Apple today announced a long-awaited update to its Apple TV home entertainment device, significantly reducing the size of the device and shifting the focus to a streaming rather than syncing model. Almost entirely preserving the interface of the Apple TV 3.0 software update, the new Apple TV device will now include the aluminum seven-button Apple Remote that was previously released but not included with the device, while dropping the component video and stereo audio ports in favor of one HDMI port and an optical audio port. The new Apple TV measures 0.9” by 3.9” by 3.9”, and weighs 0.6 pounds. Its black plastic shell is flat and mostly matte on top with a glossy Apple TV logo, tapering on the sides from glossy straight sides to a gentle secondary flat surface on the bottom, elevating the bulk of its body off of the table it’s on. Now powered by the Apple A4 chip, the system supports full 802.11n networking—2.4GHz and 5GHz—as well as 802.11a/b/g standards, and continues to have 720p H.264 and M-JPEG support, with 640x480 MPEG-4 support—like the prior Apple TV.
At Apple’s event today, Steve Jobs reiterated that the goals of the new Apple TV design were to provide Hollywood movies & TV shows, all content in HD, lower content prices and reduce the dependency on computer and storage management. As part of the new design and goal of reducing storage requirements, the new Apple TV will move to an entirely rental-based model with no purchases available on the device. First-run movies will be released as HD Rentals for $5 on the same day as the DVD release, and HD TV Shows will now be available for rent for $1, commercial free, as opposed to the prior $3 per episode price. Content will be initially be available from the ABC and FOX networks, with other networks hopefully coming on board in the future. The new Apple TV will also provide support for Netflix streaming in the U.S. in addition to its current support for streaming videos from YouTube and photos from Flickr and MobileMe. The new Apple TV will also continue to include support for streaming content from an iTunes library. The new Apple TV will be priced at $99 and will be available from Apple Stores and online in about four weeks, with pre-orders starting today.
- September 1, 2010
Apple today introduced a new social music network today, Ping. Integrated with iTunes 10, the Ping social network provides a Twitter-like social media network all about music where users can share their favorite songs, what they are listening to, commentary, album & song reviews, and view over 17,000 concert listings. Ping will provide a customized social chart to show what users are listening to and their favorite albums and artists as well as comments and reviews by other users. Privacy controls allow users to choose to share their information openly on the Ping network or choose to share their content only with smaller circles of friends. Ping is also being introduced to the iPhone and iPod touch and will be integrated into the iTunes Store application on these devices.
Apple today announced the release of iTunes 10, the latest version of its popular media management software. The new version boasts a more simple and elegant interface, with a new hybrid view that adds album artwork to text lists of song titles, and provides a more streamlined library. iTunes 10 also adds Ping, a new social network focused on music discovery, letting you easily find out what your friends and favorite bands are listening to. Ping provides a customized social chart showing what contacts are highlighting as favorites, plus linked messages in a Twitter-like online stream. The Ping network provides privacy controls that allow users to control who follows them, post thoughts and opinions, view custom song and album charts, and over 17,000 concert listings. iTunes 10 is being released today as a free download from http://www.itunes.com.
Apple today introduced its fourth-generation iPod touch, featuring a FaceTime-capable front-facing camera. The new touch also sports a new HD video recording rear-facing camera and microphone, the same Apple A4 chip that powers the iPhone 4, a 960x640 retina display, and a 3-axis gyroscope. Physically, the new iPod touch is thinner than its predecessors and features a slightly curved, flatter back, and a new speaker port near the Dock Connector. Notably, both the front- and rear-facing cameras will be capable of still photography, with the former capped at 640x480 resolution and the latter capped at 960x720. The devices will be available next week and will be priced at $229 for the 8GB model, $299 for the 32GB version, and $399 for the 64GB model.
Note that the fourth-generation iPod touch gains limited 802.11n support (2.4GHz only), like the iPhone 4, joining Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, and has a promised audio run time of 40 hours, versus 7 hours of video. H.264 and M-JPEG video codecs now support 1280x720-resolution 720p HD videos, as well as 1024x768 output via Apple’s previously-released iPad VGA to Dock Connector Adapter. The device does not have GPS hardware and thus supports geo-tagging only when connected to a Wi-Fi network. FaceTime video calling is handled via a dedicated FaceTime application, with an icon that looks like a white camera on a green background.
Apple today gave several updates on its iOS, App Store, and retail store businesses. It said it has now shipped over 120 million iOS devices, and is handling 230,000 new activations each day. Over 6.5 billion applications have been downloaded from the App Store, resulting in an average of 200 apps every second, and the App Store now offers over 250,000 apps, 25,000 of which are made for the iPad. The company now has 300 retail stores in 10 countries—the Covent Garden store in London was the 300th opening—and has over one million customers coming through the stores on several days each month. It will soon open a store in Spain, marking the 11th country in which it has retail stores.
It also revealed that it has sold 275 million iPods, and that the iPod touch is now the best-selling portable gaming device in the world, outselling Nintendo’s and Sony’s portable devices combined. In enjoys over 50% market share in the portable gaming device category both in the U.S. and worldwide, and iPod touch users have downloaded over 1.5 billion game and entertainment apps.
Apple has announced that it will broadcast today’s iPod event live over the Internet. According to the press release, Apple will use its “industry-leading HTTP Live Streaming,” which is based on open standards, to provide a live video stream of the event, being held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco. Apple notes that the broadcast requires either a Mac running Safari on Mac OS X version 10.6 Snow Leopard, an iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or higher, or an iPad. Apple’s special event will begin today at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time/1:00 Eastern Time.
Apple and Nintendo have been named in a new lawsuit accusing the companies of patent infringement. Filed in the patent-friendly U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, the suit states that the motion-sensing capabilities of the two companies’ devices infringe on a patent held by Triton Tech, entitled “Computer Apparatus Input Device for Three-Dimensional Information.” AppleInsider reports that the patent describes a “mouse” that detects motion on six axes using multiple accelerometers and angular rate sensors. The court filing specifically singles out the iPhone 4 for its use of “acceleration sensors and rotational rate sensors for detecting motion about a particular axis for communication with a computing device,” along with Nintendo’s Wii Motion Plus accessory, but implies that other devices may also be in violation.
A large portion of tomorrow’s Apple special event will be spent discussing improvements to iTunes’ music discovery features, a new report suggests. Citing unnamed sources, Cnet reports that Apple will double the length of song previews from 30 to 60 seconds in a bid to encourage users to find songs via iTunes instead of using increasingly popular services such as Pandora or YouTube. The report also claims that Apple’s rumored cloud-based music service is unlikely to be announced at the event. Apple’s 2010 iPod/music event will begin tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
- August 27, 2010
Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, has sued Apple and ten other companies claiming they infringe on technology patents awarded to his Interval Research Corp. think tank. The Wall Street Journal reports that while Allen didn’t develop any of the technology himself, he does own the patents, which cover automatic suggestions for shopping sites, automatic location of related stories on a news site, and the presentation of information such as ads, stock quotes, news updates, or videos on a computer screen, in the periphery of the user’s main activity. Allen’s suit names Apple, as well as Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, and Google’s YouTube subsidiary; unsurprisingly, Microsoft is missing from the list, as Allen remains a major investor in the Redmond, WA-based company.
- August 27, 2010
Apple has ended its relationship with SurfaceInk, a small Silicon Valley design firm, over its exhibition of a prototype tablet computer. The New York Times reports that Eric Bauswell, a founder and chief executive of the engineering design company, said Apple parted ways with his company due to its “growing awareness of our turnkey capabilities,” or business of designing products for clients. “I think they view our capabilities as an opportunity for competitors,” he added. According to the report, SurfaceInk had helped Apple with the development of certain products for nearly 10 years.
- August 26, 2010
HTC has filed an answer to Apple’s complaints against them involving patent infringement, Groklaw reports. In its reply, HTC denies infringing the patents, but also claims that four of the four of the patents are invalid for “failure to comply with one or more of the conditions for patentability set forth in Title 35 of the United States Code, including, but not limited to, utility, novelty, non-obviousness, enablement, written description and definiteness in accordance with 35 U.S.C. §§ 101, 102, 103, 112, and/or 116, or are invalid pursuant to the judicial doctrine barring double-patenting.” In addition, HTC claims that it has license agreements with third-party suppliers that allow it to do some of the things Apple claims are infringing. Apple filed suit against HTC in March.
Apple, meanwhile, has asked that all four current cases involving these patents—including both Nokia’s suits against Apple and Apple’s suits against HTC—be consolidated “at least for purposes of coordinating pre-trial activities.” “Consolidation is appropriate in this instance because the four cases involve numerous common issues of law and fact, including eleven patents that Apple has asserted against both Nokia and HTC,” Apple said in the filing (PDF Link). “Given the overlapping patents and technologies at issue in the cases, consolidation offers the benefit of conserving resources and promoting judicial economy by avoiding the need for duplicative discovery or any other redundant litigation activities, such as multiple Markman hearings concerning the same patents. Importantly, consolidation before a single judge will also ensure that there are no inconsistent pretrial rulings—most notably inconsistent constructions of claim terms in the eleven overlapping patents.”
Apple has begun emailing select members of the press, inviting them to a special event in San Francisco on September 1. As it has been in the past, the event will be held at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, and will be focused on the company’s iPod line, as indicated by the invitation’s image of an acoustic guitar with an Apple logo cut-out. Apple is widely expected to introduce updated iPods at the event, likely including the fourth-generation iPod touch, and possibly a rumored next-generation Apple TV, which may be renamed iTV, as well as 99 cent TV episode rentals.
Apple plans to hold its annual iPod media event in San Francisco on September 7th, according to a new report. Contained within the same Bloomberg report that suggested Apple would be debuting a 99 cent TV show rental service, yet curiously overlooked by multiple outlets—including iLounge—the brief statement cites two people as saying Apple will launch a new iPod touch, an improved Apple TV, and the TV show rental service at the event. Traditionally, Apple has held the event in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco; the Yerba Buena’s calendar shows an event scheduled for the 7th in its gallery area, but nothing being held in the theater on that day.
Apple is in talks with Fox parent News Corp., along with other media companies, to offer 99 cent TV episode rentals through iTunes. Bloomberg, citing three people familiar with the plan, reports that users would have a 48 hour rental window, and that Disney and CBS are also part of the discussions. “This is a smart move by everyone,” said David Bank, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York. “Something like this a la carte rental service is an incremental opportunity and it doesn’t upset the existing ecosystem.” The report goes on to reiterate prior reports of a next-generation Apple TV, with a smaller hard drive than prior models that will be priced at $99 and tied into the rental service.
Movies rented from the iTunes Store using the iPhone 4 cannot be transferred back to users’ iTunes libraries, iLounge has discovered, and must be viewed solely on the iPhone 4. Although this is similar to a restriction found on the iPad and Apple TV, this marks the first time that this limitation has appeared on an iPhone. The iTunes Store Terms and Conditions and iTunes Store Movie/Film Rental FAQ (iTunes link) indicate that movies rented “using the Apple TV or iPad may not be moved” however they exclude any mention of the iPhone 4 in this regard, as do any of Apple’s current support documents. The only reference to this restriction is found buried on page 99 in the iPhone iOS 4 User Guide (PDF link) which states:
“On iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS, you can transfer rented movies between iPhone and your computer. On iPhone 4, you can transfer rented movies between iPhone and your computer only if they were rented in iTunes on your computer. Movies rented on iPhone 4 cannot be transferred to a computer.”
It is also worth noting that the iPhone 4 has the same restriction on video output as the iPad, prohibiting the iPad Dock to VGA Connector from being used to display HD content purchased or rented from the iTunes Store. This brings into question the practicality of renting HD movies directly on the iPhone 4 since the 960 x 640 Retina Display still falls short of full 720p resolution while standard-definition content at 854 x 480 comes reasonably close to the capabilities of the new display.
Apple has announced that iTunes U downloads have surpassed the 300 million mark. Launched just over three years ago, iTunes U offers users public access to content from learning institutions such as Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford, University of Melbourne and Université de Montréal. “iTunes U makes it easy for people to discover and learn with content from many of the world’s top institutions,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services. “With such a wide selection of educational material, we’re providing iTunes users with an incredible way to learn on their computer, iPhone, iPod or iPad.” According to Apple, over 800 universities worldwide have active iTunes U sites, and nearly half of these institutions distribute their content publicly. Overall, iTunes U hosts more than 350,000 audio and video files from educational institutions around the globe.
A newly published Apple patent application has led to reports that the company will use a new unauthorized user recognition technology to deter users from jailbreaking iPhones. The patent application, entitled “Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device,” primarily describes methods for detecting unauthorized users—people who do not normally use the device—and taking appropriate action, such as relaying information about the unauthorized user’s identity and location to the device’s owner, restricting functions, or deleting sensitive data. The controversy stems from references in the application to jailbreaking and/or unlocking the device, both of which it describes as “activities that can indicate suspicious behavior.” In July, the U.S. Library of Congress’ Copyright Office announced a decision under which jailbreaking was deemed legal and within the user’s fair use rights, which might conceivably limit Apple’s ability to discriminate against users with jailbroken devices. However, it’s unclear as to whether Apple is patenting this invention in the hopes of actually locking out users for its own purposes, deterring certain uses of its devices, or merely empowering owners to protect their own items as they wish. As with all Apple patent applications, the filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area.
A placeholder for an as-yet-unknown Apple device has appeared in the latest internal build of the iOS 4.1 beta, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the matter, AppleInsider reports that the latest iOS 4.1 build contains code referencing both the fourth-generation iPod touch—labeled iPod4,1—and a second-generation iPad—labeled iProd2,1. Perhaps more interesting, however, is a listing for “unknownHardware,” given a productID of 20547—compared to 4765 for the second-generation iPad and 4766 for the fourth-generation iPod touch—and a productString of “Unknown- Add device descriptor info for this device.” The report speculates that the code could in fact reference a rumored iOS-based next-generation Apple TV, although it could also simply be placeholder code for some other potentially upcoming product, such as a CDMA or fifth-generation iPhone.
Apple has finally enabled publishers to offer their magazines via iPad apps to current subscribers free of charge. Beginning with the update of the People Magazine app earlier today, subscribers to Time, Inc. publications including Time, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune will soon be able to be able to access the iPad versions of issues for free as part of their print subscriptions. Fortune reports that the changes should roll out to the other magazines within 30 days, and suggests that other magazine publishers will likely adopt the same policy. The report also states that publishers who were encouraged to built iPad apps say they were ready from the start to make them free to subscribers, but Apple would not provide the tools necessary, or explain what was delaying their release. Publishers remain unable to sell subscriptions directly through the App Store.
Apple and AT&T have removed no-contract iPhone purchasing options from their websites, signaling a further tightening of restrictions on U.S. iPhone users compared to those abroad. Previously available at prices significantly higher than those of even early upgraders—$599 for a 16GB iPhone 4 and $699 for a 32GB unit—the options allowed customers to purchase the phones without extending their existing AT&T contracts. Apple has also changed its FAQ found at the bottom of its online store’s iPhone page, noting that the iPhone is not available without a commitment and “requires a two year AT&T wireless service contract.” Curiously, Apple did not begin contract-free sales of the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS until the devices had been on the market for roughly nine months; it is unclear what prompted the change in policy with the iPhone 4. [via MacNN]
Updated: An AT&T spokesman has issued a statement indicating that the language on Apple’s site has not been changed, and that customer should still be able to purchase a contract-free iPhone 4 by visiting an AT&T store.