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Feb 17
Apple developing a virtual safe deposit box for the...

A new Apple patent (number 20110040980) shows that Apple is developing a virtual safe deposit box for Mac OS X.

The patent involves a file management safe deposit box. In one aspect, first input dragging-and-dropping a first file representation onto a safe deposit box icon is received, and a file corresponding to the first file representation is encrypted. Second input selecting the safe deposit box icon is received from a user. The user's identity is verified in response to the second input. A safe deposit box window, including a second file representation of the file, is displayed. A user is allowed access to the file in response to third input selecting the second file representation. Duncan Robert Kerr and David R. Falkenburg are the inventors.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Computer users typically store files of varying importance, and varying secrecy, on their computers. Users may wish to have additional copies of important files to...

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Feb 17
Apple files patent for new video/music interface

Apple has filed a patent (number 20110041060) for a video/music interface. Apparently, it would involve both Macs and the Apple TV.

The invention relates generally to the field of media and, in particular, to a media interface with enhanced features such as, for example, providing options while the playing of a media file or media broadcast is paused. A system in accordance with the present invention may include one or more processors, memory from which the processor may fetch instructions according to a clock operating at a frequency, a display device, and one or more programs stored in the memory, with instructions to open a media file, play content of the media file, render graphically on the display device the played content of the media file, pause the played content of the media file, and render graphically on the display device options available during the pause. The inventors are Windy Chien, Robert Henry Kondrk, Gary Stewart and Jeff F. Southard.

Here's...

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Feb 17
Apple eyes info retrieval system that combines search...

According to Apple patent 2010040739 for a portable browsing interface for information retrieval the company is considering changes to Mac OS X that will beef up search features by combining the functionality of a full-text search engine with the flexibility of a browser.

The patent involves an integrated searching/browsing mechanism employs user-constructed information hierarchies that represent a cognitive framework for the organization of information. The hierarchies are independent of the information itself. This feature permits them to be shared among multiple users, and applied to any of a variety of different sources of information.

The hierarchical organization that is provided by the framework gives the user the ability to browse around any available document database in a manner that is intuitive to the user. Two or more hierarchies can be combined to locate documents which match the criteria of both hierarchies, and thereby refine search results to an...

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Feb 17
Apple patent is for Mini DisplayPort

Apple seems to be planning a new version of the Mini DisplayPort, according to a new patent (number 20110039443) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent involves connectors having a smaller profile. These connectors are useful as a reduced form factor DisplayPort connector. Keys on a receptacle are used to indicate when an insert is fully engaged. Edges of the receptacle and insert are chamfered in such a way as to prevent the pins of the connector from being damaged when an improper insertion is attempted. User experience is also enhanced by the use of one or more latches.

As the connector is inserted, the latch provides resistance that builds until the connector is inserted a certain distance, after which the latch enters a cutout portion of the insert thus releasing the pressure and letting the user know the connection has been made. Fingers are employed to provide mechanical stability and electrical connection between receptacle and insert. The...

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Feb 17
Future MagSafe connectors may also send, receive data

An Apple patent (number 20110038582) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office, showing that Apple is working on a future MagSafe connector for portable Macs that would allow it to send and receive data, as well as power the device.

The patent is for circuits, apparatus, and methods that provide a connector system that can supply both power and data to a mobile computing or other type of device using a single connection. Further examples also provide a power and data adapter that can provide power and data to a mobile computing device using a single cable. Further examples provide an easy disengagement when a cable connected to the connector is pulled. One such example provides a magnetic connector that uncouples without binding when its cord is pulled. Another example prevents power from being provided at a connector insert until the connector insert is placed in a connector receptacle. The inventors are John C. DiFonzo, Chris Ligtenberg and Michael Culbert....

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Feb 17
Apple's digital subscription model likely to...

Apple may have finally bitten off more than it can chew with its "my way or the high way" approach. This week Apple unveiled its new subscription model for the Apple App Store, confirming that magazine and newspaper publishers will be forced to pony up 30% of their cover price.

It's nice that Apple is making it easier for consumers to buy subscriptions and may help publishers find new subscribers. But 30% is too steep a fee and is almost certainly going to squash any hopes of a digital publishing revolution that will "save" newspapers and magazines. The margins for digital content are simply too thin for this to be acceptable to a majority of publishers.

There are other drawbacks to Apple's plans as well. A publisher can learn the name, e-mail address and zip code of in-app subscribers only if the user agrees to share that information. Most of us won't do that, but, traditionally, publishers have used this info to, among other things, target advertisers. Also,...

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Feb 17
Apple patents range from call replacement to Rubik...

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

Patent number 20110041183 is for a system and method for call replacement. Disclosed are systems, computer-implemented methods, and computer-readable storage media for obfuscating a function call. The method receives a computer program having an annotated function and determines prolog instructions for setting up a stack frame of the annotated function and epilog instructions for tearing down the stack frame. The method places a first portion of the prolog instructions in the computer program preceding a jump to the annotated function and a second portion of the prolog instructions at a beginning of the annotated function. The method places a first portion of the epilog instructions at an end of the annotated function and a second portion of the epilog instructions in the computer program after the jump. Executing the first and second portions of the...

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Feb 16
'To the cloud'? Not entirely, not ever

In addition to reviving the rumor (which may or may not turn out to be true) of an iPhone mini, the "Wall Street Journal" thinks Apple may eliminate internal storage altogether. The solution, per the "WSJ"? Making MobileMe -- now US$99 per year --a free service that would serve as a "locker" for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos, eliminating the need for devices to carry memory.

I don't think that's going to happen. If it does, it's going to result in a solution that won't please a lot of people. Most people don't want all their data in "the cloud." The cloud should be used in addition to current storage methods, not as a replacement for them. There's no way I'm entrusting all my data -- tunes, videos, photos, etc. -- for total safekeeping on someone else's servers, even if those servers are in Apple's in-the-works, massive facility in North Carolina.

Also, as "Ars technica" notes (http...

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Feb 15
Apple patents involve cable grounding, hyperlink info

Apple has been granted two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 7889139 is for a handheld electronic device with cable grounding and involves iOS devices.

According to the patent, the conductive elements may form an antenna ground plane. One or more antennas for the handheld electronic device may be formed from the ground plane and one or more associated antenna resonating elements. Transceiver circuitry may be connected to the resonating elements by transmission lines such as coaxial cables. Ferrules may be crimped to the coaxial cables. A bracket with extending members may be crimped over the ferrules to ground the coaxial cables to the housing and other conductive elements in the ground plane.

The ground plane may contain an antenna slot. A dock connector and flex circuit may overlap the slot in a way that does not affect the resonant frequency of the slot. Electrical components may be isolated from the antenna using isolation elements...

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Feb 15
Mobile Internet on the rise, but not yet threatening...

I've said it before and now a survey backs me up: despite mobile device functionality becoming ever more sophisticated, research by mobile media company BuzzCity (http://www.buzzcity.com/) shows that mobiles are actually sustaining, not replacing, consumer demand for computers.

The global research, which surveyed 5,000 people, found that computing tools remain important and even aspirational, for mobile Internet users. Fifty-one percent of mobile Internet users don't have daily access to fixed line Internet, and 23% don't use the fixed Internet at all.

Of those surveyed, 21% plan to buy a computer accessory in the next 12 months and 36% have already tried out tablets. So although ultimately mobiles may overtake computers for Internet browsing, there are absolutely no signs that the computer will disappear.

Mobile gaming is a whole different ball game, however, and the indications are that...

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Feb 14
Greg's bite: The Nokia/Microsoft deal

By Greg Mills

If anything, the apparently sudden meltdown at Nokia's software division where the CEO threw up his hands in dismay, then fired hundreds of software staffers who had worked there for years,  shows how profoundly Apple has shaken up the cell phone industry and that half-baked won't sell. 

Nokia is writing off literally billions of dollars of R&D investment, dropping development of the new MeeGo OS and announcing also they are dropping further development of the long time Nokia OS for dumb phones called Symbian. This a major development that caused Nokia stock to drop like a rock. Ironically, Microsoft stock also dropped right along with Nokia's. Nokia hopes to sell 150,000,000 handsets featuring and abandoned OS. Good luck, Nokia.

At one time Nokia owned half the world market for cell phone hardware, but that giant share is plummeting dramatically as dumb phones are still out there, but steadily declining as people replace...

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Feb 14
Digital publishing success won't be tied to one...

Buy-anywhere electronic versions of books, magazines and newspapers will drive the digital publishing market, according to ABI Research’s (http://www.abiresearch.com) latest study of "Digital Publishing for Portable Devices," which foresees digital content sales growing to nearly $16.5 billion worldwide in 2016, more than five times their 2010 level.

The study says the variety of applications that allow people to buy this digital content reassures them that they won’t be tied to a single store -- or device -- for content. If the gang at ABI is right, Apple won't be happy as it likes to tie its digital content to the iTunes Store.

Despite the enormous media focus on iPads, Kindles, Nooks and other eReaders, the market for digital content will not be tied to the success or failure of any single one of these devices, according to the new study, says ABI Research. The Sellers Research Firm...

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Feb 11
Greg's bite: At Apple, the details matter (take...

By Greg Mills

The uproar was tremendous when Apple refused to support Adobe Flash with the iOS. I will admit some frustration as web pages loaded on iPad with the admonition to load Flash to view the content. I knew I couldn't do that. Oh, well, I figured I didn't need to see that content any way or bother with web sites that didn't support compatible graphic display software.  

Steve Jobs took the extraordinary step of explaining why Adobe Flash wasn't up to the standards Apple required for content players in great detail. While everyone has to admit that Jobs is as anal as you can get, that means Apple product users don't have to be that way to get products that are completely polished and just work. Jobs has taken the frustration out of our experience for us. Thank you, Steve.

Adobe wrung its hands in anguish, claiming everything from industrial warfare to malicious slander. Recently, Adobe launched an...

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Feb 11
HP's new TouchSmart could offer a glimpse at a...

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said that the use of touch screen technology on Macs will be via devices such as the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse, not by touching the screen itself. We'll see; however, if Apple is planning a touchscreen desktop Mac, the iMac would be the most likely choice. And HP's new TouchSmart PCs might offer a glimpse at what Apple has in mind.

The TouchSmart Consumer PC and TouchSmart 9300 Elite Business PC sport a 60-degree reclining display, enabling users to adjust the display’s position "for a comfortable user experience." They recline from upright to almost flat.

James Mouton, senior vice president, Desktop Organization, Personal Systems Group, HP, says the ergonomic design enables users to do more and share more such as "creating art projects, to playing games, to enabling natural front-desk interaction where eye contact is important." He says they're ideal for customer-facing environments in hospitality, retail and healthcare.

Both the...

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Feb 11
Greg's bite: The Daily -- just a hyped up news...

By Greg Mills

As with a lot of us who have embraced the iPad experience, I downloaded The Daily app and have been using it each day to read the first virtual newspaper.  While certainly things commonly improve over time, I am reluctantly of the opinion that The Daily lacks any killer features that would cause me to pony up my hard earned US$40 a year.

The biggest problem all web sites faces is the revenue issue. Subscription is certainly one way to go ,and perhaps it will work. The problem is that the web surfing population has gotten used to great content offered in abundance for free. The problem of finding a way to extract revenue from readers is based upon a couple of issues. First is how to painlessly move the money and then finding compelling reasons for people to pay.

The free download vs the paid download goes back to music and the iTunes Store. Back when you could steal music using Napster most people began to figure copyrights were...

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Feb 10
Greg's bite: Apple, the new cell phone company?

Apple's Tony Fadell is named as the inventor of a novel method of using various existing cell phone company's excess capacity cobbled together to create a new Apple branded virtual cell phone network.  

The concept is that as Apple's newest iPhones and coming iPads are now able to operate on all cell phone networks around the world, buying excess network capacity in large blocks makes sense. Then Apple could resell that network access to consumers at retail prices per minute and pocket the difference. Some predicted Apple would buy an existing cellular network to get into the cellular business. That won't happen, but this new concept just might work.

Think of this as an extension of the digital download concept Apple is working on cornering with it's new data centers. This can all be done using the newly patented Apple technology without building even one cell phone tower, anywhere.  The patent was issued yesterday and is US patent #7,885,654. I have provide a link...

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Feb 10
Apple patent involves color correction of electronic...

Apple is eyeing ways to beef up the color correction on its electronic displays. A patent (number 20110032275) for color correction of electronic displays utilizing gain controls has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It generally relates to display correction and, more specifically, to correcting the displayed color by reducing its dependency on various variables, such as temperature.

A video-rendering chip performs gain correction on received display input, based on a display temperature, to produce output values that are shown on the display. The video-rendering chip includes multipliers, a microprocessor, and a memory. The microprocessor receives a display temperature from a sensor, determines gain correction coefficients that correspond to the display temperature, and provides the correction coefficients to the multipliers. The multipliers then multiply the display input by the correction coefficients to produce the output values. The microprocessor may...

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Feb 10
Greg's bite: Jonathan Ive, Apple under the hood

By Greg Mills

The team at Apple has no shortage of talent. Jonathan Ive is the public face of the industrial design at Apple. Being vice president of Design at Apple has given Ive the opportunity to create designs that are part of the lives of people all around the world.  Even the Queen of England has an iPod and surely an iPad. The elegance of Ive designs is perfectly in line with the minimalist tastes of Steve Jobs.

Coming from England to the US in 1992 to work for Apple, Ive's designs so intrigued Jobs when he returned from Siberia that in no time, the famous Jobs/Ive team were working on killer new concepts in computers and the rest of the product line at Apple.

Some have suggested that Ive might be in line for CEO of Apple when Steve Jobs retires.  I think that would be a waste of his energy as, Jobs aside, what it takes to be a great CEO isn't creativity in industrial design. A good CEO could provide the environment for Ive to thrive in...

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Feb 10
What I'd like to see in an Apple television

Along with my "MacNews/MacTech" columnist/compadre, Greg Mills, I'm dubious (and have been, for a long time) that Apple will start making its own television sets, though Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is sure the company will enter this market (though no earlier than 2012). Let's assume he's right. What do I want in an Apple television?

The number one thing that would make me buy one right off the bat: a box with the "innards" and technology to allow Apple to really take on the cable and satellite companies. I'd like an Apple HDTV with a built-in Internet connection and software especially designed to connect to iTV, an offshoot of iTunes.

iTV (long the rumored name of the Apple TV before it arrived) is my moniker for an imagined Apple service based on the ginormous data facility the company is building in North Carolina, that would offer a la carte pricing for subscriptions to TV shows. With cable and satellite packages, you have to pay for a bundle of programs...

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Feb 10
Greg's bite: slate city and no iPad killer yet

By Greg Mills

A lot of what Apple has done is incremental. They build upon one successful concept to support another. The iTunes method of selling digital material set the stage for the app store that creates the environment that is making iPhone and iPad so hard to beat. It takes more than a capable device to make a platform viable.

Dull continued their losing streak by pulling a high-end lapflop off the market. Intended to compete with hig- end (Apple) portable computers the market pumped another dose of reality into them. When you sell US$500 laptops there isn't enough profit left in them matter.  No one wants to pay for a top end laptop and walk away with just a Dell. They have created their own corporate image, and it isn't high end.  

HP yesterday launched two cell phone and announced a line of slate computers that appear to be reasonably viable but held back on announcing price points. At this stage of the game, they certainly know what...

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Feb 09
Greg's bite: Nokia's 'MeeGo' no-go

Well, more blood in the water as Nokia's last best chance to compete with Apple's iPhone gets the ax. Nokia, in an uncharacteristic public wringing of the hands, has admitted defeat in the smartphone market as Apple and Google have battered Nokia into a declining market position.

The CEO of Nokia likened their situation as being like a man on a burning oil platform: do you jump into the cold raging sea or wait to be burned to death? Presumably, the dramatic image is likened to the choices of going forward with the troubled proprietary OS dubbed MeeGo, based upon a variation of Linux and being burned to a crisp by Apple's iOS or Google's Android or jumping into the sea by dropping development of their own smartphone OS and going Android or even, ouch ... Windows Mobile 7?!

Long the industry leader, Nokia was caught flatfooted as Apple taught the world what a modern touch screen smartphone had to be. Nokia, RIM and others haven't had a chance to catch their breath as...

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Feb 09
Greg's bite: Tim Cook, Apple under the hood

By Greg Mills

As the tech world waits with baited breath for information on the iPad 2, the iPhone 5 and new MacBooks, much attention has been focused on Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook recently. Mr. Cook is famously filling in for Apple CEO Steve Jobs who is out of the office for health reasons. We wish good health and long life to Mr. Jobs. 

All eyes are on the Apple products that wow us with cool features and the sparkle of innovation.  If one looks closely at Apple's manufacturing operations as the engine of what will soon become the most valuable company in the world, the face of Tim Cook stares back at you.  

Mr. Cook has been the supply chain guy at divisions of IBM and Compaq before coming to Apple in 1998. Before Tim Cook, there was a lot of waste at Apple due to a sloppy supply chain where excess parts were wasted and late product releases hampered maximum growth of the company.

When you consider that the parts for an...

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Feb 09
So when will we see Sandy Bridge Macs?

I was expecting to see Macs packing Sandy Bridge processors pretty soon, but that timetable is almost certainly pushed back slightly due to Intel's problems with the Sandy Bridge chip.

To be more specific, I was expecting a Sandy Bridge refresh of the MacBook Pro line in late February/early March and an update of the iMac line in late March/early April. Now it seems those launches will be delayed at least a couple of weeks. Assuming of course, I'm right in guessing Apple's timetable.

Of course, Apple hasn't announced any Sandy Bridge-based systems, but they're certainly coming. The MacBook lineup consists of aging (by computer standards) Core 2 Duo processors (MacBook, MacBook Air, and 13-inch MacBook Pro) and previous-generation Core i5 and i7 processors (15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros). The iMac uses last-generation Core i3 and Core i5 chips.

According to "CNET" (http://macte.ch/ZAzAY), Intel...

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Feb 08
Greg's bite: Zoom, PlayBook killer features

By Greg Mills

According to several articles I have read, the Zoom slate computer Motorola is launching has yet another serious problem I missed for yesterday's article. For what ever reason, Motorola didn't make a Wi-Fi only version of Zoom.  

What makes the situation even more of a problem for them is that you have to pay for 3G to get the WiFi to work. I thought someone had some wires crossed, but this appears to be true. Sell Motorola stock, as it is going to take a beating.

Motorola thinks it can sell a less capable device for more than Apple? Get real. Apple products are the gold standard that consumers compare "Johnny come lately" products to. Even worse for Motorola and RIM, the iPad 2 is just around the corner and suddenly Zoom will disappear from the press as iPad stories dominate.

Not to be left out, RIM also built in a killer feature. I don't mean a killer sales feature, I mean a product killer...

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Feb 08
Apple wins patents for Ping, more

Apple has been granted patents for its "Ping" service and more by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 7886072 involves network-assisted remote media listening. In other words, Ping. Introduced with iTunes 10, Ping is a music-oriented social network for following your favorite artists and friends to discover what music they’re talking about, listening to and downloading.

iTunes Ping lets you post your thoughts and opinions, your favorite albums and songs, the music you’ve downloaded from iTunes, plus view concert listings and tell your friends which concerts you plan to attend. Per the patent, improved approaches for media listening amongst different users are disclosed.

For example, methods, systems or computer program code can enable users to have a remote listening experience in real time. Advantageously, a remote user at a remote client device can in effect listen to a particular digital media asset that is being played at a local client device...

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