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Tablet rivalry looms with Win 8 (Apple Talk Weekly)

This week we got to see a lot more of Windows 8, the OS that will go head to head with both Apple's iOS and Mac OS X when it debuts next year.

Once again I'm going to kick off this week's edition of Apple Talk Weekly by talking about a company other than Apple, and that company is Microsoft.

The tech giant offered developers their first taste of Windows 8 at its Build conference in Anaheim, Calif. The software, which was given to developers this week as a preview, represents a very interesting approach from Microsoft in that the operating system has been designed to work on desktops, notebooks, and tablets.

Wait a minute, how is that supposed to work?

Microsoft's solution is to offer an OS with two interfaces: the classic Windows that people know and love, and a touch-friendly "Metro" look that will be better suited for tablets (more on that here).

As I spelled out in a story yesterday detailing some of the differences in Microsoft and Apple's approaches, one of the potential problems Microsoft's strategy creates is the difference in update cycles that users have come to expect. Tablet users on Apple's and Google's platforms have become accustomed to frequent updates that add features free of charge. And by splitting up iOS and Mac OS X, Apple has allowed time to work on new versions of its desktop OS without slowing down the iOS side.

With Windows though, Microsoft has a longstanding habit of keeping the new features relegated to new releases. Will that change with Windows 8, and will the Metro look end up getting updates more frequently than the desktop-oriented part of the OS? And more importantly, will such a thing even matter if Microsoft lets end users tinker with the Metro face of Windows to make it to their liking? We'll have a better idea ahead of Windows 8's release, which is expected sometime next year.

Read on to get all this week's big Apple news and rumors, along with a dose of Apple history.

News of the week

TV networks bring streaming apps to iPad
Wondering why Apple nixed TV show rentals earlier this year? The company probably saw this coming. All three networks recently added streaming of full TV show episodes through their iPad apps, free of charge. Apple ended rentals of TV shows through iTunes late last month, saying that most users were simply buying episodes outright versus paying for the rental.

EFI firmware updates bring Thunderbolt Display fixes to some MacsThis week Apple rolled out a series of EFI firmware updates to its Thunderbolt-equipped Macs, readying them for its Thunderbolt Display. Updates to the latest generation MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and MacBook Pro added compatibility for the display, along with bringing Lion's Internet Recovery Feature to MacBook Pro owners.

Apple's new Thunderbolt Display.
Apple's new Thunderbolt Display. Dong Ngo/CNET

Thunderbolt Displays start shipping out
Late this week, Apple's Thunderbolt Displays began shipping out to customers. The new displays, which replace Apple's LED Cinema Display, were unveiled alongside the introduction of Lion and the updated MacBook Air and Mac Mini in July. The new accessory represents the first from Apple to work with the Thunderbolt ports on its Mac line. We got ours in-house at CNET. Head over to my colleague Dong Ngo's first impressions for more.

Apple settles with counterfeit NYC stores
The two stores in Queens, N.Y., that were thefocus of a trademark infringementand intellectual-property suit by Apple in July have reached a settlement with the electronics giant. Reuters this week reported that a proposed settlement between the two stores and Apple has the retailers handing over any products they have with Apple's trademark on them. The original suit claimed the stores were selling counterfeit goods, including cases and headphones.

Rumors of the week

Did Case-Mate show off the iPhone 5's design?
In a peculiar move, accessory maker Case-Mate this week briefly posted renderings of a new line of cases for Apple's next iPhone, which has not yet been announced by the company. The cases were pulled down quickly, leading to speculation that they could be the real deal.

Is that the iPhone 5 under there?
Is that the iPhone 5 under there? Case-Mate/BGR

Sprint to get an iPad 3G of its own?
With reports of Sprint Nextel being one of the next carriers to get Apple's iPhone, a new report from Apple blog 9to5mac claimed that Apple and Sprint have completed work on an iPad that works with Sprint's cellular network. Apple already offers 3G models of the iPad 2 on AT&T's and Verizon's networks.

AirPort Express getting overhaul?
Apple's AirPort Express wireless networking accessory was launched in 2004, and has remained largely unchanged since its introduction. Apple has updated its innards and has trickled down features from its AirPort Extreme base station, but from the outside, you can't tell the difference. A report from AppleInsider this week claimed Apple is planning to launch a new version of the hardware, which is Apple's entry-level wireless networking accessory.

Apple rolling out updated MacBook Pros soon?
Apple's MacBook Pro series could be the next in line for a hardware upgrade, according to an AppleInsider report from this week. The outlet said Apple plans to introduce new models of its Pro portables with speedier Intel processors that will ship in time for the holiday shopping season. Apple's last big update to its Pro line came in February.

Apple giving iOS 5 to assemblers next week?
An analyst report at the beginning of the week claimed Apple planned to deliver the golden master version of iOS 5 between September 23 and 30, with that software then being imaged onto new devices (like the iPhone 5 and iPod Touch) before being shipped out to stores. So far, Apple has rolled out seven betas of iOS 5 for developers to test on the way to the final, public version of the software.

iMessage coming to iChat?
This week Macrumors dug out a code string within OS X Lion's iChat software that noted when messages are both delivered and read, suggesting that support for Apple's iMessage protocol is on the way. iMessage is Apple's upcoming messaging service that's a part of iOS 5, however it's only available for chat between iOS 5 users. Its inclusion into Mac OS X's iChat software would bridge the divide, and follow in the footsteps of Apple's FaceTime, which began as iOS software, and later came to Macs.

Patent of the week

This does not exist, yet.
This does not exist, yet. USPTO

Apple this week nabbed a patent it filed for in late 2005 that covers a 3D imaging and display system. In short, the patent (picked up by PatentlyApple) details an imaging system that can track your movements and put them on-screen. Of course, Microsoft actually brought such a system to market with the Kinect last year for its Xbox 360 console, and later Windows PCs, letting people interact with their game console and computer with their body instead of a keyboard and mouse.

Detailed within the patent are all sorts of mentions for how this could work out, including head tracking, hand gestures, and presence detection. Also included is audio feedback to confirm that what you're doing in real life is working on-screen.

This is not Apple's first patent foray into 3D technology. Recent patents and patent applications have explored making use of 3D in displays, computers, and glasses-free 3D.

This week in Apple history

A figure from Amazon's 1-Click patent.
A figure from Amazon's 1-Click patent. USPTO

Tomorrow marks the 11-year anniversary of Apple becoming the first company to license Amazon's 1-Click patent and trademark for use on its online store. The first Apple product to be made available for sale was Apple's iMovie 2 software, three years before it would end up as part of the company's iLife suite. Apple later added it to its iTunes Store and iPhoto.

Amazon's patented 1-Click feature lets customers purchase items with--you guessed it--one click. The customer's credit card and shipping information is saved, removing any additional steps to make the sale. The patent faced reexamination in 2006, with a revised version of it being confirmed in 2010.

Apple Talk Weekly is a roundup of some of the week's top Apple-related news and rumors, along with answers to your questions (which we skipped this week). If you have something Apple-related you want answered in next week's edition, drop me a line using the e-mail link below this post.