Rumor: Apple testing ultrathin, optical-drive-free 15″ MacBook Pro notebook

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Date: Monday, October 31st, 2011, 05:59
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Never doubt the thin nature of the MacBook Air, as people tend to like it.

Per the Japanese Macotakara web blog, Apple is allegedly prepared to add a new thin-and-light 15-inch MacBook to its lineup in the near future, with one report claiming the company has finished development of a crucial test component.

Calling the new notebook model an extension of the MacBook Air family, Macotakara reported on Sunday that Apple is finishing up a “test phase” for the new 15-inch ultraportable. Citing an Asian source, the report said Apple has already finished development of an LCD test component for the anticipated notebook.

However, the report also noted that Apple is believed to be developing a next-generation MacBook Pro that will not have a built-in optical disc drive. The new 15-inch MacBook reportedly “seems to fill” the role of a next-generation MacBook Pro.

Whatever name the new portable Mac might take, rumors have suggested the current physical form factor of the MacBook Pro lineup will undergo a drastic redesign in 2012. For some time now it has been said that Apple will redesign its MacBook Pro lineup sometime next year.

Last week, Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro lineup, adding slightly faster Intel Sandy Bridge processors, as well as improved AMD Radeon graphics. The new notebooks were a minor update ahead of the holiday buying season, believed to be an attempt to keep the MacBook Pro lineup competitive until a major refresh occurs next year.

Apple’s future MacBooks are expected to feature Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which are slated to arrive at some point in the first half of 2012. Intel confirmed last week that it has begun volume production of its 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, and systems powered by the new CPUs should be available in the spring of 2012.

Currently, Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup comes with screen sizes of 13 inches, 15 inches and 17 inches, and all of its professional notebooks feature optical DVD disc drives. The MacBook Air is available with screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches, and all models feature only solid-state hard drives with no optical drive.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.3, MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.2 upgrades

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 04:22
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple released EFI firmware updates for both its 2011 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air notebooks. The updates, which weigh in at a 4.1 megabyte download and a 4 megabyte download, respectively, fix several issues to improve the stability of Apple’s mid-2011notebooks.

The update includes fixes that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on Apple’s mid-2011 notebook models.

As always, the updates can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

The updates require an Intel-based mid-2011 MacBook Pro or MacBook Air notebook and Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

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

Catcher unibody plant may reopen as early as next week

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 06:08
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Maybe the problems weren’t as bad as they said they were.

Per Reuters, Apple supplier Catcher Technology said Wednesday that its China plant that builds unibody MacBook cases will fully reopen at the end of October.

The new details from Taipei, Taiwan are an indication that any supply constraints experienced by Apple could be relatively short-lived. The company was ordered to shut down a factory that builds unibody enclosures for Apple on Oct. 16.

That plant in Eastern China was said to produce 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air products. The plant has also been responsible for casings for Apple’s all-in-one iMac desktop.

Catcher had previously said that a partial production halt at the factory would slash shipments in October by 20 percent. That number could have grown to as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refused to allow the plant to resume production.

But with Wednesday’s announcement that the plan will open at the end of the month, any concerns about November production appear to be assuaged. Last week, Catcher had originally said it hoped to reopen its plant at some time in November.

The Catcher facility was closed due to “strange odors” said to have been emanating from the plant. The shutdown came just as Apple reported its best quarter ever for Mac sales, reaching 4.9 million units.

Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro lineup on Monday, with slightly faster Intel processors and updated graphics, while some models gained larger hard drives. The design of the notebooks remains unchanged, featuring Apple’s signature unibody look.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Catcher to invest $2-3 million to reopen Chinese MacBook unibody case plant within November time frame

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Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:05
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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After local officials ordered the suspension of operations at a Suzhou, China factory that supplies Apple with chassis for its laptops, Taiwanese manufacturer Catcher Technology will invest US$2-3 million with the goal of getting its facility back online in November.

Per DigiTimes, details emerged that Catcher had temporarily closed a plant that provides 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air product lines, as well as the iMac all-in-one desktop. The company is reportedly spending to “modify equipment and manufacturing processes” to resolve complaints from nearby residents regarding “odorous gas emissions.”

“Catcher aims to resume operations at the plant in November,” the publication noted. The manufacturer’s president, Allen Horng, had previously said that total shipments would fall 20 percent in October and could drop by as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refuses to allow the plant to resume production.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” he said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

According to the report, Catcher is now considering increasing its investment in Taiwan in order to diversify operations and reduce its operating risk. The manufacturer recently ratcheted up production at a plant in southern Taiwan and purchased a new lot for further expansion in the area.

Catcher’s production woes could restrict an already limited supply chain for metal chassis. In August, it was reported that laptop makers looking to build machines to Intel’s “Ultrabook” specifications were having trouble securing production capacity for unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis. Foxconn and Catcher reportedly have a combined total of 10,000 CNC lathes required for the process, with most of their supply going to Apple.

During Apple’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said that the company is “investigating and assessing” the potential shortage of Mac unibody casings. In the most recent September quarter, Apple had its best quarter ever for Mac sales, selling 4.89 million during the period. Portables now represent 74 percent of the company’s sales.

In 2008, Apple detailed the new unibody manufacturing process, calling the design “in many ways more beautiful internally than externally.”

Apple is expected to release a modest update to its MacBook Pro line later this month. The laptops will likely receive a speed bump to tide them over until Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge chips are ready next year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

“Strange odor” at manufacturing plant could lead to reduced Mac notebook shipments in November

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 04:32
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

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Come to think of it, metal housings ARE sort of important on your Mac notebook…

According to the Financial Times, a Chinese factory responsible for manufacturing the metal housings for Apple’s uni-body laptop lineup has been shutdown due to “strange odors” emanating from the plant, potentially causing a 40% decrease in shipments for November.

Catcher Technology, a Taiwanese company with factories in Eastern China, was ordered on Sunday to shutdown a factory that produces 60% of Apple’s uni-body enclosures for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines. The plant also produces casings for Apple’s iMac and products for other notebook makers such as Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Sony.

The president of Catcher Technology, Allen Horng, reported that total shipments would fall 20% in October, adding that November could see a 40% drop if the local government doesn’t clear the plant for operation by the end of the month.

“Shipments to our customers will inevitably be affected,” Horng said in a press conference Monday. “We already asked them to make adjustments to their (casings) procurement.”

It is unclear whether the plant shutdown will affect shipments of a rumored MacBook Pro refresh, expected to be announced later this month. Notebooks accounted for a majority of Apple’s Mac sales in the quarter ending in June.

Analysts expect another record breaking quarter, bolstered by strengthened MacBook Air sales, when the company announces its quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple support note advises against daisy-chaining Thunderbolt-equipped displays

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Date: Monday, September 19th, 2011, 03:27
Category: Hardware, News

Apple’s new Thunderbolt-equipped displays are getting good reviews and can do a fair number of things.

But they can’t be daisy-chained.

According to an Apple support document, the company has noted that previous DisplayPort screens will not work when attached to the Thunderbolt port of its new display.

Thunderbolt-equipped Macs can support one or two Thunderbolt Displays, depending on the Thunderbolt chip in the system.

Apple notes that MacBook Airs support one external Thunderbolt Display in addition to their built in screen, while MacBook Pros, iMacs and the Mac mini can all support two Thunderbolt Displays.

With two external displays, the lowest end 13 inch MacBook Pro will lose the ability to drive its built in screen, while the highest end Mac mini with discrete AMD graphics can support two Thunderbolt Displays in addition to a third screen attached to its HDMI port.

However, users with an existing Mini DisplayPort external monitor will not be able to daisy chain the screen from the back of the new Thunderbolt Display, despite it being physically compatible with the port. Apple notes that “Mini DisplayPort displays will not light up if connected to the Thunderbolt port on an Apple Thunderbolt Display.”

Existing Mini DisplayPort screens, such as Apple’s LED Cinema Display, have never previously supported daisy chaining multiple screens to a single Mini DisplayPort interface, but the screens are supposed to work at the end of a Thunderbolt chain if there are no other displays in the chain.

Having any other screen in the Thunderbolt chain will kill ability of previous, non-Thunderbolt displays from being able to receive the DisplayPort signal, negating their forward compatibility with the new Thunderbolt standard.

The new Thunderbolt Display just began shipping to users yesterday after Apple released firmware updates for its new Thunderbolt-equipped Macs to solve remaining issues with working with the new screens.

In addition to serving as an external screen with stereo speakers, a FaceTime camera and a Magsafe power supply for powering a connected notebook, the new Thunderbolt Display also incorporates the features of a docking station, supplying connected Thunderbolt Macs with Gigabit Ethernet, three additional USB 2.0 ports, Firewire 800 and an additional Thunderbolt port.

Apple recommends that users connect storages devices to the display’s Thunderbolt port rather than connecting the display further down the chain.

If you’ve received a new Thunderbolt-equipped Apple display and have feedback regarding it, please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple’s white legacy MacBook shifted over to education marketplace

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Date: Thursday, July 21st, 2011, 03:11
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, News

Following up on yesterday’s story that Apple had removed its US$999 white entry-level MacBook from its inventory, the company has apparently kept the notebook available for eduction institutions only.

Per AppleInsider, Apple surprised on Wednesday when it suddenly pulled the white MacBook from its site, bringing a faster-than-expected transition to the new 11.6-inch MacBook Air as the only $999 notebook in Apple’s lineup.

According to sources, monthly shipments for the Core 2 Duo MacBook had fallen to between 80,000 and 100,000 units, comprising less than 10 percent of the Apple’s total Mac shipments in the first half of 2011.

Since then, Apple has announced to resellers that its white MacBook, model No. MC516, is available for education institutions only. Channel backlog and non-direct education institution customers will see their orders canceled effective immediately.

The MacBook will remain available to partners via Apple’s online reseller stores only for education institutions. The company did not offer a timeframe for which the entry-level notebook will remain available.

The white polycarbonate MacBook was Apple’s only US$999 notebook for years, but that changed in 2010 when the redesigned MacBook Air was launched. That included a new entry-level 11.6-inch model at the same price point which found instant success on the market.

The MacBook Air offers some key advantages over the white MacBook, namely fast NAND flash memory for storage, an ultraportable thin-and-light design, and a durable aluminum unibody construction. But the MacBook also sports a larger 13-inch display, features an optical drive, includes a built-in Ethernet port, and has more hard drive space.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple discontinues $999 white MacBook

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Date: Wednesday, July 20th, 2011, 07:22
Category: MacBook, News

It’s kind of turning into a day of days, news-wise.

In the midst of news, updates and product releases, Apple has officially axed the US$999 white plastic MacBook, which has held down the low-cost end of Apple’s laptop line for years.

Per Macworld, the notebook was bumped off by the brand new US$999 MacBook Air, which boasts a Thunderbolt port and Intel Core i5 processors over the MacBook. As of now, if you want to buy the lowest-price Mac laptop available, it will still cost US$999—but now it’ll have an 11.6-inch display and a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor. Users who demand a 13-inch laptop will now pay US$200 more—the base-level 13-inch MacBook Pro retails for US$1199.

Still, it had a good run… and if you need any consolation, I’ve made a stack of G4 Cube units into a pretty nifty local bar in your area.

Rumor: Apple slated to release Mac OS X 10.7, next-gen MacBook Air on Wednesday

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Date: Tuesday, July 19th, 2011, 05:49
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor, Software

It’s the rumor mill that keeps life interesting…

Per AppleInsider, Apple could launch both its Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and its widely anticipated Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Air notebooks on Wednesday.

According to sources with proven track records, the new product launches are set to occur later this week. Specifically, one person said the products would be released on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

The latest details align with what rumors that have been circulating this month, when it reported that new MacBook Air models with backlit keyboards and Thunderbolt ports would launch the week of July 21.

Those details were reaffirmed late last week in a separate report that corroborated other details, including the fact that Apple is expected to do away with the entry-level 64GB solid-state flash hard drive option. Instead, the new MacBook Airs are expected to have a minimum of 128GB in capacity.

The new notebooks, according to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, are also expected to come with 4GB of RAM as the standard. That extra memory will allow the systems to better run Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple’s next-generation operating system, also said to become available this week.

Apple has been holding off on the introduction of new Mac hardware until it finally releases Lion. Apple has not offered a specific launch date for the operating system, only promising that it will become available on the Mac App Store for US$29.99 at some point in July.

A few weeks ago, Apple began undertaking preparatory measures to unveil Lion. While it was initially believed that the operating system could have gone on sale as soon as last week, there have been rumors of last-minute holdups associated with the logistics and infrastructure related to Apple’s switch to a digital distribution method through the Mac App Store.

The Golden Master of Lion was seeded to developers on July 1. The term “Golden Master” means that the software is viewed as a final build that will be identical to the software released to the general public.

While Lion and the new MacBook Air models are said to be set to launch this week, there has been no specific indication given regarding any other hardware. However, Apple provided its own evidence of a forthcoming refresh to its LED Cinema Display last week, when it posted images on its site showing a Thunderbolt-equipped display with the new part number “MC914.”

Supply of Apple’s white MacBook has also been severely constrained since late June, suggesting a change to the product could be forthcoming. Since then, there has been no indication of an imminent hardware refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

OWC launches Data Doubler DIY Kit for Unibody MacBook, MacBook Pro systems

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Date: Wednesday, July 13th, 2011, 02:02
Category: Accessory, Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

On Tuesday Other World Computing announced the immediate availability of its OWC Data Doubler 1.0 DIY Kit for adding up to 2.0TB of internal storage capacity to Apple’s “Unibody” MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks.

The US$174.99 MSRP OWC Data Doubler 1.0TB DIY Kit is now available and features a Data Doubler optical bay converter bracket, a Samsung Spinpoint M8 1.0TB 9.5mm hard drive, a detailed step-by-step Mac notebook model specific installation guide, a five piece toolkit, free online ‘How To’ installation videos, and is fully compatible with the following Macintosh® notebook computers:

- MacBook 13″ “Late 2008” ‘Unibody’ and later models (All)

- MacBook 13″ “Late 2009” ‘White Unibody’ and later models (All)

- MacBook Pro 13″ “Mid 2009” ‘Unibody’ and later models (All)

- MacBook Pro 15″ “Late 2008” ‘Unibody’ and later models (All)

- MacBook Pro 17″ “Early 2009” ‘Unibody’ and later models (All)

The OWC Data Doubler gives “Unibody” MacBook and MacBook Pro owners the flexibility to uniquely configure their computer’s internal drive array. Any SATA 2.5″ hard drive or SSD of up to 9.5mm (Super Slim) height can be mounted onto the bracket with the entire assembly then user installable in a “Unibody” MacBook or MacBook Pro optical drive bay. 9.5mm SATA 2.5″ hard drives are fully “Plug and Play” recognized via the Apple Disk Utility program with standard configuration options just like any typical drive including, but not limited to:

- Creating an individual volume with its own desktop icon.

- Combining a new drive with the existing internal drive for one larger
volume (SPAN).

- Combining a new matching drive with existing internal for high-
performance RAID-0 Stripe volume.

- Configuring a new drive as a Time Machine™ backup drive.

- Formatting one drive for the Mac OS and the other dedicated for Windows.

- SuperSlim Enclosure Converts Optical Drive Into External Solution

The OWC Data Doubler is now available for immediate purchase.

If you have any feedback about OWC’s product lines, let us know in the comments.