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THE NEWS WRAP: Apple chief slams workplace discrimination

3:37PM | Monday, 30 March

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has slammed so-called “religious freedom” laws in the US that allow employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of personal beliefs.   In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Cook said that America’s business community recognised a long time ago that discrimination in all its forms is not just morally wrong but bad for business.   “Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open,” he says.   “Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.” Phhhoto now has more than 1 million users Camera app Phhhoto has broken the 1 million user mark.   The startup launched an app last year that allows users to record GIFs and upload them to a public feed.   Co-founder Omar Elsayed told TechCrunch the next stage for the app is to improve the user experience.   “The product has gotten to a point where the Phhhoto media type is something that our users are enthusiastic about, so now it’s about how we can loop that into new ways of communicating, and perhaps even new content types,” he says.   To date the startup has raised $US225,000 ($A294m) in seed funding. Drifty announces $US2.6 million capital injection Software startup Drifty has raised $2.6 million in order to fund its product development, TechCrunch reports.   The round was led by Chicago-based firm Lightbank with participation from Founder Collective and previous investor Arthur Ventures.   Drifty is a graduate of the TechStars Cloud 2013 incubator. Last year the startup raised $1 million in seed funding. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 263.65 points, rising 1.49% to 17,976.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Technology and fashion converge in the Apple Watch

3:18AM | Thursday, 12 March

Apple’s ability to mesh technology with beautiful design will be put to the test when it finally releases the much-anticipated Apple Watch. The tech giant is taking a super-advanced piece of technology and packaging it as a fashion statement.   Although the iPhone-compatible wearable watch is still more than a month from its official release date, the hype is building among Apple enthusiasts and fashionistas alike as they anticipate the first product Apple has designed to be worn.   On April 24 this year, the new smartwatch will find its way on to store shelves in a dazzling variety of colours and styles to trump even the options for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. There will be 38 Apple Watch choices with a range of changeable faces – including an animated Mickey Mouse face. Apple says the watch is designed to be “highly customisable for personal expression”, allowing the owner to make a unique statement.   The watch is all about personalisation, even more so than previous Apple products, which have sported various colour possibilities plus the option of engraving the iPhone, iPod and iPad, which will also be available for the watch. With six band types and 18 interchangeable colours, you can don the sport band for a gym session and switch effortlessly to the Milanese loop for a night out. Wearable technology But is the world ready for wearable technology? We can hardly forget the moment when fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg put Google Glass on the runway in 2012.   But the Google Glass project is currently on hold. This head-mounted optical display was seen as somewhat dorky, giving rise to the opinion that technology belongs on our desks and not on our bodies.   So the question remains: will the Apple Watch succeed as a fashion item in a way that Google Glass has not? The emphasis on creating a fashionable product is readily apparent, with Apple leaning heavily on fashion insiders and retail gurus throughout the development phase. Apple is betting big on the success of its watch.   Apple’s senior vice president of design, Jony Ive, even introduced the device to iconic designer Karl Lagerfeld and a 12-page spread is reportedly being prepared for Vogue.   In case we needed further evidence that Apple is taking the fashion aspect seriously, super model Christy Turlington Burns appeared alongside Apple CEO Tim Cook to spruik the watch. She went so far as to call the Apple Watch a chic fashion accessory at the official launch. The price of design Given the emphasis on luxury, it is perhaps not surprising that the Apple Watch comes with a designer price tag for the 18-karat solid gold edition, which also has a top-of-the-line computer inside it. Apple says prices for these top-of-the-range models start from A$14,000.   For those of us who are not prepared to take out a loan on what is essentially a piece of jewellery, the entry-level Apple Watch Sport with its aluminium body and rubber strap starts at A$499 for the 38mm version and A$579 for the 42mm.   One step up from there is the Apple Watch, which has a A$799 or A$879 price tag for the 38mm and 42mm versions respectively.   Depending on the band you choose, be it classic leather or the Milanese loop, expect to pay up to A$1629. Apple has never been shy of setting premium prices. What can the watch do? Given the hefty price tag, you may well be inclined to ask: what does the Apple Watch actually do (after telling you the time)? Quite simply, the watch aims to get us moving.   Like the Fitbit -— an early leader in the fitness tracking market -— the Apple Watch is an activity tracker that counts our steps and measures our heart rate. And let’s not forget, it’s also a timekeeper and rather novel communication device.   Despite similar products on the market, Apple is betting that it can do it better, thanks to its ecosystem of hardware, software and services. Coupled with a loyal fan base and the watch’s status as a fashion item, Apple is likely to be on to another winner in terms of sales.   But despite its potential to help us achieve our fitness goals and perhaps curb obesity rates in Australia (three in five adults and one in four Aussies children are overweight), will we see Apple move from a well-loved consumer brand to the next big name in fashion?   There does seem to be a convergence of technology with fashion.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Soon smartwatches will listen to your body to work out how you’re feeling

3:25AM | Wednesday, 11 March

Final details of Apple’s new smartwatch have finally arrived at the firm’s glitzy Spring Forward event. But while the hype machine steps up another notch, there are other issues regarding health and self-tracking and, possibly even more important, over wearable tech companies' interest in our emotional lives.   Apple’s Watch records exercise, tracks our movements throughout the day, assesses the amount of time we are stood up and reminds us to get up and move around if we have been sat for too long – let’s not forget Tim Cook’s “sitting is the new cancer” line. It achieves this by means of an accelerometer, a heart rate sensor, WiFi and GPS. There are already many smartwatches on the market such as the Pebble and offerings from LG, Sony, Samsung and Motorola, among others. Of course, these haven’t had the Apple marketing Midas touch.   Whether the Watch will be a flop or success, Apple’s entry is a significant contribution to industry-wide attempts to get us using wearable devices. The market is predicted to grow from 9.7m units in 2013 to 135m in 2018, according to CCS Insight, while a report from UK retailer John Lewis also records steady growth in wearables for health and well-being: sales were up 395% from 2013. This is notable because John Lewis is not aimed at the tech-savvy, and therefore presents a reasonable indicator of mass-market take-up of wearables. Information is power   To understand the significance of Watch and other self-tracking wearables, we should look to Silicon Valley and the Quantified Self movement. This began in San Francisco around 2007 as the editors of Wired magazine, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, initiated a group of like-minded people interested in “self-knowledge through numbers”, a motto and philosophy of sorts for the Quantified Self movement. It entails a deeply libertarian outlook of de-centralisation, a shrunken state, autonomy and self-reliance, and pre-emptive and preventative measures based on the use of data.   Apple’s move into wearables is inevitable as the market grows, but the broader interest in health is also notable. It reflects an interest from corporations and national health providers alike in promoting preventative and anticipatory technologies. The promise wearable technology offers is information: about consumers' and patients’ behaviour, their health, and whether they stick to prescribed treatments.   This has ushered in an age of medical self-interrogation, in real time and real life contexts, whether this be from office pressure, in relationships, or the impact of disease or physical stresses on the body. Wearables are only part of the health story, as advocates of digital health care foresee how the doctor-patient approach would be radically altered by means of wearable monitors and sensors in the home. Technology behemoths such as Apple and Google alongside many startups would clearly be interested in the possibilities offered by reorganising health provision along these lines. Think and act   Beyond health, Apple’s interest in emotion is key to understanding the significance of its watch. Apple’s website promises that we will reach out and connect in ways we never have. Watch will allow us to draw doodle pictures and observe others as they create theirs, give loved ones a “tap” on the wrist to show we are thinking of them, send real-time heartbeats to others, and so on.   The message is to use connectivity to be intimate even at a distance, with the language Apple uses an attempt to claim intimacy and sociability from afar, and to humanise and make palatable what are essentially tracking technologies.   There is however a more literal emotional dimension to biometric technologies: the Watch is an example of what I term empathic media – machines able to assess, collect and make use of data about our emotions. This can be achieved through interpretation of speech patterns and tone, gesture, gaze direction, facial cues, heart rates, and respiration patterns. While Apple’s product does not offer all this (although earlier iterations of Watch made similar promises), it still sits within a wider context of technologies that quite literally feel our bodily reactions.   Until now the online world has understood our preferences through the search term keywords we use and what we click; empathic media will quite literally feel our reactions. This is important because if companies can understand moods, emotions or states of arousal, they have access to information that may sway the decisions we make.   We have yet to see Apple’s privacy policy for the watch. While I’m sure it will state that no personally identifiable information will be disclosed to third-parties, what remains to be seen is what can be drawn from aggregated biometric and emotional data, and where that data ends up. This is a key revenue stream for other empathic media and wearable companies. Will Apple be doing the same?   *This article originally appeared at The Conversation.

Apple releases its watch and makes a surprise move into the area of medical research

3:52AM | Tuesday, 10 March

Apple’s event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center was widely expected to focus on the release of the Apple Watch. ResearchKit In a move that took everyone by surprise however, Apple also released a new software platform called ResearchKit. Like HealthKit, the platform enables medical researchers to create applications that specifically support the enrolment of subjects in medical trials and the continuous collection of data for research projects. Five sample applications supporting research into Parkinson’s Disease, Cardiovascular Disease and Breast Cancer, were built with partner universities in the US, UK and China for the launch of the kit. Unusually for Apple, the platform will be Open Sourced which means that others can contribute to the core platform.   Apple has made it clear that none of the data collected through ResearchKit will be seen by Apple.   The benefit of using a software framework of this type is that it standardises the collection and sharing of research data, potentially in real time from research subjects. Data collected in multiple studies could potentially be linked and shared.   Apple is not the first company to throw resources into helping researchers use technology in their research. Google and Amazon have both built computing infrastructure to support research involving large amounts of data and high performance computers. With ResearchKit, Apple is facilitating one of the more challenging aspects of research, interfacing with test subjects. HBO Now In more traditional form, Apple also used the event to announce a lowering of price of the Apple TV box by 30% to US $69. It will also be the exclusive platform for the release of a service called HBO Now, that will provide all of HBO’s content via the device. This means that the new episodes of Game of Thrones can be subscribed to directly from HBO for $14.99 rather than through a cable subscription. Disappointingly to the rest of the world, the service will be available only in the US when it launches. 12 inch MacBook Apple has released a new 12 inch MacBook which is not in the “Air” range but is actually thinner and lighter than any of the MacBook Airs and boasts a retina display. Technologically, the laptop will be the first Apple device to support the new USB C cable configuration which resembles Apple’s Lightning cables but replaces the display, charging and data transfer ports.   The MacBook Air and MacBook pros get refreshes with faster components across the range. Apple Watch Although the Apple Watch had previously been announced, the final launch of the watch was expected to fill in many of the questions about what would be actually released, and at what price. Most of the introduction by Apple CEO Tim Cook however was a re-run of the previous event.   What was new were especially created apps that were available for the release of the watch including apps from Instragram, Uber, Twitter, SPG (hotel check-in and room key functionality), Shazam, and Apple’s own Apple Pay, Passbook and on-watch Notifications. Apple Watch apps will have their own section in the iTunes store.   Although the presentation was not completely new, it highlighted how innovative the interface on the watch was. Time will tell whether this overcomes some of the limitations of this type of interface highlighted by Android Wear and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear.   The Apple Watch Sport in anodised aluminium will come in two sizes (38 mm and 42 mm) and will cost US $349 and $399 for the two sizes. The stainless steel Apple Watch will also come in the same two sizes and cost between US $549 and $1,049 depending on the band. The gold Apple Watch Edition will be released in limited outlets and cost $10,000.   The watches will be available for pre-order on April 10th and shipping on April 24th in 9 countries including Australia and the UK.   Questions still remain about how the watch will do, how often it will need to be recharged and whether sufficient numbers of Apple customers actually buy the watch. However, as with all Apple events, the speculation is now over and the debate based on experience can begin.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Apple may have arrived late to the party, but with Watch it's brought a gun to a swordfight

3:45AM | Tuesday, 10 March

While all eyes and ears were trained on news of its smartwatch, Apple also used its spring Keynote to introduce changes to Apple TV, revisions to its laptop lineup, and a new service that builds on the health monitoring aspects of smartwatches to perform data collection for medical research.   As one digital TV service after another launches many have been left wondering when HBO, whose television dramas are highly sought and widely watched properties, would play its hand. And here it is: a partnership with Apple that makes the entire HBO back catalogue available through the new HBO Go digital streaming service, available exclusively through Apple TV. So while the Apple TV hardware hasn’t been updated for years, the partnership with HBO (and a price drop to £59) is a nice reminder for those who may have overlooked it.   Apple has extended its reach into car dashboards with CarPlay, into home automation with HomeKit, and into health monitoring with HealthKit. Apple hopes that ResearchKit, a new open-source API and service, will form the foundation for apps that can collect health data from larger numbers of volunteers, increasing sample sizes and frequency of data collection, making the data more useful for researchers. Five apps have been developed so far, to investigate Parkinson’s Disease, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease with research groups in leading hospitals. There is an emphasis on privacy, with the user controlling the degree of information that is being shared.   The new Macbook – neither Air nor Pro – comes with the latest retina display, a faster, more energy efficient processor, and a trackpad that can supply tactile feedback. In a 12" format that fills out the line between 11" and 13", it is lighter and thinner even than the Air, has a re-engineered keyboard and somewhat controversially rolls many ports into just one: the USB-C standard port, which will handle HDMI video, external hard drives and other USB peripherals. Inevitably this is going to mean buying another set of cables. Watch my watch In any other keynote this reveal would have been the main news item. But of course the main event was the watch. Seven months since Tim Cook first revealed the device, it’s been a long wait for more technical details. Opinion is still split on whether it will be a hard sell. With fewer people wearing watches anyway, the market is split between those who want a fitness tracker and those that want a beautiful luxury object. Is there a need for a device which essentially duplicates the functionality of a smartphone? Apple has to convince us that the watch offers more, in clear terms of where glancing at a watch is preferred to pulling out a phone.   Usually reserved to only one or two colours, this time Apple offers 20 different combinations of ways to customise the watch in size, colour, watch and strap material – probably a necessity in order to sell a device that by nature of being frequently visible is more fashion than function.   The styling of the watch itself is reminiscent of the first iPhone, with three versions in two different sizes, 38mm or 42mm high: the cheapest Apple Sport at £299 with an aluminium body and plastic straps, the middle tier Apple Watch from £479 in stainless steel and wrist bands in leather, steel or plastic, and the gold Apple Watch Edition, which starts at £8,000 – perhaps more expensive even than the Apple Lisa from 1983, which sold at US$15,000 at the time.   Most of the functionality of the watch requires an iPhone within a few metres – maps, messages, Siri and other apps are relayed from the phone using WiFi or mobile data. Apple suggests that the battery will last 18 hours in a typical day. Not first to market, but best? Apple invests heavily in research and development to create new devices and interfaces that differentiate its products, at least, until competitors release their responses. Apple’s watch uses an Ion-X glass or Sapphire crystal screen which is pressure-sensitive to varying degrees. The side-mounted dial, which Apple terms a digital crown, enables scrolling and clicking, and a button below it jumps to frequent contacts. It has a “Taptic” engine which provides vibration feedback for certain apps, for example suggesting directions in Maps. The sensors on watch’s underside detect heartbeat and combine with the accelerometer to measure physical activity, something Apple is pitching as a major selling point.   Developers are already creating software that will extend their iPhone apps to interact with and be accessible from the watch, as Apple has with its Apple Pay contactless payment system. Miniature messages appear on the device in what Apple calls Glances, giving the impression of dealing with such messages quickly without the hassle of pulling out a phone.   Will it sell? In the past 18 months customers have bought 5m smartwatches or fitness bands, with Samsung flooding the market with many smartwatch devices, but with fitness bands accounting for the majority of sales. Current estimates suggest that Apple could sell more than 8m watches, eight times as many as its largest competitor.   While many of its features will appear in competitor’s smartwatches in the subsequent years, for the moment the eponymous watch is best in class. To sound a note of caution: like the first generation iPhone, the second generation device will probably be half as deep and run twice as long. You may be unfazed about the risks of being an early adopter, but if the idea of paying another few hundred pounds for the latest model next year isn’t appealing, it may be sensible to wait.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple announces Apple Watch pricing and launch date

3:21PM | Monday, 9 March

Apple has confirmed its Apple Watch will launch on April 24, with customers able to pre-order the highly-anticipated device 14 days before it is released.   Apple has also confirmed how much each version of the smartwatch will cost, with the cheaper Apple Watch Sport setting Australian customers back between $499 and $579.   Meanwhile the standard Apple Watch will cost up to $1629, with the premium Apple Watch Edition costing a whopping $14,000.   Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has promised the smartwatch’s battery will last an entire day, according to Fairfax. Twitter acquires video streaming app Twitter has confirmed it has acquired video streaming app Periscope for an undisclosed amount, according to Business Insider.   The startup is still in private beta, with a public launch date yet to be announced.   The deal follows Twitter’s acquisition of celebrity advertising startup Niche last month, also for an undisclosed amount. The startup helps advertisers partner with celebrities and people with large social media audiences on Vine and other platforms. Facebook will shut down FriendFeed Facebook is officially shutting down FriendFeed, the social network it acquired in 2009 for reportedly $US50 million.   In a statement to Re/code, Facebook said it has been maintaining the service for the last five years but usage has been declining steadily.   “Given this, we’ve decided that it’s time to start winding things down,” the company said.   “Our thanks go out to the FriendFeed community for its many years of support.”   FriendFeed will remain active for the next month before being shut down completely. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 138.94 points, rising 0.78% overnight to 17,995.72. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.07 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Sydney software engineer discovers how to text politicians with simple iMessage trick

3:33PM | Monday, 2 March

A Sydney software engineer has discovered a way to text federal MPs and senators without knowing their mobile number.   Fairfax reports Justin Simon, a developer from New South Wales, sent a rude message to Attorney-General George Brandis’s iPhone by using his parliamentary email address to send him an iMessage.   The prank follows heated debate over the Abbott government’s proposed data retention scheme, which would require Australian phone and internet companies to retain customer data so intelligence agencies can access it without needing a warrant.   The plans have raised concerns about press freedom in Australia and the need to protect whistleblowers from government agencies. Apple’s smartwatch will be available in countries outside the US next month Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has told Apple Store employees in Germany that the Apple Watch will be available outside the US next month, according to 9to5Mac.   The comments were made in Germany at the company’s flagship store in Berlin, indicating the smartwatch’s rollout could be more aggressive than first thought.   More than 300,000 smartwatches were sold in Australia last year, according to Telsyte. The analytics firm estimates Australia’s smartwatch market will exceed $400 million by 2018. Tinder launches Tinder Plus Popular dating app Tinder has released a premium version of its app called Tinder Plus, in a bid to bring in revenue from its millions of users worldwide.   The premium service introduces a range of new features including a “rewind” function that allows users to go back in time and review people they had previously dismissed, or “swiped left”.   Tinder Plus also allows users to change their location in order to “connect with people anywhere around the world”.   “Passport creates real, one-on-one connections with people across the globe,” Tinder said in a statement.   “Whether you're planning vacations and business trips or simply expanding your social network, with Passport, you're swiping before you arrive.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 149.60 points, rising 0.83% overnight to 18,282.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.68 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Apple's record earnings show app economy's meteoric growth

2:06AM | Thursday, 19 February

Even as the US economic recovery remains subpar with employment gains in only the lowest-paying jobs – and sluggish gains at that – one segment is surging: the still-nascent app industry.   Apple’s latest earnings report, in which it posted a record $18 billion in profit in its first quarter, offers a glimpse of what we can achieve with this app economy.   The iPhone maker passed two important milestones: it reported the largest quarterly earnings of any publicly traded company in history and paid, it said, a record $10 billion to developers in 2014 as total App Store revenue rose 50%.   The first record is primarily significant to Apple and its shareholders and is due to strong sales of the iPhone 6, the latest iteration of the company’s flagship product.   The other milestone goes much deeper and reaches far more of us. When fully developed, the entire app ecosystem will be able to help drive the US economy, providing high-paying jobs to a growing number of Americans.   During Apple’s earnings call, CEO Tim Cook reported that his company sold its 1 billionth device running iOS, providing developers with a huge customer base. That has helped the developers earn $25 billion since the iPhone’s launch, with almost half of that coming in just 2014.   Could app development become a significant pillar of growth in the US for the foreseeable future? Could these high-tech, higher-paying positions be more self-sustaining than the other jobs created during the economic recovery? Let’s take a closer look. Welcome to the App economy To put this into perspective, the tremendous growth in the iOS ecosystem has allowed its developers to earn slightly more than the US box office revenues of every Hollywood studio combined.   And that’s just one app store, in the US, and excludes related revenue from ads, services like data storage and other sales not processed by Apple.   The Google Play Store, the other major player in the app economy, pays out billions more. Developer Economics forecast the global app market to be worth $143 billion by 2016, more than double the $68 billion estimated in 2013. That compares with about $300 billion for the global PC and tablet market.   Even more impressive than the revenue statistics is the number of jobs it supports, tallying 627,000 in the US, close to double the 374,000 in Hollywood.   About 77% of these app developers are start-ups and small companies, and more than half say they are hiring, according to a survey by ACT | The App Association, a Washington, DC-based think tank for mobile software companies.   The report also shows that the app economy is thriving in every region of the US. While 22% of developers are based in Silicon Valley, the rest are spread across the country, with more than 20% each in the South and Northeast.   So where is all this growth coming from? More than an economy, a cultural shift With the growing number of smartphones, tablets and other devices in consumer hands, you would naturally expect more apps to be downloaded and developers to make money money. But that alone isn’t enough to explain what is happening in the marketplace.   The app economy is more than just a collection of applications. It represents a significant cultural force in society as consumers increasingly want and developers deliver on-demand services.   For instance, Uber provides chauffeurs in an instant, while Handy can send cleaners your way. Need a doctor to make a house call? Try Medicast. How about a lawyer? Use Axiom and an attorney will be knocking on your door in two hours.   The list goes on. The app economy simply provides the fuel for an on-demand culture that has transformed every industry it has touched. As the saying goes: if there is a need, there’s an app for that.   We all have smartphones in our pockets, and we use them in more ways that we can count. That means the incredible growth Apple reported in iOS developer earnings in 2014 could continue for years to come, resulting in more high-skilled, high-paying jobs that are more likely to stick around during the next economic downturn.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is Apple making an electric car to battle Tesla, Google or Climate Change?

2:10AM | Wednesday, 18 February

If you thought it has been a while since you heard any more rumours about the long-awaited Apple TV, they are about to be replaced by even more exciting possibility that Apple may be about to build an electric car. The Wall Steet Journal kicked things off with a report that Apple had been hiring “hundreds” of staff with automotive design skills to work on a project called “Titan” that may be a self-driving electric vehicle configured in a (not-so-exciting) mini-van design.   There are several back-stories to this potential move by Apple. In one, we see continuing competition with rival Google, who has been working on a driverless car for some time and are saying that they will be launching a commercial version onto the market between 2017 and 2020. Google’s motivation behind the self-driving car has been the development of the artificial intelligence software capable of pulling off this feat. Even if the car is not successful, the AI software will have a range of applications and possibility that would make the project still worthwhile. Increasingly, Apple has shown its willingness to develop its own capability in a range of competitive technologies that it can incorporate into products.   In another back-story, there is electric car company Tesla whose CEO, Elon Musk, has claimed that it will be as big financially, as Apple, within a decade. This will in part be based on the release of the Model 3, an affordable (US $35,000) family car with a range of 200 miles. Part of Tesla’s strategy appears to include the poaching of numerous Apple staff. Although it seems that Apple has been reciprocating by offering Tesla staff large signing bonuses to move to Apple.   And finally there is the view that electric cars, self-driving or otherwise, represent the future of transportation, especially a climate-friendly and sustainable one. At first sight, this may be a bit hard to believe when you consider that the top 3 selling vehicles in the US in 2014 were “pickup trucks”. At the same time, hybrid electric vehicles represented less than 3% of all cars sold. Still, there is continuing interest by the car manufacturers in producing electric cars, if only as a hedge. GM has announced their new 200 mile range Chevy Bolt that will retail at around the same price as Tesla’s Model 3.   There is little doubt that Apple could move into car manufacturing. With US $180 billion in cash, it could buy Fiat Chrysler, Tesla, General Motors and Ford outright.   There is also no doubt that with its ability to bring design and innovative computing to an industry employing technology that significantly lags that found in an iPhone. Apple and Google have both made moves to create in-vehicle media interfaces based on their systems. Apple’s CarPlay will start to appear in cars this year. Customers who can’t wait can buy after-market devices from Pioneer.   Apple’s motivation to build an electric car may be driven by competition with Google, Tesla and others. It may be also finding a new business that doubles its value to $1.3 trillion as predicted by Carl Icahn. Alternatively however, it may be genuinely interested in building a technology that makes driving more sustainable and less dependent on oil. Apple is set to invest $3 billion in new solar farms in California and Arizona to provide energy for its operations there. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently told investors:   “We know that climate change is real,” Cook said on Tuesday. “Our view is that the time for talk has passed, and the time for action is now. We’ve shown that with what we’ve done.”   Whether Apple’s electric cars are aimed at combating climate change will depend on how they are manufactured and how the recharging infrastructure, which is still largely to be built in the US and globally, is run. Apple throwing its weight behind this infrastructure being built at all would certainly help making electric cars a more popular possibility.   This article was originally published at The Conversation.

THE NEWS WRAP: War of words breaks out between Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Apple's Tim Cook

12:35PM | Sunday, 7 December

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has responded to comments by his counterpart at Apple, Tim Cook, who recently stated that “when online service is free, you’re not the customer”.   In an interview with Time, Zuckerberg responded by saying he was increasingly frustrated that “a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers”.   “I think it’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper!” Zuckerberg said. Uber driver faces rape allegations Police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have arrested an Uber cab driver accused of raping a customer, with authorities saying they will take action against the US ridesharing startup for failing to run background checks on the man.   Reuters reports a 26-year-old woman has accused the driver of sexually assaulting and beating her after using the service during a trip home from a work function.   “Every violation by Uber will be evaluated and we will go for legal recourse,” Delhi police deputy commissioner Madhur Verma said. Amazon to continue iterating the Fire Phone Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has said the online retail giant will continue making new smartphones, despite the company making $US170 million in writedowns on its Fire Phone, Recode reports.   “I have made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com … literally. You might remember Pets.com or Kozmo,” Bezos said.   “None of those things are fun. They also don’t matter. Companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, eventually get [desperate and] make a Hail Mary bet at the end of their corporate existence.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 58.69 points to 17958.8. The Aussie dollar is down to US83 cents.

Best of the Web: This app can’t make you smarter; How Yelp’s CEO created a revolutionary product

10:52AM | Friday, 31 October

Neuroscientists are fed up with the brain training industry, Michael Byrne reports in Motherboard.   According to Byrne, neuroscientists object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do.   Sorry Lumosity, Fit Brains and Brain HQ.   Sadly there doesn’t appear to be an app which can make you smarter. How Yelp revolutionised customer feedback Yelp’s presence in Australia may still be small compared to the United States but David Kamp’s article in Vanity Fair ‘How Yelp chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman created a revolutionary product’ is still a fascinating read.   Kamp reports that “something funny happened shortly after Stoppelman’s project at PayPal, Yelp went live: its users embraced the site’s “Write a review” feature to a degree far greater than anticipated.”   “A few weeks of hasty re-coding later, Yelp was reconfigured to make reviewing its raison d’être, and Stoppelman has never looked back.   “Ten years after its founding, Yelp is the web’s premier site and app for customer reviews—not just of restaurants, but of shops, kiosks, food trucks, parks, bus lines, funeral homes, D.M.V. offices, and even human attractions. (The Naked Cowboy in Times Square was averaging four stars out of five at press time.)” Dealing with toxic people In Inc, Jessica Stillman outlines ‘7 Ways To Deal With Toxic People.’   She says the sad reality is that toxic people are common.   “Equally troubling is the effect those individuals – who like to push others' buttons, stymie projects, and inject pessimism into every situation – can have on their better-adjusted co-workers,” Stillman says.   She outlines seven strategies for managing this noxious breed. Tim Cook’s personal statement Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken a step away for a moment from the rigours of running one of the biggest companies in the world to write in Bloomberg Businessweek about being gay.   “While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”   It’s an understated but proud proclamation by Cook about his sexuality and about his pride in Apple’s history and continued commitment to human rights and equality.

Apple and Google make changes in the battle for new markets

9:47PM | Tuesday, 23 September

Has Google finally decided to take total control of its Android destiny with the release of its Android One operating system?   Aimed at “emerging markets”, such as India, Google will operate the smartphone device rather than handing over to hardware partners such as Samsung and HTC.   Historically, Google has taken a hands-off approach to Android, providing it “free” to manufacturers as an open source product.       These manufacturers have a reputation for adding on their own extra features such as the Samsung TouchWiz user interface.   The assumed goal was that a better mobile experience for consumers would funnel them towards Google’s other products such as its popular search.   In contrast, Android One will not allow that customisation, giving Google full control of the operating system users get. So perhaps the latest move represents a paradigm shift for the company?   The life and times of Android   The approach taken with the Android operating system has always been more open than that taken by rival Apple with its iOS operating system.   In fact, in general Android has always been considered more open than iOS, starting from the very beginning before the company was acquired by Google and the original Android operating system was released open source to the community.   That version of the operating system still exists today and is used by companies such as Amazon on its Kindle Fire tablet. This creates what software developers call a “fork”, with the base Android operating system sitting underneath the customisations that Amazon makes.     But in recent times Google has begun to demonstrate a desire to take more control of its operating system. Starting with the Nexus phones and devices, which involved Google providing a reference design for both phone and operating system free of the extras added by the hardware manufacturers and the carriers.   This has continued with the announcement of Android One, with Google starting to become more involved in the entire process and trying to own the user experience.   Products such as Google Glass represent other forays into this vertical integration, an area traditionally embraced by their main competitor, Apple.   But Apple is starting to change its approach as well.   A more open Apple?   Apple has always been a product focused company. Starting with the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 and continuing with the iPhone and other iOS devices, Apple has always strived to control the whole experience of hardware, software and services.           Earlier this month in a television interview with Charlie Rose, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple values vertical integration and wants to control their primary product.   But looking at Apple, industry insiders can begin to see a shift in the way that the company operates. The most recent hardware and software announced by Apple (announced one week before the first Android One smartphones) provides a lot more control for developers and users than they’ve ever had before.   Features such as extensions allow apps to communicate with each other and users to share data among apps through the share pane. Developers can add features to place small apps called widgets in the notification centre or to enable actionable notifications, allowing you to (for instance) respond directly to a Facebook message from within the notification.   And, in an unprecedented move, users can replace the Apple provided keyboard with a third party alternative. While all of these sound like small changes, they represent Apple relinquishing control of some parts of their iOS experience back to developers, a major departure from when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007.           In his interview with Charlie Rose, Tim Cook was also asked what companies Apple competed with and, without hesitation he nominated Google as the main competitor, even going so far as to downplay Samsung as a competitor as the Android operating system was created by Google.     This is especially interesting given that Apple has slowly moved Google out of its phones, (in)famously replacing Google Maps with Apple Maps a couple of years ago as well as slowly enhancing the voice recognising personal assistant, Siri, to perform many of the functions that Google performs with search.   Even though the Apple Maps launch was riddled with problems (with users claiming the experience was sub par compared to the Google offering and prompting Tim Cook to issue an apology), Apple is clearly looking to shed itself of Google and own more of this part of the experience too.   A new battle for market (and mind) share   So, over the course of September, both Google and Apple have shown a new side to themselves. Both are pushing into new markets, with Android One specifically targeted at the China/India market.   Many analysts suggest that the iPhone 6 Plus is an Apple foray into the desire for “bigger phones” in the same market.   To conquer this market and maintain a foothold on the market in existing developed countries, it would appear both companies are making some changes - with Google taking control of its destiny while Apple becomes more open.   Both are baby steps for now, but perhaps this is the beginning of a new battle, for the market (and mind) of more and more consumers.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber SLOGS its competitors

8:14PM | Tuesday, 26 August

Uber is giving teams of independent contractors burner phones and credit cards as part of a sophisticated effort to undermine Lyft and other competitors, The Verge reports.   Interviews with current and former contractors, along with internal documents obtained by The Verge, outline those methods.   Using contractors it calls “brand ambassadors” Uber requests rides from Lyft and other competitors, recruits their drivers, and takes multiple precautions to avoid detection.   The program known as “SLOG” has resulted in thousands of cancelled Lyft rides and made it more difficult for competitors to gain a foothold in new markets.   Apple CEO defends Tablets Last month it was reported that tablet sales were crashing, which lead to some commentators to argue that the tablet boom was over.   Apple CEO Tim Cook disagrees.   In a brief interview with Recode’s Walt Mossberg Cook says he couldn’t be happier with the first four years of the iPad.   “I’d call what’s going on recently a speed bump, and I’ve seen that in every category,” he says.   Instagram releases Hyperlapse Instagram has launched one of its first apps outside of Instagram itself – Hyperlapse.   The app makes it easy for users to use their phones to create tracking shots, and fast time-lapse videos.   The app is currently only available on iOS but Instagram hopes to develop an Android version soon.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 29.83 to 17,106.70. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Apple finally admits it has a diversity problem

8:45AM | Wednesday, 13 August

Apple has become the latest in a string of major tech companies to admit it has a problem with gender and ethnic diversity, according to figures it released overnight.   The news follows a similar revelation from Google in May, which led to a string of other major tech companies, including LinkedIn and Twitter, admitting they too have gender and ethnic diversity issues.   According to Apple’s figures, 70% of its 98,000-strong global workforce is male, a rate higher than LinkedIn where 61% of staff are male, but roughly equal to Google and Twitter.   The figures also show 80% of Apple’s tech positions and 72% of its leadership positions are held by men.   However, it’s not just in tech roles where Apple has a gender diversity problem, with the figures showing female employees make up just 35% of non-tech roles. This compares to 50% at Twitter.   In terms of ethnic diversity, 55% of Apple’s US workforce identify as white, 15% as Asian, 11% as Hispanic, 7% as Black, 2% as two or more ethnicities, 1% as other and 9% are undeclared.   However, the figures for ethnic diversity in leadership positions are far worse, with 64% identifying as white, 21% as Asian, 6% as Hispanic, 3% as Black and 6% as undeclared.   In a statement, chief executive Tim Cook said “inclusion and diversity have been a focus” for the company under his leadership, but admitted the tech giant still has a long way to go.   “Let me say up front: As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page,” said Cook.   “They’re not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we’re committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products.”   Cook said the company is taking a number of steps to overcome gender and ethnic inequality, including its sponsorship of LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign, and its recent pledge of $100 million to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative.   He also said the recent appointments of senior executives Eddy Cue, Angela Ahrendts, Lisa Jackson and Denise Young-Smith are examples of how the company’s culture is changing under his leadership.   The figures were released just one day after the Victorian ICT for Women Network organised an event at Melbourne’s Deakin University called Go Girl Go for IT. The event was aimed at encouraging more high school aged girls, from Years 8 to 11, to consider a career in IT in order to overcome the gender disparity in the tech industry.   Go Girl Go for IT communications team lead Sara Ogston told SmartCompany the challenge is to encourage more girls and women in the education system to consider a tech-related career.   “I think a lot has to do with when applications are open for tech-related jobs, if girls or women don’t have the skills, they won’t apply or be considered for those jobs. So we need more diversity at the education level, at university and high school,” says Ogston.   “I also think having work experience and internships available to people who aren’t necessarily from tech-focused universities or courses can also potentially be a first step into a tech-related role.”   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

iPhones still Apple’s bread and butter as profits reach $US7.7 billion

7:01AM | Wednesday, 23 July

The iPhone is still Apple’s bread and butter gadget, as the tech titan reports strong quarterly profits led by its iPhone sales.   Apple’s good news comes after its biggest rival in the smartphone market, Samsung, recently reported quarterly guidance far weaker than expected.   Apple reported its fiscal third quarter (April-June) results overnight in the US, posting a profit of $US7.7 billion ($A8.19 billion), up from $6.9 billion for the same quarter last year, and a quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion.   Apple sold 35.2 million iPhones during the quarter, compared to 31.2 million in the same period a year ago.   According to The New York Times, the quarter ending in June is traditionally a slow time of year for smartphone sales industrywide, as many consumers hold out until the holiday shopping season to buy new phones.   The highly anticipated release of the iPhone 6 with a larger screen, slated for later this year, will likely see the product remain the jewel in Apple’s crown.   The tech giant’s Mac computers were its second best performing product, selling 4.4 million units in the quarter, up from 3.8 million the same time last year.   “Our record June quarter revenue was fuelled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and the continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem, driving our highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.   International sales drove 59% of the quarter’s revenue.   Tablets let the company down, with iPad sales shrinking to 13.3 million from 14.6 million last year.   Apple shareholders will be satisfied with the results, with Cook announcing the company returned over $8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the quarter.   Apple also provided a guidance for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter, estimating revenue between $37 billion and $40 billion and a gross margin between 37% and 38%.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

NEWS WRAP: ‘Strong sales of iPhone and Mac’ boost Apple’s third quarter revenue

7:25PM | Tuesday, 22 July

Apple has reported its third quarter results, posting a quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion and a quarterly net profit of $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per diluted share.   International sales drove 59% of the quarter’s revenue.   Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook says the company’s revenue in the quarter “was fuelled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem”, which drove “the company’s highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters”.   “We are incredibly excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, as well as other new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce,” he says.   Microsoft Cloud drives strong fourth quarter results Microsoft has announced revenue of $23.38 billion for the quarter ended June 30, posting a gross margin of $15.79 billion, an operating income of $6.48 billion, and diluted earnings per share of $0.55 per share.   Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella says the company’s focus cloud technology was behind the strong results.   “I’m proud that our aggressive move to the cloud is paying off – our commercial cloud revenue doubled again this year to a $4.4 billion annual run rate,” he says.   Timehop raises $10 million Timehop, an app that serves as a personal “today in history” memo by sourcing social networking photos and posts from your past has raised $10 million in new funding, TechCrunch reports.   The Series B funding round was led by Shasta Ventures with the participation of previous investors Spark and O’Reilly Tech Ventures and angel investors including Randi Zuckerberg.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 61.81 to 17,113.54. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

Will Apple’s HealthKit and Health app empower or frustrate?

6:00PM | Tuesday, 10 June

If you thought that self-tracking and the collection of personal health and fitness metrics was just a fad then an announcement last week by Apple CEO Tim Cook at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference might suggest otherwise.   A Health app and a developer tool named HealthKit, which is designed to serve as a hub to allow various health apps and fitness tracking devices to “talk” to one another, have been included in iOS 8.   But are these “new” developments from Apple really all that new – and do they indicate that matching hardware in the form of wearables is next on Apple’s launch list?   What Apple and partners such as the Mayo Clinic envisage is, for example, an app that monitors heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol. It would then be able to seamlessly share data with a hospital app or directly with healthcare professionals.   Building a technical infrastructure to develop health apps, or to enable the sharing of information between various third party apps, is an ambitious task.   Both Microsoft and Samsung are already entering the field of wearables with announcements of plans to release smart watches.   Apple’s latest offering adds to the speculation of the long awaited iWatch with reports in could be released as soon as October.   Meanwhile the latest advertisement (below) for the iPhone 5S shows people using a variety of wearable products already on the market.   The benefits of aggregating health and fitness data in this way are fairly clear in terms of how medical histories will be taken, how they are shared and the aggregation of personal data. It should provide better experience for those who use personal metrics in various aspect of their daily lives.   What’s in a brand name?   Some of the celebratory hype around HealthKit was overshadowed by an Australian start up which took Apple to task for using the same name of their practice and patient management software.   In a blog post the Melbourne-based company was both flattered and annoyed that Apple had used its established brand name:   They didn’t feel that they had to do a quick domain search – it would have taken 5 seconds to type www.healthkit.com into their browser and discover us. Would it have made any difference to them? Are they so big that they are above doing an ordinary Google search?   We might also wonder what other issues Apple’s health data aggregation system might face beyond this naming fiasco.   When a user opens any of Apple’s HealthKit enabled apps the information they produce will be housed in database and is immutable and read-only. What this means for developers is that apps can be developed which can collect and analyse this data in a variety of pre-determined ways.   Permissions and privacy   This highlights a range of problems that are likely to implicate and frustrate users, health care professionals and administrators. Naturally issues of privacy are likely to be significant factor in how well Apple’s health apps actually work.   Developers will need to seek end-user permissions to collect data on their behalf when they build Apple’s HealthKit into their apps, which means spelling out exactly which permissions they are seeking.   Given the whole logic of HealthKit assumes, to some degree, an interoperability between applications and datasets, it would be fair to suggest that there are likely to be gaps between what the technical capacities and outcomes for end-users.   Take for instance an app that has been designed to use a measurement from one device and ignore data on that same variable from another device. Or a user may grant access to a third party app to their pedometer data but this might not mean that the same app has the permissions to access other variables to produce meaningful data (such as location, heart rate, age, weight or gender).   Not so healthy competition   Vendors operating in this market will compete not only at the level of the brand but also at the level of components, algorithm and databases. An app might use Nike Fuel Band data over Fitbit when it takes calorie data to make some or another secondary calculation based on that data.   Organisations such as Microsoft are also partnering with developers who are designing apps available for medical practitioners to use in telemedicine and the consulting room.   This tethering of devices and data to proprietary platforms (Apple vs Microsoft) means that patients and doctors might need to use a certain product and patients might be restricted in terms of what systems they can use to track their health.   The trade-off of openness to get systems to market quickly is going to make attracting users and developers difficult and makes Apple’s (and others) vision of health data aggregation far less attractive or whole.   Suneel Jethani is a PhD candidate and lecturer in the media and communications program in the school of culture and communication at the University of Melbourne. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Swift: How Apple’s new coding language lives up to its name

6:51AM | Tuesday, 10 June

As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) winds up in San Francisco today, 1,000 Apple engineers and 5,000 developers will return to their parts of the world armed with Apple’s own programming language.   In his keynote on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled – among other new developments – programming language Swift and claimed it to be a significantly faster code for development across iOS and OSX.   Apple is the latest tech firm to produce their own programming language (Google and Microsoft also have their own languages) and Swift can be used by Apple developers as of today with 677 pages of documentation available in the iBooks store.   But why would a company want their own programing language – especially when existing, general purpose codes such as Objective-C and C have been successfully used for 20 years?   So what’s so good about Swift?   It pretty much comes down to speed.   While Apple (and other companies) supply the hardware, developers ultimately bring the most utility value out of technologies. The faster developers can code, the more apps can be created.   So let’s have a look at why Swift is the next big thing (and why developers should take the time to learn a new language, as it were):   Swift is much easier to code with. Swift looks much “cleaner” than traditional code. In addition to getting rid of nested brackets and semicolons (which makes code look very complex and harder to maintain), programmers can now use inferred types, which means that variables and constants can be declared without necessarily specifying the data type.   Developers can reduce debugging time over mundane and trivial errors (if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, Swift manages unsafe codes by self-managing memory, preventing overflows – in arrays, for example – and properly handling nil objects).   It also means that new developers can be spared the need to learn Objective-C’s complex and verbose syntaxes (but Swift will sit alongside existing Objective-C and C codes).   Swift is fast and powerful. Fast programming is a key ingredient in Apple’s new hardware and software capabilities. Swift codes will be compiled using the same high-performance compiler, and it will be run natively to combine the best features from Objective-C and C.   Based on the presentation in WWDC, we saw statistics showing complex algorithms can be run much faster than Objective-C.   Swift supports “interactive playgrounds”. “Interactive playgrounds” allow developers to immediately see the results of changing codes and keep track of progress timelines. This is particularly useful for debugging complex loops, algorithms and animations.   Speaking of new developments …   As widely expected, Apple joins Google and Microsoft’s moves towards delivering health and home automation applications, as well as supporting stronger integration between native features (such as Siri and Notification View) and third-party apps and sensors.   The Health app joins Samsung’s Gear Fit, Nike and Fitbit to bring health and fitness data, measured by mobile and wearable devices, into our palms.   A new tool for developers called HealthKit adds to the standard activity, heart rate and diet measurements by allowing developers to create third-party apps and sensors to measure factors such as blood pressure and sleep patterns.   Users can also create emergency cards with important health information such as allergies and blood types, accessible from the lock screen and emergency call screen.   Another development tool – HomeKit – will let us control aspects of our homes (such as lights and temperature) using our phones.   To enable natural interactions with our phone for home and health apps, iOS has evolved to allow Siri be hands free, similar to its Android counterpart Google Now.   We could say: “Hey Siri, I’m ready for bed”, then the lights will automatically dim for sleep and the phone will go into “do not disturb” mode – perhaps even playing our favourite relaxing music.   With the introduction of Swift, we can expect to see more apps than ever – truly building upon Apple’s 2007 slogan, “There’s an app for everything”.   Dian Tjondronegoro is an Associate Professor of Mobile Multimedia at Queensland University of Technology. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Apple and Beats: When musicians and geeks collide

6:50AM | Tuesday, 3 June

Apple recently announced its purchase of Beats Electronics, for a reported US$3 billion.   Beats Electronics was started by Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, and includes the signature headphones range and Beats Music, an online streaming service. With music streaming services gaining popularity, arguably it was only a matter of time before Apple made a move into that territory to take on the likes of Spotify, MOG and Rdio.   Streaming technology is not new, I’m sure many of us remember Realplayer, but contemporary services such as Spotify, Rdio and MOG are the latest significant intervention in music consumption. Fuelled by faster and mobilised internet connections, streaming services are the heavenly jukebox for computers and post-PC devices like smartphones and tablets.   Naturally, streaming services are not without their controversies. Spotify continues to be on the receiving end of critical blows concerning royalty payments to artists, which has led some notable high profile acts such as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to pull music from the service. And Twitter controversially bought and shut down Australian streaming music service We Are Hunted. Just as iTunes is not alone in the pay-for-download market, Spotify is not the only streaming service.   At first blush, Beats Music, which only started in 2012, is yet another streaming service and has much in common with its brethren. Where it appears to really stand out from the crowd is in its curatorial capacity: like similar services, Beats has deals with all the major labels and streams the majority of their portfolios, but it employs a sophisticated personalisation system that mixes algorithmic and human choices. As Trent Reznor puts it, it’s:   like having your own guy when you go into the record store, who knows what you like but can also point you down some paths you wouldn’t necessarily have encountered.   Beats aims to respond to your tastes more accurately than its competitors. When you have more than 20 million songs at your fingertips, discovery and recommendation systems become increasingly important. Apple CEO Tim Cook is invested in Beats because he believes it’s “the first subscription service that really got it right”, evangelising “how important human curation is”.   The deal represents Apple’s first foray into the market for streaming music. (iTunes Radio doesn’t count as it’s not on-demand), and it’s unusual for Apple to make such a large, not to mention high profile purchase. Historically, the tech company has preferred to absorb smaller companies and integrate their products into its brand.   Why now, why Beats?   Although Spotify has yet to turn a profit, on-demand streaming services are touted as the future of music consumption. Given the steady increase in Spotify’s consumer base, this is plausible especially with younger audiences seeking legal music services but constrained by limited disposal income. There will, of course, always be those who prefer to own music, just as there are still those who swear vinyl is the only way to listen to music.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below.   Music consumption models, however, are far from consistent across the globe; for example, 91% of Sweden’s digital music income is derived from streaming, while German and Canadian consumers prefer to download their music. The differences between individual nations aside, the popularity of streaming is rising and in order to maintain its position Apple had to venture into the streaming market to keep the record labels on side if nothing else.   According to The Wall Street Journal, “one major record company makes more per year, on average, from paying customers of streaming services like Spotify or Rdio than it does from the average customer who buys downloads, CDs or both”. That is not to say that Apple would simply buy up any old streaming service, there has to be a reason that it selected Beats over Rdio or Spotify.   Bringing the experts back   It was Apple - a technology company - that came to the aid of the recording industry as it struggled with 21st century consumer behaviours. In a 2007 interview, Doug Morris, then-CEO of Universal Music responded to queries as to why the recording industry was so behind the eight-ball:   There’s no one in the record industry that’s a technologist … That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do.   Since then, technologists have led the recording industry’s new distribution platforms. Rdio and Spotify were both founded by technologists and entrepreneurs. Perhaps the tables have turned and the new platforms required a (re-)intervention of music industry professionals? The credentials of Beats Electronics founders Jimmy Iovine bring together technology and music expertise.   As part of the deal, both Dre and Iovine are taking senior positions within Apple. Iovine had reportedly been trying to push subscription-based models to Steve Jobs as early as 2003 and while a move towards streaming did not happen in Jobs’ lifetime, Apple has now jumped in with both feet. So what does this mean for the future of music distribution?   Apple, Dre and Iovine have declined to share any details as to the future of their collaboration so any thoughts are purely speculative at this stage. It is, however, worth noting that to date iTunes has offered a number of exclusive releases, and Apple has begun exerting pressure on record labels to sign exclusive distribution deals. For example, Coldplay’s latest album Ghost Stories is exclusive to iTunes (pirated versions are of course available via the usual suspects) and the band declined to add its latest offering to Spotify’s catalogue.   Combined with the Beats streaming service as well as Apple’s own hardware, it is likely Apple will attempt to block out its competitors and (further) lock in consumers. At present, Beats Music is only available in the USA, but Australia will be the second country to have access to the service courtesy of Beats’ acquisition of MOG.   The digital music ecology is evolving at an advanced pace and accurate predictions are difficult to make. One thing, however is sure, as the physics of the media space change, we shouldn’t expect the winners to remain constant.   Steve Collins is a senior lecturer in multimedia at Macquarie University. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

New Apple iPhones to reach Australia on September 20

9:32AM | Wednesday, 11 September

Apple fulfilled all expectations last night when the company debuted two new versions of the iPhone, including a high-end model with a fingerprint scanner and a lower-cost, plastic version in a variety of colours – both of which are set to be released in Australia on September 20.   But despite the release of a model which could help the company recover stronger growth rates in the potentially lucrative Asian and South American markets, the company’s shares dropped over 2%.   Investors are most likely disappointed in the lack of a surprise at the event, given Samsung’s recent debut of a smartwatch – a category in which Apple is said to be experimenting.   The colourful 5C   Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller showed off the long-awaited lower-cost 5C model last night. Internally, the model is similar to the iPhone 5, with better battery life and one key difference – it’s built of plastic instead of aluminium.   "The business has become so large," chief executive Tim Cook said. "We're going to replace it with not one, but two new designs."   Marketing chief Phil Schiller said the gadget was “made with all the incredible tech that customers love with iPhone 5”, and even addressed the fact the design was leaked online before the event.   The 5C is essentially replacing the iPhone 5, which will be discontinued.   “It has an incredible new design – one that's more fun, and more colourful than anything we've made before,” Schiller said.   In a call-back to the iMacs of the late 1990s, the device comes in five different colours – green, white, blue, red and yellow. Most importantly, the device is built with plastic. In fact, design chief Jony Ive said the phone was “unapologetically plastic”.   “It's simpler, more essential, more capable and more colorful,” he said.   The advanced 5S   Apple also debuted the next version of the iPhone line-up, the 5S. This model is the next generation of the iPhone, replacing the iPhone 5 as the current premium version on the market.   The device appears the same as the iPhone 5, but the guts are completely new, with a faster A7 chip that Apple claims will boost the device’s speed by 100%.   But more importantly, the iPhone 5S features fingerprint scanning technology. Users take advantage of the scanner, fitted under the home button, in order to unlock their phones, make purchases and confirm other actions on the device.   "We have so much of our personal data on these devices, and they are with us almost every place we go, so we have to protect them," Schiller said last night.   The technology, called Touch ID, is built right into the home button, although third-party developers won’t be able to access the technology for now.   In addressing privacy concerns, Apple said a user’s fingerprint won’t be sent to any cloud-based server. Instead, they will remain lodged on the local device – although whether users will accept that explanation remains to be seen.   The device features the same 4-inch Retina display in the iPhone 5, along with an improved 8 megapixel camera. The new camera also features the ability to shoot slow-motion video, and a burst-photographic mode.   The iPhone camera is regarded as one of the best in the industry – continued advancements will ensure the company remains on top in that regard.   Pricing   Apple has released pricing for both new iPhone models, although mobile carriers have yet to reveal their own plans, which will likely be cheaper as they often include no up-front costs.   iPhone 5C   16GB - $739 32GB - $869 iPhone 5S   16GB - $869 32GB - $999 64GB - $1,129   Early perceptions of the devices have been positive, although analysts question whether Apple has enough traction in the new devices to make a break into potentially lucrative developing countries.   Apple also said the new iOS software, iOS 7, would be available on September 18.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

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