Apple has joined a large group of privacy advocates in an appeal urging President Obama to reject efforts to weaken the security of smartphones and other communications devices — the letter was obtained by The Washington Post. Facing increasing pressure from the FBI, CIA and other government agencies to make encrypted information available in the name of safety, the group of tech firms, security experts and other organizations argues that keeping user data private guards against worse threats. “Encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats — be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies’ most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies’ most sensitive national security secrets,” the letter reads.
The group claims introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products increases the likelihood of those same weak points being exploited by malicious attackers, undermining the security of both private citizens and entire governments. Citing an international chilling effect that the U.S. could create by forcing weaken encryption domestically, the group closed its appeal by pointing out the dire human rights risks if far less tolerant countries are emboldened to make similar demands. “The result will be an information environment riddled with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by even the most repressive or dangerous regimes. That’s not a future that the American people or the people of the world deserve.”
Apple shelved its plans to produce a television set “more than a year ago,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The idea was abandoned “after nearly a decade of research.” Investor Carl Icahn said he expects to see an ultra-high-definition TV coming from Apple in 2016, but people familiar with the matter said Apple executives pulled the plug on a TV project after finding little in the way of breakthrough features to add to a product that would be entering an already crowded and competitive market. An ultra-high-definition screen and video calling features didn’t meet Apple’s standards for entering a new product area, where Apple typically likes to be able to provide innovative technology and easier-to-use software. While both Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook have expressed an interest in TV, Apple’s focus has turned to redesigning the Apple TV and creating its own cable TV streaming service.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has vacated a portion of the damages initially awarded to Apple in a 2012 jury verdict against Samsung. While the appeals court affirmed the prior verdicts on design and utility patent infringements, it reversed the findings “that the asserted trade dresses are protectable.” In 2012, the jury originally found that certain elements of the iPhone’s design were famous, and found to be diluted by Samsung’s products, but the appeals judges disagreed. It’s estimated that Apple will lose $382 million based on the trade dress claims, leaving about $548 million remaining in damages owed by Samsung to Apple. [via Ars Technica]
Apple has acquired GPS company Coherent Navigation, the Cupertino company has confirmed to The New York Times. Though the article notes that it’s “unclear exactly how Apple will use the company’s services or technology,” it seems all but certain that Coherent Navigation’s accurate, “high-precision” navigation technology will be used to boost Apple’s Maps. Coherent Navigation “has also worked on autonomous navigation and robotics projects,” so the company’s technology may also play a role in Apple’s secret car project. Apple released its typical statement in an email: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
Apple will be discontinuing support for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS effective June 9, 9to5Mac reports. Citing Apple internal documents, the report notes that the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G (China), iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 3GS (China) will be designated as “Obsolete” in Asia-Pacific/Canada/EU/Japan/Latin America and all Apple Retail Stores, while these models will be designated as “Vintage” in the U.S., where Apple is still required to provide hardware service for a longer period of time as required by California law. The original iPhone, which was declared obsolete outside of the U.S. in 2013, will also lose its U.S. “Vintage” status and be added to the U.S. “Obsolete” list as well. Apple typically declares products “Vintage” when they have not been manufactured for more than five years, but less than seven. “Obsolete” products are those that have not been manufactured for more than seven years.
Apple has delayed the launch of its HomeKit home automation platform until the fall, Fortune reports. Originally expected to arrive in May or June, sources participating in the program have revealed that the launch date has been moved back to “something closer to late August or September.” While Apple has not formally announced a launch date, several HomeKit partners had suggested at CES that products could be expected this spring, with one even suggesting that they could arrive “in time for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.”
While Apple is now said to be planning a smaller HomeKit announcement in the near term, the official launch has been pushed out to later this year, with sources indicating the delays were a result of the code base for managing online devices having grown too large for the smaller, battery-powered iOS devices, and Apple now requiring more time to shrink the code back down to something manageable.
Update: Apple told The Wall Street Journal the first HomeKit accessories will be arriving in June.
Apple has filed a formal objection with a U.S. bankruptcy court to prevent the transfer of customer information as part of RadioShack’s auctioned-off assets, according to a new report from the Dallas Business Journal. In its filing, Apple claims that a reseller agreement it had in place with RadioShack prohibits the company from selling information specific to Apple’s customers, and further claims that such information does not “fall within RadioShack’s estate,” giving it no right to sell the information at all. AT&T has also filed similar claims, along with the State of Texas; the latter claiming that the sale of customer data would violate the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and other consumer protection laws. The state filing also points out RadioShack’s online and in-store privacy policies that promised customers that their information would never be sold. The customer information in question allegedly includes up to 117 million customer files, according to the court documents.
Investment firm Standard General won the auction for RadioShack’s assets earlier this week, however while the bankruptcy court has accepted the winning bid, it has not yet granted formal approval for the sale. At this point, the court could conceivably halt the sale entirely, however legal experts believe that it’s more likely that the court would simply exclude the customer info from the assets being transferred to the buyer. The hearing for these claims is expected to occur next week. [via MacRumors]
Apple and Tesla are continuing to lure away each other’s senior employees, 9to5Mac reports, with Apple’s Senior Director of Corporate Recruiting, Cindy Nicola, joining Tesla as that company’s new Vice President of Global Recruiting. Apple previously hired away Tesla’s Lead Recruiter last year to join its own electric car project, amidst other automotive experts. Tesla has reportedly been hiring top talent from Apple in recent months as well, although this latest hiring appears to be taking the poaching of employees up a notch.
Apple is close to settling a lawsuit brought by battery maker A123 Systems earlier this year, The Boston Globe reports. A123, which makes large lithium-ion batteries for vehicles, accused Apple of poaching five of the company’s key engineers last June - fueling speculation that the engineers were working on Apple’s rumored electric car project. Apple asked a judge to dismiss the case in March to no avail. The two sides reported Tuesday that they “have reached an agreement, signed a term sheet, and are in the process of drafting a final settlement agreement.” The terms of the agreement haven’t been made public.
Apple is leading the way on clean energy among companies delivering Internet services, according to a new Greenpeace report. The report praises the company’s efforts to use only renewable energy to power its facilities, noting all three of Apple’s data center expansions announced in the past year will be powered by renewable energy sources. Apple was the only one of the 13 tech firms listed to score 100 percent on Greenpeace’s Clean Energy Index and earn “A” rankings across the board for energy transparency, efficiency, policy and advocacy, placing the company head and shoulders above others in the industry. Apple was also praised for pushing affiliated companies to adopt cleaner energy standards, since much of Apple’s environmental impact comes from third-party suppliers. “Apple’s commitment to a 100 percent renewable cloud appears to be driving change not only among Apple’s utility sector partners, but also among other major data center operators that play a supporting role in the delivery of Apple’s online products,” the report notes. Other innovative ideas, like using a Denmark data center’s excess heat to warm other buildings, are taken as proof of Apple going above and beyond what others in the industry are doing to creatively limit waste.
Visiting Beijing to tout Apple’s environmental strides in China, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Xinhua he is “very bullish on Apple Pay” for the country, despite a series of snags that has kept the payment system from going live there. Once Apple Pay is available, Cook said he believes China will adopt it even faster than the U.S. has. China has already become a more lucrative market than the U.S. for iPhone sales, with Apple overtaking local phone maker Xiaomi to become the top smartphone vendor in China. “I think China is a market where everyone will own a smart phone,” Cook said, adding he hopes to convince “a reasonable percentage” of that market to carry the iPhone. Apple is rapidly expanding its retail presence in China to meet growing demand, opening seven more Apple stores since the start of 2015 and planning to nearly double the current total of 22 stores by the middle of 2016. “Forty is a good objective for us for mid next year,” said Cook, “That is not where we want to end. We’ll keep adding from there.”
Apple has released its third beta of iOS 8.4 to developers, continuing to focus on the new iOS Music app. Featuring a build number of 12H4098c, the release is also accompanied by a new Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment. The release notes for this latest beta indicate both improvements and limitations in App Extensions, the iTunes Store, Siri, Videos, and WatchKit, as well as with the new Music app. The new Music app appears to continue having a long list of issues that remain to be addressed, with limited progress since the first beta, although the language of several has been softened from phrases such as “does not work” to “may not work” suggesting that Apple is perhaps slowly working on improvements in these areas.
Apple has received samples of silver nanowire materials to be used for touch screens in a “large screen iPad, which will be released next year,” Korean outlet ETNews reports. The new material is thinner and more pressure sensitive than the indium tin oxide film used in current touch screen displays, allowing the silver nanowire to be incorporated into thinner devices. The more touch sensitive material could augment Apple’s Force Touch technology, already available in Apple Watch and newer MacBooks, and rumored to be featured in the coming “iPad Pro.” The silver nanowire can even maintain an electrical signal when bent or snapped, making it ideal for use in flexible screens. The material is also cheaper to create because rare materials like indium aren’t required and major display suppliers like LG and Samsung already have the ability to mass produce it. [via Apple Insider]
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said he has met with Apple CEO Tim Cook, but was tight-lipped about the details of the meeting, Reuters reports. Marchionne told the press that Cook is “interested in Apple’s intervention in the car,” but declined any further comment about Apple’s rumored car project. Recently, Marchionne told Bloomberg he was open to the possibility of collaborating with companies like Apple and Google, saying he was intrigued by how tech firms can disrupt marketplaces. “If they show up and they are truly successful, with their cash piles and know-how, they could fundamentally hurt this industry,” Marchionne said. Fiat is an official Apple CarPlay partner.
Apple is expanding its environmental protection and renewable energy push in China, announcing that it has partnered with World Wildlife Fund to protect up to a million acres of sustainable forest land in China to produce the fiber used in Apple packaging and products. This adds to the 36,000 acres of working forests the company is working to conserve in the U.S. with the help of The Conservation Fund. Apple is also partnering with several Chinese power companies to create two more solar farms. The company’s first solar project in China, started only three weeks ago, will produce enough power to run all of Apple’s corporate offices and retail stores in the country. The additional solar farms will generate up to 80 million kilowatt hours of additional clean energy that Apple can feed back into the Chinese power grid, bringing Apple closer to its goal of running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy.
With the company sitting at 87 percent now, CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the large scale of the task — especially since much of the environmental fallout related to Apple products comes from third-party suppliers out of the company’s direct control — but doubled down on the company’s commitment to achieving it. “This won’t happen overnight — in fact it will take years — but it’s important work that has to happen, and Apple is in a unique position to take the initiative toward this ambitious goal. It is a responsibility we accept. We are excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China’s green transformation,” Cook said.
Apple is apparently looking at options to provide limited free listening options for users of its new streaming music service, Re/Code reports. While Apple still doesn’t intend to offer a free tier, the new report suggests that some limited listening options will be available, designed to push users toward the paid streaming model. Industry sources have suggested that Apple is considering offering free trial periods of one to three months and a feature that will allow labels to provide a sampling of songs that users can listen to. Sources also note that Apple intends to not only continue offering its free, ad-supported iTunes Radio service, but is expected to be working to enhance it, having acquired new talent expressly for this purpose.
Continuing a legal battle that began in January with Apple, Reuters reports that Ericsson has now filed patent infringement lawsuits in Germany, Britain, and the Netherlands. The legal actions, which concern licensing fees and royalties over LTE patents, were escalated in February as the Swedish company filed seven additional lawsuits in the U.S. and asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate. The dispute began after the two companies were unable to come to an agreement on appropriate licensing arrangements, even after offers of arbitration. Ericsson now claims that Apple is infringing on as many as 41 patents related to mobile device communications, user interfaces, battery conservation, and the operating system itself, while Apple insists that Ericsson is demanding excessive royalties for its LTE patents and that the patents are “not essential to industry cellular standards.”
Following reports earlier this week that Apple has been using its influence to encourage record labels to kill off free streaming licenses for services like Spotify and YouTube, some services are accusing Apple of anticompetitive pricing as a result of its App Store subscription model. Several music industry sources have spoken with The Verge, strongly calling out Apple for the thirty percent cut that it takes from all in-app subscriptions, which of course includes subscriptions to services such as Spotify and Rdio. While the sources acknowledge that some fee for administrative overhead is reasonable, the feeling is that a 30 percent cut is excessive.
The sense is that Apple gets an unfair pricing advantage for its own upcoming streaming service, as other services are forced to either give up 30 percent of their base fees to Apple, or raise their prices for in-app subscriptions to make up the difference. While most of these services provide alternate methods for purchasing subscriptions outside of the App Store, such as visiting the company’s web site directly, Apple’s App Store Guidelines specifically prohibit redirecting users to a web site or even providing this information in the app itself, resulting in many users not being aware of another way to purchase a subscription.
A civil suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court accuses Apple of violating five OpenTV streaming video patents, Re/code reports. OpenTV is requesting unspecific damages for patents it says Apple used illegally in iTunes software for securely downloading or streaming rented movies. OpenTV technology powers on-demand video services and digital video recorders and has been licensed by other giants in the streaming video business, such as Google and Disney, according to the suit. Apple couldn’t be reached for comment.
Apple is missing some key music licensing deals for its upcoming streaming service, according to a new report from Billboard. While several reports have suggested that the company has been targeting June’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) to debut the new service, industry sources have told Billboard that as of now Apple doesn’t have the necessary licensing deals in place as of yet. While at least one source notes that a June launch might be “still attainable” due to Apple’s past track record of quickly securing licensing deals, another major label source is cited as suggesting that the launch “isn’t coming soon” as “the deals aren’t done” and there isn’t enough time to make it happen.