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Apple schedules retail meetings, related to 10th anniversary?

Apple has made a number of retail store plans for this weekend, suggesting the company may be planning a special event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its retail stores. Boy Genius Report, citing an unnamed but “solid” Apple source, claims that Apple has scheduled an overnight shift for 10-15 individuals at each Apple Store, with employees expected to work from late Saturday through mid-Sunday. During the overnight shift, employees will be required to lock their cell phones in the main office, and sign an Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with Apple. According to the report, the overnight shift will include all visuals staff, a manager, a business team manager, some Genius team members, a back-of-house employee, and a few Apple specialists.

The report goes on to claim that stores have already received hardware to install, which is to be under lock and key until after close on Saturday night, and are expecting more to arrive Friday or Saturday. Employees have reportedly already downloaded gigabytes of data from Apple corporate labeled “training” in a password-protected folder that isn’t accessible until Saturday afternoon, and will be hanging black curtains in store windows to prevent onlookers from peeking inside; finally, all Apple Stores will reportedly have mandatory meetings on Sunday, May 22, with most meetings scheduled for the morning. Notably, the 10th anniversary of the opening of Apple’s first retail stores in Tysons Corner, VA and Glendale, CA falls on this Thursday, May 19, meaning that any event, promotion, or product introduction related to the retail meetings would seemingly come well after the anniversary itself.

More companies join opposition to ‘App Store’ trademark

Microsoft and Nokia have joined the opposition to Apple’s “App Store” trademark claim in Europe. Macworld UK reports that both Sony Ericsson and HTC have joined the effort to block the trademark claim, which the companies claim is too generic, and should be available for any company to use for stores that sell applications. “Both terms lack distinctiveness and so the registrations should not have been granted,” said a Nokia spokeswoman. According to the report, the move to block Apple’s trademarks in Europe was started by Amazon last month; Microsoft is also trying to block Apple’s “App Store” trademark request in the U.S., while Apple has filed suit against Amazon in the U.S. over its use of the term.

iOS devs threatened over in-app purchase patent claims

TUAW reports that several iOS developers have received claims of patent infringement over in-app purchasing within iOS applications, all apparently from the company Lodsys. James Thomson, UK-based developer of the popular PCalc calculator apps sent out a tweet earlier this morning stating that he had just received a package of legal papers via FedEx advising him that he is infringing a company’s patent and has 21 days to license it. Thomson also noted that his latest update to PCalc Lite was approved by Apple this morning, but that he has decided to delay the release to avoid the potential of “hurt[ing] any future case.”

Patrick McCarron of Chicago-based iOS developer MobileAge also confirmed via Twitter that he had received a similar patent threat via FedEx for in-app purchase use, most likely from the same company, although both developers have declined to disclose the other party involved in the complaint. Both have contacted Apple Legal for further guidance as the infringement claim concerns the use of Apple’s in-app purchase technology built into the iOS operating system rather than any specific feature that has been created by the developers themselves.

An additional report from Mac Rumors reveals that Rob Gloess of Computer LogicX has also received a legal complaint regarding the use of an “Upgrade” button in the lite version of his application Mix & Mash, providing users with a link to the full version in the App Store. The documents that Gloess received make the claim that the “button that users click on to upgrade the app was in breach of US patent no 7222078.” Mac Rumors reveals that the patent in question was filed in 2003 and is connected to patent holding firm Lodsys, which purchased the patents from the original holder in 2004 and has been revealed as the company issuing lawsuit threads in the Computer LogicX case. 

Update: Lodsys also launched a patent infringement suit earlier this year against Brother, Canon, HP, Hulu, Lenovo, Lexmark, Motorola, Novell, Samsung, and Trend Micro alleging infringement of the same patent 7,222,078, “Methods and Systems for Gathering Information from Units of a Commodity Across a Network” among several others. Several companies named in the earlier suit have recently responded stating that the Lodsys “patents and invalid and unenforceable.”

ITC rules in favor of Kodak in Apple patent dispute

A U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) judge has ruled that Eastman Kodak did not infringe on Apple’s patented technology for digital cameras. Reuters reports that the full ITC will need to either uphold or reject the ruling; a decision is due on September 19. A ruling in Kodak’s case against Apple and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, in which it claims that companies infringed on a patent for putting cameras in mobile phones, is expected on May 23. The report notes that Kodak settled similar patent disputes with LG and Samsung in 2009 and 2010, receiving $400 million and $550 million, respectively, from the companies to secure licenses for its technology.

Apple in talks with Nuance over iOS 5 voice tech?

Apple is reportedly in talks with Nuance Communications over the use of its voice recognition services in iOS 5. Citing multiple anonymous sources, TechCrunch reports that Apple has been in talks with Nuance for months, possibly over an acquisition, but more likely over a far-reaching licensing agreement and or partnership. As noted in the report, Siri, the voice-based personal assistance and search service acquired by Apple in April 2010, relies on Nuance technology for its services; Siri technology is said to play a large role in iOS 5, and the report claims that Apple has yet to successfully renegotiate the original deal between Siri and Nuance. The report cites Nuance’s $6 billion market cap as a major obstacle in any acquisition talks, as much of this value comes from the company’s various licensing deals, many of which could potentially dry up should Apple take control of the company. Nuance also develops a number of iOS apps, which it sells under its Dragon brand.

Update: According to a second report from TechCrunch, Apple has reached a deal with Nuance that will allow it to run and build upon Nuance’s software at its new data center in North Carolina. The deal will enable Apple to process voice information for iOS users more quickly, and prevent such data from going through third-party servers.

Apple, others sued over anti-poaching agreements

Apple was among a group of companies sued earlier this week over so-called “anti-poaching” agreements. The law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein announced that Apple, along with Adobe, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar, has been named in a class action lawsuit filed by former Lucasfilm engineer Siddharth Hariharan, claiming that the companies violated antitrust laws by conspiring to fix the pay of their employees and entering into “No Solicitation” agreements with each other. As noted in the announcement, an agreement between Lucasfilm and Pixar surfaced in 2005, and were soon joined by similar agreements between the other defendants; the U.S. Department of Justice finalized a settlement in September 2010 that barred Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, and Pixar for participating in such agreements. The suit seeks restitution for lost compensation and treble damages for anti-competitive employment practices. [via Mac Rumors]

Apple hires Lucasfilm vet, THX creator Holman?

Apple has hired Tomlinson Holman, former corporate technical director for Lucasfilm, according to a new report. Citing a tweet from tech pundit Leo Laporte, GigaOM reports that Laporte has it “on good authority” that Holman is joining Apple to “run audio.” Currently a film professor at USC, Holman is considered the primary mind behind Lucasfilm’s THX sound technology and the world’s first 10.2 surround sound system, and has received an Academy Award for Technical Achievement for his contributions. According to the report, Holman also has experience designing loudspeakers and amplifiers; it is unclear what projects Holman might be involved in at Apple, or what his official title might be.

Apple releases iOS 4.3.3, fixes location bug

Apple has released iOS 4.3.3, the latest version of its mobile operating system for the iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM), iPod touch 3G, and iPod touch 4G. According to Apple’s release notes, the update contains changes to the iOS crowd-sourced location database cache; the update reduces the size of the cache, no longer backs up the cache to iTunes, and deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off. The database in question was the cause of a recent uproar over Apple’s supposed location tracking, leading the company to release a Q&A document in which it gave an explanation for the cache, and blamed its large size on a “bug.” iOS 4.3.3 is available now via the Update feature in iTunes; a similar update, iOS 4.2.8, is also available for the CDMA iPhone 4.

Apple airs new iPad 2 spot ‘If You Asked’

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Apple has begun airing its latest TV advertisement for the iPad 2. Entitled “If You Asked,” the 30-second spot shows iPad 2 units in a variety of settings with task-specific apps, while the narrator states, “If you ask a parent, they might call it intuitive. If you ask a musician, they might call it inspiring. To a doctor, it’s groundbreaking. To a CEO, it’s powerful. To a teacher, it’s the future. If you ask a child, she might call it magic. And if you asked us, we’d say it’s just getting started.” The new commercial is now available for viewing on Apple’s website.

Apple bans promo code-incentivized app ratings and reviews

Apple has reportedly made a change in its App Store app review policies preventing reviews or ratings of applications downloaded using promotional codes. Mac Rumors reports that the change has been made to “prevent comprimising [sic] of the rating system,” presumably by developers providing promo codes in exchange for positive reviews and high ratings of their applications. It remains unclear whether this new policy affects all promo codes and countries or only those issued since the new policy came into effect.

Apple wins initial ruling against Elan at ITC

Apple has won an initial ruling in its patent dispute with Elan Microelectronics. Reuters reports that Judge Paul Luckern of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) said in his initial decision that Apple did not violate Elan’s patents related to touchpad technology. Elan filed a complaint against Apple with the ITC in March 2010, claiming that Apple was violating its patents related to touch-sensitive input devices with multi-touch capabilities, specifically with the iPhone, iPod touch, MacBook laptops, the Magic Mouse, and the iPad; the ITC agreed to investigate the claims roughly a month later. The full ITC will now need to rule on whether to accept or reject Luckern’s initial decision; that ruling is expected in August.

Time, Apple reach deal on iPad access for print subscribers

Time, Inc. and Apple have reached a deal that allows subscribers to the print editions of Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and Time to download the iPad versions of the magazines free of charge. The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal is an expansion of a similar arrangement for Time’s People magazine, which has allowed print subscribers free access to the iPad edition since last August. Time and other major publishers still have yet to agree with Apple on terms for selling subscriptions to iPad editions of their publications, mainly due to Apple’s stance on sharing user information with the publishers, according to the report. Time executives told the WSJ that Time general counsel Maurice Edelson has quietly been leading talks between the publisher and Apple, meeting frequently with Apple vice president of Internet services Eddy Cue. The same people said this latest deal is a sign that the two companies are moving closer.

Samsung brings legal battle with Apple to U.S.

Samsung has expanded its legal battle with Apple, filing a lawsuit against the iPhone-maker in U.S. federal court. Bloomberg reports that Samsung is claiming that Apple infringes on 10 of its patents related to “fundamental innovations that increase mobile device reliability, efficiency, and quality, and improve user interface in mobile handsets and other products.” “Samsung is continuing to respond actively to the legal action taken against us,” the company said in an statement. Apple first sued Samsung on April 18, stating, “[r]ather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple’s technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products.” Samsung quickly countersued in South Korea, Japan, and Germany, claiming infringement on 10 patents by the iPhone and iPad; according to recent comments made by Apple COO Tim Cook, Apple is Samsung’s biggest customer and considers them a valued component supplier, and that he expects their strong relationship to continue despite the lawsuit.

Apple purchases iCloud.com domain for $4.5 million?

Apple has purchased the iCloud.com domain name for $4.5 million, according to a new report. Citing an anonymous tipster, GigaOM reports that iCloud.com was until recently used by Sweden-based Xcerion for its cloud-based storage service, which has since been rebranded as CloudMe. The source, who is said to be familiar with the company, said Xcerion sold the iCloud domain to Apple for $4.5 million, although the Whois database still lists Xcerion as the owner of the domain. As noted in the article, Apple is reportedly working on a cloud-based “locker” for content that could be branded as iCloud; it could also be considering the name for its upcoming cloud-based music service.

Update: Citing sources “in position to know,” AllThingsD reports that it has “confirmed” Apple’s purchase of the iCloud.com domain name.

Apple execs Jobs, Schiller, Forstall talk iOS location

Ina Fried of AllThingsD has conducted a phone interview with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller, and Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall, during which the Apple executives a number of comments relating to the iOS location data issue, as well as the white iPhone. For the most part, the executives simply reiterated points the company made in its earlier Q&A document, but Jobs did reveal that he expected Apple to testify before Congress about such technologies, and that he thinks it is “great that they are investigating this.” He also briefly mentioned the traffic service alluded to in the aforementioned Q&A document, saying “that is all we are going to mention at this point in time before we have something to announce,” and brushed aside a question about his timeline for returning to work full-time at the company.

Discussing the white iPhone 4, Schiller described the process of making the handset as “challenging,” saying, “it’s not as simple as making something white. There’s a lot more that goes into both the material science of it–how it holds up over time… but also in how it all works with the sensors.” He added that while there were unexpected interactions between the color and various internal components, the white paint also required more UV protection than the black model. “We thought we were there a year ago, or less than that, when we launched the iPhone 4 and we weren’t,” Schiller said, adding that the wait allowed them to deliver a product that was up to expectations. Jobs also noted that the work necessary to bring the white iPhone 4 to market benefitted the company in other areas, saying, “[w]e obviously think about this in a generic way because you have a white iPad.” Apple will launch the white iPhone 4 tomorrow.

Apple to launch iPad 2 in 12 more countries this week

Apple has announced that it will launch the iPad 2 in 12 more countries this week. According to the company, the iPad 2 will launch in Japan on Thursday, April 28, and will come to Hong Kong, India, Israel, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the UAE on Friday, April 29. In addition, the company has announced that it will officially launch iPad 2 with Wi-Fi in China on Friday, May 6; further international availability will be announced at a later date.

Apple posts Q & A on Location Data

Apple has posted a ten-question Q & A document discussing the collection of location data on iOS devices. In response to the first question, “Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?”, the company writes, “Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.” The second question asks why, then, is everyone so concerned; Apple responds by saying that users are confused, partially because creators of new technology—including itself—have not provided enough education about such issues. In response to the third question, “Why is my iPhone logging my location?”, Apple explains that the iPhone—and presumably other iOS devices—are not logging locations, but “maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.”

Apple blames the size of the current on-device database on a bug it has uncovered, which is also to blame for the continued updating of the database after Location Services is turned off. Interestingly, Apple admits to “collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.” In response to the final question, “Does Apple believe that personal information security and privacy are important?”, the company responds, “Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy.”

Apple states that it will release a free iOS update “in the next few weeks” that will reduce the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone, cease backing up this cache, and delete the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off, and promises that the next major iOS software release will encrypt the database on the iPhone.

White iPhone 4 coming April 28

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Apple has announced that it will officially launch the white iPhone 4 Thursday, April 28. According to the company, the handset will be available in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Macau, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.K., and the U.S. tomorrow, and will come to “many more” countries around the world soon. The press release notes that the white model will be available from both AT&T and Verizon in the U.S., suggesting that other CDMA carriers worldwide may carry it as well. “The white iPhone 4 has finally arrived and it’s beautiful,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “We appreciate everyone who has waited patiently while we’ve worked to get every detail right.” Pricing for the white iPhone 4 will be the same as for the black model, or $199/16GB or $299/32GB with a two-year commitment on AT&T or Verizon.

Amazon responds in ‘App Store’ lawsuit, requests dismissal

Amazon has filed a response in its lawsuit with Apple, in which the latter accuses Amazon of trademark infringement and unfair competition for its use of the “App Store” trademark. In its response, which has been published online by GeekWire (PDF Link), Amazon admits to opening a software store with the name Appstore, but denies that Apple coined the App Store mark, and claims that the term “app store” is generic and unprotectable. It also points to a comment made by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in October 2010, in which he uses the term “app store” in a generic sense, saying that Apple’s App Store is “the easiest-to-use, largest app store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone.” Notably, Microsoft has used similar arguments in its opposition to Apple’s “App Store” trademark, the review of which is still ongoing. Amazon is asking the judge to dismiss the case, and to declare that its use of the words “app store” does not infringe or dilute any rights, trademark or otherwise, of Apple. [via Mac Rumors]

Apple sued over iOS location tracking

Apple has been sued in federal court over iOS 4’s ability to track device location. Bloomberg reports that Vikram Ajjampur, a Florida-based iPhone user, and William Devito, a New York iPad user, have filed suit against Apple in Tampa, FL, accusing Apple of invasion of privacy and computer fraud, and seeking an order barring the alleged location data collection. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status to represent U.S. customers whose devices run iOS 4, a group that could include one-third to one-half the country’s 60 million iPhone users, according to Aaron Mayer, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “We take issue specifically with the notion that Apple is now basically tracking people everywhere they go,” Mayer told Bloomberg in a phone interview. “If you are a federal marshal you have to have a warrant to do this kind of thing, and Apple is doing it without one.”

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