Rumor: Apple developing iOS-based HDTV for late 2011 release

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Date: Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011, 07:35
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, Rumor

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Sometimes you have to turn a hobby into a full-time job.

Per DailyTech, Apple is rumored to be working on an iOS-powered connected TV, possibly for release as early as this fall.

A former Apple executive, speaking anonymously, said the company plans to “blow Netflix and all those other guys away” by bundling Apple TV + iTunes inside a physical display, DailyTech reports. Apple is reportedly teaming up with a major supplier to provide the rebranded television sets, the source noted.

When questioned why an OEM would cut into its sales by providing Apple with units, the source said, “If you have to be competing with somebody, you want to be competing with yourself.”

The tipster indicated a planned fall launch, while noting that the product could get pushed to next year because of Apple’s “high standards.” A fall launch could coincide with the launch of the next-generation iPhone, as well as iOS 5 and iCloud.

“You’ll go into an Apple retail store and be able to walk out with a TV. It’s perfect,” the source said. According to the unverified report, the iOS-driven televisions would support third-party apps.

Rumors of an Apple Smart TV have existed for years, with Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster repeatedly forecasting the product. Munster has suggested that an Internet-connected TV from Apple may have a starting price in the range of US$2,000.

In March, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said Asian suppliers had told her Apple had built a Smart TV prototype. According to Huberty, an Apple-branded TV could add as much as US$4 billion per 1 percent share of the TV market Apple is able to capture over the next two years.

Then, in April, Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities said “data points” from a China electronics trade show suggested Apple could launch an HDTV set possibly by the end of the year. “Our research suggests this Smart TV would go well beyond the miniature US$99 second-generation Apple TV that the company released last fall and provide a full-blown TV product for consumers,” White said.

Though Apple CEO Steve Jobs said last year that the Apple TV set top box product is “a hobby” for the company, sales of the US$99 second-generation model have improved over the first-generation. After the company sold 250,000 units in the first six weeks of availability, Jobs said Apple was “thrilled” with the figures.

Apple went on to sell 1 million Apple TVs within three months of the device’s launch. However, analysts have estimated that a million units per quarter would amount to a “fairly immaterial” $400 million in annual revenue.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of Concord Securities said in April that Apple TV sales had reached 2 million, reportedly selling 820,000 units in the March quarter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Changes Promo Code Terms In App Store

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Date: Friday, June 17th, 2011, 15:06
Category: App Store, Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Review, Software

This isn’t exactly new information. It was reported as far back as May 3rd by Mac Rumors, but somehow I missed it until now. Apple has changed the functionality of the iOS App Store (unconfirmed whether this affects the Mac App Store) so that if you use a developer promo code to download an app, you will not be able to submit a review for the app; you will be “locked out”. Here is a blurb copied from an exchange with iTunes Store Customer Support:

Thanks for writing back and letting me know your concern. I understand that you are still not able to write a review. I know how disappointing it can be when things don’t work out the way they should. I am sorry to inform that it is no longer possible to rate or review an app if it was downloaded using a developer’s promotional code.

The crackdown is apparently in response to complaints that reviews were being skewed as a result of developers giving codes in exchange for favorable reviews. I’m not sure how widespread this issue is, and I’m sure the ones perpetrating the review stacking will find another way to do it, but for the most part it seems like a good idea. No worries about that here; regardless of how I get ahold of an app, if it’s crap I’ll tell you.

Rumor: Supply chain sources indicate updates to various Macs in coming months

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Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 03:03
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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When in doubt, check the supply chain.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Shaw Wu has conferred with sources along Apple’s supply chain and has noted that Apple plans to refresh the rest of its Mac lineup, which would include the MacBook, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and MacBook Air, “in upcoming months.”

Not included on Wu’s list are the MacBook Pro, which underwent a refresh in February, and the iMac, which saw a new version on Tuesday. Both products saw a transition to Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors and the addition of the new high-speed Thunderbolt input/output port.

Wu believes the MacBook refresh is especially important because the entry-level notebook represents roughly one-third of Apple’s portable business, which itself has grown to 73% of all Mac sales. The last update for the MacBook came in May 2010.

As for the other Macs, the Mac Mini was most recently refreshed in June 2010, while the Mac Pro saw an update last July and the MacBook Air received a substantial upgrade last October. Wu sees the upcoming Mac refreshes as offsetting “a very minor cannibalistic impact” that the iPad 2 could have on Apple’s Mac business.

In February, a report claimed that Apple will replace the MacBook Air’s aging Core 2 Duo chip with the current Sandy Bridge processors in June.

In his note, Wu told investors that Tuesday’s iMac refresh stands as “a worthy upgrade” and should help “reinvigorate” Mac’s desktop business, which has declined to 27% of Macs shipped. Sales of Mac desktops actually dropped by 12% year over year last quarter, compared to 53% year over year growth for portable Macs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Patent granted for scratch-proof nitride coating on Apple devices

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Date: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011, 08:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, News

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The good news: Your Apple device might get a bit tougher.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has been granted ownership of an invention related to scratch-proof coatings on stainless steel devices, using a nitride layer to potentially make iPhones, iPads and Macs more durable.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week granted ownership of the invention “Nitriding Stainless Steel for Consumer Electronic Products” to Apple. Known as U.S. Patent No. 7896981, it describes a cost-effective system that uses a nitride coating to prevent scratches and blemishes on the metal surface of a mobile device.

Adding a layer of nitride atop a stainless steel exterior would protect a device from damage. But the choice of material would maintain the look and feel of stainless steel, as nitride allows the color of the metal to show through.

Nitride is not to be confused with titanium nitride, a ceramic material that is also used as a coating on metal. Unlike nitride, which is clear, titanium nitride has a metallic gold color that conceals the look of the metal beneath it.

Apple’s invention notes that stainless steel, while scratch-prone, is an ideal material to craft electronic devices. Stainless steel is preferable because it is not magnetic, and it is less likely to inhibit wireless technology like a cell phone signal, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

The addition of nitride could give Apple the best of both worlds: the advantages of stainless steel would remain, while a nitride coating would address the chief concern of durability.

The invention also includes specifics on how the nitride coating would be applied to a device. It describes using a salt bath nitride process to coat stainless steel with an initial layer at least 15 to 30 microns thick and with a Vickers Hardness value of at least 1,000. Another method would use a nitrogen salt bath with an average temperature of no more than 580 degrees Celsius.

After the stainless steel sits in a superheated salt bath for between 45 and 90 minutes, the material would be removed and the nitride layer would be polished to remove no more than 10 percent, resulting in a smooth exterior.

Apple first filed for the invention in April of 2010. The invention is credited to Douglas Weber.

Intel exec cites Light Peak as ready for implementation

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Date: Monday, January 10th, 2011, 11:00
Category: Hardware, News

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It was on the horizon and now it’s here.

Per Macworld, an Intel executive on Friday said that its Light Peak interconnect technology, designed to link computers to devices like displays and external storage, is ready for implementation.

Light Peak, announced in 2009, was originally designed to use fiber optics to transmit data among systems and devices, but the initial builds will be based on copper, said David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Architecture Group, in an interview with IDG News Service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought,” Perlmutter said. “Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive,” he added.

Perlmutter declined to comment on when Light Peak-enabled devices would reach store shelves, saying shipment depended on device makers. Intel has in the past said that devices with Light Peak technology would start shipping in late 2010 or early this year.

For the majority of user needs today, copper is good, Perlmutter said. But data transmission is much faster over fiber optics, which will increasingly be used by vendors in Light Peak implementations.

Intel has said Light Peak technology would use light to speed up data transmission between mobile devices and products including storage, networking and audio devices. It would transfer data at bandwidths starting at 10 gigabits per second over distances of up to 100 meters. But with copper wires, the speed and range of data transmission may not be as great.

Computers today are linked to external devices using connectors like USB, but Perlmutter refused to be drawn into a debate on whether Light Peak would ultimately replace those technologies.

“USB 3.0 already has a traction in the market. I don’t know if that will change,” Perlmutter said.

There could be co-existence, with USB, display and networking protocols running on top of Light Peak.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Micron announces 500GB notebook SSD hard drives

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Date: Wednesday, January 5th, 2011, 06:28
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Micron Technology on Tuesday announced its highest capacity laptop solid-state drives (SSDs) based on its smallest circuitry technology; the largest SSD doubles the amount of data that can be stored compared to its predecessor.

Micron’s new RealSSD C400 flash drive line offers capacities ranging from 64GB to 512GB and will be available in 1.8″ and 2.5″ form factors, both supporting a 6Gbit per sec serial ATA (SATA) interface. The SSDs are based on Micron’s latest 25 nanometer (nm) NAND flash lithography technology.



Per Macworld, the C400′s predecessor, Micron’s RealSSD C300 drive, was its first to leverage the SATA 3.0 specification, which offers 6Gbit/sec. throughput, and the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 2.1 specification, which provides sequential read speeds of up to 355MB/sec. and sequential write speeds of up to 215MB/sec. The C300 also came in 1.8″ and 2.5″ models, with either 128GB or 256GB of capacity.

Crucial, a division of Micron, will begin selling the new SSD portfolio under the name Crucial m4 SSD. The Crucial m4 SSD product line is expected to be available online and through select global channel partners in the first quarter of 2011. Micron is not offering pricing information on the new SSDs.

The new drives achieve read speeds of up to 415MBps, which is 17% faster than Micron’s C300 SSDs. With write performance varying by capacity, the new 512GB drive delivers up to 260MBps write speeds, which is 20% faster than the C300 SSDs .

Micron is currently working with notebook manufacturers to qualify its new RealSSD drives, with samples of the RealSSD C400 drives available now. Micron expects mass production to begin in February.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Hitachi announces Z5K500 500GB notebook hard drive

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Date: Tuesday, December 21st, 2010, 05:56
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Electronics giant Hitachi has announced the industry’s highest density, single-platter hard disk drive that has an areal density of 636Gbit/inch, almost 100Gbit per square inch more than its closest competitor.

Per Macworld, Hitachi’s 2.5″ in 5400-rpm Travelstar Z5K500 laptop drive is only 7mm in height. The drive is the industry’s highest capacity, single-platter hard disk drive. The Travelstar Z5K500, which comes in 500GB, 320GB and 250GB capacities, is the second second generation of Hitachi products to use the company’s Advanced Format drive, which increases the physical sector size on drives from 512 bytes to 4096 (4K) bytes, thereby improving drive capacity and error correction capabilities.

Western Digital was first to the table with a 1TB laptop drive last year. That Scorpio Blue drive, however, contained three 333GB capacity platters and measured 12.5mm in height. Seagate and Toshiba then followed with their own three-platter, 12.5mm 1TB laptop drives, along with two-platter 750GB 9.5mm-high drives.

Hitachi said its new drive surpasses per-gigabyte cost advantages that other 2.5″ and 1.8″ drives had offered. Of course, it also exceeds the price per gigabyte when compared to solid-state drives, as well.

Hitachi’s new Travelstar Z5K500 drives have 8MB cache and a Serial ATA (SATA) 3Gbit/sec interface.

The drives are aimed at system manufacturers who can use the thinner drives to differentiate product lines by utilizing space savings to produce thinner devices, add battery capacity, increase shock robustness, or improve internal airflow.

The Travelstar Z-series of drives also offer an optional bulk data encryption feature, which allows the drives to be set to encrypt all data stored on them. The drives are expected to ship to distributors this month.

Hitachi said pricing for the new drive models has not been finalized.

Apple releases LED Cinema Display Firmware Update 1.0 for 27″ monitor

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Date: Thursday, December 16th, 2010, 06:00
Category: Hardware, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released its LED Cinema Display Firmware Update 1.0 to try and fix a bug that’s been plaguing some users.

Per Macworld, the issue in question involves audio from the display’s speakers dying intermittently. In order to fix the sound issues, users have resorted to unplugging and replugging the monitor’s USB cable or even rebooting their Mac.

The update, a 957KB download, can be snagged from Apple’s support download site or via Software Update and then run it from your /Applications/Utilities folder and requires a Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later to install and run.

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

Seagate announces one terabyte 2.5″ notebook hard drive

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Date: Tuesday, December 14th, 2010, 06:15
Category: Hardware, News

Hard drive manufacturer Seagate on Monday announced the industry’s first 2.5″ enterprise-class drive with one terabyte of capacity, or about 60% more could be stored previously.

Per Macworld, the next generation Constellation hard drive allows a standard 2U (3.5-in high) storage array to store up to 24TB, and a full server rack to store up to 500TB.

Seagate’s new drive spins at 7200 rpm, contains four 250GB platters, and has 6Gbit/sec throughput. Like the first generation of the Constellation, the second generation comes with serial SCSI (SAS) connectivity. The updated offering also offers serial ATA (SATA).

“We’re comparing this model to a 10,000-rpm drive in the enterprise, which today has a maximum capacity of 600GB,” said Barbara Craig, Seagate’s senior product marketing manager. “Its performance is about three times that of notebook drive and it’s twice as reliable.”

The SAS model of the Constellation.2 is dual ported for resiliency and sports sequential and random read speeds of up to 115MB/sec; the SATA model has 115MB/sec sequential read speeds but boasts 180MB/sec for random reads. Not only did Seagate double the maximum capacity of the Constellation, but it also increased the entry-level drive capacity from 160GB to 250GB.

The Constellation lags behind Seagate’s 1TB, 3.5″ enterprise-class drive in sequential performance, but blows by it in random reads. The random performance is better on 2.5″ drives because of their smaller disks and denser data.

Sequential Performance (MB/S) is better on 3.5″ drives because of the larger disk capacity and the higher areal density of the drive, Seagate said.

Regardless of the performance in comparison to its 3.5″ drive, Seagate pointed out that its new 2.5″ drive offers far greater space and power savings over its larger cousin. For example, the Constellation.2 offers 72 percent power savings while idle over the 3.5-in drive, or 3.85 watts versus 8 watts while idle, the company added.

Like its predecessor, the Constellation.2 is a self-encrypting drive. The latest model offers an encryption algorithm from AES 128-bit to AES 256-bit.

Sometime next quarter, Seagate is set to announce a Constellation.2 drive that has passed the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) and is sealed with a tamper-resistant label.

The estimated mean time between failures (MTBF) was also increased with this drive from 1.2 million hours with the previous generation to 1.4 million hours, according to Craig. The Constellation.2 has twice the lifespan of Seagate’s 2.5-in laptop drive, the Momentus.

Final pricing and availability have yet to be announced for the Constellation.

Rumor: Apple may rely on Intel’s Sandy Bridge line for next-gen notebook CPUs, AMD for graphics processing

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Date: Thursday, December 9th, 2010, 06:08
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Per CNET, Apple will use Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs in its future notebooks. Interestingly enough, some of these forthcoming machines might rely solely on Intel’s chip for both general and graphical processing tasks.

That’s the word from the usual “sources familiar with Apple’s plans,” who expect “MacBook models with screen sizes of 13″ and below” to eschew the inclusion of a discrete GPU and ride their luck on the improved graphical performance of Intel’s upcoming do-it-all chip. There are currently no sub-13.3″ MacBooks, so the suggestion of one is surely intriguing.

The key point here is that NVIDIA’s being left out of the Apple party, because MacBook Pros are also predicted to switch up to AMD-provided graphics hardware. All these changes should be taking place with Apple’s next refresh, which is naturally expected at some point in the new year.

Even so, this could all be just a massive negotiating ploy to get NVIDIA to play nicer with its pricing, we’re inclined to believe Intel has finally gotten its integrated graphics up to a level where it pleases the discerning tastemakers at Apple.