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Man sues Apple, FBI over mafia-‘bugged’ iPod conspiracy

Apple has been sued by a Beverly Hills, CA man, who accuses the company of conspiring with the mafia to track him and his activities in secret. According to the complaint, Gregory McKenna believes his bedroom, living room, upstairs bathroom, and Toyota Camry, along with an iPod shuffle he purchased from eBay and an iPod mini he purchased in an Apple Store, all contained receivers that allowed the mafia to transmit threats to him and follow his whereabouts. McKenna claims that recordings of mafia members saying “I’m going to kill him” played in unison with a song on his iPod mini in 2008, and that a modified version of the Mike Jones song “Still Tippin,” heard on his iBook G4, PowerBook G4, and two iPods contained the word “herpes,” which McKenna suggests was added to the song in order “to humiliate, degrade, and cause emotional stress.” Apple is but one of several entities named in the lawsuit, joining the St. Louis County Police Department, a local auto mechanic, and “unknown agents” of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Missouri, the suit reads, “The recording of death threats and other evidence prove that APPLE INC. conspired with the Mafia and other Defendants to manufacture, distribute, and sell illegally bugged iPods and other electronic equipment to Plaintiff to perpetuate the stalking, extortion, and torture.” (via AppleInsider)

Apple ups stake in PowerVR maker Imagination

Apple has more than doubled its stake in U.K.-based Imagination Technologies, a new regulatory statement has revealed. The Street reports that Apple is boosting its ownership share in Imagination—which designs the PowerVR graphics chips found in the iPhone and iPod touch—from 3.6% to 9.5% via a combination of share placement and stock purchases. Apple first purchased 8.2 million shares, or a 3.6% ownership interest, in December; Intel also owns a stake in the company, and recently increased its ownership position to 16%.

Jobs’ liver transplant confirmed, prognosis ‘excellent’

Following a Wall Street Journal report that Apple CEO Steve Jobs received a liver transplant roughly two months ago, and subsequent speculation as to Jobs’ health and eligibility for such a rapid transplant, Methodist University Hospital in Tennessee has confirmed the surgery and its context. James D. Eason, M.D., the hospital’s chief of transplantation, said in a statement that Jobs did receive a liver transplant, and was eligible for a rapid donation “because he was the patient with the highest MELD score (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease) of his blood type and, therefore, the sickest patient on the waiting list at the time a donor organ became available.” Jobs was said to be recovering well with an excellent prognosis, and chose Methodist due to its nation-leading one-year patient and graft survival rates.

Apple CEO Jobs had liver transplant, says WSJ

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who has been on medical leave from the company since mid-January, received a liver transplant roughly two months ago, according to the Wall Street Journal. Reporting without citing a source, which may have been due to an intentional but quiet Apple leak of the information, the Journal claims that Jobs had the surgery done in Tennessee, possibly to bypass longer transplant waiting lists in other states. The report goes on to cite William Hawkins, a doctor specializing in pancreatic and gastrointestinal surgery at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., as saying that the type of pancreatic tumor Jobs had in 2004 will often metastasize in the patient’s liver later in their lifetime. Hawkins also raised doubts as to the effectiveness of liver transplant surgery in such cases. Jobs is expected to return to work at Apple by the end of the month.

BBC: Apple threatened to sour relations over report

Concluding a report on Apple in the BBC technology program Click, which featured an extended segment on Apple’s control over its employees, developers, and the media, presenter Spencer Kelly said that Apple was invited to participate in the program, but declined and threatened to sour relations with the program if it ran the segment. Click included two Apple-related segments in its 30-minute episode, one focused on announcements from the 2009 WWDC in San Francisco, and the next on various aspects of the company’s development and marketing strategies. In the latter portion, Click aired interviews that suggested that Apple communicates with members of the press solely for marketing purposes, and cuts access when coverage hasn’t been positive enough.

According to Kelly, “we did invite Apple to participate in that report, but they said they don’t comment on their internal operations, and that our piece was ‘speculative’ because it didn’t feature anyone from Apple. We’ll leave you to work that one out. They also added that running that report could ‘sour’ our relationship with them. We’re not quite sure what that means, but I’m sure that we, and you, will find out in due course.” A text article summarizing the piece is available online, but it should be noted that the spirit of the segment that aired on television is not fully captured in the print version.

Apple 2009 WWDC Keynote now available online

Video from Apple’s 2009 WWDC Keynote Address is now available in both a streaming QuickTime format for online viewing, and through the company’s Keynotes podcast in iTunes. The iTunes version weighs in at 1.32 GB; both versions run just slightly over two hours in length. For those of you that missed our live coverage, Apple yesterday updated its line of MacBook laptops, demoed and announced a shipping timetable for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, discussed and announced a release date for iPhone OS 3.0, and introduced the new iPhone 3GS.

iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3.0 news: a quick summary

The news out of Apple’s WWDC 2009 came so quickly that our News column has barely been able to keep up with it all. Here’s a quick summary of what was announced, along with links to our full articles:

WWDC 2009 Keynote in Brief: Learn about new MacBook Pro models, the $29 Snow Leopard upgrade, iPhone OS 3.0 and iPhone 3GS announcements in our text play-by-play from the event. See over 100 pictures in our photo gallery, as well. Accessory problems twice interrupted the Keynote.

iPhone 3GS Announced: A weird name for a largely iterative upgrade to the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS features a 3MP still camera, 640x480 video camera, voice controls, twice the storage capacity (16/32GB), improved responsiveness, and modestly improved battery performance. It hits June 19 for $199/$299.

iPhone 3GS Upgrade Fees: AT&T and Apple are hitting “early upgraders” with $200 to $400 fees if they want the iPhone 3GS, depending on when they purchased the iPhone 3G or other AT&T phones.

iPhone 3GS Data Plans Announced: AT&T, Rogers, and O2 are amongst companies announcing plans with no changes for prior 3G service offerings, but potentially higher charges for features such as MMS and PC/Mac Internet tethering.

iPhone 3GS Gets Enhanced Remote Support, New Headset: Apple has updated the iPhone 3GS headphone port with support for the Earphones with Remote and Mic, which it includes along with the device.

iPhone 3GS Radiation Data Released: The iPhone 3GS puts out less potentially dangerous radiation at maximum in five of six measures than its predecessor, but more in the sixth.

iPhone 3G 8GB Now $99: AT&T and Apple will continue to offer the black 8GB iPhone 3G for a reduced price of $99, and are closing out the 16GB model for $149.

iPhone OS 3.0 Coming June 17: Free for iPhone and iPhone 3G users, $10 for iPod touch owners, it adds a variety of new software features to every iPhone OS device, and unlocks new hardware features in certain devices as well. iTunes video downloading and Find My iPhone are newly announced features, atop the massive list we’ve been compiling since March.

iLounge’s Keynote Play-by-Play, 100 pictures posted here

The iPhone 3G S has been announced, and we have all the details and pictures for you. See our Flickr collection of 100 images here, and the transcript by clicking on the title of this story!

[Editor’s Note: We’ve heavily pruned the gallery since this article was initially posted, reducing the total number of images to better spotlight the good ones.]


Apple Store offline before WWDC 2009 Keynote

In traditional fashion, Apple has temporarily taken its online Store offline for the duration of its Keynote event, a step which almost invariably sees the addition of new products to the digital storefront. Apple’s online Store typically relaunches immediately following the event with new items highlighted prominently on its main page, as well as on other pages of the web site.

iLounge’s WWDC 2009 Photostream Now Available

Photos direct from the WWDC 2009 Keynote are now appearing on iLounge’s Flickr photostream, and will continue to appear during the keynote. Initial banners spotted on site reference the Grand Central multi-core processor technology found in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and the new APIs found in iPhone OS 3.0. We’ll have plenty more to say and show you over the course of the next few hours!

Early WWDC 2009 signage touts iPhone apps

Signage for next week’s 2009 Worldwide Developers Conference has begun to appear both inside and outside Moscone West in San Francisco, with much of the early decorations focusing on iPhone and iPod touch applications. Adam Jackson has posted a brief Flickr look at the signage, which is still in the process of being installed. Notably, a long, large banner inside the venue is covered with app icons, strewn about in no particular arrangement with the text “One year later. Light-years ahead.” joining the typical WWDC lettering. Smaller window-mounted icons can be seen on the perimeter wall facing the street, and the large Apple logo is mid-way through installation in its usual spot above the main entrance. Apple’s WWDC 2009 event kicks off next Monday with a Keynote Address from senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller and a team of other Apple executives at 10:00 a.m Pacific Time.

Apple, others sued over e-commerce patents

Apple, along with a number of other large companies, has been sued in a Texas court by a company claiming that the Apple, iTunes, and App Stores violate its e-commerce patents. Actus, LCC filed a 28-page complaint against Apple, Amazon, eBay, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, and others, claiming that they infringe on its patents—Nos. 7,328,189, 7,249,099, 7,376,621 and 7,177,838—which cover an online payment method. The patents describe a system through which customers first set up an account with their payment details, and then add credits to a store account which can be used to purchase goods and services. It is unclear from the suit exactly which features of the Apple’s Stores are being protested; however, the feature most similar to those described in the patents is iTunes Allowances, which allows parents to set up monthly iTunes Store credits which are distributed to other, mostly younger, family members; gift certificates and similar codes may also be impacted. The complaint alleges that Apple is infringing on Actus’ patents by “marketing, distributing, using, selling, or offering to sell the following products and/or services: Apple Store, iTunes, and iPhone Apps Store.” [via AppleInsider]

Apple, AT&T, Shazam sued over song ID tech

Apple, AT&T, Shazam Entertainment, and others have been sued in federal court by Tune Hunter, which claims the various companies have infringed on its patented song identification technology. Applied for in 2000 and granted in September, 2005, U.S. Patent no. 6,941,275 describes a music identification system that can either record the timestamp and currently playing radio station on an electronic device, or record and submit for processing a sample of audio in order, each technique capable of determining the song playing at the time. After submission, the song’s title, artist, and other information can be presented to the user via Internet or traditional voice telephony, with the possibility of providing a purchase link alongside the results.

Though Shazam and other companies may have offered music identification services since before 2005, Tune Hunter could recover damages for infringements taking place after its patent was granted. Apple, although potentially protected by its App Store contract, may be liable given that it has actively promoted Shazam’s iPhone application in a dedicated advertisement for the iPhone 3G as a reason to purchase the device. Other companies named in the suit include Samsung, Amazon, Napster, Motorola, Gracenote, Cellco Partnership (Verizon Wireless), LG, and Pantech; it is unclear whether additional applications, such as Melodis’s Midomi or Griffin’s iFM, will also be impacted by the patent.

Apple VP Schiller to lead 2009 WWDC group keynote

Apple has announced that it will kick off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) with a keynote address on Monday, June 8 at 10:00 a.m Pacific Time. Traditionally delivered by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, this year’s address will feature an entire team of Apple executives, led by Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. Last year’s address included extensive previews of Mac OS X Snow Leopard and the announcement of the iPhone 3G; this year’s is expected to follow a similar pattern, with Apple showing highlights of Snow Leopard and possibly announcing the next generation of iPhone hardware.

FTC investigates Apple, Google ties

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether the close ties between Apple and Google’s boards amount to a violation of antitrust laws. Citing multiple people briefed on the inquiry, who asked to remain anonymous, the New York Times reports that the companies’ sharing of two directors—Eric Schimdt, CEO of Google, and Arthur Levinson, former CEO of Genentech—may violate the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, which prohibits a person’s presence on the board of two rival companies when it could reduce competition between them.The article notes that while the companies have worked together to bring services such as Gmail and Google Maps to the iPhone, they have been increasingly been in competition, with products such as the iPhone and the Android OS, and with Safari and Google’s Chrome browser. Under the Clayton Act, sharing directors is not considered a problem if the revenue from products in which the companies compete is less than 2 percent of either company’s sales.

WSJ: Ex-AMD exec Koduri joins Drebin at Apple

Raja Koduri, CTO of the graphics product group at AMD, has left the company to take an unspecified position at Apple, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with Apple’s plans, the Wall Street Journal reports that Koduri started work this week, and will help the iPod maker design multifunction chips for use in the iPhone, iPod touch, and other yet-unannounced mobile devices. The report suggests the chips may offer drastic reductions in power consumption and may also offer graphics circuitry to help play more realistic games and high-definition videos, although the chips aren’t expected to emerge in shipping products until next year at the earliest. Word of Koduri’s arrival comes only days after it was revealed that Bob Drebin, also a former CTO at AMD and veteran console graphics engineer, had joined Apple; the report suggests that the company is still trying to fill dozens of chip-related positions.

Apple sued over legal threats made to BluWiki

Apple has been sued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and representatives of OdioWorks, which runs the BluWiki website, after Apple made legal threats to the company over content hosted on the wiki. At issue is a group of pages, referred to as the iTunesDB pages, that contained information on how to use an iPod or iPhone with third-party software. Apple legal sent a letter demanding the pages be removed, arguing that the content constituted copyright infringement and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA’s) prohibition on circumventing copy protection measures. OdioWorks’ suit against Apple seeks a declaratory judgment that the discussions do not violate any of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, and do not infringe any copyrights owned by Apple.

Apple gets ex-ATI console GPU lead Bob Drebin

According to his LinkedIn profile page, former Chief Technology Officer of AMD’s Graphics Products Group Bob Drebin has joined Apple as a Senior Director. Previously a key member of the architecture and engineering team at ArtX, the company responsible for the Nintendo GameCube’s graphics processor, Drebin came to AMD through its acquisition of ATI, which acquired ArtX and used its expertise to develop the graphics processor for Nintendo’s Wii. Drebin was previously a chief engineer at Silicon Graphics, and a computer R&D tech for Pixar. Drebin’s hiring is the latest in a series of moves by Apple that suggest the company will develop its own chips for the iPhone and iPod. The company first purchased chipmaker P.A. Semi in April 2008, later confirming that the company was purchased with plans to “do system-on-chips for iPhones and iPods.” It then hired former IBM executive Mark Papermaster in November to lead the company’s iPod and iPhone hardware engineering teams, and made a significant investment in mobile GPU maker Imagination Technologies in December. Imagination makes the PowerVR MBX chip used in current iPhone hardware. [via The Inquirer]

Bump is billionth app downloaded, 13-year-old wins prizes

Apple has released details of the winning user in its Billion App Countdown contest. The one billionth app, the contact swapping app Bump from Bump Technologies, was downloaded by Connor Mulcahey, age 13, of Weston, CT, USA. As the grand prize winner of Apple’s one billion app countdown contest, Mulcahey will receive a $10,000 iTunes gift card, a 32GB iPod touch, a Time Capsule and a 17-inch MacBook Pro.

“The revolutionary App Store has been a phenomenal hit with iPhone and iPod touch users around the world, and we’d like to thank our customers and developers for helping us achieve the astonishing milestone of one billion apps downloaded,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “In nine months, the App Store has completely revolutionized the mobile industry and this is only the beginning.”

Notes from Apple’s Q2 2009 Conference Call

During the company’s Q2 2009 financial earnings Conference Call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer and COO Tim Cook made several comments relating to the company’s iPod and iPhone businesses. Oppenheimer opened the call with some opening remarks, during which he revealed that the 11 million units sold marked a new March quarter record for iPod sales, driven by the iPod touch, which saw sales more than double the year-ago quarter. He added that customers and reviewers responded favorably to iPod shuffle 3G, and that Apple is very pleased with its iPod MP3 Player market share, which remains over 70% in the U.S., according to the latest data from NPD.

Oppenheimer also revealed that there are now over 35,000 applications available in the App Store, and that the billionth app download should happen “within hours.” He said the App Store was a key differentiator for the iPhone and iPod touch relative to competing devices, and that it keeps Apple “years ahead of the competition.” iPhone’s global reach expanded during the quarter, as it is now available in 81 countries. As with the early announcement of iPhone OS 2.0, Apple will delay recognition of revenue from all iPhones sold on or after the March 17 iPhone OS 3.0 announcement until after the updated software’s release.

A brief question and answer session followed, continue reading to see more.

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