Apple cites iPhone 4S, MacBook Air and Mac mini products as “Bluetooth Smart Ready”

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 11:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Mac mini, MacBook Air, News

No one ever said wireless communication with devices was a bad thing.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s latest products, including the iPhone 4S and updated Mac mini and MacBook Air, are among a group of low-power Bluetooth devices now branded as “Bluetooth Smart Ready.”

Bluetooth Smart is a new brand extension given by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group to devices that implement Bluetooth 4.0. Compatible devices include phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

“Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready devices will revolutionize the way we collect, share and use information,” said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “In order to ensure consumers know what these extraordinary devices have to offer, we created the Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready marks. These new logos will help consumers manage compatibility, and encourage manufacturers to build their best Bluetooth devices yet.”

Bluetooth Smart devices are sensor-type devices like heart-rate monitors or pedometers. They run on button-cell batteries and were created to collect only a specific piece of information.

Bluetooth Smart Ready devices can connect to traditional Bluetooth devices, as well as new Bluetooth Smart devices that are just starting to enter the market. But Bluetooth Smart devices, because of their lower power consumption, will only connect with products labeled as Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Packages will now carry three potential logos created by the Bluetooth SIG to help consumers identify what their device offers, whether it be traditional Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, or Bluetooth Smart Ready.

“Consumers can look at new Bluetooth Smart Ready devices the same way they would a 3D ready TV — having the TV is just the first part of the puzzle, you need glasses and content in order to really experience 3D,” said Suke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG. “Once consumers have a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, like the new iPhone 4S, they can continue connecting to existing Bluetooth devices and are also ready to experience the new world of Bluetooth Smart peripheral devices that will carry the Bluetooth Smart logo.”

Bluetooth 4.0 support first appeared in Apple’s products in July, when the MacBook Air lineup and Mac mini were refreshed. Other Macs released this year — new iMacs and MacBook Pros — only support Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), but Bluetooth 4.0 also came to the new iPhone 4S released earlier this month.

Apple joined the Bluetooth SIG board of directors in June, and now takes part in overseeing the development of standards and licensing for the short-range wireless technology. When Apple joined, the special interest group said the iPhone maker would provide insight on platform development, as the company understands that technology is now driven by “hub devices” that capture data, utilize data at the application layer, and even upload it to the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Prior to passing, Steve Jobs left iTunes creator in charge of HDTV project

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 05:51
Category: Rumor, Software

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When Steve Jobs passed away, he put certain Apple employees in place to keep things going and make sure his final goals were realized.

It looks like another has been discovered.

According to Bloomberg, Jeff Robbin, an Apple vice president and engineer who helped create both iTunes and the iPod, is leading the company’s efforts to produce a connected TV with integrated search functionality.

Citing multiple sources familiar with the project, Bloomberg reported on Monday that Robbin is in charge of Cupertino, Calif., company’s secretive high-definition TV project. According to the sources, Apple is working to integrate seamless content search features into the device.

“For example, instead of having to separately check to see if a movie or show is available through Netflix or a cable service, all the material could be integrated,” the report noted.

Robbin worked as a system software engineer at Apple in the 1990s before leaving to work on his own software projects. While at software publisher Casady & Greene, he helped to develop the SoundJam MP MP3 player software. In late 2000, Apple purchased the rights for SoundJam from Casady & Greene, bringing Robbin back into the fold to head up the software’s transformation into iTunes.

Back at Apple, Robbin also played a crucial role in the development of the iPod, which just recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. He is listed among the inventors of several key iPod-related patent filings, though not all of the applications were successfully converted into legitimate patents.

His current role at Apple is vice president of consumer applications and lead software designer for iTunes.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs at one point considered Robbin to be of such high value to the company that he worked to keep Robbin’s role under wraps. According to the bestselling biography on Jobs, officially released on Monday, Jobs refused to allow a Time magazine reporter to use the engineer’s full name in an article because he feared Robbin would be poached by another company. The book also noted that Robbin was one of the Apple executives who successfully lobbied Jobs to allow a Windows version of iTunes.

Having persisted for years, rumors surrounding Apple’s connected television initiative have gained momentum after Jobs’ biography confirmed that he had been working on such a device. Author Walter Isaacson quoted Jobs in an interview as saying that he wanted to make television sets “simple and elegant,” just like he had done with computers, music players and phones.

“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Jobs reportedly said of the project. “I finally cracked it.”

Multiple analysts claimed on Monday that Apple has been building prototype high-definition TVs, possibly in preparation for a 2012 launch. The rumored product would represent a strong opportunity for the company, as some have projected the LCD TV market to top US$100 billion next year.

Apple currently sells a US$99 Apple TV set-top box, but considers the device to be little more than a “hobby.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Apple TV 4.4.2, MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 firmware fixes

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 05:02
Category: Apple TV, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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You’ve got to love firmware updates, as they tend to put things back on the right path again.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday issued Apple TV software update 4.4.2 to resolve issues with recent versions of the set-top box’s software, as well as Video Update 1.0 for mid-2010 15-inch MacBook Pros.

Regarding the Apple TV 4.4.2 update, Apple advised users to first reset all settings if they are already running versions 4.4 or 4.4.1.

“Apple TV devices with software version 4.4 and 4.4.1 have an issue with updating software to later versions,” Apple wrote in a support note for the update. “We recognize that this is an inconvenience and apologize.”

Last week, Apple released Apple TV Software Update 4.4.1 to fix minor bugs in version 4.4, but quickly took it down after users reported problems with it.

Released earlier this month, Apple TV software version 4.4 added Photo Stream compatibility, Trailers, Wall Street Journal Live and National Hockey League content. The update also added support for subtitles in Netflix and three new slideshow themes.

The MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 addresses an issue where 15-inch mid-2010 models would intermittently freeze or stop displaying video. The 70.97MB download requires Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 to install and run.

Apple had previously identified the problem as occurring in 15-inch MacBook Pros manufactured between April 2010 and February 2011. The bug caused both built-in and external displays on some machines to turn black or gray before freezing up or ceasing to display video.

If you’ve tried either update and noticed any changes, please let us know what you make of them in the comments section.

Rumor: Apple to release official 4G-capable iPhone in 2012

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 05:22
Category: iPhone, Rumor

When the iPhone 4S was released recently, one of the major complaints was that the unit lacked an official 4G function.

This may be resolved next year when Apple is “expected to join the LTE club,” according to sources who spoke with DigiTimes.

Apple’s entrance into the 4G LTE smartphone market is expected to come as Nokia, Research in Motion and Sony Ericsson also release their own next-generation high-speed handsets next year. The debut of those smartphones will come as carriers around the world launch their own LTE networks.

Just 35 LTE networks are online globally at the moment, but that number is expected to triple and exceed 100 before the end of 2012. By 2015, LTE networks are expected to reach 290 million people, and sales of LTE smartphones are projected to top 154 million units.

In the U.S., competition for 4G networks is expected to pick up next year, when Sprint launches its own LTE services in the middle of the year. The third-largest carrier in America, which began offering the iPhone earlier this month, reportedly expects to launch 15 LTE-enabled devices in mid-2012.

Earlier this year, reports claimed that Apple had eyed building an LTE-capable iPhone in 2011, but opted to push back the launch of such a device in 2012. It was said that the implementation of LTE networks had not yet matured enough to satisfy Apple.

In a quarterly conference call earlier this year, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, then the company’s chief operating officer, said that poor battery life and other issues with current LTE technology were enough to dissuade the company from pursuing an LTE iPhone at the time.

“The first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those we are just not willing to make,” Cook said.

The just-released iPhone 4S features an improved antenna that it HSDPA compatible for theoretical download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps. That has led U.S. carrier AT&T to advertise that the iPhone 4S has 4G-like speeds on its GSM network. However, the world-mode phone is not capable of achieving those same speeds on CDMA networks with carriers like Sprint and Verizon.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple creating HDTV prototypes for late 2012 launch

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Date: Monday, October 24th, 2011, 08:08
Category: Hardware, News, Rumor

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Prior to his passing away, Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs stated that he wanted to capture the television market.

This might be the first step towards that goal.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray revealed in a note to investors on Monday that a source close to an Asian component supplier claimed in September that Apple was building prototype models of its rumored high-definition television set.

Munster has long been a believer that Apple will enter the television market, saying as far back as February 2009 that he believed the company was working on a major entrance into the living room. He sees Apple building an all-in-one, Internet-connected television set with access to the App Store and iTunes content.

If Apple were to launch a TV set in late 2012, he believes it would add about 3 percent to the company’s revenue in 2013. With a projected 220 million flat panel TVs to be sold in 2012, 48 percent, or 106 million, will be Internet-connected devices, and he sees Apple selling 1.4 million of those.

With the addition of iCloud and Siri voice control, Munster believes Apple is even more prepared to launch an HDTV in the coming years. With iCloud, users could access TV shows, pictures, and potentially moves, while Siri could “simplify the chore of inputting information like show titles, or actor names, into a TV.”

Munster also met with sources in Asia in January of this year, where he heard word that Apple is investing in manufacturing facilities and securing supply for LCD displays. The company is said to have invested in screen sizes of up to 50 inches for a potential television set.

Rumors of an Apple-built HDTV began to pick up steam once again last week, when it was revealed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that he had “cracked’ the secret to building an integrated, easy-to-use television set. He said the device “will have the simplest user interface you could imagine.”

Apple is currently in the set-top box market with its US$99 Apple TV, but the company has famously referred to its interest in that market as a “hobby.” The Apple TV allows users to purchase content from iTunes, while new features like wireless AirPlay mirroring have been added with recent software updates.

Stay tune for additional details as they become available and if you have any features you’d love to see on an Apple-branded HDTV, let us know what they might be in the comments.

Apple quietly releases updated MacBook Pro notebook models

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Date: Monday, October 24th, 2011, 08:37
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Well, this one came by surprise.

Per AppleInsider, with no mention of the update, Apple on Monday improved its MacBook Pro lineup with slightly faster Intel processors, as well as new graphics processors and larger hard drives in some models.

The new entry-level MacBook Pro now sports a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU. It also features a larger 500GB 5400-rpm hard drive at the same cost of US$1,199.

The faster 13-inch MacBook Pro now boasts a 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, and its hard drive has also been upgraded to 750GB. It sells for US$1,499.

For the 15-inch models, both feature quad-core Intel Core i7 processors. The low-end 15-inch has a clock speed of 2.2GHz and a 500GB hard drive, plus a faster AMD Radeon HD 6750M discrete graphics card with 512MB of GDDR5. The faster 15-inch runs at 2.4GHz with a 750GB hard drive and features the AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5.

And the updated 17-inch MacBook Pro features a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with a 750GB hard drive, along with the AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5. All MacBook Pro models come with 4GB of RAM clocked at 1333MHz standard.

Apple’s top-of-the-line build-to-order 17-inch MacBook Pro offers a 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 for an additional US$250, while the RAM can be upgraded to 8GB for another US$200. All MacBook Pro models can also have their hard drives upgraded to solid state capacities up to 512GB for as much as US$1,200.

All of the new MacBook Pros are listed as in stock, and come with free shipping. Monday’s upgrade was done silently by Apple, as the company didn’t even list the updated notebooks as being “new” to the store. As of Monday morning, the iPhone 4S was still listed as Apple’s newest product.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve ordered a new MacBook Pro and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Industrial designer Jonathan Ive left with additional power/privileges after Steve Jobs’ death

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:41
Category: Hardware, News

If you’re on your way out, leave someone behind to protect your ideals and legacy.

And if that person is less than conventional but has created some of the coolest industrial designs of the past 13 years, all the better.

Per the Associated Press, Apple’s widely praised design chief Jonathan Ive has no true boss who can tell him what to do at the company, a distinction put in place by Steve Jobs himself.

Information from the new biography of Jobs, set to arrive next week, continues to arrive, offering a glimpse into the highly private life of the Apple co-founder. The news wire obtained an early copy of the book, and shared some details on the relationship between Jobs and Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design.

In talking with author Walter Isaacson for the book, Jobs revealed that he viewed Ive as his “spiritual partner” at Apple. Showing his trust in Ive, the company co-founder left him more freedom than anyone else in the company — a perk that remains even after Jobs’s death.

“He told Isaacson that Ive had ‘more operational power’ at Apple than anyone else besides Jobs himself — that there’s no one at the company who can tell Ive what to do,” the report said. “That, says Jobs, is ‘the way I set it up.’”

Ive and Jobs became close at Apple, working directly together on designing a number of the company’s core products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Ive, a 44-year-old native of London, joined Apple in 1996 and has held his current job since 1997.

Showcasing their extensive work together, Jobs and Ive share credit for inventing over 200 patents. Jobs is responsible for the most total patents at the company, at 313.

A 2006 profile of Ive said that at the time he and his team worked in a large, secretive open studio that many Apple employees were not allowed to enter. There a “massive sound system” played music as he and his team worked with state-of-the-art prototyping equipment with “intense iteration.”

Ive has been heralded as one of the most influential designers of his time, and legendary Braun designer Dieter Rams publicly praised him in the 2009 documentary Objectified. In return for his design work at Apple, Ive has been well compensated, and is said to be worth more than US$128 million.

In 2009, Ive was declared the “smartest designer” in technology by Forbes. He was also honored with the title “Designer of the Year” in 2003 by Design Museum London, and was named “Royal Designer for Industry” by The Royal Society of Arts.

More details on the relationship between Ive and Jobs will be available in Isaacson’s book, arriving next week. Entitled “Steve Jobs,” will be available in a hardcover edition, as well as digitally through Amazon Kindle and Apple’s iBooks.

Catcher to invest $2-3 million to reopen Chinese MacBook unibody case plant within November time frame

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:05
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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After local officials ordered the suspension of operations at a Suzhou, China factory that supplies Apple with chassis for its laptops, Taiwanese manufacturer Catcher Technology will invest US$2-3 million with the goal of getting its facility back online in November.

Per DigiTimes, details emerged that Catcher had temporarily closed a plant that provides 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines, as well as the iMac all-in-one desktop. The company is reportedly spending to “modify equipment and manufacturing processes” to resolve complaints from nearby residents regarding “odorous gas emissions.”

“Catcher aims to resume operations at the plant in November,” the publication noted. The manufacturer’s president, Allen Horng, had previously said that total shipments would fall 20 percent in October and could drop by as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refuses to allow the plant to resume production.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” he said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

According to the report, Catcher is now considering increasing its investment in Taiwan in order to diversify operations and reduce its operating risk. The manufacturer recently ratcheted up production at a plant in southern Taiwan and purchased a new lot for further expansion in the area.

Catcher’s production woes could restrict an already limited supply chain for metal chassis. In August, it was reported that laptop makers looking to build machines to Intel’s “Ultrabook” specifications were having trouble securing production capacity for unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis. Foxconn and Catcher reportedly have a combined total of 10,000 CNC lathes required for the process, with most of their supply going to Apple.

During Apple’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said that the company is “investigating and assessing” the potential shortage of Mac unibody casings. In the most recent September quarter, Apple had its best quarter ever for Mac sales, selling 4.89 million during the period. Portables now represent 74 percent of the company’s sales.

In 2008, Apple detailed the new unibody manufacturing process, calling the design “in many ways more beautiful internally than externally.”

Apple is expected to release a modest update to its MacBook Pro line later this month. The laptops will likely receive a speed bump to tide them over until Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips are ready next year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patents look into improved hydrogen fuel cells

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Date: Thursday, October 20th, 2011, 16:13
Category: battery, News, Patents

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It’s the patents that show where the nifty stuff might come from.

Per AppleInsider, a pair of new patent applications published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office demonstrate the work Apple has done internally on fuel cells. The filings describe how Apple could build the power sources smaller and lighter for portable devices.

The first application, entitled “Parallel Fuel Stack Architecture,” describes how Apple could arrange a set of fuel cells into a fuel stack. In the second filing, named “Reduced-Weight Fuel Cell Plate,” Apple describes how it could use lightweight electrically conductive and corrosion-resistant material to build a fuel cell.

The applications explain that fuel cells provide electrical power by converting a fuel, such as hydrogen or a hydrogen-containing compound, into an electric current. Fuel cells contain an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte between them.

In a fuel cell, a catalyst at the anode oxidizes the fuel and produces positively charged ions and electronics. Ions from the oxidization process then pass through to the cathode while blocking the passage of electrons, and the electrons then drive a load connected to the fuel cell.

For a waste product, the ions recombine with a negatively charged atom, such as oxygen, at the cathode. Any waste from a fuel cell escapes as carbon dioxide and/or water.

A fuel cell typically produces low voltages between 0.5 and 0.7 volts, requiring multiple fuel cells to be combined to create a fuel cell stack. But these stacks come with a number of inherent issues.

For starters, fuel cell stack architectures can have a single point of failure in a connected series. Fuel cells may also fail for a number of reasons, including accumulation of nitrogen in the anode, degradation of the electrolyte, or water flooding in the anode or cathode. Because of this, the reliability of a fuel cell stack can decrease as the number of cells in the stack grows.

Apple’s solution for this issue is to build multiple fuel cells connected in a parallel configuration by a power bus, along with a voltage-multiplying circuit to increase the voltage of the stack. In this way, the reliability of the stack would be increased while the fuel cells could also potentially power devices with higher operating voltages.

Another problem with fuel cells detailed by Apple is their bipolar plates are typically built with conductive and corrosion-resistant materials, such as stainless steel, that are high in density and add weight to the fuel cells. A stack of cells, all made of stainless steel, can create a power source and portable device that are too heavy to be used practically.

To address this problem, Apple proposes arranging the fuel cells in a monopolar configuration to enable sharing of electrodes between adjacent fuel cells in the fuel stack. This sharing of electrodes could significantly reduce the number of electrodes in the fuel stack, and also enable the use of monopolar plates that are lighter and thinner.

In this method, Apple believes it could build a monopolar fuel cell stack that is both lighter and cheaper than a typical bipolar fuel cell stack. Even with the reduction in weight and cost, the filing says the stack could contain the same number of fuel cells, or even be more powerful than a traditional bipolar fuel cell stack of the same size.

Both patent applications, made public this week, were first filed with the USPTO in April of 2010. The parallel architecture filing is credited to Steven. C. Michalske and Bradley L. Spare, while the reduced weight application is credited to Vijay M. Iyer, Jean L. Lee and Gregory L. Tice.

Apple has frequently explored the possible use of alternative energy sources in its devices to make them more efficient and environmentally friendly. While the mention of fuel cells in an application from Apple is unique, the company has repeatedly explored the option of solar power in its portable electronics.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

F-Secure identifies new Mac trojan masquerading as Flash Player update

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Date: Thursday, October 20th, 2011, 02:28
Category: News, security, Software

Sometimes you get the feeling that that the security war never really ends.

Per Macworld, F-Secure has reported on a new, scarier-than-usual Mac Trojan horse masquerading as a Flash installer. The downside is that if you do fall victim to the Trojan, it disables your Mac’s automatic malware definition updates.

F-Secure, which has a report on the issue, has dubbed the new pest Trojan-Downloader:OSX/Flashback.C; Macworld reported on a previous version of the malware back in September. A Trojan horse works by fooling you into running it; in this case, Flashback disguises itself as an installer package for Flash Player.

The earlier incarnation of the Flashback Trojan horse sent information about your Mac back to a remote server, which was bad enough, but this new version disables the security definition updating mechanism Apple first introduced in Snow Leopard back in May; the same malware protection is included in Lion, too. If you install the rogue software, it prompts you for your administrator password. Enter that, and Flashback.C wipes out files necessary for the malware definition updating process to run properly.

By disabling the malware definitions update, Flashback.C attempts to ensure that your Mac won’t know about any update Apple releases to remove the malicious software. Notably, the Trojan horse bails and deletes itself if you have the Little Snitch app installed.

F-Secure offers removal instructions if you fear you’ve been infected; the fix involves deleting entries from your browsers’ .plist files. Check out F-Secure’s page if you’re concerned, but you only need to worry if you recently installed Flash Player from a download that you didn’t get from Adobe’s website.

If you’ve seen this trojan on your end or have any feedback on it, please let us know in the comments section.