During his recent visit to China, Apple CEO Tim Cook took time out to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Li Kegiang. According to a Xinhua report, the two men discussed intellectual property rights protection and economic development. “To be more open to the outside is a condition for China to transform its economic development, expand domestic demands and conduct technological innovation,” Li said. He continued on to say that trade and economic cooperation are an “important cornerstone” for the cooperative partnership of mutual respect and reciprocity that China and the U.S. are trying to establish. Li also called on multinational companies to expand cooperation with China, participate in development of western China, pay more attention to workers, and share development opportunities. Cook, for his part, said Apple will strengthen comprehensive cooperation with China, and conduct business in an honest, law-abiding manner. [via Engadget]
According to a new survey, half of all US households now own at least one Apple product. CNBC reports that its All-America Economic survey found that one out of every ten households that don’t currently own an Apple product plan to purchase one over the next year. In addition, homes that own at least one Apple product own an average of three, meaning that the average American household owns 1.6 Apple devices, with nearly 25 percent planning to buy at least one more in the next year. The survey found that Apple customers tend to be young, male, and college-educated, and the more money a person earns, the more Apple products they’re likely to own. The All-America Economic survey was conducted over landline and cellphone among 836 Americans from March 19 to March 22, with a margin of error of plus/minus 3.4 percent.
In the wake of a potential complaint from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Apple has agreed to clarify claims that the third-generation iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G is compatible with 4G networks. Earlier this week, the ACCC announced plans to file a complaint against Apple over what it considered to be “misleading” marketing. In addition to clarifying the device’s cellular capabilities in a statement in its stores and on its website that reads, ““This product supports very fast cellular networks. It is not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE networks and Wi-Max networks”, Apple also said that it would offer refunds to early purchasers who feel they were misled. Ultimately, the ACCC wants Apple to stop marketing the device as the “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G”, while it appears that Apple wants to retain the moniker, and feels that the extra disclaimers will be sufficient to eliminate confusion.
Apple, along with Sony, HTC, LG, and Samsung, has been sued by Graphics Properties, which claims the various companies’ products infringes on its patents. Reuters reports that company—formerly known as Silicon Graphics—alleges that Apple and the other companies named in the suit infringe upon a patent related to a computer graphics process that turns text and images into pixels to be displayed on mobile screens. Named in the suit are the iPhone, HTC’s EVO 4G, LG’s Thrill, Samsung’s Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, and Sony’s Xperia Play smartphones. Graphics Properties is seeking to stop sales of infringing products, as well as royalties and other damages.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been spotted taking a tour of an Apple Store in China, leading to speculation that he is there to meet with the country’s three wireless carriers. Citing reports on Chinese micro-blogging service Sina Weibo, AppleInsider reports that a photo of Cook from the Joy City Apple Store in Beijing was posted at 11:00 a.m. “People familiar with the matter” suggested that Cook may be in the area to discuss Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone with China Unicom and China Telecom, the company’s two current carrier partners in the country; it is possible he is also there for talks with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier and the last carrier holdout for Apple in China.
In an going dispute with Motorola Mobility, RIM, and Nokia over Apple’s proposed nano-SIM card, Apple has made a surprisingly generous offer in exchange for the standardization of the technology. Citing a “perfectly reliable source”, FOSS Patents reports that Apple sent a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) last week, in which it made a commitment to grant royalty-free licenses to any and all Apple patents essential to nano-SIM. The proposal would only become effective if Apple’s proposal is adopted as a standard, and all other patent holders accept the same terms in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.
As noted in the report, the move shows that Apple is serious about establishing the nano-SIM standard, as it should nullify concerns of other handset manufacturers who worried that Apple might eventually own all the patents related to the technology, and thus give it the ability to charge royalties on any nano-SIM-compatible handsets. The new standard proposals are expected to be discussed at ETSI’s Smart Card Platform Plenary meeting later this week.
A newly published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on universal remote control functionality for its iOS devices. Patently Apple reports that the new invention relates to a configurable remote control, or more specifically, an iPhone or similar device with IR transmission capabilities. According to the patent, users would be able to snap a photo of their current remote controls using the device; the photo would then be sent to iCloud for analysis, which would send back a “virtual copy” of the remote for use on the device’s touchscreen. As with all Apple patents, this application does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research and interest in this area.
Two members of the U.S. Congress have sent letters to a number of iOS developers seeking information about how they comply with Apple’s privacy policies. The Next Web reports that House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Chairman Fred Upton sent letters to Tapbots, Twitter, Foodspotting, Turntable.fm,, Trover, Instagram’s Burbn, Path, Facebook, SoundCloud, Apple, and others, asking—in addition to the question about privacy policies above—how they gather information from users and what they do with that information afterwards. The representatives has asked that the answers to the eight questions be delivered no later than April 12, 2012. The inquiry follows the discovery that social networking app Path, along with many other apps, was uploading iOS users’ contact data to their servers; Path immediately issued an apology, and Apple soon vowed to require user approval for access to contact data. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple today launched its third-generation iPad in 24 additional countries, bringing the total number of countries in which the device has launched to 34. Alongside last week’s launches in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, UK and the US Virgin Islands, the new iPad launched today in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Apple announced that it sold three million third-generation iPad units in four days earlier this week.
Apple has revealed that its new iPhoto app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch hit the one million user mark less than 10 days after its release. Without quoting any particular representative of the company, The Loop reports that the number is based on individual users, and not downloads, which could inflate the figure. Apple introduced iPhoto for iOS during its special media event earlier this month; the app became available that same day. For more information on iPhoto for iOS, see our full review.
Apple has issued a statement on the heat generated by the third-generation iPad during extended/demanding use. “The new iPad delivers a stunning Retina display, A5X chip, support for 4G LTE plus 10 hours of battery life, all while operating well within our thermal specifications,” Apple representative Trudy Muller said in a statement to The Loop. “If customers have any concerns they should contact AppleCare.” As noted in our prior report on thermal images comparing the new device to the iPad 2, the measurements taken during the imaging process showed that while the device was indeed warmer than its predecessor, it was within Apple’s normal operating temperatures as listed on its iPad Tech Specs page.
Apple today announced that it has sold three million units of the third-generation iPad since the device’s launch on Friday. “The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold―the strongest iPad launch yet,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can’t wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday.” Schiller is referring to the second wave of launches scheduled for later this week, which will see the third-generation iPad go on sale at 8:00 a.m. local time in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
During the company’s conference call to discuss its dividend and stock buyback plan, Apple CEO Tim Cook indicated that the company was very happy with opening-weekend sales of the third-generation iPad. “We had a record weekend, and we’re thrilled with it,” Cook said; the company similarly declined to share exact launch weekend sales numbers for the iPad 2 after its launch last year. During the same conference call, Cook explained that the company felt extremely confident in its future product pipeline and potential growth opportunities, and also joked that the company loves to announce new products, just not during conference calls, after being asked about the product pipeline.
Update: AT&T has announced that it saw record iPad sales and activations on launch day, Friday, March 16.
Update x2: Verizon has also commented on its early sales. “We are quite pleased with sales, which have been brisk through the weekend, and we are excited to offer customers an alternative that lets them enjoy their new iPad on the nation’s largest 4G LTE network,” a company representative told AllThingsD.
Apple announced this morning that it plans to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program later this year. According to the announcement, the company plans to offer a quarterly dividend of $2.65 per share sometime in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2012, which begins on July 1. In addition, Apple’s Board of Directors has authorized a $10 billion share repurchase program to begin during its fiscal 2013, which begins on September 30, 2012. The repurchase program will be executed over three years, with the primary goal being to neutralize the impact of dilution from future employee equity grants and employee stock purchase programs.
“We have used some of our cash to make great investments in our business through increased research and development, acquisitions, new retail store openings, strategic prepayments and capital expenditures in our supply chain, and building out our infrastructure. You’ll see more of all of these in the future,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Even with these investments, we can maintain a war chest for strategic opportunities and have plenty of cash to run our business. So we are going to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program.”
“Combining dividends, share repurchases, and cash used to net-share-settle vesting RSUs, we anticipate utilizing approximately $45 billion of domestic cash in the first three years of our programs,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “We are extremely confident in our future and see tremendous opportunities ahead.”
Apple will hold a conference call at 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time/9:00 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss its plans.
Apple this morning confirmed yesterday’s report that it will begin to sell the third-generation iPad at 8:00 a.m. local time on Friday, March 16. As revealed last week during the company’s special press event, the device will initially launch in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, and the UK, along with Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. In the US, the third-generation iPad will be available at Apple’s retail stores, as well as Best Buy, Radio Shack, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart. Apple will continue its rollout of the device on March 23, when it launches in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Apple last week released its new Configurator tool, a spiritual successor to the standard iPhone Configuration Utility. According to the tool’s release notes, it allows schools, businesses, and other institutions to configure up to 30 devices at a time, update those devices to the latest version of iOS, create and restore a backup of settings and app data from one device to other devices, create and install iOS configuration profiles, and enroll devices with a Mobile Device Management solution for remote management.
It also allows for the supervision of devices, including automatic application of common configurations to devices and the importation and syncing of apps, as well as the assigning of devices to users using Open Directory or Active Directory, letting a user check out a device and have their settings and data restores, check in a device and have the data backed up for future use—possibly on another device—and the syncing of documents, among other features. Apple’s Configurator tool requires Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 or later and is a free download from the Mac App Store.
During its negotiations late last year, Motorola Mobility attempted to win a wide-reaching patent license from Apple in return for access to Motorola’s SEPs (standards-essential patents). Citing the European Commission’s clearance decision on Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents reports that the negotiations in question took place in November 2011, and resulted in Apple declining to send a representative who could negotiate a settlement to a December court hearing in Munich.
The portion of the European Commission document in question reads: “For instance, according to Apple, Motorola Mobility has insisted that Apple cross-licenses its full non-SEP portfolio in exchange for Motorola Mobility’s SEPs. Apple also argues that its refusal to accede to this demand led Motorola Mobility to sue Apple in an attempt to exclude Apple’s products from the market. On the terms of Apple’s own argument, Motorola Mobility’s allegedly anti-competitive behaviour in this regard well precedes the merger at issue in the present decision.” Mueller suggests that Apple’s reluctance to provide access to its full patent portfolio will continue to be the key issue in negotiations between the two sides.
Apple senior vice president of Industrial Design Jony Ive has given a rare interview to the London Evening Standard in which he makes several interesting statements regarding the strengths of Apple’s long-tenured, multidisciplinary design team and the difference between Apple’s approach to design and those of competitors. “The way we work at Apple is that the complexity of these products really makes it critical to work collaboratively, with different areas of expertise. I think that’s one of the things about my job I enjoy the most,” Ive said, responding to a question about his small team. “I work with silicon designers, electronic and mechanical engineers, and I think you would struggle to determine who does what when we get together. We’re located together, we share the same goal, have exactly the same preoccupation with making great products.”
“One of the other things that enables this is that we’ve been doing this together for many years - there is a collective confidence when you are facing a seemingly insurmoutable challenge, and there were multiple times on the iPhone or iPad where we have to think ‘will this work’ we simply didn’t have points of reference,” he continued. “For as long as we’ve been doing this, I am still surprised how difficult it is to do this, but you know exactly when you’re there - it can be the smallest shift, and suddenly transforms the object, without any contrivance.” Finally, discussing consumers’ care for design, Ive said, “One of the things we’ve really learnt over the last 20 years is that while people would often struggle to articulate why they like something - as consumers we are incredibly discerning, we sense where has been great care in the design, and when there is cynicism and greed.”
The Rockstar Consortium, a patent group co-owned by Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Ericsson, and Sony, has announced that the US Department of Justice waiting period for review of its proposed acquisition of a substantial majority of the former Nortel Networks patent portfolio has expired. The expiration clears the way for Rockstar to close the deal, giving Apple and its partners access to roughly 4,000 patent assets “spanning wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, Internet, service provider, semiconductors and other patents.” Rockstar won an auction for the patents last summer with a bid of $4.5 billion, $2.6 billion of which was provided by Apple.
In a statement released to USA Today over the weekend, Apple confirmed that it has sold out of all third-generation iPad pre-order stock available for delivery on launch day. “Customer response to the new iPad has been off the charts and the quantity available for pre-order has been purchased,” Apple said in the statement. “Customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date.” On Friday, shipping times for new pre-orders slipped from March 16 to March 19, and Apple’s online store in the US now lists all new orders as shipping in 2-3 weeks. Apple will officially launch the third-generation iPad on March 16.