Rumor: White iPod touch en route for 2011, minor spec updates expected

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Date: Friday, July 22nd, 2011, 07:51
Category: iPod Touch, Rumor

An update next month to Apple’s flagship digital media player may outfit the device in an additional color but may otherwise represent a rather modest refresh when compared to years past according to AppleInsider.

The iPod, which struck a resurgence that helped place Apple back on the map in 2001, may for the first time take a back seat to the company’s more lucrative and influential devices — such as the iPhone and iPad — when the electronics maker unveils its holiday lineup of iOS devices sometime between mid-August and mid-September.

For years the iPod lifted Apple as its bread-and-butter product but now accounts for a paltry 5% of the company’s revenue, according to data released as part of its fiscal third quarter earnings report this week. The majority of that revenue now comes from the higher-ASP iPod touch, which accounted for more than half of the 7.54 million iPods shipped during the quarter.

Adding a bit more color to the matter are a series of recent industry checks by Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPod touch is the only one of Apple’s four iPod product lines that continues to show any semblance of unit growth heading into the second half of the year.

Looking into the current third calendar quarter, Kuo said checks indicate Apple has placed orders for white iPod touch models that are expected to go into mass production sometime in late August, but he added that the build plans for those models reflect few, if any, distinguishable changes from the existing black models introduced last fall.

“It means no spec update of iPod touch this year,” he said.

And while such claims may or may not pan out, it’s worth noting that the same round of checks by the analyst revealed earlier this week that Apple’s production roadmap for its legacy white MacBook appeared to drop off in August, and that no future updates were expected. Within days of those checks, Apple formally discontinued sales of the white MacBook to consumers, relegating the notebook to an education-only product.

Asked why he believes his checks into this year’s iPod touch update will similarly prove accurate, Kuo said it’s all about a priority shift towards the market-leading iPhone and the iPad, which now combine for a whopping 68% of Apple’s sales. Unlike years past when Apple updated the iPhone in the summer, met initial demand, and only then began sharing components with the iPod touch in the fall, this year’s iPhone refresh has been pushed inline with that of the iPod touch.

“[The] iPhone and iPad have higher priority to get shared components of iOS devices when the supply chain is tight (especially after the Japan quake),” Kuo said, suggesting that Apple has such high expectations for the fifth-generation iPhone that it may not be confident it could secure enough components to introduce a similarly-equipped iPod touch around the same time.

For perspective, Apple shipped at least 33 million iOS devices last quarter, struggling to build enough iPads the entire stretch. That quarter included 20 million iPhones, and it wasn’t a new iPhone quarter. The iPhone 4 actually celebrated its first birthday near the end of the 3-month span.

Apple has proven that it can beat at a pace that is sometimes beyond the scalability of its suppliers, and is now pouring billions into those companies to make sure they catch up so it doesn’t have to slow down. In addition to mass production of the iPhone 5 in September, Kuo says Apple has an ambitious but, for those reasons, tentative plan that could see a new iPad enter production only a few months later.

Although the “plan might change,” the analyst’s current checks have a new iPad hitting the manufacturing lines sometime in the fourth quarter. He says, however, that it’s unclear when Apple plans to introduce it to market.

“Component suppliers will start to ship for next iPad in mid 3Q11 and MP date will be in 4Q,” he wrote in a communication to AppleInsider. “The demand forecast is strong and Apple prefers to allocate shared components to iPhone and iPad.” Kuo added that TPK currently acts as the sole source for touch-screens for white iPads but that Wintek will start sharing those duties in September.

The analyst’s checks aside, there’s been little to no evidence thus far to suggest a material update to the iPod touch is near production. No reports have surfaced with talk of parts or supplier contracts for a new model, and even Apple’s own iOS betas are already dropping hints at two versions of an iPad 3 but haven’t turned up mention of a fifth-gen iPod touch. Instead, the last few releases included references (above) to an unreleased “iPod4,2,” which identifies it as a player based on the existing, fourth-gen iPod touch architecture.

Should Apple indeed forgo an architectural revamp of the iPod this year, the advent of a white model could serve to re-energize sales in a move similar to the one that played out a few months ago with the arrival of the white iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iFixIt performs teardown of 2011 Mac mini, finds room for second hard drive

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Date: Friday, July 22nd, 2011, 04:32
Category: Mac mini, News

A teardown of Apple’s just-released Mac Mini reveals a similar design to the previous generation, though with the addition of the new processor, Thunderbolt controller and Bluetooth 4.0, while the company’s decision to remove the optical drive made room for a second storage drive.

Apple released the latest version of the Mac Mini on Wednesday, adding next-generation Intel processors, improved graphics for up to twice the performance, and the high-speed Thunderbolt port. The company also released Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, new MacBook Airs and a Thunderbolt LED Cinema Display.

Per AppleInsider, the cool cats at iFixit have taken apart the 2.3GHz Core i5 version of the new 2011 Mac mini, noting that the innards “look rather identical to the previous model.”

As is often the case with the company, Apple has given and taken away. This time around, the Mac maker has made the controversial decision to remove the optical drive. But, with the centimeter and a half of extra space gained, the company has made room for a second hard drive or solid state drive.

iFixIt suggests that users may be able to install a second hard drive by themselves, with the only deterrent being “the availability of a second SATA hard drive-to-logic board cable.” Apple does offer dual hard drive build-to-order options for its more expensive 2.5GHz i5 model and the quad-core 2.0GHz i7 server version comes standard with two 500GB HDDs, but iFixit’s teardown appears to show that users can add a second drive to the low-end model on their own.

According to the report, the Mac Mini utilizes a similar Thunderbolt port controller to that found in the Early 2011 iMac. The desktop also contains the same Bluetooth 4.0 chip as the one discovered in the MacBook Air earlier on Thursday.

The Mac Mini received a notable repairability score of 8 out of 10; the desktop contains no proprietary screws, nor does it use any glue that needs to be removed. The report found upgrades to the RAM and hard drive to be an easy task. Removing the power supply does take some more work, however, as all of the internals must be removed first.

Benchmarks for the new Mac Mini reveal that the new models are “absolute screamers,” with the top of the line units running roughly twice as fast as last year’s models.

If you’ve snagged the new Mac mini and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

iFixIt teardown points out upgradable SSD in 2011 MacBook Air

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Date: Friday, July 22nd, 2011, 03:43
Category: MacBook Air, News

They snagged it.

And they dissected it.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, the mighty iFixIt team had performed a full teardown of the 2011 13″ MacBook Air.

One of the nicer things to come out of the teardown was the news that the internal solid-state drive isn’t soldered to the logic board, meaning that MBA owners who would like more storage and don’t have an issue with invalidating their warranty can open the computer and install a drive with more capacity. While Apple’s MacBook Air storage solutions max out at 256 GB, while other providers offer faster SSDs with capacities up to 480 GB.

Unfortunately, none of the MacBook Air models are able to take more than 4 GB of RAM, which is soldered onto the logic board.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve picked up a new MacBook Air, please let us know how the experience has been.