging video modes is a bit sketchy, and in-app purchasing is still a work in progress, but it is a workable solution for those who want to run Android apps on a desktop – even if it doesn’t offer the Android user interface.

Given the server failure just now, we can’t tell you how stable Windows Android is, at least not today, although there’s word of encouragment, even if most of the postings are discussing the server failure rather than the quality of the software it was serving.

App developers ordinarily use an Android simulator provided by Google, but that just emulates mobile handset hardware onto which various versions of the Android can be loaded instead of running the operating system directly on Windows 7 or 8.

It’s difficult to imagine if that confers any particular advantage, although one can imagine better performance, but practicality has rarely been the driving force behind esoteric OS ports. Time will tell in the next few weeks how all of this will pan out. We’ll keep you posted.

In other mobile news

Samsung said late yesterday that its fourth quarter new profit grew 76 percent to another record high on strong sales of its Galaxy Tab smartphones and newly introduced tablets.

The South Korean company reported a profit of US $6.6 billion. It was the 5th consecutive record quarterly profit for Samsung, which reported a 19 percent increase from comparative numbers posted in 2012.

About 47.9 percent of that revenue came from its mobile communications division, particularly strong sales of its Galaxy S3 smartphone and Galaxy Note 2 ‘phablet’.

The results were slightly improved from the previous earnings guidance issued by the company 10 days ago. Samsung announced early this month that it had sold more than 100 million smartphones in the Galaxy series since its launch in May 2010, calling it the driving force behind the electronics maker’s rise to the top in the global smartphone market.

“Despite uncertainties in Europe and concerns over the U.S. fiscal cliff creating a difficult business environment, we did our best this quarter to achieve stronger earnings based on a strategic focus on differentiated and high value-added products as well as our technological competitiveness,” said company spokesperson Robert Yi.

While its sales of LED TVs also helped boost earnings, Samsung said that overall demand for home appliances declined due to what the company called the “tepid global economy.”

Samsung said that demand was weak for PC DRAMs during the quarter, while the semiconductor unit posted $8.97 billion in sales, a ten percent increase quarter over quarter.

Samsung’s memory chip business contributed $1.3 billion in operating profits, a 39 percent quarterly increase. But the company also warned that overall demand for memory chips in the first quarter would be tempered by seasonably poor sales of PCs and mobile devices.

“Heading into this year, we are expecting a slower recovery in the component business due to reduced capital expenditures, while competition in the set business will intensify further as demand slows and the mid to lower-end market,” Yi added.

« « Goodbye RIM, hello BlackBerry 10 | Apple’s new iOS 6.1 attracts a strong number of new users » »