A new report by Reuters comparing Apple and Amazon’s home automation strategies provides some interesting insight into the very different approaches that the two companies are taking to the home automation market. Suggesting that Amazon’s recent successes in the home automation arena may pose new competition for Apple, the report details some of the challenges that Apple and its partners face in delivering HomeKit solutions that are up to the company’s standard. Apple takes a stringent approach in ensuring that its home automation platform remains secure, so manufacturers who wish to produce HomeKit-compatible solutions must incorporate special chips into their products — this is the main reason why HomeKit support cannot be added to legacy products via firmware updates — and Apple also requires developers to incorporate specific Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips into their hardware. These requirements increase costs, although even companies purchasing in smaller volumes suggest that the numbers are only around $0.50 to $2 per chip for the specialized chips. Additional costs for the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips weren’t discussed.
Apple is planning to move its international iTunes operations to Ireland in early February, AppleInsider reports. Apple announced to developers this week that Apple Distribution International will be transferring the iTunes business — which includes the iTunes Store, Apple Music, App Store, and iBooks Store for over 100 countries — to Cork, Ireland on Feb. 5. Apple’s overseas iTunes operations have been based in Luxembourg since 2004. Apple has been working to streamline the transition for content owners since last fall, transferring contracts to the new Irish holding company, and making arrangements for special exporter status in Ireland, which — among other things — means apps made by developers in Ireland will be free or Irish VAT. The transfer is estimated to involve approximately $9 billion in assets, and are no doubt connected to many of the other business projects that Apple has been building within Ireland over the past year.
HBO has updated its HBO GO app to version 9.0, adding support for Apple’s Single Sign-on feature and integration with the iOS and tvOS TV app. The two new features will help unify the mainstream content provider into the Apple TV and iOS viewing experience, allowing users to bypass entering their cable credentials separately in the HBO GO app on their devices as well as tracking their favorite HBO GO shows in the “Watch Next” section of the TV app. The integration will also allow HBO GO users’ viewing habits to be consolidated with other services that support the TV app, providing recommended content based on what you’ve previously watched on any supported service. Single Sign-On support for HBO GO still remains limited to those cable and satellite providers that have signed on with Apple; a complete list can be found on Apple’s Single Sign-On page. [via MacRumors]
Apple has taken steps to join the Partnership on AI, an artificial intelligence research group that already includes other leading companies in the field such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google, Bloomberg reports. Formed last September, Partnership on AI is a non-profit organization “established to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.” While Apple’s traditionally secretive approach has hampered its AI research, in December the company announced that it would begin taking a more active role in the artificial intelligence research community by publishing some of its findings. According to people familiar with the situation, Apple’s admission into the organization could be announced as early as this week. Representatives at Apple and the Partnership on AI declined to comment.
Update (01/27/2017): Partnership on AI has formally announced Apple’s induction into the organization as a founding member:
Apple has joined the Partnership on AI as a founding member. The company has been involved and collaborating with the Partnership since before it was first announced and is thrilled to formalize its membership alongside Amazon, Facebook, Google/DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft.
Tom Gruber, co-founder of Siri, will represent Apple on the organization’s Board of Trustees, alongside new representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence & ASU, the MacArthur Foundation, OpenAI, the Peterson Institute of International Economics, and UC Berkeley, expanding the board beyond its original five members from Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft.
Apple has hired Greg Duffy, the co-founder of security camera firm Dropcam, The Information reports. An Apple spokesperson has confirmed that Duffy, who ended up at the Google-owned Nest after the company he founded was acquired in 2014, will be joining Apple but declined to comment on his role. Like other recent high-profile hires by Apple, people close to the matter have speculated that Duffy is “likely to be leading a special project at Apple that is operating like a startup within the company.” Duffy’s background also suggests a possibility that his role may be related to Apple’s HomeKit home automation framework. [via TechCrunch]
Apple has filed a new lawsuit against Qualcomm in Beijing, seeking 1 billion yuan ($145.32 million) in damages, Reuters reports. The suit claims that Qualcomm has abused its clout in the chip industry, while a second lawsuit also filed by Apple accused Qualcomm failing to deliver on promises it made to inexpensively license “standard essential patents.” This latest lawsuit follows other recent legal struggles for Qualcomm in the U.S., including a filing made by Apple in California last Friday which accused Qualcomm of monopolizing the wireless chip market and withholding $1 billion in patent rebates owing to Apple, as well as a complaint filed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last week in which it accused the chip maker of “using anticompetitive tactics to maintain its monopoly in the supply of a key semiconductor device used in cell phones.”
After a meeting with Apple representatives today, a government official in India said an agreement to get the company to open manufacturing facilities in the country is “almost a done deal,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Despite earlier concerns that offering concessions to Apple would prove too costly and bring little benefit to the country, an official with direct knowledge of the negotiations now claims, “Many of the incentives sought by Apple are workable.” Apple has requested a 15-year tax holiday on the duties usually collected on imported components and equipment to open up shop in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been actively working to draw foreign investment in India, and a top bureaucrat in Modi’s office said the government intends to “settle with Apple.” For Apple’s part, a company spokeswoman said only, “We appreciate the constructive and open dialogue we’ve had with [the] government about further expanding our local operations.”
Apple has revealed plans to allow developers to respond to customer reviews on both the iOS and Mac App Stores as of the public release of iOS 10.3. The “What’s New in iOS” section of Apple’s Developer Documentation notes that developer responses will be posted “in a way that is available for all customers to see,” presumably allowing developers to counter negative reviews with official explanations. Little other information is given, such as whether customers will be able to respond in turn to comments from developers, or what other moderation processes may be implemented. Apple also notes a new API being introduced in iOS 10.3 will allow developers to more efficiently handle in-app review requests without having to take the user out of the app and send them to the App Store. A new option in the iTunes & App Store settings in iOS 10.3 will also allow users to opt out of being prompted for in-app ratings and reviews, although it’s likely this setting will only affect apps that are updated to use the new iOS 10.3 API for requesting reviews.
Following yesterday’s release of iOS 10.2.1 and tvOS 10.1.1, Apple has rolled out its first betas of iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2. Featuring a build number of 14E5230e, the iOS 10.3 beta adds Location and Play Sound for AirPods as part of the Find My iPhone feature, allowing users to initiate a high volume sound emission from AirPods to aid in locating them, although there is no mention in the release notes of the “theater mode” that was rumored to be included in iOS 10.3. The release notes for iOS 10.3 beta 1 also mention that new SiriKit car commands are in development — although the notes do not expand on the feature — and that the emergency SOS feature remains supported only in India. Enhancements to WebKit will allow web developers to create alternative page styles that respect the “Reduce Motion” setting on iOS devices.
The release notes for tvOS 10.2 beta 1 note that the update now adds accelerated scrolling support for UIKit and TVMLKit apps that will allow users to scroll through large views of content much more quickly using large swipes of the Siri Remote, as well as an index that can be accessed by swiping on the far right side of the Siri Remote. Device Enrollment and Mobile Device Management support has also been expanded for provisioning Apple TVs in enterprise and education environments.
Today The Pokémon Company today released Pokémon Duel, a new iOS game where players choose six Pokémon to fight against an opposing player while moving toward their goal on the game board. As players progress, their Pokémon will level up and the game will provide access to more powerful Pokémon. Players can hone their skills in the game’s Training Center, playing against an instructor to learn how various themed decks work. The game is free to download, but the in-app store offers boosters for purchase that allow users to obtain special Pokémon, and “plates” that allow players to swap out Pokémon positions or grant them various abilities for a single turn. Pokémon Duel is available for free on the App Store.
Indian government officials are likely to reject Apple’s request for a lower tax bracket, customs duty holidays, and other concessions in exchange for setting up manufacturing facilities in the country, the Economic Times of India reports. Apple officials are set to meet with representatives from India’s government Wednesday to lay out the company’s case for the incentives, but government representatives signaled last week that any changes made to benefit Apple would have to apply to all 42 other companies currently building mobile phones in India. One unnamed official told The Financial Times they were doubtful there would be enough incentive for the country to approve such a sweeping change. “Since there is a strong co-relation between value-addition and job creation, value-addition remains a priority for us. The ‘Make in India’ program would suffer if every foreign player starts to demand concessions without actually doing much of value addition here,” the source said.
Apple released iTunes 12.5.5, a minor update that mentions no specific improvements outside of “app and performance improvements.” Also on Monday, Apple released iOS 10.2.1, tvOS 10.1.1 and watchOS 3.1.3.
In addition to today’s iOS release, Apple has also released updates for Apple TV and Apple Watch. tvOS 10.1.1 comes to the fourth-gen Apple TV, and watchOS 3.1.3 was released for Apple Watch. Like iOS 10.2.1, both of these updates also appear to be primarily focused on performance improvements and bug fixes. watchOS 3.1.3 can be downloaded through the iOS Apple Watch app.
Apple released iOS 10.2.1 to the public today. The update for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch offers bug fixes and performance improvements — a minor update, all things considered. We’ll let you know of any particularly notable improvements or surprising new features. iOS 10.2.1 is rolling out now, so it should be available shortly if you don’t see it yet. As always, it can be downloaded through iTunes, or over-the-air in Settings > General > Software Update.
Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou said his company is considering a $7 billion investment with Apple in a “highly automated” display production facility inside the U.S., Nikkei Asian Review reports. Gou estimated the proposed facility would create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs — local production could be a better solution for Foxconn than importing screens from China as demand increases. The company is also planning a new molding facility in the U.S., considering Pennsylvania as a possible location if investment details can be worked out with local officials.
KGI: 3D Touch upgrade coming in new iPhone, Touch ID and facial recognition upgrades in future model
Well-connected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told investors to expect Apple to make big changes in order to make the new OLED displays work in the company’s next iPhone. Kuo expects to see a redesigned 3D Touch system since the existing pressure sensors would be incompatible with a flexible display panel, with the company switching to a “film sensor” that is more sensitive to the amount of pressure being applied to the screen. He also claims the company is developing a new optical fingerprint scanner to replace the current Touch ID sensor.
Apple has filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm, accusing it of monopolizing the wireless chip market as well as withholding $1 billion in retaliation for cooperating with South Korean antitrust authorities, Bloomberg reports. In the suit, Apple claims that Qualcomm is holding back $1 billion in money that was supposed to be a rebate for licensing fees, stating that Qualcomm is doing so as a punishment in response to Apple’s cooperation with Korean antitrust regulators. Apple is also challenging several key Qualcomm wireless technology patents in the complaint, asking the court to either declare the patents invalid, or if they are upheld, to significantly reduce the royalty amounts that Qualcomm is presently charging for their use.
Apple has announced a new set of design resources to assist developers in building apps for iOS 10, providing guidelines and templates for all of the UIKit controls, views, and glyphs available to developers within the iOS SDK, and recommendations for the appropriate ways in which to use them to match the iOS design language. The new Apple UI Design Resources page also includes templates that can be opened in Photoshop and Sketch, complete with icon and glyph production files that have been preconfigured to automate asset production in the appropriate tools.
The European Commission has announced a joint decision between Apple and Audible to end their exclusive arrangement for the sale of audiobooks on the iTunes Store, potentially opening up competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe. Audible has been Apple’s exclusive supplier of audiobook titles for the iTunes Store since its debut in 2003, preventing other companies that provide downloadable audiobooks from accessing the iTunes Store, as well as precluding Audible from supplying its titles to other third-party platforms — although the agreement has not prevented Audible, which is now owned by Amazon, from selling its audiobooks directly to consumers. The new agreement between Amazon/Audible and Apple came following communications with the European Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office, who were looking into antitrust concerns around the exclusivity arrangement following a complaint raised by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, which raised several other complaints against Audible as well.
Nintendo has posted a video announcing its next game for iOS, Fire Emblem Heroes. Originally announced last April, Fire Emblem Heroes is a tactical RPG designed specifically to work on smaller screens, and it’s designed for a quick pick-up-and-play style. Players undertake strategic battles in the fantasy world of Fire Emblem, leveling up their characters and taking advantage of character attributes to plan attacks and match heroes and enemies appropriately. The game is played across multiple 8x6 maps designed to easily fit on a smartphone and allow for short burst play. Players drag-and-drop or select locations to move their party around the map while attacking, with the goal of defeating all of the enemies on the map to win each level. While the controls have been kept simple, maps get more challenging as players advance through the game, requiring them to plan their moves carefully and factor in terrain. In-game orbs can be found during gameplay or purchased as in-app purchases that will allow players to summon heroes as their allies to fight alongside them in specific battles. A Training Tower mode allows players to practice combat and gain experience and rewards, Special Maps provide seasonal events, and Arena Duels allow players to compete for high scores in multiple battles. Fire Emblem Heroes is expected to be available on the App Store on Feb. 2. No pricing details have been announced yet.