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Report: Apple acquires computer vision company SensoMotoric Instruments

A paper trail of purchases through shell companies seems to indicate that Apple has secretly acquired German computer vision company SensoMotoric Instruments, MacRumors reports. On May 2, Apple’s vice president of corporate law Gene Levoff signed off on allowing a German law firm to buy SensoMotoric on behalf of Vineyard Capital Corporation — suspected to be a shell company. On June 16, SensoMotoric filed new articles of incorporation and subsequently removed more than a dozen pages that once featured information about its products, also deleting the site’s job listings and contact information, among other things.

Apple partners with Hertz to test self-driving car technology

Apple has leased a “small fleet” of cars from Hertz to test its self-driving car technology, Bloomberg reports. In the latest round of filings with the California DMV, Apple is shown to be leasing more of the Lexus RX450h models that it was originally reported to be using to test its systems, all coming from Hertz’s Donlen fleet-management unit. The deal mirrors a much larger agreement between Alphabet and Avis for a similar arrangement, and Hertz’s stock jumped 18 percent on the news of its relationship with Apple. Neither Hertz nor Apple commented on the report, but a person familiar with Apple’s project said the company has been testing a half-dozen self-driving vehicles on public roads near San Francisco for more than a year.

Apple releases first iOS 11, tvOS 11 public betas, updates to developer betas

For those willing to accept the risks associated with installing a beta OS on your device, Apple has rolled out its first public iOS 11 and tvOS 11 betas. The iOS 11 update provides a greatly expanded and customizable Control Center, the ability to record what’s happening on your screen, a Maps app that includes indoor maps for airports and malls, and new HomeKit functionality, among other improvements. On iPad, iOS 11 provides a new dock and better support for the Apple Pencil. The tvOS 11 upgrade comes with some new bells and whistles as well, including an automatic setting for toggling between Light and Dark Mode, and the ability to store your Home screen layout in iCloud — along with your installed apps — so that this information can be synced across multiple Apple TVs or restored should you ever have to reset or replace your Apple TV. For anyone not already enrolled in the public beta program, you can get started on Apple’s website.

Virgin Mobile USA to become first ‘iPhone-only’ carrier

Virgin Mobile USA plans to become the world’s first “iPhone-only” network as part of a new deal with Apple to begin selling the carrier’s wireless plans through Apple’s retail network, Reuters reports. The carrier, which is a subsidiary of Sprint that licenses its name from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is revamping its business to remove Android devices from its lineup in the coming years. Branson, who was directly involved with the deal, told Reuters in an interview that he felt it was a good fit due to the similarities between the Apple and Virgin brands in advocating for human rights and other social causes, and that Apple’s retail head Angela Ahrendts was “tremendously supportive” of the partnership, and that Virgin was basically “knowing on an open door” in approaching Apple.

Apple releases fourth betas of iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2 to developers

Apple has released fourth developer betas for iOS 10.3.3 and tvOS 10.2.2; a new beta of watchOS 3.2.3 has not been released at this point. As with the last round of betas, these all include only minor updates and bug fixes, alongside the iOS 11 developer releases that are currently in beta with major new features, expected to be debuted in the fall.

Qualcomm claims its technology is ‘at the heart of every iPhone’ in latest filings

After Apple expanded its lawsuit against the wireless chip maker earlier this week, Qualcomm has responded with claims that its “innovations are at the heart of every iPhone and enable the most important uses and features of those devices,” MacRumors reports. Apple claims Qualcomm is “double-dipping” by forcing manufacturers to pay unreasonable licensing rates and royalties to gain access to its chips. Qualcomm fired back that “Apple knows well that Qualcomm has been the de facto R&D arm of the industry” and claimed that Apple is “rarely first to market with any new technology, which shows it is relying heavily on the R&D investments in the most revolutionary technologies by companies like Qualcomm.” How integral Qualcomm’s technology is to the iPhone has become the central question of the case, with Apple arguing that Qualcomm charging royalties on the entire value of the device is unfair given the company only supplies one component. “As Apple innovates, Qualcomm demands more. Qualcomm had nothing to do with creating the revolutionary Touch ID, the world’s most popular camera, or the Retina display Apple’s customers love, yet Qualcomm wants to be paid as if these (and future) breakthroughs belong to it,” Apple said in its complaint.

Ex-iOS head Scott Forstal talks about the grudge that helped create the iPhone

In a rare interview with the Computer History Museum, former iOS head Scott Forstal revealed that the original iPhone would never have existed without Steve Jobs’ dislike of one particular Microsoft employee. The technology that would eventually create the entire smartphone industry as we know it started as a tablet project conceived by Jobs after a particularly irritating encounter, Forstal said. “We had been working on a tablet project and it began because Steve hated this guy at Microsoft,” Forstal recalled. “Every time Steve had any social interaction with that guy, he would come back pissed off. He came back one time and that guy was talking about how Microsoft had solved computing. Steve came in on Monday with a set of expletives and said ‘Let’s show them how it’s really done’.”

Apple Camp registration for kids’ summer classes now open

Apple has opened up registration for its summer Apple Camp classes aimed at kids 8 to 12, with sessions set to begin in July. There at three courses available at Apple Stores across the US and in select other locations, all of which utilize Apple products and software. The Creating Characters and Composing Music course will encourage kids to create their own stories by sketching characters with an Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, then creating a musical track with vocals in GarageBand. The three-day Stories in Motion with iMovie course will teach students to storyboard their ideas, then learn about camera angles and editing during shooting before presenting their finished product. During the Coding Games and Programming Robots session, kids will use Tynker to solve puzzles before learning to program a Sphero robot. All of the courses are free to attend.

Apple has former NSA, FBI investigators cracking down on leaks of company information

Apple has hired investigators who previously worked for the NSA, FBI, Secret Service and US military in an effort to crack down on product leaks coming from the company’s employees, The Outline reports. In a briefing titled “Stopping Leakers - Keeping Confidential at Apple,” members of the Global Security communications and training team laid out how Apple investigators are working to prevent information from getting into the hands of the press, counterfeiters and competitors, as well as hunting down the sources of the leaks. In a video played during the presentation, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice President of iPod, iPhone and iOS product marketing, said, “This has become a big deal for Tim. Matter of fact, it should be important to literally everybody at Apple that we can’t tolerate this any longer.”

Tim Cook floats teaching coding in schools during Trump meeting

During his meeting with President Donald Trump and some of the nation’s top tech CEOs, Tim Cook said the government should consider making coding a requirement in schools, Recode reports. The breif remarks — which came during Trump’s gathering to discuss how Silicon Valley can help modernize the government — echo previous statements Cook has made about his belief that it’s a disservice to kids not to be teaching them to code since it’s “just another language, and just like any other language it should be taught in schools.” Apple is making its own push in that regard, expanding its Swift programming education programs for older kids and partnering with Tynker on free games that prep younger kids for future lessons.

Apple’s AirPort not cracked by CIA program that compromised many other routers

The latest round of Vault 7 WikiLeaks documents details how the CIA was able to break into routers and use them to monitor a subject’s web browsing history and intercept passwords, but Apple’s AirPort appears to have been unaffected by the efforts. The agency’s “Cherry Blossom” project ended up gaining access to routers from Asus, Belkin, Buffalo, Dell, DLink, Linksys, Motorola, Netgear, Senao, and US Robotics through one of two methods — use of a still-unknown tool called a “Claymore” or through a direct “supply-chain operation” by accessing a production factory or other part of a company’s distribution chain. While the list of affected hardware was extensive, the “Harpy Eagle” operation targeting Apple’s AirPort never proved successful. After the initial release of the CIA documents confirmed Apple to be a target of the overall program, the company confirmed that most of the exploits that had been revealed were already patched in iOS 10. [via Apple Insider]

Apple releases third round of betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, watchOS 3.2.3

Apple has released a third set of developer betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, and watchOS 3.2.3. As with the second round of betas, these all include only minor updates and bug fixes. iOS 11 is expected to be debuted next week at WWDC, with a public release likely to follow alongside the new iPhone models in the fall.

Apple issues $1 billion green bond to fund clean energy

On the heels of the US exit from the Paris Climate Accords, Apple has issued a $1 billion green bond to fund investment in renewable energy, Bloomberg reports. The company issued a $1.5 billion green bond last year and is now adding to that total with a second round, planning to use the proceeds to bankroll efforts to increase energy efficiency and build up renewable energy resources in the hopes of creating a “closed-loop supply chain” where products are made using only renewable resources and recycled materials, according to a statement. The bonds are expected to mature in 2027 and yield 95 to 100 basis points more than Treasuries, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Cook calls autonomous driving system ‘the mother of all AI projects’

In an interview with Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted the company is working on an autonomous driving system for vehicles, calling it “the mother of all AI projects.” After being particularly secretive about Apple’s Project Titan vehicle research for years, Cook revealed that the company sees self-driving technology, electric vehicles and the expanding ride-hailing industry as “three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame” within the automotive industry. Apple has invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing—China’s biggest ride-hailing service—and decided last year to shift the focus of its endeavors away from making an electric car and toward perfecting autonomous driving technology. Apple has been granted permits to test its self-driving systems on California roads, but what form their product will eventually take is still an open question. “It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on. So autonomy is something that is incredibly exciting for us,” Cook said. “But we’ll see where it takes us — we’re not really saying from a product point of view what we’ll do. It’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

Apple opens up HomeKit accessory prototyping

Apple has loosened the reins on HomeKit accessory development, a new report from Forbes reveals. During a WWDC developer session on Wednesday, Apple announced that it is opening up HomeKit to allow any Apple developer to build and prototype smart home accessories without first needing to apply for and be granted an MFi license. Developers who wish to release a HomeKit product will still need to pursue MFi certification, but the new policy will make it easier for new companies to get started with the process of developing HomeKit-compatible products.

Even more significantly, however, Apple is going to begin allowing developers to integrate HomeKit security into their products at the software level, rather than requiring an Apple-designed authentication chip. This software-based authorization will be available to existing products as well, meaning that for the first time many legacy home automation products will be able to join the HomeKit club with merely a firmware update, rather than requiring users to replace hardware components to gain HomeKit compatibility. Apple emphasized that all of the same heavy-duty encryption would still be incorporated into the software design.

Apple announces ‘HomePod’ Smart Speaker

Today at WWDC 2017, Apple announced its long-rumoured smart speaker solution. Dubbed “HomePod” the new speaker appears to have a strong focus on music, with Apple touting it as a speaker to “reinvent home music” through features such as “Rock the house” sound, spatial awareness, and “Musicologist.” The speaker comes in at just under 7” tall, and is cylindrical and covered in a 3D mesh fabric available in either white or space grey. Internally, the HomePod features an array of 7 beam-forming tweeters at the bottom, coupled with an Apple-Designed 4” upward-facing woofer. An A8 chip inside the speaker provides advanced intelligence to allow the speaker to perform real-time acoustic modelling, audio beam-forming, and multi-channel echo cancellation so that it can adjust to the space it’s placed in and balance audio appropriately. Integrated Siri capabilities allow the speaker to act as a “musicologist” with Apple Music, which can be streamed directly to the HomePod without requiring an intermediate iOS device. Six microphones allow the speaker to hear audio commands from across the room, even when loud music is playing, and Apple has expanded Siri’s vocabulary and intelligence to allow it to respond to a wide variety of music-related queries.

Apple unveils iOS 11, featuring major iPad UI improvements

As expected, Apple unveiled iOS 11 during today’s WWDC 2017 Keynote, showing off the next-generation of the company’s mobile operating system which features several iterative improvements across the board, combined with some significant new UI changes for iPad users.

Apple shows off watchOS 4

Apple took the wraps off watchOS 4 today during its WWDC Keynote, with VP of Technology Kevin Lynch demonstrating several new features in the next major update to Apple’s wearable device. watchOS 4 will add several new Watch Faces, most notably a proactive “Siri Face” that will provide a display of relevant information throughout the day, similar to the “Proactive Assistant” introduced in iOS 9 two years ago. For example, the Siri Face will adapt to a user’s routines and usage patterns, automatically surfacing things like weather, meeting notifications, photo memories, reminders, news, flight information, and more, based on the time of the day and location and how the user typically uses their Apple Watch. Additional new faces includes a “Kaleidoscope” watch face that displays a symmetrical pattern throughout the day, which can be customized using a picture from the user’s photo library, a swell as three new animated faces for popular Toy Story characters Woody, Jessie, and Buzz.

Apple announces iPad Pro updates, including new 10.5” model

During today’s Worldwide Developers Conference Keynote, Apple took the wraps off two new iPad Pro models, including an update to the 12.9” iPad Pro along with the expected new 10.5” model, which replaces last year’s 9.7” iPad Pro. The 12.9” iPad Pro retains the same size and form factor as before, but comes into line with its smaller counterpart, which previously provided a better display. The 10.5” iPad Pro provides a screen 20% larger than the prior 9.7” model, reducing the screen borders by about 40% to retain the same general size and weight. Both devices now incorporate a six-core A10X Fusion Chip that provides 30% faster performance and 40% faster graphics performance from the prior models, while still maintaining the same ten-hour battery life. New displays provide True Tone and a Wide Colour Gamut, ultralow reflectivity, 600 nits brightness, and HDR video — a minor display upgrade for the smaller iPad Pro, but a larger bump for the 12.9” model, which previously lacked the True Tone display technology.

Apple has also added a new “ProMotion” feature to the display technology in both models, doubling the refresh rate to 120Hz, thereby providing significantly smoother scrolling performance as well as reduced latency for Apple Pencil users. The display can, however, automatically adjust refresh rates downward when the faster rates aren’t necessary, thereby improving battery performance. The new models also gain the iPhone 7 camera improvements, with a 12MP rear camera with optical image stabilization, an f/1.8 aperture, six-element lens, quad-LED True Tone flash, and wide colour and 4K video capture, as well as a 7MP front camera with wide colour capture and optical image stabilization. Both models will also feature USB 3.0 support and high-speed USB-C charging — a feature previously limited to the 12.9” iPad Pro. Apple has also doubled memory capacities across the board, with the entry level iPad Pro models starting at 64GB, and the higher-end models available in 256GB and 512GB capacities.

The new iPad Pro models are available for order from Apple’s online store beginning today, starting at $649 for the 10.5” and $799 for the 12.9” and are expected to begin shipping early next week.

Tim Cook speaks out on Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris Accord

Apple CEO Tim Cook has added his voice to large chorus of CEOs who have been expressing disappointment over President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. In an internal memo obtained by Buzzfeed News, Cook told employees that he “spoke with President Trump on Tuesday and tried to persuade him to keep the U.S. in the agreement. But it wasn’t enough.”

Following the email sent out within Apple, Cook later also publicly tweeted on the matter, stating pointedly that he considers the decision “wrong for our planet” and reiterating Apple’s unwavering commitment to fighting climate change. In the internal e-mail, Cook reassured employees that President Trump’s decision will have “no impact on Apple’s efforts to protect the environment,” emphasizing the company’s significant efforts in powering all of its operations with renewable energy, which as Cook says is not only good for the planet, but “makes good business sense as well.”

Our mission has always been to leave the world better than we found it. We will never waver, because we know that future generations depend on us.

Cook also promised to keep working toward the “ambitious goals of a closed-loop supply chain,” that were outlined in the company’s Environmental Responsibility Report released last month.

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