TIME Rumors

Amazon Appears to Be Testing All-You-Can-Read Kindle Ebook Subscriptions

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Kindle in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 15, 2013. Yasuyoshi Chiba—AFP/Getty Images

The "Kindle Unlimited" plan could include more than 600,000 ebooks for $9.99 per month.

Amazon loves its subscription business models, so it’s no surprise that the company might be testing an unlimited ebook plan.

The so-called “Kindle Unlimited” plan would reportedly cost $9.99 per month. It was first noticed by users on a Kindle forum, and then by GigaOM. Amazon has since wiped most the evidence from its site, but you can still see some of the test pages on Amazon’s site and on Google Cache.

While Amazon already offers ebook rentals as part of Amazon Prime, users can only take out one book per month, and can only read those books on Amazon devices such as Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets. Kindle Unlimited would apparently be available on all devices–including iPads and Android tablets–and would have no reading limits.

Unfortunately, none of the major book publishers seem to be participating, as GigaOM points out. Though there are some smaller publishers on board, many of the titles come from Amazon’s own publishing arm.

Still, some publishers are warming to the idea of ebook subscriptions, with Scribd and Oyster offering all-you-can-read books from HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. If Amazon can offer a similar service that integrates with users’ existing Kindle libraries, it could be a hit that shakes up the way people pay for ebooks. But maybe giving more power to Amazon is what publishers are worried about.

TIME feminism

‘I Would Never Intend to Be Difficult,’ Says State of Affairs Star Katherine Heigl

Ahead of the premiere of NBC's upcoming State of Affairs, star Katherine Heigl addressed rumors that she and her executive producer mother are challenging to work with

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During a Television Critics Association panel about Katherine Heigl’s forthcoming NBC show State of Affairs, NPR’s Eric Deggans asked the former Grey’s Anatomy star to confirm or deny rumors that she and her mother Nancy Heigl — who is an executive producer on the show — are “difficult” to work with on the set.

According to Variety, the younger Heigl replied, “I would never intend to be difficult. I don’t think my mother sees herself as being difficult. I think it’s important to everybody to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully and kindly, so if I’ve ever disappointed somebody, it was never intentional.”

State of Affairs features Heigl as CIA analyst Charleston Tucker, providing daily briefs to the first female President, played by Alfre Woodard. The show is scheduled to premiere in November. Heigl described the part of Tucker as an “extraordinary” role that allowed her to break out of romantic comedies and to flex “different muscles of my ability,” the Wrap said.

The Wrap reports that when Heigl was asked what her mother actually did on the show, the actress replied, “She makes us cookies.”

Entertainment-news reports have speculated that Heigl and her mother have demanding personalities, while others have suggested that Heigl is being penalized for simply being an assertive and frank woman.

TIME Rumors

HTC’s Volantis Tablet May Be the Last Gasp for Nexus Hardware

Rumored tablet combines sharp design, high-end specs and some rather strange display proportions.

Google may be preparing to wind down the Nexus program and replace it with something better, but there’s reportedly at least one more Nexus tablet in the pipeline for this year.

Android Police claims that HTC is building the tablet, codenamed Volantis, in conjunction with Google. The site says it’s heard about Volantis from several unnamed sources, and has shared what appears to be a planning document with tech specs.

If the report is accurate, the tablet will have an 8.9-inch, 2048-by-1440 resolution display. This is probably the strangest part of the story, as it would result in an uncommon 64:45 aspect ratio. (The planning document claims, incorrectly, that Volantis’ aspect ratio will be 4:3, same as an iPad.) If the 2048-by-1440 figure isn’t a typo, Volantis will be wider in portrait mode than most other Android tablets, but not quite as wide as Apple’s iPad.

Aside from this one questionable detail, the rest of the spec sheet seems reasonable enough. The device will reportedly use an Nvidia K1 processor with 2 GB of RAM and a minimum 16 GB of storage. It may also include front-facing speakers, a 3-megapixel front camera, an 8-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and 4G LTE connectivity. The device will reportedly measure 0.31 inches thick and weigh 0.92 pounds, and come in an aluminum casing.

Google has not released a Nexus tablet larger than 7 inches since the Nexus 10 nearly two years ago. Volantis could be the company’s final effort as it works on a new program called “Android Silver.” According to Android Police, this program would include many Nexus-like features–including prompt software updates and minimal bloatware–but would add premium customer support and lots of marketing from Google. The idea is that hardware makers would offer Silver as a high-end option for discerning Android users, but it’s unclear when this program will launch, if ever.

TIME Smartphones

Amazon’s Phone Announcement: What to Expect

3D head-tracking may be the gimmick, but the meat's in the services

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If you’re in the market for a smartphone today, you’ve got plenty of options — from the iPhone to countless Android phones to a handful of Windows Phones and even BlackBerry handsets.

But Amazon thinks there’s room for one more. After months of hype, the company will likely lift the veil on its own smartphone on Wednesday at an event in Seattle.

We already have a good idea of what to expect, thanks to numerous leaks and rumors, so let’s walk through why Amazon’s smartphone is already getting so much attention.

What’s the Big Deal?

Many of the rumors leading up to this event have focused on the crazy technology Amazon is cooking up.

Reportedly, Amazon’s smartphone will use four corner-mounted cameras to track users’ heads (and possibly their eyes, the Wall Street Journal claims) in 3D space. As you tilt your head or the phone, the screen will show a different perspective, and can reveal hidden menus in certain apps.

TechCrunch claims that this feature will be kind of gimmicky at first, but it could help with one-handed use if it makes faraway icons and menu items easier to reach with your fingers. The phone will reportedly have a 4.7-inch 720p display, which is pushing the boundaries for comfortable one-handed operation. Most of the other specs reported by TechCrunch seem pretty typical for a smartphone, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera and a low-resolution front camera.

Beyond Specs and Gimmicks

3D tracking may help lather up the tech press and turn some shoppers’ heads, but for Amazon, it’s much more important to offer useful services that other phones don’t have.

Of course, because Amazon’s business model revolves around selling content, we can expect music, movies, books and games to play a big role. Amazon recently launched a streaming music service for Prime subscribers, with more than 1 million ad-free songs, to go along with Prime’s existing video and e-book offerings. Look for Amazon to hook its content deeply into the smartphone’s software, as it has with the Kindle Fire tablets.

Amazon’s FreeTime service, which helps parents set limits and find content for their children, also seems like a good fit for a smartphone. And for Fire TV users, the phone could get the same Second Screen features as Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, letting users fling videos and photos to the television with the press of a button.

Amazon’s Mayday feature could be of major importance as well. Mayday debuted in Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX tablets, and allows users to quickly pull up a live chat with a support representative for help with anything on the device. Just last week, Amazon announced that the average response time for Mayday is 9.75 seconds. The timing of this news is probably no coincidence.

Finally, The New York Times speculates that we might see a smartphone version of Amazon Dash. This small device, currently available by invitation only, lets you order items from Amazon by scanning the barcode or saying the item’s name. Most people probably don’t want to carry something around specifically for this purpose, so it makes sense for Amazon to build Dash functionality into its phone.

In short, Amazon will likely push its smartphone as the missing link for Prime subscribers and other frequent Amazon users. It’s the thing you always carry to easily to get the stuff you’ve bought, or want to buy.

Amazon’s Challenges

As Amazon walks through its latest product, it’ll be interesting to see if the addresses some of its weak points.

Specifically, Amazon’s Appstore has a much smaller selection compared to the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for Android. It has no support from Google, so there are no official apps for key services such as Chrome, Gmail and Google Drive.

It’s also unclear whether Amazon has come up with a competent mapping and navigation app to rival Google Maps and Apple Maps (which itself is far from flawless). Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets don’t have a native maps application, which is essential for any smartphone.

When and Where Will We See It?

Conventional wisdom holds that Amazon products are dirt-cheap, but that’s not always true.

The company’s Fire TV costs $100, same as an Apple TV, and the Kindle Fire HDX starts at $229, same as Google’s Nexus 7. And while Amazon has experimented with cheap bundled data plans in the past, the latest Kindle Fire HDX tablets with 4G LTE use the same data plans as every other connected tablet.

Don’t expect anything too crazy on the pricing front, as this might just be another $200 phone with a two-year contract. As for timing and carrier support, the Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T will be the exclusive carrier, and the phones will start shipping in late September.

Amazon’s event kicks off at 1:30pm Eastern on Wednesday, June 18. Check back here for coverage and updates.

TIME Video Games

11 Things I’m Hoping to See at E3 2014 (and 6 Things We Probably Won’t)

Alex Beckers
FILE - In this June 13, 2013 file photo, Alex Beckers watches a presentation on the video game "Destiny" at the Activision Blizzard Booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2013. Jae C. Hong—AP

E3's really more a present-moment state of the union than "the future revealed," but this one promises a bunch of software-focused surprises. We walk through some of the most -- and least -- likely.

If E3 2013 was about touting new platforms and software promises, E3 2014 is about putting paid to some of those vows. This is the point companies like Sony and Microsoft start to show their 2015 hands — and in Nintendo’s case, its holiday 2014 one — hoping to convince us that they have the coolest-sounding exclusives, or the most compelling upcoming platform features, or insert your buzz-phrase-of-choice here.

The following isn’t a comprehensive E3 rumor list, it’s just a collection of what we’re most likely to bump into (as well as not encounter), with a bit of context seasoned by my own biases.

11 things I’m hoping/expecting we’ll see:

Halos 1 through 4 in a single high-definition collection…

Engadget started this rumor last month, citing “sources” that claim Microsoft is planning a Halo 1-4 roundup, dubbed “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” and remastered in high definition to carry Xbox One fans through 2014 until Halo 5 arrives next year. I have no idea how reliable Engadget’s sources are, but the idea of replaying those first four installments back to back on Legendary difficulty, if only to reevaluate their craftsmanship, sits fine with me.

…or Halo 2 alone remastered

Halo 2‘s 10-year anniversary is this November, and Microsoft gave the original Halo: Combat Evolved the anniversary-edition treatment back in November 2011.

Halo 5: Guardians

The game was just announced, and even though it’s a 2015 release, it stands to reason we might get our first peek at actual gameplay next week.

Nintendo’s NFC figurines

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata confirmed in May that the company was hopping into the NFC (near field communications) figurine business already staked out by Skylanders and Disney Infinity, adding that the figurines would be “compatible with video games starting from this year-end sales season.” So the chances these won’t show up at E3 in one form or another — hi there Super Smash Bros. for Wii U! — are probably nil.

Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars

The next Star Wars: Battlefront game we know about, so expect that. But Star Wars Episode VII (the J.J. Abrams-directed upcoming film) is underway now and due out December 2015. EA has exclusive license to make Star Wars-related games for the next 10 years, but the clock’s ticking, so it’d make sense to at least tease some of the other stuff that’s doubtless in the pipeline for 2015′s bona fide Star Wars-related freakout.

A glimpse of the next Mass Effect

I didn’t care much for any of the first three, and plenty of you cared even less for the trilogy’s finale, but I’m wide open to whatever’s next. BioWare Montreal director Yanick Roy confirmed the next Mass Effect was underway (and still untitled) early last month…

…so it’s not off the wall to hope we’ll get a peek at the game next week, though Roy later tweeted this:

Uncharted 4

Why not? It’s already been announced (not with the “4,” but Sony confirmed Naughty Dog’s working on a PS4 Uncharted game ages ago). And with all the news about Naughty Dog staffers — including creative lead Amy Hennig — leaving the studio, Naughty Dog could use this E3 to mitigate worries that the next game is still a ways off (Uncharted 3 shipped back in 2011), or developmentally impacted by all those high-profile departures.

Resident Evil 7

So sayeth a Japanese business newspaper, anyway. The timing makes sense: Capcom’s Resident Evil 6 was released in 2012, and Bethesda’s going to be showing off Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s new survival horror game, The Evil Within, so there’s arguably incentive for Capcom to ante up with its next-in-series zombie-masher.

Our first look at a proper Zelda game for the Wii U

Hyrule Warriors, which stars The Legend of Zelda‘s iconic protagonist in a Dynasty Warriors riff, sounds interesting enough, and I’m guessing we’ll have a chance to give it a whirl at this year’s E3. But the game that players who love Nintendo and tune into trade shows like E3 most want to see is a proper new mainline Zelda action/adventure. Say what you will about Nintendo tilling plowed ground, it’s arguably incumbent on the company at this point and in light of Wii U sales to hand fans their first aperitif.

There’s also this cryptic tweet from Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams — named for the series — wherein she says she’ll be doing “something extra special” at this year’s E3:

Though she then followed that up with this smokescreen-like tease:

Mortal Kombat X

This one’s no longer a rumor, and therefore a shoe-in.

An indie gaming cavalcade

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Anamnesis, Celestia, Elegy for a Dead World, Paparazzi, StoryPops and tons more (check out 29 showing as part of IndieCade’s E3 showcase here). Microsoft says it’ll show off two indie games each day between Tuesday and Thursday (via the Xbox Twitch channel), and I’m assuming Sony and Nintendo will devote time during their respective media blasts to highlight new and upcoming titles.

And 6 things we won’t see:

A new Nintendo games console

You can argue Nintendo should have made the Wii U GamePad an optional accessory, that the Wii U should have instead been architected to anticipate Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One (and PCs and Steam Machines and so forth), that Nintendo should have thrown more energy into wooing third-party developers and that its console should have launched with a game like Mario Kart 8 instead of Super Mario Bros. U or Nintendo Land. You can argue all kinds of things, but they won’t change reality.

And that reality won’t include the Wii U’s successor at E3 2014. The Wii U’s in trouble, but even if we assume it’s going to have a shorter lifespan, it’s smack in the middle of its first-party software cycle, a cycle from which we’re still anticipating next-gen riffs on Mario, Zelda and Metroid. Introducing a new Nintendo console this early along would be madness — a Wii U sales-killer. Who’d pay $300 for Nintendo’s beleaguered Wii U today, with its still-smallish library of new games, if Nintendo publicly formalized plans to surpass it in a year or two? This one’s just common sense. That, and the Wii U’s story isn’t over: Nintendo’s brand power is undiminished, and finishing third doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you finish profitably.

Half-Life 3

Bear in mind that the Steam (and soon, mayhap, Steam Machines) magnate has never formally (or informally) announced, talked about or even much alluded to a third Half-Life. It’s taken for granted that the series doesn’t end with Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and an “Episode Three” was at one point on the books to be the final part of a once-confirmed trilogy (to conclude by Christmas 2007). But when the latter didn’t happen, and in view of Valve’s reticence about further sequels, wishful thinking’s led to a lot of speculative nonsense.

The latest involves a former Valve employee who, in an otherwise unrelated recent Twitch interview, said something that if you’re not paying close attention might be misconstrued as confirmation that work on a new Half-Life game is underway. But if you parse what the ex-employee actually said, you realize nothing was really said at all, and thus there’s no reason to think any more about the series’ existentially indeterminate status than before those words were uttered.

As for what might occur at E3, anything’s possible, but Valve’s not on lists of confirmed show vendors, and since they tend to do whatever they want, whenever they want, independent of conferences and trade shows, it’s more likely that we’d see a new Half-Life unveiled (if those stars and planets ever align) at a Valve-led media event.

Rockstar announcing Red Dead Redemption 2, or Grand Theft Auto V for PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Rockstar doesn’t generally do E3, so like Valve, any new game announcements — say a sequel to Red Dead Redemption, or souped-up versions of Grand Theft Auto V — are almost certain to happen outside the show (if those two in particular happen at all).

Parent Take-Two said in a mid-May earnings call that Rockstar would debut a new game in its current fiscal year (which ends March 2015), but that’s all anyone knows.

Fallout 4

Bethesda PR poobah Pete Hines said no (in so many words), so that’s that:

Virtual reality product-makers proving VR’s more than an enthusiast toy at this stage

Oculus VR’s Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus and others are sure to try their level best to prove that VR’s more than hype, or for more than enthusiasts willing to cavort with bulky hardware on their heads, or not just a time-stream-hopping novelty echoing a fad that wasn’t ready for mass consumption in the 1980s and may still fall short of that hope — multibillions backers or no — today.

A slimmer PlayStation 4

Come on, Reddit, you want something smaller than the current model? What for? The PS4′s already a PS4 slim. But if we’re shooting the moon, I’d be a trifle happier with a version that didn’t have those two inscrutable pieces of plastic on the underside, the ones that make the system sit unevenly on a flat surface if you position it horizontally in lieu of using the vertical stand. (That, or give me the same case with cooler internal processors and/or a quieter cooling fan.)

TIME Rumors

What to Make of a Potential YouTube-Twitch Deal

On Sunday night, Variety reported that YouTube was about to acquire video game streaming site Twitch for more than $1 billion.

The deal may not be as imminent as that initial report suggested. While sources told The Verge that an acquisition is close, the Wall Street Journal reports that the negotiations are still in an early stage. As of Monday afternoon, Twitch and YouTube haven’t announced anything.

Nonetheless, some in the gaming community are in panic mode at the thought of another beloved service being swallowed whole by a tech titan. We did, after all, just go through this with Facebook and Oculus VR. To help understand what the big deal is, let’s consider what we know about Twitch, YouTube and YouTube’s corporate masters at Google to figure out what an acquisition might mean:

What is Twitch?

Twitch lets anyone stream video games in real-time, with their own live commentary on top. It’s used for everything from huge gaming competitions (such as the yearly Evo fighting game tournament) to amateur broadcasts, some of which have become hugely popular. At first, broadcasters needed special video capture software to stream games from their PCs, but new apps for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 make it easy to broadcast from those consoles directly.

In addition to the basic video feed and commentary, each stream has its own chat room, where users can comment on streams as they happen. The Twitch Plays Pokemon phenomenon from earlier this year made extensive use of this feature, allowing commenters to dictate every move in the game. Using Twitch isn’t just about watching other people play video games; it’s about hanging out with people around a set of common interests.

Why would Google/YouTube want that?

The problem with YouTube is that people tend to swing by for short video clips, and they have little patience for ads. As the Wall Street Journal points out, Twitch users will watch videos for hours on end, which means plenty of opportunities to advertise, and at premium rates.

Perhaps more importantly, Twitch may be the closest thing YouTube has to a threat. Google buying Twitch would be kind of like Facebook buying Snapchat (which almost happened) or Instagram (which did happen). Even if they aren’t direct competitors, they are competing for the same audience attention and ad dollars.

Would Twitch get shoehorned into Google+, then?

Probably not. If recent rumors are accurate, Google has realized the error of trying to ram its own social network into every product, like it did with YouTube last year. By that logic, Google should be smart enough to leave the Twitch community alone.

But that doesn’t mean Google wouldn’t be interested in tracking Twitch users for advertising purposes. Some sort of optional Google-based sign-in or account link would be a safe bet if this acquisition went through. (Here’s a hypothetical: Sign in with your Google account during Evo and get the HD stream for free, instead of having to buy a $12 ticket.)

Would the Google-Microsoft rivalry spell doom for Twitch’s Xbox apps?

Again, probably not. Google only skips platforms when it thinks they’re too small to invest in, which is why there are no official YouTube apps for Windows 8 or Windows Phone. But there are YouTube apps for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, which means Google thinks Microsoft’s consoles are large enough not to ignore.

Just don’t expect an official Twitch app for Windows Phone anytime soon (although the unofficial LiveGaming app is pretty good.)

What’s the potential upside?

As in any acquisition by a big tech company, additional resources are the most obvious benefit. Twitch could tap into Google’s massive data centers to keep things running smoothly, and could make a bigger effort to improve its mobile apps. Chromecast support, with the ability to chat through your phone or tablet while watching a stream on TV, could be pretty awesome. An acquisition by Google could put mobile game streaming on the fast track, especially for Android.

And the downsides?

Twitch’s dominant position in live game streaming would be firmly established, and YouTube would have even less competition than it does now. If the combined companies make a bone-headed decision–requiring everyone to use a real name, for instance–you’d have nowhere else to go. And in a way, it’s just sad to see that the endgame for another small but fast-growing company is to get bought by a huge corporation.

The potential acquisition also raises some questions: How would game publishers respond? Could this be the start of a copyright mess, as publishers try to get their pound of flesh from Google? Would Twitch eventually try to move beyond games to other forms of entertainment, and would that end up watering down the gaming aspect?

If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that Twitch would follow the usual pattern of major tech acquisitions, and promise that it won’t be royally messed up by its new overlords. But it doesn’t always work that way. All Twitch users can do right now is wait, and hope for the best.

 

TIME FindTheBest

9 Possible Endgames for the Apple-Beats Situation

As we wait for the final outcome of the Beats-Apple situation, we might as well prepare ourselves for the best, the worst, and everything in between. Here are 9 potential endgames for the supposedly looming Apple-Beats acquisition, ordered roughly from “likely” to “totally implausible.”

1. Apple buys Beats, releases brand new streaming music service

Midway through Apple’s WWDC keynote, Tim Cook announces what many quietly expected: an all-new Apple-branded music streaming service, courtesy of newly-acquired Beats by Dre. Named “Dring” (a hybrid of “Dre” and failed Apple music network, “Ping,”), the streaming service comes complete with 25 million songs, pleasantly-rounded corners, and brushed aluminum menus. In honor of the late Mr. Jobs, Cook plays Bob Dylan’s “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’” as the first tune to ever stream through the service. The next day, somebody on Twitter jokes that “beyond here lies nothin’” is also an apt description for Apple’s product roadmap.

2. Apple buys Beats, refreshes headphones line

The streaming music service rumors prove unfounded: it was about hardware all along. Apple signs the Beats deal, then rolls out a whole new line of headphone and speaker accessories, each more colorful and more expensive than the last. Beats’ celebrity army of NBA stars, R&B artists and pop sensations appear in a new series of Apple ads, with the tagline, “Hear what you’ve been missing.” Even Justin Bieber gets a spot. Meanwhile, Apple stores around the globe become three times as noisy, as Apple’s new Beats-made headphones leak noise faster than Edward Snowden can leak NSA secrets.

3. Apple doesn’t buy Beats, everyone feels stupid

As articles (like this one) continue to trickle out over the coming weeks, the tech world becomes desperate for action. Why haven’t we heard more? Why didn’t Apple say anything at WWDC? A dozen conspiracy theories emerge, from “Apple and Beats never met” to “Apple actually bought Beats in 2009.” The Internet loses its collective mind until summer 2015, when Dr. Dre’s former PR manager releases a book, Think Different: The Real Story Behind the Apple-Beats Negotiations.

4. Apple buys Beats, realizes headphones have become a commodity market

The deal is signed. Cook, Jony Ive, Peter Oppenheimer, Craig Federighi, and Dr. Dre pour champagne while listening to Dre’s “The Next Episode” at Apple headquarters. Mid-clink, a freckle-faced, 19-year-old intern bursts through the door. “Mr. Cook!” she gasps, “We just got that report on the headphone market—the one you said was critical to the deal.” Laughing nervously, Cook sets down his champagne glass and eyes the report’s title, gingerly: Study—headphones now a commodity. Brand power rapidly losing its effect on fickle consumer market, which will now buy anything, as long as it’s cheap. “Well, sh–,” he says.

5. Amazon swoops in, buys Beats

In a surprise Monday morning headline, the world learns that Amazon—not Apple—has officially purchased Beats. “This isn’t about our upcoming streaming music service,” says CEO Jeff Bezos, in a next-morning Washington Post interview, “This is about Amazon Prime.” Beats customers begin noticing subtle changes in their orders, as packing peanuts are replaced by Amazon Prime coupons, and “Try Prime!” stickers are placed on every pair of Beats Solo HDs. One customer swears she hears “free two-day shipping on any order” every time she plugs in her primeBeats earphones, but gets laughed out of court by Amazon’s lawyers.

6. Apple buys Beats, kills Beats

Weeks after Apple announces the formal deal, a funny thing happens: Beats products disappear. eBay stock sells out. Even Amazon can’t seem to find them. Furious, a drunken mob surrounds Jony Ive at a Cupertino bar, demanding answers. “Okay!” he says, “All our research says people only care about two things: bright colors and overpriced brands. That’s our thing, not Beats’. That’s why people buy Apple. Beats had to go. They just had to, okay?”

7. Apple walks away from Beats deal, buys Skullcandy instead

In a hastily assembled press conference, Cook agrees to take five minutes of questions on the just-announced Skullcandy acquisition. “What happened to Beats?” a reporter asks. “Forget about Dre,” Cook responds. “But why Skullcandy?” another asks. “I mean, seriously,” Cook says, “these are headphone manufacturers. They all do the same thing.”

8. Dr. Dre becomes new “Voice of Siri”

Apple finally addresses the artificially-intelligent elephant in the room: No one really likes Siri. In an open apology letter to all Apple customers, Cook explains that all those Siri statistics—“85% use Siri at least once per month”—are “inflated,” and “probably half of those” are people who “accidentally hold down the home button a little too long.” Cook goes on to describe the $3 billion acquisition as “mostly about voice talent. We thought, ‘Who does everyone love? What voice has achieved such an iconic level of success that customers wouldn’t mind even if it repeatedly misunderstood them, called the wrong contacts, or drove them to the wrong restaurant four times out of five?’ The answer? Dr. Dre.”

9. Apple buys Beats, Dr. Dre becomes Apple CEO

In a somber press event, Cook announces that the completed Beats deal will coincide with his resignation. “Honestly, I’m just sick of it,” Cook explains, saying he’s actually happy to see “someone, anyone” taking over “the most thankless job” in the tech industry. “You sell 43 million iPhones in one quarter, post $45.6 billion in revenue, and all anyone wants to talk about is how great Jeff Bezos is. I mean, seriously.”

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME apple rumors

Report: The iPad Is About to Get Much Better at Multitasking

Marc Gurman over at 9to5Mac is reporting that Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, will bring with it the ability to run two apps side-by-side on an iPad.

Apple is expected to unveil iOS 8 (and other goodies) at its developer conference, which runs June 2 to June 6.

Gurman only cites unnamed “sources with knowledge of the enhancement in development,” but he’s got a solid track record with Apple rumors. And this is a feature iPad users have been requesting for quite some time, so this seems like a somewhat safe bet by Apple-rumors standards. It’s also, as Gurman reminds us, a feature Microsoft uses to set its own Surface tablets apart from the iPad.

Assuming the rumor pans out, this feature would extend beyond simple screen-splitting.

Says Gurman:

In addition to allowing for two iPad apps to be used at the same time, the feature is designed to allow for apps to more easily interact, according to the sources. For example, a user may be able to drag content, such as text, video, or images, from one app to another. Apple is said to be developing capabilities for developers to be able to design their apps to interact with each other. This functionality may mean that Apple is finally ready to enable “XPC” support in iOS, which means that developers could design App Store apps that could share content.

The split-screening would apparently work for the full-size iPad, and in landscape mode, but it’s unknown whether it’d extend to the iPad Mini. If this feature is indeed coming, we’ll hear more straight from Apple in a few short weeks.

[9to5Mac]

TIME Rumors

Apple’s iPhone 6 Could Arrive One Month Early? Maybe, Maybe Not

But beware: the story's once more sourced to the enigmatic "supply chain."

As my colleague Harry McCracken illustrated in a deft chronicle of all the misguided rumors about Apple’s forever-elusive HDTV last Thursday, supply chain “sources” aren’t the surest hook on which to hang your prognostication hat. But that’s precisely where this new rumor about Apple releasing its next iPhone a month earlier than expected stems from.

Reuters, citing media in Taiwan (in turn citing the mysterious supply chain) reports that Apple’s going to unveil the next version of its iPhone a month earlier than expected.

Since all the iPhones from the iPhone 4 forward have debuted in September — and everyone’s assuming that holds for this next round — Reuters says we could see the sixth iteration with a 4.7-inch screen in August, followed by larger screen models (in the 5-inch diagonal range) in September. The current iPhone 5 and 5s both sport 4-inch diagonal screens.

Reuters notes the supply chain had told it earlier that 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch versions of the next iPhone are a lock. It says Taiwan’s Economic Daily News (as well as the supply chain) are saying Apple intends to produce some 80 million next-gen iPhones. Since the iPhone launched in June 2007, Apple’s sold over 500 million units worldwide.

TIME Technologizer

Whatever Happened to the Apple HDTV?

The rise and fall (and rise and fall, and rise and fall) of an oft-rumored product

In late 2006, the crescendo of rumors about Apple building a smartphone became deafening–and sure enough, in January 2007, the company announced the iPhone. Three years later, the blogosphere was afire with scuttlebutt about an Apple tablet–right before Apple unveiled the iPad.

Then there are the rumors about Apple making an HDTV. One with streaming video from the iTunes store, a predictably polished interface and industrial design, and–as long as we’re rumormongering–maybe a breakthrough or two that will change TV forever.

Analysts, pundits and other assorted Apple watchers have been talking about such a TV for years. Sometimes, they’ve even said that factories were in the process of cranking up production so that TVs could reach Apple Stores in the immediate future, or issued forecasts of how many units the company would sell.

And yet, the Apple HDTV not only isn’t here yet, but feels like it’s slipping away. When people bring it up now, they assume it will debut in 2015, if they specify a date at all.

More often, though, they don’t talk about it–the rumor brigade has pretty much moved on to obsessing over the possibility of an Apple smartwatch or other wearable gizmo of some sort. If it turns out that Apple has no definite plan to enter the TV market, it wouldn’t be shocking–a possibility utterly at odds with the last few years of conventional wisdom.

To understand what happened, it’s worth recapping how we got here…

2008

October: Entrepreneur Jason Calacanis says that Apple is working on a networked HDTV–like a TV set with a built-in Apple TV box.

2009

August: Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster speculates that Apple might release an HDTV by 2011, with an “iTunes TV Pass” subscription service and the ability to sync with iPhones, iPods and iMacs.

2010

March: Munster talks about a $2,000 Apple HDTV arriving within 2-4 years, along with a video subscription service for $50 to $90 a month.

2011

January: Late 2012, Munster now says.

February: Munster says that Apple’s $3.9 billion investment in display production is yet more evidence that an Apple HDTV is on the way. He thinks the company might make $2.5 billion from HDTVs in 2012, $4 billion in 2013 and $6 billion in 2014.

June: A former Apple executive tells DailyTech that Apple will blow Netflix away with an iOS-powered HTDV capable of running third-party apps. It’ll ship in late 2o11 unless Apple’s famously high standards push it into 2012.

July: Dave Richards of Australian site Smarthouse says that Apple may be getting ready to release a 55-inch OLED HDTV in 2012, crediting “a Hollywood lawyer” with the scoop.

July: In a totally different Apple HDTV rumor from Dave Richards’ 55-inch OLED one, Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research–the guy who now says Apple is doomed unless it has a smartwatch by later this month–says he’s 75 percent sure about the HDTVs in three sizes, which Apple will probably release in March 2012. They’re modeled on Bose’s VideoWave and will be two inches thick, with 16 built-in speakers.

August: Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities channels his inner Gene Munster, saying that Apple’s TV plans are moving “at a faster pace than the market expected” and that he thinks it’s possible the company will release an HDTV by the end of the year.

October: Shortly after Steve Jobs dies on October 5, the Washington Post prints an excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s upcoming authorized Jobs biography in which the Apple cofounder confides that he’d “finally cracked” the secret of making an easy-to-use TV.

Also in October: Bloomberg reports that “people with knowledge of the project” say that Jeff Robbin, one of the people responsible for the iPod and the iTunes Music Store, is leading the development of an Apple TV. The story also says Gene Munster thinks Apple may release a TV in late 2012 or in 2013.

November: Jeffries & Co. analyst Peter Misek says he expects Apple to begin production of an HDTV with a Sharp LCD panel in February for a mid-2012 release.

December: Taiwanese supply-chain news source DigiTimes reports that Apple is gearing up to release 32- and 37-inch HDTVs in the summer of 2012, with Samsung chips and Sharp displays.

2012

February: Gene Munster still thinks late 2012 makes sense for the Apple HDTV’s release, but he’s not sure what the content strategy will be. It could involve TiVo-like management of existing cable TV service, over-the-air broadcasts, a-la-carte or subscription streaming services, or apps.

March: Asian research firm CLSA says that scuttlebutt about Foxconn’s and Sharp’s display-manufacturing plans suggests that the Apple HDTV will be a 2013 product.

April: Jeffries & Co.’s Peter Misek now says that Apple will begin production of an HDTV he thinks will be called the iPanel in May, to arrive in stores by the holidays. It will use a Sharp panel with IGZO technology and will cost $1,250.

Also in April: Michael Lantz, CEO of app development firm Accedo, says that the Apple HDTV will focus on superior industrial design, and that the appointment of John Browett to run the Apple Store will ensure that “the more complex distribution chains for TV sets can be dealt with cost-efficiently.”

May: Leander Kahney of Cult of Mac reports about a source who’s supposedly seen a prototype Apple HDTV. It looks like an Apple Cinema Display only much larger, and has Siri voice control plus an iSight camera for FaceTime videoconferencing.

Also in May: BGR’s Jonathan Geller says that “a trusted source” tells him that Apple will demo a new TV operating system at WWDC in two weeks. The same source thinks Apple won’t show the actual HDTV hardware at the conference. Then again, “it’s certainly possible” that the set will make an appearance.

Also in May: China Daily reports that Foxconn chief Terry Gou has told him that his company is gearing up to produce Apple’s “iTV.”

June: Analyst Brian White, who thought that Apple might release an HDTV by the end of 2011, now says that a report on a Chinese news site that Apple will begin receiving LCD panels from Sharp earlier than expected suggests that the company may release an HDTV by the end of 2012.

August: Pacific Crest’s Andy Hargreaves does something startling–given that he’s an analyst–by saying he thinks Apple won’t release an HDTV in the near-term future, based on comments by Apple executive Eddy Cue.

November: James Kisner of Jeffries & Co. says that a major North American cable company is performing bandwidth tests to verify that it can support an Apple HDTV, suggesting that a release may be imminent. Jeffries’ Peter Misek, who once expected an Apple HDTV in mid-2012 and later talked about it shipping by that year’s holiday season, now forecasts sales of 4.9 million units in 2013 and 11.6 million in 2014.

Also in November: Gene Munster now thinks the Apple HDTV will arrive in November 2013. He predicts sizes of 42 to 55 inches and price tags from $1,500 to $2,000.

December: Morgan Stanley analysts Katy Huberty and Jerry Liu speculate that Apple patents suggest that the Apple HDTV may have a 3D display.

2013

January: Gene Munster says that Apple is still working to get an HDTV out in 2013.

Also in January: BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield says that Apple won’t release a TV set in 2013.

March: Munster still hopes an Apple HDTV will be out by the end of the year.

Also in March: “Industry supply chain sources” tell DigiTimes that Apple is working on a 4K Ultra HD TV called the iTV, with an LG panel. It could ship by the end of the year, but early 2014 is more likely.

April: Remember Brian White? He thought the Apple HDTV might show up by the end of 2011. Then he said the signs pointed to the end of 2012. Now he expects a 60-inch “iTV” in the second half of 2013. He talks about it being bundled with a 9.7-inch “Mini iTV” and a unique input device called the iRing you wear on your finger, for a package price in the neighborhood of $1,500-$2,500.

October: Research firm Advanced Research Japan Co. says that Apple will probably start selling 55- and 65-inch 4K Ultra HD TVs in the fourth quarter of 2014.

November: Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities says that he thinks an Apple HDTV is at least two years away.

2014

April: The Korea Herald reports that an unnamed display company is working on a sample 65-inch OLED panel for possible use in an Apple HDTV expected in 2015.

The trend is clear: There are far fewer stories about an Apple HDTV today than there were a couple of years ago, and the ones which do pop up are more vague. And when Re/code’s John Paczkowski broke the news that Apple wouldn’t show a wearable gizmo or a new Apple TV box at its WWDC event next month, he didn’t even bother to mention an Apple HDTV–presumably because nobody really expected it to arrive as soon as mid-2014.

The invaluable Google Trends shows that web searches for “Apple HDTV” have tapered off at the same time that ones for “Apple smartwatch” have spiked, suggesting that we’ve collectively lost interest in the whole subject:

 Trends
Google

What can we learn from all this?

  • Rumors that are at odds with each other are a bad sign. For instance, the fact that the alleged experts couldn’t agree on the Apple HDTV’s screen size, screen technology or screen supplier showed that either some of them or all of them had it wrong.
  • So are rumors that sound fundamentally improbable. Such as Apple selling a TV with a large OLED screen, or bundling an HDTV with a secondary screen and a device called an “iRing.” By the time the company is actually about to announce something, the wackiness has usually subsided.
  • The supply chain can mislead. People keep thinking they see signs that Apple’s Asian suppliers are about to start helping it make an HDTV. So far, such evidence has meant nothing.
  • Analysts get irrationally exuberant. If they think Apple should make an HDTV, they tend to see signs that it will make an HDTV–one with the features they’d like to see–and will do it soon. Once a given analyst’s predictions have failed to come true for two holiday seasons in a row, it’s reasonable to ignore anything that person says about the topic in the future.
  • Patents have nothing–repeat, nothing–to do with product roadmaps. Which means that a pundit who uses them to make any predictions at all about an upcoming Apple product can also be safely ignored.

At this point, the Apple HDTV rumors have fizzled so decisively that when new ones come along, as they surely will, it won’t make any sense to assume that anything anyone has said so far is likely to be true. Instead, we can just start again on this topic from scratch–and the more skeptical we are this time around, the better.

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