Thursday Recap: Apple Thinking Different Again, Patent Victory Against Motorola

Motorola Droid eyeHow about that OS X Mountain Lion, huh? Apple skipped past the rumors and leaks and went straight to this morning’s surprise announcement, which just goes to show that ol’ Cupertino still has it in them to pull a rabbit out of the hat now and again. While OS X Mountain Lion is understandably the big news of the day, there were a few other things also going on, so let’s skip straight to the news for Thursday, February 16, 2012, shall we…?

OS X Mountain Lion Gatekeeper Already Present in OS X 10.7.3?

In a day already overloaded with news about Apple’s forthcoming OS X Mountain Lion comes this little nugget from MacRumors: Apparently, the new Gatekeeper feature is already included with the existing OS X Lion 10.7.3 for developers who want to flip the switch and test it out. “Mac OS X users will soon have the option of turning on Gatekeeper, a new Mac OS X security feature,” Apple has instructed developers. “When a user does this, the system provides an additional measure of safety: it blocks that user from opening newly-downloaded applications that are not Developer ID–signed. In this scenario, the same user is easily able to launch downloaded applications that are Developer ID–signed.” According to MacRumors, the Gatekeeper feature can be activated simply by opening Terminal and running the command “sudo spctl –enable” — or alternately, be turned off by replacing “enable” with “disable.” But as the report notes, there’s no advantage to end users for turning the feature on at this time, since developers have yet to issue any updates to take advantage of it.

Apple Scores Victory Against Motorola Over “Slide to Unlock” Patents

Foss Patents is reporting that a German court has ruled in Apple’s favor in a patent dispute with Motorola Mobility. The key victory is a European patent Apple holds for the company’s “slide to unlock” feature, patent number EP1964022. According to patent expert Florian Mueller, the court found Apple the victor on two out of three points: “Apple won on the two that Motorola’s smartphones implement,” the report reveals. “It did not prevail on the third one, which the Xoom tablet uses. That implementation is very similar to what I have on my Samsung Galaxy Note: the user has to make a swiping gesture from the inside of a circle to the outside. It requires a relatively large screen to work somewhat well, but even then it’s not very intuitive.” While Motorola plans to appeal the decision, it is Mueller’s belief that the appeal is unlikely to succeed — which could spell big trouble for the company’s European sales, at least until the offending feature is revised.

Kindle Fire Racks Up 3.9 Million Units Compared to iPad’s 15.4 Million

Analysts may be wringing their hands wondering if Amazon’s new 9 Kindle Fire tablet will consume some of the iPad’s traction, but judging from a report by CNNMoney’s Apple 2.0 blog, Apple may be its own competition. iSuppli issued a report today that shows Amazon’s Kindle Fire managed to nab 14 percent of the worldwide tablet market in the final three months of 2011, with 3.9 million units sold since its mid-November debut. Sounds great until you compare that to the 15.4 million iPad units sold during the same timeframe, which puts Apple’s tablet at 57 percent of the market. More curiously, iSuppli cites the iPhone 4S as a “shiny new alternative” to the iPad, rather than the more obvious Kindle Fire — meaning Apple’s main competition is itself, not a bad problem to have.

Phil Schiller: Apple “Starting To Do Some Things Differently”

Almost as fascinating as the surprise announcement of OS X Mountain Lion this morning is reading Daring Fireball scribe John Gruber’s account of how Apple conducted private, one-on-one “product briefings” with journalists, who found out about the new version before developers. The result was quite effective: There were no rumors and no leaks about the new version of OS X, and apparently not even accurate guesses as to what the next version would be called. “We’re starting to do some things differently,” Apple senior VP Phil Schiller told Gruber in a New York City product briefing about a week ago. No more Moscone West, no more Yerba Buena Center — just Schiller, two marketing and PR guys from Apple and the journalist themselves. OS X will now get the same annual upgrade treatment as iOS, and the company will save the big dog and pony shows for major events — presumably there will be one in early March for the iPad 3, although it’s anyone’s guess. “My gut feeling though, is this,” Gruber writes. “Apple didn’t want to hold an event to announce Mountain Lion because those press events are precious.” Judging from the spotlight being thrown on OS X Mountain Lion across the internet today, Apple’s new “think different” approach seems to be working…

New Twitter, Now Available to All

With so many people using Twitter on mobile devices — and most of those likely using a native app — it’s easy to forget that the company has been in the midst of overhauling the web version, which was first announced back in December. Now, the Twitter Blog is announcing that the transition is complete, and the swanky new Twitter website is finally available to one and all, rather than being exclusive to mobile devices and the official iOS and Android apps. To recap, the new features include the ability to click on any tweet in your timeline to expand its contents, Connect and Discover menu options, embedding tweets on your website and plenty of new shortcuts. That’s assuming anyone is still actually using the website…

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