Rumor: Apple may incorporate widgets, new mapping technology into iOS 5

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Date: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 04:29
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The widgets: they can be useful.

And for that reason they may find themselves a part of iOS 5.

Per TechCrunch, Apple is looking to incorporate Widgets (small programs in floating windows that provide quick access to information or functions, such as weather, or website news feeds) into iOS 5. Google Android already has widgets, as do other smartphone platforms. There has been criticism from techies that widgets have been omitted from the iPhone and iPad platform to this point.

It’s unclear how widgets would be implemented on Apple mobile devices. Other moves Apple has been making may offer some clues.

Apple is merging the look and feel of its desktop and mobile operating systems. Last year, it said it was taking many iOS developments “back to the Mac”, for example. The next release of OS X — codenamed Lion — mirrors many iOS features. That isn’t surprising since iOS already borrows many features from Apple’s desktop operating system Mac OS X, such as the ever-present Dock at the bottom of the screen, and Spotlight search.

The widget system is called Dashboard within Mac OS X, and that is perhaps the name we will see when widgets are rolled out for iPhones and iPads. The widget interface for the mobile devices also may have a separate ‘space’ that users can swipe to, like what is being rolled out with the upcoming release of Mac OS X.

One suggestion is that it will replace the existing search screen, which is uncovered by swiping left to right from the first home screen.

As for what the new notification system might look like, that’s harder to guess. On Apple desktops, many Mac users rely on third-party add-ons like Growl.

Earlier this year, Apple was rumored to have purchased a small company that produces a notification application for the iPhone.

Apple has also snapped up mapping technology companies recently, though current rumors cite that iOS 5 will stick with a Google Maps backend. Google Maps data underpins Apple applications and those of third-parties that use mapping services. Also circulating within the rumor mill is the notion that although Apple doesn’t have its own mapping technology in place, there might be a new front-end application providing turn-by-turn navigation, so the iPhone can be used within vehicles for navigation without the need to buy a third-party application.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available and please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple releases third Mac OS X 10.6.8 build to developer community

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Date: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 03:21
Category: News, Software

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If you’re hankering for the Mac OS X 10.6.8 update, it’s coming.

On Friday, Apple seeded the third build of Mac OS X 10.6.8 to developers, with no known issues.

Per AppleInsider, the 1GB download is labeled 10K531. MacStories reports that focus areas for the beta software remain unchanged: Airport, Graphics Drivers, Mac App Store, Networking, QuickTime and VPN.

Thus far, Apple has maintained a weekly release schedule with developer builds of Mac OS X. The first release came two weeks ago, and the second build arrived last week.

It is as yet unclear whether Mac OS X 10.6.8 contains a fix that will find and remove the MAC Defender malware, though Apple may likely release the fix as a standalone security update. The company promised earlier this week to release an update to Mac OS X that would resolve an issue with phony antivirus software that automatically downloads as a phishing scam looking for users’ credit card numbers.

The malicious software first appeared in early May, though one noted security expert has downplayed the threat as being “simply a trick website” rather than a viral attack.

Apple released the latest update to Mac OS X Snow Leopard in March with changes designed to improve the reliability of Back to My Mac, resolve issues when transferring files to SMB Windows Files Sharing servers, and address Mac App Store bugs. Mac OS X 10.6.7 also contained fixes for Thunderbolt MacBook Pros to address “minor FaceTime performance issues” and improve “graphics stability and external display compatibility.”

This summer, Apple will launch the next major upgrade to its flagship operating system in the form of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Mac OS X Lion contains numerous new features and changes, many of which are drawn from Apple’s experience with iOS.

If you’ve gotten a chance to play with the new build and have any feedback, please let us know.

Rumor: Apple testing A5 processor, Thunderbolt port with MacBook Air prototype (updated)

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 03:25
Category: MacBook Air, Processors

Ok, this could be interesting.

Per Japanese blog Mac Otakara, sources have have stated that Apple is testing a MacBook Air with an A5 processor, the same CPU powering the iPad 2 as well as a Thunderbolt port. While the machine performed “better than expected” according to their source, the article says it’s unclear whether this test machine was running Mac OS X or iOS.

If Apple has indeed built such a device, it’s unlikely the company intends to put it on the market. While the A5 processor is powerful enough under iOS, in terms of raw performance it pales in comparison to even the least powerful Intel chips, the A5′s Geekbench score standing around 720, while the lowest-rated MacBook Air processor scored over 2000. Benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, of course, but they’re a fairly reliable predictor of the general performance you can expect to get from a machine.

From what we’ve seen of Mac OS X Lion thus far, it already looks as though Apple’s looking at ways of merging OS X and iOS as far as the software’s concerned. If Mac Otakara’s sources are correct, it seems it’s just a matter of time before the hardware follows.

Stay tuned for additional information as we get it.

Rumor: iCloud to scan, mirror iTunes libraries, Apple close to deal with Universal

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 03:10
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the rumor mill keeps technology interesting.

Per Bloomberg BusinessWeek, according to people briefed on talks between Apple and the music labels, Apple has obtained new licenses for its so-called iCloud service that will allow the company to mirror individual iTunes music collections on its servers. Additionally, Apple will replace low-quality music files stored on users’ hard drives with higher-quality versions on its servers.

However, the convenience of increased access to one’s music will come at a price, according to the report. While Apple’s upcoming music service “may be a huge shift, it won’t be free,” the article states. Label executives have reportedly said they are negotiating aggressively for profits in the cloud.

Though specific details on pricing remain unclear, the article speculates that Apple could bundle streaming music services into its revamp of MobileMe, which currently retails for US$99 a year. Fees for the service could also help labels “claw out some money” from pirated music, the authors noted. A separate report suggested last month that the rumored service could be free at first, but would eventually require a fee.

Sources close to the negotiations between Apple and the record companies corroborated earlier reports that Apple had reached agreements with three of the four major labels and is close to a deal with Universal Music.

Music executives also alleged that Google had offered US$100 million up front to the four major music labels for licenses, but negotiations stalled over the labels’ concerns that Google doesn’t do enough to protect copyright holders on Google.com and YouTube. Without the licensing agreements needed to sell music, the search giant eventually launched its Music Beta service as just a ‘digital locker.’

Rival Amazon launched its Cloud Drive online music streaming service in March without renegotiated licenses. Music industry executives, who were notified of Amazon’s plans just days before the launch, have questioned the legality of a feature that automatically adds Amazon.com digital music purchases to customers’ Cloud Drive accounts.

Apple is expected to unveil its iCloud service in June at the annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, though the company reportedly has yet to finalize negotiations for new licenses with music publishers. Apple appears to have completed work on the service, with negotiations with rights holders standing as the final hurdle.

An Apple patent application discovered last week hints at one possible solution for streaming music. According to the filing, Apple is investigating a method of storing portions of songs on devices such as the iPhone in order to allow immediate playback, while the device initiates a download from a remote location.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple looking to create outdoor, sunglasses-friendly LCD screens

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 02:35
Category: News, Patents

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It’s Friday, additional Apple patent applications have emerged and Apple has apparently shown interest in creating an improved LCD display for devices like the iPhone and iPad that is not distorted when viewed by a user wearing polarized sunglasses outdoors.

Per AppleInsider, the proposed new technology was revealed in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. Entitled “Display that Emits Circularly-Polarized Light,” the proposed invention describes a liquid-crystal display that reduces perceived distortion when viewed through linearly polarizing filters, such as sunglasses.

In the application, Apple notes that current LCDs are based on polarization optics, and typically utilize linear polarizers on their front surfaces. The problem is that the light from LCDs typically has an electric field that only vibrates in one direction, while polarized sunglasses only allow through light with an electric field that vibrates in the vertical direction.

“Hence a user looking at the LCD display of a portable device… may see a distorted image in the display when viewed through polarized sunglasses, due to the polarized filters in the sunglasses blocking the light when the display is viewed at some angles,” the application reads.

When an LCD display is seen through polarized sunglasses, at certain angles the screen may be completely dark or somewhat obscured. The issue can be made even worse when a lens cover is placed in front of a display for protection or industrial design, as these plastics can compound the issue with color and gray artifacts.

Apple’s solution is a display that emits circularly polarized light by placing a layer in the path of linearly polarized light.

“The layer receives the linearly-polarized light on one surface, converts the linearly-polarized light to circularly-polarized light, and then emits the circularly-polarized light from another surface,” the application reads. “By emitting circularly-polarized light, the display reduces the perceived distortion found at some angles when the display is viewed through a linearly-polarizing filter.”

The invention would allow for superior outdoor viewing of displays, like iPhone or iPad screens, by reducing perceived distortion created when a user wears sunglasses.

Apple’s adoption of glass screen covers and glossy displays has been a point of criticism against the company, as some have complained they make viewing of devices in sunlight near impossible. The company has even brought back antiglare matte screens to some of its MacBook Pro options as an optional US$150 upgrade.

By creating a screen that could accommodate sunglasses, Apple would craft a new LCD that would allow a reduced amount of light to reach a user’s eye without distorting the screen. This could improve the ability to use devices like an iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro outdoors on a sunny day.

Apple first filed for the proposed invention in January of this year. It is credited to John Z. Zhong, Wei Chen, Cheng Chen, Victor H.E. Yin, and Shawn R. Gettemy.

AT&T to introduce 4G LTE network to 15 markets by end of 2011

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPhone, News

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Though reports have suggested Apple’s next iPhone will not support the 4G long-term evolution standard, AT&T will roll out its new high-speed network to more than 70 million customers by the end of 2011.

According to AppleInsider, Details for AT&T’s 2011 LTE plans were detailed by the company’s chief technology officer, John Donovan, in a post on his company’s web site. AT&T’s 4G network will debut this summer in five markets: Dallas, Tex., Houston, Tex., Chicago, Ill., Atlanta, Ga., and San Antonio, Tex.

“We plan to add another 10 or more markets in the second half of the year, and cover 70 million Americans with LTE by year-end,” Donovan wrote. “We also have plans to add 20 4G devices to our robust device portfolio this year, with some of those being LTE capable.”

He revealed that AT&T has invested US$75 billion in its wireless and wired networks in the last four years and that the company also plans to invest US$19 billion in wireless and wireline networks, along with other capital projects, this year.

The launch of AT&T’s LTE network will come well after rival Verizon, which debuted its fourth-generation high-speed network last December in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S.

AT&T has been hyping its forthcoming LTE network, and last week showed off download speeds of 28.8Mbps, along with 10.4Mbps uploads. The download rate is more than seven times faster than the 3.77Mbps rate that can be reached on AT&T’s current HSPA network, while uploads were more than eight times the current 1.21Mbps rate.

Verizon says its LTE network has real-world data rates of between 5Mbps and 12MBps downstream and 2Mbps to 5Mbps upstream. Verizon’s LTE network will be nationwide by the end of 2013, while AT&T has said its own LTE deployment will be “largely complete” by the same time.

Recent rumors have pegged an LTE-capable iPhone to come from Apple in 2012, and not this year. Verizon’s chief executive said earlier this year that Apple understands the “value proposition of LTE,” and that they will be “a part of” the technology’s future.

At the official Verizon CDMA iPhone 4 unveiling in January, executives revealed that Apple chose not to include LTE technology because it would require design changes. Officials from Verizon indicated they wanted the iPhone as soon as possible, so Apple obliged with a modified version of the GSM-based iPhone 4 released in 2010.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts support document describing how to remove Mac Defender phishing software

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 05:13
Category: News, Software

Apple has posted a support document explaining how to “avoid or remove” the infamous Mac Defender program and stated it would release an update to Mac OS X to automatically find and remove the malware.

The new support document describes the malware as a phishing scam that redirects users from legitimate websites to “fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus.”

The websites then offer phony antivirus software for a license fee between US$59.95 and US$79.95 to solve the problem, under the names Mac Defender, Mac Protector and Mac Security, often with MAC spelled in all caps.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s removal steps detail quitting the offending app and deleting it from the Utilities folder it is installed into by default. The primary damage caused by the malware is to nag the user for their credit card information in an attempt to sell them a solution to a nonexistent problem.

Windows PC pundits, have made highly publicized reports of the Mac Defender malware, suggesting it is evidence that Macs are now experiencing malware and virus problems comparable to those experienced by Windows users over the past two decades.

Security expert Charlie Miller, who has regularly won security contests demonstrating Mac exploits, has downplayed that real threat of the few Mac malware titles that have surfaced, recently noting in an interview that “Microsoft recently pointed out that 1 in 14 downloads on Windows are malicious. And the fact that there is just one piece of Mac malware being widely discussed illustrates how rare malware still is on the Mac platform.”

Miller explained that while antivirus software can help protect your system from being infected, he also countered that “it’s expensive, uses system memory and reduces battery life,” stating, “At some point soon, the scales will tip to installing antivirus, but at this point, I don’t think it’s worth it yet for most people.”

Apple recommends that Mac users “should exercise caution any time they are asked to enter sensitive personal information online” and notes that it “provides security updates for the Mac exclusively through Software Update and the Apple Support Downloads site.”

The Mac Defender scam presents a phony website scanner with an appearance modeled after iTunes, and depicts itself as being an “Apple security center,” apparently modeled after the “Windows Security Center” Microsoft added to its own product.

Because the phony web page and its popups are tied to the browser, they do not look native alerts from Mac OS X. The scam site is also unable to install the malware without the user supplying an administrative password. Even so, hundreds of users have been duped by the scam, although the outbreak appears to be more of a nagware annoyance than a serious security problem.

In other news, the developers of Mac Defender also have a bridge they’d like to sell you…

Orange CEO divulges details, says next-gen iPhone to be smaller and thinner

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 08:44
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re wondering as to the specs of the next-generation iPhone…it’ll be smaller and thinner.

Or at least according to The CEO of France Telecom, who, as cited in an article on All Things Digital, stated that Apple will use a new, smaller SIM card in order to reduce the size of the handset.

Orange has hinted that Apple wanted to use smaller SIM cards before but apparently the network operator has managed to persuade Apple not to adopt an e-SIM system.

The e-SIM would be an embedded chip within the handset that would not be removeable – something that Orange and other network operators were unhappy with. The new, smaller SIMs are a compromise.

“All of us told them it was a bad idea because the SIM card is a critical piece of the security and authentication process. It would be very difficult for a telco or carrier to manage the customer relationship. I think that they understood this point. We had a very constructive exchange and dialogue with them,” said France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard.

“We are going to work with them in order to standardize a new format of SIM which takes into account our needs with security and authentication and also is compatible with their wishes in terms of size. I understood that the next iPhone would be smaller and thinner and they are definitely seeking some space,” he continued.

Richard is also wary of the power the Apple wields with its App Store. Other handset manufacturers allow Orange to pre-load its apps on to mobile phones sold on its network, though this is not possible with Apple.

“We still are in a position to bring those apps to our customers through the app stores, provided clearly we have access to the App Store. The problem is the day when Apple says ‘I don’t want this one’,” he said.

The interview is unusually frank and may lead to some consequences, as network operators have been punished by Apple in the past for giving away information about the company’s future plans.

Microsoft’s Ballmer cites Windows 8 release for 2012, begins to drop details

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:59
Category: News, Software

Ok, this isn’t amazing news about an upcoming Apple notebook or a revelation that the next iPhone will be able to paint your living room, but it never hurts to run a Windows partition on your Mac…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed plans for a 2012 launch of the “next generation of Windows systems,” which will include Windows 8 slates and tablets at a developer forum in Tokyo on Monday.

During the keynote, Ballmer publicly used the name “Windows 8″ for the first time. While touting advances made in Windows 7, Ballmer noted, “There’s a whole lot more coming.”

“As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors” he said.

Microsoft announced in January that it plans to port Windows 8 to the ARM system-on-a-chip architecture in order to compete with devices like Apple’s iPad. “Windows PCs will continue to adapt and evolve. Windows will be everywhere on every device without compromise,” said Ballmer at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Early builds of Windows 8 hint at a scalable cross-platform solution that could make its way into tablets and phones. Microsoft has struggled in the mobile market, partly due to Intel’s unsuccessful efforts to meet low power requirements with its line of Atom chips.

Ballmer admitted on Monday that the company’s “big sort of effort” to transform communication with Windows Phone had arrived late. “We came to market with Windows Phone about a year later than I wish we had, shame on us. But, we’re moving forward very actively,” said Ballmer. The company is set to launch a major upgrade to Windows Phone on Tuesday.

For its part, Apple will unveil the future of Mac OS at the Worldwide Developers Conference early next month. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion brings several major features from iOS back to the Mac and is due out this summer.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Store iPhone app updated to version 1.3, allows build-to-order Mac purchases

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:22
Category: iPhone, News, retail, Software

Apple on Monday updated its “Apple Store” application for the iPhone, offering the ability to order a custom Mac, and also more quickly receive help when at a retail store.

Per AppleInsider, the free application is currently available on the App Store. Version 1.3 is a 3.2MB download, and is available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The app requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run.

The release of the software coincides with the debut of Apple’s improved retail stores, which were upgraded on Sunday. The company now makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

According to Apple, new features of Apple Store 1.3 are:
- Enhanced in-store mode lets you get help and support quickly when you’re at an Apple Retail Store.

- The ability to custom-configure a new Mac with the options you want.

Using the new application, users can make modifications and upgrades to a Mac order placed from their iPhone. For example, users can add more RAM or upgrade the hard drive of a Mac before they finalize their order — features that were previously only available on Apple’s website.

The software is still only written for the iPhone and iPod touch, prompting some initial negative reviews from users in the App Store. Though the application can be run on an iPad, as all iOS software can, it is not optimized for the screen size and resolution of the touchscreen tablet.

Rumors of the updated iPhone application first surfaced on Saturday, revealing that the software was set to debut as part of Apple’s retail revamp. Apple’s online store went offline on Friday to also prepare for the changes.

The Apple Store application was first released in June of 2010. With it, users can view products, read customer reviews, locate a nearby Apple Retail Store, and buy or reserve devices like the iPhone.

If you tinkered with the new app and have any opinions on it, let us know in the comments.