Microsoft to open 75 retail locations over next 2-3 years

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, July 13th, 2011, 13:16
Category: News, Retail Store

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If you can’t beat ‘em, follow their lead and eventually try to take them down.

Per Neowin, Microsoft plans to massively expand its retail presence to take in the U.S. in the next 2 to 3 years, with an aggressive goal of 75 new stores to take on Apple’s own retail operations.

The plans are said to be part of the company’s effort to expand the “Microsoft story,” an initial map showing clusters of stores in California, Texas, Florida and the Northeast.

Microsoft gave a presentation at its Worldwide Partner Conference on Wednesday. Currently, the Redmond, Wash., software giant has a total of 11 stores across America, mostly in California, with a new one that just opened in Los Angeles.

“Also shown off during this presentation was that an Apple retailer in Latin America was showing off Apple hardware running Windows 7,” the report said. “Microsoft used this to poke fun that Apple makes fantastic hardware but their OS is still behind Windows 7.”

Microsoft first announced in early 2009 that the company planned to open new retail stores, in an approach that mimics Apple’s own wildly successful retail operations. The company pushed hard with viral marketing buzz, and even poached employees from Apple’s retail operations with the promise of pay raises and compensation for moving expenses.

In a recent instance, Microsoft was able to court an Apple retail market manager who had recently left the company. That person said they were offered a pay raise and were then allegedly asked to contact employees they had previously worked with at Apple in an effort to recruit them.

Little has been said of Microsoft’s retail operations since their debut in 2009, but Wednesday’s latest development indicates that the company has high hopes for the future of its brick-and-mortar ventures. The news comes as it was revealed that Apple single-handedly accounted for one fifth of all sales growth by publicly traded American retailers during the first three months of 2011.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Changes Promo Code Terms In App Store

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 17th, 2011, 15:06
Category: App Store, Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Review, Software

This isn’t exactly new information. It was reported as far back as May 3rd by Mac Rumors, but somehow I missed it until now. Apple has changed the functionality of the iOS App Store (unconfirmed whether this affects the Mac App Store) so that if you use a developer promo code to download an app, you will not be able to submit a review for the app; you will be “locked out”. Here is a blurb copied from an exchange with iTunes Store Customer Support:

Thanks for writing back and letting me know your concern. I understand that you are still not able to write a review. I know how disappointing it can be when things don’t work out the way they should. I am sorry to inform that it is no longer possible to rate or review an app if it was downloaded using a developer’s promotional code.

The crackdown is apparently in response to complaints that reviews were being skewed as a result of developers giving codes in exchange for favorable reviews. I’m not sure how widespread this issue is, and I’m sure the ones perpetrating the review stacking will find another way to do it, but for the most part it seems like a good idea. No worries about that here; regardless of how I get ahold of an app, if it’s crap I’ll tell you.

Appearance: Atlantic City Mac User Group meeting tonight

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 13th, 2011, 10:17
Category: App Store, Apps, iOS, iPad, Meetup, News, User Group

Just a quick heads-up that I’m presenting my favorite iPad apps tonight, Friday, May 13, live in the meatspace at the Atlantic City Mac Users Group (@ACAMUG) at 7:30 p.m. If you’re going to be in the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware area please stop by.

ACAMUG meets at the Mays Landing, NJ campus of Atlantic Cape Community College located on Route 322, aka the “Black Horse Pike”, about two miles west of the Hamilton Mall (directionscampus map.) Head to Building M, room M129 — across from Careme’s restaurant.

I’ll be giving away retro PowerPage t-shirts and copies of my book, The Droid Pocket Guide (2nd Ed.). I look forward to meeting you there.

“Castle” references found in Mac OS X 10.7 developer build, point back to possible iCloud streaming service

Posted by:
Date: Monday, May 2nd, 2011, 07:42
Category: MobileMe, Rumor

Strong evidence of Apple’s upcoming iCloud service has been found in the form of a feature hidden within in a developer build of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion that allows a MobileMe account to be migrated to a codenamed “Castle” service.

Per Consomac.fr, a recently-released third build of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Developer Preview 2 that went out the door on Frida contained references to a service codenamed “Castle” in a new Find My Mac feature.

“Castle” most likely refers to the iCloud service that Apple has been developing. Reliable sources have stated that Apple has been using the service internally and plans to use it for more than just streaming music.

Last week, a report cited sources claiming that the Swedish company Xcerion had sold Apple the iCloud.com domain for US$4.5 million. The iCloud moniker was later independently confirmed by John Paczkowski of Digital Daily, though he was unable to confirm the selling price.

Apple has reportedly completed work on a music streaming service that would allow users to store music on a remote server and access them from Internet-connected devices.

Apple confirmed earlier this year that a 500,000 square-foot data center set to go online this spring will support iTunes and MobileMe services. Given that the US$1 billion facility is five times larger than the the company’s current data center in Newark, Calif., Apple appears to be planning a big push into cloud computing.

In February, reports emerged that Apple is planning a significant revamp of its MobileMe service that would build out its cloud-based features, including a ‘locker’ for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments and feedback.

Rumor: Apple looking to add alternate payment methods for MobileMe services

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, March 29th, 2011, 04:44
Category: MobileMe, Rumor, Software

You like your MobileMe account.

And there may be new ways to pay for it.

Per MacNews.de, Apple may be coming up with plans to implement alternative payment methods for MobileMe in the near future. Currently, users without credit cards are caught in a dilemma — they can’t renew their subscriptions electronically, but neither can they buy a retail “box” with the MobileMe activation or renewal code from a retail store (Apple has removed the MobileMe box from its retail stores, though some dealers may still have older stock available).

Rumors have swirled for months that the service is due to undergo a major revamp, spurred by an e-mail from Apple CEO Steve Jobs to a customer promising the service “will get better in 2011.”

The rumors have taken various forms, from making at least some version of the service available for free to adding a cloud-based “media locker” for a small fee — or changing, dropping or revamping existing services (which include website hosting, photo and video galleries, ad-free IMAP e-mail, account syncing, limited backup, equipment tracking, personal storage space and other features).

Last month, Apple made MobileMe only available as a free online trial offer, and the only way to buy or renew a subscription required a credit card — leading to speculation that the revamp could come soon (now currently believed to be in April).

The report that Apple is working on alternate payment methods would indicate that the company is still planning on charging for at least some of the services in an overhauled MobileMe offering.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any thoughts on this, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to hold iOS 5-focused press event in early April, highlight changes to MobileMe

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, March 9th, 2011, 04:55
Category: MobileMe, Rumor, Software

It’s the rumors that make technology interesting.

Citing a “confident” source, German site Macerkopf.de reported Tuesday that Apple will hold a press event in early April at the company’s Cupertino, Calif., campus to show off forthcoming features in its iOS 5 operating system. The timing would not be a surprise, as last year’s iOS 4 preview event was held in early April.

The rumored inclusion of changes in its MobileMe services in the annual event would be new, and could signal that anticipated changes to the cloud-based service will be heavily integrated into the next major release of Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPhone and iPad.

In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple plans to improve MobileMe by having the service act as a “locker” to hold personal data such as photos, music and videos. It was also said that Apple is considering making the service, which currently costs US$99 per year, free.

Corroborating that information, the New York Times separately reported that Apple plans to roll out an enhanced MobileMe this year. It was said that Apple is working on improved “voice navigation” on the iPhone, allowing users to operate the device through voice commands without the need to rely on a virtual keyboard.

Further evidence of planned changes to MobileMe came as Apple discontinued the sale of retail boxes for the service last month. It has also been rumored that the new MobileMe will rely on self-storage from a home computer for streaming, rather than remotely saved files hosted by Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Game Review: Pro Zombie Soccer

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 27th, 2010, 09:03
Category: App Store, Game, iPad, iPhone, News, Software

Pro Zombie Soccer is a game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (still a Pixel-doubled version, not native) distributed by Chillingo and developed by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team. I’ve never been caught up in the Zombie craze, although I did enjoy Zombieland and Shawn of the Dead, so I was not really excited about this game at first, but a friend assured me that it was a lot of fun and he was right.

Some of the things that made this such a fun game was the artwork and the storyline. While not complicated, the story added enough depth to propel you from scene to scene. The artwork has a punk attitude, similar to what is associated with Gorillaz, and is pretty lively and colorful.

In the game, you are playing the role of Jax, a young, talented soccer player who freezes up while trying out for the big team. While moping about town, the zombie outbreak occurs and Jax is bitten by a zombie who happens to be the star player of the soccer team. Jax soon finds out that his zombie infection has given him super-soccer powers which he decides to use to take down the zombie apocalypse….while he still can.

The controls are simple. You thumb aims the direction that Jax kicks the soccer ball and lifting your thumb fires it off. You have a regular kick, and a super-charged kick at your disposal, but eventually you acquire other “zombie powers” which you can choose from during certain parts of the game. Doing a “head-shot” to a zombie (beheading them) is worth extra points as is several head-shots in a row. Some zombies can only be killed with the super-charged kick, which takes more time to “charge up”. Eventually you run into zombies that can only be killed in a certain way, like ricocheting off a wall, as well as avoiding obstacles like fleeing scientists which, when hit, will end the game. If you finish the game too quickly in Normal mode, you can play through again in Hardcore mode which won’t be so easy. The game’s music is pretty good and in the Extras you’ll find the Music Player which allows you to play back the game’s soundtrack, a total of 16 tracks.

The sound effects and gameplay are great, and everything looks awesome on the iPhone 4′s screen. As of this writing, the game was iOS 4 compatible, but did not take advantage of background app switching. Leaving the game means starting again from the main menu, although it should remember your progress. I didn’t try it on the iPad, but it is compatible with iOS 3.0 and up. I look forward to an HD version, but I hope it’s an Universal app.

The game uses the Crystal gaming network, which I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of, but not because it is a bad system.

I highly recommend this game. It’s fun and relatively easy to play, and the stages make it easy to play a few minutes at a time, or kill 20 minutes or so. Pro Zombie Soccer is a pretty good deal at $2.99.

PPUG Winter 2010 meeting Saturday in Philadelphia

Posted by:
Date: Friday, March 19th, 2010, 10:35
Category: Apple, User Group

http://thescene.s3.amazonaws.com/pics/bar/2/51481/profile/1205061797294_272.jpgThe Philadelphia PowerBook User Group (PPUG) will meet tomorrow Saturday, March 20, 2010 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at the Manayunk Brewing Company along the beautiful Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. We usually have lunch (or a brew) while we talk mobile computing.

PPUG founders Jason O’Grady (PowerPage, ZDNet), Rob Parker, Bob Snow, as well as Youngmoo Kim will be on hand to talk about latest developments and the latest in mobile technology.  We’ll talk about all the news and announcements from Macworld 2010 with a healthy serving of Q&A.

Now that Apple has announced the iPad, where does it fit in the mobile technology landscape? Does it overlap with the iPhone and the MacBook? Or does it fit exactly in-between the two?  At PPUG’s March 2010 meeting, Jason will dissect the pros and cons of Apple’s new “tablet” Mac and will discuss its advantages and disadvantages over a netbook.  If you’re thinking about the iPad, come to the March meeting and we’ll set your straight.

Join us for a great meeting, it’s free and open to you and your guests. Feel free to bring items to sell or swap as well.

Manayunk Brewing Company
4120 Main Street
Philadelphia, PA 19127
215.482.8220

Recent Apple Patents Suggest Upcoming Facial Recognition, Improved Videoconferencing Systems

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 10th, 2009, 04:28
Category: Apple, Patents

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Recently-released filings from the United States Patent and Trademark Office reveal that Apple may be planning face-detection components for its Mac and iPhone operating systems, in addition to working on ways to netter the quality of video conferences conducted via iChat.

According to MacRumors, a current filing builds upon ways in which users may be able to passively interface with their Macs in the near future.

Apple notes that one problem with existing personal computing devices is that they’re not able to determine whether a non-active or passive user is present and, subsequently, unable to perform certain operations to accommodate the passive user.

“For example, a PC may automatically activate a screen saver every five minutes regardless of whether a user is viewing the PC’s display screen,” Apple wrote. “Thus, a passive user is often inconveniently required to actively perform an interaction with the PC at least every five minutes to prevent the initiation of the screen saver or to deactivate the screen save after it is initiated.”

Another problem is that conventional systems cannot efficiently determine whether certain users have the authority to perform certain functions without first forcing them to manually enter a password.

Remedies to both these problems may lie in face-detection software, according to the document. Using a Mac’s built-in iSight camera, face detection software may be based on a pattern recognition algorithm that includes a statistical model, the company says. The software that detects faces in the captured images could then associate them with an authorized, as well as inform the system that a user is present in situations when manual interaction has stopped for an extended period.

The document noted that in addition to a Mac, face detection can be applied a cellular telephone, a wireless communications device, a media player, an MP3 player, a video player, and a PDA.

Another filing proposes solutions to many common imaging problems, such as unevenly distributed illumination, shadows, white balance adjustment, colored ambient light and high dynamic range imaging. A recent Apple filing states that systems and methods can be provided through a Mac can take advantage of the computer’s processing power to provide functionality that goes beyond a typical camera.

In one odd example apparently aimed at improving video conferencing, the company proposes an iMac with embedded lights that retract into the system’s housing. The filing states that a processor in the iMac would be able to control the deployment and operation of the lights in combination with other sensors to provide the ideal lighting setting.

Apple Rumored to Buy Twitter

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 5th, 2009, 14:43
Category: Apple, Rumor

The latest pre-WWDC rumors don’t involve the iPhone, the Mac, or even Snow Leopard. The buzz making it’s way around the bloggosphere is that Apple has it’s eye on the social, micro-blogging service Twitter.

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The site TechCrunch has posted a report on the growing rumor of an Twitter buy-out:

Today, though, rumors popped up that Apple may be looking to buy Twitter. “Apple is in late stage negotiations to buy Twitter and is hoping to announce it at WWDC in June,” said a normally reliable source this evening, adding that the purchase price would be $700 million in cash.

The article goes on to remind readers that Twitter, and CEO Evan Williams, turned down a bid from Google earlier this year in favor of staying independent. Other news stories have reported that Twitter is looking at different revenue generating models such as a “Twitter Pro” account for businesses and power tweeters in the hopes of offsetting the cost maintaining the rapidly growing service. Twitter is hoping to bring on more investors rather than selling out.

It is interesting to note that Twitter’s offices in San Francisco are all Mac-based and supposedly has a very good relationship with Apple, so if anyone had a chance it might be the Cupertino computer appliance device maker. Personally, I don’t see why Apple would do this. Granted, Twitter is popular and could possibly be intergrated into MobileMe, but Apple doesn’t usually get involved in something unless it will sell more of their products, and even though there is no shortage of Twitter clients for the iPhone, I don’t see it being a selling point to move more hardware. Send us your thoughts in the forums!