Apple Faces

Apple (AAPL) is facing a lull in innovation and is need of another era of “creative leap” seen in the past decade when it introduced hugely successful gadgets like iPhone and iPad, said ex-CEO John Sculley.

“We’re in a period now where there’s kind of a lull in innovation so I wouldn’t expect to see a creative leap from Apple for maybe a few years,” Sculley, who was at the helm of the company from 1983-1993, told CNBC Asia’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday.

“Now is the fast follower evolution decade – it’s a time where we’re not at a big breakthrough point in time, but where fast followers excel – so Samsung, an excellent fast follower is doing really well,” he added.

In order to remain competitive in the fast follower evolution decade, he said Apple needs to step up its focus on emerging markets such as China, India and Southeast Asia where it lags far behind rivals in smartphone sales.

(Read More: Can Apple Afford to Ignore Emerging Markets?)

In India, for example, Apple has around a five percent market share, compared to 40 percent for Samsung – which has gained an edge over the California-based company due its vast product offerings in a wide price range.

For Apple, this may mean manufacturing lower-cost smartphones to appeal to emerging market consumers, according to Sculley who is now a venture capitalist.

“In Indonesia, you can buy smartphones for around $120, Apple sells a smartphone for $800,” he said.

Investors Shouldn’t Fret

Discussing the 30 percent-plus decline in Apple’s share price over the past six months, driven by concerns over the company’s product pipeline, supply chain and rising competition, Sculley said investors are “overacting”.

(Read More: Apple Should Not Be Trading at This Multiple: Cramer)

Asked whether he thought the death of founder Steve Jobs has dampened Apple’s future potential to innovate, he said: “Apple has an outstanding management team – (CEO) Tim Cook is a great leader. [But] Tim Cook is not a product person, he’s a supply chain expert- probably the best in the world – but he has a great product person by his side and that’s Johnny Ives. I think the leadership team at apple is impressive.”

Over the longer-run, he added, “I wouldn’t worry about Apple; Apple is going to do just fine.”

Disclosure: John Sculley owns Apple shares.

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Smart

Jimmy Buchheim is behaving oddly.

On the floor of the world’s largest cellphone trade show in Barcelona, Spain, he’s looking at the screen of his iPod Touch, taking a few steps, and then looking again. Now and then he backtracks or turns, and looks again. Slowly, he confines his movements to a smaller and smaller area. Then he drops to his knees, and checks the screen again. He scrabbles forward.

“There we are!” he says.

Buchheim has found his keys, which had been hidden behind a wastebasket by a skeptical reporter. On the key ring is a small disc, slightly bigger than a quarter. That’s what Buchheim was homing in on, with his iPod. It allowed him to find his keys, hidden out of sight in an apartment-sized booth.

Buchheim’s Davie, Fla.-based company, Stick-N-Find Technologies, wants to give people a way to find things, whether it’s keys, wallets, TV remotes, or cat collars.

There’s no real trick to sending out a radio signal and having a phone pick it up. That’s been done before. What makes the Stick-N-Find practical is a new radio technology known as Bluetooth Low Energy, which drastically reduces the battery power needed to send out a signal. That means the disc can be small, light enough for its sticky back to adhere to a lot of surfaces, and be powered by a watch-type battery that lasts up to two years without recharging. The signal can be picked as far as 300 feet away, but that’s under ideal circumstances. On the floor of the wireless show, with a multitude of Wi-Fi transmitters jamming the airwaves, the range was roughly 20 feet.

One downside to Bluetooth Low Energy: It doesn’t come cheap. Stick-N-Find charges $50 for two “stickers” from its first production run, which starts shipping next week. It gave early backers a better deal _ 4 discs for $65 _ on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, where it had sought to raise $70,000 from donors and ended up getting $931,970 by the time the campaign ended last month.

Another downside is that few devices can pick up the signals. The latest two iPhones can do it, as can the latest iPod Touches and iPads. The latest high-end Samsung smartphones work, too. Bluetooth Low Energy is expected to become a standard feature in phones, but it’s not yet.

Whatever device you use, it won’t tell you exactly where your sticker is located. All it can tell is how far away it is. That means finding something is a process of walking around and checking whether you’re getting “hotter” or “colder.” Of course, often you don’t really need to know where your wallet is: knowing that it’s within 8 feet and therefore somewhere in the car with you is assurance enough. Buchheim says the company has plans to add direction-finding features.

Users can also set up a virtual “leash” between a sticker and a Bluetooth device. Depending on the settings, when the two devices move a certain distance away from each other, the sticker starts beeping or the device’s screen shows an alert. That way, you could use sticker in your wallet, linked to your phone, to let you know if you’re leaving either one behind.

Buchheim sees this as just the start for what Bluetooth Low Energy can do. Stick-N-Find is working with a museum that’s interested in putting stickers on its exhibits, so they can issue tablets or other devices to visitors that can sense the proximity of exhibits, and say “Hello, this is the statue of so-and-so,” Buchheim says.

It could even end up as a technology for the blind _ one that tells them where their belongings are, he says.

___

Follow Peter Svensson on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/petersvensson.

© 2013 AP DIGITAL
This story is sourced direct from an overseas news agency as an additional service to readers. Spelling follows North American usage, along with foreign currency and measurement units.

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Libs to foster online learning- Abbott

The federal coalition’s higher education policy will have a focus on online learning.

The opposition is setting up a working group of MPs to explore how Australian universities can take advantage of growth in the online learning market.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has told the Universities Australia conference in Canberra it’s important to look at opportunities presented by technology that can improve on campus-based learning.

‘This is not about delivering courses cheaply, it’s actually about teaching better,’ he told the conference on Thursday.

The six-MP working group will report to opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne by the end of April.

Mr Abbott also said universities needed government policy stability, to bed down major changes in recent years such as the move to demand-driven funding.

‘This is especially so at a time when they face a host of challenges that have nothing to do with government, such as adapting to the rise of online learning,’ he said.

‘Often, there is nothing that government can contribute except interference.’

Mr Abbott pledged that a coalition government, if elected on September 14, would be stable and consultative.

‘There should be a steadiness and purposefulness about the work of universities, which is unlikely to be present in the urgent unpredictability of politics,’ he said.

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Wastewater treatment process may keep fish off antidepressants

While some people may wonder about the possible side-effects of antidepressants on the people who are taking them, here’s another thing to consider … what happens when the residue from those drugs passes through the user’s urine and into the sewage system? As it turns out, it can enter local water systems and affect the fish. Now, researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed technology to keep that from happening.

In a study recently conducted at Sweden’s Umeå University, perch were exposed to the anxiety-moderating drug Oxazepam, in concentrations similar to those found downstream from sewage treatment plants. It was observed that the normally-shy fish became bolder, venturing away from their protective schools to hunt for food – a behavior that makes them more likely to be eaten by predators.

It was additionally noted that they ate more quickly. This could allow them to eat a greater amount overall, potentially throwing ecosystems out of balance, and creating algae blooms via increased amounts of feces.

Umeå environmental chemist Jerker Fick was quoted as saying, “The solution to the problem is not to stop medicating ill people, but to try to develop sewage treatment plants that can capture environmentally hazardous drugs.” Apparently, that’s what KTH has done.

The technology utilizes a process known as membrane distillation, in which liquid water passes through a microporous membrane in the form of water vapor – once on the other side of that membrane, the vapor moves across an air gap and then condenses on a collecting plate, thus returning to its liquid state. Antidepressants in the unfiltered liquid are unable to pass through the membrane, so they end up collecting on its liquid, “dirty” side.

The water temperature reportedly doesn’t need to be particularly high in order for the process to work.

The membrane distillation demo project at Hammarby Sjöstadsverket

The membrane distillation demo project at Hammarby Sjöstadsverket

A large-scale membrane distillation system has been set up at KTH’s Hammarby Sjöstadsverket water treatment test facility. When wastewater containing 282 nanograms of Oxazepam per liter was treated, the concentration dropped to under two nanograms per liter – in an ordinary treatment plant, virtually none of the Oxazepam would have been removed.

The results have been similar with most other medications tested. “Of all the 20th century-tested drugs, it is only the remains of the antidepressant Sertraline that we failed to clear 100 percent,” said KTH’s Prof. Andrew Martin. “We have some theories, but cannot yet explain why.”

Source: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Umeå University

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Fire threatens The Vines, Swan Valley

vines fire

THREAT: A Helitac water bomber fighting the fire near The Vines. Source: PerthNow

vines fire

ELLENBROOK: Fire is threatening homes near Ellenbook and The Vines in the Swan Valley. Source: PerthNow

Vines bushfire

PerthNow reader Rebecca Monahan sent in pictures of a bushfire in Upper Swan. Source: PerthNow

Upper Swan bushfire

Nine News reporter Andrew Nelson tweeted this aerial image of the Upper Swan bushfire. Source: PerthNow

Vines bushfire

A bushfire is threatening homes and lives in Upper Swan. Picture: Rebecca Monahan Source: PerthNow

MORE than 70 firefighters have managed to contain a bushfire in Perth’s north-east but urge residents not to return to their homes.

At 4pm, a bushfire emergency warning was downgraded to a watch and act alert for people in the suburbs of Bullsbrook, Ellenbrook, Upper Swan, The Vines, Aveley and Belhus.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services advises that crews are working to consolidate containment lines but warn that the fire, which has burnt 140 hectares, is still not yet control.

The fire is moving fast in a westerly direction, fanned by easterly winds with gusts up to 50km an hour and spot fires are starting up to 200m ahead of the fire.

Send your fire pictures to PerthNow: readerpics@perthnow.com.au

The fire started at Upper Swan, between the intersection of Great Northern Highway and Apple Road at about 11.30 but it quickly escalated and an emergency was declared at 1pm.

A relocation point has been set up at Altone Park Recreation Centre at 332 Benara Road, Beechboro.

Upper Swan bushfire

PerthNow reader Adam Zauch sen this image of the Upper Swan bushfire from the porch of his Ellenbrook home. Source: PerthNow

Earlier today, one resident affected by the fire told PerthNow she had received an a call on her home phone just after 1pm, saying ‘Emergency, emergency, all residents in The Vines and Ellenbrook evacuate immediately due to bushfire.’

Another resident of The Vines said the water bombers were an impressive sight, and said they took heart that there were plenty of lakes for them to draw from.

The following roads remain closed: Vines Avenue from Bordeaux Lane, Hermitage Drive and Chenin Lane.

The Department of Education advises parents of students at schools in Ellenbrook that it is safe to collect their children despite a bushfire nearby.

Parents or carers affected by the bushfire and unable to collect students are advised they will be cared for at the school until it is safe for them to do so.

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