Apple’s online stores have been hit with an extended outage today, leading to speculation as to what might be behind the downtime. According to various reports and iLounge observations, the U.S. online store went down sometime prior to 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, and is still down at the time of this posting. Additionally, Apple’s normal placeholder image—“We’ll be back soon”—is rarely being seen, as the site is not loading at all for most users. As most online Apple Store outages feel carefully structured, coinciding with anticipated product launches, the disappearance of the Store this morning suggests that Apple may be facing data center or network problems, or that a significant backend overhaul is taking place. We’ll update this story when the store reappears to report on any changes.
Update: The store is back up in some areas and appears to be loading faster than before, but no other changes are immediately noticeable.
Apple has been sued in South Korea by a group of roughly 27,000 people claiming the company invaded their privacy by allowing their iPhones to collect location data without their consent. Bloomberg reports that the class action suit, which was filed in Changwon, south of Seoul, is seeking 1 million won—roughly $930—per person in damages. Apple was fined earlier this month by the Korea Communications Commission over the same issue, and was ordered to pay a 3 million won for its actions. According to Apple, iPhones running iOS 4 were for some time “maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around [the user’s] current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from [the user’s] iPhone, to help [the user’s] iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.” When the file containing the database was initially discovered, it set off a wave of speculation that Apple was secretly tracking the locations of its users, something the company expressly denied in its subsequent Q & A document.
Apple has plans to invest in a Sharp Corp factory in order to secure a supply of LCD screens for iPhones and iPads, according to a new report. Citing sources familiar with the matter, Reuters reports that the move has spurred speculation that Apple may move to diversify its range of suppliers in light of its ongoing legal dispute with Samsung. “If the situation escalates into a state of war, this could mean a huge shift in orders,” said one of the sources. The report notes that Sharp has already secured a contract with Apple to supply “power-efficient” screens for the sixth-generation iPhone, due in 2012. According to the report, Japanese media have said Apple’s investment may be as large as $1.3 billion; Sharp officials could not be reached for comment.
AT&T has installed 4G LTE equipment in at least one “major” Apple retail store, according to a new report. Citing an anonymous source, Engadget reports that one piece of the equipment supports only the 700MHz and AWS bands—both of which AT&T plans to use for its LTE network should its acquisition of T-Mobile receive regulatory approval. The picture accompanying the post is unfortunately of little use, as it does not show any specific, device-identifying labels, nor does it offer up any evidence suggesting that the photo was taken inside an Apple retail location. The report goes on to claim that the Apple Store in question, and all those in the region, are now trying to increase staffing by roughly 30 percent, for reasons unrelated to the company’s traditional holiday-season hiring.
Taiwan-based HTC has filed a lawsuit against Apple in U.S. District Court in Delaware, claiming patent infringement. According to a Reuters report, the complaint claims that Apple infringes on three HTC patents through the sale of Macintosh computers, iPads, iPods, iPhones, and “other devices,” and seeks an injunction against Apple’s importation and sale of the devices, compensatory damages, triple damages for willful infringement, and other remedies. The legal battle between the two companies dates back to March 2010 when Apple filed a patent infringement suit against HTC; HTC has since filed a complaint against Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission, while Apple has filed two such complaints against HTC. Last month, the ITC ruled in Apple’s favor in one of the complaints, prompting HTC to say that it was “open to having discussions” with Apple in the hopes of reaching a settlement.
Apple and Starbucks have expanded their long-running “Pick of the Week” promotion to include apps. The promotion, which debuted in April 2008, has offered a complimentary song or music video every week as a free download for Starbucks customers, via a card with a redeemable promo code on the back. Cnet reports that the apps are being distributed in the same manner, with the first app to be offered being Shazam Encore, the music-identifying app that normally sells for $5.99. The report states that Starbucks declined to comment on whether the apps take the place of that week’s music track or video.
Apple may be working behind the scenes to convince iOS game developers to raise their prices on certain titles, according to a Develop report. Speaking on stage at Edinburgh Interactive, Steve Ackerman, managing director of UK studio Somethin’ Else said, “Obviously Apple doesn’t promise anything in terms of promoting games, but before the release of Papa Sangre they said they were very interested in the game, and that they might promote it.” He continued, “They asked us how much we were going to sell it for, and we said maybe ₤1.99. They said ‘you must be joking, this is a premium app, this is worth more than the price of coffee.’” The game eventually launched at £3.99/$4.99, and has since sold more than 50,000 copies. It is unclear how common a practice this might be for Apple, or to how many developers it may offer pricing advice. [via Pocket Gamer]
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) has started trial production of Apple’s next-generation A6 processor, according to a new report. Citing industry sources, Taiwan Economic News reports that the production design is on schedule to be “taped out” in the first quarter of next year and publicly unveiled in the second quarter of 2012. The report states that TSMC is using a 28-nanometer process and 3D stacking technologies in the production of the A6, which once again is based on ARM architecture. TSMC was previously capable of handling processor production for Apple, according to the report, but had not pursued a relationship with the company due to limited production lines that were fully booked by existing customers including Nvidia and Qualcomm. If Apple follows its pattern of the last two years, it will debut the A6 in its next-generation iPad next year. [via BGR]
Apple is planning to hold its traditional music event on Wednesday, September 7, according to a new report. Citing a report from Japanese-language Kodawarsian based on information from a source “in the know,” Mac Rumors reports that the event’s timing is similar to events held the last three years, on September 1, 2010, September 9, 2009, and September 9, 2008, respectively. The website for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts—Apple’s preferred venue for the event in past years—shows no programs scheduled for September 7, suggesting that the space would be available. As noted in the report, Apple has normally used the event to introduce new iPod models, however, the company is widely expected to announce its next-generation iPhone instead of or in addition to whatever iPod models it may have ready as it did not announce a new iPhone at its earlier WWDC event, which it had done the three years prior.
Update: Jim Dalrymple of the Loop claims that Apple will not hold an event on September 7.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has said it will investigate a complaint of patent infringement filed by Apple against HTC. Bloomberg reports that in the complaint Apple is targeting HTC’s Flyer tablet computers as well as the Droid Incredible, Wildfire, EVO 4G and Desire phones, claiming that they infringe five patents related to software architecture and user interfaces in portable devices, hardware for touchscreens, and movement sensors. Notably, the ITC ruled last month that HTC violated two Apple patents in some of its Android-based phones. “HTC respects intellectual property and will continue to protect and defend its protected innovations,” Grace Lei, general counsel at HTC, said in an e-mail. “We will fully cooperate with the ITC’s investigation and look forward to showing that we are not in violation of any of Apple’s patents.” HTC released its seven-inch Flyer tablet in the U.S. in March.
Apple has filed a complaint against Motorola over its Xoom tablet in Europe. Citing a passage from Apple’s complaint against Samsung that led to a preliminary injunction, FOSS Patents reports that Apple has filed a similar complaint against Motorola over the design of its Xoom tablet, but that the passage in question doesn’t specify whether Apple is also seeking a preliminary injunction against Motorola. Apple and Motorola’s legal battle dates back to October 2010 when Motorola sued Apple for patent infringement, leading to a countersuit from Apple.
Apple has started sending app purchase notification emails to iTunes Store users in an effort to curb app purchase fraud. According to Mac Rumors, an email is sent when a user’s Apple ID is used to make a purchase on the App Store from a new device. One such email—reprinted in the report—states, “Your Apple ID [redacted] was just used to purchase [a specific app] from the App Store on a computer or device that had not previously been associated with that Apple ID. If you made this purchase, you can disregard this email. This email was sent as a safeguard designed to protect you against unauthorized purchases. If you did not make this purchase, we recommend that you go to iforgot.apple.com to change your password.” The report notes that Apple already requires credit card users to reenter the three or four digit CID number from their credit cards to authenticate new devices, but no similar authentication system is in place for users with gift card balances.
Apple and five leading U.S. book publishers have been hit with a class-action lawsuit over eBook pricing. According to a statement on the website of Hagens Berman, the firm that filed the suit, Apple, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster are accused of colluding to increase the prices on popular eBook titles in order to boost profits and force Amazon to abandon its “pro-consumer discount pricing.” The suit claims that Apple and the publishers are in violation of a variety of federal and state antitrust laws, the Sherman Act, the Cartwright Act, and the Unfair Competition Act, and, if approved, would represent any purchaser of an eBook published by a major publisher after the adoption of the agency model—the pricing model used on the iBookstore. It seeks damages for the purchase od the books, an injunction against pricing eBooks with the agency model and “the forfeiture of the illegal profits received by the defendants as a result of their anticompetitive conduct.” [via TUAW]
Marking another major milestone in its 15-year resurgence, Apple today passed Exxon Mobil to become the most valuable company in the world. As of this writing, Apple’s shares are priced at $365.79, giving the Cupertino, CA-based company a market capitalization of $363.95 billion, ever so slightly ahead of Exxon, which, at $70.01 per share, has a market cap of $363.78 billion, according to Marketwatch. As with any stock-based company claim, Apple’s position as the world’s most valuable company is subject to the volatile stock market and could change from day to day or hour to hour. That said, even briefly holding such a prestigious title is quite an achievement for the once nearly liquidated company, and deserves special recognition.
Apple has been granted a preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the European Union. Citing German-language dpa, FOSS Patents reports that the injunction bars distribution of Samsung’s largest tablet in the entire European Union, save for the Netherlands. In its argument supporting the injunction, Apple claimed that the Tab imitates the iPad and infringes on various IP rights owned by Apple. Apple asked for an injunction under which Samsung is threatened with fines of up to €250,000 (roughly $356,000) for each violation or imprisonment of Samsung’s management in the event of continued infringement, which are “standard sanctions” under German law, according to the report. Notably, Florian Mueller, the author of the post, is a resident of Germany, and states that the Düsseldorf district court—in which the case is being tried—is similar to the Eastern District court of Texas in its tendency to side with the patent holders in such disputes.
Apple over the weekend released the fifth beta version of its upcoming iOS 5 operating system for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Listed as build 9A5288d and available exclusively to paid iOS developers, the release does not appear to include any major changes from prior versions, and is once again accompanied by matching beta versions of the iOS 5 SDK, iTunes 10.5, and Apple TV Software. iOS 5 beta 5 is now available to paid iOS developers from the iOS Dev Center.
David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer for Google, has posted an open letter in which he accuses Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, and others of waging “a hostile, organized campaign against Android” using what he calls “bogus” patents. “They’re doing this by banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents (the “CPTN” group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel’s old patents (the “Rockstar” group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn’t get them; seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Phone 7; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it,” he writes.
“This anti-competitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth,” Drummond continues. “The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion. Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means — which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop.”
Following the publication of Drummond’s post, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith stated on Twitter that Microsoft asked Google to bid jointly for the Nortel patents, and that they said no, a claim corroborated by screenshot of an email to Smith from Google General Counsel Kent Walker stating as much, which was published online by Frank X. Shaw of Microsoft. Notably, Google attempted to purchase the Nortel patents on its own, despite its inference that they are of a “dubious” nature; Apple has yet to respond on the issue.
Apple has been fined by the Korea Communications Commission over the iPhone location tracking issue that arose earlier this year. Reuters reports that Apple’s South Korean unit was fined 3 million won, or roughly $2,855, due to the fact that iPhones were, according to Apple, “maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around [the user’s] current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from [the user’s] iPhone, to help [the user’s] iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.” When the file containing the database was initially discovered, it set off a wave of speculation that Apple was secretly tracking the locations of its users, something the company expressly denied in its subsequent Q & A document.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has announced that it will investigate an Apple complaint filed against Samsung claiming patent infringement. According to an announcement on the ITC website, the investigation will include “mobile phone handsets and tablet computers, in addition to components such as software, touchpads, and hardware interfaces;” Apple is said to be seeking an exclusion order and cease and desist orders. As noted when Apple originally filed its complaint against Samsung in July, Apple is likely targeting models similar to the Infuse 4G, Galaxy S 4G, Droid Charge, and Galaxy Tab 10.1, all of which it is attempting to block with a preliminary injunction in the companies’ ongoing case in California.
Apple has once again lowered its shipping times for the iPad 2. For the first time since the device’s launch in March, all models of the iPad 2 are listed as shipping “Within 24hrs” on Apple’s U.S. online store. Apple most recently dopped the shipment estimate to 1-3 business days; the estimated wait for an iPad 2 as recently as July 1 was 1-2 weeks.