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May 28
Greg's bite: Department of Justice looks at the...

By Greg Mills

In the title of this article, I am speaking of the Giant Electronics Firm, not the city by the same nickname. It seems incredible for those of use who took no end of ridicule over the year that we were "one of those": un-PC Apple computer, non-conformists.  

We were told our computers were too expensive and that the end of Apple was in sight. Remember the statement, "I think Apple computers are easy to use, but they don't do anything since there isn't enough software for the platform."

We saw Microsoft deliberately sabotage PC software to not open documents on a Mac. We saw Microsoft dominate the market in both operating systems and business software that was so "standard" it was only by the grace of Gates that Apple survived at all.

Well, a new age has come upon us and the tables are turning. A number of issues caused this to happen. First, despite years of promises and billions of dollars spent on R&D, Vista was...

| Read more »
May 28
Global stagnation to continue in home video...

Hmmm. Could Steve Jobs be right about the future of movies, as well as music, being digital and online? Maybe. According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, the global home video market is poised to see further declines in the years ahead.

Global revenue from sales of DVDs and Blu-ray declined more than 4% in 2009, to US$35.7 billion, and is set for another 2% drop in 2010, according to the research group. At the same time digital distribution channels such as iTunes for home video entertainment aren’t developing fast enough to offset the decline in packaged media formats.

The total packaged media market, including both retail and rental of DVDs and Blu-ray, is projected to decline 3% in 2010, to $53.3 billion and by 12.6%, to $48.1 billion by 2013.

"The future of the home entertainment market is within digital distribution of home video," says Martin Olausson, director of Digital Media Research at Strategy Analytics. "We...

| Read more »
May 28
Greg's bite: Water over the top of the dam

By Greg Mills

The press is churning out story after story about Apple finally beating Microsoft out of being the top tech company spot, as far as market cap goes. Unfortunately for Microsoft, this is only the first of the major indignities that are looming ahead.  

It boils down to this: Apple has launched a series of major hit products that each represent a virtual monopoly in their class, while Ballmer & Company have suffered embarrassing gaffs that have crippled their future and perhaps the PC platform itself. 

Realistically, Microsoft has been cruising for years on their laurels as being the main operating system for all PCs but Apple's. The question for the PC minions of the world is not which operating system to use but rather which version of Windows will you fight with to keep your computer working.

My metaphor about the dam is based upon the problem you have when water goes over the top of an earthen dam and erosion occurs....

| Read more »
May 27
Apple patent is for 'on-the-go shopping list...

A new Apple patent (number 20100082447) for an "on-the-go shopping list" has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to handheld electronic devices (think iPads and iPod touches) and, more particularly, to systems and methods for conducting shopping-related transactions with a handheld electronic device.

Systems and methods for providing shopping-related information to a consumer are provided. Embodiments of the system allow a consumer to create an electronic shopping list by scanning products. In some embodiments, shopping-related information may be obtained for items in the shopping list, such as pricing information, product quality, consumer ratings, and other information that may help a consumer to make an informed purchasing decision. Other embodiments allow a consumer to obtain and compare retail prices offered by several retailers for products in the shopping list. Still other embodiments provide a store-wide network that allows a...

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May 27
Apple patent involves earphones, headsets

An Apple patent has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that could hint at a new iPhone headset. Patent number 20100128887 involves detecting the respositioning of an earphone using a microphone and associated action.

The invention relates generally to an earphone. More particularly, this invention relates to detecting the repositioning of an earphone that is worn by a user.

A system detects the repositioning of an earphone that is worn by a user, and changes an operation mode of a host coupled to the earphone. Within the earphone is a pressure transducer that detects a pressure change caused by the repositioning of the earphone. A signaling mechanism sends a repositioning detection signal to the host in response to a signal from the pressure transducer indicating the detection of the pressure change. The inventors are Jae H. Lee and Wendell B. Sander.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Earphones (also known as earbuds or...

| Read more »
May 27
Future versions of QuickTime to offer recapping...

A new patent has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that may hint at interface changes in upcoming versions of QuickTime.

Patent number 20100132005 is for recapping media content. It relates generally to the field of media and, in particular, to playing, viewing, and controlling video or other media.

The invention involves a system in accordance with the present invention may include one or more processors, memory that receives instructions from the one or more processors according to a clock operating at a frequency, one or more programs stored in the memory, with instructions to: open a media file or receive a media broadcast that may be stored locally or remotely; play the content of the media file or media broadcast at a default speed; and control the play of the content with control features such as a feature for recapping earlier media content. The inventors are Windy Chien, Gary Stewart and Robert Kondrk.

Here's Apple's background and...

| Read more »
May 27
Apple patent involves beamforming audio for ... TV,...

I've been dubious that Apple would release its own TV set. But a new patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office hints at that. Or it could involve some sort of future Mac or Apple TV accessory.

Patent number 20100128892 involves stabilizing directional audio from a moving microphone array. It relates to the field of audio beamforming; and more specifically, to the aiming of audio beamforming.

The patent involves a device that includes a microphone array fixed to the device. A signal processor produces an audio output using audio beamforming with input from the microphone array. The signal processor aims the beamforming in a selected direction. An orientation sensor--such as a compass, an accelerometer, or an inertial sensor--is coupled to the signal processor. The orientation sensor detects a change in the orientation of the microphone array and provides an orientation signal to the signal processor for adjusting the aim of the beamforming to maintain the...

| Read more »
May 27
Greg's bite: Could Apple's iTunes Store fix...

By Greg Mills

I just finished buying airline tickets for my wife, daughter and myself to fly to Florida for my sister-in-law's wedding. I hate the tricks, extra fees and taxes that get tacked on after you think you have a good deal. Apple has a way of fixing the most egregious tasks we face and making it as close to fun as spending money can be.  

The current system for buying airline tickets on-line is nuts. You have tons of web sites that claim to be the cheapest all, clamoring to sell the same seats, all at different prices. It has
been said that normally, passengers on the same flight have paid as many as 10 different prices for the very same flight. To me that sounds like a system failure.  

Part of the problem is the stupid hub system where you can't fly anywhere without changing planes at a hub. I have flown from Kansas City to Atlanta just to get on a flight to Los Angeles.

The airlines churn ticket prices to the point...

| Read more »
May 27
Safari and the prospect of 'official'...

John Gruber of "Daring Fireball" (http://daringfireball.net/linked/2010/05/25/chrome-beta) hints that Apple might release a "proper extension API" (application programming interface) for Safari at June's Worldwide Developer Conference. I hope he's right. It's long overdue since both Firefox and Chrome offer extensions.

Still, it's hard to imagine Apple "opening up" its web browser, since Jobs & Company like to have near-total control over all their products and technologies. On the other hand, Firefox and Chrome have both put the pressure on Safari, and the ability to tweak the Safari experience as you'd like would certainly appeal to a lot of users.

Extensions are software add-ons for web browsers. Among the bazillion Firefox and Chrome extensions are ones that let you: do screen captures, prevent Flash content from running without...

| Read more »
May 26
Greg's bite: Microsoft reorganizing due to...

By Greg Mills

The news is full of Microsoft reorganization stories.  "The Wall Street Journal" and others report poor numbers on everything Microsoft in the mobile division except the Xbox -- which is not mobile anyway.  

The famously lame Windows Mobile OS sank from 10.2% of the market to 6.8% in the last year. Keep in mind, there are "smart phones" out there that can only run the Microsoft OS and are thus stuck with the OS until the day the phone is trashed. The decline is due to the lack of new phones running the Windows OS being sold. The numbers can only tank further since the iPhone has gone viral.

Has anyone hear of a cell phone called "KIN"? According to "Wired", Microsoft launched a smart phone by that name running the Windows OS two months ago. The KIN is already a flop as Amazon has discounted the more powerful versions by 50% and cut the low end KIN down to one cent with a contract for service.

Not only has an in-house cell...

| Read more »
May 26
There's life in those CDs, DVDs still

Okay, so maybe I'm not such a dinosaur after all. "Macworld UK" (http://www.macworld.co.uk/digitallifestyle/news/index.cfm?newsid=3224278) reports that a Hewlett Packard survey of over 1,000 UK consumers, aged between 16 and 60, shows that, despite the rise of services such as iTunes, folks (besides me) still like their CDs and DVDs.

HP's survey found that 86% of the population access some form of digital media, the survey revealed consumers attach very little monetary or emotional value to the digital content they own. For example, 68% of consumers still prefer photographs to be physical rather than digital. Sixty-four percent prefer CDs over MP3s and downloads when purchasing music. And 75% preferred DVDs when it came to films, while a massive 95% still prefer reading books traditionally.


Not...

| Read more »
May 25
Apple patents involve Final Cut Pro, the iPhone,...

Apple has been granted patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office involving Final Cut Pro, the iPhone and laptop housing. Following is a summary of each.

Patent number 7,725,828 is for the application of speed effects to a video presentation. Some embodiments provide a method of specifying speed effects for playing a video clip. The method defines a set of speed effects for the video clip. It then displays in real-time a presentation of the video clip that accounts for the set of speed effects defined for the video clip. In some embodiments, this method represents the playback speed of a video clip in terms of a graph that is part of a graphical user interface ("GUI"). This graph is defined along two axes, with one axis representing the playback time, and the other axis representing the content-time (i.e., the time within the video clip). In these embodiments, a user can change the playback speed of the video clip by using a set of GUI operations to...

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May 25
The iPad, Curated Computing and a closed Mac

A lot has been made of last week's forecast by RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky that predicts Apple is now selling more iPads than Macs. And it's garnered some speculation that we may see Macs that are more iPad-like.

Abramsky says that, by his estimates, Apple sells more than 200,000 iPads per week in the U.S., a total greater than the estimated 110,000 Macs sold stateside every seven days. Obviously, people love the Apple tablet, as well as the iPhone and iPod touch, so I do think we'll see future Macs that adopt features from the iPhone OS.

In fact, Forrester Research (http://www.alacrastore.com/research/forrester-Apple_s_iPad_Is_A_New_Kind...) says the iPad will ushers in a new era of "Curated Computing" -- a mode of computing in which choice is constrained to...

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May 25
Greg's bite: the secret to Apple's lower R...

By Greg Mills

As an inventor and R&D guy myself, it comes as no surprise to me that Apple is spending far less for its research than it's competitors. We ran an article yesterday with numbers that
put Apple's R&D expenditures at one-seventh that of Microsoft with similar market caps between the companies.  

Look at what is coming out of the two companies and you wonder how Microsoft is blowing so much money. The truth is that Apple is just innovating better at a low cost, not that Microsoft is wasting so much more than typical companies their size.

The difference between the two  companies is like comparing the Zune to iPod touch. The conventional method of R&D is to put a rough product idea before the brain trust and ask them to do it better. The problem for Microsoft in competing with Apple is that by the time Microsoft identifies the next big thing, Apple has already done it so well it is hard to improve. By the time you...

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May 24
Greg's bite: video out limitations on the iPad

By Greg Mills

I love my iPad, but I am finding that there are some limitations I didn't expect. I was planning to buy an Apple iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter but read the reviews first on the Apple store info page for iPad.

The reviews all expressed frustration that the US$29 device will only output a VGA video signal for specific apps. That has killed my interest in it for the time being.

So far Keynote, the Movie App from Apple that comes on the iPad and Netflix are about it for that function. Clearly, the issue is software and has to be allowed by each app that does that trick. I put out feelers to find out, but hopefully future iPad OS incarnations will allow full display mirroring.

Showing your video or screen on a video projector or a TV screen with the exact display seen on the iPad is sort of an expected ability. I have used that feature with my MacBook Pro on occasion. That way I can use Safari and web sites to document...

| Read more »
May 24
The iPad is changing the info, entertainment...

The iPad is causing the entertainment and information industries to undergo a paradigm shift in the delivery of content and services to consumers, according to a new report from Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com).

The impact started on day one. Apple said it sold over 300,000 the first day the iPad went on sale in the US and that over one million iPad apps were downloaded. With the iPad, Apple created a leisure media device that is at home curled up on the couch for a relaxing read, propped up in the kitchen as a helpful digital cookbook or playing a movie in the bedroom.

Content producers and owners are no longer limited to stationary TV sets, mobile phones with tiny screens or computers that place entertainment in a secondary role. The major TV networks, online video services, newspapers, magazines and book publishers are turning the iPad into a hybrid TV/...

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May 21
Greg's bite: Apple and the cool factor

By Greg Mills

No one who ever sees many movies or TV programs could possibly miss the many placement of Apple products on the screen. The cool factor that Apple has cultured is passed on to actors who appear to use a Mac.  

From "Forest Gump," whose money man purchased stock for him in a "fruit company" (Apple) and made him rich, to "Independence Day" where a virus to implode the alien invasion was implemented with a Mac, the use of a Mac instead of a PC means something.

The chic factor that surrounds anything with the Apple logo on it puts the product and the user into the aura of coolness. While HP had to pay Carrie Bradshaw of "Sex and the City" to switch to an HP PC, most Apple placements in movies and TV shows are not paid appearances. Apple does donate products for placement but does not pay for them to be shown, per se. That coolness factor is worth billions and was carefully cultured by the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" advertising campaign...

| Read more »
May 20
Say hi to Google TV; hey, Apple, time to get serious...

If Apple is going to move the Apple TV beyond the "hobby" stage, now would be a great time to do it. Google has entered the web video format arena with the introduction of its WebM format, which will integrate both web browsing and cable TV with one device running its Android operating system.

Said device is slated for a fall debut -- and, make no mistake, it will be a competitor to the Apple TV. In fact, if Apple doesn't start taking its own product seriously (browser support, anyone?), Google TV could be an Apple TV killer.

Thursday at the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco, some leading industry players teamed up to announce the development of Google TV, an open platform that adds the power of the web to the television viewing experience with the goal of ushering in a new category of devices for the living room. Intel, Sony, and Logitech, together with Best Buy, DISH Network and Adobe, have joined Google on stage to announce their support for Google TV....

| Read more »
May 20
Apple looking into contextual ads on iDevices

Future iPhones, iPod touches and iPads could serve up advertisements or discount coupons to users based on their current location or activity, per a new Apple patent (number 20100125492) at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent is for a system and method for providing contextual advertisements according to a dynamic pricing scheme. Systems, methods, and devices for providing electronic advertisements according to a dynamic pricing scheme are provided. For example, a method for providing an electronic advertisement according to a dynamic pricing scheme may include transmitting an advertisement to an electronic device belonging to a user and receiving marketing factors indicating a likelihood that the user will be receptive to the advertisement.

The advertisement may be configured for display on the electronic device and at least one of the marketing factors may be received from the electronic device. A price for providing the advertisement to the target...

| Read more »
May 20
Apple patent involves audio beamforming

An Apple patent (number 20100123785) involving a graphic control for directional audio input has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. The invention relates to invention relate to the field of audio beamforming, and more specifically, to the aiming of audio beamforming.

A device to provide an audio output includes a microphone array, a signal processor, and a graphic user interface (GUI). The signal processor is coupled to the microphone array to perform audio beamforming with input from the microphone array. The GUI is coupled to the signal processor to display a plurality of audio sources, to receive a selection of at least one of the plurality of audio sources from a user, and to provide the selection to the signal processor for aiming the audio beamforming toward the selected audio source. The selection may be made by touching the display.

The device may further include a camera and the GUI may display an image received from the camera as the...

| Read more »
May 20
Apple patents hint at Apple TV updates

For those hoping for a long-overdue update/overhaul to the Apple TV, two new Apple patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office offer hope. They hint at future Apple TVs that can be controlled by HDTVs and DVRs, as well as some iPhone/iPad-ish features.

Patent 20100123834 is for a system and method for capturing remote control device signals. The invention relates to media processing devices, and to systems and methods for capturing by a media processing device remote control device command signals, such as navigation and playback commands, from a plurality of remote control devices.

Methods, systems, and apparatus for learning remote control command signals by a media processing device. In one aspect, a method includes activating a learning mode of operation, presenting an instruction to actuate a control associated with a secondary remote control device, capturing a command signal transmitted by the secondary remote control device while the learning mode is...

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May 19
I'm dubious of a change in Apple's Final Cut...

AppleInsider said that Apple's Final Cut Studio suite of video post production apps is getting a "significant makeover to better target the software to the mainstream of Apple's customer base rather than high end professionals." The site may be right, but I just can't see it happening for a couple of reasons.

Quoting "a person with knowledge of Apple's internal Pro Apps plans," "AppleInsider" says Apple has shuffled around management within the Final Cut team in order to retarget its efforts to more closely match the needs of the majority of its customers. Apple's Mac customer base has steadily shifted from desktop models to notebooks, while also broadening out from a high end creative niche to a wider installed base that includes more prosumer and advanced home users, the article adds.

That's true. But it seems to be that there's little sense behind a major tweak in the Final Cut Pro strategy for two reasons:

One: Final Cut Pro is a...

| Read more »
May 19
Opinion: betting against Apple is historically...

The story of major cell phone companies that dismissed the iPhone rank among the business decision nightmares that rank way up the list on the worst business decision ever. When business classes list the biggest blunders of the history of business, the biggest might well be IBM's screwup that inflicted Microsoft on the world ... sort of like a long term tech plague.

IBM's early PC entry needed an operating system, and the genius brain trust at IBM figured they wouldn't sell enough of them to warrant writing the software themselves. So they offered Bill Gates the chance to write and sell the system software that would run on the new PC. If IBN had simply written a system software package for their hardware, Microsoft might not have occurred.   

Another blunder: Adobe figured Apple was not the highest priority and took their sweet time launching Mac OS X software. Consequently, they got left in the lurch when the OS took off.  Now they are seeing the error of their ways...

| Read more »
May 19
OmniVision image sensor sounds like an Apple product...

OmniVision Technologies (http://www.ovt.com ) has introduced the OV2720, the world's first 1/6-inch, native 1080p/30 high-definition (HD) CMOS image sensor designed for notebook, netbook, webcam and video conferencing applications. Hmmm, sounds like something we might see in future Apple laptops -- or perhaps a next gen iPad.

Based on OmniVision's 1.4 micron OmniBSI backside illumination technology, the new 1080p sensor delivers video conference quality HD video recording in a small enough form factor to meet the module size and height requirements of today's thin notebook designs. The OV2720 is currently sampling with multiple tier-one customers and is slated to go into mass production in June.

iChat capabilities were expected by some in the first version of the iPad. Of course, that didn't happen. But we could see it in iPad version 2.0. Also, it sounds as if the OmniVision sensor migtt allow for higher def...

| Read more »
May 18
Apple patents involve DVDs, query results, more

Several Apple patents appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office today. Here's an overview. Patent number 7,720,354 involves embedded access for digital versatile disc (DVD) independent of DVD player software.

An operating system extension is used to implement embedded information on a DVD. The operating system extension examines DVD sector addresses requested from the DVD hardware. When address associated with an embedded link is requested, an application program that can run the embedded link is started, and the embedded link is provided to the application program. The system of the present invention has the advantage that it does not require modifying the DVD software program and thus can be used with a variety of different DVD software programs. The inventors are Freddier Geier and Stefan Bauer-Schwan.

Patent number 7,720,860 is for query result iteration. Systems and methods for processing an index are described. A pulse...

| Read more »
 
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