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Businesses

Apple Files 14-Point Appeal Against European Commission's $14 Billion Tax Edict (appleinsider.com) 142

An anonymous reader shares an AppleInsider report: Apple has filed its appeal with the European court of appeals, all declaring that the European Commission's decision to levy $14 billion in taxes on Apple on behalf of the EU is erroneous, against the rule of law, and should be stricken. The 14 points of appeal introduced by Apple on Monday challenge the European Commission (EC) on several fronts. Primarily, Apple contests that the Cork, Ireland, headquarters of Apple's European wing was properly set up, in accordance with all regulations and laws. Additionally, other apparent accounting blunders by the EC while making its decision were brought up as well. Apple points out that the taxable income attributed to the Ireland branch was misapplied, giving more weight to the Irish operation than it should, and that back taxes were being applied to worldwide profits.
Programming

Apple Announces WWDC 2017, To Be Held in San Jose On June 5-9 (daringfireball.net) 63

Apple said today it will kick off this year's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5. Much like every year, the developer conference is the place where we can expect to see what's coming to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS later this year. This year, the event is being held in a different venue: the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, the original home of WWDC. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball: First, announcing early really helps people who have to travel long distances to attend, particularly those from outside the U.S. The San Jose Convention Center is the original home of WWDC -- that's where it was held from 1988 through 2002. (WWDC 2002 was the year Steve Jobs held a funeral for Mac OS 9 during the keynote.) San Jose is way closer to Apple headquarters. San Francisco is about an hour drive from 1 Infinite Loop. The San Jose Convention Center is only five minutes away from Apple's new campus. Schiller emphasized to me that this is a big deal: more Apple employees from more teams will be present, simply because they won't have to devote an entire day to being there. (This could be a particular boon to WWDC's developer labs, where attendees can get precious face time with Apple's engineers.)
Iphone

Apple's iPhone 8 To Replace Touch ID Home Button With 'Function Area' (appleinsider.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple will ditch the home button when it debuts a new 'iPhone 8' model later this year, and will dedicate the extra screen real estate to an area for virtual buttons, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Adding detail to his previous predictions regarding the next-generation handset, Kuo in a note to investors obtained by AppleInsider said the full-screen design will allow Apple to integrate a "function" area never seen in an iPhone. The device is expected to adopt a 5.8-inch OLED panel in a form factor similar to the current 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Despite having extended screen real estate as compared to current iPhone models, the actual active display area on "iPhone 8" will be closer to 5.15 inches on the diagonal, with the remaining bottom portion dedicated to system functions like virtual buttons. While Kuo failed to elaborate on an exact implementation, the note suggests Apple plans to hardcode a set of always-on, static system controls into iOS. Whether the so-called "function area" is capable of switching to an active display mode for in-app activities like watching videos or playing games, remains to be seen. With the deletion of current Touch ID technology, Kuo believes "iPhone 8" will incorporate new bio-recognition assets to take over device security and Apple Pay authentication duties. The analyst did not offer predictions on the type of biometric tech Apple intends to use, but a report earlier today said the company could integrate a 3D laser scanning module capable of facilitating facial recognition and augmented reality applications. Kuo in a note last month said Apple might integrate a dual biometric system utilizing optical fingerprint readers and facial recognition hardware.
Businesses

Apple Explains Why Its R&D Spending Is On the Rise (cnbc.com) 86

Apple has steadily increased its spending on research and development over the past few quarters. An executive with the company explained why that's the case. From a report on CNBC: Company's financial guru attributes the spending to something of a much smaller scale: chips. It may not sound like it, but that research is "very strategic and important" for Apple to differentiate itself from the rest of the industry, chief financial officer Luca Maestri said on Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. "Today, we do much more in-house development of some fundamental technologies than we used to do a few years ago, when we did more of that in the supplier base -- the work we do around processors or sensors," Maestri said. "It's very important for us because we can push the envelope on innovation, we can better control timing, cost, quality. We look at that as a great strategic investment." On Tuesday, Maestri also noted that Apple's "product portfolio is much larger than it used to be," and that keeping all these products moving along in parallel adds up, especially with smaller markets, like the Apple Watch. While Maestri said Apple drops a "meaningful" amount of cash on products that do not generate revenue today, these products are not very large "in the total scheme of things," Maestri said. "They add up over time, and hopefully, those are good bets that we are making for the future of the company," Maestri said.
Android

China's Huawei Catching Up With Apple, Samsung Smartphone Sales (livemint.com) 62

From a report: Chinese smartphone maker Huawei managed to gain ground on Samsung and Apple in terms of global market share last year, following the problems encountered by the two giants, the Gartner consultancy group said on Wednesday. Over the year as a whole, the Chinese maker saw its sales leap by 26.7 percent, while the South Korean and US rivals both saw their sales decline by 4.3 percent, Gartner said in a study. As result, Huawei was able to increase its share of the smartphone sector to 8.9 percent in 2016 from 7.3 percent a year earlier, while Samsung saw its market share shrink by two full percentage points to 20.5 percent and Apple's contracted to 14.4 percent from 15.9 percent. "Chinese makers succeeded in winning market share over last year and Huawei now seems to be the main rival to the two giants, even if the gap remains large," Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann told AFP.
Security

Russian Cyberspies Blamed For US Election Hacks Are Now Targeting Macs (computerworld.com) 250

You may recall "APT28", the Russian hacking group which was tied to last year's interference in the presidential election. It has long been known for its advanced range of tools for penetrating Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux devices. Now, researchers have uncovered an equally sophisticated malware package the group used to compromise Macs. From a report on ComputerWorld: The group -- known in the security industry under different names including Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, and APT28 -- has been operating for almost a decade. It is believed to be the sole user and likely developer of a Trojan program called Sofacy or X-Agent. X-Agent variants for Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS have been found in the wild in the past, but researchers from Bitdefender have now come across what appears to be the first macOS version of the Trojan. It's not entirely clear how the malware is being distributed because the Bitdefender researchers obtained only the malware sample, not the full attack chain. However, it's possible a macOS malware downloader dubbed Komplex, found in September, might be involved. Komplex infected Macs by exploiting a known vulnerability in the MacKeeper antivirus software, according to researchers from Palo Alto Networks who investigated the malware at the time. The vulnerability allowed attackers to execute remote commands on a Mac when users visited specially crafted web pages.Further reading on ArsTechnica.
AT&T

Apple Will Fight 'Right To Repair' Legislation (vice.com) 309

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple is planning to fight proposed electronics "Right to Repair" legislation being considered by the Nebraska state legislature, according to a source within the legislature who is familiar with the bill's path through the statehouse. The legislation would require Apple and other electronics manufacturers to sell repair parts to consumers and independent repair shops, and would require manufacturers to make diagnostic and service manuals available to the public. Nebraska is one of eight states that are considering right to repair bills; last month, Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Wyoming introduced legislation. Last week, lawmakers in Illinois and Tennessee officially introduced similar bills. According to the source, an Apple representative, staffer, or lobbyist will testify against the bill at a hearing in Lincoln on March 9. ATT will also argue against the bill, the source said. The source told me that at least one of the companies plans to say that consumers who repair their own phones could cause lithium batteries to catch fire. So far, Nebraska is the only state to schedule a hearing for its legislation.
Apple

Apple Suspends Sales of LG's UltraFine 5K Monitor Over Hardware Issues (appleinsider.com) 79

Roger Fingas, writing for AppleInsider: Apple has temporarily stopped sales of LG's UltraFine 5K monitor, due to technical problems associated with a lack of proper shielding from wireless interference. Over the weekend, Apple retail staff were told to keep the product on display yet not sell any units if people asked, according to a Business Insider source. The site added that it heard the same from a representative at a New York Apple store. Separately, AppleInsider has confirmed the organized removal from sale of the Thunderbolt 3 display. Sources inside Apple not authorized to speak on behalf of the company indicated that retail locations are retaining demonstration displays, but not selling any stock on-hand that it may receive that may actually have the shielding fix, nor filling any pending orders until otherwise informed. Big blow to Apple, which has given up on external monitors business. But at least, it's comforting to know people who wish to purchase a new display for their MacBook or MacBook Pro have several company-approved alternatives. Oh wait, they don't.
Iphone

Apple Joins Wireless Power Consortium Amid Rumors of iPhone With Wireless Charging (theverge.com) 79

If you've been holding out hope for wireless charging to come to the iPhone, chew on this: Apple joined the Wireless Power Consortium. From a report: Last week, a leaked note suggested that Apple is working on adding wireless charging to three phones scheduled for release in 2017. The technology may be similar to what the company has already implemented with the Apple Watch, though other reports have hinted at charging solutions that can add power to devices from a distance. The Wireless Power Consortium is the group behind Qi, a wireless charging standard that uses inductive power transfers to charge without cords.
Businesses

Story of Two Developers Who Are Reporting Growth in Revenue After Leaving Apple's App Store (techcrunch.com) 65

John Biggs, writing for TechCrunch: In what amounts to one of the purest and most interesting experiments in assessing the value of Mac OS's App Store, the founder of Rogue Amoeba posted a description of what happened when he pulled his app Piezo. The result? More revenue as a whole without much damage to sales. The impetus for the move came after Apple pulled the Dash app off of the App Store. In the 100-day period since the move, Dash maintained and even increased revenue and found that its users didn't care which platform they were using -- 84% of the customers simply moved over to the independent app license from the App Store license. The bottom line? "It feels great to have full control over my business and to avoid App Store installation/updating/purchasing issues," wrote Dash creator Bogdan Popescu. When Paul Kafasis tried to move away from the App Store he was worried he'd lose half of his sales. After all, many months saw about 50% of sales coming from the App Store directly. When he pulled the app a year ago, however, all of those App Store sales turned into direct sales through his website, a fact that surprised and amused Kafasis.
Australia

Australia's Retailers Join the Local Giant Banks in Their Battle With Apple Pay (nfcworld.com) 68

More trouble for Apple in Down Under. The $300 billion retail sector has hit back at Apple, saying the global tech giant is trying to freeload on the payments infrastructure built by banks and retailers and restricting iPhone access to payments terminals will hinder loyalty schemes. From a report: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has come out in support of the group of four Australian banks seeking stronger negotiation powers with Apple over the introduction of Apple Pay in the country, saying they believe access to the NFC functionality in the iPhone would allow retailers to provide "a richer and more convenient customer experience." The ARA, which represents 5,000 independent and national retailers, says access to the NFC functionality will allow retailers to "develop or participate in mobile wallets that provided a consistent and fully integrated experience to all users regardless of their choice of smartphones" while also allowing loyalty programs, coupons and rewards to be "more effectively integrated into these mobile wallets." "In our view -- for as long as Apple Pay remains the only app that can use the iPhone's NFC functionality -- the potential for innovation in mobile wallets and mobile payments will be limited," the ARA says in a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Iphone

Apple Fails To Remove 'Deleted' Safari Web Browser Histories From iCloud (betanews.com) 29

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Apple was storing Safari browsing histories in iCloud, even after they had been 'deleted' by the user, with such records being kept going back to 2015 -- although apparently this was an accidental by-product of the way the cloud syncing system works rather than anything malicious, and the issue has now been fixed. This information first came to light in a Forbes report, which cited Vladimir Katalov, the chief executive of Elcomsoft, a Russian security firm (which focuses on password/system recovery). Katalov stumbled onto the issue when reviewing the browsing history on his iPhone, when he discovered his supposedly deleted surfing history still present in iCloud, being able to extract it by using his company's Phone Breaker tool.
Iphone

All Three New 2017 iPhones To Feature Wireless Charging, Says Analyst (macrumors.com) 143

In late October, Nikkei Asian Review released a report claiming Foxconn was testing wireless charging modules for the iPhone 8. Another report has surfaced recently that further reinforces those claims. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo now claims that all three new iPhones expected to launch later this year will feature wireless charging. MacRumors reports: Kuo said wireless charging increases the internal temperature of smartphones, so he expects the rumored iPhone 8 with an OLED display and glass casing to have a new 3D Touch module with "additional graphite sheet lamination" in order to prevent the device from malfunctioning due to overheating. An excerpt from Kuo's research note obtained by MacRumors: "While we don't expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone." The new 3D Touch module could be up to $5 more expensive for Apple to procure per phone. While that is a minimal increase, it lends further credence to a report claiming the high-end iPhone 8 could cost upwards of $1,000 in the United States due to a significant redesign and the use of premium parts.
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook Tackles Truth in the Digital Age (cnbc.com) 214

Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the University of Glasgow yesterday to be awarded an honorary doctorate. During the Q&A session, one audience member asked Cook to tell what the future looks like. Following is Cook's response: "The world is going through an enormous change. We used to watch three or four people tell us the news, and generally speaking most of us trusted that ... now you are growing up in an environment where everyone is telling you the news and everyone is trying to influence your opinion on something," Cook said. "Generally society hasn't moved as fast as technology has ... so all of us have been put in a position to make sure that when we hear something we automatically take it as our opinion that we think through the different views on it and unfortunately make sure it is accurate as well."
The Internet

Apple Seeks To Position Metal as Part of New 3D Graphics Standard For Web (appleinsider.com) 170

Mikey Campbell, writing for AppleInsider: Apple's WebKit team on Tuesday proposed a new Community Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that will focus on developing a new standard API, perhaps based on Metal, for accelerating GPU-based 3D graphics and general computation for the web. Announced through Apple's WebKit blog, the new 'GPU for the Web' Community Group will discuss a potential next-generation web graphics API that can better leverage modern GPUs. Along with 3D content, Apple proposes GPU architecture might also be used to accelerate general web computations. As noted by Dean Jackson from the WebKit team, advancements in the GPU hardware space has led to identical enhancements in software APIs. He cites platform technologies like Apple's Metal, Microsoft's Direct3D 12 and the Khronos Group's Vulkan as offering lower overhead, and thus better performance, than the OpenGL standard. Unfortunately, the new graphics APIs contain nuanced architectural differences and are not available across all platforms, making them unsuitable for wide implementation on the web.
Iphone

Apple's Ultra Accessory Connector Dashes Any Hopes of a USB-C iPhone (theverge.com) 153

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Among all the iPhone 8 concepts and daydreams, my favorite scenario has always been to see Apple replacing its proprietary Lightning connector with the USB-C one that's taken over the entire rest of the smartphone world. Apple is already a strong proponent of USB-C, having moved to it aggressively with the new MacBook Pros in October, but the company also maintains Lightning for its iPhones and iPads -- which creates a lot of headaches for people desiring universal accessories that work with everything inside the Cupertino ecosystem. Alas, after yesterday's revelation of a new Ultra Accessory Connector (UAC), which is intended to ameliorate some of the pain of having both USB-C and Lightning devices, it looks like the dream of a USB-C iPhone will forever remain just that. The UAC connector is going to be used as an intermediary in headphone wires, splitting them in half so that the top part can be universal, and the bottom can be either a Lightning, USB-C, USB-A, or a regular old 3.5mm analog plug. The intent is to restore some of the universality of wired headphones -- which, until not too long ago, all terminated in a 3.5mm connector (or 6.35mm on non-portable hi-fi models designed for at-home listening). With UAC, a headphone manufacturer can issue multiple cable terminations very cheaply, making both the headphones and any integrated electronics, like a digital-to-analog converter or built-in microphone, compatible across devices with different ports. Why this matters with regard to the iPhone's sole remaining port is simple: if Apple was planning to switch its mobile devices to USB-C, it wouldn't have bothered with creating a Made for iPhone standard for UAC. It would have just made the port change.
IOS

Dozens of Popular iOS Apps Vulnerable To Intercept of TLS-Protected Data (arstechnica.com) 53

Researchers at Sudo Security Group Inc. discovered seventy-six popular applications in Apple's iOS App Store that had implemented encrypted communications with their back-end services in such a way that user information could be intercepted by a man-in-the-middle attack. According to Ars Technica, the applications could be fooled by a forged certificate sent back by a proxy, allowing their Transport Layer Security to be unencrypted and examined as it is passed over the internet. From their report: The discovery was initially the result of bulk analysis done by Sudo's verify.ly, a service that performs bulk static analysis of application binaries from Apple's App Store. Will Strafach, president of Sudo, verified the applications discovered by the system were vulnerable in the lab, using a network proxy configured with its own Secure Socket Layer certificate. In the post about his findings being published today, Strafach wrote: "During the testing process, I was able to confirm 76 popular iOS applications allow a silent man-in-the-middle attack to be performed on connections which should be protected by TLS (HTTPS), allowing interception and/or manipulation of data in motion. According to Apptopia estimates, there has been a combined total of more than 18,000,000 (Eighteen Million) downloads of app versions which are confirmed to be affected by this vulnerability."

The data exposed by the vulnerability in each of the applications varied in sensitivity. For just less than half -- 33 of the applications -- the risk was relatively low, as most of the data was "partially sensitive analytics data," Strafach said. These apps included a number of third-party "uploader" apps for Snapchat (which exposed Snapchat usernames and passwords) and the Vice News app, among others. In 24 cases, the exposed data included login credentials or session tokens that would allow an attacker to hijack the account associated with the application, though those accounts were not tied to highly sensitive data. However, the remaining 19 applications left sensitive data exposed to attack. In these cases, Strafach "confirmed ability to intercept financial or medical service login credentials and/or session authentication tokens for logged in users."

Businesses

The Leap Week: Did Apple Really Have a Record Quarter? (lapcatsoftware.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Apple stated that Q1 FY2017 was an all-time record for quarterly revenue. The media dutifully and mostly uncritically spread this "great" news for Apple. Technically the claim is true, the revenue was an all-time record. True but misleading. Although Apple didn't lie as such, you might say there was a sin of omission, and a definite spin of the facts. Most Apple fiscal quarters are 13 weeks long. Once in a while, however, they need a 14 week quarter. You might call it a "leap quarter". There was a good explanation of this financial practice a few years ago in Slate. Apple's Q1 2017 was a 14 week quarter, for the first time since Q1 2013. John Gruber writes at DaringFireball, "Adjusted for the extra week, Apple actually had another down quarter."
Government

97 Tech Companies Including Apple, Google, Microsoft Call Travel Ban Unlawful In Rare Coordinated Legal Action (washingtonpost.com) 626

An anonymous reader shares a WashingtonPost report: Silicon Valley is stepping up its confrontation with the Trump administration. On Sunday night, technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Uber and many others filed a legal brief opposing the administration's contentious entry ban. The move represents a rare coordinated action across a broad swath of the industry (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source) -- 97 companies in total -- and demonstrates the depth of animosity toward the Trump ban. The amicus brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which is expected to rule within a few days on an appeal by the administration after a federal judge in Seattle issued late Friday a temporary restraining order putting the entry ban on hold. The brief comes at the end of a week of nationwide protests against the plan -- as well as a flurry of activity in Silicon Valley, a region that sees immigration as central to its identity as an innovation hub.From a TechCrunch report: Notably absent from the list of 97 companies are several who met with Trump prior to his inauguration: Amazon, Oracle, IBM, SpaceX and Tesla. Although Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was highly critical of Trump prior to his election, he has not spoken out against the immigration policy. Oracle CEO Safra Catz is serving as an advisor to the Trump transition team, while SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has defended his decision to remain on an advisory council for Trump.
Desktops (Apple)

Microsoft Is Disabling Older Versions of Skype For Mac and Windows On March 1 (venturebeat.com) 113

If you're using an older, outdated version of Skype, you may want to consider updating soon. Microsoft said today that starting on March 1 people will no longer be able to sign in to version 7.16 of Skype for Window desktop and older versions, and version 7.18 of Skype for Mac and older versions thereof. VentureBeat reports: "If you're one of those users, all you'll need to do is download the new update," the Skype team said in a blog post. This isn't the first time Skype is retiring old software. But that doesn't mean the upcoming move won't rankle some people. Version 7.18 of Skype for Mac and version 7.16 of Skype for Windows both came out less than a year and a half ago -- in December 2015. So it's not as if this is very old software. Still, Microsoft has been doing a lot to improve Skype in the past year. It's been migrating the app to its Azure public cloud infrastructure, and adding chatbots. Current versions of Skype -- like version 7.44 for Mac -- come with amenities like better previews of websites and better support for emoticons and other content in the input box for chats. "We've poured our energy and passion into creating something truly special, and this is just the beginning," Skype said.

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