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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's Apple's background on...

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Oct 18
A couple of iOS Maps questions ...

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

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

-- Dennis Sellers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 16
Apple working on ways to ID unauthorized device users

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

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

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

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Oct 16
Apple granted patent for 3D remote control

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

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

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

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Oct 16
iMac rip-offs have some intriguing features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 11
Apple patent involves mobile device connection...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 11
Apple eyeing handwriting recognition technologies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 09
Apple working on multicolor keyboard backlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 09
Mac growth unlikely to stall anytime soon

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

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

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

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

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Oct 09
Apple granted Time Machine patent

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

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

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

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Oct 08
Greg's Bite: Desktop 3D printing

By Greg Mills

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

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

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

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Oct 08
Americans: online stores more appealing for holiday...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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