Tim Cook Announces New Restricted Stock Unit Program for All Apple Employees

Apple CEO Tim Cook today informed employees of a new stock incentive program, which will see Apple making all of its employees eligible to earn Restricted Stock Units (RSUs).

RSUs are normally only given to top Apple management and people from the product teams to retain talent over several years, but now other employees, including those in retail and on the AppleCare teams, will also be eligible to receive stock grants.

Tim Cook announced the new program in an email (via 9to5Mac) that was sent out to employees this morning.

This year, I’m excited to let you know that the Executive Team has created a new program for stock ownership through RSU grants. It’s designed to reach employees who were not previously eligible, including many in our amazing retail and AppleCare teams.

This new program extends eligibility to everyone not covered by other RSU programs, effectively making everyone who works at Apple eligible for an RSU grant. This is an unusual step, and very special – just like our team.

Please check HRWeb for details on this new program.

At Apple, our most important resource – our soul – is our people. Along with our many progressive benefit plans, this is another way for us to say thanks. On behalf of the Executive Team, I’d like to thank you for your many contributions to Apple. Working with all of you is the privilege of a lifetime.

Apple has long had an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) that allows employees to acquire Apple stock at a discount, but Restricted Stock Units are given as a form of compensation and do not require employees to purchase the stock. Restricted Stock Units typically vest over a period of many years, providing motivation for employees to stay at the company.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, will receive a total of 1,000,000 shares of Apple stock should he stay with the company until 2021 so long as Apple performs well. Cook will earn 100,000 RSUs in August 2016, 100,000 in August 2021, and an additional 800,000 RSUs divided over 10 years so long as Apple’s total shareholder return is in the top third of companies in the S&P 500.

With the ability to earn RSUs for staying on at Apple, employees may be motivated to stick with the company until those Restricted Stock Units vest. According to Apple employees that spoke to 9to5Mac, Apple has already started distributing RSU awards to employees in grants ranging from $1000 to $2000 worth of shares.



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Philips Announces New Hue Bulbs, Hue Bridge 2.0 With HomeKit Compatibility

Philips today announced its first HomeKit-enabled product, debuting the Hue Bridge 2.0, an updated version of its original Hue Bridge. With the Hue Bridge 2.0, its line of Philips Hue lights are able to work with Apple’s home automation platform, allowing all existing and future Hue bulbs to be controlled with Siri voice commands.

Commands like „Turn lights red“ can be used for specific colors, while commands like „Set the lamp to 30 percent“ can be used for dimming. Lighting scenes that have long been available in the Philips Hue app can now be turned on using Siri. With HomeKit integration, an entire household of lights can be manipulated with a single command.

While most HomeKit apps support other HomeKit products, the Hue app will work differently. It can be used to control the Hue line of lights and set up light-specific scenes, but it is not able to incorporate other HomeKit products. Hue lighting scenes will be made available in other HomeKit apps, however, so it is possible to group the Hue lights with other products, using one command to do things like unlock a door and turn on the lights at the same time.

„Lighting is the most accessible aspect of the connected home, and as the lighting expert for the Internet of Things we are taking connected lighting to the next phase,“ said Eric Rondolat, Chief Executive Officer at Philips Lighting. „By integrating Philips Hue with Apple HomeKit, we are broadening people’s experience of light beyond what has been previously possible, providing seamless interoperability with other connected home devices.“

The new Hue Bridge 2.0 looks similar to the existing Hue Bridge, but it is square like the Apple TV rather than round. Along with the new bridge, Philips is also debuting a new set of lights. The new Hue bulbs are somewhat brighter at 800 lumens instead of 600 lumens.

The original Hue Bridge will not be updated with HomeKit compatibility as it does not have the necessary hardware, but Philips plans to continue to support it with software updates. Original Hue Bridge owners will need to purchase a Hue Bridge 2.0 to access HomeKit, but will get a discount of $20 on the product.

The new Hue Bridge 2.0 is priced at $60, but customers who own an existing Hue Bridge can get it for $40. The full lighting kit with new bulbs and the new bridge is priced at $200. All new Hue products are available beginning October 6 from Apple retail stores, Best Buy, and Amazon.



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Apple Watch Captured Estimated 75% Smartwatch Market Share in Launch Quarter

The latest data from research firm Strategy Analytics estimates that the Apple Watch captured 75.5% global smartwatch market share during its launch quarter, trailed by Samsung’s estimated 7.5% market share.

Strategy Analytics estimates that Apple sold 4 million Apple Watches in the second quarter of 2015, while runner-up Samsung sold an estimated 400,000 smartwatches during the three-month period ending June 30.

Many analysts have adjusted their Apple Watch sales estimates following the company’s earnings report on Tuesday, with the consensus now ranging between 2.2 million and 3 million units sold, so Strategy Analytics’s 4 million estimate seems overly high. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Apple Watch has become the best-selling smartwatch since its release.

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “We estimate Apple Watch shipped 4.0 million units and captured a dominant 75 percent smartwatch marketshare worldwide in Q2 2015. Apple Watch launched in sixteen major countries and saw decent take-up from iPhone loyalists in the United States and elsewhere. Apple Watch has clearly raised the bar for the global smartwatch industry. The ball is now in the court of rivals, like Samsung, to respond.”

The launch of the Apple Watch helped the overall smartwatch market grow an estimated 457% annually to reach a record 5.3 million units in the second quarter of 2015. Strategy Analytics reports that smartwatch shipments were higher in this quarter than throughout all of 2014, when Samsung led the market and an estimated 4.6 million smartwatches were shipped globally.

Samsung held a commanding 73.6% global market share in the smartwatch market in the year-ago quarter, but the South Korean electronics maker now trails the Apple Watch by a significant margin. Apple Watch is currently available in the United States and eighteen other countries, and the wrist-worn device is set to launch in New Zealand, Russia and Turkey on July 31.

Apple and Samsung together accounted for 8 in 10 smartwatches sold, similar to the two-horse race between the rival tech companies in the smartphone market. Strategy Analytics estimates that other manufacturers shipped a combined 900,000 smartwatches during the second quarter of 2015 for 17% market share, down from 26.4% market share in the year-ago quarter despite selling 600,000 more smartwatches.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple Watch sales „exceeded expectations“ during the company’s third quarter earnings report on Tuesday, but stopped short of providing any specific sales figures. Cook’s only comment was that Apple Watch sales during its first nine weeks of availability were higher than sales of the original iPad and iPhone when those devices first became available for sale.



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MasterCard and MLB Bringing Apple Pay Purchases & Rewards to All-Star Game in Cincinnati

Fans attending the 2015 MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati will be able to use Apple Pay for on-site food and merchandise purchases, thanks to a partnership between MasterCard and Major League Baseball Advanced Media. MasterCard hopes it gets fans back to their seats as fast as possible during the week-long festivities, streamlining the sometimes lengthy lines at concession and souvenir stands at such events.

“Nobody wants to be caught in line at concession only to hear the crowd go wild over a play they’ve missed. The ballpark experience is an ideal environment for quick and secure payment options so fans can get through concessions and back to the game quickly,” said Cheryl Guerin, Group Executive, Global Products & Solutions, MasterCard.

“We’re thrilled to partner with MLBAM to bring contactless acceptance to the 2015 MLB All-Star Week festivities. Through our longstanding relationship with MLB and MLBAM, we are constantly looking for opportunities to create enhanced fan experiences both in-stadium and online, whether that’s through advanced payment capabilities or delivering surprises to fans.”

Any customer using Apple Pay at the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest from July 10th through July 14th or in-stadium at the Great American Ball Park from July 12th through July 14th, will also be eligible for MasterCard’s „Priceless Surprises“ rewards. This will give customers the chance at winning premium All-Star branded merchandise, autographed memorabilia, prepaid cards, and more. The FanFest begins today in Cincinnati and ends with the 86th MLB All-Star Game on July 14.



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