USB 3.0 Promoter Group announces updated spec, anticipated 10Gb/s speeds for 2014

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Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 07:32
Category: Hardware, News

This could lead to something nifty.

Per CNET and the mighty Jim Tanous of The Mac Observer, an updated USB 3.0 specification that promises to double theoretical maximum bandwidth is scheduled to arrive in mid–2013, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced Sunday. The improvements, thanks to revised hardware and more efficient data transfer methods, will double USB 3.0’s speed from 5 gigabits per second to 10 gigabits per second, rivaling the single-channel performance of Thunderbolt.

The news of faster USB speeds will be welcomed by those relying on external solid state or multi-disk hard drives, as some current high-end drives already saturate USB 3.0’s 5 Gb/s limit (equivalent to about 640 MB/s). For those not yet interested in faster speeds, the new technology will still be backwards-compatible with older USB 3.0 and 2.0 devices and ports.

The new specification is expected to be finalized by mid-year, but devices taking advantage of it won’t hit the market until early 2014 at the earliest, with “much broader availability of products in 2015.”

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which announced the new specification, is comprised of member companies in the technology field, including HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Texas Instruments, among others. Apple, which belatedly introduced USB 3.0 on its 2012 line of Macs, is not a member, although it pioneered Thunderbolt, an alternative high-speed interface.

Thunderbolt also offers maximum bandwidth of 10 Gb/s (about 1,280 MB/s) but is dual channel, allowing two transfers up to that speed to occur simultaneously between attached devices. However, the limited number of Thunderbolt-enabled computers and the complicated nature of Thunderbolt chipsets and cables have made the technology significantly more expensive than most other interface options. As a result, it is far less ubiquitous than the backwards-compatible and cheaper USB 3.0 standard.

Users interested in the new USB 3.0 specification will need both updated computers and external devices to support it. New USB 3.0 devices will still work in the absence of both of these conditions, but they will operate at much slower USB 3.0 or 2.0 speeds depending on the exact configuration.

Cables, on the other hand, are another matter. Due to changes in the efficiency of the new specification, existing USB 3.0 cables may not work. “Existing SuperSpeed USB cables are not certified to operate at 10 Gbps; it is possible that some existing SuperSpeed USB cables may be capable of operating at 10 Gbps,” the group said.

Now that Apple has introduced USB 3.0 support, it is likely that the company will move to incorporate the faster USB specification once it is available, especially if Thunderbolt adoption continues to progress at a glacial pace.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple adds Fusion Drive as build-to-order option for 21.5-inch iMac

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Date: Monday, January 7th, 2013, 06:29
Category: Hardware, News

The cool thing you want is now available for the base model iMac.

Per MacGeneration and AppleInsider, Apple is now offering the Fusion Drive as a build-to-order option when ordering the most affordable 2.7GHz 21.5-inch iMac model, a change in availability from October when the system was limited to high-end versions and the 27-inch iMac.

The revision to the Online Apple Store’s build-to-order options, first spotted by MacGeneration, adds Apple’s hybrid Fusion Drive as a US$250 upgrade to the base model 21.5-inch iMac.

Introduced in October 2012 alongside the redesigned iMac, Apple’s Fusion Drive is a hardware and software solution that promises the performance of a solid state drive with the storage capacity of a hard drive. Initial tests showed the hybrid drive to cut startup times in half while increasing read and write speeds significantly when compared to a traditional 5400-rpm hard drive.

The software driving the technology is built into OS X Mountain Lion and join a 128-gigabyte SSD with either a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte HDD to form a single addressable volume. Integral applications and the operating system itself are permanently stored on the flash memory while other files are store on the slower spinning drive. The system monitors a user’s operations and swaps frequently accessed files, folders or programs between the two to optimize performance. Transfers take place seamlessly in the background and require no user input.

Previously, the hardware that works in tandem with the Fusion Drive software was only available on the more expensive 2.9GHz 21.5-inch iMac model.

Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 could be en route to next-gen iOS devices

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Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 07:54
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News

Glassmaker Corning on Thursday announced Gorilla Glass 3, a stronger, more scratch resistant version of the current substrate used in the display of Apple’s iPhone and iPad lines of mobile devices.

Per Engadget, Corning unveiled its latest glass technologies including Gorilla Glass 3 and optical cables for use in fiber-supported protocols like Thunderbolt.



As for the next-generation Gorilla Glass 3, Corning claims the material is three times more scratch resistant than the previous version thanks to “Native Damage Resistance” technology. The company also claims that of the scratches that do occur on the glass, 40 percent fewer will be visible to the naked eye.

Not much information was provided pertaining to the optical cables, but the fiber format promises enhanced speeds and longer cable runs compared to current copper-based solutions. When Apple first launched Thunderbolt-compatible Macs and the Thunderbolt display, the company promised increased performance when optical cables hit the market. Thus far, production of the expensive components has been non-existent, but that is expected to change in 2013.

Corning Glass Technologies President James P. Clappin is scheduled to be a panelist on in the “Disruptive Technologies Impacting the Future of Games and Video” session at 11 a.m. PST on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and will discuss the role of specialized glass in consumer electronics like high-resolution 3D, HD video, internet-connected TVs and tablets, among other devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple inks deal with Broadcom, will bring 802.11ac functionality to 2013 Macs

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Date: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, 09:30
Category: Hardware, Rumor, wireless

This could lead to something nifty.

Per The Next Web, Apple has reportedly struck a deal with Broadcom that will place superfast 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips in its 2013 Mac lineup.

Sources familiar with the deal indicated that the forthcoming industry standard for Wi-Fi will appear in Apple’s lineup this year. The so-called “5G Wi-Fi” offers up to 1.3Gbps data with a three-antenna design.

Apple has reportedly shown interest in the past of being an early adopter of 801.11ac technology, but the “Gigabit Wi-Fi” technology has yet to appear in any Macs. The new standard achieves much faster wireless networking speeds than 802.11n, which featured in current Macs, by using more frequency bandwidth, more efficient data transfers, and more antennas.

Apple’s current Macs use up to three antennas to achieve 802.11n speeds of up to 450Mbps. But the 802.11ac standard starts at 450Mbps with just one antenna, while a triple-antenna design boosts wireless speeds to 1.3Gbps.

While Apple has reportedly struck a deal with Broadcom, the chips the company will use are not yet available and remain in development.

“We have been told that if work goes according to schedule, they should be part of the new line of Mac computers,” author Matt Brian wrote on Wednesday. “There is no word on whether Apple will introduce similar chipsets in the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Time Capsule or other products.”

Presumably Apple’s networking products would receive the necessary upgrade to provide 802.11ac connectivity to the rumored 2013 Macs. That would include the AirPort Extreme Base Station router and AirPort Express portable Wi-Fi base station and AirPlay streaming device.

Apple was among the first companies to bring Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999 when company co-founder Steve Jobs debuted a wireless iBook notebook onstage as his trademark “one more thing” at the July Macworld Expo.

The company also snuck in support for the 802.11n wireless standard in some of its devices in 2006. Support for the “draft n” specification was later added to devices through an available software update. The 802.11n standard was formally ratified in October of 2009 — nearly three years after Apple began rolling it out.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

TSMC to replace Samsung as A6X chip manufacturer for upcoming iPad devices

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Date: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, 08:14
Category: Hardware, iPad, News, Processors

The company may not have the prettiest logo in the world, but they DO have a killer Apple contract that a lot of people in their industry would love to have.

Per channelnewsasia.com, after years of rumors, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is said to finally begin trial production of A6X chips for Apple’s fourth-generation iPad this quarter, further marginalizing Samsung’s role in Apple’s supply chain.

TSMC has been contracted to manufacture the A6X chip found in the latest iPad. A report published on Wednesday said trial production of the mobile chips will begin in the first quarter of the year.

Apple has long been rumored to be interested in switching its mobile chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC. The iPad maker, which was once Samsung’s biggest customer, has been looking to remove Samsung from its supply chain as the two companies are engaged in a number of patent infringement lawsuits around the world.

Recent reports had indicated that Apple planned to have TSMC begin producing mobile chips in 2013. But some reports pegged a late 2013 start date as more likely.

With the latest rumor pegging TSMC’s deal as only for trial production of the A6X, it’s still unclear exactly when TSMC-produced chips could begin appearing in Apple’s iOS devices. Currently, all of the mobile processors used in the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV are built by Samsung at its chip fabrication plant in Austin, Tex.

Switching its chip manufacturing from Samsung to TSMC is expected to be a complex transition that could take Apple as long as 18 months to complete.

Rumors that surfaced last month pegged TSMC has the most likely company behind a mysterious “Project Azalea” that numerous states are competing to win. The secretive project involves an unnamed semiconductor manufacturing company considering a new chip fabrication plant in four potential states: New York, California, Texas and Oregon.

The chip manufacturer behind the “Azalea” project is said to have ties to Apple, which has led numerous reports to suggest TSMC as the most likely company behind the mystery project. The states bidding for the contract have signed nondisclosure agreements, making the company unknown.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to update notebooks in June, retain same design with new models

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Date: Friday, December 28th, 2012, 06:08
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Rumor: Apple to update notebooks in June, retain same design with new models

Sometimes you just don’t muck with a good design.

Per DigiTimes, Apple will reportedly update the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines in June 2013 with upgraded innards, but no major design changes are expected for either laptop range.

According to the article, Taiwanese supply chain sources said Apple recently issued requests for quotations (RFQs) for a number of notebooks, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, with the new models slated to reach consumers in June 2013.

Little information was offered regarding the revised MacBook Pro as the publication focused its report on the effect Apple’s MacBook Air will have on so-called Ultrabook makers next year. For 2013, Apple’s thin-and-light is said to be switching to a new processor platform, most likely Intel’s next-generation Haswell architecture.

As for design, sources say no major changes are planned for either product line. While the MacBook Pro line was the recipient of a design overhaul with the Retina display model, non-Retina versions still sport a unibody chassis largely unaltered since its debut in 2008. The MacBook Air’s enclosure was revamped in 2010, taking on a more angular look as Apple applied design cues learned from its development of the iPad.

DigiTimes also suggests Apple may cut MacBook Air prices ahead of the June launch, but such a move is unlikely considering the company has no recent history of discounting products prior to a newer version’s release. The publication made similar claims in May when it incorrectly predicted that Apple would introduce a US$799 version of the notebook in the third quarter of 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Updated (x2): Apple changes guidelines as to 30-pin, Lightning connector ports on same iOS device in wake of Kickstarter effort

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Date: Friday, December 28th, 2012, 01:51
Category: Hardware, News

This could lead to some interesting stuff.

Per CNET, only a day after a Kickstarter project was killed because of restrictions on Apple’s MFi program that prevented Lightning and 30-Pin connectors from appearing on the same device, Apple has changed its guidelines to allow third-party devices to have 30-pin and Lightning chargers on the same accessory.



“Our technical specifications provide clear guidelines for developing accessories and they are available to MFi licensees for free,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told CNET. “We support accessories that integrate USB and Lightning connectors, but there were technical issues that prevented accessories from integrating 30-pin and Lightning connectors so our guidelines did not allow this.”

The company added that the guidelines have since been updated to allow accessories to work with both types of connectors to charge devices.

There is no word from Edison Junior on whether the company will move forward with the POP portable power station, which sought to bring both Lightning and 30-pin Dock connectors to iOS devices now that Apple has reversed course.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve heard anything about the POP effort or those similar to it, please let us know in the comments.

Update: The product now has a new web site that can be looked into via popportablepower.com.

Second update: Edison Junior Director of Operations August Cziment has replied to a query as to whether a MagSafe version of the POP with the following statement:

“Thanks for your interest. Right now we don’t have any definitive plans to do a MagSafe although we’d like to explore that idea. Right now we’re so focused on delivering an awesome POP product as we had promised so for now we’re trying not to distract ourselves.”

Rumor: Apple may switch to IGZO displays for next-gen iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, December 27th, 2012, 06:57
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, Rumor

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Next year could be interesting where iOS devices are concerned.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is reportedly in talks with Sharp to use the company’s IGZO display technology in next-generation iPhones and iPads, but low yield rates have prompted the Cupertino tech giant to look at other Asian display makers in efforts to bolster its supply chain.

According to sources close to the story, Apple is said to be further evaluating Sharp’s IGZO panel production capacity for 2013 ahead of rolling out the technology in upcoming iPhone, iPad and iPad mini models. Rumors of Apple’s interest in using IGZO, or indium, gallium and zinc oxide, displays first surfaced in late 2011.

While the Sharp-developed screens are thinner and more efficient than those found in current iDevices, Apple was unable to take advantage of the technology as the struggling Japanese electronics firm saw setbacks with initial yields. Only recently has the company introduced the first IGZO panels with its own mobile offerings limited to the Japanese domestic market.

It appears that supply constraints are a continuing concern, as Apple is said to also be evaluating whether display partner AU Optronics’ “L5C” line can be used to produce the cutting edge panels. In addition, Innolux was reportedly granted a license to make IGZO displays, suggesting that the Taiwanese company may become an Apple display supplier.

The most recent rumors surrounding an IGZO-toting Apple product came in July when sources in China claimed the tech would be one of the standout features of the iPad mini.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may debut fifth-gen iPad in March, borrow from iPad mini design elements

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Date: Monday, December 24th, 2012, 08:15
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

If you were waiting a while to see if there might be a new generation of iPad coming out the door in a few months, you get to feel both proud and smug.

If you just bought a brand new iPad, you might want to want to gently throttle the friend who waited a bit for the next-gen iPad.

Per Japanese blog Mac Otakara,

Apple is reportedly preparing a thinner, lighter fifth-generation iPad model ahead of a March unveiling, only five months after the most recent version was released in October, claims Japanese blog Mac Otakara.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the web site claims the 9.7-inch tablet will surface in March with a new look more in line with the iPad mini.

The exact dimensions of the purported iPad were not divulged by the source, but they did expect the tablet to be thinner and lighter than the current iteration. As with most Apple products, and those of OEMs in general, designs have been trending toward shrinking the device while cramming in as much technology as possible. With the third and fourth-generation iPad, however, the chassis was actually slightly thicker than its predecessor as more internal space was required to hold the circuitry that powers the unit’s Retina display.

While the rumor fits with recent whispers that Apple may be moving to an aggressive half-year product refresh cycle, as seen with the fourth-generation iPad, the company has consistently worked with a year-long rotation for its iDevice lines since their respective introductions.

No mention was made of the 9.7-inch model’s internal specifications, but the publication did note that an upgraded iPad mini is already in the works. The smaller tablet will reportedly fit an all-new 7.9-inch Retina display over hand-me-down innards like the A6X processor from the current full-size iPad. Separate reports have echoed the second-gen iPad mini rumors, though a prospective launch timeline has yet to be established.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patents point to effort to reduce noise on MacBook Pro fan modules

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Date: Thursday, December 20th, 2012, 09:02
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News, Patents

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You know the fans on your MacBook Pro?

They’re about to get quieter.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a trio of patent applications discovered on Thursday reveal how the asymmetric fan blade spacing used in the newest MacBook Pro with Retina display models quiet the spinning impeller without sacrificing performance.

The three patent applications, all titled “Centrifugal blower with asymmetric blade spacing” and numbered sequentially (1, 2, 3) cover separate fan designs that feature asymmetrically aligned fan blades, two with 31 blades and one with 61 blades.

Apple first introduced its asymmetric fan design in June with the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display and a subsequent teardown revealed that the laptop uses a 31-blade unit.

Typical fans incorporate a prime number of blades that are spaced at angles equidistant to each other, an industry standard aimed at reducing unwanted sound. At issue is the blade pass frequency (BPF) which produces harmonics from the pressure wave formed at the tip of each blade. The most noticeable source of noise is the pole pass frequency (PPF) tone, or the “vibration and resulting pressure waves created by the poles in the motor of the fan.”

Apple’s design calls for variably-angled blades that controls the spectral distribution of tones created by the fan. First-hand tests have found the new design to not necessarily quiet fan noise as much as create a less grating sound.

From the patent:
“Dispersing the energy of a tone over a number of discrete frequencies can make the tone seem less noisy to the listener by reducing the perception on the tonal BPF [blade pass frequency]. Spacing fan blades unevenly, while maintaining impeller balance, is one method of controlling pure-tone effects.”

According to the invention, the rearrangement of the fan blade angles cancels some of the noise usually heard in conventional portable computers but allows for the unit to still be balanced as the center of mass is located at the shaft of the impeller. The modified design also allows for the fan system to be smaller, thus permitting a thinner laptop as seen with the Retina MacBook Pros.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.