Today: Reports aplenty about Apple's upcoming changes, Tesla Motors is banned from New Jersey, and a trio of big hires in Silicon Valley.
The Lead: Apple reported to be planning changes to Maps app, iTunes and iPhone
Apple keeps its plans for the future tightly under wraps, but that has never stopped the media and analysts from reporting on future changes to its core services and products, including a trio of Tuesday reports that suggested changes ahead for Cupertino company's mobile operating system, iTunes entertainment service and the iPhone.
While Apple just released the first major update to its refreshed iOS 7 mobile operating system on Monday, Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac reported Tuesday that the company is looking toward iOS 8 to add new information to its widely derided Maps application. The report suggests that Apple will include directions for traveling by public transit, a feature that many urban dwellers rely on with Google Maps.
"Using data acquired via acquisitions and various partnerships, transit will be deeply integrated into the new maps application," Gurman wrote.
Apple Maps has suffered a rough beginning since replacing Google Maps as the default mapping application on the iPhone, with complaints of shoddy directions leading to an apology from CEO Tim Cook and loud applause from users when Google Maps reappeared in Apple's App store.
Apple's maps may be more visible when the new iPhone is released later this year, as a variety of reports has suggested that the iPhone 6 will have a larger screen to match popular Android "phablets" that have stolen market share from Apple. Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves joined in the chorus predicting such a move Tuesday, and said that the move would help Apple lure back some customers it has lost to smartphones using Google's mobile operating system.
"We believe Apple can sell a 4.7" iPhone at a subsidized price of $299, which should generate incremental gross profit on replacement sales and attract new customers that had previously purchased Android phones specifically for a larger screen," Hargreaves wrote, predicting that it could add $4 per share to Apple's annual profits.
Emboldened by his prediction of higher profits, Hargreaves upgraded Apple to the equivalent of a "Buy" rating, and boosted his price target to $635; Apple gained 1 percent Tuesday despite overall Wall Street struggles, closing at $536.09.
One of Apple's largest and most profitable businesses is software and services, namely its iTunes and App Store offerings, a $16 billion business in the company's 2013 fiscal year that Hargreaves predicts will produce the second highest chunk of Apple's 2014 profits, after the iPhone. Apple sees a weakness in the music-sales business of iTunes, however, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported Monday evening that the company will seek to negotiate an exclusive window for album sales before they launch on streaming services.
The Times reported that Apple's sales of new music dipped 12 percent year-over-year in the first 8 weeks of 2014, in line with a 13 percent decline in digital album sales tracked by Nielsen SoundScan. In response, Apple is talking with labels about an exclusive window, similar to movies, which release on DVD months before they become available on HBO, Netflix and comparable offerings.
That move would present a challenge to Apple's streaming competition, namely Oakland-based Pandora Media and Spotify. Apple's iTunes Radio streaming-music service is able to find and play music purchased through its store, which could allow it to bypass such a rule. Pandora, which has struggled since detailing a stall in the growth of its service last week, dropped another 4.7 percent to $34.21 Tuesday.
SV150 market report: Tesla booted from N.J., trio of new Silicon Valley hires
Apple's gain was out of the ordinary Tuesday, as Wall Street indexes dropped after a record-breaking week, and Silicon Valley companies followed suit while Tesla Motors was losing a fight to stay open in New Jersey.
Palo Alto electric car maker Tesla has been fighting campaigns from entrenched car dealerships in a variety of states, but it lost in New Jersey on Tuesday after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission approved a rule that outlaws Tesla's direct-sales model. "Tesla has been allowed to operate for a year and a half, when they shouldn't have been operating at all," Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, told Mercury News reporter Dana Hull on Tuesday. Tesla took to Twitter to rant about the process and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and released a blog post that accused Christie's administration of going "outside the legislative process by expediting a rule proposal that would completely change the law in New Jersey." Tesla has two stores in New Jersey and owners have registered 642 Model S sedans in the state; direct sales will have to stop March 31. Tesla stock dropped 1.9 percent to $234.41, its lowest closing price since a huge surge last month.
Silicon Valley's most prominent companies seem to be in a hiring mood, with three new hires announced or reported. Yahoo, which has been caught up in the NSA spying story, hired a vocal critic of U.S. surveillance as its new chief security officer; Twitter hired a former YouTube executive to lead its video efforts; and Hewlett-Packard poached an Alcatel-Lucent executive to lead enterprise sales in the Americas. Yahoo dropped 1.3 percent to $37.56 as eMarketer reported that its display advertising business will grow 2 percent this year, while that lucrative business will expand 24 percent overall. Twitter gained 0.3 percent to $54.02 despite suffering its longest and possibly largest outing since the San Francisco company's IPO, and HP gained a penny to $29.91.
Facebook reached a new intraday record for a second consecutive session, but ended up with a 2.7 percent decline to $70.10 as analysts wonder whether to boost price targets above the Menlo Park company's soaring price. Electronic Arts surged to multiyear highs after the launch of a highly anticipated game, "Titanfall"; shares gained 2 percent to $29.80 despite a rocky start to the online portion of the game. Gilead Sciences fell 0.5 percent to $29.84 after a California panel of medical experts said that the Foster City company's breakthrough hepatitis C treatment was too expensive. Google fell 1 percent to $1,199.99 while facing a lawsuit claiming that its mobile apps make it too easy for children to charge large amounts within a game, an issue that cost Apple millions. Palo Alto-based Jive Software shot up more than 7 percent after Re/Code reported that the collaborative enterprise software company was for sale, but settled down to record a 2.5 percent gain at $8.52.
Up: Zynga, Salesforce, EA, Advanced Micro Devices, Nvidia, Apple, VMware, SanDisk, Twitter, Oracle, HP
Down: Ruckus, Pandora, Juniper, SolarCity, Yelp, Facebook, SunPower, Tesla, Applied Materials, Yahoo, eBay, NetApp, Google, Adobe
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Down 6.51, or 0.42 percent, to 1,562.12
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 27.26, or 0.63 percent, to 4,307.19
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 67.43, or 0.41 percent, to 16,351.25
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 9.54, or 0.51 percent, to 1,867.63
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.