Apple is working on a new audio file format that would allow it to deliver high- or low-quality files to iCloud users based on bandwidth. Citing a source with inside knowledge of the process, the Guardian reports that the new system would adjust itself to the bandwidth and storage available on the receiving device, and would be used to enhance the company’s iTunes Match service. According to the report, Apple has already asked a London studio to prepare audio files for the new streaming format. “All of a sudden, all your audio from iTunes is in HD rather than AAC. Users wouldn’t have to touch a thing – their library will improve in an instant,” said the source. Apple has recently been encouraging submission of audio files in the 24-bit/96KHz standard, and has also released a set of guidelines for mastering to iTunes which hint at a such a possible future service: “As technology advances and bandwidth, storage, battery life, and processor power increase, keeping the highest quality masters available in our systems allows for full advantage of future improvements to your music. These masters matter – especially given the move into the cloud on post-PC devices.”
Last night during the Oscars, Apple aired its latest TV advertisement for the iPhone 4S. Entitled “iCloud Harmony”, the 30-second spot focuses on how iCloud can automatically sync purchased music, photos, apps, contacts and documents across a user’s devices, including the iPad and the Mac, before finishing with the slogan “Automatic. Everywhere. iCloud.” and the iPhone 4S logo. The commercial is available for viewing on YouTube via the above link or in embedded form below.
Apple is now selling the Brazilian-made 8GB iPhone 4 through its online store in the country. Mac Rumors points to a post by Meio Bit (Translated Link) confirming the news via a photo of the information listed on the back of the box. The new Made in Brazil units carry the model numbers MD128BR/A and MD198BR/A for the black and white iPhone 4, respectively; no evidence of Brazilian-made iPhone 4S units has yet surfaced. The report notes that despite the relocation of manufacturing, pricing for the iPhone 4 remains the same.
Apple has temporarily suspended push email service for iCloud and MobileMe users in Germany due to its ongoing legal battle with Motorola Mobility. A newly published Apple support document on the subject reads, “iCloud and MobileMe users are currently unable to have iCloud and MobileMe email pushed to their iOS devices while located within the borders of Germany”. It continues, “Affected customers will still receive iCloud and MobileMe email, but new messages will be downloaded to their devices when the Mail app is opened, or when their device periodically fetches new messages as configured in iOS Settings. Push email service on desktop computers, laptop computers, and the web is unaffected, as is service from other providers such as Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Apple believes Motorola’s patent is invalid and is appealing the decision.” No timeline was given for possible reactivation of the service. [via Engadget]
Apple has acquired the app search and discovery service Chomp, according to a pair of reports. TechCrunch reports that Chomp’s technology will be used to completely revamp App Store search and recommendations. The report notes that Chomp received seed funding in 2009 and eventually grew to include both iOS and Android apps. The company currently has a deal with Verizon to power all of their Android-based app searches, which is likely to end as soon as the Chomp team and product finishes its transition to Apple. 9to5Mac adds that Chomp CEO Ben Keighran and CTO Cathy Edwards are already working at Apple, with Keighran working on the iTunes marketing team, and Edwards serving as a senior iTunes engineer. The price of the deal is currently unknown.
“Your personal privacy should not be the cost of using mobile apps, but all too often it is,” said Attorney General Harris. “This agreement strengthens the privacy protections of California consumers and of millions of people around the globe who use mobile apps. By ensuring that mobile apps have privacy policies, we create more transparency and give mobile users more informed control over who accesses their personal information and how it is used.”
Apple has confirmed its purchase of land in Prineville, Oregon, on which it plans to build a new data center. Citing Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet, KTVZ.com reports that Apple will build the facility on a 160-acre parcel it purchased from Crook County for $5.6 million. Knowledge of Apple’s potential plans for the site dates back to last December, when The Oregonian reported that the company was considering purchasing the land, which is less than a mile away from a large data center run by Facebook and another sizable facility run by Google.
Apple will soon allow independent environmental reviews of at least two of its suppliers’ factories in China, according to a new report. Citing Ma Jun, founder of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, USA Today reports that Apple agreed to the reviews in late January, following the release of reports documenting hazardous-waste leaks and the use of toxic chemicals at suspected Apple suppliers. The reviews could begin as soon as March, and may expand to include more than just two factories.
Apple has posted a new contest celebrating the download of the 25 billionth app. As the company has with past countdown contests, it has posted a counter roughly showing the number of apps downloaded to this point on the contest page; similar graphics have yet to appear on the main iTunes Store or App Store, but will likely appear later today. “As of today, nearly 25 billion apps have been downloaded worldwide”, reads the contest page. “Which is almost as amazing as the apps themselves. So we want to say thanks. Download the 25 billionth app, and you could win a US$10,000 App Store Gift Card. Just visit the App Store and download your best app yet.” The contest will end once the 25 billionth app has been downloaded; no purchase or download is necessary to enter.
Apple has won a permanent injunction against most of Motorola Mobility’s products in Germany. FOSS Patents reports that Presiding Judge Dr. Peter Guntz ruled that the products infringe on Apple’s slide-to-unlock image patent, which covers “unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image”. According to the report, the court evaluated three different embodiments of the idea, two of which are implemented on Motorola’s phones—Apple won on those two—and a third which is used on Motorola’s Xoom tablet, and on which Apple did not prevail. The report states that Motorola will likely appeal the decision, at which point Apple will likely try to win on the third embodiment as well; currently, Apple would have to enforce the injunction at its own risk, by posting a bond that could be used to repay damages should the decision be reversed.
Apple this morning announced OS X Mountain Lion, the next release of its desktop operating system for its Mac computers. Among the new features debuted by Apple this morning—many of which were based on existing iOS apps, including Notes, Reminders, and Game Center—is AirPlay Mirroring. As the name suggests, the feature will allow users to mirror their Mac’s screen on a HDTV using an Apple TV, making it easy for users to share web pages, videos, lessons, and presentations with others. In addition, the company announced a beta version of Messages for OS X. This iChat replacement mimics the Messages app on iOS, allowing users to send iMessages across both iOS and Mac devices. The app also integrates support for AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts, as well as FaceTime, removing the need for a separate, standalone app. The beta version of Messages is available now as a free download for users of OS X Lion 10.7.3 or later; OS X Mountain Lion is currently available in preview form to registered Mac developers and is slated to ship in late summer.
Apple has sent out an email to iBookstore content creators, informing them of several new additions and features to the eBook publishing section of iTunes Connect. According to AppleInsider, the email touted publishers’ new ability to post screenshots, receive up to 50 promo codes for each book published, offer pre-orders for certain titles before their release, and create series of books, which ties the separate volumes together on the iBookstore. The report indicates that the new features are active for both established publishers and iBooks Authors alike, and are available now.
A week after social networking app Path, and subsequently other apps, were found to be accessing users’ contacts data without their knowledge or permission, Apple has responded on the issue, saying that users will soon need to give explicit permission for an app to do so. “Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD. “We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.” Apple’s comment comes after an inquiry from Congress questioning the company about its policy relating to the privacy and security of a user’s data.
Apple has asked a bankruptcy judge for permission to sue Kodak for patent infringement. Bloomberg reports that Apple’s filing indicates that it intends to file a complaint against Kodak with the International Trade Commission and a matching suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, based on claims that Kodak infringes on Apple patents covering technology used in printers, digital cameras, and digital picture frames. According to the report, Apple’s lawyers argued that while bankruptcy law does not prevent the filing of such claims against a company in court protection, “Apple requests express authority from [the] court before it initiates the actions out of an abundance of caution.”
Apple and Kodak are involved in a separate patent dispute over ownership of an image preview patent, which Kodak has used as the basis of claims filed against both Apple and BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion. Apple has argued that it and Kodak co-developed a digital camera in the early ‘90s, and that Kodak sought a patent on the technology, which should in fact belong to Apple; the ITC recently rejected the arguments, although that case and a matching lawsuit are still pending.
Working conditions at Foxconn are far better than those in other factories elsewhere in China, according to the initial findings of the Fair Labor Association. Reuters reports that the group is beginning its study—announced Monday—of Apple’s top eight suppliers in China, following several recent reports which painted the conditions at the plants in a negative light, as well as a number of documented worker suicides. Auret van Heerden, president of the FLA, spent the past several days visiting Foxconn plants in preparation for the study.
“The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm”, said van Heerden. “I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory. So the problems are not the intensity and burnout and pressure-cooker environment you have in a garment factory. . It’s more a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps.” He went on to say that suicides have been a problem at Chinese factories since the 1990s. “You have lot of young people, coming from rural areas, away from families for the first time”, he said. “They’re taken from a rural into an industrial lifestyle, often quite an intense one, and that’s quite a shock to these young workers. And we find that they often need some kind of emotional support, and they can’t get it. Factories initially didn’t realize those workers needed emotional support.”
Apple is making several changes to the terms of its iAd service in an attempt to fight share loss in the mobile advertising market. According to an Ad Age report, Apple has lowered the initial buy-in to $100,000 from $300,000, making the current rate just one-tenth of the $1 million required when the service launched. Other changes include giving developers a 70% cut of ad revenues from iAds running in their apps, up from 60%, and dropping the per-click fee for advertisers in favor of a fixed cost-per-thousand rate. Citing data from IDC, the report claims that Apple lost ground in the mobile ad market in 2011, dropping to a 15 percent share from 19 percent in 2010.
In addition to the previously reported statements on supply chain statistics and the Apple TV, Apple CEO Tim Cook provided several other noteworthy comments during his talk at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. Regarding iCloud, Cook suggested that the genesis of Apple’s Internet-based synchronization was customer convenience; in his words, it was not a great customer experience to have to sync content between devices, and Cook explained that iCloud makes this easier by letting its now 100 million users transfer content back and forth from the cloud rather than from an increasing variety of computer-like devices they now use. Cook also mentioned Siri, describing it as an emerging alternative to the physical keyboard and mouse, along with Multi-Touch. He called both iCloud and Siri “profound” innovations in computing, and claimed that they are things today’s users will talk about with their grandkids.
Additionally, when asked what mark he would like to leave on the company, Cook said Apple was a unique company, and unique culture, that can’t be replicated. Speaking forcefully, he said that he would not witness or permit the slow undoing of Apple—an allusion to the John Sculley regime of the 1980s—because Cook believes in the company’s work so deeply. “Steve drilled in all of us over many years that the company should revolve around great products, and that we should stay extremely focused on few things rather than try to do so many that we did nothing well, and that we should only go into markets where we can make significant contributions to society, not just sell a lot of products,” Cook said. “These things, along with the expectation of keeping excellence… these are the things I focus on. Because those are the things that make Apple this magical place, that really smart people want to work in, and not just do their life’s work, but their life’s best work…”
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company plans to start offering monthly supply chain reports. According to Cook, these monthly supply chain compliance statistic reports will be posted on the company’s website, and represent a further effort on the company’s part to improve the lives of those who are involved in the creation and production of its products.
Apple has posted a notice on its Investor Relations page noting that it will be offering a live audio webcast of CEO Tim Cook’s presentation at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference tomorrow. According to the notice, Cook will speak at approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time/12:30 p.m. Pacific Time. As noted by Mac Rumors, Cook has spoken at the event several times in the past, and while offering occasional insight into Apple’s business, he has never used the event as a platform for an announcement. [via @setteB.IT]
Apple nabbed the top spot in the 13th Harris Poll Reputation Quotient (RQ) study, which measures corporate reputation among U.S. companies. The study measures six dimensions that comprise reputation and influence consumer behavior, including Social Responsibility, Emotional Appeal, Financial Performance, Products & Services, Vision & Leadership, and Workplace Environment. Apple scored the highest reputation score in the study’s history—85.62—by being the top-ranked company in the latter four categories, while Whole Foods was tops in Social Responsibility, and Amazon.com won the Emotional Appeal category. Overall, Apple was trailed in the rankings by previous leader Google, with a score of 82.82, Coca-Cola, with a score of 81.99, Amazon, with a score of 81.92, and Kraft Foods, which earned a score of 81.62. The study is based on surveys of more than 17,000 members of the American general public.