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Oct 30
Apple working on 3D animation interface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 30
Apple patent involves real-time streaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 30
Apple granted patent for iOS Maps interface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall customer satisfaction with residential television service directly...

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

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

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

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

As far as other hardware, some interesting tidbits:

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

° The iPod touch accounts for...

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

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

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

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

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Oct 25
Apple eyes application-specific group listing

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

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

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

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Oct 25
Apple working on ways to generate 3D objects based on...

An Apple patent (number 20120268410) for generating 3D objects based on 2D objects has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Could this involve a 3D printer -- or, at least, 3D printer output?

Per the patent, a first user input identifying a 2D object presented in a user interface can be detected, and a second user input including a 3D gesture input that includes a movement in proximity to a surface can be detected. A 3D object can be generated based on the 2D object according to the first and second user inputs, and the 3D object can be presented in the user interface.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Computer assisted design (CAD) software allows users to generate and manipulate two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) objects. A user can interact with a CAD program using various peripheral input devices, such as a keyboard, a computer mouse, a trackball, a touchpad, a touch-sensitive pad, and/or a touch-sensitive display...

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Oct 25
Apple patent is for new USB connector

Apple has filed a patent (number 20120270448) for an USB connector having vertical to horizontal conversion contacts. Per the patent, connector receptacles that provide a right-angle translation, may be readily manufactured, and may have an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

One example may provide a connector receptacle having contacts that provide a right-angle translation. Another example may provide a connector receptacle having an aesthetically pleasing appearance. By inserting an injection molded housing into an over-mold, the interior of a connector may appear to be formed from a single piece of plastic or other material.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Electronic devices have become ubiquitous the past several years. The number and types of portable computing devices, tablet, desktop, and all-in-one computers, cell, smart, and media phones, storage devices, portable media players, navigation systems, monitors and other devices has increased...

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Oct 25
The time is here for OS X to put a serious dent in...

With the Mac having around 13% of the computer market share in the U.S. and Microsoft making one boo-boo after another, the time has come for Mac OS X to put a serious dent in Windows' marketshare.

Not only has the iPad put a dent in PC (but not Mac) sales, but the iPad mini is expected to accentuate the trend. In a note to clients J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz predicts the smaller Apple tablet will steal even more sales away from the weakening personal computer market.

"In our view, the iPad Mini stands to target price-sensitive users and the e-reader crowd," Moskowitz said in an investors note today. "Given the global economic uncertainty, we think price-sensitive users could gravitate toward an iPad Mini instead of making a PC purchase."

So far the Mac hasn't been harmed -- at least not much -- by the tablet invasion. Mac sales have exceeded overall computer industry averages for 25 consecutive quarters. Look for that to continue with ever-increasing...

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Oct 25
Apple files patent for Lightning connector

Apple has filed a patent (number 20120272297) regarding the Lightning connector that debuted with the iPhone 5 and comes with all the latest iOS devices. The patent is entitled "cross-transport authentication."

Per the patent, an authentication controller coupled to a first communication port of a portable media device is allowed to provide authentication on behalf of an accessory device coupled to a second communication port of the portable media device. In one embodiment, a cross transport connector includes a connector configured to couple with an accessory and a connector configured to couple with a portable media device such that the accessory can be coupled to the second communication port of the portable media device.

The cross-transport connector also includes an authentication controller. The authentication controller may request authentication from the media device over the first communication port of the portable media device. The request may also include...

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Oct 24
Greg's Bite: Apple's new, shorter product...

As the proud owner of an iPad 3 (the "new" iPad, as Apple calls it), I was a bit frustrated to hear that the new iPad 3.5 or 4, has twice the horsepower in its chip set as my now obsolete tablet. Keeping up with the latest round of Apple products is turning out to be an expensive hobby.  

Going from the Apple dual core 5 CPU to Apple's  quad core A6X ARM microprocessor was apparently just keeping up with Apple's ongoing chip development. There is simply too much money on the table for Apple to not keep pushing the envelope. The Samsungs are still way back in the rear view mirror, but they are working hard to catch up.

Focusing on what you don't have is a trap that blinds you to what you do have.  While each new Apple product has cool new features that continue to raise the bar and flummox the competition, the usefulness of functional Mac computers and, especially, iPads, continue to fill in gaps in our technology. Perhaps one reason Apple is slowly taking the industry...

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Oct 24
A look back at yesterday's Apple media event

Apple's "We've got a little more to show you" media event has come and gone. Most of the predictions I made were correct -- though, with the preponderance of Apple rumors all over the Web, that's not the impressive achievement it might once have been. Anyway here's how I did:

My prediction: An iPad mini of 7.85 inches with a 1024 x 768 resolution but no Retina display with pricing starting at US$329.

The reality: Pretty much what I predicted, but the iPad mini is slightly bigger (7.9 inches) and more expensive.

My prediction: A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro with a resolution of 2560x 1600, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of flash storage with pricing starting at $1,499.

The reality: A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro with a resolution of 2560x 1600, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of flash storage with pricing starting at $1,699.

My prediction:: New iMacs in 21-5-inch and 27-...

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Oct 23
Apple wants to improve iOS devices' ability to...

An Apple patent (number 8296383) for electronic devices with voice command and contextual data processing capabilities has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The company is looking to beef up the ability of its iOS devices to handle voice-based commands.

Per the patent, an electronic device may capture a voice command from a user. The electronic device may store contextual information about the state of the electronic device when the voice command is received. The electronic device may transmit the voice command and the contextual information to computing equipment such as a desktop computer or a remote server.

The computing equipment may perform a speech recognition operation on the voice command and may process the contextual information. The computing equipment may respond to the voice command. The computing equipment may also transmit information to the electronic device that allows the electronic device to respond to the voice command.

...

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Oct 23
Apple works on ways to beef up face detection

A new Apple patent (number 8295610) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on ways to beef up face detection in its iOS and OS X products.

The patent is for feature scaling for face detection. Per the patent, a feature used in face detection can be applied to an image portion and can be scaled to fit differently sized image areas. If a feature is positioned with respect to an image area such that a vertex of the feature is aligned with a non-integer pixel location, at least one dimension of the filter can be rounded. A dimension to be rounded further can correspond to a directional component of the feature.

For instance, contrast regions within the feature can be arranged horizontally, such that the vertical dimension represents a directional component. A rounding rule associated with the feature can be used in rounding a dimension corresponding to a directional component, such that a size ratio between the contrast regions is...

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Oct 23
Apple patent is for media manager with integrated...

An Apple patent (number 8296656) for a media manager with integrated browssers has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Methods and systems that improve the way media is played, sorted, modified, stored and cataloged are disclosed.

One aspect relates to a browse window that allows a user to navigate through and select images that are related to media items. Another aspect relates to a graphical user interface of a media management program that utilizes multiple browse windows. Another aspect relates to simultaneously displayed media browse windows whose operations are integrated together so that the content shown therein is automatically synched when selections are made. Another aspect relates to resetting browsed content to the currently playing media.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Personal computers typically include media management programs for managing various media such as music and videos. The media management programs typically...

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Oct 23
What I'm expecting at today's Apple event

Apple will hold its "We've got a little more to show you" media event today at 10 am (Pacific). Rumors have been swirling about what Apple will announce. Here's what my crystal ball foresees:

° An iPad mini (d-uh!). The only shock will be if Apple doesn't announce a smaller tablet between 7-8 inches (7.85 inches is the most likely size). I foresee a device with 1024 x 768 resolution (the same as the iPad 2) with a 4-to-3 aspect ratio but no no Retina display. I think the iPad mini will come in 8GB and 16GB versions for US$250 and $299, respectively. (Though I'm note sure how practical an 8GB device is these days, cloud storage or not.)

° A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro. The 15-inch model has been a big hit despite its considerable price tag, so a smaller, less expensive (though still pricey) version is a given. It will be a smaller version of its big brother with a resolution of 2560x 1600. I foresee pricing starting at US$1,499...

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Oct 23
Apple granted patent for iPad 2 design

Apple has been granted a patent (number D699468) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for the design of the iPad 2.

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

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

° Patent number 8296383 for electronic devices with voice command and contextual data processing capabilities;

° Patent number 8296833 for system connections and user interfaces;

° Patent number 8296348 for encoding and decoding data arrays;

° Patent number 8295682 for techniques and interface controls that allow users of signal editing applications to easily select...

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Oct 22
Should Apple have stuck with Google Maps?

By Rob James

The recent Google Maps controversy has been a rare misstep for Apple. The company’s proprietary maps app was intended to replace Google Maps as the default map service for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, but came with multiple bugs, ranging from missing locations to wrong directions.

Problems with the app have led to suggestions that Apple should have stuck with Google Maps, which remains the leading option for users in terms of updates and detail for different platforms. However, while looking at Apple Maps’ problems, and the backpedalling that has taken place in the past few weeks, it is possible to suggest a future for a Google Maps-less Apple.

Apple’s motivation for switching to their own maps app was, perhaps understandably, affected by their handing over of a lucrative license to Google for every iOS device that used their rivals’ app. However, and despite being pitched as an advanced maps app, Apple Maps has been roundly criticized...

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Oct 22
Survey: US small business owners not worried about...

U.S. small business owners or operators have a false sense of cybersecurity as more than three-fourths (77% say their company is safe from cyber threats such as hackers, viruses, malware or a cybersecurity breach, yet 83% have no formal cybersecurity plan.

These findings are from a new survey of 1,015 U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Symantec.  (The full survey is available at: http://www.staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/resources/ .)

This annual survey is being released in conjunction with National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a coordinated national effort focused on improving online safety and security for all Americans. The survey findings reveal some disparities such as the need for establishing Internet security policies and practices, handling and...

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Oct 19
Greg's Bite: Lickable below the Surface

By Greg Mills

The Microsoft drums are pounding again for the Surface iPad wannabe. Feeling a bit stupid this morning, I went to the Microsoft/store online and poked around.  What I found was so Microsoft. It seems nothing changes at Redmond.

First of all, many of the article sI have read touting the Surface tablet are written by people living under a rock, who have never seen or experienced a real iPad. One awestruck writer was amazed at a tablet cover that attached to the Surface tablet with tiny but strong magnets. Now there is an original idea. Who says Microsoft doesn't innovate?  

Secondly, I found it interesting that Microsoft priced the Surface tablet at price points identical to similarly configured iPads. This is to insinuate some degree of equality with Apple's products. I think they are touting more RAM without admitting the reason they have to pump the memory.  The new Windows Mobile OS and Office apps are such memory hogs they have...

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Oct 19
Tablets have reinvented American's relationship...

I'm not yet ready to get all my books at Apple's iBookstore or Amazon (too hard to share 'em), but I've pretty much gone all digital when it comes to newspapers, preferring to read 'em on my iPad. Evidently, I'm not alone.

ComScore (www.comscore.com), a company that "measures the digital world," recently released a study of tablet newspaper and magazine readership based on data from its comScore TabLens service. The study found that nearly two in five U.S. tablet owners read newspapers and/or magazines on their device in August, with one in 10 reading publications almost daily.

"Tablets are fundamentally redefining how people consume news and information, with the format more conducive to reading longer form content than PCs or smartphones," says Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of Mobile. "In the case of online newspapers, tablets are now driving 7 percent of total page views, an impressive...

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Oct 18
Apple patent is for dock with movable connector for...

An Apple patent (number 20120264329) for a dock with a movable connector for a display device has popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

For example, when a portable electronic device, coupled with the connector, is pushed forward, the connector is designed to move (e.g. rotate), thereby reducing an impact of strain resulting from such a push. The rotatable connector may be biased to keep the portable electronic device in an upright position such that the electronic device is supported by a rear reference surface of the docking station, thereby preventing undue strain on the rotatable connector in the upright position and inhibiting movement forward.

The rotatable connector may be partly below an outer shell of the docking station, and pivot at the outer shell, thereby reducing possible damage to parts below the outer shell. The rotatable connector may also retract when rotated, thereby removing a force that can break the connector at a position of...

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Oct 18
Apple eyeing ways to beef up Siri's '...

A new Apple patent (number 20120265528) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on ways to beef up Sir. The patent is for using context information to facilitate processing of commands in a virtual assistant.

Per the patent, a virtual assistant uses context information to supplement natural language or gestural input from a user. Context helps to clarify the user's intent and to reduce the number of candidate interpretations of the user's input, and reduces the need for the user to provide excessive clarification input.

Context can include any available information that is usable by the assistant to supplement explicit user input to constrain an information-processing problem and/or to personalize results. Context can be used to constrain solutions during various phases of processing, including, for example, speech recognition, natural language processing, task flow processing, and dialog generation.

Here's Apple's background on...

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Oct 18
A couple of iOS Maps questions ...

Why doesn't Apple have a web-based Map service like Google Maps? Makes you wonder.

You also have to wonder why Apple isn't using its own maps for everything internal (see the graphic). I'm just sayin'.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Oct 18
Apple looking to spice up text-to-speech voices

A new Apple patent (number20120265533) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for "voice assignment for text-to-speech output" shows that Apple is looking to add more variety and flavor to text-to-speech voices.

Per the patent, text can be obtained at a device from various forms of communication such as e-mails or text messages. Metadata can be obtained directly from the communication or from a secondary source identified by the directly obtained metadata.

The metadata can be used to create a speaker profile. The speaker profile can be used to select voice data. The selected voice data can be used by a text-to-speech (TTS) engine to produce speech output having voice characteristics that best match the speaker profile.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many modern computing devices (e.g., personal computers, smart phones, electronic tablets, television systems) run applications that convert text to speech. This conversion allows a...

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Oct 17
How have iOS devices impacted the portable gaming...

The influx of innovative and advanced features on smartphones and tablets, such as high resolution graphics capabilities, has created a common perception that portable gaming consoles will vanish in the near future.

However, ARCchart (www.arcchart.com) sees a healthy PGC market continuing to exist and expects that the overall market -- including both game titles and console sales -- will be worth US$24 billion by 2016. That's not to say that the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and similar devices aren't affecting the PGC market.

In July Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told the UK newspaper , "The Independent," that competition from the iPad and iPhone hasn't had a major effect on the success of Nintendo's portable devices.

"I don't think this is a central factor, I think it's much more about our lack of ability to release software in a timely matter that will motivate people to go out and buy our gaming...

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Oct 16
Apple patents involve wireless headsets, audio...

Several Apple patents involving audio have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, including one (patent number 8290545) for systems and methods for accelerometer usage in a wireless headset.

Per the patent, an accelerometer can be used to determine the location of a wireless headset. The determined location can be used to control and improve a noise cancellation system. In some embodiments, the determined location can be used in controlling the functions of buttons of the wireless headset. In some embodiments, the accelerometer can further be used to determine when the system is in use. If the system has not been in use for a predetermined amount of time, at least a portion of the wireless headset can be turned off to save power. Jeffrey J. Terlizzi is the inventor.

Patent number 8290537 is for sideteone adjustment based on headset or earphone type. Per the patent portable telephony device has a mobile phone housing. Integrated in the housing are memory...

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Oct 16
Apple working on ways to ID unauthorized device users

An Apple patent (number 8289130) for systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device show has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. In particular, this relates to systems and methods for detecting an unauthorized user, gathering information related to the electronic device, the unauthorized user, or both, and transmitting an alert notification to a responsible party for the electronic device.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "People often possess and carry around a variety of electronic devices, such as, for example, cellular phones, PDA's, personal e-mail or messaging devices (e.g., a Blackberry), and handheld media players (e.g., an iPod). Many of these electronic devices are used frequently by their owners, and the electronic devices may contain personal or sensitive information stored within them.

"For example, the electronic devices may contain information such as credit card numbers, passwords...

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Oct 16
Apple granted patent for 3D remote control

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8291346) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a 3D remote control system employing absolute and relative position detection.

The present invention can include three-dimensional remote control systems that can detect an absolute location to which a remote control is pointing in first and second orthogonal axes and an absolute position of the remote control in a third orthogonal axis. Remote control systems of the present invention can employ absolute position detection with relative position detection.

Absolute position detection can indicate an initial absolute position of the remote control and relative position detection can indicate changes in the position of the remote control. By combining absolute and relative position detection, remote control systems of the present invention can track remote controls more precisely than systems that only employ absolute position detection. The present invention also can...

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Oct 16
iMac rip-offs have some intriguing features

Vizio and HP announced what can only be described as iMac rip-offs -- Windows desktops that shamelessly borrow design elements from Apple's all-in-one. Well, if you're gonna rip off someone, might as well rip off the best -- and the iMac is the industry's best-selling all-in-one desktop.

Still, I have to admit that Vizio and HP's desktops have some intriguing features, especially when it comes to using the computers as entertainment systems. Since they've borrowed so freely from Apple for their desktop's design, I wish Apple would borrow at least one feature from Vizio's desktop and -- maybe -- another from HP's computer.

For example, the Vizio device (pictured) has a 2.1 surround sound system and comes with a subwoofer that doubles as a power supply to eliminate extra cords. I haven't had a chance to get up close and personal with the All-in-One Touch (and doubt I ever will), but I hear good things about its audio quality.

HP's new Spectre One desktop has a...

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Oct 15
Flexible displays? They're coming, just don'...

Sooner or later (well, okay, later) we'll see Macs with flexible displays. However, that groundbreaking achievement will come first with smaller devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

A flexible display is a thin, rollable display used in a variety of applications such as e-paper, digital signage, smartphones, TVs, and other consumer products. Flexible displays are on LCD, e-paper, LED or OLED. Out of these display technologies, flexible OLED display is the advanced type of display. These displays are looked upon as the future mainstream display for a number of consumer products.

There have been significant developments going on in the field of flexible electronics and printed displays. For the past few years, many industry participants and consumers have dreamed (and worked on) display technology that would break through the limitations of glass-based displays like weight, size, and ruggedness.

The advent of flexible display would overcome these limitations....

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Oct 12
Still more (unwarranted) death knells for the personal...

There were more death knells for the personal computer this week. They were unwarranted -- the personal computer will evolve, but isn't going away -- but make interesting reading.

Jim Van Meerlen, writing for "The Street" (http://macte.ch/ZVHXN) -- points out that almost every day the headlines read "The PC is Dead." He also wants to add "so is Dell."

"In the past nine months, Dell has had one bad earnings report after another and investors are leaving in droves," he writes. "... 'The Street' gives the stock a weak C rating. The company is trying to turn its battleship and change the product mix to be less PCs and more networking and server products but competition is high. The only bright spot is lower earnings will drop the company's tax rate."

Okay, so Dell may be dying (I imagine the company will survive, though in a much weaker form). Not personal computers. But back to that in a moment....

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Oct 11
What if Apple spent even more on R&D?

When we think of Apple, we think of a company that spends a big hunk of its profits on research and development as it develops the Next Big Thing. Well, perhaps not so much.

In a recent "MacLife" column, Rik Myslewski pointed out that Apple has about USS$117 billion in the bank, and its R&D budget for the previous fiscal quarter was 0.75% of that amount. In contrast, IBM had $11.2 billion in cash and spent 14.6% of that on research and development.

And a recent "CNET" column -- see http://crave.cnet.co.uk/mobiles/apple-spends-more-on-patents-than-randd-... -- points out that Apple now spends more money on patenting stuff "than it does on coming up with new ideas."

Admittedly, the whole patent situation is out of control and needs...

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Oct 11
Apple patent involves mobile device connection...

An Apple patent (number 20120258707) for multiple network mobile device connection management has popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It involves connection management for mobile wireless devices that support multiple wireless networks where each wireless network can use a different wireless communication technology.

Per the patent, a mobile wireless device maintains registration on two parallel wireless communication networks that each use different wireless communication protocols. In response to a first connection request received from a first wireless network, the mobile wireless device tunes a single receiver contained therein from the first wireless network to a second wireless network. Subsequently in response to a second connection request received from the second wireless network, the mobile wireless device connects to the second wireless network.

Here's Apple's background and summary on the invention: "Wireless networks continue to evolve...

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Oct 11
Apple working to 'conceal' components of...

An Apple patent (number 20120258773) for providing access to an internal component has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Systems, methods, and devices are disclosed for concealing components of an electronic device.

In one embodiment, an electronic device may include a component that is disposed behind a window configured to selectively become transparent or opaque, such as a polymer-dispersed liquid crystal (PLDC) window. The component includes an image capture device, a strobe flash, a biometric sensor, a light sensor, a proximity sensor, or a solar panel, or a combination thereof.

Additionally, the electronic device includes data processing circuitry configured to determine when an event requesting that the component be exposed occurs. Furthermore, the electronic device includes a window controller that may control the window to become transparent, to expose the component upon the occurrence of the event requesting that the component be exposed...

| Read more »
Oct 11
Apple eyeing handwriting recognition technologies

An Apple patent (number 20120256944) has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office showing that the company is working on handwriting recognition technologies.

The patent, for handwriting capture techniques, involves a set of rules used by a processor of a device to render a digital image of handwriting (e.g., handwritten signature) by connecting data points captured on a touch sensitive surface of the device with line segments or curves. A set of rules determines whether two given data points will be connected by a line segment or a curve. If a curve is used, the set of rules determine characteristics of the curve through the derivation of control points.

In some implementations, a smoothness adjustment factor can be applied to magnitudes of curve control points to reduce excessive smoothing for large distances between data points and maintain acceptable smoothing for short distances between data points. The magnitude can then be adjusted by multiplying by...

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Oct 10
'Ultra-slims' to account for quarter of...

"Ultrabooks" haven't taken the computer world by storm as some pundits predicted. However. ultra-slim computer shipments will grow from 3.4 million in 2011 to 65.0 million by 2015 -- a quarter of mobile shipments -- according to new data from NPD DisplaySearch (www.displaysearch.com).

The research group says the mobile computer landscape is transforming from a performance-driven market to a convenience-driven market, where easy access to content and usage are the new preferred characteristics. This fundamental change in preference is most noticeable in the slowing demand for notebooks and the increasing demand for tablets.

Tablet shipments are expected to exceed notebook shipments by 2016. Notebook makers are responding by adopting the features of tablets that consumers have appreciated the most. Apple is going its own way with both the iPad and the MacBook Air (its "ultra-slim" portable). That...

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Oct 09
Apple working on multicolor keyboard backlight

Apple has filed a patent (number 8282261) for a white point adjustment for a multicolor keyboard backlight. The patent provides systems, devices and methods for operating a light source to match a white point of ambient light.

In one embodiment, a light control system is provided. The light control system includes a light source and a light sensor. The light sensor is configured to operate in conjunction with the light source to provide a visual effect. A controller is electrically coupled to the light source and the light sensor and configured to determine the intensity and color of light to which the light sensor is exposed and dynamically adjust the output of the light source to match the determined intensity and color of light to which the light sensor is exposed.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Electronic devices, including desktop computers, notebook computers, personal digital assistants, cell phones and mobile media devices, among others, have...

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Oct 09
Apple wants to let you unlock your iOS device with a...

A new Apple patent (number 8286103) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is looking at new ways for your to unlock your iOS device -- and, conceivably, a Mac as well. The patent is for unlocking a device by performing a gesture on an unlock image.

Per the patent, the device is unlocked if contact with the display corresponds to a predefined gesture for unlocking the device. The device displays one or more unlock images with respect to which the predefined gesture is to be performed in order to unlock the device.

The performance of the predefined gesture with respect to the unlock image may include moving the unlock image to a predefined location and/or moving the unlock image along a predefined path. The device may also display visual cues of the predefined gesture on the touch screen to remind a user of the gesture.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Touch-sensitive displays (also known as 'touch screens' or 'touchscreens')...

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Oct 09
Mac growth unlikely to stall anytime soon

iOS devices get all the Apple love (and media attention) these days, but there's plenty of room for Mac growth. And it will happen.

In 2011, the UK computer hardware market was estimated to have increased by 1.5% on the previous year, according to new data by Research and Markets (www.researchandmarkets.com). This growth represents the second consecutive year of growth for the computer hardware market, following declining trading conditions in the sector during 2009, notes the research group.

Currently, the largest sector in the computer hardware market is personal computers, with relatively strong growth exhibited in recent years. Similar growth rates have also been experienced in the servers sector of the market, although the segment is relatively small in comparison to the personal computer sector.

However, the peripherals and add-ons sector, which has...

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Oct 09
Apple granted Time Machine patent

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8286127) by the U.S Patent & Trademark Office for a mirrored file system. It involves the Time Machine back-up feature in Mac OS X.

Per the patent, mounting and populating a mirrored version of at least a portion of a file system of a recruiter machine at a volunteer machine performing one or more data processing tasks for the recruiter machine is disclosed. In some embodiments, an input stored in such a dedicated file system for the recruiter machine at the volunteer machine may be locally retrieved and reused, if still consistent with a corresponding input stored in a file system at the recruiter machine, when performing a data processing task for the recruiter machine at the volunteer machine.

In some embodiments, if an input required by the volunteer machine to perform a data processing task for the recruiter machine is not cached in such a dedicated file system for the recruiter machine at the volunteer machine in a...

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Oct 08
Greg's Bite: Desktop 3D printing

By Greg Mills

As I have previously speculated in this column, I consider the desktop 3D plastic part printing revolution fertile ground for being one of Apple's next big things. I think Apple is uniquely situated to do for 3D printing what they did for desktop printing on paper 20 years ago.

3D printing is using a computer to create physical objects from software files utilizing a special 3D "printer." Star Trek's "replicators" were sophisticated voice-controlled, computer operated 3D printing devices, able to reproduce just about anything.  Replicator devices were as common aboard the starship Enterprise as microwave ovens are to us. Imagine the forerunner of such a futuristic device sitting on your desk and hooked up to your Mac or iPad.

References to cool new things in the R&D labs at Apple seldom give us enough information to do anything more than make our imaginations soar.  In the absence of actual tips on what is going on behind the...

| Read more »
Oct 08
Americans: online stores more appealing for holiday...

SOASTA, which specializes in cloud and mobile testing, says, according to its "2012 Holiday and the Economy" survey of 2,346 American adults aged 18 and older, conducted online on its behalf by Harris Interactive, a majority (51%) of Americans will be shopping online this year because of the bad economy. 

This sentiment rang strongest with those 18-44 (55%), especially with women in that age group (64% for women 18-34; 57% for women 34-44).  Economic pessimism is so pronounced that only 2% of Americans don’t believe the economy is bad.
 
"The results of our Holiday and the Economy Survey have shown that more Americans will be relying on retailers’ online mobile and web presence for holiday shopping due to the bad economy than not," says Tom Lounibos, SOASTA CEO.  "With millions of Americans planning on using these websites, it’s more important than ever that they are fully optimized to make sure shoppers get the best experience possible.  SOASTA’s CloudTest...

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Oct 05
Could Apple be planning its own Mac chips? Given...

Apple has considered moving its Mac line-up to its own in-house developed chips, though such a change isn't in the immediate future, reports "Bloomberg Businessweek" (http://macte.ch/HaMlS). Makes sense to me -- over a period of time, at least.

Consider the A6 chip. A variety of reports say the processor has some Apple designed custom variants on a chip fabbed by Samsung. It's not hard to imagine the A7 chip being having an even bigger Apple influence. After all Apple bought PA Semi, a boutique microprocessor design company, in 2008, and Intrinsity, a specialist chip design company, in 2010.

On one hand, it's hard to see Apple deciding to use its own chips inside its Mac line-up rather than Intel processors. That would entail a major transition and lots of work on ensuring software compatibility. On the other hand, who believed the rumors that Apple would move from PowerPC chips to Intel processors...

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Oct 04
Apple wants it make it easier to use iOS devices in...

An Apple patent (number 20120249312) for tactile feedback in an electronic device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It's designed for using iOS devices in dark environments -- and to help users of such devices who have poor vision.

Per the patent, the electronic device may provide tactile feedback using any suitable approach, including for example vibration, heat, electrical, visual, or any other type of feedback. The electronic device may provide tactile feedback in response to detecting any particular status of the electronic device, receiving any particular input, or detecting any suitable communication received by the electronic device.

For example, the electronic device may provide tactile feedback in response to identifying the current network of the device, the status of a particular electronic device component, or any other electronic device status. As another example, the electronic device may provide tactile feedback in response to...

| Read more »
Oct 04
Apple works on image capture using display device as...

An Apple patent (number 20120249855) for image capture using the display device as a light source has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a digital image capture system and method uses a display device to illuminate a target with light for improved image capture under poor lighting conditions. Various characteristics of the flash (e.g., brightness, color, duration, etc.) can be adjusted to improve image capture. Users are provided with feedback (e.g., live video feed, audio and/or visual countdowns, etc.) to assist them in preparing for image capture. The captured images are seamlessly integrated with existing applications (e.g., video conferencing, instant text messaging, etc.).

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Videoconferencing is one of the fastest growing segments of the computer industry. This growth is based in part on affordable digital video cameras. Digital video cameras (e.g., 'WebCams') can be...

| Read more »
Oct 04
Apple patent involves adaptive mobile device...

An Apple patent (number 20120253665) for adaptive mobile device navigation has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Maybe it will help improve iOS 6 Maps. Per the patent, adaptive mobile device navigation system, methods, and apparatus provide location information for a mobile device performing location estimation using dead reckoning.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The role of traditional printed maps is being supplanted by modern devices capable of rendering dynamic map displays. Devices that include mapping or navigation applications provide information regarding an area selected by a user by recalling map data from local memory or networked services.

"Mapping devices often include the ability to provide directions from a point of origin to a destination. When coupled with any of a number of positioning technologies, a mapping device can display a current position on a map as well as deliver navigation instructions based...

| Read more »
 
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21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP
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