Apple licenses new durable metal alloy for use in products

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Date: Tuesday, August 10th, 2010, 04:50
Category: News

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Apple has entered into an exclusive agreement to utilize amorphous metal alloys with unique atomic structures, allowing products that are stronger, lighter, and resistant to wear and corrosion.

Per AppleInsider, the metal alloys, owned by Liquidmetal Technologies, were developed by a research team at the California Institute of Technology, and their amorphous, non-crystalline structure makes them harder than alloys of titanium or aluminum.

Introduced for commercial applications in 2003 through the Delaware-based Liquidmetal corporation, the product has been used to create technology for the U.S. Department of Defense, has been found in medical equipment, and is even used to create sporting goods like tennis raquets and golf clubs.



In a Form 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week, Liquidmetal Technologies indicated that it had granted all of its intellectual property assets to Apple. According to the terms of the deal, Apple was awarded “a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercial such intellectual property in the field of electronic products in exchange for a license fee.”

Though the licensing agreement grants Apple exclusive use in consumer electronics, Liquidmetal is still allowed to license its products to other companies for any use outside of markets where Apple competes, meaning its deals with defense contractors, sports equipment manufacturers and medical suppliers are likely to remain intact.

The agreement was made on August 5th, revealed to the SEC on Monday and was signed by Larry Buffington, president and CEO of Liquidmetal Technologies.

The company’s official website gives examples of where Liquidmetal’s products were used in portable electronics in the past. It touts that Liquidmetal alloys are 2.5 times the strength of commonly used titanium alloy and 1.5 times the hardness of stainless steel found in portable electronic devices. The technology is said to allow for thinner, smaller design while offering greater protection for internal components, and giving users a scratch and corrosion resistant exterior.

Past devices where Liquidmetal’s technology was utilized include the Nokia Vertu smartphone, Sandisk Sansa media player, and Sandisk U3 Smart thumb drives. The product was also used to create strong hinge components for devices like flip smartphones.

Apple’s interest in a company like Liquidmetal is no surprise, given its constant desire to create smaller and thinner devices. Apple has also employed a unibody design in its portable computers, beginning in early 2008 with the MacBook Air.

The precision unibody enclosures are milled from a single extruded block of aluminum, allowing devices like the MacBook Pro to become thinner while maintaining a rigid, sturdy frame. Previously, the frames of Apple’s notebooks were made from multiple parts. Now, raw aluminum is carved out using CNC, or “computer numerical control” machines.

Whatever becomes of this, you can’t say it won’t be interesting.

Apple ousts iPhone head Mark Papermaster, speculation flies as to who might be next

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Date: Monday, August 9th, 2010, 04:23
Category: iPhone, News

In November of 2008, Apple hired IBM’s Mark Papermaster to be Apple’s Senior Vice President of Devices Hardware Engineering, thereby replacing Tony Fadell as head of Apple’s iPod and iPhone divisions. A court deal later forced Papermaster to wait until April 2009 before starting at Apple.

Sixteen months later, Papermaster is out.

Per The Apple Core, speculation abounds that he’s the first casualty of the iPhone 4′s problematic antenna design, but neither Apple nor Papermaster have given a public reason for the departure, the current opinion having reasoned that he may have been asked to resign for the design flaw in Apple’s the iPhone 4.

Its suspect antenna design (dubbed “Antennagate”) has lead to rumors that its successor (the iPhone 5) is being to rushed to market and that it could come as soon as in January 2011, six months earlier than the traditional summer time frame for iPhone launches.

MacRumors chimed in with a rumor that Papermaster has been virtually invisible from Apple’s promotion of the iPhone 4, curious for the head of the department that designed it.

In retrospect, these current events should have cast a light during Apple’s iPhone 4 press conference last month. During the Q&A portion of the press conference, Papermaster, whose division designed the iPhone 4, didn’t seem to be in attendance at the event.

Even Apple’s promotional video for the iPhone 4 released at the device’s introduction in early June, which featured a number of Apple executives talking about the handset, failed to include Papermaster. Bob Mansfield is, however, featured with the job title of Senior Vice President of Hardware, dropping the “Mac” qualifier that had been part of his official job at that time. Per the New York Times, Mansfield was involved in the design of several aspects of the iPhone 4, including its A4 chip and Retina display.

Apple confirmed the shakeup at Apple’s most important devision in a statement to the New York Times stating that Papermaster is leaving the company. Apple noted that Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Macintosh hardware engineering, who recruited Papermaster in the first place, will be assuming his responsibilities.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst comments on supply chain, indicates that updated MacBook Air notebooks possible for September

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Date: Monday, August 9th, 2010, 03:28
Category: MacBook Air, News

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A pair of updated MacBook Air notebooks could be en route along with updated iPods this September as analyst Keith Bachman with BMO Capital Markets this week issued a note to investors in which he said Apple will finally update its MacBook Air line next month. Per AppleInsider, Bachman offered the following quote:

“We are not yet clear on all the specs, but supply chain checks suggest that unit shipments o the new Air products could far exceed the current Air, which we believe could suggest lower starting prices,” Bachman wrote. “We project 2.9 million total notebooks in the September quarter, which we believe is reasonable.”

Updates have been repeatedly rumored over the last year but never panned out. The hardware was last updated in June 2009, giving it a Core 2 Duo processor and Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics at a lower starting price of US$1,499.

Bachman also spoke of Apple’s anticipated update to its iPod line, though he did not specifically cite any industry insiders in his prediction for a redesigned, “much smaller” iPod nano.

“We believe that the Nano will be much smaller than past versions, and will not have a physical track wheel,” he said, adding that it’s possible that the iPod shuffle could be eliminated if the iPod nano is reduced in size.

Bachman also noted strong iPad and iPhone sales, and said checks in the supply chain indicate that the iPod touch has not been cannibalized by the iPad. BMO Capital Markets has maintained its “outperform” rating for AAPL stock, and has a price target of US$315.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China Unicom to bring Wi-Fi enabled iPhone 3GS to market come Monday

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Date: Friday, August 6th, 2010, 04:19
Category: iPhone, News

Following up on yesterday’s story about wireless carrier China Unicom selling Apple’s iPhone with Wi-Fi capabilities, Wen Baoqiu, a spokesman for China Unicom, has announced that starting Monday the Beijing-based telecom operator will offer an 8-gigabyte model of the iPhone 3GS with Wi-Fi capability. 16- and 32-gigabyte versions without Wi-Fi will continue to be available as well.

Per AppleInsider, prior to the initial launch of the iPhone in October 2009, China temporarily banned the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standard in an effort to promote its alternative WAPI standard. The ban was relaxed in May 2009, but not before manufacturing of the China-specific iPhone had already begun.

China Unicom’s iPhone launch sold just 5,000 handsets in its first 4 days, the lack of Wi-Fi being seen as a flaw. With this, the official iPhone struggled to gain momentum against a well-developed Chinese ‘gray market,’ which offered full-featured imported iPhones. Sales of the China Unicom iPhone eventually picked up, reaching 100,000 units in December.

In July, Chinese regulators posted an approval notice of a Wi-Fi iPhone, although the approval appeared to be for the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS, not the iPhone 4. Chinese consumers seeking to obtain an iPhone 4 will have to look to Hong Kong, where it was released on July 30th, while they wait for a mainland release date.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked photo illustrations suggest camera, flash on next-gen iPod touch

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Date: Thursday, August 5th, 2010, 05:14
Category: iPod Touch, Pictures, Rumor

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A series of leaked photo illustrations supposedly obtained from iPod case manufacturers show a new version of the iPod touch with a camera and flash.

Per a leaked image on HardMac, the English language version of France’s Macbidouille, the next generation iPod touch in shown in a clear case. The website claims the source of the image is “very reliable.” The image appears to show a rounded back with a rear-facing camera and flash.

A rounded back would be a clear departure from the design of the iPhone 4, which has a flat glass back.



According to the web site, the source has been reliable in the past, correctly confirming the inclusion of a camera on last year’s iPod nano. Technical issues have been cited as the reason for the lack of a camera on last year’s iPod touch model.

Although rumors of a camera-enabled iPod touch have persisted for several years, the June unveiling of Apple’s FaceTime video call feature for the iPhone 4 served to strengthen the rumors. At that time, CEO Steve Jobs expressed plans to make the feature an “open industry standard” that works between different devices. When speculating which devices are likely to adopt the FaceTime standard, many analysts have kept the iPod touch at the top of their lists.

Reports from “supplier” sources corroborate the iPod touch camera rumor, although the details don’t always match. In July, U.K. retailer John Lewis claimed the next iPod touch will have a 5 megapixel camera, while the Taiwanese publication Digitimes cited sources predicting a 3 megapixel camera.

Either way, this will probably be resolved upon the new iPod touch’s release, which is expected to occur sometime in September.

Apple promises fix for web-based jailbreak flaw in iOS-based devices, declines on specific date

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Date: Thursday, August 5th, 2010, 05:28
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

The tug-of-war between Apple and the iPhone hacker community continues as Apple has vowed to fix a flaw that allows its iOS-based device to be jailbroken via the Safari web browser.

Per CNET an Apple spokesperson said, “We’re aware of this reported issue, we have already developed a fix and it will be available to customers in an upcoming software update.”

Apple declined to say when the update would be available.

If you’ve jailbroken your iOS-based device recently and have any feedback about the experience, let us know what happened and how it went.

China Unicom to begin selling Wi-Fi-enabled iPhones by end of August

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Date: Thursday, August 5th, 2010, 05:22
Category: iPhone, News

Wait long enough and the good stuff gets sorted out.

Per Macworld UK, Chinese law is set to change, allowing wireless carrier China Unicom to sell iPhones with Wi-Fi capabilities later this month.

A spokesman with the iPhone carrier China Unicom said the company will start offering the 8GB iPhone 3GS with Wi-Fi support possibly by the end of the week, offering no further details beyond this. The Chinese media, however, has reported that the handset will be released on August 9th and that the device will cost 4999 renminbi (US$736) under a 24-month contract plan that includes the product.

Apple was originally forced to drop Wi-Fi support from its iPhones when the device was introduced to the mainland market. At the time Chinese regulators required all handsets to use the domestically developed wireless LAN security protocol known as WAPI (WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure).

But last month, regulators issued a license for an Apple iPhone with Wi-Fi support using the WAPI security protocol. Apple would not comment on China Unicom’s release of the iPhone, said company spokeswoman Carolyn Wu.

As for the possibility of the iPhone 4 being sold in China in the near future, China Unicom said it has no news regarding the matter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.3, adds support for new camera formats

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Date: Wednesday, August 4th, 2010, 06:21
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple posted its Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.2, an update designed to extend RAW image compatibility for the Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’09 applications.

The update, a 5.68 megabyte download, includes support for the following cameras:

- Canon PowerShot SX1 IS

- Olympus E-PL1

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2

- Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10

- Samsung NX10

- Sony Alpha DSLR-A390

- Sony Alpha NEX-3

- Sony Alpha NEX-5

The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and is also available via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new Digital Camera update and noticed any changes, please let us know how it went.

iOS 4.1 beta 3 rules out Game Center app for iPhone 3G, second-gen iPod touch devices

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Date: Wednesday, August 4th, 2010, 05:17
Category: News, Software

The good news: The third beta of iOS 4.1 is out and progress is being made towards the final version.

The bad news: Neither the iPhone 3G or second-generation iPod touch devices will be compatible with Apple’s Game Center application upon its release.

Per AppleInsider, sources close to the story stated that a pre-release build seeded to developers on Tuesday, has dropped support for Game Center for older handset models. In previous builds, the iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod touch were capable of running Game Center.

Those familiar with the latest build said Apple’s release notes did not indicate whether this was a permanent change, or a temporary one just for this beta. It simply stated that Game Center is “no longer supported” on the older hardware.

The loss of support was reportedly one of a number of changes made to the GameKit API found in iOS 4.1. In addition to a number of bug fixes, the latest update is also said to have added support for the achievements API, which will allow gamers to receive virtual awards for completing tasks in games.

Game Center has been touted by Apple as a major new feature of iOS 4, aiming to provide a centralized experience for gamers on the iPhone and iPod touch. Similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Live, the social gaming network will allow gamers to see what their friends are playing, challenge them to an online match, or compare scores in specific titles.

In addition, the GameKit application programming interface allows developers to integrate their titles into the Game Center social network. The service will be opt-in for developers, who will not be forced to make their software a part of Game Center. But Apple officials believe it will be beneficial for application makers to integrate their games, because the service will allow a greater experience for users.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recently unearthed iPad configuration policies provide additional evidence to forthcoming camera

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Date: Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010, 06:43
Category: iPad, News

You’re hankering for a camera on the iPad and it may be forthcoming.

Per AppleInsider, iPad management profile policies available to corporate users include the capability to disable use of its camera, providing evidence of future intent to include a camera on upcoming models.

Apple’s configuration profile tools for iOS devices include a variety of settings and restrictions that companies can impose to regulate how the devices are used and to configure services such as VPN and wireless networking access or email, calendar and directory services.

These policies can also force strong passwords and set security features such as the number of times a password attempt can fail before the device wipes its data. Similar to parental controls, the policy settings can also be used to block access to features such as the iTunes Store, Safari, YouTube, or the use of its camera.

While iPhones do have cameras to disable, the current iPad lacks this. However, among the profiles specifically included in its iPad documentation, Apple notes the ability to restrict camera use on the iPad.

Prior to launch, it was widely rumored that the iPad might include a camera. When it shipped, Apple only provided the ability to connect to external cameras through its Dock connector, either via USB or using an SD Card reader adapter.

API support for camera, flash, and zoom functions were discovered in developer builds of the iPad-only iOS 3.2 in February.

While those APIs may have been added as part of software development work performed to support iPhone 4, Apple also posted job listings for a “Performance QA Engineer, iPad Media” which stated, “Build on your QA experience and knowledge of digital camera technology (still and video) to develop and maintain testing frameworks for both capture and playback pipelines.”

Taken together, it appears likely that future versions of iPad will incorporate a camera, most likely a front-facing unit intended to support FaceTime. That video conferencing feature is currently limited to iPhone 4, but Apple plans to make it a widespread standard among mobile devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.