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L.A. school district seeking restitution over failed iPad program (Updated)

The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking to recover millions of dollars from Apple following the failure of an iPad-based curriculum program, the Los Angeles Times reports. Developed by Pearson, an educational consulting firm working as a sub-contractor to Apple, the $1.3-billion program was intended to provide iPads to every student, teacher, and school administrator. The devices began rolling out in the fall of 2013, however, the plan got off to a rocky start with declining political support, rising costs, and the resignation of the Superintendent who had spearheaded the initiative. Claims were later made that Apple and Pearson may have had an unfair advantage in the bidding process, leading to an FBI criminal investigation that remains in progress. The district suspended its contract with Apple last August.

Earlier this week, the Board of Education for the district held a closed-door meeting with its attorneys, authorizing them to look into possible litigation against both Apple and Pearson. According to district general counsel David Holmquist, new Superintendent Ramon Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product.” Holmquist sent a letter to Apple on Monday making it clear that the district will no longer accept or pay for new deliveries of the curriculum and related equipment, or any services related to the project.

Update: The federal Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an informal inquiry into the project regarding the legal use of bond funds, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Apple partners with The Conservation Fund to protect U.S. working forests

The Conservation Fund has announced a partnership with Apple to conserve more than 36,000 acres of working forests — more than 32,400 acres in Maine and more than 3,600 acres in North Carolina. Apple will receive a “steady supply of sustainably harvested timber” for its paper and packaging. Lisa Jackson, Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives, posted on Medium that the company “is striving to supply 100 percent of the virgin fibers used in its paper and packaging from sustainably managed forests or controlled wood sources.” Jackson calls the initiative “the beginning of a worldwide effort” for the company.

In-store sales of Apple Watch delayed until at least June

Limited availability of the Apple Watch is now expected to continue into June, according to a new report from The Telegraph. The articles quotes an internal memo from Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts in which she notes that lack of in-store availability of the Apple Watch is expected to “continue through the month of May” and directs Apple retail store staff to advise customers to order their watches online in order to receive “the model they want earlier and faster.”

Many of you have been getting questions asking if we will have the watch available in store on April 24 for walk-in purchases. As we announced last week, due to high global interest combined with our initial supply, we are only taking orders online right now. I’ll have more updates as we get closer to in-store availability, but we expect this to continue through the month of May. It has not been an easy decision, and I want to share with you the thinking behind it.

Ahrendts goes on to explain her reasoning, mostly in marketing language, describing the Apple Watch as an “entirely new category” and putting a positive spin on Apple’s new approach to “deliver the kind of service our customers have come to expect,” and that the Watch as an “object of self-expression” complicates Apple’s ability to deliver stock in stores with the number of band and design options available, as opposed to taking online orders. Notably, Ahrendts suggests that the current situation is an exception, and that Apple does not plan to launch all future products in this manner.

 

Apple adds WWDC scholarships to promote diversity

Apple has nearly doubled the number of scholarships for this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference in an attempt to bolster diversity, Re/code reports. The company is offering up to 350 scholarships to students age 13 or older and members of organizations working to promote science, engineering, technology and math education for women and minorities. CEO Tim Cook pledged to strive for more diversity after Apple’s diversity report released last April found the company predominantly made up of white males. Since then, Apple has donated $50 million to encourage more employment diversity in technology. A spokesman for the National Society of Black Engineers said his organization has been working with Apple for the past year to help its members learn more about STEM-related fields.

Samsung creates exclusive team to build Apple screens

Samsung has created a team of about 200 employees working exclusively on displays for Apple, Bloomberg reports. The team provides screens for iPads and MacBooks, aids in product development, and only shares information about Apple’s business within the group, according to people with direct knowledge of the move. Even after years of legal fights between the two companies, Apple is Samsung’s biggest external customer, with Samsung set to produce Apple’s A9 processor for the next iPhone. LG, a rival for Apple’s display panel business, also has a dedicated team focused on Apple.

Ikea reveals US prices for Wireless Charging Collection

A U.S.-specific update has revealed prices for Ikea’s upcoming Wireless Charging Collection, including the Vitahult Wireless Charging Cover for iPhone 6 ($25), which will make the phone compatible with the Qi wireless charging stations in Ikea’s new line. Ikea’s new promotional materials also list charging cases for the iPhone 4, 5 and 5s ($20-$25), but make no mention of the iPhone 6 Plus. The cases featured in the press release are white with no other colors listed.

In addition to the iPhone cases, other product prices can also be found in the update. Furniture in the collection ranges from $60 to $119, while charging pads will cost $28 for a single pad and $65 for a triple pad. Ikea’s Wireless Charging Collection will arrive in the U.S. in “late Spring.”

Report: Apple acquires mobile imaging company LinX

Apple has acquired camera technology company LinX, CNBC reports. The price of the acquisition appears to be around $20 million, according to sources who informed Dow Jones of the deal. The Israeli company develops high-quality imaging hardware for integration into mobile devices, and aims to “put SLR image quality” into users’ pockets, according to a press release last year announcing the company’s successful development of “miniature multi-aperture cameras designed for mobile devices.” The release notes that the camera modules are significantly smaller than typical mobile camera hardware while producing better quality results than typical smartphone cameras through various innovative technologies. It seems likely that Apple intends to use the company’s assets to help improve next-generation iPhone cameras.

Apple releases ResearchKit to medical researchers

Apple announced today it has released ResearchKit – a software framework designed to help doctors and other researchers gather health data from patients using mobile devices – to medical researchers worldwide. Apps developed with ResearchKit to study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease have already enrolled 60,000 iPhone users.

Apple is hopeful that making the open source framework publicly available will expand researchers’ ability to recruit patients for studies and greatly increase the frequency and accuracy of data collected from individual patients. “Studies that historically attracted a few hundred participants are now attracting participants in the tens of thousands,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations. ResearchKit apps access data from iPhone sensors like the accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone and GPS to gain insight into a participant’s activity levels, motor impairments, memory and more. ResearchKit also works with iOS 8’s HealthKit health and fitness apps – with permission from the participant, ResearchKit apps can access and use data from the Health app such as weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use.

Apple Pay timeline in China unknown after negotiations stall

Sources close to Apple’s talks with Chinese banks say a disagreement over Apple’s fees has stalled Apple Pay’s rollout to China, MarketWatch reports. Despite rumors that Apple would wrap up negotiations in March, problems with UnionPay — the only company that handles inter-bank payments in China — have kept Apple Pay support for out of the iOS 8.3 Chinese release last week. An unnamed UnionPay employee said the company hasn’t made a deal with Apple or set a timetable for reaching one. Chinese banks also balked at the 0.15 percent charge Apple takes from the standard 2 percent fee on credit card transactions and the half-penny Apple collects from debit transactions in the U.S. Apple has also hit snags rolling out Apple Pay in other countries as well, including the U.K.

Apple releases iOS 8.4 beta to developers, with new Music app

Less than a week after the public release of iOS 8.3, Apple has already begun the developer beta cycle of the next iOS update, with the release of the first iOS 8.4 beta to registered developers. As expected, iOS 8.4 appears to focus primarily on a redesigned Music experience to pave the way for Apple’s upcoming streaming music service, with a number of significant changes to the built-in Music app, paralleling some iTunes features such as Now Playing, Mini Player, and support for adding to and managing the Up Next queue.

The Music app redesign is apparently being overseen by Trent Reznor, the creative head at Beats Music, who has reportedly been working on a secret project at Apple since at least last fall. This first iOS 8.4 beta, featuring a build number of 12H4074d, is also accompanied by an Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment, and notes about a dozen limitations with the new Music app at present.

It is expected that most of these are just issues related to the new Music app not being entirely finished in this first beta, and the app experience should improve through the remainder of the beta cycle.

Apple announces WWDC for June 8-12

Apple has announced its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference will run from June 8 to June 12 at Moscone West in San Francisco. The event will feature technical sessions presented by Apple engineers and give developers exclusive access to the latest features of iOS and OS X. Select sessions from the event will be streamed online from the WWDC website and the WWDC app. Apple is expected to debut a new Apple TV featuring the long-awaited addition of an App Store at the event, along with a software development kit to get developers started on the necessary apps. Apple’s revamped music service will likely also be unveiled during the event. Tickets will be assigned via lottery, with applications being accepted here from now until 10 a.m. Pacific Time on April 17.

Apple takes 15 percent of subscription fees for Apple TV signups

While Apple notably takes 30 percent of any service’s subscription fees taken from within an iOS app, the company only takes a 15 percent cut for subscription signups on Apple TV, according to Re/code. Though most Apple TV channels are either free or require cable authentication, there are still a number of channels which allow for subscription signups on Apple TV. As the report notes, where a user signs up “could be worth millions” to Apple and the likes of HBO, which offers its new HBO Now service on both Apple TV and iOS devices. It’s also pointed out that either signup option is preferable for HBO when compared to the 50 percent fee that cable and satellite providers charge premium networks — a fact which may lead to more standalone streaming network offerings in the future.

Security change in iOS 8.3 limits some file manager and transfer apps

A security change in iOS 8.3 prevents some file manager and transfer utilities like iFunBox and iExplorer from accessing app directories on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, MacRumors notes. The apps allow users to manage, transfer and back up data between their iOS devices and a Mac or PC, but updated iOS 8.3 security features blocked the apps’ ability to control data in installed apps and games. Scrambling for a fix over the weekend, iFunBox released an updated version that partially addressed the problem, allowing any music file to be imported as a ringtone, and apps with “iTunes File Sharing” enabled to be opened for sandbox browsing. Any other apps are still not accessible in iOS 8.3. Macroplant’s iExplorer claims to be iOS 8.3 ready, making no mention of the security issues.

Apple Watch Sport, 42mm case and black Sport band top pre-sale estimates

Nearly a million people in the U.S. pre-ordered the Apple Watch on April 10, with many buying more than one, according to data from digital commerce measurement firm Slice Intelligence. More than half of all customers went for the less expensive Apple Watch Sport (62 percent), and most buyers opted for the larger 42mm case (71 percent). The black Sport band was the most popular band for Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport customers, making up an estimated 49 percent of online pre-orders, followed in popularity by the white Sport band and Milanese Loop. Slice claims to have based its estimates on daily e-receipt data from more than 2 million shoppers.

Report: Apple Watch Sport comes with three band pieces, not two separate bands

Despite the wording on Apple’s website, Apple Watch Sport doesn’t come with two bands, according to TechCrunch. Instead, the watch will come with three band pieces of the same color — one end with a fastener and two pieces that have holes, sized small/medium and medium/large to let users choose the appropriate fit. This development has thrown some cold water on sites like Bandswapper, which sprung up to let someone exchange an “extra band” which doesn’t fit their wrist for another band of the correct size.

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Apple vying for artist exclusives for streaming music service; family plan?

Apple has approached more than a dozen artists to attempt to negotiate exclusivity deals for its upcoming streaming music service, Bloomberg reports, with the goal of encouraging users to pay for a subscription in order to gain access to content that would be unavailable through competing services. The list of artists, which includes Taylor Swift and Florence and the Machine, among others, have been in discussions with Apple about deals ranging from limited streaming rights to individual new tracks to closer overall partnerships with the new service. Music label executives and artists alike have been pushing back in recent months toward free-tiered streaming services such as Spotify, with Taylor Swift notably pulling her entire catalog from that service after it refused to restrict her latest album to only its paying customers. Apple’s new subscription service is expected to be available in a paid tier only, priced at $10 per month for individual users, and a previously unrevealed “family plan” that would be priced at $15, although it is unclear how many users would constitute a “family.”

Report: Apple has spent $38 million on Apple Watch TV ads

Apple has been putting a strong effort into marketing the Apple Watch on U.S. prime-time television, Reuters reports. Since the March 9 Apple Watch event, the company has spent $38 million on its “Watch Reimagined” television campaign — only slightly less, in relative terms, than the $42 million Apple spent on TV spots for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Out of more than 300 airings of the Apple Watch commercial, almost half have been in specific primetime spots, tied in with shows such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and NBC’s “The Voice.”

Apple Watch bands also experiencing delayed shipping times

Apple Watch quickly sold out of its initial launch allotments, and Apple Watch bands are also experiencing a shortage online. A glance at the Apple Watch bands page on the Apple Online Store reveals most bands will now be shipping in May. As of this writing, the 38mm Link Bracelet ($449) and 38mm Milanese Loop ($149) have 2-4 week shipping estimates, while the 38mm Modern Buckle is completely unavailable, in all sizes. It’s currently unclear what Apple Watch band stock will be like in Apple Retail Stores on April 24 and beyond.

Apple Watch models sell out quickly, shipping estimates now 4-6 weeks or later

Apple Watch models sold out very quickly after the device’s launch at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time this morning. Some models were showing shipping estimates of 4-6 weeks almost immediately after the Apple Online Store opened to accept pre-orders. The earliest shipping time available was a two-week estimate — the official April 24 launch date to May 8. As of this writing, only one Watch model in the entire lineup — the 38mm stainless steel Watch with Black Classic Buckle — has that same early shipping estimate. Sport models are now showing June for a shipping estimate, stainless steel models with Sport bands are getting 4-6 week estimates, while some other stainless steel models are showing June or July as an estimated shipping time. All Edition models are showing a June shipping estimate as of this time.

Apple Stores are also currently accepting Apple Watch try-on appointments. As of this writing, there are plenty of available appointments today and this weekend at many stores.

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