ft.com


'ft.com' Articles

Apple in Talks to Acquire Luxury Carmaker and Formula One Team McLaren [Update: McLaren Denies]

Apple has approached British luxury carmaker and Formula One team McLaren about a potential acquisition, likely to be valued at between $1.3 billion and $1.9 billion, according to Financial Times. Apple is reportedly considering a full takeover of McLaren, or a strategic investment in the company, likely in an effort to bolster its widely rumored automotive project. Apple is said to be interested in McLaren's automotive-related technology, engineering prowess, and patent portfolio.The California technology group, which has been working on a self-driving electric vehicle for more than two years, is considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations who said talks started several months ago. A tie-up with McLaren, whose expertise ranges from automotive engineering and on-board computer systems to novel chassis materials such as carbon fibre and aluminium, could accelerate Apple’s secretive automotive project. Apple and McLaren declined to comment.McLaren, headquartered in Woking, Surrey, manufactures high-performance sports cars, including the P1 and F1 models commonly used for racing. The carmaker produced just 1,654 vehicles last year, some costing as much as $1 million apiece. McLaren has a Formula One team itself that competes under the name McLaren Honda, winning more F1 grand prix races than any other team since 1966. Apple has reportedly laid off dozens of employees as it seeks to repurpose its secretive automotive project, now believed to fall under the leadership of longtime Apple

Apple to Ramp Up Original Content, Considered Buying Time Warner Last Year

iTunes and services chief Eddy Cue proposed the idea of Apple bidding on media conglomerate Time Warner at the end of last year, according to the FT. The discussions reportedly never progressed beyond the preliminary stage, however, and did not involve Apple CEO Tim Cook or Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. The meetings had reportedly been arranged for the companies to discuss other partnerships, such as the inclusion of Time Warner assets in Apple's much-rumored streaming TV service. Time Warner and its subsidiaries own several iconic media properties, including CNN, HBO, TBS, and TNT, that would be appropriate for a Netflix-like service streamable on the Apple TV, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and other devices. The company also holds the broadcast rights for the NBA in the United States. The report adds that Apple plans to ramp up spending on original content to "several hundred million dollars a year" in order to better compete with rivals like Amazon and Netflix, both of which offer a growing number of exclusive TV series. Earlier this year, it was reported that Apple executives met with TV producers and Hollywood studios about developing original TV shows that it would offer exclusively to its iTunes customers. Those discussions were also reportedly led by Cue and Robert Kondrk, vice-president of iTunes content. The original content could spearhead Apple's plans to launch its streaming TV service, which has been delayed due to its difficulties in securing deals with media providers like CBS, ABC, Fox, Disney, Discovery, and Viacom. Earlier reports claimed that

Apple Has Secret Team Working on Virtual Reality Headset

Apple has expanded its research efforts in virtual and augmented reality, building out a large team that is experimenting with headsets and other technologies, reports Financial Times in a detailed post on the company's virtual reality work that covers recent hires and acquisitions. Hundreds of employees are part of a "secret research unit" exploring AR and VR, with the team consisting of experts hired through acquisitions and poached from Microsoft and Lytro, the company that developed the Immerge, a Light Field power camera able to blend live action and computer graphics for a live action VR experience. Apple has also hired Doug Bowman, said to be one of the leading virtual reality experts in the United States. In addition to recent AR/VR-related acquisitions Metaio, Faceshift, and Emotient, Apple has also just purchased Flyby Media, a startup that worked on augmented reality technologies. Flyby Media created an app that worked with Google's "Project Tango" smartphone with 3D sensors, allowing messages to be attached to real world objects that were then viewable by one of Google's devices. Most notably, Apple's AR/VR team is said to have built prototype virtual reality headsets that are similar to the Oculus Rift and the Hololens from Microsoft. Multiple prototypes of "possible headset configurations" have been created in recent months, with Apple's interest reportedly inspired by the Oculus Rift. It is not clear if and when Apple's work on a headset prototype will make it past the development stage into an actual product, and the company often secretly

Apple Planning to Change 30/70 Pricing Formula for In-App Media Subscriptions

Apple is planning to alter its pricing formula for subscriptions in a major change that will benefit subscription-based apps and services like Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, and more, reports Financial Times. Apple is said to be considering changing the 30 percent fee that it currently charges and is discussing new commercial terms with media companies. At the current point in time, all apps and in-app subscriptions work on a 30/70 split. Apple gets 30 percent of what's paid for an app or service, while the company or developer offering the app gets a 70 percent cut. That means when someone purchases Netflix through the Netflix iOS app, Apple gets over $2 of the fee paid. At the same time, Apple has disallowed direct links to outside subscription sign up services within apps, ensuring it gets its fee. Apple's 30 percent subscription cut has been a sticking point for many companies, especially those with tight margins like music services, and it's gotten Apple into hot water in the past, most notably during the e-book price fixing case levied against it by the U.S. Department of Justice. According to the Financial Times, changing the App Store subscription terms could make Apple devices more appealing to content creators while also lessening potential pressure from regulators. Changing the App Store's terms of trade could improve the economics of online content businesses and reassure regulators that the company is not abusing its position as gatekeeper to one of the world's most lucrative digital marketplaces.On the Apple TV, Apple is already offering a more generous

Upcoming 'Apple Music' Streaming Service to Include Three-Month Free Trial

Ahead of the introduction of Apple's new streaming music platform, Financial Times has shared some key details about the service, confirming it will be called simply "Apple Music." With the launch of the service, Apple will be largely abandoning its iTunes branding, using the name only for the online store. As has been previously shared, Apple will not be offering a freemium ad-supported listening tier like Spotify, and will charge $9.99 per month for the service. Apple plans to draw customers in by offering a three-month free trial, much longer than the 30 days competing services offer. Apple's new music service is built upon Beats Music, its existing subscription service that it acquired last year. Apple executives heavily lauded Beats Music's emphasis on human curation and customization, with many of the features in Beats Music remaining in the new streaming service. For example, the new music service will continue to ask users to select favorite musical genres and styles, and paired with recommendations from artists, Apple hopes to help listeners discover songs. Apple's iTunes Radio is also being revamped and potentially renamed, as it is being positioned as a free companion service to Apple's streaming music offering. We have previously heard that Apple's new version of iTunes Radio will be aimed primarily at users who are not in the United States, serving as a gateway service to entice people to pay for music. Apple plans to use well-known DJs and celebrities to present music on its new radio service, and has hired several BBC Radio DJs like Zane Lowe to

Apple Recruiting Automotive Experts to Work in 'Top-Secret Research Lab'

Apple is recruiting automotive technology and vehicle design experts to work in a new "top-secret research lab," according to Financial Times. The report adds that a number of Apple designers working under design chief Jonathan Ive have also been regularly meeting with automotive executives and creators in recent months, and even trying to hire them in some cases. A team of Apple employees, led by experienced managers from Apple's iPhone unit, are said to be researching automotive products at a secretive location outside of the Cupertino-based company's One Infinite Loop headquarters. The new research lab was allegedly set up late last year, shortly after the unveiling of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. Financial Times claims that Apple may be developing an advanced software platform that builds upon the CarPlay dashboard system, although its sources claim that the background of the individuals that the iPhone maker is hiring suggests that the company may also be in the early stages of working on a car to compete with the likes of Tesla and Google.But people familiar with the company said that the background of the people Apple is hiring — including automotive designers and vehicle dynamics engineers — and the seniority of the executives involved suggest a car could be in the works. “Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay,” said one person who has worked closely with Apple for many years, referring to Apple’s infotainment system. “Today I think it’s a car.”Last September, Apple hired former Mercedes-Benz R&D President and CEO Johann

Beats Music to Be Bundled Into iOS Early Next Year, Will Remain Paid Subscription Service

As part of Apple's revamp of its recently acquired Beats Music streaming service, the company plans to bundle Beats directly into iOS, reports Financial Times. Apple will bundle the subscription music service it acquired from Beats into its iOS operating system early next year, instantly making it available on hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads – and ramping up pressure on Spotify, the market leader in music streaming. The inclusion of the paid-for Beats service in an iOS software update could happen as early as March, according to people familiar with the situation. The report notes that Beats will continue to be a paid service and will likely be rebranded under the iTunes umbrella. The move could come alongside the launch of the Apple Watch, with users able to push Beats music from their iPhones to the wearable device. While Apple has praised the Beats Music model, highlighting the curation aspect of the service as a major reason for acquiring the company, Beats has struggled to gain subscribers. Estimates put Beats' subscriber base at just 110,000, dwarfed by several other services such as Spotify that offer both free and paid options. Apple's acquisition of Beats has been seen as major avenue to boost interest in the service, but so far cross-promotion has been fairly limited. A revamp of Beats under the iTunes banner and including access directly in iOS may, however, substantially improve customer interest. Still, Apple has struggled with streaming music in its first foray with the ad-supported iTunes Radio. The service is still available only in the

Another Report Suggests NFC Support for iPhone 6, Chip to Be Provided by NXP

Apple will feature near field communication (NFC) technology in the iPhone 6 with a chip provided by Dutch company NXP Semiconductors, according to a report from the Financial Times. The chip will allow the iPhone to be scanned by payment terminals and ticket systems, while also allowing for further integration with other methods. Throughout the past week, a number of rumors and reports from various sources have claimed that the iPhone 6 will gain NFC support. Evidence of NFC capabilities provided by NXP first surfaced earlier this week in a claimed schematic, which showed the company's PN65 chip on the iPhone 6's logic board. Yesterday, technology news website WIRED and Apple blogger John Gruber also suggested that the iPhone 6 would feature NFC, with the latter stating that Apple's NFC-based mobile payment system would use a new secure enclave coprocessor built into the company's new A8 chip, which was also suggested by previous reports. Last month, it was reported that Apple was in talks with major credit card companies like Visa over a mobile payment solution that would utilize the credit card data already stored in millions of iTunes accounts. Apple also was said to be interviewing senior payments industry executives to take on roles within the company, possibly indicating that the company has been hard at work on creating its own mobile payments service. Apple is expected to debut the iPhone 6 and a wearable device at an event on September 9.

Facebook Developing New Snapchat Competitor, May Launch This Month

Facebook is building a new app that will serve as a direct competitor to Snapchat, according to a report from the Financial Times. The project, which is codenamed "Slingshot", will enable users to send each other pictures or short video messages through a simplified, grid-based interface similar to the one seen in messaging app TapTalk. Like Snapchat, photos and videos can only be taken in real time, and messages disappear after a specified time limit. Facebook's new ephemeral messaging app is said to resemble TapTalk (pictured above) Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg is said to be personally overseeing the project, with Slingshot's development coming after Facebook attempted to buy Snapchat for $3 billion last year. The news also follows Facebook's removal of its long defunct Facebook Poke app from the App Store earlier this month, which was the company's first answer to Snapchat. Originally launched in December of 2012, Poke allowed users to send ephemeral photos, videos, text messages, and "poke" notifications to their friends. According to the report, Slingshot could be released as early as this month on mobile platforms. Facebook previously launched its news content and curation app Paper this past February. The app was the first product to come out of Facebook's Creative Labs initiative.

Swiss Watchmakers Rebuff Apple's Partnership and Hiring Advances

Apple allegedly is trying to tap Swiss watchmakers for their technical and metallurgy expertise as the company works to brings its rumored iWatch to the market, reports the Financial Times. Though Apple is reaching out to several companies, most are not willing to work with the Cupertino company. Swatch chief executive officer Nick Hayek confirmed the watchmaker has talked to several companies about their wearable products, but he is not interested in forging a partnership with any group. We have been in discussions – not ever initiated by us – with practically all players in smart wearables up until today,” Swatch chief executive Nick Hayek told the Financial Times. “However, we see no reason why we should enter into any partnership agreement.” Hayek says his reluctance to work with Apple and similar companies comes from his desire to protect Swatch's advancements in ergonomic design, longevity and battery life, but he also has been critical of the iWatch, proclaiming publicly the smartwatch won't be "the next revolution" for Apple. Traditional watch-style iWatch concept based on TRIWA's Havana Nevil Brown watch, by Gábor Balogh Jean-Claude Biver, president of Watches and Jewelry at LVMH, claims Apple unsuccessfully tried to poach employees from his Hublot brand as well as from other manufacturers who make precision parts for these luxury watches. "Apple has contacted some of my employees – I saw the emails personally," Mr Biver told a Swiss publication, claiming that all those who had been contacted refused the iPhone maker’s advances. Apple allegedly may

Apple 'Aggressively' Hiring for Smart Watch Project, Looking Toward Late 2014 Launch

Financial Times reports that Apple is "aggressively" hiring new employees to help with its smart watch effort, suggesting that the company needs additional expertise to tackle the project's challenges. Sources also indicate that the "iWatch" may not appear until late next year, as has been previously rumored.The company has begun hiring “aggressively” for the project in recent weeks, say people familiar with Apple’s plans for the wearable device, a move that shows it has stepped up development but which raises questions over the ability of its own engineers to develop wearable technology. As Apple moves from iPods, iPhones and iPads into an entirely new category of product, it is looking beyond its existing staff in Cupertino for the talent required to build it – an indication that the endeavour involves “hard engineering problems that they’ve not been able to solve”, according to one source.The report indicates that Apple has been looking at acquiring smaller firms with expertise that would be valuable to its smart watch effort, and has also been working hard to retain key employees related to the project. Rumors of an Apple smart watch have been circulating for some time now, with the company reportedly putting over 100 designers to work on the project. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Apple has hired Paul Deneve, formerly the CEO of fashion house Yves Saint Laurent, to work on "special projects", with speculation suggesting he may involved with the iWatch and other wearable computing projects at Apple. Apple has been filing trademark applications on the

Google Reportedly Working on Its Own Android Smart Watch

The Financial Times is reporting that Google's Android unit is working on a smart watch. With Samsung confirming that it is working on a smart watch and rumors about Apple's "iWatch" continuing to circulate, it appears that the three companies are set to battle in a new mobile device segment. The report unsurprisingly suggests that Google views the smart watch as a more mainstream wearable accessory than the Google Glass project that has garnered significant attention in recent months.While Glass is being created in its X Lab, home to experimental “moonshot” projects such as the self-driving car, Google’s smart watch is being developed by its Android unit, according to a person briefed on the project, to act as an extension to the smartphones using that operating system. The project is separate from Samsung’s efforts, the source said, although there is no indication of when it might launch.Apple reportedly has 100 product designers working on an "iWatch", experimenting with curved glass and possible features such as biosensors. Apple's smart watch is also said to run a "full" version of iOS, which would make it easier for developer access. However, battery life is said to be the big challenge for Apple, with current prototypes needing to charge every two days, half of Apple's

European Carriers Stockpiling Nano-SIMs Ahead of Expected Upcoming iPhone Launch

Following the selection of Apple's proposed design as the new nano-SIM standard last month, Financial Times reports that European carriers have begun stockpiling the new nano-SIMs in expectation that Apple's next-generation iPhone will be launching using the new standard in the coming months.Operators expect that the iPhone will feature the nano sim in a slimmed down design, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation, and have begun to store millions of the cards in warehouses in anticipation of high demand for Apple’s iPhone. Apple declined to comment. Operators were caught off guard by the adoption of the micro Sim for the iPhone 4 as well as the original iPad two years ago, with some struggling to meet demand with their own micro-Sims in the first weeks of sale. One informed person said that the major networks were keen to be ahead of demand this time, however. He added that the iPhone 5 was likely to be similar sized as the iPhone 4 although slimmer and with a fully metal body. Apple's nano-SIM design next to current micro-SIM (Source: The Verge) Back in May, however, one iPhone parts vendor posted what was said to be the SIM tray for the next-generation iPhone, with the part appearing nearly identical to the micro-SIM tray found in the iPhone 4S. If that part is genuine, it would appear that Apple has either chosen to continue using the micro-SIM standard or has quickly changed course with the ratification of the nano-SIM standard to embrace the smaller

Apple's Cloud-Based Music Service to Offer Storage, Not Subscription Access

Financial Times reports that Apple has "clarified" with music labels its intent for a cloud-based music storage service, positioning the service as a way to back up existing collections and move music to Apple devices rather than as any sort of subscription streaming service. Apple, which rocked digital music services such as Pandora, Rdio and MOG last week by announcing plans to keep 30 per cent of all revenues from subscriptions taken out through its App Store, has clarified its plans for using remote storage, known as the cloud, according to several music industry executives. More than a year after buying Lala, a cloud-based digital music service, Apple is now looking to use the cloud mainly to allow users of its iTunes store to back up their collections and access them from any Apple device. One person with knowledge of Apple's plans said the company did not want to undermine the market that it dominates for paid downloads, likening its plans for the cloud to "insurance".It is not entirely clear from the article exactly how users would "access" their cloud-hosted music from Apple devices. Apple has been presumed to be preparing to allow users to simply host their collections in the cloud and then stream tracks to their Internet-connected devices on an as-needed basis, eliminating the need for managing and syncing libraries across machines and reducing onboard storage requirements. The report's emphasis on the "insurance" aspect, however, makes Apple's plans sound more like a backup service than a streaming service, although we would assume Apple is still working