Apple Prepping New Generation of Mac Pros, 27″ LED Cinema Display

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Date: Friday, March 19th, 2010, 04:10
Category: News

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For the professional end, Apple might just have some good stuff in store.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is wrapping up development on both a larger version of its LED Cinema Display as well as a new generation of Mac Pro workstations.

The new display is targeted for a June release date and measures 27″ diagonal which seems to resemble a slightly magnified version of the company’s existing 24″ model which was introduced back in October of 2008.

Two sources familiar with the upcoming display say its been lingering in Apple’s labs for quite sometime, where it’s frequently referenced by the unique identifier/codename “K59.” Apple is believed to have been waiting patiently for the cost of the larger LCD panels, which sport a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, to shed some of their premium before introducing the model to market.

Thanks to the success of its 27-inch iMacs, which sport similar components, Apple is now believed to be in a position to market the display at a more affordable price. The company also recently put behind it problems with the same size panels that slowed the momentum of its larger iMac offerings for several months following their October 2009 introduction.

Meanwhile, Apple is also wrapping up development of its new generation of Mac Pro units, which are also slated to arrive by June, despite external reports that inaccurately pegged its release to show up as early as January or as recently as this week.

While details are scarce, sources familiar with the matter were stern in stating that Mac maker’s plans call for a dodeca-core model, sporting a pair of Intel’s latest Westmere-based hexacore chips for a total of 12 cores.

It’s suggested that Apple will likely stick to its existing Xeon strategy, employing a pair of pricey Xeon 5600 Series “Gulftown” chips into an expensive dodeca-core Mac Pro, while offering a single processor model with 6 cores at prices similar to today’s US$2,500 quad-core model.

The 5600 series will be available within the next 45 days in 2.66, 2.8, 2.93, and 3.33GHz configurations, ranging in price from US$996 to US$1663 in lots of 1000. These new 32 nanometer chips have 12MB of L3 cache, and 6 cores with 12 threads for each CPU. Apple typically bundles the most affordable of these pricey multi-core chips into its standard dual-processor model, offering the higher frequency chips as build-to-order options.

Rumors have remained that Apple would abandon its Xeon strategy and adopt two of Intel’s US$999 3.33GHz Core i7-980X Extreme Edition uniprocessor chips for a 12-core Mac Pro. However, Intel clearly lists this chip as uniprocessor model, meaning the Mac maker would need to adopt a dual motherboard strategy to make that happen.

Apple Posts Second Private Mac OS X 10.6.3 Developer Beta, Final Release Seems Imminent

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Date: Friday, March 19th, 2010, 04:29
Category: News

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Late Thursday Apple posted the second private beta of its Mac OS X 10.6.3 update in as many days, a move that suggests that the software is rapidly approaching a release candidate.

The latest pre-release carries build number 10D572, just one complete compile removed from build 10D571, which was seeded to software developers on Tuesday.

Apple typically seeds external betas of Mac OS X updates at such a rapid frequency only when the software is entering a final candidate stage, or if a serious and potentially-hazardous glitch was discovered with the preceding build.

Per AppleInsider, sources close to the story have said that Apple is now asking developers to focus their testing efforts around Mail, images, security certificates and photos, in addition to graphics drivers and QuickTime, both of which have remained a priority throughout the better part of the beta program.

An emphasis on fonts and iCal that accompanied Tuesday’s beta was reportedly dropped with the distribution of build 10D572. Meanwhile, an issue with recurring events in iCal’s interaction with Exchange server was repaired.

The 10.6.3 update is also said to include an update to QuickTime X that improves security and compatibility while also enhancing overall reliability of the media software.

The update will also include tweaks that enhance the performance of Apple’s 64-bit Logic pro audio suite and deliver better compatibility with third-party printers and OpenGL-grounded applications.

Other fixes baked into the release target issues with mail messages displaying the incorrect background color and problems copying files to a shared Windows volume.

The latest distributions weigh in at just shy of 790MB in Combo Update form and 725MB as a barebones Delta image.

If you’ve played with the build and have any comments about it, please let us know.

Twitter Leak Shows Apple Adding Scheduling Options for Developers in App Store

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:39
Category: iPhone, News

You’ve got to admit, Twitter leaks make life interesting.

On Wednesday, developer Amro Mousa from Return7 posted to his Twitter account that Apple has now added the ability for developers to schedule a sale window for their iPhone applications, allowing them to temporarily schedule a different price. According to Macworld UK, this new feature has been independently confirmed.

App Store developers can and already do offer discounts on their apps for specific periods of time, but the process of doing so had been entirely manual to date. With the addition of advance scheduling, it’ll be easier for developers to plan their sale periods and spread the word accordingly. This can also help eliminate the chances of human error resulting in sale windows starting and ending sooner or later than planned.

This isn’t the biggest change in the world for the App Store, but it might make things a little friendlier for the developers who contribute to it.

Apple Releases iPhone OS SDK 3.2 Beta 5 for the iPad

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:24
Category: iPad, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released beta 5 of its iPhone OS 3.2 SDK for the iPad via the iPhone Dev Center. According to MacNN, the release comes on the heels just over a week since the launch of beta 4 of the SDK and shows Apple accelerating its efforts prior to the iPad’s April 3rd release.

Specific changes in beta 5 are still unknown, but the company is generally understood to be focusing on bug fixes over new features. Some of the earliest betas made mention of camera-related features, but these have mostly been pruned out from beta 4 onwards, in part because the current iPad lacks any cameras. Despite allusions to multitasking, it isn’t expected until at least iPhone OS 4.0, if not later.

iPhone OS 3.2 primarily enables the UI elements needed for the iPad but also adds features that are likely to spill into the iPhone and iPod touch, such as background images that persist on the home screen and four-way screen rotation that also extends to the home screen’s icons.

If you’ve downloaded the new beta and have any feedback about it, let us know in the comments.

Apple Consuming Lion’s Share of NAND Memory, Hesitant to Negotiate with Suppliers This Quarter

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Date: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010, 09:53
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

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Even as time goes by, tech parts don’t always get cheaper.

Per DigiTimes, Apple, which already consumes the lion’s share of the global NAND flash memory supply, is apparently reluctant to negotiate with suppliers in 2010 due to high prices.

Although the demand for NAND memory in devices such as memory cards and flash drives has been soft, this hasn’t significantly pushed down chip prices. Major chip suppliers like Samsung have given priority to profitable partnerships over shipment volume, which doesn’t work to the advantage of major buyers like Apple.

In addition to the lower demand, the situation has become even more volatile given that tight foundry capacity is expected to disrupt shipments and have an effect on NAND flash pricing, industry sources reportedly said.

“Some NAND flash controller suppliers,” the report said, “have indicated that their supply may not be able to satisfy customer demand in the second quarter if their foundry partners continue to see tight capacity, the sources said. This supply disruption is likely to impact NAND flash prices for the quarter.”

Industry sources expect the situation to improve in the second quarter of 2010, when they believe Apple may start negotiating long-term supply contracts for NAND flash. The report noted that Apple’s consumption of flash memory will “continue to play a significant role” in the industry this year.

Earlier this month, a rumor came out that the possible success of Apple’s iPad could increase prices of solid state drives. Apple consumes nearly one-third of total NAND flash memory supplies, and its share is expected to grow even more with the launch of the iPad on April 3.

Apple was noted multiple times in 2009 as causing a flash memory shortage due to its iPod and iPhone products consuming the largest share of NAND flash. Industry sources expect the price of NAND flash to continue to rise in 2010.

In addition to most of the iPod lineup and the iPhone, in early 2008, Apple embraced the solid state drive by offering it as an option in its MacBook Air notebook.

Apple, Google Hiring Each Other’s Employees as Tech Feud Grows

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Date: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010, 04:12
Category: News

Maybe they’ll stop feuding soon, but they’ve got some good Hatfield vs. McCoy traction going here, so why would they stop now?

According to AppleInsider, Apple recently hired a former Google product manager for a secretive “pretty neat role” with the company, while a new Google employee has shared harsh words about Apple’s “Disney-fied” approach to the mobile Internet.

Google recently hired well-known software developer Tim Bray, formerly of Oracle and Sun Microsystems. The developer wrote on his personal blog Monday that he will “enjoy competing with Apple,” and shared some harsh words on what he feels are the iPhone maker’s restrictive policies.

“The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what,” Bray wrote. “It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger. I hate it.”

He continued: “I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom’s not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient.”

Bray expressed he views his new job with Google as an opportunity to prove that Apple is wrong in their approach to the mobile Internet. He noted that he’s been a buyer of Apple systems for years, and despite his “current irritation,” he will likely continue to do so. At Google, he will work on the Android mobile platform.

Last year, criticism of Apple’s policies with the App Store came to a head, prompting company executive Phil Schiller to personally fight back. Apple has come under fire again in recent weeks after the company changed its policy on “overtly sexual” content and purged more than 5,000 applications from the App Store.

Per TechCrunch, Apple recently hired R.J. Pittman, a former product manager with Google. Pittman, who the article called a “prominent” employee with the search giant, has moved on to Apple.

Pittman sent a letter to his colleagues at Google in which he said the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 changed his life.

“I’ve owned almost one of every Apple product released since then, and still own my first Mac that started it all some 25 years ago,” he wrote. “In a strange but not so strange way, this is sort of a homecoming for me, despite never having worked for Apple. Life works in curious ways, and I love it when every so often it comes full circle.”

He went on to say that he would have a “pretty neat role” with Apple, but declined to say what it might be. Current rumors have speculated that Pittman could work with the employees Apple took on in its acquisition of streaming music service Lala, given his background with Google’s own music search technology.

“That said, Apple could be after his other talents — Pittman had previously presented at the launches of other search-related products, including a Google Labs event,” the report said. “And before that, he founded Groxis.”

Last August, it was revealed that Apple and Google shared a gentlemen’s agreement to not poach each others’ employees, though these latest moves would suggest that deal is no longer in place.

Me, personally, I think the two companies need to put aside their differences, buy out AOL, put it out of its misery and turn its headquarters into the world’s greatest deli, complete with really good grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

TomTom Updates iPhone GPS App to 1.3, Adds New Features

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Date: Monday, March 15th, 2010, 04:34
Category: News

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A few weeks ago, we mentioned TomTom’s demonstration of version 1.3 of its GPS application for the iPhone. The new version of the application rolled out recently and has added real-time traffic (an unfortunate US$19.99 add-on according to TiPb), Google local search, updated roadways, automatic music fading between text-to-speech instructions and the ability to add locations from other apps and websites.

The TomTom GPS application retails for US$59.99 and requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later to install and run.

Apple States Battery Replacement Terms for iPad

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Date: Monday, March 15th, 2010, 04:19
Category: iPad, News

If you’ve pre-ordered an iPad, then odds are you’re comfortable with whatever terms Apple has to offer for the device come April 3rd.

Recently, the company stepped forward to assure users that if your new iPad’s battery arrives as defective, Apple will replace it.

According to Macworld UK, Apple posted a recent FAQ stating that if your iPad “requires service due to the battery’s diminished ability to hold an electrical charge,” for US$99 and a US$6.95 shipping fee.

Apple added, “Your iPad is not eligible for Battery Replacement Service if the product has been damaged, for example, as result of an accident, liquid contact, disassembly, unauthorized service or unauthorized modifications, or if the product is not operating correctly as a result of a component failure.”

Apple warns that replacement iPads won’t come with any of your personal information and suggests you sync your old device with iTunes to backup your data before sending it in.

The company stated the service could be done within a week if arranged by calling Apple Technical Support.

iPad Preorders Accepted as of 8:30 A.M. EST

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Date: Friday, March 12th, 2010, 05:10
Category: iPad, News

Apple has begun taking preorders for its long-awaited iPad tablet at 8:30 a.m. eastern standard time and 5:30 a.m. pacific standard time.

According to The Loop, preorders for the Wi-Fi-only iPad will begin first-thing Friday morning. The Wi-Fi iPad is set to launch in the U.S. on April 3, with the 3G capable model coming later that month.

In addition, both the Wi-Fi and 3G models will be available in the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland in late April.

The iPad starts at US$499 for the 16GB model with Wi-Fi, going up to US$599 for 32GB and US$699 for the 64GB model. The models with both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, compatible only with AT&T in the U.S., carry a US$130 premium.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent Study Finds Neither Adobe Flash, HTML5 Has Significant Performance Advantage

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Date: Thursday, March 11th, 2010, 06:36
Category: News

As the war between Adobe Flash and HTML5 heats up, a recent comparison with numerous different browsers on both Mac and Windows produced wildly different results based on the operating system and browser, making neither a clear winner.

Per Streaming Learning Center, which conducted the study in response to recently alleged comments from Apple CEO Steve Jobs that reportedly called Flash a “CPU hog”, the test found that HTML5 is significantly more efficient than Flash on the Mac when running the Safari Web browser, those same advantages do not exist on other Mac browsers, or in Windows.

“It’s inaccurate to conclude that Flash is inherently inefficient,” author Jan Ozer wrote. “Rather, Flash is efficient on platforms where it can access hardware acceleration and less efficient where it can’t. With Flash Player 10.1, Flash has the opportunity for a true leap in video playback performance on all platforms that enable hardware acceleration.”

The report noted that Apple has not enabled the hooks to allow GPU-based acceleration for H.264 video decoding. Anand Lai Shimpi, founder of AnandTech, asserted “it’s up to Apple to expose the appropriate hooks to allow Adobe to (eventually) enable that functionality.”

Adobe’s update to Flash 10.1 on the Mac improved CPU efficiency within Safari by 5%, but the Web format still trails far behind HTML5 due to hardware acceleration. With Google Chrome, neither were particularly efficient, and Firefox saw slightly better performance than Chrome.

On Windows, Apple’s Safari browser doesn’t play HTML 5 content. But the Google Chrome browser in Windows played Flash 10.1 content with 58% more efficiency than HTML5.

HTML5 has yet to receive native support in Firefox or Internet Explorer, but the update from Flash 10 to Flash 10.1 improved CPU performance for the browsers by 73% and 35%, respectively. Flash 10.1 in Windows offers added hardware acceleration.

“When it comes to efficient video playback, the ability to access hardware acceleration is the single most important factor in the overall CPU load,” Streaming Learning Center noted. “On Windows, where Flash can access hardware acceleration, the CPU requirements drop to negligible levels.

“It seems reasonable to assume that if the Flash Player could access GPU-based hardware acceleration on the Mac (or iPod/iPhone/iPad), the difference between the CPU required for HTML5 playback and Flash playback would be very much narrowed, if not eliminated.”

Google added native YouTube support in January. The beta opt-in program is available only for browsers that support both HTML5 and H.264 video encoding.

Scrutiny over Flash has grown in recent months since Apple introduced its multimedia iPad device, which does not support the Web format from Adobe. Apple, instead, has placed its support behind HTML5.