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Apple Loop: Cook Following Twitter's Costolo, Mac Pro Shortage, Heartwarming or Heartless Holiday Ad?

Dec 21 2013, 4:36pm CST | by

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Apple Loop: Cook Following Twitter's Costolo, Mac Pro Shortage, Heartwarming or Heartless Holiday Ad?

Keeping you in the loop on a few of the things that happened around Apple this week.

Tweet. Apple CEO Tim Cook is certainly putting himself out there in a way that his predecessor, Steve Jobs, never did. Case in point: Cook on Twitter. When Cook started following Twitter CEO Dick Costolo this week, Apple watchers tweeted speculation about what it means. Does Apple want to buy Twitter? Is Apple’s CEO counting on Costolo to give him guidance about using social media? Are the duo just friends and Cook thought it was the polite thing to do? I don’t have any answers. It’s just that Cook’s pick is notable, given that Apple this month spent a reported $200 million to buy social analytics firms Topsy Labs, one of Twitter’s biggest partners. Topsy analyzes every tweet ever sent and Apple’s investment is interesting because it hasn’t been known as a socially-minded company up until now.

Cook, who began tweeting Sept. 20 and has put out 24 tweets, is following just 34 folks as of today, the most recent addition being Costolo. Who else is he following? Here’s the list (not in any particular order): Angela Ahrendts of Burberry, who is going to join Apple next spring as its retail chief, Charlie Rose, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Clinton, Pope Francis, The Daily Show, Anderson Cooper, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, TED Talks, Nike, the Football Foundation, Scientific American, ESPN, College GameDay, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Park Foundation, Project RED, Southern Poverty Law Canter, Duke Basketball, the Auburn Plainsman, the Kings of Leon, the RFK Center and Kerry Kennedy, a bunch of iTunes twitter accounts, and Apple execs Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue.

Human rights. It’s not so surprising that Cook is keeping up on news about the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation. We now know, thanks to an acceptance speech that he gave on on Dec. 10, after being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by his alma mater, Auburn University, that Cook is interested in promoting human rights. Normally private about his personal life, Cook used the award ceremony to tell a story about seeing a cross burning at the home of family friends in his hometown in Alabama when he was growing up. “This image was permanently imprinted in my brain, and it would change my life forever,” Cook said in accepting the award. A video of his speech is now posted on YouTube. ““Growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, I saw the devastating impacts of discrimination. Remarkable people were denied opportunities and treated without basic human dignity, solely because of the color of their skin….I have seen and I have experienced many other types of discrimination and all of them were rooted in the fear of people who were different than the majority.” You can watch the whole thing here.

No China Mobile dealyet. The speculation by the Wall Street Journal and others was that Dec. 18 would be the day Apple and China Mobile finally announce a pact to distribute the iPhone in China. But it didn’t happen. Xi Guohua, chairman of the world’s largest mobile phone carrier, saying the two companies remained in discussions but that he wasn’t ready to announce a deal. While Apple already has distribution deals with China’s other top carriers — China Telecom and China Unicom — China Mobile, with 759 million subscribers and 176 million 3G users, is the big catch. China is an important market for Apple, which falls far short of market leader Samsung in sales there. So now the deal that everyone was hoping would happen in 2012 and 2013 will now have to wait for 2014.

Put the iPhone down! Toss a snowball! Strap on some skates! Apple’s new holiday ad is doing what a good ad is supposed to do: Get people talking. But the talk is about what the ad really says. The 90-second spot, called Misunderstood, shows a young teen focused on his iPhone while his family gathers for holiday and participates in all sorts of activities. A sort of melancholy version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” plays in the background. So is he too caught up in this smartphone, texting or tweeting or thumbing through whatever, to participate in what’s happening around him? No! He’s actually making a holiday video for the family. As my Forbes colleague Jennifer Rooney notes, the as is being called magical and touching. But I think Rooney has a good point: “The problem is that while he was creating, he wasn’t really living the day, he was a mere voyeur during it. The message? Life is better through video. Don’t live life, tape it.” Bobby – just put the phone down and grab a snowball!. What it and decide for yourself. The ad, by the way, has already been viewed more than 4.8 million times on YouTube.

Mac Pro shutout. Apple delivered on it is promise and started selling the completely redesigned version of its Mac Pro workstation this week. But soon after enthusiasts went online to order the the customizable, cylinder-shaped desktop computer, Apple said they wouldn’t be able to deliver it unti February or March. ““Demand for the all new Mac Pro is great and it will take time before supply catches up with demand,” an Apple spokesman told me this week. The Mac Pro isn’t Apple’s top-selling desktop computer. That distinction goes to the iMac. But it’s notable because the new Mac Pro is being assembled in the U.S. (the first Apple product made in the U.S. in almost a decade, according to 9to5Mac.com) at a new factory in Austin, Texas. On the one hand, it’s a good problem to have that demand is greater than supply. On the other, Apple fans are not known for their patience and they’ve already been waiting years for a Pro update.

Apple’s 2013 shopping list. This was a big year for acquisitions at Apple, which bought 15 companies in the 2013 fiscal year (which ends in September), versus 5 known deals the year before, according to Bloomberg. If we’re counting since January through the end of this year, the tally is 10 companies. Here’s the list. Apple doesn’t disclose how much it’s spend on the deals since the buyouts arent’ material to a company with $150 billion in cash on its books. It reportedly spent $200 million on Topsy Labs and $350 million on Primesense. So that means it still has loads of cash to spend in the new year.

Apple’s campus, the Minecraft version. While most of the attention this past year or so has been focused on Apple’s new spaceship-shaped campus to be built in Cupertino, California, writer and designer Michael Steeber has recreated Apple’s current headquarters on Infinite Loop, along with a detailed map, in Minecraft. The 90-second video shows exteriors and interiors. Thanks to TUAW for finding it and point it out.

iADs and iTunes Radio. The iAD sales team at Apple is reportedly building a real-time bidding exchange to automate and simplify selling in-app ads so it can focus selling iTunes Radio ads, according to AdWeek, which cites multiple sources. “There is a new focus within the company’s advertising unit, and the mantra came direct from Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of software. In a staff meeting before the holidays, Cue indicated that iTunes Radio is the top priority, and app ads are not. “The message that came across was basically if you’re not working on iTunes Radio, you’re irrelevant,” an Apple insider told AdWeek.

Facial recognition. One of Apple’s suppliers in China, Pegatron, said it is now using facial-recognition technology to make sure applicants for jobs at its iPhone manufacturing plant in Shanghai are not underage. “Pegatron said applicants for its assembly line have their government-issued IDs checked for authenticity,” the company told the Wall Street Journal. “Their faces are then matched to their ID photos through facial recognition technology, to weed out those using borrowed ID cards. Their names are also checked against police records. In theory, these measures should keep out underage workers, as they should catch people using fake or borrowed IDs.” Pegatron and Apple have been in the news after a 15-year-old factory worker died of pneumonia. The companies did an investigation and said his death was not related to working conditions. However, the case of Shi Zhaokun, who apparently got his Pegatron job by claming he was older, has highlighted the problem of underage labor in China, where the legal working age is 16.

iPhone, iPad top 2013 wish lists. Piper Jaffray did an analysis of more than 25,000 tweets for Christmas and found that iPhones and iPads top holiday lists this year. “Our Twitter analysis shows the iPhone was the most mentioned item in combination with @Santa and #WishList,” notes analyst Gene Munster. “The iPad was the third most mentioned behind the PS4. We also note that Macbook and iPod made the list at the 5th and 7th position, respectively. While the current data represents only a snapshot, we view the data as a positive that Apple products remain the most desired gifts in 2013. “ We’ll find out if that was true in January, when Apple announces its holiday sales results.

Mossberg’s top picks. Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s technology columnist for more than two decades, wrote his last piece for the paper (he’s switching over to AllThingsD in January). He closed with a recap of the 12 products that he thought were the most notable. “First, the products had to improve ease of use and add value for average consumers…Second, I chose these 12 because each changed the course of digital history by influencing the products and services that followed, or by changing the way people lived and worked. In some cases, the impact of these mass-market products is still unfolding. All of these products had predecessors, but they managed to take their categories to a new level.” And those 12 products, included numerous Apple products, including the Newton MessagePad, the iPod, the iPhone, the MacBook Air and the iPad.” To those who say Mossberg is a notable Apple fanboy (think the Mossberg puppet series on Rant Puppets), he already had a response: “Some readers will complain that Apple is overrepresented. My answer: Apple introduced more influential, breakthrough products for average consumers than any other company over the years of this column.”

A desk-free computer? Patently Apple has a recap of a variety of patents that Apple has applied for and received. This week’s round up includes 51 patents awarded this week for everything from interactive maps, a flexible wraparound display for the iPhone and other mobile devices and proximity sensors to what Apple calls an “entirely new category of computer systems as compared to desktops and laptops” that includes a built-in projection system. “Such an approach may allow the computer system to be a “desk-free computer,” by allowing the computer system to be placed wherever desired, on a desk or table, but also on a shelf, on a floor, or even suspended from a wall or ceiling. Let the product speculation begin!/>/>

Kill switch. San Francisco wants Apple to make its Activation Lock security feature in iOS 7 the default setting on every device – rather than requiring users to turn it on. “When enabled, Activation Lock — which is available foriOS 7 users and requires them to activate the “Find my Phone” tracking feature — prevents the unauthorized resetting of an iPhone or iPad.” San Francisco Attorney General George Gascón said a recent survey of iPhone users convinced him that Apple should make the technology a standard on all its phones. “”Apple should be commended for leading the way and making efforts to safeguard their customers, but it is still too early to tell how effective their solution will be,” Gascon said in a statement to CNET. “Until Activation Lock is fully opt-out, it appears many iPhone owners will not have the solution enabled. This leaves iPhone users at risk as thieves cannot distinguish between those devices that have the feature enabled and those that do not.” In 2012, more than 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco were because of mobile devices, CNET notes.

That’s it. Enjoy the weekend and have a merry holiday!

If you missed last week’s edition of Apple Loop, no need to cry or pout. Here it is:

Apple Loop: ‘Vintage’ Holiday Ads, Counting China Mobile, Chrome Apps Go Mac, iPhone 5s Is Tops

Apple Loop logo designed by Laura Leddy

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