Popular iPad Drawing App ‘Linea Sketch’ Gets Major Feature Update

Popular iPad sketching app Linea from The Iconfactory has been renamed to Linea Sketch and updated with multiple new features in 2.0 update that was released this morning.

There are new Templates and Grids in the app, including Notepad options with wide and narrow rules for note taking and new storyboarding templates. Existing app design templates have been updated for Apple’s newest devices, and there is a new small dot grid available.

The previous version of Linea was limited to landscape mode, but the new update adds support for portrait orientation so you can draw in either landscape or portrait modes. New sketches are created using the iPad’s current orientation, and all templates support the new portrait orientation.

Images can now be imported from the camera, photo library, clipboard, or a file browser app, and imported images can be added to a layer for editing or tracing.

There’s also a new ZipLine tool for creating straight lines and polygons, a new scissors tool for creating selections in the Layers panel, and support for new gestures. You can resize selections by dragging with the orange handles or rotate using two fingers.

Linea Sketch supports several iOS 11 features following the update, including Drag and Drop and Split View multitasking, which allows it to be used alongside another app.

Linea Sketch can be downloaded from the App Store for $4.99 for a limited time, a 50 percent discount off of the regular price. [Direct Link]
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Apple’s autonomous vehicle fleet has nearly doubled in the last two months

Apple seems to be ramping up its autonomous vehicle efforts, nearing doubling the number of vehicles in its fleet since January.

The company now has 45 autonomous vehicles in California registered with the DMV, according to the Financial Times. This makes Apple’s AV fleet the second largest in the state of California, outsized only by General Motors.

In April 2017, Apple received its first permit to test three autonomous vehicles. By January of this year, the company was testing 27 autonomous vehicles, and in just two months the company has nearly doubled its efforts, with plans to start testing vehicles in Arizona.

That said, regulatory hurdles may be rising. On Sunday night, one of Uber’s autonomous test vehicles was involved in an accident, fatally colliding with a pedestrian in Tempe Arizona.

This is the first time an AV accident has resulted in a human death, and Uber has suspended testing of its fleet in all the cities where it operates.

In the wake of this incident, regulators may take a more measured approach to deployment.

Apple, IBM add machine learning to partnership with Watson-Core ML coupling

Apple and IBM may seem like an odd couple, but the two companies have been working closely together for several years now. That has involved IBM sharing its enterprise expertise with Apple and Apple sharing its design sense with IBM. The companies have actually built hundreds of enterprise apps running on iOS devices. Today, they took that friendship a step further when they announced they were providing a way to combine IBM Watson machine learning with Apple Core ML to make the business apps running on Apple devices all the more intelligent.

The way it works is a customer builds a machine learning model using Watson, taking advantage of data in an enterprise repository to train the model. For instance, a company may want to help field service techs point their iPhone camera at a machine and identify the make and model to order the correct parts. You could potentially train a model to recognize all the different machines using Watson’s image recognition capability.

The next step is to convert that model into Core ML and include it in your custom app. Apple introduced Core ML at the Worldwide Developers Conference last June as a way to make it easy for developers to move machine learning models from popular model building tools like TensorFlow, Caffe or IBM Watson to apps running on iOS devices.

After creating the model, you run it through the Core ML converter tools and insert it in your Apple app. The agreement with IBM makes it easier to do this using IBM Watson as the model building part of the equation. This allows the two partners to make the apps created under the partnership even smarter with machine learning.

“Apple developers need a way to quickly and easily build these apps and leverage the cloud where it’s delivered. [The partnership] lets developers take advantage of the Core ML integration,” Mahmoud Naghshineh, general manager for IBM Partnerships and Alliances explained.

To make it even easier, IBM also announced a cloud console to simplify the connection between the Watson model building process and inserting that model in the application running on the Apple device.

Over time, the app can share data back with Watson and improve the machine learning algorithm running on the edge device in a classic device-cloud partnership. “That’s the beauty of this combination. As you run the application, it’s real time and you don’t need to be connected to Watson, but as you classify different parts [on the device], that data gets collected and when you’re connected to Watson on a lower [bandwidth] interaction basis, you can feed it back to train your machine learning model and make it even better,” Naghshineh said.

The point of the partnership has always been to use data and analytics to build new business processes, by taking existing approaches and reengineering them for a touch screen.

“This adds a level of machine learning to that original goal moving it forward to take advantage of the latest tech. “We are taking this to the next level through machine learning. We are very much on that path and bringing improved accelerated capabilities and providing better insight to [give users] a much greater experience,” Naghshineh said.

Amazon Kindle App for iOS Gains Support for iPad’s Split View

The Amazon Kindle app for iOS devices, which is designed to allow Amazon-purchased ebooks to be read on the iPhone and iPad, was today updated with several new features.

On compatible iPad models, there’s now support for Split View, so you can use the Amazon Kindle app side-by-side with other apps for multitasking while reading.

In addition to Split View support, today’s update adds continuous scrolling, a feature that lets you scroll through books like you would an iPad. You can activate the option by going to Settings and turning on continuous scrolling. Once enabled, the feature can be turned on and off using the Aa menu in your book.

Amazon has also added a feature to pull down in your book library to refresh the list of available books, and there are new Kindle dictionaries for Arabic.

What’s New

– Split view on iPad is here! Resize the app to multi-task while reading without ever switching context.

– Try scrolling through your book – just like a web page. Turn continuous scrolling on via Settings, then easily turn it on and off from the Aa menu in your book. Tell us what you think.

– Pull down in the library to refresh your list of books.

– We’ve added Kindle dictionaries for Arabic.

Amazon Kindle can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]
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How to Enable Automatic Reader View in Safari for iOS

Safari for iOS has a nifty built-in “Reader” feature that’s designed to allow Safari users to read online articles with a distraction-free design that tucks away ads and other visual clutter on supported sites.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

You can tap the Reader icon whenever you’re reading through an article to activate this mode, but there’s also a way to turn it on for all articles on a specific website or all supported articles on the web.

  1. Open up Safari.
  2. Navigate to a favorite website like MacRumors.com.
  3. Click on an article.
  4. In the navigation bar at the top, where it says “Reader View Available,” tap and hold on the icon that looks like three lines.

From here, you’ll see a pop that says “Automatic Reader View,” with options to either enable Automatic Reader View on the website you’re currently visiting or on all websites.

With this feature enabled, all articles that you click on for a specific website (or all websites if you chose that option) will be displayed in Reader View by default.

You can also use Reader View on the Mac too, and your Automatic Reader preferences for Mac can be accessed by going to Preferences in the Safari Mac app and choosing “Reader” under general. You can also turn Reader on for all articles on a particular webpage by right clicking or clicking and holding on the Reader icon while visiting a website.
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Apple Is Using a Secret Facility to Do Something It’s Never Done Before

Apple Inc. is designing and producing its own device displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility near its California headquarters to make small numbers of the screens for testing purposes, according to people familiar with the situation.

The technology giant is making a significant investment in the development of next-generation MicroLED screens, say the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. MicroLED screens use different light-emitting compounds than the current OLED displays and promise to make future gadgets slimmer, brighter and less power-hungry.

The screens are far more difficult to produce than OLED displays, and the company almost killed the project a year or so ago, the people say. Engineers have since been making progress and the technology is now at an advanced stage, they say, though consumers will probably have to wait a few years before seeing the results.

The ambitious undertaking is the latest example of Apple bringing the design of key components in-house. The company has designed chips powering its mobile devices for several years. Its move into displays has the long-term potential to hurt a range of suppliers, from screen makers like Samsung Electronics Co., Japan Display Inc., Sharp Corp. and LG Display Co. to companies like Synaptics Inc. that produce chip-screen interfaces. It may also hurt Universal Display Corp., a leading developer of OLED technology.

Display makers in Asia fell after Bloomberg News reported the plans. Japan Display dropped as much as 4.4 percent, Sharp tumbled as much as 3.3 percent and Samsung slid 1.4 percent. Shares in Apple were down 1.3 percent during early trading at 5:21 a.m. in New York.

Controlling MicroLED technology would help Apple stand out in a maturing smartphone market and outgun rivals like Samsung that have been able to tout superior screens. Ray Soneira, who runs screen tester DisplayMate Technologies, says bringing the design in-house is a “golden opportunity” for Apple. “Everyone can buy an OLED or LCD screen,” he says. “But Apple could own MicroLED.”

None of this will be easy. Mass producing the new screens will require new manufacturing equipment. By the time the technology is ready, something else might have supplanted it. Apple could run into insurmountable hurdles and abandon the project or push it back. It’s also an expensive endeavor.

Ultimately, Apple will likely outsource production of its new screen technology to minimize the risk of hurting its bottom line with manufacturing snafus. The California facility is too small for mass-production, but the company wants to keep the proprietary technology away from its partners as long as possible, one of the people says. “We put a lot of money into the facility,” this person says. “It’s big enough to get through the engineering builds [and] lets us keep everything in-house during the development stages.”

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Right now smartphones and other gadgets essentially use off-the-shelf display technology. The Apple Watch screen is made by LG Display. Ditto for Google’s larger Pixel phone. The iPhone X, Apple’s first OLED phone, uses Samsung technology. Phone manufacturers tweak screens to their specifications, and Apple has for years calibrated iPhone screens for color accuracy. But this marks the first time Apple is designing screens end-to-end itself.

The secret initiative, code-named T159, is overseen by executive Lynn Youngs, an Apple veteran who helped develop touch screens for the original iPhone and iPad and now oversees iPhone and Apple Watch screen technology.

The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable street in Santa Clara, California, a 15-minute drive from the Apple Park campus in Cupertino and near a few other unmarked Apple offices. There, about 300 engineers are designing and producing MicroLED screens for use in future products. The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of “growing” LEDs.

Another facility nearby houses technology that handles so-called LED transfers: the process of placing individual pixels into a MicroLED screen. Apple inherited the intellectual property for that process when it purchased startup LuxVue in 2014.

About a year after that acquisition, Apple opened a display research lab (described internally as a “Technology Center”) in Taiwan. In a test to see if the company could pull off in-house display manufacturing, engineers in Taiwan first built a small number of LCD screens using Apple technology. They were assembled at the Santa Clara factory and retrofitted into iPhone 7 prototypes. Apple executives tested them, then gave the display team the go-ahead to move forward with the development of Apple-designed MicroLED screens.

The complexity of building a screen manufacturing facility meant it took Apple several months to get the California plant operational. Only in recent months have Apple engineers grown confident in their ability to eventually replace screens from Samsung and other suppliers.

In late 2017, for the first time, engineers managed to manufacture fully functional MicroLED screens for future Apple Watches; the company aims to make the new technology available first in its wearable computers. While still at least a couple of years away from reaching consumers — assuming the company decides to proceed — producing a functional MicroLED Apple Watch prototype is a significant milestone for a company that in the past designed hardware to be produced by others.

The latest MicroLED Apple Watch prototypes aren’t fully functioning wearables; instead the screen portion is connected to an external computer board. The screens are notably brighter than the current OLED Watch displays, and engineers have a finer level of control over individual colors, according to a person who has seen them. Executives recently approved continued development for the next two years, with the aim of shipping MicroLED screens in products.

It’s unlikely that the technology will reach an iPhone for at least three to five years, the people say. While the smartphone is Apple’s cash cow, there is precedent for new screen technologies showing up in the Apple Watch first. When it was introduced in 2014, the Apple Watch had an OLED screen. The technology finally migrated to the iPhone X last year.

Creating MicroLED screens is extraordinarily complex. Depending on screen size, they can contain millions of individual pixels. Each has three sub-pixels: red, green and blue LEDs. Each of these tiny LEDs must be individually created and calibrated. Each piece comes from what is known as a “donor wafer” and then are mass-transferred to the MicroLED screen. Early in the process, Apple bought these wafers from third-party manufacturers like Epistar Corp. and Osram Licht AG but has since begun “growing” its own LEDs to make in-house donor wafers. The growing process is done inside a clean room at the Santa Clara facility.

Engineers at the facility are also assembling prototype MicroLED screens, right down to attaching the screen to the glass. The backplanes, an underlying component that electronically powers the displays, are developed at the Taiwan facility. Apple is also designing its own thin-film transistors and screen drivers, key components in display assemblies. Currently, the Santa Clara facility is capable of manufacturing a handful of fully operational Apple Watch-sized (under 2 inches diagonally) MicroLED screens at a time.

Until MicroLED is ready for the world to see, Apple will still — at least publicly — be all-in on OLED. The company plans to release a second OLED iPhone in the fall, a giant, 6.5-inch model, and is working to expand OLED production from Samsung to also include LG.

Apple reportedly developing microLED displays for its mobile devices

Apple is reportedly taking a big step into making its own displays, and it isn’t using the technology you may be most familiar with. According to a Bloomberg report, a secret facility in California close to Apple Park houses engineers developing microLED displays for Apple mobile devices. While Apple has been making its own chips for its mobile devices for a few years, this would be the first time the company has attempted build its own displays.

MicroLED technology is still in its infancy, particularly in its application in consumer electronics. We last saw microLEDs show up in Samsung’s gigantic, 146-inch TV dubbed “The Wall,” which it debuted at CES in January. Making microLED displays is no easy task since the panels are made up of individual pixels that need to be individually calibrated. Each pixel is self-emitting as well, meaning microLED displays do not require individual backlights. But microLEDs produce displays that are incredibly bright, with deep blacks and high contrast ratios; they are also slimmer and don’t require as much power as their LCD counterparts.

Due to the complexity of microLED display development and application, Apple is reportedly still in the experimental phases when it comes to these panels. The company reportedly has about 300 engineers working on the initiative, reportedly codenamed “T159n” which is being overseen by Lynn Youngs, who helped develop touchscreen display technology for the original iPhone and iPad. Apple also gleaned some intellectual property about microLED development when it acquired the screen-tech startup LuxVue back in 2014.

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Qualcomm’s war may be over, but the casualties are just starting to be calculated

The epic battle between Qualcomm and Broadcom seems to have reached its armistice, with President Trump using the power of CFIUS to block the transaction this past week, ending what would have been the largest tech M&A transaction of all time.

It may be all quiet on the semiconductor front, but Qualcomm and Broadcom will now need to find a path forward to win the peace and secure access to the coming 5G wireless market. Qualcomm faces a daunting number of challenges, including a potential takeover battle waged by the spurned son of its founder. Broadcom will have to find a new path to use acquisitions to continue its growth.

As with any war though, the damage from this conflict isn’t exclusive to the two enemy combatants. The future of corporate governance and shareholder autonomy is now being reevaluated in light of the actions used by Qualcomm in its defense against Broadcom’s hostile takeover. In addition, America’s openness to foreign investment is increasingly under scrutiny.

Qualcomm picks up the pieces

Hostile takeovers are always going to be damaging affairs, no matter the outcome. The most important mandate for any board of directors — and particularly for the boards of technology companies — is to identify long-term threats and opportunities facing a company, and guide the executive team toward the best possible outcome for shareholders. Hostile takeovers are firefighting affairs — the discussions of the board are jolted from roadmaps, strategy, and vision to the minute-by-minute tactics of defending the company from marauding invaders.

Qualcomm should be directing its attention to strategy, but it faces additional wars on nearly every front. It’s fighting shareholders for its future, fighting Apple and Huawei over its revenues, fighting China over its acquisition of NXP, and now potentially fighting its founder’s son from a private takeover attempt.

Many of Qualcomm’s shareholders see the company’s performance as disappointing. While its stock has fluctuated over the past six years, today’s share price is essentially flat from where it stood in January of 2012. Compare that to Broadcom, which in the same timeframe has seen an increase of about 740%, and the PHLX Semiconductor Sector index, a basket index of the industry, which has seen its value increase by about 280%.

Unsurprisingly, shareholders were enticed by the opportunity to suddenly realize a 35% premium on their shares with Broadcom’s $82-a-share offer. Unlike Qualcomm’s board, shareholders were very interested in accepting Broadcom’s offer. In fact, we now know that Qualcomm’s board knew that it has lost the battle against Broadcom with its own shareholders during the acquisition process. As Bloomberg reported this week:

The votes started to come in on Friday, March 2. By Sunday it was clear that Qualcomm’s defense had failed.

Four of the six directors Broadcom had nominated were polling so far ahead of their Qualcomm peers that the race was effectively over, according to data viewed by Bloomberg. The remaining two were winning by less substantial margins. Making it worse, Mollenkopf and Jacobs, the architects of Qualcomm’s standalone plan, had received some of the fewest votes.

Inside the Qualcomm camp, the mood was bleak; assuming the trend continued, the board would lose control of the company at the shareholder meeting.

Broadcom’s message was one of quiet confidence. The company knew it had won, one person close to the discussions said. At that point, the person said, it was just a question of by how many votes, and who was going to leave the board.

Broadcom was winning the battle with shareholders, so Qualcomm’s board shifted to a terrain far more favorable to it: Washington bureaucrats. From the same Bloomberg report, “Federal lobbying disclosures for 2017 showing that Qualcomm spent $8.3 million, or roughly 100 times the $85,000 Broadcom spent…” These weren’t regulators; these were friends.

In late January, Qualcomm’s board submitted a preliminary, voluntary, and confidential notice to CFIUS asking for a review of Broadcom’s potential board coup. When Broadcom attempted to redomicile to the United States to avoid CFIUS purview (as it would no longer be a foreign company but a domestic one after it redomiciled), the government’s anger was palpable and sealed the company’s fate. The board’s original outreach to CFIUS precipitated the sequence of events that led to Trump’s block this past week.

Qualcomm’s board won the war, but it is still facing a rebellion from its own bosses. The board will be up for election unopposed this week at the company’s delayed shareholders meeting. Perhaps taking a page from tomorrow’s Russian presidential election, some shareholders are withholding their votes from the board slate to show their displeasure with the entire saga. From the Wall Street journal, “Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., an influential proxy-advisory firm, … in a note to investors late Wednesday, stood by its original recommendation that shareholders vote for four Broadcom nominees for Qualcomm’s 11-person board, even though the votes won’t count.”

That shareholder meeting will no doubt be eventful. While the board and the company’s execs will argue that they have a strategy moving forward, they confront two other ongoing firefighting challenges and one new one that could be another round of bruising internecine warfare.

Qualcomm is still in the midst of its $44 billion NXP acquisition, which continues to wait on Chinese regulatory approval. The timeline for that approval is still unclear, but even when Qualcomm does receive it, the company will still have to close the deal and actually implement the transaction. That will take significant time and energy.

Even more complicated is the continuing fight with Apple and Huawei over Qualcomm’s IP licensing revenue. Licensing revenue is crucial for Qualcomm, and the litigation around the fight will force the board to continue monitoring the day-to-day legal tactics of the company rather than focus on a longer-term vision of how to work with the largest smartphone producer in the world to generate profits.

On top of those two challenges, another takeover attempt could potentially exhaust the board further. Yesterday, Qualcomm’s board voted to remove board member Paul Jacobs, who is the son of Qualcomm’s founder and the company’s former chief executive from 2005 to 2014. He had been demoted from executive chairman to director just last week. As the New York Times noted, “The split, which means no member of the Jacobs family will be involved at the top echelons of Qualcomm for the first time in 33 years, was not friendly.”

According to reports, Jacobs is attempting to raise more than $100 billion to buy the company, potentially leveraging SoftBank’s Vision Fund in the process. SoftBank, of course, is a Japanese company, and the Vision Fund has significant capital from foreign countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Even more ironically, Qualcomm is an investor in the Vision Fund.

Jacobs is following in the footsteps of Michael Dell who bought the eponymous tech company back in 2013 in a take-private transaction worth $24 billion. Can Jacobs even raise the required amount of capital, four times more than Dell? Will Qualcomm be forced to run back to the Trump administration in order to avoid a “foreign” takeover of the firm yet again, this time by the son of the company’s founder?

My guess — fairly weakly held — is that the answers are yes and no. Jacobs will find the money, and the board won’t fight a distinguished former executive — even if Jacobs was running seriously behind in shareholder approval in the Broadcom fight. We will learn more in the coming weeks, but expect more strategic actions here (maybe from Intel) as well.

Broadcom regroups

Despite its very public failure, Broadcom is in a much stronger position coming out of this battle. It beat analyst estimates this week for its Q1 earnings, and has seen impressive growth in its wireless communications segment, which were up 88% year-over-year. It also managed to lower expenses, which helped drive an increase in gross margin to 64.8% (aren’t fabless and patents awesome?)

Broadcom continues to deliver strong results, but the big question post-Qualcomm is really what’s next? Qualcomm was the single most important chip company that might have been available for purchase (Intel is out of Broadcom’s league). While it plans to continue to redomicile to the U.S., which should allow it to get back into the acquisition game in America, Broadcom may struggle in the coming years to find the kinds of accretive acquisitions that can keep its growth on the trajectory it has been on over the past few years.

Shareholder power wanes?

The biggest questions coming out of the Qualcomm / Broadcom spat is not related to the companies themselves, but the entire intellectual edifice of shareholder rights and the framework used by American companies to conduct corporate governance.

Qualcomm’s board of directors took extraordinary steps to block the Broadcom acquisition. They unilaterally went to Washington to get an injunction not on a deal — which had never been consummated between the two companies — but to block Broadcom from replacing its board of directors in a standard shareholder vote. This is a very important distinction: Qualcomm’s board saw the direction shareholders wanted to go, and essentially decided to just ignore the election process entirely.

From Dealpolitik columnist Ronald Barusch:

This change threatens over three decades of a carefully balanced governance system. Since the Delaware Supreme Court approved the use of the poison-pill takeover defense in 1985, the courts have basically blessed the following tradeoff: On the one hand, corporate directors can fight tooth and nail to stop a deal and the courts will give only limited scrutiny to defensive tactics.

However, the board is strictly limited in any moves to interfere with shareholders’ ability to replace directors and force a company to change course that way. In the vernacular of a leading Delaware case, a “just say no” defense doesn’t mean “just say never.” A bidder with enough patience who can convince a target’s shareholders to change directors has a path at least toward cooperation on resolving regulatory impediments to a deal.

This is a unique case as Barusch notes, but at what point can boards use every method at their disposal to prevent their own shareholders — the people they have a fiduciary duty to represent — from taking charge of the company? This past week presents one of the most complex examples to date, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a shareholder decides to attempt a legal attack on Qualcomm.

The other side of the potential waning of power for shareholders is CFIUS itself. The Trump administration ended a potential deal for a company that shareholders were widely in favor of. Where do the rights of shareholders to realize a return on their equity end and the right of America as a nation to control national security technology start?

We are on new terrain, and there are no clear answers here. In many ways, it depends on what happens over the next few years of the Trump administration. If there are more blocks like what we saw this week, we could see a radical change in the corporate calculus that would have a long-term negative effect on the value of some American companies.

Hostile takeovers may be incredible drama for writers like yours truly, but they have enormous consequences for companies and the employees who work at them. Qualcomm is going to have to shore up its support with a whole host of stakeholders in the coming months (while dealing with a potential take-private fight), while Broadcom needs to find its next strategy for further growth. All of us are going to have to deal with new uncertainty around the power of shareholders to shape the destiny of their companies. The war is over, but the aftermath and its consequences have just begun.