Apple takes Swatch to court over ‘Tick Different’ ads

Apple has filed a complaint against Swatch in a Swiss court over the use of the phrase Tick Different in a marketing campaign.
  
Apple has filed a complaint against Swatch in a Swiss court over the use of the phrase Tick Different in a marketing campaign.
 
Swatch is using the slogan to market a wristwatch containing a contactless payment chip. Apple says the phrase unfairly references its Think Different campaign, which ran in the 1990s.
 
According to Swiss news site Watson, Swatch chief executive Nick Hayek said the similarity was purely coincidental. He said the slogan was a nod to one of its own campaigns from the 1980s: “Always different, always new.”
 
Apple used Think Different in its adverts from 1997 to 2002, in what was thought to be a response to IBM’s Think ad campaign. A 1998 television advert, featuring black-and-white images of historical figures such as Einstein and Gandhi, won an Emmy.
 
In the complaint to the Swiss Federal Administrative Court, Apple’s lawyers Lenz & Staehelin said the tagline was long considered “the core of the Apple brand”.
 
Legal experts say that, to win the case, Apple must show that Swatch’s use of the phrase Tick Different provokes an association with Apple products in the minds of at least 50% of consumers. A similar complaint lodged at the same time with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property was rejected.
 
Swatch was granted trademark status for the phrase Tick Different in the US in 2015. It also has the trademark for the slogan in Switzerland. 
 
This is not the first time the two companies have clashed. In September last year, the UK Intellectual Property Office upheld Swatch’s opposition to Apple’s efforts to trademark “iWatch” in the UK. It ruled that the term was too close to “iSwatch” and “Swatch”.
 
 

Huawei chief dismisses usefulness of smartwatches

Eric Xu, chief executive of Chinese tech firm Huawei has said he doesn’t see the point in smartwatches.

 
Eric Xu, chief executive of Chinese tech firm Huawei has said he doesn’t see the point in smartwatches.
 
This is despite the fact the company launched a device during the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. He was responding to a question during the firm’s analyst summit in Shenzhen, at which he was asked if smartphones are dying because of wearable tech.
 
Mr Xu said: “I’ve never figured out why we need to wear smartwatches when everything we need is on our phones.”
 
Mr Xu, who is one of three rotating CEOs at Huawei, each serving six months at a time, is also reported by Forbes to have said: “I’m not a man who wears watches, and I’ve never been optimistic about this market.” 

His comments have not come as a surprise to some in the industry.
 

“Smartwatches are a solution looking for a problem, rather than being a game-changer,” Ben Wood, an analyst at tech consultancy CCS Insight said.
 
Mr Wood also praised Mr Xu’s honesty, saying: “It’s one view of just one of the three chief executives at Huawei.”
 
The smartwatch sector has been dominated by tech firms such as Apple and Samsung.
 
However, fashion and luxury watch manufacturers also announced their interest in the devices at the recent Baselworld trade show. Brands such as Guess, Montblanc and Movodo, all revealed plans for new Android Wear smartwatches during the event. They join TAG Heuer and Fossil, which operates a portfolio of watch brands including Michael Kors, Skagen and Armani Exchange.
 
Mr Wood said there has been a lot of progress since the early offerings created by “middle aged engineers” in what he described as a “sea of sameness.” He added: “2017 is a pivotal year for smartwatches with lots of new launches at the end of this year. That doesn’t guarantee success, but with a lot of them, we’ll see if people want them.”
 
 

Apple Watch ‘not syncing’ in cheap deal

Some customers who purchased the latest Apple Watch for £69 ($86) under a deal offered by Vitality Insurance are complaining that their activity data is not being uploaded by the firm’s app.
  
Some customers who purchased the latest Apple Watch for £69 ($86) under a deal offered by Vitality Insurance are complaining that their activity data is not being uploaded by the firm’s app.
 
If certain levels of activity are not logged every month customers are charged extra for the device. The Apple Watch usually costs £369 in the UK. The firm said a small number of customers were affected and some had synced their devices incorrectly.
 
Vitality declined to give figures of how many had taken up the offer. Under the deal, customers who do not submit enough activity points per month have to pay an extra sum of up to £12.50 every time they fall behind. The contract lasts for two years.
 
Dietitian Anna Holt, from Winchester, said she and her partner had both taken up the offer, and while his data had synced, hers had not. She was advised to email screenshots of her activity data to the customer service team, she said.
 
“It defeats the object,” she said. “There seem to be a lot of others complaining about it online.” Overnight, her device suddenly started syncing, she said.
 
There is no issue with the Apple product itself. The Vitality UK app, which has a number of features for customers alongside tracking the Apple Watch data, has a large number of poor reviews on the app store and the majority of the 667 ratings it has received so far give it one star, the lowest score.
 
One reviewer complained in November that only steps and not running data were syncing while another said on 10 January that steps were only being recorded as zero. “I have to constantly email customer service to get them to update it manually,” they wrote. Another described the app as “well-intentioned but muddled, frustrating, constantly changing and usually not working”.
 
 
 

Dongle dilemma provokes Apple price cut

A tweet posted shortly after Apple’s recent Macbook launch event underlined the absurdity: Apple now sells 17 different types of dongle.

  
A tweet posted shortly after Apple’s recent Macbook launch event underlined the absurdity: Apple now sells 17 different types of dongle.
 
In its ever-escalating war against connectivity ports, Apple’s latest computers do away with the SD card port, a full-size USB port, and the HDMI port. Instead, you’ll need a dongle to convert those “legacy” connectors, as Apple put it on Friday, into the new, smaller USB-C port.
 
“We recognize that many users, especially pros, rely on legacy connectors to get work done today and they face a transition,” the company said in a statement, without acknowledging that Apple’s newest iPhone, released just last month, is one such “legacy” device – without a dongle (or a different cable, sold separately), you can’t connect Apple’s new smartphone to Apple’s new laptop. “We want to help them move to the latest technology and peripherals, as well as accelerate the growth of this new ecosystem.”
 
That help will be a decent discount on the price of the dongles – it calls them adapters – until the end of this year. The most popular one is likely to be the USB to USB-C adapter – which will be $9, down from $19. For connecting iPhones (both new and old), you’ll need a $19 Lightning to USB dongle – although you could use an old Lightning to USB cable if you bought the USB to USB-C adapter. Keeping up?
 
It’s an acknowledgement that Apple’s pro users aren’t exactly thrilled with the latest offering from the company considered to offer the gold standard in laptops. The bigger issue here, and one that was expertly discussed in a Medium post by technology journalist Owen Williams, is what many see as a muddle at the heart of Apple’s newest products. For a company that rightly prides itself on creating products that “just work”, it’s literally descended into something of a tangled mess. Apple has, Mr Williams argued, created computers that lack a core selling point. For pro users, the types that use their Macs for graphic design and video editing, the new range only serves to take away functionality existing Macbooks provide.
 
If you’re not a pro user, that’s fine. But along with Apple’s announcement of new hardware came the news that the prices were going up. Those factors combined mean the dongle issue, one Apple might have got away with in the past, has caused added frustration to the faithful who had been waiting for a serious Macbook upgrade for some time. Dongles get lost, forgotten and broken. They’re an added source of vulnerability when it comes to things accidentally being pulled out when uploading some data, corrupting the lot.
 
The Macbook future, at least for a short while, is a rag-tag spaghetti junction of dongles strewn across a desk or stuffed into a bag. In offices around the world, inboxes will fill with passive aggressive requests for “whoever took my iPhone dongle” to “please put it back where you found it, no questions asked”. And when something doesn’t work, you’ll now need to ascertain: is it the device that’s broken? Or the cable? Or the port? Or the dongle?
 
But hold up. Apple has form here, and history mostly proves them right. Where Apple goes, others normally follow. Earlier Macbook models already did away with ethernet ports and the CD/DVD drive – a move which seemed absurd at the time, but I’d argue Apple was ultimately exonerated. When was the last time you put a CD into your computer? So in time, the accessories we use every day will become USB-C as standard, no question about that, and the dongles will no longer be needed. But in the short term, Apple is left with a product that that no longer caters to either end of the market. Data suggests schools, parents and bosses are looking to Google’s cheaper Chromebooks, which this year began outselling MacBooks.
 
And if we’re looking at MacBooks as being as part of the bigger Apple planet, we’re left with a company that appears to be behind in many areas. Its iPhone is still king, but sales have been in decline. Apple doesn’t have any virtual reality hardware. It doesn’t have any augmented reality hardware. Or a car – autonomous, electric or otherwise. In artificial intelligence, Apple’s Siri is considered to be the least smart of the mainstream smart assistants, and unlike Google and Amazon, it can’t yet be found in a family-friendly home device.
 
Tim Cook appears to be throwing money at the problem(s). Spending on research and development has ballooned in the past three years, though Mr Cook is staying typically mum about what exactly the company is working on – only to tell worried investors that his company has the “strongest pipeline that we’ve ever had and we’re really confident about the things in it”.
 
Apple wasn’t the first to market with the smartphone, not even close, but it went on to define the industry and produce the most profitable piece of technology ever made. It could do that again and again in these new areas. As the world’s richest company, it has time and resources on its side. But with that in mind, couldn’t it afford to pop a dongle or two in the box to make its present-day customers a little happier?
 
 

Apple raises computer prices in UK

Apple has increased the prices of its laptop and desktop computers in the UK by hundreds of pounds.
  
Apple has increased the prices of its laptop and desktop computers in the UK by hundreds of pounds.
 
On Thursday, the company unveiled new Macbook Pro laptops, with prices similar to the US after currency conversion and addition of UK VAT. But the company also increased the prices of its older computer products, including the three-year-old Mac Pro, by hundreds of pounds.
 
One analyst said consumers should expect further price increases. “Apple has to recalibrate prices after significant currency fluctuations, and since the EU referendum, UK prices are out of sync with the dollar,” said Patrick O’Brien, analyst at the Verdict Retail consultancy. “Apple has taken the hit up until now. While price increases won’t look good to the consumer, it’s difficult to blame Apple. Once you strip out UK sales tax (VAT) and the currency conversion, the new UK prices could still be viewed as fair.”
 
A number of technology companies have increased their prices in the UK, reflecting the lower value of the pound. Apple’s least expensive laptop – the 13in Macbook Air, last updated in March 2015 – now costs £949, up from £849. Its Mac Pro desktop computer – last updated in December 2013 – now costs £2,999, up from £2,499.
 
“Apple suggests product prices internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, local import laws, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business,” the company said. “International prices are not always comparable to US suggested retail prices.”

 
Rival Microsoft has already announced UK price increases for some of its business services. Earlier in October, the company said some service prices would go up by 22% in 2017, reflecting the pound’s weakened value against the euro.
 
“We periodically assess the impact of local pricing of our products and services to ensure there is reasonable alignment across the region and this change is an outcome of this assessment,” the company said.
 
Mr O’Brien said it was “inevitable” that more companies would increase the prices of products and services. “Retailers are struggling with increased costs to import goods, and it’s something they cannot afford to swallow themselves,” he said. “We will definitely see further price rises, so if people are in the market for big-ticket items such as laptops, it might be a wise idea to buy now rather than later.”
 
 

 

Apple ‘leaks its own Macbook Pro laptop revamp’

Apple appears to have leaked images of its next-generation laptop ahead of a press conference on Thursday.
  
Apple appears to have leaked images of its next-generation laptop ahead of a press conference on Thursday.
 
The photos support claims that the Macbook Pro will include a panel above its keyboard that replaces physical function keys with a thin display showing touch-sensitive text and graphics, and a fingerprint sensor. The images were discovered in an update to the MacOS operating system and first appeared on the MacRumors news site.
 
Such “accidents” are not uncommon. In September, Apple tweeted and then deleted a video showing off the iPhone 7’s new features ahead of its launch. Earlier in April, it referred to MacOS on its website two months before officially revealing it was rebranding the software from its earlier name of OS X.
 
The company’s chief executive, Tim Cook, notably promised to “double down on secrecy on products” in 2012 after earlier leaks. But the company is far from being the only one to have problems with the issue.
 
In the past two months alone: Images and specifications for Google’s Pixel smartphones were posted online by the UK retailer Carphone Warehouse and the US network Verizon before they had been officially revealed. China’s LeEco published details of new TVs and handsets on its own website weeks ahead of a big-budget event organised in the US to unveil them. Blackberry revealed details off its DTEK60 smartphone a month early when it added a page named “specifications-a-donotpublish.html” to its website. Official product shots for Huawei’s Mate 9 and HTC’s Bolt handsets were obtained and published on Twitter by Venturebeat’s Evan Blass – both products have yet to be formally announced.
 
Conspiracy theorists have speculated that such leaks could be orchestrated by the manufacturers to boost publicity. 

But one expert has doubts that is true.
 

“The leaks are massively damaging as these companies want to have their ‘wow moments’ when products are unveiled, and an explosion of media coverage, rather than a more tepid response because the details are known in advance,” said Ben Wood from CCS Insight. “But it seems to have become virtually impossible for any large company to keep new tech products under wraps. The only recent time such leaks have worked in a company’s favour was when it emerged from China that the iPhone 7 was not going to have a dedicated headphone jack. That helped Apple, as it meant people were less shocked and kind of accepted it was going to be the case when it was confirmed.”
 
 
 

Swatch succeeds in trademark case over Apple ‘iWatch’

Swiss watchmaker Swatch has successfully opposed Apple’s registration of the trademark “iWatch” in the UK.
  
Swiss watchmaker Swatch has successfully opposed Apple’s registration of the trademark “iWatch” in the UK.
 
The UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) upheld Swatch’s opposition, which was filed in March 2014. Swatch said the name “iWatch” was too similar to its own trademarks for the words “iSwatch” and “Swatch”. And by the time in launched its smartwatch, in 2015, Apple had decided to call its product “Apple Watch”.
 
But should the California-based company wish to use the name “iWatch” in the UK at some point in future, it can now do so only with certain products. These include computer software and computer accessories – but not computer hardware, monitors, audio and video devices or cameras. The IPO’s decision follows a hearing in April.
 
“This decision shows the difficulty global brands can have when it comes to launching a new product around the world,” said Sharon Daboul, a trademark lawyer at law firm EIP. “Trademarks are territorial, which means that a trademark must be available for registration in every country of interest.”
 
Not being able to secure the iWatch trademark around the world would have been a “key factor”, Ms Daboul added, in Apple’s decision not to use the name for its smartwatch.
 
 
 

HP buys Samsung’s $1bn printer business

US computer giant HP has struck a deal to take over Samsung’s $1bn (£750m) printer business.

 
US computer giant HP has struck a deal to take over Samsung’s $1bn (£750m) printer business.
 
HP said the acquisition would help it to “disrupt and reinvent” the $55bn copier industry, a segment that “hasn’t innovated in decades”. It is buying a big printing presence in Asia, as well as Samsung’s laser printing technology and patents.
 
The deal comes days after HP’s sister company sold its software business to rising UK tech champion Micro Focus. Hewlett-Packard split into two businesses last year: HP Inc, which focuses on printers and computers; and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which sold its software business to focus on data storage.
 
“When we became a separate company just 10 months ago, it enabled us to become nimble and focus on accelerating growth and reinventing industries,” said Dion Weisler, chief executive of HP Inc.
 
HP Inc said: “Copiers are outdated, complicated machines with dozens of replaceable parts requiring inefficient service and maintenance agreements.” It added that customers were frequently frustrated with broken copiers and the deal would help HP invest in better technology.
 
Samsung’s printer business made $1.4bn in revenue last year and includes more than 6,500 printing patents as well as nearly 1,300 staff with expertise in laser printer technology. Meanwhile, shares in Samsung fell 9% after it urged customers to hand in Galaxy Note 7 phones as they risk exploding.
 
 

UK tech firm swoops on HP software unit in £6.6bn deal

UK tech firm Micro Focus is buying the software business of a division of Hewlett-Packard for $8.8bn (£6.6bn).

 
UK tech firm Micro Focus is buying the software business of a division of Hewlett-Packard for $8.8bn (£6.6bn).
 
The deal makes Micro Focus one of the UK’s biggest tech companies, with total annual revenues of $4.5bn (£3.4bn). It is acquiring assets from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), including former UK tech champion Autonomy which HP bought in an ill-fated deal in 2011. Micro Focus was promoted to the FTSE 100 last week, replacing ARM after it was bought by Japan’s Softbank.
 
A string of acquisitions has turned Micro Focus, based in Berkshire, England, from being a relatively small player to being worth over £5bn, with revenues doubling in 2015. Shares in Micro Focus closed 14.5% higher at £22.38 after jumping as much as 21%, making it the biggest riser on the FTSE 100.
 
Kevin Loosemore, Micro Focus executive chairman, said the deal marked a significant milestone for the company. Mr Loosemore said he approached Hewlett Packard Enterprise in February about a deal and was not put off by the market turbulence that followed the Brexit vote in the UK. HPE has more than 50,000 customers including many of the biggest US companies.

 
For Hewlett-Packard it is part of a dramatic downsizing from having been a giant of the computer industry with annual revenues of more than $100bn. Under chief executive Meg Whitman the group has been stripped down to what she believes is its core strengths. HPE was one part of Hewlett-Packard which split into two last year. The other part, HP Inc, focuses on computers and printers. The software spinoff follows HPE’s announcement of the sale of its business services division to CSC for $8.5bn.
 
“We are taking another important step in achieving the vision of creating a faster-growing, higher-margin, stronger cash flow company well positioned for our customers and for the future,” said Ms Whitman.
 
The sale is also being seen as a way for Hewlett-Packard to finally shed itself of its ill-fated purchase of Autonomy. After the takeover, Hewlett-Packard wrote off about three-quarters of Autonomy’s value, claiming that “accounting misrepresentations” had led it to overpay for the firm. Autonomy denied that, and a slew of legal action then followed. Its founder, Mike Lynch, told the Financial Times that the deal “was a good thing”.
 
“They can’t really screw it up any more than it was. Hopefully there are still some gems in there,” he told the paper.
 
 

 

Samsung Gear S3 watches get bigger screens and batteries

Samsung has added bigger screens and batteries, and more scratch-resistant glass to its latest two smartwatches.
  
Samsung has added bigger screens and batteries, and more scratch-resistant glass to its latest two smartwatches.
 
The higher-end version of the Gear S3 can now connect directly to 4G mobile networks – its predecessor was limited to 3G. Other firms are also announcing new smartwatches at Berlin’s Ifa tech show, including Asus, Withings and Fossil.
 
They do so shortly after the sector experienced its first drop in demand, according to a recent report. IDC said shipments of smartwatches were 32% lower in the April-to-June quarter than they were during the same period in 2015.
Much of this was, however, due to a decline in sales of Apple’s Watch, which had been on sale for a year and has yet to receive an update.  
Both versions of Samsung’s watch now feature a 1.3in (3cm) circular screen – a slight improvement on the 1.2in dimension of last years’ line-up.
 
This is made possible, in part, by boosting the battery capacity of both to 380mAh. The firm says that should deliver up to four days of life between charges. Only the Frontier version of the Gear S3 supports 4G, which would involve a mobile data contract. The Classic option relies on a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone.
 
The devices are also the first confirmed to use Corning’s new Gorilla Glass SR+, which is said to offer similar scratch resistance to sapphire. As before, the devices run on the Tizen operating system and can buy goods via the Samsung Pay mobile wallet service. But they now have the ability to mimic the signal produced by the magnetic strips of credit and debit cards, meaning they can be used when stores do not have NFC (near-field communication) pay terminals.
 
Despite these upgrades, one expert suggested it was improvements to the styling of their buttons and case that were most significant.
 

“It’s really minor detailing, but on someone’s wrist the devices immediately look more like classic watches and less like the geek-ware,” said Ben Wood from the CCS Insight. “But the big question is: Do consumers want ‘full-touch’ watches? We believe that the smart analogue watch is the area where there’s a bigger opportunity.”
 
Nokia’s Withings division is among those taking this latter approach. Rather than seek to put a touchscreen on people’s wrists, its Activite devices combine a standard quartz clock-movement with fitness tracking sensors that send readings to smartphones. The firm has yet to make an official announcement, but banners at Ifa indicate its latest model adds a heart rate sensor to the mix.
 

Asus, however, is sticking with touchscreens and Google’s Android Wear operating system. Its new ZenWatch 3 has a circular face, marking a shift from earlier square designs. The 1.4in display is larger than Samsung’s. However, the device has a lower water resistance rating and no way to connect directly to mobile networks.

 
“Asus and others face the same challenge with smartwatches as they do with smartphones,” said Mr Wood. “Apple and Samsung’s marketing budgets outgun them and risk obliterating consumer interest.”