The 'Book Review

Robust MacBook Sales to Continue, Apple Now Top Mobile PC Brand, New Battery App, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.02.18

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Troubleshooting

Tech Trends

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Robust MacBook Sales Expected Through 1Q11

DigiTimes' Yenting Chen and Yen-Shyang Hwang report that according to sources in unnamed retail channel vendors, Apple's notebook shipments are expected remain robust through Q1/2011 - and Intel's manufacturing flaw in the "Cougar Point" controller chipset for its Sandy Bridge Core "i" CPUs didn't impact Apple portable production schedules.

As for any apparent delay of Apple's rollout of a MacBook Pro refresh being inferred by association, DigiTimes notes that Apple is normally slower in upgrading its notebook products to the latest platform than many of its PC notebook rivals and, as a result, has "completely avoided" any product release impact from the Intel chipset issue.

Thus far, there's no evidence to contradict that analysis. Apple's historically typical calendar envelope for notebook refreshes is from mid-March to mid-June, so while I anticipate seeing them sooner than that this year, we couldn't really consider the next MacBooks revision to be "late" or "delayed" unless it isn't released until summer, and of course the hot-selling redesigned MacBook Air was all-new just last October, although the rumor mills say it's likely to get an upgrade to Intel Core "i" silicon soon as well, which (if it happens) would constitute an early refresh by Apple standards.

Another interesting analytical observation made by DigiTimes' "sources" is that because Apple's Macintosh products have high average selling prices (ASPs), relatively leisurely upgrading of these products to the latest technical specs doesn't significantly impact pricing or Apple's gross margins. On the other hand, its big-name PC competitors like Hewlett-Packard (HP), Acer, and Dell, with their lower sticker prices, depend on sales volume and the economies of scale for their profits, so they are quick to adopt any new hardware platform that will give them an opportunity to provisionally increase their ASPs and consequently are motivated to launch notebooks with new platforms as early as possible.

DigiTimes notes that after shipping some 2.86 million notebooks in Q4/2010, up 34.2% year-over-year, according to IDC research metrics, Apple's notebook shipments in January satisfied its expectations and the company is reportedly even planning to increase its OEM orders for Q1/2011.

AppleInsider's Kasper Jade and Neil Hughes also report that the first major overhaul of Apple's MacBook Pro line in nearly a year is imminent, with production actively underway and volume shipments to begin as early as the first week of March, according to sources "familiar with the matter."

The article also cites other insider intelligence that the new spectacularly popular redesigned MacBook Airs have reached a sales volume roughly half that of the entire MacBook Pro line after less than six months on the market, so there would be little incentive in that context for Apple to hurry a refreshed Air out the door.

Jade and Hughes think the MacBook Pro refresh is "long overdue". I beg to differ. As I noted above, ten months between revisions is not historically out of line for Apple notebooks. The PowerBook G3 Series Lombard and Pismo variants had no refreshes at all in their roughly 10 month production lives, and the original MacBook Air went more than a year before its first, relatively minor one.

Apple Doubling Orders for Some Notebook Models as PC Laptop Sales Spiral Down

DigiTimes' Yen-Shyang Hwang, Yenting Chen, and Steve Shen report that, excepting Samsung Electronics and Apple, first-quarter 2011 shipments of notebooks from brand-name vendors are lower than expected, presumably largely due to the Intel defective chip controller farrago, with sales typically spiraling down 5-10% from the last quarter, and flat year-over-year according to sources in Taiwan's notebook upstream supply chain.

Meanwhile, as most others falter, Apple is picking up the slack, reportedly revising its orders upward, with volume of some hot-selling models being doubled, according to the DigiTimes report.

For its part, Samsung has outperformed other PC laptop brands by ramping up deliveries from suppliers.

Email Indicates New MacBook Pro Models Coming March 1

Danish IT blogger and Apple watcher Kenneth Lund Wedmore reports that he's come into possession of evidence that leads him to deduce that new MacBook Pro models will be on sale in Danish stores on Tuesday, March 1st.

Wedmore says his anonymous source is at one of the three major Danish Apple Resellers on the Danish market,

How Soon Will Apple Transition MacBooks to Latest Intel CPUs?

Cnet's Brooke Crothers takes a speculative look at how swiftly Apple will move the MacBook to the latest Intel CPUs - now that the chipmaker has announced it will resume regular shipments of its "Sandy Bridge" silicon.

Crothers thinks it's a reasonably safe bet that the 15" and 17" MacBook Pros will be upgraded to Sandy Bridge "sooner rather than later", noting that it's been 10 months since the last refresh of those models (April 1010), at which time they got Intel's first-generation Arrandale Core i5 and i7 processors - some three months after after the Core "i"s were released in early 2010. He deduces that Sandy Bridge adoption timing should be similar, notwithstanding the famous - and now remedied - controller chipset flaw discovered by Intel last month.

As for the the 13" MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, which are still using two-generations back, 2008 vintage Core 2 Duo CPUs, the lack of advance seems not to be hurting sales of either model so far, but with a gaggle of attractive, thin, and lightweight Sandy Bridge compact notebooks expected to hit the market from from Apple's Windows competitors, the Air is going to look more and more long-in-the-tooth in the CPU department.

Crothers also notes that the next major evolution of Intel mobile silicon will be the power-efficient Ivy Bridge chip, but it won't likely be available until mid-2012, from which we can project a roughly 10-12 month tenure for Sandy Bridge in the MacBooks if they get it out the door this spring.

'Sandy Bridge' Update to MacBook Air Expected in June

Cnet's Brooke Crothers reports that according to an anonymous insider source, the new MacBook Air's first refresh will come in June with Intel's second-generation "Sandy Bridge" Core i chips replacing the two-generations-outdated Core 2 Duo processors and state of the art Nvidia GeForce graphics chipsets now shipping in the Airs.

Crothers observes that the switch to Sandy Bridge processors will allow Apple to use Intel's cheaper HD integrated graphics that is incorporated in the main processor without incurring much of a video performance hit, with the HD's more modest power compared with the GeForce 320M IGPUs somewhat compensated for by the Core "i" CPU's extra muscle.

Crothers also suggests that a MacBook Pro refresh is widely anticipated as well, possibly as early as March. It is not clear if these systems would use Sandy Bridge (a.k.a. Second-Generation Intel Core Processor). If they do, it's worth noting that the Sandy Bridge issue has thrown shipment schedules back by a few weeks.

Apple Customer Survey Sparks Hope for More Powerful MacBook Air with Built-in 3G

AppleInsider reports that Apple, notorious for keeping its own counsel on new product development, is actually reaching out to some select MacBook Air owners this week with a survey that could help define future versions of the hot-selling smallest Mac notebook, with a raft of questions regarding 3G, data syncing, I/O usage, and the desire for models with greater computing power, as well as intensiveness of USB ports and external disc drive, Web-based file storage and syncing use and and use of certain function keys on the keyboard. The questionnaire, whose several pages are reproduced in the AppleInsider report, also includes queries related to wireless 3G data connectivity, which implies that Apple may be considering integration cellular capability in future notebooks.

Black faux MacBook in Intel's new ad

We Like Intel's New Laptop Ads

9 to 5 Mac's Seth Weintraub says he's not suggesting the black, slim laptops depicted in a new Intel ad for its mobile silicon are the new MacBook Pros, but he likes the look. Me too.

Will the New MacBook Pro Move to SSD? Without a Doubt

AppleBitch contends that Apple is absolutely going to move to offering Solid State Drives (SSDs) as the default notebook storage option, citing as factors SSD speed, lower power consumption than with hard drive drives that can increase battery life dramatically, enablement of thinner form factors with Apple having stated that moving to flash storage in the MacBook Air freed up a whopping 90% more internal space when compared to using a hard drive, and Apple's substantial investment in flash storage.

AppleBitch contends that the upcoming MacBook Pro refresh will cement the SSD migration, predicting that a 256 GB SSD will be the standard storage configuration when the new MacBook Pro is launched (probably in a few weeks).

We'll see.

What Do the Evolution of MacBooks and the Mac App Store Mean for Software?

AppStorm's Connor Turnbull notes that Apple has demonstrated a keen interest in removing optical and traditional hard drives from laptops, as it already has with the spectacularly successful second generation MacBook Air, observing that Apple has done a pretty good job of mitigating the need for these hardware components with the Mac App Store and iTunes, although not everyone is enchanted with the transition.

Turnbull notes that while iMacs come with a base half-terabyte of hard drive storage, the MacBook Air starts at just 64 GB of SDD capacity, deducing that as indicating Apple thinks a lot of storage space is unnecessary to experience OS X to the full, and that what he calls a "major tentpole feature" in the notebook computer's future will be solid state drives, which he deems an inevitability in Apple's future portables, with last fall's MacBook Air a pioneer of what's to come.

He also projects that the Mac App Store's successful launch will be a bellwether for digital distribution of software becoming the de facto standard over the next 12-24 months, and a future of notebooks without desktop software, depending on the Web/cloud, which requires reliable and ubiquitous Internet access (a prerequisite that is far from being universally realized outside major urban centers).

Turnbull suggests that the future of notebooks in the long-term could be the death of desktop apps, or at minimum desktop apps more closely integrated with the cloud.

Experiments with Drenched Laptops

Hardmac's Lionel reports that staff continue to conduct experiments on damage caused to a 15" MacBook Pro subjected to liquid, focused on variability of the damage, such as a finding confirming that the more a liquid is sweetened, the more difficult is to clean the motherboard, especially at points where the short-circuits have occurred creating caramel - and unsurprisingly that the greater a volume of liquid spilled, the more difficult it will be to recover the machine, but the important factor determining salvageability will be where the liquid falls first, causing the first short-circuit, worst case being of that is the processor area.

Android on ARM Running Inside a MacBook Pro

TGDaily has posted a fascinating video of Netbook News' Nicole Scott demonstrating two MacBook Pros running Android on ARM hardware - and doing it amazingly well, a hack achieved by swapping out the laptop's optical drive and replacing it with a TI OMAP-based daughterboard module. One very cool aspect of this is that the modified MacBook Pro can run both Android and the Mac OS in tandem - switchable via a button - without having to quit one or the other. Among other things, running Android/ARM extends battery life dramatically, according to Scott.

iPad Shipments Propel Apple to Top Mobile PC Position

Surging iPad shipments have propelled Apple to a 17.2% share of worldwide mobile PC shipments in Q410, placing Apple at the top of the DisplaySearch market share ranking. According to preliminary results from the DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report, Apple shipped more than 10.2 million notebook and tablet PCs combined - nearly a million more units than HP did in Q410.

Top 5 Mobile PC Companies according to DisplaySearch DisplaySearch says that while Apple's iPad is benefiting from a first-mover advantage, particularly in mature markets, its notebook PC shipment growth rate continues to exceed the industry average.

"While we anticipate increased competition in the tablet PC market later this year with the introduction of Android Honeycomb-based tablets, Apples iPad business is complementing a notebook line whose shipments widely exceed the industry average growth rate," says Richard Shim, Senior Analyst at DisplaySearch. "Apple is currently benefiting from significant and comprehensive growth from both sectors of the mobile PC spectrum, notebooks and tablet PCs. Cannibalization seems limited at this point.

Among the top five brands in the mobile PC market, Toshiba was the only other company to exhibit Y/Y shipment growth. Toshiba's shipments increased 15% Y/Y, to over 5.1 million units in Q410, as it maintained its #5 position in market share. HP, Acer Group (including Founder shipments), and Dell took the #2, #3, and $4 positions, respectively. The top five brands accounted for 65.4% of the total mobile PC market."

In Q410, worldwide mobile PC shipments (including tablet PCs) reached 59.6 million, up 8% Q/Q and 17% Y/Y, the highest volume since DisplaySearch first began to track this segment in 1999. Growth of notebook PC shipments, excluding tablets, was weak in Q410, up 4% Q/Q and 1% Y/Y.

The DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report covers the entire range of mobile PC products shipped worldwide and regionally. Covering global and regional brands, the Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report provides an objective, expert view of the market with insight into historical shipments, revenues, forecasts and more. For more information about the report, contact Charles Camaroto at 1.888.436.7673 or 1.516.625.2452, e-mail contact@displaysearch.com or contact your regional DisplaySearch office in China, Japan, Korea or Taiwan or more information.

Troubleshooting

How to Repair MacBook Pro Cooling Fan Rattling (Maybe)

Mac OS X Hints contributor theosib notes that the little cooling fans inside of Mac notebooks run upwards of 6,000 RPM and can eventually wear out (which is one reason why your editor is obsessive about keeping MacBook operating temperatures down), with users reporting symptoms of rattling and even loud grinding, and noting that while the fan may need replacement, perhaps it just needs to be relubricated, which can obviate the need for a $100+ repair job and several days downtime.

For an illustrated tutorial is included.

Tech Trends

Netbook Buyer's Guide Posted

"Don't give up on netbooks just yet," says PC Mag's Cisco Cheng, noting that netbook manufacturers like ASUS, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are fighting back against the tablet onslaught by including more features, bigger screens and keyboards, and faster parts, meanwhile slashing prices like a Walmart special. Cheng endeavors to walk his readers through the latest netbook trends and advise what features really matter in a netbook.

Software

Battery Report: A New Reporting Tool for Mac OS X

DSSW's new Battery Report creates detailed reports about your computer and any connected power sources. Power sources include power adapters that connect your Mac to the mains power, internal batteries such as laptop batteries, and uninterruptible power supplies.

Battery ReportBattery Report reveals information about your power sources that is not commonly available. This information includes power adapter's unique serial numbers, and the health of your internal laptop battery.

The information available in Battery Report's report varies depending on your Mac and your power sources. Modern batteries tend to include more information about their condition and state. Older batteries will still appear but may not display as much detail.

For Desktop and Laptop Macs

It is not just laptop Macs that have power sources. Desktop Macs can also be connected to multiple power sources in the form of uninterruptible power supplies.

Battery Report includes information about all power sources available to your Mac. For uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) devices, this includes devices connected by a serial cable, USB cable, or over the network. If your UPS is supported by Mac OS X, it will appear in the report.

Live and Updating

As Battery Report runs, its continuously monitors your Mac for changes in connected power sources. Whenever a change occurs, your report is immediately updated. Disconnect or connect your laptop's mains power adapter to watch the report update live. Switch to another power adapter and prepare to be surprised by how much the two adapter's information can differ.

Share with Others

Reports can be quickly and easily shared with others by e-mail. A single click on the E-mail icon will create a new e-mail and attach a PDF copy of your report, all ready for you to address and send.

One click e-mailing is ideal for sending to Mac repair and support staff. The report includes detailed information to help diagnose battery problems.

Reports can be saved as PDF documents. Keeping a report as a record of your Mac's configuration, unique serial numbers, and battery serial numbers is good practice. If your Mac is stolen, the information in this report can help uniquely identify your Mac.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.6 or later.

Battery Report costs $8.99 or 5.99 EUR

Demo (Watermarked reports) available.

Bargain 'Books

For deals on current and discontinued 'Books, see our 13" MacBook and MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, 17" MacBook Pro, 12" PowerBook G4, 15" PowerBook G4, 17" PowerBook G4, titanium PowerBook G4, iBook G4, PowerBook G3, and iBook G3 deals.

We also track iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle deals.

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