Analyst Sees Strong Signs of Apple Moving Towards $500-$700 Tablet

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Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2009, 12:13
Category: News

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With Apple execs having openly slammed the idea of creating a conventional netbook, Piper Jaffray analysts stated today that mounting evidence exists that Apple will introduce its own take on the netbook in 2010 via a tablet device that will sell for US$700 or less.
“Between indications from our component contacts in Asia, recent patents relating to multi-touch sensitivity for more complex computing devices, comments from [chief operating officer] Tim Cook on the April 22nd conference call, and Apple’s acquisition of P.A. Semi along with other recent chip-related hires, it is increasingly clear that Apple is investing more in its mobile computing franchise,” analyst Gene Munster and his team wrote in lengthy research note to clients.
According to AppleInsider, Munster has said these investments will likely culminate with the launch of a touch-screen tablet with a display somewhere between 7″ and 10″ at a special event sometime in the first half of 2010. Such a move, he added, would be consistent with management’s comments that Cupertino-based company has no interest in catering to the existing segment for “cheap” miniaturized notebooks and its spoken desire to differentiate in a market currently dominated by cramped computers with razor thin margins and a subpar user experience.
To date, Munster’s contacts in the component supply chain have yet to see a prototype of the device but say there’s ongoing discussions between the company and its suppliers about the parts that will eventually be required to build the product.
Munster has stated that he believes the device will end up retailing somewhere in the range of US$500 to US$700, bridging the gap between the US$399 iPod touch and the US$999 MacBook. He expects that it will be driven by a proprietary microprocessor designed in-house by engineers Apple adopted in the acquisition of P.A. Semi and others it’s known to have hired in recent months.
Click the jump for the full story…

Nvidia Admits to “Ongoing” Failure Problem in Some Notebooks During SEC Filing

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Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2009, 08:22
Category: Finance

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Graphics processor firm Nvidia formally stated that some notebooks utilizing its chips continue to have “failure” issues, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.
Per cnet, Nvidia stated that though it does not continue to see “abnormal failure rates” in systems using Nvidia products,” some notebooks are still affected.
“We continue to not see any abnormal failure rates in any systems using Nvidia products other than certain notebook configurations. However, we are continuing to test and otherwise investigate other products,” Nvidia said, adding, “there can be no assurance that we will not discover defects in other MCP or GPU products.” (MCP stands for Media and Communications Processor; GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit.)
On July 2 of last year, Nvidia announced that the company was planning to take a one-time charge to cover costs associated with problems with materials used in certain versions of its laptop graphics chips. Subsequently, a US$196 million charge was recorded in the second quarter of its 2009 fiscal year to “cover anticipated customer warranty, repair, return, replacement and associated costs” with the problem.
In the company’s 10-Q filing, Nvidia cited a “balance of US$145.7 million associated with incremental repair and replacement costs from a weak die/packaging material set.” and “US$31.2 million for the three months ended April 26, 2009 in payments related to the warranty accrual associated with incremental repair and replacement costs from a weak die/packaging material set.”
Nvidia paid or incurred US$50.3 million against the original “warranty accrual” in its fiscal third quarter and fourth quarter 2009, such that the remaining balance of the “bump-crack accrual” (defect) was US$145.7 million at the end of its fiscal fourth quarter, according to Nvidia.
Nvidia is also negotiating with insurance companies over payments to PC makers regarding GPU failures, according to a report filed by TGDaily.
As early as 2007, Hewlett-Packard listed notebook models affected by the graphics chip glitch. In August 2008, Dell also listed affected models with Apple stating in October that it would repair faulty graphics chips.
In the 10-Q filing, Nvidia also stated that “in September, October and November 2008, several putative consumer class action lawsuits were filed against us, asserting various claims arising from a weak die/packaging material set in certain versions of our previous generation MCP and GPU products used in notebook systems.”

Intego Warns of Unrepaired Security Vulnerability in Mac OS X

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Date: Thursday, May 21st, 2009, 08:48
Category: Software

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Security firm Intego has warned that a critical security vulnerability within the current version of Java has gone unrepaired for months and may place Mac OS X users at risk.
According to the company’s web site, the current version of Java incorporates a serious flaw that could allow local code on a user’s Mac to be executed remotely.
“This can lead to ‘drive-by attacks,’ where users are attacked simply by visiting a malicious web site and loading a web page,” the firm said.
The exploit could allow a third-party to execute code, access or delete files, or run applications on the compromised machine. Combined with other exploits, outside parties could even potentially run system-level processes and gain total access over the affected Mac.
Given that the vulnerability relies solely on Java, no native code is required to execute the flaw, which theoretically exists in all browsers on all platforms that have not been patched. This is the case with Mac OS X 10.5.7 and earlier, meaning the vulnerability affects even the update released just a week ago.
The firm claims that Apple has been aware of the exploit for at least five months, when it was publicly disclosed and fixed by Sun, but has yet to issue a security patch. The exploit was first discovered by Landon Fuller, who has released a proof of concept via his blog that outlines the security hole.
Intego has stated that it has not found any malicious applets in the wild thus far, but the publicity around this vulnerability may entice hackers to target the exploit before Apple issues a security update. The firm’s VirusBarrier X5 already blocks potential malware but unless users are sure they trust the site they’re viewing, simply disabling Java in the browser may provide the best protection while Apple works on a fix.
To disable Java, launch Safari, choose Safari > Preferences, click the Security tab, and uncheck “Enable Java” if it is checked. In Firefox, this setting is found on the Content tab of the program’s preferences. It is safe to leave JavaScript activated, since the vulnerability only affects Java applets.

Wal-Mart Redesigning Electronics Department, May be Looking to Carry Apple Products

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Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 08:31
Category: retail

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A recent Wal-Mart move to overhaul the chain’s electronics department in many of its retail locations with Apple-designated shopping areas is being seen as a sign that the mega-retailer is making a pitch to eventually carry Apple’s product line.
According to AppleInsider, the chain began revamping the electronics departments in approximately 3,500 of its locations last week, including 2,600 Supercenter locations. The move is being seen as a bid to capture a large portion of big-screen TV market share vacated by the closing of Circuit City, which shut down its operations after filing for bankruptcy back in November.
As part of the renovations, which should provide for a more spacious and interactive shopping experience, Wal-Mart will also be rolling out specialized in-store boutiques for popular brands such and Nintendo and Apple, similar to the Apple store-within-a-store layouts found in Best Buy retail stores.
Ben Reitzes, an analyst with Barclays Capital, offered a view that the move as a precursor to Wal-Mart extending its reach beyond iPods, iPhones, and accessories to Apple’s Mac line of computers.
“We believe Wal-Mart is actively pitching Apple to carry more products,” he said. “With Wal-Mart improving its retail displays, we believe that the mega-retailer could eventually earn the right to sell select Mac products without diluting Apple’s brand.”
Upon last check, Apple had under 10,000 distribution points for the Mac worldwide, so a move into Wal-Mart would increase Mac exposure significantly. Reitzes also noted that many of Wal-Mart’s stores are located in rural areas not near one of Apple’s own company stores.
The analyst also commented that while he doesn’t see the existing Mac line as a particularly good fit for the discount retailer outside of its US$599 Mac mini and US$999 MacBook offerings, but said he believes the company is working on more sub-US$1000 products that may eventually appeal to Wal-Mart’s customer base.
“We have recently stated that Apple could reposition the low-end of it Mac lines to be more affordable as well as eventually introduce an ultraportable touchscreen tablet device as early as this year,” Reitzes said. He’s likely referring to a couple of AppleInsider reports on those respective matters, including plans for more affordable Macs later this year and a Newton-like web tablet sometime thereafter.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen or heard anything on your end, let us know.

Speck Releases SeeThru, SeeThru Satin Cases for 17″ MacBook Pro Notebook

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Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 08:27
Category: Accessory, MacBook Pro

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Accessory manufacturer Speck has released two fitted cases for Apple’s 17″ MacBook Pro notebook via its SeeThru and SeeThru Satin designs.
According to MacNN, both models feature a fully-vented hard shell for protection against everyday bumps and scratches. Users can still access all ports and controls on the computer without removing the case.
The SeeThru case offers a clear shell that form-fits to the Macbook, while the SeeThru Satin features the protection but includes a soft-touch outer finish, offering more of a grip as well as a semi-translucent frosted appearance. Both cases can fully open or close, while rubberized feet help to prevent sliding on smooth surfaces.
The SeeThru and the SeeThru Satin are available from Apple stores or directly from the company for a retail price of US$50.

CrossOver Reaches Version 7.1.2

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Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 08:31
Category: Software

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CrossOver, the popular emulation program from CodeWeavers, has been updated to version 7.1.2. The new version, which is available as a demo, offers the following change:

  • Fixed an incompatibility with the quartz-wm packaged in XQuartz 2.3.3.2.
  • CrossOver retails for US$59.95 and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later and Intel-based hardware to run.

    Apple to Begin Stress-Testing iPhone OS 3.0 Push Notification Functions

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    Date: Tuesday, May 19th, 2009, 09:03
    Category: iPhone, Software

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    This week, Apple joined forces with the Associated Press and called upon some of its iPhone developer community to help stress test a Push Notification service scheduled to arrive with iPhone OS 3.0 later this year.
    According to AppleInsider, the e-mail stated that “We have selected a pre-release version of the Associated Press app for iPhone OS 3.0 to create a high-volume test environment for our servers.”
    The test application, which requires iPhone OS 3.0 beta 5, will activate over the next week and then expire. During this week, “AP will be sending a high-volume of real news alerts” to give Apple an opportunity to monitor how well the system works and what optimizations can be made.
    The Push Notification system, which was originally slated to arrive in the fall, was delayed after Apple had apparently underestimated the demands third parties would make of the system. Given these new conditions, Apple pulled the plug and began designing a system that could simultaneously address an audience of tens of millions of iPhone and iPod touch users.
    The planned iPhone OS 3.0 Push Notification system for sending alerts from third party application developers to mobile users is believed to use the same technology as its push notification system for MobileMe and the push notification system planned for Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server.
    In all cases, the alert being “pushed” is minimal, essentially a tweet that indicates more information is ready. The notification alerts act like an instant message because that’s exactly what they are; an analysis of MobileMe push messages indicates Apple is using the open source XMPP (eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), used in Jabber.
    The XMPP feature can allow a variety of applications to alert the user as to changes and updates and the technology could find its way into e-mail, calendar and contact changes via Apple’s MobileMe cloud services.

    How-To: Get Around MacBook/MacBook Pro Sleep Issues with Mac OS X 10.5.7

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    Date: Tuesday, May 19th, 2009, 08:46
    Category: How-To

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    Mac OS X 10.5.7 has been out less than a week and, according to MacFixIt, a number of users have reported sleep issues with MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks upon installing the updated operating system software.
    Over on the Apple Discussion Board, reader “Roger G” reported the following:

    “The 10.5.7 upgrade (both with Combo and Delta from Safe mode) killed the ability of my white MacBook to sleep via clamshell closing. After a reboot, the system would sleep normally, but awakening the system and then sleeping would result in a system freeze. The monitor light on the case would not wax and wane in brightness but would stay on full. A few minutes later the fans would start spinning at full speed until the battery drained or the machine was rebooted.”

    User “smitty 195″ expressed a similar sentiment with the following:

    “I am having the identical problem as everyone else (freezes on 2nd sleep attempt). I have a MacBook Pro, and upgraded to 10.5.7 yesterday.”

    Per various reports around support forums, the issue appears to be tied into Ethernet settings on the notebooks, as described by “Andreas S.”:

    “It appears that if the Ethernet is not enabled (airport only network settings) that on the MacBook Pro the sleep only works once and crashes the second time.”

    The following steps are currently being offered as a fix for the issue:

    1. Open System Preferences > Network
    2-1. If you see your Ethernet port in your list of network ports (on the left-side of the window) and it says “Inactive,” activate the port by clicking the gear wheel icon and selecting “Make Service Active.” Click “Apply.”
    2-2. If you do not see your Ethernet port in your list of network ports (on the left-side of the window), click the “+” button in the bottom-left corner.
    3. In the “Interface” drop-down menu, select “Ethernet.”
    4. Enter a name and select “Create.” You should see your new Ethernet connection appear.
    5. Click “Apply.”
    Note: If you are having this issue and your Ethernet port is already enabled, try disabling it (using the gear wheel icon menu > “Make Service Inactive”). Log out or restart your Mac, then enable it. Be sure to “Apply” your changes.

    Once complete, the notebook can be testing by closing the screen and seeing if the sleep function succeeds. Be sure to try this twice, as several reports have pointed to the second attempt at sleep to be the one that causes the issue.

    Rumor: AT&T May be Looking into $20/Month Limited Data Plan for iPhone

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    Date: Monday, May 18th, 2009, 12:11
    Category: Rumor

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    With next-generation iPhone and iPhone OS 3.0 around the corner, the rumor mill is jumping. Per BusinessWeek, sources within AT&T have stated that the company “is considering cutting the price of its monthly service package or offering a range of lower-priced plans.”
    Among the new offerings would be a US$20 monthly limited access iPhone data plan that could appear before the end of May. AT&T currently offers a one-size-fits-all US$30 unlimited data plan as a mandatory add-on for iPhone subscribers, which helps push monthly services fees for those customers above US$70 with taxes and fees.
    Though the report is speculative, it does suggest that Apple could introduce a pre-paid or $99 iPhone to accompany reduced plans from AT&T in a bid to attract lower income consumers. The article also cites a survey indicating that 43% of existing iPhone owners make salaries in excess of US$100,000, noting that this pool of wealthy consumers is quickly running dry.
    “A cheaper plan, coupled with new and possibly cheaper iPhones, could give AT&T a larger share of the U.S. smartphone market,” the report says. “And unless prices drop on other smartphones in AT&T’s stable, those rival handset makers, such as Research In Motion could end up losing market share in AT&T’s stores.”
    Apple’s attempts to reach lower income markets to expand its iPhone market share aren’t unheard of, as the company currently introduced the handset to various Wal-Mart locations earlier this year.
    In its report Monday, BusinessWeek also noted that Apple may have greater freedom to mark down the price of its next-gen iPhones with the cost of touchscreens, the most expensive component, having declined by more than 30% in the past year.

    VMWare Cautions Users with ATI Graphics Cards from Installing Mac OS X 10.5.7

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    Date: Monday, May 18th, 2009, 07:16
    Category: News

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    VMWare, makers of the popular Fusion virtualization software, has officially warned users away from installing Mac OS X 10.5.7 if their Mac uses an ATI graphics card or chip.
    According to VMWare’s blog, the update will break the 3D graphics acceleration feature supported by Fusion.
    “You will likely see issues ranging from slow performance, to incorrect rendering, and even crashes, when you run your 3D applications in a Windows virtual machine on Mac OS X 10.5.7,” reads the blog.
    “Both Apple and ATI are aware of this problem and are working to correct it in a future software update. In the meantime, if you have an ATI graphics card in your Mac and need VMware Fusion’s 3D features to work, we recommend that you do not upgrade to Mac OS X 10.5.7,” the entry concludes.