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Toshiba nears deal to sell chip business to group that includes Apple

Toshiba has chosen a group led by Bain Capital — which includes Apple — to buy its ailing chip business, The Wall Street Journal reports. Toshiba has outlined a plan to stay involved in the business after the estimated $18 billion sale, signing a “nonbinding document saying they intended to reach a deal by September 30.” The deal still has to clear a review from antitrust regulators and objections from Toshiba partner Western Digital, which claims it has the right to veto the sale. Toshiba disputes that claim, and the issue is headed for international arbitration. If the deal ends up going through, Apple would likely find it much easier to secure its chip supply as demand continues to increase. Some Apple products have seen slight price increases in the past few weeks, leading to speculation that rising memory costs could be to blame, so locking down a reliable supply would leave one less thing for Apple to worry about as it continues pushing the limits of its internal components and trying to bring more of its production in-house.

U.S. Senator Al Franken raises questions about FaceID privacy and security

U.S. Senator Al Franken is pressing Apple to provide details on the privacy and security safeguards around FaceID data, Recode reports. In a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Franken raised concerns that Apple could use the “faceprints” collected by FaceID “to benefit other sectors of its business, sell it to third parties for surveillance purposes, or receive law enforcement requests to access it facial recognition system — eventual uses that may not be contemplated by Apple customers.”

Disney is only major holdout on Apple plan to sell 4K movies for $20

Apple has inked deals with nearly every major studio to sell 4K movies, with Disney proving to be the lone holdout, The Wall Street Journal reports. The 4K or ultra-high definition movies will come at the same $20 price tag as high definition movies, according to a person familiar with the discussions. While Apple reportedly struggled with most of the Hollywood studios to come to terms on pricing, it was ultimately able to ink deals with the others, so it remains unclear why Disney hasn’t gotten on board yet; the studio currently sells its 4K movies for $25 on other platforms, and Apple is said to be firm on not raising movie proices above $20. Apple has long-standing ties to Disney, with the studio being the first to sell its TV shows and movies on iTunes and Disney CEO Robert Iger sitting on Apple’s board of directors. Reports from last month had Disney balking at Apple’s plan to offer new release movies for streaming just one week after they debut in theaters as other studios showed interest in the idea.

Apple continues to expand video content team with four more Hollywood execs

Apple is continuing to expand its video content team with the hiring of four more Hollywood executives, Variety reports. Not surprisingly, most of the new hires are veterans from Sony Pictures Television, following on from Apple’s hiring of Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg from Sony in June. The new executives include Kim Rozenfeld who previously headed up current programming at Sony Pictures Television and will be joining Apple as the future head of current programming and the lead executive responsible for documentary series development. Max Aronson and Ali Woodruff are also coming from Sony to join Apple as “development executives,” previously serving as VP of Drama development and Director of Creative Affairs, respectively. Rozenfeld, Aronson, and Woodruff will report to Erlicht and Van Amburg, while the last member of the new team, Rita Cooper Lee, comes from a role as head of publicity for WGN America and will lead communications for the new video unit, reporting to Tom Neumayr, Senior Director of App Store, Apple Music and Apple TV PR.

Apple rumored to be bidding for James Bond franchise

Apple is rumored to have entered the running to buy the rights to the James Bond franchise, a property worth between $2 billion and $5 billion, The Hollywood Reporter reports. Major film studios like MGM, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. have been pursuing a deal since the franchise’s deal with Sony expired in 2015, and Apple’s entry into the bidding has ratcheted up the intensity. Apple is also reportedly in discussions to buy or lease iconic Hollywood powerhouse The Culver Studios to house its burgeoning content operation, and industry analysts view the potential for the James Bond franchise as possibly as big as the Marvel and Star Wars brands for TV shows, toys, merchandising and more.

India ups pressure on Apple to approve anti-spam app

Apple’s refusal to approve India’s anti-spam app could cause problems for the company’s efforts to expand its sales in the country, Bloomberg reports. Apple has thus far refused to make the Telecom Regulatory Authority’s app — which blocks annoying unsolicited calls and texts — available on the App Store, drawing the ire of the TRAI’s leadership. Apple doesn’t permit third-party apps to access SMS details and call records, which are necessary for the app to function, but the TRAi is currently taking public comments ahead of drafting new policies about how much control users have over their personal information.

Apple strengthening push into Hollywood content with eye on iconic studio, bid on high-profile drama

Apple appears to be strengthening its push into producing original content, with the Financial Times reporting that the company is looking to an iconic Hollywood studio as the base for its original content division and bidding against companies such as Netflix on rights to a new high-profile drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

Apple sends out press invites for Sept 12 event at Apple Park

As expected, Apple has sent out media invites for its annual fall event, being held Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 10:00 a.m. in the Steve Jobs Theatre at the company’s new Apple Park campus in Cupertino. As usual, the media invites include a sneak peek at the theme of the event, along with a tagline which this time simply reads “Let’s meet at our place.” Unlike prior media invites, the tagline is most likely just a direct reference to the venue for the event as opposed to a cryptic clue to what Apple will be announcing.

Apple raises over $3 million for Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Apple has raised over $3 million in donations for Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts, according to an internal e-mail sent by Tim Cook to employees, as reported by BuzzFeed News. Apple began accepting donations on Sunday for Hurricane Harvey Relief efforts via the iTunes Store, with funds going directly to the American Red Cross. In an e-mail sent out on Wednesday afternoon, Tim Cook discussed the effects of Hurricane Harvey, lauding the company’s fundraising impact, and noting that Texas is home to more than 8,700 Apple employees, and that the company has a global crisis management team on the ground in Texas helping to move some of the employees and their families who are impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Cook also added that Apple is matching employee donations two-for-one, in addition to a pledge of $2 million the company has made from its own coffers. Further, Cook also acknowledged Apple employees in the Houston area who have “generously been helping people displaced by the flooding by opening their homes to team members and their families, and in some cases, assisting in rescue operations.”

Apple receives an Emmy for Siri Integration on Apple TV

Apple has received an 2017 Technical / Engineering Achievement Emmy Award in the category of Contextual Voice Navigation for Discovering and Interacting with TV Content for the company’s Siri voice integration on the fourth-generation Apple TV. The award was given to Apple alongside Comcast, Universal Electronics, and Nuance Dragon TV.

WSJ confirms a 4K Apple TV is coming, Apple and Hollywood struggling with pricing for content

Apple and Hollywood studios are once having difficulty coming to terms for movie distribution, this time concerning pricing for the offering of 4K “Ultra-HD” content on the iTunes Store. Confirming rumours of a new 4K-capable Apple TV, a new report from the Wall Street Journal reveals that Apple has been “scrambling” to strike deals with the studios to ensure content is available on the new set-top box when it’s expected to launch next month. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple has met resistance from the Hollywood studios in terms of what should be an acceptable price at which to offer ultra-HD content, with Apple pushing to sell movies at a standard price of $19.99 — the same price the company currently charges for new release HD movies — while Hollywood studios want to add a $5 to $10 premium for higher-definition 4K content.

Apple to hold product launch event on Sept. 12

A new report from the Wall Street Journal confirms rumours from last week that Apple is planning to hold its fall product launch event on Sept. 12. WSJ cites “people briefed on its plans” who provided the date of the event as well as information about a possible venue, but did not offer any further specifics on what would be launched. Other sources suggest that Apple will unveil three new iPhone models — two modest upgrades to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus along with a premium “iPhone 8” model that would feature and edge-to-edge display and facial recognition technology; other recent reports have suggested a next-generation Apple Watch with cellular capabilities will be announced at the same time as the new iPhone models.

Apple expands ‘App Development with Swift’ curriculum to over 30 Community Colleges

Apple has announced that, starting this fall, its App Development with Swift curriculum will be offering in over 30 community colleges through the United States. Designed by engineers and educators at Apple, the full-year course is geared toward students with no programming experience, taking them to the point of building fully-functional apps of their own design for the macOS and iOS platforms.

Apple publishes details of deep learning improvements to Siri voice quality in iOS 11

Apple’s latest post on its fledgling Machine Learning Journal provides some interesting insights into how the company is using artificial intelligence technology to not only improve Siri’s speech recognition capabilities, but to make the personal assistant’s voice sound more natural, smother, and provide more personality. The article provides technical details about the deep learning technology used to improve Siri behind the scenes, describing the basic technology behind speech synthesis and the differing approaches used to provide digitized and sampled speech, and how previously lower-quality “parametric” speech synthesis is being improved by the implementation of deep learning in speech technology.

 

Apple and Hollywood still discussing plans for early movie rentals

Movie studios are still considering plans to offer premium early access movie rentals via iTunes, Bloomberg reports. Despite objections from cinema chains, Hollywood wants to forge ahead in offering digital rentals of films only weeks after they arrive in theatres, according to people familiar with the matter. Discussions about possible studio agreements between Apple and the studios began late last year, and have been ongoing for months since, although the two sides have been struggling to arrive at a means for offering a $30–$50 premium movie-download solution that would be mutually beneficial.

Apple joins other companies in opposing warrantless use of location data

Apple joined more than a dozen other prominent technology companies in filing a brief with the Supreme Court opposing warrantless use of a cellphone’s location data, CNET reports. The case in question concerns armed robbery charges against Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in 2011 based on his cellphone’s location data. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the companies argue “that users rely on technology companies to process their data for limited purposes does not mean that they expect their intimate data to be monitored by the government without a warrant.” Apple has made a habit of being uncompromising with regards to its preservation of user privacy, despite being sued by the Department of Justice and criticized by President Donald Trump for doing so.

Apple hires adds to video executive team, plans $1B investment in video content

Apple has hired former WGN America President Matt Chreniss to oversee a $1 billion investment in acquiring new video content, The Wall Street Journal reports. After hemming and hawing on the sidelines for years and dabbling in video projects to bolster its Apple Music product, Apple is ready to produce as many as 10 original TV shows, according to sources familiar with the matter. The $1 billion investment is about half of what HBO spent on its own content last year and roughly on par with what Amazon spent in 2013, the year after it moved into the video content business. Apple has been feeling out original content deals with Hollywood power players for months — if not years — but got serious in June when it hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two senior television executives from Sony Pictures Television. Erlicht and Van Amburg, hired to oversee all aspects of the company’s video programming efforts, have been holding meetings to see what types of shows are available for outright purchase and have brought on Chreniss to oversee development.

Group of Chinese developers launch antitrust complaint over App Store policies

A group of Chinese developers has filed a complaint against Apple alleging that the company has violated antitrust regulations in that country, Reuters reports. The group consisting of 28 developers is being represented by the Beijing-Based law firm Dare & Sure, and is accusing Apple of charging excessive fees and arbitrarily removing apps from the Chinese App Store without explanation. According to Lin Wei, an attorney at the firm, “During its localization process Apple has run into several antitrust issues ... after an initial investigation we consulted a number of enterprises and got a very strong response.” The law firm extends an invitation to developers in April to participate in the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday with China’s two anti-trust regulators — the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission. The law firm did not provide any details on which developers are involved in the complaint.

International Trade Commission looks into Qualcomm’s request to ban US iPhone imports

The U.S. International Trade Commission has announced it is investigating Qualcomm’s claims that Apple devices violate its patents, the latest front in Apple’s ongoing legal war with the chipmaker. Qualcomm asked the ITC to ban imports of iPhones into the U.S. in May, and the commission said it will set a target date for the completion of the investigation within 45 days. WHile the back and forth in the courts could take years, the ITC promised to “make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time.” Apple didn’t comment on the development, but CEO Tim Cook has previously said, “I don’t believe that anyone is going to decide to enjoin the iPhone based on that. I think that there’s plenty of case law around that subject, but we shall see.”

Apple patents way to use FaceTime camera and sensors to take health measurements

A recent Apple patent describes new ways to use the FaceTime camera and accompanying sensors in current iPhones to take health measurements. The process “uses one or more of the camera and the proximity sensor to emit light into a body part of a user touching a surface of the electronic device and one or more of the camera, the ambient light sensor, and the proximity sensor to receive at least part of the emitted light reflected by the body part of the user,” much like the Apple Watch uses reflected light from the sensors in contact with a user’s skin to take its measurements. With added sensors in future devices to boost what is already there, Apple claims it might be able to provide “a blood pressure index, a blood hydration, a body fat content, an oxygen saturation, a pulse rate, a perfusion index, an electrocardiogram, a photoplethysmogram, and/or any other such health data.” [via 9to5Mac]

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