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Apple ditching sapphire screens to focus on Siri and iCloud

Apple is apparently calling it quits on sapphire screens, turning its redundant production facility into an eco-friendly data centre to beef up Siri and iCloud.

The former GT Advanced plant in Mesa, Arizona was originally intended to mass-produce sapphire screens for Apple’s new hardware, but the company endured a tumultuous relationship with Apple and subsequently went into bankruptcy, leaving the facility idle.

Now we have confirmation from the state of Arizona that Apple intends to put the facility to good use rather than allow it to rot, by converting it into a green data-centre. The move should generate an estimated 150 jobs for the region.

Apple will reportedly use the new data-centre to beef-up its Cloud services, allowing it to improve Siri, the company’s lauded digital PA. Siri has been an integral part of our iPhones for over three years now and has taken a lot of flak for not being as useful as she should, or understanding regional dialects. She’s even been in the courtrooms, for helping someone to hide a dead body.

And now, with Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana packing some serious smarts, Siri needs some fresh new features to beat down her rivals. So expect the iOS 9 Siri to be the best yet, fingers crossed and touching all the wood in sight.

Apple is also expected to beef up its premium iCloud services with the new data centre, although there’s no details on which particular features will be upgraded.

As well as converting the factory, Apple is also planning a mammoth solar farm to power the 1.3 million square foot site’s operations, ensuring that it is powered by 100% renewable energy. The farm will reportedly generate 70MW of clean energy.

Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, was effusive about Apple’s decision, saying “Apple is by far one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world. Its decision to bring this new facility to Mesa is a huge win for Arizona and a high testament to our business-friendly climate and talented workforce.”

Apple confirmed its involvement in the new project, telling Bloomberg in a statement that the site would “serve as a command center for our global networks.” A spokesperson went on to say that “this multibillion-dollar project is one of the largest investments we’ve ever made.”

In addition to creating 150 permanent jobs, the site is also expected to generate between 300 and 500 trade positions while the data-centre is being developed.

The issues with GT Advanced appear to have driven Apple away from utilising sapphire glass screens, though its upcoming Apple Watch and Touch ID sensors still rely on it. It’s believed that the company will procure the product, which is notoriously slow and difficult to produce, from Asia.

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