THE WRAP: Plaudits for Steve Jobs; Death overshadows iPhone 4S launch

News of the death of Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs dominated the headlines this week, overshadowing the launch of the firm’s latest iPhone. Rivals were quick to praise the man for his role in shaping the modern tech industry.
Apple’s board confirmed the passing of former chief executive Steve Jobs in a brief statement. Jobs finally stood down from the post in August following a long medical leave of absence – his second in recent years as he battled pancreatic cancer.
The firm hailed Jobs’ “brilliance, passion and energy,” and credited him with making the world “immeasurably better,” with his devices and innovations.
That view was echoed by Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer, who hailed Jobs “a true visionary,” however the greatest accolade was perhaps offered by Microsoft’s former chief Bill Gates, who said working with Jobs over 30 years was “an insanely great honor.”
In a demonstration of the high regard Jobs was held in, the New York Times carried his obituary on its front page – an honor usually reserved for US presidents.
Jobs’ death stole the limelight from the launch of Apple’s latest smartphone – the iPhone 4S -, which features the same dual-core processor as its iPad 2, and a new voice recognition user interface based on advanced artificial intelligence.
Unlike previous Apple launches, though, the new device didn’t win universal praise, with analysts from Informa Telecoms & Media and Ovum criticizing a lack of development in the design of the device, which could leave Apple open to attack from a host of rival vendors.
However, the new device does allow Apple to push previous iPhone models further down the value chain. The firm plans to give the 3GS version away for free to post-pay customers, in a move that could open the door to emerging markets.
In other news, the European Commission’s digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes opened public consultations on copper-line access designed to ensure alternative operators have a level playing field relative to incumbent telcos. New players are essential to convincing investors that fiber upgrades are a safe bet, which will be key to achieving the Commission’s goals for access to high-speed broadband services, Kroes said.
Separately, the commissioner told an ICT conference that digital literacy must be improved if the region is to reap the full benefits of forthcoming high-speed networks. Kroes pledged to “fight or bang heads together,” to achieve the necessary political support, noting that around 90% of jobs in the market will soon require some sort of IT knowledge.
Regulation was also front and center in India this week, with the Department of Telecom revealing plans to tackle alleged discrepancies in revenue statements from Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices and Vodafone Essar. The five are accused of dodging higher license fees by misreporting their income.
Bharti, Idea and Vodafone are also in the firing line from fixed-line operator BSNL, which is threatening to disconnect services to the trio due to a dispute over interconnection fees. BSNL is reportedly seeking a per minute fee of between 0.65 rupees (€0.009) and 0.80 rupees – considerably higher than the 0.15 rupees a minute offered by the three private carriers.
India’s government is also backing calls for the UN to establish global internet policies in a bid to improve its control over Web content. Pro-freedom campaigners claim the move, which is also backed by Brazil, will stifle innovation and diminish the democratizing force of the internet.
Ovum predicted heavyweight operators from Europe and the US are poised to ramp their investment in Asia Pacific to cash in on the strong growth potential offered by the region. However, current local partners risk being dropped as multinationals invest in their own infrastructure.

And Moody’s Investors Services predicted little impact to European telco’s credit ratings as a result of acquiring 4G licenses. The firm predicts most major operators will spend around €1.5 billion in auctions, with prices being kept at reasonable levels due to a lack of competition from new entrants.