iTunes Store features new Mastered for iTunes section

Mastered for iTunesAlthough Apple only sells music through the iTunes Store in the 256 kbps AAC format known as “iTunes Plus”—throwing away 97% of a recording’s original data in favor of smaller file sizes—the company is attempting to show off its “higher quality” selections with a new Mastered for iTunes section in the iTunes Store. Songs from within this section are processed using tools and guidelines that attempt to maintain as much of the original sound quality as possible, while still cutting off that 97% of data.

This is all done by downsampling the original recording from 24-bit samples at 96 or 192 kHz (depending on a system’s processing power and available storage space) to 44.1 kHz using a 32-bit floating-point intermediary file, which is then converted to the AAC iTunes Plus file. Performing this process apparently uses every bit of resolution available, keeping the dynamic range of the original recording in tact. This highly impacts the overall sound of a compressed track purchased from the iTunes Store, making it sound as though it’s of much higher quality than it actually is.

You can read more about the technology behind mastering at Apples’ new Mastered for iTunes web page, and you can check out tracks that make use of this technology in the new Mastered for iTunes section of the iTunes Store.

Via [TUAW]

from AppleTell http://www.technologytell.com/apple/90614/itunes-store-features-new-mastered-for-itunes-section/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+appletell+Appletell

Steve Jobs’s Life Is Documented In An Incredible Facebook Timeline [Update]

We’ve seen countless tributes to Steve Jobs since he passed away on October 5, but the latest is really incredible. It’s a Facebook timeline that documents Steve’s entire life since the day he was born, and it’s truly jaw-dropping. I can’t imagine the effort that must have gone into this.

The timeline features literally hundreds of photographs and videos that feature Steve throughout his life, from the Electronics Club at Homestead High School back in 1969, to the day he stepped down from the role of CEO at Apple, and everything in between. It’s just like a wonderfully interactive biography that you can immerse yourself in for ours.

I did this morning when I first took a look at it. Whoever created this must have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into it, but I think it certainly paid off.

Be sure to check it out, especially if you’re a fan of Apple and Steve Jobs.

UPDATE: A number of readers have contacted me to say that the page has now been taken down. Those of you who had chance to look at it while it was live will know that’s a huge shame.

More from Cult of Mac:


from Cult of Mac http://www.cultofmac.com/147898/steve-jobss-life-is-documented-in-an-incredible-facebook-timeline/

Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown

The latest Oatmeal cartoon has been making the rounds of Twitter (largely thanks to John Gruber’s link). It makes two points about the problems of piracy exceptionally well.

The intentional point is that the content distributors often make it crazy-stupid hard for us to give them our money. Most of these industries have been frustratingly slow to adopt to the patterns of the modern consumer. News flash: we’re not heading to Blockbuster Video any more. Well, actually, yes, we are. But only because the Blockbuster went out of business and a Panera Bread is now leasing that space. We’ll probably get a Bacon Turkey Bravo for lunch and then watch some Netflix via the restaurant’s free WiFi while we eat.

Consumers couldn’t make their desires any more clear. We’ve got money to spend on TV and movies, but now we’re looking for it on iTunes and Netflix and through all other kinds of network-connected devices. If a distributor shows up in any of those places with a product we want, we’ll buy it.

[Added to clarify: and if they don’t show up in those places, they’re making torrenting that much more attractive. They’re just feeding the monster they’re trying to fight. That’s crystal-clear.

Remember the mistakes that the comic book industry made. Digital distribution made no sense to Marvel and DC, so they never really committed to it. Fine, but reading a comic book on a phone or a laptop made perfect sense to their audience, and they’re the people with the money. In the absence of a legal means of digital comics distribution, an illegal infrastructure of file standards, consumption tools, and distribution systems developed and flourished.]

The Oatmeal made an unintentional point that was just as important as the first, however:

The single least-attractive attribute of many of the people who download content illegally is their smug sense of entitlement.

Here’s my conversation with a hypothetical person who wants to check out “Game Of Thrones.” Not with Matthew Inman, author of The Oatmeal, I hasten to say. Just a conglomeration of the species of torrenters as a whole.

You want to see what the hubbub around “Game Of Thrones” is about? Cool. The show is produced by HBO and it’s available exclusively on that channel. It’s a premium channel and any cable provider can sell you a monthly subscription.

HBO’s awesome. They have a streaming app that will allow you to watch pretty much any original series or movie that they still have the rights to (including “Thrones”) and it works with almost everything that can play streaming video. HBO doesn’t even charge for the app or for the extra access.

You say you don’t want to subscribe to HBO, or even cable?

Ah. Well, no worries. The show will be released on DVD and Blu-ray later in the year.

You’re not into physical media? I’m with you. It’ll be on iTunes soon. See? The store page lists the release date. March 6. You can circle it on the calendar and everything.

You’re still frowning. What’s wrong, Scrumpkin?

Oh. You want it right now.

But — umm — the release date is only, like, two or three weeks away. Just hang on a bit. You’ll be fine.

Yes, I heard you (please, sir, there’s really no need to shout). I understand that you want it (and I hope I’m not misquoting you) right the ****ity-**** NOWWWWWWWW. But you can’t have it now. You can have it on March 6. It isn’t even as far away as you think. Remember? February is the super-short month?

(Sigh)

You’re already torrenting it, aren’t you?

Annnnd now you’re also calling me a d*** because I expected you to wait two weeks, and you’re claiming that you’re “forced” to torrent it because the video industry is bunch of turds. How charming.

Here’s the terms of use for commercial content: you have to pay for this stuff. This means either you need to wait for it to become commercially available, or if you torrent it today you need to buy it when it gets released. So long as you buy it as soon as it’s possible to do so, I can confidently reach for my “No Harm Done” rubber stamp. Some content is commercially unavailable because the publisher or distributor has no desire to ever release it. I’ll even go so far as to say that downloading it illegally is a positive thing; you’re helping to keep this creative work alive.

If you avoid purchasing the media in some form, however…you’re just one of those people who prefer to steal things if they think they can get away with it. Simple as that. Get off your high horse.

I’m reminded of a Louis CK joke. I’m going to clean up a little because I’m not Louis CK and this isn’t a live comedy stage. It really wouldn’t come across the same way otherwise.

“I’m totally opposed to stealing an Xbox. Unless Microsoft sets a price for them that I don’t want to pay, or there’s a new model in a warehouse somewhere and it won’t ship to stores for another few weeks. Because what else am I going to do? Not have that Xbox? That’s no solution!”

The world does not OWE you Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want it at the moment you want it at the price you want to pay for it. If it’s not available under 100% your terms, you have the free-and-clear option of not having it.

I sometimes wonder if this simple, grown-up fact gets ignored during all of these discussions about digital distribution.

It was still a funny strip, though.

from Andy Ihnatko's Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA) http://ihnatko.com/2012/02/20/heavy-hangs-the-bandwidth-that-torrents-the-crown/

★ Mountain Lion

“We’re starting to do some things differently,” Phil Schiller said to me.

We were sitting in a comfortable hotel suite in Manhattan just over a week ago. I’d been summoned a few days earlier by Apple PR with the offer of a private “product briefing”. I had no idea heading into the meeting what it was about. I had no idea how it would be conducted. This was new territory for me, and I think, for Apple.

I knew it wasn’t about the iPad 3 — that would get a full-force press event in California. Perhaps new retina display MacBooks, I thought. But that was just a wild guess, and it was wrong. It was about Mac OS X — or, as Apple now calls it almost everywhere, OS X. The meeting was structured and conducted very much like an Apple product announcement event. But instead of an auditorium with a stage and theater seating, it was simply with a couch, a chair, an iMac, and an Apple TV hooked up to a Sony HDTV. And instead of a room full of writers, journalists, and analysts, it was just me, Schiller, and two others from Apple — Brian Croll from product marketing and Bill Evans from PR. (From the outside, at least in my own experience, Apple’s product marketing and PR people are so well-coordinated that it’s hard to discern the difference between the two.)

Handshakes, a few pleasantries, good hot coffee, and then, well, then I got an Apple press event for one. Keynote slides that would have looked perfect had they been projected on stage at Moscone West or the Yerba Buena Center, but instead were shown on a big iMac on a coffee table in front of us. A presentation that started with the day’s focus (“We wanted you here today to talk about OS X”) and a review of the Mac’s success over the past few years (5.2 million Macs sold last quarter; 23 (soon to be 24) consecutive quarters of sales growth exceeding the overall PC industry; tremendous uptake among Mac users of the Mac App Store and the rapid adoption of Lion).

And then the reveal: Mac OS X — sorry, OS X — is going on an iOS-esque one-major-update-per-year development schedule. This year’s update is scheduled for release in the summer, and is ready now for a developer preview release. Its name is Mountain Lion.1

There are many new features, I’m told, but today they’re going to focus on telling me about ten of them. This is just like an Apple event, I keep thinking. Just like with Lion, Mountain Lion is evolving in the direction of the iPad. But, just as with Lion last year, it’s about sharing ideas and concepts with iOS, not sharing the exact same interaction design or code. The words “Windows” and “Microsoft” are never mentioned, but the insinuation is clear: Apple sees a fundamental difference between software for the keyboard-and-mouse-pointer Mac and that for the touchscreen iPad. Mountain Lion is not a step towards a single OS that powers both the Mac and iPad, but rather another in a series of steps toward defining a set of shared concepts, styles, and principles between two fundamentally distinct OSes.

Major new features

  • iCloud, with an iOS-style easy signup process upon first turning on a new Mac or first logging into a new user account. Mountain Lion wants you to have an iCloud account.

  • iCloud document storage, and the biggest change to Open and Save dialog boxes in the 28-year history of the Mac. Mac App Store apps effectively have two modes for opening/saving documents: iCloud or the traditional local hierarchical file system. The traditional way is mostly unchanged from Lion (and, really, from all previous versions of Mac OS X). The iCloud way is visually distinctive: it looks like the iPad springboard — linen background, iOS-style one-level-only drag-one-on-top-of-another-to-create-one “folders”. It’s not a replacement of traditional Mac file management and organization. It’s a radically simplified alternative.

  • Apps have been renamed for cross-OS consistency. iChat is now Messages; iCal is now Calendar; Address Book is now Contacts. Missing apps have been added: Reminders and Notes look like Mac versions of their iOS counterparts. Now that these apps exist for the Mac, to-dos have been removed from Calendar and notes have been removed from Mail, leaving Calendar to simply handle calendaring and Mail to handle email.

The recurring theme: Apple is fighting against cruft — inconsistencies and oddities that have accumulated over the years, which made sense at one point but no longer — like managing to-dos in iCal (because CalDAV was being used to sync them to a server) or notes in Mail (because IMAP was the syncing back-end). The changes and additions in Mountain Lion are in a consistent vein: making things simpler and more obvious, closer to how things should be rather than simply how they always have been.

Schiller has no notes. He is every bit as articulate, precise, and rehearsed as he is for major on-stage events. He knows the slide deck stone cold. It strikes me that I have spoken in front of a thousand people but I’ve never been as well-prepared for a presentation as Schiller is for this one-on-one meeting. (Note to self: I should be that rehearsed.)

This is an awful lot of effort and attention in order to brief what I’m guessing is a list of a dozen or two writers and journalists. It’s Phil Schiller, spending an entire week on the East Coast, repeating this presentation over and over to a series of audiences of one. There was no less effort put into the preparation of this presentation than there would have been if it had been the WWDC keynote address.

What do I think so far, Schiller asks. It all seems rather obvious now that I’ve seen it — and I mean obvious in a good way. I remain convinced that iCloud is exactly what Steve Jobs said it was: the cornerstone of everything Apple does for the next decade. So of course it makes sense to bring iCloud to the Mac in a big way. Simplified document storage, iMessage, Notification Center2, synced Notes and Reminders — all of these things are part of iCloud. It’s all a step toward making your Mac just another device managed in your iCloud account. Look at your iPad and think about the features it has that would work well, for a lot of people, if they were on the Mac. That’s Mountain Lion — and probably a good way to predict the future of the continuing parallel evolution of iOS and OS X.3

But this, I say, waving around at the room, this feels a little odd. I’m getting the presentation from an Apple announcement event without the event. I’ve already been told that I’ll be going home with an early developer preview release of Mountain Lion. I’ve never been at a meeting like this, and I’ve never heard of Apple seeding writers with an as-yet-unannounced major update to an operating system. Apple is not exactly known for sharing details of as-yet-unannounced products, even if only just one week in advance. Why not hold an event to announce Mountain Lion — or make the announcement on apple.com before talking to us?

That’s when Schiller tells me they’re doing some things differently now.

I wonder immediately about that “now”. I don’t press, because I find the question that immediately sprang to mind uncomfortable. And some things remain unchanged: Apple executives explain what they want to explain, and they explain nothing more.

My gut feeling though, is this. Apple didn’t want to hold an event to announce Mountain Lion because those press events are precious. They just used one for the iBooks/education thing, and they’re almost certainly on the cusp of holding a major one for the iPad. They don’t want to wait to release the Mountain Lion preview because they want to give Mac developers months of time to adopt new APIs and to help Apple shake out bugs. So: an announcement without an event. But they don’t want Mountain Lion to go unheralded. They are keenly aware that many observers suspect or at least worry that the Mac is on the wane, relegated to the sideline in favor of the new and sensationally popular iPad.

Thus, these private briefings. Not merely to explain what Mountain Lion is — that could just as easily be done with a website or PDF feature guide — but to convey that the Mac and OS X remain both important and the subject of the company’s attention. The move to a roughly annual release cycle, to me, suggests that Apple is attempting to prove itself a walk-and-chew-gum-at-the-same-time company. Remember this, five years ago?

iPhone has already passed several of its required certification
tests and is on schedule to ship in late June as planned. We can’t
wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and
experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is.
However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever
shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come
without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering
and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will
not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers
Conference in early June as planned. While Leopard’s features will
be complete by then, we cannot deliver the quality release that we
and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our
developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give
them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing,
and ship Leopard in October. We think it will be well worth the
wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we’re sure
we’ve made the right ones.

Putting both iOS and OS X on an annual release schedule is a sign that Apple is confident it no longer needs to make such tradeoffs in engineering resources. There’s an aspect of Apple’s “now” — changes it needs to make, ways the company needs to adapt — that simply relate to just how damn big, and how successful, the company has become. They are in uncharted territory, success-wise. They are cognizant that they’re no longer the upstart, and are changing accordingly.

It seems important to Apple that the Mac not be perceived as an afterthought compared to the iPad, and, perhaps more importantly, that Apple not be perceived as itself considering or treating the Mac as an afterthought.


I’ve been using Mountain Lion for a week, preinstalled on a MacBook Air loaned to me by Apple. I have little to report: it’s good, and I look forward to installing the developer preview on my own personal Air. It’s a preview, incomplete and with bugs, but it feels at least as solid as Lion did a year ago in its developer previews.

I’m interested to see how developer support for Mac App Store-only features plays out. Two big ones: iCloud document storage and Notification Center. Both of these are slated only for third-party apps from the Mac App Store. Many developers, though, have been maintaining non-Mac App Store versions of their apps. If this continues, such apps are going to lose feature parity between the App Store and non-App Store versions. Apple is not taking the Mac in iOS’s “all apps must come through the App Store” direction, but they’re certainly encouraging developers to go Mac App Store-only with iCloud features that are only available to Mac App Store apps (and, thus, which have gone through the App Store approval process).

My favorite Mountain Lion feature, though, is one that hardly even has a visible interface. Apple is calling it “Gatekeeper”. It’s a system whereby developers can sign up for free-of-charge Apple developer IDs which they can then use to cryptographically sign their applications. If an app is found to be malware, Apple can revoke that developer’s certificate, rendering the app (along with any others from the same developer) inert on any Mac where it’s been installed. In effect, it offers all the security benefits of the App Store, except for the process of approving apps by Apple. Users have three choices which type of apps can run on Mountain Lion:

  • Only those from the App Store
  • Only those from the App Store or which are signed by a developer ID
  • Any app, whether signed or unsigned

The default for this setting is, I say, exactly right: the one in the middle, disallowing only unsigned apps. This default setting benefits users by increasing practical security, and also benefits developers, preserving the freedom to ship whatever software they want for the Mac, with no approval process.

Call me nuts, but that’s one feature I hope will someday go in the other direction — from OS X to iOS.


  1. As soon as Schiller told me the name, I silently cursed myself for not having predicted it. Apple is a company of patterns. iPhone 3G, followed by a same-form-factor-but-faster 3GS; iPhone 4 followed by a same-form-factor-but-faster 4S. Leopard followed by Snow Leopard; so, of course: Lion followed by Mountain Lion.

  2. On the Mac, Notification Center alerts are decidedly inspired by those of Growl, a longstanding open source project that is now sold for $2 in the Mac App Store. I hereby predict “Apple ripped off Growl” as the mini-scandal of the day.

  3. There is a feature from the iPhone that I would love to see ported to the Mac, but which is not present in Mountain Lion: Siri. There’s either a strategic reason to keep Siri iPhone 4S-exclusive, or it’s a card Apple is holding to play at a later date.

from Daring Fireball http://daringfireball.net/2012/02/mountain_lion

Wahoo Fitness Dongle: The Sharpest Fitness Tool In Your Shed [Review]

Till January of this year, the Wahoo Key for iPhone ($80) dongle pwned fitness on the iPhone. Why? Because the tiny, ubiquitous dongle gives the iPhone access to dozens of ANT+ sensors, and more fitness apps than any other system — turning your iPhone into a fitness-tracking powerhouse.

Then in January, Wahoo one-upped itself and introduced the Wahoo Blue Bluetooth heart-rate strap, which completely bypasses ANT+ and instead communicates via low-energy Bluetooth v4.0. Does this mean the Key is obsolete? Not by a long shot.

The Good:

Every conceivable fitness-related measurement — heart rate, bicycle pedal cadence, power output, stride, you name it — has an ANT+ sensor to measure it, and can theoretically be paired with the Key (you can also purchase a variety of ANT+ sensors directly from Wahoo, like the HR strap and bike speed/cadence sensor we tested here). But the Wahoo Key is not only exemplary because how many sensors it’s compatible with — it also shares its collected data with more apps than any other system. The ever-popular Runkeepeer, and our favorite cycling app, Cyclemeter, are just two of the many apps the Key is compatible with.

Heck, even Wahoo’s own fitness app is fantastic. It’s well-designed, easy to read, comes with a wide choice of readout pages that can be selectively included and includes everything you need for a wide range of activities. About the only thing that disappoints is that the modules themselves aren’t customizable for each screen.

Range for the key is pretty good. I was able to shove my iPhone in a jacket pocket, or strap in onto my arm with an armband (Wahoo sells one that has a slot for the dongle) while still receiving signals from the speed/cadence and heart-rate sensors.

Both the Wahoo HR strap that came with the package, and an older Garmin strap that came with my well-used Forerunner 405, paired remarkably quickly and painlessly (though only one strap can be paired at a time, of course) using the key’s utility app.

For now, Wahoo’s use of Bluetooth is limited to its HR strap; everything else requires ANT+, which means the Fisica dongle is still king. For now.

The Bad:

I’m not sure why, but I actually had a little trouble getting Cyclemeter to wake up to the fact I had a heart-rate monitor attached; I’m assuming this was a fault of the app, not the hardware though.

Dongles are easy to lose or accidentally wash after being left in a pants pocket (ahem).

Verdict:

An essential piece of kit for any even remotely serious athlete with an iPhone.

Rating: ★★★★½

The cadence/speed sensor fit well enough on my Titus Racer-X’s massive stay (note that I suffered a brain fart and installed the sensor on the drive side; don’t do this).

From left: The Wahoo Fitness App’s HR zone screen, main screen and the utility app’s HR strap pairing screen.

More from Cult of Mac:


from Cult of Mac http://www.cultofmac.com/146010/wahoo-fitness-dongle-the-sharpest-fitness-tool-in-your-shed-review/

Big Surprise – Paper Textbooks Likely To Be Cheaper Than IPads For a Long Time [Infographic]

Earlier this year Apple announced their plan to help revitalize the American Education System by putting digital textbooks on iPads into the hands of high school students. Apple’s belief is that learning on an iPad is a far superior experience to lugging around printed books that aren’t interactive. We compappletely agree that interactive learning is the road America needs to take, but getting there is going to be a huge problem. A recent study shows that using paper textbooks in schools is a lot cheaper than iPads, and that’s not likely to change unless Apple takes some drastic steps to reduce cost.

Using paper textbooks in the average high school class currently costs about $180,000 but switching to iPads would cost $430,000. Many proponents of using the iPad in the classroom say that the iPad is more cost effective in the long run because the tablet doesn’t need to be replaced as often. But with the average lifespan of a textbook being about 5 years, it looks like schools may need to replace iPads just as often as they replace their paper books.

What if schools stopped spending money on computers and just bought iPads, wouldn’t that work? Nope, not even close. Schools spent $2 billion on computers last year, which is only enough to supply 10% of students with iPads. Combine the problems of our nation’s massive deficit, the current price of the iPad, and the rate of school spending on technology, and we see that it might take 10 years for schools across the country to adopt iPads if spending stays the same. That’s if they decide to go with the expensive route in the first place.

Here’s a handy infographic on why using paper textbooks are so much cheaper than using iPads.

[Online Teaching Degree via FastCoDesign]

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from Cult of Mac http://www.cultofmac.com/146243/big-surprise-paper-textbooks-likely-to-be-cheaper-than-ipads-for-a-long-time-infographic/

TED Talks Now On iTunes U

TED on iTunes U

Oh look: talks from smart ideas conference TED have arrived on iTunes U.

There are six themed courses covering things like Visual Arts, Climate Change, and Creative Problem Solving. Each one comprises a number of different TED talks that you can watch for free.

Of course, all TED talks are already free to watch on the web, but it’s nice to see them curated and distributed like this via iTunes U.

Speaking of which: iTunes U itself is, in my opinion, one of Apple’s most impressive offerings. Since becoming a separate app on iOS devices after recent software updates, it’s been taking a more prominent place on my iPad, where I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching or listening to lectures when I have free moments.

The scale of what’s on offer via iTunes U is staggering, and the fact that everything on it is free is testament, I believe, to Apple’s long-term institutional belief in the value of education.

The TED channel has only just begun and there’s much more to come. I’m looking forward to it.

More from Cult of Mac:


from Cult of Mac http://www.cultofmac.com/145272/ted-talks-now-on-itunes-u/

Why Apple’s Upcoming TV Will Have An AirPlay Interface

This comes closer to what I think the ‘next’ Apple TV might be than many of the other rumors I’ve seen.

 

 

Please don’t look at the following images on a full stomach:

 

Okay, sorry I had to do that, but it’s important. And to my friends on the TV manufacturing side of the world – it’s not your fault!  It’s not your fault!

Most “Smart TV” user interfaces suck, and you’re doing your best. But they fundamentally violate so many rules of user experience design. But why are they so bad? In a nutshell, it’s for the same reason you don’t expect loggers to sell fancy high-end furniture (think about that one for a second). The products are being built from the wrong end of the production team.

For the dining room table, what do you think, arrow foot or ball foot?

Let’s agree that user experience design is a challenge to begin with. Apple does it great. Everyone else, not so much – and even Apple products have flaws. Further, virtually everything about a “ten foot” user interface (the terminology we use to describe what happens onscreen on your TV) is a broken interaction model, so this is going to be crippled no matter what.

I’ll write about this more in the future, but I believe there’s a fundamental breakdown on the limitations of what you can do with any 10′ UI and a remote control, regardless of gestures, speech, etc.

Next, per my logger analogy, effectively the teams building these products have absolutely no experience nor expertise at this kind of design. The world of consumer electronics has (barely) evolved from dials, knobs, and switches to doing highly complicated interfaces on screens. Not only that, every year the requirements are changing!

And since this is a new field (despite almost 20 years worth of ten-foot UIs), there are very, very few folks out there who have dived deeply into this problem (the Wikipedia page on the topic barely even requires a scrollbar to read everything). So the same people who are used to just getting the TV to work right, are now also in charge of creating “an experience”. I think this is a guaranteed to fail situation, and it’s unfortunate for everyone involved.

The last “easy” TV user interface.

First, regarding voice-controlled TVs. Is this part of the future? Absolutely, unquestionably, undeniably. Siri hacking is already a hobby, and the idea of “TV, channel 702 please” or “TV, Watch The Office” or “TV, Record New Episodes of Arrested Development” all sound great. But how much of an improvement is this really?

I’d call it a minor enhancement – specifically in context to all the action happening in the second screen. If you can pick up your smart phone or iPad and perform roughly the same query in one of dozens of apps, then “talking” this command doesn’t really sound like a HUGELY big deal. It sounds incremental. And when Steve Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, “I’ve finally cracked it,” it doesn’t seem like he was talking about incremental. As I’ve written about previously, I don’t think it’s about physical gestures either, and as I’ll write about more in the future, it’s unlikely “apps” nor about some “new” 10-foot user interface (those are terrible, and are dead, thankfully).

What if Steve Jobs wasn’t talking about some futuristic thing we’ll see one day? What if it’s not some mystical innovation that we can’t possibly fathom? See, I talk to virtually everybody in the future of TV industry, and not a single person seems to be able to imagine what this could be. That’s a whole lot of smart, industry-relevant, savvy people to be so in the dark.

So I’m going to take a giant leap backwards on the statement “I cracked it” and instead of looking at what might come, I’m looking at what’s already there. See, from my eyes, the single biggest improvement to the TV experience I’ve ever seen happened last year.

I think “I Cracked It” exists, and it’s called AirPlay.

AirPlay takes a fundamental mindshift from thinking about whats happening ON the screen, where you have to use a remote (or gesture or voice or whatever) to control some awkward, ill-performing, frustrating, fundamentally LOUSY user interface. AirPlay shifts the interface to your favorite location, the device you hold, and carry with you all the time. AirPlay enables you to have the most organic, natural, helpful user experience you can, then just shift that experience to the device you want, easily and flawlessly. It’s an awesome experience.

For the record, I don’t mean this to be a gush about Apple TV / AirPlay – merely the experience the two together provide, one I anticipate will be replicated by others, and soon. The future of TV interfaces will be controlled by your second screen, and you’ll have one simple way to get it to the screen of your choosing.

Today that’s done by AirPlay, but by the end of 2012 you’ll see this type of offering from a variety of manufacturers and app providers.

The first “moment of change” for TV user interfaces happened in the late 1990s by TiVo. The next one happened in 2010, by Steve Jobs & Apple. And yes, he cracked it.

This is a guest post by Jeremy Toeman, Chief Product Officer of Dijit Media, a venture-funded startup whose vision is to create the ultimate “four screen” social entertainment experience. It was originally published here.

More from Cult of Mac:

from Cult of Mac http://www.cultofmac.com/144456/why-apples-upcoming-tv-will-have-an-airplay-interface/

The iPad’s Split Keyboard In iOS 5 Has 6 Invisible Keys Which You Don’t Know About

Apple introduced an interesting interesting feature to the software keyboard on the iPad with iOS 5, and it’s one that some had been crying out for, and others loved without even knowing they wanted it.

The split keyboard, for use when the iPad is in the portrait mode, makes it easier to type on the device with just two thumbs by splitting the keyboard into two and pulling the halves to the sides of the screen. It’s great for using when you don’t want to use the iPad in landscape and want to type with your thumbs a little more easily.

While that’s all fine and dandy, it turns out that the split keyboard actually has another trick up its sleeve, and it’s a doozy!

See, people type in a few different ways, and to some the split keyboard actually splits in the wrong place, making it uncomfortable to hit certain letters.

Users may, for example, wish to tap the ‘T’ button with their right thumb, rather than the left as Apple expects them to. They can do that now, but they need to reach right over to the opposite side of the screen to do it. It’s a great idea to chew on, and it’s actually rather cumbersome, too. But it’s OK. Apple’s got your back.

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Now it’s been discovered that the iPad actually has six phantom buttons allowing users to tap the opposite side of the screen to where the T,G,V and Y,G,B buttons are and still have them registered by the keyboard. Tap just next to the letter ‘Y’ and you’ll be given a letter ‘T.’ Pretty cool, right?

It might not seem like much, but it can really help speed things along if you tend to type this way on a hardware keyboard.

Go ahead, give it a try yourself. You can split the iPad’s keyboard in two by either tapping and holding on the ‘toggle keyboard’ button on the lower-right, or simply pulling the keyboard apart at the middle. We prefer the latter method, if only because it makes us feel a bit special.

Yes, we’re easily pleased!

(via TNW) (source FinerThings)

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from Redmond Pie http://www.redmondpie.com/the-ipads-split-keyboard-in-ios-5-has-6-invisible-keys-which-you-dont-know-about/