Updated JavaScript interpreter to help boost WebKit’s performance by 2, 2.5x

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Date: Friday, March 2nd, 2012, 08:22
Category: iOS, News, Software

You can’t argue that WebKit’s been good for Apple and iOS in general.

Apple’s WebKit JavaScriptCore is now a “triple tier virtual machine,” offering the potential for 2-2.5 times faster JavaScript performance in Safari.

Per webkit.org, recent changes in Apple’s WebKit open source project (used by Safari on OS X and iOS, and to power a wide variety of other browsers) include the incorporation of the efficient new LLInt (Low Level Interpreter), which is now used by JavaScriptCore (JSC) to attempt executing code before passing it to the standard interpreters, either the bytecode virtual machine or the JIT (Just In Time complier) which builds native machine code on the fly.

“JSC will now will start by executing code in LLInt and will only tier up to the old JIT after the code is proven hot,” a change report on the new interpreter describes.

“LLInt is written in a modified form of our macro assembly. This new macro assembly is compiled by an offline assembler (see offlineasm), which implements many modern conveniences such as a Turing-complete CPS-based macro language and direct access to relevant C++ type information (basically offsets of fields and sizes of structs/classes).”

The new interpreter “is 2-2.5x faster than our old interpreter on SunSpider, V8, and Kraken [benchmarks],” the report states. “With triple-tiering turned on [to allow the LLInt to interpret code], we’re neutral on SunSpider, V8, and Kraken, but appear to get a double-digit improvement on real-world websites due to a huge reduction in the amount of JIT’ing.”

JavaScript performance in web browsers is a primary focus for optimization, as the faster and more efficiently code can be executed, the more fluid animations can run and the more sophisticated and responsive cross platform web applications can be.

The LLInt enhancements to JavaScriptCore appear to have been contributed by Filip Pizlo, who joined WebKit as a reviewer in December after acting as a “major contributor” to improvements to the JavaScriptCore JIT and Garbage Collector. Pizlo filed a bug report in January noting that “JSC should be a triple-tier VM,” and subsequently solved the issue by the end of February.

The new changes to JavaScriptCore will take some time to make it into the mainstream version of Safari, following similar WebKit enhancements of previous years. Enhancements in Apple’s next release of Safari 5.2 have been profiled in reports describing its new user interface and sharing enhancements and new privacy settings and website alert features.

In 2008, WebKit announced a rewriting of JavaScriptCore as a direct-dispatch register based, high-level bytecode virtual machine originally named SquirrelFish. It compiled JavaScript into native machine code. The project was later enhanced to gain the codename SquirrelFish Extreme.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may include Intel Sandy Bridge processors in near-term Mac Pro update

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Date: Friday, March 2nd, 2012, 07:27
Category: Mac Pro, Processors, Rumor

Even if you’re hankering for a new iPad 3 or an updated MacBook Air, there’s always your Mac Pro tower to keep in mind.

Per The Inquirer, Intel’s new Sandy Bridge update for its Xeon line of high end CPUs is due next week, suggesting the potential for Apple to refresh the Mac Pro, which hasn’t changed since the middle of 2010.

The new Xeon E5 chips incorporate the Sandy Bridge micro architecture that first appeared in MacBook Pros and iMacs early last year, followed by a mobile variant used by Apple in the MacBook Air last summer.

Apple’s latest Mac Pro models currently use Intel Xeon Bloomfield or Gulftown processors based on the Nehalem and closely related Westmere microarchitectures.

The latest release of OS X 10.7.3 Lion included support for AMD’s high end Tahiti graphic cards, which are expected to arrive in the market around the same time as Intel’s new Xeon chips.

However, sources famliar with the matter have said that Apple’s management, as far back as last May, were in limbo over whether to put any additional resources toward the Mac Pro product line.

Internal discussions at Apple were said to focus on the fact that sales of the high-end Mac Pro workstations have dropped off so considerably that the desktop machines are no longer particularly profitable for the company.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases App Store 2.1 update for iOS, includes carrier selection and account management features

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Date: Thursday, March 1st, 2012, 08:12
Category: News, Software

It’s not the most amazing update to ever hit the Internet, but it helps.

Per AppleInsider, Apple released version 2.1 of its Apple Store iOS app on Wednesday, bringing with it a number of new features including iPhone carrier selection for new customers as well as a feature that allows users to change account preferences.

While Apple Store version 2.1 leaves the general user interface of Apple’s virtual storefront mainly intact, the notable updates implemented behind the scenes coincide with the app’s introduction to users in the Netherlands.

Other changes and fixes include:
– Choose iPhone plans from all three U.S. carriers — AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint (U.S. Only).

– Make your shopping experience even more convenient with new account management editing and billing options.

– Choosing an iPhone plan is limited to U.S. customers who are purchasing a new handset. With the update, iPhone buyers can now select the capacity, color and carrier without leaving the Apple Store app.

– Account managements allows customers to change billing information and shipping addresses in-app, whereas users previously had to navigate to Apple’s website in order to change these settings. The changes will update accounts associated with a current Apple ID, which will in turn be reflected across any services that use the login data.

– iOS device users in the Netherlands will also be granted access to the app as the final preparations are being made for the grand opening of Amsterdam’s first Apple Store.

The Apple Store 2.1 application weighs in at 7.9 MB and requires iOS 4.3 or higher.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know what you think in the comments.

Rumor: Apple may be considering 14-inch MacBook Pro form factor for Asian marketplace

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Date: Wednesday, February 29th, 2012, 12:47
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The rumors may not always be right, but they keep things interesting.

Per DigiTimes, Apple may be weighing the prospect of a new 14-inch MacBook Air model designed specifically to cater to the Asian PC market.

Currently, the MacBook Air is only available in screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches. There have been rumors that Apple is planning to launch a new 15-inch model of the MacBook Air at some point this year, expanding its ultraportable lineup to a larger screen size.

But while Western countries prefer the 15-inch screen size, in the Asia market, 14-inch notebooks account for as much as 40 percent of sales. It’s because of the market’s “fondness for 14-inch models” that Apple is said to be considering a screen size specifically for that region.

“The sources analyzed that Apple is currently turning its targets from North American and Europe to Asia, and is eyeing the China market as its major market since the company still has strong potential in the country,” the report reads. “The consideration of a 14-inch MacBook Air would be an indication the company will become even more aggressive about the China market.”

With Apple expected to dramatically redesign its high-end MacBook Pro lineup this year, there has been some question as to whether a new thin-and-light 15-inch notebook would be an “Air” or a “Pro” notebook. Earlier this month, AppleInsider quoted a person familiar with Apple’s new MacBook Pro designs who indicated: “They’re all going to look like MacBook Airs.”

Apple’s next generation of notebooks are expected to be powered by Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors. This week, an official from the chipmaker stated that the CPUs have been delayed, and will go on sale eight to 10 weeks later than originally planned, likely in June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Thinner, 13 and 15-inch next-gen MacBook Pro units could arrive as early as April

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Date: Wednesday, February 29th, 2012, 08:02
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The new stuff’s en route, you’ll just have to be a bit patient.

New 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros with a thinner and lighter design are expected to launch in April “at the soonest,” with an initial shipment of just under a million units.

Per DigiTimes, sources in Apple’s upstream supply chain have indicated indicated that the company will launch upgraded MacBook Pros as early as April, with about 900,000 units expected to be shipped at launch. A redesigned version of the 17-inch MacBook Pro is apparently not expected at launch, as it was not mentioned in Wednesday’s report.

The rumor is consistent with stories published earlier this month, revealing that Apple will launch a larger 17-inch model later than the 15-inch model the company is said to be prioritizing. Apple employed the same approach when it redesigned its MacBook Pro lineup in 2008, as the lower-volume 17-inch model became available a few months later.

Apple’s upgraded MacBook Pro lineup along with new MacBook Airs and the forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Mac operating system upgrade are expected in the industry to pose a “significant threat” to notebooks designed to Intel’s thin-and-light Ultrabook specification.

“Since Intel is delaying the mass supply of its Ivy Bridge CPUs from April to June, notebook vendors are concerned about… the postponed launch schedules of their ultrabooks, as it may give Apple advantages in terms of time-to-market,” the report said.

Earlier this week, an Intel executive indicated that the company’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips are expected to debut eight to 10 weeks later than previously planned. That would push the launch of those chips from April until June.

It’s possible that Apple could still launch new notebooks powered by Ivy Bridge as early as April, if Intel were to give the Mac maker early access to its first run of processors. In the past, Apple has been given early availability of Intel’s latest technology before other PC makers.

As Apple gears up to revamp its MacBook Pro lineup and borrow design cues from its successful MacBook Air, PC makers are still hoping to capitalize on the Ultrabook specification being pushed by Intel. Ultrabooks are intended to be less than 21 millimeters thick, weigh no more than 3.1 pounds, use flash-based solid-state drives, and offer 5 to 8 hours of battery life.

But initial Ultrabooks from Windows-based PC makers struggled to compete with Apple on price, as the entry-level 11.6-inch MacBook Air carries a US$999 cost. And they also felt the squeeze from Apple on components, as PC makers struggled to obtain unibody metal notebook chassis for their products.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.8 for late 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 16:08
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Tuesday, Apple released MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.8 for its late 2008, 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks. The update a 3 megabyte download, resolves a graphics issue that may cause the internal display to flicker.

The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.8, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

As always, if you’ve tried the new firmware and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple confirms iPad 3 event for March 7 in San Francisco

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 13:18
Category: Hardware, iPad, News

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As nifty as rumors tend to be, it helps to hear the truth from the horse’s mouth.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday sent out official invitations for a media event to be held next Wednesday, March 7, in San Francisco where it is expected to introduce its next-generation iPad.

The March 7 event will be held at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif., the same place the last two iPad unveilings have been held. The invitation features a finger pushing down on an iOS calendar icon with March 7 as the date.

“We have something you really have to see. And touch,” the invitation reads.

The inclusion that people will “have to see” the new device is likely a reference to the high-resolution Retina Display that Apple is expected to add to its next-generation iPad. Rumors have suggested the display will have a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, which would be twice the resolution of the 1,024-by-768 screen found on the iPad 2.

In fact, the invitation itself could even be a picture of the new iPad display. The image does show a very crisp iPad screen that could be a higher resolution than the current iPad 2.

Apple’s invitations went out only moments after financial network CNBC incorrectly claimed that the next iPad would be unveiled at an event in New York next week. However, reporter Jon Fortt quickly followed up to explain that he has heard that New York will play a “key” role in next week’s announcement.

The March 7 event date has been expected for weeks now, but Tuesday’s invitations were the first official confirmation of the media briefing from Apple. Recent reports out of the Far East have suggested that Apple could offer near-immediate availability of the new iPad, with claims that the new devices are already being shipped to the U.S as retailers cut prices of existing iPad 2 models by US$50 to US$70.

Other changes to the iPad are expected to be largely internal, with evidence of a faster processor and potential 4G LTE connectivity having surfaced in recent weeks. On the outside, the next iPad is expected to look largely the same, with an external case featuring edges slightly more tapered than the iPad 2.

Another leak showed a purported “iPad 3” logic board, featuring a processor labeled “A5X,” suggesting the chip could be a more powerful version of the A5 CPU currently found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S rather than a full-fledged “A6” upgrade. Reports have also been divided as to whether the next iPad will be powered by a quad-core processor or a dual-core CPU.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to unveil iPad 3 in New York, new unit will include quad-core processor, 4G LTE connectivity

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 08:05
Category: iPad, Rumor

If you’re going to hold an event, hold it somewhere awesome.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is rumored to be holding its iPad 3 launch event in New York next week. The new unit will feature a quad-core processor and 4G LTE connectivity, financial news network CNBC claimed on Tuesday, though the report was immediately disputed.

In a live report Tuesday morning, the network cited anonymous sources who indicated an event will be held in New York to announce the third-generation iPad. Those same people reportedly indicated Apple’s next tablet, which it said will have a quad-core CPU, will go on sale on March 9.

The network also reaffirmed earlier reports that have claimed the next iPad will offer compatibility with high-speed 4G long-term evolution networks. Earlier rumors had pointed toward an event being held next Wednesday, March 7, to unveil the new iPad.

However, Jim Dalrymple of The Loop immediately took to Twitter to declare CNBC “wrong.” Dalrymple has a proven track record with respect to Apple’s plans.

If Apple does in fact hold an event in New York, it would be the first time the company has unveiled a new version of the iPad on the east coast. Unveilings of the last two iPads have taken place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif.

While Apple’s major product unveilings typically occur in California, the company has held some events in New York in recent years to make relatively minor announcements. Most recently, Apple held an event at the Guggenheim Museum to unveil iBooks 2, iBooks Author and iTunes U for iPad in January.

It was said that Apple chose New York for its publishing-related announcements in January because the publishing industry is based in New York. CNBC did not indicate on Tuesday why Apple would hold an event for its so-called “iPad 3” in New York, however.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: iPad 3 might include Retina Display at $80 premium

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 07:42
Category: iPad, Rumor

You’ve been hankering over the idea of an iPad 3 with a Retina Display for a while now.

Unfortunately, it might cost a bit extra.

Per MacRumors, a document that has surfaced out of the Far East claims that Apple’s third-generation iPad will cost US$80 more, starting at US$579 instead of US$499.

The leaked comparison chart shows a 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only iPad priced at US$579, with the 32-gigabyte model for US$679 and 64-gigabyte for US$779. 3G-capable models are also shown with a price hike, though slightly less at US$70 for each model.

If the rumored prices prove accurate, the increases could be as a result of higher costs associated with the Retina Display Apple’s next iPad is expected to feature. Reports have pointed toward the new iPad screen having a resolution of 2,047 by 1,536 pixels, which would be twice that of the current 1,024-by-768-pixel screen on the iPad 2.

Other changes to the iPad are expected to be largely internal, with evidence of a faster processor and potential 4G LTE connectivity having surfaced in recent weeks. On the outside, the next iPad is expected to look largely the same, with an external case featuring edges slightly more tapered than the iPad 2.

A price increase for the next iPad would be a rare move for Apple, which has generally maintained price points for its iOS products with each annual upgrade. One of the biggest surprises with the first iPad when it was announced in 2010 was its US$499 starting price, which some analysts expected would cost over US$1,000.

There have also been suggestions that Apple could continue to offer the current iPad 2 at a lower price, much like the company currently does with previous-generation iPhone models. Some have seen a hypothetical US$399 iPad 2 as a way Apple could take away sales from Amazon’s US$199 Kindle Fire.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Sprint expected to stay with iPhone, trade off subsidized prices for lucrative contracts

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 07:07
Category: iPhone, News

Even if your profits are down, this is no reason not to back your winning horse.

Per the Barrons.com blog, despite expecting a decline in wireless profits due to the high subsidy cost associated with carrying the iPhone, Sprint plans to exceed its US$15.5 billion minimum purchase agreement with Apple and looks to make up for the profit loss with subscriber revenue.

In the Monday filing of Sprint’s 10-K report for the 2011 fiscal year, it was revealed that the company is betting on subscriber dues to offset an expected 2012 deficit from the agreement with Apple, which called for a minimum order of around US$15.5 billion worth of high-subsidy iPhones.

During 2011, the company entered into a purchase commitment with Apple, Inc. to purchase a minimum number of smartphones, which on average, is expected to carry a higher subsidy per unit than other smartphones we sell.

Sprint’s plan is to take a hit in profits early by purchasing and subsidizing iPhones, then reap the benefits yielded from subscribers with lucrative smartphone contracts. There is evidence that the strategy may be working, as the carrier sold 1.8 million iPhones over the holiday quarter, 40 percent of which were to new subscribers. In contrast, iPhone activations at the top two U.S. carriers Verizon and AT&T stood at 4.2 million and 7.6 million, respectively.

Carriers pay heavy subsidies to carry the iPhone, and Sprint is currently paying US$450 for every unit sold with a two-year contract. On top of what the company calls an “instant savings,” Sprint is the only carrier in the U.S. to offer unlimited data for any iPhone model.

The nation’s third-largest mobile carrier was the last of the “big three” networks to get the iPhone, and only started selling the device in October, 2011 when the newest iPhone 4S was debuted. Combined launch-day sales of the iPhone 4S and last-generation iPhone 4 helped set a new one-day record for Sprint, and the product line continues to draw in new customers.

Previous reports called the iPhone agreement a “bet the company” move, and estimated that the telecom would have to put up US$20 billion for rights to sell the popular Apple handset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.