Microsoft to launch Surface Pro tablet, expand international availability on February 9th

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Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, 08:33
Category: Hardware, News

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If you’re hankering for more of Microsoft’s Surface tablet, you’re in luck.

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it will expand its Surface tablet lineup next month with the new “Pro” model running Windows 8, as well as a new “RT” version with 64 gigabytes of storage.

Surface Windows 8 Pro will be available for purchase on Feb. 9 in the U.S and Canada starting at US$899 for the 64-gigabyte version. The Surface Pro comes with a Surface Pen and is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor.

The 64-gigabyte standalone version of Surface Windows RT will run an ARM processor like the existing Windows RT tablets. The new high-capacity variant will retail for0 US$599, with the touch cover sold separately.

Microsoft will also launch new Surface accessories in markets where the tablet is still available. They are three limited edition Touch Covers, as well as the Wedge Touch Mouse Surface Edition.

The new Touch Covers will be available in red, magenta and cyan for US$129.99, while the Wedge Touch Mouse will be US$69.95.

Finally, Microsoft also revealed it will more than double the number of markets in which Surface Windows RT is currently available.

The 13 additional markets are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. They join markets where Surface RT is already available: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

If you’ve had a chance to tinker with the Surface and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

DigiTimes falls back on larger-screen iPhone story, agrees with Wall Street Journal’s assessment of next-gen iPhone hardware

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Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, 07:55
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Sometimes you’re dead-on, other times it’s time to head back to the drawing board.

Per AppleInsider, Taiwanese publication Digitimes on Tuesday backpedaled on its previous claims that Apple would be launching a cheaper, yet larger-screened, iPhone variant in 2013 to combat a growing low-end “phablet” market.

While DigiTimes reversed its original take on big-screen iPhone debut, the publication is hedging its bets and contends that Apple will eventually release such a handset, just not in 2013.

The report went on to agree with the The Wall Street Journal’s story, which previously claimed that Apple is planning on releasing two separate iPhone models this year. In its piece, the WSJ cited sources as saying both a successor to the current iPhone 5 and a budget smartphone, possibly made of polycarbonate, would launch sometime in 2013.

Adding to Tuesday’s rumor, DigiTimes noted that both the next-generation iPhone and rumored handset will feature in-cell touchscreen panels. The current iPhone 5 already boasts the advanced screen tech that allows for a thinner device by integrating touch sensing components within the LCD array. Yield rates of the complex displays caused supply constraints when the latest iPhone launched last year, but those production issues are said to have been corrected.

The latest rumor may be unfounded, however, as Apple is thought to have chosen older touchscreen tech, in addition to non-Retina resolution panels, with the iPad mini in attempts to capitalize on already slim margins. In-cell screens are not yet an industry standard and therefore substantially raise a device’s bill of materials.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release all-Retina iPad, MacBook Pro lineups in 2013

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Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 08:09
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Even though it’s a rumor, there’s got to be a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has made his Apple hardware predictions for the upcoming year, and expects a bevy of new iOS and Mac product releases will help the iPhone maker address a wider swath of the market

Kuo, who has seen previous success in predicting future Apple products, says the company will introduce a number of new iOS devices in 2013, including an inexpensive iPhone 5, upgraded iPhone 5S, Retina display-toting second-gen iPad mini and a redesigned fifth-generation iPad, among others. He goes on to say that Apple will retire the non-Retina MacBook Pro line and replace it with an all-Retina lineup at a lower price.

Kuo is quick to note that none of the product forecasts are expected in the first quarter of 2013 and says “many” will be introduced in the second half of the year.

According to the analyst, Apple will release both an iPhone 5S with updated internals as well as an inexpensive version of the current iPhone 5 design with a thicker plastic chassis available in six colors. The iPhone 5S, which Kuo believes will launch sometime in June or July, will have largely the same aesthetic as the existing model, but will boast a built-in fingerprint sensor, improved camera and more powerful A7 SoC. A slightly revamped “new design” iPhone 5 is expected to go on sale as a less-expensive alternative to Apple’s flagship handset at around the same time, with the affordable price tag attributed to a plastic exterior that will be available in multiple colorways.

Kuo believes a new fifth-generation 9.7-inch iPad will launch with lighter frame and a more refined look, borrowing the narrow bezels seen on the iPad mini. In turn, the smaller tablet will move to generation two and get a Retina display that sports the same 2,048-by-1,536 pixel screen resolution as the existing full-size iPad. By using an identical resolution, app makers won’t have to make software changes to fit a new native format. The same thinking was used when the iPad mini was released with a resolution identical to the iPad 2.

As for Apple’s MacBook, the analyst sees an end of life for non-Retina MacBook Pros, which will be replaced by an all-Retina lineup that eschews optical drives. Pricing should be reduced to help move units. The MacBook Air will see little change besides a bump in internal specs as sizing down the high-resolution Retina display is seen as too steep a challenge at this time. Because the Air will not see a significant design change, the tweaked models are expected to arrive earlier in the year, with the all-Retina MacBook Pro line coming in quarter three.

In respect to the iPod product line, Kuo isn’t expecting much in the way of revolutionary changes. With the fifth-gen iPod touch released, Apple will likely introduce a cheaper variant of the current design without a camera and less built-in memory to reach a target price of US$199.

Finally, 2013 is expected to be the last year in which the Apple TV is considered a “hobby,” but Kuo doesn’t believe the company will introduce a full-fledged television set in the next 12 months. The existing media streamer is likely to morph into a serious business — possibly a full-fledged HDTV — in 2014, as Apple already has the infrastructure to support such a device with iTunes, the App Store and iCloud services. What the company lacks, however, is experience in the industry, especially concerning the establishment of a reliable supply chain. Kuo looks to the much-rumored “iTV” as a source of growth in the coming years.

Rumor: Apple to begin building preliminary “iPhone 5S” units this spring

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Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 08:24
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

If you were holding out for the next-generation iPhone, you can probably expect Apple to once again release something this summer.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will begin preliminary builds of the successor to the iPhone 5 in March, setting up for an earlier-than-expected debut in June or July, according to a new report.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said in a note to investors this week that two future iPhone prototypes are currently testing. At least one of these is said to be a so-called “iPhone 5S,” while the other could be Apple’s rumored low-cost iPhone.

Misek previously predicted in December that Apple will launch an incremental upgrade to the iPhone 5 this summer. He also believes the company’s next-generation iPhone, referred to as an “iPhone 6,” will sport a larger 4.8-inch display.

As word of the “iPhone 5S” production begins to spread, Misek expects there to be a slight slowing of demand for the iPhone 5.

He expects Apple to sell 44 million iPhones in the current March quarter — a number he noted is “still well above” recent concerns that shipments might be in the mid-30-million range.

Like some other analysts, Misek believes an apparent decline in iPhone 5 component orders from Apple is not related to significantly reduced demand for the popular handset. Instead, he believes the order cuts are related to three factors:
An assembly bottleneck that caused component inventories to rise in the holiday quarter.

Demand may be either in line or “slightly below optimistic expectations,” Misek believes.

While Misek expects Apple’s next iPhone to launch sooner than expected in the June-July timeframe, he also believes Apple is separately planning a low-cost iPhone that would be geared toward emerging markets like China. Such a device may already have been greenlit, he said.

“Similar to the iPad mini, we expect a concentrated low-cost iPhone rather than a ‘cheap’ one,” he said. “Likely specs: polycarbonate case with 4″ non-Retina display and no LTE.”

In his view, a less expensive iPhone would increase Apple’s smartphone market share, but would also decrease the company’s gross margins. He does not expect the rumored product to have much of an effect on the company’s earnings per share.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel licensing/certification restrictions holding up Thunderbolt adoption rate

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Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 07:15
Category: Hardware, News

lightningadapter

If you wondered why Lightning and Thunderbolt accessories were being adopted at a slow rate, there might just be an answer.

Per Ars Technica, a number of factors have played a part in the small selection of available Thunderbolt accessories, but the most significant may be Intel’s lengthy licensing and certification process.

A rundown on the state of Thunderbolt was published on Tuesday which acknowledged that accessories designed for the high-speed port remain a “niche.” It noted that more Thunderbolt-compatible devices are coming, but the initial selection has been limited thanks, in part, to Intel’s licensing requirements.

A number of vendors who spoke with author Chris Foresman claimed that Intel has been “cherry picking which vendors it worked with.” The chipmaker has apparently opted to work closely with a select number of vendors to ensure products would meet its stringent certification requirements.

Intel has denied that characterization, but did reportedly admit that it has had limited resources to approve new products. But Jason Ziller, director of Thunderbolt marketing and planning with Intel, also suggested licensing will expand to a greater number of vendors this year.

Another sign of potential improvement in Thunderbolt availability came last week, when Apple quietly released a shorter cable measuring half a meter in length, and also shaved US$10 off the price of the original 2-meter cable that debuted in 2011. Corning also showed off new Thunderbolt optical cables at CES that can transfer data over hundreds of feet.

Thunderbolt was developed in cooperation between Apple and Intel, and first launched on Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup in March of 2011. Since then, Thunderbolt ports have also begun to appear in some Windows-based PCs, though the number of available accessories has not yet taken off.

Thunderbolt pairs the high-speed PCI Express serial interface with the Apple-developed Mini DisplayPort to provide both data and video through a single port with I/O performance of up to 10Gbps. Originally codenamed ‘Light Peak,’ Intel had planned to use optical cabling but switched to copper wire because of cost constraints.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt supply running short, may indicate forthcoming upgrade in near future

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Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, 08:39
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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You know that spiffy monitor Apple sells? It might be about to be upgraded.

Per AppleInsider, a number of resellers have run dry of Apple Thunderbolt Display inventory, suggesting the 27-inch monitor may be due for an upgrade, perhaps with a thinner design that takes cues from the latest iMacs.

As of Monday, major resellers Amazon, MacMall, and J&R are all out of stock of the Thunderbolt Display. Stock-outs are often one of the first signs of a forthcoming upgrade to Apple hardware.

At the very least, the Thunderbolt Display is in need of an upgrade to its MagSafe cable. Apple currently ships a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter with every Thunderbolt Display to allow compatibility with the latest MacBooks.

But the Thunderbolt Display and its predecessor, the Cinema Display, have historically borrowed LCD technology from Apple’s all-in-one iMac lineup. And the iMac was recently redesigned with a reengineered display panel that is thinner and reduces glare by 75 percent.

Miroslav Djuric, chief information architect with iFixit, noted that the current-generation Thunderbolt display employs the same screen as the previous generation of 27-inch iMacs: an LG-built TFT active-matrix LCD panel.

“Think of the Thunderbolt display as an iMac minus the computing hardware,” Djuric explained.

If that trend were to continue, an updated Thunderbolt Display would include a thinner LCD panel, and likely an overall thinner design. Apple’s new 21.5-inch iMac actually has the same LCD as its predecessor, but the panel is 5 millimeters thinner, suggesting the same components have been squeezed into a smaller space.

Apple also made its new iMacs thinner by fusing the LCD to the front glass. Djuric said he expects that design decision to also be utilized in a next-generation Apple Thunderbolt Display.

However, if Apple is planning to bring the new iMac panel design to a refreshed Thunderbolt Display accessory, the new big-screen monitor’s arrival may not be imminent because of potential production issues.

Apple’s new 27-inch iMac remains in short supply because of apparent production issues associated with the display. Until those issues are worked out, Apple may not have enough panels to also provide for a new 27-inch Thunderbolt Display.

One report last week claimed that Apple and LG have only been able to produce about 100,000 27-inch iMacs per month. Apple’s online store continues to advertise that new orders of the 27-inch iMac ship in three to four weeks.

Analyst Ming-chi Kuo of KGI Securities was first to reveal in August that Apple was planning to use a new screen lamination process in its redesigned iMacs. Kuo also noted that manufacturing of the panels would be difficult.

Another possible upgrade for the Thunderbolt Display could be its ports: The current model features three USB 2.0 ports, but Apple began offering faster USB 3.0 connectivity on its 2012 Macs, including the redesigned iMac. USB 3 offers transfer rates up to 5 Gbps, compared to just 480 Mbps for USB 2.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display was released in July of 2011, making it the world’s first display compatible with Apple’s high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology. In addition to the aforementioned MagSafe charging cable and three USB 2.0 ports, the 27-inch screen includes a FaceTime HD video camera, 2.1 speaker system, one FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Apple also still continues to sell the previous-generation 27-inch LED Cinema Display for older Macs that have a Mini DisplayPort instead of the newer Thunderbolt port. Both the LED Cinema Display and the Thunderbolt Display are sold for US$999.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release updated iPad, iPad mini models in March

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Date: Friday, January 11th, 2013, 09:42
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Come March…you may buy the next generation of iPad.

Per AppleInsider, a new rumor has pegged both the full-size iPad and iPad mini as due for updates in March.

Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets said his checks with industry sources at this week’s CES event in Las Vegas, Nev., indicated both the fifth-generation iPad and second-generation iPad mini will debut this March, just five months after the last update was announced.

White was told that the new “iPad 5″ will be lighter and thinner than the fourth-generation model Apple released late last year. The updated model features a new A6X processor and Apple’s smaller Lightning chip but maintained the same design as the third-generation iPad released last March.

As for the iPad mini, White said the second-generation device is expected to have the same form factor. A new model would likely just have upgraded components, such as a faster chip.

No mention was made of a potential high-resolution Retina display in a new iPad mini. One report from last month claimed Apple was focused on boosting the resolution of the next-generation iPad mini.

Though many industry insiders attend CES, Apple does not have an official presence at the annual event. White did not indicate the source of his information aside from unnamed “checks” at the show.

White also reported last week that Apple is expected to debut new iPhones this summer in more sizes and colors, expanding the lineup from the current black and white options. He expects the new iPhones to debut in the May-June timeframe, which would be earlier than the last two years.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may start building lower cost iPhone in second half of 2013

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Date: Wednesday, January 9th, 2013, 08:03
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

If you were waiting for the iPhone to become cheaper in the face of increased competition, this might be the year for it.

Per the Wall Street Journal and DigiTimes, Apple is currently working on a cheaper iPhone that could hit the market as soon as this year.

According to people briefed on the matter, Apple is reportedly looking to a new audience with the less expensive iPhone, a move the WSJ claims is in response to slipping smartphone supremacy.

While Apple has supposedly tossed around the idea of building a more affordable iPhone “for years,” the plan is progressing toward a release in the second half of 2013.

The new device could be unveiled later this year and be marketed as an entry-level model to Apple’s flagship iPhone. Sources say the cheaper unit may take on the form factor and design of the current iPhone with a chassis made from less exotic materials like polycarbonate. Other parts could “remain the same or be recycled from older iPhone models.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts job openings for 802.11ac engineers

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Date: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013, 08:37
Category: Hardware, News, wireless

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Apple’s looking to bring the 802.11ac protocol to the Mac this year.

Now it just needs the people to do it.

Per AppleBitch, a new job listing by the company advertises a position for engineers experienced with Gigabit Wi-Fi.

The mention of 802.11ac comes from a new job posting listed by the company on Sunday, first highlighted by AppleBitch. The role of “System Test Engineer” will be based at Apple’s corporate Campus in Cupertino, Calif., and focuses on Wi-Fi connectivity.

In the job listing, Apple notes that the position requires “technical knowledge” of the Wi-Fi standard in all forms, including the next-generation 802.11ac. The ideal candidate will include “experience on consumer-facing hardware/software products.”

The new job posting comes only days after a rumor surfaced claiming that Apple plans to add Gigabit Wi-Fi to its 2013 Mac lineup. The so-called “5G Wi-Fi” standard offers up to 1.3Gbps data transfers with a three-antenna design.

Current Macs and other Apple devices feature 802.11n networking, the current industry standard for Wi-Fi. That allows transfers of up to 450Mbps with three antennas — a feat that 802.11ac can accomplish with just one antenna.

Apple is rumored to have struck a deal with Broadcom to potentially debut 802.11ac in this year’s Macs. The Broadcom chips reportedly remain in development and are not yet available to use.

Apple has a history of being on the cutting edge with Wi-Fi — it was among the first to bring Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999, while Apple secretly included support for the “Draft-N” specification in some of its devices in 2006 before the 802.11n standard was officially ratified.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel shows off fourth-gen Core processor lineup at CES

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Date: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013, 08:48
Category: Hardware, Intel, News, Processors

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The cool stuff’s en route for this year.

Per AppleInsider, Intel on Monday demoed a number of upcoming processors set to hit market later this year, including low power versions of the company’s “Haswell” fourth-generation Core series CPUs slated to roll out in Apple’s inevitable 2013 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air refreshes.

While Apple wasn’t specifically mentioned in Intel’s keynote, which focused mainly on the chip maker’s push into smartphones and Ultrabooks, the processors outlined on Monday will likely be powering the MacBook lineup later this year.

According to the head of Intel’s PC client group, Kirk Skaugen, the fourth-gen Core family of processors are the first to be designed specifically for the Ultrabook initiative. The new silicon is said to bring the most significant battery life improvement in Intel history, with laptops using the CPUs boasting 9 to 13 hours of continuous on-the-go use.

“The 4th generation Core processors are the first Intel chips built from the ground up with the Ultrabook in mind,” Skaugen said. “We expect the tremendous advancements in lower-power Core processors, and the significant ramp of touch-based systems will lead to a significant new wave of convertible Ultrabooks and tablets that are thinner, lighter and, at the same time, have the performance required for more human-like interaction such as touch, voice and gesture controls.”

Intel is making a strong push for touch capabilities in this year’s thin-and-light lineup, requiring OEMs to include the functionality in return for “Ultrabook” branding. The company is also mandating that Ultrabook manufacturers incorporate Intel Wireless Display technology into 2013 machines, allowing users to view digital content on an HDTV.

As Apple does not participate in the Ultrabook initiative, a category believed to be a response to the MacBook Air, the Cupertino, Calif., company is not required to incorporate touchscreen tech into its laptop products. There have been no reports pointing toward multitouch capable MacBooks and industry sources claim Apple will merely debut refreshed units in June with existing designs.

Stay tuned for additional details