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Apple’s plan to open stores in India hits a snag (Update: India’s finance minister ratifies ruling)

Apple’s attempt to bypass Indian rules to open its own retail locations in the country has been rejected, Bloomberg reports. The company was expected to qualify for an exemption from rules forcing single-brand retailers to obtain 30 percent of their products’ materials locally, applying as a provider of cutting-edge technology. But sources with direct knowledge of the discussions said India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board ruled Apple has to comply with the regulations, refusing to certify Apple for the exemption.

The decision still needs to be ratified by the government, meaning it could be overturned, but the ruling is a significant blow for Apple’s prospects in the country given most of its products are made in China and don’t meet the FIPB criteria. Apple already trails Samsung and Micromax in India due to the high price of its products. The company has ramped up advertising efforts in India in recent months, with Tim Cook likening the market there to China a decade ago.

Update: Bloomberg reports India’s finance minister has ratified the FIPB’s ruling, seemingly ending Apple’s plans to open its own stores in the country for the time being. The company will have to begin procuring at least 30 percent of device components in India if it wants to sell them through its own retail stores.

Apple looking into charging stations for electric cars

Apple has begun talking to charging station companies about how to charge electric cars and is hiring engineers with expertise in the field, Reuters reports. After years of ongoing speculation about Apple’s automotive ambitions, the company appears to be tackling software issues and laying the groundwork for infrastructure to power an electric vehicle. Apple specifically seems to be responding to a longstanding gripe with electric cars — “filling up” the battery. Overcoming the hurdles presented by a lack of public charging stations and the extended time currently necessary to charge a car’s battery could be the opportunity Apple is looking for to make its mark on the industry.

Apple hires hint at improvements in encryption, health monitoring

Apple has rehired a top encryption expert to bring stronger security to a range of its products, Reuters reports. Jon Callas, who worked at Apple in the 1990s and again from 2009 to 2011 to design the Mac’s encryption system, has rejoined the company to address security concerns in the wake of Apple’s public spat with the FBI. Both Apple and Callas declined to discuss his role at the company, but he is the brains behind several well-respected secure communications companies, including PGP Corp, Silent Circle and Blackphone. Callas has publicly stated he is opposed to companies being compelled to break into their own encryption by law enforcement, but has floated the idea that the government should be allowed to take advantage of undisclosed software vulnerabilities to hack into systems, provided they disclose the vulnerabilities afterward so they can be patched. The FBI hasn’t bought into that type of arrangement, withholding its method of breaking into iPhones from Apple thus far.

Plaintiffs file new motion to keep ‘Error 53’ Touch ID lawsuit alive

Plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against Apple after replacement Touch ID sensors resulted in their iPhones becoming non-operational are now fighting the company’s efforts to dismiss the case, Apple Insider reports. The issue cropped up in February, when iPhone owners who had used third-party service centers to replace Touch ID sensors started getting “Error 53” messages that left their devices locked and unusable. Each Touch ID sensor is paired with its unique device and can’t be replaced without causing problems with Touch ID and Apple Pay, but the release of iOS 9.2.1 locked all other functions on iPhones with replacement sensors as well.

Report: Apple developing Siri home speaker to rival Amazon’s Echo; will release Siri SDK at WWDC

A new report from The Information (subscription required), reveals that Apple is preparing to release a Siri SDK for third-party developers, as well as possibly releasing a standalone Siri-capable hardware device, similar to the Amazon Echo. The report suggests that a Siri SDK will likely be unveiled at WWDC next month, allowing third-party developers to make services available directly through Siri — something that many iOS developers and users have been hoping to see since Siri was first introduced by Apple five years ago. While Apple has provided direct integration with a small number of third-party services like OpenTable and Shazam, and “deep links” introduced in iOS 9 last year provide some integration for searches to open within apps, an open SDK would likely allow any iOS developer the ability to tie Siri requests directly into their own apps.

The report notes that the Siri hardware device is likely a little farther off, although sources suggest that the device has been in development by Apple since before the Amazon Echo was introduced last year. The Siri hardware device is expected to include a speaker and be web-connected. It should also include deep integration with HomeKit — a feature still lacking on even the fourth-generation Apple TV — and the device should be able to use AirPlay. An actual timeframe for the release of the Siri hardware device is unclear. [via 9to5Mac]

Cook discusses ambitious plan to beef up Apple Watch’s health monitoring

During Startup Fest Europe, Tim Cook compared Apple’s ambitious hopes for improvements to Apple Watch functionality to a car’s computer monitoring system, Bloomberg reports. “If you drive for a while and your car gets too hot, it says pull over. If you need an oil change, it says check your oil. What’s the equivalent for the body?” Cook said to the crowd. The current Apple Watch monitors vital signs and encourages users to move around or exercise at regular intervals, but Cook hopes to see a watch that will know more about the body and even be able to recommend a doctor’s visit when it’s necessary.

Apple opening Maps development office in India

Apple has announced the opening of a new office in Hyderabad, India to focus on the development of the Apple Maps platform. Apple expects to employ up to 4,000 people in the new facility, to be located on the Waverock campus, which will help accelerate the development of the Maps infrastructure for Apple’s iOS and OS X devices. “Apple is focused on making the best products and services in the world and we are thrilled to open this new office in Hyderabad which will focus on Maps development,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The talent here in the local area is incredible and we are looking forward to expanding our relationships and introducing more universities and partners to our platforms as we scale our operations.”

Apple eyeing partnerships with Indian phone companies

Tim Cook is meeting with Indian phone companies with hopes of using the country’s expanding 4G network to make Apple devices more appealing, The Economic Times reports. A senior executive at Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile phone operator, said his company is in talks with Apple to create a strategic partnership that may end up including special offers on devices, deals to sell products through retail stores, and new training of company personnel. A senior Reliance executive said bundling of Apple products was also an option, supporting claims that Apple’s leadership sees potential for India’s increased 4G coverage to boost sales of iPads and Apple TVs in addition to iPhones.

Apple engineers visit musician’s home, are stumped by iTunes deletions

After going public with his gripe about Apple Music deleting 122 GB of music off his personal computer, musician James Pinkstone added a new blog entry detailing what happened when Apple sent two engineers to his house to investigate the issue. Running a special version of iTunes designed to document any further mass deletions, the engineers spent hours troubleshooting but weren’t able to replicate the issue. Of particular concern was that there is no pattern to what was deleted, with files of all types, sizes and genres suddenly disappearing.

China scrutinizing Apple over security concerns

Chinese authorities are reviewing whether the encryption on Apple devices poses a potential security threat to the country and its consumers, The New York Times reports. Anonymous sources confirmed that China is quietly scrutinizing Apple and other U.S. tech companies, requiring executives or employees of foreign companies to answer questions about their products’ encryption capabilities and data storage. The interviews are being run by a committee tied to the bureau which controls the country’s internet, and it includes experts from military and security agencies.

Report: Apple to open three retail stores in India before 2018

Apple will open three Apple Stores in India “within the next 18 months,” according to a report from FactorDaily. The retail stores will open in Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai, and each store will reportedly be about 10,000 square feet. Apple’s start-up accelerator in the country will “incubate ideas mostly around applications built for iOS,” and Apple CEO Tim Cook will reportedly announce the incubator during his trip to India this week. After its push into China in recent years, Apple is now making an effort to better connect with the consumer base in India, a country which only trails China in population. A recent report noted that Apple partner Foxconn is looking to finalize a site for a new iPhone manufacturing plant in the country.

Conflicting reports on alleged IPO plans for Apple-funded Chinese ride-sharing service

Less than a week after Apple announced a $1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing, speculation has ramped up that the company is planning an initial public offering. Bloomberg cites internal sources that claim Didi Chuxing hopes to make an IPO in New York next year, with the timing pegged to how its battle with Uber in China plays out. But a spokesperson from Didi flatly denied the claim to TechCrunch, saying, “We currently have no IPO plan, so there’s no point of talking about location or schedule.” While data on the on-demand ride industry in China is spotty, analysts are in agreement that Didi is well ahead of Uber in China, claiming 14 million drivers and 300 million active users.

Berkshire Hathaway buys $1B in Apple stock

SEC filings show billionaire Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway investment company has bought $1.07 billion worth of Apple stock as of March 31. The news sent Apple’s stock up more than two dollars per share as of Monday morning, seeming to quiet concerns raised by billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s public dumping of his position in Apple last month. Icahn expressed doubts over Apple’s ability to expand its business into China after the country suddenly halted iTunes Movies and iBooks sales. Icahn had expressed a willingness to to buy back into Apple if the situation in China “was basically steadied.” For its part, Apple shows no signs of slowing its expansion in China, last week announcing a $1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing.

Apple scrambles to fix bug deleting some users’ iTunes music

Apple has confirmed that an iTunes bug has delete locally stored music from some users’ libraries and said the company is working on a fix, iMore reports. Last week a blog entry from one Apple Music user claimed 122 GB of personal music files had suddenly gone missing from his computer. The post led to speculation that confusion over the “Remove Download” and “Delete Song” options in Apple Music had led the user to accidentally delete his songs across all devices when he had only intended to clear them off a secondary device, but an Apple spokesman later confirmed, “In an extremely small number of cases users have reported that music files saved on their computer were removed without their permission. We’re taking these reports seriously as we know how important music is to our customers and our teams are focused on identifying the cause.”

Apple investing $1 billion in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing

Apple has invested $1 billion in Chinese ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing, CNBC reports. In a statement regarding the move, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained that the investment was intended to “help the company better understand the critical Chinese market.” With Apple’s sales flagging in China, and the company coming under pressure from Chinese regulators who seem to be moving to a “China first” economic policy, the move could also be seen as an attempt by Apple to encourage the Chinese government to perceive Apple’s business interests in the country in a more favorable light by directly supporting the Chinese economy. Cook stressed that he remains confident in the Chinese market, and noted that the deal “reflects our excitement about their growing business ... and also our continued confidence in the long term in China’s economy.”

Foxconn setting up iPhone factory in India

Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn is in the final stages of selecting a site in the Indian state of Maharashtra for its new iPhone manufacturing plant, The Economic Times of India reports. Sources familiar with negotiations said the Foxconn factory will cost an estimated $10 billion and focus exclusively on iPhone production. Negotiations are ongoing between Foxconn and India’s government, but a finalized deal is expected soon once Foxconn chooses the final location for its 1,200-acre facility.

Podcasters voice serious complaints with Apple

During a meeting with Apple, seven top podcasters voiced serious concerns over the company’s apparent lack of interest in their business, The New York Times reports. Despite essentially creating the format for downloading “digital audio shows” in 2005, Apple’s cumbersome process for promoting shows and lack of solid tools for artists to share and monetize their work drew serious criticism, according to two attendees of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Apple, others seeking large expanse of land for autonomous car facility

Apple is among several technology companies that have been seeking large parcels of land in the San Francisco Bay Area for autonomous car facilities, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. Victor Coleman, chief executive of Hudson Pacific Properties Inc. — a company with extensive real estate holdings in the area — told analysts that his company is “seeing a definitive movement” and “hot demand” for autonomous-car research-and-development facilities. Demand is coming not only from the expected players such as Toyota, Tesla, BMW, Mercedes, and Ford, but also Apple, who is reportedly looking to secure 800,000 square feet for their autonomous cars.

Apple partners with SAP for mobile enterprise solutions

Apple has announced a partnership with enterprise application software leader SAP to build a new software development framework that would allow SAP developers to build native iOS applications that integrate with the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, providing organizations with efficient mobile access to SAP enterprise data within their organizations. The two companies will deliver a new SAP HANA Cloud Platform SDK that will be available exclusively for iOS, which will empower SAP’s 2.5-million member global developer community to build mobile enterprise apps for SAP’s open platform. The platform will have a new design language — SAP Fiori for iOS — that will combine the SAP Fiori user experience with the consumer-grade iOS experience, and a new SAP Academy for iOS will offer tools and training for SAP developers. The new SDK, design language and academy are expected to begin rolling out later this year.

Apple adds Accessibility section to its online store

Apple has added a new Accessibility category to its online store, highlighting accessories specifically designed for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The new section also includes specific sub-categories to allow users to filter by accessories geared to assisting in visual, physical and motor skill, and learning & literacy areas. The Accessibility section is limited in selection compared to other sections in Apple’s online store, with only 15 different accessories available at this point.

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