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Apple responds to iPod ‘sweatshop’ claims

Apple has responded to the recent claims of poor working conditions at iPod factories in China, stating that it takes the allegations seriously and that it is looking into the charges. “Apple is committed to ensuring that working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible,” Apple said in a statement. The company said it is “currently investigating the allegations regarding working conditions in the iPod manufacturing plant in China. We do not tolerate any violations of our supplier code of conduct which are posted online.”

Analyst comments on Apple’s possible cell phone strategy

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu has offered his thoughts on Apple’s long-rumored entry into the cell phone market. “While we firmly believe that Apple has been working on cell phone technology, we believe its much hyped imminent entry is overdone,” Wu wrote in a research note to clients today. “From our understanding, for Apple to enter the cell phone market in the USA, it needs approval from the FCC. We believe a filing would be required at least three months prior to an actual product launch.” Wu said, however, that Apple could protect the news from leaking by announcing its cell phone and then shipping three months later. “This could be similar to the Intel transition where actual product shipped seven months after the announcement,” he said.

Lawsuit: Apple sought licensing deal with Creative in 2001

Creative Technology states in its patent lawsuit against Apple that the iPod maker approached Creative in 2001—before the introduction of the iPod—about licensing the company’s technology or investing in a possible Creative digital media player spin-off company. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Creative says in its suit that Apple CEO Steve Jobs approached a Creative employee at the January 2001 Macworld trade show and praised the Nomad, Creative’s first MP3 player. The two discussed a possible meeting, and Mr. Jobs ‘indicated Apple wanted a smaller version’ of the Nomad… The next month, according to the suit, Creative executives met again with Mr. Jobs. The suit says Apple proposed that Creative either license its technology to Apple, or spin off its portable media-player business into a separate company in which Apple would invest. Creative, however, declined Apple’s proposals. In October, Apple introduced its first iPod.”

Apple files second copyright suit against Creative

Apple has filed a second copyright lawsuit and a U.S. trade complaint against Creative Technology, according to Channel NewsAsia. “In its latest lawsuit, Apple claims Creative is infringing three patents relating to using icons, and displaying and editing data,” reports the publication. “It is asking for cash damages and a court order to stop Creative from further breaches. At the same time, Apple wants the International Trade Commission in Washington to block imports of Creative’s music players.” Creative sued Apple last month for infringing on its “Zen Patent.” Following the company’s legal actions, Apple countersued Creative.

Apple loses court bid to unmask sources

A California appeals court has struck down Apple’s bid to identify the sources of leaked product details that appeared on Apple enthusiast websites, ruling that online reporters are protected the same as traditional journalists. “In no relevant respect do they appear to differ from a reporter or editor for a traditional business-oriented periodical who solicits or otherwise comes into possession of confidential internal information about a company,” Justice Conrad Rushing of the 6th District Court of Appeal wrote in a unanimous 69-page ruling. “We decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes ‘legitimate journalism,” he wrote. “The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here.”

BusinessWeek looks at Nike/Apple partnership, Sport Kit

BusinessWeek has an article with several interesting details on the Apple and Nike partnership, as well as the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. The article says that Apple had approached Nike about being its MP3 player supplier, but that Nike executives had an idea for something bigger. Nike and Apple designers first met 18 months ago to create a smart shoe product, but were met with some challenges—the sneaker sensor was initially too big for Nike engineers and too small for Apple. Another challenge was battery life (close to 1,000 hours, which is said to outlast the shoes) and wireless technology. “Wireless takes power,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said. “The last thing you wanted was a wire going down your leg. It looks deceptively simple and that’s how it should be. It took a while to get it right. But there is a lot of technology there.” Jobs said he also wanted to keep the price point low for the Sport Kit. “This thing is over 90% accurate right out of the box, which is huge. Something like this would normally cost a lot more money. We priced it so everyone can afford it because we want everyone to try it and experience how cool it is.”

Apple files suit against Creative Technology

Following Creative Technology’s announcement on Monday that it is suing Apple for patent infringement, Bloomberg News is reporting that the iPod maker also filed suit against Creative the same day. Apple claims that Creative infringes on four digital music player patents it owns. The suit was filed in a Wisconsin District Court. As reported earlier this week, Creative is suing Apple, alleging that the iPod’s interface is infringing on the company’s “Zen Patent.” It is has also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking an order to block imports of the iPod from China.

Fifth Avenue Apple Store to open tomorrow

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Apple will open its extravagant new retail store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. The new Apple Store features a distinctive 32-foot glass cube entrance, as well as a spiral glass staircase and cylindrical elevator that lead to the underground store. The Fifth Avenue location will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Apple said the new store will offer more than 100 Macs and nearly 200 iPods for customers to try, along with the world’s largest assortment of accessories. The store will also have the largest staff of any Apple Store (nearly 300), as well as a combined 45-foot Genius Bar, iPod Bar and The Studio where customers can get face-to-face support. Early reports and photos of the store have already been posted.

Apple music biz, Asian iPod market to flourish

Apple’s music business could more than double the size of the company in the next five years, according to research firm Generator. The iPod lineup will remain the primary source of growth, the firm said, although the iTunes Music Store will be contributing 37% of the the expected $15 billion in music revenues by 2010. “Most people now understand that Apple’s music business is the main source of growth but what’s not widely appreciated is just how big the music business could become in the future. It’s a big worry for some people in the industry,” says Andrew Sheehy, vice president of research at Generator.

Creative sues Apple over iPod interface, seeks ITC injunction

Creative Technology has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the iPod’s interface is infringing on the company’s “Zen Patent.” Creative also said today that it has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission requesting that the federal agency launch an investigation intro whether Apple has “violated Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 through its importation and sale after importation into the United States of iPods and iPod Nanos that infringe U.S. Patent 6,928,433, which Creative refers to as the Zen Patent.” Further details on both of Creative’s legal actions below.

Softbank denies Apple cell phone deal

Softbank has issued a brief statement [Japanese language] denying claims that it is working with Apple to develop an “iPhone.” The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Japanese newspaper reported on Friday that Apple had partnered with Softbank to create and manufacture a new cell phone with iPod-like music-playing features and the capability to download songs directly from the iTunes Music Store.

Report: Apple, Softbank developing iPod phone

Apple has partnered with Softbank to build a new cell phone with iPod-like features and the capability to download songs directly from the iTunes Music Store, according to a report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun Japanese newspaper. The article claims that Softbank president Masayoshi Son and Apple CEO Steve Jobs met earlier this year and formed the partnership to develop the long-rumored device. The phone will reportedly be a 3G model with music-playing features and high-speed web connectivity. The report says that the phones will be released in Japan “sometime this year at the earliest,” and then later in the U.S.

Mossberg: Apple building cell phone, media hub

In an article looking at the different approaches taken by Apple and Microsoft in building products, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal claims that Apple is working on a cell phone and a home-media hub. “In the post-PC era we’re in today, where the focus is on things like music players, game consoles and cellphones, the end-to-end model is the early winner,” Mossberg says. “Tightly linking hardware, software and Web services propelled Apple to a huge success with its iPod. Microsoft, meanwhile, has struggled to make its component model work on these devices and, in a telling sign, is using the Apple end-to-end model itself in its Xbox game-console business. Now, Apple is working on other projects built on the same end-to-end model as the iPod: a media-playing cellphone and a home-media hub.”

Apple wins logo battle; Jobs hopeful for Beatles on iTunes

Apple Computer has won the trademark lawsuit brought on by the Beatles’ Apple Corps, and can continue using its logo on the iTunes Music Store, a judge in the U.K. ruled Monday. Apple Corps has long-accused Apple Computer of violating a 1991 agreement by moving into the music business. The iPod maker has contended that iTunes was primarily a data transmission service and permitted by the agreement. Judge Edward Mann of Britain’s High Court ruled that Apple Computer did not breach the agreement because the logo is used for the store itself and not the music. “I think the use of the apple logo is a fair and reasonable use of the mark in connection with the service,” Mann said in his judgment. “I find no breach of the trademark agreement has been demonstrated. The action therefore fails.”

Analyst addresses unanswered questions on Apple

Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster has released a research report in which he addresses more than 20 unanswered questions on Apple, the majority of which are iPod and iTunes related. In the report, Munster gives his views on several topics, including the possibility of a built-in iPod FM tuner, an Apple iPhone, how the iPod will keep its competitive advantage, and whether or not the iPod shuffle will be cut from the iPod lineup. The analyst also digs into the average number of iPods each iPod owner has, advertisements in iTunes, the downtick in last quarter’s iPod sales, Sony’s hopes of creating an iPod competitor, and when we’ll see full-length movies on the iTunes Music Store. You can read Munster’s answers to the iPod and iTunes questions in their entirety after the jump.

iPod lawsuits transferred, Apple vs. Apple decision due soon

Six lawsuits filed against Apple over iPod nano problems have been consolidated and transferred to the Northern District of California. The case will now be heard by Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose. “Three lawsuits have been filed in California and one each in New Jersey, New York and Louisiana on behalf of customers who claimed their iPod nanos scratched excessively with normal use,” reports CNET News.com. “The suits also allege that Apple failed to disclose and repair the alleged defect and that Apple failed to abide by the warranty.” Meanwhile, Macworld UK reports that the judgement in the Apple Computer vs. Apple Corps case will take place on Monday, May 8. “Justice Edward Mann has been deliberating on the case since before Easter,” the publication notes. “At the ruling he will reveal if he has decided to grant an injunction barring Apple Computer from using its logo within iTunes.”

Future products, Disney plans discussed at Apple shareholders meeting

During Apple’s annual shareholders meeting yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs described Apple’s upcoming products as “the best I’ve ever seen in my life,” and said that he had no interest in becoming an executive at Disney. While Jobs didn’t go into detail, he hinted at an Apple media center device and mentioned that an “exciting” television ad campaign would launch next week. Jobs said that after Disney completes the acquisition of Pixar, where he is also the CEO, he actually plans to spend more time at Apple. In response to a concerned shareholder question about his role at Disney, Jobs said “it’ll require less of my time than Pixar did.”

Former iPod chief inks consulting deal with Apple

Jon Rubinstein, the former senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division, has signed on with the company as a consultant for one year. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple said Rubinstein agreed to make himself available to the company for about one business day a week until April 16, 2007, for which he will be paid a non-material flat fee for his services. Apple announced last year that Rubinstein would resign at the end of March and be replaced by Tony Fadell, Apple’s vice president of iPod engineering. The company said Rubinstein’s official last day as an Apple executive was April 14, 2006.

Apple ships 8.5 million iPods during Q2 [updated]

Reporting its second quarter financial results today, Apple said it shipped just over 8.5 million iPods during the quarter—slightly below analyst predictions, but a 61 percent increase compared to the same quarter last year. Apple’s net profit for the quarter was $410 million, or 47 cents per share, on $4.36 billion in revenue. These results compare to revenue of $3.24 billion and a net profit of $290 million, or 34 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. While Apple has not yet officially announced its total iPod sales numbers, the addition of these 8.5 million additional iPods brings the total to more than 50 million iPods shipped since the device was introduced in 2001.

Apple plans new 50-acre Cupertino campus

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Apple is planning to build a new 50-acre campus near its current headquarters in Cupertino, California, company chief executive Steve Jobs said yesterday. “What’s happened at Apple is that our business has basically tripled in the last five or six years,” Jobs said at a Cupertino city council meeting. Apple “has gone from $6 billion in sales to $20 billion in sales,” Jobs said. “We’re pretty thrilled. Since we’re your largest taxpayer, I thought you might be happy for us.” Jobs said it could take three to four years to design and build the new Apple headquarters, which could accommodate 3,000 to 3,500 employees. Jobs said that, in addition to its present Cupertino campus, Apple employees are spread among 30 other buildings in the city. “We’ve rented every scrap of building we could find in Cupertino,” Jobs told the council. Updated: A video of the announcement is now available online.

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