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ExtraBITS for 11 September 2017

In ExtraBITS this week, it turns out that streaming services are helping the music industry, we get a look at Siri’s past challenges and upcoming improvements, T-Mobile is offering a free Netflix subscription to subscribers, we learn some secrets of the new Steve Jobs Theater, Tim Cook has pledged to support Apple’s DACA employees, Pixelmator is planning a professional version, and Apple is ending the Apple Music Festival after a decade of concerts.

Streaming Services Not Killing the Music Industry -- Buried inside a Bloomberg article about Apple renegotiating Apple Music streaming rights with Warner Music Group is this interesting tidbit: streaming services aren’t killing the music industry, which had been in decline for nearly two decades, but are actually reviving it. Global music sales grew 5.9 percent to $15.7 billion in 2016. Also interesting is the fact that Apple negotiated a smaller payout than it paid previously — an estimated 55 percent (or less if subscriber numbers increase), down from 58 percent. When Apple launched Apple Music, it made a big deal about how much more it paid artists than Spotify, but from the article, it appears that rates are based more on subscriber figures than any sense of artistic patronage.

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How Siri Is Getting Its Groove Back -- Siri was groundbreaking when it debuted, but rivals from Amazon and Google have since overshadowed it. Wired spoke with Alex Acero, the Apple executive responsible for Siri, and Greg “Joz” Joswiak, Apple’s VP of product marketing, who explained some of Siri’s past challenges and upcoming improvements, such as improved voice recognition and iOS 11’s more natural voices. It’s interesting to hear the executives say that Apple has always wanted Siri to be able to perform tasks, not merely answer demo-friendly trivia questions that are unsatisfying in the real world. Joswiak noted, “We didn’t engineer this thing to be Trivial Pursuit!” Now Apple has to deal with the fact that it’s hard to change users’ Siri habits — if Siri failed you in the past, you probably won’t try that command again even if Siri could now handle it.

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T-Mobile to Include Netflix for Free on Family Plans -- T-Mobile has announced that, starting 12 September 2017, customers with two or more lines will get Netflix Standard for free — a $9.99 per month value. The Netflix Standard plan lets you stream on up to two devices at once in HD resolution. Is there any limit to T-Mobile’s aggressive pricing? In any case, the fierce competition that CEO John Legere is bringing to the mobile space continues to be fun to watch.

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Secrets of the Steve Jobs Theater -- The first event at the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple’s new campus is set for 12 September 2017, and Bloomberg has a look at the room’s impressive gadgetry. The theater includes two elevators that rotate so that visitors will enter and exit from the same side. It also features retracting walls that hide a demonstration room where journalists can sample Apple’s latest wares after the presentation. All it needs is a shark tank underneath the stage to double as the lair of a James Bond villain. Just imagine Tim Cook pushing a button while intoning, “I’m sorry, Mr. Nadella, but we won’t be needing Microsoft Office anymore.”

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Tim Cook Promises Support for Apple’s DACA Employees -- After President Trump announced that he is ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Tim Cook penned an email to Apple employees voicing his disapproval. Cook added that Apple would be working on behalf of its 250 DACA employees both in Congress and the courts to keep them from being deported. Trump is waiting six months before ending the program and has called on Congress to legislate a replacement.

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Pixelmator Plans to Go Pro -- The developers of the popular Pixelmator image-editing app have announced a follow-up app, due later this year. Pixelmator Pro will be sold in the Mac App Store alongside the original Pixelmator, and it will feature a streamlined single-window interface, advanced layout tools, an overhauled painting system, machine learning, and more. Many of us at TidBITS have long been fans of Pixelmator because it offers most of what we need from Photoshop at a fraction of the price, so we’re looking forward to trying Pixelmator Pro’s new features.

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Apple Ends the Apple Music Festival -- After 10 years, Apple is putting a stop to the Apple Music Festival, previously known as the iTunes Music Festival. Over the years, numerous big-name acts played at the London-based show, including Adele, Beck, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Paul Simon, and Soundgarden. While it’s sad to see the annual series of concerts go, perhaps Apple is hoping to convince Apple Music Festival alumni to appear on “Carpool Karaoke.”

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