The 'Book Review

Apple Tops in Mobile PCs in 2011, 14" MacBook Air?, Late 2008 MacBook Pro Firmware Update, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.03.02

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

News & Opinion

Rumor Roundup

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Software

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

New MacBooks to Turn Up the Pressure on Ultrabooks

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai reports that sources in Apple's upstream supply chain are telling them Apple is expected to launch new MacBook Pro notebooks with an even thinner and lighter design than existing models in April "at the soonest."

The industry moles suggest that when paired with Apple's upcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion operating system and hot-selling MacBook Air models, the MacBook models are expected to create a significant threat to PC notebook players' ultrabooks. Apple is expected to launch upgraded 13" and 15" MacBook Pros in April with initial shipments estimated to reach 900,000 units.

However, Mountain Lion isn't expected to be released to consumers before late spring or summer 2012 at the earliest, and with Intel delaying the mass supply of its Ivy Bridge CPUs from a previously projected April rollout until June, the question is begged as to whether Apple would really want to release a major new MacBook Pro redesign still running OS X 10.7 Lion and powered by the current-generation Intel Sandy Bridge Core i CPUs.

Or will Intel supply Apple with early production of Ivy Bridge silicon (note that the DigiTimes report says "mass supply" of Ivy Bridge will be pushed back to June) for its new MacBook Pro rollout?

NPD: Apple Holds Top Mobile PC Share for Q4/11 and Full Year

PR: Apple shipped nearly 23.4 million mobile PCs in Q4/11, up 128% Y/Y, and over 62.8 million mobile PCs in 2011, up 132% Y/Y, according to preliminary results from the latest NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report.

Nearly 80% of Apple's mobile PC shipments were iPads, more than 18.7 million shipped in the quarter, up 156% Y/Y, and 48.4 million units for the year, up 183% Y/Y.

Overall mobile PC shipments grew 12% Q/Q and 44% Y/Y, reaching 88 million units in Q4/11. This was driven by continuing strong demand for tablets. Tablet PC shipment growth was 42% Q/Q and 210% Y/Y, reaching 31.7 million units in Q4/11. Notebook PC shipments were flat Q/Q but up nearly 11% Y/Y, reaching 56.3 million units. As expected, consumer mobile PC adoption was focused on tablets, holding up demand in notebooks.

Preliminary Q4 2011 top 5 mobile PC brands

"Mobile PC brands read the writing on the wall in the fourth quarter," says Richard Shim, NPD DisplaySearch Senior Analyst. "Consumer demand for notebooks was expected to be weak following modest back-to-school results, especially with the expected launch of Windows 8 on the horizon, and increasing interest in tablet PCs. As a result, brands focused their typical holiday price cuts on tablets to boost demand.

Apple's 26.6% share in Q4/11 is largely due to its dominant position in tablet PCs, which propelled it to nearly three times the shipments of HP. The other brands in the top five market share rankings relied almost exclusively on notebook PC shipments to establish their positions."

HP maintained the top notebook PC ranking with a 15.5% share, although it lost some of its lead as shipments into North America, China, Latin America, and Asia Pacific faltered. Dell and Acer essentially tied for second place with 11.8% each. Dell had strong results in EMEA, while Acer continued to struggle in the notebook PC market. Lenovo continues to build on momentum started early this year with strong growth in China and Asia Pacific with a dip in North America, and maintained its #4 position in notebook PCs, gaining some share in Q4/11. Apple leapfrogged over ASUS and Toshiba to capture #5 with 8.3% market share.

Preliminaru Q4 2011 top 5 notebooks by brand

In the tablet PC market, Apple continued its strong growth across all its regions, capturing 59.1% share in Q4/11. Newcomers Amazon and Barnes and Noble firmly planted their flags in the market, at #2 and #5, respectivelyAmazon with 16.7% share and Barnes and Noble with 3.5%. Both brands focused on North America in their market entries. Samsung improved in all its key markets, particularly EMEA, helping it to reach 0.67% market share. ASUS continued its strong results in North America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific as it took 4.6% share in Q4/11.

Preliminaru Q4 2011 top 5 tablet brands

The NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report covers the entire range of mobile PC products shipped worldwide and regionally. With analysis of 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 NPD DisplaySearch office in China, Japan, Korea or Taiwan or more information.

Apple Files Patent for Thinner Keyboard

The Register's Rik Myslewski reports that Apple has filed a patent application for a key-travel design that it claims will allow for a "thin profile, aesthetically pleasing keyboard," that it allows not only thinner keyboards, but also allows for the keys themselves to more easily be made of a multitude of materials, the filing states, "including, but not limited to, wood, stone, polished meteorite, ceramic, metal, and glass."

Myslewski says the core design element described in the filing is a title-eponymous "Single Support Lever Keyboard Mechanism," which, instead of more-traditional key actuators such as scissor-switches, springs, or metal or polyester domes, has keys positioned on the ends of a relatively long lever that pivots when the key is pressed.

Ivy Bridge CPUs Delayed 8-10 Weeks

AppleInsider's Katie Marsal reports that Intel China's executive vice president and chairman Sean Maloney revealed in a Financial Times interview that Intel's next-generation 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, which had been widely expected to appear in updated Mac laptops April or May-ish, now won't be shipping until 8-10 weeks later than had been originally anticipated and will not be available until June - possibly late June.

Ivy Bridge CPUs are expected to support substantially higher-resolution "Retina" type displays in Apple's MacBooks, as well as enhanced Intel HD Graphics 4000 architecture integrated graphics processor units.

Rumor Roundup

Apple Contemplating a 14" MacBook Air for Asian Markets?

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai say Apple is reportedly considering the launch of a 14" MacBook Air and may start mass production in the near future to fully enter the Asia PC market, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

Lee and Tsai note that 14" panels are currently the most popular mainstream display screen size in the Asia notebook market, while consumers in Western countries prefer 15" models. They observe that globally, 14" notebooks have roughly a 20-25% market share, but in Asia, that spikes up to about 35-40%, strong indication of Asian consumers' fondness for 14" laptops.

The DigiTimes reporters' sources maintain that Apple is currently realigning its focus from North America and Europe to Asia and anticipating the China market becoming its major market going forward, so launching a 14" MacBook Air would be be consistent with that, and an indication the company will become even more aggressive selling in the China market.

Pubisher's note: Also see A 14" MacBook Air Just for Asia? Why Not! dk

Apple Updates

EFI Firmware Update for 15" Late 2008 MacBook Pro

Short and sweet, the MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.8 is recommended for MacBook Pro (15-inch, late 2008) models. The update resolves a graphics issue that may cause the internal display to flicker.

Products & Services

Securifi Announces Almond, the World's First Wireless Router for the Rest of Us

PR: The Macintosh, released in 1984, became the first computer intuitive enough for the rest of us. Securifi's Almond is pitched as the first wireless router for the rest of us. It features a color touchscreen that does away with PC- or Mac-based setup or maintenance.

Slated to become available in North America in Spring 2012, Securifi's Almond's 320 x 240 pixel 2.8" full-color touchscreen display is capable of handling all router setup and maintenance. Almond not only removes the need for the intimidating web-driven interfaces consumers have struggled with for over a decade, it removes the need for operating through a PC or Macintosh entirely. Securifi calls it the first router for the "post-PC era."

"Few people would buy a microwave that can only be set up using a computer, but everyone quietly submits to this chore when setting up their wireless routers," says Securifi CEO Rammohan Malasani. "We set out to design a full-featured WiFi access point the average person can set up and enjoy in a minute or two. The falling cost of touch screen technology has finally made it possible."

Mr. Malasani insists that users of Securifi's Almond router would never have to memorize or even write down its IP address. He also notes they're welcome to secure the device with a password they can display as ordinary text. The result of this is that those who forget how they arrived at an exotic password like tlpWENT2m (short for this little piggy went to market) can simply log in via the touch screen to check it. Moreover, they can easily modify the password or other settings using the touchscreen's full QWERTY keyboard.

For all its simplicity, under the hood the Almond router boasts a robust feature set. Its two internal antennas, 300 Mbps MIMO throughput, full 802.11b/g/n compatibility, industry-standard WPA/WPA2 security, and basement-to-bedroom range are claimed to match specs from major brands like Linksys or Netgear. Even IT departments and power users may be smitten with Almond's blend of power, flexibility, and PC-free configuration.

Final pricing has yet to be set, but Securifi says Almond will launch at under $70. The company believes consumers will quickly embrace Almond as the most cost-effective, user-friendly way to create and run a reliable, trouble-free N-class WiFi home network.

Publisher's note: Also two ethernet ports, but no indication whether they are Gigabit or 100 Base-TX. dk

Software

Battery Usage Utility Monitors Battery Drain

PR: Have you ever wondered how quickly your laptop is draining its battery?

Petur Ingi Egilsson's Battery Usage is small app that resides in your OS X menu bar and displays battery consumption in milliampere hours (mAh) - the reading Apple uses in order to determine how long till your battery is depleted.

Battery Usage

The battery usage metric is fetched from the battery every 30 seconds and shows the average consumption during the last 30 seconds.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.7 or later
  • 64-bit processor

$1.99

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.

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