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Apple receives patent for touch-sensitive bezel

  • February 3, 2010
  • Apple,

image

A newly-published Apple patent suggests the company is working on touch-sensitive bezel, which would allow it to expand its touch-based interfaces beyond the perimeter of the screen. The patent describes a number of different implementations, including a force-sensitive touch surface, a multi-touch input surface, and other input methods, and each is described as applicable to the iPod, computers, and other portable devices. According to the patent, the bezel would be used to manipulate or control what is being displayed on the screen, based on which part of the bezel was being touched; in addition, these menu-like selections could be made to rotate around the bezel as the device’s orientation is changed. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via Patently Apple]

U.S. Senator probes Apple, others about practices in China

  • February 2, 2010
  • Apple,

Dick Durbin, a United States Senator from the state of Illinois and Assistant Senate Majority Leader, has asked a group of 30 U.S. companies, including Apple, for more information on their business practices in China. Reuters reports that the request was spurred by Google’s decision to cease cooperation with Chinese Internet censorship programs. “Google sets a strong example in standing up to the Chinese government’s continued failure to respect the fundamental human rights of free expression and privacy. I look forward to learning more about whether other American companies are willing to follow Google’s lead,” Durbin said in a statement. Apple’s 2009 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report (PDF Link) notes that while the company’s products and components are manufactured by a wide variety of suppliers around the world, the final assembly of most products occurs in China. The report states that of the 83 facilities audited, 97% of the core issues assed were in compliance with Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct. More information on Apple and its relationship with suppliers and manufacturing partners can be found on the company’s Supplier Responsibility page.

Jobs speaks out on Android, Adobe at Town Hall event

  • February 1, 2010
  • Apple,

Apple CEO Steve Jobs held a Town Hall meeting for Apple employees last week following the announcement of the iPad tablet, offering his views on a number of topics, including the company’s increasing competition from Google, according to several reports. Although all details from the event are second-hand reports, and are therefore open to some interpretation, Jobs reportedly said that Google attacked Apple by entering the phone business, instead of Apple going after the search market. John Gruber of Daring Fireball quotes a source claiming that Jobs said “teams at Google want to kill us,” but that Apple won’t let them, and added that the company’s “Don’t be evil” mantra is “a load of crap.”

Wired reports that Jobs also called out Adobe for being lazy, as he said they have the potential to do interesting things but simply refuse. Jobs also said that Apple doesn’t support Flash on its iPhone OS devices because it’s buggy, and that no one will be using Flash going forward as the online community focuses on HTML5 development. Finally, Mac Rumors received an anonymous submission that included some extra details, including statements from Jobs that Apple plans to deliver agressive updates to the iPhone that Android/Google won’t be able to keep up with, that Jobs considers the iPad to be on a similar level of importance as the iPhone and Mac, and that the next iPhone will be an “A+” update.

Nokia disputes Apple’s ‘largest mobile device company’ claim

  • January 29, 2010
  • Apple,

In a posting on Nokia’s official Conversations blog, Mark Squires, head of social media communications for the Finnish company, has disputed Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ claim that Apple is, by revenue, now “the largest mobile devices company in the world.” The article refers to a story from Finnish paper Helsingin Sanomat, quoting Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo saying that Nokia is the world’s biggest mobile device manufacturer, when using a “generally accepted and stable definition of mobile devices,” which excludes laptops. Squires then references Sanomat’s revenue comparison between the two company’s October-December financial results, which stated that Nokia saw revenue of €8.18 billion from its devices and services business during the period, while Apple—even using its own definition of mobile devices—saw revenue of only €7.25 billion.

An analysis of Apple’s reported earnings (PDF Link) does not bear this out, however, as Apple’s revenue from iPod, iPhone, and laptop sales was $11.73 billion, or €8.45 billion, during the December quarter. Removing revenue from laptop sales does leave Apple behind Nokia, resulting in revenues of $8.97 billion, or €6.46 billion, during the period; it is unclear how Helsingin Sanomat arrived at the €7.25 billion number, but it appears to be incorrect. Squires goes on to point out that Nokia remains far ahead of Apple in terms of total devices sold. Nokia and Apple have recently been engaged in an ongoing legal battle, each company accusing the other of patent infringement, with the U.S. International Trade Commission launching an official probe into possible infringement on Apple’s part earlier this week.

Complete transcript of Apple’s iPad special event

  • January 27, 2010
  • Apple,

Below is a complete transcript of iLounge’s live coverage from Apple’s iPad media event, held on January 27, 2010. Updates are presented in reverse chronological order; photos from the event can be seen on iLounge’s Flickr account.

12:09 PM: A brief update for those still watching this feed - we just went hands on with new Accessories. There’s a new VGA to Dock Connector Adapter ($29) for attaching the iPad to a projector or monitor. A Camera Accessory Kit ($29) that comes with a USB adapter and a SD card reader in one package, two separate pieces, to let the iPad import photos from a camera or card. The Keyboard Dock ($69) with a normal keyboard grafted on to the front of a plastic dock. A standard Dock ($29) with audio and dock connector ports on the back. And an Apple case ($39) made from plastic and microfiber, with a front flap that folds backwards to serve as a stand. Finally, there’s a new 10W power adapter that is included with the iPad or sold separately for $29; it uses a Dock Connector but obviously supplies more power than a typical USB port. There’s nothing amazing about any of these items, but they’re all coming.

WSJ: Apple seeking $10-$15 e-book pricing

  • January 27, 2010
  • Apple,

In its negotiations with book publishers, Apple has been pushing for e-book pricing in the range of $10-$15, according to a new report. Citing publishers that have met directly with Apple, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is asking publishers to set two price points—$12.99 and $14.99—for hardcover best sellers, with fewer titles offered for $9.99. Under this scheme, publishers would set their own book prices, with Apple taking a 30% cut, the same it takes for regular paid apps published and sold on the App Store. The report also states that Apple was in “11th-hour” negotiations with publishers, some of which are hesitant to sign up with Apple due to the fact that they would receive lower per-book revenue than they do from Amazon, which is taking a loss on many of its $9.99 offerings. Apple is expected to announce details of its tablet device at its special media event later today.

Purported tablet images appear ahead of event

  • January 27, 2010
  • Apple,

A handful of new photos purportedly showing Apple’s upcoming tablet have been published online. Engadget reports that it received the images from an anonymous source; the images show a tablet-sized device bolted inside some sort of testing frame, with a home button at the bottom of the tablet when held vertically, what appears to be a dock connector port directly below that more holes to its right, another set of holes on the left-hand side of the device, which would be the bottom when turned for horizontal use, and, in a couple of the images, a large-screen version of maps running on the screen. A fourth image shows an iPhone resting on top of the screen to provide scale. We have included one of the images below for those readers who’d like to stay clear of any spoilers prior to Apple’s announcement; click through to Engadget for the rest.

Update: Another image, supposedly showing the tablet’s back casing, has appeared online, originating from weiphone.com. We’ve added it to the images below.

McGraw-Hill CEO confirms iPhone-OS based tablet

  • January 27, 2010
  • Apple,

In an interview with CNBC last evening, Terry McGraw, CEO of major publishing firm McGraw-Hill, confirmed not only that the company would offer its books for Apple’s upcoming tablet, but that the device runs iPhone OS. When asked about rumors that the company had been working on getting their textbooks ready for the tablet, McGraw responded, “Yeah, Very exciting. Yes, they’ll make their announcement tomorrow on this one. We have worked with Apple for quite a while. And the Tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system and so it will be transferable. So what you are going to be able to do now—we have a consortium of e-books. And we have 95% of all our materials that are in e-book format on that one. So now with the tablet you’re going to open up the higher education market, the professional market. The tablet is going to be just really terrific.” A video of the interview appears in embedded form below; McGraw’s comment about the tablet begins around the 2 minute 50 second mark. [via Mac Rumors]

ITC begins probing Apple on patents

  • January 26, 2010
  • Apple,

The U.S. International Trade Commission has launched an official investigation into whether Apple infringes on Nokia’s patents as the Finnish company has claimed. “We are pleased that the ITC has moved quickly to begin [its] investigation,” said a Nokia spokeswoman. Nokia first sued Apple in October 2009 claiming patent infringement, and was soon after countersued, with Apple claiming Nokia infringes on 13 of its patents. In December, Nokia filed a complaint with the ITC alleging that Apple infringes on the company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers;” less than three weeks later Apple filed its own complaint with the ITC, asking it to block Nokia imports to the U.S. The ITC has yet to decide whether it will launch a similar probe of Nokia based on Apple’s request.

Apple patent points to proximity-based tablet interface

  • January 26, 2010
  • Apple,

A newly awarded Apple patent suggests the company has been working on a way to display different user interface modules based on proximity instead of touch. Originally filed in September 2005 and awarded earlier today, the patent entitled “Proximity detector in handheld device” describes a system that employs one of a number of different methods for detecting when a finger, stylus, or some other object is place above, but not directly on, an area of the screen. Once the presence is detected, an appropriate user interface element is displayed, and the user can interact with the element via proximity gestures or some other form of input, such as touch. Notably, the images included with the patent appear to depict a tablet device, as opposed to a smaller handheld like the iPhone or iPod touch. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area; continue reading for images from the patent. [via Patently Apple]

Notes from Q1 2010 Apple Conference Call

  • January 25, 2010
  • Apple,

During Apple’s First Quarter 2010 Financial Results Conference Call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer and Apple COO Tim Cook made several comments concerning its media-related products, including the iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV, as well as U.S. cellular partner AT&T. In his opening statements, Oppenheimer said that while traditional iPod sales declined, sales of the iPod touch were up 55% year-over-year, boosting the iPod’s Average Selling Price (ASP) by nine percent.

The iPhone saw “very strong” growth in several international territories, and has been a “runaway hit” in Japan, with sales up over 400% year-over-year. iPhone sales were also up over 500% from the year-ago quarter in the Asia/Pacific market, because of Korea and other newly added countries, including China. Specifically, Cook revealed that the iPhone passed the 200,000 activation mark in China earlier this month, and that the company is very focused on quality at the point of sale and quality of customer experience, in order to build the brand for the long term in that market. In the corporate market, 70% of the Fortune 100 are now actively deploying or piloting iPhone. When asked about iPhone inventory levels that sat at roughly 2.7 million units in the channel at the end of the quarter, including demos and in-transit inventories invoiced to carriers, Cook said that Apple is completely comfortable with the number, adding that Apple could have sold a lot more units but elected not to because the company is managing inventories very tightly. The implication, we felt, was that a transition from 8GB iPhone 3G models to 8GB iPhone 3GS could have achieved this.

In regards to the company’s accounting changes, Oppenheimer explained that the company has settled on estimates of $25 for iPhone and $10 for Apple TV software updates which will be taken from the selling price and deferred over time, but did not provide any specifics on how the company arrived at either number. Both executives also praised Apple’s financial team for rapidly facilitating the switch to the new accounting principles. When asked about Apple’s recent acquisition of mobile advertising firm Quattro, the executives said that the company wanted to acquire Quattro to offer developers a way to easily monetize apps, especially free offerings, adding, “we’re going to work hard to provide developers a great opportunity and we’ll see where it takes us.”

Finally, when asked about the potential effect recent criticism of AT&T might have on Apple’s and the iPhone’s brand, the men hailed AT&T as a great partner, noting that the two companies have a working relationship that pre-dates the initial launch of the iPhone, and that AT&T has more mobile broadband usage than any carrier in the world. They also pointed out that iPhone customers have a great experience in the vast majority of locations, that AT&T has very detailed plans to address its network problems in cities, and that Apple has reviewed the plans and believes AT&T will make significant progress towards fixing them.

Apple Q1 2010: 21 million iPods, 8.7 million iPhones sold

  • January 25, 2010
  • Apple,

Reporting its first quarter financial results today, Apple said it sold 21 million iPods during the holiday quarter — an eight percent decrease compared to the same quarter last year. Despite the drop in unit sales, revenue from iPod sales actually increased one percent year-over-year, to $3.391 billion. Apple also sold 8.7 million iPhones in the quarter, a 100 percent increase year-over-year, and up from 7.4 million units in the prior quarter. The company posted revenue of $15.68 billion and net quarterly profit of $3.38 billion, or $3.67 per diluted share, representing all-time revenue and profit highs, compared with revenue of $11.88 billion and net quarterly profit of $2.26 billion, or $2.50 per diluted share in Q1 2009. Sales of Other Music Related Products + Services were up 15% over the year-ago quarter, and up 14% from Q4 2009, to $1.16 billion total. That category includes iTunes Store sales, iPod services, and revenues from Apple and third-party iPod accessories. International sales accounted for 58 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Notably, Apple has applied new accounting principles to its iPhone and Apple TV numbers, and is accounting for the sale of both products as two deliverables. As explained in the company’s 10-Q filing with the SEC, “The first deliverable is the hardware and software essential to the functionality of the hardware device delivered at the time of sale, and the second deliverable is the right included with the purchase of iPhone and Apple TV to receive on a when-and-if-available basis future unspecified software upgrades and features relating to the product’s essential software.” The rules also result in the recognition of “substantially all of the revenue and product costs from the sales of iPhone and Apple TV at the time of sale.” The change in accounting rules explains the discrepancy between the Q1 2009 financial numbers mentioned above and those originally reported.

“If you annualize our quarterly revenue, it’s surprising that Apple is now a $50+ billion company,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we’re really excited about.”

“We are very pleased to have generated $5.8 billion in cash during the quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the second fiscal quarter of 2010, we expect revenue in the range of about $11.0 billion to $11.4 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share in the range of about $2.06 to $2.18.”

Steve Jobs: tablet ‘most important thing I’ve ever done’

  • January 25, 2010
  • Apple,

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been making bold claims about the company’s upcoming tablet to senior Apple executives and close friends, according to a new report. Citing multiple independent sources, TechCrunch reports that Jobs has repeatedly stated that the tablet “[W]ill be the most important thing I’ve ever done.” Previous reports have indicated that Jobs was giving the tablet his full personal attention following his return to Apple last June.

ChangeWave: Consumer interest in Apple tablet ‘strong’

  • January 21, 2010
  • Apple,

According to a January survey of consumer PC purchasing trends conducted by ChangeWave, pre-announcement demand for an Apple tablet is “strong.” 18% of respondents showed interest in the device, with 4% saying they were very likely to purchase an Apple tablet when it becomes available, and another 14% saying they were at least somewhat likely. In terms of pricing, three-quarters of interested consumers said they were willing to pay $500 or more for the device, while 37% said they would pay more than $700. Coincidentally, the 4%/14% ratio is the same as the percentages of consumers who said they would be very or somewhat likely to purchase a new Intel-based Mac following Apple’s announcement that it would be switching to Intel chips for its laptop and desktop computers. The survey was conducted in January 2010 among 3,314 consumers.

WSJ: Tablet to have sharing features, gaming capabilities

  • January 21, 2010
  • Apple,

The Wall Street Journal has posted a lengthy article discussing Apple’s upcoming tablet device, including the kinds of content that will be available for it and a few of its features. Citing numerous anonymous sources, the report states that Apple sees the device being shared by multiple family members, and has even experimented with the ability for the tablet to automatically recognize individual users via a built-in camera, although it’s unknown whether the feature will be included at launch. In addition to HarperCollins, Apple has also spoken to The New York Times, Conde Nast Publications, and others about working together on content for the tablet, and has also been working with Electronic Arts to show off the device’s gaming capabilities. The report also claims that the tablet will employ a virtual keyboard for text entry.

Curiously buried at the bottom of the report is news of a Web-based version of iTunes that could possibly launch as soon as June. Again citing people familiar with the matter, the report claims that the service, tentatively called iTunes.com, would allow customers to buy music without the need for opening the full iTunes application, and is a central part of a new Apple strategy to populate as many sites as possible with “buy” buttons, including integrating iTunes transactions into activities such as listening to Internet radio and surfing media review web sites.

Apple Event Mix: Gaming, iPhone OS details, iPad trademarks

  • January 19, 2010
  • Apple,

As speculation surrounding Apple’s upcoming media event continues to swirl, several noteworthy new reports are offering potential insights into the company’s upcoming announcements.

Beyond inviting several iPhone game developers to the January 27th event, as it has for past iPhone OS-related events, Apple has also interestingly invited gaming sites Kotaku and IGN to attend. Though it is possible that the invitations are designed merely to encourage the sites to cover gaming improvements to the iPhone OS for current and future iPhone and iPod touch devices, the invitation’s focus on Apple’s “latest creation” increases the likelihood that the company intends to push gaming as one of the new “creation’s” features.

iPhone OS 4.0 has been rumored to make its debut at the event alongside or as part of the tablet unveiling, and Boy Genius Report claims to have been briefed on several aspects of the new software by a “trusty Apple connect.” The report states that iPhone OS 4.0 will support multi-touch gestures OS-wide, will offer a “few new ways” to runs applications in the background, will feature many graphical and user interface changes to make navigating through the OS easier and more efficient, and will boast a “brand new” syncing capability for contacts and calendars. The report also states that the update will be available only for the iPhone 3G and 3GS—no mention of the iPod touch is made—but states that it will “put them ahead in the smartphone market because it will make them more like full-fledged computers,” adding that everyone is “really excited.” Although several of the enhancements listed in the report seem likely to be part of iPhone OS 4.0, it is worth noting that Boy Genius Report has a spotty track record when it comes to Apple-related announcements, incorrectly calling for Blu-ray support in iTunes 9, posting faked iTunes 9 screenshots, and predicting deeper social networking integration prior to iTunes 9’s official release last September.

Finally, new evidence suggests that Apple is considering naming its tablet device “iPad.” Slate Computing, the same company Apple supposedly used to acquire iSlate trademarks in the U.S. and European Union, was discovered to have applied for an “iPad” trademark in Canada in July 2009. This date is far more recent than the prior iSlate trademarks, which date back to 2006-2007. Similar trademark applications were filed in July in Hong Kong and Europe, by a Delaware-based company called IP Application Development (“IPAD”) and a UK law firm, respectively. Based on a source claiming to have knowledge of Apple’s plans, Mac Rumors discovered that this same company has filed for new “iPad” trademark applications in New Zealand and Australia within the last week, and while no direct link has yet been made between IP Application Development and Apple, the matching timing of the trademark filings by it and Slate Computing in July 2009 is suggestive.

It is worth noting that companies, including Apple, sometimes attempt to secure rights to several potential product marks before finalizing a name. Also noteworthy is the fact that Fujitsu appears to control the U.S. trademark for iPad, but as a current Apple component supplier, it would also appear to be a friendly negotiating partner should iPad turn out to be the product’s official name. Apple has in the past launched products without owning the trademark for their names, such as when it launched the iPhone despite the trademark being owned by Cisco, ultimately settling with the company after exchanging jabs and legal threats.

Apple in talks with HarperCollins, others over e-book sales

  • January 19, 2010
  • Apple,

Apple is in negotiations with HarperCollins and several other publishers to make electronic books available for the upcoming tablet device, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources familiar with the situation, the Wall Street Journal reports that HarperCollins is expected to set the price of the e-books, with Apple taking a percentage of the sales. Details have yet to be worked out, the report states, but Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins, said in December that e-books enhanced with video, social-networking applications, and other advanced features could command higher prices for publishers than current e-books. Apple is hosting a special media event in San Francisco on January 27th, at which it is expected to unveil its long-rumored tablet device.

Apple confirms event on Jan. 27 to show ‘latest creation’

  • January 18, 2010
  • Apple,

Apple has sent out an email to select members of the press, inviting them to a special event on January 27th. The email features a colorful background of paint splashes with an Apple logo in the middle, accompanied by the text “Come see our latest creation.” The event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, and will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. It is widely expected that Apple will show off its long-rumored tablet device at the event, possibly alongside a beta of iPhone OS 4.0 and an accompanying update to the iPhone SDK.

Apple files complaint against Nokia with ITC

  • January 18, 2010
  • Apple,

Apple has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, asking it to block Nokia imports to the U.S. Nokia responded to the complaint via a spokesman, who said, “Nokia will study the complaint when it is received and continue to defend itself vigorously. However, this does not alter the fact that Apple has failed to agree appropriate terms for using Nokia technology and has been seeking a free ride on Nokia’s innovation since it shipped the first iPhone in 2007.” Apple overtook Nokia as the cellphone maker generating the highest total operating profit in the September quarter, despite Nokia’s overall sales eclipsing that of Apple by a wide margin, in part thanks to Nokia’s cheaper, traditional cellphone offerings.

Apple’s filing is the latest development in the ongoing battle between the two companies. Nokia first filed suit against Apple in October 2009, claiming that the iPhone infringes on several Nokia patents; Apple vowed to “vigorously” defend the case days later, then filed a countersuit claiming patent infringement in December. The lawsuits were followed by an ITC complaint from Nokia near the end of the year, alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers.”

Apple to step up acquisition initiatives?

  • January 15, 2010
  • Apple,

Apple has hired a new employee to help it become more agressive in its acquisition strategy, a new report claims. BusinessWeek reports that Apple hired Adrian Perica, a West Point graduate and former Goldman Sachs investment banker, last year to head up its mergers and acquisitions department. Citing four unnamed sources, the report states that Perica was brought in to handle Apple’s purchase of online music site Lala.com following the company’s loss of mobile advertising firm AdMob to Google earlier in the fall, and that Perica was able to close the Lala deal in a few weeks, rather than the more typical two to three months. The article also notes that three of the 11 Apple acquisitions since CEO Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997 have come in the last five months. Bill Whyman, an analyst with International Strategy & Investment, said, “Their [business] model is evolving, and you can expect them to broaden their horizons.”

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