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Suit alleges Apple stores discriminate against visually impaired

A class action lawsuit recently filed in Florida alleges that Apple is violating Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act by not offering point of sale devices that can be operated independently by the visually impaired. The suit argues the visually impaired cannot enter a PIN without help while using a debit card, denying the individuals full equal use of the store. It’s noted that other retailers offer point of sale devices with “tactiley discernible keypad surfaces.” The plaintiff is seeking an injunction that would force Apple to update or replace its point of sale devices. [via TUAW]

Report: Apple moved $8.9B in profits to tax haven

Apple has moved roughly $8.9 billion in untaxed profits from its Australian operations to a tax haven structure in Ireland over the last decade, The Australian Financial Review reports. The article claims that while Apple reported pretax earnings of $88.5 million in Australia last year, the company “sent $2 billion of income from its Australian sales to Ireland via Singapore, where Apple negotiated a secret tax deal.” Using 10 years of financial accounts obtained from Apple’s Irish company, Apple Sales International, the Financial Review says that although Apple Sales International has reported more than $100 billion in profits during the last five years, it has paid less than 50 cents in tax on every $1000 of income.

As was noted last year when Apple came under fire for tax practices, Apple avoids paying taxes in Ireland because the company is managed in the U.S., but avoids U.S. taxes by having Apple Sales International registered in Ireland. Though Ireland has said it would close the loophole, Apple can still choose where to base its tax residence. In 2010, Apple started rerouting sales through a new subsidiary based in Singapore, Apple South Asia Pte Ltd. The publication notes “there is no suggestion ... that this arrangement is anything but proper within Australian tax laws.”

Report: Apple bringing full-screen video ads to iOS

Apple will bring full-screen video iAds to iPhone and iPad apps this year, Advertising Age reports. The new video iAds will play automatically. According to the report, these ads could occur during moments of transition, “like after completing a game’s level or finishing an article.” Pricing for the ads is unknown, and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Report: Apple working to expand Siri functionality for iWatch

Apple is working to expand Siri’s capabilities, including greater third-party integration, according to The Information. The report claims the Siri upgrades are being done with the iWatch in mind. These changes would allow Siri to offer more functionality by connecting to services and apps from third parties. It’s also noted that Siri’s search is being improved, and Apple is working on a way to dynamically decide which information should be displayed on a device with a smaller screen, such as the iWatch. In one given example, a running app could move to the foreground of the device’s screen when the user starts to jog. [via TechCrunch]

Sanction-seeking Apple publicly disclosed Nokia terms

Apple previously sought sanctions against Samsung in ongoing litigation between the two companies for using confidential licensing terms between the Cupertino company and Nokia — but a recent report notes Apple actually filed its terms with Nokia on a publicly available court docket. The terms remained on the docket for about four months. Samsung was not sanctioned for using the terms, but its law firm was ordered to reimburse Apple and Nokia for its legal fees in the matter. It’s now possible those fees could be reduced. Samsung is now seeking more information on Apple’s public disclosures, and may even pursue its own sanctions against Apple. [via FOSS Patents]

Report: iOS 7.1 due within week, before SXSW

According to a brief post by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, Apple will release the final version of iOS 7.1 “any day now,” ahead of next week’s iTunes Festival at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. Alluding to an unnamed source at Apple, Gruber notes that “a little birdie” told him that the iTunes Festival live streaming application requires iOS 7.1, so the long-awaited bug-fixing iOS update would logically need to become available before the Festival begins. An Apple TV channel will also be added to stream iTunes Festival content.

Update: Apple has released version 5.0 of the free iTunes Festival app, before the company’s release of iOS 7.1.

Apple CFO Oppenheimer to retire, replaced by Maestri

Apple announced today that senior vice president and chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer will retire at the end of September. Oppenheimer, who has been with Apple since 1996, will be succeeded by Luca Maestri, Apple’s VP of finance and corporate controller. “Peter has served as our CFO for the past decade as Apple’s annual revenue grew from $8 billion to $171 billion and our global footprint expanded dramatically. His guidance, leadership and expertise have been instrumental to Apple’s success, not only as our CFO but also in many areas beyond finance, as he frequently took on additional activities to assist across the company. His contributions and integrity as our CFO create a new benchmark for public company CFOs,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a release.

It was just announced Monday that Oppenheimer was appointed to Goldman Sachs’ board of directors. Maestri notably participated actively in Apple’s most recent conference call with investors, and although his presence was unexplained at the time, it’s now clear that he will take on Oppenheimer’s quarterly public speaking role with analysts.

Apple pressing labels for exclusive album releases

Apple music chief Robert Kondrk “has been pressuring major labels for releases similar to last year’s Beyonce exclusive,” according to Billboard. “Tense talks with label executives” reportedly followed Beyonce’s successful exclusive one-week debut of her self-titled album on iTunes. The album was kept off streaming services for the first week, and sold 1 million copies worldwide during that time. Apple is pitching the “windowing” method as a way to boost music download sales. Kondrk reportedly suggested to labels that new albums wouldn’t necessarily have to be iTunes exclusives, but those albums should be unavailable to streaming services for a set period of time.

Cook rails against ending ‘green’ projects; profiled in book

Apple CEO Tim Cook was “visibly angry” during Friday’s shareholder meeting after a group asked Apple to stop using money on green energy projects that weren’t profitable. The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank and Apple investor, was rebuked by Cook, who said Apple did “a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive.” Addressing the NCPPR representative, Cook said, “If you want me to do things only for ROI (return on investment) reasons, you should get out of this stock.” The Apple CEO also said, “When we work on making our devices accessible to the blind, I don’t consider bloody ROI.”

A recent excerpt from the upcoming book “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs,” provides some insight into Cook’s hidden intensity. Though Cook is described as Jobs’ “polar opposite,” author Yukari Iwatani Kane writes, “To some, Cook was a machine; to others, he was riveting. He could strike terror in the hearts of his subordinates, but he could also motivate them to toil from dawn to midnight for just a word of praise.” Another paragraph notes that, “Meetings with Cook could be terrifying. He exuded a Zenlike calm and didn’t waste words.” Cook is also described as being “relentlessly frugal” and as having “inhuman” stamina, but also generous and charitable. [via The Independent, Wall Street Journal]

Apple on Asian hiring spree to speed up production

Apple is hiring “hundreds of new engineers and supply-chain managers in China and Taiwan” as the company pushes for “faster and more frequent product launches,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The company is hiring engineers from Taiwanese tech firms, including rival HTC. Apple reportedly needs more engineers to develop components for upcoming iPhones and iPads; the company has already added “several hundred new engineers and operations staff in China” during the past two years. According to one recruiting email obtained by the WSJ, “Apple is building an engineering team in Taipei to drive new iPhone product development.” It’s previously been reported that Apple will launch two iPhones with larger screens later this year.

Apple CFO named to Goldman Sachs board

Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s Chief Financial Officer, has been appointed to financial firm Goldman Sachs’ board of directors. His appointment brings the Board to 13 directors, 10 of whom are independent. Commenting on the appointment, Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEP Lloyd C. Blankfein said, “Peter’s 25 years of broad experience across important industries will add a valuable perspective to our Board of Directors. We appreciate his willingness to serve as a director and look forward to benefitting from his judgment and counsel.”

Apple to charge out-of-warranty users for online chat support

  • February 28, 2014
  • Apple

Apple will soon charge out-of-warranty device users for online chat support, 9to5Mac reports. The charges will be collected using a new web payment system developed by Apple. It’s possible the system could launch by next week. It appears Apple will charge $20 for each incident of online tech support and troubleshooting. The report notes users will be able to request an exception for the charge, though further details about how that might happen are unknown.

Cook: Apple TV earned $1B revenue in 2013

Speaking at Apple’s annual shareholders meeting today, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple TV made more than $1 billion of revenue in 2013. Cook has often referred to the set-top box as a “hobby,” but said today, “It’s a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days.” The news comes amid a recently announced deal on current Apple TV models that has fueled speculation regarding an upcoming Apple TV hardware update. Cook also said during the meeting that 40 billion iMessages are sent daily, along with 15 to 20 million FaceTime calls. [via Reuters]

Apple details A7, Touch ID security in document

An updated Apple security document on the company’s “iPhone in Business” site provides more information on security details regarding the iPhone’s Touch ID feature and A7 chip. The document describes the A7 chip’s Secure Enclave coprocessor, which uses encrypted memory and a hardware random number generator to securely store user credentials and communicate with the Touch ID sensors. “Each Secure Enclave is provisioned during fabrication with its own UID (Unique ID) that is not accessible to other parts of the system and is not known to Apple,” the document notes. The Secure Enclave processes fingerprint data from the Touch ID, which is encrypted in the Touch ID sensor and authenticated with the Secure Enclave using a device-specific key. Apple has also updated the document to include more info about security in other areas, such as iCloud Keychain, AirDrop, iMessage, and FaceTime. [via TechCrunch]

Apple appeals e-book antitrust ruling

  • February 26, 2014
  • Apple

As expected, Apple has filed an appeal disputing a July ruling that the company conspired to raise e-book prices. Apple told a federal appeals court the ruling “is a radical departure” from modern antitrust law, and warned it would “chill competition and harm consumers,” the Associated Press reports. The company seeks to either overturn the ruling, or be granted a new trial with a different judge. Apple was recently given a brief reprieve from an antitrust monitor assigned to watch over the company; a court ruled soon after that appointed monitor Michael Bromwich could remain on duty.

Apple releases iBeacon specification

  • February 25, 2014
  • Apple

Apple has released an iBeacon specification through its MFi program, as noted by Beekn. If manufacturers meet certain established criteria, they will be able to brand their devices with the iBeacon name. In addition to bearing the name, official iBeacons will broadcast Bluetooth LE to Apple’s standards. Applying to the program is free. Though the specification will give Apple more control over the iBeacon name, it’s notable that there are no restrictions which would make an iBeacon incompatible with other phones, such as Android phones.

Apple sapphire partner expects orders in ‘latter part’ of 2014

  • February 25, 2014
  • Apple

Apple sapphire partner GT Advanced Technologies recently announced its 4Q 2013 fiscal results, noting the company “now expects equipment orders from investments to be received during the latter part of 2014.” GT expects “meaningful revenue recognition” will start in early 2015. “We expect to return to profitability during the second half of 2014,” Tom Gutierrez, president and CEO of GT said. These comments appear to allude to a fall 2014 launch of one or more new Apple products containing sapphire, making a summer or earlier launch of such products extremely unlikely at this point.

Apple urges veto of Arizona anti-gay bill

  • February 25, 2014
  • Apple

Apple has asked Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a “religious freedom” bill that would allow businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians, the Associated Press reports. Company spokeswoman Kristin Hueget confirmed Apple “had reached out to Brewer and urged a veto,” according to the report. Apple announced plans in November to build a sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona. Just a few days before that announcement, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an op-ed piece in support of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, noting that Apple prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees. Brewer has five working days to veto or sign the bill.

Report: Apple sues Chinese gov’t agency, company over Siri

  • February 24, 2014
  • Apple

Apple is reportedly suing a Chinese government agency and a Chinese company over patent rights for Siri, according to the Xinhua news agency. The Cupertino company has targeted Shanghai’s Zhizhen Network Technology, which “developed software similar to Siri,” and the State Intellectual Property Office, which controls Chinese patent rights protection. Apple was previously denied a request by the agency to declare the Zhizhen patent invalid, the report claims. The case will be heard on Thursday; Apple declined comment. [via AFP]

Apple iPhone trade-in program coming to Canada soon?

Apple’s in-store iPhone Reuse and Recycling trade-in program will launch in Canada in “the coming weeks,” 9to5Mac reports. A source indicated Canadian Apple Store employees would begin training for the program soon. The iPhone Reuse and Recycling program already exists in the U.S. and U.K., and Apple also has a more limited version of the program in India.

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