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Tech companies including Nokia and Hewlett-Packard and industry associations have backed a submission by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, warning that exclusions based on standards-essential patents could stifle innovation and competition.

In a statement on Wednesday in the public interest before the U.S. International Trade Commission, the FTC said that ITC’s issuance of an exclusion or cease and desist order in matters involving implementation of standards-essential patents, that were committed to be licensed on FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms, has the potential to cause substantial harm to U.S. competition, consumers, and innovation.

FTC made the submission in the context of the ITC investigation into Motorola Mobility’s charges of patent infringement against Apple and Microsoft. ITC administrative law judge David Shaw has recommended a ban on Xbox consoles in the U.S.

The FTC said it was concerned that a patent owner can make a FRAND commitment as part of the standard setting process, and then seek an exclusion order for infringement of the RAND-encumbered standards-essential patent as a way of securing royalties that may be inconsistent with the FRAND commitment.

Holders of declared-essential patents are entitled to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory compensation and terms from implementers of the standard, but they are not entitled to keep a willing licensee from bringing standards-compliant products to market, Nokia said on Wednesday in response to a request for statements in the public interest from the ITC.

If exclusion orders against willing licensees were permitted for infringement of valid, enforceable and essential patents, companies selling standards-compliant products likely would be forced to pay artificially high prices, which are non-FRAND, to license the asserted patents, and avoid an exclusion order, it added.

Vendors Make Suggestions

Given that standards-essential patents are at issue, the only dispute at this stage should be whether the royalties demanded by the complainant are fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory, HP said. That dispute, however, should be resolved in the federal courts, and not the ITC, as the federal courts have the authority to provide a monetary remedy that adequately compensates the complainant, HP said in its submission.

Verizon Wireless also recommended that the ITC should direct the patent holder to remedies in federal court, where it should be limited to monetary damages as measured by the value of the patented invention before it was incorporated into the industry standard. The company said it is concerned that an exclusion order regarding smartphones would harm consumers, wireless carriers, and the national interest.

Microsoft put the blame squarely on Motorola which it said in a blog post had “decided to break the system by using its standard essential patents to block other companies from selling their products.” It had hoped that Google would break the practice. Google last month completed the acquisition of Motorola.

In November, Apple sent a letter to ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), asking for more consistency in the licensing of essential patents. Apple’s suggested terms include the promise to not try to block the sale of products when negotiations have failed.

Motorola said in a statement it would welcome having Apple and Microsoft join the more than 50 other companies who have entered into licenses and cross-licenses on a FRAND rate for its portfolio. “To date, however, neither party has been willing to enter into a cross-license on reasonable terms and thus we all find ourselves in seemingly endless litigation,” it added.

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Verizon Nokia Lumia Icon Gets Official: First

Verizon Nokia Lumia Icon gets official: first-impressions

Verizon has refilled its Windows Phone flagship spot, with the Nokia Lumia Icon distilling what we liked from the Lumia 1520 into a 5-inch form-factor with a crisp metal chassis and 20-megapixel PureView. Fronted by a 5-inch, 1080p Full HD OLED ClearBlack display, and running Windows Phone 8 on Qualcomm’s 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 quadcore, what the Lumia Icon is particularly focusing on is video recording quality, both in terms of image thanks to the oversampling and lossless zoom of PureView, and a more impressive soundtrack with directional audio recording. Check out our first impressions after the cut.

The camera on the Lumia Icon is the same 20-megapixel PureView system as on the Lumia 1520, with a six-element Zeiss f/2.4 lens, dual-LED flash, and optical image stabilization. On the front there’s a 2-megapixel camera which can record 720p video. The Icon also gets four microphones: the two on the front, top and bottom, are active during calls for background noise cancellation, while the two on the back are used during video recording.

While that display itself may be down an inch on the Lumia 1520, it still runs at the same 1920 x 1080 resolution, and makes for a phone that’s much easier to hold in one hand. With a pixel density of 441ppi, and a high-brightness mode for easy visibility outside, it offers Nokia’s super-sensitive touchscreen tech so that it’s usable even with gloves on, and is protected with Gorilla Glass 3.

The pure specs don’t quite describe how nicely the Lumia Icon is designed and constructed, however. The frame is milled from a single block of aluminum, and then finished either in matte silver or matte black. The rear panel is matte-finish polycarbonate, with no bump for the PureView camera; on the flip-side, the glass is curved at the edges, making for smoother sweeps of your thumb, and the fascia as a whole is dominated by the display with minimal bezels.

As you’d hope for a flagship phone, there’s no shortage of power. Along with the Snapdragon 800 chip there’s 2GB of memory and 32GB of storage; unfortunately there’s no memory card slot, only the tray for the nanoSIM on the top edge, alongside the headphone jack. A microUSB port is on the bottom for charging and synchronizing.

Similarly the 2420 mAh battery is non-removable, though Nokia claims up to 16hrs of CDMA talktime from it; a full charge is expected to take around 2.5hrs. Happily, wireless charging – using the Qi standard – is included without needing an external case or adapter, along with WiFi a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, a digital compass, A-GPS/GLONASS, and the other usual sensors, including an FM radio.

There’s plenty to like about the Verizon Lumia Icon. It’s well made, neatly designed, and the camera doesn’t compromise, all factors Nokia insists its target audience at the carrier are particularly concerned about. Whether that all holds up over time is something we’ll address in our full review, coming soon; the Nokia Lumia Icon itself will go on sale on February 20th in black and white, priced at $199.99 with a new, two-year agreement.

Apple Patents Designs For All

Jony Ive has long talked about the idea of an all-glass iPhone, dubbed “a single slab of glass” – and the company has now been granted a patent for a potential design, along with a glass Apple Watch and Mac Pro tower.

The illustration of the all-glass iPhone is the most detailed, showing displays on both sides, as well as functional touchscreen buttons on the edges …

Patents are generally written in the most general of terms, which makes Apple’s abstract (spotted by Patently Apple) sound a little like it’s claiming to have invented the concept of a glass box.

An electronic device includes a six-sided glass enclosure defining an interior volume and comprising a first glass member and a second glass member. The first glass member defines at least a portion of a first major side of the six-sided glass enclosure, at least a portion of a peripheral side of the six-sided glass enclosure, a first region along the peripheral side and having a first thickness, and a second region along the peripheral side and having a second thickness different from the first thickness. The second glass member is attached to the first glass member and defines at least a portion of a second major side of the six-sided glass enclosure. The electronic device further includes a touchscreen display within the interior volume and positioned adjacent at least a portion of each of the six sides of the six-sided glass enclosure.

Similarly, the potential applications are described in broad terms, also including both laptops and tablets.

Modern consumer electronic devices take many shapes and forms, and have numerous uses and functions. Smartphones, notebook computers, and tablet computers, for example, provide various ways for users to interact with other people, as well as access information, work, play games, and so forth. Such devices use enclosures to house delicate electrical components, to allow a user to easily interact with and use the device, and to provide a desired shape, form factor, and overall appearance of the device. Enclosures for electronic devices may be formed in various ways and using various materials. For example, enclosures may be formed of plastic or metal […]

An electronic device includes an enclosure comprising a monolithic glass member defining at least a portion of each of a first wall defining a first major surface of the enclosure, a second wall defining a second major surface of the enclosure, and four peripheral walls defining four peripheral surfaces of the enclosure. The electronic device may also include a display within the enclosure and adjacent at least a portion of the first wall and at least a portion of a first peripheral wall of the four peripheral walls, and a touch sensing system within the enclosure and configured to detect touch inputs applied to the enclosure. 

The idea of multiple and extendable displays isn’t new, of course. There are folding phones, dual-display phones, and phones that extend touchscreen functionality to the edges.

But Apple’s patent takes this to a whole new level, envisaging the possibility of the device essentially compromising displays on all sides – something which would require rather sophisticated palm-rejection to avoid accidental touches!

Apple’s illustrations of Apple Watch and Mac Pro tower don’t have the same level of detail.

We often remind that Apple patents many things that never come to market, and this one seems especially conceptual in nature rather than a steer toward actual products. A real all-glass iPhone seems a stretch, but it’s certainly interesting to see the company exploring these sorts of ideas.

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Hp Or No Hp: The Pc Lives

Suggestions that the PC is dead are greatly exaggerated. Flexibility, innovation and users’ storage needs will keep it around a good long while.

Hewlett-Packard, the largest computer maker in the world, said Wednesday it’s looking to get out of the consumer PC business. HP believes its fortunes lie in a business similar to IBM that focuses on supporting large enterprises instead of trying to profit off the razor-thin margins of Pavilion PCs.

Also recently, Mark Dean, IBM’s chief technology officer for the Middle East and Africa and an engineer who worked on the IBM’s first PC, the 5150, declared the end of the PC. Dean argued the traditional mouse-and-keyboard computer was going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records and a number of other extinct or outmoded technologies. The IBM exec says he now uses a tablet as his primary computing device.

Market research firm IDC recently cut its PC growth forecast for 2011 by nearly 3 percentage points from 7.1 to 4.2 percent (IDC and PC World are both owned by International Data Group).

Clearly, the PC is dead, right? Well, no.

First of all, despite falling growth in PCs this year, IDC also predicts PC sales will rebound in 2012 driven by laptop sales. Shoppers are expected to opt for PCs next year thanks to devices with thinner designs, longer battery life, instant on, and touch.

But it’s not just sales that will keep the PC afloat, there also are practical reasons to keep the PC alive for the foreseeable future.

We All Drive Trucks For A Living

Steve Jobs in 2010 famously compared PCs to trucks. The argument goes that more people will gravitate toward using tablets while PCs will be used by people who need some serious horsepower to drive down the digital highway such as graphic designers and video editors. The premise of this argument is that people largely use PCs for doing email and other light typing, checking Facebook, watching videos and playing games.

The problem is an untold number of people still need to use PCs at work, because tablets (at least as they stand now) simply aren’t up to the job.

Even lowly writers are better off using a PC, as PC World’s Tony Bradley recently discovered during a month-long bender with an iPad.

PCs Are Flexible

Tablets aren’t even close to being this flexible. You might be able to jailbreak the iPad to get unauthorized software to run on it, but that’s much more involved than inserting a bootable thumb drive. Tablets are also designed to be replaced year after year because the hardware is largely static and unchangeable, while PCs can change as your needs change and are typically serviceable for at least 3-5 years.

Innovation Is Out There

PCs with integrated touchscreens such as the Acer Aspire Z5610 are evolving, voice control is getting better, and Microsoft’s Kinect Windows SDK may open up a whole new world of interaction for the PC. Who knows? Maybe those wall-sized PC displays predicted by tech luminaries and sci-fi writers may become a standard part of most people’s homes before the decade is out.

You Need To Store Your Stuff

Right now, tablets have puny storage capabilities compared to a PC, where 500GB drives are standard and 1TB drives are easy to come by.

But what about “the cloud,” you say? “We’ll just store all that stuff online.” Maybe. But the future of the cloud is currently up for debate. Amazon and Google want you to use the cloud as if it were a hard drive accessible from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Connect with Ian Paul ( @ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

Eight Lenovo Thinkpads Hit Military Rugged Standards

Lenovo has announced that eight of its ThinkPad notebooks have passed military-standards for ruggedization, making them not only resistant to pressure, humidity, temperature, dust and vibration, but to a greater extent than some “mil-spec” rivals.  The ThinkPad X200, X301, X200s, X200 Tablet, T400, T500, R400 and SL300 all passed durability tests despite not being specifically marketed as ruggedized models.

Lenovo are crediting their Active Protection System (which parks the hard-drive automatically if the laptop drops), roll-cage, shock-mounted hard-drive and spill-resistant keyboard for the successes.  The tests covered:

Vibration (operational and non-operational) – Jostles and jolts the laptops to make sure they can withstand shocks

To coincide with the testing results, Lenovo are adding a high brightness, wide angle screen option to the ThinkPad T400 range, making it four-times brighter than previous displays and, thanks to an anti-glare coating, usable in direct-sunlight.  The Lenovo ThinkPad T400 range starts at $1,350.

Press Release:

Lenovo Puts ThinkPad Laptops to the “Tough Test”: Meets Military Specs for Semi-Rugged Computing

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – February 24, 2009: Lenovo today announced that it is designating eight ThinkPad laptops for use in field and vehicle semi-ruggedized computing environments such as in public safety, utilities, construction and the military. The ThinkPad X200, X301, X200s, X200 Tablet, T400, T500, R400 and SL300 laptops meet a barrage of military specifications tests and are enhanced with specially-designed durability features such as an air-bag like protection system and a roll cage in select models. Because field computing requires excellent screen viewability, Lenovo is also adding a new optional 680-nit high brightness panel to its most popular laptop, the ThinkPad T400 laptop.

“ThinkPad is well known for quality, reliability and innovative security technologies for business computing,” said Tom Ribble, executive director, Worldwide ThinkPad Product Marketing, Lenovo. “The truth is we’ve always built tough laptops that can weather extreme conditions from hiking the rainforests of the Amazon to flying in space. You don’t need a PC that looks like a tank to excel in harsh environments, and unlike many of our competitors, we don’t put an extra charge on toughness.”

Optimized for Outdoors

As the adoption of laptops increases and connectivity options continue to expand, users are spending more and more computing time outdoors. That makes screen visibility extremely important. For a crisp and easily readable experience, Lenovo is equipping the ThinkPad T400 laptop with an optional high brightness, wide angle screen, making it nearly four times brighter than previous ThinkPad laptop screens. The high contrast screen eliminates reflections with its anti-glare finish. And by using energy-efficient LED technology, the laptop maintains long battery life.

Police Departments like the Conover Police Department in North Carolina are using ThinkPad laptops to turn their patrol cars into mobile offices. Reduced time spent at the station writing reports gives officers extra time on patrol to protect their community. Officers are using ThinkPad T Series laptops to write and print incident reports, issue tickets and conduct criminal background checks from their cars. For IT Director, Chris Niver, Lenovo’s engineering made ThinkPad laptops the easy choice.

Military Spec Tested Against the Elements

Baked, battered, blistered and blown with sand, Lenovo put the lineup of eight ThinkPad laptops through the gauntlet to pass a significant number of specifications for military-grade computing.

The ThinkPad laptops met tests for:

Low Pressure – Tests operation at 15,000 feet

Humidity – Cycles 95 percent humidity through the environment

Vibration (operational and non-operational) – Jostles and jolts the laptops to make sure they can withstand shocks

High Temperature – Simulates high heat conditions by baking the laptop up to 140 degrees

Low Temperature – Tests operation at minus 4 degrees

Temperature Shock – Fluctuates between minus 4 and up to 140 degrees to test operation

Dust – Blows dust for an extended amount of time

The tests confirm the durability and reliability that many customers already rely on to battle the elements. Geophysicist, explorer and expedition leader Pasquale Scaturro travels to the far reaches of the planet with his ThinkPad laptop.

“For over 180 days a year I can be found on the road traveling with my with my ThinkPad laptop -sweltering in the hot jungle terrain and surviving frigid arctic and mountain blasts, said Pasquale Scaturro, Exploration Specialists, Inc. “From bugs and humidity, to sand and dust, heat and cold, my ThinkPad laptop has been exposed to them all. I’ve logged more miles on my ThinkPad in the roughest and most extreme environments in the world than perhaps any person alive. From the heights of Mount Everest to the full length of the Nile, the world’s longest river, it’s been with me. The Active Protection System is a must in the rough environments I’ve taken this laptop into. Besides using my ThinkPad to help me navigate in my airplane when I’m flying in the African bush (it’s my real co-pilot) and send Internet dispatches to my website from Mt Everest, I depend on it to keep my geophysical business and my personal connections going. It’s withstood every imaginable environment on Earth and is still performing without missing a beat.”

Built Upon a Strong Foundation for Low Total Cost of Ownership

Lenovo engineers extra durability and reliability features into its ThinkPad laptops to help them survive all-weather conditions, lasting longer and outperforming competitors and leading to a low total cost of PC ownership.

Lenovo durability features include the:

Active Protection System – Temporarily parks the hard drive when the laptop detects a fall or sudden movement via an air-bag like system

Roll Cage – Serves as a protective frame around the internal components where the data resides and processing takes place with an extra top cover roll cage on the ThinkPad X301 laptop

Shock Mounted Hard Drive – Offers extra protection around the hard drive to protect data

Spill Resistant Keyboard – Withstands spills of up to two fluid ounces on select laptops allowing liquid to drain beneath the keyboard

In case of the unexpected, Lenovo offers Warranty and Accident Protection plans to help customers protect their PC investment. Lenovo also offers ThinkPlus Priority Support to give businesses around the clock technical telephone support, priority routing of calls and quick onsite repair. For an even faster response, ThinkPlus Priority 4 Support provides onsite repair within four hours after the original troubleshooting. Online Data Backup services are also available.

Built upon a strong foundation, Lenovo’s laptops offer the latest technologies with models including solid state drive storage for reliability, switchable graphics for longer battery life and the latest Intel® Centrino 2 processor technology for fast processing. They also come with choices of large hard drives, multimedia like Blu-Ray DVD players and a host of wireless connectivity options including WiMAX, mobile broadband, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. Lenovo has also collaborated with AT&T and Ericsson for price reductions on ThinkPad laptop AT&T mobile broadband connectivity. Additionally, the ThinkPad X200 Tablet is the first Tablet to offer WiMAX connectivity.

Pricing and Availability1

The ThinkPad T400 laptop with the high brightness screen is available through Lenovo business partners beginning immediately. Pricing starts at approximately $1,350.

About Lenovo

Nvidia Arm Acquisition Faces Another Hurdle With Ftc Lawsuit

NVIDIA Arm acquisition faces another hurdle with FTC lawsuit

Most people probably don’t know it, and they certainly shouldn’t have to, but Arm’s processor technologies pretty much run the world today. It’s present not just in smartphones and tablets, including Apple’s iPhones, but also in supercomputers, cars, and quite a number of IoT products. It is because of that rather critical position that NVIDIA’s plan to buy Arm from SoftBank is meeting a lot of resistance, and the latest to fall into place could be the final nail in the acquisition’s coffin, unless the two companies can convince the FTC otherwise.

There are too many actors on stage for this NVIDIA-Arm deal, which isn’t surprising because there are too many stakeholders in Arm’s business. Even the UK has reservations because of how the acquisition could endanger the country’s position in the tech market, not to mention raising national security concerns as far as trade secrets go. Before being acquired by Japanese giant SoftBank, Arm or ARM Holdings was an independent UK-based company designing and licensing IP for the chips that power many of the world’s devices today.

NVIDIA is one of Arm’s customers, and its plans to buy the chip designer have naturally ruffled the feathers of its rivals as well as government regulators. The US Federal Trade Commission is actually a bit late to the party, but it might also have the biggest weight considering what’s at stake. Its lawsuit to block NVIDIA’s acquisition of Arm makes it clear that it doesn’t believe NVIDIA can play fair with its competitors once it holds all the cards.

The FTC notes that acquiring Arm puts NVIDIA in a very favorable position to drive or curb the growth of the already struggling semiconductor market. In particular, it would have access to sensitive information from Arm’s other licensees, many of whom include NVIDIA’s direct rivals. Such an arrangement could lead Arm’s licensees to distrust the property and might be forced to seek alternate technologies. While that could help diversify the processor market, it will naturally result in some delays and losses along the way.

NVIDIA and Arm have promised to remain neutral as far as Arm IP licenses and services go, but not everyone is buying it. Many of NVIDIA’s own partners have expressed concern about the ramifications of this acquisition across a wide range of industries. Although best known for its graphics cards, NVIDIA also has stakes in other markets, including data centers and automotive systems.

The acquisition has already been questioned and scrutinized in other regions, including the EU and the UK, but the FTC’s lawsuit could deal the final blow. If it fails to get approval in the US, NVIDIA might be forced to drop its plans altogether, especially if it can’t provide enough guarantees to regulators that it will be impartial in how it runs Arm’s business. Unfortunately, this could also have a negative impact on Arm and its technologies as SoftBank will be forced to find another buyer or, in its worst-case scenario, form an industry consortium willing to purchase the property.

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