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.”
Nokia has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers.” According to the company’s announcement, the complaint centers on seven Nokia patents related to user interfaces, as well as camera, antenna, and power management technologies, all of which allow for a “better user experience, lower manufacturing costs, smaller size and longer battery life for Nokia products.”
“Nokia has been the leading developer of many key technologies in small electronic devices” said Paul Melin, General Manager, Patent Licensing at Nokia. “This action is about protecting the results of such pioneering development. While our litigation in Delaware is about Apple’s attempt to free-ride on the back of Nokia investment in wireless standards, the ITC case filed today is about Apple’s practice of building its business on Nokia’s proprietary innovation.”
Nokia sued Apple in October alleging that the iPhone infringes on patents for GSM, UMTS and wireless LAN standards, specifically those relating to wireless data, speech coding, security and encryption. Apple vowed to “vigorously” defend the case, and earlier this month filed a countersuit against Nokia alleging that Nokia is infringing 13 of Apple’s patents, announcing the suit in a terse press release that quoted Apple General Counsel and Senior Vice President Bruce Sewell as saying “Other companies must compete with us by inventing their own technologies, not just by stealing ours.”
Apple’s search for a way to strengthen the glass panel portion of the display for the company’s upcoming tablet forced the company to delay the product’s launch, a new report claims. Citing sources from Apple’s component suppliers, DigiTimes reports that Innolux, the panel-manufacturing subsidiary of Foxconn, will be the initial supplier of panels for the tablet. The report claims that Foxconn’s optical glass processing subsidiary G-Tech Optoelectrics will provide a glass-strengthening process for the 10-inch glass panels; Taiwan-based optical film maker Wah Hong Industrial has also been tapped as a supplier. Finally, Foxconn is said to be the manufacturer of the tablet, which the report claims will be announced in January and will see mass shipments beginning in March or April.
New evidence of trademark and domain name acquisitions by Apple suggest the company may be planning to use the name iSlate for its rumored tablet device. MacRumors found evidence from late 2007 that Apple has acquired the domain name “iSlate.com” through MarkMonitor, a firm that handles domain name registrations and trademark protections for many different companies, including Apple. TechCrunch then discovered iSlate trademark filings in the United States and European Union by a company named Slate Computing. Curiously, the same report notes that the European filing lists U.K.-based firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge as a legal representative, the same firm that helped Apple secure the EU trademark for the term “MacBook.” Finally, Mac Rumors found further evidence linking Slate Computing to Apple, as the trademark application documents list Regina Porter as the signatory; a person with the same name is also a Senior Trademark Specialist with Apple, according to her Linkedin profile. Notably, however, companies do acquire domain names for potential product titles that are not used, so regardless of Apple’s ownership of any domain, its tablet device may carry a different moniker. Apple has reportedly scheduled a special press event on Jan. 26 to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Apple has told certain iPhone developers to prepare applications for a demo on a screen with a higher resolution than the iPhone and iPod touch, according to a new report. Citing a source inside the mobile industry, Silicon Valley Insider reports that Apple plans to show off the new device, most likely the long-rumored tablet, in January. “They’ve told select developers that as long as they build their apps to support full screen resolution—rather than a fixed 320x480—their apps should run just fine,” said the source. The report notes that the device will not go on sale in January, but could launch as soon as March.
Update: The Financial Times is reporting that Apple has scheduled a special press event for January 26, to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Apple, along with 17 other companies including Kodak and Microsoft, has been sued for patent infringement by BetaNet, LLC in U.S. District Court in Texas. BetaNet claims that Apple is infringing two U.S. Patents, both entitled “Secure System for Activating Personal Computer Software at Remote Locations” via its iTunes, Aperture, QuickTime, and MobileMe programs. BetaNet claims Apple infringes upon its patent by offering limited software for download, which can be upgraded to a “complete version” after entering license transaction information, which is then sent to a central registration server that returns the complete program. BetaNet is seeking damages, costs, expenses, and interest, as well as a permanent injunction barring all 18 companies from further infringement. [via The Loop]
Recent reports from iPhone developers indicate that Apple has softened its stance on using private APIs—features not authorized by Apple for third-party developer use—in iPhone applications. One iPhone developer, Vimov, indicated that instead of simply rejecting its application for using private APIs, Apple approved it with a request that the developer resolve the issue in its next update. An unrelated developer, Jonah Grant reported a similar experience with his application. The iPhone SDK Developer Agreement prohibits the use of private APIs, which, unlike public APIs, may include features that Apple could change in future OS updates, and thus does not want third-party developers to use. In the past, applications that made use of private APIs have been rejected by the App Store review process, and Apple has even gone so far as to implement an automated check for the use of private APIs. The change in policy appears to be aimed at increasing approvals while educating developers about reasons for future rejection. Earlier this month Steve Jobs personally intervened to reverse the rejection of the Knocking application, which also made use of a private API. (via AppleInsider and Daring Fireball).
Apple has belatedly acknowledged a number of sync issues with iTunes and Click Wheel iPod models that users have been experiencing since the initial release of iTunes 9 in September. Following the release of iTunes 9, a number of iLounge readers have reported problems with their iPods not being recognized by iTunes, extremely slow syncs and iTunes crashing during sync. Although iPod classic users seem to be most affected by these issues, it appears that iPod nano users have also experienced similar problems. Apple had previously provided no comment, but has now confirmed that it is “aware of the issue and are investigating.” (via AppleInsider)
In response to a lawsuit brought against the company by Nokia for alleged iPhone-related patent infringements, Apple today filed a countersuit alleging that Nokia is infringing 13 of Apple’s patents. Surprisingly, Apple issued a terse press release regarding the countersuit, quoting Apple General Counsel and Senior Vice President Bruce Sewell as stating that “Other companies must compete with us by inventing their own technologies, not just by stealing ours.”
In October, Nokia filed suit against Apple claiming that the iPhone infringed on Nokia patents for GSM, UMTS and wireless LAN technologies covering wireless data, speech coding, security and encryption. Apple responded shortly thereafter that it intended to “defend the case vigorously,” indicating that it is defending more than 47 patent infringement cases, of which 27 were filed during the company’s fiscal 2009. Countersuits are often used in patent litigation as a means to achieve cross-licensing agreements and settlements without trials on the patents’ merits.
UPDATE: TechCrunch has provided some additional details regarding Apple’s lawsuit. Specifically, Apple is accusing Nokia of attempting a “patent hold-up” arguing that the patents in question are considered industry standards and Nokia is therefore expected to license them under fair and reasonable terms. Apple states in its countersuit that “Nokia has sought to gain an unjust competitive advantage over Apple by charging unwarranted fees to use patents that allegedly cover industry compatability standards.” The company further accuses Nokia of choosing to copy the iPhone as a response to its rapidly declining share of the high-end mobile phone market.
Apple has introduced the ability to purchase customized digital iTunes Gift Cards through its iTunes Facebook page. The feature is currently limited to U.S. iTunes Store customers only, and allows users to choose one of six digital gift card designs with values ranging from $5 up to $50 and enter a gift message. Users can also specify to send the gift card immediately or schedule it for automatic delivery at a future date. The service is integrated into the Facebook “Gifts” feature, enabling the iTunes Gift Cards to be sent through Facebook itself.
Time magazine has chosen the iPhone 3GS as the fourth best gadget of 2009, interestingly placing behind the Motorola Droid, Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader and the Dyson Air Multiplier. Time named the Droid as its number one choice since it was deemed the first handset to truly challenge the iPhone, and the best hardware companion to Google’s Android mobile operating system. The iPhone 3GS also earned praise, but the article noted that the changes in the 3GS were not revolutionary enough to distinguish it from last year’s iPhone 3G.
Qik reports that it has submitted an updated version of its Qik app to the App Store that will support live streaming from the iPhone. Qik has provided an unofficial live streaming iPhone app for jailbroken iPhones since even before the iPhone 3GS was released, however its first official Qik app on the App Store provided only the ability to record videos for later uploading to the Qik service.
ezGear is offering iLounge readers a 20% discount on all online orders at its web site. iLounge customers can use the Discount code ILOUNGE during checkout to redeem the offer. The ILOUNGE discount code can be used multiple times for iPod and iPhone accessories, as well as other ezGear products.
Last night Apple announced the launch of an RSS feed for iPhone Developer news and announcements. The new RSS feed provides information on a range of topics of interest to iPhone developers including tips on submitting apps to the App Store, current turnaround times for app review, developer program updates and development and testing techniques. While targeted at iPhone Developers, the feed is publicly available for anybody who may be interested in following iPhone-related development news from Apple.
Apple has banned a prolific iPhone developer from the App Store and removed all of the company’s more than 1000 apps as a result of what is believed to be review fraud, or astroturfing, on the part of the company. The issue with this specific developer was first discovered and reported by iPhoneography, a blog devoted to iPhone photography and videography, when a reader unearthed an unusually high number of five-star reviews for Molinker’s various applications. All reviews shared the same poor writing style and the overly positive reviewers had written reviews excluslvely for Molinker’s products.
iPhoneography submitted this information to Apple’s Phil Schiller and later received word confirming that Molinker’s apps had been removed from the App Store, which for some reason had featured at least one of the apps as a staff pick despite highly negative user reviews. In a response to the Appfreak blog, Molinker acknowledged that it had also received an e-mail on Sunday from Apple, placing its contract in pending status. (via AppleInsider)
Three months following the release of iPhone OS 3.1 and the third-generation iPod touch, Apple is still selling refurbished iPod touch models with the older 2.2.1 iPhone OS installed, forcing users to pay for upgrades to get software that debuted in September. Unusually, the Apple Store page for the refurbished iPod touch does not explicitly state the version of the OS that is included with these models—an issue dating back months—while a small link is provided on the page to “Visit iTunes to buy the iPhone 3.1 Software Update for iPod touch.” Apple representatives have confirmed to iLounge as recently as today that refurbished models still ship with the older version of the iPhone OS, and that the $5 3.1 update must be purchased separately. Notably, new 8GB iPod touch units sold by Apple since September of this year use the same second-generation hardware, and do include the latest iPhone OS.
Another patent infringment lawsuit has been filed against Apple, this time over the camera technology in the iPhone. St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants has filed suit in the United States District Court in Delaware, alleging that the iPhone camera infringes on four separate patents that it holds, seeking damages and a jury trial. In 2001, St. Clair filed suit against Sony for infringement of the same patents and received $25 million in damages, and then sued Canon in 2003, receiving $34 million in damages. St. Clair has since filed suit against every other major camera maker, as well as technology companies such as RIM and Palm. Many of these companies have since entered into licensing agreements with St. Clair. (via The Loop).
Apple confirmed yesterday that it has purchased online music retailer Lala.com, a smaller technology company that has developed an as-yet-unreleased application for streaming songs to the iPhone. Though Apple has not provided any further information, such as how much the deal was worth or what it plans to do with this acquisition, Lala’s streaming application promised to give users the right to stream songs to their iPhones an unlimited number of times for $0.10 per song, significantly less than the price of songs on the iTunes Store; the tracks could be purchased thereafter. Apple was said to be interested in Lala’s technical expertise, including its payment and streaming technologies, rather than its specific application. The company was launched in 2006 as an online CD-trading site but relaunched in October 2008 as a music retailer. (via MSNBC)
UPDATE: According to a source familiar with the matter, Apple may be looking to expand iTunes by offering streaming services in addition to their traditional download model. The source, who asked not to be named, stated that
“Apple recognizes that the model is going to evolve into a streaming one and this could probably propel iTunes to the next level.” (via Reuters)
UPDATE 2: Media Memo reports that according to multiple sources, Apple paid around $80 million for the company. This price represents less than half of what investors had valued Lala at in 2008, but is more than twice the money that has been raised by the company throughout its lifetime.
Apple is considering taking its new internally-developed iPod touch point-of-sale (POS) system to market, according to a new report. Citing unnamed sources, ifoAppleStore reports that Apple has seen a high volume of inquiries about the system since rolling it out in its own retail stores, but has until this point said the system was proprietary and not for sale. The system is comprised of a standard iPod touch that is housed in a custom shell with an integrated barcode scanner and credit card reader, which is linked to software that streamlines the checkout process. The report states that Apple retail executives have asked the retail store business specialists to collect contact information from anyone who inquires about the new POS system, possibly to create a database of potential customers should Apple decide to sell the system commercially.
Apple is manipulating NAND flash memory pricing though “questionable” purchasing strategies, according to a new report. Citing multiple unnamed industry officials, The Korea Times reports that Apple is using the leveraging power provided by the popularity of the iPhone and flash-based iPods to order more chips from semiconductor makers than it actually needs. “Apple should certainly be blamed for deteriorating the supply and demand cycle in the global NAND flash market,” said an unnamed senior industry official. “Apple has asked Korean semiconductor makers to produce a certain amount of chips for its digital products, only to actually purchase a smaller volume eventually. The company doesn’t make immediate purchases, but waits until chip prices to fall to the level the company has internally targeted.” A separate unnamed official called Apple’s purchasing strategies “absurd,” adding, “Samsung and Hynix both provide chips to Apple and have less of an edge in deciding prices and volume. Apple’s strategy could hurt the industry’s health.” An earlier report from September indicated that Apple’s consumption of NAND flash chips, which are used in the iPhone and iPod nano, touch, and shuffle, was causing a severe shortage of the popular components.
Prior to its acquisition by Google, mobile advertising firm AdMob was approached by Apple about a possible purchase, according to a new report. Citing a person familiar with the matter—who declined to be identified due to the private nature of the negotiations—Bloomberg reports that Apple approached AdMob to discuss a possible acquisition “a few weeks” before Google made its $750 million bid. Apple declined to comment on the story, while a spokesperson for AdMob said the company doesn’t comment on “rumor and speculation.” A purchase by Apple would have allowed the company to extend into online advertising, stated Karsten Weide, an analyst with research firm IDC. “If a lot of traffic goes through my devices, why can’t I become the middleman that serves ads against that inventory?” Weide said. “AdMob would have allowed [Apple] to do that quickly.” Weide estimates that together, Google and AdMob will account for between 30 and 40 percent of the mobile advertising market.
Apple has said that it plans to open between 40 and 50 new stores in 2010, with more than half those located outside the United States in countries including Canada, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France and China. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is also planning to focus on building more “significant,” or flagship, stores in major cities, as they are the company’s top retail revenue generators. “Other retailers call them flagship stores. We don’t use that word,” Apple senior vice president of Retail Ron Johnson said when explaining the “significant store” terminology. Highlighting Apple’s new Upper West Side store in NYC, set to open Saturday morning, the report adds that more significant stores are planned for spring or early summer openings in London, Paris, and Shanghai. Johnson also said that new stores will be larger than the majority of existing stores, to accomodate more product displays and larger Genius Bars. “Our stores are too small,” he explained. “Our biggest challenge at the Genius Bar — we cannot build them big enough.”
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has said he doesn’t like attempts to paint Apple and his company as rivals. As the article states, Iwata is an Apple fan himself, carrying an iPhone and using a Mac laptop on a regular basis. He claims the two companies appeal to different consumers, and says that attempts to create a rivalry make him “uncomfortable.” Despite Iwata’s claims, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller made direct comparisons between the iPod touch and Nintendo’s DS, as well as the Sony PSP, during the company’s rock and roll media event in September, stating that while the latter two “seemed so cool” at first, they now “don’t stack up” to the touch or iPhone.
Nintendo recently announced a 52% drop in profit for the first half of its fiscal year, citing lagging sales of its Wii and DS consoles, and also predicted that its annual profit would fall year-over-year for the first time in six years. “If we can’t make clear why customers pay a lot of money to play games on Nintendo hardware and Nintendo software and differentiate ourselves from games on the mobile phone or iPhone, then our future is dark,” Iwata said at a recent company event. Industry analysts also believe Nintendo may be in trouble due to increasing competition from Apple, with research firm DFC Intelligence expecting revenue from iPod touch and iPhone game to rise from $46 million in 2008 to more than $2.8 billion in 2014, while revenue from dedicated gaming devices is expected to shrink 27% over the same time period. Nintendo will launch a new version of its DS handheld, the DSi LL, in Japan on Nov. 21. It will sell for 20,000 yen, or roughly $222.