It’s the Apple edition of TSR on tech, with the WWDC keynote on Monday dominating the news cycle for the rest of the week. There were other goings-on, which we have duly reported on: cuts at Nokia, a rejected appeal for Assange, some important security updates; but all eyes were on San Francisco for Apple’s announcements about hardware updates, the new MacBook Pro with a Retina display, OS X Mountain Lion, and iOS 6. We’ve got the details on all of the aforementioned and more – just read on!
Nokia, formerly the world’s largest mobile phone maker, has announced layoffs of up to 10,000 employees. The company will also close a factory in Finland and research facilities in Germany and Canada. Nokia’s market cap on the NYSE has fallen from $24bn to $9bn in just a year as it struggles in the smartphone market, with its stock falling 16% on Thursday alone to a 52-year low of $2.30.
Facebook’s chief technology officer, Bret Taylor, has left the company to start his own business venture with Kevin Gibbs, a top Google engineer. Taylor has been with Facebook since 2009, and the move is largely seen as him cashing out on his new stock options from the IPO. Facebook also this week hired three engineers from Pieceable, which was working on a way to view iOS apps from a browser, to join its mobile team. As part of the deal, Pieceable will shut down at the end of the year, though Facebook did not buy the company or its technology.
Dell has announced its first ever shareholder dividend, which will pay out 32 cents per share per year. Dell’s shares rose 2% after the announcement by Michael Dell, the CEO.
AOL has completed the $1.056bn sale of over 800 of its 1,100-strong patent portfolio to Microsoft, with Microsoft retaining a non-exclusive license to the rest. Kodak has also been attempting to sell off its patent portfolio recently after it filed for bankruptcy protection, but as of this week remains unsuccessful.
Julian Assange’s appeal of the UK Supreme Court’s ruling on his extradition has been rejected. The WikiLeaks founder now has two weeks before he must return to Sweden, where because he is considered a flight risk he will be imprisoned upon arrival until a court rules on whether he must remain under arrest while his case proceeds. Assange has spoken about his fears that Sweden is working on behalf of the US, which he believes wants to imprison him over WikiLeaks’ leaking of US government documents.
The Apple vs Motorola case that was thrown out of court in Illinois only last week has been reinstated by the presiding judge. Judge Richard Posner did not explain his reasons for reversing his decision, though it was likely to avoid a lengthy appeals process.
Hacking & Security
Ryan Cleary, the British teenager arrested last year on charges relating to his activities as part of hacking group LulzSec (and then re-arrested after breaching his bail), has been further charged with federal offences in the US by a grand jury in Los Angeles. As well as charges similar to those he faces here, Cleary is also charged in the US with conspiracy for aiding the LulzSec group by providing server and messaging resources. A statement from the court said:
Ryan Cleary, 20, a resident and citizen of the United Kingdom, is currently incarcerated while facing foreign prosecution in England related to his hacking activities. The indictment, filed on June 12, 2012, in United States District Court in Los Angeles, charges Cleary with one count of conspiracy and two counts of the unauthorized impairment of protected computers.
Apple and Oracle have both released patches for Java, and Microsoft has released a slew of updates for Windows in response to recently discovered attacks and malware. Everyone should update their computers immediately – don’t ignore the pop-ups from Windows Update! Google and Microsoft have also put out warnings about an as yet unpatched security hole in Internet Explorer. This author would like to reiterate that security-conscious users would be much better using Firefox or Chrome than IE.
At its WWDC keynote on Monday, Apple announced updates to its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines. The 11-inch Air will now start with a 1.7GHz Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM, a 64GB solid-state drive (SSD) and 5 hours of battery life, with the option to upgrade to a 128GB SSD. The 13-inch model will come with a 1.8GHz Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of SSD storage, but with the option to upgrade to 256GB. Both sizes of Air will include USB 3.0 ports. Similarly, the 13-inch MacBook Pro sees the addition of a 2.5GHz Core i5 Ivy Bridge CPU, upgradeable to 2.9GHz i7, while the 15-inch comes with a 2.3GHz quad-core i7, upgradeable to 2.6GHz. Both models have 7-hour battery lives. Apple quietly discontinued the 17-inch MacBook Pro.
Also announced was a next-generation, 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display – that is, a display with a pixel density so high the human eye cannot tell individual pixels apart. (The same technology is used in the iPhone 4 and 4S, and in the “resolutionary” new iPad.) The next-gen Pro looks a lot like an Air, at just 0.71 inches thick and with no optical drive. The display itself is a whopping 2880×1800 pixels on a 15.4-inch screen, giving a pixel density of 220 ppi. The machine contains a quad-core i7 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia Kepler GeForce GT 650M GPU, and up to 768GB of SSD storage, and its ports include an SD card slot, HDMI, USB 3.0, two Thunderbolt ports, and a headphone jack. Beautiful as it is, the new Pro does however start at £1,799 for the basic model and soar to a massive £3,099 for the fully-upgraded version, and anyone yet undaunted might also want to note the lack of Ethernet port: if you want wired internet access, you’re going to have to buy a Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter. Time to find that cheque book.
Following the hardware announcements, the keynote discussed some of the new features in OS X Mountain Lion, the next generation of Apple’s operating system that will be released in June. Though many of the features were announced previously, some details are new: Facebook integration will be added to the existing Twitter integration, and a feature called PowerNap will allow the system to update and back up in a power-efficient manner while it sleeps. System-wide dictation will also be introduced. Safari 6 was also mentioned, which will add “iCloud tabs” that can be opened from any other connected devices along with a unified address and search bar – in other words, it’s the “Google Chrome” update. Upgrading to Mountain Lion will cost $19.99.
Finally, Apple talked about iOS 6, the upcoming update to the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod. Much of the keynote here focused on improvements to Siri, Apple’s natural speech voice control technology: Siri will now be able to look up sports scores and stats from Yahoo! Sports, movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, and restaurants from Yelp. Users will also be able to launch apps by name, a long-awaited feature, and Siri will finally be made available on the new iPad.
iOS 6 will also include a new app called Passbook that will collect tickets, loyalty cards and boarding passes into one place, which is obviously designed as a competitor to Google Wallet and may hint at the future inclusion of NFC technology. Users will also find system-wide Facebook integration and a customisable “Do Not Disturb” setting, though they will not find any more Google Maps: as expected, Apple announced that its own Maps app would replace Google’s offerings in iOS 6 (though presumably Google Maps will still be available on the App Store). Apple’s Maps will include sophisticated turn-by-turn navigation (accessible via Siri), a 3D view, and information about traffic. The data appears to be provided by TomTom and OpenStreetMap, among other companies.
Apple’s desktop computers didn’t see any love during the presentation, but the Mac Pro did quietly receive a minor update to its CPU configuration. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, hinted later that “we’re working on something really great for later next year” with regard to the Pro. A new version of the Airport Express router and a new “Smart Case” for the iPad were also made available on the Apple Store.
The FBI documents on Steve Jobs released under a Freedom of Information request by Wired are an interesting read.
Stephen Hawking’s latest project is a supercomputer that “could ingest the entire contents of the US Library of Congress in less than three seconds.”
The full video from Apple CEO Tim Cook’s appearance at the recent D10 conference is now available.
One man has been playing the same game of Civilisation II for an incredible 10 years.