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Feb 17
Changes are underway in the TV viewing world

More data suggests that this is the time for Apple to make a move into the television market (with the rumored "iTV"), as well as roll out the hoped-for iMac with TV functionality (see http://macte.ch/34WZQ).

Americans spend more than 33 hours per week watching video across various screens, according to the latest "Nielsen Cross-Platform Report" (http://www.nielsen.com). But how they’re consuming content -- traditional TV and otherwise -- is changing.

Demonstrating that consumers are increasingly making Internet connectivity a priority, 75.3% pay for broadband Internet (up from 70.9% last year); 90.4% pay for cable, telephone company-provided TV or satellite. Homes with both paid TV and broadband increased 5.5% since last year.

Changes are coming, however, as consumers seek out the entertainment option that makes the most sense...

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Feb 16
Apple wins patent for remote container

Apple has been granted a patent (number 20120042174) for a remote container. Apparently, it involves the company's iCloud service.

Methods, program products, and systems implementing remote container techniques are disclosed. A relational database can include a container data field, which can be a data field for storing multimedia data. In one aspect, when the multimedia data are inserted into the container field, the multimedia data can be stored in one or more remote database files. The remote database files can be located separately from other data of the relational database and remotely from a client computer accessing the relational database. Corresponding data structures, or remote containers, can be configured to store metadata of the database files.

References to the remote containers can be stored as values of the container data field. Using various encryption techniques, the remote database files can be given same access restrictions as access restrictions...

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Feb 16
Apple works on ways to manage to-do items, messages

An Apple patent (number 20120042028) for methods and systems for managing to-do items or notes and electronic messages has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Methods and systems for managing to-do items and/or notes and/or emails (or other electronic messages) are described. A record, such as a To do item, in a database maintained locally by the data processing system is encoded into metadata. The metadata is sent as a false email message by an email client application executing on the data processing system to a remote email message server.

An email client application executing on a remote processing system accesses the email message server and receives the false email message containing the metadata. The remote client application then either converts the metadata back into a database record editable at the remote processing system or presents a non-editable view of the database record, for example as an incoming email message. The inventors are...

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Feb 16
Apple patents involve population segmentation for...

A handful of Apple patents involving population segmentation have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. They relate to electronic content delivery and, more specifically, to intelligent targeting of invitational content to a user based on user characteristics.

Patent number 20120042253 involves population segmentation. Per the invention, segments used to select content to be targeted to a user are recursively refined based on continuously derived user characteristics. Based on information gathered from new requests for targeted content and/or user interaction with previously delivered content the user is assigned to one or additional candidate segments.

The candidate segments can be used to select content to be delivered to the user based on the user's assignment to the targeted segments. Accordingly, each user is grouped into one or more targeted segments and based on the user's inclusion in those segments, requests for targeted...

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Feb 16
iPad near top of small business wish lists

There seems to be no end to the sales potential of the iPad. A new customer survey conducted by B2B daily deals service RapidBuyr (http://www.RapidBuyr.com) has found that mobile technologies and travel deals top the list of purchases that small business owners plan to make in the coming year.

Not surprisingly, tablet computers, like the iPad, appear to be in high demand, with 49%t saying they intend to purchase one in the next six to 12 months. In addition, 44% plan to buy mobile phones, which can only be good news for the iPhone.

Perhaps related to the mobile demand, travel services also top the list of planned expenditures, with 62% of respondents planning air travel, while 55% will need hotel rooms. Restaurants and rental car services also show strong demand, at 38% and 34%, respectively.

"These results underscore just how important having access to the latest technology can be for...

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Feb 15
Retina display Macs coming soon?

John Gruber at "Daring Fireball" (http://www.daringfireball.net) points out that Safari’s "hovering-over-a-link pointing-finger" cursor looks a little different in Mac OS X 10.7.3 and could hint at "retina display" Macs in the near future. I'd love to see that happen, though I'm a bit dubious.

Noting that several icons and images have gotten the "high-DPI treatment in 10.7.3," Gruber says that "the simplest explanation is that Apple only just now got around to increasing the resolution of these elements for the benefit of users who use the cursor-zooming Universal Access feature."

True, but, as he notes, "combined with the fact that some people with Mac minis connected to TVs via HDMI are reporting that after upgrading to 10.7.3, their system rebooted in HiDPI mode, I can’t help but wonder whether we may be on the cusp of Apple releasing HiDPI Mac displays and/or HiDPI MacBooks. I.e.:...

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Feb 14
Apple patent is for online head-to-head comparisons

An Apple patent (number 8117228) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows how the company intends to offer head-to-head comparisons of products at its online stores.

The invention provides a comparison of a set of similar items includes: receiving from a first member of an online community a selection of a stored prior comparison created by another online community member of a set of similar items; providing to the first member a template for the comparison, the template being at least partially pre-populated using data from the stored prior comparison created by the other online community member; and receiving from the first member a submission of the comparison, wherein the comparison includes one or more modifications as made by the first member to the template. The inventors are Kenneth N. Chang, David A. Koski, Pedraum R. Pardehpoosh and Ralph E. Zuzula.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In the context of online stores, a user or potential...

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Feb 14
Apple works on universal container for audio data

A patent (number 8117038) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple continues to work on an universal container for audio data. It relates generally to digital audio and, more specifically, to a universal container for audio data.

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 a version of the file, and a dependency indicator...

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Feb 14
Apple patent involves fixing image distortion

As evidenced by a new patent (number 8116586) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Apple is working on further ways to improve the camera abilities of various iOS devices.

The patent involves estimating and removing distortion from an image. Some embodiments provide a method of editing images with distortion caused by a camera lens. The method identifies a set of geometries on a set of images taken by the camera lens. The method finds transformations for applying on the set of identified geometries to remove distortion on the geometries.

The method applies the transformations to images taken by the camera lens to remove distortions. In some embodiments the identified geometries are curvilinear lines that correspond to straight lines in the scene being captured by the lens. Some embodiments provide a method of matching distortion for adding graphical objects to images. The method first removes the distortion on the images as described above. The method then adds...

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Feb 14
Are you having a love affair with your iPhone, iPad?

Note to guys: it's Valentine's Day. Don't forget your sweetie.

Note to assorted guys and gals: if your main squeeze is a piece of technology, please re-evaluate your life.

Apparently, some of us have waaaaaay too much affection for gadgets such as the iPhone and iPad. Asurion (http://www.asurion.com), which specializes in technology protection services, says its national survey results show that nearly 30% of survey participants believe their cell phone is more helpful to them than their significant other. 

Reasons frequently given by the 3,000 survey respondents include that the cell phone is more entertaining than their significant other, they appreciate that the cell phone has an off button and that the device never talks back.

"While the content of the communications might vary wildly among users, there's no doubt mobile devices are now the primary way people stay in touch with...

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Feb 14
Apple patents involve image sensors, impact protection...

Apple has been granted several patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Following are some of the highlights.

Patent number 8115825 is for an electronic device with two image sensors. The electronic device may include a black-and-white camera having a first sensor area configured to receive luma data pertaining to the object. The first sensor area may correspond to a first pixel array, the luma data associated with the first pixel array. The electronic device may also include a color camera having a second sensor area configured to receive chroma data pertaining to the object.

The second sensor area may correspond to a second pixel array. The chroma data may be associated with the second pixel array. The electronic device may also include first logic configured to correlate pixels in the first pixel array with locations on the second sensor area. The inventors are Michael F. Culbert and Chris Ligtenberg.

Patent number 8115773...

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Feb 13
Technisource survey: IT worker confidence returns

The IT Employee Confidence Index, a measure of overall confidence among U.S. technology workers, showed a positive uptick in confidence from 47.3 to 52.0 in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a recent online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Technisource. 

Showing some much needed signs of recovery, the survey of 3,721 U.S. adults, among which 246 are employed in information technology, denotes the return of positive confidence levels (above 50) amongst IT professionals. The increase in IT professionals' confidence in the economy was largely led by a perception of more jobs being available and an increased ability to get those new jobs. 

Mirroring this increase in confidence is a decreased belief that IT pros will lose their jobs within the next 12 months. Results from the Q4 IT Employment Report include:

° In this survey, IT professionals demonstrated a spike in confidence in the overall economy, with 22% now believing the economy is...

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Feb 10
Ways an 'iTV' could stand out from the...

In a note to clients -- as reported by Bloomberg (http://macte.ch/bJWYW) -- Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek underscores his belief in an upcoming Apple HDTV (the "iTV") and thinks user generated video from customers who use iPads and iPhones as video recorders may play a role, giving Apple "the ability to leverage content into a YouTube-like model."

That's hardly the a la carte offering of channels/programs I'm hoping for, but at least it's SOMETHING that would differentiate an iTV (and, I suspect, a new Apple TV for those who won't spring for a pricey, Apple-branded television set) from competitors. In the highly competitive world of TV set sales, Apple will need all the differentiation it can get to succeed.

Misek thinks that by partnering with carriers and cable operators, Apple could enter the market on a level playing field with everyone else for content. Apple could then package everything...

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Feb 09
Apple patent reflects work on 3D interface

A patent (number 20120036433) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is looking into three-dimensional interfaces for at least some of its products. The patent is for 3D user interface effects on a display by using properties of motion.

The techniques disclosed use a compass, MEMS accelerometer, GPS module, and MEMS gyrometer to infer a frame of reference for a hand-held device. This can provide a true Frenet frame, i.e., X- and Y-vectors for the display, and also a Z-vector that points perpendicularly to the display. In fact, with various inertial clues from accelerometer, gyrometer, and other instruments that report their states in real time, it is possible to track the Frenet frame of the device in real time to provide a continuous 3D frame-of-reference.

Once this continuous frame of reference is known, the position of a user's eyes may either be inferred or calculated directly by using a device's front-facing camera. With the position of the...

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Feb 09
Apple patent is for magnetic fasteners

An Apple patent (20120032765) for magnetic fasteners has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The various embodiments described in the patent generally relate to magnetic fasteners.

More particularly, the various embodiments described relate to apparatus, methods and systems for utilizing programmable magnetic devices to fasten, or unfasten, two or more components or devices. The inventors are Brett Bilbrey, Aleskandar Pance, Peter Arnold, David L. Simon, Jean lee, Michael D. Hillman, Gregory L. Tice, Vijay Iyver and Bradley Spare.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Traditionally, various mechanical types of fasteners have been utilized to facilitate a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary coupling of the two or more devices. Examples of devices utilized to accomplish such coupling include screws, rivets, nails, bolts and nuts, non-programmable magnets, tape, wire binding, soldering, and other fastening devices and techniques...

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Feb 09
OS X, iOS -- and 'synergy' between the two

"AppAdvice" (http://macte.ch/0ghLi) and various other sites have reported that, back in 2010, Tristan Schaap -- a student who had spent a 12 week internship with Apple -- wrote a thesis that detailed his time spent with Apple’s Platform Technologies Group. They conducted experiments regarding Mac OS X and ARM processors. Could this mean an iPad running Mac OS X? I doubt it.

"The project was only made public several months ago. While iOS also uses the Darwin kernel, this project involved Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and was left for the CoreOS teams to continue," says "AppAdvice." "Since Mac OX X 10.7 Lion has since shipped, as have newer generations of iPad and MacBook Air, without any sign of Mac OS X on ARM, it’s unknown if this project is still ongoing or has since been put on the shelf. However, the author of the paper is now a full-time employee at Apple, working as a CoreOS Engineer."

Apple may have...

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Feb 09
Apple patents involve media conferencing, RAW images,...

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

Patent number 20120036192 and number 20120036193 are for NAT traversal for media conferencing. Methods for establishing a direct peer-to-peer ("P2P") connection between two computers are disclosed. In particular, the methods are designed to work in cases where one or both of the computers are connected to a private network, such private networks being interconnected via a public network, such as the Internet. The connections between the private network and the public network are facilitated by network address translation ("NAT"). The inventors are Joe Abuan, Joshua Graessley, Hyeonkuk Jeony and Berkat Tung.

Patent number 20120033103 involves RAW-split mode image capture and involves the camera on the iPhone 4S. Systems, methods and a computer readable mediums for reducing run-time bandwidth requirements within digital...

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Feb 08
No keyboard-equipped iPad coming; a MacPad, perhaps?

After meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner told clients in a note -- as reported by "V3" (http://macte.ch/zf70V) -- that Apple may be redesigning the iPad. I beg to differ. It won't happen -- at least in the way Gardner hints.

The analyst thinks Apple may redesign its tablet to meet the needs of those wanting an ARM-based hybrid device with, say, a keyboard. "We have wondered whether Apple might offer an ARM-based version of the MacBook Air at some point; we walked away from this meeting with the impression that Apple feels the iPad satisfies -- or will soon satisfy -- the needs of those who might have been interested in such a product."

There's no way Apple will introduce an iPad with a keyboard other than a virtual one. It goes against the entire "post-PC' aesthetic of the tablet. Want to use a physical keyboard with your iPad? Apple expects you to spring for one of the...

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Feb 07
Apple patent is for using portable media player as a...

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8112032) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for using a portable media player as a remote control. Could this be a hint of the rumored Apple HDTV (the "iTV") or merely affirmation of ways Apple has provided for using current iOS devices, such as with a Mac?

Per the patent, a portable multimedia player is used to wirelessly access and control a media server that is streaming digital media by way of a wireless interface to a media unit such as a stereo/speakers in the case of streaming digital audio. In one embodiment, the portable multimedia player is wirelessly synchronized to a selected one(s) of a number of digital media files stored on the media server in such a way that digital media file metadata (song title, author, etc.) associated with the selected digital media file(s) only is transferred from the media server to be stored in the portable media player. Steve Ko and Stephen O. Lemay are the inventors.

Here's...

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Feb 07
Apple eyeing ways to control power provided to an...

Apple is working on ways to control power provided to an accessory, per a patent (number 8112567) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. A method for a portable media player to control power provided an accessory is disclosed.

The method includes requesting information about the power capabilities of the accessory by the portable media player. The method further includes providing information about the power capabilities of the accessory by the accessory to the portable media player, and utilizing the information to set the power of the accessory.

A method and system in accordance with the present invention provides a system that allows a portable media player to obtain information from an accessory concerning its power requirements. A portable media player can then utilize the power requirements information to allow for the powering of the accessory when connected to the portable media player. The inventors are Gregory T. Lydon, Scott Kureger, Donald J....

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Feb 07
Gamers not that keen on 3D consoles

So far 3D game consoles don't seem to be faring much better than 3D TVs in the U.S..

Nintendo posted an US$626 million loss for the first nine months of the fiscal year that ended March 2012, a complete reversal of its fortunes compared to the same time last year, where the console manufacturer netted $637 million in profit. An independent survey shows that gamers are against 3D gaming, perhaps providing an explanation for Nintendo’s about-turn.
 
3D-enabled consoles haven't been a hit with gaming fans, according to the results of a new study which has revealed that almost three quarters of gamers are opposed to future generation consoles having 3D capability. The independent survey by coupon website http://www.CouponCodes4U.com polled 2,291 gamers and was conducted following Nintendo’s recently announced financial losses, to delve into whether or not consumers were against 3D gaming...

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Feb 07
Patent patents involve encoding video, mode pruning,...

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

Patent number 8111751 is for encoding video. Some embodiments of the invention provide a method for encoding a video signal that is formed by a series of successive images. Each image includes several sections, and each section has a set of image values. To encode a particular section of a particular image, the method initially partitions the particular section into several sub-sections. For each of at least two particular sub-sections, the method then computes a statistical parameter regarding the image values of the particular sub-section.

The method compares the computed statistical parameters, and based on the comparison, selects an encoding technique from a set of encoding techniques to encode the particular section. In some embodiments, the set of encoding schemes includes a first scheme that encodes the selected section without reference to...

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Feb 06
LCD TV area demand to reach 116 million square meters...

If Apple is indeed planning its own branded HDTV (the rumored "iTV") it needs to think big. The LCD TV market saw a rapid shift toward sizes larger than 40 inches at the end of 2011, as consumers, particularly in North America and China, took advantage of new sizes and more affordable prices.

As larger sizes such as 46 inches, 47 inches 55 inches, 60 inches and 65 inches are being adopted by consumers, panel makers are also developing other new large size TV panels, including 43 inches, 48 inches, 50 inches, 70 inches, and even 75 inches, 80 inches and larger.

In response to the strong end-market adoption, NPD DisplaySearch (http://www.displaysearch.com) has increased its forecast for LCD TV area demand. According to the "NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Worldwide FPD Shipment and Forecast Report," LCD TV panel demand will reach 85 million square meters in 2012, nearly 2% higher than the...

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Feb 03
IWant an iDesk

I always enjoy the annual article "Mac/Life" on products Apple should/could develop. In their latest feature, I was particularly intrigued by the iDesk.

The iDesk is a conceptual re-imagining of the desk. Not the Mac OS X Desktop, but an actual, physical desktop.

Here's how "Mac/Life" describes it: "Imagine an entirely adaptable workspace that doesn’t just hold your equipment, but enhances and interacts with it. As with Microsoft’s Surface technology, the entire desk would be a touch-sensitive display capable of running several simultaneous apps, some of which--such as a calendar, phone, and digital Post-It notes—would replace their physical counterparts entirely. Notifications, to-do lists, video conferencing, Adobe tool palettes, and countless widgets such as calculators and weather reports would all appear right on the surface of your desk, literally putting your entire working world at your fingertips."

The article says that the iDesk would sync with your...

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Feb 02
Apple patent hints at touchscreen Mac

Although the late Steve Jobs dismissed talk of a Mac with a touchscreen display, an Apple patent (number 20120030626) at the U..S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company has considered/is considering the idea. The patent is for a computer with a touchscreen.

Per the patent, a control object including a knob element is displayed in a GUI [graphical user interface]. A first user input can be detected that indicates selection of the knob element. In response to the first user input, the knob element can be visually augmented. The visual augmentation can include displaying text labels of range limit values and a slider element with the knob element.

The slider element can include a fill bar to indicate the current value of the knob element. A second input can be a linear motion on or near the slider control. In response to the second user input, both the fill bar of the slider element and a fill portion of the knob element can be visually augmented to...

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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.

... | Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
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,...

| Read more »
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...

| Read more »
 
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