March 16 Opening of New Houston Apple Store May Signal iPad 3 Launch

Apple is expected to announced the iPad 3 next week, but a mystery that still remains is the launch date for it. Also, the week before a major Apple event gets crazy for the rumor mill. Now, The Houston Chronicle reports that Apple’s upcoming  Highland Village retail store will be opening on Friday, March 16.

Apple Houston Highland Village Store

According to the report, the store was originally scheduled to open in January, but due to delays caused by construction, the opening was pushed back to Saturday, March 17th. However, just weeks ago the opening was moved up by a day to March 16, which leads to speculate that the company maybe looking to have the store open for an iPad 3 launch on that day.

This date would be similar to the company’s launch of the iPad 2 a year ago. Last year, Apple announced the iPad 2 on March 2nd, and the device was made available in the U.S. just over a week later, on March 11th. An international launch occurred a few weeks later, on March 25th.

Apple’s new Highland Village store is among the first of the retail stores to be based on a prototype design from the company’s s Upper West Side store in Manhattan.

This is What Apple’s New Amsterdam Retail Store Looks Like

Apple Amsterdam Store

Last week, we reported that Apple’s first Amsterdam Retail Store will open on March 3rd, which will make it the thirteenth country where Apple has retail presence. The new location in Amsterdam will be on the ground floor and lower floor of the city’s historic Hirsch Building in Leidseplein Square. Press previews for the new store occurred this morning, and a number of sources have posted photo sets of the interior of the store.

Apple Amsterdam Store Interior

One More Thing has posted an extensive gallery [Google translation] showing the gorgeous interior details Apple has used in the historic building. Also, iPhoneclub.nl has some additional shots [Google translation], including one of the massive Genius Bar in the store. Apple reportedly says that it is the longest in its chain of retail stores. It was reported that The Genius Bar had 20 seats for customers, but from the picture it seems there are a lot more stools than that. Wow, what a masterpiece this store is!

Apple Amsterdam Store Interior 2

Apple Amsterdam Store Genius Bar

Yesterday, Thomas Schlijper also posted a mind blowing photo of the glass staircase at Apple’s new Amsterdam retail store. Looks gorgeous, doesn’t it?

Apple Amsterdam Store Staircase

Rumor: Apple to Unveil 8GB iPad 2 Alongside iPad 3 on March 7

Oh boy, the week before a major Apple is always filled with rumors. Just a few hours ago, it was reported that Apple has stalled Apple TV shipments ahead of the iPad 3 announcement. Now, supply chain sources are claiming that Apple will unveil a cheaper 8GB iPad 2 model alongside the iPad 3 at its media event next week.

DigiTimes reports that according to sources within Apple’s “upstream supply chain,” the iPad maker will release the smaller capacity iPad 2. If this is true, then that would help the company cover a wider price range within the table market.

However, this report was unclear, since it  said Apple would release just two “iPad 3″ sizes: a 16GB and 32GB version, without explaining if and why the company would abandon its current high-capacity 64GB iPad model. DigiTimes’ rumors should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

Apple will unveil the iPad 3 next Wednesday, March 7th at 10 AM PST. You can read the five things to expect in the iPad 3 here. If you were to ask me, I think this rumor might turn out to be true. Here’s why: When Apple introduced the iPhone 4S, they also introduced an 8GB iPhone 4 for $99 instead of a 16GB. There’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a cheaper version of the iPad 2, but the only question that remains to be unanswered is the amount of GB it will have to offer.

Apple Store App for iOS Updated

Today, Apple has updated its Apple Store app [App Store] for iOS to version 2.1. This new update adds several new features and makes the app available in Netherlands for the first time to support the Amsterdam store opening this week.

Apple Store update 2.1

The most interesting addition brought via the update is the new “Account” section where users can update their billing information and addresses as well as shipping addresses right from the app. Before this update, users had to log into their accounts through the Apple website in order to update payment methods.

What’s New in Version 2.1

– Choose iPhone plans from all three U.S. carriers — AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint (U.S. Only)
– Make your shopping experience even more convenient with new account management editing and billing options.
– The Apple Store app is now available in the Netherlands.
– Requires iOS 4.3.3 or higher.

This is interesting because the previous update introduced “EasyPay”, which allows users of the app to scan product barcodes in-store, read reviews on their iPhone and then charge the items directly to the credit card associated with their iTunes account. I guess this is even more evidence that Apple is testing the waters with mobile payments.

Mercedes Benz to Integrate Apple’s Siri

Mercedes Benz has announced that it will integrate Apple’s Siri in its new A-Class line of vehicles. Also, the car manufacturer will add even better support for Apple’s iPhone. Siri is the virtual assistant found in the iPhone 4S.

Parent company Daimler recently revealed an in-house-developed “Digital DriveStyle App” that will combine with a Drive Kit Plus for iPhone to incorporate the smartphone with the car’s multimedia system. According to Mercedes Benz, all of the iPhone’s integration functions can be used with Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level Audio 20 system.

Mercedes Benz Siri

In addition, the app will allow access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and will be available for download free of charge” from Apple’s iTunes Store. Other features that were announced were personalized Internet radio, navigation software from Garmin, a “Car Finder” and access to Siri. Sounds amazing! I think over the next few years, we will see car systems becoming more integrated with our devices.

Mercedes Benz says it is the  “first automotive manufacturer” to bring Apple’s Siri to a vehicle through its custom “Digital DriveStyle App.” The iPhone will be connected via an interface that was developed by the company’s accessories division. This accessory will output the iPhone’s display to the vehicle’s display while simultaneously powering and charging the device.

The car manufacturer says that the A-Class will make its world premiere at the Geneva Auto Show next month. In addition, this advanced iPhone integration will be made available in the automaker’s B-, C-, and E-Class this fall.

Apple Stalls Apple TV Shipments Ahead of iPad 3 Announcement

Recently, rumors of a new Apple TV being announced on March 7th have appeared and part numbers indicating an update alongside the iPad 3 next week have been revealed.

AppleInsider now reports that Apple has specifically been stalling in delivering promised shipments of the device to resellers. In addition, Apple’s own stores are starting to see shortages of the Apple TV as the company reduces the supply ahead of the refresh. Even though the online store is still showing an “in stock” status, the customers that select the in-store pickup option will find that many Apple retail stores are currently out of stock. For locations that are currently out of stock of the Apple TV, the company can still ship orders to the stores for pickup, but even those shipments are starting to see extended timeframes.

Just yesterday, Apple sent out invites for its iPad 3 event on March 7th, and it appears that the updated Apple TV will be making an appearance at that time. If you are looking to purchase an Apple TV, I’d wait until next week.

Apple Is Now Worth $500,000,000,000

Wow, just a couple of weeks ago, I reported that Apple’s share price has soared past $500. At that time the share price was at $468, and had begun to soar past $470, $480, and $490. Following today’s release of invitations to the company’s March 7th event for iPad 3, Apple’s share price had closed the day up  $9.65, or 1.84 percent, which made Apple’s market cap very close to $500 billion. Market cap is  the value of a company.

AAPL 500 billion

To put that in perspective, the company that used to be the world’s valuable company (Exxon), was worth $411 billion as of Tuesday afternoon, or $90 billion less than Apple. Better yet, Apple is now worth as much Toyota, Volkswagen, Daimler, Honda, Ford, Nissan, and GM combined! The share price has been rising ever since they reported blowout earnings for the first fiscal quarter of 2012. In fact, just three months ago, Apple’s share price was nearly $200 less.

I’d also like to once again point out Google’s share price growth, but wait! It isn’t seeing a significant increase at all. In the past three months, GOOG has seen an increase of only 5%, while AAPL has seen an increase of 42%! If marketshare meant everything, why is GOOG struggling to see growth, while AAPL is seeing phenomenal growth?

AAPL GOOG three 2012Clearly, Apple’s doomed and is just a fad.

Sprint Committed to $15.5B iPhone Contract in 2011

Earlier this month, Sprint revealed that it sold 1.8 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2011. Now according to Sprint’s 10-K report for the 2011 fiscal year, the carrier revealed that it is betting on subscriber dues to offset an expected 2012 deficit agreement with Apple. Apparently, this called for a minimum order of around $15.5 billion worth of iPhones, according to Barron’s.

What’s interesting is that even though the carrier saw a decline in wireless profits due to the high subsidy cost of carrying the iPhone, the carrier still agreed to purchase $15.5 billion worth of iPhones. By doing so, Sprint looks to make up for the profit loss with the subscriber revenue.

Carriers pay large subsidies to carry the iPhone, and Sprint is currently paying $450 for every unit sold with a two-year contract. In addition to this, the carrier offers “instant savings” by offering unlimited data for any iPhone model. The carrier plans to take a hit in profits early by purchasing and subsidizing the iPhone. Even though this might sound crazy, there might be evidence that their strategy maybe working because last quarter the carrier sold 1.8 million iPhones.

 

Best Buy Cuts Price of iPad 2 by $50 as iPad 3 Nears

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the iPad 3 will be announced on March 7th. I’m excited, are you? The report that came out claimed that the iPad 3 will include a 2048×1536 Retina display as well as a quad-core A6 processor and “possibly” 4G LTE networking. My thoughts regarding what we can expect with the iPad 3 can be read here.

Today, it has been discovered that Best Buy is now offering  $50 discounts across the entire line of iPad 2 models, which would further signal that an iPad 3 launch is imminent. Now the price of an iPad 2 starts at $449.99 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model.

In addition,  Engadget reports that Best Buy has begun updating its internal inventory management systems to reflect a “deleted” status for iPad 2 models. However, it should be noted that Best Buy does not have advance notice of new Apple products, especially those that appear to be part of a major media event. MacRumors also points out that Best Buy isn’t the only one reducing iPad 2 prices.  Grocery and retail store chain Meijer earlier this month offered the entry-level iPad for $429, a $70 discount from the regular retail prices.

Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad 2 Released

Adobe has officially launched Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad 2, which was pulled yesterday since it was scheduled for a Monday, February 27th launch. Last October, Adobe had first announced the product, alongside 5 other upcoming tablet applications. This app is the flagship app from the company.

Photoshop for iPad 2

The app is described as a tool to “let you quickly combine images, apply professional effects, share the results with friends and family through social networking sites like Facebook, and more”. Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad 2 is available for $9.99 in the US and is only compatible with the iPad 2. Adobe Photoshop for Touch can be download via the App Store here.

Adobe has been exploring the tablet market by entering onto the iPad and other tablets with a series of applications. However, they have yet to match the capabilities of the desktop version of Adobe’s key software products. The company’s initial goal for the iPad was to explore how the device might be used as an auxiliary input for the desktop version at first, but now the company has expanded to including some image editing features from Photoshop. MacStories has a fantastic review of the app.

Clearly, the iPad is just for “content consumption” and not content creation.