Saturday, August 28, 2010

TheAppleBlog (20 сообщений)
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  • Charge Your iPhone 4 With Sunlight

    While we’ve been trying to beam the idea of a solar-embedded iPhone into Steve Job’s head (so far successfully), a design company called Frostfire is helping out. The company has created an iPhone 4 case that has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery at the base with a small solar panel embedded on it that can extend the battery life of your iPhone 4 while on the go.

    Twenty minutes of direct sunlight shining on the so-called “Mooncharge” case will buy you an extra 50 minutes on standby mode, or 5 minutes of chatting, so, yeah, not a whole lot. The battery can be charged via a USB cord, as well, and fully charged, will provide the user with 315 hours on standby or 5 extra hours of talk time. The case costs $70.

    Speculation about Apple adding some kind of solar power feature to its iDevices has popped up periodically over the past several years. In 2008, Apple reportedly filed a patent application that indicated the company was looking at ways to embed solar panels behind the LCD screens of mobile gadgets like iPods, iPhones and laptops. Embedding solar in gadgets could be valuable because, as devices get more complex and power-hungry, solar could provide a way to extend the device's battery life. Our current battery technology is certainly not keeping pace with gadgets' growing power demands.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req'd): Teaching High-Tech Gear New Green Tech Tricks

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  • Why Apple Should End Its Fight Against iPhone Jailbreaking

    The Register reported last week that Apple is looking to fire back at iPhone jailbreakers with an application to patent a system designed to identify the "hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking or removal of a SIM card" from a phone so the device can be located and its data erased. The company has released a new firmware update for the sole purpose of patching a hole that was being used to jailbreak handsets running iOS 4 as well, according to the group of developers that created the first iPhone 4 jailbreak.

    As I write in my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro, it makes no sense for Apple to pour efforts to these kinds of things; allowing jailbreaking – even implicitly — could actually help move iPhones off the shelves.

    Sure, jailbreaking gives iPhone users access to a growing number of apps not supported by the App Store (tethering apps and porn among them), but even then, there’s no downside for Apple. Any tethering usage would be mitigated by AT&T’s metered data plans, so it’s not like users could truly abuse them. Also, when it comes to porn and anything else users could access, Apple can simply say, “We don’t support that garbage,” maintain its policy that jailbreaking automatically voids warranties and remain unsoiled in the public eye.

    Revenues from the App Store are a drop in the bucket compared to Apple’s overall bottom line. The company uses the retail channel as a tool to boost sales from its lucrative hardware business. Apple sells DRM-free tunes and allows users to put their existing music libraries on the company’s devices because those strategies are good for gadget sales, where the money lies. So, like iTunes, why invest in efforts that restrict users to running only Apple-approved apps on their handsets and tablets?

    At the end of the day, the iPhone Dev Team may have given up (for now), but other hackers will surely find ways around Apple's efforts to prevent jailbreaking.

    Read the full post here.

    Image courtesy Flickr user Rennett Stowe.

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  • iPad App Roundup: Food Diaries and Calorie Counters

    You’ve decided it’s time to lose a few pounds, and want to use your iPad to help. We’ve got you covered with a rundown of the top food diary and calorie counter apps for the iPad. Can you convince your accountant that the iPad is a legitimate medical expense? Probably not.

    Calorie Tracker — LIVESTRONG.COM ($2.99)

    This application is an iPad version of, a website developed by Demand Media and the Lance Armstrong Foundation (remember those ubiquitous yellow wristbands?). The iOS app is universal, and syncs your food diary among all your iOS devices and on the web.

    Of all the apps I reviewed, Livestrong had the most extensive database of food and exercise. I was simply amazed at the details it had on various ethnic dishes and esoteric foodstuffs. You have no excuse for not counting your calories with this app, except if you lack an internet connection. Like many other apps, Internet access is required in order to track calories.

    The user interface of the app features the standard yellow and black of the Livestrong brand, and is lacking in terms of pizazz. Every food entry shows up as a generic apple and any exercise shows up with a dumbbell icon. Although the application was best of breed in recording food and exercise, it made poor use of the screen size and power of the iPad. Still, this is the app I settled on for my own weight loss program due to its stellar database of information.

    MyNetDiary — Food and Exercise Diary for iPad ($9.99)

    Unlike Livestrong, MyNetDiary is a complete rewrite of their companion iPhone App, “My NetDiary,” and is sold separately. The use of screen real estate is outstanding, and the user interface is reminiscent of the top screen tabs of “Numbers.” Not only can you see what you ate for the day, but on the same screen you can see the calories, fat, carbs and protein breakdown to more accurately plan your next eating choice.

    The other tabs in the app include “Plan,” in which you set your goals and calculate your Body Mass Index and your Basal Metabolic rate: two key factors in determining your weight loss strategy. “Exercise” is tracked in a separate tab and leaves rooms for notes so you can track how winded or refreshed you were after the workout.

    Included with the app is a great little library of weight loss topics such as “the dreaded weight Plateaus” and “vegetarian diets.” Similar to Livestrong, the MyNetDiary website database requires internet access and syncs your data among your devices. MyNetDiary is an excellent use of the iPad features and is a great choice if you’d prefer a more feature-rich app, though with a slightly smaller food information database.

    Calorie Counter by FatSecret for iPad (Free)

    If you want most of the features of Livestrong and MyNetDiary, but don’t want to shell out the money, then FatSecret is the app for you. Fat Secret supports syncing to a website and other iOS devices and is ad-supported. This iPad-only app is very similar to its separate FatSecret iPhone counterpart, but uses the larger iPad screen to ease navigation and display more nutritional data.

    Unique to FatSecret is the ability to scan or enter the barcode of the item you are eating and receive nutrition information if you’re connected to the internet. If you want to start tracking what you eat, but also want to save a few bucks, and don’t mind ads and a more limited food and exercise database, then this app is a great value.
    GoMeals HD (Free)

    For people who only want to track what they eat and have no desire to sync their food diary with other devices or a website, GoMeals HD might be the app for you. Unlike the previously mentioned apps, the database is accessible offline, making this app ideal for those calorie counters who don’t always have internet access.

    The application is supported by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, but doesn’t have any direct ads. When the iPad is connected to the Internet, the map function will look up restaurants nearby so you can make healthy eating choices. This is a great free app for those needing basic calorie counting.

    FoodTrackerPro – Daily Eating Log ($1.99)

    If calorie counting isn’t your goal, and all you want is to be aware of what you eat, this universal app keeps things simple. Just click on the picture of the food group you ate from, mark the number of servings and you’re good to go. I’m not sure “sweets” count as a food group, but they’re included in FoodTracker.

    This app contains no database and no syncing — just some pictures. The app might be good for those for whom literacy is a barrier to their calorie counting, and pictorial representations serve as a simple way to provide rudimentary tracking.


    For free-form entry of calories consumed, iFood Diary is a great app. Unlike Foodtracker, this is all about words. Write down what you ate, where you ate it, and any notes you want to add. Although the app doesn’t support syncing, it does allow you to email your diary to yourself and your nutritionist.

    There you have it! Of course, none of these will actually remind you to log what you eat, but they should at least provide a helping hand on the path to weight loss.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Why Apple Hasn't Sewn Up the Tablet Market — Yet

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  • Why Apple's iTV Needs FaceTime

    While there’s excitement over the supposed 99-cent TV show rentals on the new iTV, my belief is that won’t be enough to make iTV a success. As I write in my weekly analysis over at GigaOM Pro, there are a few other important things Apple needs to do to make this device more than just its hobby.

    Besides the need for creative price bundles for shows and TV-optimized apps, Apple iTV needs FaceTime.

    Those who follow GigaOM Pro know we consider video communication a big opportunity. In fact, we forecast the market will go from practically nothing today (less than half-a-million TV-based video calls in 2010) to 2.7 billion TV-based video calls in 2015.

    Ok, it’s big, but why should Apple be involved in this market? It’s quite simple, really:

    • First off, it neutralizes Google and Skype. Google will most certainly push video chat into Google TV, and Skype is already pushing hard into this market. As we’ve written over at GigaOM Pro, Skype’s SkypeKit platform is Skype’s attempt to introduce its VoIP and video communication, as well as potentially other services and applications, onto CE platforms.
    • Second, it brings in a whole new demographic. While my mom and dad haven’t purchased an Apple product since the Apple IIe of my youth, I’m pretty sure they would consider a good, low-cost video-chat device like an iTV. Why?  They can’t get enough of talking to my kids on Skype video, and I am sure that there are millions of others like them who would embrace high-quality video chat on TV.
    • It’s a differentiator from the cable company. Sure, Apple didn’t get all-you-can-eat $30 video subscriptions, but video chat done right could be hugely popular, and given how slow traditional cable providers move, Apple can establish themselves with a very addictive service while Big Cable spins its wheels.

    I’m not entirely sure Apple will introduce Facetime next week at their big event, but they should. No one has been able to do video chat in the living room right just yet and, at least for the next six months, it’s Apple’s market for the taking.

    Read the full post here

    Image Source: flickr user james.thompson

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  • Tip: Reuse That Old PC With Your New Mac

    Now that you (or a friend) switched from PC to Mac, what do you do with the PC? Surprisingly, that old PC might be a great accessory for your Mac (and not just as a footrest). Reuse before you recycle, pull that old PC out of the trash and make it submit to the power of your Mac.

    Parallel/LPT Port Printing

    First, a former PC often has an old printer lying around that might at least have some ink or toner left in it. Sometimes that printer might even be a heavy duty laser printer that unfortunately has a old PC parallel/LPT port which isn’t compatible with your Mac. After you set up your PC to print to the printer, simply right click on Properties and then set print for sharing.

    On your Mac, go to System Preferences, and then Add Printer. If you click on Windows, the printer should show up as shared. You’ll probably need to choose the type of printer, since the Mac won’t automatically recognize it. When the ink or toner dries up, you may still want to keep this print server around to offload larger jobs without tying up your Mac or your main printer.

    Networked Storage Space

    While you’ve got that PC networked for printing, you might also like to use Windows File Sharing and create a network-accessible hard drive commonly called NAS (for Network Attached Storage). Your hard drive will be accessible to anyone in your household. Best of all, most PCs can often take more than one hard drive, so adding additional storage is relatively inexpensive and easy to do.

    Besides extending your network storage space and sharing files, you can setup a utility like CrashPlan. CrashPlan allows you to easily backup one computer to another over a network. As always, standard caveats apply regarding setting a proper password, firewall, and antivirus for your PC.

    iTunes Home Sharing

    Even if you don’t enable file sharing, iTunes Home Sharing via Bonjour will still be accessible to you. Install iTunes on this older PC and store music you want to share with others in your household. With the proliferation of laptops in a household, iTunes music sharing is a bit harder without a central location. Why clog up the hard drive of your other Macs? If you backup your music to this central PC and make it accessible via iTunes, you’ve got a truly win-win solution!

    CD/DVD Burner

    Another great use of an old PC is as a burning station. Unlike Mac optical drives, PC drives are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. If you’re making that mix CD for all your wedding guests [Ed. note: The RIAA views this as copyright infringement.] or want to burn 50 copies of your presentation for prospective clients, doing it on your Mac is a slow process and can wear out your drive. After you make a master CD on your Mac, use your favorite PC burning program and burn away! Your Mac isn’t tied up and if your PC burner dies, it’s easy to replace.

    Virtual PC Without The Virtual

    Finally, the best use of an old PC in my opinion is a faux Virtual Machine. While programs like Fusion and Parallels are great, they’ll never quite reach the speed and flexibility of a true PC. Bootcamp is great, but you always have to reboot to use the PC and its peripherals. I’ve got an older PC that serves one primary function: running Quickbooks for the PC.

    Simply add the PC to your network and install a cross-platform remote control program such as LogMeIn, VNC or Timbuktu Pro. Using these, you can generally run the computer “headless”, that is without a monitor.

    So the next time someone says “what do I do with this old PC?” you’ll have some great recommendations. Or you could gallantly offer to take it off their hands, free of charge. You’ll nab yourself a handy accessory, and help make the world a slightly greener place in the process.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: How to Get Your Green iPhone App Noticed

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  • Could a New Square iPod Be on the Way?

    Ever since Apple announced the date for their upcoming media event a few short days ago, rumors have been circulating regarding what the event could have in store. One rumor seems to have gained a little traction: a redesigned, square iPod.

    Apple holds a music-based media event every September, which usually sees Steve Jobs reveal a new line of iPods. This year is expected to be no different, though some also suggest an updated Apple TV, and others predict that we’ll see an update to iTunes. The new square iPod form factor has some physical evidence to back it up, though.

    iLounge first spotted images which Chinese iPod case-maker X-Doria claim to be designed for an upcoming fourth-generation iPod touch, and a redesigned iPod nano or iPod shuffle.

    The purported iPod touch case clearly has a design to fit a form factor similar to that of the iPhone 4, but it’s the unusual square case also pictured that has sparked debate. The case is of similar proportions to an Apple-branded 1.7-inch touchscreen that surfaced earlier this year. But what iPod could this screen and the square case house — could it be a smaller nano or a bigger shuffle?

    Back in 2007, Apple released the third-generation iPod Nano, which boasted a similar square design. Yet after just one year, Apple changed the form factor back to the narrower, rectangular shape. The fifth generation, which saw the introduction of video recording, kept to the same design formula. So would Apple really revert?

    The iPod shuffle, which has never had a screen, saw its most radical redesign in 2009. The miniature player lost most of its buttons, with the player controls moved to the headphones. This was not overly popular, due to it requiring users to use special headphones. Maybe Apple is hoping to make up for what many saw as a design blunder.

    Personally, I think changes to the iPod nano are indeed more likely. This belief is mainly due to the possible aforementioned touchscreen being utilized, and the fact that the pictured case has a hole on the rear — a space for the camera perhaps?

    Whatever changes are in store, we will find out on Sept. 1. What changes would you like to see to the iPod line? Let us know in the comments.

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  • E-readers Are the Future, But Is the iPad Among Them?

    A recent survey quoted by the Wall Street Journal — conducted by Marketing and Research Resources Inc. — found that more than 40 percent of respondents said they now read more on their e-readers than they do in traditional print sources. The survey drew from a pool of 1,200 e-reader owners, who owned either an iPad, a Sony Reader or an Amazon Kindle.

    As someone who actually owns all three of the aforementioned devices, I can attest that the findings ring true with my own personal experience. In fact, for me, I’d say e-reading occupies more like 70 to 80 percent of my book and magazine consumption, with the remaining percentage taken up exclusively with magazines that haven’t yet made the leap to Kindle-friendly formats, like The Walrus (The Atlantic for Canadians, basically).

    While e-book adoption is still in its early stages — and by no means the norm for most people — the recent success of devices like Amazon’s new Kindle 3, which is selling like the proverbial hotcakes, is an indicator that the tide is shifting. Not only that, but it’s worth noting that those who have converted to digital books are actually purchasing far more of them: more than three times more, in fact, according to Amazon sales data.

    That said, I have to wonder whether details regarding iPad usage specifically would mirror the data Amazon found. I’ve only begun to use iBooks recently, and that only since Apple introduced .PDF support to the app. Given the choice between an e-ink screen and Apple’s backlit one for reading plain text, I’ll choose Amazon’s or Sony’s device every time, and good, old-fashioned, print books second, before finally resorting to the iPad, at which point I’ll always boot up Amazon’s app, not iBooks.

    I’m not the only one choosing Kindle over iPad, either. J.A. Konrath, an author with over three dozen books published on each platform, says he sees as many as 60 times more sales on Amazon than with Apple. That’s 200 books a day in the Kindle store, versus only 100 per month in iBooks.

    Dedicated e-readers are getting cheaper, smaller, faster and better at what they do. The iPad will probably get better at what it does, but don’t count on it getting much cheaper, and don’t expect the emphasis to be on its e-reading capabilities in future iterations anymore than it is now. E-books are here to stay, and as long as that remains true, devices that do no more than allow users to read them cheaply and comfortably will remain at the top of the game.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: As E-book Sales Grow, So Does Disintermediation

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  • The iPhone Economy Enables Intuit's Mobile Payments

    Intuit today announced it has partnered with mophie, a long-time iPhone accessory maker, to turn Apple’s handset into a mobile credit card terminal. The hardware, available today, reads the magnetic strip of credit cards and processes payments through Intuit’s GoPayment service, which has processed more than $35 million in transactions since launching 18 months ago. Mophie’s design expertise combined with Apple’s hardware standards offer Intuit a wider opportunity in the growing mobile payment space.

    When I first saw Intuit’s solution, I immediately thought of Square, Jack Dorsey’s similar solution for the iPhone that launched earlier this year. There are key differences between the two payment processing approaches however, as Intuit is clearly targeting small business transactions, while Square aims more at consumer micro-payments. That difference is most evident in cost: the mophie case is $179.99, while a Square reader is free but fees are higher. Businesses using GoPayment pay a competitive $0.30 to $0.34 for each transaction, plus a portion of the transaction amount, which ranges from 1.7 to 2.7 percent of each sale. By comparison, Square only charges a $0.15 transaction fee but 2.5 to 3.5 percent of the transaction amount.

    Earlier today, I spoke with Mary Lunneborg, Intuit's GoPayment senior product manager about the product and fee structure. Lunneborg didn’t detail what Intuit’s cut of the transaction fees are, but did explain how the simplicity of the pricing appeals to small business owners. “There are no setup or cancellation fees, just a $12.95 monthly fee,” she said. Lunneborg also pointed out that Intuit offers a complete merchant account solution that “underwrites the business and risk.”

    Another value add is the integration brought to Intuit’s QuickBooks with the GoPayment system. Both QuickBooks for Mac and PC support transaction records from GoPayment, which will surely appeal to the more than 4 million users on QuickBooks today. Given such integration and simple pricing, it’s possible that some established or new small business owners might make this their only credit card solution, which is a plus in Intuit’s favor.

    As far as the hardware goes, Intuit couldn’t have picked a better partner than mophie, based on my own use of other mophie products. The company has long made iPhone add-ons such as the Juice Pack, which is a hybrid case and extra battery for Apple’s iPhone. This afternoon, I asked Ross Howe, mophie's VP of marketing, how the standardization of the iPhone is bringing opportunity for mophie.

    “With Apple,” Howe said,”you can get an economy around your product and build around a standard life-cycle.” Indeed, having a standard handset with only one type of connector makes it easier for a company such as mophie to build an add-on case that will work with millions of devices. Conversely, unless Intuit can get mophie or another hardware maker to build a card reader that uses a micro USB port, the company is shut out of the fast growing market of Android users. And for now, the Intuit – mophie solution is limited to Apple’s iPhone 3G and 3GS — no iPhone 4 support as of yet, although it’s coming soon, as Howe jokingly told me, “We’re chasing Apple’s form factor.” Lunneborg chimed in that other platforms are under consideration for GoPayment and Bluetooth-enabled devices might be the solution around the varying connection issues.

    Clearly, Intuit is gunning for a bigger slice of the mobile transactions space, estimated to hit more than half a trillion dollars by 2014. For as different as the new mobile GoPayment solution is from Square, however, it shares a common feature — a fight between everyone ranging from credit card companies with near-field communications solutions to cellular carriers and hopes for their own common payment standard in order to get a bigger piece of that mobile payment pie.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research (subscription required): A Mobile Payments Glossary

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  • Apple Upgrades iWork, Gives ePub Format a Boost

    It is pretty clear by now that Apple's iWork productivity suite is an acquired taste. But soon, folks who are interested in publishing their content in the ePub format — an open eBook standard — might just develop a taste for it. Apple today released a new update to the iWork suite that makes it simple to export documents in the ePub format, allowing them to be read easily on Apple's iBooks app for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

    In the early days, iTunes was a way to manage music libraries and for music playback. Over time, it became a standard digital music player, which helped with the sales by the iTunes store. In a similar vein, Apple is trying to get more folks to use its iBooks app, betting that it could become the de facto reader for electronic documents that are encoded in ePub or PDF formats. More usage would help drive visitors to the iBooks store.

    Earlier today, Mathew wrote about people reading more with e-readers. Clearly, Apple is locked in a battle with Amazon for mindshare, and for now, Amazon is winning. Yesterday, Amazon said that its new lower-cost e-readers were selling like hotcakes. The ePub format is a competitor to Amazon's proprietary Kindle-related format, and the support for it in iWork could help give Apple a leg up.

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  • Browser Choice Thins For Power PC Mac Users

    It’s looking like Firefox version 3.6 may well be the end of the road for Power PC holdout fans of’s flagship web browser.

    In a mailing list posting on Tuesday, Mozilla’s Firefox honcho Mike Beltzner affirmed: “I am gathering data on the number of PPC users we have, but the likely outcome is that we will not be supporting PPC [PowerPC] for Firefox 4.”

    Mozilla has already cut off Firefox support for Mac OS X 10.4 after version 3.6, and the new SeaMonkey 2.1 Alpha released yesterday (SeaMonkey is based on the Firefox browser engine) also dumped support for OS 10.4.

    Feeling The Pain

    These developments were inevitable, and the proverbial writing has been on the wall for some time for Tiger support especially, but looming termination of all PPC support is a splash of cold water for legions of holdout users. With two old 550 MHz G4 Pismo PowerBooks running OS 10.4 Tiger still in daily service, I’m definitely feeling the pain of constricting browser support. At present, I’m using SeaMonkey 2.0.6 (current stable release), Opera 10.01, and iCab 4.8 on the Pismos along with old Netscape Navigator 9.

    Indeed, in many respects, Navigator 9 remains the most satisfactory all-round browser on low-powered Power PC machines, although its security profile is woefully out of date, so I wouldn’t recommend it for visiting your online banking site, or anywhere else that security is a particular concern. You can still download Navigator 9 here.

    SeaMonkey: The Best Compromise?

    SeaMonkey 2.0.6 is probably the best compromise at this point between performance, reliability, and security, and I was disappointed when I downloaded the version 2.1 Alpha 3 build, which features some interesting interface upgrades, only to discover that the system requirements cited on MacUpdate were in error, and it doesn’t support OS 10.4.

    iCab 4.8 still fully supports Tiger, and I don’t anticipate that it will be dropping it anytime soon, since they still offer a browser on their download page that supports 68k Macs running System 7.1, but the latest 64-bit version of iCab 4.8, of course, requires Snow Leopard, and it’s doubtful that legacy versions get much security updating, if any.

    The latest version 10.6 of Opera nominally supports Power PC Macs running Tiger as well, but in practice, I’ve found that it’s slow and unstable on the old Pismos, with lots of spinning beachball time. The last build that works well on those machines is version 10.01 (c. October 2009).

    Curtain Dropping On Power PC

    Consequently, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the curtain is dropping on Power PC Macs. I’ll not be giving up on my beloved Pismo PowerBooks any time soon, and hope to continue using them for years to come, but I’ll do any security-sensitive web stuff on my MacBook and whatever supersedes it. Opera 10.6, Google Chrome, Firefox 4, and Safari 5 all offer a superb browsing experience for Intel Mac users.

    It’s interesting that Web browsers seem to have emerged as the tipping point of practical computer obsolescence. Are you feeling the pinch?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: What Does The Future Hold For Browsers?

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  • 4-Player iPhone and iPad Gaming Headed to Your TV

    Gaming on the iPhone or iPad can be fun, but it can also be a little lonely. Even multiplayer iOS games generally require two or more devices, each with the same app installed, or awkwardly passing around your device. Griffin is about to release an accessory that could fundamentally change that equation.

    Gizmodo found out about the new accessory via an FCC filing, so no official announcement has yet been made, but we’ll almost definitely see the hardware hitting store shelves in the near future. Griffin’s PartyDock will allow you to play games with up to four players on one iDevice, be it iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. It’ll also provide TV-out capabilities so you won’t have to lean in super-close to watch the action.

    The accessory, which comes with four Apple Remote-style controllers for player use, will initially work only with Griffin-branded games, so don’t get any premature ideas about SceneIt! Twilight up on the big screen just yet. No word either on whether Griffin plans on opening up the accessory to support licensed third-party games, though I think they’d be wise to if they want to move a considerable number of units.

    Giz is quick to point out that if the iTV rumors prove true, and the device can play apps and costs $99, the PartyDock won’t have much of a place in any consumer hearts. A lot will depend on whether the iTV has any kind of innovative gaming control tricks up its sleeve (up to four connected Apple Remotes?) and how much Griffin plans to sell the PartyDock for.

    What do you think? Would you welcome the chance to turn your iDevice into a TV-connected, multiplayer, interactive entertainment device, or is this just another bit of flotsam added to the already grossly overpopulated iPhone/iPad ecosystem?

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  • BRABUS iBusiness Is an Apple Fan's Dream Mobile Office

    The iPad has become a valuable tool for the mobile professional. It can be more valuable still, however, when swaddled in leather, partnered with a Mac mini and other Apple goodies and wrapped in a Mercedes-Benz S600, as Mercedes tuner BRABUS shows us with the iBusiness.

    The iBusiness is most definitely “the business.” The German-engineered, four-seater luxury sedan is the type of car for people who have drivers, and that’s a very good thing, because there’s no chance you’ll be paying much attention to the road in one of these babies unless you’re being paid to.

    Each car comes packed to the gills with outstanding multimedia capabilities, including two iPads in the rear seats with matching Bluetooth keyboards for each. The iPads are capable of controlling every aspect of the S600′s COMAND system, including the radio, navigation system and telephone, in addition to BRABUS’ own custom multimedia functions. Don’t think you’ll be limited to offline or 3G use, either, because the car boasts its own wireless internet via UMTS and HSDPA connections.

    As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a Mac mini in the back seat that uses a drop-down 15.2-inch TFT display, Magic Mouse and USB 2.0 ports accessible to both passengers for real computing power. Finally, because you wouldn’t want to use iTunes on the Mac mini or the iPod apps on your two iPads, there’s a 64GB iPod touch in the center console that also controls the whole shebang using a custom BRABUS iOS application.

    I couldn’t find any info with regard to pricing, but you can bet it’s going to be more than most of us can afford. The good news is, if you already have a Mercedes-Benz s600, BRABUS will install its custom iBusiness package for you, at a fraction of the cost, but still well beyond the reach of most ordinary mortals. So, anyone picking one of these up?

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  • Netflix App Released for iPhone/iPod touch

    Today, while most of the U.S. was sleeping, Apple approved the Netflix update which brings universal support for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. On the iPad, it doesn’t do much beyond adding a new icon, but I couldn’t access Netflix until I updated.

    The home page shows you different categories, then lists a couple movies from each. One of the interesting things about the app is that the tabs on the bottom are translucent, so you can see the content below them when you’re scrolling through a list. From what I can tell, the application is a browser that just loads a custom mobile site. When your playback times out, it’ll ask you if you want to resume. It also does this when you switch back to it from another app using fast app switching in iOS 4.

    Playback loading is what you’d expect from a streaming app. Not terribly fast, but not terribly slow. The app also supports streaming over both Wi-Fi and 3G, which should be a boon for on-the-go movie-watchers. You can’t manage your mail queue from it, only your instant queue, which is a bummer.

    The iPad version of the Netflix app had it’s share of strange issues. It’s unfortunate that those issues have carried on into the iPhone app, and some have gotten worse. Scrolling is jerky and nowhere near as buttery smooth as we’ve come to expect from iPhone apps. I also experienced a bug where the tabs would partially vanish, staying half visible after ending playback. However, searching is fairly snappy, and it hasn’t yet crashed.

    Overall, Netflix for iPhone is about the same as Netflix for iPad: It works, but it’s not polished. Hopefully, Netflix will work to address this in future updates. Netflix does require a subscription to use, which costs at least $8.99 a month for a standard subscription. There is a free one-month trial.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Netflix Company Profile

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • How Cell Phones Can Unlock Ride Sharing

    Over the past three years, ride-sharing startup Zimride has been building a web ecosystem based on trust, and largely Facebook, that’s been helping to reinvent carpooling. With the raising of $1.2 million in seed funding announced this week — from Floodgate, K9 Ventures, and angels including Keith Rabois and Teddy Downey — the company is also looking to develop its mobile application, which Zimride CEO Logan Green tells me in an interview will eventually be available for iPhone, Android, and HTML 5 platforms.

    While Green says it’s still too early to talk about what a Zimride mobile application would look like, he notes that the potential for mobile to unlock a new audience for ride sharing will be “absolutely huge.” A mobile app would open up the possibility for different types of trips for a more casual, dynamic user, says Green. For example, the bulk of current Zimride riders are consistent commuters and planners who book pretty far in advance online, but a mobile app could facilitate more on-the-spot, random, last-minute and dynamic trips.

    Other new carpooling startups have embraced mobile even more quickly than Zimride. Two-year-old Carticipate bills itself as the first mobile ride-sharing app with a location-based platform. The app can match you and your carpooling needs by where you are at any given time. It might not have the trusted feeling of the college networks and corporations that Zimride relies upon, but it’s simple and intuitive.

    Weeels is another ride- and taxi-sharing service that has mobile baked into its core. Conceived by David Mahfouda on a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 2006, the current Weeels mobile app has been under development since the fall of 2009. Carpooling service provider Avego also has already launched its iPhone app, which can dynamically find open seats in carpools.

    It’s been the mobile platforms of iPhone and Android that have really enabled unobtrusive, location-based apps to be developed around car data and now ride sharing. Laura Schewel, the co-founder of Virtual Vehicle Company (VEVCo), which builds apps based on cell phone GPS data, told me that Google and Apple’s mobile operating systems enabled VEVCo to make an app that was inexpensive and could pull driver information without the consumers having to add in manual input. That’s the key: Don’t ask users to do any more than they have to.

    However, the real heart of how Zimride has been able to bring in big name customers — 55 corporate and university partners and counting — is that they’ve created an ecosystem based on users trusting the networks they use for ride sharing. For example, three companies that work in an office park are comfortable pooling together their users for rides because they’re neighbors. Or college students know the other car poolers will be other students, so there’s a level of trust that the ecosystem provides.

    That kind of trust could be harder to manage for mobile-focused startups, given the nature of an app that is looking to organize dynamic, casual trips. Wheels, Carticipate and Avego might have drop-dead simple mobile apps already available to install and use, but the filters and comfort levels don’t seems as reassuring.

    Neither, I would guess, are the revenues. Zimride’s Green says the company is break even now, before it’s invested in expansion, and it makes money via subscriptions from its big name customers. It’s hard to see how the other companies will make money at the end of the day from consumers wanting to share their rides.

    For more research on where computing meets electric vehicles check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

    Why Google Android's Electric Vehicle Deal with GM Matters

    The App Developer's Guide to Working With Ford Sync

    Report: IT Opportunities for Electric Vehicle Management

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • App Brings HD YouTube Video Uploads Without Compression

    When Apple revealed the iPhone 4 back in June, they were keen to point out the smartphone’s new video recording capabilities. However, despite the device’s newfound video competency, it still fell short when it came to sharing your high-definition content, especially when uploading to YouTube. A new app sets out to remedy that problem.

    Sadly, the novelty of being able to capture your memories in 720p can quickly wear off if you share your clips on YouTube. When you decide to share your video online, the moment you tap that Send to YouTube button, the iPhone 4 will take your clip and compress it. The seemingly unavoidable compression process takes your 720p HD clip and squeezes it down to a lower quality 360p video.

    This forced compression has aggravated a fair number of iPhone 4 users, with some even reaching out to CEO Steve Jobs for comment on the matter. With Apple currently offering no alternative other than uploading your clips via a Mac or a PC, one app developer has taken the matter into their own hands.

    Drakfyre’s Software recently released a free application called 720tube, which solves the compression problem. The fairly basic — yet functional — utility application works as expected, taking your HD video clips and uploading them to YouTube in the format you originally intended.

    The application works in a very similar way to the default Send To YouTube function. You login, select the desired clip you wish to upload, fill in the usual like title and description, then upload. Once complete, your video will be on YouTube in its original 720p HD glory.

    The free 2.5MB application can be downloaded from the App Store. Will you be giving it a try?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: A Guide To Online Video Monetization Options

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Recover Older Versions of iPhone Apps After Updating

    Ever since iOS 4 was announced back in April, I’ve seen an increase in the number of software updates for each of my iOS apps. In fact, more than two-thirds have been updated: several of them more than once since April 8. This is usually a good thing, but not always. Occasionally, I accept an update that I’m not too happy with, and would prefer to go back to a prior version.

    Accordingly, I discovered a series of techniques to roll back the clock and get an older version of my apps back on my iOS device. It isn’t a foolproof plan, but it’s worked more than once. These techniques do come with some risks; for starters, you may lose all local data associated with the app, or even all data on the device since your last backup.

    Delete From Device, Re-Install From iTunes

    If you’ve updated an app directly on your device, the solution is easy. In this case, the version of the app in question on the iOS device is more current than the version stored in your Mac’s iTunes library. Before you do anything at all, convince yourself that you no longer need any of the data or files associated with the app that may be located on the device itself. Do not sync if you have Sync All Apps checked. Now simply delete the app and install it again the next time you sync in iTunes.

    1. Always update all apps using the App Store on the device first
    2. Delete the current version of any ‘bad’ apps from the device
    3. Plug in your device
    4. Install the prior version of the ‘bad’ apps via syncing

    This method isn’t without its downside. If it’s been a very long time since you synced, you may find that the version of the app in your Mac’s iTunes library is either really old, or not there at all.

    Recover Your App From a Time Machine Backup

    For this method, you’ll need an iOS 4 device, a Mac running OS X Snow Leopard, the latest iTunes, and Time Machine enabled. Now I think you know where this is going, but there is a little sleight of mouse you need to master in order to pull this trick off. Before you do anything at all, convince yourself not only that you do not need your most current iOS backup in iTunes, but also do not need the most recent back up of your apps’ on-device data.

    The assumption here is that the first technique isn’t applicable. First, sync your iOS device with iTunes. Then have Time Machine back up your iTunes library. It should go without saying that if you’ve configured Time Machine to ignore your iTunes Library, this technique won’t work. If you have any other means of backing up your iTunes Library, like saving it to a data CD/DVD, you may want to do that at this time as well.

    1. Delete the App from your device
    2. In iTunes on your Mac, option click on the app and choose Show In Finder
    3. Open Time Machine and navigate to the folder where the app is stored
    4. Go back in time and locate the older version of the file
    5. Restore the older version from Time Machine (NOTE: keep Finder open, displaying the restored file)
    6. Delete the app from your iTunes library on your Mac (NOTE: be sure to move the file to the Trash)
    7. Quit iTunes on your Mac
    8. From Finder, option click on the restored file and select Open With => iTunes (default)
    9. Reinstall the app to your device via an iTunes sync

    Note that the name of the file will most likely be different as the version number of the App is also part of the file name. This technique, like the prior technique, is dependent upon frequent syncing to work. Time Machine won’t have a copy if you haven’t added an app to your iTunes library from your device.

    What to Do Following the Restoration

    Moving forward, in all of the above cases, the annoying reality is that you will be constantly nagged by the App Store on your device, as well as in iTunes to update the app to the most current version. Do not update the software until the developer has had a chance to resolve any issues. Check the developer’s support page and make note of which version of the app was defective. In order for me to go through all of this trouble, the app must be something I use a lot, and something which I feel I can’t live without. In all other situations, a “bad” update is treated as an invitation to shop around for a better app.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: The App Store Police Need More Muscle — Not Less

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Is Renting TV Shows in 2010 Like Selling Bottled Water in 1970?

    Who would ever pay for bottled water? While the history of selling bottled water from various sources goes back centuries, it wasn’t until the end of the 1970s that bottled water started catching on in the United States to become what it is today, selling 8.6 billion gallons for 28.9 percent of the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage market. So is Apple’s scheme to rent individual episodes of TV shows online at $0.99 a similar watershed moment? Let’s look at the facts.

    Seasonal DVDs on Amazon

    Most television seasons start in either August or September and run through April or May, resulting in a season of around 20 episodes. The average price of the top ten seasons on DVD from Amazon is currently around $30. This would put the price of an average episode somewhere in the $1.50 range. That’s the most likely price point the entertainment industry is clinging to when justifying alternate cost models for renting digital media through online delivery solutions like iTunes or Amazon’s video-on-demand.

    One downside of buying seasons is that episodes aren’t available for sale until a season is over. However, in the end, the consumer owns the episodes they buy.

    Broadcast and Syndicated Television

    Cable and satellite television starts at about $50 per month for at least 200 channels, which provides access to most new and syndicated television shows. This would exclude exclusive access to episodes from channels like HBO and Showtime, which would add to the $50 monthly access charge. It would also exclude any television series not currently being broadcast. What it does include is early access to the latest episodes as soon as they become available.

    All distribution costs are included in the monthly fee, and revenues are further subsidized via advertisements. What’s hard to calculate is exactly how many episodes customers would reasonably be entitled to. There are likely multiple consumers per household and multiple TVs for simultaneous viewing.

    Monthly DVD Rental Service

    Rental services like Netflix and Blockbuster can grant access to about the same list of shows for about $25 per month, depending on how many DVDs you subscription level allows you to have out at a time. The number of shows one has access to at any given time is more limited than using cable or satellite. Shipping charges are included. You can also stream to your game console with Netflix for $8.99 per month, although that does incur some of the hidden costs of distribution, which I discuss next.

    Hidden Costs of Distribution

    In all of the above scenarios, the cost of distribution is absorbed into the price structure. Any online distribution system would likely be paid for by the consumer in the form of broadband Internet access. Broadband high-speed internet access alone is similar in cost to each of the aforementioned pricing options, not to mention storage. Hard drives, DVDs or the extremely expensive burnable Blu-ray discs. Not only do consumers have to pay for the means of distribution, but also some means of storage, though HD space is getting cheaper by the day and the price of external drives amortized over a year works out to virtually nothing.

    Viewing Behavior Patterns

    Now that we know the various tolerances for paying, and the hidden costs of online distribution, what about viewing preferences? For prime timers that have replaced thier VCRs with DVRs, following a television series is more like subscribing to a video podcast than purchasing a season of episodes on DVD. How much consumers are willing to pay for a season’s worth of episodes depends greatly on how many episodes each consumer can consume in a given month.

    From $30 to own a full season outright, to somewhere between $25 – $50 per month to watch and discard as many episodes you can bear to watch. How does $.99 to rent a single episode measure up? At just one episode per day you are already at the similar costs of the alternatives, and that does not include the hidden costs of distribution and storage. So is it then worth it to rent a-la-carte from Apple in convenient individual packages, or is it still much better to just pay for the water hook-up represented by cable and Netflix and drink from the tap whenever you like?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Three Reasons Over-The-Top TV Apps Will Beat Big-Cable

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Rumor: Apple iTV Event Sept. 7 (UPDATE: Confirmed for Sept. 1)

    UPDATE: Apple has sent out press invitations for a music themed event for Sept. 1. Historically, Apple has used the September event to launch new versions of its iPod line.

    Bloomberg is now reporting the next generation Apple TV, rumored to be renamed the iTV, will be unveiled at the annually anticipated Apple event next month.

    The event, which will supposedly take place on Sept. 7, will likely also launch the new iPod touch, which is rumored to have a Retina Display like the iPhone 4. Cameras and FaceTime support are also very likely. However, it’s the new Apple TV and associated content that is the focus of the latest rumor.

    According to Bloomberg, Apple is in advanced talks with ABC, CBS, and FOX, as well as Time Warner, but possibly not NBC, to bring $0.99 rentals of television shows to the iTunes Store, something first unearthed by NewTeeVee a few weeks ago. Television shows would be available for rental within 24 hours of air date, and, similar to movie rentals, consumers would have 48 hours to finish viewing once started.

    While a $0.99 rental is significantly less than buying an episode for $1.99 or $2.99, it appears that Apple has now abandoned ambitious plans for a subscription-based model for video at $30 a month.

    As for the Apple TV — or possibly the iTV — it’s said to be getting both a price drop to $99 from $229, as well as an unspecified reduction in hard drive size. The emphasis would now be on streaming content, and that could be in keeping with rumors of Apple offering a cloud-based video-on-demand service.

    It will be four years ago next month that Steve Jobs declared “Apple is in your living room” with the unveiling of what was then called the iTV. That became the Apple TV when it launched in 2007, followed by the “Take Two” relaunch in 2008.

    To date, Apple has never released sales numbers for the Apple TV, and in 2008, Steve Jobs admitted to Fortune that the device, as well as every other set-top box had failed “– everybody’s tried. And everybody’s failed. We failed, so far.” It was at that time Jobs declared the Apple TV to be a “hobby” for Apple.

    Unfortunately, that’s not likely to change if this latest iteration of the Apple TV turns out to be real. Simply lowering the price of television rentals and the device itself isn’t enough. The average show of 20 or so episodes would cost $25 a year, assuming no season pass discount. If you watch more than a few shows, cable television is still a better deal.

    In order for the Apple TV, or iTV, to succeed it must transition from being an iTunes Store kiosk in the living room to an entertainment portal. That means allowing access to Netflix, Boxee and other video services. It also means a few simple games and apps, possibly using an iPhone or an iPod touch as a controller.

    Whether this will be a re-imagining of Apple’s set-top box is clearly up to Apple, but based upon past releases the rumored iTV is looking like another rerun.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Three Reasons Over The Top TV Apps Will Beat Big Cable

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • My iPhone 4 Survival Kit

    While I wouldn’t want to return to the days of clamshells, external antennas and dumphones, using the pristine beauty of the iPhone 4 sometimes feels like making calls with a fragile butterfly. To that end, I’ve built an accessory ecosystem to keep my iPhone 4 both beautiful and useful.

    Although the hot air associated with “Antennagate” has mostly blown over, it hasn't altered the physics of iPhone 4 signal attenuation, but there’s an app for that. Apple will provide you with one of their bumpers in many colors or one of many third-party offerings for free, but a bumper isn’t for me.

    From the 19th century fob pocket to the 21st century "Jobs pocket," I prefer my iPhone in that little pocket-in-pocket in my jeans, which means skinning. While there are many options available, I prefer the original art from GelaSkins. The vinyl adheres without sticky adhesive to my iPhone 4, including the all-important sides, has a nice texture, and can even be removed and reused, plus wallpaper is included. GelaSkins cost $14.95.

    For the display, I use a brand of screen protector sold at Apple Stores until all such protective films were banned for no good reason earlier this year. I like Power Support films,because you get two in the package for $19.95, meaning you can save one when upgrading to a new iPhone, and they make tortuous installation process as painless as possible.

    Unless you wear a bunny suit and live in a particle-free clean room, a speck of dust can bubble your transparent film and ruin the view of your iPhone 4 Retina Display. That's why the best time to install a screen protector is when you remove the protective wrapping on a new iPhone 4. If not, the included adhesive film for removing dust really helps. The Crystal Film set is $19.95, or $24.95 for front and back films.

    Unless you’re a silhouette person wildly dancing in a music ad, it's just common sense to also have a pair of Bluetooth stereo headphones for your iPhone 4. If not, sooner or later you'll be at the gym on a treadmill or vacuuming the carpet at home when your headphone wire catches on something.

    To avoid finding out just how durable the glass of my iPhone 4 is, I use the Motorola S305 Bluetooth Stereo Headset. While there are many headsets to choose from, the S305 costs about $35 at, provides decent sound, good battery life, doesn't skip, and can even pair with multiple devices pretty easily. On the downside, people say it sounds like I'm calling while falling down a deep well, but the S305 is for listening, not talking, and for iPhone 4 safety.

    For personal safety as well as iPhone safety, a car kit is a must. I use the custom mounts of ProClip. The two-part system is designed specifically for your vehicle and your iPhone, though it turns out the iPhone 4 fits rather nicely into the iPhone 3GS holder. The many mounting options start at around $60 and can end at well over $100.

    I also use a charging/audio input solution from Griffin Technology that I bought for my iPhone 3GS, but is no longer sold. While there are many options, I'd be interested if anyone makes a cable that does not generate that annoying "not optimized" notification every time I plug the iPhone in.

    Finally, if you’re also unfortunate enough to be chained to AT&T's second-rate network, an AT&T 3G MicroCell can be the difference between five bars and none, which would be five. By leeching off my broadband provider, the 3G MicroCell makes my iPhone 4 usable at home for $150 upfront. However, some AT&T customers have apparently been offered free MicroCells. An angry call to AT&T customer service couldn't hurt.

    If this all seems like a lot of trouble for a phone, remember that in the end it’s not just about survival, but also about enjoying your iPhone 4. Otherwise why not just buy the Android flavor of the month?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Today’s Smartphones Give Rise To Tomorrow’s Robots

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Connected Workers Going iPad for Productivity

    Nearly 50 percent of the mobile workforce carries more than three devices, causing them to stay connected longer, according to the latest quarterly Mobile Workforce Report from iPass, a Redwood Shores, CA-based enterprise mobility service provider. This combination of technology and connectivity blurs the role of devices between work and home. Signs are indicating that after the smartphone, the future enterprise device of choice for mobile workers will be an iPad.

    Breaking the chain of connectivity is increasingly difficult for mobile workers — of the more than 1,100 mobile workers surveyed by iPass, 94 percent are always connected or occasionally connected, even while on vacation. When iPass asked why the disconnected are pulling the plug, the responses indicated more situational reasons such as a lack of signal, as opposed to a conscious effort to stay offline.

    While 97 percent of survey respondents carry two or more devices, iPass finds that those who carry a single device are opting for a smartphone over a laptop. A few years ago, I would have expected more workers to choose the laptop in a single device scenario, mainly because of the software and functionality benefits that a portable computer offered over handsets at that time. But the combination of fast-maturing smartphone hardware, a greater range of wireless broadband coverage and more complex software applications has altered the device of choice. The smartphone isn’t yet replacing a laptop for every task or for every mobile worker, but smaller and thinner mobile devices are reducing the relevance of bulkier notebook computers.

    In line with a theme of laptop replacement are tablet PCs — which have existed in the business world for nearly a decade — and Apple’s iPad. When iPass asked mobile workers if they planned to purchase a Tablet PC or iPad in the next six months, 26.3 percent said they intend to purchase an iPad while just under 7 percent are planning to buy a Tablet PC. These purchases aren’t all fun and games though — 90.6 percent of those who have or plan to get an iPad are expecting to do some work on the slate device and nearly 20 percent said the iPad would be mostly for work or solely for work.

    The intended use for iPads in the enterprise should concern traditional PC makers for a few reasons. The iPass report results aren’t an outlier — today’s Wall Street Journal confirms that both employees and employers want iPads for productivity, citing several examples of how businesses are adopting the tablet. And as previously noted, the Tablet PC — a Microsoft Windows platform that debuted in 2001 — had relatively little traction in the past and is now getting relegated to a has-been by many mobile workers. Thanks to various remote desktop solutions and improved support for enterprise-level security software features in iOS 4, Apple’s iPad appears poised to invade the Windows workspace.

    Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req'd):

    Why the iPad is Right for the Enterprise

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »

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