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Mar 24
Greg's bite: the freedom of the app

By Greg Mills

Apple takes heat for about anything they do, it seems. A conspiracy theory built upon the design of iPhone security screws blew over a few weeks ago. Apps that take political points of view or make a social statement tend to be the latest point of dispute. Political correctness seems to be in the eye of the offended.

The latest tempest in the Apple tea pot involves a ministry portal app to Exodus International, (ExodusInterntional.org). The Exodus organization offers help for people who want to exit the gay life style. The Exodus app was approved with a score of 4 by Apple, some time back.  It got yanked yesterday for not meeting unwritten Apples standards for apps (not being too controversial). As long as no one objected, Apple seemed okay with it. It is hard to meet undocumented standards for apps that support opinion without being politically un-correct.  

The gay community got wind of one purpose of the app, offering helping...

| Read more »
Mar 24
iPhone 5 likely to sport a bigger screen

Rumors are that the iPhone 5 will have a 4-inch screen compared to 3.5-inch screens on the Apple smartphones that came before it. If so, it's a screen expansion that's perfectly timed.

According to The NPD Group (http://www.npd.com), a market research company, U.S. consumers are willing to give up room in their pockets and handbags to gain a richer media experience on their mobile devices. The U.S. market share for iPhones and other smartphones with screen sizes between 3.5 inches and 3.9 inches have remained steady, but smartphones with the largest screens (four inches or larger) have grabbed market share from devices with screen sizes that are less than 3.5 inches.

Based on the latest information from NPD's Mobile Phone Track, smartphones with 4-inch-or-larger screens, like Samsung's Galaxy S, HTC's EVO 4G and Motorola's Droid X, which debuted in the second quarter (Q2) of 2010, quickly grew to encompass 24...

| Read more »
Mar 24
Apple patent is for LED backlight for display systems

An Apple patent (number 20110069511) for a LED backlight for display systems has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to device display systems, and more particularly to an LED backlight with highly uniform color for illuminating display systems.

The patent is for a LED backlight method for display systems comprising receiving a plurality of light emitting diodes categorized into a plurality of bins, wherein each bin references a separate range of white point colors, and determining an optimal order for mounting the plurality of light emitting diodes at spatially distributed positions, the plurality of light emitting diodes comprising white point colors associated with separate bins, wherein the optimal order of the plurality of light emitting diodes produces a light of a desired white point color when the light outputs of the plurality of light emitting diodes are mixed. The inventors are Wei Chen, Jun Qi, Victor Yin and John Zhong.

... | Read more »
Mar 23
Greg's bite: Xoom Fades to Black

By Greg Mills

Remember all those tablet computer "iPad killers" showcased at recent electronics shows? As many as 100 tablets were shown in various states of development. Since then, only a handful of tablets have actually been launched, and the iPad is absolutely creaming them in the market.  

The Motorola's Xoom tablet seems to have met an early end. The Xoom was really ill-fated coming out just before iPad 2 hit the market. It seems Motorola has just scaled back the parts on order required to assemble more Xooms. They killed all the parts orders that were not already in the supply chain. It appears Apple's hammerlock on the tablet market and poor Xoom sales caused them to pull back. Ouch, that is sure to hurt the bottom line and Motorola stock prices.

This does not bode well for Motorola's stab at entering the tablet computer market or for the Android HoneyComb OS. From what I hear the new Android HoneyComb OS crashes a lot...

| Read more »
Mar 23
Magazines look to join books in transition to digital

As far as I know, there are no stats on how successful the iPad-only publication, The Daily, has been. But there's more evidence that digital newspapers and magazines are part of the wave of the future.

E-book distributor LibreDigital (http://www.libredigital.com) says that its business in distributing digital magazine content generated 175% more revenue November through January that in the previous 12 months combined. Surge in demand for digital magazines from LibreDigital’s tablet and e-reader partners drove the increase.

“Demand for digital reading is exploding,” says Russell P. Reeder, LibreDigital president and CEO. “LibreDigital’s goal is to bring scalable solutions to publishers and marketplaces to meet that demand. We are excited to be bringing our experience as the leader in the e-book distribution business to the early stages of an exciting digital periodicals market.”

...

| Read more »
Mar 22
Apple patent involves the ol' soft shoe

As a runner, I know to replace my running shoes every 400 miles or so. Evidently, Apple wants to simplify that process for me. A new Apple patent (number 7911339) at the US Patent & Trademark Office is for a shoe wear-out sensor, body-bar sensing system, unitless activity assessment and associated methods.

Per the patent, a shoe wear out sensor includes at least one detector for sensing a physical metric that changes as a sole of a shoe wears out, a processor configured to process the physical metric over time to determine if the shoe is worn out, and an alarm for informing a user of the shoe when the sole is worn out. A body bar sensing system includes a housing with at least one detector for sensing a physical metric that indicates a repetition movement of the housing when attached to the body bar, a processor for processing the physical metric over time to determine repetitions thereof, and a display for informing a user of the repetitions.

A system assesses...

| Read more »
Mar 22
Apple wants to provide an universal container for...

Apple wants to provide you with an "universal container for audio data," per a patent (number 7912730) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Pre the patent, storing audio data encoded in any of a plurality of different audio encoding formats is enabled by parametrically defining the underlying format in which the audio data is encoded, in audio format and packet table chunks. A flag can be used to manage storage of the size of the audio data portion of the file, such that premature termination of an audio recording session does not result in an unreadable corrupted file.

This capability can be enabled by initially setting the flag to a value that does not correspond to a valid audio data size and that indicates that the last chunk in the file contains the audio data. State information for the audio data, to effectively denote a version of the file, and a dependency indicator for dependent metadata, may be maintained, where the dependency indicator indicates the...

| Read more »
Mar 22
Apple patent is for display that emits circularly-...

An Apple patent has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a display that emits circularly-polarized light. The invention generally relates to liquid crystal displays.

More specifically, the present invention relates to a liquid crystal display that emits circularly-polarized light and thereby reduces perceived distortion when the display is viewed through linearly-polarizing filters such as polarized sunglasses. One embodiment of the present invention provides a display that emits circularly-polarized light. This display includes a display mechanism that emits linearly-polarized light and a layer placed in the path of the linearly-polarized light.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "Explosive growth in the popularity of mobile communication and computing devices has created a burgeoning demand for low-power displays. Most portable digital devices include at least one display screen to output information to users. Liquid crystal displays (LCDs...

| Read more »
Mar 22
Apple patents involve input devices, Bonjour, audio...

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

Patent number 7910843 is for a compact input device, specifically input devices utilizing three conducting layers and formed on flexible substrates. The input devices may be formed using three or more conducting layers. By including three or more conducting layers, the diameter of the input device may be minimized. In addition, to improve the flexibility of portions of the input device mounted, some portions of the input device may be made to have fewer layers than other portions of the input device. The inventors are Fletcher Rothkopf, Jan Moolsintong, Joseph Fisher,Wendell Sander, and Erturk Kocalar.

Patent number 7912501 involves an audio I/O headset plug and plug detection circuitry. A single prong, multiple signal conducting plug and plug detection circuitry is provided. The plug may be electrically coupled to a stereo...

| Read more »
Mar 22
Buying iOS apps, then not using 'em? You're...

If you're buying apps at the Apple App Store hand-over-fist, then find you rarely use them, you're not alone.

In a mobile application analytics study of the iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 markets, Localytics (http://www.localytics.com) found that while smartphone and tablet owners are very willing to give applications a try, 26% of the time they never use the same application again. In this study, the research group found that another 26% of people become very loyal, repeat customers, using a new application more than 10 times. And many go on to use an app hundreds of times.

With over 10 billion downloads from just Apple’s App Store, it’s clear that people are willing to try new apps. It’s equally clear that app developers and publishers need to look beyond downloads and focus marketing resources on attracting and retaining the quarter of customers who tend to become...

| Read more »
Mar 21
Greg's bite: AT&T gobbles up T-Mobile

By Greg Mills

The only constant in the cell phone market is that amazing changes come quickly. Remember that cute dark headed girl in the red and white striped dress (Carly Foulkes) that lampoons AT&T in T-Mobile commercials? I guess she really got to them, so AT&T spent US$39 billion in cash and AT&T stock to buy out T-Mobile and get her off the air. 

The move makes sense, as T-Mobile and AT&T use the same GSM format and that makes their cell towers and backbone compatible with little effort.

T-Mobile, the fourth in size in the USA if merged into AT&T, makes AT&T larger than Verizon, formerly the largest cell phone company in the US. Sprint remains a distant #3. Soon former T-Mobile customers can buy and use iPhones with their existing T-Mobile accounts. This is assuming AT&T can get the government to allow the merger. Some experts think AT&T may be quite disappointed as network monopoly issues will certainly...

| Read more »
Mar 21
Shipments of smartphones grew 74% in 2010

According to a new research report by Berg Insight (http://www. berginsight.com), global shipments of smartphones increased 74% in 2010 to 295 million units. And the future looks good -- and that's good for Apple.

Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32.4 percent, shipments are forecasted to reach 1,200 million units in 2015. The global user base of smartphones increased at the same time by 38% year-on-year to an estimated 470 million active users in 2010. In the next five years, the global user base of smartphones is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42.9% to reach 2.8 billion in 2015. And you know Apple isn't going to let this opportunity slip by.

Smartphones are receiving more attention from handset manufacturers, network operators and application developers. Most importantly, an increasing number of users are now discovering how smartphones can act as personal computing devices...

| Read more »
Mar 18
Consumer boxed software sales not dead just yet

There is still life in the consumer boxed software market, despite reports of the demise of the industry, according to market research company the NPD Group (http://www.npd.com). Some reports of that demise are due to the success of the Mac App Store and Apple's reduction of space in its retail stores for boxed software.

But don't weep for the box just yet. According to NPD's Retail Tracking Service, total consumer retail software (excluding games) increased 1% in 2010, to US$2.42 billion. The slight growth comes after two years of steep declines of 8% in 2008 and 10% in 2009.

Sales of business products led the way with 14% revenue growth on the strength of Microsoft's launch of Office 2010. Imaging and graphics was also a strong category with a 10% increase in revenue, as product launches from Adobe and Apple bolstered sales in the high-end professional segments of the market. And, so far, products like...

| Read more »
Mar 17
Apple patent involves rendering system log data

An Apple patent (number 20110066973) for rendering system log data has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, messages generated by processes on a computer system are aggregated into process groups. The process groups can be displayed in a single user interface using a number of graphs and plots to provide a holistic view of message activity for a given process group, and for all processes running on the computer system. The inventors are Richard Plom and ALi Sazegari.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Modern computer systems can have many processes running at the same time. Some of these processes generate system log data, which describe the health or status of the process. Conventional operating systems may include a simple message or log viewer that displays system log data as a flat list of messages. A flat list of messages, however, does not provide the user with a sense of trends or interaction between processes...

| Read more »
Mar 17
Projected 14% growth in computer market will be good...

Okay, when is the next iMac update going to be out? Soon, I'm sure. That -- coupled with the fantastic market reception for the revamped MacBook Airs and 2011 MacBook Pros -- should keep the Mac's momentum going at a fortuitous time.

In a new report from Canalys (http://www.canalys.com), the research group estimates global computer growth of 14% for 2011. The Mac is already doing better in incremental growth than the industry overall. New Macs and the "halo effect" of the iPhone and iPad should keep the Mac in solid growth figures.

That said, the Canalys analyst firm predicts that much of the global computer growth will come from pad/tablet shipments, which will increase to 52 million units worldwide in 2011. Of these shipments, Apple is expected to account for over 75%, leaving approximately 12 million units for other vendors.

Canalys anticipates that the iPad’s success will continue, and...

| Read more »
Mar 16
Keyboards for the iPad not real hot sellers

I've long maintained that the iPad is being used mostly for media consumption, not media creation. There's more evidence that this is the case.

Most tablet manufacturers, including Apple, have designed their products to allow support of an external keyboard. However, "DigiTimes" (http://macte.ch/GSYGM) says Taiwan-based keyboard makers are taking a conservative attitude about demand of such products in the future since, according to Apple iPad's accessory sales status, less than 20% of the Apple tablet users would purchase an external keyboard for their machine.

Quoting "sources from keyboard makers," the article says that that since most iPad applications are designed with touchscreen input as the major consideration, this leaves only e-mail as the only application that still requires a keyboard for operation, while Google's Android is also designed with touchscreen being the major input method. I'd...

| Read more »
Mar 16
Greg's bite: second guessing the design of the...

By Greg Mills

I am not an engineer or nuclear expert, so my common sense solutions might have valid explanations for why they were not done. As the news gets more grim from the nuclear disaster zone that is northern Japan, some of the problems seem to beg simplistic solutions that seem to have been overlooked in the planning stages of those plants.  

While they planned well for a large earthquake, common sense is that along with a large earthquake a tsunami is not an unusual event in Japan. Both happening at once is what really threw a monkey wrench into the current situation. Hindsight is always 20/20 so here goes:

1. The first issue is the density of the individual reactors, where one nuclear plant's emergency high radioactivity can keep workers away from all three other active reactors. Those other reactors also need constant attention to avoid melting down. With as many as four reactors in one complex, the worst case situation, where one...

| Read more »
Mar 15
Greg's bite: the Zune dies a lingering death

By Greg Mills
A non-announcement from Microsoft, sort of a "no comment confirmation" has the Zune going the way of the dodo bird. Ironically, many in the press blame Apple's iPod for killing the Zune. I submit that iPod was there first and that the ill conceived clone that was Zune was inferior and doomed to fail in the market place from day one.  

The lesson Microsoft has yet to learn is that while you can copy revolutionary products, there is no guarantee such cloned products will succeed in the market place. It wasn't that Zune was so inferior in its hardware, it was the lack of the magic that Apple put into the entire iPod experience that doomed it. I asked my 11-year-old daughter if she preferred an iPod or a Zune and her answer was, "Daddy, what's a Zune?"

Having the cash flow to make massive mistakes in tactical direction, but being able to survive over 12 years of shiftless management due to the lucrative Windows OS franchise, Microsoft...

| Read more »
Mar 15
Ultraviolet format, meet the DVD

In a move that could bring the UltraViolet proposal closer to our homes, some at the major film studios want to take advantage of UltraViolet to prevent DVD libraries from being rendered obsolete in a format upgrade, according to a "CNET" report (http://macte.ch/VIi18).

But first some back ground: 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...

| Read more »
Mar 14
Content protection key to successful Internet video

Consumers increasingly want to access video content across the various video-capable devices they own, and service providers, content owners, online video distributors and device manufacturers are all keen to provide it.

However, new technologies are urgently needed to secure multiplatform video content against piracy and unauthorized access, according to a major new report from Heavy Reading (http://www.heavyreading.com), the research division of Light Reading (http://www.lightreading.com).

"Content owners will not allow their content to be distributed on a platform that is vulnerable to piracy," says Aditya Kishore, Senior Analyst of Heavy Reading and author of the report. "However, consumers want to be able to access copies of their purchased content across devices. The entire value chain needs a secure but...

| Read more »
Mar 11
Looking at this week's Apple rumors...

The rumor mill has been working overtime this week. Here's my thoughts on some of the speculations.

This week photos of a possible prototype 64GB iPhone were posted to the M.I.C gadget. If authentic, that doesn't necessarily mean that Apple will release such a beast. However, if Apple can maintain price points, a 64GB version would make sense considering all the data types that the iPhone -- which is much more than a phone -- can store.

Also, there's a rumor that Apple plans to ditch the glass back design of the iPhone 4 in favor of an aluminum back on the iPhone 5. This would also make sense as aluminum would be lighter and less scratch prone.

German site Macerkopf.de claims that an unnamed source tells them that Apple is planning an early April media event to introduce iOS 5 and a revamped MobileMe services. I'm not convinced that this will happen with iOS 4.3 having just been released. I wouldn't expect iOS 5 to be previewed until early May.

As for...

| Read more »
Mar 10
Greg's bite: iPad 2 reviews are mostly positive

By Greg Mills

I always find negative articles about Apple products interesting, as most of the time, the authors admit at some point in the article that they haven't really used the product personally that they are dissing.  

Some authors expected the iPad 2 to have a mug warmer app to keep their coffee hot, cure world hunger and cancer -- and also end war. The first incarnation of iPad was so good it is a hard act to follow even for Apple, let alone the clueless competitors.   

There is something about the human experience that sometimes is hard to put a spatial experience into words. When Steve Jobs referred to the newly launched iPad as magical, Apple believers took him at his word and nay-sayers ate crow. Just as the first Mac changed computing forever, lightning struck twice, and Apple's iPad is revolutionizing consumer's notions of what a computer is.    

While the technology and software of the quickly evolving iOS platform is...

| Read more »
Mar 10
Patent hints at better iOS/accessory authentication

Improved techniques to control utilization of accessory devices with electronic devices are disclosed in a new Apple patent (number 20110061113) at the US Patent & Trademark. The invention relates to electrical devices and, more particularly, to electrical devices, such as media players, that receive accessory devices.

Per the patent, the improved techniques can use cryptographic approaches to authenticate electronic devices, namely, electronic devices that interconnect and communicate with one another. One aspect pertains to techniques for authenticating an electronic device, such as an accessory device. Another aspect pertains to provisioning software features (e.g., functions) by or for an electronic device (e.g., a host device). Different electronic devices can, for example, be provisioned differently depending on different degrees or levels of authentication, or depending on manufacturer or product basis. Still another aspect pertains to using an accessory (or...

| Read more »
Mar 10
Apple plans to beef up remote control features for iOS...

Apple has plans for letting you remotely control the cameras in certain iOS devices. A patent (number 20110058052) for systems and methods for remote camera control has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a camera capable of capturing still images and video and included in a portable media device can be controlled remotely using an accessory. The accessory can register with the PMD to automatically receive notifications whenever there is a change in the camera state. The camera states can include mode, operation status, and configuration settings. The accessory can send instructions to a camera application that interfaces with the camera to control the camera.

The accessory can remotely activate the camera, change camera mode, and send instructions to operate the camera. The accessory and the PMD can concurrently control the camera. The PMD can send the captured still images and recorded video to the accessory for preview and receive...

| Read more »
Mar 10
Apple patent involves anodization treatment

An Apple patent (number 20110056836) for anodization and polish surface treatment -- used its the company's iOS line of products -- has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Per the patent, a metal surface treated to have a distinct cosmetic appearance such as an integral layer that is glossy may be used in electronic devices. The surface treatment may include polishing a metal surface, texturing the polished metal surface, polishing the textured surface, followed by anodizing the surface, and then polishing the anodized surface. The metal surface may also be dyed to impart a rich color to the surface. The inventors are Masahige Tatebe, Howard Bujtor, Jody Akana and Jonathan P. Ive.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many products in the commercial and consumer industries are metal articles, or contain metal parts. The metal surfaces of these products may be treated by any number of processes to alter the surface to create a desired...

| Read more »
 
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Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night has...
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