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Applesauce: All Things Apple – November 25, 2012

Nov 25, 12 Applesauce: All Things Apple – November 25, 2012

T’was a slow news week for Apple as many focused instead on finding the best deal on iPads and Macs on “Black Friday.” As it turns out, building a spaceship is harder than it looks, even for Apple. The company also had problems keeping their cloud offerings aloft earlier this week, with yet another iMessage outage affecting many users. Finally, settling things with HTC could prove to have been a shot in the foot for Apple. Now, Samsung wants to see the private details of this agreement, saying if Apple can settle with other companies, why are they seeking injunctions against them?

My stomach is still reeling from Holiday Egg Nog and Dressing. Let’s take it easy with some Applesauce today, shall we?

Building Spaceships is totally hard

Ambitious and somewhat odd-looking campuses aren’t anything new to the West Coast. However, building a campus that very closely resembles a spaceship? Well, that seems particularly Apple. Steve Jobs personally brought these plans to the Cupertino City Council last June, just months before his passing. Even he admitted this circular structure of glass and metal resembled something from a science fiction novel, but it was easy to see he would one day be very proud of this new campus, or Campus 2 as it’s being called. This week, the Cupertino City Council announced it might take Apple another year or so to begin breaking ground on this new campus. Earlier this month, Apple submitted a revised proposal for the building, making only a few minor changes, removing a small bridge, adding additional parking, etc. With these new proposed changes, the City Council is now saying it could take them till June to complete the necessary environmental impact report. David Brandt, the city manager, didn’t seem too optimistic about getting this project moving along quickly, however. “They could conceivably break ground in 2013, but only if everything goes smoothly,” explained Brandt, who later added: “The project is running a little bit slow.” Judging from Brandt’s cautious optimism, it looks as if construction for Apple’s Campus 2 won’t begin until sometime in 2014, meaning the entire project may not be completed until 2016. Apple later commented on this delay to All Things D, saying, “Apple Campus 2 will be a new home for our company and an important part of the lives of more than 12,000 Apple employees.” “With that in mind, we have approached this project with the same care and attention to detail we pay when designing any Apple product. We look forward to moving the project forward with the city and beginning construction.”

Even the new, incoming mayor of Cupertino commented on the news, saying these delays really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. “We’ve been working closely with Apple, where they recently changed their internal management of the project, and these kinds of revisions are pretty routine,” said Orrin Mahoney, speaking to the Mercury News. “But all the main elements of the design are still there, including the curved glass and spaceship design.” “You have to remember that this is a huge project for Cupertino, and it’s probably the biggest project in Silicon Valley, too.”

Mahoney’s mention of “internal management” is curious. Apple has recently shifted some things around in terms of management, namely giving Scott Forstall and John Browett the boot. It isn’t clear if one of these men were partly responsible for overseeing this project or if there have been other, lower profile changes at Apple’s current campus. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Apple project without an eye towards the environment. Campus 2 is expected to play host to even more trees and landscaping than what is currently found on the property. The roofs will be decked with solar panels and the huge, curved planes of glass will allow for more natural light to come in, meaning less dependence on bulbs and the like. Apple is even building an auditorium on the same property to hold their special events, meaning those responsible for hosting these little shows won’t have to drive or hitch a ride to some out-of-town venue, a smallish move towards green, but one worth mentioning.

iMessage is Down

iCloud is a fantastic service…when it works. It’s most unfortunate that the previous statement needs an ellipses or some other type of justification. But if we’re going to be honest, let’s be honest, iCloud isn’t as rock solid as many of us would prefer. Granted, I’ve only had a few very small hiccups with the service since it was rolled out, but there have been stories floating around the Internet of contacts being deleted, apps not syncing and general headache and woe. For whatever reason (I shan’t delve into it here) we expect any Apple product to perform flawlessly, and for the most part, they do. Even if they don’t perform flawlessly every time, they still perform much better than their competition. Ah, but I said I wasn’t going to get into it here.

iMessage went “down” again this week, and this time for a longer period than normal and for more users than normal. Yes, I said “more than normal.”

Because, you see, iMessage often goes out for some users for small increments of time. As 9 to 5 Mac succinctly Tweeted: “Yes, iMessage is down again. You guys want a post for something that happens a few times a week?” A simple search with your favorite search engine will provide all the proof needed. For instance (and for the sake of time) I searched “iMessage is down” between the first of June 2012 and the 16th of November, a few days before the latest outage. In that time, there have been stories of outages on October 25 and 30th as well as September 17th, July 22nd and June 20th. Based on this search, it looks as if iMessage has been unavailable for a significant number of people about once a month…that’s not a service that “just works.” (wow…it actually did pain me a little to type that.)

During this month’s outage, FaceTime and iMessage both came down for several hours. Then, not long after service was restored and users were able to iMessage with one another once more, some noticed their devices went noticeably quiet. As it turns out, just days after many iTunes Match early adopters received emails about the auto-renewal of their subscriptions, iTunes Match also took a brief nose dive. That this outage had happened so closely to the auto-renewal made many wonder if something had gone wrong in the renewal process itself. Later, those who had already had their renewal go through also noticed the same thing: iTunes Match was down. Apple’s Not-Quite-A-Subscription service allows users to essentially carry their music library with them anywhere on any Apple branded device. With this service, any Apple TV, iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch is capable of “streaming” from the iTunes catalogue any song the user has sent up to the iCloud. It’s a handy feature when it works, but like any cloud-based offering, one takes a gamble when they commit. Any outage such as this means many couldn’t listen to any songs which weren’t already stored on the device. This iTunes Match outage also lasted for a few hours and affected a wide swatch of its users. I’m quite familiar with each of the iMessage outages. Tweets about not being able to send iMessages and articles covering the outage pop up every so often, or about once a month. However, I’ve never personally experienced such an outage until this most recent one last Sunday. I was chatting with another iMessage user when suddenly, the conversation fell quiet. I noticed my status bar at the top of the message application on my iPhone was stuck at “Sending” for quite sometime. It was only when I forced the message through as an SMS that it ever reached its recipient. Then, the next day, I also noticed my iTunes Match just wasn’t working. Other parts of iCloud, such as syncing documents, syncing apps, music and other data, and Siri, have steadily improved, at least in my experience. However, it appears as if iMessage, likely iCloud’s most used feature, still needs some beefing up.

One step forward, two steps back

There’s been a whole set of consequences which have stemmed from Apple’s rather surprising decision to settle with HTC. When Apple and HTC first announced this settlement, jointly, they intentionally withheld much of the details, such as what the exact terms of the license agreement were, how much Apple would be making from an HTC license deal, etc. This sent some analysts (as they’re often won’t to do) to begin making some educated guesses as to how much HTC was paying Apple to license their patents. While there were several predictions floating around, the one which received the most press came from Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee. According to ol’ Wu, HTC could be paying Apple upward of $8 to $10 for every phone sold. A week or so went by before HTC’s CEO Peter Chou stepped up to call this estimation both “Baseless” and “outrageous.” As it turns out, it’s not only the analysts who want to know what Chou and Cook hammered out behind closed doors. Samsung has also become curious, and has asked for their attorneys to take a look at these raw figures as they prepare for the latest legal spat between Apple and Samsung. According to Samsung, the settlement agreement undermines Apple’s assertion that an injunction is a more appropriate remedy than money damages,” reads the court documents filed by Samsung. Apple has said they have no problem with handing over the terms of this agreement, but HTC might have some qualms over the deal. Judge Paul Grewal, who is helping Judge Koh during the early stages of the next legal circus show between these two companies, has agreed with Samsung and ordered Apple to hand over the details of this settlement. According to court documents, the numbers will only be seen by attorneys, but will still likely be used to show that Apple is more hell-bent on placing injunctions on Samsung than working for peace.

“HTC is not entitled to special treatment, especially when it has recognized the general sufficiency of the protective order and the integrity of Samsung’s outside counsel,” wrote Grewal in the official ruling. A Samsung lawyer is said to have told the judge that Apple couldn’t have suffered irreparable harm (a claim they made in their earlier court appearance with Samsung) if they are willing to sign deals with other companies. While analysts and attorneys alike want to know what Apple and HTC have agreed to, one man has said he’s already seen a “heavily redacted” version of the license agreement. The inimitable Florian Mueller of Foss Patents says he looked for these agreements “in a place where few people look for this kind of information.” From the sparse details given in these redacted versions, Mueller points out that the entire deal will be thrown out if either Apple or HTC undergo a “Change of Control,” or if any company is bought out by another company or if another party takes control of these companies. This move, while not out of the ordinary, does seem to imply that Apple doesn’t expect HTC to last the duration of their ten-year agreement. As Mueller writes: “If anyone wants to buy HTC now, it’s still possible, but the Apple agreement won’t benefit the new owner (unless the new owner previously secures Apple’s consent).” Mueller also writes that it’s unclear from these redacted documents if Apple is claiming exclusive rights to the patents in question, and furthermore notes that there is another redacted portion entitled “covered products,” meaning the agreement could be very specific and intentional about the products covered therein. While many were excited to see Apple reach out in peace to a company they were previous suing, this settlement could end up sending them to pursue even more legal actions in the future. What’s that they say about one step forward and two steps back?

Image Credit: Photos.com

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