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Jan 25
Off to Macworld ....

I'm off to San Francisco to join the rest of the MacNews/MacTech gang in covering Macworld 2011. I have a day of travel ahead of me, so if coverage today is more sporadic than usual, that's why

But keep an eye on the sites this week. We'll have plenty of Macworld coverage.

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Jan 24
Greg's bite: CEO succession at Apple, RIM...

By Greg Mills

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is entitled to privacy, and yet the press can't let the man alone and pass on purely speculative stories assuming we are going to lose Steve. Last time he took a leave of absence to have a liver transplant and recover, some ass of an editor accidentally ran an obituary.  

How charming. MSBNC is running a story regarding what they consider the 10 most likely candidates to take over as CEO of Apple. While I know it is big news due to the incredible growth at Apple and the stock situation, such speculation might be interesting but completely irrelevant for now.

One of the common themes in Apple succession stories is the notion that someone could fill Jobs' shoes if we lose him. That is a flawed notion. It is rare that a CEO has the amount of power Jobs wields at Apple. Normally, a CEO allows the staff to do a lot Steve does. At a minimum, the wisdom and polices Steve has laid down will guide...

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Jan 24
Is there WiDi in the Mac's future?

Is there WiDi (which stands for Intel Wireless Display) in Apple's future along with Wi-Fi? Actually, WiDi uses Wi-Fi to wirelessly move anything on a computer screen to an HDTV if the computer is running one of Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors.

Your TV set will have to have WiDi support -- either built-in or by adding an WiDi adapter. "Network World" (http://macte.ch/it4nh) says WiDi makes streaming any computer content to your big screen is easy: you basically simply run Intel's software on the laptop. No additional wiring is required, and the technology is by all accounts extremely low latency, meaning that the lag between content appearing on the notebook screen and on the set is minimal.

As "Network World" notes, the biggest drawback is that the technology is proprietary: if your notebook doesn't have a current Intel CPU, you're out of luck. The good news is that the Wi-Fi Alliance is working on...

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Jan 21
Greg's bite: Apple's strange screw...

By Greg Mills

I never cease to be amazed by the jaded reaction of the PC tech press to the neutral things Apple does. Mis-representing motives and incorrect conclusions that tend to cast a slightly evil cast on Apple sell high tech stories. It's like putting Jesus on the cover of a magazine with some outlandish story. The most recent trashing of Apple is over, of all things, the design of some unique tiny screws that hold iPhones together.

The variety of screw heads used in technology these days is amazing. First there was the flat screw head with one notch. Then there was the Philips head screw that revolutionized machine installation of screws in all sorts of applications. Having used drywall screws for countless applications far beyond drywall installation, I am of the opinion the inventor of the Philips screw head deserves the Noble prize for innovation in physics.  

As certainly as Moore's Law regarding microchip development is true,...

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Jan 21
I say Apple is the number two computer vendor in the...

I've argued that Macs and iPads should be lumped together when measuring personal computer sales. If you combine Mac and iPad sales for the last fiscal quarter -- 4.3 million and 7.33 million units, respectively -- that comes to 11.63 million units. That would mean Apple has 11.3% of the worldwide market for computer sales.

And why not combine the two? The iPad runs a variant -- a "lite" version if you will -- of Mac OS X. The Apple tablet is seen as competition for netbooks. And some folks are using it in lieu of a laptop.

So how does this 11.3% figure compare to the biggest computer makers in the world? Quite favorably, as Paul Thurrott writes on his "Supersite for Windows" (http://macte.ch/txXKc).

He notes that, based on the latest data, HP notched 17.77 million computers sold worldwide, Dell had 10.9 million and Acer 10.8 million units. Of course, this doesn't include the sales of other...

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Jan 20
Apple patent involves restoring data to a mobile...

Apple is planning on making it even easier to back up data on your iOS devices. A company patent number (20110016089) for restoring data to a mobile device has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for backing up and restoring data to a mobile device. In general, one aspect of the subject matter described in this specification can be embodied in methods that include the actions of receiving data from a mobile device to be included in a backup, the data including data associated with one or more mobile device applications; storing the data in a backup archive; generating a backup mapping file for each of the mobile device applications, each backup mapping file identifying each file in the backup associated with the respective application; and using the backup mapping files to restore the corresponding applications to the mobile device. The inventors are Gordie...

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Jan 20
Apple patents cover various audio technologies

Several Apple patents have appeared today at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Most involve audio technologies of some sort.

Patent number 20110015765 involves controlling an audio and visual experience based on environment. A system can monitor an environment while playing back music. The system can then identify a characteristic property of the environment and modify an audio-related or visual-related operation based on the characteristic property. The characteristic property can be any suitable property of the environment or any combination thereof. For example, the characteristic property can be related to an ambient property of the environment (e.g., light or sounds) or the environment's occupants (e.g., number of people nearby). The system can then modify its operation in any suitable manner based on the characteristic property. For example, the system can provide a visualization of music based on at least the characteristic property. In another...

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Jan 20
Apple eyeing virtual keyboards for the Mac?

An Apple patent (number 20110012717) for a method and apparatus for localization of haptic feedback has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The patent seems to indicate that the company is working on "virtual keyboards" for the Mac.

In one embodiment, a haptic feedback system includes a plurality of actuators to provide tactile feedback associated with an input surface. Each actuator is adapted to be activated independently of the other actuators. The system further includes a controller to activate a first actuator of the plurality of actuators to induce a first vibration at a selected input location of the input surface and to activate one or more additional actuators to induce at least a second vibration to localize the first vibration at the selected input location. The inventors are Aleksandar Pance, Paul Alioshin, Brett Bilbrey and David Thomas Amm.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present disclosure relates generally to...

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Jan 20
A future Mac mouse might have a built-in display

An upcoming Mac mouse could sport a built-in display, as indicated by a new patent (number 20110012838) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Per the patent, in an embodiment, an input device, such as computer mouse, includes an interface to communicate user interactions to a host system and a display assembly to display an image to a user.

In some examples, the display device will include a collimated glass component. A method is disclosed that includes displaying an image at an input device, such as a mouse, and then displaying a second image in response to a user input through the input device. The inventors are Aleksandar Pance, Brett Bilbrey and Duncan Kerr.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present disclosure relates generally to a computer input device a display device, and more particularly relates to an input device using such display to convey visually observable data such as colors and images to a user of the input device. In...

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Jan 20
Greg's bite: Nokia's N7 smartphone, out of...

By Greg Mills

Nokia's N7 (or X7) new touch screen smartphone running the Symbian 3 OS failed to excite AT&T enough, so the pending launch in the US was pulled at the last minute by Nokia.  

Punishing AT&T for not getting too excited about another "me, too" touch screen smart phone is certain to be self-flagellation, a concept that went out with the Middle Ages. AT&T has come to the same conclusion I have long been advocating in this space: there just isn't enough interest in the market place for more than two or at the most three smartphone OS platforms. The rest are doomed to Kin out.

The smartphone market may actually boil down to just two platforms: Apple's iOS and Google's Android platform. RIM is struggling and seeing its market share drop each quarter as the two-year contracts with business users expire. The enterprise market is embracing Apple's iPad and iPhone in mass. Blackberry users who actually try the iPhone touch...

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Jan 20
The future of movie watching: Apple will go its own...

Recently we looked at two competing formats for consumer movie watching (before I interrupted this series for Apple financial predictions and coverage): UltraViolet and Disney's Keychest, that will probably help shape the future of digital media on-line (both renting and buying). The Sellers Research Group (that's me) predicts that if Apple backs either format -- and that's a big "IF" (but more on that in a moment) -- it will go with Keychest.

With Keychest, no physical possession or media will be involved. The media would live in the cloud and be available on-demand in a way similar to the way Google Docs are accessed. Users would simply enter their unique key and begin streaming their media.

"The easiest way to explain [Keyestl] is with an example and the most obvious to us is iTunes and Comcast," says engadget (http://macte.ch/yM361). "Both companies offer video on demand and use their own DRM to...

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Jan 19
Greg's bite: Safari and iTunes to merge?

By Greg Mills

Sometimes rumors are floated that are so absurd they ought to sink right away. The notion that Apple's iTunes and Safari are going to be merged into one mammoth app to help propel Safari's popularity is one of those sinkers. The iTunes app is already quite bloated, by Apple standards. Adding a lot more to it, such as folding Safari, in does not sound like an Apple solution to me.  

Most of the time things happen across the entire product line at Apple; thus a move in one Apple platform gives credence to a similar move in the other platform. If something is changed in the iOS platform that supports the iPod touch, iPad and iPhone, look for a similar move in the Mac OS supporting Apple computers.  

Question: has iTunes been bundled into a larger package recently in the iOS? No, actually just the opposite is true. Instead of having a giant iTune app in the iOS, iTunes has been broken up to include a separate app for the App Store,...

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Jan 19
So how'd I do predicting Apple's sales...

The Sellers Research Group (that's me) predicted sales figures for Apple's fiscal 2011 first quarter. Those results were announced yesterday. So how'd I do?

I forecast that, when it comes to Macs, Apple sold 4.3 million Macs over the holiday period (the quarter ending in December). I was off a bit; the company sold 4.13 million Macs -- still a record quarter.

I said Apple would sell 14.2 million iPhones. The company actually sold 16.42 million, beating my estimates handily (and setting a new record).

As for iPads, I predicted Apple would ship 6.2 million tablets. The actual number was 7.33 million iPads, so, again, my estimates were low. And, again, this was a new record.

As for the iPod, I predicted Apple sold 18.5 million units over the holiday period. The actual figure? 19.45 million. That's not a record as this is a 7% unit decline from the year-ago quarter. However, considering the iPod now faces competition from the iPhone and iPad, that number's...

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Jan 18
Greg's bite: concerning Steve Jobs

By Greg Mills

The press is so full of Steve Jobs stories little other news rates the interest level for a lot people who aren't even Apple fans. The cult-like following is well documented and goes from the respectful to near worship.  

I think Steve Jobs will go down in history as an inventor and visionary of equal stature as Thomas Edison or Ben Franklin. Jobs is named in 273 patents already issued by the US Patent Office. A lot more patents are certainly pending. Countless design decisions Job has made that didn't get a patent are also fundamental to Apple's successful product line.

The stock market plays on anticipation of market effects that are predictable or sometimes not as predictable with vast swings in company valuation. An orderly transition of power within Apple and the familiar face of Tim Cook should settle things down within a few days. The quarterly report due today may soothe the nerves of many who have seen...

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Jan 18
Apple may beef up motion sensor data processing in iOS...

Apple is eyeing ways of using motion detection in iOS devices to further extend battery life. A company patent (number 7,873,749) for motion sensor data processing using various power has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, power may be provided to a motion sensor during a first power mode of the device. In response to the motion sensor detecting a motion event with a magnitude exceeding a threshold, the sensor may transmit a wake up signal to a power management unit of the device. In response to receiving the wake up signal, the power management unit may switch the device to a second power mode.

The device may provide power to a processor and load the processor with a motion sensing application when switching to the second power mode. During the second power mode, motion sensor data may be processed to determine that the motion event is not associated with an intentional user input and the device may return to the first power mode. The...

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Jan 18
Apple patents range from color labeling to a smart...

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

Patent number 7,873,916 involves color labeling in a graphical user interface. A method for providing visual cues to a user of a graphical user interface (GUI) for a computer system is disclosed. The visual cues indicate a relationship with an icon having text and/or image elements. In some embodiments, the method receives a color for labeling an icon that has a text-element and an image-element. The method applies the color to a background-region of the text-element of the icon without applying the color to the image-element. In some embodiments, the method does not affect the font of the text. In some embodiments, the method receives a selection of an icon. The icon has a background-region that has a first color. The method changes the first color of the background-region to a second color but retains the first color in a section of the...

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Jan 18
Apple patent is for light sensitive display

An Apple patent (number 7872641) for a light display has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to touch-sensitive displays and offers hints at what we may expect in future iOS devices.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Touch sensitive screens (“touch screens”) are devices that typically mount over a display such as a cathode ray tube. With a touch screen, a user can select from options displayed on the display's viewing surface by touching the surface adjacent to the desired option, or, in some designs, touching the option directly. Common techniques employed in these devices for detecting the location of a touch include mechanical buttons, crossed beams of infrared light, acoustic surface waves, capacitance sensing, and resistive materials.

"For example, Kasday, U.S. Pat. No. 4,484,179 discloses an optically-based touch screen comprising a flexible clear membrane supported above a glass screen whose edges are fitted with photodiodes...

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Jan 18
My predictions for today's Apple financial...

Apple will announce its fiscal 2011 first quarter financial results today at 2 pm (Pacific). "MacNews" and "MacTech" will be covering the announcement, of course, but first here's what the Sellers Research Firm (that's me) is predicting:

When it comes to Macs, Apple will have sold 4.3 million Macs over the holiday period (the quarter ending in December).

When it comes to iPhones, Apple will have moved 14.2 million units.


As for iPads, the company will have shipped 6.2 million tablets.

And as for the iPod, Apple will have sold 18.5 million over the holiday period.

When it comes to the Apple TV, if Apple announces a sales figure, it will be 1.2 million.


These figures mean Apple will have set quarterly sales records for the Mac, iPhone, iPod and Apple TV category. As for the iPad, 18.5 million units isn't a record, but it's not too shabby for a category some pundits say is on its way out. It's not, by the way.

-- Dennis Sellers...

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Jan 17
The future of movie watching: Ultraviolet and digital...

In July 2010, a group of media and electronics companies have announced an agreement on an all-formats system called UltraViolet for digital downloads. The single standard will, at least in theory, allow the consumer to purchase films to be viewed on any device -- a computer, smartphone, game console, Blu-ray player, and television. And it sounds like something Apple would like, but that remains to be seen.

Backed by 48 companies -- including film studios such as Paramount, Warner Bros., Sony and Fox, and tech firms like Microsoft, Toshiba, Panasonic as well as Intel and Comcast -- the consortium, called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) covers the spectrum of entertainment, software, hardware, and retail companies. The only holdouts are the Walt Disney Company, which has developed its own system called KeyChest, and, yep, Apple.


According to the DECE, consumers will be able to create free, cloud-based UltraViolet accounts, which will include a...

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Jan 14
The future of movie watching: Sandy Bridge and high...

Last week Intel unveiled its "Sandy Bridge" processors, chips that will probably be appearing in Macs by spring. Depending on how Apple decides to use the chips, Sandy Bridge could mean the ability to rent and buy the latest movies in high def.

Intel’s current laptop chips are capable of 1080p video, and improvements in Sandy Bridge chips are expected to bring a noticeable graphics improvement to computers. The chips sport security technology that has persuaded some companies to let personal-computer users view movies and television shows in a top-quality video format for the first time. Piracy concerns have previously studios from offering content in 1080p, the Holy Grail (for now, anyway) of high def video viewing.

However, Sandy Bridge processors include built-in content protection to make it safer for Hollywood studios to offer premium movies to consumers over their personal computers.
Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros Digital Distribution and other studios plan...

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Jan 13
Greg's bite: the Apple App Store trademark...

By Greg Mills

Those of us who follow computer development have long taken for granted that where Apple leads, the industry soon follows. The history of innovation in the computing devices supports that generalization with countless examples.  

While Xerox supported very early implementations of the graphical user interface coupled with a mouse, the company didn't know what to do with the cool raw concept. Personal computers that would use that innovation were still hatching in a garage in northern California on another development track. Invention relies upon the industrial development that is required to support it.

There are three types of people in the world. One: those who conceive of absolutely novel technology. Two: those who know it when they see it. Three: those who can't grasp the notion of innovation when it is in their hands. Steve Jobs is one of the rare breed of people in category one, Bill Gates is in category two and Steve...

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Jan 13
Apple wants to further customize your App Store...

Apple wants to further customize your App Store(s) experience, according to a new patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 20110010759 involves providing a customized interface for an application store.

Embodiments of the present disclosure provide a system and method of providing customized access to an electronic storefront for downloading software for a mobile device based on authorization data stored on the mobile device. In one embodiment, mobile devices have stored one or more profile. Each profile is signed by a particular entity (a particular developer or enterprise) and includes authorization data authorizing one or more devices to install and use software associated with the entity.

A content management application associated with the storefront (e.g., iTunes) identifies one or more storefronts associated with the entities of authorized profiles for a particular device upon access to the storefront and provides the entity storefronts to...

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Jan 13
Apple wants to simplify audio playback -- and make...

Two Apple patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office show that Apple wants to make it easier to adjust audio playback controls on the Mac -- and make using audio more fun.

Patent number 20110010626 involves a device and method for adjusting a playback control with a finger gesture. The disclosed embodiments relate generally to electronic devices with touch-sensitive surfaces that provide media content (e.g., music and/or video content). More particularly, the disclosed embodiments relate to adjusting a playback control with a finger gesture on a touch-sensitive surface of an electronic device.

In some embodiments, a method is performed at an electronic device with a touch-sensitive surface while the device is providing content. The device detects a finger contact at a first location on the surface. The first location and an edge of the surface define a first distance. The finger contact at the first location corresponds to a start of a control adjustment gesture...

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Jan 13
Apple patent is for touch sensing device with...

Apparently the click wheel may have some life left in it yet. An Apple patent (number 20110005845) for a touch sensing device having conductive nodes has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The device can include a first structure having one or more conductive electrodes disposed on a surface opposite the structure's touchable surface and a second structure having one or more conductive nodes disposed on a surface. The two surfaces can be placed with the conductive electrodes and conductive nodes facing each other in close proximity so that the electrodes and the nodes can form capacitive elements for sensing a touch on the touchable surface. Separately disposing the conductive nodes from the touchable surface structure can make the touch sensing device thin. An example touch sensing device can be a click wheel. The inventors are Steven Porter Hotelling and Stephen Paul Zadesky.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "There can be many...

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Jan 13
The future of movie watching: Blu-ray and 3D

With apologizes to Mark Twain, the talk of Blu-ray's death have been exaggerated. According to industry organization Digital Entertainment Group, Blu-ray player sales have topped 28.5 million units. The DEG estimates the number of HDTV households in the U.S. at nearly 56 million.

At last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Blu-ray Disc Association President Andy Parsons notes sales have roughly doubled over last year. "That's been the trend for the past three-to- four years," he says. "That's bucking the trend with what's going on with packaged media in general. And that's good news: Blu-ray is growing at a nice solid rate, in spite of DVD declining."

What's more, Blu-ray sales increased 80% through the first three quarters of 2010, according to studio-sponsored research firm, the Digital Entertainment Group. Revenue from Blu-ray reached US$2 billion last year, and is expected to grow significantly this year, especially with the studios marketing Blu-ray...

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