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Suit alleges Apple stores discriminate against visually impaired

A class action lawsuit recently filed in Florida alleges that Apple is violating Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act by not offering point of sale devices that can be operated independently by the visually impaired. The suit argues the visually impaired cannot enter a PIN without help while using a debit card, denying the individuals full equal use of the store. It’s noted that other retailers offer point of sale devices with “tactiley discernible keypad surfaces.” The plaintiff is seeking an injunction that would force Apple to update or replace its point of sale devices. [via TUAW]

Popular app developer ComiXology reports security breach

ComiXology, developer of the popular iOS Comics app, has reported a security breach and is asking all account holders to reset their password. The company sent out an email detailing the breach, noting that payment information is safe. However, an “unauthorized individual” did access a database with ComiXology user names, emails, and passwords. The ComiXology website is currently down as of this writing — possibly due to a surge in traffic — but will hopefully be back up soon for users to reset their passwords. [via TechCrunch]

Report: Apple moved $8.9B in profits to tax haven

Apple has moved roughly $8.9 billion in untaxed profits from its Australian operations to a tax haven structure in Ireland over the last decade, The Australian Financial Review reports. The article claims that while Apple reported pretax earnings of $88.5 million in Australia last year, the company “sent $2 billion of income from its Australian sales to Ireland via Singapore, where Apple negotiated a secret tax deal.” Using 10 years of financial accounts obtained from Apple’s Irish company, Apple Sales International, the Financial Review says that although Apple Sales International has reported more than $100 billion in profits during the last five years, it has paid less than 50 cents in tax on every $1000 of income.

As was noted last year when Apple came under fire for tax practices, Apple avoids paying taxes in Ireland because the company is managed in the U.S., but avoids U.S. taxes by having Apple Sales International registered in Ireland. Though Ireland has said it would close the loophole, Apple can still choose where to base its tax residence. In 2010, Apple started rerouting sales through a new subsidiary based in Singapore, Apple South Asia Pte Ltd. The publication notes “there is no suggestion ... that this arrangement is anything but proper within Australian tax laws.”

Azoi introduces Wello health monitoring iPhone case

New accessory maker Azoi has announced Wello, a shell-style case for iPhone 5/5s with health monitoring capabilities. With its combination of sensors and electronics, the case can track blood pressure, electrocardiography (ECG), heart rate, blood oxygen, temperature, lung functions, and other vital statistics.

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According to the company, simply holding the case for a few moments is all that’s needed for it to register the information, which is then transferred to a companion app. Wello is currently available for pre-order, and will sell for $199. It’s slated to be released in fall 2014, pending FDA approval.

Report: Apple bringing full-screen video ads to iOS

Apple will bring full-screen video iAds to iPhone and iPad apps this year, Advertising Age reports. The new video iAds will play automatically. According to the report, these ads could occur during moments of transition, “like after completing a game’s level or finishing an article.” Pricing for the ads is unknown, and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Report: Apple working to expand Siri functionality for iWatch

Apple is working to expand Siri’s capabilities, including greater third-party integration, according to The Information. The report claims the Siri upgrades are being done with the iWatch in mind. These changes would allow Siri to offer more functionality by connecting to services and apps from third parties. It’s also noted that Siri’s search is being improved, and Apple is working on a way to dynamically decide which information should be displayed on a device with a smaller screen, such as the iWatch. In one given example, a running app could move to the foreground of the device’s screen when the user starts to jog. [via TechCrunch]

Sanction-seeking Apple publicly disclosed Nokia terms

Apple previously sought sanctions against Samsung in ongoing litigation between the two companies for using confidential licensing terms between the Cupertino company and Nokia — but a recent report notes Apple actually filed its terms with Nokia on a publicly available court docket. The terms remained on the docket for about four months. Samsung was not sanctioned for using the terms, but its law firm was ordered to reimburse Apple and Nokia for its legal fees in the matter. It’s now possible those fees could be reduced. Samsung is now seeking more information on Apple’s public disclosures, and may even pursue its own sanctions against Apple. [via FOSS Patents]

Twelve South intros SurfacePad for iPad mini

Twelve South has introduced SurfacePad for iPad mini ($70), a leather case. The thin case uses adhesive to affix itself to the back of the iPad mini. SurfacePad for iPad mini also includes a multi-angle viewing stand.

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SurfacePad for iPad mini comes in red, white, and black, and is available now. Twelve South noted that SurfacePad for iPad Air will be available in late spring 2014.

Report: iOS 7.1 due within week, before SXSW

According to a brief post by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, Apple will release the final version of iOS 7.1 “any day now,” ahead of next week’s iTunes Festival at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. Alluding to an unnamed source at Apple, Gruber notes that “a little birdie” told him that the iTunes Festival live streaming application requires iOS 7.1, so the long-awaited bug-fixing iOS update would logically need to become available before the Festival begins. An Apple TV channel will also be added to stream iTunes Festival content.

Update: Apple has released version 5.0 of the free iTunes Festival app, before the company’s release of iOS 7.1.

Apps: Bejeweled 1.7.1, Frozen: Storybook Deluxe, Learnist + Toca Pet Doctor

PopCap’s Bejeweled (free) has gone through more iterations and updates over the years than any other iOS game we can recall, and some have made fairly substantial improvements to the core match-three game. The latest update 1.7.1 adds Poker Mode, a surprisingly addictive game mode that challenges you to make five-card poker hands by sequencing same-colored match-threes. For instance, three separate matches of three yellow gems will give you three yellow gem cards, which when paired with two matches of three orange gems will create a full house. To keep playing, you need to both vary your hands — repeatedly getting just one pair of matching cards isn’t enough — and avoid the skull head on a flipped coin, which appears more often if you repeat hands and can instantly end your game. It’s a great update to the classic title, but arrives with a major bummer: an unexpected timer that limits your daily games unless you pay a $3 fee to unlock the full title.

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Just released as a video download last week, Disney’s hit movie Frozen briefly arrived with a free iBooks download of the Frozen Read-Along Storybook — a page-flipping story accompanied by full narration and the voices of Frozen’s key actors. But there is another Frozen storybook option for kids: despite the similar name and theme, the Frozen: Storybook Deluxe ($7) app doesn’t overlap anywhere near as much as we’d expected with the iBook story. While some of the art is similar, the story is told differently, with rich interactive animations and video clips from the movie. Storybook Deluxe also uniquely lets a child rotate the iPhone or iPad 180 degrees to hear the Frozen story from the separate perspectives of sisters Anna and Elsa. A reverse puzzle mode challenges kids to remove correctly-shaped ice puzzle fragments from a photo, while Snow Globe and Ice Crafting modes let kids draw pictures with snow and ice tools. Young Frozen fans should consider it a must-see.

Apple CFO Oppenheimer to retire, replaced by Maestri

Apple announced today that senior vice president and chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer will retire at the end of September. Oppenheimer, who has been with Apple since 1996, will be succeeded by Luca Maestri, Apple’s VP of finance and corporate controller. “Peter has served as our CFO for the past decade as Apple’s annual revenue grew from $8 billion to $171 billion and our global footprint expanded dramatically. His guidance, leadership and expertise have been instrumental to Apple’s success, not only as our CFO but also in many areas beyond finance, as he frequently took on additional activities to assist across the company. His contributions and integrity as our CFO create a new benchmark for public company CFOs,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a release.

It was just announced Monday that Oppenheimer was appointed to Goldman Sachs’ board of directors. Maestri notably participated actively in Apple’s most recent conference call with investors, and although his presence was unexplained at the time, it’s now clear that he will take on Oppenheimer’s quarterly public speaking role with analysts.

Microsoft plans to extend Xbox Live to iOS games

Microsoft is working on extending Xbox Live functionality to iOS games, The Verge reports. A recent job posting for a “New Devices and Gaming” software development engineer states that the company will “create a modern framework that is open source, light-weight, extensible and scalable across various platforms including Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.” According to the report, Microsoft wants to bring Xbox Live to every platform, allowing developers to incorporate Xbox Live into all games.

Apple pressing labels for exclusive album releases

Apple music chief Robert Kondrk “has been pressuring major labels for releases similar to last year’s Beyonce exclusive,” according to Billboard. “Tense talks with label executives” reportedly followed Beyonce’s successful exclusive one-week debut of her self-titled album on iTunes. The album was kept off streaming services for the first week, and sold 1 million copies worldwide during that time. Apple is pitching the “windowing” method as a way to boost music download sales. Kondrk reportedly suggested to labels that new albums wouldn’t necessarily have to be iTunes exclusives, but those albums should be unavailable to streaming services for a set period of time.

Volvo reveals more CarPlay details, confirms Wi-Fi soon

A Volvo press release reveals additional details about CarPlay, which was just officially announced by Apple. It’s noted that a Wi-Fi connection will allow for the iPhone to connect to the car in the “near future”; CarPlay was initially announced as being accessible to only three iPhone models using a Lightning cable. A video of CarPlay in use can also be seen in the press release.

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Volvo’s portrait screen will let users access Volvo and Apple content simultaneously, without switching between the car screen and iOS. CarPlay will debut in Volvo’s new XC90 “later in 2014.”

Cook rails against ending ‘green’ projects; profiled in book

Apple CEO Tim Cook was “visibly angry” during Friday’s shareholder meeting after a group asked Apple to stop using money on green energy projects that weren’t profitable. The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank and Apple investor, was rebuked by Cook, who said Apple did “a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive.” Addressing the NCPPR representative, Cook said, “If you want me to do things only for ROI (return on investment) reasons, you should get out of this stock.” The Apple CEO also said, “When we work on making our devices accessible to the blind, I don’t consider bloody ROI.”

A recent excerpt from the upcoming book “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs,” provides some insight into Cook’s hidden intensity. Though Cook is described as Jobs’ “polar opposite,” author Yukari Iwatani Kane writes, “To some, Cook was a machine; to others, he was riveting. He could strike terror in the hearts of his subordinates, but he could also motivate them to toil from dawn to midnight for just a word of praise.” Another paragraph notes that, “Meetings with Cook could be terrifying. He exuded a Zenlike calm and didn’t waste words.” Cook is also described as being “relentlessly frugal” and as having “inhuman” stamina, but also generous and charitable. [via The Independent, Wall Street Journal]

Apple on Asian hiring spree to speed up production

Apple is hiring “hundreds of new engineers and supply-chain managers in China and Taiwan” as the company pushes for “faster and more frequent product launches,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The company is hiring engineers from Taiwanese tech firms, including rival HTC. Apple reportedly needs more engineers to develop components for upcoming iPhones and iPads; the company has already added “several hundred new engineers and operations staff in China” during the past two years. According to one recruiting email obtained by the WSJ, “Apple is building an engineering team in Taipei to drive new iPhone product development.” It’s previously been reported that Apple will launch two iPhones with larger screens later this year.

Apple rebrands iOS in the Car as CarPlay, slates debut

Apple has announced CarPlay, the rebranded name for its iOS in the Car. CarPlay will premiere at the Geneva International Motor Show, which runs from March 6-16. Vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo will premiere CarPlay this week. According to Apple, BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota will also add CarPlay to vehicles in the future. The company calls CarPlay “the smarter, safer and more fun way to use iPhone in the car.”

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CarPlay lets iPhone users make calls, use maps, listen to music, and access messages from the car’s native interface or a voice control steering wheel button that will activate Siri. Available as an update to iOS 7, CarPlay will initially work only with Lightning-enabled iPhones — the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s—though the CarPlay name appears to hint at an eventual wireless interface akin to AirPlay. The feature will be “available in select cars shipping in 2014,” with no specific models mentioned in the press release.

Apple CFO named to Goldman Sachs board

Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s Chief Financial Officer, has been appointed to financial firm Goldman Sachs’ board of directors. His appointment brings the Board to 13 directors, 10 of whom are independent. Commenting on the appointment, Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEP Lloyd C. Blankfein said, “Peter’s 25 years of broad experience across important industries will add a valuable perspective to our Board of Directors. We appreciate his willingness to serve as a director and look forward to benefitting from his judgment and counsel.”

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