Apple to transition from Google Maps to its own solution for iOS later this year

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Date: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, 06:15
Category: iPhone, Rumor, Software

You’ll get from point A to point B, just via Apple’s way of doing it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has made plans to break from Google Maps and use its own technology for the native Maps app on iOS later this year and could announce the feature at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

Present and former Apple employees revealed to The Wall Street Journal that the Cupertino, Calif., company is set to bump Google’s maps service from its mobile OS. Apple would instead “release a new mapping app that runs Apple’s own technology,” the report said.

One source suggested that Apple may show off the new software at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco next week. The company is reportedly looking to convince third-party application developers to implement its technology into their offerings.

The report went on to note that, according to tipsters at Apple, the plan to oust Google Maps has been in motion for years. The rapid rise of Android sales is believed to have quickened the pace of Apple’s plans.

The iPhone maker’s mapping intentions have been evident since at least 2009, when the company began acquiring mapping technology companies. The iPhone maker bought Placebase that year and then Poly9 in 2010. Last year, Apple bought Swedish 3D-mapping company C3.

The company also revealed last April that it was collecting data for a crowd-sourced “improved traffic service” for iPhone users. Given that the revelation came as a result of a location data controversy, Apple’s comments have been taken as referring to street traffic, though the company declined to provide further details.

Small steps have been taken to gradually wean iOS off Google Maps. In 2010, Apple notified U.S. senators that, beginning with iOS 3.2, it had begun relying on “its own databases” for location-based services and diagnostic purposes. In March, it was discovered that Apple had switched to OpenStreetMaps for the maps in its iPhoto iOS app.

Apple’s reported switch comes as location services are quickly attracting a significant percentage of advertising dollars. According to the Journal, Opus Research projects map- or location-related ads will comprise 25 percent of the estimated US$2.5 billion that will be spent on mobile ads this year. However, the report suggested that Apple’s move isn’t just about the money.

“But more than ad revenue, Apple is going after the map market to have more control over a key asset in the widening smartphone war,” the report read, noting that 90 percent of American iPhone owners use Google Maps. “So Apple believes controlling the mapping experience and offering features that Google doesn’t have can help sell more devices and entice developers to build unique apps for iPhone users.”

The maps issue has taken on greater importance as the relationship between Apple and Google has become increasingly complicated. The two companies were close partners for years, but have grown apart as they have become fierce competitors in several key markets, such as smartphones, tablets and advertising.

According to the report, Apple became concerned in 2008 that Google may have been compromising user privacy with its map program. Google executives, on the other hand, reportedly felt Apple was being too controlling. The Mountain View, Calif., search company is believed to have angered Apple leaders by withholding the Street View and turn-by-turn navigation features. Its demands were for better branding within the app and incorporation of its Latitude service, which Apple was unwilling to integrate.

The disagreement served as the impetus for Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ search for acquisitions to build out the company’s own mapping team, the report noted. The group from Poly9 allegedly became a secretive “geo” team within Apple. The employees were said to have built a new geocoder to replace Google’s own and began using it last fall.

Google hasn’t been sitting still either, though. Last week, the company sent out invites for an event that will show off the “next dimension of Google Maps.” The wording of the invite has prompted speculation that the company will announce new 3D features for its mapping service. The event comes just days before Apple kicks off its WWDC confab on June 11.

A bevy of reports have claimed that Apple will take the wraps off a new 3D mapping technology at WWDC. Last month, one report cited sources as saying the solution would “blow your head off.”

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said last week that his research points to the unveiling of a “greatly enhanced” Maps application with 3D capability next week. The new service has reportedly been developed in-house.

“We hear the key reason why AAPL decided to do this is that it believes it can deliver a much better use experience in Maps, not to mention provide further differentiation for its mobile devices business,” Wu said.

Apple is also expected to showcase new Macs, iOS 6 and new camera and photo apps at the conference.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T CEO states data-only plans could become “inevitable” with next 24 months

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Date: Monday, June 4th, 2012, 13:20
Category: iPhone, News

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One day, AT&T will provide something for everyone.

Per the Associated Press, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Friday that data-only wireless phone plans are likely to arrive within the next two years, marking a dramatic shift away from traditional cell network usage toward VoIP and text-as-data solutions like Apple’s iMessage.

Speaking at an investors conference, Stephenson said that while AT&T had no plans in place to offer an all-data subscription model, the industry is trending in that direction as smartphones continue to gain popularity led by Apple’s iPhone and handsets running Google’s Android mobile operating system, reports the Associated Press.

“I’ll be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don’t see people in the market place with data-only plans,” Stephenson said. “I just think that’s inevitable.”

Under a data-centric plan users would have to use VoIP solutions like Skype to hold voice conversations, changing Internet calling into a necessity rather than an option to save on billed minutes. The switch would also be disruptive to the installed system in which telecoms monetize voice calls by charging each other to connect to cellphone numbers. This is one of the reasons why voice and data charges are billed separately.

Stephenson recently bemoaned AT&T’s decision to offer unlimited data with the original iPhone and iPad, adding that Apple’s iMessage is also a source of concern because it takes away from the company’s texting revenue.

While it may seem ironic that texting is quickly moving the industry away from voice technology toward a style of communication seen in pagers during the 1990’s, the reality is that modern data exchanges offer a much richer and more immediate experience than their obsolescent counterparts. Smartphones give users the ability to be in constant contact with each other, and new data-driven apps like Sounder literally keep an open connection to friends and peers.

As telecoms move to 4G LTE, an increasing amount of consumers will use an increasing amount of limited bandwidth which could force carriers to raise prices or find alternative solutions.

For now, AT&T is hoping to introduce a shared data plan similar to how the company offers shared voice plans for families. The initiative is a long time coming and the carrier has been “working on it” for over a year, presumably to find a way to implement such a service without losing profits.

With shared data plans essentially representing a discount for users that would normally buy separate plans for each device they owned, the prospect of the pricing structure would seemingly be damaging to telecoms’ bottom lines. Stephenson pointed out that AT&T is looking to make more money from shared data, not less.

When you have millions of devices such as tablets that lack cellular data plans, Stephenson said, “it seems to me it’s a lift, not a deterioration” to get them connected. The chief executive is referring to users who may not be using the cellular capabilities of their iPads or other tablets and are instead operating solely on Wi-Fi.

To make data plan pricing more attractive to consumers Stephenson noted that the wireless industry will experiment with charging content providers for the data used to access their websites in a type of “800 toll-free number” system. Critics say this would give the upper hand to well-established companies that can afford to pay the instituted subsidy and squelch competition from cash-poor startups. The experiment will likely start within the year, though it is unknown which carriers will be taking part in the initiative.

“It’s not us going out and mandating this. The content guys are coming in asking for it,” Stephenson said. “If you don’t allow those kinds of models to flourish, you’re going to inhibit the potential of these services.”

Something for everyone somewhere down the line.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Matrox releases DS1, allows Thunderbolt-equipped Macs and PC notebooks desktop range of ports

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Date: Monday, June 4th, 2012, 05:17
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Peripheral

You can’t knock a good peripheral device.

Per AppleInsider, Matrox on Sunday unveiled its new DS1 Thunderbolt docking station, which allows users to add multiple peripherals like an HDMI display, a full-size keyboard and a mouse to a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac or PC and will be available this September for US$249.

The DS1 also includes a gigabit Ethernet port that provides connectivity to wired corporate networks at data transfers 18 times faster than Wi-Fi. In addition, it has a high-speed USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a microphone input, and a speaker/headphone output, all of which can connect to a Thunderbolt MacBook or Ultrabook with just one cable.



The Matrox DS1 will be showcased at the Computex Taipei 2012 event at Intel’s official booth, located at M0410 in the NanGang Exhibition Hall.

Also set to arrive in September is Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock, which was announced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show. It will also turn a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac into a full-fledged desktop workstation with an HDMI port, FireWire 800 port, three USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5-millimeter audio port, one gigabit Ethernet port, and two Thunderbolt ports for daisy-chaining to another Thunderbolt device.

Apple also offers the Thunderbolt Display, which lets users plug in one 10Gbps Thunderbolt cable to drive a monitor, three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mozilla releases Firefox 13.0 update

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Date: Monday, June 4th, 2012, 05:06
Category: News, Software

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On Monday, Mozilla.org released version 13.0 of its Firefox web browser. The new version, a 30.7 megabyte download and adds the following fixes and changes:

When opening a new tab, users are now presented with their most visited pages.

– The default home page now has quicker access to bookmarks, history, settings, and more.

– SPDY protocol now enabled by default for faster browsing on supported sites.

– Restored background tabs are not loaded by default for faster startup.

– Smooth scrolling is now enabled by default.

– 72 total improvements to Page Inspector, HTML panel, Style Inspector, Scratchpad and Style Editor.

– The column-fill CSS property has been implemented.

– Experimental support for ECMAScript 6 Map and Set objects has been implemented.

– Support for the CSS3 background-position property extended syntax has been added.

– The :invalid pseudo-class can now be applied to the element
.

– The CSS turn unit is now supported.

Firefox 13.0 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

30 days and counting to switch from MobileMe to iCloud

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Date: Friday, June 1st, 2012, 13:17
Category: News, Software

If you were putting the transition to iCloud off for a while, you might want to take care of it.

Per AppleInsider, MobileMe users now have just 30 days remaining to download their photos and files from iDisk, Gallery and iWeb before Apple’s service concludes.

Legacy MobileMe users began receiving e-mails this week warning that the deadline is fast approaching. The company originally announced a year ago that MobileMe will cease to exist as of June 30, 2012.

The deprecated service, which used to be offered for US$99 per year, has been replaced by Apple’s new, free cloud-based offering, dubbed iCloud. As part of that transition to iCloud, the iDisk, Gallery and iWeb services will no longer be offered.

Before MobileMe goes dark on June 30, users should log in to their account and back up and save all of the content that is stored on the Web in the iDisk, Galleries and iWeb services. A step-by-step tutorial on how to do this was published on Friday by the cool cats at Ars Technica.

For those who want to continue using Apple’s cloud-based services, a MobileMe account must be rolled over to iCloud. The transition must be completed by June 30 for users who want to keep their Apple e-mail account, as well as calendars, working properly.

In April, Apple began attempting to entice users to upgrade to iCloud from MobileMe by offering them a free copy of Snow Leopard. The company has also granted MobileMe subscribers a free 20 gigabytes of storage on iCloud until September.

Apple is expected to announce further enhancements to iCloud later this month at its Worldwide Developers Conference. One report has claimed that Apple will launch a new photo sharing feature, while a beta website that was temporarily available to the public suggested Apple plans to add Notes and Reminders to the iCloud.com website.

If you have any feedback as to the transition, please let us know in the comments.

QuarkXPress 9.3 update released

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Date: Friday, June 1st, 2012, 06:59
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, software developer Quark released version 9.3 of its QuarkXPress design application. The 1.07 gigabyte update, which can be downloaded here (thanks to MacUpdate), adds the following fixes and changes:

– Create and export content to the Amazon Kindle format.

– Support for inline tables of contents in ePub files.

– Various fixes and enhancements to ePub and Reflow view.

– Resolved issues with facing page reordering, EPS/PDF previews, PDF box sizes, and more.

– This free update also further optimizes the stability and quality of QuarkXPress 9 and App Studio.

QuarkXPress 9.3 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 later to install and run and retails for US$799.00 for the full version.

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

Intel releases 14 low-voltage Ivy Bridge CPUs

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Date: Friday, June 1st, 2012, 05:30
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

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It’s just a question of when Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors arrive within an updated MacBook Air notebook.

Per Engadget, Intel on Thursday announced 14 new Ivy Bridge processors, four of which are ultra-low voltage chips that could find their way into Apple’s updated MacBook Air lineup.

All of the ultra-low voltage lineup has two cores and four threads running at 17 watts thermal power design, along with integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000.

Leading off the new batch of Intel’s third-generation processors is the i7-3667U, with a CPU base frequency of 2 gigahertz running as fast as 3.2 gigahertz with Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 Max Frequency, and 4 megabytes of L3 cache. Next down the lists the i7-3517U, which has a base speed of 1.9 gigahertz that ramps up to 3 gigahertz, along with 4 megabytes of L3 cache.

The lower-end Core i5 ultra-low voltage Ivy Bridge CPUs are led by the i5-3427U, which has a base frequency of 1.8 gigahertz that runs as fast as 2.8 gigahertz with Intel Turbo Boost, with 3 megabytes of L3 cache. And the lowest ultra-low voltage CPU announced Thursday is the i5-3317U, with a base frequency of 1.7 gigahertz, max frequency of 2.6 gigahertz, and 3 megabytes of L3 cache.



All of Intel’s Ivy Bridge “Ultra Processors” have support for PCIe Generation 3, as well as Intel’s Secure Key, OS Guard, AES/TXT/vPro and Virtualization technology.

The MacBook Air lineup was last updated nearly a year ago, in July of 2011. The notebooks were equipped with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors, and gained backlit keyboards and Thunderbolt ports.

Also announced by Intel on Thursday were a handful of dual-core traditional mobile chips that could find their way into other products in Apple’s Mac lineup, specifically the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, or the Mac mini. The Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors run at 35W TDP, feature four threads, include Intel HD Graphics 4000, and range in speed from 3.1 gigahertz to 3.6 gigahertz with Intel Turbo Boost.

Intel launched its first batch of Ivy Bridge processors in late April, declaring them the “world’s first 22-nanometer product.” A total of 13 high-end quad-core chips were released in the first round, and it’s believed some of them could make their way into Apple’s updated MacBook Pro lineup.

Rumors have suggested that Apple plans to launch new Macs at its forthcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, which will kick off on June 11. Some reports have indicated that Apple will unveil new MacBook Pros and iMacs at the event, but little has been said of an impending MacBook Air refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google Chrome updated to 19.0.1084.53

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Date: Friday, June 1st, 2012, 05:30
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 19.0.1084.53 for the Mac. The new version, a 38.6 megabyte download, offers the following changes:

– Supports the Mac transition to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Google Chrome 19.0.1084.53 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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