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Apple patent points to proximity-based tablet interface

A newly awarded Apple patent suggests the company has been working on a way to display different user interface modules based on proximity instead of touch. Originally filed in September 2005 and awarded earlier today, the patent entitled “Proximity detector in handheld device” describes a system that employs one of a number of different methods for detecting when a finger, stylus, or some other object is place above, but not directly on, an area of the screen. Once the presence is detected, an appropriate user interface element is displayed, and the user can interact with the element via proximity gestures or some other form of input, such as touch. Notably, the images included with the patent appear to depict a tablet device, as opposed to a smaller handheld like the iPhone or iPod touch. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area; continue reading for images from the patent. [via Patently Apple]

Notes from Q1 2010 Apple Conference Call

During Apple’s First Quarter 2010 Financial Results Conference Call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer and Apple COO Tim Cook made several comments concerning its media-related products, including the iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV, as well as U.S. cellular partner AT&T. In his opening statements, Oppenheimer said that while traditional iPod sales declined, sales of the iPod touch were up 55% year-over-year, boosting the iPod’s Average Selling Price (ASP) by nine percent.

The iPhone saw “very strong” growth in several international territories, and has been a “runaway hit” in Japan, with sales up over 400% year-over-year. iPhone sales were also up over 500% from the year-ago quarter in the Asia/Pacific market, because of Korea and other newly added countries, including China. Specifically, Cook revealed that the iPhone passed the 200,000 activation mark in China earlier this month, and that the company is very focused on quality at the point of sale and quality of customer experience, in order to build the brand for the long term in that market. In the corporate market, 70% of the Fortune 100 are now actively deploying or piloting iPhone. When asked about iPhone inventory levels that sat at roughly 2.7 million units in the channel at the end of the quarter, including demos and in-transit inventories invoiced to carriers, Cook said that Apple is completely comfortable with the number, adding that Apple could have sold a lot more units but elected not to because the company is managing inventories very tightly. The implication, we felt, was that a transition from 8GB iPhone 3G models to 8GB iPhone 3GS could have achieved this.

In regards to the company’s accounting changes, Oppenheimer explained that the company has settled on estimates of $25 for iPhone and $10 for Apple TV software updates which will be taken from the selling price and deferred over time, but did not provide any specifics on how the company arrived at either number. Both executives also praised Apple’s financial team for rapidly facilitating the switch to the new accounting principles. When asked about Apple’s recent acquisition of mobile advertising firm Quattro, the executives said that the company wanted to acquire Quattro to offer developers a way to easily monetize apps, especially free offerings, adding, “we’re going to work hard to provide developers a great opportunity and we’ll see where it takes us.”

Finally, when asked about the potential effect recent criticism of AT&T might have on Apple’s and the iPhone’s brand, the men hailed AT&T as a great partner, noting that the two companies have a working relationship that pre-dates the initial launch of the iPhone, and that AT&T has more mobile broadband usage than any carrier in the world. They also pointed out that iPhone customers have a great experience in the vast majority of locations, that AT&T has very detailed plans to address its network problems in cities, and that Apple has reviewed the plans and believes AT&T will make significant progress towards fixing them.

Apple Q1 2010: 21 million iPods, 8.7 million iPhones sold

Reporting its first quarter financial results today, Apple said it sold 21 million iPods during the holiday quarter — an eight percent decrease compared to the same quarter last year. Despite the drop in unit sales, revenue from iPod sales actually increased one percent year-over-year, to $3.391 billion. Apple also sold 8.7 million iPhones in the quarter, a 100 percent increase year-over-year, and up from 7.4 million units in the prior quarter. The company posted revenue of $15.68 billion and net quarterly profit of $3.38 billion, or $3.67 per diluted share, representing all-time revenue and profit highs, compared with revenue of $11.88 billion and net quarterly profit of $2.26 billion, or $2.50 per diluted share in Q1 2009. Sales of Other Music Related Products + Services were up 15% over the year-ago quarter, and up 14% from Q4 2009, to $1.16 billion total. That category includes iTunes Store sales, iPod services, and revenues from Apple and third-party iPod accessories. International sales accounted for 58 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Notably, Apple has applied new accounting principles to its iPhone and Apple TV numbers, and is accounting for the sale of both products as two deliverables. As explained in the company’s 10-Q filing with the SEC, “The first deliverable is the hardware and software essential to the functionality of the hardware device delivered at the time of sale, and the second deliverable is the right included with the purchase of iPhone and Apple TV to receive on a when-and-if-available basis future unspecified software upgrades and features relating to the product’s essential software.” The rules also result in the recognition of “substantially all of the revenue and product costs from the sales of iPhone and Apple TV at the time of sale.” The change in accounting rules explains the discrepancy between the Q1 2009 financial numbers mentioned above and those originally reported.

“If you annualize our quarterly revenue, it’s surprising that Apple is now a $50+ billion company,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we’re really excited about.”

“We are very pleased to have generated $5.8 billion in cash during the quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the second fiscal quarter of 2010, we expect revenue in the range of about $11.0 billion to $11.4 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share in the range of about $2.06 to $2.18.”

Steve Jobs: tablet ‘most important thing I’ve ever done’

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been making bold claims about the company’s upcoming tablet to senior Apple executives and close friends, according to a new report. Citing multiple independent sources, TechCrunch reports that Jobs has repeatedly stated that the tablet “[W]ill be the most important thing I’ve ever done.” Previous reports have indicated that Jobs was giving the tablet his full personal attention following his return to Apple last June.

ChangeWave: Consumer interest in Apple tablet ‘strong’

According to a January survey of consumer PC purchasing trends conducted by ChangeWave, pre-announcement demand for an Apple tablet is “strong.” 18% of respondents showed interest in the device, with 4% saying they were very likely to purchase an Apple tablet when it becomes available, and another 14% saying they were at least somewhat likely. In terms of pricing, three-quarters of interested consumers said they were willing to pay $500 or more for the device, while 37% said they would pay more than $700. Coincidentally, the 4%/14% ratio is the same as the percentages of consumers who said they would be very or somewhat likely to purchase a new Intel-based Mac following Apple’s announcement that it would be switching to Intel chips for its laptop and desktop computers. The survey was conducted in January 2010 among 3,314 consumers.

WSJ: Tablet to have sharing features, gaming capabilities

The Wall Street Journal has posted a lengthy article discussing Apple’s upcoming tablet device, including the kinds of content that will be available for it and a few of its features. Citing numerous anonymous sources, the report states that Apple sees the device being shared by multiple family members, and has even experimented with the ability for the tablet to automatically recognize individual users via a built-in camera, although it’s unknown whether the feature will be included at launch. In addition to HarperCollins, Apple has also spoken to The New York Times, Conde Nast Publications, and others about working together on content for the tablet, and has also been working with Electronic Arts to show off the device’s gaming capabilities. The report also claims that the tablet will employ a virtual keyboard for text entry.

Curiously buried at the bottom of the report is news of a Web-based version of iTunes that could possibly launch as soon as June. Again citing people familiar with the matter, the report claims that the service, tentatively called iTunes.com, would allow customers to buy music without the need for opening the full iTunes application, and is a central part of a new Apple strategy to populate as many sites as possible with “buy” buttons, including integrating iTunes transactions into activities such as listening to Internet radio and surfing media review web sites.

Apple Event Mix: Gaming, iPhone OS details, iPad trademarks

As speculation surrounding Apple’s upcoming media event continues to swirl, several noteworthy new reports are offering potential insights into the company’s upcoming announcements.

Beyond inviting several iPhone game developers to the January 27th event, as it has for past iPhone OS-related events, Apple has also interestingly invited gaming sites Kotaku and IGN to attend. Though it is possible that the invitations are designed merely to encourage the sites to cover gaming improvements to the iPhone OS for current and future iPhone and iPod touch devices, the invitation’s focus on Apple’s “latest creation” increases the likelihood that the company intends to push gaming as one of the new “creation’s” features.

iPhone OS 4.0 has been rumored to make its debut at the event alongside or as part of the tablet unveiling, and Boy Genius Report claims to have been briefed on several aspects of the new software by a “trusty Apple connect.” The report states that iPhone OS 4.0 will support multi-touch gestures OS-wide, will offer a “few new ways” to runs applications in the background, will feature many graphical and user interface changes to make navigating through the OS easier and more efficient, and will boast a “brand new” syncing capability for contacts and calendars. The report also states that the update will be available only for the iPhone 3G and 3GS—no mention of the iPod touch is made—but states that it will “put them ahead in the smartphone market because it will make them more like full-fledged computers,” adding that everyone is “really excited.” Although several of the enhancements listed in the report seem likely to be part of iPhone OS 4.0, it is worth noting that Boy Genius Report has a spotty track record when it comes to Apple-related announcements, incorrectly calling for Blu-ray support in iTunes 9, posting faked iTunes 9 screenshots, and predicting deeper social networking integration prior to iTunes 9’s official release last September.

Finally, new evidence suggests that Apple is considering naming its tablet device “iPad.” Slate Computing, the same company Apple supposedly used to acquire iSlate trademarks in the U.S. and European Union, was discovered to have applied for an “iPad” trademark in Canada in July 2009. This date is far more recent than the prior iSlate trademarks, which date back to 2006-2007. Similar trademark applications were filed in July in Hong Kong and Europe, by a Delaware-based company called IP Application Development (“IPAD”) and a UK law firm, respectively. Based on a source claiming to have knowledge of Apple’s plans, Mac Rumors discovered that this same company has filed for new “iPad” trademark applications in New Zealand and Australia within the last week, and while no direct link has yet been made between IP Application Development and Apple, the matching timing of the trademark filings by it and Slate Computing in July 2009 is suggestive.

It is worth noting that companies, including Apple, sometimes attempt to secure rights to several potential product marks before finalizing a name. Also noteworthy is the fact that Fujitsu appears to control the U.S. trademark for iPad, but as a current Apple component supplier, it would also appear to be a friendly negotiating partner should iPad turn out to be the product’s official name. Apple has in the past launched products without owning the trademark for their names, such as when it launched the iPhone despite the trademark being owned by Cisco, ultimately settling with the company after exchanging jabs and legal threats.

Apple in talks with HarperCollins, others over e-book sales

Apple is in negotiations with HarperCollins and several other publishers to make electronic books available for the upcoming tablet device, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources familiar with the situation, the Wall Street Journal reports that HarperCollins is expected to set the price of the e-books, with Apple taking a percentage of the sales. Details have yet to be worked out, the report states, but Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins, said in December that e-books enhanced with video, social-networking applications, and other advanced features could command higher prices for publishers than current e-books. Apple is hosting a special media event in San Francisco on January 27th, at which it is expected to unveil its long-rumored tablet device.

Apple confirms event on Jan. 27 to show ‘latest creation’

Apple has sent out an email to select members of the press, inviting them to a special event on January 27th. The email features a colorful background of paint splashes with an Apple logo in the middle, accompanied by the text “Come see our latest creation.” The event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, and will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. It is widely expected that Apple will show off its long-rumored tablet device at the event, possibly alongside a beta of iPhone OS 4.0 and an accompanying update to the iPhone SDK.

Apple files complaint against Nokia with ITC

Apple has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, asking it to block Nokia imports to the U.S. Nokia responded to the complaint via a spokesman, who said, “Nokia will study the complaint when it is received and continue to defend itself vigorously. However, this does not alter the fact that Apple has failed to agree appropriate terms for using Nokia technology and has been seeking a free ride on Nokia’s innovation since it shipped the first iPhone in 2007.” Apple overtook Nokia as the cellphone maker generating the highest total operating profit in the September quarter, despite Nokia’s overall sales eclipsing that of Apple by a wide margin, in part thanks to Nokia’s cheaper, traditional cellphone offerings.

Apple’s filing is the latest development in the ongoing battle between the two companies. Nokia first filed suit against Apple in October 2009, claiming that the iPhone infringes on several Nokia patents; Apple vowed to “vigorously” defend the case days later, then filed a countersuit claiming patent infringement in December. The lawsuits were followed by an ITC complaint from Nokia near the end of the year, alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers.”

Apple to step up acquisition initiatives?

Apple has hired a new employee to help it become more agressive in its acquisition strategy, a new report claims. BusinessWeek reports that Apple hired Adrian Perica, a West Point graduate and former Goldman Sachs investment banker, last year to head up its mergers and acquisitions department. Citing four unnamed sources, the report states that Perica was brought in to handle Apple’s purchase of online music site Lala.com following the company’s loss of mobile advertising firm AdMob to Google earlier in the fall, and that Perica was able to close the Lala deal in a few weeks, rather than the more typical two to three months. The article also notes that three of the 11 Apple acquisitions since CEO Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997 have come in the last five months. Bill Whyman, an analyst with International Strategy & Investment, said, “Their [business] model is evolving, and you can expect them to broaden their horizons.”

Nokia: Apple infringes patents in ‘virtually all’ products

  • December 29, 2009
  • Apple

Nokia has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers.” According to the company’s announcement, the complaint centers on seven Nokia patents related to user interfaces, as well as camera, antenna, and power management technologies, all of which allow for a “better user experience, lower manufacturing costs, smaller size and longer battery life for Nokia products.”

“Nokia has been the leading developer of many key technologies in small electronic devices” said Paul Melin, General Manager, Patent Licensing at Nokia. “This action is about protecting the results of such pioneering development. While our litigation in Delaware is about Apple’s attempt to free-ride on the back of Nokia investment in wireless standards, the ITC case filed today is about Apple’s practice of building its business on Nokia’s proprietary innovation.”

Nokia sued Apple in October alleging that the iPhone infringes on patents for GSM, UMTS and wireless LAN standards, specifically those relating to wireless data, speech coding, security and encryption. Apple vowed to “vigorously” defend the case, and earlier this month filed a countersuit against Nokia alleging that Nokia is infringing 13 of Apple’s patents, announcing the suit in a terse press release that quoted Apple General Counsel and Senior Vice President Bruce Sewell as saying “Other companies must compete with us by inventing their own technologies, not just by stealing ours.”

Glass panel problem forced Apple tablet delay?

  • December 28, 2009
  • Apple

Apple’s search for a way to strengthen the glass panel portion of the display for the company’s upcoming tablet forced the company to delay the product’s launch, a new report claims. Citing sources from Apple’s component suppliers, DigiTimes reports that Innolux, the panel-manufacturing subsidiary of Foxconn, will be the initial supplier of panels for the tablet. The report claims that Foxconn’s optical glass processing subsidiary G-Tech Optoelectrics will provide a glass-strengthening process for the 10-inch glass panels; Taiwan-based optical film maker Wah Hong Industrial has also been tapped as a supplier. Finally, Foxconn is said to be the manufacturer of the tablet, which the report claims will be announced in January and will see mass shipments beginning in March or April.

Apple tablet to be named iSlate?

  • December 28, 2009
  • Apple

New evidence of trademark and domain name acquisitions by Apple suggest the company may be planning to use the name iSlate for its rumored tablet device. MacRumors found evidence from late 2007 that Apple has acquired the domain name “iSlate.com” through MarkMonitor, a firm that handles domain name registrations and trademark protections for many different companies, including Apple. TechCrunch then discovered iSlate trademark filings in the United States and European Union by a company named Slate Computing. Curiously, the same report notes that the European filing lists U.K.-based firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge as a legal representative, the same firm that helped Apple secure the EU trademark for the term “MacBook.” Finally, Mac Rumors found further evidence linking Slate Computing to Apple, as the trademark application documents list Regina Porter as the signatory; a person with the same name is also a Senior Trademark Specialist with Apple, according to her Linkedin profile. Notably, however, companies do acquire domain names for potential product titles that are not used, so regardless of Apple’s ownership of any domain, its tablet device may carry a different moniker. Apple has reportedly scheduled a special press event on Jan. 26 to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Apple telling developers to ready big-screen apps (Updated)

  • December 23, 2009
  • Apple

Apple has told certain iPhone developers to prepare applications for a demo on a screen with a higher resolution than the iPhone and iPod touch, according to a new report. Citing a source inside the mobile industry, Silicon Valley Insider reports that Apple plans to show off the new device, most likely the long-rumored tablet, in January. “They’ve told select developers that as long as they build their apps to support full screen resolution—rather than a fixed 320x480—their apps should run just fine,” said the source. The report notes that the device will not go on sale in January, but could launch as soon as March.

Update: The Financial Times is reporting that Apple has scheduled a special press event for January 26, to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Apple hit with patent lawsuit over iTunes, MobileMe, more

  • December 15, 2009
  • Apple

Apple, along with 17 other companies including Kodak and Microsoft, has been sued for patent infringement by BetaNet, LLC in U.S. District Court in Texas. BetaNet claims that Apple is infringing two U.S. Patents, both entitled “Secure System for Activating Personal Computer Software at Remote Locations” via its iTunes, Aperture, QuickTime, and MobileMe programs. BetaNet claims Apple infringes upon its patent by offering limited software for download, which can be upgraded to a “complete version” after entering license transaction information, which is then sent to a central registration server that returns the complete program. BetaNet is seeking damages, costs, expenses, and interest, as well as a permanent injunction barring all 18 companies from further infringement. [via The Loop]

Apple changes App Store policy on private APIs

Recent reports from iPhone developers indicate that Apple has softened its stance on using private APIs—features not authorized by Apple for third-party developer use—in iPhone applications. One iPhone developer, Vimov, indicated that instead of simply rejecting its application for using private APIs, Apple approved it with a request that the developer resolve the issue in its next update. An unrelated developer, Jonah Grant reported a similar experience with his application. The iPhone SDK Developer Agreement prohibits the use of private APIs, which, unlike public APIs, may include features that Apple could change in future OS updates, and thus does not want third-party developers to use. In the past, applications that made use of private APIs have been rejected by the App Store review process, and Apple has even gone so far as to implement an automated check for the use of private APIs. The change in policy appears to be aimed at increasing approvals while educating developers about reasons for future rejection. Earlier this month Steve Jobs personally intervened to reverse the rejection of the Knocking application, which also made use of a private API. (via AppleInsider and Daring Fireball).

Apple acknowledges iTunes 9 iPod sync issues

  • December 11, 2009
  • Apple

Apple has belatedly acknowledged a number of sync issues with iTunes and Click Wheel iPod models that users have been experiencing since the initial release of iTunes 9 in September. Following the release of iTunes 9, a number of iLounge readers have reported problems with their iPods not being recognized by iTunes, extremely slow syncs and iTunes crashing during sync. Although iPod classic users seem to be most affected by these issues, it appears that iPod nano users have also experienced similar problems. Apple had previously provided no comment, but has now confirmed that it is “aware of the issue and are investigating.” (via AppleInsider)

Apple countersues Nokia for 13 alleged patent infringements

  • December 11, 2009
  • Apple

In response to a lawsuit brought against the company by Nokia for alleged iPhone-related patent infringements, Apple today filed a countersuit alleging that Nokia is infringing 13 of Apple’s patents. Surprisingly, Apple issued a terse press release regarding the countersuit, quoting Apple General Counsel and Senior Vice President Bruce Sewell as stating that “Other companies must compete with us by inventing their own technologies, not just by stealing ours.”

In October, Nokia filed suit against Apple claiming that the iPhone infringed on Nokia patents for GSM, UMTS and wireless LAN technologies covering wireless data, speech coding, security and encryption. Apple responded shortly thereafter that it intended to “defend the case vigorously,” indicating that it is defending more than 47 patent infringement cases, of which 27 were filed during the company’s fiscal 2009. Countersuits are often used in patent litigation as a means to achieve cross-licensing agreements and settlements without trials on the patents’ merits.

UPDATE: TechCrunch has provided some additional details regarding Apple’s lawsuit. Specifically, Apple is accusing Nokia of attempting a “patent hold-up” arguing that the patents in question are considered industry standards and Nokia is therefore expected to license them under fair and reasonable terms. Apple states in its countersuit that “Nokia has sought to gain an unjust competitive advantage over Apple by charging unwarranted fees to use patents that allegedly cover industry compatability standards.” The company further accuses Nokia of choosing to copy the iPhone as a response to its rapidly declining share of the high-end mobile phone market.

Mix: iTunes Gift Cards on Facebook, Time Magazine, Qik, ezGear

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Apple has introduced the ability to purchase customized digital iTunes Gift Cards through its iTunes Facebook page. The feature is currently limited to U.S. iTunes Store customers only, and allows users to choose one of six digital gift card designs with values ranging from $5 up to $50 and enter a gift message. Users can also specify to send the gift card immediately or schedule it for automatic delivery at a future date. The service is integrated into the Facebook “Gifts” feature, enabling the iTunes Gift Cards to be sent through Facebook itself.

Time magazine has chosen the iPhone 3GS as the fourth best gadget of 2009, interestingly placing behind the Motorola Droid, Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader and the Dyson Air Multiplier. Time named the Droid as its number one choice since it was deemed the first handset to truly challenge the iPhone, and the best hardware companion to Google’s Android mobile operating system. The iPhone 3GS also earned praise, but the article noted that the changes in the 3GS were not revolutionary enough to distinguish it from last year’s iPhone 3G.

Qik reports that it has submitted an updated version of its Qik app to the App Store that will support live streaming from the iPhone. Qik has provided an unofficial live streaming iPhone app for jailbroken iPhones since even before the iPhone 3GS was released, however its first official Qik app on the App Store provided only the ability to record videos for later uploading to the Qik service.

ezGear is offering iLounge readers a 20% discount on all online orders at its web site. iLounge customers can use the Discount code ILOUNGE during checkout to redeem the offer. The ILOUNGE discount code can be used multiple times for iPod and iPhone accessories, as well as other ezGear products.

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