Saturday, May 14, 2011

GigaOMTheAppleBlog · Apple and iOS News, Tips and Reviews (6 сообщений)

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  • Toast 11: How Does a Disc Utility Survive in a Future Without Discs?

    In a disc-less age, what is a disk burning platform to do besides re-invent itself? The challenge is which way to steer your product. In the case of Roxio and its market-leading disc burning tool Toast, that direction points down two different paths. I’ve long been a Toast user, and recently spent some time with Toast 11, the latest version, focussing on everything but its ability to create optical media.

    One path Toast is taking is to focus on its core strengths and make use of its encoding and decoding expertise by becoming a media conversion utility. The second direction appears to be more of a business partnership move, through the creation of a software bundle with other vendors whose programs complement Toast.

    Toast as a Media Converter

    Out of the box, Toast is a decent media conversion tool. I compared it to two other media conversion tools that I use regularly, the well-established Handbrake, and the lesser-known Pavtube, to see just how good it is. As you can see from the chart above, it lags behind Handbrake and Pavtube in terms of its ability to take content directly from disc-based sources and create different files using those sources. It also lacks a lot of fine-tuning options and the ability to queue conversions. Still, with a little more work, it could become a very competitive conversion tool thanks to its extensive output format support.

    Toast as a Complementary Utility

    By placing more of an emphasis on conversion than burning, Toast has entered into the media conversion market with a decent offering. On its own, Toast isn’t exactly a powerhouse of creativity. Sure you can create a DVD menu system, but for the most part, the creativity happens outside of Toast itself. To that end, Toast Titanium Pro has partnered with some other software developers to create a bundle of utilities that complement the creativity process of established media creation powerhouses.

    Roxio has been very careful to choose what software to bundle in with Toast Pro.  They didn’t directly challenge iMovie, Premier or Final Cut by resurrecting some of Avid’s now retired consumer-based products for Mac.  Instead, Roxio made the smart move with Toast to focus on complementary tools that fill the creativity void it has in this space.  Boinx Software’s FotoMagico is a great choice to author clips that will be added to a movie.  BIAS SoundSoap helps remove unwanted background noise from videos.  SmartSound SonicFire adds the ability to create great soundtracks if you are not a musician.  Combine that with Toast’s existing burn and conversion capabilities, and you have a powerful set of media creation utilities.

    Looking the core value of Toast in a disc-challenged world, if Roxio sees fit to expand Toast’s conversion features to handle a little more control on some of the low-level settings like de-interlacing and noise reduction, as well as add in the ability to process a batch of media files in series or in parallel, it has the opportunity of being the best media conversion utility on the market. Unfortunately, Toast’s current strengths lie in its Pro version and its strategic business partnerships. I would definitely recommend purchasing the Pro version of Toast over upgrading to the latest version of iLife or investing in Adobe Premier, but if you want conversion tools, look elsewhere for now.

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  • iPhone 4S Arriving This Fall With More Carriers?

    Apple’s next iPhone will be called the 4S, and won’t offer much beyond minor cosmetic changes, better front and back cameras, an A5 dual-core processor and HSPA+ support, according to Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek (via Forbes ). The information comes from industry checks performed by the investment banking firm.

    Apple is also likely to announce Sprint, T-Mobile and China Mobile as new carrier partners, according to Misek’s research note. T-Mobile expansion is already expected if the AT&T / T-Mobile merger goes through. The addition of Sprint would mean Apple’s reach would extend to all major U.S. carriers, and China Mobile signing on would mean that the iPhone would become available to over 600 million potential subscribers.

    While analyst expectations are not always the most dependable source of information, this report is in keeping with what we’ve been hearing about Apple’s next iPhone revision. Rumors abound that we won’t see any new hardware introduced at WWDC this June, and fall has been widely cited as the most likely candidate for an iPhone update. The iPhone “4s” name has also surfaced before, back in April when it was used to describe a prototype handset being circulated by Apple among developers with an A5 chip for use in creating next-gen games. Supplier checks also often reveal clues about future Apple products, since the third-party supply chain isn’t as easily guarded as Apple itself.

    Misek also claims that LTE chipsets from Qualcomm aren’t yet ready for mass production of the next iPhone, so we won’t see LTE support in the next hardware revision.

    Take this report with a grain of salt, but if Apple decides to repeat what it did with the iPhone 3G and 3GS with the iPhone 4 and its successor, this does match with what I’d expect to see from a hardware update. What do you think about this latest next-gen iPhone rumor?

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

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  • Netflix Adds Subtitles to iPad, iPhone App

    Netflix has expanded the availability of closed captioning on its streaming service with the latest update of its iOS application. [Hat tip to Zatz Not Funny!] With the update, the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch join a growing list of consumer electronics devices that support streaming subtitles through the service.

    Netflix has been hard at work adding subtitles to its streaming library, ever since first announcing their availability about a year ago. But it has struggled to do so, mainly due to a lack of standards. Still, Netflix is making some headway. In February, Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt announced subtitles were available for 3,500 TV and movie titles, which make up about 30 percent of all streaming. (A complete list of assets with subtitles can be found at By the end of the year, Netflix hopes to increase that to titles that 80 percent of all streaming.

    Getting subtitles onto the video assets is one thing, but getting them onto consumer electronics devices is a whole other struggle. In addition to Apple iOS devices, Netflix subtitles are also available on the Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Google TV-powered TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes and the Boxee Box. According to Hunt’s earlier blog post, support for the Roku Player and Microsoft Xbox 360 would come later this year.

    But adding more devices could become difficult, particularly as Netflix has to update applications across multiple devices and app platforms individually. Not to mention, the limited processing power and overhead on some CE devices could limit its ability to add new features, such as streaming. Netflix has been trying to standardize as much of its app development as possible on HTML5 as a way to more quickly update the backend and user interface without having to rebuild CE apps from scratch. Even so, with the Netflix service available on more than 250 devices, some will benefit from new features like subtitles more quickly than others.

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  • Apple's Enterprise Reach Growing Thanks to iPad and iPhone

    Android may have passed iOS once and for all in terms of device activations, but Apple is still winning in the enterprise market, according to Microsoft Exchange hosting provider Intermedia. Of all ActiveSync-capable smartphones activated by its 320,000 enterprise customers, 61 percent were iPhones, compared to only 17 percent Android smartphone devices. But the real hero of the enterprise story is the iPad, which is dominating in the tablet space.

    The remaining 22 percent of smartphone activations fell into the “other” category, which includes Windows Phone devices, as well as Symbian and Palm smartphones. The iPhone grew its share of all activations in April to 64 percent, and Android also saw an increase, with 33 percent of all new devices brought online during the month. Note that Intermedia’s stats do not include BlackBerry devices, since they don’t use ActiveSync.

    While Apple maintains a strong lead with iPhones, the story regarding tablets is even more heavily weighted in favor of iOS. Intermedia saw 900 and 1,200 new iPad activations in March and April, compared to a monthly average of around 300 before that. iPads accounted for 99.8 percent of all new tablet activations, with the remaining tiny fraction split between the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Motorola Xoom, and the Huawei S7.

    Enterprise adoption of the iPad is impressive by all accounts. During its last quarterly earnings call, Apple said 75 percent of the Fortune 500 are actively using or testing the iPad for deployment. (Eighty-eight percent are doing the same with the iPhone.) Another report from a different enterprise hosting firm back in January found the iPad was quickly growing its slice of the enterprise iOS adoptions pie. I hear reports daily about iPad deployment programs at businesses large and small. Most recently, I was told that at most major Canadian law firms (some of which are arms of much larger international organizations), the iPad has become an omnipresent sight, especially among senior partners.

    Apple’s success in the enterprise can be attributed to its ability to bring the iPad to market as a finished product with a smooth and dependable user experience, something Google has been unable to do thus far with its Android operating system. Enterprise IT is far less likely to take risks on an unproven platform than consumers, and while Android is a proven hit with consumers, it still hasn’t shown itself to be on par with iOS in terms of OS stability, regardless of whether you’re looking only at tablets, or at smartphones as well.

    Reports also rightly point out that Google Android is much less secure than iOS, which is bound to scare off  IT departments already reluctantly dealing with the risks involved with allowing consumer devices in the enterprise. Finally, Android OS fragmentation is a considerable issue when it comes to being able to provide comprehensive IT support.

    Android may be doing a good job of cornering the consumer market, but all indications are that Apple is the one making real inroads among enterprise customers. Thanks to the iPad, the aggressive growth position iOS occupies in the business world may become a dominant one before too long, especially if we continue to see big activation numbers like those reported by Intermedia during March and April.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Indie Devs Get Hit With Lawsuit Threats Over In-App Purchases

    UPDATED. Developers who offer in-app purchasing in their apps for iOS might want to check their mailboxes this morning, as apparently FedEx-delivered lawsuit threats are currently making the rounds. The threats accuse devs of patent infringement regarding Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism, but the patent holder appears to be targeting independent developers individually instead of going after Apple itself.

    James Thomson of TLA Systems was the first to discuss the threat early Friday morning, as reported by Cult of Mac. Thomson was targeted by the patent holder because of in-app purchases available to users of pCalc, an iOS scientific calculator app. Thomson reports that though he hasn’t been sued yet, the patent holder wants him to license their tech, and gave him 21 days to comply.

    Thomson isn’t alone, either. Patrick McCarron, who creates apps for MobileAge, also confirmed receiving the same notice via FedEx early Friday. McCarron’s offending app was a game, so it seems like the company behind this is casting a wide net. Neither Thomson nor McCarron has yet to reveal the name of the company targeting them, though McCarron did assert that it’s not MacroSolve, a company that has been very active recently in enforcing its mobile technology patents.

    Apple has been contacted by both devs, and will likely move quickly to respond to these threats in order to prevent widespread concern among the developer community. As of yet, Apple has yet to comment officially on this development. We reached out for comment, but have yet to hear back.

    This kind of suit could provide a dangerous precedent, if not quickly quashed. Google and RIM recently introduced in-app purchasing, and presumably those systems would also be in violation of these patents. We’re working on discovering the source of the threats, and will update when more information becomes available.

    UPDATE: The company behind the patent suit threats is apparently Lodsys, a patent holding firm which has held patent no. 7222078 (the one which is claimed to have been violated) since 2004. Lodsys cited the same patent, along with several others, when it filed suit against a number of major printer companies in early 2011, according to MacRumors.

    Lodsys’ entire business consists of licensing the patents it holds, which is completely in keeping with the licensing demands developers have so far been receiving. If you feel like making your feelings about this latest round of threats known to Lodsys, you can contact the company directly via its official website.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • What's in a Name? 4 More Companies Go After the App Store Trademark

    Apple’s App Store trademark is under siege, and four more companies joined the fight to have it declared invalid in the European Union Thursday, according to Bloomberg. Microsoft, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and HTC all filed applications separately with the EU trademark agency yesterday in pursuit of that goal. The agency is the first step in a lengthy process that could be appealed many times, and might eventually make its way up to the top EU court in Luxembourg.

    The four companies join Amazon, which filed its own opposition to Apple’s two EU trademarks (“APP STORE” and “APPSTORE”) back in mid April. Amazon has also argued that the trademark is invalid in the U.S., after being sued by Apple for trademark infringement following the launch of its own Appstore for Android devices.

    Microsoft also challenged Apple’s U.S. App Store trademark application back in January, so its filing in the EU doesn’t come as a surprise. Nor should the filings by Nokia, Sony Ericsson and HTC, all of which are competitors with Apple in the smartphone arena, and all of which benefit from the sale of apps on their hardware platforms.

    Microsoft issued an official statement about the new round of complaint applications which sums up their position:

    Microsoft and other leading technology companies are seeking to invalidate Apple's trademark registration for 'APP STORE' and 'APPSTORE' because we believe that they should not have been granted because they both lack distinctiveness.

    What the statement doesn’t reveal, and what’s actually behind all disputes over this term, is that the phrase “App Store” is worth a lot of money. Users and the media have gotten in the habit of calling mobile software “apps” and software marketplaces “app stores,” regardless of brand or platform. That’s due largely to the early spread of Apple’s own mobile applications store, which was the first to gain significant traction among smartphone users.

    Apple clearly believes it has achieved distinctive with the App Store trademark by combining the more distinctive “App” with the generic “Store,” making for a combination that together meets the requirements of trademark law. A term must be distinctive (or refer specifically to the thing it applies to) in order to be eligible for trademark, unless it qualifies for acquired distinctiveness, in which case it acquires specific association through repeated use over many years.

    I’ve argued before that Apple is right to defend this trademark, and right to have pursued it in the first place. If anything, this latest action only reinforces that belief. Why are some of Apple’s biggest competitors so eager to have the trademark invalidated if it doesn’t have an enormous amount of value? Also, why hasn’t Google, which runs the most successful App Store competitor, joined in with these proceedings? Because this is a case of sour grapes, and one that isn’t very likely to bear fruit.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


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