Recently Published Apple Patent Reveals Possible Tablet Interface

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Date: Friday, October 2nd, 2009, 03:19
Category: Patents

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Via a recently published patent application, Apple has again disclosed plans for a multi-touch surface that could accommodate two full hands and distinguish between palms and individual fingers for typing, gestures and more. According to AppleInsider, the application, filed by Morrison and Foerster LLP in Los Angeles in June 2009 on behalf of Apple, expands on information made available last year. The massive document details a hand-based system that would allow “unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.”

The document notes that input with a stylus, mouse, keyboard and voice recognition are all options that work well in specific circumstances, but are not dynamic enough to address the many needs of users. But, it states, many of those needs can be met with touch-sensitive technology that can recognize a number of hand configurations.

“Many attempts have been made to embed pointing devices in a keyboard so the hands do not have to leave typing position to access the pointing device… The limited movement range and resolution of these devices, leads to poorer pointing speed and accuracy than a mouse, and they add mechanical complexity to keyboard construction,” the application reads. “Thus there exists a need in the art for pointing methods with higher resolution, larger movement range, and more degrees of freedom yet which are easily accessible from typing hand positions.”

The described system in the patent application would individually detect all ten fingers and separate palms on a person’s hand, giving the ability to type, write, draw and interact with a device large enough to support multiple hands. Examples of the touchscreen’s capabilities include resting of hands, measuring when a hand or fingers touches and leaves the surface, interpreting taps from one finger as mouse button clicks, but disregarding a tap from two fingers, and more. Activities done with multiple fingers are referred to as “chords.”

Such a system could adapt to individual hand sizes, eliminate the need for a stylus and mouse and would require minimal typing force. The application notes that there are other patents for touchscreen devices that negate the need for a keyboard or mouse, but states that Apple’s method is unique because it addresses both needs.

Typing is a large part of the lengthy application. The document goes into great detail about how a multi-touch interface could distinguish what keys a set of hands intend to type on the surface. It discusses pressure on the sides or center of individual fingers and palms, and how to interpret those various signals.

Key points of the invention, as described in the application, include:

-Integrating and distinguishing different types of input, such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, and handwriting, via different hand configurations that are easy to use and recognize.

-Includes an electronic system which minimizes the number of sensing electrodes to allow easier understanding of a variety of hand configurations.

-Provide a multi-touch surface that is contoured to be comfortable and ergonomic under extended use.

-Provide tactile key or hand position feedback without interfering with a hand resting on the smooth touch-sensitive surface.

-Provide images of “flesh proximity” to a variety of sensors that can distinguish hand configuration.

-Understand when the user wants cursor motion, and ignore commands when deceleration by the user is detected.

-Understand the movement of two or more hands to allow manipulation of two-dimensional electronic documents, like rotation and scaling of photos.

The application is partially credited to Wayne Westerman of Fingerworks, a company absorbed by Apple several years ago as part of its quest to deliver iPhone and a new generation of input devices.

Apple has reportedly been at work on the tablet project for several years, and the hardware has seen numerous internal iterations. The current device is believed to have a 10″ screen, 3G connectivity, and sport a custom-made chip from P.A. Semi.

Rumor: Apple Contacted Media Outfits Regarding Tablet Device

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Date: Wednesday, September 30th, 2009, 04:01
Category: Rumor

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Per Gizmodo, Apple recently approached a number of newspapers, magazines and other print media describing putting their products for sale on iTunes via a new piece of hardware. The report cited people familiar with The New York Times, publishers McGraw Hill and Oberlin Press, and a trip that “several executives from one of the largest magazine groups” took to the company’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

The Apple tablet project has apparently been through a number of different iterations, and the project has been reset numerous times by company co-founder Steve Jobs. The report said that Jobs was presented with a tablet device that ran a modified version of OS X years ago, but the device was shelved because the company could not determine what use people would have for the hardware.

The focus of the hardware now is said to not be the playback of media, which the iPod and iPhone lines already handle well. Instead, Apple is reportedly working to have publishers place their print content on iTunes.

“The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridized content that draws from audio, video, interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static,” the report said. “And with release dates for Microsoft’s Courier set to be quite far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static e-ink, it appears that Apple is moving towards a pole position in distribution of this next-generation print content. First, it’ll get its feet wet with more basic repurposing of the stuff found on dead trees today.”

The article has stated that the device will debut in early 2010, which seems consistent with the rest of the rumor mill on this issue.

Two employees from The New York Times were allegedly contacted by Apple in June about putting their product on a “new device.” Publishers McGraw Hilll and Oberlin Press are said to be working to put their textbooks on iTunes, possibly in a DRMed format that would allow use for a period of time. Magazine executives are alleged to have presented their ideas on the future of publishing on Apple’s campus. Given the evidence, the report asserts that Apple is looking to go beyond e-readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, to “redefine print.”

Intel Working on Apple’s “Light Peak” Brainchild to Eventually Replace Multiple Connection Cables

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Date: Wednesday, September 30th, 2009, 04:10
Category: Hardware, News

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Ok, this is interesting. A new interconnect technology called Light Peak is being developed by Apple as a potential replacement for FireWire, USB and traditional monitor cables. Engadget reports that Apple brought the technology to Intel and asked them to create it.

Per Engadget, Apple had reached out to Intel as early as 2007 with plans for an interoperable standard which could handle massive amounts of data and “replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector (FireWire, USB, Display interface).”

According to documents reviewed by Engadget, Light Peak would enable users to connect a variety of devices into a single Light Peak port. Longer-term, Light Peak has the potential to replace almost all the ports that are on your current computer, including networking, display driving, and general connectivity.

The technology is centered around fiber optics capable of transferring data at 10Gbps . At this speed, you could transfer a full-length Blu-Ray movie in less than 30 seconds. According to Intel, Light Peak can scale to 100Gbps over the next decade and has a number of other benefits.

Optical technology also allows for smaller connectors and longer, thinner, and more flexible cables than currently possible. Light Peak also has the ability to run multiple protocols simultaneously over a single cable, enabling the technology to connect devices such as peripherals, workstations, displays, disk drives, docking stations, and more. The technology is faster than the recently ratified SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0) which can transfer data at 4.8Gbps and could wind up in Apple systems as soon as Fall 2010 in a line of Macs destined for back-to-school shoppers. Following the initial launch, a low-power version of Light Peak is planned for 2011, which could find its way into tablets and mobile phones.

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, take a gander at the video from the lab…



Apple Releases iWork ’09 9.0.3 Update

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Date: Tuesday, September 29th, 2009, 04:58
Category: Software

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Late Monday, Apple released version 9.0.3 of its iWork ’09 productivity suite. The update, a 59.6 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
– Addresses general compatibility issues, improves overall stability, updates the help, and fixes a number of other minor issues in Keynote, Pages, and Numbers.
– Reducing file size of images that have Instant Alpha applied.
– Managing file size when inserting some movies.
– Working with dates and durations in the Chart Data Editor in Keynote and Pages.
– Exporting to CSV from Numbers when using table categories.

The update, which can also be located via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature, requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later to install and run.

Atlona Announces DVI to Mini DisplayPort Converter

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Date: Tuesday, September 29th, 2009, 04:18
Category: Accessory

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Third party accessory provider Atlona has announced the release of a DVI to Mini DisplayPort converter which allows Mac users who purchased their computers before 2009 had been running into a wall when considering purchasing an Apple Cinema 24’’ or any of the new Mini DisplayPort monitors being released this year and next.

The new AT-DP200 unit, which starts shipping next week, inputs DVI and outputs Mini DisplayPort signal while passing along all EDID and HDCP information. This device converts while allowing your computer to scale to the optimal resolution offered by your display including 1920 x 1200 or 1280 x 800.

The device is also scheduled for PC interoperability testing with all standard DVI video cards and will allow use of any Mini Display port product with and DVI graphics card, meaning the new 24” Cinema Displays from Apple can be used by users with legacy Macs.

The AT-DP200 will has begun shipping for a suggested retail price of MSRP of US$179.00.

Some Snow Leopard Users Complain of Spontaneous Logouts

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Date: Monday, September 28th, 2009, 05:31
Category: Software

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If Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) is behaving strangely for you, you’re not alone. Per CNET, a number of users have reported that Mac OS X 10.6 (as well as 10.6.1) will spontaneously log out of their account in the middle of using applications. The issue does not appear to be related to specific applications running as users have reported it happening while using Excel, Word, Safari, Photoshop, and Filemaker Pro among others. Most guesses have the problem related to Rosetta running on the new operating system, though an official fix has yet to be reported.

Over on the Apple Support Discussions, forum poster “Stu Baker” writes:
“I am having spontaneous logouts while I am in Snow Leopard. This is happening a couple times a day and it is very annoying. When it logs out it instantly goes to a blue screen and then the login screen appears. When I log back in all my apps have quit and it is like I am logging in for the first time. I did have this happen in Leopard too, but very rarely.”

One forum poster suggested a complete erase and install of Snow Leopard. If you’re going to attempt this, make sure you have all your data backed up to a safe location, if not a Time Machine archive on an external disk to make setup that much easier after the OS is installed.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.

Rumor: Apple to Unveil Updated iMacs, Refreshed Plastic MacBooks for Holiday Season

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Date: Monday, September 28th, 2009, 04:33
Category: iMac, MacBook, Rumor

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The rumor mill is starting back up again and The Unofficial Apple Weblog as well as other sites have begun to report on Apple’s expected releases for the holiday season.

French Mac site Mac4Ever is citing tips indicating that a new iMac, possibly quad-core powered, is in the works for a possible release before the holiday season. Like the MacBook Pro line, the new iMac would feature an SD card reader. There’s also the thought that a high-end iMac could even pack in a Xeon processor. AppleInsider has added its two cents, citing that an iMac boost is in the works, although they’re not speculating on quad-core or Xeon processors, and even reports that a new, slimmer design has been churning off Taiwanese assembly lines for the past two weeks.

The second rumor, also from AppleInsider, points to a less expensive and slimmer white polycarbonate MacBook. If Apple is able to reduce the price of the low-end laptop below its current US$999 level, it could stem the tide of sales of low-cost Windows and Linux netbooks.

They’re just rumors, but there’s generally some nuggets of truth to be found. If you’ve heard anything or want to chime in on this, let us know what’s on your mind.

New iMac Generation Almost Ready for Holidays, Could See Introduction This Month

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Date: Friday, September 25th, 2009, 05:03
Category: iMac, News

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Before the start of October, Apple could begin to fill out its 2009 Mac product line with a new family of iMacs sporting classier enclosures and a few added bells and whistles. Per AppleInsider, the new iMac dual-core desktops were finalized earlier in September and have been rolling off the Mac maker’s Taiwanese product lines for roughly two weeks, according to two people sources.

In addition to more affordable pricing, the systems are expected to come clad in a thinner industrial design. Though details are admittedly limited, it’s likely these new enclosures will also take design cues from the Cupertino-based company’s LED-lit Cinema Display offerings.

Aesthetic revisions aside, the late 2009 iMac line should also debut several features previously unavailable to Mac buyers.

People familiar with Apple’s thinking have suggested in recent months one of these moves could see the company finally embrace Blu-ray

With the costs of such drives remaining relatively high, it’s reasonable to presume such capability would fetch an added premium on most models.

A pair of other associated enhancements, one believed to be related to audio, should be seen with this new generation of iMacs according to sources close to the story.

For its part, AppleInsider believes Apple is primed to extend the capabilities of at least one technology introduced on the Mac platform as recently as last fall.

To make way for these new models, Apple’s corporate and educational sales teams this month have reportedly been offering their volume customers instant discounts of US$100 to US$200 on existing models. Anxious to clear inventories, representatives have allegedly stressed to buyers that these offers would be valid for just one week.

AT&T to Launch MMS Feature for iPhone Friday via Carrier Profile Update Over iTunes

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Date: Thursday, September 24th, 2009, 04:49
Category: iPhone, News

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American iPhone users will finally see AT&T’s MMS feature unlocked late Friday morning on the west coast by way of a carrier update file that will be delivered through iTunes, AT&T announced Wednesday.

“MMS Update: We know you’ve been eager for this service so we wanted to offer a quick update on the launch plans for MMS on Friday, Sept. 25,” AT&T wrote on its official Facebook page. “Late morning, Pacific Time, on Friday, the new carrier settings update enabling MMS should be live and ready to download through iTunes. We’ll provide the steps and all of the details you need right here at that time.”

Per AppleInsider, east coast residents will likely see their update available sometime early Friday afternoon. It also confirms that an iTunes update to the phone’s carrier profile will be necessary for MMS to be activated.

An article published over on DSLReports cited a source familiar with the company’s MMS upgrade as saying, “Starting at 10AM Eastern (on the 25), AT&T will send out a mass text to a group of iPhone users telling them that MMS now works on their phone.

Assuming all goes well, “They will keep doing groups of phones on the hour throughout the day,” the source said. Official word from company spokesman Seth Bloom said the upgrade would be targeted at early afternoon on the East Coast, or late morning for users on Pacific Time.

The source said AT&T was “very nervous” about the launch, due to seeing a surge in traffic from just a limited number of iPhone users selected to participate in advanced testing of the new service.

MMS allows users to send graphics, audio clips, location and contact files, and even video clips via an SMS-like messaging system. The new MMS features require an iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS.

Picture and video messaging was originally scheduled to arrive in the summer, but will be a few days late. AT&T has said that iPhone data usage has been very taxing on its network, leading to delays as the company attempts to strengthen its service.

Originally, iPhone tethering was also announced for the summer, but AT&T officials have said that service is coming at a later date, with no specifics given. The company apparently has no intentions to cap bandwidth for iPhone users.

Apple Clears Legal Hurdle to Sell iPhone in South Korea

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Date: Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009, 03:05
Category: iPhone, News

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South Korean authorities cleared Apple’s iPhone for sale in the country on Wednesday by lifting a legal bar on operation of location-based services by Apple, a spokesman for a government regulator said. Per Macworld UK, the Korea Communications Commission decided to allow Apple to operate the services itself in a “flexible” application of local law, the spokesman said. Without the clearance, Apple would have needed a local operator to run the location services and manage user privacy for the data gathered, he said.

The move is partly aimed to avoid limiting choices for South Korean consumers, according to a spokesperson’s press release. South Korean’s mobile phone market is currently dominated by local handset makers Samsung and LG Electronics.

South Korean mobile carrier KT is in talks with Apple about offering the iPhone, though details are not yet available. Apple did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Apple recently removed Wi-Fi functionalities from the model of the iPhone to be offered in China this year to obtain the country’s regulatory approval for the handset.