An administrative law judge with the International Trade Commission (ITC) has issued an initial ruling in Apple’s patent suit against Motorola, ruling that the latter did not violate Apple’s patents. Ars Technica reports that Motorola was ruled to have not infringed any of the three smartphone-related patents upon which Apple built its case; however, the ruling is still subject to review by a six-person ITC panel. Apple and Motorola have been involved in a series of lawsuits against one other since October 2010, when Motorola Mobility filed a series of suits against Apple, leading to a countersuit from the Mac-maker; Google acquired Motorola Mobility last August, complicating the various disputes.
Apple today released its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report (PDF Link) as part of its ongoing efforts to provide acceptable working conditions for those that are involved in building its products. The report itself includes data from 221 audits of Apple’s overseas suppliers, and was accompanied by a list of 156 suppliers (PDF Link) that represent 97 percent of the company’s supply chain, the first time the company has offered such as list. In addition, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) as a Participating Member. According to a FLA press release, the group will “independently assess facilities in Apple’s supply chain and report detailed findings on the FLA website”; Apple is the first technology company to join the Association as a Participating Company. In an email to his employees that was subsequently published by French-language MacGeneration, CEO Tim Cook discussed the moves:
We’ve just released our sixth annual update on conditions in Apple’s supply chain, and I want to personally share some of the results with you.
We insist that our manufacturing partners follow Apple’s strict code of conduct, and to make sure they do, the Supplier Responsibility team led more than 200 audits at facilities throughout our supply chain last year. These audits make sure that working conditions are safe and just, and if a manufacturer won’t live up to our standards, we stop working with them.
Thanks to our supplier responsibility program, we’ve seen dramatic improvements in hiring practices by our suppliers. To prevent the use of underage labor, our team interviews workers, checks employment records and audits the age verification systems our suppliers use. These efforts have been very successful and, as a result, cases of underage labor were down sharply from last year. We found no underage workers at our final assembly suppliers, and we will not rest until the number is zero everywhere.
We’ve also used our influence to substantially improve living conditions for the people who make our products. Apple set a new standard for suppliers who offer employee housing, to ensure that dormitories are comfortable and safe. To meet our requirements, many suppliers have renovated their dorms or built new ones altogether.
Finding and correcting problems is not enough. Our team has built an ambitious training program to educate workers about Apple’s code of conduct, workers’ rights, and occupational health and safety. More than one million people know about these rights because they went to work for an Apple supplier. Additionally, Apple offers continuing education programs free of charge at many manufacturing sites in China. More than 60,000 workers have enrolled in classes to learn business, entrepreneurial skills or English.
Finally, we are taking a big step today toward greater transparency and independent oversight of our supply chain by joining the Fair Labor Association. The FLA is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving conditions for workers around the world, and we are the first technology company they’ve approved for membership. The FLA’s auditing team will have direct access to our supply chain and they will report their findings independently on their website.
No one in our industry is driving improvements for workers the way Apple is today. I encourage you to take some time to read more about these efforts, so that you can be as proud of Apple’s contributions in this area as I am.” [via Mac Rumors]
Apple has scheduled a “Big Apple”-themed “education announcement” media event in New York City for January 19, 2012, sending out a digital invitation featuring a chalkboard image of the Manhattan skyline with an Apple logo in the middle of skyscrapers.
The event is expected to focus on iTunes, the iBookstore, and possibly textbook sales in the iTunes Store.
Apple this morning seeded its registered iOS developers with the third beta version of iOS 5.1. According to Apple’s sparse release notes state simply that the release contains “bug fixes and improvements”. The update is currently available as an OTA Software Update for devices already running iOS 5.1 beta 2, and will likely be available shortly to registered iOS developers from the iOS Dev Center.
New code found within iOS 5.1 suggests that Apple is currently working on iOS devices with quad-core chips. According to 9to5Mac, iOS 5.1 includes updated processing-core management software that makes references to an option of “/cores/cores.3”, which according to people with knowledge of iOS’ inner workings, refers to a four-core chip, as “cores.0” refers to a single-core device, and “cores.1” to a dual-core chip. As noted in the report, the presence of this reference in iOS 5.1 suggests that the next-generation iPad, which is likely being tested using the software, will feature a quad-core processor. iLounge’s Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Horwitz, citing a reported yesterday that the device is likely to be launched around the same time as the iPad 2 was a year ago; the iPad 2 was launched on March 11.
Apple is planning to open store-within-a-store outlets inside select Target locations later this year, according to a new report. Citing a source familiar with Apple’s plans, AppleInsider reports that the Apple-branded areas will be located inside 25 larger Target stores, in locations that can’t support a standalone Apple Store. Apple already operates store-within-a-store outlets in over 600 Best Buy locations, some of which are staffed with Apple Solution Consultants. It is unclear whether Apple would use similar staffing for the Target outlets, but in any case the concept would likely allow those stores to offer a wider range of Apple products, including Macs and AirPort wireless routers, among other products.
Elan Microelectronics has said that Apple will pay the company $5 million as part of a settlement in a patent infringement case. Reuters reports that according to Elan’s statement, the two companies will also exchange authorizations to use each other’s patents. Elan sued Apple in the U.S. in 2009 over two patents related to multi-touch technology, leading to a countersuit from Apple later that year.
Apple has hired Adobe executive Todd Teresi to run its iAds division, according to a recent tweet from Adam Satariano of Bloomberg. Since the departure of Apple’s VP of Mobile Advertising, Andy Miller, last summer, iAds was being overseen by Eddie Cue while the company searched for a replacement. Todd Teresi’s LinkedIn profile identifies him as VP and General Manager of Media Solutions for Adobe Systems, a position that he has held since May 2011. Prior to joining Adobe, Teresi also previously served as Chief Revenue Officer for Quantcast and Senior Vice President at Yahoo prior to that. [via Business Insider]
The Daily Mail reports that Apple may be bidding for the rights to stream English Premier League football matches. The English Premier League is the top football league in the U.K. and is one of the most popular football leagues worldwide, managing competition rules and centralized broadcasting and commercial rights for its 20 member football clubs. Apple has previously provided premium content streaming for MLB, NBA and NHL for Apple TV users in the U.S. and Canada, integrating these services directly into the Apple TV as part of recent software updates and simply tying into the providers’ existing subscription services. Unlike the other sports organizations, however, EPL does not currently provide its own iOS streaming application or online subscription service, causing some speculation that Apple may offer EPL streaming as part of an iTunes-based subscription service. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple has announced that it will report its results for the first fiscal quarter of 2012 on Tuesday, January 24. The release will be followed by the usual conference call to discuss the financial results, which will begin at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. iLounge will be providing coverage of the call. The call will likely discuss the results from the holiday quarter which saw the expanded launch of the iPhone 4S internationally and based on industry estimates is expected to include record iPhone and iPad sales. Depending on the timing the call may also provide some clues as to Apple’s next-generation iPad and iPhone product launches as well as its rumoured plans for iBooks.
Apple today announced that it will officially launch the iPhone 4S in China on January 13. “Customer response to our products in China has been off the charts,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With the launch in China next week, iPhone 4S will be available in over 90 countries making this our fastest iPhone rollout ever.” In addition to China, the company will also launch the handset in 21 additional countries, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Cameroon, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guam, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and Uganda.
Apple will hold a an “important” event in New York City later this month, focused on publishing and iBooks, according to a pair of independent reports. Citing multiple sources close to the situation, AllThingsD reports that the schedule for the event could change at any moment, and that the event will focus on a media-related announcement — although it states that the event could be related to some kind of advertising or even publishing announcement, and notes that Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue is reportedly involved. TechCrunch claims that it has confirmed the report with an anonymous source, who stated that the event will not involve any hardware, but will instead focus on publishing and eBooks. According to the report, the event will be used to unveil improvements to iBooks, and is not considered to be “major.”
French retailer eBizcuss has filed a lawsuit against Apple claiming unfair competition. Citing French-language Le Figaro, ifoAppleStore reports that the complaint alleges that Apple favors its own retail stores when shipping new products. eBizcuss CEO François Prudent says that his 16 locations in France suffered a 30 percent decline in business during Q3 2011 after supply of iPad 2 and MacBook Air units dried up, and in Q4, his business was unable to obtain any iPhone 4S units. Prudent goes on to claim that he can trace the product shortages to the opening of Apple’s Carousel del Louvre store in late 2009, and that Apple is soliciting his business customers directly. “The proposals submitted to Apple commercial enterprises are lower than prices at which we buy the equipment,” Prudent claims. Apple has yet to comment on the suit.
Apple has posted a new webpage dedicated to its iTunes Match service. Launched in November, iTunes Match is a $25/year service that matches tracks in a user’s iTunes library with tracks stored on the company’s iTunes Store servers, uploading any tracks it can’t match, and offering users full access to all their music — up to 25,000 tracks — from any of their devices. The walkthrough video and page clearly explain how the service works and the steps needed to subscribe, while the FAQ addresses topics such as supported file types, number of devices supported—up to 10—and whether the service streams or downloads songs. For more information on iTunes Match, see our Instant Expert article.
Apple has been hit with a substantial fine over its warranty practices in Italy. BBC News reports that Italy’s antitrust authority handed Apple a €900,000—roughly $1.2 million—fine for the company’s failure to inform customers of their legal right to two years of technical support, instead recognizing only the one-year warranty, such as standard in the U.S. The penalties will be applied to Apple’s three local divisions—Apple Italia, Apple Sales International, and Apple Retail Italia.
Apple is planning to launch its rumored TV set in 32- and 37-inch sizes, according to a new report. Citing industry sources, DigiTimes reports that Apple’s upcoming sets will be full televisions, unlike the company’s current Apple TV set-top box, and will be focused on 32- and 37-inch models. In addition, the report, citing “media reports” in Korea, also claims that Samsung started producing chips for the device last month. The report goes on to speculate that the sets will launch in the second or third quarter of 2012 and may be accompanied by a next-generation update to the current Apple TV set-top box. An Apple-branded TV set has been rumored for some time; however, reports of the company’s plans in the place have increased substantially since the debut of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, in which Apple’s late co-founder and former CEO states that the company had finally “cracked” the TV.
Apple has started to send out sixth-generation iPod nano units to customers participating in the Replacement Program for the first-generation iPod nano. One iLounge editor yesterday received a silver sixth-generation unit as a replacement for a first-generation unit via the Replacement Program, a change from earlier replacement units, which appeared to be refurbished first-generation models. The shift to newer replacements will likely thrill many customers, but for collectors, it may be cause for hesitation, as it has yet to be seen whether Apple will once again start to send out first-generation replacements as they receive the faulty units. Apple launched the replacement program last month as a way to deal with potential safety risks caused by faulty batteries.
Apple has accused Samsung of patent infringement in Australia, reports Bloomberg. According to the report, Apple claims that Samsung’s cases for its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and various phones infringe at least 10 of its patents. Apple has issued a notice of infringement to Samsung, and will file a statement of claim, Apple’s lawyer Stephen Burley revealed at a hearing in Sydney. During the hearing, Apple argued that a scheduled trial on Samsung’s claims that the Apple’s 3G products infringe Samsung’s patents should be delayed. “This matter can’t be ready in time for March,” Burley said. “It’d be unfair to Apple if the case were to be hurried on.” Apple and Samsung are currently involved in more than 30 different lawsuits against one another. [via MDN]
Apple is now offering free next-day shipping on many online orders in the United States. According to Apple’s holiday shipping page, non-engraved iPads and iPods, the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, non-customized and popular iMac configurations, and the Apple TV can all be ordered today for arrival by December 24, thanks to the free next day shipping offer. For all other products, customers are advised to check their cart for expected delivery dates.
The U.S. International Trade Commission earlier this week ruled that HTC is violating an Apple patent, and ordered an import ban on some of the former’s products. AllThingsD reports that the Commission found HTC to infringe on two claims related to an Apple patent, a ruling that in some ways favored HTC, as an earlier ruling had the company infringing upon two Apple patents. “While disappointed that a finding of violation was still found on two claims of the ’647 patent, we are well prepared for this decision, and our designers have created alternate solutions for the ’647 patent,” HTC said. The ban will take effect April 19 of next year, giving HTC time to demonstrate that it has avoided infringement in its products.