A newly-published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on new manufacturing processes that would provide consumers with a more consistent experience when using cameras built-in to the company’s products. Entitled “Apparatus and Method for Compensating for Variations in Digital Cameras,” the patent explains that imaging sensors and lenses can vary slightly from unit to unit, resulting in inconsistent operation. The patent proposes to overcome this limitation by having each module capture images of colored light, which are then measured for color intensity bias. The resulting bias is stored in the camera, and is used to ensure that images and video captured by the camera contain appropriate color information. Curiously, images included in the application also depict an iPod-like device with a front-facing camera. 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. [via AppleInsider]
Apple has taken steps to block its ocean freight import records from public view ahead of the launch of its new iPad tablet computer, according to trade data protection company Trade Privacy. According to a press release issued by Trade Privacy, industry competitors and media will be unable to acquire any early intelligence on Apple products arriving on U.S. shores from foreign manufacturers, preventing outlets like ImportGenius—which predicted the arrival of the iPhone 3G in 2008 by monitoring the company’s import shipments—from predicting the arrival of the iPad and other future products. Notably, Trade Privacy says that other large technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Samsung and Sony continue to expose their import records to customers, media, and competitors. “It is alarming, critical trade secrets such as manufacturer sources, quantity of goods, product descriptions, destinations, and product arrival dates are now accessible to anyone in just a few clicks on-line,” explains Andrew Park, CEO of Trade Privacy. Without protection of their import data, companies make sensitive information accessible, which Park states, “can be detrimental to their competitive stance.” Apple is expected to launch its first Wi-Fi-only iPad models in late March. [via Fortune]
Speaking in an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen criticized Apple for its decision not to support Flash on its iPhone OS devices, according to a Computerworld report. Reiterating stats claiming that 85 percent of the top 100 Web sites in the world use Flash and that it delivers 75 percent of Internet videos, while hailing its “powerful ecosystem” of partners, Narayen said Apple isn’t serving its customers by blocking access to Flash content. “Considering the amount of content on the Web that uses Flash — not allowing your consumers to access that content isn’t showing off the Web in all its glory,” Narayen said. “Apple’s business model is more trying to maintain a proprietary lock.”
The CEO also mentioned Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ statement from March 2008 that the full-blown Flash Player “performs too slow to be useful” on the iPhone, calling for a third version of the software that fell in between the desktop and “Lite” versions of the software. Narayen described Jobs’ statement as “a little bit of a red herring,” before pointing out that the new 10.1 version of the software—which is expected to make its way onto some Android and other smartphones later this year—fills that gap. Earlier this year Jobs made further comments about Flash at a closed company event, calling Adobe lazy, and its Flash player buggy, while predicting that web developers would move away from the software as they focus more on HTML5 development.
While publishers have cheered Apple’s decision to allow e-book pricing as high as $14.99, that number may act as more of a price ceiling than a general guideline, according to a new report. Citing at least three people with knowledge of the discussions between Apple and major book publishers, the New York Times reports that Apple inserted provisions in the agreements requiring publishers to discount prices on best sellers, possibly to as low as the $9.99 pricing seen on Amazon’s Kindle store. The report also claims that Apple wanted e-book prices to reflect the hardcover price in cases where the hardcover edition was sold for less than the standard $26. During its iBooks and iBookstore announcement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed the company had signed agreements with five of the six largest book publishers—Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette book group. According to the report, Apple will take 30 percent of each sale, with the remaining 70 percent going to the the publisher and author; notably, some books shown during the iBookstore demo were available for as little as $4.99. Apple is expected to launch its iBooks app and iBookstore alongside the iPad in late march.
Apple has quietly increased the limit for over-the-air downloads from the App Store and iTunes Store on the iPhone. Until recently only content under 10MB in size could be downloaded over an EDGE or 3G connection—downloading of larger apps and media content had to be done over Wi-Fi. This limit now appears to have been increased to 20MB in both the App Store and iTunes Store on the device, allowing users to download larger applications and video content. The exact reason for this change is not clear, although it could be related to the impending release of the iPad, improvements in carrier bandwidth, or simply a desire to allow users to have anywhere access to larger applications on the App Store.
The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) has said it will consider a complaint filed by Kodak last month against Apple and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion claiming that the two handset makers are infringing on Kodak patents related to digital cameras. Specifically, Kodak claims the iPhone and some BlackBerry models infringe on a patent covering technology for previewing photos. The ITC will also decide whether to ban the imports from Apple and RIM after Kodak claimed that the companies refused to pay patent royalties on the technology. Kodak has also filed a civil lawsuit against the two companies in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, seeking unspecified damages.
Despite Apple’s notable absence at Mobile World Congress, CEO Steve Jobs has been named “Mobile personality of the year” by the GSM Association as voted by the media. Jobs’ award was the only award won by Apple at the event, however, as Best Mobile Handset or Device went to the HTC Hero. British actor, comedian, and writer Stephen Fry, who hosted the awards, accepted the award in Jobs’ stead, adding that he couldn’t make it to the event because “he’s busy working on Apple’s next big thing the iDiaper.” Jobs bested fellow CEOs Eric Schmidt of Google, Mike Lazaridis of RIM, and Pete Chou of HTC for the award.
Apple has been awarded a patent for a multipoint touchscreen. U.S. Patent No. 7,663,607, entitled “Multipoint Touchscreen,” more specifically covers a larger, two-hand touchscreen, or as mentioned in the patent itself, a “tablet PC.” The patent’s summary descibes a transparent capacitive sensing surface that can sense multiple simultaneous touches and at distinct locations, similar to the technology seen in the recent announced iPad. This allows the computer to react to the multiple touches at once, allowing for more advanced interation than possible on a single-touch sensing surface. 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. [via Patently Apple]
Following the publication of several unauthorized biographies on Apple CEO Steve Jobs, which lacked his cooperation and sometimes drew his ire, the Apple co-founder is set to collaborate on an official biography. Citing two people briefed on the project, the New York Times reports that Jobs has agreed to collaborate with Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine, on the book. Still in the early planning stages, the book is said to cover Jobs’ entire life, from his youth in the Silicon Valley area through his second term at Apple. Jobs, who will turn 55 on February 24, has reportedly invited Isaacson to tour his childhood home as part of the project. Isaacson is the author of two previous best-selling biographies, “Einstein: His Life and Universe” and “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life;” all of his books have been published by Simon & Schuster, which was touted as one of five major publishers on board to provide content for Apple’s upcoming iBookstore.
A number of newspaper and magazine publishers are expressing concerns over potential deals with Apple due to fears that the company will not be as forthcoming with customer data as the publications would like. The Financial Times reports that Apple’s history of sharing little customer data beyond sales volume information could prove to be a “deal breaker,” said one senior media executive in discussions with Apple. “We have for many years relied on subscriptions to be able to communicate with our readers,” Sara Öhrvall, senior vice-president of research at Swedish publisher Bonnier, told FT. “It is absolutely crucial to keep the data. That’s something that our advertisers need. It is something that we need.” Also a concern is the ability to identify current print subscribers to offer them discounts or free access to digital versions. Customers “will be really upset if we try to charge [them] again,” Ms Öhrvall said. Regardless of the device, she added that “it’s a deal killer.”
Publishers are also said to be wary of Apple’s revenue model, which would see the publisher paid 70 percent of the selling price, with Apple keeping the rest. While the plan makes sense for books, publishers said, it makes less sense for recurring charges like subscriptions, adding that giving away close to a third of subscription sales over an indefinite period of time would be hard to accept.
In spite of increasing competition between the two companies, a Google executive has made positive public comments about its relationship with Apple. Reuters reports that Vic Gundotra, head of mobile engineering for Google, said, “Apple is a very close and valuable partner and we’re very excited about the relationship we have with them today. We have no reason to believe that’s going to change.” Speaking at an industry roundtable discussion at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Gundotra was also pressed on the issue of Google’s presence on the iPhone, and responded, We don’t want to comment on those rumors. We think that relationship is stable.” A report from January stated that Apple was in talks with Microsoft to see the latter’s Bing service replace Google as the default search engine on the iPhone; a more recent analyst note said there was a “high” likelihood of the deal becoming a reality. Apple CEO Steve Jobs also took a couple of shots at Google during a recent company meeting, reportedly saying that some “teams at Google want to kill us,” and added that Google’s “Don’t be evil” mantra is “a load of crap.”
According to the latest data from The NPD Group, Apple is now the fifth-largest electronics retailer in the United States. In the brick and mortar retailer category, Apple placed fifth in overall 2009 sales, following leader Best Buy, Walmart, Staples, and Target. Apple was also fifth in the online retailer category, following Dell, Amazon, Best Buy, and HP. Overall consumer spending was down, with the middle class—consumers with incomes between $30,000 and $100,000—cutting back nearly eight percent from 2008. Lower-income consumers decreased spending by three percent, while consumers with incomes over $100,000 decreased spending by slightly more than one percent. NPD’s Consumer Technology sales include IT, imaging, audio, video, and consumables, and exclude video game hardware and software, PC software, and mobile phones. [via MacDailyNews]
Apple has launched its new “Countdown to 10 Billion Songs” promotion in celebration of the lead-up to the 10 billionth song sold on iTunes. In the contest, Apple is offering a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card to the person who downloads the 10 billionth song. No incremental prizes are being awarded, and there is a limit of 25 entries per person per day. As it has in past “countdown” promotions, the company is using a counter graphic on both its countdown webpage and iTunes store graphics, although these have normally been approximations, and not real-time download numbers. The contest begins today and will end once the 10 billionth download is reached; official rules are available here.
Google pays Apple more than $100 million annually for its position as the default Internet search engine on the iPhone, according to a new report. Citing a source familiar with Apple’s operations, Silicon Alley Insider reports that Apple receives more than $100 million a year from Google as part of a revenue sharing deal, but that recent deals between the two companies have become increasingly contentious. According to the source, the original deal between the two companies for Google Maps on the iPhone was reached in just two weeks, while a similar deal for the iPhone 3G, negotiated just a year later, was a six-month negotiation “full of acrimony” as Google wanted access to data generated by Maps users, which Apple did not want to give up. A report from last month indicated that Apple was in talks with Microsoft over the possibility of the latter’s Bing service replacing Google as the default search engine on the iPhone.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly visited New York City in recent days, stopping by both the New York Times newsroom and the Wall Street Journal for personal demonstrations of the new iPad tablet. Gawker reports that Jobs’ NYT visit was strictly off-the-record, but a person who was present indicated that Jobs is preparing to sign up magazines and newspapers for distribution on the iPad, after focusing on books prior to the device’s unveiling. Little is known about Jobs’ visit with the Wall Street Journal, beyond the fact that he was reportedly confined to the office’s third floor, and did not meet with several interested staff members.
New York Magazine claims Jobs held another meeting with New York Times Company executives in the basement of Southern Asian restaurant Pranna, to which Jobs wore a “funny” hat. The report states that Jobs was seated next to NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger during the “intimate” event, and demonstrated the iPad and its functions while speaking about how it could shape the future of media. Finally, Fortune reports that Jobs also visited the Time & Life Building while in town to demonstrate the tablet to Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore and several select magazine editors.
Apple has demanded the removal of promotional text mentioning Google’s Android platform from an application’s App Store description. Mobile development house Flash of Genius has reprinted part of Apple’s email discussing the description text for the company’s Flash of Genius: SAT Vocab app, in which it requests removal of the text. The e-mail reads, “During our review of your application, we found that your application contains inappropriate or irrelevant platform information in the Application Description and/or Release Notes sections. Providing future platform compatibility plans or other general platform references are not relevant in the context of the iPhone App Store. While your application has not been rejected, it would be appropriate to remove ‘Finalist in Google’s Android Developer’s Challenge!’ from the Application Description.” In addition, the e-mail recommends the developer make the changes to the description “to avoid an interruption” in the app’s availability. For its part, Flash of Genius believes the text is relevant and helps to boost sales, and is considering e-mailing Apple to try and find an acceptable way to reincorporate the text.
Apple has posted an App Store Tip on its iPhone Dev Center warning app developers not to use location based services primarily for serving location-targeted ads. The tip states, “if you build your application with features based on a user’s location, make sure these features provide beneficial information. If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user’s location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.” While it is possible that Apple is issuing the warning in an effort to reduce unnecessary battery drain potentially caused by activating GPS and other location-based features, others, including Iconfactory developer Craig Hockenberry, have suggested that Apple is instead trying to prohibit other location-based advertising in favor of an Apple/Quattro Wireless-provided solution. Apple purchased Quattro Wireless for $275 million earlier this year, and former Quattro head Andy Miller is now employed by Apple as Vice President, Mobile Advertising.
Apple has hired two well-known figures in the mobile advertising world for European positions with its recently-acquired Quattro Wireless mobile advertising firm. Theo Theodorou, former mobile advertising sales manager for Microsoft in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) market, has been hired as head of EMEA sales at Quattro Wireless. New Media Age reports that Theodorou is coming from publisher Hachette Filipacchi, where he was appointed commercial director of digital sales in October 2009. Apple has also hired Todd Tran, formerly managing director of Group M-owned mobile marketing agency Joule, as general manager of the Apple mobile ad network in Europe. Apple purchased Quattro Wireless for $275 million earlier this year, with former Quattro head Andy Miller joining Apple as Vice President, Mobile Advertising; when asked about the acquisition during its First Quarter 2010 Financial Results Conference Call, Apple 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.”
A newly-published Apple patent suggests the company is working on touch-sensitive bezel, which would allow it to expand its touch-based interfaces beyond the perimeter of the screen. The patent describes a number of different implementations, including a force-sensitive touch surface, a multi-touch input surface, and other input methods, and each is described as applicable to the iPod, computers, and other portable devices. According to the patent, the bezel would be used to manipulate or control what is being displayed on the screen, based on which part of the bezel was being touched; in addition, these menu-like selections could be made to rotate around the bezel as the device’s orientation is changed. 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. [via Patently Apple]