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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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Jan 12
Greg's bite: Verizon, made in the USA

By Greg Mills

Since the announcement yesterday that Verizon will indeed get the iPhone, the tech press is flooded with stories regarding the demise of AT&T and speculation about the new iPhone. Verizon stirred the waters with the notion of built-in hot spot capability, which is sexy indeed.

First of all, don't count AT&T out just yet. While I have been vocal about criticizing them for dropped calls myself, there was wisdom in Apple giving them an exclusive to launch iPhone and get established in the cell phone business. Since then, Google's Android "made hay while the sun was shinning" and took advantage of the void for graphic smart phones in the market place.

While iPhone holds a 15-to-1 advantage in AT&T's customer base, Android had no competition and grabbed a significant volume with the other carriers. The issue Android cell phone makers must be asking themselves is what happens now that Verizon customers can...

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Jan 12
At long last there's an iPhone in my future

Boy, am I excited! At long last there's an iPhone in my future now that the Apple smartphone is coming to Verizon Wireless. I'll be pre-ordering one as soon as I come up with the moolah (anyone want to buy a Nintendo Wii with several games?).

Being an Apple fan and journalist, I've wanted an iPhone since they debuted. But the AT&T service is so bad in my neck of the woods, it made purchasing one impractical. The Verizon network works just fine, thank you, so now I can take the plunge.

So, I'm guessing, will lots of other folks. There are approximately 93 million Verizon customers and I expect them to buy the iPhone in droves.

I'm also excited about the hotspot feature of the Verizon iPhone that will let you open up your laptop, connect to your phone via Wi-FI and share its connection.

If you're a current Verizon customer like me, plan to buy an iPhone and want to transfer contacts, you'll need to download and run Backup Assistant on your existing...

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Jan 11
Greg's bite: Verizon iPhone 4 hotspot mode

This morning I got my monthly emailed congratulations note from AT&T, notifying me that they had successfully charged my credit card for another month of 3G network service for my iPad. I have never fully understood why congratulations are required.  

Congratulations that my credit card took another US$29.99 hit from them? Congratulations that I signed up while unlimited data service plans were still available? Anyone who figures out what the basis for those AT&T congratulatory letters is, please email me, so I can fully appreciate my good fortune.  

When I asked an AT&T representative why I was being congratulated every month, the customer service guy was just as confused as I was. By the way, AT&T has still not given me an official response to my submission to them of my original advertising slogan "AT&T, no bars in more places." My relationship with AT&T is perplexing indeed. My advertising career aspirations have been put on hold due to...

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Jan 11
Future Apple devices may add solar power to their...

Future Apple devices may add solar power to their other power sources. An Apple patent (number 7868582) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Portable devices having multiple power interfaces are described in the patent. According to one embodiment of the invention, a portable electronic device includes, but is not limited to, a processor, a memory coupled to the processor for storing instructions, when executed from the memory, cause the processor to perform one or more functions, a battery coupled to provide power to the processor and the memory, and a battery charging manager coupled to charge the battery using power derived from a plurality of power sources including a solar power source. Other methods and apparatuses are also described. The inventors are Wendell B. Sander and Daniel A. Warren.


Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Handheld computing devices typically use standard battery chemistries including ni-cad, lithium-...

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Jan 11
Apple wins patents for iPod touch, earphones, more

Apple has won design patents from the US Patent & Trademark Office for the third generation iPod touch (patent D630630), the design and assembly of the iPod touch (7869206), and their earphones with a remote mic (7869608), an active enclosure for a computing device with an illuminable portion(7868905).

Inventors of the first patent are Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer. The inventors of the second patent are Teodor Dabox, Hui Leng Lim, Kyle Yeates and Stephen Lynch. The inventors on the third patent are Wendell Sander, Jeffrey Terlizzi, Douglas Farrar, Timothy Johnson, Brian Sander, Brian Connor and Jesse Dorogusker. Duncan Kerr is the inventor of the fourth patent.

Three has also been granted three other patents. Following is a summary of each.

...

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Jan 11
Greg's bite: What if Apple assembled its products...

By Greg Mills

On the day iPhone is likely to be announced for Verizon, a study I found looking at the profound effect on the US economy of Apple outsourcing assembly of iPhone to China is particularly interesting.  

Can you believe Apple CEO Steve Jobs could put Apple on track to hire as many as half a million Americans who are currently out of work, while only marginally decreasing Apple's stellar profits? Jobs could add over US$10 billion a year to the national payroll simply by bringing assembly of Apple products home. Our government should make such a move as easy as possible by making the US employer environment more conducive to such a move.

I did an article recently on Apple's industrial footprint in China. While the subject of that article was the nature of Apple's business dealings with contractor assembly companies and their employees in China, another issue came to light recently in a study done by the Asian Development Bank...

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Jan 11
Some initial thoughts on the Mac App Store

Overall, I think the new Mac App Store is a good idea (as long as it doesn't become the only way to obtain Mac software) and well implemented, though there are a couple of changes I'd love to see -- and some questions that need to be answered.

For one thing, Apple needs to add a Wish List or Shopping list, not to mention gifting to the store.

Also, strange as it seems, your Mac App Store account isn't linked to your iTunes account. So if I have money available on iTunes, I can't use it in the Mac App Store.

Perhaps all this integration will come in with Mac App Store 2.0. Still, you'd think Apple would have built on their previous experience with iTunes rather than starting from scratch again.

I also have a couple of questions, which may also point to Mac App Store improvements. Is there no way to transition the apps that you own to the Mac App Store version? If not, do I have to purchase them again if I want all my apps and updates centralized?

... | Read more »
Jan 10
Consumer electronics bring families closer together?


Consumer electronics, once seen as a barrier to family togetherness, have become a critical component of family life and now play a starring role in many popular family activities. At least that is what is indicated by a national survey of more than 1,000 parents (women and men ages 25-54 with at least one child under age 18 in the home) conducted online Dec. 13-15, 2010 by Memorex (http://www.memorex.com).

The survey shows consumer electronics are viewed as an integral component of family life, with 35 %of parents saying their families “could not function” without electronics and only 1-in-10 parents saying electronics “are a necessary evil” or “create an unwanted barrier between family members." Compare this to last year’s WeTime Parent Survey -- where 24% of families said they feel consumer electronics do not enhance WeTime -- and the change in attitudes becomes obvious.

For over half of families (...

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Jan 07
Greg's bite: Android, a fractured OS, PlayBook

By Greg Mills

Those of us who are looking intently at the various operating systems out there that can run on smart phones and slate computers are keenly aware of the surge in usage of Google's Android.  

All is not well in that platform, as users are likely to find out, especially as time goes on. While there are benefits to the open source software concept, the devil is in the tendency for divergent flavors of operating software to be developed, that lead to incompatibility issues in various hardware configurations. These problems sometimes can't be fixed by adjusting the software and will basically render recent hardware obsolete, within months of release. This is not good for any platform. 

Currently there are already four versions of Android out there -- Android 1.6, ViewSonic 2.0 and ViewSonic 2.1 and the 2.2 Froyo Android configurations -- likely to be seen on a slew of new tablets. This does not even take into...

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Jan 07
Five innovations that will change our lives: recycling...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the fourth and final part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Innovations in computers and data centers are enabling the excessive heat and energy that they give off to do things like heat buildings in the winter and power air conditioning in the summer. Can you imagine if the energy poured into the world's data centers could in turn be recycled for a city's use?

Up to 50% of the energy consumed by a modern data center goes toward air cooling. Most of the heat is then wasted because it is just dumped into the atmosphere. With new technologies, such as novel on-chip water-cooling...

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Jan 06
Apple looking at multiple speaker systems for Macs,...

Apple may be working on new speaker technology for Macs and/or its iOS devices. An Apple patent (number 20110002487) for a has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Embodiments of the invention relate to the field of audio output; and more specifically, to routing audio channels to multiple speakers in a movable device.

The patent involves a device that provides an audio output and includes a speaker array mechanically fixed to the device. The speaker array includes at least three speakers. An orientation sensor detects an orientation of the speaker array and provides an orientation signal. An audio receiver receives a number of audio signals that include spatial position information. An audio processor is coupled to the speakers, the orientation sensor, and the audio receiver.

The audio processor receives the audio signals and the orientation signal, and selectively routes the audio signals to the speakers according to the spatial position information...

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Jan 06
Greg's bite: Ballmer was right?

By Greg Mills

I bet that headline woke up some of my readers who hadn't had their coffee yet. I read yesterday, with amazement, that the high tech buffoon CEO of Microsoft made a good decision a few years back and invested in Facebook, before it become so popular.  

Investing about US$240 million in Facebook in 2007, Ballmer bought a 1.5% stake in the company, which then soared to about four times the valuation we see today.  See http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2011/01/05/lets-give-steve-ballmer-some-c... .  While Ballmer's leadership of Microsoft has largely been a "follow the leader" sort of management style, doing as many things as Microsoft does will, by default, include some good moves.

I don't know if it is the economy or just stingy Mac fans,...

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Jan 06
Five innovations that will change our lives: saving...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the third part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

While you may not be a physicist, you are a walking sensor. In five years, sensors in your phone, your car, your wallet and even your tweets will collect data that will give scientists a real-time picture of your environment, according to IBM. You'll be able to contribute this data to fight global warming, save endangered species or track invasive plants or animals that threaten ecosystems around the world.

In the next five years, a whole class of "citizen scientists" will emerge, using simple sensors that already exist to...

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Jan 05
Greg's bite: no smart phone privacy in California...

By Greg Mills

In a stunning setback for Constitutional privacy rights regarding the contents of smart phones, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that if you are arrested on any charge and happen to have your smart phone on you, the police have the right to see and copy everything on it.  

Further, the contents of your phone may be used against you in a court of law, even if unrelated to the original charge they bust you on. All this without a warrant or probable cause. Business information, normally held secret, is also affected at this time.

While I believe in the necessity of the police being able to search a person they arrest to make sure they don't have a weapon on them, the notion that the incredible amount of personal data found on a modern cell phone suddenly and automatically belongs to the State, without probable cause and without a warrant, is counter to the Constitutional notion of a warrant being required...

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Jan 05
Five innovations that will change our lives, part two...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the second part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Ever wish you could make your laptop battery last all day without needing a charge? Or what about a cell phone that powers up by being carried in your pocket? In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today. Can you image an iPhone, iPod touch and iPad with that sort of potential?

Better yet, in some cases, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices. Instead of the heavy lithium-ion batteries used today,...

| Read more »
Jan 04
Patent hints at 'cable/satellite' box...

An Apple patent (number 7865927) at the US Patent & Trademark Office for enhancing media system metadata hints at what could be the future of the Apple TV -- or perhaps an Apple TV successor -- that involves implementing "cable/satellite box" features.

Systems and methods for providing enhanced metadata to a user. Systems and methods can include extraction of data from metadata and searching for related metadata based upon the the extracted data. The inventors are Rainer Brodersen, Rachel Claire Goldeen, Mihnea Calin Pacurariu and Jeffrey Ma.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Historically, video content for television was free broadcast video content. The revenue model for content providers was to sell advertising during the free broadcast content. The advent of cable television systems has significantly changed the business mode for content providers in many instances. For example, content providers such as Home Box Office (HBO), available...

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Jan 04
Apple granted iChat patents

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office for its iChat audio and video conferencing app. Patent number 7,864,209 is for audio processing in a multi-participant conference.

Some embodiments provide an architecture for establishing multi-participant audio conferences over a computer network. This architecture has a central distributor that receives audio signals from one or more participants. The central distributor mixes the received signals and transmits them back to participants. In some embodiments, the central distributor eliminates echo by removing each participant's audio signal from the mixed signal that the central distributor sends to the particular participant. Hyeonkuk Jeong and Ryan Salsbury are the inventors.

Patent number 7,865,834 involves a multi-way video conference user interface. A videoconferencing application includes a user interface that provides multiple participant panels, each of which is displayed with...

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Jan 04
Apple wins patent for Cinema Display design

Apple has won a patent for the design of its Cinema Display and for displaying structured electronic documents by the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The Cinema Display is, of course, Apple's standalone monitor, now available only in a 27-inch size. The inventors on its design patent are listed as Bartley K. Andre, Daniel J. Coster, Daniele De Iluiis, Evans Hankey, Richard P. Howarth, Jonathan P. Ive, Duncan Robert Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Douglas B. Satzger, Christopher J. Stringer, Eugene Antony Whange and Rico Zorkendorfer.

Patent number 7864163 is for a portable electronic device (namely, the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad), method and graphical user interface for displaying structured electronic documents. It involves acomputer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable electronic device with a touch screen display, comprises displaying at least a portion of a structured electronic document on the touch screen display, wherein...

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Jan 04
Greg's bite: CES, iPhone EKG, MalcrosoftTV?

By Greg Mills

While I took an EMT-1 course, some years ago, I have never worked a single day as a paramedic. I thought it would be cool to be able to deliver babies or restart someone's heart if the emergency situation ever came up.  

My wife, being a nurse, and I talk a bit about medical care issues around here. My wife was blown away when I told her about a new iPhone app that converts an iPhone into an EKG device with an added $100 attachment mounted on the back of the iPhone. The iPhone is held against the chest and run an electro cardiogram test on the person's heart. The iPhone can then email the EKG trace to your doctor, who can look at it on his iPhone, iPad or computer.  See http://alivecor.com/ .

What a neat solution for people with heart issues that need monitoring. The phrase, "there's an app for that" never ceases to amaze. The wisdom of setting up...

| Read more »
Jan 04
Five innovations that will change our lives, part one...

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Let's look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Innovation one: you'll beam up your friends in 3D. In the next five years, 3D interfaces -- like those in the movies -- will let you interact with 3D holograms of your friends in real time. Movies and TVs are already moving to 3D, and as 3D and holographic cameras get more sophisticated and miniaturized to fit into cell phones, you will be able to interact with photos, browse the web and chat with your friends in entirely new ways.

Scientists are working to improve video chat to become holography chat -- or "3D telepresence." The technique uses light...

| Read more »
Jan 03
Greg's bite: CES, iPad killers galore? Not!

By Greg Mills

The annual CES event begins this week in Las Vegas and, by some counts, as many as 40 to 80 iPad want to be devices are slated to be shown off.  Many of them are just concept prototypes, not even close to products ready to ship.  

The usual knockoff artists are showing the predictable "me too" products. Microsoft, will again show off slate format PCs that just don't get it as to what an iPad sort of device ought to be.  Running any flavor of Windows is a battery killer and results in a sluggish device due to a lousy user interface not really designed for touch screens.

Even Visio is launching a slate type computer running the Android OS. They hope to ship actual products this summer. Due to catching the entire PC industry sleeping at the switch, as they try to catch up with iPad 1, Apple is busy behind the scenes ramping up production of iPad 2. The entire year of not having any competition in the hottest product...

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Jan 03
Online gaming will be a $20 billion business in 2012

Driven by North American, European and Asia Pacific markets, online gaming continues its steady growth and the latest study from ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) forecasts revenues of slightly more than $20 billion in 2012. Technology developments will mean new opportunities for connected devices beyond the computer.

The Asia-Pac region, especially China, will be the engine behind much of this growth. However, in China, due to generally lower levels of personal computer ownership, the business models are evolving a little differently. According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, “World of Warcraft, for instance, generates significant revenue for Activision in Europe and North America on a subscription basis. But in China, despite a large ‘subscriber’ base, the revenues are far smaller: it's more of a pay-as-you-go model (prepaid game cards). This also creates a greater reliance on ‘cloud’...

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