Only six months after Apple began selling iBooks and iTunes Movies in China, the company has now been ordered by a Chinese Government agency to shut down sales, The New York Times reports. Although Apple originally had the Chinese government’s approval to introduce the services, a government regulatory agency — the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — stepped in last week and demanded the services be shut down. While Apple has been unusually successful in introducing new products into the Chinese market, this about-face could be a sign of future problems brewing in China, which is Apple’s second-largest market.
The FBI appears to have paid more than $1.3 million for the technique used to break into the iPhone 5c of the San Bernardino terrorist, Reuters reports. When asked how much the purchase cost the agency, FBI director James Comey said, “More than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months for sure.” Using figures from the FBI and U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Reuters determined Comey will make more than $1.34 million in that time, if he receives no raises or bonuses — so it will likely be a bit more than that, if you’re considering typical annual government pay adjustments. Comey said the purchase was “worth it” while speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in London. The FBI will be able to use the technique on other iPhone 5c models running iOS 9, though the agency already announced that no useful information was found on the San Bernardino iPhone.
Apple’s efforts to fix certain technical problems with iCloud and iTunes have been hampered by “political infighting” among two engineering teams in the company, The Information reports. One manager has already resigned from Apple, with more departures “expected soon.” Apple reportedly wishes to take the cloud infrastructure used in Siri and bring it to more of its services, some of which are within the realm of the iCloud team — iCloud engineers are said to be concerned about job security as the Siri infrastructure encroaches on their domain. Apple is also working to bring all of its iCloud infrastructure in house. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has released the second developer betas for iOS 9.3.2 and watchOS 2.2.1. As with the prior beta, the sparse release notes and minor version numbers suggest that the betas are primarily focused on bug fixes and performance improvements and do not likely include any new user-facing features. The new betas are available to registered developers from Apple’s Developer Site; those developers who installed the necessary beta configuration profiles for the prior beta cycle should also automatically see the new betas appear as an over-the-air update.
Apple has agreed to pay $24.9 million to a Dallas company that claims Siri’s voice technology violates one of its patents, Albany Business Review reports. The years-long case alleged Siri was developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2007, four years before Apple introduced the voice assistant with the iPhone 4s. Dallas-based Dynamic Advances licensed the patent from Rensselaer and stands to gain $5 million from Apple after dropping its case, with the remaining $19.9 million to be paid after other, undisclosed conditions are met.
The FBI has told CNN that it found no useful information on San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, but said the lack of information actually provided some answers. At issue was an 18-minute gap during which authorities couldn’t account for the actions of Farook and his wife. The iPhone hack eliminated the possibility that the couple used the phone to engage in communication with a third party, allowing the FBI to rule out contact with other ISIS supporters.
Apple has started making preview pages for some Apple TV apps viewable in iTunes from a web browser, finally making it easier to share links to interesting apps with friends, or on social media. While iOS and Mac apps have been visible in iTunes web previews for years, this is a new development for tvOS — it should solve a big problem for developers trying to link to their apps from their own websites or social media pages. First spotted by Twitter user Jeff Scott, the new iTunes previews don’t feature an ability to buy or download the apps since that would need to be done on the Apple TV itself.
Apple has published a Report on Government Information Requests covering how it handled demands for information from law enforcement agencies received during the second half of 2015. The company said the “vast majority” of those requests were for information about lost or stolen devices, about which Apple complied 80 percent of the time within the United States. Totals outside the U.S. fluctuated between 52 and 80 percent.
The code behind Apple’s WWDC map has led to speculation that the company is preparing to release a web version of its MapKit framework, allowing users to embed an Apple Map view into a website, 9to5Mac reports. The map includes the pan and zoom features you’d expect from Apple’s MapKit, which is currently exclusive to iOS and Mac apps. With a built-in core of users already accustomed to Apple Maps on their devices and recent expansions in map research and development, the company’s entry into the web could pose the first serious challenge to Google Maps, which is now used nearly any time a map is required on a web site.
Sources who visited Apple’s “iTunes Lounge” at the Sundance Film Festival said the company is courting “triple A-list” talent for original TV series to be launched on an “exclusives” app for Apple TV and sold on iTunes, Fast Company reports. The stealthy conversations at Sundance led to meetings in Los Angeles where Apple executives heard pitches for original TV shows from producers who kept things so quiet they were reportedly referring to Apple as the United Fruit Company. Five different sources who have spoken directly to Apple executives or have been briefed on Apple’s plans said the company is still “disorganized” in its approach and hasn’t yet presented a unified strategy for its original programming.
It appears that Apple has announced the dates for its annual Worldwide Developers Conference through Siri. Asking Siri “When is WWDC?” gets the response, “The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will be held June 13 through June 17 in San Francisco. I can’t wait!” It’s possible this response went live earlier than expected, as Apple hasn’t updated its WWDC website yet to reflect this year’s dates, at least as of this writing. It’s assumed that Apple will debut iOS 10 at the event, and there will also likely be some buzz about the possible introduction of new hardware as the event gets closer.
Bill Campbell, a trusted mentor in the tech world and a longtime member of Apple’s Board of Directors, has died, Re/code reports. Campbell’s death comes after a long battle with cancer. Campbell resigned from Apple’s board in 2014, and was replaced by Susan L. Wagner. A 2014 Fortune interview with Campbell, which came as he was stepping down from the board, details his relationships with past and present Apple CEOs John Sculley, Tim Cook, and of course, Steve Jobs — Campbell was known to some as “Steve’s guy” while on Apple’s board.
In the latest round of speculation around Apple’s car project, German website Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claims that the company’s secretive Berlin facility is staffed by 15 to 20 “top-class” employees of the German automotive industry. Sources familiar with the matter said the small team operates the lab as an incubator for ideas on future vehicles, after leaving traditional car companies where they were held back by management.
In the latest report from KGI Securities, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo doubles down on his earlier prediction that Apple will move to an all-glass body for its 2017 iPhone. The report said Apple is moving to adopt the all-glass body to keep the iPhone looking modern, ahead of competitors who are beginning to adopt its current aluminum design. The new iPhones are expected to feature OLED screens, a claim bolstered by the Korean Herald’s report last week that Apple has reached a $2.59 billion deal that would see Samsung produce 100 million OLED displays for iPhones over the next three years. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has begun promoting a new tvOS 9.2 feature on the new fourth-generation Apple TV called “Live Tune-In,” which allows users to initiate live playback in compatible apps by using a Siri voice command. While the option did not appear with the release of tvOS 9.2 last month, users in the U.S. who select Settings, System, What’s New can now see the feature has been added to the list of tvOS 9.2 features, highlighting the ability to issue Siri commands such as “Watch CBS” or “Watch ESPN live.” Thus far, Apple only lists CBS, ESPN, and Disney XD as examples of the feature, and it’s unclear whether third-party app developers have to explicitly add support for this feature going forward and which other apps may already include these capabilities. Apple’s tvOS Developer Documentation presently includes no obvious reference to hooks or APIs that would be used to enable this, suggesting that this feature may currently only be available to specific apps hand picked by Apple.
A number of possible changes to the App Store being explored by Apple in recent weeks include the possibility of implementing a Google-like “paid search” feature, Bloomberg reports. Among the possibilities being considered by a secret team at Cupertino would be a plan to charge developers a fee to have their apps more prominently displayed in search results for specific terms, similar to the business model used by Google. The effort, reportedly being spearheaded by former iAd chief Todd Teresi, would be intended to cash in on the increasingly large marketing budgets of major app developers, which have become significant sources of revenue for companies such as Facebook and Twitter. Teresi’s team is said to consist of about 100 Apple employees, including many engineers from the now-defunct iAd advertising group, suggesting that this strategy may mark a directional shift for that group into pursuing other advertising and marketing-related opportunities, after recent reports that the advertising service suffered at the hands of Apple’s strict customer privacy policies.
Apple has released its 2016 Environmental Responsibility Report, covering fiscal year 2015 with details on the company’s efforts toward becoming more eco-friendly throughout its operations. The report highlights three priorities that Apple has focused on to maximize its positive environmental impact, including using renewable energy sources and driving energy efficiency in the company’s products and facilities, conserving precious natural resources, and leading in the use of safer materials in both its products and its manufacturing processes.
Following yesterday’s news that the FBI bought information from independent hackers to assist it with unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone, a new report from Reuters reveals that the company the FBI acquired the procedures from retains sole legal ownership of the method, although it is unclear whether this “company” represents the “independent hackers” referred to in the earlier report. Either way, Obama administration sources have indicated that this makes it “highly unlikely” that the government will be able to disclose the technique. Technology security flaws are ordinarily reviewed by the White House to determine which should be made public, as part of a procedure known as the Vulnerabilities Equities Process — but sources note that the FBI would not even be permitted to submit the method to the White House for consideration without the permission of the private company that owns the technique. Rob Knake, a former White House staffer who was previously responsible for managing the process, noted that the FBI likely doesn’t even know the details of the technique other than that it successfully unlocked the iPhone in question, and added that the Vulnerabilities Equities Process had been created in 2010 to handle situations where government employees invent their own methods for circumventing security. The process was not designed for “a world of commoditized exploitation” by private companies, and that the government cannot “force companies to share the methods that they are trying to sell,” nor can they be prevented from buying technology from those companies.
Apple has announced that it will be ending the iTunes Allowance program as of May 25, 2016. The allowance feature, which has been available on the iTunes Store for over a decade, was designed to allow parents to setup iTunes Store accounts for their children and automatically add a fixed amount of credit to the account each month. Apple has suggested that users instead move to the new Family Sharing feature debuted in iOS 8, which allows purchases by children on a shared family account to require approval by a parent on an item-by-item basis. Users can also still send iTunes Gifts electronically, either as a dollar amount or for specific items, and of course traditional iTunes Store Gift Cards remain an option as well. Apple notes that users will not be able to create new iTunes Allowances as of April 13, 2016, and existing allowances will automatically be cancelled as of May 25, 2016, with any unused credit remaining in the recipient’s account until it’s used, in the same manner as credit from an iTunes Gift or Gift Card.
Accessory maker Logitech said it has agreed to acquire Jaybird, which is known for its wireless earbuds and fitness trackers geared toward the workout crowd. (Read our review of Jaybird’s X2 here.) Logitech paid $50 million for the company with provisions for up to $45 million in additional payments dependent upon Jaybird hitting growth targets. Like Ultimate Ears, a Bluetooth speaker company Logitech purchased in 2008, Jaybird will continue to sell products under its own name even after the acquisition. Bracken Darrell, Logitech president and chief executive officer, said the move gains Logitech entry into the burgeoning wireless audio wearables market and will allow his company to combine its audio engineering and design capabilities with Jaybird’s sports expertise.