Apple is working with several organizations, including Facebook, Uber, and Google parent company Alphabet, to draft a letter to President Donald Trump opposing the travel ban that has recently been imposed. Recode reports that while the effort is being led by tech companies, they are working to involve other industries in what will be the first major push from large U.S. corporations to try and support more open immigration in the wake of President Trump’s recent executive order suspending travel from seven largely Muslim countries and barring Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. completely. Recode was also able to obtain the following draft of the letter.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is considering legal action and contacting “very, very senior people in the White House” in an effort to reverse President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, The Wall Street Journal reports. Cook said the order suspending travel from seven countries has affected hundreds of Apple employees. In a note to employees, Cook offered Apple’s full support to anyone impacted by the order, advising the company’s legal, human resources and security teams to do everything they can, but declined to get specific about what Apple’s possible legal action would entail, saying only that “we want to be constructive and productive.” Cook said he has heard numerous “heart-wrenching stories” about the order’s impact on his employees. “These are people that have friends and family, Cook said. “They’re co-workers. They’re taxpayers. They’re key parts of the community.”
Kicking off Apple’s investor conference call following the company’s announcement of quarterly numbers for Q1 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the quarterly results represented the highest revenue in Apple’s history, along with breaking unit and revenue records for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, services, and Mac, as well as four out of five major geographic segments where Apple operates. Cook explained that the iPhone had a tremendous quarter thanks to exceptional demand, and that the iPhone 7 Plus demand was especially strong and represented a higher portion of the new product mix than Apple has ever seen with prior “Plus” models. Apple Pay users more than tripled over the past year, with four new countries added in the past quarter, bringing Apple Pay into a total of 13 markets; hundreds of millions of transactions and billions of dollars in purchases were made using Apple Pay in the December quarter alone. Cook also noted that Apple Pay on the web has been a success with over two million small businesses now able to accept online invoice payments using Apple Pay via services such as Intuit and Freshbooks, and revealed that soon Comcast customers will be able to pay their bills online using Apple Pay. Mac also returned to growth in the prior quarter with the release of the new MacBook Pro models and generated its highest quarterly revenue ever. Cook noted that most customers in the quarter were buying their first Mac, with the majority coming from the Windows platform.
Apple reported its first quarter 2017 financial results today, with 78.3 million iPhones and 13 million iPads sold. The company posted all-time record quarterly revenue of $78.4 billion and quarterly earnings of $3.36 per diluted share. In Q1 2016, Apple had revenue of $75.9 billion and earnings of $3.28 per diluted share.
For Q2 2017, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $51.5 billion and $53.5 billion, and gross margin between 38 percent and 39 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website. We’ll have a recap shortly after.
Apple has deleted the Activation Lock checker from its website, effectively removing one method which helps customers verify that used products haven’t been stolen. First spotted by 9to5Mac, the change is also reflected in Apple’s Find My iPhone support documentation, which used to recommend running the serial number of a device though the ‘Check Activation Lock Status’ page on iCloud before buying it. Now the page that once hosted the verification tool ends in a 404 error.
In a note to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook voiced his opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven countries and said the company’s legal, human resources and security teams were in the process of supporting employees “directly affected” by the ban, The Verge reports. Cook said he made it clear to the White House that he opposes the ban, explaining “the negative effect on our coworkers and our company.” A copy of Trump’s proposed changes to the work-visa program obtained by Bloomberg shows Apple may soon have more to worry about, with the draft executive order demanding companies work harder to hire American workers first and give priority to hiring higher-paid foreign workers over those making low wages. “Visa programs for foreign workers … should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers—our forgotten working people—and the jobs they hold,” the draft order reads.
A new report by Reuters comparing Apple and Amazon’s home automation strategies provides some interesting insight into the very different approaches that the two companies are taking to the home automation market. Suggesting that Amazon’s recent successes in the home automation arena may pose new competition for Apple, the report details some of the challenges that Apple and its partners face in delivering HomeKit solutions that are up to the company’s standard. Apple takes a stringent approach in ensuring that its home automation platform remains secure, so manufacturers who wish to produce HomeKit-compatible solutions must incorporate special chips into their products — this is the main reason why HomeKit support cannot be added to legacy products via firmware updates — and Apple also requires developers to incorporate specific Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips into their hardware. These requirements increase costs, although even companies purchasing in smaller volumes suggest that the numbers are only around $0.50 to $2 per chip for the specialized chips. Additional costs for the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips weren’t discussed.
Apple is planning to move its international iTunes operations to Ireland in early February, AppleInsider reports. Apple announced to developers this week that Apple Distribution International will be transferring the iTunes business — which includes the iTunes Store, Apple Music, App Store, and iBooks Store for over 100 countries — to Cork, Ireland on Feb. 5. Apple’s overseas iTunes operations have been based in Luxembourg since 2004. Apple has been working to streamline the transition for content owners since last fall, transferring contracts to the new Irish holding company, and making arrangements for special exporter status in Ireland, which — among other things — means apps made by developers in Ireland will be free or Irish VAT. The transfer is estimated to involve approximately $9 billion in assets, and are no doubt connected to many of the other business projects that Apple has been building within Ireland over the past year.
Apple has taken steps to join the Partnership on AI, an artificial intelligence research group that already includes other leading companies in the field such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google, Bloomberg reports. Formed last September, Partnership on AI is a non-profit organization “established to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.” While Apple’s traditionally secretive approach has hampered its AI research, in December the company announced that it would begin taking a more active role in the artificial intelligence research community by publishing some of its findings. According to people familiar with the situation, Apple’s admission into the organization could be announced as early as this week. Representatives at Apple and the Partnership on AI declined to comment.
Update (01/27/2017): Partnership on AI has formally announced Apple’s induction into the organization as a founding member:
Apple has joined the Partnership on AI as a founding member. The company has been involved and collaborating with the Partnership since before it was first announced and is thrilled to formalize its membership alongside Amazon, Facebook, Google/DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft.
Tom Gruber, co-founder of Siri, will represent Apple on the organization’s Board of Trustees, alongside new representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence & ASU, the MacArthur Foundation, OpenAI, the Peterson Institute of International Economics, and UC Berkeley, expanding the board beyond its original five members from Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft.
Apple has hired Greg Duffy, the co-founder of security camera firm Dropcam, The Information reports. An Apple spokesperson has confirmed that Duffy, who ended up at the Google-owned Nest after the company he founded was acquired in 2014, will be joining Apple but declined to comment on his role. Like other recent high-profile hires by Apple, people close to the matter have speculated that Duffy is “likely to be leading a special project at Apple that is operating like a startup within the company.” Duffy’s background also suggests a possibility that his role may be related to Apple’s HomeKit home automation framework. [via TechCrunch]
Apple has filed a new lawsuit against Qualcomm in Beijing, seeking 1 billion yuan ($145.32 million) in damages, Reuters reports. The suit claims that Qualcomm has abused its clout in the chip industry, while a second lawsuit also filed by Apple accused Qualcomm failing to deliver on promises it made to inexpensively license “standard essential patents.” This latest lawsuit follows other recent legal struggles for Qualcomm in the U.S., including a filing made by Apple in California last Friday which accused Qualcomm of monopolizing the wireless chip market and withholding $1 billion in patent rebates owing to Apple, as well as a complaint filed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last week in which it accused the chip maker of “using anticompetitive tactics to maintain its monopoly in the supply of a key semiconductor device used in cell phones.”
After a meeting with Apple representatives today, a government official in India said an agreement to get the company to open manufacturing facilities in the country is “almost a done deal,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Despite earlier concerns that offering concessions to Apple would prove too costly and bring little benefit to the country, an official with direct knowledge of the negotiations now claims, “Many of the incentives sought by Apple are workable.” Apple has requested a 15-year tax holiday on the duties usually collected on imported components and equipment to open up shop in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been actively working to draw foreign investment in India, and a top bureaucrat in Modi’s office said the government intends to “settle with Apple.” For Apple’s part, a company spokeswoman said only, “We appreciate the constructive and open dialogue we’ve had with [the] government about further expanding our local operations.”
Apple has revealed plans to allow developers to respond to customer reviews on both the iOS and Mac App Stores as of the public release of iOS 10.3. The “What’s New in iOS” section of Apple’s Developer Documentation notes that developer responses will be posted “in a way that is available for all customers to see,” presumably allowing developers to counter negative reviews with official explanations. Little other information is given, such as whether customers will be able to respond in turn to comments from developers, or what other moderation processes may be implemented. Apple also notes a new API being introduced in iOS 10.3 will allow developers to more efficiently handle in-app review requests without having to take the user out of the app and send them to the App Store. A new option in the iTunes & App Store settings in iOS 10.3 will also allow users to opt out of being prompted for in-app ratings and reviews, although it’s likely this setting will only affect apps that are updated to use the new iOS 10.3 API for requesting reviews.
Following yesterday’s release of iOS 10.2.1 and tvOS 10.1.1, Apple has rolled out its first betas of iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2. Featuring a build number of 14E5230e, the iOS 10.3 beta adds Location and Play Sound for AirPods as part of the Find My iPhone feature, allowing users to initiate a high volume sound emission from AirPods to aid in locating them, although there is no mention in the release notes of the “theater mode” that was rumored to be included in iOS 10.3. The release notes for iOS 10.3 beta 1 also mention that new SiriKit car commands are in development — although the notes do not expand on the feature — and that the emergency SOS feature remains supported only in India. Enhancements to WebKit will allow web developers to create alternative page styles that respect the “Reduce Motion” setting on iOS devices.
The release notes for tvOS 10.2 beta 1 note that the update now adds accelerated scrolling support for UIKit and TVMLKit apps that will allow users to scroll through large views of content much more quickly using large swipes of the Siri Remote, as well as an index that can be accessed by swiping on the far right side of the Siri Remote. Device Enrollment and Mobile Device Management support has also been expanded for provisioning Apple TVs in enterprise and education environments.
Indian government officials are likely to reject Apple’s request for a lower tax bracket, customs duty holidays, and other concessions in exchange for setting up manufacturing facilities in the country, the Economic Times of India reports. Apple officials are set to meet with representatives from India’s government Wednesday to lay out the company’s case for the incentives, but government representatives signaled last week that any changes made to benefit Apple would have to apply to all 42 other companies currently building mobile phones in India. One unnamed official told The Financial Times they were doubtful there would be enough incentive for the country to approve such a sweeping change. “Since there is a strong co-relation between value-addition and job creation, value-addition remains a priority for us. The ‘Make in India’ program would suffer if every foreign player starts to demand concessions without actually doing much of value addition here,” the source said.
Apple released iOS 10.2.1 to the public today. The update for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch offers bug fixes and performance improvements — a minor update, all things considered. We’ll let you know of any particularly notable improvements or surprising new features. iOS 10.2.1 is rolling out now, so it should be available shortly if you don’t see it yet. As always, it can be downloaded through iTunes, or over-the-air in Settings > General > Software Update.
Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou said his company is considering a $7 billion investment with Apple in a “highly automated” display production facility inside the U.S., Nikkei Asian Review reports. Gou estimated the proposed facility would create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs — local production could be a better solution for Foxconn than importing screens from China as demand increases. The company is also planning a new molding facility in the U.S., considering Pennsylvania as a possible location if investment details can be worked out with local officials.
Apple has filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm, accusing it of monopolizing the wireless chip market as well as withholding $1 billion in retaliation for cooperating with South Korean antitrust authorities, Bloomberg reports. In the suit, Apple claims that Qualcomm is holding back $1 billion in money that was supposed to be a rebate for licensing fees, stating that Qualcomm is doing so as a punishment in response to Apple’s cooperation with Korean antitrust regulators. Apple is also challenging several key Qualcomm wireless technology patents in the complaint, asking the court to either declare the patents invalid, or if they are upheld, to significantly reduce the royalty amounts that Qualcomm is presently charging for their use.
Apple has announced a new set of design resources to assist developers in building apps for iOS 10, providing guidelines and templates for all of the UIKit controls, views, and glyphs available to developers within the iOS SDK, and recommendations for the appropriate ways in which to use them to match the iOS design language. The new Apple UI Design Resources page also includes templates that can be opened in Photoshop and Sketch, complete with icon and glyph production files that have been preconfigured to automate asset production in the appropriate tools.
The European Commission has announced a joint decision between Apple and Audible to end their exclusive arrangement for the sale of audiobooks on the iTunes Store, potentially opening up competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe. Audible has been Apple’s exclusive supplier of audiobook titles for the iTunes Store since its debut in 2003, preventing other companies that provide downloadable audiobooks from accessing the iTunes Store, as well as precluding Audible from supplying its titles to other third-party platforms — although the agreement has not prevented Audible, which is now owned by Amazon, from selling its audiobooks directly to consumers. The new agreement between Amazon/Audible and Apple came following communications with the European Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office, who were looking into antitrust concerns around the exclusivity arrangement following a complaint raised by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, which raised several other complaints against Audible as well.