Apple must face lawsuit over Tim Cook's China 2018 sales predictions

Shareholders who claim to have lost billions because Tim Cook failed to warn them of falling demand in China, have been told they can bring a class-action suit against Apple.

In 2019, Apple took the unusual step of revising its revenue guidance prediction down because of lower iPhone sales in China. However, a group of shareholders, led by the UK’s Norfolk County Council, now say that this was too late. They argue that CEO Tim Cook should have foreseen the issue and said so during Apple’s late 2018 financial earnings call.

During that November 2018 earnings call, Cook said that Apple was seeing what he described as sales pressure in some markets. However, he then stated that, “I would not put China in that category.”

According to Reuters, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers now says that the shareholders’ group, may bring a proposed class-action suit accusing Cook of concealing falling sales demand. Rogers said that Cook may not have known specifics, but it “strains credulity” that he would have been unaware of trade tensions and possible impact on sales.

According to Judge Rogers, the shareholders’ argument presented a “cogent and compelling inference that Cook did not act innocently or with mere negligence.”

Reuters reports that Apple has not responded to the ruling, but has previously said there is no proof that it defrauded the shareholders, or intended to.

The plaintiffs reportedly also filed unknown claims regarding sales of the iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. However, Judge Rogers dismissed both.

CVE-2020-10292

Visual Components (owned by KUKA) is a robotic simulator that allows simulating factories and robots in order toimprove planning and decision-making processes. Visual Components software requires a special license which can beobtained from a network license server. The network license server binds to all interfaces (0.0.0.0) and listensfor packets over UDP port 5093. No authentication/authorization is required in order to communicate with theserver. The protocol being used is a property protocol by RMS Sentinel which provides the licensing infrastructurefor the network license server. RMS Sentinel license manager service exposes UDP port 5093 which provides sensitivesystem information that could be leveraged for further exploitation without any kind of authentication. Thisinformation includes detailed hardware and OS characteristics.After a decryption process, a textual protocol is found which contains a simple header with the requested command,application-identifier, and some arguments. The protocol is vulnerable to DoS through an arbitrary pointerderreference. This flaw allows an attacker to to pass a specially crafted package that, when processed by theservice, causes an arbitrary pointer from the stack to be dereferenced, causing an uncaught exception thatterminates the service. This can be further contructed in combination with RVDP#710 which exploits an informationdisclosure leak, or with RVDP#711 for an stack-overflow and potential code execution.Beyond denying simulations, Visual Components provides capabilities to interface with industrial machinery andautomate certain processes (e.g. testing, benchmarking, etc.) which depending on the DevOps setup might beintegrated into the industrial flow. Accordingly, a DoS in the simulation might have higher repercusions, dependingon the Industrial Control System (ICS) ICS infrastructure.

CVE-2020-10291

Visual Components (owned by KUKA) is a robotic simulator that allows simulating factories and robots in order toimprove planning and decision-making processes. Visual Components software requires a special license which can beobtained from a network license server. The network license server binds to all interfaces (0.0.0.0) and listensfor packets over UDP port 5093. No authentication/authorization is required in order to communicate with theserver. The protocol being used is a property protocol by RMS Sentinel which provides the licensing infrastructurefor the network license server. RMS Sentinel license manager service exposes UDP port 5093 which provides sensitivesystem information that could be leveraged for further exploitation without any kind of authentication. Thisinformation includes detailed hardware and OS characteristics.After a decryption process, a textual protocol is found which contains a simple header with the requested command,application-identifier, and some arguments. The protocol leaks information regarding the receiving serverinformation, license information and managing licenses, among others.Through this flaw, attackers can retreive information about a KUKA simulation system, particularly, the version ofthe licensing server, which is connected to the simulator, and which will allow them to launch local simulationswith similar characteristics, further understanding the dynamics of motion virtualization and opening doors toother attacks (see RVDP#711 and RVDP#712 for subsequent vulnerabilities that compromise integrity andavailability).Beyond compromising simulations, Visual Components provides capabilities to interface with industrial machinery.Particularly, their PLC Connectivity feature ‘makes it easy’ to connect simulations with control systems usingeither the industry standard OPC UA or other supported vendor specific interfaces. This fills the gap of jumpingfrom simulation to real and enables attackers to pivot from the Visual Components simulator to robots or otherIndustrial Control System (ICS) devices, such as PLCs.

'iPhone 13' same size as iPhone 12, gets improved ultra wide cameras says Ming-Chi Kuo

Typically reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that the “iPhone 13” range will consist of the same four sizes as the iPhone 12, but it and 2022’s models will see significant upgrades to the Ultra Wide cameras on the higher end phones.

As the pre-orders start for the iPhone 12 mini, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is predicting a return to the regular launch schedule for “iPhone 13,” plus some first specifics about what to expect in 2021 and 2022’s iPhones.

In a note to investors seen by AppleInsider Kuo notes that “iPhone 13” range will again see four models. Each of the four is expected to be same sizes as in the current iPhone 12 range.

However, where each of the iPhone 12 models have the same Ultra Wide camera, the “iPhone 13 Pro” and “iPhone 13 Pro Max” will see an improvement. Currently the iPhone 12 Ultra Wide camera is a f/2.4, 5P lens.

If Kuo is correct, the two higher-end “iPhone 13” models will instead feature an Ultra Wide lens that is f/1.8, and 6P. Instead of the current fixed 13mm focal length, this would include variable autofocus.

According to Kuo, that improvement is to be retained for 2022’s “iPhone 14” range, too. What may change is the mix of suppliers providing components for these cameras, with Kuo predicting that Largan will manufacture the needed voice coil motors that move the lenses.

Even as the iPhone 12 range pre-orders were reportedly greater than those for the iPhone 11 models, Kup expects more for next year’s phones. He predicts that a return to the regular September unveiling of new models will be contribute to increased sales.

Plus Kuo believes that 5G will be more established by September 2021. While Apple introduced 5G with all models of the iPhone 12, the cell companies’ infrastructure for the faster service is lagging behind expectations.

Netflix tests a programmed linear TV and movie channel in France

Netflix is testing out a programmed linear content channel, similar to what you get with standard broadcast and cable TV, for the first time (via Variety). The streaming company will still be streaming said channel – it’ll be accessed via Netflix’s browser-based website – and it will be initially available in France only, having rolled out to select areas in November 5, with plans to expand to more of France through December.

The channel is called Netflix Direct, and is exclusively available to subscribers of the regular Netflix streaming service. It will show TV shows and movies from France, the U.S. and other regions, selected from Netflix’s existing content library. The reasoning behind the launch in France in particular, according to the streaming giant, is that a lot of viewers in the country tend to like watching programming without having to select what it is specifically they’re going to watch next.

Netflix previously launched a test of a tool that provided that – a ‘Shuffle’ button that would play stuff it thinks you’d like at random from its recommendation trove. That was individual per users, however – while the new Netflix Direct approach is a fixed slate of programming that’s the same for everyone who tunes in, much more like traditional TV.

For all its strengths, Netflix definitely doesn’t have the same ability to channel surf or essentially veg out and let the TV take away any decision fatigue, so this could be the answer to that. It’s definitely an interesting experiment for Netflix, but we’ll see if it catches on or expands to more geographies with different viewing preferences.

How Steve Jobs saved Apple with the online Apple Store

Alongside the return of Steve Jobs and the advent of the iMac and iPod, Apple’s first online store played a crucial role in the company’s survival and resurgence. It officially opened for business on November 10, 1997 and has been online ever since — except when Apple takes it offline to promote the launch of new products.

It wasn’t enough that Steve Jobs came back to Apple and stripped its messy range down to a few core products. The iMac wasn’t enough to turn the company around either — not by itself. While it may not have seemed it at the time, the launch of the online Apple Store on November 10, 1997 turned out to be crucial component of the company’s survival.

There’s an argument that it was born of irritation rather than anyone seeing how useful it would be. But while there is truth in that, the full story is that Apple badly needed its own online store.

Back in the 1990s, there were no bricks-and-mortar Apple Stores. You had to buy Macs through specialist dealers or through big chain stores. The chains famously employed whatever the opposite of Geniuses is, and they all pushed whichever box they got the most commission on.

Given that Apple was rarely, if ever, the most profitable sale for someone in a store, what Macs were there tended to be ignored. And you don’t run a retail store by taking up space with inventory that isn’t selling, so Apple was being stocked by fewer places.

Shortly before the launch of its own online store, Apple announced a deal with CompUSA to create what it called a store-within-a-store. It meant a higher profile for Apple than before, but it was still under someone else’s control.

A Sears store selling a Macintosh Performa back in the day. Are those washing machines behind them?

A Sears store selling a Macintosh Performa back in the day. Those are washing machines behind them.

“All that the salesman cared about was a $50 spiff,” Steve Jobs later told Walter Isaacson. “Unless we could find ways to get our message to customers at the store, we were screwed.”

There were few online stores for computers in the late 1990s, but what there was proved to drive Apple down this road though a combination of irritation and insight.

Dell

There was really only one significant online store for computers at the time, and that was Dell’s. The company didn’t design computers in the sense that Apple did, it really just packaged them, but at the time, it packaged them extremely successfully.

Dell had also circumvented the need for resellers and chain stores, by chiefly selling over the phone. Not only did it cut out the need and the cost of these other companies, it meant Dell could ask customers what they wanted and then give it to them.

Just as Apple was starting to do, Dell had got its stock of completed computers down to a minimum. “If I’ve got 11 days of inventory and my competitor has 80,” said Michael Dell at the time, “and Intel comes out with a new 450 megahertz chip, that means I’m going to get to market 69 days sooner.”

While few or no other sellers were doing much online, in 1995 Dell began to create its web store. It launched in July 1996 and by that December was earning $1 million per day.

Apple had to be aware of this success and had to see that it was a way that it too could go around resellers and get Macs in front of people. However, this was also Dell. This was the company whose owner Michael Dell famously wrote off Apple’s chances. “I’d shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders,” he said in October 1997.

And it is also the company who originally built this extremely successful online store using WebObjects — software tools created by Steve Jobs’s NeXT firm.

How Dell's hugely successful online store looked around the time Apple launched its own

How Dell’s hugely successful online store looked around the time Apple launched its own

So Apple, having bought NeXT and brought back Steve Jobs, had the talent to make a store but it also had the need if it were to make its machines as easy to buy as they were intended to use. Michael Dell’s comment came after Apple had started to develop its online store, but it definitely smarted — as you can see in video of Steve Jobs launching the Apple online store.

What Jobs says in it, though, is directed both at potential buyers — and at Michael Dell.

“In 1996, Dell pioneered the online store and Dell’s online store has become, up till now, the standard of ecommerce sites,” said Jobs. “We’re basically setting a new standard for online ecommerce with this store. [And] I guess what we want to tell you, Michael, is that with our new products and our new store and our new build-to-order manufacturing, we’re coming after you, buddy.”

Instant success

The new online Apple Store brought in $12 million of revenue in its first 30 days, for an average of $730,000 per day. That’s three-quarters of where Dell’s daily revenue had reached after its first six months.

It’s not possible to compare Apple’s online sales then with how the online store does today. Apple doesn’t release figures that would help, and the company itself is radically different today. Back in 1997, there were no services, for instance, it was all hardware sales. And while there were physical stores you could Macs in — in October 1998, Apple announced a deal with Best Buy — there were no Apple Stores.

However, there surely wouldn’t be physical Apple Stores today if the online one hadn’t succeeded and if it hadn’t helped Apple survive. Similarly, resellers were declining, so even if Apple had managed to get through the 1990s, it’s likely that there would be few physical places to buy Apple gear.

Back in the day, this was considered high resolution. A typical opening screen from the online Apple Store in its earliest days.

Back in the day, this was considered high resolution. A typical opening screen from the online Apple Store in its earliest days.

Even if it can only give a taste of how Apple has changed, though, it is possible to pick out certain figures from the company’s finances and gain at least a slight basis for comparison.

Taking Apple’s Q4 2019 earnings — the last before all of its newest services had launched and been running for at least an entire quarter — you can deduce that Apple sold $570 million worth of hardware devices every day in that period.

This means that every day, Apple typically earned 781 times what it got from the Apple Store’s initial daily revenue. And if it’s impossible to calculate what percentage of that came from the physical stores and what from online, it’s now also impossible to imagine how crucial online sales became as stores closed during the coronavirus.

Changing fortunes

The online Apple Store was key to getting Apple back up on its feet, but it’s also proved to be instrumental since the company became a born-again success.

It’s now a promotional tool as well, as Apple makes a big deal of taking down the entire store for hours when it is about to announce a new product.

While any other company would long for the world to notice when its online store is down, Apple has also used it to pull off something that surely no other company would dream of.

We no longer see the huge lines around the block as people queue up and camp out to be first to buy a new device. You can question why anyone would ever do that — though trust us, it is remarkably fun — but the optics were fantastic. News coverage never seemed to tire of showing us these lines of people, and that was free advertising that kept reminding the world that Apple was this popular.

Maybe the company saw that the furore was dying down by itself, but Apple took steps to instead have us waiting in front of our computers or iOS devices for the launches.

It’s done that by opening pre-orders ahead of the release date, and opening them at a specific time.

Nobody else gets worldwide headlines for taking their web store offline.

Nobody else gets worldwide headlines for taking their web store offline.

Now instead of the lines around the block, the news is always that devices have sold out in a very short time.

Apple’s online store is an incredible operation that usually manages to look simple. It’s hard to grasp just how many transactions go through it. But what’s easy to comprehend is that Apple owns and runs the whole process without any retailer or big chain reseller in the middle.

As it does with its hardware and software, Apple owns the whole stack in its online store and it absolutely maximises every benefit that brings.

Challenger bank Starling is out raising a new £200M funding round

Starling founder Anne Boden recently told TechCrunch that the U.K. challenger bank is on track to be profitable by Christmas, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t out raising additional capital already.

According to well-placed sources, Starling has hired Rothschild with the aim of raising a new £200 million round. The draw is its expected profitability, which one source says is already creating private equity investor interest. Starling declined to comment.

Having raised £363 million to date, including a £100 million state-aid grant, Starling now boasts 1.9 million customers. Since launching business banking in March 2018 and subsequently taking part in the U.K. government’s bounce back scheme for struggling businesses hit by the pandemic, this also now includes more than 280,000 business accounts for sole traders and small to medium sized businesses.

In our recent interview with Boden to primarily talk about her tell it all book on Starling’s founding, she told TechCrunch that her ultimate aim is to get to an initial public offering. “I didn’t do all this to sell out to a big bank,” she told me. “I’ve got my sights on an IPO. I’d very much like to do that”.

However, to just that will almost certainly require additional capital injections for the next few years to continue telling an appealing story for future public investors, which will include further U.K. expansion and making meaningful in-roads into Europe.

In the shorter term, we might also see some M&A activity. Speaking at the LendIt Fintech Europe 2020 virtual conference in October, Boden said that Starling is continuing to expand the SME side of its business and SME loans now make up the largest segment of its overall book (approaching £1.5 billion of lending). As part of this, she didn’t rule out acquiring companies in the SME lending space.

Amazon to invest $2.8 billion to build its second data center region in India

Amazon will invest about $2.8 billion in Telangana to set up a new AWS Cloud region in the southern state of India, a top Indian politician announced on Friday.

The investment will allow Amazon to launch an AWS Cloud region in Hyderabad city by mid-2022, said K. T. Rama Rao, Minister for Information Technology, Electronics & Communications, Municipal Administration and Urban Development and Industries & Commerce Departments, Government of Telangana.

The new AWS Asia Region will be Amazon’s second infrastructure region in India, Amazon said in a press release. It did not disclose the size of the investment.

“The new AWS Asia Pacific (Hyderabad) Region will enable even more developers, startups, and enterprises as well as government, education, and non-profit organizations to run their applications and serve end users from data centers located in India,” the e-commerce giant said.

“Businesses in India are embracing cloud computing to reduce costs, increase agility, and enable rapid innovation to meet the needs of billions of customers in India and abroad,” said Peter DeSantis, Senior Vice President of Global Infrastructure and Customer Support, Amazon Web Services, in a statement. “Together with our AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region, we’re providing customers with more flexibility and choice, while allowing them to architect their infrastructure for even greater fault tolerance, resiliency, and availability across geographic locations.”

The investment illustrates the opportunities Amazon, which has poured over $6.5 billion in its India operations to date and leads the cloud market in the nation, sees in the world’s second largest internet market.

“This is a big win for the state government of Telangana for attracting this level of investment,” said Jayanth Kolla, chief analyst at consultancy firm Convergence Catalyst. He told TechCrunch that the move will also help Amazon better comply with India’s data localization policy. “We could see states launch their own similar laws in the future.”

AWS has courted several high-profile businesses as customers in recent years. Some of these include automobile giant Ashok Leyland, life insurance firm Aditya Birla Capital, edtech giant Byju’s, Axis Bank, Bajaj Capital, ClearTax, Dream11, Druva, Edelweiss, Edunext, Extramarks, Freshworks, HDFC Life, Mahindra Electric, Ola, Oyo, Policybazaar, Quantela, RBL Bank, redBus, Sharda University, Swiggy, Tata Sky, and Zerodha.

More to follow…