Apple acquires startup BookLamp for between $10M to $15M in bid to bolster iBooks

Jul 26, 2014 - 1:21 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple on Friday confirmed reports that it recently acquired book analytics firm BookLamp — dubbed the "Pandora for Books" — in April to bolster its fight in the e-book sales market, bringing better discovery and analytics to its digital storefront.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, TechCrunch reports Apple bought BookLamp and its so-called Book Genome Project technology for between $10 million and $15 million. The company confirmed the sale to Re/Code minutes later.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," Apple said.

Based in Boise, Idaho, BookLamp developed a system of digitally analyzing book content, which played out as a tech demo in the Book Genome Project. Like the similarly-named "Music Genome Project" from Pandora, BookLamp's solution looks to offer recommendations and discovery of new material by breaking apart and analyzing books using natural language algorithms.

Apple is thought to have acquired the startup for in the iBookstore, which offers e-books to iOS and OS X device owners but does not yet have an effective recommendations system for content discovery. Like the iOS App Store, Apple is likely looking to improve generated suggestions through BookLamp's specialized software that can parse words and sentences to look for various metrics like genre, themes and even pacing.

As seen in the above samples snagged by TechCrunch, the Book Genome Project is able to pick out keywords, phrases and other data, map them out in a chart and compare the findings with other analyzed books. Pacing of thematic elements is accomplished through another algorithm that recognizes the same metrics as they appear in a novel.

Apple was reportedly already contracting BookLamp's services to automatically digest book data for demographic targeting, but the tech could potentially be rolled into the iBookstore much like app search engine Chomp was in 2012. BookLamp also counted Amazon as one of its customers, along with publishers in New York.

"At first Apple and BookLamp talked about growing their contract, but then they talked more from a strategic standpoint," one source told TechCrunch. "What Apple wanted to do was, instead of contract, they wanted to make sure whatever work was done was done just for them."

Apple's endgame is unknown, though BookLamp's toolset presents a number of possibilities including targeted advertising, tailored book "playlists" and smart recommendations.

"I can tell you that in the next year to 18 months you will see some fairly major initiatives focused on books and reading coming out of Apple," the person said.

During Apple's quarterly conference call for the third fiscal quarter of 2014, CEO Tim Cook

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Bose files lawsuit against Apple's Beats over noise canceling tech

Jul 25, 2014 - 2:58 PM - by sparkyscott21

Two of the biggest names in premium headphones — Bose and soon-to-be-Apple's Beats — are set to square off in court, with a new lawsuit filed on Friday by Bose alleging that Beats products infringe on its noise canceling patents.

Bose Corporation filed the complaint against Beats Electronics, LLC and Beats Electronics International Limited in a Delaware court, asserting that Beats has infringed on Bose's "valuable patented technology for noise cancelling headphones." The lawsuit is joined by a complaint that has been filed with the International Trade Commission seeking an injunction.

Specifically, Bose accuses the Beats "Studio" and "Studio Wireless," which are advertised to feature "Adaptive Noise Cancellation," of infringing on its patents. Bose asserts to the court that "Beats knows or is willfully blind to the fact that" its products are infringing on its patents.

In the complaint, Bose states that the company pioneered the technology behind active noise reduction, which reduces unwanted noise by introducing a second sound source that interferes with it. Headphones featuring active noise reduction usually rely on a microphone to reduce background noise.

Bose has been selling its "QuietComfort" branded headphones with this technology since 2000. For the latest "QuietComfort 20" headphones, Bose says they are protected by U.S. Patent Nos. 6,717,537; 8,073,150; 8,073,151; 8,054,992; and 8,345,888. They are titled:

'537: "Method and Apparatus for Minimizing Latency in Digital Signal Processing Systems"
'150: "Dynamically Configurable ANR Signal Processing Topology"
'151: "Dynamically Configurable ANR Filter Block Technology"
'992: "High Frequency Compensating"
'888: "Digital High Frequency Phase Compensation"

If the lawsuit drags out, it could last until Beats officially becomes a part of Apple, which would make the lawsuit targeting Apple's bottom line. Bose is seeking damages in the suit of an unspecified amount.

Apple announced in May that it will buy Beats Electronics, which makes premium headphones, as well as the Beats Audio on-demand music streaming service for a combined $3 billion. As part of the deal, company co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will become employees of Apple.



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Apple's e-wallet could debut as soon as this fall, possibly with 'iPhone 6'

Jul 24, 2014 - 10:19 AM - by sparkyscott21

A report on Wednesday claims Apple is accelerating work on a mobile payments system, or digital wallet, that could be ready by this fall, allowing customers to pay for physical goods with their iPhone instead of a credit card or cash.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Information reports Apple is in talks with partner companies to launch a Google Wallet competitor as soon as this fall, with some saying the service may roll out with the so-called "iPhone 6."

The people said Apple is in talks with major credit card company Visa to forge a partnership that could revolutionize the way consumers pay for goods. As noted by the publication, a direct partnership with Visa — or similar company — would be a huge step in bypassing the payment processing chain, saving both merchants and customers money.

With partnership talks ongoing, Apple is also working out the technology behind a mobile payments system. Sources say the Cupertino, Calif. company at one point planned to integrate near field communication modules in its iPhone lineup, though another person claims the system is to rely on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

In either case, sensitive customer information would likely be stored in an iPhone's secure enclave, or alternatively in the cloud. Apple has illustrated similar arrangements in numerous patents, one of which describes a Bluetooth/Wi-Fi solution in great detail.

Jibing with today's report, the patent notes credit card information would be stored in the cloud, akin to the method in which users refill or charge to an iTunes account.

Apple has long been rumored to be mulling an entry into the so-called "e-wallet" sector, though the company has taken a "go slow" approach. Competitor Google has charged head-first into mobile payments, integrating its NFC-based Google Wallet solution into the Android mobile operating system, while Apple has slowly rolled out additional functionality in its Passbook app.

Most recently, Apple debuted iTunes Pass, which allows customers to recharge their iTunes accounts via Passbook by taking an iOS device into any participating Apple Store. Theoretically, if the scan-to-recharge system is broadened to include major retailers, customers would be able to refill their e-wallet while checking out at a store like Target or Walmart. With Touch ID integrated into the mix, mobile payments would be secure, easy to use and, perhaps most importantly, transparent to the end user.



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Apple concept would automatically enable iOS 'Do Not Disturb' mode during exercise

Jul 24, 2014 - 10:03 AM - by sparkyscott21

Apple is interested in dynamically adjusting iOS notifications based on a user's physical activity, such as silencing an iPhone or perhaps even a mythical "iWatch" when the user is exercising, or bugging them to get moving after an extended period of inactivity.

The fitness-focused concepts were revealed in a new Apple patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, first discovered on Thursday by AppleInsider. Entitled "Method and Apparatus for Automatically Adjusting the Operation of Notifications Based on Changes in a Physical Activity Level," it describes how a user's iPhone might take on a more active or passive role based on the current circumstances.

The application repeatedly mentions the "Do Not Disturb" mode Apple introduced to its iOS platform beginning with the launch of iOS 6. In one example, Apple says that if a user enabled the setting, an iPhone could automatically enter a Do Not Disturb state when the device detects that the person is exercising.

Apple notes that an iPhone or other portable device could analyze data from its own onboard sensors, or from external connected devices such as a step tracker or heart rate monitor. If any of these detect that the person has a high activity level, notifications for text messages, emails and phone calls could be disregarded for the duration of the workout.

The concept also requires that activity continue for a certain amount of time for Do Not Disturb to be enabled, ensuring that the system doesn't incorrectly interpret a brief high-activity event — such as walking up a flight of stairs — as a workout.

"In this way, a short burst of activity — e.g., running to catch a bus — is not mistaken for the beginning of an exercise workout," the filing reads.

In another method, Apple states that a user could manually enable Do Not Disturb at the start of a workout, and the system would automatically deactivate it at the conclusion of the exercise.

Apple's system wouldn't just prevent annoyances during a workout — it would do exactly the opposite if a user hasn't been active enough. The filing states that reminders could be sent to the user's device if they haven't gone for a run in a few days, or it could simply advise them to get up from their desk if they've been sitting for too long.

As with the existing Do Not Disturb function in iOS, Apple notes that certain notifications could be an exception to the rule. For example, texts or calls from certain contacts might be approved to send notifications no matter what, while repeated calls from the same contact could also be allowed to send an alert.

Apple's application was first filed with the USPTO in January of 2013 before it was publicly disclosed this week. The proposed invention is credited to Natalia A. Ziemianska and Devrim

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iOS 8 & OS X Yosemite said to launch separately despite tight integration

Jul 23, 2014 - 12:16 PM - by sparkyscott21

Even though Apple will begin integrating iOS and OS X in new, mutually beneficial ways with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple currently plans to stagger the releases of the two operating systems, according to people briefed on the plans. iOS 8 will launch in September alongside the iPhone 6, and OS X Yosemite will launch approximately a month later, in October, according to the sources…

In 2013, iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks launched a month apart because Apple diverted resources from OS X to finish up the radical new iOS design, and this year, sources say that Apple has roped in engineering and user interface design experts from the iOS team in order to complete Yosemite for the fall. Either later this month or early next month, Apple plans to provide a public beta of Yosemite, sources said earlier this week.

It is a bit surprising that the pair of next-generation systems with their newly similar appearances and tighter integration could launch separately. At its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple pushed a new set of features under the umbrella names of Continuity and Handoff. Continuity allows Yosemite to make phone calls and receive an internet connection via an iOS 8 iPhone, and Handoff allows an iPhone user, for example, to begin writing an email and finish the message on a Mac.



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Booking Apple’s in-store training sessions is now easier than ever

Jul 23, 2014 - 12:08 PM - by sparkyscott21

One of the best things Apple offers for newbie customers is the ability to go into brick-and-mortar retail stores for training sessions.

Looking to improve this service — or at least to speed up the ability for users to make the appropriate reservations — Apple has made changes to its “Learn” webpage, adding an interactive map of its stores along with revised session details.

The changes also integrate workshops such as Youth Programs and One to One training into the existing Concierge reservation system.

Where previously the page asked visitors to go through a multi-step process beginning with picking a session related to their Mac, iPhone, or iPad, and then proceeding to the sign-up reservation process, now customers start by picking out their nearest Apple retail store. At this point a pop-up window appears with details of the store’s available workshops and session — including all available dates and times.

While I never had a problem with the old system, the new one is certainly simpler, and that can only be a good thing for ushering in new customers to the fold.



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