January 27, 2012

Apple’s Secret Textbook Project Code-Named “Bliss,” Inspired By Al Gore [Rumor]

Apple’s Secret Textbook Project Code-Named “Bliss,” Inspired By Al Gore [Rumor]

As the last-minute leaks about Apple’s education event tomorrow come in, a code name for the company’s secret textbook project has surfaced: “Bliss.” According to anonymous sources for AppleInsider, the digital textbook technology is also inspired by Apple board member Al Gore’s Our Choice eBook app.

Following a report from The Wall Street Journal about Roger Rosner overseeing the secret project, AppleInsider believes that it has accurate information about what to expect tomorrow.

The person said the internal code-name for the project is “Bliss,” and said the software will allow publishers to make textbooks more interactive.

One of the primary sources of inspiration for the project was said to be an e-book released by former U.S. vice president and Apple board member Al Gore. Last year, he and Push Pop Press released “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis” on the iOS App Store, and the interactive title was met with a great deal of praise.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about interactive textbooks from Apple. Steve Jobs himself told Walter Isaacson that he envisioned digital textbooks that could be updated over the internet with new content and teacher comments.

The app that has reportedly influenced the design of Apple’s textbook project is called Our Choice. It won Apple’s Design Award last year at WWDC for its beautiful interface. The company behind the app, Push Pop Press, was acquired by Facebook last year.

Cult of Mac

AT&T announces new smartphone data plans

AT&T has announced new smartphone data plans, outlined below and effective January 22. This is the first significant update to AT&T’s smartphone data plans in a year and a half, aside from AT&T’s inclusion of an additional 2 GB of data per month for tethering customers. We’ve provided some comparison with the old plans so you can get some idea of what you’re getting for your money under AT&T’s new scheme.

New plans:

  • DataPlus 300 MB: $ 20 for 300MB — extra 300 MB costs $ 20
  • DataPro 3 GB: $ 30 for 3 GB — $ 10 per additional GB
  • DataPro 5 GB: $ 50 for 5 GB, with mobile hotspot / tethering — $ 10 per additional GB

Old plans:

  • DataPlus: 200 MB for $ 15 — extra 200 MB costs $ 15
  • DataPro: 2 GB $ 25 — $ 10 per additional GB
  • Tethering: Additional $ 20/month for DataPro customers and adds an additional 2 GB of data

In summary, overall tier pricing has risen by $ 5 per month across the board, but the data plans are also more generous by 50 MB on the low end and 1 GB on the middle and high tiers.

AT&T also has two new tablet data plans for the iPad:

  • $ 30 for 3 GB
  • $ 50 for 5 GB

The existing $ 14.99 for 250 MB plan remains available. These are still month-to-month, contract-free plans available to owners of the iPad Wi-Fi + 3G models.

Existing customers can stick with their current plans if they prefer, but new AT&T customers will be limited to the new options after January 22.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

AT&T introduces new, larger data plans

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 05:54 PM EST (02:54 PM PST)
In a bid to cope with ever increasing data usage from subscribers, AT&T has introduced new data plans for smartphone and tablet users.

A press release on Wednesday from the number two U.S. mobile carrier details the new rates that will take effect on Sunday, Jan. 22, marking the first change to the company’s data plans since 2010.

“Customers are using more data than ever before,” said David Christopher, Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment.”

The new smartphone pricing is basically a $ 5 surcharge for a 1 GB bump in data for DataPro users, while DataPlus subscribers will get an extra 100 MB for the same price.

Tablet owners will see a reshuffling of options as the previous 2 GB DataConnect plan is to be replaced a 3 GB per month flavor previously only available on a two-year contract. An additional 5 GB plan will also be added for $ 50 per month and the lowest 250 MB plan remains unchanged.

Current subscribers can keep their existing plans or opt in to one of the new tiers when the program launches on Sunday.

Smartphone plans are as follows:

  • AT&T DataPlus 300MB: $ 20 for 300MB

  • AT&T DataPro 3GB: $ 30 for 3GB

  • AT&T DataPro 5GB: $ 50 for 5GB, with mobile hotspot / tethering


Additional data pricing remains at $ 10 per gigabyte for the DataPro plans and $ 20 per additional 300 MB for DataPlus customers.

Tablet data tiers have changed to:

  • AT&T DataConnect 250MB: $ 14.99 for 250MB

  • AT&T DataConnect 3GB: $ 30 for 3GB

  • AT&T DataConnect 5GB: $ 50 for 5GB


Overage charges only apply to 30-day tablet prices and include $ 14.99 for and extra 250MB with AT&T DataConnect 250 MB, and $ 10 per additional gigabyte for DataConnect 3 GB and 5 GB.

The new plans reflect an upward trend in cellphone and tablet data pricing from U.S. carriers as their networks strain under the pressure of a growing customer base.

AppleInsider

Today At Cult Of Android: Android 4.0 Rolls Out To All WiFi Motorola XOOMs, Sony To Release 11 Additional Handsets This Year, And More…

Android may not be every Mac user’s cup of tea, but it’s the biggest mobile operating system in the world, and it’s important to know what’s going on with Android — what it’s doing right, and what it’s doing wrong. Here’s the best stories that hit today over at our sister site, Cult of Android.

LG Introduces Its First LTE Tablet, The Optimus Pad LTE

LG recognizes consumers need for speed, and since LTE is the fastest way to go, it’s releasing its first LTE tablet, the Optimus Pad LTE. The tablet will see an initial release in Korea with possible market expansion in the future. Past LG tablets haven’t generated much of a splash, but the Optimus Pad LTE has some nice features and could fare well if given the right price. The Optimus Pad LTE will feature a 8.9-inch IPS True HD Display along with: More…

DotEmu To Bring Classic Amiga Hit “Another World” To Android

DotEmu prides itself on bringing retro games back to life, and yesterday they announced they’d be bringing the cult classic Another World (Out Of This World to us in North America) to Android with the 20th Anniversary Edition. While the game has been available on iOS since September of 2011, it’s expected to hit Android in the next few months. More…

Android 4.0 Starts Rolling Out To All WiFi Motorola XOOM Models

Over the weekend, a couple thousands WiFi XOOM owners began a soak test of Ice Cream Sandwich. It didn’t take long for the update file to leak and almost everyone began loading it onto their XOOM. And now, the official OTA has begun rolling out to all WiFi Motorola XOOMs. More…

Sony To Release 11 Additional Handsets This Year According To Leaked Document

Even without Ericsson, Sony has quite the plans for its smartphones in 2012. According to a leaked sales report in India, Sony has plans to release eleven additional smartphones this year. The leaked document has quite the info, including names, release dates, and price. These most likely won’t be set in stone but here they are: More…

Clove UK Announces Pre-Order For Motorola DEFY MINI, MOTOLUXE And White RAZR

Today on Clove UK’s blog, they announced prices and pre-orders for three new Motorola devices. If you head over to the Clove site today, you can now pre-order the Motorola DEFY MINI, MOTOLUXE and the White Motorola RAZR. We’ll give you a run down of specs and source links for those interested in picking up one of these Motorola devices from the UK retailer Clove. More…

ASUS To Offer Extended Warranty And Full Refunds To Unsatisfied Transformer Prime Owners [UK Only]

ASUS sent the Android community into a frenzy when they announced they would be releasing the world’s first quad-core Tegra 3 Android tablet. Pre-orders lasted minutes, stock sold out in hours, and they even managed to update it to Ice Cream Sandwich already. Everything about the Transformer Prime seemed perfect, that was until people began using it for GPS. Apparently the metal unibody casing of the Transformer Prime was affecting the GPS signal and hindering performance. This lead to ASUS formally apologizing and removing GPS from the list of features on the Prime’s specification sheet, as well as all marketing material. More…

Verizon Flips The Switch For Five New LTE Markets Tomorrow

Verizon continues its LTE takeover, adding more and more markets every month. Tomorrow they will be adding five new market to their LTE army along with enhancements to three existing markets. If you’ve been holding off on purchasing a 4G phone because of lack of service, you might want to check the list of new markets after the break, your city may just be on it. More…

Samsung Galaxy Note Coming To Canada Mid-February – Hope You Have Big Hands Eh?

The behemoth “not a phone, not a tablet” Galaxy Note will be coming to Canada soon, and already has its own landing page where you can sign up for updates on its arrival. This thing has definitely been making the rounds as of late. First we heard about it landing on AT&T, then the possibility of it coming to Verizon and Sprint, and now our brethren to the north are getting it. It won’t be long before we find out just where a 5.3″ device fits into this mobile ecosystem, and whether or not the demand for one will be as big as the hands needed to hold it. More…

Google+ Team Adds Two New Features To Mobile Web App: What’s Hot Stream And Seeing Who +1′d A Post

Google+ continues to get better by the day, and as they continue to add features, we slowly see them trickle into the mobile app. Today the Google+ team was happy to announce two new features that will be available in the mobile app: What’s Hot stream and seeing who +1′d a post. It’s always nice to see web features added to the mobile version, and with these two you get: More…

Cult of Mac

Apple iOS leading among corporate users, Android deemed most risky

By Daniel Eran Dilger

Published: 04:47 PM EST (01:47 PM PST)
A new study on the use of mobile devices in corporate environments shows Apple’s iOS overtaking RIM’s BlackBerry in popularity, while third place Android is described as the “most risky” mobile platform in terms of security problems.

The report, published by security firm Check Point, surveyed 768 IT professionals in the US, Canada, UK, Germany and Japan.

It described “extensive use” of mobile devices in corporate networks, noting that 89 percent of sites now support the use of devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The use of employee’s personal devices on corporate networks is also growing, with, on average, 65 percent of companies surveyed officially allowing access to their employee’s personally owned devices in addition to company-owned hardware.

Apple takes RIM’s corporate crown

Apple’s iOS accounted for 30 percent of mobile devices in use on corporate networks, narrowly beating RIM’s BlackBerry devices at 29 percent. Third place Android represented 21 percent of users, just ahead of Windows Mobile/Windows Phone, which accounted for 18 percent.

In terms of security risks, however, Android was cited being the worst, with 43 percent calling out Google’s mobile platform. Apple’s iOS was deemed a security risk by 36 percent, while RIM’s BlackBerry faired best with 22 percent ranking it a security risk.

Of all respondents, 71 percent agreed that the use of mobile devices in general were a contributing factor to the number of security incidents their organizations were facing. The leading cause for security concerns among mobile device use related to a lack of employee awareness.

Careless actions by employees were seen as being roughly three times as dangerous as the activity of “hackers,” with 72 percent saying that employee errors posed a greater security threat to organizations than outside attacks.

However, other security risk factors related to platform itself, including insecure WiFi networking and web browsing, downloading of apps corrupted by malware, and a lack of security patches from service providers.

AppleInsider

Apple iOS leading among corporate users, Android deemed most risky

By Daniel Eran Dilger

Published: 04:47 PM EST (01:47 PM PST)
A new study on the use of mobile devices in corporate environments shows Apple’s iOS overtaking RIM’s BlackBerry in popularity, while third place Android is described as the “most risky” mobile platform in terms of security problems.

The report, published by security firm Check Point, surveyed 768 IT professionals in the US, Canada, UK, Germany and Japan.

It described “extensive use” of mobile devices in corporate networks, noting that 89 percent of sites now support the use of devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The use of employee’s personal devices on corporate networks is also growing, with, on average, 65 percent of companies surveyed officially allowing access to their employee’s personally owned devices in addition to company-owned hardware.

Apple takes RIM’s corporate crown

Apple’s iOS accounted for 30 percent of mobile devices in use on corporate networks, narrowly beating RIM’s BlackBerry devices at 29 percent. Third place Android represented 21 percent of users, just ahead of Windows Mobile/Windows Phone, which accounted for 18 percent.

In terms of security risks, however, Android was cited being the worst, with 43 percent calling out Google’s mobile platform. Apple’s iOS was deemed a security risk by 36 percent, while RIM’s BlackBerry faired best with 22 percent ranking it a security risk.

Of all respondents, 71 percent agreed that the use of mobile devices in general were a contributing factor to the number of security incidents their organizations were facing. The leading cause for security concerns among mobile device use related to a lack of employee awareness.

Careless actions by employees were seen as being roughly three times as dangerous as the activity of “hackers,” with 72 percent saying that employee errors posed a greater security threat to organizations than outside attacks.

However, other security risk factors related to platform itself, including insecure WiFi networking and web browsing, downloading of apps corrupted by malware, and a lack of security patches from service providers.

AppleInsider

This American Life And Jon Stewart Take On Foxconn

This American Life And Jon Stewart Take On Foxconn

Chinese manufacturer Foxconn has been the center of much criticism lately, with reports of worker suicides and the inhumane treatment of employees stirring up controversy. The issue has even reached the desk of funnyman Jon Stewart at The Daily Show.

Popular radio show This American Life recently aired an episode on Foxconn that every Apple/technology enthusiast should listen to. Journalist Mike Daisey describes his trip to Shenzhen, China and the mini-city known as Foxconn. It’s an incredibly interesting look at where our gadgets come from and the people that make them.

An excerpt from the episode transcript:

And I look up past the gates and the guards. I look up at the buildings, these immense buildings. They are so enormous. And along the edges of each enormous building are the nets, because right at the time that I am making this visit, there’s been an epidemic of suicides at the Foxconn plant. Week after week, worker after worker has been climbing all the way up to the tops of these enormous buildings and then throwing themselves off, killing themselves in a brutal and public manner, not thinking very much about just how bad this makes Foxconn look. Foxconn’s response to month after month of suicides has been to put up these nets.

It’s shift change, and the workers are coming out of the plant. And I’m standing there under the hot monsoon sun and the gaze of the guards. I feel ridiculous. I look absurd in this landscape. I mean, I wouldn’t talk to me. And Kathy surprises me. Who knew? She turns out to be a spitfire. She runs right over to the very first worker, grabs them by the arm, drags them over to us. We start talking, and in short order, we cannot keep up.

First there’s one worker waiting, then there’s two, then there’s three. Before long the guards are like, er? Er? And we move further and further away from the plant, but the line just gets longer and longer. Everyone wants to talk. We start taking them three or four at a time. We still can’t keep up. Everyone wants to talk. It’s like they were coming to work every day thinking, you know what would be great? It would be so great if somebody who uses all this crap we make every day all day long, it would be so great if one of those people came and asked us what was going on. Because we would have stories for them.

You can listen to the full radio episode with more commentary from Ira Glass and other journalists and industry professionals. Foxconn makes products for companies like Apple, Dell, Nokia, Panasonic, HP, Samsung, Sony, and Lenovo. If you read sites like Cult of Mac, you own at least a few products that have come from Foxconn.

Jon Stewart takes a more satirical approach to the issue of worker rights at Foxconn in a recent episode of The Daily Show. The segment is called “Fear Factory,” and we’ve embedded it below. (It’s flash. Sorry.)

Cult of Mac

TUAW TV Live: A look ahead at the next ten days

If things are this crazy before Macworld | iWorld 2012 even begins, I’m beginning to get worried. The PR requests are coming in by the boatload, and my appointment calendar is beginning to fill up. The boxes filled with giveaways for our TUAW Meetup (sponsored by HP) are ready to ship, and I’m starting to go through my selection of hats to figure out what to bring with me to San Francisco.

Today on TUAW TV Live, I’ll talk about Macworld past, present and future. In the past, the show was insanely huge, people stood in lines for hours to attend a keynote, and some amazing Apple products were introduced. The present is a much more cozy Macworld that is finally paying homage to the world of iOS, along with a focus on the Apple community. And the future? Who knows — but I can speculate.

Along with talk about Macworld | iWorld, I’ll also touch on the topics of Apple’s education event tomorrow and the upcoming (1/24) Apple first-quarter earnings call. Oh, yeah — and maybe something about this Sopapilla thing all you kids are talking about.

Below, you’ll find a Ustream livestream viewer and a chat tool. The chat tool allows you to participate by asking questions or making comments.

If you’re driving somewhere and would like to watch TUAW TV Live while you’re stuck in traffic, please don’t — keep your eyes on the road! However, if someone else is doing the driving, you can watch the show on your iPhone and join the chat by downloading the free Ustream App. It’s a universal app and is wonderful on an iPad, both for viewing and participating in the chat.

We’ll start at about 5 PM ET, so if you’re seeing a prerecorded show, be sure to refresh your browser until you see the live stream. For those of you who are not able to join us for the live edition, you’ll be able to view it later this evening on our TUAW Video YouTube channel and as part of the TUAW TV Live podcast viewable in iTunes or on any of your Apple devices.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple Is Built On Secrets

Apple Is Built On Secrets

Fortune editor Adam Lashinsky’s book Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works will hit the shelves on January 25th, but that hasn’t stopped juicy tidbits of information from leaking out beforehand. An extended excerpt from the book hit the web today, and it reaffirms what we cultists already know: Apple is very, very secretive.

According to Lashinsky, Apple dances on the “link between secrecy and productivity” with excruciating precision. In fact, the only things Apple seems to prize more than its products are its secrets.

From the excerpt:

Apple employees know something big is afoot when the carpenters appear in their office building. New walls are quickly erected. Doors are added and new security protocols put into place. Windows that once were transparent are now frosted. Other rooms have no windows at all. They are called lockdown rooms: No information goes in or out without a reason.

The hubbub is disconcerting for employees. Quite likely you have no idea what is going on, and it’s not like you’re going to ask. If it hasn’t been disclosed to you, then it’s literally none of your business. What’s more, your badge, which got you into particular areas before the new construction, no longer works in those places. All you can surmise is that a new, highly secretive project is under way, and you are not in the know. End of story.

Lashinsky goes on to describe how Apple operates under two veils of secrecy: external and internal. There’s the secretive Apple that we all know on the outside (the company that refuses to give source code over to the competition in court, for example) and the internal enigma that most don’t get to see. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing most of the time. Employees don’t even get to see a complete product they’ve been assigned to before it goes public. Lashinsky says it best: “Like a horse fitted with blinders, the Apple employee charges forward to the exclusion of all else.”

For new recruits, keeping secrets begins even before they learn which building they’ll be working in. Many employees are hired into so‑called dummy positions, roles that aren’t explained in detail until after they join the company. “They wouldn’t tell me what it was,” remembered a former engineer who had been a graduate student before joining Apple. “I knew it was related to the iPod, but not what the job was.” Others do know but won’t say, a realization that hits the newbies on their first day of work at new-employee orientation.

“You sit down, and you start with the usual roundtable of who is doing what,” recalled Bob Borchers, a product marketing executive in the early days of the iPhone. “And half the folks can’t tell you what they’re doing, because it’s a secret project that they’ve gotten hired for.”

Apple doesn’t sound like a fun place to work, but it definitely sounds rewarding.

Cult of Mac

Mac sales growing faster for Apple in China than US

By Neil Hughes

Published: 04:17 PM EST (01:17 PM PST)
Apple’s growth story in China now extends beyond the iPhone and iPad, with Mac sales there also continuing to outpace the U.S. in terms of year over year growth, according to a new report.

Analyst Ben A. Reitzes with Barclays Capital said in a note to investors on Wednesday that he’s not concerned by recent domestic sales data that some have interpreted as slower-than-expected Mac sales growth in the U.S. The NPD Group released figures on Tuesday that showed U.S. Mac sales up 12 percent year over year, a number that still easily outpaced the rest of the industry.

But Reitzes still believes Apple’s total global sales will be up 22 percent year over year, thanks largely to rapid expansion in China. He said his checks with industry sources indicated that Mac sales grew faster in China last quarter than they did in the U.S.

“We believe Mac sales remain relatively strong even as the economy weakens, benefitting from new stores in China and strong sales of the MacBook Air,” he said. “Even though the economy and HDD shortages are concerns that could limit upside, we remain comfortable with our estimate for 22% (year over year) Mac unit growth for (the fourth quarter of calendar 2011) given overseas momentum — especially in China where growth is much higher.”

Apple previously highlighted tremendous growth in its Mac platform in the Asia-Pacific region last April, when officials noted that Mac sales were up 76 percent in the region, compared to 25 percent in North America. But those figures represented an entire region, while Reitzes believes Apple’s greatest growth will come from one nation: China.

In fact, he said he believes Mac growth for the quarter will prove to have been “really driven by China” when Apple publicly announces its earnings next week. The company’s earnings release and subsequent conference call are scheduled to take place after markets close next Tuesday.

A poll released last November found that Apple was the most desirable PC brand in all of China. A survey of 1,553 Chinese consumers revealed that 21 percent of respondents were considering a Mac for their next PC purchase.

Beyond China, Mac sales for the holiday quarter will also be bolstered, Reitzes said, by the fact that there was an extra week of sales in just-concluded 14-week December quarter. He believes those extra seven days could help Apple by “several hundred basis points.”

The benchmark for Apple was set in the company’s September quarter of last year, when it sold a record 4.89 million Macs in the three-month span. If the company manages to top that sum, it could achieve its first-ever quarter 5-million quarter for the Mac platform.

Apple’s continued worldwide growth in Mac sales has seen it continually outpace the rest of the PC market. Just last week, Gartner revealed that Apple was the No. 3 PC maker in the U.S., riding high on industry-leading 20.9 percent growth during the last quarter.

AppleInsider