PTJ 63 News: Golden Apples

appleAs expected, Apple announced two new iPhone models on Tuesday. The first was the lower-end iPhone 5C with a plastic back in white, pink, green, blue or yellow and specs similar to the now-discontinued iPhone 5. The second was the high-end iPhone 5S, a 64-bit handset with a fingerprint reader, better camera and three color options: gold, silver and “space gray.” Not sure about taking a bite and upgrading? As with every tech-acquisition decision, there are pros and cons.

In other news, Apple announced that its own iApps — iMovie, iPhoto, and the iWork trio of Pages, Numbers and Keynote — will now come free with newly purchased devices running iOS 7. As for iOS 7, Apple’s new flatly designed mobile operating system will be available for download on September 18th. And with iOS 7, you get iTunes Radio. Not mentioned during this week’s Apple press event: iPads, iPods, iTunes, OS X Mavericks, MacBook Pro updates, Apple TV updates, mythical iTV sets or imaginary iWatches. Maybe next month.

Try as it might, Apple could not hog all the headlines this week. Microsoft is preparing to launch the Surface 2 tablets later this month. Hoping not to get lost in the press for iTunes Radio, Microsoft also launched mobile apps for its Xbox streaming music service. Users can now stream the service on iOS and Android devices. Xbox Music has about 30 million songs in the jukebox.

Sony’s PlayStation 4 console is on the way later this fall, as is a new version of its handheld PS Vita and its PlayStation Vita TV hardware. The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch made its official debut last week. The fancy timepiece can link with Android devices running version 4.3 or later.

Facebook seems to be trying to catch up with Twitter as the social-media place people go to get and discuss news events and other topics that trend. The Social Network released a pair of new tools for news organizations that could give those companies a better understanding of real-time social conversation surrounding things like breaking news, TV events like Sharknado or live sports. Google+ has added embedded posts and author attribution to its world. Google+ sign-ins are now integrated with Google’s Authorship program. Google+ also follows Twitter and Facebook into the world of embedded posts. And Twitter, perhaps looking to make some money in advertising, just bought the MoPub mobile advertising exchange for $350 million dollars.

FilmOn, one of the streaming broadcast TV services we mentioned recently here, has lost a major court battle over copyright in the District of Columbia and has been ordered to shut down by preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs in the case, which include ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, were pleased with the decision but FilmOn has vowed to fight on with an appeal. FilmOn’s rival, Aereo, is no doubt watching these events closely.

The National Security Agency can apparently crack most forms of digital encryption.

And finally, AM radio, perhaps the original wireless network that brought people together, has been losing audience and influence for years, but a lone member on the Federal Communications Commission is trying to get his agency to overhaul the technology and save it. In today’s world of satellite channels and audio streaming into your computer or phone from around the world, it’s easy to forget the crackly comfort of good ol’ amplitude modulation, but AM radio is still a vital part of rural communities and a beacon of information in times of emergency. (For a historical perspective on radio’s influence on the world, check out the excellent 1992 documentary Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio by Ken Burns, which is available on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.) If you’re now feeling nostalgic, go on — dig up that old transistor radio you’ve got tucked away in the junk drawer, pop in some fresh batteries and give the dial a spin for old times’ sake.

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