China removes Apple, other US tech companies from approved government purchase lists

Feb 26, 2015 - 1:13 PM - by sparkyscott21

Xidan Joy City Apple Store in Beijing, China

China has blacklisted Apple and a number of other big name U.S. technology brands from its approved state purchase lists, leaving local companies to fill the resulting void, according to a report published on Wednesday.

Reuters reports that China's Central Government Procurement Center's (CGPC) struck products and services made by foreign companies from its approved state purchase lists, while at the same time approving thousands of products made domestically. The change is thought to be motivated by concerns over Western cybersurveillance operations.

Over a two-year span from 2012 to 2014, the CGPC added more than 2,000 new products to its list, which dictates spending by central state ministries, bringing the total to nearly 5,000. That increase was largely thanks to local vendors, however, as foreign brand presence dipped by one third over the same period.

Apple, Cisco, Intel, McAfee and Citrix Systems were all culled from the lists, the report said. Cisco Systems appears to be the biggest loser in China's recent policy shift, as the network hardware firm saw its share of approved products drop from 60 in 2012 down to none by late 2014.

Citing an unnamed official within CGPC, the publication said any number of reasons can be attributed to the list change, including assurances from domestic firms that their products are more secure than foreign solutions.

The new Chinese regulations come on the heels of revelations regarding U.S. cybersurveillance activities run by the National Security Agency, brought to light by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Following allegations of Apple involvement in a secret NSA spying program last year, China Central Television aired a report that called iOS location tracking "a national security concern." To help alleviate concerns, Apple moved Chinese users' iCloud data to servers within China.

Apple in January reportedly agreed to subject its consumer products to security audits by the China's State Internet Information Office. The move was supposedly intended to persuade Chinese regulators that rumors of software backdoors and third-party data sharing were false.



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Apple holding March 9th special event for upcoming products

Feb 26, 2015 - 12:55 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple has scheduled its first major event of the year for March 9th, where we’ll definitely get some news on the Apple Watch but may also get some other intriguing new products, including the new 12-inch Retina MacBook Air. The title of the event is simply called “Spring Forward” and Apple predictably gives us no details about what it’s going to discuss.

Since the Apple Watch is going to start shipping in April, we’re sure that Apple will give us some more details on the product at its upcoming event. Recent reports have claimed that Tim Cook told Apple employees at a store in Berlin that the Apple Watch is now water resistant enough to shower with, so that could definitely be a new feature the company will tout.

The upcoming 12-inch Retina MacBook Air is definitely another candidate to be shown off at the event. 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman earlier this year leaked out major details about Apple’s newest laptop, which means it’s a pretty good bet that it’s very close to being ready for market.

One final possibility that we consider to be more remote is that Apple will show off its long-rumored giant iPad, which has alternately been referred to as the “iPad Pro” or the “iPad Air Plus.” Since there have been comparatively few leaks about this new tablet lately, we figure that it’s the least likely to get a mention at the event.

We won’t know for absolute certain until Apple tells us everything it has in store in just two weeks, of course.



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Apple reportedly acquired audio software developer Camel Audio in January

Feb 25, 2015 - 2:11 PM - by sparkyscott21

Audio software developer Camel Audio announced in January that it would be shutting down for good and removing its software from sale, but no one knew quite why. However, it now appears that the company has been acquired by Apple.

Today Camel Audio updated some of its corporate information, including its address and directors, as listed on the UK government’s Companies House website. The new address is 100 New Bridge Street in London, which also happens to be the address of Apple’s UK offices.

As highlighted by MacRumors, Camel also updated its board of directors (seen in some of the filings below), removing all directors and replacing with just one person: Heather Joy Morrison, a member of Apple’s legal team.

Camel Audio was responsible for popular audio software such as the award-winning Alchemy synthesizer for desktop and mobile platforms, as well as sound libraries and effects plug-ins. The company’s team will likely be put to work on Apple’s music apps, GarageBand for iOS and OS X, and Logic Pro X. Camel will also continue supporting its own products until the first week of July.



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Supporting payment infrastructure for Apple Pay will be in place in Europe by mid-Apr

Feb 25, 2015 - 2:08 PM - by sparkyscott21

Visa Europe has announced that its European contactless payment terminals will support the tokenization service used by Apple Pay by mid-April. This would allow Apple to introduce Apple Pay to Europe anytime from this point on.

Tokenisation technology will be at the heart of new mobile payment solutions and has been hailed as one of the best data protection and fraud prevention methods available. The new service will be available for financial institutions [in Europe] from mid-April 2015.

Although Europe has had contactless payment cards for several years, these currently transmit the actual card details to the terminal. Apple Pay, in contrast, transmits single-use codes which card companies can map back to the actual card, a functionality currently only available in the USA. As of mid-April, that functionality will be available in Europe too–at least for Visa cards …

While Apple has not yet announced a date for introducing Apple Pay to Europe, bank sources have suggested that the UK launch will be in the first half of this year. A job listing revealed last year that Apple had a London-based team working on rolling out the service across Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa.

Visa Europe has not confirmed that Apple will be using the service, but has strongly hinted that this is the case in a statement to Reuters.

“Apple and Visa (Inc) have an agreement around what has happened,” spokesman Steve Perry said. “I am as excited as anyone, but we have to wait,” he said.

Visa had earlier announced plans to roll out tokenization for other mobile and online payment services, including Visa Checkout.

Within the U.S., Apple Pay is now supported by more than 80 banks, credit unions and other financial institutions. If yours isn’t listed, you can check out our rolling list of banks which have promised to introduce support for Apple Pay, together with the stores and apps where the service can be used.



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Tim Cook met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during Berlin visit, talked privacy

Feb 25, 2015 - 2:03 PM - by sparkyscott21

It seems Tim Cook had more on his schedule than a meeting with BILD during his visit to Berlin yesterday: the newspaper reports that he also met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Cook told BILD that they discussed security, net neutrality, environmental protection and education–but the key topic appears to have been data privacy.

Cook said that he could well understand Germany’s strong stance on data privacy, stating that Germans “have the same views on privacy as I do” …

Cook said it was the first time he had met Merkel, and that he was “impressed by her deep knowledge of many different topics.”

The Apple CEO takes a tough line on privacy, recently telling a White House security summit that “History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences […] we risk our way of life.”

BILD also shared some additional photos of Cook, including one of him being handed a piece of the Berlin wall, and another looking out over where the wall once stood, dividing East and West Berlin. The tie was, it seems, for the meeting with Merkel–he removed it afterwards.



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Apple hit with massive half-billion dollar blow in patent trial

Feb 25, 2015 - 1:59 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple lost an iTunes-related patent case, Bloomberg reports, with a jury having decided to award Smartflash a massive $532.9 million in damages. Smartflash was looking for $852 million, whereas Apple said the three patents part of the trial were worth $4.5 million at most.

Smartflash alleged that its inventions, related to digital rights management, to data storage and access through payment systems, were infringed by Apple’s iTunes. The company also asked for royalties on iPhone, iPad and Mac sales, or devices used to access iTunes content.

Apple, meanwhile, said that Smartflash doesn’t actually have a product, and it’s simply looking to score royalties from Apple tech.

“Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented,” Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet said. “We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system.”

Smartflash doesn’t have any products, Bloomberg says, and its only business is licensing seven patents it got between 2008 and 2012. However, the company was offered at some point less than $200,000 for an interest in one of its patents, according to court documentation, and its founder once met with executives of Gemalto SA, including Augustin Farrugia, who is now a senior director at Apple.

In addition to Apple, the company has also sued Samsung and Google.



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