March 30, 2012

Radio Shack starting up iPad pre-orders

According to a CNET report, Radio Shack has become the first third-party retailer to accept pre-orders for Apple’s new iPad. To pre-order through Radio Shack, you have to purchase a US$ 50 gift card and go into a physical store to place your order.

Radio Shack is an authorized Apple reseller, and the chain currently sells the both the WiFi and WiFi+3G iPad 2 through its stores. As CNET points out, the Shack is also one of the few iPad resellers that accepts trade-ins of older iPads when purchasing a new model. We’ve reached out to Radio Shack to verify this report, but have not yet heard back.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple employing improved compression for new iTunes 1080p videos

By Josh Ong

Published: 09:00 PM EST (06:00 PM PST)
An analysis of 1080p TV shows recently added to iTunes has revealed that Apple is using more advanced compression techniques to keep file sizes from becoming unwieldy.

Apple announced on Wednesday that it was adding high-definition 1080p television content to the iTunes Store. The upgraded videos will be supported by the new Apple TV and the third-generation iPad, which packs more pixels than a 1080p television.

After comparing relative file sizes and video quality of the 720p and 1080p versions of iTunes content, ArsTechnica reported on Thursday that 1080p versions (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) were on average just 1.5 times larger than their 720p counterparts (1,280 x 720 pixels), despite having 2.25 times the number of pixels.

The report noted that the limited increase in file size is likely due to Apple’s support support for the High profile for compression of H.264 videos. New High profile decompression algorithms on Apple’s devices, including the Apple TV, iPad and iPhone, represent an improvement over the Main or Baseline profiles utilized in older devices.

Based on the tech specs for recent devices, Apple appears to have introduced the High profile for H.264 video via its A5 chip. The third-generation iPad, iPhone 4S, and the iPad 2 all support a decoder level of 4.1, which sets a maximum bitrate of 62.5Mbps for the High profile, while the new Apple TV, which sports a single-core A5 processor, has a maximum level of 4.0 (25Mbps). By comparison, the A4-equipped iPhone 4 and Apple TV support H.264 video with a Main profile at level 3.1 (14Mbps).

Report author Iljitsch van Beijnum went on to note that, in some cases, the 1080p version of iTunes TV shows was “pretty much indistinguishable” from the 720p version, though some shows and scenes did show noticeable improvement with the higher resolution. For instance, van Beijnum found that an episode of The Big Bang Theory didn’t always show improvements with the 1080p version, though a side-by-side comparison of one particular frame did reveal improved clarity and detail. The 1080p file size for the episode was 856MB, compared to 743MB for the 720p version.

An episode of Awake, however, was described as always showing “some extra sharpness” in the 1080p version and “significantly better” quality in brighter scenes. As such, the author recommended the 1.75GB 1080p version over the 1.45GB 720p one. The below screenshots were taken from the top left corner of both versions of the file while playing back at 1080p (meaning the 720p version was zoomed as it would be on a 1080p flat panel).

AppleInsider

Intuit releases Quicken 2007 update for OS X Lion users

By Daniel Eran Dilger

Published: 05:43 PM EST (02:43 PM PST)
After releasing a stripped down version of Quicken for Mac named Quicken Essentials 2010, Intuit has released an update for the full version that can run under OS X Lion, a $ 15 upgrade it calls “Quicken Mac 2007 OS X Lion compatible.”

The original Quicken Mac 2007 supplied a variety of features missing from the more recent release of Essentials 2010, including export to TurboTax, investment tracking and direct bill payments. However, the old version relied on PowerPC code that wouldn’t work on OS X Lion, which has terminated support for Rosetta translation.

Intuit has now “reengineered” Quicken Mac 2007 so that it can run on OS X Lion, and the new update, available as a digital download or on CD-ROM, can import and convert data from Quicken Mac 2005, 2006 or 2007 or Quicken Essentials 2010.

Intuit recommends that “new Quicken customers should choose Quicken Essentials for Mac to get started,” rather than getting the updated 2007 version with more expert features.

Intuit sells multiple versions of Quicken 2012 for Windows, which it has updated annually. During the five year wait for fully functional software capable of running on the latest Macs, many users have switched to alternatives, including the native iBank, available in the Mac App Store and in a mobile version for iPhone.

AppleInsider

Intuit releases Lion-compatible Quicken 2007, as promised

It was late last year that Intuit offered a Christmas olive branch to frustrated Quicken 2007 for Mac customers. The finance software giant promised that it would find a way to make Quicken work on the latest version of OS X; today, it looks like that promise has been kept. Quicken for Mac 2007 Lion Compatible is now available for purchase.

While the company had built a ground-up Mac offering in Quicken Essentials that showed some spark and a new look, it lacked some of the key features that users of Q2007 had grown fond of (QIF export, direct bill pay, support for rental properties); unfortunately, the older app was never updated past its PowerPC roots and ceased working when Lion dropped support for the Rosetta compatibility layer. Q2007 users fumed, jumped ship to other finance products, stuck with Snow Leopard, or shrieked with frustration if they updated without realizing the issue. (We tried to warn you, people, really we did.)

It’s not easily found on the Intuit site, but the Lion-friendly version of Quicken 2007 can be bought online (it’s US$ 14.99). Searching for it via Intuit’s built-in tool doesn’t work, and it’s not listed in the full product rundown; it’s possible that it’s not officially announced/ready for prime time, but there it is. You can read about the data migration process back from Essentials on the company’s support page. No data migration is needed for Q2007 or older versions post-2004. Intuit still recommends that new customers go with Essentials instead of Q2007.

You can read our interview with Intuit’s Aaron Patzer here, and an external perspective from Intuit’s competitor IGG Software here.

[via MacRumors]



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

New iPad 4G LTE incompatible with networks outside North America

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 08:00 PM EST (05:00 PM PST)
Despite being labeled a ’4G LTE-capable’ device, Apple’s third generation iPad will likely be incompatible with the radio frequencies supporting the wireless technology outside of the U.S. and Canada.

When Apple took the wraps off the new iPad on Wednesday, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller announced that the company is currently working with North American telecoms that support the LTE standard, meaning that upon launch the device may not be compatible with other countries’ 4G frequencies.

On Apple’s international websites, the iPad Wi-Fi + 4G model is advertised as being LTE-capable, though reading the fine print reveals that the radio bands supported by the device are not the same as those used outside of North America.

As noted in the footnotes of the iPad’s tech specs page:

  • 4G LTE supported on AT&T and Verizon networks in the US; Bell, Rogers and Telus networks in Canada. 4G data plan is sold separately.

  • The iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G model you purchase is configured to work with a particular mobile network technology. Check with your carrier for compatibility and 4G data plan availability.


According to Apple U.K.’s info page, the new iPad will support the 700MHz and 2100MHz LTE bands found in the stateside AT&T version, which don’t match the 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz LTE bands being rolled out across Europe.

In a recent report, AnandTech discovered that the new iPad uses Qualcomm’s MDM9600 baseband chip which supports UE Category 3 LTE, CDMA2000 1x/EVDO Rev.A (and B), GSM/EDGE, and WCDMA/HSPA+ to DC-HSPA+ 42 Mbps.

If Apple decides to stick with the Qualcomm part over the lifetime of the new iPad, European users hoping to use LTE will likely be relegated to roam on AT&T’s LTE network during trips.

It should be noted that real world testing has shown that 3G technologies can be faster than current 4G installations, though the theoretical maximum bandwidth for LTE is much higher.

Interestingly, Japan’s iPad Wi-Fi + 4G model doesn’t even have LTE support, with bands only going up to DC-HSDPA.

Making the situation more confusing is Apple’s description of what qualifies as 3G. On its U.K. page, the company lists HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA as 3G technologies, however the recent iOS 5.1 rollout changed the “3G” icon on iPhone 4S units operating on AT&T’s HSDPA network to read “4G.”

It is unclear whether new partnerships will result in the deployment of new international LTE-capable versions of the iPad, though Apple is said to be working on deals with a number of telecoms to get the ball rolling.

Schiller noted during Wednesday’s special event that while 4G LTE bands differ from country to country, they will likely follow the path of 3G and unify at some point. Until that time, however, Apple will be forced to make separate models to support the different LTE frequencies, which is why the AT&T version is incompatible with Verizon’s. This holds true for LTE bands worldwide.

AppleInsider

“Apple Ticked All The Boxes” – Developers React To New iPad

“Apple Ticked All The Boxes” – Developers React To New iPad

Developers of iOS apps spent last night absorbing all the news from Apple, and trying to figure out how they might be able to make the most of the new iPad’s features.

We asked some friendly devs for their observations. One predicted big things for iPad gaming, but we got some other interesting viewpoints too.

Here’s a round-up of some of the comments we got back from the developer community. If you make apps and want to have your say, get in touch – or let loose in the comments.

Todd Ditchendorf, maker of Fluid:

My initial reaction is that this is the best upgrade any Apple fan or developer could have reasonably hoped for. Apple ticked all the boxes of improved processor, improved camera, improved display, and LTE networking without raising the price.

I would have guessed that something would have to give, but Apple managed to improve the device all around without raising the price. Impressive.

For me, the Retina display is definitely the key/killer new feature. If it’s anything like the iPhone retina display, it will be stunning. I’ll have a hard time resisting the urge to buy although I already have an iPad1 and iPad2.

Lucius Kwok, maker of The Grix:

I think the Retina display is going to look great. When the iPhone 4 came out, I felt like my iPad 2 was using ancient display technology. But I still don’t know how much benefit existing apps will have if they’re not updated with higher resolution graphics. My Transit Maps app would certainly benefit greatly, because you can see more detail and have an experience closer to looking at a paper-based map on an iPad now. You can see more of the map while having the small text still be legible.

My other app that is iPad-native, C64 Paint, is a pixelated art editor, so it will just have more sharply defined rectangles. Not much change there.

LTE, in my experience, has been a let-down in the US, at least using a MiFi on Verizon here in NYC. The speeds I was getting were not much better than 3G when I did have a LTE signal, and the network was often down, meaning I had to go to using EvDO. My experiences with 3G in countries such as Japan and Taiwan have been much better, but I haven’t used 4G mobile networks there yet.

This isn’t exactly iPad-related, but I think that a Retina display MacBook Air is not far behind. It probably won’t have the same PPI as the new iPad, but an 11’ screen that is better than HD is what I’m waiting for.

Rich Siegel of Bare Bones Software:

I think the biggest benefit of the high-resolution display will be found in the overall visual appeal of the system and applications. Artwork at 2x resolution definitely creates an opportunity for designers to provide a much higher level of detail (they have four times as many pixels to work with), and taking advantage of that would, I imagine, lead to user interfaces that show even more polish than we’ve become accustomed to. Any time content can be improved by making it cleaner, clearer, better, our customers also win.

At this moment I don’t think I could point to any specific thing that would benefit; It’s more of a “rising tide lifts all boats” sort of phenomenon. :-)

On LTE and the new camera, Rich added:

For consumers, the addition of a higher quality camera and a fatter non-Wifi data pipe (wherever LTE service is available) can only improve the overall iPad experience. I can’t really imagine someone using an iPad as a handheld camera in the same way one might use an iPhone; but I guess anything is possible.

James Thomson, maker of PCalc:

I gambled on there being a Retina display on the new iPad last month, so I’ve already done most of the work to make PCalc ready for day one. Here’s a screenshot of it running in the simulator. I don’t actually have a screen on my Mac big enough to display it.

I do want to try PCalc on a real device though – there are so many pixels involved that there are bound to be places where code which ran fine with a 1024×768 screen could have slight performance problems at 2048×1536. Even if the graphics performance is twice as fast, anything that runs on the CPU is going to have a lot more work to do, so the performance characteristics will be slightly different at least. I’ve already found a few places in my own app that needed optimisation. I think it will be fine though, and I can’t wait to see my code running on one!

Stephen Turnbull (no relation), maker of Memneon:

It’s interesting, I’m currently developing two games, one with a global travel theme, the other, the mystery behind a brain in a jar (!) and both involve plenty of photographs and video. So Retina will undoubtedly enhance the experience.

Cult of Mac

Microsoft confronts OnLive over Windows desktop-on-iPad licensing

In January we had a first look at Onlive Desktop. The free iPad app provides a connection to a hosted desktop Windows environment, complete with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office. Well, according to a ZDNet post today, Microsoft believes that OnLive is in violation of licensing terms.

Microsoft’s VP of worldwide licensing and pricing, Joe Matz, brought up OnLive specifically in a blog post explaining the “Delivery of Desktop-like Functionality through Outsourcer Arrangements and Service Provider License Agreements.” In this light-hearted, fun-filled post, Matz noted that “Some inquiries about these scenarios have been raised as a result of recent media coverage related to OnLive’s Desktop and Desktop Plus services. Additionally, the analyst firm Gartner raised questions regarding the compliance of these services last week. We are actively engaged with OnLive with the hope of bringing them into a properly licensed scenario, and we are committed to seeing this issue is resolved.”

Whether being “properly licensed” will cause the free app to go to a for-pay model is unknown, and OnLive has made no comment about Microsoft’s concerns at this time.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple ridicules ebook pricing conspiracy theory of class action lawsuit filing

By Daniel Eran Dilger

Published: 07:00 PM EST (04:00 PM PST)
Apple has asked that a class action lawsuit claiming the company conspired with book publishers to raise the price of ebooks be thrown out, stating that the plaintiffs’ arguments didn’t make sense and that “this allegation just strings together antitrust buzzwords.”

According to a report by PaidContent.org, Apple argued “that its business plan was to sell as many e-books as possible and that it had no incentive to raise prices. It also claims that is was a new and inexperienced player in a business in which Amazon dominated with 90 percent marketshare.”

The plaintiffs in the case have based their claims largely upon Steve Jobs’ comment to Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, which suggested that publishers “unhappy” with Amazon’s efforts to mandate a standard $ 10 ebook price would likely just withhold their titles from Amazon’s store.

Apple’s attorneys say Jobs’ words were being “mischaracterized” by the plaintiffs, explaining that Jobs simply thought Apple’s business strategy was more attractive than Amazon’s.

The plaintiffs in the case argue that Apple conspired with publishers to raise the price of ebooks in order to blunt the impact of Amazon’s Kindle on the tablet market, something Apple’s attorneys described as a nonsensical “Kindle Theory.”

This “Kindle theory,” Apple’s filing stated, does not “make sense on its own terms. For example, if Amazon was a ‘threat’ that needed to be squelched by means of an illegal conspiracy, why would Apple offer Amazon’s Kindle app on the iPad?”

Sarcastically alluding to Amazon’s loss leader book pricing, Apple’s legal argument added the zinger, “Why would Apple conclude that conspiring to force Amazon to no longer lose money on eBooks would cripple Amazon’s competitive fortunes?”

The filing further asked, “And why would Apple perceive the need for an illegal solution to the ‘Kindle threat’ when it had an obvious and lawful one which it implemented – namely, introducing a multipurpose device (the iPad) whose marketing and sales success was not centered on eBook sales?”

Set prices vs the agency model

Apple pioneered the concept of selling digital content at a fixed low price in iTunes with 99 cent songs, followed by similarly low standard pricing of videos and movies, all prices the music labels and studios balked at supporting. Apple has since relaxed its standard pricing to allow publishers to sell their content at variable prices.

In ebooks however, Apple found such resistance for pushing the price of digital titles down to the $ 9.99 price set by Amazon that it allowed publishers to adopt their own pricing from the start, often closer to $ 12.99, under a model known as “agency pricing,” the same model Amazon uses to sell Android apps.

Under Apple’s agency pricing model, publishers selling titles in its iBookstore couldn’t also sell their same titles at a lower price elsewhere, another term Amazon similarly sought to use to prevent Android app developers from undercutting its own sales.

Amazon Kindle users and other readers upset by the $ 2 difference in ebook prices set by Amazon and publishers working with Apple have asked the US Department of Justice to get involved, which has announced plans to sue Apple and book publishers Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan and HarperCollins over the Kindle Theory conspiracy.

AppleInsider

RadioShack Now Taking iPad Pre-Orders For March 16th Launch

RadioShack Now Taking iPad Pre-Orders For March 16th Launch

You can now pre-order a new iPad from RadioShack with the purchase of a $ 50 gift card. Like Apple’s online store, pre-orders are guaranteed to deliver when the device goes on sale Friday, March 16th. As the first retailer besides Apple to offer the new iPad, RadioShack will also be offering AppleCare+ for iPad alongside Target, Apple, and carrier partners.

Starting today, the new iPad will also be available for pre-order by purchasing a $ 50 RadioShack gift card that can be used toward the final purchase.

To celebrate the launch, customers can use RadioShack’s Trade & Save program to receive up to $ 350 for an iPad 2 and up to $ 175 on an original iPad in working condition. Customers can also use their Shack Card on the purchase of a new iPad or iPad 2 to receive a $ 50 mail in rebate. This special promotion will end on Saturday, March 31.

Apple seems to have gotten its supply problems together this time around, as shipping estimates for the new iPad remain set for March 16th (for the most part). If you don’t pre-order, you can try to grab a new iPad at the Apple Store, Best Buy, or RadioShack next Friday.

Cult of Mac

Graph shows the tweets per minute during Apple’s March 7 event

Twitter crunched the numbers and created a graph that shows the number of tweets per minute during yesterday’s Apple press event. The tweets peak at over 10K per minute when Cook introduced the cost of the iPad, fell during the app demonstrations and climbed up to 8K when Cook announced the iPad 2 price drop. It’s a fascinating look at our use of social media.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog