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May 19
IF Apple announces a new product today, look for new...

There's expectations that Apple will unveil something new today to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its retail store line. If that's true (and I'm dubious), I suspect it will be new MacBook Airs.

Apple retail's first stores opened at Tysons Corner, Virginia, at 10 am May 19, 2001, followed by the Glendale Galleria opening three hours later. I was at the Tysons Corner opening, and it was quite the event. Steve Jobs himself was on hand and in fine, if somewhat testy, form.

Apple now has 323 retail stores with over 30,000 employees all total, with 85 of those outside the US. It's expected to open its first store in Moscow within the next 12 months.

I'm not convinced that Apple will introduce something new today. If it does, I think it will be MacBook Airs with (I hope) Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt technology.

Other updates we'll see soon are Mac Pro updates, Mac mini updates and the new Final Cut Pro. But I don't expect those to arrive...

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May 18
Greg's Bite: HP & Dell lose market share

By Greg Mills

My, how things are changing in the PC market. Microsoft's "rounding error" that amounts to Apple surging spreads to Dell Computer and HP.  

Both of the blockbuster PC makers have seen the market for PCs shrink, even as the economy seems to be recovering. Mike Dell, president of the Dull Computer company, once famously gloated that Apple ought to just sell it assets and return stockholder money and go away quietly. Now, his computer company has a market cap of roughly US$30 billion -- or about 10% of Apple's current value. 

What one has to remember is that consumers buy computers in cycles. We don't buy a computer every month; we wait a couple of years until our hardware runs into obsolescence or breaks down before we buy a new one. Well, the market is changing from PCs to tablets for a lot of people and no one has a decent tablet but you know who. I noticed Sam's was selling the iPad 1 yesterday at a discount over the original...

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May 18
The Mac continues to make quiet headway

As many pundits continue to obsess over iOS devices -- including what features the iPhone 5 will have and when it will ship -- the Mac quietly continues to make headway.

For example, when it comes to "real growth in operating sales in 2010," Apple had 15.8% growth to US$520 million, reports "The Register" (http://macte.ch/RxPXC). In fact, the Mac has been growing at such a fast rate for almost four years that it's considered a bit of a downer that year-over-year sales in April were "only" up a "soft" 9%, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

Examining data from the NPD Group, he told clients in a note -- as reported by "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) -- that 9% is well below the 22% year-over-year increase investors on Wall Street are expecting. (April is the first of three months in Apple's June...

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May 17
Greg's bite: Microsoft to merge with Nokia

By Greg's Mills

Rumors in the technosphere are often so outrageous they sound true. Such is the rumor that some sort of merger or buyout between Microsoft and Nokia is in the works.  

A number of web sites began to blog yesterday that a deal was in the works. We know Microsoft is collaborating on bringing the Windows Mobile OS to Nokia smartphones. Just how deep the deal goes and what form it takes are the questions.  

Some of the rumors put the deal more in the buy-out sort of arrangement,while others make it more of a merger. The Nokia market cap has shrunk 50% since Apple released the iPhone, and Nokia still doesn't have a valid competitor. Nokia recently gave up developing their own mobile OS in favor of using someone else's platform. Keep in mind developing all the parts of a valid mobile platform isn't cheap or easy.  

Nokia had to jump on board with the Google Android OS or go with Microsoft's Mobile OS. Ironically, going with...

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May 17
Samsung tablet foreshadows the iPad 3

At this week's SID Display Week 2011 International Symposium in Los Angeles, Samsung Electronics will demo the industry’s first 10.1-inch WQXGA format PenTile RGBW tablet display. "So what?" you ask. It sports an ultra-high resolution, liquid crystal display (LCD) with 2560 x 1600 resolution. And that may spur development of the iPad 3 along just a bit.

The Samsung prototype demonstration marks the first time this resolution has been available for the tablet market in the 10.1-inch format. The 300 dpi display is ideal for applications that require extraordinary image and text clarity such as browsing the web and viewing high-definition movies, or reading books and spreadsheets. Samsung expects to have commercial availability of this technology for tablet applications later this year.

A high resolution display like this definitely foreshadows a Retina display in an iPad 3. However, don't expect a shrunken version of the display to appear in an Apple tablet. So far...

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May 17
Apple granted patent for encoding video

Apple has been granted a patent (number 7994971) by the US Patent & Trademark Office for encoding video. Some embodiments of the invention provide a method for encoding a video signal that is formed by a series of successive images.

Each image includes several sections, and each section has a set of image values. To encode a particular section of a particular image, the method initially partitions the particular section into several sub-sections. For each of at least two particular sub-sections, the method then computes a statistical parameter regarding the image values of the particular sub-section.

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

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May 16
Greg's Bite: Dropbox data not encrypted or secure

By Greg Mills

It seems there isn't a day that goes by without another data security risk coming to light. As I have mused in this space, the cloud is not secure. I have Dropbox on my iPhone and iPad but haven't used it much. Those who have posted their data to their Dropbox account ought to reconsider using that site for anything remotely private. Your data is not secure or even encrypted. 

If what you want to store on your cloud data storage file is already held elsewhere on the Dropbox servers, they don't even bother to upload your data file; they just make note that you have access to their copy of that file. That saves them space on their servers and saves money as well.

Imaging you have purchased a movie using the digital download method of marketing video. That movie is not duplicated in the files of all the subscribers on-line. All that exists in your cloud file is a note that you have access to that movie any time you want to see it....

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May 16
Most global organizations planning to adopt cloud...

A new study says most global organizations are planning to adopt a cloud strategy. I'm not surprised, but I hope that's not their only strategy.

ITSM provider, Axios Systems (http://www.axiossystems.com), recently revealed a global survey showing that more than half of IT professionals (51%) don't think their ITSM processes are mature enough to effectively manage cloud-based services. Twenty-six percent of IT professionals do think their organizations are ready, while the remaining 23% feel unsure.

The survey also revealed that only eight percent of organizations currently use their ITSM tool to manage cloud-based services; 19% think their current tool could support management of cloud services, but they have just not started to do so. About one-third (31%) of IT professionals indicate that their current ITSM tool would not support the management of cloud-based services; the remaining 42% of...

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May 13
Is the personal computer in its twilight?

In a recent editorial, Jean-Louis Gassée. former president of the Apple Products Division (and now a general partner for Allegis Capital), said in a "Monday Note" column (http://macte.ch/ZHgnV) that the "PC market is in its twilight." I beg to differ, though, to be honest, Gassée doesn't say the PC is heading for extinction.

Gassée says ARM continues to out-maneuver Intel on the power-efficiency front. He writes that the PC market is in its twilight, "with mobile devices proliferating and stealing growth from the PC." Gassée thinks that we'll see ARM processors such as those in iOS devices on entry level Macs and "maybe" on middle-of-the-line Macs.

However, he points out that there's no roadmap for ARM chips to handle the high-end, for media creation and editing. What about Photoshop, FinalCut, and other applications, including CAD where the Mac is getting back in the game? There’s no roadmap for ARM...

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May 13
Apple eyes more interesting screen savers

Apple wants to make screen savers more interesting. At least on iOS devices, as well as, perhaps, Macs. A company patent (number 20110109538) for environment sensitive display tags has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

This is directed to dynamic tags or screen savers for display on an electronic device. The tags can include several dynamic elements that move across the display. The particular characteristics of the elements can be controlled in part by the output of one or more sensors detecting the environment of the device.

For example, the color scheme used for a tag can be selected based on the colors of an image captured by a camera, and the orientation of the movement can be selected from the output of a motion sensing component. The tag can adjust automatically based on the sensor outputs to provide an aesthetically pleasing display that a user can use as an fashion accessory. The inventors are Duncan Kerr, Nicholas King and Michael B. Victor...

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May 13
Apple plans to beef up iPhone's text-to-speech...

An Apple patent (number 20110111805) for a synthesized audio message over communication links has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It shows that Apple is planning on beefing up the text-to-speech and speech-to-text capabilities of the iPhone.

Per the patent, a communication device establishes an audio connection with a far-end user via a communication network. The communication device receives text input from a near-end user, and converts the text input into speech signals. The speech signals are transmitted to the far-end user using the established audio connection while muting audio input to its microphone. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. The inventors are Baptiste P. Paquier, Aram M. Lindahl and Phillip G. Tamchina.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A user of a communication device (e.g., a telephone) may sometimes have to make or answer a phone call in a noisy environment. Noise can interfere with a phone...

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May 12
Apple planning nicer media-rich invitations on mobile...

An Apple patent (number 20110113089) for delivering media rich invitation content on mobile devices has popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves the provisioning of invitational content, and more specifically to providing media-rich-invitational content -- including advertisements, on mobile devices from within mobile applications.

Per the patent, the technology relates to providing invitational content having enhanced content and capabilities to make the invitational content more engaging and useful for users. Specifically, the invitational content can be configured to call on and utilize core operating system functions, additional web content, and other mobile device applications. The inventors are Eswar Priyadarshan and Ravikiran Chittari.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The use of mobile phones in the United States and around the world has increased dramatically. It is projected that soon the number of mobile phone...

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May 12
Apple eyeing more adjustments presets for digital...

An Apple patent (number 201101113361) involving adjustment presets for digital images at the US Patent & Trademark Office indicates that Apple plans to beef up (even more) the digital editing features in apps like iPhoto, Aperture ad perhaps iMovie. It relates to previewing and applying adjustment presets to digital images.

Per the patent, processes and systems are presented, for previewing and applying adjustment presets to digital images. The disclosed processes enable a user to preview selected adjustment presets before applying the previewed adjustment presets to the digital image. One or more preview image frames to display the effect of corresponding one or more adjustment presets applied to the digital image can be presented to the user simultaneously with the original (i.e., un-adjusted) digital image. The inventors are Nikhil Bhatt, Mark Lee Kawano and Blake Seely.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Image processing applications...

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May 12
Apple patent is for advanced keyboard with air-based...

An Apple patent (number 20110107958) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a keyboard with advanced sensors, an air-based feedback and tactile feedback features.

The patent describes input devices for processor-based systems, including computing systems, to provide enhanced user experience. The described systems provide tactile sensations providing feedback to a user. In some systems, feedback is provided before actual contact with the key expelling air from the input device proximate the key when user selection is imminent. In other examples, the tactile sensation results from automatic movement of the key in response to detected user selection of the key. The inventors are Aleksandar Pance, Michael Sinclair and Brett Bilbrey.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present disclosure generally relates to input devices and methods of their operation, and more particularly, to input devices for computing systems, and methods...

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May 12
Greg's Bite: controlling your own hardware

By Greg Mills

When you buy a TV set, you expect to be able to tune it in to any channel you want to view. Certainly, that right to view content is based upon either getting your signal over the air (which is really a declining market) or by cable. You wouldn't expect the manufacturer of the TV to electronically reach out and disable some feature of your TV set. Most TVs don't require system updates and all the capacities of the device are hardwired in.  

When you buy a computer, smartphone or tablet computer the arm of the manufacturer is much longer. System updates allow features to be added and killed when you accept the updated operating system. Changes can be minor, such as the software fix allowing iPad to use the slider switch to either lock the screen into landscape or portrait format or mute the sound. One expects changes in the device when you choose to update the OS.

Some Internet TV sets are beginning to bridge the gap and are...

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May 12
Sounds like Apple may beef up its audio offering

In recent weeks, rumor has it that Apple has hired Tomlinson Holman to run the company's audio initiatives. Apple hasn't confirmed it, but that makes sense. It could tie into the company's speech recognition plans (see yesterday's op-ed), improve iTunes files, or result in better speakers on Apple products.

Holman is an American film theorist, audio engineer, and inventor of film technologies, notably the Lucasfilm THX sound system. He developed the world's first 10.2 sound system. Earlier, Holman developed what was known as the Holman Preamplifier, for the Apt Corporation. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Holman is currently a professor at the University of Southern California; he holds an Academy Award for technical achievement and an IEEE Masaru Ibuka Award. Holman is also the holder of 7 U.S. patents, and 16 patents in other countries, as well as the author of several books on audio.

He certainly sounds...

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May 12
Apple patent involves adjusting time metadata of...

An Apple patent (number 20110109769) for adjusting the time metadata of digital media items has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The invention involves editing digital media items, for example, based on the metadata associated with the digital media items.

The patent is for methods, apparatuses, and systems for adjusting time metadata of digital media items. A digital image captured at a location is associated with a time of capture and a location of capture. It is determined that a time of capture of the digital image is in a preset time zone that is different from a time zone of the location.

In response to the determining, multiple locations are provided, each being associated with a respective time zone including a time zone of the location. A selection of a location is received and the time of capture is adjusted based on a time zone associated with the selected location. The inventors are Nikhil Bhatt and Alexander David Wallace.

Here'...

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May 12
Greg's Bite: the FEMA 'PLAN,'...

By Greg Mills

Heros of our privacy in the USA, like Senator Al Franken, put Apple and Google on the hot spot for surreptitiously tracking smart phones.

With this secret assault upon our location privacy still simmering in the news,  FEMA has pushed the FCC to add a "special" chip to all smart phones, to enable the US government to alert us with text like messages. The alerts are local and all the big cell phone networks are on board. Adding another set of initials to our vocabulary, "PLAN" is short for Personal Localized Alerting Network.

The chip is mandatory on cell phones coming out next year and hooks up with GPS. It is unknown at this time what security issues are involved and how this is all going to shake out.  The cell phone emergency notification PLAN is expected to have Presidential level alerts that are not to be user disabled. Local emergency alerts and Amber alerts may be turned off as the PLAN exists now. The alerts will produce a...

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May 11
Listen up, Apple is eyeing the future of voice...

"TechCrunch" (http://macte.ch/UNEAw) is reporting that Apple is hammering out a deal with Nuance, which specializes in speech software and voice recognition technology, to either license its technology or (less likely) buy the company outright. It's a match that makes sense.

After all, Apple introduced voice control on the iPhone with iOS 3.0. The company is likely planning on extending this functionality -- and perhaps bringing voice recognition to the Mac in ways beyond what's been accomplished before.

According to "The Next Web" (http://macte.ch/Dfd7f), Siri uses Nuance to do the "heavy lifting" of processing speech into data. It then interprets and uses that data in interesting ways -- like firing up an app, writing a text message or checking email.

"TechCrunch" says Apple will announce the Nuance partnership at next month's...

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May 11
Greg's Bite: Ballmer the great deal maker

By Greg Mills

Someone needs to explain the concepts behind selling things at a profit and buying things competitively to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. The conversation ought to be in one syllable words, quit simple, so he can understand.    

One might imagine selling the rights for to use a fresh mobile OS to the biggest cell phone company on the planet (for the time being) would net you a chunk of change enough to retire on. The great dealmaker Ballmer actually agreed to pay one billion dollars to Nokia for them switching to Windows Mobile 7.  

Nokia had already publicly indicated they were throwing in the towel on their own mobile OS efforts, so Ballmer had them over a barrel. Smelling blood in the water, like a great white shark, Ballmer circled his prey and then viciously bit his own foot off.  

Now, anxious to outdo his Nokia deal making blunder, rumors are that Microsoft has agreed to pay US$4.5 billion more than...

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May 10
Greg's Bite: The Skype deal

By Greg Mills

When Thomas Edison invented the telephone, he and his associates just strung wire between the phones, no matter how far apart they were. Each city had one or more switching stations so wires between cities could be hooked up between users and the long distance lines on each end.  

Remember long distance phone bills? I can remember not that long ago playing musical phone companies to get the lowest prices for long distance. In those days long distance was often more than your local service each month.

What changed all that was the simple notion that the owners of long distance lines ought to be forced to share that capacity with competing services. The FCC made it competitive for companies that got into the long-distance business since they all had access to what had been a monopoly owned by AT&T. That was the giant AT&T of 20 years ago. The AT&T of today is a radically different animal.

The same notion of...

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May 10
Don't hold your breath for ARM-based Macs anytime...

The SemiAccurate (http://macte.ch/LUHV) web site generated a lot of discussion over the weekend when it said that Apple was planning to dump Intel from its laptop lines within 2-3 years. That's an interesting idea, and perhaps it's on target, but I don't think that's going to happen.

But first, some background. Here's part of SemiAccurate's report: "The short story is that Apple is moving the laptop line, and presumably desktops too, to ARM based chips as soon as possible. With A15/Eagle allowing more than 32-bit memory access, things look up, but it seems silly to do so before the full 64 bit cores come in the following generation. Nvidia is directly telling certain favored analysts that they will have Denver out in Q4 of 2012, maybe Q1/2013, and that uses the full on 64-bit ARM instruction set. It won’t be out by then, but that gives you a good estimation of when that ISA will break cover from one vendor or...

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May 10
Apple patents involve compression/encoding,...

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patent number 7940843 is for a method of implementing improved rate control for a multimedia compression and encoding system. The rate controller in a digital video encoding system is responsible for allocating a bit budget for video frames to be encoded. The rate controller considers many different factors when determining the frame bit budget. One of the factors considered is the complexity of the frames being compressed. Occasionally there will be a very complex frame that is not representative of the overall video frame sequence. Such a rare complex frame may cause a disproportionate affect on the bit budget allocation.

The system of the present invention limits the amount that a very complex frame can change the bit budget allocation. The rate controller of the present invention also includes a relaxation factor. The relaxation factor allows a user to determine if the...

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May 09
Greg's Bite: Speech -- the next user interface?

By Greg Mills

"Star Trek" has a rosy view of the future where hunger and want are historic, and computers listen to users to input information. To access a computer you say "computer," and then give your command or search information. You dictate text and it just appears on the screen. That is a cool concept and it has been hinted at for years on PCs of both stripes.

Speech interpretation is problematic for a number of reasons. Background noise we instinctively tune out easily confuses speech recognition. Strong accents also tend to stumble speech recognition. Once the bugs are fixed, the potential is amazing. The form of speech software to come may be pretty interesting. The old system of speech recognition was for the local computer to do the work of interpreting the sounds into text. The next generation of speech-totext involved the cloud.  

I have a number of MP3 audio files I would really love to convert to text, to clean it up and publish...

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May 09
Greg's Bite: The Daily bleeds $10 million

By Greg Mills

Bleeding, as a medical therapy, is one of those historic absolutely backwards things that were done in Medieval ignorance. Someone who is already weak from an illness would be bled every day to get rid of the "bad blood."

There is no way of knowing how many people died from the bleeding treatment instead of what they were trying to be cured of. We know now there is no such thing as bad blood or good blood.

In business there is normally a period of time where new ventures require an investment to get to a break even point.  Sometimes the venture or new product proves to be so ill-founded the plug is pulled to stop the loss. Recent examples of failed product releases that bad include Microsoft's Kin phone and perhaps RIMs PlayBook. Sometimes the venture or new product turns around and begins to make money and the initial investment is finally paid back, handily.

"The Daily" digital newspaper was launched with great fanfare as...

| Read more »
 
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Tap Delay (Music)
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