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Friday Briefing: Samsung and Apple Are Squaring Off Again

It’s Friday! Time to breeze through a short breakdown of some of the week’s hottest tech trends.

Remember to cast your vote in the survey at the end. This lets us know which story has you tuned in most, so we can get to know what makes you tick. And if one story gets an unusually high amount of votes, I can expand it into a full article next week.

So here goes…

Tech Trend #1: Asus Weighs in on Microsoft’s Surface Tablet

Turns out that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) didn’t tell any of its PC manufacturing partners about its new Surface Tablet until last Friday. Or just three days before it announced the new device this week. In fact, some partners – including Asus (TPE: 2357) – were left completely in the dark until the reveal itself. Ouch.

If Acer founder, Stan Shih, is correct, however, PC makers shouldn’t feel too bad about it. According to DIGITIMES, he believes that Microsoft…

“Has no real intention to sell [its] own-brand tablet PCs… [Instead, what it’s] offering is a ploy to boost adoption of Windows 8… Microsoft hopes that marketing its own brand tablet PCs will encourage vendors to offer Windows 8 tablet PCs and thereby help expand market demand for the product line… [So] vendors adopting Windows 8 should interpret Microsoft’s intentions positively, as they will benefit from Microsoft’s marketing.”

Okay. I agree that hardware makers who eventually build Windows 8 devices will benefit if Microsoft’s Surface tablet proves to be popular. However, I’m not convinced that Microsoft’s tablet is simply a way to market the software to other PC vendors. If that were the case, why did the company expend so much energy on the hardware design?

Like I said on Wednesday, “The designers were hell-bent on allowing the hardware to fade into the background. Meaning you can forget that it’s even there, making it so the ‘surface’ is all you notice.”

At the very least, Microsoft’s device should be a wake up call to manufacturers that it’s time to start getting creative when it comes to designing hardware, too. So PC partners certainly shouldn’t take this lying down.

Tech Trend #2: Sorry Philip Morris, But “Low Risk” is Still Too Risky

Philip Morris (NYSE: PM) just made nicotine addicts’ dreams come true this week. At a meeting yesterday with investors in Switzerland, the company announced that it’s working on new lower-risk cigarettes. According to Bloomberg “the ‘most promising’ lower-risk products would heat tobacco or generate aerosol that consumers inhale.”

Forgive me if I’m not entirely thrilled with the news. Not because I don’t smoke, but because the words “lower risk” make it seem like the cigarettes would still cause lung cancer – just not as quickly. Of course, that’s not how the company’s CEO, Louis Camilleri, pitched it at the meeting.

He says, “We are on the eve of what we all believe could be a paradigm shift for our industry… [The new products have] the very real potential to not only be a game-changer, but also be the key to unlock several hitherto virgin territories, most notably the huge Chinese market.”

If you share his enthusiasm, the bad news is they probably won’t be available until 2017. So don’t hold your breath.

Tech Trend #3: iPhone 5 is Already Making Waves

We already know that Samsung’s (LON: BC94) Galaxy S II beat the iPhone 4S (at least in terms of hardware features). And now that the Galaxy S III is coming out, you might be wondering how that’s going to stack up against Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) highly anticipated iPhone 5. It’s tough to say much at this point, considering that the only semi-confirmed news about the device is that it will have a new dock connecter port. So I was going to wait until Apple unveiled the device before comparing the two officially.

Terry Gou, Chairman of Hon Hai (TPE: 2317) – the parent company to Apple supplier, Foxconn (TPE: 2354) – isn’t waiting to make a definitive statement, though. At a stockholder meeting this week, he “urged consumers to wait for the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5, saying that the new model will put Samsung’s Galaxy III to shame,” according to Focus Taiwan.

Are you going to follow his advice, or are you pumped enough about Samsung’s new smartphone that waiting until the fall for the next iPhone is out of the question? Comment below to weigh in, or hit us up on Facebook or Google+.

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That’s all for today. Have a great weekend!

Good investing,

Justin Fritz

Justin Fritz

, Executive Editor

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