Saturday, October 6, 2012

Apple improving 3D Flyover visuals in iOS 6 Maps

This week Apple began quietly enhancing the 3D Flyover feature of its new iOS 6 Maps application, giving users updated images with more accurate recreations.
Flyover 1

Left, the old view of the Brooklyn Bridge in iOS 6 Maps. Right, an updated render.

In one example highlighted to AppleInsider by reader Sal, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City is now accurately rendered in three dimensions. Previously, the bridge shown in a distorted fashion.

The Flyover improvements were not immediately available to all users, as some devices were still shown the older data. For example, one reader said updated images were appearing on their iPhone, but not their iPad.

The behind-the-scenes improvements being made by Apple come after its new mapping application in iOS 6 has received considerable criticism for being inferior to Google Maps, which previously provided mapping data for Apple's iOS devices.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook even publicly apologized to customers for the quality of the Maps application in iOS 6 in a statement issued last month. He also vowed that the company was "doing everything we can to make Maps better."

Flyover 2

Top, the Brooklyn Bridge was previously distorted in iOS 6 Maps. Bottom, it has been updated.

3D Flyovers are one of the hallmark features of Apple's iOS 6 Maps, combining overhead images with three-dimensional geometry to allow users to view and interact with major cities in new and unique ways. But the 3D mapping data also has considerable flaws that led to distorted views of major landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Hoover Dam and other sites.

As Apple has caught flak for iOS 6 Maps, Google has not sat by idly. The company recently introduced new satellite imagery taken at a 45-degree angle to better compete with Flyover, while Google also made its popular Street View feature available in the Safari Web browser on iPhone and iPad.

Google is also said to be working on a standalone Google Maps application that would be made available for download in the iOS App Store. However, that software is not expected to arrive until later this year at the earliest.

Apple extends free iCloud storage to MobileMe users for extra year

Apple on Friday sent out emails to former MobileMe members, informing them that their previous subscription-based allotment of storage will continue until September 30, 2013.
iCloud Storage Extension

The company also created a support page describing the reasoning behind the extension, and explaining how much storage each former MobileMe subscriber will be allotted.

From Apple's Support Pages document:
As a thank you to our former MobileMe members who moved to iCloud, we have extended the complimentary storage upgrade they received until September 30, 2013. This extension applies to accounts moved to iCloud between October 12th, 2011 and August 1st, 2012.

The extension will reflect whatever storage tier former MobileMe members subscribed to before switching to iCloud, meaning that for the next year users will be given a complimentary 10GB, 20GB or 50GB of storage on top of the 5GB of free space offered with iCloud. Apple notes that any iCloud upgrades purchased going forward will replace the complimentary storage plan, meaning the cancellation of said upgrade will bump users back down to the standard 5GB of free storage, not the amount reflected in the complimentary extension.

Initially offered to paying MobileMe customers during the transition to iCloud, the initial extension was meant to allow subscribers of the erstwhile service enough time to transfer documents off the cloud, as well as to acclimate those users to the smaller storage limit. Currently, iCloud offers users 5GB of free space to sync device data, music and other files to Apple's servers.

Apple originally scheduled the extended MobileMe storage offer to end on Sept. 30, 2012, though when that day arrived last week, what was thought to be a glitch in the system allotted 25GB of free storage to both iCloud and MobileMe members until the year 2050.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Apple Inc (AAPL); iOS 6′s New App Passbook Continues To Gather Traction

It might seem a long time ago that Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) changed the music industry forever but for those who remember what it was like to have to pay for a full album that had some songs you would never listen to more than once, it doesn’t seem that far from human memory. The generations to come will always appreciate the state the Music industry is in today and a lot is owed to Apple Inc (AAPL) for it. Apple Inc, on the other hand, is satisfied with changing just one industry; its iconic products have had a huge impact on just about every industry there is with JC Penny mimicking the Apple Store experience. It now looks like it is now headed for the credit card industry.
Apple Inc passbook AppPassbook which was introduced in Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iOS 6 and came pre-loaded with a few goodies. American Express was one of the first credit card companies to start supporting it and Starbucks soon followed (though support is currently limited to the US). And it’s not done yet; Passbook is continuing to expand to beyond just boarding passes. MacDonalds has added support for the app in France, American Airline, AirBnB and Eventbrite are also available and Kiip seems to be on its way too.

At this point, it is safe to say that while Maps in iOS 6 might have distracted a lot of people from what’s good about the new OS, Passbook  is an app that is going to make a lot of people realize that Apple Inc (AAPL) has indeed knocked another one out of the park. At the rate new services are adding support for Passbook, it shouldn’t be long before someone thinks up of a secondary market around the app. For those that thought it was just good enough for coupons, boarding passes and movie tickets, a hot cup of Starbucks’ coffee will tell you otherwise once you’ve paid for it using your phone.

Consumer Reports lab tests confirm Apple iPhone 5 is a winner

The Apple iPhone 5 is among the best smart phones in our Ratings and the best iPhone yet, our completed tests confirm. They also conclude that despite the widespread criticism it has received, Apple's new Maps app, available on the iPhone 5 and other iPhones, is competent enough, even if it falls short of what's available for free on many other phones.
A larger, 4-inch display; a thinner and lighter profile; 4G LTE access; and a host of innovative features all helped the iPhone 5 move up in the ranks, surpassing not only the previous iPhone 4S but also a number of other new Android-based smart phones.

The iPhone 5 also improved on areas that the iPhone 4S did well, boosting the range of functions controlled by its Siri voice assistant, and making the already top-notch iPhone camera even better.
In fact, excluding the phenomenal 41-megapixel camera we tested on the Nokia 808, the iPhone 5's 8-megapixel camera is the best we've seen on a smart phone. In the full battery of tests we give to smart-phone cameras, the iPhone 5's camera proved capable of capturing beautifully sharp and vibrant photos.

Our tests also found low-light performance and shutter speed to be on a par with the better smart-phone cameras. However, contrary to Apple's claims, our tests did not find the iPhone 5's low-light and flash shots to be notably better than those from the iPhone 4S.
Apple's latest operating system, iOS 6 gave iPhone users a free feature long enjoyed by Android-phone users: GPS navigation with spoken turn-by-turn directions and automatic re-routing. The new Apple Maps app has drawn much criticism, and our initial impressions concluded that it fell short of the best third-party navigation apps.

Now that our auto experts have completed their tests, including some carried out some days after the launch, they describe the app as relatively streamlined, and concluded that it generally provides clear guidance, including voice and on-screen directions. However, they did find that it lacks the details, traffic data, and customization options offered by the free Google navigation app found on Android phones.

They also more fully tested the Flyover feature, which lets you view the structures and streets of several major cities in 3D from multiple angles. Despite instances of "melting" buildings, bridges, and other landmarks in 3D mode, more often than not, our testers found Flyover delivered rather intriguing 3D representations that bring a map to life.

Steve Jobs

Like many of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about Steve Jobs the last few days — thinking about the man and his legacy. I’ve been having some trouble even understanding the way I feel, let alone being able to put it into words. Lots of folks have asked me what I think, and have been surprised that I haven’t tweeted or blogged about it yet. So here’s a first shot.
I’m finding my feelings to be pretty complex, which I guess isn’t too surprising given who he was. But for a man I’ve never met, I’m a little surprised about how much of my thinking he’s affected, and how many competing feelings I’ve got.
But some of them are pretty simple.

As a designer, I think it’s impossible to feel anything but pure, unadulterated joy that Steve existed at all. And I really mean that: thank god for him, he changed so much. He wasn’t the first to care about design in technology, and he won’t be the last, but he moved things so much.
He made beautiful software and hardware like nobody had ever seen before. Crucially, he built tools that helped — or completely enabled, really — creatives make their own beautiful work that enriched the world. He completely and utterly validated the view that design could be immensely valuable economically, not just culturally.
Mostly he made it acceptable — desirable! — to believe in and practice great, human-centered design in our work and lives. What a gift.

As a people manager and leader, I really struggled with how to think about him. The stories of how brutal he could be on the people around him — employees, competitors, and everyone else — are legion, and they’re not apocryphal. He could be deeply dehumanizing and belittling to the people around him. Like a lot of people of great vision, which he surely was, he did it all in the name of greatness, of perfection — but I have enough close friends who have been in the line of Jobs’ fire to know how personally destructive it could be, and as a manager I have a hard time with it.
On the other hand, he was an unbelievable leader and motivator.
It turns out that I worked at Apple ATG (Advanced Technology Group) in 1994/5 when I was a grad student at Stanford, and then again for all of 1997, when I moved back here from Trilogy.
I remember being at a talk he gave shortly after returning in 1997 as Interim CEO. A bunch of us employees (I was at ATG at the time) were in Town Hall in Building 4 at Infinite Loop to hear him, and he was fired up. Talked a lot about how Apple was going to completely turn things around and become great.

It was a tough time at Apple — we were trading below book value on the market — our enterprise value was actually less than our cash on hand. And the rumors were everywhere that we were going to be acquired by Sun. Someone in the audience asked him about Michael Dell’s suggestion in the press a few days previous that Apple should just shut down and return the cash to shareholders, and as I recall, Steve’s response was: “Fuck Michael Dell.” Good god, what a message from a CEO! He followed it up by admitting that the stock price was terrible (it was under $10, I think — pretty sure it was under $2 split-adjusted), and that what they were going to do was reissue everyone’s options on the low price, but with a new 3 year vest. He said, explicitly: “If you want to make Apple great again, let’s get going. If not, get the hell out.” I think it’s not an overstatement to say that just about everyone in the room loved him at that point, would have followed him off a cliff if that’s where he led.

He was also a gifted, gifted operator. One of the struggles we were going through when he came back was that Apple was about the leakiest organization in history — it had gotten so bad that people were cavalier about it. In the face of all those leaks, I remember the first all company e-mail that Steve sent around after becoming Interim CEO again — he talked in it about how Apple would release a few things in the coming week, and a desire to tighten up communications so that employees would know more about what was going on — and how that required more respect for confidentiality. That mail was sent on a Thursday; I remember all of us getting to work on Monday morning and reading mail from Fred Anderson, our then-CFO, who said basically: “Steve sent mail last week, he told you not to leak, we were tracking everyone’s mail, and 4 people sent the details to outsiders. They’ve all been terminated and are no longer with the company.”

Well. If it wasn’t clear before that the Amelio/Spindler/Sculley days of Apple were over, it was crystal clear then, and good riddance.
As a leader of people, you have to respect how much he (and more importantly, his teams) accomplished. But I struggle with some of the ways that he led, and how they affected good people.
I’m a little uncomfortable with the outpouring of sentiment about people who want to be like Steve. There’s a sort of beatification going on that I think misses the point. He was never a nostalgic man at all, and I can’t help but feel like he would think this posthumous attention was, in a lot of ways, a waste — seems like he’d have wanted people to get back to inventing.
On Twitter yesterday Naval nailed it, as he often does: “I never met my greatest mentor. I wanted so much to be like him. But, his message was the opposite. Be yourself, with passionate intensity.”
That’s it, I think — that’s the biggest message from Jobs’ life. Don’t try to be like Steve. Don’t try to be like anyone.
Be yourself and work as hard as you can to bring wonderful things into the world. Figure out how you want to contribute and do that, in your own way, on your own terms, as hard as you can, as much as you can, as long as you can.
His most lasting message, I hope, won’t be about technology or management or media or communications or even design. The work he did in those areas certainly matters and will continue to — impossible to ignore it.

Still, I think it’s not the main thing, the essential thing.
I hope the message that people really take, really internalize is that being yourself, as hard as you can, is the way to have important and lasting impact on our world. That might be in the context of technology. It might be in the context of technology, or the arts, or sports, or government, or social justice — or even in the context of your family and close friends.
It almost doesn’t matter. The thing that matters most is to figure out what’s important to you, what’s core to you, and do that. Be that. And do it as well as you possibly can, every single day.

Apple Posts A Video Remembering Steve Jobs And Highlighting His Greatest Achievements

Apple has posted a video on its homepage today , with footage of Steve Jobs over the years speaking at keynotes and Apple events, showing images of him and the products he created that changed the way we think about and use computers and mobile devices. The video begins with the famous Wayne Gretzky quote that pretty much defines Jobs’ career: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Steve Jobs passed away October 5, 2011, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. His life was maybe the ultimate comeback story, having founded Apple in 1976, only to be pushed out in 1985, and then to return to the company when it was in serious trouble in 1997 to lead it to where it is today.
A message from Apple CEO Tim Cook follows the video, marking the occasion and discussing Steve and what he’s meant, and will continue to mean for the company. Here’s the letter in full:
A message from Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO
Steve’s passing one year ago today was a sad and difficult time for all of us. I hope that today everyone will reflect on his extraordinary life and the many ways he made the world a better place.
One of the greatest gifts Steve gave to the world is Apple. No company has ever inspired such creativity or set such high standards for itself. Our values originated from Steve and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple. We share the great privilege and responsibility of carrying his legacy into the future.
I’m incredibly proud of the work we are doing, delivering products that our customers love and dreaming up new ones that will delight them down the road. It’s a wonderful tribute to Steve’s memory and everything he stood for.

Xperia Tablet S sales suspended due to manufacturing issues

Sony made a tough decision to suspend the Xperia Tablet S sales because of a manufacturing issue resulting in gaps between the screen and the panel. This causes problems with the splash resistance and the Tablet S will get soaked eventually.

So, instead of waiting the users to start with the complaints, Sony is pulling back all shipped slates for repairs. The users who already bought one are able to return it and get it fixed for free.

The Tablet S has been on the market for only a few weeks, so it didn’t sell that many units. Sony managed to ship about 100 000 slates to retailers, and estimates that the recall costs shouldn't have an impact on its bottom line.
According to Sony this inconvenience won’t affect the sales notably. Still there is no information when the new Tablet S stock will go on sale again.
It's good to know Sony is taking doing the right thing and taking care of customers who have been wronged.

Google Warns Thousands Of Users About Potential State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks

According to the NYTimes, tens of thousands of users have seen the following message pop up on their Gmail, Chrome browser, or Google home page: “Warning: We believe state-sponsored attackers may be attempting to compromise your account or computer.”
To be perfectly clear, this message doesn’t mean that a successful attack was made on your account. It simply means that you likely have messages in your inbox containing malicious links or attachments, that are intended to eventually capture your password and/or information.
Here’s a look at the warning. Perhaps you’ve seen it.

These messages get sent to us all the time, from all kinds of mean people on the internet, so why all the fuss from Google? Well, a manager at Google’s information security team, Mike Wiacek, told the NYT that they believe the latest round of attacks came from the Middle East, and thereabouts, among other foreign countries.

That whole “state-sponsored” bit escalates the matter to warning-worthy.
Essentially, be careful when opening suspicious messages and never click on a link or attachment from an untrusted source. This should keep you relatively safe. You can also head over to the Gmail Security Checklist page, and make sure you have crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s. A trip to Google’s general internet security page wouldn’t hurt either.
Another question you may be tossing around in the old noggin is how Google knows these are state-sponsored attacks.

In short, Google won’t tell us, as it’s a matter of security. The more details they give on their analysis, the less protection they (and we) have against future attacks. But VP of security engineering at Google Eric Grosse did say that “our detailed analysis—as well as victim reports—strongly suggest the involvement of states or groups that are state-sponsored.”

Google Drive for Android gets a massive update, bug fixes for Wallet and Play Music

Google has released updates for three of its Android apps today – Drive, Wallet and Play Music. And while Wallet and Music got nothing but bug fixes, Google Drive was treated to a really big update with tons of new features.

Drive for Andoird now sports some folder management tools, allowing you to filter folder contents by file type, create folders as well as upload and move files around them.
The Document Editor now supports basic tables as well as richer Google Presentations viewing experience. The editor also got pinch to zoom, which many users will find handy. It allows you to change fonts as well as create, reply and resolve comments.

Pinned content in Google Drive is important, so it now can be auto-synced over 3G network. There’s also a newly added option to resume interrupted uploads. The app enables file printing using the Google Cloud Print service, too.

Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) Patents Headphones That Can Switch To Bluetooth

Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced new headphones this past September and the new ‘earpods’ were well received. Not only do the headphones provide better sound, but the sound quality and overall comfort provided by the old ones was more than lacking. The old headphones leaked noise and fell out easily. The new earpods provide marginally better sound quality and are less likely to fall out because of their shape but Apple isn’t done yet.

A little digging around again in the USPTO and it’s come to light that Apple Inc (AAPL) has registered yet another patent and this time it’s for headphones. The patent in question is called Detachable wireless listening device and describes a device that will work both when connected by jack or through bluetooth.

The patent details that the headphones will not connect directly to the device; rather, there will be an intermediary device (something like an adapter) that will connect the two. The point is to minimize the chances of a snag on the 3.5mm cord that is likely to occur when you’re out jogging or even on the treadmill and could likely result in your device being damaged. When disconnected, the headphones will switch to playing music via bluetooth.

A similar concept can be found in the MegaSafe adapter and has proved effective so far. What remains to be seen is just how Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) will design the end product and if it ever sees the light of day (not all patents necessarily do), what it will cost. The concept, if executed to perfection will be enough to convince Apple Inc (AAPL) fans to buy it.

Steve Jobs building NeXT

Steve Jobs in 1987, as he left Apple and set out to create his next great computer empire, NeXT. A revealing portrait of the man millions would later come to recognize as the most influential mind of the 21st centuty.

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

After the iPhone 5 leak mega-saga—at this point you can call these renders sneak previews—the black anodized aluminum iPad mini seems like a done deal.

Which is why Gizmodo reader Martin Hajek—who made those awesome iPhone 5 renders that looked just like the real thing—has rendered these images. The more I look at the black iPad Mini, the more I like it.
The white one looks cool too... but then I saw the color model. I want that one.
It would be a nice surprise for the rumored imminent presentation of the new 7.85-inch model: iPad Minis with anodized aluminum backs in different colors, just like the iPod touch.
It's pure speculation, but it kind of makes sense. The color backs would make the cheaper iPad mini quite different from the Kindle Fires and the rest of mini-tablets of this world. It's playful and aligns with the iPod touch theme. And it would certainly help Apple sell gazillions of them this holiday season.

This blue model looks pretty sweet, although I would prefer mine in red.

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

But, most probably, the black one will be the top seller.

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

Another shot of the black model.

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

A completely white model, with the silver polished Apple logo, looks pretty too.

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

Seems like 2001: A Space Odyssey prop.

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

Although perhaps the white model will have just a plain anodized aluminum back, like the iPhone 5 and this render.

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

It so, it could look quite similar to the good old JesusPhone, the first generation iPhone.

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

Here's the entire white family, so you can compare the screen sizes. The iPad mini doesn't look that small, does it?

The iPad Mini Could Look Absolutely Stunning

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Steve Jobs rare footage conducting a presentation on 1980

Apple's 'shake to print' concept would add custom printing options to iOS devices

A pair of new patent filings reveal a concept from Apple that would allow users to select custom settings for printing by moving or interacting with an iPhone or iPad in unique ways.

The filings discovered by AppleInsider were published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They are entitled Systems and Methods for Defining Print Settings Using Device Movements, and Systems and Methods for Defining Print Settings Using an Input Interface.

In one example provided in the applications, a user could shake their iPhone back and forth to enable a print settings mode. In another implementation, a user could shake their iPad to cancel a print job.

Apple already has a system-wide "Shake to Undo" feature in iOS that uses a device's built-in accelerometer. The company also offers "Shake to Shuffle" when playing music.

With Apple's new concept, users could also change settings — such as print orientation — by rotating or moving an iOS device. For example, viewing a photo in portrait mode could then send the picture to a printer with the same layout.


The patent application also goes beyond motion and orientation of the device, and presents new ways that users could interact with an iPad to select printer settings. One illustration shows how users could select a range of pages to print from a document, while a template selector would show a user how their content would appear on various paper sizes.

When viewing multiple pages of a document at once on a touchscreen device, a user could also use their finger to draw across the pages and signify an order in which the pages should be printed.

The applications, made public this week, were first filed with the USPTO in March of 2011. The proposed inventions are credited to Howard A. Miller, David Gelphman, and Richard Blanchard Jr.

Apple Inc (AAPL) Underestimated its Mapping App, Comparison Gives Shocking Results

Maps given by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) may not always get you where you want to go, but it will reportedly use less data than Google Maps in the process.
Onavo, app-building company claimed in a blog post that regardless of users’ dissatisfied remarks regarding the Cupertino’s Apple INc (AAPL) iOS 6 Maps offering, the app is in fact better for iPhone holders than opponent services like Google Maps.
Onavo’s data team put the Mapping app running on latest operating devices side by side to that of the Google-operated iOS 5 Maps app. And they got surprising results that Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) Maps is up to five times more “data-efficient” than archival Google Maps.
In different methods in both apps were assessed, consisting of searching for many US cities, addresses, and airports, along with zooming in and out to put definite locations, in both standard map view and satellite view.

According to Onavo, on Google Maps, , the average data loaded from the cell network for every step was 1.3MB, while Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) Maps came to 271KB , almost 80 per cent less data, as per reported by the firm. Some processes, like zooming to a specific location, give the benefit to Apple.
Although, the problem with Onavo’s testing, as per reported by PCMag’s Jamie Lendino, resides in the fact that the firm was evaluating a newer version of Apple Inc (AAPL) Maps to an older version of Google Maps.

Data loading does not mean much in a single-shot location search, but in its place becomes significant while driving, or when constantly downloading data, at which point, Lendino stated, the judgment would want to take in Android’s Google Maps Navigation service, which make use of voice commands. Google Maps never backed voice for iOS, he stated, which is why Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) Maps even survives.

Facebook announces over 1 billion of us served... daily

Facebook announces over 1 billion served... daily
Mark Zuckerberg took to his very own college-grown platform this morning to announce a mind-dwarfing milestone -- over 1 billion people now actively use Facebook every month.
If you're reading this: thank you for giving me and my little team the honor of serving you.
Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life.
I am committed to working every day to make Facebook better for you, and hopefully together one day we will be able to connect the rest of the world too.
For those keeping score, that's 1/7 of the world's human population. That's us, our mothers, fathers, and grandparents, our children and grandchildren, our friends and lovers and neighbors and classmates and colleagues past, present, and future, and those annoying jerks who keep adding us to groups and inviting all to events. It's unprecedented.
Facebook hasn't achieved this staggering user base without controversy or conflict, without serious privacy concerns and savvy market moves. They haven't achieved it by being altruistic or sacrificing their for-profit, corporate nature for some higher social purpose. But they've achieved it.
For many people, Facebook is the web, and increasingly, Facebook is mobile. It's where we upload our photos. It's how we send our messages. It's how we plan our events. It's how we game. It's how we shield ourselves from relatives and acquaintances who might otherwise actually think about picking up the phone and asking us how we're doing.
Some of us have killed our accounts. Some of us have gone back. Some have rinsed and repeated that cycle several times. Some of us have found love or civic voice or long lost family. Some of us have been caught playing PayolaVille while in class, or at work, or while covering a major event on television. Some of us have like-minded individuals for chat and comfort and hope, or wrong-minded individuals to rally against. Some of us have tapped on profile pics only to discover, repeatedly, that people look hotter at really small pixel sizes.

Mapping a Path Out of Steve Jobs's Shadow

Like all companies, Apple (AAPL) is not immune to bungling a new product, though its apologies haven’t always seemed heartfelt. After slashing the price of the first iPhone by $200 only a few months following its debut in 2007, Apple tried to placate enraged early adopters with a $100 rebate that they could only spend on Apple products. When the iPhone 4 was introduced with a flawed antenna design in 2010, it took 39 days of complaints for Steve Jobs to hold a press conference—and to offer dissatisfied users a free rubber case.

Considering that history, the reaction of new Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook to the outcry over the balky Maps application on the new iPhone 5 was positively penitent. Only one week after customers got their hands on the highly anticipated device, Cook issued a press release acknowledging the mapping service’s obvious flaws—such as turning much of the east side of Portland, Ore., into a nature park. He also took the unusual step of pointing users to alternatives from rivals such as Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG). “We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers, and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better,” Cook said in a letter to customers posted on Sept. 28 on Apple’s website.

Since Jobs’s death one year ago, many Apple observers have predicted the company would suffer from the loss of his internal authority and intuition about product design and features. Apple is undoubtedly a different company under Tim Cook. It misses Jobs’s conspicuous creativity and entrepreneurial fervor, but it’s gaining in maturity, rationality, and, yes, value.
Over the past year, Cook has visited Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partner Foxconn (2038:HK) to advocate for better pay and safer working conditions, reversed a decision to pull its products from an environmental certification program, and issued shareholders a dividend that Jobs stubbornly resisted for years. Less visibly, Cook has managed the inevitable internal strife as Apple’s executives tried to fill the leadership vacuum. And he’s got the operations side of Apple working better than ever, lining up the company’s suppliers to support the unprecedented scale of the iPhone 5 launch, which is on sale in nearly 30 countries and on track to be available in 100 by the end of 2012.
“The results speak for themselves,” says Avadis Tevanian, Apple’s former senior vice president of software engineering. “I’ve seen how the sausage factory works, and operationally it’s just phenomenal. Has there ever been a product anywhere that hit these kinds of volumes in so short a time?”

Apple stock is up 75 percent since Jobs’s death, driving its market capitalization past $600 billion and making it the most valuable company on the planet. Revenue, earnings, and margins have all expanded as well, and the company continues to hit its product release dates with the consistency of a metronome. Much about the company’s direction and even its products still reflects Jobs’s decisions and design preferences—the iPhone 5 was the last model to receive detailed input from Jobs, say two people familiar with its development. The company has yet to release any product Jobs didn’t personally bless. But Cook has executed Jobs’s plan even better than expected. “Tim has seemingly pulled off what many people doubted he could, which is to sustain and add to Apple’s incredible momentum,” says Michael Useem, director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School.

Interviews with more than two dozen current and former Apple executives, employees, and partners reveal an internal mood largely characterized by a singular focus on proving to the world that Apple can still execute. There’s also more office politics and some concern that Jobs’s departure and the arrival of thousands of new employees will dilute the culture. Nevertheless, the company is happier and even somewhat more transparent than it was during Jobs’s tenure, these insiders say. There are fewer frantic calls at midnight, and there’s less implicit pressure on engineers to cut short or cancel vacations in the heat of product development cycles.
No one would say the post-Steve Jobs Apple is better off. But to a surprising degree, it’s doing fine without him.

On the day Jobs died, employees numbly walked outside to watch an American flag lowered to half-mast—and then returned to work. Partners who were in town to meet with the company were astonished to learn that appointments would take place as scheduled. “That’s what Steve would have wanted,” an Apple manager explained to Chuck Goldman, the founder of software developer Apperian, who was there that day. Two weeks later, Cook organized a memorial for employees on Apple’s Cupertino (Calif.) campus. Coldplay and Norah Jones—among Jobs’s favorite artists—performed before two-story-high banners portraying the founder. In a speech, Cook told employees that Jobs’s passing was “the saddest moment” in his life. He also said that Jobs had instructed the company not to be burdened worrying about how he would have handled particular decisions. That line has become almost a mantra inside Apple, according to several employees.

Cook was well-prepared for the succession. He had run manufacturing, logistics, customer support, and sales for years, and stepped in three times as interim CEO during Jobs’s medical leaves. Colleagues say the Alabama-bred Cook has a frank style and detailed knowledge of even minute operational details. Unlike Jobs, he prefers to withhold his opinion until the end of meetings so others can give him information to process. “His leadership style is quite different, both internally and externally. He’s much more open,” says Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein (AB) in New York. “I think he believes he doesn’t have all the answers, so he’s willing to listen to other people. I’m not so sure that was the case with Steve.”

After Jobs died, observers wondered whether Cook could retain his accomplished management team—most of whom are fabulously wealthy and likely exhausted from years of tireless work. Cook has managed to keep everyone, at a price. Last November, he handed out an additional round of stock options, now worth about $100 million, to his senior team. Cook never professed to be a genius at envisioning products or crafting marketing campaigns, so he’s leaned heavily on longtime colleagues such as Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS Software; Jony Ive, senior vice president of industrial design; and Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. Cook’s deference to his colleagues was on display at the iPhone 5 launch. Apple’s CEO spoke for only 11 minutes at the nearly two-hour event before ceding the stage to a succession of his lieutenants.
Getty Images(2); Bloomberg(1)
Earlier this summer, Cook did lose one key member of his team—and then nearly witnessed an insurrection in one of Apple’s most prominent divisions. On June 28, Apple announced the retirement of Bob Mansfield, the senior vice president for hardware engineering, who for more than a decade oversaw the remarkable expansion of the Macintosh line before taking on the iPhone and iPad as well. According to three people familiar with the sequence of events, several senior engineers on Mansfield’s team vociferously complained to Cook about reporting to his replacement, Dan Riccio, who they felt was unprepared for the magnitude of the role. In response, Cook approached Mansfield and offered him an exorbitant package of cash and stock worth around $2 million a month to stay on at Apple as an adviser and help manage the hardware engineering team.

On Aug. 27 the company took the rare step of announcing that Mansfield would stay at Apple. Jobs had hired and fired several outside managers, including Mark Papermaster, an operations executive from IBM (IBM) who later went to Cisco (CSCO). But this kind of public reversal was new to Apple. “Because of its size and a few key personalities, there’s more organizational infighting than is healthy,” says Brett Halle, a 21-year Apple veteran who left earlier this year. “It needs to be brought into check.”
Outside the company, the embarrassment over the iPhone 5 map app has prompted the obvious question: Would it have happened under Steve? It’s possible that Jobs would have nixed the app before launch, but not certain. Siri, the iPhone’s maligned voice assistant, was introduced under Jobs, though it was branded beta. Apple insiders say Jobs himself initiated the mapping project, putting mobile software chief Forstall in charge. He installed a secret team on the third floor of Building 2 on Apple’s campus to replace Google Maps on the iPhone. At the time of his death, Jobs had come to loathe Google, which he felt was copying features of the iPhone while withholding a key feature of Google Maps that allows smartphones to dictate turn-by-turn directions aloud. Jobs also discussed pulling Google search from the iPhone, but figured that customers would reject that move, according to two former Apple executives.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative response to Maps, analysts acknowledge that the company was boxed in, because maps and navigation have become such an important source of customer data and potential revenue on mobile devices. “I don’t think Apple had any choice but to make a major break and say, ‘We are going to just start from the beginning,’” says Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies. “The best thing Apple could do was take the hit now.”

The more important question is whether Cook’s pragmatism will continue to serve Apple well over the long term. Under Jobs, much of Apple’s magic came from creating product categories before anyone else and then forcing industries to cede to Apple a significant cut of their sales. It did this with music, video games, publishing, and mobile phone service, but it’s not clear what new territory remains for Apple to conquer.
The most obvious target is television. A Jony Ive-designed HDTV, packing the functionality and elegance of the Apple TV set-top box, has the potential to allow couch potatoes to renounce crowded programming guides and ugly remote controls. Yet media, cable, and satellite companies are all doggedly refusing to let Apple remake their business. And Jobs, a blunderbuss negotiator, isn’t around to break the logjam.

As the company searches for its next game-changing product, Cook has explored other ways to keep Apple growing. He’s focused on expanding the company’s reach and influence into the supply chain of components that go into iPhones and iPads. Apple plans to spend $1 billion this year researching next-generation laser-cutting technologies that can create thinner, lighter devices, up from several hundred million dollars a few years ago. The company has also funneled its $117 billion bank balance into designing its own chips, which allows Apple to customize certain features and drive down variable costs. The new iPhone carries Apple’s newest custom-designed chip, the A6. It’s likely the iPad Mini, to be introduced later this month, will run on an Apple-designed processor as well.
Apple has also deliberated over moving away from Intel (INTC) chips in the Macintosh, say two people familiar with these discussions. Such a shift would be difficult and isn’t imminent, but it would allow Apple to further distinguish its laptops and desktops from those of competitors that run Intel’s chips and Microsoft’s Windows software.

Cook’s challenges will multiply. He’ll have to keep Apple focused as its product lines inexorably expand. Jobs liked to say no to new product initiatives, and it’s not yet clear whether Cook possesses the same skilled editor’s pen. Cook will also have to placate employees who’ve benefited from the stock’s helium-boosted price and could feel tempted to leave. Many rank-and-file employees say they’re watching closely to see whether Cook has a more generous approach to compensation than Jobs, who felt the glory of working at Apple should factor into their pay.
As long as Apple is regularly setting records in market capitalization, such tensions may remain safely contained. If Apple suffers a setback—something of greater magnitude than the navigational follies of the iPhone 5—then Cook’s mettle will truly be tested. It’s been one year since Steve Jobs died, but in many ways, the Tim Cook era is only just getting started.

Facebook lets U.S. users pay to boost visibility of postings

Facebook Inc is letting users in the United States pay a fee to boost the visibility of their postings on the social network, the company's latest effort to look beyond advertisers for revenue.

The promoted-posts-for-users feature, which Facebook began offering as a test on Wednesday to a limited number of its U.S. users, ensures that a comment or photo shared by a Facebook member gets prominent billing in their friends' newsfeeds.

"When you promote a post - whether it's wedding photos, a garage sale, or big news - you bump it higher in news feed so your friends and subscribers are more likely to notice it," Facebook said in an announcement on its official blog on Wednesday.

Facebook is considering a variety of prices. The current test price in the United States is $7, according to a Facebook spokesman.

The move marks Facebook's latest effort to experiment with new ways to make money beyond advertising, which accounted for roughly 84 percent of the company's revenue in the second quarter. Facebook also takes a 30 percent cut of purchases of virtual goods by users playing Zynga's Farmville and other social games on its website.

With Facebook's revenue growth rate showing a sharp slowdown in recent quarters, many analysts and investors believe the company needs to find new ways to make money.

Last week, Facebook unveiled a feature that lets U.S. users buy and send real gifts, such as eyeglasses, pastries and gift cards to their friends. Initially available to a limited number of users in the United States, Facebook Gifts could signal the company's intent to play a bigger role in e-commerce.

Facebook's main social networking service, which has 955 million users, will remain free, said Facebook spokesman Jonathan Thaw.
"Facebook has offered paid products - virtual gifts, virtual goods in games, sponsored stories, ads - for years, and still remains free. This doesn't change that," said Thaw.
A fee for users to boost the visibility of their postings
A fee for users to boost the visibility of their postings

The paid postings will be visible on the desktop and mobile versions of the social network. Facebook will place the paid-for postings towards the top of people's newsfeeds for a limited period of time. Facebook's newsfeed typically displays content by freshness and relevance.

The promoted-posts-for-users feature was first tested in New Zealand in May, and Facebook said it has tested the service in 20 other countries since then.

Starbucks app update brings Passbook support

Falling just a few days short of making good on its promise to bring Passbook support by the end of September, Starbucks on Wednesday rolled out an update to its iOS app which allows Starbucks Card holders to store their information in the iPhone and iPod touch digital asset repository.
Starbucks Passbook

The ubiquitous coffee company was one of the few companies included in a demonstration of Passbook during the application's unveiling at Apple's worldwide developers conference in June.

It was expected that Starbucks would offer Passbook support when iOS 6 launched, but the app wasn't on the list of compatible programs initially advertised in the App Store. The company later promised to offer integration before the end of September.

With the new update, users can easily access their Starbucks Cards from Passbook, allowing easy access to the barcode-based rechargeable payment system.

The utility of the newly integrated system is questionable, however, as access to the barcode in Starbucks' own app only takes one extra step while offering the ability to refill the card's balance. Passbook does trump the coffee company's app as far as iPhone 5 compatibility is concerned, as Starbucks' app has yet to be redesigned to take advantage of the new handset's 4-inch display.

Those Starbucks card holders who haven't yet downloaded the app can do so here.

Street View for Google Maps web app goes live

Google on Thursday began to integrate Street View data into the web app version of Google Maps, bringing the feature back to iPhone 5 and iOS 6 users, however the rollout appears limited to certain locations.
Update: Most areas in U.S. and Canada now covered.

Update 2: Reports are coming in from around the globe that Street View is live in most supported areas.

The service brings back interactive 360-degree street-level photographs to iOS after Apple replaced the native Google Maps-powered Maps app with its own solution in iOS 6.

As of this writing, it seems Google hasn't completely integrated the Street View dataset into its iOS-compatible web app, as some locations supported by the full-fledged version built for desktop browsers aren't yet offered in the mobile variant.

To use the feature, an iOS 6 user can either navigate to the Google Maps
homepage and search from there, or use Safari's search built-in search function to locate a specific address or building.

In the following example, the "Flatiron Building" was entered into Safari's search bar, which yielded the address and simple line map for the Origins store located at the base of the iconic Manhattan building.

Google Maps

Source: Google

Selecting the map image brings up a satellite view of the area and the usual location marker, with barebones map controls located at the top and bottom of the window. New to this view, however, is the small stick figure at the bottom right of the screen which, when pressed, opens a new window with a stripped-down Street View interface.

Street View

While panning and scrolling operations are smooth, there is no option to zoom in on an object and the image has not been corrected for pincushion distortion. As expected, the experience is not as rich as using a desktop browser, however the image quality is high and the controls are intuitive.

Street View

Flatiron Building as seen in Google Maps Street View web app.

Street View

Same view of Flatiron Building taken from the Google Maps desktop client.

At the moment, the service is not completely stable, as returning to the search window to query additional locations sometimes causes the map to go blank. A simple closing and reopening of the window is enough to reset the webpage.

The internet search giant looks to be implementing a staggered release, starting with major metropolitan cities like New York, and it is not yet known when the service will be fully functional.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Apple scores as second best global brand in new report

The iPhone maker has snagged the No. 2 spot in Interbrand's Best Global Brands for 2012, a 129 percent leap from last year.

Interbrand's top global brands of the year.
Interbrand's top global brands of the year.
(Credit: Interbrand )
Apple is the second best brand in the world, according to market research firm Interbrand.
Among the 100 best global brands for the year, Apple came in just behind top-seated Coca-Cola. Based on specific factors, Coca-Cola scored a total brand value of $77.8 million, while Apple was given a value of $76.5 million.
In ascending to second place, Apple saw a 129 percent rise in its brand value since last year, the largest gain among all the brands on the list.

How does Interbrand choose which brands it considers best?
The research firm uses three factors: 1) the financial performance of the branded product or service; 2) the role the brand plays in influencing consumers; and 3) the strength of the brand in asking a premium price for its products or bringing in earnings for the company.
Jobs wanted customers to "feel a certain way" when using an Apple product, visiting an Apple store, or surfing to the Apple Web site, according to Interbrand. He knew that a brand "connects a business with the hearts and minds of consumers."
Apple has continued to thrive despite the absence of Jobs, thanks in part to his "smooth transfer of power" and his planning for the future, Interbrand noted. Some reports say that Jobs left plans for four years' worth of Apple products after his passing.
"The market may move on if Apple's products cease being a differentiator of class, taste, or cool, but that doesn't appear to be happening any time soon," Interbrand added.
Apple has steadily risen up the Interbrand ranks, rising to No. 24 in 2009, No. 17 in 2010, and No. 8 last year.

And what of other tech players on the list? There are quite a few.
IBM took third place behind Apple, with Google No. 4 and Microsoft No. 5. Intel was No. 8, Samsung No. 9, and Cisco No. 14. Other top tech brands included Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Nokia, Amazon, SAP, eBay, and Sony. Facebook found itself on the list for the first time, coming in at No. 69.

Google Maps to insert Street View into mobile Web app

Street View on Google's Android map app.
(Credit: Google )
In the midst of Apple's iOS 6 map debacle, Google is looking to strengthen its grip on mobile maps.
According to AllThingsD, the Web giant is planning to announce the debut of Street View images to its mobile Google Maps Web app this week. The news comes from AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg's review on Google Maps for Android.

Here's more from Mossberg:
"Google plans to announce on Thursday that it is adding its popular Street View feature, missing from Apple's maps, to the Web version of Google Maps accessed from the iPhone and iPad. I tested this addition, which displays 360-degree photographic street views of selected locations, and interior photographic views of certain businesses, using sample links Google sent me. These links worked well, allowing me to see the locations and pan around with a finger."
When Apple opted to boot Google Maps from its recent iOS 6 -- essentially forcing customers to use its own native app -- many users got up in arms. Complaints about Apple Maps include inaccurate data, lack of details, distorted images, and erroneous directions.
Apple could have kept Google's more reliable and mature mobile mapping app, but it made a strategic decision about something it needed to own and monetize. Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed the growing furor over the beleaguered map app and said he was "extremely sorry" for the frustration felt by customers and vowed to improve the program.

In his apology, Cook pointed users to its competitors' apps, including Bing, MapQuest, Waze maps apps, or using Google or Nokia's map Web sites while the company works to improve its own app.

It seems that Google is now jumping in at just the right time -- upping its Web version of Google Maps -- to show that it will continue to strive to have the most user-friendly and reliable mapping system.
There isn't any news yet of Google releasing a maps app for iOS, however. And even if it does, it could still find ways to differentiate the Android version, such as including newer features or broader capabilities.

Apple iPhone 5, 4S among most environmentally friendly phones, study finds

iFixit and HealthyStuff teamed up to analyze the level of toxic chemicals found in 36 mobile phones, and found modern handsets to contain fewer harmful chemicals than their predecessors with Apple's iPhone 4S and new iPhone 5 among the least toxic.
iPhone 5 Chemical Study

Source: HealthyStuff via iFixit

The study published by iFixit on Wednesday was based on a chemical analysis study performed by, which sought to discover what hazardous chemicals are found in popular smartphones.

Researchers performed an X-ray fluorescence spectrometric analysis of 36 devices, assigning each a rating on a scale of 0 to 5, lowest being best, and ranked the products by chemical, component and "overall." The process consisted of chemical analysis testing for 12 common hazardous chemicals, such as bromine, mercury, and lead; component testing constituted a breakdown by case, screen, solder, circuit board and other vital parts; and finally an overall assessment of each device.

While Apple's iPhone 2G came in with the worst score, maxing out the ratings scale at 5.0, the newer iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 handsets were found to be of "low concern," at 2.69 and 2.75, respectively. Also deemed environmentally responsible were the LG Remarq, Motorola Citrus, and Samsung's Captivate and Evergreen. Overall, the Citrus contained the least toxic chemicals, and was awarded a score of 2.56.

Sitting at the other end of the spectrum was the Nokia N95, Motorola W233 Renew and Palm m125, each retaining a score of 4.5 or below.

Out of the 36 tested units, 6 were of "low concern," 24 were of "medium concern" and 6 scored poor "high concern" ratings.

Chemical Study Scores

Looking at the rankings, a definite improvement from manufacturers can be seen as the poor-performing handsets are mainly older models like the iPhone 2G and Samsung's SCH-U410 from 2007.

It should be noted, however, that phones which scored high ratings overall weren't top performers in every category.

"The 'low concern' Samsung Reclaim had a 'high concern' proportion of arsenic," iFixit writes. "Twenty-four of the phones (nearly 70%) had a 'high concern' proportion of copper."

Major cellphone manufacturers, while making strides, shouldn't "rest on their laurels," the report said, as "many toxics remain" in discarded handsets.

"There is a trend of less toxics overtime, it looks like—especially for Apple. That’s good, but it’s not good enough."

WSJ: Apple Suppliers Begin Mass Production on iPad Mini

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple's Asian component suppliers have ratcheted up production, and are now churning out the as-yet-unannounced iPad Mini.
According to the Journal, "people with knowledge of the situation" explained that the factories have already started mass production of Apple's new tablet which will "have a 7.85-inch liquid-crystal display with a lower resolution compared with the latest iPad model that came out in March". Those specs certainly tie in with other rumors we've heard.

The report offers little else in the way of details. We've seen a couple of different rumored prototypes floating around, though, so—unlike the recent iPhone—we don't have a clear idea what the device might look like. If it exists.
Elsewhere, speculation suggests the smaller tablet would share the guts of the iPad 2 and, perhaps, launch some time around mid October, but for a full round-up of iPad Mini rumors you can read our recent report. Of course, for now this is all hearsay—but we might not have to wait long until we find out what Apple really has up its sleeve. [WSJ]

YC-Alum Lockitron Is Back With A New Kit That Allows Smartphones To Control Dumb Deadbolts

Locks are a necessary evil. They keep the bad guys out while allowing good guys in. The Lockitron aims to make the point of entry as safe as possible, but also as convenient as possible. Plus, it’s packed full of features including remote management, proximity entry through Bluetooth, and, even more fun, a vibration sensor that will notify the owner when someone is knocking on the door.

The original Lockitron Deadbolt was a hit. A graduate from Y Combinator’s 2009 summer class, the company sold $100k worth of units of the novel $299 kit since launching it in 2011. Put simply, it was a deadbolt that could be controlled by a smartphone. But it still had its downfalls. For one, it was a deadbolt replacement, requiring the hassle of installation including re-keying. And at $299 and up, it was rather expensive. But the company has a fantastic new solution. But they need your help (i.e. pre-orders).
Now just called Lockitron, the product piggybacks on top of existing deadbolts, awarding them all the features and more of the original model. This route allows the kit to retrofit nearly any deadbolt on the market including ones that are already installed on doors.

The company’s founders, Cameron Robertson and Paul Gerhardt, tell me installation is simple. Simply loosen the two bolts on existing deadbolt, slip on the Lockitron’s backplate and place the front cover over top of the deadbolt, tightening the Lockitron’s large knob to pair it to the deadbolt. That’s it. There’s no need to tear apart the door or re-key a lock. Once installed, the real magic begins.
Like the original Deadbolt, the Lockitron turns any phone into a key. There are Android and iOS smartphone apps, and the lock can also be toggled through text messages. But this model also offers several new features not found on the old model or any competing product currently on the market.
Say you’re walking up to the door, juggling kids, groceries and flaming chainsaws. But since your modern smartphone is in your pocket, the Lockitron will automatically unlock since it detected the presence of Bluetooth 4.0.

The Lockitron also employs a vibration sensor to recognize knocks on the door. The first knock wakes the sensor up; the second knock can send a notification to the owner. No word if the lock can be toggled by a pre-specified pattern of knocks. However, there’s a real possibility someone will add this ability since the Lockitron is designed with modding in mind.
The Lockitron is built on an Arduino-compatible ATMega microprocessor and the company plans to release an API. This combination should allow for some fun hacks and mods, possibly including the aforementioned secret knock unlock. Perhaps TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon winner, Livebolt, could even integrate its system with the Lockitron.
The Lockitron, or even the Lockitron Deadbolt before it, were not the first smartphone-controlled lock on the market. Other products including options from giants such as Schlage and Kwikset have been on the market for sometime now. But unlike those options, the Lockitron does not require additional hardware or, in some cases, a monthly fee. The Lockitron is a standalone product.

The company plans to have the Lockitron on the market by March and, for the next 30 days, is accepting pre-orders now directly on its website. Kickstarter rejected the project on the grounds it’s a home improvement project, but that didn’t slow down the company’s co-founders. The YC-alums plowed forward and instituted a pre-order process which they feel is better for everyone involved then the Kickstarter model anyway. Since they’re not taking the pre-order money until it’s ready to ship, the consumer doesn’t risk as much and the company is encouraged to ship a quality product sooner verses later.
The Lockitron will retail for $199, but the company is only asking for $149 for the pre-orders. The key is a tried and true invention, but it’s time for it get locked out in the cold.