Apple releases iTunes 10.2 update

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Date: Thursday, March 3rd, 2011, 04:38
Category: News, Software

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Late Tuesday, Apple released iTunes 10.2, the latest version of its multimedia/jukebox application for Mac OS X. The new version, a 75.6 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Sync with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 4.3.

- Improved Home Sharing. Browse and play from your iTunes libraries with Home Sharing on any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 4.3

iTunes 10.2 is available via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Patent granted for scratch-proof nitride coating on Apple devices

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011, 08:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, News

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The good news: Your Apple device might get a bit tougher.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has been granted ownership of an invention related to scratch-proof coatings on stainless steel devices, using a nitride layer to potentially make iPhones, iPads and Macs more durable.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week granted ownership of the invention “Nitriding Stainless Steel for Consumer Electronic Products” to Apple. Known as U.S. Patent No. 7896981, it describes a cost-effective system that uses a nitride coating to prevent scratches and blemishes on the metal surface of a mobile device.

Adding a layer of nitride atop a stainless steel exterior would protect a device from damage. But the choice of material would maintain the look and feel of stainless steel, as nitride allows the color of the metal to show through.

Nitride is not to be confused with titanium nitride, a ceramic material that is also used as a coating on metal. Unlike nitride, which is clear, titanium nitride has a metallic gold color that conceals the look of the metal beneath it.

Apple’s invention notes that stainless steel, while scratch-prone, is an ideal material to craft electronic devices. Stainless steel is preferable because it is not magnetic, and it is less likely to inhibit wireless technology like a cell phone signal, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

The addition of nitride could give Apple the best of both worlds: the advantages of stainless steel would remain, while a nitride coating would address the chief concern of durability.

The invention also includes specifics on how the nitride coating would be applied to a device. It describes using a salt bath nitride process to coat stainless steel with an initial layer at least 15 to 30 microns thick and with a Vickers Hardness value of at least 1,000. Another method would use a nitrogen salt bath with an average temperature of no more than 580 degrees Celsius.

After the stainless steel sits in a superheated salt bath for between 45 and 90 minutes, the material would be removed and the nitride layer would be polished to remove no more than 10 percent, resulting in a smooth exterior.

Apple first filed for the invention in April of 2010. The invention is credited to Douglas Weber.

Random House may soon bring catalog to iBookstore

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Date: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011, 05:16
Category: iPad, News

If you can get the big fish, the others will follow.

Per AppleInsider, Random House, the world’s largest book publisher and most high profile holdout from Apple’s eBook digital download, could soon bring its catalog of top selling novels to the electronics maker’s iOS ecosystem.

In a brief statement to the media Monday, Random House said that it has agreed to “the agency model for e‐book sales” in the U.S. effective Tuesday. That means that going forward, “Random House will set consumer prices for the e‐ books we publish, and […] will provide retailers with a commission for each sale,” the publisher said.

The concession could bring to an end a near year-long standoff between Random House and Apple’s iTunes-based iBookstore, which operates on the so called ‘agency model’ that allows the company serving the content to take a cut of sales. For its iBookstore, Apple employs the same 70-30 split that has seen renowned success on its App Store for software on the iPhone and iPod touch.

“The agency model guarantees a higher margin for retailers than did our previous sales terms,” Random House said. “We are making this change both as an investment in the successful digital transition of our existing partners and in order to give us the opportunity to forge new retail relationships.”

The statement appears to imply that the publisher could be on the verge of announcing plans to bring its catalog to Apple’s iOS devices though the iPhone and iPad maker’s iBookstore. Currently, iOS device users can only purchase and download from Random House’s digital catalog through Amazon’s Kindle app for those devices.

In the lead up to the launch of Apple’s iPad last April, Random House executives were said to be exploring the adoption of the agency model with their authors and agents before agreeing to Apple’s terms, which dictate that Apple receives a 30% cut of all sales on the iBookstore. At the time, chief executive Markus Dohle said his company hadn’t ruled out reaching a deal before the April 3rd, 2010 launch of the tablet device, but added that he was proceeding with caution.

Under the traditional business model, resellers have bought books from publishers at discount prices and then marked them up to make a profit through sales. But Apple’s agency approach has the publishers set the prices paid by consumers — something Random House executives were concerned could lead to considerably lower prices, and thus lower profits.

Word that Random House could join on the iBookstore five of its biggest competitors — HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan and Simon & Shuster — comes just two days before Apple is expected to take the wraps off its second-generation iPad in San Francisco, a device that is rapidly altering the landscape of the publishing industry.

Cool stuff if it happens and stay tuned for additional details as we get them.

Analyst: Apple may be looking into offering lower-priced/prepaid iPhone option

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Date: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011, 05:33
Category: iPhone, News

A series of comments from Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook indicate that Apple doesn’t want its products to be “just for the rich” have fueled speculation that the company is interested in offering a cheaper iPhone.

According to Forbes, Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi met last week with Cook, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer, and Vice President of Online Services Eddy Cue. The analyst came away with the impression that Apple is “likely to develop lower priced offerings” in its handset business.

Cook also reportedly said that Apple is planning “clever things” to compete in the prepaid handset market. He also said that Apple is “not ceding any market,” and the company doesn’t want its products to be “just for the rich.”

Cook’s comments, and the analyst’s interpretations, come soon after two prominent publications claimed that Apple is working on a new, smaller, US$200 contract-free iPhone that it could sell directly to customers and bypass wireless carrier contracts. Both Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal said that Apple’s alleged plans were in an effort to compete with Google’s growing Android mobile platform.

Going against the tide, The New York Times rebuffed those two reports only days later, and said that Apple is not developing a smaller handset. However, it was reported by the Times that Apple has explored opportunities to create a less expensive iPhone.

In his meeting with Sacconaghi, cook reportedly referred to the iPhone as “the mother of all halos,” as the handset has expanded sales of Apple’s other devices, particularly in emerging markets. Apple has long referred to sales of the iPod — and later iPhone — as having a “halo effect” that drives sales of Macs.

And one emerging market where Apple has found great success in a short period of time is China. Cook reportedly acknowledged that Apple has spent “huge energy” in China, and also noted that it is a “classic prepaid market,” which would be an ideal candidate for a cheaper iPhone.

The company is also said to be looking to expand its carrier partnerships. Oppenheimer said that Apple has 175 carrier partners, while rival Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry, partners with 550 carriers.

Cook also said he believes the tablet market will eventually be bigger than the PC market, and that competition for tablets will be even more intense than with smartphones. He also hinted that the company has interesting new things in its product pipeline.

Finally, Oppenheimer also said that Apple’s current capital structure is not efficient. He said the company is likely to use its cash to secure supplies of key components, much like the recent secret US$3.9 billion deal Apple recently revealed it made with component suppliers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple begins shipping build-to-order MacBook Pro orders, cites March 3rd delivery date

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Date: Monday, February 28th, 2011, 07:34
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Apple’s first build-to-order units for its 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks began shipping, the company promising delivery by next Thursday.

Per AppleInsider, Apple began dispatching these shipments from its Far Eastern manufacturing facilities to Fed-Ex’s Shanghai, China-based shipping hub where they’ll be mailed via air fright this weekend to the courier’s stateside hubs for delivery to customers early next week.

Apple is currently promising delivery by Thursday the 3rd through its own order status system, while FedEx is a bit more ambitious, promising delivery by 10:30 am local time on Wednesday the 2nd for this particular order.

It should be noted that the custom configured MacBook Pro shown in the order below was shipped via Apple’s US$18 2-3 day shipping method, as opposed to its standard free shipping method. This particular notebook was upgraded with a 256GB SSD drive and 8GB of memory.

Meanwhile, several of Apple’s larger authorized resellers are already reflecting stock of the company’s five standard retail configurations for the MacBook Pro. And a handful are offering considerable early discounts of up to US$150 on the new models.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent support note indicates that 2011 MacBook Air, Pro units will only support Windows 7 under Boot Camp

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Date: Monday, February 28th, 2011, 06:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Per a recent Apple support note released Friday, the company’s new MacBook Pro models and the recently refreshed MacBook Air won’t support Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Note: Windows XP and Vista drivers are not supplied for these computers and are not supported.

According to the Apple Core, the note states that Book Camp will support 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate. If you’re running Window XP or Vista on an older Mac and are moving up to one the new notebooks, then you will have to put a Windows upgrade into your budget.

Window 7 running on Boot Camp requires:

-An optical drive (MacBook Air computers require an external optical disc drive to install Windows 7).

-A blank CD or USB storage device to contain the Windows Drivers created by the Boot Camp Assistant.

-For 32-bit versions of Windows, at least 16 GB of free space.

-For 64-bit versions of Windows, at least 20 GB of free space.

-Boot Camp Assistant, which is pre-installed in /Applications/Utilities/

-An authentic, 32-bit or 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate disc.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you have a new early 2011 MacBook Pro notebook and have had any experience with Boot Camp, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: iPad 2 to lack Retina Display, SD card slot

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Date: Friday, February 25th, 2011, 06:18
Category: iPad, Rumor

Although Apple is likely to show off a new iPad in San Francisco on March 2nd, the unit will reportedly arrive without a Retina Display or built-in SD card slot, contrary to previous reports that both would be included.

Per Engadget, sources have stated that “engineering issues” led Apple to make last-minute design changes on the device. That’s a change from what the site reported in January.

“It’s worth noting once again that these sources have been dead right on specific Apple plans and specifications for unannounced products in the past, and we have no reason to believe these changes are due to anything more than legitimate engineering decisions made close to launch,” editor Joshua Topolsky wrote.

The report claims that Apple will introduce a thinner iPad next week, with a screen size and resolution identical to the first-generation device. The new model will reportedly include 512MB of RAM, doubling last year’s model and matching the iPhone 4, inside of a new, faster A5 processor.

The new iPad is also widely expected to include at least one forward facing camera camera for FaceTime video chat. Some third-party cases have also shown that the iPad 2 could have a rear-facing camera as well.

Topolsky also predicted that Apple will show off a preview of iOS 5 next week and issue a software development kit for developers. And he believes the company could possibly show off an expansion of its plans to expand services in the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iFixit performs full teardown of early 2011 MacBook Pro, finds interesting new components

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Date: Friday, February 25th, 2011, 05:52
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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It’s been all of a day since the release of Apple’s new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro noteboooks, but already the cool cats at iFixit have performed a full teardown of the new models.

Per the report, the guys found that the controller for Thunderbolt is the fourth largest chip on the logic board, after the CPU, GPU and logic board controller.

“We believe the chip’s footprint is a testament to the potential of this port,” they said.

iFixit ranked the new 2011 MacBook Pro a 7 out of 10 on its reparability scale. It noted that the new version allows for the battery to be disconnected without removing it from the laptop.

The addition of a “spudger” makes disconnecting the battery easier.

“It’s a nice design choice since you *should* remove all power before performing any repairs,” they said. “The unibody design also allows for easy access to most of the other components, so it won’t be terribly hard to replace things on the machine. The only tricky repair is LCD replacement, which could easily result in shattering the front glass panel.”

Other noteworthy details from the teardown:
- You can chain up to six Thunderbolt devices. In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices.

- The lower case is secured by Phillips #00 screws, while the battery is secured by Tri-Wing screws, just like the predecessor. There were no Pentalobe screws inside or outside.

- The new MacBook Pro has the same 77.5 watt-hour battery as the earlier model, but Apple has decreased their run-time estimate from 8-9 hours to 7 hours, likely due to more stringent testing.

- The Thunderbolt controller is the fourth-largest chip in the new MacBook Pro.

- iFixit said they’re concerned about Apple’s quality control, as they found a stripped screw holding the subwoofer enclosure in place, and an unlocked ZIF socket connecting the IR sensor.

- RAM has been upgraded to PC3-10600. That’s the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5″ and 27″ iMacs, but faster than earlier MacBook Pros.

- The wireless card received a make-over and now includes four antennas instead of three. Wireless connectivity is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331 “wireless solution.”

- The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic found in earlier MacBook Pro revisions. The change was likely made for thermal reasons, as a pink thermal pad is visible and used to transfer heat from the Broadcom chip to the aluminum bracket.

The logic board features four primary chips:
- Intel i7 Quad-Core Processor
- AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU
- Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub
- Intel L051NB32 EFL (which seems to be the Thunderbolt port controller)

The teardown uncovered a great deal of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU when the main heat sink was removed. The excess paste may cause overheating issues down the road, iFixit said.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is still designated Model A1286. Apple has been using that same model number since October 2008.

Apple releases updated MacBook Pro line, includes Sandy Bridge, Light Peak/”Thunderbolt”, FaceTime HD technologies

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Date: Thursday, February 24th, 2011, 09:08
Category: MacBook Pro, News

Sometimes the rumor mill can be pretty accurate.

On Thursday, Apple released a new refresh of the MacBook Pro notebook, adding new dual-core and quad-core (a first for Apple’s notebooks) Intel processors, 3x faster graphics in the 15- and 17-inch models, ultrafast Thunderbolt (i.e., Light Peak) I/O and a FaceTime HD camera.

Per Mac|Life, the line includes the upgrade to Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge processors, including quad-core on certain 15- and 17-inch models that use the 2.2GHz Quad Core 2720QM and 2.0GHz Quad Core 2630QM CPUs. These processors also include Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0 technology, so even apps that don’t take advantage of four cores will still see a boost in speed.

Intel’s Light Peak has been included in the new lineup under the new new “Thunderbolt” monicker and using the Mini DisplayPort port. The port technology is anticipated to negate the need for USB 3.0 on computers that implement it, capable of 10 gigabits per second I/O, which is double the throughput of the current USB 3.0 spec.

Graphics performance also gets a boost with the new models, with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor now standard on all MacBook Pro models, which powers the new FaceTime HD camera capable of up to 720p video, as well as extending playback time for DVDs and iTunes movies. The 15- and 17-inch models get an extra boost by including high-performance AMD Radeon graphics processors for up to three times the performance of previous models:

-17″ 1920×1200 Display. 2.2Ghz Quad i7. 4GB RAM. 750GB HD. AMD 6750M 1GB. US$2,499

-15″ 1440×900 (1680 option) Display. 2.2GHz Quad i7. 750GB HD. AMD 6750M 1GB. US$2,199.

-15″ 1440×900 (1680 option) Display. 2.0GHz Quad i7. 4GB RAM. 500GB HD. AMD 6490M
256MB. US$1,799

-13″ 1280×800 Display. 2.7GHz Dual i5. 4GB RAM. 500GB HD. Intel HD Graphics. US$1,499

-13″ 1280×800 Display. 2.3GHz Dual i5. 4GB RAM. 320GB HD. Intel HD Graphics. US$1,199

As always, here’s the Apple Store link and let us know what you think in the comments.

Leaked photo surfaces of purported 15″ next-gen MacBook Pro specs

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Date: Thursday, February 24th, 2011, 04:12
Category: MacBook Pro, Pictures, Rumor

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In the final days before the anticipated launch of the refreshed MacBook Pro notebooks, the rumors are streaming in while a new leaked photo offers some interesting possibilities.

Per French Apple site Mac4Ever, a photo has surfaced of what appears to be a 15-inch MacBook Pro box. The site also claimed to have obtained several pictures of the 13-inch earlier on Wednesday. Though the report asserts that the photo is “genuine” with “confirmation,” no sources can currently make any claims as to the authenticity.

The site was unable to verify exactly which model the box was for, but asserts that it is “without doubt the entry or mid-range,” because the 3D card has just 256MB of RAM.

According to the photo, Apple’s next-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro has:
- An Intel Core 2.0 GHz i7 quad-core processor with a 6MB cache

- 4GB of RAM at 1333 MHz

- 500GB hard drive

- 15.4-inch screen with 1440×900 resolution

- Intel HD Graphics 3000

- AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU with 256MB of memory

- FaceTime HD camera

- 8x SuperDrive

- Thunderbolt and Mini DisplayPort

- SDXC slot, FireWire 800 port and two USB 2.0 ports

- Audio and Ethernet ports

- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

- 2.54 kg in weight

Mac4Ever has a mixed track record with predicting Apple products. In July of last year, the site incorrectly claimed that Apple would release a 64-bit version of iLife ’11 with a ‘mystery application.’ In September, the site correctly predicted that Apple was working on a FaceTime for Mac application, though a rumored FaceTime for Windows has yet to materialize.

The fact that the Apple Store went down early Thursday could provide further evidence that Apple plans to release a new product today.