Apple May Develop Original TV Shows Exclusively for iTunes and Streaming TV Service

Apple has met with TV producers and Hollywood studios about developing original TV shows to offer exclusively to its iTunes customers, according to TheStreet. The article comes by way of independent contributor Ronald Grover, a longtime entertainment business journalist who has previously covered the media and entertainment industry for Reuters and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

The original content could spearhead Apple’s plans to launch its oft-rumored streaming TV service, which has reportedly been placed on hold due to the iPhone maker’s difficulties in securing content deals with owners like CBS, ABC, Fox, Disney, and Viacom. The report, citing sources with knowledge of the matter, claims Apple could announce a cable-like offering alongside the iPhone 7 in September.

The Cupertino-based tech giant began sounding out Hollywood’s creative community late last year, but has yet to sign any agreements, according to two people with knowledge of the overtures. One plan is to have deals in place so Apple can announce exclusive content as part of a cable-like offering in September, when it is expected to unveil its iPhone 7, said one of the people.

The original TV shows would presumably be available for rent or purchase on iTunes, and/or through a subscription-based service like Netflix that would provide on-demand access to unlimited programming for a set monthly cost. Apple’s streaming TV service has been rumored to cost between $30 and $40 per month, but that price was contingent upon a „skinny bundle“ of TV channels rather than original programming.

Apple’s discussions with Hollywood executives are being led by iTunes chief Eddy Cue, and Robert Kondrk, vice-president of iTunes content, according to the report. In a recent interview, Cue said customers should be „able to buy whatever they want, however they want,“ and he used the App Store as an example of how Apple provides users with multiple ways to purchase content.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Apple has shown interest in acquiring Time Warner assets, which include CNN, HBO, TBS, TNT, NBA TV, Cartoon Network, its Warner Bros. movies division, and more. Gaining exclusive rights to the popular HBO series Game of Thrones would certainly give Apple a head start on its streaming TV service, along with Silicon Valley and other original programming.

Netflix, which collaborates with Hollywood on exclusive TV shows like Daredevil, House of Cards, Jessica Jones, and Orange is the New Black, has proven that original programming can be highly popular among consumers. Apple adopting a similar strategy could help bolster its own streaming TV service, which may be accessible on the web and devices like the Apple TV, Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

Tags: Eddy Cue, iTunes, thestreet.com, streaming TV service
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Review: Zagg’s Slim Book More Than Doubles the Weight of the iPad Pro, but Keyboard is Great

Zagg’s newest Slim Book is its first product designed specifically for the iPad Pro. Following in the footsteps of its previous Slim Books for other iPads, the Slim Book for iPad Pro features a protective case that snaps around the iPad and fits into an accompanying full-sized keyboard.

The Slim Book is one of the few keyboard cases available for the iPad Pro, and it essentially turns the iPad Pro into a full-fledged laptop, plus it is versatile because it’s able to serve as a standalone case or a case that offers full protection. That might sound appealing, but as I’ve discovered testing it for the last week, there are some downsides to Zagg’s latest offering.

Design

The Slim Book consists of two pieces: a black plastic shell that fits around the back of the iPad Pro and a matching silver aluminum keyboard with black MacBook-style keys and a matching black plastic exterior. The shell piece that fits around the iPad Pro is relatively slim, snapping into place to protect the back of the iPad. It doesn’t feel cheaply made, but it also doesn’t feel as premium as an Apple product given all the plastic.

All of the ports on the iPad Pro are left open with the shell on, leaving everything from the headphone jack to the Lightning port accessible. Because the shell fits so tightly to the iPad Pro, it’s difficult to remove. This is not a shell that I would want to be taking off my iPad on a regular basis, because it takes a lot of force to get it off. It also makes the volume and the sleep/wake buttons on the iPad Pro more difficult to press because it causes them to be recessed.

For a while after I put it on, I wasn’t even sure my iPad Pro would ever come out, so expect a tight fit there. Given the amount of force it took to get that shell off, I’m concerned about future breakage, especially at weak spots near ports. If you get this case, you’re going to want to leave the back shell on all the time, so that’s something to keep in mind. On the plus side, it does offer some rear protection from scratches and dings.

The shell is thin enough that it doesn’t add a lot of bulk on its own, but the whole setup gets a lot heavier when the keyboard is added. On the left side of the shell, the plastic is slightly thicker, which allows it to fit into grooves on the keyboard portion of the case. It’s necessary for the holes in the shell up with the mounts in the keyboard groove, but this sounds more difficult than it is – things just kind of snap in place when you go to set the iPad and shell on the keyboard, but it can take a minute to line up both pieces.

On the keyboard, the slot that the iPad Pro sits in is attached to a hinge, which rotates forwards and backwards so the iPad Pro can be set at a user’s preferred viewing angle. The hinge action is smooth with little friction, and the hinge itself reliably stays in the correct position. The hinge can be positioned backwards to 135 degrees, but it closes completely in the front to serve as a protective clamshell case for the iPad Pro when not in use. When closed, the Slim Book is approximately three quarters of an inch thick at its thickest point (excepting the hinge area, which is about an inch thick) and with its black plastic exterior, it more closely resembles a bulky Windows laptop than a MacBook. Thickness wise, it’s a bit thicker than a Retina MacBook Pro.

When I first received the package containing the Slim Book, my first thought was „Wow, this is heavy.“ I thought it might just be the packaging that was adding weight, but no, the Slim Book itself weighs quite a bit. The iPad Pro on its own weighs a hefty 713 grams, or 1.57 pounds. Attached to the Zagg Slim Book, my iPad Pro weighed 1814 grams, equivalent to nearly four pounds. For comparisons sake, that’s heavier than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and nearly as heavy as the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, which weighs 4.49 pounds. In fact, it feels heavier than a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro simply because the weight is distributed over a smaller surface area.

The iPad Pro can also be positioned backwards in the keyboard, allowing it to serve as a stand for reading or watching videos. When backwards, the keyboard can be folded flat under the iPad Pro, though I’m not sure why you would want to use it this way because it’s just added bulk.

Keyboard

Zagg’s Slim Book isn’t a lightweight solution, but that weight does allow it to sport a full-sized keyboard. The keys on the Zagg Pro mimic the keys of a Retina MacBook Pro, offering excellent key feel and travel. Of the iPad Pro keyboards I’ve tested so far, including the Logitech CREATE Keyboard Case, the Zagg Messenger Universal, and Apple’s own Smart Keyboard, the Zagg Slim Book has the best keys. The typing experience was almost identical to the typing experience on my Retina MacBook Pro (with slightly more travel), and the keys were neither too clicky nor overly noisy. If you like the way a Retina MacBook Pro or MacBook Air keyboard feels underneath your fingers, you will like the keyboard of the Zagg Slim Book.

Like most keyboards at this price point, the Zagg Slim Book offers backlighting. It goes a step beyond some other keyboards, though, allowing users to cycle through a range of different LED colors like aqua, green, yellow, red, purple, white, and deep blue. There are also three levels of brightness to choose from, along with an option to turn the backlighting off. Customizable backlighting was one of the features that I enjoyed most during the time that I tested the Zagg Slim Book.

At the top of the keyboard, there are function keys that correspond to specific iPad shortcuts. Using these keys, it’s possible to lock the iPad, access the home screen, open the app switcher, access search, bring up a Siri search, bring up the on-screen keyboard, adjust volume, and control media playback. Missing are keys for controlling screen brightness, so that will need to be done manually on the iPad.

The keyboard is detachable from the iPad Pro, so it can potentially be used with other devices. The Slim Book can switch between three different connected Bluetooth devices using the function key along with the first three number keys. Switching between devices is smooth and quick.

Keyboards like the Logitech CREATE and the Smart Keyboard connect to the iPad Pro using its Smart Connector, but the Zagg Slim Book connects via Bluetooth like any other Bluetooth device. That means it requires charging (via an included micro-USB cable), but according to Zagg, it only needs to be charged once every two years with regular usage. I had no issues with Bluetooth with the Slim Book. It connected quickly and stayed connected.

Bottom Line

The Zagg Slim Book has appealing features like multi-color backlighting, good key feel, and a smooth hinge with adjustable viewing angles, but it’s more than doubling the weight of the iPad Pro. That’s a deal breaker for me because it cuts down on the portability of Apple’s larger tablet. If I’m going to carry four pounds around, I might as well be carrying my Retina MacBook Pro.

For customers who purchased an iPad Pro for its portability or to use in place of a MacBook while traveling, this case probably isn’t the best option, but for customers who are using the iPad Pro as a complete laptop replacement, it may be more viable. The Slim Book is heavy, but it turns the iPad Pro’s tablet form into a MacBook-style design. Figuring out whether the Zagg Slim Book is for you basically comes down to deciding if you want to sacrifice portability for a keyboard.

As someone who is thoroughly invested in the Apple ecosystem and prefers products that match the aesthetic of Apple devices, the Zagg Slim Book would not be my first accessory choice. I am not a fan of the overwhelming black plastic, but the look may not bother those who are looking for function over form.

Pros:

Great keyboard

Multi-color backlighting

RMBP-style key feel

Connects to and switches between multiple iOS devices

Hinged design with multiple viewing angles

Cons:

Super heavy

Shell is very difficult to remove

Black plastic design doesn’t really match Apple devices

Makes volume/sleep/wake buttons harder to press

How to Buy

The Zagg Slim Book for iPad Pro is available from the Zagg website for $139.99.

Tags: review, Zagg
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Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 Core i5 / 256GB gets £270 off in the UK, now £809

Microsoft has been offering up to £240 off the Pro 3 in recent weeks – but if you buy the Core i5 model with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, you’ll now save £270 off its full list price of £1,079. Read more…

Microsoft brings back discounts for Xbox One, prices start at $299

Microsoft have announced a new deal on the Xbox One Bundle offerings. Customers can take advantage of the deal between today and Boxing Day. Prices start from $299. Read more…

Kantar: iOS Adoption Rises in China as Android Grows in U.S. and Europe

Kantar Worldpanel has released new smartphone operating system market share data for the third calendar quarter of 2015, providing a regional breakdown of Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and other mobile platform adoption in the U.S., Europe, China, Japan and elsewhere during the three-month period ending October.

In the U.S. market, Android led the third quarter with 62.8% market share, compared to 33.6% for iOS. The U.S. smartphone market continues to be virtually a two-horse race between Apple and Google, with iOS and Android combining for 96.4% market share in the October quarter. Windows Phone was a distant third place with just 2.7% market share.

„With 33.6% of the U.S. smartphone market, Apple’s share remained down year-over-year, but up quarter-over-quarter, as iPhone 6s became the third best-selling smartphone,“ Milanesi added. „Samsung retained its leading position in the U.S. smartphone market and, for the first time in 2015, the South Korean brand was able to show year-on-year growth.“

Android continued to have the highest market share among mobile platforms worldwide, experiencing 1.6% year-over-year growth in Europe’s big five markets – United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. iOS adoption grew in China and Japan by 7% and 3.5% respectively compared to the year-ago quarter.

Kantar Worldpanel data shows the iPhone 6s accounted for 24% of all iPhones sold in the U.S. in the three months ending October, compared to 33% for the iPhone 6 in 2014, and 22% for the iPhone 5s in 2013. Kantar says „overall volumes are pretty much identical to what was sold in 2013, while down 25% from 2014’s sales.“

Kantar Worldpanel’s latest data is also available in chart format for those that cannot view the embedded map above.

Tags: iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone, Kantar Worldpanel
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Best Buy slashes $100 off Apple Watch prices

Best Buy is trying its darnedest to live up to its name, with a new $100 discount on ever model of the Apple Watch it sells — bringing the entry level cost of a 38mm Apple Watch Sport down to just $250. Best Buy started selling Apple’s debut wearable device this August, and Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


Apple TV ad shows just how big the small screen has become

Apple is pushing its new iteration of Apple TV hard, hoping to move it beyond a “hobby” into a must-have set top box for every living room and television set possible. Apple’s new ad, “The Future of Television,” is a visual collage of just about everything you can do with the Apple TV, including watching […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


Best Buy Offering $100 Discount on Apple Watch Starting Wednesday

During the Black Friday holiday shopping event in the United States, Best Buy offered one of the best deals on the Apple Watch, discounting the stainless steel version by $100 and the Sport version by $50.

According to Re/code, Best Buy plans to top that with an even better deal starting this Wednesday, which will drop the price on both the stainless steel Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Sport by $100.

Best Buy offers several stainless steel and Apple Watch Sport models and the discount will apply to all of the company’s stock. With the $100 price drop, the entry-level 38mm Apple Watch Sport will be priced at $249 and the entry-level 38mm stainless steel Apple Watch will be priced at $449.

Best Buy plans to offer discounted Apple Watch models through Christmas.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Tags: deals, discounts, Best Buy
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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