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Apple Overhauling iPad for Education Program to Simplify Sharing Devices and Apps

Apple will be making significant changes to iPad deployment for education during the upcoming school year that should eliminate some of the hurdles that school districts face when adopting iPads for use in the classroom. In an email obtained by MacRumors, the company outlines plans to make app distribution easier by eliminating the need for an Apple ID to load apps, tweaking the Apple ID for Students program and unifying several deployment programs into one.

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Apple plans to simplify app distribution by allowing schools to assign and distribute apps to a device without an Apple ID this fall, reducing the number of steps needed to set up an iPad. Schools will no longer be required to create generic Apple IDs solely to load content on the tablet, and teachers and administrators will have the option to block students from making personal purchases without approval.
"To simplify large deployments, including one-to-one and shared use, we want to make app distribution even easier. Today, Apple IDs are required in order to deliver apps and books to students. We are working to change this in the fall by allowing schools to assign and distribute apps to a device without an Apple ID. As currently planned, this will greatly reduce the number of steps needed to setup a device. This change should eliminate the need to create generic Apple IDs solely for the purposes of getting content onto iPad. Schools will also have the option to prevent students from making personal purchases without approval."
The email also outlines changes to the Apple ID for Students program to roll out during 2016, including schools gaining the ability to create and manage Apple IDs for students that can be used to access iCloud. System administrators will also have be able to reset student passwords. The new approach will continue to meet COPPA requirements for children's online privacy in the United States.

Apple will also be improving its Apple Deployment Programs by unifying several programs into one for a simplified administrative experience, making it easier for school districts to enroll, manage, and support large iPad deployments. Apple hopes the changes will continue to result in increased student engagement, better attendance and higher test results at all grades and levels of education.

Related roundup: iPad Air 2 , Tag: education

Apple Watch Battery to Support Five Hours of Heavy Usage, Will Last All Day With Mixed Use

With just over two days to go until Apple's big March 9 "Spring Forward" event that's said to be heavily focused on the Apple Watch, information on the device is leaking out at a rapid pace. Apple's been relatively quiet about battery life, stating only that the Apple Watch will need to be charged on a daily basis, but 9to5Mac has a few more details on how long we can expect the Apple Watch to last between charges.

According to the site's sources, final software tweaks and optimizations to the device have led to a battery life of approximately five hours of heavy application usage. The device reportedly will not run out of battery life "during a typical day of mixed and passive use," but it will need to be charged on a nightly basis as Apple has previously said. There's also been little said about how the Apple Watch will affect the battery of the iPhone, but 9to5Mac's sources say that there is no "meaningful" observed battery drain while using the device.

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A Power Reserve Mode can be activated within the watch when the battery in the device becomes critically low, ensuring that it's primary function -- telling the time -- is always available. Power Reserve Mode can be activated at any time via a Battery Life Glance screen.
Power Reserve Mode can even be accessed when the Watch has a full 100% charge, and it is not solely activated when the Watch's battery life is low. The mode noticeably dims the display, slows down communication with the iPhone to an on-demand level, and puts the display to sleep after roughly two seconds of inactivity. One unit tested allowed access to all Apple Watch functions while in Power Reserve mode, while another unit was limited to the Clock face.
The Apple Watch is also said to have an interesting method of displaying remaining battery life. At 20 percent, the Battery Life Glance (which is just one of many default glances on the watch) will turn an orange/amber color to let users know that battery life is running low, and at 10 percent, it will turn from amber to red.

Along with battery life, there are also some new details on onboard storage. We've known for awhile that the device will have dedicated storage for features like music storage, but the exact amount of storage has not yet been shared. It appears that prototype devices have 8GB of storage, suggesting at least some devices will ship with that amount of storage space. Like with the iPhone, there may be several storage options that are available at an additional cost.

In just a few short days, we'll have a wealth of information on the Apple Watch. Apple is expected to share more details on battery life, storage space, pricing tiers, and accessory options at its upcoming March 9 event. Apple is planning to live stream the event, and MacRumors will also provide live coverage, both on MacRumors.com and through the MacRumorsLive Twitter account.

Related roundup: Apple Watch , Tag: 9to5mac.com

Apple Store Listing MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter as Discontinued

Apple has quietly listed the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 converter as discontinued on the Apple Online Store in the United States and Canada this week. The converter is required to charge a MagSafe 2-equipped MacBook Air or MacBook Pro when the notebook is connected to a Thunderbolt Display or Cinema Display. The converter still appears to have in-store availability, although for how long remains unknown.

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Apple discontinuing the MagSafe to MagSafe 2 converter would prove problematic for Thunderbolt Display and Cinema Display users. The company does include the converter in the box for the Thunderbolt Display, but not being able to purchase a replacement if you misplace one would be an issue. Given that, it is possible that Apple could have larger plans in store.

It could be theorized that Apple may be planning a Thunderbolt Display refresh with MagSafe 2, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 2, although that is purely speculation. Rumors have also called for a 5K Thunderbolt Display, but several Mac models would need to be updated to support that technology. We have reached out to Apple for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

(Thanks, Chris!)

MacBook Air and 13" MacBook Pro Shipping Times Slip Ahead of Monday's Media Event

MacBook Air and 13" Retina MacBook Pro shipping times have slipped on the Apple Online Store from "in stock" to "1 business day" ahead of Apple's upcoming "Spring Forward" media event on Monday. Earlier this week, we reported that a MacBook Air refresh with the latest Intel Broadwell processors and Intel HD 6000 graphics appears imminent, and it is plausible that Apple also updates the MacBook Pro with similar hardware.

MacBook Pro Stock

The shipping dates have slipped across North America, with the Apple Online Store in the United States, Canada and Mexico showing the longer "1 business day" estimate. A spot check of the United Kingdom and Australia online storefronts still shows regular shipping times. In-store availability of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in the also appears unaffected in the United States based on Apple Stores in New York and California.

MacBook Air Shipping
Intel's Broadwell processors are available for all MacBook Air models and the 13-inch MacBook Pro, although more powerful chips for the 15-inch MacBook Pro are not expected until later this year. Nevertheless, Apple may choose to focus its March 9 media event solely on the Apple Watch and could hold off on refreshing its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lineups until a later date.

Related roundup: MacBook Air

Apple to Replace AT&T in Dow Jones Industrial Average on March 18

Apple LogoApple will be joining the Dow Jones Industrial Average, according to S&P Dow Jones (via The Wall Street Journal). Apple will be added to the Dow Jones at the close of trading on March 18, replacing AT&T as one of 30 members on the major price-weighted index. Apple is listed on Nasdaq with a pre-market share price hovering around the $128 mark as of writing.
“Apple is the clear choice for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the most recognized stock market measure,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
The addition of Apple on the Dow Jones Industrial Average will occur just weeks after the iPhone maker recorded the most profitable quarter of any company ever, posting record-breaking quarterly revenue of $74.6 billion and quarterly net profit of $18 billion on sales of 74.5 million iPhones during the first quarter of the fiscal year. Apple is currently the world's most valuable company with a market cap exceeding $735 billion.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average provides a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq, which offers valuable insight into how the stock market is performing at any given time. Other members of the Dow Jones include American Express, Boeing, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Disney, Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Intel, JPMorgan and Chase, Microsoft, Verizon and Visa.

Apple has long been an ideal candidate for inclusion in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, although its above-$700 share price before splitting 7-for-1 last year would have inflated the price-weighted index. The stock split brought the price of Apple shares down to around the $100 mark, making it a more suitable option to be included in Dow Jones.

Jony Ive Discusses Design of Apple Watch in Latest Interview

Gold Apple WatchApple design chief Jonathan Ive recently discussed the meticulous process that went into creating the Apple Watch in a new profile with Financial Times. Ive describes the Apple Watch as "the most personal product" that Apple has ever made, with "thousands and thousands of hours of evaluation and testing" invested into the device.
“Even now, when the design of the Apple Watch is incredibly mature and has gone through thousands and thousands of hours of evaluation and testing, we’re still working and improving. You are trying to keep everything fluid for as long as possible because everything is so interconnected. The best products are those where you have optimized each attribute while being very conscious of other parts of the product’s performance.”
The iconic designer adds that he appreciates the convenience afforded by the Apple Watch, describing the wrist as the perfect place for the technology. The device, for example, will have a Glances feature on the watch face that delivers real-time information such as weather, stock quotes and upcoming calendar events without needing to take your iPhone out of your pocket.
“One of the things that struck me,” says Ive, “was how often I’d look at my watch and have to look again quite soon afterwards, because I hadn’t actually comprehended what the time was. If I had looked at something on my phone, because of the investment involved in taking it out of my pocket or my bag, I would certainly pay attention. I quite like this sense of almost being careless and just glancing. I think for certain things the wrist is the perfect place for this technology.”
In what could be amounted to a mistake, the profile claims that both the anodized aluminum Apple Watch Sport and stainless steel Apple Watch will start at $349. It has been widely speculated that the stainless steel Apple Watch would have a starting price of at least $499, especially given that the mid-tier model is equipped with a sapphire crystal display. The report speculates the Apple Watch Edition will start at around $4,500.
"He runs through the three ranges of Apple Watch with their different materials – the stainless-steel Apple Watch, the anodised-aluminium Apple Watch Sport (both from $349) and the Apple Watch Edition in 18ct yellow or rose gold (with an as yet unconfirmed price of around $4,500)."
Ive's so-called "fanatical" attention to detail extends beyond the Apple Watch to the packaging of the wrist-worn device. The box for the Apple Watch Edition in particular will be crafted from premium materials, including aniline-dyed leather on the outside and an ultra-suede material on the inside. The small box is capable of charging the Apple Watch and its bottom half slides out based on friction, similar to past iPhone, iPad and iPod packaging.
“We didn’t want the packaging to be a sort of shorthand for value, where the box needs to be big and we have to include expensive materials. We’ve always liked the idea that if we are heavy in our thinking, we can be much lighter in the implementation. So there’s huge virtue, I think, in keeping the packaging small: at least, it is the right choice environmentally, it’s easier to move things around and you don’t end up with your wardrobes full of large watch boxes that you don’t use.”
Apple is expected to provide more details about the Apple Watch at its highly-anticipated "Spring Forward" media event on March 9th in San Francisco. Ahead of time, the company has been working closely with developers in a top-secret lab to create what will be some of the first apps for the wrist-worn device. Apple Watch will be available in April starting at $349 for the entry-level model.

Update: Apple has confirmed to MacRumors that FT's statement regarding both aluminum and stainless steel versions starting at $349 is incorrect.

Related roundup: Apple Watch , Tag: Jonathan Ive

New Report Provides Look Into Apple's Secret Lab for Apple Watch Developers

Three weeks ago, it was reported that Apple was inviting developers to the company's Cupertino headquarters to receive help finalizing Apple Watch apps. A new report from Bloomberg Business provides a look into the secret lab where Apple is helping developers, offering a look at Apple's strategy for Apple Watch apps as well as the security around the project.

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Developers from Facebook, BMW, Starwood Hotels and others have been making multiple trips to Cupertino, with each visit requiring confidentiality.
Apple, which will share more details about the gadget at a March 9 event, uses extreme measures to keep the work secret. Internet access is blocked inside the rooms, and no outside materials can be brought in to the labs with the test watches, a person who attended said. The companies, sometimes sharing a room, must bring in source code for their apps on a computer hard drive that can't leave Apple's headquarters. To prevent information from leaking out, Apple is storing the code and sending it to the companies closer to the watch's introduction date, the person said.
The unreleased Apple Watch is also available for the developers to test out their apps, allowing them to check for glitches and optimize user experience for the Digital Crown and Force Touch, two of the watch's unique interface options.

One of the challenges for both Apple and its developers has been to balance the apps so that they are useful but not annoying. Apple has recommended that developers be "judicious" about interrupting users with alerts that would constantly buzz or drain the battery. Instead, they suggest that apps should be used for no longer than 10 seconds at a time.

Another challenge for developers has been working on an unreleased product, as developers have noticed problems that still need to be worked through. One developer tells Bloomberg that the Bluetooth connection between the iPhone and Apple Watch caused lag with some applications. Additionally, some developers like Starwood have had to use computer simulations and cardboard cutouts to explain to the designers who weren't invited to Cupertino how its app would work.

Apple is expected to show off the Apple Watch apps developers have been working on, as well as more information about the new device, at its "Spring Forward" event on Monday, March 9 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Apple plans to provide live coverage for the event on its website and through a channel on Apple TV, and MacRumors will also be covering the event with both a live blog on MacRumors.com and through our MacRumorsLive Twitter account.

Related roundup: Apple Watch , Tags: Apple Watch apps, bloomberg.com

Oracle Now Bundling Ask.com Adware With Java for Mac

For years, Oracle has been bundling an Ask.com search toolbar with Java for Windows, relying on what some call deceptive methods to get users to install the add-on to their browsers. Now, the company has extended its adware strategy to Java for Mac, according to ZDNet.

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Image via ZDNet
The unwelcome Ask extension shows up as part of the installer if a Mac user downloads Java 8 Update 40 for the Mac. In my tests on a Mac running that latest release of OS X, the installer added an app to the current browser, Chrome version 41. (In a separate test, I installed Java using the latest version of Safari, where it behaved in a similar fashion.)
The Java installer selects the option to install the Ask extension by default, which means that users casually clicking through the dialogue boxes would find the extension installed and enabled on their browser of choice. Oracle has also updated its installation instructions for Mac to account for the change.

As noted by ZDNet, Ask.com typically provides low-quality search results and numerous ads with little distinction between ads and organic results. Ask.com parent company IAC pays a commission to Oracle and other companies that bundle the Ask extension with its products.

Users who want to remove the Ask toolbar can do so from the Help menu for the Ask toolbar on Chrome. Alternatively, users can go to the Chrome menu bar, then Preferences, then the settings page, then Manage Search Engines to remove Ask, followed by removing the extension from the Extension tab. Safari users can do so by going to Extensions in the Safari preferences and turning it off.

Tags: Oracle, Java

Hidden Diagnostic Port on Apple Watch Could Allow for Smart Band Accessories [Updated]

apple_watch_sensorAhead of Monday's media event where Apple is expected to provide final details on the Apple Watch, a new report from TechCrunch details a hidden "diagnostic port" inside one of the channels on the Apple Watch where watch bands slip into place. While the port is currently used only for diagnostic purposes, the report argues it could be used in the future to interface with "smart band" accessories bringing additional functionality to the watch.
The port has a 6-dot brass contact array inside the groove for the ‘bottom’ strap connector slot. Several sources have confirmed its existence and placement to me. It is very similar to the connector for the Lightning connector in iPhones, as that connector currently only uses 6 of its 8 available pins. Apple recently began opening up the Lightning port for use by third parties. A source says that this port is currently for diagnostic purposes only — but that there is nothing preventing it from being a connection port for future accessories.
TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino is careful to state that he has no knowledge of any plans by Apple to launch such smart band accessories, but the idea remains an intriguing one. Possibilities for such bands include additional sensors, external batteries integrated into a band, and more.

Apple revealed a number of high-level details about the Apple Watch at the device's unveiling last September, but even now with a launch set for next month there is still much that remains unknown, including pricing details beyond the $349 starting price. Apple will undoubtedly address many of the details at Monday's events, but some of the technical details will likely need to wait until the device launches and users and technical experts can get a closer look at the device.

Update 2:13 PM: The diagnostic port will not be included on the Apple Watch that ships to consumers, according to 9to5Mac.

Related roundup: Apple Watch , Tag: techcrunch.com

Apple to Unveil Revamped Streaming Music Service at WWDC

beatsmusicApple will launch a revamped streaming music service in June at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, according to 9to5Mac and TechCrunch. The report claims the new Beats-based service will debut at Apple's WWDC keynote, likely during the week of June 8, as opposed to an announcement taking place at the upcoming "Spring Forward" media event on March 9.
"Apple currently plans to launch the new music service as part of an iOS 8.4 upgrade for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch following WWDC, but a final decision has not yet been made. It’s possible that the service will be bundled into iOS 9 this fall, which is expected to have a significant focus on bug fixes and stability improvements."
As detailed last month, the purported streaming music service is expected to cost up to $7.99 per month, a few dollars cheaper than Apple-owned Beats Music and competitors such as Spotify, Rdio and Google Play Music. The service will be deeply integrated into iTunes on Mac and the stock Music app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and apps will also be available for Apple TV and Android.

Apple is developing its first in-house Android application for the upcoming streaming music service, one of the rarer times that the iPhone maker offers cross-platform support for its products and services. Nevertheless, as the release of iTunes for Windows in the early 2000s helped drive sales of the iPod, expanding beyond the iPhone, iPad and Mac will provide Apple with a much larger pool of potential subscribers in the competitive streaming music market.

Apple is also reportedly wrapping up development of its next-generation Apple TV set-top box that could ship with an improved, tactile remote control and all-new operating system bundled with an App Store. Apple allegedly planned to release a new Apple TV as soon as this month, but the release may be delayed until later this year or beyond until Apple reaches agreements with more content providers like HBO Now.

Related roundups: Apple TV, WWDC 2015 , Tags: Beats, iTunes, 9to5mac.com, techcrunch.com

Apple Notifying Aperture Users of Impending Removal From Mac App Store

Photos for OS X iMacApple has sent an email to Aperture customers this afternoon as a reminder about the impending removal of the professional photo editing software from the Mac App Store. The email confirms that Aperture will be removed from the Mac App Store upon the release of Photos for OS X as we initially reported last month.
"When Photos for OS X launches this spring, Aperture will no longer be available for purchase from the Mac App Store. You can continue to use Aperture on OS X Yosemite, but you will not be able to buy additional copies of the app. 

You can migrate your Aperture library to Photos for OS X, including your photos, adjustments, albums, and keywords. After migrating, your Aperture library remains intact. However, Aperture and Photos do not share a unified library, so any changes made after the migration will not be shared between the apps."
Aperture users will be able to continue using the software on OS X Yosemite following its discontinuation, although the app will no longer be available for purchase on the Mac App Store and new feature updates are not planned. Aperture users can migrate their photo libraries to Photos for OS X, including photos, adjustments, albums and keywords.

Photos for OS X will be available this spring for OS X Yosemite.

Microsoft Launches Office 2016 for Mac Preview, Available for Free to Mac Users

Microsoft is today introducing a preview of the next iteration of its office software designed for Mac users, Office 2016. Office 2016 for Mac is the company's first major Mac release since Office 2011, and it brings new versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with redesigned Retina-optimized interfaces, new features, and a heavy focus on collaboration and cloud integration.

Office 2016 for Mac, which is free to all Mac users running OS X Yosemite during the preview period, is the next step in Microsoft's plan to make its Office products available anywhere, anytime, on any device, and as such, it's been designed to work with Office 365 and OneDrive. Users will get the best experience when signed into Office 365 because that allows them to access all of their documents on all of their devices, but an Office 365 account is not required to use the software.

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Office 2016 for Mac has adopted many elements previously found in both the Windows version of Office and in the mobile Office apps, released last year. There's a new Ribbon that reorganizes tools and formatting options, a task pane interface for greater graphics customization within all three apps (which can be manipulated and repositioned within each app), new themes and styles, and there's a Yosemite-style look that takes advantage of features like full-screen support.
Office 2016 for Mac is powered by the cloud so you can access your documents anytime, anywhere, and on any device. It’s unmistakably Office – but thoughtfully designed to take advantage of the unique features of the Mac. The new apps offer full retina display support with thousands of retina-optimized graphics, full screen view for native immersive experiences, and even little Mac affordances like scroll bounce.
Microsoft believes that cloud connectivity is a key feature that people have come to expect from their software, so that's become a focal point for the company. With cloud support, Office 2016 for Mac lets users access a list of files created on any device, keep files up to date on all of their devices, and collaborate with other users. Each of Microsoft's new Office apps have received several new cloud-based features and other updates, as outlined below.

Word 2016 focuses heavily on collaboration. It's designed to improve the multi-author experience, with a consistent sharing interface at the top right of the app. Through this menu, users can invite coworkers to work on a document, send out links, and see who a document has been shared with.

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Threaded comments have been added to the Mac for the first time and in Word's new Styles pane, users can make detailed edits on styles within the app as they can on Office for Windows.

Excel 2016 has deeper data analysis functionality with advanced statistical functions. There are also Slicers in PivotTables, a popular Windows feature that should make it easier for users to analyze large chunks of data to find patterns. With Office 2011, many users were frustrated that the Mac shortcut keys were not the same as the Office for Windows shortcut keys, so Microsoft has made all Windows shortcuts available on the Mac. Users already used to existing Mac shortcuts can continue to use them.

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PowerPoint 2016 has a revamped presenter view, which is similar to the presenter view in the PowerPoint for iOS app. In the top left, the presenter sees exactly what the audience sees, including animations in real time. There's also a visual preview of the next slide, access to notes, a timer, and thumbnails for the entire slide deck.

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As with the other two apps, there are deeper editing tools available through the right-side pane, which allows for functions like customized animations or shapes, with results that can be seen in real-time.

Along with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Microsoft's Office 2016 for Mac preview also includes Outlook for Mac, which was released in October, and Microsoft OneNote for Mac, released last March. Outlook for Mac has been limited to Office 365 users since its release, but as of today, it's available for anyone to use.

The Office 2016 for Mac preview has a built-in feedback mechanism, which Microsoft is hoping its customers will use to report bugs and share what they like and don't like about the software. Customer feedback will be an important tool that helps Microsoft decide on the next features to add to its software. According to Microsoft, the company is "data obsessed" and reads all of the feedback it receives.

Though it's been years since Microsoft last delivered a software update, the company plans to introduce bug fixes and feature updates quickly in the future, as such updates are possible now that the Microsoft Office experience is unified as a service across a range of devices.

Microsoft's Office 2016 for Mac preview is available today at no cost for all Mac users. It is officially supported on machines running OS X Yosemite. Microsoft has plans to launch the software in the summer following this beta testing period.