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Free March Madness Streams on your iOS Devices

Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA announced today the newly enhanced NCAA March Madness on Demand live products to be launched for the upcoming 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. NCAA March Madness on Demand, produced by Turner Sports Interactive, will be available across multiple digital platforms, including online as an iPhone and iPod Touch app, and for the first time, as an iPad app. Among the new features, MMOD will offer improved live viewing with richer quality and larger format streams, a personalizable channel lineup feature, and live stats and social companion views.

NCAA March Madness on Demand will provide live streaming video of every game of the new 68-team tournament as they are broadcast by CBS Sports and Turner Sports, starting with the First FourTM from Dayton, OH on March 15, and continuing through the Men's Final Four® semifinals and national championship game from Houston, TX on April 2 and April 4.

The 2011 NCAA March Madness on Demand will be free to users across all platforms, including the full versions of the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch apps over Wi-fi and 3G, continuing its run as the largest annual digital sports event. The NCAA March Madness on Demand mobile applications will be available for free starting March 10 from the App Store on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch located at www.itunes.com/appstore/.

AT&T intros New Tablet Data Plans

AT&T on Thursday introduced two new data plans specifically aimed at tablet users. Well, iPad users since there aren’t many competitors right now.

According to AT&T, the two plans come in the form of postpaid and prepaid. The postpaid plan costs $14.99 for 250MB or $25 for 2GB. Customers on the 2 GB plan who exceed their monthly data allotment will be charged $10 per 1GB of overage. Charges for these customers will appear on their monthly wireless statements. Customers that opt for the prepaid plan will also pay $14.99 for 250 MB or $25 for 2GB.

AT&T said the new options will be available across AT&T retail locations, as well as att.com, Best Buy, Fry’s, select Nexcom locations, and Walmart stores nationwide.

Apple's iPad 2 Keynote Video

Watch the streaming video from today's special event.

Apple introduces iMovie, GarageBand for iPad

Apple on Wednesday introduced the iPad 2 at an event in San Francisco, but there were a couple of surprise app announcements for the platform too.

iMovie and GarageBand will soon make their debut for the iPad. The two apps should do very well on the iPad considering the extra screen real-estate that the device has over the iPhone.

According to Apple, GarageBand features a collection of touch instruments and an 8-track recording studio, allowing you to perform with onscreen keyboards, guitars, drums and basses using multi-touch gestures.

Jobs Takes the Stage to pitch Apple’s New iPad

Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, interrupted his medical leave to introduce the company’s much-anticipated new iPad, a thinner, faster and lighter version of its popular tablet computer that will sell at the same price as the original.

Mr. Jobs, whose appearance on stage in an auditorium here was greeted by a standing ovation, alluded to his leave but did not say whether he was planning to return to the company.

“We’ve been working on this product for a while and I didn’t want to miss today,” he said.

Apple overhauled the iPad in hopes of staying ahead of rivals who have introduced competing tablet computers. The iPad 2 includes front and rear facing cameras that allow video conversations, and it comes in black and white versions. It will be available on March 11 in the United States at prices ranging from $499 to $829. It will be available in more than two dozen other countries on March 26, Mr. Jobs said.

Apple slashes Original iPad Price to $399

Steve Jobs told us earlier that the new iPad pricing will stay exactly the same as the original iPad -- meaning a base price of $499 for the 16GB WiFi version. Well, even though you can't get an iPad 2 until March 11th (nor can you even pre-order it yet), Apple is already putting the original models on sale. Right now you can grab up that base model, 16GB WiFi only iPad for $399, with prices ranging up to $729 for the 64GB 3G model. Moreover, you can also snatch a refurbished one for a starting price of $349. If you're in the market for yesterday's model, now is certainly the time to grab one.

Apple Plots move to Expand iPhone’s Market Share

Apple continues to plot new moves in its campaign to conquer the world.

In a research note this morning, Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi reports on a meeting he had last week with Apple COO Tim Cook, CFO Peter Oppenheimer and VP of Internet Services Eddy Cue. His high level takeaway is that the executives “projected a very confident tone,” and that Apple is focused on “the right things,” in particular expanding the market for the iPhone and capitalizing on “explosive” tablet demand.

Here are some key points from Sacconaghi’s report.

Apple fights for "App Store" Name

Apple is defending its attempt to trademark the phrase "App Store," saying in a new filing that Microsoft has failed to prove that the term should be left open for use by competing mobile application marketplaces. It's the latest broadside in a battle over rights to one of the most commonly used phrases of the booming mobile world. Apple's filing, submitted Monday night, asks the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reject Microsoft's attempt to dismiss Apple's "App Store" trademark application.

Apple's filing quotes testimony from a linguistics expert, Robert Leonard, whose examination of the case concluded that “the predominant usage of the term APP STORE is as a proper noun to refer to Apple’s online application marketplace.”

Microsoft argued in a previous filing that any "secondary meaning or fame Apple has in 'App Store' is de facto secondary meaning that cannot convert the generic term 'app store' into a protectable trademark."

Among other pieces of evidence, the Microsoft filing noted that the media and even Apple CEO Steve Jobs have used the phrase generically. Jobs, for example, once referred in an interview to a new crop of Android "app stores."

Former Apple Employee admits He sold Confidential Info

Paul Devine, the man who last August collected a pretty lengthy list of charges against his name from the FBI and IRS -- which collectively amounted to an accusation of "screwing Apple" -- has now admitted his guilt.

Specifically, Devine has fessed up to wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, in which he engaged while exchanging confidential information about upcoming Apple products for cold hard cash from interested parts suppliers. He's now having to forfeit $2.28 million in money and property that resulted from his nefarious exploits, with sentencing scheduled for June 6th.

Apple's Lala Purchase appears to have been "Insurance"

Apple isn't planning to replace its traditional music download model with a streaming model anytime soon—or at least that's what the company has reportedly been telling the music labels. Several unnamed music industry executives told the Financial Times that Apple has "clarified" its plans to use the cloud for music purposes, emphasizing that the company doesn't want to undermine its current dominant position in the music download market.

According to the execs speaking to FT, Apple likened its long-rumored plans to bring iTunes to the cloud as "insurance." Instead of cannibalizing its own wildly successful download service by introducing a streaming equivalent, Apple said it plans to make it possible for existing iTunes users to store their music remotely. This would enable them to access their libraries from various devices without having to sync via USB.

Apple releases FaceTime app for Macs, for 99 Cents

After an extensive public beta test Apple has released its FaceTime application for Macs, available for 99 cents from the Mac App Store. The new app is also included on Apple’s newly shipping MacBook Pro models, also announced Thursday.

Features include support for Mac OS X Address Book; support for HD video up to 720p on supported Macs; widescreen aspect ratio; the ability to ring incoming calls even if FaceTime isn’t running; and more.

Apple releases Developer Preview of Mac OS X Lion

Apple today released a developer preview of Mac OS X Lion, which takes some of the best ideas from iPad and brings them back to the Mac for the eighth major release of the world’s most advanced operating system. Lion features Mission Control, an innovative new view of everything running on your Mac; Launchpad, a new home for all your Mac apps; full screen apps that use the entire Mac display; and new Multi-Touch gestures. Lion also includes the Mac App Store, the best place to discover, install and automatically update Mac apps. The Lion preview is available to Mac Developer Program members through the Mac App Store today, and the final version of Lion will ship to customers this summer.

“The iPad has inspired a new generation of innovative features in Lion,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Developers are going to love Mission Control and Launchpad, and can now start adding great new Lion features like full screen, gestures, Versions and Auto Save to their own apps.”

Thunderbolt smokes USB, FireWire with 10Gbps Throughput

Intel has finally launched its new peripheral interconnect technology—formerly codenamed "Light Peak"—now branded "Thunderbolt." Developed in cooperation with Apple, which introduced Thunderbolt on its newest MacBook Pro laptops on Thursday morning, the new interconnect is designed to bring workstation-class I/O throughput to mobile workflows as well as serve as a next-generation connector for peripherals, including displays, storage, and video and audio devices.

Intel first announced Light Peak at the Intel Developers Forum in 2009. The proposed standard was intended to replace interconnects like FireWire, USB, and others with fiber optic connections capable of up to 100Gbps bi-directional throughput. Moving to fiber instead of copper allowed increased speeds as well as dramatically longer cable runs. The original demos used a 30m fiber optic cable to transmit dual 1080p video streams, LAN traffic, and files to an SSD RAID setup.

Though Apple was instrumental in initiating the Light Peak project and was involved in Thunderbolt's development, the company maintained that Thunderbolt is Intel's technology, so it shouldn't be relegated to just Apple's systems. Besides Apple, Intel has convinced a number of companies to pledge support for the Thunderbolt standard.

Apple shifts MobileMe to Digital Only Sales

Apple transitioned sales of its MobileMe service to digital-only on Thursday and notified resellers that once their current inventory of boxed copies is depleted they won’t be able order any more, according to Mac Rumors.

The company also removed MobileMe from its online store, raising questions about Apple’s plans for the service going forward. So far, speculation has been focusing on the possibility that Apple may be planning to offer MobileMe as a free service. Rumors claim Apple is working on a major redesign of its MobileMe service with plans to add a new “digital locker” feature for storing photos, music and video online.

Apple’s Web site showing MobileMe features is still active, and shows the US$99 annual price tag along with a 60-day free trial offer.

Apple announces New MacBook Pros

Apple today announced a refresh of its MacBook Pro line of laptops. The highlights? New, faster processors, more powerful graphics processors, an HD camera and a new port for a technology that Apple is calling Thunderbolt.

Cosmetically, the new Pros look very similar to their predecessors. There are still 13-, 15- and 17-inch models (starting at $1,199, $1,799 and $2,499, respectively), and they still have the same aluminum unibody construction and full-width glass across the display. To look at them, you wouldn’t notice a whole lot that’s different.

It’s under the hood where things change.

Apple Shareholders reject Succession Plan Proposal

Apple’s board of directors won’t be required to publicly disclose its plans for CEO succession, after shareholders voted down a proposal at Wednesday’s annual company meeting. The proposal had been the focus of much of the attention prior to the shareholders meeting, which seemed to be as much about the health of absent CEO Steve Jobs as it was the health of Apple.

Still, during a question-and-answer session with investors, Apple executives tackled other issues surrounding the company, including dropping some hints about possible updates to Apple’s iOS devices for the just-announced press event slated for next week.

Survey finds Customers Confident in Apple without Steve Jobs

If Steve Jobs were to step down as the CEO of Apple, what effect -- if any -- would it have on the likelihood of buying Apple products in the future?

Research firms RBC Capital Markets and ChangeWave asked Apple customers this question in a survey conducted between January 31 and February 9. Of the 3,091 respondents, 84% said Steve Jobs departing Apple would have no impact on their buying decisions and only 7% said they would be less likely to purchase Apple products.

The new results are a notable change from a similar survey completed in June, 2008. In the 2008 survey, 18% of respondents expressed a lower interest in buying from Apple if Steve Jobs left the company.

Southwest Airlines partners with Apple's iTunes, offers Flight Entertainment

Southwest Airlines may not have video screens built into the backs of its airplane seats, but that doesn't mean the carrier can't offer its passengers inflight entertainment -- and turn it into a new revenue stream. The airline has launched InAirtainment as a website that sells music, TV shows and movies through Apple's iTunes Store.

Southwest said it receives a small percentage of the sales generated by each download. Apple's iTunes Affiliates program typically pays a 5% commission for revenue generated by links to the iTunes store from websites and emails.

Southwest's site launched by offering a playlist of 20 free songs from artists "about to fly" in their music careers.

Quark launches QuarkXPress 9

Quark has announced QuarkXPress 9, a new version of its graphic design and page layout application. Nearly three years in the making, and buttressed by a series of updates and publishing initiatives, the new version of the 24-year-old software package aspires to compete not only in the realm of print and online publishing, but also in digital publishing of rich, interactive content to a variety of mobile devices in multiple formats—called dynamic publishing. As part of Quark's digital publishing 2.0 strategy, QuarkXPress 9 aims to give creative professionals more control over the execution of their designs via a single tool without the need for coding or programming.

FTC says it will look into Apple's Marketing of In-App Purchases to Kids

The Federal Trade Commission will investigate Apple's marketing of iOS games with in-app purchases to children. The decision comes after a wave of complaints about kids running up huge bills on their parents' iTunes accounts. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz acknowledged in a letter to US Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) that the FTC shares his concern over the phenomenon, saying the Commission would dig deeper into it.

Stories about children inadvertently spending thousands of dollars inside of their parents' iPhone apps have circulated around the Web over the last year or so, but have picked up recently thanks to a new wave of mainstream coverage. Markey had written an open letter to the FTC last week over Apple's (and Google's) use of in-app purchases to sell gaming add-ons to kids, saying that he was "disturbed" by the reports.

"Companies shouldn’t be able to use Smurfs and snowflakes and zoos as online ATMs pulling money from the pockets of unsuspecting parents," Markey said in a statement accompanying his letter.

The FTC apparently agreed with Markey's concern and has opened an official investigation into the matter.

Apple announces iPad 2 Event for March 2

Apple on Wednesday sent an invitation to media inviting them to a special event on March 2 in San Francisco, Calif. According to the invitation the event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at 10:00 am. This is the same venue Apple has used to introduce a number of products in recent years.

Speculation of an Apple event first broke yesterday in a day that was filled with rumors that the iPad 2 would be delayed until June. While specs of the iPad 2 are a tightly guarded secret, it is widely thought the device will feature a front-facing camera with FaceTime video support and be thinner than its predecessor.

Apple, Others Team Up for $2B Hospital

Apple, along with Intel, HP, Oracle, eBay and Intuit have teamed up to help fund a new hospital worth about US$2 billion at the Stanford Medical Center in California. The corporate partners are expected to donate some $150 million towards the project and will participate in guiding the technology used in the facility.

The group expects to help raise another $400 million in private donations to help with construction, too.

“All of us are very fortunate to have Stanford’s world-class medical center right here in Silicon Valley,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “We are very excited about the development of their new hospital and really want to support their plans.”

Chinese Workers appeal to Apple over Health Worries

Chinese workers at a factory making touch screens on contract for Apple have urged the U.S. company to help address their grievances over a chemical poisoning they said could still harm their health. Wintek, the Taiwanese company that owns the factory in east China's Suzhou industrial park, has said it used hexyl hydride, also called n-hexane, from May 2008 to August 2009, but stopped after discovering it was making workers ill.

Wintek said it had used the chemical, which evaporates faster than alcohol, to speed up production of touch screens for Apple products. It has since gone back to using alcohol. The poisonings were mentioned in a recent report from Apple, which sources many of its strong-selling iPhones, iPads and other devices to contract manufacturers in China. That report said 137 workers had been hospitalised because of poisoning but had all recovered, a conclusion also offered by Wintek.

But some of the workers at Wintek's sprawling plant in Suzhou said the Taiwanese factory-owner had not given enough compensation to affected workers, had pressured those who took compensation to give up their jobs, and had not offered assurances that workers who may suffer fresh bouts of illness from the poisoning will have medical bills take care of.

"I hope Apple can respect our labor and our dignity. I hope they can stand up and apologize to us," said Jia Jingchuan, a 27-year-old production technician for Wintek who said he fell ill from the hexyl hydride, which workers said was used to clean iPhone touch screens.

Apple iPad 2 Event set for March 2

To those who care intensely about this kind of stuff–which would be pretty much everyone in the tech ecosystem–Apple will hold its much-anticipated event on March 2, where the tech giant seems poised to unveil a new version of its hugely successful iPad, according to multiple sources.

Analysts expect the iPad 2 to be thinner than its predecessor and feature an improved display, as well as front-facing camera and Facetime video chat support. And some reports suggest it will be powered by one of Qualcomm’s multimode chips and will run on both GSM and CDMA-based networks around the world.

This is a very big deal, although Apple will be facing increased competition with the launch of a passel of tablets coming from numerous manufacturers, most of which are using the Honeycomb version of Google’s Android mobile operating system.

According to several sources close to the situation, the Wednesday date in a little more than a week is firm and will take place in San Francisco, the scene of many such Apple events.

Rumors of iPad 2, iPhone 5 Delays are not True

The Internet is buzzing this morning with separate rumors that Apple’s iPad 2 and iPhone 5 will be delayed. The fact is, neither rumor is true.

From what I’ve heard this morning both products are on schedule and will ship when they are supposed to. Only Apple knows exactly when that will be, but the products are not delayed.
Bloomberg started the rumors this morning saying that “production bottlenecks at manufacturer Hon Hai Precision” had pushed the ship date of the iPad 2 from April to June. The report cited Vincent Chen and Alison Chen, analysts at Yuanta, as the source for the information.

“Our checks suggest new issues are being encountered with the new production and it is taking time to resolve them,” said Chen in the report.

Not true.

All The President's Men (and a Couple of Women)

The attendee list:

John Doerr, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Carol Bartz, CEO, Yahoo!
John Chambers, CEO, Cisco Systems
Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
Larry Ellison, CEO, Oracle
Reed Hastings, CEO, NetFlix
John Hennessy, president, Stanford University
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple
Art Levinson, chairman, Genentech
Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google
Steve Westly, managing partner, Westly Group
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
Barack Obama, President, United States of America

Lure of iPad Subscriptions may Outweigh Pain for Publishers

There may not be a ton of enthusiasm in the publishing world for Apple’s new policy for subscription services—particularly when it comes to giving Cupertino a 30 percent slice of the pie. But the iPad juggernaut may be too big for many publishers to risk pushing back.

The publishers of Popular Science and Elle magazines said they’d make their publications available for for subscription through Apple, but acknowledged Wednesday there will some tradeoffs. The iPad-using audience is too big and too lucrative—and the demand for subscription options is too great—to ignore.

“Of course we would always like to see a lower commission, but we are able to work with this commission rate at this time,” said Philippe Guelton, chief operating officer of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., publisher of Elle. “The cost of developing our own e-commerce platform is not economically viable. Apple is offering a great turnkey tool that allows us to test with little to no financial risk.”

Elsewhere in the publishing industry, reactions ranged from cautious optimism to pushback to silence on Apple’s new policy, which lets customers can sign up for subscriptions via in-app purchases.

iPad kicks Apple into Top Slot in Mobile PC Market

Apple suddenly stands at the top of the mobile PC market, research firm DisplaySearch said today.

According to DisplaySearch, Apple shipped 10.2 million mobile PCs worldwide in the fourth quarter, capturing 17.2 percent market share. It was followed by Hewlett-Packard's 9.3 million units and 15.6 percent share. Acer, Dell, and Toshiba rounded out the top five with mobile PC shipments of 8.4 million, 5.9 million, and 5.1 million, respectively.

Apple's growth has been rather astounding. In the third quarter, Apple was in third place in the mobile PC business behind HP and Acer. Apple shipped 6.3 million units in that quarter, compared with HP's 9.5 million units and Acer's 9.1 million units. Apple's market share was 12.4 percent in the third quarter.

It is worth noting that DisplaySearch includes tablets in its measure of mobile PC shipments, which means the iPad propelled Apple to the top. Debate continues over whether Apple's iPad should actually be included in market-share tallies of traditional PCs.

Apple launches Subscriptions on the App Store

Apple today announced a new subscription service available to all publishers of content-based apps on the App Store℠, including magazines, newspapers, video, music, etc. This is the same innovative digital subscription billing service that Apple recently launched with News Corp.’s “The Daily” app.

Subscriptions purchased from within the App Store will be sold using the same App Store billing system that has been used to buy billions of apps and In-App Purchases. Publishers set the price and length of subscription (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly). Then with one-click, customers pick the length of subscription and are automatically charged based on their chosen length of commitment (weekly, monthly, etc.). Customers can review and manage all of their subscriptions from their personal account page, including canceling the automatic renewal of a subscription. Apple processes all payments, keeping the same 30 percent share that it does today for other In-App Purchases.

“Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”

Apple reports on Foxconn, Supplier Workplace Standards

Apple today released a new report detailing the progress of its suppliers in maintaining high standards in social responsibility.

In its latest report, Apple said it conducted audits of 127 facilities throughout the world. Ninety-seven of those were first-time audits and 30 were repeat audits.
Although many consumer electronic companies around the world use these same suppliers for their products, more than 40 percent of the suppliers audited said Apple was the first company to ever have audited their facilities.

Perhaps one of the most publicized among Apple's suppliers is Foxconn due to the worker suicides that facility experienced last year. To address the situation, Apple COO Time Cook was joined by suicide prevention specialists for a visit to the factory.

The report, available from the company's Web site, details what its auditors found from facilities around the world.