Apple is reportedly in talks with Nuance Communications over the use of its voice recognition services in iOS 5. Citing multiple anonymous sources, TechCrunch reports that Apple has been in talks with Nuance for months, possibly over an acquisition, but more likely over a far-reaching licensing agreement and or partnership. As noted in the report, Siri, the voice-based personal assistance and search service acquired by Apple in April 2010, relies on Nuance technology for its services; Siri technology is said to play a large role in iOS 5, and the report claims that Apple has yet to successfully renegotiate the original deal between Siri and Nuance. The report cites Nuance’s $6 billion market cap as a major obstacle in any acquisition talks, as much of this value comes from the company’s various licensing deals, many of which could potentially dry up should Apple take control of the company. Nuance also develops a number of iOS apps, which it sells under its Dragon brand.
Update: According to a second report from TechCrunch, Apple has reached a deal with Nuance that will allow it to run and build upon Nuance’s software at its new data center in North Carolina. The deal will enable Apple to process voice information for iOS users more quickly, and prevent such data from going through third-party servers.
Amazon has quietly updated the Cloud Player music component of its Cloud Drive online storage service, allowing for playback over iOS devices using the Safari browser. Launched in late March, Cloud Player gives users to access both MP3 and AAC files stored using the Cloud Drive service, allowing for browser-based playback. As noted by Engadget and confirmed in iLounge’s brief testing, the feature appears to work well, with a small but notable delay between song selection and the beginning of playback. Playlist management features also work, and, surprisingly, the Cloud Player also works well with iOS’ multitasking audio controls. To utilize the new offering, iOS users simply need to navigate to their Cloud Player from within Safari.
Problems at LG Displays’ production lines may have played a part in Apple’s struggle to meet demand for the iPad 2, according to a new report. Citing anonymous industry sources, DigiTimes reports that Samsung shipped a total of four million 9.7-inch IPS panels for iPads in the first quarter, outpacing the 3.2 million delivered by LG Displays. LG is said to have forcibly reduced its first quarter shipments due to a light leakage problem with panels produced at its 6G production lines, although the problem is said to have been fixed. A number of iPad 2 owners reported problems with backlight light leakage shortly after the device’s release. The report also notes that Chimei Innolux has been selected as a supplier of iPad 2 IPS display panels, but is still awaiting verification from Apple, and is expected to start shipping panels this month. A prior report indicated that Innolux had been added by Apple as a third supplier of touchscreen sensors for the iPad 2.
Apple today officially launched the iPad 2 in China to lengthy lines. M.I.C. Gadget reports that the Apple Store in Beijing sold out in just four hours, while AppleInsider notes that online orders opened with a shipping estimate of one to two weeks. Both reports indicate that scalpers were seen in line and outside of the store, where they were selling units for a markup of 200-400 yuan (roughly $30-$60) over the regular prices, which start at 3688 yuan (~$568). Notably, only iPad 2 with Wi-Fi models were available, as the 3G model has yet to launch in the country. Apple COO Tim Cook said during the company’s recent Q2 2011 Financial Results Conference Call that Apple’s focus has very much been on China, where the company saw a “sea change” in sales last quarter; revenue from China was over $5 billion for the first half of the year.
Online task management service Remember the Milk has released an update to its iOS application adding native iPad support. Remember the Milk 2.0 introduces a completely redesigned user interface for the iPad using a gesture-rich sliding panel interface for viewing categories, task lists and task details on the larger screen. The app syncs all data bi-directionally with the Remember the Milk online service, storing tasks, notes, lists, Smart Lists, tags and more for offline use when no Internet connection is available. Users of the free Remember the Milk service can synchronize manually once per day, while users with a “Pro” subscription can take advantage of immediate automatic sync with iOS 4 background completion and push notifications for badge counts and task reminders.
On the iPad, tasks can be completed or postponed using two-finger swipe gestures and users can slide task list, detail and note panels to reposition them or slide a panel off the right edge of the screen to close it. Remember the Milk 2.0 is available from the App Store as a free download. A Remember the Milk account is required to use the app; automatic synchronization and push notifications require a $25/year “Pro” subscription. More details are available on the company’s blog.
C2 Enterprises has released a new app designed to help iPad users collect and organize photos on the go, share content on social media services and sync the resulting collections to Adobe Lightroom. Photosmith provides the ability to organize, rate, tag and label photos imported from sources such as the iPad Camera Connection Kit and includes support for JPEG and Canon & Nikon RAW files. Users can view detailed EXIF information such as ISO and shutter speed and set titles, captions, descriptions and IPTC metadata. Photos can be viewed at full 100% zoom to check detail and the app supports sharing photos via Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox or e-mail in various resolutions.
A free Lightroom plug-in allows users to transfer photos from their iPad to Lightroom via Wi-Fi and sync collections, keywords, ratings, labels, EXIF and IPTC information in the process. Photos can also be imported using the standard iPad USB for better performance with metadata subsequently synced to Lightroom via Wi-Fi. Changes made in Lightroom are also synchronized back to the iPad and Lightroom keywords are automatically transferred to the iPad so they can be easily applied while on the go. Photosmith requires an iPad running iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store for $18.
Apple has released iOS 4.3.3, the latest version of its mobile operating system for the iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM), iPod touch 3G, and iPod touch 4G. According to Apple’s release notes, the update contains changes to the iOS crowd-sourced location database cache; the update reduces the size of the cache, no longer backs up the cache to iTunes, and deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off. The database in question was the cause of a recent uproar over Apple’s supposed location tracking, leading the company to release a Q&A document in which it gave an explanation for the cache, and blamed its large size on a “bug.” iOS 4.3.3 is available now via the Update feature in iTunes; a similar update, iOS 4.2.8, is also available for the CDMA iPhone 4.
ColorWare is now offering its custom coloring service for the iPad 2. The company is offering customers two ways to get the service, either by purchasing a unit directly from them—prices start at $900—or by sending in their own and paying $400. Through the service, users will be able to pick individual custom colors for the rear shell, logo, and Home button, each available in glossy or soft touch finishes. ColorWare’s custom coloring services for the iPad 2 are available now.
Apple has begun airing its latest TV advertisement for the iPad 2. Entitled “If You Asked,” the 30-second spot shows iPad 2 units in a variety of settings with task-specific apps, while the narrator states, “If you ask a parent, they might call it intuitive. If you ask a musician, they might call it inspiring. To a doctor, it’s groundbreaking. To a CEO, it’s powerful. To a teacher, it’s the future. If you ask a child, she might call it magic. And if you asked us, we’d say it’s just getting started.” The new commercial is now available for viewing on Apple’s website.
South Korean carriers SK Telecom and KT have halted online orders for the iPad 2 in the wake of high demand. Reuters reports that the carriers, which began accepting orders for the device last week, declined to share sales numbers but indicated that the move was spurred by tight supplies. “Our iPad 2 inventory has been depleted and we apologize for failing to provide enough supplies due to the product’s global supply shortages,” SK Telecom said in a posting on its website. Apple launched the iPad 2 in South Korea, as well as Hong Kong, India, Israel, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the UAE last Friday.
Update: 9 to 5 Mac notes that the Apple Online Store in Singapore has stopped accepting orders for the both the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G models of the iPad 2, perhaps indicating a more widespread shortage of the device.
Update x2: Apple’s online store in Hong Kong is also listing all models of the iPad 2 as “currently unavailable.”
Refulgent Software has released a restaurant management solution built entirely on the iOS platform. Designed by developers with real-world restaurant management experience, Ambur provides an end-to-end point-of-sale (POS) system that allows hospitality staff to efficiently take and submit orders, print kitchen slips and customer receipts and process payments—all using an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Unlike traditional point-of-sale systems, however, Ambur does not require a traditional computer on the back-end; the app is installed on an iPad that acts as the “hub” for the system, connecting and syncing data wirelessly in real-time with other iOS devices being used by front-line staff. Ambur can be loaded up by any iOS device running on the same Wi-Fi network as the iPad, with each user receiving an individual username and password. The app can also print wirelessly to Wi-Fi connected receipt printers.
Using Ambur, waiters can take orders directly on a device such as an iPod touch using an easily viewed single-screen layout that manages items, guests, discounts, gratuities, and merged or split orders, allowing customer requests to be easily fulfilled right at the table by the server. Completed orders can be sent directly to a kitchen printer for preparation and a final check can be printed directly from the app. Ambur also allows payment to be processed within the app, including the ability to automatically open cash drawers for cash payments and optionally integrating with a credit card terminal for processing payments right at the table. Customer reservations can be managed and tracked from the app, which also produces detailed reports for analyzing customer trends. Ambur is available from the App Store as a free download in trial form that allows users to access all of the app’s features except for customizing menu items. A full license sells for a one-time in-app purchase of $999.00 for an unlimited number of iOS devices; there are no additional monthly charges or support fees, and the company promises all future upgrades will be delivered free via the App Store.
For nearly ten years, iLounge has collected an amazing number of iPod and iPhone photos from all across the globe—thousands of reader-submitted pictures taken everywhere from Antarctica to Zambia. (You can see them in our iPods Around the World and iPhones Around the World galleries.) With the growth of the iPad, and the release of the iPad 2, we’d like to build our smaller iPads Around the World collection up, featuring photos of your iPad wherever you live or travel.
Submissions to the iPads Around the World gallery are generally meant to be outdoors rather than inside—though either is great for recognizably famous places—and always include brief details about where the photo was taken. We’d love to see where you’ve taken your iPad, so use our iPads Around the World submission form to upload a photo or three. The best shots will be featured on our main page and in our semi-annual Buyers’ Guides, so send us something cool today!
i.TV has released a significant update to its iOS TV and media guide application adding native iPad support, a completely redesigned user interface and new services. i.TV 3 is now a universal app supporting the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and sports a significant user interface redesign to make it easier to navigate and find information. A new “Shows” page allows users to directly browse and search for their favourite shows without having to scroll through the guide pages and a daily news feed page provides the latest entertainment news that can be filtered by show. The new version also introduces integration with IMDb and Hulu in addition to existing support for Netflix and iTunes; users can look up related show information on IMDb without leaving the app and see if selected content is available on Hulu online or in the Hulu Plus app. The latest version has also be redesigned from the ground up with a new code base for improved performance and stability. i.TV 3.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has won an initial ruling in its patent dispute with Elan Microelectronics. Reuters reports that Judge Paul Luckern of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) said in his initial decision that Apple did not violate Elan’s patents related to touchpad technology. Elan filed a complaint against Apple with the ITC in March 2010, claiming that Apple was violating its patents related to touch-sensitive input devices with multi-touch capabilities, specifically with the iPhone, iPod touch, MacBook laptops, the Magic Mouse, and the iPad; the ITC agreed to investigate the claims roughly a month later. The full ITC will now need to rule on whether to accept or reject Luckern’s initial decision; that ruling is expected in August.
Time, Inc. and Apple have reached a deal that allows subscribers to the print editions of Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and Time to download the iPad versions of the magazines free of charge. The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal is an expansion of a similar arrangement for Time’s People magazine, which has allowed print subscribers free access to the iPad edition since last August. Time and other major publishers still have yet to agree with Apple on terms for selling subscriptions to iPad editions of their publications, mainly due to Apple’s stance on sharing user information with the publishers, according to the report. Time executives told the WSJ that Time general counsel Maurice Edelson has quietly been leading talks between the publisher and Apple, meeting frequently with Apple vice president of Internet services Eddy Cue. The same people said this latest deal is a sign that the two companies are moving closer.
Samsung has expanded its legal battle with Apple, filing a lawsuit against the iPhone-maker in U.S. federal court. Bloomberg reports that Samsung is claiming that Apple infringes on 10 of its patents related to “fundamental innovations that increase mobile device reliability, efficiency, and quality, and improve user interface in mobile handsets and other products.” “Samsung is continuing to respond actively to the legal action taken against us,” the company said in an statement. Apple first sued Samsung on April 18, stating, “[r]ather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple’s technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products.” Samsung quickly countersued in South Korea, Japan, and Germany, claiming infringement on 10 patents by the iPhone and iPad; according to recent comments made by Apple COO Tim Cook, Apple is Samsung’s biggest customer and considers them a valued component supplier, and that he expects their strong relationship to continue despite the lawsuit.
Gameloft has released an official iOS game for Universal Pictures’ new action-thriller “Fast Five.” Recreating the high-speed action from the movie, the game puts players in the role of Brian O’Conner, a wanted fugitive who must build a team of top drivers to avoid capture. Players take the wheel of various cars from the film such as the 2011 Dodge Challenger and race through the streets of places such as Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic avoiding explosions and structural collapses that change the track and create new obstacles in their path. Players can customize their vehicles with tuning packs to improve performance and the game includes a Rewind Time feature to allow users to quickly replay after a crash and both local and online multiplayer support for up to 10 players. Fast Five the Movie: Official Game is available from the App Store in separate iPhone and iPad versions for $5 each.
Fishlabs has released the first add-on for its epic iOS sci-fi adventure game, Galaxy on Fire 2, delivering gameplay improvements, new in-game content and a brand new storyline. In creating the new add-on, Fishlabs engaged the existing fan base to determine the improvements that players themselves most wanted to see and used these ideas to develop the Valkyrie add-on. The expansion picks up where the main storyline leaves off continuing Keith T. Maxwell’s galactic adventures as he now attempts to unravel a conspiracy orchestrated by a mysterious and cunning new enemy. The new add-on provides new spaceships, weapons and equipment including guided missiles, mines, automated turrets, emergency shields and repair robots as well as nine new planets across four solar systems and a black market trading system that can be used to acquire illicit equipment and rare goods. The free game update also now allows players to buy their own space station to store multiple spaceships and store valuable goods and introduces refurbished versions of three classic spaceships from the original Galaxy on Fire saga. Galaxy on Fire 2 is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $10; the Valkyrie add-on sells as an in-app purchase for an additional $5.
Ina Fried of AllThingsD has conducted a phone interview with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller, and Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall, during which the Apple executives a number of comments relating to the iOS location data issue, as well as the white iPhone. For the most part, the executives simply reiterated points the company made in its earlier Q&A document, but Jobs did reveal that he expected Apple to testify before Congress about such technologies, and that he thinks it is “great that they are investigating this.” He also briefly mentioned the traffic service alluded to in the aforementioned Q&A document, saying “that is all we are going to mention at this point in time before we have something to announce,” and brushed aside a question about his timeline for returning to work full-time at the company.
Discussing the white iPhone 4, Schiller described the process of making the handset as “challenging,” saying, “it’s not as simple as making something white. There’s a lot more that goes into both the material science of it–how it holds up over time… but also in how it all works with the sensors.” He added that while there were unexpected interactions between the color and various internal components, the white paint also required more UV protection than the black model. “We thought we were there a year ago, or less than that, when we launched the iPhone 4 and we weren’t,” Schiller said, adding that the wait allowed them to deliver a product that was up to expectations. Jobs also noted that the work necessary to bring the white iPhone 4 to market benefitted the company in other areas, saying, “[w]e obviously think about this in a generic way because you have a white iPad.” Apple will launch the white iPhone 4 tomorrow.
Parrot has released AR.FlyingAce, the highly anticipated augmented reality game for its AR.Drone iOS-controlled Quadicopter. Previewed earlier this month, the free app allows two AR.Drone owners to compete in head-to-head dogfights using the quadricopters’ integrated cameras to track and virtually “shoot down” their opponents. Players compete in a time-based game where they attempt to score hits on each other with virtual plasma missiles that are fired by shaking their iOS device. At the end of each game, the player who scores the most points is declared the winner. AR.FlyingAce is available from the App Store as a free download and requires an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad running iOS 4.0 or later, and of course an AR.Drone Quadricopter.