Apple has seeded developers with iOS 6.1 beta 4. The update is available to registered iOS developers as an over-the-air software update, for those with iOS 6.1 beta already installed. It is unclear what changes may be contained in the release. A new Apple TV beta and a new preview of Xcode 4.6 have also been seeded to developers. [via 9to5Mac]
In an extremely rare foreign country-specific press release, Apple announced sales of more than two million iPhone 5s in China during its first launch weekend. The phone was officially launched in the Chinese mainland on Dec. 14, having been available for sale in Hong Kong since September. “Customer response to iPhone 5 in China has been incredible, setting a new record with the best first weekend sales ever in China,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “China is a very important market for us and customers there cannot wait to get their hands on Apple products.” iPhone 5 will be available in more than 100 countries by the end of the year; speculation regarding weak or slow mainland Chinese sales may have spurred the company to disclose early figures.
In the latest of many patent trials, a jury has ruled that Apple didn’t infringe on three video-compression technology patents of Multimedia Patent Trust, an Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary, Bloomberg reports. Alcatel-Lucent sought $172.3 million in royalty damages from Apple, and $9.1 million from LG Electronics. The trial started recently, in late November. This is better patent trial news for Apple then Thursday’s other ruling, which found the iPhone infringes on three patents from MobileMedia Ideas.
Apple has released iTunes 11.0.1, which restores the ability to display duplicate items within a user’s iTunes library. The update also fixes an issue where new purchases in iCloud may not appear in a user’s library if iTunes Match is turned on, makes searching a large library more responsive, and fixes a problem where the AirPlay button may not appear. Other stability and performance improvements are also included in the update.
Apple has launched an expanded System Status page on its support website that clearly illustrates whether individual services and stores are operating normally or experiencing issues. The issues are broken down on a detailed timeline that shows when services may have been disrupted, and how many users may have been affected by the problem. For instance, the timeline shows that iCloud Mail and numerous other iCloud services experienced issues this afternoon. A link is also included for users who are experiencing issues not noted on the page. [via The Next Web]
Apple has released its “Best of 2012” list for iTunes. The lists highlight Apple’s 2012 favorites in music, movies, TV, apps, books, and podcasts. In the App Store, Action Movie FX was selected as iPhone App of the Year, with Rayman Jungle Run as iPhone Game of the Year; Paper was named Apple’s iPad App of the Year, while iPad Game of the Year was The Room. Numerous runners up and “editors’ choices” were listed alongside the winners.
Apple’s iPhone has been found to infringe three patents from MobileMedia Ideas, according to a Bloomberg News tweet. A U.S. court made the ruling today. The patents are related to automatic screen rotation, Apple Insider reports. Apple attempted to persuade the court to dismiss the case last month, but was denied. MobileMedia Ideas, which is jointly owned by Sony, Nokia, and MPEG LA, owns “more than 300 patents worldwide,” according to its website.
A new Apple patent published today reveals a new way for a phone to handle incoming calls. Titled “Dynamic context-based auto-response generation,” the patent is a step forward from the call waiting features of iOS6, offering the possibility of answering calls with a pre-recorded message based on caller ID or other attributes.
Another scenario also allows users to manually select an option to answer the call, send it to voice mail, or place it on hold, and the user can enter an estimated hold time for the call, which can be announced to the caller. The patent also describes a method for converting voice mail messages to text. [via Apple Insider]
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo “seemed to acknowledge” on a radio show that Apple may be behind a plan to build a 3.2-million square-foot computer chip factory in upstate New York, the Times Union (Albany) reports. The plan has allegedly been pitched to state economic development officials, but not further made public by the company. Cuomo was asked about speculation involving Apple’s interest in the state for a manufacturing site, and he didn’t shy away from mentioning the company by name. “Well, we’re shopping a lot of different companies at any given time,” Cuomo said. “Apple has a lot of competition, obviously, for their location. I don’t think that they’re anywhere yet in the decision-making.” The Times Union reports the “top-secret Apple customer” — possibly Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. — has scouted sites in upstate NY. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently announced the company would bring some Mac production to the U.S. next year; the company will invest more than $100-million in the expansion. [via Apple Insider]
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt compared Android’s growing lead over Apple in mobile software to Microsoft’s software rise in the 1990s, in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview. “This is a huge platform change; this is of the scale of 20 years ago — Microsoft versus Apple,” Schmidt said. “We’re winning that war pretty clearly now.” Android took 72 percent of the market in the third quarter, to Apple’s 14 percent, according to technology research company Gartner, Inc. However, those numbers belie the two companies’ differing business models when it comes to mobile software, as Google gives away its Android operating system to numerous third-party hardware developers, while Apple limits iOS to its own products.
Apple is currently testing several TV set designs, “people familiar with the situation said,” according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal. The company is working with Asian component suppliers on a large, high-resolution TV, as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and Sharp have been collaborating on the design, according to sources. “It isn’t a formal project yet. It is still in the early stage of testing,” a source said. The report claims Apple has been testing TV prototypes “for a number of years;” however, it dovetails with statements made by Apple CEO Tim Cook to “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” in which he called TV “an area of intense interest” for Apple.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued a report criticizing the privacy practices of the makers of kids apps in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market. Titled “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade,” the FTC report found almost 60 percent of 400 popular kids apps transmitted device information to the developer or another third party, such as an advertising network. Only 20 percent of the apps reviewed disclosed any information regarding privacy practices. Also, 17 percent of apps reviewed offered the ability to purchase virtual goods within the app — with in-app purchases ranging from 99 cents to $29.99 in the App Store. “The results of the survey are disappointing,” the report reads. “Industry appears to have made little or no progress in improving its disclosures since the first kids’ app survey was conducted, and the new survey confirms that undisclosed sharing is occurring on a frequent basis.” The FTC’s previous report was issued in February.
The report’s conclusion calls on everyone involved in the app marketplace to develop accurate disclosures regarding shared data. It also notes that “FTC staff has initiated a number of investigations to address the gaps between company practices and disclosures. These discrepancies could constitute violations of COPPA or the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair or deceptive practices.” [via The Wall Street Journal]
Apple has refused to approve an update by Microsoft to its SkyDrive iOS app after the company began offering additional storage subscriptions, according to a report from The Next Web. Microsoft found a recent update to its SkyDrive iOS app rejected by Apple after enabling users of the cloud file-sharing service to purchase more storage space. The report notes that “Microsoft does not appear keen to pay Apple the 30% cut, as it lasts in perpetuity, regardless of whether a user continues to use an iOS device or not, as the billing is through their Apple account;” however, users should be able to cancel App Store-based subscriptions at any time and subscribe through other means. Microsoft has apparently offered to remove all subscription options on the app, but this compromise has not been accepted by Apple.
Since launching in-app subscription services in early 2011, Apple has required developers to use its own In-App Purchasing system for any subscription or content purchases that are accessible from an iOS application. Although companies have traditionally been free to offer their subscription services via other means such as a web site, these cannot be available or advertised within an iOS app unless Apple’s IAP system is being used, for which Apple takes a 30% share of subscription fees.
Notably, this issue also appears to affecting Apple’s approvals of third-party applications that integrate with SkyDrive. While the exact reasons for this are unclear at this time, a similar situation occurred with popular cloud-sharing service Dropbox several months ago, with the problem ultimately being traced to the appearance of subscription purchasing links in the web pages used to log in to the service.
The United States Patent & Trademark Office has ruled an Apple multitouch patent — commonly referred to as “the Steve Jobs patent” — as invalid on a non-final basis. All 20 claims of U.S. Patent 7,479,949 were rejected in a first Office action, a preliminary ruling that suggests a patent can be invalidated in the future, though it is being left in effect pending a final determination. The patent is for a “Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics.” This notably follows an October reexamination of Apple’s “rubber-banding” patent for a bounce back effect when scrolling, which similarly concluded on a preliminary basis that all claims would be invalidated. These patents have been at the heart of Apple lawsuits against rivals, and if found invalid would significantly damage the Cupertino company’s litigation positions. [via FOSS Patents]
Apple and Google have teamed up to buy Eastman Kodak Co.‘s patents out of bankruptcy, offering more than $500 million in the bid, according to Bloomberg. The companies partnered after separately attempting to buy some of the digital patents this summer, sources said. Both separate offers were for less than $500 million — a consortium had previously offered more than $500 million for Kodak’s digital patents, which relate to the capture, manipulation, and sharing of digital images. Apple, Google, and Kodak have not publicly commented on the patent sale.
Apple contract manufacturer Foxconn is looking to expand its manufacturing operations in the U.S. as customers request more American-made products, Bloomberg reports. “We are looking at doing more manufacturing in the U.S. because, in general, customers want more to be done there,” Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo said. Currently, the Taipei-based Foxconn has factories in California and Texas that make partially-assembled products, such as servers. Almost certainly related is today’s news from Apple CEO Tim Cook that Apple plans on investing more than $100M in expanding U.S. production. Further specifics of Foxconn’s plans are unknown at this time.
T-Mobile USA will finally sell Apple products starting next year, as the company and Apple have reached an agreement. Deutsche Telekom COO Rene Obermann made the announcement at an investors conference, Engadget reports. The news was also buried in the fourth paragraph of a Deutsche Telekom press release: “In addition, T-Mobile USA has entered into an agreement with Apple to bring products to market together in 2013.” No specific devices have been announced as of yet, but Apple sells the iPhone and iPad on AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint; Apple has partnered with Deutsche Telekom to sell iPhones outside the United States for years.
Highly recommended to Apple watchers, CEO Tim Cook’s lengthy interview with Bloomberg Businessweek covers a large range of topics, including some interesting insights into how Cook sees his job, relative to the famously bold and confident former CEO Steve Jobs. “…I love being CEO of Apple, I love it. It’s just something I have to, and continue to, adjust to. If you have some ideas there of how I can do it better, I would love to hear it,” he laughingly said, while noting that he receives hundreds or thousands of e-mails each day with comments from users.
Cook curiously mentions Apple’s “few” products. “I mean, if you really look at it, we have four iPods. We have two main iPhones. We have two iPads, and we have a few Macs. That’s it,” he said. Oddly, the CEO seems to be leaving out various products — likely the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2, perhaps shedding light on which products Apple truly cares about, while the Apple TV isn’t mentioned at all. New products seem to be the emphasis, and he proudly makes a point about Apple’s willingness to refresh its product lines later in the interview: “Eighty percent of our revenues are from products that didn’t exist 60 days ago. Is there any other company that would do that?”
The interview provides further insight into the company’s internal strategic planning, with Cook noting that an executive team meeting is held at 9 a.m. every Monday, and four hours are spent talking about “everything in the company that’s important — everything.” Every Wednesday, a subset of the executive team meets with each product division — Mac one week, and iPhone the next, for instance. Discussions illuminate the debates that go on within Apple as to current and future products, their roadmaps, and overall strategy.
Also discussed is Cook’s transition into the full-time CEO of Apple. Cook notes that Steve Jobs formalized plans for the transition in the summer of 2011 — Jobs resigned in August, and died in October. “Of course, we had talked about me being a successor before, so it wasn’t the first time I had heard that, but the conversation occurred at a period of time when I felt Steve was getting better, and I think he felt this way as well,” Cook said. “So from that point of view, I was a little surprised.” The timeline suggests that despite Jobs’ departing statement that the company had clearly been planning for the succession, the most critical detail was left ambiguous to even Cook until very late in the process.
Samsung has filed a redacted version of the Apple-HTC settlement into the public record, revealing that each company will get nonexclusive rights to a number of the other’s patents, although Apple’s design patents seem to be expressly excluded. Apple has agreed not to sue HTC over certain products, the names of which were redacted. HTC will remain liable for any products that “clone” an Apple product — whether or not a product is “cloned” will be determined by an arbitration process. A ruling earlier this week determined that the list of patents in the settlement can’t be sealed. [via AllThingsD]
For the first time, Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly hinted that Apple might be taking active steps towards making a television set, according to quotes from an NBC News interview with Brian Williams. “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years,” Cook said, using language that moves beyond Apple’s gentler prior “hobby” and “pulling the string” descriptions of its TV-related initiatives. “It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.” While it’s possible that Cook was speaking about the existing Apple TV, it would be curious to allude to an existing product in such a way; at the very least, Cook’s comments could suggest a major push, update, or redesign for Apple TV. Cook’s full interview on NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” airs at 10 p.m. Eastern tonight.