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Apple to match Amazon on best-seller pricing?

Apple may be planning to match Amazon’s $9.99 pricing on books featured in the New York Time’s Best Sellers lists, according to a new report. Citing a first-hand preview of the iBookstore, App Advice reports that 27 of the 32 books featured in the NYT Best Seller section were priced at $9.99, matching the pricing of Amazon.com’s Kindle bookstore. Notably, the number four best seller was missing from the list entirely, perhaps because Apple has not yet secured a deal with the book’s publisher; among the titles not priced at $9.99, the most expensive was $12.99. In addition, one book—The Help by Kathryn Stockett—was also featured on the screen during Apple’s iPad special event, and at that time was listed at $7.99, while most of the other titles were priced at $10.99 or higher. Curiously, the report closely follows a separate article citing pricing concerns as the reason why Random House, the world’s largest book publisher by sales, has yet to sign a deal with Apple to offer its titles on the iBookstore.

Random House yet to sign iBooks deal over pricing concerns

Random House, the world’s largest book publisher by sales, has yet to sign a deal with Apple to sell its books in the upcoming iBookstore over fears of the effect Apple’s pricing strategy could have on the pricing of electronic books. The Financial Times reports that Random House CEO Markus Dohle is not ruling out the possibility of reaching a deal with Apple before the iPad goes on sale April 3, but is moving carefully because of pricing concerns. Dohle said the new model poses “changes, in particular for our stakeholders,” that require the publisher to consult with its authors and agents before moving ahead with the deal. Hartmut Ostrowski, CEO of Random House’s parent company Bertelsmann, acknowledged the importance of the iPad and other electronic book readers in a recent press conference, stating that they are influencing the media sector “like nothing else.”

Apple CEO Jobs confirms universal iPhone mailbox?

In a brief reply to a customer email, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has reportedly confirmed that the iPhone will soon offer a universal email inbox. A TUAW reader asked Jobs “will iPhone ever have a universal mailbox just like Mail has on my Mac? It would be so much easier and efficient,” to which the notoriously terse CEO replied “Yep.” Notably, the email was apparently sent from an iPad, as was a reply to a separate inquiry asking whether there was a way to transfer Google Docs to an iPad using iWork.com or iDisk—Jobs responded positively to this question as well. Jobs has been known to respond to customers’ emails on occasion, normally with short, one sentence answers.

Apple, AT&T, others sued over mobile processors

Apple and AT&T, along with 20 other companies including Acer, Google, HTC, LG, Nokia, and Palm, have been sued by California-based MicroUnity Systems Engineering, which is claiming infringement of 14 separate patents. AppleInsider reports that the suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, specifically names the iPhone 3GS and third-generation models of the iPod touch, as well as competing devices including the Motorola Droid, Google Nexus One, Palm Pre, and Nokia N900. The patents specified in the suit appear to cover a wide range of mobile processor activities, relating to parallel operation, cache operation, and other general processing concepts. According to the suit, AT&T was targeted because it sells the iPhone 3GS and “services utilizing and software utilized by such products.”

Flurry: iPhone overtakes PSP in game software revenue

The iPhone OS has overtaken Sony’s Playstation Portable in terms of U.S. portable game software revenue, according to a new report from Flurry Analytics. Using publicly available market data from NPD, estimated Nintendo DS and Sony PSP game software sales, and iPhone games sales estimated using a combination of data from both Apple and the company’s own app-tracking analytics service, the iPhone OS as a platform increased its share of U.S. portable game software revenue from 5% in 2008 to 19% in 2009. In the same time period, the Nintendo DS’ revenue share fell from 75% to 70%, and the PSP’s share fell from 20% to 11%, leaving it behind the iPhone OS. Apple’s overall share of U.S video game software revenue, which includes revenue from console software sales, increased from 1% in 2008 to 5% in 2009; Flurry speculates that the launch of the iPad could lead to more increases for the iPhone OS platform. “With the iPad featuring a larger screen and more processing power, games on the tablet take a step closer to PC and console gaming,” the report states. “Unless the other major video game platform providers (i.e., Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft) respond accordingly, Apple could continue to roll up video game market share.”

Apple begins contract-free iPhone 3GS sales in U.S.

Apple has begun to offer iPhone 3GS units without a contract in its own retail stores, according to a new report. Citing an internal Apple document, Gizmodo reports that customers may purchase one iPhone per day without verifying that they have an AT&T account or providing a form of ID. According to the report, the phones remain carrier-locked to AT&T, and are priced from $499 for the 8GB iPhone 3G to $699 for the 32GB iPhone 3GS. Curiously, the move comes nearly one year to the day after Apple started similar contract-free sales of the iPhone 3G, suggesting that the company is preparing to move existing stock ahead of a new iPhone model this summer.

Apple updates iTunes terms, adds section on gifts

Following its launch of the “Gift This App” feature on the App Store, Apple has updated its iTunes Store Terms & Conditions to add a section to the document covering gifts. Specifically, the new section explains “the conditions under which Apps can be gifted, including an explanation that Gifts may not be used for in-app purchases, in-app subscriptions, upgrades, or the iPod touch OS,” and “that some gifts require compatible hardware and parental control settings so they can be redeemed.” Notably, the Gift this App feature is also available on the Canadian App Store, despite the continuing restrictions on purchasing applications with gift cards, which leave users lacking personal credit cards, or family members willing to offer theirs, without any reasonable way of purchasing apps from the App Store.

Apple signs indie publisher Perseus to e-books deal (Updated)

Perseus Books Group, the largest distributor of independent publishers, has signed a deal with Apple to offer its books on Apple’s upcoming iBookstore. The New York Times reports that Perseus is a large independent publisher itself, but also distributes works from 330 smaller companies including Grove Atlantic, Harvard Business School Press, Zagat and City Lights Books. “We’re working with Apple to make books from The Perseus Books Group and the independent publishers we represent available on the iBookstore starting on April 3,” David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus, told the NYT. “As the leading provider of distribution services for independent publishers, including digital distribution through our Constellation digital service, Perseus is thrilled to be making our books available on the iPad.”

Update: Apple has also signed a deal with independent publisher Workman Publishing Company, responsible for the “What to Expect” series, novels like “Water for Elephants” and the Silver Palate cookbooks, to offer its books on the iBookstore.

‘Gift This App’ feature appears on App Store

Apple has launched a new App Store feature called “Gift This App.” Appearing in the “Buy App” drop-down menu on individual apps pages, the new service allows users to buy applications for download by friends or family. Once the feature is selected, a separate page appears letting the user choose between sending the gift via email or printing it themselves, along with boxes for entering the recipient’s name, email address, and a personal message. Users are also be able to gift an app to multiple recipients at once by adding multiple recipient email addresses. The page also instructs users to check the app’s requirements carefully, as “your recipient(s) may not be able to redeem or use your gift if their hardware or iPhone OS is incompatible.” [via TUAW]

Amazon, Barnes & Noble building iPad apps

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are working on iPad-formatted versions of their iPhone book-reading applications, according to a New York Times report. “We have actually developed a tablet-based interface that redesigns the core screen and the reading experience,” said Ian Freed, vice president for Kindle at Amazon. “Our team had some fun with it.” Amazon’s Kindle app for iPhone will give users a new interface for browsing their book collection, and allow them to “slowly turn pages with their fingers,” while Barnes & Noble’s app will offers customizable font colors and sizes and quick finger-swipe page turning; the company has also been in talks with publishers about adding multimedia content to their digital books. Amazon has launched a new website highlighting its new Kindle apps for tablet computers, including the iPad.

The report also reiterates some of Apple’s secrecy guidelines for early iPad testers, which include Major League Baseball, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, while noting that some developers who haven’t yet had a chance to use an iPad are holding off until they can test their programs on the device itself. “As much as we’d love to be there on Day 1, a misstep could kill the train before it even gets out of the station,“ said Wade Slitkin, CEO of Panelfly, which makes a digital comic-book reader. Neither Amazon or Barnes & Noble plan on having their iPad apps ready for launch day, as neither was given a pre-release iPad for early testing, and both want to test their apps on an actual iPad before submitting their applications to Apple.

Apple offering schools discounted 10-pack iPad bundles

Apple is now offering discounted 10-pack iPad bundles to educational institutions. Mac Rumors reports that the new bundles are designed to offer minor discounts while also reducing packaging, as all ten iPads are shipped in a single box. Pricing on the bundles, which are currently available for Wi-Fi iPads only, starts at $4,790 for ten 16GB units with no AppleCare, and increases accordingly with AppleCare and higher capacities. Overall, the bundle pricing offers a $20 discount off of individual iPad units, and $40 off per iPad when purchased with AppleCare.

Apple now accepting iPad app submissions

Apple has sent out an email to registered iPhone developers, informing them that the company is now accepting iPad application submissions. According to the email provided to iLounge, iPad apps submitted between now and March 27 will receive an “initial review” by the App Review Team, and developers will receive feedback on the app’s readiness for what the Apple is referring to as the “grand opening.” All submitted apps must be built and tested using iPhone SDK 3.2 beta 5, the latest version of the beta SDK; following submission, developers will receive an email with details about the readiness of their apps. Finally, developers will receive additional information about submitting their app for final review before the iPad ships, and only applications submitted for the initial review process will be considered for the grand opening of the “iPad App Store.” Apple will launch the iPad on April 3.

Apple demands secrecy from early iPad testers

Apple is offering select developers an early hands-on testing period with the iPad, but only under highly-specific secrecy terms, according to a BusinessWeek report. Citing people familiar with the 10-page agreement that must be signed by each developer wanting early access to an iPad unit, Apple is forcing developers to take extreme measures to ensure the secrecy of their pre-launch testing. According to the report, the iPad must be kept isolated in a room with blacked-out windows, and must also remain tethered to a fixed object to eliminate the possibility of it being taken out of the isolated environment. Furthermore, all developers wanting a pre-release iPad for testing must also provide photographic evidence of compliance with the above terms before Apple will send a unit out, and the developers are barred from revealing that they have been given a pre-release unit for testing. Apple will launch the iPad on April 3.

Apple scrambling to secure content deals for iPad

With just over two weeks remaining before the first iPads hit store shelves, Apple is still working to secure content deals for the iPad, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report states that Apple has had to pare back its initial ambitions for the iPad as securing content for the device has proven difficult. Reportedly, Apple has put on hold its effort to work with newspaper, magazine, and textbook publishers to bring new digital content to the iPad, in favor of focusing on other content deals, such as a price cut on TV shows from the iTunes Store. The report goes on to claim that Apple has faced difficulties signing deals with some content providers as the providers debate the advantages of working with Apple versus the possible threat it poses to current revenue streams. Apple will launch the iPad on April 3, with initial availability limited to Wi-Fi-only models; Wi-Fi + 3G versions will arrive later in the month.

Apple patent details ‘iGroups’ location-based service

A newly-published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a location-based social networking service referred to as “iGroups.” The application describes a system through which multiple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch users at an event, meeting, or other gathering could exchange information automatically by having their devices exchange encrypted, location-tagged “tokens,” which would then be sent to a trusted service—such as Apple’s MobileMe—and used to determine that all the users were at the same place or event. Once this has taken place, the users could then send location information and messages amongst the group as they move about and experience the event, potentially facilitating discussions on where to meet after the event is over, and also making it possible to precisely locate non-GPS devices by determining their proximity to a GPS-enabled device using a short-range communications protocol such as Bluetooth. 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]

T-Mobile USA to launch iPhone in late 2010, early 2011?

According to comments made by René Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile USA parent company Deutsche Telekom, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier may start offering the iPhone as soon as later this year. The Financial Times reports that Obermann told the publication T-Mobile USA hopes to start selling the iPhone later this year or next year, but in the meantime will focus on Android-powered smartphones. T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to offer an Android-powered phone, the HTC G1, and has since expanded its Android lineup with several other models, including the Google-branded, HTC-built Nexus One. [via MDN]

China Mobile hopes to carry iPhone, iPad

China Mobile hopes to reach a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone, and possibly the iPad, in the near future, according to recent comments made by China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou. “We’re hoping we’ll come to an agreement (with Apple) on the iPhone as soon as possible,” he told AFP reporters at a news conference in Hong Kong. “We will continue to express our interest in the iPhone. But not just the iPhone, also the iPad.” China Mobile has reportedly been in talks with Apple about the iPhone since November 2007, but the negotiations have stalled multiple times over issues such as revenue sharing and App Store control. During this period, Apple reached an agreement with rival carrier China Unicom to carry the iPhone; Unicom launched the handset in China in October 2009.

Apple Board member Jerome B. York passes away

Apple announced today that Jerome B. York, a member of Apple’s Board of Directors since 1997, has passed away, after being hospitalized late last evening with what his wife described as a massive cerebral hemorrhage. York was the chairman, president and CEO of Harwinton Capital, and was the former CFO of IBM and Chrysler, contributing to both companies’ turnarounds. “Jerry joined Apple’s Board in 1997 when most doubted the company’s future. He has been a pillar of financial and business expertise and insight on our Board for over a dozen years,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “It’s been a privilege to know and work with Jerry, and I’m going to miss him a lot.”

HTC ‘disagrees’ with Apple suit, will ‘fully defend itself’

In a statement released to the press today, HTC Corporation officially responded to Apple’s lawsuit against the company, which was filed on March 2. “HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC. “HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible.” The press release also contains a photo of the HTC-built T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition, which the company points out was the first 3.5-inch color touchscreen smartphone in the U.S., pre-dating the original iPhone by five years. Apple’s lawsuit and accompanying ITC complaint accuse HTC of “infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.”

Apple releases iPhone SDK 3.2 Beta 5 for iPad

Apple has released the fifth beta version of its iPhone SDK 3.2 for iPad. First released in January following the introduction of the iPad, the SDK is tailored specifically to the device, including support for its 1024x768 resolution, other iPad-specific interface functions, and includes an iPad simulator application so developers can pre-test their apps in an environment similar to that of the final device. It is unknown what, if any, changes were made in this latest version. The iPhone OS 3.2 SDK beta 5 for iPad is available now to registered iPhone developers through the iPhone Dev Center.

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