Indian Govt. Won’t be Relaxing Local Sourcing Norms for Apple Stores in India

It looks like we’re back to square one with Apple and our hopes of seeing Apple Stores in India.

Just over six months after the Government of India announced FDI reforms and the possibility emerged for seeing Apple Stores in the country, the Govt. has now taken a sort of a U-turn about the whole thing.

ETtech’s Ruchika Chitravanshi & Deepshikha Sikarwar report that the government panel has decided not to relax the 30% local sourcing norms.

The US company’s proposal to set up Apple Stores under the single brand policy has been approved without any relaxation in the sourcing conditions, two officials privy to the development said. Apple can set up single-brand retail stores in India but it will have to meet the 30% local content sourcing requirement, they said.

“Apple’s proposal is acceptable to us but we cannot make an exception for it and forego the sourcing requirement if it wants to set up its own stores here,” a senior government official said.

sigh

Tim Cook just wrapped up almost a week-long visit to India, where he spent time in Mumbai & Hyderabad, and also met the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and discussed plans to sell refurbished iPhones as well as the possibility to manufacture phones in the country, as part of Modi’s ‘Make in India‘ initiative.

However, looking at today’s development, it seems like Apple’s got a rocky road ahead.

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Apple Unveils New Apple Store at San Francisco’s Union Square

Apple has unveiled a new design and aesthetics for its Apple Store at San Francisco’s Union Square location, along with a shot of new services and features that the company will be rolling out to other retail locations worldwide in the coming months. This unveiling comes 15 years after Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s first two retail stores.

The Union Square Apple Store features a 42-foot-tall sliding glass doors and will be powered by 100% renewable energy. Speaking about the new store, Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail and Online Stores, said:

We are not just evolving our store design, but its purpose and greater role in the community as we educate and entertain visitors and serve our network of local entrepreneurs.

Apple has also introduced the following new features at this store location:

The Avenue,” inspired by the window displays along a boulevard that dynamically change with the season. Avenue walls are interactive themed “windows” where Apple’s products and services come to life, from music, to creativity, apps, photography and more. New “Creative Pros,” Apple experts in creative arts, offer advice and expertise at each of the displays. Customers will also find “Only at Apple” products on the Avenue, a curated collection of third-party accessories.

Genius Grove” invites customers to get support working side-by-side with Geniuses under the comfortable canopy of local trees in the heart of the store.

The Forum” is a vibrant gathering place, centered around a 6K Video Wall. It is home to “Today at Apple,” which brings to the community the world’s most talented artists, photographers, musicians, gamers, developers and entrepreneurs to inspire and educate our customers to go further with the things they are passionate about. Today at Apple includes year-round programs for kids, new monthly events for teachers, sessions for current and aspiring developers, Creative Sessions in partnership with local experts in creative arts, Game Night with editors from Apple’s App Store® and more. The Forum and Video Wall are a place of discovery, including events about the making of movies from iTunes®, or exclusive premieres of new music and music videos from Apple Music™.

The Plaza” will be found only at Apple’s most significant stores, including Apple Union Square. It’s open to the public 24 hours a day, features public Wi-Fi and seating, and takes Today at Apple outside, with a regular weekend series of well known local acoustic performances such as Travis Hayes and global talents like Escondido, who will then give exclusive interviews about their craft in the Forum. The Plaza at Apple Union Square features a fountain by well-known San Francisco sculptor Ruth Asawa, originally commissioned in 1969, and a new work, “Love” by local artist Laura Kimpton, commissioned by Hyatt Hotels.

The Boardroom” is an intimate space where the store’s Business Team offers hands-on advice and training to entrepreneurs, developers and other small and medium business customers.

Wired was invited to an early preview, and they put together this lovely video for it.

Sobia Khan, reporting for ETtech:

Apple is in talks to lease over 40,000 square feet of office space in Bengaluru where it intends to set up a development centre, three people familiar with the development said.

“The company has signed the letter of intent with Galleria, a mixed use project in Yelahanka in Bengaluru,” one of these people said. Galleria is 3 lakh sq ft office space that belongs to Standard Brick Tile Company.

I’m sure loving these India-focused developments coming out of Cook’s visit to India this week.

Apple Announces Opening of a Development Office in Hyderabad

Apple has today announced the opening of a new development office in Hyderabad, one that will focus on development of Apple Maps for its product lineup. It’ll be located at the Waverock campus in Hyderabad, developed by Tishman Speyer and is poised to create up to 4000 jobs. Apple also announced a new iOS App Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru yesterday.

waverock

Released in September 2012, Apple Maps replaced Google Maps on iOS and over the last 4 years, even though Apple has continued to improve its mapping data, the product has been severely lacking for India and other countries. For example, Apple Maps was missing the Bandra-Worli sea-link, Mumbai’s iconic cable-stayed bridge for the first ~8 months.

This announcement is being made on day two of Tim Cook’s India visit, the first of which was spent in Mumbai. Commenting on this announcement, he said:

Apple is focused on making the best products and services in the world and we are thrilled to open this new office in Hyderabad which will focus on Maps development. The talent here in the local area is incredible and we are looking forward to expanding our relationships and introducing more universities and partners to our platforms as we scale our operations.

I’m hoping this announcement and the efforts of everyone at the new office will improve the terrible state of Apple Maps in India. Forget features like 3D buildings, Flyover or Transit directions, even basic mapping data like roads and streets are missing. I’ve been sending feedback and submitting corrections through the Maps app for years now, yet I have never seen any corrections made to the data.

Apple also included this in their release:

Across India, Apple supports over 640,000 iOS app developer jobs and other positions related to the iOS ecosystem.

Impressive.

Apple Announces New iOS App Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru

Apple today has announced its ambitious plan to start a Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru, the startup capital of India. This initiative has been planned to “support engineering talent and accelerate growth in India’s iOS developer community,” according to Apple’s press release issued today.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO who is currently on his India visit landed in Mumbai today morning and visited the Siddhivinayak Temple. He says,

India is home to one of the most vibrant and entrepreneurial iOS development communities in the world. With the opening of this new facility in Bengaluru, we’re giving developers access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world.

This first-of-its-kind center will have Apple experts who will lead briefings and provide one-on-one app reviews for developers in India. It will also provide support and guidance on Swift, Apple’s new programming language that it announced at WWDC 2014.

This Design and Development Accelerator is expected to open in early 2017.

Chandra R Srikanth, reporting for ET Now:

The sources, who declined to be quoted, said while Tim Cook’s key push with Indian government officials will be the sale of refurbished Apple phones here, its initiatives for startups and digital India will also be part of the agenda.

One of the persons ET NOW spoke to said Cook will cover Mumbai, New Delhi and Hyderabad as part of his visit. While he is expected to meet RIL executives in Mumbai, he will be in Hyderabad to firm up plans for its development centre.

Bengaluru, which is where Apple India’s HQ is located, is not on the cards for Tim Cook.

Himank Sharma and Rupam Jain, reporting for Reuters:

Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook will visit India this week and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the second leg of his Asian tour, two sources familiar with the matter said, as the company seeks to revive sluggish iPhone sales.

and

Apart from meeting Modi, Cook will also hold meetings with employees and partners, the source said, adding he would fly to India on Tuesday.

Apple has been inching closer towards opening its own retail store in India and the timing of Cook’s visit around recent developments reaffirms that.

On the other hand, Foxconn — the Taiwanese electronics giant and Apple’s supplier was poised to make a $5 Billion investment and setup a manufacturing factory in Maharashtra under Modi’s Make in India program.

James Vincent reporting for The Verge,

Western Digital has now officially purchased flash memory manufacturer SanDisk after regulator approval was passed earlier this week. The agreement between the two storage companies was originally announced last October in a deal worth nearly $19 billion.

My favorite hard drive company acquires my favorite solid state company.

The Times of India is reporting that website of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has been hacked and data belonging to around 1 Crore customers is feared to have been stolen by the hackers.

An IRCTC source said, “The data is a valuable asset and can be sold to corporations who may use it for targeting potential consumers.” IRCTC officials say the Maharashtra government has been alerted. The state’s additional chief secretary (home), KP Bakshi, confirmed to TOI that the state police had alerted the railways, but refused to give any more details.

A subsidiary of the Indian Railways, IRCTC is the largest e-ticketing portal in the country and holds the record for nearly 13,40,000 tickets booked in a day in April 2015. It’s revenue from ticketing sales was over $3 Billion in 2015.

Bloomberg is reporting that Apple is all set to debut a completely revamped look and feel for Apple Music at the company’s annual developer conference in June:

Apple is altering the user interface of Apple Music to make it more intuitive to use, according to people familiar with the product who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. Apple also plans to better integrate its streaming and download businesses and expand its online radio service, the people said. The reboot is expected to be unveiled at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The changes will be accompanied by a marketing blitz to lure more customers to the $10-per-month streaming service. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

According to the report, the redesign is being overseen by content head Robert Kondrk and Trent Reznor, with inputs from Jony Ive’s team, as well as Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue.

Following the Beats acquisition in 2014, Apple scrapped the international rollout of iTunes Radio just a few hours before an event where it would have been announced. Employees who had been working on the project for more than a year were told it would be rolled into a new streaming service based on Beats.

Ouch!