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Microsoft updates Outlook for iOS with support for third-party add-ins

Microsoft has announced a major update to its iOS email and calendar app, Microsoft Outlook, bringing support for third-party add-ins, and celebrating two years since the release of an iOS adaptation of the company’s venerable e-mail client. The new add-ins feature allows users to integrate with third-party apps such as Trello, Evernote, and more directly from email messages in their Outlook inbox. Microsoft has announced partnerships with Evernote, GIPHY, Nimble, Trello, and Smartsheet for an initial set of Outlook plug-ins, and has indicated that they are producing several of their own add-ins available for the platform as well, with Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Translator available out of the gate, and “many more” promised to follow. The new add-ins for Outlook on iOS complement the versions already available for Outlook on Windows and Mac and on the web, extending their functionality to iPhone and iPad users. The new add-in features are available for Office 365 today, and Microsoft indicates that they’re “rolling out gradually” to Outlook.com users.

New lawsuit accuses Apple of deliberately ‘breaking’ FaceTime to force users to upgrade to iOS 7

A new class action lawsuit has been filed in California, accusing Apple of deliberately “breaking” FaceTime for iOS 6 users in order to force them to upgrade to iOS 7, thereby violating California’s unfair competition laws, AppleInsider reports. Citing documents disclosed in the VirnetX patent lawsuit, the class-action filing alleges that Apple secretly took this step in order to reduce high monthly data relay charges it was incurring from Akamai as a result of the “relay method” being used at the time to handle some FaceTime calls between iOS devices, which transmitted FaceTime data through Akamai’s servers — a relay service which Apple was paying for based on usage.

IBM announces Enterprise iOS app collaboration with United Airlines

Photo: Flickr/IBM

IBM and United Airlines have announced a new collaboration to develop a new suite of iOS business applications to help drive the airline’s digital transformation, as part of IBM’s MobileFirst partnership with Apple. United Airlines currently has more than 50,000 iOS devices being used by its front-line employees, and this new collaboration will see IBM developing a set of both market-ready and custom iOS apps for improving a number of aspects of United Airlines’ customer-facing operations, such as providing flight attendants and gate personnel readily available access to customer travel data at their fingertips without being tied to a fixed workstation or podium position.

Hacker releases iPhone hacking tools allegedly stolen from Cellebrite

A hacker who allegedly stole over 900 GB of data from Israeli forensics company Cellebrite has publicly released a cache of the files related to older iPhones, in addition to Android and BlackBerry devices, Motherboard reports. The stolen data suggested that Cellebrite, the company rumored to have helped the FBI in the San Bernardino forensics case, had also sold its technology to a variety of oppressive regimes such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia. The hacker’s motivation appears to be focused on stirring up the debate around backdoors and their use by authoritarian societies, as well as demonstrating that tools created to hack devices like iPhones are certain to make it out in the wild. Apple CEO Tim Cook made a similar point that such backdoors are ““too dangerous to create” when he penned an open letter last year opposing the FBI’s attempts to force Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone.

Apple drafts joint letter with Alphabet, Facebook, Uber, in opposition to Trump travel ban

Apple is working with several organizations, including Facebook, Uber, and Google parent company Alphabet, to draft a letter to President Donald Trump opposing the travel ban that has recently been imposed. Recode reports that while the effort is being led by tech companies, they are working to involve other industries in what will be the first major push from large U.S. corporations to try and support more open immigration in the wake of President Trump’s recent executive order suspending travel from seven largely Muslim countries and barring Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. completely. Recode was also able to obtain the following draft of the letter.

European Union announces an end to wireless roaming charges in June

The European Commission has announced that negotiators have come to a deal that will put an end to wireless roaming charges in European Union member countries as of June 15, 2017. Representatives of the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission have agreed on how wholesale roaming markets will be regulated such that Europeans will be able to travel within the EU without incurring any additional charges for roaming to different countries, effectively creating a “roam-like-at-home” system where travelers will be able to place calls, send text messages, and use data on their mobile devices anywhere in the EU at the same prices they pay in their home country. Regulators also agreed to wholesale caps on rates for voice calls and text messages, as well as a staged reduction over the next five years for wholesale data charges; these new wholesale caps represent the maximum charges that customers will pay while roaming if they exceed their contract limits.

Apple considering legal action against Trump’s immigration order

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is considering legal action and contacting “very, very senior people in the White House” in an effort to reverse President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, The Wall Street Journal reports. Cook said the order suspending travel from seven countries has affected hundreds of Apple employees. In a note to employees, Cook offered Apple’s full support to anyone impacted by the order, advising the company’s legal, human resources and security teams to do everything they can, but declined to get specific about what Apple’s possible legal action would entail, saying only that “we want to be constructive and productive.” Cook said he has heard numerous “heart-wrenching stories” about the order’s impact on his employees. “These are people that have friends and family, Cook said. “They’re co-workers. They’re taxpayers. They’re key parts of the community.”

Nintendo plans to release 2-3 mobile games a year, delays Animal Crossing

Nintendo told investors it plans to release two to three mobile games a year for the foreseeable future, Reuters reports. While the company said at least 70 game makers are producing an estimated 100 titles for the upcoming Switch console, Nintendo delayed the release of the upcoming Animal Crossing game by at least a month—it’s now slated for April at the earliest—to ensure the release of Fire Emblem: Heroes later this week. Nintendo roared to success in the mobile game industry with the wildly popular Pokémon GO, but it’s subsequent release of Super Mario Run didn’t generate the same revenue boost due to its one-time only payment structure.

Facebook reportedly developing video app for Apple TV

Facebook is developing a “video-centric app” for devices like the Apple TV, looking to open up a new platform for its video content and compete with traditional television providers for ad revenue, The Wall Street Journal reports. People familiar with the development said the app is one of many projects centered around turning Facebook into a “video-first” company, with the company going so far as to discuss licensing “TV-quality programming” from various media companies. With Facebook’s ad revenue growth slowing, employees have begun to see the company’s future as becoming a type of “mobile TV” that cuts into the time most people spend watching traditional live television broadcasts. Media executives familiar with the discussions said Apple is expressing interest in “scripted shows and sports and entertainment content created specifically for the platform,” although that content is expected to be capped at around 10 minutes in length.

Apple releases firmware 3.5.1 update for AirPods

Apple has released firmware 3.5.1 for its AirPods, which will be downloaded automatically to an iOS device that syncs with AirPods and will be installed when the AirPods are put into their plugged in charging case near the device while it’s connected to WiFi. The update fixes previously undisclosed bugs. [via Apple Insider]

Notes from Apple’s Q1 2017 earnings call

Kicking off Apple’s investor conference call following the company’s announcement of quarterly numbers for Q1 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the quarterly results represented the highest revenue in Apple’s history, along with breaking unit and revenue records for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, services, and Mac, as well as four out of five major geographic segments where Apple operates. Cook explained that the iPhone had a tremendous quarter thanks to exceptional demand, and that the iPhone 7 Plus demand was especially strong and represented a higher portion of the new product mix than Apple has ever seen with prior “Plus” models. Apple Pay users more than tripled over the past year, with four new countries added in the past quarter, bringing Apple Pay into a total of 13 markets; hundreds of millions of transactions and billions of dollars in purchases were made using Apple Pay in the December quarter alone. Cook also noted that Apple Pay on the web has been a success with over two million small businesses now able to accept online invoice payments using Apple Pay via services such as Intuit and Freshbooks, and revealed that soon Comcast customers will be able to pay their bills online using Apple Pay. Mac also returned to growth in the prior quarter with the release of the new MacBook Pro models and generated its highest quarterly revenue ever. Cook noted that most customers in the quarter were buying their first Mac, with the majority coming from the Windows platform.

Apple Q1 2017: $78.4B revenue, 78.3M iPhones + 13M iPads sold

Apple reported its first quarter 2017 financial results today, with 78.3 million iPhones and 13 million iPads sold. The company posted all-time record quarterly revenue of $78.4 billion and quarterly earnings of $3.36 per diluted share. In Q1 2016, Apple had revenue of $75.9 billion and earnings of $3.28 per diluted share.

For Q2 2017, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $51.5 billion and $53.5 billion, and gross margin between 38 percent and 39 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website. We’ll have a recap shortly after.

Report: Removed Activation Lock website may have facilitated hacking of locked iOS devices

Apple’s sudden removal of the Activation Lock status checker from its website could have been in response to its use in hacking locked iOS devices, MacRumors speculated in a new report. A video posted by REWA Technology illustrates a process for finding valid serial numbers using the Activation Lock status checker and using those numbers to unlock an iPhone or iPad. Apple hasn’t confirmed any reason for shutting down the website, but since September, some users trying to activate new or restored iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7 and 7 Plus models have reported finding their phones locked to another Apple ID, and only Apple has been able to fix the problem. The full video of the hacking method used can be seen below, but without the steady supply of valid serial numbers previously available from Apple’s website, the process is now useless.

Report: Prince’s catalog coming to Apple Music ‘very soon’ (Update: Streaming will start Feb. 12)

Prince’s music will be available to stream on Apple Music “very soon,” according to a Pitchfork report. Tidal has been the exclusive streaming home to Prince’s back catalog since July 2015, but that looks to change in the coming weeks. Currently, Prince’s final album — Hit n Run Phase Two, released in December 2015 — is the only Prince album available for streaming on Apple Music. Prince died roughly four months after that album’s release. The report also speculates that Prince’s music will also return to Spotify in the very near future.

Update: An “insider” told the The New York Post that Prince’s albums recorded for Warner Music Group will appear on Apple Music and other streaming services starting February 12, the night of this year’s Grammy awards. Deals for the albums Prince recorded outside of his deal with Warner are still being negotiated, according to sources.

Apple releases first watchOS 3.2 beta to developers

Apple has released the first beta of watchOS 3.2 to developers. The new beta includes SiriKit and Theater Mode, the latter of which can quickly mute the Apple Watch’s sounds and prevent the screen from waking when a user raises his or her wrist. Apple released watchOS 3.1.3 for Apple Watch just a week ago.

Apple deletes ‘Check Activation Lock Status’ page from iCloud website

Apple has deleted the Activation Lock checker from its website, effectively removing one method which helps customers verify that used products haven’t been stolen. First spotted by 9to5Mac, the change is also reflected in Apple’s Find My iPhone support documentation, which used to recommend running the serial number of a device though the ‘Check Activation Lock Status’ page on iCloud before buying it. Now the page that once hosted the verification tool ends in a 404 error.

Cook opposes Trump’s immigration order as proposed visa change may pose problem for Apple’s hiring

In a note to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook voiced his opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven countries and said the company’s legal, human resources and security teams were in the process of supporting employees “directly affected” by the ban, The Verge reports. Cook said he made it clear to the White House that he opposes the ban, explaining “the negative effect on our coworkers and our company.” A copy of Trump’s proposed changes to the work-visa program obtained by Bloomberg shows Apple may soon have more to worry about, with the draft executive order demanding companies work harder to hire American workers first and give priority to hiring higher-paid foreign workers over those making low wages. “Visa programs for foreign workers … should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers—our forgotten working people—and the jobs they hold,” the draft order reads.

Report reveals insights into Apple’s HomeKit strategy and vendor requirements

A new report by Reuters comparing Apple and Amazon’s home automation strategies provides some interesting insight into the very different approaches that the two companies are taking to the home automation market. Suggesting that Amazon’s recent successes in the home automation arena may pose new competition for Apple, the report details some of the challenges that Apple and its partners face in delivering HomeKit solutions that are up to the company’s standard. Apple takes a stringent approach in ensuring that its home automation platform remains secure, so manufacturers who wish to produce HomeKit-compatible solutions must incorporate special chips into their products — this is the main reason why HomeKit support cannot be added to legacy products via firmware updates — and Apple also requires developers to incorporate specific Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips into their hardware. These requirements increase costs, although even companies purchasing in smaller volumes suggest that the numbers are only around $0.50 to $2 per chip for the specialized chips. Additional costs for the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips weren’t discussed.

Apple moving international iTunes operations to Ireland

Photo: Reuters/Michael MacSweeney

Apple is planning to move its international iTunes operations to Ireland in early February, AppleInsider reports. Apple announced to developers this week that Apple Distribution International will be transferring the iTunes business — which includes the iTunes Store, Apple Music, App Store, and iBooks Store for over 100 countries — to Cork, Ireland on Feb. 5. Apple’s overseas iTunes operations have been based in Luxembourg since 2004. Apple has been working to streamline the transition for content owners since last fall, transferring contracts to the new Irish holding company, and making arrangements for special exporter status in Ireland, which — among other things — means apps made by developers in Ireland will be free or Irish VAT. The transfer is estimated to involve approximately $9 billion in assets, and are no doubt connected to many of the other business projects that Apple has been building within Ireland over the past year.

HBO GO gets Single Sign-On, TV app integration

HBO has updated its HBO GO app to version 9.0, adding support for Apple’s Single Sign-on feature and integration with the iOS and tvOS TV app. The two new features will help unify the mainstream content provider into the Apple TV and iOS viewing experience, allowing users to bypass entering their cable credentials separately in the HBO GO app on their devices as well as tracking their favorite HBO GO shows in the “Watch Next” section of the TV app. The integration will also allow HBO GO users’ viewing habits to be consolidated with other services that support the TV app, providing recommended content based on what you’ve previously watched on any supported service. Single Sign-On support for HBO GO still remains limited to those cable and satellite providers that have signed on with Apple; a complete list can be found on Apple’s Single Sign-On page. [via MacRumors]

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