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Aug 07
TVs, Blu-ray players the future cf connected devices...

Connected TV penetration in North America and Western Europe will surge from just over 10% in 2011 to over 50% by 2017, according to ABI Research (http://www.abirsearch.coim). Blu-ray penetration is expected to have a similar progression, increasing from about 25% in Western Europe and North America in 2011 to over 76% by 2017 (standalone and game consoles included).

Too bad Apple has chosen not to embrace Blu-ray. Oh well. Meanwhile, game console penetration rates by 2017 are only expected to pass 61% and 46% in North America and Western Europe respectively, with rates significantly lower in other regions.

There are four major connected video CE devices: connected TV (such as, perhaps, the rumored "iTV"?), Blu-ray players, game consoles and Smart set-top boxes (STBs). According to ABI Research Senior Analyst Michael Inouye, most CE manufacturers (notably, Samsung and LG) use a common...

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Aug 07
Apple working on alternate iOS input methods

A patent (number 8,239,784) for "mode-based graphical user interfaces for touch sensitive input devices" shows Apple is working on an alternative input method for iOS devices.

A user interface method is disclosed. The method includes detecting a touch and then determining a user interface mode when a touch is detected. The method further includes activating one or more GUI elements based on the user interface mode and in response to the detected touch.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention pertains to gestures and methods of implementing gestures with touch sensitive devices. Examples of touch sensitive devices include touch screens and touch pads. The invention also pertains to user interfaces and methods of implementing user interfaces with displays.

The invention can be implemented in numerous ways, including as a method, graphical user interface, computing device, or a computer readable medium. Several embodiments of the invention are...

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Aug 07
Apple eyeing NFC-capable, barcode-reading shopping...

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,239,276 ) for an "On-the-go Shopping List" that hints at an NFC-capable barcode-reading shopping assistant.

NFC (Near Field Communication) is a short-range wireless connection technology that could turn the iPhone into an electronic wallet or security passkey. NFC is already in use in Asia and is expected to explode here in the next three to five years, especially if Apple adopts the technology.

A report from Juniper Research (http://www.juniperresearch.com) finds that the NFC retail payments market will exceed US$180 billion globally by 2017, more than a seven-fold increase over 2012. The leading regions of North America, Western Europe and Far East & China will contribute 90% of this market value as smartphones with NFC payment technology become standard. The Juniper report found that 2011 was a watershed year for NFC payments. 

...

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Aug 06
Mobile integration key to set-top box market

Smart set-top boxes such as the Apple TV often garner less attention than other connected CE [consumer electronic] devices like TVs and game consoles; Apple has referred to its Apple TV as a "hobby" although it leads the market with around 4 million units shipped through 2011.

Roku has had recent success (e.g. passing 2.5M units in 2011), but the future looks at the very least challenging for these dedicated streaming devices to break out of a niche status. TVs, game consoles, Blu-ray players, and even mobile devices are quickly conspiring to engender a very competitive market for the digital living room. Even so, set-top box shipments are expected to reach as high as 57 million by 2017.

"Google has a split personality in this market," says Sam Rosen, practice director of TV & video at ABI Research (http://www.abirsearch.com). "On the one hand, China, in particular, is seeing growing...

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Aug 03
Apple 'improves' MagSafe connector -- and...

In his "Pogue's Post" column at "The New York Times," author and tech guru David Pogue blasts Apple's MagSafe 2 connector -- and he's right. Apple blew it on this one.

It's a case of improving something until it breaks. The original MagSafe was pretty much perfect the way it was. But the "sequel" is .... well, Pogue describes it perfectly in this column:

"The beauty of the MagSafe connector was that Apple had found precisely the right balance between attachment and detachment. Strong enough to hold the connector in place, weak enough to detach if it gets yanked.

"The MagSafe 2 connector fails that balance test. Badly. The magnet is too weak. It’s so weak, it keeps falling out. It falls out if you brush it. It falls out if you tip the laptop slightly. It falls out if you look at it funny. It’s a huge, huge pain.

"That weakness is compounded by a second problem: a return to the 'T" design of older MagSafe connectors. In other words, this thing comes...

| Read more »
Aug 02
Apple eyeing a portable device (an iPad?) with a...

Three Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that show Apple is working on ways to simplify the production of its various portable computing devices.

Patent number 20120194998 is for a portable computing device that can take many forms such as a laptop computer, a tablet computer, and so on. The portable computing device can include at least a single piece housing. The single piece housing can be machined from a single billet of material, such as a billet of aluminum. The single piece housing can include ledges with a surface receiving a trim bead and a cover. Corner brackets can be attached to the single piece housing to improve the damage resistance of the housing.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In recent years, portable computing devices such as laptops, PDAs, media players, cellular phones, etc., have become small, light and powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed...

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Aug 02
Apple working on ways to simplify portable device...

Three Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that show Apple is working on ways to simplify the production of its various portable computing devices.

Patent number 20120194998 is for a portable computing device that can take many forms such as a laptop computer, a tablet computer, and so on. The portable computing device can include at least a single piece housing. The single piece housing can be machined from a single billet of material, such as a billet of aluminum. The single piece housing can include ledges with a surface receiving a trim bead and a cover. Corner brackets can be attached to the single piece housing to improve the damage resistance of the housing.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In recent years, portable computing devices such as laptops, PDAs, media players, cellular phones, etc., have become small, light and powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed...

| Read more »
Aug 02
Apple patent is for user interface for backup...

An Apple patent (number 20120198383) for an user interface for backup management has appeared at the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. It seems to involve a revamped version of Mac OS X's Time Machine feature.

The patent is for methods and a computer program product for providing a user interface including earlier versions of data. In one implementation, a method is provided. The method includes receiving, while a current view is displayed in a user interface, a first user input requesting that a backup interface be displayed. In response to the first user input, the transition from displaying the current view in the user interface to displaying the backup interface is animated.

The backup interface is displayed including a display area for presenting at least a first visual representation of an earlier version of the current view, where the earlier version includes a first element. While the backup interface is displayed, a second user input is received requesting...

| Read more »
Aug 02
Apple files patent for iPad Smart Cover design

An Apple patent (number 20120194308) for a foldable accessory device has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Said foldable device being the Smart Cover for the iPad.

A magnetic attachment mechanism and method is described. The magnetic attachment mechanism can be used to releasably attach at least two objects together in a preferred configuration without fasteners and without external intervention. The magnetic attachment mechanism can be used to releasably attach an accessory device to an electronic device. The accessory device can be used to augment the functionality of usefulness of the electronic device.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "An accessory unit includes at least a hinge span having a first magnetic element, a flap portion pivotally connected to the hinge span. In the described embodiment, the flap portion includes a plurality of segments all but one of which are substantially the same size and wherein one segment is longer that...

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Aug 02
A proposal for Apple that puts Americans to work

The following is an opinion editorial provided by Long-Stanton Group CEO, Dan Cunningham. It was originally published in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday, July 8, 2012:

I have a Billion Dollar idea for Apple: build an iPhone plant in Cincinnati and eventually other U.S. cities to supply the U.S. market with iPhones.

This would yield a billion dollars in additional profit to Apple because of the assurance of long-term sustainable product dominance for Apple, the ability to manufacture ‘mass customized' iPhones in the U.S., and the removal of 35 days of rapidly changing inventory in transit from China to the U.S. This projected profit is based on the forecast of 44 million iPhones to be sold in the U.S. in 2012 (11.6 million in 2011 Q4) and increasing the profit by $23 each.

Because the U.S. market is demanding such a high number of units of iPhones, the plant that I am proposing would be completely automated, and highly flexible to the point...

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Aug 01
The Northern Spy: going the new server route

Under another hat, the Spy runs WebNameHost, which is a small hosting company in business for a decade now, and offering professional hosting in a safe environment for Christian, authors, small businesses, and personal sites. This is less than a living business, but much more than a hobby, as his teaching demands that he be able to discourse with students on all manner of computing technology without seeming too much a fool or irrelevant. It also needs to break even.

Though he is otherwise Mac-centric, the commercial hosting environment of choice is a CentOS machine running Cpanel/WHM, with billing and help desk provided by WHMCS, previously a separate company, but as of this month a WHM partner. Cork, the machine he was using for everything was a dual opteron of several years seniority running CentOS 4, and therefore his version of CPanel (11.32) was the last he could use without upgrading as future versions would no longer support CentOS 4. Since it is as...

| Read more »
Aug 01
Greg's Bite: Google's ball drops -- Nexus Q...

Google had already launched its Nexus Q media hub device and promised delivery in three days, until they suddenly decided to hold the product back and make improvements that they don't care to divulge. It could be a software glitch or a defect in manufacturing. At any rate, they are giving the US$300 round, black box device away to customers who had pre-ordered.

The specs didn't include a ThunderBolt port, which is sort of peculiar as Google is busy launching the 1Gig Fiber experiment using a different media box. The Nexus Q is sort of a warmed-over, spherical, sexy Apple TV hub with a lighted ring. The claim that Apple limited its TV hook-up device to its own network is no worse than the Google Nexus Q, which severely limits function to Google's sandbox. You can't even play your own music over the Nexus Q.  

The Google Fiber project in Kansas City is now way behind the anticipated launch date, but progress is being made. Google has divided the Kansas...

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Aug 01
42% of parents plan to buy electronic gadgets for...

This should be good news for Apple: as another school year approaches, the demand for electronics in the classroom is high.

A new survey from CouponCabin.com reports that 42%of parents plan to buy new electronic gadgets -- such as laptops, tablets, cellphones and e-readers -- for their children for the upcoming school year. In addition, nearly half (49%) of parents said their children's school requires them to purchase certain electronic gadgets for learning purposes.

When asked which of the following electronic gadgets, if any, their children's school requires them to purchase, parents with school-age children said: computer (24%), mobile phone (20%), tablet (19%), e-reader (9%), other (5%) and none (51%). However, with parents feeling the pressure to buy electronic gadgets for school use, 75% said they are at least somewhat overwhelmed with the cost of buying tech devices for their children.

With 78% of adults planning to spend $500 or less per child on...

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Jul 31
Apple patent is for remote access to playlist of a...

An Apple patent (number 8234572) for remote access to advanced playlist features of a media player have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Per the patent, a media player can have advanced-playlist creation capabilities such as the ability to automatically generate a playlist around a "seed" song selected by a user.

In some embodiments, the accessory can determine whether the media player can use a particular song as a seed song for an advanced playlist and can so inform the user. The user can then operate the accessory's user interface to create an advanced playlist based on a particular song, rather than having to interact directly with the media player.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "Certain embodiments of the present invention relate to increasing a user's ability to control a media player using an accessory device. For example, the media player can have advanced-playlist creation capabilities such as the ability to automatically...

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Jul 31
Apple patent is for power adapters, charging...

An Apple patent (number 8232672) for power adapters for powering and/or charging peripheral devices has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Ti covers the powering mechanisms of a variety of devices.

A power adapter for a peripheral device such as portable electronics device is disclosed. The power adapter includes a housing that contains electrical components associated with the power adapter. The power adapter also includes a data port provided at a surface of the housing. The data port is configured to provide external power to the peripheral device.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention pertains to power adapters that allow a user to power and/or charge a peripheral device such as a portable electronic device without requiring any additional cables or connectors. The invention also pertains to a connection method for powering a peripheral without requiring a host, peripheral or hub to remain powered on. The connection method allows...

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Jul 31
Smartphones overtaking computers in 2012, but so what?

The recent influx of smartphones to the UK has prompted a slump in the popularity of desktop computers, according to a new study, though I don't buy it.

The survey found that while 64% respondents owned a desktop computer, 94% now own a smartphone. YouGov research commissioned on behalf of Kaspersky Lab, a developer of secure content and threat management solutions, also revealed that users are now reaching for their smartphone ahead of their computer when looking up something online. Seventy-eight percent of respondents went to their smartphone first, compared to the 57% who chose their desktop. 

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the correlation in the fact that more people are surfing the Web on smartphones rather than on desktop computers. Maybe there are folks out there who purchase a computer mainly to surf the web, but I doubt it. Those who buy a computer want to also do other entertainment and productivity tasks that just aren't possible on a...

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Jul 31
Apple granted patents for text input, camera features...

Apple has been granted patents for a predictive text input user interface and digital camera features.

Patent number 8232973 is for a method, device and graphical user interface providing word recommendations for text input. Per the invention, a portable electronic device having a touch screen display performs a set of operations, including displaying a plurality of key icons, each having an adjustable size hit region, and receiving a sequence of individual touch points input by a user on the touch screen display.

The operations performed by the device further include processing the received individual touch points by: forming a user-input directed graph for the sequence of individual touch points received so far, determining a character corresponding to a last received individual touch point in accordance with the adjustable hit regions of the displayed key icons, displaying a sequence of characters corresponding to the sequence of individual touch...

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Jul 30
Tablets emerge as preferred online shopping device

Tablet computers such as the iPad are quickly emerging as a preferred online shopping device. Shopatron (http://www.shopatron.com), an eCommerce and order management solution for over 1,000 brands, found that, across all client stores, purchase rates are equivalent between tablet and desktop users.

In recent months, the conversion rates for tablet shoppers have been a mere 5-8% below the conversion rates of desktop-based shoppers. In addition, conversion rates from paid search ads have actually been higher on tablets (up to 3%). In a month-long analysis across several sporting goods clients, Shopatron found that click-through rates for paid search ads on tablets were 51% greater than those on computers, and the average cost per click was 7% less.

"With fewer advertisers to compete with, tablet advertising is costing less than advertising to desktop-based shoppers," says Greg Squires, Shopatron's...

| Read more »
Jul 27
iPad remains best used as a supplement to the Mac

Many folks disagree with me, but I maintain that the iPad is a supplement to a Mac and not a replacement. And new data from the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) -- as reported by "eWeek" (http://macte.ch/Wmixv) -- mostly backs up my premise.

CIRP says that the new iPad (the one with the Retina display) has attracted more business users than earlier models. However, users are mostly using the tablet for surfing the Internet, playing games and enjoying entertainment.

"At least 27% of buyers, and as many as 40% use the iPad in these ways,," says CIRP's report. "Entertainment includes watching video, looking at photos and listening to music."

Business use came in fourth, with approximately 13% of all iPad owners using it for professional purposes. Among new iPad 3 owners, that figure rose to 16%t. Internet and email use were also higher on the newest iPad. Standout business users, CIRP...

| Read more »
Jul 26
Apple working on ways to deal with variations in...

An Apple patent (number 201200188402) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company is working on ways to make its devices work more smoothly with an array of digital cameras.

The patent is for an apparatus and method for compensating for variations in digital cameras. The invention relates generally to digital cameras and, more particularly, to calibrating digital camera components to minimize manufacturing variations in such components.

A method of manufacturing a digital video camera is provided. The method comprises acquiring video images of colored light, and measuring a light intensity response of the video camera to the colored light. The method further comprises comparing the intensity of the measured response to a desired colored light intensity for determining a color intensity bias and storing the intensity bias for the colored light in the camera so that the bias can be applied when the camera is operating at an arbitrary lighting...

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Jul 26
Apple patent involves audio sharing network

An Apple patent (number 20120189140) for an audio sharing network has appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Systems, methods, and devices for sharing ambient audio via an audio-sharing network are provided.

By way of example, a system that receives shared audio from such an audio-sharing network may include a personal electronic device. The personal electronic device may join an audio-sharing network of other electronic devices and receive several audio streams from the audio-sharing network. Based at least partly on these audio streams, the personal electronic device may determine a digital user-personalized audio stream, outputting the digital user-personalized audio stream to a personal listening device.

By way of example, the personal electronic device may represent a personal computer, a portable media player, or a portable phone. The personal listening device may represent a speaker of the personal electronic device, a wireless hearing aid, a...

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Jul 26
Apple eyeing home automation solutions

An Apple patent (number 20120188052) for a system and method for simplified control of electronic devices shows the company is eyeing the home automation market.

For example, per the patent, For example, a method for controlling a variety of electronic devices using another single electronic device may include receiving control information associated with a controllable electronic device via near field communication, determining a control scheme for controlling the controllable electronic device based on the control information, and controlling the controllable electronic device using the determined control scheme. The control information may be received from a near field communication interface of the controllable electronic device or from a radio frequency identification tag associated with the controllable electronic device.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "A person may use a wide variety of electronic devices each day, including computers and media...

| Read more »
Jul 26
Could Apple products revolutionize robotics?

UBS analyst Steven Milunovich recently suggested that Apple could eventually move into the home robotics market -- though such a move is likely more than a decade away. As Quantum International (http://www.quantuminnovators.com/) works to capitalize on hot new trends in the booming robotics sector, the company says the Apple technology in your pocket could be poised to spark a billion-dollar explosion in demand for new robotics products.

"Robots for the home would represent a new category, require substantial innovation, and leverage Apple's ease-of-use knowledge and brand." He believes that Siri could be key here, with the voice tool likely to play an increased role in future Apple products," Milunovich said. "We’re already seeing the first wave of high-potential ideas emerge in robotic toys.”

The folks at Quantum International thinks Apple iPads and iPhones, the same devices...

| Read more »
Jul 25
Mac sales bottoming out? Not so

So much for Mac sales bottoming out in Apple's recent fiscal quarter (which ended in June). Despite no major desktop or laptop refreshes (the new MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs weren't announced until June 11) Mac sales increased.

Not by a lot, admittedly. But they did increase. For the quarter, Apple sold four million Macs -- that's a 2% unit increase over the year-ago quarter. Also keep in mind that while Apple's current object of love, the iPad, accounted for US$9.1 billion of the company's revenue, the Mac accounted for $4.9 billion. Not bad for a platform that's been around as long as the Mac.

And the current fiscal quarter should be even better. Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion begins prowling today. Sales of the Retina display MacBook Pro, as well as the refreshed "regular" MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, will jump start Mac sales. And I'm betting we'll see that rumored 13-inch MacBook Pro and a new iMac either this fiscal quarter or next.

-- Dennis Sellers

| Read more »
Jul 24
Apple granted patent for Apple TV interface

Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,230,360) for an user interface for selecting from a media collection. It apparently involve the interface of Apple's set top box, the Apple TV.

Among other things, techniques and systems are disclosed for providing a graphical user interface (GUI) to user. A system includes a content source and a GUI communicatively connected to the content source.

The GUI includes a user input area to receive user input and a display area to display available content items from the content source based on the received user input. The display area includes a presentation of the available content arranged in one or more rows. Each row includes a user selectable area to display at least one visual indication that represents one or more of the available content items.

Each row includes a holding area to display another visual indication that represents other available content items not displayed in the user selectable area. The display...

| Read more »
 
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