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Apple snags rights to Ed Sheehan documentary, ‘Songwriter’

Apple has just won a big for world screen rights to Ed Sheeran’s new documentary, “Songwriter”, Deadline reports. Directed by Murray Cummings, the documentary shows Ed Sheeran at his beginnings, finding his handle on writing and performing his songs and working through his creative process. The deal is reported to be in the low to mid-seven figures for worldwide rights, and Apple is expected to make the release an event with a theatrical component alongside its release on Apple Music. The film made its world premiere in Berlin and made its North American debut this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. This marks the second Tribeca-premiered music documentary that Apple has acquired the rights to, following last year’s exclusive on the documentary based on legendary producer Clive Davis’ best-selling autobiography “The Soundtrack of Our Lives.”

Apple VP Greg Joswiak, former designer Susan Kare to testify in Samsung damages retrial

As Apple and Samsung go back to court yet again, it appears from the newly-filed witness lists that top executives such as Tim Cook and Jony Ive won’t be called to testify. According to CNET, the lists include “industry experts and executives” from both Samsung and Apple, but not Apple’s CEO or CDO. Instead, Apple plans to call upon Greg Joswiak, VP of Product Marketing and Richard Howarth, a senior director on Appel’s Design Team who is also one of the co-inventors of the disputed patents. Joswiak is expected to testify on Apple’s marketing strategy and related market forces, while Howarth will talk about the design process at Apple and the patents themselves. The list of witnesses for Apple also notably includes Susan Kare, one of the original designers at Apple who was behind much of the iconic design of Apple’s original Macintosh computers, who could be expected to testify about icon and user interface graphics design in general, but may have some input on one of the specific patents involved in the case. Other expert witnesses that Apple may call include Ravin Balakrishnan, a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto; Alan Ball, an expert on industrial design; Julie Davis, a consultant with expertise in accounting and damages analysis; Karan Singh, a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, and Tony Blevins, a vice president of procurement at Apple.

European Commission assessing Apple’s proposed acquisition of Shazam

The European Commission has announced that it will be more closely scrutinizing Apple’s proposed acquisition of Shazam in light of concerns about stifling competition in the streaming music service market. According to the press release, the Commission is opening “an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Shazam by Apple under the EU Merger Regulation.” on the basis that “the merger could reduce choice for users of music streaming services.” The Commission’s primary concern appears to be that acquiring Shazam would give Apple “access to commercially sensitive data about customers of its competitors” that would allow Apple to “directly target” those customers to encourage them to switch to Apple Music, thereby putting those competitors at a disadvantage. As a secondary factor, the Commission is also concerned that competitors would be harmed if Apple were to discontinue referrals from the Shazam app, although the Commission notes that it does not see Shazam as “a key entry point for music streaming services.” The Commission has set a deadline of Sept. 4, 2018 to come to a final decision.

Apple releases 2018 Environmental Responsibility Report

Apple has released its 2018 Environmental Responsibility Report, outlining the company’s progress throughout fiscal year 2017 in making all of its operations more eco-friendly. While Apple already announced earlier this month that it had accomplished its goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy sources for all of its facilities worldwide, the formal annual report on the company’s environmental initiatives outlines more of what that means, as well as progress that Apple has been making to protect the environment in other facets of its business as well.

Apple to leverage Texture acquisition to bring new magazine subscription plan to Apple News

According to a new report by Bloomberg, Apple is planning to leverage its recent acquisition of Texture to debut its own premium subscription offering. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report notes that the newly-acquired digital magazine app is expected to be rolled into Apple News, along with a new subscription service to help bolster the company’s online content and services revenue.

About explains ‘Hey Siri’ personalization in Machine Learning Journal

In a new post in Apple’s Machine Learning Journal, the company explains how personalization works behind the “Hey Siri” voice activation feature to reduce the number of false positives. The journal points back to an earlier entry that describes the general technical approach and implementation details of the “Hey Siri” detector and the more general, speaker-independent “key-phrase detection” problem, and begins with that as an assumed foundation for this latest paper, which focuses in on the machine learning technologies that Apple has implemented in developing a rudimentary speaker recognition system to reduce the number of false positives triggered by other people in the vicinity saying phrases that may sound similar to “Hey Siri.”

Apple will repair 42mm Apple Watch Series 2 models with swollen batteries free of charge

Apple has advised Apple Store and Authorized Service Providers that it will be offering free repairs to Apple Watch Series 2 models that do not power on or have a swollen battery, according to documents obtained by MacRumors. In an internal memo, Apple noted that it “has determined that under certain conditions, some Apple Watch Series 2 devices may not power on or they may experience an expanded battery.” Coverage will be provided for up to three years from the date of purchase, regardless of warranty status. However, eligibility is specifically limited to the 42mm Apple Watch Series 2 models, although all S2 variants qualify.

Like many of Apple’s first-gen products, HomePod is selling below expectations

Apple has been lowering sales forecasts and cutting back manufacturing orders for its HomePod speaker amidst weaker than expected sales, Bloomberg reports, citing a person familiar with the matter. While Apple’s new smart speaker and a promising start out of the gate, with initial pre-orders and sales accounting for a third of the U.S. smart speaker market, by unit sales, that initial surge didn’t continue, and by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were “tanking” according to Ken Cassar, principal analyst for Slice Intelligence. Balanced out over the first 10 weeks of sales, HomePod only managed to gain 10 percent of the smart speaker market, as opposed to 73 percent for Amazon’s Echo family of devices and 14 percent for the Google’s Home speakers, with sales slipping from around a third of the market down to only four percent of the smart speaker market a mere three weeks after the launch. According to some Apple store employees, inventory has actually began piling up, with some locations selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day.

Apple appoints Oliver Schusser as VP of Apple Music & International Content

Apple Music has a new boss as the service also officially passed 40 million paid subscribers this week. In a memo obtained by Variety, Apple SVP Eddy Cue announced the promotion of Oliver Schusser to the new position of Vice President of Apple Music & International Content, making him the head of Apple Music Worldwide. Schusser, who has been with Apple for about 14 years, has previously led efforts outside of the U.S. related to many of Apple’s other content services, including the App Store, iTunes Movies and TV Shows, and Apple Podcasts, and has been working closely with Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, to whom Schusser will now be reporting directly in his new position.

Israel joins the list of countries investigating Apple over iPhone slowdown issue

Israel has added its voice to the chorus of governments who have been looking into Apple’s handling of the iPhone slowdown issues revealed late last year, Reuters reports. Israel’s Consumer Protection and Fair Trade Authority revealed this week that it is investigating Apple “over a failure to disclose to consumers that its software could slow performance in some iPhones,” adding in a statement that it has already questioned Rony Friedman,  the head of Apple’s operations in Israel. The Israeli agency holds the power to levy significant fines in civil proceedings, however a spokesman for the agency said it was too early to discuss that possibility. A spokesman for Apple in Israel has declined to comment.

Apple lands Asimov ‘Foundation’ TV series

Apple has made a deal to produce a TV series adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s famous Foundation trilogy, Deadline reports. The project is the brainchild of Skydance Television, which made a deal with the Asimov estate last June for the rights to develope a “sprawling series” based on the books, with David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman tagged as executive producers and showrunners. Goyer is co-writing the upcoming Terminator reboot and has worked on The Dark Knight, batman Begins, Ghost Rider, and the Blade franchise, and Friedman’s work includes Avatar 2, the War of the Worlds remake, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Deadline suggests that this latest deal signals an even higher level of ambition for Apple, following its morning show drama headlined by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, a re-imagination of the Spielberg classic, Amazing Stories, along with a Ronald D. Moore space drama, a Damien Chazelle series, a Kristin Wiig comedy, and others.

Apple announces all facilities now fully powered by renewable energy

Apple has announced that all of its facilities worldwide — from retail stores and offices to data centres and co-located facilities in foreign countries — are now powered with 100 percent clean and renewable energy. This major milestone includes facilities across 43 countries, and nine additional manufacturing partners have also committed to powering all of their Apple production with 100 percent clean energy, bringing to the total number of supplier commitments to 23.

Apple accused of infringing patents in Apple Watch heart rate sensor technology

Apple is facing another patent lawsuit, this time from a Michigan-based technology startup that claims the heart rate technology used in the Apple Watch infringes on its patented technology. The startup,
Omni MedSci, specializes in near-infrasrer and mid-infrared broadband lasers, and says that it met with Apple from 2014 to 2016 to discuss the use of its technology, but Apple broke off partnership discussions before later introducing technology using Omni MedSci’s approach. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern district of Texas on Friday and claims that Apple willfully infringed on its patents and is seeking both damages and an injunction against the company.

Apple unveils (PRODUCT)RED Edition iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Folio for iPhone X

Apple has once again released new (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition versions of its current iPhone models — in this case the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. The new colours are similar to last year’s (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, although they of course feature the new glass back design and more interestingly this year Apple has also chosen to go with a black front bezel versus the white bezel used in last year’s models. The new versions are otherwise identical to the standard iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models, essentially just adding a new color option to help bolster mid-season sales and continue Apple’s tradition of supporting the (RED) Global Fund in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Apple expresses opposition to repeal of Clean Power Plan

Apple has formally stated its opposition to any repeal of the Clean Power Plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Reuters reports, noting that a repeal of the Obama-era program to reduce greenhouse gases would actually “jeopardize the country’s position in the race for investments in clean energy” and place the U.S. at a disadvantage in comparison to countries like China. In a filing to the EPA, Apple stated that “Repealing the Clean Power Plan will subject consumers like Apple and our large manufacturing partners to increased investment uncertainty,” adding that it would also threaten development and investments that the company has already made in renewable power.

Kerry Ehrin takes over Apple’s upcoming morning show drama

Apple has made some staff changes on its upcoming morning show drama, Variety reports, with drama veteran Kerry Ehrin expected to take over the series, which will be starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. The prior show runner, Jay Carson, has reportedly left over “creative differences.” Ehrin had previously been under a deal with Universal Television and is best known for her role as co-creator, executive producer and showrunner of A&E’s Emmy-nominated drama “Bates Motel.”  The as-yet-untitled new morning show drama represents Apple’s first big television project, stemming from a November deal with Michael Ellenberg’s Media Res banner and Aniston’s Echo Films and Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine banners, with Apple landing an order for two seasons with ten episodes per season. Based on an idea from Ellenberg, the series will reportedly be drawing background material from CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter’s 2013 book “Top of the Morning,” which talked about a recent rivalry between major NBC and ABC morning shows.

Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence joins Apple

Apple has scored a “major coup” in the hiring of John Giannandrea, Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, The New York Times reports. Apple announced the hiring late yesterday, adding that Mr. Giannandrea will be in charge of Apple’s “machine learning an A.I. strategy” as one of the 16 key executives who report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. After joining Google in 2010, the 53-year-old Scotland-born Giannandrea became a leading force behind the push to integrate A.I. technology throughout Google’s products, including internet search, Gmail, and Google Assistant. Giannandrea originally came to Google with the company’s acquisition of Metaweb, a start-up that was building a “database of the world’s knowledge” that later became a key component in Google’s direct answer feature.

Apple to introduce web-based feature to allow users to download all of their data

Apple is adding even more privacy controls in light of new European regulations, Bloomberg reports. In addition to new privacy features debuted in iOS 11.3 today, Apple has said that it plans to add a feature to its website in the next few months that will allow users to download a copy of all of their stored data, an approach similar to features already offered by Google and Facebook. The updated Apple ID management tools will also allow users to correct personal information, temporarily deactivate their account, or delete it entirely. According to Apple, these new controls are designed to ensure compliance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which will come into effect on May 25.

Apple releases iOS 11.3 with Battery Health, Health Records, Business Chat and more

Apple has announced the final public release of iOS 11.3, featuring a significant number of updates for a point release. Originally previewed in late January, iOS 11.3 promises new augmented reality experiences, new Animoji for iPhone X users, a new Business Chat feature that will allow businesses to communicate with customers via iMessage, a Health Records feature that helps users of participating medical institutions more easily view their medical records, enhanced data and privacy controls, and the Battery Health feature that will ensure users know when their performance is being throttled due to aging batteries on older iPhones.

GarageBand gets new “Toy Box” educational sound pack, TrueDepth facial control

Following today’s education event in Chicago, Apple has released an update to GarageBand for iOS unveiling a free new education-themed sound pack, “Toy Box”, along with support for controlling musical effects using the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X.  The new sound pack includes over 400 Apple Loops, three drum kits, ten keyboard instruments, and five Live Loop grids, focused on education with sounds such as animals, vehicles, and counting to ten in different languages. TrueDepth camera support allows iPhone X users to control effects like guitar wah and synth parameters using facial expressions, and the update also adds a Modern Wah guitar stompbox effect.

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