Apple reportedly doing worldwide overnight ‘refresh’ on older Apple Stores on May 16

Apple is planning a worldwide overnight ‘refresh’ of its older retail stores on the night of May 16, according to our own sources. We understand that this is specifically for older and smaller stores that aren’t suitable for the full redesign we’ve seen in flagship stores.

We got our first look at a whole new design for major Apple Stores back in 2015, when the Jony Ive design was shown to the press in Brussels, Belgium. Retail head Angela Ahrendts also showed off the new features ahead of the opening of San Francisco’s Union Square store. These include rows of trees with surrounding seating (the ‘Genius Grove’), a huge display screen and power sockets that rise out of the tables when you wave your hand …


Amazon officially announces $230 Echo Show with a focus on video calls, shipping June 28

Amazon has officially announced its latest addition to the Echo family, the $229 Amazon Echo Show. Adding to its popular range of home virtual assistant devices, the Show combines the usual Amazon Alexa voice commands with a 7 inch touchscreen, displaying relevant visual content like weather reports and music lyrics in response to your voice queries.

It also features a camera to enable FaceTime-like video calls between friends and family. The Echo Show is up for pre-order now, available in white or black models, and is shipping to customers from June 28.


Amazon Reveals $230 Touchscreen ‘Echo Show’ Launching in June

Amazon today debuted an all-new touchscreen Echo device, which it’s calling the “Echo Show,” following a report from yesterday that said the company was gearing up to debut the new Echo as soon as today. As was expected, the Echo Show is a smart home speaker system that has all of the features of the basic Echo system with an additional 7-inch touchscreen.

With the addition of a touchscreen, Amazon said that users will be able to watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, check on security cameras, swipe through photos, view weather forecasts, make to-do and shopping lists, and more. Far-field voice recognition, eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation allow users to be heard from anywhere in the room, as well as over loud music coming from the Echo Show itself.

One of the biggest additions with Echo Show is a new video chat experience that allows users to make hands-free calls to friends who also have an Echo Show, or who use the Alexa smartphone app. A Feature called “Drop In” lets users quickly contact or send messages to other Echo Show devices to do things like let someone know it’s time for dinner, or check in on a child’s nursery.

The Echo Show will connect to smart home products like Hue and Wink, and allow for simple daily tasks like timing food in the kitchen and catching up with the news.

For news and information you can see and hear, just ask Alexa for your video flash briefing from CNN. Curious about the latest movie trailers or a need a how-to video from YouTube? Just ask.

Echo Show helps keep you organized at home. Start a timer in the kitchen and watch as it counts down, or easily see and manage your family’s calendar. Sign in to the Alexa App to take your to-do and shopping lists with you. Just add an item to the list from home, and whoever is out shopping will see it added instantly on their Alexa App.

The Amazon Echo Show is the latest in a long line of Amazon smart home speakers, following the original Echo, Echo Dot, and most recently the Echo Look. While Amazon sits on top of the market for these voice-controlled speakers, more companies are looking to add similar products into their line-ups. This week, Harman Kardon teased the upcoming launch of a speaker with Microsoft’s Cortana built in, with an aesthetic very similar to Echo.

Apple has long been rumored to be getting into the smart home speaker market as well, with plans to launch a device that would be visually similar to Google Home and have deep Siri integration, as well as the usual Apple services like Apple Music and iCloud. Rumors about such a device began around this time last year, and Apple is now believed to debut the Siri smart speaker as soon as WWDC in June.

Although a screen on the Siri device has not been mentioned in rumors, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller recently mentioned that having a screen available suits more user-friendly situations than a device that exclusively uses voice controls. “So there’s many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you’d never want a screen,” Schiller said. “So the idea of not having a screen, I don’t think suits many situations.”

The Amazon Echo Show is available to pre-order right now in black and white for $229.99 and will begin shipping June 28. Those who purchase two Echo Show devices at once can save $100 off of the order with a special promotion that Amazon is debuting for the launch of the new speaker.

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Apple briefly became first $800 billion company this week

Apple became the first $800 billion company in history this week, as stock rose to a record high yesterday. In midday trading yesterday, Apple shares rose to $153.70 per share on the Nasdaq. With 5.21 billion shares outstanding, that briefly gave Apple an historic market cap of $801.37 billion. By comparison, Google parent company Alphabet […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

Apple Music to Share Exclusive Film About ‘Harry Styles’ Album Next Week

Apple today announced that it will be releasing the film “Harry Styles: Behind the Album” exclusively on Apple Music on May 15.

The film chronicles the former One Direction singer’s so-called “musical journey” while creating his debut solo album, set to be released on Friday.

Apple shared a 30-second preview of the film on its YouTube channel today.

Apple’s full description of the video:

Apple Music Presents: Behind the Album, a new film from production company Fulwell 73, chronicles Harry’s musical journey while creating his much anticipated debut solo album. The film features exclusive interviews and behind the scenes footage shot in Jamaica, Los Angeles and London during the making of the album and is complemented by Harry and his band performing songs from it for the first time at the world famous Abbey Road Studios in London.

Styles’ debut solo single “Sign of the Times,” to be included on the album, is already available on Apple Music.

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Sale of Toshiba’s NAND Chip Unit Faces Trouble as Western Digital Threatens Legal Action

Uncertainty over which company will end up with Toshiba’s much-sought-after NAND chip unit — the second-biggest in the world — has deepened today with a report by Reuters, which states that the Japan-based Toshiba is now facing legal actions from its business partner and chip unit bidder Western Digital. The U.S.-based data storage company is claiming that Toshiba has violated a contract by transferring Western Digital’s joint venture rights entirely to the newly formed chip unit, which Toshiba is soon to sell off.

As a result, Western Digital is reportedly asking for exclusive negotiating rights with Toshiba as a means to win the bid and retain its contract with the supplier, and the U.S. company is threatening legal action in the event that it does not. Western Digital currently operates a semiconductor plant in a joint partnership with Toshiba, but it is not seen as a favored bidder in the eyes of Toshiba executives because it has placed a “much lower offer than other suitors.”

The legal process set in motion by Western Digital could not only delay Toshiba’s NAND chip unit sale, which the company needs to be completed to offset a nearly $9 billion loss related to its overseas nuclear division, but could put an end to the auction altogether. Toshiba has rejected any of Western Digital’s claims that it has violated the joint venture contract.

The clash between Toshiba and Western Digital – both its business partner and one of the bidders for the chip unit – risks delaying or even quashing an auction that the Japanese conglomerate is depending on to plug a $9 billion hole in its accounts.

But in a May 3 letter sent by Toshiba’s lawyers, the TVs-to-nuclear conglomerate disputed Western Digital’ s argument and said it would pursue all available remedies if it saw continued interference in the sale process. Western Digital’s “campaign constitutes intentional interference with Toshiba’s prospective economic advantage and current contracts. It is improper, and it must stop,” the letter, which was seen by Reuters on Tuesday, said.

Western Digital now has until May 15 to sign a few agreements related to its joint venture partnership with Toshiba, and if it doesn’t all Western Digital employees will be restricted from facilities, networks and databases related to Toshiba’s NAND chip unit. According to Masahiko Ishino, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center, Western Digital has a solid ground for legal action: “From a commonsense standpoint, it’s hard to buy Toshiba’s argument that it doesn’t need approval from its JV partner because it’s almost a 50-50 joint venture.”

Outside of the legal battle, Toshiba executives are said to be prioritizing potential bids from what would amount to a consortium of the New York-based private equity firm KKR & Co LP and a few Japanese government-backed investors representing Japan Innovation Network Corp. The Japanese government is said to be “keeping a close eye on the process,” and would prevent any deal that could potentially transfer sensitive technological information to another country, namely Foxconn and its deep China ties.

Now, KKR and Japan Innovation Network Corp are preferred bidders, and are expected to enter a joint offer in the upcoming second round of bidding in mid-May. If the duo win exclusive rights to Toshiba’s NAND chip unit, the technology would stay in Japan, appeasing the local government, and the new owners of the unit could aim for an IPO down the line.

The two new preferred bidders come after TSMC and Foxconn were originally reported as the main companies interested in Toshiba’s chip unit, but TSMC eventually dropped out and then Foxconn faced troubled waters with the Japanese government. Last month, Apple was rumored as willing to spend several billion dollars to obtain a “substantial stake” in the Toshiba NAND chip unit, with enough of a share ownership to allow Toshiba’s executives to retain partial ownership in Japan.

Other potential buyers include South Korea’s SK Hynix, Amazon, Google, Broadcom, and more, who are all looking for a major foothold in the flash memory market that could allow them to compete with the likes of Samsung. The winning bidder is expected to be revealed sometime in June.

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Special edition 32GB Space Gray iPhone 6 now available for just $200 w/o contract

A special budget edition of the iPhone 6 originally created for India and subsequently seen in a number of other countries before it hit the U.S. is now available for just $200 without a contract.

When the iPhone 6 was launched, it was available only in 16/64/128GB tiers, but a 32GB Space Gray model went on sale in India last month before showing up in other countries including the United States. AT&T offered it for $345, but Virgin Mobile is now offering it for just $199.99 as a promo price …


Apple wants to buy up half a city block in Reno, Nevada

Apple is reportedly planning to purchase half a city block in downtown Reno, Nevada to build a new 30,000 square-foot facility, according to city records. The Reno City Council will discuss the proposal this week at its Wednesday meeting. Discussions concerning Apple taking over the property date back as far as 2012. As per Reno’s […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)