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Prince estate sues Roc Nation over Tidal streaming rights

Jay Z debuted his version of Tidal after buying the streaming service for $56 million last year. In the months since he took over, the company has struggled to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music despite a list of high-profile exclusive releases. Now Tidal is locked in a legal battle with Prince’s estate. The late artist’s label and publishing businesses are suing Jay Z’s Roc Nation over the music subscription service’s streaming of Prince’s entire catalog.

The Star Tribune reports NPG Music Publishing and NPG Records, Inc. filed a lawsuit that alleges Tidal only had permission to stream Prince’s latest album exclusively for 90 days. HITNRUN Phase One debuted as a Tidal exclusive in September 2015, a couple of months after the artist pulled all of his music from other streaming services. In May of last year, Tidal was the exclusive home to Prince’s Rally 4 Peace concert in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray.

Despite those ties to the streaming service, NPG Records says there were no other arrangements made for the artist’s entire catalog to be available on Tidal. The complaint filed this week argues that Jay Z’s Roc Nation began “exploiting many copyrighted Prince works” in June on what would have been his 58th birthday after the singer passed away in April. Star Tribune reports that Roc Nation claims it had “both oral and written” agreements with the artist to stream the full collection.

If the name Roc Nation is unfamiliar, it’s Jay Z’s music and sports management company. In addition to direct artist and athlete representation, the business also includes a record label, music publishing, tour management and film and television ventures. Big names on the Roc Nation roster include Rihanna, Shakira, J. Cole, and HAIM alongside sports stars Todd Gurley, Jerome Boateng, Kevin Durant, Miguel Cotto and many others. Tidal falls under the Roc Nation umbrella.

Rolling Stone reports that the dust up also includes a deal between Prince’s estate and Universal Music that would likely end Tidal’s exclusivity and make the artist’s catalog available elsewhere. Any in-house publishing and the rights to the music would be transferred to Universal. That deal was announced on November 2nd. In documents filed last week, Tidal argues that its preexisting contract gives it exclusive streaming rights to Prince’s music, despite the deal between the artist’s estate and Universal Music.

Prince’s estate seeks a court order to stop Roc Nation and Tidal from streaming any albums other than HITNRUN Phase 1 and an unspecified amount in damages as part of the lawsuit. As of right now, the artist’s catalog is still available to stream on the music service. We’ve reached out to Tidal for comment on the matter and we’ll update this post if we hear back.

Via: Pitchfork

Source: Star Tribune


Microsoft’s Surface Studio proves desktops can still be cool

The most interesting computer released this year isn’t an ultrathin laptop. It’s a desktop made by Microsoft. Seriously. The Surface Studio is Microsoft’s bigger and bolder follow-up to its Surface hybrid laptops. And while it might look at first like a typical all-in-one, it hides a unique ability. Give the screen a bit of a nudge and it starts bending — all the way down to a 20-degree angle, in fact. Try doing that with an iMac. Like Microsoft’s previous Surface devices, the $3,000 Studio is an attempt at evolving how we use computers. And together with the new Surface Dial accessory, it might just be the powerful modern rig creative professionals have been waiting for. But of course, there are a few first-gen stumbling blocks to deal with.


This is one gorgeous computer. And that’s not just my opinion: Many people who walked by my office desk commented on the the Surface Studio’s good looks. Its design is one of elegant simplicity. The focus is entirely on its 28-inch screen, which is connected to the short aluminum base with a pair of chrome hinges. That’s pretty much it. But what’s really intriguing about this computer isn’t readily apparent at first glance.

Those chrome hinges, for example, house an elaborate 80-spring mechanism that makes bending the Studio’s display up and down practically effortless. The display outputs a sharp 4,500 x 3,000 (13-million-pixel) resolution — 63 percent more than 4K, and 1.2 million fewer pixels than 5K. And all of the Studio’s hardware is located in its slim base, which is basically just a mini-PC with some serious specs. There’s also touchscreen support, as you’d expect, and the Surface Pen once again makes an appearance.

And, just so we can get this out of our systems: Yes, this is a desktop computer that transforms. Yes, it’s more than meets the eye. Let’s move on.

Practically everything about the Surface Studio’s build screams refinement. The aluminum used around the sides and back of the screen, as well as the base, feels smooth to the touch. The chrome hinges reflect their surrounding environment, almost disappearing into your desk. And, despite having a delicate bending mechanism in its hinges, the Studio felt sturdy as I lugged it to different locations in our office. There was no flexing or creaking to be found.

At around 21 pounds, it’s easy to move the Surface Studio around your home. (I wouldn’t call it portable; more like relocatable.) While the base mostly gets out of the way, it might seem a bit chunky if you’re used to all-in-ones that shove their hardware behind their screens.

Around back, there are four USB 3.0 ports (one of which is high-powered), a gigabit Ethernet jack, a Mini DisplayPort connection, a full-size SD card reader and, of course, a headphone jack. I realize Microsoft is basically following in the footsteps of Apple and most other all-in-one PC makers, but it would have been nice to have a few ports along the sides of the Studio’s base. At the very least, I would have liked to connect headphones without blindly fishing around the rear ports. (Though I suppose I should be grateful the 3.5-millimeter jack is there at all.)

There’s a 5-megapixel camera for videoconferencing along the front face, right near an IR camera for fast logins using Windows Hello. You’ll also find volume and power buttons on the right side. Beyond that, the Studio is a pretty minimalist device. The only bit of branding on the machine is a mirrored Windows logo on the back.

Accompanying the Studio are the new Surface Keyboard and Mouse. Both sport the same gray aesthetic as Microsoft’s computers, and they’re basically just minor refreshes of the company’s existing wireless input devices. Microsoft doesn’t really get enough credit as a keyboard and mouse maker, but I’ve been a fan of their hardware for years. These new devices don’t disappoint either: The Surface Keyboard has some satisfying feedback in its island-style keys, and it easily kept up with my angry post-election typing. The mouse curves into your hands well, and it works smoothly across a wide variety of surfaces. Its scroll wheel is also fairly smooth, though I wish it included horizontal scrolling like some of Microsoft’s other mice.


With its PixelSense displays on the Surface Pro 4 and Book, Microsoft proved it could build some truly vibrant LCD screens. For the Studio, the company applied that concept on a larger scale. The result is a 28-inch screen that’s among the sharpest and most colorful I’ve ever seen. It makes just about everything look good, be it 4K video, photos or simple Office documents. Its 3:2 aspect ratio feels a bit awkward now that we’re used to widescreen monitors everywhere, but the display itself is also a mere 12.5 millimeters thick. It’s honestly a bit hard to see from the side.

Artists will likely appreciate the Surface Studio’s ability to switch from SRGB and wider DCI-P3 color gamuts on the fly. Apple made a big deal about the iMac’s support for the P3 gamut last year, and the same benefits apply here. Simply put, it’ll let you view an even wider variety of colors. And since it’s a standard backed by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), it’s particularly helpful for editing digital video. Typical consumers will likely just notice that some photos and videos will appear much richer than before.

Mostly, I appreciate the Surface Studio simply for having a big freaking screen. After spending years writing on ultraportables and reading news apps on smartphones and tablets, I sometimes forget how nice it is to use a large screen where you can have a pile of windows thrown about, or simply view a full-size webpage next to a document for note taking. It might just be me, but I’ve found that bigger displays simply let me be more creative.

Surface Dial

On the face of it, the $100 Surface Dial seems like an oddity. We’ve already grown used to keyboards, mice, touchscreens and even styluses like the Surface Pen; who has time for another accessory? Artists, that’s who. Wacom has already gotten plenty of digital illustrators used to the notion of remote accessories, which let them quickly access tools they use often. But those remotes have generally been hard to use, with far too many buttons.

The Dial simplifies that concept. It’s a small metallic puck that resembles a large volume button on an AV receiver. Give it a spin and you’ll be able to control things like the volume or zoom. You can also click the Dial to select options and move between its functions. But the coolest thing? Plop it on the Surface Studio’s screen and a ring of contextual options immediately appears. It’s up to developers to bake in support for the Dial, but at launch you’ll be able to change tracks in Spotify, zoom and rotate in Microsoft Maps and access a wide variety of settings in Sketchable.



I tested the top-of-the-line $4,200 Surface Studio, which packs in a 2.7GHz Core i7 6820HQ CPU, 32GB of RAM (!), a hybrid drive consisting of a 128GB SSD and 2TB HDD, and NVIDIA GTX 980M graphics with 4GB of VRAM. As you can imagine, it was one of the most powerful PCs I’ve ever tested. I was able to juggle dozens of browser tabs, 4K video playback and Minecraft running with high-quality settings all at once without breaking a sweat. The massive screen size practically encourages extreme multitasking. The only major downside is the Studio’s slow disk speeds, which stem from its hybrid SSD/mechanical hard drive approach to storage.

Surface Studio (2.7GHz Core i7-6820HQ, 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M) 6,762 6,168 E11,338 / X4,302 14,306 294 MB/s / 299 MB/s
Surface Book (2016, 2.6GHz Core i7-6600U, 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M) 5,452 4,041 E8,083 / P5,980 / X2,228 11,362 1.71 GB/s / 1.26 GB/s
HP Spectre x360 (2016, 2.7GHz Core i7-7500U, Intel HD Graphics 620) 5,515 4,354 E2,656 / P1,720 / X444 3,743 1.76 GB/s / 579 MB/s
Surface Book (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,412 3,610

E2,758 / P1,578 / X429

3,623 1.6 GB/s / 571 MB/s
Surface Book (2.6GHz Core i7-6600U, 1GB NVIDIA GeForce graphics) 5,740 3,850

E4,122 / P2,696

6,191 1.55 GB/s / 608 MB/s
ASUS ZenBook 3 (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,448 3,911 E2,791 / P1,560 3,013 1.67 GB/s / 1.44 GB/s
HP Spectre 13 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,046 3,747 E2,790 / P1,630 / X375 3,810 1.61 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520) 4,954 3,499 E2,610 / P1,531 3,335 1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602

E2,697/ P1,556/ X422

3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s

Since it’s limited to notebook graphics cards, though, the Studio doesn’t perform as well in high-end games as larger desktops do. In 3DMark, it scored around 20 percent lower than the $200 Radeon RX 480 GPU on my home rig. Oddly, it also got some weird scores in 3DMark 11’s “Performance” test, which I’m attributing to driver issues. I was able to run Overwatch at around 60 frames per second in 1080p with high settings, and Gears of War 4 around 50 frames per second with medium settings. The latter title, perhaps because it was so new and demanding, sometimes dipped into much lower frame rates during more hectic scenes.

That’s all par for the course for notebook graphics, but I wish Microsoft would have been able to include NVIDIA’s more powerful 10-series GPUs instead. The company says those cards weren’t available as it was developing the Surface Studio, which makes sense given how long it takes to plan and build a whole new product.

Because of the slight underpowered nature of the Studio’s graphics, it’ll likely have trouble with VR. Microsoft says it can handle “light” virtual reality experiences, but since none of the GPUs available for the Studio are considered “VR ready,” I wouldn’t plan on having it run something like Eve: Valkyrie very well. And for a computer that’s so expensive, with no foreseeable upgrade path, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

As a tool for artists

While I’ve been testing the Surface Pen for years now, it really gets to shine on the Studio. Once I pushed the screen down to its flattest orientation, I felt like I was able to “dive” more into drawing with the Pen. The resistance feels as good as it did on the Surface Pro 4, with almost pen-to-paper feedback. Given its size, though, I don’t imagine I would use the Studio to jot down notes as much as I would on the Surface Pro 4 or Book. It’s clearly meant for people who actually need to use a stylus seriously.

So for that reason, I enlisted the help of someone who could actually draw: Alexander Sapountzis, a software engineer at our sister publication The Huffington Post. He’s been illustrating for a while now with the iPad Pro, and he’s also the creator of the web comic Damn Heroes. It didn’t take long for him to adapt to the Studio’s angled orientation, and he particularly enjoyed the resistance of the pen on the screen.

On the downside, he noticed that palm rejection was worse than with the iPad Pro, and the software ring around the Dial had the annoying habit of drifting down the screen, even if the Dial was staying in place at the Studio’s lowest angle. Both of those issues ended up disrupting his creative flow, which is exactly the opposite of how Microsoft wants people to see the computer.

The Surface Studio also had difficulty recognizing when he wanted to move an image around, which often led to unwanted brushstrokes from his fingers. Overall, he was impressed with the Surface Studio’s size and form factor, but he wasn’t looking to switch anytime soon. As for the issues mentioned, hopefully it’s the sort of thing Microsoft could fix with a software update. We’ve asked the company to comment on whether it’s working on any fixes.

I couldn’t find any Wacom users to test the Studio before this review, but judging from what I’ve seen across social media and forums, they don’t seem overly excited for it online. For one, plenty of Wacom devices work off of Adobe’s RGB color spectrum, which is more widely supported than P3. That company’s styluses and other hardware also offer more control and fine-tuning than the Surface Pen does.

Configuration options

You can tell Microsoft isn’t aiming the Surface Studio at typical consumers based on its pricing: It costs $3,000 to start. That base build includes a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a hybrid drive made up of a 64GB SSD and 1TB HDD, and an NVIDIA 965M GPU with 2GB of memory. That’s certainly a lot of money for a PC with less than 16GB of RAM and a mobile GPU. The mid-range Studio goes for $3,500 with an i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD with 1TB of storage. And then at the top end, you have the insanely powerful configuration I tested, which costs $4,200.

The competition


Understandably, you’d probably look to Apple’s 27-inch 5K iMac if you’re considering the Surface Studio. Since that starts at $1,800, you’d still have plenty of cash left over to invest in Wacom hardware before you even reached the Studio’s starting price. Alternatively, you could consider the multitude of PC options out there. The Asus Zen AiO and HP Envy All in One start at around $1,300, while the massive 34-inch ultrawide Digital Storm Aura starts at $2,531, with desktop-grade CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs. And to make up for the lack of digital illustration tools, you can add Wacom’s new Cintiq Pro displays for $1,000 or $1,500.

Basically, you’ve got a lot of options. You could even spec out a normal-size CPU and add Wacom hardware for far less than the Surface Studio’s cost. Of course, you wouldn’t get the same polished, integrated experience with a makeshift setup as you would with Microsoft’s desktop, but if you’re a struggling artist, you’ll likely need to squeeze as much value out of every dollar as you can.

Perhaps a better market for the Surface Studio would be the Apple faithful. With no upgrade for the Mac Pro in sight, and an unfortunate update for the MacBook Pro, I wouldn’t be surprised if plenty of well-to-do creatives were looking closely at Microsoft’s hardware.


The Surface Studio is both familiar and new. It empowers us to work the way we always have, while also giving us entirely new modes of productivity. Personally, that’s a philosophy I can get behind — especially when compared with Apple’s habit of pushing consumers down new roads that aren’t necessarily improvements (hello, dongle life). But the Surface Studio’s high price and lack of expandability could make it a tough sell for an already niche market, especially for people already devoted to their Wacom tablets.



The Linq mixed reality headset blends the real and the virtual

Microsoft’s Hololens augmented reality headset overlays virtual objects in the real world, but what if there was a better way to blend the two? That’s exactly what Stereolabs says it accomplished with its Linq mixed reality headset. The company explains that with a wider field of view and a device that doesn’t require you to map out a room before using it, the Linq blends the real and the virtual “in an immersive and photorealistic way.”

Using high definition stereo cameras, the Linq headset is able to “understand” the environment it’s being used in. That includes recognizing people and objects up to 20 meters away (over 65 feet). The headset is driven by Stereolabs’ ZED 3D camera that works similar to human vision, scanning a space in real time and offering positional tracking without the need for other sensors. This means that users are free to jump, walk and dodge items in the mixed reality experience without boundaries. What’s more, it means the Linq can be used both indoors and out.

While the developer version of the device will be tethered to a Windows or Linux computer, Stereolabs says the final consumer model will not. A pocket-sized module that houses the GPU and battery will be part of the finished product. Speaking of developers, right now Linq is a standalone platform and anyone building experiences for it can do so with Unity and Unreal.

So, what about price? Stereolabs doesn’t have an exact figure in mind just yet, but the company tells Engadget that the Linq will cost about the same amount as a gaming console. In other words, less than $1,000 but quite a bit more than $100. If the mixed reality device performs as described, it will certainly offer an attractive alternative to the pricey $3,000 Hololens. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until next year to find out. Stereolabs will make Linq available to developers in early 2017 with plans to debut a consumer model later in the year. For now, you can watch a demo in the video below.

Source: Sterolabs


Fantasy game ‘Mages of Mystralia’ is coming to PS4

After announcing Mages of Mystralia for PC earlier this week, Borealys Games also revealed that its intriguing wizard-em-up will also be making its way to PS4. This colorful indie title takes inspiration from Harry Potter and Zelda: Ocarina of Time, putting players in the shoes of wizard-in-training Zia as she attempts to get to grips with her new abilities.

Developed by a team who have collectively worked on the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, Borealys Games’ debut title looks to offer a charming adventure and a unique spell building mechanic. With Ed Greenwood, creator of the Dungeons & Dragons narrative Forgotten Realms, penning the story, Mages of Mystralia promises a compelling tale alongside its intriguing premise.

Mages of Mystralia will be coming to PC and PS4 in Spring 2017. With gameplay details still in short supply, expect to learn more on December 3rd and 4th, as Borealys Games will be taking it to PlayStation Experience in Anaheim for its first public showing.

Source: PlayStation Blog


SpaceX wants to launch 4,425 internet satellites

SpaceX has just asked the FCC for permission to launch 4,425 satellites that can provide high-speed (1 Gbps) internet around the globe. That’s more than thrice the current number of active satellites orbiting our planet, based on the data posted by the Union of Concerned Scientists. SpaceX chief Elon Musk first talked about the project back in 2015, wherein he revealed that it would cost the company $10 billion and that it will operate out of the private space corp’s new Seattle office. One of its earliest investors is Google, which contributed $1 billion to the initiative.

The satellites the company plans to launch will be much bigger than CubeSats at 850 pounds each and will be designed to last five to seven years before they decay. They’ll be orbiting our planet from 714 to 823 miles above the surface, higher than the space station that typically maintains an altitude of around 268 miles. According to the FCC filing, the project has two phases: SpaceX will initially launch 800 satellites that can provide internet services in the US and other locations. Once all 4,425 satellites are in orbit — it could take five years to launch them all — the array will be able to provide 1 Gbps connection to users across the globe.

Besides providing details about the project, the FCC filing has also revealed the kind of power Elon Musk wields over SpaceX. Apparently, Musk has a 54 percent stake in the space corporation, more than twice his 22 percent stake in Tesla.

Source: FCC, Business Insider, SpaceX


GoPro videos can now show native speed and motion data

When GoPro introduced the Hero5 Black, it came with a long overdue feature found on many other action cameras: GPS. The problem was, beyond tagging where your photos and videos were shot, it didn’t really add much. That changes today with the introduction of “gauges.” As the name suggests, you can add widgets on top of your action videos that show how fast you’re going, your GPS path, current height/elevation and G-Force. And while the feature is available starting today (you’ll need to download the latest version of GoPro’s Quik for desktop), videos you already shot with GPS activated can also make use of the gauges.

GoPro GPS graphical overlays

If you’re itching to show off how fast your last black run was, or the amount of Gs you handled on that hairpin bend, you’ll need to import your videos into Quik, GoPro’s lightweight video editing software. Preview/play any clip in your library that has GPS info and you should see the dials and widgets right away. There is a control panel with toggle switches, so if your bike run doesn’t have any jumps in it, you can only show the most relevant metrics (or remove the pesky GoPro watermark). You’ll also be able to move the stats or graphs around and resize them so they don’t get in the way of the action.

While the gauges will show automatically in Quik’s “view” mode, they don’t instantly carry over to the edit screen. To include them on edited clips, click the “scissors” icon under Quik’s preview window, and select the whole video (or the part you want) and save it as a new clip. Re-import this into your library and you’re good to go. As the metrics are handled by the Quik software, there’s currently no way to turn them on by default so that they are added to videos directly on the camera. Still it’s a more elegant solution than using third party accessories like Blast Motion, or even GoPro’s partnership with Polar.

The new gauges aren’t just handy for data nerds or for adding visual candy to your clips, they also serve as another way to spot the highlights before you edit. The speed graph and GPS trail, for example, are handy visual ways to find action points if you forgot (or were unable) to add a highlight tag at the time. But mostly they’re just for showing off.

Source: GoPro


Volkwagen wants to make you forget about diesel with new e-Golf

Volkswagen is looking for as much goodwill as it can muster. With that in mind, it introduced a new e-Golf Touch electric vehicle with range of 124 miles. The car has the same styling as it’s gas-powered sibling, so potential buyers don’t have to fret about losing the compact vehicle’s looks to live a greener lifestyle.

The new e-Golf extended range puts the car on below the range of the upcoming Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. But while those two cars are brand new, the Golf line is established and that might appeal to those wanting to make the EV plunge without the concern of buying into a new model. But those drivers also have to be cool with more frequent charging.

In addition to driving without being powered by dead dinosaurs, the new e-Golf has 134 horsepower, a 35.8 kWh battery (50-percent more than the previous generation) and front autonmous emergency braking for potential collisions with vehicles and pedestrians.

While dieselgate doesn’t look like it’s close to being over, it’s important for Volkswagen to embrace alternative powertrains. It’s been touting its upcoming MEB electric vehicle platform since January and announced I.D. concept car in September. The company says the battery-centric system will have a 373 mile range and can be charged 80 percent in 15 minutes.

The I.D. itself is expected to launch in 2020, VW didn’t share e-Golf’s on-sale date or pricing.


National Intelligence director James Clapper stepping down in January

While it doesn’t come as a surprise, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has submitted his resignation effective at the end of the Obama administration in January. Clapper said multiple times over the last year that he planned to resign at the end of President Obama’s second term and today he made it official. The intelligence chief has explained that after 50 years of service, it was time for him to step down.

Clapper was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2010. Since then, he oversaw the United States’ 17 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, NSA and DEA. His tenure will be mostly remembered for the 2013 revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden who revealed the US government collected phone records on over 120 million people.

After details of the so-called PRISM program were reported by The Guardian and The Washington Post, Clapper declassified some information on the initiative and maintained that it was only used to gather foreign intelligence info under court supervision. Earlier this year, Clapper’s personal email, phone and internet accounts were accessed by hackers using the name “Crackas With Attitude.” Authorities in the UK and in the US later arrested four people in connection with the hacking of a number of government officials, including Clapper.

When making his resignation official on Thursday, Clapper tried to reassure the American people that after a crazy election cycle, things would turn out just fine. “I know a lot of people have been feeling uncertain about what will happen with this Presidential transition,” he said. “There has been a lot of catastrophizing, if I can use that term, in the 24-hour news cycle and social media. So, I’m here with a message: It will be okay.”

In a lengthy interview with Wired published today, Clapper discusses his decade-spanning career with the US government. He speaks about Snowden and how much the world of intelligence is different than it was decades ago. “Sometimes I long for the halcyon days of the cold war,” Clapper tells Wired’s Garret M. Graff. “We had a single adversary and we understood it.”

Clapper’s resignation comes on the heels of reports that President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are struggling to piece together a cabinet. All of those new officials in high-ranking positions will likely coincide with a change in national security strategy after Trump takes office in January.

As required of all appointed Administration officials, DNI Clapper has signed a letter of resignation effective at noon on Jan 20, 2017.

— Office of the DNI (@ODNIgov) November 17, 2016

Source: NBC News


AirPods Launch Rumors Now Include Dates in Late November and December

Adding to the pile of recent guesswork rumors centering around the launch of Apple’s AirPods, this week a collection of foreign retail websites have listed the Bluetooth headphones with new dates suggesting availability before the end of the year.

First off, today Mac4Ever discovered that French retail website Fnac has posted the AirPods for pre-order, with a suggested shipping date of November 30. If true, that would mark a launch following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but still leave customers plenty of time to add AirPods to their holiday shopping list.

One of many predicted AirPods shipping dates from foreign resellers, this one Fnac
Last week, a launch supposedly set for around tomorrow, November 18, was floated by an Apple reseller, which reportedly told a customer it would be getting AirPods stock today, November 17. Although an impending launch as soon as tomorrow is unlikely, many Apple retail stores have been receiving demo units of the AirPods to demonstrate to customers and teach employees how to use them, suggesting Apple still intends to launch the device sooner rather than later next year.

Earlier in the week Letem svetem Applem discovered that Czech website Alza had listed the AirPods as launching December 2016. That date has since been removed from the site, which now simply states that it “accepts pre-orders” for the AirPods.

If production does begin in December, as predicted by Barclays, that still leaves the option that AirPods might not launch until January 2017, which was one of the first delayed date estimates for the headphones after Apple postponed the launch beyond October. Despite that rumor, and a few other extraneous websites that mark AirPods availability as late as March 2017, many still believe it’s most likely that Apple will get the AirPods out in time for the holiday shopping season.

With the highly divergent launch dates sprouting up online, it’s clear that no one officially knows exactly when the AirPods will come out. On, the AirPods are listed as both “coming soon” and “currently unavailable.” Following the delay, Apple explained that it needed “a little more time” with the AirPods before they would be ready to launch, but didn’t divulge specific reasons why it chose to do so.

Tag: AirPods
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Future iPhones Could Be ‘Made in America’ as Foxconn Asked to Consider U.S. Manufacturing

Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn has been studying the possibility of moving iPhone production to the United States, according to Japanese website Nikkei Asian Review, leading to hopeful speculation some iPhones could one day be “Made in America” rather than be assembled and imported from China.

The report claims Apple asked both Foxconn and rival supplier Pegatron, which denied the request, to look into making iPhones stateside, although Foxconn chairman Terry Gou is said to be less enthusiastic about the idea due to inevitably higher production costs in the United States compared to China.

“Apple asked both Foxconn and Pegatron, the two iPhone assemblers, in June to look into making iPhones in the U.S.,” a source said. “Foxconn complied, while Pegatron declined to formulate such a plan due to cost concerns.”

In a speech at Liberty University in Virginia earlier this year, President-elect Donald Trump said “we’re going to get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries,” while he has also threatened to introduce a 45% tax on products imported from China.

Apple CEO Tim Cook previously told 60 Minutes it manufactures iPhones in China because of “skill,” not lower wages. Cook said China has put an “enormous force on manufacturing,” adding that the U.S. workforce has a smaller number of individuals with the “vocational kind of skills” needed.

China put an enormous focus on manufacturing. In what we would call, you and I would call vocational kind of skills. The U.S., over time, began to stop having as many vocational kind of skills. I mean, you can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we’re currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields.

Meanwhile, an industry executive told Nikkei the U.S. does not have the “cluster of suppliers” needed to manufacture iPhones. In Asia, Taiwan’s TSMC makes A-series chips for iPhones, Japan’s Sharp and Japan Display supply iPhone displays, and South Korea’s SK Hynix and Japan’s Toshiba produce memory chips for the device.

“To make iPhones, there will need to be a cluster of suppliers in the same place, which the U.S. does not have at the moment,” the executive said. “Even if Trump imposes a 45% tariff, it is still possible that manufacturers will decide to continue production overseas as long as the costs together with the tariffs are lower than the amount they need to spend on building and running production lines in the U.S.”

U.S. manufacturing would inevitably raise concerns about Apple’s profit margins and, in turn, how much the iPhone costs for customers. iPhone 7 component costs are estimated to start at $220, compared to a base price of $649, although Cook has previously dismissed third-party cost estimates as being highly inaccurate.

TSMC and Sharp have acknowledged that while U.S. manufacturing would prove more expensive, the companies would certainly consider the move over losing a major customer such as Apple. But, for now, the idea likely remains a stretch even in light of new political pressures.

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