Apple makes its product packaging with stealthy love. An advanced copy of Adam Lashinsky’s book, Inside Apple, reveals product packaging is another thing Apple keeps under lock and key. The tech giant has a secret room — accessible only by security badges — dedicated to hundreds of variant prototype product packaging options for products like the iPad.

“To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks – opening boxes,” NetworkWorld’s iOnApple blog quoted from Lashinsky’s book.

Packaging designers must open box after box to test the positioning of the invisible stickers stuck to the top of iPod boxes. The invisible tape must be placed exactly, Lashinsky explained.

Packaging is taken more seriously at Apple than other technology companies because Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who died in late 2011, cared about every last detail. He wanted customers to feel a certain emotion when opening Apple products.

MacRumors quotes Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design, from Walter Isaacson’s bio on Steve Jobs: “You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special. Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.”

Apple’s package designs have sophisticated utilization of white space, which differs much from Microsoft’s fit-a-lot-of-information-on-the-box approach. A YouTube video reveals how Microsoft might package an Apple product.

So the next time you open an Apple product, remember a packaging designer spent hours selecting the perfect box and precise placement of stickers. Watch the video to find out more about Apple’s packaging details.

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Pudong (Shanghai)




Apple made its Lourve-like design famous in New York, but Shanghai’s stunning cylindrical glass entrance is a sight to see. A glass spiral staircase leads shoppers to the store below.

Click here to view this gallery.

Steve Jobs was a fanatic about product aesthetics and design, obsessing over everything from the size and shape of the original Macintosh to the look of on-screen app icons. His Apple stores were no exception. The stores have developed a reputation over the years for their stunning statement-making exteriors. When Apple arrives in your neighborhood, it almost demands your attention.

The design for Apple’s latest location in Aix en Provence, France — the company’s ninth store in the country — falls in line with Jobs’s vision. An artist rendering recently surfaced in AixEnProvence.fr magazine and revealed that it’s taking the barely-there glass wall concept to the extreme. Sure, it wants your attention, but in a cutting-edge, invisible way.

SEE ALSO: Apple Mini-Stores Coming to Target | 8 Rumors About the iPad 3

In fact, the rendering shows that the store will be a low-lying building made entirely of glass walls with just one solid, wood wall where the Genius Bar will be. It’s expected to open in late 2012 or early 2013 and will replace a tourism office on the South side of Place du General de Gaulle, a central square in the city.

This store will join a roster of other innovative and simply beautiful designs from Apple. From New York to Shanghai, check out our gallery of some of our favorite Apple exteriors.

What’s your favorite Apple store? Why? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

All images courtesy of Apple.

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1. Apple Logo iPhone Sticker

This desirable decal also features the similarly classic “Think Different” slogan.

Cost: $9.99

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From 1976 to 1998 Apple‘s logo was a technicolor, rainbow-hued apple with a bite out of it. Although Apple toned things down a bit in the late ’90s, many have a fondness for the classic version of the company emblem.

The iconic design, created by Ron Janoff, can still be seen today — 36 years after the original design’s debut — on fan-made items and carefully preserved vintage accessories.

SEE ALSO: 10 Geeky Accessories Celebrating the Iconic Hand Cursor [PICS]

Here we bring you 10 fun accessories featuring, or inspired by, the rainbow logo. Let us know in the comments if you’re a fan of the classic version of Apple’s logo, or if you prefer the more modern monotone version.

Image courtesy of Jonas Strandell

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1. China’s 310mph Train

China is testing a 310mph super train that’s so streamlined and lightweight, it can reach extremely high speeds on normal steel train tracks. It’s a refinement of an existing design, making it even more likely that this train will be carrying real passengers before too long.

[via DVICE]

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Even though the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day seems like it might be bereft of technological excitement, those of us at Top 10 Tech This Week discovered that is not the case.

Much to our surprise, we found more techno-coolness than ever this week, with gadgetry ranging from a brand-new bullet train to twin spacecraft orbiting the moon, a zippy new smartphone, and even a bit of quirky strangeness.

Strap yourselves in once again, space cadets, because it’s time for liftoff.

SEE MORE: Previous editions of Top 10 Tech This Week

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Steve Jobs Exhibit

The late Steve Jobs has been hailed as a brilliant businessman, marketer, and visionary. He was also an prolific inventor, if the number of patents bearing his name are any indication.

No less than 323 Apple patents list Jobs among the inventors responsible for them. Now the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is honoring the Apple founder with a dedicated exhibit.

The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: Art and Technology that Changed the World puts Jobs’ patents on display in the USPTO’s National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum. Conceived by the nonprofit Invent Now, the exhibit has a look that’s instantly recognizable: 30 giant-size iPhones, lined up screen to screen in a simple rectangular formation, like a military salute designed by Jonathan Ive.

Among the patents Jobs is credited with: “Method and apparatus for use of rotational user inputs,” which essentially patented the iPod clickwheel; “Voicemail manager for portable multifunction device,” the basis for the iPhone’s visual voicemail; and 13 separate patents on product packaging alone.

While the exhibit is meant to “give insight into the visionary commitment” of Jobs, the patent vault at Apple has factored highly in the escalation of legal battles over intellectual property in recent years. Most prominently, Samsung has been engaged in patent wars with Apple over how closely its Galaxy products mimic the design and operation of iPhones and iPads, as shown in this infographic.

To a lesser extent, Nokia, Motorola, and even LG have tussled with Apple over patent infringement.

The Jobs exhibit kicked off Nov. 16 and is on display until Jan. 15, 2012. Located in the atrium of the Madison Building on the USPTO’s campus in Alexandria, Va., it’s free to attend during the museum’s regular business hours.

Steve Jobs Patents

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Infinity Blade 2

Infinity Blade is my favorite mobile game. I paid about six times more for it than I have any other iPhone or iPad app, and instantly knew it was worth it.

It’s not like Angry Birds, another favorite of mine, which requires a bit of analytical thought to figure out the fewest birds necessary for maximum destruction. Infinity Blade, made by Chair Entertainment, is about action, survival—and a quest.

It’s the game I play the most on any iOS device, so I was thrilled when I got the chance to preview the sequel: Infinity Blade 2. If you read my hands-on report, you know it’s fun and visually stunning. Since I already have so much time invested in the game, I wanted to spend some time with the brains behind the blade.

Donald Mustard and his brother Geremy founded Chair Entertainment in 2005. They were busy building console games such as Shadow Complex when Epic, maker of blockbuster games Gears of War and Unreal Tournament snapped them up in 2008.

By 2010, Chair had launched Infinity Blade, its first iOS game. Built atop Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, it set a new benchmark for mobile gaming visuals, and has subsequently made more than $20 million in sales.

Clearly, the Mustard boys are onto something, as more than a few people share my addiction to the sword-wielding, armor-wearing, spell-casting heroes. (Epic’s Infinity Blade forum has thousands of posts. I chatted with the Mustard brothers about the game, their relationship with Apple, and what’s next.

Developing for the iPhone 4S and iOS 5

Apple invited the Mustard brothers to its Cupertino campus just two weeks before the iPhone 4S launch in October, though this didn’t seem to bother them. “We try and make good guesses as to where hardware is going. We had our fingers crossed that there would be something like the iPhone 4S where we can push things further. Luckily Apple delivered,” said Donald.

Jeremy said the company understands Apple product timelines pretty well, so they were already developing an app that would work with what they expected to be an iPhone 4 upgrade. Chair’s bet paid off.

Geremy and Donald Mustard of Chair EntertainmentThe pair are excited about the potential of iOS 5, especially incremental updates. “[It’s] huge,” said Donald, “because we love being able to update our games.”

Chair is constantly refining their games — but with previous iOS versions, Infinity Blade players had to download a huge update for each tweak. With incremental updates, they can download a 50 MB (or smaller) file, as opposed to one hundreds of megabytes in size.

iPhone 5?

So the Mustards were prepared for iPhone 4S, but what about iPhone 5? Did they see it? Did they ask? Said Geremy: “We certainly asked. We get coy smiles and tight lips…they don’t tell us anything. I’m sure there will be an iPhone 5 at some point, but we don’t know anything about it.” He paused and laughed: “I bet it’s at least as fast as the iPhone 4s.”

What’s Inside

Infinity Blade 2 is a powerful game, but it’s also a scalable one. The Chair teams designed it to scale down so it could run on the iPhone 3GS and iPad 1. On those devices, players simply see less detail. But on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, Infinity Blade 2 will “use up all the power that is available on these higher-end systems.”

To build Infinity Blade 2, the Mustards eschewed more complex game geometry and focused on character shadows and light rays — effects typically found on console games. Epic added these capabilities to the engine and debuted them in Gears of War 3 on the Xbox 360. That was only a few months ago. “Now it’s on the iPhone 4S,” said Geremy. “We made the game, and I still can’t believe it’s running on a phone that I carry in my pocket.”

Where are the Android Apps?

As I was testing Infinity Blade 2, I kept wondering how it would run on an Android “super phone” such as the Motorola Photon 4G, which packs a graphics-friendly NVidia Tegra 2 chip. Unfortunately, Infinity Blade isn’t in the Android Market — and it doesn’t sound like it’s coming any time soon.

There is nothing technically preventing the brothers from bringing Infinity Blade to Android right now. Instead, they’re hesitating because of piracy concerns. According to a number of online reports, there’s enough of a piracy issue in Android marketplace that many developers find it necessary to build in antipiracy measures, which in turn dampens sales.

“We’re confident that will be worked out and it will become a viable place for game developers, but that hasn’t happened yet,” said Donald. “So it’s not the tech, it’s the business platform.”

What Steve Said

Donald Mustard met the late Steve Jobs when the Apple founder unveiled Chair and Epic’s game, then called “Project Blade,” at a September 2010 Apple event. Jobs was impressed with the game: “I can’t believe that’s running on an iPhone,” he reportedly said. Jobs also once joked about Donald’s last name, saying “Your name is really ‘Mustard’? I won’t forget that name.”

What’s Next

What comes after Infinity Blade 2? The brothers aren’t quite ready to go there yet. “We’ve been working 24 hours a day,” said Donald. “Working like crazy to get this game finished.” They are, however, excited about some of the features that should arrive after the December 1 launch, including “Clash Mob” — which Donald says should change the way we look at “asynchronous social collaboration.”

Building A Successful App

There are a lot of successful apps in the App Store. But with 800,000 of them available, there are also thousands of flops. What does it take to make a game app that can drive $20 million in sales?

Donald offered this advice to would be app developers: “Create a game that is unique to iOS — something that utilizes the touch screen in a cool and innovative new way. Our iOS mantra at Chair is that ‘if the game would be fun with a controller, you are not making the right game.’ Gamers want a fun, original experience on their iOS devices — not a port of their favorite console game.”

Infinity Blade 2

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Adobe developer relations lead Mike Chambers has posted a lengthy explanation of why the company decided stop development of the mobile browser version of Flash.

The response comes as the health of the entire Flash ecosystem is in doubt. Adobe announced that Flash Player 11.1 would be the last version of Flash for mobile devices, though the company would continue to fix critical bugs. The company is also abandoning Flash on connected TVs.

“The decision to stop development of the Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers was part of a larger strategic shift at Adobe,” writes Chambers. “One which includes a greater shift in focus toward HTML5, as well as the Adobe Creative Cloud and the services that it provides.”

Chambers iterates five main reasons why Adobe decided that its resources were better spent elsewhere:

  1. Flash was never going to gain ubiquity on mobile devices, thanks to the fact that Apple resolutely refused to adopt the technology on the iPhone or iPad. “No matter what we did, the Flash Player was not going to be available on Apple’s iOS anytime in the foreseeable future,” he says.
  2. Meanwhile, HTML5 is ubiquitous. “On mobile devices, HTML5 provides a similar level of ubiquity that the Flash Player provides on the desktop,” Chambers says.
  3. Users don’t consume content on mobile in the same way they do on desktop. Differences in screen sizes, latency from wireless networks and the ubiquity of app stores made Flash less relevant on handheld devices.
  4. Developing browser plugins for mobile is much more challenging than the desktop. It requires more partnerships with OS developers, mobile hardware manufacturers and component manufacturers. “Developing the Flash Player for mobile browsers has proven to require much more resources than we anticipated,” Chambers admits.
  5. Adobe wanted to shift more resources to HTML5, and dropping Flash for mobile frees them to do so.

Chambers then goes into the difficult task of assuring developers that Flash itself is healthy. He explains that Adobe has made a “long term commitment to the Flash Player on desktops” and is focused on letting developers create mobile apps through the Adobe AIR platform.

It’s his thoughts on HTML5 vs. Flash that may be the most intriguing. Chambers admits in the final portion of his post that HTML5 will take over more and more of the functionality of Flash.

“If a Flash feature is successful, it will eventually be integrated into the browser, and developers and users will access it more and more via the browser and not Flash,” he states. And while HTML5 and CSS3 have a long way to go to match the ubiquity or functionality of the Flash Player, “the trend is very clear.”

“A lot of the things that you have done via Flash in the past,” he concludes “will increasingly be done via HTML5 and CSS3 directly in the browser.”

No matter how you sugarcoat this week’s episode of Flash theater, it’s clear that Apple has won the Flash argument and Adobe has lost it. This was clear to many of us in the tech industry early on, but the argument gained steam when Steve Jobs posted a lengthy open letter arguing that Flash was no longer necessary.

While Flash will be around for many years to come, it’s clear that even Adobe thinks HTML5 is the future. Flash’s days are numbered.

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Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Apple and Google may look similar on the surface, but the companies couldn’t be any more different. That much has become clear to me after reading both the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and Steven Levy’s In the Plex.

Google and Apple are technology behemoths that bucked the system, created game-changing products and are worth more than $550 billion collectively. Both companies have successful mobile phone divisions and web browsers, and both companies have a common enemy in Microsoft.

The two companies are built on completely different foundations, though. Sergey Brin and Larry Page firmly believe in the power of data and numbers, and that reliance on the metrics is the cornerstone of every major decision the company makes. “Information was the great leveler at Google,” Levy says in his book.

Steve Jobs, on the other hand, believed in the power of design and often threw out the data. “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups,” he famously said in a 1998 BusinessWeek interview. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

There is no starker contrast of the ying-yang battle of data vs. design. It’s that conflicting yet complementary relationship that sparked one of the industry’s closest friendships and, more recently, one of technology’s fiercest rivalries.


Google: Data Is King


For some reason, I decided to read both Steve Jobs and In the Plex at the same time (the former via Kindle, the latter via audiobook). It was a surreal experience, but it made it clear to me that Google and Apple are polar opposites.

Let’s start with Google. If you need proof that data is king at Google, look no further than In the Plex. The word “data” appears in Levy’s book approximately 319 times. “Design,” on the other hand, appears fewer than 60 times.

The emphasis on design comes directly from the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Here’s how Levy describes them in the beginning of the book:

“[Page and Brin] felt most comfortable in the meritocracy of academia, where brains trumped everything else. Both had an innate understanding of how the ultraconnected world that they enjoyed as computer science students was about to spread throughout society. Both shared a core belief in the primacy of data.”

The result is a company with a deliberately collegiate atmosphere, a strong meritocracy where engineers are king, and most of all a “deep respect for data.” Google is famous for making the tiniest changes to pixel locations based on the data it accrues through its tests. Google will always choose a spartan webpage that converts over a beautiful page that doesn’t have the data to back it up.

“It looks like a human was involved in choosing what went where,” Marissa Mayer once told an upset team of designers about a product design she rejected. “It looks too editorialized. Google products are machine-driven. They’re created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That’s what makes our products great.”


Apple: Design Is in Its DNA


Apple, on the other hand, falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. The word “design” and its variations appears in the Steve Jobs biography 432 times. The word “data” appears just 26 times in the book.

“I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” Jobs once told Isaacson. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.”

That emphasis on design derives from Jobs’s childhood experiences. Early in his life, his father taught him that it was important to craft the back of fences and cabinets properly, even though nobody would see them. Later in life, Jobs traveled through Asia and connected with the simplicity of Zen Buddhism.

Those lessons and experiences became part of his quest for perfection, a philosophy that is now essential to every product Apple ships.


Conclusion


Google has placed its faith in data, while Apple worships the power of design. This dichotomy made the two companies complementary. Apple would ship the phones and computers, while Google would provide Maps, Search, YouTube, and other web tools that made the devices more useful. But when Google decided to release its own mobile OS, their friendship quickly turned into a rivalry. And with Google poised to acquire a hardware company, that rivalry will only get stronger.

What can we learn from the battle between data and design? What can we learn from the relationship between Google and Apple?

Clearly no one school of thought is right: Apple and Google are both wildly successful and profitable companies that changed the world. Building a successful company (or living a happy life, for that matter) is not about embracing someone else’s philosophy, but staying true to your own beliefs about the world and learning from the mistakes you make along the way.

Second, design-focused companies tackle different types of problems than data-focused ones. A design-focused company like Apple (or Flipboard) will focus on creating revolutionary, never-before-seen products, because data isn’t great at predicting market revolutions. Data-focused companies like Google, however, have a better chance at revolutionizing existing markets because their products are simply better and more efficient. The search engine existed before Google, but the company used data to make the most effective one in the world. Apple, on the other hand, is credited with launching multiple revolutions, starting with personal computing.

Finally, while data and design are often opposing forces, they need each other as well. Jobs may have focused on design, but he didn’t ignore the data. When he saw the dropped call data from AT&T at the beginning of “Antennagate,” he rushed back from Hawaii to deal with it. The data provided the context on which he could design a response. Great design, even revolutionary ones, is built on solid data.

The Social Analyst is a column by Mashable Editor-at-Large Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.

Steve Jobs/Android image courtesy of Flickr, Jesus Belzunce

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Several months before Apple unveiled the iPad in January 2010, editors from Time, Inc., including some from Sports Illustrated, met with Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs to get a preview of the soon-to-be-released tablet. The venerable sports magazine was already planning a tablet version and had even cooked up a video (above) that demonstrated what Sports Illustrated could look like on a full-color, Internet-connected tablet device that readers could touch, swipe and rotate.

One Time Inc. employee asked Jobs what he thought of the video.

“I think it’s really, really stupid,” Jobs said.

“We were all kind of sad,” Terry McDonell, editor of Time Inc. Sports Group, recounted on stage at Mashable‘s Media Summit Friday morning. “It was not stupid, though. In fact, it anticipated everything he was doing.”

Later that day, McDonnell got a call from someone at Apple. “Steve wanted you to know that was pretty much a negotiation tactic,” he said.

It looks like Sports Illustrated had gotten it right after all.

And, as we’ve explored previously, Sport Illustrated‘s editors have continued to innovate aggressively in the tablet space ever since. The magazine has produced a digital edition for the iPad every week since it debuted last June, and has rolled out weekly editions for the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Nook Color and HP TouchPad in more recent months.

Sports Illustrated also produces daily content for SI.com, highlights 10 sports photos every day on its Chrome web app, and offers more content on one-off apps and in special cross-channel packages, including Swimsuit.

“We used to do 3,500 pages per year,” McDonell recalled on stage. “Now we do more than 100,000 pages, maybe 200,000 if you count different aspect ratios and slideshows as pages.”

That’s impressive, especially given that the magazine hasn’t staffed up significantly. Instead, McDonell said, Sports Illustrated‘s departments have become better integrated and its staff is working harder. SI‘s web operations, once exiled to an office in Atlanta, have been brought to headquarters. Ninety-five percent of writers produce content for both the web and print, filing short news pieces for the web while building out longer, weekly pieces for the print and tablet editions.




The strategy appears to be paying off: Sports Illustrated‘s digital revenue was up 22% between 2009 and 2010, and it is on track for double-digit growth again this year, according to Scott Novak, VP of communications at Sports Illustrated Group. Digital now accounts for 30% of overall revenue, said McDonell. Print generates 55%, and other marketing efforts bring in 15%.

That isn’t to say Sports Illustrated hasn’t made mistakes. Its first digital editions were oversized and cluttered with too-many add-ons, McDonell admitted on stage — what he dubs the “Swiss Army Knife Trap.”

“We’ve had to be hard on ourselves about what we’re going to put in [the tablet editions]. We have to think about what [additional features] will actually do for someone,” he explained.

McDonell said he and his team are now working on developing a “second-screen dashboard” designed to be used while watching sports on TV. He suggested that social media and gaming elements would play a large role in that dashboard.


Presenting Sponsor: AT&T


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It wasn’t just 60 Minutes that did a segment on Steve Jobs this weekend, Saturday Night Live celebrated the life of the Apple co-founder in its own way.

In an SNL skit parodying the PBS roundtable show Charlie Rose, Mark Zuckerberg, Arianna Huffington, Reed Hastings and Rupert Murdoch come together to discuss Jobs’s legacy.

The results are pretty funny — especially the portrayals of Zuck and Hastings.

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