Rumor: Apple to discontinue 17-inch MacBook Pro model

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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.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone’s glass could be replaced with Liquidmetal component

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Date: Wednesday, April 18th, 2012, 11:21
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Your next iPhone could be part Robert Patrick from “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”.

Which, to be honest, was sort of the high point of Robert Patrick’s career.

Per Korea IT News, a new, questionable rumor from Korea claims that Apple’s next-generation iPhone will replace its glass back with the super-durable Liquidmetal alloy.

The claim stated that Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone will be made of zirconium, titanium, nickel, copper “and so forth.” It also said it will have a “surface smooth like liquid.”

Though the report includes references to a general “liquid metal,” the proper noun Liquidmetal refers to an amorphous metal that Apple purchased the exclusive rights to use in 2010. The company behind the material, Liquidmetal Technologies, revealed in March that it was paid US$20 million by Apple in that deal.

Casting some doubt on Wednesday’s report out of Korea, it goes on to say that the new iPhone is expected to debut at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco in June. Last year, Apple opted to hold off on unveiling the iPhone 4S until well after WWDC, and launched its fifth-generation handset in October.

This year, most rumors have suggested that Apple plans to hold to a similar timeframe for the launch of a sixth-generation iPhone. It has been rumored that Apple will unveil its next handset in the months of September or October.

While the WWDC launch reported by Korea IT News is questionable, claims of a metal back for the next iPhone are not new. As far back as last year, there were indications that Apple was working on an all-new iPhone design with a metal back akin to the iPad.

As for the potential use of Liquidmetal, the company that owns the material announced in March that it had begun shipping commercial parts to “several” unnamed customers. Apple’s Liquidmetal gives it the right to exclusively use the material in electronic products, though it is free to be used in other industries like defense contractors, sports equipment manufacturers and medical suppliers.

The first product Apple created out of Liquidmetal’s material was an iPhone SIM card ejector tool, but since then there has been no indication that any other products have been crafted from the Liquidmetal alloy.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Symantec: Flashback malware still present on approximately 140,000 Macs

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Date: Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, 19:21
Category: News, security, Software

The good news: The Flashback malware’s infection numbers have gone down dramatically.

The bad news: About 140,000 of you need to look into removing the malware on your Mac.

Per a recent Symantec blog post, the security firm guessed that the number of affected machines would have dropped precipitously by now given that Apple and third-party vendors released their respective Flashback-neutralizing programs last week. The Mac maker even rolled out a removal tool for those Mac users who don’t have Java installed, and thus may be harboring a dormant version of the malware.

Statistics from Symantec’s “sinkhole,” or spoofed command and control server, show that Flashback has been removed from some 460,000 machines since Apr. 9, but the company expected less than 99,000 would be carrying the trojan by Tuesday.

Sinkholes are used by internet security and research entities to monitor and analyze the spread of malicious programs, though the standard practice sometimes brings unwarranted suspicion to smaller, less well-known firms. For example, Apple reportedly attempted to shut down the server hosting a sinkhole belonging to Flashback’s discoverer Dr. Web, mistakenly thinking that it was a legitimate command and control server. Apple’s move, however, can also be considered standard practice when dealing with fast-moving malware.

There has been no speculation as to why the remaining Macs haven’t already disposed of Flashback, as the self-installing program can be easily identified and deleted. It is possible that machine owners remain unaware of the program and haven’t yet performed a software update that would eradicate it.

The trojan itself continues to propagate on upatched systems. Analysis into Flashback’s structure reveals that it is coded to exceed the .com top level domain, and generates domain names from .in, .info, .kz and .net. Flashback creates one new string every day that is paired with a random TLD.

Once a user visits a site carrying Flashback, the program installs itself without the need for permission and proceeds to collect sensitive data like user iDs, passwords and web browsing histories which it then sends to an off-site repository.

Just as Flashback exploited the “Oracle Java SE Remote Java Runtime Environment Denial Of Service Vulnerability” to create its botnet, another threat has surfaced that uses the same hole as a means of distribution.

Called Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a, the newly-discovered malware was created in March and is considered an “active attack” trojan as an operator manually checks and harvests data from an affected machine. SabPub has also been seen being distributed in malicious Word documents, installing itself by exploiting a known record parsing buffer overflow vulnerability.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple job listing points to potentially revised power systems for future Macs

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Date: Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, 18:40
Category: Hardware, News

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Sometimes it’s the job listings that prove the most telling.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is looking for a new hire to work closely with Apple’s computer system hardware team for DC-DC power designs integration.

The job listing also makes mention of optimizing power use with “white LED backlight drivers,” related to the LCD screens found on Apple’s iMac and MacBook lineups.

Apple would prefer to hire an employee with a PhD in power electronics. Candidates must have at least 8 years of experience in the field to be considered for the high-level position.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-generation iPad to arrive in 12 additional countries this Friday

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Date: Monday, April 16th, 2012, 10:54
Category: iPad, News

There’s only a few certainties in this world. Death and taxes are the discouraging ones, but the likelihood of the iPad 3 arriving in your country is the third (and more upbeat) one.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will launch its new third-generation iPad in a total of 12 countries this Friday, April 20, while even more countries, including India, will get the new iPad a week later.

The full list of countries where the new iPad will debut this Friday is Brunei, Croatia, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Malaysia, Panama, South Korea, St. Maarten, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

In addition, a week later, on Friday, April 27, the new iPad will also become available in Colombia, Estonia, India, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, South Africa, and Thailand.

The new iPad will be available starting at a suggested retail price of US$499 for the 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only model. Apple will also sell the 16-gigabite Wi-Fi iPad 2 for US$399.

The new iPad also comes available in a model with 4G LTE high-speed wireless Internet. However, customers in the latest launch countries will be restricted to slower 3G speeds, as the new iPad is only compatible with 4G LTE networks in the U.S. and Canada.

The third-generation iPad has seen the fastest international roll-out of any Apple product ever. It originally debuted in mid-March in the U.S. and nine other countries, while an additional 25 countries and territories gained the new iPad just a week later.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases third Mac OS X 10.7.4 seed to developer community

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Date: Monday, April 16th, 2012, 09:47
Category: News, Software

It’ll be cool to see what comes next.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Friday seeded the new OS X 10.7.4 build 11E46, asking developers to focus on the App Store, graphics, Mail, QuickTime, Screen Sharing and Time Machine.

The third build has no known issues and Apple is asking devs to continue their focus on the same areas as the second beta, called 11E35. This release comes less than a month after the first beta was released on March 16.

There are presently no known issues and the new developer-only beta is available for download at the Mac Developer Center.

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