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Jul 26
Mac will top 12% US market share within a year

The Mac's share of the U.S. personal computer market rose to nearly 11% during the second quarter of 2011, with Apple representing the only major computer manufacturer to report double-digit growth in a market that contracted by more than 4%. My prediction: by this time next year Apple will have 12-14% of the personal computer market in the US and will be in the top five global manufacturers.

The IDC research group says that Apple shipped 1.917 million Macs in the US during the three-month period that ended in June. That's a 14.7% increase over the year-ago quarter. That made Apple the number three computer vendor with a 10.7% market share. That's up from 9% during the year-ago quarter.

Rival research firm Gartner also gave the Mac 10.7% of the US computer market, but said Apple shipped 1.814 million systems stateside. Per Gartner, that represents 8.5% growth compared to its 1.671 million actual shipments during the year-ago quarter.

Neither research group...

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Jul 26
Apple granted patent for H.264/AVC coder

Apple has been granted a patent (number 7,986,731) by the US Patent & Trademark Office for an H.264/AVC coder incorporating rate and quality controller.

A rate control system is disclosed for video coding applications. The rate controller assigns a quantization parameter for video data in a picture in response to complexity indicators indicative of spatial complexity, motion complexity and/or bits per pel of the picture.

A virtual buffer based quantizer parameter is proposed based on a virtual buffer fullness analysis and a target rate estimate, which is derived from the complexity indicators. A second quantizer parameter is proposed from a linear regression analysis of quantizer parameters used to code previously coded pictures of similar type (e.g., I pictures, P pictures or B pictures).

A coding policy decision unit defines a final quantizer parameter from a comparison of the two proposed quantizer parameters. The inventors are Barin Haskell, Adriana...

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Jul 25
Two Features Lion Didn't Deliver, yet?

Posted by Greg Mills

Lion delivered a lot of new features. However, some rumors and wish list items didn't get fulfilled upon Mac OS X 7 reaching Gold Master status. One of the most likely rumors that didn't pan out is a system wide "speech to text" feature. The text to speech feature has been around since before Apple even went to the Mac OS X from the older Apple Systems.

Speech to text is a lot harder to implement with the quality Apple demands before an app is launched. While there is a chance the Nuance / Apple connection will result in an Apple app sold for an additional price, recent leaks of iOS 5 developer releases indicate that feature might be an iPhone / iPad trick. I have an iPhone Nuance app that was free, but only works with short clips. It does work pretty well.

Having the feature on your Mac could be very powerful and useful. Imagine dropping an MP3 file onto a speech to text icon and having your computer spit out a...

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Jul 25
Apple's smartphone opportunities seem boundless

Good news for Apple: cellular handset shipments grew 12% in 2010 to 1.5-billion units, according to Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com). That's in comparison with 2009's negative 1.3% growth.

The research group predicts a strong, but more traditional growth in 2011 of 4.3%, but smartphones will continue to do better, growing 15.4% to the 318 million level this year. Though Samsung and Apple are growing faster, Nokia continues to be the leading handset vendor.

However, Nokia's average handset selling price is among the lowest because of their huge share of the low-end markets in China, India and Africa. Nokia still reigns as the largest vendor of smartphones, but smartphone vendor Apple is catching up.

The cellphone continues to be the physical and market magnet that is pulling in the functionality of digital cameras, PDAs, MP3 players, GPS navigators...

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Jul 22
Popularity of tablets changing consumer purchasing...

Six million U.S. broadband households are changing their 2011 consumer electronic purchase plans to get a tablet such as an iPad, which is cannibalizing sales in other device categories and inspiring an additional four million households who had no previous intentions to purchase a computing device this year.

That's according to data from the Parks Associates' research group (http://www.parksassociates.com). The group says the products at greatest risk of losing sales are other mobile Internet devices, including netbooks, notebooks, and e-readers. Tablets will also have significant impact on content publishing, including newspapers.

“One year after the launch of the Apple iPad, tablet adoption reached 13% of U.S. broadband households (approximately 10.5 million), slightly below current netbook and e-reader adoption rates,” says Jennifer Kent, a Parks Associates’ mobile research analyst...

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Jul 21
Greg's Bite: Apple to bid on 1300 more patents?

Posted by Greg Mills

Bloomberg reports that another patent auction is coming up where Apple and Google will be going head to head. This time it is over about 1300 patents being sold off by InterDigital. The power of the patent portfolio is well understood by the industry as the iOS and Android war goes forward. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-20/google-said-to-be-among-compani...

Google is long on innovation but short on patents to protect its projects. Apple has the advantage of having developed the iPhone and iPad under wraps and patenting the heck out of both ground breaking products before they were released.

Google is playing catch up, but has been caught using the logical but Apple patented...

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Jul 20
China to be increasingly important to Apple

China is a country that's going to be increasingly important to Apple. For instance, according to recent report by the Distimo app store research group (http://www.distimo.com),t he download volume in Asian countries grew significantly in the past six months in the Apple App Store for iPhone.

While other (Western) countries saw a decrease in download volume during the same time frame. China recently became the second largest market after the United States. And let's not forget the Mac.

The Mac has over 10% market share in the U.S., but under 5% globally (though both those figures would skyrocket if you figured in iPad sales, as I think you should). I think that number will grow at a significant rate, especially with China figured into the equation.

Last year Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said in a report co-written with Mathew Schneider, that "China is undergoing a 'megatransition' from...

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Jul 19
Mobile cloud services could challenge smartphone home...

Mobile handsets have become full-featured media servers capable of connecting automatically to other consumer devices such as TVs, picture frames, game consoles, and audio systems.

DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct certification programs are poised to simplify wireless connectivity for consumers. But new mobile cloud services may provide even easier access to consumers’ media content.

“Wi-Fi Direct enables a device to connect directly to another device without a wireless network. DLNA-certified devices discover other certified devices, eliminating the need for a consumer to configure the connection,” says ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) senior analyst Victoria Fodale. “Both programs help mitigate the difficulties that consumers often face when connecting devices at home, and both bring wireless technology further into the mainstream market.”

ABI Research expects that both Wi-Fi Direct-...

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Jul 18
HTC Stock slides, Patent work around?

Posted by Greg Mills

HTC, reeling from the first actual finding that Android infringes upon the Apple iOS has seen its stock slide. HTC announced it intends to buy back as many as 20,000,000 shares of its stock to support the value.

It has been suggested that HTC and the other Android handset makers need to simply find a workaround for the infringed Apple technology. What those who suggest that a workaround will solve the problem really don't understand what is going on. The patents HTC was found to have infringed are older, much less significant patents than the ones yet to be heard.

One of the infringed patents relates to the software trick where web URLs and phone numbers are identified within text, they are colored and underlined then they then automatically become clickable links. This was a patent Apple already had in the portfolio when iPhone was developed.

When you click on a URL discovered in the text, Safari is opened to...

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Jul 18
Consumers still positive on Blu-ray

Apple's not a fan, but, according to the NPD Group, there has recently been "significant and healthy growth" in the purchase and use of Blu-ray disc set top boxes and Blu-ray video content in the U.S.

Based on information from NPD's latest update to the "Entertainment Trends in America" report, 15 % of U.S. consumers reported using a Blu-ray player in the prior six months in March, up from 9% the prior year. By way of comparison, 57% of U.S. consumers reported using a standard DVD player in 2010, which is unchanged from 2009.

According to NPD's "Blu-ray Disc Report, 49% of PS3 owners are viewing Blu-ray movies on their game consoles at least once a month, which is also adding to the base of physical-disc users. Year-over-year sales of set-top Blu-ray player units increased 16%.

According to NPD's "Blu-ray Disc Report," there is evidence that Blu-ray is beginning to offset the loss of DVD customers. The research group estimates there are currently 116 million...

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Jul 16
Greg's Bite: The Android Platform is in Deep...

Posted by Greg Mills

The recent US International Trade Commission finding isn’t the end of the war between Apple’s iOS platform and the Android platform, but drawing first blood may be significant. Had the ruling been related to something trivial like the shape of buttons, for example, HTC could have simply gone to round buttons instead of square buttons.

The particular patents found to have been infringed relate more to basic system organization that underly the very foundation of the Android OS. Further rulings will no doubt find additional infringement on more Apple patents that are even more specifically related to smart phones and mobile operating systems.

I looked up the Apple patents cited and they are so broad, Apple’s attorneys must be delighted. The ITC finding of infringement isn’t just related to HTC, but rather all Android phones. The finding is really more against the Android OS than HTC. See:
...

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Jul 15
Cellphone privacy concerns only a short-term barrier

The recent kerfuffle over iPhone tracking and other privacy concerns will barely be a speed bump in the evolution of location-based services (LBS) because there is simply too much money at stake.

The Strategy Analytics (http://www.strategyanalytics.com) wireless media strategies (WMS) report, “The $10 Billion Rule: Location, Location, Location,” predicts consumer and advertiser expenditure on LBS to approach US$10 billion by 2016, with search advertising accounting for just over 50%. Although location providers will have to offer greater transparency to users about how they capture, manage and store user location information, this requirement won't deter growth of consumer LBS.

Amid fears that location data is being misused and that user privacy rights are open to abuse, location services have recently made headlines. However, mobile users are increasingly demanding search, map and...

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Jul 14
Mobile media nearing the mainstream

On-the-go use of the Internet and apps is approaching mainstream status, according to new research from Knowledge Networks (http://www.knowledgenetworks.com). And that's good news for Apple, as it's the big dog among mobile media device makers.

The Knowledge Network study shows that 38% of U.S. homes -- roughly 45 million -- now have at least one Internet- or app-capable mobile device, such as a smartphone (such as an iPhone), tablet (such as an iPad), or iPod touch. The proportion grew five percentage points in one year, which equals an increase of over five million homes.

This technology puts the world of media -- video, audio, gaming, and text-based --in consumers’ pockets, almost everywhere they go. Its adoption is therefore providing a host of new opportunities for brand interactions.

During the same 2010 to 2011 timeframe, smartphone ownership grew by about 50% at the...

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Jul 13
Greg's Bite: Law Enforcement Warrants for...

Posted by Greg Mills

FaceBook has secretly been providing complete files on its users to law enforcement. Most of the time the FaceBook users never know their information was given to the police. The policy decision to advise users or not of the warrant is for FaceBook to decide. FaceBook prepared a manual for warrant proceedures they appear to have reproduced for law enforcement. See http://cryptome.org/isp-spy/facebook-spy.pdf

I guess they figured it would be far better for FaceBook's pubic relations not to reveal the warrant disclosures of FaceBook users. People might get nervous about doing the FaceBook thing altogether if that were to be publicized.

Reuters found that Federal Judges authorized 24 search warrants for individual FaceBook accounts prior to 2011. So far in the year 2011 FaceBook has gotten 11 Federal Warrants for...

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Jul 13
Apple may have iOS security perception problem

nCircle, a provider of automated security and compliance auditing solutions, recently announced the results of the nCircle 2011 Smartphone Study. And it shows that Apple may have a security perception problem.

The results are based on a survey of 551 respondents in the IT security industry, including senior management, IT operations, security professionals and risk and audit managers. Highlights of the study include:

° Seventy-one percent respondents identify Google Android devices as presenting the highest level of smartphone security risk, a considerable increase from 39% in 2010.

° Security concern about Apple iOS devices is also high, with 60% of respondents assigning the highest level of smartphone security risk to these devices.

° Sixt-two percent of respondents say their companies have a smartphone security policy, compared with 58% in 2010.

° Only 56% of respondents say their companies enforce their smartphone policy, a dramatic decrease...

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Jul 12
Global computer shipments to grow just 4.2% this year

Worldwide computer shipments are now expected to grow by just 4.2% in 2011, down from a February forecast of 7.1%, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) "Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker" (http://www.idc.com). But if the Mac continues to be the exception to the rule, it will grow even faster.

A combination of declining first quarter shipments, an increasingly conservative economic outlook, relative saturation among developed market consumers, and competing products will lead to slow growth in 2011 before a rebound in 2012, says the IDC research group. For 2012 through 2015, growth is still expected to fall in the 10 to 11% range.

Consumer computer purchases have been a cornerstone of computer growth over the past five years. During this time, a transition to low-cost portables helped drive purchases by new users in emerging markets as well as replacement and secondary systems in more mature...

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Jul 11
Greg's Bite Is “.Secure” the solution for hacking?

By Greg Mills

Internet insecurity is such an issue with the US Government they are considering adding a new “.secure” main domain to the .com, .info and .gov that we are used to. Even the porno people have .xxx, so why not add a secure domain for the government and other agencies that require better security?

The problem the US Government has is that we in the USA are a nation that is build foundation-ally, upon a constitution that include certain “unalienable rights”. These rights are carefully crafted upon the bill of rights, which includes the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This...

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Jul 11
Mac OS X 7 Lion, Update or not Logic

Posted by Greg Mills

With all the stories that are going to be posted in the next few days or weeks on Mac OS X Lion, the adoption of the newest system is a slam dunk for many of us. There are those however, who are still running the OS that came with their older computers.

Some people aren’t up on what is going on with the platform they are using and really don’t care. That is their right and hey, if email and surfing the web is all a person cares about, perhaps even $29 for an update to Lion is a poor investment for them. Some older computers won’t even run Lion, so the issue is moot for them anyway.

I have a sister-in-law who was storing her all her documents in the trash. The trash had never been emptied for a couple of years. When I updated her system for her, somehow the trash got emptied and the screams of anguish were gut retching to say the least.

Who is so detached from the proper workings of the computers they use...

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Jul 11
Lion, iCloud, iOS/Twitter integration to impact...

Apple used June's World Wide Developers Conference to announce new tools that could impact the creation and flow of news and new business models for journalism.

Keith Politte, manager of the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Technology Testing Center, monitored the June 6 announcement and suggests that Apple’s new Mission Control, iCloud, and the iOS integration of Twitter offers many interesting opportunities for the media industry and the communities it serves.

“iCloud offers to lead many people, including journalists, to cloud-based services. Apple has a good selection of core and media apps to be integrated into the new service,” says Politte. “Regarding Lion, Apple seems to be applying lessons learned from iOS, such as multi-touch gestures and embedding into the Mac OS, which has interesting implications for interaction design and journalism information design.”

Politte is the manager of RJI’s Technology Testing Center, located at the University of...

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Jul 08
Mobile Data Hogs

By Greg Mills

AT&T, (No Bars in More Places) and Verizon (Can you hear me now?) have both been phasing out unlimited data plans because of the wasteful habits of a few customers. Those who have a habit of watching streamed movies over the cell network have screwed up the situation for the rest of us.

I recently went to an AT&T 250 Megs a month iPad data program for $15 a month, instead of the phased out $30 unlimited program I was on before. My usage was close enough to the 250 Meg limit on the old plan that I was wasting about half my iPad subscription money each month.

While I average about 250 Megs a month, sometimes circumstances cause me to go over. When that happens AT&T is good enough to bombard me with constant reminders that my data is just about used up and they offer to charge my credit card for another 250 Megs.

The information on Data rolling over into the next month seemed hard to find at AT&T.com...

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Jul 08
HDTVs, Blu-ray players top US consumers’ wish lists

Blu-ray is, obviously, never gonna come to the Mac platform, and I'm dubious that Apple will release its own television set -- but, who knows on either count? Stranger things have happened.

ABI Research (http://www.abirsearch.co ) recently released the first part of its “Technology Barometer: Connected Home & Computing,” which surveyed 2024 consumers in the United States about the consumer electronic products in their households (device types and numbers), home networking, and purchase intent (device type, brand, and features critical to the purchase decision).

Among the significant top-line results, some 24% of the respondents indicated that their highest-priority purchases over the next six months would likely be of HDTVs (24%) and Blu-ray players (17%). About 60% of the households surveyed said they already have one HDTV.

"As consumers replace older TVs, there really isn't much...

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Jul 07
Greg's Bite: HP TouchPad tear down vs iPad2

By Greg Mills

When I was a kid I got in trouble on many occasions for taking things apart. It drove my father to distraction and got me a number of lickings with his belt, along with a serious brow beating. I remember his taunting statement, “how arrogant of you to think you could improve something an engineer designed”!

Well, its 55 years later and with 12 US Patents to my name, I can say with certainty, improving something an engineer designed is no big thing. Engineers do the dumbest things sometimes. I have a Sharp microwave oven with the start and stop buttons so textually obscure, without plenty of light you can’t find them quickly. Why would the popcorn button be so obvious with a nice bold logo and the start and stop buttons be hidden in a world of text?

There is a company that does the industrial equivalent to the kid who tears things apart, iSuppi of El Segundo, Ca. ISuppi employees stand in line to buy the next big thing in...

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Jul 07
Jail Breaking Apple Devices is Foolishness

Posted by Greg Mills

Jail breaking the iOS before the system is even released, is a sign of the times. There is a certain arrogance in the soul of those who “JailBreak” Apple devices. Allowing a device to do things they weren’t designed to do has an appeal when there is a valuable feature that is locked out by Apple strictly to protect Apple’s income. But often what is jail broken is really the security that is part of what makes the device so attractive in the first place.

Years ago it was a cottage industry to hack PC into running various flavors of the Mac OS. Obviously, Steve Jobs threw a tantrum and code and chips were added to stop that nonsense in every way they could think of. I guess there are people who have nothing more to do with their time than to try to get a junk PC to run Mac operating systems. At a dollar an hour, they could have purchased a Mac. Go figure....

Jail breaking iPhone to run on other cellular networks or to...

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Jul 07
Expect Lion to prowl within the week

I expect we'll see OS X Lion begin to prowl no later than Friday, July 15. According to various reports/rumors, it's reached "Golden Master" (the final version before release).

Normally, there's a two-week period between software reaching Gold Master release and Apple software reaching consumers. However, Lion is being released through the online Mac App Store, so it could happen quicker than usual. In fact, I won't be shocked if Lion were unleashed any day now.

As we've reported before, Lion will cost US$29.99, buy you have to have Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard") already running to install it. By the way, "Computerworld" has a good article on preparing your Mac for Lion. You can find it at http://macte.ch/10S8U .

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 06
New MacBook Airs may be even more advanced than...

The new MacBook Airs are due any day now, and I'm excited about them, especially if reports are true about some high-end tech they'll be using.

Apple will adopt "Toggle DDR 2.0," a 19-nanometer process for NAND flash memory, according to a a report from the "Macotakara" (http://macte.ch/KyGcE) web site. Toggle DDR 2.0, an industry first, sports 64-gigabit flash chips manufactured using 20nm processes that boast a 400Mbps transfer rate. That makes these toggle DDR 2.0 chips about three times faster than toggle DDR 1.0 (a 133Mbps interface) -- or 10 times faster than the 40Mbps SDR NAND flash currently in use.

Apple's current SSDs offer read and write speeds of over 200MB/s, more than four times the 400Mb/s -- or 50MB/s -- offered by Toggle DDR 2.0. Apple would be chaining multiple chips together, however, providing the performance required to match or exceed today's technology, according to the "thinq"...

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Jul 05
Apple looking into macroscalar processor architecture

A new Apple patent (number 7975134) at the US Patent & Trademark Office involves a macroscalar processor architecture.

In one embodiment, an exemplary processor includes one or more execution units to execute instructions and one or more iteration units coupled to the execution units. The one or more iteration units receive one or more primary instructions of a program loop that comprise a machine executable program. For each of the primary instructions received, at least one of the iteration units generates multiple secondary instructions that correspond to multiple loop iterations of the task of the respective primary instruction when executed by the one or more execution units. Other methods and apparatuses are also described. Jeffry E. Gonion is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background of the invention: "As clock frequencies continue to rise in response to increased demands for performance, power has also increased, while deeper pipelines have exhibited a...

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Jul 05
Apple patent involves music synchronization...

An Apple patent (number 7973231) has popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a music synchronization arrangement. The invention generally pertains to a hand-held computing device.

More particularly, the invention pertains to a computing device that is capable of controlling the speed of the music so as to affect the mood and behavior of the user during an activity such as exercise. By way of example, the speed of the music can be controlled to match the pace of the activity (synching the speed of the music to the activity of the user) or alternatively it can be controlled to drive the pace of the activity (increasing or decreasing the speed of the music to encourage a greater or lower pace). One aspect of the invention relates to adjusting the tempo (or some other attribute) of the music being outputted from the computing device.

By way of example, a songs tempo may be increased or decreased before or during playing. Another aspect of the invention...

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Jul 05
Apple patent is for multi-point of sale software

An Apple patent (number 7971782) for a multi-point [of sale] transaction system has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to temporarily pairing devices to complete transactions; and more specifically to temporarily pairing at least one handheld communication device selected from a plurality of handheld communication devices with at least one payment terminal selected from a plurality of payment terminals.

Computer implemented systems and methods for conducting transactions are disclosed in the patent. In one exemplary embodiment, a method includes receiving transaction information corresponding to a transaction initiated with one of a plurality of handheld computing devices. The handheld computing device is associated with one of a plurality of payment terminals. The transaction is completed and the association between the handheld computing device and the payment terminal is terminated. Khawaja Shams is the inventor.

Here's Apple's...

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Jul 05
Greg's Bite: Microsoft loses strategy VP

By Greg Mills

When I read stories in the press about defections from Microsoft's executive suites, I consider the overall long term business situation at the Redmond campus. Since Ballmer took over from Bill Gates in 2000, Microsoft has shed half its market cap.  That is a fact. 

Rather than a string of successful new product launches, it looks more like a laundry list of epic product disasters when one considers Microsoft's failed strategies and dismal product failures. Anybody want a Kin phone?

There is a "me, too" element in Microsoft's genetic makeup. From the Windows OS inspired by the early Mac OS, Microsoft has followed the leader.  

From a strictly financial theory, attempting to emulate only successful products ought to be cheaper and more successful than actually innovating in-house.  Flawed planning, marketing and execution of product development has plagued Microsoft since Bill Gates retired to spend his money.

If I...

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Jul 05
E-book reader use in the US hits double digits for...

If Apple's iBookstore can keep expanding the number of titles it carries (I think it has around 100,000 titles compared to 700,000 or so at Amazon), it could have a bright future. The share of adults in the United States who own an e-book reader doubled to 12% in May 2011  from 6% in November 2010.  

This is the first time since the Pew Internet Project (http://pewinternet.org) began measuring e-reader use in April 2009 that ownership of this device has reached double digits among U.S. adults. Tablet computers haven't seen the same level of growth in recent months. 

These findings come from a survey conducted from April 26-May 22 among 2,277 adults ages 18 and over, including surveys in English and Spanish and on landline and cell phones. The margin of error for the sample is plus or minus two percentage points.

Both e-book reader and tablet computer adoption levels among U.S. adults are still...

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Jul 05
Apple wins iPhone, Migration Assistant patents

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

Patent number 7975242 is for a portable multifunction device, method and graphical user interface for conference calling -- in other words, the iPhone. Per the patent, in some embodiments, a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display performs a method that includes: displaying a phone call user interface on the touch screen display, wherein the phone call user interface includes: a first informational item associated with an active phone call between a user of the device and a first party, a second informational item associated with a suspended phone call between the user and a second party, and a merge call icon; upon detecting a user selection of the merge call icon, merging the active phone call and the suspended phone call into a conference call between the user, the first party, and the second party, and replacing the phone...

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Jul 01
Greg's Bite: California's Internet sales tax 

By Greg Mills

Benjamin Franklin said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Margret Mitchell, in her book "Gone with the Wind," written in 1936, added another given us guys have a pass on: childbirth. She glibly stated, "Death, taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them."  True and true, do I ever hate April 15!

The Internet has been a boon to the US economy for both giant online stores and the smaller mom and pop e-stores that pop up. E-commerce has become such a factor in the national economy that states that are scraping the bottom of the barrel for money are taking a fresh look to see if they can apply more taxes to the Internet cash flow.

California leads the other state governments in innovative ways to tax the poor chumps who live in their respective states. Having lived in California for a good chunk of my lifetime, I saw for myself the effects of invasive and over-...

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Jul 01
The Northern Spy: the scythe of time

By Rick Sutcliffe

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…" -- Ecclesiastes 3 : 1-2a.

Last month the Spy reflected on this theme and its implications for individuals. This month he returns his attention to products and companies, but with the same air of impermanence.

How many readers recall when every wag with a column for a pulpit (excepting this one) was predicting the demise of Apple? Seems unlikely today, does it not? Well, at least for a while. If Apple's sales stopped tomorrow (and they won't because of substantial banked mindshare) it would take a long time to use up all that cash in the bank accounts. On the contrary, iSteve's little company looks to grow substantially in both relative and absolute terms.

Indeed, when the stock began testing the $250-$350 range, the Spy worried that it was overvalued, but even that concern seems to have little foundation...

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Jul 01
Desktop not going to be obsolete anytime soon

"The desktop computer really will become obsolete," Amy H. Tabor, director of facilities planning for RNL, a global, full-service design firm, tells "Infoworld" (http://macte.ch/Ey8gW). "This change is driven by the way we work, the need for more flexibility and space use, and the younger generation expecting the difference."

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we're not entering a desktop-less world. Even in a "post PC" world the desktop will have a place for years to come. It will only disappear when we totally replace desktops with laptop computers -- which we'll then connect to large displays when we want to use them as, well, desktops.

Daniel Burrus, business strategist, technology futurist, and the author of the new book "Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible," tells "Infoworld": "The workplace is changing dramatically, and the tipping point is now. In 2010 more...

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Jun 30
Apple offers remote conference center patent

An Apple patent (number 20110161074) for a remote conferencing center has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to audio and/or video recording and, more specifically, to determining sources of audio signals for audio and/or video recordings.

Certain embodiments disclosed herein relate to systems and methods for recording audio and video. In particular, in one embodiment, a method of recording audio signals is provided. The method includes recording audio signals with a plurality of distributed audio transducers to create multiple recordings of the audio signals and providing each of the multiple recordings of the audio signals to a computing device.

The computing device combines each of the multiple recordings into a master recording and determines a source for each audio signal in the master recording. Additionally, the computing device stores each audio signal in separate audio files according to the determined source of each...

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Jun 30
Apple patent involves local device awareness

An Apple patent (number 20110162048) involving local device awareness has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Aspects of the present disclosure (think iOS devices) relate to the operation of electronic devices and, more particularly, to identifying and placing electronic devices located within a particular vicinity.

Per the patent, certain embodiments may take the form of a method of operating an electronic device to find and determine an identity of other local devices. The method includes transmitting electromagnetic signals from a first electronic device to find devices within a prescribed distance of the first device and receiving electromagnetic response signals from a second electronic device within the prescribed distance from the first electronic device.

The method also includes identifying the second electronic device using information received in the electromagnetic response signals. Additionally, the method includes determining if the second...

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Jun 30
Apple patent is for location-based 'smart'...

An Apple patent (number 20110162035) for a location-based dock for a computing device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Designed for Apple laptops, the dock would dynamically change the interface and settings of a portable device for different activities like working or driving a car.

One particular implementation conforming to aspects of the present disclosure takes the form of docking station for a computing device that maintains an indication of a docking station location. The location of the docking station may be utilized by the docking station and/or the computing device coupled to the docking station to configure the functionality and other aspects of the computing device.

For example, the functionality of the computing device may be altered in response to the location of the docking station.
Additionally, security features, display configurations and the availability of software applications may also be configured in response to the...

| Read more »
Jun 30
Greg's Bite: HP's New 'Me Too' Pad

By Greg Mills

Remember all the breathless "iPad killers" announced a year ago? Seems like it was over 100 different prototypes shown. Well, Apple's iPad is still over a year ahead of the strongest competitor and gaining traction in the market place. The problem for competitors is that the hardware of iPad is pretty awesome, and Apple has bought up so much of the touch screen production even finding parts to build competitive pads is hard.  

When you build a device you want uniformity in the parts to prevent problems in quality control and parts compatibility nightmares. When Apple buys up touch screens with cash a year in advance, manufacturers would be foolish to not play ball with them.  

Apple is either first or second in total electronic parts purchases around the world and approaching US$70 billion cash in the bank, so they call the shots on whatver they want to buy. They even loan money to touch screen manufacturers to build new plants to...

| Read more »
Jun 30
U.S. CEOs like Apple products

Seems America's chief executive officers (CEOs) prefer Apple products when it comes to mobile and computing products. Among the various mobile communication and computing products/services surveyed in new research from Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com), 99% of U.S. CEOs use/own laptops/notebooks.

Almost half of CEOs have one or more tablet computers, although very few have more than two.The 10% of CEOs who own two or more tablet computers most frequently cite family needs as the reason for owning more than one. About 40% of CEOs have e-readers, or use tablets as e-readers.

Of these, almost all use them during resting time, but rather few use them while commuting. Compared to 2010, in 2011 the U.S. CEOs respondents perceive the smart phones as more of personal purpose phones and the standard feature phones, that are still owned/used, are perceived more as...

| Read more »
Jun 29
Greg's Bite: The Final Cut Flap

By Greg Mills

Apple does so much right, it really takes a black eye when perceived to have screwed up. The new Final Cut software has been completely re-written and has some great new features, but lost some legacy features that avid video editing people miss.  

Note that the new Final Cut stands alone and isn't a replacement for the old Final Cut. When software titles are completely rewritten from the ground up, there may be changes in the basic architecture that make previous features obsolete or hard to reproduce right away.

I recall being flummoxed by iMovie 11 that, like the new Final Cut, abandoned familiar features and the look and feel of what was familiar in iMove. I ranted and criticized Apple roundly at the time. I left the new version on my hard drive and some months later found that a new USB Sony Camcorder worked with the newer version of iMovie when it didn't work with the old familiar version. I grumbled but learned the new...

| Read more »
Jun 29
Final Cut Pro X -- meet The Cube, Mobile Me and Ping

On June 1 Apple announced Final Cut Pro X (http:www.apple.com/finalcutpro), a new version of the company's professional video editing software. Based on the early reactions, it seems to have joined the Cube, Ping and MobileMe in a handful of company products that have been soundly blasted.

It seems that most video pros aren't happy with the software -- or at least how Apple has handled the whole product introduction. Apple blew it on this one, and needs to take steps to correct the situation. Pronto.

There's an online petition stating that, "Final Cut Pro X is not a professional application" (http://www.petitiononline.com/finalcut/). As I wrote this, there were over 3,000 signatures.

First of all, Final Cut Pro X is a MAJOR change from its predecessors. That scares some people. But what really scares them is that Apple cancelled Final Cut Studio and pulled it...

| Read more »
Jun 28
Apple patents involve iPhones, keyboards, more

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

Design patent D640,695 is for a keyboard -- more specifically, Apple's keyboard with a numeric pad. The inventors are Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Richard Howarth, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Calvin Seid, Vincent Keane, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent number 7,969,453 is for partial display updates in a windowing system using a programmable graphics processing unit. Techniques to generate partial display updates in a buffered window system in which arbitrary visual effects are permitted to any one or more windows (e.g., application-specific window buffers) are described. Once a display output region is identified for updating, the buffered window system is interrogated to determine which regions within each...

| Read more »
Jun 28
An Apple version of Touch-to-Share would be sweet

I have to admit that I'm jealous of HP's Touch-to-Share technology. With it you can, for example,"bump" a paired Pre 3 into an HP TouchPad slate, and the data beams over the air. In other words, Touch-to-Share offers the capability for sharing web addresses between HP TouchPad and compatible webOS phones.

It's a feature I'd love to have on OS X and iOS. I'd love to be able to "grab" a contact or iMessage event on my iMac, drag it to an iOS device and have it show up there.

Combine this with a Citrix Receiver capability and you could have a huge AutoCAD simulation on your main computer. You could drag it to your iPad and have the full thing show up there complete with the ability to continue editing the simulation and/or watch it run even though it requires a lot more CPU power than the iPad (or any tablet) would have.

This would work because using the Citrix Receiver, the actual horsepower would come from the desktop. The iPad would just provide the user...

| Read more »
Jun 27
Greg's Bite: revolutionary light field...

By Greg Mills

Photography has come a long way since the pioneer days of silver emulsion on glass plates. First came those antique box cameras and the flash powder photography where exposures were so long you could just about go to sleep before the picture was completely exposed. Don't blink!

Then photographic film came along, and chemicals were improved offering faster exposures for black-and-white pictures and increasingly fine detail. Then color film processing came on the scene. Kodak famously introduced the point-and-shoot camera and "snapshots" became the rage.  

Kodak got rich, and the film industry matured and was lulled to sleep until digital photography came on the scene a decade ago. Now, even cell phones have 8 to 10 
megapixel camera sensors with incredible color capable chips -- and they even record video.

Yet, even with modern self-focusing digital cameras, some legacy photographic boo-boos still occur. How many times...

| Read more »
Jun 27
The 'Net evolves from online directories to...

Although the Internet entered the mainstream 15 years ago, life without it today is nearly incomprehensible, And our use of the web has rapidly changed as well, as shown by new data from the Flurry research group (http://www.flurry.com). 

Flurry says that, in simple terms, the Internet has evolved from online directories (Yahoo!) to search engines (Google) and now to social media (Facebook).  Built on the desktop and notebook computer platform, the web’s popularity is significant.

Today, however, a new platform shift is taking place.  In 2011, for the first time, smartphone and tablet shipments exceed those of desktop and notebook shipments, says Flurry. This move means a new generation of consumers expects their smartphones and tablets to come with instant broadband connectively so they, too, can connect to the Internet.

In a new report, Flurry compared how daily interactive consumption has...

| Read more »
Jun 24
iPhones, parenting and social media

By Andrew Eisner

A parent's job is never finished, especially when it comes to keeping up with the technology that children so easily seem to understand. If you're a parent today, chances are, you're well aware that your job has grown far beyond making sure homework is completed and everyone gets to school on time.

Today's parents have Facebook, Twitter and a whole new world of social tools to consider when it comes to raising their children and even getting some well-deserved socializing in for themselves, and leading the way in most digital activities are iPhone owning parents, or "iParents" as we affectionately call them.

In an effort to help parents understand what other parents are doing (and not doing) in the social space, Retrevo, a consumer electronics shopping and review site commissioned a Gadgetology study to look at the changing role of parents in this new age of technology.

iPhone parents collect more Facebook...

| Read more »
Jun 24
Android more likely than the iPhone to develop...

In a big "oops" for the Android platform, a year-long study by WDS (http://www.wds.co) of more than 600,000 technical support calls has found that Android devices are more likely to develop a hardware fault than many of their smartphone competitors.

Fourteen percent of all technical support calls for Android devices related to hardware faults in contrast to just 3.7% for RIM BlackBerry, 8% for iPhones (iOS) and 9% for Windows Phone 7 devices, according to the wireless industry's provider of specialist managed services. The greater propensity for hardware faults is, says WDS, a symptom of the platform's fragmentation across a broad range of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Both Apple and RIM control their hardware ecosystems and Microsoft mandates minimum hardware specifications for Windows Phone deployments. In contrast, Android is widely deployed by more than 35 OEMs globally under an open source...

| Read more »
Jun 23
Apple eyeing ways to tie media items with geographical...

Apple is working on even more ways to associate media content items with geographical data, per a new patent (number 20110148936) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to presenting digital media, for example, digital photographs, digital video, and the like.

Systems and techniques are disclosed for associating and presenting media content items with locations on a geographical track path. For example, the frames of a video segment can be associated with locations on a track path. The track path can be based on position data, including position coordinates and a corresponding time coordinates, obtained while the video frames were captured.

Locations for the video frames can be determined based on a start time of the video segment, a frame rate of the video segment, and the position data. The video segment can be displayed with user controls that enable a user to manipulate the frame of the video segment being displayed including a time indicator and a...

| Read more »
Jun 23
Apple patent is for audio interface for iOS devices

An Apple patent (number 20110153044) for a directional audio interface for a portable media device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves controlling iOS devices through an audio interface.

Methods and apparatus for a user to interact with and control a portable media device through an audio user interface are discolsed. The audio user interface includes one or more audible control nodes perceived by the user to be spatially located at different points about the user of the portable media device.

A sensor in the portable media device senses a movement of the portable media device by the user toward one or more of the audible control nodes. The operation of the portable device is modified in accordance with the sensed movement of the portable media device. Aram Lindahl and Richard Powell are the inventors.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The increased density and lower cost per Mbyte of storage media,...

| Read more »
Jun 23
Apple patent hints at future Apple TV features

A new Apple patent (number 201110154200) for "enhancing media content with content-aware resources" has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It shows what Apple is considering for future versions of the Apple TV (or perhaps an Apple-branded television set, if you buy the latest rumors).

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "In the realm of computer software operating systems and application programs, light-weight, single-purpose applications referred to as 'widgets' or 'gadgets' have gained some prominence as useful resources with which users can interact to obtain information (e.g., weather, stock ticker values), perform a particular function (e.g., desktop calculator, web search interface) or interact with others (e.g., send messages back and forth among friends on a social networking website).

"Apple Inc., for example, provides an environment known as 'Dashboard' that enables users to choose from among a wide assortment of widgets,...

| Read more »
 
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