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Weekend Roundup: Apple launches new products, Windows 8 reviewed, Intel shows off top research, Huawei and ZTE under fire again

Apple challenges competitors with more shiny devices

As anticipated, Apple kicked off the week with a slew of new product announcements at a special event held in San Jose, California on Monday. Tim Cook bragged about Apple’s sales and iOS penetration - five million iPhone 5s sold in one weekend, over 100 million iPads shipped since 2010, more than 200 million devices running iOS 6.

In typical Apple style, the numbers were followed by a series of exciting announcements - a brand-new, heavily anticipated iPad mini boasting a 7.9in display (opens in new tab) and specifications similar to the second generation iPad; a fourth generation full-size iPad with Retina display (opens in new tab) powered by a new Apple A6X processor; an updated 13in MacBook Pro with Retina display (opens in new tab) and a handful of new features; two refreshed Mac minis (opens in new tab), including a server model packing a pair of 1TB hard drives; and a mind-bogglingly slim iMac (opens in new tab) that is 80 per cent thinner than its predecessor.

The massive additions to the product line-up come just in time for the holiday season, during which Apple is surely expecting to ring up huge amounts of sales. Despite that, however, the company has predicted a decline in its price-per-shares for the first time in its history (opens in new tab). That might seem odd, given its huge stores of cash and the millions of units it is due to move before Christmas. But during a third quarter earnings call this week, Apple explained that it expects that the outlay for the production of its new line-up will not be recovered in full before next year.

"This is most prolific product period in Apple's history," said Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer. "Unprecedented number of new product introductions. Record levels of demand." Sounds about right to us.

Microsoft Windows 8 launches to strong reviews

After more than a year of teasing its new operating system, Microsoft finally unleashed Windows 8 this week. The platform’s official launch, which took place in New York this Thursday and was followed by a midnight release of the OS and the accompanying line of Surface RT tablets, marked what the company describes as its single most important release, with Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer describing Windows 8 and Windows 8 PCs as ‘simply the best’ (opens in new tab). Tina Turner jokes aside, Michael Muchmore took the new OS for a spin to test out how, or whether, it measures up to the self-praise (opens in new tab).

Rather than just being an upgraded version of Windows 7, Windows 8 is an entirely re-imagined platform, designed, as it has been touted time and time again, for touch-capable tablets and hybrid PCs. And that much has proved to be both a boon for and strike against the OS, according to Muchmore.

“Windows 8 offers an advantage over both iOS and Mountain Lion – the ability to use a swipe gesture to "snap" another running app to the side of the screen. In iOS, you have to completely switch out of one app to take a look at another,” he points out. “Another advantage of Windows 8's touch implementation for tablets is that you can do nearly everything with your thumbs. This makes sense given the way you hold a tablet,” he adds. On the other hand, the brand-new interface is not particularly intuitive and “doesn't feel quite as polished as Mac OS X Mountain Lion.”

Ultimately, though, Windows 8 is a solid step in the right direction for Microsoft, as it faces the certain doom and gloom of the ‘post-PC’ era. “Microsoft gets big points for the audacity of the release, and I do recommend the upgrade if you don't mind a slight learning curve and want to reap the many benefits which Windows 8 brings forth,” Muchmore concludes.

Intel researches smarter city tech

While we at ITProPortal headquarters were preparing for the onslaught of Apple and Microsoft news, our editorial director Riyad Emeran was off in Barcelona at Intel's European Research and Innovation Conference, getting a preview of some tech that could soon be coming our way.

In addition to exploring the prototype of a system that could keep vehicular software up-to-date via a user-upgradable open platform (opens in new tab), he spoke with Martin Culey, director of Intel Labs Europe, about the progress of CityWatch, a data collection programme designed with cities in mind (opens in new tab). The app collects a combination of passive and active data, which is then analysed to help researchers, governments, and fellow citizens transform normal cities into smarter ones. "Turning London into a smarter, better connected and more efficient city isn't going to happen overnight, but the more research that comes out of Intel's London lab, the better the chances of implementing change," wrote Riyad.

Follow the link for more details on CityWatch and stay tuned to this space for the latest on cutting edge technology from Intel and others.

Huawei and ZTE still under fire

Though we were consumed with Apple and Microsoft this week, they weren’t the only tech giants in the spotlight. Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE were back in the news after it was revealed that they might have been involved in the illegal sale of US tech equipment to Iranian firms.

First, Soda Gostar Persian Vista, a Tehran-based supplier of Huawei equipment, offered to sell Iranian telecoms firm MTN Irancell American tower antennas (opens in new tab), an act that violates US economic sanctions that were imposed on Iran in 2005. Just two days later, it was revealed that IBM had been questioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that its technology was sold to an Iranian entity by ZTE (opens in new tab).

The reports come not too long after both companies were found by the US House Intelligence Committee to pose a threat to national security by granting the Chinese government access to their equipment for espionage purposes. Taken together, both of these strikes against Huawei and ZTE suggest the saga is more complex than meets the eye and, consequently, unlikely to end soon.