Apple responds to PRISM reports

In their statement they outlined what kind of requests they have received. They also explained a bit about how your information is handled:

Apple further says that among those requests, the most common came “from police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide.” The statement claims that when receiving such requests, Apple provides only the narrowest possible amount of information, and only if appropriate. The statement notes that Apple sometimes refuses to fulfill inconsistent or inaccurate requests.

Apple also outlines the kinds of data it does not provide to government agencies. FaceTime and iMessage messages, which are encrypted, cannot be provided to government agencies because Apple chooses not to retain that data. Location information, Maps searches, and Siri requests are never retained in personally identifiable form.

via Macworld.

Apple releases Mountain Lion today

Today’s the day Apple’s latest operating system, OSX 10.8 – also known as Mountain Lion, will be available for download. The cost is $19.99. While there are more than 200 new features in this version of OSX, a couple of them are especially interesting.

First of those is Dictation. The voice-recognition efforts behind Siri for the iThings are paying off here. With Dictation, wherever I would normally type, I can just tap the function key twice then dictate my entry instead. Dictation works in the text field of any OSX app and uses my system’s built-in microphone. Does this mean I can “text” in Messages without touching the keyboard or dictate blog content in Safari? Of course, if I’m working in a noisy environment (like two dogs and a mouthy bird), a headset may be a better option. And, the more I use Dictation, the better it works because it gets to know my verbal mannerisms. Like any good dictation app, it understands commands like “comma”, “period”, “new paragraph” and “all caps”. This feature alone could be worth the $20 price tag.

Speaking of Messages, in addition to text messages with Macs and iThings, the app also supports AOL, Yahoo!, Google Talk and Jabber services. It sounds like most of the very cool functions – like read receipts, group chats and large attachments – will only work within the Apple environment.

Of course I’m looking forward to having iCloud connecting my iWork apps as well as the iLife ones. Does this mean Pages, Numbers and Keynote are getting updates too? I hope so since iWork.com is shutting down July 31st. The one thing I really liked about it was the Keynote presentation sharing capability. The preview doesn’t mention any similar feature so I’m expecting it will be a while – if ever – before there’s a replacement.

Notes sounds quite interesting. It supports rich text formatting, hyperlinks, images and attachments and can be pinned to the desktop. Notes can be organized into folders, searched and shared via Mail or Messages. Even before I see it in action, it just sounds like it fits my style for jotting things down. And, if I can email them, they can easily be sent to Evernote too.

I’m not sure why Notes and Reminders are two separate things, but I do like the idea of a shopping or to-do list that can be easily pushed to my iPhone as I head out the door.

With Mountain Lion, my Mac gets lots of social goodness too. After signing into Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Vimeo once, I’ll be able to share directly from the apps that support it. And, Twitter supports multiple accounts.

These are just a few of the features included in the upgrade. Some of them – like the security upgrades are just as impressive even if they aren’t as exciting.

I’m looking forward to spending some time getting acquainted with this big cat.

Musings on baseball and technology

Today the iPad 2 goes on sale. It’s thinner, lighter and faster than the first iPad and has cameras. Along with iPad 2 comes an operating system update for almost all the iThings. Once iOS 4.3 is installed, even the old iPad gets a nice speed bump (18% increase), the iPhone 4 can be used as a wifi hot spot, and all iThings have improved media access and sharing from iTunes. I’m already seeing a bunch up updates from my current apps as they are modified to take advantage of these new capabilities.

Sometime this summer, Apple will be releasing OSX Lion – their new desktop operating system. It will incorporate features originally developed for the iThings (we’re already seeing the app store for the Mac) along with even easier over-the-air sharing of files and resources like printers. Included in every copy of Lion is server functionality. Many are speculating that this will allow the Mac desktop to serve as a home server for music, video, photos and files being accessed by the various devices. To add to this speculation, a huge new data center is coming online in North Carolina. Will this provide “cloud” storage and software to Apple users?

This is an amazing time for digital technology. Not only are we able to do so much more with our digital devices, but they are becoming much easier to use. Every time I’ve given my iPad to someone new, they instinctively know how to tap and swipe to make things happen. Yesterday, on our way to a baseball game in Orlando (Braves won!), one of the guys used his iPhone to check out the traffic and to pick up the radio talk show we’d been listening to once we got out of broadcast range. My digitally-challenged husband can watch his choice of baseball games – with his choice of announcers – either on our television or on his iPad thanks to MLB.TV and a Roku box. [Note: Apple recently announced that MLB.TV is available on the newest AppleTV.]

I spent yesterday afternoon at Disney enjoying a spring training baseball game. I am always amazed at the effort that goes into building and maintaining a beautiful and functional facility such as their sports center – and all their attractions for that matter. From crowd and traffic control to architecture and landscaping and on down to the simplest thing, they have designed it all to work together. Staff are trained to handle just about every situation and keep smiling through it all. No wonder it’s the top destination for millions of people each year.

Apple has done much the same thing in designing their products. That effort makes the user experience a delight. By controlling the hardware and the operating system, they make it easier for developers to build impressive applications. As a result, users enjoy an “it just works” experience. Yes, this experience comes with a price tag, but I’ve reached the stage in my life where I want to do the things I enjoy doing without spending a lot of time fussing with equipment.

Next month, Apple has schedule another event to introduce iOS 5. I hope this will also show us more of Apple’s vision for all things digital. I’ll be watching!