Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

Apple software engineer details development of original iPhone

March 26th, 2014

Christie tells the tale of how an ultimatum from late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pushed the engineer and his team to create what would become the first iPhone, the WSJ reports.

According to Christie, his team had been working on a “software vision” for the handheld when Jobs gave him two weeks to come up with something before the project was assigned to another group. What the engineering team developed would later become iPhone OS and ultimately the current iOS.

Along with “swipe to unlock,” touch-based inputs and gestures, Christie’s team created what can be considered the blueprint for modern smartphone operating systems.

At least some of the ideas came from Christie’s work with the Newton PDA team, which the engineer was part of after joining Apple in 1996. The engineer was offered the chance to work on the iPhone project in 2004 by former executive Scott Forstall, who at the time said Apple was developing a phone/media player hybrid with touch capabilities.

After months of highly secret work on “project purple,” including bi-weekly meetings with Jobs himself, Christie and his “shockingly small” team came up with a solution worthy of approval. The idea had to be pitched first to Jobs, then to Apple board director Bill Campbell and finally to Jony Ive.

Jobs became increasingly excited about the iPhone’s software possibilities, Christie said, and began to add his own narrative with each successive presentation.

“His excitement for it was boundless,” said Christie.

The article goes on to detail the steps all employees working on the project had to take to keep the device secret. Jobs reportedly told work could only be done in a secluded area of an employee’s house and all images of the phone had to be encrypted.

The story comes ahead of the scheduled start date for Apple’s second California patent trial against Samsung. Much of the litigation revolves around software patents Christie himself had at least some hand in creating.


Apple hits snags in ‘iWatch’ production, loses director of iPod software to Nest

January 8th, 2014

A new report published on Tuesday details the long and arduous road Apple’s supposed iWatch is moving down as it moves from idea to consumer product, including fresh information regarding an iPod software director’s departure to Nest Labs.

Apple has run into a number of challenges in bringing the so-called “iWatch” to market, reports The Information, though most appear to be in line with any new product launch. The publication provides a number of interesting tidbits, including the attrition of former Apple iPod software director and current Nest employee Bryan James, who reportedly worked on the project.

Now Vice President of New Product Engineering at Nest Labs, James was previously a director for Apple’s iPod software team, a position he held for over seven years. It is unclear what role James played in iWatch development, but sources claim the software engineer was involved with various wearable programs, including an Apple-made offering that would have allowed iPod nano users to wear the device as a wristwatch.

James is also listed on a number of Apple patents, most of which relate to user interface designs and backend technology. Specifically, The Information points to a property “associated with a watch-like device” that also lists Nest cofounder Matt Rogers as an inventor, but AppleInsider could not find the document in question.

The pair of names show up together only once in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,380,507 covers voice activated features in a portable device that could theoretically be used in an iWatch, though no mention of “watches” or “wearables” is made.

With a supposedly growing team dedicated to the iWatch project, James may not have been a key player, but his background is interesting nonetheless. As of February 2013, Apple was claimed to have a 100-person team working on the initiative, but has been “aggressively hiring” additional personnel in the intervening months.

Some of those hires are rumored to have backgrounds in the medical field, suggesting the as-yet-unannounced wearable may incorporate bio sensors and other “quantified self” technology.

The Information also reiterates prior reports regarding Apple’s production struggles thus far, including issues with screen technology. To this point, the publication cites people familiar with the project as saying Apple considered moving to a different display implementation late last year due to battery issues with older designs.

While quite possibly a foregone conclusion, the publication looks ahead to how the iWatch will perform in the coming tide of wearable devices. At this year’s CES, a veritable crush of wearables has been announced, many from big-name tech companies like LG and Intel.

It remains to be seen if the market will take to the new form factor devices initially made popular by wristbands from Nike, Jawbone and Fitbit, among others. As with previous CES events, Apple seems to once again be the elephant in the room that isn’t even there.


Apple, Cisco, Dell unhappy over alleged NSA back doors in their gear

January 3rd, 2014

Germany’s Der Spiegel newsmagazine reported Monday that the U.S. National Security Agency has for years compromised a wide range of hardware devices, including PCs, iPhones, hard drives, and network routers, as part of its spying activities. The NSA also installed back doors into European telecom networks and into BlackBerry’s network operations center to spy on communications, the Der Spiegel report says.

The spy agency’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit is alleged to have installed such hidden access methods in a variety of devices from Apple, Cisco Systems, Dell, Huawei, Juniper, Maxtor, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital, among others. Although the precise methods are unclear, many seem to involve installation of monitoring software or modified firmware — some on devices intercepted in transit from vendors to their customers.

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Apple, Cisco Systems, Dell, and Huawei have all responded publicly expressing concern over the alleged back doors and promising to inform customers of any vulnerabilities found. All said they were unaware of any vulnerabilities or of the TAO program. The Der Spiegel report says the companies did not appear to have cooperated with the NSA to install the back doors, and Apple today said bluntly that it has never worked with the NSA on any such efforts on any products, comparing the NSA to hackers and saying it would “defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.”

The purported iPhone back door has gained much attention. The NSA slides that Der Spiegel says it obtained show that in 2008 the NSA figured out how to install spyware in the iPhone, though it required hands-on access to the device. The slides claim the NSA was working on ways to remotely install such spyware. It is unclear whether the NSA succeeded in its remote-installation efforts and if so for what versions of iOS.

It’s common for spy agencies to install spyware on specific people’s devices; China’s agents routinely install spyware on Western business travelers’ PCs and mobile devices, for example, and the ongoing revelations by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. and other major powers spy on others’ citizens as aggressively as the Chinese have long been criticized for doing.

In a statement, the NSA did not deny the spying, and it said any activities it undertakes are limited to foreigners. However, some of Snowden’s revelations have shown that the spying extends to U.S. citizens as well.


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