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Apple retail stores to have very limited Apple Watch stock

Perhaps not surprisingly, most Apple Stores are expected to have limited stock of the Apple Watch for the initial launch, 9to5Mac reports. Sources at Apple Stores have noted that priority will be given to reservations as well, limiting stock even further for walk-in purchases, and employees have been told to treat launch day as if there is no walk-in stock available at all. This problem will be exacerbated by the wide variety of models available, making it even harder for a walk-in customer to get the specific Apple Watch that they may be looking for.

Apple quietly acquiring companies to improve cloud services?

Apple’s recent acquisition of database developer FoundationDB actually follows another quiet acquisition of a related company in 2013, Bloomberg reports. Acunu Ltd., a U.K. based data analytics company, appears to have been acquired by Apple in late 2013, according to a LinkedIn entry that reveals that Acunu’s Chief Technology Officer began working as a manager for Apple’s iCloud division, followed by several other Acunu employees beginning to work at Apple shortly thereafter. Not much is known about what Apple’s plans for the new technologies would be, but the Bloomberg report suggests that Apple is “placing more emphasis on the development of solid data infrastructure to help provide services to its legions of global consumers beyond iPhones and iPads” and it seems reasonable that such technologies would be used to expand and improve iCloud and other cloud-based services.

Apple planning to release three iPhone models this year?

Apple may be planning to release three different iPhone models later this year, essentially adding a new 4-inch model to the lineup, according to the often-dubious DigiTimes. Citing “industry sources,” the report notes that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus would be directly upgraded to the “iPhone 6S” and “iPhone 6S Plus”, respectively, and that a new “iPhone 6C” would be added to the lineup — a four-inch model that would presumably be the spiritual successor to the iPhone 5s. The devices would allegedly all include Corning Gorilla Glass, with the 6S series using A9 chips and the 6C using the current A8 chip, and all devices would include NFC and Touch ID hardware. The report’s sources also indicate that Apple would likely use different manufacturing partners for the smaller-sized iPhone.

While any early reports — especially from sources such as Digitimes — should be taken with an appropriate grain of salt, the move would not be entirely unexpected for Apple, particularly if demand for iPhones with the more “traditional” screen size remains high. As has been the company’s practice in previous years, Apple is currently still selling the older four-inch iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c alongside the larger iPhone 6 models, providing customers with a variety of screen sizes to choose from. However, as newer models are introduced, the company may not wish to leave these users with only significantly older hardware options.

Report reveals more details on Apple’s upcoming music service

The New York Times has a report today that provides some additional insight into Apple’s plans for the upcoming streaming music service that the company is rumored to be developing with its Beats division. Being billed as a service that is expected to rival Spotify, the new subscription offering has Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame overseeing the redesign of the iOS Music app to accommodate the new services. The report also notes that Apple is planning improvements to iTunes Radio to focus more on regional listeners, and “splashy new albums” that will be released initially as iTunes exclusives. Former BBC Radio DJ Zane Lowe has apparently been hired by Apple to play a role in redesigning iTunes Radio to “bear some resemblance to a traditional radio station.”

The report also confirms that Apple’s new service will not come in at a lower price than competing services. Several music executives told the New York Times that Apple’s attempts to negotiate lower pricing from record labels have failed, suggesting that Apple’s service will likely be priced at the $10/month level that has pretty much become standard across all streaming music services. Unlike services such as Spotify, however, Apple’s new service is not expected to have a free version, a decision that music executives are reported to be particularly happy about.

Apple acquires database company FoundationDB

Apple has acquired Foundation DB, a company specializing in fast, affordable databases, TechCrunch reports. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but FoundationDB is no longer providing downloads of its database software on the company’s website. The move bolsters Apple’s ability to deliver cloud services ahead of the company’s reported entry into the subscription TV business, but as usual, Apple is keeping quiet on the exact reasons behind the acquisition. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” Apple said.

Apple releases iOS 8.3 beta 4

Apple has released its fourth beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers; it’s the second beta in the new iOS Public Beta program. This latest beta features a build number of 12F61 and details few changes in the release notes from the prior beta, with minor issues related to CarPlay, WatchKit, Spotlight and UIKit.

As with the third beta released earlier this month, this latest update is once again accompanied by a new beta build of the Apple TV Software, although it is unclear at this point what has changed in that particular version as Apple TV betas are generally not accompanied by release notes.

Apple adds Tastemade, TED, Young Hollywood channels to Apple TV

This morning Apple TV added channels from Tastemade, TED, and Young Hollywood. Tastemade features food and travel videos, Young Hollywood delivers celebrity content and TED, of course, provides access to TED Talks.

Source: Italian prosecutors wrap up Apple tax probe

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.

New Apple TV expected to debut at WWDC with App Store

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 pulls The Whole Pantry app amid developer scandal

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.

Report: Apple in talks to add Discovery, Viacom networks to TV service

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.

Report: Apple offering to share data with programming partners

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.

Apple cleared in wireless patent infringement lawsuit

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.

Report: Apple web TV service with ‘about 25 channels’ coming this fall

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.

Report: Apple expanding iPhone trade-in program to include non-Apple smartphones

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.

Report: Appointments not necessary to try Apple Watch in stores

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.

Apple Watch shop pops up in Tokyo department store

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.

Apple releases iOS 8.3 beta 3 to developers (Update: iOS 8.3 Public Beta also released)

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 drops Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand from retail stores

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.

Apple Store effect wins company lower mall rents

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.

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