Apple universal remote patent points towards upcoming television set

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Date: Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 05:26
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent applications that provide the niftiest hints.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple has shown interest in building a new, simplified remote control that would automatically control a variety of devices while reducing setup and frustration for the user.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application entitled “Apparatus and Method to Facilitate Universal Remote Control,” it describes a touchscreen-based controller that would reduce the confusing clutter found on current universal remotes.

The filing notes that current remotes have a large number of buttons and switches to control the functions of a device, and while those buttons are necessary to control all of the functions, the average user typically only uses a handful of the buttons.

“The controls that are not normally used clutter the remote control and can cause confusion to the user when trying to locate a seldom-used feature,” the filing notes.

It also details how current universal remotes are even more complex to operate than the basic remotes that ship with specific devices, like a television set or receiver. And often times, those universal remotes cannot replicate some of the tasks found on the original remote.

“Hence, users must spend time learning a new remote control or programming an existing universal remote each time they purchase a new remotely controllable appliance, which detracts from the enjoyment of using the appliance after it is first purchased,” Apple’s application states. “What is needed is an apparatus and a method to provide remote control over multiple appliances without the difficulties described above.”

Apple’s proposed solution is a remote control with a dynamic touchscreen used for input. The remote would include a “discovery mechanism” that would discover available appliances for it to control, negating the need for users to enter complex codes and program individual devices.

The filing describes a remote controlling one or more of a television, video players, a stereo, a “smart home” control system, and even a Mac. The document notes that the controller could also be used beyond electronic appliances, and could control programs and functions on a computer, like allowing a user to play songs on iTunes on their Mac or PC.

Apple’s solution would simplify the user interface by having devices wirelessly transmit a specific interface for that device. The remote would receive this customized button layout, and dynamically present input options to the user without the clutter of a typical button-based universal remote.

The remote would also detect which appliances are within range of the controller. If, for example, a specific appliance could not be detected, the remote would gray that option out so the user would know it is not available.

The proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in September of 2011. It is credited to Albert Vidal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Volume Purchase Program allows businesses to buy iOS apps in bulk

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Date: Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 05:58
Category: iOS, News, retail, Software

Sometimes a business just needs certain App Store apps.

Per Macworld, Apple quietly unveiled a Volume Purchase for Business program (also known as VPP) last summer: Essentially, it’s an App Store specifically for businesses, where they can purchase iOS apps in bulk. It allows developers to custom-tailor software for specific businesses; it also gives Apple another entry into the business market.

Here’s how the Volume Purchase Program works: Businesses create a single Apple ID to manage their purchases. Using that account—which needs to be linked to a corporate credit card or purchasing card—organizations can search for apps and then buy them in bulk.

Once the purchases have been made, Apple issues the company a list of redemption codes for the app. Whoever is managing app distribution for the company can email those codes to employees, allowing them to download the app just by following a link on their Mac, PC, or iOS device. The management interface is updated as users redeem the apps, keeping track of which codes are still available, as well as retaining a full purchase history.

Developers say Apple sets a minimum price of US$10 per app, but after that they’re free to offer custom prices, features, and services to specific customers.

VPP does have its limitations and as of now has yet to expand beyond the United States.

For years, Apple has famously focused on the consumer end of the market. But as more and more of those consumers bring their iPhones and iPads to work, IT departments are increasingly needing to take advantage of those devices; VPP gives Apple a way to help with that and thereby make inroads into the enterprise market.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve ever used the VPP for your business, please let us know about your experience, positive or otherwise.

Delicious Library updated to 2.7.6

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Date: Wednesday, January 25th, 2012, 11:26
Category: News, Software

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On Wednesday, software company Delicious Monster released version 2.7.6 of the shareware favorite, Delicious Library. Delicious Monster allows Macs with webcams to scan the bar codes of any book, movie, music CD or video game, then creates an archive based on background information from the Internet. Additional features help keep the library organized and reseller’s tools allow for items to be quickly posted for sale online.

The update, a 16.4 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Fixed a crasher with USB barcode scanning (introduced in 2.7.5, sorry we’re dumb!).

- Fixed a crasher when changing import settings (introduced in 2.0… sorry it took so long!).

Delicious Library 2.7.6 retails for US$40 and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Apple releases firmware updates for early, mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, January 25th, 2012, 09:58
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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It’s the firmware updates that make all the difference.

On Wednesday, Apple released MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.5. The update, a 4.1 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, early-2010 MacBook Pro models.

The company also released MacBook EFI Firmware Update 2.1. The update a 3.1 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection on mid-2010 MacBook Pro models.

Both updates require Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run and can be snagged via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried these updates and have either positive or negative feedback to offer, please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple release Mac OS X 10.7.3 build 11D50 to developers with no known issues

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Date: Wednesday, January 25th, 2012, 05:44
Category: News, Software

If you’re hankering for the Mac OS X 10.7.3 update, you probably won’t have much longer to wait.

Per MacNN, a week after the last release, Apple has again posted build 11D50 of the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7.3 for developers. The new version lists no known issues and again asks testers to focus on iCloud Document Storage, Address Book, iCal, Mail, Spotlight, and Safari. The build weighs in at 1.26GB for the combo update, and 997.01MB for the delta release (reversioners are no longer required).

While the company hasn’t identified any issues in several builds now, each subsequent releases is slightly larger than the one before it, suggesting that Apple is still tweaking the codebase. The main features of 10.7.3 are expected to be support for several new languages and issues relating to smart card authentication, Windows file sharing and directory services authentication. Testers are cautioned that they cannot revert to an earlier version of OS X once the beta 10.7.3 is installed.

If you’ve gotten your hands on the current build and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple reports $46.33 billion in sales, $13.06 billion profit for Q1 2012

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Date: Tuesday, January 24th, 2012, 16:37
Category: Finance, News

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You just can’t ignore a US$13.06 billion profit.

Per Macworld, Apple on Tuesday reported that it tallied US$46.33 billion in sales and US$13.06 billion in profit for the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31.

Both the revenue and profit figures were quarterly records for Apple and blew away the numbers recorded in the year-ago quarter. Sales rose 73 percent from last year’s figure of US$26.74 billion; profits more than doubled from the US$6 billion earned in the fiscal first quarter of 2011.

Apple earned US$13.87 per share for the just-completed quarter, up 116 percent from last year. That handily beat consensus analyst estimates of US$10.08 per share. Analysts were expecting Apple’s sales to come in at US$38.85 billion.

“We are very proud of these results and extremely pleased with the momentum of our business,” Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer told analysts during a conference call to discuss the company’s results. Noting the record sales across three of its major product offerings, Oppenheimer hailed what he called the “strongest product lineup in Apple’s history.”

Apple’s strong performance during the quarter comes with a minor caveat. To align the fiscal first quarter with the end of the calendar year, Apple’s quarter ran 14 weeks—that’s an extra week over the typical fiscal quarter.

The company sold 37.04 million phones during a quarter which saw the release of the iPhone 4S. That’s a 128 percent jump from the iPhones sold during the year-ago quarter, and it tops the previous record for iPhone sales of 20.34 million units sold during 2011’s third quarter.

Apple reported US$24.4 billion in recognized revenue from its iPhone product line, up from US$10.5 billion in the year ago. While Apple doesn’t break out sales by model, Cook noted that the 4S was the most popular of the smartphones sold by Apple. (The company also sells a US$99 iPhone 4 and offers a free iPhone 3GS with a two-year service agreement.)

The iPad also enjoyed record sales during the quarter, with Apple selling 15.4 million tablets. That’s an increase of nearly 111 percent from the 7.3 million iPads sold during the year-ago quater.

Recognized revenue from the iPad line jumped 99 percent to US$9.1 billion, up from US$4.6 billion in last year’s quarter.

Since releasing its first iPad a little less than two years ago, Apple has sold 55 million tablets, according to Cook.

Looking at all products that run the iOS mobile operating system, Apple says it’s sold 315 million cumulative iOS devices, with 62 million of those devices being sold in the just-completed quarter.

One of those iOS devices—the iPod touch—accounted for more than half of the iPods sold by Apple during the holiday season. That’s a bright spot in the otherwise stagnant iPod segment—sales dipped 21 percent for the quarter to 15.4 million units.

Still, Apple says that the iPod still continues to command a 70 percent share of the MP3 player market, and its music player remains the top-selling device in most of the countries the company monitors.

Apple completed its hat trick of product line records by selling more Macs during the first quarter than in any previous quarter. The company says it sold 5.2 million Macs, a 26 percent increase from the year-ago quarter. Oppenheimer said the growth was driven by strong MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac sales

Sales of both desktops and laptop topped quarterly records as well, though laptops continue to drive the company’s Mac business. Apple sold 3.7 million portables during the quarter, nearly 72 percent of the total Macs sold.

The strong Mac sales come at a time when the rest of the PC industry is struggling with stagnant growth. Oppenheimer noted that research firm IDC forecasted a flat growth rate for the quarter—a figure that Apple easily outpaced. It’s the 20th consecutive quarter that Apple’s Mac business had outgrown the overall PC market.

In fact, Apple outgrew the PC market in each of the geographic regions it does business. Growth was particularly strong in the Asia Pacific region, where Mac sales grew 58 percent.

On the retail front, Apple’s 361 stores brought in US$6.1 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from US$3.85 billion last year. The stores reported strong year-over-year growth across all product lines—Apple sold 1.1 million Macs through its retail stores, for example, with half of those going to customers new to the platform. Average store revenue rose from US$12 million last year to US$17.1 million.

Apple says 110 million people visited its stores during the holiday quarter, an increase of 45 percent from last year. That works out to a weekly average of 22,000 visitors per store. Oppenheimer credited two initiatives—Apple’s EasyPay self-checkout process and Personal Pickup, where customers shop online and pick up products at the store of their choice.

Apple opened four stores during the quarter—one in New York’s Grand Central station and the other three in Europe. Oppenheimer usually provides an estimate of planned store openings for the coming quarter, but that was absent this time around. In September, Apple said it would open 40 new stores in 2012 with three-quarters of those slated for outside the
U.S.

Apple ended its first quarter with US$97.6 billion in cash, up from US$81.6 billion at the end of the September quarter. Oppenheimer said that Apple was “actively discussing uses of our cash balance,” but added that there was nothing to share at this time.

Looking ahead to the second quarter ending in March, Oppenheimer told analysts to expect $32.5 billion in revenue and earnings per share of US$8.50. That compares to revenue of US$24.67 billion and earnings of US$6.40 a share in the 2011 second quarter. Analysts are looking for earnings of US$8.03 a share on sales of US$32.04 billion.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google Chrome updated to 16.0.912.77

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Date: Tuesday, January 24th, 2012, 06:39
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 16.0.912.77 for the Mac. The new version, a 34.9 megabyte download, offers the following change:

- Bug fixes.

Google Chrome 16.0.912.77 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Apple working to adopt 802.11ac 5G Gigabit WiFi standard in 2012

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Date: Monday, January 23rd, 2012, 05:33
Category: News, wireless

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You know, 802.11n’s been speedy, but it’s also been around for a while.

It might be time to move on to something new.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is expected to rapidly deploy support for the new 802.11ac specification this year, adding so called “Gigabit WiFi” to new AirPort base stations, Time Capsule, Apple TV, notebooks and potentially its mobile devices.

The new 802.11ac standard achieves much faster wireless networking speeds than the existing 802.11n specification (in use on the latest Mac, AirPort and iOS devices) by using 2 to 4 times the frequency bandwidth (from 80 to 160MHz), more efficient data transfers through sophisticated modulation, and more antennas (up to 8; existing standards support up to 4, while Apple’s Macs currently use up to 3).

While not yet finalized as an official standard by the 802.11 Working Group, progress on the new 802.11.ac standard is occurring faster than previous efforts in wireless networking have.

Multiple suppliers have already issued chipsets supporting 802.11ac for consumer grade applications. Key Apple component maker Broadcom announced chips supporting the standard earlier this month at CES.

In addition to reaching networking speeds above 1 Gigabit (about three times as fast as 802.11n networks can manage), 802.11ac promises better networking range, improved reliability, and more power efficient chips, thanks to parallel advances in reducing chip size and enhancing power management.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Brother Printer drivers 2.8.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, January 18th, 2012, 11:27
Category: News, Software

It’s not the most exciting update in the world, but it could prove useful.

On Wednesday, Apple released updated Brother printer drivers for the Mac OS X 10.6 and Mac OS X 10.7 operating systems. Brother Printer Driver 2.8, a 150 megabyte download offering the most current drivers for Brother’s printers and multi-function devices.

The update can be located, snagged and installed via the built-in Mac OS X Software Update feature and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new drivers and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.7.3 build 11D46 to developer community

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Date: Wednesday, January 18th, 2012, 11:21
Category: News, Software

Hold your horses, Mac OS X 10.7.3 will get here eventually.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple has released build 11D46 of its anticipated Mac OS X 10.7.3 update. The build, a 1.2 GB combo update / 989 MB delta update, focuses on iCloud document storage, Address Book, iCal, Mail, Spotlight and Safari.

The last seed was released a week ago. Apple released Mac OS X 10.7.2 to the general public in October, which added iCloud support.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve had a chance to play with the build, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.