Apple Megastore at Grand Central Terminal Boosts Sales at Other Businesses by 7.5%

Last year, Apple opened a brand new store in New York’s Grand Central, which looks absolutely stunning. The store grand opening  brought in a huge crowd too. It was also speculated that the store is  to generate half-a-billion in sales a year. Now New York Daily News reports that the new megastore in Grand Central Terminal has helped increase sales at other businesses in the terminal. The MTA rents space to about a 100 businesses.

According to the Nancy Marshall, director of Grand Central development at the MTA, sales at nearby restaurants, stores and other outfits increased a whopping 7.5 % between December and March compared to the same time frame ending in March 2011. Retailers located in the terminal brought in $177 million in sales last year, up 2.8 % above 2010. However, officials couldn’t immediately quantify in dollars the 7.5% increase in sales after Apple’s arrival.

The rent the MTA charges and collects from business at the terminal has also seen a steady increase over the year and it is projected to reach approximately $30.3 million this year. Net income after expenses is expected to be $20.3 million this year.


Orbitz Showing More Expensive Hotels to Mac Users

The Wall Street Journal reports that the travel shopping site  Orbitz is displaying more expensive hotels to Mac users because the company found that Mac users prefer more luxurious rooms. The travel site company said that it was not showing different prices for the same room to different users, but was presenting pricier hotels more often to Mac users than those using Windows. On Orbitz’s website, users can rank hotel options by price and get the same listings no matter what platform they are using.

The report also notes that the average household income for adult owners of Macs is $98,560, according to Forrester Research, versus $74,452 for a PC owner. It also notes that some high-end hotels see bookings from Mac users hugely out of proportion with their user share on Orbitz.

Apparently, these targeting efforts are part of Orbitz’s “predictive analytics” efforts — using gathered data to offer more accurate results to shoppers in order to generate more revenue. Sounds like a great way to create a PR nightmare, though.

Apple Releases iOS 6 Beta 2 to Developers

Today, Apple has released iOS 6 beta 2 to developers, which include a few fixes related to touchscreen keyboard performance. This update comes just two weeks after iOS 6 was revealed at WWDC 2012. Earlier today, developers started to hear that  an update was available from “AppleInternal”. The “operating system 6.0″ update is a  322-megabyte download for iPhone 4S users. The build number is  “10A5338d.” This new beta release is available via software update in Settings, and now the icon with gears move when updating to a new version of the software. A video can be watched below:

The release notes say that the update fixes an issue where key clicking sounds could be skipped during fast typing. Apple also addressed an issue in which the keyboard would be wrongly positioned when switching from landscape to portrait orientation. In addition, the company reportedly fixed an issue where the iOS SpringBoard may crash during a phone call if the screen would fade to black when using the speakerphone or headphones.  The update also fixed a crash issue which would occur if a new iCloud account was created during initial setup of the iOS device.

iOS 6 beta 2 also adds the podcasts section back into the iTunes application. However, there have been rumors that suggest that Apple may introduce a podcast application when iOS 6 officially launches this fall. The new beta is compatible with the third-generation iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and fourth-generation iPod touch.



Facebook Recruits ex-Apple UI Manager for Product Design

Facebook has hired former Apple UI designer manager Chris Weeldreyer as its new product designer manager to its Menlo Park HQ, reports The Next Web. Weeldreyer joined Facebook on June 18th, four months after he left Apple. At Apple, he was in charge of designing the company’s iWeb and Numbers software. According to his LinkedIn profile, he specializes in industrial design, interaction design, and user interface design on his LinkedIn profile and also has a number of patent applications registered to the company.

Weeldreyer noted the change on both his LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. He joined Facebook just days after the departure of CTO Brett Taylor, who is going to work on startup projects. Currently, Facebook has been advertising for a new Product Design Manager on its careers website to lead a team of designers and report to the Design Director. This is probably due to the company’s heavy interest and focus on developing new products on the social network.

Recently, Apple announced that it will integrate Facebook into iOS 6, which would suggest that the relationship between the two companies is closer than ever.


Apple Ebook Price Fixing Trial Scheduled for June 3rd, 2013


A while ago, the US Justice Department had sued Apple and publishers over ebook pricing. That decision was made after a year long investigation into Apple and the publishers. Today, The Verge reports that that the US Justice Department has scheduled a trial date for June 3rd, 2013. District Judge Denise Cote chose the date and made it official at the conclusion of a hearing in New York City on Friday. This will give the both parties plenty of time to justify their case in the antitrust suite, which accuses Apple and five publishers of agreeing to raise ebook prices by switching to a debatable agency model in 2010.

Apple’s so called “agency model” allows publishers to set e-book pricing under  a “most favored nations” clause that disallows them to sell the content to other resellers at a cheaper price. This agency model is found favorable among publishers that have been hurt by the quick adoption of inexpensive e-books.

Currently, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishers, and Hachette Book Group have already reached settlements with the government. This leaves Macmillan and Penguin Group to settle the charges alongside Apple. However, there is always a possibility that a settlement among both parties may happen sooner before the trial next year.


App Store Launches in 32 New Countries

During the WWDC 2012 keynote, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, announced that the App Store would be launching in 32 additional countries this month. That would bring the total number of countries the App Store is available in to 155. As revealed in the country-selection page within the iTunes Store, those 32 new markets are now available. However, Apple has yet to update its support page listing which iTunes Store content is available in which country.

Majority of the new countries are located in Apple’s  African and Asian markets, with the exception of Albania and Ukraine in Europe. The full list of new App Store countries includes: Albania, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Fiji, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Palau, Papua New Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

During the keynote, Cook revealed that the iOS App Store had reached the 3- billion download mark with over $5 billion paid to developers. In addition, there are over 650,000 apps available, 225,000 of which are designed for iPad.

Apple Reportedly Adopting 19-pin Dock Connector for Next iPhone

A few months ago, iMore reported that Apple was working on a smaller dock connector for its iOS devices, which would allow the company to reduce the size of the current 30-pin connector in order to allow its devices to shrink further and to provide space for other components. Since then, rumors regarding the smaller dock connector have been all over the place.

Now, TechCrunch reports that it is hearing more about the small connector. In addition, the word on the street is that it will include 19 pins for the connectivity. TechCrunch‘s report comes as Mobile Fun shares several case drawings and renderings from a case manufacturer who believes that the parts leaked so far will prove to be true.

One manufacturer we spoke to said that he was sure that the leaked images were accurate – so sure that he was already preparing to construct iPhone 5 cases and he’d be willing to ship replacements for free if they turned out not to be perfect. He enumerated three big changes from the old iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5:

1. The phone is much bigger, measuring 58.47 mm wide, 123.83 mm high and 7.6 mm thin. The screen is 4″.
2. The earphone jack has been relocated to the bottom of the phone.
3. The dock connector is much smaller, similar in size to micro USB.

According to the post, the drawings and renderings have seem to be created by the case manufacturer as it works to design cases for the leaked form factor. It should be noted that nothing is confirmed until Apple confirms it themselves.

MacBook Pro with Retina Display Can Power 3 External Monitors

At WWDC 2012, Apple revealed a brand new 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina display. Now Other World Computing reports that the new MacBook Pro with Retina display can power up to three external monitors for a total of four screens. Other World Computing connected the new laptop to two new iMacs in display mode via Thunderbolt and an LG monitor via HDMI while setting the machine’s own display settings to “Best for Retina”. Sounds amazing.

In fact, even with the four displays active, the new MacBook Pro did not appear to encounter to have any performance issues. “Moving images and media didn’t create any lag and we were able to play video on all four displays simultaneously,” OWC wrote in a blog post. Counting the full resolution of the MacBook Pro’s display, OWC’s four-screen setup shows the laptop powering 14.86 million pixels! Apple’s own technical specifications for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display only show support for two external displays at 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, plus the built-in display.

This makes the MacBook Pro with Retina display to be the first Mac — other than a tower-based workstation like the Mac Pro — to be able to power four displays simultaneously.

Kodak Sues Apple over Patent Ownership Dispute

In a new lawsuit, Kodak has accused Apple of attempting to interfere with its plans to sell off its patent portfolio. According to Reuters, the suit was filed on Monday in the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan. Kodak has accused Apple of falsely claiming to own 10 patents related to a cooperative project between the two companies in the 1990s, the QuickTake camera.

The 10 patents that are in question are among more than 700 that Kodak is trying to sell. However, the lawsuit alleges that Apple has used “its substantial cash position to delay” the sale of those patents, and also to prevent Kodak from collecting royalties.

In addition, a defendant in the case is FlashPoint Technology Inc., which claims ownership of patents through an assignment from Apple. Earlier this year, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and it has been reportedly said that the company has a patent portfolio potentially worth billions of dollars. The company is expected to auction its patent portfolio in early August, and to announce a winning bidder by August 13.

Stanford Partnering Up with Piazza to Add Social Layer to iTunes U Course

Earlier this year, Apple introduced a brand new version of iTunes U with new iPad and iPhone apps as well as tools that allow teachers to include assignments, books, quizzes and syllabi with their iTunes U courses. In addition, it was also reported that iTunes U had passed 600 million downloads last year.

Now, Stanford has announced that it will partner with Piazza a social learning platform with one of the most popular iTunes U courses — Professor Paul Hegarty’s iPad and iPhone App Development [iTunes Link]. This course follows the iOS 5 course from the Fall 2011 semester, which is currently available via iTunes U. Stanford is currently taking those lectures and using Piazza to improve the experience for users taking the class across the same 10 week period.

The new social media aspect of the course builds on a technology many students already use: Piazza, a social learning platform. Stanford students taking the classroom version of Paul Hegarty’s programming course, on which the online course is based, have used Piazza.

Earlier versions of the 10-week apps course have proved enormously popular, with individual lecture videos downloaded more than 10 million times.

The inclusion of Piazza will enhance the learning experience, said Brent Izutsu, Stanford’s program manager for iTunes U. “There is an enormous potential for collaboration and community-building though Q&A and problem-solving with friends from across the globe,” he said.

Those enrolled in the iTunes U class are expected to answer questions as well as ask them, while the course captains facilitate discussions and drive students toward correct answers.

The course is available for free and will run from June 25th to August 16th. Registration is free and closes on July 6.