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Oct 30
Greg's Bite: Regarding the shake-up at Apple

By Greg Mills

I have read the most popular book on the life of Steve Jobs. What it boils down to is that Jobs was an amazing human being, with both cunning creativity and serious personality flaws. Genius is often based on the notion of "all the eggs in one basket."  We see that strength in one area may be balanced with weakness in another area.   

While that analogy may not be strictly true, one wonders how much more Steve Jobs might have accomplished without the abrasiveness that defined his ability to work with others. It is possible to fire someone without reducing them to a smoldering mass of protoplasm.

By all accounts I have read, Scott Forstall is either inclined to emulate the bipolar genius/ogre behavior of Steve Jobs or was actually also built that way. Many considered Scott to be the heir apparent at Apple for the CEO position.  

Removing Forstall from his position of power Apple loosened up countless creative people who...

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Oct 30
Apple working on 3D animation interface

An Apple patent (number 8300055) has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and shows that Apple is working on an user interface for controlling three-dimensional animation of an object.

Per the patent a user can control the animation of an object via an interface that includes a control area and a user-manipulable control element. The control area includes an ellipse. The user-manipulable control element includes a three-dimensional arrow with a straight body, a three-dimensional arrow with a curved body, or a sphere. In one embodiment, the interface includes a virtual trackball that is used to manipulate the user-manipulable control element.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In the last few decades, computers and software have been used to animate objects. Initially, animation software was complicated and difficult to use. A user was generally required to interact with objects using a low level of abstraction. For example, a user would...

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Oct 30
Apple patent is for fast cell selection in a mobile...

An Apple patent (number 8301145) for fast cell selection in a mobile wireless device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, the mobile wireless device detects when a first wireless cell fails a set of stored suitability criteria and searches for and locates a set of candidate wireless cells to associate with. The mobile wireless device measures at least one received signal metric for each candidate wireless cell in the set of candidate wireless cells.

When a candidate cell in the set of candidate wireless cells is identically the first wireless cell, the mobile wireless device evaluates the suitability of the candidate wireless cell using the stored set of suitability criteria for the first wireless cell and the measured at least one received signal metric for the candidate wireless cell. The mobile wireless communication device associates with the candidate wireless cell when the candidate wireless cell meets the stored set of...

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Oct 30
Apple patent involves real-time streaming

An Apple patent (number 8301725) for variant streams for real-time or near real-time streaming has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

It involves streaming of content using transfer protocols such as an HTTP compliant protocol. In one embodiment, a method includes dividing a stream of data, representing the contiguous time based content of a program (e.g. a live video broadcast), into a plurality of distinct media files, and generating a playlist file having a plurality of tags and Universal Resource Indicators (URIs) indicating an order of presentation of the plurality of distinct media files. The plurality of media files and the playlist file can be made available for transmission to a client device which can retrieve the media files using the playlist file.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Streaming of content generally refers to multimedia content that is constantly transmitted from a server device and received by a client...

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Oct 30
Time to turn iWork apps into a true Office competitor

Apple and VMWare (www.vmware.com) -- which specializes in virtualization and cloud infrastructure -- are teaming to build a cloud-hosted office suite for the iPad "that will let organizations ditch Office entirely," according to "CRN" (http://macte.ch/2sasV), quoting unnamed sources "with knowledge of the project." It's about time that Apple revved its iWork apps into a true competitor for Microsoft's offerings.

I love Apple's iWork apps: Pages, Numbers and Keynote. I use them whenever possible instead of Microsoft Office, and I know of several other folks who prefer Apple's own software titles.

Naturally, Pages, Numbers and Keynote aren't going to "kill" Word, Excel and PowerPoint. However, they could offer more serious competition. The last update to the iWork apps came in 2009, so it's time for some revamping. For one thing, the apps --...

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Oct 30
Apple granted patent for iOS Maps interface

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,302,033) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a "touch screen device, method and graphical user interface for providing maps, directions and location-based information." It involves the graphical user interface used in all versions of the iOS Maps app since the software was first introduced in iPhone OS 2.0 and the iPhone 3G in 2008.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "As portable electronic devices become more compact, and the number of functions performed by a given device increase, it has become a significant challenge to design a user interface that allows users to easily interact with a multifunction device. This challenge is particular significant for handheld portable devices, which have much smaller screens than desktop or laptop computers.

"This situation is unfortunate because the user interface is the gateway through which users receive not only content but also responses to user actions or...

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Oct 29
Premium TV package subscribers loyal to their...

If Apple does indeed plan to tackle the television market the way it did the music industry, it needs to have some revolutionary products and services in the works.

Premium television package subscribers are more loyal and more likely to purchase additional products from their television provider than are subscribers with basic and expanded basic programming packages, according to the J.D. Power and Associates' "2012 U.S. Residential Television Service Provider Satisfaction Study."

The study finds that 31% of premium package subscribers say they "definitely will not" switch providers, compared with subscribers of expanded basic (22%) and basic (20%) programming packages. Additionally, premium package subscribers serve as brand advocates more often, as 26% say they "definitely will" recommend their provider, compared with subscribers of expanded basic (16%) and basic (14%) packages.

Overall customer satisfaction with residential television service directly...

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Oct 26
The Mac keeps on going strong (better than the...

Don't write off the Mac just yet (as if anyone seriously has). Apple sold 4.9 million Macs during its fiscal 2012 fourth quarter that ended Sept. 29. That's an all-time high for Apple computer sales during the September quarter.

That compares to an 8% contraction of the overall computer market during the quarter. Mac sales have exceeded overall computer industry averages for 25 consecutive quarters. Look for that to continue with ever-increasing MacBook Pro and MacBook Air sales -- and the iMac remaining Apple's (and the industry's) hottest desktop model.

Mac retail stores -- which now number 390 (140 outside the US) -- also saw record Mac sales. They sold over 1.1 million Macs.

As far as other hardware, some interesting tidbits:

° Apple TV units totaled 1.3 million during the September quarter -- that's a 100% increase year-over-year. For the past fiscal year, Apple sold five million units of its "hobby" product.

° The iPod touch accounts for...

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Oct 25
Greg's Bite: Apple's new iOS connector tech

A sleeper Apple innovation that has just been published by the US Patent & Trademark Office regards a more universal electronic device connector. See http://macte.ch/hpQ8C .

The history of Apple electronic connectors comes from the old 50 connector serial ports of 20 years ago to the tiny Lightning connectors found on the newest iPhones, iPads and iPods. The new connectors are now found on the opposite end of an USB cable that charge the device and allows the computer and iOS device to "talk."

Remember the old days when computer connectors were the half the size of a Big Mac hamburger? The personal computer industry, including Apple, sort of took its lead from the wired telecommunication tech of the day. The old cables used 25-pair twisted copper wire used in office telephone systems, along with the giant connectors that were screwed down to the computer interface block. Heaven help your computer if...

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Oct 25
Apple eyes application-specific group listing

An Apple patent (number 20120272163) for application-specific group listing has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It involves an user interface for sharing content from a particular application with another person while you're instant messaging with them.

A method, apparatus, and system for providing active contents between applications activated by a plurality of computer systems are provided. A list of one or more remote users is created. A determination is made whether a first application and a second application are being executed by the at least one or more remote users. The list is updated in response to determining a change in a status of the second application being executed by the one or more remote users using at least one communications feature associated with the first application.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Networks, such as the Internet, intranets, or other private or public networks, are ubiquitous. In...

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Oct 25
Apple working on ways to generate 3D objects based on...

An Apple patent (number 20120268410) for generating 3D objects based on 2D objects has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Could this involve a 3D printer -- or, at least, 3D printer output?

Per the patent, a first user input identifying a 2D object presented in a user interface can be detected, and a second user input including a 3D gesture input that includes a movement in proximity to a surface can be detected. A 3D object can be generated based on the 2D object according to the first and second user inputs, and the 3D object can be presented in the user interface.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Computer assisted design (CAD) software allows users to generate and manipulate two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) objects. A user can interact with a CAD program using various peripheral input devices, such as a keyboard, a computer mouse, a trackball, a touchpad, a touch-sensitive pad, and/or a touch-sensitive display...

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Oct 25
Apple patent is for new USB connector

Apple has filed a patent (number 20120270448) for an USB connector having vertical to horizontal conversion contacts. Per the patent, connector receptacles that provide a right-angle translation, may be readily manufactured, and may have an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

One example may provide a connector receptacle having contacts that provide a right-angle translation. Another example may provide a connector receptacle having an aesthetically pleasing appearance. By inserting an injection molded housing into an over-mold, the interior of a connector may appear to be formed from a single piece of plastic or other material.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Electronic devices have become ubiquitous the past several years. The number and types of portable computing devices, tablet, desktop, and all-in-one computers, cell, smart, and media phones, storage devices, portable media players, navigation systems, monitors and other devices has increased...

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Oct 25
The time is here for OS X to put a serious dent in...

With the Mac having around 13% of the computer market share in the U.S. and Microsoft making one boo-boo after another, the time has come for Mac OS X to put a serious dent in Windows' marketshare.

Not only has the iPad put a dent in PC (but not Mac) sales, but the iPad mini is expected to accentuate the trend. In a note to clients J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz predicts the smaller Apple tablet will steal even more sales away from the weakening personal computer market.

"In our view, the iPad Mini stands to target price-sensitive users and the e-reader crowd," Moskowitz said in an investors note today. "Given the global economic uncertainty, we think price-sensitive users could gravitate toward an iPad Mini instead of making a PC purchase."

So far the Mac hasn't been harmed -- at least not much -- by the tablet invasion. Mac sales have exceeded overall computer industry averages for 25 consecutive quarters. Look for that to continue with ever-increasing...

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Oct 25
Apple files patent for Lightning connector

Apple has filed a patent (number 20120272297) regarding the Lightning connector that debuted with the iPhone 5 and comes with all the latest iOS devices. The patent is entitled "cross-transport authentication."

Per the patent, an authentication controller coupled to a first communication port of a portable media device is allowed to provide authentication on behalf of an accessory device coupled to a second communication port of the portable media device. In one embodiment, a cross transport connector includes a connector configured to couple with an accessory and a connector configured to couple with a portable media device such that the accessory can be coupled to the second communication port of the portable media device.

The cross-transport connector also includes an authentication controller. The authentication controller may request authentication from the media device over the first communication port of the portable media device. The request may also include...

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Oct 24
Greg's Bite: Apple's new, shorter product...

As the proud owner of an iPad 3 (the "new" iPad, as Apple calls it), I was a bit frustrated to hear that the new iPad 3.5 or 4, has twice the horsepower in its chip set as my now obsolete tablet. Keeping up with the latest round of Apple products is turning out to be an expensive hobby.  

Going from the Apple dual core 5 CPU to Apple's  quad core A6X ARM microprocessor was apparently just keeping up with Apple's ongoing chip development. There is simply too much money on the table for Apple to not keep pushing the envelope. The Samsungs are still way back in the rear view mirror, but they are working hard to catch up.

Focusing on what you don't have is a trap that blinds you to what you do have.  While each new Apple product has cool new features that continue to raise the bar and flummox the competition, the usefulness of functional Mac computers and, especially, iPads, continue to fill in gaps in our technology. Perhaps one reason Apple is slowly taking the industry...

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Oct 24
A look back at yesterday's Apple media event

Apple's "We've got a little more to show you" media event has come and gone. Most of the predictions I made were correct -- though, with the preponderance of Apple rumors all over the Web, that's not the impressive achievement it might once have been. Anyway here's how I did:

My prediction: An iPad mini of 7.85 inches with a 1024 x 768 resolution but no Retina display with pricing starting at US$329.

The reality: Pretty much what I predicted, but the iPad mini is slightly bigger (7.9 inches) and more expensive.

My prediction: A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro with a resolution of 2560x 1600, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of flash storage with pricing starting at $1,499.

The reality: A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro with a resolution of 2560x 1600, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of flash storage with pricing starting at $1,699.

My prediction:: New iMacs in 21-5-inch and 27-...

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Oct 23
Apple wants to improve iOS devices' ability to...

An Apple patent (number 8296383) for electronic devices with voice command and contextual data processing capabilities has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The company is looking to beef up the ability of its iOS devices to handle voice-based commands.

Per the patent, an electronic device may capture a voice command from a user. The electronic device may store contextual information about the state of the electronic device when the voice command is received. The electronic device may transmit the voice command and the contextual information to computing equipment such as a desktop computer or a remote server.

The computing equipment may perform a speech recognition operation on the voice command and may process the contextual information. The computing equipment may respond to the voice command. The computing equipment may also transmit information to the electronic device that allows the electronic device to respond to the voice command.

...

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Oct 23
Apple works on ways to beef up face detection

A new Apple patent (number 8295610) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on ways to beef up face detection in its iOS and OS X products.

The patent is for feature scaling for face detection. Per the patent, a feature used in face detection can be applied to an image portion and can be scaled to fit differently sized image areas. If a feature is positioned with respect to an image area such that a vertex of the feature is aligned with a non-integer pixel location, at least one dimension of the filter can be rounded. A dimension to be rounded further can correspond to a directional component of the feature.

For instance, contrast regions within the feature can be arranged horizontally, such that the vertical dimension represents a directional component. A rounding rule associated with the feature can be used in rounding a dimension corresponding to a directional component, such that a size ratio between the contrast regions is...

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Oct 23
Apple patent is for media manager with integrated...

An Apple patent (number 8296656) for a media manager with integrated browssers has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Methods and systems that improve the way media is played, sorted, modified, stored and cataloged are disclosed.

One aspect relates to a browse window that allows a user to navigate through and select images that are related to media items. Another aspect relates to a graphical user interface of a media management program that utilizes multiple browse windows. Another aspect relates to simultaneously displayed media browse windows whose operations are integrated together so that the content shown therein is automatically synched when selections are made. Another aspect relates to resetting browsed content to the currently playing media.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Personal computers typically include media management programs for managing various media such as music and videos. The media management programs typically...

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Oct 23
What I'm expecting at today's Apple event

Apple will hold its "We've got a little more to show you" media event today at 10 am (Pacific). Rumors have been swirling about what Apple will announce. Here's what my crystal ball foresees:

° An iPad mini (d-uh!). The only shock will be if Apple doesn't announce a smaller tablet between 7-8 inches (7.85 inches is the most likely size). I foresee a device with 1024 x 768 resolution (the same as the iPad 2) with a 4-to-3 aspect ratio but no no Retina display. I think the iPad mini will come in 8GB and 16GB versions for US$250 and $299, respectively. (Though I'm note sure how practical an 8GB device is these days, cloud storage or not.)

° A 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro. The 15-inch model has been a big hit despite its considerable price tag, so a smaller, less expensive (though still pricey) version is a given. It will be a smaller version of its big brother with a resolution of 2560x 1600. I foresee pricing starting at US$1,499...

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Oct 23
Apple granted patent for iPad 2 design

Apple has been granted a patent (number D699468) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for the design of the iPad 2.

The inventors are Jody Akana, Bartley K. Andre, Jeremy Bataillou, Daniel J. Costerr, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Julian Hoenigh, Richard P. Howarth, Jonathan P. Ive, Duncan Robert Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Christopher J. Stringer, Eugene Antony Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Also appearing today at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office are:

° Patent number 8296383 for electronic devices with voice command and contextual data processing capabilities;

° Patent number 8296833 for system connections and user interfaces;

° Patent number 8296348 for encoding and decoding data arrays;

° Patent number 8295682 for techniques and interface controls that allow users of signal editing applications to easily select...

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Oct 22
Should Apple have stuck with Google Maps?

By Rob James

The recent Google Maps controversy has been a rare misstep for Apple. The company’s proprietary maps app was intended to replace Google Maps as the default map service for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, but came with multiple bugs, ranging from missing locations to wrong directions.

Problems with the app have led to suggestions that Apple should have stuck with Google Maps, which remains the leading option for users in terms of updates and detail for different platforms. However, while looking at Apple Maps’ problems, and the backpedalling that has taken place in the past few weeks, it is possible to suggest a future for a Google Maps-less Apple.

Apple’s motivation for switching to their own maps app was, perhaps understandably, affected by their handing over of a lucrative license to Google for every iOS device that used their rivals’ app. However, and despite being pitched as an advanced maps app, Apple Maps has been roundly criticized...

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Oct 22
Survey: US small business owners not worried about...

U.S. small business owners or operators have a false sense of cybersecurity as more than three-fourths (77% say their company is safe from cyber threats such as hackers, viruses, malware or a cybersecurity breach, yet 83% have no formal cybersecurity plan.

These findings are from a new survey of 1,015 U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Symantec.  (The full survey is available at: http://www.staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/resources/ .)

This annual survey is being released in conjunction with National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a coordinated national effort focused on improving online safety and security for all Americans. The survey findings reveal some disparities such as the need for establishing Internet security policies and practices, handling and...

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Oct 19
Greg's Bite: Lickable below the Surface

By Greg Mills

The Microsoft drums are pounding again for the Surface iPad wannabe. Feeling a bit stupid this morning, I went to the Microsoft/store online and poked around.  What I found was so Microsoft. It seems nothing changes at Redmond.

First of all, many of the article sI have read touting the Surface tablet are written by people living under a rock, who have never seen or experienced a real iPad. One awestruck writer was amazed at a tablet cover that attached to the Surface tablet with tiny but strong magnets. Now there is an original idea. Who says Microsoft doesn't innovate?  

Secondly, I found it interesting that Microsoft priced the Surface tablet at price points identical to similarly configured iPads. This is to insinuate some degree of equality with Apple's products. I think they are touting more RAM without admitting the reason they have to pump the memory.  The new Windows Mobile OS and Office apps are such memory hogs they have...

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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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