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Nov 20
Apple patent is for using a portable media player as a...

An Apple patent (number 8315746) for using a portable media player as a remote control has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a portable multimedia player is used to wirelessly access and control a media server that is streaming digital media by way of a wireless interface to a media unit such as a stereo/speakers in the case of streaming digital audio. In one embodiment, the portable multimedia player is wirelessly synchronized to a selected one(s) of a number of digital media files stored on the media server in such a way that digital media file metadata (song title, author, etc.) associated with the selected digital media file(s) only is transferred from the media server to be stored in the portable media player.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Due to the increasing capacity and capability of personal computers, it has become popular to use a personal computer as a repository for multimedia content, such as songs,...

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Nov 20
Apple picked the right time to support USB 3.0

Guess Apple released Macs with USB 3.0 support just in time. The global market for USB 3.0 devices will grow more than 500% through 2016, according to the Global Information Inc. (www.giiresearch.com) research group.

Since its introduction in 1996, USB has displaced a host of wired connectivity standards including FireWire, PS/2 and serial ports that were once used to connect everything from mice to printers to external hard drives. Although initial adoption of USB 3.0 was fairly weak (which may be one reason Apple delayed support), device shipments and the installed base will grow significantly by 2016, according to GIS.

Currently, USB 1.1 devices are still shipping low-end applications such as mice. Shipments of USB 2.0 devices will peak in 2012. As some 2.0 devices continue to grow, others, including notebooks will fall to virtually zero by the end of the forecast period.

However, I still...

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Nov 20
Apple granted patent for the iPad Smart Cover

Apple has been granted a patent (number D671,114) for a portable display device with cover -- the iPad and its Smart Cover, in other words.

The inventors are Jody Akana, Bartley K. Andre, Jeremy Batillou, Daniel J. Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Julian Hoenig, Richard P. Howarth, Jonathan P. Ive, Duncan Robert Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rorhbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Christopher J. Stringer, Eugene Antony Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Apple has also been granted the following patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office are:

° Patent number 8316321 for an user interface that includes elements whose appearance dynamically changes in dependence upon functions associated with the elements;

° Patent number 83163147 for techniques for synchronizing multiple time-based data streams with independent clocks wherein relationships between clock rates of timing devices associated with the time-based data...

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Nov 19
Of course Apple will continue to increase display...

With the launch of the iPhone and iPad, as well as the new MacBook, Apple has continued on its path of increasing its display resolution. And it will continue doing so.

Apple created the term "Retina display" not just as a marketing phrase, but to educate end users about high resolution. The company has been leading the trend in displays with high pixels per inch (ppi, the measurement of resolution), especially with the launch of iPhone 4, the first smart phone with a resolution of more than 300 ppi, and the new iPad, the first tablet PC with over 200 ppi.

However, other smart device makers, including Samsung, HTC, Google, Amazon, Sony, Lenovo, and ASUS are closely following Apple, and in some cases have introduced products with higher resolutions, such as Google’s Nexus 10 tablet PC, with a 10.1-inch 2560×1600 display at 298 ppi, and coming smart phones using 5-inch 1920×1080 displays at 490 ppi.

Some folks thought that Apple would introduce the Retina display...

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Nov 16
The future looks bright for iOS Passbook

The Passbook feature introduced in iOS6 hasn't been widely acclaimed (though it's not been lambasted the way the Maps app has). However, the future holds potential for the feature/service.

In case you're not familiar with it, here's how Apple describes it: "Passbook keeps things like airline boarding passes, movie tickets, and gift cards all in one place. Everything’s there -- ready for scanning -- right from your iPhone. You’ll find Passbook-enabled apps on the App Store. And you can get gift cards and more from participating merchants.

"Passbook is time and location based. So your passes and tickets automatically appear on your Lock screen when and where you need them. Arrive at the airport and your boarding pass pops up. If you’re waiting to board the flight and your gate changes, Passbook tells you. And if you decide to grab a coffee on the way to your new gate, your gift card appears when you walk into the cafe."

Passbook has been criticized for the small...

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Nov 15
Consumers favor Apple products for the 2012 holiday...

More great news -- moneywise, at least -- for Apple: price comparison shopping site, PriceGrabber (www.pricegrabber.com) has leased the results of its third winter holiday shopping survey, revealing consumers' expected shopping habits within the tech category this holiday season.

When consumers were asked whether they would rather receive a tablet computer or a laptop as a holiday gift this year, 59%indicated that they would rather receive a tablet. Seventy-one percent of shoppers also indicated that they believe tablet computers will replace e-readers as gifts this year. Conducted from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, the survey includes responses from 1,475 U.S. online shopping consumers.

iPad and iPad mini top-ranked overall tablets


The power of the Apple brand is likely to remain in full force again this holiday season, especially with the launch of the iPad 4 and iPad mini. When...

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Nov 15
An iPad that sizes visuals depending on how close your...

Would you like your iPhone or iPad to expand or shrink on-screen images depending on how close it is to you? That could eventually be possible. A new Apple patent (number 20120287163) is for mechanism for automatically scaling the size of a set of visual content based upon how close a user's face is to a display.

In one implementation, the mechanism initially causes a set of visual content on a display to be sized according to a first scaling factor when the user's face is at a first distance from the display. The mechanism then determines that the user's face has moved relative to the display such that the user's face is no longer at the first distance from the display. In response, the mechanism causes the set of visual content on the display to be sized according to a second and different scaling factor. By doing so, the mechanism effectively causes the display size of the visual content to automatically change as the distance between the user's face and the display...

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Nov 15
Apple eyes ways to improve battery life of iOS devices

A new patent (number 20120290792) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on further ways to extend battery life in iPhones, iPods and iPads . The patent is for a media device with intelligent cache utilization.

A portable media device and a method for operating a portable media device are disclosed. According to one aspect, a battery-powered portable media device can manage use of a mass storage device to efficiently utilize battery power.

By providing a cache memory and loading the cache memory so as to provide skip support, battery power for the portable media device can be conserved (i.e., efficiently consumed). According to another aspect, a portable media device can operate efficiently in a seek mode. The seek mode is an operational mode of the portable media device in which the portable media device automatically scans through media items to assist a user in selecting a desired one of the media items.

Here's Apple's...

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Nov 15
Apple working on 'sticky functionality' for...

An Apple patent (number 20120290961 for "sticky functionality" for its Mac line has popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, manipulation of elements in a graphical user interface is aided by allowing the graphical user interface to treat certain mouse button actuation and releases as holding the mouse button in an actuated state. When predetermined conditions are satisfied, the graphical user interface will treat a mouse button actuation and release as if the mouse button were held in an actuated state. A user can then manipulate elements in the graphical user interface as if the user held the mouse button in an actuated state.

The types of manipulation can include the moving of a window, the resizing of a window, moving an icon, and the scrolling through the visible portion of a window. Eric Schlegel is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "An important aspect of any computer system is the...

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Nov 15
Apple patent is for display with color control

Apple continues to work on methods of improving the screens of its Mac and iOS devices. A company patent (number 20120287605) for a display with color control has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Techniques are provided for controlling the colors of reflected light out of a display surface in a display device, such that display discoloration (e.g., green tinting) may be reduced, particularly when the display is operating in bright ambient environments. In one embodiment, a display device may include a color filter black mask layer having an arrangement of red, green, and blue color filter areas, where the red and/or blue color filter areas are substantially greater than the green color filter area.

In some embodiments, the display device may include red and blue color filter pigment resin areas which may be disposed over the reflective areas to increase the overall amount of red and blue light that will be generated by reflected light to result in...

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Nov 14
Could LaCie's File Access offer the 'iHome...

In the past I've written about my wishes for a true Apple home server – not something intended for a business, but something that anyone could run. Apple may have waited too long, as LaCie has announced (http://macte.ch/ldbPD) an all-new network storage solution that connects the entire family to their music, movie and photo files.

As far as Apple is concerned, there's been progress. We eventually got a Mac mini with a server on it, though it's targeted to businesses. We may still need the "iHome Server" (though we'll have to come up with a new moniker as there's already a company called iHome) if the LaCie products fall short (look for our upcoming review).

With Automator, it should be easy to create an appliance that can be the center of our media lives and to our home automation. Combine this with Apple's app stores, and you have an idea of what I'm talking about -- and something that Microsoft is...

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Nov 13
Greg's Bite: Apple's problem with '...

By Greg Mills

The late Steve Jobs famously stated that he intended to make "thermonuclear war over Android" since it was a stolen product.

Since then, untold millions of dollars on both sides have been spent trying to hash out Apple's valid smartphone and touch screen tablet patent rights. As Apple has become painfully aware, enforcing patent rights around the world is a very costly and highly unpredictable process. Radioactive fallout blows both ways in nuclear war.

Apple's patent litigation has sparked a bidding war the last few years over any patent remotely related to cell phones and mobile computing. Apple has patented everything patentable they can in the US and many other countries. A lot of intellectual property comes out of its R&D efforts. As the old order of dumb cell phone manufacturing companies fail, the legacy patents they hold are often the greatest asset left over when the dust settles.

The prospects for RIM and...

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Nov 13
Apple patent involves skin tone aware color boost for...

An Apple patent (number 8311355) for skin tone aware color boost for cameras has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The company obviously wants to continually improve the cameras in its portable devices.

As the patent notes, increasing color saturation and contrast in images generally leads to more pleasing images; however, doing so uniformly to all colors in the image can make skin tones appear with an overly red tint. One embodiment of an improved method of skin tone aware color boosting identifies areas of the image which look like skin tones and areas that do not look like skin tones. A blurred "skin tone mask" can then be created over the image.

One large boost operation and one small boost operation can be applied to the image. A final version of the image may then be created, applying the pixel values resulting from the small boosting operation to the skin tone regions and applying the pixel values resulting from the large boosting operation...

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Nov 13
Wearable devices to be worth over $1.5 billion by 2014

Now that the latest rev of the iPad nano isn't suitable for wearing as a watch, perhaps Apple will release an iWatch. It might be profitable.

A new report from Juniper Research (www.juniperresearch.com) has valued the next-gen wearable devices market to be worth more than US$1.5 billion by 2014, up from $800 million this year. These revenues will be largely driven by consumer spending on fitness, multi-functional devices, and healthcare, according to the research group.

Classified as a "future form factor" for computing devices, next generation wearables, including smart glasses and other head-mounted displays, will provide a multitude of functions either independently or in conjunction with a third party platform. Influential players such as Apple and Google have already made key strategic moves in this sector, notes Juniper Research.

The use of wearable devices connected to the...

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Nov 13
Apple wins Time Machine, screen rotation patents

Apple has won several patents from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 8311988 is for consistent back-up of electronic information. In other words, it's for the Time Machine feature of Mac OS X.

Patent number 8312371 is for a device and method for screen rotation on a touch screen display. This, of course, includes the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Patent number 8312302 for circuits, methods, and apparatus that provide for the powering of active components in connector inserts at each end of a cable may in various ways. This may involve the Lightning connector technology on the latest iOS devices.

Patent number 83118384 for devices and methods for identifying a prompt corresponding to a voice input in a sequence of prompts. This most likely involves the Dictation feature of Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Patent number 8311657 for a method and...

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Nov 12
Greg's Bite: Apple's hardware prices matter

By Greg Mills

I was idly wandered through the brand new Sam's Club here in Kansas City, Kansas, Friday afternoon. The store is just around the corner from my home. A neighbor, living just a few doors down the street, is the proud manager of the giant new store.

I was there at the grand opening a couple of weeks ago and actually ate the first "tomane torpedo" sold at the food court. Where else can you get a large Nathan's hot dog and giant soft drink for $1.50? 

As I was sampling the free bites of food they give away, I stumbled into the electronics department. The products on sale were all the Apple tablets, iPhones and iPods, as well as the brands X, Y and Z semi-equivalents. Features and prices varied wildly. 

The electronics guy reads my Greg's Bite articles. He commented as soon as he saw me, that as far as he was concerned, I had hit the nail right on the head in my recent article regarding Microsoft's constant marketing gaffs.  I...

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Nov 12
Cell phones render household items obsolete 

There's a litany of products killed by Apple, but a new poll by CouponCodes4u.com, a coupon code website in the US, finds that the iPhone and others of its ilk has found that cell phones are replacing many traditional household items, with the average American no longer possessing items such as calendars, calculators, alarm clocks or landlines.
 
CouponCodes4u.com carried out a poll as part of ongoing research into the lifestyles of consumers around Americans. Approximately 2,362 adults from around the US took part and respondents answered questions about the gadgets and items around their home. All those taking part were cell phone users.
 
Those taking part in the study were shown a list of devices and items normally found around the home and were told to select the items that they felt they no longer used due to the same functions being available on their cell phone.

According to the study by CouponCodes4u.com, the top 10 items from the home that...

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Nov 09
Time for Apple to get Siri-ous about voice technology

From everything I've seen it's clear from the performance of Google Voice Search, that Apple is way behind in the area of voice technology.The performance difference between Apple's Siri and Google's Voice Search is like night and day.

Plus, Apple's reasoning for not putting its digital personal assistant, Siri (even in its currently lackluster state), on as many of its devices as possible makes no sense. Apple needs to address this.

For example, why is there only voice dictation on Mac OS X10.8? Shouldn't the full Siri come with Mountain Lion? They can't claim lack of processing power or memory. And Siri should be able to perform at least as well as does Google Voice Search.

Perhaps now that Eddy Cue is taking over the additional responsibility of Siri and Maps, things on both technologies will improve.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Nov 08
Apple patent is for power cable with a security...

An Apple patent (number 20120279780) for a power cable having a security feature feature has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

The invention is for an pparatus that may help identify unauthorized removal of goods while maintaining a pleasing physical appearance, avoiding theft misidentifications, and allowing a high degree of customer interaction. One example may provide a signal path for conveying a signal that is active when a good or device is removed from a retail or other environment in an authorized manner. The signal path may be wired or wireless.

In another example, a signal path for a sensor may be inconspicuously combined with a power cable. In another example, theft misidentifications may be prevented by not relying on connections that a customer is likely to interact with to detect a theft. Another example may provide a security device that may allow a high degree of customer interaction by unobtrusively attaching a sensor to the back...

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Nov 08
Apple wants to protect your audio, video data

An Apple patent (number 20120281828) for the protection of audio or video in a playback device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It involves a method and apparatus to prevent hacking of encrypted audio or video content during playback.

Hackers, using a debugging attachment or other tools, can illicitly access encrypted data in memory in a playback device when the data is decrypted during playback and momentarily stored in digital form. This hacking is defeated here by methodically "poisoning" the encrypted data so that it is no longer playable by a standard decoder.

The poisoning involves deliberate alteration of certain bit values. On playback, the player invokes a special secure routine that provides correction of the poisoned bit values, for successful playback.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "The protection of digital content transferred between computers over a network and transferred from a computer to an associated...

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Nov 08
Apple eyes ways to improve podcasting

An Apple patent (number 20120284422) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company is working on ways to improve podcasting. The patent is titled "techniques and systems for supporting podcasting."

Improved podcasts and techniques that facilitate their use are disclosed. The improved techniques can pertain to creating, publishing, hosting, accessing, subscribing, managing, transferring, and/or playing podcasts. According to one aspect, a client application can subscribe to podcasts and then automatically monitor the podcasts for updates to be downloaded. In the event that user interest in a podcast becomes inadequate, downloading of further updates can be restricted.

According to another aspect, a podcast can be subscribed to through use of a portable subscription file. According to still another aspect, podcast feeds can be enhanced to include segment elements and other metadata.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "media player...

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Nov 08
Law firm CIOs back personal devices, pan Windows 8

This is good news for Apple, not so much for Microsoft: large law firms' chief information officers are supporting their lawyers’ use of Apple and Android personal devices for firm business, as 88% expect to provide less BlackBerry support over the next 12 months.

However, only 7% of technology managers plan to migrate their enterprise systems to Microsoft’s touchscreen-friendly Windows 8 operating system in the next year.
This is according to the annual survey of law technology in the November issue of ALM’s "The American Lawyer" and online at americanlawyer.com. Other highlights in The American Lawyer’s new issue include:

While allowing personal phone, tablet and other device use, law firm CIOs are still wrestling with the security issues they present, according to the survey. Nearly two-thirds of the firms prohibit lawyers from using cloud storage and synchronization services on mobile devices, and a similar number use mobile device management (MDM) software...

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Nov 08
Apple granted patent for the original iPod

Apple has been granted a patent (20120281344) for the original, click wheel iPod. The patent is for a "media player with a machined window undercut and transparent wall disposed therein."

Per the patent, the media player can include a housing having an opening and an area of reduced thickness around the opening. The media player can also include a transparent wall having a flange. Alternatively, the transparent wall may not require a flange but rather can be a flat, substantially transparent piece of material such as plexiglass or glass. The flange can be adhered to a surface of the area of reduced thickness in order to form a transparent protective cover for the display screen.

The inventors are Douglas J. Weber, Pinida Jan Moolsintong and Stephen P. Zadesky.

Also appearing today at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office are:

° Patent number 20120284688 for systems, methods, and non-transitory computer-readable storage media for...

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Nov 07
Maybe Apple should just buy Sharp

It's always fun to play the "what company should Apple buy?" game. I have a new suggestion: Sharp, a major supplier of LCD displays to Apple (and other manufacturers).

The company is bleeding money and is in the middle of a restructuring plan. Sharp is projecting a net loss of ¥450 billion (approximately US$5.6 billion -- yep, that's billion with a "B") for the year. And the company's stock has been downgraded to junk status by ratings agencies.

What's more Sharp is hoping that Apple and Intel will invest in it, reports "Computerworld" (http://macte.ch/sXKHs). Perhaps Apple should just buy it outright.

Who knows if Apple plans on making its own HDTVs as the rumor mill has suggested for months now (or is it years?). If it is, transforming Sharp's excellent Aquos TVs with some Apple magic could be a start. Sharp also makes a solid line of soundbars, which could be a lucrative accessory for an iTV (...

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Nov 06
Apple working on portable electronic device for photo...

An Apple patent (number 8305355) for a portable electronic device for photo management has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

A portable electronic device with a touch screen display for photo management is disclosed. One aspect of the invention involves a computer-implemented method in which the portable electronic device displays an array of thumbnail images corresponding to a set of photographic images. The device replaces the displayed array of thumbnail images with a user-selected photographic image upon detecting a user contact with a corresponding thumbnail image in the array.

The user-selected photographic image is displayed at a larger scale than the corresponding thumbnail image. The portable device displays a different photographic image in replacement of the user-selected photographic image in accordance with a scrolling gesture. The scrolling gesture comprises a substantially horizontal movement of user contact with the touch screen...

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Nov 06
Apple patent is for portable computer accounts

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8307425) for portable computer accounts that could let you store your user accounts, authentication information and user home directories on an external storage media and transfer them from one device to another.

Measures are included for detecting tampering of stored information and for preventing possibly conflicting or damaging account and file information from entering a host device.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "User account data typically includes a user name, an account identifier, a home directory location and management information. For local accounts (i.e., non-network accounts) this information can be stored on a local directory database on a host device. For network accounts, account information can be stored on a network directory server (e.g. LDAP).

"User authentication information (e.g., a password) can be stored separately. For local accounts, a secure hash of a password can be...

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Nov 06
Apple wins patent for heads-up display for...

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8307287) for a heads-up display for use in a media manipulation operation. The invention relates to media manipulation operations and, more specifically, to operations that manipulate media items relative to a timeline with which one or more other media items are associated.

According to one embodiment, a transient heads-up-display is displayed during a media manipulation operation to assist the user in the media manipulation operation. The heads-up-display may, for example, depict three frames of a video clip when an audio clip is being positioned, on a timeline, relative to the video clip. The three frames that are depicted in the heads-up-display may be the frames located at the current starting position, cursor position, and ending position, of the audio clip. As the audio clip is being moved during the positioning operation, the three frames depicted in the heads-up-display change accordingly.

Here's Apple's background on...

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Nov 06
Apple granted patent for ionic cooling system

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8305728) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a . It involves a cooling system that blows ionized air through an electronic device, controlling its path by creating electromagnetic fields that can be dynamically adjusted to direct cooling where it's needed.

Embodiments provide various apparatus and techniques for deflecting or redirecting a flow of ionized air generated from an ionic wind generator. In general, a deflection field generator can be located proximate to the path of the flow of ionized air. The deflection field generator is configured to generate an electromagnetic field, which deflects a least a portion of the flow of ionized air to a different path and may possibly increase local heat transfer.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Many modern electronic systems generate a large amount of heat, and a variety of different cooling mechanisms may be used to cool these electronic systems. For personal...

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Nov 06
The iPad mini and autos -- a match made in heaven?

Apple is very keen on iOS these days. What if it worked with an auto maker to implement in vehicles? Especially with the iPad mini now a reality.

It's just the right size for integration into car dashes. The standard iPad is simply too big.

Think of the potential for commercial vehicles. GPS. FaceTime communication between drivers, the office, each other, and customers. Tracking vehicles with Loopt-type services. Accepting payments. Inventory. Video logging. Logging items for insurance. The possibilities are pretty incredible.

For the family vehicle, an iPad mini in every vehicle is easy to envision. Imagine a vehicle with headrests that allow you to dock your iPad into the back of it. Or the same set-up for a nice little spot on the dashboard.

Of course, to make this happen Apple would have to expand its focus. Or perhaps create a division to go after the OEM [original equipment manufacturer] and aftermarket niches.

Or, heck, let's dream big....

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Nov 05
Where will mobile apps and the cloud go next?

The evolving mobile app and cloud marketplace is expected to grow to a U.S.$340 billion opportunity in the next five years, according to a new "Market Vision" report from Yankee Group (www.yankeegroup.com).

App monetization models are tipping toward in-app purchasing. In 2012, more than 20% of U.S. smartphone app users clicked on links within apps to purchase extra content. Developers, content owners and ecosystem competitors are backing in-app commerce as the surest way to make money from apps.

Enterprises are prioritizing social-mobile-cloud (SoMoClo) initiatives. Almost 10% of companies say enterprise social networks will be a technological priority during the next year, and 47% are increasing their IT budgets around mobile user hardware. Fully 53% are increasing spend on mobile applications, while 36% consider cloud-based services a technological priority.

iOS device owners are the core...

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Nov 02
Greg's Bite: Microsoft vs Apple marketing 

By Greg Mills

As a long term observer of the two companies, the differences between the Microsoft marketing style and Apple's approach couldn't be more stark. I submit that the differences are a lot of what has seen Apple soar while Microsoft flounders. Following-the-leader assumes you will never really get ahead of the leader, at least while playing that game.

Microsoft announces plans to do things, while Apple only announces things already being shipped from China to the US. Desperate to get positive press, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's tongue often dangles like a dog with its head out the car window, constantly spills the beans on what they have planned, rather than what they have actually accomplished. Even the portion of the tech press favorable to Microsoft joke about the constant bragging about future products that consistently fail to measure up to the hype. 

Microsoft's success at marketing the PC operating system amounts to a...

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Nov 02
Ultrabook sales to rise dramatically? I don't...

The IHS research group (www.isuppli.com) recently cut its projections of ultrabook sales in fiscal 2012 from 10.3 million to 22 million. However, Research and Markets (www.researchandmarkets.com) says that, although currently viewed as prohibitively expensive, ultrabook sales will explode in the next five years.

The research group thinks ultrabooks will account for 47% of annual notebook sales by 2016, based on info from business intelligence provider GBI Research. I think they're wrong.

According to the firm's latest research, 1.3 million ultrabooks were sold last year -- as you can see, the estimated sales numbers are all over the place -- but, thanks to technological advances and a drop in component prices, this number is predicted to reach a "massive" 148.7 million by 2016, says Research and Markets.

Ultrabooks (...

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Nov 01
The Northern Spy: A conversation between Nellie and...

By Rick Sutcliffe

Even before I heard the boots clunk on the table behind me I didn't need to turn around to know who'd dropped in.

Some people carry an unmistakable air about them. Besides, regular people knock, even though the door's always open. Not Nellie Hacker. She, BTW for the new reader, helped me found this column back in the day. Well, at least she doesn't wear spurs.

"Hi, Nellie. It's been a while since you popped by to see your old professor."

"Does it really matter?"

"It matters to me. It gets lonely here sometimes."

"Yer Calculus students either know they know too much, or don't know quite enough to know what they don't know, eh? What'ya working on?"

"My latest novel, Book One of The Throne. It's called Culmanic Parts. Just finished in fact and ready for some proofreader friends to look at it."

"That alternate history Christian SF stuff you write? Does it really matter?"

"Hey, Nellie,...

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Nov 01
Apple working on head-mounted displays?

An Apple patent (number 20120274653) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple may be eyeing head-mounted displays for gaming and entertainment applications. The patent is for "peripheral treatment of head-mounted displays."

The patent is for methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for projecting a source image in a head-mounted display apparatus for a user. A first display projects an image viewable by a first eye of the user. A first peripheral light element is positioned to emit light of one or more colors in close proximity to the periphery of the first display.

A receives data representing a source image, processes the data representing the source image to generate a first image for the first display and to generate a first set of peripheral conditioning signals for the first peripheral light element, directs the first image to the first display, and directs the first set of peripheral...

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Nov 01
Apple patent is for ad hoc account creation

An Apple patent (number 20120278863) has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for ad hoc account creation. It provides a mechanism that allows a user to easily configure a rules engine to apply rules to decide which requests for access to a user's computer resources are to be granted and which are denied.

Per the patent, a trusted token, such as a certificate of identity issued by a trusted third party authority that verifies identities of computer users, is included in a calling card object provided by the requesting user to the (server) computer that controls the resources desired by the requester. Additional conditions for access may be specified as desired by the user of the server computer.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Proliferation of portable computers and computer networks has drastically widened the scope of computer usage for the average computer user. Access to computer networks is now offered in such public venues as coffee...

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Nov 01
iPhone owner loyalty declines?

I find it hard to believe based on sales, but Strategy Analytics (www.StrategyAnalytics.com) says that, for the first time since the Apple iPhone was released in 2007, the number of iPhone owners who say they definitely will or probably will purchase their next phone from the same brand has declined.

A recent study by the research group found that only 75% of iPhone owners in Western Europe say they are likely to buy their next phone from Apple, down from 88% in 2011. US repeat purchase intentions have also seen a slight decline, down from 93% in 2011 to 88% in 2012. Of course, most companies would love to have those depressed repeat purchase intentions.

"There is no doubt that Apple is continuing its success in retaining existing user base while attracting new customers," says Paul Brown, director at Strategy Analytics’ User Experience Practice. "However, negative press prompted by a...

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Nov 01
Apple patents involve media creation, graphics

A handful of Apple patents have popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office involving media creation and graphics.

Patent number 20120278731 (top graphic) is for methods, systems and an apparatus for collaborative media production. In one aspect, a method includes presenting, to an originator, an originator interface including multiple media panes; establishing a connection with a collaborator; receiving from the originator a selection indicating an item of media content associated with at least one of the multiple media panes; transmitting to the collaborator the selected item of media content; and enabling inter-user communication relating to the selected item of media content in the originator interface with the collaborator.

Further, a connection can be established with a second collaborator, the item of media content can be transmitted to the second collaborator, and communication can occur in the originator interface with the second...

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Nov 01
Apple files patent for its power adapters

Apple has filed a patent (number 20120275206) for its power adapters for powering and charging peripheral devices.

The power adapter includes a housing that contains electrical components associated with the power adapter. The power adapter also includes a data port provided at a surface of the housing. The data port is configured to provide external power to the peripheral device.

The inventors are Daniele DeIuiis, Andrew Bert Hodge, Jeffrey L. Robbin, Stanley Carl Ng, Eric W. Anderson and Anthony M. Fadell.

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Nov 01
Apple works on new theft detection technology

A new Apple patent (number 20120278907) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple continues to work on new theft detection/prevention technology. The patent is for acceleration-based theft detection system for portable electronic devices.

Per the patent (top graphic), an acceleration sensor detects the acceleration of a portable electronic device, and a controller analyzes this acceleration to determine whether a theft condition is present. If so, an alarm can be initiated. The theft prevention system can include a filter for attenuating irrelevant acceleration frequencies and isolating those representative of theft, and comparison hardware/software for determining whether the detected acceleration matches a known acceleration profile characteristic of theft. Various parameters of the theft prevention system can also be set by a user through mechanisms such as a graphical user interface.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "The drive toward...

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Oct 31
Schiller's comments, new iMac show we'll...

With the new iMac rolling out with no optical drive built-in, it's obvious that Apple is never going to support Blu-ray. I can understand Apple's not building in a Blu-ray player -- after all, the company a) loves thin products, and b) wants you to buy all your music, movies and TV shows at iTunes -- but the company should at least offer Blu-ray support.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing -- told Harry McCracken of "TIME" that "Blu-ray has come with issues unrelated to the actual quality of the movie that make [it] a complex and not-great technology … So for a whole plethora of reasons, it makes a lot of sense to get rid of optical discs in desktops and notebooks.”

His preferred Blu-ray alternative? iTunes, of course, which lets you buy a movie and then watch it on all your Apple devices.Once upon a time, people assumed that Macs’ lack of Blu-ray was a delay, not a permanent decision to fast-forward past it. McCracken told Schiller...

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Oct 30
Greg's Bite: Regarding the shake-up at Apple

By Greg Mills

I have read the most popular book on the life of Steve Jobs. What it boils down to is that Jobs was an amazing human being, with both cunning creativity and serious personality flaws. Genius is often based on the notion of "all the eggs in one basket."  We see that strength in one area may be balanced with weakness in another area.   

While that analogy may not be strictly true, one wonders how much more Steve Jobs might have accomplished without the abrasiveness that defined his ability to work with others. It is possible to fire someone without reducing them to a smoldering mass of protoplasm.

By all accounts I have read, Scott Forstall is either inclined to emulate the bipolar genius/ogre behavior of Steve Jobs or was actually also built that way. Many considered Scott to be the heir apparent at Apple for the CEO position.  

Removing Forstall from his position of power Apple loosened up countless creative people who...

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Oct 30
Apple working on 3D animation interface

An Apple patent (number 8300055) has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and shows that Apple is working on an user interface for controlling three-dimensional animation of an object.

Per the patent a user can control the animation of an object via an interface that includes a control area and a user-manipulable control element. The control area includes an ellipse. The user-manipulable control element includes a three-dimensional arrow with a straight body, a three-dimensional arrow with a curved body, or a sphere. In one embodiment, the interface includes a virtual trackball that is used to manipulate the user-manipulable control element.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In the last few decades, computers and software have been used to animate objects. Initially, animation software was complicated and difficult to use. A user was generally required to interact with objects using a low level of abstraction. For example, a user would...

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Oct 30
Apple patent is for fast cell selection in a mobile...

An Apple patent (number 8301145) for fast cell selection in a mobile wireless device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, the mobile wireless device detects when a first wireless cell fails a set of stored suitability criteria and searches for and locates a set of candidate wireless cells to associate with. The mobile wireless device measures at least one received signal metric for each candidate wireless cell in the set of candidate wireless cells.

When a candidate cell in the set of candidate wireless cells is identically the first wireless cell, the mobile wireless device evaluates the suitability of the candidate wireless cell using the stored set of suitability criteria for the first wireless cell and the measured at least one received signal metric for the candidate wireless cell. The mobile wireless communication device associates with the candidate wireless cell when the candidate wireless cell meets the stored set of...

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Oct 30
Apple patent involves real-time streaming

An Apple patent (number 8301725) for variant streams for real-time or near real-time streaming has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

It involves streaming of content using transfer protocols such as an HTTP compliant protocol. In one embodiment, a method includes dividing a stream of data, representing the contiguous time based content of a program (e.g. a live video broadcast), into a plurality of distinct media files, and generating a playlist file having a plurality of tags and Universal Resource Indicators (URIs) indicating an order of presentation of the plurality of distinct media files. The plurality of media files and the playlist file can be made available for transmission to a client device which can retrieve the media files using the playlist file.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Streaming of content generally refers to multimedia content that is constantly transmitted from a server device and received by a client...

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Oct 30
Time to turn iWork apps into a true Office competitor

Apple and VMWare (www.vmware.com) -- which specializes in virtualization and cloud infrastructure -- are teaming to build a cloud-hosted office suite for the iPad "that will let organizations ditch Office entirely," according to "CRN" (http://macte.ch/2sasV), quoting unnamed sources "with knowledge of the project." It's about time that Apple revved its iWork apps into a true competitor for Microsoft's offerings.

I love Apple's iWork apps: Pages, Numbers and Keynote. I use them whenever possible instead of Microsoft Office, and I know of several other folks who prefer Apple's own software titles.

Naturally, Pages, Numbers and Keynote aren't going to "kill" Word, Excel and PowerPoint. However, they could offer more serious competition. The last update to the iWork apps came in 2009, so it's time for some revamping. For one thing, the apps --...

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Oct 30
Apple granted patent for iOS Maps interface

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,302,033) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a "touch screen device, method and graphical user interface for providing maps, directions and location-based information." It involves the graphical user interface used in all versions of the iOS Maps app since the software was first introduced in iPhone OS 2.0 and the iPhone 3G in 2008.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "As portable electronic devices become more compact, and the number of functions performed by a given device increase, it has become a significant challenge to design a user interface that allows users to easily interact with a multifunction device. This challenge is particular significant for handheld portable devices, which have much smaller screens than desktop or laptop computers.

"This situation is unfortunate because the user interface is the gateway through which users receive not only content but also responses to user actions or...

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Oct 29
Premium TV package subscribers loyal to their...

If Apple does indeed plan to tackle the television market the way it did the music industry, it needs to have some revolutionary products and services in the works.

Premium television package subscribers are more loyal and more likely to purchase additional products from their television provider than are subscribers with basic and expanded basic programming packages, according to the J.D. Power and Associates' "2012 U.S. Residential Television Service Provider Satisfaction Study."

The study finds that 31% of premium package subscribers say they "definitely will not" switch providers, compared with subscribers of expanded basic (22%) and basic (20%) programming packages. Additionally, premium package subscribers serve as brand advocates more often, as 26% say they "definitely will" recommend their provider, compared with subscribers of expanded basic (16%) and basic (14%) packages.

Overall customer satisfaction with residential television service directly...

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Oct 26
The Mac keeps on going strong (better than the...

Don't write off the Mac just yet (as if anyone seriously has). Apple sold 4.9 million Macs during its fiscal 2012 fourth quarter that ended Sept. 29. That's an all-time high for Apple computer sales during the September quarter.

That compares to an 8% contraction of the overall computer market during the quarter. Mac sales have exceeded overall computer industry averages for 25 consecutive quarters. Look for that to continue with ever-increasing MacBook Pro and MacBook Air sales -- and the iMac remaining Apple's (and the industry's) hottest desktop model.

Mac retail stores -- which now number 390 (140 outside the US) -- also saw record Mac sales. They sold over 1.1 million Macs.

As far as other hardware, some interesting tidbits:

° Apple TV units totaled 1.3 million during the September quarter -- that's a 100% increase year-over-year. For the past fiscal year, Apple sold five million units of its "hobby" product.

° The iPod touch accounts for...

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Oct 25
Greg's Bite: Apple's new iOS connector tech

A sleeper Apple innovation that has just been published by the US Patent & Trademark Office regards a more universal electronic device connector. See http://macte.ch/hpQ8C .

The history of Apple electronic connectors comes from the old 50 connector serial ports of 20 years ago to the tiny Lightning connectors found on the newest iPhones, iPads and iPods. The new connectors are now found on the opposite end of an USB cable that charge the device and allows the computer and iOS device to "talk."

Remember the old days when computer connectors were the half the size of a Big Mac hamburger? The personal computer industry, including Apple, sort of took its lead from the wired telecommunication tech of the day. The old cables used 25-pair twisted copper wire used in office telephone systems, along with the giant connectors that were screwed down to the computer interface block. Heaven help your computer if...

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Oct 25
Apple eyes application-specific group listing

An Apple patent (number 20120272163) for application-specific group listing has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It involves an user interface for sharing content from a particular application with another person while you're instant messaging with them.

A method, apparatus, and system for providing active contents between applications activated by a plurality of computer systems are provided. A list of one or more remote users is created. A determination is made whether a first application and a second application are being executed by the at least one or more remote users. The list is updated in response to determining a change in a status of the second application being executed by the one or more remote users using at least one communications feature associated with the first application.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Networks, such as the Internet, intranets, or other private or public networks, are ubiquitous. In...

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