Apple backs wide emissions disclosure rules

(Reuters) -Apple Inc on Tuesday called for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require companies to disclose far-reading emissions information such as how customers use their products, according to a tweet from Apple Vice President Lisa Jackson.

The comments by the iPhone maker mark the most specific prescription to date from a large public company about what disclosures are needed, said Veena Ramani, senior program director for Ceres, a Boston-based climate advocacy group.

The SEC last month said it will seek input on how companies might report on their greenhouse gas emissions and other climate factors.

Investors have poured money into funds that use environmental, social and governance factors to pick stocks, but a lack of common standards has made it hard to compare issuers’ operations.

Jackson, a former U.S. environmental regulator, in her tweet included a statement that Apple “believes that the SEC should issue rules to require that companies disclose third-party-audited emissions information to the public, covering all scopes of emissions, direct and indirect, and the value chain.”

An Apple spokeswoman confirmed the phrasing referred to so-called Scope 3 emissions like those resulting from the use of a company’s products by other parties. While that can be simple for technology or finance companies to provide, calls to publish the data can be controversial for other industries.

In reporting its Scope 3 emissions in January for the first time, oil major ExxonMobil Corp wrote that the data “is less certain and less consistent because it includes the indirect emissions resulting from the consumption and use of a company’s products occurring outside of its control.”

Various other business leaders have previously called for mandatory climate disclosures including Larry Fink, CEO of top investor BlackRock Inc. In February, BlackRock also urged heavy polluters to disclose their Scope 3 emissions to investors, like the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures has also recommended.

In addition, Apple was among hundreds of companies that on Tuesday pressured the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San FranciscoEditing by Bill Berkrot and Matthew Lewis

U.S. senators criticize Apple for not testifying on antitrust concerns

(Reuters) – Apple Inc is refusing to testify at an upcoming U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on competition issues related to mobile app stores, the bipartisan leaders of the panel said on Friday.

App makers long have accused Apple’s App Store for iPhones and iPads, along with Google’s Play store for Android devices, of engaging in anticompetitive behavior by requiring certain revenue sharing payments and setting strict inclusion rules. A subcommittee hearing was being planned for late April but no date has been set yet.

Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Mike Lee, a Republican, said they wrote to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook on Friday urging the company to reconsider.

“A little more than two weeks before the planned hearing, Apple abruptly declared that it would not provide any witness,” the letter said. “Apple’s sudden change in course to refuse to provide a witness to testify…is unacceptable.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple and game maker Epic Games are scheduled to square off on those issues in a federal trial beginning May 3 in California.

A spokeswoman for Klobuchar did not immediately comment on whether Google or other companies had agreed to testify at the planned subcommittee hearing.

Google has agreed to testify at the hearing, a source said. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Marguerita Choy

Exclusive: Apple’s MacBook, iPad production delays on chip shortage – Nikkei

(Reuters) – Production of some Apple Inc’s MacBooks and iPads has been postponed due to a global component shortage, the Nikkei reported on Thursday.

Chip shortages have caused delays in a key step in MacBook production, according to the report, which added that some iPad assembly was postponed because of a shortage of displays and display components. (s.nikkei.com/3uAZhI7)

Apple did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Apple to argue it faces competition in video game market in Epic lawsuit

(Reuters) – Apple Inc said it plans to argue that it faces abundant competition in the market for video game transactions to defend itself against antitrust allegations by “Fortnite” maker Epic Games, the iPhone maker said on Thursday.

Epic sued Apple last year in federal court in California, alleging the 15% to 30% commissions that Apple charges for the use of its in-app payment systems and Apple’s longstanding practice of exercising control over which apps can be installed on its devices amount to anticompetitive behavior. The dispute arose after Epic tried to implement its own in-app payment system in the popular “Fortnite” game and Apple subsequently banned the game from its App Store.

The case is to be heard in May in Oakland, California, by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will have to rule on which notion of a “market” is the correct one for analyzing Apple’s moves for signs of anticompetitive conduct.

Epic has framed its case around the idea that Apple’s iPhones, with an installed base of more than 1 billion users, represent their own distinct market for software developers. Epic has argued that Apple has monopoly power over that market because it decides how users can install software on the devices and says it abuses that power by forcing developers to deliver their software through the App Store, where developers are subject to fees on some transactions.

In a filing that Apple planned to make Thursday, the company rejected that notion and said the proper market to analyze the case is the video game transaction market, which includes platforms such as Nintendo Co Ltd and Microsoft Corp’s Xbox gaming consoles, which also limit the software that can run on their hardware and charge fees to developers.

Apple said it plans to argue that consumers have many choices on how to carry out video game transactions, including purchasing virtual tokens from game developers on other platforms such as Windows PCs and using the tokens on iPhones with no fees to the game developer.

Microsoft’s Cortana silenced as Siri gets new voice

Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant designed to compete with Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant, is to be retired on mobile.

Instead it will focus on offering productivity help in Windows 10, Outlook and Teams.

The hashtag #RIPCortana was being used on Twitter, as people reminisced – or in some cases pointed out how forgettable the assistant had been.

Meanwhile, Apple’s Siri will no longer default to a female voice in English.

The use of a female voice for virtual assistants has long been controversial for gender-typing a helpful, virtual companion.

Cortana was unveiled in 2014 as a virtual assistant for Windows phones. It was named after the advanced artificial intelligence guide in Microsoft’s then best-selling Halo game series.

Three years later, Microsoft abandoned its smartphone operating system, although Cortana remained available for iPhones and Android devices.

The death of the voice assistant on most platforms was announced last summer and in January, Microsoft ended support for Cortana integration in the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker. It offered speaker owners who used Cortana, a $50 Microsoft gift card.

Woman using voice assistant
image captionCortana failed to catch up with the popularity of Amazon Alexa and Google’s Assistant

Ben Wood, chief analyst at research firm CSS Insight said: “There was a certain inevitability to Microsoft abandoning the consumer-centric variant of Cortana. Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are the mass market voice assistants of choice, leaving little space for rivals. 

“Even the mighty Apple has struggled to get traction with Siri despite making huge investments to drive the platform forward.

“Microsoft has made a sensible decision to double down on Cortana as a platform to aid productivity gains, closely tied to its business-centric tools and services. Increasingly Cortana will become deeply integrated into specific Microsoft platforms, rather than being a generic voice assistant designed to be all things to all people.”

Female voice

Rival Apple has added two new voices to its assistant Siri, as well as eliminating the default female voice in the latest version of iOS. 

In 2019 a report by UNESCO suggested that using female voices by default for voice assistants “sends a signal that women are obliging, docile and eager-to-please helpers available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command”.

Apple said of its decision to put the onus on users to choose the voice of its assistant: “This is a continuation of Apple’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”

In some countries and languages, Siri already defaults to a male voice.

IATA says travel pass app to launch on Apple mid-April

DUBAI (Reuters) – Global airline industry body IATA said on Wednesday a digital travel pass for COVID-19 test results and vaccine certificates would be launched on the Apple platform in mid-April.

The digital travel pass, currently in the testing phase, had been planned to be launched by the end of March.

IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East Kamil Alawadhi said it was expected to launch on the Apple platform around April 15, and later for the Android platform.

“But the application will only achieve its success once airlines, different countries, airports adopt it,” Alawadhi said.

UK-based carrier Virgin Atlantic said on Friday it would trial the IATA app on its London to Barbados route from April 16. Barbados has said it will accept the pass at its border, one of the first countries to accept a digital pass instead of paper documentation.

IATA has said its travel pass will help speed up check-ins.

“A huge amount of airlines have requested to be on board,” Alawadhi said.

Apple launches its contactless payment service in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Apple Inc. introduced its contactless payment service in South Africa on Tuesday, as the global tech giant looks to cash in on the mobile payments boom in the country.

The use of digital finance and payments systems has surged in South Africa and elsewhere as the coronavirus crisis has prompted a shift towards e-commerce and contactless payments.

Apple Pay has joined Samsung’s digital wallet offering, Samsung Pay, which was launched in South Africa in 2018.

Apple said it had launched the service without giving details.

The service is available via three South African banks, namely Absa Group, Nedbank Group and Discovery Bank, which is part of the Discovery group.

Exclusive: Apple card, underwriter Goldman Sachs committed no fair lending violations

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York’s Department of Financial Services on Tuesday said it concluded its investigation into Apple’s credit card and its underwriter Goldman Sachs Group Inc and found no evidence of unlawful discrimination against applicants under the fair lending law.

The investigation included reviewing thousands of pages of records submitted by Goldman and Apple, interviews with witnesses of Apple card applicants and data for roughly 400,0000 Apple card applicants from New York state.

Abu Dhabi funds invest $150 million in Telegram messaging app

DUBAI (Reuters) – Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala Investment Co and Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners, part-owned by Mubadala, said on Tuesday they had invested a combined $150 million in messaging app Telegram.

Mubadala invested $75 million in five-year, pre-initial public offering (IPO) bonds of Telegram, while Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners invested a further $75 million.

“Telegram’s user base has reached a critical mass that places it amongst global tech giants,” Mubadala executive Faris Sohail Faris al-Mazrui said in a statement.

“Telegram is well-positioned for an inflection point that will transform it into a leading global technology company.”

Telegram, along with messaging app Signal, have seen an increase in users this year amid privacy concerns with larger rival Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

Launched in 2013, Telegram has 500 million monthly users, according to Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners.

Telegram, already headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, will open an office in Abu Dhabi following the new investment, Mubadala said.

Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners is a Mubadala joint venture with U.S. investment company Falcon Edge Capital.

Mubadala, which manages more than $230 billion in assets, is UAE’s second-biggest state investor after Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Both have invested in technology, with Mubadala contributing $15 billion to SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund in 2017.

Mubadala last year bought a 1.85% stake in Reliance Industries’ digital unit, Jio Platforms, for $1.2 billion.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, executives against Epic Games

(Reuters) – Apple Inc’s CEO Tim Cook, software chief Craig Federighi and other executives were named on a tentative list of witnesses in the software giant’s case against Epic Games, a court filing dated March 19 showed.

App Store Vice President Matt Fischer and Apple Fellow Phil Schiller were also named on the list submitted to the U.S. District Court Northern District of California Oakland Division, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The iPhone maker has been at loggerheads with Epic Games, the creator of the popular game Fortnite, which last year tried to avoid a 30% fee which Apple charges developers on the App Store by launching its own in-app payment system. The move prompted Apple to ban Fortnite from its store.

In a separate court filing, Epic Games listed its founder and Chief Executive Tim Sweeney among its own witnesses in the case.

Apple did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, but told Bloomberg here in a statement that it felt “confident the case will prove that Epic purposefully breached its agreement solely to increase its revenues.”

A direct message to Epic Games on one of its official Twitter handles did not elicit an immediate response.