Some Genius Bars are being repurposed for the holidays, but other changes loom

Dec 15, 2014 - 1:44 PM - by sparkyscott21

As they’ve done in years’ past, some Apple retail stores this holiday season will repurpose the Genius Bar for additional product space, pick-ups, or other uses as Apple attempts to make the shopping experience for customers as smooth as possible, 9to5Mac has learned.

The repurposing for the holidays will only arrive in some stores depending on needs and traffic, with some stores scheduled to use the Genius Bar area to complete express sales and hold products scheduled for pick-up. Other changes, however, will go beyond the holidays as the stores under new retail chief Angela Ahrendts evolve to better deal with increased foot traffic.

For some stores that means that the Genius Bar itself might be closed until the new year, but Geniuses will still be available on the floor and at tables often located in front of the Genius Bar. Some stores will also not be taking Genius Bar appointments for a few days during the week of December 25.

While the changes mentioned above are strictly related to the holidays, rumblings among sources close to retail is that long-term Apple is flirting with other changes for the Genius Bar. Earlier this month we reported that Apple was recruiting retail employees with “a fashion or luxury background” suggesting Ahrendts was preparing retail stores to begin selling Apple’s first product to crossover into the fashion world, its upcoming Apple Watch arriving early next year.

The physical changes you’ll see this month are mostly seasonal, although sources tell us some new retail stores are changing the Genius area slightly with no Genius Bar-specific signage or monitors displaying tips.

The tweaks to Genius Bars, however, are likely to allow Apple to easier repurpose that part of the store on the fly to accommodate a store’s particular needs at any given time. It doesn’t mean Genius Bars are going away, as Apple has also recently implemented improvements to the Genius support experience. We reported back in July on some of the recent changes at retail implemented by Ahrendts. Among those changes were enhancements to the Genius Bar including increasing the amount of time customers are able to book with Geniuses.


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Apple's 2014 holiday ad 'The Song' showcases the human side of its ecosystem

Dec 15, 2014 - 1:41 PM - by sparkyscott21

Once again this year, Apple is celebrating the holiday season with a 90-second, unconventional television spot showcasing how its products can be used to create thoughtful gifts that can strengthen relationships with others.

The new ad, called "The Song," shows a younger woman using her Apple devices to record a duet with an old recording her grandmother made for her grandfather. The ad shows her using a MacBook, and iPhone and an iPad over some time to perfect the holiday gift.

The grandmother listens to her present Christmas morning saved on an iPad mini 3. As she is brought to tears by the composition, the granddaughter watches with a smile from a distance.

"With a Mac, iPhone or iPad you have the power to create thoughtful, emotional gifts and memories that transcend time," the ad's description reads. "It could be a movie, a homemade card or a song that brings two generations closer together."

Apple's short film for the 2014 holiday is the second straight year that the company has made a longer advertisement telling a singular story for the Christmas season. Last year's creation, "Misunderstood," featured a boy staring at his iPhone during a family gathering, only to eventually reveal he had been editing together a movie to show to everyone.

The 2013 ad won a Creative Arts Emmy for "Outstanding Commercial." Over the years, Apple's ads have earned a reputation for being at times emotional, funny, eye catching, and most of all iconic, ranging from the heralded "1984" Super Bowl spot to the "Get a Mac" campaign that featured physical embodiments of a Mac and a Windows PC.



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Indie game 'Papers,Please' to return full nudity option after initial rejection Apple

Dec 13, 2014 - 3:40 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple's app review team caused a small fracas this week when it forced award-winning game "Papers, Please" remove pixelated nudity prior to a debut on iPad. But the company changed course on Friday, suggesting the game's developer resubmit the title with a user-selectable full nudity option.

Papers, Please indie developer Lucas Pope informed fans earlier this week that the game's iOS debut would not contain pixelated nudity, a gameplay element many consider essential to the storyline. Following a backlash from the gaming community at large, it seems Apple has reversed its decision and will allow the feature as part of an app update.

"Just talked to Apple. The initial rejection for porn was a misunderstanding on their part. They suggested I resubmit with the nudity option," Pope said in a tweet on Friday. In a follow-up tweet, the developer said he plans to work on an update to restore nudity over the weekend, which should hit the App Store next week.

Apple's App Store review team initially required Pope to remove all instances of nudity, even though they were non-sexual pixelated illustrations, citing App Store rules prohibiting pornography. Critics of the move noted the element is vital to the game's narrative and would lessen the impact of its socio-political commentary.

In Papers, Please, players take on the role of a border control agent working for a fictional totalitarian country called Arstotzka. Players are tasked with performing banal duties associated with processing immigrants into the country, with each correct admission representing a bit more money for their impoverished family back home. Incorrect decisions can hold dire consequences.

Throughout the course of the game, players face increasingly complex moral decisions, including whether to search immigrants for potential weapons or contraband using full-body scans. Without nudity, the feeling of humiliating and degrading incoming citizens as a state actor is all but lost, gamers said.

Papers, Please debuted in the App Store today at a special introductory price of $5.99. An update to restore nudity is expected next week.



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Canada's Competition Bureau probing Apple carrier deals

Dec 12, 2014 - 1:31 PM - by sparkyscott21

Canada’s Competition Bureau is investigating allegations that Apple Inc’s Canadian unit used anti-competitive clauses in contracts with domestic wireless carriers, the watchdog said on Thursday.

The bureau said no wrongdoing by Apple’s Canadian arm has been found so far, without stating who made the allegations. An Apple spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

The bureau this week sought a court order to compel Apple to turn over records relating to the ongoing investigation.

Canada’s antitrust watchdog last month stepped up a similar probe into the country’s top grocer, Loblaw Cos Ltd, ordering some of the chain’s major suppliers to hand over records relating to their dealings with the company.

The bureau said it has sought a court order that would compel Apple’s Canadian arm to provide records and written returns of information relevant to its investigation.

The bureau stressed that, so far, it has no evidence that Apple has contravened any rules and that it has not filed any application with the Competition Tribunal or any other court to seek remedies for any alleged anti-competitive conduct.

“Should evidence indicate that the Competition Act has been contravened, the Commissioner will take appropriate action,” said Greg Scott, a spokesman for the bureau, in an email.

The bureau did not state whether it has also approached Canada’s largest telecom players for records related to its probe.

Telus Corp declined to comment on the matter. Its rivals BCE Inc and Rogers Communications Inc were not immediately reachable for comment.



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Contract workers invade Apple campus demanding better pay and working conditions

Dec 12, 2014 - 1:19 PM - by sparkyscott21

A group of more than 100 protestors, including civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, convened at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus on Thursday to protest treatment of Silicon Valley contract labor and deliver a petition calling on the tech giant to set a trend toward reform.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Jackson accompanied a demonstration led by regional union United Service Workers West — a division of the national Service Employees International Union — which in November pushed Apple to stand up for rights of contract workers like security guards.

At issue is the reportedly low pay contractors receive in comparison to those holding skill positions at big tech firms in the Bay Area. For example, Apple's security guard contractor Security Industry Specialists pays employees $19.77 per hour, not including benefits, which the SEIU-USWW claims is not enough to offset the area's high cost of living.

When Jackson arrived at today's protest, he asked the gathered crowd to repeat his words, "We marvel at the growth of high tech and biotech, but we are the foundation. We fight today in the rain for job security and justice." A storm is currently bearing down on San Francisco and surrounding areas, cutting power to portions of the city.

Jackson, who just days ago had a fruitful discussion with Apple CEO Tim Cook on corporate diversity, was in town for a workplace diversity conference held by his Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Following Jackson's departure, those in attendance moved into an Apple office building to deliver a petition signed by 20,000 people calling on the company to push for better service worker rights. The initiative is relying on Apple to catalyze change in other Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook.

While inside the unnamed building's lobby, protestors chanted, "Sí se puede" ("Yes, we can") and brandished a sign reading, "Apple dodges taxes, we pay the price." Art Pulaski, executive treasurer and secretary of the California Labor Federation, told protestors they were supported by union members from across the state. Pulaski, too, joined in on demonstration, saying to the crowd, "It's time for Apple to think different."

Contract worker rights is part of a larger umbrella issue related to a wage gap between laborers and corporate employees. Stemming from economic discord is the so-called gentrification of San Francisco, which recently reached a tipping point when tech companies started using municipal bus stops for shuttles that ferry passengers from their homes to jobs outside the city.



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Online Apple Store now accepts PayPal payments in US and UK

Dec 12, 2014 - 1:18 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple on Thursday updated its digital storefront to include PayPal as a valid method of making purchases, expanding customer options beyond credit and debit cards for the first time.

As seen in the screenshot above, U.S. and UK Online Apple Stores have activated PayPal as an accepted form of payment for hardware purchases. First spotted by Re/Code, the change grants PayPal access to America's second-largest online retailer, and sees Apple promoting the PayPal Credit payments method that lets customers pay off a purchase over 18 months with no interest.

PayPal transactions have been available in the iTunes Music Store, App Store and iBookstore, as well as various third-party in-app solutions, but Apple has never allowed the payments service access to its lucrative hardware storefront until today.

It appears PayPal functionality is currently limited to, as the Apple Store iOS app is not yet showing availability.

The two companies share a complicated relationship, especially after Apple announced direct PayPal competitor Apple Pay in September. Shortly after Apple Pay was unveiled, PayPal took advantage of a high-profile celebrity photo leak controversy involving iCloud as ammunition against Apple's mobile payments solution.

With Apple Pay, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners are able to conduct secure touchless transactions at a number of stores across the country. Perhaps more pressing an issue for PayPal is Apple Pay's online and in-app functionality, which some analysts see as a significant opportunity for Apple to disrupt PayPal's dominance in the sector.



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