Mystery solved: Apple vans gathering next-gen Maps data, grabbing Street View storefronts + 3D images

Apple Van

Three years after Apple launched its own iOS Maps app to replace Google as its iPhone and iPad map provider, the Cupertino company is readying its first major enhancements to the service. While Apple was known to be gearing up for the launch of a mass transit directions service this fall in a handful of cities, sources have revealed that it is also developing its first entirely in-house mapping database to reduce its reliance on TomTom, using a fleet of mysterious vans to take still photos of business storefronts to replace Yelp photos, and building a 3D Street View feature. Apple has been using the sensor-equipped vans in cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York since earlier this year, and, below, we detail how the vehicles are advancing Apple’s plans for the future of Maps…

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Yahoo & Localytics extend their analytics platforms to support Apple Watch apps

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With more than 3,000 apps for the Apple Watch already on the App Store for Apple’s new device, two major analytics platforms today announced support for Apple Watch apps through their respective SDKs.

Yahoo shared that its Mobile Developer Suite has added support for Apple Watch app analytics for developers at no cost through Flurry Analytics, the platform it acquired almost a year ago. By implementing Yahoo’s analytics system, developers of Apple Watch apps gain access to several metrics… Read more

Upcoming biography reveals Steve Jobs turned down liver donation from Tim Cook, wanted to buy Yahoo, and more

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More details about the upcoming biography Becoming Steve Jobs have been revealed through the book’s preview on Amazon (which has since been cut down significantly), revealing several interesting tidbits about the Apple co-founder’s life that were previously unknown (via Cult of Mac).

One example is a story about an offer then-COO Tim Cook made to Jobs when the latter was battling cancer. Cook says that he discovered he shared a blood type with Jobs and decided to undergo numerous medical tests before offering to donate part of his liver to the executive.

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Tim Cook only CEO taking part in today’s White House cybersecurity summit

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We learned earlier this week that Tim Cook would be speaking at a White House cybersecurity summit today, and it now appears he will be the only tech CEO to do so. USNews is reporting that CEOs of other top tech companies all declined President Obama’s invitation, sending lower-ranking execs in their place.

Unlike Apple’s Cook, other top executives at key Silicon Valley companies declined invitations to the summit. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Google’s Larry Page will not attend amid the ongoing concerns about government surveillance. Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow said Zuckerberg is unavailable to attend and that Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan will speak during a panel at the event.

It’s believed other CEOs consider refusing to take part to be the best way to express their objections to increased government surveillance of electronic communications, while Cook takes the opposite view: that it is important to speak up in defence of user privacy …  Read more

Bing and Yahoo reportedly aiming to become default iOS search engine as Google’s contract runs out

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Last week Mozilla announced that its Firefox browser would be dropping Google as the default search engine in favor of Yahoo. While it’s a good move for Yahoo, it won’t gain the company the exposure that comes with being the default search engine on something more widely used, such as Apple’s Safari browser on iOS devices.

That position has been held by Google since the iPhone’s launch in 2007, but the agreement that made the Mountain View-based company the default site for all of Safari’s searches will expire next year, and The Information reports that Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing are both vying for the spot.

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Why Apple switched from Yahoo to Weather Channel for Weather data in iOS 8

When Apple unveiled iOS 8 earlier this month, it didn’t take long for beta testers to notice it had replaced Yahoo with The Weather Channel as the source of data in the stock iOS Weather app. While recent reports suggested Yahoo was trying to get Apple to put even more of its services on the iPhone including search, we now have a bit more of the story behind why exactly Yahoo got the boot for weather in iOS 8. Re/code reports that the deal was made by Weather Channel CEO David Kenny who also happened to be a former Yahoo board member:

The situation Yahoo finds itself in is due to a very crafty deal engineered by former Yahoo board member and Weather Channel CEO David Kenny, who has essentially shoved Yahoo off the key smartphone to be replaced by a new offering that he has been developing since he took over the weather news and information service last year. With it, he has unseated Yahoo from its important perch.

It’s worth pointing out that Yahoo has always powered its weather services with data from The Weather Channel. With that in mind, it’s unclear if Apple possibly had plans to drop Yahoo and go straight to the source before Kenny started developing the new and improved weather service referenced above. More from Re/code on why Apple made the switch: Read more

EFF marks Apple’s ‘remarkable improvement’ in protecting customer data from governments

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today published its annual “Who Has Your Back?” report that rates and compares how major corporations deal with government data requests. The EFF’s ranking of technology company data request transparency is notable because the organization is the “leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world.” The report ranks companies based on six categories: requires a warrant for content, tells users about data requests, publishes transparency reports, publishes law enforcement guidelines, fights for users’ privacy in courts, fights for users’ privacy for rights in Congress. This year, Apple received a star for each of the six categories. 

This compares to many other technology companies, including Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, that received stars across the board:

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Marissa Mayer planning to push Apple to make Yahoo! the default iOS search engine

Jony Ive and Marissa Mayer eat pizza with other industry executives

Jony Ive and Marissa Mayer (right) eat pizza with other industry executives

Re/code reports that Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is planning an attempt at persuading Apple to switch its default iOS search engine from Google to her company’s own offering. According to Re/code’s sources, Mayer has built what she hopes will be a convincing arguement in favor of the change.

Yahoo! current powers the weather and stocks apps and Notification Center widgets found in iOS 7 as well as a few Siri functions, such as sports, but lost out on the chance to power Siri’s web search to Microsoft’s Bing. Both Yahoo! and Bing are included as optional search engines in the Safari browser, but the default selection is Google.

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Apple M&A met with Tesla CEO Elon Musk last spring, to partner in battery ‘Gigafactory’?

Those ongoing analyst predictions that Apple would buy Tesla may have been based on some sort of reality.  According the the SF ChronicleAdrian Perica, Apple’s head of mergers and acquisitions, met with Tesla CEO Elon Musk last spring.

A source tells The Chronicle that Perica met with Tesla CEO Elon Musk in Cupertino last spring around the same time analysts suggested Apple acquire the electric car giant…

Six months before Ahmad’s letter, Musk met with Perica and probably Cook at Apple headquarters, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect business relationships. While a megadeal has yet to emerge (for all of its cash, Apple still plays hardball on valuation), such a high-level meeting between the two Silicon Valley giants involving their top dealmakers suggests Apple was very much interested in buying the electric car pioneer.

But it is unlikely that Apple wanted to buy the car company and even more unlikely that Musk would sell it. In response to the acquisition rumors at the time, he tweeted the following:

But it’s highly likely that Apple would want to buy into one of Tesla’s major upcoming projects.

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Yahoo’s ‘commitment to mobile’ continues with Siri-like competitor

From 9to5Google:

Update: TechCrunch reports that this video is fake.

Update #2: TechCrunch now reports the video is real and commissioned by Yahoo!, but not a real product yet.

With Yahoo’s acquisition of SkyPhrase, a natural language processing startup this month questions immediately arose as to how Yahoo would incorporate the technology. Now, thanks to a video on Daily Motion discovered by Android Police, we may have our answer as Yahoo prepares a Siri voice-controlled personal assistant.

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Yahoo Weather goes universal, brings same award-winning design to the iPad

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At WWDC, Yahoo received an Apple Design Award for Yahoo Weather. This coincided with the unveiling of iOS 7 and its Weather app, which displayed striking similarities to Yahoo’s effort.

With the latest update to the app, Yahoo has brought the same award-winning design to the iPad. The full-bleed imagery from Flickr really shines on a larger display. The layout for iPad is largely a port of the iPhone design with upgraded icons and assets but refinements have been made for the iPad where necessary. For example, forecast information can be much larger because of the additional real-estate.

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Apple joins tech titans in calling for government spying reform and limitations

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has joined Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and other giants in the tech industry in calling for a reform of the NSA’s surveillance tactics. Earlier this year it was revealed that the National Security Agency was using information from these companies and more to monitor citizens across the nation without warrants.

The companies allegedly involved in the “PRISM” program denied turning over any user data to the government, but a leaked NSA slidedeck (seen above) seemed to imply the opposite.

The new collaborative campaign, called Reform Government Surveillance, cites five driving principles in its drive to curb excessive government spying:

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