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Apple details stock grant irregularities, consequences

Following an independent investigation into the company’s past stock option granting practices, Apple Computer today confirmed that grants made on 15 dates appeared to have been improperly pre-dated, skirting proper accounting principles and potentially violating Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. During periods of stock value appreciation, pre-dated grants enable recipients to collect compensation greater than what they were actually entitled to receive. According to the company, the grants in question were made between 1997 and January 2002, with no findings of misconduct by any member of Apple’s current management team. In “a few instances,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs was said to have been aware of the dates, but was neither aware of the accounting implications of the pre-dating nor the recipient of any benefits from the grants.

In a statement, Jobs apologized for the problems, calling them “completely out of character for Apple,” and promised “to ensure that this never happens again.” The company simultaneously announced that former Apple Chief Financial Officer Fred Anderson has resigned from the company’s Board of Directors, and noted that it was providing “all details” regarding the actions of “two former officers” to the SEC regarding their actions in connection with the grant problems.

DVD Jon reverse-engineers FairPlay DRM

Famous for creating DeCSS software to remove encryption on Macrovision protected DVDs, Jon Lech Johansen (aka DVD Jon) has reportedly reverse-engineered Apple’s FairPlay DRM (Digital Rights Management) software, and is licensing it to any company that wants it. Using the reverse-engineered code, a company can purchase a license and make their content (music or videos) play on Apple’s iTunes and iPod products. According to the report, Johansen set up a meeting with Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs, who, not knowing that Jon would later decide offer the FairPlay license to companies, warned that while Apple was not a litigious company, other tech firms might not take kindly to whatever he might be up to. [via GigaOM]

iPhone interest is high if price is right

  • September 22, 2006
  • Apple,

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster believes that Apple’s long-rumored iPhone needs to be priced around $300 to gain significant traction. In his latest research report, Munster estimates the average price of music enabled phones currently available in the U.S. to be $317, and notes that now is the time for Apple to release such a product. The analyst also offers survey data from Apple Expo in Paris, which finds that 74% of European Apple customers would be highly likely to buy an iPhone that holds 1,000 songs. “Price is clearly a consideration, however, and many customers indicated that they feel that an iPhone has the same value as Apple’s high capacity iPods,” Munster said. Specifically, the consumers said, on average, they would pay $285 for such a product. Munster expects Apple will announce an iPhone sometime in the next 3-6 months.

Analysts: New iPods priced for profits, not market share

  • September 18, 2006
  • Apple,

Apple’s pricing of the new iPod models shows the company is looking for better profit margins and not market share gains, according to analysts at market researcher Gartner. The analysts said the second-generation iPod shuffle could have been priced closer to $49, since the cost of materials amounts to around $30. Similarly, Apple could have also priced its new iPod nano models cheaper, according to the analysts. They claim the 8GB model has $130 in materials, the 4GB has $90 worth of materials, and the 2GB version has only $70 in materials. “Apple is in a secure position atop the portable media player market and has decided to strategically focus on its margin this time,” the analysts said.

Apple’s special event by the numbers

  • September 13, 2006
  • Apple,

During his feature presentation at Apple’s special “Showtime” event yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs provided various sales figures, market share data, and other numerical information:

- 450,000 Nike+iPod Sport Kits sold in less than 90 days
- 70% of 2007 model year automobiles to offer iPod connectivity
- 10 million iPod shuffles sold since its introduction in Jan. 2005
- iTunes Store now accounts for 88% of all legal US downloads
- Over 1.5 billion songs have been sold from the iTunes Store
- iTunes Store No. 1 in all 21 countries with iTunes Store
- 45 million TV shows purchased from iTunes Store in less than a year
- Over 220 TV Shows from over 40 networks now available

Apple posts special event QuickTime stream

  • September 12, 2006
  • Apple,

Apple has now posted a streaming QuickTime video of today’s “It’s Showtime” event, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced updated iPods, the second-generation iPod nano, and an all-new iPod shuffle. Jobs also debuted iTunes 7, showed an iTV device, and offered various updates on sales and other company information. See all of our current coverage from the event here.

Apple offers ‘sneak peek’ at iTV media router

  • September 12, 2006
  • Apple,

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During today’s Showtime event in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs offered an unexpected “sneak peek” at the company’s media router, tentatively titled iTV. The device, which is slightly larger than a Mac mini computer dimensionally, is planned for release in the first quarter of 2007 at a price of $299, and enables any iTunes 7-equipped Mac or PC to spool media content to a current-generation television set. iTV includes component video, HDMI, optical audio and RCA-style stereo audio ports, plus an Ethernet port, 802.11 wireless connectivity, and a power cable; the power supply is inside the unit. Videos, music, photos, podcasts, and movie trailers from Apple can all be performed on your home TV/AV system with the unit, which connects either directly to your TV or a set top box. Additional details to come.

Analyst: Apple could sell 8-12 million iPhones next year

  • September 11, 2006
  • Apple,

While he doesn’t expect Apple to introduce a cell phone at tomorrow’s special event, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster continues to expect the company will ship an “iPhone” within the next 4-6 months. Despite admitting that his firm “has not seen any concrete evidence that the product is near completion or launch,” Munster says Apple could ship between 8-12 million phones next year. “Assuming Apple ships its iPhone early in 2007, at Macworld-07 or a special event, we expect the company will sell 8-12 million iPhones in the full calendar year,” Munster says. “We believe the most likely iPhone buyers would be those who have previously owned a higher average selling price HDD iPod.”

Apple to hold ‘Showtime’ event on September 12th

  • September 5, 2006
  • Apple,

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Apple today confirmed that it will hold a special event on Tuesday, September 12th at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, California. An invitation sent to select media, including iLounge, features Hollywood premiere-style spotlights and reads simply, “It’s Showtime.” The event will kick off at 10:00 a.m. PT.

Reports of a September 12th press event first surfaced last week after the hosts of the Your Mac Life radio show and European Apple enthusiast websites claimed to have knowledge of the event. Apple’s date choice appears to be intentional, as the event will overlap with the opening day of this year’s Apple Expo in Paris, France, an international Mac and iPod show the company declined to grace with a keynote.

Analysts have speculated that Apple will use a September event to launch numerous product and service offerings, ranging from new iPod nano and video models to a 23-inch iMac, new iPod-inspired phone and a movie download service. Such speculation rarely proves entirely accurate, however, as few people know Apple’s plans for certain until the event actually takes place. As always, iLounge will be on hand with updates.

Reports: Apple to hold special event on September 12th

Based on reports from European Apple enthusiast websites and last night’s YourMacLife radio broadcast, Apple is in the process of inviting members of the press to a special event for new products, to be held on September 12, 2006. According to these reports, the invitation is unspecific as to the type of products to be shown and will be held at an as-yet-undisclosed location in Northern California, despite the fact that the event will fall on the same day as the opening of Apple Expo in Paris, France, an event the company publicly declined to open with a keynote speech. European journalists will reportedly attend a teleconference in London of the live California event. Analysts and Apple watchers have long predicted that new iPods, full-length iTunes movie downloads, and possibly even an “iPhone” would be introduced this fall.

Google CEO joins Apple’s board of directors

Apple today announced that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been elected to Apple’s board of directors. “Eric is obviously doing a terrific job as CEO of Google, and we look forward to his contributions as a member of Apple’s board of directors,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “Like Apple, Google is very focused on innovation and we think Eric’s insights and experience will be very valuable in helping to guide Apple in the years ahead.” “Apple is one of the companies in the world that I most admire,” Schmidt said. “I’m really looking forward to working with Steve and Apple’s board to help with all of the amazing things Apple is doing.” Apple’s board now includes eight members, including Jobs, former U.S. vice president Al Gore, former Apple CFO Fred Anderson, Intuit chairman Bill Campbell, J. Crew CEO Millard Drexler, Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson, and Harwinton Captial CEO Jerry York.

Creative settlement only ‘drop in the bucket’ for Apple

Apple’s $100 million settlement with Creative Technology is only a “drop in the bucket” for Apple and removes potential future headaches for the company, according to one Wall Street analyst. “If Creative had been able to win any favorable rulings in the five outstanding lawsuits, Apple could have faced headaches including: further appeals, product injunctions, future and historical royalty payments,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. “Considering $100m represents 1.1% of Apple’s $9.2 billion in cash (at the end of the June quarter), we believe the settlement will prove to be the right course of action.”

Apple, Creative announce settlement; Creative joins ‘Made for iPod’ program

Apple and Creative Technology today announced a broad settlement to end all legal disputes between the two companies. Apple said it will pay Creative $100 million for a license to use Creative’s recently awarded patent in all Apple products. The companies also announced that Creative has joined Apple’s “Made for iPod” program and will be announcing their own iPod accessories later this year. Creative sued Apple in May, claiming that the iPod’s interface is infringing on its “Zen Patent.” Following the company’s legal actions, Apple countersued Creative.

“Creative is very fortunate to have been granted this early patent,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “This settlement resolves all of our differences with Creative, including the five lawsuits currently pending between the companies, and removes the uncertainty and distraction of prolonged litigation.”

“We’re very pleased to have reached an amicable settlement with Apple and to have opened up significant new opportunities for Creative,” said Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative. “Apple has built a huge ecosystem for its iPod and with our upcoming participation in the Made for iPod program we are very excited about this new market opportunity for our speaker systems, our just-introduced line of earphones and headphones, and our future family of X-Fi audio enhancement products.”

Trade Union criticizes Apple’s iPod factory report

Apple’s report of labor conditions at the Foxconn iPod plant in China has been criticized by a leading international trade union organization for not being independently verified. Janek Kuczkiewicz, director of human and trade union rights at the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), said he was not impressed by Apple’s audit. “We are not impressed either by the report or by the findings of Apple,” Kuczkiewicz told BBc News. “Apple interviewed just 100 people out of the estimated 30,000 iPod workers. We do not know the conditions in which the interviews were held. We have serious reservations about the report.”

No Jobs keynote planned for Apple Expo Paris

Apple Expo Paris will not host a keynote presentation this year, according to show organizers Reed Expositions. “Apple CEO Steve Jobs has traditionally popped across the Atlantic to visit Europe once a year for the show,” reports Macworld UK. “Jobs was replaced by Apple VP Phil Schiller in 2004, as he was recovering from life-saving surgery at that time. Jobs also failed to deliver a keynote speech at last year’s Paris show, though he did visit the event to speak with journalists and introduce to the iPod nano.” Europe’s largest Mac-focused event, Apple Expo Paris will run September 12 through the 16.

Apple posts report on iPod plant investigation

Apple has posted an extensive report on its findings from the company’s investigation of working and living conditions at the Foxconn iPod factory in China. Apple said its audit—which was in response to much-publicized allegations of unacceptable worker treatment—covered labor standards, working and living environment, compensation, overtime and worker treatment. “We found the supplier to be in compliance in the majority of the areas audited,” Apple said. “However, we did find violations to our Code of Conduct, as well as other areas for improvement that we are working with the supplier to address.”

Apple: Steve Jobs is healthy, despite rumors

Following his keynote presentation at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) last week, a number of publications and attendees expressed concern that Apple CEO Steve Jobs looked unwell. Most pointed out that Jobs, who underwent pancreatic cancer surgery two years ago, looked “very thin, almost gaunt” and noted that it was very odd that Jobs handed off the majority of the presentation and product announcements to other, less charismatic Apple executives, as if he was tired and needed rest. According to an Apple spokesperson, however, Jobs is definitely healthy. “Steve’s health is robust and we have no idea where these rumors are coming from,” Katie Cotton, Apple’s VP of worldwide corporate communications, told InformationWeek.

Nasdaq warns Apple of possible delisting

Apple has been notified by Nasdaq that the company isn’t in compliance with requirements for continued listing on the tech stock market because of Apple’s delay in filing its quarterly report. Apple said it will request a hearing before a Nasdaq panel, and that its shares will remain listed pending the panel’s decision. Apple spokeswoman Katie Cotton told the Wall Street Journal that the company expects the Nasdaq hearing to be a “multimonth process.” Apple announced last week that it would delay filing its quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission because of irregularities related to the issuance of stock-option grants.

Apple’s Steve Jobs set to kick off WWDC today

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Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will kick off today with a keynote presentation by company CEO Steve Jobs at 10:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET. Jobs will give the first public preview of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Apple’s next major operating system upgrade. As with all Jobs keynotes, rumors are flying about what else might be announced—everything from new Intel-based “Mac Pro” desktop systems to the long-rumored iPhone. While we’ll be watching closely today for any iPod related news at the event, analysts are expecting Jobs to stick with Mac offerings. American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu said the probability is “low” that new iPods will be introduced today. “There is always room for firsts,” Wu said. “But WWDC is a Mac event and has not been used in the past for major iPod announcements.”

Update: As expected, Apple introduced new Mac Pro desktop workstations and previewed Mac OS X Leopard. No iPod or iTunes related announcements were made.

Apple warns of profit restatement, delays quarterly filing

Apple has announced that it will likely need to restate financial earnings and delay filing its quarterly report because of additional irregularities found in its accounting of stock options as part of an ongoing investigation. “Apple is now among the most high-profile companies caught up in a stock options scandal that has swept through the technology industry,” reports Reuters. “The SEC has more than 80 investigations underway to determine if companies manipulated the prices of stock options given to executives. Apple will likely need to restate results to record noncash charges for compensation expense relating to past stock option grants. Apple said it had not determined the amount of the charges, resulting tax and accounting impacts, or which periods may require restating.”

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