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Sloppy Management Partly Caused GT Advanced to Miss Apple’s Sapphire Deadlines

Much has been made lately of Apple’s harsh terms for third-party suppliers in the wake of the bankruptcy of GT Advanced, the company that was working with Apple to create sapphire displays for the iPhone 6 and other devices. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal (via Cult of Mac), however, much of GT’s failure to meet Apple’s demands ultimately sprang from sloppy management.

Photos in the report show that GT always struggled with production of the material, and quotes from employees reveal a company that was far from the model of efficiency necessary for bearing the Apple logo. In those shots, reportedly taken just days before GT signed its deal with Apple, we see evidence that most of the 578-pound sapphire cylinders (called boules) the company produced were unusable owing to multiple flaws.

Once the deal was in action, allegedly, only half of the boules GT produced were usable — a dire situation, considering that it takes 30 days to make a single boule. Worse yet, each boule cost GT around ,000.

Source: Wall Street Journal

GT’s failure in this regard isn’t that hard to understand in the context of how poorly the staff was trained. The report claims that around 100 employees didn’t even know who they were supposed to report to, and an open-ended attendance policy meant that workers were taking an excessive amount of “sick days.”

“We just kept sweeping the floors over and over,” said one employee. “I just saw money flying out the door.”

At times the story of GT Advanced seems more akin to farce than tragedy, as in the case of 500 missing sapphire bricks newly cut from usable boules. Had they already gone to shipping? Hardly: employees later learned they’d been sent to recycling by mistake.

The story of GT Advanced is surely a devastating lesson for Apple, which has made long strides toward once again producing products in the United States rather than sending them off to China. Apple claims it’s going to try to repurpose the GT Advanced’s Mesa, Arizona facility so the employees there can keep their jobs, but even that remains in doubt after Bloomberg reported today that Taiwanese supplier Foxconn plans to contribute .3 billion toward building a display-producing plant specifically for Apple.

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.

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Starwood Hotels CEO Credits iPad for Improved Productivity

If you’re one of the few people who still thinks the iPad is primarily an entertainment device, Starwood Hotels CEO Frits van Paasschen wants you to put that mindset away right now. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal today, van Paasschen states that he no longer uses a proper desktop computer at his job thanks to Apple’s tablet.

“I thought, you know what, I actually don’t use [my desktop computer],” van Paasschen says in the interview. “I do all of my work via mobile so essentially my office is wherever I go, and I can be much more productive.”

That doesn’t mean he spends all his time tapping away on the touchscreen. Instead, the CEO makes extensive use of Bluetooth keyboards when he’s on either his iPad or even his iPhone. The shift has actually made him more productive, he says. The e-mails he sends are shorter, he’s banished paper from Starwood meetings, and he sometimes conducts performance reviews via FaceTime. He also refuses to open hefty spreadsheet files.

Source: Wall Street Journal

“When I get the massive file, the first thing I’ll do is send it back and say tell me the key points that I actually need to understand,” he says.

Still, van Paasschen reportedly admits that you still need a standard desktop unit for certain jobs. Nonetheless, the efficiency of his work lately has already inspired other executives at the company. Chris Holdren, one of Starwood’s senior vice presidents, uses his iPad for everything as well.

Starwood is something of an Apple champion. Back in January of this year, Starwood was the first hotel chain to experiment with using iPhones as replacements for room keys in its Aloft hotels in Manhattan and (yes) Cupertino. Following the success of Starwood’s venture, other chains such as Hilton started implementing iPhone room keys as well.

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.

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Morning Report: Sony Dumps Steve Jobs Biopic, WALTR for Mac, Lightroom 5.7

Steve Jobs

Hollywood loved former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, but Sony just can’t seem to get an official screen adaptation of the iconic figure’s life off the ground. Our Thursday Morning Report has details on how Sony grounded the high-flying project and what happens next, along with a nifty new Mac app for syncing video and music, plus an update to Adobe Lightroom.

Steve Jobs Biopic Axed by Sony, Could Land at Universal

The official big screen adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography on the life of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs appears to be going through a rough patch in recent weeks after losing both Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale for the lead role. Now the entire project could be in jeopardy, at least with the studio where it all started.

According to The Hollywood Reporter
, the unnamed Steve Jobs movie has been placed into “turnaround,” a fancy Tinseltown way of kicking the project out the door. With a script from The Social Network scribe Aaron Sorkin and director Danny Boyle attached, producers Scott Rudin, Mark Gordon, and Guymon Casady are reportedly now scrambling to set the project up at Universal instead.

The report claims the project hit a wall when Boyle pushed for a January start date, while Sony planned to get production underway later in 2015. Michael Fassbender appears to be the frontrunner to play Jobs, but is committed to shooting X-Men: Apocalypse in the spring, which would likely take him out of the running had Sony gotten its way.

WALTR for Mac Aims to Make iTunes Media Sync Obsolete

After more than seven years, one of the most maddening things about owning an iOS device continues to be the rigid format restrictions for syncing movies, TV shows, and music with iTunes. Prefer MKV or AVI video, or FLAC audio formats? Sorry, you’ll need to convert them to MP4 first, or rely on a third-party app to play them back.

As first noted by MacRumors on Wednesday, a new Mac app called WALTR takes all of this pain away with a simple drag-and-drop interface that skips iTunes entirely. Plug in a device, launch WALTR, and drag nearly any media file onto the application — including normally unsupported formats like MKV, AVI, FLAC, and CUE — and within a few moments, that media is ready to play in the native iOS Videos or Music app.

WALTR is available as a free 14-day demo from publisher Softorino, who is currently discounting a single lifetime license key at only .97 (normally .95); a five-pack is also available for only .97.

Adobe Releases Lightroom 5.7, Camera Raw 8.7

Adobe announced the release of Lightroom 5.7 on Wednesday, along with an update to Camera Raw 8.7. Available for download from Adobe.com, Creative Cloud Desktop, or the in-application update, Lightroom 5.7 now includes the previously available Aperture import tool, as well as improvements to Synced Collections that make it easier to share images and manage comments or likes from friends and family.

Camera Raw 8.7 is also available for owners of Photoshop CS6 or Photoshop CC, with improvements to batch processing images, new camera and lens profile support, and the requisite round of bug fixes. Photoshop CS6 users also receive DNG Converter 8.7 as part of the same update.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

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Apple Replaces ‘Free’ Purchase Label on App Store with ‘Get’ Button

Resentment has been growing against apps that call themselves “free” but bulge with in-app purchases and related microtransactions, and today Apple altered a bit of its wording on the App Store apparently in response to that sentiment. If only it weren’t so awkward. Apps and games that used to read “Free” in the button reserved for prices with paid apps now display “Get,” which seems inelegant to, say, “Download” or “Install.”

Apple implemented the changes both on the iOS App Store and on the desktop version, and the wording appears not only on the individual app pages but also on the top charts. Much as with the previous “free” label, the new “Get” label appears on every app that’s initially free to download regardless of whether it has in-app purchases or not.

Apple hasn’t said as much (in fact, it hasn’t said anything at all), but it’s likely that the change arises from pressures from the European Commission, which made headlines earlier this year when it successfully forced Google to label apps with in-app purchases differently (via The Verge). Later, the commission applied the same pressure to Apple. The chief concern, the commission said at the time, was that users might be mislead about the cost involved in downloading a particular app. Furthermore, there was some concern that some such apps were being directly marketed to children.

The iPhone maker did take some action on the matter earlier after working with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, specifically by requiring passwords before users can make in-app purchases and also by clearly stating that apps offered in-app purchases on their respective pages. More controls came with iOS 8, which lets parents approve of deny their childrens’ purchases through Family Sharing. (And with good reason, too.) But if the latest development suggests anything, it’s that all that work apparently wasn’t enough.

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.

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Apple Reportedly Planning to Bundle Beats Music with Future Releases of iOS

Apple spent all that money on Beats earlier this year, and they really, really want you to see what the service has to offer. And just to ensure that you have no excuse not to try it out, the company’s reportedly going to start bundling it with iOS starting sometime next year. According to the Financial Times, that could happen as early as March.

The report echoes some of the rumors we’ve been hearing for some time now, such as how Apple might merge the service with iTunes at some point in the future. It also claims that users should be able to send Beats music from their iPhones to their Apple Watches (which also hints that March might also mark the release date for Apple’s long-awaited piece of wearable tech).

Apple is thought to have bought Beats specifically for a head start into the music-streaming business, but according to some estimates, it’s only been able to reach around 119,000 subscriptions. (That’s barely an improvement from the 110,000 Beats reportedly achieved on its own.) It’s possible those numbers could improve if Apple bundles Beats with iOS as stated, but probably not as much as they would if the service were a part of iTunes itself.

Still other reports claim that Apple may knock the cost of a Beats subscription down to .00 a month in order to compete with existing streaming giants like Spotify and Google Play Music. As things stand, a Beats subscription currently costs .99 per month or .99 for an entire year.

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.

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