Apple Store iPhone app updated to version 1.3, allows build-to-order Mac purchases

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:22
Category: iPhone, News, retail, Software

Apple on Monday updated its “Apple Store” application for the iPhone, offering the ability to order a custom Mac, and also more quickly receive help when at a retail store.

Per AppleInsider, the free application is currently available on the App Store. Version 1.3 is a 3.2MB download, and is available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The app requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run.

The release of the software coincides with the debut of Apple’s improved retail stores, which were upgraded on Sunday. The company now makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

According to Apple, new features of Apple Store 1.3 are:
- Enhanced in-store mode lets you get help and support quickly when you’re at an Apple Retail Store.

- The ability to custom-configure a new Mac with the options you want.

Using the new application, users can make modifications and upgrades to a Mac order placed from their iPhone. For example, users can add more RAM or upgrade the hard drive of a Mac before they finalize their order — features that were previously only available on Apple’s website.

The software is still only written for the iPhone and iPod touch, prompting some initial negative reviews from users in the App Store. Though the application can be run on an iPad, as all iOS software can, it is not optimized for the screen size and resolution of the touchscreen tablet.

Rumors of the updated iPhone application first surfaced on Saturday, revealing that the software was set to debut as part of Apple’s retail revamp. Apple’s online store went offline on Friday to also prepare for the changes.

The Apple Store application was first released in June of 2010. With it, users can view products, read customer reviews, locate a nearby Apple Retail Store, and buy or reserve devices like the iPhone.

If you tinkered with the new app and have any opinions on it, let us know in the comments.

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

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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.

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.

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.

Apple releases ProKit 7.0 update for professional applications

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Date: Wednesday, May 18th, 2011, 06:07
Category: News, Software

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On Tuesday, Apple addressed its higher end applications, the company releasing its ProKit 7.0 patch to fix issues found within Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, iPhoto, Aperture, Final Cut Express, Logic Pro, MainStage, Logic Express, and iAd Producer.

Per Macworld, the update, a 15.7 megabyte downlad update claims to fix a number of minor issues found within all the aforementioned aps, in addition to a few specific patches for Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, and Logic. All applications will find improved support for PopOver style tooltips and Font Smoothing and any unwanted gaps between menus and submenus have also supposedly been eliminated.

Final Cut Pro and Motion will see improvements to the stability of both the color picker and timecode interface; memory leaks in both applications have also been fixed, and Motion alone has received a patch for AppKit-related crashes. Soundtrack Pro will boast improved compatibility when importing project assets from older versions of the program, and an appearance issue with the scrubber has been addressed in both Logic Express and Logic Pro.

Apple recommends the update for all of the above applications on any system running Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later.

As always, the update can be snagged and installed by running Software Update on your Mac.

Rumor: Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge-Equipped MacBook Air notebooks to surface in June/July

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Date: Wednesday, May 18th, 2011, 03:01
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

The line of Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge-equipped Mac notebooks looks likely to complete with the MacBook Air come June or July.

Per an article in DigiTimes, sources from makers in the MacBook Air supply chain will begin shipping 11.6″ and 13.3″ MacBook Air models “in late May.”

“Main supply chain makers for the new models remain about the same as for the existing MacBook Air, with Quanta Computer solely responsible for assembly, Catcher Technology supplying casings, Auras Technology a main supplier of thermal modules, Shin Zu Shing supplying hinges, and Simplo Technology and Dynapack supplying batteries,” the report noted the sources as saying.

Given the expected high volume of initial shipments of Apple’s thin-and-light notebook and the relatively higher prices of Apple’s components, Taiwan-based makers “rest the hope on Apple orders for revenue contributions,” according to the report.

DigiTimes’ sources corroborate a previous report that pegged MacBook Air shipments as going to mass production in late May. According to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, checks with Asian suppliers and system builders revealed that, after declining sequentially after the release of new MacBook Pros, MacBook Air shipments are expected to rebound in the June quarter ahead of a refresh.

In February, it had been claimed Apple would transition the MacBook Air to Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors in June.

Apple’s first Macs to feature the Sandy Bridge architecture were the early 2011 MacBook Pros released in late February. The new MacBook Pros also saw the first implementation of the new high-speed Thunderbolt port. Earlier this month, the Cupertino, Calif., Mac maker unveiled new iMac all-in-one desktops with quad-core Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt.

According to one analyst, supply chain sources indicate that Apple intends to refresh the rest of its Mac lineup “in upcoming months,” though further details were unavailable.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.