Mix: aTV Flash, iFund, Solar patent, Orange upgrade

Apple Core has begun offering its aTV Flash, a USB flash drive accessory for the Apple TV that allows users to easily hack the set-top box. The drive connects to the Apple TV’s USB port, and automatically installs a variety of software including a Safari-based web browser and a RSS feed reader, and adds support for a variety of unsupported video codecs like DivX, Xvid, and AVI. The aTV Flash is said to be warranty-safe, and retails for $70, including one year of software updates.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has revealed the first two companies being funded by its $100 million iFund. Pelago, the first company to receive funding from the iFund, is working on a location-based service called Whrrl, which uses the mapping capabilities of the iPhone and other smartphones to offer up information about local restaurants, shops, events, and other points of interest. The other company, iControl, is working on a home automation app that would give iPhone users remote control over air conditioners, lighting, window shades, and more. Announced at Apple’s iPhone Software Roadmap event in January, the iFund consists of $100 million in funds set aside for investment in companies developing applications for the iPhone.

A new Apple patent filing suggests the company is exploring the integration of solar cells into its portable devices. Titled “Solar cells on portable devices,” the patent describes several different methods of building the cells into the devices, including having the cells glued into a stack of transparent or semi-transparent materials, allowing even the device’s screen to serve as a solar 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.

Some French iPhone owners are claiming to have been contacted by Orange regarding a possible upgrade path to an upgraded model. Several readers of French site PC INpact claim to have been called by Orange, and offered a trade-in deal that would leave them paying 50 Euros for the new phone, or a “generous” discount should they choose not to trade-in their handset. Orange has yet to issue a statement regarding the matter; no trade-in programs have yet been announced by any of the iPhone’s official carriers.

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