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Aug 08
US consumers want more Wi-Fi services from mobile...

Seventy four percent of smartphone users in the United States are interested in a mobile operator-provided service that uses Wi-Fi to provide lower cost calls, according to a recent MarketTools Zoomerang survey of 420 smartphone owners. The survey, commissioned by Kineto Wireless, also showed 72% of smartphone users are interested in an application that uses Wi-Fi to improve cellular coverage.

Additional highlights from the online survey conducted May 2011 include:

Forty-four percent of iPhone owners would “definitely” be interested in an application that could be used to boost mobile coverage; and 47% would “definitely” be interested in a Wi-Fi service offering discounted calling.

Thirty percent have smartphones with a Google Android operating system (OS); 26% use iOS; and 22% use a RIM OS.

Nearly nine out of 10 (89%) of respondents have smartphones with Wi-Fi.

Seventy-seven percent have Wi-Fi at home; 54% have it at their place of work.

... | Read more »
Aug 06
Greg's Bite: Microsoft Mobile 7 fades

Posted by Greg Mills

Microsoft slept at the switch for so long, when they finally got into the smartphone operating system business many anayists speculated it was just too late. That may well be true, despite Microsoft throwing money hand over fist at the development of Windows Mobile 7. Things have not gone well lately for Windows 7.

Desperation and plenty of money flowing from the Windows PC operating system has resulted in very questionable decisions by Microsoft management. One of the most interesting was the deal Microsoft made with Nokia. Instead of selling rights to Mobile 7 to a desperate handset company, that had just given up on their own mobile OS, Ballmer, sensing blood in the water, gave Nokia 1 Billion dollars US to bribe them to not go with Android. Android would have made more sense, but heck, 1 Billion dollars cash and the promise of further development of the Microsoft Mobile OS was an offer Nokia couldn't resist.

That...

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Aug 05
Is a 'premium' iPad 2 coming? I doubt it

Apple has begun production on an incremental upgrade for the iPad 2, presenting the possibility of the first instance of mainstream and high-end iPad models, according to Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar. Maybe, but I'm dubious.

A "professional" iPad would have incremental improvements and possibly appeal to segments such as publishing, Kumar says in a note to clients -- as reported by "CNET News" (http://macte.ch/53YCJ).

"Apple is ... expected to roll out a premium version of iPad 2--a higher resolution screen, front/rear- facing HD cameras -- in the current quarter," he says. Because Apple won't "sunset" the current iPad 2, it will be a model that "probably appeals to the publishing vertical and some other select segments," Kumar adds.

I don't see this happening. Apple isn't going to confuse the market with a pro iPad in addition to the iPad 2. If a new iPad is introduced this year, it...

| Read more »
Aug 04
Apple eyeing ways to improve air flow in upcoming Macs

A new Apple patent (number 20110189004) shows that the company is working on ways to improve air flow in upcoming Macs.

The patent involves a fan inlet and method. method and apparatus to improve air flow in an air circulating fan assembly by forming an inlet opening in a fan assembly is disclosed. A static air pressure profile is calculated along a top portion of the fan assembly configured to operate in an enclosure.

The shape of a section of the inlet opening in the top portion of the fan assembly is changed based on a pressure contour of the calculated static air pressure profile. The method is repeated iteratively one or more times using an inlet opening changed by a previously calculated static air pressure profile when calculating a subsequent static air pressure profile.

The inlet opening is positioned in the top surface of the fan assembly so that the centroid of the inlet opening is laterally offset with respect to the rotational axis of an impeller...

| Read more »
Aug 04
Apple working on inductive charging system for...

Apple is investigating ways to create an inductive charging system for devices such as the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, per a patent (number 20110188677) for "using an audio cable as an inductive charging coil" at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

According to Apple, the disclosed embodiments relate to a technique for inductively charging an electronic device. This technique involves winding an audio cable for the electronic device around a charging mechanism multiple times so that one or more conductors in the audio cable form an inductive receiving coil.

Next, a magnetic field is created through the charging mechanism to induce a current in the inductive receiving coil. Finally, the induced current in the inductive receiving coil is used to charge a rechargeable battery for the electronic device. The inventors are Fletcher R. Rothkopf, Anna-katrina Shedletsky, and Stephen Brian Lynch.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Rechargeable...

| Read more »
Aug 04
Tablets will overtake consumer computers, but so what?

Tablet sales will overtake consumer desktop and notebook computer sales, according to Dr. Joseph Reger, Fujitsu's chief technology officer. He may be right, but I think that, in the long run, it's no big deal. At least for Apple.

According to "The Register" (http://macte.ch/zXRLI), Reger thinks tablet sales are going to cannibalize consumer desktop and notebook sales, because consumers want to consume content more than they want to create it with a keyboard and mouse. Reger cites the success of iPad as evidence of this. He's convinced that the "disadvantages" of the computer will help ensure that tablet devices sales will overtake consumer computer sales in 2016 or so, notes "The Register."

He's probably right, but those of us interested in content creation will still need a computer. The tablet is good at many things, but it can't handle all the chores a desktop can.

Besides, the iPad looks to...

| Read more »
Aug 03
Greg's Bite: Explorer IQs story was bogus?

By Greg Mills

I was amused by a recent story that was picked up by major news sources as proven fact: that Microsoft Internet Explorer users were less intelligent than those who use other browsers. =CNN, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, Forbes and other major news outlets were also taken in by the hoax. Shades of April Fools' Day! It all seemed so logical and smacked of serious research. That most people bought the premise is quite telling. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14386833.)

People who tend to use software with a generally bad reputation, with constant malware attacks specifically targeting it, are as smart as people who use a browser that almost never has such problems? Who is spoofing whom? While the story seems to have been an elaborate hoax, intelligence is measured in a lot of different ways. Self-flagellation has...

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Aug 03
iTunes overhaul? It's about time

Rumor has it that iTunes will soon be overhauled, possibly resulting in full integration with the company’s upcoming cloud-based storage service, iCloud, reports "Digital Trends" (http://macte.ch/FoqI9). If an overhaul is planned, it's about time.

According to a post on iDownloadBlog, iTunes “will be revamped from the ground up,” resulting in a slicker and cleaner interface compared to previous versions. “The basic layout of the iTunes UI hasn’t changed since the first version,” the post says. “This new update will have a completely different UI and better iCloud integration. So we’re not looking at a simple lick of paint here; more of a total rebuild."

iTunes needs a major overhaul or else a new name. In fact, it should be broken up into several different apps as has happened on iOS devices.

When iTunes was launched in 1999, it was a simple music player with the ability to do MP3 conversions....

| Read more »
Aug 02
A note about Lion and multiple Cinema Display...

"MacNews/MacTech" reader John Kitchen recently alerted me to a, er, situation, for lack of a better work, involving OS X 7 and Cinema Displays.

With the new 27-inch iMac, some pros and power users may wish to connect two 27-inch Thunderbolt Cinema Displays for a massive amount of screen real estate. This set-up works as expected in Snow Leopard, but Lion is a different story.

"Take the case of the Aperture (just as one example) user who likes to see his/her work in full screen detail on the center screen, while having access to, say, Mail, Safari, the Aperture User Manual and the APTS training for Aperture certification on the other screens," John says. "Makes sense, right? While this works just fine with Snow Leopard, under Lion, the second and third screen contents is overlayed with an impenetrable grey linen pattern, which reduces those displays to being very expensive fake linen.  There is no way to simultaneously view all three screens with any screen in full...

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Aug 02
Apple patents involve product design, iMovie, motion,...

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

Patent 7,992,097 is for select drag and drop operations on video thumbnails across clip boundaries and involves iMovie. A computer-implemented method includes displaying, within a user interface in a digital media system, a media pane, and a project pane, displaying, within the media pane, a thumbnail group representing a media item, the thumbnail group comprising one or more thumbnails, enabling a user to select, from the thumbnail group, a segment of the media item, and enabling a user to transfer the selected segment to the project pane. Randy Ubillos is the inventor.

Patent 7,990,398 is for matching movement behavior in motion graphics and involves Apple's Motion software. Computer-implemented methods and media bearing instructions for matching movements of objects are described. In one example, the method can include...

| Read more »
Aug 01
Greg's Bite:Robots, Browsers and Demand for Apple...

Posted by Greg Mills

Robots to replace Chinese workers?
The assembly line in China got a rude wake-up call from Foxconn's founder recently. Terry Gou has announced that he intends to replace up to 1 Million hard working assembly line workers with robots, within three years. The economics of robots can be pretty compelling. The cost, maintenance and installation of robotic assembly line automation can be very competitive with human workers. See: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-07/30/c_131018764.htm

However, given the wages of Foxconn workers in China running at about US $175 a month, one has to ask why doesn't Apple gear up with a hoard of robots and move assembly back to the Untied States? If the economics of automating makes sense for Foxconn in China, why not...

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Aug 01
The Northern Spy: Lions, finances and a tech rant

By Rick Sutcliff

The Lion no longer sleeps tonight but has been released. This update will perhaps go a little more slowly than some, because of the large number of applications out there that require Rosetta to run under OS X -- an option no longer available under Lion.

The Spy himself has some such, and they have conveniences and/or functionality that has not yet been provided in newer applications. Besides, he has other fish to fry. How times have changed since he was a beta-testing, high risk adopter. The latest cat is not a high priority for him. Indeed, he has more interest in keeping his iPod Touch up to date with the latest and greatest, and has become far more conservative with his main work platform, where he needs rock solid stability with a suite of applications that do the job, and never fail.

Meanwhile, back at the financial statement,Apple recently released yet another quarterly result that blew...

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Aug 01
Location analytics market to reach $9 billion in 2016

As a result of the recent “locationgate” controversy (centering on Apple’s and others’ logging of the location of mobile devices as they are used by consumers) the location-based services (LBS) and advertising (LBA) markets have come under intense scrutiny, with privacy legislation a major focus.

However, ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) believes that this temporary debate won't prevent the future success of location-based services, marketing and advertising, all of which will be based on location analytics -- the aggregation and analysis of location information to identify trends that will enable new services and more effective advertising.”

The firm forecasts size of the location analytics market to reach US$9 billion in 2016. At the moment, the initial LBA trials are largely focused on geofencing, with impressive results. However, the real power of LBA will come through social,...

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Jul 29
Greg's Bite: Apple vs HTC, S3 Patents invalid!

Posted By Greg Mills

Recently it came out that HTC won one in the legal mega-spat with Apple. HTC had just paid $300,000,000 to S3 for five patents, two of which, had been just found to be infringed by Apple in a separate infringement complaint by the US International Trade Commission. Eager to have something to hold over Apple, HTC bought the patents, apparently not knowing they had just been found to be invalid by the US Patent Office in a re-examination of the patents.

See: http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/s3_patents_apple_violates_rules_u... While this article mixes legal terms incorrectly, the basic information is sound. The correct term for issued patents that are later found to be "invalid" is not that they are "unpatentable". The term "...

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Jul 29
Macs with double-high resolution displays may be...

OS X Lion incorporates support for displays packing four times as many pixels as they do today. So perhaps we'll see Macs with their own version of the Retina Display soon.

Currently the "HiDPI" mode remains inaccessible unless you've downloaded Apple's Xcode software development tool. It contains a graphics test application called Quartz Debug and it enables HiDPI modes -- which allow developers to supply 2x-enlarged images to support double-high resolution displays -- in Lion's Displays control panel.

Lion features icons in sizes up to 1024×1024, and a desktop background at a resolution of 3200×3200. Like the iPhone 4′s Retina Display, HiDPi modes mean that user interface elements will remain the same size, but everything will be twice the resolution and twice as detailed.

Imagine a 27-inch iMac (my model of choice) with 3840 x 2160 resolution. The current high-end model has "only" 2560 x 1440 resolution. Such a display requires quite a bit of processing...

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Jul 28
Patents show Apple has 3D on its mind

Two new Apple patents (number 20110175902 and 20110182520) show that 3D is on Apple's collective mind. The former is for a multilayer display device.

Said includes a first layer operable to display a first display signal comprising a first group of data, a second layer positioned in front of the first layer and operable to display a second display signal comprising a second group of data, and a first graphics processing unit connected to the first layer. The first graphics processing unit may be configured to transmit the first display signal to the first layer.

The multilayer display system further includes a second graphics processing unit connected to the second layer. The second graphics processing unit may be configured to transmit the second display signal to the second layer. Peter H. Mahowald is the inventor.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Many electronic components, devices and/or systems utilize two-dimensional display...

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Jul 28
Future Apple portables may have jelly rolls --...

A new Apple patent (number 20110123844) shows that Apple is eyeing ways to improve battery life in its laptops and iOS devices via a battery with multiple "jelly rolls" enclosed in a single pouch.

Disclosed embodiments in the patent -- entitled "pressure-relief mechanism to improve safety in lithium-polymer battery cells" -- relate to a battery cell which includes a weakness for relieving pressure. This battery cell includes a jelly roll comprising layers which are wound together, including a cathode with an active coating, a separator and an anode with an active coating. The jelly roll also includes a first conductive tab coupled to the cathode and a second conductive tab coupled to the anode. The jelly roll is enclosed in a flexible pouch, wherein the first and second conductive tabs extend through seals in the pouch to provide terminals for the battery cell.

This pouch includes a weakness which yields when internal pressure in the pouch exceeds a threshold to...

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Jul 28
Apple, the auto industry needs your help

Perhaps Apple should approach car companies with a new division to create passenger environments. 

In an online journal (http://macte.ch/iFsXv), Alan Cooper, founder of the Cooper interactive design consultancy, says the Ford Motor Company has "just convincingly demonstrated that being an excellent industrial manufacturer doesn’t automatically mean that you are an excellent maker of digital technology."

Despite Ford’s improvements in manufacturing quality, their overall ratings fell drastically this year due solely to the poor software interaction on their dashboards, he says. What's more, a recent article (http://macte.ch/7mRSD) in the "New York Times" discusses Ford’s plummeting fall in user rankings this year, focusing the blame on their new touch screen interface.

"Primarily, the steep decline was attributed to consumer...

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Jul 28
Apple patents involve cable structures, headphones

Several Apple patents involving cable structures and headphones have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patents number 20110180302 and 201108303 are for compression molded cable structures and methods for making them. Per the patents, wired headsets are commonly used with many portable electronic devices such as portable music players and mobile phones. Headsets can include non-cable components such as a jack, headphones, and/or a microphone and one or more cables that interconnect the non-cable components. The cables can be manufactured using different approaches. The inventors are Jonathan Aase, Paul Choinirere and Greg Dunham.

Patents number 20110180962 and 2011082459 involve molded splitter structures and systems and methods for making the same. Per the patent, wired headsets are commonly used with many portable electronic devices such as portable music players and mobile phones. Headsets can include non-cable components such as a...

| Read more »
Jul 27
Greg's Bite: high tech patent suits

By Greg Mills

The tech news has had a lot of stories regarding patent enforcement suits lately. Apple is plaintiff in a number of suits against almost every other electronic device company out there. The smartphone war is being fought in both the market place and in the court room.

You have certainly noticed the notation something like US 7,554,332 or Patent Pending on many of the products you buy. Those numbers are US patent serial numbers as some aspect or design element of the product has been found by the US Patent Office to be not obvious and both novel and useful. US Patents have evolved over the years, but, actually, the right to patent novel inventions is specifically provided for in the US Constitution.

The US government has the sole authority to issue US patents. The US Patent office wades through hundreds of thousands of patent applications each year. A lot of patent applications are denied, and a patent is never issued for the...

| Read more »
Jul 27
The value of 'freemium' games -- and the...

Digital distribution of games is disrupting the retail portable game category.  At the heart of this disruption is the proliferation of iOS and Android devices, which is doubling as a powerful portable gaming platform and challenging Nintendo DS and Sony PSP for gamer mindshare, according to the folks at Flurry (http://www.flurry.com), a mobile application analytics and recommendation-engine company.

Now if only my dream of having the ability to "upsize" iOS games for the Mac would come true.

In previous reports (2008 - 2009, 2009 - 2010), Flurry measured that iOS’s and Android’s revenue share of the U.S. portable game software category exploded to 34% in 2010 from just 1% in 2008. Over this same time period, the company calculated that Nintendo’s U.S. portable game revenue share contracted to 57% from 75%. 

All the while, Nintendo chief executive, Satoru Iwata, has remained outspoken, calling...

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Jul 26
Mac will top 12% US market share within a year

The Mac's share of the U.S. personal computer market rose to nearly 11% during the second quarter of 2011, with Apple representing the only major computer manufacturer to report double-digit growth in a market that contracted by more than 4%. My prediction: by this time next year Apple will have 12-14% of the personal computer market in the US and will be in the top five global manufacturers.

The IDC research group says that Apple shipped 1.917 million Macs in the US during the three-month period that ended in June. That's a 14.7% increase over the year-ago quarter. That made Apple the number three computer vendor with a 10.7% market share. That's up from 9% during the year-ago quarter.

Rival research firm Gartner also gave the Mac 10.7% of the US computer market, but said Apple shipped 1.814 million systems stateside. Per Gartner, that represents 8.5% growth compared to its 1.671 million actual shipments during the year-ago quarter.

Neither research group...

| Read more »
Jul 26
Apple granted patent for H.264/AVC coder

Apple has been granted a patent (number 7,986,731) by the US Patent & Trademark Office for an H.264/AVC coder incorporating rate and quality controller.

A rate control system is disclosed for video coding applications. The rate controller assigns a quantization parameter for video data in a picture in response to complexity indicators indicative of spatial complexity, motion complexity and/or bits per pel of the picture.

A virtual buffer based quantizer parameter is proposed based on a virtual buffer fullness analysis and a target rate estimate, which is derived from the complexity indicators. A second quantizer parameter is proposed from a linear regression analysis of quantizer parameters used to code previously coded pictures of similar type (e.g., I pictures, P pictures or B pictures).

A coding policy decision unit defines a final quantizer parameter from a comparison of the two proposed quantizer parameters. The inventors are Barin Haskell, Adriana...

| Read more »
Jul 25
Two Features Lion Didn't Deliver, yet?

Posted by Greg Mills

Lion delivered a lot of new features. However, some rumors and wish list items didn't get fulfilled upon Mac OS X 7 reaching Gold Master status. One of the most likely rumors that didn't pan out is a system wide "speech to text" feature. The text to speech feature has been around since before Apple even went to the Mac OS X from the older Apple Systems.

Speech to text is a lot harder to implement with the quality Apple demands before an app is launched. While there is a chance the Nuance / Apple connection will result in an Apple app sold for an additional price, recent leaks of iOS 5 developer releases indicate that feature might be an iPhone / iPad trick. I have an iPhone Nuance app that was free, but only works with short clips. It does work pretty well.

Having the feature on your Mac could be very powerful and useful. Imagine dropping an MP3 file onto a speech to text icon and having your computer spit out a...

| Read more »
Jul 25
Apple's smartphone opportunities seem boundless

Good news for Apple: cellular handset shipments grew 12% in 2010 to 1.5-billion units, according to Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com). That's in comparison with 2009's negative 1.3% growth.

The research group predicts a strong, but more traditional growth in 2011 of 4.3%, but smartphones will continue to do better, growing 15.4% to the 318 million level this year. Though Samsung and Apple are growing faster, Nokia continues to be the leading handset vendor.

However, Nokia's average handset selling price is among the lowest because of their huge share of the low-end markets in China, India and Africa. Nokia still reigns as the largest vendor of smartphones, but smartphone vendor Apple is catching up.

The cellphone continues to be the physical and market magnet that is pulling in the functionality of digital cameras, PDAs, MP3 players, GPS navigators...

| Read more »
 
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