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Thursday, September 11, 2008, 03:55 pm PT (06:55 pm ET)

Apple denies caving on NBC; Apple TV HD show update likely

Apple is dismissing notions that it gave in to NBC's pricing strategy to get highly coveted TV shows back. Meanwhile, legal entanglements are likely to keep South Koreans away from iPhones until next year, and an Apple TV update for HD television shows is likely.

Apple, NBC continue fight over pricing claims

Although Apple touted the return of NBC to the iTunes TV show catalog this week, the staunch disagreements between the two resurfaced again late Wednesday after Apple's iTunes VP Eddy Cue rejected arguments made by NBC as to who made the needed concessions.

Just after the news broke at the "Let's Rock" event, NBC's digital distribution head claimed that Apple had finally understood that it was "too rigid" on pricing and loosened its restrictions, which allegedly barred studios from lowering their prices. Cue, however, insists not just that Apple has "never" forbidden lower prices but that the iPod maker has already offered discounted packages.

"We've had holiday packages with shows with the right themes," the Apple executive says. "We've done things in the past with big name actors so we've packaged those things in the past."

Cue further rebuts notions that the $2.99 price for HD-resolution episodes has anything to do with the NBC spat, saying instead that the studio was given the same treatment as any other on iTunes.

It's difficult to know for sure, however, whether either side is honest in its current interpretation of events. When Apple removed NBC shows in December of last year, Cue himself asserted that NBC had wanted $4.99 episodes while NBC itself claimed that Apple wouldn't allow it to price TV content at a "profitable" rate.

Laws main hurdle to South Korean iPhone

No matter how eager South Korean carriers might be to sell iPhones, a local standard may bar the iPhone from sales in the country, according to claims by an unnamed official from major provider KTF.

The staffer doesn't say how close his company is to reaching a deal with Apple for iPhone 3G other than to say talks are underway; he adds, though, that a required standard known as the Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI) would most likely keep the handset out of South Korea until early 2009 at the earliest.

WIPI determines how phones sold in the country can handle data and has in part been a protectionist measure for domestic sales, handing 90 percent of the Korean market to local companies such as LG and Samsung.

Special exemptions have been made to HTC and Nokia but are unlikely to be granted frequently, says an official from the Korean Communications Commission. No plans are in place to revise or scrap the law, he adds. Any changes would most likely take "more than one meeting" to accomplish.

Apple has never formally set out a Korean release and has so far said only that it would make its first Asian inroads in 2008, which have already been made with Hong Kong, Japan, Macau and Singapore.

Apple TV for HD shows likely

With the launch of HD content on iTunes, many Apple TV owners are wondering at the absence of a firmware upgrade that exposes the higher-resolution TV content to the media hub.

Although these customers can always download the shows first to their computers and then sync the content, the decision to offer a form of HD first on iTunes is a reversal of the situation when it was first introduced at the start of the year, when only Apple TVs could download paid HD content.

Even so, most observers believe an Apple TV update is likely if not certain given the device's role; at over 1.4GB for a full-length show, transferring from a computer to an Apple TV will both take a long time and monopolize the local network.