Apple, Google to acquire Kodak imaging patents


Apple and Google teamed to offer more than $500 million to buy Kodak’s  imaging patents, Bloomberg reported late last week.

With their two leading smartphone operating systems, iOS and Android, the two companies have dominant positions in mobile imaging, and doubtless would rather not face patent infringement claims from any potential rival buying Kodak’s intellectual property.

It’s not an uncommon move: Apple worked with Microsoft and Research in Motion to acquire 6,000 patents for $4.5 billion from bankrupt Nortel Networks last year.

Kodak, in the midst of bankruptcy and reorganization, seeks to sell 1,100 imaging patents.

Kodak has claimed the patents may be worth more than $2 billion, but others counter the patents are already too widely licensed to be of much further value.

More on the story is here.



Samsung Android camera: Now we’re talking

At the 6Sight conference in June in New York, we proposed a voice-controlled camera using a smart interface such as the SIRI virtual assistant now in beta mode on Apple’s iPhone 4s.

The goal would not be to merely let you snap the shutter with a shout instead of a button-push; instead it would open the real power of photography to everyone who hasn’t learned the intricacies of shutter speed, aperture, focus, and other fine controls, or mastered all the various modes and options on a complicated digital camera.

Just as SIRI all-but understands natural language requests such as “where nearby can I get some Thai food tonight?,” a truly smart camera would let new users say “give me that slow waterfall effect in this low light,” and capture the photo they desire without cracking open the user’s manual.

And while SIRI is currently ridiculed for not understanding many user requests and comments, a voice-controlled camera would have a much better chance of higher recognition accuracy, as the commands and feature requests would all be of a very specific nature: photography.

Samsung’s new Galaxy Camera is the first model to combine an expandable operating system with voice commands. And it *almost* gets us to the scenario proposed above: The ‘Smart Pro’ technology “makes it easy to recreate advanced photographic setups in just a few simple steps for stunning artistic results,” Samsung says. However, while the camera has voice controls, they are limited to the most basic functions such as capture and zoom… Not exactly the tools users have a hard time with. To access the more artistic attributes, users must navigate a menu system — not just speak aloud what they want.

While the exact feature set announced here is a bit disappointing, given the capabilities in hand, we are optimistic that future apps will provide exactly this functionality. And after all, the whole point of an open OS such as Android is the ability for the user to add new programs and functions, rather than await firmware upgrades or worse, next year’s model.

Sony also announced a new camera with such easy upgradeability, and their own line of “PlayMemories” camera apps; we’ll see how quickly Samsung follows suit, and who is first — perhaps Apple with the iPhone 5 of iOS camera? — to deliver a truly smart camera that delivers complete access to photography’s artistic side with utmost ease and simplicity.



Apple wins Samsung patent trial; $1B damages

The iPhone is arguably the best selling digital camera of all time — and Apple has now won its most prominent battle to protect that device’s technologies and design.

After three days of deliberations, the jury reached a unanimous verdict on most counts in Apple’s suit against Samsung, and that Samsung had willfully infringed on Apple’s patents and trade dress for the iPhone.

Samsung must pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages, the jury ruled, for willfully infringing on Apple’s intellectual property.

The three-week trial in federal court in San Jose, California, concluded last week. Apple filed suit in April 2011.

“Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer,” Samsung said in a statement. “It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices. It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies. Consumers have the right to choices, and they know what they are buying when they purchase Samsung products. This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple’s claims. Samsung will continue to innovate and offer choices for the consumer.”

“A jury on Friday found in favor of Apple in its patent infringement case against Samsung,” Apple states. “After finding that Samsung willfully infringed a number of patents, the jury awarded Apple $1 billion in damages. We are grateful to the jury for their service and for investing the time to listen to our story and we were thrilled to be able to finally tell it,” Apple said in a statement provided to The Loop. “The mountain of evidence presented during the trial showed that Samsung’s copying went far deeper than even we knew. The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money. They were about values. At Apple, we value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy. We applaud the court for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.”


Apple patent win could jeopardize Android

Apple on Tuesday was granted 25 patents by the US Patent office, Macworld reports — patents encompassing most key user interface elements used by today’s smartphones.

When the company first introduced the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs said at the public announcement that Apple had applied for patents on all its developments. Now, patents for “everything from e-mail, telephone, camera, video player, camera, search, and most importantly multi-touch (the system of using multiple finger gestures on a touch screen display) have all been granted,” to Apple, the report says. Thanks to the USPTO, the company “now has the legal right to object to almost every aspect of rival mobile devices, particularly the Android operating system developed by Google.”

More information is here and here.


Apple patents mobile imaging auto-focus, exposure metering

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded two imaging patents to Apple, dealing with auto-focus and dynamic exposure metering.

Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,233,789 for “Dynamic exposure metering based on face detection” describes a system and method of automatically changing a digital camera’s exposure settings based on a subject’s face, reports AppleInsider. U.S. Patent No. 8,233,078 for “Auto focus speed enhancement using object recognition and resolution” uses similar object-detection software to hasten focus speed. Both patents rely on face or object-recognition.

The ’789 patent was applied for in April 2010.

More information is here.


Apple patent win could jeopardize Android

Apple on Tuesday was granted 25 patents by the US Patent office, Macworld reports — patents encompassing most key user interface elements used by today’s smartphones.

When the company first introduced the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs said at the public announcement that Apple had applied for patents on all its developments. Now, patents for “everything from e-mail, telephone, camera, video player, camera, search, and most importantly multi-touch (the system of using multiple finger gestures on a touch screen display) have all been granted,” to Apple, the report says. Thanks to the USPTO, the company “now has the legal right to object to almost every aspect of rival mobile devices, particularly the Android operating system developed by Google.”

More information is here and here.




Apple previews iOS 6 “Shared Photo Streams”

Apple previewed iOS 6, the next version of its operating system for the iPhone and iPad, and among the many new features shown is a new way of sharing photos.

“With more than 125 million users already enjoying iCloud, iOS 6 introduces new ways to share photos with friends and family using Shared Photo Streams,” Apple says. “Simply select the photos you want to share, pick which friends you want to receive the album, and the Shared Photo Stream album is instantly available on their iOS devices, iPhoto and Aperture on their Mac, via the web or through Apple TV. You and your friends can leave comments on or “Like” any photo in a shared album.”

Other new iOS 6 features include an all new Maps app, and better integration with the leader in shared photos, Facebook.

The Maps app features vector-based map elements that make graphics and text smooth, Apple says, and panning, tilting and zooming incredibly fluid. It has “Apple-designed cartography,” instead of past reliance on Google’s mapping information, and adds turn-by-turn navigation — a basic function on Android phones that was only available as a paid service on iPhones. Also, a new Flyover view has photo-realistic interactive 3D views.

The new OS will also support FaceTime video calls over cellular networks; the current version runs only on WiFi. iOS 6 will be a free software update this Fall.

Apple also introduces a new MacBook Pro laptop with “the world’s highest resolution notebook display: the 15-inch screen has more than 5 million pixels, which Apple says is 3 million more than an HD television. “At 220 pixels-per-inch, the Retina display’s pixel density is so high the human eye cannot distinguish individual pixels from a normal viewing distance, so text and graphics look incredibly sharp.” The Retina display uses IPS technology for a 178-degree wide viewing angle, and has 75 percent less reflection and 29 percent higher contrast than the previous generation.

The MacBook Pro featuring has flash storage and quad-core processors in a thin and light design, Apple adds. It measures 0.71 inches thick and weighs 4.46 pounds.

Pricing starts at $2,200.


Lastly, Apple updated its photo management software, Aperture. Version 3.3 shares its photo-library with Apple’s free introductory iPhoto software, shows Raw files faster, and supports AVCHD video.

Also, Apple says, the Highlights & Shadows tool delivers higher-quality results, a new Auto Enhance button has been added, and the White Balance tool includes Skin Tone and Natural Gray modes.


Kodak selling imaging patents

Kodak filed to enable its bankrupt company to sell off its imaging patents.

The motion seeks “approval of bidding procedures for the prompt bankruptcy auction of its Digital Capture and Kodak Imaging Systems and Services Patent Portfolios, comprising more than 1,100 patents that are integral to the capture, manipulation, and sharing of digital images,” the company says.

Kodak says its motion outlines a sale process that is open to all qualified bidders subject to the rules of the bidding procedures. No disclosure of the unsuccessful bidders will be made to other bidders or the public. Only the winning bidder and the amount of the successful bid will be announced publicly at the end of the auction. “The bidding procedures are designed to allow bidders to give us their best offers without fear of showing their cards to competitors. In filing these proposed procedures in advance of the June 30 deadline in our lending agreement, we are moving ahead as quickly as possible with the process of monetizing our digital imaging patent portfolio.”

Over the past 12 months, 20 parties have signed confidentiality agreements and have been provided access to an electronic data room.

The two portfolios “have different characteristics and may interest different buyers.” The Digital Capture Portfolio includes over 700 patents, covering key aspects of image capture, processing, and transmission technologies that are crucial to the design and operation of digital cameras and multi-function devices, including camera-enabled smartphones and tablets, the company says. The KISS Portfolio includes over 400 patents that cover technologies including image analysis, manipulation and tagging, and network-based services, including image storage, access, and fulfillment.

Since 2001, Kodak has generated more than $3 billion from licensing its digital imaging portfolio to industry leaders, including Samsung, LG, Motorola, and Nokia, and is currently pursuing patent litigation against infringers that include Apple, RIM, and HTC.

Kodak also sued Apple again this week to stop it from interfering with the sale plans, Reuters reports. Kodak says Apple wrongly claims to own 10 patents arising from work that the companies did together in the early 1990s.

Apple is “seeking to benefit from Kodak’s difficult financial position, which will be exacerbated if the debtors cannot obtain fair value for the patents,” Kodak says.

More information on the sale is here.



Rumored: Apple building camera, Facebook making a phone

isn’t just making it’s own camera app for the iPhone: the social network is rumored to be working on its own camera-phone.

On the one hand, it’s a big leap from coding a website for socializing to making physical hardware, especially hardware as advanced as today’s smartphone. On the other, all Facebook would have to do is request bestselling phone manufacturers HTC or Samsung offer some new phone designs to choose from. However, even that move would beg the question of what operating system a Facebook phone would run: even though it’s reportedly getting along much better with Apple these days, and some iOS tie-ins are in the works, Apple certainly would not allow any other company to market a device with its iPhone software. Even less likely is Facebook offering an Android phone, the OS from arch-rival Google. That leaves Windows Phone as the only likely contender, and we’d bet Facebook sees no reason to tie its brand to Microsoft. [And Microsoft’s utter failure with its Kin “social phones” should give Facebook reason to reconsider even the idea of entering the phone hardware business.]

All told: most photos today are taken with phones, and more photos are shared and stored on Facebook than anywhere else. The company even noted the importance of photography to its success in its prospectus for its stock offering, and Facebook’s drive to dominate mobile imaging lead to its acquisition of Instagram last month. Also: The scuttlebutt in Silicon Valley is some former Apple engineers are now employed at Facebook, and working on the phone plans. And lastly, Facebook has more than 900 million active users — selling a phone to just a fraction of them could make for a worthwhile venture. Given all that, a Facebook phone would not be a surprise.


Rumors about Apple are of course piling up in the weeks before its annual developers conference, at which it regularly makes significant announcements. Most interesting is talk that the company will offer not just another camera-phone, but also a standalone camera.

Apple is no stranger to photography, of course: almost two decades ago it was actually one of the very first companies to market a digital camera to consumers, and today its iPhone is by some measures the single most popular camera used. Also, as many online pundits are now noting, former CEO Steve Jobs is reported to have listed photography as one of the three remaining markets he wanted to fundamentally change.

While we’ve long argued that there is a market for a device with a better sensor and optical zoom lens that worked as an accessory to an iPhone — providing better image capture and using the phone for connectivity, display, and computation — there may also be an untapped market desire for single device, a camera that matched the image quality of a respectable <$500 pocket camera, but which also provided the ease of use coupled with untold expandability that iOS and its many third-party apps provide photographers. Imaging is one of the leading categories for app sales today, showing that iPhone owners are willing to pay for more photographic capability. Might they pay a few hundred dollars for a device instead of $1-5 for an app? Well, this enthusiast would. An iPod Touch is now $200; it, sadly, has a mere <1MP sensor and a rather poor lens. But a photo-upgraded Touch — with a larger, more light-sensitive sensor and a fast optical zoom lens, priced at $300–400 — would be hard to pass up.

And it almost goes without saying that this new camera would have WiFi if not 3G:  photography today is both mobile and social, and so going forward, new cameras must provide connectivity. With iCloud and its photo streaming functions, Apple is good-to-go here.

We’ve long argued that the camera industry is hurting itself by continuing to make “dumb cameras” — devices with no operating system, no expandability, and no social connectivity — and we suggested an enhanced iPod could be a perfect “smart camera” back here in September 2010.

Let us know what you think in the comments: Apple camera, yay or nay?

We’ll be discussing the future of image capture in all its many forms at The 6Sight Future of Imaging Conference in New York on June 25-26. We hope to see you there.

More on the Facebook phone is here and here.

More on the Apple camera is here and here.

And Dave Winer makes a good case here that Facebook could actually develop a social camera.


Kodak loses patent case against Apple and RIM

Kodak’s two-year struggle to secure royalties from Apple and Research in Motion for its patented image preview technology may be at an end, as a United States International Trade Commission judge ruled against the Rochester company, Bloomberg reports.

Worse, the patent itself was deemed invalid, “an obvious variation of earlier inventions.”

Kodak said it would appeal, and that the patent is used in all modern cameras. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics have already paid $964 million in settlements.

More information is here.


Apple improves iPad display and camera, adds iPhoto software

We might have to stop snickering at iPad owners holding up their large tablets to take a photo: Apple’s new iPad sports a camera similar to the same well-reviewed one in the iPhone 4, with a 5-megapixel backside illuminated sensor.

The iSight camera has an ƒ/2.4 aperture and a five-element lens, the company says, and its hybrid infrared filter “keeps out harmful IR light for more accurate, uniform colors.” (However, this new camera does not match the 8MP one in the new iPhone 4S.)

The iPad has image processing built into the quad-core A5X processor, for such functions as face detection “that automatically balances focus and exposure across up to 10 faces,” Apple adds.

The iPad will also capture 1080p HD video with stabilization that “removes the bumps and shakes typically seen when filming with a hand-held device.”

The new tablet computer’s higher resolution display is now even better suited to viewing photos: the 9.7-inch “Retina” screen has 44 percent better color saturation than before, and a 2048 by 1536 / 3.1 million pixels, Apple says —four times the number of pixels on the previous iPad 2, and a million more than an HDTV. “Those pixels are so close together, your eyes can’t discern individual ones at a normal viewing distance,” Apple says. “When you can’t see the pixels, you see the whole picture.”

The new iPad also adds faster LTE connectivity, and dictation: “Instead of typing, tap the microphone icon on the keyboard, then say what you want to say and the new iPad listens,” Apple says.

Pricing for the new iPad remains the same, beginning at $499; the previous iPad 2 however will remain in production, selling for $100 less. (By the way, the third generation device is again called just “iPad” — not iPad 3 or iPad HD as many had predicted.)

iPhoto iOS
Apple also introduced iPhoto for iOS, which had previously been conspicuously missing from the iLife and iWork applications the company had ported from Mac OS to its mobile operating system.

But it’s more than a port: Apple says it reinvented the program for the iPad, with multi-touch features “so you can use simple gestures to sort through hundreds of photos and find your best shots, enhance and retouch your images using fingertip brushes, and share stunning photo journals with iCloud.”

iPhoto provides both automatic image enhancement and brush-applied manual tools. There are also elaborate effects such as tilt-shift and water color, and captioning and location-tagging features. The $5 app supports up to 19 megapixel images, and also, importantly, at last allows for direct beaming of images from an iPhone to an iPad.

Apple TV
Last and, well, least, Apple upgraded its TV module to full 1080p HD video from the previous 720. Pricing and other features are relatively unchanged, although Apple cites a simpler, refined user interface: “Apple TV is easier than ever to use with its new icon-based interface.”

More information is here.


Kodak alleges patent infringement against Apple, HTC, Fujifilm

Kodak filed new lawsuits against Apple and HTC alleging the infringement of certain Kodak patents relating to digital imaging technology.

Apple’s iPhones, iPads, and iPods, and certain HTC smartphones infringe Kodak patents that relate to technology for transmitting images. Kodak also alleges that certain of HTC’s smartphones infringe a patent that covers technology related to a method for previewing images which is already the subject of pending actions against Apple.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission. Kodak also filed suits today against Apple and HTC in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York alleging the same infringement.

“We’ve had numerous discussions with both companies in an attempt to resolve this issue, and we have not been able to reach a satisfactory agreement,” Kodak says. “Our primary interest is not to disrupt the availability of any product but to obtain fair compensation for the unauthorized use of our technology.”

Kodak says it has licensed patents related to digital imaging technology to more than 30 companies, including such leading mobile-device companies as LG, Motorola, Samsung and Nokia.

The patents include “Automatically Transmitting Images from an Electronic Camera to a Service Provider Using a Network Configuration File;” “Network Configuration File for Automatically Transmitting Images from an Electronic Still Camera;” “Capturing Digital Images to be Transferred to an E-Mail Address;” and “Digital Camera with Communications Interface for Selectively Transmitting Images over a Cellular Phone Network and a Wireless LAN Network to a Destination.”


Kodak also filed a lawsuit against Fujifilm for infringement of its patent on “Electronic Camera For Initiating Capture of Still Images While Previewing Motion Images” and others.



All photography is mobile

[Commentary] Today the Wall Street Journal confirmed Facebook is developing a phone of its own. And so the company that is by far the leading online site for photography — Facebook says its members upload more than 250 million photos each day — will extend from solely photo sharing to photo capture. 

Meanwhile, a comprehensive review of the iPhone 4S camera shows its image quality is more than comparable to standalone cameras. 

It’s often said in debate that the key to winning is framing the argument, and defining the terms.

And the telephone industry has somehow won the term “mobile imaging.”

Meaning the traditional camera industry is… what? Non-moving imaging? Couch-bound capture? Frozen-in-place photography?

Most of us take pictures when we leave our homes. Yes, there are some who — ahem — take photos from recliners of cats sleeping on desktops — but otherwise, we all take a picture when we have left our home, gone to a striking location, or are attending an event, visiting with people, or otherwise seeing something new… When we are out-and-about. In other words, mobile.

It’s not just a semantic distinction.
It’s emblematic of how the camera industry — despite doing admittedly well, year-to-year — lost the real photography mass market to phone makers and Facebook.

[Read more...]

iPhone 4S versus standalone camera

“Can the iPhone 4S replace a “real” digital camera?” That’s the question thoroughly investigated by Chris Foresman at Arstechnica.

“Individual needs vary widely,” he writes. “Would a professional photographer replace her trusty SLR with an iPhone 4S? No. But, might a casual snap shooter replace a pocket camera with an iPhone 4S? It’s pretty likely.”

To answer the question with some qualitative comparison, the site contrasts images from the iPhone and an 8 megapixel Samsung Galaxy SII, an 8 megapixel Canon 20D, and a 10MP Olympus XZ-1.

“Making a decision to ditch your camera for a smartphone is always going to be a matter of personal preference and a trade-off between convenience versus quality,” Foresman notes. But with its 8 megapixel resolution, redesigned lens, and enhancements to its software, the iPhone 4S “certainly meets or exceeds the needs of most casual shooters.”

The complete article is here. 






Apple improves iPhone imaging

What by many measures is the world’s most popular camera is getting better: “With 8 megapixels and all-new optics, this just might be the best camera ever on a mobile phone,” Apple says of its new iPhone 4S*. “It just might be the only camera you’ll ever need.”

The iPhone 4S’s CMOS sensor  has 60 percent more pixels than the camera on iPhone 4 —  backside illuminated pixels “engineered with a higher, full-well capacity to collect even more light,” Apple adds. “You’ll see a dramatic difference in the resolution and details of your images.”

While a higher-resolution sensor has long been a rumored prime component on the new iPhone, Apple also touts the “all-new, advanced optics in this camera.” The custom lens uses five precision elements, the company says, “to shape incoming light, which makes the entire image sharper. The larger f/2.4 aperture lets in more light, so photos look brighter and better. (The focal length is a bit narrower: 4.3mm, from 3.85mm on the original 4.) And the advanced hybrid infrared filter keeps out harmful IR light, so you’ll see more accurate and uniform colors.”

The new phone may have an identical look and feel to the iPhone 4 — including the same thin glass and stainless steel design as its predecessor, and the 3.5-inch, 960 by 640 pixel touchscreen — but in addition to the better camera, it has twice the processing speed of its predecessor. The new A5 chip “is designed with an image signal processor that’s just as good as the ones found in DSLR cameras,” Apple boasts. “It’s the power behind zero shutter lag… [and] how you can tap to focus and control exposure.”

The 4s also features face detection, so it’s “smart enough to know whether you’re taking a portrait or a group shot,” Apple adds. “It focuses on the most prominent face in the frame and balances exposure across up to 10 faces.”

And the 4S captures full 1080p HD video, with stabilization, as opposed to the 4’s 720.

As noted in previous coverage here on iOS 5, Apple has also changed the main Camera app: it now opens right from the Lock screen, “so when things happen fast, you’ll capture them fast. Compose a quick shot with grid lines and pinch-to-zoom gestures. Focus with a tap. Then press the volume-up button to take a photo. And suddenly, everything is a photo op.”

The new iPhone OS also adds editing features such as crop, rotate, enhance, and remove red-eye.

The primary non-imaging feature, and the one that most provides a reason to upgrade: Siri, billed as “an intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking.” Siri understands context allowing you to speak naturally when you ask it questions. For example, if you ask “Will I need an umbrella this weekend?” it understands you are looking for a weather forecast, Apple says.

The iPhone 4S pricing starts at $200 for the 16GB model on carrier contract.

More information is here.

[*No, Apple did not announce an iPhone 5.]


HTC acquires imaging patents

HTC paid a reported $300 million to acquire graphics firm S3 from chipmaker VIA — and S3’s 235 patents.

The acquisition highlights will come into pay in HTC’s bout with Apple over 20 patents issued for the iPhone.

VIA acquired S3 in 2001, and retains rights to use the patented technology.

More on the story is here.



Apple overhauls Final Cut Pro

Apple claims it “completely reinvents video editing” with “a revolutionary new version of the world’s most popular Pro video editing software.”

Apple says the Final Cut Pro X software is completely rebuilt from the ground up, on a 64-bit architecture, with multi-threaded processing for “blazing fast background rendering and superb real-time playback performance… that allows you to work without interruption.”

The company touts such new features as the “Magnetic Timeline,” a trackless approach to editing footage that “lets you add and arrange clips wherever you want them, while other clips instantly slide out of the way.”

Also, the Content Auto-Analysis scans media on import and tags content with useful information. Final Cut uses that information to dynamically organize clips into Smart Collections, to easily find close up, medium and wide shots, as well as the number of people in the shot.

The $300 program is less than a third the cost of the preceding version — but eliminates a few features some professional video editors depend on. These changes have sparked some online controversy. Apple says it will address most of the issues by soon adding missing features to the new architecture — except for the ability to open projects made with previous versions.



Nokia, Apple settle patent dispute

As smart phones become the most widely used cameras, the photography industry must pay attention to the swirl of lawsuits and countersuits around the leading model, Apple’s iPhone. This week that swirl dissipated a bit as Apple and Nokia settled their many lawsuits — and Apple will reportedly pay Nokia more than $600 million.

While no official figures were released, Nokia announced it signed a patent license agreement with Apple, and “the financial structure of the agreement consists of a one-time payment payable by Apple and on-going royalties to be paid by Apple to Nokia for the term of the agreement.”

The deal “will result in settlement of all patent litigation between the companies,” Nokia says, “including the withdrawal by Nokia and Apple of their respective complaints to the US International Trade Commission.”

However, Apple asserts that the cross-licensing deal does not give Nokia what it most wanted: the rights to use “the majority of the innovations that make the iPhone unique.” Others have noted that the settlement amounts to much less than the per-device charge Nokia originally sought.

Almost two years ago, Nokia accused Apple of infringing its mobile communication patents, demanding royalties on the millions of iPhones sold since it hit the market in 2007. Apple countersued.

Finnish handset maker Nokia recently abandoned its own Symbian smart phone platform, which had lead the market before the iPhone’s debut, and decided to instead focus on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 operating system.


What of Google’s Android system, which now leads in smartphone market share? Pundits predict Apple’s settlement paves the way for Nokia to also sue HTC, Samsung, and other handset makers for violations of the same patents.

And it here it’s worth noting that Microsoft, following a similar strategy, reportedly earned more from license fees paid by the Android phone makers it sued for patent violation than it did from its own Windows phone platform.

Apple also has filed patent violations against the Android handset makers.


Nokia’s announcement is here.



Apple streams photos, more, between devices

Apple says its iCloud set of free services will automatically and wirelessly store content, and push it to all a customer’s devices. ‘When anything changes on one of your devices, all of your devices are wirelessly updated almost instantly.”

The first iCloud-enabled apps will include Contacts, Calendar and Mail; The App Store and iBookstore; iCloud Backup; iCloud Storage; and Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps.

What’s most interesting for the photography industry is Photo Stream, a service that will automatically upload photos customers take or import on any of iOS device, and wirelessly push them to all other devices and computers. “You can use your iPhone to take a dozen photos of your friends during the afternoon baseball game, and they will be ready to share with the entire group on your iPad or Apple TV when you return home,” Apple says. Photo Stream will be built into the photo apps on all iOS devices, iPhoto on Mac OS X, and saved to the Pictures folder on a PC.

To save space, the last 1,000 photos are stored on each mobile device so they can be viewed, or moved to an album to save forever. Macs and PCs will store all photos from the Photo Stream, since they have more storage, Apple says, adding iCloud will store each photo in the cloud for 30 days, “which is plenty of time to connect your devices to iCloud and automatically download the latest photos from Photo Stream via WiFi.”

iCloud will be available this fall with iOS 5, its upcoming mobile operating system. Apple previewed features including a new messaging service that sends text messages, photos and videos between all iOS devices.

iOS 5 will integrate Twitter, allowing tweets directly from all Twitter-enabled apps, including Photos, Camera, Safari, YouTube and Maps.

New features in the Camera and Photos apps will give access to the camera from the lock screen, and use the volume-up button to snap a photo. The Photos app will crop, rotate, enhance and remove red-eye, and organize photos into albums on the device.

Also, AirPlay Mirroring will wirelessly display everything on an iPad 2 to an HDTV through the Apple TV accessory.

The free software update will ship this fall.


Apple also announced “more than 250 new features” for its upcoming Mac OS X Lion, due in July for $30. It will add Multi-Touch gestures, that “let you interact directly with content on the screen,” Apple says. New gestures include pinching fingers to zoom in on a web page or image, as is now familiar on iOS and Android mobiles.

Also new in the next OS is Resume, which brings apps back exactly how they were left them when the computer is restarted or an application is quit and relaunched, and the complementary Auto Save, which continuously saves documents as they are worked on, and Versions, which records the history of documents as they are created.

More information is here.


Apple iOS outreaches Android by 59 Percent in U.S.

While Android phones are outnumbering iPhones these days, research firm comScore reports Apple’s iOS platform, on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches — all of which now sport cameras — has a combined platform reach of 37.9 million among all mobile phones, tablets and other such connected media devices, outreaching the Android platform by 59 percent.

The combined 37.9 million iOS users is 59 percent greater than the 23.8 million combined Android OS installed base, which includes users of both Android phones and connected media devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

comScore says its analysis of the unduplicated audience reach of the Apple iOS platform across iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches shows only 4 million (10.5 percent) of the iOS users accessed the platform via more than one device.

comScore’s full report looks at user demographics.



Apple sues Samsung over phone and tablet designs

Early last week Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung, claiming the Galaxy smartphones and tablets infringed its patents and closely resemble Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

“Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets,” Apple charges, “Samsung chose to copy Apple’s technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products.”

Samsung is both a leading manufacturer of Android devices, which mimic many iOS functions — and a primary provider of components used in Apple’s own hardware.

The GigaOm news site reports “Apple was the second-largest revenue source for Samsung in 2010, representing four percent of the firm’s total annual revenue of $142 billion.”

That story concludes that Apple “had to sue Samsung to protect its intellectual property… and can negotiate later in order to work out potential licensing deals with Samsung.”

And as expected, late last week Samsung countersued, although even less information on the particulars of its claims is available…

More is here:

Wall Street Journal




Adobe to support video streaming to Apple iOS

Adobe is supporting Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming protocol in its upcoming Flash Media Server — meaning it will work on Apple’s iOS devices such as the iPad and iPhone, which do not otherwise support Adobe’s Flash video format.

Adobe reportedly previewed the new streaming video capabilities of the next version of its Flash Media Server at the 2011 National Association of Broadcasters trade show.

Apple developed HTTP Live Streaming in 2009. It uses H.264 video and AAC or MP3 audio, and plays in QuickTime on Mac OS X and iOS.

By adding support for HLS within the Flash Media Server, says Adobe’s Flash media product manager Kevin Towes, the company is “reducing the publishing complexity for broadcasters who need to reach browsers supporting HLS through HTML5 (such as Safari) or devices where Adobe Flash is not installed. Where Flash is installed, Flash Media Server packages the stream using MPEG4-fragments (F4F) to deliver video over HTTP to Flash.”


Kodak continues imaging suit against Apple, RIM

The U.S. International Trade Commission will review Kodak’s case alleging Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry violate Kodak’s patent on an image-preview.

Kodak reportedly gained $550 million from Samsung and $414 million from LG over the same patent, and says it may add more than $1 billion in revenue from royalty payments from Apple and RIM.

Bloomberg reports Kodak generated $838 million from patents last year, and expects $250– $350 million annually from intellectual property licensing through 2013.

Kodak reported in January its 2010 revenue of $7.2 billion, about half the total from 2005, and said two of its three main business had losses from continuing operations before interest expense, taxes and other charges.

Apple and RIM have also filed patent claims against Kodak.


Meanwhile, Reuters reports the ITC ruled that Apple has not violated any of five patents cited by Nokia in its lawsuit. Nokia filed suit against Apple in October 2009.




Apple adds cameras to iPad

Apple updated its popular iPad handheld computer with faster processing and graphics (fast enough to edit video with the new iMovie app) and reduced size and weight — but, as with its last iPod Touch, the added cameras fall short of even the 5 megapixel sensors that are now standard on low-cost phones and other devices.

Instead, Apple provides a mere VGA-resolution sensor on the front for video calls, and an HD-video capable camera on the backside.

We love our iPhone, iPod, and yes, iPad 1 — but it is frustrating to see Apple continually slighting the photography features in all its products (perhaps excepting the iPhone 4).

However, with the simple FaceTime software now enabled on its phones, Macintosh computers, and the iPad, Apple may yet trigger a surge in video conferencing.

iPad 2 pricing starts at $500.

Camera development at Apple

The iPhone now features a high dynamic range feature, but Apple is clearly not halting imaging applications there for its iPhone — the leading camera by some usage metrics.

Jack Purcher at Patently Apple reports that other patent application activity includes correcting blurry photos, masking skin tones, and reducing chroma noise.

Full details are here.

Apple patents glasses-free 3D

Apple has been granted a patent for its method of projecting an image that can be perceived in 3D without glasses.

In its 2006 application only recently granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple says the technology is an “inexpensive auto-stereoscopic 3D displays that allow the observer complete and unencumbered freedom of movement.”

In the system, each pixel is projected onto a reflective, textured surface, then bounced into a viewer’s left and right eye separately, producing the stereoscopic effect. Multiple people can watch from various angles.

More on the story is here.