Recent Apple Patent Filing Discusses Walkie-Talkie Features for iPhone

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:10
Category: iPhone, Patents

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Apple has been looking into a new feature that could allow iPhone users to transmit data such as simple text messages to each other over voice channels, forgoing a reliance wireless carriers’ backend servers, in a manner similar to Nextel’s classic walkie-talkie feature.

According to AppleInsider, the concept is detailed in a company patent filing made this past November. As Apple explains, conventional text messaging systems require the use of what is referred to as a backend server that may be limited in the amount of information that can be handled at a particular time and is therefore capacity limited.

Furthermore, the company notes that reading of text messages can be troublesome due to in part to the small size of the typical display screen on a handheld device, especially in situations where the recipient is impaired or preoccupied with another task, such as driving.

“With the rapid deployment, proliferation, and technical advancement of mobile personal communication devices, such as cell phones, a user of these devices is presented with any number of ways to communicate with another user,” Apple wrote in the filing.

“For example, a user can send type a text message using, for example, Short Message Service-Point to Point (SMS-PP) protocol as defined in GSM recommendation 03.40 where messages are sent via a store-and forward mechanism to a Short Message Service Center (SMSC), which will attempt to send the message to the recipient and possibly retry if the user is not reachable at a given moment. Therefore, SMS-PP requires the use of a backend server to provide the necessary support for transmission of data between sender and receiver.”

As such, the iPhone maker calls for a new mechanism whereby data is passed between a sender and receiver unit by way of voice channel only, bypassing use of the data channel used in conventional arrangements.

“In this way, a sender can select that data which he/she desires to send to a receiver unit using by first converting the data into an appropriate vocal/voice format which is then forwarded to a receiver unit by way of the voice channel,” Apple said. “Once received at the receiver unit, the vocalized data can be converted to an audio signal, which is then output by way of an audio output device (such as a speaker, earphone, etc.).”

The filing suggests that a sender would be able to vocalize any textual data on their display screen (such as a phone number) in order to pass it by way of a voice channel to another iPhone or any number of other iPhones or compatible personal communication devices. Once received by the recipient, processing of the vocalized data would be performed based upon a prompted user request or based upon a pre-selected protocol.

“For example, once received [by an iPhone], the vocalized phone number can be passed to an audio output device that (in the case of a speaker) generates an audible rendition of the vocalized phone number,” Apple wrote. “In another case, the vocalized phone number is forwarded to a voice mail server where the receiver records the vocalized phone number as a voice mail message for subsequent playback.”

In the latter case, Apple notes that the user can pre-select the option that forces the generated audio message to stored in the receiver’s voice mail server. Alternatively, the company said additional processing can be performed whereby any vocalized multimedia data received is automatically converted back to text and displayed and/or converted to an audible message.

The filing, made November 23, 2009 is credited to iPod grandfather and former Apple vice president Anthony Fadell.

Twitter Leak Shows Apple Adding Scheduling Options for Developers in App Store

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:39
Category: iPhone, News

You’ve got to admit, Twitter leaks make life interesting.

On Wednesday, developer Amro Mousa from Return7 posted to his Twitter account that Apple has now added the ability for developers to schedule a sale window for their iPhone applications, allowing them to temporarily schedule a different price. According to Macworld UK, this new feature has been independently confirmed.

App Store developers can and already do offer discounts on their apps for specific periods of time, but the process of doing so had been entirely manual to date. With the addition of advance scheduling, it’ll be easier for developers to plan their sale periods and spread the word accordingly. This can also help eliminate the chances of human error resulting in sale windows starting and ending sooner or later than planned.

This isn’t the biggest change in the world for the App Store, but it might make things a little friendlier for the developers who contribute to it.

Apple Releases iPhone OS SDK 3.2 Beta 5 for the iPad

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:24
Category: iPad, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released beta 5 of its iPhone OS 3.2 SDK for the iPad via the iPhone Dev Center. According to MacNN, the release comes on the heels just over a week since the launch of beta 4 of the SDK and shows Apple accelerating its efforts prior to the iPad’s April 3rd release.

Specific changes in beta 5 are still unknown, but the company is generally understood to be focusing on bug fixes over new features. Some of the earliest betas made mention of camera-related features, but these have mostly been pruned out from beta 4 onwards, in part because the current iPad lacks any cameras. Despite allusions to multitasking, it isn’t expected until at least iPhone OS 4.0, if not later.

iPhone OS 3.2 primarily enables the UI elements needed for the iPad but also adds features that are likely to spill into the iPhone and iPod touch, such as background images that persist on the home screen and four-way screen rotation that also extends to the home screen’s icons.

If you’ve downloaded the new beta and have any feedback about it, let us know in the comments.

Web Ad Points to Possible Higher Prices for Upcoming Macbook Air, Pro and Mac Pro

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Date: Wednesday, March 17th, 2010, 04:18
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

No one’s quite sure if this was intentional but it is interesting.

Per PC Authority, a set of Apple ads on the PC Authority web site are now listing the most affordable versions of the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac Pro at A$1,599, A$1,999 and A$3,599, respectively. These prices are far higher than the current prices and could hint at an early peek at the pricing of the newly updated models of each of those series.

In the ad, the MacBook Air has jumped by A$400 so that what used to be its costliest base price is now its lowest, while the MBP has suffered a A$300 bump in cost of entry. Then again, the machines are expected to receive updates to the new Intel Core i7 chips, so there may be an added cost to consider.

So, focus on the upgrades, even if you do have to consider smashing your piggy bank to get them…

Apple Releases Updated Samsung, Brother Printer Drivers for Snow Leopard

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Date: Wednesday, March 17th, 2010, 03:29
Category: Software

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Late Tuesday, Apple released its Samsung Printer Drivers 2.1 and Brother Printer Drivers 2.3 package for Mac OS X 10.6.x (Snow Leopard). The Samsung Printer Drivers 2.1 package, a 23.2 megabyte download, offers support for assorted Samsung printers that have shipped since Mac OS X 10.6′s introduction.

The Brother Printer Drivers 2.3 package, a 100 megabyte download, includes the latest printer drivers and scanning software for Brother’s units.

Both packages can also be located and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.6 to install and run.

Apple Consuming Lion’s Share of NAND Memory, Hesitant to Negotiate with Suppliers This Quarter

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Date: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010, 09:53
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

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Even as time goes by, tech parts don’t always get cheaper.

Per DigiTimes, Apple, which already consumes the lion’s share of the global NAND flash memory supply, is apparently reluctant to negotiate with suppliers in 2010 due to high prices.

Although the demand for NAND memory in devices such as memory cards and flash drives has been soft, this hasn’t significantly pushed down chip prices. Major chip suppliers like Samsung have given priority to profitable partnerships over shipment volume, which doesn’t work to the advantage of major buyers like Apple.

In addition to the lower demand, the situation has become even more volatile given that tight foundry capacity is expected to disrupt shipments and have an effect on NAND flash pricing, industry sources reportedly said.

“Some NAND flash controller suppliers,” the report said, “have indicated that their supply may not be able to satisfy customer demand in the second quarter if their foundry partners continue to see tight capacity, the sources said. This supply disruption is likely to impact NAND flash prices for the quarter.”

Industry sources expect the situation to improve in the second quarter of 2010, when they believe Apple may start negotiating long-term supply contracts for NAND flash. The report noted that Apple’s consumption of flash memory will “continue to play a significant role” in the industry this year.

Earlier this month, a rumor came out that the possible success of Apple’s iPad could increase prices of solid state drives. Apple consumes nearly one-third of total NAND flash memory supplies, and its share is expected to grow even more with the launch of the iPad on April 3.

Apple was noted multiple times in 2009 as causing a flash memory shortage due to its iPod and iPhone products consuming the largest share of NAND flash. Industry sources expect the price of NAND flash to continue to rise in 2010.

In addition to most of the iPod lineup and the iPhone, in early 2008, Apple embraced the solid state drive by offering it as an option in its MacBook Air notebook.

Apple, Google Hiring Each Other’s Employees as Tech Feud Grows

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Date: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010, 04:12
Category: News

Maybe they’ll stop feuding soon, but they’ve got some good Hatfield vs. McCoy traction going here, so why would they stop now?

According to AppleInsider, Apple recently hired a former Google product manager for a secretive “pretty neat role” with the company, while a new Google employee has shared harsh words about Apple’s “Disney-fied” approach to the mobile Internet.

Google recently hired well-known software developer Tim Bray, formerly of Oracle and Sun Microsystems. The developer wrote on his personal blog Monday that he will “enjoy competing with Apple,” and shared some harsh words on what he feels are the iPhone maker’s restrictive policies.

“The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what,” Bray wrote. “It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger. I hate it.”

He continued: “I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom’s not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient.”

Bray expressed he views his new job with Google as an opportunity to prove that Apple is wrong in their approach to the mobile Internet. He noted that he’s been a buyer of Apple systems for years, and despite his “current irritation,” he will likely continue to do so. At Google, he will work on the Android mobile platform.

Last year, criticism of Apple’s policies with the App Store came to a head, prompting company executive Phil Schiller to personally fight back. Apple has come under fire again in recent weeks after the company changed its policy on “overtly sexual” content and purged more than 5,000 applications from the App Store.

Per TechCrunch, Apple recently hired R.J. Pittman, a former product manager with Google. Pittman, who the article called a “prominent” employee with the search giant, has moved on to Apple.

Pittman sent a letter to his colleagues at Google in which he said the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 changed his life.

“I’ve owned almost one of every Apple product released since then, and still own my first Mac that started it all some 25 years ago,” he wrote. “In a strange but not so strange way, this is sort of a homecoming for me, despite never having worked for Apple. Life works in curious ways, and I love it when every so often it comes full circle.”

He went on to say that he would have a “pretty neat role” with Apple, but declined to say what it might be. Current rumors have speculated that Pittman could work with the employees Apple took on in its acquisition of streaming music service Lala, given his background with Google’s own music search technology.

“That said, Apple could be after his other talents — Pittman had previously presented at the launches of other search-related products, including a Google Labs event,” the report said. “And before that, he founded Groxis.”

Last August, it was revealed that Apple and Google shared a gentlemen’s agreement to not poach each others’ employees, though these latest moves would suggest that deal is no longer in place.

Me, personally, I think the two companies need to put aside their differences, buy out AOL, put it out of its misery and turn its headquarters into the world’s greatest deli, complete with really good grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Aperture SlideShow Support Update 1.1 Released

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Date: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010, 03:53
Category: Software

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On Monday, Apple released its Aperture SlideShow Support Update 1.1 patch, a 3.3 megabyte download which addresses an issue affecting the playback of HD video clips used in Aperture 3 slideshows on Mac OS X 10.6.x (Snow Leopard). Audio and video tracks now remain properly synced in video clips that have been trimmed.

The update can be directly downloaded or located and snagged via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

The Aperture SlideShow Support Update 1.1 file requires Mac OS X 10.5 and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

If you’ve tried the fix and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know.

Full iPhone Third-Party App Multitasking References Located in Latest SDK Build

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Date: Friday, March 12th, 2010, 06:41
Category: iPhone, Software

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Although rumors that Apple will include a third-party multitasking capability in the iPhone are as old as the hills themselves, a reference has emerged regarding a “multitasking dialog box” buried in the new iPhone OS SDK 3.2 beta 4 that apparently didn’t exist in iPhone OS 3.1.3.

Per 9 to 5 Mac, this could be the very first by-product of a new multitasking system for developers that’s being developed for the platform, presumably destined for an appearance in OS 4.0 when it’s introduced along with new hardware this summer. Still, it’s just as likely that Apple will continue to keep the iPhone’s multitasking capability to itself, a function it uses liberally among the phone and music apps, just to name a couple.

AppleInsider is currently citing a tipster claiming that Apple’s got a “full-on solution” to multitasking that would properly address its main concern (battery life issues) for release this year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPad Preorders Accepted as of 8:30 A.M. EST

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Date: Friday, March 12th, 2010, 05:10
Category: iPad, News

Apple has begun taking preorders for its long-awaited iPad tablet at 8:30 a.m. eastern standard time and 5:30 a.m. pacific standard time.

According to The Loop, preorders for the Wi-Fi-only iPad will begin first-thing Friday morning. The Wi-Fi iPad is set to launch in the U.S. on April 3, with the 3G capable model coming later that month.

In addition, both the Wi-Fi and 3G models will be available in the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland in late April.

The iPad starts at US$499 for the 16GB model with Wi-Fi, going up to US$599 for 32GB and US$699 for the 64GB model. The models with both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, compatible only with AT&T in the U.S., carry a US$130 premium.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.