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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.

Apple expanding Swift Playgrounds to teach coding for robots, drones and musical instruments

In advance of next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple has announced that Swift Playgrounds, its educational coding app for iPad, will be expanded to teach kids to code using robots, drones, and musical instruments. Apple has already been working behind the scenes with several companies, including Lego Mindstorms Education EV3, Sphere SPRK+, Parrot, and others, to enable Bluetooth-enabled robots to be connected and interfaced with in the Swift Playgrounds app. The new features are expected to arrive in a version 1.5 update to be released on the App Store next Monday.

Report provides new insights into Apple’s upcoming Siri smart speaker

Apple’s long-rumoured Siri smart speaker is already in production, according to a new report by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg. Citing people familiar with the matter, Gurman lends his weight to recent rumours that Apple may in fact debut the speaker next week at WWDC, although he stops short of declaring that a sure thing, and notes that sources suggest the device will still not be ready to ship until later in the year.

Gurman’s report also provides a few additional insights into Apple’s plans for differentiating the new device from competing Google and Amazon offerings, noting that Apple will naturally offer “deep integration” with its product lineup, as well as focusing more heavily on audio fidelity by offering virtual surround sound technology, providing better sound quality, and possibly even sporting advanced features such as integrated sensors to measure a room’s acoustics and adjust audio settings accordingly. However, the speaker will not feature any kind of touchscreen, according to sources who have seen the actual product.

Apple releases WWDC app update ahead of next week’s event

Apple has released a big update to its companion app for the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled to begin next Monday. WWDC 6.0 features a number of significant improvements, including the ability to use almost all of the features in the app without signing in with an Apple ID. The app now provides curated video playlists based on featured themes, a new “Venue” tab that provides information on the venue, and interactive venue and street maps for the local area. The update also adds an iMessage app that provides some exclusive stickers for WWDC attendees to share.

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

Apple has released a second set of developer betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, and watchOS 3.2.3. As with the first 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 announces Live Stream of WWDC 2017 Keynote

Apple has added an events page for its upcoming WWDC 2017 Keynote, confirming that the Jun. 5 event will be live streamed, similar to prior years. As usual, Apple will use its own HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) technology introduced in 2010 to broadcast the event so that users of any relatively recent iOS or macOS device can view it in the Safari web browser. PC users can view the event using Microsoft Edge on Windows 10; older versions of Windows don’t appear to be supported. For Apple TV users, the event will be broadcast in the Apple Events tvOS app; interestingly it also appears that Apple will still be broadcasting the event to second- and third-generation Apple TV devices, suggesting the “Apple Events” channel will simply appear on these now-discontinued models in time for the event. [via MacRumors]

Apple and Nokia settle patent dispute

Apple and Nokia have announced a resolution to the patent dispute that began late last year. In addition to settling all litigation related to the intellectual property dispute, the two companies have also agreed to a multi-year patent license, which will see Nokia providing certain network infrastructure products and services to Apple, and Apple returning Nokia’s digital health products (formerly Withings) to its store shelves. The two companies are also exploring future collaboration in digital health initiatives, with regular summits between their top executives to maintain the business relationship. Details of the agreement remain confidential, however Nokia will receive an up-front cash payment from Apple, with additional payments made during the term of the agreement.

Qualcomm sues Apple suppliers over withholding royalties

Qualcomm is suing four Apple suppliers over withholding royalties, Reuters reports. The move is the latest in an ongoing battle between Qualcomm and Apple over licensing payments Qualcomm charges for the use of patents the company holds on several integral components used in iPhones. Apple suspended all licensing payments to Qualcomm last month, and Qualcomm’s latest filing goes after Foxconn, Pegatron, Wistron and Compal Electronics for their part in the proxy war. “While not disputing their contractual obligations to pay for the use of Qualcomm’s inventions, the manufacturers say they must follow Apple’s instructions not to pay,” Qualcomm said in a statement. Apple has agreed to indemnify its partners against any damages resulting from their refusal to pay Qualcomm, but Qualcomm is now seeking a court order to force the manufacturers to comply with existing contractual obligations.

Apple begins production of iPhone SE in India

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Apple confirmed it has started production of the iPhone SE in Bangalore and plans to start shipping the devices to customers in India this month. Sources close to the production said the first handsets could hit store shelves as early as this week, although it’s unclear how much the phones will cost. Indian government officials say they’re hopeful the final price will land somewhere near $200, but resellers are currently charging around $320 for the iPhone SE.

Apple launches new site for Today at Apple educational programs

Apple has launched its Today at Apple website to support the company’s new educational programs, allowing users to select their local Apple Store and see which programs are available. The site provides the ability to sort by date and type of training, and adds in results from nearby Apple Stores to expand the range of programs that users can select. Clicking on the Details button attached to any event provides a brief description of the training offered and directions for those looking to attend. All of the programs are free to attend. On a related note, Apple Stores around the world revamped their store layouts last night to accommodate the new requirements for the tutorials.

Apple releases betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, watchOS 3.2.3

Yesterday Apple released developer betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, and watchOS 3.2.3. The betas include minor updates and bug fixes, but Apple seems to be saving its big updates for iOS 11, expected to be debuted next month and WWDC before landing on devices whenever Apple’s new iPhones are released later this year.

Apple looking for someone to head up video programming strategy

Apple is looking for someone to lead its video programming strategy efforts, The Information reports. People familiar with the matter said Apple has talked to former HBO programming head Michael Lombardo, who left HBO early last year to focus on his own production projects. Sources at Apple claim the company is actively looking to fill the role, but what types of video content viewers could end up getting from the arrangement is still an open question. Apple has been all over the place with its video strategy, often publicly claiming its video moves are simply made to boost Apple Music while continuing to discuss possible deals with the likes of Paramount Pictures and Sony, all the while adding that the company isn’t ruling any kind of video content out if they find it interesting. Some of the discord stems from several Apple executives — including Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services, Robert Kondrk, VP of Apple Content and Media Apps, and Apple Music chief Jimmy Iovine — all working to arrange their own exclusive deals, which may be why the company is looking to put one person at the helm.

Apple patents construction method for cylindrical device that could be Siri speaker

Apple has been granted a patent for techniques to mount multiple components inside a cylindrical device, fueling further speculation that the device in question is the rumored Siri speaker. The patent covers the methods used in mounting speakers, microphones, sensors, lights, touch displays and other electronic parts so that they will lay flush with an outer cylinder-shaped casing. Methods for using gaskets to surround components to seal them against the outer wall while still allowing for openings for acoustics and airflow are of particular interest, since this would be necessary for the multiple-speaker setup rumored to be coming in the Siri speaker. While the Mac Pro is also assembled inside a cylinder, the methods outlined in the new patent provide for a more sealed off device. [via AppleInsider]

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