Western Digital debuts My Book Thunderbolt Duo drive at Macworld/iWorld Expo

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Date: Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 08:50
Category: Accessory, hard drive, News

Ok, the Thunderbolt peripherals have sort of trickled out the gate as opposed to a mighty torrent.

This may be changing as hard drive and accessory maker Western Digital introduced its first Thunderbolt-equipped drive at Macworld|iWorld on Thursday. Per Electronista, the My Book Thunderbolt Duo uses the fast 10Gbps port to feed two 3.5-inch hard drives at speeds that would be impractical for FireWire 800. On a 6TB Thunderbolt Duo, peak transfer speeds can hit over 250MBps (2Gbps), making the only bottleneck the drives themselves.

The speeds are potentially vital for video and 3D editors, even on the MacBook Air. WD estimates that a full HD movie can shuttle to or from the drive in 30 seconds. At such speeds, it’s comparable to a mid-tier solid-state drive like the MacBook Air’s own and can create a seamless effect where working from the external drive is as quick as built-in flash storage.

Both 4TB and 6TB capacities will be available, each using a RAID 0 stripe to get the extra speed and continuous space. Although it technically wouldn’t require a Mac, Windows-based PCs using true Thunderbolt connectors were only just announced at CES and leave Apple’s systems as the only immediate options. Final pricing and shipping dates have yet to be announced, so stay tuned and we’ll offer more details as soon as they become available.

Apple universal remote patent points towards upcoming television set

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Date: Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 05:26
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent applications that provide the niftiest hints.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple has shown interest in building a new, simplified remote control that would automatically control a variety of devices while reducing setup and frustration for the user.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application entitled “Apparatus and Method to Facilitate Universal Remote Control,” it describes a touchscreen-based controller that would reduce the confusing clutter found on current universal remotes.

The filing notes that current remotes have a large number of buttons and switches to control the functions of a device, and while those buttons are necessary to control all of the functions, the average user typically only uses a handful of the buttons.

“The controls that are not normally used clutter the remote control and can cause confusion to the user when trying to locate a seldom-used feature,” the filing notes.

It also details how current universal remotes are even more complex to operate than the basic remotes that ship with specific devices, like a television set or receiver. And often times, those universal remotes cannot replicate some of the tasks found on the original remote.

“Hence, users must spend time learning a new remote control or programming an existing universal remote each time they purchase a new remotely controllable appliance, which detracts from the enjoyment of using the appliance after it is first purchased,” Apple’s application states. “What is needed is an apparatus and a method to provide remote control over multiple appliances without the difficulties described above.”

Apple’s proposed solution is a remote control with a dynamic touchscreen used for input. The remote would include a “discovery mechanism” that would discover available appliances for it to control, negating the need for users to enter complex codes and program individual devices.

The filing describes a remote controlling one or more of a television, video players, a stereo, a “smart home” control system, and even a Mac. The document notes that the controller could also be used beyond electronic appliances, and could control programs and functions on a computer, like allowing a user to play songs on iTunes on their Mac or PC.

Apple’s solution would simplify the user interface by having devices wirelessly transmit a specific interface for that device. The remote would receive this customized button layout, and dynamically present input options to the user without the clutter of a typical button-based universal remote.

The remote would also detect which appliances are within range of the controller. If, for example, a specific appliance could not be detected, the remote would gray that option out so the user would know it is not available.

The proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in September of 2011. It is credited to Albert Vidal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Volume Purchase Program allows businesses to buy iOS apps in bulk

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Date: Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 05:58
Category: iOS, News, retail, Software

Sometimes a business just needs certain App Store apps.

Per Macworld, Apple quietly unveiled a Volume Purchase for Business program (also known as VPP) last summer: Essentially, it’s an App Store specifically for businesses, where they can purchase iOS apps in bulk. It allows developers to custom-tailor software for specific businesses; it also gives Apple another entry into the business market.

Here’s how the Volume Purchase Program works: Businesses create a single Apple ID to manage their purchases. Using that account—which needs to be linked to a corporate credit card or purchasing card—organizations can search for apps and then buy them in bulk.

Once the purchases have been made, Apple issues the company a list of redemption codes for the app. Whoever is managing app distribution for the company can email those codes to employees, allowing them to download the app just by following a link on their Mac, PC, or iOS device. The management interface is updated as users redeem the apps, keeping track of which codes are still available, as well as retaining a full purchase history.

Developers say Apple sets a minimum price of US$10 per app, but after that they’re free to offer custom prices, features, and services to specific customers.

VPP does have its limitations and as of now has yet to expand beyond the United States.

For years, Apple has famously focused on the consumer end of the market. But as more and more of those consumers bring their iPhones and iPads to work, IT departments are increasingly needing to take advantage of those devices; VPP gives Apple a way to help with that and thereby make inroads into the enterprise market.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve ever used the VPP for your business, please let us know about your experience, positive or otherwise.