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Microsoft highlights lack of new Siri features to promote Cortana in new ad


Friday, November 21, 2014, 03:17 pm PT (06:17 pm ET)

Microsoft on Friday released a short ad bashing lack of enhancing Siri when it released the latest iPhone 6 models, expectedly touting Windows Phone-based Cortana virtual assistant technology.

Like a commercial aired in July, the short 30-second spot shows Cortana and Siri, apparently pals at this point, chit chatting about the new iPhone 6.

“Hi Siri, looks like you’re in a new phone. Congratulations,” Cortana says. Siri responds, “Yes, I got bigger,” in speech noticeably more stilted than Microsoft’s personal assistant.

Cortana is curious as to whether Siri was granted enhanced functionality with her new home, asking “are you more like me now?” Does Siri schedule reminders based on calls and texts or adjust for time using traffic report data?

Siri, in deadpan monotone, repeats that “she just got bigger,” a jab at Apple’s new 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus sizes.

“That’s OK, happens to everyone this time of year,” Cortana quips, referring to the holiday season.

The dialogue is obviously staged, as neither Cortana or Siri are advanced enough to carry on basic conversations beyond programmed responses, but Microsoft’s portrayal is unsurprisingly less forgiving of Apple’s digital assistant than its own solution.

Today’s ad is the latest in a string of aggressive commercials targeting Apple’s popular iOS device business. Microsoft first went after Siri earlier this year when it promoted Windows 8 tablet capabilities in an ad titled “Less talking, more doing.” With Cortana now a tentpole Windows Phone feature, it seems Microsoft no longer adheres to that mantra.

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Apple’s A8 SoC reportedly capable of 4K video output, may pave way for ultra high-resolution Apple TV


Friday, November 21, 2014, 04:12 pm PT (07:12 pm ET)

According to a report on Friday, Apple’s latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models are able to play back 4K video thanks to the powerful A8 system-on-chip, suggesting a future Apple TV model equipped with the same silicon would offer support for ultra high definition programming.

During testing of its media file conversion app WALTR, developer Softorino discovered Apple’s A8 processor can play back 4K videos on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, reports TUAW.

At this point, the “hidden” capability can be viewed as more of a technical accomplishment than a useful feature, as Apple’s iPhone 6 models don’t have the pixel density to benefit from all that additional data. Branded as “Retina HD displays,” the panel 4.7-inch iPhone 6 panel boasts a resolution of 1,334-by-750 pixels, while the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus packs in 1,920-by-1,080 pixels good for full HD viewing.

Since 4K provides 3,840-by-2,160 pixels of visual data, a lot of detail would be lost reproducing video on Apple’s current hardware. Still, the ability to play back 4K on iPhone is a nice feature to have as media slowly moves to ultra high resolution content.

Perhaps more interesting are future A8 applications, specifically Apple TV. The company’s set-top box is overdue for revision and currently squeezes out 1080p video using Apple’s generations-old A5 SoC. With an A8 brain, along with proper signal processing and possibly onboard storage, it is feasible that Apple’s next-gen device could be a 4K content server.

Apple already operates its own content delivery network, activated in July and subsequently used to roll out iOS 8 in September, while a new 4K option from Netflix 4K proved existing infrastructure can cope with high bandwidth overhead.

The question, then, becomes one of content, as 4K is still in its infancy and nowhere near being ubiquitous. Apple TV could change that. Currently, no physical format exists to carry 4K to consumers, prompting content providers like Sony — which also ships 4K UHDTVs — to whip up their own bespoke server solutions. If iTunes were to push 4K video at moderate prices, the format could potentially see wide adoption, which would lead to commoditization and more available content. These are, admittedly, a lot of “ifs.”

As seen by the most recent iMac with 5K Retina display, however, Apple is diving headfirst into high resolution content creation and consumption. The living room may be the next logical step in Apple’s product progression. Rumors of a next-generation Apple TV ran rampant earlier this year, but things died down after a report in July poured cold water on the prospect of new hardware, saying stubborn cable companies unwilling to budge on content licensing are to blame for delaying launch.

Most recently, Apple TV received a new firmware build that enables remote access for apps and hardware taking advantage of the iOS 8 HomeKit framework.

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Macintosh pirate flag reincarnated as art, for sale by original designer Susan Kare


Friday, November 21, 2014, 06:27 pm PT (09:27 pm ET)

Former Apple designer Susan Kare, who created famously distinct icons for the original Macintosh operating system, is selling through her online shop reproductions of the pirate flag that flew over the Mac team’s building in 1983.

Pirate flag as seen in 1984 Fortune Magazine photo (left) with Kare’s reproduction. | Source:

More of an homage than a direct copy, the hand-painted reproductions harken back to Kare’s original design that flew over Bandley 3, a building which housed the original Macintosh Divison on Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., campus.

According to Andy Hertzfeld, one of Apple’s first developers, the flag was inspired by a slogan coined by late cofounder Steve Jobs to inspire the Macintosh team. Jobs introduced three “Sayings from Chairman Jobs” during an off-site retreat in 1983:

“Real artists ship. It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy. Mac in a book by 1986.”

Drawing from Jobs’ sayings, and to stand apart from other nondescript buildings on Apple’s growing campus, Macintosh programmer Steve Capps suggested flying a flag.

A few days before we moved into the new building, Capps bought some black cloth and sewed it into a flag. He asked Susan Kare to paint a big skull and crossbones in white at the center. The final touch was the requisite eye-patch, rendered by a large, rainbow-colored Apple logo decal.

Kare’s flags are hand-painted and come in 3-by-5 foot or 4-by-6 foot sizes priced at $1,900 and $2,500, respectively. The pieces are considered art and not intended for outdoor use.

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Square plans to begin accepting Apple Pay with new NFC-compatible hardware in 2015


Friday, November 21, 2014, 08:57 am PT (11:57 am ET)

Though many viewed them as competitors, Square and Apple Pay will link up in 2015, as the point-of-sale service is working on a new cash register that will accept Apple’s NFC-based payment system.

Square founder Jack Dorsey confirmed his company’s plans for next year in an interview with CNN, published on Friday. Dorsey said that Square isn’t interested in offering credit cards or payment devices, but instead wants to become the default register that accepts users’ payments.

Square’s current systems, which integrate with Apple’s iPhone and iPad, require traditional, swipable credit cards in order to process transactions. The company began taking preorders earlier this month for new readers that will support chip cards, ahead of a switch to EMV-compatible credit cards by issuers coming in 2015.

But neither the headphone-jack-based Square Reader nor the iPad-based terminal Square Stand are currently compatible with tap-to-pay services like Apple Pay. Adding support would require the inclusion of a near-field communications receiver for securely accepting payment information.

Dorsey didn’t say whether an NFC-compatible Square Reader or Square Stand or both are in the works, or if his company is planning an entirely new type of register to add Apple Pay support. But the CEO did pledge that support for Apple Pay will arrive in 2015.

Apple Pay was activated on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last month via a software update. It utilizes established NFC technology to initiate transactions, though Apple has also integrated its Touch ID fingerprint sensor into the process for ease of use and strong security.

After it launched, Apple Pay got off to an incredibly strong start in the U.S., quickly surpassing competing services that have been on the market for years, like Google Wallet. Apple Pay has been a hit with consumers because it allows them to use their existing credit cards, and receive the benefits and rewards they have become accustomed to, rather than utilizing a debit card or bank account with no rewards for spending.

Rumors from earlier this year claimed that Apple considered buying Square at some point, but the iPhone maker ultimately “soured” on the prospect of a deal. Apple does, however, continue to carry Square products for mobile transactions in its retail stores.

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Apple officially begins selling automated iAds in bid to boost mobile advertising business


Friday, November 21, 2014, 09:14 am PT (12:14 pm ET)

Apple and a series of partners officially announced on Friday that the iAd network is now accepting “programmatic” mobile advertisement purchases, in a change that brings Apple in-line with other ad services.

Apple’s plan to offer automated iAds leaked earlier this week when one of its partners, Rubicon Project, accidentally published a press release early. But those plans, and additional partners, became official on Friday when the new automated system debuted.

Joining Rubicon Project will be other ad tech companies like AdRoll, MediaMath, and The Trade Desk. Those platforms are also integrated with Apple’s iAd Workbench tools to allow targeted, cross-device advertising campaigns directed at iPhone and iPad users.

With the change, iAd inventory will be bought and sold in an open marketplace, making it easier for advertisers to buy audiences. Programmatic buying enables advertisers to bid on placements through auctions, in a process that has proven popular through other advertising networks.

In its announcement, AdRoll said that customers will be able to run their campaigns through “Apple’s proprietary, privacy minded consumer data sets gleaned through iTunes.” Advertisers will be able to create and update their campaigns, retrieve analytics, and manage bids across iAd directly through participating third-party platforms.

“AdRoll has a long history of being first to market with new inventory sources and innovative functionality. We’re excited to bring the power, precision and scale of programmatic buying to a high-quality, in-demand inventory source,” said AdRoll President and CMO Adam Berke. “AdRoll is committed to bringing developers and advertisers of all sizes cross-device solutions for a world gone mobile.”

MediaMath said its clients will now benefit from streamlined campaign setup management, a wide range of reporting including metrics from tap-through rates to video completes, simplified billing, and early access to new features and functionality. One of its first iAd clients is L.L. Bean.

“With marketing budgets rapidly shifting towards programmatic, and the continued rapid growth of mobile, iAd brings a powerful combination of global scale, unique rich data, and a high-quality user experience, allowing our clients to engage with their target consumers across an unprecedented range of apps and devices,” said Ari Buchalter, COO of MediaMath.

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Manual photo uploads now available to all Apple users


Friday, November 21, 2014, 11:31 am PT (02:31 pm ET)

After spending a few weeks in developer-only beta testing, the new photo uploading feature is now available on the Web to all Apple users with iCloud accounts.

As of Friday, the upload feature on iCloud Photos is now accessible to all users. The new “Upload” option appears next to “Select Photos” in the iCloud Photos section of

Clicking the “Upload” button allows users to add .JPG images to their iCloud Photo cache for browsing on iOS and Mac devices. The button brings up a Finder window from which users can select single images or batches of photos to send to iCloud.

Once the pictures have been uploaded, they are then pushed down to iPhones, iPads and Mac signed in to the associated iCloud account. They can also be made available to users granted access to images via iCloud Photo Sharing.

iCloud Photos, known as iCloud Photo Library on iOS 8, lets users automatically upload photos and video from their Camera Roll for storage and cross-device syncing and download. The feature is similar to Photo Stream in iOS 7, but with support for full-resolution content and edit syncing.

iCloud Photos remains labeled as a beta. As of Friday’s launch, it only supports .JPG videos, and will not accept images in other formats. It also cannot be used to upload video files.

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