Apple has started to roll out its iTunes Match cloud music service internationally. Available since early November in the U.S. and launched earlier this week in Brazil, links to activate the service have appeared on the front page of the iTunes Store in Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom, and possibly in other countries. iTunes Match is a $25/year service that matches tracks in a user’s iTunes library with tracks stored on the company’s iTunes Store servers, uploading any tracks it can’t match, and offering users full access to all their music — up to 25,000 tracks — from any of their devices. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple today released Apple TV Software Update 4.4.4, the latest update for its second-generation set-top box. Apple has yet to update its Support page with details on 4.4.4, so it remains unclear what—if any—improvements or changes the update offers. Apple TV Software Update 4.4.4 is available now via the Update Software option in the device’s General Settings menu.
Update: According to Apple, the update “includes general performance and stability improvements, including a fix for an issue that displayed an error when playing some video content.”
Apple plans to open a research and development center in Israel that will focus on semiconductors, according to a new report. Citing Israeli newspaper the Globes, Reuters reports that Apple has already hired Israeli high-tech veteran Aharon Aharon to run the center, which will be located in Herzliya, an area considered to Israel’s version of Silicon Valley. According to the report, the center would be Apple’s first such site outside California; Apple’s vice president of R&D, Ed Frank, is said to be in Israel currently. Earlier this week, a report indicated that Apple is in talks to purchase Anobit, an Israeli fabless semiconductor company specializing in flash storage solutions.
An apparent glitch or oversight in the way Apple’s iMessage SMS replacement service is set up is allowing thieves and unknown buyers of stolen iPhones to continue to receive and send texts via iMessage using the Apple ID of the original owner. Citing separate Mac Rumors and Apple Support forum threads, Ars Technica reports that the problem persists even after the device is registered under a new account. According to the report, neither remote wiping, changing Apple ID passwords, or even moving the prior phone number to a new phone fixes the problem, with the only proven fix to completely cancel the Apple ID that was used for iMessages on the stolen device. Ars contacted Apple to ask why this was happening, but has yet to receive a response.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has once again postponed a final ruling on the dispute between HTC and Apple, according to an HTC official. Speaking with Reuters, the official said that the ruling is now due on December 19, adding that the ITC did not give a reason for the delay. The ITC was due to deliver a ruling in the case, which could see sales of Android-based HTC devices banned in the U.S., on December 6, before it pushed back the date back to today.
Apple is in talks to purchase Israeli company Anobit for $400-$500 million, according to a new report. Citing a report from Hebrew-based Calcalist, TechCrunch reports that should the deal go through, it would be Apple’s first acquisition in Israel and the first under new CEO Time Cook. Anobit is a fabless semiconductor company that specializes in flash storage solutions, which are designed to improve speed, endurance, and performance of flash storage systems while driving down cost. According to the Calcalist report, Apple relies on Anobit’s solutions in the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air, among other devices.
Apple has launched the iTunes Store in Brazil, as well as 15 additional Latin American countries. According to the company, the iTunes Store in Brazil offers a catalog of over 20 million songs, including local artists, over a thousand movies to rent or purchase, many in HD, and iTunes Match. In the other 15 countries—Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela—customers can browse a catalog of music from the major labels and thousands of independent labels, and also receive standard iTunes in the Cloud service for free.
Apple today released iTunes 10.5.2, the latest update to its digital media management software. According to the company, iTunes 10.5.2 “includes several improvements for iTunes Match and fixes an audio distortion problem when playing or importing certain CDs.” iTunes 10.5.2 is available now as a free download from apple.com/itunes, and is expected to be available via Apple’s Software Update utility shortly.
Apple has released the second version of iOS 5.1 to registered iOS developers. According to Apple’s release notes, this new beta adds the ability to delete photos from a Photo Stream, along with other improvements; it also notes that the accompanying preview release of Xcode 4.3 is distributed as a single application bundle, allowing it to be installed directly from the App Store without the need for a secondary installation process. iOS 5.1 beta 2 is available now to registered iOS developers as a direct download from the iOS Dev Center.
Apple has started to air a new 30-second TV advertisement touting The Beatles on iTunes. The ad is based on the covers of the band’s albums, including Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale, Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour—the titular track plays in the background—The Beatles [White Album], Yellow Submarine, Let It Be, and Abbey Road, in that order, with a simple “The Beatles on iTunes” message appearing in text at the end, followed by an Apple logo. Apple is notably giving away The Beatles Yellow Submarine children’s book right now on the iBookstore. The new ad is available for viewing on Apple’s website.
Apple has released an update to its universal iBooks app adding several new UI features and enhancements. iBooks 1.5 adds a nighttime reading theme for reading books in the dark as well as a new full-screen reading view. The update also adds several new fonts including Athelas, Charter, Iowan and Seravek and a new redesigned annotation palette making it easier to choose highlighting colours. With the latest version Apple is now including classic covers for public domain books as well rather than the generic title covers that had previously been displayed. iBooks 1.5 requires iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.
The European Commission—the executive body of the European Union—has launched a probe into whether Apple helped major publishing houses illegally raise prices for e-books when it launched the iBookstore. Apple was notably the first retailer of digital books to allow publishers to use the so-called agency model, under which publishers set the price at which books are sold to consumers. “The Commission has concerns that these practices may breach EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices,” the body said in a statement. Also included in the probe are Hachette Livre, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Macmillan.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s ruling denying Apple’s request for a ban on sales of select Samsung products in the U.S. has unintentionally provided additional details of the ongoing dispute between the two companies. According to Reuters, a version of the ruling was originally released that allowed anyone to copy & paste redacted text out of the document for reading elsewhere; one of these passages revealed that Apple’s own studies show that existing iPhone customers are unlikely to switch to Samsung devices, with any increase in Samsung smartphone sales likely to come at the expense of other Android handsets. Koh alluded to this in the openly released portion of the ruling, saying that “It is not clear that an injunction on Samsung’s accused devices would prevent Apple from being irreparably harmed”.
Another passage shows that Samsung argued that Apple’s supply cannot keep up with market demand for its products, a claim which Koh called “dubious”, as Apple had presented convincing rebuttal evidence to the contrary showing its ability to keep up with demand in the long term. In addition, the redacted portion of the ruling also referred to licensing deals that Apple had struck with other tech companies involving one of the patents referenced in Apple’s suit. As first reported by The Verge, Apple licensed a key patent dealing with a method of scrolling documents and images on a touchscreen device to both IBM and Nokia before offering a similar licensing agreement to Samsung, which the latter company rejected.
Apple is considering building a large data center in Prineville, Oregon, according to a new report. Citing two people with direct knowledge of Apple’s plans, The Oregonian reports that Apple’s option to purchase 160 acres of land—currently owned by Crook County—expires at the end of the month, with climate, power costs, and tax breaks all playing roles in the decision. Notably, the location would place Apple’s data center less than a mile away from a large data center run by Facebook, and close to another sizable data center run by Google. Apple brought online a new $1 billion data facility in North Carolina earlier this year, which is used for both the iTunes Store and iCloud.
A U.S. District Court in San Jose has rejected an Apple request for a preliminary injunction barring the sale of several Samsung Galaxy tablets and smartphones. The San Jose Business Journal reports that Judge Lucy Koh denied the request, saying that “It is not clear that an injunction on Samsung’s accused devices would prevent Apple from being irreparably harmed.” Samsung issued a statement on the ruling, saying, “We are confident that we can demonstrate the distinctiveness of Samsung’s mobile devices when the case goes to trial next year.” Despite the ruling against Apple, Koh also said that Apple has proven that it’s likely to succeed in proving that Samsung’s products infringe its patents.
Last night MacRumors reported that Tether.com, a company developing tethering apps for mobile devices had released iTether, an official iPhone tethering app on the App Store. The iTether app allowed users, with the help of a companion Mac or PC desktop application, to tether their device over USB and use their iPhone’s 3G data connection. Tethering applications have traditionally not been allowed on the App Store, presumably due to agreements with cellular carriers and the duplication of Apple’s own Personal Hotspot functionality that was introduced in iOS 3.0. Therefore it was perhaps not surprising that iTether was removed from the App Store late this morning with no comment from either Apple or Tether.com as to the reasons for its disappearance. In 2008, another developer, Nullriver Software had produced a SOCKS5 based tethering application for the iPhone and also found it similarly pulled from the App Store after only a few hours.
Notably, however, Tether.com had indicated via Twitter that “We were very clear with Apple what our app did. They asked us a bunch of questions and then approved us.” iTether had no other features nor hidden functionality that would have obscured its true purpose, suggesting that Apple’s lower-level review process may be out of sync with overall company policy at this time. This marks the second time in less than a week that Apple has approved an app for sale with claims from the developers that the functionality of the app had been discussed with Apple prior to approval; last week Big Fish Games announced a novel released a subscription gaming app that was pulled by Apple only a few hours after the announcement, despite claims from the developer that Apple had in fact gone so far as to approve the developer’s press release.
Apple has seeded its first beta version of iOS 5.1 to developers. According to the company, the update—listed as build 985117b—provides improved dictation support for text input views on “supported devices”. In addition, Apple warns that devices should be backed up either using iTunes or iCloud prior to installation, and that devices updated to iOS 5.1 beta will not be downgradable back to prior versions of the operating system. iOS 5.1 is available now to registered developers from the iOS Dev Center.
Apple has started to air a new commercial for the fourth-generation iPod touch. Entitled “Share the Fun,” the 30-second spot shows a number of middle- and high-school aged kids using the device to text each other over iMessage, video chat over FaceTime, play online multiplayer games using Game Center, update Twitter, listen to music, and record video, while the song “Tongue Tied” by Grouplove plays in the background. Notably, given the lack of new iPod touch hardware this year, the commercial emphasizes features added in iOS 5. The new ad is available for viewing now on YouTube or in embedded form below.
Apple is expanding its in-app subscription model to include game titles, according to a report from Bloomberg. Seattle-based game publisher Big Fish Games has received approval from Apple to offer users access to multiple game titles for a single recurring monthly fee. Dubbed Play Instantly, the subscription service will be offered through a single iOS app that will deliver unlimited access to a number of the company’s popular game titles streamed to the user’s device via Wi-Fi, allowing the player to easily switch between different games without having to download each title individually. Big Fish Games has also announced plans to offer a free, ad-supported version of the game service that will limit play to 30 minutes per day. Paid subscriptions are expected to initially cost $5 per month with an increase to $7 per month as more titles are added. The application and subscription service are initially available in the U.S. only. Big Fish Play Instantly is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download. [via Mac Rumors]
Update (5:00 EST): The application is no longer available on the App Store. No explanation has been given as to the reason for its disappearance. We have reached out to the developer for comment and will update the story as more information becomes available.
Update (6:30 EST): According to another report from Bloomberg, Play Instantly was removed by Apple earlier today, after having been available on the App Store since November 18th. Paul Thelen, founder of Big Fish Games indicates that the company was “notified [by Apple] that the app was removed,” and is “trying to follow up with Apple to try to figure out what happened.” Thelen indicated to Bloomberg that “Apple had even signed off on a press release issued earlier today.” The Bloomberg report also notes that Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment.
Apple has recently been looking to hire senior-level executives with backgrounds in web-based software, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that since earlier this year, the company has approached at least one “prominent” Internet entrepreneur about a possible position, the details of which are unclear. Apple is also said to have discussed its needs with recruiters. The report goes on to say that Apple is considering building new cloud-based web applications, and is seeking web-focused managers who could work at the director level. [via Mac Rumors]