Apple opens iOS development to third-party tools, introduces Review Board

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Date: Thursday, September 9th, 2010, 06:30
Category: News

Apple on Thursday announced that the company would no longer ban intermediary development tools for iOS as long as App Store software does not download any code, potentially paving the way for third-party software to convert applications from other formats like Adobe Flash.

Per Macworld, the company revealed that it had made “important changes” to sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 of its iOS Developer Program license, relaxing some of the restrictions that were put in place earlier this year. The company has also published the approval guidelines for its tightly controlled App Store, in which all software must be reviewed before it is released.

The changes come just weeks after evidence surfaced that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission was looking into a complaint from Adobe over Apple’s banning of Flash from iOS devices. The FTC denied a public records request related to the case, stating that the release of such documents could interfere with an ongoing investigation.

Earlier this year, Apple updated its iOS 4 SDK to ban intermediary tools that would allow the porting of applications from Adobe’s Flash, Sun’s Java, or Microsoft’s Silverlight/Mono.

The change was made after Adobe announced that its Creative Suite 5 would include an application that would allow developers to port their applications to the iPhone from Flash. Adobe eventually abandoned further development of the application following Apple’s announcement. That was also when the company filed a complaint with the FTC.

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs publicly commented on the matter in an open letter published in late April, in which he slammed Adobe Flash as a Web tool that is unfit for the modern, mobile era of computing. He also said that an intermediary tool for converting Flash applications to the iPhone would produce “sub-standard apps,” and would hinder the progress of the platform.

At the time, Jobs said he knew from “painful experience” that allowing developers to become dependent on a third-party tool, such as Adobe Flash, rather than writing natively for the iPhone is restrictive. “We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers,” Jobs wrote.

As for the publication of App Store approval guidelines, Apple has repeatedly come under fire for not being open enough with developers. Some who write for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch have complained that it is unclear what software is acceptable.

The most high-profile App Store review incident came in 2009, when Apple refused to approve the Google Voice application, a telephony service from the search giant. The matter was investigated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, and Apple at the time denied that it had rejected the Google Voice app, but said it was continuing to “study it.”

The full statement from Thursday is included in its entirety:

“The App Store has revolutionized the way mobile applications are developed and distributed. With over 250,000 apps and 6.5 billion downloads, the App Store has become the world’s largest mobile application platform and App Store developers have earned over one billion dollars from the sales of their apps.

We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.

In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.

In addition, for the first time we are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps. We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store.

The App Store is perhaps the most important milestone in the history of mobile software. Working together with our developers, we will continue to surprise and delight our users with innovative mobile apps.”

Finally, Apple also revealed the formation of an App Review Board, with the goal of giving developers “the opportunity to appeal the rejection of an application if [they] believe that the functionality or technical implementation was misunderstood.”

This new board should help address the accusations often made about the arbitrariness of the app approval process by providing developers with a way to formally ask Apple to review a rejection, based on criteria that may not have been anticipated by the approval guidelines; that’s often been the source of embarrassment for the company.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Nvidia announces seven new GeForce 400M notebook graphics card with accelerated Web browsing features

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 3rd, 2010, 14:26
Category: News, Processors

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This could be nifty.

Graphics chip maker Nvidia on Friday announced seven new GeForce 400M series graphics cards for notebooks, which could provide parallel-processing capabilities to accelerate Web browsing and 3D image rendering.

Per Macworld, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome have either implemented or will soon include the capability to offload tasks like rendering of HTML 5 or Flash video content to graphics processors. Nvidia’s new GeForce graphics cards will be faster at processing those tasks than CPUs, which should make Web browsing snappier.

The new graphics cards will be around 40% faster than the earlier 300M series at execution of tasks, said Ken Brown, an Nvidia spokesman.

While the CPU remains at the center of running tasks, developers are writing applications to harness the parallel-processing capabilities of graphics processors to speed up applications, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

“That’s one of the changes with the new browsers, is they support that capability,” McCarron said.

Notebooks with Intel’s latest Core processors already have a graphics processor integrated in one chip next to the CPU. However, discrete GPUs have a faster and wider pipe to run applications, McCarron said.

Still, graphics processors can draw more power than CPUs or integrated graphics, which can affect battery life of notebooks. Nvidia’s graphics cards support new switchable technology called Optimus, where specific tasks like video rendering can be seamlessly switched between the CPU and GPU. The GPU kicks in only when needed, preserving the notebook’s battery life.

Nvidia declined to comment on the exact power drawn by the new graphics cards, citing company policy. In recent years the company has taken charges for faulty dies and weak packaging material used in its graphics chips that led to notebooks overheating. Those issues have been resolved for a while, Brown said.

“Nvidia GPUs are made with a different manufacturing substrate to prevent chips from experiencing thermal issues over time. Our GPUs run in the tolerance level of their specification and the notebook chassis design constraints,” Brown said.

More laptops are shipping with discrete GPUs as users look for stronger multimedia capabilities, McCarron said. Nvidia will be trying to extend its presence in the market with the new products, and it will have to compete with rival Advanced Micro Devices, which already offers Radeon HD notebook graphics cards.

Beyond Web browsing, the graphics cards will provide a better gaming experience and bring Blu-ray 3D movie playback to laptops, Nvidia’s Brown said. The graphics cards will support DirectX 11, Microsoft’s latest graphics technology included in the Windows 7 OS.

The new offerings include the GeForce GT 415M, GT 420M, GT 425M, GT 435M, GT 445M, and the faster GTX 460M and GTX 470M graphics cards. The cards will be available only through the PC makers, and Nvidia did not comment on when the notebooks would become available. The graphics cards will be offered through PC makers including Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba.

Individual pricing for the graphics cards and whether or not the cards would eventually find their way to Apple’s notebook products were not disclosed.

Adobe releases Flash Player 10.1.82.76 for Mac, adds hardware acceleration for H.264 content

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 11th, 2010, 05:25
Category: News, Software

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In spite of the constant back and forth between Apple and Adobe, a new version of Flash Player for Mac has shipped that officially supports hardware acceleration for H.264 video content.

Per AppleInsider, the update 10.1.82.76 was announced Tuesday by Adobe product manager Thibault Imbert on his blog. The feature, code-named “Gala,” had been announced several months prior, but was unavailable with the official release of Flash Player 10.1 for Mac in June. In a break from usual protocol, Adobe enabled the new feature in a security release.

Hardware acceleration in Flash Player 10.1 for Mac is available only for Mac OS X Snow Leopard and the following graphics cards: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M or GeForce GT 330M.

According to Adobe, a CPU utilization reduction of up to two-thirds is possible when GPU hardware acceleration is active.

Adobe Flash Player 10.1.82.76 can be downloaded here and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

Leaked photo illustrations suggest camera, flash on next-gen iPod touch

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, August 5th, 2010, 05:14
Category: iPod Touch, Pictures, Rumor

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A series of leaked photo illustrations supposedly obtained from iPod case manufacturers show a new version of the iPod touch with a camera and flash.

Per a leaked image on HardMac, the English language version of France’s Macbidouille, the next generation iPod touch in shown in a clear case. The website claims the source of the image is “very reliable.” The image appears to show a rounded back with a rear-facing camera and flash.

A rounded back would be a clear departure from the design of the iPhone 4, which has a flat glass back.



According to the web site, the source has been reliable in the past, correctly confirming the inclusion of a camera on last year’s iPod nano. Technical issues have been cited as the reason for the lack of a camera on last year’s iPod touch model.

Although rumors of a camera-enabled iPod touch have persisted for several years, the June unveiling of Apple’s FaceTime video call feature for the iPhone 4 served to strengthen the rumors. At that time, CEO Steve Jobs expressed plans to make the feature an “open industry standard” that works between different devices. When speculating which devices are likely to adopt the FaceTime standard, many analysts have kept the iPod touch at the top of their lists.

Reports from “supplier” sources corroborate the iPod touch camera rumor, although the details don’t always match. In July, U.K. retailer John Lewis claimed the next iPod touch will have a 5 megapixel camera, while the Taiwanese publication Digitimes cited sources predicting a 3 megapixel camera.

Either way, this will probably be resolved upon the new iPod touch’s release, which is expected to occur sometime in September.

Apple releases Safari 5.0.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, July 28th, 2010, 06:16
Category: News, Software

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Amidst yesterday’s updates and product releases, Apple released Safari 5.0.1, the newest version of its web browser. The new version, available here (or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature), sports the following fixes and changes:

- More accurate Top Hit results in the Address Field.

- More accurate timing for CSS animations.

- Better stability when using the Safari Reader keyboard shortcut.

- Better stability when scrolling through MobileMe Mail.

- Fixes display of multipage articles from www.rollingstone.com in Safari Reader.

- Fixes an issue that prevented Google Wave and other websites using JavaScript encryption .libraries from working correctly on 32-bit systems.

- Fixes an issue that prevented Safari from launching on Leopard systems with network home directories.

- Fixes an issue that could cause borders on YouTube thumbnails to disappear when hovering over the thumbnail image.

- Fixes an issue that could cause Flash content to overlap with other content on .www.facebook.com, www.crateandbarrel.com, and other sites when using Flash 10.1.

- Fixes an issue that prevented boarding passes from www.aa.com from printing correctly.

- Fixes an issue that could cause DNS prefetching requests to overburden certain routers.

- Fixes an issue that could cause VoiceOver to misidentify elements of webpages.

Safari 5.0.1 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 (under Mac OS X 10.5) or Mac OS X 10.6.2 (under Mac OS X 10.6) or later to install and run and is available for free.

Apple changes iOS SDK rules to accept Lua but restrict Flash

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 14th, 2010, 05:01
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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Something about this reminds me of when the cool kids wanted to keep the nerds out of the clubhouse, if only on principle.

According to AppleOutsider, Apple has changed its iOS SDK rules for iPhone developers have relaxed the restriction of section 3.3.2 pertaining to interpreted code, enabling Apple to forbid Flash and other middleware platforms while still enabling popular game engines and libraries.

When the 3.3.2 rules were first published, the restriction stated that iOS apps must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++ or JavaScript, and that “no interpreted code may be downloaded or used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Documented APIs and built-in interpreter(s).”

Apple’s goal seemed to be limited to stopping third parties from shifting iPhone developers from using Apple’s own Xcode development tools and instead making them dependent upon their own middleware meta-platforms.

The most obvious example of this was Adobe’s efforts to turn its Flash Professional CS5 application into a product that could export iPhone apps, facilitating cross platform development centered on Flash as a platform rather than Apple’s own Cocoa Touch.

Apple’s 3.3.2 restriction made it clear the company would refuse to sell such apps in its iTunes Store.

Strangely enough, the wording of the restriction appeared to also target any iOS apps that might include any interpreted code, including a large number of games that make use of general purpose, reusable code engines or libraries to expedite development.

Adobe has argued that any iOS restrictions on development with its Flash tools would also halt the use of popular game engines or libraries such as Unity 3D and Lua. Such a situation would imperil many popular iPhone games that Apple has already approved (and often singled out for targeted promotion), including Tap Tap Revenge and Rolando.

The latest modifications to the 3.3.2 section indicate Apple won’t be forced to dump popular, existing titles just to block middleware meta-platforms as a threat to iOS development. The most recent wording of the iOS SDK, published by Matt Drance of Apple Outsider, articulates an additional option Apple can invoke when choosing to approve apps:

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, with Apple’s prior written consent, an Application may use embedded interpreted code in a limited way if such use is solely for providing minor features or functionality that are consistent with the intended and advertised purpose of the Application.”

Drance notes, “these new terms seem to acknowledge that there’s a difference between an app that happens to have non-compiled code, and a meta-platform.”

Adobe releases Flash Player 10.1.53.64

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 11th, 2010, 03:52
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Adobe officially released Flash Player 10.1.53.64, the newest version of its multimedia software for Mac OS X. The new version, a 7.4 megabyte download, offers a slew of security fixes detailed here with full (and extensive) release note changes documented here.

The new version is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Additional fourth-generation iPhone component pictures surface

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 3rd, 2010, 05:41
Category: iPhone, Pictures

An additional set of component pictures claimed to be from Apple’s forthcoming fourth-generation iPhone once again show a white external casing, this time with a previously unseen white back panel.

Web site PowerBook Medic obtained images of both the front and back panels for the newly designed casing. While the shown front panel matches what was previously pictured online, the back of the device shows space for a camera flash and a larger camera lens, as were found in the black models that were publicly disassembled.

The white back panel, covered with a plastic seal, lacks any markers that might indicate the storage capacity of the new device, and it does not feature a model number, suggesting it is still a prototype and not the final product.

The parts do clearly show the side-facing slot for a micro-SIM card, and the device’s previously revealed metal sides. The front panel also features a spot for a forward-facing camera.

Last month, the first glimpse of a white next-generation iPhone was seen when an alleged part was obtained. The same site later placed the white front panel atop other components to give an idea of what the device might look like when it is finally released.

Previous reports said the back panel is made of glass or a similar material designed to help improve reception of Apple’s next-generation handset.

Apple is expected to introduce its fourth-generation iPhone next week at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. The event will kick off on Monday, June 7th, with a keynote hosted by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.


Hulu Plus service for iPad delayed, won’t make May 24th launch

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Date: Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, 06:47
Category: iPad, News

You love Hulu on your Mac.

But you’ll have to wait a little longer for it on the iPad.

Per MediaMemo, sources close to Hulu have cited that Hulu’s new service, dubbed “Hulu Plus” wouldn’t make its anticipated arrival date of May 24th and in fact there was “no way” Hulu Plus would become available next week.

According to the original plan, Hulu plans to charge a monthly subscription for access to Hulu on the iPad through a forthcoming application to be released on the App Store. Hulu executives were initially hopeful that they could release an application potentially alongside the debut of the iPad.

Sources close to the story said Tuesday that it’s likely the service remains in negotiations with content holders. Even with the delays, it’s been reported that the principal partners, including Fox, ABC and NBC have agreed to the basics of the subscription plan, including a US$10-per-month fee for access to “a deeper catalog of broadcast shows plus access to the services like Apple’s iPad.”

“And even if Hulu and all of its partners are seeing eye-to-eye — not a given — getting the rights from various programming partners to sell their shows could be a slog,” Kafka wrote for MediaMemo.

Sources pushing Hulu’s subscription plan behind the scenes did reportedly say that the new service will be “revolutionary.”

One feature that the new Hulu won’t support: HTML5. Last week, the company revealed on its official blog that it doesn’t see HTML5 in its immediate future. The current player on the website is built on Adobe Flash, which is used to stream video, secure content, and handle reporting for advertisers, among many other tasks.

Hulu’s iPad application is expected to be similar to the existing ABC and Netflix streaming players available for download on the App Store. The popular ABC application shows programs like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” for free, with ad support. And that free product has apparently caused concern for Hulu and its subscription plans.

Reports have suggested that Hulu will incentivize its subscription plan by offering streaming to Apple’s iPad, as well as by including a “window” where content is available to subscribers before it can be seen for free by the general public. It is said that Hulu’s business partners have pressured the service into subscription plans to “train” viewers that they should pay for online access to content.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Hulu confirms, quickly retracts, vow of HTML5 support for iPad

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Date: Friday, May 14th, 2010, 04:25
Category: iPad, News

Video streaming web site Hulu both posted and quickly retracted a blog post yesterday, the edited form stating that the web site doesn’t see using HTML5 in its immediate future.

Per AppleInsider, Eugene Wei, vice president of product with Hulu, said that his company’s contractual requirements make the transition to HTML5 too difficult. The current player on the website, built with Adobe Flash, does a great deal more than stream video.

“We continue to monitor developments on HTML5, but as of now it doesn’t yet meet all of our customers’ needs,” Wei wrote. “Our player doesn’t just simply stream video, it must also secure the content, handle reporting for our advertisers, render the video using a high performance codec to ensure premium visual quality, communicate back with the server to determine how long to buffer and what bitrate to stream, and dozens of other things that aren’t necessarily visible to the end user.”

The statement would seem to finally put to rest lingering rumors that Hulu might convert to HTML5 for an iPad-friendly site. But it does not mean that iPad users will not be able to access Hulu.

The company is still expected to bring its service to the iPad eventually, through software in the App Store much like the ABC and Netflix streaming players. It is believed Hulu on the iPad will be a pay-only service that would require a monthly subscription.

But the existing, popular ABC application shows programs like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” for free, with ad support. And that free product has apparently caused concern for Hulu, which is rumored to introduce a US$9.95-per-month subscription plan later this month, on May 24th.

It is believed that Hulu will incentivize its subscription plan with Apple’s iPad, and also offer a “window” where content is available to subscribers, both on computers and the iPad, before it can be seen for free by the general public. Rumors have suggested Hulu’s business partners have pressured the service into subscription plans to “train” viewers that they should pay for online access to content.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.