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May 27
Greg's Bite: there are calls for Ballmer's...

By Greg Mills

The poor performance of Microsoft in the last 10 years has fundamental issues that will hobble the company for years to come. A stock hedge company has issued a paper demanding Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's head on a pike.  

Since Mr. Ballmer took over from Bill Gates in 2000, Microsoft's market cap has been cut in half. Once the most valuable tech company in the world, Apple passed Microsoft last year.

Failure to innovate is deadly for high tech companies. Gates is famously quoted as saying, "Companies that fail to obsolete their own products are doomed to see the competition do it." Innovation at Microsoft has been fraught with more failures than successful products during Ballmer's term as CEO.  

Apple launched the iPhone, and Microsoft launched the Kin Phone. The iPhone has become the de-facto standard for smartphones that the competition strives to match, and consumers compare all competitive phones with. The Kin was...

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May 27
Apple eyeing sunlight/sunglasses friendly displays for...

A new Apple patent (number 20110124260) for a display that emits circularly-polarized light has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office and shows that Apple is working on improved LCD display for devices like the iPad and iPhone that are more sunlight and sunglasses friendly.

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. The layer receives the linearly-polarized light on one surface, converts the linearly-polarized light to circularly-polarized light, and then emits the circularly-polarized light from another surface.

By emitting circularly-polarized light, the display reduces the perceived distortion found at some angles when the display is viewed through a linearly-polarizing filter. The inventors are John Z. Zhon, Wei Chen, Cheng Chen, Victor H.E. Yin and Shawn R....

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May 27
Apple working on light-transmission display system

Apple is working on a invisible, light-transmissive display system per a new patent (number 20110122560) that's appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The results could be things like light-transmissive, reconfigurable keyboards.

Per the patent, substantially invisible, tapered, light-transmissive holes are penetrated in a light-transmissive pattern through at least a portion of the light resistant material using a laser beam having a focal width less than the smallest diameter of the tapered holes. The inventors are Bartley K. Andre, Daniel J. Coster, Richard P. Howarth, Daniele de Iuliis, Jonathan P. Ive, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Douglas B. Satzger, Calvin Q. Seid, Christopher J. Stringer, Eugene Antony Whang, Rico Zorkendorfer, David Morgenstern and Paul C.L. Chow.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The present invention relates generally to device display systems, and more particularly to invisible, light-...

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May 27
Apple patent involves safer batteries

An Apple patent (number 20110123844) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office showing that Apple wants to make the batteries that appear in its products safer. The patent is for a pressure-relief mechanism to improve safety in Lithium-Polymer battery cells.

The disclosed embodiments 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 create a hole which releases the...

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May 27
Apple patents range from video display to user input

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

Patent number 20110122954 involves decoding independent frames of a video display. A module may provide codec-independent services including determining frame display order, frame dependency sets, and queuing the dependency frames in advance so as to enable display of a video. The module enables a video to be played forwards or backwards at a variety of playback speeds from any position within the video. In one implementation, a device communicatively coupled to a plurality of decoders accesses a video that includes a plurality of frames. One or more of the frames are decodable by one or more of the communicatively coupled decoders. The device identifies a frame in the video that is to be displayed, and determines a plurality of dependency frames in the video upon which decoding of the frame to be displayed depends. The device provides an indication that one...

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May 26
No end in sight to Apple's retail success

Despite a tough economy and prices that some still perceive as too high (they're wrong; but that's another story), there seems to be no end in sight to Apple's retail success.

The company's brick-and-mortar retail stores are the world's fastest growing retail business, according to the National Retail Federation (http://macte.ch/Robvf), and their customers are among the most satisfied, according to a study by the Yankee Group (http://www.yankeegroup.com).

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Apple saw a compound annual growth rate of 40.9% in retail sales from 2004 to 2009. The 2009 figures (the latest compiled by the NRF) show that Apple's group revenue was almost US$37 million.

Meanwhile, the Yankee Group says that "Apple’s iconic retail business is already a story worthy of a Harvard Business School...

| Read more »
May 25
Framework--Browser Exploitation Kit: Macs need not...

There are increasing reports of Mac OS malware and viruses, though, so far, the deluge that some security experts have predicted hasn't arrive. In fact, there's a new report that reinforces the Mac's security.

According to "The Hacker News" (http://macte.ch/evzkV), "Russo" is the creator of the Impassioned Framework--Browser Exploitation Kit, a subscription-based software vulnerability exploit service. This toolkit is designed to be stitched into a website and probe visitor computers for security holes that can be used to surreptitiously install malicious software.

Security weaknesses in the file-sharing website thepiratebay.org have exposed the user names, e-mail and Internet addresses of more than four million Pirate Bay users using this kit. Though Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera have all been affected, the effects have only been seen on Windows systems. Mac OS X and Unix systems...

| Read more »
May 24
Could Apple be planning a dedicated video/still camera...

An Apple patent (number 7,949,250) for an electro-mechanical shutter control has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves the shutter in iOS devices and the iSight ("cellular phones and multi-function or smart phones"), but also hints at a "dedicated" video and still cameras.

The patent is for a method in a camera device having an image sensor and an electro-mechanical shutter mechanism. A constant drive current is applied to the shutter mechanism to close shutter at the end of a first exposure. Then, a decaying drive current is applied to the shutter mechanism during a readout interval for the first exposure. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. Other embodiments are also described and claimed. Richard Tsai is the inventor.

Here's Apple's summary of the invention: "As discussed above in the Background, in an effort to obtain lower power consumption, the drive current of a bipolar electro-mechanical shutter mechanism should be pulsed...

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May 24
Amazon.com selling more Kindle Books than print books

Amazon is now selling more Kindle books than print books. It's going to be interesting to see just how successful Apple's iBookStore will be.

Amazon began selling hardcover and paperback books in July 1995. Twelve years later -- in November 2007 -- the company rolled out the Kindle and began selling Kindle books. By July 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book sales, and six months later, Kindle books overtook paperback books to become the most popular format on Amazon.com. Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, Amazon.com customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books -- hardcover and paperback -- combined.

Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded. If included that would make the number even higher.

As of March, Apple had sold...

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May 24
Apple patents involves P-chassis, video conferencing,...

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

Patent number 7,948,576, won by Apple, is for a P-chassis arrangement for positioning a display stack. It relates to portable electronic devices and, more particularly, to a chassis which may be used to align a display stack with respect to a bezel.

Methods and apparatus for aligning a display stack with respect to a housing associated with a portable electronic device are disclosed. According to one aspect of the present invention, a chassis arrangement suitable for use in aligning a display stack with respect to a housing includes a first portion, a second portion, and a coupling arrangement.

The first portion is configured to engage the display stack, and the second portion is configured to enable the display stack to be manipulated when the display stack is engaged by the first portion. The coupling arrangement couples the first...

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May 23
Sometimes I don't want to be connected to the...

I love my iPad and iPhone, but not enough to take 'em to bed and wake up with them. But apparently some folks do.

The ability to stay constantly connected to the Internet is making consumers increasingly dependent on the cloud for their daily needs, Ericsson ConsumerLab (http://www.ericsson.com/thecompany/our-insights/consumerlab) research has found. And while the smartphone revolution may have started this trend, the research has shown it is app usage that is likely to make it continue. Apps are actually shaping the way people are using connected devices.

Behavior around apps is also creating a new set of expectations when it comes to connecting consumer electronic devices. Devices must be connected if they are to be useful. For example, 54% of US users of portable storage devices said that they wanted to be able to...

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May 20
Greg's Bite: Bug infestation

By Greg Mills

Some years ago there was a TV series featuring Tom Selleck as Magnum, a private investigator.  One of the ongoing themes was his "little voice." Call it hearing the still, small voice of God, conscience or an instinctive thought process.  

Sometimes lessons of life come to us this way. For me an epiphany of sorts came when I was mentally comparing a real life bug problem with those suffering non-Apple platforms. Malware is not the fault of the user. I regularly pillar Microsoft for all manner of bugs, viruses, trojans and blue screen of death crashes without any real sympathy for the millions of Windows users. Buggy software and insecure software cost the economy as much as the war on terror.  

The other day our 11-year-old daughter mentioned that she had trouble sleeping and was itchy. We figured it was just dry skin or whatever and dismissed it. That night as she went to bed, within minutes she was complaining again. My wife...

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May 20
The iPad will continue to evolve -- and impact other...

The iPad isn't going to replace tradition computers for the most part, but it will continue to evolve as the tablet market grows and influences the development of the personal computer.

The evolution of the tablet is due to the fact that consumers want something more portable than a laptop, more powerful than a netbook, and more comfortable than a smartphone. Last year the iPad set the benchmark for tablets on a global scale by selling more than 15 million units in a single year. This compelled pretty much every other major consumer electronic manufacturers to introduce competing products in the market, though, so far, none have been particularly successful.

Worldwide tablet market sales in 2010 was nearly US$9 billion, and it's anticipated that tablet unit sales will cross 100 million units by 2015, according to Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com). In 2010...

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May 19
Apple developing ways to make laptops run cooler

A new Apple patent (20110114295) involving heat removal in compact computing systems shows that the company is working ways to make MacBook Pros, MacBooks and MacBook Airs run cooler.

The invention relates generally to small computing devices such as laptop computers and in particular, providing a heat removal system that is efficient in both space and heat removal. A low profile heat removal system suitable for removing excess heat generated by a component operating in a compact computing environment is disclosed. The inventors are Brett W. Degner, Peteris K. Augenbergs, Frank Liang, Amaury J. Herestyn, Dinesh Mathew and Thomas W. Wilson Jr.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Compact computing devices such as laptop computers, netbook computers, etc. have become ever smaller, lighter and more powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed to the manufacturer's ability to fabricate various components of these...

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May 19
Mac OS X could get 'floating,' docking...

Mac OS X could get "floating" interface elements. An Apple patent (number 20110119609) for docking user interface elements has popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates to docking graphical user interface elements, for example, a Heads-Up Display (HUD) element.

Per the patent, methods, systems, and apparatus for managing elements in a user interface for a software application executing on a computer system include displaying a user interface having separate elements including at least an image browser element for viewing preview thumbnails of available images, an image viewer element for accessing a selected image and a Heads-Up Display (HUD) element that displays metadata for the selected image; receiving user input requesting that the HUD element be moved from a current location in the user interface to a destination location in the user interface; and modifying the displayed user interface by moving the HUD element to the destination location and...

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May 19
Apple working on new ways to present data in Mac OS X

Apple is working on new ways to present data in Mac OS X, it seems. A company patent (number 20110119615) for an adaptive data loader has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent involves methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for presenting data. In one aspect, a method includes receiving a request for data; submitting the request while maintaining a currently displayed user interface; determining whether a specified amount of the data has been received within a threshold delay period; if the data has been received within the threshold delay period, displaying a new user interface including representations of a portion of the received data; and if the data has not been received within the threshold delay period, displaying a placeholder user interface. The inventors are Pavel Cisler, Loic Vandereyken, David Hart and Peter McInerney.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention...

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May 19
Apple eyeing new ways to view digital media files

Apple is working on new ways to view all your digital media on both iOS and Mac OS X devices.

An Apple patent (number 20110119634) involving a global view for digital assets has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to browsing large sets of digital assets, and more specifically to generating and displaying a global view of a library of digital assets.

Per the patent, processes and systems are presented, for generating and displaying a flat all-projects view of a library of digital assets. In one aspect, a process includes receiving input from a user of the application requesting to view content accessible by the application. The accessible content can include a plurality of digital assets, folders and projects stored in a hierarchy accessed by the application, and each project represents a user-defined set of digital assets. All projects residing at any location within the hierarchy can be identified, and a flat view of all...

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May 19
IF Apple announces a new product today, look for new...

There's expectations that Apple will unveil something new today to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its retail store line. If that's true (and I'm dubious), I suspect it will be new MacBook Airs.

Apple retail's first stores opened at Tysons Corner, Virginia, at 10 am May 19, 2001, followed by the Glendale Galleria opening three hours later. I was at the Tysons Corner opening, and it was quite the event. Steve Jobs himself was on hand and in fine, if somewhat testy, form.

Apple now has 323 retail stores with over 30,000 employees all total, with 85 of those outside the US. It's expected to open its first store in Moscow within the next 12 months.

I'm not convinced that Apple will introduce something new today. If it does, I think it will be MacBook Airs with (I hope) Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt technology.

Other updates we'll see soon are Mac Pro updates, Mac mini updates and the new Final Cut Pro. But I don't expect those to arrive...

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May 18
Greg's Bite: HP & Dell lose market share

By Greg Mills

My, how things are changing in the PC market. Microsoft's "rounding error" that amounts to Apple surging spreads to Dell Computer and HP.  

Both of the blockbuster PC makers have seen the market for PCs shrink, even as the economy seems to be recovering. Mike Dell, president of the Dull Computer company, once famously gloated that Apple ought to just sell it assets and return stockholder money and go away quietly. Now, his computer company has a market cap of roughly US$30 billion -- or about 10% of Apple's current value. 

What one has to remember is that consumers buy computers in cycles. We don't buy a computer every month; we wait a couple of years until our hardware runs into obsolescence or breaks down before we buy a new one. Well, the market is changing from PCs to tablets for a lot of people and no one has a decent tablet but you know who. I noticed Sam's was selling the iPad 1 yesterday at a discount over the original...

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May 18
The Mac continues to make quiet headway

As many pundits continue to obsess over iOS devices -- including what features the iPhone 5 will have and when it will ship -- the Mac quietly continues to make headway.

For example, when it comes to "real growth in operating sales in 2010," Apple had 15.8% growth to US$520 million, reports "The Register" (http://macte.ch/RxPXC). In fact, the Mac has been growing at such a fast rate for almost four years that it's considered a bit of a downer that year-over-year sales in April were "only" up a "soft" 9%, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

Examining data from the NPD Group, he told clients in a note -- as reported by "AppleInsider" (http://www.appleinsider.com) -- that 9% is well below the 22% year-over-year increase investors on Wall Street are expecting. (April is the first of three months in Apple's June...

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May 17
Greg's bite: Microsoft to merge with Nokia

By Greg's Mills

Rumors in the technosphere are often so outrageous they sound true. Such is the rumor that some sort of merger or buyout between Microsoft and Nokia is in the works.  

A number of web sites began to blog yesterday that a deal was in the works. We know Microsoft is collaborating on bringing the Windows Mobile OS to Nokia smartphones. Just how deep the deal goes and what form it takes are the questions.  

Some of the rumors put the deal more in the buy-out sort of arrangement,while others make it more of a merger. The Nokia market cap has shrunk 50% since Apple released the iPhone, and Nokia still doesn't have a valid competitor. Nokia recently gave up developing their own mobile OS in favor of using someone else's platform. Keep in mind developing all the parts of a valid mobile platform isn't cheap or easy.  

Nokia had to jump on board with the Google Android OS or go with Microsoft's Mobile OS. Ironically, going with...

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May 17
Samsung tablet foreshadows the iPad 3

At this week's SID Display Week 2011 International Symposium in Los Angeles, Samsung Electronics will demo the industry’s first 10.1-inch WQXGA format PenTile RGBW tablet display. "So what?" you ask. It sports an ultra-high resolution, liquid crystal display (LCD) with 2560 x 1600 resolution. And that may spur development of the iPad 3 along just a bit.

The Samsung prototype demonstration marks the first time this resolution has been available for the tablet market in the 10.1-inch format. The 300 dpi display is ideal for applications that require extraordinary image and text clarity such as browsing the web and viewing high-definition movies, or reading books and spreadsheets. Samsung expects to have commercial availability of this technology for tablet applications later this year.

A high resolution display like this definitely foreshadows a Retina display in an iPad 3. However, don't expect a shrunken version of the display to appear in an Apple tablet. So far...

| Read more »
May 17
Apple granted patent for encoding video

Apple has been granted a patent (number 7994971) by the US Patent & Trademark Office for encoding video. Some embodiments of the invention provide a method for encoding a video signal that is formed by a series of successive images.

Each image includes several sections, and each section has a set of image values. To encode a particular section of a particular image, the method initially partitions the particular section into several sub-sections. For each of at least two particular sub-sections, the method then computes a statistical parameter regarding the image values of the particular sub-section.

The method compares the computed statistical parameters, and based on the comparison, selects an encoding technique from a set of encoding techniques to encode the particular section. In some embodiments, the set of encoding schemes includes a first scheme that encodes the selected section without reference to any other section of any other image, and a second...

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May 16
Greg's Bite: Dropbox data not encrypted or secure

By Greg Mills

It seems there isn't a day that goes by without another data security risk coming to light. As I have mused in this space, the cloud is not secure. I have Dropbox on my iPhone and iPad but haven't used it much. Those who have posted their data to their Dropbox account ought to reconsider using that site for anything remotely private. Your data is not secure or even encrypted. 

If what you want to store on your cloud data storage file is already held elsewhere on the Dropbox servers, they don't even bother to upload your data file; they just make note that you have access to their copy of that file. That saves them space on their servers and saves money as well.

Imaging you have purchased a movie using the digital download method of marketing video. That movie is not duplicated in the files of all the subscribers on-line. All that exists in your cloud file is a note that you have access to that movie any time you want to see it....

| Read more »
May 16
Most global organizations planning to adopt cloud...

A new study says most global organizations are planning to adopt a cloud strategy. I'm not surprised, but I hope that's not their only strategy.

ITSM provider, Axios Systems (http://www.axiossystems.com), recently revealed a global survey showing that more than half of IT professionals (51%) don't think their ITSM processes are mature enough to effectively manage cloud-based services. Twenty-six percent of IT professionals do think their organizations are ready, while the remaining 23% feel unsure.

The survey also revealed that only eight percent of organizations currently use their ITSM tool to manage cloud-based services; 19% think their current tool could support management of cloud services, but they have just not started to do so. About one-third (31%) of IT professionals indicate that their current ITSM tool would not support the management of cloud-based services; the remaining 42% of...

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