This week in AppleInsider: 12.9" iPad Pro details, Beats Music woes, AppleBot & more
This week saw a number of details emerge about Apple's plans for a 12.9-inch iPad, a new Apple TV, and Web search. The company's efforts to relaunch Beats Music appeared to be running into roadblocks however, with word of incomplete deals, and even probes by two U.S. government agencies.
12.9-inch iPad to have stylus, Force Touch, NFC & more
AppleInsider learned that Apple is not only working on a 12.9-inch iPad model, but planning to improve its touch latency and pair it with a pressure-sensitive Bluetooth stylus. The screen itself should have some pressure sensitivity, which will allow it to support the Force Touch technology introduced with Apple Watch and the latest MacBook models.
The tablet should also feature a USB-C port, though it's uncertain whether it will replace Lightning or serve as a secondary input/output option. NFC support may likewise be present, though the purpose of its inclusion is unknown, since tap-to-pay would be inconvenient with a tablet that size. One possibility is easier pairing with accessories like the stylus.
A release date for the device is still nebulous.
DOJ, FTC probe Apple's streaming music negotiations
Even though Apple has not yet launched a rebranded version of Beats Music, both the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are said to be looking into terms Apple is putting forward in negotiations with music labels.
One of the key issues is Apple allegedly asking labels to pressure services like Spotify into dropping free, ad-supported content, which might make a paid Apple service more competitive.
The FTC is said to be investigating whether Apple is using the dominance of its iTunes Music Store to gain an unfair advantage over competitors in the streaming market. Sources did not go into detail on that topic, however, saying only that the investigation is ongoing.
Beats Music relaunch may be waiting on deals, sport limited free content
Should Apple come out of the investigations unscathed, it may still not have the new service ready in time for WWDC, as the company has allegedly yet to finalize licensing deals. The company has sometimes secured last-minute deals for past service launches, but there is now just one month left until Apple's WWDC keynote presentation.
On Friday, Re/code said that Apple is hoping to negotiate for free trial periods between one to three months, and possibly free selections of sample songs presented in a manner similar to SoundCloud. That report also said iTunes Radio may get an upgrade with stations curated by real people instead of algorithms.
New Apple TV expected to get touchpad control
According to recent reports, Apple is looking to debut a refreshed Apple TV in June with a redesigned remote control featuring a touchpad in place of the current iPod-style directional ring. The rumored hardware should retain two buttons, at this point thought to be iterations of the current remote's Play/Pause and Menu options.
Past reports indicated the set-top streamer will have an A8 processor, Siri support, and expanded internal storage, the latter needed for a rumored dedicated App Store. The new product could be revealed at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8.
Apple ventures into Web search with 'AppleBot' crawler, Topsy team
AppleBot currently services Siri and Spotlight, allowing those tools to find Web content without relying on alternative search engines like Google or Bing. AppleInsider has discovered, however, that Apple may be hoping to turn Spotlight into a full-fledged search engine with help from the Topsy team it absorbed in 2013.
That move could pose a threat to Google, which is still the default search engine for Safari on iOS and OS X, and for many other apps and platforms as well. The Apple market represents a significant chunk of Google's search revenue.
Ericsson and OpenTV launch new patent lawsuits against Apple
Another set of legal problems for Apple came in the form of patent lawsuits from two different firms. On Tuesday, OpenTV claimed Apple violated five patents connected to storing and delivering digital content. OpenTV middleware can be found in products from CNN, QVC, and Dish Network.
Telecoms giant Ericsson, meanwhile, expanded its legal actions against Apple with new suits in Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands. The company contends Apple has been using its patents without a license, and that two years of talks to find a deal on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms have proved fruitless.
Apple first sued Ericsson in January, claiming the company was charging high royalties for LTE-related intellectual property. Ericsson filed seven U.S. countersuits in response, as well as two complaints with the country's International Trade Commission.