With the way Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) not only straddles the burgeoning tablet and smartphone markets but also holds sway across the computer, home-entertainment, and media fields, the moves it makes can have an impact on the future of hundreds of companies. With that in mind, we're taking a look at the week in Apple news to see how the latest activity affects the Cupertino giant, its suppliers, and even its competitors.
Microsoft re-enters the mobile fray
Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) mobile market share has dropped precipitously as its Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system increasingly looked dated next to what Apple and other mobile competitors are offering. However, the company's making a splash with the rollout of Windows Phone 7.
Aside from the bizarre "always delightful, and wonderfully mine" tagline Microsoft unveiled during its Monday rollout event, reviews have generally been positive and the launch went off without a hitch. Phones will be available this holiday season on both AT&T (NYSE: T ) and T-Mobile and will include phones from LG, HTC, Samsung, and Dell (NYSE: DELL ) .
HTC's Surround phone, coming to AT&T for the holidays.
But despite the good news, some of Microsoft's carrier relationships are troubling. The blowout success of Motorola's (NYSE: MOT ) Droid illustrated the outsized impact of having a strong carrier pushing a new release. AT&T, for one, looks to be pulling its weight; the company will set up a special Windows Phone 7 area in each store, and in a few hundred locations it will even feature a larger Microsoft-only area, featuring netbooks and Xbox 360 systems.
However, while Sprint (NYSE: S ) lined up to announce that it will offer a Windows Phone 7 device early next year, Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) was conspicuously absent from the launch. Big Red has said it still plans on launching a Windows Phone in 2011, but you have to wonder whether relations between the two companies got strained during the marketing of the failed Kin project. Microsoft has claimed that because of limited resources, it had to focus on phones that work on GSM networks, which is what AT&T and T-Mobile use. Sprint and Verizon, however, don't. However, if Verizon was willing to make a big push on Windows Mobile, you'd think that a company of Microsoft's means would have put in the extra work to get the phones ready for Verizon in time for the holidays.
I've long been skeptical of Microsoft's mobile ambitions. It's not that the new Windows Phone isn't a worthy competitor; it just faces a severe content disadvantage, with Apple and Google's Android both enjoying strong support from a community of developers. In addition, Google's Android has made huge inroads with handset makers, and its free licensing strategy helps reduce costs.
Even though Microsoft finds itself back in the mobile game, it takes a lot more than an innovative product to crack into the high-end smartphone market -- as we learned from Palm last year.
Read more about Microsoft's mobile launch.
No LTE iPhone for you. Come back, one year!
Blog TechCrunch, which reported that Verizon was getting the iPhone before The Wall Street Journal did, is now reporting that this CDMA model of the iPhone won't take advantage of next-generation 4G LTE technology. For users wanting the faster download rates LTE technology offers, the news is likely to be disheartening. However, the reports are consistent with how Apple operates. When the iPhone made its debut, it didn't hop aboard AT&T's 3G network, even though AT&T had introduced 3G three years earlier. It's just not in Apple's nature to risk compromising the quality of its product with untested technology.
In the case of 4G rollouts, Verizon hopes to have LTE in 38 cities by the end of 2010, while AT&T won't be rolling out its network until the middle of next year -- the same time as the next expected iPhone refresh. The initial series of LTE chipsets will probably be fairly power-hungry, too.
The process of getting a sample chipset design and then designing a phone around that chipset is a long and arduous process. While other companies will hurry forward with their LTE-compatible phones to get a push from carriers eager to promote their significant investments in next-generation technologies, Apple doesn't need to risk a suboptimal 4G experience by rushing an inferior LTE-friendly model to the market.
All things considered, the report makes a lot of sense. If you're waiting for a 4G-ready iPhone next year, it looks like you'll be out of luck.
Read fellow Fool Tim Beyers' argument that Apple should release a 4G iPhone for Sprint.
Verizon and Apple's steamy affair heats up
After reports broke last week that the iPhone is headed to Verizon, the two companies took another step to expand their relationship. On Thursday, Apple announced the iPad will go on sale at Verizon stores. The effect on Apple shouldn't be too significant, though, since Verizon won't even sell a 3G version of the device. Instead, its models will use small "MiFi" gadgets to connect to 3G. But the news is still significant, because it validates reports of the strengthening relationship between the two companies.
Read more analysis on the iPad's upcoming Verizon debut.
That's it for this week's Apple news. If you're searching for other opportunities in the mobile world, we've created a special report featuring a mobile giant that The Motley Fool has put its own money behind. Click here to get instant access to this report right now.