Tag: cupertino

Those iPad Mini rumours described in full

Apple stunned us with at its iPhone 5: a superfast supercool smartphone nine times the length of the last model, sporting an innovative map feature which turned getting from A to B into the kind of surprising and fun adventure only a brand such as Apple could offer. The latest rumours are that Apple’s iPad Mini could be announced this month, the long awaited sequel to the last sequel’s sequel, and we just can’t wait. Here’s a roundup of our favourite rumours so far:

– 12800 x 243 RESOLUTION The iPhone 5 threw a curveball when it changed the display so drastically, but, after the positive critical reception, Apple insiders have suggested Cupertino is going half a step further. By using a 12800 x 243 resolution, iPad Mini will completely redefine the apps we have been using and know and love, energising the user experience of every single one.

– FART ACTIVATED SEARCH Siri was a big hit. The feature would answer any question you could throw at it, often with the wrong answers, challenging the user to engage his or her own brain and initiative and truly buy into what the Apple brand advocates: *individuality*, the get-up-and-go, can-do spirit of the modern American. According to the rumour mill, the clue for iPad Mini is in the name – Siri, in Japanese, an important market for Apple, means ‘rump, ass, or bottom’. With iPad Mini, users will be able to pass wind into Smeli, the gas-activated satisfaction assistant, which will then automagically tell you how pleased you are.

– RELATIVELY CHEAPER THAN EVER Although early whisperings suggest iPad Mini will come in at just under $4,000, we’ve heard initial pricing of $6, – $7,000 for the 1GB edition. Apple really will be redefining exclusivity as the bargain bin prices of Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 are picked up by the poor proles who can’t afford Apple. We can hear the jealousy now!

– COOL CAMERA EFFECTS iPhone 5 introduced a cool purple hue to thousands of iPhone 5s registered in a secret lottery. Those lucky enough to enjoy iPhone’s unique filtering effects will be stoked to hear iPad Mini is tipped for more of the same. Rather than just one cool colour filter, Apple will be introducing them all at once, and although this rainbow of innovation may feel different at first, we’re sure this feature will be another game-changing paradigm shift that outpaces and transcends the traditional clear-lens functions of those copy-cats at Android. Walt Mossberg was rumoured to have been overheard saying: “It’s like taking off a new pair of glasses for the first time”

– LANDLINE ACTIVATED PHONE CALLS We got a taste of this in iPhone 4 when users complained about a feature that dropped telephone calls – thereby potentially saving thousands on the monthly bill. With iPad Mini, like the iPads before it, you can’t make phonecalls, but it can wirelessly connect to iPhone 5 through iCloud to communicate that, if you must make a call, you may look up the nearest phone box on Apple’s new map software. 

– NEARER FIELD COMMUNICATION The technology press has been talking about the dated Near Field Communication for some time now – which has applications such as quickly paying for products or services simply by passing your phone over a receiving surface. With Nearer Field Communication, Mini iPad automatically charges your debit card whenever it is in the same room, giving users the unique opportunity to generate a great credit rating, quickly.

– INNOVATIVE iNDIVIDUALITY Everyone knew from day one that the i in iPod stood for I. The world remembers its excitement when Apple extended the concept of individuality from the simple pod through to the phone, and most recently, the pad. iPad MiNi is three times as individual. 

Moneybags Apple pays shareholder dividend

Apple has announced it will raid its vast coffers to pay out a dividend to its shareholders, claiming it won’t affect further investments.

Since the Cupertino firm last paid a dividend – way back in 1995 – Apple has managed to amass almost $100 billion down the back of its sofa and is now keen to pay some of this out.

This will involve a $2.65 per share dividend paid from July. The firm will also buy back up to $10 billion in shares over the next financial year.

In a phone statement, CEO Tim Cook said that the firm will not let up on its investment in its supply chain, with more money to be spent on distribution, including opening even more Apple stores.

He claimed that even with today’s “investments” Apple is able to “maintain a war chest” and has plenty of change left over to fund any future endeavours it may embark up on.

The financial decision “will not close any doors” for the firm, he said, claiming that it will continue to splash out on acquisitions, R&D, and more in the future.

Whether this R&D funding will go to its iPad development team, which seems to be running out of ideas, is another question.  But if Cook expects his reiterated plans for tablets to outdo PC sales soon then they might need something more than the addition of a fancy screen.

Apple stock rose even higher today, reaching $600 per share, and setting a new record for the most valuable company in the world.

Apple threatens to kill Evi

Apple is furious that a Cambridge-based upstart has produced a better version of voice activated service Siri and is threatening to pull it from the App Store.

Evi was placed on Apple’s App Store and the technology it has is better at handling British accents and providing regional information. Siri, which means “arse” in Japanese, can’t look at the British map, or refer you to British businesses, and refuses to tell you how to get an abortion. It is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. Apple wants the British to put on an American accent to use the States-centric app, which is still in beta and can’t understand a word they say.

William Tunstall-Pedoe, chief executive of True Knowledge, which makes the app, told the Guardian that he had been contacted by an Apple representative and was told that Evi would be pulled.

Tunstall-Pedoe confirmed to the Guardian that Evi was “being reviewed” under condition 8.3 of the App Store’s terms and conditions, which bans apps that appear “confusingly similar to an existing Apple product”.

Evi is similar to Siri in that both offer voice-driven speech analysis to find data to help users. Siri is embedded into the iPhone 4S.

Evi uses the same speech recognition system, Nuance, as Siri, but depends on its own set of servers rather than those in Apple’s walled garden of delights. Tunstall-Pedoe said that he was waiting for further information from Apple, which had not responded to a request for information.

Evi has been popular on both Apple and Android stores. Having been available for three weeks, it is approaching half a million downloads.

The Android version is free because it uses Google’s voice recognition system, but the iPhone version costs 69p, which is supposed to cover the cost of the Nuance voice recognition system.

We have given Evi a go on Android and it’s quite good.

As the iPad 3 is set to launch, Chinese workers plead for awareness

More fuel has been added to the blaze of controversy over factory conditions at Apple suppliers, with two workers claiming they were poisoned and are now appealing directly to the firm’s customers. 

The two want to draw attention to the plight of workers aflicted by the n-hexane cleaning chemical.

The chemical n-hexane had been used in producing iPhones in Suzhou, China. Back in 2010, 137 poisoned workers grabbed the headlines after an independent investigation slammed conditions. Apple admitted at the time that it had committed labour rights violations through the use of the chemical, which can cause respiratory tract irritation leading to nerve damage.

Recently, Apple has been under intense pressure to improve conditions of its suppliers factories in China and is the subject of investigations.  With a constant stream of high profile product launches Apple has been attempting to placate the groundswell of public opinion against its supply.

However, Apple has suffered another blow to its reputation with a campaign calling for compensation from Cupertino, as part of the SumOfUs campaign.

Two workers, Gou Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan, highlighted their continued appeal to CEO Tim Cook and other Apple top brass, following their hospitalisation due to n-hexane exposure.

The letter appears to be aimed directly to the millions of Apple customers which are unaware of the conditions in which their shiny gadgets are made.   With Apple readying itself for launching the iPad 3 next month, the letter will undoubtedly cause more embarrassment.

“You don’t know us but you have seen our work,” the letter reads. “Until recently, we worked long hours assembling Apple’s iPhone touch screens in Suzhou, China.

“We have been pressuring Apple, and its new CEO Tim Cook, for years to compensate those of us who were injured working for them, and demanding reform of working conditions at their Chinese factories so that their workers don’t suffer like we do.

“Now we need your help as customers or potential customers of Apple.”

Over 84,000 people have so far signed the petition, though the target is to reach past the 100,000 mark ahead of the imminent shareholder meeting.

TechEye approached the Fair Labor Association, which is leading investigations into the working conditions of Apple, suppliers, such as Foxconn in China for a response to the letter.

However the FLA refused to comment, claiming “investigations are ongoing” with inspections continuing in Shenzen and Chengdu plants.

A copy of the letter can be seen here on the appeal website.

Proview convinces court to seize Apple's iPad

Proview Shenzhen, the company which insisted that Apple’s iPad infringed on its own trademark and not the other way around, has convinced Shijiazhuang investigators to seize iPad 2s from the shelves.

Late last year, Apple suits were telling Proview that it was most certainly in the wrong and needed to bow down and admit defeat – the iPad was Apple’s trademark. Unfortunately for Apple, its reality distortion field was out of charge and Proview showed the Intermediate People’s Court in Shenzhen, China a lawfully registered trademark for iPad back in 2000. 

As TechEye commenter rich the engineer said at the time: “Communists are never impressed with religious arguments” and the courts chucked the book at Apple. Proview’s argument was that, although Apple had bought the rights to the iPad trademark from an affiliated company in Taiwan, Proview could still use the name on its home turf.

Gao Wei, of the inspection team, told the Chinese press: “We are now combing the sales records of the Apple stores where we confiscated the iPads”.

Now, according to the Telegraph, a two-day probe saw 45 of Apple’s iPad 2s taken off the shelves. Apple stores will have to face a mystery fine.

Apple tells its customers to shut up, or else

Secret squirrel Apple has started to project its obsession with shutting up upon its customers too.

It seems that if anyone quotes an Apple staff member in a blog they will receive a visit from Jobs’ Mob’s legal department which will tell them to shut up.

David Boles’ Apple monitor died on him and he had a bit of trouble transferring AppleCare coverage to his new monitor.

Writing on his blog he did not wade into Apple at all. He just warned his readers not to forget their AppleCare accounts when they get something new. Apple went completely ballistic because he had mentioned them without permission and talked, publically, about what a staff member had said.

The poor victim, er, customer, was practically treated like he had exhumed the body of Steve Jobs and had made merry with it before drinking the blood of a freshly violated fanboy.

Techcrunch thinks that the Apple letter was written by someone who was not that familiar with English, although that probably applies to the entire United States.  

Whoever wrote it appears to have had their sense of perspective removed by Apple’s HR department. The letter more or less said that if you talk to a member of Apple staff you cannot repeat what they say to anyone. You cannot even tell your mum, or confess to a priest, so putting the conversation in a blog is beyond the pale.

Apple told him that he had 24 hours to take the post down. We are not sure what would happen if he didn’t.

Apple’s normal approach is to send a legal letter, followed by one of its tame cops from San Francisco to raid your home and steal your servers.

The post has not been taken down and to make matters worse the web is publishing it, just in case Boles loses his nerve.

The thing is, if Apple really wanted people to stop talking about what its customer services staff say, threatening customers with legal action is probably not the way forward.    

It was recently revealed that Apple staff members were regularly threatened with legal action if they talked about anything that went on at work and this created a climate of fear. 



Apple courts US schools with iTunes U

Apple’s spotless education record among richer students at higher-learning institutions in the US opened another chapter today, as it presented digital textbook software and services at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The Apple propaganda machine suggests that education was one of the late Steve Jobs’ pet projects. And so we have iBooks Author, iBooks 2 and iTunes U.

Apple’s presentation broke down into three parts. First came its new iBooks 2 software, which allows for interaction with textbooks directly from your iPad: read, comment, annotate, highlight, create cue cards and so forth all with a few swipes of your digit. Easy if you have a tablet already.

To complement iBooks 2, Apple will be introducing iBooks Author, which, like the name implies, will be the textbook authoring tool of choice of iBooks products. This might be a point of discussion for education roundtables. Freedom to pen your own content is great, but making that teaching material might warrant some supervision from the school board.

The software appears to work wonderfully, though. You can flow a word document or a presentation straight into a textbook with a few clicks and generate some highly-attractive digital content to sell off or circulate. Ironically, self-generated content of this calibre would be one of the first to fall to SOPA-like legislation.

Finally, because Apple thinks there’s serious money to be made, enter iTunes U. It’s an app that will buy you textbooks straight to your iPad. Apple’s electronic textbook service has extended its curriculum to K12 as well as university goers and was presented hand in hand with educational publishing industry heavyweights. The names of Pearson and McGraw-Hill had been thrown about lately in online media and today we saw HMH and Dorling Kindersley (DK) added to the mix.

iTunes U is obviously cloud-based, so there is an invisible infrastructure behind it that will allow teachers to deliver content and interact with their students inside and outside the classroom, bandwidth and internet connection providing. iBooks and iTunes U also looks at one of the greatest problems with electronic textbooks and electronic courses: feeding content back into the system, which could possibly be solved by this service, providing students to remotely submit essays, research projects or even exams. 

Several things come to mind with these launches. First of all, iPads replacing textbooks and allowing content to be centrally distributed from local media servers – in specific universities or in school districts – to the student body will teleschool the next generation of young American adults, if the system allows it.

Another scenario that plays wonderfully into iTunes U is the concept of the digital classroom. In Europe we don’t up and move 2,000 miles to go to university – we commute most of the time. In the USA it’s a different situation. Considering some universities are already offering free degrees by remote learning schemes, it wouldn’t be too complicated to envisage how an electronic textbook curriculum can be turned into a business model.

Duke, Stanford and Yale are some of the most notable universities who’ve jumped on this opportunity to offer online courses with digital textbooks.

The question is about how locked-in Apple’s approach will be. With this move, Apple may popularise digital learning, but if it continues to use its walled garden way of thinking, it might find itself usurped by others who think it’s quite a good idea, and already have the ecosystem for it.

*EyeSpy We were guessing about this earlier. Turns out that the domain iSchool.com redirects straight to the Apple website – yeesh, what has Cupertino got in store for the students of America? 

iPad 3 slated for March

Financial news service Bloomberg has fired up the random iPad rumour engine with ‘sources familiar with the product’ claiming a March launch date for the third incarnation of the fruity slate.

Quoting as their sources to be the number of people who’ve fondled the new third iPad, Bloomberg states that the device will include a high-definition screen, quad-core processor and 4G (LTE) communications. This is almost as vague as that other thing.

Still, according to Bloomberg’s sources, the quad-core design ‘lets users jump more quickly between applications’ and that ‘videos begin playing almost instantly because of the additional graphics processing’. Apple is also counting on the iPad’s extra battery capacity to accommodate the higher power consumption of LTE communications. Bloomberg calls it ‘making the iPad compatible with a wireless standard called long-term evolution’, but we call it “soldering on the right chip”.

The device, it is said, has entered mass production and will churn out copious amounts of the kit until Chinese New Year, when workers will take a few days off. From then on, it’s straight on to March where lorry-loads of the things get sent overseas.

What we see is this: there is no confirmation that Apple will use the new A6 SoC in the upcoming iPad, although it is still working with Samsung and TSMC. A quad-core chipset is more than likely to power the iPad 3, but it is also very likely that this is not truly a quad-core A9 processor design, but a powerful 2+2 cores design, similar to Asus’ Transformer Prime, where one dual core processor can offload workloads to a companion dual-core setup of Cortex M4 or similar co-processors.

This would not involve a redesign of the A5 and would help handle the increased power consumption.

The iPad 3 will more likely than not refresh the iPad line into the same class of hardware we can find on the iPhone 4S. Siri may find its way into the product, and 4G communications and Retina-class displays are really just a matter of sourcing the right third party for the kit. Much simpler than reinventing the wheel, or slate in this case, and fans would still bow down to Zod without batting an eyelid.

What will be interesting to see is how Apple will manage the power consumption on these devices. Keeping with the same battery tech and piling on features doesn’t make the iPad a highly autonomous computing device.

Its predecessor, the iPad 2, launched in March 2011, so it’s also a good, likely guess to keep things seasonal in the orchard.

All things considered, this will make up for a pretty poor Macworld in just a few weeks’ time, unless Tim Cook breaks out something shiny in a class of device that no-one could possibly predict.

*EyeSee We find it interesting that the iPad 3 ‘leak’ has surfaced just when the company’s customers are beginning to hold it to account for its work with Foxconn. Surely, a coincidence.

Apple suggests it will add abortion-finding features to Siri

The world and its dog are drawing yet more partly speculative links between Cupertino’s Apple and the Christian religious right, with fresh allegations emerging that the marketing guff known as Siri refuses to find you an abortion clinic.

We’re not quite sure how this story came to be. Whether it was a genuine request in a moment of crisis, layered atop Apple gimmicks in a Dadaist fashion or if it was a bored hack seeing just what Siri can do is up for debate. The latest reports, though, suggest if you ask Siri to find you an abortion clinic it’ll direct you to a “crisis pregnancy centre”, also known as counselling that encourages you to see through a pregnancy.

The IB Times says sometimes Siri isn’t quite sure what abortion is. For example, asking your phone about abortion will have it respond with: “I don’t see any abortion clinics. Sorry about that” which is a rather milquetoast apology to a woman in a difficult situation.

The ultimate lesson to be learnt, as a petition from Choice.org suggests without realising, is that it’s better not to seek important medical advice from an automated gizmo. In the letter, campaigners said: “If Siri is providing information for users who require medical attention – like an erection lasting more than 4 hours… she should certainly provide accurate information about family planning services.” 

Presumably including advice about painful erections was bundled in first thing, to cater to obsessed Appleholics who pop a boner at the mere mention of a passage from Jobs’ biography.

Cupertino has replied. Spokesperson Natalie Kerris said, reports IB Times, that Apple customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and “while it can find a lot, it doesn’t always find what you want.” These are “not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone,” Kerris said. “It simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better and we will in the coming weeks.”

Aside from admitting that Siri is an unfinished product, the assurances mean that – if you choose to – you’ll be able to find abortion clinics by speaking into your phone soon enough. Which is a victory for humanity, when you think about it.

Apple was once linked to the Christian Values Network, which, critics suggest, is the kind of right wing fundie organisation that thinks gay people choose their sexuality whe they start hacking their feet into the shape of cloven hoofs. Change.org petitioned against that, too, and eventually Apple distanced itself.

Other controversies included Apple leaving a baby-shaking simulator app available while banning James Joyce’s Ulysses. 

HTC's first Apple complaint laughed out of court

It looks like the ball is landing in Apple’s court, as yet again, Cupertino’s legal team observes another victory against the competition.

In the landmark Apple Vs. cases – most high profile with Samsung and HTC – an International Trade Commission judge has ruled that Apple hasn’t violated HTC patents. It pertains to the first complaint made against Apple by HTC in May last year, as a tit-for-tat action against the fruity phonemaker.

HTC, which is trying to bolster its patent portfolio, will have the opportunity to appeal the ruling. Industry watcher Florian Mueller, of FOSSpatents, believes that will be the case but little will come of it.

Speaking about the complaint, Mueller says he “didn’t take it seriously from the day it was filed” and that “the patents look weak”. Even if the ITC changes its mind, he reckons, it’s unlikely Apple will feel any serious impact. Still, there will probably be more to come, as the battle drags on. Mueller thinks the first complaint was HTC proving it had a bit of fight in it, and little more.

The final decision for this particular complaint will be February 2012.

Essentially, Apple’s sharp-clawed legal eagles  are swooping down on an industry Cupertino is finding itself increasingly threatened by. But, at least for the moment, they are doing well in the courts. The question is, with the nature of globalisation, banning products which are found to infringe on patents in one region might not be enough to stop them from selling, as Apple is finding in Australia with the “illegal” Galaxy tablets. The high-profile lawsuits were all the advertising the Australians needed.

Still, Apple’s attacks on its competitors could mark a turning point for the industry. Cupertino is trying to completely edge out the competition.