Google’s Schmidt hints at “highest quality” tablet within six months

Posted by:
Date: Monday, December 19th, 2011, 10:00
Category: Hardware, News

googlelogo.jpg

Where there’s money to be made, there shall be competition.

Per Electronista, Google chairman Eric Schmidt in an interview with Italy’s Corriere Della Sera raised the prospect of a Nexus tablet. The search firm planned to sell a tablet of the “highest quality” within six months’ time. He didn’t mention the Nexus label by name, but Google usually hasn’t marketed anyone else’s tablet itself, even for the reference Xoom.

The timing is such that it would nearly dovetail with plans for Google I/O in June. Google regularly gives away a free device at Google I/O to attendees of the developer-focused show, usually to showcase a new OS. Tips have hinted it might have release Jelly Bean, possibly Android 4.5 or 5.0, at or by the event.

A reference tablet would be an admission that Android tablets may be headed in the same direction as smartphones, where the stock interface becomes the rarity rather than the norm. Most Android 3 tablets launched in 2011 have used the stock interface, but later models and post-launch updates have customized the interface and both guaranteed delayed updates as well as clouded the ability to see the official Google experience.

The tablet would likely be made by a partner like HTC, Motorola, or Samsung, but it would still represent Google co-designing a direct competitor to both other Android partners and to Apple’s iPad.

In other comments, Schmidt wouldn’t comment on the rumored Majel voice command system, saying he wouldn’t comment on future, unannounced products. He insisted Google has long had the “best” voice dictation system and could use it to do things similar to Apple’s Siri. The iPhone 4S-based system has been touted as better since it understands context, follow-ups, and indirect questions where Android’s system is limited to specific syntax.

Thus far, Apple’s been able to dominate the tablet market, so the next year should prove interesting. Let us know what you make of this and we’ll have additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple developing wearable, Siri-controlled computing devices

Posted by:
Date: Monday, December 19th, 2011, 09:12
Category: Hardware, Rumor

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s the rumors that make technology interesting.

Per the New York Times, Apple has reportedly begun work on new, tiny, wearable devices that could be controlled with Siri, or used to input information to devices like the iPhone.

One of the prototype products developed by Apple, according to the article, is a “curved-glass iPod that would wrap around the wrist.” Users could interact with this device by using their voice, like with Siri on the iPhone 4S.

Another experimental idea from Apple has been small, wearable devices that could be used to input information on another, more powerful device like an iPhone. These accessories could also wirelessly display information on other devices, like iPods.

Apple’s interest in wearable electronics has reportedly been spearheaded by a very small group of employees at the company. But prototypes of some wearable devices have allegedly been built by the company.

Author Nick Bilton said Apple is not alone in its pursuit of these devices: Google, too, is said to have been working on wearable computers that could connect to Android smartphones. Calling the smartphone the “first wearable computer,” Bilton said smartphones will eventually become the “hub” for all information, “transmitting power and Internet access to sensors and screens that are tacked on to our clothing.”

Of course, Apple has produced wearable version of the iPod for years, and currently sells the iPod shuffle and iPod nano, both of which include a clip so it can be attached to clothing. The iPod nano, which includes a multi-touch display, can also be worn as a watch with available accessories.

Though the tiny iPod nano includes a standard 30-pin iPod dock connector, it does not include any wireless functionality that would allow it to wirelessly communicate with an iPhone. As it stands, the iPod nano is a standalone media playback device.

But Bilton’s report envisions a future where all devices are connected, and wearable electronics could include glasses or even contact lenses with built-in screens, capable of displaying information to users.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Facebook iOS app reaches 4.1, adds Timeline feature, bug fixes

Posted by:
Date: Monday, December 19th, 2011, 05:02
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

Facebook is proudly introducing its new Timeline feature across both its web site and assorted apps and the iOS variant has just arrived. Per Engadget, version 4.1 of the Facebook app has just been released and is available for both the iPhone and iPad.

You will need to have already activated the timeline function on the web-based original, but downloading the latest version will also grant access to your friend lists and subscriptions. The update also boasts assorted performance boosts and more easily-viewed photos.

Facebook 4.1 requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run. If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple looking to release 7-inch iPad in 2012

Posted by:
Date: Friday, December 16th, 2011, 05:38
Category: iPad, Rumor

If there’s a rumor, there must be a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per DigiTimes, Asian supply chain sources are now claiming Apple will release a 7.85-inch iPad by the fourth quarter of 2012 to face off against competition from smaller tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

The web site claimed on Friday that Apple is “likely” to launch a smaller iPad several months after the next-generation iPad, which is expected to arrive at the end of the first quarter.

“In order to cope with increasing market competition including the 7-inch Kindle Fire from Amazon and the launch of large-size smartphones from handset vendors, Apple has been persuaded into the development of 7.85-inch iPads,” the report noted sources as saying.

Apple will allegedly purchase the 7.85-inch panels from LG Display and AU Optronics, with makers within the company’s supply chain expected to begin production of the smaller iPad at the end of the second quarter of 2012.

The report should, however, be taken with some degree of skepticism, as the Taiwanese industry publication has a mixed track record with Apple predictions.

Rumors of a 7-inch iPad were supposedly laid to rest when late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs proclaimed such a screen to be “too small to express the software.” However, reports of the device were resurrected this fall after the announcement of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which some have touted as the first credible challenger to the iPad.

Ticonderoga securities analyst Brian White claimed in October that he had heard rumblings of a so-called “iPad mini” arriving next year, though he believed the device would be cheaper and not necessarily smaller. Also in October, DigiTimes reported that suppliers were gearing up to ship 7.85-inch screens to Apple.

For its part, Amazon may not even stick with the 7-inch size for its Kindle Fire. Recent reports have suggested that the company is looking to expand to an 8.9-inch model. The Fire does appear to be on its way to success, as Amazon revealed on Thursday that millions of the device had been sold, though it declined to provide specific figures.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple may be paving way for Siri to be used by other devices, says hacker

Posted by:
Date: Friday, December 16th, 2011, 05:59
Category: News, Software

This is kind of interesting.

Following yesterday’s update to iOS 5.0.1 for the iPhone 4S handset and its apparent lack of specific changes, Cult Of Mac and well-known jailbreak hacker MuscleNerd revealed on Thursday that the update allowed a user to collect the files needed for a Siri port without having to break Apple’s copyright, the report noted.

“It’s the first public 4S ipsw where the main filesystem keys are obtainable (due to non-encrypted ramdisks),” said MuscleNerd.

But, given that Siri requires communication with Apple’s servers to function, it’s not immediately clear whether a port of the virtual voice assistant would fit within all applicable terms of service and license agreements for the device in question.

A number of members of the jailbreak community have been hard at work trying to port Siri to other devices. In late October, two hackers claimed to have gotten a limited functionality version of Siri working on a jailbroken iPhone 4 and iPod touch. Doing so, however, required custom information from an iPhone 4S device. Also, Apple has warned that jailbreaking an iOS device may void its warranty.

Apple released Siri as an exclusive feature for the iPhone 4S after acquiring the app last April. The Siri team has since grown to become one of the largest development teams at the company.

Full Siri functionality may also require minor hardware modifications. A teardown of the iPhone 4S revealed that the proximity sensor on the handset has a new infrared component built to work with Siri’s raise-to-speak feature.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Cocktail 5.1.1 (Lion Edition) released

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 12:02
Category: News, Software

cocktaillogo.jpg

On Thursday, shareware developer Maintain released version 5.1.1 of CocktailCocktail (Lion Edition), the popular shareware utility program that allows for additional Mac OS X system tests. The new version, a 2.9 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

- Addresses compatibility issues with Google Chrome extensions.

- Added “Enable AirDrop on older Macs” setting (Network – File Sharing).

Cocktail 5.1.1 retails for a US$19.00 shareware registration fee and requires Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

Apple releases Apple TV 4.4.4, iOS 5.0.1 update for iPhone 4S model

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 12:57
Category: Apple TV, iPhone, News, Software

Firmware: It’s nifty and it makes a difference.

Per MacNN, Apple has released two minor firmware updates for iOS devices. The first is v4.4.4 for the Apple TV, which implements what Apple terms as “general performance and stability improvements, including a fix for an issue that displayed an error when playing some video content.” The update can be installed automatically via an Apple TV’s normal update functions, or manually by technically savvy users with access to the IPSW file.

Unusually, Apple has also published a slightly different version of iOS 5.0.1 for the iPhone 4S. The new build is listed as 9A406. Why Apple would push out such an update is unknown, although any changes are likely to be extremely small given the same version number, and the need for compatibility with apps.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen any changes in your device(s) after installing the updates, please let us know in the comments.

Microsoft adds XMPP support for Messenger, allows connectivity with iChat, other IM clients

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 07:48
Category: News, Software

As tempting as it might be to be snarky towards Microsoft, perhaps they’re opening things up a bit more to the Mac side of things.

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft has opened up public access to its Messenger IM network via XMPP, enabling Apple and others to build open clients capable of interacting with Microsoft users.

Recently, the company has announced “public availability of access to the Messenger network via XMPP,” a step that finally brings Microsoft into the fold using eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol.

Unlike email, which has long used Internet standards to exchange messages between servers, IM providers each created their own proprietary protocols for sending IM, making it difficult or impossible for users on AIM, Yahoo, MSN and other IM services to connect with each other.

Apple initially partnered with AIM to launch iChat in 2002, but by 2004 had introduced a new iChat 3 version that supported XMPP, allowing users to seamlessly connect with Google Talk. In this summer’s release of Mac OS X Lion, Apple also added support for Yahoo IM, enabling the chat client to connect to three different chat networks (AIM, Yahoo and open Jabber/XMPP servers like Google Talk, Facebook chat and Apple’s own iChat Server).

Conspicuously absent was any support for Microsoft’s MSM/Windows Live IM network, which is extremely popular in some areas, particularly in Europe. Microsoft’s move to support the open XMPP may explain why Apple didn’t build in support for Microsoft’s previous, proprietary Messenger network. Apple has separately worked with Microsoft to support its Exchange Server protocols, so it was likely privy to Microsoft’s Messenger plans.

Apple and XMPP :
Apple has invested significantly in the open XMPP, not only using it to support Bonjour local chat in iChat, but also adding support in Mac OS X Server to allow companies to set up their own XMPP IM services, just as easily as setting up local email services.

Additionally, Apple has used XMPP to power push notifications in iOS and Mac OS X, enabling an energy efficient mechanism for supporting third party app notifications and support for FaceTime and iMessage.

Now that Microsoft Messenger enables open XMPP access, iChat users should be able to add Messenger accounts and directly interact with Messenger users without needing to configure a gateway, use a multi-protocol chat client, or use Microsoft’s own chat application.

iOS Messages app flirts with IM functionality :
Apple appears to be headed toward adding direct IM support to iOS devices through its Messages app. The company has already released direct iPhone to iPad to iPod touch support for iMessage, which automatically connects via XMPP when it detects a connection with an iOS client (using a direct XMPP message rather than SMS, a telephony protocol that requires a mobile connection).

With Microsoft adding 300 million Messenger users to the open XMPP world, Apple appears capable of supporting direct chat functionality with Messenger, Facebook and Google Talk users to its iOS Messages app, as seamlessly as it has added iMessages support alongside SMS/MMS.

Last month, a developer reported that Apple’s iOS 5.0 includes IMService code that makes mention of AIM and Jabber (XMPP) alongside iMessage and FaceTime, indicating that it plans to incorporate external IM features on a system wide level.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft Office 2008 updated to 12.3.2

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 07:10
Category: News, Software

microsoftlogo.jpg

Microsoft has posted an update to version 12.3.1 for Office 2008 for Mac. The update, a 285 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- This update improves security. This update includes fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer’s memory with malicious code.

Microsoft Office 2008 12.3.2 requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and have anything to report back, let us know.

Microsoft releases SkyDrive app for iPhone, offers free cloud storage in process

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 14th, 2011, 06:43
Category: iPhone, News, Software

It’s surprising but it could be useful.

Per the cool cats at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Microsoft has just released an iPhone app for access to the free Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage service. SkyDrive for iPhone should make Windows users who have documents stored in the cloud happy.



Users can upload videos or photos created on the iPhone to SkyDrive using the app, which takes up about 4.4 MB on the device. SkyDrive users can access all of their content, including files that someone has shared with them. Likewise, any file can be shared by sending a link via email.

The app also provides a way to create and delete folders from the iPhone. Users of Hotmail, Microsoft Messenger, and Xbox LIVE already have SkyDrive accounts and anyone else who’d like to give it a try can sign up for a new account at SkyDrive.com.

The SkyDrive app is available for free and requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the app and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.