An Italian tax probe alleging Apple failed to pay 879 million euros ($964 million) in corporate taxes has wrapped up, Reuters reports. Under Italian law, finalizing the probe lets prosecutors ask a judge to hear the case at trial. Prosecutors claim Apple dodged its full tax bill from 2008-2013 by having its profits in Italy booked by Irish subsidiary Apple Sales International, reducing its taxable income base. Apple has denied any wrongdoing, citing Italian audits of Apple in 2007, 2008 and 2009 that found the company in full compliance. The investigation, which began in late 2013, initially claimed Apple “hid” more than 1 billion euros from Italian authorities.
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After nearly two years of rumors and speculation on Apple’s plans for its next set-top box, a new report from BuzzFeed indicates that the company plans to debut a revamped Apple TV at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Citing sources familiar with the company’s plans, the report suggests that Apple will choose to show the device off at WWDC along with a long-anticipated App Store for the living room screen, with a software development kit that will help developers get started on building the necessary apps. The new Apple TV is expected to be a “significant overhaul” of the device to make it stand out from a field that has since been populated with many competitors. The report suggests that the new device will sport some variant of Apple’s latest A8 CPU, increased on-board storage to support the App Store, and integration of Siri voice control. The existing Apple TV hasn’t been updated since a minor revision was made to the 2012-era third-generation Apple TV in March 2013.
Apple has pulled The Whole Pantry app from its U.S. and Australian App Stores amid controversy surrounding the app’s creator, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Australian app developer Belle Gibson’s claim of healing herself from terminal cancer without conventional treatment came under scrutiny last week after friends and doctors voiced doubts about her diagnosis, and charities reported that they hadn’t received funding Gibson had promised. The Whole Pantry — an app providing recipes and lifestyle guides — has been dropped from the App Store and is no longer featured on a page displaying Apple Watch apps.
Apple’s iOS 8.2 eliminated the FREAK security flaw in Safari, but FireEye researchers found a handful of popular iOS apps are still vulnerable to attack even when running on iOS 8.2. Hundreds of others still connect to vulnerable HTTPS servers, leaving them open to attack when running on iOS versions lower than iOS 8.2. Shopping, medical and finance apps were all mentioned as possible targets in FireEye’s plea for app developers to remedy the lingering issues.
A new device allows users to access a locked device running iOS 8.1 through a brute-force attack, even with the “Erase data after 10 attempts” setting on, according to security company MDSec. The IP Box — available in England for £200 (about $293) — bypasses Apple’s security measures by cutting the iPhone’s power after each failed attempt at guessing the PIN, shutting down the phone before the attempt can be logged in flash memory. This method allows the device to break a four-digit PIN in approximately 111 hours. The vulnerability could be the issue noted in CVE-2014-4451 and addressed in Apple’s iOS 8.1.1 update, but MDSec recommends users create a “sufficiently complex” password rather than a simple PIN to protect their data regardless. [via Daring Fireball]
Apple is negotiating to add the Viacom and Discovery families of networks to its growing Apple TV subscription service, The Wall Street Journal reports. Adding any of Viacom’s MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon networks or Discovery’s Animal Planet, TLC and Discovery Channel would go a long way toward turning Apple’s TV package into one of the more robust alternatives to standard cable and could help justify a price tag that’s been estimated between $25 to $40. Major networks ABC, CBS and Fox are also in talks to anchor the subscription service, allowing Apple to undercut other discounted bundles like Dish Network’s $20 a month streaming service, which includes popular cable channels but no networks. NBC is still working on a dedicated app for Apple TV after being shut out of negotiations for inclusion in Apple’s subscription service, but that app will require a cable subscription to function.
Apple plans to incentivize participation in its upcoming TV service by offering to share data with its programming partners, the New York Post reports. A report earlier today revealed that Apple is planning a web TV service expected to be released this fall, and this latest information indicates that the company has found it necessary to make certain concessions to get broadcast networks and others on board. Shared data would include who the viewers are, what they watch, and when they watch it — demographic data that is typically necessary for programmers to target their shows to viewers and advertisers. Sources familiar with the talks have indicated that Apple is taking the rather unusual approach of allowing a lot more decision-making by content owners, basically giving up a lot more control than is usually the case. Notably, traditional cable companies and other web providers such as Amazon and Netflix have refused to hand over viewership data to programmers.
Despite being cut out of negotiations to be included in Apple’s stripped-down TV subscription service, NBC is still aiming at having an app on Apple TV by the second half of 2015, 9to5Mac reports. The NBC app would function like content apps for TV channels currently available on Apple TV, requiring a verifiable cable subscription to function. The other major networks — ABC, CBS and Fox — will reportedly be included in Apple’s own TV subscription offering slated for this fall..
A federal jury has found that Apple did not infringe on five wireless technology patents, Reuters reports. The patents are owned by Canadian company Conversant Intellectual Property Management Inc., which bought Core Wireless Licensing Sarl and its 2,000 Nokia patents and patent applications in 2011, including the communications protocols for the 2G, 3G and 4G standards on which most mobile communication is based. Core Wireless sued Apple in 2012, seeking $100 million in damages and a percentage of future device sales for Apple’s use of its patents in iPhones and iPads. The jury also rejected Apple’s claim that Core Wireless breached its obligation to license its patents fairly.
Nintendo will finally develop games for smartphones, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company that for years refused to cater to the smartphone market has partnered with Japanese game provider DeNA Co. to set up a new mobile game platform, which should debut this fall. Analysts say Nintendo’s reluctance to license its characters has come at a heavy cost as the gaming industry shifted to smartphones. Nintendo posted three straight years of losses amid disappointing console sales, forcing the company to be more open to embracing the free-to-download game model dependent on in-game purchases for revenue.
Nintendo’s new game distribution portal, slated to debut this fall, will be the only place to download the company’s games, but those looking to download Nintendo classics won’t find them there. Although Nintendo has put “no limitations” on which of its properties will wind up in smartphone games, the company’s announcement said, “Only new original games optimized for smart device functionality will be created, rather than porting games created specifically for the Wii U home console or the Nintendo 3DS portable system.”
Apple plans to start offering an online TV service with about 25 channels this fall, The Wall Street Journal reports. The slimmed-down TV bundle, anchored by networks ABC, CBS and Fox and featuring popular cable channels like ESPN and FX, would be available on all devices powered by Apple’s iOS operating system, including iPhones and iPads, as well as Apple TV set-top boxes. People familiar with the talks said NBC and its family of cable networks aren’t part of the discussions after a deal between NBC parent company Comcast and Apple couldn’t be made. Some media executives estimate the service will cost between $30 to $40 a month, deeply undercutting the average $90 that cable companies charge — albeit with fewer channels. Roadblocks in the talks could stall plans to announce the service in June and launch it in September, but Apple’s deal to be HBO Now’s exclusive launch partner appears to have given Apple momentum to enter the TV market.
Apple plans to expand its iPhone trade-in program to include Android devices and other non-Apple smartphones, 9to5Mac reports. Much like the iPhone Reuse + Recycle Program introduced about a year and a half ago, customers will receive gift cards that can be used toward the purchase of new iPhones in exchange for their older smartphones, with the value of the trade-in assessed by Apple Store employees based on the cosmetic and functional condition of the device. The new program is expected to begin in the next few weeks, and Apple is expected to begin training employees later this week.
Users looking to try on the Apple Watch in stores won’t absolutely need to make an appointment to do so, 9to5Mac reports. Apple’s latest memo preps employees to accommodate walk-in customers looking to try on an Apple Watch in its retail stores, calling appointments “recommended, but not necessary.” Whether you make an appointment or walk in and wait, the Apple Watch will be available for in-store previews starting April 10. Customers who like what they see will be able to place orders on the spot for pickup on April 24, when the Apple Watch officially launches.
An Apple Watch shop is popping up in a Tokyo Isetan department store as Apple positions to sell its watch beside some of world’s most respected — and expensive — watch makers. Photos of an enclosed construction space and additions to the mall’s maps show a permanent Apple Watch store going in right next to luxury jeweler Cartier, Macotakara reports. Although Apple has set up a process for handling watch sales out of existing Apple stores, the new storefront makes it likely at least some Edition sales will be conducted in high-end boutiques. So far no new construction has been spotted inside U.S. luxury retailers, but a source told Reuters that Nordstrom is engaged in discussions with Apple to carry the watch. Macy’s, Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales and Barney’s said they had no immediate plans to carry the watch.
Microsoft plans to bring Cortana, its Windows phone personal assistant technology, to both Apple and Android devices, Reuters reports. The company is reported to be developing an advanced version of its Siri competitor based on an artificial intelligence project it has dubbed “Einstein.” Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, has been more aggressively opening up the company’s software to non-Windows platforms, eschewing Microsoft’s traditional approach of forcing customers into using its Windows operating system. Cortana debuted on Windows phones last year, and will be coming to the desktop with Windows 10 later this year. According to people familiar with the project, Microsoft also plans to release a standalone iOS app version of the technology. New technology in Cortana to be rolled out this fall is expected to incorporate more advanced features, such as the ability to read and understand e-mail and more accurately anticipate user needs, rather than simply responding to requests as Siri does.
Apple has released its third beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers, following the public release earlier this week of iOS 8.2 to support the upcoming Apple Watch. This latest beta features a build number of 12F5047f and details few changes in the release notes from the prior beta, with minor issues related to CarPlay, WatchKit, and LTE Voice. As expected, this beta also adds the Apple Watch app and related settings that were introduced earlier this week in iOS 8.2. This update is also accompanied by a new beta of the Apple TV Software, although it is unclear what has changed in that particular version as Apple TV betas are generally not accompanied by release notes.
Despite reports that Apple would release a public beta of iOS 8.3 around this time, there has been no indication from Apple of a public beta program starting as of yet — as with previous iOS betas, iOS 8.3 beta 3 remains available to registered developers only.
Update: The iOS Public Beta program is now available at Apple’s Beta Software Program site. Some of the information in the FAQ appears to have been updated to include instructions for backing up and installing on iOS devices, but the ability to actually register for, download, and install the beta version does not yet seem to be available for all users.
Apple has removed Jawbone and Nike fitness bands from its retail stores, Re/code reports. The report notes that major stores in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles and New York are no longer carrying devices such as the Jawbone Up and Nike+ FuelBand, activity tracking wristbands that notably duplicate functionality found in Apple’s upcoming Watch. The move follows Apple’s removal of Fitbit products last fall, allegedly due to issues with that company holding out on HealthKit integration, and a number of other fitness trackers have been phased out of Apple Retail in a gradual revamp. With the Apple Watch being touted as a personal fitness trainer, it seems likely that Apple is looking to remove competing products from its stores to both make room for and promote its new premium wearable device.
Notably, however, Nike seems to have been making a departure from the hardware business, particularly following the loss of some its engineering talent to Apple. The company has been focusing instead on software such as its Nike+ Fuel iOS app, which is now being more heavily promoted than FuelBand, even on the company’s own site. Jawbone’s products have not completely been expunged from Apple Stores either, with the Move clip-on pedometer still being sold; the change in retail strategy only appears to directly impact wristband devices, supporting the notion that Apple is specifically concerned about products that will compete with the Apple Watch.
Twelve South has announced an Apple Watch version of its popular HiRise stand — HiRise for Apple Watch ($50). The metal stand is designed to display the watch at an elevated angle, allowing the user to interact with the watch face while the device charges. HiRise works with the Apple Watch’s magnetic charging cable, which is inserted into the stand and routed out the back. The new stand features soft silicone pads and a leather landing pad in back to protect the watch, band and metal clasps. Available in silver and black, HiRise for Apple Watch will ship in May. Twelve South’s HiRise Deluxe stand was released for iPhone and iPad late last year.
Apple is using the high traffic its retail stores generate to pay lower rent than other mall stores, The Wall Street Journal reports. An Apple Store’s ability to lift overall mall sales single-handedly — by as much as 10 percent, according to real-estate research firm Green Street Advisors — lets the company negotiate drastically lower rent and leaves other stores to foot the bill, even if they don’t benefit from Apple’s added traffic. In the past, department stores paid little to no rent since they served as main draws for the traffic upon which smaller stores depend. Apple has elevated itself close to that level, bargaining to have its rent based on no more than 2 percent of its sales per square foot, compared to a typical store that pays as much as 15 percent. “As department stores close, Apple is replacing them as the main driver of traffic to the mall,” said Raymond Cirz, chairman of Integra Realty Resources, a real-estate valuation and consulting firm.