Nike Fires Majority of FuelBand Team, Plans to Stop Making Wearables

Nike plans to cease making wearable hardware, as it has fired the majority of its 80-person team responsible for the FuelBand fitness tracker. Instead, the company will focus its efforts on fitness software, according to an unnamed source that spoke to CNET.

The shoemaker isn’t throwing in the towel on technology. Rather, it’s turning away from hardware and realigning its focus exclusively on fitness and athletic software, a strategic shift that would still benefit the company in the long run, analysts said.

nikefuelband
As the competition in the fitness wearable category has increased with entries from Jawbone and Fitbit, Nike has opted to shift its focus to software. Company spokesman Brian Strong told CNET in an email that Nike continually aligns its resources with business priorities and that it has made changes to its team as its Digital Sport priorities had shifted. Nike is also opening an incubator called Fuel Lab in San Francisco to allow developers to create products that incorporate its workout metric NikeFuel and plug into a Nike+ API that’ll come this fall.

Nike’s move away from wearables also comes as Apple’s long-rumored iWatch is expected to come to fruition. Apple CEO Tim Cook is an avid wearer of the FuelBand and has sat on the Nike board for the last nine years, which has helped the two brands foster a strong relationship.

A possible partnership between Apple and Nike wouldn’t be out of the question as the athletic company was one of the first to show support for the iPhone 5s’ motion coprocessor, debuting the Nike+ Move app alongside the iPhone 5s at Apple’s media event. Apple also helped Nike enter the wearable market in 2006 with the Nike+iPod shoe package.

Apple has also hired former members of the Nike’s Digital Sport team, picking up former FuelBand consultant Jay Blahnik last August and Nike design director Ben Shaffer last September.

Apple is expected to release the iWatch later this year alongside iOS 8 and the iPhone 6.

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Apple Offering Some Developers Second Chance to Buy Unclaimed WWDC Tickets

Apple is offering some developers a chance to buy unclaimed WWDC tickets, according to a report from 9to5Mac and several Twitter users. Apple has emailed certain developers to offer them WWDC tickets, giving them 24 hours to pay the $1,599 ticket fee.

This year, because of nearly immediate ticket sellouts in past years, Apple decided to offer WWDC tickets to registered, paid iOS and Mac developers through a lottery system. Developers who won the ticket lottery had until April 14 to complete their purchases.

wwdc-2014-logo

Now Apple is reportedly reaching out to developers who didn’t win the lottery and offering them a chance to buy unclaimed tickets. Some developers are starting to get phone calls from the company informing them that they have been randomly selected to buy one of the tickets that winners failed to claim before the 14th.

It is unknown how many WWDC tickets went unclaimed by lottery winners, nor how the company is choosing developers to receive a second chance at tickets.

The annual Worldwide Developers Conference will be held from June 2-6 at the Moscone West convention center in San Francisco

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Apple’s Shazam Partnership Could Boost Advertising Efforts

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Apple has plans to integrate song identification features into iOS 8 through a partnership with audio discovery platform Shazam, but as suggested by media professor Aram Sinnreich, Apple’s ambitions may go beyond simple music recognition capabilities.

Speaking with Computerworld, Sinnreich, a media professor at Rutgers University, points out that Apple could use Shazam’s audio recognition abilities to gather information on the media that iPhone and iPad users are consuming, including music, television shows, movies, and more, for targeted advertisements.

shazam
While Shazam is known for identifying songs that are playing on the radio or through other sources, the service is also capable of identifying and tagging television shows and advertisements. Shazam works by analyzing captured sound and comparing its acoustic fingerprint to an audio database, which began including television content in 2012.

Shazam’s technology could, of course, be used to deliver music and television information to consumers, providing identification along with additional content like news, facts, and iTunes purchase links, but at the same time, Apple could also use it to gather information on consumer preferences each time a song, television show, or advertisement is “tagged” or identified by a user, allowing the company to use those preferences to deliver more targeted ad suggestions across iOS.

Sinnreich pointed out that Shazam has been indexing advertisements broadcast on television, as well as the pre-show ads shown in movie theaters, and in some cases, has stuck deals with advertisers to provide metrics of those who “tag” an ad. In some cases, tagging an ad presents the consumer with additional information, or even a special offer.

Currently, the existing Shazam app is able to run in the background of iOS, continually cataloging and identifying all of the music, television shows, and TV ads that a user watches. Apple could potentially integrate the feature in the same way into iOS 8, allowing it to run in the background to continually listen for various audio content.

This functionality would allow Apple to know what a user prefers to watch and listen to. For example, if someone was watching Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones, Apple’s media recognition capabilities could theoretically automatically identify what’s being watched, cataloging it for future use in advertisements. Sinnreich likens this functionality to an audio QR code.

“Apple could do whatever a QR code is used for now, but sonically,” said Sinnreich of the audio fingerprinting technology. “Someone tags a commercial, and that’s entered into a database, effectively targeting [that consumer] for further ads,” he said.

While Sinnreich’s theory is mere speculation at this point, it does fit in with Apple’s current advertising methods, which the company says include “exceptional targeting.” Apple has been working to expand its iAd platform in recent months, moving beyond app advertisements to encompass iTunes Radio ads as well. Further improving its targeting methods could entice major advertisers, which has been the company’s goal — recently, Apple made it simpler for advertisers large and small to sign up for the platform, eliminating the need for a developer account.

Apple’s audio recognition capabilities are said to be coming alongside iOS 8, which is expected to make its debut during the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The operating system will likely be released to the public later in the year, in September or October.

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Employees File Request to Include Steve Jobs Evidence in Anti-Poaching Lawsuit

Apple, Google and two other large technology companies should not be allowed to block evidence in an upcoming trial involving their participation in “no solicitation” agreements that date back to 2005. This request to expand the evidence presented in the trial was filed on behalf of tech workers who initiated the class action lawsuit in 2011, reports Reuters.

Apple Announces New iPhone At Developers Conference
In this latest filing, the tech workers argue that all evidence pertaining to the companies involved, including the “bullying” personality of Steve Jobs, the personal wealth of Google co-founder Sergey Brin and other information gleaned from outside sources should be included in the case.

“That the jury might draw conclusions about Mr. Jobs’ character based on evidence showing the manner in which he pursued the conspiracy at the heart of this case is not grounds to exclude such evidence,” they wrote.

Additionally, the plaintiffs seek to introduce evidence about the personal wealth of executives like Google co-founder Sergey Brin – and how it could be enhanced by holding down workers’ salaries and boosting margins, according to the filing.

The plaintiffs also seek to include information on an earlier investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice that prevented the companies from entering into future no-hire agreements. “The jury should know the reason the companies eliminated their no-hire agreements,” argue the employees.

Apple, Google and five other large technology companies were caught signing “no solicitation” agreements that prevented the companies from trying to hire away each others’ employees. Engineers, programmers, and other technical professionals who believe they were negatively affected by these non-poaching agreements filed a class action lawsuit in 2011 that is slated to begin this May. Damages could reach $9 billion in this case.

Currently, both sides are locked in negotiations, with the hope that a settlement can reached before the trial begins next month. Some companies, such as Pixar and Intuit, have already agreed to settle the case with Disney paying about $9 million and Intuit paying $11 million.



Alleged iPad Air 2 Front Panel with Integrated Display Shown in New Photos

Following the leak of an alleged iPhone 6 front panel earlier this week, the iPad is now getting its turn with a pair of photos showing what is said to be a front panel for the next-generation iPad Air, shared by Dutch site One More Thing [Google Translate]. Notably, the part appears to include an integrated display in contrast to the separate panel and display parts used on the current model. A move to an integrated front panel/display would reduce overall thickness, potentially allowing Apple to further slim down the iPad Air or make room for other components such as a slightly larger battery.

ipad_air_2_panel_back
MacRumors spoke with iFixit co-founder Kyle Wiens, who noted that the assembly could indeed be legitimate and use a manufacturing process similar to that seen on the Retina MacBook Pro. The move to an integrated panel/display would increase repair costs, but ease of repair has not been a particularly major focus for Apple and the company already uses an integrated display on the iPhone.

ipad_air_2_panel_front
The next-generation iPad Air is expected to launch later this year, with notable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicting that upgraded iPad Air and Retina iPad mini models will debut in the third quarter of this year and adopt the Touch ID system introduced on the iPhone 5s last year.

(Thanks, Rogier!)

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Analysts Predict Q2 2014 Decline in iPad Sales, Slight Increase in iPhone Sales

Sales of Apple’s iPad and iPhone remained strong during the holiday season with record quarterly sales reported in Q1 2014. Analyst predictions for Apple’s second quarter of its fiscal year suggest iPhone sales may rise slightly, while iPad sales may decline slightly, reports Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune’s Apple 2.0 blog.

ipad-sales-quarterly
The consensus estimate from 21 Wall Street professionals and 13 amateur analysts predict iPad sales of 19.3 million, a 0.7 percent decline in Q2 2014. This is a significant change from Q2 2013, which saw a 55 percent year-over-year increase.

The consensus estimate, at 19.3 million, would represent a 0.7% decline, with the pros slightly more optimistic (at 19.4 million) than the amateurs (19.2 million). Dragging down the amateur numbers is the 15 million estimate submitted by the Braeburn Group’s Matt Lew. Tugging in the other direction is Horace Dediu’s 21.8 million. One represents a year-over-year decline of 23%, the other an increase of 12%.

This dip in sales may only be temporary as Apple is expected to launch updated models of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display later this year, and may launch a larger-screen iPad Pro sometime in future after production issues are solved.

Apple will announce its earnings for the second fiscal quarter (first calendar quarter) of 2014 on Wednesday, April 23. The earnings release is posted just after 4:30 PM ET following the close of regular stock trading, and the conference call is scheduled to follow at 5:00 PM Eastern / 2:00 PM Pacific.

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Former Apple CEO John Sculley: Forcing Steve Jobs Out Was a ‘Mistake’

Former Apple CEO John Sculley states that he now regrets his decision to remove Steve Jobs from the company in 1985 and that the move to force the co-founder out was a “mistake,” according to a new report from the Times of India.

jobs_and_sculley Steve Jobs (left) and John Sculley (right) in 1984
Sculley, who recently launched Obi, a low-cost smartphone brand for India, added that differences between he and Jobs began over the founder’s desire to subsidize the Macintosh. Sculley said that he ultimately opposed the idea, feeling that there was no “merit” in lowering the cost of the computer.

However, he still feels that some way would have been found to have them both work for the company and this could have been facilitated by Apple’s board then. “I think there could have been a way, in hindsight, where Steve and I did not need to have a confrontation, and we could have worked it out. And, perhaps the board could have played a bigger role in that. But you can’t change history.”

Jobs hired Sculley from beverage company Pepsi in 1983, however the two clashed over management styles and conflicting visions for the future of Apple. After his departure from Apple, Sculley went on to remain involved with a number of companies, including his role as a founding investor in Metro PCS. The former CEO also stated last March that Apple was experiencing a temporary lull in innovation, and that an iWatch smart watch from the company would be a key product going forward.



New iPhone 6 Renderings Based on Recent Info Show Design Changes

After showing off a concept for a sapphire-glass backed “iPhone Air” earlier this month, French Apple website Nowhereelse.fr [Google Translate] and graphic designer Martin Hajek have teamed up once again to create a set renders for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and accompanying cases in a variety of colors, which are based on leaked schematics posted by Japanese magazine MacFan and the dimensions of an alleged case that surfaced earlier this week.

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The renderings depict the iPhone 6 as a thin device with rounded corners, with the power button located along the upper right side of the device and rectangular volume controls similar to that of the fifth-generation iPod touch. The case rendered to compliment the phone also contains cutouts for each new design change, along with holes for the camera, flash, and Apple logo on the rear.

iphone_6_hajek4_3
Notably, a bigger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 is also rendered alongside the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 4-inch iPhone 5s, retaining the same design properties as the 4.7-inch version. Apple is expected to launch both sizes of the iPhone 6 in the near future, however reports have indicated the 4.7-inch version will launch first this fall as the company will likely delay the launch of the 5.5-inch version due to production issues.

iphone_6_hajek4_2
Along with a larger display, Apple’s next-generation iPhone is expected to include a thinner design, new A8 processor, Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and an upgraded camera in the form of optical image stabilization. Apple is also reportedly negotiating with carriers to increase the price of the iPhone 6 by $100.

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FaceTime Not Working for Many iOS 6 Users

Apple’s FaceTime appears to be malfunctioning for iPhone and iPad users with devices running iOS 6, according to multiple tips received by MacRumors as well as a MacRumors forum post and a thread on the Apple Support Communities.

It appears that users who are running iOS 6 are unable to place or receive FaceTime calls, with reports of problems dating back to yesterday. Devices running iOS 7 appear to be functioning as normal, and Apple’s System Status page is not reporting any outages.

facetime
One user mentioned being able to FaceTime with a device running iOS 6.1.6, while a device with iOS 6.0.1 was not able to access the service. Another has reported that Mac users running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion may also be experiencing problems with FaceTime.

Users who have had issues have contacted Apple Support and several Apple representatives have recommended an update to iOS 7 to fix the problem. It is likely the iOS 6 FaceTime outage is only temporary, however, and will presumably not necessitate an update to iOS 7.

Update 4/18 3:20 PM PT: Apple has updated and reordered its FaceTime troubleshooting page to give more prominence to a suggestion that all users update their devices to the latest version of iOS. While Apple has always recommended that FaceTime users install the latest operating system, the updated support page lists upgrading as the first troubleshooting step.

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Image Editing App Pixelmator Half Off Ahead of 3.2 Update

pixelmator.jpgPopular Photoshop alternative Pixelmator today announced that it is planning to introduce a new Repair Tool in an upcoming 3.2 “Sandstone” update, allowing users to remove dust, blemishes, and entire objects from images with “an unsurpassed level of precision and quality.”

To promote the future update, which will be available for free to existing Pixelmator users, the app is on sale for half off for the next week, dropping the price from $29.99 to $14.99.

Pixelmator regularly updates its image editing software, with the future 3.2 update following its January 3.1 update, which added full support for the Mac Pro, with 16-bit per channel images, full GPU support, and optimizations for the multi-core processors in the computer.

Back in October, the app was also updated with Mavericks support and a new image editing engine, greatly enhancing its performance.

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Angela Ahrendts May Delay Apple Start Until Mid-Year

angela_ahrendts_bwBurberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts resigned last October from the British luxury fashion house to join Apple as the head of its retail division. According to The Guardian, Ahrendts is free to leave Burberry this month, having fulfilled her six-month notice period, but her actual exit date is not yet known.

Ahrendts may be staying longer at Burberry to help smooth the transition over to her successor Christopher Bailey, who is currently serving as the company’s chief creative officer. Money also may be a factor in Ahrendts leaving as she is slated to receive a two million pound bonus in June for her recent performance as Burberry CEO.

“It’s a big sum of money. In some ways it would be good to see the business moving on after six months of handover time. You want to see clarity,” said Rahul Sharma, an analyst at Neev Capital.

But he said investors were also likely to feel reassured by Ahrendt’s presence ahead of some big moves for Burberry and continuing concerns about Bailey’s ability to combine his creative role with that of a chief executive.

“That is a big concern in the back of investors’ minds and Ahrendt’s presence delays that point of judgment,” he said.

Another factor may be Ahrendts’ critical role in Burberry’s revamped Japanese business strategy, which involves severing long-term apparel licensing agreements in 2015 and creating its own distribution system in the important Asian market. Burberry is expected to confirm this plan as part of the company’s annual report next month.

Ahrendts will join Apple as the Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores, a position that has seen significant turnover in the past several years. In 2011, Ron Johnson left Apple for J.C. Penney, after building up Apple’s retail presence during his 11-year tenure. Johnson was replaced by Dixons CEO John Browett, who served less than a year at Apple.

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How Apple Could Make the Move to 4.7″ iPhone Displays

Amidst the flurry of iPhone 6 rumors coming from KGI Securities’ report last week, Ming-Chi Kuo presented the first possible screen resolution for Apple’s 4.7″ iPhone 6. Kuo lists it as a 1334×750 Retina display with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch.

Historically, Apple has been very cautious with resolution changes in their iOS devices. The original iPhone was launched with a 320×480 resolution. Eventually, Apple moved to 640×960 Retina display, doubling the linear resolution in each dimension. That allowed existing apps to simply be pixel-doubled to fill the entire screen. Developers could then take their time to update their apps to fully support the higher resolution display. When Apple moved from 3.5″ to 4″ screens in the iPhone 5, they simply added vertical resolution. This allowed existing apps to run in a letterboxed format with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

iphone-screen-sizes
Relative iPhone display sizes by Redtech
Right before the 4″ iPhone releases, Apple began encouraging developers to use AutoLayout in designing their apps:

Auto Layout is a system that lets you lay out your app’s user interface by creating a mathematical description of the relationships between the elements. You define these relationships in terms of constraints either on individual elements, or between sets of elements. Using Auto Layout, you can create a dynamic and versatile interface that responds appropriately to changes in screen size, device orientation, and localization.

AutoLayout paves the way for apps to more easily adapt to changes in display sizes and resolution in the future.

If Apple were to adopt a 1334×750 4.7″ display as predicted by Kuo, it would preserve the same pixel density (326 ppi) as the iPhone 5s. That means that all existing user interface elements, such as icons, would be the same size but would allow for more screen space.

Our designer found that using the exact same icons and spacing them out to fill the screen, 1334×750 pixels allows Apple to fit exactly one extra row of icons onto the iPhone home screen. This mockup shows the relative size of the 4.7″ iPhone screen and how much extra room there would be using the exact same icons as on the current iPhone:

iphone5s-64″ home screen (left) vs 4.7″ home screen (right)

Meanwhile, existing unoptimized apps could function in a “letterbox” style with black borders for unused screen space. TheVerge forum user Pi is exactly 3 created a mockup showing this exact scenario. This image shows how an “unoptimized” app would appear (left) compared to one that has been optimized for the 4.7″ display (right):

settingsMockup by Pi is exactly 3
Given Apple’s past reluctance to blur or break existing apps, it seems that this resolution choice could provide Apple and developers a reasonable upgrade path for a larger factor iPhone. Apple has acknowledged that customers want larger iPhones and all iPhone 6 rumors are pointing to a larger iPhone device this year.

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