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Google buys BumpTop, could target 3D interface at iPad

Apple passes 1m sales with launch of 3G tablet

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After the US launch of the 3G/Wi-Fi version of the Apple iPad, the tablet has passed the one million sales mark, prompting the firm's co-founder Steve Wozniak to say the PC-Mac war was over as the new formats took Apple well beyond its traditional user base.

But other players will bid for the upper hand in the hybrid PC/mobile space too, with Hewlett-Packard and Nokia among those readying products based on new platforms. And of course, in its escalating war with Apple, Google is unlikely to stand still. It is putting the finishing touches to its new Chrome OS, geared to tablets, smartbooks and the cloud, and has acquired its latest start-up, BumpTop, maker of a 3D user interface.

BumpTop's technology will be incorporated into Chrome OS, bringing an advanced user experience to future tablets, whether this is licensed to third party device makers, or Google decides to repeat its Nexus One gamble with an own-branded 'cloudbook'.

Canadian BumpTop makes a desktop environment that currently runs on PCs. It supports 3D and multitouch, allowing users to make stacks of files to drop into other applications or upload. The price of Google's fourth acquisition in a month was undisclosed, though informed estimates said $35m to $40m.

The start-up, which was founded in February 2007, was set up with $1.65m in funding from angel investors and venture capitalists GrowthWorks and Xtreme Venture Partners. It describes its product as a "desktop workspace with a visually intuitive way to organize and access pictures, video, and documents".

Back at Apple, analysts at Piper Jaffray estimated that 300,000 of the new 3G/Wi-Fi iPads were sold between Friday and Sunday, about the same as the first weekend sales for the Wi-Fi-only model. This may worry AT&T, the exclusive carrier for the cellular version, which seems to have been banking on most users going for the cheaper Wi-Fi gadget. iPad sign-ups are good for AT&T's customer numbers and data revenues, but could put a further strain on its HSPA network.

So far, Apple says, iPad users have downloaded 12 million apps, developers have created 5,000 programs specifically for the device and the new iBookstore has sold 1.5 million ebooks, although games were the dominant category, at 32 per cent of all apps downloaded. According to FierceMobileContent, about 80 per cent of the apps were paid-for, with an average price of $4.67, which is good news for developers and for the positioning of the iPad as a premium software device. By contrast, 73 per cent of iPhone or iPod Touch apps are paid-for, with an average tag of $3.82.

Copyright © 2010, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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