Wednesday February 25, 2015 4:38 am PST by Joe Rossignol
A federal jury in Tyler, Texas has ordered Apple to pay $532.9 million to patent licensing firm Smartflash LLC for using its patents without permission, reports Bloomberg. The court found certain iTunes apps to be infringing upon the Texas-based company's patents related to digital rights management, data storage and managing access through payment systems.
Apple argues that Smartflash is exploiting the patent system and plans to appeal the decision.
“Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented,” said Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman. “We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system.”
Smartflash was originally seeking $852 million in damages from Apple for infringing three patents, claiming that it was entitled to a percentage of sales of Apple products used to access iTunes, such as iPhones, iPads and Macs. Apple believed that $4.5 million was fair at most, arguing that it was not infringing upon the inventions and that the patents were invalid. Developers Game Circus and KingsIsle Entertainment Inc. were also defendants in the case but were later dismissed from the lawsuit.
“Apple doesn’t respect Smartflash’s inventions,” the company’s lawyer, John Ward of Ward & Smith in Longview, Texas, told the jury. “Not a single witness could be bothered with reviewing the patent.”
Smartflash has also sued Samsung Electronics in a separate lawsuit that is scheduled to begin following the end of this Apple trial. The patent licensing firm also recently filed against Google, which has attempted to move its lawsuit to California, and Amazon in December. This case is Smartflash LLC v. Apple Inc., 13-447, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Texas.
Monday February 23, 2015 9:12 am PST by Joe Rossignol
Apple has added a support document to its website stating that customers who use an AOL username to sign into the iTunes Store, App Store or iBooks Store will be unable to continue doing so starting March 31 (via 9to5Mac). Apple customers must convert their AOL username to an Apple ID account in order to maintain access to the storefronts following the deadline.
"Starting March 31, 2015, AOL will no longer allow customers to use their AOL Username (also known as an AOL Screen Name) to sign in to the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store. You must convert your AOL Username to an Apple ID in order to maintain access to the stores and to content you purchased previously."
Apple will no longer provide support for AOL usernames that are not converted following March 31. The transition does not affect any iTunes purchases made with the AOL username or any other AOL services that may be associated with the account. To begin the transition process, users must sign into iTunes with an AOL username and follow the on-screen instructions.
Monday February 23, 2015 7:26 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
Earlier in the month, Apple's London-based iTunes team posted a job listing describing an "Editorial Producer" who would have past experience reporting on pop culture, with specific background in music journalism (via Music Ally). While far from definitive, the job post could be hinting at some editorial-related expansions coming to the revamped Beats/iTunes merger set to launch later in the year.
Set to be split between editorial and producing duties, the full-time job would require the applicant to write, edit, and oversee a group of various freelance writers covering content from music to books and movies. A good portion of the job will be devoted to "special projects and promotions" as well, with a focus on collaboration between other departments to make sure all of the content is successfully produced on time.
-Excellent communication, cross-departmental collaboration, and planning skills with a strict attention to detail.
-Seasoned writer with broad pop culture background.
-Deep contacts in the freelance world with writers who can cover the spectrum of pop culture (music, movies, books, etc.).
-Experience managing and motivating a stable of freelance writers.
-Experience working cross-functionally across content, business, and production teams.
-Project management experience.
Apple has been hinting at big changes coming to iTunes, with the company acquiring media analytic service Semetric, and BBC Radio host DJ Zane Lowe joining the company ahead of the big Beats Music revamp. As Music Ally points out, the new job posting could be pointing to an even bigger expansion for the service in terms of an original journalistic effort.
As it stands, Apple's iTunes, iBooks, and App Store point users in the direction of various top-selling or most popular music, books, movies, and apps with occasionally short "iTunes Editors' Notes" detailing new and favorite releases amongst the services. Despite the fact the new post seems to be pointing to an attempt by the company to add original content and opinions to their download service, as with any job listing, it's far from a confirmation that this will be a direction the company takes in the future.
Though the exact timeline for the launch of the new Apple-backed Beats Music service has remained blurry, news concerning the service has remained steadily consistent since its announcement. Most recently it was reported that the Beats Music revamp would see a fairly deep integration into OS X and iOS, with users possibly even being able to merge their Apple ID with a Beats account for a more seamless experience.
Friday February 13, 2015 8:50 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
While the Grammy Awards happened last weekend, information on a few Apple-related conversations happening at and around Clive Davis' pre-Grammy party are just now beginning to emerge, reportsBillboard. Representing Apple at the gala were Tim Cook, Eddy Cue, Jimmy Iovine and iTunes VP Robert Kondrk, with the Apple executives chatting with a number of music industry representatives during the event.
The party came as Iovine has reportedly been meeting with senior executives from many record labels in recent weeks, and while Billboard reports "a nondisclosure agreement preceded every sit-down," details on some of the discussions are beginning to trickle out. One of the main takeaways appears to be a targeted spring/summer launch window for the revamped Beats Music streaming service the company is said to be integrating with iOS and OS X.
Left to right: Al Gore, Eddy Cue, Tim Cook, Jimmy Iovine, Nancy Pelosi at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy party (Photo via Mashable)
An insider speaking to Billboard claims the Cupertino-based company isn't content just to be in the music business but "to be the music business; it's not to compete with Spotify." Billboard points out that, with new iOS updates in development possibly bringing Beats Music support and the booming popularity of streaming services, the company appears to already be lining up to deal with its digital music problems head-on.
The proof is in the 800 million credit cards it already has on file -- comparably, Spotify has 15 million subscriptions and 60 million monthly users, although the service is growing, headed to an initial public offering.
In fact, integration has begun. Apple TV features a Beats logo, an update to Apple's iOS will include streaming and creative is in the works for new ads starring artists recruited by Iovine. But that may be the extent of Beats' involvement as Kondrk takes the lead on music. Like the Apple-centric design of its offices, the look and feel of Beats is likely to mirror Apple's aesthetic, not the other way around.
Other news out of the talks points to a bit of housecleaning in dealing with iTunes itself, with Apple supposedly planning to rid the store of many covers, soundalikes, and re-recordings. Billboard also reports that the featured ticker seen on the iTunes storefront may lose its editorial-chosen feature and become more sales-based.
Additionally, featured-artist sliders, previously chosen editorially, may now be determined by sales velocity, leaving some to wonder if iTunes is becoming less like a Tower Records and more of a Target -- limited selection and a focus on hit titles. "Until now, iTunes has been good to the indies," contends one vet. Conversely, an Apple source says such case-by-case house-cleaning to eliminate duplicative and deceptive versions is routine.
Despite Apple's challenges in a market where third-party music services can operate fairly freely on Apple's platforms, insiders remain optimistic about Apple's plans, with Davis' son Doug pointing out the company's already hugely popular ecosystem of devices and operating systems helping to launch the new service with a bang. "Their streaming service will see a seamless integration that's cross-platform and convenient, as Spotify has become," Davis said. "As a fan of all-you-can-eat, the industry in general is excited to have more market players."
Wednesday February 4, 2015 9:41 am PST by Joe Rossignol
Apple is working on a new Beats-based paid music streaming service that will be deeply integrated into iTunes on Mac and the stock Music app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, according to 9to5Mac. The report claims that the Apple-designed streaming service will also be available for Android and through a new Apple TV app in the works.
"Based heavily upon cloud streaming, Apple’s new service is centered around the user’s music library. A new search feature will be able to locate any song in the iTunes/Beats catalog, and users will be able to stream music from the catalog as well as add songs to their personal libraries. Users will be able to select specific tracks to store on their iOS devices and/or computers, or keep all songs solely in the cloud. Apple will also deeply integrate Beats Music’s Playlists, Activities, and Mixes features into the new service, letting users access a vast array of pre-made, human-curated playlists to fit various activities."
The report adds that Beats Music users will be able to merge their existing account with an iTunes/Apple ID account for seamless transition to the new service. The app's design will shift away from the traditional red and black branding of Beats and feature a user interface that resembles the look and feel of iTunes and the stock Music app on iOS. New social features will also be included for sharing music and playlists with friends.
Apple's new subscription-based service is expected to cost $7.99 per month, cheaper than the $9.99 per month charged by Beats Music and competing services such as Spotify, Rdio and Google Play Music. While the new Beats service will inevitably have some overlap with iTunes Radio, iTunes Match and the iTunes Store, the report claims that Apple will retain all three offerings.
While Beats Music is available for Android, this new service will mark the first time that Apple develops an Android app in house. Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously expressed that he does not have an issue developing an app for Android if the circumstances make sense, but this will be the first time the company actually delivers on that idea. Unlike Beats Music, however, no Windows Phone app will be offered.
Due to some personnel changes and other difficulties in the collaboration between Apple and Beats, which the iPhone maker acquired last year for $3 billion, the timeline for this new streaming service project remains in jeopardy. The report claims that while Apple originally planned to launch the service in March, sources claim that the company is now more likely to launch the service at WWDC in June.
Thursday January 29, 2015 4:08 pm PST by Juli Clover
Apple today released iTunes 12.1 for OS X Yosemite, introducing a new iTunes widget for the Notification Center. With the widget, it's possible to see what song is playing, skip ahead, and favorite. When listening to iTunes Radio, there's an option to purchase the song that's being played, right within the widget. Today's update also includes performance improvements when syncing an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to iTunes.
iTunes 12.1 can be downloaded via the Software Update Mechanism in the Mac App Store.
This update introduces a new iTunes widget for Notification Center in OS X Yosemite. See what's playing, skip ahead, and even buy songs while listening to iTunes Radio -- right from Notification Center. This update also improves performance when syncing when your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
iTunes 12.1 is the first major update to iTunes 12, which was introduced alongside OS X Yosemite. iTunes 12 brought a new design with Yosemite-style translucency elements to improve depth, a streamlined toolbar, and the melding of the iTunes Store and the personal Library to make it easier to navigate between owned content and what's available in the store.
Wednesday January 28, 2015 8:57 am PST by Joe Rossignol
Sony announced on Wednesday that it will be shutting down its Music Unlimited on-demand streaming music service ahead of launching Spotify on PlayStation Music. Music Unlimited will shut down in all 19 countries it operated on March 29, 2015, with nearly all of the countries among the 41 regions that Spotify for PlayStation Music will be available upon launch, including the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.
Music Unlimited launched in December 2010 on PlayStation Network in several countries worldwide, and the service was later extended to iPhone [Direct Link], Android, PlayStation Vita and other devices and platforms. In February 2011, it was reported that Sony viewed Music Unlimited as a potential iTunes Store alternative and that it was considering pulling music from Apple's platform if its own service became successful.
"If we do [get mass take up] then does Sony Music need to provide content to iTunes?" Mr Ephraim asked. "Currently we do. We have to provide it to iTunes as that's the format right now."
"Publishers are being held to ransom by Apple and they are looking for other delivery systems, and we are waiting to see what the next three to five years will hold."
The on-demand streaming music landscape has gone through significant change in the past three years, however, and Music Unlimited failed to remain competitive with industry leaders such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and Beats Music. Music Unlimited users with active subscriptions will continue to have free access to the service through the March 29 closing date.
Tuesday January 13, 2015 6:28 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
Apple has seemingly ended its weekly iTunes "Single of the Week" promotion that gave out a free music single download each week on the iTunes storefront. As noted by Business Insider, a member of the Apple discussion forums claims an Apple support employee informed him the company decided to drop the weekly promotion.
I contacted iTunes Support and they told me the decision was made to drop the free Single of the Week. Seems they don't want people browsing the Store anymore. I told them that the free single each week got me to the Store and I usually bought a few songs. Now, there's less reason to go. They've stopped the free single in other countries too.
The "Single of the Week" promotion began in 2004, and in a similar vein to Apple's "App of the Week" promotion on the App Store, it gave out free singles every week from artists and bands of varying genres and popularity. Though forum user Bob Foss' confirmation of the promotion's end remains unverified, Apple also recently decided to end its annual "12 Days of Christmas" iTunes Store giveaway.
Volunteers in our forums have tracked the free iTunes Store content in several countries for a number of years, but the 2015 music thread remains empty as evidence of Apple's apparent decision to cancel the promotions.
Friday December 5, 2014 6:39 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
A few weeks out from Christmas, Apple has turned on nearly a dozen holiday-themed iTunes Radio stations that offer a variety of genres from sing-a-longs for kids to old seasonal classics.
The ten stations include: Children's Christmas Holiday Sing-Along, Country Holiday, Classical Holiday, Holiday Classics, Holiday Hits, Latin Holiday, Rockin' Holiday, Soulful Holiday, Swingin' Holiday and The Sounds of Christmas.
Only a handful of the stations are readily available in the Featured Stations section on the front of the iTunes Radio tab, but all of them can be found with a quick search.
iTunes Match subscribers can listen to the stations ad-free, as per usual, but non-subscribers can expect occasional advertisements between songs.
The Christmas themed stations can be added to users' My Stations lists now, in iTunes on Mac and PC, and in the Music app on iOS. iTunes Radio remains available only in the United States and Australia, despite rumors of additional "early 2014" expansions.
Monday December 1, 2014 8:31 am PST by Kelly Hodgkins
Apple this week is scheduled to appear in court and face accusations that it deliberately crippled competing music services and players in an iPod class action lawsuit from 2005, reports The New York Times. The trial will feature testimony from Steve Jobs, whose emails and a videotaped deposition taken before his death will play an important part in the plaintiffs' case.
The complaint focuses on Apple's older iPod models, which only supported music purchased on iTunes and songs downloaded from CDs. Also being disputed is Apple's FairPlay system of encoding purchased music, which limited music playback to the iPod and not competing MP3 players. In the suit, consumers claim Apple violated antitrust law by deliberately limiting interoperability with competitors, while exclusively promoting its products and services.
The email testimony is expected to paint Steve Jobs as an aggressive businessman who worked hard to ensure the success of the iPod and iTunes. This success often came at the expense of smaller competitors, which were not allowed to connect to Apple's popular iPod ecosystem. In one already released email, Jobs addresses Apple's lack of support for the-then upcoming MusicMatch music store.
"We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod," he wrote. "Is this going to be an issue?"
Part of the case also involves Apple's interactions with RealNetworks, which devised a workaround in 2004 that allowed content from its music store to be played on the iPod. In an angry statement released to the media, Apple accused RealNetworks of hacking the iPod and threatened to disable this functionality in future iPod software updates.
To counteract Jobs' testimony, Apple is expected to argue that updates to the iPod and iTunes were designed to improve the platform for the consumer and not cripple competing devices. The company also likely will point out that the price of the iPod has gone down over the years, despite Apple's alleged monopolistic behavior.
Monday October 20, 2014 7:25 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
As previously reported, Apple plans to relaunch its recently acquired Beats Music subscription early next year and hopes to offer the service with with a lowered monthly cost. According to new "industry scuttlebut" relayed to Re/code, Apple is pushing music labels to cut streaming music subscription prices in half to $5 per month.
The logic of Apple’s argument, relayed by people who’ve heard the pitch secondhand: Apple’s best iTunes buyers spend about $60 a year on downloaded music — $5 a month. So if subscription services dropped that low, any download buyers that switched over to the streaming model would generate just as much revenue for the music labels. And, more important, the market of potential subscribers would get much larger.
Any reduction offered to Apple would be available to other services, making it less likely music industry executives would approve of a 50 percent discount. Re/code notes Apple will more likely meet the music labels in the middle with a monthly fee in the range of $7-8.
While Apple negotiates the terms for its Beats Music streaming service, rival Spotify is upping the ante with a new Spotify Family plan. Similar to Rdio's Unlimited Family plan, Spotify Family allows a premium subscriber to add up to four additional members for $4.99/month each, a 50 percent discount off the regular $9.99 individual premium plan. Spotify announced the family plans today and will roll then out globally in the coming weeks.
Thursday October 16, 2014 3:54 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Alongside OS X Yosemite, Apple today released iTunes 12.0.1, a revamped version of iTunes that’s been designed with OS X Yosemite in mind. iTunes 12.0.1 can be downloaded from the Mac App Store and is available for both Mavericks and OS X Yosemite.
iTunes 12 offers an elegant new design that incorporates translucency to improve depth. It also has a streamlined toolbar that aims to give users more room to experience content, and it melds the iTunes Store with the Library, making it easier to navigate between personal collections and what’s available in the store.
There are dedicated icons for music, movies, and TV shows, and Recently Added albums, movies, and TV shows are displayed at the top of the library for easy access.
iTunes 12 also includes support for several iOS 8/Yosemite features, including Family Sharing, and it brings improved playlist editing as well.
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