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Aug 07
TVs, Blu-ray players the future cf connected devices...

Connected TV penetration in North America and Western Europe will surge from just over 10% in 2011 to over 50% by 2017, according to ABI Research (http://www.abirsearch.coim). Blu-ray penetration is expected to have a similar progression, increasing from about 25% in Western Europe and North America in 2011 to over 76% by 2017 (standalone and game consoles included).

Too bad Apple has chosen not to embrace Blu-ray. Oh well. Meanwhile, game console penetration rates by 2017 are only expected to pass 61% and 46% in North America and Western Europe respectively, with rates significantly lower in other regions.

There are four major connected video CE devices: connected TV (such as, perhaps, the rumored "iTV"?), Blu-ray players, game consoles and Smart set-top boxes (STBs). According to ABI Research Senior Analyst Michael Inouye, most CE manufacturers (notably, Samsung and LG) use a common...

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Aug 07
Apple working on alternate iOS input methods

A patent (number 8,239,784) for "mode-based graphical user interfaces for touch sensitive input devices" shows Apple is working on an alternative input method for iOS devices.

A user interface method is disclosed. The method includes detecting a touch and then determining a user interface mode when a touch is detected. The method further includes activating one or more GUI elements based on the user interface mode and in response to the detected touch.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention pertains to gestures and methods of implementing gestures with touch sensitive devices. Examples of touch sensitive devices include touch screens and touch pads. The invention also pertains to user interfaces and methods of implementing user interfaces with displays.

The invention can be implemented in numerous ways, including as a method, graphical user interface, computing device, or a computer readable medium. Several embodiments of the invention are...

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Aug 07
Apple eyeing NFC-capable, barcode-reading shopping...

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,239,276 ) for an "On-the-go Shopping List" that hints at an NFC-capable barcode-reading shopping assistant.

NFC (Near Field Communication) is a short-range wireless connection technology that could turn the iPhone into an electronic wallet or security passkey. NFC is already in use in Asia and is expected to explode here in the next three to five years, especially if Apple adopts the technology.

A report from Juniper Research (http://www.juniperresearch.com) finds that the NFC retail payments market will exceed US$180 billion globally by 2017, more than a seven-fold increase over 2012. The leading regions of North America, Western Europe and Far East & China will contribute 90% of this market value as smartphones with NFC payment technology become standard. The Juniper report found that 2011 was a watershed year for NFC payments. 

...

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Aug 06
Mobile integration key to set-top box market

Smart set-top boxes such as the Apple TV often garner less attention than other connected CE [consumer electronic] devices like TVs and game consoles; Apple has referred to its Apple TV as a "hobby" although it leads the market with around 4 million units shipped through 2011.

Roku has had recent success (e.g. passing 2.5M units in 2011), but the future looks at the very least challenging for these dedicated streaming devices to break out of a niche status. TVs, game consoles, Blu-ray players, and even mobile devices are quickly conspiring to engender a very competitive market for the digital living room. Even so, set-top box shipments are expected to reach as high as 57 million by 2017.

"Google has a split personality in this market," says Sam Rosen, practice director of TV & video at ABI Research (http://www.abirsearch.com). "On the one hand, China, in particular, is seeing growing...

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Aug 03
Apple 'improves' MagSafe connector -- and...

In his "Pogue's Post" column at "The New York Times," author and tech guru David Pogue blasts Apple's MagSafe 2 connector -- and he's right. Apple blew it on this one.

It's a case of improving something until it breaks. The original MagSafe was pretty much perfect the way it was. But the "sequel" is .... well, Pogue describes it perfectly in this column:

"The beauty of the MagSafe connector was that Apple had found precisely the right balance between attachment and detachment. Strong enough to hold the connector in place, weak enough to detach if it gets yanked.

"The MagSafe 2 connector fails that balance test. Badly. The magnet is too weak. It’s so weak, it keeps falling out. It falls out if you brush it. It falls out if you tip the laptop slightly. It falls out if you look at it funny. It’s a huge, huge pain.

"That weakness is compounded by a second problem: a return to the 'T" design of older MagSafe connectors. In other words, this thing comes...

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Aug 02
Apple eyeing a portable device (an iPad?) with a...

Three Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that show Apple is working on ways to simplify the production of its various portable computing devices.

Patent number 20120194998 is for a portable computing device that can take many forms such as a laptop computer, a tablet computer, and so on. The portable computing device can include at least a single piece housing. The single piece housing can be machined from a single billet of material, such as a billet of aluminum. The single piece housing can include ledges with a surface receiving a trim bead and a cover. Corner brackets can be attached to the single piece housing to improve the damage resistance of the housing.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In recent years, portable computing devices such as laptops, PDAs, media players, cellular phones, etc., have become small, light and powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed...

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Aug 02
Apple working on ways to simplify portable device...

Three Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that show Apple is working on ways to simplify the production of its various portable computing devices.

Patent number 20120194998 is for a portable computing device that can take many forms such as a laptop computer, a tablet computer, and so on. The portable computing device can include at least a single piece housing. The single piece housing can be machined from a single billet of material, such as a billet of aluminum. The single piece housing can include ledges with a surface receiving a trim bead and a cover. Corner brackets can be attached to the single piece housing to improve the damage resistance of the housing.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In recent years, portable computing devices such as laptops, PDAs, media players, cellular phones, etc., have become small, light and powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed...

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Aug 02
Apple patent is for user interface for backup...

An Apple patent (number 20120198383) for an user interface for backup management has appeared at the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. It seems to involve a revamped version of Mac OS X's Time Machine feature.

The patent is for methods and a computer program product for providing a user interface including earlier versions of data. In one implementation, a method is provided. The method includes receiving, while a current view is displayed in a user interface, a first user input requesting that a backup interface be displayed. In response to the first user input, the transition from displaying the current view in the user interface to displaying the backup interface is animated.

The backup interface is displayed including a display area for presenting at least a first visual representation of an earlier version of the current view, where the earlier version includes a first element. While the backup interface is displayed, a second user input is received requesting...

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Aug 02
Apple files patent for iPad Smart Cover design

An Apple patent (number 20120194308) for a foldable accessory device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Said foldable device being the Smart Cover for the iPad.

A magnetic attachment mechanism and method is described. The magnetic attachment mechanism can be used to releasably attach at least two objects together in a preferred configuration without fasteners and without external intervention. The magnetic attachment mechanism can be used to releasably attach an accessory device to an electronic device. The accessory device can be used to augment the functionality of usefulness of the electronic device.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "An accessory unit includes at least a hinge span having a first magnetic element, a flap portion pivotally connected to the hinge span. In the described embodiment, the flap portion includes a plurality of segments all but one of which are substantially the same size and wherein one segment is longer that...

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Aug 02
A proposal for Apple that puts Americans to work

The following is an opinion editorial provided by Long-Stanton Group CEO, Dan Cunningham. It was originally published in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday, July 8, 2012:

I have a Billion Dollar idea for Apple: build an iPhone plant in Cincinnati and eventually other U.S. cities to supply the U.S. market with iPhones.

This would yield a billion dollars in additional profit to Apple because of the assurance of long-term sustainable product dominance for Apple, the ability to manufacture ‘mass customized' iPhones in the U.S., and the removal of 35 days of rapidly changing inventory in transit from China to the U.S. This projected profit is based on the forecast of 44 million iPhones to be sold in the U.S. in 2012 (11.6 million in 2011 Q4) and increasing the profit by $23 each.

Because the U.S. market is demanding such a high number of units of iPhones, the plant that I am proposing would be completely automated, and highly flexible to the point...

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Aug 01
The Northern Spy: going the new server route

Under another hat, the Spy runs WebNameHost, which is a small hosting company in business for a decade now, and offering professional hosting in a safe environment for Christian, authors, small businesses, and personal sites. This is less than a living business, but much more than a hobby, as his teaching demands that he be able to discourse with students on all manner of computing technology without seeming too much a fool or irrelevant. It also needs to break even.

Though he is otherwise Mac-centric, the commercial hosting environment of choice is a CentOS machine running Cpanel/WHM, with billing and help desk provided by WHMCS, previously a separate company, but as of this month a WHM partner. Cork, the machine he was using for everything was a dual opteron of several years seniority running CentOS 4, and therefore his version of CPanel (11.32) was the last he could use without upgrading as future versions would no longer support CentOS 4. Since it is as...

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Aug 01
Greg's Bite: Google's ball drops -- Nexus Q...

Google had already launched its Nexus Q media hub device and promised delivery in three days, until they suddenly decided to hold the product back and make improvements that they don't care to divulge. It could be a software glitch or a defect in manufacturing. At any rate, they are giving the US$300 round, black box device away to customers who had pre-ordered.

The specs didn't include a ThunderBolt port, which is sort of peculiar as Google is busy launching the 1Gig Fiber experiment using a different media box. The Nexus Q is sort of a warmed-over, spherical, sexy Apple TV hub with a lighted ring. The claim that Apple limited its TV hook-up device to its own network is no worse than the Google Nexus Q, which severely limits function to Google's sandbox. You can't even play your own music over the Nexus Q.  

The Google Fiber project in Kansas City is now way behind the anticipated launch date, but progress is being made. Google has divided the Kansas...

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Aug 01
42% of parents plan to buy electronic gadgets for...

This should be good news for Apple: as another school year approaches, the demand for electronics in the classroom is high.

A new survey from CouponCabin.com reports that 42%of parents plan to buy new electronic gadgets -- such as laptops, tablets, cellphones and e-readers -- for their children for the upcoming school year. In addition, nearly half (49%) of parents said their children's school requires them to purchase certain electronic gadgets for learning purposes.

When asked which of the following electronic gadgets, if any, their children's school requires them to purchase, parents with school-age children said: computer (24%), mobile phone (20%), tablet (19%), e-reader (9%), other (5%) and none (51%). However, with parents feeling the pressure to buy electronic gadgets for school use, 75% said they are at least somewhat overwhelmed with the cost of buying tech devices for their children.

With 78% of adults planning to spend $500 or less per child on...

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Jul 31
Apple patent is for remote access to playlist of a...

An Apple patent (number 8234572) for remote access to advanced playlist features of a media player have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Per the patent, a media player can have advanced-playlist creation capabilities such as the ability to automatically generate a playlist around a "seed" song selected by a user.

In some embodiments, the accessory can determine whether the media player can use a particular song as a seed song for an advanced playlist and can so inform the user. The user can then operate the accessory's user interface to create an advanced playlist based on a particular song, rather than having to interact directly with the media player.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "Certain embodiments of the present invention relate to increasing a user's ability to control a media player using an accessory device. For example, the media player can have advanced-playlist creation capabilities such as the ability to automatically...

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Jul 31
Apple patent is for power adapters, charging...

An Apple patent (number 8232672) for power adapters for powering and/or charging peripheral devices has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Ti covers the powering mechanisms of a variety of devices.

A power adapter for a peripheral device such as portable electronics device is disclosed. 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.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention pertains to power adapters that allow a user to power and/or charge a peripheral device such as a portable electronic device without requiring any additional cables or connectors. The invention also pertains to a connection method for powering a peripheral without requiring a host, peripheral or hub to remain powered on. The connection method allows...

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Jul 31
Smartphones overtaking computers in 2012, but so what?

The recent influx of smartphones to the UK has prompted a slump in the popularity of desktop computers, according to a new study, though I don't buy it.

The survey found that while 64% respondents owned a desktop computer, 94% now own a smartphone. YouGov research commissioned on behalf of Kaspersky Lab, a developer of secure content and threat management solutions, also revealed that users are now reaching for their smartphone ahead of their computer when looking up something online. Seventy-eight percent of respondents went to their smartphone first, compared to the 57% who chose their desktop. 

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the correlation in the fact that more people are surfing the Web on smartphones rather than on desktop computers. Maybe there are folks out there who purchase a computer mainly to surf the web, but I doubt it. Those who buy a computer want to also do other entertainment and productivity tasks that just aren't possible on a...

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Jul 31
Apple granted patents for text input, camera features...

Apple has been granted patents for a predictive text input user interface and digital camera features.

Patent number 8232973 is for a method, device and graphical user interface providing word recommendations for text input. Per the invention, a portable electronic device having a touch screen display performs a set of operations, including displaying a plurality of key icons, each having an adjustable size hit region, and receiving a sequence of individual touch points input by a user on the touch screen display.

The operations performed by the device further include processing the received individual touch points by: forming a user-input directed graph for the sequence of individual touch points received so far, determining a character corresponding to a last received individual touch point in accordance with the adjustable hit regions of the displayed key icons, displaying a sequence of characters corresponding to the sequence of individual touch...

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Jul 30
Tablets emerge as preferred online shopping device

Tablet computers such as the iPad are quickly emerging as a preferred online shopping device. Shopatron (http://www.shopatron.com), an eCommerce and order management solution for over 1,000 brands, found that, across all client stores, purchase rates are equivalent between tablet and desktop users.

In recent months, the conversion rates for tablet shoppers have been a mere 5-8% below the conversion rates of desktop-based shoppers. In addition, conversion rates from paid search ads have actually been higher on tablets (up to 3%). In a month-long analysis across several sporting goods clients, Shopatron found that click-through rates for paid search ads on tablets were 51% greater than those on computers, and the average cost per click was 7% less.

"With fewer advertisers to compete with, tablet advertising is costing less than advertising to desktop-based shoppers," says Greg Squires, Shopatron's...

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Jul 27
iPad remains best used as a supplement to the Mac

Many folks disagree with me, but I maintain that the iPad is a supplement to a Mac and not a replacement. And new data from the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) -- as reported by "eWeek" (http://macte.ch/Wmixv) -- mostly backs up my premise.

CIRP says that the new iPad (the one with the Retina display) has attracted more business users than earlier models. However, users are mostly using the tablet for surfing the Internet, playing games and enjoying entertainment.

"At least 27% of buyers, and as many as 40% use the iPad in these ways,," says CIRP's report. "Entertainment includes watching video, looking at photos and listening to music."

Business use came in fourth, with approximately 13% of all iPad owners using it for professional purposes. Among new iPad 3 owners, that figure rose to 16%t. Internet and email use were also higher on the newest iPad. Standout business users, CIRP...

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Jul 26
Apple working on ways to deal with variations in...

An Apple patent (number 201200188402) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company is working on ways to make its devices work more smoothly with an array of digital cameras.

The patent is for an apparatus and method for compensating for variations in digital cameras. The invention relates generally to digital cameras and, more particularly, to calibrating digital camera components to minimize manufacturing variations in such components.

A method of manufacturing a digital video camera is provided. The method comprises acquiring video images of colored light, and measuring a light intensity response of the video camera to the colored light. The method further comprises comparing the intensity of the measured response to a desired colored light intensity for determining a color intensity bias and storing the intensity bias for the colored light in the camera so that the bias can be applied when the camera is operating at an arbitrary lighting...

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Jul 26
Apple patent involves audio sharing network

An Apple patent (number 20120189140) for an audio sharing network has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Systems, methods, and devices for sharing ambient audio via an audio-sharing network are provided.

By way of example, a system that receives shared audio from such an audio-sharing network may include a personal electronic device. The personal electronic device may join an audio-sharing network of other electronic devices and receive several audio streams from the audio-sharing network. Based at least partly on these audio streams, the personal electronic device may determine a digital user-personalized audio stream, outputting the digital user-personalized audio stream to a personal listening device.

By way of example, the personal electronic device may represent a personal computer, a portable media player, or a portable phone. The personal listening device may represent a speaker of the personal electronic device, a wireless hearing aid, a...

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Jul 26
Apple eyeing home automation solutions

An Apple patent (number 20120188052) for a system and method for simplified control of electronic devices shows the company is eyeing the home automation market.

For example, per the patent, For example, a method for controlling a variety of electronic devices using another single electronic device may include receiving control information associated with a controllable electronic device via near field communication, determining a control scheme for controlling the controllable electronic device based on the control information, and controlling the controllable electronic device using the determined control scheme. The control information may be received from a near field communication interface of the controllable electronic device or from a radio frequency identification tag associated with the controllable electronic device.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "A person may use a wide variety of electronic devices each day, including computers and media...

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Jul 26
Could Apple products revolutionize robotics?

UBS analyst Steven Milunovich recently suggested that Apple could eventually move into the home robotics market -- though such a move is likely more than a decade away. As Quantum International (http://www.quantuminnovators.com/) works to capitalize on hot new trends in the booming robotics sector, the company says the Apple technology in your pocket could be poised to spark a billion-dollar explosion in demand for new robotics products.

"Robots for the home would represent a new category, require substantial innovation, and leverage Apple's ease-of-use knowledge and brand." He believes that Siri could be key here, with the voice tool likely to play an increased role in future Apple products," Milunovich said. "We’re already seeing the first wave of high-potential ideas emerge in robotic toys.”

The folks at Quantum International thinks Apple iPads and iPhones, the same devices...

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Jul 25
Mac sales bottoming out? Not so

So much for Mac sales bottoming out in Apple's recent fiscal quarter (which ended in June). Despite no major desktop or laptop refreshes (the new MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs weren't announced until June 11) Mac sales increased.

Not by a lot, admittedly. But they did increase. For the quarter, Apple sold four million Macs -- that's a 2% unit increase over the year-ago quarter. Also keep in mind that while Apple's current object of love, the iPad, accounted for US$9.1 billion of the company's revenue, the Mac accounted for $4.9 billion. Not bad for a platform that's been around as long as the Mac.

And the current fiscal quarter should be even better. Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion begins prowling today. Sales of the Retina display MacBook Pro, as well as the refreshed "regular" MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, will jump start Mac sales. And I'm betting we'll see that rumored 13-inch MacBook Pro and a new iMac either this fiscal quarter or next.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 24
Apple granted patent for Apple TV interface

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,230,360) for an user interface for selecting from a media collection. It apparently involve the interface of Apple's set top box, the Apple TV.

Among other things, techniques and systems are disclosed for providing a graphical user interface (GUI) to user. A system includes a content source and a GUI communicatively connected to the content source.

The GUI includes a user input area to receive user input and a display area to display available content items from the content source based on the received user input. The display area includes a presentation of the available content arranged in one or more rows. Each row includes a user selectable area to display at least one visual indication that represents one or more of the available content items.

Each row includes a holding area to display another visual indication that represents other available content items not displayed in the user selectable area. The display...

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Jul 24
Apple input patent shows interest in computer touch...

An Apple patent (number 8,228,305) for a method of proving human input into a computer has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The invention provides a method for providing human input to a computer which allows a user to interact with a display connected to the computer and shows that Apple continues to investigate touch technology for Macs.

The method includes the steps of placing a first target on a first portion of the user's body, using an electro-optical sensing means, sensing data related to the location of the first target and data related to the location of a second portion of the user's body, the first and second portions of the user's body being movable relative to each other, providing an output of the electro-optical sensing means to the input of the computer, determining the location of the first target and the location of the second portion of the user's body, and varying the output of the computer to the display based upon the determined...

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Jul 24
Could Mountain Lion be the last Apple desktop OS?

In a recent "Computerworld" (http://macte.ch/lTeMX) column, Jonny "Apple Holic" Evans (love the column name) said he thought OS X Mountain Lion might be one of the last desktop computer systems Apple ships as "operating systems are heading inexorably into the cloud." I can't see this happening, though Evans' reasoning is interesting.

He says, a la iOS, in the future your computer (Mac or PC) will carry a slimline OS in order to remain capable of doing many things offline, "but will truly come into its own when accessing the information, software and services held online." Evans says that with the proliferation of services such as Dropbox and Cortado, "computing isn't just about the data you hold on your computer anymore; it's about the data you own in the world wherever it might be stored." He foresees future Macs as devices with barely-there hard drives and most data stored in the cloud.

Evans notes...

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Jul 24
Apple patent involves graphic animation frameworks

An Apple patent (number 8228339) for a framework for graphics animation and compositing operations has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent involves a graphics animation and compositing operations framework has a layer tree for interfacing with the application and a render tree for interfacing with a render engine. Layers in the layer tree can be content, windows, views, video, images, text, media, or other types of objects for an application's user interface. The application commits state changes to the layers of the layer tree. The application does not need to include explicit code for animating the changes to the layers.

Instead, an animation is determined for animating the change in state by the framework which can define a set of predetermined animations based on motion, visibility, and transition. The determined animation is explicitly applied to the affected layers in the render tree. A render engine renders from the render tree into...

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Jul 23
Travelers left behind over 8,000 mobile devices at U.S...

If you're traveling, better keep close tabs on your laptop, iPhone, iPod and iPad. Credant Technologies (http://www.credant.com), a data protection firm, has released the results of their second survey of top airports in the United States.

In the last year, travelers left behind 8,016 mobile devices at seven of the largest airports in the country, including: Chicago O’Hare, Denver International, San Francisco International, Charlotte Douglas, Miami International, Orlando International and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Credant’s research found that of the seven airports surveyed, only one reported that they transfer their mobile devices over to the authorities.

Credant’s research found that the following types of devices were left behind: smartphones and tablets, 3,444 (43.0%); laptops, 3,576 (44.6%); and USB drives, 996 (12.4%) Interestingly, in February 2012, Javelin Research, found that 62% of smartphone...

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Jul 20
A modular Apple television? A transparent screen iTV?

The common scenario for the rumored Apple HDTV (the "iTV") is pretty much a traditional television set with (depending on which reports you believe): Siri voice control; gesture control; 3D (perhaps without glasses); a Retina display for watching 4K movies (such as the upcoming "Hobbit" films); use of an iDevice as a remote control; and a la carte TV programming.

However, if Apple really wanted to think and act different, it could serve up a modular TV or perhaps a glass screen powered by a set-box top.

As reported by "Bloomberg Businessweek" (http://macte.ch/Bc9zj), Israel-based NDS, a TV services provider, thinks that the future of the television is modular. Recently, the company showcased a large matrix of six flat-screen TVs, without bezels, that combined to form a honkin' big TV wall. The displays could be broken up, airing a video in varying sizes near the middle of the wall,...

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Jul 19
Apple eyes improved 'hibernation,' power...

Two new Apple patents at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple continues to work on ways to get the most life out of the batteries on its various devices.

Patent number 2012185715 involves a method and apparatus for facilitating device hibernation. One embodiment of the present invention provides a system that enables a computing device to save additional power by entering a "hibernation mode," wherein the active state of the computing device is preserved in non-volatile storage while power to volatile storage is turned off. During operation, the system reanimates a computing device from a hibernation image by restoring reanimation code from the hibernation image and then executing the reanimation code.

While executing this reanimation code, the system restores the rest of the hibernation image by, reading compressed data containing the rest of the hibernation image, and decompressing the compressed data using computational circuitry...

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Jul 19
Apple patent is for info management with non-...

An Apple patent (number 20120185456) for information management with non-hierarchical views has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Apparently, it involves a modified Finder window in Mac OS X.

Per the patent, information items in a file system are arranged into groups that are created according to a grouping component. A non-hierarchical view displays visual representations (e.g., icons, thumbnail images) of the information items arranged in visually delineated groups according to an arrange type that can be specified for each group.

Various view formats are available including icon, list and column view formats. In each view format, a condensed mode can be selected for one or more groups, resulting in multiple visual representations of items being displayed in a fixed amount of screen space in the non-hierarchical view. In icon view, each condensed group includes a single row of visual representations that can be navigated separately from other...

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Jul 19
Apple patents involve ways to aid the hearing impaired

Two Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office showign that Apple is working on ways to improve support for hearing impaired users.

Patent number 20120183164 is for a social network for sharing a hearing aid setting. Broadly speaking, the embodiments disclosed in the patent describe a social network tailored to meet the needs of individuals having impaired hearing. More specifically the social network provides a mechanism by which members of the social network can communicate with each other information related to improvement the overall quality of life of the members.

In a particular embodiment, audio processing characteristics of hearing aids worn by and used by members of the social network can be modified based upon at least some of the information passed between members of the social network.

Patent number 20120183165 is for remotely updating a hearing aid profile. Broadly speaking, the...

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Jul 19
Apple has gone from 'beleaguered' to top dog...

My, how things have changed. According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics (http://www.strategyanalytics.com), the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system will capture 4% share of 123 million smartphones sold in the United States market during 2012. That's up from 3% in 2011.

Remember when Apple was the beleaguered company and the Mac only had 3% market share in the U.S.? Those were dark days. It's nice that the sun is shining in Apple-land now.
Don't get me wrong. I certainly don't think that Microsoft is "beleaguered"; it's making money hand-over-fist. However, Apple is one of the great comeback stories in the business world -- arguably the greatest comeback of all time.

That said, Apple can't afford to rest on its laurels. Now or ever. There's always some young whippersnapper just waiting to take the top dog's place.

The great pitcher Satchel Paige...

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Jul 18
iPads cannibalizing PC sales -- Macs, not so much

Look for the iPad to continue dominating the tablet market, even as Mac sales grow faster than overall computer sales. Yes, per my crystal ball, Apple will continue to grow its computer market share in the U.S. and globally.

In a note to clients -- as reported by "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) Evercore (http://www.evercore.com), an independent investment banking advisory firm, says personal computer sales for 2012 will remain flat while tablets continue to be hot sellers. Analyst Rob Cihra says the iPad will account for 60% of the tablet market.

Cihra thinks iPad/tablet sales are responsible for "at least half" of the computer market's current decline. He says consumer computer sales have struggled every quarter since they topped out in the third quarter of 2010, which is just one quarter after Apple...

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Jul 17
Apple working on slot antennas for electronic devices

Two new Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that show Apple is working on different antenna ideas.

Patent number 8223082 involves slot antennas for electronic devices. The slot antennas may have a dielectric-filled slot that is formed in a ground plane element. The ground plane element may be formed from part of a conductive device housing. The slot may have one or more holes at its ends.

The holes may affect the impedance characteristics of the slot antennas so that the length of the slot antennas may be reduced. For example, the holes can be used to synthesize the impedance of the slot antennas so that the slot antennas have a resonant frequency that is different from their natural resonant frequency.

The holes may affect the impedance of the slot antennas in multiple radio-frequency bands. The inventors are Bing Chiang, Douglas B. Kough and Enrique Ayala Vazquez.

Patent number 8223077...

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Jul 17
Apple granted patent for power adapters for peripheral...

An Apple patent (number 8222773) for power adapters for powering and/or charging peripheral devices has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, 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.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The invention pertains to power adapters that allow a user to power and/or charge a peripheral device such as a portable electronic device without requiring any additional cables or connectors. The invention also pertains to a connection method for powering a peripheral without requiring a host, peripheral or hub to remain powered on. The connection method allows peripherals to operate on buses that do not supply power. The invention is particularly suitable for peripheral...

| Read more »
Jul 17
Number of bandwidth hungry apps, broadband Internet...

An explosion of bandwidth-hungry applications and broadband Internet users is driving dramatic changes in the high-speed data transmission market. Meanwhile, fiber optic sensor technology is also expanding rapidly.

Monitoring and data transmission using fiber optic sensors and optical fiber in cabling have become commonplace in various applications. What does the future hold for optical networks and sensors? According to new data from Global Information (http://www.giiresearch.com) -- an information service company partnering with over 300 research companies around the world -- public and private networks are experiencing unprecedented end-user demand for bandwidth, resulting in a need to cost-effectively scale the capacity of communications networks.

The amount of backbone Internet bandwidth maintained by major Internet carriers has been expanding by 75% to 125% per year. 40 Gb/s networks...

| Read more »
Jul 16
70% of teens hide online behavior from parents

McAfee (http://www.mcafee.com), a security technology company, has released findings from the company’s "2012 Teen Internet Behavior" study. They're disturbing, though not surprising.

The study investigates the online habits, behaviors, interests, and lifestyles of the first generation to truly grow up online, and discloses how teens are not only engaging in risky behaviors, but how they are hiding it from their parents, many of whom don’t realize they are being fooled. The study also exposes 10 ways teens are hiding their online activities from their parents.

Despite their awareness of online dangers, teens continue to take risks by posting personal information and risky photos online, unbeknownst to parents. Many teens are accessing inappropriate online content, despite 73.5% of parents whom trust their teens to not access age-inappropriate content online. Specifically 43% of teens have accessed...

| Read more »
Jul 13
Greg's Bite: Google's got balls -- Nexus Q...

By Greg Mills

Google's got balls.

That crude statement has a whole rainbow of meanings, depending on who you are.  

To Steve Jobs it meant Eric Schmidt, Apple board member and CEO of Google at the time, had stolen the look and feel of iPhone to inspire Android. Apple's thermonuclear legal war was launched. Jobs appeared to be upset.

To Oracle, owner of Java, it means Google intentionally used bits of Java code to get the Android OS working without licensing the software. Will it also mean they fight infringement actions in court and win? Ouch! Now Google wants Oracle to pay Google's attorneys for their time.  

To the Federal Trade Commission, it means that the worst offender in high tech abuses of user agreements (other than Facebook) has again been busted. This time Google was fined for tricking Safari into accepting advertising cookies that over rode user preferences to not be tracked.

The long list of examples of...

| Read more »
Jul 13
My crystal ball: no iPad cannibalization of Mac sales

In a note to clients -- as reported by "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) -- BMO Capital analyst Keith Bachman said he expects Apple to post a "significant miss"for its fourth fiscal quarter of 2012 as Mac sales continue to be cannibalized by the company's iPad tablet line. I have to disagree.

Despite raising sales estimates for both the iPhone and iPad, Bachman said the June quarter and upcoming final fiscal quarter of 2012 will be "challenging" for Apple as the tech company Apple could see an US$5.5 billion miss from the $38.5 billion consensus for the company's fourth fiscal quarter ending in September if its third quarter performance is in line with the current $37.5 billion forecast, according to historical patterns and outlooks.

Bachman says his Mac sales estimate is expected to drop 1.6 million units over the same six quarter period. He dropped his Mac sales estimate from 18...

| Read more »
Jul 12
Apple looking to improve iPhone handset/earpiece audio...

An Apple patent (number 201200177222) for dynamic audio parameter adjustment using touch sensing has appeared at the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. It's designed to improve audio quality in headsets and earpieces for the iPhone.

Per the invention, an audio communications device has a handset in which a touch sensing ear piece region is coupled to an acoustic leakage analyzer. The acoustic leakage analyzer is to analyze signals from the touch sensing ear piece region and on that basis adjust an audio processing parameter. The latter configures an audio processor which generates an audio receiver input signal for the device.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "People have long been accustomed to making telephone calls using a handset whose earpiece portion the user typically presses up against her ear (in order to better hear the voice of the other party.) As mobile phones became prevalent, the acoustic system that delivers sound to the user's...

| Read more »
Jul 12
Apple patent involves cowling structures in portable...

An Apple patent (number 2012176277) for electronic devices having multi-purpose cowling structures and a compass mounted on a flex circuit has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It's designed to offer more power, longer battery life and less weight in portable devices.

Per the patent, multi-purpose cowling structures are provided to minimize spacing impact within an electronic device, while maximizing functional utility. In one embodiment, an electromagnetic interference shield may provide one or more anchors for enabling a logic board cowling to apply sufficient downward force to one or more board connectors to prevent inadvertent disconnects.

In another embodiment, a cowling can electrically connect the ground plane of a logic board to the ground plane of a housing member and provide a pre-load force to a conductor connection existing on logic board. A compass mounted on a flexible printed circuit board is also provided. Mounting the compass on a...

| Read more »
Jul 12
Apple eyeing iPhone case design with wind noise...

An Apple patent (number 20120177239) for a removable case design offering wind noise protection for the iPhone has appeared at the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. It would sport a windscreen over the smartphone's microphone to improve sound quality.

The invention (top graphic) is for a removable case for a mobile communications device includes an opening that aligns with a microphone port that is built into the device. The case includes a windscreen that is sealed across the opening of the case. The windscreen is designed to reduce wind noise, air blasts, vocal plosives, and other noise. Other embodiments are also described and claimed.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Handheld mobile communications devices, particularly mobile phones, have enabled users to engage in real-time two-way conversations while walking, running, riding in a car, or during other activities. In a number of these situations, a user may be conducting a conversation in...

| Read more »
Jul 12
Apple, Google, Microsoft will challenge navigation...

There have been scattered rumors over the years that Apple would enter the automotive market (the iCar, perhaps?). Well that's not gonna happen, but major technology companies -- such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft -- are beginning to battle for share of the in-vehicle navigation market, according to the Strategy Analytics research group (http://www.strategyanalytics.com).

This may spell trouble for traditional tier one navigation manufacturers, like Continental, Denso, Harman, as well as Garmin and TomTom. The recent Apple announcement regarding its automotive original equipment manufacturer partnerships and the expansion of Apple’s mapping efforts could significantly change the in-vehicle navigation market.

"Previously major technology companies largely wrote off automotive markets," says John Canali, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics. "However, with a growing emphasis on...

| Read more »
Jul 11
Thanks, Apple, for the FireWire-Thunderbolt adapter

Apple’ is to be commended for its decision to provide a FireWire-Thunderbolt adapter (US$29) for Macs such as its revamped MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines -- which lack FireWire ports.

Apple's new, great love -- and understandably so -- is Thunderbolt. Still, a lot of folks have big bucks invested in FireWire products. The FireWire-Thunderbolt adapter allows those products to be used with the latest Macs.

At its June 11 Worldwide Developers Conference Apple introduced a new FireWire adapter, or cable, for use on MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac minis. It can be used with the Thunderbolt links included on the new models, and also can be used on similarly equipped 2011 Macs. The cable adds a wired interface to the MacBook Airs now in use.

Alas, the new systems won't natively use FireWire target disk mode. I'm not sure if you could put a Thunderbolt-only system into FireWire target disk mode using the FireWire-Thunderbolt adapter, but it should be possible to...

| Read more »
Jul 10
Apple patent is for portable devices with multiple...

An Apple patent (number 8,217,619) for portable devices having multiple power interfaces has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. One of those interfaces involves solar power.

According to one embodiment of the invention, a portable electronic device includes, but is not limited to, a processor, a memory coupled to the processor for storing instructions, when executed from the memory, cause the processor to perform one or more functions, a battery coupled to provide power to the processor and the memory, and a battery charging manager coupled to charge the battery using power derived from a plurality of power sources including a solar power source. Other methods and apparatuses are also described.

Wendell B. Sander and Daniel A. Warren are the inventors.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Handheld computing devices typically use standard battery chemistries including ni-cad, lithium-ion, and nickel-metal hydride. In order...

| Read more »
Jul 10
Apple investigating touch screens for laptops

An Apple patent (number 8,217,913) for an integrated touch screen has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple has investigated touch screens on Macs -- at least laptop Macs.

Per the patent, displays with touch sensing circuitry integrated into the display pixel stackup are provided. Circuit elements, such as touch signal lines, such as drive lines and sense lines, grounding regions, in the display pixel stackups can be grouped together to form touch sensing circuitry that senses a touch on or near the display.

An integrated touch screen can include multi-function circuit elements that can operate as circuitry of the display system to generate an image on the display, and can also form part of a touch sensing system that senses one or more touches on or near the display.

The multi-function circuit elements can be, for example, capacitors in display pixels that can be configured to operate as storage capacitors/electrodes, common...

| Read more »
Jul 09
Americans’ smartphone attachment altering our...

Okay, folks, it's time to set that iPhone down for a while. It's affecting your mind.

Lookout (http://www.mylookout.com), makers of an app to protect your smartphone, has released the "Mobile Mindset Study," which analyzes and explores data-based trends in the emotions and behavior driven by smartphones. As people rely more on their smartphones, they are increasingly checking their phones in bed, in the bathroom, at the dinner table, and while driving. Lookout found the frequency that people check their smartphones is increasing:

° 58% of smartphone owners said they don’t go an hour without checking their phone.

° 54% of smartphone owners said they check their phones while lying in bed: before they go to sleep, after they wake up.

° Nearly 4 out of 10 people (39%) check their phones while using the bathroom.

The smartphone attachment is also enabling a whole new genre of...

| Read more »
Jul 06
New iMacs -- Retina displays or not?

Will there be new iMacs of any sort introduced this year? And, if there are, will there be a Retina display model?

With no new iMacs or Mac Pros (and, no, the slight processor bump of the latter doesn't count) introduced at the 2012 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, several sources -- including David Pogue of, among other places, "The New York Times" -- hinted that there would be no new desktops until 2013.

However, "DigiTimes" (http://www.digitimes.com) -- which, admittedly, has a sporadic track record on Apple prognostications -- says Apple's supply chain will start supplying components for a new iMac this month with the updated all-in-one going on sale in October. The article says there's a "high chance" that the new iMac will sport a Retina display.

A couple of months ago ABC News (http://macte.ch/nNPeB) reported...

| Read more »
 
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