Decline of music downloads continues as on-demand streaming audio up 50 percent

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Apple’s presumed plans for an on-demand music service as part of its Beats acquisition is looking increasingly well-timed as Nielsen data shows that U.S. on-demand music consumption climbed 50.1 percent year-on-year, while music downloads fell by 12 percent in the same timeframe.

“With On-Demand streams surpassing 70 billion songs in the first six months of 2014, streaming continues to be an increasingly significant portion of the music industry,” says David Bakula, SVP Nielsen Entertainment …

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Apple’s annual Back to School promotion to start tomorrow

As we reported two weeks ago, Apple’s annual Back to School promotion will begin tomorrow, according to sources. The program will be similar to last year’s offering, which provided $100 Mac App Store gift cards alongside Mac purchases and $50 cards with iPhone and iPad purchases. Apple will be re-decorating its stores overnight with a new education theme to go along with the new promotion. Earlier today, Apple unveiled upcoming iTunes U updates for the iPad, and the timing seems like anything but a coincidence.

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Apple releases iOS 7.1.2 with iBeacon, Mail attachment, third-party accessory fixes & Apple TV OS 6.2

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Apple has released iOS 7.1.2 to end users today over-the-air with the following changes:

• Improves iBeacon connectivity and stability
• Fixes a bug with data transfer for some 3rd party accessories, including bar code scanners
• Corrects an issue with data protection class of Mail attachments

The update is available over-the-air or via iTunes for the latest iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The fix for Mail addresses a well-publicized security problem regarding attachments. Apple has also released OS X 10.9.4 with various bug fixes and security enhancements.

The build number is 11D257 and it comes in at approximately 30 MB over-the-air on the iPad and 32 MB on the iPhone. The update is approximately 1.4GB for a complete download via iTunes.

In addition, Apple has released Apple TV software version 6.2 (build number 11D257c) without any major changes. The update addresses stability and performance issues:

  • Includes general performance and stability improvements.

Download links below:

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Apple announces iTunes U update with iPad Course Creation, Student Discussions & more

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Screenshot showing new iTunes U “Student Discussions” feature

Apple today announced an update to its iTunes U educational app that includes a number of new features for iPad including course creation tools, a Student Discussions feature and improved management tools for teachers.

“Education is at the core of Apple’s DNA and iTunes U is an incredibly valuable resource for teachers and students,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “iTunes U features an amazing selection of academic materials for everyone around the world. Now, with the ability to better manage and discuss educational content, learning becomes even more personalized on iPad.”

The new features will begin rolling out July 8 with the ability for teachers to create and manage previously uploaded lessons directly from the iPad. Apple says the course creation features will let teachers grab content from iWork, iBooks Author or “any of the over 75,000 educational apps available for iPad.” It will also let teachers use the iPad’s camera to include shots and video of real-world items in courses. The course creation feature will be available to educators in all 69 with the materials they create distributed in up 155 countries. 

As for students, a new Discussions feature will bring a social element to the app allowing students and teachers to easily interact with one another: With Discussions in the iTunes U app, students can automatically follow classroom discussions and join conversations on new topics, or set up push notifications for when new topics are started or replies are added to active exchanges. Teachers can participate in forums too, and have the ability to moderate discussions by removing any off-topic messages or replies.

In its press release, Apple said “nearly 30,000 Multi-Touch™ books have been created by independent teachers and publishers worldwide.”

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Apple said to be working on ‘mainstream’ Smart Home hardware

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With iPhones in pockets, Macs on desks, iPads in bags, and iWatches soon coming to the wrist, Apple is said to be eyeing another category for continued growth: Smart Home hardware. The Cupertino-company is said to have assembled a team to work on various hardware products for the home that deeply integrate with the existing array of Apple devices on the market…

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Why won’t Microsoft give iOS users access to their Skype voice messages? (Updated)

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Skype may have recently launched a major update to its Skype for iPhone app, but one rather basic feature went missing – the ability to listen to voice messages. A subsequent update to Skype for iPhone 5.1 still hasn’t fixed the problem.

In a support thread on the Skype site, community manager Claudius provided what must qualify as one of the most unhelpful response ever to complaints by users:

Voice message playback is not supported in Skype 5.0 for iPhone. Please use Skype on another platform to listen to your voice messages …

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Significant enhancements coming to AppleCare+, Apple IDs, iOS support

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Apple’s vice president of AppleCare and technical support initiatives, Tara Bunch, held a Town Hall meeting for for AppleCare employees earlier this week, according to several employees in attendance who asked to remain anonymous. During the meeting, Bunch, along with a few other Apple executives, spoke about Apple’s progress in customer service and support over the past few years, improvements from 2013 to 2014, and future plans.

Throughout the meeting, Bunch noted that customer satisfaction numbers from AppleCare and Apple product users are at the top of the industry. Going into the 15th year of AppleCare, Bunch asked employees to celebrate and be proud of their accomplishments, but she also noted that Apple still has room to improve its support practices. Employees in attendance during the meeting have shared some details regarding Apple’s future plans for its support initiatives…

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Apple TV likely to gain Continuity this fall, allowing tighter integration with Mac & iOS

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Alongside the introduction of the current Apple TV design in fall 2010, Apple launched AirPlay. In short, AirPlay allows a user to watch a movie, listen to a song, or view a photo on an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch (or Mac in some cases) and stream that content to the Apple TV. AirPlay typically works well and we have even considered it a major innovation in the living room appliances space. Apple has continued to enhance AirPlay over the past few years, allowing the service to integrate with iTunes in the Cloud and function without a WiFi connection.

With OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, Apple has taken the AirPlay idea to new levels. This fall, as Apple previewed at WWDC earlier this month, a user can begin writing an email, viewing a webpage, or sending a text message on one Apple device, and then walk up to a different Apple product and continue that action. This feature is called Handoff and is part of a new suite of features called Continuity. Unlike AirPlay, a click to stream the content is not necessary.

Now, users running the latest iOS, OS X, and Apple TV betas are reporting that Apple could also be working on Handoff and Continuity features for the Apple TV set-top box…

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Mac $400 Bundle for $10: Fantastical, Gemini, Flux 4, PathFinder 6, Tunes cleaner, DVD Ripper, more

From 9to5Toys.com Specials

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Update: The price has risen to almost $10, still time to get in early…

Stacksocial is offering an impressive array of apps at a “name your own price” starting at just over $1 and growing quickly (so get in quick!).

One of our favorite calendar apps, Fantastical from Flexibits ($20) headlines the group this time around with 10 solid apps total:

Path Finder 6: Access & Manage Your Files In A Flash
Fantastical: The Mac Calendar You’ll Actually Enjoy Using
Flux 4: Powerful Mac Web Design Made Easy
Gemini: The Duplicate Finder – Mac App Store Best of 2012
Logoist: Develop Professional Quality Images With Ease
Tunes Cleaner: Delete Duplicate Songs & Revitalize Your iTunes Music Library
MacX iPhone DVD Ripper: Rip Any DVD to Your iPhone, iPad & Other Apple Devices
DiscLabel: One Step To Professional-Looking Labels
SyncMate Expert 5: Sync All of Your Devices & Online Accounts Right to Your Mac
Tangerine! Create Amazing Playlists For Any Situation Or Activity

Some proceeds from the bundle go to charity of your choice and high bidders are entered to win a free MacBook Air.

Again, for $10 a buck or two, this is a no brainer. Get there soon, the prices rise the longer you waitRead more

How-to: Unofficial tool allows you to import iTunes and Rdio Playlists to Beats Music

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While Beats Music will soon be owned by Apple, the music service does not easily integrate with iTunes. For instance, there is no official Beats tool to link your iTunes library for streaming from Beats Music. However, an unofficial tool called Beats Importer is a temporary solution that seems to work well for adding iTunes and Rdio Playlists to your Beats Music library. We’ve compiled a tutorial for importing your iTunes Playlists to Beats Music, below:

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