Apple releases Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1 firmware upgrade

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 04:39
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Apple released its Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1 firmware upgrade for its Thunderbolt-equipped Macs running Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”). The update, a 72.53 megabyte download, provides support for the Apple Thunderbolt Display and bug fixes for Thunderbolt device compatibility.

In addition to the direct download, Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1 is available through Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature. The update requires a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases iPhoto 9.2.1 update

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 03:27
Category: News, Software

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Along with almost everything else, Apple released iPhoto 9.2.1 on Thursday, the latest version of its image organization and editing application. The update, a 357 megabyte download which can be be snagged directly or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature, offers the following major fix:

- Addresses an issue that could cause iPhoto to quit unexpectedly on Macs with the 3ivxVideoCodec plug-in installed.

iPhoto 9.2.1 retails for US$49 as part of iLife ’11 and requires Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

iPhone 4S reservation/pickup program launches in San Francisco

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 10:06
Category: iPhone, News, retail

Reservations are preferred.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Wednesday began offering customers in San Francisco the ability to order a product online and pick it up in a local retail store.

When checking out from Apple’s online store, a new “Pick up” option is available, from which users can select a store in San Francisco, Calif. It also states that the in-store pickup option is “coming soon to a U.S. Apple Store near you.”

The “Select an Apple Store” feature allows users to enter their zip code and find a local Apple Store, though for now the program is limited to San Francisco. Users who pick up their order at an Apple Retail Store get Personal Setup for any new Apple product.

Products listed as “Available now” at the store can be picked up within an hour. Customers can also designate someone other than themselves to pick up an order.

Word first surfaced on Monday that Apple was planning to launch its in-store pickup option in its online store. The pilot program was tested internally at the company under the codename “Sherwood.”

In addition to in-store pickup, Apple’s retail stores are also expected to begin accepting returns of online orders. By doing this, customers can avoid shipping an item back to Apple for the return process.

Apple began offering an in-store pickup option in a limited capacity in 2009, with a Christmastime “Reserve and Pick Up” program. That was restricted to specific products: the iPhone, iPod and MacBook lineups, Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro. It did not include accessories.

But Apple’s new in-store pickup option applies to any product available in Apple’s online store, including accessories such as iPhone and iPad cases.

Apple’s retail operations has become a very important part of the company’s business model. The company revealed in its last quarterly earnings report that it plans to expand many of its retail locations in the U.S., as officials believe the current stores are now “too constrained” to properly serve the high volume of customers they experience.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the iPhone 4S reservation system and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Catcher unibody plant may reopen as early as next week

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 06:08
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Maybe the problems weren’t as bad as they said they were.

Per Reuters, Apple supplier Catcher Technology said Wednesday that its China plant that builds unibody MacBook cases will fully reopen at the end of October.

The new details from Taipei, Taiwan are an indication that any supply constraints experienced by Apple could be relatively short-lived. The company was ordered to shut down a factory that builds unibody enclosures for Apple on Oct. 16.

That plant in Eastern China was said to produce 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air products. The plant has also been responsible for casings for Apple’s all-in-one iMac desktop.

Catcher had previously said that a partial production halt at the factory would slash shipments in October by 20 percent. That number could have grown to as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refused to allow the plant to resume production.

But with Wednesday’s announcement that the plan will open at the end of the month, any concerns about November production appear to be assuaged. Last week, Catcher had originally said it hoped to reopen its plant at some time in November.

The Catcher facility was closed due to “strange odors” said to have been emanating from the plant. The shutdown came just as Apple reported its best quarter ever for Mac sales, reaching 4.9 million units.

Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro lineup on Monday, with slightly faster Intel processors and updated graphics, while some models gained larger hard drives. The design of the notebooks remains unchanged, featuring Apple’s signature unibody look.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.