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Feb 02
Apple patent involves programmable magnets and...

A new Apple patent (number 20120028480) has appeared at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Among other things it would facilitate the assembly of Apple devices via programmable magnetic devices.

The patent involves alignment and connection for devices. relate generally to programmable magnetic devices, and more particularly to multi-part devices that may be joined or separated through programmable magnets. A plug or connector including a coded magnet and an electrical contact is disclosed.

As the plug approaches a corresponding port, the coded magnet interacts with a magnet within the port. The interaction between the plug coded magnet and the port coded magnet provides a force to connect and/or align the plug with the port. Once the plug is received within the port, if a process is completed, the coded magnets polarities are altered to eject the plug from the port.

“Correlated magnets” or “coded magnets” are magnetic structures formed of multiple...

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Feb 02
THIS is why I'd love to ditch satellite/cable TV

Here's one of the reasons why so many people want Apple (or Netflix or someone) to break the stranglehold the cable and satellite companies have on us:

My DishTV account jumped US$20 in one month. I didn't order any extra channels, but evidently some appeared anyway -- and we were billed. It seems to be part of what I consider a scam. For a short period, you're have access to some channels beyond the basic package (such as HBO and Showtime) for free. But if you don't specifically tell Dish TV that you don't want them, the channels continue past the free period, and you're billed. 

I did battle with Dish TV over this, something I hoped wouldn't occur. I switched to Dish after Comcast raised my cable TV bill about 150% in 24 months.

Currently, I subscribe to Dish TV's "America's Top 120" package. Of those 120 channels, there's maybe 20 that my family watches. I'd love to be able to pay only for those channels, not the other 100 we never tune into.

There are...

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Feb 02
Apple patents involve audio playback, notifications,...

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

Patent number 20120026403 is for facilitating audio playback during display sleep mode. The disclosed embodiments relate to a system for managing power for a display. During operation, the system receives a video-blank command, which specifies that the display is to enter a video-blank mode wherein the display outputs a blank screen. In response to the video-blank command, the system causes the display to output a blank screen, and powers down display components associated with outputting a display signal to the display.

In some embodiments, the display additionally comprises audio components including an audio-output device, and powering down the display components involves maintaining an existing power state for the audio components, so that the audio components can continue to output an audio signal while the display components are...

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Feb 01
The Northern Spy: Tempus Fugit

By Rick Sutcliffe

Or "Time flies like an arrow" ...

If we would marry Virgil's observations on its irretrievability to the unidirectional dictum of modern physics. "Time's a wasting," is an apt observation in any day and age, and for all that a week now seems a relative eternity in Internet time, we assume that the flight of time still takes place at the same speed in some external time-inertial frame of reference, call it eternity or what you will.

Certainly investors seem to have concluded that time has already flown for RIM, which benighted company resolved to solve its market share problems by appointing a company insider to be its great helmsman, only to see its shares plummet. Excuse us, but the Spy fails to see how someone who's been part of the problem these last several years can suddenly morph into the solution. It is for situations like this that the expression "changing deck chairs on the Titanic" was coined.

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Feb 01
2012 looks to be a great year for Apple in the...

If you think Apple had a great year in 2011, you ain't see nothing yet. While still firing on all cylinders in the consumer market, the company is also making great gains in the enterprise arena.

Forrester Research's (http://www.forrester.com) latest "Global Tech Market Outlook" states that enterprises will spend US$19 billion on Apple hardware in 2012 -- which is 68% more iPads and 45% more Macs than purchased in 2011.

"Apple's products are much more visible in business environments than they used to be," writes analyst Frank E. Gillet. "To quantify Apple's business presence, Forrester surveyed almost 10,000 information workers -- workers that use a computer for work an hour or more per day -- across 17 countries globally and more than 3,350 IT hardware decision-makers in North America and Western Europe. We analyzed the data to profile how information workers use Apple products for work, how...

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Jan 31
Apple patents involve iOS, Macs, retail stores, more

Apple has been granted several patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. They involve everything from iOS devices to Macs to Apple retail stores. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 8104911 is for a display system with a distributed LED backlight. Per the patent, each tile LED light source has a tile and a plurality of similar LED light sources on each tile connected for emitting light therefrom. The inventors are Michael D. Hillman, Gregory L. Tice, William Sauway, Sean Bailey, Ann Torres, Efrain Alcorta and Perry Anderson.

Patent number 8106630 involves a method and system for operating a portable device in a power-limited manner. Per the patent, improved techniques to manage operation of a portable electronic device having a substantially depleted battery when power is available from an external, power-limited source are disclosed. In one embodiment of the invention, the substantially depleted battery can be...

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Jan 31
Should the government help Apple move jobs back to the...

Last week I asked (http://macte.ch/rxr8P) if Apple should be doing more to help the U.S. economy. Some readers, including my long-time friend, J. Scott Anderson, asked the flip side of the question: should the U.S. government be doing more to help companies like Apple move jobs back to this country.

"I think it is the other way around," says Scott. "The US should do more that would attract companies to bring more manufacturing and other business functions back to the US. This is a complicated issue that has a lot of components. However, the bottom line is that Apple should do what is best for them and their customers."

President Obama touched on this subject last week in his State of the Union address. he recommended proposals for tax breaks benefiting companies that keep jobs in the United States, and eliminating tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jan 30
More and more folks watching video online

Here's another good reason to think that Apple may be planning an Apple HDTV: more and more people are watching video online.

Online video continues to increase in popularity, with 143 million Americans watching content online in 2011 according to the latest report from media analysts Nielsen (http://www.nielsen.com). The "2011 State of the Media Report" looked at how consumers in the USA watched video and found that although viewing content on a traditional TV is still the most popular method of watching programs, online video is reaching millions of consumers. An "iTV" could serve the best of both worlds.

The most popular video website is YouTube, which received 126.5 million unique visitors in 2011 but in terms of the time spend on the website the Google owned site comes second after Netflix. YouTube viewers spend an average of 2 hours and 52 minutes watching content on the site, compared to...

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Jan 27
Online movie purchases in 2011 accounted for only 1%...

Apple will almost certainly never support Blu-ray on the Mac -- though I'd love to be surprised with, say, a "Super" SuperDrive with an accompanying Mac OS X update that supports playback of Blu-ray movies.

I won't be at all surprised if the next iMac and MacBook Pro upgrades lack an optical drive entirely a la the MacBook Air and Mac mini. After all, Apple is determined to encourage (force?) you into using iTunes to rent/buy movies as well as purchase music.

That's a mistake. The day may come when buying films online is feasible, but, with bandwidth considerations, that day hasn't come.

Compare the online market for music purchases with that of movie purchases. Digital sales accounted for 32%of global music revenues in 2011, compared with just 1% for films (and, just so you'll know, 5% for newspapers and 4% for books).

Clearly, there's great growth potential for movies on iTunes, books at the iBookstore and newspapers at Newsstand (the latter two...

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Jan 26
Apple considering an universal remote control

A new patent (number 20120019371) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on a apparatus and method to facilitate an universal remote control. Could this hint at the much-rumored Apple HDTV (the "iTV")?

One embodiment of the present invention provides a universal remote control, which includes a display screen and a user input mechanism. The universal remote control also includes a processing unit that is configured to display information on the display screen and to accept selection data from the user input mechanism. The universal remote control additionally includes a wireless communication mechanism that is configured to provide communications between the processing unit and an appliance or computer program running on a computer system.

The appliance provides information to be displayed on the display screen, and information entered through the user input mechanism is communicated to the appliance. Since the appliance provides the...

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Jan 26
Apple eyeing location-based media presentation

How would you like access to certain media based on your current location? According to a new patent (number 20120021773) at the U.S. Patent & Trade Association, Apple is working on such technology.

Per the patent, media can be presented based on location associated with presentation of media (e.g., physical location of a device that is to present media). Presentation of media can be effectively controlled in order to automatically present a first media content (e.g., a list of songs, an album) in accordance with a first set of media presentation attributes or parameters (e.g., volume associated with presentation of audible media) at a first location, while a second media content is automatically presented in accordance with a second set of media presentation attributes or parameters when the current location is changed to a second location. Michael M. Lee is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Traditional electronic devices (e...

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Jan 26
Apple working on programmable, magnetic connectors

A patent (number 20121619) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on programmable, magnetic connectors for its iOS devices -- and perhaps OS X systems.

Connectors and methods of coupling electronic devices and cables are provided in the patent. In one embodiment, a connector has a first coded magnet on a first surface of a first device. The first coded magnet has at least two different polarity regions on the first surface. A second coded magnet on a second surface of a second device is also provided.

The second coded magnet is configured to provide identifying information regarding the device on which it is located. The inventors are Brett Bilbrey, Aleskander Pance, Peter Arnold, David I. Simon, Jean lee, Michael D. Hillman, Gregory L. Tice, Vijay Iyer and Bradley Spare.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Electronic devices are common in both home and work environments. Indeed, it is common for multiple...

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Jan 26
Apple patent involves playing data from an optical...

A new patent (number 20120020644) from Apple at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for playing data from an optical media drive.

The patent relates generally to optical media drives and to systems using such optical media drives; as well as to improved methods of operating such optical media drives. It's a bit surprising to see this patent, as most evidence indicates that Apple will phase out built-in optical drives on most Macs. But perhaps this involves a revamped, external SuperDrive.

In an example embodiment, the disclosure relates to playing data from an optical media drive. Example embodiments provide various techniques for playing data from an optical media drive. The optical media drive may detect certain media access information for use in accessing optical media. This media access information is stored a non-volatile memory.

The optical media drive then retrieves the media access information from the non-volatile memory once the optical media...

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Jan 26
Steve Jobs' name appears on interface-related...

The late Steve Jobs' name is listed as an inventor on a new patent at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 20120023434 regards an user interface for providing consolidation and access.

Methods and systems for providing graphical user interfaces are described. To provide greater access and consolidation to frequently used items in the graphical user interface, a user bar is established which includes a plurality of item representations.

To permit a greater number of items to reside in the user bar, a magnification function can be provided which magnifies items within the user bar when they are proximate the cursor associated with the graphical user interface. The inventors are Bas Ording, Steven P. Jobs and Donald J. Lindsay.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "According to exemplary embodiments of the present invention, these and other drawbacks and difficulties of conventional GUIs are overcome by providing a simple, consolidated and...

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Jan 26
Apple patent is for magnetically implemented security...

A new Apple patent (number 20120023597) for magnetically implemented security devices has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to programmable magnetic devices, and more particularly to security for computing devices and peripherals that may be provided by programmable magnets.

Security devices and methods of securely coupling electronic devices and peripherals are provided. In one embodiment, a peripheral has a first coded magnet on a first surface of a first device. The first coded magnet has at least two different polarity regions on the first surface. A second coded magnet on a second surface of a second device is also provided.

The first coded magnet is configured to securely provide data to a device associated with the second coded magnet, if the first and second coded magnets' patterns are keyed to one another. The inventors are Brett Bilbrey, Aleskandar Pance, Peter Arnold, David I. Simon, Jean Lee, Michael D. Hillman,...

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Jan 26
Apple eyeing SDK for iAP accessories

A new patent (number 20120023199) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is considering a software development kit (SDK) for iAP [in-application programming] accessories. It relates generally to communication between an accessory and a mobile computing device and in particular to using accessory and/or application specific protocols for such communications.

Embodiments of the present invention provide various communication techniques for communication between a mobile computing device and an accessory. An accessory protocol that is generic to the mobile computing device can be used for some communication. An application executing at the mobile computing device can communicate with the accessory using an application communication protocol. In some embodiments, the application communication protocol can be different from the accessory communication protocol.

In other embodiments the application protocol may only be recognized by the application and...

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Jan 26
Apple patents reflect work on even better displays

A plethora of patents at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple is working on several methods of improving the displays across its product lines.

Patent number 20120019152 is for ambient light calibration for energy efficiency in display systems. It involves a method, system, and apparatus that can be used to operate a display device in an energy efficient manner. The energy efficient display device can effectively and efficiently compensate for changes in ambient light incident at a display screen of the display device using an internal ambient light sensor to provide control signals to a backlight driver. David W. Lum is the inventor.

Patent number 20120019152 involves a display brightness control based on ambient light angles. Methods and devices are provided for controlling the brightness of a display for an electronic device based on ambient light conditions. In one embodiment, an electronic device may employ one...

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Jan 26
Should Apple do more to help the US economy?

Once upon a time Apple boasted that its products were made in America. That's changed. And the question is: should Apple do more to support the U.S.. economy?

A recent "New York Times" story (http://macte.ch/MofNt) notes that almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold in 2011 were manufactured overseas. The company earned over US$400,000 in profit per employee -- more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google. With that kind of moolah, couldn't Apple bring more jobs to our country?

Depends -- as does most things in life -- on how you look at it. As the "Times" notes, President Obama and others are "vexed" that high tech companies like Apple that are rolling in money don't help American jobs as other famous companies, such as General Motors and General Electric, did in the past.

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000...

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Jan 25
iCloud, iOS device sales fueling Mac sales

According to the latest data from Gartner and IDC, Apple continues to gain market share in the personal computer industry. In fact, it's the fastest growing company among the top five US computer makers (see http://macte.ch/4Lanv).

I expect this to continue, thanks to the popularity of iOS devices and the apparent huge success of iCloud, Apple's cloud service. iClouds lets you sync calendars, contacts, email, bookmarks and more across multiple OS X and iOS X devices When it comes to iTunes -- one of Apple's crown jewels (though it needs an overhaul as it's become too bloated) -- iCloud´s purchase history lets you re-download purchased content from any device at any time.

That's very cool and very convenient. What's more, as more and more customers get used to using an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and storing all their data in iCloud, chances are good that they'll eye a Mac when they make their next...

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Jan 24
Apple patents involve LED backlight, antenna, more

Among several patent wins today, Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,100,544) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a LED backlight for display systems. It relates generally to device display systems, and more particularly to an LED backlight with highly uniform color for illuminating display systems.

The invention is for an LED backlight method for display systems comprising receiving a plurality of light emitting diodes categorized into a plurality of bins, wherein each bin references a separate range of white point colors, and determining an optimal order for mounting the plurality of light emitting diodes at spatially distributed positions, the plurality of light emitting diodes comprising white point colors associated with separate bins, wherein the optimal order of the plurality of light emitting diodes produces a light of a desired white point color when the light outputs of the plurality of light emitting diodes are mixed. The inventors are Wei Chen,...

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Jan 24
iBooks Author looks good -- now how about iBooks on...

I've had a few days to play around with the iBooks Author app Apple announced last week. It's pretty cool -- and only underscores my conviction that Macs are going to be around for a loooong time. They'll be creating the bulk of the content we'll be consuming on iOS devices.

iBooks Author is a tool for creating iBooks textbooks (also announced last week). It's a free download at the Mac App Store. The textbooks you create are designed to be read on iOS devices via the iBooks app and the new iTunes U.

That's all well and good, but I'd still like to see iBooks, the iBookstore and iTunes U available on Mac OS X, as well as Newsstand. I want to be able to buy books, textbooks and magazines and have them -- via iCloud -- synced across all my iOS and OS X devices so I can read them whenever and wherever I choose.

What's more, I'm a bit disappointed that Apple didn't incorporate the iBooks Author features into Pages. It would have made the word processing/document...

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Jan 23
Mobile device royalties approaching the $20 billion...

The GSM, WCDMA, and LTE royalties on cellular phones will continue to grow for the next few years, but are starting to flatten out. GSM handset royalties are already playing a much less significant role for royalty revenues, with GSM/WCDMA/LTE handset royalties becoming increasingly significant.

GSM/WCDMA handset royalties hold the lion’s share because of the size of the 3G handset market, according to new data from the ABI Research Group (http://www.abiresearch.com). Bilateral roaming agreements may cancel out a lot royalties paid, but what is left is still significant and can weigh heavily on handset vendors with rising market share but weak patent portfolios.

For GSM/WCDMA handsets, vendors pay anything from less than 4% if they have a very strong patent portfolio to well into the teens. The average paid, weighed by market share, will fluctuate between approximately seven and eight percent...

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Jan 20
Android market not fragmented? Perhaps a new naming...

Recently, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, took issue with the idea that the Android mobile operating system is fragmented, arguing that it's a differentiation between devices rather than a fragmentation. If that's indeed the case, then let's have a new naming system; more on that in a moment.

The difference, as Schmidt explains it, is that differentiation means manufacturers have a choice. They're going to compete on their view of innovation, and try to convince consumers that their innovation is better than somebody else's whereas fragmentation is quite the opposite, he says. Not surprisingly, some company analysts beg to differ, pointing out the ever-increasing incompatibilities between OS and apps across different Android devices and other problems with Android.

So if Schmidt thinks that Android is different for innovation needs, and if the developers/consumers see mounting incompatibilities, then perhaps we need to start talking about a different...

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Jan 19
Patent shows Apple has big plans for Siri

A new Apple patent (number 20120016678) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company has big plans for Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. Siri was introduces last October along with the iPhone 4S.

The new Apple patent is for an "intelligent automated assistant" system that engages with the user in an integrated, conversational manner using natural language dialog, and invokes external services when appropriate to obtain information or perform various actions. The system can be implemented using any of a number of different platforms, such as the web, email, smartphone, and the like, or any combination thereof.

In one embodiment, the system is based on sets of interrelated domains and tasks, and employs additional functionally powered by external services with which the system can interact. The inventors are Thomas Robert Gruber, Adam John Cheyer, Dag Kitilaus, Didier Rene Guzzoni,...

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Jan 19
Apple patent is for enhanced image capture sharpening

An Apple patent (number 20120013775) for enhanced image capture sharpening has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Apparently, Apple continues to investigate ways to improve the digital camera functions on its iOS devices.

Per the patent, an image capture sharpening subsystem for a digital camera includes a capture sharpening processor and a memory that stores values for a capture sharpening amount. The values for the capture sharpening amount are a function of position on an image sensor of the digital camera. The capture sharpening processor receives a first value for a pixel in an image captured by the image sensor and a position value for the pixel on the image sensor.

The capture sharpening processor determines a pixel sharpening amount from the values for the capture sharpening amount stored in the first memory according to the position value. The capture sharpening processor applies a capture sharpening process to the pixel to provide a second...

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Jan 19
Apple patents involve manufacturing processes

Apple has been granted two patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, both involving manufacturing processes.

Patent number 20120011690 is for a removable fixture for a manufacturing device. The invention relates generally to manufacturing devices and processes, and more particularly to devices and methods for accurately locating removable fixtures in a manufacturing system.

Per the patent, a CNC system can include a cylinder adapted to rotate about, travel along, and deliver a force in an axial direction, an extension coupled to a distal end of and extending outward from the elongated component in a direction perpendicular to the axial direction, and a removable fixture adapted to receive the axial force and to be moved and positioned thereby along a plane (i.e., two directions) substantially perpendicular to the axial direction.

The fixture has a central opening along the first direction adapted to receive the elongated component,...

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Jan 19
What will be announced at Apple's education event...

Apple will hold an education event today at 10 am (Eastern) in New York City at the Guggenheim Museum. So what's on the agenda?

Of course, only Apple execs know for sure, but the betting company Paddy Power (http://www.paddypowerpic.com) has taken bets on what the subject will be. 
Given the theme of the event it’s unsurprising that the clear favorite is for the announcement concern electronic/digital textbooks at 1/6 odds, followed by the iPad Lite at 6/1 and the iPad 3 at 9/1. 

Further down the list its 14/1 odds that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook will be waxing lyrical about the return of the iMac desktop while an announcement on the iiPhone 5 and an "Apple Robot Teacher" prop up the market at 20/1 and 40/1 respectively.



Yours Truly is giving the odds of an iPad Lite, iPad 3, iPhone 5, new iMac and Apple Robot Teacher (what the heck is that?) as nil. I think Apple will beef up its iBook app...

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Jan 18
Apple granted patent for episodic TV content

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8099665) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for "organizing and sorting media menu items." It hints at a) the rumored Apple HDTV (the "iTV"), b) an Apple TV (the set-top box) update, or c) both.

The patent is for a method of organizing episodic content that includes identifying a list of items associated with episodic content and sorting the list of items based on at least episode order upon a prompt. The inventors are Rainer Brodersen, Rachel Clare Goldeen, Jeffrey Ma, Mihnea Calin Pacurariu and the late Steve Jobs.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Media devices, such as digital video and audio players, can include multiple functions and capabilities, such as playing stored content, browsing and selecting from recorded content, storing and/or receiving content selected by a user, and the like. These various functions can often be grouped according to content types, e.g., movies, music, television...

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Jan 18
Kids who read digitally comprehend as well as those...

In what can only be good news for Apple's iBookstore (which will almost certainly be part of Apple's education announcement/s tomorrow) and other ebook vendors,  a recent study indicates that children who read books on digital e-readers such as the iPad and Kindle comprehend what they've read as well as children who read paper books.

The report "Student Comprehension of Books in Kindle and Traditional Formats," was released by Michael Milone, Ph.D., for Renaissance Learning, a leading provider of technology-based school improvement and student assessment programs for K12 schools. Results of the study indicate that parents and educators can rest easy knowing that students comprehend books they read digitally as well as they comprehend books read in a print format.

In this study, fourth-grade students were asked to read books selected from a list of popular fiction titles. Students then alternated between options, reading approximately 50 percent of the books on the...

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Jan 18
Retrevo report: CES tech that could make your gear...

By Andrew Eisner

We’re just back from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the consumer electronics extravaganza in Las Vegas where we saw some amazing new gadgets and gear including new TVs, tablets, smartphones and new high tech automobiles. Much of the technology we saw may not be available for some time (if at all) but we did see some trends that will sooner or later make many of your high tech possessions obsolete.

Future TVs will be sharper

A year ago at CES 2011 we saw just a few 4K resolution HDTVs but at this year’s show we saw lots more. Full HD is defined as 1920 x 1080 but he next generation standard will double that to 3840 x 2160 which they are calling 4K (4K x 2K). Just as everyone who saw HD when it first came out could see a big difference between its higher resolution and older standard definition TVs, once you see 4K TVs you’ll want one. Yes, it will take new production equipment, new distribution methods and...

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Jan 17
Apple plans for exercisers to wear a 'smart...

A new patent (number 8099258) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on a "smart garment" for exercises and athletes. It builds upon the idea behind the Nike iPod Sport Kit.

The invention relates generally to performance monitoring. More particularly, methods and apparatus electronically pairing an authorized garment and a sensor that receives data from the garment are disclosed.

Per the patent, a sensor authenticated to a garment transfers information, either wirelessly or wired, to an external data processing device. Such information includes location information, physiometric data of the individual wearing the garment, garment performance and wear data (when the garment is an athletic shoe, for example). The external data processing device can be portable digital media players that are, in turn, in wireless communication with a server computer or other wireless devices. The inventors are Brett G. Alten and Robert Edward Borchers....

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Jan 17
Many mobile OS vendors are going to be left behind

U.S. smartphone adoption is expected to surge to 175 million devices by 2015, but even in a booming market, many mobile OS vendors have an uphill battle ahead, according to new data from the Yankee Group finds (http://www.yankeegroup.com). Apple, however, isn't one of them.

In its new report, "The Runaway Smartphone Landscape," Yankee Group cautions that while Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are sitting pretty with two-thirds of the market, HP’s webOS, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Nokia’s Symbian are being left behind. As expected, iOS and Android dominate. Over 80%of consumers intend to buy an iPhone or Android-powered device over the next six months. iOS is the only contender set to win share over that time frame.

RIM and Microsoft are struggling to sell new smartphones -- even to their current base. Twenty percent of U.S. consumers own a RIM BlackBerry, but only 12% intending to buy a...

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Jan 17
Apple patent involves app management on mobile devices

An Apple patent (number 8099332) for an user interface for application management for a mobile device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

This specification describes technologies relating to user interfaces for mobile devices. In general, one aspect of the subject matter described in this specification can be embodied in methods that include the actions of receiving a touch input to access an application management interface on a mobile device; presenting an application management interface; receiving one or more inputs within the application management interface including an input to install a particular application; installing the selected application; and presenting the installed application. The inventors are Steve Lemay and Sean Kelly.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Conventional mobile devices are often dedicated to performing specific functions. For example, a mobile phone provides telephony services, a personal...

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Jan 16
Mobile platforms have big impact on email viewership

Mobile devices, especially the iPad, are having a major impact on email viewship. No surprise there, as the Apple table is disrupting lots of areas.

Return Path (http://www.returnpath.com), an email certification and reputation monitoring company, has announced the findings from its second global report on the impact mobile is having on email viewership. The study looks at data from April 2011 to September 2011 and examines rapidly shifting trends.

In this latest report, Return Path data shows a pattern of increasing usage that’s hard to ignore as email opens on mobile devices grew by 34% compared with the previous six month period. While webmail maintains its status as the most popular platform for reading email, mobile is showing huge growth rates whereas the relative number of opens on webmail and desktop decreased by 11% and nearly 9.5%, respectively.

With the slick email interface of...

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Jan 14
Compact digital camera gets faster with Ricoh CX5

By Daniel East

How is it possible to take a compact digital camera that for most people is already perfect and improve upon its stellar features? It seemed as if this line had reached its pinnacle with the CX4 (http://www.ricoh.com/r_dc), but in true Ricoh style, they weren’t about to let "good enough" suffice.

The new CX5 (US$329) is quite remarkable and there really are some new features, but it all comes down to one word: speed. The CX5 is, by far, their fastest and most impressive incarnation of this body type to date. The new hybrid autofocus is impressive in nearly any situation.

From macro to magnified, the mechanism is smooth and extremely quick, allowing the capture of your subject as your eye sees it -- when it sees it -- and it’s rated at just over 0.2 seconds for either wide-angle or telephoto shooting. Ricoh’s new Super-resolution technology subtly enhances...

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Jan 13
Moms most likely to have tablets, smartphones

Perhaps Apple should offer its iDevices in pink, as well as other colors. According to new data from the 2012 Cozi Family Outlook survey (http://www.cozi.com), Moms are more likely than dads to have a tablet (35% vs. 20%) or a smartphone (72% vs. 68%).

Kids aren’t far behind, with 62% reporting at least one of their children has a mobile phone, smartphone or tablet, according to Cozi, a free web and mobile service designed to "simplify family life."

The fast growth of technology among the younger set becomes especially clear when compared against historical figures. In the 2011 Cozi Family Outlook survey, only 9% of children had smartphones. This year’s results show the total has more than doubled to 19%.

The 2012 Cozi Family Outlook also showed that today’s families have an average of three desktop or laptop computers in their homes. They don't say how many of those are Macs. But I'd bet the...

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Jan 12
Apple eyeing motion-based 3D interface for iOS devices

A new patent (number ) for a "Sensor Based Display Environment" at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on a motion-based 3D interface for its iOS devices. Although, from reading the patent, there seems to be no reason why the technology couldn't also be implemented on the Mac.

According to the patent, a three-dimensional display environment for mobile device is disclosed that uses orientation data from one or more onboard sensors to automatically determine and display a perspective projection of the 3D display environment based on the orientation data without the user physically interacting with (e.g., touching) the display. Patrick Piedmonte is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Modern computer operating systems often provide a desktop graphical user interface ('GUI') for displaying various graphical objects. Some examples of graphical objects include windows, taskbars, docks, menus and various icons...

| Read more »
Jan 12
Apple patent is for techniques, systems for supporting...

A new Apple patent (number 20120011227) for techniques and systems for supporting podcasting has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Improved podcasts and techniques that facilitate their use are disclosed. The improved techniques can pertain to creating, publishing, hosting, accessing, subscribing, managing, transferring, and/or playing podcasts. According to one aspect, a client application can subscribe to podcasts and then automatically monitor the podcasts for updates to be downloaded. In the event that user interest in a podcast becomes inadequate, downloading of further updates can be restricted.

According to another aspect, a podcast can be subscribed to through use of a portable subscription file. According to still another aspect, podcast feeds can be enhanced to include segment elements and other metadata. The inventors are Anne Jones, Thomas Dowdy, Jeffrey Robbin, Mike Wiese and Stephen Davis.

Here's Apple's background and summary...

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Jan 12
Apple working on ways to improve battery life when...

A new patent (number 20120008538) for "mobile network device battery conservation system and methods" at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on ways to improve battery life for its devices that can connect wirelessly.

Per the patent, the battery life of a mobile device operating in a wireless network environment is extended by terminating network communication activities after a specified period of time. Network communication activities may be restored when any one of a specified number of user actions are detected. The inventors are Eric Albert, Nate Begeman, Evan Doll, Charles Dominguez, Scott Herz, Dan Keen, David Myszewski, Mallory Paine and Rob Yepez.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The invention relates generally to mobile wireless devices and, more particularly, to a system and methods for extending the battery life in a network capable mobile device. As used herein, the term 'network' refers to those...

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Jan 12
Outlook for TV sales improving in 2012

Consumer demand for TVs has been softer than expected in 2011, but showing signs of improvement late in the year. But things are expected to get better this year, which could bode Apple if, as rumored, Apple decides to release its own HDTV (dubbed by many the "iTV").

Iventory pressure plagued the industry through much of early 2011 and led to a sharp reduction in shipments to retailers. The result is that global TV unit shipments are expected to rise only 0.1% in 2011. According to the latest forecast released in the NPD DisplaySearch (http://www.displaysearchcom) "Advanced Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report," growth is expected to improve in 2012, rising 2% to 254 million units.

"Global economic conditions have improved in 2011, but more slowly than expected, and consumers in mature TV markets like Europe face continuing uncertainty, which is leading to very cautious spending...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we expect from the iMac this year?

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

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

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Jan 10
Apple wins patents for audio data storage, more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We forecast worldwide...

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Jan 06
Apple working on new cooling methods for Macs

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

Embodiments in the patent provide various apparatus and techniques for deflecting or redirecting a flow of ionized air generated from an ionic wind generator. In general, a deflection field generator can be located proximate to the path of the flow of ionized air. The deflection field generator is configured to generate an electromagnetic field, which deflects a least a portion of the flow of ionized air to a different path and may possibly increase local heat transfer. The inventors are Jean L. Lee and Richard Blanco.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many modern electronic systems generate a large amount of heat, and a variety of different cooling mechanisms may be used to cool these electronic systems. For personal electronic systems, such as computers and other...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 05
Apple patents involve Thunderbolt cables

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

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

Patent number 20120005496 involves power distribution inside a cable. The invention -- shown in the first graphic -- involves circuits, methods, and apparatus that provide for the powering of active components in connector inserts at each end of a cable may in various ways. For example, where a host is coupled to a device that is not self-powered, the host may provide power for circuitry at each end of the cable.

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

| Read more »
Jan 05
Technology could mean 3D iTV, Macs

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

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

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

| Read more »
Jan 04
My predictions for 2012: the Mac desktop

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

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

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

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

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