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Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 04:15 pm PT (07:15 pm ET)

Bogged down AT&T 3G to clear in months; Buffett criticizes Jobs

Residents of major US cities that have had near-unusable 3G since the iPhone 3G's launch should finally get relief in the months ahead, AT&T says. Meanwhile, Palm is getting its own relief via breakthrough sales of its Pre smartphone, but Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is getting no break frp, Warren Buffett, who says the executive violated good business principles by keeping his liver transplant a secret.

AT&T sees end in sight for worst 3G woes

Those who live in at least New York City and San Francisco should expect a major improvement in the quality of AT&T's 3G over the next several months, carrier spokesman Mark Siegel claimed this week.

Speaking to Gearlog, he said the congestion problem in these areas is primarily owing to their continuing dependence on AT&T's older 1,900MHz 3G network. Since every iPhone user in these cities has to use this frequency, the network is completely overwhelmed and triggers the by now infamous slow speeds, dropped calls and reversions back to 2G that have affected the areas since the iPhone 3G launched in July of last year.

To solve the problem, AT&T is finally adding the 850MHz band to its 3G in these cities and is simultaneously adding 2,100 extra cell stations plus improving the underlying bandwidth for those stations. All three should give iPhones much more headroom. Outside of Spiegel's comments, it's also known that the lower frequency should provide better overall range as well as improved penetration indoors, where 1,900MHz frequencies often break up.

Poor 3G speeds have quickly become a central problem for AT&T in the past year and have proven a liability as many other countries have gone without similar slowdowns. Even outside of major hubs, many customers have sued AT&T alleging that it has deliberately misled Americans by making speed claims it could never match.

Palm Pre may have topped 150,000 sales, 1,000,000 app downloads

Apple wasn't the only company to hear good news on Wednesday as RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky estimated that Palm has had banner sales of its multi-touch Pre phone less than three weeks after it first appeared in stores.

In an investor's note, Abramsky observed that most Sprint stores are still selling out of Pres each day even though many of these are restocked daily with new units. That in turn led to the RBC analyst increasing an estimate for sales so far by another 30,000 phones to reach 150,000. He also increased his prediction for the quarter from 470,000 to 550,000 Pres and now sees Palm shipping 4.1 million phones of any type in its fiscal 2010, and 6.5 million by 2011; both are significant leaps up from 3.2 million and 4.6 million each year.

While the Pre will shoulder much of the load for early successes, the researcher believes growth will only accelerate as Palm adds more carriers in coming months, such as Bell Canada and, in 2010, Verizon. Abramsky further trusts in rumors that a Centro-sized phone known as the Eos will go on sale late this year for other US carriers, including AT&T, at a $99 price low enough to draw in additional customers.

The 150,000 mark is a far cry from Apple's 1 million iPhone 3GS shipments but is strong for Palm, whose sales have rapidly declined as it has depended on faltering sales of PalmOS and Windows Mobile phones.

Simultaneously, though, the company has had good news on the software front courtesy of mobile ad firm Medialets, who noted on Wednesday that Palm's App Catalog had topped 1 million downloads. Again, the number pales in comparison to those for the iPhone App Store, which reached 10 million in just its opening weekend.

The feat is nonetheless impressive as Palm not only has far fewer phones on the market than Apple did at the time but has had far fewer apps: just 30 webOS apps were available at the time the millionth download was recorded.

Buffett: Jobs' surgery should have been reported

Berkshire Hathaway head Warren Buffett had stern words for Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs on Wednesday for the latter's failure to disclose his liver transplant to the public.

Speaking in an interview with CNBC during its Live Lunch program, the famous investor chastised Jobs and said that, as the leader of a major company, the Mac luminary had a responsibility to report any "material fact" about his health that could affect the fate of the company. A life-saving operation certainly fits into this category, Buffett said.

"I think if I have any serious illness, or something coming up of an important nature, an operation or anything like that, I think the thing to do is just tell the American, [or in my case] the Berkshire shareholders about it," he told the TV network. "I work for 'em.  Some people might think I'm important to the company.  Certainly Steve Jobs is important to Apple."

Both Jobs and Apple spokespeople have often disagreed with this policy and have regularly insisted that the executive's health was a private matter even when he had no choice but to take leave from Apple in January and prepare for surgery approximately two months later.