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Jan 25
Greg's bite: Xoom info

By Greg Mills

From what I read about the upcoming Xoom tablet, it may not be the long anticipated iPad killer the PC crowd has been longing for. As I have mentioned in this space, the Tablet OS situation continues to be a problem for the companies that want a piece of Apple's pie.  Motorola, a household name in electronics has scrambled to offer something to compete with iPad. From what is known about Xoom, Apple's iPad is still safe.

Android for smart phones has been tweaked to accommodate a larger screen but will likely have most of the Android underpinnings. I have not read where Android apps can run on Xoom in the smaller mode as in the iOS iPad. Rumors are that Google has cooked up the tablet version of Android and calls it Honeycomb. Motorola has obtained an exclusive right to use Honeycomb for a period of time to allow them to launch Xoom.

The technical specs and price points floated are likely to sink Motorola's boat...

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Jan 25
Off to Macworld ....

I'm off to San Francisco to join the rest of the MacNews/MacTech gang in covering Macworld 2011. I have a day of travel ahead of me, so if coverage today is more sporadic than usual, that's why

But keep an eye on the sites this week. We'll have plenty of Macworld coverage.

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Jan 24
Greg's bite: CEO succession at Apple, RIM...

By Greg Mills

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is entitled to privacy, and yet the press can't let the man alone and pass on purely speculative stories assuming we are going to lose Steve. Last time he took a leave of absence to have a liver transplant and recover, some ass of an editor accidentally ran an obituary.  

How charming. MSBNC is running a story regarding what they consider the 10 most likely candidates to take over as CEO of Apple. While I know it is big news due to the incredible growth at Apple and the stock situation, such speculation might be interesting but completely irrelevant for now.

One of the common themes in Apple succession stories is the notion that someone could fill Jobs' shoes if we lose him. That is a flawed notion. It is rare that a CEO has the amount of power Jobs wields at Apple. Normally, a CEO allows the staff to do a lot Steve does. At a minimum, the wisdom and polices Steve has laid down will guide...

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Jan 24
Is there WiDi in the Mac's future?

Is there WiDi (which stands for Intel Wireless Display) in Apple's future along with Wi-Fi? Actually, WiDi uses Wi-Fi to wirelessly move anything on a computer screen to an HDTV if the computer is running one of Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors.

Your TV set will have to have WiDi support -- either built-in or by adding an WiDi adapter. "Network World" (http://macte.ch/it4nh) says WiDi makes streaming any computer content to your big screen is easy: you basically simply run Intel's software on the laptop. No additional wiring is required, and the technology is by all accounts extremely low latency, meaning that the lag between content appearing on the notebook screen and on the set is minimal.

As "Network World" notes, the biggest drawback is that the technology is proprietary: if your notebook doesn't have a current Intel CPU, you're out of luck. The good news is that the Wi-Fi Alliance is working on...

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Jan 21
Greg's bite: Apple's strange screw...

By Greg Mills

I never cease to be amazed by the jaded reaction of the PC tech press to the neutral things Apple does. Mis-representing motives and incorrect conclusions that tend to cast a slightly evil cast on Apple sell high tech stories. It's like putting Jesus on the cover of a magazine with some outlandish story. The most recent trashing of Apple is over, of all things, the design of some unique tiny screws that hold iPhones together.

The variety of screw heads used in technology these days is amazing. First there was the flat screw head with one notch. Then there was the Philips head screw that revolutionized machine installation of screws in all sorts of applications. Having used drywall screws for countless applications far beyond drywall installation, I am of the opinion the inventor of the Philips screw head deserves the Noble prize for innovation in physics.  

As certainly as Moore's Law regarding microchip development is true,...

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Jan 21
I say Apple is the number two computer vendor in the...

I've argued that Macs and iPads should be lumped together when measuring personal computer sales. If you combine Mac and iPad sales for the last fiscal quarter -- 4.3 million and 7.33 million units, respectively -- that comes to 11.63 million units. That would mean Apple has 11.3% of the worldwide market for computer sales.

And why not combine the two? The iPad runs a variant -- a "lite" version if you will -- of Mac OS X. The Apple tablet is seen as competition for netbooks. And some folks are using it in lieu of a laptop.

So how does this 11.3% figure compare to the biggest computer makers in the world? Quite favorably, as Paul Thurrott writes on his "Supersite for Windows" (http://macte.ch/txXKc).

He notes that, based on the latest data, HP notched 17.77 million computers sold worldwide, Dell had 10.9 million and Acer 10.8 million units. Of course, this doesn't include the sales of other...

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Jan 20
Apple patent involves restoring data to a mobile...

Apple is planning on making it even easier to back up data on your iOS devices. A company patent number (20110016089) for restoring data to a mobile device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for backing up and restoring data to a mobile device. In general, one aspect of the subject matter described in this specification can be embodied in methods that include the actions of receiving data from a mobile device to be included in a backup, the data including data associated with one or more mobile device applications; storing the data in a backup archive; generating a backup mapping file for each of the mobile device applications, each backup mapping file identifying each file in the backup associated with the respective application; and using the backup mapping files to restore the corresponding applications to the mobile device. The inventors are Gordie...

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Jan 20
Apple patents cover various audio technologies

Several Apple patents have appeared today at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Most involve audio technologies of some sort.

Patent number 20110015765 involves controlling an audio and visual experience based on environment. A system can monitor an environment while playing back music. The system can then identify a characteristic property of the environment and modify an audio-related or visual-related operation based on the characteristic property. The characteristic property can be any suitable property of the environment or any combination thereof. For example, the characteristic property can be related to an ambient property of the environment (e.g., light or sounds) or the environment's occupants (e.g., number of people nearby). The system can then modify its operation in any suitable manner based on the characteristic property. For example, the system can provide a visualization of music based on at least the characteristic property. In another...

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Jan 20
Apple eyeing virtual keyboards for the Mac?

An Apple patent (number 20110012717) for a method and apparatus for localization of haptic feedback has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The patent seems to indicate that the company is working on "virtual keyboards" for the Mac.

In one embodiment, a haptic feedback system includes a plurality of actuators to provide tactile feedback associated with an input surface. Each actuator is adapted to be activated independently of the other actuators. The system further includes a controller to activate a first actuator of the plurality of actuators to induce a first vibration at a selected input location of the input surface and to activate one or more additional actuators to induce at least a second vibration to localize the first vibration at the selected input location. The inventors are Aleksandar Pance, Paul Alioshin, Brett Bilbrey and David Thomas Amm.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present disclosure relates generally to...

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Jan 20
A future Mac mouse might have a built-in display

An upcoming Mac mouse could sport a built-in display, as indicated by a new patent (number 20110012838) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Per the patent, in an embodiment, an input device, such as computer mouse, includes an interface to communicate user interactions to a host system and a display assembly to display an image to a user.

In some examples, the display device will include a collimated glass component. A method is disclosed that includes displaying an image at an input device, such as a mouse, and then displaying a second image in response to a user input through the input device. The inventors are Aleksandar Pance, Brett Bilbrey and Duncan Kerr.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present disclosure relates generally to a computer input device a display device, and more particularly relates to an input device using such display to convey visually observable data such as colors and images to a user of the input device. In...

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Jan 20
Greg's bite: Nokia's N7 smartphone, out of...

By Greg Mills

Nokia's N7 (or X7) new touch screen smartphone running the Symbian 3 OS failed to excite AT&T enough, so the pending launch in the US was pulled at the last minute by Nokia.  

Punishing AT&T for not getting too excited about another "me, too" touch screen smart phone is certain to be self-flagellation, a concept that went out with the Middle Ages. AT&T has come to the same conclusion I have long been advocating in this space: there just isn't enough interest in the market place for more than two or at the most three smartphone OS platforms. The rest are doomed to Kin out.

The smartphone market may actually boil down to just two platforms: Apple's iOS and Google's Android platform. RIM is struggling and seeing its market share drop each quarter as the two-year contracts with business users expire. The enterprise market is embracing Apple's iPad and iPhone in mass. Blackberry users who actually try the iPhone touch...

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Jan 20
The future of movie watching: Apple will go its own...

Recently we looked at two competing formats for consumer movie watching (before I interrupted this series for Apple financial predictions and coverage): UltraViolet and Disney's Keychest, that will probably help shape the future of digital media on-line (both renting and buying). The Sellers Research Group (that's me) predicts that if Apple backs either format -- and that's a big "IF" (but more on that in a moment) -- it will go with Keychest.

With Keychest, no physical possession or media will be involved. The media would live in the cloud and be available on-demand in a way similar to the way Google Docs are accessed. Users would simply enter their unique key and begin streaming their media.

"The easiest way to explain [Keyestl] is with an example and the most obvious to us is iTunes and Comcast," says engadget (http://macte.ch/yM361). "Both companies offer video on demand and use their own DRM to...

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Jan 19
Greg's bite: Safari and iTunes to merge?

By Greg Mills

Sometimes rumors are floated that are so absurd they ought to sink right away. The notion that Apple's iTunes and Safari are going to be merged into one mammoth app to help propel Safari's popularity is one of those sinkers. The iTunes app is already quite bloated, by Apple standards. Adding a lot more to it, such as folding Safari, in does not sound like an Apple solution to me.  

Most of the time things happen across the entire product line at Apple; thus a move in one Apple platform gives credence to a similar move in the other platform. If something is changed in the iOS platform that supports the iPod touch, iPad and iPhone, look for a similar move in the Mac OS supporting Apple computers.  

Question: has iTunes been bundled into a larger package recently in the iOS? No, actually just the opposite is true. Instead of having a giant iTune app in the iOS, iTunes has been broken up to include a separate app for the App Store,...

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Jan 19
So how'd I do predicting Apple's sales...

The Sellers Research Group (that's me) predicted sales figures for Apple's fiscal 2011 first quarter. Those results were announced yesterday. So how'd I do?

I forecast that, when it comes to Macs, Apple sold 4.3 million Macs over the holiday period (the quarter ending in December). I was off a bit; the company sold 4.13 million Macs -- still a record quarter.

I said Apple would sell 14.2 million iPhones. The company actually sold 16.42 million, beating my estimates handily (and setting a new record).

As for iPads, I predicted Apple would ship 6.2 million tablets. The actual number was 7.33 million iPads, so, again, my estimates were low. And, again, this was a new record.

As for the iPod, I predicted Apple sold 18.5 million units over the holiday period. The actual figure? 19.45 million. That's not a record as this is a 7% unit decline from the year-ago quarter. However, considering the iPod now faces competition from the iPhone and iPad, that number's...

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Jan 18
Greg's bite: concerning Steve Jobs

By Greg Mills

The press is so full of Steve Jobs stories little other news rates the interest level for a lot people who aren't even Apple fans. The cult-like following is well documented and goes from the respectful to near worship.  

I think Steve Jobs will go down in history as an inventor and visionary of equal stature as Thomas Edison or Ben Franklin. Jobs is named in 273 patents already issued by the US Patent Office. A lot more patents are certainly pending. Countless design decisions Job has made that didn't get a patent are also fundamental to Apple's successful product line.

The stock market plays on anticipation of market effects that are predictable or sometimes not as predictable with vast swings in company valuation. An orderly transition of power within Apple and the familiar face of Tim Cook should settle things down within a few days. The quarterly report due today may soothe the nerves of many who have seen...

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Jan 18
Apple may beef up motion sensor data processing in iOS...

Apple is eyeing ways of using motion detection in iOS devices to further extend battery life. A company patent (number 7,873,749) for motion sensor data processing using various power has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, power may be provided to a motion sensor during a first power mode of the device. In response to the motion sensor detecting a motion event with a magnitude exceeding a threshold, the sensor may transmit a wake up signal to a power management unit of the device. In response to receiving the wake up signal, the power management unit may switch the device to a second power mode.

The device may provide power to a processor and load the processor with a motion sensing application when switching to the second power mode. During the second power mode, motion sensor data may be processed to determine that the motion event is not associated with an intentional user input and the device may return to the first power mode. The...

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Jan 18
Apple patents range from color labeling to a smart...

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

Patent number 7,873,916 involves color labeling in a graphical user interface. A method for providing visual cues to a user of a graphical user interface (GUI) for a computer system is disclosed. The visual cues indicate a relationship with an icon having text and/or image elements. In some embodiments, the method receives a color for labeling an icon that has a text-element and an image-element. The method applies the color to a background-region of the text-element of the icon without applying the color to the image-element. In some embodiments, the method does not affect the font of the text. In some embodiments, the method receives a selection of an icon. The icon has a background-region that has a first color. The method changes the first color of the background-region to a second color but retains the first color in a section of the...

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Jan 18
Apple patent is for light sensitive display

An Apple patent (number 7872641) for a light display has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to touch-sensitive displays and offers hints at what we may expect in future iOS devices.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Touch sensitive screens (“touch screens”) are devices that typically mount over a display such as a cathode ray tube. With a touch screen, a user can select from options displayed on the display's viewing surface by touching the surface adjacent to the desired option, or, in some designs, touching the option directly. Common techniques employed in these devices for detecting the location of a touch include mechanical buttons, crossed beams of infrared light, acoustic surface waves, capacitance sensing, and resistive materials.

"For example, Kasday, U.S. Pat. No. 4,484,179 discloses an optically-based touch screen comprising a flexible clear membrane supported above a glass screen whose edges are fitted with photodiodes...

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Jan 18
My predictions for today's Apple financial...

Apple will announce its fiscal 2011 first quarter financial results today at 2 pm (Pacific). "MacNews" and "MacTech" will be covering the announcement, of course, but first here's what the Sellers Research Firm (that's me) is predicting:

When it comes to Macs, Apple will have sold 4.3 million Macs over the holiday period (the quarter ending in December).

When it comes to iPhones, Apple will have moved 14.2 million units.


As for iPads, the company will have shipped 6.2 million tablets.

And as for the iPod, Apple will have sold 18.5 million over the holiday period.

When it comes to the Apple TV, if Apple announces a sales figure, it will be 1.2 million.


These figures mean Apple will have set quarterly sales records for the Mac, iPhone, iPod and Apple TV category. As for the iPad, 18.5 million units isn't a record, but it's not too shabby for a category some pundits say is on its way out. It's not, by the way.

-- Dennis Sellers...

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Jan 17
The future of movie watching: Ultraviolet and digital...

In July 2010, a group of media and electronics companies have announced an agreement on an all-formats system called UltraViolet for digital downloads. The single standard will, at least in theory, allow the consumer to purchase films to be viewed on any device -- a computer, smartphone, game console, Blu-ray player, and television. And it sounds like something Apple would like, but that remains to be seen.

Backed by 48 companies -- including film studios such as Paramount, Warner Bros., Sony and Fox, and tech firms like Microsoft, Toshiba, Panasonic as well as Intel and Comcast -- the consortium, called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) covers the spectrum of entertainment, software, hardware, and retail companies. The only holdouts are the Walt Disney Company, which has developed its own system called KeyChest, and, yep, Apple.


According to the DECE, consumers will be able to create free, cloud-based UltraViolet accounts, which will include a...

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Jan 14
The future of movie watching: Sandy Bridge and high...

Last week Intel unveiled its "Sandy Bridge" processors, chips that will probably be appearing in Macs by spring. Depending on how Apple decides to use the chips, Sandy Bridge could mean the ability to rent and buy the latest movies in high def.

Intel’s current laptop chips are capable of 1080p video, and improvements in Sandy Bridge chips are expected to bring a noticeable graphics improvement to computers. The chips sport security technology that has persuaded some companies to let personal-computer users view movies and television shows in a top-quality video format for the first time. Piracy concerns have previously studios from offering content in 1080p, the Holy Grail (for now, anyway) of high def video viewing.

However, Sandy Bridge processors include built-in content protection to make it safer for Hollywood studios to offer premium movies to consumers over their personal computers.
Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros Digital Distribution and other studios plan...

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Jan 13
Greg's bite: the Apple App Store trademark...

By Greg Mills

Those of us who follow computer development have long taken for granted that where Apple leads, the industry soon follows. The history of innovation in the computing devices supports that generalization with countless examples.  

While Xerox supported very early implementations of the graphical user interface coupled with a mouse, the company didn't know what to do with the cool raw concept. Personal computers that would use that innovation were still hatching in a garage in northern California on another development track. Invention relies upon the industrial development that is required to support it.

There are three types of people in the world. One: those who conceive of absolutely novel technology. Two: those who know it when they see it. Three: those who can't grasp the notion of innovation when it is in their hands. Steve Jobs is one of the rare breed of people in category one, Bill Gates is in category two and Steve...

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Jan 13
Apple wants to further customize your App Store...

Apple wants to further customize your App Store(s) experience, according to a new patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 20110010759 involves providing a customized interface for an application store.

Embodiments of the present disclosure provide a system and method of providing customized access to an electronic storefront for downloading software for a mobile device based on authorization data stored on the mobile device. In one embodiment, mobile devices have stored one or more profile. Each profile is signed by a particular entity (a particular developer or enterprise) and includes authorization data authorizing one or more devices to install and use software associated with the entity.

A content management application associated with the storefront (e.g., iTunes) identifies one or more storefronts associated with the entities of authorized profiles for a particular device upon access to the storefront and provides the entity storefronts to...

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Jan 13
Apple wants to simplify audio playback -- and make...

Two Apple patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple wants to make it easier to adjust audio playback controls on the Mac -- and make using audio more fun.

Patent number 20110010626 involves a device and method for adjusting a playback control with a finger gesture. The disclosed embodiments relate generally to electronic devices with touch-sensitive surfaces that provide media content (e.g., music and/or video content). More particularly, the disclosed embodiments relate to adjusting a playback control with a finger gesture on a touch-sensitive surface of an electronic device.

In some embodiments, a method is performed at an electronic device with a touch-sensitive surface while the device is providing content. The device detects a finger contact at a first location on the surface. The first location and an edge of the surface define a first distance. The finger contact at the first location corresponds to a start of a control adjustment gesture...

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Jan 13
Apple patent is for touch sensing device with...

Apparently the click wheel may have some life left in it yet. An Apple patent (number 20110005845) for a touch sensing device having conductive nodes has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The device can include a first structure having one or more conductive electrodes disposed on a surface opposite the structure's touchable surface and a second structure having one or more conductive nodes disposed on a surface. The two surfaces can be placed with the conductive electrodes and conductive nodes facing each other in close proximity so that the electrodes and the nodes can form capacitive elements for sensing a touch on the touchable surface. Separately disposing the conductive nodes from the touchable surface structure can make the touch sensing device thin. An example touch sensing device can be a click wheel. The inventors are Steven Porter Hotelling and Stephen Paul Zadesky.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "There can be many...

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Jan 13
The future of movie watching: Blu-ray and 3D

With apologizes to Mark Twain, the talk of Blu-ray's death have been exaggerated. According to industry organization Digital Entertainment Group, Blu-ray player sales have topped 28.5 million units. The DEG estimates the number of HDTV households in the U.S. at nearly 56 million.

At last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Blu-ray Disc Association President Andy Parsons notes sales have roughly doubled over last year. "That's been the trend for the past three-to- four years," he says. "That's bucking the trend with what's going on with packaged media in general. And that's good news: Blu-ray is growing at a nice solid rate, in spite of DVD declining."

What's more, Blu-ray sales increased 80% through the first three quarters of 2010, according to studio-sponsored research firm, the Digital Entertainment Group. Revenue from Blu-ray reached US$2 billion last year, and is expected to grow significantly this year, especially with the studios marketing Blu-ray...

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Jan 12
Greg's bite: Verizon, made in the USA

By Greg Mills

Since the announcement yesterday that Verizon will indeed get the iPhone, the tech press is flooded with stories regarding the demise of AT&T and speculation about the new iPhone. Verizon stirred the waters with the notion of built-in hot spot capability, which is sexy indeed.

First of all, don't count AT&T out just yet. While I have been vocal about criticizing them for dropped calls myself, there was wisdom in Apple giving them an exclusive to launch iPhone and get established in the cell phone business. Since then, Google's Android "made hay while the sun was shinning" and took advantage of the void for graphic smart phones in the market place.

While iPhone holds a 15-to-1 advantage in AT&T's customer base, Android had no competition and grabbed a significant volume with the other carriers. The issue Android cell phone makers must be asking themselves is what happens now that Verizon customers can...

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Jan 12
At long last there's an iPhone in my future

Boy, am I excited! At long last there's an iPhone in my future now that the Apple smartphone is coming to Verizon Wireless. I'll be pre-ordering one as soon as I come up with the moolah (anyone want to buy a Nintendo Wii with several games?).

Being an Apple fan and journalist, I've wanted an iPhone since they debuted. But the AT&T service is so bad in my neck of the woods, it made purchasing one impractical. The Verizon network works just fine, thank you, so now I can take the plunge.

So, I'm guessing, will lots of other folks. There are approximately 93 million Verizon customers and I expect them to buy the iPhone in droves.

I'm also excited about the hotspot feature of the Verizon iPhone that will let you open up your laptop, connect to your phone via Wi-FI and share its connection.

If you're a current Verizon customer like me, plan to buy an iPhone and want to transfer contacts, you'll need to download and run Backup Assistant on your existing...

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Jan 11
Greg's bite: Verizon iPhone 4 hotspot mode

This morning I got my monthly emailed congratulations note from AT&T, notifying me that they had successfully charged my credit card for another month of 3G network service for my iPad. I have never fully understood why congratulations are required.  

Congratulations that my credit card took another US$29.99 hit from them? Congratulations that I signed up while unlimited data service plans were still available? Anyone who figures out what the basis for those AT&T congratulatory letters is, please email me, so I can fully appreciate my good fortune.  

When I asked an AT&T representative why I was being congratulated every month, the customer service guy was just as confused as I was. By the way, AT&T has still not given me an official response to my submission to them of my original advertising slogan "AT&T, no bars in more places." My relationship with AT&T is perplexing indeed. My advertising career aspirations have been put on hold due to...

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Jan 11
Future Apple devices may add solar power to their...

Future Apple devices may add solar power to their other power sources. An Apple patent (number 7868582) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Portable devices having multiple power interfaces are described in the patent. According to one embodiment of the invention, a portable electronic device includes, but is not limited to, a processor, a memory coupled to the processor for storing instructions, when executed from the memory, cause the processor to perform one or more functions, a battery coupled to provide power to the processor and the memory, and a battery charging manager coupled to charge the battery using power derived from a plurality of power sources including a solar power source. Other methods and apparatuses are also described. The inventors are Wendell B. Sander and Daniel A. Warren.


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

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Jan 11
Apple wins patents for iPod touch, earphones, more

Apple has won design patents from the US Patent & Trademark Office for the third generation iPod touch (patent D630630), the design and assembly of the iPod touch (7869206), and their earphones with a remote mic (7869608), an active enclosure for a computing device with an illuminable portion(7868905).

Inventors of the first patent are Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer. The inventors of the second patent are Teodor Dabox, Hui Leng Lim, Kyle Yeates and Stephen Lynch. The inventors on the third patent are Wendell Sander, Jeffrey Terlizzi, Douglas Farrar, Timothy Johnson, Brian Sander, Brian Connor and Jesse Dorogusker. Duncan Kerr is the inventor of the fourth patent.

Three has also been granted three other patents. Following is a summary of each.

...

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Jan 11
Greg's bite: What if Apple assembled its products...

By Greg Mills

On the day iPhone is likely to be announced for Verizon, a study I found looking at the profound effect on the US economy of Apple outsourcing assembly of iPhone to China is particularly interesting.  

Can you believe Apple CEO Steve Jobs could put Apple on track to hire as many as half a million Americans who are currently out of work, while only marginally decreasing Apple's stellar profits? Jobs could add over US$10 billion a year to the national payroll simply by bringing assembly of Apple products home. Our government should make such a move as easy as possible by making the US employer environment more conducive to such a move.

I did an article recently on Apple's industrial footprint in China. While the subject of that article was the nature of Apple's business dealings with contractor assembly companies and their employees in China, another issue came to light recently in a study done by the Asian Development Bank...

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Jan 11
Some initial thoughts on the Mac App Store

Overall, I think the new Mac App Store is a good idea (as long as it doesn't become the only way to obtain Mac software) and well implemented, though there are a couple of changes I'd love to see -- and some questions that need to be answered.

For one thing, Apple needs to add a Wish List or Shopping list, not to mention gifting to the store.

Also, strange as it seems, your Mac App Store account isn't linked to your iTunes account. So if I have money available on iTunes, I can't use it in the Mac App Store.

Perhaps all this integration will come in with Mac App Store 2.0. Still, you'd think Apple would have built on their previous experience with iTunes rather than starting from scratch again.

I also have a couple of questions, which may also point to Mac App Store improvements. Is there no way to transition the apps that you own to the Mac App Store version? If not, do I have to purchase them again if I want all my apps and updates centralized?

... | Read more »
Jan 10
Consumer electronics bring families closer together?


Consumer electronics, once seen as a barrier to family togetherness, have become a critical component of family life and now play a starring role in many popular family activities. At least that is what is indicated by a national survey of more than 1,000 parents (women and men ages 25-54 with at least one child under age 18 in the home) conducted online Dec. 13-15, 2010 by Memorex (http://www.memorex.com).

The survey shows consumer electronics are viewed as an integral component of family life, with 35 %of parents saying their families “could not function” without electronics and only 1-in-10 parents saying electronics “are a necessary evil” or “create an unwanted barrier between family members." Compare this to last year’s WeTime Parent Survey -- where 24% of families said they feel consumer electronics do not enhance WeTime -- and the change in attitudes becomes obvious.

For over half of families (...

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Jan 07
Greg's bite: Android, a fractured OS, PlayBook

By Greg Mills

Those of us who are looking intently at the various operating systems out there that can run on smart phones and slate computers are keenly aware of the surge in usage of Google's Android.  

All is not well in that platform, as users are likely to find out, especially as time goes on. While there are benefits to the open source software concept, the devil is in the tendency for divergent flavors of operating software to be developed, that lead to incompatibility issues in various hardware configurations. These problems sometimes can't be fixed by adjusting the software and will basically render recent hardware obsolete, within months of release. This is not good for any platform. 

Currently there are already four versions of Android out there -- Android 1.6, ViewSonic 2.0 and ViewSonic 2.1 and the 2.2 Froyo Android configurations -- likely to be seen on a slew of new tablets. This does not even take into...

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Jan 07
Five innovations that will change our lives: recycling...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the fourth and final part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Innovations in computers and data centers are enabling the excessive heat and energy that they give off to do things like heat buildings in the winter and power air conditioning in the summer. Can you imagine if the energy poured into the world's data centers could in turn be recycled for a city's use?

Up to 50% of the energy consumed by a modern data center goes toward air cooling. Most of the heat is then wasted because it is just dumped into the atmosphere. With new technologies, such as novel on-chip water-cooling...

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Jan 06
Apple looking at multiple speaker systems for Macs,...

Apple may be working on new speaker technology for Macs and/or its iOS devices. An Apple patent (number 20110002487) for a has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Embodiments of the invention relate to the field of audio output; and more specifically, to routing audio channels to multiple speakers in a movable device.

The patent involves a device that provides an audio output and includes a speaker array mechanically fixed to the device. The speaker array includes at least three speakers. An orientation sensor detects an orientation of the speaker array and provides an orientation signal. An audio receiver receives a number of audio signals that include spatial position information. An audio processor is coupled to the speakers, the orientation sensor, and the audio receiver.

The audio processor receives the audio signals and the orientation signal, and selectively routes the audio signals to the speakers according to the spatial position information...

| Read more »
Jan 06
Greg's bite: Ballmer was right?

By Greg Mills

I bet that headline woke up some of my readers who hadn't had their coffee yet. I read yesterday, with amazement, that the high tech buffoon CEO of Microsoft made a good decision a few years back and invested in Facebook, before it become so popular.  

Investing about US$240 million in Facebook in 2007, Ballmer bought a 1.5% stake in the company, which then soared to about four times the valuation we see today.  See http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2011/01/05/lets-give-steve-ballmer-some-c... .  While Ballmer's leadership of Microsoft has largely been a "follow the leader" sort of management style, doing as many things as Microsoft does will, by default, include some good moves.

I don't know if it is the economy or just stingy Mac fans,...

| Read more »
Jan 06
Five innovations that will change our lives: saving...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the third part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

While you may not be a physicist, you are a walking sensor. In five years, sensors in your phone, your car, your wallet and even your tweets will collect data that will give scientists a real-time picture of your environment, according to IBM. You'll be able to contribute this data to fight global warming, save endangered species or track invasive plants or animals that threaten ecosystems around the world.

In the next five years, a whole class of "citizen scientists" will emerge, using simple sensors that already exist to...

| Read more »
Jan 05
Greg's bite: no smart phone privacy in California...

By Greg Mills

In a stunning setback for Constitutional privacy rights regarding the contents of smart phones, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that if you are arrested on any charge and happen to have your smart phone on you, the police have the right to see and copy everything on it.  

Further, the contents of your phone may be used against you in a court of law, even if unrelated to the original charge they bust you on. All this without a warrant or probable cause. Business information, normally held secret, is also affected at this time.

While I believe in the necessity of the police being able to search a person they arrest to make sure they don't have a weapon on them, the notion that the incredible amount of personal data found on a modern cell phone suddenly and automatically belongs to the State, without probable cause and without a warrant, is counter to the Constitutional notion of a warrant being required...

| Read more »
Jan 05
Five innovations that will change our lives, part two...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the second part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Ever wish you could make your laptop battery last all day without needing a charge? Or what about a cell phone that powers up by being carried in your pocket? In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today. Can you image an iPhone, iPod touch and iPad with that sort of potential?

Better yet, in some cases, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices. Instead of the heavy lithium-ion batteries used today,...

| Read more »
Jan 04
Patent hints at 'cable/satellite' box...

An Apple patent (number 7865927) at the US Patent & Trademark Office for enhancing media system metadata hints at what could be the future of the Apple TV -- or perhaps an Apple TV successor -- that involves implementing "cable/satellite box" features.

Systems and methods for providing enhanced metadata to a user. Systems and methods can include extraction of data from metadata and searching for related metadata based upon the the extracted data. The inventors are Rainer Brodersen, Rachel Claire Goldeen, Mihnea Calin Pacurariu and Jeffrey Ma.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Historically, video content for television was free broadcast video content. The revenue model for content providers was to sell advertising during the free broadcast content. The advent of cable television systems has significantly changed the business mode for content providers in many instances. For example, content providers such as Home Box Office (HBO), available...

| Read more »
Jan 04
Apple granted iChat patents

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office for its iChat audio and video conferencing app. Patent number 7,864,209 is for audio processing in a multi-participant conference.

Some embodiments provide an architecture for establishing multi-participant audio conferences over a computer network. This architecture has a central distributor that receives audio signals from one or more participants. The central distributor mixes the received signals and transmits them back to participants. In some embodiments, the central distributor eliminates echo by removing each participant's audio signal from the mixed signal that the central distributor sends to the particular participant. Hyeonkuk Jeong and Ryan Salsbury are the inventors.

Patent number 7,865,834 involves a multi-way video conference user interface. A videoconferencing application includes a user interface that provides multiple participant panels, each of which is displayed with...

| Read more »
Jan 04
Apple wins patent for Cinema Display design

Apple has won a patent for the design of its Cinema Display and for displaying structured electronic documents by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The Cinema Display is, of course, Apple's standalone monitor, now available only in a 27-inch size. The inventors on its design patent are listed as Bartley K. Andre, Daniel J. Coster, Daniele De Iluiis, Evans Hankey, Richard P. Howarth, Jonathan P. Ive, Duncan Robert Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Douglas B. Satzger, Christopher J. Stringer, Eugene Antony Whange and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent number 7864163 is for a portable electronic device (namely, the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad), method and graphical user interface for displaying structured electronic documents. It involves acomputer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable electronic device with a touch screen display, comprises displaying at least a portion of a structured electronic document on the touch screen display, wherein...

| Read more »
Jan 04
Greg's bite: CES, iPhone EKG, MalcrosoftTV?

By Greg Mills

While I took an EMT-1 course, some years ago, I have never worked a single day as a paramedic. I thought it would be cool to be able to deliver babies or restart someone's heart if the emergency situation ever came up.  

My wife, being a nurse, and I talk a bit about medical care issues around here. My wife was blown away when I told her about a new iPhone app that converts an iPhone into an EKG device with an added $100 attachment mounted on the back of the iPhone. The iPhone is held against the chest and run an electro cardiogram test on the person's heart. The iPhone can then email the EKG trace to your doctor, who can look at it on his iPhone, iPad or computer.  See http://alivecor.com/ .

What a neat solution for people with heart issues that need monitoring. The phrase, "there's an app for that" never ceases to amaze. The wisdom of setting up...

| Read more »
Jan 04
Five innovations that will change our lives, part one...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Let's look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Innovation one: you'll beam up your friends in 3D. In the next five years, 3D interfaces -- like those in the movies -- will let you interact with 3D holograms of your friends in real time. Movies and TVs are already moving to 3D, and as 3D and holographic cameras get more sophisticated and miniaturized to fit into cell phones, you will be able to interact with photos, browse the web and chat with your friends in entirely new ways.

Scientists are working to improve video chat to become holography chat -- or "3D telepresence." The technique uses light...

| Read more »
Jan 03
Greg's bite: CES, iPad killers galore? Not!

By Greg Mills

The annual CES event begins this week in Las Vegas and, by some counts, as many as 40 to 80 iPad want to be devices are slated to be shown off.  Many of them are just concept prototypes, not even close to products ready to ship.  

The usual knockoff artists are showing the predictable "me too" products. Microsoft, will again show off slate format PCs that just don't get it as to what an iPad sort of device ought to be.  Running any flavor of Windows is a battery killer and results in a sluggish device due to a lousy user interface not really designed for touch screens.

Even Visio is launching a slate type computer running the Android OS. They hope to ship actual products this summer. Due to catching the entire PC industry sleeping at the switch, as they try to catch up with iPad 1, Apple is busy behind the scenes ramping up production of iPad 2. The entire year of not having any competition in the hottest product...

| Read more »
Jan 03
Online gaming will be a $20 billion business in 2012

Driven by North American, European and Asia Pacific markets, online gaming continues its steady growth and the latest study from ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) forecasts revenues of slightly more than $20 billion in 2012. Technology developments will mean new opportunities for connected devices beyond the computer.

The Asia-Pac region, especially China, will be the engine behind much of this growth. However, in China, due to generally lower levels of personal computer ownership, the business models are evolving a little differently. According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, “World of Warcraft, for instance, generates significant revenue for Activision in Europe and North America on a subscription basis. But in China, despite a large ‘subscriber’ base, the revenues are far smaller: it's more of a pay-as-you-go model (prepaid game cards). This also creates a greater reliance on ‘cloud’...

| Read more »
Dec 30
Crystal ball gazing: my 2010 predictions

Once again I'm gazing into my crystal ball to foresee what I see coming from Apple in the year ahead. Just remember: this is all for fun and I have no insider info, so these predictions are based on nothing but my experience and gut feelings.

Prediction one: The iPhone will come to Verizon at long last. Yes, it will actually happen by March.

Prediction 2: The second gen iPad will appear before the end of March. It will have a camera for FaceTiming, but NOT a second camera for taking photos; as svelte as it is, the iPad is too bulky to use as a camera. Speaking of size, there'll be no 7-inch iPad. The 9.7-inch version will sport a slightly tweaked form factor and a micro-USB slot. There may be a 128GB version (at least I'm hoping so).

Prediction 3: The iPod line-up will be overhauled in the second or third quarter. At long last the classic will disappear from the line-up. I also think the shuffle will vanish...

| Read more »
Dec 30
Apple patent is for portable power source

Apple may be considering making its own portable power supplies. An company patent (number 20100327664) for a portable power source to provide power to an electronic device via an interface has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to portable power sources and, in particular, relates to a portable power source operable to selectively provide power to a device connected to an interface of the portable power source.

The portable power source cooperates and communicates with the electronic device via a peripheral bus to which the electronic device is attachable. The portable power source includes circuitry to process a power request signal from the electronic device to determine whether a device connected to a bus interface of the portable power source is requesting power from the portable power source. The inventors are David John Tupman, Doug M. Farrar, Joseph R. Fisher Jr., Jesse L. Dorogusker and Donald J. Novotney.

Here's Apple's background...

| Read more »
 
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