AMD to consolidate graphics chips, retire ATI brand name

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Date: Tuesday, August 31st, 2010, 03:10
Category: News, Processors

AMD, the current exclusive provider of discrete graphics chips in Apple’s latest refresh of the Mac desktop lineup, will phase out the ATI graphics brand name this year.

Per ZDnet, AMD is prepared to make the change because it believes having two brands is unnecessary, and the company plans to offer both CPUs and GPUs combined in its forthcoming Fusion product. Existing products such as the Radeon chip series will maintain their names, but will be labeled as AMD products rather than ATI.

AMD said it conducted research that found its brand is stronger than ATI, and that consumer preference toward ATI triples when they are aware of the ATI-AMD merger. AMD acquired ATI for US$5.4 billion in 2006.

Apple partners with AMD’s rival, Intel, for all of the CPUs in its line of Macs. However, AMD and Apple do have a close relationship when it comes to graphics processing in the Mac lineup.

In July, Apple updated its Mac Pro and iMac desktops, and the new machines only offer ATI graphics. But soon, those same products will be labeled AMD.

AMD, in justifying the change, highlighted its relationship with Apple, noting that the company continues to “secure new design wins with major OEMs — e.g. Apple iMac and Mac Pro.” The company said it has the “momentum and data to make this change with confidence.”

The chipmaker also said that with the AMD Fusion chip set to debut in the fourth quarter of 2010, it is “perfect timing” for the branding change. AMD said its “Ontario” model, which will be its first to offer a CPU and GPU in a combined package, will be a “watershed moment” for the company.

Not the worst thing in the world, even though as a Mac gamer I fondly remember drooling over the coolest ATI graphics cards in yesteryear’s Power Mac G3 and G4 units…

Adobe releases Lightroom 3.2, Camera Raw 6.2 updates

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Date: Tuesday, August 31st, 2010, 03:56
Category: News, Software

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Early Tuesday, software giant released version 3.2 of its Lightroom (available on the company’s update page) photo editing utility and version 6.2 of its Camera Raw plugin. Lightroom 3.2 added the ability to publish photos to both Facebook and photo-sharing site SmugMug. The update also brings a number of improvements to Lightroom’s Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web modules, as well as over 120 new lens profiles to help photographers correct distortion and other undesirables.

Camera Raw 6.2, a 69.8 megabyte download (courtesy of VersionTracker), support for the following cameras:

- Canon EOS 60D

- Casio EXILIM EX-FH100

- Fuji FinePix HS10

- Leica S2 (DNG*)

- Panasonic DMC-FZ100

- Panasonic DMC-FZ40 (FZ45)

- Panasonic DMC-LX5

- Pentax 645D

- Samsung NX10

- Samsung TL500 (EX1)

- Sony A290

- Sony A390

- Sony Alpha NEX-3

- Sony Alpha NEX-5

- Sony SLT-A33

- Sony SLT-A55V

Camera Raw 6.2 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

Apple Store pins down iPad ship times to 24 hours

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Date: Monday, August 30th, 2010, 05:13
Category: iPad, News

Following something of a struggle to meet consumer demand for the iPad since it launched in April, estimated shipping times for new online orders have improved to within 24 hours, suggesting any production problems have been resolved.

Per AppleInsider, new orders for the Wi-Fi-only and 3G-capable iPad, in all available storage capacities, now ship within 24 hours when purchased from Apple’s official online store.

For months, customers had to wait an estimated 7 to 10 days for their order to ship. A few weeks ago, iPad shipping times quietly improved to between 3 and 5 days.

The estimated 24 hour shipping schedule would suggest that Apple has managed to catch up with consumer demand for the iPad, which has been a multi-million seller in its first few months on the market. Apple struggled to meet demand, as various component suppliers could not get orders to the company fast enough.

In its first three months of availability, the iPad sold 3.27 million units. Officials later admitted that they were caught off guard by the high demand for the product.

If you’ve seen this on your end, let us know.

Apple patent reveals consolidated headphone jacks for upcoming devices

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Date: Monday, August 30th, 2010, 05:59
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

Per Patently Apple, Apple is looking to develop a new audio input port configuration for the iPod, iPhone and iPad devices. The effort seems to indicate that Apple is working to limit the amount of holes in its devices, because each ”breaches the barrier that protects components inside the housing.”

Apple’s answer is to reduce the hole count by making them multifunctional. It proposes removing the need for a separate microphone aperture by making it part of the socket the headphone jack plugs into. This adds only a couple of milllimetres to the socket length – the mic fits behind the tip of the jack plug. The result: “A microphone can be added to a mobile telephone without the need for an external aperture.”

According to the Apple Core, Apple appears to be considering combining multiple jacks into one smarter jack. It makes sense too. For starters, less holes mean less physical parts to manufacture (and potentially fail) and Apple is already heading down this road with the iPhone 4 which features two microphones and noise cancellation.

The first mic is for phone calls, voice commands and memos. The second mic is for FaceTime calls and for making your calls better.

The other potential direction could take is to use the new port for beamforming — where the audio input of the two microphones is used as an amiable directional input. Patently Apple thinks this could be advantageous for the iPhone in speakerphone mode or video camera mode when projecting or recording a sound source at some distance from the device.

Apple could even do away with invasive “breach” type ports altogether and convert its audio/microphone ports into surface contact ports that attach via a magnet — like the popular MagSafe power adapter found on its MacBook Pro notebooks. I just hope that Apple retains backward compatibility with the millions of 3.5mm stereo headsets that are out there, changing to a new jack entirely would alienate too many customers in one fell swoop.

The patent is credited to Apple employees Shaohai Chen, Phillip Tamchina, Richard Dinh, Jae Lee, Michelle Yu and Adam Mittleman as the inventors of patent application 20100216526.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel purchases Infineon’s wireless unit for $1.4 billion, gains access to new chipsets in deal

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Date: Monday, August 30th, 2010, 04:59
Category: News, wireless

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Processor giant Intel on Monday confirmed its plans to buy Infineon’s wireless division for US$1.4 billion in cash. The deal will see the company’s Wireless Solutions group work as a stand-alone company on Intel’s behalf and will give the company access to both 3G chipsets and a faster path to LTE-based 4G. It plans to use these not only for full-size notebooks but also Atom-based smartphones and tablets.

Per Electronista, Infineon claimed the selloff was a win as it allowed a new focus on car, industrial and security technology. The sale is widely known to be prompted by the company’s struggles with making its wireless section profitable.

The deal should be finished by early 2011.

In an attempt to head off concerns, Intel said the stand-alone nature of the wireless group would let it keep serving existing customers, including those who use ARM chips. Concerns had been raised that the buyout would be used to force Apple to seek alternate suppliers for 3G chipsets in the iPad and iPhone, although the iPhone 4 is exempt as it has switched away.

Intel’s plans are due to come together until 2011, when its Oak Trail platform for Atom chips should be efficient enough to be competitive.

Apple seeds Mac OS X 10.6.5 beta 3, focuses on lone remaining issue

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Date: Friday, August 27th, 2010, 07:06
Category: News, Software

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Apple on Thursday seeded the third beta of Mac OS X 10.6.5 to developers, its latest security and maintenance update for Snow Leopard, with just one known issue.

Per AppleInsider, sources familiar with the latest build, reportedly known as 10H531, said the lone issue is associated with VMware and that having the software installed can cause USB devices to not work when the Mac is awoken from sleep mode.

The sources said said Apple has asked developers to focus on a few key areas for the latest beta, including iCal, Mail, USB Devices, QuickTime, Time Machine and 3D graphics. The delta update is said to be a 557MB download.

The latest beta comes just a week after the last build was supplied to developers. And the previous, first build arrived only six days before that.

Intel to further combine CPU, GPU components, support Blu-Ray 3D playback in future notebook chips

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Date: Friday, August 27th, 2010, 06:47
Category: News, Processors

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It’s hard to say when this might find its way into an Apple notebook, but it could be amazing when it does.

Processor giant Intel announced that its next-generation laptop chips will have a dozen new features to improve graphics performance and will be able to play Blu-ray 3D movies, the company said on Thursday.

Laptops with processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture will play Blu-ray 3D movies while preserving battery life, said Nick Knupffer, an Intel spokesman. Users won’t need to buy a separate graphics processor to specifically view 3D content.

Sandy Bridge chips are due to go into production later this year, Knupffer said. Company officials have said that PCs with the new chips could hit store shelves in the first half of next year.

Per Macworld, the company is expected to shed more light on Sandy Bridge’s graphics performance at the upcoming Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco from September 13th through the 15th.

Intel for the first time will integrate the CPU and graphics processor on a single chip, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. The current generation of chips based on the Westmere architecture have the CPU and graphics core on one piece of silicon, but as separate units.

The higher levels of integration will also help Intel include additional transistors to improve graphics performance, Brookwood said. The Sandy Bridge CPUs and GPUs will be made using the 32-nanometer process, while with current chips, the CPU and GPU are made using the 32-nm process and the 45-nm process, respectively.

Graphics performance typically doubles from one chip generation to the next, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

Intel’s current laptop chips are capable of 1080p video, and improvements in Sandy Bridge chips could bring a noticeable graphics improvement to PCs, McCarron said.

Now it remains to be seen what Apple has to say about Blu-Ray support and how this might be integrated into future generations of Apple laptops…

Netflix app reaches version 1.1, adds iPhone, iPod touch support

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Date: Friday, August 27th, 2010, 06:28
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Ok, this smacks of the nifty.

Netflix on Thursday updated its iOS App Store software, bringing compatibility for iPhone and iPod touch users to stream movies and manage their Instant Watch queue.

Netflix 1.1 is now available for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and allows Netflix customers with unlimited memberships to stream content from their Instant Watch queue.



Per AppleInsider, users can pick up watching where they left off with a movie or TV show on another device, such as their iPad, TV, or computer. The application also allows users to manage their Netflix queue, but only for Instant Watch. There is not currently a way to manage the queue for mailed discs.

As with on the iPad, the streaming service even works over 3G on the iPhone. The software uses adaptive technology that allows instant switching between Wi-Fi and 3G connections.

The app requires iOS 3.1.3 or later to install and run.

If anyone out there’s tried the new version, please let us know what you make of it.

Apple releases MacBook EFI Firmware 1.9 Update for mid-2010 models

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Date: Friday, August 27th, 2010, 06:32
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released its MacBook EFI Firmware 1.9 update for its 15″ and 17″ mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks. The update, a 2.2 megabyte download, resolves a rare issue that may cause the system to freeze during startup or intermittently stall during operation, and it improves compatibility with external displays.

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

The MacBook EFI Firmware 1.9 update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Analyst divulges details as to upcoming Apple TV successor

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Date: Thursday, August 26th, 2010, 04:35
Category: Apple TV, News, Rumor

Like the iPhone 4 and iPad, the new Apple TV will run the iOS operating system and be powered by a processor with ARM architecture, and will also have access to the App Store, according to one prominent analyst.

Per AppleInsider, Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros. issued a note to investors Wednesday in which he revealed that sources indicated the “biggest potential change” to the forthcoming Apple TV refresh is the move to an ARM architecture processor running the same iOS software that powers the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. The current Apple TV hardware relies on an Intel x86-based chip, running a “light” version of Mac OS X and its Front Row software.

Wu also said that the new Apple TV, which some have said will be called the “iTV”, will have access to the App Store, Apple’s digital software download storefront. Like the iPad, the new Apple TV could have access to the iPhone App Store, which offers about a quarter-million options for users, though such functionality is apparently not guaranteed.

“Our sources indicate there is some debate within Apple whether to allow this or not, or to have it run only Apple TV-specific apps,” Wu said. “We believe the ability to run the same apps makes a lot of sense and believe this feature could be enough to drive significantly more volume for Apple TV. We find the potential to run video game apps on a TV set most intriguing, as it has been proven in the marketplace that there is (a) large market for casual gaming at inexpensive prices.”

Wu did not indicate, however, how iPhone or iPad applications would run on a TV set, as those that rely on the touchscreen interface require users to interact with the images on screen. But games that rely on the accelerometer in Apple’s mobile devices would likely be suited for the allegedly forthcoming set top box.

As for reports that Apple is negotiating with networks to offer 99 cent TV show rentals (reaffirmed this week by The New York Times), Wu said such an offering would benefit not only the Apple TV, but the company’s entire ecosystem, including the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac lineup.

“From our checks with supply chain and industry sources, we believe potential changes could turn Apple TV into a bigger hobby and a multi-million unit seller,” the analyst wrote. “And perhaps be a precursor to a bigger effort to address the home entertainment space down the road.”

This should sort itself out on September 1st, so stay tuned until then and we’ll feed you the details as soon as they become available.