Saturday, April 23, 2011

Apple Tracking Customers

Security researchers unveiled this past week that Apple's iPhone was logging the whereabouts of the user's location and storing it on the device.
But it's not just iPhones that are keeping track of their users. Apple's iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4, and iPad models are also keeping track of consumers whereabouts. Mac computers running Snow Leopard and even Windows computers running Safari 5 are being watched.

The question is why?

The company has remained silent after researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden revealed this Wednesday that the iPhone was storing logs of users' geographic coordinates in a hidden file.

"We're not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it's clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations," the security experts wrote in their blogs.

While Apple has since remained tight-lipped on the matter, not responding to any media-inquires, another privacy snafu last year gives insight into what the company is doing with the information.

In June 2010, Congressmen Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Texas wrote a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs inquiring about Apple's privacy policy and location-based services.

In response the company's general counsel Bruce Sewall wrote a letter explaining its practice, and shedding light on the rationale the company uses to monitor users.

"To provide the high quality products and services that its customers demand, Apple must have access to the comprehensive location-based information," Sewall told Congress in the letter.

After emphasizing Apple's commitment to users' privacy, Sewall said that to provide these location-based services, Apple, its partners and licensees, may collect, use and share customers' precise location data, including GPS information, nearby cell towers and neighboring Wi-Fi networks.

While the security researchers Allan and Warden did not confirm whether the devices were actively sending data back to Apple, Sewall said that it was within Apple's right to do so.

"By using any location-based services on your iPhone, you agree and consent to Apple's and its partners' and licensees' transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of your location data to provide such products and services," Sewall's letter reads, citing Apple's End User Agreement.

But he added that the information is collected anonymously and the devices give users controls for disabling the location features.

In addition to giving Apple customers the ability to turn off all location features with one "on/off" toggle switch,
Apple requires applications to get explicit customer when it asks for location information for the first time. Apple also stores the location information in a database only accessibly to Apple, the letter says.
But though Apple says that its location data practices support the services its customers want, analysts and activists say the practice still raises serious questions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Apple Gets Sued by Angry Parents

A band of parents have recently come together and sued Apple for allowing their children to destroy their credit cards in app purchases. They claim that their kids are granted too much access to purchase apps without their parent's consent and feel that they should make it harder to purchase from the Apple Store.

One individual in particular, Garen Meguerian, a father of two from Pennsylvania, is suing on behalf of every parent that is angry about this issue and believe that Apple is scheming against the kids to buy products without knowledge of their parents.

Meguerian stated that he allowed his children to purchase a couple of free games onto the device. But what he didn't know was that to play these games you would need to purchase items within the game itself in order to play. So once Meguerian found out that his kids had purchased items for money on accident, he was furious.

For instance, Smurfs' Village is a free download. Despite this, the object of the game is to build a virtual village, and you need "smurfberries" to build it. The children are provoked to buy these "smurfberries" for money. These smurfberries can cost up to $59!

Although to purchase an item from the App Store requires a password, this password up until recently only lasted about 15 minutes. Now it lasts longer. In just under a minute, some kids were purchasing over $100 in items within these apps without knowing it. Apple is taking millions from the parents of these kids who don't know better, when in reality they think they are getting their children a free game.

The Federal Trade Commission has confirmed an investigation on Apple for in-game purchases and we will likely see a change in their policy for apps.

If  Garen Meguerian is going to try and win a lawsuit against one of the biggest companies in the world, he is going to need a very good lawyer or attorney. Without a good lawyer or attorney, he will make it nowhere and will lose and Apple will reign once again.

New iPhone in September, A5 Chip confirmed

The successor to the iPhone 4 is reportedly scheduled to ship in September this year, according to Apple's suppliers.

Reuters reports that production of the new iPhone is set to begin as early as July, with previous rumours of a 2012 release date apparently being proved false. The site claims to have spoken to three people with direct knowledge of the supply chain of the device, who spilled the beans about the suspected 2011 launch.

However, you may be disappointed if you're expecting a revolutionary new phone, as the yet-to-be-released iPhone 5 is shaping up to be more of an evolution of its predecessor than a radical new design. It will apparently look similar, and the only noticeable upgrade will be a faster processor.

This flies in the face of many wish lists for Apple's next phone, with a better camera, dual-core processor and more internal storage proving to be the most lust-worthy upgrades. In addition, there is expected to be new insurance for the iPhone which will pretty much cover any costs for damages that happen to it.

If these rumours prove to be true, we'll essentially see just a refresh, or the equivalent of an iPhone 4GS when it launches in September, with the iPhone 6 still rumoured to be set for a 2012 released date. This new phone will still dominate other mobile phones and have exceptional phone service.

Also, Apple has sent developers a new iPhone 4 with an integrated A5 processor, confirming the speculation of a A5 processor for the next iPhone. This A5 chip is said to be twice as fast as the A4, a dramatic increase in functionality. With this, they plan to allow developers to test the games on the new processor and see if it runs well. If it shows positive, we will definitely see the next iPhone with an A5 chip just as the iPad 2 runs on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Apple: Successful Second Quarter

Apple’s fiscal second quarter results were well ahead of expectations as the company sold more iPhones and Macs than expected. Apple’s iPad units looked light relative to expectations.
The company reported earnings of $5.99 billion, or $6.40 a share, on revenue of $24.67 billion. Wall Street was looking for Apple to report earnings of $5.37 a share on revenue of $23.38 billion.
For context, Apple’s revenue a year ago was only $13.5 billion. Finance is going well for Apple at the moment.
By the units:
  • iPhones: Apple sold 18.65 million iPhones in the March quarter, up 113 percent a year ago. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster was expecting 16.2 million and the consensus view called for 16.6 million units. That pop in iPhone units indicates that additional distribution at Verizon was a big help. Meanwhile, AT&T kept selling a lot of iPhones.
  • iPads: Apple sold 4.69 million iPads in the March quarter. The timing of the iPad 2 launch and supply constraints made this figure a total wild card. Wall Street was looking for 6.2 million iPads in the quarter. Munster had 5.5 million. Given the uncertainty around supplies, the real iPad sales focus will be for the June quarter.
  • Macs: Apple sold 3.76 million Macs in the March quarter. Analysts were expecting 3.6 million.
  • iPods: Apple sold 9.02 iPods in the quarter. Analysts were looking for about 10 million.
Apple’s outlook fell in line with historical norms. Simply put, Apple lowballs its outlook. The company projected earnings of $5.03 a share on revenue of $23 billion. Wall Street was expecting third quarter earnings of $5.25 a share on revenue of $23.82 billion.
In a statement, CEO Steve Jobs said the company was “firing on all cylinders.” Jobs said the company will “innovate on all fronts throughout the remainder of the year.
On a conference call with analyst, CFO Peter Oppenheimer made the following points:
Key points from Oppenheimer:
  • Mac sales have outperformed PC growth for 20 consecutive quarters. MacBook Air and MacBook Pro led the sales charge. Mac channel inventory was between 3 and 5 weeks. Oppenheimer said:
The growth in Mac sales was fueled primarily by the continued great popularity of the MacBook Air, which was updated in the December quarter, as well as very strong sales of MacBook Pro.
  • Americas and Asia iPhone sales doubled year over year. Oppenheimer said that Apple was able to boost capacity. Apple has 186 carriers in 90 countries. iPhone channel inventory was 4 to 6 weeks.
  • 88 percent of large enterprises deploying or testing iPhone.
  • On iPad, Oppenheimer said there was distribution in 59 countries. “We sold every iPad 2 we could make in the quarter,” he said. He said CIOs continue to embrace the iPad.
  • Apple will open 40 new retail stores in 2011. Three quarters of those stores will be outside the U.S.
Tim Cook, operating chief of Apple, said there wasn’t any supply or fiscal impact due to Japan’s earthquake in the March quarter. Cook doesn’t see any impact in the fiscal third quarter. Apple sources from multiple vendors in Japan and has been able to create alternate plans. Cook said it will stick with suppliers in Japan. However, “the situation remains uncertain,” he said.
On the iPad 2, Cook said he was pleased with the manufacturing ramp and confident that the company could meet “staggering demand.” Cook added he’s confident company “can produce a very large number of iPads in the quarter,” but stopped short of saying supply and demand would be balanced.
Shares gained in afterhours trading, but remain off the 52-week high above the $364 mark. If this continues, they will surely see a bright future ahead in finance for the company.

Key data points:
  • Research and development spending in the quarter was $581 million, up from $426 million a year ago. For the six months ending March 26, Apple spent $1.15 billion on R&D.
  • Apple had $15.97 billion in cash and another $13.35 billion in short-term marketable securities.
  • Revenue in Japan was down 4 percent sequentially.
  • iTunes-related revenue was $1.63 billion in the quarter.
  • Apple’s Mac mix continues to move toward notebooks over desktops.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Apple Rejecting Incentives to Installing Apps

Following murmurs of Apple making changes to its App Store ranking algorithms to devalue the effect of downloads alone, new claims have been made that Apple is actively rejecting applications that include features designed to boost installations. The Apple Store has been very lazy on cracking down on these incentives but recently has had some problems with insurance of their company, so now they are desperate to reclaim their status.

A letter sent to developers by Tapjoy, a company that runs a program that promises to "drive 100,000-plus app installs daily" as well as grow revenue by 100 percent, said that an unspecified number of applications making use of the promotional program were being rejected by Apple.

"To be clear, there is no new Apple policy that we are aware of," wrote Mihir Shah, Tapjoy's president and CEO, in the letter picked up by VentureBeat. "It seems there may be a new interpretation of the existing 3.10 clause, which is a bit surprising, as Tapjoy, AdMob, iAd, Flurry, W3i and others all power various forms of app install advertising."

The 3.10 clause Shah is referring to is part of Apple's App Store Guidelines, which highlight manipulating and cheating of user reviews and chart ranking within the Apple Store, threatening to ban offenders:

3.10 Developers who attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods will be removed from the iOS Developer Program

Shah said if that was the case, it was a "misconception" by Apple about the company's pay-per-install program, as well as others like it.
"We believe there are significant benefits to the advertiser (only pay for what you get), the publisher (monetize users who otherwise wouldn't pay), and perhaps most importantly to the users, who not only get to discover new, exciting applications, but receive what is essentially a coupon for ad-funded virtual currency inside one of their favorite apps," Shah wrote. "All of this, of course, adds up to value for Apple as well, by creating a viable and thriving ecosystem."

Despite Tapjoy's claims, not all these companies are convinced Apple has made sweeping changes to its reviews system to bar such features from applications. W3i, a company that offers a similar pay-per-install advertising program, would be a likely target. But company spokesman Ryan Ruud told CNET that "it's too early for us to speculate on alleged rejections or changes to Apple's policy."
Like Tapjoy, W3i's pay-per-install advertising program gives developers and publishers a way to promote applications through its network of participating applications that offer in-game points and rewards to users. The company would not say how many iOS applications make use of the system, but based on the promise of being able to "crack" the Top 25 app lists on multiple platforms, and claims of pushing more than 1.5 million total application installs per day, it's safe to say the number is high.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was barring applications that made use of such features. CNET also reached out to Flurry, Google-owned AdMob, and Tapjoy for more information about the scale of any rejections for applications that make use of the two systems.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Apple Focused on Gaming

iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad are all huge right now and games continue to be one of the most popular uses for these devices. Whether it is driving cars, or getting car insurances for the cars you are driving, gaming is very popular among the Apple Store. Graeme Devine is the former iOS games guru who oversaw the titles for Apple until last December (he now has his own studio GRL Games). Devine knows a thing or two about Apple's gaming plans from the inside, and IndustryGamers asked him about it recently. 
After a pause, he said he "can't talk so much about that" and laughed, but he went on to note that Apple is indeed serious about the games space. The impression that Apple just creates its hardware and doesn't pay attention to the games industry is wrong, he told us.
"Apple is clearly focused on gaming. A lot of people say Apple doesn’t get gaming, but Apple has probably the most popular gaming device on the planet right now, and that doesn’t happen by accident," Devine stated. "Apple is intensely focused on gaming and intensely aware of it. Every ad for the iPod Touch only shows games; no running music."
He continued, "Game Center is a start, but Apple never puts anything out and says, 'Okay, now we’re done.' They only progress that software on, and that’s only going to expand up. I think if you look at the array of Apple between moving some of the iOS stuff onto the desktop, the Apple TV with Airplay, and the iPad and the iPhone, these things are converging. That’s exciting for game developers, I think."
Apple TV in particular presents an intriguing opportunity, and we've heard analysts tell us in the past, that it could easily become the next games console, where you access the App Store from your living room HDTV. It would be pretty easy for Apple to stuff some iPad 2 tech into the Apple TV to make a more high-end system. 
Devine, of course, wouldn't reveal anything, but he seemed jazzed about the idea, which he said "would be crazy cool."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

iPad shakes Hardware Industry

The biggest force for change in Silicon Valley's hardware sector last year was a new kind of computer that many people had never imagined before: The smash debut of Apple's (AAPL) iPad tablet sent shock waves across the hardware industry, which accounts for more revenue, profit and employees than any other tech sector.

While revenue and profit rose for the sector as a whole, sales of Apple's new gadget, introduced in January 2010, helped drive up Apple's revenue 63 percent and profit by a stunning 78 percent. As the Cupertino company's stock price rose 53 percent, Apple passed Microsoft to become the world's most valuable tech company, by market capitalization.

The iPad also symbolized a broader revolution: As competitors scrambled to introduce their own tablets, the industry confronted the prospect of a post-PC world, where many consumers and workers are using Internet-connected tablets and smartphones instead of desktop or notebook computers.
"People are thinking twice about using a PC," said George Shiffler, an industry expert at the Gartner research firm.

PCs are still a major business, especially for Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), the world's biggest tech company in sales and the valley's biggest in employees. But HP made a strategic move last year to buy smartphone maker Palm, acquiring a well-regarded software platform that HP hopes will lure buyers to its own tablets and phones as well as printers and PCs.

Palo Alto-based HP also faced challenges in the commercial tech market, where former allies Oracle (ORCL) and Cisco Systems (CSCO) now sell their own servers and computer systems. HP increased its share of server sales around the world, while expanding in new areas such as data storage and computer security.

While its sales and profits increased, HP's market value fell 29 percent last year; the stock plunged after the resignation of CEO Mark Hurd last summer. Under new CEO Léo Apotheker, the stock has started to recover.