Rumor: iCloud to scan, mirror iTunes libraries, Apple close to deal with Universal

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 03:10
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the rumor mill keeps technology interesting.

Per Bloomberg BusinessWeek, according to people briefed on talks between Apple and the music labels, Apple has obtained new licenses for its so-called iCloud service that will allow the company to mirror individual iTunes music collections on its servers. Additionally, Apple will replace low-quality music files stored on users’ hard drives with higher-quality versions on its servers.

However, the convenience of increased access to one’s music will come at a price, according to the report. While Apple’s upcoming music service “may be a huge shift, it won’t be free,” the article states. Label executives have reportedly said they are negotiating aggressively for profits in the cloud.

Though specific details on pricing remain unclear, the article speculates that Apple could bundle streaming music services into its revamp of MobileMe, which currently retails for US$99 a year. Fees for the service could also help labels “claw out some money” from pirated music, the authors noted. A separate report suggested last month that the rumored service could be free at first, but would eventually require a fee.

Sources close to the negotiations between Apple and the record companies corroborated earlier reports that Apple had reached agreements with three of the four major labels and is close to a deal with Universal Music.

Music executives also alleged that Google had offered US$100 million up front to the four major music labels for licenses, but negotiations stalled over the labels’ concerns that Google doesn’t do enough to protect copyright holders on Google.com and YouTube. Without the licensing agreements needed to sell music, the search giant eventually launched its Music Beta service as just a ‘digital locker.’

Rival Amazon launched its Cloud Drive online music streaming service in March without renegotiated licenses. Music industry executives, who were notified of Amazon’s plans just days before the launch, have questioned the legality of a feature that automatically adds Amazon.com digital music purchases to customers’ Cloud Drive accounts.

Apple is expected to unveil its iCloud service in June at the annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, though the company reportedly has yet to finalize negotiations for new licenses with music publishers. Apple appears to have completed work on the service, with negotiations with rights holders standing as the final hurdle.

An Apple patent application discovered last week hints at one possible solution for streaming music. According to the filing, Apple is investigating a method of storing portions of songs on devices such as the iPhone in order to allow immediate playback, while the device initiates a download from a remote location.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases second beta build of Mac OS X 10.6.8 to developer community

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Date: Friday, May 20th, 2011, 04:51
Category: Rumor, Software

Apple on Thursday issued the second beta build of Mac OS X 10.6.8 to developers with no known issues.

Per AppleInsider, both the Combo Update and the Delta Update for Mac OS X 10.6.8 build 10K524 are a 1GB download. According to sources close to the story, focus areas for the build include Airport, Graphics Drivers, Mac App Store, Networking, QuickTime and VPN.

The first build of Mac OS X 10.6.8, identified as 10K521, arrived a week ago with no details on changes.

The most recent update to Snow Leopard came in March in the form of Mac OS X 10.6.7, which included display fixes for Apple’s early 2011 Thunderbolt MacBook Pros. Other adjustments included changes designed to improve the reliability of Back to My Mac, resolve issues when transferring files to SMB Windows Files Sharing servers, and address Mac App Store bugs.

Apple is expected to release a major upgrade to Mac OS X this summer with Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”). The company is expected to “unveil the future of Mac OS” at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference from June 6 through June 10 in San Francisco.

Mac OS X 10.7 is expected popular features in iOS, such as full screen apps and auto save, and brings them back to the Mac.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple secures EMI licensing deal for upcoming cloud service

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Date: Thursday, May 19th, 2011, 04:08
Category: iTunes, Rumor

You’ve been eagerly anticipating the Apple Cloud.

And they might be one step closer to releasing it.

Per CNET, music industry sources claim that Apple has signed a cloud-music licensing agreement with music label EMI and is “very near” to completing deals with Universal and Sony.

Apple appears to be putting the final pieces in place for the long-rumored cloud-based iTunes music service. The article states that Apple’s negotiations with Sony Music Group and Universal could wrap up as early as next week, according to music industry sources.

Last month, it was reported that Apple and Warner Music Group had reached an agreement for an unannounced iTunes cloud service. A separate report suggested last month that Apple had already procured deals from at least two of the four major music labels.

Finalizing licensing deals appears to be the final step for Apple, as a recent report suggested that Apple had completed work on a cloud-based iTunes music streaming service. Sources close to the story have said that Apple’s cloud solution is expected to be vastly superior to competing services from Google and Amazon.

Both Google and Amazon decided to launch their “digital locker” music services without renegotiating licenses with the labels. As such, Google’s service is unable to sell music and Amazon faces a potential backlash from rights holders.

Mounting evidence suggests that Apple will use the name ‘iCloud’ for the new service, though it’s been rumored that iCloud will be more than just music. Sources said the new service will also serve as a revamp of the company’s existing MobileMe service, allowing storage of contacts, calendars, photos and video.

According to one report, Apple purchased the iCloud.com domain for an estimated US$4.5 million from the Swedish company Xcerion.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge-Equipped MacBook Air notebooks to surface in June/July

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Date: Wednesday, May 18th, 2011, 03:01
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

The line of Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge-equipped Mac notebooks looks likely to complete with the MacBook Air come June or July.

Per an article in DigiTimes, sources from makers in the MacBook Air supply chain will begin shipping 11.6″ and 13.3″ MacBook Air models “in late May.”

“Main supply chain makers for the new models remain about the same as for the existing MacBook Air, with Quanta Computer solely responsible for assembly, Catcher Technology supplying casings, Auras Technology a main supplier of thermal modules, Shin Zu Shing supplying hinges, and Simplo Technology and Dynapack supplying batteries,” the report noted the sources as saying.

Given the expected high volume of initial shipments of Apple’s thin-and-light notebook and the relatively higher prices of Apple’s components, Taiwan-based makers “rest the hope on Apple orders for revenue contributions,” according to the report.

DigiTimes’ sources corroborate a previous report that pegged MacBook Air shipments as going to mass production in late May. According to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, checks with Asian suppliers and system builders revealed that, after declining sequentially after the release of new MacBook Pros, MacBook Air shipments are expected to rebound in the June quarter ahead of a refresh.

In February, it had been claimed Apple would transition the MacBook Air to Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors in June.

Apple’s first Macs to feature the Sandy Bridge architecture were the early 2011 MacBook Pros released in late February. The new MacBook Pros also saw the first implementation of the new high-speed Thunderbolt port. Earlier this month, the Cupertino, Calif., Mac maker unveiled new iMac all-in-one desktops with quad-core Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt.

According to one analyst, supply chain sources indicate that Apple intends to refresh the rest of its Mac lineup “in upcoming months,” though further details were unavailable.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.

Apple looking less likely to include near-field communications in iPhone 5

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Date: Monday, May 16th, 2011, 10:02
Category: iPhone, Rumor

In the apparently never-ending speculation regarding the appearance of near-field communications in the upcoming iPhone 5, the current consensus is leaning towards “no”.

According to Business Insider, Wall Street research firm Bernstein issued a note to investors on Monday in which it claimed the next iPhone won’t include an NFC chip, according to Business Insider. That would run contrary to previous rumors that Apple was planning to include such a chip in its next iPhone.

Numerous reports from various sources had suggested that Apple planned to include NFC chips for e-wallet functionality in its next iPhone. Wireless short-range technology like RFID can allow for secure transmission of data, and could turn a user’s smartphone into a credit card.

In March, it was also reported that Apple was planning e-wallet functionality for a “coming” iPhone. However, the newspaper could not confirm whether the functionality would appear in Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone.

Apple has shown a great deal of interest in RFID over the years, with numerous patent filings, job listings, and even public comments from mobile executives. Reports of iPhone prototypes with RFID functionality date back to 2009.

If true, Monday’s report could mean that users would have to wait until at least the sixth-generation iPhone, likely to arrive in 2012, before such functionality would become available. That would jibe with other rumors that the next iPhone will not feature any significant changes to its hardware.

It would also support a claim out of the U.K. made in March that said RFID functionality had been scrapped. The Independent cited sources at mobile operators who said that Apple plans to include NFC technology in the sixth-generation iPhone in 2012.

Last week, a separate analyst report claimed that the biggest feature of Apple’s fifth-generation handset, given the moniker “iPhone 4S,” will be support for both Sprint and T-Mobile networks in the U.S. It is also expected to feature better cameras and the dual-core A5 processor found in the iPad 2.

Over the weekend, a separate part and case claimed to be for the fifth-generation iPhone suggested that the camera flash on the rear of the device will be placed farther from the lens. This would allow for better pictures when taken in low lighting.

Apple’s next iPhone is widely expected to miss the traditional summer launch timeframe when previous devices have been introduced. Instead, it is believed that the next iPhone will arrive at some point in Apple’s 2012 fiscal year, which begins in late September.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-party case points to edge-to-edge screen for iPhone 5

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Date: Monday, May 16th, 2011, 04:56
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Additional evidence that the iPhone 5 will have an edge-to-edge screen surfaced over the weekend in the form of a case manufactured by Chinese firm Kulcase.

Per Electronista, which found the case listed on Alibaba.com, the listing describes it as a “crystal case for Apple iPhone 5g”.

Images of the case include a mock up of the iPhone 5, which has an edge-to-edge screen on the front, with the rear of the device showing that the camera lens and flash have been moved to opposite corners of the device.

While the iPhone 5 is expected to be the same size as the iPhone 4, this is not the first time that rumours of a larger screen have come to light and an edge-to-edge display would enable Apple to increase screen size while keeping the chassis the same size.

Going back to the camera lens and flash, the mockups appeared to show that the camera lens would remain on the top left of the back of the device, while the flash would move to the top right hand side.

Further evidence that this could be the case appeared on the Apple.pro website over the weekend, which published photographs of what it claims are various different camera components for the next-generation iPhone.

The iPhone 5′s rear-facing camera component does not have an LED flash next to it, as it does on the iPhone 4, suggesting that the flash will indeed be moved to elsewhere on the device.

Though misleading mock-ups and fake components for future Apple products have been seen in the past, the edge-to-edge screen has been mentioned several times in iPhone 5 reports, so it would be surprising not to see it on the iPhone 5 when it launches.

At this point, a June launch for the iPhone 5 handset is regarded as unlikely, with September or perhaps even early 2012 more realistic.

However, contradictory reports about the next-generation iPhone emerged late last week, suggesting that rather than the iPhone 5, the name is likely to be the iPhone 4S. While analyst Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co thinks that it will have an A5 chip, this will be the only significant spec change.

Misek made no mention of an edge-to-edge screen or NFC capabilities and as such the iPhone 4S will be little more than an incremental upgrade, hence the name.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may switch to ARM processors for notebooks in 2013

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Date: Friday, May 6th, 2011, 05:27
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s the rumors that make life interesting.

Per SemiAccurate, sources have claimed that Apple will be transitioning from Intel processors to ARM processors in the not too distant future.

The short story is that Apple is its notebook line, and presumably desktops too, to ARM-based chips as soon as possible.

The transition seems unlikely to take place after ARM has moved to full 64-bit cores which won’t likely be until at least mid-2013.

At that point, Apple can move to ARM without worrying about obsoleting code with an [instruction set architecture] that is on the verge of changing, and no memory overhead worries either.

Apple has made a heavy investment in the ARM architecture which presently powers their iOS line of products. Apple even made the bold move to take ARM processor design in house with the acquisition P.A. Semi and Intrinsity.

A transition of the Mac notebook line over to a different processor architecture would still present some roadblocks. While Apple did previously succeed in such a transition in the past with the PowerPC to Intel transition, it was not without an incredible amount of engineering to ease the process. Existing Mac applications would be unable to run on the new ARM processors without some sort of emulation layer. Mac applications would have to be recompiled to support the ARM processors.

While ARM is known for their low power processors, last year they announced plans to move into high-performance computing in the future, and has been rumored to moving into the 64-bit space as well.

Codenamed “Eagle,” the A15 architecture is ostensibly aimed at netbooks and tablets, but a look at the spec sheet leaves no doubt that ARM is absolutely gunning for the server market that Intel and AMD currently dominate.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available

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.

Rumor: Apple to release Mac OS X 10.7 via Mac App Store

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Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 02:35
Category: Rumor, Software

You know, I was getting used to hoofing it into the Apple Store, giving them a reasonable $29 and walking out with a Mac OS X 10.6 DVD…

It seemed like a good way to live.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will make the switch to a new kind of digital distribution for its upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) operating system upgrades by releasing the software first through its new Mac App Store.

The Mac App Store, available to all users running the most recent version of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, will become the de facto method for obtaining the Lion upgrade, sources familiar with the matter have revealed. Users will be able to upgrade instantly without the need for physical media by purchasing Lion through the Mac App Store.

While the Mac App Store will be the preferred method for installing Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, set for release this summer, it’s logical to presume that Apple will also offer an optical disc for people who may not have broadband. At least one person with knowledge of the situation claims that this will indeed be the case “for those with slower connections, or [for those who for whatever reason do] not want to download it.”

Apple will likely reveal its distribution plans for Lion at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Calif., set to take place June 6 through 10. Apple has promised that this year’s conference will showcase the “future” of the Mac operating system, and will be an event developers will not want to miss.

Evidence that Lion will be available in the Mac App Store can already be found in the pre-release builds Apple has issued to developers. Betas are downloaded from the Mac App Store by entering a redemption code provided by Apple.

Utilizing the App Store will allow owners of the new disc-drive-less MacBook Air to easily install the latest version of Mac OS X without the need for a physical disc. Apple ships its redesigned MacBook Air with a Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard reinstaller on a USB thumb drive, rather than a DVD.

Making the App Store a central component of the Mac experience will also allow Apple to remove disc drives from future hardware as the company looks toward a future of computing without the need for physical media. Removal of SuperDrives from devices like the MacBook Pro is expected to take place over the next 12-18 months, paving the way for even thinner designs with more internal space for a larger battery.

Apple has even moved to limit shelf space for software in its retail stores, allowing greater room for more profitable hardware to be sold. In February, it was rumored that the company actually plans to cease the sale of all boxed software at its retail locations.

The App Store has even been highlighted by Apple as a defining feature of Lion, which is due to be released this summer. But rather than wait for the release of Lion, Apple opted to bring the Mac App Store to Snow Leopard users in January.

Hardware requirements for the Mac App Store are the same as those for Snow Leopard, including an Intel-based processor, 1GB of system RAM, and 5GB of available disk space. But those with Apple’s earliest Intel-based machines will not be able to run Lion, as it has a minimum requirement of a Core 2 Duo processor.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: AT&T rep says iPhone 5 may come after typical June/July launch period

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Date: Wednesday, May 4th, 2011, 03:22
Category: iPhone, Rumor

A potentially awesome new iMac just came in, now you might have to wait a bit for the next generation of iPhone.

Per a report on MacRumors, an AT&T representative has asserted that Apple has informed the carrier that it does not plan to release a new version of the iPhone in June or July of this year.

The article cited that AT&T customer care representatives claim to have heard directly from Apple that the launch of the next-generation iPhone will miss the company’s usual early summer timeframe.

“Apple has informed us that they do not plan to release the iPhone in the June to July timeframe, though there will be a newer version in the future,” the report noted the AT&T representative as saying. “Unfortunately, we have not been given a release time for the new phone. We will release this information on our website when it is available to us.”

The representative made the comments after a reader allegedly called AT&T over concerns that his upgrade eligibility had been pushed back several months.

The rumor should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. The report’s author Eric Slivka warns that he is “always skeptical about such information shared by customer-facing representatives of Apple or associated companies.”

However, Slivka add that “due to the specific nature of the claim and its presentation in a matter-of-fact manner expressly citing Apple as the source of the information, the tidbit is worth sharing.”

Apple has traditionally unveiled a new iPhone at the annual Worldwide Developer Conference in June. However, this year’s WWDC, which takes place from June 6 to June 10 at San Francisco’s Moscone West, is expected to be a software-centric event. In its announcement, Apple teased that this year’s show will “unveil the future of iOS and Mac OS.”

Reports have suggested that the so-called iPhone 5 will feature only minor upgrades to its form factor and features, though the device has been rumored to house an 8-megapixel camera and may feature a larger display.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.