Apple announced new "Spoken Interface" technology designed to vocalize and make audible everything that visually happens on a desktop. The software is much like screen-reading software--the last of which was discontinued for the Mac last summer, according to BusinessWeek: "And even better, unlike traditional screen readers, Apple's technology will be built right into the next version of the OS X operating system. That will be a big help. For starters, the price is sweet. Spoken Interface won't cost anything extra because it'll be part of the core OS. Screen readers for Windows can run up to $1,000, on top of the cost of the computer itself." Apple has posted an online user survey, which it says will help it develop the technology, which will be included in Mac OS X 10.4.
Evening tech news: Several projects have fallen behind schedule as the company tries to make its software more secure, a Microsoft executive says; wide swaths of the U.S. Interior Department were taken off the Internet again on Tuesday after a federal judge concluded that the agency still has not fixed security holes; AOL said it plans to unveil a new service called AOL Bill Pay that lets its subscribers pay nearly all their bills directly through its proprietary e-mail service.
Native Instruments today released Traktor FinalScratch 1.5.1 for Mac OS X, which expands on the functionality of the $550 digital DJ system and also brings important optimizations for Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther". Version 1.5.1 also features a new "Key Correct" function, which allows DJs to change tempo while preserving the original pitch of the track using the acclaimed time-stretching algorithms from Traktor DJ Studio 2.5. Other improvements include a customizable user interface and enhanced visualisation of audio tracks. It is available as a $50 direct download or on CD for $70.
VFXSoup has published an interesting interview with compositor Alex Brodie, creator of Apple's most recent iPod TV ads. "One of the most challenging projects recently was the Apple iPod silhouette campaign. Each different music genre had a different version, in different lengths and different markets." The advertisements feature silhouettes of iPod users dancing on various colored backgrounds.
Despite the success of the iPod in consumer markets, Banc of America Securities analyst Keith Bachman today cautioned that Power Mac G5 sales could be slow for the second quarter in a row. "We believe [G5 sales are] the single-best gauge of the growth potential of Apple," Bachman said in a research note. "The G5 is more important that the iPod in terms of (earnings per share) impact." Apple shipped 206,000 G5 systems last quarter, falling short of many analysts' estimates. Bachman estimates that Apple will ship 195,000 G5s this quarter. After running up to 27.56 earlier this month on excitement about the iPod's success, shares of Apple have since fallen about two points.
ShapeShifter 1.2 is an update to Unsanity's $20 utility that allows users to customize their Mac using themes. This update adds the ability for themes to skin individual applications; improves load time for the ShapeShifter preference pane; manages theme files; and corrects countless bugs. [Download - 4.1MB] 4D JDBC Driver is a robust driver that provides an easy and standard way for developers working with the Java programming language to access 4D databases. Developers can utilize the JDBC driver to exchange data between any Java-based application with JDBC connectivity and a 4D Server 2003 database with no programming required. [Download - 417KB iCalMaker 1.6 is an update to MMISoftware's $25 text-based appointment creation/editor tool for iCal files. The update includes: improved handling of poorly formatted iCal files; improved error message reporting; and additional help information on error messages. [Download - 469KB] FootTrack ($40) is a Mac OS X application that allows users to capture, catalog and easily search your digital video tape footage. New features in the latest version include: groups of clips that are independent of any tapes; smart groups; and the ability to select the top level 'Tapes' or 'Groups.' [Download - 3.2MB] Mighty Mouse 1.1.3 is an update to the $10 'haxie' to create, animate, customize, and share cursors for Mac OS X. New in version 1.1.3 is Panther compatibility, removal of temporary files, improved launch time, bug fixes, and more.[Download - 2.6MB] iMagine Photo 2 is a fully AppleScriptable image processing tool for Mac OS X. It can write exif and IPTC meta data, import movie files, draw individual movie frames, and create create image files with transparency as well as offers Chroma key type capabilities and improved the control of text positioning. Pricing is $60 with a limited $20 discount through April 22. [updated]
Virtix has updated Virtix Arsenal for iMovie 1.1, which allows you to place special effects at a position on the screen and change that position over time, using a technique called keyframing: "You can use this technique to make the effect match up with your scene as the camera moves or as the people move, adding a professional realism to the effect. You can use the movable, keyframeable positions in Virtix Arsenal with the Arrow, Spotlight and Witness Protection effects to draw attention to a person or hide their identity, and move the effect as they move." The $35 package includes 12 effects for iMovie and is available for $35. It runs on Mac OS 9/X and iMovie 2/3/4.
Microsoft today announced several more features of its upcoming Microsoft Office 2004 productivity suite, including new Presenter tools in PowerPoint (an on-screen clock, notes pane and thumbnails of the entire presentation– all viewable only to the presenter); a new three-column view in Entourage 2004; improved Junk E-mail protection in Entourage; and new archiving features in Entourage, which allows users to export PIM data – such as e-mail messages, contacts or schedule – into an Entourage archive package. The MacBU has created Episode 1 of a new Flash demo, which it says will take the viewer on a personal tour of key Office 2004 features in action, including the new Office 2004 tools announced today and the previously announced Project Center in Entourage 2004 and Word 2004's Notebook Layout View.
Caldera Graphics today announced support for the SCITEX VISION XLJet+ grand printers with its GrandRIP product line, which includes three software solutions dedicated to grand format: GrandPRINT, GrandRIP and GrandRIP+. GrandPRINT is an integrated desktop solution to drive grand format printers; GrandRIP is a client/server solution for large format color productions with multi-tasking support and support for multiple peripherals as well as incorporates a PostScript and PDF RIP. GrandRIP+ also includes tiling features as well as spot colors management. Both GrandRIP and GrandRIP+ feature task automation with workflow and hotfolders. Each also includes SignMark, which can create marks on the posters for grommets positioning and margin visualization.
Apple has posted Fan Control Update 1.0, which "improves performance and reliability of the Fan Control system of the Power Mac G5." Update: The update appears to be for Mac OS X 10.2.x owners as several readers have reported that this update is already included Mac OS X 10.3.3.[1.0MB]
Mergemill 3.6 is an application for quickly creating web pages from a database, a spreadsheet, or a set of simple text files. Source contents may come from any text editor, FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Access, 4th Dimension, Microsoft Excel, AppleWorks, or any database that can export data in XML or the most common tab-separated text format. Version 3.6 includes hundreds of web templates and several improvements; it is available as a free update. Mergemill sells for $100.
Epson recently introduced the S1+ Multimedia Projector, which features 1,400 ANSI-lumens of brightness, SVGA (800x600) native resolution, and a contrast ratio of 500:1. The S1+ also features computer and component, s-video, and composite inputs, and weighs about seven pounds. The projector will ship in April for $1,000.
Downsize 1.0 ($6 shareware) is an easy-to-use application for batch converting images from a digital camera or scanner for the Web. The software will automatically scale and adjust the quality of a photo to user-defined settings. Downsize also offers iPhoto integration. [150KB] EditiX 1.2 ($40) is a Java-based XML editor, which helps Web authors and programmers use XML and XML-related technologies, such as XSLT, FO and XSD schemas. It adds a new XSLT Editor, the ability to generate a temporary schema for document completion, an SVG preview, DTD checking, an improved UI, embedded documentation, and more. [10MB] FoldersSynchronizer 3.4.7 updates the popular backup and synchronization utility. The utility will now "bless" all cloned volumes, the ability to delete generated log files, tooltip improvements, and other UI enhancements. FS can generate bootable backups, scheduling, filters, timers, and automount functions. The full version is $40, while a lite version is $20. [full, lite] Cocktail 3.4.5 ($10) improves Mac OS X 10.3.3 support for popular general purpose utility. Cocktail can perform a variety of system-level tasks, from forcing the trash to empty to manually running cron maintenance scripts. [1.5MB] Hog Bay Notebook 3.0 ($20 shareware) is a multipurpose application for recording and organizing thoughts, notes, rescipes, addresses, serial numbers, and more. Version 3.0 brings a new outline view, bookmarks side drawer, and AppleScript support. [1.1MB] Subtitler 1.4 ($90), adds custom preview sizes, individually formatted titles with tags, an XML file format, and a multiple language interface (English, French and German) to the standalone program for editing/rendering of titles in Avid Composer. Titlelistconverter 1.6 (free) can read subtitle files in many formats and exports them to EDLs and Belle Nuit Subtitler Files. [ST, TC] SR-Transport 6 ($975) offers tools for migrating data between Oracle, Sybase, MSSqlServer, OpenBase, and FileMaker databases and more: "[It] changes your data layout, splits or merges data fields, renames and otherwise transforms your data to fit your needs." Version 6 provides compatibility with MacOS X 10.3 (Panther) and is a free upgrade for users covered under support contracts. [form] GraphicConverter 5.0.1 corrects a bug with saving files that cropped up with version 5.0, released yesterday. [5.7MB]
Marathon Computer has started shipping its G5 Rackmount, a heavy-duty aluminum rack that allows two G5 towers to be mounted side-by-side in 12U of space in standard 19-inch equipment racks. The G5 Rackmount sells for $200; the company has already shipped pre-orders that it started taking last month.
The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required) has picked up the story of Apple's expected inability to meet its self-imposed goal of selling 100 million tracks by the end of April, as BBC News noted yesterday. Apple now expects it will have sold 70 to 75 million tracks by that time. More interestingly, CEO Steve Jobs told the Journal that redemptions from the Pepsi-iTunes promotion "aren't what we thought they might be," adding that many of the Pepsi bottles with the winning bottle caps were distributed late. Pepsi has previously said they expect 10 to 20 percent of winning caps to be redeemed. The Pepsi-iTunes promotion runs through the end of April. (Interestingly, Both CNET News.com and BBC News revised their stories/headlines after receiving feedback about story slant regarding the self-imposed song goal.)
Now AAPL Stock: 94.02 ( -2.58 )
Apple brings iTunes Movie Trailers app to Canada
After five years, Apple has expanded its iTunes Movie Trailers app for iOS to Canada. As of Saturday, the free app allows movie buffs to see HD movie trailers for new studio and independent features, and explore some other movie-related extras such as photos, behind-the-scenes footage, or clips from upcoming films. Users can save trailers for quick access, read reviews from RottenTomatoes.com within the app, use AirPlay to send them to an Apple TV, share trailers, and peruse the top movie charts. http://apple.co/1UUKtwr
Apple expands CloudKit API, provides web interface
On Friday, Apple notified developers that it was expanding a feature of CloudKit to allow for server-to-server web service requests. "In addition to providing a web interface for users to access the same data as your app, you can now easily read and write to the CloudKit public database from a server-side process or script with a server-to-server key," Apple said in its announcement. Previously, interaction with the CloudKit public database was limited to apps and web only. http://apple.co/20h1RwP
Remote S for Tesla Apple Watch app drives car out
Developer Allen Wong has created the Remote S for Tesla app, which can be used to remotely activate the Model S electric car via an Apple Watch, and drive it a short distance. Aside from providing data about the car and some basic function controls, the unofficial app uses the manufacturer's Summon command to allow the car to turn on, exit the garage, and park near to the user's location. The app is available to purchase from the App Store for $10. http://apple.co/1PprF4t
Seagate 3TB unreliability suit expands
The Seagate 3TB class-action hard drive lawsuit has been expanded to more devices. The expanded suit, filed today, now includes Seagate's Barracuda 3TB Hard Disk Drive,Â Desktop HDD 3TB, Backup Plus 3TB External Hard DiskÂ Drive,Â GoFlex 3TB External Hard Disk Drive, or any other Seagate hard drive with model number ST3000DM001. The law firm, Hagens Berman, is seeking information from consumers such as time in service, purchase price, and the nature of any drive received in return from Seagate as a replacement for a failed unit. http://bit.ly/1Pc34Cq
BlackBerry Canada, Florida hit with layoffs
The BlackBerry campus has reportedly been wracked with layoffs. Sources familiar with the company's Waterloo office staffing claim that close to 35 percent of the local workforce has been laid off, with the deepest cuts being made in the BlackBerry 10 OS and hardware teams. Additionally, the state of Florida has been officially notified that the company's Sunrise facility will see 75 people fired. Enthusiast site Mobilesyrup puts the layoffs at around 1000 total. http://bit.ly/1Pc1Rep
Instagram tests multiple account support for iOS
Instagram is trialling support for multiple accounts in its iPhone app with a small number of users. The Facebook-owned photo sharing service confirmed the reports of the tests to TechCrunch, which will allow a single user to manage more than a single account within the app, transferring between two or three accounts with a few taps. It is unclear when the feature will roll out to the public, but it has previously tested it with the Android version of the app since November. http://tcrn.ch/1SPKEKh
Foxconn CEO declares Sharp deal near done
The Foxconn bid for Sharp is allegedly only waiting on specific details of the deal. Foxconn CEO Terry Gou has declared that his company has privileged negotiation rights for the Apple iPhone screen supplier, saying that "we have a consensus, the rest is a process ... I don't see a problem completing this process." Gou hopes the deal, worth up to $5.6 billion, will be formalized by the end of February. http://reut.rs/1SPEQjN