AWT News Update: March 10, 2017

We get an unexpected visit from Alexa during today's podcast, which is rather short due to a paucity of interesting Apple-related news:

  • The Microsoft Cortana app for iPhone gets a significant upgrade
  • The Japanese government may step in and block some Apple suppliers from South Korea and Taiwan from the auction of Toshiba's memory unit
  • Familiar with the Apple Store app? It received an update today, but we just want to remind you that the app exists...

The text version of the podcast can be viewed below. To listen to the podcast here, click the play button on the player below. Note to Apple News readers: you’ll need to visit Apple World Today in order to listen to the podcast.

Text Version

This is Steve Sande for Apple World Today, and you’re listening to the AWT News Update for Friday, March 10th, 2017.

In the battle of the artificial intelligences, we hear a lot about Siri, Alexa, and Google Now, but not a lot about Microsoft Cortana. Microsoft is attempting to get some of Siri’s business with a new version of the Cortana iPhone app that’s out today. The new app loads faster, and defaults immediately into listening for voice commands or questions. The home screen can be set up to show information cards for things like news, traffic, weather, package deliveries, and nearby restaurants. Microsoft also built in quick action buttons to bring up info and commands without asking Cortana, and the app has totally redesigned processes for reminders, calling and texting. For those who use Cortana in Windows 10, having the familiar AI on the iPhone may be more comfortable and complementary than using Siri.

Japanese corporation Toshiba is in the process of auctioning off its memory business, and today a report says that the Japanese government may invoke the country’s foreign exchange and trade laws to control the auction in the name of national security. Why is this important? Well, Apple suppliers Foxconn and TSMC — both headquartered in Taiwan — are teaming up to make a bid, as is SK Hynix, another Apple supplier based in South Korea. Reuters reports that US suppliers might be the “only feasible partners” from a Japanese national security standpoint. Apple itself could be a candidate, although it probably wouldn’t want to enter the business, and other American bidders include Micron, Bain Capital and Western Digital. This isn’t the first time that the Japanese government has stepped in to block foreign investment. In 2011, it stopped bids for camera maker Olympus since its optical gear is used in military hardware.

It’s slow news Friday again, so our stories for the day are rather few and far between, but we do have word of an update to the Apple Store application on iOS. The app is now at version 4.2, and it’s one of those great Apple updates with a detailed change log that simply says “Various improvements and performance enhancements.” Now, while just about everybody uses the App Store app, the Apple Store app isn’t was well known. It’s used to shop for products online, view order status, and so on. When you’re in an Apple Store, you can use the app to pay for certain items or check pricing, or even find out what accessories are compatible with the devices you own. I’ve found that it’s probably most useful for ordering new products at midnight Pacific Time when Apple has just released something new and cool, as it tends to work much better than the web store under pressure. The app is free, and if you don’t currently have it, it’s worth a download.

That’s all for today; I’ll be back Monday afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.