Industrial designer Jonathan Ive left with additional power/privileges after Steve Jobs’ death

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:41
Category: Hardware, News

If you’re on your way out, leave someone behind to protect your ideals and legacy.

And if that person is less than conventional but has created some of the coolest industrial designs of the past 13 years, all the better.

Per the Associated Press, Apple’s widely praised design chief Jonathan Ive has no true boss who can tell him what to do at the company, a distinction put in place by Steve Jobs himself.

Information from the new biography of Jobs, set to arrive next week, continues to arrive, offering a glimpse into the highly private life of the Apple co-founder. The news wire obtained an early copy of the book, and shared some details on the relationship between Jobs and Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design.

In talking with author Walter Isaacson for the book, Jobs revealed that he viewed Ive as his “spiritual partner” at Apple. Showing his trust in Ive, the company co-founder left him more freedom than anyone else in the company — a perk that remains even after Jobs’s death.

“He told Isaacson that Ive had ‘more operational power’ at Apple than anyone else besides Jobs himself — that there’s no one at the company who can tell Ive what to do,” the report said. “That, says Jobs, is ‘the way I set it up.’”

Ive and Jobs became close at Apple, working directly together on designing a number of the company’s core products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Ive, a 44-year-old native of London, joined Apple in 1996 and has held his current job since 1997.

Showcasing their extensive work together, Jobs and Ive share credit for inventing over 200 patents. Jobs is responsible for the most total patents at the company, at 313.

A 2006 profile of Ive said that at the time he and his team worked in a large, secretive open studio that many Apple employees were not allowed to enter. There a “massive sound system” played music as he and his team worked with state-of-the-art prototyping equipment with “intense iteration.”

Ive has been heralded as one of the most influential designers of his time, and legendary Braun designer Dieter Rams publicly praised him in the 2009 documentary Objectified. In return for his design work at Apple, Ive has been well compensated, and is said to be worth more than US$128 million.

In 2009, Ive was declared the “smartest designer” in technology by Forbes. He was also honored with the title “Designer of the Year” in 2003 by Design Museum London, and was named “Royal Designer for Industry” by The Royal Society of Arts.

More details on the relationship between Ive and Jobs will be available in Isaacson’s book, arriving next week. Entitled “Steve Jobs,” will be available in a hardcover edition, as well as digitally through Amazon Kindle and Apple’s iBooks.

Catcher to invest $2-3 million to reopen Chinese MacBook unibody case plant within November time frame

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:05
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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After local officials ordered the suspension of operations at a Suzhou, China factory that supplies Apple with chassis for its laptops, Taiwanese manufacturer Catcher Technology will invest US$2-3 million with the goal of getting its facility back online in November.

Per DigiTimes, details emerged that Catcher had temporarily closed a plant that provides 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines, as well as the iMac all-in-one desktop. The company is reportedly spending to “modify equipment and manufacturing processes” to resolve complaints from nearby residents regarding “odorous gas emissions.”

“Catcher aims to resume operations at the plant in November,” the publication noted. The manufacturer’s president, Allen Horng, had previously said that total shipments would fall 20 percent in October and could drop by as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refuses to allow the plant to resume production.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” he said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

According to the report, Catcher is now considering increasing its investment in Taiwan in order to diversify operations and reduce its operating risk. The manufacturer recently ratcheted up production at a plant in southern Taiwan and purchased a new lot for further expansion in the area.

Catcher’s production woes could restrict an already limited supply chain for metal chassis. In August, it was reported that laptop makers looking to build machines to Intel’s “Ultrabook” specifications were having trouble securing production capacity for unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis. Foxconn and Catcher reportedly have a combined total of 10,000 CNC lathes required for the process, with most of their supply going to Apple.

During Apple’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said that the company is “investigating and assessing” the potential shortage of Mac unibody casings. In the most recent September quarter, Apple had its best quarter ever for Mac sales, selling 4.89 million during the period. Portables now represent 74 percent of the company’s sales.

In 2008, Apple detailed the new unibody manufacturing process, calling the design “in many ways more beautiful internally than externally.”

Apple is expected to release a modest update to its MacBook Pro line later this month. The laptops will likely receive a speed bump to tide them over until Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips are ready next year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Canon Printer Drivers 2.7 update for Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7 operating systems

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:52
Category: News, Software

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It’s not the most exciting news in the world, but if you have a Canon printer, it’s useful.

Late Thursday, Apple released its Apple Canon Printer Drivers 2.7 package for its Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7 operating systems.

The update, a 320 megabyte download, adds support for the following Canon printers and multi-function peripherals listed here.

The Canon Printer Drivers 2.7 package requires Mac OS X 10.6.1 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

Apple patents look into improved hydrogen fuel cells

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Date: Thursday, October 20th, 2011, 16:13
Category: battery, News, Patents

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It’s the patents that show where the nifty stuff might come from.

Per AppleInsider, a pair of new patent applications published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office demonstrate the work Apple has done internally on fuel cells. The filings describe how Apple could build the power sources smaller and lighter for portable devices.

The first application, entitled “Parallel Fuel Stack Architecture,” describes how Apple could arrange a set of fuel cells into a fuel stack. In the second filing, named “Reduced-Weight Fuel Cell Plate,” Apple describes how it could use lightweight electrically conductive and corrosion-resistant material to build a fuel cell.

The applications explain that fuel cells provide electrical power by converting a fuel, such as hydrogen or a hydrogen-containing compound, into an electric current. Fuel cells contain an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte between them.

In a fuel cell, a catalyst at the anode oxidizes the fuel and produces positively charged ions and electronics. Ions from the oxidization process then pass through to the cathode while blocking the passage of electrons, and the electrons then drive a load connected to the fuel cell.

For a waste product, the ions recombine with a negatively charged atom, such as oxygen, at the cathode. Any waste from a fuel cell escapes as carbon dioxide and/or water.

A fuel cell typically produces low voltages between 0.5 and 0.7 volts, requiring multiple fuel cells to be combined to create a fuel cell stack. But these stacks come with a number of inherent issues.

For starters, fuel cell stack architectures can have a single point of failure in a connected series. Fuel cells may also fail for a number of reasons, including accumulation of nitrogen in the anode, degradation of the electrolyte, or water flooding in the anode or cathode. Because of this, the reliability of a fuel cell stack can decrease as the number of cells in the stack grows.

Apple’s solution for this issue is to build multiple fuel cells connected in a parallel configuration by a power bus, along with a voltage-multiplying circuit to increase the voltage of the stack. In this way, the reliability of the stack would be increased while the fuel cells could also potentially power devices with higher operating voltages.

Another problem with fuel cells detailed by Apple is their bipolar plates are typically built with conductive and corrosion-resistant materials, such as stainless steel, that are high in density and add weight to the fuel cells. A stack of cells, all made of stainless steel, can create a power source and portable device that are too heavy to be used practically.

To address this problem, Apple proposes arranging the fuel cells in a monopolar configuration to enable sharing of electrodes between adjacent fuel cells in the fuel stack. This sharing of electrodes could significantly reduce the number of electrodes in the fuel stack, and also enable the use of monopolar plates that are lighter and thinner.

In this method, Apple believes it could build a monopolar fuel cell stack that is both lighter and cheaper than a typical bipolar fuel cell stack. Even with the reduction in weight and cost, the filing says the stack could contain the same number of fuel cells, or even be more powerful than a traditional bipolar fuel cell stack of the same size.

Both patent applications, made public this week, were first filed with the USPTO in April of 2010. The parallel architecture filing is credited to Steven. C. Michalske and Bradley L. Spare, while the reduced weight application is credited to Vijay M. Iyer, Jean L. Lee and Gregory L. Tice.

Apple has frequently explored the possible use of alternative energy sources in its devices to make them more efficient and environmentally friendly. While the mention of fuel cells in an application from Apple is unique, the company has repeatedly explored the option of solar power in its portable electronics.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

F-Secure identifies new Mac trojan masquerading as Flash Player update

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Date: Thursday, October 20th, 2011, 02:28
Category: News, security, Software

Sometimes you get the feeling that that the security war never really ends.

Per Macworld, F-Secure has reported on a new, scarier-than-usual Mac Trojan horse masquerading as a Flash installer. The downside is that if you do fall victim to the Trojan, it disables your Mac’s automatic malware definition updates.

F-Secure, which has a report on the issue, has dubbed the new pest Trojan-Downloader:OSX/Flashback.C; Macworld reported on a previous version of the malware back in September. A Trojan horse works by fooling you into running it; in this case, Flashback disguises itself as an installer package for Flash Player.

The earlier incarnation of the Flashback Trojan horse sent information about your Mac back to a remote server, which was bad enough, but this new version disables the security definition updating mechanism Apple first introduced in Snow Leopard back in May; the same malware protection is included in Lion, too. If you install the rogue software, it prompts you for your administrator password. Enter that, and Flashback.C wipes out files necessary for the malware definition updating process to run properly.

By disabling the malware definitions update, Flashback.C attempts to ensure that your Mac won’t know about any update Apple releases to remove the malicious software. Notably, the Trojan horse bails and deletes itself if you have the Little Snitch app installed.

F-Secure offers removal instructions if you fear you’ve been infected; the fix involves deleting entries from your browsers’ .plist files. Check out F-Secure’s page if you’re concerned, but you only need to worry if you recently installed Flash Player from a download that you didn’t get from Adobe’s website.

If you’ve seen this trojan on your end or have any feedback on it, please let us know in the comments section.

Apple confirms C Spire Wireless as fourth U.S. iPhone carrier

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Date: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011, 09:39
Category: iPhone, News

The south shall rise again.

This time, with its own wireless carrier for the iPhone.

Per Macworld, C Spire Wireless will join Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T as the fourth U.S iPhone carrier. The company, which functions as the largest privately-held cellular carrier in the country, announced on Wednesday that it will begin offering the iPhone 4S “in the coming weeks.”

C Spire is a regional carrier; until last month, it did business as Cellular South. The company accepts customers primarily in the southeast, focusing on Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. Dave Miller, C Spire’s Media Relations Manager, stated that he couldn’t yet comment on whether the company would also carry the iPhone 4 or 3GS, though he did say “more details will be coming out soon about all the Apple devices we will offer.” C Spire is a CDMA carrier, like Sprint and Verizon.

Like Sprint, C Spire currently offers plans that include unlimited data. Miller indicated that he couldn’t yet confirm what plans the company would offer for the iPhone 4S, but declared that C Spire offers “what we consider the best plan in the industry, the 80/40 plan.” That plan offers unlimited minutes, text, and data for US$80 per month for your first line, and US$40 for additional lines.

An Apple spokesperson also confirmed that C Spire will carry the iPhone 4S soon.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you have any feedback from your experience with C Spire, please let us know in the comments.

Apple posts Steve Jobs memorial web site

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Date: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011, 04:56
Category: News

Compiling some of the many e-mails the company has received since the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple launched a new feature on its website on Wednesday called “Remembering Steve.”

Per AppleInsider, the tribute site, at apple.com/stevejobs/, continuously scrolls with personal messages sent in by customers and admirers of Jobs. Submissions are still being accepted at the address rememberingsteve@apple.com.

“Over a million people from all over the world have shared their memories, thoughts, and feelings about Steve,” the site reads. “One thing they all have in common — from personal friends to colleagues to owners of Apple products — is how they’ve been touched by his passion and creativity.”

The memorial page arrives as Apple is set to hold a celebration of the life of Jobs at its Cupertino, Calif., campus today. Apple’s retail stores will temporarily close from 10 a.m. Pacific to 11:30 a.m., allowing employees to watch a live broadcast of the event.

Another, more private tribute to Jobs was held on Sunday at Stanford Memorial Church, attended by Apple executives, family, friends and dignitaries, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton. It also included performances from cellist Yo Yo Ma, singer Joan Baez, and U2 frontman Bono.

Jobs passed away on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at the age of 56 after a long bout with cancer. A smaller service, featuring friends and family, was held just a few days after the Apple co-founder died.

Apple posts $28.27 billion revenue, $6.62 billion profit for Q4 2011, still disappoints some analysts

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Date: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011, 04:00
Category: Finance, News

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You can offer evidence of something pretty amazing, but you’ll never win the entirety of your audience over all the time.

In this vein, Apple released the financial results for its fiscal fourth quarter yesterday, reporting record sales of the Mac and iPad product lines as well as the company’s highest September quarter revenue and earnings ever, the news still failing to meet some analysts’ expectations.

Per Mac|Life, Apple announced its quarterly financial results for the fiscal 2011 fourth quarter which ended on September 24. Even without a new iPhone over the summer, the company still racked up quarterly revenue of US$28.27 billion and quarterly net profit of US$6.62 billion, or US$7.05 per diluted share. Last year at the same time, Apple had revenue of US$20.34 billion and net quarterly profit of US$4.31 billion, or US$4.64 per diluted share. The company’s gross margin was 40.3 percent compared to 36.9 percent in the same quarter a year ago, with international sales accounting for 63 percent of the quarterly revenue.

Even with this at hand, analysts on Wall Street looked at the report glumly, with Apple missing their own expectations of US$7.22 per share and revenue of US$29.5 billion. Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple hasn’t missed earnings forecasts since the second quarter of 2002, but others are saying sometime in 2004 instead. Whatever the case, the stock fell eight percent after hours but rebounded just a bit to close at US$398 per share.

While Apple has already sold more than four million iPhone 4S devices in the first weekend which won’t be accounted for until next quarter, the company still managed to move 17.07 million of the older handsets in the current quarter, a 21 percent year-over-year growth and certainly nothing to sneeze at. 11.2 million iPads flew out the door, marking a 166 percent increase from the same quarter last year, with 4.89 million Macs also finding homes in the quarter, a 26 percent unit increase.

“We are thrilled with the very strong finish of an outstanding fiscal 2011, growing annual revenue to US$108 billion and growing earnings to US$26 billion,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Customer response to iPhone 4S has been fantastic, we have strong momentum going into the holiday season, and we remain really enthusiastic about our product pipeline.”

One product category that took a hit was the iPod, which sold only 6.62 million units during the quarter, marking a 27 percent decline from the same quarter last year — but certainly not bad for a lineup that’s now a decade old, and the iPod continues to hold more than 70 percent market share.

“We are extremely pleased with our record September quarter revenue and earnings and with cash generation of US$5.4 billion during the quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2012, which will span 14 weeks rather than 13, we expect revenue of about US$37 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share of about US$9.30.”

As usual, Apple held a conference call to provide further highlights and field questions from analysts and investors, with CEO Tim Cook noting that it marks the first since the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs. “The world has lost a visionary and an amazing human being,” Cook stated. “He was an amazing leader and mentor. His spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple, and we are dedicated to continuing the amazing work that he loved so much.”

Cook then got down to business by turning things over to CFO Peter Oppenheimer, who repeated most of the details from Apple’s earlier press release before throwing out some additional numbers. These included iTunes Store revenue of US$1.5 billion, 180 million iBooks sold, US$11 billion in revenue from iPhone handsets and accessories, and six million downloads of OS X Lion in the quarter.

Asia-Pacific growth doubled year over year, which the company was expecting to fall when it became clear in June that no new iPhone was on the horizon. The handset is now available on 230 carriers in 105 countries, with Consumer Reports listing the device with its highest customer satisfaction rating for the sixth consecutive time. 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies are now either deploying or testing the iPhone, up from 91 percent last year.

The App Store is also flying high, with 22 more countries enlisted during the quarter for a total of 123. Retail stores are also enjoying “very strong” year-over-year growth, particularly for Mac and iPad sales, which enjoyed their best quarter ever — which no doubt helped lessen the blow from the iPhone 4S being unveiled in fiscal Q1 2012 instead.

Last but not least, during the closing question and answer session, Cook proclaimed confidence that Apple would have record sales for the next quarter, which includes the all-important holiday season. That quarter will also bring the iPhone 4S to another 22 countries at month’s end, with even more coming by year’s end.

Apple releases Apple TV 4.4.1 update, addresses iTunes library connection bugs

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 09:19
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

It’s the smaller updates that make a difference.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has provided another minor update intended to fix bugs for its Apple TV set-top box.

Apple TV software update version 4.4.1 is now available for download on the device. It can be obtained by navigating to “General,” then “Settings,” and choosing Update Software.

According to Apple, the software update addresses an issue that required a small number of Apple TV units to be connected to iTunes in order to complete last week’s 4.4 update.

One of the major features added with last week’s iOS 5 update is AirPlay mirroring, which allows a user to send their iPad 2 display wirelessly to the Apple TV. It also allows console-style gaming via supported titles like Real Racing 2 HD.

Last week’s Apple TV update also added access to Apple’s new iCloud-powered Photo Stream feature, which automatically uploads pictures taken with an iPhone or iPad 2 and shares them among iOS devices. With the update, users can view Photo Stream pictures on their HDTV.

The update also added access to iTunes Trailers, Wall Street Journal Live, and the ability to watch live games through the National Hockey League’s GameCenter subscription service.

If you’ve tried the new update and have any feedback to offer, please let us know via the comments.

“Strange odor” at manufacturing plant could lead to reduced Mac notebook shipments in November

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 04:32
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

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Come to think of it, metal housings ARE sort of important on your Mac notebook…

According to the Financial Times, a Chinese factory responsible for manufacturing the metal housings for Apple’s uni-body laptop lineup has been shutdown due to “strange odors” emanating from the plant, potentially causing a 40% decrease in shipments for November.

Catcher Technology, a Taiwanese company with factories in Eastern China, was ordered on Sunday to shutdown a factory that produces 60% of Apple’s uni-body enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines. The plant also produces casings for Apple’s iMac and products for other notebook makers such as Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Sony.

The president of Catcher Technology, Allen Horng, reported that total shipments would fall 20% in October, adding that November could see a 40% drop if the local government doesn’t clear the plant for operation by the end of the month.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” Horng said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

It is unclear whether the plant shutdown will affect shipments of a rumored MacBook Pro refresh, expected to be announced later this month. Notebooks accounted for a majority of Apple’s Mac sales in the quarter ending in June.

Analysts expect another record breaking quarter, bolstered by strengthened MacBook Air sales, when the company announces its quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.