What's Up With Apple: WWDC 2021, New Investment in Music, and More

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) on Tuesday announced that the 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will begin on June 7 and once again be a virtual event. Software and hardware developers (and the rest of us) can expect to hear about what’s in the works at Apple related to the next versions of iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac operating systems.

According to CEO Tim Cook, last year’s virtual conference drew 22 million viewers to the company’s various streams. In its announcement, Apple said the worldwide developer community numbers more than 28 million.

This year’s WWDC will include “announcements from the keynote and State of the Union stages, online sessions, 1:1 labs offering technical guidance, and new ways for developers to interact with Apple engineers and designers to learn about the latest frameworks and technologies.”

Apple led a second fund-raising round of $50 million for UnitedMasters, an artist-services company that helps musicians market and distribute their music without signing away the publishing rights to the music they create. Other investors included Alphabet and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, both of which invested in UnitedMasters’ first $70 million fund-raising round. The company is now valued at $350 million.

Unlike a deal with a traditional music publisher, artists who sign with UnitedMasters may choose between paying a monthly subscription fee of $5 or 10% of their royalty payments. In either case, the artist, not the publisher owns the copyright. Last December, Bob Dylan, who owned the rights to more than 600 of his songs, sold those rights to his catalog for an estimated $300 million. That’s after nearly 50 years of collecting quarterly payments for some of those songs.

The CEO of Taiwan-based Foxconn, the company that manufactures most of Apple’s hardware products, told Nikkei Asia on Tuesday that his company is unlikely to be able to fulfill some of its orders this year due to chip shortages. Young Liu told Nikkei Asia that he expects the shortage to last until the second quarter of 2022.

According to a report in The Verge, Liu said that he expects Foxconn to miss only about 10% of its commitments due to the shortage. Two weeks ago, Samsung warned of the same shortages related to its newest Galaxy Note phone, and the impact of chip shortages on the automobile industry has been well-documented.

Finally, Apple has been awarded 77 U.S. patents on Tuesday, including one called, innocuously enough, “Housing Construction” that could change the way iPhone cases are built. The patented design comprises a “lightweight lattice pattern that maximizes airflow while creating an extremely rigid structure,” according to MacRumors. Apple introduced this design with the 2019 Mac Pro and Mac Pro Display XDR. MacRumors has produced the following graphic to suggest what the so-called cheese-grater design would look like on an iPhone and a Homepod mini.