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Microsoft Launches New Outlook for Mac, Next Office for Mac Suite Coming in Second Half of 2015

Microsoft today announced the immediate launch of a new Outlook for Mac for Office 365 users, bringing a new look and a number of improvements as leaked earlier this week.
The new Outlook for Mac includes:

- Better performance and reliability as a result of a new threading model and database improvements.
- A new modern user interface with improved scrolling and agility when switching between Ribbon tabs.
- Online archive support for searching Exchange (online or on-premises) archived mail.
- Master Category List support and enhancements delivering access to category lists (name and color) and sync between Mac, Windows and OWA clients.
- Office 365 push email support for real-time email delivery.
- Faster first-run and email download experience with improved Exchange Web Services syncing.

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New Outlook for Mac

Office 365 subscribers can access the new Outlook for Mac through their account pages, while subscribers who already have Outlook for Mac 2011 suite installed on their machines should follow these instructions for moving to the new Outlook for Mac.

Microsoft also provided an update on the next full version of Office for Mac, noting that development on the suite had been pushed back from its usual schedule due to Microsoft's work on prioritizing mobile and cloud development. The latest roadmap for Office for Mac, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote includes a public beta launching in the first half of 2015 and a final release coming in the second half of the year. Both Office 365 and perpetual license versions will launch in the same timeframe. Some details on the next Office for Mac were also leaked earlier this week.

Apple's Jony Ive Talks Apple Watch at SFMOMA Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony

Apple design chief Jony Ive on Thursday was honored by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in an event that celebrated Ive's 2014 Bay Area Treasure Award. The award, bestowed by the Modern Art Council (MAC), recognizes creative individuals who have influenced visual culture.

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"Ive is our generation’s most innovative and influential figure in the field of industrial design—no other design mind has done more to transform the way we visualize and share information," said SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. "SFMOMA was the first museum on the West Coast to establish a department of architecture and design, and we’re thrilled to celebrate Ive’s revolutionary achievements."
Speaking during the award ceremony, Ive commented on the Apple Watch and the challenge of designing Apple's first smartwatch product in a series of comments reported by The Wall Street Journal.
"Even though Apple Watch does so many things, there are cultural, historical implications and expectations," Ive said. "That’s why it’s been such a difficult and humbling program."
Ive also emphasized the dilemma of developing a product that would mean different things to different people. Adding to the complexity of the design is the device itself, which is used only casually by its owners.
"As soon as something is worn, we have expectations of choice," said Ive. Only "in prison," he joked, do people all wear the same thing."
Ive's strict focus on his design work was also revealed in the interview when he admitted he didn't know the details of Apple's most recent financial results.
“I honestly don’t know the numbers,” said Ive. “But I know they are high.”
The Bay Area Treasure Award is one of several awards given to Ive in recent years. The Apple designer was the recipient of a National Design Award for the iPhone in 2007 and a team-issued 2012 Design and Art Direction award. He also was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in a ceremony held in 2012.

Seth Rogen to Star as Steve Wozniak in Sony's Steve Jobs Biopic [Updated]

Seth Rogen will play Steve Wozniak alongside Christian Bale, who has been cast in the role of Steve Jobs in Sony's upcoming Jobs biopic, reports Variety. Rogen will have the opportunity to get advice directly from Wozniak, who is working as a consultant on the film.

Rogen is a popular actor who has starred in movies like Neighbors, Pineapple Express, Knocked Up and This Is the End. While Rogen often stars in comedic films, he has demonstrated his ability to do more serious work in movies like Take This Waltz and 50/50.

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Image courtesy of Variety

After several months of limbo after writer Aaron Sorkin finished the screenplay, production on Sony's Steve Jobs movie is picking up. Danny Boyle, who directed Slumdog Millionaire has been announced as the director of the film, and just last week, Sony signed on Christian Bale to play Jobs.

While the previous JOBS movie with Ashton Kutcher focused on Jobs' early life, Sony's film will use material from Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography and will focus on three 30-minute scenes showing three of Apple's product launches.

Update: According to TheWrap, Rogen is not yet officially signed on, while Jessica Chastain is also being considered for an unspecified role in the film.

Some OS X Yosemite Users Plagued With Wi-Fi Connection Issues

os_x_yosemite_round_iconSince OS X Yosemite's October 16 launch, MacRumors has been receiving a number of complaints from users who have been experiencing Wi-Fi issues. Extensive threads about Wi-Fi problems have surfaced on both the MacRumors forums and on Apple's own Support Communities as well, suggesting there are quite a few users who are seeing Wi-Fi connection issues after installing Yosemite.

According to the complaints, Wi-Fi connections are sometimes extremely slow, resulting in long loading times, and in some cases, users are seeing their Wi-Fi connections disconnect continually after just a few minutes of being connected.
Since upgrading to Yosemite, my previously-stable (with Mavericks) wifi connection keeps dropping. I have to click the wifi icon and re-select my network every minute or two. I have turned off bluetooth and uninstalled/reinstalled wifi and my networks. I have rebooted multiple times. No luck so far. It appears that others are having similar problems.
The problems appear to be affecting a wide range of different MacBooks, different routers, and users in different locations. A number of different fixes have been suggested on various forums, but it does not appear that any one solution works for everyone, suggesting there may be an issue with Yosemite that needs to be addressed in a future update.

Some users have had luck disabling Bluetooth, turning off Handoff, creating new Network Locations, doing a clean Yosemite install, setting a router to "G-mode only," turning off Dropbox syncing, disabling WPA router encryption, or turning off all proxies in Network preferences, but other users have not been able to solve their Wi-Fi problems at all even attempting all of the above listed solutions. Swapping to a 2.4GHz band has, however, worked for a large number of users.

Apple support representatives have supplied users with different solutions that have included removing excess preferred networks in the Network section of System Preferences and resetting the System Management Controller.

OS X Daily has written an in-depth tutorial on how to fix the Wi-Fi problems in OS X Yosemite, which involves several steps like deleting preference files, creating custom DNS settings, and refreshing the discoveryd service, but for users who can't find a fix, the site recommends downgrading to OS X Mavericks until Yosemite is updated.

Users attempting any of the highly technical fixes above should make a Time Machine backup ahead of time and use caution when deleting any system files. Thus far, there is no word on when a Yosemite update might come as Apple has not yet released any betas to developers.

Related roundup: OS X Yosemite

Apple Reverses Course on iOS 8 Notification Center Calculators

pcalcYesterday, Apple told PCalc developer James Thomson that the Notification Center widget portion of his popular calculator app PCalc would need to be removed, as Notification Center widgets "cannot perform any calculations."

Following significant media coverage of the issue, Apple has now reversed course on the decision and according to an Apple spokesperson that spoke to TechCrunch, both PCalc and its Notification Center widget will be allowed to remain in the App Store, along with all other apps that contain calculator widgets.

The initial decision to remove Pcalc's widget was reportedly the result of a use case that Apple had not anticipated. Because it was not within the guidelines, an App Store reviewer told Thomson the functionality would need to be changed or it would be pulled from the App Store. It's likely the attention the removal received sparked a deeper review of the app, leading to the policy change.

Thomson's PCalc app was one of the first apps to be updated for iOS 8 and following its release, it was lauded for its convenient and unique use of the Notification Center in App Store reviews and in iOS 8 coverage from a variety of sites.

Apple itself features PCalc's Notification Center widget in multiple places in the App Store, including a section called "Extend Your Apps" featuring apps with unique widgets, and a "Great Apps and Games for iOS 8" section, which also features a selection of interesting Notification Center widgets.

PCalc can be downloaded from the App Store for $9.99. [Direct Link]

PCalc Lite, a free version of the PCalc app, also includes the Notification Center widget. [Direct Link]

Update 10:12 AM PT: PCalc developer James Thompson has received a phone call from Apple confirming that the PCalc widget will be allowed to remain intact.

Apple's Lead in Tablet Market Share Shrinks as Consumer Satisfaction Slips Slightly

Apple continues to rank among the world's top tablet manufacturers both in customer satisfaction and shipments, according to reports released today by J.D Power and IDC, although the company is showing some signs of weakness as lower-cost competitors gain momentum and consumers look for more innovation in Apple's tablet lineup. Apple fell slightly behind Amazon in J.D. Power's semiannual customer satisfaction survey, while the company's lead in worldwide tablet shipping volume continues to shrink.

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Worldwide tablet shipments in 3Q14 in millions of units (Source: IDC)

According to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, Apple remains the global tablet market leader, despite a 12.8 percent decline in quarterly shipments year-over-year. Apple shipped 12.3 million units in Q3 2014, edging out both Samsung, which shipped 9.9 million units, and coming in well ahead of Asus, which climbed to the number three spot with 3.5 million units shipped.

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Apple's iPad shipments (red) and share of worldwide tablet shipments (blue) for 2Q11–3Q14 (Source: IDC)

Apple's market share is projected to increase in Q4 2014 due to the introduction of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, but the jump will likely be tempered as more consumers hold onto their existing tablets for a longer period. IDC also predicts iPad shipments will continue to be eclipsed by the popularity of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
"Although the low-cost vendors are moving a lot of volume, the top vendors, like Apple, continue to rake in the dollars," said Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst, Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. "A sub-$100 tablet simply isn't sustainable—Apple knows this—and it's likely the reason they aren't concerned with market share erosion."
While Apple remains first in market share, the company lost its number one spot in the latest J.D. Power tablet satisfaction study. Apple scored 824, taking the number two slot behind Amazon and its inexpensive line of Fire tablets. Samsung took the third slot, trailing the two market leaders with a score of 821. J.D. Power measures satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale using five criteria which include performance, ease of operation, feature set, styling/design and cost.

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J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Tablet Satisfaction Study—Volume 2

Apple had reclaimed the top spot in J.D. Power's survey earlier this year after losing it to Samsung in the late 2013 rankings.

Apple now is offering its most expansive phone and tablet lineup to date, selling both older iPhone and iPad models, along with the new 4.7-inch iPhone 6, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, the Touch ID-enabled iPad mini 3 and the slimmer and faster iPad Air 2. Apple's ecosystem will expand again with the early 2015 debut of the Apple Watch, the company's first entry into the exploding wearables market.

Related roundup: iPad Air 2

Apple CEO Tim Cook Publicly Comes Out as Gay in Letter Declaring Support for Equality

timcook.png In a letter written for Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly come out as gay while declaring his support for equality.

Cook, who has typically kept a low profile on his personal life, says that his decision to publicly acknowledge his sexuality was done to "bring comfort to anyone who feels alone" and to "inspire people to insist on their equality."
I’ll admit that this wasn’t an easy choice. Privacy remains important to me, and I’d like to hold on to a small amount of it. I’ve made Apple my life’s work, and I will continue to spend virtually all of my waking time focused on being the best CEO I can be. That’s what our employees deserve—and our customers, developers, shareholders, and supplier partners deserve it, too. Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender. I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I’m best suited for and the work that brings me joy.
Cook has expressed his thoughts on equality numerous times throughout the past couple of years, which include highlighting the subject in a speech at his alma mater Auburn University and establishing his and Apple's support for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act in an op-ed written for The Wall Street Journal.


Earlier this year, Apple also marched in support of the LGBT community during the 44th annual Pride parade, and issued a statement in support of Supreme Court gay marriage rulings in 2013. The company also has a section about diversity on its website, which goes into detail about its efforts towards improving employee diversity and its commitment towards equality and human rights.

Note: Due to the controversial nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Microsoft Unveils $199 'Microsoft Band' Fitness Wearable

Shortly after apps on the Mac App Store and iOS App Store revealed Microsoft's fitness wearable, the company has revealed its $199 Microsoft Band fitness wearable to Re/code. The device will go on sale tomorrow at Microsoft's online and retail stores.

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The Microsoft Band is designed to last 48 hours on a single charge and can be worn all day and all night, as it tracks both physical activity and sleep. It includes 10 sensors that track standard health statistics like heart rate as well as unique points of data that other fitness bands do not track, like a UV sensor to measure sun exposure and galvanic skin response, which can identify stress. Like smart watches, the Band can also receive notifications from a user's smartphone.

Microsoft is also launching a cloud-based health service called Microsoft Health, which can gather data from both the Microsoft Band and other fitness data gathering devices, like smartphones and other fitness bands. The service spans the web and multiple mobile platforms like iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The Windows Phone app, however, integrates Microsoft's voice assistant Cortana.

The company also says that the feature set of device and services will grow, as users will be able to pay for things at Starbucks with the Band and will be able to see how certain events influence health or sleep.
The company also notes that–if customers want to– Microsoft Health can combine work and personal data and gather insights such as how a big meeting with the boss affects that night’s sleep. Other features include access to Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as weather and stock data.
The Microsoft Band goes on sale tomorrow for $199.

'Microsoft Health' App for Upcoming Wearable Leaks as Google Launches HealthKit Rival

As Apple completes the launch of HealthKit and the Health app for iOS, its competitors Microsoft and Google have been preparing their own entrances into the health sector. Today, Microsoft apps for an upcoming fitness wearable have leaked in app stores as Google launched a new HealthKit-like initiative.

In July it was reported that Microsoft was working on a fitness band that would work with iOS. Now, the official app for the device, which appears to be called the Microsoft "Band", has appeared on the Mac App Store. The "Microsoft Band Sync" app, which was first discovered by WindowsCentral, appears to allow users to sync the data on their device to the app for tracking.

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Another app called Microsoft Health has also been revealed for iOS and appears to include many of the same options as the "Microsoft Band Sync" app and also teases a future device called "Microsoft Band". A new privacy statement (via AppleInsider) on Microsoft's website also makes mention of Microsoft Band, Microsoft Health and Microsoft Band Sync.
Live healthier and be more productive with the Microsoft Health app for iPhone®. Achieve wellness goals by tracking your heart rate, steps, calorie burn, and sleep quality. Maximize your fitness with Guided Workouts, 24-hour heart rate monitoring and automatic activity counting. Be more productive with email previews and calendar alerts at a glance. Personalize your Microsoft Band and get new features as they roll out.
Although the "Band" doesn't appear to be a fully functioning smart watch like Apple Watch, it does signal Microsoft's desire to enter the health market and provides an alternative to the health-tracking features of Apple Watch or FitBit bands. Similarly, the Microsoft Health app offers an alternative to the health center that is the Health app, provided the user opts for the Microsoft Band.

Meanwhile, Google launched its version of the Health app for Android (via The Verge). Called Google Fit, the app tracks health goals and workout statistics and is compatible with Android Wear devices and third-party fitness trackers. Much like the Health app, Google Fit can also track walking, running and cycling without the use of external apps or fitness trackers.

Microsoft Health is a free universal app available in the App Store. [Direct Link]

Microsoft Band Sync is a free app available in the Mac App Store. [Direct Link]

MCX Says Merchants Doing What's Best for Customers, Being Attacked for 'Challenging the Status Quo'

currentc_phoneFollowing the publication of a blog post earlier today outlining some details of its upcoming CurrentC mobile payments solution and disclosure of a hack resulting in unauthorized access to users' email addresses, Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) held a conference call with members of the press to further address questions and concerns.

During the call, MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson and COO Scott Rankin clarified that MCX merchants who choose to accept Apple Pay are not subject to fines. As stated in the blog post earlier today, merchants are also free to leave the consortium entirely at any time without penalty beyond forfeiting the time and money already invested in the effort.

As a result, MCX certainly appears to be placing the blame for its member retailers' refusal to accept Apple Pay on the merchants themselves. Asked whether Apple Pay and MCX's CurrentC solution should be able to exist side-by-side, the executives noted that believe they will in the future and that it will take two or three major players in mobile payments to allow the entire market to thrive.

But pressed as to why some retailers such as CVS and Rite Aid have shut down NFC entirely rather than allow unofficial Apple Pay payments in their stores, Davidson argued that merchants know their customers best and are making the choices they believe are right for their customers. He said the merchants believe customers want more than just mobile payments, and CurrentC's integration of payments with loyalty cards and coupons will in his opinion prove to be the best solution.

On the topic of the hack that has resulted in compromised email addresses, Davidson noted that attacks on their systems were expected and have been heavy over the past week but that the email breach did not affect the app or the actual CurrentC systems. As a result, the issue has not shaken MCX's confidence that the cloud is the best place to store personal information for CurrentC users. Asked why MCX has been the target of such attacks over the past week, Davidson speculated that with MCX "challenging the status quo" of large, entrenched payment systems, there are bound to be attacks.

Addressing privacy issues, Davidson and Rankin also highlighted the privacy dashboard that will be available to all CurrentC users. The dashboard will allow users to tailor their level of engagement with retailers, ranging from complete anonymity to identifiable relationships that will allow for customized offers, coupons, and other benefits.

The executives also touted CurrentC's technology and payment platform agnosticism, noting that while the system has been initially built out using QR codes for maximum compatibility, the system can easily pivot to NFC or other technologies as appropriate. Responding to questions of security with QR codes, the executives pointed to Starbucks, which processes 5-6 million transactions per week using the technology.

On the payment front, CurrentC will support a variety of methods including store cards, gift cards, debit cards, and checking account withdrawals, with two credit card companies even on board at this stage. Over time, MCX expects all cards to be welcomed, even with the interchange fees charged for credit card usage.

CurrentC is currently in limited testing with an undisclosed number of partners in undisclosed locations around the country, and a full nationwide launch is planned for early next year.

Update October 30 7:26 AM: Following continued unclear answers and dodging from MCX executives, an MCX spokesperson has confirmed to Business Insider has confirmed that consortium members who choose to accept Apple Pay must indeed leave the CurrentC group. During yesterday's conference call, the executives refused to share whether any retailers have left the group or are considering doing so.

GT Advanced COO Blames Apple's Strict Sapphire Contract Terms for Bankruptcy Filing

GT Advanced's Chief Operating Officer Daniel Squiller yesterday filed some revised documents with the court, giving a bit more insight into what went wrong between Apple and GT Advanced that led to the latter company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Shared by Fortune, Squiller's affidavit [PDF] delves further into the contractual obligations outlined in GT's agreement with Apple, which led to huge losses of money as the contract was highly favorable to Apple.

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It was known that the terms of the contract prevented GT Advanced from selling its sapphire to customers other than Apple, but as it turns out, Apple also had a vast amount of control over GT's sapphire production. For example, GT was not able to modify equipment, specifications, or the manufacturing process without express consent from Apple, but Apple could modify the terms at any point. GT was also expected to fulfill any of Apple's purchase orders at Apple's demand, with severe penalties for failing to do so.
GTAT must accept and fulfill any purchase order placed by Apple on the date selected by Apple. If there is any delay, GTAT must either use expedited shipping (at its own cost) or purchase substitute goods (at its own cost). If GTAT's delivery is late, GTAT must pay $320,000 per boule of sapphire (and $77 per millimeter of sapphire material) as liquidated damages to Apple. To put this figure in perspective, a boule has a cost of less than $20,000. Apple, however, has the right, without compensating GTAT, to cancel a purchase order in whole or in part at any time and reschedule a delivery date at any time.
Apple was also in charge of the Mesa, Arizona facility that it acquired for GT Advanced, and delays at the facility cut into GT's production time. Apple reportedly decided it was too expensive to provide backup power for the furnaces and on multiple occasions, power interruptions led to delays and loss of sapphire boules. GT Advanced was also not in charge of the sapphire cutting tools that it received, and in his affidavit, the COO says that the tools did not "meet their performance and reliability specifications."

The contractual obligations ultimately resulted in GT's inability to meet "cost and production targets" for reasons that it says were "beyond its control." Issues in scaling its technology to create large 262kg sapphire boules to meet Apple's specifications also led to the bankruptcy filing.
The key to making the transaction profitable for both sides was the production of a sufficient number of 262kg boules of sapphire crystal meeting the specifications required by Apple. [...]

Unfortunately, the production of 262kg boules of sapphire could not be accomplished within the time frames the parties had agreed, and was more expensive than anticipated. These problems and difficulties resulted in a liquidity crisis at GTAT, which led to the commencement of these chapter 11 cases"
Though Apple and GT Advanced have reached an agreement to dissolve their partnership, the two will remain in contact as GT Advanced continues its research work focused on producing larger sapphire boules. The two companies will meet quarterly to discuss GT's progress on that front, with collaboration still possible if both sides agree to move forward.

GT Advanced has already begun winding down operations at the Mesa, Arizona sapphire plant, wrapping up sapphire boule production, decommissioning furnaces, and laying off employees. The plant is expected to shut down on December 31.

AT&T, Verizon Using 'Perma-Cookies' to Track Customer Web Activity

Both Verizon and AT&T appear to be engaging in some unsavory customer tracking techniques, using unique identifying numbers to deliver targeted advertisements to customers in what's called "Relevant Advertising." As outlined by Wired, Verizon is altering the web traffic of its customers by inserting a Unique Identifier Header or UIDH, a temporary serial number that lets advertisers identify Verizon users on the web.

According to Jacob Hoffman-Andrews of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the UIDH serves as a "perma-cookie" that can be read by any web server to "build a profile" of internet habits. Verizon users cannot turn off the UIDH, but opting out of the Relevant Mobile Advertising Program prevents the information from being used to create targeted ads.

Verizon has been using Relevant Advertising techniques for two years, but the tracking has gone largely unnoticed until recently, when extra data from Verizon customers was noticed. AT&T appears to be engaging in similar tracking activities, and is testing its own Relevant Advertising system.

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According to Forbes, AT&T is testing a similar code insertion program that will allow websites to track AT&T customers. Like Verizon, AT&T has plans to make the tracking codes temporary as a "privacy-protective measure," but according to one of the researchers that discovered the tracking, Kenneth White, the codes that AT&T is sending to some customers are persistent.
AT&T does not currently have a mobile Relevant Advertising program. We are considering such a program, and any program we would offer would maintain our fundamental commitment to customer privacy," read a statement from AT&T. "For instance, we are testing a numeric code that changes every 24 hours on mobile devices to use in programs where we serve ads to the mobile device. This daily rotation on the numeric code would help protect the privacy of our customers. Customers also could opt out of any future AT&T program that might use this numeric code."
Unlike Verizon, AT&T will not include the unique identifier code in the IP packets of customers who have opted out of the company's Relevant Advertising program.

Both Verizon and AT&T customers can check whether their devices are sending identifying codes by visiting a website created by aforementioned security researcher Kenneth White. Verizon customers appear to be unable to opt out entirely, but AT&T customers can visit the following website on their mobile devices (while connected to the AT&T network) to turn off Relevant Advertising: http://205.234.28.93/mobileoptout/.