Tag - Liquidmetal
Among many new patents granted to Apple by the US Patent and Trademark Office, one has attracted interest because of its involvement of Liquidmetal, an amorphous alloy Apple has invested in an exclusive license for that offers unique properties, but has never been much exploited by the company. The new patent images the substance as part of a future iOS device home button. In the patent, Apple describes the alloy as being used in a switch, where pressure from a finger would temporarily deform the actuator, but using Liquidmetal would mean that the button would always return to its normal shape, avoiding eventual permanent deformity.
This edition of Rumor Roundup will begin with what we understand is a fact: Apple VP of Product Design Steve Zadesky is leaving Apple. The Wall Street Journal reports that he has informed colleagues of his departure for personal reasons. The loss will be a blow to the company: Zadesky worked on the iPhone and iPad, and has been working extensively with Liquidmetal -- the special alloy Apple owns the rights to under license. However, it is his rumored role as the head of the Apple car-technology project, which allegedly stems from is former role as a Ford engineer, that feeds the rumor mill.
Two patents recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) suggest Apple is still working on developing production processes for Liquidmetal. The two patents describe methods for casting bulk metallic glass (BMG) in different ways, including allowing multiple BMGs to surround other alloys, as well as techniques to melt BMG feedstock using horizontal cold crucible induction melting (CCIM) systems.
Apple has again renewed its exclusive license -- for the third time in as many years -- for rights to use Liquidmetal Technologies' patented and unique metal alloys, despite the fact that the company has appeared to do little with the technology. The metal alloy, known for its high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and ability to be molded into complex or other shapes difficult to achieve with other metals, has been the object of speculation for years.
Apple has again extended its contract with Liquidmetal Technologies, giving the Cupertino manufacturer exclusive rights to its alloys through February of 2015. All intellectual property acquired or developed by the Liquidmetal Technologies, and all intellectual property held by Crucible Intellectual Property, is now under the control of Apple for use only in its own devices.
Apple's exclusive licensing agreement of the Liquidmetal fabrication process and engineering staff in 2010 briefly sent ripples through the tech industry, until a lead executive revealed that it would take years and hundreds of millions of dollars before the material was ready for large-scale production. A patent awarded to Crucible Intellectual Property -- seemingly a joint venture between the two companies -- appears to be at least a portion of the method to generate large quantities of Liquidmetal, expected to be used in future iOS and other devices. Apple holds the exclusive license for the development and sale of the material in the consumer market.
A job listing from Apple describing the need for a mechanical engineer with a wide knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes -- and some specific experience in skills required for dealing with the bulk-metallic glass alloy known as Liquidmetal -- has fuelled speculation that Apple's investment in the technology may be finally bearing more fruit. The technology is already used for specialized parts such as the SIM card ejector pin in older iPhone models, but very little has been seen of it thus far.
An SEC filing by Liquidmetal Technologies on Friday revealed that the company has extended its licensing of the technology to Apple for exploitation in consumer electronics for another two years beyond the original agreement, now in effect until 2014. Apple has made light use of the technology since 2010 on small parts such as the SIM card ejector pin in the iPhone 3GS, but continues to develop the innovation for commercial use.
Dr. Ataka Peker, one of the inventors of the new class of metallic alloys known commercially as Liquidmetal and the founder of the company, says he believes Apple would have to spend "three to five years", and "$300 million to $500 million" to develop the alloys to the point where it could be used on a large scale, such as for an entire computing casing. He believes the company will continue to use Liquidmetal on a smaller scale until a "breakthrough product" comes along.
A rumor surfacing Wednesday has both Apple and Samsung turning towards exotic materials for their next-generation smartphones. Apple would purportedly take advantage of its Liquidmetal patent deal, ETNews said, to get a shell that was both thin and light but resistant to external damage. The design was "expected" to show at the World Wide Developers Conference in June, though without an official WWDC date, this part would be more speculation than a claim of fact.
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Apple's third-quarter results due July 26
Apple has advised it will be issuing its third-quarter results on July 26, with a conference call to answer investor and analyst queries about the earnings set to take place later that day. The stream of the call will go live at 2pm PT (5pm ET) via Apple's investor site, with the results themselves expected to be released roughly 30 minutes before the call commences. Apple's guidance for the quarter put revenue at between $41 billion and $43 billion. http://apple.co/1oi1Pbm
Twitter stickers slowly roll out to users
Twitter has introduced "stickers," allowing users to add extra graphical elements to their photos before uploading them to the micro-blogging service. A library of hundreds of accessories, props, and emoji will be available to use as stickers, which can be resized, rotated, and placed anywhere on the photograph. Images with stickers will also become searchable with viewers able to select a sticker to see how others use the same graphic in their own posts. Twitter advises stickers will be rolling out to users over the next few weeks, and will work on both the mobile apps and through the browser. http://bit.ly/29bbwUE
French show carries on with iPhones
Following a prolonged power loss in a French TV studio, the crew was able to use a combination of limited studio lighting and a number of iPhones to continue taping the Saturday episode of talk show On n'est pas couché ("We're Still Awake"), using the resulting footage in the first edited episode. The Plus-model iPhones used for the impromptu shoot completion were either iPhone 6 Plusses (which shoot in 1080p) or 6s Plus models (which can shoot in 4K). The decision to use the iPhones to complete the show was made after a power outage at France 2's studio stretched to more than three hours. http://bit.ly/299wqDt
Scrivener for iOS to arrive in late July
For some long-time Scrivener users, to quote Paul Simon, "these are the days of miracle and wonders." As it marks its 10th anniversary in business, developer Keith Blount has announced that the long-awaited iOS version of his creative-writing tool Scrivener is to be submitted to the App Store, following strong praise from beta-testers. The program, expected in late July, will sell for $20 and work with both the iPad and iPhone. When we interviewed Blount last January, he added that Scrivener 3 for Mac would follow along shorty afterwards. http://bit.ly/2901XLE
WhatsApp now handles over 100M calls daily
WhatsApp is celebrating that it is being used for over 100 million calls every day. In a brief notice, the Facebook-owned messaging platform advises the voice-calling feature it rolled out to its users last year now deals with an average of over 1,100 calls initiated per second. Earlier this year, it increased the security of its calls and other messages, by introducing end-to-end encryption on all platforms. http://bit.ly/292HqCX
Adele's '25' album now streaming
Recording artist Adele has "pulled a Kanye" after saying that her current album "25" would not be available for streaming. The seven-month-old record, which has yielded a number of hit singles, is now available for streaming on all the major streaming services, such as Apple Music and Spotify, as of today in most major markets, with worldwide distribution to come. Reportedly, the singer had demanded streaming be limited to paid subscribers -- a condition that has hurt some streamers with artists, who aren't paid royalties for free or trial listens . Apple pays performers its normal royalty rates during its free trial, avoiding the issue -- and having repeated success in both signing up exclusives and placing those exclusives into the top of the charts. http://ti.me/28U7NOu
SanDisk iXpand case has battery, storage
A new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s case from SanDisk appears to be the "holy grail" of accessories: a stylish and protective case that offers both extra storage as well as the option of extra battery power as well. The iXpand Memory case offers either 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of additional storage incorporated into the case, and an optional add-on battery pack (sold separately) adds up to an extra day or more of charge. Through the associated iXpand app, camera photos and videos can be automatically stored on the extra storage, optionally password-protected, The cost for the case is (in order of storage capacity) $60, $100, and $130. The battery pack's release data has not yet been announced, but the add-on should retail for an additional $30. http://bit.ly/291epHu