Apple has taken the unusual step of issuing a press release in response to a lawsuit filed today by Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, who has pressured the company to create preferred stock that will distribute additional cash to shareholders. Indirectly addressing the lawsuit and a related open letter Einhorn published to fellow Apple investors, Apple began by citing the company’s existing plan to return $45 billion to shareholders over the next three years, while noting that “as of next week we will have executed $10 billion of that plan.”
Einhorn has claimed that adoption of an Apple proxy proposal would prevent the company from issuing preferred stock, but Apple disputes that, suggesting that the proposal would actually enable shareholders to approve issuance of preferred stock. “We remain committed to having an ongoing dialogue with our shareholders to get perspectives around return of capital and driving shareholder value,” Apple said, noting that the company has found itself “in the fortunate position of continuing to generate large amounts of cash, including $23 billion in cash flow from operations in the last quarter alone.”
Following last week’s general release of iOS 6.1, Apple has now released iOS 6.1.1 beta to developers. The new version includes a number of improvements to Maps for Japan, including improved pronunciation of roads and identification of toll roads during turn-by-turn navigation, direction optimizations, and new indicators and icons for various features such as interchanges, transit systems and location categories. The beta also adds 3-D buildings for locations such as Tokyo Station, Japan’s Imperial Palace and Tokyo Tower.
It is notably unusual for Apple to release betas to developers for minor iOS versions; for example, both iOS 6.0.1 and 5.1.1 were released directly to the public with no prior betas sent out for developer testing. It is also worth noting that this beta release does not include an iOS SDK update nor any updates for the Apple TV or iTunes.
Apple today issued an unexpected press release announcing that more than 25 billion songs have now been purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Store, setting a new record. In the press release, Apple SVP Eddy Cue thanked users for making iTunes the most popular music retailer in the world, and noted that the iTunes Store averages over 15,000 songs downloaded every minute.
The 25 billionth song was “Monkey Drums” (Goksel Vancin Remix) by Chase Buch and was purchased by Phillip Lüpke from Germany, who will receive a €10,000 iTunes Gift Card for the download. Apple previously publicized major music download milestones with public countdown contests, however, this milestone was reached without advance publicity or the promise of a prize. The last major music milestone to feature a prize was the 10 billion downloaded song mark, reached in late February 2010 and awarded a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card. Apple has recently focused more attention on app downloads, which have accelerated far faster than music downloads, hitting 25 billion in March 2012, then 40 billion less than a year later.
A new report from the Wall Street Journal highlights how Apple has been adjusting its PR efforts recently, citing the company’s press release announcing the relatively minor iOS 6.1 update last week, as well as an uptick in favorable third-party reports being sent out to members of the press—a practice common within the technology industry, and apparently increasing at Apple. According to the WSJ, a person familiar with the matter notes that these latest PR moves “represent a recognition that competition is heating up.” The report goes on to note that despite strong international growth in countries such as China, Apple stock growth has slowed and competitors such as Samsung have begun spending more on advertising and marketing to compete.
Apple has introduced Breakout Books, a new section to its iBookstore. The section features selected independently published books that have earned four and five star reviews.
Currently, four categories are featured in the section: Romance, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Mysteries & Thrillers, and More to Explore. Breakout Books will be featured at the top of the iTunes Store’s book section for at least two weeks before being moved to a less prominent location. [via MacRumors]
A new set of files discovered in the iPad music app may signal new functionality in the future, according to a new report. Discovered on a jailbroken iPad running iOS 6.1, button files are labeled with “radio buy” in the file names. It’s unknown as to what these files may actually mean, if anything, but previous reports suggest that Apple plans to launch its own streaming radio service; one report suggested that the feature could have been launched as an iPhone 5 feature prior to royalty negotiations breaking down. It’s notable that these “radio buy” files have not been discovered in jailbroken iPhones running iOS 6.1. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has been awarded a patent for the fourth-generation iPod shuffle, originally filed in August 2010 immediately before the device’s launch. The patent is for a “very small form factor consumer electronic product,” and the device is described in great detail in the patent.
In patenting the shuffle, Apple attempts to protect a housing with “integral front and side walls that cooperate to form a cavity in cooperation with a front opening where an edge of the side walls define a rear opening and at least some of the edges have flanges.” The clip assembly and other parts are also covered at length, with some details as to how such a small device can be protected against moisture intrusion. [via AppleInsider]
A new report details a number of software-related issues that are impacting Apple users and developers, as Adam C. Engst of TidBITS provides anonymized summaries of “some concerning problems that haven’t gotten as much press” as recent hardware manufacturing delays. Engst notes that iOS 6 has seen “more (and more-troubling) bugs in iOS 6 than any previous version of iOS in particular,” noting that users were hit with problems such as excessive cellular data usage and battery drain, issues that Apple took four months to address with iOS 6.1. Second-hand reports shared by Engst suggest that Apple engineers have left “because they felt their software was being shipped before it was ready,” and that he has also “heard story after story of Apple’s App Store policies and behaviors causing significant headaches.” While developers wouldn’t go on the record with their individual issues, they described iTunes Connect problems regarding app approval, company changes, and customer management that were creating unnecessary problems for users, such as confusing update and upgrade paths for important new releases. Engst suggests that Apple’s success has “effectively blinded” it to the software and developer problems, which he deems “the emperor’s wardrobe malfunction,” issues that “aren’t likely to affect the stock price in the short term, but could have long term consequences.”
Apple and other online retailers did not break the law by requiring consumers to provide their addresses and phone numberes to make credit card payments, the California Supreme Court ruled on Monday, noting that state privacy protections for credit cards don’t apply to downloaded online purchases. Consumer David Krescent had sued Apple after making purchases from iTunes, which sells content exclusively online. Notably, the same court ruled in 2011 that the privacy protections apply to brick-and-mortar retailers, which would not be allowed to request a ZIP code during a credit card transaction. In this case, four California Supreme Court justices backed Apple, while three said that the ruling was “a major loss for consumers.” [via Reuters]
Third-party developers can now use Apple-provided Appstore.com links to make shortened URL links to their apps, as was demonstrated this weekend. An Appstore.com short link appeared briefly at the end of the commercial for the upcoming film “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which read, “For details and ticket information go to AppStore.com/StarTrekApp.” The Appstore.com domain name, which was given to Steve Jobs as a personal gift by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, has been used as the official website for the App Store Twitter account since its launch in January 2011.
A new Federal Trade Commission report offers suggestions to “the major participants in the mobile ecosystem” on providing privacy information and transparency to customers. Titled “Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust Through Transparency,” the report makes a number of recommendations to developers of apps and operating system providers. The suggestions for system providers, such as Apple, include “developing icons to depict the transmission of user data,” making a “Do Not Track” mechanism available that allows consumers to stop third-party tracking, and providing “just-in-time disclosures” to consumers before apps can “access sensitive contact like geolocation,” among other recommendations. App developers are urged to provide similar disclosures while making privacy policies easily accessible within app stores. The FTC recently amended its rules for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
A newly revealed Apple patent application reveals a system that can adjust and enhance audio based on a user’s proximity to the device. While the application notes that the device could be a computer, tablet, or audio player, Apple also notes that it could be used for a television—and includes illustrations showing what appears to be a TV.
Operating as novel proximity sensors, a multiple microphone array and face detection processing could enable a video conferencing camera and mic to focus on one of multiple users. The system could also conceivably adjust audio based on the environment. “For example, echo cancellation may be desired and/or affected by the size and acoustics of the room,” the description reads, meaning that a small, carpeted room could receive different audio output than a large room with hardwood floors. [via Patently Apple]
Apple is suspected of bribing Russian officials with a paid trip to London, according to a report from Russia. The company is alleged to have set up a week-long seminar for Russian regional ministers of education and other officials to learn more about Apple products, at a time when the government is about to award up to $66.5 million per region for equipment modernization. A representative from the National Anti-Corruption Committee said the matter should be investigated as if Apple completely financed the trip. Apple denies paying for the officials’ travel. [via Brightwire from Regnum]
An Apple patent application published today reveals a laser-based depth perception system that could be used to create a virtual keyboard. The system described in the patent would use an image capturing device and a laser source that would “emit a fan shaped laser beam” to capture depth.
A “projected control panel” is described as a possibility, as the system could create a virtual keyboard that would determine the depth of “a user’s finger, a stylus, or other input mechanism.” An autofocus camera feature would also be a possibility using this system. It’s noted that the technology could be implemented in a computer, tablet, or mobile device, and the iPhone is referred to specifically by name. [via Apple Insider]
Samsung did not willfully infringe Apple’s design and utility patents, Judge Lucy Koh ruled Tuesday night. In August, a jury ruled that the patents in question were infringed upon by Samsung, leading to a $1.05 billion fine for the company. Samsung argued that it believed Apple’s patents to be invalid, and as such, it couldn’t have infringed them willfully. The new ruling means that Apple won’t receive additional damages — the original fine could be reduced, but not necessarily. A bid for a new trial by Samsung was also rejected in the ruling. [via The Verge]
Apple’s share of the smartphone market is expected to peak at 22 percent this year, according to a Reuters report, and cellular carriers may be in a position to negotiate more competitive prices. The report details how the strength of other smartphone operating systems may loosen Apple’s grip on the overall market. “The more operating systems we have to compete in this area the better the competition,” said Fran Shammo, chief financial officer of Verizon Communications, noting that Apple’s iOS now confronts Android, Windows, and Blackberry as strong platforms. Reuters also notes that T-Mobile USA plans to stop subsidizing smartphones when it begins to sell the iPhone, and other carriers are considering follow suit. “That’s something we’ve looked at on several occasions. I kind of like that idea,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. “It’s something we’re going to be watching.”
The report claims that a “less powerful Apple could be welcomed by telecommunications carriers and component suppliers that have grown accustomed to the tough terms Apple was able to exact thanks to its massive scale and leadership in the market.” Apple may already be anticipating the loss of subsidies and a future with lower-cost devices as it prepares a low-cost iPhone for release.
After over 80 years in the consumer electronics business, Philips announced Tuesday that it has sold the remainder of its consumer-focused electronics business to Japan’s Funai. Although Philips steadily reduced its involvement in consumer electronics, leaving its television and mobile phone divisions behind in recent years, the company suffered a fourth-quarter net loss of €358 Million (about $481 million).
Philips has had an interesting history with Apple. It originally sold products that challenged the iPod, including its GoGear series of media players. It then started to make iPod-friendly speaker systems, and later bought iPod/iPhone accessory maker DLO to become a major player in Apple accessories. The company developed quite a few distinctive speakers, eventually including some AirPlay models at widely varying price points, and continued to sell earphones and headphones. Funai will apparently continue to sell these products under its own brand.
Philips will now turn most of its attention to medical equipment, as healthcare sales made up 40 percent of the group’s revenue in the fourth quarter. Consumer lifestyle products accounted for 26 percent of the company’s fourth quarter revenue. [via Wall Street Journal]
Confirming reports, Apple has officially announced that a 128GB version of the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display will go on sale Tuesday, Feb. 5, in black or white. The Wi-Fi model will cost $799, and the Wi-Fi + Cellular model will cost $929. Apple is pitching the higher-capacity iPad primarily to “enterprises, educators and artists,” suggesting that its capacity will be useful for “over 300,000 native iPad apps.” This appears to be an acknowledgement that the iPad is becoming a viable alternative to laptops, and will be offered in capacities rivaling them.
Photos of a prototype back piece for the fifth-generation iPad have been leaked by a “purported China-based iPad accessories maker,” according to a new report. The photos show a smaller, thinner casing with chamfered edges and virtually no left or right bezel, confirming our exclusive report from last week.
The top of the backplate indicates that this is an LTE model. Our sources have said the fifth-generation iPad will launch in or near October. [via 9to5Mac]
Buried with asterisked footnotes in the press release announcing iOS 6.1, Apple today dramatically expanded international LTE support for the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini debuted in November, while apparently leaving LTE support untouched in earlier third-generation iPads. An updated version of Apple’s iPad LTE support chart illustrates the now considerable network differences between 2012’s iPad versions, as well as another interesting change: the dual-mode CDMA/GSM iPads designed for Verizon and Sprint now offer considerably broader LTE support than the GSM-only iPad that is offered to AT&T and Canadian customers.
The GSM-only fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini gained only three carriers in today’s update: Canadian carriers MTS and Sasktel, plus Mexican carrier Telcel. By comparison, the dual-mode CDMA/GSM models sold for Verizon and Sprint today added support for Belgium’s Proximus, Denmark’s 3, Telenor, and Telia, Finland’s DNA, Elisa, and Sonera, Greece’s Cosmote, Hungary’s T-Mobile, Italy’s 3, TIM, and Vodafone, Luxembourg’s Orange and Tango, the Philippines’ Globe, Portugal’s Optimus, TMN, and Vodafone, Romania’s Orange, and Switzerland’s Swisscom. Notably, the CDMA/GSM iPads support five LTE bands—1, 3, 5, 13, and 25—while the GSM-only versions support two bands, 4 and 17. With today’s update, it’s increasingly clear that the GSM-only iPad models will be significantly less useful than the CDMA/GSM models for LTE outside of North America, though they can still operate on slower pre-LTE networks.
According to Apple’s iPad LTE support chart, the company did not add the same new LTE carrier support to the third-generation iPad, which was released in March of last year. The third-generation AT&T iPad featured the same LTE band 4 and 17 support as the fourth-generation model, but the CDMA version was apparently built specifically for Verizon’s network, with support only for band 13.