Archive for March, 2010

Official: Apple now offering iPhones contract free (updated: not unlocked)

We heard from 9 to 5 Mac that Apple was due to begin selling a contract-free variant of the iPhone in the near future “at list price.” And guess what happened when we inquired to an Apple store? That’s right folks — you can now pick one up for $499 (3G), $599, or $699 (3GS). We’ve confirmed this info at no less than five stores, so you should be hearing the same message at your local Appletorium. Given the current unfriendly climate between Apple and Google, this could be seen as nasty jab, though the devices are still carrier-locked to AT&T, so you’re not being given much freedom… and it’s certainly not much of a statement. In many parts of Europe (France and Poland, for example) you can pick up the carrier-unattached device (and we mean totally unlocked), but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

These devices are still locked to AT&T — so you’re just looking at an off contract pricing scheme. Which is also totally lame.

Source:9 to 5 Mac

Infinite USB plug is a big idea for small conveniences


In a classic case of “why didn’t we think of this first,” Chinese design student Gonglue Jiang has shown us a new way for overcoming the limitations imposed by the scarcity of USB ports on some computers. Instead of forcing you to constantly hot swap devices into that one port, Gonglue’s Infinite USB plugs keep all your cables connected, thereby facilitating those smartphone syncs, spy camera recharges, and — for the ultimate irony — maybe even a USB hub. If you’re thinking this would be brought down by a bout of bandwidth starvation once you start some USB multitasking, you’re probably right, but power shortages shouldn’t be an issue as the author has also come up with an external power connector that joins into his Infinite chain of connectivity. If only this wasn’t just a concept.

Source: Gonglue Jiang

Early reports show IE not faring well in the post-ballot screen days

Most PC users hit the web using Internet Explorer by default, simply because that’s what came along with Windows. Now, after antitrust investigations, European users get a choice of browser to install via ballot screen, and initial reports are not good for ‘ol IE. According to Statcounter, IE use in France has dropped 2.5 percent since last month’s implementation of the ballot, 1.3 percent in Italy, and 1 percent in Britain. It’s still early days, and it’ll take more than this to chip away from IE’s 62 percent lead in the browser war, but it’s certainly not a good trend for Microsoft. With that in mind, we’re going to have to ask you to place your bets now.

Source: Reuters

Seven45 Studios ups the ante for music games, intros fully functional six string controller


We’ve seen “real” guitars made to “work” with existing music-band titles, and we’ve even seen MIDI guitars play nice with Rock Band, but we’ve yet to see a company design a game from the ground-up to work with a legitimate six string. Until now. Here at GDC, Seven45 Studios is making a name for itself by introducing Power Gig: Rise of the SixString (for PS3 and Xbox 360) along with a bona fide axe. The newfangled company is a sister firm to First Act — the same guys who made that guitar sold with your ’07 Jetta — and the instrument debuting here at the show uses proprietary technology “that can distinguish and recognize gamers’ input all along the guitar.” Better still, the instrument includes all of the innards necessary to make noise through an amp, so you could theoretically use this to rock out in real life as well. If you’re skeptical about the game’s ability to actually recognize complicated inputs, get a load of this: “Power Gig also introduces the option to switch on chording, or chord play; chording presents the added challenge of playing the game using chords that require specific finger placement on the strings.” The tandem is slated to go on sale this fall for an undisclosed amount, and we’ll be snagging some hands-on time with the game and guitar here in just a few hours — stay tuned!

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Apple vs HTC: a patent breakdown

Apple suing HTC over 20-odd patents before both the US District Court and the International Trade Commission has certainly caused some chaos this morning, but we thought we’d take a quick breath now that we have the complaints and tease out exactly what patents are at stake here. Of note, most of the patents were granted in the past year, but overall they span a range from 1995 to February 2. Yes, last month. That’s a pretty big gap, and most of the patents are pretty dry and technical — and none of them cover anything like pinch-to-zoom. In fact, you might remember #7,479,949, “Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics” — we blew apart the myth that it was Apple’s “multitouch patent” back when Cupertino was making noise about Palm. It’s impossible for us to say exactly how this case is going to play out — just like the Apple / Nokia lawsuit, it could settle tomorrow, or it could last for 10 years — but what we do know is that Apple’s going after Android as much as it’s going after HTC. Some of these patents are from 15 years ago and cover OS-level behavior, so it’s hard to see how they can relate only to HTC’s implementation of Android and not Google’s OS as a whole. Yeah, it’s wild, and while we’re not going to blow out all 20 patents to sort out what they mean — not yet, anyway — we can certainly walk through the claims. Let’s see what we’ve got. Read more

Apple sues HTC for infringing 20 iPhone patents

Looks like Apple’s going on the warpath, kids. Just a few months after Cupertino got into it with Nokia over phone patents, Apple’s filed suit against HTC, alleging that the company is infringing 20 patents “related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture, and hardware.” Steve, you have something to say?

“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

Okay then. We’re pulling the complaint filing now, we’ll let you know the exact details as soon as we learn them.

Update: HTC just gave us a statement — this is apparently coming totally out of the blue for them, since Apple hasn’t even served the complaint yet.

We only learned of Apple’s actions based on your stories and Apple’s press release. We have not been served yet so we are in no position to comment on the claims. We respect and value patent rights but we are committed to defending our own innovations. We have been innovating and patenting our own technology for 13 years.

Update 2: We mean it when we say this was all just filed in the past few hours — it’s not yet in the court’s systems. We just got the PDFs and put the full list of claims from the federal lawsuit below, but remember not to take the names of the patents literally or directly, since they don’t mean much. We’ll poke each one apart and tease out what’s really at stake as we go along.

Update 3: We’ve just learned that Apple submitted over 700 pages of exhibits to the District Court, which is a little nuts. In addition, the ITC complaint lists a number of specific HTC handsets as exhibits, including the Nexus One, Touch Pro, Touch Diamond, Touch Pro2, Tilt II, Pure, Imagio, Dream / G1, myTouch 3G, Hero, HD2, and Droid Eris. That’s really a full range of HTC phones, running both Android and Windows Mobile, with and without Sense / TouchFLO. Interestingly, the Android sets are specifically included because they run Android, while the WinMo sets are called out specifically for including DSP chips, not anything to do with Windows Mobile.

Apple, Complaint (PDF), ITC Complaint (PDF)