Tipsters reveal hints as to why AMD “Llano” processor never came to MacBook Air notebook

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:34
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

If you wondered as to where the next-gen AMD processors might be on your MacBook Air, there’s a reason for that too.

According to Forbes, former AMD employees revealed that Apple gave its “Llano” chip a “close look” for a new MacBook Air model last year, but ultimately decided not to go with the processor because too many of its parts were faulty.

AMD has been through several reinventions in recent years in a quest to find a niche to call its own. The company was an early competitor to chip giant Intel, but it has struggled to keep up pace with its rival as of late.

Brian Caulfield reports that new “fusion” processors from AMD had a shot at upstaging Intel by making their way into Apple’s popular MacBook Air notebook for last year’s refresh. People familiar with the matter indicated that Apple had given the “Llano” processor, which combined the CPU and GPU into one part, serious consideration for use in its thin-and-light portable.

However, a former employee indicated that AMD was unable to get early working samples of the chip to Apple on time, though tipsters disagreed on exactly how close the company was to delivering the chip, with one claiming that AMD “had it.” According to the report, too many of the parts ended up being faulty and AMD lost the deal.

Sources also said AMD had proposed a low-power processor named “Brazos” for a revamp of the Apple TV box, but Apple declined to go with the option. “Brazos” went on to make inroads in the netbook industry and reportedly kept the company afloat.

“If Brazos had been killed, AMD wouldn’t be in business,” one former employee said.

A separate report from late last year also claimed that Apple had considered the AMD “Llano” option “plan A” for its MacBook Air, but AMD was said to have “dropped the ball” at the last minute.

Apple released the Thunderbolt MacBook Air last July with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors powering the notebooks. The machines became an instant success and reportedly jumped to 28 percent of the company’s notebook shipments just months after they were released.

Apple begins offering 13.3-inch MacBook Air notebook to education buyers for $999

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Date: Monday, February 13th, 2012, 07:52
Category: MacBook Air, News

Apple’s tres-nifty white MacBook notebook may have officially gone the way of the dodo last week, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a replacement in the works.

Per AppleInsider, the company has begun selling a less powerful version of its 13.3-inch MacBook Air to educational institutions buying in bulk for US$999, filling the void left by the recently discontinued white MacBook.

The new model, only available to education buyers ordering in bulk sizes of five or more, features the same internal components as the 11.6-inch MacBook Air available to general consumers for US$999. But the new, discounted hardware sports a larger 13.3-inch display. They are advertised to ship within three to five days.

The 13.3-inch education model and the entry-level 11.6-inch MacBook Air both feature a 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5 Intel processor, along with two gigabytes of RAM and a 64-gigabyte solid-state drive. They are also powered by the Intel HD Graphics 3000 chipset included on the Core i5 CPU.

The standard 13-inch consumer-level MacBook Air remains priced at US$1,299. The speedier machine has a 1.7GHz dual-core Core i5 Intel CPU, 4 gigabytes of RAM, and a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive.

Last July, Apple discontinued its white MacBook, which previously served as the entry-level notebook in Apple’s lineup. Its price point was filled by the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, which carries the same US$999 cost.

Apple continued offering the white MacBook to education buyers for months, but this week the company finally ceased sales of the legacy notebook. Resellers have since been notified that the white MacBook is now classified as “end of life.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases firmware updates for early 2010 MacBook Air, Pro notebooks, adds Lion Recovery and sleep fix

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Date: Wednesday, February 8th, 2012, 06:20
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Firmware updates…they get useful.

Late Tuesday, Apple released MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.6 for its early 2010 MacBook Pro notebooks. The update, a 3 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection on MacBook Pro (Early 2010) models.

The company also released MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.3 for its early 2010 MacBook Air notebooks. The update, a 3 megabyte download, enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection and also addresses an issue where the system would sometimes restart when the power button was pressed immediately after waking from deep sleep.

The updates can be located and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the firmware updates and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Tim Cook hints at no ARM-based processor for future generations of MacBook Air

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Date: Monday, February 6th, 2012, 06:37
Category: MacBook Air, News

It’s when Apple executives begin dropping hints as to upcoming product lines that things get interesting.

Per AppleInsider, after meeting with Apple chief executive Tim Cook and chief financial officer Peter Openheimer, Citi analysts noted a strong iPad outlook leaving little likelihood of an ARM-based MacBook Air.

Citi analyst Richard Gardner reported Cook reiterating his comment, originally made during the quarterly earnings conference call, that the market for tablets would eventually grow larger than the conventional PC market.

Apple doesn’t refer to iPad as a PC, but as a “post-PC device,” leaving the ARM-based tablet distinct from the company’s Intel-based Macs. Gardner further indicated the meeting dispelled the notion that Apple might introduce ARM-based Macs, countering rumors that a new MacBook Air featuring an ARM processor might appear sometime soon.

Gardner cited Cook as alluding to “rapid innovation on the iOS platform” that will “significantly broaden the use case for tablets,” and stated he “walked away from this meeting with the impression that Apple feels iPad satisfies—or will soon satisfy—the needs of those who might have been interested in such a product” as an ARM-based MacBook Air.

Speculation about a MacBook Air or other low end Mac models beginning to incorporate ARM processors has been fueled by rapid advances in ARM’s chip designs as well as Microsoft’s Windows 8 strategy that envisions future tablet and clamshell PC devices built around ARM chips rather than Intel x86 compatible processors that Windows has historically been tied to as a platform.

While Apple could deliver ARM based Macs, it appears the company is more focused on increasing the desirability of its existing iPad and leaving Macs as a higher end alternative rather than bringing them into directly overlapping use scenarios.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Western Digital debuts My Book Thunderbolt Duo drive at Macworld/iWorld Expo

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Date: Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 08:50
Category: Accessory, hard drive, News

Ok, the Thunderbolt peripherals have sort of trickled out the gate as opposed to a mighty torrent.

This may be changing as hard drive and accessory maker Western Digital introduced its first Thunderbolt-equipped drive at Macworld|iWorld on Thursday. Per Electronista, the My Book Thunderbolt Duo uses the fast 10Gbps port to feed two 3.5-inch hard drives at speeds that would be impractical for FireWire 800. On a 6TB Thunderbolt Duo, peak transfer speeds can hit over 250MBps (2Gbps), making the only bottleneck the drives themselves.

The speeds are potentially vital for video and 3D editors, even on the MacBook Air. WD estimates that a full HD movie can shuttle to or from the drive in 30 seconds. At such speeds, it’s comparable to a mid-tier solid-state drive like the MacBook Air’s own and can create a seamless effect where working from the external drive is as quick as built-in flash storage.

Both 4TB and 6TB capacities will be available, each using a RAID 0 stripe to get the extra speed and continuous space. Although it technically wouldn’t require a Mac, Windows-based PCs using true Thunderbolt connectors were only just announced at CES and leave Apple’s systems as the only immediate options. Final pricing and shipping dates have yet to be announced, so stay tuned and we’ll offer more details as soon as they become available.

Belkin to release Thunderbolt Express Dock this September for $299

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Date: Monday, January 9th, 2012, 10:17
Category: Accessory, News

Give it time and the spiffy peripherals eventually show up on the market.

Per AppleInsider, Belkin on Monday introduced its new Thunderbolt Express Dock, which will allow users to connect multiple devices to their Mac with one Thunderbolt cable when it arrives in September for US$299.

Though it won’t be available until later this year, the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock will be on display at the company’s booth at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev. The dock will enable Thunderbolt-equipped Macs to access multiple desktop peripherals with just one cable.

“People purchase MacBook Airs and Ultrabooks for ultimate portability, but constantly plugging-in and unplugging numerous cable-connected peripherals is an annoying and time consuming ordeal,” said Martin Avilla, general manager of Belkin’s Core Business Unit. “The Thunderbolt Express Dock provides a much-needed solution that creates a cleaner, faster, more productive workspace and reliable connectivity to desktop devices and the Internet.”



Highlighted features of the Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock are:
- Quickly connects into a desktop workstation and instantly accesses multiple devices with a single cable.

- Adds reliable, gigabit Ethernet connectivity to your notebook.

- Includes three USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire 800 port, one HDMI port, one 3.5mm Audio port, one gigabit Ethernet port and two Thunderbolt ports (one upstream and one downstream) for daisy-chaining to another Thunderbolt compatible device.

- Utilizes Thunderbolt Technology for data transfer rates of up to 10Gbps bi-directionally.

For now, Mac users looking to use Thunderbolt for a simplified docking solution can use Apple’s Thunderbolt Display, which allows users to plug in one 10Gbps Thunderbolt cable that can drive multiple devices with its high bandwidth capacity. The Thunderbolt display serves as a docking station in addition to a monitor, and packs three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Intel to bring Thunderbolt port to “first-tier” Windows PCs in April, 2012

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Date: Tuesday, December 27th, 2011, 10:50
Category: Hardware, News

You were wondering when that rather-nifty Thunderbolt port would make its way to Windows PCs and thus spread the use of the technology?

Well, now there’s something of an answer.

Per DigiTimes, Intel has begun notifying PC makers that it will “fully release” the high-speed I/O in April 2012, according to a new report.

Sources from within PC players have stated that “several first-tier” PC vendors are readying Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards, notebooks and desktop computers for release. Sony and Asus are expected to adopt the new technology, while Gigabyte technology will reportedly launch a Thunderbolt-capable motherboard in April of next year.

According to the report, Intel cooperated with Apple exclusively this year in order to “speed up the standardization of Thunderbolt.” As interest in the technology has continued to grow, Intel has readied the technology for “public use.”

Thunderbolt should see even further adoption in the second half of next year as related costs drop. Sources told the publication that the technology will be “standardized gradually in the future” as chip prices fall.

In June, Sony was originally thought to have developed the first non-Mac Thunderbolt PC with its VAIO Z laptop and Power Media dock. However, it was later revealed that the company had used an early version of Intel’s technology that did not match the Thunderbolt standard.

Apple partnered up with Intel to unveil the Thunderbolt I/O in its MacBook Pro lineup this February. The Mac maker quickly added the technology to its products, including the iMac, MacBook Air, Mac Mini and LED Display.

Thunderbolt combines Intel’s “Light Peak” specification with Apple’s Mini DisplayPort to support transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps. The technology uses the PCI Express standard, allowing for a range of peripherals and functions.

The first Thunderbolt peripherals, such as RAID systems and external drives arrived on the market throughout 2011, but high costs have reportedly been a barrier to companies looking to make Thunderbolt accessories.

For its part, Intel claimed earlier this year that Thunderbolt has attracted “tremendous response from the industry,” touting more than twenty companies, including Belkin, Canon, Seagate, Western Digital and Adobe, interested in adding Thunderbolt support to their products.

Also affecting Thunderbolt adoption is the growing presence of USB 3.0. HP, the world’s largest PC maker, has decided to go with USB 3.0 after not finding a “value proposition” with Thunderbolt. Intel has said it will support USB 3.0 alongside Thunderbolt, which is meant to be “complementary,” but some PC industry insiders have claimed that Thunderbolt could “greatly affect” adoption of the competing standard.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to purchase Israeli flash memory company Anobit

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Date: Tuesday, December 13th, 2011, 06:49
Category: Finance, Rumor

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When Apple ponders buying something, it’s worth paying attention to.

Per TechCrunch, Apple is planning to spend between US$400 million and US$500 million to buy Anobit, an Israel-based flash memory company, according to a new report.

Citing a Hebrew-language report, TechCrunch relayed on Tuesday that Apple plans to acquire the 200-employee Israeli fabless semiconductor company that specializes in flash storage. If the deal comes to pass, it’s believed to be the first acquisition for Apple with Tim Cook at the helm as CEO.

“Anobit provides flash storage solutions for enterprise and mobile markets, based on its proprietary MSP (which stands for ‘Memory Signal Processing’) technology,” the report said. “Its solutions are designed to improve the speed, endurance and performance of flash systems while driving down the cost. Anobit’s technology is comprised of signal processing algorithms that compensate for physical limitations of NAND flash, the company claims.”

Apple is believed to already rely on Anobit’s solutions for its flash-based products, including the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air. Of the most interest to Apple is said to be Anobit’s MSP20xx embedded flash controllers for mobile devices.

Apple has used its massive cash hoard to strategically invest in components and acquire companies that will give it a leg up on the competition. In 2005, Apple inked a major flash memory deal with Samsung, allowing Apple to build products with NAND flash including the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air.

The company made a similar deal earlier this year, when Cook revealed that Apple had committed US$3.9 billion to secret, long-term component contracts. Cook said the deals were a “fantastic” use of the company’s cash reserves, but declined to say what components Apple had secured, citing competitive reasons.

If Tuesday’s report is accurate, it would be a rare hardware-based acquisition for Apple. The company’s last major buyout of a hardware company came in 2008, when Apple bought P.A. Semi for US$278 million, paving the way for it to build custom ARM-based chips for the iPhone and iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 15-inch MacBook Air notebook in early 2012

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Date: Monday, November 28th, 2011, 10:50
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

If this is true, it could become something nifty.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is said to be preparing an update to its MacBook Air series in the first quarter of 2012 with the addition of a new 15-inch thin-and-light model.

The new 15-inch MacBook Air would join the existing 11.6- and 13.3-inch ultraportable notebooks offered by Apples. Citing industry sources in the upstream supply chain, the publication reported on Monday that pilot production of the new MacBook Air models has already begun.

“Commenting on Apple’s move, sources from retail channels pointed out that Apple will start dropping the price of its existing MacBook Airs before launching its series and the promotion could further boost Apple’s share in the global notebook market,” the report said.

The move is said to be a strategy to counter the growing lineup of Windows-based PCs built on the Ultrabook specification from Intel. Though Ultrabooks have gotten off to a slow start, PC makers hope they will be able to capitalize on the popularity of Apple’s MacBook Air lineup with their own thin-and-light unibody notebooks.

Rumors of a new 15-inch notebook from Apple are not new, with one report from earlier this month claiming that such a device could appear as early as the second quarter of 2012. That report, however, did not make a distinction as to whether the notebook would be an extension of the MacBook Air lineup or a redesigned MacBook Pro.

Monday’s report, however, claims that new product will in fact be a MacBook Air, and provides a sooner release date of the first quarter of 2012.

The MacBook Air has become an important part of Apple’s lineup, with one report from earlier this month revealing that the product lineup now represents 28 percent of Apple’s notebook shipments. That’s well up from just 8 percent in the first half of 2011.

Apple last updated its 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs in July with backlit keyboards, its new high-speed Thunderbolt port, and the latest Sandy Bridge processors from Intel.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple specifies discounts for 2011 Black Friday sales

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Date: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPad, iPod, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, retail

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As mentioned yesterday, Apple will be planning assorted discounts for this year’s Black Friday shopping holiday.

Per 9to5Mac, the discounts are in-line with last year’s prices with only modest discounts on their products. Price drops for their core products are as follows:

iPad 2: US$41 to US$61 Off

iPod nano: US$11 off

iPod Touch: US$21 to US$41 off

MacBook Air: US$101 off

MacBook Pro: US$101 off

iMac: US$101 off

Meanwhile, 3rd party accessories are also seeing some small discounts ranging from US$11-US$101.95 in savings for accessories such as iPad Smart Covers, iPhone battery packs and external hard drives.

These prices should be available for both online and local retail Apple store locations. For those who were planning to purchase from Apple retail anyway, it makes sense to wait until Friday. For those looking for more savings, other online retailers frequently their own Black Friday sales on Apple products as well. Depending on your location, those other online retailers may provide the added advantage of not charge sales tax on online orders. Apple’s online store does charge local sales tax on all orders due to its local presence in every state.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.