Apple May Overhaul Entry-Level Polycarbonate MacBook Models

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Date: Wednesday, August 26th, 2009, 03:43
Category: MacBook, Rumor

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Until recently rumored to be headed for the scrap pile, Apple’s entry-level polycarbonate MacBook notebooks may be on the verge of a refresh according to AppleInsider.

Per sources close to the story, Apple is said to be running the 13″ notebooks through an industrial design overhaul that will see them reemerge in the coming months with a slimmer, lighter enclosure and restructured internal architecture to boot.

It’ll be the first time in more than three years that the plastic Mac notebooks will receive a visual tune-up. Introduced in May of 2006, the white and black systems replaced the PowerPC-based iBook and 12-inch PowerBook as part of Apple’s transition to Intel processors and quickly became the best selling Mac of all time, according to statistics from NPD Group.

The MacBook notebooks were also among the first Macs to adopt Apple’s MagSafe power connector while pioneering several other features that would become staples of future Mac notebook designs, such as shrunken soft-touch keyboards, glossy displays, and a non-mechanical magnetic latches (see: Magnet madness to hit Intel iBook line – Feb 2006).

Earlier this spring, Apple restructured its notebook offerings by repositioning its aluminum unibody MacBooks as premium offerings under the MacBook Pro moniker, adding long-requested features such as FireWire and higher-quality displays. This left the company with just a single MacBook offering, a white polycarbonate model that retails for US$999 but sticks out like a sore thumb when positioned alongside its peers.

Interestingly, sales of the sub-US$1000 system have remained surprisingly brisk amid the economic crunch, leaving management little choice but to allocate R&D expenses in its favor. As of press time, Apple’s online store indicates that the white MacBook is outselling all other Macs with the exception of the iMac, while similar rankings from high-volume resellers like MacMall also consistently place it in the top 10 best selling Apple-related products overall, ahead of all desktop-based Macs.

While it’s unclear how many models or configurations Apple will introduce as part the redesign, Ben Reitzes — an analyst with Barclays Capital who’s been following the Mac maker for years — sees the company offering several, at various price points.

“We [...] believe the MacBook line needs to be revamped (there is only one MacBook available now, an old white model) and that we could see a lower priced line soon, positioned below the new MacBook Pro models,” he said.

Though details are few and far between, Apple is expected to achieve these markdowns through largely existing tactics, such as using lower-end components and previous-generation Core 2 Duo chips and architectures from Intel. Battery life should receive a boost from cutting-edge technology that recently found its way into the company’s other notebook offerings, while high-end legacy features like FireWire connectivity are likely to be sacrificed in the tradeoff.

Apple’s new line of low-end MacBooks could be viewed as the last piece to the puzzle in Apple’s top-to-bottom line of product offerings, transitioning the company from a premium PC and phone manufacturer to one that offers truly competitive prices on products in both categories.

Apple Notebook Guide for the College-Bound Published

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Date: Tuesday, August 18th, 2009, 04:32
Category: Any Laptop Computer, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

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With August wrapping up and new students getting ready to head off to college, the Mac Observer’s John Martellaro has written an outstanding guide as to how to safely bring your MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro to campus, how to keep it safe and the various levels of security, backup and recovery to keep it safe.

Because, and take my word for it, if something happens to your laptop and you lose your data or the laptop itself, then nothing short of fifteen simultaneous miracles (including winning three separate multimillion dollar lotteries) is going to brighten your day.

The guide also features links as to bags, accessories and external hard drives worth considering to keep your notebook in good shape with its data safely backed up in an alternate location.

Take a gander and if you have any suggestions of your own, please let us know.

NewerTech Releases Intelligent Battery Charging Station for Apple Unibody Notebook Batteries

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Date: Friday, August 7th, 2009, 06:26
Category: Accessory, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News

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Yesterday, accessory provider NewerTech announced the release of its Intelligent Battery Charging Station, a peripheral designed to charge and condition the batteries used by Apple’s 13″ and 15″ unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks.

The unit features two bays (one that charges while the other charges and conditions) and NewerTech claims that by conditioning the battery, you can get longer runtimes and better lifetimes from your laptop batteries. The charger retails for US$150 before shipping and handling.

Report Finds Running Windows 7 on MacBook Pro Drains Battery Life Quickly

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Date: Thursday, August 6th, 2009, 04:55
Category: MacBook, News

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Users hoping that the arrival of Windows 7 will lessen the power drain on Apple’s MacBook Pro notebook may have some hard news to face up to, as CNET’s Eric Lai discovered for a recent article he wrote. Running Windows 7 in Boot Camp caused one CNET reviewer’s battery life to fall by more than two-thirds.

In addition to this, virtualization software such as VMware Fusion suffer from the same complaints. Some blame Apple’s Boot Camp drivers (the last ones were released in April 2008) while others blame Windows’ bloated codebase. With Apple and Microsoft both trying to avoid responsibility for improving the experience, Windows 7′s reported improvements in power management will be moot for MacBook Pro users for a while.

If you’ve tested the Windows 7 beta on your MacBook and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

MacBook Sales Jump 25% in June Year-Over-Year Comparison

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Date: Thursday, July 23rd, 2009, 04:02
Category: News

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Apple’s sales of the MacBook saw a 25% jump in the June year-over-year comparison according to NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker. The growth is attributed to Apple’s revised MacBook Pro line, which has not only changed specifications but absorbed some basic MacBooks, and fallen in price. “The Apple marketing machine is firing on all cylinders,” says Baker. “With almost every launch of new machines, sales get a boost.”

According to MacNN, the U.S. desktop sales grew 16% in the same month, in spite of slumping quarterly performance. Apple has not refreshed its desktop computers since March, when it updated its iMac, Mac Pro and Mac mini lines simultaneously. That event triggered a brief rise in sales, only to be followed by a now-common 30% decline.

TechTool Pro 5.0.5 Released

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Date: Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009, 04:03
Category: Software

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On Tuesday, Micromat released version 5.0.5 of TechTool Pro, its best-selling utility software for the Mac. The new version, a 56.5 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

  • Improved RAID volume support.
  • Fixed TechTool Protection system preference loading issue.
  • Added Trash History subcategory to the TechTool Protection system preference.
  • Added low-level file defragmentation to the Volume Optimization tool.
  • Fixed RAM display issue in Memory Test.
  • Enhancements to Volume Usage in the TechTool Protection system preference.
  • Fixed shared VRAM size display issue in Video Memory.
  • Fixed incorrect eDrive size for Mac OS X 10.4.x.
  • Fixed VRAM card display issue under Mac OS X 10.4.x.
  • Fixed selection issue in the Reports category.
  • Fixed Cache size reading for Mac Pro 2009.
  • Enhancements to the File Structures test.
  • Added Backup dialog warning upon launch of the application.
  • Updated Surface Scan to only show physical devices.
  • Updated SMART Check to show volumes names associated with the tested physical hard drive.
  • Updated main application interface to show Processors (PPC) or Cores (Intel).
  • Updated French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese (Simplified) localization.
  • Added more machine identification strings for Check Computer.

TechTool Pro 5.0.4 retails for US$98 and requires a Mac with a G4, G5 or Intel-based processor running Mac OS X 10.4.8 or later to install and run.

Early Predictions Arrive for Apple Q3 Earnings

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Date: Monday, July 20th, 2009, 04:30
Category: News

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Apple’s Q3 numbers come out tomorrow and per CNET, while results have been both eventful and mixed, analysts are expecting more positive than negative numbers when it’s said and done.

During the quarter, which ended June 30, the company released the third-generation iPhone, the iPhone 3GS, which can be regarded as a success, though its Mac and iPod divisions may not see identical results.

Throughout the quarter, Apple did pay a nod to consumers’ tight budgets, lowering prices on its Mac notebook lineup although keeping other prices about the same.

Analysts are expecting revenues for the quarter between US$7.88 billion and US$8.44 billion, and earnings per share between US$1.02 and US$1.31. Apple itself, which always gives guidance on the low side, is anticipating revenue between US7.7 billion and US$7.9 billion and earnings per share between 95 cents and a dollar.

Over the quarter, Apple’s stock jumped 21.4%, rising to US$147.52, since its last earnings report in late April. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who stood in for CEO Steve Jobs, has received high marks for keeping the company running smoothly in its leader’s absence. Jobs has been back at work, at least part-time, since the end of June.

Apple announced that the company had sold 1 million iPhones worldwide in the first weekend the 3GS was on the market, and AT&T said the first day the phone was available marked the best sales day in the carrier’s history. Analytical firm Piper Jaffray jumped in on this, specifically stating that it anticipates total iPhones sold for the quarter will be 5 million.

Mac revenue will show if price cuts are helping. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says Apple sold 2.2 million Macs during the quarter, and says it is getting a boost from the price cuts it applied when it upgraded its entire aluminum MacBook line to MacBook Pros. Per recent counts from IDC, which only tracks Apple’s sales in the U.S., showed that Mac shipments dipped more than 12% during this quarter while the entire PC industry was down 3.1% worldwide.

For those wanting a cool new item, the iPods’ annual tuneup is expected in September, when it has taken place the past few years. Where the iPod business has also been slowing down a bit, Piper Jaffray predicts sales to be down 7% from a year ago, though Apple has been increasingly focused on its iPod Touch, which has access to the popular App Store and is expected to get a reboot in September similar to the iPhone 3GS.

Apple also continues to put away cash during the quarter. As Brian Marshall of Broadpoint AmTech pointed out, Apple added US$800 million in cash during the last quarter, bringing its total to US$28.9 billion. Only Cisco’s US$29 billion in cash is better among technology companies.

Stay tuned for full Q3 coverage tomorrow and let us know what’s on your mind via the comments!

Apple Apparently Reconsidering Matte Displays on iMacs, Notebooks

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Date: Thursday, July 16th, 2009, 05:56
Category: iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

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When Apple began to slowly convert its notebook and iMacs displays to highly-reflective glass surfaces shortly after the release of the original iPhone in 2007, opinions were mixed as to the change. In short, Jason pretty much Hulked Out given the annoyance. And there may have been smashing.

The screen, which has been considered almost as reflective as a mirror, has drawn complaints from users using the notebooks in outdoor environments.

According to AppleInsider and the Apple Core, in January 2009, Apple appeared to concede the point that glossy screens aren’t for everyone when they announced the new 17″ MacBook Pro with a matte screen option. The company included a US$50 upcharge for anti-glare but offered users a choice. Apple then went on to release the rest of the unibody MacBook Pro line with glossy-only displays.

Per the AppleInsider article, Apple may have realized the error of its glossy ways, as the company is “mulling the possibility of extending anti-glare display options to more of its Macs” and that “the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros would be the most likely candidates.”

Other World Computing Releases Free Online Library of DIY Videos for Apple Notebook Owners Looking to Upgrade Components

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Date: Wednesday, July 15th, 2009, 05:51
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, PowerBook G4, PowerBook G4 Aluminum, PowerBook G4 Titanium

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Accessory manufacturer Other World Computing announced the completion of its series of Do It Yourself videos for Apple’s entire MacBook and MacBook Pro product line on Tuesday. The videos cover all of the DIY options for these laptops, including memory, hard drive and/or optical drive components for all of Apple’s laptop line from the Titanium PowerBook G4 to the latest Unibody line as well as include warnings for the issues customers should be considering and other instructions needed to do the upgrade.

The installation videos are being offered for free, and OWC has made them available in low, medium, and high resolutions.

Apple Releases MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.7

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Date: Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009, 05:23
Category: MacBook Pro, Software

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Apple released its MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.7 patch on Tuesday, a 3.4 megabyte download which addresses an issue reported by a small number of customers using drives based on the SATA 3Gbps specification with the June 2009 MacBook Pro. While this update allows drives to use transfer rates greater than 1.5Gbps, Apple has not qualified or offered these drives for Mac notebooks and their use is unsupported.

The update is also available via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires Mac OS X 10.5.7 or later to install and run.