Apple's Cook awarded $58M worth of AAPL stock for meeting performance goals

Aug 26, 2015 - 11:21 AM - by sparkyscott21

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Monday acquired 560,000 vested restricted stock units, split evenly between time- and performance-based awards, worth nearly $58 million, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

As noted in the SEC document, Cook chose not to sell any vested RSUs, though 290,836 shares were automatically withheld by Apple to comply with minimum statutory tax withholding requirements. Given Monday's closing price of $103.12, the remaining shares are worth roughly $29 million. In total, Cook has accumulated more than 1.17 million owned Apple shares which, if sold today, would be worth almost $121.4 million.

To receive a fully vested award, Cook had to satisfy performance metrics related to Apple's total shareholder return relative to other firms listed in the S&P 500 during a two-year period between Aug. 25, 2013 and Aug. 24, 2015, the beginning value of which calculated by averaging AAPL's closing price for 20 trading days prior to the 2013 start date. Adjusted for dividends and a 7-to-1 stock split in 2014, starting value was calculated at $68.56 per share. The ending value, set at $121.18 and adjusted for dividends, was subsequently calculated by averaging AAPL closing prices for the 20 days leading up to Aug. 24, 2015.

Contractual stipulations specified Cook's RSU award would vest in full if TSR performance fell within the top third of companies that remained in the S&P 500 over the observed two-year period. According to the filing, Apple's TSR performance of 76.76 percent ranked 46th of 458 companies, putting it in the 90th percentile. If Apple ended up in the middle or bottom third, the award would have been reduced to 50 percent or zero, respectively.

As per Cook's original compensation plan, there are 4,760,000 outstanding RSUs scheduled to vest in 700,000-unit batches on Aug. 24 in 2016 and 2021. Two 1.68 million-unit chunks will vest in six annual installments starting on Aug. 24, 2016, one of which being contingent on TSR performance.


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Apple Store Smart Signs will be globally replaced with Mac and iOS apps

Aug 25, 2015 - 12:50 PM - by sparkyscott21

Last week, we reported that Apple is preparing to launch a couple of significant changes for Apple Retail stores this upcoming Wednesday. Besides demoting iPods to the accessory shelves on the sides of Apple Stores, Apple will be removing the long-existing iPad-based Smart Signs. These are the iPads that sit alongside iPhones, iPads, and Macs in the stores explaining pricing and other pertinent information. Now, we’ve gathered a few more details. First, sources say that this will be a change across all Apple Stores across the globe, not just stores in the United States. More significantly, we now know what will replace the Smart Sign functionality: new dedicated pricing apps on both in-store Macs and iOS devices…

A new app for reading Mac hardware prices, capabilities, and comparing models will be loaded up onto showroom units. The app will be positioned on the left side of the Mac dock and will be fully interactive, like the former Smart Signs. There will be an option to call over an Apple Store employee, like the Smart Signs. As for iOS devices, a similar app will be placed on the Home screens of iPads and iPhones in the stores.

Apple will begin promoting this new service on Wednesday in its stores by asking store employees to discuss the new apps with customers as they walk into the Apple Store. Our original report from last week noted that Apple will take over the space currently accommodated by Smart Signs with additional Mac and iOS device demo units.

Apple will also begin further promoting both Apple Music and the Apple Watch in its stores, with watches paired with live iPhones being specifically carried around the store and shown off by retail employees. Apple originally launched Smart Signs in 2011.


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Start saving now for your 24-karat gold iPhone 6s

Aug 25, 2015 - 12:11 PM - by sparkyscott21

The iPhone 6s isn’t even out yet, and already luxury goods companies are preparing to give folks with way too much money the chance to pre-order their next-generation Apple handset in 24-karat-gold.

Hot off the mark is Goldgenie, which is currently letting customers register their interest in an exclusive luxury box-set containing both a gold-plated iPhone 6s and a gold Apple Watch.

On its website, the company notes that:

“As soon as the new iPhone 6s launches, Goldgenie will be offering its signature luxury customised versions of this highly anticipated smartphone. The iPhone 6s will be available in lustrous finishes of 24K Gold, Rose Gold and Platinum in Goldgenie’s classic elite models with a mirror like shine.

Customers will also be able to have their luxury customised iPhone 6s personalised with a laser engraving of their choice. The luxury customised iPhone 6s will be available on its own or as part of a gift set with a matching luxury customised Apple Watch. Make sure to register your interest to be the first to know when we launch the collection.”

Currently the website shows a countdown to 2pm BST on August 31. It’s not entirely clear why this is, since everything we’ve heard so far suggests the iPhone 6s won’t be announced until September 9. If Goldgenie is anything like other gold-plating services, it doesn’t have an inside track on what’s happening at Apple, but rather follows the news the same way every other reporter does – which makes the timing more than a little odd.

There’s also no price listed for the set, although a gold-plated iPhone 6 bought through Goldgenie costs £2,000 ($3,150) and a gold-plated Apple Watch costs the same.

Goldgenie’s not the only company to offer gold-plated iPhones. Rival companies include Gold & Co, whose work we have previously profiled, and luxury jewellery house Perla Penna, whose custom gold iPhones regularly pay tribute to Vladimir Putin.

Still, Goldgenie looks like it’s determined to be first to market with the gold iPhone 6s – and that’s got to count for something at the country club, while you’re chomping down on your gold-plated lobster, right?


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Apple Stores may end 'One to One' training sessions in near future, report claims

Aug 25, 2015 - 11:52 AM - by sparkyscott21

Apple is on the verge of phasing out its "One to One" training sessions for Apple Store customers, aiming to direct people into free, open workshops instead, a report said on Monday.

The company will honor any current One to One memberships until they run out, but no new ones will be sold, a source informed MacRumors. One to One costs $99 per year and offers basic training on Apple products via a mix of personal and group sessions.

Apple already runs a variety of free workshops at its stores, but the company is allegedly looking to reorganize them around themes like "Discover" and "Create." Workshops should also be easier to find on Apple's main website, instead of being buried in subsections for individual stores.

The motivation for the change is unclear, but Apple has largely ignored One to One during the past few years in terms of marketing and improvements. That could mean dwindling public interest in the program.

Alternately – or because of low interest – Apple might also want to maximize the labor it gets out of retail staff. Workers running personal One to One sessions aren't free to talk to other customers or process sales, which can potentially impede business.


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Tim Cook will reveal plans to end the ‘digital divide’ in public schools

Aug 24, 2015 - 12:24 PM - by sparkyscott21

Photos released ahead of the interview show Cook speaking with host Robin Roberts from a classroom kitted out with iMacs.

For those unfamiliar with it, the so-called “digital divide” refers to the gap between different demographics and areas based on their access to the latest technology.

Promoting tech inclusion among people from different backgrounds has been a big topic of Cook’s tenure as Apple CEO, based on his belief that Apple should be a “force for good” in the world.

Recently Apple released its employee diversity breakdown, while Cook has also pushed for Apple devices to make inroads in the education system: building on a target market the company has been working toward for years.

Earlier this year, Apple supported President Obama’s ConnectED program, which aims to improve Internet access at schools across the U.S. As part of the initiative, Apple contributed a number of MacBooks, iPads, and software, as well as its expertise.


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Apple job opening points to deeper Apple Music integration with Siri

Aug 24, 2015 - 12:15 PM - by sparkyscott21

An Apple job opening posted on Friday suggests that the company is looking to expand links between Siri and Apple Music, presumably in the form of new voice commands.

The listing, discovered by AppleInsider, calls for a Siri software engineer with a general interest in music. The person is expected to "help extend Siri's integration with Apple Music," primarily by "designing and implementing natural language interactions and work flow."

Candidates are required to have a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science, and five years of industry experience.

Siri integration is one of several features that distinguish Apple Music from services like Rdio and Spotify. A number of voice commands are already built in, covering not just basic playback options but some that involve contextual cues and/or information from separate databases. Siri will prioritize popular albums when given common search terms, for instance, and can discover which song topped charts on a given day, month, or year.

Whether or not they're already underway, new commands will likely have to wait until 2016, given a full slate of improvements coming this fall. iOS 9 will give Apple Music a redesigned graphical interface, and the service should appear on Android and the Apple TV for the first time. Indeed a new Apple TV model with Siri support is anticipated next month.


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