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iTunes Store Adds Pop-Up Windows for Quick Access to Content Details and Previews

Italian site iSpazio notes [Google translation] that Apple has done a tiny though useful tweak to a iTunes Store when accessed from a computer, now permitting users to entrance information on calm such as songs, albums, videos, apps, and books around a pop-up window rather than wanting to click by to a apart page within a store. The new option, that appears in many locations within a store as a tiny “info” symbol in a reduce right dilemma of a content’s idol when a user hovers over a item, is accessible on both categorical iTunes Store and App Store underline pages as good as in hunt results.

The pop-up windows offer opposite calm depending on that area of a store a user is in, with music, books, and podcasts charity a outline of a comparison item. In a App Store, a pop-up windows enclose mixed tabs with any item’s description, reviews, and iPhone and iPad screenshots. Users can also simply squeeze a equipment from their particular pop-up windows.

Finally, cinema and TV shows arrangement a tiny “play” idol instead of a “info” icon, and immediately cocktail adult a window with a video preview and sum on any item.

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Apple grabs another gaming executive with appointment of Xbox Live marketing chief

Apple has named former Microsoft Product Marketing chief Robin Burrowes as the head of App Store Marketing for iTunes Europe, becoming the latest games executive to join Apple’s ranks.

MCV reports that Burrowes worked at Microsoft for seven years, where he was responsible for product, business and marketing management of Xbox LIVE across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

Burrowes was one of the main figures behind the promotion of Microsoft’s latest Xbox dashboard update and previously worked for MSN and UK retail store HMV. His LinkedIn profile suggests that he joined Apple in January, to help the company promote its iTunes service and App Store across Europe.

As MCV points out, Burrowes isn’t the first high-profile British gaming figure to make the jump to Apple. The Cupertino-based company welcomed former Nintendo PR boss Robert Saunders early last year, adding former Activision, EA and Xbox PR boss Nick Grange to focus on PR for its hardware products.

It’s the second European hire that we have become aware of this week, with Apple appointing Dixons Retail CEO John Browett as its new senior vice president of Retail, reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Browett has been CEO of Dixons since 2007 and will join Apple in April, becoming immediately responsible for the company’s retal strategy and “continued expansion of Apple retail stores around the world.”

Apple has declined to comment on its new hire.

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Apple’s new iPad sales top 3 million in first few days

The tech company’s third generation tablet, which went on sale on Friday (March 16), has sold over 3 million units in its first few days of release.

“The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold – the strongest iPad launch yet,” said Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing Philip Schiller in a statement on Monday.

“Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can’t wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday.”

The new iPad is currently available for sale in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, UK and the US Virgin Islands.

From March 23, the product will become available online and in stores in 24 additional countries, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

The device, which has received generally positive reviews thus far, is predicted to sell over 65 million units this year.

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Tim Cook convinces AT&T to unlock customer’s iPhone

We get many emails on Apple’s customer support experience. While not always positive, some are excellent examples of Apple going beyond the average company. Today, a reader and trusted tipster reached out to us and explained that a personal email to Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, who is known to keep up Steve Job’s long-time tradition of answering customer emails, resulted in AT&T making a “special one-time exception” to fulfill a request it previously refused.

The reader was reassigned to Canada for work and decided he wanted to use his iPhone 3GS (which was on AT&T at the time, but has since finished its contract) on a Canadian carrier’s pay-as-you-go plan. AT&T refused to unlock the device, insisting only Apple could. Apple suggested the reader call AT&T again, because only the carrier could authorize the unlock. When he did, the only advice the reader received was to “Just jailbreak your phone.” We heard reports of many similar situations and both the carriers and Apple often give inconsistent information related to unlocking iPhones, which result in confusion among consumers. Frustrated, the reader sent an email to Cook asking him for help (full email below).

While the reader never received a personal response from Cook, he did receive a response from AT&T Partnership Operations that informed him it received his email from Cook requesting to unlock the iPhone. 9to5Mac confirmed the emails are authentic. After AT&T confirmed the IMEI’s for the device, an AT&T representative told the reader that the carrier made an exception to unlock the iPhone. The reader was given instructions to tether his iPhone to iTunes to complete the unlock. According to the reader, he also received a call from Cook’s assistant to make sure AT&T followed through with the request:

Mid day my wife sent me an e-mail at work saying “Um, Tim Cook’s special assistant just called and she wants to know if AT&T has unlocked your phone yet??? Why does Tim Cook care about your phone?”

The full letter sent by the reader to Cook is below:

Hi Tim,

My family is immersed in the Apple brand. All 4 of my children (aged 2 to 8) have been using iPod touches, iPhones, iPads, and iMacs since they were a year old. Our television is a 27″ iMac using eyeTV. My kids talk to their grandmother every second day via video Skype on the iMac. All of our computers are Macs (we have 4 in the house). Apple has touched every aspect of our lives and made it richer!

My company recently moved me to Canada for a work assignment for a few years. My wife’s iPhone 3GS had finished its contract with AT&T so I bought her an iPhone 4 the day we moved to Canada. I took her iPhone 3GS and I contacted AT&T to see if I could have it unlocked so that I could use the phone with a Canadian carrier with a “pay as you go” plan for casual use (I’m forced to use a Blackberry for work, but I hate it so I’d like to use the iPhone for phone calls). This is where my problems began.

Basically AT&T told me that they couldn’t unlock it, only Apple could. I called Apple (but was routed through Apple Canada) and they told me “ask to talk to a supervisor at AT&T because the customer service rep won’t know the process, but AT&T definitely can unlock it”. So I called them back and the supervisor was adamant that they couldn’t help me. “Just jailbreak your phone” was their advice.

I didn’t want to jailbreak my phone, I like Apple’s curated experience and I don’t want to stray from that. However after several more calls to both AT&T and Apple, I made no progress. So I’m turning to you for a final plea.

I love Apple and will continue to buy your products regardless of what happens with this situation. However, I did pay $600 some odd dollars for this device (even though I bought it on contact and they say its subsidized, I’m basically paying for the device in my monthly payments) and I’d like to be able to use it.

My thanks to the Apple team, keep innovating!

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Apple responds to tax criticism by highlighting job creation

Apple responded today to criticism that the company goes to great lengths to cut its global tax bill by billions of dollars every year, trumpeting the “incredible number of jobs” it has created.

The statement was in response to an in-depth report published yesterday by The New York Times that depicted Apple as a pioneer in developing ways to sidestep taxes and that claimed companies seeking to do the same have used its methods as templates. “Apple serves as a window on how technology giants have taken advantage of tax codes written for an industrial age and ill-suited to today’s digital economy,” the Times reported.

In response, Apple said it was one of the biggest taxpayers in the U.S.

“Apple also pays an enormous amount of taxes which help our local, state and federal governments,” the company said in a statement printed by The New York Times. “In the first half of fiscal year 2012 our U.S. operations have generated almost $5 billion in federal and state income taxes, including income taxes withheld on employee stock gains, making us among the top payers of U.S. income tax.”

Apple also said its focus on innovation has created more than 500,000 jobs in the U.S. – “from the people who create components for our products to the people who deliver them to our customers.”

Apple’s full statement:

Over the past several years, we have created an incredible number of jobs in the United States. The vast majority of our global work force remains in the U.S., with more than 47,000 full-time employees in all 50 states. By focusing on innovation, we’ve created entirely new products and industries, and more than 500,000 jobs for U.S. workers – from the people who create components for our products to the people who deliver them to our customers. Apple’s international growth is creating jobs domestically since we oversee most of our operations from California. We manufacture parts in the U.S. and export them around the world, and U.S. developers create apps that we sell in over 100 countries. As a result, Apple has been among the top creators of American jobs in the past few years.

Apple also pays an enormous amount of taxes which help our local, state and federal governments. In the first half of fiscal year 2012 our U.S. operations have generated almost $5 billion in federal and state income taxes, including income taxes withheld on employee stock gains, making us among the top payers of U.S. income tax.

We have contributed to many charitable causes but have never sought publicity for doing so. Our focus has been on doing the right thing, not getting credit for it. In 2011, we dramatically expanded the number of deserving organizations we support by initiating a matching gift program for our employees.

Apple has conducted all of its business with the highest of ethical standards, complying with applicable laws and accounting rules. We are incredibly proud of all of Apple’s contributions.

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Want to work for Apple? Try Israel

Apple is on the hunt for talent for its Israel research and development facility.

The company is about to embark upon a major hiring campaign for its R&D facility in Haifa, according to Ynet News.

The report said Apple has been actively recruiting for new employees since March, but plans to ramp up the hiring over the next few weeks. In fact, the report noted that Apple was looking for a headhunter as early as February who would help hiring dozens of candidates simultaneously. Job listings are expected to pop up on Apple’s Web site shortly, according to Ynet.

The new hires would join employees at flash memory maker Anobit, which the company bought in December in a deal reportedly worth between $400 million and $500 million.

Apple’s R&D center is part of Haifa’s scientific industries center, a district that also includes operations from Google, Intel, and Microsoft.

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Apple’s Tim Cook Visits Foxconn IPhone Plant in China

Apple Inc. (AAPL) Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook visited Foxconn Technology Group’s newly built manufacturing facility for the iPhone in Zhengzhou, China, as the U.S. company seeks to improve working conditions.

The iPhone production line is at the new Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, which employs 120,000 people, Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman, said in an e-mail today. She didn’t provide other details on Cook’s visit or say how much longer he’ll be in China after having held high-level talks in Beijing earlier this week.

Apple, which contracts Foxconn to make its iPhones and iPads, became the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association in January, opening up suppliers’ factories to inspections by the Washington-based group after complaints by human rights organizations. The group found “tons of issues,” while also seeing “dramatic” improvements, FLA Chief Executive Officer Auret van Heerden said last month.

“Apple has had a string of negative publicity this year with Foxconn factory issues,” said Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting Ltd., a Beijing-based market research firm. “Apple is trying to demonstrate how seriously they take these issues, and how strong their commitment is to China.”

Cupertino, California-based Apple has been criticized by organizations including China Labor Watch for conditions at its suppliers, and the company has found infractions including excessive overtime and environmental violations. It didn’t specify which companies breached its supplier code of conduct.

Foxconn, founded by Chairman Terry Gou in 1974, raised the base pay for junior workers by as much as 25 percent last month and said its wages exceed government mandates.
‘Great’ Meetings

Cook’s trip to Zhengzhou followed a meeting with Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong on March 26 and with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang on March 27. Apple’s Wu said earlier those meetings were “great,” without providing details on their content.

Vice Premier Li told Cook China will strengthen intellectual property rights, according to the official Xinhua news agency. He also told Cook multinational companies should pay more attention to caring for workers and share development opportunities with the Chinese side, Xinhua reported.

Cook told Li Apple “will strengthen comprehensive cooperation with the Chinese side and conduct business in a law- abiding and honest manner,” Xinhua reported.

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Tim Cook Might Abandon Steve Jobs’ ‘Thermonuclear War’ On Android

Top Apple executives have met with top Samsung executives about settling their patent fights, Paul Barrett at Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Barrett writes, “Apple CEO Tim Cook does not seem to share his predecessor’s passion about laying all foes to waste. Cook appears to view litigation as a necessary evil, not a vehicle of cosmic revenge.”

In Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs, he revealed that Jobs said, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” He also said, “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong.”

After the book came out we spoke briefly with Isaacson about those comments. He said Jobs’ preferred method of attack on Android was the legal system. (We’ve always thought this odd, and somewhat pathetic. There are better ways to win a war against Android, no?)

Apple has been attacking Android partners like HTC and Samsung in the courts, trying to say they make copy cat products that infringe on Apple’s patents.

Barrett has a long look at the legal back and forth, and seems to conclude that Apple’s case is weak.

Apple is arguing that Samsung ripped off its iPhone design because both companies have phones that are, “a rectangular product with four evenly rounded corners, a flat clear face covering the front of the product, [and] a large display screen under the clear surface.”

Every smartphone looks like that now. And a lot of phones looked like that before the iPhone. It’s hard for Apple to actually assert any legal right to that design.

As a result, it’s not winning many of its patent cases. And that’s partially why Apple’s executives are considering abandoning Apple’s “thermonuclear war” on Android.

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Apple security blunder exposes Lion login passwords in clear text

An Apple programmer, apparently by accident, left a debug flag in the most recent version of the Mac OS X operating system. In specific configurations, applying OS X Lion update 10.7.3 turns on a system-wide debug log file that contains the login passwords of every user who has logged in since the update was applied. The passwords are stored in clear text.

Anyone who used FileVault encryption on their Mac prior to Lion, upgraded to Lion, but kept the folders encrypted using the legacy version of FileVault is vulnerable. FileVault 2 (whole disk encryption) is unaffected.

The flaw was first reported by a security researcher David Emery, who posted his findings to the Cryptome mailing list. The bug has not been corrected by any subsequent updates. Emery explains the severity of the issue:

This is worse than it seems, since the log in question can also be read by booting the machine into firewire disk mode and reading it by opening the drive as a disk or by booting the new-with-LION recovery partition and using the available superuser shell to mount the main file system partition and read the file. This would allow someone to break into encrypted partitions on machines they did not have any idea of any login passwords for.

Since the log file is accessible outside of the encrypted area, anyone with administrator or root access can grab the user credentials for an encrypted home directory tree. They can also access the files by connecting the drive via FireWire. Having done that, they can then not only read the encrypted files that are meant to be hidden from prying eyes, but they can also access anything else meant to be protected by that user name and password.

This leak of credentials could be catastrophic for businesses that have relied on the FileVault feature in Macs for years. FileVault is intended to protect sensitive information stored by providing an encrypted user home directory contained in an encrypted file system mounted on top of the user’s home directory. If an employee has their Mac stolen, however, anything they encrypted, as well as anything that requires those credentials, can be accessed without hindrance if the vulnerable configuration is in place.

This also affects Time Machine backups to external drives. If your hard drive is stolen, it doesn’t matter that the backups require a key to read. The backed-up log file contains the required password stored in clear text. This means your compromised password has been backed up for the long term.

In addition to theft or just plain physical access, it would be possible for cyber criminals to write very specific malware that knows where to look on a targeted system. While this would be difficult to implement, the lure for cyber criminals is obvious; anything encrypted, especially by an enterprise employee, has the potential to be very valuable.

Mac OS X version 10.7.3 was released on February 1, 2012. This means for users who updated immediately, weeks of accessing encrypted folders is now available for anyone to see. The good news is that it isn’t the full three months since the log file is only kept by default for several weeks. If you updated last week, then it’s only one week of password accesses that has been stored. Of course, sometimes that’s all it takes.

Some users have already noticed this feature in the wild but hadn’t yet stumbled across the reason. Users on the Novell Forums noticed and have been discussing the issue since last week.

On the Apple Support Communities, at least one user noticed the flaw exactly three months ago, and asked for an explanation. Here’s what he wrote:

I’ve tried it on another Mac as well, same result: The login of a normal network user writes this log line as his homedir gets mounted.
This poses a security risk. We have some users who are local admins, they could ask another user to login on their Mac and look for the password afterwards. Extration in single user mode would be possible as well.

Is this a “speciality” of our environment or is this a known bug? Can I turn this behavior off?
We are running Lion clients with a SL Server and using OpenDirectory.

Nobody got back to him.

This flaw further shows Apple has a quality assurance problem. When it comes to encryption, it’s important to choose a secure algorithm, but implementation is even more important. A simple bug in how the keys are secured, managed, or accessed can lead to a massive unraveling, as we’ve seen here.

Apple needs to fix this issue as soon as possible. Even when a patch is made available, it will be impossible for the company to ensure the log file has been deleted, especially given all the places it may have been backed up. This means your password could still be out there even after you update, so after you do, make sure to change it.

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Apple reportedly to release US$799 MacBook Air in 3Q12

Apple is reportedly considering responding to the upcoming second-generation ultrabooks by launching a US$799 MacBook Air in the third quarter of 2012, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

Although Acer has recently reduced its ultrabook shipment target, Intel continues to aggressively push ultrabooks and is aiming to have the devices priced at US$699 in the second half of the year. However, if Intel is unable to bring down ASPs to its goal, the price gap between ultrabooks and the US$799 MacBook Air may further postpone the time ultrabooks become standardized, the sources noted.

Intel has already set aside a fund of US$300 million for ultrabooks and another US$100 million for developing its own application store. In addition, with its heavy investment in product promotions, the company believes the investments will help strengthen notebook brand vendors’ morale and help increase ultrabook’s share in the notebook market.

However, the sources believe that ultrabooks are unlikely to achieve strong sales performance until the launch of Windows 8.

Currently, Apple’s 11-inch 64GB MacBook Air is priced at US$999 with a 128GB version priced at US$1,199. The 13-inch 128GB version is priced at US$1,299 and 256GB version is US$1,599. If Apple decides to launch a US$799 MacBook Air, the sources believe the strategy will damage ultrabooks allowing Apple to continue to press its advantage.

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