Billboard introducing streaming plays, digital sales into album chart
The way the popularity of content is measured may be seeing some changes in the coming weeks, both for audio and video. Billboard will start to include streaming and digital track sales as part of the Billboard 200 albums chart, while Nielsen is said to be preparing to track content watched through streaming services starting from next month.
Singer hints at revival of iTunes LP-style concepts
Speaking at today's Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland, U2 frontman Bono dropped some more hints about the band's involvement in a new digital music format for Apple. The company "let us [U2] into the labs," he commented at one point, suggesting direct involvement in unreleased products. Apple is normally extremely strict about who it lets into its development labs, to the extent that even people with high clearance might be allowed in one lab but not another.
Royalty collection company claims Spotify payments 13-percent higher than iTunes
Streaming services are heavily impacting music sales, with one report claiming Spotify's music royalty payments have eclipsed royalties earned through iTunes sales in Europe. Kobalt, a music royalty company representing over 6,000 songwriters and artists, claims that Spotify-derived revenues on the continent were higher that those earned from European iTunes sales by 13 percent in the first quarter of this year.
Company may have acquired local startup
Apple has established an engineering office in Seattle, Washington, according to the Seattle Times. The core of the office is said to be a group of former F5 engineers, working on network infrastructure. The engineers also have connections to Union Bay Networks, a cloud computing startup based near Google's Seattle campus. Union Bay's information email address is no longer operating, and at least five people from that firm have changed their LinkedIn profiles to say they switched to Apple in September. In all, seven of nine people at Union Bay have made the jump.
Company admits to sagging iTunes music sales
Apple's 2014 10-K filing, just published by the Securities and Exchange Commission, shows major increases in acquisitions and research spending. Even excluding its $3 billion Beats takeover, the company still managed to increase acquisition spending from $496 million to $957 million during the last fiscal year. Annual research and development spending has more than doubled during the past three years, rising from $2.4 billion to $6 billion.
Beats Music expected to be rebuilt, integrated into iTunes
Sales at Apple's iTunes Store have fallen between 13 and 14 percent in 2014 so far, sources tell the Wall Street Journal. That represents a steepening decline, coming in the wake of a 2.1 percent dip in 2013. The trend is believed to be connected to the music industry's overall swing away from downloads, and towards streaming subscription services like Pandora and Spotify.
Company's performance generally healthy
In the wake of its official announcement, Apple has posted a detailed breakdown (PDF) of its Q4 financial results. On a regional basis, the company did well in most cases, for example increasing Americas revenue 17 percent year-over-year to $16.247 billion, and European revenue 19 percent to $9.535 billion. "Greater" China -- including Hong Kong and Taiwan -- advanced one percent to $5.778 billion, and Japan was up five percent to $3.507 billion. Only the rest of the Asia Pacific region saw problems, with revenue dipping three percent to $1.923 billion. Global retail sales rose 15 percent to $5.133 billion.
Company claims discount could attract more subscribers
In preparation for relaunching Beats Music next year, Apple is currently pushing record labels to allow lowering monthly subscription fees from $10 to $5, sources say. The company's marketing pitch, allegedly, is that even Apple's best iTunes customers typically spend an average of $60 per year, or $5 per month. As such, anyone switching from downloads to streaming would generate an equal amount of revenue -- and more importantly, the potential subscriber pool would increase thanks to more affordable fees.
Software already bundled into OS X Yosemite
Following its debut for the Mac alongside OS X Yosemite, Apple has released the Windows version of iTunes 12. The software brings with it a radically different look, borrowing design cues from Yosemite. One of the major interface changes is the relocation of categories like Music, Apps, Podcasts, and Movies to buttons in a new menu bar, where a second set of fluctuating options makes it easier to jump to associated items like playlists, app updates, a specific section of the iTunes Store, or iTunes Radio.
Analytics portal to be taken offline for maintenance for six hours next Sunday
According to a brief notification sent to developers, Apple is planning to take iTunes Connect offline for approximately six hours starting at 6AM Pacific on Sunday, October 26. The portal is used by developers to submit, take down, update, adjust pricing and study analytics of apps submitted to the Mac and iOS App Stores. The modest maintenance downtime is unusual in light of Apple annual and longer downtime that usually happens in December.
Deluxe version now available on Amazon, other retailers
While many users were happy to get a free album from iTunes, the recent promotion of U2's Songs of Innocence LP done through Apple -- where every iTunes user had a copy added to their past purchases list -- rubbed some listeners the wrong way. Bono, the lead singer for the group, has issued an apology for what he characterized as an overzealous move that resulted from a combination of "a drop of megalomania" and "deep fear" that the songs wouldn't be widely heard.
Less-obvious buttons, more white space, flatter icons fall in line with iOS 7 aesthetic
The flatter, more minimalist look sported by both iOS 7 and 8 as well as the forthcoming OS X 10.10 Yosemite has reached iTunes, or at least the version currently being beta-tested for imminent release. With OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.1 expected to be unveiled next week at Apple's press event, the music management and storefront application that ties into most users' iOS devices for media access has gained a whiter, flatter interface that does away with shadows and 3D effects in favor of clean lines and subtle buttons.
Apple counting only full album downloads; 81M more have 'experienced' tracks
Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue revealed on Thursday that the U2 album Apple bought and gave away to its users for free, Songs of Innocence, has now been deliberately downloaded by users more than 26 million times, with another 65 million users having listened to at least one of the songs from it either through iTunes Radio, Beats Music or on iTunes. This figure, Cue said, was a little shy of double the sum total of all U2 music bought from iTunes since 2003.
Further tweaks on design in preparation for likely October release
On Thursday, Apple released an updated version of the beta for iTunes 12, intended for developers and OS X 10.10 Yosemite Public Beta testers. The update follows on the heels of Monday's Golden Master candidate for Yosemite. The iTunes update makes very minor changes to version 12, including some refinement on vertical alignment in the top bar, a handful of revised icons and other minor tweaks. The forthcoming final release will include support for Family Sharing, and an overall new look.
First non-disaster donation portal, will be active throughout October
City of Hope, a research and treatment charity focused on cancer and diabetes among other life-threatening illnesses, will be the recipient of donations given by iTunes users through a new portal on the iTunes Store and available for iOS, Mac and Windows users. The move, the first time Apple has set up a donation system for a non-disaster relief organization, is in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and will be available throughout October.
Apple plans for platform's tech still unknown
[Updated with Apple denial] Despite recent efforts to promote the streaming service, Apple is planning to discontinue Beats Music, sources within Apple and Beats say. "Many" Beats Music engineers have reportedly been diverted to other projects, such as iTunes. The sources have no insight on what Apple plans to do with the service's technology.
Automatic downloads annoying some users
Responding to complaints, Apple has created a special web tool for removing U2's Songs of Innocence album from an iTunes account. Users must sign in with an Apple ID, and the company cautions that once the album is removed, people must purchase it if they want it again. The record is still free until October 13th.
Total may be artificially inflated
U2's Songs of Innocence album -- which Apple is currently giving away for free via iTunes -- has already been downloaded over two million times since Tuesday, sources say. The group's back catalog appears to be doing well as well, with 17 albums on the iTunes Top 100 chart, led by The Joshua Tree at number 12.
Company paying for band, Universal's marketing
Apple's giveaway of the latest U2 album cost it over $100 million, sources tell the New York Times. The company is said to have paid the band and its music label, Universal, a blanket royalty fee, and on top of that promised a marketing campaign worth up to $100 million. That includes a worldwide TV campaign, which kicked off with a commercial shown during Apple's livestream on Tuesday.
Minor cosmetic tweaks a-plenty, but no new major features
Following its update of the iOS 8 beta to Golden Master status, Apple on Wednesday also updated iTunes 12, being tested as part of the OS X 10.10 Yosemite public and developer betas. The new version, which still carries the same v12.0 moniker, does not list any significant changes but testers have reported minor tweaks, ranging from a new transparency in the sidebar to a variety of tiny cosmetic changes.
U2 partnership allows large launch, free Sounds of Innocence album until October 13
Not leaving any stone unturned, Apple made a final announcement during the iPhone 6 unveiling that moved away from hardware. After bringing the much-rumored group U2 to the stage to perform their new single during the event, Tim Cook and Bono played out a little event on stage that would lead to one of the biggest musical launches in history, and it was happening on iTunes.
App and Media stores, iTunes Match and Radio unavailable to some users
[Update: problems resolved as of approximately 7:45PM ET] For the second time in as many days, Apple's online stores are unavailable for an undetermined percentage of users. The current outage, which began around 4:30PM ET and is ongoing, is affecting the both the iOS and Mac App Stores, the iBookstore, and a variety of iTunes services such as iTunes Match, iTunes in the Cloud, iTunes Radio and the iTunes Store. Other iCloud services, such as Siri, email, FaceTime and syncing services are not affected.
Famed tenor Placido Domingo to close out month-long concert series
The iTunes Festival is now underway in London, having kicked off the first night of the month-long concert series with headliner Deadmau5 and opening acts Friends Within and Kate Simko & the London Electronic Orchestra. Performances are streamed live through the official iOS app, iTunes on the Mac or Windows, or via the dedicated Apple TV channel, with selected acts available for repeat or later viewing.
PayPal offering discounted UK iTunes cards at 25 percent off
PayPal is currently offering digital iTunes cards at 25 percent off for UK customers. Users can purchase iTunes codes to redeem for music, films, TV programs, games, apps and more from the iTunes Store, iBooks Store and the App Store. Content purchased can be accessed on iOS devices and Mac or PC computers. The discount offer is available until tonight at 11:59 BST.
deadmau5, Tony Bennett, Placebo among artists
[Updated with iOS app, Apple TV channel news] Another 19 musical acts have been added to the list performing at next month's iTunes Festival in London. Some prominent names include Mary J. Blige, deadmau5, Tony Bennett, Ed Sheeran, Placebo, and Little Dragon. In all, Apple has announced 40 artists, but over 20 more have yet to be made public.
Participants in the OS X Beta Program can now download a second public beta of OS X Yosemite via the Mac App Store. Changes are unlisted, but since it's following just a few days after the release of Developer Preview 6, it presumably incorporates that code's fixes and feature additions. Apple is believed to be building towards a final launch of Yosemite in October, which could mean one or two more public betas in the interim.
Apple adds Wellington, NZ and Yosemite National Park in advance of next OS X release
On Tuesday, Apple further improved its Maps application by adding Flyover and other map data for Wellington, New Zealand and -- ahead of its debut as the namesake for the next OS X upgrade -- Yosemite National Park in California. The company also added new photos of Yosemite's Half Dome mountain as wallpapers in the current developer beta, DP6, which was released on Monday. The addition of Wellington marks the third New Zealand city added to Flyover, joining Auckland and the city of Christchurch.
Elbow, David Gray, Lenny Kravitz, First Aid Kit among names
Apple has added another 21 acts to the list performing at next month's iTunes Festival in London. Some of the better-known additions include Jenny Lewis, Elbow, Paolo Nutini, David Gray, The Script, Jessie Ware, Ryan Adams, First Aid Kit, and Lenny Kravitz. Over 60 acts will be playing in total -- previously-announced performers include Beck, Pharrell Williams, Kylie Minogue, Maroon 5, and Robert Plant.
Facility presumably meant to support iCloud in South America
Construction of a new Apple datacenter is underway on Curaçao, reports say. Curaçao is an island off the coast of Venezuela, but a constituent country of the Netherlands. The center is said to be nearly complete already; the original company behind the project went bankrupt however, forcing the Unique Infrastructure Group to take over.
Last prong of three-spoke trial initial hearing held in front of skeptical judge
A nine-year-old lawsuit over Apple's digital rights management in the iTunes Music Store and on the iPod rages on. Lawyers for the complainants continue to claim that changes in iTunes blocking other companies' music stores from functioning on the iPod allowed Apple to raise prices. The $350 million lawsuit against the Cupertino manufacturer had a hearing earlier this week, following the retirement of the first judge in the case.
Comic legend offered the original voice to the 'Your Verse' campaign
[Updated with addition of feature spot on the main Apple website] The death of actor and comic Robin Williams has spawned a dedicated section at the iTunes Store where fans can find various movies, specials and other performances from the widely-loved actor and comedian. Among the offerings are both videos and audio-only appearances, celebrating the diversity of his career along with a brief biographical note. Apple CEO Tim Cook and Nest CEO Tony Fadell were among the luminaries that remembered Williams in tweets on Monday.
Likely attempt to revive sales
In tandem with the upcoming iTunes Festival in London, Apple has announced a promotion that will get buyers of new Apple TVs a $25 iTunes gift card. The deal runs through September 30th, the end of the festival. The card can be used to buy apps, music, movies, TV shows, and books.
Subscriptions should finally update properly
Apple has released Mac and Windows versions of iTunes 11.3.1, a minor update of its media software. The latest version deals with two bugs related to podcasts, foremost being one that prevented subscriptions from being updated. The second caused episode list browsing to become unresponsive.
Softpress releases updated WYSIWYG web design software Freeway 7
Softpress has announced the release of its new Freeway 7 Pro web design software. OS X users can utilize the design tool for building and publishing website and email newsletters without the need for coding or HTML knowledge. Newly featuring responsive web design, Freeway 7 Pro can facilitate creating sites that adapt for mobile viewing. Navigation menus can be automatically generated, and search engine functionality is optimized, with the inclusion of social integration. Keyboard shortcuts have been added, so as to enhance user productivity. Priced at $150 for new users and $75 for existing users upgrading from Freeway 5+ Express and Pro, Freeway 7 can be downloaded online. Upon launch of Freeway 7, the Express version is now available for free.
Executive will straddle both music services
Beats Music head Ian Rogers will also take charge of iTunes Radio as a part of Apple's acquisition of Beats, sources tell the Wall Street Journal. The people add that having Rogers in charge of both units is intended to generate cohesion in Apple's streaming music options. How exactly that might manifest is unclear, but the Journal speculates that Apple may implement new subscription options.
Developers, creative workers being kept
Although the takeover has yet to be fully approved legally, some workers and technology resources are already being shifted from Beats to Apple, sources say. Apple executives have allegedly visited Beats' California headquarters this week and the last, offering some workers new positions at Apple while telling others that their jobs will be cut. Many Beats employees in creative or development roles are being offered work at Apple; many of these are allegedly headed to Apple's Cupertino's headquarters, but the company is keeping both the Santa Monica offices and some engineers associated with Beats Music.
Now offers Tune Your Taste, verified accounts, song history, more
As the process of Beats Music's acquisition by Apple continues, the iOS app for the subscription-based Beats Music service has received an update to both make playback better and more reliable as well as to improve the overall user experience. The new version 2.2.0 gives users the ability to customize the services's "Just For You" recommendations by changing artists and genres with a new feature called Tune Your Taste. In addition to some other changes, Beats reports that it has "fixed a ton of bugs."
Apple pushes iTunes 12 beta as optional update for OS X Yosemite beta
Apple is pushing OS X Yosemite public beta users access to the new iTunes 12 beta. Developers were granted access to the iTunes 12 beta earlier in this week, and similarly OS X Yosemite public beta users will receive a notification via the Mac App Store software update function to install the optional update. iTunes 12 comes with a redesigned interface along with new features. Like the OS X Yosemite beta, the software is not finalized for release and may not alway work as expected, but gives Mac users an opportunity to provide Apple with feedback ahead of its official introduction.
iTunes and App Store difficulties already resolved
[Updated with spreading service issues] Apple online services have been affected by a pair of problems on Thursday, the company's system status page indicates. Still ongoing is a glitch with iCloud Mail, resulting in "slower than normal response" for some users. Trouble appears to have begun shortly after 2PM Eastern.
iPod continues terminal decline
In addition to its official announcement, Apple has also posted a detailed breakdown of its fiscal Q3 results. "Greater China" -- including Taiwan and Hong Kong -- continued to lead the charge regionally, with its revenue increasing 28 percent year-over-year to $5.935 billion. Europe and Asia-Pacific each advanced 6 percent, to $8.091 billion and $2.161 billion, respectively. Apple's most important market, the Americas, rose 1 percent to $14.577 billion. Global retail numbers were up 1 percent to $4.104 billion.
OS X gets iTunes 12, iOS 8 gets new Tips app
(Updated with other beta releases, more Yosemite changes) Apple is now seeding its fourth betas of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite to developers. Perhaps the most significant change is in the latter, which includes the first beta of iTunes 12. The updated media player uses a flatter, streamlined design more in keeping with Yosemite, and is the first version to support Family Sharing, something also present in iOS 8. While Yosemite is still only accessible to developers, sources claim that the first public beta could go live later this month, after Apple has put more polish on it.
Passbook card is refillable at Apple Stores, debuted in Japan
One day after the service initially debuted in Japan, the new "iTunes Pass" Passbook card is now available in the US and Australia. The iTunes app on an iPhone or iPad can now issue an "iTunes Pass" card for Passbook to users who click on the "Redeem" button in the iTunes app. Once in place, users can bring the device to their nearest Apple retail store, where staff can take money and instantly add it to the Passbook card by scanning the card, which in turn credits the users' iTunes account.
New app versions include videos, interviews, photos and lower cost
In an unusual move, Concord Music Group and former Beatle Paul McCartney have re-worked five of the singer-songwriter's classic albums -- McCartney, Ram, Band on the Run, Wings over America and 1980's McCartney II -- as multi-media iPad apps. The re-worked iPad versions feature not only remastered audio of the albums in question, but also videos, interviews, artwork associated with the release (such as single covers) and photos from the period.
Google's Chrome browser app for iOS adds Chromecast support
Google has updated its Chrome browser app for iOS today, adding Chromecast support. Chrome for iOS syncs tabs and bookmarks across devices, can translate webpages in any language, and allows users to open as many tabs as is desired. Chrome v36.0.19 allows mobile sites that have added Cast support to work one's Cast-enabled device. Additionally included in the update are stability-focused improvements and bug fixes. Chrome for iOS is free to download and requires iOS 6.0 or later.
Could reach more regions soon
In Japan, Apple has unexpectedly announced iTunes Pass, a new service based on iOS' Passbook app. People wanting to refill their iTunes Store account can take an iPhone (or iPod touch) into a Japanese Apple Store and buy credit from a clerk, who then scans in the amount via Passbook. The money should be available immediately.
iOS users will have to wait for iOS 8
Apple has released iTunes 11.3 for Mac and Windows users. The main addition is support for iTunes Extras associated with HD movies, granting access to things like galleries, commentaries, behind-the-scenes clips, and short films. Not every movie has Extras, since these require special formatting on the part of content creators, but even previously-purchased titles can get Extras for free if they're added later.
Apple, Disney overcome contract dispute
Disney content is once again available on the Japanese version of the iTunes Store, according to an official statement. That content suddenly disappeared recently, and without explanation. In talking with Variety, though, Disney confirms that "the interruption was due to difficulties negotiating the renewal of the old contract between Apple and Disney Japan. The new contract was signed on Wednesday and both rentals (VoD) and electronic sell-through returned to normal."
Mac video editor update fixes crashing bug, improves stability
On Tuesday, Apple issued a minor update to the OS X version of iMovie, bringing it to v10.0.4. The new version sports only a single bug fix, along with the usual "stability improvements" tweaking. The update addresses an issue that would occasionally cause iMovie to crash or quit unexpectedly. It's not clear if the fix is related to a previous minor update that also addressed a crashing bug. Current iMovie owners can update through Software Update; new users can buy the OS X version of the app for $15 (a version for iOS is also available).
Adds clarity to 'Best New Games' section, showcases recently-refreshed titles
Readers have reported that Apple is continuing to tweak the app-discovery experience in the iOS App Store, and on Thursday added a new "Best New Updates" section for iOS games, drawing user attention to recently-refreshed titles separate of the existing "Best New Games" section, which would sometimes contain updated rather than genuinely new titles. The move should benefit games that fall into both categories by clarifying updated versus all-new titles.
2K Games announces July 2 launch of Civilization Revolution 2 for iOS
2K Games has announced that it will soon release a new iteration of Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution 2 for iOS and Android. The first title in the franchise specifically designed for mobile use, the game will combine core tactical elements of the series with a user interface specifically intended for touchpad devices. Historical leaders found in this version, as well as the first game, include Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, and more, with new appearances from leaders such as Churchill and Kennedy. Available July 2, iOS users can download the game through iTunes.