O'Grady's PowerPage » Apple

Apple launches third-gen iPad in India, eight more countries

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Date: Friday, April 27th, 2012, 07:06
Category: iPad, News

If you’ve got a popular item, make sure it gets in the hands of people who want it.

Per The Mac Observer, Applelaunched sales of its third generation iPad in nine more countries on Friday. The new release is part of Apple’s fastest iPad rollout so far, and includes Israel, India, and South Africa.

The other countries in Friday’s iPad launch include Columbia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, and Thailand.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple updates HP, Samsung drivers for Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7 operating systems

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Date: Friday, April 27th, 2012, 07:15
Category: News, Software

You just can’t beat a good print driver update.

Late Thursday, Apple released version 2.9 of its HP printer drivers.

The updated driver provides updated support for HP’s entire line of printers, scanners, fax machines, and multi-function machinery when connecting to a Mac running OS X 10.6 or later. The update is available as a 524.8 MB download download from Apple’s Support website.

The company also released version 2.4 of its Samsung printers drivers for Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7. The new drivers offer updated support for Samsung’s base of printers, scanners, fax machines, and multi-function peripherals and are available as a 27.6 megabyte download from Apple’s support website.

The updates can also be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve installed the update and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Recent patent application shows Apple’s interest in improving brightness controls on OLED screens

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Date: Thursday, April 26th, 2012, 06:00
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent applications that show where things might be going.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple has apparently proposed a way of improving brightness control on organic light emitting diode displays.

One of the key advantages of OLED is that, unlike LCD, it does not employ a backlight to illuminate the screen. While this can lead to superior picture quality and improved battery life, it can also make adjusting the brightness of the screen more difficult, Apple notes in a newly published patent application.

The filing, entitled “OLED Driving Technique,” explains that traditional LCD brightness is adjusted by simply increasing or decreasing the amount of light emitted by a backlight. But that’s not possible with an OLED display, as each pixel on an OLED screen emits light individually.

That means device makers must adjust the amount of power supplied to each OLED pixel, making it a far more complex endeavor to adjust brightness than an LCD display with a dedicated backlight.

“While increasing or decreasing the amount of power may increase or decrease the amount of light emitted by each OLED, the precise amount of light emitted by each OLED may vary according to nonlinear function,” Apple’s filing reads. “As such, many techniques for adjusting the brightness of OLED screens have conventionally involved performing complex calculations on image data to ensure that when a brightness-adjusted image id displayed on the OLED display, each pixel displays a proper color and brightness.”

In other words, the amount of light output by an individual OLED pixel varies nonlinearly with the amount of power supplied to the OLED pixel. As a result, increasing or decreasing the brightness does not directly correlate to simply increasing or decreasing the power supplied to each pixel.

Apple goes on to explain that dimming values must be extracted from image data on a system, and that data must then be converted to an analog OLED pixel brightness control signal. This complex method can consume system resources and reduce battery life, and it may also be incompatible with existing LCD brightness control mechanisms, requiring major changes to software that already drives LCD screens.

Apple’s proposed solutions aim to offer “efficient brightness control” with OLED screens. One described method would take image data and transform it into a “logarithmic domain,” from which a “dimming control value” could be subtracted.

“This resulting log-encoded dimmed image data may represent a darker version of the originally received image data,” the filing reads. “Thereafter, a pixel of the organic light emitting diode display may be driven based at least in part on the dimmed image data.”

In Apple’s method, image data could be converted in the data driver of an integrated circuit connected to the OLED screen. This data would be converted from a “framebuffer encoding” gamma-corrected color space to a logarithmic value.

“From this logarithmic value, a digital dimming control value may be subtracted rather than divided,” the filing states. “This dimmed logarithmic image data may be converted directly to an analog OLED pixel brightness control signal, without first being converted to a linear digital value, via a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) programmed to convert the logarithmic digital image data to the OLED pixel brightness control signal.”

Apple’s solution would enable simplified dimming of OLED, and would convert the data associated with adjusting brightness from digital to analog. But Apple’s method would do so with fewer bits, and would be less taxing on a mobile device like an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook.

The illustrations accompanying the application specifically show a MacBook Pro as a potential device that could utilize an OLED screen, although the filing notes that Apple’s method of controlling OLED brightness could be used on any device, from smartphones to television sets.

Apple has shown continued interest in OLED screens through patent filings, with one proposed invention last year that aimed to improve power efficiency of OLED screens. However, some industry watchers have said that OLED technology, and the production of OLED screens, are not yet mature enough to meet Apple’s standards and requirements.

The latest OLED filing, published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was originally submitted in October of 2010. It is credited to Ulrich T. Barnhoefer and Lee Yongman.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts $11.6 billion profit for Q2 2012, iOS devices drive strong earnings

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Date: Wednesday, April 25th, 2012, 05:48
Category: Finance, News

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It’s pretty clear at this point: Apple’s not in danger of going out of business.

Per Macworld, on Tuesday, Apple reported a net profit of US$11.6 billion on revenue of US$39.2 billion for the quarter ended March 31, 2012. Those are respective increases of 94 percent and 59 percent from the 2011 second quarter. Apple’s profit translates to earnings of US$12.30 per share, up from US$6.40 a share last year; analysts were looking for earnings of US$10.06 a share for the quarter.

All told, Apple tallied record March quarter sales for its iPad, iPhone, and Mac lineups. The company also saw record results for its retail stores during what chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer called “the most amazing March quarter that Apple has ever had.”

It was a big quarter for Apple’s iPhone business as the company launched the third-generation tablet on March 16 and cut the entry level price to US$399 for the iPad 2. While those moves came late in the quarter, Apple sold 11.8 million tablets during the quarter, up from 151 percent in the year-ago period.

In terms of revenue, Apple recorded US$6.6 billion from iPad sales, up from US$2.8 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Following its March 16 launch in the U.S. and nine other countries, the third-generation iPad is now available in 40 countries around the world.

Apple executives also noted on Tuesday that the iPad is extending the company’s reach into new markets. According to Oppenheimer, Apple sold two iPads for every Mac bought by one of its K-12 education customers in the U.S.—and that was during a record March quarter for Mac sales. Oppenheimer also touted the iPad’s presence in the enterprise, specifically citing the U.S. Air Force’s deployment of “thousands” of iPads as technical flight bags.

“The iPad continues to open new doors to customers with whom Apple had no previous relationship,” Oppenheimer said.

iPhone numbers were also strong for Apple during the quarter. The company sold 35.1 million phones between January and March, an 88 percent jump from year-ago iPhone sales and a record for the March quarter. That outpaced the growth of the overall smartphone market, in which sales increased 42 percent year over year.

Revenue from the iPhone grew 85 percent from last year’s second quarter to US$22.69 billion.

In particular, Apple did brisk iPhone business in the Far East. Sales more than doubled in the Asia Pacific and Japan markets, according to Oppenheimer. In China, iPhone sales increased five times from last year, helped by the iPhone 4S’s release in that country in January and the addition of China Telecom as an iPhone carrier in March.

Apple ended the quarter with the iPhone 4S available in 100 countries with 230 carriers offering the smartphone.

Oppenheimer says iOS device sales—which include the iPod touch—totaled 50 million during the March quarter. Apple’s cumulative iOS device sales have grow to 365 million units.

The App Store now carries more than 600,000 apps, with a third of those specifically built for Apple’s iPad.

Mac sales also set a March quarter record. The company sold 4 million Macs, an increase of 7 percent from the year-ago quarter. The entire PC industry grew 2 percent during the March quarter, making it six full years that Apple’s Mac business has outpaced the demand for PCs overall.

Notebooks are still the driver for Apple’s Mac business. The 2.8 million portable Macs sold during the quarter represent 70 percent of Mac sales. Besides illustrating the importance of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air to Apple’s fortunes, that figure could also indicate that Apple’s desktop lineup is getting long in the tooth. The iMac last saw an overhaul nearly a year ago while the Mac mini has remained unchanged since July 2011. The Mac Pro is approaching the second anniversary of its last update.

The Asia Pacific market saw the biggest jump in Mac unit sales, with a 29 percent rise from last year. Other global markets saw single-digit growth in Mac sales.

Apple’s Mac sales may be outpacing the industry growth rate, thanks in some part to the company’s brick-and-mortar retail efforts. Apple says it sold 826,000 Macs at its retail outlets in the second quarter—about 20 percent of all the Macs it sold during the three-month period. About half the Macs sold at Apple Stores were to customers new to the platform.

Speaking of Apple retail, Apple ended the quarter with 363 stores, after opening two new ones in Amsterdam and Houston. Retail revenue of US$4.4 billion for the quarter was up 38 percent from last year. It was the retail segment’s second-largest quarter of sales, behind only first quarter of 2012, which includes the holiday shopping season.

iPod sales continued their decline. Apple sold 7.7 million music players, a drop of 15 percent from the second quarter of 2011. iPod sales actually came in ahead of Apple’s expectations for the quarter, according to Oppenheimer, with Apple choosing to focus on the fact that the higher-priced iPod touch represents more than half of the iPods sold during the quarter. Even with its declining sales, the iPod remains the market leader among MP3 players, according to Apple’s figures.

The company was much more eager to talk about the growth of its iTunes Store, which also saw record revenue of US$1.9 billion during the quarter. That’s an increase of 35 percent from last year’s tally, with music, video, and app sales driving the growth.

Apple executives revealed a few other interesting details about the quarter during their briefing with analysts. The company ended the quarter with US$110 billion in cash—a situation that figures to change in July when Apple starts paying out a US$2.65 per share dividend to shareholders. Oppenheimer said the company would provide more information about that dividend program in July.

iCloud now has 125 million subscribers, after Apple launched the cloud-based service and MobileMe replacement last October. That subscriber base is up from 85 million at the end of the first quarter. It was only in February that Cook was telling investors that iCloud had topped the 100 million subscriber mark.

Apple continues to do a staggering amount of business in China. Cook told analysts the company recorded US$7.9 billion in sales from that country during the second quarter, three times the amount of revenue it took in during the year-ago period. The US$12.4 billion in revenue Apple has seen in China during the first six months of its 2012 fiscal year nearly matches its revenue from that country for all of 2011. Cook credited pent-up demand for the iPhone 4S and strong iPad 2 demand for much of that growth, which is also creating a halo effect for Mac sales in China.

Oppenheimer told analysts to expect revenue of US$34 billion and earnings per share of US$8.68 for the June quarter. That compares to revenue of US$28.57 billion and earnings of US$7.79 per share for the fiscal third quarter of 2011.

Apple’s forecasted numbers would be a sequential drop from the revenue and earnings the company just reported for its second quarter. Oppenheimer said the company is expecting a sequential decline in iPhone sales, as Apple had ramped up inventory to meet pent-up demand. The company was also able to satisfy demand for the new iPad, thanks to a significant supply of tablets. The lower entry price for the iPad 2 and a stronger U.S. dollar are also factors in Apple’s forecast.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases fourth Mac OS X 10.7.4 seed to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, April 24th, 2012, 06:15
Category: News, Software

The betas, they just keep rolling on…

Per AppleInsider, Apple this week seeded its developer community with the fourth build of OS X 10.7.4, the upcoming maintenance update for its Lion operating system.

Sources familiar with the latest build said it is labeled as “11E52.” The download is said to be more than 700 megabytes in its delta form, while the combo update is nearly 1.5 gigabytes.

There are reportedly no known issues with the latest build of Lion. Developers have been asked to focus on Graphics, iCal, Mail, Printing, and Time Machine.

Registered Mac developers can contain the pre-release software for testing from Apple’s official Developer Center website.

The release of “11E52″ comes less than two weeks after Apple seeded the third beta of OS X 10.7.4 to developers. That build also contained no known issues, and developers were asked to focus on the App Store, QuickTime, and Screen Sharing, in addition to Graphics, Mail and Time Machine. The first beta of the anticipated Lion update was delivered to developers in mid-March.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve gotten your mitts on the new beta, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to discontinue 17-inch MacBook Pro model

Posted by:
Date: Monday, April 23rd, 2012, 05:38
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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In addition to Microsoft pulling its Office 2011 SP2 update, here’s your other piece of potential bad news for the day:

Per AppleInsider, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI Securities predicted on Monday that Apple is “likely to stop making” the 17-inch MacBook Pro this year. He cited falling shipments with the company’s top-of-the-line notebook as the primary reason he thinks it will get the ax.

Kuo has a respectable track record with regard to Apple’s products. In particular, he was first to indicate in 2011 that Apple would phase out its legacy 13-inch polycarbonate MacBook.

Soon after, the white, entry-level MacBook was completely discontinued. It has been completely replaced at the US$999 price point by the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, while education institutions can buy a special, less powerful version of the 13.3-inch MacBook Air in bulk for US$999.

Apple is expected to launch a revamped MacBook Pro lineup in the coming weeks, featuring a new thin-and-light design similar to the MacBook Air, and powered by Intel’s latest-generation Ivy Bridge processors. The launch of new MacBook Pros is expected to be staggered, with the new 15-inch models leading the way as soon as this month.

A new 13-inch MacBook Pro is expected to quickly follow and launch in June, bringing new features like solid-state storage and a thinner design lacking an optical drive. But while recent rumors have mentioned the 15-inch and 13-inch models, little has been said about a redesigned 17-inch MacBook Pro.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to incorporate in-cell touch display

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Date: Friday, April 20th, 2012, 06:26
Category: iPhone, Rumor

There’s got to be a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per the sometimes-reliable cats at DigiTimes, the next-gen iPhone may adopt “in-cell touch panels,” integrating the display and touch layers of the device’s screen into one component, according to DigiTimes’s Taiwan-based supply chain sources late Thursday night. The sources claim that display companies Sharp and Toshiba Mobile Display are likely to supply Apple with the parts.

Current iPhones use multiple separate layers to comprise the touch screen, including a transparent conductive layer that sits on top of the LCD display layers and registers touch input. The rumored in-cell touch displays combine these layers into one, resulting in an increase in touch response performance and a reduction in weight and thickness.

Unfortunately, in-cell touch displays are significantly more expensive to manufacture and have a lower yield rate than traditional displays with separate layers.

Apple currently sources iPhone displays from TPK Holdings and Wintek, neither of which have in-cell technology ready for production. TPK is working on implementing a “touch on lens” solution, an alternative to in-cell that can scale up to larger sized displays, but it will not be ready to begin production until later this year. Sharp and Toshiba Mobile Display have lines ready to go and are expected to begin production this quarter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments section.

Qualcomm confirms difficulty in meeting LTE chip demand, next-gen iPhone could see delays

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Date: Friday, April 20th, 2012, 05:30
Category: iPhone, News

Well, the good news is that your iPhone 4S might remain current a little longer than you expected.

Per a report from Reuters, Apple’s LTE chip supplier Qualcomm is having “trouble meeting demand” for smartphone chips and will continue experiencing manufacturing constraints throughout the rest of the year. Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs told analysts on a conference call yesterday, “At this stage we cannot secure enough supply to meet the increasing demand we are experiencing.”

With Apple’s next-generation iPhone expected to include LTE capabilities like the recently launched third-gen iPad, many are speculating Qualcomm’s supply issues could lead to delays. It would also make the rumored September or October unveiling and holiday launch all the more likely opposed to June.

Apple recently began internally seeding prototype N96— a faster iPhone with 1GB of RAM and an A5X variant to test the performance of the new chip on iPhones.

Qualcomm’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Keitel told Reuters the constraints have lead to increased operating expenses:

“Demand went so far ahead of availability that we’ve decided to start spending more money to get more supply as soon as possible… Any time we can’t make a customer totally happy I’m going to worry. You don’t want to give a customer a reason to go elsewhere.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Kaspersky Lab states Flashback infections drop to under 30,000, warn of potential exploits en route

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Date: Thursday, April 19th, 2012, 10:30
Category: News, security, Software

This too shall pass.

Per the cool cats at Ars Technica, Flashback infections have plummeted since Apple released a tool to stop the Trojan, but a security firm has cautioned that more malware could be on the horizon.

Researchers from Kaspersky Lab held a press conference Thursday morning in which they revealed that the number of machines infected by Flashback has dropped to just 30,000. That’s significantly down from the 600,000 Macs it was estimated to have infected at its peak, as well as the 140,000 Macs estimated to have been infected on Tuesday of this week.

Presence of the Trojan has been limited as Apple released a Java update to rid machines of Flashback. And for those that don’t have Java installed and could be harboring a dormant version of the malware, Apple also issued a separate removal tool.

But researchers at Kaspersky believe Flashback could just be the beginning. They believe that hackers will continue to target the Mac, as Apple has gained significant market share in recent years and continues to outgrow the rest of the PC market.

“Market share brings attacker motivation,” Kaspersky officials said. “Expect more drive-by downloads, more Mac OS X mass-malware. Expect cross-platform exploit kits with Mac-specific exploits.”

The Flashback Trojan was first discovered by another security firm, Intego, last September. The software attempts to trick users into installing it by appearing as Adobe’s Flash Player installer package.

Earlier this week, another Mac Trojan was discovered that takes advantage of an exploit in Microsoft Word to spread. Dubbed “LuckyCat,” it uses a Java exploit to infect a targeted machine, allowing a remote user to analyze and even steal data from the system.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple offering MobileMe users free Snow Leopard update to upgrade users to Lion

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Date: Thursday, April 19th, 2012, 07:20
Category: iCloud, News

Offer them what they want and you might get a few new customers.

Per Macgasm, Apple is apparently sweetening the deal for MobileMe subscribers who still haven’t made the move to Mac OS X 10.6/10.7 and iCloud. As the last elements of MobileMe terminate on June 30 this year, the company is offering one of the upgrades free for the taking.

“Get your Mac ready for iCloud,” the MobileMe web page reads. “To take advantage of the great features of iCloud, your Mac must have OS X Lion installed. If you are running OS X Leopard, you will need to install Snow Leopard first and then purchase Lion from the Mac App Store.”

To ease in this transition, Apple is giving away free DVDs of Snow Leopard (a US$29 value) to MobileMe subscribers who log into their accounts and fill out the form found here. “After you have installed Snow Leopard on your Mac, run Software Update from the Apple menu to get the latest version of Snow Leopard 10.6.8,” step one of then process explains.

From here, users can pay US$29.99 for Mac OS X Lion from the Mac App Store, move their MobileMe account to iCloud and be done with it.

It generally doesn’t hurt to upgrade, so you might want to look into it, especially if there’s a freebie on the table.