Who knew that the Summer of 2010, and particularly August, would produce two of the most popular patents of the year? Who knew that the Summer of 2010 would unravel so many interesting surprises? In today's report we'll review some of the more interesting twists and turns that came to light this summer that are definitely pointing to some rather exciting new developments that are bound to dominate the news cycle in the second half of 2011. Yet let it be said that the summer of 2010 didn't go without its share of controversies and we'll cover the ones that definitely made their mark. But at the end of the day it's really all about some of the products that are in Apple's future; products that will once again have the competition scrambling in panic for many years to come.
The Sunnier Side of Summer 2010
Russian President Visits Apple, New NFC Heavyweight Joins Apple, Blockbuster Apple Patents Emerge and More
To Russia: Think Different
On June 23, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev landed in California for a whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley. While at Stanford University he stated that he wanted to see "the origins of success" with his own eyes. He told his Stanford audience that Russia had to combat the so-called problem of the "brain drain" in his country where young minds were leaving Russia to seek opportunities elsewhere.
He also acknowledged a problem with getting investments. President Medvedev stated that "Unfortunately for us, venture capitalism is not going so well so far. No one wants to run the risk. It's a problem of culture, as Steve Jobs told me today. We need to change the mentality pattern on this." Yes, perhaps you'll let Apple reinvent your country, comrade Medvedev, and let them begin with a refreshed "Think Different" Campaign: Da?
Meet Mr. iWallet
President Medvedev's flash visit to Apple wasn't the only surprise to pop up this summer. Oh no. The big surprise was that Apple hired Benjamin Vigier. According to Linkedin, Mr. Vigier has been working on NFC technology since 2004 and has been responsible for NFC activities at both French mobile network operator Bouygues Telecom and flash memory manufacturer SanDisk.
Most recently Vigier was product manager for mobile wallet, payment and NFC at US mobile payments specialist mFoundry. There he conceived and managed both the PayPal Mobile service and Starbucks' barcode-based mobile payments service and was also responsible for the development of mobile wallet applications for two top US mobile network operators and an NFC wallet application for a top three US bank.
It's a surprise only in that it silently confirms that the barrage of NFC patents that came flooding in around April was indeed a trend that we spotted early and painstakingly brought to the attention of the Mac community through a wide array of detailed reports. Mr. Vigier seems to be a man of action and that's exactly what Apple needs to get this very important feature to come to the iPhone at the first possible opportunity.
Liquid Metal Design
Another out-of-nowhere surprise of the summer came with Apple signing a Master Agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies Inc., on August 5, 2010. According to Wikipedia, "Liquid metal has also notably been used for making the SIM ejector tool of some iPhone 3Gs made by Apple Inc." Additionally, Apple has mentioned Liquid Metal in at least two patents. The first patent was covered in a December 2009 report in relation to Liquid Metal Thermal Coupling that could be used in a future MacBook hinge. The second patent surfaced in June and this time Liquid Metal was in used in relation to binding the metal frame to the glass of the iPhone.
If Liquid Metal could create an Omega watch bezel masterpiece as presented in the video above, one could imagine the many applications that Apple may have in mind for future designs for this space age material.
Blockbuster Summer Patents
I took my holidays in August thinking that it would be a nice hot slow month in news and patents: So much for that plan. Instead, two of Apple's blockbuster patents came roaring in and boy was that a surprise. The first patent arrived at the beginning of the month revealing the Smart Bike. Who knew that there were that many bicyclists in the world – Ha! Apple's smart bike patent clocked at number three in popularity for the year – thus far.
The premise of the patent was rather simple and in fact much like Apple's Nike + iPod system for runners except for cyclists. While the system described was for individuals, it was also designed to work with teams of cyclists so that they could communicate with each other on-the-fly about course difficulty or perceived problems. The smart bike will monitor speed, distance, time, altitude, elevation, incline, decline, heart rate, power, derailleur setting, cadence, wind speed, path completed, expected future path, heart rate, power, and pace. Who Apple will team up with to launch this biking system remains unknown at this time – but it's likely to be a top tier player.
Then to end the month, we were awoken to Apple's number one patent of the year in terms of popularity: The iMac Touch. If Apple was testing the waters to see the Mac community's reaction to such a hybrid – then they got the message loud and clear: Launch it already! The house rocked on this patent and it was heard all around the world. Our list of referrers at the bottom of our report clearly shows how every corner of the globe was excited of such a possibility. While Apple had hinted of such a move in many other patents throughout the year, nothing was as clear-cut and to the point as this one.
Unfortunately some in the community jumped to conclusions about this patent being a sign of the demise of OS X. Sorry folks, but that's a leap that isn't going to happen. Perhaps the overly excited forgot the fact that a job opening posted by Apple at the end of July described a "New and Revolutionary feature for Mac OS X." Why would Apple do that if OS X was going to be phased out?
My personal hope is that Apple's job posting revelation is concerning their 3D version of OS X. That hope, of course, is based on some facts. Yes, there's the Apple patent which illustrated the 3D concept, but there was also news this summer that Apple acquired an online mapping firm called Poly9 out of Quebec Canada. They just happened to have a really cool 3D globe application. Apple moved most of the employees of that company to Cupertino and I'm sure it's to assist in quickly advancing Apple's OS X 3D project. So I think you catch my drift here: A 3D version of OS X will be revolutionary and it won't be swept away by iOS anytime soon!
Patently Apple has covered this next wave topic of 3D and beyond in respect to operating systems and applications and has also pointed to AMD's latest Fusion White Paper which introduces us to the next era of the NUI: the Natural User Interface. The next generation 8 core processors based on AMD's Bulldozer and Intel's Sandybridge will be incorporating OpenCL and AMD specifically believes that it'll usher in a new NUI era: An era where interfaces will more commonly include 3D elements, voice commands, multi-touch and many other interactive technologies. The exponential power released by these next-generation CPU/GPU heterogeneous systems will allow the UI to take a huge leap forward.
As you could see in the patent graphic below, a recent Samsung granted patent 7,761,813 confirms that they too are preparing for this next generation 3D UI era.
So is iOS going to replace OS X on the desktop in the foreseeable future? – Absolutely not. Unfortunately Apple only talks about OS developments once a year at their World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC); and so we'll just have to be patient until details of this next generation OS or OS feature emerges – whenever that'll be.
The Darker Side of Summer 2010
The Cell Phone Death Grip, the Radiation Issue and Deadly Mineral Conflict
The summer of 2010 began with Apple introducing the iPhone 4 - The "Thinnest Smartphone Ever." Shortly thereafter the number one story in Techland was focused on the iPhone's "Death Grip" which appeared, for the most part, to be a very well orchestrated attack campaign against the iPhone. When you're number one, the nuts come out to play. Even potential iApp players got in on the subject to push their wares. I say potential, because the creators of Tawkon are petitioning Apple to approve their cell phone radiation detection app that covers the Blackberry, the Android and the iPhone.
Shortly after Apple launched the iPhone, San Francisco decided to be the first city in the US to require mobile phone retailers to post radiation levels next to handsets they sell. Some researchers have claimed such emissions could be linked to cancer and brain tumors but there remains little scientific consensus on the matter. Yet "This is not about discouraging people from using their cell phones," stated Tony Winnicker, spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has said that he will sign the legislation into law. "This is a modest common sense measure to provide greater transparency and information to consumers."
Well, the wireless industry doesn't want you to know about radiation levels because they quickly filed a law suit against the City of San Francisco. On July 23, 2010, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued a statement in response to the lawsuit filed by the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) to block enforcement of San Francisco's cell phone disclosure ordinance. In part it read: "I am disappointed that the association representing the wireless communication industry has decided to challenge our landmark consumer information law in court. I am surprised that industry representatives would choose to spend untold sums of money to fight this in the courts, instead of cooperatively working with San Francisco to comply with a reasonable law that provides greater transparency and information without putting any undue burdens on small businesses or discourage cell phone use in any way."
So, in context, it would appear that Apple's decision to shut Tawkon out of the App Store may not be as mysterious as one may have thought. Perhaps it's Apple's silent way of joining the wireless industry's revolt. Of course, Apple's PR machine will have a different take on this I'm sure – but as the leading mobile devices company in the world, I'd expect no less. Enough said on this issue. For now, you could read more on the San Francisco radiation clash here.
As for the death grip issue that plagued the iPhone 4 for weeks, I think that Apple dealt with most of the issues during their special Apple event – even though Mark Papermaster was later ousted. Of course it had nothing to do with the "so called" flawed iPhone 4's design (…. Ya, right, for sure, no problem, got the memo, all clear – Ha!)
And just when you thought that the "Summer's Weirdom" had finally ended, another issue came to the forefront concerning the deadly ongoing war over "Conflict Minerals;" A war that has killed more than five million people over the last decade. So how could such a war go untold for so long and not even get more than a ten-second mention on the evening news? Easy: If it involves NASDAQ's leading tech giants, then there isn't an issue: Got that?
Nick Kristof, an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times wrote an eye opening opinion titled "Death by Gadget." In it he states the following:
"It is not surprising if you didn't know that your favorite Apple gadgets -- your iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac -- are linked to the conflict engulfing the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo today and for the past dozen years. Most people don't know - which is in part why the war in Congo has gone on for so long. With more than 5 million people killed, it is the deadliest conflict since World War II.
As Nick Kristof wrote in The New York Times, "Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think 'sleek,' not 'blood.'"
Tech titans -- including Nintendo, HP, Dell, Intel, and RIM, the makers of BlackBerry -- have made millions from products that use conflict minerals and have gotten off the hook for fueling violence in the Congo, thanks to a tendency in today's culture not to question where our everyday items come from."
After the report was posted, even Steve Jobs felt compelled to reply to this issue by stating the following: "We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict [free] materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it's a very difficult problem."
If you want to learn more about the Mineral Conflict issue or want to get involved, then visit the website that's called Raise Hope for Congo. You could also view Time Magazine's video on Conflict Materials titled "Is there blood on your Laptop?"
Apple was late to the party on reporting on environmental issues relating to Apple products, but has since stepped up their efforts considerably. Here's to hoping that Apple will take leadership on this issue and comply with the new US Law that is, in effect, forcing tech companies to accurately report on Conflict Minerals used in their products, without excuse. While no reasonable person expects tech companies to be puritans, I do think that we expect top tier companies like Apple to stop passing the buck and take realistic strides in finding and using alternative materials so as to begin the process of ending the needless death of millions in the Congo.
One More Thing: Tomorrow's Big Day
Tomorrow's special Apple Event is promising to deliver on a lot of products. One of the more interesting ones, perhaps, is the rumored click-wheel free iPod nano. This happens to be a topic we recently reported on in respect to an iPod with "One Sensing Touch Element." That report also pointed to Apple's recent granted design patent for several new iPod nano designs for which one indeed illustrated a clear interface that dropped the long standing click-wheel.
According to Engadget and AppleInsider who quotes Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros, Apple is also to update Apple TV and in doing so, dump Intel Inside. The upgraded Apple TV is to sport a new A4 processor, run iOS and make it easy to run your iPhone iApps on your cool HDTV. While I was rooting for AMD to find a spot in Apple's Line up, it appears that may have to come another day.
One of the reasons that I was rooting for AMD is because they've done a hell of a lot of work on the gaming front for Apple as outlined nicely by Macworld's David Chartier. I'm still not convinced that AMD would go out their way to do all this work just to get a graphics card order from Apple for iMacs. There's more to this development that will, no doubt, one day emerge.
Hot video gameplay is one of the keys to making Apple TV a success in the marketplace and while we might not get the AMD power that some of us hoped for, we could be encouraged by the great news coming from John Carmack, co-founder of id software. He recently demonstrated the game "Rage" playing at an unbelievable 60 fps on an iPhone and iPad – which I'm sure, could one day translate to Apple TV. I don't really think that we care so much about how Apple accomplishes games on Apple TV as much as we do about when they'll finally get games humming on their hobbyist device. And although I'm hopeful, I'm still not convinced that Apple is ready to turn up the gaming volume on Apple TV just yet. Let's hope that I'm wrong on that point.
At the end of the day, the Summer of 2010 has proven to be a summer full of unexpected twists and surprises. And just as the hot Summer months comes to a close and we're all getting back to our daily grind, Apple once again is ready to shake things up and drive the competition crazy. That's Apple – and that's why we love them.
Source of Photos of Russian President and Steve Jobs.