Saturday, October 5, 2013

Report: Apple to add 100 standalone stores, SWAS models to India

According to sources present at a confidential meeting between Apple India executives and the CEOs of 20 top retailers, the iPhone maker has bold plans to create 100 standalone franchise stores in the top 50 second- and third-tier markets in the country, and will also create "store within a store" (SWAS) experiences for smaller markets in a new partnership with India's top smartphone and consumer electronics chains, since Apple does not yet have any official stores there.

Apple India is looking to set up these stores within the current fiscal year, which for Apple began on October 1. The meeting between potential retail partners and Apple was held by Maneesh Dhir and Sanjay Kaul, reports the country's Economic Times newspaper, who have spent the last three years building an executive team, shifting the emphasis of resellers to the iPhone, lobbied to shorten the wait on new products arriving in India and built stronger relationships with the company's current 65 or so exclusive partner stores.

By the end of 2015, the iPad maker plans to have some 200 franchise stores, and Dhir and Kaul used the meeting to unveil new plans to focus on the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod touch as part of the expansion of retail outlets. The company has made some proposals to the larger retail chains, it was revealed, and is actively scouting for additional franchise partners. Apple's strategy appears to favor rapid expansion in India ahead of any attempts to build its own network of official Apple Stores, at least in the short term.

The plan is reminiscent of Apple's dependence on independent exclusive resellers during the company's pre-Apple Store days. The strategy allowed Apple to have retail and repair presences throughout many countries without the expense of maintaining its own retail chain. Once former CEO Steve Jobs and former retail head Ron Johnson hit upon an ideal store configuration, the company began to build what is today a nearly 415-strong network of official stores, displacing resellers in some cities while strengthening independent stores and SWAS retailers in areas where Apple hadn't or wouldn't put its own stores.

The plans revealed to the paper through sources who attended the meeting make no mention of Apple opening any of its own stores in India at present, though the company's increasing focus on the region suggests that a a few top-tier markets may eventually see flagship openings on part with those in China or Japan. Apple has been experiencing some success with growing the iPhone brand in the Android-dominated country through aggressive marketing, rebate and trade-in programs, as well as experimenting with payment plans to help transition the country's dominant prepaid market into a postpaid model.

by MacNN Staff

First Android 4.4 KitKat images show mobile payments option

The first images of the next version of Android may have been revealed. Photographs of a smartphone running what is claimed to be an earlier build of Android 4.4, complete with pre-KitKat images representing the previous Key Lime Pie name, appears to hint at a few of the features that will come in the next version of the mobile operating system.

The shots from Gadget Helpline show a new printing option in the settings menu, possibly via Google Cloud Print. Mobile payments makes an appearance in the settings as well, and will likely have Google Wallet integration. The Manage Mobile Plan setting could possibly allow the user to dictate how their smartphone uses cellular data, and could possibly direct users to their carrier's online account management system.

Superficially, there appears to be little in the way of major changes to the interface. A refreshed dialing screen, notification bar icons in white, and extra photo editing options also appear in the build.

Though the build appears to be dating back to late August, it is possible that the eventual final version heading to devices could have even more changes than the ones shown in the photographs.

iOS 7 upgrade breaks supervision profiles, schools complain

Upgrading iPads to iOS 7 has inadvertently wiped out supervision profiles, a number of schools are complaining. The profiles are meant to restrict what students can access online, and give IT administrators remote management privileges. Without them in effect, students can access anything while away from a schools's Wi-Fi network, including content schools and parents might deem offensive or inappropriate.

One school district, Colorado's Manitou Springs School District 14, says it has taken to collecting iPads from students at the end of each day rather than let them use the devices freely at home. Take-home privileges will only be restored once profiles are as well.

Manitou adds that it has even gone to the extent of collecting hundreds of upgraded iPads, wiping them, and then reinstalling the apps and student that was originally on them. At other schools, some IT admins have altered DNS settings to prevent iPads from checking for iOS 7 and/or performing an over-the-air upgrade. "That helped us to keep a lot of our iPads running iOS 6.1.3. We plan to maintain those settings until Apple addresses the issue," an anonymous admin tells AllThingsD.

"Some business and education users have reported that their supervised devices have reverted to unsupervised when they upgrade to iOS 7,? responds Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller. "We are aware of this issue, and will have a fix this month."

by MacNN Staff

Court: Samsung has illicit access to Apple-Nokia licensing terms

Samsung executives obtained illicit access to the terms of licensing agreements between Apple and Nokia, and at least Apple is requesting sanctions, according to an Apple v. Samsung court order from Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal. The licensing terms were contained in a non-redacted document marked for use by outside legal counsel with the phrase "Highly Confidential -- Attorneys' Eyes Only." Nokia's Chief Intellectual Property Officer, Paul Melin, charges however that on June 4th, Samsung executives ended up using the document in a negotiation session with his company.

During that meeting, Samsung executive Dr. Seungho Ahn is said to have exploited the document as a negotiating tactic. "Specifically, according to Mr. Melin," the court order reads, "Dr. Ahn stated that Apple had produced the Apple-Nokia license in its litigation with Samsung, and that Samsung?s outside counsel had provided his team with the terms of the Apple-Nokia license. Mr. Melin recounts that to prove to Nokia that he knew the confidential terms of the Apple-Nokia license, Dr. Ahn recited the terms of the license, and even went so far as to tell Nokia that 'all information leaks.'"

The document traces back to the fact discovery process during the original Apple v. Samsung case, between August 2011 and March 2012. In particular, Apple divulged agreements with Nokia, Sharp, Ericsson, and Phillips. Samsung's counsel -- lawfirm Quinn Emanuel -- is said to have sent the company a draft of a report created by an expert witness, Dr. David J. Teece. Teece included the key points of the four Apple licensing agreements, which should have been redacted by Quinn Emanuel, but weren't for whatever reason.

The report ended up on a Samsung FTP server, and an email explaining how to access the document was sent out to a Quinn Emanuel client distribution list meant to provide Samsung updates about the case. "The information was then sent, over several different occasions, to over fifty Samsung employees, including high-ranking licensing executives," the court order continues. "Specifically, on at least four occasions between March 24, 2012 and December 21, 2012, Samsung's outside counsel emailed a copy of some version of the report to Samsung employees, as well as various counsel representing Samsung in courts and jurisdictions outside the United States."

Grewal notes that he can't say with certainty if Melin's statements are accurate because Samsung isn't providing information that could offer a full account. "Unfortunately, the court cannot say, because Samsung has elected not to provide the court with any sworn testimony from Dr. Ahn or anyone else at the meeting," Grewal explains. "Samsung also has failed to supply the court with any evidence at all regarding other uses of the Apple-Nokia license, or those of the other confidential licenses. In fact, despite acknowledging that many dozens of individuals at Samsung and its other counsel have knowledge of confidential license terms that they had no right to access, at yesterday?s hearing, Samsung?s counsel repeatedly denied even one violation of the protective order, asserting that such a violation can only occur willfully."

Samsung is holding that formal discovery into the matter is unnecessary. The company is also apparently unable to provide details on who had access to the document, what it was used for, and how and when it was used, but claims it's working on the issue. Samsung has agreed to provide Apple with a log of documents generated as a consequence of the Teece report; it intends to use a collection protocol it negotiated with Nokia in a separate case, however, something that Grewal opposes. The court order demands that Samsung supply at least some emails and other communication relating to the leaked document's distribution, plus depositions by Ahn and other Samsung workers who had file access. A follow-up hearing on possible sanctions is scheduled for October 22nd.

Lavabit SSL keys requested by US government, reveal unsealed documents

Encrypted e-mail service Lavabit was pressured by the FBI to provide private SSL keys for all of its traffic, according to unsealed court documents that provide more details about the service's shutdown. The Texas e-mail provider's refusal to provide details about one specific account, believed to be that of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, forced the courts to threaten daily fines and possible imprisonment if it continued to disobey the FBI's order.

The original "pen register" request from the FBI asked that Lavabit provide "information about each communication sent or received by the account," including meta data such as the time of the message, method, source, and destination, according to Wired. Lavabit refused to comply with this June 28th order, claiming that the user had "enabled Lavabit's encryption services" and so it would not be possible. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan ordered for Lavabit to complete the pen register request, with the threat of criminal contempt.

By July 9th, prosecutors asked for the company and founder Ladar Levison to be held in contempt for disobeying the orders. One week later, a search warranted was obtained, requesting "all information necessary to decrypt communications sent to or from the Lavabit e-mail account" owned by the user "including encryption keys and SSL keys." This second request would have allowed for the FBI to decrypt and monitor all Lavabit traffic, though the unsealed documents state that it would just be for this same metadata.

At a closed-door court appearance on August 1st, Lavabit fought the new order, claiming that the privacy of "over 400,000 individuals and entities" was at stake, though Levison was seemingly willing to comply with the first order rather than the second, more potentially damaging version. Unfortunately, the US government wanted to go along with the second, claiming Levison had "every opportunity to propose solutions to come up with ways to address his concerns," and assuring the court that data picked up would be filtered to just collect the data they require.

Senior US District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled in favor of the US government, and denied Lavabit's request to unseal records, citing an ongoing criminal investigation. Levison complied with the order by printing the private SSL keys onto 11 pages in 4-point type, but this was deemed "illegible," and Levison was compelled to provide something usable. On August 5th, the judge ruled that, unless Levison provided the keys, he would be fined $5,000 each day from August 6th onwards. Lavabit closed on August 8th.

Levison has responded to the unsealing of the documents, maintaining that the government has "no legal basis for demanding its confidential information," and that the proposed access "far exceeded the authority given to investigators by the pen trap and trace laws enacted by Congress." Since the shutdown, donations to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund has hit $150,000, though Levison advises that funds of at least $250,000 would be needed if the case reaches the Supreme Court.

Shortly after Lavabit suspended operations, legal blog Groklaw also closed itself, citing the potential monitoring of e-mail by the NSA. Another encrypted e-mail provider, Silent Circle, stopped offering its Silent Mail services, under the fear of similar potential government legal issues to Lavabit.

Cue: iTunes Festival artists perform for free, for fans and promotion

Apple's Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, has disclosed that artists who appear at the company's yearly iTunes Festival in London are not paid to do so, and use the free concert in London (at a venue that seats a relatively paltry 2,500 compared to the stadiums many of them regularly perform in) as both a chance to put on a show for the fans as well as an opportunity for worldwide exposure and promotion of their latest work.

Cue spoke with Entertainment Weekly about the hugely successful month-long festival, which drew 20 million requests for the 75,000 possible free tickets (which were drawn on a random lottery). It featured both massively popular acts like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kings of Leon, Justin Timberlake and Elton John, usually paired with up-and-coming artists as openers who may nor may not be well-known.

Cue described the appeal to artists as being able to perform in a more intimate venue than they customarily do (the historic Roundhouse auditorium), and yet through streaming video obtain a worldwide audience -- meaning the show can be performed for hard-core fans and yet also be used to help promote the artist and their latest work. Music and videos of the performances can also be sold in the iTunes Store, though repeats of selected performances are available for free through the iTunes Festival app for a limited time.

"The artists come in, and they're not getting paid. They're here because they know that this is an opportunity for them to play for these fans and in many cases kind of go back to when they were starting out in a smaller venue, get really close and personal," Cue said. "You've got this venue that is truly historic and holds 2,500 people, so you're gonna see these artists that always play in much larger arenas. [Plus] it's all kinds of music. On one end, you've got Lady Gaga and on the other end you've got Ludovico, the Italian pianist."

There is something in the festival for Apple as well, which shoulders the costs of both staging the month-long series and webcasting it. The concert is exclusive to iTunes users and iOS device owners, giving Apple a hip edge with the younger demographic. Cue told EW that the company also tries to "pick a diversity of music ... we've got folks like Ellie Goulding, for example, who is now a headliner here ... if you go back about three or four years, she was actually one of the artists that played before she was a big star, and we've got a lot of those, [artists] that have started here."

Asked about how Apple measures "the level of success" of the iTunes Festival, Cue rejected the traditional measures of success such as sale of products or tickets sold and instead said the level of enthusiasm for the mostly-British audiences and reception among fans in other countries is what is driving it. "It really is special, because it's this combination of things that you just don't see -- there's no scalping. We got over 20 million requests for tickets, and so these are the lucky winners; they're huge fans of the artist."

"Obviously, it certainly helps when you watch somebody -- a lot of times you discover somebody or you get to hear their new songs from their new albums. We've had a lot of debut albums here this month, so that helps," Cue acknowledged. "But at the end of the day, it's a secondary piece. The primary thing is for them to get close with the fans and get fans to have that experience because over the long term that's going to help them in every way."

Asked about how the US-based (for now) iTunes Radio is coming along, Cue said that "the most important thing for me, what I was hoping for and what we've been working very hard to get, is what the quality of the feature is. At the end of the day, that's the most important. Part of it is we thought we had an advantage: We thought we could present radio stations for the first time to a customer that's really tailored to them."

He added that while Pandora or Spotify could be seen as competitors, "competition on anything is good, because it makes everybody better. Our goal is to be the best. We thought we could bring something that customers would love more than any other service out there and that's what we want to do, and certainly I think competition will make things better for everybody so we can get better and better at it."

On the topic of using iTunes radio to add to iTunes' reputation for turning "streaming album premieres" -- an increasingly popular promotional tool -- into pre-orders and sales, Cue indicated that such events would probably shift more to iTunes Radio than from the iTunes Store where such promotions had previously been located.

"For example, there's a Justin Timberlake album that's on iTunes Radio as of [last Thursday] for the first time, so the first time we ever premiered an album on there." Cue added that he thinks that "when you go to a store and you go to the Justin Timberlake page and stream it from there, that's great -- but that means you went to the store. iTunes Radio lets you discover it without you having to think about it."

by MacNN Staff

Update: OS X Mavericks 'Golden Master' released to developers

After first releasing a build of the next major version of OS X exclusively to AppleSeed members that had dropped the words "Developer Preview" from the title, very late Thursday Apple sent developers the same build -- now labelled the "Golden Master" of Mavericks. Barring the discovery of any serious flaws, the version seeded tonight will be the final that is distributed to the public when OS X Mavericks (10.9) is formally released -- though the company has not yet announced a date.

Mavericks will sport a large number of minor and under-the-hood changes -- along with user enhancements like FaceTime Audio Calling, menubar and Dock support for multiple monitors, file tagging, tabs in Finder and a redesigned Calendar. It also boasts productivity and efficiency changes such as App Nap (which handles routine updates and maintenance during sleep), and Compressed Memory for additional speed. Other new features include iBooks for Mac, Apple Maps for Mac, a new and faster version of Safari, enhanced notifications and a wholly new feature called iCloud Keychain that syncs encrypted versions of users' various logins and other sensitive information across devices without allowing access to anyone other than the user.

The latter feature had been pulled from late betas and the final release of iOS 7 due to ongoing issues, prompting the company to put a "coming this fall" label on the iOS 7 web page. However, the tag has now been changed to "Coming Soon" and it appears that it will be included in the Mavericks release, suggesting the issues with it have been resolved. In addition to acting as a repository for passwords and other important information, the keychain can also create "strong" passwords and keep them available, while the user has to only remember the master password to unlock the keychain.

Alongside the GM of Mavericks, Apple also delivered a Golden Master of Xcode 5.0.1 which is expected to debut alongside the Mac OS update. Industry watchers widely expect the new version to be released sometime this month, possibly alongside updated Haswell-sporting MacBook Pros and even the long-awaited Mac Pro. Pricing on Mavericks has not been announced, but Apple has sold the last two download-only OS X upgrades for $20 exclusively through the Mac App Store.

by MacNN Staff