Apple Agrees to Invest $250 Million at Oregon Data Center Site

Associated Press reports that Apple has reached a deal with local governments to finalize its plans for a new data center in Prineville, Oregon. According to the report, Apple has agreed to invest $250 million in facilities on its 160-acre property, and will offer an annual $150,000 “project fee” in lieu of property taxes over the next fifteen years. The company has also guaranteed to bring at least 35 jobs to the center at 150% of the average wage in the county.

The $150,000 project fee in part of an agreement with Apple that was made public this week. Prineville City Manager Steve Forrester called it a common arrangement. 

The Oregonian reports that the value of the tax break will depend on how much Apple winds up investing. Similar tax breaks on Google’s $1.3 billion data center in The Dalles are worth more than $24 million to the company annually, the newspaper said.

Apple paid $5.6 million for the project site back in February, and has already begun installation of a modular data center in order to build out some capacity ahead of construction on the main facility. Apple noted earlier this week in response to aGreenpeace report on data centers being powered by coal-derived energy that it intends for its Prineville data center to run on “100% renewable energy”. 

 
Apple’s new data center in Maiden, North Carolina


Apple just recently opened another data center in Maiden, North Carolina, where the company has indicated that it plans to spend $1 billion. The company is building a 20-megawatt solar farm and a 5-megawatt fuel cell facility at the data center, two of the largest privately-owned renewable energy projects of their kind in the country.

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Next-Generation iPhone to Use Thinner In-Cell Technology for Multi-Touch Display?

Taiwan’s Central News Agency reports on comments from DisplaySearch analyst David Hsieh, who believes that Apple is planning to use new “in-cell” display technology from Japanese manufacturers in the next-generation iPhone. The move would benefit suppliers such as Sony, Sharp, and Toshiba, which currently lead the industry in the technology.

Compared with on-cell technology, touch panels that use in-cell technology can be made thinner because the touch sensors are actually placed inside the color filters rather than on top of them, he explained. 

At present, Taiwan’s TPK Holding Co. and Wintek Corp., which supply touch panels to Apple, use mainly on-cell technology in their products, according to the two companies.

The occasionally-reliable Digitimes is reporting similar claims based on “sources in Apple’s supply chain”, indicating that improvements in yield rates for the in-cell panels have made it feasible for Apple to use the technology in its products. According to the report, Sharp and Toshiba will be ramping up their production of in-cell panels this quarter.

Qualcomm Supply Issues Providing Further Fuel for Speculation of Fall iPhone Release

Qualcomm yesterday warned analysts that it is experiencing supply issues with some of its advanced mobile phone chips, particularly its new 28-nm modem chips set to power the next wave of LTE devices.

“At this stage we cannot secure enough supply to meet the increasing demand we are experiencing,” Chief Executive Paul Jacobs told analysts on a conference call, adding that the issue would limit revenue growth this year. […] 

“Demand went so far ahead of availability that we’ve decided to start spending more money to get more supply as soon as possible,” [Chief Financial Officer Bill Keitel] told Reuters. “Any time we can’t make a customer totally happy I’m going to worry. You don’t want to give a customer a reason to go elsewhere.”

As a result of the issues, analysts believe that vendors may have to slow their rollout of new devices, and a report out today from Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster predicts that the next-generation iPhone will arrive in October. 

 
Qualcomm’s LTE modem roadmap (Source: AnandTech)


Munster had previously been modeling for an August launch as a hedge between those thinking the device may arrive in June and those thinking it will arrive in a September-October timeframe similar to the iPhone 4S. Apple is expected to use Qualcomm’s 28-nm MDM9615 modem chip in its next-generation iPhone to provide LTE data and voice services, and the chip appears to be one of those impacted by Qualcomm’s supply issues.

QCOM will likely support an Apple iPhone launch in October. Based on our checks, we believe the design win momentum of QCOM’s 28nm products has been exceptionally strong and a 28nm LTE baseband is likely designed into the next iPhone. QCOM’s supply issue likely pushes the launch of the iPhone to October. Based on the increased capital spending this year from TSMC and QCOM’s efforts over the last quarter to port its 28nm designs to UMC and probably Global Foundries, we think QCOM will have the capacity to support a Q4 LTE iPhone 5 launch. Moreover, the slow wireless infrastructure spending in 1H:12 is also likely a result of the lack of availability of a low power 28nm LTE baseband modem.

Apple may have been planning for a September-October iPhone launch all along, but Qualcomm’s issues seem to make it less likely that those holding out hope for an earlier launch will see something closer to the June-July timeframe that had been the traditional launch window prior to last year. 

Munster believes that it is “irrelevant” whether the iPhone launches in August as his model currently predicts or in October, with the primary driver of success being whether the upgrade is a compelling one for consumers. And with the next-generation iPhone expected to offer LTE support and carry a redesigned form factor, it seems likely that it will be an attractive device for both new and upgrade customers.

Apple Driving iCloud Conversions with Free Copies of Snow Leopard for MobileMe Users

As noted by Macgasm, Apple has begun notifying at least some MobileMe users of a new upgrade program offering a free copy of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. The offer is being made to provide users of machines running older versions of Mac OS X with a reduced-cost pathway to upgrade to OS X Lion, which is required to take full advantage of the features of iCloud. 


With OS X Lion being distributed via the Mac App Store, users need to have Mac OS X Snow Leopard installed on their systems in order to access the store. Consequently, users still on Mac OS X Leopard or earlier would have to pay $29 to upgrade to Snow Leopard via disc and then an additional $29.99 to upgrade to Lion via the Mac App Store in the absence of the new upgrade program. With MobileMe set to be discontinued in favor of iCloud as of June 30, Apple is clearly seeking to encourage MobileMe users to move their accounts to iCloud.

In an article sent to MobileMe customers, Apple has recommended that potential customers get in touch with Apple to receive a free DVD of Snow Leopard so that users can upgrade to Lion, and move to iCloud. All you have to do is follow this link, log in to MobileMe with your Mobile Me account, and fill out your mailing information. Apple will then send you a Snow Leopard DVD for free.


Mac OS X Snow Leopard remains available in the Apple online store for $29, suggesting that the offer is a targeted program intended for MobileMe members who need to upgrade their systems in order to move to iCloud rather than a general price cut for all purchasers of Snow Leopard.

Apple Working on Local Backup Servers for iOS Devices Needing Genius Bar Replacement?

9to5Mac reports that Apple is working on a new hardware solution for its retail store Genius Bars that would allow staff to quickly back up devices requiring replacement and move that data back onto the the replacement devices. While users are always encouraged to back up their devices before bringing them to a Genius Bar appointment, users who fail to do so and then learn that their devices require replacement can lose valuable data. 


According to the report, the systems would essentially be a local wireless backup system capable of quickly obtaining an iCloud backup from a device and temporarily storing it while the device is swapped out for the user. Once the replacement device is powered on and activated if necessary, Genius Bar staff would be able to quickly pull that data onto the new device to provide the user with a fully-updated and functional replacement device.

A user brings in their iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to the Genius Bar to be swapped for a fully working unit. The person didn’t back up their device. Now, instead of having to conduct an iCloud wireless backup or go home for a tethered iTunes backup, the Genius Bar will have the ability to mirror an iCloud backup, but onto a local store server. After the device is swapped, the Genius can pull the content right back from the server onto the new device. The content is then automatically wiped from the store server.

While users could presumably use their existing iCloud accounts and Apple’s in-store Wi-Fi access to accomplish similar backups in the event that device replacement is needed, the local systems are said to operate more efficiently and can assist users who have not signed up for iCloud accounts. 

The report’s source indicates that the project is still in the early prototyping phase and may not ever be released, but if Apple does decide to bring it into the field it may begin appearing in retail stores in mid-2013.

Steve Jobs movie starring Kutcher to focus on CEO’s early years

Ashton Kutcher

(Credit: Ina Fried/CNET)

The upcoming biopic starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs will cover the Apple co-founder’s early years, the film’s producer said in an interview.

The independent movie, which has been given the unfortunate working title of “Jobs: Get Inspired,” will focus on Jobs’ life from 1971 to 2000, Mark Hulme told Neowin magazine. The rookie producer said work on the movie’s script, which is based on widely available information rather than a book, began when Jobs announced his retirement last August.

Kutcher was chosen for the role based on this physical resemblance to the late Apple executive during his younger years, Hulme said.

“When Ashton read the script he was immediately attracted to the project,” Hulme said. “He is a Steve Jobs and Apple fan, and is technologically savvy, as well, so he recognized the historical importance of Steve Jobs and the potential of the project.”

In addition to Kutcher, the film’s producers are trying to cast “some exciting actors” to portray key figures in Jobs’ early years (Steve Wozniak, John Scully, Mike Markkula, and Daniel Kottke), although Hulme declined to identify who they might be.

The movie, which was announced on April 1, is scheduled to begin filming in May in Los Angeles, with theatrical release expected in the fourth quarter this year.

Facebook Acquires Instagram for $1 Billion

Mark Zuckerberg just posted this status update, letting the world know that they have just acquired Instagram.  Details about pricing, logistics, when they will be merging, etc. have not been released yet, but be sure to follow the site for the latest info!

Image

**Update: Facebook bought Instagram for $1 Billion

Here is Facebook’s official Statement

Here is Instagram’s offical Statement

The Lumia 900 Becomes Amazon’s Best Selling Phone, Topping The RAZR MAXX And Galaxy Nexus

amazon

And we’re off! Even though the Nokia Lumia 900 launched yesterday and was largely unavailable thanks to the Easter Bunny, the phone quickly skyrocketed to the top of Amazon’s best sellers list. The phone hovered around the 5th spot yesterday but jumped to the first and second spot today with the black version preferred over the cyan edition. This puts the Nokia’s large Windows Phone over top of Android’s star players, the Droid RAZR MAXX and Galaxy Nexus.

Part of the instant popularity likely comes from Amazon’s price of $50 with a two-year service plan. That’s $50 less than AT&T’s price and $150 less than the previously most popular phone from Amazon, the Droid RAZR MAXX.

The other factor could be that for some reason AT&T and Nokia launched the phone in the US on Easter Sunday. Brian X. Chen of of the NYT’s Bits blog found most NYC-based AT&T stores and resellers were understandably closed, making the phone rather difficult to find in person. Launching a pivotal phone on a Sunday is strange but launching it on a major national holiday is downright idiotic.

Amazon has long been friendly to Windows Phone. Out of the top 100 best rated cell phones, the top three are slightly older Windows Phones with Verizon’s HTC Trophy occupying the top spot. Judging by the Lumia 900′s current high rating, Nokia’s Windows Phone could soon join the rest of the family on that list as well.

How much Apple CEO Tim Cook really made last year

Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook was the highest-paid CEO in the United States during 2011, according to a report from The New York Times (via Bloomberg). The report cited data from research firm Equilar who tracked executive compensation throughout the year.

To take home the top spot, Cook received about $378 million. That number includes his salary, perks, and bonuses of $1.8 million in addition to a one-time stock grant of $376.2 million that vests in 2016 and 2021. The report noted that stat works out to roughly a million dollars a day. However, many are taking issue with the number, because the majority of the money requires Cook to stay with the company for 10 years before receiving it…

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt pointed out NYT’s claims of Cook making approximately $1 million a day in reality actually works out to $103,000 a day when taking the 10-year period into account. It is certainly a lot of money, but nowhere close to the stats shown in the graphic above that accompanied the NYT’s original story.

Following closely behind Cook is Oracle’s Larry Ellison with $77.6 million and former Apple executive Ron Johnson earning $53.3 million at his new role at J.C. Penney Co.

Cook has had an impressive year during his first as the officially appointed CEO. From when he took the job in August 2011, Apple’s stock has risen from approximately $375 to well over $600. Last month Apple’s market cap surpassed No. 2 Exxon with $514 billion, which is up from 321.07 billion on March 31, 2011. Earlier this year, Cook also netted $64 million from selling over 106,640 shares of restricted stock units that vested on March 24 after they were initially awarded in 2008.

Faster iPhone with 1GB of RAM seeded internally, iPod touch 5,1 in the works

With one iOS device update out of the way for 2012, Apple is working on updates to the iPhone and iPod touch. While these updates are expected, we’ve learned some details about this new iPhone and iPod touch.

First, the new iPhone. Much like they did last year, Apple has internally seeded a prototype next-generation iPhone with the iPhone 4 design. The actual next-generation iPhone is specifically said to not include the iPhone 4/4S design, but Apple is testing these new devices in older casings to throw off leaks. The purpose of the prototype iPhone that we heard about is to test a variation of the “A5X” chip in an iPhone. The A5X processor in the new iPad was specifically built to drive the new Retina Display, so that chip wouldn’t make much sense in an iPhone.

Instead, the iPhone prototypes that we’re talking about have a variation of the A5X’s S5L8945Xarchitecture. Like the A5X-powered iPad, these new iPhone prototypes are packing 1GB of RAM. This prototype is labeled N96 internally, but we’re not sure if this internal codename will carry over to the actual next-generation iPhone. Again, this iPhone that we are describing is an internal-only unit built for testing the performance of a new chip in an iPhone, not an actual phone that Apple will produce.

On to the iPod touch…

The iPod touch was an interesting product for Apple last year as it was the only iOS device to not receive internal nor cosmetic changes (save for a new white model). However, it looks like Apple is still interested in the iPod touch and wants a future for it. According to a file inside of an internal iOS 5.1 build, Apple is working on a fifth-generation iPod touch that is labeled iPod 5,1 internally. We haven’t heard any specifics regarding the new iPod touch hardware, but the jump from 4,1 (the current internal iPod touch label) to 5,1 indicates major internal changes, at the very least. Perhaps Apple is finally moving to an A5 or A5X-like chip in the iPod touch. After all, the iPod touch is one of the most popular gaming devices on the market, and Apple’s dual-core iOS device processors offer top-of-the-line graphics performance.

It’s hard to determine an iPod5,1 release date based on its firmware reference, but with Apple seemingly moving their smaller iOS device announcements to the fall, we wouldn’t call it a stretch to see the new iPod touch launch alongside the iPhone just in time for the 2012 holiday season.