The 'Book Review

Slimmer MacBook Pro Anticipated, Intel Pushing Ultrabooks, Low Power 7mm WD Scorpio Drive, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.04.13

We have extensive coverage of the Flashback malware in this week's Mac News Review. Don't miss it.

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

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Will Apple Merge MacBook Pro and MacBook Air Lines?

AppStorm's Jacob Penderworth thinks Apple is intent on standardizing its notebook lineup on the MacBook Air design and fixing to phase the MacBook Pro out of the picture almost entirely. That would mean SSD storage across the board, in which case there will be greater price/capacity tension in play than there is with the current standard hard drives, with Apple most likely pushing iCloud to take up the storage capacity vs. cost slack. Penderworth also hopes economies of scale resulting from standardization on the MacBook Air form factor would also enable some SSD price moderation.

Advantages of going all-SSD would include much shorter startup times, general SSD speediness, and no moving parts, which is particularly desirable for portable computers.

Penderworth thinks it's unlikely that Apple will completely terminate availability of a more conventional Pro offering for professional and power users with a need for hard drive storage capacity and will keep the current 17" Pro model to service them, while transitioning the 13" and 15" models to a MacBook Air-like design, or even just merge the smaller-sized Pro and Air lines, perhaps calling them simply "MacBook". He is also of a mind (and I agree) that a rumored Retina Display MacBook is highly unlikely for this upgrade cycle, although perhaps inevitable in the long run.

Downsides of moving to more compact notebooks will include saying good-bye to the internal optical drive, again with iCloud and the Mac App Store software distribution model touted as substitutes. However, that will still leave users with no built-in way to import CDs or play a DVD. Penderworth notes: "For audiophiles, this is appalling and may seem completely undesirable; the same goes for lovers of the traditional film on a disk." The remedy, of course, is to buy an external optical drive like the one Apple currently offers for the MacBook Air and Mac mini, or a third-party unit like the Apricorn Aegis NetDock, which is half the price and includes a 2.5" SATA drive bay for a hard drive (up to 1ÊTB) or SSD.

Another shortcoming of the MacBook Air design is its minimal to nonexistent upgradability, with the current Airs having hard-soldered RAM and no memory upgrade slot provision or way to upgrade the SSD capacity, making the MacBook Air completely unappealing to power users at this point. One can hope that both points might be addressed with a MacBook Pro/MacBook Air design merger, but we'll have to wait and see.

Publisher's note: See Charles Moore's recent review of the Apricorn Aegis NetDock on MacPrices.

10 Things Laptop Mag Expects from the New MacBook Pro

Laptop Mag's David Eitelbach predicts that the new MacBook Pro will be sleeker, faster, and more graphically powerful than any laptop we've seen before - at least that's what Laptop's editors think.

Eitelbach notes that Apple has debuted incredible technology within the past year - the ultra-sharp resolution of Retina Display on the new iPad, for example, which could very well make it into the Pro, and cites ten things he and his colleagues expect Apple to incorporate in the latest iteration of its flagship notebook [my comments in brackets cm]:

  1. Intel Ivy Bridge Processor [virtually 100% sure]
  2. Retina Display [maybe higher resolution displays, but nothing remotely approaching the 4x resolution increase of the New iPad over the iPad 2]
  3. Thinner Chassis [assuredly]
  4. No Optical Drive [very probably]
  5. Flash + Hard Drive [highly likely, although I expect that conventional hard drives or hybrid hard drives with flash memory caches will still be available for users with high local storage needs]
  6. Nvidia Kepler GPU
  7. Thunderbolt Kills FireWire [strong likelihood, but since Ivy Bridge will now natively support USBÊ3, will we finally see its implementation on the Mac?]
  8. No More Ethernet [sadly a possibility]
  9. Increased Battery Life [not if they go with a full Retina Display; new iPad has a 75% bigger battery and gets worse battery life than the iPadÊ2]
  10. Mountain Lion Ready [ready, yes, but will the first new MacBook Pros ship with it?]

Slimming of 15" Notebooks Expected with New MacBooks and Ultrabooks

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai report that with Apple preparing to launch its updated MacBook Pro with an ultrathin design and PC notebook brand vendors aggressively pushing 15" ultrabooks, market watchers expect the intensified competition will reduce the average thickness of 15" notebook models.

Lee and Tsai note that OEM supplier Pegatron Technology began mass production of Acer's new 15" ultrabook in March, with monthly shipment volumes projected to reach about 100,000 units, while Acer's Ultra Slim models, produced by Wistron for shipment beginning mid-April, may enjoy a shipment volume as high as 400,000-600,000 units per month. Ultra Slim notebook models, are slightly thicker than ultrabooks, thinner and lighter than traditional notebooks, and utilize advanced spec components such as hybrid hard drives and fiberglass reinforced plastic chassis.

Rumor Roundup

Economic Daily News: New iMacs, MacBook Pros Coming in June

DigiTimes' Joseph Tsai cites a Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) report saying that new iMacs are set to launch in June powered by new-generation Intel Ivy Bridge i5 and i7 processors and rumored to also feature an antiglare display, according to unnamed sources from the upstream supply chain. The Taiwanese trade journal reports that the new iMacs will be made by longtime Apple subcontractors Quanta and Foxconn, and that Apple is also set to release redesigned, Ivy Bridge powered MacBook Pro notebooks at the end of the second quarter as well.

MacBook Air Pro 2012 Rumor Roundup

Tech Digest's Gerald Lynch says he's expecting exciting new things from Apple's latest MacBook line and has endeavored to collect all of the most significant rumors in a general overview. He notes that according to punditry, Apple is either preparing to slim down the 15" MacBook Pro so it will be as lightweight and skinny as a MacBook Air, or that the MacBook Air line is expanding to include a 15" model, noting that while the results might respectively seem similar, that wouldn't necessarily mean the same thing, since a bigger-screened MacBook Air wouldn't necessarily include a discrete graphics chip or the processing power of the Pro line. He thinks the more interesting question is whether production of one such 15" model would mean the other would not happen.

Tech Trends

Intel Expects Touchscreen-Enabled Ultrabooks to Offer Better Value than MacBook Air, iPad

XBit Labs' Anton Shilov reports that Intel Corp. is strongly encouraging its notebook manufacturer partners to incorporate touchscreens into Ultrabooks, contending that ultrabooks will eventually combine major values of products like Apple's MacBook Air and iPad while offering better overall value.

Shilov cites Intel product manager Anand Kajshmanan in an interview with PCWorld saying: "We fundamentally believe in the concept of touch, and touch on a clamshell. We believe it is going to take off in 2012 or at least 2013, especially with WindowsÊ8. It really feels like now is the right time, now that the hardware and software are working really well together. We are strongly encouraging our partners to incorporate touch on the ultrabooks,"

Windows 8 will enable touch-based input on Microsoft's mainstream operating system, but Shilov notes that several factors might prevent touchscreen-based PCs from becoming widespread - to wit: manufacturing cost and heat produced by components of electronic devices (which makes touchscreens uncomfortable to use).

He notes that notebook makers will learn how to produce ultrabooks efficiently and find ways to create touchscreen convertibles and hybrids, and Intel wants this to happen in 2012 so Ultrabooks can offer all the technologies that devices like Apple's MacBook Air or iPad and offer better value.

Intel Launches 'Cinematic and Epic' Ultrabook Promotion Campaign

PR: Intel says its new Ultrabook marketing campaign is the company's largest in nearly a decade, aimed at marketing the Ultrabook experience, and featuring TV commercials set in the American Old West, ancient China, and medieval times.

The campaign kicks off this week with television commercials, online experiences, and print ads that the company is hailing as "cinematic and epic."

The multifaceted global campaign, called "A New Era of Computing," is aimed at marketing the Ultrabook experience in exciting and innovative ways to consumers. Valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, the campaign is the largest marketing spend for the company since launching the Intel Centrino CPU in 2003.

"A New Era of Computing is going to be very different from what you've seen from Intel in a long time," says Kevin Sellers, vice president, Sales and Marketing Group and director, Advertising and Digital Marketing. "This is not a campaign where we're talking about the microprocessor or Intel the company. Instead, were giving a cinematic and epic feel to how Intel-inspired Ultrabook systems are ushering in a new era of computing and making everything else seem like ancient history."

Sellers is referring to initial TV spots set in the American Old West, ancient China and medieval times that humorously position PCs as old-fashioned and Ultrabooks being, as the campaign theme suggests, a new era of computing. The spots were directed by Daniel Kleinman, a British TV commercial and music video director who also helmed the title sequence for several James Bond movies.

"Desperado" debuted on American television on April 6 after a world premiere through paid promotion on Twitter - a U.S. first, according to the online social networking service two days earlier at http://twitter.com/intel. A spin on the classic spaghetti western, Desperado takes place in a saloon where late-19th century gunslingers frustrated by the lack of performance of their clunky notebooks feel threatened by this 21st century, Ultrabook-brandishing new kid in town. The spot highlights the responsiveness and quickness of the Ultrabook.

Check out the "Desperado" mini-western:

House of Flying Laptops, highlighting Ultrabooks' extended battery life and a nod to such stylish martial arts films as House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, begins in an ancient Chinese temple during the Ming Dynasty. Two traditionally dressed women, each wielding a bulky, power-hungry laptop, engage in an epic battle over a single available power outlet. Their attention quickly turns to a modern woman sitting at a nearby table and working on her Ultrabook.

Set inside a medieval European castle and underscoring Ultrabooks' small form factor and high performance, Round Table shows a team of less-than-enthused knights subjected to a slide presentation by their king, who is using an outmoded computer that can't keep up. Relief comes to the frustrated monarch when a woman suddenly enters the room with a mystical device - an Ultrabook.

Each ad ends with a metaphoric twist as the original ancient setting transforms to a modern-day one. A voiceover at the end says, "Suddenly, everything else seems old-fashioned. Ultrabook. Inspired by Intel."

Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco created the campaign. The agency was also responsible for Intel's successful and ongoing Sponsors of Tomorrow brand campaign that launched in 2009. OMD led global media planning of a campaign that includes TV, print, outdoor, online, and other advertisement placements, as well as in-store and online retail campaigns.

While the debuts of the initial three commercials will be staggered through May in the United States and abroad, a unique online experience will allow consumers to interact with the spots starting in mid-April. Visitors to intel.com/ultrabook can create their own adventures through a series of decisions while becoming educated on Ultrabooks product features along the way. Interlude, an Israeli-based technology company delivering unique interactive video experiences, created this campaign element that is scheduled to launch in the United States on April 13 and in 50 countries across 26 languages by the end of April.

"We're expanding the stories of the commercials, making them more personalized, fun and sharable," Sellers explains. "Nothing like this has been done on such an epic scale. We shot scenes for the interactive experience as we were making the commercials in Spain and China to ensure that what you see on TV and online will be beautifully interwoven."

The interactive element also will expose the creative to countries outside where the TV spots will run, a working list that currently includes Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Print ads that debut on April 23 in initial markets poke fun at how futuristic the Ultrabook is. One line reads, "Your great-grandkids just called. They want their computer back." Another reads, "So futuristic it'll even feel futuristic in the future." Out-of-home billboards that debut on April 23 also use humor to illustrate the speed and lightweight nature of the Ultrabook with such copy as Mastodons. Dodos. Bulky laptops. Retail campaigns encompass a range of executions, from merchandising materials and in-store demos to online ads and training for retail salespeople.

Products & Services

WD Scorpio Blue 7mm 2.5" Mobile Hard Drive Claims Lowest Power Consumption in the Industry

WD Scorpio BluePR: Western Digital has announced that its WD Scorpio Blue 7mm hard drive, the latest addition to its mobile hard drive family and claimed to be the lowest power consumption 2.5" drive on the market today, is shipping.

Specified to a best-in-class 400Gs shock tolerance, the new single-platter WD Scorpio Blue small form factor hard drives are available in 500 GB and 320 GB capacities and the drives' compatibility with industry-standard 9.5mm slots make them ideal storage options for mainstream notebooks as well as slimmer notebook and Ultrabook devices that require a 7mm drive height.

WD Scorpio Blue"Consumers want thin and light personal computers, but the limited storage capacity of SSD-based notebooks forces them to pick and choose what files to bring from their library," says WD client storage products vice president and general manager Matt Rutledge. "With the release of the new WD Scorpio Blue 7mm mobile hard drives, WD is able to offer capacity, reliability and data-protection features combined with excellent power management all in a slim form factor perfect for thin and light notebooks."

Features of the new WD Scorpio Blue 7mm hard drives include:

  • Low power consumption - Advanced power management features and algorithms optimize the way the drive seeks data, which significantly improves power consumption.
  • Shock Tolerance - WD's ShockGuard technology, now increased to a best-in-market 400Gs shock specification, protects the drive mechanics and platter surfaces from shocks.
  • Cool and quiet - In a notebook drive, silence is golden. WD's proprietary WhisperDrive technology enables quiet performance.
  • Reliable - WD's SecurePark parks the recording heads off the disk surface during spin up, spin down, and when the drive is off. This ensures the recording head never touches the disk surface resulting in improved long term reliability due to less head wear, and improved non-operational shock tolerance.
  • Compatibility Tested - WD performs tests on hundreds of systems and a multitude of platforms in its FIT Lab and Mobile Compatibility Lab to give customers confidence that drives will work in specific systems.

Shipping now through select distributors and resellers, the WD Scorpio Blue 7mm 2.5" mobile hard drives are covered by a two-year limited warranty.

MSRP for the 500 GB, model #: WD5000LPVT is $99.99 and the 320 GB, model #: WD3200LPVT is $79.99. Additional information about WD Scorpio Blue hard drives and limited warranty terms may be found on the company website.

Publisher's note: Lower power consumption will also make these an option for those with regular laptops who want to stretch battery life without moving to a low capacity and/or high cost SSD. dk

QuickerTek Releases Highest Charge Density External MacBook Air Battery Available

PR: QuickerTek has just announced the 4th Generation external battery and charger for all Apple MacBook Air laptops. This external battery and charger recharges and powers everything from the iPad, to iPods to iPhones to MacBook Air laptops. QuickerTek uses Lithium Ion Polymer Batteries with highest charge density available to date, resulting in longer computer run times from the lightest external battery for Macs. It's available from QuickerTek and dealers for $429.95.

Long airline flights, extended outdoor time, even location photo shoots and plenty of time with friends at the coffee shop working on that screenplay or video editing - all possible with the tremendous additional battery power. And at only 2.15 pounds and less than an inch thick, it's easy to carry everywhere you want to go. And best of all, users get more power in the same size case.

The External Battery and Charger uses the standard Apple MagSafe power adapter to charge and use the 4th Generation Battery. The QuickerTek 4th Generation Battery also has a 5.1v @ 2.0 amp USB "iDevice" port for iPod, iPad and iPhones and most if not all USB devices. You're never without your favorite mobile device when you have this powerful battery.

There are eight high-density Li-ion Polymer cells inside. At the front of the anodized machined aluminum case is a "fuel gauge" LED indicator that shows charge levels. You can even use this battery with super-rugged QuickerTek 27 and 55 watt Solar Panels, so that you have even more options for using your Apple devices anywhere you choose.

Rick Estes, QuickerTek president, says: "This new battery gives our users a huge power reserve so they can go anywhere and do anything. If you combine our folding solar panels with this battery, there isn't anything you can't do. Go anywhere, anytime and do whatever you want. It doesn't get any better than that for mobile device users. Can you tell I'm excited? Everyone at our offices are just as pumped as I am."

This battery works with an Apple Modified MagSafe power adapter to reduce the number of peripheral required. Styled to blend with your Apple equipment, the External Battery/Charger is small, lightweight and good looking, making it ideal for any mobile Apple user.

Specifications:

  • Physical: 6-1/8 x 8.25 x 7/8 inches
  • Weight: 2.15 pounds just the battery
  • Shipping Weight: 6.0 pounds
  • Battery: 8 cells, Li-ion Polymer
  • Up to 20 hours of extra battery life
  • 6-LED fuel gauge

Like most QuickerTek products, the new External Battery and Charger is backed with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

Apple Laptop Key Replacement for $4.95 or Less

PR: Missing a Laptop Key?

Orange County, CA based ReplacementLaptopKeys.com now offers Apple and Dell laptop keys. Regardless of the Dell or Apple laptop computer model, individual keys can be purchased at a low cost and installed with minimal effort. Spending $5 is much cheaper than replacing a laptop or notebook computer.

It's unnecessary to waste hard-earned money on a new laptop computer if the only problem is a broken or damaged laptop key. Replacement Laptop Keys is an online business that provides individual laptop keys for all brands and models of laptops and notebook computers. Their user friendly website allows consumers to simply enter the model number of a computer, and purchase the laptop key or keys needed for repairs.

Single Laptop Keys Can Be Replaced

Millions of people rely on Apple and Dell computers for daily tasks, business, and web surfing. Sooner or later, a key tends to get damaged, not work properly, or pop off. Sometimes the letter or number even wears off, due to excessive typing. Unfortunately many people are under the impression that a new keyboard, or even a new laptop is required. This is where Replacement Laptop Keys can help consumers, businesses, and computer owners save money. This online business/service has already catered to over 50,000 customers worldwide.

Installing a Replacement Computer Key

Those unfamiliar with computers and keyboards are certainly not alone. This is why Replacement Laptop Keys provides free installation guides, which includes video tutorials on how to replace specific keys. Live chat assistance is additionally offered to all customers, free of charge. Business hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday (Pacific Standard Time).

There is no reason to leave home to seek out professional assistance for damaged laptop keys. Web-based experts like Replacement Laptop Keys can assist you with getting the replacement key you need, and getting it installed promptly and painlessly. Same day shipping is offered, as well as a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Replacement Laptop keys has been in business since 2005 and continues to help PC and Mac owners every day. The broad selection of laptop computer brands, which now includes Apple and Dell is one attribute that truly makes this online business stand out. Regardless of the laptop key required, this computer service has it in stock and ready for shipment.

Asset Genie Inc. Launches MacBook Air LCD Repair Service

PR: Asset Genie Inc., a global provider of notebook computer service parts, component-level repairs, and LCD enhancements is now repairing LCDs on all 2010/11 - 11" and 13" Apple MacBook Air models.

Due to the complexity of the repair itself and the difficulty in sourcing the replacement LCDs, other repair organizations are only able to replace the entire display module. AGI says their technical expertise and worldwide vendor network have allowed them to develop a repair program that replaces the raw LCD itself, diverting scrap from landfill, and saving clients nearly half the cost of replacement from Apple or other repair vendors. AGI claims to be currently the only independent service provider performing these repairs in the United States, having already repaired thousands of Apple MacBook Air LCDs for school districts, universities, and other repair centers.

The MacBook Air LCD repair service is currently only being offered business-to-business and to all education platforms, but is expected to be extended to end users in the near future. AGI currently offers end user repair programs for both the iPad and iPhone.

Program Details

AGI only requires clients send in their broken MacBook Air display module, not the whole units. It is also recommended that clients do not attempt to perform any repairs on the LCD prior to sending it in due to the delicacy of other internal components within the display module. AGI also offers MacBook Air polarizer enhancement services allowing clients to convert their LCDs from Glossy (Glare) to Matte (Anti-Glare) for an additional small fee. All repairs are performed by one of AGI's highly experienced technicians in a Class 10,000 clean room and ESD controlled production areas.

AGI prides itself on performing highest quality repairs at competitive pricing, offering saving of more than half the cost of going directly to Apple. The turnaround time is typically 1-2 business days and restores the MacBook Air to factory like condition.

To send a display module in for repair, it is necessary to create an account on the AGI site. Once you have created an account, you will be able to include with your order a purchase order number, client reference number (if you are sending multiple customer units in one shipment), model number, serial number and any additional comments

  • MacBook Air 11" Display Module Repair Service $239
  • MacBook Air 11" Display Module Repair Service w/ Matte Enhancement $279
  • MacBook Air 11" Display Glossy to Matte Enhancement $60
  • MacBook Air 13" Display Module Repair Service $289
  • MacBook Air 13" Display Module Repair Service w/ Matte Enhancement $329
  • MacBook Air 13" Display Glossy to Matte Enhancement $60

WaterField Transforms Purchasing Process for Customized PC Laptop Sleeves

PR: WaterField Designs, known for its innovative laptop sleeves and designer bags and cases for digital-minded professionals, announces a new custom PC laptop sleeve ordering system. Finding a snug case for a PC can be a challenge. Don't settle for the handful of sizes offered by big box stores. By providing just a few key measurements at the time of ordering, WaterField customers can now quickly get a fitted laptop sleeve for their specific PC laptop, netbook, or ultrabook. WaterField also offers custom-fitted laptop sleeves for all Apple laptop models. All WaterField Designs bags and cases are made entirely in San Francisco.

"We make several hundred different SleeveCase sizes because PC laptops come in so many dimensions and configurations - different proportions, various sizes of extended batteries .Ê.Ê. or not. Too many PC users out there settle for a poor-fitting, protective sleeve; it's just wrong. Our custom sleeves are one of our greatest differentiators; we can match up a proper-fitting, protective SleeveCase with any size laptop made," says a Waterfield spokesperson.

Features of the SleeveCase:

  • High-grade, shock-absorbing neoprene padding
  • Domestically-produced, ballistic nylon shell
  • Bottom loop to aid in easy extraction
  • Choice of horizontal- or vertically-oriented case to match both messenger bags and backpacks
  • Optional addition of a lightly padded flap for extra protection
  • Choice of trim (grey checkered Indium or distressed brown leather)
  • Optional D-rings and a strap to use as a stand-alone bag
  • All metal hardware add-ons
  • TSA-friendly
  • Made entirely in the USA - San Francisco

The WaterField Designs laptop SleeveCase secures and protects laptops without zippers, allowing quick, scratch-free access to the PC or Apple laptop inside. It combines a classic black, nearly indestructible ballistic nylon outer shell with a high-grade, 6mm neoprene interior that absorbs shock as it cradles the computer. Cases with a snug fit provide optimal protection and wear. A loop at one end lets users hold the SleeveCase while easily removing the device. WaterField offers several options to further customize the SleeveCase: horizontal or vertical orientation; brown leather or grey checkered Indium trim; standard or with D-rings and a strap; with or without the Piggyback accessory pouch. Travelers passing through airport security can leave their PC or Mac protected in the TSA-friendly sleeve while it moves through the x-ray apparatus, thereby minimizing loss or damage at security checkpoints.

SleeveCase: $49

Color: Black with trim in either grey checkered Indium or distressed, brown leather ($10).

Options: D-rings only: $5. Simple Strap: $12. Suspension Shoulder Strap: $22. Piggyback accessory pouch: $25-$27. Shipping now from the WaterField Designs online store.

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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