Our look at some of the big stories in mobile today: Time (NYSE: TWX) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) reach a “free content” deal; more possible details on Apple’s cloud strategy; Huawei sues ZTE; and a pulse check on free apps.
— Time and Apple: The WSJ is reporting that Time, Inc. and Apple have reached a deal over the publishers’ apps, so that people who subscribe to the print editions of Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune will be able to access that content free in their iPad apps from today. Up to now, those users would have had to pay separately to view the content on the Apple tablet, even though subscribers to another Time, Inc. publication, People, had been able to view the iPad app content free of charge.
Given that Time Inc. took months to extend the free content deal to three more magazines in its stable, it’s not a given that we will see these kind of free iPad content incentives appear elsewhere very soon. Nor have either company given details of how Apple would have been compensated — if at all — for that potential loss of revenue.
— Apple: The code name for Apple’s new cloud-based service is apparently “Castle.” Last week, it was reported that Apple had bought the domain name iCloud from a Swedish startup, firing up more speculation over what it is that Apple plans to do with cloud-based media services.
After that, the French Apple blog Consomac revealed that a dig through the developers’ beta release of Mac OS X ‘Lion’ found some references to upgrading MobileMe to Castle. Putting two and two together, TUAW is guessing that iCloud/Castle could all be pointing to working names for a service that will likely be launched at Apple’s developer conference in June.
— Huawei/ZTE: The gloves are coming off for rival Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei. In the latest patent fights to hit the wireless industry — and the latest for this pair, which are already fighting other suits against other vendors — ZTE and Huawei are countersuing each other over patents and trademarks related to LTE technologies. ZTE’s suit has been filed in China, while Huawei’s complaints are in Europe, with separate suits filed in France, Germany and Hungary. This is a relatively big change for the two companies in that it underscores how fierce the competition is between the two in the arena of next-generation wireless services: when ZTE and Huawei first hit the international market some years ago, it almost appeared as if they had tacitly agreed to not compete against each other.
— Free apps: The app analysts Distimo note in their latest report that the Android Market now has more free apps than Apple’s App Store: 134,342 compared to 121,845. Distimo extrapolates that this could mean that the Market eclipses the App Store in overall number of apps. That’s a kind of symbolic milestone, if nothing else: the bigger these stores become, the harder it gets to discover what’s there, and potentially less useful of a service for consumers.