Apple May Overhaul Entry-Level Polycarbonate MacBook Models

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Date: Wednesday, August 26th, 2009, 03:43
Category: MacBook, Rumor

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Until recently rumored to be headed for the scrap pile, Apple’s entry-level polycarbonate MacBook notebooks may be on the verge of a refresh according to AppleInsider.

Per sources close to the story, Apple is said to be running the 13″ notebooks through an industrial design overhaul that will see them reemerge in the coming months with a slimmer, lighter enclosure and restructured internal architecture to boot.

It’ll be the first time in more than three years that the plastic Mac notebooks will receive a visual tune-up. Introduced in May of 2006, the white and black systems replaced the PowerPC-based iBook and 12-inch PowerBook as part of Apple’s transition to Intel processors and quickly became the best selling Mac of all time, according to statistics from NPD Group.

The MacBook notebooks were also among the first Macs to adopt Apple’s MagSafe power connector while pioneering several other features that would become staples of future Mac notebook designs, such as shrunken soft-touch keyboards, glossy displays, and a non-mechanical magnetic latches (see: Magnet madness to hit Intel iBook line – Feb 2006).

Earlier this spring, Apple restructured its notebook offerings by repositioning its aluminum unibody MacBooks as premium offerings under the MacBook Pro moniker, adding long-requested features such as FireWire and higher-quality displays. This left the company with just a single MacBook offering, a white polycarbonate model that retails for US$999 but sticks out like a sore thumb when positioned alongside its peers.

Interestingly, sales of the sub-US$1000 system have remained surprisingly brisk amid the economic crunch, leaving management little choice but to allocate R&D expenses in its favor. As of press time, Apple’s online store indicates that the white MacBook is outselling all other Macs with the exception of the iMac, while similar rankings from high-volume resellers like MacMall also consistently place it in the top 10 best selling Apple-related products overall, ahead of all desktop-based Macs.

While it’s unclear how many models or configurations Apple will introduce as part the redesign, Ben Reitzes — an analyst with Barclays Capital who’s been following the Mac maker for years — sees the company offering several, at various price points.

“We [...] believe the MacBook line needs to be revamped (there is only one MacBook available now, an old white model) and that we could see a lower priced line soon, positioned below the new MacBook Pro models,” he said.

Though details are few and far between, Apple is expected to achieve these markdowns through largely existing tactics, such as using lower-end components and previous-generation Core 2 Duo chips and architectures from Intel. Battery life should receive a boost from cutting-edge technology that recently found its way into the company’s other notebook offerings, while high-end legacy features like FireWire connectivity are likely to be sacrificed in the tradeoff.

Apple’s new line of low-end MacBooks could be viewed as the last piece to the puzzle in Apple’s top-to-bottom line of product offerings, transitioning the company from a premium PC and phone manufacturer to one that offers truly competitive prices on products in both categories.

Additional Details Surface Over Possible Apple Tablet

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Date: Friday, August 14th, 2009, 05:02
Category: Rumor

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New reports surrounding a possible upcoming Apple tablet currently suggest that two versions (the first for educational use and the second with a webcam) could be made available. Both models would utilize an OLED screen and according to Gizmodo, include what an anonymous source described as a 10″ screen and look like a “giant iPhone, with a big black back.” The tipster claimed to have handled a mock-up of the device, stating it has a home button like an iPhone, and will be positioned between an iPod/iPhone and a MacBook.

The report did not elaborate on the supposed separate Web cam and education editions of the device, but said it would retail between US$700 and US$900. The device has allegedly been under development between four and six years, though the first prototype was only created in late 2008.

“To make up for the cost and make the device more than just a big iPod there was, this person claimed, there was talk of making the device act as a secondary screen/touchpad for iMacs and MacBooks,” wrote Brian Lam for the Gizmodo article, “much like a few of the USB screens that have come out in recent months from Chinese companies.”

The source also said that there is a question of what operating system the device will run (Lam calls that detail a “huge secret”), but that it’s possible the device could be made for sale this holiday season.

Additional anonymous sources have pointed towards a 10″ screen as well as a customer ARM chip to be developed by the PA Semi division. Other rumors have ascertained that the device will not be available until early 2010. Citing “very reliable sources,” Jim Dalrymple, of The Loop, corroborates that date.

Finally, a new report in Silicon Scoop alleges that Apple will launch in a tablet in limited release at US$899 by the end of 2009. The “SmartBook” device, as author Trip Chowdhry calls it, is reported to have an 8″ to 10″ OLED screen and feature an ARM Cortex-A9 chipset.

Chowdhry reports that Apple wants to launch the device this year, but it will not be available widespread until early 2010. Allegedly Apple’s new device is being compared performance-wise to the Archos 9 PC Tablet, a Windows 7-based netbook.

If you have any thoughts about an Apple tablet or have heard anything from your end, please let us know.

Rumor: Apple to Include Blu-Ray Support, Social Media Web Site Integration with iTunes 9

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Date: Monday, August 10th, 2009, 04:00
Category: iTunes, Rumor

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A new report suggests that the next version of Apple’s iTunes could carry support for Blu-ray discs, visual management and rearrangement capabilities for App Store software, and integration with social media Web sites.

According to Boy Genius Report, a “pretty reliable source” revealed new features on Saturday that could be anticipated with the release of iTunes 9.

Citing a “pretty reliable source,” The Boy Genius Report revealed Saturday what could become new features in an anticipated upcoming new release of Apple’s digital media software.

“One of the new additions to iTunes is said to include Blu-ray support,” the report states. “Something else that will most likely make a bunch of people happy is that we’ve been told iTunes 9 will finally include the ability to visually organize and arrange your iPhone and iPod touch applications. Something that wasn’t so clearly described was some kind of Twitter/Facebook/Last.fm integration. Maybe broadcasting what song you’re playing to your friends?”

Sources have recently suggested that two compelling new features would come with Apple’s newest iMacs, leading some to speculate that official Blu-ray support from the company could be coming in the near future. One of those features is said to have long been on the wish-lists of many Mac users while the other is expected to cater to the semi-professional audio/video crowd.

The source for The Boy Genius Report reportedly didn’t provide a time frame for the new iteration of iTunes, but one might assume that Apple could make an announcement at its annual iPod event in September.

If the Blu-ray rumors pan out, it would be a major turnaround for Apple. Less than a year ago, Chief Executive Steve Jobs went as far as to call the technology “a bag of hurt.”

Rumor: Netflix May Bring Streaming Service to iPhone, Other Handsets

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Date: Tuesday, August 4th, 2009, 05:16
Category: iPhone 3GS, Rumor

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Citing an unnamed source described as “an industry executive familiar with Netflix’s plans,” an article in Multichannel News is claiming that Netflix will soon offer its Watch Instantly streaming video service on the iPhone, iPod touch and the Nintendo Wii.

The brief reportdescribes the move as the next step for Netflix’ content, which currently streams to Windows PCs, Macs, the Xbox 360, TiVo DVRs, the Roku, and certain TV and Blu-Ray players built to support video downloads.

Unlike its DVDs-by-mail service, Netflix’ Watch Instantly library offers much less variety, with limited popular content such as recent movies and TV series. Older titles and oddball independent films are also available for immediate viewing and the Watch Instantly service is also included for viewing at no extra cost over the base Netflix subscription, in contrast to iTunes’ pay per view pricing.

Unlike media purchased or rented from iTunes, Netflix’ streaming content plays back directly with no download. This requires no local storage on the playback device, but results in playback quality that is dependent upon the available network bandwidth. With iTunes and the Apple TV, content is progressively downloaded, enabling users to obtain HD content even with a slower connection, albeit with a longer wait.

The advantage of Netflix’ instantly streaming video is that little or no storage is required. If the iPhone and Wii are powerful enough to decode the live stream, this could add a new customer segment for Netflix, the users not having to worry about their devices storing the downloaded content.

Whether the iPhone or Wii could decode quality video only using software may be an issue, as Netflix playback on the more powerful Apple TV has been cited by some as not practical due to its lack of any Windows Media codec hardware acceleration.

Video playback over AT&T’s mobile network would likely also be prohibited by any Netflix streaming player app, making any iPhone version Wi-Fi only, in line with other video streaming apps such as SlingPlayer Mobile.

As a workaround to the iPhone’s intentionally missing support for Windows DRM, Netflix could also take a page from Google and utilize the native support in iPhone OS 3.0 for HTTP Live Streaming, which plays streaming video to the iPhone and iPod Touch using standard MPEG AAC/H.264 codecs over familiar web-based protocols.

At the launch of the iPhone, Google shifted its Flash-based YouTube service to also support H.264 at Apple’s behest, allowing the iPhone to work around the need for Flash playback while also delivering hardware accelerated video playback using open protocols.

Support for HTTP Live Streaming will also be built into QuickTime X playback for Snow Leopard, and appears to be slated for adoption in the next revision of Apple TV. Third parties will also be able to implement HTTP Live Streaming on their own devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple, NVIDIA Could Part Ways After Contract Spat

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Date: Thursday, July 2nd, 2009, 05:24
Category: News, Rumor

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Despite portraying a friendly image for the past several months, Apple and NVIDIA are now rumored to be involved in a spat that could see some GeForce chipsets excluded from future Mac models.

According to semiaccurate.com, a report from this past weekend asserts that negotiations between Apple and NVIDIA are now extremely bitter after the latter’s proposed terms were viewed as “arrogance and bluster” and all but rejected as-is.

Sources close to the discussions have stated that Apple may not agree to another such deal for 3-4 years as a result of the heated words. It wouldn’t result in an immediate exit, as the recentness of implementing NVIDIA chipsets into nearly all Macs means some models will keep their existing designs for a long time, but could already result in some comparatively near-term updates shedding the NVIDIA platform.

These would start with iMacs and MacBooks based on Intel’s Nehalem processor architecture, the tipsters say, but would get progressively wider as time goes on.

While the exact terms of the argument haven’t been publicized, it’s believed that conflicting opinions over MacBook Pro graphics failures are what would have actually triggered the resistance. As all GeForce 8600M video chipsets are known to have a heat-related defect that gradually renders them inoperable over time, Apple has not only had to replace those June 2007 and newer portables that use the part but to extend its warranty for the issue to three years regardless of whether or not the owner has AppleCare — an expensive proposition given the ubiquity of the machines on the market until they were replaced in October 2008 with the unibody models.

Apple may have an issue not just with the cost, at least some of which may be footed by NVIDIA through money set aside to cover all PC makers, but with answers it’s received on the subject. The company openly challenged NVIDIA and revealed that the graphics chip designer was falsely representing the scope of the problem, insisting that MacBook Pros wouldn’t be affected at all when two entire generations of the 15″ and 17″ models were guaranteed to eventually suffer video corruption or shutdowns. Apple may also not believe NVIDIA when it claims that unibody MacBook Pros won’t see the same problem due to partial similarities in the contact material used to join the GeForce 9600M GT chip die to its package.

Electronista has noted that Intel and NVIDIA have been embroiled in a license battle over NVIDIA’s right to make logic board chipsets for any processor that has its own internal memory controller, including any desktop or notebook processor built on Nehalem. A win for Intel in its lawsuit would bar NVIDIA from ever making another chipset in the vein of the GeForce 9400M that could support Core i7 or related processors; it would immediately sabotage any roadmap for NVIDIA-based Macs once the ban took effect, no matter how amicable Apple and its partner would be at the time.

Mac Pros would never be affected as they still use an Intel chipset and dedicated graphics for the brunt of their graphics performance.

Unsurprisingly, neither Apple nor NVIDIA has openly discussed the rumor so far, though at least Apple’s sudden change of mind wouldn’t be out of place: the company famously dropped ATI (now AMD) graphics from a generation of Power Mac G4s at the last minute after the company posted a press release spoiling Apple plans just a day ahead of a Macworld keynote.

Rumor: AT&T iPhone 3G S Pre-Order Stock Reportedly Sold Out

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Date: Monday, June 15th, 2009, 17:44
Category: Rumor

Per a document received over on Boy Genius Report, AT&T has reportedly sold out of its iPhone 3G S pre-order stock. A new memo sent along to retail locations provides instructions to tell all customers who pre-order the device on Saturday, June 13th or later that they will have to wait “7-10″ days before they can fulfill the pre-order–which will be sometime after the official launch on June 19th: “Only preorders placed [on] Friday, June 12, 2009 or earlier are expected to arrive in time for the 7:00 a.am. opening on Friday, June 19th, 2009. Customers will receive an email notification when their new iPhone 3G S has arrived and is available for pickup.”

The article also notes that AT&T retail locations, which open early on Friday, will have some stock for those willing to wait in line to make the purchase. AT&T, however, is encouraging customers to continue using the pre-order process as it will “guarantee that they receive their iPhone 3G S as quickly as possible.”

iPhone “3GS” Code Name Leaked, New Unit to Feature Longer-Lasting Battery

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Date: Monday, June 8th, 2009, 08:58
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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With only hours to go before Phil Schiller’s keynote address at the 2009 Worldwide Developers Conference, a couple of interesting details have emerged.
According to Daring Fireball, the third-generation iPhone is code-named “iPhone 3GS.” The code name could tie into the Apple IIGS, which shipped in 1986.
The other interesting rumor is that battery life on the new iPhone is 15-20% longer than the iPhone 3G. This will have to be seen and tested, but would prove to be an extremely welcome change if true.
If you have any ideas as to what to expect from the keynote, let us know.

Rumor: Rogers Wireless May Offer 15GB Data Plan On June 16th

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Date: Thursday, June 4th, 2009, 08:59
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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A current rumor circulating points towards Canadian provider Rogers Wireless offer a 15GB data package for the iPhne 3G beginning June 16th. According to iPhone in Canada, the plan will retail for CAN$150/month with 1 cent for each additional megabyte of data used. It will be available for monthly and 1, 2, or 3-year contracts. The plan would compete against the company’s current 6GB plan, which retails for only $30/month.
Stay tuned for more details as they become available and if you’ve heard anything on your end, let us know.

Rumor: Possible Next-Gen iPhone Bezel Image Leaked

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Date: Thursday, May 28th, 2009, 08:46
Category: iPhone, Rumor

A leak from yesterday morning may prove interesting as web site China Ontrade claims to be the first with a replacement third-generation iPhone’s bezel and says it comes “directly from [the] factory.” The design would have a black metallic frame instead of chrome, as found on the current iPhone 3G model. It also stops near the very top of the shell rather than running a complete circle like existing iPhone models, and appears to move the phone speaker significantly higher.
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Although the authenticity of the bezel is difficult to determine, many firms in the region do have access (both authorized and unauthorized unauthorized) to parts from factories. Still, there is no way to verify that China Ontrade has the authentic part and not that for a different company’s device. Part leaks from China have nonetheless confirmed Apple products in the past, such as the unibody MacBook notebook.
If real, the bezel would rebuff earlier beliefs that the new iPhones are internal upgrades alone rather than redesigns.

Next-Gen iPod Artist’s Rendition Released, Unit May Include Onboard Camera

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Date: Wednesday, May 27th, 2009, 09:50
Category: iPod, iPod Nano, Rumor

Additional rumors have been flying about Apple’s plans to add an iPhone-like camera to its next generation iPods.
Per iLounge, the following is an artist’s rendition of what the 5th-generation iPod nano may look like:


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At first glance, the imaginary next-gen iPod looks pretty much the same as its predecessor, except for the wider screen ratio that stretches to 1.5:1 from 1:33:1.
The unit’s Click Wheel is slightly smaller and positioned a bit lower on the nano’s body, and a digital camera is placed at a seemingly awkward spot on the nano’s backside.
Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available and let us know what you’d like to see on a next-generation iPod.