Weekend news round-up: Apple’s green stores, Facebook’s ‘Game of Phones’

22 Apr 2014

Apple's iconic store on Fifth Avenue, New York

Our round-up of the weekend’s tech news finds nearly half of Apple’s 254 stores in the US powered by green energy, layoffs at Nike’s FuelBand wearable tech group, and Facebook about to launch a new mobile ads network.

Apple green powers its stores

Apple Insider reported that nearly half of Apple’s 254 retail stores in the US, including flagship locations in Palo Alto, Chicago, and New York, are said to be powered entirely by energy from renewable sources.

“News of Apple’s retail milestone comes on the heels of a Greenpeace report that named the company ‘the most innovative and most aggressive’ in Silicon Valley on the subject of environmental concerns. The disclosure was made as part of a Wired interview with Apple environmental chief Lisa Jackson.

“Apple has reportedly made expanding its green energy footprint to more retail outlets a top priority in 2014, though it is not likely to be as simple as its widely publicised data centre efforts. Most of Apple’s retail stores are located in shopping malls, so the company must work alongside utility providers who do not always offer green options.”

Nike wearable tech group runs out of fuel

The tech world was rocked at the weekend by news that sports brand Nike was making layoffs at its hitherto successful FuelBand division, fuelling rumours that it may be planning to work with Apple on a wearable device instead, according to Mashable.

“The reason so much attention is being focused on the future of the FuelBand likely has a lot to do with its pedigree. It’s made by Nike, a brand many would argue sits atop its industry as the Apple of sports apparel. It’s universally admired, known for its aspirational marketing campaigns and logo, which has become a mark of quality.

“The fact that Nike might fail in its efforts to pioneer the wearable-tech space is troubling, particularly for other would-be wearable-device makers, and even more so when you consider how attractive the FuelBand is, showing up on the wrists of celebrities and top-tier CEOs alike.”

Facebook’s friend problem

The Verge carried an interesting perspective on friending on Facebook. After the initial flurry of goodwill in the early days people now have hundreds, if not thousands of ‘friends’, who in reality are most likely ghosts from previous eras of their lives and who no longer matter in the present. Yes, Facebook and its users may have a friend problem.

“In the real world, losing touch with people happens naturally and effortlessly, but on Facebook, unfriending is reserved only for breakups and acts of malice. So, the ghosts floating through my News Feed vastly outnumber the friends I’ve kept. My Friends list went from a roster of my current friends to a collection of everyone I’ve met in the last 10 years – a social group too massive to feel urgent, and too broad to share with on a daily basis.

“Facebook is broken for its earliest users, and perhaps soon, for many of its new ones, as well.”

Keep on raising in the free world

Music star Neil Young has proven he is something of a tech entrepreneur. Ars Technica reported that the singer’s PonoPlayer MP3 music device raised US$6.2m on Kickstarter, making it the third-highest Kickstarter campaign ever, trailing the Pebble smartwatch and the Ouya video-game console.

“After blasting off to the tune of roughly $1.6m in one day, the player, which staked its reputation on replicating ‘studio-quality’ sound by way of lossless, high-frequency audio and hardware engineering, maintained its sales momentum by adding a slew of limited-edition sales options. The most prominent was the ‘Artist Signature’ series, which came in a whopping 31 varieties and included laser-engraved signatures and hand-selected, pre-loaded albums by a particular artist or band, with offerings from Elton John, The Eagles, Metallica, Arcade Fire, and plenty in between. Yes, you could buy both Crosby, Stills & Nash and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young versions of the Pono.

“Additionally, Pono offered tickets to four ‘VIP dinner and listening party’ events at $5,000 a pop; those Young-hosted events raked in $480,000 alone.”

Game of Phones

In its quest to dominate the mobile economy, Facebook is planning to launch a new mobile ads network, Re/Code reported.

“Facebook will take the wraps off its plans for a mobile ad network at its F8 developer conference in San Francisco at the end of the month, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

“Facebook will pitch the ads to publishers and developers as a way to leverage the social network’s vast database of user information for better ad targeting. And Facebook wins by expanding its ad reach – now it can make money from its billion-plus users even when they’re not on Facebook’s own properties.”

Silicon Valley’s murky thriller

Employers attempting to skimp on rewarding workers their fair dues is nothing new in economic history, but in the high-octane world of Silicon Valley, where money is no object, the implications of a wage-fixing cartel among tech giants like Apple and Google are a bitter pill to swallow for some 640,000 tech workers.

In what has the plotlines for a John Grisham thriller, the New York Times reported that this is a legal battle the tech giants wish would just go away.

“The companies certainly have good reasons to make the case disappear. They do not want to open themselves up to weeks of damaging testimony replete with emails and other evidence the plaintiffs plan to present, many of which have already been made public and been chewed over by the press.

“Then there is the uncertain calculus of a potential jury’s makeup at a moment when Silicon Valley companies are regarded with increasing distrust by some of the people who live there.

“The plaintiffs say the lost wages in the case add up to $3bn. If a jury agreed, that sum would be tripled under antitrust law. Three smaller defendants settled last year for $20m, but that was before the suit won the all-important class-action certification.”

Apple store image via Shutterstock

Stay informed – get daily updates on the latest happenings in technology directly to your inbox.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years