Authored by Kit Easton of FastCompany and can be found here: http://is.gd/kthZV. Kit can be followed on Twitter here: @kiteaston
A clutch of recent Apple patent actions can easily be combined to tease features we may see in this year's iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Better speakers, facial recognition and a way to stick your credit card chips into your iPhone are in the mix.
iPad Speaker, Camera Patents
One of Apple's recent patent applications tackles one of the iPad's existing criticisms--its speaker performance isn't exactly optimal. That's because while the iPad does have a pair of speakers, notionally good for stereo sound output, they each pour sound through one corner of the device's frame--destroying any stereo effect. It's a necessary sacrifice thanks to the fact the iPad's designed to be used horizontally, vertically or at a random angle. This is what the new patent tackles.
As the more technically minded out there may have guessed, Apple's solution to the problem involves a distributed array of speakers in each corner of the iPad, with on-the-spot re-assignment of left and right audio channels to particular speakers depending on which way up the iPad's held. In this arrangement, your left ear would hear left-channel sound and your right ear the right channel no matter which way round you held the iPad. The patent explains how an array of either three or four speakers would suffice, along with the relevant audio processing chips aboard a future model.
One neat part of the patent is that the device could use smart image recognition--as well as data from the built-in orientation sensor--to work out which way the iPad's being held. There could also be touch recognition input to help the iPad decide how it's being held, and the iPad could try to work out the location where it's being used. As well as suggesting that the device would be very proficient at quick channel-mapping onto speakers, this raises the intriguing possibility that the iPad 2, or 3, could recognize users automatically.
And there's one more neat fact here: The patent explains how tweeter and bass speakers could comprise the multi-speaker array, transforming the iPad into a more serious hi-fi media player. But from what we can see, Apple's suggesting the tweeter speakers could be concealed behind the screen. And since we think we know that the iPad 2 will have a large rear-facing speaker port in one corner (good for bass, which also needn't necessarily be in stereo) we wonder if this is actually how the iPad 2 will have better sound.
iDevice "SIM Tray" For Digital Credit Card Chips
One other hot tech we expect Apple to build into its iPhone (and possibly iPod Touch) for 2011 is near field communication wireless payment systems. We know how the radio part of this tech works, and we can make educated guesses about the apps Apple would construct for it along with how it might be secured in software, and to the ID of the phone owner. But what we weren't sure about was how Apple would persuade credit card companies to let it incorporate their security and card number protocols into an iPhone.
Now we have a hint: Another new Apple patent suggests an iPhone (or iPad, etc) could get a second SIM tray-like port on one side, into which you'd slip the little golden chip segment from a modern credit card. The neatness of this idea is impressive: All the credit card makers need do is slightly modify their existing cards so you could pop-out the chip in the same way you do when you get a new cell phone SIM card delivered (which does come in a credit card-shaped plastic carrier, if you remember). All the security and ID and--more importantly--control over card numbers and distribution to customers--would remain with the card issuer, disrupting their business model less than other solutions would.
It's good for Apple, too, as all the iPhone would have to do would be parse the chip every time the iPhone was waved over a wireless payment pad, and send the signal over a short-range encrypted radio channel, effectively acting as the middleman.
Since we suspect the iPhone 5 will have a similar glass (or possibly ceramic, or plastic) back to the iPhone 4--and this design is nicely radio-transparent for NFC needs--we're wondering if this is exactly how this year's iPhone's NFC credit card tech, or iWallet, may work.
Authored by MG Siegler of Techcrunch and can be found here: http://is.gd/khkNC
Breaking news: old school publishers seem hell-bent on insuring their content doesn’t catch on in the red-hot tablet space. A story in the Wall Street Journal this evening details how Google, Apple, Amazon and others are all racing to try to do deals with major publishers in order to set up their “digital newsstands”.
Of course, all of this has been going on for months now as publishers seem to be aware that tablets (okay, really just the iPad so far) are actually taking off this time, and they’d be wise to get on board. The problem, naturally, is that they want to be on board on their terms. And those, naturally, are old school terms. In other words, out-of-date and somewhat sleazy terms.
Here’s one main blurb of the WSJ piece:
Apple is planning to share more data about who downloads a publisher’s app, information publishers can use for marketing purposes. According to people familiar with the matter, Apple would ask consumers who subscribe to an iPad version of a magazine or newspaper for permission to share personal information about them, like their name and email address, with the publisher.
Some publishers remain unhappy with this arrangement because they think few customers would opt to share such data, according to these people.
So what the publishers seem to be demanding is that Apple opts users into sharing information without telling them. Or, to put it another way, “make it opt-out or we opt-out”. Classy.
Of course few customers would opt-in to sharing such data. Because who the hell wants to be marketed to relentlessly just because they signed up for a magazine subscription? No one. Except that’s the way the magazine subscription model currently works. Not because it’s a good model, but because in the days before technology started destroying print, people were naive enough not to realize what was going on. Obviously, the publishers would like to transition that happiness in slavery to the tablet space.
And while Apple doesn’t appear to be biting on that at this time, the publishers apparently are turing their sights towards chief rival Google. From the piece:
In recent weeks, these people say, Google has told publishers it would take a smaller slice on any sales they make of Android apps than the 30% cut Apple typically takes on iTunes sales. Google has also proposed giving publishers certain personal data about app buyers to help with marketing related products or services.
It’s not clear if in the Google scenario this would be opt-in (like Apple is proposing) or opt-out. But if Google wants to secure these deals ahead of Apple, it’s pretty clear what they’ll have to do. Hopefully they won’t do that.
Apple is also apparently on the verge of a new feature in iTunes that would allow for publishers to offer simple content subscription services. This too has been rumored for some time, and makes a lot of sense. After the initial interest wore off, it seems that most magazine apps are dwindling in sales numbers. The reason for this is obvious: they’re far too much money and too much of a pain to download. To get Time each week, you have to pay $4.99 each time. There is no subscription option. Others, like Newsweek, do have a subscription option, but it’s a bit convoluted. And others, like the Wall Street Journal, have an option (their own) that’s even more convoluted.
In order for the digital newsstand idea to work, it has to actually be a newsstand. As in, a centralized place where you can find and buy anything you’re looking for with a few easy clicks. You know, like iTunes. The stand-alone app model isn’t working for this content. But the publishers are wary of iTunes because they don’t want to give Apple the 30 percent cut, and, more importantly, they want that subscriber data.
And so we appear to be where we were a few months ago, at a stalemate. Talking to Google about a rival newsstand seems like a good bargaining tool, but the Android platform still doesn’t have a tablet that’s nearly as popular as the iPad. Amazon has the popular Kindle device, but it’s in black and white and doesn’t exactly seem like the future of magazine content consumption. You can be sure that Apple will want something like this digital newsstand in place by the launch of the iPad 2. And as they like to do, they’ll probably launch it even if they only have a few publishers on board.
And there will be some on board. Because they stand to lose a lot more than Apple does if they don’t get their content to hit on the iPad.
Newly approved Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan is a Kindle user, while longtime conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wields an iPad.
This nugget of information appeared in a recent video clip on C-SPAN. Both justices use the devices (plus hard copy printouts) to read the vast quantities of written material they must wade through — up to 40 or 50 briefs for each case, Kagan says in the video above.
The news, however, made us wonder about something of far more pressing national importance: Is this a deep ideological divide on the Supreme Court?
Would Scalia see things differently if he read opinions on the monochrome Kindle? Does Kagan need a dose of iPad color, and maybe a round or two of Flight Control HD between court sessions?
Are Kindle-wielding Justices writing angry “Mactard” and “fanboi” comments on the opinions of their opponents, while the Mac-loving faction refuses to talk or even think about anything that wasn’t designed in Cupertino?
Nah, that doesn’t seem realistic.
Original post by Dylan F. Tweney and can be found here: http://is.gd/iT5TY
A buying guide to eReaders and Tablets.
If you want to enjoy a good digital book, newspaper or magazine (yes even a magazine) an e-book reader is a smart choice. Prices have plunged this year, and the E Ink screens on many of these devices have improved somewhat, which means the options are better than ever for digital bookworms.
E-book readers do not snatch as many headlines as other gadgets, but the market is flooded with options. Some of these models are superb, while many could be classified as atrocious. We will focus first on the industry’s four front-runners, and then have a look at the options that will colour your buying decision.
The Kindle is the best-selling reader, and is part of a whole ecosystem of Amazon-provided e-books and software, so you can read the same books on your PC, smartphone or Kindle. Though expensive in its earlier generations, the latest iteration sports a budget price, great connectivity options and a wide selection thanks to Amazon’s Kindle store.
Flagship model: Kindle 3 (3G)
Supported formats: TXT, AZW, PDF, HTML, Mobipocket
Hidden perk: Amazon has a free service that converts HTML pages and Word documents to a Kindle-friendly format.
Price: $190 (with 3G and Wi-Fi)
Barnes & Noble Nook
B&N entered the e-reading fray with its Nook. Despite mixed reviews of the Android-powered interface, the color touchscreen, large e-book selection and cross-promotions with the brick-and-mortar stores are clear high points.
Storefront: Nookbook Store
Flagship model: Nook Color
Supported file formats: eReader PDB, ePUB, PDF
Hidden perk: Connecting the Nook to B&N’s in-store WiFi grants you an hour’s worth of reading of any e-book title.
Price: $250 (Wi-Fi only)
Sony’s middling e-readers have not exactly been critical darlings, but they are still solid and dependable. Sturdy, compact chassis and daylight-viewable E-Ink displays are the norm across models.
Storefront: Sony Reader Store
Flagship model: Sony Reader: Daily Edition
Supported file formats: TXT, PDF, ePUB, BBeB Book, RTF, DOC
Hidden perk: Protected PDF and ePUB allows users to check out e-books from participating libraries.
Yes, we know the iPad is a tablet, not a dedicated eReader, but it is still a viable option for reading books. On top of launching an iTunes-esque bookstore, Apple has lent the iPad its UI razzle-dazzle, making for one of the most polished e-reading interfaces.
Flagship model: iPad 3G (32GB)
Supported file formats: ePUB, PDF
Hidden perk: iBooks comes with a free copy of Winnie-the-Pooh.
Like the rest of the gadget world, e-readers are in the midst of their own format war. Luckily, it is less contentious than most. While some devices support proprietary and DRM-locked file formats (like Amazon’s AZW for the Kindle), almost all readers also embrace standards like plain text (TXT), Adobe’s portable document format (PDF) and HTML.
Unfortunately, the most popular e-book reader, the Kindle, does not support the most ubiquitous e-book format, EPUB. Almost every other e-reader supports this open standard, but Amazon has balked, preferring to push its own format —, which, of course, no other e-book reader can utilize.
Before deciding on a reader, it is worth exploring its supported formats and the preferences of its associated storefront. After all, spending an arm and a leg on a virtual library you cannot read is pointless.
Connectivity of the 3G variety is the “power door lock” of e-readers. Adding the feature increases the price, but the no-frills day-to-day convenience makes up for it. Being able to browse and download titles sans computer and without a Wi-Fi hotspot grants you true mobility, and the pairing of high-speed throughput with relatively small file transfers means instant gratification. Even the monthly bill has been erased from the equation, as most 3G-ready readers on today’s market include lifetime connectivity in the purchase price.
However, it is worthwhile to consider the reliability of the wireless provider chained to your e-reader of choice. If you are an AT&T subscriber who is experiencing service problems, you are likely to see similar performance in your AT&T 3G-powered Kindle. Remember, wireless connectivity has its share of quirks.
MP3 capabilities usually feel extraneous in anything short of an iPod. However, the feature can add a great deal of value to an e-reader. On top of e-versions of your favourite books, an MP3-capable device can also download audiobooks, or offer old-fashioned music playback. Though this is the norm in high-end hybrid devices like the iPad and Nook Color (which do full-fledged video playback), even modest readers from Sony and Amazon sport some kind of support.
Bookmarks and Annotation
Annotation and reference chops are standard on e-readers, but they are worth exploring nevertheless. If your reader is likely to be used in an academic or professional setting, then being able to highlight, save and annotate passages is incredibly useful. The trend of baking in onboard reference materials like dictionaries has caught on, as well (though they are unlikely to make “Jabberwocky” more decipherable). Each reader handles these tasks and tools in a slightly different fashion, so if your goal is critical reading, be sure to do your homework.
E-Ink vs. LCD
It is not a battle of “peanut butter vs. chocolate” proportions, but the e-reader community is definitely opinionated about the superiority of one tech over another. Here is a quick rundown:
E Ink: This display tech relies on millions of positively and negatively charged microcapsules. Switching the polarity effectively shifts their positions, producing non-backlit, grayscale images and text (think: Etch-A-Sketch). The lack of backlighting is reported to be easier on the eyes, though problematic for night reading. It is extremely low on power consumption, since it draws power only when changing the screen.
LCD: This tech in e-readers is just like on your smartphone or monitor. It’s color, high-contrast, and typically sports much better resolution than E-Ink. It comes with its share of setbacks too. Powering all that sweetness is incredibly taxing in terms of battery life, and long periods of staring at the (constantly flickering) backlight has been known to cause eye strain.
Though we have our preferences (E Ink for novels, LCD for periodicals), we can’t speak for everyone. Our advice is to get your hands (and eyes!) on each type of display, and get a feel for what is most comfortable for you.
Original contribution by Terrence Russell and can be found here: http://is.gd/iEJC5
Samsung’s 7-inch tablet isn’t “dead on arrival” after all. In fact, Samsung has sold more than a million of them in less than two months.
Released in mid-October, the Galaxy Tab is the first serious contender to Apple’s iPad. It sports a 7-inch touchscreen and runs a modified version of Google’s Android operating system.
“I can confirm 1M Galaxy Tabs sold globally,” a Samsung spokeswoman said in an e-mail statement.
Holy moley. That’s not too far away from the iPad, which sold 1 million units in just 28 days. And it’s a number that should have Steve Jobs eating his hat after he ruthlessly derided 7-inch tablets during an earnings call.
“Seven-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad,” Jobs said. “These are among the reasons that the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival.”
So much for that.
The Galaxy Tab’s hot sales show that the tablet category has plenty of room for competition and growth. 2010 was truly the year the tablet became mainstream after several flops in the past, thanks to the success of the iPad.
Story by Brian X. Chen and can be found here: http://bit.ly/ibxMEN
We may get to check out Google's long-anticipated entry into the digital-book sales market before the end of the year.
Google Editions, which was announced in spring and expected to launch in summer, is expected to be available in the U.S. by the end of the month, Google spokeswoman Jeannie Hornung told CNET today. In September, Hornung talked with CNET about some of the difficulties in launching the ambitious project, saying, "The real answer is, we'll launch the service when it's ready."
Google Editions is expected to open up a new distribution channel for digital-book publishers and give Amazon and Apple a new competitor in the booming digital-book market. However, a key difference is Google's "buy anywhere, read anywhere" approach, which means customers, will purchase titles exclusively through a Web browser, instead of through an online store, as Amazon and Apple customers do. Customers will also be able to use any Internet-connected device--be it a personal computer, smartphone, or tablet computer--to access the books on Google's servers.
Google hasn't revealed who or how many partners it has in the effort. But traditional revenue-sharing models could be upset by the fact that customers wouldn't actually have their own copy of the books they purchase.
Amazon is the dominant player in the e-book field, claiming to command upward of 80 percent of the market. However, in an apparent effort to stave off defections to rival e-book sellers, Amazon recently announced plans to give newspaper and magazine publishers a greater share of the revenue it collects.
Google is no stranger to digital books; the Internet giant announced plans in December 2004 to scan, digitize, and make searchable the collections of five of the largest libraries in the world. However, the effort quickly became embroiled in lawsuits and negotiations over copyright issues.
Post by Steven Musil. Steven is the night news editor at CNET News. Before joining CNET News in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers. Email Steven.
iPad owners have had less than a week with iOS 4, but a software update offering news and magazine subscriptions targeted at them could arrive in less than a month.
Daring Fireball’s John Gruber reports that Apple’s Steve Jobs will join News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch onstage at a December 9 event to announce Murdoch’s new forthcoming tablet newspaper, The Daily.
According to Gruber’s sources, The Daily will be an app in the App Store, but make use of new recurring subscription billing on users’ iTunes accounts, and “developers at News Corp. building the app already have preliminary documentation on the new subscription billing APIs from Apple.”
Macstories’ Federico Viticci reports further that recurring subscriptions are part of a new version of iOS — iOS 4.3 — with a scheduled release date of December 13.
According to Viticci’s sources, iOS 4.3 wasn’t intended to be released so quickly after 4.2.1, which was originally internally slated for an early November release. It’s possible that 4.2.1’s later official release might also push back the release of 4.3. But with Apple playing such a large role in The Daily, both companies may stick with mid-December announcement and releases, after all.
Subscription-based recurring billing would likely increase the number of paid magazine, newspaper, TV, video and other media applications on iTunes. Really, any application that depends on continuous content or service delivery could introduce a subscription model: online gaming, data backup, GPS, office applications and more. Many subscription-based services already have iOS apps, but have to establish accounts and recurring billing separately from iTunes.
Another technical challenge posed by subscriptions that could require an OS update is automatic background content delivery. If you’re being billed every week for a newspaper or magazine, you shouldn’t have to go through a long, complicated routine just to download a new issue.
A final open question: How much customer information will Apple and app/content makers share with each other about their subscribers? This data has value, too — as does customers’ privacy.
Image by Apple.
Post by Tim Carmody of Wired and can be found here:
In 2002, sales of e-books were at a paltry $7 million. Consumers had few convenient ways to read them. Sony's lackluster e-reader and chunky LCD devices like the Rocketbook were the only games in town. The Kindle and Nook were a distant vision for Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the iPad was but a dream in Steve Jobs's mind.
Fast forward to 2010: e-books are set to pass sales of $1 billion.
According to a report released today by Forrester Research, U.S. sales of digital books have rocketed 220% from last year's total of $301 million, bolstered by huge increases of e-readers to 10.3 million, up from 3.7 million in 2009. What's more, Forrester estimates e-book sales will triple by 2015, and that more than 29 million e-readers will have been sold.
With such positive signs for the industry, it's no wonder booksellers and publishers are racing into the digital age. Print books still make up the vast majority of the industry's revenues--around $23 billion in 2009. But that number is in decline, whereas e-book sales have jumped by double- and triple-digit percentage points every year since 2002.
Amazon made its Kindle the centerpiece of its business, and it paid off. Forrester says 50% of e-books in the past month were purchased through the Kindle store. Now Barnes & Noble hopes the Nook will revive its profits. The company recently released the Nook Color, and has dropped large hints that it is considering dramatically changing its business model to take "advantage of compelling digital opportunities."
Indeed, e-books still have tremendous room for growth. According to Forrester, just 7% of online adults in the U.S. who read books read e-books. That figure is expected to double in 2011.
Article by Austin Carr of FastCompany and can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2dvz9vd
The Apple iPad is the definitive leader in the tablet market, clobbering the competition with 95.5 percent of the 4.4 million tablets sold this past summer, according to a study from Strategy Analytics. Android tablets, by comparison, made up just 2.3 percent of the market. 95.5%: Not even Microsoft Windows in its heyday had that kind of market dominance. Can the competition ever catch up with Apple?
Apple will maintain the lead in the near future, says Neil Mawston, author of the Strategy Analytics study. However, there is growth available for companies--Samsung, LG, HP, and Dell --all of which are entering the market in the next couple of quarters. "In terms of becoming the number one player in hardware, Apple will hang on to that for at least the next year. They have quite a lead already," Mawston explains. "From a software perspective, Android stands a good chance of catching Apple iOS pretty quickly."
The tablet market could shake out much like the smartphone market. Apple's iPhone garners a large portion of sales, but Android-based phones from a variety of vendors make up the majority of handsets. Nevertheless, Apple is still the profit leader in the smartphone space, thanks to its larger margins on each iPhone sold -- and the same is likely to be true of the iPad.
Not all hope is lost for other companies angling to overtake Apple's hardware dominance. "If a global player with wider distribution networks ramps up volume--Samsung, Nokia is an outside bet, maybe Dell, maybe HP--they might be able to compete fairly well," Mawston says. If someone comes along with an improved user interface (i.e. a touchscreen combined with a hard keyboard) at a lower price than the iPad, they might have a chance. (Then again, a third party iPad keyboard-case like the Toccata could help Apple keep its lead).
We have now come to the end of our republishing program with this blog post. Published in June of this year, this piece discusses how publishers want a universal eBook standard. What do you think? Your comments would be most welcome, and we look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy.
Original publication can be read here: http://bit.ly/cPgssL
NEW YORK (Reuters) — Giants and upstarts of publishing gathered at the annual BookExpo America here last week agreed e-books will transform the business but believe the big change will come when there is a standard format across which all e-books can be published and shared.
The industry has been going through a tumultuous period as Apple and Amazon duke it out for dominance in the nascent market for electronic books.Both want their devices — the iPad and the Kindle — to be the one consumers use to read e-books, and each wants to be the biggest virtual store were such content is sold.
For Michael Serbinis, chief executive of Kobo, a company that allows users to buy e-books and read them on most devices, that battle is a distraction to the real changes coming.
“Today you can buy a book at Barnes and Noble and you can buy a book at Walmart and you don’t have to keep them in separate rooms in your house,” he said. “You buy a book from Apple and Amazon and you have got to keep it tied up with your Apple universe or your Kindle universe.”
Ultimately, consumers want freedom, said David Shanks, chief executive of leading publisher Penguin Group USA.
“Our fondest wish is that all the devices become agnostic so that there isn’t proprietary formats and you can read wherever you want to read,” Shanks told Reuters. “First we have to get a standard that everybody embraces.” The issue, he said, is the fear of piracy and how to set a common digital rights management system to thwart it.
The battle over technology formats is a familiar one. A century ago, Edison and Victor made records that could not be played on each other’s players. There was the Betamax/VHS videotape struggle and more recently Blu-ray beat out HD DVD.
BookExpo showed traditional books are alive and well. There was buzz for the upcoming book from news parody king Jon Stewart and raucous Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richard’s memoirs as well as a book on home design by Barbra Streisand. And there was evidence of change coming in the age of e-books, although the new format was displayed only in one small corner of the sprawling Javits Center convention halls.
Among the digital companies here were Sideways, which helps authors and publishers transform text into multimedia content, adding video, pictures and features such as Twitter feeds.
Another company, Ripple, allows adults to buy children’s e-books and record their voices reading them. And there were gadgets such as the enTourage eDGe — a twin-screened device which opens like a book to reveal an eReader on one side and a NetBook on the other.
Eileen Gittins of Blurb, which helps authors and companies self-publish, predicts e-books will make up half of all sales in five years. In 2009, the global publishing business, including print and digital, was worth $71 billion, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
“We’re seeing now in book publishing what had happened previously in the music publishing industry. And that is, a massive disruption of the business model,” she told Reuters.
The problem is that the cost of printing is a minor cost of publishing whereas developing work with an author and marketing it consume the lion’s share of costs.
That means, she said, that the book industry will become more like the movie business. “The book publishing industry is becoming more blockbuster focused,” she said.
Susan Petersen Kennedy, president of Penguin Group USA, said publishers will not make the same mistakes as the music industry, which had an epic struggle over electronic distribution and piracy and lost huge market share. “It’s always treated as if the publishers are the Luddites,” she told Reuters in an interview. “The devices have not caught up with the content. Contrary to popular opinion, the book is so far more flexible.”
Serbinis says the industry will see dramatic change. He predicted consolidation among publishers and said tablet computers will be common. He expects readers to eventually be able to lend e-books to each other.
And books won’t just be for bookstores any more as new distribution channels from mobile phone companies to gaming companies join the party, he said. “It won’t only be the bookstores that have gone digital,” he said.
Photo: Men dress as the iPad and Kindle in effort to promote their company that recycles old electronics during the April 3, 2010, release of the iPad at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue.
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