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Articles: techwatch: 2009 October

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New iMac, Mac mini, Macbook, as expected
Tuesday, 2009 October 20 - 12:17 pm
The quick scoop:

New iMac: Now with display sizes 21.5" (at 1920x1080, true 1080p!) and an enormous 27" (at 2560x1440). All the models now sport a 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo, except the top end, which gets a 2.66 GHz quad-core Core i5. 4GB of RAM even on the base model. Hard drive boosted to 500GB on the low-end model (from 320GB) and 1TB on the others (from 640GB). Graphics are 9400M on the low-end model, ATI Radeon 4670 HD on the mid-range models, and ATI Radeon 4850 HD on the high end; perhaps Apple's rumored falling-out with Nvidia is real after all. SD card slot built in. Build-to-order options include a 3.3 GHz Core 2 Duo, or a 2.8 GHz quad-core Core i7 on the high end model.

There's no Blu-Ray, and the pricing range still starts at $1199; the top-end drops from $2199 to $1999.

The high-end model is definitely targeted for pro users who don't want to go all the way to the Mac Pro. The mid-range models are for high-end consumers. The low-end version is an exceptional entry level machine; if not for the slightly underpowered graphics (for gaming enthusiasts), it'd be the clear value winner.

New Mac mini. No form factor change, just a processor speed bump (to 2.26 GHz and 2.53 GHz), a RAM upgrade on the low-end to 2GB (at last!), and a hard-drive upgrade on the low-end to 160GB. No price cut.

There's also a dual hard drive, no optical drive version that comes with Mac OS X Server! This is the special, I guess; we'd heard inklings about this back in January, and it's finally come to fruition.

New Macbook. Still a white polycarbonate shell, but Apple says this is a "unibody" design, and with somewhat rounded edges for a sleeker appearance. It's a quarter inch deeper and wider, but a third of a pound lighter. Multi-touch glass trackpad, like on the Pro models. Non-removable 7-hour battery. Slightly faster processor (2.26 GHz), larger hard drive (250 GB), but no more Firewire port. LED-backlit display. No price cut (remains $999); odd for a machine with largely the same specs as its predecessor.

Magic Mouse. Apple's new multi-touch button-less mouse; right click by touching the right side as you "click" the whole mouse, scroll by simply moving your finger across the surface, swipe using a two-finger gesture. Slick.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Store is Down
Tuesday, 2009 October 20 - 9:10 am
The Apple Store is down, a sure sign that new products are getting ready to be introduced. Stay tuned.

Also, Apple announced blowout revenues and profits last quarter, sending their stock soaring. As of this writing, the stock is just shy of $200.

More news shortly.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple: New Macs coming?
Sunday, 2009 October 18 - 10:54 am
The iMac is approaching the end of its usual 6-month release cycle. With the holiday season approaching, it's quite possible we'll see a new model come out... and it might even come out this week, to take some of the headlines away from Windows 7. I can already see the ad campaign: John Hodgman will be fretting over how to upgrade to Windows 7 without losing all his data, while Justin Long will note how new Mac users can simply go to the Apple Genius Bar if they switch from PC to Mac.

There's very little information, or even speculation, on what the new iMacs will include. Some say Blu-Ray will be an option, some say not. Some say Intel Core i7 ("Nehalem") processors will be included. Most predict a thinner enclosure and a price cut.

There's also talk of a new Mac mini to go along with the new iMacs, but at this point, I'd expect just a RAM and hard drive boost, plus a $100 price cut. The 1GB of RAM and 120GB HD on the base model is just inexcusable; the wholesale price difference to make that 2GB and 200GB has got to be on the order of fifteen bucks.

Meanwhile, there's buzz about the Mac Pro getting Intel's new six-core "Gulftown" Core i9 processors. That probably won't happen until sometime early next year.

On the laptop front, a new low-end Macbook to replace the aging white polycarbonate design seems very likely. It might not have an aluminum enclosure like the Pro models, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a thinner, lighter enclosure and a non-removable battery. A price cut seems quite possible as well, as Apple wouldn't really be introducing much in the way of cutting-edge components.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Quietly Introduces "iFrame" Video Format
Sunday, 2009 October 18 - 10:36 am
This will be of interest to only one or two of my regular readers, I'm sure.

Last week, Sanyo came out with new camcorders that support a video format called "iFrame", and it's a format developed by Apple. It appears to be a 960x540 H.264 video format; that's exactly one-quarter the size of 1920x1080 HD video.

Why the new format? My guess is: Apple wanted a standard camcorder format based on H.264, so that iMovie could edit the video without trans-coding first. Also, Apple wanted a widescreen (16:9) format with square pixels (not anamorphic) that took up less space than HD video. Most camcorders today use 720x480 for SD video, but that's not a widescreen format.

So why come out with this now? The conventional wisdom is that Apple is planning a video push in two areas: one, the long-neglected AppleTV device, and two, the much-rumored tablet device. It's conceivable that Apple would choose iFrame to publish non-HD TV shows, to avoid having to letterbox the video.

Expect to see an announcement from Apple soon.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

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