Apple announced this morning that iTunes U content downloads have now exceeded one billion. iTunes U features “the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content” from schools and other learning organizations, including lectures, books, assignments, quizzes, and more. Apple claims more than 1,200 universities and colleges and 1,200 K-12 schools and districts now host more than 2,500 public and thousands of private courses on iTunes U. “It’s inspiring to see what educators and students of all types are doing with iTunes U,” Apple senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue said in a press release. “With the incredible content offered on iTunes U, students can learn like never before―there are now iTunes U courses with more than 250,000 students enrolled in them, which is a phenomenal shift in the way we teach and learn.”
Apple held its annual shareholder meeting today in Cupertino, California, tabulating votes on corporate governance proposals and taking a limited number of questions from the audience. A majority of shareholders notably voted against proposals to establish a board committee on human rights, as well as a requirement that Apple executives retain 33 percent of their company shares until retirement; both proposals were opposed by Apple. The company’s existing board of directors was re-elected. Rumored announcements of a 2-for-1 stock split or an increased dividend did not materialize.
Apple CEO Tim Cook also took questions. Cook was asked if he still thought David Einhorn’s lawsuit was silly, to which Cook replied, “I absolutely do.” He still believes it was a “silly sideshow” despite a recent court ruling blocking Apple’s proxy proposal to issue preferred stock without investor approval. As for Apple’s falling stock price, Cook said, “I don’t like it either,” but mentioned that the board and management are “focused on the long term.” Cook acknowledged that Apple was looking at new categories of products, without providing any further specifics. [via CNBC]
Apple has again drawn criticism for contractor labor practices, this time in a report from Hong Kong watchdog group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM). SACOM maintains that Apple is not upholding basic human rights through its monitoring of suppliers; rather, it claims that supplier factories are “intensifying a military-style management of workers.” There are allegations of denying “bathroom breaks, sufficient rest, and access to proper nutrition.” SACOM reports work weeks of 70-100 hours and alleged unpaid overtime work, among other alleged violations, concluding that “Apple suppliers are indeed sweatshops that exploit their workers.”
Responding to a protest outside of a Hong Kong Apple store, a spokeswoman for Apple China told the South China Morning Post, “We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.” [via 9to5Mac]
Apple appears to have launched iTunes in the Cloud movie and TV show support in France, the Netherlands, and Sweden, according to new reports. French website iGen first reported the availability of Cloud movies and TV shows in France, while Twitter users in the Netherlands and Sweden have reported the same access. Notably, Apple has not yet updated its iTunes in the Cloud country list to include these three countries.
Update: Apple has confirmed that Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden now have iTunes in the Cloud movie support, while France also has TV show support. [via The Next Web]
Ken Segall, former ad agency creative director for NeXT and Apple, argues that Samsung’s recent advertising blitz has been effective against Apple. Segall writes that Samsung has spent “a fortune to run its ads,” and that “Samsung’s message has proven to be tremendously potent” — ads that allude to negative perceptions with Apple have been “scoring points.” Apple has lost momentum and needs to recalibrate, according to Segall, who compares the situation to Barack Obama after his first debate with Mitt Romney. “(Apple) deeply believes in its ideas; it just need to express them more forcefully,” he writes.
Jean-Louis Gassée, one-time head of Apple’s Products Division before the return of Steve Jobs, writes that a side effect of the iPad’s success is that it “ignores the needs of people who want to perform ‘complicated’ tasks on their iPads.” Gassée suggests that the iPad could have two user interfaces and two modes: an “easy mode” — such as the current setup that hides the iOS file system from users — and a “pro mode” for more demanding users who wish to use the iPad in more in-depth ways. He points to the proliferation of keyboards for the device and the iPad’s penetration among Fortune 500 companies as signs that more people wish to use the iPad for heavier work and creation, not just consumption, though he also notes that balancing the needs of multiple audiences will prove tricky.
Apple has become somewhat easier to deal with under Tim Cook, according to France Telecom-Orange CEO Stéphane Richard. Richard said that “Apple has (become) more flexible, paying more attention to everyone else, probably a little less arrogant than they used to be,” All Things D reports. “I think they are probably a little more under pressure, and it is quite nice,” he said.
Intel has agreed to manufacture chips for Altera, indicating that the company could make its manufacturing technology available to other large customers, such as Apple. A new report details the significance of chip designer and manufacturer Intel working with Altera, a larger company, demonstrating Intel’s willingness to serve solely as a manufacturing factory for top-tier customers. Rather than buying off-the-shelf processors for its iOS devices, Apple increasingly designs its own chips and has them manufactured by partners. With Intel’s PC business on the decline, the company could offset costs by sharing manufacturing plants. Sunit Rikhi, Vice President and General Manager of Intel custom foundry, declined to mention Apple, but noted that “If and when we are called upon to serve large mobile customers who can drive a lot more volume, we could serve them today in terms of capability.” [via Reuters]
Following up on earlier reports, Staples is now selling Apple accessories in its U.S. online store. Currently, accessories for iPad, Mac, iPhone and iPod are available, including Smart Covers, power adapters, and headphones. Staples employees recently tweeted the store would be selling Apple products; notably, the Apple TV, which was revealed in a mock-up page in January, is currently listed as “currently out of stock” on the site. [via MacRumors]
Apple’s App Review Team is now rejecting apps that use cookie tracking, according to a report. Previously, developers could open Safari to read a cookie, identifying a user’s interaction with ads, but some developers have recently seen rejections for apps using the technique. It’s speculated that Apple is rejecting these apps to increase use of its own Advertising Identifier technology. As Apple notes in its iOS 6 settings, “In the future all apps will be required to use the Advertising Identifier.” Users can opt to limit ad tracking from the Advertising Identifier through advertising, in the About section of iOS 6 settings. [via TechCrunch]
Apple has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over freemium apps aimed at children—titles that could be downloaded for free, but offered in-app game purchases. As originally reported by Law360 (subscription link), Apple will offer a $5 iTunes credit for claims that a minor bought in-game items without knowledge or permission. If the in-game items cost more than $5, Apple will offer a matching iTunes credit, and if the charges exceeded $30, the user can claim a cash refund.
A group of parents first sued Apple in 2011 over the “bait apps” in question. An email notice will be sent to more than 23 million iTunes account holders “who made a ‘Game Currency’ purchase in one or more apps.” The settlement must receive preliminary approval from a federal judge before Apple can start accepting claims. [via GigaOM]
An iPad casing manufacturer is facing sanctions from Chinese authorities for discharging waste that has turned a river “milky white.” A local water worker told the Financial Times that such waste incidents often occur weekly from a Riteng factory, which according to a waste water treatment employee has killed fish and made the river unusable for watering vegetables. Riteng is a subsidiary of Casetek, which said that the discharge was “just Chinese new year annual cleaning.” Casetek claimed the discharge had nothing to do with production — rather, it was due to a staff error during cleaning. Apple declined comment, but confirmed that Riteng does produce iPad back panels. [via Apple Insider]
Qualcomm has announced the RF360 Front End Solution, a family of chips designed to give next-generation devices global 4G LTE compatibility. The chips will support all seven cellular modes — LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE. All 40 cellular radio bands currently in use will be supported, as well as 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and LTE Advanced, allowing companies such as Apple to make devices that will access all LTE bands, rather than just the small subsets offered in current iPhone and iPad models. The RF360 Front End Solution will be available in the second half of 2013.
Apple has released iOS 6.1.3 beta 2 to developers for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This is notably the second version of the one-time “6.1.1” beta, containing the same Japanese-focused enhancements to the Maps application; Apple changed the name after releasing 6.1.1 and 6.1.2 patches to fix bugs with iOS 6.1. The beta is available through Apple’s developer portal. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple faces a class action lawsuit in Brazil regarding the introduction of the fourth-generation iPad, according to Brazilian newspaper Jornal do Comércio (translated link). Two separate allegations are made in the lawsuit: first, that Apple’s deviation from its yearly product cycle update is “planned obsolescence,” affecting customers who just purchased a third-generation iPad, which had only been available in Brazil for five months before the fourth-generation model was released. The second allegation maintains that Apple didn’t effectively communicate the discontinuation of the third-generation iPad in Brazil, such that some consumers unknowingly bought “what was already an obsolete version.” Brazilian newspaper O Hoje (translated link) notes the suit seeks replacement iPads for Brazilians who bought third-generation iPads, as well as penalties for “improper commercial practices, misleading advertising and product offering,” such as a 50 percent reimbursement of the amount each customer paid for the third-generation iPad, and/or a 30 percent fine for each unit sold in the country. [via MacRumors]
A patent application from Apple published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals details about a “wearable accessory device” that could hint at its plans for the rumored “iWatch.” Originally filed on Aug. 17, 2011, the patent application for “Bi-stable spring with flexible display” describes a wearable accessory device that includes a flexible display, coupled to a bi-stable spring—a bendable surface that can lock into two positions, like a slap band. The patent also notes that “[w]ith a touch screen user input a user can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, and reviewing a list of recent phone calls,” phrases that suggest possible functionality for the device.
One included image shows the accessory as a bracelet, worn around the wrist. The wearable video device would have a “flat state” and “curled state” and an “electronic module in communication with the flexible display.” As an example, the application lists snaps or velcro as possibilities for securing the device to a wrist, though the patent’s abstract points out such a device could be “easily worn in a number of convenient locations.” [via Apple Insider]
Apple Chairman of the Board Arthur Levinson spoke at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business on Tuesday, and he described his experience running the company’s board of directors as “weird” after the death of Steve Jobs. Levinson said that he misses Jobs, and mentioned that “The Steve Jobs that was in the public eye was not, for the most part, the Steve Jobs that I knew.”
Describing Apple’s recent quarter as “phenomenal,” Levinson mentioned that a company’s short-term earnings mean very little, and noted that he felt confident about the company’s long-term goals. He also said that Apple’s board doesn’t have much input in the creation of new products. “The board is not there to define product specs,” Levinson said. “It’s there as a sounding board. It’s there as a resource. And ultimately, the board is there to hire and fire the CEO.” [via Fortune]
Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive recently appeared on the British children’s program Blue Peter, and offered some insight as to how Apple’s design team approaches new product categories, using a lunchbox as an example. “If we’re thinking of lunchbox,” Ive said, “we’d be really careful about not having the word ‘box’ already, you know, give you a bunch of ideas that could be quite narrow. Because you think of a box as being square, and like a cube. And so we’re quite careful with the words we use, because those can sort of determine the path that you go down.” In the segment, Ive also provides feedback on the lunchbox designs of youngsters, and receives a gold Blue Peter badge, the show’s highest accolade. [via Tom Davenport]
Apple’s largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has frozen its hiring across China. Bloomberg reports the decision was unrelated to iPhone 5 production, according to Foxconn spokesman Bruce Liu. However, the Financial Times (subscriber link) reports the hiring freeze is related to a slow down in iPhone 5 production, citing spokesman Liu Kun.
Apple’s recent hack, initially attributed to hackers out of China, is now claimed to have come from Eastern Europe. At least 40 companies — including Apple, Facebook, and Twitter — were targeted by malware from an Eastern European gang of hackers attempting to “steal company secrets,” according to a new report containing more details about the hacks. People familiar with the matter said the hackers want company secrets, research, and intellectual property they can “sell underground.” Company computers were initially infected by malware — implanted through a browser security flaw — at the iPhone developer site iphonedevsdk.com. Investigators have tracked at least one of the servers used by the hackers to a Ukraine hosting company. [via Bloomberg]
Apple has released iTunes 11.0.2, a minor update adding a new Composers view for browsing music along with several stability and performance improvements. The update specifically promises to improve responsiveness when syncing large playlists and fixes an issue where purchases may not appear in the iTunes library.
Apple computers were recently hacked by the same hackers who targeted Facebook, but it appears no data was stolen, according to Reuters. A “small number” of employee Macs were breached, but there is “no evidence that any data left Apple.” The company announced that a software tool will be released today to protect Mac users against the malicious software used in the attacks. Apple also released a statement to AllThingsD, saying that malware infected a “limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plugin for browsers. The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers. We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network.” Facebook announced it was attacked on Friday, tracing the attack to unidentified hackers in China.