January 27, 2012

Apple Store is down

The yellow sticky note of doom has appeared, and the Apple Store is currently down. What sort of updates will this bring? Since it’s early Friday on the East Coast, most likely maintenance. But with Macworld, it could be anything. We’ll let you know of any changes once it’s back up!

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple reclaims title of world’s largest smartphone maker after blowout quarter

By Josh Ong

Published: 10:50 PM EST (07:50 PM PST)
Apple overtook Samsung in the fourth quarter of 2011 to grab the top spot among global smartphone makers, earning 23.9 percent of the market with sales of 37 million iPhones, according to one set of estimates.

Shortly after rival Samsung officially reported its quarterly results on Thursday, market research firm Strategy Analytics released a report proclaiming Apple the victor in the latest round of the smartphone wars. Apple’s win was supported by just a narrow lead, however, as Samsung shipped an estimated 36.5 million units worldwide in the fourth quarter.

The South Korean consumer electronics maker declined to say how many smartphones it shipped last quarter, but it did note 30 percent growth, roughly in line with analyst expectations. As such, Samsung managed to capture its first crown for annual smartphone shipments with an estimated 97.4 million units, compared to Apple’s 93 million iPhones in 2011.

“With global smartphone shipments nearing half a billion units in 2011, Samsung is now well positioned alongside Apple in a two-horse race at the forefront of one of the world’s largest and most valuable consumer electronics markets,” said Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston.

Nokia took third place with estimated quarterly shipments of 19.6 million, enough for a 12.6 percent market share. The Finnish handset maker has seen its market share plunge during its transition from Symbian to Windows Phone. In the year ago quarter, Nokia shipped 28.3 million smartphones.

Total smartphone shipments for the quarter grew 55 percent year over year to reach a record 155 million, while annual shipments were an estimated 488.5 million units.

Apple first took the top spot among worldwide smartphone makers last June, but without its usual iPhone refresh last summer, it conceded the title to Samsung in the third quarter.

The Cupertino, Calif., company more than made up for the September quarter when it announced on Tuesday impressive results for the December quarter. Apple reported record quarterly revenue of $ 46.33 billion and profits of $ 13.06 billion, driven largely by sales of 37.04 million iPhones.

As Apple and Samsung have become the new smartphone powerhouses, their rivalry has extended to the courtroom. The two are locked in a complicated legal battle with multiple complaints spanning several different countries.


Half of the enterprise is issuing Macs, 21% of workers use Apple products

By Daniel Eran Dilger

Published: 07:54 PM EST (04:54 PM PST)
A new study indicates around half of all large companies with 1,000 employees or more are buying Macs, while over a fifth of all “information workers” are now using at least one Apple product to do their work.

Apple’s resurgence among business users was profiled in a report by Forrester analyst Frank Gillett entitled “Apple Infiltrates The Enterprise.”

It further noted that companies buying Macs plan to increase their purchases by 52 percent this year. The study was based on interviews with 3,300 Information Technology decision makers and an additional 10,000 workers across 17 countries.

Forrester charted dynamic growth for Macs among enterprise users, noting that the percentage of companies issuing Macs to their workers has grown from 30 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2010 and 46 percent over the last year.

The research firm notes that among companies that deploy Macs, 7 percent of all computers being issued are now Macs.

Adoption by demographic

The firm notes that 15 percent reported using at least one Apple product (such as a Mac, iPad or iPhone), while an additional 6 percent said they used two or more. Eleven percent said they used an iPhone, while 9 percent said they used an iPad and 8 percent reported using a Mac for work.

It also points out that Apple devices in general are most popular among workers with a senior position, higher wages and among younger workers.

“Most of our sample of 10,000 global info workers earns less than $ 50k,” the report stated, “but the adoption rate of Apple products is almost 17% even in the bottom quartile of workers who make less than $ 12k per year.”


Research suggests business directors more likely to use Apple products at work

Forrester Research recently conducted a survey of close to 10,000 workers in 17 countries to determine which workers are more likely to own and use Apple products. The New York Times has published the results, which show that “business directors” — in other words, bosses — are the employee group most likely to own one or more Apple products and use them at work.

Here’s a breakdown of the survey results.

Who uses Apple products:

  • 43 percent of people earning $ 150,000 or more per year — 87 of 200 respondents
  • 27 percent of people earning $ 100,000 – $ 149,999
  • 23 percent of people earning $ 50,000 – $ 99,999
  • 19 percent of people earning $ 49,999 or less — 1300 of 6800 respondents

21 percent of all 9912 respondents in Forrester’s survey said they used one or more Apple devices for work.

The New York Times notes that the increasing penetration of Apple products into the workplace, often driven by people bringing in and using their personal devices, is wearing down traditional IT department hostility toward the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. However, as Ars Technica notes, the research also shows that while 50 percent of firms in “mature markets” offer Macs, only 30 percent of respondents said their companies support them, leaving many Mac users to fend for themselves at work.

Coupled with reports like Good Technology’s quarterly results on device activations, it seems that the old practice of business and enterprise environments shunning Apple products is shifting quite rapidly. Forrester’s claim that “Windows’ dominance is at an end” is premature, however; while Microsoft’s share of the enterprise pie is no longer as big as it once was, it’s still claiming the majority of users in that sphere.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Briefly: Verizon pulls away from AT&T, Apple philanthropy

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 05:40 PM EST (02:40 PM PST)
AT&T announced a significant quarterly loss as a result of a failed T-Mobile takeover and is now adding fewer new customers than rival Verizon Wireless, while Apple extends its charitable matching program to include part-time employees.

Verizon pulling ahead of AT&T

Verizon strengthened its position as the number one mobile carrier in the U.S. based on subscribership as the company announced a 7.7 percent rise in overall revenue to end the fourth quarter of 2011, with even bigger earnings seen by its wireless arm’s $ 18.3 billion in revenue which represented a 13 percent rise year-to-year, reports The Wall Street Journal.

AT&T, on the other hand, reported a $ 6.68 billion loss for the quarter after a late-2011 pullout from a planned T-Mobile deal, though overall revenue rose 3.6 percent to $ 32.5 billion. The telecom activated a record 7.6 million iPhones over the holiday quarter, accounting for over 80 percent of all of the company’s smartphone sales, however a bulk of those were to existing customers.

The new data makes it clear that AT&T is losing the customer sign-up battle even though it saw a 79 percent bump from the year ago period with 717,000 new users. Verizon’s new subscribership eclipsed AT&T’s numbers and added 1.2 million contract subscribers during the same period.

Verizon now serves 108.7 million subscribers compared to AT&T’s 103.2 million users.

Apple charitable matching

Apple announced via Twitter from its Apple Retail Workers account that the company is expanding its charitable matching program to include part-time workers.

The program, first introduced by CEO Tim Cook in September 2011, calls for Apple to match employee non-profit donations dollar-for-dollar up to $ 10,000 a year. Originally, the plan was limited to full-time U.S. workers, but Cook promised that it would soon expand to other countries.

According to the most recent statistics regarding the gift matching initiative released in November, Apple and its employees raised $ 2.6 million.


Inside Apple offers a quick read, corporate insights

I just finished Adam Lashinsky’s “Inside Apple“, now available for sale at most major vendors. It’s a quick, easy read and clocks in at just over 200 pages with large, readable type. If you’re looking for an exhaustive Tracy Kidder take on how Apple works and operates, this book isn’t it. Instead, it offers a refreshing overview of Apple history and corporate culture from NeXT to iPhone.

There’s little here that’s new or shocking, but it’s all put together in a readable style. It’s a perfect airplane book — it will keep you entertained without requiring too much commitment.

You’ll find plenty of anecdotes, from how Apple developed its retail strategy to how it acquired Cisco’s “iOS” moniker for its own use. You’ll also learn about Apple’s social structure (designers rule the world while the Mac teams have seen their status plummet) and its penny-pinching policies. There’s a lot about Jobs and his quirks, both personal and business as well.

What you don’t get is a lot of deep analysis. I suspect that’s because Apple’s closed system didn’t allow Lashinsky access to the people who could have provided those insights. There’s a lot of back story and very little about the current state of affairs. Clearly, all his research had to be done from the outside, with ex-employees and those who have done business with the company.

As the book points out, this secrecy has served Apple well. One section that really popped for me early in the book involved a discussion of Korean phone maker LG. Unlike Apple, they pre-announced a product and under-delivered it. It’s a mistake that Apple, with its tight limits on information, would never have made.

In the end, Lashinsky describes Apple’s corporate culture and business successes, allowing each reader to draw the line from the cause to the effect. I found it an enjoyable read. If you are someone interested in Apple and its culture, you’ll probably want to pick up a copy.

Adam Lashinsky’s Inside Apple book is available in the iTunes iBookstore for US$ 12.99 and from Amazon.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple to offer employees $500 off a new Mac, $250 off iPads – report

By Katie Marsal

Published: 12:32 PM EST (09:32 AM PST)
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook reportedly informed employees this week that later this year they will be able to buy an iPad with a $ 250 discount, while Macs will be available for $ 500 off.

Starting in June, the discounts will be available to employees who have worked more than 90 days at Apple, according to The Register. Employees will be able to obtain the $ 750 in discounts once every three years.

The announcement was made by Cook in a “town hall” meeting put on by Apple with its employees. It came a day after Apple announced a record quarter, in which it earned $ 13 billion.

For some products and configurations, the new discounts go well beyond what Apple has traditionally offered. Employees can currently receive a 25 percent discount on a complete Mac system one time per year.

But $ 500 off would actually be a reduced discount for some of Apple’s high-end products when compared to the current 25 percent reduction. For example, a maxed-out 17-inch MacBook Pro, with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive, can cost over $ 4,000 at retail, and a 25 percent discount would amount to $ 1,000 in savings, or twice that of the new promotion.

But $ 500 off would be a larger discount in most cases. For example, an employee looking to buy the entry-level 11.6-inch MacBook Air would pay just $ 500 for the usually $ 999 notebook, while a 25 percent discount would only reduce the price to about $ 750.

The new perk also applies to all Apple employees, and not just those who work at the company’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. That means more than 60,000 workers, including those at Apple’s hundreds of retail stores, will be eligible for the promotion.


Apple exploring MagSafe data, headphone connections for iPhone, iPad

By Neil Hughes

Published: 09:03 AM EST (06:03 AM PST)
Apple’s standard 30-pin iPod cable and even its headphones could be replaced on future iPhones and iPads by new magnetic cables, much like the MagSafe power adapters currently used on MacBooks.

Apple’s interest in a magnetic data and power cable for portable devices was revealed this week in a patent application discovered by AppleInsider. Named “Programmable Magnetic Connectors,” the filing describes a series of “coded magnets” found in both a portable device and a data and power cable.

The filing includes an illustration of an iPad 2 with a forward-facing camera and associated cable that are described as having a “coded magnetic structure.”

In its application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple notes that current coupler designs, like with the 30-pin dock connector or headphone jack found on existing iPhones and iPads, prevent a device from being properly sealed. This is why the connector port and headphone jack feature water sensors, to determine if water entered the device through one of these openings.

The use of MagSafe connectors not only for the data and power cable, but also headphones, could allow Apple to properly seal its devices and make it more difficult for moisture to damage the valuable electronics.

Apple’s filing also notes that the male half of a data and power cable usually has pins or prongs that are exposed when it is not coupled to a device.

“Due to this exposure, the pins or prongs may be damages and render the connector/cable unusable,” the application reads. “Additionally, many connectors are device and/or purpose specific. For example, they may have a certain number of pins or prongs that are configured in a particular manner. As such, each device may have multiple unique cables and connectors that are not compatible with other devices.”

The solution proposed by Apple is a new universal cable, much like the existing 30-pin iPod connector, but one that features programmable magnets. These coded magnets, found inside both the cable and the portable device, would share identifying information on the device with the cable.

By sharing information from the magnets about the device, the cable could appropriately connect to it and provide the correct number of pins. The application describes a controller that would repurpose one or more of the pins on a cable to connect certain communication channels.

“The magnets (would) create a universal port that detects the coded magnet ‘signature’ of a particular cable type and reconfigures itself accordingly,” the filing reads.

The magnets found in the device and cabling could also be used to “repulse, eject, and/or prevent coupling of certain cables.” In one example, a heat sensor is triggered and the device is automatically ejected.

The filing also describes a unique, magnet-powered headphone connector. In Apple’s concept, the male headphone plug has multiple segments, but its full size would be concealed until it is paired with a smart magnet found on an iPhone, iPad or iPod.

Connecting the plug to a headphone jack would then fully extend the plug, revealing all of the connectors and segments, and allowing it to receive stereo audio and transmit microphone data.

Much like the pins in the data and power cable, the size of the audio plug could be determined based on the needs of the device as transmitted through the programmed magnet. In this way, a smaller device, like an iPod nano, could have a shallower headphone port, while larger devices could accommodate the full plug and all of its available connectors.

The application, made public by the USPTO this week, was first filed in July of 2011. It is credited to Brett Bilbrey, Aleksandar Pance, Peter Arnold, David I. Simon, Jean Lee, Michael D. Hillman, Gregory L. Tice, Vijay Iyer, and Bradly Spare.


Tim Cook Offers Apple Employees $500 Off Macs, $250 Off iPads [Rumor]

Tim Cook Offers Apple Employees $  500 Off Macs, $  250 Off iPads [Rumor]

It’s a great time to be an Apple employee. Not only is it the most successful company on the planet right now, but it’s also slashing the price of some of its most popular products as a thank you to its employees. According to one report, the Cupertino company’s CEO, Tim Cook, announced at an internal Town Hall meeting that staff could enjoy $ 500 off a new Mac, and $ 250 off a new iPad.

The discount program will kick off this June, according to a 9to5Mac report, but it does have a few restrictions. The discount won’t be available to employees at any time, but once every three years. In order to be eligible, staff must have be working for the company for at least 90 days.

The $ 500 discount will not apply to the Mac mini, according to the report, which is little over $ 500 anyway. But it is significantly more than the 25% employees usually get off Mac purchases.

With rumors that the iPad 3 is set to launch this April, starting the discount program in June gives Apple two months to deal with customer demand before employees can start snapping up the third-generation device for themselves with $ 250 off.

[via 9to5Mac]

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also writes for TechnoBuffalo. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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Cult of Mac

Good Technology report shows Apple still dominates enterprise activations

Good Technology’s quarterly report on device activation statistics among its Fortune 500 clients has been released. Just like previous quarters, the results show a marked dominance of iOS device activations in enterprise environments. In the consumer arena, Android has been running away with the marketshare lead for most of the past couple of years, but iOS continues to rule the enterprise roost.

According to Good’s analysis, the relative percentage of Android device activations decreased over the quarter. iOS devices made up 71 percent of net activations in Q4 2011, while Android dropped to 29 percent; these numbers compare to 68 percent for iOS vs. 32 percent for Android in Q3.

The iPhone 4S was a major factor in Apple’s smartphone gains for the quarter, accounting for 31 percent of all device activations — the single most popular device for the quarter. During September and October, Android smartphone activations were steadily closing in on iPhone activations, but that trend sharply reversed in November. By December, iPhone activations were crushing Android phone activations; in fact, during December the number of iPad activations exceeded the number of Android smartphone activations, something not seen since July.

The iPad accounted for 94.7 percent of total tablet activations for Q4, a negligible decline from its 96 percent statistic in Q3. Android tablets accounted for no more than 1 percent of overall device activations in the enterprise, with a 5.2 percent share of overall tablet activations.

“For now, the iPad and iPad 2 remain the de facto enterprise tablet standard — especially when it comes to the large company-driven deployments in verticals such as Financial Services, Business and Professional Services, Life Sciences, and Healthcare,” GT reports. The Financial Services sector in particular had an iPad adoption rate four times higher than any other industry.

Together, Apple’s iPhone and iPad models accounted for the top five out of ten most popular devices activated in the enterprise, with the device breakdown as follows:

  1. iPhone 4S
  2. iPhone 4
  3. iPad 2
  4. iPad
  5. iPhone 3GS

Android smartphones rounded out the top 10. The most popular Android-powered device, the Samsung Galaxy S II, accounted for 1.7 percent of overall device activations.

GT’s summary of 2011 as a whole shows a marked lead in iPhone activations over Android smartphone activations, especially in the last quarter. Meanwhile, the iPad is stomping Android’s tablets in the enterprise; Android’s tablets barely show up at all on Good’s graph of 2011.

It’s worth noting, as Good itself does, that the numbers for Q4 do not reflect holiday sales. Good Technology expects yet more gains for iOS devices in the enterprise once workers bring their newly-acquired Christmas gifts back to work with them over the first quarter of 2012.

Good does not report on BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7 device activations. However, given what we know about RIM’s increasingly dismal performance and Windows Phone 7′s lack of traction in the consumer market, it’s unlikely that either platform is making a meaningful contribution to the overall trend in device activations.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog