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Jul 07
Greg's bite: remember hearing 'You can'...

By Greg Mills

I wanted to believe platform envy for the Mac faithful towards the dark side of the force was over. WRONG.

Try using some of the more popular USB camcorders on a Mac. I love plug and play, as it just works.Why can't Apple fix this deficiency in the Mac infrastructure? There are still plenty of incompatible camcorders out there.

I bought a cool tiny Sony camcorder that was bundled with a 320GB hard drive at Best Buy. The package was only US$335 for the camera and the slick little hard drive. A great deal, in my opinion. The hard drive works great and boots as an USB hard drive just fine on my MacBook Pro.  

The camera works fine and can hook up with USB to my MacBook Pro -- but iMovie and iDVD refuse to see the Sony camera. The USB ports is working, as I checked the "About This Mac" index under the Apple logo. After drilling down to see what was showing on the USB Bus, there was the camera, bigger than Dallas.   

I...

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Jul 07
What's in store for the Mac? Full FaceTime screens

As I mentioned yesterday, I think future Macs will integrate the FaceTime feature of the iPhone 4. And, in time, Macs will probably sport displays whose entire screens can serve as giant iSight cameras for this purpose (and, who knows, perhaps for scanning as well).

In 2006, Apple filed a patent (number 2006007222) at the US Patent & Tradmark Office for an integrated sensing display. Per the patent, the sensing display includes display elements integrated with image sensing elements so the integrated sensing device can not only output images (e.g., as a display) but also input images (e.g., as a camera).

Of course, that patent involves the iSight camera that is currently built into all Macs (at least those with their own displays). However, I think that, in time, Apple will expand the technology so that you have the option of using your entire Mac screen as a videophone -- with FaceTime, naturally.

-- Dennis Sellers

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Jul 06
Apple patents range from address switches to product...

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

Patent number 7752366 is for a non-blocking address switch with shallow per agent queues. In one embodiment, a switch is configured to be coupled to an interconnect. The switch comprises a plurality of storage locations and an arbiter control circuit coupled to the plurality of storage locations. The plurality of storage locations are configured to store a plurality of requests transmitted by a plurality of agents. The arbiter control circuit is configured to arbitrate among the plurality of requests stored in the plurality of storage locations. A selected request is the winner of the arbitration, and the switch is configured to transmit the selected request from one of the plurality of storage locations onto the interconnect. In another embodiment, a system comprises a plurality of agents, an interconnect, and the switch coupled to the plurality of...

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Jul 06
Apple wants to improve ways to connect a media player...

An Apple patent (number 7751853) for a female receptacle data pin connector for a media player system at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It indicates that Apple wants to improve ways to connect a media player (such as the iPhone, iPod and iPad) to external devices.

One aspect of the media player system pertains to a docking station that allows a media player to communicate with other media devices. Another aspect of the media player system pertains to a wireless media player system that includes a hand held media player capable of transmitting information over a wireless connection and one or more media devices capable of receiving information over the wireless connection. Another aspect of the media player system pertains to a method of wirelessly connecting the hand held media player to another device.

The method includes selecting a media item on the hand held media player; selecting one or more remote recipients on the hand held media player; and...

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Jul 06
What's in store for the Mac? FaceTime

FaceTime is one of the most highly touted features of the iPhone 4. I think it's just a matter of time before it comes to the Mac.

In case you're not familiar with it, FaceTime is video calling that uses Wi-Fi. Apple says that using FaceTime is as easy as making a regular voice call, with no set-up required. On the iPhone 4, you can instantly switch to the rear camera to show others what you are seeing with just a tap.

FaceTime works right out of the box. You don't have to up a special account or screen name.If you want to start a video call with your best friend, find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins.

Right now FaceTime only works iPhone 4 to iPhone 4. However, since all Macs but...

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Jul 06
Greg's bite: assorted Apple issues in the news

By Greg Mills

Let's check the score on Apple vs Microsoft. The Mac OS is gaining market share, Windows is losing market share. The iPhone is thriving, the Kin has just been killed. The iPad is thriving, the Microsoft slate computer project was killed before it was even launched. Windows mobile platform is losing both market share and manufacturers while the iOS is thriving. The iTunes store and app store are thriving, the Microsoft answer to both is a joke. Apple stock is soaring, the Microsoft market cap is half what it was the day Gates stepped down and turned it over to Ballmer ...  sounds like a rout to me on every front.

I read where Steve Jobs has decided the BluRay technology for HDTV is sort of going obsolete and that digital download is the future for video rental and sales. Certainly, the patent licensing issues for Blu-ray devices have hurt its application in both Mac and PC hardware. Blockbuster is in decline, and we know media formats...

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Jul 02
What's in store for the Mac? Light Peak

I've never been shy about making what some consider wacky predictions. So here's my latest: by 2014, Macs will no longer have dedicated USB, FireWire or video ports (or eSATA, for that matter). Instead, they'll have Light Peak.

Developed by Intel and codenamed "Light Peak," this technology paves the way for a new generation of extreme computer input and output (I/O) performance, delivering 10Gb/s of bandwidth, with the potential ability to scale to 100Gbs over the next decade, according to David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager, Intel Architecture Group. At 10Gb/second, a user could purportedly transfer a full-length Blu-Ray movie in less than 30 seconds. Intel says it intends to work with the industry to determine the best way to make this new technology a standard.

The optical technology allows for smaller connectors and longer, thinner, and more flexible cables than currently possible. Light Peak also has the ability to run multiple...

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Jul 01
Apple patents reflect GarageBand technologies

Three Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office regarding GarageBand, the music creation component of Apple's iLife suite.

Patent 20100162878 is for a music instruction system. Per the patent a song audio is played and a graphical representation of a musical instrument contributing to the audio is displayed. A fingering display is overlayed on the graphical representation of the instrument during the playing of song. The fingering display is synchronized to the song audio. During the playing of the song audio, the tempo of the song is adjusted.

The pitch of the song is substantially preserved in real-time despite the tempo adjustment. In addition, the synchronization between the fingering display and the audio are maintained in real-time in view of the adjusted tempo. The inventors are Gerhard H. Lengeling, Alexander Soren, Jan-hinnerk Helms, Alexander H. Little, John Danty, Matthew C. Evans, Timothy B. Martin, Ole Lagemann...

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Jul 01
Apple patents hint at Final Pro changes and/or new...

Several Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that hint at either changes in Final Cut products -- or perhaps new media presentation tools.

Patent number 20100168881 is for a multimedia display based on audio and visual complexity. The present invention relates generally to the field of authoring media presentations and, in particular, to authoring media presentations using profiled audio data.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Current media presentation applications offer features for creating slides and manually customizing the ways in which a set of slides, i.e., a slideshow, is played. Such applications also offer features for attaching themes to slideshows, where such themes may affect the appearance and general behavior of the slideshows when played. In addition, such applications further offer features such as customizing slide colors, customizing transition behavior, customizing transition...

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Jul 01
Apple patents involve graphics, displays

Two Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office that involve graphics and displays.

Patent number 20100164964 is for a display system with improved graphics abilities while switching graphics processing units. That's something high-end MacBook Pros can do now, but Apple may plan to carry it further.

The patent involves methods and apparatuses for improving graphics abilities while switching between graphics processing units (GPUs). Some embodiments may include a display system, including a plurality of graphics processing units (GPUs) and a memory buffer coupled to the GPUs via a timing controller, where the memory buffer stores data associated with a first video frame from a first GPU within the plurality of GPUs and where the timing controller is switching between the first GPU and a second GPU within the plurality. The inventors are Kapil V. Sakariya, Victor H. Yin and Michael F. Culbert.

Patent number...

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Jul 01
Greg's bite: Kin is dead, Barbie in mourning

By Greg Mills

Microsoft has announced the Kin phone is dead. The Barbie phone may also be canceled. Mattel, maker of the Ken and Barbie phone for Microsoft had no comment. Here is the press release from Microsoft:

"Microsoft has made the decision to focus on the Windows Phone 7 launch and will not ship KIN in Europe this fall as planned. Additionally,  we are integrating our KIN team with the Windows Phone 7 team,  incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from KIN into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in  the U.S. to sell current KIN phones."

(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web...

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Jul 01
What's in store for the Mac? More wireless-ness

You have your wireless mouse and your wireless keyboard. But that's just the tip of the wireless iceberg that will be floating around your house or office in the new few years. And this wireless-ness will affect much more than your Macs and your iDevices.

Last year ABI Research forecast one million wireless HDTV installations by 2012. Why? Wireless will simplify some installations and allow more flexibility in positioning TVs, according to the research group. ABI Research says wireless-ness will continue to grow significantly because more and more consumers are going to the Internet for video content.

Exactly how this will shape up isn't clear, as there are various technologies competing for Big Love: mainly, Wireless HD, Wireless Home Digital Interface and WiGig.

WirelessHD is an industry-led effort to define a specification for the next generation wireless digital network interface for wireless high-definition signal transmission for consumer electronics...

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Jun 30
Greg's bite: It's Monday, so let's sue...

By Greg Mills

The Monday morning coffee at too many law firms is still brewing while the top legal minds are plotting a new law suit against Apple. Frankly, I get tired of reading stories about the new law suit of the day being filed against Apple, for whatever reason.  

Some of the lamest suits have been filed and dismissed in recent years. It is interesting to me that the filing of a suit and the dismissal of most of them are treated far differently by the press. With great fanfare the suite is filed' without even a blip on the screen the suite goes away. The hope of most of those filing suits is for an out-of-ourt settlement.  

At any given time, there are likely a hundred or more suits still pending against Apple. It takes a small army of lawyers to keep up on them all and not allow a deadline to pass without answering actions of the other side. Holding a portfolio of patents also costs a fortune and requires another division of lawyers to...

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Jun 30
What's in store for the Mac? OLED displays (in...

It's just a matter of time before we see OLED displays in iPads, iPods and iPhones. And almost certainly in Macs in the not-too-distant future.

OLEDs (or organic light emitting diode displays) require less power than conventional displays and can be slimmer (around 0.2-0.3mm or about 8 thousandths of an inch, compared to LCDs, which are typically at least 10 times thicker) and lighter -- so you can see how they would appeal to Steve Jobs. They also offer better contrast, better viewing angles, greater brightness, and almost instant response times -- all of which would be especially appealing in iPads and laptops.

The drawback is price. Right now OLED displays are significantly more costly than LED screens. The 9.7-inch LCD panel for iPad costs about US$60-70, but the price of a 9.7-inch OLED panel is about US$500. However, the price gap isn't expected to narrow appreciably for another couple of years -- or longer.

But it will, in time. Eventually, OLED screens...

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Jun 29
Apple patents involve data transmission, icons, more

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

Patent 7,747,765 is for a method and apparatus for media data transmission. A digital processing system is provided with a time related sequence of media data provided to the digital processing system based on a set of data, wherein the set of data indicates a method to transmit the time related sequence of media data according to a transmission protocol. The set of data, itself, is a time related sequence of data associated with the time related sequence of media data. The time related sequence of media data may be presented and/or stored by the digital processing system. The inventors are Anne Jones, Jay Geagan, Kevin L. Gong, Alagu Perlyanna and David W. Singer.

Patent 7,747,784 involves a data synchronization protocol. Among other things, techniques and systems are disclosed for syncing data between a client device and a...

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Jun 29
Apple patent involves media processing systems,...

An Apple patent (number 7,75,968) for content abstraction presentation along a multidimensional path has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves the Apple TV interface -- or at least a future version of it.

The invention is related to media processing systems and methods. The inventors are Rainer Brodersen, Rachel Clare Goldeen, Jeffrey Ma, Mihnea Calin Pacurariu, Thomas Michael Madden, Eric Taylor Seymour and Steve Jobs.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the patent: "Media devices, such as digital video and audio players, can include multiple functions and capabilities, such as playing stored content, browsing and selecting from recorded content, storing and/or receiving content selected by a user, and the like. These various functions can often be grouped according to content types, e.g., movies, music, television programs, photos, etc.

"The functions can then be accessed through various user interfaces that are typically...

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Jun 29
What's in store for the Mac? Part one

Needham & Company analyst Charles Wolf, predicts that Apple will sell nearly 13 million Macs this year. With those figures in mind, you have to wonder if that number would increase still more if Apple released a Mac with some really bang-up features rather than incremental improvements.

As Wolf points out, Apple sells Macs for nearly twice the price of Windows boxes, yet the sales keep growing faster than the rest of the industry. Of course, we're not figuring in return-on-investment, but that's a topic for another day.

So what's in store for the Mac? Well, obviously there's USB 3.0. It's just a matter of time until we see that. I'll be surprised if the iMac doesn't get an HDMI port a la the latest Mac mini. I still think Apple is making a mistake if it doesn't offer Blu-ray playback on some Macs, at least as a build-to-order option. And, to me, adding a built-in tuner to the living room-friendly iMac seems logical.

Also, as Arik Hesseldahl at...

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Jun 28
Market for US mobile broadband about to speed up

The market for mobile broadband connectivity for portable computers has been slow to gain momentum over the past several years. But that's apparently about to change.

Only in the past 18 months has the U.S. market taken significant steps toward broader adoption beyond the traditional mobile worker. According to a new International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast, the U.S. mobile broadband market will grow from 6.5 million subscribers in 2009 to 30.2 million in 2014, which accounts for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.1% over the forecast period.

The introduction of subsidized netbooks and tablets, changes to pricing structures, and the early availability of 4G with WiMAX (and upcoming LTE deployments) have begun to spur interest among the consumer segment about the power of mobile broadband as a secondary access method beyond wired broadband. Although the possibility of mobile broadband becoming a primary access technology remains a figment of our...

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Jun 24
More US consumers eyeing femtocells

I'd love -- REALLY LOVE -- to have an iPhone 4 (assuming, of course, I could get my hands on one). However, AT&T's crappy wireless service in my neck of the woods prevents this -- though Verizon's service has gotten increasingly worse. Maybe I need a femtocell.

International research firm Parks Associates today announced the results of the most comprehensive survey to date of U.S. consumer attitudes to femtocells, conducted on behalf of the Femto Forum.

AT&T, among other companies, is rolling out femtocells that, when connected to the home's broadband modem, will pick up signals from the cell phones in the home and relay them through the Internet connection. In essence, they're small cell towers for the home. AT&T wants to sell me one for $150. But if their wireless service stays crappy, they should give 'em away.

Regardless, lots of folks are going the femtocell route. A new survey by the Park Associates research group finds that more than half of...

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Jun 24
Apple hints at future devices with multiple feedback...

An Apple patent (number 20100156818) for a multi touch with haptics has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It hints at upcoming iPhones, iPod touches and iPads that would accept a number of physical feedback responses through haptic feedback.

Haptic technology, or haptics, is a tactile feedback technology that takes advantage of a user's sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and/or motions to the user. When referring to mobile devices, this generally means the use of vibrations from the device's vibration alarm to denote that a touchscreen button has been pressed.

Methods and systems for processing touch inputs are disclosed in the Apple patent. The invention in one respect includes reading data from a multi-touch sensing device such as a multi-touch touch screen where the data pertains to touch input with respect to the multi-touch sensing device, and identifying at least one multi-touch gesture based on the data from the multi-touch sensing...

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Jun 24
Another reason why Apple would be nuts to give up the...

Amid all the hoopla over the iPad and iPhone 4, a handful of folks have predicted that the Macs days were numbered. If so, it's because that Apple wants to lose money.

Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com) has released its "Global Top 10 Computer and Peripherals Companies -- Industry, Financial and SWOT Analysis. Apple is, of course, in that group, along with HP, IBM, Toshiba, Dell, NEC, Canon, Asustek, Acer and Lenova.

The global computers and peripherals industry generated total revenues of $540.1 billion in 2008, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% for the period spanning 200408. And now the important (for this op-ed anyway) part. According to Research and Markets, the personal computers segment proved the most lucrative for the global computers and peripherals industry in 2008, generating total revenues of $236.9 billion. That's...

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Jun 23
The Mac still has plenty of room for growth -- and new...

Still think that there's no room for growth or innovation on the Mac? Well, to the naysayers I must point out that there's plenty of room for both.

In 2005, market research firm IDC pegged Apple's share of the U.S. PC market at 4 %. In the first quarter of 2010, that number had grown to 6.4%. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster estimates that for every half-percentage point of market share growth Apple boosts its sales by about US$3 billion.

And unit sales of the Mac have grown even more impressively than market share. In fiscal 2004, Apple sold 3.29 million Macs. It sold 3.36 million in the first quarter of 2010 alone.

What of new features? I've repeatedly argued for Blu-ray support, a built-in TV tuner on at least some Macs and -- also on some Macs -- touch screen support. Arik Hesseldahl, in his column for "Bloomberg BusinessWeek" (...

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Jun 23
Greg's bite: the wisdom of the Apple 'closed...

By Greg Mills

While Apple supports open source software and even provides powerful program elements, such as WebKit, their tendency is to have a closed system. While some hate that concept, the truth is, Apple has thrived on it lately.  

The late 80's saw the much more "open" PCs as cheap PCs and Microsoft swamped Apple in the market place. Apple even dabbled with licensing software to Mac clone companies. That experiment was aborted as Apple returned to a solo, closed business model.  

The openness the PC world craves is also open to malware of every stripe and color. The relative safety of the Mac platform is commonly passed off as a function of the smaller size of the installed computer base. Why waste time hacking Macs when there are so many easy PC to infect? I think the truth is that the more closed system of the Mac helps ward off attacks due to the infrastructure being more secure from the foundation up and in no small part, the work of...

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Jun 22
Apple granted patents for Apple TV interface, iMac...

Apple has been granted patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office for the Apple TV user interface, the iMac, the iPhone, the iPod, and more.

Patents 7,743,116 and 7,743,338 are for the Apple TV interface. Patent number D618,241 is for the iMac. Patent number D618,204 is for the iPhone 2G. Patent number D618,207 is for the design of the original iPod. Patent number D618,206 is for the design of the second gen iPod nano, while patent number D618,205 is for the third gen model.

Two other Apple patents also appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Patent number 7,742,525 is for adaptive motion estimation. The patent involves a method for adaptively performing motion estimation. In some embodiments, the method initially performs a first motion estimation operation. It then determines whether the estimated error in the result of the first motion estimation is greater than a particular threshold. If not, the method uses the results of the...

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Jun 22
The Mac can be Apple's 'game console'

And in writing for "InfoWorld" (http://macosg.me/2/f0), Paul Venezia has an interesting premise: "Rumor has it that Apple may release a gyroscopic Wii-like controller, too. Couple a 27-inch LCD panel with a Mac running Mac OS X and games developed for the iPad/iPhone, all controlled by the equivalent of a Wiimote, and you suddenly have a compelling gaming system that could run the same games on devices ranging from the iPhone to the iMac. From the developer's perspective, it's develop once, run on every Apple device."

In fact, it's similar to a GameDock system proposed by "Mac/Life": "Take this nifty little gaming platform and assign it double duty as both a handheld and a console system. The GameDock accommodates the iPhone and iPod touch and hooks directly to your TV and the Internet. Whether you download a game wirelessly via the handheld or wiredly via the GameDock, you pay just once for two versions of...

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