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.

Apple updates iTunes account security protocols, adds new security prompts for users

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 07:41
Category: News, security, Software

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This could make your iTunes account that much more secure.

Or it could make you want to put an axe through the screen as you just want to buy a cool 99 cent app.

Per Ars Technica, Apple has begun asking users to select and answer a series of questions associated with their Apple IDs to enhance security measures.

The security prompts began popping up on iOS devices on Wednesday, wherein users were met with a prompt that states “Security Info Required.”

After being shown the message, users are asked to select from a number of security questions and provide personal answers. Users are also prompted to provide a backup e-mail address in case the primary address associated with their Apple ID is compromised.

The changes are meant to curb fraud and phishing attempts that have been used for many years to hijack iTunes accounts. Because credit card information is tied to a user’s account, nefarious people will steal and resell accounts, allowing people to buy content like music, movies and applications on someone else’s dime.

This week’s changes are only the latest in a series of measures by Apple over the years to improve security associated with iTunes accounts. Some of the steps taken include requiring users to verify their account information when they log into new devices, and upgrading passwords to make them more complex with varying characters.

Some users have been confused by the new security prompts appearing this week, and have expressed concern on the Apple Support Communities website that the alerts could be bogus phishing attempts. However, the revised measures have been proven to be legitimate, and Apple has admitted they are part of an ongoing effort to bolster security.

If you’ve seen these prompts on your end, please let us know what you make of them in the comments.

Apple patent describes effort to create smoother, “unibody” earbuds through ultrasonic bonding process

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 07:58
Category: Hardware, Patents

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Your Apple earbuds, they could get better through an ultrasonic bonding process.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a new patent application entitled “Ultrasonically Welded Structures and Methods for Making the Same,” describes how different components could be welded together for a seamless look for the Apple earbuds.

Apple describes the new headphones as having an appearance that they were constructed as “a seamless unibody structure,” even though the earbuds may include two different component pieces welded together.

Combining two different elements in this way may form a weld ring that can be cut, sanded, polished and cleaned. This allows the headphone to appear to be one piece, even though it may actually be a number of connected pieces.

Apple’s desire to build a better set of earbuds was also detailed in a separate application published this week, entitled “Curved Plastic Object and Systems and Methods for Deburring the Same.” It describes building curved plastic objects in the shape of a cap or grill of a headphone or earbud.

The filing notes that holes are needed in earbuds to allow sound to travel, but the creation of those holes can result in remnants in or around them that degrade both the appearance of the device and the acoustic properties of the headphones.

The solution presented in that application is a tool for “deburring” a curved plastic object. The tool could be coated in an abrasive material and would conform to the shape of the curved object, then polish it by vibrating while in contact with the plastic surface.

Both the inner and outer surfaces would be both “deburred” and polished, ensuring that no remnants remain in the holes or on any surface of the headphones.

The ultrasonic welding patent application is credited to Jeff Hayashida, Jonathan Aase, Rico Zorkendorfer, and Evans M. Hankey. Both Hayashida and Aase are also credited with the curved plastic patent application.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8, Java for Mac OS X Lion 2012-003 updates, looks to remove Flashback malware

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 06:25
Category: News, Software

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Maybe this will settle it once and for all.

Late Thursday, Apple released Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8, the update removing the most common variants of the Flashback malware. The 80.6 megabyte download requires Mac OS X 10.6.8 to install and run.

The company also released Java for Mac OS X Lion 2012-003, which also looks to remove the most common type of the now-infamous Flashback malware. The 63.8 megabyte download requires OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

The updates, which can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature. If you’ve tried the new versions and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Intel to announce Ivy Bridge architecture on April 23rd

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:18
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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There’s gotta be some truth to this somewhere…

Per DigiTimes, Intel has moved up the announcement of its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors from the original date of April 29 to April 23 as PC makers ready the second generation of ultrabooks, expected to arrive in May.

The publication claimed on Thursday that sources from notebook players had revealed Intel’s change in plans. The launch comes as Asustek, Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard are expected to release Ivy Bridge-powered ultrabooks next month.

Multiple sources have pointed to late April for the Ivy Bridge launch. One report claimed late last month that Intel would announce the new processors between April 22 and April 28 and begin selling them on April 29.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pros will likely be the first Macs to feature the new Intel chips. Sources out of the Far East said last month that the updated laptops could arrive by the end of April.

Following the release of its new notebooks, the Cupertino, Calif., company is expected to release updated Ivy Bridge iMacs as early as June or July.

Other hints that Intel is nearly ready to release its Ivy Bridge architecture also came on Thursday when reports surfaced that Intel is shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers for use with Ivy Bridge chips.

Thursday’s report also quoted Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen as saying that ultrabook prices will fall from US$999 to US$699 in the new few months as volume shipments drive costs down. PC makers have been hard at work at reducing the average price of ultrabook laptops in order to better compete against Apple’s MacBook Air.

Intel declared earlier this month that ultrabooks trump the MacBook Air in functionality and value.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-generation Apple TV A5 processor studied, second core found

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:50
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News, Processors

This is sort of interesting.

An investigation into the custom A5 chip used in Apple TV has found that the new Application Processor uses both a smaller, more efficient 32nm die process and actually incorporates two cores, one of which is simply turned off.

Per Chipworks, the custom A5 “APL2498” used in the third generation, 1080p Apple TV has improved upon the 45nm LP CMOS process of the previous A5 “APL0498,” used in both iPad 2 and iPhone 4S last year.

The smaller die size makes the Apple TV’s A5 almost 41 percent smaller than the original part, allowing more chips to be created from a single silicon wafer. That makes producing the part cheaper, and also helps improve performance and lower power consumption (as its components are shrunken down and therefore closer to each other).

In addition to being smaller, Chipworks found that the new version of the A5 actually incorporates two cores. Apple only advertises Apple TV as having a single core chip, so the investigation notes that “either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts.”

By turning off one core, Apple could reduce the power consumption of a device. However, Apple TV lacks the power constraints of battery-powered mobile devices, making it more likely that the company simply developed a smaller, cheaper version of the A5 and is using the dual core rejects to power Apple TV, where one core is sufficient.

Chipworks explains that such “parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the ‘bad’ core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.”

Chip makers routinely create CPUs and RAM components and test them for the highest speed they can consistently operate at, selling the fastest parts for more and the slower components for less, rated to work at a slower clock speed.

This strategy would allow Apple to use its poorest performing new A5 chips in the US$99 Apple TV, while creating a new supply of fully functional 32nm A5 chips that are faster, smaller and cheaper than last year’s 45nm batch.

Chipworks notes that these chips could either power a new generation of iPhones (or other devices) or help to reduce the cost of existing products such as the iPhone 4S or iPad 2. The latest third generation iPad uses a custom chip Apple calls A5X, which incorporates the same dual ARM cores but delivers quad-core GPUs to drive its Retina Display, with four times the pixels.

Retina Display supplies constrained by demand, shift in labor practices for Foxconn workers

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Date: Wednesday, April 11th, 2012, 07:09
Category: iPad, News, retail

If you don’t have enough of a given part, it makes assembly a bit harder.

Then there’s the awkward part about easing working conditions for your labor force…

Per AppleInsider, demand for Apple’s new iPad remains strong, but production of the device has reportedly been limited by supply of Retina displays, as well as a new focus on employees at Foxconn that has resulted in worker hours being cut.

Analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee aimed to quash some investor concern on Wednesday that demand for the new iPad is waning. That’s not true, he said, as his checks within Apple’s supply chain have found that the company continues to have strong interest in its latest touchscreen tablet.

Instead, he said, it’s supply of the new high-resolution Retina display that has limited shipments of the latest iPad. He expects that situation to improve over the coming quarters, as additional production lines and suppliers are added.

Samsung is currently believed to be the primary supplier of Retina displays for the new iPad. Both LG and Sharp were said to have initially struggled in making the high-resolution screens for Apple, but recently began small-volume shipments.

Another factor in iPad supply, Wu said, has been the fact that Foxconn is now “conforming to more sound labor practices.” Last month, following an independent audit by the Fair Labor Association, Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn agreed to fix a number of violations that were discovered, including excess working times by its factory employees.

“This is in an effort to improve working conditions,” Wu said. “From our understanding, the irony is that many employees prefer to work more overtime.”

Some Foxconn workers publicly questioned last month why their hours were being cut after the review conducted by the FLA. Foxconn reduced employee working hours to 49 per week, including overtime, but the change will also result in smaller paychecks for workers.

Because iPad production has apparently been slowed by factors other than demand, Wu has opted to raise his estimates for sales in the current quarter. He now sees Apple having sold 12.3 million iPads in the already-concluded March quarter, up from his previous forecast of 11.5 million.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple developing program to track, destroy Flashback malware

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Date: Wednesday, April 11th, 2012, 07:38
Category: News, security, Software

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I think this is where an awesome montage scene of productivity/progress begins in an 80s movie. Or at least the cast involves vows to achieve a long-term goal.

Apple revealed on Tuesday that it is currently developing software to detect and remove the Flashback malware that has infected an estimated 600,000 Macs worldwide.

The company made mention of the upcoming tool in a support document regarding the malicious software, as noted by The Loop. The document also pointed users to last week’s Java update that patched the security flaw that the virus was exploiting.

“In addition to the Java vulnerability, the Flashback malware relies on computer servers hosted by the malware authors to perform many of its critical functions. Apple is working with ISPs worldwide to disable this command and control network,” the company said.

Apple also advises Macs running OS X 10.5 or earlier to disable Java in their browser preferences.

The Flashback trojan horse was first discovered last September. The malware posed as a phony Adobe Flash Player installer in order to trick users into installing it. At the time, a security first categorized the threat as “low.” The current version of Flashback used the Java vulnerability to create a botnet that could mine personal information from unsuspecting users.

Evidence of Apple’s efforts to contact ISPs surfaced earlier on Tuesday when a Russian security firm revealed that the company had targeted one of its servers as being “involved in a malicious scheme.” Dr. Web chief executive Boris Sharov said the server was “not doing any harm to users” and was being used to monitor the spread of the virus.

Sharov noted that the relative rarity of Apple security issues meant that Dr. Web hadn’t established close ties with the company. “For Microsoft, we have all the security response team’s addresses,” he said. “We don’t know the antivirus group inside Apple.”

Last week, a Dr. Web analyst claimed that 600,000 Macs around the world had been infected by the Flashback malware. 56.6 percent of those infections are reportedly located in the U.S.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Inventory constraints point towards possibility of new 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook on horizon

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Date: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012, 06:12
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

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When the current supplies dwindle, interesting things are about to happen.

Per AppleInsider, multiple authorized resellers this week are reflecting stock-outs of 15-inch MacBook Pros, suggesting that Apple is ramping down production of existing models before introducing redesigned offerings that will largely resemble the company’s increasingly popular line of ultra-slim MacBook Airs.

Among those resellers reflecting backorder status on some of the current 15-inch MacBook Pros is J&R, which is now sold out of both the 2.2GHz model, which is listed as “out of stock,” and the 2.4GHz variety, which is currently advertised as “on order.”

In addition, Best Buy has also stopped accepting online orders for the 2.4GHz model for home delivery. The 15-inch notebook is still available on a store-by-store basis, however a quick check of individual store inventory in cities such as Chicago and Austin similarly indicate that between 40 and 60 percent of those shops are similarly reflecting stock outs.

Earlier this week, MacConnection was temporarily out of stock the 2.2GHz model of Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro, but the notebook has since come back in stock at the online retailer.

Multiple instances of inventory constraints within Apple’s indirect sales channel are often some of the first signs that the Mac maker is drawing down stock and slowing shipments of existing models before replacing them with materially enhanced offerings. This week’s stock-outs come as Intel is gearing up to launch its Ivy Bridge chips, which have been rumored to begin finding their way into Apple’s Mac product line as early as this month or next.

Apple appears to be planning a staggered overhaul of the MacBook Pro lineup, beginning with an updated 15-inch model, followed by the 13-inch, and ultimately the 17-inch by the end of the year.

Recent rumors have claimed production of the 15-inch model will begin this month with 200,000 units, while production of the new the 13-inch MacBook Pro will occur in June with builds of 400,000 initial units.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is rumored to arrive as soon as this month with Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors. Reports have suggested Apple’s new notebooks could include Intel’s Core i7-3820QM and Core i7-3720QM models featuring integrated HD 4000 graphics.

There are fewer details on the forthcoming 13-inch MacBook Pro, as one report from March said it was “not clear” if Apple planned to introduce a new MacBook Pro with an entry-level Core i3 Ivy Bridge processor. All of Apple’s current “Pro” laptops feature only higher-end Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

The new MacBook Pros are expected to be noticeably thinner and lighter in design, and will eschew the spinning disc drive to adopt a form factor similar to Apple’s thin-and-light MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro lineup was given a quiet update with faster GPUs and graphics cards last October, while the last major redesign of the lineup came in late 2008.

Separately, in what could be a sign of the end of the Mac Pro desktop line, Amazon is currently out of stock of the 8-core model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.