Sony leaks reveal Apple TV and iTunes Store contracts, Sex Tape + Breaking Bad deals with Apple

MacBook Breaking Bad Sticker

Known for publishing previously confidential documents, WikiLeaks has released a large collection of emails from last year’s widely publicized hack of Sony, notably including Apple agreements covering Sony’s Crackle Apple TV channel, video sales through iTunes, and other topics. The leaks include:

  • The terms of Apple’s agreement to add Sony’s Crackle video service to the Apple TV, notably including a 3-year term (starting December 11, 2013), Sony’s retention of 100% of advertising revenue, and a promise that Apple will permit new types of overlaid/display ads on Crackle if it becomes technically feasible and Apple OKs it. Few details were previously known about the business terms between Apple and channel providers for the Apple TV.
  • Apple’s agreements to distribute Sony videos through the iTunes Store, including the original 2007 agreement between the companies covering TV shows such as Charlie’s Angels and Who’s The Boss, term extensions and high-definition amendments, and the addition of iTunes in the Cloud (which Apple originally called “Virtual Storage Locker”).
  • Sales forecasts for Sony games sold in the App Store, as well as charts suggesting that Sony’s iPhone and iPad game revenues far surpassed the amounts made on competing platforms.

The leaks go on to describe Apple and Sony product tie-ups, including the iPad’s “character” role in the film Sex Tape, as well as Sony’s internal reaction to Apple’s “Stickers” ad featuring a Breaking Bad reference, and an apparent effort by Dreamworks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg urging Sony not to collaborate with Apple…
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The best Apple Watch headphones and earphones

Up until now, Bluetooth wireless audio was purely optional for Apple’s devices: every iPad, iPhone, and iPod has shipped with a 3.5mm audio port to connect with wired earbuds and headphones. The Apple Watch is different: it’s Apple’s first fully wireless device, with no user-accessible ports to connect accessories, even though it can work as a standalone music player during workouts. The lack of a headphone port is actually a positive, since tethering your wrist to your head with a cable would look silly, and isn’t ergonomically ideal. Thankfully, Bluetooth headphones have come a long way over the past few years, shrinking from gangly and boxy earmuffs into earphones comfortable enough to exercise with.

Since one of the Apple Watch’s major selling points is fitness functionality, this quick guide to the best Apple Watch headphones and earphones focuses mostly on accessories that can work anywhere, rather than options you can’t wear while exercising. But I’ll include some larger options, too, just in case you’re picking a pair for non-athletic use, or to share with your iPad, iPhone, iPod, or Mac…

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How-To: Reclaim your Mac’s old hard drive or build a new one with an external USB enclosure

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Earlier this year, I wrote several guides to boost the speeds of older Macs by swapping their internal hard drives for super-fast solid state drives (SSDs). As readers have confirmed, their older iMacs, MacBooks, and Mac Pros have seen dramatic improvements with new SSDs. But some people were left with a question: what should I do with my Mac’s old hard drive? Throw it away?

A great answer: put it in an external hard drive enclosure and keep using it! My latest How-To shows you how easy it is to reclaim your Mac’s old drive by installing it in a nice USB enclosure such as Akitio’s SK-3501U3 (shown here), which I chose because of its Mac-matching design, reasonable sub-$40 price, and compatibility. External enclosures are also ideal options if you want to choose a high-quality hard drive mechanism for yourself, rather than taking a risk on whatever might be hidden inside a fully-assembled external drive. I’ll explain that, and much more, below…

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Review: Mophie’s Juice Packs for iPhone 6 + 6 Plus are polished battery cases at premium prices

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Unless you pick the matte black versions, which look like most of the other iPhone 6 and 6 Plus battery cases I’ve tested, you’ll quickly be wowed by how premium Mophie’s newest Juice Packs feel in your hand. Glossy white plastic Apple accessories may have become passe years ago, but Mophie somehow got the look and feel just right — better, even, than the “unapologetically plastic” iPhone 5c.

The reason for that luxe feel? Mophie needs it, as the new Juice Pack Plus for iPhone 6 ($120) and Juice Pack for iPhone 6 Plus ($100) are currently the most expensive battery cases currently available for their respective iPhones. Though the company has never been shy about charging more for top quality cases, this year’s Juice Packs are hitting shelves well after numerous solid and aggressively priced competitors.

Below, I’ll discuss how Mophie’s price to performance equations actually play out for these Juice Packs, and whether they’re worth buying in light of other options…

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The best Apple Watch stands and docks

watchstands

After months of waiting, the Apple Watch officially went on sale today for preorders, and millions of people are now anxiously awaiting deliveries from Apple. Today, we’re looking at all of the best accessories that have been announced for the Apple Watch, and some of the most interesting options are charging stations: stands and docks. Every solution currently announced relies upon the inductive magnetic charger Apple includes in the Apple Watch box, so what you’re getting is a stand with the ability to manage the Watch and charger.

Inside, I’ll show you a large collection of stands that range in price from $20 to $129, with considerably different levels of sophistication. Some are just basic plastic holders for Apple’s charger, while others have really nice designs made from metal, leather, and wood. Updated on April 15, 2015 with six new options!

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How-To: Choose the best stand or desktop mount for Apple’s iPads and Macs

bookarc

Apple currently sells more “laptop” than “desktop” Macs, but in reality, most Macs will be used substantially on flat surfaces — desks, tables, and sometimes nightstands. iPads are more lap-friendly, but also tend to get used upright, particularly for watching videos and access in the kitchen. Since I’ve spent a lot of time testing Apple device stands and mounts, I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you, so you can choose the solution that best suits your Mac, iPad, or both at the same time.

Below, I’ve hand-picked options for different types of users, starting with passive MacBook stands such as Twelve South’s BookArc for MacBook Pro ($50). Made from Mac-matching aluminum with gray rubber inserts, BookArc is designed to safely hold a MacBook Pro upright so that its ports and SD card reader are easily accessible. Twelve South also sells a smaller version of BookArc for the MacBook Air, a bigger BookArc for the Mac Pro, and an earthy version called BookArc mod for fans of wood. That’s a rarity, as most Mac and iPad stands are designed to match Apple’s products, as you’ll see inside…

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Opinion: As Nintendo ponders iOS, it’s time for Mac console game emulators to shine

mariogalaxyemu

When Nintendo announced last week that it will collaborate with DeNA to release iPhone and iPad games, gamers split into two camps: people intrigued by the promise of brand new Nintendo titles designed for mobile devices, and others — including myself — who expect Nintendo to release shallow mobile minigames, mostly to promote console titles. Nintendo hasn’t actually committed to bringing the Super Mario games people love into the App Store; instead, it’s saying only that its characters will appear in new titles that won’t require complex controls. The implication is that only Nintendo consoles are capable of playing Nintendo’s console games.

I disagree with that. For years, Macs and PCs have been able to run thousands of classic console and arcade games, including Nintendo’s best-known titles, using emulators. These free programs let discontinued, often HDTV-incompatible games play on computers — in many cases, with noticeably better graphics than you remember. Freed from the fuzzy, low-contrast televisions people used to own, classic games can look pixel-sharp on Retina displays, and some emulators actually improve the edges and textures of 3-D objects. Nintendo may not want you to play its prior console games on your favorite Apple device’s screen, but thanks to emulators, it’s possible today. The picture above? That’s Super Mario Galaxy, running on a Retina MacBook Pro…

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‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ on Apple, NeXT, and Pixar

Becoming Steve Jobs, the new biography of Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, will be officially released tomorrow by Crown Business/Penguin Random House, and is currently available as a pre-order from Amazon ($12+) and Apple’s iBookstore ($13). While some of the book’s material will be familiar to avid followers of Jobs and Apple, there are some interesting details inside about how Jobs’ companies Apple, NeXt, and Pixar interrelated.

On NeXT: The book notes that the computer industry changed during Microsoft’s leadership, shifting to an environment where companies — the largest buyers of computers — were seeking reliability and stability rather than innovation. According to the authors, NeXT’s key failure was that it successfully identified a real market for $3,000 workstation computers targeted at the higher-education market, but went so far beyond that price point — in some cases in pursuit of industrial design goals — that few actual customers existed for its product.

NeXT, which was headquartered in the same business park where Steve Jobs first saw Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and graphical user interface, came tantalizingly close to undermining Microsoft at a key point in its growth: IBM licensed the NeXTSTEP operating system for use in workstations, and might have used it to compete against Windows personal computers.

“But Steve… held up IBM for more money, leading to another round of protracted negotiations. He overplayed his hand. Cannavino stopped taking Steve’s calls and just abandoned the project, although there was never any real announcement that it was over. It was a minor disappointment for IBM, ending its ‘Plan B’ fantasy of creating a real alternative to Microsoft’s new Windows graphical operating system for PCs.”

And there’s more…

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‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ on how Steve evolved & the Buddhist notion of ‘Becoming’

Steve Jobs Fearless Genius

Becoming Steve Jobs, the new biography of Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, will be officially released tomorrow by Crown Business/Penguin Random House, and is currently available as a pre-order from Amazon ($20/print, $12/Kindle, $30/audiobook or free audiobook with Audible trial) and Apple’s iBookstore ($13). Bringing together years of personal interviews with Steve Jobs and his colleagues, the authors have assembled a substantial collection of insights about how Jobs evolved over time as a person and a leader.

One key focus of the book is reflected in the title: the Buddhist notion “that everything, and every individual, is ceaselessly in the process of” evolving — “becoming” — rather than static.

“[D]espite the fact that he could be almost unfathomably stubborn and opinionated at times, the man himself was constantly adapting, following his nose, learning, trying out new dimensions. He was constantly in the act of becoming.”

For this reason, the authors suggest that Jobs’s personality was misunderstood — at least during his second run at Apple — in part because he decided to cut most of his interaction with the press, except for structured discussions during new product launches. As such, the public picture of Jobs as an intemperate, immature young man wasn’t adequately updated to reflect his later maturity into the wiser and more effective leader who achieved Apple’s historic transformation…

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Read an exclusive free sample of Becoming Steve Jobs in iBooks

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Becoming Steve Jobs, a new book by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli about Jobs’ life, comes out on March 24th and is available to download both in digital and print. As part of a strong marketing push by Apple in the run up to the book’s release, iBooks is offering an exclusive free sample of the prologue and first chapter that you can download right now. (Update: It’s unclear what countries the sample is being offered in — readers are reporting it showing it for some but not universally.)

Apple has been heavily promoting the book in the last few days, on its iBooks Twitter account as well as through iTunes marketing emails. iBooks describes it as the ‘only book about Steve recommended by the people who knew him best’. For comparison, in one of the chapters, Tim Cook describes the Isaacson biography as a tremendous disservice.

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Review: Anker’s Ultra Slim Battery Case for iPhone 6 offers a surprising mix of thinness, power, and low pricing

ankerslimiphone6-4

I’ve learned over the years that there’s no such thing as an Apple accessory that’s perfect for every user. A design optimized for budget-conscious users will often turn off people who are ready to spend more for something fancier, and vice-versa. The best a company can do is to design, execute, and price products well for a particular segment of the population. Anker specializes in this — it focuses on creating very good to great accessories for value-focused users.

Its new Ultra Slim Battery Case for iPhone 6 ($40-$60 on Amazon) is another example of that formula. Unfancy but more polished than similarly budget-priced rivals such as uNu’s DX-6, it’s not the most powerful or beautiful iPhone 6 battery case I’ve tested, but it does precisely what most users want: it more than doubles the iPhone 6’s power, doesn’t add much bulk to the device, and costs very little relative to most battery cases. Anker’s regular $60 price tag would be competitive for an Apple-certified case on its own, but it frequently sells for only $40, the best overall value I’ve seen for iPhone 6 users, hands-down.

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