Schmidt Concludes N. Korea Trip With Plea to End Internet Ban
Today in international tech news: Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Google's Eric Schmidt offers some advice to North Korea at the end of his visit there. Also: Apple is eying Asian markets with a cheaper iPhone, a Steve Jobs memorial goes up in Russia, and Foxconn is under investigation for bribery.
Speaking to reporters after a four-day jaunt to North Korea, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt called on North Korea to end its ban on Internet access.
North Korea's refusal to allow more Web access "is very much going to affect their physical world," Schmidt said, adding that it's time for the nation's totalitarian authorities to loosen their grasp on the Web. . North Korea, which has 23 million citizens, bans access to independent information and has set up a Western-free intranet.
Schmidt was accompanied on his trip by former New Mexico governor and former UN ambassador Bill Richardson, as well as another Google exec. The delegation did not meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who has paid lip service to the idea of laxer regulation on technology like the Internet.
Meanwhile, a timely Reuters article discusses how Google Earth "presents a bird's eye view" of North Korean prison camps. Citing international human rights groups, Reuters reports that up to 250,000 political prisoners and their families "toil on starvation rations in the mostly remote mountain camps."
Reuters links to a blog called "One Free Korea", which has images of the suspected prisoner camps plucked from Google Earth.
Apple Targets Asia With Cheap iPhone
Apple will launch a cheap iPhone -- well, cheaper -- in order to increase sales in Asia, according to The Guardian.
Some of Apple's competitors have touch-screen devices for less than US$100, making the price tag on the iPhone, which costs up to $600, seem that much steeper.
The Guardian reports that Apple's cost-friendly iPhone is scheduled for launch in the latter half of 2013. The device will "mark a major shift in strategy" for Apple, which has produced but a single handset each release cycle since the iPhone launched in 2007.
The new prototypes have a larger screen than the iPhone 5, according to Digitimes, and might have a plastic casing rather than Apple's standard aluminum.
In 2012, ZTE, Samsung and Lenovo all released touchscreen smartphones that cost less than $100. The appetite for smartphones in emerging markets, where iPhones might be prohibitively expensive, prompted an analyst to tell The Guardian that Apple is nearing "a fork in its global strategy for the iPhone" -- risk taking some shine of its premium brand, or risk missing out on the fastest-growing smartphone markets.
Steve Jobs Memorial Unveiled in Russia
A memorial to Apple cofounder Steve Jobs was unveiled in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday.
The monument is an enormous replica of a black iPhone whose screen displays a photo and video slideshow of Jobs' life, according to The Times of India. It is located in the courtyard of the St. Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics.
Russians are known to have a penchant for Apple products.
Chinese Authorities Investigate Foxconn Bribery
Foxconn's statement comes on the heels of a report from Taiwan-based Next magazine, which reported that a bribery probe led to the September arrest of a Foxconn exec in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Foxconn reportedly denied most of Next's report.
Motorola Mobility Drops Patent Complaint
Motorola Mobility, a unit of Google, has asked an International Trade Commission panel to drop a pair of patents from an infringement complaint it had filed against Microsoft, according to Reuters.
Motorola Mobility's complaint, which preceded its purchase by Google, centered on patented technology that Microsoft used to create the Xbox.