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First-week OS X Yosemite adoption rate outpaces Mavericks, now at 12.8%


Friday, October 24, 2014, 04:04 pm PT (07:04 pm ET)

According to recently published statistics, Apple’s latest OS X Yosemite release is seeing slightly better take up rates than last year’s OS X Mavericks launch, with current North American distribution pegged at 12.8 percent as of Wednesday.

Source: Chitika Research

The results, provided by the research arm of ad network Chitika, found OS X Yosemite accounted for more than one percent of all North American Web traffic generated by OS X users on launch day. This is more than double first-day adoption rates set by Apple’s prior OS X Mavericks and OS X Mountain Lion releases.

Chitika points out that the slightly higher uptake could be a result of higher Mac sales over the past year. Last week, Apple announced it sold 5.5 million Macs over the three months ending in September, an all-time record. The performance smashed Apple’s previous record set in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2011, when the company sold 4.9 million Mac computers.

As for the disparity in Web traffic compared to OS X Mountain Lion, the research firm notes the two-year-old operating system was a $19.99 upgrade from OS X Lion, potentially prompting slower initial uptake. Since Mavericks, Apple has made OS X updates free to download from the Mac App Store.

Apple released OS X Yosemite on Oct. 16 with a new “flat” aesthetic and support for so-called “Continuity” features that integrate tightly with iOS 8. For example, users can now place and receive phone calls, send and receive SMS texts and create instant hotspots with a connected iPhone.

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Amazon Rewards Visa Card adds support for Apple Pay


Friday, October 24, 2014, 06:35 am PT (09:35 am ET)

Owners of the popular Amazon Rewards Visa Card, which awards 3 percent back on all purchases, can now add their card to Passbook for the newly launched Apple Pay service.

The Amazon Rewards Visa was not compatible with Apple Pay when it debuted on Monday, telling users that the card was not yet supported. But that’s changed as of Friday, and users can now scan or enter the card and add it to their digital wallet.

Given the variety of items available for purchase on, the company’s rewards card is particularly popular. Many AppleInsider readers reached out this week to express frustration that the card did not support Apple Pay at launch.

In addition to offering 3 percent back on purchases, the card also gives 2 percent back on purchases at gas stations, restaurants and drug stores. Customers can also earn 1 percent back on all other purchases, and the points can be used toward purchases.

Another major bank not yet participating in Apple Pay is Discover, which as of Friday still cannot be added to the digital wallet service for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Discover has said it is in talks with Apple regarding the new service, but no timeframe for support has been given.

Users who have already entered other credit cards into Passbook but want to change their default card to the Amazon Visa can follow AppleInsider’s in-depth guide on how to change the default Apple Pay credit card. Users with multiple cards enter into Apple Pay can also tap the collection of cards at the bottom of the screen when completing a transaction and manually choose a card for a one-time purchase.

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Getting the most out of the revamped OS X Spotlight search in Yosemite


Friday, October 24, 2014, 07:35 am PT (10:35 am ET)

One of the biggest changes in OS X Yosemite is Apple’s Spotlight search, which has gained a completely new, front-and-center look, and also adds the ability to search well beyond your Mac.

The link to Spotlight search remains in the upper right corner in Yosemite, but clicking it — or using the command-space shortcut — no longer brings up a drop-down menu. Instead, the Spotlight search bar occupies in the middle of the screen in a big, bold presence.

As users begin to type, the text box will automatically suggest words and begin to list appropriate search results. In addition to previous results like applications, files, emails, definitions and conversations, Spotlight now also taps into websites, the App Store and iTunes Store, movie times, and even current news.

Results from Spotlight in Yosemite appear quickly, populating the pop-up window within a matter of seconds. And the Spotlight window automatically disappears once a user moves on to another task.

Results are presented in a list on the left side, and selected items can be previewed with a large QuickLook Pane presented on the right. Any file that can be viewed using QuickLook can be previewed within Spotlight.

This quick preview of content includes information from the Web and external sources, such as movie times, Wikipedia pages or an App Store listing.

OS X Yosemite also adds new calculation functions to Spotlight, with unit conversions of distance, temperature and currency. For example, entering “100 dollars” into Spotlight automatically presents the conversion rates to euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, and Swiss francs, with euros receiving the most prominent placement in the QuickLook pane.

Web data in Spotlight is pulled from a variety of sources as well. While up-to-date currency information is culled from Yahoo, movie times are provided by Fandango, and general Web search results come from Microsoft Bing.

As before, Yosemite users can still choose which sources to include in Spotlight searches through System Preferences. A total of 21 categories are included, and all are enabled by default.

Under the Privacy pane in Spotlight settings, users can also add a list of folders or disks they want to prevent Spotlight from searching.

Following the launch of Yosemite last week, some critics alleged that Apple was automatically collecting user information, including search and location data, through its Spotlight Suggestions. But Apple has addressed those concerns by explaining that it minimizes the amount of information collected.

According to Apple, the company doesn’t retain IP addresses from users’ devices, and exact location data is never sent by Spotlight. The Spotlight Suggestions feature is also said to avoid using a persistent identifier, so search history can’t be tracked.

Apple devices use a temporary anonymous session ID for a 15-minute period before the ID is discarded. And for Bing searches, only commonly searched terms and city-level location information is provided to Microsoft.

Users still concerned about the privacy of Spotlight Suggestions can opt out via System Preferences. Spotlight Location Services and Bing results can also be switched off to a user’s liking.

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iTunes sales down 13% this year as Apple plans to rebuild, rebrand Beats Music subscription service


Friday, October 24, 2014, 09:57 am PT (12:57 pm ET)

Sales from Apple’s iTunes Store have fallen significantly thus far in 2014, helping to push forward the company’s alleged plans to revamp the recently acquired Beats Music and make it part of the iTunes brand.

Citing people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that sales from Apple’s iTunes Store have fallen between 13 and 14 percent so far this year. That’s much worse than last year, when global revenue from music downloads fell 2.1 percent.

The report also reaffirmed an earlier rumor claiming that Apple may be looking to end the Beats Music brand, and instead repackage the service it acquired as part of a $3 billion acquisition of Beats earlier this year. It’s been said that the branding change would more closely align the property with Apple’s other first-party offerings, such as the iTunes Store and iTunes Radio.

According to the Journal, Beats Music will relaunch next year completely rebuilt, and integrated into iTunes.

The report comes on the heels of a fresh rumor this week that claimed Apple is looking to cut the price of its subscription music service to $5 per month. Currently, Beats Music costs $9.99 per month on a month-to-month basis, or $99.99 if users are willing to sign up for a full year.

The acquisition of Beats Music represented Apple’s entrance into a key subscription market where iTunes Store downloads and iTunes Radio streaming service did not compete. The subscription Beats Music service allows on-demand streaming of tracks and albums, as opposed to the randomized nature of iTunes Radio.

Streaming has become increasingly important in the music industry as sales of digital albums have been declining. Many users who previously purchased music have been migrating to services like Spotify and Pandora.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook says privacy talks with Chinese government were ‘very open’


Friday, October 24, 2014, 05:28 am PT (08:28 am ET)

Tim Cook’s tour of China continues with another interview with local media, this time with the Apple CEO telling users in the country that he had “very open” discussions on privacy and security with the Chinese government, following a series of attacks in the country targeting Apple users.

Cook met with Ma Kai, China’s vice premier, earlier this week in Beijing, and the two discussed “protection of users’ information” in the wake of hackers’ efforts to obtain iCloud user logins. Cook acknowledged those talks — but not the hacks — in an interview with China’s Xinhua news agency, and suggested the discussions were productive.

Chinese activist group has accused its government of being involved in the attacks, which have seen iCloud user data harvested by spoofing the website. The “man-in-the-middle” attacks are said to utilize incredibly deep access to the servers of government-owned Chinese providers, which has helped fuel speculation that the Chinese government is cooperating with hackers.

China’s government has denied the allegations, and has said it too has been targeted by hackers. The iCloud-focused efforts came to light when users in China began to receive security warnings from Apple’s iCloud service.

Similar hacks have been implemented in the past, also targeting American companies with services on the Internet, including Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft Hotmail.

In his interview with Xinhua, Cook also said bringing Apple Pay to China is “on top of the list” of things he wants to do. The CEO called China a “key market,” and said that any service Apple provides, he plans to bring to the country.

Apple is rumored to partner with UnionPay to launch Apple Pay on the newly released iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. However, the Cupertino, Calif., company has not yet provided any international launch dates for the currently U.S.-only Apple Pay service.

In another Chinese media interview conducted this week, Cook also said that Apple plans to build 25 new retail stores in China within the next two years. That would bring its total number of locations up from 15 to 40.

On his trip, Cook also stopped by Foxconn’s iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, where he met with assembly line workers. The CEO also tweeted out a photo of himself sitting with a Foxconn worker putting the finishing touches on a new iPhone 6 unit.

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Former Apple exec Ron Johnson wants to make online shopping personal with new startup ‘Enjoy’


Thursday, October 23, 2014, 06:50 pm PT (09:50 pm ET)

Ron Johnson, Apple’s former head of retail widely recognized as spearheading the Apple Store initiative, took the wraps off a startup called Enjoy, which seeks to aid shoppers making online purchases.

Talking to The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Johnson said Enjoy is a service that will change the way consumers buy “things that matter,” allowing customers who start their shopping on the Web to connect with a product before making a decision. The strategy is akin to the “try before you buy” policy that has seen great success with Apple Stores around the world.

While he wouldn’t offer specific details about the service, Johnson said Enjoy will help customers make informed choices, something lacking in the fast-paced world of online shopping.

“That’s when you typically want something more than fast delivery; you might want a little help,” Johnson said. “There’s a place for high touch in a high-tech world.”

A customer looking to buy a new GoPro camera was used as an example. According to Johnson, Enjoy will help consumers understand more about the capabilities of products with which they are unfamiliar, like more expensive one-time buys or devices packed with new technology.

“There’s more to life than logistics. There’s more to life than a review,” Johnson said. “Just because we’re moving online, it doesn’t mean that need for a connection is going away. No one has really thought that through yet.”

Rumors of what has now been announced as Enjoy first circulated in September, when The Information claimed Johnson was working on an eco-friendly on-demand product delivery service. While not completely dismissing the report, Johnson said, “We don’t need another delivery service.”

Joining Johnson at Enjoy are two former Apple execs, Jerry McDougal, who was a VP of Retail in Cupertino, and Tom Suiter, a creative director noted for his work on the iMac campaign.

A former Target executive, Johnson is perhaps best known for realizing the Apple Store concept, a major revenue driver for Apple that sells more product per square foot than any other retailer. He left the company in 2011 to take on the role of CEO at J.C. Penney. Johnson was fired subsequently
in early 2013 due to slumping sales. Enjoy marks his return to the world of retail.

Enjoy has already raised $30 million in venture capital from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Oak Investment Partners and Andreessen Horowitz. The service is slated to launch in 2015.

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