Microsoft looking to ARM processors, HTML5 for Windows 8 mobile strategy

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 04:38
Category: News, Software

There may be something to this whole HTML5 thing…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft has provided a look at how it plans to bring Windows to more mobile devices in the future, leveraging ARM processors and using HTML5 as the basis of a new app platform.

As demonstrated at the D9 conference, Windows 8 will deliver a touch-centric new interface for apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that runs on top of the existing, conventional Windows platform.

The company showed off a new Start screen patterned after the tiled home page of Windows Phone 7. The company says the new tiled interface “replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.”

Microsoft’s mobile Windows CE core operating system differs dramatically from its desktop Windows operating system, but the two will grow closer together in appearance as Windows 8 adopts a similar, top level interface to Windows Phone 7 and the Zune.

In contrast, Apple’s desktop Mac OS X and mobile iOS share the same core operating system and use optimized versions of the company’s proprietary Cocoa development platform to deliver native apps, but differ in the interface they present, with Mac OS X retaining a mouse-based windowing environment while iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad present a completely rethought, touch-based interface.

Microsoft’s own efforts to build a cohesive development environment for both the Windows CE-based Windows Mobile 6 and its desktop Windows XP/Vista/7 platform initially revolved around the company’s .Net APIs before shifting Windows Phone 7 to use Microsoft’s Adobe Flash-like Silverlight as its mobile app platform.

Now, Microsoft is announcing a new shift that leverages the interest in HTML5 to deliver “web-connected and web-powered” apps (similar to HP’s webOS platform acquired from Palm) that will run alongside legacy Windows apps on the forthcoming Windows 8. Microsoft says this approach “is designed and optimized for touch,” although the company also says “it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard.”

Ironically, the new HTML5 layer of Windows 8 works like the Dashboard layer of Mac OS X, although rather than only supplying quick assess to simple widgets, the new “Windows 8 apps” are intended to supply a layer of highly animated, full screen, touch-based apps capable of competing with native apps running on Apple’s iPad.

Like Apple’s iOS, Windows 8 is intended to be deployed on highly mobile devices such as ARM-based tablets in addition to the conventional PCs Windows has powered in the past. Unlike Apple’s iOS, which became instantly popular on the iPhone before expanding to the iPod touch and iPad, Microsoft’s tile-based Zune interface hasn’t yet found a significant, sustainable audience. After the Zune failed, Microsoft KIN and Windows Phone 7 have both found little interest among consumers.

Microsoft’s radical experimentation with Windows Vista in 2007 caused a negative backlash from Windows PC users, which has only settled down with the more conservative release of Windows 7. Sales of PCs have yet to rebound to levels prior to the release of Vista, and new mobile devices, in particular Apple’s iPad, have siphoned off a significant amount of demand among generic PCs.

Microsoft does have considerable clout among its developers and hardware makers however, and describes the new Windows 8 as its biggest risk yet, hoping the new release, due sometime over the next couple years, will bring it back into relevance among new generations of consumers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Google retain deal for map, search functionalities on iOS devices

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 03:34
Category: News, Software

The good news: The Google functionality on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad device isn’t going anywhere for a while.

Google Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt revealed Tuesday that his company had reached a deal with Apple to continue providing its maps and search technology for the iPhone.

Per Reuters, Schmidt, while speaking at the D9 conference organized by All Things D, said that Google’s relationship with Apple had gotten “rough” as competition between Android and iOS heated up, but they remained good partners in certain businesses.

Schmidt put to rest rumors that Apple planned to abandon Google’s maps and search technology in the iPhone. According to the executive, the two companies recently renewed their partnership to continue to provide services for the iPhone. “We just renewed our map and search agreements with Apple, and we hope those continue for a long time,” he said. Last year, it was suggested that Google pays Apple as much as US$100 million a year in a revenue sharing deal for searches made on the iPhone.

Schmidt also talked candidly about his company’s rivalry with Facebook. “We tried very hard to partner with Facebook ,” he noted. “They were unwilling to do the deal.” In hindsight, Schmidt said he would have pushed harder to compete with Facebook. “I screwed up,” he admitted.

Google co-founder Larry Page took over for Schmidt as CEO in April. Schmidt formerly served on Apple’s board of directors before stepping down due to a conflict of interest.

Apple does, however, appear to still be working on building out its own Maps team. In March, an Apple job listing was discovered for an iOS Maps Application Developer that would help “radically improve” Apple’s location-based services. Last year, Apple began using its own Maps location databases, though it still relies on Google for the maps themselves.

Last month, Apple revealed that it is collecting anonymous traffic data in order to build a “crowd-sourced traffic database,” though it was not immediately clear whether the use of the word “traffic” referred to network data or transportation.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple announces iCloud name, Steve Jobs keynote, other presentations for WWDC

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Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011, 05:43
Category: News

Apple announced on Tuesday that company CEO Steve Jobs will return to the stage, along with a team of company executives, to present Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and iOS 5 as well as introduce its new iCloud service.

Per AppleInsider, The Worldwide Developers Conference keynote will begin Monday, June 6 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. Apple confirmed that it will show off the now-officially-named iCloud, dubbed “Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.” No additional details were given.

Also set to be revealed by Jobs and Apple executives are Mac OS X 10.7, (a.k.a., “Lion”), the eighth major release of Mac OS X, and iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

The conference will feature more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers. Mac developers will see and learn how to develop world-class Mac OS X Lion applications using its latest technologies and capabilities. Mobile developers will be able to explore the latest innovations and capabilities of iOS and learn how to greatly enhance the functionality, performance and design of their apps. All developers can bring their code to the labs and work with Apple engineers.

Though Tuesday marks the first official confirmation of the iCloud service, its existence was hardly a secret. The company acquired the iCloud.com domain name for an estimated US$4.5 million in April.

The iCloud service is expected to replace the existing MobileMe cloud service, which offers e-mail and syncing of contacts and calendars.

A major new component of iCloud is expected to be a music streaming service that will allow users to access their music library from any Internet-connected device, like an iPhone, without the need to save music files locally on the device. It is expected that the product will scan users’ iTunes libraries and then mirror them with Apple’s own high-quality audio files stored in the cloud.

The picture for Lion is slightly more clear, as Apple first showed off the Mac software update last October and preview releases of the software have been provided to developers. Lion will bring iOS features “back to the Mac,” including home screens, tighter integration with the Mac App Store, new multi-touch gestures, and full-screen applications that auto-save and auto-resume.

As for iOS 5, both it and Mac OS X Lion are rumored to have deep connectivity with the new iCloud service. Numerous reports have claimed that iOS 5 will offer improved voice commands, but the software is not expected to be unveiled alongside new iPhone hardware. Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone is expected to show up sometime later this year, and not at WWDC.

A more recent iOS 5 rumor from last week suggested that Apple also plans to add widgets to its mobile operating system. It was also said that Apple plans to revamp its notification system, a part of the operating system that has been heavily criticized when compared to competing platforms like Google Android and HP’s Palm webOS.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.

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.

Skype posts workaround instructions for connection issues found on Mac OS X, Windows (updated)

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 05:55
Category: News, Software

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Er, if Microsoft paid US$8.5 billion for something, I suppose they’d like it to work on all the platforms it services…

Per Macworld, Skype has published workaround instructions for correcting an issue that prevented many Mac users from successfully logging into the service. The company also published a set on instructions focused on resolving connections on the Windows operating systems.

Early Thursday morning, some Skype users found that they couldn’t log in or stay connected. Not all users were affected, however: Folks using Skype on iOS and Android devices were fine, as were some people using different desktop editions of the client.

The issue prevented some callers on Mac OS X and various incarnations of Windows from connecting. According to Skype, Mac users battling connection issues can repair the problem by following these steps:

– Quit Skype.

– Navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/Skype/ (~ refers to your Home directory).

– Locate the file shared.xml, and delete it.

– Launch Skype again.

Upon relaunch, Skype will generate a new version of the XML file. There’s no word yet on what caused the issue, or why deleting the XML file will correct it.

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

Opera Mini web browser 6.0 released, now native for both iPhone and iPad

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 08:46
Category: iPhone, News, Software

It’s an interesting alternative to Apple’s Mobile Safari web browser for its iOS devices.

And it just got a fairly large overhaul.

Per Mac|Life, the popular Opera Mini web browser just reached version 6.0 and is available as a redesigned, universal app that finally brings some love to the bigger screen of the iPad as well as Retina Display support for the iPhone 4.

Opera Mini 6.0 features an updated design with a fresh new look and feel as well as super smooth pinch-to-zoom and panning. In addition to its new support for the iPhone 4 Retina Display as well as universal support for the iPad and iPad 2, the new version allows for direct sharing to Facebook, Twitter and My Opera.

International font support is also now greatly improved for Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and other non-Latin languages (Opera supports a laundry list of languages from all over the world). Finally, users have the ability to open a new page in a background tab as well.

Opera Mini 6.0 is available now from the App Store; the free app is a 3.4MB download compatible with all iOS devices running iOS 3.0 or later.

If you’ve tinkered with the new version of Opera Mini and have any feedback, please let us know and thanks.

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 unveils updated retail experience, introduces interactive iPad displays

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, retail

applelogo_silver

There were rumblings that Apple was doing something for its 10th retail anniversary.

And they apparently did.

Per Mac Prices Australia, Apple retail stores have taken the wraps off Apple’s new retail upgrade, which makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

Apple launched “Retail 2.0″ on Sunday morning in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Apple retail stores. The company opened its first retail stores on May 19, 2001, in McLean, Virginia and Glendale, Calif.

According to the report, the main change is the addition of stationary iPads placed next to other Apple products in order to display product prices, information and features. The touchscreen tablets can also be used to compare models and ask for help from a specialist. Photos of the new iPad display units reveal that the devices are placed in plexiglass.

The iPads appear to be running a custom software application, as customers report that pressing the home button on the tablets does nothing. Though the power cable for the device does not appear to connect to the dock, one person familiar with the matter said the cable is indeed connected to the dock connector, but is “very well hidden.” Also, detaching the cable will reportedly activate an alarm.

Some reports also suggested that Apple retail employees were wearing party hats to celebrate the occasion. Customers reported via Twitter that the Apple store updates created a “totally new experience.”

Apple had been reported as stockpiling iPads in preparation for a retail overhaul, the new in-house iPads having been slated for use with an updated version of RetailMe, Apple’s proprietary retail software.

Apple reportedly scheduled overnight shifts for retail employees in preparation for the updates to the Apple store. The company had blocked employees from taking vacation from May 20 to May 22. Mandatory meetings have been scheduled on Sunday morning and evening for Apple retail staff.

Apple has also taken offline the Order Status page from its website until Sunday, May 22 in order to perform a system update.

A recent report claimed Apple will update its “Apple Store” retail app for iOS this weekend, adding full build-to-order purchasing options to the application. Apple first released the retail app last year with support for stock configuration orders.

If you’ve wandered into an Apple Store location since the overhaul this weekend and have anything to report, let us know.

Recently published patent shows Apple’s interest in adding camera, games to iPod nano

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Date: Friday, May 13th, 2011, 04:12
Category: iPod Nano, Patents

A newly released patent application shows that Apple has interest in improving its multi-touch iPod nano with a camera and support for new software such as games.

Per AppleInsider, potential features of a future touchscreen iPod nano were revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Environment Sensitive Display Tags.” The document describes adding new sensors to the iPod nano, including a camera, to add new functionality.

The application concentrates on software features like screen savers, allowing information or content to be displayed on the device. Apple’s proposed invention would use sensors that would display unique content, or change the manner in which it is displayed.

But even more interesting are the illustrations shown in the application that include references to a camera and games. Currently, the sixth-generation iPod nano does not feature a camera, and cannot run software outside of what is preinstalled on the device.

In addition to a camera, the application also makes mention of the inclusion of a motion sensor, temperature gauge, and a microphone. Each of these sensors could be used to dynamically alter the way a screensaver would be played on an iPod nano.

While the application itself makes no mention of the iPod nano model in its text, the images show a small device with no physical buttons with an appearance similar to the multi-touch model Apple released last September.

The mention of a camera in the patent filing comes just days after a new photo claimed to show a seventh-generation iPod nano with a rear-facing camera, and without the built-in clip featured on the sixth-generation model. Another picture, also suggesting Apple could add a camera to its tiny media player surfaced in early April.

A camera was previously featured on the iPod nano in its larger fifth-generation model, released in 2009 and featuring the classic-style click wheel for input. Previous version of the device also supported iPod Click Wheel Games, but no games are available for the touchscreen sixth-generation iPod nano.

While the iPod nano operating system is designed to look and feel like iOS, which powers the iPod touch and iPhone, it is actually a different, unique operating system. In December, hackers managed to crack the software, but have not yet released any useful hacks aside from removing icons.

Apple’s patent application was first filed in November of 2009. It is credited to Duncan Kerr, Nicholas King, and Michael B. Victor.