Beats integration, iTunes overhaul likely to be on agenda for WWDC in June
A new article in The New York Times describes in some detail the alleged transition plans Apple is undertaking to transform both iTunes and Beats Music, it's acquired subscription streaming service. Among other details, the report assigns roles to iTunes Radio chief Zane Lowe, who until recently was a top BBC Radio 1 DJ, and describes musician Trent Reznor as a "point man" on an iOS Music app overhaul.
Connectivity down globally, but issue resolved by 11:30AM ET
A widespread but apparently brief outage was reported to have affected Apples online digital storefronts this morning, such as the App Store, iTunes Store and Mac App Store. The problem appeared to occur worldwide, but Apple's System Status Page did not acknowledge the issue until hours after it was resolved, which occurred at approximately 8:30AM Pacific. The company suffered a much longer and more severe outage just two weeks ago.
Move intended to capture more of the burgeoning digital audio ad market
Apple has brought its iAd platform to iTunes Radio, and is now offering programmatic ad buying. Alongside the new offering, the Cupertino company is giving ad buyers additional customer targeting ability, with Apple's "Customer Match" tool which indexes customers based on iTunes purchases and behavior in its app stores, linked to an automatic IDFA mobile identifier, rather than manual pairing.
A little fine-tuning will result in delightful listening
Apple's iTunes Radio is one of those things that is criminally underused by most Mac and iOS users, and its a shame: the service is really very good -- and with a tiny amount of effort, can be as, or more, enjoyable than even Pandora One or the other subscription streaming music services, not to mention cheaper. In this post, we're going to show you how to create, and then fine-tune, a custom station that features music you love and compatible new discoveries.
Outage may have cost apple up to $8 million in lost media sales
After nearly a 12-hour downtime, Apple's Internet-facing services such as the iTunes Music Store, iOS App Store, iBookstore and Mac App Store have returned. Apple calls the issue related to an "internal DNS" problem, and with estimates of hourly revenue at about $1 million an hour, this may be the most costly Internet service outage ever.
Mac App Store, iTunes Store preventing users from buying content
[Update: Apple acknowledges issues] A range of Apple's online services are experiencing issues, with the majority of problems relating to the company's online stores. The iTunes Store, App Store, and Mac App Store are all apparently having issues loading up elements of some store pages, though the issues are also apparently affecting back-end services as well as those on the consumer side.
AppleCare now handling support for Beats Music, Apple Pay for Business
Apple will now handle support for Beats Music customers, along with businesses offering Apple Pay, through its AppleCare division, according to reports. Previously, Beats Music support was handled by an outsourced firm, but has now been moved in-house after the company was acquired by Apple last year. The move to offer support to businesses implementing Apple Pay will encourage more companies to do so. There is also a specific Merchants support hotline for Apple Pay for those already using the system.
Timing for overhaul set for around WWDC; Android version might continue?
Apple is now aiming for a revamp of its Beats Music streaming service, which will see the offering tied in more closely to both iTunes and other Apple products and services, to happen in June -- right around the time of the expected Worldwide Developers Conference, which is likely to happen on June 8–12, according to sources familiar with current plans. In addition to retaining the personalization and hand-curated recommendation features, Apple may be planning to lower the monthly cost.
SF's Yerba Buena Center gains Apple signage for the 'Spring Forward' event
Crews are putting up banners, signs, and other decorations to transform the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco into an Apple auditorium for the March 9 "Spring Forward" event, where Apple is expected to offer a general update on its various initiatives as well as formally debut the Apple Watch, which will arrive in stores some time in April. As reported earlier, Apple is also building on an extension to the center that will likely serve as a showcase room for the press to try out the new Apple Watch.
Clever route map for walkers
Footpath -- usually $1 but at time of review free on the App Store -- is a route map app for walkers and runners that does one thing very well. We would like it to do just a little more for the ambulatory, but it's one of those apps you'll play with just to see how it works.
Patent troll owns patent, Apple claims patent too broad and covered by others
Apple has been handed a rare loss in a patent licensing trial. The Cupertino manufacturer has been ordered to pay patent aggregation company Smartflash, a non-practicing entity, $532.9 million for willful infringement of the company's patents in iTunes and in-app purchase processing. The trial was held in Tyler, Texas, the "rocket docket" of patent courts, and notoriously friendly to patent trolls.
Migration assistant set up; users have until March 31, or could lose purchases
Along with the death of AOL logins for use in Messages, the ability of AOL members to use AOL credentials to log into iTunes and its various stores is ending next month, Apple reports. The move, which appears to have been instigated by AOL, will mean that users who use AOL logins will need to migrate to an Apple ID in order to preserve purchase records and access to purchased items from iTunes, the iOS App Store and the iBookstore.
Wide variety of app updates bring instant hotel rooms, streaming video, bug fixes, more
A number of apps for both iOS and OS X have received notable updates lately, ranging from the official NBC app gaining live streaking to Kayak adding a service that allows same-day discounted hotel rooms. Apple has updated iTunes 12.1 specifically for Windows users, while Snapchat now lets users play music while snapchatting. Yelp has added translations of reviews to its own app, and The Sims 4 has debuted on the Mac.
UK-based music tastemaker heading to United States for Apple job
Apple will soon be getting more help with its musical ambitions, as it has reportedly hired BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe. The New Zealand-born radio personality, known in the United Kingdom as a tastemaker and helped launch the musical careers of stars including Adele and the Arctic Monkeys, will be quitting the station next month before moving to the United States to work with Apple.
First episode of Better Call Saul free on iTunes, Google Play
Better Call Saul, the long-awaited spin-off to Breaking Bad, is now available on iTunes and Google Play. The premiere episode of the series, which is set in the years before the protagonist becomes Walter White's lawyer, is free to acquire from both services, with extra episodes priced at $2 each or $17 for the season pass in standard definition. The high-definition version on iTunes costs $3 per episode and $26 for the entire season.
Making the fiddly easy
Look, we're writing this as much for ourselves as for you. Every time we hanker to add a new sound effect to our text messages or a whole new ringtone to our iPhones, we sweat through the steps and end up seriously wondering if Apple deliberately makes this hard. So that you and we have one place we can look up when we want to do this, here's this Friday's Pointers tutorial on making yourself wish you'd never bothered -- we mean on getting through this as quickly as you can.
Stream any video, from nearly any original source, to your Apple TV
One of the very handiest things about Apple TV is that with it, you can use your television to watch any video on your Macs -- except you really can't, if you operate outside Apple's garden at all. If that video is in iTunes by hook or by crook, you're all set. If it isn't -- and we know you have some that isn't -- then you need to buy Silver Screen: it will stream any video, of just about any format, to your TV.
Fun and promising music controller, but it's not quite there yet
If you have a minute, go get the free ControlAir app just for the fun of seeing it work. It's a way of controlling the music your Mac plays, and doing so by gestures rather than pressing any buttons. Given that it is meant for people who are working at their Macs, it doesn't seem a gigantic saving, waving your finger in the air instead of using it to press down on the keyboard's Skip button. Except pushing buttons was never this entertaining.
Everything you need to know about communal e-living
It didn't take long after the first release of iTunes for some enterprising writers to produce books on how to use it. They were enterprising, and the books sold, but surely most people bought them out of curiosity: how can you stretch talking about iTunes for an entire book? If you managed to make "click on the iTunes icon to open it" last for an entire chapter, what would the rest of the book cover? Back in the day, iTunes was a very smart and very simple piece of software for letting you play music.
Amazon adds iTunes, Spotify, Pandora music options to Echo
An update to the Amazon Echo has added more options for music playback. Recode reports the Internet-connected speaker now offers voice control for Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora, when the Echo is paired with a device that has the required apps installed. Improved responsiveness, question accuracy, and more voice commands have also been touted for the device, which has yet to have a wider release outside of its invitation-only testing.
Widget allows at-a-glance song info, opportunity to purchase through iTunes Radio
On Thursday, Apple released iTunes 12.1, a minor update for Yosemite users only that brings only one new feature, along with a general improvement in syncing performance with iOS devices. The big change is that the program now includes a widget that can be optionally added to the Mac's Notification Center. This will allow users to control and get info on a playing song at a glance, whether the user is listening to their own library or to iTunes Radio.
Appears to replace defunct Single of the Week
Apple has launched a new area on the iTunes Store in the US, simply dubbed "Free on iTunes." rel='nofollow' The section highlights free song and TV downloads. Some musical examples include singles from Waters, Sharon Van Etten, The Babies, and Penguin Prison. TV content includes episodes from Backstrom, 12 Monkeys, The Musketeers, and other shows.
May hint at discontinuing all iTunes freebies
Apple appears to have ended its free Single of the Week promotion on iTunes, visitors note. No tracks have been offered in the first two weeks of 2015, and a person on Apple's support forums claims to have been told by iTunes Support that the company has officially dropped the initiative. It's missing from iTunes Stores across the globe.
Discover new music with surprisingly intuitive app
Finding new music is a difficult task, especially when the radio has become a collective pool of the same 15 songs over and over, almost regardless of station. Streaming service Pandora is a safe bet for many Americans, though that often requires sitting through hours of familiar or similar music in hopes of finding a few undiscovered gems. What are you supposed to do if you're short on time, but equally short on tunes? You try something new, like Discovr, by Filter Squad , which aims to help you find new music you'll love by just knowing your current favorites.
Industry trends hurting Apple
Tracking data from Nielsen SoundScan indicates that on-demand streaming of music content (including audio and video) rose 54 percent in 2014, from 106 billion song streams to 164 billion. At the same time, sales of digital albums fell nine percent, to 117.6 million; sales of individual songs dropped even further, down 12 percent to 1.26 billion. Combined physical and digital album sales slipped 11 percent, to 257 million.
Refunds previously just loosely allowed
European shoppers now have a definite 14-day window in which to claim refunds for iTunes Store purchases, according to updated support documents (PDF). Customers can ask for a refund "without giving any reason," the documents say, and in most cases simply need to find the "Report a Problem" tool. In other instances -- namely those involving iTunes Match, Season Pass, Multi-Pass, or unredeemed iTunes gifts -- a person has to contact iTunes Support.
Looks to copy success of Beyoncé album launch on iTunes
Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine -- whose company is now owned by Apple -- is in negotiations with a number of artists about securing more exclusives for Beats Music, sources claim. The idea is reportedly to copy the success Beyoncé and Apple had with an iTunes exclusive, Beyoncé by Beyoncé, in December of last year. Iovine is known for his connections in the music industry, which include acts like Will.i.am, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, and Gwen Stefani; Minaj sometimes advertises Beats products via placements in her videos. A potential obstacle, though, is opposition from record labels, which typically don't like artists signing their own side deals.
US customers get holiday channels on iTunes Radio instead
As was the case last year, Canadians are once again getting a sale on selected albums in iTunes as part of a "Boxing Day" event, part of a traditional observance throughout Canada and a number of other Commonwealth countries. The UK iTunes Store is also having a sale on hit albums, but doesn't label the event as a "Boxing Day" sale. US users don't get a sale, but are instead enjoying special holiday channels on iTunes Radio, which remains unavailable in the UK and Canada.
Early marketing focuses on 'Best of 2014' content
Apple has expanded its presence in social media, with a new Tumblr blog dedicated to iTunes. At the moment, the site focuses mainly on Apple's Best of 2014 content, in categories including movies, music, TV, and books. The company has had very little presence on Tumblr so far; it launched a page dedicated to the iPhone 5c in March, but has otherwise ignored the site.
Library syncing software for iTunes packed with features at a great value
Apple's iTunes media player has been around since 2001 -- meaning that for many users, it's likely that their library has traversed multiple system upgrades, duplicating and splintering across a variety of drives and mobile devices along the way. For this, there is SuperSync, an app designed to provide access to all your music in one location, allow libraries to be accessed via the Internet, and organize multiple music libraries as to stay organized. Aimed at DJs, avid music collectors, and anyone with multiple libraries, SuperSync aims to get all your tracks in a row. Pricing is organized by license packs, starting at $23 for 2 computers. We took a look at SuperSync for ourselves, and took some of its features for a test run.
Decision reached in less than 24 hours
The jury for the iPod/iTunes DRM lawsuit has ruled that Apple didn't violate antitrust laws by blocking music from rival storefronts in iTunes software updates, Reuters reports. The verdict was rendered in less than a day, following closing arguments on Monday. Had the jury swung in favor of the plaintiffs, the company could have owed some $350 million in penalties.
One dollar app ensures you don't hear the same song too often
There are at least several apps that come to mind that aim to accentuate your iTunes experience. One that we're taking a look at today is Altunenator, a budget-friendly, $1 app that ensures the listener isn't subjected to the same songs (or other media content) too frequently. Altunenator skips tracks for you based on preset parameters such the duration between the last time a song was played, which is particularly suited for playing a large playlist or your full library on shuffle. Is it worth checking out?
Jump, slide, and dance your way through this retro-inspired platformer
Bit.Trip.Run is a game set in the universe of Bit.Trip, a popular app by developer Gaijin Games that debuted on the Wii back in 2009. A total of seven variations came along, with Bit.Trip Runner meeting with great success that quickly went multi-platform, with releases on both the Nintendo 3DS as well as Steam. Bit.Trip.Run is not to be confused with Bit.Trip Runner, which begs the question: how does Bit.Trip.Run distinguish itself from the others in the series?
Top iPad apps previously promoted by Apple
Apple has introduced its annual "Best of 2014" list at the iTunes Store, promoting content in different media categories. The top iPad app, for instance, is Pixelmator, the image editing app Apple also highlighted during its recent press event for the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. The top iPad game is Monument Valley, an Apple Design Award winner from WWDC.
Purchase dates may still put whole case at risk
Following the revelation that the two plaintiffs in the ongoing iPod DRM lawsuit may have bought their iPods too late or too early, one of them has withdrawn, reports the New York Times. Melanie Tucker bought one iPod in 2005, and an iPod touch in 2010. The suit only addresses iPods bought between September 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009.
Explains why DRM was formerly required by record companies, more
Day three of the Real vs. Apple trial over allegations that Apple deliberately blocked rival stores' DRM music files on the iPod (a potential antitrust violation) continued today with testimony from Eddy Cue, Apple's SVP of Internet software and services and the executive in charge of the iTunes Store. Cue was on the stand for hours, going through an explanation of why the original iTunes Store had to have digital rights management in the first place, how Apple developed its FairPlay wrapper, and why it chose not to license FairPlay to others.
Standard annual procedure
For 2014, the annual shutdown of iTunes Connect will run from December 22 through to December 29, Apple has announced via its developer portal. Connect is the service used by app developers and book publishers to submit material for sale on iTunes, change prices, and study analytics. During the downtime, app makers won't be able to submit new apps, any updates, or introduce new in-app purchases. Changes to TestFlight betas will also be impossible, although people will be able to continue using beta apps.
Argued Beats could 'plug' Apple's 'hole in music'
Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine actively chased after this year's $3 billion acquisition by Apple, a new GQ interview reveals. Iovine explains that Apple was the only company he wanted to work for, and that his argument to Apple executives was that Beats would fill a critical gap. "I know you have a hole in music right now; let me plug it," he said. The pursuit is said to have taken about two years.
Emails show Apple CEO wanted to keep other services off iPod
Evidence from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is likely to be central in an antitrust case against the company set to go to trial tomorrow, notes the New York Times. The plaintiffs charge that Apple's now-defunct DRM restrictions on iPods -- which limited people from copying purchased tracks to unauthorized devices, but had the side effect of limiting options music bought on the iTunes Store, obtained elsewhere in a DRM-free format, or ripped from a CD -- represented anti-competitive behavior, in turn leading to higher prices. Jobs recorded a video deposition prior to his death in 2011, which the plaintiffs' lawyers intend to use, alongside emails written by the CEO.
Only known official online premiere for latest entry in franchise
Apple has confirmed that the first official trailer for next year's new chapter in the saga, The Force Awakens, will debut online on Friday on iTunes. Disney, which now owns the rights to the franchise, had previously said that only 30 cinemas in the US would be screening the trailer on Friday, implying a wider release later. Rumors began shortly afterwards, however, that there would be an online debut as well.
Proceeds from participating apps being donated to Global Fund
To mark the upcoming World AIDS Day on December 1, Apple has launched a trio of initiatives. On the 1st itself, Apple says it will donate "a portion" of its Black Friday sales at its online and retail stores to the Global Fund, which is mainly dedicated to combating AIDS but also tackles diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. On November 28, some random product purchases will include a Product (RED) iTunes gift card; any purchases made with the card in future will go to the Fund. From today through December 7, a program called "Apps for (RED)" will donate the sales from 24 iOS apps - and in some cases, special in-app purchases -- to the same cause.
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.