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CEO Tim Cook: Apple retail stores are 'like Prozac' to me

Plus: 'There have been no sightings of dead bodies rising'

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Quotw This was the week when some of the titans of tech hung out at Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference talking about their problems. First up was Tim Cook, who was pooh-poohing a lawsuit filed by Greenlight Capital hedge-fund honcho David Einhorn. The suit is attempting to stop Apple from amending its charter to eliminate preferred stock and thus restrict the Board’s ability to unlock the value on Apple’s balance sheet.

Einhorn has what Cook calls a "creative" idea - he wants the fruity firm to give that preferred stock to existing shareholders instead, giving them a bigger bite of the company's ginormous cash pile (which one can only assume has to stay locked up at Cupertino in its big swimming-pool-sized vault solely so that Cook can don a top hat and dive right in). But anyway, the whole thing is a distraction according to Apple's biggest bigwig, who said:

I find it bizarre we find ourselves being sued for doing something that's good for shareholders. It's a silly sideshow, honestly.

And no, Einhorn, Apple doesn't have a "depression-era mentality" either:

Apple doesn't have a depression-era mentality. Apple makes bold and ambitious bets on product and we're conservative financially. ... We're investing in retail around the world, in product innovation, in new product, in supply chain. We're acquiring some companies. ... To add to that fact, we're returning $45 billion to shareholders through a combination of dividends and buybacks. I don't know how a mentality with a depression-era mindset would have done all those things.

Naturally, Cook also had the time to have a sly dig at Samsung:

Some people use displays, the color saturation is awful. The Retina display is twice as bright as an OLED display.

And claimed that whenever he was feeling a little under the weather, just, you know, a little blue, he goes to an Apple Store and he feels soooo much better!

It's like Prozac.

Next to take the stage at the conference was Marissa Mayer, who said that Yahoo! still had one basic, big problem: getting people to use its products so that it could it grow - so, basically the problem of all businesses then? Anyway, she also said that Microsoft was not the search partner the ailing web firm was hoping for. She moaned:

One of the points of the alliance is that we collectively want to grow share, rather than just trading share with each other. We need to see monetisation working better because we know that it can and we've seen other competitors in the space illustrate how well it can work. We’ve seen some gains [in monetisation] but we need to see more.

In the meantime, she wants to cut Yahoo!'s 75 apps (eh?!) down to 12 to 15 as part of its mobile strategising:

Each user will hopefully have the two to four apps that matter most to them. We want to make sure we have enough applications to fulfill that single-purpose need. We don’t want to overload people by making them download too many apps.

Meanwhile, Oracle wants to have another go at Google over its use of Java in Android software, and just in case anyone's confused about why exactly the Chocolate Factory should get a good spanking, Oracle has broken it down in its court filing using popular references, metaphor and storytelling. The company said:

Ann Droid wants to publish a bestseller. So she sits down with an advance copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – the fifth book – and proceeds to transcribe. She verbatim copies all the chapter titles – from Chapter 1 ("Dudley Demented") to Chapter 38 ("The Second War Begins"). She copies verbatim the topic sentences of each paragraph, starting from the first (highly descriptive) one and continuing, in order, to the last, simple one ("Harry nodded."). She then paraphrases the rest of each paragraph. She rushes the competing version to press before the original under the title: Ann Droid's Harry Potter 5.0. The knockoff flies off the shelves.

J.K. Rowling sues for copyright infringement. Ann's defenses: "But I wrote most of the words from scratch. Besides, this was fair use, because I copied only the portions necessary to tap into the Harry Potter fan base."

Obviously, the defenses would fail.

Defendant Google Inc. has copied a blockbuster literary work just as surely, and as improperly, as Ann Droid – and has offered the same defenses.

Google could also be in trouble over its Play app store, which Australian software developer Dan Nolan claims is violating users' privacy. According to the man notorious for developing "The Paul Keating Insult Generator", the app bazaar is passing private users' details to developers.

He said:

Let me make this crystal clear, every App purchase you make on Google Play gives the developer your name, suburb and email address with no indication that this information is actually being transferred.

With the information I have available to me through the checkout portal I could track down and harass users who left negative reviews or refunded the app purchase.

And finally, pranksters hacked into a TV emergency alert system in Montana this week and broadcast an audio warning about the start of a zombie apocalypse. Viewers in Great Falls had their regular programming interrupted to bring them the news that "bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living", with a graphic at the top of the screen showing which counties had been affected.

The TV affiliate of CBS immediately issued statements disavowing the emergency warnings, but even the police had to wonder if the end was nigh. Lt Shane Sorensen of the Great Falls Police Department said:

We had four calls checking to see if it was true. And then I thought, 'Wait. What if?'

We can report in the city, there have been no sightings of dead bodies rising from the ground. ®

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