Analyst: Apple expected to grow store-within-a-store concept in Walmart, Target locations

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Date: Thursday, May 3rd, 2012, 05:15
Category: News, retail

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It never hurts to have your products on the shelves.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s retail presence is expected to grow within the U.S. over the next two years with store-within-a-store retail outlets set to expand at Target and Walmart.

Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray noted that while Apple currently has just 250 retail locations in the U.S., the company has the potential to reach many new customers by expanding its micro-store concept.

Currently, Walmart has over 3,800 locations in the U.S., and Target has 1,700 stores. Munster expects Walmart to be a significant partner for Apple in expanding the company’s presence, as Walmart has better rural distribution.

Apple is currently testing its store-within-a-store concept at two Target locations, and 23 more stores will be added before the end of the year.

In addition to Target, there is also one Apple store-within-a-store being tested at one Walmart in Lowell, Arkansas. That Walmart features a dedicated space that is distinctly separate from the rest of the big-box retailer’s other departments.

Munster visited one of Apple’s two Target micro-stores, and found it similar to Apple’s existing Best Buy locations, which are present in about 40 percent of Best Buy’s U.S. stores. However, unlike Best Buy, Target does not sell any of Apple’s Mac lineup.

“We believe the Target/Apple relationship will not expand to the full Mac lineup given Target does not sell a significant line of PCs,” Munster wrote in a note to investors on Thursday.

From his visit to Target’s micro-store, Munster found that product inventory was unsurprisingly far less than Apple would carry at its own retail stores. However, he did find that Target carried most of the company’s product lineup, with the exception of Mac hardware and software.

“The Apple micro-store was staffed by a Target employee who claimed to have received two hours of training from Apple,” he said. “Overall, the layout of the Target micro-store was more inviting compared to other Best Buy Apple micro-stores we have visited, in our opinion.”

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was asked about his company’s store-within-a-store initiative and its relationship with Walmart during Apple’s quarterly earnings conference call last week. Cook didn’t offer much in the way of details, but explained that Apple is “trying some things.” He said he didn’t expect Apple to be present in 10,000 Walmarts.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-gen iPad shipping times drop to 3 to 5 business days

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Date: Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012, 09:40
Category: iPad, News

It never hurts to meet demand for your product.

Per AppleInsider, estimated shipping times for the third-generation iPad have been lowered to 3 to 5 business days over in Apple’s online store.

New orders of the third-generation iPad in both black and white, in all capacities, and also in the “Wi-Fi + 4G” models are now advertised to ship in less than a week in the U.S. It’s the second time in less than a month that estimated shipping times have improved for the new iPad.

Just weeks ago, shipping times shortened to 5 to 7 days, an improvement from the previous advertised shipments of one to two weeks.

Apple revealed last week that it sold 11.8 million iPads in the March quarter, a three-months pan during which the new iPad was only available for a few weeks. During his company’s quarterly earnings conference call, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook revealed that the company faced supply constraints with the new iPad.

“The new iPad was supply constrained last quarter for the first three or so weeks that it was shipping, and it is still constrained,” Cook said. He added that he expected the company would be able to supply “a significant number of iPads” in the current June quarter.

Limited availability of the new iPad is believed to be largely caused by constraints related to the new high-resolution Retina display. The screen, the defining feature of the third-generation iPad, has primarily been built by Samsung, while LG and Sharp were said to have had trouble building Retina displays initially.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases fourth Mac OS X 10.7.4 build to developer community

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Date: Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012, 07:32
Category: News, Software

This might not be a bad sign.

Per AppleInsider, Apple seeded the latest 11E53 builds of OS X Lion and Lion Server with no known issues on Tuesday.

The update comes one week after Apple seeded build 11E52 which itself rolled out less than two weeks after build 11E46. Because of the shrinking time between dev updates, it is thought that a final version may be pushed out to the public in the near future.

Developers have been asked to concentrate on graphics, iCal, Mail, printing and Time Machine for OS X Lion, while Calendar & Contacts Server, Profile Manager, Server App, Web Server, WebDAV Sharing and ServerAdmin DNS are focuses of the Lion Server seed.

Registered Mac developers can access the update from Apple’s Developer Center website.

The 11E53 Delta updates for OS X Lion and Lion Server weigh in at 716.91MB and 202.59MB, respectively, while the Combo updates come in at 1.43GB and 1.51GB, respectively.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent patent hints at possible near-field communication feature in upcoming iPhone handset

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Date: Monday, April 30th, 2012, 06:34
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

It’s the patents that provide the really interesting hints as to what’s to come in a product line.

According to Patently Apple, a new patent suggests that the company will be introducing a near-field communication (NFC) chip into its next-generation iPhone, which will enable users to quickly send iTunes gifts to one another.

The story reports that the ‘Gifting’ feature will allow users to share iTunes files including Playlists, though at a cost. Users could buy, send and receive files from iTunes between multiple iPhones, iPads and iPod touches.

A user could select one or more media files to share with another device, and authorize a gift charge. The gift can then be shared with a second device within close range using the NFC chip’s connection.

Gifts may also be sent via email, for those who are not in close proximity of the device they wish to send files to. This will involve sending en electronic gift certificate that can be redeemed by the recipient. These gift certificates will be capable of sharing multiple files in a single transaction.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple in negotiations with EPIX over possible Apple TV content

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Date: Monday, April 30th, 2012, 06:30
Category: Rumor

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If there’s nothing worth watching, then a new HDTV isn’t going to make much sense in the long run.

According to Reuters, sources claim that Apple initiated talks earlier in 2012 to incorporate movie properties owned by movie streaming service EPIX in its Apple TV, with the content possibly in line to be used by the company’s rumored HDTV.

Two unnamed sources have stated that EPIX, a three-year-old movie streaming service created by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, MGM and Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, would offer streaming of much-needed premium Hollywood content to Apple’s set-top box.

One of the sources also said that the agreement would include future Apple television products as well, hinting that the computer giant is indeed planning to release a internet-connected HDTV.

Rumors about the device have been swirling for over a year, though the whispers have so far been here-say and no concrete evidence has been discovered. A recent report claims that the product will be called the “iPanel” and will launch sometime in 2012.

The deal is still in the negotiations phase and an agreement is not expected any time soon. Besides its own streaming site, EPIX is currently beholden to an exclusive US$200 million a year deal with Netflix that ends in September.

Currently on EPIX’s roster of films are “Rango” and “The Lincoln Lawyer,” and Netflix announced that the service will add “Thor” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” soon.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.