Apple patent application for dock concept discusses location-based profiles

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Date: Friday, July 1st, 2011, 03:24
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent applications that make life interesting.

That or love.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has shown interest in a new location-based docking system that would dynamically change the interface and settings of a portable device for different activities like working or driving a car.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Location-Based Dock for a Computing Device.” The proposed invention notes that while docking stations are typically passive devices, these described docks would take on a more active role.

“It is often left to the user to configure the computing device for use at different locations by accessing or selecting the proper software applications and security measures for the computing device…” the application reads. “However, such configuration of the device may be both time-consuming and confusing to a non-sophisticated user.”

Apple’s idea could apply to any portable device, whether it be a MacBook, an iPhone or an iPad. Each docking station would, when coupled with the appropriate portable computing device, recognize its location and allow the user to operate the device accordingly.

For example, an iPhone plugged into a moving car could automatically become optimized for use through voice control, as a user driving would not be able to operate the touchscreen.

For someone who uses the same hardware both at home and at the office, a system could automatically be reconfigured to offer the best of both worlds. For example, while at work, a docked system would access work-related e-mails and calendar entries, while at home the device would switch to personal e-mail and calendars.

Apple’s concept also extends to other docking ideas, including one meant to be used while watching television, or another that would have a device act as a digital picture frame while docked.

The location-based element could allow the settings to change based on the physical location of the hardware. In this method, if a user were to have only one docking station, they could use it both at work and at home and the appropriate settings would be implemented

And while location could play an important role in each docking station, Apple’s concept also notes that settings could be tied to a particular dock regardless of its location. For example, a user could have two or more docking stations at a single location, allowing them to use them for different computing configurations.

The patent application is credited to Nicholas Vincent King, Aleksandar Pance and Brett Bilbrey. It was first filed on New Years Eve in 2009.

Apple launches MacBook bottom case replacement program for Unibody MacBooks shipped between October, 2009 and April, 2011

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Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011, 04:27
Category: MacBook, News

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Over the past couple days, Apple has initiated a case replacement program for MacBooks shipped between October 2009 and April 2011 to resolve an issue where the rubber separates from the bottom of the case.

Per AppleInsider, the MacBook Bottom Case Replacement Program is available to owners with affected MacBooks, regardless of current warranty status.

Apple offers three options for replacing the case: set up an appointment with an Apple Genius and visit an Apple Retail Store; visit an Apple Authorized Service Provider; and self service by ordering a replacement case kit online. Do It Yourself kits include a new bottom case, screws, a Phillips head screwdriver and instructions for removal of the old case and installation of the new one.

Customers who have paid for a repair or replacement because of the issue can also contact Apple regarding a refund. The note advises that no action is required for owners who aren’t currently experiencing the issue.

The program will be offered worldwide and will cover affected MacBooks for two years from the original purchase date, though it does not extend standard warranty coverage. Further extensions of the program may come as Apple continues to “evaluate service data.”

Apple introduced the redesigned polycarbonate unibody MacBook with a unique non-skid rubber bottom in October 2009. The entry-level notebook line received a quiet update in May 2010, adding Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics.

According to Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu’s checks with suppliers, the Mac maker will update the MacBook line in a matter of months. Wu estimates the white MacBook accounts for roughly one-third of Apple’s portable business, which makes up 73% of all Mac sales.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, let us know.

Rumor: Apple may switch to ARM processors for notebooks in 2013

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Date: Friday, May 6th, 2011, 05:27
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s the rumors that make life interesting.

Per SemiAccurate, sources have claimed that Apple will be transitioning from Intel processors to ARM processors in the not too distant future.

The short story is that Apple is its notebook line, and presumably desktops too, to ARM-based chips as soon as possible.

The transition seems unlikely to take place after ARM has moved to full 64-bit cores which won’t likely be until at least mid-2013.

At that point, Apple can move to ARM without worrying about obsoleting code with an [instruction set architecture] that is on the verge of changing, and no memory overhead worries either.

Apple has made a heavy investment in the ARM architecture which presently powers their iOS line of products. Apple even made the bold move to take ARM processor design in house with the acquisition P.A. Semi and Intrinsity.

A transition of the Mac notebook line over to a different processor architecture would still present some roadblocks. While Apple did previously succeed in such a transition in the past with the PowerPC to Intel transition, it was not without an incredible amount of engineering to ease the process. Existing Mac applications would be unable to run on the new ARM processors without some sort of emulation layer. Mac applications would have to be recompiled to support the ARM processors.

While ARM is known for their low power processors, last year they announced plans to move into high-performance computing in the future, and has been rumored to moving into the 64-bit space as well.

Codenamed “Eagle,” the A15 architecture is ostensibly aimed at netbooks and tablets, but a look at the spec sheet leaves no doubt that ARM is absolutely gunning for the server market that Intel and AMD currently dominate.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available

Rumor: Supply chain sources indicate updates to various Macs in coming months

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Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 03:03
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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When in doubt, check the supply chain.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Shaw Wu has conferred with sources along Apple’s supply chain and has noted that Apple plans to refresh the rest of its Mac lineup, which would include the MacBook, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and MacBook Air, “in upcoming months.”

Not included on Wu’s list are the MacBook Pro, which underwent a refresh in February, and the iMac, which saw a new version on Tuesday. Both products saw a transition to Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors and the addition of the new high-speed Thunderbolt input/output port.

Wu believes the MacBook refresh is especially important because the entry-level notebook represents roughly one-third of Apple’s portable business, which itself has grown to 73% of all Mac sales. The last update for the MacBook came in May 2010.

As for the other Macs, the Mac Mini was most recently refreshed in June 2010, while the Mac Pro saw an update last July and the MacBook Air received a substantial upgrade last October. Wu sees the upcoming Mac refreshes as offsetting “a very minor cannibalistic impact” that the iPad 2 could have on Apple’s Mac business.

In February, a report claimed that Apple will replace the MacBook Air’s aging Core 2 Duo chip with the current Sandy Bridge processors in June.

In his note, Wu told investors that Tuesday’s iMac refresh stands as “a worthy upgrade” and should help “reinvigorate” Mac’s desktop business, which has declined to 27% of Macs shipped. Sales of Mac desktops actually dropped by 12% year over year last quarter, compared to 53% year over year growth for portable Macs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple reports $24.67 billion in revenue, $5.99 billion profit for second quarter

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Date: Wednesday, April 20th, 2011, 15:05
Category: Finance, News

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As irked as you may be with Apple from time to time, there’s no doubting this: the company makes a profit and is around for the long haul.

Per Macworld, Apple announced the results of its second fiscal quarter, citing sales of US$24.67 billion and a net profit of US$5.99 billion, according to figures announced by the company Wednesday.

The company’s quarterly revenue, a record figure for the second quarter, beat year-ago sales by 83%. Profits also set a record for the quarter, and improved 95% over the US$3.07 billion in profit the company tallied in the 2010 second quarter.

Apple earned US$6.40 per share, beating last year’s second-quarter earnings of US$3.33 per share by 92%. Apple’s performance also blew away analyst estimates. Analysts were looking for the company to report US$23.34 billion in revenue and earnings of US$5.36 per share for the quarter.

During the conference call, Apple stated that it had sold 18.65 million iPhones during the quarter, which ended March 26. This figure represents an increase of 113% from the 8.75 million phones Apple sold over the same period last year. The company recorded recognized revenue of US$12.3 billion in the just-completed quarter, an increase of 126%.

All told, Apple ended its fiscal second quarter with the iPhone available in 90 countries through 186 carriers, compared to 185 carriers in 90 countries at the end of the first quarter; Apple Chief Financial Office Peter Oppenheimer noted that there had been some carrier contraction during the last three months that offset the addition of new partners such as Verizon in the U.S., SK Telecom in South Korea, and Saudi Telecom in Saudi Arabia.

Apple sold 3.76 million Macs during the second quarter, an increase of 28% over the 2.9 million Macs sold during the year-ago period. That set a record for Mac sales during the March quarter, Oppenheimer said. In particular, Mac sales compared favorably with the overall PC market, which contracted at a rate of 3% during the quarter, according to figures from IDC. That marks the twentieth consecutive quarter that Apple has outgrown the PC market, although sales numbers were below those posted by Apple for the last two quarters.

Notebooks continue to be the big driver for Mac sales, with the 2.7 million portables making up 73% of the Macs sold during the quarter. In addition to the February revamp of the MacBook Pro line, Apple also reaped the benefits of last year’s MacBook Air updates. The 1 million desktops sold were only more than during one of the last five quarters.

Apple also made notable gains internationally with Macs, seeing 76% growth in the Asia Pacific region on a year-over-year basis.

The iPad 2 shipped at the end of the quarter, on March 11 in the U.S. and on March 25 in 25 additional countries, which helped spur sales of Apple’s tablet. All told, Apple sold 4.69 million iPads during the quarter, though it didn’t break down those sales between the iPad 2 and the original model. In total, Apple has sold 19.48 million iPads since the product was released in April 2010.

Unfortunately, iPod sales continued their decline, though Apple says that the product line’s performance was ahead of expectations. The company sold 9.02 million iPods during the quarter, a drop of 17% from last year’s second-quarter figures. More than half of the iPods sold during the quarter were the iPod touch, according to Apple’s figures.

Despite that decline, Oppenheimer said that the total iPod sales were ahead of Apple’s expectation, and that the iPod remains the top-selling MP3 player in most of the countries where that data is tracked, and continues to hold onto its market-leading position in the U.S.

Apple found a silver lining in the performance of its iTunes online business, however. That segment tallied US$1.1 billion in revenues, its best quarter ever, according to Oppenheimer.

With Apple’s brick-and-mortar retail outlets approaching their 10th anniversary next month, Oppenheimer noted that the retail chains should see their 1 billionth visitor in a matter of days. During the second quarter, 71.1 million people visited the app store, up from 47 million visitors in the 2010 second quarter.

Revenue from the retail stores grew 90% to US$3.19 billion. Apple says it sold 797,000 Macs through its retail outlets, an increase of 32% from last year. About half of the Macs sold at the Apple Store were to newly minted Mac users.

Apple still plans to open 40 new stores during the 2011 fiscal year, with two-thirds of those outlets opening outside of the U.S. That includes a fifth Apple Store in China.

For the third quarter ending in June, Apple expects revenue of about US$23 billion and earnings per share of US$5.03. That compares to US$15.7 billion in revenue and earnings of US$3.51 a share for the third quarter of 2010. Prior to Wednesday’s call, analysts were looking for sales of US$23.8 billion and earnings of US$5.25 per share for the June quarter.

MyService offering 750GB upgrade service for current MacBook, MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Thursday, April 7th, 2011, 04:53
Category: hard drive, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

This could be useful.

Per MacMegasite, MyService has released a new 750GB 7200rpm hard drive upgrade for the MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks. These new 2.5″ Momentus drives by Seagate are the largest 7200rpm hard drives available for the MacBook and the complete upgrade service is US$299, the price encapsulating the new 750GB drive, round trip shipping, professional installation and data transfer.

Your old hard drive is returned to you and can be used for backups. Since MyService is an Apple Authorized Service Provider, the 750GB upgrade will not void your Apple warranty.

Once your laptop is back at MyService, a certified technician installs the new drive and transfers the data over from your old drive. All drives feature a 3 year manufacturer warranty. After the service is completed, your notebook is cleaned, tested and sent back to you, along with your old drive. All services are completed within 24 hours of arrival.

Apple may be looking into creating external “quick charge” battery packs for devices

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Date: Friday, April 1st, 2011, 03:26
Category: Patents

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Apple has apparently shown an interest in developing an integrated external battery pack into its standard charging cable, providing extra power for devices like a MacBook or iPhone when a power outlet isn’t available.

Per AppleInsider, the potential future accessory was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing for “Power Adapter with Internal Battery” describes a wall charger with an integrated battery pack, allowing users to charge a device at home and give that device extra juice when on the go.

Apple’s application acknowledges that rechargeable external battery accessories do already exist. However, it notes that such accessories are not as advantageous as one that might be integrated with a standard charging cable.

“Such external batteries are generally cumbersome to use, at least because they must be unpacked for use and then repacked for storage,” Apple’s filing states of current options available on the market. “In addition, many users forget to bring the external battery in addition to the adapter while in transit.

“What is needed is a way to combine a power adapter and a battery so that a user does not have to carry an additional battery while traveling with a portable electronic device.”

Apple’s solution would include a “smart” charger with an integrated processor. This would allow the charger to intelligently determine how to distribute charge between the integrated adapter battery, and the battery on a device like a MacBook.

The hardware would also include the ability to share the status of the battery with the device it is charging. This way, users would be able to check the status of the external adapter battery and how much power it has left.

Such a device could be augmented by a “trickle source” for power, such as solar. And it could also include a USB port for charging a device like an iPhone or iPod. The accessory could also include a wireless adapter, allowing a MacBook or other device to access the power adapter even when it is not physically connected.

Apple’s application also notes that its external battery solution could employ current power adapter features, such as its patented MagSafe connector.

The need for such third-party external battery makers could be significantly lessened if Apple were to follow through on its pursuit of power adapters with integrated rechargeable batteries.

Apple first filed the patent application made public this week in September of 2009, and the proposed invention is credited to Duncan Kerr, David Robbins Falkenburg and Michael Nugent.

Apple releases Mac OS X Supplemental Update to resolve MacBook Air/iTunes issue under Mac OS X 10.6.7

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Date: Thursday, March 31st, 2011, 04:43
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

Just over a week after releasing Mac OS X 10.6.7, Apple has issued a subsequent patch aimed at users of the new Late 2010, 13 inch MacBook Air to fix a system crash related to iTunes.

“This update addresses an issue that makes the system unresponsive when using iTunes,” Apple notes on its support page.

Per AppleInsider, the patch is just a 461 KB download and requires Mac OS X 10.6.7 Build 10J869 to be installed first. Both are available via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

The system lockup problem on new 13″ Air models appeared in Apple’s discussion forums after the release of Mac OS X 10.6.7 as an easy to replicate issue that resulted in having to force reset affected systems, indicating that the problem was inadvertently introduced with last week’s larger update.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any differences, please let us know in the comments.

EFI firmware trick allows some 2008 MacBooks, MacBook Pros to address 8GB of RAM

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Date: Monday, March 7th, 2011, 04:46
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Sometimes these things catch you by surprise in nifty ways.

Per the Apple Core, the cool cats at Other World Computing took another look at the memory limits in some of Apple’s late 2008 Core 2 Duo MacBook and MacBook Pros. Its testing found that a specific blend of updated firmware, Boot ROM and OS versions will let the notebooks handle a 8GB RAM upgrade.

According to a recent entry in the company blog, the tip says that machines running the latest update to Snow Leopard can address 8GB rather than the previous 6GB limit. It all depends on which version of the EFI Firmware Update and Boot ROM is installed.

The practical upshot of all this is that if you installed the EFI Update when it first came out, like we did, you would have gotten the old code, which meant your computer would only address 6GB properly. Those who didn’t upgrade until after Apple changed the updater got the newer firmware, which allowed proper addressing of 8GB.

Upon manually installing the “updated” version of the EFI Firmware in various test machines, the notebooks were able to address 8GB normally, without any crashing or slowdowns.

Users may have to download updated Boot ROMs, make sure they are running OS X Snow Leopard v10.6.6. According to the blog post, the machine must run the Mac OS X 10.6.6 software.

Rumor: Next-Gen MacBook Pro units to feature fast solid-state drives, larger trackpads

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Date: Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011, 04:05
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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A new rumor attributed to unnamed sources says the coming refresh of MacBook Pros will feature larger trackpads and boot from SSD, even on models equipped with a conventional hard disk drive.

Per Boy Genius Report, the “new laptops will contain glass trackpads that are even larger than the pads found on current-generation MacBook Pro models.”

It then adds that “next bit of information doesn’t quite make sense to us,” but describes an 8 to 16GB Solid State Drive being used as the Mac OS X startup volume even on base models, which will retain a regular hard drive as well.

Higher end models are said to use SSD exclusively, much like Apple’s existing MacBook Air line.

The advantage to using a hybrid SSD/HDD configuration, of course, is that the main benefit afforded by SSD is read speed, while its greatest drawback is expense per gigabyte of storage. SSD also has issues related to rewriting data as efficiently as conventional mechanical hard drives.

By combining both types of drives, Apple could provide rapid boot and “instant on” features currently available on the iPad and MacBook Air, while also providing large amounts of general storage for power users’ large documents.

The report also noted the new models are about a half pound (0.2 kg) lighter than existing models. It also describes five different SKUs, harmonizing with existing reports on the new models.

Kind of strange stuff but you never know.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.