Apple unveils updated retail experience, introduces interactive iPad displays

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, retail

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There were rumblings that Apple was doing something for its 10th retail anniversary.

And they apparently did.

Per Mac Prices Australia, Apple retail stores have taken the wraps off Apple’s new retail upgrade, which makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

Apple launched “Retail 2.0″ on Sunday morning in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Apple retail stores. The company opened its first retail stores on May 19, 2001, in McLean, Virginia and Glendale, Calif.

According to the report, the main change is the addition of stationary iPads placed next to other Apple products in order to display product prices, information and features. The touchscreen tablets can also be used to compare models and ask for help from a specialist. Photos of the new iPad display units reveal that the devices are placed in plexiglass.

The iPads appear to be running a custom software application, as customers report that pressing the home button on the tablets does nothing. Though the power cable for the device does not appear to connect to the dock, one person familiar with the matter said the cable is indeed connected to the dock connector, but is “very well hidden.” Also, detaching the cable will reportedly activate an alarm.

Some reports also suggested that Apple retail employees were wearing party hats to celebrate the occasion. Customers reported via Twitter that the Apple store updates created a “totally new experience.”

Apple had been reported as stockpiling iPads in preparation for a retail overhaul, the new in-house iPads having been slated for use with an updated version of RetailMe, Apple’s proprietary retail software.

Apple reportedly scheduled overnight shifts for retail employees in preparation for the updates to the Apple store. The company had blocked employees from taking vacation from May 20 to May 22. Mandatory meetings have been scheduled on Sunday morning and evening for Apple retail staff.

Apple has also taken offline the Order Status page from its website until Sunday, May 22 in order to perform a system update.

A recent report claimed Apple will update its “Apple Store” retail app for iOS this weekend, adding full build-to-order purchasing options to the application. Apple first released the retail app last year with support for stock configuration orders.

If you’ve wandered into an Apple Store location since the overhaul this weekend and have anything to report, let us know.

Apple anticipated to launch “iCloud” service providing terms can be reached with music publishers

Posted by:
Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:33
Category: iTunes, News

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You’re hankering for Apple to launch a streaming music service with assorted other features.

You may not have to wait too long.

According to MediaMemo, Music industry insiders expect that Apple wants to launch, or at least introduce, its anticipated “iCloud” music streaming service in June, though the company must also reach agreements with music publishers.

Pursuant to this, Apple is said to have started making deals with the labels first in its negotiation process, and only recently began talking with publishers.

How long it will take to reach an agreement with publishers remains to be seen. But Apple’s launch of 90 second song previews in iTunes was reportedly held up for months last year because of negotiations with publishers.

Author Peter Kafka also said that sources in the music industry believe that Apple wants to launch or at least announce its so-called “iCloud” service at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, starting June 6 in San Francisco. This year’s event is expected to focus on software, and it is not expected that Apple will unveil new iPhone hardware as it has done in years past.

“In Apple’s case, I’m told that the company doesn’t have any theological hurdles to clear with the publishers,” Kafka wrote.

As for the music labels, Apple has been making headway, with deals already reached with Sony Corp., EMI Group, and Warner Music Group. Those agreements would allow users to access song collections from mobile devices via the Internet.

The lone holdout remains Universal Music Group, the largest recording company. But it has also been said that Apple and Universal are close to reaching an agreement.

The Internet-based service is expected to offer more than just music, serving up calendar events, contacts, e-mail and bookmarks. Apple recently acquired the “icloud.com” domain name, suggesting that the company’s current cloud-based service, MobileMe, could be rebranded in the revamp.

Your guess is as good as ours on this one, but let us know what you think and we’ll get the information to you as soon as we get it.

Analyst: iPad 2 constraints easing, supply improving

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:41
Category: iPad, News

In spite of the Japanese earthquakes and tsunami back in March, iPad 2 production restraints that affected Apple last quarter are said to have “significantly improved,” allowing for improved availability of the tablet.

According to AppleInsider, Analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said Friday that Apple has found better yields in iPad 2 production through retooling and conversion of more overseas production lines. These changes have gone a long way in addressing the supply issues Apple experienced last quarter.

Wu also cautioned that Apple is along way from meeting its internal goals for iPad 2 production. Previous rumors suggested Apple could ship as many as 45 million iPad 2 units this year, though predictions have dropped since Apple’s last quarter fell short of expectations for iPad sales.

“From our understanding, [Apple] still has a ways to hit the [second half] goal of 3-4 million units per month but getting closer,” Wu wrote.

Accordingly, Wu has increased his estimates for iPad sales in the current, third fiscal quarter of 2011 for Apple. He now sees the company selling 6.8 million iPads, up from his previous prediction of 5.9 million.

Wu also increased his estimated iPhone sales to 17 million, up from 16 million. He said iPhone demand appears to be holding up better than expected, thanks to strong adoption of the white iPhone 4 and strong sales on Verizon.

Wu also increased his projected Mac sales to 3.9 million from the quarter, up from 3.83 million. He is also assuming a new, higher gross margin of 39%, increased from 38.3%, due to improved iPad yields and higher iPhone sales.

Finally, he’s also increased Sterne Agee’s 12-month price target for AAPL stock to $460, up from the previous prediction of US$445.

So, if you want an iPad 2, odds are the one you want should be available.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon ending unlimited data plan, will introduce tiered pricing plans for heavy data users

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Date: Friday, May 20th, 2011, 08:30
Category: iPhone, News

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The good times/unlimited data can’t last for ever.

Per Reuters, a Verizon executive said today that the company will be kicking off the summer by eliminating smartphone plans that allow unlimited web access for a flat fee. Those will be replaced with tiered pricing that will make heavy data users pay more for mobile data. It was also mentioned that Verizon will release the next iPhone at the same time as AT&T.

Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo mentioned the company’s plans at the Reuters Global Technology Summit. However, they are aiming to ease the pain by offering more options, such as family plans for data services.

“We had individual minutes for individual users. Then we eventually got to what we call family share where everyone in the family shares the same minutes,” said Shammo.

“I think it’s safe to assume that at some point you are going to have mega-plans (for data) and people are going to share that mega-plan based on the number of devices within their family. That’s just a logical progression,” he continued, but failed to mention when said mega-plans would actually come to fruition.

Shammo also cited that when the next iPhone model comes to light, Verizon will be able to offer it at the same time as AT&T. The handset would also have global coverage, just like AT&T’s version.

Much speculation has been bantered about as to whether or not the next iPhone would support LTE, but Verizon isn’t concerned, saying they have enough high-speed alternatives to sell.

“I think it’s a bigger issue for Apple than it is for us,” he notes. “Depending on where Apple plays, that’s where we’ll sell.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T demonstrates 28.8 Mbps download speeds on forthcoming Long Term Evolution network

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Date: Friday, May 20th, 2011, 05:43
Category: iPhone, News

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During a media tour at an AT&T research lab, the carrier demoed its upcoming 4G Long Term Evolution network, which appeared to be significantly faster than rival Verizon, reaching download speeds of 28.87 Mbps and 10.4 Mbps for uploads.

According to GigaOM, during a tour of AT&T’s Foundry space in Plano, Texas on Wednesday with Jon Summers, the company’s senior vice president of application and service infrastructure.

The lab’s LTE download speeds were more than seven times faster than the 3.77 megabits per second rate reached on AT&T’s current HSPA network. Uploads over LTE posted an even more impressive improvement, with more than eight times the current speed of 1.21 Mbps over HSPA.

The test was conducted using a Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna setup and two swaths of spectrum: 700 MHz and the Advanced Wireless Spectrum band. AT&T hopes to acquire more AWS band from its proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA.

AT&T engineers noted that the 28.87Mbps data rate is meant to model “real-world situations” for the Foundry lab, rather than the merely theoretical 150 Mbps speeds often demoed by carriers. However, the report did note that “sharing those speeds with others on a cell tower will bring them down.”

Earlier this year, AT&T revealed plans to accelerate the deployment of LTE so that the network will be “largely complete” by the end of 2013.

By comparison, Verizon says its LTE network, which launched late last year, will have real-world data rates of between 5 and 12 Mbps downstream and 2 to 5 Mbps up. Verizon has also said its LTE network will be nationwide by the end of 2013.

Recent reports have suggested that Apple pushed back the launch of LTE-enabled iPhones to 2012 due to production issues with LTE chips and limited customer access to LTE. China Mobile announced Thursday that it had “reached consensus” with Apple to implement support for the carrier’s 4G TD-LTE in a future version of the iPhone, but specific timing details remained unclear.

Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said in February that Apple is working on an LTE iPhone. “You’ll see more coming from Apple on LTE,” he said. “They understand the value proposition of LTE and I feel very confident that they are going to be a part of it.”

Apple inks deal with Sony for upcoming iTunes/cloud service

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Date: Friday, May 20th, 2011, 04:08
Category: News

It’s when Apple starts coming to licensing terms with large music conglomerates that this whole cloud thing becomes interesting…

Per Bloomberg, Apple has reportedly inked a licensing deal with Sony Corp.’s music division to begin offering the label’s catalog in the cloud, leaving Universal Music Group as the last holdout among the major record labels.

Bloomberg reports that Apple has reached licensing accords with Sony Corp., EMI Group, and Warner Music Group to allow users to access song collections from mobile devices via the Internet. Prior reports had noted that EMI and Warner were on board with Apple’s plan for a cloud-based service.

Though Universal Music Group, the largest recording company, has yet to agree to a deal, Apple and the label are close to reaching an agreement, according to one person with knowledge of the deals. After signing licensing agreements with the labels, Apple would also need to renegotiate agreements with music publishers, which control different rights than the labels, the report noted.

Sources said plans for the new service could be previewed as early as next month at Apple’s sold-out Worldwide Developer Conference. According to a report last month, Apple has finished work on the service, which is being held up by pending music label and publisher agreements.

Sources have stated that Apple’s rumored cloud music service won’t require users to upload online collections, giving the company a significant advantage over rivals Google and Amazon. Amazon launched its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player services in March, and Google launched a Music Beta cloud service last week.

Although Google and Amazon beat Apple to market with their cloud music services, music industry sources have expressed the belief that Apple’s take on cloud music will be vastly superior. Both Google and Amazon reportedly chose not to secure music label support before launching their services.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases second beta build of Mac OS X 10.6.8 to developer community

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Date: Friday, May 20th, 2011, 04:51
Category: Rumor, Software

Apple on Thursday issued the second beta build of Mac OS X 10.6.8 to developers with no known issues.

Per AppleInsider, both the Combo Update and the Delta Update for Mac OS X 10.6.8 build 10K524 are a 1GB download. According to sources close to the story, focus areas for the build include Airport, Graphics Drivers, Mac App Store, Networking, QuickTime and VPN.

The first build of Mac OS X 10.6.8, identified as 10K521, arrived a week ago with no details on changes.

The most recent update to Snow Leopard came in March in the form of Mac OS X 10.6.7, which included display fixes for Apple’s early 2011 Thunderbolt MacBook Pros. Other adjustments included changes designed to improve the reliability of Back to My Mac, resolve issues when transferring files to SMB Windows Files Sharing servers, and address Mac App Store bugs.

Apple is expected to release a major upgrade to Mac OS X this summer with Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”). The company is expected to “unveil the future of Mac OS” at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference from June 6 through June 10 in San Francisco.

Mac OS X 10.7 is expected popular features in iOS, such as full screen apps and auto save, and brings them back to the Mac.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Facial recognition app on horizon for jailbroken iPhones

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Date: Thursday, May 19th, 2011, 04:02
Category: iPhone, Software

Ok, this could be cool.

While it’s one thing to be able to access your iPhone via the slider or enter a passkey, it’s another thing altogether to have your mug be the thing that gains access to your smartphone.

Per Macworld UK, RecognizeMe is an app aimed at jailbroken iPhones, and basically gives you the option of not just using a passcode to unlock your phone, but to require facial recognition too. After adding a few images into an image gallery (“Training Sets”), the app will simply give you the option when you next try to unlock your phone to either type in a passcode or use facial recognition.

Per the article, the app will scan you a few times before deciding if you are the real owner of the phone (though you can adjust the security, meaning people who look ever so slightly like you might be able to get in).

Although the creator (currently only found on YouTube) says it’s still a little rough, a few testers have found that even pushing the security to “80% secure” still lets others in, and that it can take up to 20 seconds to verify you.

Although it’s not quite available to the public, it is currently processing in the CydiaStore and it’s believed that it’ll retail for US$6.99 when it becomes available.

And since a picture’s worth a thousand words and videos are made of sequential pictures…



Rumor: Apple secures EMI licensing deal for upcoming cloud service

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Date: Thursday, May 19th, 2011, 04:08
Category: iTunes, Rumor

You’ve been eagerly anticipating the Apple Cloud.

And they might be one step closer to releasing it.

Per CNET, music industry sources claim that Apple has signed a cloud-music licensing agreement with music label EMI and is “very near” to completing deals with Universal and Sony.

Apple appears to be putting the final pieces in place for the long-rumored cloud-based iTunes music service. The article states that Apple’s negotiations with Sony Music Group and Universal could wrap up as early as next week, according to music industry sources.

Last month, it was reported that Apple and Warner Music Group had reached an agreement for an unannounced iTunes cloud service. A separate report suggested last month that Apple had already procured deals from at least two of the four major music labels.

Finalizing licensing deals appears to be the final step for Apple, as a recent report suggested that Apple had completed work on a cloud-based iTunes music streaming service. Sources close to the story have said that Apple’s cloud solution is expected to be vastly superior to competing services from Google and Amazon.

Both Google and Amazon decided to launch their “digital locker” music services without renegotiating licenses with the labels. As such, Google’s service is unable to sell music and Amazon faces a potential backlash from rights holders.

Mounting evidence suggests that Apple will use the name ‘iCloud’ for the new service, though it’s been rumored that iCloud will be more than just music. Sources said the new service will also serve as a revamp of the company’s existing MobileMe service, allowing storage of contacts, calendars, photos and video.

According to one report, Apple purchased the iCloud.com domain for an estimated US$4.5 million from the Swedish company Xcerion.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google Chrome updated to 12.0.742.60

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Date: Thursday, May 19th, 2011, 04:46
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 12.0.742.60 for the Mac. The new version, a 36.2 megabyte download, offers the following the following changes:

- Contains a number of UI tweaks and performance fixes.

Google Chrome 12.0.742.60 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.