Rumor: iCloud service to be initially free for certain customers, then available for $25/year

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:49
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

You can have it for free…for a while.

Per the Los Angeles Times, music industry insiders allege that Apple’s forthcoming iCloud service will have an initial free period for iTunes Music Store customers, but the company plans to eventually charge a US$25 a year subscription fee.

The newspaper confirmed on Thursday earlier reports that Apple had finalized contracts with the last of the major music labels, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

“The service initially will be offered for a free period to people who buy music from Apple’s iTunes digital download store,” the report read. “The company plans to eventually charge a subscription fee, about US$25 a year, for the service.”

It is unclear, though, whether the report refers to the cost of the whole iCloud service or just the streaming music feature. By comparison, MobileMe, Apple’s current online storage and sharing solution, costs US$99 a year.

In addition to charging a subscription fee, “Apple would also sell advertising around its iCloud service,” the report noted, without providing details on why Apple would both charge for the service and sell advertising. Sources also indicated that Apple “envisions the service to be used for movies, TV shows and other digital content sold through iTunes.”

Sources stated on Wednesday that Apple could offer general iCloud features free to Mac users who make the upgrade to Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”), though a music streaming service would likely come with a price tag. Music industry executives have previously suggested that Apple’s cloud-based music service could be free at first, but would eventually cost money.

According to sources knowledgeable with the terms of Apple’s agreements with the music labels claim 70% of the revenue from iCloud’s music service will go to the labels and 12% will go to the publishers, leaving Apple with 18%, according to Thursday’s report.

However, those numbers contradict a report from CNet earlier on Thursday that alleged Apple would keep 30% of revenue and share 58% with the labels and 12% with publishers. That report also cited sources claiming Apple’s streaming music service won’t be available on Monday “but will be offered soon,” though it will reportedly store only music purchased from the iTunes.

Apple is set to unveil the service next Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in San Francisco, alongside a preview of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and the introduction of iOS 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple, Universal reach licensing terms for iCloud music streaming

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:29
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

It’s never a bad thing when two parties come to terms on something.

Per CNET, Apple has signed a licensing deal with Universal Music Group, incorporating all four of the major record companies into its iTunes iCloud music plans.

Citing “sources with knowledge of the talks,” the reported today that, in addition to Universal, Apple has also reached agreements with “some of the large music publishers.”

Apple announced earlier this week that it would feature iCloud at its Worldwide Developers Conference next week, detailing its plans for the new web service.

It is believed that Apple’s iCloud will deliver a streaming media repository for users’ commercial digital content. iOS 5 is also expected to add new features that make it easy for users to automatically upload and publish their photos, movies, and other content directly from iOS mobile devices.

Apple already offers some basic streaming music and content sharing via MobileMe, but the new iCloud is understood to dramatically expand upon these features and add new ones.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts support document describing how to remove Mac Defender phishing software

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 05:13
Category: News, Software

Apple has posted a support document explaining how to “avoid or remove” the infamous Mac Defender program and stated it would release an update to Mac OS X to automatically find and remove the malware.

The new support document describes the malware as a phishing scam that redirects users from legitimate websites to “fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus.”

The websites then offer phony antivirus software for a license fee between US$59.95 and US$79.95 to solve the problem, under the names Mac Defender, Mac Protector and Mac Security, often with MAC spelled in all caps.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s removal steps detail quitting the offending app and deleting it from the Utilities folder it is installed into by default. The primary damage caused by the malware is to nag the user for their credit card information in an attempt to sell them a solution to a nonexistent problem.

Windows PC pundits, have made highly publicized reports of the Mac Defender malware, suggesting it is evidence that Macs are now experiencing malware and virus problems comparable to those experienced by Windows users over the past two decades.

Security expert Charlie Miller, who has regularly won security contests demonstrating Mac exploits, has downplayed that real threat of the few Mac malware titles that have surfaced, recently noting in an interview that “Microsoft recently pointed out that 1 in 14 downloads on Windows are malicious. And the fact that there is just one piece of Mac malware being widely discussed illustrates how rare malware still is on the Mac platform.”

Miller explained that while antivirus software can help protect your system from being infected, he also countered that “it’s expensive, uses system memory and reduces battery life,” stating, “At some point soon, the scales will tip to installing antivirus, but at this point, I don’t think it’s worth it yet for most people.”

Apple recommends that Mac users “should exercise caution any time they are asked to enter sensitive personal information online” and notes that it “provides security updates for the Mac exclusively through Software Update and the Apple Support Downloads site.”

The Mac Defender scam presents a phony website scanner with an appearance modeled after iTunes, and depicts itself as being an “Apple security center,” apparently modeled after the “Windows Security Center” Microsoft added to its own product.

Because the phony web page and its popups are tied to the browser, they do not look native alerts from Mac OS X. The scam site is also unable to install the malware without the user supplying an administrative password. Even so, hundreds of users have been duped by the scam, although the outbreak appears to be more of a nagware annoyance than a serious security problem.

In other news, the developers of Mac Defender also have a bridge they’d like to sell you…

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.

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 launches cloud-based music service, demos upcoming version of Android

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Date: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011, 03:48
Category: News

Google launched the invite-only beta of its new cloud music streaming service Tuesday, along with Android movie rentals, and Honeycomb 3.1 for tablets. It also previewed Ice Cream Sandwich, the next major Android release, and promised that devices will receive future Android updates for 18 months after they launch, through a new agreement with carriers and device makers.

Per AppleInsider, the company launched its new Music service, a streaming product that will remain free while in beta. Initially, the service is only available to those who are given an invite.

The license-free cloud product allows users to upload their library of music to Google’s servers, and stream those tracks to Android devices and computers, on both Windows and Mac. The Music Beta software allows users to upload all of the music within their iTunes library and access it on the go.

The search giant unveiled the new product as part of its I/O 2011 conference on Tuesday. It boasted that the music service, when synced to the cloud, means users will never have to sync with a cable again.

Music Beta by Google also lets users “pin” their music for offline use, allowing content to be accessed when a data connection may not be available. Music Beta can be used on Android devices running Froyo or Gingerbread.

Google also unveiled movie rentals for Android devices, with thousands of movies available to rent for US$1.99 A new movies application for Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom allows users to watch movies on the go as well.

Like with music, users can “pin” their movie and download it, even if it’s rented and streaming, for playback when a data connection may not be available, such as on a plane ride.

Movies are now available on the Android market, and the official Movies application is available as part of today’s Honeycomb 3.1 release, while smartphone users with Android 2.2 will receive the application in the next few weeks.

Google also announced that an update for Honeycomb, its tablet-centric mobile operating system, is available today for Verizon customers. Those who own a Motorola Xoom will be able to update to Android 3.1.

The new update adds the ability to make Android devices act as USB hosts. In one example, they showed an Xbox 360 wired controller being used with an Android tablet via USB.

With the update, users can also stretch widgets horizontally or vertically to make them fit their needs.

Android 3.1 will also come to Google TV this summer, and bring the Android Market with applications. Google also revealed that there are now more than 200,000 applications available on the Android Market.

Google’s philosophy with the next major release of Android, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, will be “one OS everywhere,” across a range of devices. That would mean that Android phones and tablets would be running the same operating system, unlike the current landscape where Honeycomb is restricted only to tablets.

Google said it would have an “advanced app framework” in the next release of Android, allowing developers to scale their software to different platforms. They also boasted that their mobile operating system will “all be open source.”

Ice Cream Sandwich is also said to include a new user interface, new widgets, and new applications. It said the next user interface would be “state of the art.”

In one demonstration, Google showed off 3D headtracking on a Motorola Xoom using the hardware’s forward facing camera.

Google also vowed to streamline the updating process for Android devices. Carriers and device makers have agreed to provide new updates for 18 months after devices are launched, provided the hardware can support the newer versions of Android.

The company also showed off a new standard called Android Open Accessory. Using this, external can be connected to Android handsets and be supported by third-party software.

The search giant provided a demonstration of Android Open Accessory by connecting an Android phone to a stationary bike. It also demonstrated home automation integration called Android @ Home, with Android-compatible lightbulbs from Lighting Science set to go on sale by the end of the year.

If you’ve received an invitation to Google’s new music service and had a chance to play with it, please let us know.

Apple releases iOS 4.3.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, May 4th, 2011, 14:20
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

Responding primarily to its recent location tracking controversey, Apple on Wednesday released iOS 4.3.3, the latest update to its mobile operating system. The update includes the following fixes and changes for iOS-based devices:

- Reduces the size of the cache.

- No longer backs the cache up to iTunes.

- Deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

The update is recommended for all users of the GSM iPhone 4, the CDMA iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad, iPad 2, and the third and fourth-generation iPod touches. To download and install it, connect your device to your Mac or PC and click Check for Updates in iTunes.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes (for better or for worse), please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple purchases iCloud.com domain name for $4.5 million

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Date: Friday, April 29th, 2011, 05:37
Category: iTunes, iTunes Music Store, Rumor

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Moving away from the white iPhone 4 for a moment, Apple is said to have indeed bought the iCloud.com domain for its forthcoming cloud-based iTunes music streaming service, though the rumored US$4.5 million purchase price remains unconfirmed.

Citing his own sources, John Paczkowski of Digital Daily reported Friday that Apple did purchase the iCloud.com domain from Swedish cloud computing company Xcerion. Those sources declined, however, to say whether the rumored US$4.5 million purchase price was accurate.

The report corroborates a rumor from earlier this week in which it was stated that Apple had acquired the domain, likely revealing the name of the company’s forthcoming cloud computing service. The Whois database still lists Xcerion as the owner of iCloud, but the company recently rebranded its service as CloudMe.

Still a mystery is exactly what Apple has planned for the domain. The company already has a name for its current cloud computing efforts: MobileMe.

Back in February, it was reported that Apple is working on a major revamp of its MobileMe service, and is considering making the US$99-per-year product free. The report also said that Apple will offer a digital “locker” that will allow users to store and remotely access personal content, like photos, music and videos.

More recently, Apple is said to have “completed” work on a new music streaming service that it has been pitching to music executives. And one of the four major record labels, Warner Music, is said to have signed a deal with Apple over the service, though the specifics of how it might work remain unknown.

Set to open this spring, a new Apple data center in Maiden, N.C., will support both the iTunes and MobileMe services, which has led to speculation that the US$1 billion facility could be an integral part of Apple’s anticipated cloud services. The 500,000 square-foot data center is five times larger than the company’s current data center in Newark, Calif.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple “completes” cloud-based music streaming service, users unsure what to expect

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Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011, 03:10
Category: iTunes, News, Software

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For those of you wondering what the future of Apple’s music plans may be, we might have a hint.

Per the All Things Digital blog, a new report claims that Apple has succeeded in procuring deals with at least two of the four big music labels in the last two months, possibly signaling that the rumored iTunes streaming music service is imminent.

The story reported Thursday that Apple is “actively seeking licenses” for a new cloud-based music locker service and is willing to pay labels for the privilege.

According to author Peter Kafka’s sources, Apple has inked deals with two of the for major labels, which include Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony and EMI within the last two months. One source claimed Apple VP Eddy Cue will be in New York on Friday in an attempt to solidify remaining deals.

“They’ve been very aggressive and thoughtful about it,” Kafka reported an industry executive as saying. “It feels like they want to go pretty soon.”

Kafka’s sources have yet to see the service for themselves, but say they’re aware of the “broad strokes.” “The idea is that Apple will let users store songs they’ve purchased from its iTunes store, as well as others songs stored on their hard drives, and listen to them on multiple devices,” Kafka wrote in his report.

The report comes on the heels of a Reuters report earlier Thursday that claimed Apple had “completed work” on a cloud-based iTunes music streaming service. Citing anonymous sources, the report said Apple is “set to launch” the service, which would store users’ songs on a remote server and allow them to access them from “wherever they have an Internet connection.”

However, a Reuters report claimed that Apple had yet to arrive at new licensing agreements with the labels.

Rival Amazon launched a digital music locker last month without new licensing approval. The online retailer has reportedly faced a backlash from the music industry as a result.

According to Kafka, Apple would be able to create a more “robust service” than Amazon with re-negotiated licenses. That service could include “better user interfaces, sound quality, and other features,” said Kafka.

For example, Kafka has heard that Apple’s new deals with the labels would allow the company to “store a single master copy of a song on its servers and share it with multiple users.”

Apple’s upcoming music streaming service could come in the form of an enhanced version of MobileMe. In February, it was reported that Apple plans to revamp its MobileMe offerings by adding a free ‘locker’ service for storing photos, music and videos.

In 2009, Apple bought streaming music service Lala for $85 million, prompting speculation that iTunes streaming was in the works. However, Apple shuttered Lala last year and the rumored service has yet to materialize.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple reports $24.67 billion in revenue, $5.99 billion profit for second quarter

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Date: Wednesday, April 20th, 2011, 15:05
Category: Finance, News

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As irked as you may be with Apple from time to time, there’s no doubting this: the company makes a profit and is around for the long haul.

Per Macworld, Apple announced the results of its second fiscal quarter, citing sales of US$24.67 billion and a net profit of US$5.99 billion, according to figures announced by the company Wednesday.

The company’s quarterly revenue, a record figure for the second quarter, beat year-ago sales by 83%. Profits also set a record for the quarter, and improved 95% over the US$3.07 billion in profit the company tallied in the 2010 second quarter.

Apple earned US$6.40 per share, beating last year’s second-quarter earnings of US$3.33 per share by 92%. Apple’s performance also blew away analyst estimates. Analysts were looking for the company to report US$23.34 billion in revenue and earnings of US$5.36 per share for the quarter.

During the conference call, Apple stated that it had sold 18.65 million iPhones during the quarter, which ended March 26. This figure represents an increase of 113% from the 8.75 million phones Apple sold over the same period last year. The company recorded recognized revenue of US$12.3 billion in the just-completed quarter, an increase of 126%.

All told, Apple ended its fiscal second quarter with the iPhone available in 90 countries through 186 carriers, compared to 185 carriers in 90 countries at the end of the first quarter; Apple Chief Financial Office Peter Oppenheimer noted that there had been some carrier contraction during the last three months that offset the addition of new partners such as Verizon in the U.S., SK Telecom in South Korea, and Saudi Telecom in Saudi Arabia.

Apple sold 3.76 million Macs during the second quarter, an increase of 28% over the 2.9 million Macs sold during the year-ago period. That set a record for Mac sales during the March quarter, Oppenheimer said. In particular, Mac sales compared favorably with the overall PC market, which contracted at a rate of 3% during the quarter, according to figures from IDC. That marks the twentieth consecutive quarter that Apple has outgrown the PC market, although sales numbers were below those posted by Apple for the last two quarters.

Notebooks continue to be the big driver for Mac sales, with the 2.7 million portables making up 73% of the Macs sold during the quarter. In addition to the February revamp of the MacBook Pro line, Apple also reaped the benefits of last year’s MacBook Air updates. The 1 million desktops sold were only more than during one of the last five quarters.

Apple also made notable gains internationally with Macs, seeing 76% growth in the Asia Pacific region on a year-over-year basis.

The iPad 2 shipped at the end of the quarter, on March 11 in the U.S. and on March 25 in 25 additional countries, which helped spur sales of Apple’s tablet. All told, Apple sold 4.69 million iPads during the quarter, though it didn’t break down those sales between the iPad 2 and the original model. In total, Apple has sold 19.48 million iPads since the product was released in April 2010.

Unfortunately, iPod sales continued their decline, though Apple says that the product line’s performance was ahead of expectations. The company sold 9.02 million iPods during the quarter, a drop of 17% from last year’s second-quarter figures. More than half of the iPods sold during the quarter were the iPod touch, according to Apple’s figures.

Despite that decline, Oppenheimer said that the total iPod sales were ahead of Apple’s expectation, and that the iPod remains the top-selling MP3 player in most of the countries where that data is tracked, and continues to hold onto its market-leading position in the U.S.

Apple found a silver lining in the performance of its iTunes online business, however. That segment tallied US$1.1 billion in revenues, its best quarter ever, according to Oppenheimer.

With Apple’s brick-and-mortar retail outlets approaching their 10th anniversary next month, Oppenheimer noted that the retail chains should see their 1 billionth visitor in a matter of days. During the second quarter, 71.1 million people visited the app store, up from 47 million visitors in the 2010 second quarter.

Revenue from the retail stores grew 90% to US$3.19 billion. Apple says it sold 797,000 Macs through its retail outlets, an increase of 32% from last year. About half of the Macs sold at the Apple Store were to newly minted Mac users.

Apple still plans to open 40 new stores during the 2011 fiscal year, with two-thirds of those outlets opening outside of the U.S. That includes a fifth Apple Store in China.

For the third quarter ending in June, Apple expects revenue of about US$23 billion and earnings per share of US$5.03. That compares to US$15.7 billion in revenue and earnings of US$3.51 a share for the third quarter of 2010. Prior to Wednesday’s call, analysts were looking for sales of US$23.8 billion and earnings of US$5.25 per share for the June quarter.