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Silcon Valley companies join Samsung in patent fight against Apple

Facebook, Google, Dell, HP, eBay and other Silicon Valley giants have joined forces against Apple, asking a judge to reconsider a ruling ordering Samsung to pay $548 million to Apple for infringing on the company’s hardware patents, Inside Sources reports. In a “friend of the court” briefing filed on July 1, the coalition said forcing a company to pay a portion of its profits for an entire line of smartphones or smart TVs — over a patent infringement on only one component out of the hundreds used in the device — would create a chilling effect on development in the industry. “Under the panel’s reasoning, the manufacturer of a smart television containing a component that infringed any single design patent could be required to pay in damages its total profit on the entire television, no matter how insignificant the design of the infringing feature was to the manufacturer’s profit or to consumer demand,” the group said.

In 2012, Samsung was found guilty of copying both the internal components and exterior look of the iPhone and ordered to pay more that $1 billion to Apple. A subsequent appeals ruling threw out the $382 million awarded to Apple for Samsung copying iPhone external design elements for its own Galaxy phones, but upheld all of the damages awarded over infringement on patents covering internal components. That left Samsung to pay the “total profit” to Apple, to make up for the potential iPhone profits lost to the competing product — and that worries other companies that see the potential for the decision to creep from hardware cases to those involving software products and online platforms. In June, Samsung asked for another review of the case on the grounds that letting the ruling stand would “invite overprotection and overcompensation for design patents,” but Apple has argued that the companies supporting Samsung – Google in particular, which owns the Android OS installed on Samsung’s Galaxy – have a direct stake in the fight and shouldn’t be viewed as objective observers. “Google has a strong interest in this particular case, is not an impartial ‘friend of the court,’ and should not be permitted to expand Samsung’s word limit under the guise of an amicus brief,” Apple told the court.

Apple and GSMA in talks to adopt embedded SIM technology

Apple is currently in discussions with the GSMA regarding moving to a standardized embedded SIM card in mobile devices, The Financial Times reports. The GSMA, which is an industry association responsible for developing GSM standards, has been working on an agreement among mobile operators to adopt a standardized embedded SIM card that would allow devices to more easily transition between different mobile networks. While all parties are said to be heading toward this “common architecture,” many of the technical specifications still need to be worked out, and mobile device manufacturers such as Apple would be under no obligation to adopt the new standard.

This initiative is separate from Apple’s own Apple SIM, which debuted last year for the latest iPad models. Those models still require a physical SIM card, but package a generic Apple version that can be activated on any participating carrier. The Apple SIM has received relatively limited adoption, with only a handful of carriers in the U.S. and one carrier in the U.K. supporting it. While Apple has declined to comment, the GSMA said it is “continuing to work with Apple to secure their support for the initiative” and that the organization is “optimistic” that a formal agreement can be reached. Apple reportedly pursued its own embedded SIM initiative about five years ago, with patents filed in 2010 and in 2013, although the idea failed to gain traction at the time as it was believed carriers feared Apple was trying to do an end-run around them.

Apple unveils new iPod touch, new nano and shuffle colors

Apple has rolled out its first major updates to the iPod since 2012, updating the iPod touch and adding new colors for the iPod nano and iPod shuffle. The new iPod touch has the same 4-inch screen size as its predecessor, but has also received a major iSight camera upgrade to 8MP to keep up with cameras in the iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2. The A8 64-bit chip will make for better speed in apps and improved graphics for gaming, while the addition of the M8 motion coprocessor from the iPhone will let the device track steps and other fitness-related information. Wireless capabilities also now include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1.The new iPod touch will likely come pre-loaded with iOS 8.4 and Apple Music, strengthening Apple’s push to get its new streaming service into as many hands as possible, and also features a 128GB model priced at $399, in addition to the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions, priced at $199, $249, and $299 respectively.

The updated iPod nano and iPod shuffle don’t get any internal improvements, but add new dark blue, pink and gold color options that are also available on the new iPod touch.

Apple releases iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers

Following the general release of iOS 8.4 to the public at the end of June, Apple has now released an iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers. The new beta features a build number of 12H304 with no release notes provided, although it seems likely that it addresses issues with Apple Music similar to yesterday’s iTunes 12.2.1 update along with any other new or unresolved issues from the iOS 8.4 public release.

Apple sued over iWatch trademark it doesn’t own

Apple is being sued for buying ad space on the Google results page delivered to users searching for the term “iWatch,” Bloomberg reports. Probendi, an Irish software developer, owns the iWatch trademark in Europe and has filed suit over Apple’s efforts to steer people typing that term into Google toward its Apple Watch website. Giacomo Bonelli, a lawyer for Probendi, said, “Apple never replied to our requests and objections, while Google said they are not responsible for links.” Right now, Probendi owns the name “iWatch,” which is estimated to be worth $97 million, but doesn’t have a product on which to attach it. Co-founder Daniele Di Salvo said the company’s plan to build a smartwatch that would be cheaper than the Apple Watch, run Android software and bear the iWatch name is “in standby.”

Neither Apple nor Google commented on the case. Google’s policy on the use of trademarks in its ad service says terms are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with the company reserving the right to “enforce certain restrictions.” A hearing for the dispute is set for November 11.

Apple progressing in TV service negotiations, aiming for fall debut

Apple’s negotiations to add all four major broadcast networks to its proposed streaming TV service are gaining momentum, the New York Post reports. Sources say ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are close to gaining the rights to negotiate on behalf of affiliate stations to deliver local live TV feeds to users of Apple’s subscription TV service. Obtaining local programming has been a main goal for Apple to set the service apart from other cord-cutting options. Networks are reportedly offering affiliates like Tribune and Sinclair a cut of the profits to opt in and offer their feeds. Disney or CBS are expected to be first in line to sign a deal to anchor Apple’s TV bundle, but Apple’s insistence that TV partners give up 30 percent of the fee for subscriptions sold in the App Store is still a sticking point. Agreements already in place to prevent networks from charging some distributors less than others and details over the inclusion of cable channels like Discovery and ESPN are also still points of negotiation. Sources say Apple is still hoping to launch the service this fall despite holding off announcing the product at this year’s WWDC. “The platform is ready and it rocks,” a source told the Post.

Also of note in the report: Apple CEO Tim Cook and SVP Eddy Cue were recently spotted talking to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, leading some to speculate on an Apple TV “NFL offering.” Though completely speculative, it’s unclear what such an offering would be, considering the NFL’s new eight-year deal with DirecTV — that deal continues to give the satellite provider the exclusive right to air out-of-market NFL games.

Big pharma firms looking to integrate ResearchKit

GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest drug developers, is “currently working on integrating (ResearchKit) into clinical trials and planning to start in coming months,” Buzzfeed reports. GSK didn’t provide specifics on its plans, but Michelle Crouthamel, a project manager with the company’s Digital Platform Performance unit, said ResearchKit offers a chance “to improve patient engagement and data collection.” Purdue Pharma, another large drug developer, is also in the early stages of exploring possible uses for ResearchKit. Larry Pickett Jr., Purdue’s vice president, said his company has vetted the platform, but hasn’t committed to building an app to utilize it, nor has the company even determined what types of data they’re be interested in collecting.

While the apps developed so far using ResearchKit have come from non-profits and academic research centers, Apple’s Senior VP of Operations Jeff Williams says the company doesn’t limit who can use the platform in the name of medical advancements. ““We’re open to working with anybody that is going to make an impact on people’s health,” he said. “So we’ve made ResearchKit open-source so Apple won’t even control who uses it. We will control what we put on our App Store, but we won’t control who uses it.” Even so, not all big pharmaceutical companies have obvious interest in ResearchKit’s capabilities — Gilead Sciences and Pfizer both confirmed they have no current plans to use the platform.

Apple’s cut of streaming music rivals’ profits sparks antitrust inquiry

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into whether Apple’s cut of profits taken from rival streaming music apps violates antitrust laws, Reuters reports. Apple takes 30 percent of the $10/month subscriptions sold through iOS apps for streaming music competitors like Jango, Spotify, Rhapsody and others, leading those companies to complain that the higher-than-normal cut Apple takes forces them to charge more than they do on other platforms or see their profit margins eroded. Raising the price would mean making streaming subscriptions for competing music apps more expensive than Apple Music’s $10/month fee. Rivals could deny Apple its cut if users signed up for music subscriptions through their web browser instead of in-app, but Apple’s terms of service specifically prohibit advertising the app’s availability from other sources or linking to the company’s website from the app. These policies are more stringent than the ones Google places on app makers, and three industry sources said the FTC is looking at whether Apple’s tighter rules break any laws, but hasn’t the commission hasn’t yet started a formal investigation. Neither the FTC nor Apple commented on the issue.

Apple releases iOS 9 public beta

Apple has released the public beta of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan in its new iOS Public Beta program that began earlier this year. Originally announced at WWDC, the public beta of iOS 9 will allow non-developers to preview an early version of iOS 9 prior to the final release of a stable version in the fall. Users who have already signed up on the Apple Beta Website should be able to log in and download the new versions now; users who haven’t signed up can do so at the same site.

Apple releases third iOS 9 beta to developers, adds full Apple Music support

As expected, Apple has released a third beta of iOS 9 to developers, adding full support for Apple Music, which debuted last week with the release of iOS 8.4. Featuring a build number of 13A4293f, the third iOS 9 beta also includes a number of under-the-hood improvements from the second beta, focusing on improving the stability and reliability of the new features in the operating system. A new watchOS beta with a build number of 13S5293f has also been posted, which can be installed via a configuration profile that requires the corresponding iOS 9 beta to be installed.

Apple asks suppliers for up to 90 million new iPhones

Apple is planning a much larger initial production run of its new iPhone models, asking suppliers to deliver between 85 million and 90 million units by December 31, The Wall Street Journal reports. Those totals include updated versions of both 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone models, dwarfing last year’s initial production run of 70 million to 80 million for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. After strong sales of Apple’s first larger-screen smartphones, the company seems to be betting that the addition of Force Touch in updated models will bring users back for an upgrade. Apple is considering adding a third assembler, Winstron Corp., to meet the increased demand, according to people familiar with the matter. Last year, Apple’s reliance on Foxconn and Pegatron Corp. resulted in long waits for customers hungry for the larger display phones.

Judge voids $532.9M ruling against Apple

A federal judge has thrown out a $532.9 million award against Apple and ordered a new trial to determine damages in a patent infringement case, Reuters reports. In February, a jury found Apple guilty of improperly incorporating three patents owned by Smartflash into its iTunes software, but the judge was concerned his instructions on how to calculate damages may have confused the jurors and substantially inflated the award. The new trial to set damages is set for September 14. A second lawsuit between Smartflash and Apple over the same patents is still ongoing.

Updates to iWork iOS apps fix Accessibility bugs

An update to all three iWork apps for iOS has cleared up problems with Accessibility features. Apple says Pages, Numbers and Keynote had “an issue that prevented proper navigation and editing with VoiceOver.” Those problems are resolved in version 2.5.4, which also fixes text blurring in Pages when turning on Speak Screen.

App prices going up in Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey

In an email to developers, Apple has confirmed that app prices are increasing starting Thursday in Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey. A value-added tax is driving up prices by 10 percent in South Korea, but Apple has agreed to pay the tax for any developer living outside South Korea. Developers based in South Korea will be responsible for paying the new tax on their own. Users of apps with auto-renewed subscriptions in South Korea, South Africa and Turkey will need to resubscribe to confirm they accept the price increase. Users of similar subscription apps in Mexico won’t have their subscriptions interrupted, but they will still be getting a price increase. Apple is sending out emails to all subscribers in those countries to inform them of the price change and provide users with the necessary links to resubscribe.

Two new low-price tiers are coming to the Indian, Indonesian, Mexican, Russian, South African and Turkish App Stores too, along with updates to pricing in the tiers already in place in China’s App Store. Developers will be able to review the new pricing scheme in the Rights and Pricing section of My Apps. [via 9to5 Mac]

Apple debuts ‘Apple Tested Cases’ web page

Apple has introduced a new web page on its site featuring a list of third-party cases that the company has tested and certified for use with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Titled “Apple Tested Cases,” the page provides details on testing the company apparently does on third-party cases, including ensuring proper fit, performing drop testing, and making certain that cases don’t interfere with the camera, acoustics, various sensors, and cellular, Wi-Fi, and NFC signals. This move follows a report late last year that Apple would be introducing more stringent requirements for MFi case makers, and could be a result of these new standards for case certification. The bottom of the page provides a link to all of the cases sold by the Apple Store, all of which presumably meet all of the specified requirements under the MFi program.

Apple redesigning third-party accessory packaging for its stores

Apple is now co-designing packaging for third-party accessories sold in its Apple Stores, 9to5 Mac reports. Apple has been working with select accessory makers over the past six months, and redesigning boxes to be more in line with the packaging of Apple’s own products. According to a memo to Apple Store employees, the new packaging will be mostly white and include simpler fonts, better compatibility labeling and new product photography. The boxes will also be made of higher-quality materials, underscoring Apple’s emphasis on controlling the sourcing of its packaging products. Apple has helped produce new packaging for Tech21, Sena, Incase, Mophie, Logitech and LifeProof. As packaging that doesn’t fit the Apple look is phased out, the company will work with more accessory makers to expand the new packaging style. No hard timeline for the change has been released, but new boxes have already started showing up in larger Apple Stores.

As we’ve seen — and were told earlier this year — Apple has been pushing out many third-party case options in order to develop a “boutique” feel in stores. This new move to co-design third-party packaging follows those same lines.

Apple aims to bring back Home Sharing for music in iOS 9

A week after Apple quietly dropped the popular Home Sharing feature from the Music app in iOS 8.4, Senior VP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue has promised the company is “working to have Home Sharing in iOS 9.” In a tweet, Cue confirmed that Apple is trying to bring back the missing feature, which allows an iOS device to stream music from a computer running iTunes on a local Wi-Fi network. With Home Sharing going missing just as Apple Music debuted, some have speculated that the feature was removed because it competed with the new streaming service and the company’s paid iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library options. Home Sharing is still available in the Videos app, and other than Cue’s tweet, Apple hasn’t hasn’t commented on the change.

Appeals court: Apple conspired to fix e-book prices

A federal appeals court ruled against Apple Tuesday, affirming that the company conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices, Reuters reports. The 2-1 decision upheld a lower court ruling that the agreement that raised e-book prices to higher levels than those previously charged by Amazon violated antitrust laws. In his dissenting opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Dennis Jacobs said he would have reversed the ruling, holding that Apple’s behavior was pro-competitive in taking on “monopolist” Amazon, which controls about 90 percent of the e-book market.

Losing the appeal means Apple is on the hook for the previously determined $450 million settlement to resolve U.S. state and consumer claims from the case. The loss also means that Apple’s contentious relationship with its court-appointed antitrust monitor will continue. Neither Apple nor the Justice Department commented on the ruling.

Apple Music makes much-anticipated debut with iOS 8.4 release

Apple has released iOS 8.4, and with it, Apple Music makes its much-anticipated debut within the redesigned Music app. Apple Music’s DJ-curated Beats 1 station will begin broadcasting at 12 p.m. Eastern time. The full scope of Apple Music features will eventually cost $10/month, but all the features are available to users free of charge for the first three months. iOS 8.4 also includes iBooks improvements and bug fixes.

Apple Q3 earnings call set for July 21

Apple has announced that it will release its Q3 financial results on Tuesday, July 21. As usual, the company will conduct its conference call at 5 p.m. Eastern time that day. Apple previously provided guidance for Q3 of revenue between $46 billion and $48 billion, and gross margin between 38.5 percent and 39.5 percent. As always, iLounge will provide coverage of the results.

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