Apple to Spend $1 Billion on TV Programming: Report

The potential move of Apple into streaming video could reshape an industry which is already feeling the impact from new players like Netflix.

While Apple has not revealed any plans publicly, a report that the iPhone maker could spend a billion dollars on its own shows suggested more disruption for a sector seeing rapid changes.

The move by deep-pocketed Apple would challenge entrenched services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime, which have been increasingly challenging the established media-entertainment world of Hollywood.

Apple declined to comment on a Wall Street journal report on its billion-dollar budget for new content.

Analysts consider original, exclusive content imperative for fielding a viable video streaming service, something that Apple has yet to do despite being early to market with an Apple TV set-top box linked to the Internet.

“If Apple wants to stay relevant they have to go into the subscription streaming space, and that means original content,” said Jackdaw Research chief analyst Jan Dawson.

Analyst Paul Verna at eMarketer said video fits nicely into Apple’s business strategy: “Content is a vital missing link that could help Apple complete a powerful ecosystem of programming, devices and services,” he said.

Global streaming television king Netflix is expected to spend about $7 billion this year on content, with slightly less than half of that money going to making its shows it can distribute how and where it wishes.

Netflix recently ordered a new animated adult comedy from The Simpsons mastermind Matt Groening.

The Silicon Valley-based company is also buying comic book publisher Millarworld, creator of popular series including Kick-Ass and Kingsman.

Netflix said in a statement the deal was part of the company’s effort “to work directly with prolific and skilled creators and to acquire intellectual property and ownership of stories featuring compelling characters and timeless, interwoven fictional worlds.”

Netflix describes itself as the world’s leading internet television network, with 104 million members in more than 190 countries.

During a recent quarterly earnings call, Amazon executives once again vowed to ramp spending on original shows this year as the internet giant chases after Netflix with is Prime service.

While Amazon doesn’t reveal exact figures, its budget for shows is said to be in the billions of dollars.

Google continues to make a priority of content for YouTube, which features a subscription service along with free shared video posts.

Facebook too is rolling out a new video service offering professionally produced shows in a challenge to rivals such as YouTube, and potentially to streaming providers like Netflix.

The Facebook service called Watch will include a range of shows, from reality to comedy to live sports. Facebook has funded some of the creators to get the service going.

Apple to Spend $1 Billion on TV Programming: ReportMoney to burn
These moves comes as viewers in the US and other markets increasingly turn to on-demand internet platforms instead of “linear” television.

Hollywood powerhouse Walt Disney Company this month announced plans to launch a “multi-sport” streaming service under its ESPN brand in early 2018 and a Disney branded direct-to-consumer service in 2019.

HBO and CBS also have standalone streaming options.

Entering a market late and succeeding would be nothing new for Apple, Dawson said while discussing unconfirmed talk of the company investing in original shows.

An Apple Music service launched in a streaming radio market with dominant players, but is now second only to Spotify, the analyst noted.

Apple could get the same kind of results in streaming video, not overtaking Netflix over the short term but quickly becoming a force to be reconned with in the market, Dawson said.

While Apple has about a quarter of a trillion dollars in cash stockpiled, providing ample cash to spend on original content, such a move could distract it from the devices on which the company’s fortune rests, according to analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.

Entertainment is also a very different industry than making iPhones, and comes with film talent to manage and other challenges likely new to Apple, Enderle said.

“Entertainment is no cheap date; it is a very hands-on business,” Enderle said.

“I think that because Apple is having so much difficulty coming up with innovation in their core area, they are starting to panic and come up with ‘Hail Mary’ passes in other areas.”

Apple’s Search for a Talented Engineer Revealed in Secret Job Posting

A secret job posting from Apple has been discovered that confirms that the company is looking for a “talented engineer.” The job posting, located on a hidden Applepage, was first reported by ZDNet’s Zach Whittaker. Finding the page appears to be part of the eligibility, and the listing clearly indicates that the company is looking for analytic capabilities. The job posting said, “Hey there! You found us. We are looking for a talented engineer to develop a critical infrastructure component that is to be a key part of the Apple ecosystem.”

The job listing says that the Cupertino-based giant is looking for computer skills that can deal with “critical infrastructure component.” At the moment, it isn’t clear why Apple hid the new job posting on its website. It is being said that whoever managed to find the hidden job listing on the website could land a job at Apple. For those unaware, Apple has a dedicated job listing page where it lists all kinds of job.

Apple's Search for a Talented Engineer Revealed in Secret Job PostingIt explains that the engineer will have to deal with exabytes of data capacity, look tens of thousands of servers, and millions of disks. Notably, the secret job listing has been pulled now. Apart from explaining importance of the job role, the secret job listing also talks about the type of employee Apple is looking for.

Under key qualifications, Apple describes the type of skill it requires from the new engineer. The listing writes, “Experience designing, implementing, and supporting highly scalable applications, and web services. Comfortable working with Java 8. Familiarity with modern server technologies, and familiarity with distributed system ideas.”

The job listing further also hints that the engineer will have to work with a small team though will be provided with resources of a large company.

iPhone 8 Gesture Interface Spotted in iOS 11 Beta, Ultra-Fast Facial Recognition Tipped: Reports

iPhone 8 leaks continue to pour in steadily, and the fresh batch brings in more information on how the new iOS 11 interface will work on the smartphone’s bezel-less display without Touch ID. Reports of facial recognition being the only form of biometric authentication have surfaced again, and one report suggests the speed at which it will work. KGI thinks Apple has a significant lead over Qualcomm when it comes to 3D sensing technology. Display components of the iPhone 8 have also been leaked in photos, and finally Rosenblatt analyst Jun Zhang predicts that about 35 million to 40 million iPhone 8 will be shipped in the second half of 2018.

Now that the iPhone 8 is almost confirmed to come with a large bezel-less display and no Touch ID, iOS 11 overhaul is inevitable. Apple will have to go back to the drawing boards and see how few features like the app switcher may work on the anniversary edition iPhone. Developer Guilherme Rambo has found two videos within the iOS 11 beta that may show the app switcher will work on the iPhone 8 without the standard home button. The first video indicates that tapping at the bottom and swiping up will open the app switcher, and you can remove or switch between apps from there. He has also shareda video showing how the lock screen appears by swiping from top to bottom, while the Control Centre now comes out with a swipe to the left. The right swipe still shows the widget window, and swiping smoothly from the bottom to top will open up Settings. Whether these gestures are customisable or not remains to be seen. Also, this has been in iOS 11 for a long time, and Apple could have fine-tuned it further, so don’t expect the exact same thing to show up during the launch in September.

Recent reports point towards 3D facial recognition being the only form of authentication on the iPhone 8, abandoning the famous Touch ID altogether. Facial recognition is expected to work seamlessly on the iPhone 8, with it even working when the phone is laid flat on the ground. Now, a Korea Herald report suggests that the new authentication form will be speedy as well. “The new facial recognition scanner with 3-D sensors can deeply sense a user’s face in the millionths of a second.” This is really fast to say the least, and if these reports are true, its seamless use could be the deal breaker for its acceptance.

While Qualcomm recently demoed its 3D sensing tech, KGI Securities’ Ming Chi Kuo feels it’s still behind Apple on many fronts. In a new report obtained by 9to5Mac, the Kuo claims that Apple has a significant lead over Qualcomm, as the company won’t be making proper bulk shipments till 2019. The report states that Qualcomm is still very immature in its software and hardware areas, and a delay till 2019 is inevitable. Kuo claims that Xiaomi would be very interested in the technology, but it will still want to see how the market welcomes Apple’s 3D tech before taking the plunge itself. The report claims that while Apple’s IR transmitter’s diffractive optical element and wafer-level optical will be manufactured by TSMC, Qualcomm will use HImax’s 2-in-1 system.

Separately, SlashLeaks has now leaked iPhone 8 components including flex cables for power transfer, internal components for the Lightning cable, 3D sensing module and the display assembly. The pictures can be seen below.

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Photo Credit: SlashLeaks

Lastly, Rosenblatt analyst Jun Zhang predicts that Apple will ship 35 million to 40 million units of the iPhone 8 in the second half of this year. StreetInsider got hold of the analyst’s report, which also reiterates that Touch ID won’t arrive on the iPhone 8, and will have facial recognition instead. Zhang expects 5 million units to ship in the third quarter, 30 million to 35 million in the fourth quarter. Furthermore, the analyst estimates that 15 million of iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus will ship in Q3 with 35 million getting delivered in the fourth quarter.

iPhone 8 to Launch on September 12, 512GB Variant Expected: Reports

Apple is still silent about its annual September iPhone event, and given that August is almost ending, the anticipation continues to grow. If Apple follows tradition, then the iPhone 8, iPhone 7s, and iPhone 7s Plus will all be unveiled at an event in the first or second week of September (most likely September 6 or 12). Rumours about the anniversary edition iPhone 8 have been overflowing, and today’s leak brings more information on the possible storage variants of the OLED smartphone, and the likelihood of a September 12 event launch date as well.

Chinese tipster GeekBar claims that the iPhone 8 will come in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB storage options. While the former two have been tipped earlier, the latter 512GB storage variant is fresh but welcome information. The base variant sees storage double from last year, which offered 32GB as the starting storage point. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had earlier tipped at 64GB and 256GB as well, but he didn’t say that other options won’t be added.

Furthermore, the tipster claims that the NAND storage options will be sourced from varied suppliers. 64GB and 256GB chips will be sourced from Toshiba and SanDisk, and the 512GB chips will be sourced from Samsung and Hynix. This bump in storage is a welcome change considering 4K content is becoming increasingly popular, and the iPhone 8 will have new AR and 3D sensing features to play around with, demanding more storage.

iPhone 8 to Launch on September 12, 512GB Variant Expected: ReportsSeparately, Mac4Ever reports, citing carrier sources, that Apple will host its iPhone 8 event on September 12. The report says that its sources have already been informed about launch details to start preparing for marketing and inventory. While nothing official has been announced from Apple’s end, if this leak turns out to be true, then the three phones will go on pre-order the same week on September 15, and be made available on September 22. This presumption is based on Apple’s traditional rollout pattern, but there’s no guarantee than the Cupertino giant will stick to the same format this year.

Recent reports seem to suggest that while there won’t be any supply constraints in the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, the iPhone 8 may be available in very limited quantities at first.

The iPhone 8 is expected to bring significant improvements and breakthrough features this year, with an OLED bezel-less panel, no home button, a vertical dual camera setup with AR capabilities, a 3D sensing front and rear camera, facial recognition, wireless charging, and better waterproofing.

Walmart Partners Google to Launch Voice-Activated Shopping

Walmart is diving into voice-activated shopping. But unlike online leader Amazon, it’s not doing it alone.

The world’s largest retailer said Wednesday it’s working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items from laundry detergent to Legos for voice shopping through Google Assistant. The capability will be available in late September.

It’s Google’s biggest retail partnership – and the most personalized shopping experience it offers – as it tries to broaden the reach of its voice-powered assistant Home speaker. And it underscores Walmart’s drive to compete in an area dominated by Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo device.

“Voice shopping is becoming a more important part of everyday shopping behavior,” said Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s US e-commerce business.

The voice-activated devices are becoming more mainstream as they become more accessible. Even Apple has one coming out this year. Walmart has said Google’s investment in natural language processing and artificial intelligence will help make voice-activated shopping even more popular.

And Lore said the personalization of the partnership means people can shout out generic items like milk, bread and cheese, and Google Assistant will know exactly the brands and the size that the user wants.

Google introduced shopping to Home in February, letting people use voice to order essentials from more than 40 retailers like Target and Costco under its Google Express program. But that was far behind the Echo, available since late 2014.

Walmart, which has more stores than any other retailer and the largest share of the U.S. grocery market, is also working hard to close the gulf online between itself and Amazon.

Walmart Partners Google to Launch Voice-Activated ShoppingIt has overhauled its shipping strategy and is expanding store-curb pickup for groceries ordered online. But it’s also had to look beyond itself and form partnerships. Walmart announced Monday that it’s expanding its grocery delivery service with ride-hailing service Uber, and it’s been testing same-day delivery service with Deliv at Sam’s Club in Miami.

Amazon generally has been building its network of services on its own, using its $99-a-year Prime membership with same-day and even one-hour shipping options to develop loyalty.

It’s also been drawing in customers with its Alexa-powered devices. Amazon doesn’t give sales figures for Echo, but Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that it’s sold more than 10 million Alexa-powered Echo devices in the U.S. since late 2014. That includes the core $179 Echo as well as the less expensive and smaller Echo Dot and the portable Amazon Tap.

To be more competitive with Amazon, Google Express is scrapping the $95-a-year membership starting Wednesday, allowing shoppers to get free delivery within one to three days on orders as long as the purchase is above each store’s minimum.

Walmart is integrating its Easy Reorder feature – which has data on both store and online purchases – into Google Express. Shoppers who want to reorder their favorites have to link their Walmart account to Google Express.

With other Google Express retailers, personalization takes time as the assistant learns shoppers’ preferences, says Brian Elliott, general manager of Google Express. So the quick personalization with Walmart should make voice-activated shopping more attractive, he says.

While one of Walmart’s biggest advantages over Amazon is its massive number of stores, Amazon’s nearly $14 billion offer for Whole Foods could shake up the landscape.

Walmart says it will be tapping its 4,700 U.S. stores and its fulfillment network next year to offer more kinds of customer experiences using voice shopping. For example, shoppers can tell Google Assistant they want to pick up an order in a store. Lore said the company wants to make voice shopping as easy as possible.

“That’s why it makes sense for us to team up with Google. We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that’s the way it should be,” Lore wrote in a corporate blog post.

Independent internet analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodal, who was unaware of the Google deal at the time of the interview, says Walmart is going in the right direction, though it has a long way to go. She noted that partnerships with companies like Uber enable the discounter to get the business “up and running” and it will be able to learn a lot.

Apple’s Siri Speaker Said to Be in Production, Won’t Ship Till Later This Year

Apple is already in your pocket, on your desk and underneath your television. Soon, a device embossed with “Designed by Apple in California” may be on your nightstand or kitchen counter as well.

The iPhone-maker has started manufacturing a long-in-the-works Siri-controlled smart speaker, according to people familiar with the matter. Apple could debut the speaker as soon as its annual developer conference in June, but the device will not be ready to ship until later in the year, the people said.

The device will differ from Amazon’s Echo and Alphabet’s Google Home speakers by offering virtual surround sound technology and deep integration with Apple’s product lineup, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss products that aren’t yet public.

Introducing a speaker would serve two main purposes: providing a hub to automate appliances and lights via Apple’s HomeKit system, and establishing a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into Apple’s network of services. That would help combat the competitive threat from Google’s and Amazon’s connected speakers: the Home and Echo mostly don’t support services from Apple. Without compatible hardware, users may be more likely to opt for the Echo or Home, and therefore use streaming music offerings such as Spotify, Amazon Prime Music or Google Play rather than Apple Music.

“This will be a platform for developing Apple’s services,” says Gene Munster, a co-founder of Loup Ventures and former Apple analyst.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has emphasized Apple’s services businesses over the past 18 months as iPhone sales slowed. He expects service revenue to double by 2020 from last year’s $24 billion. A speaker may help keep customers loyal to service products such as Apple Music, a subscription music streaming offering that costs $10 per month. The speaker would likely be tucked into Apple’s “Other Products” category, which currently includes devices like the Apple Watch, Apple TV and AirPods. That set of products generated $11 billion (roughly Rs. 70,895 crores) in sales last year.

Inventec, the Taipei manufacturer that already makes the AirPod wireless headphones, will add the speaker to its Apple repertoire, the people said. Apple employees have been secretly testing the device in their homes for several months, they said. The Siri speaker reached an advanced prototype stage late last year, Bloomberg News reported at the time. An Inventec representative didn’t respond to a request for comment outside normal business hours in Taiwan.

This year’s developers conference will be the first since 2013 to introduce new hardware. Apple could announce updated iPad tablets at the conference, one of the people said. Apple last updated the 9.7-inch iPad Pro in March 2016 and hasn’t refreshed the larger 12.9-inch model since its November 2015 debut. Planned Mac updates will include refreshed versions of the MacBook and MacBook Pro with faster Intel processors, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.

Apple hopes that more advanced acoustics technology will give the speaker an edge over competitors, according to people with knowledge of the product’s development. Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, the people said. Apple has also considered including sensors that measure a room’s acoustics and automatically adjust audio levels during use, one of the people said.

Apple will also likely let third-party services build products for the speaker. Last year, Apple opened up Siri on the iPhone to the likes of Uber and Facebook, allowing a user to order a ride or send a WhatsApp message with a voice command.

Apple's Siri Speaker Said to Be in Production, Won't Ship Till Later This YearThe device will be a hub for Apple’s HomeKit home automation system, letting users control devices such as lights, door locks and window blinds. At present, an Apple TV or iPad is required to control that equipment from outside the home or automatically. The Echo and Google Home both support third-party services and smart home appliances.

Ahead of Apple’s launch, the competition has upgraded their speakers with support for making voice calls, while Amazon’s gained a touchscreen. Apple’s speaker won’t include such a screen, according to people who have seen the product.

An Apple-designed speaker with high-end sound quality that fits perfectly into the Apple ecosystem is a familiar pitch. In 2006, Apple unveiled the iPod Hi-Fi, a battery powered speaker designed to cast a shadow over the thriving iPod third-party accessory market. With its bulky size and high price point, the Hi-Fi flopped and was discontinued within 18 months of launching. With Siri and a clear hole in its ecosystem, Apple is banking that its second try at a speaker product will do better.

WWDC 2017: Amazon Prime Video Coming to Apple TV and TV App

Apple kicked off its WWDC 2017 on Monday with a keynote address at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, where CEO Tim Cook announced new updates to its four key operating systems – tvOS, watchOS, macOS, and iOS. Talking about tvOS, Apple is finally bringing Amazon Prime Video to its Apple TV, as expected.

WWDC 2017: Amazon Prime Video Coming to Apple TV and TV AppCook announced the company’s partnership with Amazon, which will now see the latter’s video subscription service part of Apple TV’s app catalogue. The mention was brief and Cook did not explicitly say when Prime Video will be made available, so you could see it as early as today, or with the next tvOS update, which the CEO has teased for later this year. Furthermore, Prime Video will be available on all Apple TV generations currently in production. It will also be coming to the TV app.

The Apple-Amazon announcement was expected since early last month, where some media reports suggested that the Prime Video app will go live this summer. One of the reasons Amazon’s service can now be part of Apple TV could be because Apple earlier this year changed its App Store policy increasing the tvOS apps size limit from 200MB to 4GB. This means larger apps will now be supported on Apple TV.

The new deal between the two companies may also mean that Amazon will soon resume selling the Apple TV streaming player on its e-commerce properties, something it has stopped doing back in 2015 alongside the Google Chromecast as it saw both the streaming players as a direct competition to its Fire TV streaming player. Note, that this bit has not been confirmed, and was said to be part of the reported deal.

WWDC 2017: Apple Unveils HomePod, Its Siri-Powered Smart Home Speaker

One of the most anticipated announcements expected from Apple was its Siri-powered home speaker, which the Cupertino-based giant finally unveiled towards the final moments of its WWDC 2017 keynote address. Apple’s newest product is called HomePod, which the company says will “reinvent music in the home”.

The Apple HomePod is a wireless speaker that promises to deliver amazing audio quality. The speaker uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjusts the audio output. The HomePod is designed to work along with Apple Music, so it essentially requires one to have a subscription to music streaming service, which will give access to over 40 million songs. Apple says “the HomePod provides deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music.”

The cylindrical-shaped HomePod is roughly 7-inches in height and features a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, an array of seven beam-forming tweeters for pure high frequency acoustics with directional control. The HomePod is powered by Apple’s A8 chip and will be available from December in Australia, the UK, and the US, which will be getting the initial batch of speakers in White and Space Grey at $349 (roughly Rs. 22,500).

apple homepod wwdc gadgets360 homepod

“Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.”

Siri Far Behind Alexa and Google Assistant, Says Ex-Apple Employee: Report

While Siri is one of the oldest voice-based virtual assistants to exist, post WWDC reactions to the voice assistant has been less than enthusiastic, with a report further highlighting reactions by a former Appleemployee as well as a developer WWDC attendee. While Amazon and Google have made waves in the home smart speaker space, the newly announced HomePod focuses more on audio quality than intelligence. A former employee blames it on Apple’s culture of prioritising on user privacy, and points out how the HomePod has a long way to go to match Amazon’s Echo and its capabilities.

A WSJ report cites a few Apple ex-employees and a developer who claimed that engineers at the company were dismayed at the launch of Amazon Echo, which showed Amazon had mastered a lot of things that Siri hadn’t yet. “Amazon had figured out how to isolate voices from background noise and have a digital assistant respond to requests from a distance—abilities Siri hadn’t yet mastered. People at Apple’s anxiety level went up a notch,” said a former member of Apple’s Siri team.

Siri’s delayed access to third party apps, and its limited accessibility is also a hindrance for Siri. Furthermore, Apple stresses too much on privacy, and is not so big on using user’s data too much. Amazon and Google, on the other hand, have been very open to third-party integration bringing many new features to its smart speakers in due course of time.

Siri Far Behind Alexa and Google Assistant, Says Ex-Apple Employee: ReportAnother ex-employee told WSJ, “In the years since, former Siri team members say, progress has been slowed by a failure to set ambitious goals, shifting strategies and a culture that prioritizes user privacy—making it difficult to personalize and improve the product. The project also has suffered from the departures of key team members, some of whom went to competitors. About a year after Mr. Jobs’s death, Apple hired Bill Stasior, an Amazon search executive, to oversee Siri. Mr. Stasior studied artificial intelligence at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but his expertise was in search rather than speech or language. This led some members of the Siri team to believe he didn’t fully appreciate the product’s original vision: to expand beyond the iPhone to third-party apps.”

Speaking of the limited and delayed access of Siri, a developer Brian Roemmele, who attended WWDC said, “People went from being happy and excited to sitting in workshops and realising, I can’t use it. Some went back to that attitude: Siri’s always going to be dumb.”

This all point to an urgent need for Apple to set ambitious goals for Siri, in order to match market competitors. Knowing Apple, it would not enter a space it wasn’t confident about, and we expect it make significant improvements to Siri. One thing Siri is better than the others is that it supports as many as 21 languages, while Alexa speaks only English and German, and Google Home works in seven languages.

Apple’s iCloud Facility in China to Be Overseen by Guizhou Province

China’s Guizhou province, where Apple has set up its first data centre in the country, plans to create a working committee chaired by communist party members to oversee the US company’s iCloud facility.

China has started to police the Internet more closely and introduced a new cyber-security law on June 1 that imposes tougher controls over data than in Europe and the United States, including mandating that companies store all data within China and pass security reviews.

The Guizhou government said on its website ( that the Apple iCloud working committee would be made up of around 10 members, such as Guizhou’s Executive Vice Governor Qin Rupei, Deputy Secretary-general Ma Ningyu and other officials.

Apple's iCloud Facility in China to Be Overseen by Guizhou Province“The provincial government has decided to form a development and coordination working committee to quicken the setting up of Apple’s iCloud project,” it said in a Chinese language statement.

An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In July, Apple said it had set up its first data centre in China, in the southern province of Guizhou, in partnership with a local Internet services company, to comply with tougher cyber-security laws. The data centre forms part of Apple’s planned $1 billion investment in the province.

China is a key market for Apple, though the US tech group has come under pressure from Chinese regulators in recent months to comply with strict local data laws and assist in curtailing access to overseas content.

In late July, Apple said it was removing virtual private network (VPN) services from its app store in China, a move that drew criticism from VPN service providers, who accuse the US company of bowing to pressure from Chinese cyber regulators.