Apple specifies discounts for 2011 Black Friday sales

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Date: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPad, iPod, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, retail

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As mentioned yesterday, Apple will be planning assorted discounts for this year’s Black Friday shopping holiday.

Per 9to5Mac, the discounts are in-line with last year’s prices with only modest discounts on their products. Price drops for their core products are as follows:

iPad 2: US$41 to US$61 Off

iPod nano: US$11 off

iPod Touch: US$21 to US$41 off

MacBook Air: US$101 off

MacBook Pro: US$101 off

iMac: US$101 off

Meanwhile, 3rd party accessories are also seeing some small discounts ranging from US$11-US$101.95 in savings for accessories such as iPad Smart Covers, iPhone battery packs and external hard drives.

These prices should be available for both online and local retail Apple store locations. For those who were planning to purchase from Apple retail anyway, it makes sense to wait until Friday. For those looking for more savings, other online retailers frequently their own Black Friday sales on Apple products as well. Depending on your location, those other online retailers may provide the added advantage of not charge sales tax on online orders. Apple’s online store does charge local sales tax on all orders due to its local presence in every state.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.3, MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.2 upgrades

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 04:22
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple released EFI firmware updates for both its 2011 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air notebooks. The updates, which weigh in at a 4.1 megabyte download and a 4 megabyte download, respectively, fix several issues to improve the stability of Apple’s mid-2011notebooks.

The update includes fixes that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on Apple’s mid-2011 notebook models.

As always, the updates can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

The updates require an Intel-based mid-2011 MacBook Pro or MacBook Air notebook and Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

If you’ve installed the firmware updates and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple cites iPhone 4S, MacBook Air and Mac mini products as “Bluetooth Smart Ready”

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 11:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Mac mini, MacBook Air, News

No one ever said wireless communication with devices was a bad thing.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s latest products, including the iPhone 4S and updated Mac mini and MacBook Air, are among a group of low-power Bluetooth devices now branded as “Bluetooth Smart Ready.”

Bluetooth Smart is a new brand extension given by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group to devices that implement Bluetooth 4.0. Compatible devices include phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

“Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready devices will revolutionize the way we collect, share and use information,” said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “In order to ensure consumers know what these extraordinary devices have to offer, we created the Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready marks. These new logos will help consumers manage compatibility, and encourage manufacturers to build their best Bluetooth devices yet.”

Bluetooth Smart devices are sensor-type devices like heart-rate monitors or pedometers. They run on button-cell batteries and were created to collect only a specific piece of information.

Bluetooth Smart Ready devices can connect to traditional Bluetooth devices, as well as new Bluetooth Smart devices that are just starting to enter the market. But Bluetooth Smart devices, because of their lower power consumption, will only connect with products labeled as Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Packages will now carry three potential logos created by the Bluetooth SIG to help consumers identify what their device offers, whether it be traditional Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, or Bluetooth Smart Ready.

“Consumers can look at new Bluetooth Smart Ready devices the same way they would a 3D ready TV — having the TV is just the first part of the puzzle, you need glasses and content in order to really experience 3D,” said Suke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG. “Once consumers have a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, like the new iPhone 4S, they can continue connecting to existing Bluetooth devices and are also ready to experience the new world of Bluetooth Smart peripheral devices that will carry the Bluetooth Smart logo.”

Bluetooth 4.0 support first appeared in Apple’s products in July, when the MacBook Air lineup and Mac mini were refreshed. Other Macs released this year — new iMacs and MacBook Pros — only support Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), but Bluetooth 4.0 also came to the new iPhone 4S released earlier this month.

Apple joined the Bluetooth SIG board of directors in June, and now takes part in overseeing the development of standards and licensing for the short-range wireless technology. When Apple joined, the special interest group said the iPhone maker would provide insight on platform development, as the company understands that technology is now driven by “hub devices” that capture data, utilize data at the application layer, and even upload it to the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.

Rumor: Intel working on Ivy Bridge chipset for next-gen MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Friday, September 16th, 2011, 06:52
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

The next generation of something: it’ll always be a bit niftier than the thing you have now.

Per CNET, Apple next-gen MacBook Air may see an additional performance boost next year with Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which, according to a new report, will add support for the OpenCL technology.

Apple is currently billing its Open Computing Language standard as a technology that “dramatically accelerates” applications by unlocking the “amazing parallel computing power of the GPU.” OpenCL especially offers improvements to financial applications, games and media applications by offloading non-graphics related tasks to the GPU.

Intel is expected to add support for the technology in its line of Ivy Bridge processors due out next year. Intel boasts as much as a 60 percent performance boost over current Sandy Bridge chips, with special attention being paid to graphics performance enhancements.

The MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro would stand the most to gain from Intel support for OpenCL. GPUs from AMD and Nvidia already support the technology, but Apple’s ultra-thin notebook and entry-level MacBook Pro currently sport a graphics processor from Intel.

Apple’s MacBook Air update in July made the notebook up to twice as fast as the previous generation, which made use of Intel’s aging Core 2 Duo chips. The company has had some trouble keeping the the diminutive notebooks in stock due to the resulting popularity of the models.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Air EFI Firmware 2.1 update, focuses on Thunderbolt issues

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Date: Tuesday, September 13th, 2011, 12:31
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

Firmware updates, they make a difference.

Per the cool cats at Mac|Life, Apple today released an EFI update for the MacBook Air. The update, available here or via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature, works to boost the stability of Lion Recovery from an internet connection and fixes the Thunderbolt Display compatability issues with Thunderbolt, as well as remedies any issues with the Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance.

If you’ve tried the firmware update and noticed any changes, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

MacBook Air goes on sale in China

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 31st, 2011, 09:24
Category: MacBook Air, News

Continuing its march across the globe, the MacBook Air has gone on sale in China this week, Apple’s online store for Chinese customers listing all four MacBook Air models—two each in 11- and 13-inch configurations -for sale, but with lengthy shipping delays.

According to Macworld, the 11-inch MacBook Air’s estimated delivery time, according to the e-store, is 9-to-11 working days, while the 13-inch models will reach customers approximately 5 working days after ordering.

Those times, however, are improvements over last Friday, when the China online store said there was “no supply” of 11-inch MacBook Airs and that the larger 13-inch notebooks would be delivered two weeks after an order was placed.

MacBook Air supplies have been tight in the U.S. as well, with spot outages at some Apple stores and more severe shortages at a number of online and brick-and-mortar resellers.

The 11-inch MacBook Air is priced at 7,698 yuan and 9,198 yuan for the 64GB and 128GB flash drive models, respectively. At current exchange rates, those prices are equivalent to US$1,203 and US$1,438, significantly higher than the US$999 and US$1,199 U.S. customers pay.

Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air costs 9,998 yuan and 12,498 yuan—the latter for the notebook with 256GB in storage space—or US$1,563 and US$1,954. U.S. list prices are US$1,299 and US$1,599 for the same models.

White, who was in Asia last week, said that the MacBook Air was launched in Hong Kong last week to “long lines and stock outs of certain models.”

Apple does not yet have a retail store of its own in Hong Kong—one is slated to open before the end of September—and relies on authorized resellers to sell its products from brick-and-mortar outlets.

Apple’s online store for Hong Kong residents shows better MacBook Air availability than in China: New orders ship within 24 hours, according to that store’s website.

If you’ve snagged a MacBook Air in the Chinese marketplace and have any feedback to offer about the experience, let us know in the comments.

MacBook Air examined, found to be using scaled-down Thunderbolt controller

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 06:28
Category: MacBook Air, News

The new MacBook Air is getting positive feedback and being regarded as nifty.

And the cool nerds at AnandTech found out why.

Per AnandTech, Apple is using a scaled-down “Eagle Ridge” controller chip from Intel instead of the “Light Ridge” chip found in larger Thunderbolt-enabled machines.

Eagle Ridge is available in two form factors (normal and SFF [small form factor]) and is effectively half of a Light Ridge chip. That means you only get two Thunderbolt channels and one DP output. Apple used the small form factor version of Eagle Ridge in its new MacBook Air to cut cost and save on motherboard real estate.

With Eagle Ridge only supporting a single DisplayPort output, MacBook Air users are only able to drive a single external display via the Thunderbolt port, although the machine’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 would also preclude the use of two external monitors on the MacBook Air as it does on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Thunderbolt adoption has thus far been limited to high-end devices in part due to high costs associated with inclusion of the technology. Use of the scaled-down Eagle Ridge controller could help push Thunderbolt into lower-end products, presuming that the smaller chip carries some cost savings for manufacturers.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on a brand new MacBook Air, let us know what you make of it via the comments.

Rumor: Apple developing 15 and 17-inch MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, July 27th, 2011, 02:25
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

With Apple’s new family of MacBook Airs selling like hotcakes, the company is believed to be working to introduce 15- and 17-inch models with a similar minimalist design to capitalize on the trend towards ultra-mobile computing.

Per MacRumors, the notebook is believed to be in the late testing stages, though no further details were provided. It’s therefore unclear at this time whether the device will be marketed under the MacBook Pro brand or arrive as an extension of the MacBook Air line.

A move away from the hefty, optical- and hard disk drive-equipped MacBook Pros and towards a family of notebooks based exclusively on thin, ultra-lightweight designs is something AppleInsider’s sources first began alluding to back in February. At the time, the transition was expected to take between 12 to 18 months.

The latest report may suggest Apple has ambitions of easing the transition by first introducing a 15-inch MacBook Air as an intermediate step. A jump towards an ultra-thin MacBook Pro before year’s end could ultimately prove burdened by too many sacrifices, given that existing technologies and componentry may not allow Apple to deliver a design as thin and lightweight as the existing Airs but powerful enough to replace the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Nevertheless, sources close to the story have said that MacBook Air features such as instant-on, standard SSD drives, slimmer enclosures, and the omission of optical drives should begin making their way to the remainder of Apple’s notebook offerings over the course of the next 12 months.

In similar news, The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that the site has also heard rumors of an ultra-thin 17-inch Apple notebook and believes both models could potentially turn up ahead of the holiday shopping season under the MacBook Pro moniker.

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.