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May 07
Traditional book retailers face trilogy of threats

Today’s reader can “curl up with a good book” in a variety of non-traditional ways -- library books, e-books, or books bought online. All these choices, however, threaten the health of traditional brick-and-mortar book retailers.

The Mintel research firm (http://www.mintel.com) says that e-book options like the iPad and Kindle, the popularity of Amazon.com and even local libraries pose significant threats to traditional book retailers. Online book sites have cornered a significant slice of the market share that once belonged to traditional bookstores from 2007-2009, as they enjoyed a 7% increase in sales at the same time traditional retailers were hit with an almost 10% decrease. This disparity further suggests that bookstore owners must act quickly if they want to maintain the upper hand on the book retail market.

“The lower costs of ordering through the Internet, either for physical books or e-books,...

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May 06
Apple patent is for multidimensional widgets

An Apple patent (number 20100115471) for multidimensional widgets has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves, as you might guess, implementations that relate generally to graphical user interface.

Systems, methods, computer-readable mediums, user interfaces and other implementations are disclosed for implementing multidimensional widgets. A multidimensional widget is a three-dimensional object with application surfaces, and each application surface is associated with a widget function. Multidimensional widgets can be modified by adding functions or grouping with other widgets. The inventors are John O. Louch and Imran A. Chaudhri.
Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A hallmark of modern graphical user interfaces is that they allow a large number of graphical objects or items to be displayed on a display screen at the same time. Leading personal computer operating systems, such as Apple Mac OS.RTM., provide user interfaces in...

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May 06
Apple patent involves pan and zoom in video sequences

An Apple patent (number 20100110303) for a look-ahead system and method for pan and zoom detection in video sequences has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It relates generally to analysis of motion in video sequences and, more particularly, to identifying pan and zoom global motion in video sequences.

The system and method use motion vectors in a reference coordinate system to identify pans and zooms in video sequences. The identification of pans and zooms enables parameter switching for improved encoding in various video standards (e.g., H.264) and improved video retrieval of documentary movies and other video sequences in video databases or other storage devices. The inventors are Adriana Dumitras and Barin G. Haskell.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "The analysis of motion information in video sequences has typically addressed two largely non-overlapping applications: video retrieval and video coding. In video retrieval...

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May 06
Apple patent would let devices ID users by their heart...

Forget passwords and fingerprint technology. Apple is eyeing ways in which its devices can identity users by their heart beat. An Apple patent (number 20100113950) for a seamlessly embedded heart rate monitor has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The patent is directed to an electronic device having an integrated sensor for detecting a user's cardiac activity and cardiac electrical signals. The electronic device can include a heart sensor having several leads for detecting a user's cardiac signals. The leads can be coupled to interior surfaces of the electronic device housing to hide the sensor from view, such that electrical signals generated by the user can be transmitted from the user's skin through the electronic device housing to the leads. In some embodiments, the leads can be coupled to pads placed on the exterior of the housing.

The pads and housing can be finished to ensure that the pads are not visibly or haptically distinguishable on the...

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May 06
Apple patents involve power functions, hash functions...

Five Apple patents that only the most tech savvy could love (though I'm sure they're great patents) have appeared at the US Patent and Trademark Office. Here's a summary of each.

Patent number 20100111415 is for computations of power functions using polynomial approximations. Per the patent, a power function is approximated over an applicable data interval with polynomials determined by means of a Chebyshev minimax approximation technique. In some cases, multiple polynomials may be used to approximate the function over respective ranges of the desirable interval, in a piecewise manner. The appropriate polynomial that approximates the power function over the range of interest is derived and stored. When the power function is to be applied to a particular data value, the data value is first evaluated to determine where it lies within the applicable interval. The constants for the polynomial associated with that range of the interval are then retrieved and used...

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May 06
Note to Apple: Blu-ray is catching on

New research from The NPD Group (http://www.npd.com) shows that Blu-ray is, indeed, catching on. Which, it seems to me, shows that Apple is making a mistake in ignoring the technology.

In the home, flat-panel TVs has grown to 64% in 2009, up from 61% in 2009 while the percentage of households with two or more flat-panel televisions remained flat. The broadening penetration of HDTV coupled with lower player prices, however, proved to be a boon for standalone Blu-ray players, which nearly doubled since last year, going from just 6% in 2009 to 11% in 2010. Deep discounting during the 2009 holiday season was one key factor behind this increase.

On a related note, Wi-Fi is becoming a must-have feature across a range of devices, as network connectivity migrates into the living room, reports In-Stat (http://www.in-stat.com). Digital televisions, Blu...

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May 05
Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and security

Everyone knows that Microsoft products are the main targets of malware and hackers, and Adobe products are catching up in this regard. What's more, some pundits think Apple may be next.

Marc Maiffret, co-founder and chief technical officer of eEye Digital Security, told "InfoWorld" (http://www.infoworld.com/d/security-central/the-security-hole-baton-pass...) that "most people in the Apple world have a false sense of security and an elitism."

"I took some heat recently for saying Apple was way behind Microsoft on security," he says. "Look who they just hired for security -- Window Snyder, who played a lead role in helping Microsoft turn around their security. That shows the company starting to move past the...

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May 05
Opinion: The magic of Apple is hard to replicate

I read with some amusement that Microsoft dropped their tablet concept project within a month of iPad being released. Redmond knew when they had been licked -- which was before the race even started.

A tablet PC running windows is nothing special enough to matter. Even a novel form factor and a touch version of Windows was no match for iPad. The power of the Mac OS X in various modes and the infrastructure of the iTunes store, along with the reputation of Apple hardware, was enough to trump the mediocrity we have come expect from Microsoft. Despite the bravado and mocking of Apple by Balmer and company, one only has to handle an iPad to know it is going to be game changer and the price is right.

Hiring an Apple employee has also been tied, without the desired effect. Look at Palm. Trying to match the iPhone magic has been elusive and getting enough developers to launch apps using the Palm OS has also been impossible to repeat. I think even with the virtually...

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May 04
Apple patents involve digital audio input, video...

Apple patents involving digital audio input, video acquisition and more have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Here's a look at each of them.

Patent number 7,710,294 is for an externally clocked digital audio input, determining a valid clock and muting audio during synchronization. The present invention relates broadly to digital input in a computer device. Specifically, the present invention relates to clock synchronization in a device that supports digital audio input.

Methods and apparatus for determining the existence of an external clock over a digital input port on a computer. In one embodiment, the external clock is validated, and a lock is performed when the clock is valid. Whenever a loss of the lock is detected, and, if a re-lock is likely, the apparatus is muted so that audio artifacts that would otherwise be heard are minimized. The methods and apparatus also provide automatic re-locking to the external clock when a...

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May 04
Floating in middle Tennessee...

So many of you have emailed about how I'm doing with the recent disaster in my neck of the woods, I simply don't have time to write each and every one. But your thoughts are more appreciated than you can imagine. But here's the short version....

The Great Flood of 2010, they're calling it. Nothing great about it. Middle Tennessee got the most rain in history over the weekend and into Monday, and there were floods everywhere. Eleven people died (and maybe more; that's the tally as I write this).

So all things considered I'm lucky. Not happy, but lucky. My basement has 13 inches of water in it. My stationary bike and my Bowflex are ruined. My comic book collection is ruined. And some of my electronics stuff was ruined. In case you think I was nuts for putting all this down there, let me just say in my defense that my abode and home office is located on a HIGH hill and not in a flood plane.

Anyway, as my son Matt and I were rushing to get stuff out of the...

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May 03
TV widgets/, apps alter how folks access Internet...

Most consumer electronics (CE) device manufacturers are introducing software platforms that support widgets -- also called TV applications, reports In-Stat (http://www.in-stat.com). And this sets the stage for a new market and alters how people will access Internet content -- from news, web-surfing and purchasing, to watching Netflix movies and YouTube.

TV applications are small, self-contained software programs that can be plugged into a web application to access a wide range of content. Due to their broad scope, TV apps are rapidly becoming a ubiquitous product requirement for nearly all web-enabled, consumer electronic devices.

“By 2013, TV applications have the potential to generate over $1.7 billion in annual revenue,” says Keith Nissen, In-Stat analyst. “Our primary research shows consumers already have a moderate interest in TV Widgets. An innovative web-enabled CE device and service from a...

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Apr 30
Should Apple buy Netflix or just crush it?


While Steve Jobs glibly passes the AppleTV device off as a "hobby", he is too smart to have missed the big picture, as broadcast, cable TV and even satellite TV seem to have peaked and are in a slow decline in both customers and revenue. Then you see Blockbuster and countless other smaller video rental places in decline, you have to ask the question, where are the customers going?  DVD disk sales can't be the answer either.  

Digital TV and High Definition TV have made inroads faster than prior TV technology. It was years before VHS penetrated the market and became very common. DVD disks have already peaked and Blu-ray has now begun its reign since it clobbered the other high def. format.  I expect the period Blu-ray is popular to be short, as streaming HD entertainment is going to be the next wave.  The high speed Internet service that is required  to make downloading HDTV programing fast enough to be practical is becoming an expected level or service these days.

...

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Apr 29
A call to action on those Mac OS-less Apple Design...

Okay, I'm still hacked off that Apple is only allowing iPhone and iPad apps in the 2010 Apple Design Awards (http://developer.apple.com/wwdc/ada/). Various stories have already been written about this (links at the bottom). Now it's time for a call to action.

The ADAs are designed to recognize apps that demonstrate technical excellence, innovation, technology adoption and more. So why has Apple decided to eliminate Mac products from the annual awards? If the company wants to spotlight the iPhone OS (and, for better or worse, it does) then why not have iPhone OS and Mac OS categories?

Let's do something about it. Let Apple how this decision reflects both poorly on Apple, but on their platforms that they claim they hold most dear. You can contact 'em at:

Public/Media Relations (408) 974-2042
Customer Relations (800) 676-2775
...

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Apr 29
Apple wants its devices to be more aware of lighting...

An Apple patent (number 20100103172) has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office for a system and method for rendering ambient light affected appearing imagery based on sensed ambient lighting. In other words, Apple wants its devices to be more "aware" of the lighting conditions around them.

The patent is for a method for rendering ambient light affected appearing imagery on a two-dimensional display screen in dependence on sensed ambient lighting conditions about the display screen is disclosed. The method includes processing, on a microprocessor in control communication with the display screen, data defining sensed ambient lighting conditions about the display screen, and based on said data, determining at least one light source's location relative to the display screen and an intensity of light from that at least one light source at the display screen.

The method then includes rendering an image of a constructed scene on the display screen based on the...

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Apr 29
Apple patent is for disappearing buttons

Apple -- or at least CEO Steve Jobs -- probably won't be happy until we can control our Macs, iPhones, iPods and iPads complete by brain waves. A new patent (20200103116) is for a disappearing button or slider and shows Apple's continued war to eliminate buttons on its devices.

An input device is disclosed. The input is a deflection based capacitive sensing input. Deflection of a metal fame of the input device causes a change in capacitance that is used to control a function of an electrical device. The input appears invisible because it is made of the same material as the housing it is contained in. Invisible backlit holes may make the input selectively visible or invisible to the user. The inventors are Omar S. Leung and David T. Amm.

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

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Apr 28
Little Mac love shown in WWDC announcement

If you were hoping for a bit of love for the Mac platform whenever Apple got around to announcing the 2010 Worldwide Developer Conference -- as it finally did this week -- you're doubtless disappointed.

There was no mention of Mac OS X 10.7 in the official announcement. Instead, it promised that "this year’s WWDC offers developers in-depth sessions and hands-on working labs to learn more about iPhone OS 4." What's more, the press release says that "WWDC provides a unique opportunity for developers to work side-by-side with Apple engineers and interface designers to make their iPhone and iPad apps even better.”

That's a bit of a dissing for the Mac platform. And to make matters worse, there's no mention of Mac apps being included in the annual Apple Design Award winners. Apple's announcement says that "there will be five iPad and five iPhone Apple Design Award winners announced at WWDC 2010."

That's a stupid move. Mac developers are some of Apple's most...

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Apr 27
Apple patents involve graphics resources, antennas

Two new Apple patents have appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office. They're for virtualization of graphics resources and antennas with periodic shunt inductors.

Patent number 7,705,853 is for virtualization of graphics resources. Per the patent, graphics resources are virtualized through an interface between graphics hardware and graphics clients. The interface allocates the graphics resources across multiple graphics clients, processes commands for access to the graphics resources from the graphics clients, and resolves conflicts for the graphics resources among the clients. The inventors are John Stauffer, Bob Beretta and Ken Dyke.

Patent number 7,705,795 is for antennas with periodic shunt inductors. An antenna may be formed from conductive regions that define a gap that is bridged by shunt inductors. The inductors may have equal inductances and may be located equidistant from each other to form a scatter-type antenna...

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Apr 26
Go Blu-ray; it adds additional format enhancements

Here's another reason I think Blu-ray is going to be around awhile: the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) recently announced two new media specifications that use Blu-ray Disc technology to provide targeted functionality for commercial and consumer applications.

The specifications for BDXL (High Capacity Recordable and Rewritable discs) and IH-BD (Intra-Hybrid discs) are expected in the next few months. The BDXL specification, which is targeted primarily at commercial segments such as broadcasting, medical and document imaging enterprises with significant archiving needs, will provide customers with write-once options on 100GB and 128GB capacity discs and rewritable capability on 100GB discs. T

he discs reach these capacities by incorporating three to four recordable layers. A consumer version of BDXL is also expected, particularly in those regions where BD recorders have achieved broad consumer acceptance.

"Professional industries have expressed a desire to find...

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Apr 23
North by Northeast: you heard it here first -- I was...

North of Northeast is a column that offers commentaries from a Canadian perspective. OK, I'll admit it, I'm a crusty, curmudgeonly kind of guy; the classic "glass half empty" type, but I'm also willing to admit when I'm wrong … and when it comes to the iPad I was very, very wrong indeed.

Now, in my own defence, my first comments were made just days after the device was officially announced, and I had not yet laid my hands on one. Neither had many third-party developers. So all we were seeing were a handful of Apple apps and a bunch of transported iPhone apps. Not much to go by.

That was then, this is now. My own iPad finally arrived yesterday morning, after an epic sixteen day journey from Boston to the southwest shores of Nova Scotia via, it would seem, Timbuktu. I live 440km directly across the Gulf of Maine from Boston. There's nothing but water between us. Sixteen days? What, did they hand it off to the fattest postie in the US Postal Service and...

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Apr 23
Men with iPhones are more attractive to women

Hey, forget the old "chicks dig scars" cliche. Chicks dig iPhones. According to a recent survey conducted by Phones 4u -- an independent mobile retailer -- men with iPhones are luckiest in love.

The survey of 1,500 women suggests that men who own the Apple iPhone handset are said to be more attractive than those who don't. I don't -- thank you, AT&T -- though I'm happily married. But you single guys should take note.

Per the survey, 54% of women stated that they would be more likely to date a man if he owns an iPhone. One respondent suggested "if he has an iPhone then he's obviously intelligent and well-off."

"There's just something about a man who's good with computers that makes him more trustworthy," said Lucy, a 23-year-old primary school teacher from London. "If he's got the cash for an iPhone then he must be very good at his job, too."

-- Dennis Sellers
What about an iPod touch? And, if size matters, then what about guys with iPads?

| Read more »
Apr 22
Apple patents range from audio playback to a...

Five Apple patents have appeared at the US Trademark and Patent Office. Here's a summary of each.

Patent number 20100100212 involves efficient techniques for modifying audio playback rates. Improved techniques for modifying a playback rate of an audio item (e.g., an audio stream) are disclosed. As a result, the audio item can be played back faster or slower than normal. The improved techniques are resource efficient and well suited for audio items containing speech. The resource efficiency of the improved techniques make them well suited for use with portable media devices, such as portable media players. The inventors are Aram Lindahl and Joseph Mark Williams.

Patent number 20100098350 is for a blur computation algorithm. The proposed algorithm accomplishes a blur of an image using fragment programs on a GPU. Alternatively, the blur may be computed on a CPU through emulation or directly programmed. Modifications of the program are...

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Apr 22
What other 'extraordinary products' does...

Commenting on Apple's latest, greatest, beat-all-estimates financial results Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a press release that "we have several more extraordinary products in the pipeline for this year." What might they be?

One, of course, is the next version of the iPhone. New Macs will doubtless see the light of day. Perhaps with USB 3.0 or Light Peak technology. And maybe with Blu-ray playback as an option, though I'm not holding my breath for this.

After all, a "9to5Mac" reader sent Apple's head honcho an email (http://www.9to5mac.com/Steve-Jobs-BluRay-3490436) asking if if future Macs would support BluRay.  While not flatly denying the possibility, Jobs certainly didn't give out much hope in the form of his famous "stay tuned" responses. He noted that YouTube now supports HD video and seems content with that as a distribution channel for HD...

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Apr 20
Apple's financials: so how'd we do?

Apple announced its second quarter results for fiscal year 2010 on Tuesday. So how did the Sellers Research Firm (that's me) do in my prognostications? Well, better than the Street. However, all of us proved to be way too pessimistic.

Analysts expected, on average, about 6.8 million iPhones to be sold for the quarter, compared with 3.8 million units in the same period last year. Mac sales were expected to reach 2.7 million units for the quarter, up 22% from the same period last year. Sales of the iPod were expected to hit unit sales of nine million compared to 11 million in the same period last year.

The Sellers Research Firm predicted 6.9 million iPhone unit sales, 2.8 million Mac unit sales and 10 million unit iPod sales. Check back later today to see how we did.

The reality: Apple sold 8.75 million iPhones, 2.94 million Macs and 10.89 million iPods.

Oh well, when it comes to Apple's finances, I'm happy to underestimate how successful the company can...

| Read more »
Apr 20
Apple's financials: the analysts'...

Apple will announce its second quarter results for fiscal year 2010 today at 2 pm (Pacific) and we'll have all the results here. Here's what the analysts are expecting -- per MarketWatch (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/apple-could-dial-up-strong-earnings-wit...):-- and what the Sellers Research Firm (that's me) is predicting.

Analysts expect, on average, about 6.8 million iPhones to be sold for the quarter, compared with 3.8 million units in the same period last year. Mac sales are expected to reach 2.7 million units for the quarter, up 22% from the same period last year. Sales of the iPod are expected to hit unit sales of nine million compared to 11 million in the same period last year.

For the second fiscal quarter ended in March,...

| Read more »
Apr 19
Higher ed students want more support for using...

Apple already has a big presence in education. But the potential is there for it to expand that presence.

Today's tech savvy college students seek more support when it comes to using digital tools in the classroom, according to a recent survey conducted by Cengage Learning (http://www.cengage.com), a global provider of teaching, learning and research solutions, in conjunction with Eduventures.

The survey, which was administered to both students and instructors, also reveals there is a direct correlation between classroom technology use, student engagement and overall learning outcomes. The Cengage Learning/Eduventures survey, entitled "Instructors and Students: Technology Use, Engagement and Learning Outcomes," found that 65% of instructors think students are tech savvy when it comes to using digital tools in the classroom.

Conversely, only 42% of students believe there's enough support for...

| Read more »
 
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