Apple is in talks to acquire The Fancy, a growing social commerce site, according to a new report. Business Insider claims that while it has learned that there have been talks between the two companies, there is no signed deal and no guarantee of one. It is unclear what price Apple proposed to pay, or how recently the talks took place, but the report claims—citing a source familiar with Apple’s acquisition strategy—that The Fancy is at a stage where Apple typically buys companies. The Fancy is similar to Pinterest in allowing its users to make lists of items they find interesting, but has also started linking users to transactions, taking a 10 percent cut of sales in the process. Notably, Apple CEO Tim Cook is a user, having opened his account after meeting The Fancy CEO Joe Einhorn at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley conference earlier this year. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes are on the company’s board, along with LeRoy Kim of Allen & Co. and Boston Celtics owner James Pallotta; Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz are also investors.
Google today introduced its first self-branded tablet, the Nexus 7, as well as a new Apple TV-challenging device called the Nexus Q. Halfway between the Kindle Fire and the iPad, the Nexus 7 is positioned as a media tablet, featuring a 7-inch, 1280x800 IPS display, a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, NFC support, a microphone, GPS, and the Android 4.1 operating system. It is available for pre-order now, priced at $199 for an 8GB model or $249 for a 16GB unit.
Shaped like an orb, the Nexus Q is akin to a beefed-up Apple TV: powered by dual ARM Cortex A9 CPUs and relying upon 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection, Nexus Q boasts 16GB of flash storage, Bluetooth, NFC support, 32 perimeter LEDs for ambient lighting, Micro HDMI and optical audio outputs. Unusually, it also includes an integrated 25W amplifier with banana jack outputs for connecting directly to speakers, as well as a top-mounted dome volume control. However, Nexus Q’s current software does not appear to have been designed for standalone use, seemingly relying instead upon another Android device running Google Play or YouTube for control; like the Apple TV, a USB port is included solely for service and support. In addition, it allows multiple Android users to add media to the device’s playlist. It is similarly available for pre-order now, and is priced at $299.
Samsung has released a new app designed to make it easier for iOS users to transition to the company’s own Galaxy devices. Called Easy Phone Sync, the solution consists of the Easy Phone Sync app that runs on a PC or Mac and a companion app for Android. According to the company, the solution will allow current iOS users to transfer their non-DRM iTunes music, podcasts, and videos, contacts, messages, and photos from iTunes to a new Samsung Galaxy device, and allows those users to continue to use iTunes for media management with their Galaxy device. Notably, the application is only available to Samsung Galaxy device users in the UK.
Apple and Time have reached an agreement that will see the latter make all of its magazines available via Apple’s Newsstand. In an interview with the New York Times, Time CEO Laura Lang and Apple senior vice president for Internet software and services Eddy Cue said the two companies had reached an agreement that would allow readers to subscriber to 20 Time magazines—including People, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, and Entertainment Weekly—through the Newsstand section of the App Store. Time had previously sold single issues of its magazines through the App Store; Lang, who took over as CEO in January, said that a deal with Apple was a top priority. “For a magazine or brand like People or Time, a tablet will become an increasingly important part of the experience,” Ms. Lang said. “Our goal is to offer content where our consumers want to read it.”
At its media event to kick off the Electronic Entertainment Expo—better known as E3—Microsoft showed off a new technology that will allow the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch to interact with content from the console. As explained by the company, SmartGlass will be a standalone app that runs on portable devices like tablets and smartphones and enables deeper interactivity with select games and content. For example, a football game might allow a player to draw up a play on their iPad and then perform it in the game, or a TV show or movie might show extra content related to the current scene. In addition, Microsoft also announced a new game/virtual trainer called Nike+ Kinect Training, which uses the Kinect motion sensing accessory to track the user’s movements and ensure they are performing exercises properly, and Xbox Music, an all-new music streaming service coming to all Microsoft devices.
HTC’s new One X and Evo 4G LTE handsets face an indefinite import delay at U.S. Customs due to a prior International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling in Apple’s favor. The Verge reports that both handsets are delayed while Customs investigates whether they infringe upon a specific Apple patent for which Apple won a ban on HTC’s Android devices at the ITC last year. The ban involves a patent covering so-called “data tapping”, or the automatic conversion of chunks of text such as dates, phone numbers, and email addresses into tappable items. According to the report, the ban was delayed so HTC could engineer around Apple’s patent, but went into effect on April 19.
“The US availability of the HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE has been delayed due to a standard U.S. Customs review of shipments that is required after an ITC exclusion order,” HTC said in a statement. “We believe we are in compliance with the ruling and HTC is working closely with Customs to secure approval.”
Facebook has announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire the popular photo-sharing app Instagram. According to the company, Facebook will pay roughly $1 billion in cash and shares of Facebook for San Francisco-based Instagram, with the transaction expected to close later this quarter, subject to customary closing conditions. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has issued a statement on the matter, which appears below.
“I’m excited to share the news that we’ve agreed to acquire Instagram and that their talented team will be joining Facebook.
For years, we’ve focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we’ll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.
We believe these are different experiences that complement each other. But in order to do this well, we need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.
That’s why we’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.
We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.
These and many other features are important parts of the Instagram experience and we understand that. We will try to learn from Instagram’s experience to build similar features into our other products. At the same time, we will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook’s strong engineering team and infrastructure.
This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.
We’re looking forward to working with the Instagram team and to all of the great new experiences we’re going to be able to build together.”
Announced yesterday, Apple’s move to include Movies in its iTunes in the Cloud service means that you can re-download previously purchased movies from the Purchases section of the iTunes Store, and stream those films directly from the Apple TV — unless that film is from NBC Universal or Fox. AllThingsD reports that both studios are left out of the service for the time being due to a conflicting contractual obligation to HBO that gives the pay-TV channel exclusive windows. The report claims that the conflict will likely be solved in short order, however, as HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson suggests: “With every technological enhancement, we have always been able to find common ground with our studio partners, and we’re sure that will be the result here.”
A group of researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have created a new system for ebook page-turning that could someday find its way to Apple’s iOS devices. As demonstrated on an iPad, the technology would allow users to quickly rifle through multiple pages by starting their gesture on the bezel molding instead of the screen itself, turn multiple pages using multiple fingers, and bookmark a page with one finger while flipping through the pages with another finger. The video also demonstrates the ability to move through multiple pages at once based on the speed or length of the gesture. According to KAIST—which has filed 11 patents for it in Korea and abroad—the prototype was built using a private Apple API, making it unfit for the App Store in its current form. A video of the technology in action can be viewed in embedded form below. [via The Verge]
The End User License Agreement for Apple’s new iBooks Author app has drawn the attention of some members of the online community. The criticism revolves around a section at the top, which states, “If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.” As summarized by Dan Wineman, that statement, and section 2 B, suggest that “Apple is trying to establish a rule that whatever I create with this application, if I sell it, I have to give them a cut. ” Such an arrangement isn’t unreasonable on the surface, as Apple is providing the software for free, and it does not appear to bar users from distributing works freely online. Wineman argues, however, that Apple did not give him a chance to agree to the terms prior to installing the software, at which point the user is implicitly accepting of it; he compares it to a car dealership hiding secret terms in the glove box, which go into affect as soon as a customer drives a purchased automobile. Apple has yet to comment on the situation.
Apple has posted a streaming video of this morning’s education event on its website. The video, which clocks in at roughly one hour long, features Apple executives Phil Schiller, Eddy Cue, and Roger Rosner introducing the company’s new textbook and education initiatives, which include iBooks 2.0, the new digital textbooks section of the iBookstore, iBooks Author for Mac, and the new iTunes U app. For more information on the event, check out our transcript, or simply take a peek at our News section.
Apple’s Big Apple-themed education announcement media event will begin in less than one hour, at 10:00 AM Eastern Time. While no Apple announcement is a “sure thing” prior to the company’s events, reports from the past few days have indicated that the bulk of Apple’s announcement will focus on digital textbooks, with an emphasis on the K-12 market. In addition to potential partnerships with publishers, it has also been suggested that Apple will unveil its own software that will make it easier for anyone with the desire to create interactive, multimedia textbooks which can then be made available for download via iBooks. We’ll be providing live updates of the event as it happens, so check back here at 10!
9:50 - 10 minutes before the start of the event, attendees are allowed in to take seats.
9:55 - The event is taking place in the Guggenheim Museum’s basement auditorium.
9:56 - Despite the subterranean venue, the stage has the typical lighting and look of a Cupertino-style Apple event.
9:58 - Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller takes the stage, starting the event early - atypical of Apple.
Apple will hold a an “important” event in New York City later this month, focused on publishing and iBooks, according to a pair of independent reports. Citing multiple sources close to the situation, AllThingsD reports that the schedule for the event could change at any moment, and that the event will focus on a media-related announcement — although it states that the event could be related to some kind of advertising or even publishing announcement, and notes that Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue is reportedly involved. TechCrunch claims that it has confirmed the report with an anonymous source, who stated that the event will not involve any hardware, but will instead focus on publishing and eBooks. According to the report, the event will be used to unveil improvements to iBooks, and is not considered to be “major.”
HP today announced that it will contribue its webOS software to the open source community. WebOS is a mobile operating system that debuted on the Palm Pre prior to the company being acquired by HP, and also served as the OS for HP’s TouchPad tablet. HP will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license, and promises to be an “active participant and investor” in the project going forward, with the ENYO application framework to be released to the community in the “near future”.
Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has moved to block the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. Cnet reports that Genachowski has filed an order asking the four other FCC commissioners to vote to have an administrative law judge hear the case. In such a proceeding, the FCC would present its findings and analysis, and AT&T would be given an opportunity to prove its case, although the burden would be on the carrier to prove that the deal is in the public interest. According to the report, FCC officials have not shared many specifics from their report, but have said that the merger would create an “unprecedented” level of concentration in the wireless market, and that it is impossible to see how the deal could serve the public.
In response to the filing, AT&T continued to defend the deal, arguing that the merger would help the company expand its 4G network more quickly and would create jobs. “The FCC’s action today is disappointing,” Larry Solomon, senior vice president of corporate communications at AT&T, said in a statement. “It is yet another example of a government agency acting to prevent billions in new investment and the creation of many thousands of new jobs at a time when the US economy desperately needs both.” The merger has already come under fire from rival carrier Sprint, which has sued to try and stop it, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed its own complaint in August.
Russound has introduced its new AirGo outdoor speaker, which relies on an Apple AirPort Express unit to provide support for AirPlay wireless audio streaming. The AirGo is a portable, weather-resistant speaker featuring an internal speaker and specially designed amplifier, a protective chamber for housing an AirPort express, which serves as the audio source for the unit. Alternatively, users can connect other 3.5mm audio sources. The AirGo requires connecting to an AC outlet, and is available now for $400.
Adobe has told developers that it will soon cease development of its Flash Player for mobile devices. Citing sources close to Adobe that have been briefed on the company’s future development plans, ZDNet reports that Adobe plans to release the following announcement:
“Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations. Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates.”
Adobe and Apple had an ongoing public dispute over mobile Flash, as the latter refused to support Flash on its iOS devices. The situation prompted late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to pen an open letter, entitled “Thoughts on Flash”, that called for the embrace of open standards such as HTML5 instead.
In a written response to questions posed by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt made a brief statement about the Siri feature of the iPhone 4S. PC Magazine reports that in his response, Schmidt backtracked on a prior statement that Apple was not a competitive threat in search, and called Siri a “significant development.” He added that “Google has many strong competitors and we sometimes fail to anticipate the competitive threat posed by new methods of accessing information.” A recent non-scientific study of 40 Siri users found that the feature greatly reduced the users’ dependence on Google search, with 27 users reporting that they haven’t done a single Google search since they got the iPhone 4S and 13 reporting an average of two searches; these users would have previously averaged over 10 Google searches during the same period. [via MDN | MarketWatch]
Apple has released its Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) as an open-source project. Debuted in 2004, ALAC is “a data compression method which reduces the size of audio files with no loss of information. A decoded ALAC stream is bit-for-bit identical to the original uncompressed audio file.” The project, released yesterday, contains the sources for the ALAC encoder and decoder, an example command line utility, and a description of a “magic cookie” for use based on the ISO case media file format. The Apple Lossless Audio Codec sources are available under the Apache license.
CableJive has introduced its new dockBoss+, a unique accessory that aims to expand the compatibility of most iPod/iPhone/iPad docking audio systems. The dockBoss+ connects to the speaker’s dock using a female connector, which is attached to a single cable that splits into separate 3.5mm headphone plug and micro USB connectors, allowing the system to receive audio from and send power to a wide range of devices, including Android phones and non-Apple audio players. As noted in the description, the accessory does not provide integration features like device control or playlists, leaving it up to the device’s owner to come up with a remote control solution. CableJive’s dockBoss+ USB and audio adapter cable for docking audio systems is available for order now for $30 and is expected to ship September 28.