Apple releases iTunes 11.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, September 18th, 2013, 08:57
Category: News, Software

This should add some nifty and long-awaited stuff to iTunes.

On Wednesday, Apple released version 11.1 of its iTunes multimedia/jukebox application. The new version, a 215 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
- iTunes Radio: iTunes Radio is a great new way to discover music. Choose from over 250 stations or start a new one from your favorite artist or song. Enjoy iTunes Radio ad-free once you subscribe to iTunes Match.

- Genius Shuffle: Introducing a magical new way to experience your music library. Choose Genius Shuffle and iTunes instantly plays songs that go great together. Click it again to hear something new: enjoying your music has never been this easy.

- Podcast Stations: You can now create custom stations of your favorite podcasts that update automatically with new episodes. Your stations, subscriptions, and current play position sync over iCloud to the Podcasts app.

- Sync with iOS 7: You can now use iTunes to sync your favorite music, movies, and more to devices with iOS 7. In addition, iTunes now makes it even easier to quickly organize and sync apps to your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

iTunes 11.1 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

Apple TV out of stock on online store, next-gen units possible in near term

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Date: Friday, September 6th, 2013, 06:00
Category: Apple TV, News

When the stock runs out, the new stuff is on its way.

Or that’s what one tends to hope.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has either run out of stock or suspended sales of refurbished Apple TVs through its online store, possibly hinting that a new version of the device is in the offing.

As noted by reader Brian, the Online Apple Store’s refurbished product webpage no longer shows the Apple TV as available for sale. Apple recently cut the price of the refurbished device to US$75 in early August, down from US$85 as seen in the above image.

While it is possible that Apple has simply run out or suspended sales of refurbished units, the timing of the stockout jibes with recent rumors of a possible product refresh. A report on Tuesday noted Apple took receipt of three fairly large shipments from Chinese partner manufacturer BYD Precision in August, the contents of each described as “Set Top Boxes.” The information was discovered in bills of lading from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Until the past few days, there have been little to no rumors regarding a new Apple TV, as most media attention has been focused on an anticipated iPhone lineup refresh. However, Apple has been actively updating the existing set-top streamer’s content, adding channels like Vevo, Disney, Weather and Smithsonian in late August, while a beta of the next Apple TV software released in July was found to have reinstated iTunes purchasing.

Apple last refreshed its Apple TV in March 2012, adding 1080p output to the unit while retaining the prior model’s design.

The Cupertino, Calif., company has scheduled a media event for Sept. 10 which is expected to see the unveiling of new iPhone models. Although mere speculation, it is possible that Apple may be planning to announce a new Apple TV product alongside the handsets.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iTunes 11.0.5 update

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Date: Monday, August 19th, 2013, 06:22
Category: News, Software

You can’t really argue against a substantial iTunes bug fix.

Late Friday, Apple released version 11.0.5 of its iTunes multimedia/jukebox application. The new version, a 196.6 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Corrected an issue with iTunes in the Cloud, where some purchases may download or play unexpected items.

iTunes 11.0.5 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

Apple patent looks towards “gifting” iTunes media via NFC

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Date: Thursday, August 15th, 2013, 06:19
Category: News, Patents, Software

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With any luck, you’ll be able to give iTunes media as gifts.

Or, even more conveniently than you do now.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple patent application was published on Thursday for a system that allows users to “gift” media content from iTunes and their own library to other iOS device owners, with the transaction facilitated by near-field communication.

The lengthy patent filing, titled “Media gifting devices and methods,” is a fairly straightforward invention that could may have greater implications as to how iOS device users purchase and consume digital content.

At the heart of the invention is gifting, or the simple idea of purchasing a song, e-book or video to give to another person. The document describes two main modes of giving gifts: purchasing media directly from the iTunes store, or sending a copy of already owned media to another device.

Apple already has systems in place for gifting digital media with the iTunes store app, while Passbook-redeemable gift cards can be purchased with the Apple Store app.

Currently, there is no way to gift a piece of owned media directly from one device to another through iTunes.

Thursday’s patent application outlines a number of techniques that iOS device owners can use to give gifts provided by iTunes, all of which involve digital rights management (DRM) and authentication keys. The system is similar to Apple’s established giving methods in that one user purchases a gift and sends it to another person, but instead of using email, a gifter can transfer the purchase to the giftee over NFC.

The first step of a transaction originating from the iTunes Store occurs when the gifter selects an item they want to give away, such as a song. In one embodiment, the next step authorizes a gift charge to be placed on the gifter’s iTunes account, which the recipient will redeem for the associated file.

Downloads in this scenario are handled by the iTunes server, which checks the recipient’s authorization key before pushing out a gift. In some cases, the download will begin automatically, though the invention allows for recipients to retrieve the file at a later time.

The second, and arguably more interesting, of the two scenarios is the gifting of an already-owned media file.

Here, Apple again employs a method of authentication via a central server to determine what can and can’t be downloaded by a recipient device. For example, a gifter can send a copy of a song currently playing on their device by tapping a user interface button. The operations performed after the gift purchase fork into two separate actions.

In one instance, the gifter’s device sends a request to the server for a charge to be placed on their account for a given song. The giftee transfers an authentication notification to the recipient’s phone, which then has permission to download the song from iTunes.

Alternatively, if Internet access is unavailable, the gifter can send a locked version of the media file via NFC to a giftee’s device, along with a DRM or authentication code to be redeemed when network access is reestablished. Both devices will communicate with the server, and the purchase will be deducted from the gifter’s account, while the recipient will have the media file unlocked. Another option when offline is to send just the key without the associated file, which can later be used to download the song.

Also noted are various operations to ensure proper transmission of authorization and DRM keys, including checks with a central server for both gifter and giftee, purchase acceptance codes sent via NFC, and other safeguards.

Finally, the patent filing adds that a number of attachments, such as photos and audio messages, can be sent along with the gift.

It is unknown if Apple will roll out a gifting feature in a subsequent version of iOS, but the service could be a boon for iTunes and content providers as users would have yet another well-implemented media purchasing system to choose from.

Apple’s media gifting patent application was first filed for in 2013 and credits Gloria Lin, Amir Mahood Mikhak, Taido Lantz Nakajima, Sean Anthony Mayo, Michael Rosenblatt and Andrew Hodge as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple purchases content aggregator Matcha.tv, may be planning new features for Apple TV services

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Date: Wednesday, August 14th, 2013, 07:55
Category: Apple TV, Finance, News, Software

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It’s the acquisitions that point to interesting stuff on the horizon.

Per All Things D and VentureBeat, Apple has acquired a small startup called Matcha.tv, which provided a second-screen iOS app connected to various content outlets like cable TV, Internet streams and digital storefronts.

Citing sources familiar with the story, VentureBeat reports that Apple acquired Matcha.tv for an estimated US$1 million to US$1.5 million. As part of the agreement, the firm’s founders will be assimilated into Apple’s team for at least two years.

Shuttered in May, Matcha.tv was an aggregator for content from popular streaming sites, cable TV and digital video stores. The erstwhile app supported Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, iTunes and cable networks like Comcast, among others.

In addition to arranging content, users were able to manage viewed content and receive recommendations for future viewing. A social networking element was also included in-app to generate recommended media and provide a form of interactivity.

While Apple has yet to implement any of the firm’s technology into the Apple TV, the buyout suggests the company could have something brewing for an upcoming software update or even a new product.

Apple has become increasingly interested in expanding its “beloved hobby” beyond its current capabilities. In June, a software update brought HBO GO, WatchESPN, Sky News and other channels to the small set-top streamer. More recently, a report claimed popular music platform Vevo is working on an app that will bring 24/7 music to Apple TV.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple offers rare iTunes movie collection sale

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Date: Tuesday, August 13th, 2013, 07:08
Category: News, retail

A deal’s a deal.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple is apparently offering a rare sale on iTunes movie bundles yielding the lowest prices seen to date on digital downloads of 25 popular movie collections. Bundles are available in SD/HD and start at US$9.99, making a lot of these “buy one get two free” pricing.

From what’s being seen, the prices have fluctuated a bit and the offer is apparently only applicable in the U.S.

Some standouts (HD Prices):
- Harry Potter Complete Collection: US$9.99 (normally US$125.92)

- Spiderman Trilogy: US$19.99

- The Godfather Trilogy: The Coppola Restoration: US$19.99

- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: US$9.99 (normally US$44.97)

- Lethal Weapon Movie Collection: US$9.99

- Austin Powers Collection for US$9.99

- The Bourne Collection – US$29.99 (normally US$59.96)

- The Matrix Trilogy: US$9.99 (normally US$44.97)

- The X-Men Quadrilogy US$29.99 (normally US$59.96)

- Die Hard Ultimate collection: US$39.99

- Back to the Future Trilogy: US$19.99

It’s unknown as to when this sale will last until, so catch it while you can and let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Comcast Labs DVR app comes to iTunes Store, looks to take on Sling, Tivo services

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Date: Thursday, August 8th, 2013, 11:48
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

This could come in handy.

Per the cool cats at Engadget and The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Comcast has released a new cloud-based DVR app to the iTunes store.

The app actually showed up back in July but is only being spotted now. The reason for that is because the app is companion software to a Comcast service that has not rolled out to a large audience yet. That service is called “X2″ and combines a set-top box with cloud storage to allow users to DVR their favorite shows and store them in the cloud.

Once the service rolls out, the Comcast Labs DVR app will allow users to access their cloud-based DVR (cDVR) programs when behind a Comcast modem. From the app’s description:

This app is intended for customers of our new cDVR Service enabling our new best in class DVR service. With this app, customers will have access to their Comcast video services on an iPad® or iPhone® while in their home behind a Comcast cable modem.

The Comcast Labs DVR app is available for free and requires iOS 5.1 or later to install and run.

Apple revises iTunes EULA, allows Educational accounts to users under 13

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Date: Monday, August 5th, 2013, 11:05
Category: iTunes, Legal, News, Software

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Your students will be able to open Educational accounts under Apple’s revised iTunes End User License Agreement.

Per Macworld, Apple on Thursday altered its iTunes Terms and Conditions to permit children under the age of 13 to operate individual iTunes accounts created at the request of an “approved educational institution.”

Previously, Apple restricted iTunes accounts to children aged 13 or older, but the company announced it would be changing its policy with the release of iOS 7.

The new terms are as follows:
“These App and Book Services are only available for individuals aged 13 years or older, unless you are under 13 years old and your Apple ID was provided to you as a result of a request by an approved educational institution. If you are 13 or older but under the age of 18, you should review this Agreement with your parent or guardian to make sure that you and your parent or guardian understand it.”

With Apple’s new educational policies, schools will have a program to facilitate Apple obtaining “verifiable parental consent for personal Apple IDs for students under age 13.” In addition, Apple also plans to introduce better tools for teachers.

iOS 7, which is expected to be released to the public in the fall, offers new Mobile Device Management options allowing teachers to set up managed apps, configure accessibility options, and restrict changes to accounts. Teachers will be able to lock student iPads to a particular app as well, to ensure that students are “on the same activity at the same time.”

The new operating system will also bring an App Store Volume Purchase Program designed to allow educational institutions to assign apps to users while maintaining ownership and control over app licenses.

Apple’s policy shift comes as the company continues its push for iPads in educational institutions. Apple has been involved in several large deals in recent months and won a US$30 million contract from the L.A. Unified School District in June that will see the district purchasing iPads for every student in its 47 schools. Apple also met with the Turkish President earlier this year about a potential US$4.5 billion deal that would provide Turkish schoolchildren with as many as 15 million tablets.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple lowers price of refurbished Apple TV units to $75

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Date: Wednesday, July 31st, 2013, 13:02
Category: Apple TV, News, retail

A little competition sometimes brings out a decent price.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has lowered the price of its refurbished Apple TV units to US$75, knocking 25 percent off the price of a new model.

The price drop could reflect Apple’s reaction to Google’s salvo against the Apple TV, which currently rules the roost among streaming devices. The refurbished model is now just over twice the price of Google’s Chromecast, but it also comes with a 1-year Apple warranty and a much wider feature set than Google’s streaming device.

Most recently, Apple added iTunes music purchasing to its set-top box, and a number of video apps have added AirPlay streaming capabilities over the last few months. Also, users may soon be able to use a touch to configure option to automatically set up their Apple TV devices in the near future.

Inside, the refurbished model has an Apple A5 processor, and it is compatible with high-definition televisions with HDMI and capable of 1080p or 720p at 60/50Hz. It can be purchased directly from Apple, with the refurbished device shipping within 24 hours. Depending on a customer’s location, it may also be available for in-store pickup.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Q3 2013 numbers, cites $35.3 billion in revenue, $6.9 billion profit

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Date: Wednesday, July 24th, 2013, 06:17
Category: Finance, News, retail

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There wasn’t massive growth, but the numbers were still good.

Per Macworld, Apple reported sales of US$35.3 billion, with net profit at US$6.9 billion for its third fiscal quarter. That translated to earnings of US$7.47 per diluted share. Apple’s revenue marked a record for the June quarter, ticking up 1 percent from the $35 billion Apple posted in last year’s third quarter. Still, profits fell 22 percent year-over-year, down from US$8.88 billion in 2012. Apple also reported a drop in profit during its fiscal second quarter of 2013.

With a tiny increase in revenue but a drop in profit, you’d rightly conclude that Apple’s gross margin dropped: For the quarter, it was 36.9 percent, versus 42.8 percent on the year-ago quarter. That’s because Apple’s most popular products now have lower margins than the top-sellers a year ago.

The company also says it has issued US$18.8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and buybacks.

While Apple generally keeps a tight lid on future product announcement, company officials did reiterate a point made during its second-quarter earnings announcement in April—that the company plans to roll out new products starting this fall and into the next year. “We are laser-focused and working hard on some amazing new products,” CEO Tim Cook said in an statement accompanying Apple’s earnings announcement.”

Apple says it sold 32.2 million iPhones—a record for the June quarter. That’s up from 26 million iPhones in the year-ago period. For the U.S., iPhone sales rose 51 percent year-over-year, Apple says.

The picture was less rosy for iPad sales, but Apple has a perfectly reasonable explanation for the 14 percent drop in tablet sales from last year’s third quarter. A year ago, Apple introduced the third-generation iPad and enjoyed a full quarter’s worth of sales to the tune of 17 million units. This quarter, sales fell to 14.6 million iPads.

Still, Apple has plenty of reason to remain bullish on the iPad. Company chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said that the iPad ranked tops in a 2013 U.S. tablet satisfaction survey by JD Power and Associates. And during the quarter, the company inked a deal with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the U.S., to roll out iPads to 640,000 students.

In fact, the iPad got the bulk of the credit for a strong quarter of sales to U.S. schools. According to Oppenheimer, the last three months generated the highest quarterly revenue ever for Apple’s U.S. education institution business.

Mac sales also fell in the quarter, down 7 percent from last year to 3.8 million units. Still, Oppenheimer pointed out that the 3.8 million Macs sold beat Apple’s own expectations. And Apple’s sales still were ahead of the total PC market, which saw sales contract by 11 percent according to estimates from research firm IDC. By Apple’s math, the Mac gained market share during the quarter.

The Mac was one of the few product lines to see any changes during the quarter, with Apple updating its MacBook Air lineup at the beginning of June by adding new Intel processors. Company executives had little to say about any impact those new laptops had on overall Mac sales, but Oppenheimer did call it the most successful MacBook Air launch to date, adding that customer response was great.

But during the call, executives implied that there were better things to come. Oppenheimer noted that June’s Worldwide Developers Conference included previews of both the Mac Pro and the next version of OS X, code-named Mavericks.

The iTunes Stores—which includes the App Store, Mac App Store, iBookstore, and the music, movies, and TV sections of iTunes—generated $4.3 billion in billings, Oppenheimer said, culminating in the best week and best month ever for App Store. That translated to quarterly revenue of US$2.4 billion, up 29 percent year over year. Total quarterly revenue from iTunes, software, and services generated US$4 billion in revenue.

Oppenheimer said that Apple now has over 320 million iCloud accounts, and 240 million Game Center accounts.

As for brick-and-mortar retail efforts, the Apple Store saw revenue of US$4.1 billion for the quarter, virtually unchanged from the year-ago quarter. Oppenheimer reported that Apple saw 16,000 visitors per store each week.

For the quarter, Apple had an average of 405 stores, with average revenue per store at US$10.1 million, down US$1 million from the year-ago quarter. Apple opened six stores across five countries during the quarter, giving it 408 stores around the globe; 156 of those outlets are outside the U.S.

The company plans to open nine new stores during the September quarter, giving it 27 new openings during the 2013 fiscal year. It’s not just about new stores, however: Apple says that it relocated four of its stores to more appealing spots; it will complete 23 such relocations before the end 2013 fiscal year in September.

Where stockholders are concerned, the company’s Board of Directors has announced another cash dividend, this one at US$3.05 per share of common stock, payable on August 15 to any shareholder as of August 12.

For the next quarter, Apple is predicting revenue between US$34 billion and US$37 billion, with gross margins between 36 and 37 percent. That sales figure would put Apple’s performance in line with the US$36 billion in revenue it reported in the fourth quarter of 2012. For the coming quarter, Apple also predicts operating expenses will be between US$3.9 billion and US$3.95 billion, with a tax rate of 26.5 percent.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.