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Tech News: Apple Scores Patent for Buying Songs Offline


Plus, more free WiFi on London's Tube, the Samsung Galaxy Win, and Ericsson's acquisition of Microsoft's IPTV division.


Apple Patents System for Offline iTunes Purchases

This morning, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted US Patent No. 8,417,575, first filed in 2010, to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) for "on-device offline purchasing using credits." The system would allow users to purchase credits that are stored on a device and can be put towards purchasing media from iTunes without any Internet connection.

As of now, there is no way to buy songs, apps, or movies from iTunes without an Internet connection, but this new app could make such a thing possible, at least in part. The patent and rumors surrounding it are somewhat confusing, but the patent describes content that is on a user's device but not an actually owned part of the iTunes library. Credits are bought and stored on the device, along with content in an unauthorized form; it will either be unplayable, playable a few times, or of lower quality. Once a user buys the file with a pre-purchased credit, it becomes authorized and fully functional. All that is required is a data network to update the user's credit balance, so this technology could potentially be a boost to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users.The patent describes no particular hardware, and therefore the new offline purchasing technology could be part of a firmware update.

We'll learn more about the details if Apple develops the technology, which could be an incentive for iTunes users without ready Internet access to buy more media, and could possibly drive sales higher.

Austin Is Likely the Next American City to Get Google Fiber

Last fall, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) launched its ultra-high speed Internet and TV service Google Fiber in 180 neighborhoods of Kansas City, providing subscribers with Internet speed of one gigabit per second, which is about 100 times faster than the average connection in the US. Now, with the program having proved to be a success and a spark for innovation in Kansas City, Google appears to be rolling on to Austin, Texas. Late last night, Google cryptically flashed the following message on its home page: "Google Fiber's Next Stop: Austin, Texas." New of the brief flash has circulated widely across the Internet, and many writers have claimed that sources have confirmed the news.

Many speculated that Google Fiber began as less of a business venture and more of a call to action aimed at the major broadband providers, urging them to improve (i.e. speed up) their services by proving that ultra high-speed Internet can be reasonably achieved. However, with the technology moving into Austin, it seems that Google may be continuing its Fiber program as an effective business model. Google will compete primarily with Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), which dominates the broadband market in Austin.

In Kansas City, Google charges $70 per month for ultra high-speed 1 GB Internet service, but also offers seven years of free Internet service at current broadband speeds for a one-time installation fee of $300 (the installation fee is waived for 1 GB service).

89% of Londoners Will Have Free WiFi on the Tube

The second largest mobile carrier in England, O2, has made a deal with Virgin Media (NASDAQ:VMED) to provide free Internet access to its customers on London's Underground metro system. As Virgin already provides Underground Internet service to EE and Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD), the first and third biggest provider in the country, respectively, a whole 89% of London's population will have free access to WiFi on the Tube. Only tourists and subscribers to smaller carriers will have to pay for access.

Virgin began providing WiFi on the metro system before and during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Though the service began as free to all riders, Virgin began charging customers who were not on Virgin Mobile. EE and Vodafone made deals to provide their users with free Virgin WiFi in November 2012.

However, not all of the Tube is WiFi enabled: 120 stations will offer wireless Internet (of the metro network's total 270 stations).

Three, England's fourth largest provider, has not announced plans to become a wholesale customer of Virgin Media.

Samsung Unveils the Galaxy Win and Releases Galaxy Note 8.0

Less than a month after announcing its Galaxy S4, Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) unveiled today the Galaxy Win, a mid-range 4.7 inch Android phone, featuring a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor. The newer phone has less processing power than the S4, which will use a 1.9 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor. (Read this story by Sterling Wong for more information on the S4's processor.)

The new mid-range phone will come with 8GB of internal memory, 1GB of RAM, dual-SIM support, and 720p video recording and playback. The specs are respectable but pale in comparison to the powerful S4. The Win will obviously be more of a Win for consumers on a slightly tighter budget, but no official prices have been announced.

In other Samsung news, the company will release its new 8-inch tablet, the Galaxy Note 8.0, on Thursday. The device feature a 1.6 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and a large 4,700 mAH battery for long battery life. At $399, the device comes at a $200 premium over competition from Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire HD and Google's Nexus 7, though its major competitor, the iPad mini, costs $329.

Early reviews have praised the device's high-speed performance, its light and thin design, its multi-tasking capabilities, and its S pen, which is a highly accurate drawing tool. But reviews have been less positive about the weak speakers and display resolution (check out this review from The Verge).

Ericsson Is Buying Microsoft IPTV Business

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Mediaroom IPTV business makes software for use by phone companies in delivering television over the Internet, and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) has struck a deal today to acquire the business. The deal will make Ericsson the leading provider of IPTV with a market share of 25%.

IPTV, or Internet protocol television, uses the Internet to transmit multimedia via existing telecom and cable networks. Ericsson will use the acquisition to serve companies that are in competition with providers that use cable, satellite, and the Web to provide multimedia content to subscribers.

Ericsson has estimated that the global IPTV market will reach 76 million subscribers by the end of 2013, with $32 billion in revenue. By 2015, the company estimates those figures will grow to 105 million subscribers and $45 billion in revenue. Ericsson is already the world's largest manufacturer of equipment for building mobile telecommunications networks, and the Microsoft IPTV acquisition will further the company's global hold on mobile networks.

More Tech stories from Minyanville:

The PC Isn't Dead, It's Just gone 'Ultramobile'

A Budget iPhone is a Bad Idea

Buildings Can Now Eat Pollution

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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