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Apple innovations: What's around the corner

Now that the initial iPad furor has died down a bit, it's time to speculate about what comes next for Apple. Here is a round-up of the latest rumors and educated guesses about upcoming Apple tech.

No matter how many splashy product announcements Apple makes, there's always the promise of something new and game-changing around the corner. This is one company that doesn't rest much on its laurels, which keeps the rumor mill grinding. Below are a few of the latest whispers and speculation about pending versions of products and even brand new products.

MacBook Air

CNET Asia reports that rumors are flying about Apple finally releasing a 15" MacBook Air (currently, 11.6" and 13.3" models are available). If true, then it might change the plans of those planning to buy a new 15" MacBook Pro. There have also been rumors, off and on, about an even larger 17'' model. Most of this speculation is fueled by "anonymous sources" that are affiliated with companies making Apple components. The pundits seem to agree that it's pretty likely that we will see a 15" Air as early as April. And whatever the size, CNET's Dan Ackerman has already weighed in on the five things he thinks Apple needs to add or update on their MacBook Air line in order to stay ahead of the growing number of ultrabooks on the market, including: lower price, HDMI, USB 3.0, Ethernet jack, and improved screen resolution.

MacBook Pro

Most of the speculation surrounding the Pro line is the probable plan to merge with Air at some point in the future. Maybe it's just a matter of semantics whether the anticipated 15" MacBook Air is, in fact, just a "slimmed down" Pro that loses its optical drive, but technically retains the "Pro" label. The picture is pretty blurry right now, and we may not know until the official announcement from Apple actually occurs this spring, but both lines are due for refreshes.

iPhone 5

The latest thing here is the speculation that the new iPhone will have a 4.6" Retina Display (up from 3.5") that will allow more room to update chips.

New iPad: The heat

With so many reports that the New iPad was "too hot to handle," CNET labs in San Francisco and New York did extensive testing on this issue to see if it was really serious — and to see if they should change their buying recommendations. While they continue to test various aspects, the initial word is that the heat is actually a non-issue:

The new 2012 iPad runs warmer than the iPad 2, but it's no hotter than many laptops under similar conditions.

iWallet

If you really want the early scuttlebutt, Patently Apple is the place to go for interpretation of patents actually filed by Apple. Some of it pans out and some doesn't, but it is a good indication of the kinds of technological innovation Apple is working on. The iWallet is pretty interesting — an e-commerce solution that would provide real-time authorization of transactions by the cardholder. There are also figures illustrating an iTunes MobilePay interface. Here is the description in a nutshell:

Apple's invention covers an electronic device that will be able to deliver real-time authorization of cardholder-not-present transactions. The electronic device may be a handheld device, such as an iPhone or iPod touch, or it may be a computer such as an iMac or MacBook Pro. Regardless of the form the electronic device takes, the device may run an application enabling a cardholder to approve or decline cardholder-not-present transactions in real time, near real-time, or after the transaction is initially authorized or settled. That is, in addition to a card transaction being sent to an issuing bank for approval, details of the transaction may be sent to the cardholder for approval before the transaction is authorized. If the cardholder doesn't recognize the transaction, it may be declined immediately, thereby preventing the cardholder and the merchant from becoming victims of identity theft.

The patent also includes flagging options that can be set by the user/account holder, automatic approval options, and a new hand gesture to be used specifically for the new functionality. If you are interested in this level of detail, see the post, "Apple's iWallet: The One that will Rule the World," for full explanation and numerous figures, showing the designs.

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Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

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