Rumor: Apple looking to slim down MacBook Pro, move towards lighter/thinner form factor

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Date: Thursday, July 28th, 2011, 02:54
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The notion of slimming a notebook down and having it sell well seems to be working for the MacBook Air and this may be where the MacBook Pro is headed.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple seems likely to completely redesign its MacBook Pro line in favor of a thinner and lighter form factor. A 15-inch Air-like MacBook Pro and a 17-inch model are in the works, sources say, and may be here in time for holiday gift giving.

To get to that leaner form factor, Apple will likely ditch the optical drive (perhaps ultimately signaling the death knell for discs) while integrated SSD storage is also expected. The MacBook Pros have been Apple’s laptop workhorses, so we can also expect the premium laptops to offer more ports, better graphics, and more storage than the MacBook Air–at a more premium price but with the slimmer design.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple developing 15 and 17-inch MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, July 27th, 2011, 02:25
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

With Apple’s new family of MacBook Airs selling like hotcakes, the company is believed to be working to introduce 15- and 17-inch models with a similar minimalist design to capitalize on the trend towards ultra-mobile computing.

Per MacRumors, the notebook is believed to be in the late testing stages, though no further details were provided. It’s therefore unclear at this time whether the device will be marketed under the MacBook Pro brand or arrive as an extension of the MacBook Air line.

A move away from the hefty, optical- and hard disk drive-equipped MacBook Pros and towards a family of notebooks based exclusively on thin, ultra-lightweight designs is something AppleInsider’s sources first began alluding to back in February. At the time, the transition was expected to take between 12 to 18 months.

The latest report may suggest Apple has ambitions of easing the transition by first introducing a 15-inch MacBook Air as an intermediate step. A jump towards an ultra-thin MacBook Pro before year’s end could ultimately prove burdened by too many sacrifices, given that existing technologies and componentry may not allow Apple to deliver a design as thin and lightweight as the existing Airs but powerful enough to replace the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Nevertheless, sources close to the story have said that MacBook Air features such as instant-on, standard SSD drives, slimmer enclosures, and the omission of optical drives should begin making their way to the remainder of Apple’s notebook offerings over the course of the next 12 months.

In similar news, The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that the site has also heard rumors of an ultra-thin 17-inch Apple notebook and believes both models could potentially turn up ahead of the holiday shopping season under the MacBook Pro moniker.

Rumor: iPhone 5 to launch in ‘early to mid-September’

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 07:58
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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The cool cats at Boy Genius Report are citing that AT&T is beginning preparations for an expected “early to mid-September” launch of the next-generation iPhone, in line with launch rumors and expectations and other reports of Apple beefing up its retail store staffing over a similar timeframe.

BGR has learned that AT&T has begun communicating launch plans internally for Apple’s next-generation iPhone 5 handset, informing employees across the company, and those who work in retail locations, to finish any sort of employee training as soon as possible. AT&T is asking managers to finish training in order to have employees available for the influx of foot traffic expected in September, a proven source has stated.

Apple has been preparing to increase staffing at its retail stores in the United States and United Kingdom, and rumors have suggested that Apple will use its traditional fall iPod media event to introduce the next-generation iPhone this year. That event has typically taken place in early September, although some reports have pushed that date up into late August this year ahead of a September launch for the device. Apple has announced that iOS 5 will debut this “fall”, and that software launch will undoubtedly occur right around the release of the next-generation hardware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: White iPod touch en route for 2011, minor spec updates expected

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Date: Friday, July 22nd, 2011, 07:51
Category: iPod Touch, Rumor

An update next month to Apple’s flagship digital media player may outfit the device in an additional color but may otherwise represent a rather modest refresh when compared to years past according to AppleInsider.

The iPod, which struck a resurgence that helped place Apple back on the map in 2001, may for the first time take a back seat to the company’s more lucrative and influential devices — such as the iPhone and iPad — when the electronics maker unveils its holiday lineup of iOS devices sometime between mid-August and mid-September.

For years the iPod lifted Apple as its bread-and-butter product but now accounts for a paltry 5% of the company’s revenue, according to data released as part of its fiscal third quarter earnings report this week. The majority of that revenue now comes from the higher-ASP iPod touch, which accounted for more than half of the 7.54 million iPods shipped during the quarter.

Adding a bit more color to the matter are a series of recent industry checks by Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPod touch is the only one of Apple’s four iPod product lines that continues to show any semblance of unit growth heading into the second half of the year.

Looking into the current third calendar quarter, Kuo said checks indicate Apple has placed orders for white iPod touch models that are expected to go into mass production sometime in late August, but he added that the build plans for those models reflect few, if any, distinguishable changes from the existing black models introduced last fall.

“It means no spec update of iPod touch this year,” he said.

And while such claims may or may not pan out, it’s worth noting that the same round of checks by the analyst revealed earlier this week that Apple’s production roadmap for its legacy white MacBook appeared to drop off in August, and that no future updates were expected. Within days of those checks, Apple formally discontinued sales of the white MacBook to consumers, relegating the notebook to an education-only product.

Asked why he believes his checks into this year’s iPod touch update will similarly prove accurate, Kuo said it’s all about a priority shift towards the market-leading iPhone and the iPad, which now combine for a whopping 68% of Apple’s sales. Unlike years past when Apple updated the iPhone in the summer, met initial demand, and only then began sharing components with the iPod touch in the fall, this year’s iPhone refresh has been pushed inline with that of the iPod touch.

“[The] iPhone and iPad have higher priority to get shared components of iOS devices when the supply chain is tight (especially after the Japan quake),” Kuo said, suggesting that Apple has such high expectations for the fifth-generation iPhone that it may not be confident it could secure enough components to introduce a similarly-equipped iPod touch around the same time.

For perspective, Apple shipped at least 33 million iOS devices last quarter, struggling to build enough iPads the entire stretch. That quarter included 20 million iPhones, and it wasn’t a new iPhone quarter. The iPhone 4 actually celebrated its first birthday near the end of the 3-month span.

Apple has proven that it can beat at a pace that is sometimes beyond the scalability of its suppliers, and is now pouring billions into those companies to make sure they catch up so it doesn’t have to slow down. In addition to mass production of the iPhone 5 in September, Kuo says Apple has an ambitious but, for those reasons, tentative plan that could see a new iPad enter production only a few months later.

Although the “plan might change,” the analyst’s current checks have a new iPad hitting the manufacturing lines sometime in the fourth quarter. He says, however, that it’s unclear when Apple plans to introduce it to market.

“Component suppliers will start to ship for next iPad in mid 3Q11 and MP date will be in 4Q,” he wrote in a communication to AppleInsider. “The demand forecast is strong and Apple prefers to allocate shared components to iPhone and iPad.” Kuo added that TPK currently acts as the sole source for touch-screens for white iPads but that Wintek will start sharing those duties in September.

The analyst’s checks aside, there’s been little to no evidence thus far to suggest a material update to the iPod touch is near production. No reports have surfaced with talk of parts or supplier contracts for a new model, and even Apple’s own iOS betas are already dropping hints at two versions of an iPad 3 but haven’t turned up mention of a fifth-gen iPod touch. Instead, the last few releases included references (above) to an unreleased “iPod4,2,” which identifies it as a player based on the existing, fourth-gen iPod touch architecture.

Should Apple indeed forgo an architectural revamp of the iPod this year, the advent of a white model could serve to re-energize sales in a move similar to the one that played out a few months ago with the arrival of the white iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple slated to release Mac OS X 10.7, next-gen MacBook Air on Wednesday

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Date: Tuesday, July 19th, 2011, 05:49
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor, Software

It’s the rumor mill that keeps life interesting…

Per AppleInsider, Apple could launch both its Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and its widely anticipated Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Air notebooks on Wednesday.

According to sources with proven track records, the new product launches are set to occur later this week. Specifically, one person said the products would be released on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

The latest details align with what rumors that have been circulating this month, when it reported that new MacBook Air models with backlit keyboards and Thunderbolt ports would launch the week of July 21.

Those details were reaffirmed late last week in a separate report that corroborated other details, including the fact that Apple is expected to do away with the entry-level 64GB solid-state flash hard drive option. Instead, the new MacBook Airs are expected to have a minimum of 128GB in capacity.

The new notebooks, according to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, are also expected to come with 4GB of RAM as the standard. That extra memory will allow the systems to better run Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple’s next-generation operating system, also said to become available this week.

Apple has been holding off on the introduction of new Mac hardware until it finally releases Lion. Apple has not offered a specific launch date for the operating system, only promising that it will become available on the Mac App Store for US$29.99 at some point in July.

A few weeks ago, Apple began undertaking preparatory measures to unveil Lion. While it was initially believed that the operating system could have gone on sale as soon as last week, there have been rumors of last-minute holdups associated with the logistics and infrastructure related to Apple’s switch to a digital distribution method through the Mac App Store.

The Golden Master of Lion was seeded to developers on July 1. The term “Golden Master” means that the software is viewed as a final build that will be identical to the software released to the general public.

While Lion and the new MacBook Air models are said to be set to launch this week, there has been no specific indication given regarding any other hardware. However, Apple provided its own evidence of a forthcoming refresh to its LED Cinema Display last week, when it posted images on its site showing a Thunderbolt-equipped display with the new part number “MC914.”

Supply of Apple’s white MacBook has also been severely constrained since late June, suggesting a change to the product could be forthcoming. Since then, there has been no indication of an imminent hardware refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Copies of Mac OS X 10.7 begin arriving at Apple Store locations

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Date: Tuesday, July 19th, 2011, 03:40
Category: Rumor, Software

You’ve waited a while and it’s almost here.

Per MacRumors, hard disk drives bearing the Golden Master version of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion have arrived at Apple’s retail stores ahead of an imminent launch, according to a new report.

The site wrote on Monday it had confirmed that Apple retail stores “have begun receiving final copies” of Lion. The company has reportedly shipped the OS on hard drives intended for store demo computers.

The “Golden Master” build of Lion was first seeded to developers on July 1. Lion, which contains hundreds of new features, will be the first OS X release to be distributed through the Mac App Store, where it will sell for US$29.99.

Sources also indicated that Apple will release Lion alongside new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Airs as early as Wednesday. According to one person familiar with the matter, the products will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday.

Apple began retail preparations for Mac OS X Lion earlier this month. Though various reports had suggested that Lion would arrive last week, rumors then emerged that last minute issues with the upgrade had pushed it back to the week of July 21.

In addition to high-speed Thunderbolt ports, the new MacBook Air models are expected to include Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors and minimum RAM and SSD specs of 4GB and 128GB respectively.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Additional sources point towards next-gen MacBook Air launch next week

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Date: Friday, July 15th, 2011, 04:46
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

Ya know, if the next-gen MacBook Air came out today and killed all this anticipation, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Per All Things D, a new report Thursday corroborates that Apple is expected to launch new MacBook Airs next week, featuring backlit keyboards and minimum 128GB solid-state hard drives.

Updated: The report from All Things D corroborates numerous details that have been published elsewhere online over the last several days. It cites “several” anonymous sources as having indicated the notebooks will go on sale late next week.

“So look for an announcement Thursday or Friday, with the new hardware spec’ing out pretty much the way rumors in AppleInsider have described: New Sandy Bridge processors from Intel, support for Apple’s new high-speed Thunderbolt port, backlit keyboards and a winnowing down of configuration options to 128GB and 256GB of flash,” the revised report said.

In addition, it was first reported here on Thursday that the new notebooks could do away with the entry-level 64GB solid-state flash hard drive and offer 128GB as the lowest capacity. Those details were provided in a communication with Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who also indicated the devices are expected come with 4GB of RAM as the standard.

In addition to the more recent rumors in the past week, reports have indicated for months that the new MacBook Air models will feature Intel’s latest generation Sandy Bridge processors, which first hit the market earlier this year. The new notebooks will also sport the high-speed Thunderbolt port that already appeared in Apple’s MacBook Pro and iMac lineups earlier this year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen MacBook Air to receive hard drive, RAM capacity boosts

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Date: Thursday, July 14th, 2011, 14:39
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

There may be yet another reason to hanker after Apple’s next-gen MacBook Air notebook.

Per AppleInsider, the new MacBook Air may up the value proposition for customers through increases to the notebook’s standard memory and storage components, in addition to the latest ultra-low voltage Sandy Bridge mobile chips, should checks within the company’s supply chain prove accurate.

In a recent note, Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said his industry checks suggest Apple is no longer placing orders MacBook Airs with 2GB of RAM. Instead, those checks indicate that all new 11.6- and 13.3-inch models will include 4GB of RAM as standard, as it will improve performance of Mac OS X Lion, also due to ship on each model.

Similarly, Kuo cited the same checks in suggesting that Airs with just 64GB solid-state-drives may go away in favor of Apple shipping only 128GB and 256GB models as standard, given that the bulk of Apple’s shipments have been for models containing those larger drives. Contrary to some reports, however, the analyst and proven insider said his checks indicate the SSD drives will remain pluggable, and won’t be soldered to the logic board.

In terms of which Sandy Bridge CPUs Apple has chosen for the Air, Kuo pointed to three specific Intel ultra-low-voltage chips (comparison chart) that launched just last month as prime candidates based on his checks: the Core i5-2467M (1.6GHz), i7-2637M (1.7GHz), and i7-2677M (1.8GHz). Each of the chips consume only 17 watts, making them suitable for the slim design of the Mac Book Air, and support systems with up to 8GB of total memory.

While these details can’t currently be corroborated, Kuo has a respectable track record of producing accurate predictions for Apple’s future hardware designs. For instance, he was the first to accurately predicted the launch of an 11.6-inch MacBook Air and iPod touch with camera last year, and this year followed up with accurate specifications for the iPad 2 and white iPhone 4 production, among other products.

The redesigned MacBook Air launched last October with a thinner and lighter design and a new 11.6-inch model with a US$999 entry level price. The major changes, including the adoption of only solid-state flash hard drives, took the MacBook Air from being a relatively niche product in Apple’s lineup to one of its hottest selling Macs.

In particular, the sub-US$1,000 11.6-inch MacBook Air was said to be a major hit with consumers for both its price and lightweight design. In the first quarter of availability at the end of 2010, Apple shipped more than a million of the new MacBook Airs, making it one of the company’s most successful Mac product launches ever.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have something you’d like to see on the upcoming MacBook Air, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Next-gen MacBook Air notebook to once again include backlit keyboards

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Date: Tuesday, July 12th, 2011, 06:29
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

The new MacBook Air: It might just feature the shiny coolness that is a backlit keyboard.

With the release of new models later this month, Apple is set to reinstate a feature to its MacBook Airs that went missing when the company overhauled the ultra-thin notebooks into more cost-affordable products late last year.

Per AppleInsider, according to sources close to the story, backlit keyboards will join the string of hardware enhancements planned for the new 11.6- and 13.3-inch notebooks, which are also expected to adopt high-speed Thunderbolt ports, an upgrade to Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture, and possibly high-speed 400MBps flash memory.

The omission late last year of keyboard backlights — which help illuminate the keys on a keyboard in dim lighting scenarios — from Apple’s current lineup of MacBook Airs was particularly glaring given that all three iterations of the first-generation of MacBook Airs (Early 2008 to Mid-2009) included them as standard features.

Given Apple’s energy saving controls, software expertise, and the nominal cost associated with including keyboard backlights, it was never particularly clear why Apple opted to leave out the feature when it redesigned the MacBook Air line last October. One industry watcher even went as far as to call it “planned obsolescence” on Apple’s part.

Nevertheless, people familiar with the matter say Apple’s white 13.3-inch MacBook will once again be the only notebook from the company to lack keyboard backlights once the new Airs make their debut sometime during the week of July 21st.

According to sources, Apple has been holding off shipments of roughly 400,000 of these new MacBook Airs until it can image them with the finalized Golden Master build of Mac OS X Lion, which privately began making its way to developers last week.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release next-gen MacBook Air, Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) by next week

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Date: Friday, July 8th, 2011, 03:46
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

With the middle of July almost upon us, the long-awaited arrival of Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) and a refreshed MacBook Air notebook are something we’re hankering for. Per CNET, a “few overseas sources” have stated that “Apple Retail stores are planning ‘overnights’ on July 13th.” Overnights typically entail a refresh of Apple store displays and training on new products.

The cool cats at AppleInsider have also heard similar chatter, citing a “bulletin” posted to Apple’s internal retail news network “advising store management to perform RAM upgrades to certain Mac models on the showroom floors by Sunday, July 10th at the latest.” The deduction: this is needed to ready those models for upgrades to Lion.

Apple is already on the record with statements about a July release. At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, the company announced that it would be releasing Lion as a US$29.99 update to users in July. The OS has already reached gold master status, according to reports.

Probably not coincidentally, the OS X Lion page on Apple’s site shows the new operating system running on the MacBook Air.

Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) will bring plenty of enhancements and tweaks, including iCloud services built into the software, iOS-style Launchpad to house apps, full-screen apps and previewing Preview PDFs full-screen, Mission Control that comes up with a three-finger swipe, automatic tracking of document version history, and a resume feature that picks up where the user left off, among other new features.

The new MacBook Air is expected to weigh only 2.3 pounds (for the 11.6-inch model) and is anticipated to feature a fast Intel Sandy Bridge Core i series processors for the first time and a Thunderbolt port–both features already present on its 13-inch MacBook Pro cousin.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.