Rumor: Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt supply running short, may indicate forthcoming upgrade in near future

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Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, 08:39
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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You know that spiffy monitor Apple sells? It might be about to be upgraded.

Per AppleInsider, a number of resellers have run dry of Apple Thunderbolt Display inventory, suggesting the 27-inch monitor may be due for an upgrade, perhaps with a thinner design that takes cues from the latest iMacs.

As of Monday, major resellers Amazon, MacMall, and J&R are all out of stock of the Thunderbolt Display. Stock-outs are often one of the first signs of a forthcoming upgrade to Apple hardware.

At the very least, the Thunderbolt Display is in need of an upgrade to its MagSafe cable. Apple currently ships a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter with every Thunderbolt Display to allow compatibility with the latest MacBooks.

But the Thunderbolt Display and its predecessor, the Cinema Display, have historically borrowed LCD technology from Apple’s all-in-one iMac lineup. And the iMac was recently redesigned with a reengineered display panel that is thinner and reduces glare by 75 percent.

Miroslav Djuric, chief information architect with iFixit, noted that the current-generation Thunderbolt display employs the same screen as the previous generation of 27-inch iMacs: an LG-built TFT active-matrix LCD panel.

“Think of the Thunderbolt display as an iMac minus the computing hardware,” Djuric explained.

If that trend were to continue, an updated Thunderbolt Display would include a thinner LCD panel, and likely an overall thinner design. Apple’s new 21.5-inch iMac actually has the same LCD as its predecessor, but the panel is 5 millimeters thinner, suggesting the same components have been squeezed into a smaller space.

Apple also made its new iMacs thinner by fusing the LCD to the front glass. Djuric said he expects that design decision to also be utilized in a next-generation Apple Thunderbolt Display.

However, if Apple is planning to bring the new iMac panel design to a refreshed Thunderbolt Display accessory, the new big-screen monitor’s arrival may not be imminent because of potential production issues.

Apple’s new 27-inch iMac remains in short supply because of apparent production issues associated with the display. Until those issues are worked out, Apple may not have enough panels to also provide for a new 27-inch Thunderbolt Display.

One report last week claimed that Apple and LG have only been able to produce about 100,000 27-inch iMacs per month. Apple’s online store continues to advertise that new orders of the 27-inch iMac ship in three to four weeks.

Analyst Ming-chi Kuo of KGI Securities was first to reveal in August that Apple was planning to use a new screen lamination process in its redesigned iMacs. Kuo also noted that manufacturing of the panels would be difficult.

Another possible upgrade for the Thunderbolt Display could be its ports: The current model features three USB 2.0 ports, but Apple began offering faster USB 3.0 connectivity on its 2012 Macs, including the redesigned iMac. USB 3 offers transfer rates up to 5 Gbps, compared to just 480 Mbps for USB 2.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display was released in July of 2011, making it the world’s first display compatible with Apple’s high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology. In addition to the aforementioned MagSafe charging cable and three USB 2.0 ports, the 27-inch screen includes a FaceTime HD video camera, 2.1 speaker system, one FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Apple also still continues to sell the previous-generation 27-inch LED Cinema Display for older Macs that have a Mini DisplayPort instead of the newer Thunderbolt port. Both the LED Cinema Display and the Thunderbolt Display are sold for US$999.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Some users complain of issues after MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update 2.0, Apple pulls software from web site

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Date: Friday, November 23rd, 2012, 08:17
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Sometimes it pays to wait a few days before installing a fairly hefty firmware update…

Per the Apple Core, a number of users have reported issues with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update 2.0, which was recently offered for 2012 models. Worse, late last week, Apple pulled the support page about the update as well as the download link, indicating a recall on the software.

Some users report issues with video memory as well as with Keychain operation, while on the VMware Fusion Blog, a post warned that the update may cause virtual machines to stop working when a 3D application is run.

Users who have already applied this update and are affected by this issue can work-around it by disabling the “Accelerate 3D Graphics” option under Virtual Machine > Settings > Display.

In other news, Apple this week released a new update for Mountain Lion, OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 Supplemental Update 2.0, which may address some of the Keychain issues separately.

This update is recommended for all Mac systems introduced in 2012 and, fortunately, the issue appears to be a problem with Mountain Lion and not the hardware on the notebooks themselves.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen issues with your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro and the firmware update, please let us know in the comments.

Amazon.com offers discounted MacBook Air, MacBook Pro prices for Black Friday sale

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Date: Friday, November 23rd, 2012, 07:59
Category: MacBook Pro, News, retail

The savings have arrived.

Per AppleInsider, web retailer Amazon.com on Thursday cut pricing on Apple’s MacBook Air lineup and a handful of 13-inch MacBook Pros, yielding the best prices thus far on some models while matching pricing from rival retailers on others.

For MacBook Airs, Amazon has knocked US$100 off all models with the exception of the 1.80GHz 13″ MacBook Air, which it cut by US$174 to US$1,024.99 — the best price for this model thus far. The price cuts also yield the best deals on the 2.5GHz 13″ (4GB/500GB HDD) MacBook Pro US$1,034.99 (US$164.01 in savings) and 2.9GHz 13″ (8GB/750GB HDD) MacBook Pro US$1,349.99 (US$149.01 in savings). Both these prices will best Apple’s Black Friday sale. Amazon also pays some of the highest prices (in Amazon Gift Cards) if you sell them your old Mac (compare with other trade-in services).

So, if you don’t want to venture out there and have to use friends and relatives as shielding today, take a gander at what Amazon might have to offer.

eBay launches Apple certified refurbished products storefront

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Date: Monday, November 19th, 2012, 08:48
Category: News, retail

This could come in handy.

Per AppleInsider, eBay earlier this month introduced a new section to its website dedicated to Apple certified refurbished products, including numerous iPads, MacBooks and iPod touches.

The company’s new Apple Certified Refurbished Product store currently lists a variety of MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iPad and iPod touch products. The online retailer and auction house says each product has passed through the same quality inspection as those refurbished products available on Apple’s own online store, and each comes with the same full one-year warranty. Additionally, all iPads and iPods include a brand new battery.

For example, an Apple-certified, third-generation, Wi-Fi-only iPad with 32 gigabytes of storage can be had for US$469. And a 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.4-gigahertz processor, 4 gigabytes of RAM and a 750-gigabyte hard drive is US$1,699.

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

Analyst: ARM-based Macs “inevitable”, though still a ways off

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Date: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, 09:24
Category: News, Processors

Apple’s future may be in the hands of ARM some day.

Per AppleInsider, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu has gone on record as saying it’s “inevitable” that Apple will merge its Mac and iOS devices at some point, but such a change is not expected to happen for years.

Wu said in a note to investors on Tuesday that he believes it will take Apple some time to optimize its Mac OS X operating system for the ARM processors currently found in the iPad and iPhone.

Intel processors are currently much more powerful for running intensive Mac applications, as well as for development. But he believes that ARM processors will eventually become powerful enough to replace Intel chips.

In his view, making Apple’s entire product line based on custom-built ARM-based processors would simplify the architecture of its devices, and also help to create a more seamless experience for users.

Wu also noted that the Mac represents just 14 percent to 18 percent of Apple’s total revenue. In comparison, the iPhone accounts for between 45 and 50 percent of the company’s revenue, and the iPad is 20 to 25 percent.

Wu’s take was issued in response to a report that surfaced on Monday from Bloomberg, which indicated that Apple’s engineers are confident that the company’s A-series custom chip designs will one day be powerful enough to run the company’s desktop and laptop machines. ARM-based silicon in Apple devices is currently limited to iOS devices.

Monday’s report also suggested a change to ARM processors is not likely to take place “in the next few years.” But it also portrayed a shift to proprietary chip designs as an “inevitable” transition for the company in the future.

Apple is said to have a team dedicated to the project, with engineers working to design a lineup of machines that rely on a common chip design. Apple already employs this approach with its current lineup of iPhones, iPads and iPods.

A potential switch to ARM chips would pose a challenge to Intel, Wu said. He noted that Apples’ 11-inch MacBook Air gets four to five hours of battery life under heavy use, compared to 10 hours of battery life with an ARM-based iPad.

Reports suggesting Apple could power future Macs with ARM processors are not new. One recent story issued in October also said Apple has “deliberated” moving its lineup of Mac computers away from Intel processors, though such a change was said to not be “imminent.”

Apple has made headway in designing its own custom silicon for the iPhone and iPad. Earlier this year, rumors suggested Apple was looking to use its own ARM processors in upcoming iterations of the MacBook, especially in power-critical applications like the thin-and-light MacBook Air.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple extends warranty for 2009 iMac, cites known hard drive issue

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Date: Monday, October 15th, 2012, 06:39
Category: hard drive, Hardware, iMac, News

There’s nothing like a quiet warranty extension to put your mind at ease.

Per MacRumors, Apple on Friday quietly extended its iMac 1TB Seagate Hard Drive Replacement Program coverage back two years to include models sold from October 2009, effectively adding almost two years to the initiative which previously included machines sold between May and June of 2011.

News of the extension was posted to Apple’s Support webpage sometime on Friday, which noted email notifications were being sent to affected iMac owners who took the time to register their products. Users can also check the program’s webpage to confirm eligibility.

From the announcement:

Apple has determined that certain Seagate 1TB hard drives used in 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMac systems may fail. These systems were sold between October 2009 and July 2011.

iMac owners who were affected by the Seagate-specific failure can have their hard drives replaced for free from Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or those who have already paid for repair or replacement can contact Apple for a possible refund.

First initiated in July 2011, the recall originally ran through July 23, 2012 and covered iMacs sold between May 2011 and July 2011. The program was subsequently extended for an additional year. With Friday’s announcement, the replacement plan has been broadened again, and now covers affected iMacs for three years after the first retail sale of the unit or until April 12, 2013, whichever provides longer coverage.

Seagate’s storage components were at the center of another fiasco in 2007, when Apple acknowledged that a number of MacBook and MacBook Pros shipped with faulty hard drives. An apparent manufacturing flaw caused the drive head of some units to permanently fail, scratching the disk patter and causing permanent data loss.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases firmware updates for late-2010 MacBook Air, mid-2012 MacBook Air, mid-2012 MacBook Pro and mid-2012 Retina Display MacBook Pro

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Date: Thursday, September 20th, 2012, 07:06
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

Pretty much everything in the known universe was updated on Wednesday.

And assorted firmware updates for your MacBook…those tend to be important, so let’s go through them.

On Wednesday, Apple released MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.9 for its mid-2012 MacBook Pro notebook. The update, a 4 megabyte download, resolves an issue which can cause the system to hang during heavy processor loads and requires an Intel-based mid-2012 MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

The company also released MacBook Air SMC Update 1.7 for its late-2010 MacBook Air notebook. The update, a 668 kilobyte download, enables Power Nap support on MacBook Air (Late 2010) computers, is recommended for all users running OS X v10.8.2 or later and requires an Intel-based late-2010 MacBook Air running OS X 10.8.2 or later to install and run.

Second to last, the company also released MacBook Pro Retina EFI Update 1.0 for its mid-2012 MacBook Pro Retina Display notebook. The update, a 5.2 megabyte download, resolves an issue which can cause the system to hang during heavy processor loads, and resolves an issue where NetBoot does not function properly when using an Ethernet adapter and requires an Intel-based MacBook Pro with Retina Display running Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

Finally, the company also released MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.5 for its mid-2012 MacBook Air notebook. The update, a 5 megabyte download, fixes an issue where Turbo Boost does not activate when using Boot Camp, and resolves an issue where NetBoot does not function properly when using an Ethernet adapter and requires an Intel-based mid-2012 MacBook Air running Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

As always, these updates can be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature. Be sure your computer is plugged in while the firmware updates take place and you should be home free.

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

Apple awarded carbon fiber manufacturing patent, could make future MacBooks lighter, more shock resistant

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Date: Tuesday, September 4th, 2012, 07:06
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Patents

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The way your new MacBook notebook is manufactured is about to change.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for a carbon fiber molding process that could one day be used to produce parts made from the lightweight material, like laptop casings or mobile device chassis.

The patent, number 8,257,075, for a “Carbon composite mold design” describes the systems and methods needed to manufacture “aesthetically pleasing” parts from carbon fiber and other resin based composites.

While the applications of carbon fiber composite materials are many, Apple specifically notes that the invention can be used to “form outer housings for a laptop computer or other similar device.” The patent may prove useful as an increasing consumer demand has pushed the industry toward slim and sleek portables with relatively heavy large screens. For example, the weight of the much-rumored next-generation iPhone’s expected 4-inch screen could be offset by a carbon fiber monocoque.

It seems that the invention is aimed at larger devices like Apple’s MacBook line, however, much like Sony’s carbon fiber Vaio Z thin-and-light series.

The patent is described as follows:
“As but one example, it would be particularly helpful if portable electronic device housings and components could be stronger and more durable than what is now typically provided in plastic parts that are formed via ordinary plastic injection molding processes. In particular, it would be beneficial if laptops, notebook computers, and other relatively large and heavy portable computing devices could have outer housings that are better able to protect the entire device from drops and other mechanical shocks.”

The patent notes that traditional resin-based composites are made by layering resin-impregnated sheets of into or over a mold, which then cures under increased heat and pressure. Removal of the part can prove a hassle as the resins stick to the mold surfaces, which often requires manual prying and peeling from an operator. As a result, surface blemishes and other defects often occur.

Apple’s proposed method looks to enable the mass-production of carbon fiber parts that have a consistent visual appearance by streamlining the manufacturing process.

The invention calls for a two-part mold, one a cavity and another portion “adapted to mate with the first,” allowing composite parts to be formed in between. After curing, ejector pins located on one or both of the mold portions are used to separate the material from the mold body.

In another embodiment, a mold can have one or more internal fluid lines to help with cooling, a permanent release coating, and guide pins to accurately align the fiber sheets. Either a fluid or gas-actuated ejection system can also be employed for easy removal of the cured parts.

While Apple has shown no signs of using the advanced carbon fiber molding techniques in any future devices, the company may very well choose to do so in its push toward lighter and stronger products.

So, if nothing else, your future MacBook could become lighter, stronger and perhaps shoot lasers at those who oppose you.

Which is never a bad thing.

Apple releases MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update 1.0 for 2012 notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, July 18th, 2012, 15:44
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

This could be helpful.

On Wednesday, Apple released its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update 1.0 for its 2012 notebooks. The update, a 76.6 megabyte download, fixes an issue that can lead to increased CPU power consumption, and it improves compatibility with some USB devices.

As always, the update can also be found and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

The update requires a 2012 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro notebook and Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

Obviously, this is a significant firmware update, so please let us know how it went for you via feedback in the comments section.

Apple posts official list of OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)-compatible Macs

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Date: Thursday, July 12th, 2012, 06:38
Category: News, Software

If you qualify, you’ll try to high-five everyone you meet today and your friends will eventually want you to shut up about it.

If you don’t, well, you can meet me down at the corner pub for happy hour…

Per The Verge, Apple has posted a “How to Upgrade” page on its website that contains a list of Mac models with Intel chipsets that qualify for Mountain Lion:

- iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)

- MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)

- MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)

- MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)

- Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)

- Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)

- Xserve (Early 2009)

After verifying that a Mac is eligible for the upgrade, users are instructed to check that they have OS X Lion or the latest version of Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.8) installed. The third step is simply to “download OS X Mountain Lion when it becomes available in July” and follow the onscreen instructions to install it.

Apple announced OS X Mountain Lion in February, specifically mentioning newer Macs as qualifying for the upgrade. At the time, it was suspected that Macs with Intel’s GMA 950 and GMA X3100 integrated graphics processors would not be capable of running OS X 10.8.

By distributing new versions of OS X solely on the Mac App Store, Apple has also drawn a line in the sand, since Macs not capable of installing at least OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 won’t be able to access the App Store.

The Mac maker appears on track to release Mountain Lion this month as promised. Developers received the Golden Master version of the OS on Monday and an invitation from Apple to submit applications for the update to the Mac App Store. The US$19.99 upgrade contains over 200 new features, such as closer integration with iCloud, new security checks and voice dictation.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

And as much as I love my 2006 Mac Pro, maybe it’s time we started seeing other people…