The iPad and the Rise of the Keyboard Case

A new idea is catching on. The idea is simple: build a Bluetooth keyboard right into an iPad case, and you’ve got yourself a total netbook replacement in a single, svelte package. It’s a watershed moment for the iPad, and for tablets in general.

iPhone Pretty Big in Japan After All: Report

Despite early reports that the iPhone wasn’t selling so well in Japan (LINKS), due at least in part to the overabundance of really cool phones available there that do things like allow for live TV watching, it seems that Apple (s aapl) is in fact doing remarkably well in the country. Better, in fact, than it’s doing in the U.S., according to a new report (Japanese only).

Impress R&D, a Tokyo-based research firm, released a report this week that places the iPhone well ahead of the competition with 46 percent of the Japanese smartphone market. That’s a ridiculously high number, especially when you compare it to the iPhone’s rather modest second place in market share in the U.S. Read More about iPhone Pretty Big in Japan After All: Report

The Case for an AOL Renaissance

Now that AOL has been spun off from Time-Warner, it can write a new chapter for itself. If AOL does several key things right, it has a chance of being successful again. We look at some opportunities, along with the risks each one entails.

Android Ecosystem — This Week in Android

Welcome to our newest Monday feature — Android Ecosystem! This week starts off with a huge bang — the longest and most detailed review I’ve yet seen on the ARCHOS Internet Tablet with Android. Steve Paine really put this 4.8″ non-phone slate tablet through the paces and this is a must read for anyone considering the device. Initial reports from Steve and some of our own readers pegged the unit as buggy and unstable, but firmware fixes have done a world of good. You’ll need to bring your own 3G connectivity though as there’s still only Wi-Fi in the hardware. The other big downside in my opinion is the same one I’ve run into with Android on my Intel Core Solo UMPC — no access to the official Android Marketplace. There are workarounds for alternative application stores, but none are as good as native access to the Marketplace. My hope is that Google (s goog) eventually relaxes hardware requirements and allows more Android devices to use the Marketplace. They could still limit installation of applications by hardware specs so that folks could use basic Android apps on any Android device.

Speaking of Android devices, a bunch are expected out of HTC in the first half of 2010. But more timely and available might be the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, which now may be found toting T-Mobile’s U.S. 3G frequencies. Assuming no deviations from the spec sheet, this would a be second variant of the Android 1.6 handset — the first being compatible with the AT&T (s t) network. The latest report from Android Guys confirms the 1700 MHz support we first heard back in early November, and while two people saying something doesn’t make it true, I think this rumor has legs. And support for T-Mobile U.S. 3G.

Time Warner Gives Up on AOL

imagesTime Warner (s twx) today continued unraveling perhaps its biggest corporate mistake by announcing that it would spin out AOL into a separate company by the end of this year. Earlier this year, it had amended its debt agreements and brought in a new CEO, setting off speculation that an AOL split was imminent. As part of the spinout, Time Warner, which owns 95 percent of AOL, will purchase the 5 percent held by Google (s goog) in the third quarter of the year. The newly independent AOL will comprise the Internet access business, web content, social networking and Platform-A advertising division. Read More about Time Warner Gives Up on AOL

Time Warner Results: Cable Demand Takes a Hit

Updated: Today, Time Warner (s TWX), the conglomerate that includes movie studios, magazines, AOL and a cable company, reported sales of $12.3 billion for the fourth quarter and a $16 billion loss (thanks to a $24.1 billion impairment charge). A weak advertising climate dragged down AOL and the magazine division’s sales, and Time Warner Cable’s (s TWC) contributed more than $13 billion in impairment charges. Time Warner also confirmed that the cable company will be spun out this quarter — leaving Time Warner with content and no pipes.

Update: On the conference call, COO Landel Hobbs said Time Warner Cable also plans to expand its metered broadband to more cities this year. I’ve emailed the company get more details, such as the specific cities and if it will stick to its uncompetitive upper tier that offers a mere 40 GB per month before charging overage fees. In contrast, Comcast (s CMsca) offers a 250 GB monthly cap and AT&T (s T) offers a 150 GB per month limit before charging fees. Read More about Time Warner Results: Cable Demand Takes a Hit

Cisco Grasps at Video to Keep Growing

When you’ve got to grow a $40 billion-a-year company, sometimes there’s just no way to do it other than to capitalize on fear. In the case of Cisco’s medianet concept, defining a series of networks transporting video, launched today, the company seems to be capitalizing on the supposed fear of online video swallowing the web (this fear is used by carriers to implement bandwidth caps and tiered pricing). Cisco says it is launching a series of products to enable this “medianet,” but really it’s only launching a video processing engine that will transcode videos to allow them to be played on any device. This isn’t that special.

The other “big” medianet announcements are an IPTV customer win, an addendum to the edge router launched last month noting that the router has the ability to add ads to video content and cache that content for faster delivery, and an expansion of Cisco’s telepresence video-conferencing service so it it can be used via satellite. Read More about Cisco Grasps at Video to Keep Growing

RealDVD Free Trial Really Over

RealNetworks sent out an email alerting those people who downloaded RealDVD that the legally-challenged DVD copying software will no longer work after the 30-Day free trial, and they will not be able to upgrade to the full version.

AOL Seeks Directions for a MapQuest Facelift

MapQuest isn’t the shiniest online mapping service. It isn’t the most accurate or the coolest. It is so old school…well, you get the drift. Apparently, that hasn’t deterred over 47 million people who check out the service every month and make it one of the top 20 web sites on the planet.

Well, it is time for MapQuest to get a much-needed facelift. But the AOL subsidiary isn’t getting a makeover in the traditional redesign way: The service is entering a three-month long beta that will experiment with boosting usability of the site. In a conversation, Mark Law, Mapquest’s VP of product development, said the team is working working hard to layer the MapQuest data with content that is helpful to direction seekers.

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Google’s AOL Investment a Loss

[qi:011] In a SEC filing, Google acknowledged that it might come out on the losing side of its $1 billion investment in AOL.

Based on our review, we believe our investment in AOL may be impaired….. We will continue to review this investment for impairment in the future. There can be no assurance that impairment charges will not be required in the future, and any such amounts may be material to our Consolidated Statements of Income.

Back in April, I had pointed out that Google’s investment in AOL was worth $500 million, mostly because there were rumors that AOL was being valued at $10 billion as it was being prepped for a sale.  At the time Google made an investment in AOL, its estimated value (as per deal terms) was $20 billion. Some people believe that AOL is worth less than $10 billion these days.

Apparently buying Bebo for an outrageous sum hasn’t helped prop-up the company valuation, as Time Warner gets set to bust it up. Maybe they need to hire Brett Favre as a spokesperson to get people jazzed up! As for Google – too bad they have to take the lumps. Live by the sword, die by the sword.