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Oct 28

Greg's bite: a look at Apple's plans

By Greg Mills

Let's look into a crystal ball today and imagine Apple product areas that might be hot in the next few years. We know that cool electronic things find first a needful niche to fill -- a niche that that may or may not be realized by the general public.  


But when Steve Jobs goes on stage and launches it there is a collective gasp as the crowd "gets it," and the undiscovered itch then has to be scratched. People suddenly want the new Apple Chrome Reverse Dismophlange Phlange and Steve sells them like hotcakes. Apple ramps up production and the coffers at the bank swell by a few more billion. The Mac OS is tweaked to operate the new device and everything Apple sells briskly.

As an inventor, I know that there are three general types of people in the world. There are those with the ability to see the need and imagine a novel solution, there are those who can't see the novel solution, but understand it when they see it, and then there...

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Oct 27
Apple and the top 10 'Strategic Technologies...

The Gartner research group recently highlighted the top 10 technologies and trends that will be strategic for most organizations in 2011. Most of them affect Apple, mostly in a positive way. The top 10 technologies are:

° Cloud computing.Though I still don't think most folks want all their valuable data and files (including music, photos and videos) in "the cloud," Gartner thinks the next three years will see the delivery of a range of cloud service approaches that fall between the two extremes of open public to closed private. Vendors will offer packaged private cloud implementations that deliver the vendor's public cloud service technologies (software and/or hardware) and methodologies (i.e., best practices to build and run the service) in a form that can be implemented inside the consumer's enterprise.

Many will also offer management services to remotely manage the cloud service implementation. Gartner expects large enterprises to have a dynamic...

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Oct 27
Greg's bite: Apple's acquisition speculation

By Greg Mills

The press is full of speculation as to what Apple might be into regarding the acquisitions department. Not many companies have over 50 billion dollars sitting around. While the income from the savings amounts to a lot even at a fairly low interest rate, Apple might make more in a sound investment in the form of buying the right companies.  

Sony stock bumped up on the rumor that Apple might buy them. With a market cap of about 35 billion dollars Apple could acquire them but the big question is why? I speculated Sony might be a good buy for Apple three years ago in an article published by MacDailyNews.com.  Here is the link to that article.  http://www.macdailynews.com/index.php/weblog/comments/15331/opinion/  .

The reasons it might make sense then still make sense today. Sony is now worth about twice what it was during the market crash of a couple of years ago, but the company is still depressed considering its history and...

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Oct 26
Apple patent is for simplifying pairing of wireless...

Apple wants to make it easier to pair wireless accessories with host devices, per a patent (number 7,813,715) that has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The invention relates to wireless devices and, more particularly, to pairing wireless devices for authorized data exchange.

Techniques that facilitate pairing of wireless accessory devices with wireless host devices are disclosed. Advantageously, the improved techniques permit pairing of wireless devices without requiring user entry of pin codes. In one embodiment, a wireless accessory device, such as a headset or earphone, can be paired with a wireless host device, such as a mobile phone or media player. The inventors are Chris McKillop and Chris Wiebe.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "The invention pertains to improved techniques that facilitate pairing of wireless accessory devices with wireless host devices. Advantageously, the improved techniques permit pairing of wireless devices...

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Oct 26
Apple eyeing ways to rank relevance of information...

An Apple patent (number 7,823,214) for a system for ranking the relevance of information objects accessed by computer users has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It's directed to information access in multiuser computer systems, and more particularly to a system for ranking the relevance of information that is accessed via a computer.

Information presented to a user via an information access system is ranked according to a prediction of the likely degree of relevance to the user's interests. A profile of interests is stored for each user having access to the system. Items of information to be presented to a user are ranked according to their likely degree of relevance to that user and displayed in order of ranking. The prediction of relevance is carried out by combining data pertaining to the content of each item of information with other data regarding correlations of interests between users.

A value indicative of the content of a document can be...

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Oct 26
Apple patents involve video encoders, data storage,...

Three Apple patents involving video encoders, data storage systems and electronic devices have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 7,822,118 is for a method and apparatus for control of rate-distortion tradeoff by mode selection in video encoders. The system of the present invention first selects a distortion value D near a desired distortion value. Next, the system determines a quantizer value Q using the selected distortion value D. The system then calculates a Lagrange multiplier lambda using the quantizer value Q. Using the selected Lagrange multiplier lambda and quantizer value Q, the system begins encoding pixelblocks. If the system detects a potential buffer overflow, then the system will increase the Lagrange multiplier lambda. If the Lagrange multiplier lambda exceeds a maximum lambda threshold then the system will increase the quantizer value Q. If the system detects a potential buffer...

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Oct 26
Mac OS X + iOS = Apple OS

Currently, there's Mac OS X for, well, Macs, as well as its "little brother," iOS, for Apple's mobile devices. However, Mac OS X Lion, which will prowl next summer, will introduce iOS features into Mac OS X proper. That's a trend that I'm sure will continue.

In fact, I think it won't be long before there's no Mac OS X or iOS as separate entities. There will simply be one operating system known as Apple OS. The features of the two now-separate, but kin, operating systems will merge into one, scalable system.

Writing for "InfoWorld" (http://www.infoworld.com/d/mobilize/say-good-bye-the-mac-os-hello-mios-4...), Galen Gruman predicts a merged Mac OS and iOS that "will be able to scale across Mac Pro workstations, MacBook laptops, iMac and Mac Mini desktops, iPads, and iPhones --...

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Oct 25
Greg's bite: Android app developer blues

By Greg Mills

The well oiled machine that is the Apple iTunes/App store is a far cry from the Android apps stores. While there are stories in the press about various app developers beginning to write apps for the Google smart phones, there are also just as many stories about developer's serious problems dealing with that loosely controlled  "go to market" system.  

Google engineer Andy Rubin was quoted as saying the Android platform is "still seeing the 1.0 version of the ecosystem." The race to quantity has resulted in a quality program for Android Apps. The percentage of apps that crash all the time are much higher that what we see in the iOS platform. Looser controls mean less quality for the end user.

While developers moan and groan about Apple's stringent and less-than-transparent review process and express great anger at their control over both content and the working of the apps, Apple developers who do things right get paid. Some of...

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Oct 25
3D TV likely to succeed -- but it will take time

It's too early to tell how much 3D TVs will take off -- though it looks as if they're shaping up to be a success over the long haul. And that means we'll eventually see 3D supported on computer displays. But that's likely to be a while.

While 3DTV has been the topic of much industry excitement and hockey stick adoption forecasts, recent research conducted by Strategy Analytics (http://www.strategyanalytics.com) suggests that it will remain very much an event-driven technology, attractive to a select group of consumers.

The survey, which polled 4,800 residents in the US, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, measured consumer interest in, understanding of, and willingness to pay for 3DTV services. Despite the fact that those who have seen cinematic 3D are largely impressed with its quality -- 69% overall say they were “somewhat” or “very” impressed -- translating those...

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Oct 22
Greg's bite: where Apple leads, PCs follow

By Greg Mills

When Apple obsoletes technology a groan generally goes up from both people used to the status quo and hardware companies that are directly affected. Remember the demise of floppy drives and the near death of FireWire? Such a groan went up when Apple recently launched the new MacBook Air laptops that, like iPad, iPods and the Apple TV uses flash memory instead of a hard drive.  

While the cost for storage using flash memory is higher per gig of memory, there are distinct advantages to going with solid state memory instead of a mechanical rotating disk that is prone to crash. In time, all hard drives will fail. A hard bump at just the wrong time can sometimes destroy a hard drive and leave the user with a sudden data loss. Sometimes a strange noise will give a warning, but the sudden hard drive crash without a warning is common.

I am lucky, so far, and have never had a hard drive go bad, but there are a lot of folks that have had a...

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Oct 22
Why no backlit keyboard on the new MacBook Airs?

Maybe it was to preserve battery life, but there's no backlit keyboard on the new MacBook Airs. I think that's a mistake on Apple's part.

I've always found the backlit keyboard one of the most useful feature on the Apple laptops I've purchased. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so. You can check out a thread on the Apple Forums about the lack of a backlit keyboard: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2620491&tstart=0 .

If you want to let Apple know that the new MacBook Air needs a backlit keyboard, you can fill out a form at http://www.apple.com/feedback/macbookair.html on this and other comments on the MacBook Air.

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Oct 21
Is Apple getting into the cloud-based radio business?

Could cloud-based radio be part of iTunes' future? Three patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office indicate that Apple has at least considered it. Or at least you can expect radio implemented in more versions of the iPod than the nano.

Patent number 20100269145 involves accessing radio content from a non-radio source. Systems and methods are provided for accessing broadcast media items and segments from non-broadcast sources. In response to detecting that a user has not finished listening to a broadcast segment (e.g., a radio segment), an electronic device can automatically identify and access an alternate, non-broadcast source for the same broadcast segment (e.g., a corresponding podcast episode).

Using the electronic device, a user can play back the segment from the non-broadcast source, starting playback at the last position of the broadcast segment when the user stopped listening to the broadcast. In some embodiments, the electronic device...

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Oct 21
Apple patent emphasis is on solid-state memory

Could future Apple TVs have DVD functions? A new Apple patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office hints that this could be the case, noting that "this technology could be aimed at a digital video recorder." At the very least the patent shows that the long term future for all of Apple's devices involves solid-state memory.

Patent number 20100268866 is for systems and methods for operating a disk drive. System and methods for storing data to a storage device are provided. In embodiments, the storage device may include a disk drive with a solid-state memory for storing certain frequently updated information. In some embodiments, the solid-state memory may be used to store journaling information. The inventor is Thomas R. Colligan.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Hard disk drives continue to be one of the most widely used electronic storage mediums. Typically, a hard drive stores electronic data by storing a series of magnetic polarity...

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Oct 21
Apple patent is for improved tethering system

Apple apparently plans on improving tethering in upcoming iOS devices -- and perhaps Macs, based on a new patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Tethering is using a cell phone as a modem for your laptop or other device.

Creating a connection either with cables or wirelessly "tethers" your cell phone to your other mobile device. This can usually be done through Bluetooth wireless technology or cables (such as USB), allowing the device without built-in access to connect to the Internet, using the other device as a modem.

Patent number 20100267368 -- with Cahya Masputra as the inventor -- is for a handheld device capable or providing data tethering services while maintaining a suite of handheld service functions. An improved tethering system is described in which a handheld device can be used by a user to reach the same network that the handheld device also provides access to for a tethering machine.

Specifically, a handheld device provides a tethering...

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Oct 21
Greg's bite: what wasn't announced yesterday...

By Greg Mills

The combination of the recent conference call regarding the financial quarter and the "Back to the Mac" event on Thursday leaves a number of unsettled issues. I still insist a Hobby App for iOS must be on the way, and I was disappointed iWeb 4 wasn't part of iLife.  

Notice the price dropped to US$49 for iLife due to the lack of an updated iDVD and updated iWeb. They included the old version of both programs on the iLife disk but you have to look deep in the information to find that information. While I use iPhoto, I will wait to buy iLife for a while. It is possible the Hobby App iOS creator program will come out with the next iWork release. I doubt the $49 price point will hold for full releases of future iWork and iLife.

The other thing on my mind is the giant bank balance at Apple. Over $50,000,000 in the bank is unusual even for the second biggest company in the world. CEO Steve Jobs mentioned they might be buying a strategic...

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Oct 21
It's back to the Mac indeed ...

Mac users were surely comforted by yesterday's "Back to the Mac" event in which a new Mac OS X (Lion), a new iLife, a new MacBook Air and lots of professed love for our favorite computing platform was served up.

One of the most interesting factoids unveiled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook was that the Mac segment of Apple were a standalone company -- which they said Apple had no intention of doing -- would be number 110 on the Fortune 500 list. And the Mac accounts for a third of Apple's revenue.

"The Mac is a $22 billion business for us and we continue to heavily invest in it," Cook said.

So for those who have said Apple's future was in iOS devices, think again. Some other interesting tidbits from yesterday's special event.

° Don't hold your breath for a touchscreen Mac. Apple will be bringing more touch gestures to its computer line, but they'll be implemented by the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad as touch commands on a...

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Oct 20
So what will happen at today's 'Back to the...

Today Apple will host the much anticipated “Back to the Mac” media event, in which Jobs & Company will tell us what’s new for the Mac will preview the next version of Mac OS X. Let's look at the speculation and see what's likely.

We'll definitely get some info on the next version of Mac OS X and, based on the logo on the invitation to the event, it will be dubbed Mac OS X 10.7 ("Lion"). Although some folks are skeptical, I think we'll see the beginning of a merge of Mac OS X and the iOS that will bring touch commands to future Macs.


Now I don't think Apple will make touch the main way for us to interact with Macs. But it will be an option along with keyboards, mice and trackpads. I also think Lion will sport an iOS emulator environment that lets Mac users run iOS apps. I also suspect we'll see AirPlay implementation and ways of integrating the Mac OS file system into mobile devices. But don't hold your breath; Lion isn't likely to prowl until summer or fall of...

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Oct 19
Apple wins patents for MacBook Air, iChat, more

Apple has won two design patents (D625,716 and D625,717) by the US Patent & Trademark Office for the MacBook Air. The inventors are Bartley Andre, Bartley Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Steve Jobs, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Douglas Satzger, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer

Apple was also granted a patent design (number D625,733) for its iPhone compass icon, invented by Fredy Anzures. Other patents won by Apple are as follows.

Patent number 7,817,180 involves iChat as it involves video procesing in a multi-participant video conference. Some embodiments provide an architecture for establishing multi-participant video conferences. This architecture has a central distributor that receives video images from two or more participants. From the received images, the central distributor generates composite images that the central distributor transmits...

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Oct 19
My Apple financial predictions -- so how'd I do?

Apple announced its latest financial results today. The Sellers Research Firm (that's me) made its forecasts and didn't do too badly. Let's have a look.

I predicted sales of 4.02 million Macs. Apple sold 3.89 million (the most ever).

I forecast sales of 9.76 million iPods. Apple sold 9.05.

I predicted sales of 12.37 million iPhones. Apple sold 14.1 million (the most ever).

I forecast sales of 6.1 million iPads. Apple sold 4.19 million.


I forecast earnings per share of US$4.75. Apple posted $4.64 per diluted share.

Things to note about the financial announcements. Apple, as usual, trounced Wall Street’s forecasts for its fourth-fiscal quarter. The company also followed its typical approach of issuing a highly conservative forecast for the December quarter. Apple shares were halted for after-hours trades on Monday after closing up 1% at $318 in the regular session; that was a new high.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Oct 19
Greg's bite: what's new pussycat? Mac OS X...

By Greg Mills

Dollars to donuts, the name for Mac OS 10.7 will be Lion.  The invitation to the October Apple product announcement clearly shows a lion peeking out of the Apple logo.  This follows with the big cat name protocol we have seen in the past.

Mac OS X 10.0, released in March 2001, was Cheetah. Mac OS X 10.1, released in September 2001, was Puma. Mac OS X 10.2, released in August 2002, was Jaguar. Mac OS X 10.3, released in October 2003, was Panther. Mac OS X 10.4, released in April 2005, was Tiger. Mac OS X 10.5, released in October 2007, was Leopard. And Mac OS X 10.6, released in August 2009, was Snow Leopard.

When Apple launches things they generally are actual products that are "available today at the Apple Store" or by such and such a date right around the corner. Occasionally, for good reasons that are compelling, Apple CEO Steve Jobs letd us know what is coming a bit further head of time.

The well known secrecy at Apple...

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Oct 18
Greg's Bite: iPad eats into the PC market

By Greg Mills

The PC world has strangely stopped worrying -- at least publicly -- so much about the iPad and the tablet market in general. At least for now.  

Frankly, the underlying problem for PC tablets is that in addition to being caught completely flatfooted in the smart phone software market, Microsoft has also hopelessly bungled the tablet revolution as well. It appears Microsoft is doomed to ride the PC into the ground while the smartphone and tablet markets take over the consumer computer market.

While the numbers won't come out until next week on the first quarter of Apple iPad sales, the biggest PC microprocessor suppliers Intel and ADM have more or less put tablet support on the back burner. While a number of major players are hoping to get into the tablet market right away, the lack of a viable off the shelf software operating system from Microsoft has left a major hole in tablet development.  

The companies who plan to...

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Oct 18
My predictions for today's Apple financial...

Apple will announce its latest financial results today. Here's what the Sellers Research Firm (that's me) is forecasting:

Sales of 4.02 million Macs.

Sales of 9.76 million iPods.

Sales of 12.37 million iPhones.

Sales of 6.1 million iPads.

Earnings per share of US$4.75.

We'll be covering the financial announcements. Join us to see how accurate I am.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Oct 15
I think the Verizon iPhone rumors are on target at...

The rumors are flying again that Verizon will start carrying the iPhone in 2011. My gut feeling tells me that those rumors are, at long last, right.

If this happens AT&T will lose its exclusive hold on the smartphone. Some industry researchers estimate that Verizon’s release of the iPhone would drive Apple’s U.S. sales higher by at least five million units in 2011.

The deal would also give Apple a stronger advantage in its battle with Research In Motion, whose BlackBerrys are currently promoted by Verzion Wireless. The availability of Apple’s iPhone through Verizon may drive down market share of Research In Motion, says Zachs Equity Research (http://at.zacks.com/?id=5514). The firm also thinks that the end of AT&T’s exclusive hold on the iPhone will provide Verizon a boost in its competition against other smartphones and drive Verizon's earnings in the near term.

-- Dennis...

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Oct 14
Another reason not to overlook the Mac's...

Mac unit sales, which stalled in the second quarter as customers waited for the new MacBooks that arrived in April and May, took off in the third quarter, coming in just shy of 3.5 million, reports "Fortune." Or, according to some industry watchers, that figure might even top four million (I think it will).

So while Apple's big love seems to be bestowed upon its iOS devices, the Mac is one of the main contributors to the company's bottom line. It's time Apple lavished some promotional love, ad money and innovation to its computer line. And perhaps with the "Back to the Mac" media event slated for Oct. 20, that's exactly what will happen.

Ten years ago, Apple could barely move 300,000 Macs a quarter. Now it's moving 3.5 to four million per quarter without breaking a sweat. Hopefully, in 2011 we'll see Jobs & Company release Macs with innovative new features -- and spend some money telling the world about them.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Oct 13
Apple patent involves stopping 'inappropriate...

The US Patent and Trademark Office has awarded Apple a patent (number 7814163) first filed in 2008 that prevents users from sending or receiving “inappropriate” text messages. The patent is for "text-based communication control for a personal communications device."

According to Apple, systems, devices, and methods are provided for enabling a user to control the content of text-based messages sent to or received from an administered device. In some embodiments, a message will be blocked (incoming or outgoing) if the message includes forbidden content. In other embodiments, the objectionable content is removed from the message prior to transmission or as part of the receiving process. The content of such a message is controlled by filtering the message based on defined criteria. The criteria may be defined according to a parental control application. These techniques also may be used, in accordance with instructional embodiments, to require the administered devices to include...

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