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Apple seeking iTunes Store feedback from users

Apple has begun to email certain iTunes Store account holders seeking feedback on how they use the Store, iLounge has learned. The email, which carries the subject “Tell us how you like iTunes,” links to a survey about use of the iTunes Store; more specifically, about video and movie purchase and rental, including why users purchase movies from the iTunes Store and what types of devices they typically watch them on. Other questions asked about users’ purchases of Blu-ray and DVD movies and TV shows, about other ways in which they view movie and TV content, including cable/satellite, TiVo, torrents, Netflix, and traditional rentals, and why they would choose the iTunes Store over other methods. The email specifies that “responses will remain completely confidential, and results will be viewed only in aggregate,” and that the survey takes “15 minutes or less to complete.”

Apple pressuring labels to drop Amazon MP3’s Daily Deal

Apple has recently been pressuring the major music labels to stop participating in the Amazon MP3 Daily Deal promotions, according to a Billboard report. Citing multiple anonymous label executives, the report claims that Amazon originally launched the promotions as a way to drive traffic to the store, but more recently began asking for one-day exclusives prior to the featured albums’ release dates and digital marketing support from the labels in exchange for featuring the albums as Daily Deals. “When that happened,” the executive said, “iTunes said, ‘Enough of that [crap].’ ” According to the report, Apple has since been urging labels to rethink their participation in the Daily Deal, even going so far as to withdraw market support for certain releases featured in Amazon’s promotion. In response, Amazon has reportedly been fine-tuning the promotion, agreeing to forgo the one-day exclusive window on new releases, but Apple and iTunes have continued to voice displeasure over other aspects of the promotion, including label-provided marketing support.

As a result of the tension between iTunes and Amazon, most labels are now said to be hesitant to allow new releases to be part of the Daily Deals promotion; one major label head of sales said it is now sometimes sensible to partner with Amazon on releases that might not receive the same marketing support on the iTunes Store. “The whole issue is a kind of interesting dynamic,” a senior major-label distribution executive said. “Amazon is fighting a guerrilla war against iTunes, and now iTunes is getting frustrated because they work hard to set up and promote a release weeks in advance of the street date, and then lo and behold, Amazon jumps in there with this deal of the day and scrapes off some of the cream.”

Apple job postings point to iBookstore, mobile ad expansion

A handful of new Apple job postings suggest the company is looking to expand its iBookstore into foreign markets and strengthen its mobile advertising team. A listing for an iBooks Asia Pacific & Canada manager describes the position as working with management, partners, production, and marketing to determine strategies for iBooks in “Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries,” coordinating launches, and securing content. Separately, a listing for an iPhone Advertising SDK Manager calls for “managing a talented team of developers working on the frameworks included in the iPhone SDK,” a job that will include “day to day management of the engineering, as well as related frameworks” and “interacting with the engineering team, program managers, other engineering teams, and executives.” Other mobile advertising-related postings for a Product UX/Design Engineer, a Senior Interactive Designer, and Senior Interactive Web Developer describe a job with Apple advertising as “an opportunity to redefine the advertising on mobile devices.” [via Silicon Alley Insider/Mac Rumors]

HTC responds to Apple iPhone patent suit

In response to an inquiry from iLounge, HTC offered its initial response to Apple’s lawsuit, which claims that HTC has infringed on 20 iPhone-related hardware and software patents. “HTC only learned of Apple’s actions this morning via media reports, and therefore we have not yet had the opportunity to investigate the filings,” a HTC representative told iLounge. “Until we have had this opportunity, we are unable to comment on the validity of the claims being made against HTC.” The representative also said the company “values patent rights and their enforcement but is also committed to defending its own technology innovations,” adding that “HTC is a mobile technology innovator and patent holder that has been very focused over the past 13 years on creating many of the most innovative smartphones.”

Apple files patent infringement suit against HTC

Apple has announced that it has filed a lawsuit against HTC “for infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.” According to the announcement, the suit was filed concurrently with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and in U.S. District Court in Delaware. “We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” Apple filed a similar suit against Nokia in December 2009, but only after Apple itself was sued by the Finnish cell phone maker earlier in the year.

Apple MobileMe director leaves for mobile entertainment company

Pablo Calamera, former director of MobileMe for Apple, has left the company to join mobile entertainment group Thumbplay as Chief Technology Officer. Calamera had spent ten total years with Apple, the most recent stint being 2006-2010, and has also worked with Sidekick-maker Danger and WebTV. In his new role with Thumbplay, Calamera will have oversight of all technology initiatives for the company, including its recently launched Thumbplay Music, a cloud-based music subscription service offering on-demand access to more than eight million tracks under license from EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and more than 25,000 independent labels. Thumbplay Music is currently being offered in the U.S. as an invitation-only private beta; the company says the service will be available on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices in the first quarter of 2010. [via AppleInsider]

iPad’s A4 chip based on ARM Cortex A8?

According to a new report, Apple’s A4 chip, announced as the processor inside the iPad, is based on a single ARM Cortex A8 processing core, instead of a multi-core ARM Cortex A9 chip as had been previously reported. Citing multiple anonymous sources, Ars Technica reports that the A4 chip houses both a single Cortex A8 core and a PowerVR SGX GPU, similar to those found in the iPhone 3GS, and speculates that the company significantly pared down the I/O connections of the A8, possibly removing the IR handler, still and video camera support, and keypad controller. Notably, however, the author of the report seems to have been unaware of the iPad’s support for external displays, correcting a statement claiming that “no external display attachment has been announced” to say that “the latest rumors from the SDK indicate that there is external display support, and at least one company has announced an adaptor,” ignoring completely that Apple itself has announced such an accessory; the report also makes no mention of Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit.

Apple shareholder meeting uneventful; China stores planned

Apple held its annual shareholders meeting today at the company’s campus in Cupertino, CA. Apart from re-electing the company’s board of directors, the meeting was largely uneventful, as a number of shareholders debated each other on environmental issues before voting down a sustainability proposal. According to live updates from the meeting provided to Fortune, Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Ron Johnson revealed that the company plans to open 25 stores in China, a number that would be very high relative to Apple’s previously-announced goal of opening 25-50 stores in 2010. Finally, when asked about Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s departure from the company’s board last year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, “Eric Schmidt conducted himself appropriately and recused himself on matters that might involve conflict.” When asked what he fears, and what keeps him awake at night, Jobs replied “shareholders meetings.”

Audio posted of Apple COO Cook at Goldman Sachs Conference

Apple has posted an audio webcast of COO Tim Cook’s recent comments made at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference 2010. During his talk, Cook made a number of interesting comments regarding the Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone. According to Cook, the reason Apple calls Apple TV a hobby is because it’s in a market that’s “very small today.” However, unit sales of the Apple TV grew 35% year-over-year in the December quarter, and the company is “continuing to invest in it” because it believes “there’s something there.” However, Cook contrasted the Apple TV’s hobby status with the iMac, which he believed was a strong product with a bright future ahead; by contrast, the current model for the Apple TV was difficult, because it would seem to lead to an Apple-branded TV, adding that the company has “no interest in being in the TV market.”

Regarding the potential market for the iPad, Cook said he “wasn’t losing any sleep” over possible cannibalization of existing Apple products, and amplified prior hints regarding its value relative to netbooks, saying that he doesn’t think people will want to continue to use inexpensive but disappointing netbooks over time. Having used the iPad for six months, as he explained, the experience was significantly better. As for distribution, Cook said the company will initially sell the iPad in its direct channels, including in Apple Stores, online, and through its education sales force, and in indirect channels where the company has “assisted sales,” including Apple’s “stores in stores” at Best Buy locations and Apple Premium Resellers, all places where the company “has sales people that can answer questions.” He suggested that the iPad could later come to locations without sales assistance, implying that customers will need to be helped through initial experiences with the unfamiliar device. He also described AT&T’s iPad data pricing as “revolutionary,” noting that he wouldn’t want to suggest what competing carriers might have to do to sell the iPad along with AT&T, and later said that he thinks there is a place for both iPhone OS and Mac OS operating systems.

Cash tune becomes 10 billionth song sold on iTunes

Apple today announced the winner of its Countdown to 10 Billion Songs promotion, which ended yesterday with the sale of the 10 billionth song. “Guess Things Happen That Way” by Johnny Cash, was purchased by Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia, and became the 10 billionth song downloaded from the iTunes Store. As the winner of the promotion, Sulcer will receive a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card. “We’re grateful to all of our customers for helping us reach this amazing milestone,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services. “We’re proud that iTunes has become the number one music retailer in the world, and selling 10 billion songs is truly staggering.”

iTunes reaches 10 billion download milestone

Less than seven years after its debut on April 28, 2003, iTunes has reached the download milestone of 10 billion songs. Graphics placed on Apple.com’s homepage, the iTunes “Countdown to 10 Billion Songs” contest page, and on the iTunes Store itself proclaim the achievement, which also marks the end of the related contest. In its “Countdown to 10 Billion Songs” promotion, Apple was offering a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card to the person who downloaded the 10-billionth song; the winner has yet to be announced. Coincidentally, the milestone was achieved today, February 24, 2010, which also marks Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ 55th birthday.

Apple adds ‘Explicit’ category to iTunes Connect (Updated)

Apple has added a new primary category named “Explicit” to its iTunes Connect backend service for submitting and monitoring App Store applications, suggesting the company may be readying a new adults-only category on the App Store. According to Mac Rumors, the new category appears in a drop-down menu found in the new submission section, alongside other already-existing categories such as “Books,” “Games,” and “Entertainment.” Although the exact reason for the new category’s appearance is unknown, it is possible that Apple plans to allow recently-banned “overtly sexual” content back into the App Store under this new category, which would allow the company to more easily hide it from underage users via Parental Controls.

Update: Wired reports that the new “Explicit” option has since been removed from iTunes Connect.

iTunes 10 Billion Songs contest near goal, $10k prize offered

After just twelve days, Apple’s “Countdown to 10 Billion Songs” promotion is nearing its end. The counter graphics on Apple’s contest page and the iTunes Store indicate that the total number of songs downloaded is roughly 9.99 billion, leaving only 10 million left before the winning purchase. By comparing the counter number from February 12 to today, we estimate that the store has been seeing roughly 10 million downloads per day, which means the 10 billionth download should happen sometime within the next 24 hours, and possibly sooner, if the pace of downloads accelerates as the goal nears. The winner of the promotion will receive a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card; for more information, see Apple’s Official Rules page.

Gartner: Apple gained smartphone market share in 2009

According to the latest data released by research company Gartner, Apple gained more worldwide smartphone market share in 2009 than any other company. When breaking smartphone sales down by operating system, Apple placed third with 14.4% of the market, behind only Symbian with 46.9%—down from 52.4% in 2008—and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, with 19.9% of the market. By comparison, Apple held only 8.2% of the smartphone OS market in 2008, making its 6.2% gain the largest in the category, followed by Android, which went from a 0.5% share in 2008 to 3.9% in 2009, and RIM, which saw a 3.3% gain for its BlackBerry OS. Joining Symbian with market share losses were Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, which went from 11.8% of the market in 2008 to 8.7% in 2009, and non-Android Linux-based OSes, which saw their share decline from 7.6% in 2008 to 4.7% in 2009. Overall, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units in 2009, a 23.8% increase from 2008.

Apple exec Schiller speaks out on “sexy” app ban

Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, has made several comments regarding the company’s recent move to ban “overtly sexual” content from the App Store. In an interview with the New York Times, Schiller said the company was simply responding to complaints from App Store users. According to Schiller, the company had received “an increasing number of apps containing very objectionable content” from a small number of developers. “It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see,” Schiller said. He added, “[w]e obviously care about developers, but in the end have to put the needs of the kids and parents first.”

Some developers, such as Fred Clarke of the company On the Go Girls, had their entire catalogs removed from the store. “I’m shocked,” said Clarke, who said the company had not had a problem with its applications since the first one went on sale last June. “We’re showing stuff that’s racier than the Disney Channel, but not by much.” Clark also said the company had been making thousands of dollars per day from App Store sales. “It’s very hard to go from making a good living to zero,” he added. “This goes farther than sexy content. For developers, how do you know you aren’t going to invest thousands into a business only to find out one day you’ve been cut off?” When asked about apps such as the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue app, which remains in the store despite offering content similar to that found in many of the banned apps, Schiller said Apple takes the source and intent of the apps into consideration. He said, “[t]he difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format.”

Apple job listing points to new iPhone OS devices

A new job posting on Apple’s website suggests the company is looking to expand the range of devices running iPhone OS beyond the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The listing for a “Platform Bring-Up” Engineering Manager says the company’s Core Platform team is “looking for a talented and inspired manager to lead a team focused on bring-up of iPhone OS on new platforms.” According to the listing, the team is “responsible for low level platform architecture, firmware, core drivers and bring-up of new hardware platforms,” and consists of “engineers with experience in hardware, firmware, IOKit drivers, security and platform architecture.” Job responsibilities of the position include “[w]orking closely with the hardware and custom silicon teams to bring-up new platforms and prototype systems” and “[d]efining the software roadmap to support a range of hardware platforms, including iPhone & iPod.”

Apple responds to App Store sex app removals

Following a report from last week suggesting that Apple was banning “overtly sexual” content from the App Store, Apple offered a brief statement on the matter in response to an inquiry from iLounge. “Whenever we receive customer complaints about objectionable content we review them,” said Apple representative Trudy Miller. “If we find these apps contain inappropriate material we remove them and request the developer make any necessary changes in order to be distributed by Apple.” The statement references an application removal notice from Apple previously posted online, stating that the company had received “numerous complaints” about sexual content on the App Store, and that it had changed its guidelines appropriately. After publication of the notice, application tracking site AppShopper.com released a graph showing over 5,000 application removals from February 17-20.

Report: Apple ranks third in customer service

Apple has ranked third in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s fourth annual customer service awards. The Cupertino-based company placed behind only catalog/online outfitter L.L. Bean, and insurance/banking company USAA, which coincidentally launched an update to its iPhone app in August 2009 that lets customers deposit checks remotely by using the iPhone’s camera to photograph and then electronically submit images of both sides of the check. Apple received “A+” ratings for its quality of staff and efficiency of service, with 66% of respondents saying they would recommend the brand and 58% saying they would definitely repurchase from Apple. The results come from a combination of data from J.D. Power & Associates and survey results from BusinessWeek readers. [via Mac Rumors]

Networks wary of lowering iTunes TV show prices

Despite last week’s statement from CBS CEO Leslie Moonves that “certain shows” would be sold on the iTunes Store for $1, many networks remain wary of cutting prices in order to boost sales. The New York Times reports that Apple has been pushing for lower TV show pricing—sometimes desperately so, according to private remarks from some TV executives—in an attempt to line up content for the iPad. The networks, meanwhile, are said to be interested in making their offerings more attractive to Apple’s 125 million iTunes account holders. “We’re willing to try anything, but the key word is ‘try,’” said a TV network executive who requested anonymity. The report also states that Apple’s $30 a month subscription proposal has not been ruled out entirely, according to executives at two of the networks, although Apple has encountered significant reluctance to the plan due to its position as a direct competitor to traditional cable and satellite services.

Apple allows sweepstakes, contests in apps

Apple has modified its iPhone SDK agreement to allow for both sweepstakes and contests within applications. The new rule, found in section 3.3.17, states, “Your Application may include promotional sweepstake or contest functionality provided that You are the sole sponsor of the promotion and that You and Your Application comply with any applicable laws,” adding that developers must “clearly state in binding official rules for each promotion that Apple is not a sponsor of, or responsible for conducting, the promotion.” The first application to take advantage of the new rules is available in the App Store for $1, and is tied to a sweepstakes running through March 16 in which one winner a day will receive “up to $1,000.” Notably, the app’s description says that the actual amount is dependent on sponsor discretion, and as the app otherwise offers little to no utility, we would advise readers to exercise extreme caution before purchasing or participating in promotions of this kind. [via TUAW]

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