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Jul 29
I'd hate for Apple to drop iDVD, but I suspect it...

The rumor mill says that iLife will be updated next month, going to 64-bit, introducing a "mystery" application and dropping iDVD.

It won't be surprising if Apple drops iDVD, but it will be disappointing. Apple -- or at least Steve Jobs -- seem determined to phase out CD and DVD support, hoping Apple users will go completely digital. And, no doubt, turn to MobileMe, iTunes and other Apple services for buying and storing all their content.

The rumor mill also says that Apple will continue to offer iDVD as a download. I hope that's true. And I hope that the app will continue to be updated as Mac OS X is updated. But I suspect it will simply be allowed to languish a la iMovie HD --- which, I maintain, was still lots better than the version of iMovie that now ships with iLife.

But the writing has been on the wall for awhile. When Apple introduced iLife '09, iDVD was barely mentioned. It wasn't updated and received no new themes.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 28
Greg's bite: Blue Screen of death=oil spill?

By Greg Mills

It is just coming out in the inquest over the largest oil spill in US history that the accident might have to do with a PC which was monitoring and controlling the drilling rig suffering a blue screen of death freeze.   

While it has not come out yet which operating system crashed, I don't recall ever having a blue screen of death event in my 25 years of using over a dozen various Macs . Hmmm, I wonder what operating system it might have been ....

The steady increase in business adoption of things Apple has a lot to do with overhead in the long term. How much time will be lost due to OS crashes? How many IP guys will it take to keep the servers up? What is the learning curve on the OS and the company computers in general? The old refrain, "Macs are great, but there just isn't software to do what we need to do that is available on Apple computers" is not really so relevant any more.

Smart phones are going the same way. As...

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Jul 28
Apple wins design patents

Apple has won several design patents from the US Patent & Trademark Office. Several others have also appeared. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 7,7645,236 is for a broadband antenna for handheld devices (namely, iPhone antennas). Broadband antennas and handheld electronic devices with broadband antennas are provided. A handheld electronic device has integrated circuits, a display, and a battery mounted within a housing. The housing has a planar inner surface. A broadband antenna for the handheld electronic device has a ground element and a resonating element. The ground element and resonating element may have the same shape and may have the same size. The ground element and resonating element may lie in a common plane and be separated by a gap that lies in the common plane. The plane in which the ground element and resonating element lie may be parallel to the planar inner surface of the housing. Electronic components such as the integrated...

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Jul 28
Well, maybe I won't have to upgrade to the latest...

Well, maybe I won't have to update to the newest iMac, after all. I was expecting a wham-bam, gotta-have update to the all-in-one desktop, but found the latest rev a bit underwhelming.

Sure, all new iMac models come standard with Intel Core processors built on a new architecture. Based on Intel’s 32-nanometer process technology, these processors set new benchmarks for iMac performance. And the the ATI Radeon HD 5670 with 512MB of memory is an option. But my iMac has a quad-core Core i7 running at 2.8GHz and an ATI Radeon 4850 with 512MB of VRAM. So how much of a performance boost would I honesty see?

I like the idea of the Magic Trackpad and the Apple Battery Charger. But they're US$69 and $29 options, respectively, so I can get them for my current iMac.

My present system was the top-of-the-line iMac when I bought it last October. So, unless I'm missing something, guess I'll save my moolah for an iMac update that offers some really must-have additions -- at...

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Jul 26
New iMacs, Mac Pros coming soon?

Various sources say the Mac Pro, the iMac and the Cinema Display will get updates soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday. Look for USB 3 support to be added, and perhaps Firewire 1600/3200.

I also suspect the new iMac will sport an HDMI port. What you almost certainly won't see is Blu-ray (which means Apple is still lagging Windows competitors in this area).

The new iMacs will probably pack faster Core i5 and/or i7 processors. I think there's a chance -- though perhaps a slim one -- that a high-end iMac might come in a six-core option.

As for the Mac Pro, look for Apple to go with faster six-core Xeon processors with perhaps a "low-end" quad-core model.

"AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) says the new rev of the Cinema Display will have a display resolution of 2560 x 1400 pixels. That sounds about right.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 26
The Northern Spy: Got your back up?

Got your back-up? The Spy has. Indeed, he is as much a back-up as a security paranoiac (refuses to connect to any network without interposing a firewall, for instance). He does not use the Documents folder on the boot partition.

Instead, his machines at work and at home each have a partition called "Files" where all working documents and email is stored (generally on a separate physical drive from the one with the boot partition). He carries about in his pocket a portable multi-interface drive, two of whose partitions are named FilesWork.bak and FilesHome.bak. The routine goes like this:

In the morning before leaving for the university, he backs up the Files partition at home to Files.bak. Upon reaching the ivory basement, he restores the latter to the Files partition on the machine there. When the day's work is done, he backs up to FilesWork.bak, and on reaching home, restores to the Files partition there.

A workable strategy? Yes, he rarely loses any files...

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Jul 26
38% of Americans hit (or nearly hit) by cell phone...

I know you just love talking on your new iPhone 4 (and, nope, no "antennagate" jokes here). But puh-leeze don't do it while you're driving.

U.S. drivers say they are seeing first-hand the danger of driving while distracted -- or DWD; add a new acronym to your vocabulary. A new public opinion poll conducted by Harris Interactive for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company shows nearly four out of 10 (38%) drivers say they have been hit or nearly hit by a driver distracted by their cell phone.

The telephone survey of 1,004 adults conducted in June confirms Americans’ increasing use of smart phone applications is creating new distractions behind the wheel in addition to talking on the phone and texting while driving. According to a previous DWD survey (conducted for Nationwide by Harris Interactive in April), among the millions of Americans who download mobile applications for smart phones, more than one in four admit to using those apps while driving.

“The number of...

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Jul 23
Greg's bite: Apple could help with India's...

By Greg Mills

There is a story in the international press today that tells how the government of India is touting an Internet connecting touch screen pad that runs Linux, with a browser, has PDF display capabilities, WiFi, 2GBs of memory and potentially email and other features.  

India has 250,000 villages that need to be dragged into age of the Internet. The prototyped device, called "Nano" is designed to offer communications for the government to interface with all the little villages and support educational programs, as well.

The second major stab at an affordable computer for the world's poor, the new pad has promise.  It's set to launch in early 2011. The XO "One Laptop per Child" program has not been able to meet its goal of selling their units under $100, as hoped. The rock bottom, no frills devices are hardly comparable to anything we would use in the US, but they do fill a crying need.  

The bill of materials alone, before...

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Jul 23
More voice enabled apps needed for iOS devices

We need more voice-enabled apps for our iOS devices. But let me explain. Macs have been able to handle limited speech recognition for a while now. And the new iPhone 4 has some additional speech control built-in.

That implies a Cocoa library, although as best I can ascertain, it's not a public library for developers to use. If I'm right, then Apple should go public with it, so that we can have more voice-enabled applications. For example, while you can use things like Vlingo or even Dragon to create voice text messages, they either cost more money to use or require extra steps to send a simple text.

An Apple Messages app needs to be able to use the speech recognition library to translate your speech into a text message and then be able to do text-to-speech to read the text responses back to you. Other phones are picking up on this general ability. Apple has the capability, and I'd love to see it used -- in the iPhone and iPad.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 22
Apple patent is for contactless plug detect mechanism

An Apple patent (number 20100182159) for a contactless plug detect mechanism has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. This is directed to systems and methods for detecting the insertion of a plug in a device port without physically contacting the plug.

For example, systems and methods are provided for detecting the insertion of an audio plug into an audio jack without using physical contacts placed in the periphery of the audio jack. In some embodiments, an electrically conductive element (e.g., a circuit board trace) can be provided on a surface of the port or within the port wall. When a metallic or conductive plug is inserted into the port, the plug can interact with the conductive element and cause a change in capacitance or induction detected by appropriate circuitry coupled to the conductive element.

In some embodiments, an optical sensor can be used to detect a plug placed in a port. In some embodiments, the electronic device can detect...

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Jul 22
Apple patent is for audio player with monophonic mode...

The patent is for an audio player includes an audio headset having two earpieces. A playback circuit provides one of a stereophonic program and a monaural program to the audio headset. The monaural program may be created by mixing channels of the stereophonic program. A mode control is coupled to the playback circuit and to the audio headset. The mode control detects when at least one of the two earpieces is not adjacent a listener's ear and causes the playback circuit to deliver the monaural program to the audio headset. The inventors ar Shaohai Chen, Phillip George Tamchina and Jae Han Lee.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A listener may utilize a headset in order to receive an audio program in private and personalized manner. Headsets typically include a right earpiece and a left earpiece coupled to a right and left channel of audio, respectively.

"There may be times when the listener may wish to listen to the audio program with only one of...

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Jul 22
Uh, Steve, folks seem to like those Blu-ray discs

And here's another reason I think Apple should seriously consider adding Blu-ray playback to the Mac: worldwide Blu-ray player shipments are expected to more than double between 2009 and the end of 2010, and the numbers from ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) forecast continued growth next year, for a total of more than 62.5 million shipments in 2011.

In North America standalone Blu-ray players are expected to reach almost 18% penetration among TV-owning households, up from just over 7% in 2009. As interesting as this estimate is, it's just part of a larger picture.

"The solid growth in Blu-ray player shipments highlights a trend within the wider consumer electronics market," says industry analyst Mike Inouye. "Larger, fixed-location devices such as Blu-ray players and flat panel TVs are enjoying rapid adoption relative to many classes of small, portable devices. Specifically, portable...

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Jul 21
So how'd I do in my Apple financial predictions?

Apple announced record setting financials yesterday. I had made my predictions prior to the announcement. So how'd I do?

I predicted that Apple e sold 3.52 million Macs, compared to 2.6 million from the same period a year ago. Apple actually sold 3.47 million Macs, so I was a bit too optimistic in my prognosis.

I predicted that Apple sold 10 million iPhones during the quarter, compared to 5.2 million from the same period a year ago. Apple actually sold 8.4 million, so I was way too optimistic in this regard.

I predicted that Apple sold 10.1 million iPods during the quarter, compared to 10.2 for the same period a year ago. The actual figure was 9.41, so, again, I was too high.

Lastly, I forecast that Apple sold 3.5 million iPads during the quarter. In reality it was 3.27 million.

Seems the Street always underestimates Apple, while I -- at least this time around -- was too rosy in my crystal ball grazing.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 20
Apple patent is for visual expander for touchscreen...

An Apple patent (number 7,760,187) for a visual expander has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It seems to concern an upcoming feature for the iOS -- and perhaps Mac OS X.

A computer implemented method for a touchscreen display is disclosed. The method includes presenting graphical information on the touchscreen display. The method further includes detecting a touch over the touchscreen display. The method also includes expanding an area of the touch screen display proximate the location of the touch. The inventor is Peter Kennedy.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "There exist today many styles of input devices for performing operations in a computer system. The operations generally correspond to moving a cursor and/or making selections on a display screen. By way of example, the input devices may include buttons or keys, mice, trackballs, touch pads, joy sticks, touch screens and the like. Each of these devices has advantages...

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Jul 20
Apple patents range from synching to circuit switching

Several Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Here's a summary of each.

Apple patent 7,760,767 is for wide area peer-to-peer synching in a decentralized environment. A system and method are disclosed for synchronizing data between devices and more particularly for synchronizing data between a plurality of peer-to-peer devices in a decentralized environment where no one device stores the most "recent" or "true" version of the data. Embodiments of the invention relate concepts of discovering synchronizing peers, communication between peers using special techniques, and using a way station concept as an aid for both discovery and synchronization between peers that are not simultaneously available. The inventors are Bruce Nilo, Gordie Freedman and Toby Paterson.

Patent number 7,761,798 is for a system and method for controlling the screen appearance for a data processing system. In one embodiment, a data...

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Jul 20
What can we expect from today's Apple's...

Apple will announce its third quarter fiscal results today at 2 pm (Pacific). Here's what the Sellers Research Firm (that's me) is predicting.

I expect Apple to report net income of $2.9 billion, up from $1.8 billion during the year-ago quarter.

Apple will have sold 3.52 million Macs, compared to 2.6 million from the same period a year ago.

Apple will have sold 10 million iPhones during the quarter, compared to 5.2 million from the same period a year ago.

Apple will have sold 10.1 million iPods during the quarter, compared to 10.2 for the same period a year ago.

Apple will have sold 3.5 million iPads during the quarter.

We'll be covering the financial announcements, of course, so check back today to see how the Sellers Research firm did.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 19
Will tablet devices hurt sales of other devices? Not...

A new study by Rethink Technology Research found that about three quarters of the sales of tablet devices, such as the iPad, will be at the expense of the purchase or upgrade of another device in many case one with higher price tags and margins than the tablet.

Vendors will hope these will be companion products, acquired in addition to a phone or notebook, but that means the prices have to be keen, to encourage consumers in a recession to invest in a non essential item, says the research group. Even Apple has come in with an iPad entry price far lower than most had expected, and a recent research note from Credit Suisse points out that Apple management noted that it will remain nimble (pricing could change if the company is not attracting as many customers as anticipated). Remember, Apple slashed the price of the iPhone by $200 two months after it went on sale.

Apple stands to make margins of almost 43% on the new tablet, so has plenty of room for maneuvering, but...

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Jul 16
What I want in the next iMac

I suspect we'll see new iMacs introduced in the September/October timeframe in time for the back-to-school shopping season). Here's what I expect to see -- as well as some things I hope to see.

The next iMac will probably include USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. Naturally, it will include speed boosts; I suspect we'll see a high-end six-core model running Intel's 3.2GHz Core i7-970 processor. Or perhaps even the 3.33GHz Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, Both feature Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost features and support 1066MHz DDR3 memory.

Or perhaps -- though less likely -- the next iMacs will sport "Sandy Bridge" processors. The difference between the Nehalem-based chips of today and Sandy Bridge is that the latter's architecture takes everything down to 32nm -- including the graphics processor and memory controller -- while keeping it all within the same enclosure. (Intel plans to eventually transition to a 22nm process.)

Intel claims that Sandy Bridge will increase...

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Jul 15
Apple patent shows new dock connectors for idevices

A new Apple patent (number 20100177476) has popped up that shows the company is working on new dock connectors that would allow idevices such as the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad to be docked in either horizontal or landscape orientations.

The invention relates generally to docking stations for portable electronic devices. More particularly, the present invention relates to docking stations for portable electronic devices, which have planar like configurations and that operate in multiple orientations. Even more particularly, the present invention relates to improved techniques for transferring data and/or power between portable electronic devices and the docking stations.

The patent involves methods and apparatuses for docking a portable electronic device that has a planar like configuration and that operates in multiple orientations. The docking system includes a portable electronic device capable of operating in multiple orientations including vertical and...

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Jul 15
What should Apple do about the iPhone 4?

First off, let me note that I don't have an iPhone 4 -- and won't until I Verizon (or Spring or T-Mobile) carries it. The AT&T reception is just terrible where I live. Still, despite all the hoopla over the antenna/reception issue, I'd love to have one.

That's not to say that Apple doesn't have a major problem on its hands with the iPhone 4, though it's more of a PR problem than a technical issue. And if I were a betting man, I'd place money on the Apple NOT having a recall of its latest smartphone line.

Sure, "Consumer Reports" has said it can't recommend the iPhone 4 due to antenna/reception problems -- if there are indeed problems. And I'm personally skeptical that there are major technical problems with the iPhone 4.

I know four people who have bought an iPhone 4; none of them are having any issues. Well, at least no more than they did with their iPhone 3Gs or 3Gses (thanks, AT&T). Changewave Research says there's still an incredible amount of...

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Jul 14
Donovan's Views: more than one Hong Kong Apple...

By Gaurang Donovan

The others missed this in their reporting on Apple's China second entrance. The Hong Kong press included as far as I, and three others, can tell.

On July 8, Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Ron Johnson appeared and spoke at the new Shanghai Pudong store to media representatives a few days before the store opened. His talk was captured on video and you can find it through this link: http://macosg.me/2/iv .

In reference to the Shanghai Pudong store, he stated: "We view this store as kind for a launching pad for 25 stores that we will open throughout China by 2012."

At just past the minute mark of the video he continued: "We will be adding mores stores in Shanghai, in Beijing, our first stores in Hong Kong and stores throughout many of the cities in mainland China"

He said "our first stores in Hong Kong" implying more than one actual store was...

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Jul 14
What's in store for the Mac? Some of YOUR...

I've been offering my thoughts on what we might see in a Mac in recent columns. We'll conclude the series (for now) with a few thoughts from our "MacNews" readers.

Here's what Ray Comeau would like to see: "What I want to see in a future Mac laptop, is the ability to scan a document directly into a documents folder without the need to buy more hardware. Just imagine getting a piece of paper you need for tax purposes or legal reasons or for long term archiving and being able to scan into a doc folder at any place at any time. (In the airport waiting for a flight, in a clients office during a meeting, sitting in a presentation, etc.) I am not always in my office or home when need to scan a document. For road warriors this is a great practical addendum."

Loren Kruse says: "I believe we need to see a generation of software advancement for the Mac. I I would love to see a new touch interface for the Mac. Maybe a combo where you could still use the mouse but also use a...

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Jul 14
Greg's bite: iOS drag and drop creator on the way...

By Greg Mills

Currently the Apple Developer Tools used to create apps for iOS, that run on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad are really professional programs. While they have drag and drop elements, the way they all fit together and work to create an app is not something a child can easily do.  

Some background in programing is very helpful. That is likely to change as an easy way to create apps for iOS may well be on the way. While it has not been announced or even hinted at by Apple, a move by Google guarantees a "user friendly" iOS app creator program will be released by Apple any time now. 

The Google competition with Apple over content in their app stores is going to heat up with a new "Google Android App Inventor" tool to be launched soon by "Big G."  With this software kit, that runs on Google servers "in the cloud" on a web browser, a person can create simple apps using "blocks" of programing that are graphically put together to preform...

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Jul 13
Apple patents range from hot keys to iTunes media

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

Patent number 7,757,185 involves enabling and disabling hot keys. According to the patent, a computer program product may include instructions that, when executed, cause a processor to perform operations that include monitoring an electronic device to determine whether the electronic device is in a specific state. The electronic device may define one or more hotkeys, and each hotkey may correspond to an input from one or more input components of the electronic device. If the electronic device is in the specific state, a rule associated with the specific state may be retrieved, and one or more hotkeys may be enabled or disabled based on the retrieved rule. In some implementations, enabling or disabling one or more hotkeys includes enabling or disabling one or more operations associated with corresponding one or more hotkeys. The inventors are...

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Jul 13
Apple granted patent for voice menu system

Apple has been granted a patent (number 7,757,173) by the US Patent & Trademark Offic for its for a voice menu system for its idevices -- and apparently plans to tweak it even more in the future. It relates to media players and, more particularly, to navigating menus of media players.

The invention generally allows for updateable audio menus. Although a device might have some pre-packaged menu components, other menu components can be received from a server. Each menu component, regardless of whether it is original or received from the server, has an associated voiced name. When a user highlights a menu choice, the voiced name can be played. The user then has the option of selecting the menu choice or scrolling to a new menu choice. In this way, a user could navigate the menu without having to actually see a visual display of the menu, which may be especially useful for users unable to see the visual display or users with visual disabilities. The inventor is Alexander B....

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Jul 13
Patent shows Apple still innovating with input methods

An Apple patent (number 7,757,186) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that shows that Apple is far from finished when it comes to innovative ways to control its various devices.

The patent is for motion plane correction for MEMS-based input devices. The invention relates to technology for monitoring motion of electronic input devices, and more particularly to technology for motion plane correction of motion-based input devices. The inventor is Farshid Moussavi.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Conventional input devices, such as computer mice, typically employ optical sensors, track wheels or track balls to control the motion of a cursor or other navigational object on a computer display screen. Other types of input devices that measure a force imparted onto the input device typically incorporate one or more accelerometers for sensing acceleration forces exerted on the input device as it is moved by a user. A velocity of the...

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Jul 13
More thoughts on the future of the Mac

Last week I devoted several columns to what I perceive as the future of the Mac. I've asked my "MacNews" compadres to offer their thoughts. And here they are...

Scott Alexander says:

"Five years -- that's a long time in technology. There's the obvious stuff like speed, speed, and more speed. There are a lot of directions I could go here; for example practical 3D displays with multi-touch and then move to my perennial favorite home servers (my newest term for that is now 'femtocloud' -- owing to the popular cloud mentality and the AT&T home cell phone access points).

"However, I think that I'll focus on improving the ability of the Mac devices to work better together. I was completely awed by the idea represented by a single act in the blockbuster 'Avatar' movie where one of the characters was working on what appeared to be a normal desktop workstation (with an admittedly was cool display) when he 'grabbed' the data he was working on and dragged it from...

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Jul 13
Greg's bite: an open letter to Apple

By Greg Mills

No matter how visionary a CEO is, no matter how much testing you do, no matter how elegant the design, real world electronic devices sometimes have unexpected issues.  

Sometimes they are overblown, to be sure. I think this is one of those times. But marketing and public relations must trump being being defensive about a perceived problem that few people really understand. They know what they read. Apple does not need any more reasons, valid or not, for people to pass on an iPhone and buy an Android phone.

Case in point: the iPhone 4. Radio devices with multiple channels that all have to work together are finicky. Most people like their iPhones but really don't have a clue as to how sophisticated the device really is. An iPhone has a 3G radio to attempt communications with AT&Ts network (when a signal is available), a WiFi radio, a Bluetooth radio and a GPS radio. Each radio needs a separate antenna to work at peak efficiency...

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Jul 12
Electronics are on consumers' minds

This has got to be good news for Apple (and other tech companies): electronics purchases are top of mind for consumers this year, according to About.com’s April 2010 Consumer Electronics Study. Findings also revealed that consumers are being smarter about their electronics purchases with nearly 65% planning to spend more time researching online before buying.

After researching key areas of consumer behaviors including how consumers shop for electronics (e.g., computers, wireless phones, TVs, DVD players, cameras, music players, video games and E-book readers), what advertisements they find most appealing and what types of electronic products they plan to purchase this year, the analysis revealed the following.

When consumers shop for electronics products:

° Nearly 70% of the respondents said they usually wait a few months to purchase electronics to ensure the product is worth the money and functions properly.

° While consumers are price conscious, they...

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Jul 12
Greg's bite: Apple faces the Android onslaught

By Greg Mills

I read an interesting article in "Barron's" on-line that laid out a scenario where the Google Android operating system eats  an Apple cell phone OS for lunch.  

I see his points, but come to another conclusion. Mark Veverka fails to give Apple due credit. See http://macosg.me/2/i9 .

The facts are clear: if there is an Apple iPhone killer out there, it is the Google Android. Sales show that Android is overtaking the iPhone. The underlying reasons are that at least 12 cell phone manufacturers are building phones that run Android. 

One element of the Android success is multiple cell companies offer Android phones. That part of the problem will be solved when Apple gets past the AT&T exclusive and offers the iPhone more broadly. Conservative estimates of immediate sales in the millions, right out of the box, can't be lost on the folks at Apple. 

...

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Jul 09
What's in store for the Mac? A dockable computer

Although Apple's Big Love right now is being bestowed on the iPhone and iPod, I think we'll see some truly innovative Macs in the next 2-3 years. I certainly expect some to offer built-in micro-projects, as I've mentioned. I also expect to see a laptop and combination dock/display.

Of course, you can buy docks for current laptops. But Apple has at least considered making a portable device that inserts into a special display. A patent (number 20080278899) appeared in 2008 for methods and apparatuses for docking a portable electronic device that has a planar-like configuration and that operates in multiple orientations.

The invention relates to improved techniques for transferring data and/or power between portable electronic devices and the docking stations. The docking system also includes a docking station configured to mechanically accept and operatively interface with the portable electronic device in any of its multiple orientations including vertical and...

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Jul 08
Apple patent is for content associated with a product...

An Apple patent (number 20100174599) for a system and method for providing content associated with a product or service has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The disclosure relates generally to benefits associated with products or services and, more particularly, to obtaining, storing, and accessing benefits associated with such products or services using an electronic device.

Systems, methods, and devices for providing and managing benefits associated with a product or service are provided. For example, a device for managing benefits associated with a product or service may include a processor configured to run a product benefit management application, a memory device operably coupled to the processor, an electronic display operably coupled to the processor, and an input interface. The input interface may be a near field communication interface configured to receive data associated with at least one benefit associated with the product or service from a...

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Jul 08
Apple granted iPhoto related patents

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

Patent number 20100172579 involves distinguishing between faces and non-faces. It involves methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer program products, for evaluating image data. In one aspect, a method includes accessing an image that includes a candidate face, such as a face detected during a face detection operation. The method further includes generating a sharpness measure based on image data corresponding to the candidate face, evaluating the sharpness measure to determine a confidence score representing a likelihood that the candidate face corresponds to a human face, and accepting the candidate face when the confidence score compares in a predetermined manner to a confidence threshold. Additionally, the method can be implemented to include generating a skin tone measure based on image data corresponding to the...

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Jul 08
Greg's bite: iPad eats more ebook readers for...

By Greg Mills

Sony just dropped prices on it's e-readers to keep parity with Amazon and Barnes & Noble's devices. The rush to drop prices is all about customers going to iPad, in mass.

When you compare the Sony Daily Reader at US$300, the Kindle at $189 and the Nook at $199, the color, multipurpose iPad is more expensive, but well worth the additional money. When Microsoft was able to actually lay hands on an iPad, they pulled the plug on their slate computer as they knew they couldn't compete. Amazon, Sony and Barnes and Noble didn't have the luxury of pulling the plug gracefully, as they were already in the market place.

Apple realized the book reader devices that preceded iPad were flawed in that they didn't have all the functions consumers wanted. First is color. I saw a guy at a Chinese restaurant reading a book a month or so before iPad came out. I asked him how he liked his Kindle. He told me it was a neat way to buy and read books...

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Jul 08
Greg's bite: Sony DCR-SX44 and iMovie 9 do work

By Greg Mills

Greg Bites some crow. Not one to easily admit I was wrong, I have to admit that parts of my rage yesterday against the Apple MPEG 2 video import into iMovie were not exactly fair.  Sometimes you fool around with things and somehow get it to work.  

For one thing, the QuickTime MPEG 2 software, according to Apple, sometimes does work and delivers sound. It depends on the codex being translated. In this case it didn't work and Apple did give me my money back.  

They were nicer about it than I was. They had to agree that a bold disclaimer that some MPEG 2 codex would not allow the sound to be decoded by the Sorenson MPEG 2 video decoder they sell as a download. That disclaimer would preclude a lot of upset Apple Store customers.  

I also had other Mac people email me with similar upsetting experiences. I also admit I didn't read all the information before I assumed the MPEG 2 decoder would work for my application. 

...

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Jul 08
What's in store for the Mac? A '3D'...

It's likely that the Mac OS X Finder will go "3D" at some point in the near future. Perhaps in Mac OS X 10.7 or 10.8.

Last year an Apple patent (number 20080307360) appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office is any indication. The patent is for a multi-dimensional desktop.

According to Apple it involves a graphical user interface with a back surface disposed from viewing surface to define a depth, and one or more one or more side surfaces extend from the back surface to the viewing surface. An icon receptacle is disposed on one or more of the side surfaces, and one or more icons are disposed within the icon receptacle. The one or more icons correspond to one or more desktop items.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A graphical user interface allows a large number of graphical objects or items to be displayed on a display screen at the same time. Leading personal computer operating systems, such as the Apple Mac OS, provide user...

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Jul 07
Greg's bite: remember hearing 'You can'...

By Greg Mills

I wanted to believe platform envy for the Mac faithful towards the dark side of the force was over. WRONG.

Try using some of the more popular USB camcorders on a Mac. I love plug and play, as it just works.Why can't Apple fix this deficiency in the Mac infrastructure? There are still plenty of incompatible camcorders out there.

I bought a cool tiny Sony camcorder that was bundled with a 320GB hard drive at Best Buy. The package was only US$335 for the camera and the slick little hard drive. A great deal, in my opinion. The hard drive works great and boots as an USB hard drive just fine on my MacBook Pro.  

The camera works fine and can hook up with USB to my MacBook Pro -- but iMovie and iDVD refuse to see the Sony camera. The USB ports is working, as I checked the "About This Mac" index under the Apple logo. After drilling down to see what was showing on the USB Bus, there was the camera, bigger than Dallas.   

I...

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Jul 07
What's in store for the Mac? Full FaceTime screens

As I mentioned yesterday, I think future Macs will integrate the FaceTime feature of the iPhone 4. And, in time, Macs will probably sport displays whose entire screens can serve as giant iSight cameras for this purpose (and, who knows, perhaps for scanning as well).

In 2006, Apple filed a patent (number 2006007222) at the US Patent & Tradmark Office for an integrated sensing display. Per the patent, the sensing display includes display elements integrated with image sensing elements so the integrated sensing device can not only output images (e.g., as a display) but also input images (e.g., as a camera).

Of course, that patent involves the iSight camera that is currently built into all Macs (at least those with their own displays). However, I think that, in time, Apple will expand the technology so that you have the option of using your entire Mac screen as a videophone -- with FaceTime, naturally.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 06
Apple patents range from address switches to product...

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

Patent number 7752366 is for a non-blocking address switch with shallow per agent queues. In one embodiment, a switch is configured to be coupled to an interconnect. The switch comprises a plurality of storage locations and an arbiter control circuit coupled to the plurality of storage locations. The plurality of storage locations are configured to store a plurality of requests transmitted by a plurality of agents. The arbiter control circuit is configured to arbitrate among the plurality of requests stored in the plurality of storage locations. A selected request is the winner of the arbitration, and the switch is configured to transmit the selected request from one of the plurality of storage locations onto the interconnect. In another embodiment, a system comprises a plurality of agents, an interconnect, and the switch coupled to the plurality of...

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Jul 06
Apple wants to improve ways to connect a media player...

An Apple patent (number 7751853) for a female receptacle data pin connector for a media player system at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It indicates that Apple wants to improve ways to connect a media player (such as the iPhone, iPod and iPad) to external devices.

One aspect of the media player system pertains to a docking station that allows a media player to communicate with other media devices. Another aspect of the media player system pertains to a wireless media player system that includes a hand held media player capable of transmitting information over a wireless connection and one or more media devices capable of receiving information over the wireless connection. Another aspect of the media player system pertains to a method of wirelessly connecting the hand held media player to another device.

The method includes selecting a media item on the hand held media player; selecting one or more remote recipients on the hand held media player; and...

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Jul 06
What's in store for the Mac? FaceTime

FaceTime is one of the most highly touted features of the iPhone 4. I think it's just a matter of time before it comes to the Mac.

In case you're not familiar with it, FaceTime is video calling that uses Wi-Fi. Apple says that using FaceTime is as easy as making a regular voice call, with no set-up required. On the iPhone 4, you can instantly switch to the rear camera to show others what you are seeing with just a tap.

FaceTime works right out of the box. You don't have to up a special account or screen name.If you want to start a video call with your best friend, find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins.

Right now FaceTime only works iPhone 4 to iPhone 4. However, since all Macs but...

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Jul 06
Greg's bite: assorted Apple issues in the news

By Greg Mills

Let's check the score on Apple vs Microsoft. The Mac OS is gaining market share, Windows is losing market share. The iPhone is thriving, the Kin has just been killed. The iPad is thriving, the Microsoft slate computer project was killed before it was even launched. Windows mobile platform is losing both market share and manufacturers while the iOS is thriving. The iTunes store and app store are thriving, the Microsoft answer to both is a joke. Apple stock is soaring, the Microsoft market cap is half what it was the day Gates stepped down and turned it over to Ballmer ...  sounds like a rout to me on every front.

I read where Steve Jobs has decided the BluRay technology for HDTV is sort of going obsolete and that digital download is the future for video rental and sales. Certainly, the patent licensing issues for Blu-ray devices have hurt its application in both Mac and PC hardware. Blockbuster is in decline, and we know media formats...

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Jul 02
What's in store for the Mac? Light Peak

I've never been shy about making what some consider wacky predictions. So here's my latest: by 2014, Macs will no longer have dedicated USB, FireWire or video ports (or eSATA, for that matter). Instead, they'll have Light Peak.

Developed by Intel and codenamed "Light Peak," this technology paves the way for a new generation of extreme computer input and output (I/O) performance, delivering 10Gb/s of bandwidth, with the potential ability to scale to 100Gbs over the next decade, according to David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager, Intel Architecture Group. At 10Gb/second, a user could purportedly transfer a full-length Blu-Ray movie in less than 30 seconds. Intel says it intends to work with the industry to determine the best way to make this new technology a standard.

The optical technology allows for smaller connectors and longer, thinner, and more flexible cables than currently possible. Light Peak also has the ability to run multiple...

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Jul 01
Apple patents reflect GarageBand technologies

Three Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office regarding GarageBand, the music creation component of Apple's iLife suite.

Patent 20100162878 is for a music instruction system. Per the patent a song audio is played and a graphical representation of a musical instrument contributing to the audio is displayed. A fingering display is overlayed on the graphical representation of the instrument during the playing of song. The fingering display is synchronized to the song audio. During the playing of the song audio, the tempo of the song is adjusted.

The pitch of the song is substantially preserved in real-time despite the tempo adjustment. In addition, the synchronization between the fingering display and the audio are maintained in real-time in view of the adjusted tempo. The inventors are Gerhard H. Lengeling, Alexander Soren, Jan-hinnerk Helms, Alexander H. Little, John Danty, Matthew C. Evans, Timothy B. Martin, Ole Lagemann...

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Jul 01
Apple patents hint at Final Pro changes and/or new...

Several Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that hint at either changes in Final Cut products -- or perhaps new media presentation tools.

Patent number 20100168881 is for a multimedia display based on audio and visual complexity. The present invention relates generally to the field of authoring media presentations and, in particular, to authoring media presentations using profiled audio data.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Current media presentation applications offer features for creating slides and manually customizing the ways in which a set of slides, i.e., a slideshow, is played. Such applications also offer features for attaching themes to slideshows, where such themes may affect the appearance and general behavior of the slideshows when played. In addition, such applications further offer features such as customizing slide colors, customizing transition behavior, customizing transition...

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Jul 01
Apple patents involve graphics, displays

Two Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that involve graphics and displays.

Patent number 20100164964 is for a display system with improved graphics abilities while switching graphics processing units. That's something high-end MacBook Pros can do now, but Apple may plan to carry it further.

The patent involves methods and apparatuses for improving graphics abilities while switching between graphics processing units (GPUs). Some embodiments may include a display system, including a plurality of graphics processing units (GPUs) and a memory buffer coupled to the GPUs via a timing controller, where the memory buffer stores data associated with a first video frame from a first GPU within the plurality of GPUs and where the timing controller is switching between the first GPU and a second GPU within the plurality. The inventors are Kapil V. Sakariya, Victor H. Yin and Michael F. Culbert.

Patent number...

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Jul 01
Greg's bite: Kin is dead, Barbie in mourning

By Greg Mills

Microsoft has announced the Kin phone is dead. The Barbie phone may also be canceled. Mattel, maker of the Ken and Barbie phone for Microsoft had no comment. Here is the press release from Microsoft:

"Microsoft has made the decision to focus on the Windows Phone 7 launch and will not ship KIN in Europe this fall as planned. Additionally,  we are integrating our KIN team with the Windows Phone 7 team,  incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from KIN into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in  the U.S. to sell current KIN phones."

(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web...

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Jul 01
What's in store for the Mac? More wireless-ness

You have your wireless mouse and your wireless keyboard. But that's just the tip of the wireless iceberg that will be floating around your house or office in the new few years. And this wireless-ness will affect much more than your Macs and your iDevices.

Last year ABI Research forecast one million wireless HDTV installations by 2012. Why? Wireless will simplify some installations and allow more flexibility in positioning TVs, according to the research group. ABI Research says wireless-ness will continue to grow significantly because more and more consumers are going to the Internet for video content.

Exactly how this will shape up isn't clear, as there are various technologies competing for Big Love: mainly, Wireless HD, Wireless Home Digital Interface and WiGig.

WirelessHD is an industry-led effort to define a specification for the next generation wireless digital network interface for wireless high-definition signal transmission for consumer electronics...

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Jun 30
Greg's bite: It's Monday, so let's sue...

By Greg Mills

The Monday morning coffee at too many law firms is still brewing while the top legal minds are plotting a new law suit against Apple. Frankly, I get tired of reading stories about the new law suit of the day being filed against Apple, for whatever reason.  

Some of the lamest suits have been filed and dismissed in recent years. It is interesting to me that the filing of a suit and the dismissal of most of them are treated far differently by the press. With great fanfare the suite is filed' without even a blip on the screen the suite goes away. The hope of most of those filing suits is for an out-of-ourt settlement.  

At any given time, there are likely a hundred or more suits still pending against Apple. It takes a small army of lawyers to keep up on them all and not allow a deadline to pass without answering actions of the other side. Holding a portfolio of patents also costs a fortune and requires another division of lawyers to...

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Jun 30
What's in store for the Mac? OLED displays (in...

It's just a matter of time before we see OLED displays in iPads, iPods and iPhones. And almost certainly in Macs in the not-too-distant future.

OLEDs (or organic light emitting diode displays) require less power than conventional displays and can be slimmer (around 0.2-0.3mm or about 8 thousandths of an inch, compared to LCDs, which are typically at least 10 times thicker) and lighter -- so you can see how they would appeal to Steve Jobs. They also offer better contrast, better viewing angles, greater brightness, and almost instant response times -- all of which would be especially appealing in iPads and laptops.

The drawback is price. Right now OLED displays are significantly more costly than LED screens. The 9.7-inch LCD panel for iPad costs about US$60-70, but the price of a 9.7-inch OLED panel is about US$500. However, the price gap isn't expected to narrow appreciably for another couple of years -- or longer.

But it will, in time. Eventually, OLED screens...

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