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.

“Castle” references found in Mac OS X 10.7 developer build, point back to possible iCloud streaming service

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Date: Monday, May 2nd, 2011, 07:42
Category: MobileMe, Rumor

Strong evidence of Apple’s upcoming iCloud service has been found in the form of a feature hidden within in a developer build of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion that allows a MobileMe account to be migrated to a codenamed “Castle” service.

Per Consomac.fr, a recently-released third build of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Developer Preview 2 that went out the door on Frida contained references to a service codenamed “Castle” in a new Find My Mac feature.

“Castle” most likely refers to the iCloud service that Apple has been developing. Reliable sources have stated that Apple has been using the service internally and plans to use it for more than just streaming music.

Last week, a report cited sources claiming that the Swedish company Xcerion had sold Apple the iCloud.com domain for US$4.5 million. The iCloud moniker was later independently confirmed by John Paczkowski of Digital Daily, though he was unable to confirm the selling price.

Apple has reportedly completed work on a music streaming service that would allow users to store music on a remote server and access them from Internet-connected devices.

Apple confirmed earlier this year that a 500,000 square-foot data center set to go online this spring will support iTunes and MobileMe services. Given that the US$1 billion facility is five times larger than the the company’s current data center in Newark, Calif., Apple appears to be planning a big push into cloud computing.

In February, reports emerged that Apple is planning a significant revamp of its MobileMe service that would build out its cloud-based features, including a ‘locker’ for personal memorabilia such as photos, music and videos.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments and feedback.

Rumor: Apple to debut Sandy Bridge, Thunderbolt-equipped iMac on Tuesday, May 3rd

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Date: Monday, May 2nd, 2011, 07:42
Category: iMac, Rumor

It’s the rumors that make life interesting.

Per AppleInsider, sources close to the story have stated that Apple will be adopting Intel’s newest family of Core processors and integrating a Sandy Bridge architecture into its iMac line as early as next week.

More specifically, Apple is said to be en route to introduce the new models on Tuesday, May 3, swapping out the systems’ first-gen Core i processors and mini Display ports for second-generation Core i chips and the company’s new high-speed Thunderbolt port. However, rumors that 2011 would see changes to the iMacs’ display panel size (1, 2) and the inclusion of 6000-series AMD Radeon HD chips, could not be confirmed with any degree of certainty.

In the days leading up to major product launches, Apple routinely makes certain requests of its various operating segments to assure the rollout goes as smoothly as possible. This week saw several of those measures put into place, according to those same people, who’ve continually provided accurate information when it comes the Mac maker’s future plans.

In addition, people familiar with the Cupertino-based company’s retail operations confirmed to AppleInsider that a “visual night” is similarly slated for the early morning hours of May 3rd. “So it is highly likely that whatever new product that is going to be refreshed or introduced will be done on [that day],” one of those people said.

These visual nights see several Apple retail employees in each location work throughout the evening and early a.m. hours, making significant modifications to the product layouts on the showroom floors, often removing previous generation products in favor of newly introduced models.

For Apple, next week’s launch will mark the first time the company has refreshed its flagship desktop line in over 9 months. It also comes at a crucial time for the iMac — and Mac desktops in general — which are rapidly approaching an all-time low when it comes to their share of the Mac’s product mix.

As Apple slowly transitions into a full-fledge mobile company, desktops have seen their share of Mac shipments slip into a slow but inevitable decline, falling from more than 50% of the company’s Mac product shipments in the first quarter of 2006 to just 26% of the total units Mac units shipped during the second fiscal quarter of 2011 (see graph below).

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and an iMac running Sandy Bridge with a Thunderbolt port, you’ve got to admit that sounds nifty…

Rumor: Apple purchases iCloud.com domain name for $4.5 million

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Date: Friday, April 29th, 2011, 05:37
Category: iTunes, iTunes Music Store, Rumor

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Moving away from the white iPhone 4 for a moment, Apple is said to have indeed bought the iCloud.com domain for its forthcoming cloud-based iTunes music streaming service, though the rumored US$4.5 million purchase price remains unconfirmed.

Citing his own sources, John Paczkowski of Digital Daily reported Friday that Apple did purchase the iCloud.com domain from Swedish cloud computing company Xcerion. Those sources declined, however, to say whether the rumored US$4.5 million purchase price was accurate.

The report corroborates a rumor from earlier this week in which it was stated that Apple had acquired the domain, likely revealing the name of the company’s forthcoming cloud computing service. The Whois database still lists Xcerion as the owner of iCloud, but the company recently rebranded its service as CloudMe.

Still a mystery is exactly what Apple has planned for the domain. The company already has a name for its current cloud computing efforts: MobileMe.

Back in February, it was reported that Apple is working on a major revamp of its MobileMe service, and is considering making the US$99-per-year product free. The report also said that Apple will offer a digital “locker” that will allow users to store and remotely access personal content, like photos, music and videos.

More recently, Apple is said to have “completed” work on a new music streaming service that it has been pitching to music executives. And one of the four major record labels, Warner Music, is said to have signed a deal with Apple over the service, though the specifics of how it might work remain unknown.

Set to open this spring, a new Apple data center in Maiden, N.C., will support both the iTunes and MobileMe services, which has led to speculation that the US$1 billion facility could be an integral part of Apple’s anticipated cloud services. The 500,000 square-foot data center is five times larger than the company’s current data center in Newark, Calif.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Pictures leaked of iPhone 5 with larger screen

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Date: Tuesday, April 26th, 2011, 05:18
Category: iPhone, Rumor

When in doubt, make the screen larger.

A series of new photos from overseas show a purported iPhone prototype with a larger touchscreen display, similar to the rumored edge-to-edge iPhone 5 screen.

The photos were released Monday by MIC Gadget, which made no claims about their authenticity. The photo from China shows a white iPhone with a body similar to the iPhone 4, but a larger screen on the front squeezed into the same frame.

The front of the device also shows the new proximity sensor spotted on the white iPhone 4, set to finally go on sale this week following numerous delays.

While one photo shows what appears to be an operational unit, a second picture features what is just a front panel and LCD component, without the rest of the phone. It too features the newly designed proximity sensor above the earpiece.

The pictures are supported by similar alleged engineering sketches that were first revealed in March. Those “mold engineering drawings” claimed to be for Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone also featured a slightly larger edge-to-edge display.

The current iPhone 4 sports a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 960 x 640 pixels. Reports have suggested that Apple is looking to expand the screen size to either 3.7″ or 4″ with a next-generation model.

The anticipated fifth-generation iPhone is rumored to arrive later than usual this year, after the typical June launch timeframe. Reports have suggested that Apple will begin production of the device in September, but that the new device’s design will feature only “slight modifications” from the current iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to redesign case for next-gen MacBook Pro

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Date: Tuesday, April 26th, 2011, 05:09
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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While the latest refresh of MacBook Pros are just two months old, rumors of the next update have already begun, with a new report claiming that the next model will feature a newly redesigned case construction.

Per MacRumors, an article citing “reliable confirmation” reported Monday on an alleged plans for a new case design in the next MacBook Pro update. However, the report offers no details on what changes Apple could make to the unibody construction of the current aluminum MacBook Pros.

The article cites a rumor from February which stated that the newly redesigned MacBook Pro notebooks would arrive next year. The rumored all-new design was said to already be in development at Quanta in Taiwan.

The last major update to the look of the MacBook Pro line came in 2008, when Apple updated the line with unibody construction. The unibody MacBook Pros are machined from a single block of aluminum, allowing Apple to create a strong, single-piece shell.

Apple refreshed its MacBook Pro line of products earlier this year, adding Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors, as well as the new high-speed Thunderbolt data connection port. But the external design of the new notebooks was largely unchanged from their predecessors.

Additional rumors surfaced in February that Apple plans to transition its notebooks in the next 12 to 18 months and add features from its hot-selling thin-and-light MacBook Air notebooks. Major changes to the MacBook Air including instant-on, standard flash solid-state drives, slimmer enclosures, and the omission of optical drives are expected to become more prevalent in the design of many Mac notebooks planned for introduction in the future.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked photos surface of supposed T-Mobile-compatible iPhone prototype

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Date: Monday, April 25th, 2011, 07:54
Category: iPhone, Rumor

It’s the leaks that make life interesting.

A series of leaked photos of a supposed iPhone prototype indicate that Apple may be testing the smartphone on the T-Mobile USA network.

Per Boy Genius Report, a series of photos allegedly of a white iPhone prototype “with T-Mobile USA 3G bands.” The device appears to be code-named as N94, just two numbers up from the Verizon iPhone 4, which was reportedly called N92.

According to the report, the prototype runs a test version of Apple’s iOS that resembles that of another prototype discovered in a video earlier this week. The fact that the N94 device has Apple test apps scubas Radar and the company’s employee directory app may also serve to substantiate its authenticity.

The front of the prototype looks “a little different” from recent leaked photos of the retail white iPhone 4. “Specifically, the proximity sensor has changed on the retail version,” the report noted. On Friday, photos of an official retail white iPhone 4 from Vodafone U.K. emerged, though Vodafone has reportedly halted sales of the device until next week.

The lock screen of the prototype device contains the message: “Confidential and Proprietary. If Found, please contact +1 408…”, but the rest of the number has been whited out in the photos.

The report goes on to speculate that Apple is “just testing the new T-Mobile-friendly radio with its current iPhone 4 hardware, possibly in preparation for integration in a future device. It’s also entirely possible the internals on this iPhone prototype are being disguised in an iPhone 4 shell, though we doubt it.”

AT&T announced last month a US$39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile USA from parent company Deutsche Telekom. A subsequent “>FAQ from T-Mobile suggested that the carrier would hold off on offering the iPhone until at least after the acquisition is completed in “approximately 12 months”

A T-Mobile FAQ regarding last month’s announcement of AT&T’s US$39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA explained that T-Mobile does not yet carry the iPhone and will remain independent for up to a year. According to one official at the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T faces a “steep climb” ahead of it to obtain approval for the deal, which would make AT&T the largest wireless provider in the U.S by a large margin.

We’ll see how this plays out and if you have two cents to hurl in on this, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to start production of Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Air notebooks in May

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Date: Monday, April 25th, 2011, 03:05
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

Apple next month will reportedly begin manufacturing the first updates to its rejuvenated MacBook Air line as the company looks to maintain the impressive sales momentum generated by the ultra-thin notebooks and limit the market opportunity for would-be competitors hoping to wedge their foot in the door.

Per AppleInsider, sales of the aggressively-priced 11.6- and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs got off to a hot start following their introduction last October, with Apple assembling roughly 1 million units within their first quarter of availability. During those three months, consumers reportedly chose the new MacBook Airs at a one-to-two ratio to the company’s more established MacBook Pro offerings, making for one of the company’s most successful Mac product launches ever.

However, shipments of the Airs declined 51% sequentially during the first calendar quarter of 2011 — including a 40% month-over-month decline in February — as Apple introduced new MacBook Pros that caught consumers’ eyes, according to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has proven sources within the Cupertino-based company’s Far Eastern supply chain.

Kuo stated that his latest round of checks with suppliers and system builders in the region reveals that MacBook Air shipments are set to rebound during the current calendar quarter, fueled by an upgrade to Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge microprocessors, integrated Intel graphics, and the expected adoption of the new Thunderbolt high-speed I/O technology that made its debut on MacBook Pros earlier this year.

Specifically, he said the new models will “go to mass production in late May,” which corroborates an earlier report that cited reliable sources as saying Apple would be ready to publicly announce and ship to consumers MacBook Airs with Sandy Bridge processors during following month of June.

The upgrade should help boost Apple’s overall notebook shipments between 5% to 10% sequentially for the current quarter, according to Kuo, reversing a 5% decline from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, which he notes was still less than the 11% average decline for notebook shipments from the top 6 OEMs worldwide during the same period.

In moving to Intel’s 32-nanometer (nm) Sandy Bridge architecture, the mid-2011 MacBook Airs will jettison two-year-old Penryn-based 45-nm Core 2 Duo chips for the chipmakers’ new line (below) of low-voltage and ultra-low-voltage Core i5 and Core i7 chips, which sport between 3MB and 4MB of Smart Cache and support a theoretical maximum of 8GB of internal system memory.

Should Apple follow its current trend of using ultra-low-variants for the 11.6-inch MacBook Air and low-voltage ones for the 13.3-inch models, consumers can expect to see new 11.6-inch MacBook Airs sporting 1.4GHz to 1.6GHz Core i5 and Core i7 chips and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs with 2.10 and 2.30GHz Core i7 processors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.