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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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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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