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Jan 11
3D TV gaining momentum -- well, in some places

Don't count 3D TV out yet -- or dismiss a 3D "iTV" at some point in the future. While the 3D TV industry is truly global, regional differences are increasing.

For 3D, the most enthusiastic regions are Western Europe and China, while the mix of 3D in North America actually declined in the third quarter of 2011 (Q3’11), according to a new study by NPD DisplaySearch.

"We were surprised to find that 3D appears to be a far more popular feature in China than North America, and the penetration rate was two times higher in the last quarter," says Paul Gray, director of TV Electronics Research, NPD DisplaySearch (http://www.displaysearch.com/). "Our report also indicates that North American and Japanese 3D penetration is lower than the Middle East."

The report finds that North American consumers favor large, inexpensive TV sets with fewer features, unlike other regions. If Apple is...

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Jan 10
The iMac's still the winner -- and future champ...

Apple's laptop line -- particularly the MacBook Air -- gets most of the computer PR love from the company these days, but the iMac is quietly winning its market.

In the the all-in-one (AIO) market the stalwart of Apple's desktop line has about one-third of the computer industry market. The AIO market grew 39% to 14.5 million units worldwide in 2012, according to DisplaySearch (http://www.displaysearch.com). The iMac accounted for 32.9% of shipments in the third quarter, the research firm estimates.

DisplaySearch believes that the market will reach 23.3 million units by 2014. The iMac looks to continue to lead the pack. Apple's closest competitor is Lenovo, with 22.7% of AIO sales.

So what can we expect from the iMac this year?

A redesign of some sort? Perhaps. A height-adjustable monitor? Maybe, but I'm dubious.

A 30-inch screen to accommodate a rumored iMac with...

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Jan 10
Apple wins patents for audio data storage, more

Apple has been granted eight patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office, involving, among other things, audio data storage (most likely involving iCloud), channel state logic and more.

Patent number 8095375 involves an universal container for audio data. Per the patent, storing audio data encoded in any of a plurality of different audio encoding formats is enabled by parametrically defining the underlying format in which the audio data is encoded, in audio format and packet table chunks.

A flag can be used to manage storage of the size of the audio data portion of the file, such that premature termination of an audio recording session does not result in an unreadable corrupted file. This capability can be enabled by initially setting the flag to a value that does not correspond to a valid audio data size and that indicates that the last chunk in the file contains the audio data.

State information for the audio data, to effectively denote...

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Jan 09
One billion HTML5 phones projects to be sold in 2013

According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics (http://www.strategyanalytis.com), worldwide HTML5 phone sales will surge from 336 million units in 2011 to 1 billion units in 2013. Call it a belated victory for the late Steve Jobs, who much preferred HTML5 over Flash.

HTML5 -- preferred by Apple over Flash -- is a language for structuring and presenting content for the Web and is a core technology of the Internet originally proposed by Opera Software. Every new Apple mobile device and every new Mac -- along with the latest version of Apple’s Safari web browser -- supports web standards including HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

HTML5 has quickly become a high-growth technology that will help smartphones, feature phones, tablets, notebooks, desktop PCs, televisions and vehicles to converge through cloud services, according to the research group.

"We forecast worldwide...

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Jan 06
Apple working on new cooling methods for Macs

Apple is working on a new method and apparatus for cooling electronic devices (mainly Macs), according to a new patent (number 20120002342) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Embodiments in the patent 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. The inventors are Jean L. Lee and Richard Blanco.

Here's Apple's background and summary of 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 electronic systems, such as computers and other...

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Jan 06
What could Apple be planning for rumored 'media-...

According to "All Things D" (http://macte.ch/RD2wJ), Apple is planning a media-related event to be held in New York later this month. I'm certain it won't involve an iPad 3, iPhone 5 or iTV. So what might Apple be unveiling?

It's likely that Apple plans to beef up its iBook app and iBookstore, which lags behind the Kindle's offering. On the other hand, I'd be shocked if Apple offered iBooks on any platforms beyond OS X and iOS. Did I say OS X? Yes, at long last I think the iBookstore and iBook app will be available on the Mac. You'll be able to purchase books on any OS X or iOS device and have it "pushed" to all your other devices via iCloud. Ditto for the mags available at Newsstand.

Apple will probably announce a plethora of new book titles, as well as new magazines available at Newsstand. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the company make a major push into the digital textbook realm, promoting the...

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Jan 05
Apple backlight patent hints at 'iTV'...

An Apple patent (number 2012002110) for dynamic backlight adaptation for black bars with subtitles may hint at what Apple has planned for the rumored "iTV" (an Apple-branded HDTV) and perhaps an iMac with television features (see http://www.macnews.com/2011/12/09/imac-tv-functionality-im-there).

In the patent, embodiments of a system that includes one or more integrated circuits are described. During operation, the system receives a video image, that when displayed, includes a picture portion, a non-picture portion, and a subtitle which is superimposed on at least a subset of the non-picture portion, where the non-picture portion has an initial brightness value.

Then, the system scales the brightness of pixels corresponding to a remainder of the non-picture portion of the video image to have a new brightness value...

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Jan 05
Apple patents involve Thunderbolt cables

Three Apple patents involving cables -- and apparently Thunderbolt technology -- have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Thunderbolt is an interface for connecting peripheral devices to a computer via an expansion bus. Thunderbolt was developed by Intel and brought to market with technical collaboration from Apple.

Patent number 20120005496 involves power distribution inside a cable. The invention -- shown in the first graphic -- involves 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. For example, where a host is coupled to a device that is not self-powered, the host may provide power for circuitry at each end of the cable.

In various embodiments of the present invention, the device may request higher voltage from the host, such that more power can be delivered. In these cases, the device may regulate the voltage received from...

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Jan 05
Technology could mean 3D iTV, Macs

If Apple does indeed launch its own line of television sets (the much rumored "iTV"), I suspect somewhere down the road the company will offer a 3D version. Heck, probably 3D Macs, too.

Apple isn't going to mess around with ugly, bulky 3D glasses. But Stream TV Networks (http://streamtvnetworks.com/) has announced that it will unveil its new Ultra-D technology at CES 2012. Ultra-D is a "next generation 3D without glasses display technology that surpasses all 3D viewing experiences offered to date," boasts Mathu Rajan, CEO of Stream TV Networks.

Developed by Stream TV Networks, the Ultra-D technology is strictly proprietary and leverages custom hardware, middleware techniques and software algorithms to create autostereoscopic 3D imagery. Rajan says this technology will provide consumers with access to 3D content by enabling real-time conversion of 2D content into 3D autostereoscopic (...

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Jan 04
My predictions for 2012: the Mac desktop

This is the final part of a six-part op-ed series in which I make my predictions for Apple's product line-up for 2012. Today we'll look at the company's Mac desktop line-up.

The Mac desktop that receives the Big Love from Apple in 2012 will be the iMac. The Mac mini will continue to be updated. As for the Mac Pro, my tea leaves say it will receive one last update in the spring -- this will be the last upgrade for the high-end tower before it fades into oblivion.

Basically, the iMac has more than enough power for 99.9% of all users. And with Thunderbolt, Apple figures the iMac -- and the Mac mini -- offer plenty of expandability options.

During Apple's last earnings call of 2011, the company said that 22% of its revenue comes from Macs -- of that, 74% comes from laptop sales. On the desktop side, the iMac takes the Lion's share, though Apple won't say just what percentage of desktop sales it tallies. This means the Mac Pro is increasingly a niche product whose...

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Jan 03
My predictions for 2012: the Mac laptop

This is part five of a six-part op-ed series in which I make my predictions for Apple's product line-up for 2012. Today we'll look at the company's Mac laptop line-up.

There have been rumors of a 15-inch MacBook Air. My crystal ball says it's coming, along with a 17-inch version. In fact, the entire Mac laptop line will evole into Airs. The 11-inch and 13-inch models will be dubbed MacBook Airs, and the 15-inch and 17-inch versions will be called, simply, MacBook Pros.

All models will come in the svelte design the current Air line-up is famous for. All will ditch built-in optical drives and sport only solid state drives. Apple will expect those who want an optical drive to buy its US$79 SuperDrive. Need more storage? Apple will tout the power of Thunderbolt for that and promote Thunderbolt drives from several companies, which will finally arrive on the scene in greater numbers. The price tag on the pricey drives will drop a bit.

Apple’s future MacBook Airs and...

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Jan 03
The Northern Spy: a measure of health?

By Rick Sutcliffe

Our persispacious reader may have noticed that this column is a little late. Chalk that up to health issues, including bouts with a rather violent gastroenteritis over Christmas, ongoing sciatica that make standing up and sitting down difficult, and a nasty cold. The joys of getting old. Ah, but what's a little pain? It never hurt anyone. The top line: brevity shall be the order of the month.

Corporate pain seems the lot of once stalwarts Kodak, Sony, and RIM, all of whom have fallen on times that get harder with every passing month. Kodak seems to be unable to sell patents to save the company, and barring some last minute reprieve, appears destined for the bankruptcy courts. Sony, dragged down by the cutthroat TV business, has been unable to make a profit in nearly a decade, and has no immediate prospect of a turnaround. The inevitable reorganization and shrinkage is going to be painful, but the Spy feels that it...

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Jan 03
Patent involves sharing data between iOS devices, Macs

Apple wants to make it easier to share and store data between a handheld device and Macs, per a patent (number 8090767) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

A method is described that involves detecting the presence of a pairing partner. Prior to establishing a paired relationship with the pairing partner, a user is prompted to verify himself/herself. In response to the user properly verifying himself/herself, the paring partner is paired with. The pairing includes invoking a remote storage protocol that contemplates a network between the partners to establish on a first of the partners access to non volatile storage resources for general use.

The non volatile storage resources are located on a second of the partners. The second of the partners is a handheld device that provides wireless cell phone service, wireless Internet service and music playback service. The inventors are Mitch Adler and Jonathan Jay Andrews.

Here's part of Apple's background on...

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Jan 03
Apple working on headset with wired, wireless modes

Apple is working on a wireless communication headset with both wired and wireless modes, according to a new patent (number 8090132) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, the wireless headset can include a headset connector assembly that can be coupled to a cable connector of a cable, which can in turn be connected to a telephone. When the wireless headset is coupled to the telephone, it can advantageously be operable to exchange audio information with the telephone through the cable, receive electrical power from the telephone through the cable, or both.

In addition, the cable connector can advantageously be coupled to the wireless headset without obstructing airflow to a microphone that is located in the headset connector assembly, through use of apparatus of the invention located on the cable connector, such as an acoustic tunnel, a microphone-speaker pair, or a microphone that is coupled to control circuitry operable to disable the microphone...

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Jan 03
Apple patent involves virtualization of graphics...

A new patent (number 8089488) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is eyeing ways to make it easier for hardware and software to share graphics resources.

Via the patent -- entitled "virtualization of graphics resources" -- graphics resources are virtualized through an interface between graphics hardware and graphics clients. The interface allocates the graphics resources across multiple graphics clients, processes commands for access to the graphics resources from the graphics clients, and resolves conflicts for the graphics resources among the clients. The inventors are John Stauffer, Bob Beretta and Ken Dyke.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A graphics kernel driver typically interfaces between graphics client drivers and graphics hardware to assign graphics resources to each client driver and to administer the submission of graphics commands to the graphics hardware. Each client driver has explicit knowledge of the...

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Dec 30
My predictions for 2012: the Apple TV and iTV

This is part four of a six-part op-ed series in which I make my predictions for Apple's product line-up for 2012. Today we'll look at the company's Apple TV and the rumored iTV.

I was one of those who long doubted that Apple would enter the TV market. I've changed my mind -- or perhaps I've merely been worn down by the constant rumors about the Apple HDTV (the iTV). Either way, I'm forecasting that we'll see one in late 2012.

However, I don't think the Apple TV -- the set-box top -- is doomed. I think it will updated to 1080p quality and continue to be sold for those who can't afford the iTV, which will doubtless carry a considerable price tag. It will also offer some, if not all, of the features of the iOS that will power the iTV.

The latter will be a full-fledged television set that will be offered in versions ranging from 42 to 55 inches which will run a special version of iOS. I also think that Apple will offer at least one 3D option, figuring they can do...

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Dec 29
Greg's Bite: The high tech race to mediocrity

By Greg Mills

I just read an article where the author listed both the smart and stupid moves Microsoft made for the year. I was struck by the lack of anything revolutionary coming from the intellectually challenged Redmond campus. The Kinect video game sensor more or less topped the list of recently smart moves made by Ballmer. Even Kinect was purchased technology rather than innovation that came out of the massively funded R&D efforts at Microsoft. Microsoft has entered the "declining to irrelevance" phase of tech company evolution.

Steve Jobs famously declared the PC dead and predicted the mobile OS in tablet form was the future of computing. Many would beg to disagree, but the falling numbers in the PC industry prove him right as rain. HP came close to pulling the plug on PCs due to a declining profit margins that may entirely disappear soon.

I was furious that my daughter's school spend money on new PCs rather than iPads. I told the...

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Dec 29
Future Apple devices may recognize your face

Future OS X and iOS devices may recognize your face when you look at them, if an Apple patent (number 20110317872) for "low threshold face recognition" comes to fruition.

Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, are disclosed for reducing the impact of lighting conditions and biometric distortions, while providing a low-computation solution for reasonably effective (low threshold) face recognition. In one aspect, the methods include processing a captured image of a face of a user seeking to access a resource by conforming a subset of the captured face image to a reference model.

The reference model corresponds to a high information portion of human faces. The methods further include comparing the processed captured image to at least one target profile corresponding to a user associated with the resource, and selectively recognizing the user seeking access to the resource based on a result of said comparing....

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Dec 29
Apple patent is for flash control for electronic...

A new Apple patent (number 20110317991) at the US Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company is eyeing ways to improve the cameras in its iOS devices. The patent is for a flash control for an electronic rolling shutter.

A scene ambient lighting indication is obtained. An integration time interval and a flash pulse-on time interval for taking a picture is then set. The set integration time interval is shorter when the indication is bright than when the indication is dark; and the set flash pulse-on time interval is longer when the indication is bright than when the indication is dark.

An image is captured using the set integration time interval and the set flash pulse-on time interval in accordance with an electronic rolling shutter (ERS). Other embodiments are also described and claimed. Richard Tsai is the inventor.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "An embodiment of the invention is an electronic camera with electronic rolling shutter (ERS...

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Dec 29
My predictions for 2012: the iPod

This is part three of a six-part op-ed series in which I make my predictions for Apple's product line-up for 2012. Today we'll look at the company's iPod.

The iPod no longer gets the big love and attention it once did. That goes to the iPhone and iPad, products that have evolved from the iPod and cannibalized some of its sales. Despite this, Apple's MP3 player remains dominant in its market and has years of life left.

But there'll be fewer models to choose from. Per my crystal ball, the iPod shuffle and iPod classic have seen their last updates and will quietly disappear in 2012.

The iPod nano won't have any major redesigns (no iOS support, for example). A few bells and whistles will be added. Pricing will drop a bit or else Apple will up the storage capacity slightly and keep prices steady.

The iPod touch is the top dog in the iPod world and will continue to be one of Apple's shining jewels. It will finally get cameras on a par with the iPhone, as well...

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Dec 29
Apple patents involve authentication, modulus...

An Apple patent (number 20110320814) for a system and method for authentication has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves a means of providing authentication based on a process that utilizes, in one aspect, a physical theory or a physical value such as time and in another aspect, a random value.

The proposed scheme utilizes new algorithms that introduce randomness using a physical value for authentication. An exemplary method includes sharing an initial state value S(0) with a sender and a receiver, generating a sender S(t, v) based on a parameter t and an identifier v and based at least in part on the value S(0). The method includes generating a receiver S(t, v) from S(0) based on the parameter t and the identifier v wherein the parameter t is related to a physical value in authenticating the identifier v based on a comparison of the sender S(t, v) and the receiver S(t, v). The process of generating the sender S(t, v) and the receiver S(t, v)...

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Dec 28
My predictions for 2012: the iPad

This is part two of a six-part op-ed series in which I make my predictions for Apple's product line-up for 2012. Today we'll look at the company's tablet, which I think will evolve into a family of products.

The iPad 3 will arrive sometime between late February and early March. The design will be the same, though just slightly thicker to accommodate more storage and a high-res screen. The iPad 3 will come in a model with 128GB of solid state storage; the iPad 2 tops out at 64GB.

When it comes to displays, the next gen iPad will boast an HD display with a screen resolution of 2048 x 1536. Other spiffy features will include wireless charging technology, Siri support, 1GB of RAM and an A6 processor. Oh yes, and better cameras -- though not as good as the iPhone's.

Per my crystal ball, the iPad 3 will come in the following price points (for Wi-Fi only versions, add another $100-$125 for Wi-Fi plus 3G models): 16GB, $399; 32GB, $499; 64GB, $599; and 128GB, $699...

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Dec 27
My predictions for 2012: the iPhone

Today I'm launching a six-part op-ed series in which I make my predictions for Apple's product line-up for 2012. Today we'll look at the company's smartphone.

We'll see the iPhone 5 arrive no later than June. I predict that will sport a redesigned form factor with a four-inch, 960x540-pixel qHD screen and an ARM 6 processor with a quad-core.

The good news: it will be screamingly fast and the screen will look great. The bad news: all those iPhone cases you have -- and some accessories -- will no longer fit.

The iPhone 5 will also, per my crystal ball, sport 1GB of RAM and offer HSPA+ support. The latter will allow for theoretical download speeds of up to 21Mbps. However, storage capacity will remain the same, with the next gen iPhone being offered in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models. On the bright side: despite some nifty new features and a redesign, the current pricing structure will remain intact. I don't foresee any major changes in the smartphone's cameras....

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Dec 27
Apple patents involves OS X, Photo Booth, more

Apple has been granted several patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 8086604 is for an universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system and involves Mac OS X. The invention provides convenient access to items of information that are related to various descriptors input by a user, by means of a unitary interface which is capable of accessing information in a variety of locations, through a number of different techniques.

Using a plurality of heuristic algorithms to operate upon information descriptors input by the user, the present invention locates and displays candidate items of information for selection and/or retrieval. Thus, the advantages of a search engine can be exploited, while listing only relevant object candidate items of information. The inventors are Yan Arrouye and Keith Mortensen.

Patent number 8085318 is for real-time image capture...

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Dec 23
Happy Holidays

The MacNews.com and MacTech.com gang wish you and yours a great holiday season. We'll be running a limited schedule over the Dec. 23-26 holiday weekend to be with our family and friends.

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Dec 22
Apple working on fuel cell technology for Mac laptops

Two patents at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple is working on fuel cell technology for future Mac laptops.

Patent number 20100313589 is for a fuel cell system coupled to a portable computing device. The involves the design of a fuel cell system which is capable of both providing power to and receiving power from a rechargeable battery in a portable computing device. This eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel cell system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell system.

This fuel cell system includes a fuel cell stack which converts fuel into electrical power. It also includes a controller which controls operation of the fuel cell system. The fuel cell system additionally includes a power link that transfers electrical power between the fuel cell system and the portable computing device, and a communication link that provides communication between the portable computing device and the...

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Dec 22
Apple patents involve the Magic Trackpad, Device Foot...

An Apple patent (number 20110310029) for a portable, multi-touch input device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office and involves the Magic Trackpad.

Per the patent (first graphic), the portable input device can wirelessly send control signals to an external circuit. The control signals can derive from touch or gestures applied to a touch sensitive surface. The control signals can also include a mouse click equivalent control signal generated by mechanical manipulation of the portable input device. The inventors are Erik A. Uttermann, Rico Zorkendorfer, Andrew Lauder and Sean S. Corbin.

Along the same lines, there's an Apple patent (20110310536) for a device foot. A moveable device foot (second graphic) for an electronic device is described. The device foot can include a rigid weight bearing member and a flexible sealing member that is integrally formed with the weight bearing member. The device foot can be formed using a double-shot injection molding...

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Dec 22
Here's hoping for 'people power' used...

IBM (http://www.ibm.com) recently released its "5in5" (http://macte.ch/Kilp9), a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

Of course, you have to take lists like this (including mine, which are coming next week) with a grain of salt. After all, I'm still waiting for my flying care -- and have been since I was a kid.

That said, I hope that IBM is correct in predicting that "people power will come to life." Here's how IBM sees it:

"Anything that moves or produces heat has the potential to create energy that can be captured. Walking. Jogging. Bicycling. The heat from your computer. Even the water flowing through your pipes.

"Advances in renewable energy technology will allow individuals to collect this kinetic energy, which now goes to waste, and use it...

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Dec 21
A 3D iTV, perhaps?

Don't count 3DTVs out yet. Currys and PC World, UK electrical retailers, report that sales in 3DTVs have breached the 40% mark for the first time ever.

The retailer predicts that further sales in 3DTV sets will continue to peak. Earlier this year, the retailer reported sales in 3DTVs alone to have grown 500% since last year, with 3DTVs now accounting for two in every five TVs sold since the technology became more accessible to the mainstream market.

Sales generally within the home cinema technology have risen significantly, with Currys and PC World recording an 83% year-on-year growth in the category.  Hmmm, so will Apple's rumored HDTV (the iTV?) be offered in a 3D version -- if and when it materializes?

-- Dennis Sellers

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Dec 20
Apple granted seven patents

Apple has been granted several patent wins by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Design patent D650811 is for the second gen iPod shuffle design. The inventors are Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Jonathan Ive, Daniele De Iuliis, Richard Howarth, Steve Jobs, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Douglas Satzger, Christopher Stringer, Calvin Seid, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent 20110294551 is for missed telephone call management for a portable multifunction device. In one aspect of the invention, a computer-implemented method is disclosed for use in conjunction with a portable electronic device with a touch screen display. A list of items comprising missed telephone calls is displayed. Upon detecting user selection of an item in the list, contact information is displayed for a respective caller corresponding to the user selected item.

The displayed contact information...

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Dec 20
iPad, MacBook Airs forcing computer vendors to regroup

If you believe the "DigiTimes" (http://www.digitimes.com) site, the iPad and the MacBook Air are putting some serious smack-down on their competitors.

The DigiTimes research group says that notebook brand vendors are turning their focus to ultrabooks (a computer in a category of thin and lightweight ultraportable laptops, defined by a specification from Intel), which have better profitability compared to the traditional notebooks. Most of the notebook brand vendors are also turning away from the netbook market (a category of small, lightweight, legacy-free, and inexpensive laptop computers), says "DigiTimes."

Personally, I think there's a line so fine between an ultrabook and a netbook that it's almost indistinguishable. Regardless, the hottest selling "small" laptop around is the Air.

As for tablet computers, although players such as Acer and Asustek have launched quad-core tablets with...

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Dec 19
Is there a future for the telcos?

Is there a future for the telecoms? It's a question asked by Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com) in a new report.

The industry is currently involved in a massive transformation. Since the arrival of the Internet, the focus of the industry has moved from providing defined end-products to becoming a facilitator in the development of a range of new products, companies, and indeed new industries.

Unfortunately ever since this change took place the incumbents have fought tooth and nail against these developments. They wanted to maintain their traditional products for as long as possible and mainly for that reason most have continued to defend their monopolistic structures, according to Research and Markets.

They lost the internet battle with the newly-emerging digital and social media companies; and they made a similar mistake in relation to mobile...

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Dec 16
Greg's Bite: SOPA, Congressional overkill

By Greg Mills

The Constitution of the Untied States grants the government the right to protect intellectual property for the benefit of inventors and writers. Patents, copyright, trademarks and the like are protected by federal laws. Those laws are subject to tweaking by the idiots in Congress.

Recently, in an attempt to further quash movie and music piracy, a bill was introduced that got the short name SOPA. The "Stop Online Piracy Act," however well intended, has apparently been so broadly written that search engines can be sued for simply listing web sites that engage in piracy.

Should Google be forced to be an online cop and decide if any of the web site they list are involved with Internet piracy? This amounts to an impossible task and subjects search companies to unlimited financial risk.

One would think the giant lawsuits where music companies sue individuals for illegally downloading music and get $80,000 per song is...

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Dec 16
Apple still one of the most agile companies in America


As Apple has grown -- and grown and grown -- some folks have said it's gotten so big that it can't possibly be as nimble as it once was. The late Steve Jobs ran Apple like it was a small, scrappy firm.

However, at least one person thinks Apple is still one of the three most agile companies in America. Mike Richardson, a former corporate manager and author of Wheel$pin: The Agile Executive’s Manifesto (http://www.mydrivingseat.com), and his point is that it’s agility that drives a company’s ability to compete in the business world. And he says that Apple, Ford Motor and Yahoo are three of the most agile companies around. 

"The passing of Steve Jobs, while tragic, will not end Apple’s reign at the top. In his time at the company, he instilled a culture of agility that will not go away," Richardson says. "Apple began at the dawn of the computer industry and it survived as a computer manufacturer...

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Dec 15
Apple working on low power backlight for a display

A new Apple patent (number 20110304597) shows that Apple is working on a low power backlight for a display. The invention provides systems, devices and methods for controlling backlighting in an electronic device.

In one embodiment, an electronic device an electronic device having a processor and a display assembly coupled to the processor. The display assembly being configured to provide visual output. The display assembly includes a backlight layer having one or more light sources. At least one of the one or more light sources is coupled to ground via a switch. The switch is configured to selectively operate the one or more light sources to adjust a brightness of the visual output. Edward Craig Hyatt is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Electronic devices such as desktop computers, mobile computing devices, personal digital assistants, cell phones and mobile media devices have become ubiquitous in today's society. They serve as...

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Dec 15
Apple patent reflects app recommendation system

A new Apple patent (number 20110303741) at the US Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company is working on a system that would detect an external device and recommend compatible applications available on the Apple App Store-- and perhaps the Mac App Store.

A method for identifying an application usable with an accessory is provided. The method includes receiving an accessory identifier associated with the accessory, identifying an application protocol associated with the accessory identifier, identifying an application that supports the application protocol, and providing information about the application to a user device. A method for identifying an accessory usable with an application is also provided.

The method includes receiving information about an application, determining an application protocol associated with the application, determining an accessory that supports the application protocol, and providing information about the accessory to a user...

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Dec 15
Apple TV doing pretty well for a 'hobby'

The Apple TV -- Apple's set-box box, not the rumored Apple-branded HDTV (which we'll call the iTV) -- may still be a "hobby," per Apple's classification, but it's doing pretty darn well for a hobby -- and looks to do even better.

Apple has emerged as the leading player in the rapidly growing connected TV player market, according to the latest research from the Strategy Analytics Connected Home Devices service (http://www.strategyanalytics.com). According to the report, “Connected TV Players: Another Battlefield in the Smart TV War,” global sales of connected TV players -- also known as video streaming or Internet TV set-top-boxes -- will more than double in 2011, compared to 2010. Strategy Analytics projects that the market will reach almost 12 million units globally this year, with Apple alone predicted to sell nearly four million devices.

While connected TV players haven't...

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Dec 14
Perhaps Apple was right to ignore UltraViolet

In the past, I've felt that Apple should consider supporting UltraViolet. However, now I'm now so sure since the roll-out of the technology seems to have been flubbed.

UltraViolet is a cloud-based movie storage solution that the industry is betting (or at least hoping) will convince consumers to buy movies instead of renting them. How? The "digital locker" solution purportedly keeps copies of films you've bought on remote servers for viewing any time on various devices. Starting this month, consumers can buy the first film discs offered with UltraViolet.

Sounds like a good idea, but so far it's not off to a great start. According to the "Associated Press" (http://macte.ch/SRxuP), when the studio introduced its first movies on the new "UltraViolet" format in October, consumers were led to believe they could buy a DVD or Blu-ray, register their ownership of the movie on the UltraViolet website and then...

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Dec 13
Will Apple roll out an iPad mini?

There are rumors that Apple will roll out an iPad mini in 2012. In the past I've doubted this; after all, the late Steve Jobs said the screen size of the current Apple tablet was the optimum size for what Apple wanted to accomplish with the tablet.

Now I'm less certain. I think there's a good chance that Apple will roll out an "iPad mini" to take on the very popular Kindle Fire. In fact, Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com) says Apple is likely to launch 7.85-inch iPad mini in the third quarter of 2012 with LGD and AUO seem to be the potential suppliers.

Of course, next year will also see the roll-out of the iPad 3 with a retina display. And I wouldn't be surprised to see the iPad 2 still sold at a reduced price. In other words, look for there to be a line of iPads, as there multiple Mac and iPhone models.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Dec 12
Accelerating tablet adoption dramatically shifts TV...

The trend of viewing “live” and on demand programming on devices such as smartphones and tablets is accelerating -- with 76% of 18-44 year olds indicating they're watching more TV on these devices than just one year ago, according to research by video service management specialists, QuickPlay Media (http://www.quickplay.com/).

The report, which captured a number of trends showing shifting TV viewing habits, found that 44% of mobile TV viewers also prefer to catch-up with sports, news, and shows at times that suit them -- rather than during the live broadcast. The results come on the back of explosive growth of tablet devices.

Gartner estimates worldwide tablet sales to exceed 63 million units sold in 2011, a 261% increase over 20101 which illustrates the dramatic shift around how, when and where consumers are now watching "live" television and VOD content on their mobile devices.

The...

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Dec 09
An iMac with TV functionality? I'm there!

Here's one rumor I certainly hope is true as I've wanted it to happen for a long time:

In a note to clients -- as reported by "Forbes" (http://macte.ch/qmKzI) -- Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair thinks that Apple will bring some features of its rumored "iTV" to the iMac next year, in effect allowing the all-in-one to double as a television set. Apple hasn't announced ANY plans to make an iTV (an Apple-branded HDTV), so take this with a grain of salt. But I'm hopeful.

Blair thinks that a redesigned iMac in the first half of 2012 could be an intermediate step on the way to the iTV. What sort of redesign? An all-in-one with built-in Apple TV software and iCloud features.

"We think this makes sense because while we typically think about the newest TV’s hanging on the wall in large form factors, Apple could effectively start with what they already have on the manufacturing line and slowly push...

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Dec 08
Apple patent is for user interface for electronic...

An Apple patent (number 20110302502) for an user interface for electronic backup has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Systems and methods are provided for storing and restoring digital data. The patent involves current, and probably future versions, of the Time Machine features of Mac OS X.

A method includes receiving, a first user input requesting that a backup interface be displayed, displaying the backup interface, the backup interface including a display area for presenting at least a first visual representation of an earlier version of a current view and a visual representation of the current view, the earlier version including a first element, receiving, while the backup interface is displayed, a second user input requesting that the current view be modified according to the earlier version, at least with regard to the first element, animating the modification of the first element as moving from the visual representation of the earlier version to the...

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Dec 08
Apple working on its own Kinect-like technology

A new patent (number 20110298798) at the US Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on its own Kinect-like technology. Kinect is a motion sensing input device by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 video game console.

Per Apple's patent a three-dimensional imaging and display system is provided in which user input is optically detected in an imaging volume by measuring the path length of an amplitude modulated scanning beam as a function of the phase shift thereof. Visual image user feedback concerning the detected user input is presented. Christoph H. Krah is the inventor.

The invention provides a three-dimensional imaging and display system. User input is optically detected in an imaging volume by measuring the path length of an amplitude modulated scanning beam as a function of the phase shift thereof. Here's Apple's background on the invention:

"Modern three-dimensional ('3D') imaging and display technologies are employed in widely diverse...

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Dec 08
All-in-one sales slowing, but the iMac will defy this...

After experiencing strong growth of 45-50% in 2009 and 2010, demand for all-in-one computers has already started cooling down with shipment growth for 2011 expected to reach only 31.1%, according to a new report from "DigiTimes" (http://macte.ch/2sMz3). I'm predicting that one all-in-one will defy that trend: the iMac.

"DigiTimes" says that the all-in-one segment will face an even bigger slowdown as it continues trying to penetrate into the desktop market in 2012, with annual shipment growth dropping below 20%, on shipments of 15.8 million units, adds the research group. This year shipments of all-in-ones will only account for 9.3% of the desktop market, lower than previous forecasts that expected double-digit penetration in 2011, according to the research group.

While the proportion will rise slightly in 2012, reaching 10.5%, the growth of the segment has reached a stable point and the AIO penetration...

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Dec 08
Apple eyeing high contrast liquid crystal display

A new Apple patent (number 20110298833) at the US Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is investigating a high contrast liquid crystal display.

According to Apple devices and methods related to high-contrast liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are provided. For example, such an electronic device may include an LCD with two liquid crystal alignment layers not symmetric to one another and upper and lower polarizing layers respectively above and below the alignment layers. The inventors are Enkh Amgalan Dorjotov, Zhibing Ge, Ming Xu, Cheng Chen, Bai Young Park, John Z. Zhong, Wei Chen and Shawn Robert Gettemy.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are commonly used as screens or displays for a wide variety of electronic devices, including such consumer electronics as televisions, computers, and handheld devices (e.g., cellular telephones, audio and video players, gaming systems, and so forth).

"Such LCD devices...

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Dec 08
Apple patent involves noise cancellation in portable...

An Apple patent (number 20110299695) for active noise cancellation decisions in a portable audio device show that the company continues to look at ways to improve the sound quality in its iOS and portable devices.

Per the patent, active noise cancellation (ANC) circuitry is coupled to the input of an earpiece speaker in a portable audio device, to control the ambient acoustic noise outside of the device and that may be heard by a user of the device. A microphone is to pickup sound emitted from the earpiece speaker, as well as the ambient acoustic noise. Control circuitry deactivates the ANC in response to determining that an estimate of how much sound emitted from the earpiece speaker has been corrupted by noise indicates insufficient corruption by noise.

In another embodiment, the ANC decision is in response to determining that an estimate of the ambient noise level is greater than a threshold level of an audio artifact that could be induced by the ANC. Guy C....

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Dec 08
Most of holiday budgets will be spent on electronics

TechBargains (www.techbargains.com), a deal aggregation website for electronics products, released its 2011 Holiday Survey, revealing that despite the weak economy consumers are still buying large amounts of consumer electronics this season. And since tablets are among the hottest items, it looks to be a happy holiday for Apple, as well as Amazon.

At least a quarter of all consumers’ holiday gift budgets will be spent on consumer electronics with 52% of shoppers expecting to spend between US$250 to $500. More than 50% of men and women surveyed plan on spending half or more of their budget on electronics, completely unimpeded by the economic downturn.

Electronics products will consume a large portion of the holiday gift budget for men and women with 39% of women and 37% of men stating that they will spend half of their holiday budget on consumer electronics. However, while they're spending...

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Dec 08
Apple patents involve cell power control, removing...

Several Apple patents have popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 20110300805 is for adaptive cellular power control. The patent involves a method of mitigating interference in a mobile wireless communication device by adaptively adjusting transmit power levels of a wireless cellular transceiver. A receive signal quality for a wireless non-cellular transceiver that includes interference from signals transmitted by the wireless cellular transceiver is estimated. The wireless non-cellular and wireless cellular transceivers are co-located in the mobile wireless communication device, and both transceivers are active.

An actual transmit power of the wireless cellular transceiver is adjusted based on the estimated receive signal quality to a level less than a requested transmit power. The estimation of the receive signal quality and the adjusting of the actual transmit power is periodically...

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Dec 07
Mobile device security issues slowing enterprise...

A survey conducted by the Enterprise Device Alliance revealed that IT administrators believe that the challenge of securing mobile devices is the largest impediment to acceptance by enterprises. This seems to be an area in which Apple could turn the tide -- especially if the rumors are true that new CEO Tim Cook is more amendable to the enterprise than was Steve Jobs.

Fifty-four percent of the respondents replied that preventing access to sensitive data from unauthorized users is the top concern slowing adoption smartphones and tablets for enterprises. Fifty-nine percent of the IT professionals said that another source of concern is the security risk should the devices be stolen or lost.

Despite these concerns, more than 90% reported that tablets are being tested in pilot or production deployments at their organizations. Though the respondents indicated that only 6% of the employees currently have tablets, they expect that number to increase 250% by the end of next...

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Dec 06
Apple patents involve GUIs, magnet array, more

Apple has been granted six patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 8072471 involves processing cursor movements in a graphical user interface of a multimedia application. Per the patent, amethod for processing a selected item in a graphical user interface of a multimedia application is provided. The method includes receiving a hot key input that specifies a function that is to be applied to the selected item and displaying a set of control guidelines associated with the hot key input. The set of control guidelines indicates cursor movement inputs needed to specify particular aspects of the function.

A method for transforming a received cursor movement in a first coordinate system to a transformed cursor movement in a second coordinate system is provided. The received cursor movement specifies a particular manner (e.g., aspect and extent) of a function to be applied to an item in a workspace of a...

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