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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...

| Read more »
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...

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May 09
DVD, Blu-ray still dominate home video

While digital home-video options are gaining in popularity and Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls Blu-ray a "bag of hurt," more than three quarters of U.S. consumers continue to view movies on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Nearly 80 cents of every dollar spent on home video movies goes toward the purchase or rental of physical discs.

According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, consumers are still using DVDs and Blu-ray Disc (BD) to watch movies more than all digital-video options combined. Over the past three months, 77% of consumers reported watching a movie on a DVD or BD, which is unchanged from last year. Those who viewed movies from physical discs reported watching an average of four hours per week, which is also unchanged from the prior year. By comparison 68% watched a movie on a TV or cable network channel, 49%t at a theatre, and 21% used paid video on demand through their TVs.

According to data from NPD's "Entertainment Trends in America" report, when...

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May 06
Will Lion's Server features tempt enterprise...

When the next version of Lion prowls, it will certainly be an interesting critter. In some ways, it's designed to be the ultimate consumer-oriented operating system as it melds iOS and traditional Mac OS elements. In other ways -- or at least one -- it may well appeal to the enterprise.

Lion will include Lion Server at no extra charge. In other words, there'll no longer be separate Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server versions -- there'll just be one Mac OS X. You'll be able to provision any Mac with Lion as a server through a simple setup process.

As Ryan Faas, writing for "Computerworld" (http://macte.ch/PlNri), notes, this move by Apple is pretty surprising, especially if you're used to dealing with Microsoft's client and server products, which are clearly differentiated by features and pricing. Fass says he can't imagine Microsoft ever giving away Windows Server in any form for the price of a client...

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May 05
Rumors of the day: iOS updates, iPad 3, more

Apple will provide over-the-air updates for iOS 5, while the upcoming version of Mac OSX Lion will be delivered via the Mac App Store, according to two separate reports (http://macte.ch/RkI8A). Instead of having users chained to iTunes for their iOS updates, Apple may introduce wireless OS updates, removing the need for a computer in the process.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty says the company sees product cycles as being driven by software rather than hardware and is expected to announce major software updates at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, according to "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com).

The follow-up to the iPad 2 will incorporate a glasses-free 3D screen. The claim comes from an alleged Hollywood insider who told RCR Wireless (...

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May 05
Apple patents involve FaceTime, digital images, more

A handful of Apple patents has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office, several of which relate to the company's iLife suite, FaceTime and Aperture software.

Patent number 20110102457 involves brushing tools for digital image adjustments. Among other things, methods, systems and computer program products are disclosed for applying an image adjustment to an image. A choice of image adjustments is presented to a user of a data processing device. A user selection is received from among the choice of image adjustments at least one image adjustment that a user desires to apply to an area of interest of the image.

The user selected image adjustment is applied to an entirety of an image. A preview of the user selected image adjustment applied to the entirety of the image is displayed. Also, user input comprising user selection of a brushing application is received. The user selected image adjustment is applied to the area of interest of the image...

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May 05
Greg's Bite: Microsoft buys RIM? LOL

By Greg Mills

Sometimes the synergy of two companies are so symmetrically fitting a merger or takeover is like a marriage made in heaven. Everything just fits like a glove.

Sometimes, such a business marriage is conceived in a far darker and hotter place. PC Magazine's Peter Pachal appears to be having hallucinations or the blue screen of death happened on his PC, once too often. The URL for the story is: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2384918,00.asp (this article is best read while eating corn flakes).

Peter Pachal has suggested that in some way Microsoft and RIM could merge and in combination break into Apple's monopoly in the smartphone and tablet markets. This is partly due to a surprise announcement yesterday that RIM will make Bing the default search engine for RIM devices. We don't know how much Microsoft is paying RIM for dumping Google. More on this development later.

If we examine the situation Pachal proposed, one has...

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May 05
Whatever happened to iWork.com?

In 2009, Apple launched its iWork.com site in beta -- and it's been there ever since. That seems likely plenty of time for Apple to work out the kinks, so perhaps a finished version will be part of "iCloud" or "Castle" or whatever Apple's rumored, upcoming cloud service will be dubbed.

iWork.com is designed as a service to share iWork documents online. Using your Apple ID, you click the iWork.com icon in the Keynote, Pages or Numbers toolbar to upload your document and invite others to view it online. Viewers can provide comments and notes, and download a copy of your document in iWork, Microsoft Office or PDF formats. A consolidated online list of all your shared documents indicates when your viewers have posted comments.

The service is still there, and still in beta. Let's hope that one of these days it arrives in finished, polished form.

Let's also hope that iCloud makes it a no-brainer to share documents among multiple Macs and iOS devices. For example, if...

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May 04
Rumors of the day: new Apple hire, Lion, keyboards

According to "Gigaom" (http://macte.ch/yFDta), Apple has reportedly hired Tomlinson Holman as its new audio chief, according to a tweet by Leo Laporte Wednesday morning. Laporte said he had it “on good authority” that Holman “is joining Apple to run audio.” Holman is the brain behind Lucasfilm’s THX sound, and the world’s first 10.2 surround sound system.

According to "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) with the release of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion this summer, Apple will make the switch to a new kind of digital distribution for its operating system upgrades by releasing the software first through its new Mac App Store. The Mac App Store, available to all users running the most recent version of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, will become the de facto method for obtaining the Lion upgrade, the article says, quoting "people familiar...

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May 04
New iMacs offer great bang for the buck

When it comes to bang for your buck, you really can't beat the new iMacs. The all-in-one's rev will certainly spur Apple's desktop sales, which have been slow compared to the company's laptop sales.

It's true that they're not revolutionary updates -- the design is still the same -- but they're substantial updates just the same. Here are some random thoughts on the new desktops.

I had hoped that the new iMacs might sport a "Retina Display," but I didn't really expect them to. Oh well, maybe next time.

A high-DPI mode for resolution independence has purportedly been in development at Apple for a long time and may be coming at long last with Mac OS X Lion. This hints that Apple may expect 200ppi+ laptop and desktop displays to become available during Lion’s lifetime. The system is reliant on pixel doubling and asset redesign, like the move from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4, instead of using vector graphics or 3D rendering, meaning this is more about clarity than...

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May 03
Greg's bite: bin Laden iPhone tracked?

By Greg Mills

Sometimes  two elements of current events cross paths.  I just about died laughing at a cartoon I saw where it was implied bin Laden was taken down due to carrying an iPhone.  

The truth is, he didn't trust anything more electronic than a toaster and only toasters without an LED on them. The Australian press ran a story speculating that a million dollar villa that didn't have a telephone or Internet was part of what confirmed to our intelligence agencies that someone who lived there was hiding. The tracking of everything electronic by governments around the world is well known. The extent of that surveillance is not as well known.  

Unlike a lot of people who carry smart phones, the notion that your phone carried a virtual map with dated location points came as a shock to a lot of us. From what I hear, Apple will be removing the location cache held on the computer iOS devices sync with and reducing the maximum location files to...

| Read more »
May 03
The Mac App Store changing the general perception of...

I'm not sure exactly how many apps are available at the Mac App Store, but there are enough that the perception that there's "no software" for the Mac will vanish -- if it hasn't already.

Also, it seems that the quality of the average app on the Mac App Store is higher than that for a typical iOS device on the Apple App Store. (By the way, don't you think the Apple App Store should be redubbed the iOS App Store? After all, the Mac App Store is as much an "Apple" store as the one for the iPhone, iPad and iPod.)

Joseph Beauliue, senior stock analyst with Morningstar (http://macte.ch/CjURB), an investing research group, also thinks the Mac App Store is going to help Macs in a bit way.

"We think the launch of the Mac Application Store (patterned after the iTunes Application Store) could help Apple maintain or accelerate its pace of market share gains," he writes. "Historically, one of the biggest...

| Read more »
May 03
Apple patents involve image databases, display signals...

A handful of Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 7936946 is for migration of an old image database. Techniques are described for causing digital image data to be interpreted according to a particular technique of a plurality of techniques. According to an embodiment, digital sensor data is received, and user input is received that specifies which technique of a plurality of techniques to use to generate a display that depicts an unmodified image from the sensor data, wherein each technique of the plurality of techniques generates a display from the sensor data in a different manner than each other technique of the plurality of techniques. The inventors are Nikhil M. Bhatt and Curtis A. Bianchi.

Patent number 79372306 is for a display digital signal visualizations with increasing accuracy. Digital signal visualizations may be displayed with increasing...

| Read more »
May 02
Notes on the digital lifestyle...

Arbitron (ARB) and Edison Research released a report recently that bodes well for the future of the iPhone and iPad, as well as Apple in general.

ARB and Edison measured affinity for dozens of products and services, and the iPhone was the clear leader with 66% of its users saying they “love it” (on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is “hate it” and 5 is “love it”). The next highest platform was the iPad, with 53% saying they “love” their device.

That said, there's a big opportunity for the Apple in the living room, especially if it beefs up the Apple TV. When given the choice between having to theoretically give up their non-iPhone smartphone or give up TV, nearly six in 10 (58%) non-iPhone smartphone owners would rather eliminate TV from their lives.

The study used a random sample of 2,020 respondents, 12 years of age and older, culled via random digit dialing and from Arbitron Fall 2010 diary keepers. Telephone interviews, which included both landlines and mobile...

| Read more »
May 02
The Northern Spy: The Good, the Quick and the Big

By Rick Sutcliffe

Apple bids fair to take over the electronic world as iSteve's little Cupertino company doubles revenues year over year, pushes profits to heights not previously imagined, and bids to continue on this path indefinitely.

As previously predicted in this space, many of the purchasers of iProducts are now buying Macs as well, ensuring a growing dominance in that space as more and more people come to realize that it's better to use a real operating system rather than a cheap, buggy knockoff. Eventually business will "get" it too, and when that tide turns, the whole industry will reach a cusp.
Perhaps this past quarter offered a defining moment of sorts, as Apple's profit surpassed that of MS for the first time since the early nineties (by several hundred million, and no looking back). Given that Apple is a relatively high-cost hardware operation, and MS an extremely low marginal cost software house, this is a truly...

| Read more »
Apr 29
Greg's Bite: RIM stock falls over PlayBook

By Greg Mills

As I have blogged for some time now, the poorly designed RIM PlayBook is tanking. RIM stock dumped 11% of its value after the market closed yesterday.  

RIM has just reported even worse PlayBook launch sales than hoped for; sales that were projected to be in the range of 13 million the first quarter may be way too optimistic. RIM, according to PlayBook teardown parts pricing, ought to make a profit if they could just sell some, but the company seems to be having a hard time convincing even the BlacKBerry faithful they need one.  

As avid a BlackBerry fan as Obama is, he carries an iPad. There has to be a good reason to buy an US$500 electronic toy, and no one has a clue as to what that reason might be to buy RIM's lame slate computer. When you have to tether it to a BlackBerry to get email working, contacts working and other useful apps operating and AT&T won't support the "bridge" app required, PlayBook is...

| Read more »
Apr 29
Macs doing well in education, but still have room for...

Apple does exceedingly well in the education market, but there's still room for growth, as shown by the "Academic Library Computer Technology Benchmarks" from Research and Markets(http://www.researchandmarkets.com), which looks at the computer use and purchasing plans of academic libraries worldwide.

According to the study, the mean number of personal computers purchased in the 2010-11 academic year by the colleges in the sample was 18.6. Approximately 10.06% of planned acquisitions were for Macs -- less than 1% for community colleges but more than 20% for research universities. The libraries in the sample had a mean stock of only 6.36 dual boot computers that can run both the Mac and Windows operating systems.

Over 10% of planned purchases is substantial, considering Apple has just under 10% personal computer market share in the US and under 5% worldwide. But with the "halo...

| Read more »
Apr 28
Apple working on fitness app

A new Apple patent (number 20110098156) at the US Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple is working on a new fitness app.

The patent is entitled "Systems and Methods for Accessing Personalized Fitness Services Using a Portable Electronic Device." It's directed to systems and methods for accessing personalized fitness services through an integrated application available to a portable electronic device.

Apple says the integrated application can provide a full fitness center experience by introducing potential new customer to a fitness center and then motivating them to return to the fitness center as active members. For example, the integrated application can provide functions to introduce new customers to a fitness center, can provide functions to motivate customers to join and actively visit the fitness center, can provide in-gym motivation, and can provide post-workout motivation. Stanley Carl Ng and Michael Hailey are the inventors.

Here's Apple's...

| Read more »
Apr 28
Apple patent is for a menuing structure for media...

Apple patent (number 20110099519) for a menuing structure for media content has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves the Apple TV and its on-screen menus and its interaction with Macs on a local network.

According to the patent, methods, systems, articles of manufacture, and apparatus for causing a computer system such as a media device to perform operations may include receiving input from the user selecting a media type category, identifying media content items within the selected media category that the user has previously selected for presentation, prioritizing the identified media content items based on a predetermined set of rules, and presenting to the user a menu of at least some of the identified media content items in an order based on a result of the prioritization. The inventors are Jeffrey Ma, Elbert D. Chen, Jeffrey Robbin, Calin Pacurariu, William Martin Bachman and James A. Young.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the...

| Read more »
Apr 28
Greg's bite: Apple iOS tracking storm blows out

Yesterday Apple released a 10 point information sheet and did an interview that addressed a lot of concerns iOS users had regarding location logs. It turns out that while the outrage has largely melted away with rational explanations for what Apple was doing, they did admit there were "bugs" in the data logging portion of the iOS, that are going to be fixed soon. Apple's explanation mitigates my concerns, but doesn't reassure me that mobile data is as secure as it ought to be.   

I want to apologize to Apple, Steve Jobs and any readers who were unduly alarmed by my reporting of material regarding this subject that I deemed reliable that turns out to be technically a bit off the mark.  I was alarmed myself when I downloaded the tracker app and ran it on my MacBook Pro.  The map of the Kansas City area that popped up showing the contents of the location log stored on my laptop from iPhone sync data was startlingly revealing about my locations during the previous year.  

... | Read more »
 
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