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…

OS X 10.8 may not run on earlier 64-bit Macs

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Date: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012, 07:24
Category: News, Software

The good news: OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) has gone gold master and will probably arrive this month.

The bad news: It might not run on your older 64-bit Intel-based Mac.

According to Ars Technica, Apple has updated the upgrade page of its website, tweaking which models will be supported by the latest big cat.

Despite a few older Macs being otherwise 64-bit capable — a requirement for both the current OS X Lion and the upcoming OS X Mountain Lion — it appears that 32-bit graphics drivers may be to blame for Apple’s decision.

“While Mountain Lion is compatible with any Mac capable of running a 64-bit kernel, the kernel no longer supports loading 32-bit kernel extensions (KEXTs),” Ars Technica explains. “Since those older drivers are 32-bit, Mountain Lion won’t load them. We believe Apple decided it was better to draw the line in the sand for some older machines rather than invest the resources into updating the drivers for these older GPUs.”

As noted by Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion upgrade page, supported Macs now include the following:

- 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)

If you’re running close to edge of this cutoff, now might be a good time to consider a new Mac anyway, as Apple will chuck in a free copy of Mountain Lion with the purchase.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Axiotron announces Modbook Pro products, points towards early fall launch

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Date: Thursday, June 28th, 2012, 09:35
Category: Hardware, Modbook, News

It’s been a while since we covered this.

Per MacRumors, Axiotron, creators of the famed Modbook tablet, has announced a new generation of Modbook Pro products.

Built from a unique enclosure conversion kit, the Modbook Pro incorporates and completely encases the original hardware of a new Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-inch base system. Its Wacom digitizer delivers 512 levels of pen pressure sensitivity — more than any other tablet computer on the market. And its ForceGlass screen provides an etched, paper-emulating drawing surface.



The Modbook Pro components connect to the original MacBook Pro through one of its two USB 3.0 ports, with the entire assembly being enclosed in a new casing for an integrated OS X-based tablet solution that also supports Windows 7.

The Modbook Pro is scheduled to launch in “early fall 2012″, with pricing and retail partners yet to be announced.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple expected to phase out 17-inch MacBook Pro in upcoming hardware generation

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Date: Friday, June 8th, 2012, 08:15
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The 17-inch MacBook Pro had a great run, but it may not be long for this world.

Per AppleInsider, With a new MacBook lineup said to be on the way, Apple is expected to discontinue its 17-inch MacBook Pro this year, and might even ax the Pro lineup entirely in favor of the “new MacBook” in 2013.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI said in a research note that Apple is still planning to retire the 17-inch MacBook Pro in 2012. He expects only the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros will receive updates from Apple this month.

A discontinuation of the 17-inch MacBook Pro is expected to be part of a major shakeup in Apple’s notebook lineup. Kuo also indicated on Friday that Apple is apparently planning to introduce an entirely new MacBook lineup next week, with new models positioned between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro sized at 13 and 15 inches.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro would be a logical choice for Apple to retire, as the premium professional notebook only accounted for 1.7 percent of the company’s notebook sales in the first quarter of 2012. The most popular option, Kuo said, was the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which took 46.9 percent of sales, followed by an 18.1 percent share for the 13-inch MacBook Air, and 16 percent for the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Kuo believes that Apple even plans to go beyond the 17-inch model and potentially discontinue the entire MacBook Pro lineup, replacing it with new 13- and 15-inch notebooks he has referred to as simply the “new MacBook.” If the new MacBook proves popular enough, he thinks Apple could reduce its notebook lineup to just four products: the 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs, and the new 13- and 15-inch MacBooks.

But given a “high sales weighting” for the MacBook Pro, Kuo admitted it would be “difficult” for Apple to quickly discontinue the MacBook Pro. He expects the product will remain on the shelves until 2013, at which point Apple is seen as “likely” to reduce supply of the MacBook Pro to help boost sales of the new MacBook.

The new MacBook series is expected to be a merging of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lineups. Apple’s new laptops are believed to feature a thinner design and will lack optical disc drives, but will offer more power than the MacBook Air.

Kuo first suggested in April that Apple could discontinue the 17-inch MacBook Pro this year, citing falling shipments of the top-of-the-line notebook. He was the first to indicate in 2011 that Apple planned to phase out its 13-inch polycarbonate MacBook.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Matrox releases DS1, allows Thunderbolt-equipped Macs and PC notebooks desktop range of ports

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Date: Monday, June 4th, 2012, 05:17
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Peripheral

You can’t knock a good peripheral device.

Per AppleInsider, Matrox on Sunday unveiled its new DS1 Thunderbolt docking station, which allows users to add multiple peripherals like an HDMI display, a full-size keyboard and a mouse to a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac or PC and will be available this September for US$249.

The DS1 also includes a gigabit Ethernet port that provides connectivity to wired corporate networks at data transfers 18 times faster than Wi-Fi. In addition, it has a high-speed USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a microphone input, and a speaker/headphone output, all of which can connect to a Thunderbolt MacBook or Ultrabook with just one cable.



The Matrox DS1 will be showcased at the Computex Taipei 2012 event at Intel’s official booth, located at M0410 in the NanGang Exhibition Hall.

Also set to arrive in September is Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock, which was announced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show. It will also turn a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac into a full-fledged desktop workstation with an HDMI port, FireWire 800 port, three USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5-millimeter audio port, one gigabit Ethernet port, and two Thunderbolt ports for daisy-chaining to another Thunderbolt device.

Apple also offers the Thunderbolt Display, which lets users plug in one 10Gbps Thunderbolt cable to drive a monitor, 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.