Tim Cook, the head of the world's most iconic technology company, has come out today in an op-ed on Bloomberg Businessweek, saying he's never denied his sexual orientation but "I haven't publicly acknowledged it either, until now.

"Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day," Cook writes.

Update: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says Apple’s local manufacturing of the Mac Pro means about 800 new jobs.

“I think it’s another day in the life of a growing city,” he tells KUT News, “but it’s a big day in the life of Austin, because as you know, Apple is a premiere company around the world. When they make an important step like this here in our city, that’s going to be heard around the world to our advantage.”

Apple has already announced it’s building a $300 million operations center in Northwest Austin. For that project, Apple is receiving a $21 million grant from the state, over $8 million from the city and $6 million from Travis County

Original story (11:58 a.m.): Apple’s new Mac Pro is being manufactured in Austin.

Sales of its new iPhone 5s and 5c models have surpassed other iPhone releases and exceeded initial supply, Apple says. The company says it has sold 9 million of the phones since their launch on Friday and that "many online orders" will ship in coming weeks.

"This is our best iPhone launch yet — more than nine million new iPhones sold — a new record for first weekend sales," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a Monday press release. He added that "while we've sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5s, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly."

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has released a free mobile app to help people stay aware of wildfire danger.

The app gives users instant access to a so-called “blaze tracker” that issues alerts when conditions are favorable for wildfires and when a wildfire has begun within 100 miles of any location designated by the user. Users can also monitor multiple locations to keep up-to-date with what might be happening in a region susceptible to wildfires where friends or family live.

"A lot of information about wildfires is really hard to get and to take in. Wildfires are big, covering hundreds of acres, and also really fast-moving... [This app] actually even allows you to see the path of a fire, where its perimeter is, and what's happening. And that really makes the information about these big fires a little easier to digest," Sara Kennedy, Director of Communications for American Red Cross Central Texas Region, says.

Social gaming company Zynga is laying off five percent of the company’s total workforce. That means about 100 layoffs in Austin and others in Boston.

The company says the move is an attempt to streamline operations and focus resources on their "most strategic opportunities.”

The move comes just weeks after the company’s stock plummeted 18 percent.

Apple Announces Smaller, Cheaper Version of iPad

Oct 23, 2012

Update at 1:52 p.m. ET. Introducing iPad Mini:

Philip W. Schiller, the senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, announced a new, smaller and cheaper version of its popular tablet, just minutes ago in San Jose, Calif.

"So, what can you do with an iPad mini that can't do with an iPad?" Schiller asked. "You can hold it in one hand."

The iPad mini is as thin as a pencil, weighs 0.68 pounds and has a 7.9 inch screen, Schiller said. The iPad has a 9.7 inch screen.

How much of a "public relations disaster" has Apple's new mapping software been?

Big enough that the famously proud company has apologized — and suggested that users can turn to arch rival Google Maps instead.

In a message "to our customers" posted this morning, CEO Tim Cook says:

Apple sold more than 5 million iPhones this weekend, the company said in a press release. That surpasses the initial sales of the previous version.

As Bloomberg news reports, demand for the new phone quickly exceeded the initial supply, but some analysts expected bigger sales.

They report:

Computing giant Apple has released the newest iteration of its mind-bogglingly popular iPhone. But Apple continues to grab headlines for a less-PR friendly reason: reaction to its new maps program, which replaces Google Maps on the iPhone 5 and in Apple’s latest operating system update.

A complete failure.” “Epic fail.” “Things can only get better.”

Criticism is pouring in on several fronts. While Apple’s maps are lauded for their graphic beauty, including a breathtaking 3D “Flyover” feature, the app is being criticized for receiving a rollout before being fully cooked. Its satellite graphics appear bubbly and distorted in several instances. Directions and details have been ubiquitously downgraded in some areas. And a big dealbreaker for iPhone users in many major cities is Maps’ lack of built-in public transit schedules and directions, which Google Maps has.

But so far, Austin seems to have been spared the worst of the brunt.

Austin’s Apple Maps experience seems to be relatively smooth compared to those in other cities. For starters, it’s rendered in 3D, while many other cities aren’t. Chris Carter, an Austin-based Apple independent developer, says "the 3D technology that they're using actually generates the 3D models from multiple angles of satellite images."

Moments ago in San Francisco, Apple's Phil Schiller unveiled the latest incarnation of the company's massively popular smartphone.

The iPhone 5, said Schiller, is "the most beautiful product we've ever made."

Of course, you want to know what's different about this model: Essentially it's thinner, lighter, faster and also has a bigger screen than the iPhone 4s.

The device also comes equipped to work with faster wireless networks like LTE, which AT&T, Sprint and Verizon carry.

The AP adds:

The iPhone 5 will give a nice boost to U.S. economic growth in the last three months of this year, according to a new note from JPMorgan.

A lot of thought goes into giving your smartphone a distinctive look and feel, from the shape of the speaker — square, round or oval — to where to put the buttons — side, front or back.

But industrial designers like Robert Brunner say he doesn't have a lot of room to be creative.

"Because you're really being so heavily driven on maintaining a minimal physical size," he says. "So you really get into this very fine envelope of a few millimeters that you have to work with."

The largest corporate employer in Central Texas, Dell, has sent out pink slips to an undisclosed number of workers. 

Despite acquisitions designed to broaden the company’s enterprise services, a slowing global economy, tough competitors, and a shift from desktop to mobile computing have hammered the Round Rock-based company’s sales, says industry analyst Shannon Cross.

“What hurt them most recently is just a dramatic slowdown in PC sales. Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace. China slowed dramatically for both HP and Dell in the most recent quarter. You’ve seen a lot of pricing pressure coming from some of the Asian competitors like Lenovo, Asus, and Acer.”

Apple. Samsung.

Friends? Enemies? Frenemies?

The nature of the relationship is an important question in Austin, where Samsung recently announced it will spend at least $3 billion retooling its Austin Semiconductor Plant to produce advanced processor chips.

Industry rumors say that a primary purpose of the Austin retooling is to make electronic innards for Apple's iPhones and iPads, though Samsung does not not confirm that. Worldwide, Samsung is the biggest supplier of iPhone and iPad processing chips. In fact, many analysts say that Apple could not produce the iPhone without Samsung.

But how does that cozy relationship fit with a bitter court battle that has raged around the globe?

Computing giant Apple has acquired land to house its Americas Operations Center.

The Austin Business Journal reports Apple purchased three plots of land in Northwest Austin late last month:

Records at the Travis County Clerk’s Office show that McShane Development Co. LLC, through its Riata Vista LP entity, sold three tracts of land to Apple on June 21. The exhibits indicate that the land is in the Milwood Section 20 subdivision near Parmer Lane and Delcour Drive.

Apple’s opening of an operations center in Texas was assisted by numerous grants and tax abatements: a $21 million grant from the state, via Governor Rick Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund; approximately $8.6 million in abatements from the City of Austin, and approximately  $6.4 million from the county.

Photo courtesy

The Travis County Commissioner’s Court has approved an incentives package for computing company Apple to expand operations in Austin.

As reported earlier today,Travis County is estimated to give Apple between $5.4 and $6.4 million dollars in tax rebates over 15 years. This comes on top of Austin's estimated $8.6 million in tax rebates over the next ten years, and the state's $21 million in incentives. In return, Apple says it will bring well over 3,000 jobs to the Austin area.

County commissioners said Apple should consider economically disadvantaged individuals for employment. However, that’s not stipulated as part of the contract’s requirement.

Photo courtesy

Whole Foods Bans Unsustainable Seafood

Announced today and beginning on Earth Day (April 22), Whole Foods Market will no longer carry red-rated wild-caught fish, making it the first national grocer to enact such a move. 

Just what is a "red" rating? Using guidelines issued by Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, the designation describes marine life afflicted by overfishing, or invasive fishing methods that harm surrounding species. 

Many of the usual suspects appear on the red-rated list for the Southeast region, which includes Texas: Albacore tuna, bluefin tuna, and imported shrimp. But Whole Foods will also say goodbye to mahi mahi, shark, red snapper, and tilapia – at least until those fish rebound in numbers.

City Hall photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The Austin City Council approved an estimated $8.6 million in tax breaks for tech-giant Apple last night.

The incentives – taking the form of tax rebates over the next 10 years –encourage Apple to expand its operations in Austin. Governor Rick Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund already offered Apple incentives of $21 million. Travis County is said to be considering additional incentives as well.

Apple says it will create over 3,600 new jobs in Austin, and invest millions in a new “Americas Operations Center” in Northwest Austin. Apple’s government liaison Mike Foulkes noted it would be the “first ground up campus outside of California in the world.”

Callie Hernandez, KUT News

Spring break is definitely over.

The Austin City Council convenes to an 89 item-long meeting this morning. Some heavy lifting was accomplished earlier this week, with a general work session and a specific one delving into Austin Energy rate changes, but there’s still plenty happening today:

How Ya Like Them Apples?: A proposed incentives deal with tech-giant Apple is the meeting’s main event. The city would rebate the company 10 years’ worth of real and personal property taxes, estimated at $8.6 million, in exchange for meeting investment and job-creation benchmarks. The state is throwing in even more – $21 million.

City Hall photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Rome wasn’t built in a day – and should it expand in Austin, computing-giant Apple’s “Americas Operations Center” would take some time too.

At today’s meeting of the Austin City Council, company representatives stated it would take four years to build a 200,000 square foot facility in Northwest Austin if Apple decides to expand here.

That was one of the details the council learned today at a meeting on the proposed property tax rebate agreement the city is considering with Apple. We wrote in detail about the contract yesterday.