The United States Justice Department has warned Apple and five of the largest U.S. publishers that it plans to file an anti-trust suit against them. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that the suit will accuse Apple, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, Macmillan, and HarperCollins of colluding to raise the price of electronic books. Several of the parties have held talks to settle the case and prevent a court battle, according to the report, and such a settlement could lead to cheaper e-book pricing. Not every publisher is in settlement discussions, however. The companies are also being investigated by the European Union over the same alleged offense.
Following today’s iPad event, Apple has released iTunes 10.6, the latest version of its digital media management software. According to the release notes, iTunes 10.6 adds the ability to play 1080p HD movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store and adds a number of improvements for iTunes Match including improved song matching, album artwork handling, downloading and display. As with all new Apple media hardware, iTunes 10.6 will also be the minimum requirement for syncing the new third-generation iPad and new third-generation Apple TV announced at today’s event. iTunes 10.6 is available now as a free download from apple.com/itunes and should be available via the company’s Software Update utility later today.
During it’s iPad event today in San Francisco, Apple announced the expansion of its iTunes in the Cloud service to include Movies from the iTunes Store. Originally launched last June, iTunes in the Cloud allows iTunes users to re-download previously purchased music, books, apps and TV shows to their iTunes library or any iOS device. The service was initially released in the U.S. and later expanded to several other countries late last year, initially for music and later for TV shows as well. The second-generation Apple TV received the ability to stream TV shows from iTunes in the Cloud last summer; although it is not clear whether support for Movies will be included in a coming Apple TV software update or will be exclusive to the third-generation Apple TV also announced today. Apple has also not yet been announced in which countries Movies will be available from iTunes in the Cloud.
Update: The feature has now been activated for U.S. iTunes Store accounts, allowing users to re-download previously purchased movies from the Purchases section of the iTunes Store.
Apple is working on a new audio file format that would allow it to deliver high- or low-quality files to iCloud users based on bandwidth. Citing a source with inside knowledge of the process, the Guardian reports that the new system would adjust itself to the bandwidth and storage available on the receiving device, and would be used to enhance the company’s iTunes Match service. According to the report, Apple has already asked a London studio to prepare audio files for the new streaming format. “All of a sudden, all your audio from iTunes is in HD rather than AAC. Users wouldn’t have to touch a thing – their library will improve in an instant,” said the source. Apple has recently been encouraging submission of audio files in the 24-bit/96KHz standard, and has also released a set of guidelines for mastering to iTunes which hint at a such a possible future service: “As technology advances and bandwidth, storage, battery life, and processor power increase, keeping the highest quality masters available in our systems allows for full advantage of future improvements to your music. These masters matter – especially given the move into the cloud on post-PC devices.”
Apple has acquired the app search and discovery service Chomp, according to a pair of reports. TechCrunch reports that Chomp’s technology will be used to completely revamp App Store search and recommendations. The report notes that Chomp received seed funding in 2009 and eventually grew to include both iOS and Android apps. The company currently has a deal with Verizon to power all of their Android-based app searches, which is likely to end as soon as the Chomp team and product finishes its transition to Apple. 9to5Mac adds that Chomp CEO Ben Keighran and CTO Cathy Edwards are already working at Apple, with Keighran working on the iTunes marketing team, and Edwards serving as a senior iTunes engineer. The price of the deal is currently unknown.
Apple has posted a What’s New page (Translated Link) covering its latest enhancements to the iTunes Store in Japan. Among the enhancements listed online are the ability to download songs over 3G, iTunes Plus-quality downloads, iTunes in the Cloud, Ringtones, a listing of albums that have been Mastered for iTunes, and Complete My Album. All the new enhancements are live now on the Japanese iTunes Store. [via Mac Rumors]
The Beatles have announced that the band’s first ringtones have been released worldwide on the iTunes Store. According to the announcement, the ringtones—being offered for the first time—are available exclusively from the iTunes Store, and include all 27 of the band’s UK and US #1 hits, which are also featured on the band’s 1 album. The 30-second ringtones are available for purchase directly from the iTunes Store on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch for $1.29 each.
Apple has posted a new contest celebrating the download of the 25 billionth app. As the company has with past countdown contests, it has posted a counter roughly showing the number of apps downloaded to this point on the contest page; similar graphics have yet to appear on the main iTunes Store or App Store, but will likely appear later today. “As of today, nearly 25 billion apps have been downloaded worldwide”, reads the contest page. “Which is almost as amazing as the apps themselves. So we want to say thanks. Download the 25 billionth app, and you could win a US$10,000 App Store Gift Card. Just visit the App Store and download your best app yet.” The contest will end once the 25 billionth app has been downloaded; no purchase or download is necessary to enter.
Apple has sent out an email to iBookstore content creators, informing them of several new additions and features to the eBook publishing section of iTunes Connect. According to AppleInsider, the email touted publishers’ new ability to post screenshots, receive up to 50 promo codes for each book published, offer pre-orders for certain titles before their release, and create series of books, which ties the separate volumes together on the iBookstore. The report indicates that the new features are active for both established publishers and iBooks Authors alike, and are available now.
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 has released iTunes 10.5.3, the latest version of its digital media management software. According to the release notes of Apple’s new iTunes U app, iTunes 10.5.3 is required to sync content with the new application; it is unknown what other features or improvements may have been added in the update. iTunes 10.5.3 is available now as a free download from apple.com/itunes and should be available via the company’s Software Update utility later today.
Update: Apple’s release notes for iTunes 10.5.3 read as follows: “iTunes 10.5.3 allows you to sync interactive iBooks textbooks to your iPad. These Multi-Touch textbooks are available for purchase from the iTunes Store on your Mac or from the iBookstore included with iBooks 2 on your iPad. iBooks textbooks are created with iBooks Author — now available as a free download on the Mac App Store.”
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’s education event, scheduled for tomorrow in New York City, will focus on broadening the education content available for the iPad, with an emphasis on the K-12 market, according to a new report. Citing two people with knowledge of the announcement, Bloomberg reports that Apple will announce a set of tools to make it easier to publish interactive textbooks and other digital educational content. In addition to making more content available, Apple also hopes to empower “self-publishers” to create new kinds of teaching tools, likely based on a modified version of the ePub standard. A report form earlier this week suggested that Apple would adopt the ePub 3 standard in such a tool, allowing for easier creation of interactive, multimedia-rich content.
Apple has been working with McGraw-Hill and potentially other publishers on a digital interactive textbook initiative that it is expected to launch at its special event on Thursday, according to a new report. Citing a person familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that McGraw-Hill has been working with Apple on the announcement since June, and may have been joined in participation by Pearson and Houghton Mifflin. Cengage Learning, a leader in higher-education textbooks, has partnered with Apple in the past and will also be attending the event. “Apple today clearly has a strong position in hardware, and companies like Cengage Learning have a very strong position on the content side,” said Bill Rieders, Cengage executive vice president of global strategy and business development. “To the extent there’s a combination there, that could be exciting.”
In a separate report, Ars Technica also suggests that Apple is working on digital textbooks, but instead suggests that Apple will announce support for the more robust ePub 3 standard in iBooks moving forward, as well as a new tool for creating ePub 3- compliant e-books. Referring to the tool as “GarageBand for e-books”, the report cites former Apple education employee and current CEO of digital textbook house Inkling Matt MacInnis as expecting such a tool. “That’s what we believe you’re about to see,” MacInnis told Ars, a statement that was agreeable to the report’s other sources. “Publishing something to ePub is very similar to publishing web content. Remember iWeb? That iWeb code didn’t just get flushed down the toilet—I think you’ll see some of [that code] repurposed.” Late Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was known to have been involved with the initiative, and according to the report worked on this project for several years.
Apple has officially launched its iTunes Match online music service in the Netherlands. Launched in the U.S. in November, 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. As noted by Mac Rumors, Dutch collecting society Buma/Stemra announced last week that it had reached a deal with Apple for iTunes Match; links to the service have yet to appear on the Dutch iTunes Store, but Apple has updated its terms and conditions with new text covering the service, and the direct link to the iTunes Match page is now working.
Update: According to AppleInsider, iTunes Match has also launched in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Latvia, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.
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.”
Apple has posted a new webpage dedicated to its iTunes Match service. Launched in November, 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. The walkthrough video and page clearly explain how the service works and the steps needed to subscribe, while the FAQ addresses topics such as supported file types, number of devices supported—up to 10—and whether the service streams or downloads songs. For more information on iTunes Match, see our Instant Expert article.
Apple has launched a new Complete My Season Pass feature on the iTunes Store, according to a Mac Rumors report. Similar to the Complete My Album feature, the Complete My Season Pass feature discounts the price of full TV show seasons by the amount of any individual episodes previously purchased, allowing users to buy the entire season without paying a penalty for buying individual episodes. It appears that the feature may only be live for certain shows, however, as some older shows no longer available via Season Pass do not show the option.
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]