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Apple Seeds Sixth OS X 10.11 El Capitan Beta to Developers

Apple today released the sixth beta of OS X 10.11 El Capitan to developers for testing purposes, one week after releasing the fifth El Capitan beta and nearly two months after unveiling the new operating system at its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference.

The update, which arrives as Build 15A244d, is available through the software update mechanism in the Mac App Store and through the Apple Developer Center.

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While early betas introduced minor design changes and features, the last few betas have focused on under-the-hood performance improvements and bug fixes to optimize OS X El Capitan ahead of its public release.


OS X El Capitan builds on the features introduced with OS X Yosemite, focusing on improving performance and user experience. Behind-the-scenes improvements in El Capitan have made a number of apps and processes on the Mac much faster, and the introduction of Metal makes system-level graphics rendering 40 percent more efficient.

Along with a new systemwide font, El Capitan includes a revamped Mission Control feature, a new Split View feature for using two full-screen apps at once, deeper functionality for Spotlight, and several new features for Safari, including Pinned Sites for housing frequently visited websites and a universal mute button that quiets all tabs.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan is available to both registered developers and public beta testers. After testing is completed, Apple will release El Capitan to the public in the fall.

Related roundup: OS X El Capitan

Apple Purchases Massive 43-Acre Development Site in North San Jose

Shortly after leasing a 300,000 square foot campus in North San Jose, Apple has expanded on its real estate holdings in the area, buying a 43-acre development site at 2347 North First Street for more than $138 million.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the site, which consists of undeveloped land, is approved for up to 2.8 million square feet of office space, much like Apple's Campus 2 location in Cupertino. Apple has not submitted building plans for the site, and it is unclear what the company plans to do with the land.

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Map showing land bought by Apple and other available real estate in the same North San Jose area

Apple is expanding rapidly in the Bay Area. In addition to the second Cupertino campus and the 300,000 square feet of space leased in San Jose in July, the company made its first real estate lease in San Francisco last week, signing a deal for 76,000 square feet of office space.

Along with office space, Apple is also said to be seeking additional space for both industrial purposes and research and development, possibly for undisclosed projects like its Apple Car.
What's interesting in the latest transaction is that Apple opted to buy, not lease. It's possible Apple wants more control over whatever it does there, and simply felt more comfortable owning the land. In addition to office space, Apple has been in the market for broad swaths of heavy R&D and industrial space, industry observers tell me. The latter could be read as a tantalizing sign of Apple's interest in manufacturing, though such a possibility is for now market speculation.
The land that Apple purchased in North San Jose is located approximately 12 miles from its 1 Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino and is across the freeway from the Mineta San Jose International Airport. North First Street is already home to other major companies like Cisco and Samsung.

First Firmware Worm Able to Infect Macs Created by Researchers

A team of researchers has created the first firmware worm that's able to infect Macs, reports Wired. Building on "Thunderstrike" exploits uncovered earlier this year, the worm, dubbed "Thunderstrike 2," infects Macs at the firmware level, making it nearly impossible to remove. Embedded into firmware, malware is resistant to firmware and software updates, able to block them entirely or reinstall itself at will.

The worm was created by security engineer Trammell Hudson, who first discovered the Thunderstrike exploits, and Xeno Kovah, owner of firmware security consultancy LegbaCore. When Thunderstrike made waves earlier this year, it was a limited proof-of-concept attack with no known presence in the wild, but Thunderstrike 2 demonstrates a real-world worm able to target Macs using the same general vulnerabilities.


Thunderstrike 2, unlike the first demonstration of Thunderstrike, is able to infect a Mac remotely through a malicious website or email. Once on a Mac, it's able to spread itself to other Macs by hiding in the option ROM of peripheral devices like Apple's own Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter, external SSDs, RAID controllers, and more. Once infected by a Mac that has the Thunderstrike 2 worm, the peripheral would go on to infect any other Mac it connects to.
"People are unaware that these small cheap devices can actually infect their firmware," says Kovah. "You could get a worm started all around the world that's spreading very low and slow. If people don't have awareness that attacks can be happening at this level then they're going to have their guard down and an attack will be able to completely subvert their system."
Removing malware embedded into a Mac's firmware would need to be done at the hardware level, making it particularly dangerous. According to the researchers, Apple has not done enough to fix the vulnerabilities that leave Macs open to these kind of attacks.
"Some vendors like Dell and Lenovo have been very active in trying to rapidly remove vulnerabilities from their firmware," Kovah notes. "Most other vendors, including Apple as we are showing here, have not. We use our research to help raise awareness of firmware attacks, and show customers that they need to hold their vendors accountable for better firmware security."
Kovah and Hudson have notified Apple about the Thunderstrike 2 vulnerabilities, but thus far, Apple's only fixed one of five security flaws and introduced a partial fix for a second. Three of the vulnerabilities have not yet been patched, but it's likely Apple is working to get the flaws fixed in an upcoming security update.

More information on Kovah and Hudson's research and the Thunderstrike 2 exploit can be found in a lengthy report over at Wired.

Apple Said to Consider Becoming a Mobile Carrier by Leasing Network Capacity in U.S. and Europe

Apple is currently in early talks to launch its own mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in both the United States and Europe, according to information gathered by Business Insider. A few sources close to Apple suggest that the company is testing the service right now in the United States, with early negotiations beginning in Europe to bring the MVNO service overseas.

If completed, Apple would essentially become its own network carrier, freeing the company and iPhone users from any particular current carrier like T-Mobile or AT&T, and allow users to pay for the usual data, calls, and text services directly from Apple. The MVNO would allow Apple to lease space from network carriers already in the business of providing data to customers, with the Apple SIM card -- already included in the cellular versions of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 -- picking up and switching between carriers on the fly for the best service possible.
iPhone 6 pic
As Business Insider points out, the testing of the MVNO service doesn't guarantee its eventual arrival for customers using an iPhone in the United States and Europe. But, if the company does intend to eventually become a carrier itself, it would be a fairly long-term goal of five years or more to be fully implemented.
If Apple is testing the service then there's no guarantee that it will launch, and if it does, it's not going to roll out anytime soon. Telecoms sources say that Apple is looking long-term with its MVNO, and could take at least five years to fully launch the service. Apple has been in talks with telecoms companies for years over its MVNO plans, and it's an "open secret" amongst carriers that a virtual Apple network is on the way.
Speculation surrounding Apple becoming its own wireless provider has been swirling for a decade now, resurging in various rumor and patent stories every now and again over the years. With Apple rumored to be in "advanced talks" with mobile standards organization GSMA in the production of a standardized mobile electronic SIM card -- which would allow customers to avoid being locked into a dedicated network carrier -- the company appears to at least be positioning itself for the possibility of a future MVNO launch.

More 'iPhone 6s' Display Assembly Photos and Renderings Revealed

Following the release of several photos of a claimed display assembly for the "iPhone 6s" over the weekend, Macfixit Australia has shared additional images of what appears to be the same display assembly, further suggesting the leaked images to be real internal parts for the next-generation iPhone.

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One of Macfixit's photos includes a quality control label showing a pass date of July 29, which, if legitimate, would put the assembly in a correct time frame for Apple's traditional September iPhone launches. The image also appears identical to those released over the weekend by repair company GeekBar, with the same possible cutouts for a taptic engine to fuel Force Touch and a slightly thicker frame.

A few possible third-party case manufacturer design renders have also been shared by uSwitch and Nowhereelse.fr's OnLeaks channel, backing the theory that this year's iPhone line will be slightly thicker than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Theories that support Apple's reasoning behind increasing the iPhone's thickness -- other than the inclusion of Force Touch -- include attempts to avoid another "Bendgate" controversy from last year with a stronger body. Height and width of the iPhones shown in the renderings are also marginally larger than the measurements for the current lineup.

While the iPhone 6 came in at 6.9mm thick, the iPhone 6S is 7.1mm, according to our source.

The iPhone 6S Plus, which was the model most often cited in the so-called 'bendgate' scandal, has also been body-building. It’s gone from 7.1mm thick to 7.3mm, we were told.
The renders also suggest that the "iPhone 6s" could be missing the slightly protruding camera found on the current lineup, perhaps made possible by the slightly thicker body. The "iPhone 6s Plus" renderings, however, continue to show a protruding rear camera. uSwitch does note the renders could simply be incomplete, so Apple's plans for rear camera designs remain unconfirmed. Otherwise, the site notes an overall similarity between generations, with a home button, volume rockers, lock switch, and screen size that make the new phones "largely indistinguishable" from last year's models.

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Even with the possibility of a thicker frame, the size increase of the so-called iPhone 6s would be small enough to allow most accessories and cases to function with both generations of the device. News and rumors regarding the "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus" have begun to proliferate in the past few weeks, and will no doubt continue to do so as we head into the iPhone launch season.

iPhone Battery With 1715 mAh Capacity Possibly Destined for 'iPhone 6s' or '6c' Appears

French site Nowhereelse.fr last week shared a photo [Google Translate] of a battery appearing very similar to an iPhone battery and labeled as being from Apple's usual supplier, but the battery's capacity of 1715 mAh leaves questions as to whether the battery is intended for the upcoming "iPhone 6s" or a smaller "iPhone 6c" that has reportedly been delayed or canceled.

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The battery's 1715 mAh capacity is lower than the 1810 mAh capacity of the iPhone 6 battery, indicating Apple would have to have increased power efficiency of the device for the "S" generation in order to achieve the same battery life as its predecessor. Given the consistent overall design of the iPhone 6 and 6s, it is unclear why Apple would reduce the battery capacity at all, unless other changes such as a thicker display panel needed for Force Touch support are reducing the internal volume available for the battery in the iPhone 6s.

Another option is that this battery is for Apple's rumored "iPhone 6c", which was reportedly a new 4-inch iPhone Apple had under development but which appeared to have been canceled or delayed earlier this year after supply chain evidence dried up. The battery in today's photo carries a manufacturing date of March 2015, so it does come from the timeframe when iPhone 6c claims were still circulating, although its capacity is higher than that of fellow 4-inch devices such as the iPhone 5s (1558 mAh) and iPhone 5c (1510 mAh).

One argument in favor of this being an iPhone 6s battery is the connector seen on the part, which appears essentially identical to the one seen on the iPhone 6 and distinct from that used on other iPhone models such as the 5s and 5c, but it is otherwise difficult to say what device this battery was planned for.

With roughly a month to go before the expected unveiling of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, part leaks are rapidly accelerating. Many of them will not reveal much given the similarities between the two generation's designs, but some subtle differences such as those on the display assembly may hint at changes for the upcoming device.

(Thanks, Ryan)

Apple Testing Service That Allows Siri to Answer Calls and Transcribe Voicemail

Employees at Apple are reportedly putting a new service through its paces, one that would allow Siri to not only answer a missed call instead of a pre-set voicemail message, but give her the ability to record and transcribe those message for users to read as text later (via Business Insider). The messages would be sent to users via iCloud, completely skipping the need to check voicemail.

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The so-called "iCloud Voicemail" service could relay information regarding where a user is and specifics as to why they can't pick up the phone, if given the permission to do so. According to Business Insider, "multiple Apple employees" are testing the new feature and if it stays on track, it could see a debut sometime in 2016 in iOS 10.
Apple's proposed solution is both incredibly simple and incredibly clever: People like to leave voicemails (it's often quicker to orally deliver your information than it is to type it in a text message). But they don't like to receive voicemails (it's a lot quicker to read a text than it is to listen to the other person talking at you). The new product will also bridge a generation gap: Older users like voicemails. Young people do not.

Apple sends voice data to company servers, where Siri converts the words spoken into text. iCloud Voicemail will presumably function in the same way, sending the raw voicemails to Apple, and Siri will then transcribe them and make them available on your iPhone.
Apple has doubled-down on Siri ever since the digital assistant's debut, with this year's launch of iOS 9 -- focusing mainly on performance enhancements and subtle design changes -- seeing Siri at the heart of the changes. The new iOS will allow the personal assistant to create contextual reminders, search more thoroughly through photos and videos, and grant users an easily-accessible curated list of contacts and apps in "Siri Suggestions," a quick left-swipe from the home screen.

Apple Expected to Launch New iMacs With Improved Processors and Display Quality This Quarter

imac_27_angleApple's iMac line is set to receive a significant boost this quarter in the form of a refresh including new processors and improved display quality, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Display improvements are said to arrive in the form of greater color saturation, but Kuo makes no mention of whether Apple is planning to extend Retina display options to the smaller 21.5-inch iMac lineup.
We believe Apple will introduce new iMac models in 3Q15, which are expected to have key selling points such as more powerful processors and much better display quality. We predict the panel will use a LED phosphor material called KSF to notably boost color saturation.
While Apple has released several 27-inch Retina iMac models since last October, the remainder of the iMac lineup has not been updated since September 2013 as Apple has had to wait for Intel to release new desktop processors that could allow for a substantial update. With Broadwell processors starting to trickle out and Skylake right around the corner, it appears Apple will finally be able to offer a substantial upgrade for the entire iMac family.

Kuo believes that an inventory draw-down in the second quarter, the upcoming new iMacs, and promotions such as the current Back to School program will drive strong sequential growth in iMac shipments for the current quarter, perhaps doubling quarter-over-quarter to one million units. The third calendar quarter is typically very strong for Apple's Mac segment with much of the world in the midst of back to school shopping.

Related roundup: iMac , Tags: KGI Securities, Ming-Chi Kuo

Claimed 'iPhone 6s' Display Assembly Revealed in New Photos

Chinese phone repair company GeekBar has shared a series of three photos today (via Nowhereelse.fr) showing what is claimed to be a display assembly for the upcoming "iPhone 6s".

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While the photos do not confirm that the device will be equipped with Force Touch sensing as has been rumored, they do appear slightly different from the corresponding parts for the iPhone 6.

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Meanwhile, M.I.C Gadget shares a few photos of what it says is a prototype version of the iPhone 6s. The device is not shown turned on and the photos themselves do not reveal any differences compared to the iPhone 6, but the source claims the device measures 7.1 mm thick, slightly thicker than the 6.9 mm iPhone 6 and matching the 7.1 mm iPhone 6 Plus.

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Rumors have suggested the iPhone 6s could be slightly thicker than the iPhone 6 in order to accommodate the new Force Touch technology in the display, but the slight difference would not be easily perceptible to users and could even allow many accessories to be compatible with both generations.

Related roundups: iPhone 6, iPhone 6s (2015) , Tags: micgadget.com, GeekBar

Apple Supplier Numbers Suggest Apple Watch Sales Are Below Analyst Expectations

We're all curious about how many Apple Watches Apple has sold, but with the company opting not to break out its Apple Watch sales numbers, all we have to go on are analyst guesses, information distilled from third-party sources, and tidbits of data that Apple has provided.

The latest data that hints at how the Apple Watch has fared comes from The Wall Street Journal, citing shipment information provided by analyst Mark Li from Taiwan's Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE) most recent earnings call. ASE is the company that builds the S1 package housing the many chips and sensors used in the Apple Watch.

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An ASE subsidiary reportedly failed to meet its "break-even volume" of two million units shipped per month during the second quarter and does not believe it will meet that target in the third quarter, either. The company's failure to meet this target suggests the Apple Watch "is not selling nearly as well as some analysts expected," says The Wall Street Journal.
"The shortfall of Apple Watch is a disappointment," Mr. Li wrote in a note to clients. "We came in with a low expectation but below break-even still surprised us."

In an interview, Mr. Li said it is unusual for a company like ASE not to reach break-even volume during a typically busy period like the third quarter, especially when dealing with a new product.

He said that he now expects ASE to fall short of his forecast of shipping 18 million units this year, peaking in June.
Ahead of Apple's recent earnings call, analyst estimates of Apple Watch sales during its first quarter of availability ranged from 2.85 million to 5.7 million, averaging out to 4.07 million. After the call, many analysts adjusted their estimates, with the consensus largely changing to between 2.2 and 3 million units sold. Estimates continue to vary, however, with Strategy Analytics suggesting Apple sold 4 million units in a recent report.

During the call Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple Watch sales "exceeded [Apple's] expectations," despite supply continuing to trail demand at the end of the quarter. "We feel really great about how we did," he said. Apple CFO Luca Maestri hinted current revenue from the Apple Watch was "well over" $952 million, but he also did not provide insight into sales.

In the past, Tim Cook has warned against attempting to infer information from single data points from the company's supply chain due to its complexity.

Related roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2

IBM to Purchase Up to 200,000 Macs Annually, With 50-75% of Employees Ultimately Switching From Lenovo

A year after teaming up with Apple on an enterprise partnership to push iOS devices and apps for business users, IBM is moving forward with plans to rapidly move its own employees onto Apple's platforms, MacRumors has learned.

While IBM announced in an internal memo several months ago that it was planning to purchase up to 50,000 MacBooks for employees by the end of 2015, chief information officer Jeff Smith has revealed in a new internal video released to employees yesterday that he believes IBM could actually end up purchasing 150,000-200,000 Macs annually.


In the video, Smith relates a conversation he had with Apple's chief information officer Niall O'Connor about the possibility of a massive Mac deployment for IBM.
"I'd like to be able to offer these to everyone that can use it. We've got to find a way to make the overall cost the same or lower than PCs to make that happen. Would you be interested in helping me do that, because you guys know these devices", and he said, "No, Jeff, we'd never do that...very secretive, we never allow anyone in. You know, we just don't do that."

And I said, "Well who's your largest corporate customer?" And he said "Well, that customer has got about 25,000 MacBooks a year." And I said, "Well we could be 150-200,000." And he goes "Jeff, that's a great idea! We're gonna come here, you know, next week...you bring your whole team," and that's exactly what happened.
In a separate clip from the video, Smith describes a recent conversation between Tim Cook and IBM vice president Fletcher Previn in which Previn indicated the initiative could see 50–75 percent of IBM employees eventually converting to Macs from the Lenovo ThinkPads that are currently the company standard.

Apple and IBM, former rivals in the PC market, have been working increasingly closely together on both specialized enterprise-focused iOS apps and more recently on HealthKit and ResearchKit data management tools. With so many IBM employees now in line to switch to Macs for their work machines, the stage is setting up for even more collaboration going forward.

Tag: IBM

Apple, BMW Could Resume Talks Over Possible Apple Car Partnership 'At a Later Stage'

Earlier this month, rumors suggested Apple had been in talks with BMW about potentially using the body of the electric BMW i3 as the basis for its Apple Car, but those talks did not progress into a deal. Reuters has now spoken with some inside sources at BMW, giving us more insight into what the two companies discussed and where their relationship might lead in the future.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and other senior executives visited the BMW factory in Leipzig, Germany in 2014 to look into how the i3 is manufactured. According to Reuters' source, Apple left the talks without reaching a deal with BMW because the company wants "to explore developing a passenger car on its own."

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During the visit, Apple executives asked BMW board members detailed questions about tooling and production and BMW executives signaled readiness to license parts, one of the sources said. News of the Leipzig visit first emerged in Germany's Manager-Magazin last week.

"Apple executives were impressed with the fact that we abandoned traditional approaches to car making and started afresh. It chimed with the way they do things too," a senior BMW source said.
Apple and BMW do not have plans to jointly develop a car at this time, but one of the sources believes that "exploratory talks" could potentially be revived in the future. Given Apple's lack of experience with industrial manufacturing, a partnership with BMW or another car company would make sense, as it could help speed up development and eliminate many of the headaches associated with entering an entirely new industry.

Details on Apple's rumored car project remain scarce, but the company has been hiring several automotive experts over the past few months. Apple is said to have hundreds of employees working on the secret car project and has picked up employees from companies like Tesla, Ford, and GM, along with robotics experts and researchers specializing in cutting-edge car technologies.

Rumors have suggested Apple plans to introduce its car by 2020, but Apple often works on projects that never make it to fruition, like the much-rumored Apple-branded television set. It's possible that Apple's car plans could be shelved or delayed in the future if the company is unhappy with its progress or finds entering the automobile market to be an unviable option.

Related roundup: Apple Car , Tag: BMW