Rumor: Apple Contacted Media Outfits Regarding Tablet Device

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Date: Wednesday, September 30th, 2009, 04:01
Category: Rumor

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Per Gizmodo, Apple recently approached a number of newspapers, magazines and other print media describing putting their products for sale on iTunes via a new piece of hardware. The report cited people familiar with The New York Times, publishers McGraw Hill and Oberlin Press, and a trip that “several executives from one of the largest magazine groups” took to the company’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

The Apple tablet project has apparently been through a number of different iterations, and the project has been reset numerous times by company co-founder Steve Jobs. The report said that Jobs was presented with a tablet device that ran a modified version of OS X years ago, but the device was shelved because the company could not determine what use people would have for the hardware.

The focus of the hardware now is said to not be the playback of media, which the iPod and iPhone lines already handle well. Instead, Apple is reportedly working to have publishers place their print content on iTunes.

“The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridized content that draws from audio, video, interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static,” the report said. “And with release dates for Microsoft’s Courier set to be quite far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static e-ink, it appears that Apple is moving towards a pole position in distribution of this next-generation print content. First, it’ll get its feet wet with more basic repurposing of the stuff found on dead trees today.”

The article has stated that the device will debut in early 2010, which seems consistent with the rest of the rumor mill on this issue.

Two employees from The New York Times were allegedly contacted by Apple in June about putting their product on a “new device.” Publishers McGraw Hilll and Oberlin Press are said to be working to put their textbooks on iTunes, possibly in a DRMed format that would allow use for a period of time. Magazine executives are alleged to have presented their ideas on the future of publishing on Apple’s campus. Given the evidence, the report asserts that Apple is looking to go beyond e-readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, to “redefine print.”

Rumor: Apple to Unveil Updated iMacs, Refreshed Plastic MacBooks for Holiday Season

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Date: Monday, September 28th, 2009, 04:33
Category: iMac, MacBook, Rumor

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The rumor mill is starting back up again and The Unofficial Apple Weblog as well as other sites have begun to report on Apple’s expected releases for the holiday season.

French Mac site Mac4Ever is citing tips indicating that a new iMac, possibly quad-core powered, is in the works for a possible release before the holiday season. Like the MacBook Pro line, the new iMac would feature an SD card reader. There’s also the thought that a high-end iMac could even pack in a Xeon processor. AppleInsider has added its two cents, citing that an iMac boost is in the works, although they’re not speculating on quad-core or Xeon processors, and even reports that a new, slimmer design has been churning off Taiwanese assembly lines for the past two weeks.

The second rumor, also from AppleInsider, points to a less expensive and slimmer white polycarbonate MacBook. If Apple is able to reduce the price of the low-end laptop below its current US$999 level, it could stem the tide of sales of low-cost Windows and Linux netbooks.

They’re just rumors, but there’s generally some nuggets of truth to be found. If you’ve heard anything or want to chime in on this, let us know what’s on your mind.

Rumor: AT&T MicroCell Device En Route, Will Offer Unlimited Coverage for Extra $20/Month

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Date: Monday, September 21st, 2009, 04:39
Category: iPhone, iPhone 3GS, Rumor

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AT&T customers based in one of the company’s weaker pockets of coverage will be able to pay US$20 to pay $20 extra to obtain unlimited calling over 3G using their own Internet access. Per Engadget Mobile, an anonymous tip has stated that the company plans to offer an unlimited calling plan for users for US$20 per month.

The service would be bundled with AT&T-supplied Internet (if available in your area), the monthly fee would drop to US$10, and with AT&T Internet and landline service, the monthly fee goes away entirely.

It’s not clear if the monthly fee for unlimited wireless calling through the device will be mandatory in order to obtain the 3G MicroCell device. According to the photo of official looking marketing collateral included in the report, “3G phones connected to the MicroCell without AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling continue to use existing plan minutes.”

If unlimited calling is entirely optional, iPhone 3G and 3GS users may be able to purchase and install the 3G MicroCell and simply use it to burn their existing plan minutes without paying any additional monthly fees, solving dropped call or delayed SMS issues for users within poor coverage areas.

Even if obtaining the device requires the additional unlimited calling plan, users may end up saving money by cutting their existing plan minutes and placing most of their calls from their home or work location. Current iPhone service plans with AT&T cost US$60 for 450 daytime rollover minutes, US$80 for 900 minutes, US$100 for 1,350 minutes, or US$120 for unlimited time.

In either case, other AT&T users who access the MicroCell to place 3G calls, texts or access mobile data will not be charged any differently than if they were to use a regular 3G tower; they will simply eat up their existing plan minutes.

The 3G MicroCell does not create a VoIP alternative to AT&T’s network. In fact, the unit simply tunnels 3G voice and data over the user’s existing broadband Internet service to AT&T’s servers, which process it like any other call handled by its existing 3G cell towers.

AT&T’s 3G appliance isn’t usable by 3G mobile users on other carriers, nor does it provide GSM/EDGE service usable by the original iPhone model. It will work with any 3G-capable sold by AT&T, however. It’s not yet known if the MicroCell supplies the standard 3.6Mbit/sec HDPA service typical of AT&T’s current towers, or if it supplies the faster 7.2 service supported by the iPhone 3GS.

Due to broadcasting regulations, users will also be prevented from using the 3G MicroCell in areas where AT&T doesn’t officially do business. For example, it can’t be installed by users in Vermont or North Dakota or in other countries outside the US; this is enforced by GPS tracking in the device.

Other mobile providers already sell similar “mini cell tower” devices, commonly referred to in the industry as a “femtocell”. These units are used both to provide service where coverage is missing or to allow customers to provide their own pipe for unlimited mobile calling. For example, Sprint sells its Airave for US$5 per month, or with an unlimited calling plan that costs US$10. Verizon sells a femtocell for its 3G users with no monthly fees, but does not provide any unlimited calling option.

T-Mobile, for their part provides unlimited calling through its HotSpot@Home service, which costs US$10 per month.

AT&T is expected to begin rolling out 3G MicroCell devices to users in a limited number of markets over the next couple of weeks, following an extensive beta testing period. Hammered by the iPhone’s voracious data demands, AT&T’s 3G mobile network has been criticized as severely inadequate by many high profile critics and plenty of frustrated users.

Rumor: Apple to Release New iMacs, MacBooks for Holiday Season

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Date: Wednesday, September 16th, 2009, 04:10
Category: iMac, MacBook, Rumor

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A recently report from the Barron’s financial publication alleges that Apple will release new iMacs and MacBook notebooks within a matter of weeks to refresh its offerings before the holiday season.

The report, which surfaced from Wedge Partners, said that the new iMacs will sport a thinner design with smooth edges. However, the MacBook refresh is said to be “limited.”

The document also cited likely price cuts, as tHe company sees the lower prices as a competitive alternative to Windows 7 machines. Wedge Partners predicts that Apple will sell 3 million Macs in the holiday season, riding the wave of price cuts and new products.

While new hardware should come as no surprise, AppleInsider has previously heard word of new iMacs and MacBooks. Last month rumors surfaced that the new Imacs would have compelling new features, one of which was said to have long been on Mac users’ wish lists, and another that would appeal to the semi-professional audio/video crowd.

Other rumors have stated that Apple would retain and redesign its line of plastic MacBooks. With only one non-Pro offering in the lineup, Apple is allegedly redesigning the systems with a slimmer, lighter enclosure and restructured internal architecture. Analysts have long believed that cracking the sub-US$1,000 notebook market would be a huge boon for Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple TV Could Receive Changes at September 9th Event

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Date: Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009, 04:09
Category: Apple TV, Rumor

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Altering an earlier opinion that surprise announcements weren’t to be expected at Apple’s anticipated September 9th media event, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster released a second note Tuesday suggesting an Apple TV upgrade could debut at next week’s event.

Per AppleInsider, Munster stated that he believed an appearance by Steve Jobs would be the biggest news out of the iPod-centric event. Munster has now said stated that he has reason to believe there will be an Apple TV-related announcement next Wednesday. In a note, he pointed out that Apple’s online store has a wait time of one to two weeks for the 40GB model at US$229. Munster said he has never seen a delay for the Apple TV since it debuted in March of 2007. The analyst suggests that Apple is either phasing out the 40GB model, as the 160GB offering is still available, or is selling its remaining inventory before a new product launches.

“We believe the company is most likely phasing out the 40GB model and possibly reducing the price of the 160GB model,” he said, “but a new model is possible given the hardware has been the same for 2+ years.”

Munster does not believe that a major upgrade to the Apple TV will happen next week because he expects such an announcement to coincide with a subscription service that would need to be negotiated with content providers. Weeks ago, Munster reiterated his belief that Apple is working towards a new Apple TV with iTunes show subscriptions and possibly DVR capabilities.

“It is unlikely that negotiations for new content are finished,” he said.

Given the age of the Apple TV hardware, Munster said he wouldn’t rule out a new lineup as a “wildcard” announcement at the media-centric event.

Munster went on to re-state his belief that Apple will launch a full-fledged television set in two to five years. Such a device, he said, would have DVR and home media functionality built in, and would sync content with Macs, iPhones and iPods wirelessly. He said an Apple television could also play games, with an iPhone or iPod touch acting as the wireless controller.

“Such a device would command a premium among a competitive field of budget TVs,” he said. “We believe Apple could differentiate itself with software that makes home entertainment simple and solves a pain point for consumers.”

Rumor: Apple to Hold September 9th Media Event, Unveil New iPods, iTunes 9

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Date: Thursday, August 27th, 2009, 03:08
Category: iPod, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, Rumor, Software

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Apple is apparently planning a full media event for Wednesday, September 9th to introduce new iPod offerings and make a host of other music-related announcements.

AppleInsider, which cites sources close to the story, says that Apple had been teetering between Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 for weeks, but most recently indicated to its industry-related partners that the latter of the two dates would be more feasible.

The company is expected to use the gathering to introduce new versions of its iPod nano and iPod touch digital music players, both of which should serve as dual-purpose point-and-shoot cameras for the first time. AppleInsider also has it on authority that cameras are just one piece to this year’s iPod story.

Also likely is an introduction of iTunes 9, which has widely been rumored in recent weeks to make its debut with a handful of social networking features. Nothing is expected to be heard about the much anticipated Newton Web tablet, which isn’t expected to surface in any form until the first calendar quarter of 2010.

While it’s unclear at which venue Apple will hold the event, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center would seem a likely candidate if past years are of any indication. The Moscone West is also another potential candidate site. Analysts and members of the media should start receiving invitations will full details roughly one week prior.

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.