Mac News Review

Apple Grows to #6 PC Maker, Firmware Update for 2011 Mac mini, Photoshop Elements 10, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.09.23

Mac notebook and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book 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

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple's Unstoppable Customer Satisfaction Winning Streak

As a writer covering the Apple orbit for the past 15 years, I might as well long since have created a text macro with the headline "Apple Aces Consumer Satisfaction Survey Again."

PR: Customer satisfaction across three durable goods industries stalled in 2011, with the majority of companies staying almost exactly where they were in 2010, according to a report released Tuesday by the 16-year-old American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey. The report by the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based research organization covers customer satisfaction with personal computers, major appliances, and electronics (televisions and BD/DVD players).

Apple Sets the Bar High

One year after climbing 4% to a record-high score of 78 on ACSI's 0 to 100-point scale, customer satisfaction with personal computers is flattening out, the report notes, making 2011 the first year since 2008 that overall PC satisfaction didn't rise. Except for Apple. The industry itself is in a state of rapid change, with technology advances accelerating amid shifts in consumer preference. However, as demand for traditional desktop PCs weakens, the tablet computer market is skyrocketing, led by Apple's iPad. Apple is unique among PC makers in having the iPad's long coattails pulling its Mac PC systems higher with it, and the company's stellar record of customer satisfaction preeminence in the personal computer industry continues unabated in 2011, as the company adds another point to its already exceptional score. At 87 (+1%), Apple outdistances its nearest competitor by 9 points, which is reflected in that the Mac now commands just under 11% of the U.S. Domestic PC market.

"In the eight years that Apple has led the PC industry in customer satisfaction, its stock price has increased by 2,300%," remarks Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference. "Apple's winning combination of innovation and product diversification, including spinning off technologies into entirely new directions, has kept the company consistently at the leading edge."

Indeed, Apple has outscored its PC rivals in the ACSI survey consistently since 2004, the year it became the first manufacturer to cross the 80 score threshold with an 81 rating that year. Apple's poorest showing score of 69 in 1998, the year after Steve Jobs returned to the company after a 12-year interregnum.

Among Windows-based PC makers, not much has changed over the past year. The two Hewlett-Packard brands - Compaq and HP - seeing only incremental gains (+1%) in 2011. At 78, HP outperforms last-place Compaq at 75, and customer satisfaction for both brands is higher now than at any time since the HP-Compaq merger in 2002. However, HP's market share is increasingly threatened by tablet computers, and the company may soon abandon the PC market altogether. Dell, Acer, and the aggregate of all other brands (such as Toshiba, Lenovo, and Sony) are sandwiched in between the two HP product lines, with no progress this year, as evidenced by unchanged ACSI scores of 77.

High Scores for Electronics Continue

In other categories, Whirlpool led in major appliances, while customer satisfaction with televisions and Blu-ray Disc (BD) and DVD players was unchanged at 85 - the highest score among 47 industries covered by the ACSI. The industry is a longtime leader in customer satisfaction and this is the second straight year that electronics has led the Index.

"Consumer perceptions of high quality, with price cuts on flat-panel TVs and BD players, contribute to strong and stable customer satisfaction for the industry. Customers are upgrading to TVs that provide better picture quality, more features, and save space, while the BD format is becoming more widely available and affordable. Clearly, customers are pleased with what this industry has to offer them," says Fornell.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. Data from interviews with approximately 70,000 customers annually are used as inputs into an econometric model to measure satisfaction with more than 225 companies in 47 industries and 10 economic sectors, along with over 200 services, programs, and websites of approximately 130 federal government agencies. Results are released on a monthly basis with all measures reported using a 0 to 100 scale. ACSI data have proven to be strongly related to a number of essential indicators of micro and macroeconomic performance. For example, firms with higher levels of customer satisfaction tend to have higher earnings and stock returns relative to competitors. Stock portfolios based on companies that show strong performance in ACSI deliver excess returns in up markets as well as down markets. And, at the macro level, customer satisfaction has been shown to be predictive of both consumer spending and gross domestic product growth.

The Index was founded at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and is produced by ACSI LLC.

Lenovo World's Third Largest PC Maker, Apple and Samsung Coming On Strong

PR: Capitalizing on strong sales in China and the United States - as well as on a weak performance by close rival Acer Inc. - Lenovo Group Ltd. in 2011's second quarter rose one rank to became the world's third largest PC brand, according to the new IHS iSuppli Compute Platforms Q3 2011 Market Tracker from information and analysis provider IHS.

Lenovo posted the strongest percentage growth among the world's Top 5 PC makers in the second quarter, on both a sequential and annual basis. The Chinese company's 10.2 million shipments in the second quarter were up 25.6% from 8.2 million units in the first quarter, and also represented an increase of 23% from 8.3 million in the second quarter of 2010.

On the other end of the spectrum, Taiwan's Acer in the second quarter suffered the only sales decline among the Top 5. Acer's 8.9 million shipments declined 4% from 9.2 million in the first quarter, and fell 20% from 11.1 million in the second quarter of 2010, as presented in the table below.

The two companies' diverging fortunes caused Lenovo to rise to third place in the global PC business, up from fourth in the first quarter - while Acer dropped one rank to fourth.

"Beyond the continuing strength in its home market of China - where the both the economy and PC demand continued to expand vigorously - Lenovo's performance in the second quarter was boosted by rising sales in other regions," says Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst, compute platforms for IHS. "These regions included the broader Asia-Pacific area, as well as the United States, with Lenovo performing well in those places because of demand from the enterprise segment. Meanwhile, Acer suffered from inventory problems, particularly in Western Europe, which lowered its shipments and resulted in lost market share."

Acer began a process in the second quarter to improve its channel inventory management. However, because of weaker PC consumer demand, channel inventories did not deplete as quickly as hoped, resulting in reduced need for restocking by the company.

Lenovo's rise to third place ties its highest ranking ever, with the company previously having ascended to that position for a few quarters in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Acer's drop to fourth place represents a stunning reversal of fortune for a company that was the No. 2 PC brand in the world during a three-quarter period in 2009 and 2010.

Apple's Growth Ripens in Q2

Besides Lenovo, only two other PC brands achieved double-digit year-over-year growth in the second quarter: No. 7 Apple Inc. of the United States and No. 8 Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. of South Korea.

Propelled by strong growth in its desktop and notebook business, Apple's PC shipments amounted to 3.8 million, up 13.6% from 3.3 million in the second quarter of 2010. Apple recorded the third-highest year-over growth in desktop shipments among the Top 10 PC original equipment manufacturers, with only Lenovo and another Chinese company, Haier, experiencing larger expansions. Apple also posted the third-largest growth in notebook shipments, bested only by Lenovo and Samsung.

"Apple's growth is attributable to its products being highly desirable and continuing to appeal to consumers, despite the weaker consumer demand environment," Wilkins comments. "The company's performance was so strong that Apple now is less than 1 percentage point away from having sufficient market share to enter the Top 5 rankings."

Meanwhile, Samsung posted the highest growth of any Top 10 PC brand in the second quarter, with its shipments rising by a stunning 31.3% to 3.1 million units, up from 2.4 million during the same period in 2010.

Asus Enters the Top 5

Taiwanese PC brand Asustek Computer Inc. (Asus) shipped 4.6 million PCs in the second quarter, up 5.3% from 4.3 million in the first quarter and an 8.4% increase from 4.2 million during the second quarter of 2010. This impressive growth allowed Asus to overtake Japan's Toshiba Corp. and become the No. 5 brand.

"Asus delivered strong growth in emerging markets - including Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific - allowing the company to rise one rank and enter the Top 5," Wilkins said.

The PC Market Returns to Growth

After contracting on a sequential and annual basis during the first three months of the year, the global PC market returned to growth in the second quarter, with total shipments of 85.6 million units, up 3.7% from 82.6 million during 2010, and increasing 6% from 80.8 million in the first quarter of 2011.

The PC industry at present is enjoying strong demand driven by efforts among information technology (IT) departments of corporate entities to refresh their hardware. Healthy corporate demand allowed the Top 2 PC vendors - Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. - to maintain their leadership positions.

Use Dropbox to Sync Documents Between Macs for Free

TheNextWeb says:

"When we took a look at the five most powerful apps on the Mac, Dropbox made it on to our list. We also briefly mentioned in the article how you could use a free third-party app called MacDropAny to keep your default Documents folder in sync with Dropbox. Here, we give you an in-depth tutorial on how to use Dropbox with MacDropAny to keep the Documents folder on various Macs in sync."

Publisher's note: Dropbox is an invaluable service, and you start out with 2 GB of storage space for free. If you need a lot more than that, Dropbox will sell you 50 GB for $10/mo. or $99/yr., but if you don't need nearly that much, there are several options for getting more space for free. Three helpful guides:

I'm past the 6 GB mark, and you should have no trouble getting to at least 3 GB in short order. dk

Importing Images from Your iPad or iPhone to Your Mac Without iPhoto

Macworld's Christopher Breen has posted a helpful tutorial on transferring images from an iPad to a Mac that doesn't have a copy of iPhoto installed using the OS X bundled utility Image Capture, a program that many Mac users may be unaware of.

Publisher's note: Image Capture has been bundled with OS X at least since version 10.1. dk

Apple Updates

Thunderbolt Software Update for OS X 10.7.1

The latest Thunderbolt Software Update provides support for the Apple Thunderbolt Display and bug fixes for Thunderbolt device compatibility.

File Size: 60.30 MB

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7.1 or later

Link: Thunderbolt Software Update

EFI Firmware Update for Mid 2011 Mac mini

Mac mini EFI Firmware Update 1.3 includes fixes that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on Mac mini (mid 2011) models.

The Mac mini EFI Update will update the EFI firmware on your Mac mini computer. When your Mac mini restarts, a gray screen will appear with a status bar to indicate the progress of the update. It will take several minutes for the update to complete. Do not disturb or shut off the power on your Mac mini during this update.

Boot ROM or SMC Version Information: After this update has successfully completed, your Boot ROM Version will be: MM51.0077.B0A

File Size: 4.26 MB

System Requirements: OS X Lion 10.7 and later

Products & Services

iTwin Reinvents the USB Drive for Mac Users

PR: iTwin, creator of the iTwin USB device that enables users to privately access, share and edit their files and media from anywhere in the world, has announced compatibility with Mac OS X (Lion and Snow Leopard). Now both PC and Mac users can easily share files via iTwin, a device that fits into the palm of a hand.

iTwin is a plug-n-play USB device that allows two online computers to share military-grade encrypted data from anywhere in the world. Comprising two identical parts, iTwin can be activated on any computer with an Internet connection, and files from that computer can be shared anywhere the matching half, or twin goes.

Other iTwin benefits include:

  • State of the Art Security iTwin uses hardware-based two-factor authentication and military grade Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256 bit encryption to protect all data communication. When two halves of the iTwin are paired, the owner is sent a Remote Disable Code via email, which can be used in the event one half of the iTwin is lost or stolen.
  • No Storage Limit Files reside on the shared computers, not the iTwin device itself, so capacity is only limited to the size of each shared computers hard drive (and any connected drives). There are also no monthly storage fees, as compared with cloud storage and remote access software.
  • Ease of Use Simply plug-n-play, no setup or configuration is necessary. Just connect two computers (Mac or PC) with Internet access and iTwin enables file transfer anywhere in the world. As new features and enhancements are rolled out, free updates are installed automatically.

"We are excited to be able to offer iTwin to both OS X and Windows customers," says Lux Anantharaman, cofounder and CEO of iTwin. We are confident that Mac users will be satisfied with the features iTwin offers, and which both consumers and small businesses have come to enjoy. Now both Macs and PCs will have full, cross-platform capabilities with this revolutionary device that is perfect for their sensitive file sharing needs."

iTwinSmall businesses are especially finding iTwin useful for sharing information. Tom Overton is a U.S. based lawyer handling a sensitive matter for a client in Asia, and notes that "By using the iTwin we can easily and securely transfer files and share information. Without the iTwin, securely transmitting confidential information was cumbersome and time consuming. With the iTwin, the process is fast and easy. Personally, I am thrilled with the new OS X support - this is the flexibility needed for both my business and personal use. iTwin is a perfect solution for people like me who don't want to deal with the storage-size limits and security concerns of a cloud service or of a standard USB flash drive."

iTwin is currently available for $99 at iTwin.com/buy_iTwin and at Amazon.com. Existing Customers can get the free Mac OS X compatibility upgrade from iTwin.com/Mac. Every time there is a new version of the iTwin software, users will be automatically upgraded when plugging the device into a computer.

iTwin enables users to securely access, share, and edit all their files and media from anywhere in the world, simply and safely. Only iTwin offers a plug-and-play USB device that lets users remotely access all their files and media from any online computer. Unlike other offerings which have space limitations, ongoing fees and security risks, iTwin's compact design offers limitless capacity for a one-time fee and also secures data via two-factor authentication, military-grade end-to-end encryption and remote disable functionality. iTwin enhances productivity by enabling people to privately and painlessly access, share and edit files on-the-go. For a one-time fee, iTwin eliminates security concerns and gives mobile users peace of mind and full control of their digital life.

Software

Adobe Photoshop Elements 10

PR: Adobe Systems Incorporated has announced Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 software for Windows and Mac. The newest version of Adobe's No. 1 selling consumer photo-editing software, Photoshop Elements 10 provides a complete solution with powerful yet easy-to-use features that continue to expand the possibilities for organizing, editing and sharing photo creations.

"Celebrating a 10-year history as well as a landmark 10th release, Photoshop Elements 10 is a showcase for innovation and expands the incredible things our customers can do with their photos," says Winston Hendrickson, vice president of Digital Imaging Products, Adobe. "The new intelligent feature set and automated functionality in Photoshop Elements allow photo enthusiasts to elevate everyday photos from good to great."

Making Photos Pop with Innovative Tools

Powered by the same engine as Adobe Photoshop, the undisputed industry standard for digital imaging, Photoshop Elements 10 utilizes "intelligent technology" that makes it easy to give everyday photos a boost. Photoshop technology is brought to life through easy to follow steps for achieving stunning photo effects in an approachable way with new Guided Edits, which are very popular and successful. These include innovations such as creating a shallow depth of field or designing a fun layout of snapshots with Picture Stack, or even adding a dreamlike diffused glow with the Orton effect.

New text functionality, which scrapbookers will especially love, allows users to add curving, flowing text to a photo that automatically follows the outline of a subject, custom path or shape. In addition, special crop guides now help users at any level easily achieve interesting, visually appealing compositions. Also, the Smart Brush lets users paint unique effects onto specific areas of photos and now features 30 new effects like Pencil Sketch and Oil Pastel.

New Organization Features

With Photoshop Elements 10, users not only have access to many editing and creation features, but also the ability to organize photos. Object Search automatically finds objects within photos, such as a landmark, flower or pet. The Elements Organizer can even automatically detect duplicate or near-duplicate photos so users can clean up and delete the photos they don't need and quickly group similar collections of photos. Also, photo enthusiasts who shoot video can now upload their clips directly to Facebook or YouTube.

Photoshop Elements 10 users can purchase Adobe's integrated online service, Photoshop Elements Plus, which includes 20 GB of storage for automatic online backup and sharing (up to 15,000 photos or four hours of DVD-quality video), as well as access to an extensive library of how-to's, artwork and Online Album templates for sharing online.

Sharing Made Seamless

Whether users are social networking or using sharing sites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube or Photoshop.com, Photoshop Elements 10 lets customers share their photos directly from within the Elements Organizer and view them from virtually anywhere on the go, offering a comprehensive set of sharing capabilities for today's increasingly social and mobile worlds. For Facebook lovers, Photoshop Elements integrates users Facebook Friend Lists for easily tagging photos that can then be shared directly to Facebook.

For a comprehensive overview of Photoshop Elements 10's feature set, visit http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop-elements/features.html

On top of all these new features and capabilities, Photoshop Elements 10 enables developers to create tablet and mobile applications that interact with the software via the included API. This opens Photoshop Elements 10 to a new world where the convenience and interactivity of touch devices and Photoshop Elements intersect.

System requirements Mac OS:

  • Multicore Intel processor
  • Mac OS X v10.5.8 through v10.7
  • 1 GB of RAM (2 GB for HD video functions)
  • 4 GB of available hard-disk space (additional free space required during installation)
  • 1024 x 768 display resolution
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • QuickTime 7 software required for multimedia features
  • Internet connection required for Internet-based services. Note that Adobe online services and other third-party online services are available only to users 13 and older and require agreement to additional terms and Adobe's online privacy policy. Online services are not available in all countries or languages, may require user registration and may be subject to change or discontinuation without notice. See http://www.adobe.com/go/terms

Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 for Windows and Mac is available now at adobe.com and will also be available soon at retail outlets such as Adorama, Amazon.com, Apple, B & H, Best Buy, Buy.com, Costco, Dell, Frys, New Egg, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, and Walmart. Photoshop Elements 10 Windows and Mac is available for a suggested retail price of $99.99. New upgrade pricing allows past Photoshop Elements users of any version to purchase Photoshop Elements 10 for $79.99. Users can also purchase Plus, available in the U.S. only, from within the product for $49.99/year. (Prices listed are the Adobe direct store prices in the U.S.; reseller prices may vary. Prices do not include tax or shipping and handling.)

Information about other language versions, as well as pricing, upgrade and support policies for other countries is available at http://www.adobe.com/go/photoshopelements

For free training videos on Photoshop Elements, visit Adobe TV at http://tv.adobe.com

Education pricing for students, faculty, and staff in K-12 and higher education is available from Adobe Authorized Education Resellers and the Adobe Education Store.

Upgrading to OS X Lion? Upgrade to Bento 4 for Mac for $9

Bento 4PR: If you've upgraded to OS X Lion or are considering it, check out this opportunity to upgrade to Bento 4 for Mac at the limited-time offer price of $9.

Bento 4 for Mac is the only version of Bento that is compatible with OS X Lion.

Bento 4 Is Faster and Easier to Use

Even if you're not ready to upgrade to OS X Lion just yet, Bento 4 includes loads of new features that make it faster and easier to use.

Bento for iPadNumerous enhancements to Table view and Form view help you get things done faster and easier.

Performance has also been improved when launching Bento, importing data, and deleting libraries. Results will vary depending on file size, number of fields, and field contents.

Bento 4 Prints Labels

You can now print mailing labels, inventory tags, name badges, and more - right from Bento 4.

It supports more than 250 Avery and Dymo labels, including Standard and A4 formats.

You can also create your own custom labels that include pictures from your database or your company logo.

More New Bento 4 Features

  • New - Spreadsheet-Like Simple Lists - Assign field types to data stored in Simple Lists, including time, date, duration, currency, text, number, rating, and more. Add calculations to add, subtract, multiply, and divide columns. Turn on the Summary Row to automatically display sums, counts, average, minimum and maximum values.
  • New - Locking Forms - Click the lock in the bottom right hand of corner of the form toolbar to prevent unwanted changes. Click it again to unlock the form.
  • Bento for iPhoneNew - Location Field Type - Track the GPS location where information was entered or modified with the new location field type.
  • New - Export with Data - Now you can export your actual data along with your Bento templates to share pre-populated databases with other Bento users.
  • New - Direct Connection to the Bento Template Exchange - Upload your favorite templates to the Bento Template Exchange directly from within Bento with a few simple clicks.
  • New - Easy Date Searching - Use the new date searching options to create Smart Collections for time-sensitive information automatically.
  • New - Form Printing Options - Get more control over your output with new printing options that make invoices, sales orders, and other forms look much more attractive.

Plus, Bento for iPhone and Bento for iPad have been updated to support iOS 5. Free updates are available from the App Store or by tapping the Update button on your iPhone or iPad.

The $9 upgrade offer expires November 18, 2011

Links: Bento for Mac, Bento for iPhone, Bento for iPad

New Version of Clipboard History and Free CPU LED

PR: Agile Route tells us they've had a crazy quarter with a major upgrade to their award winning Clipboard History app, and with preparing the release of a new free tool - CPU LED.

First to the Clipboard History update, where they've added some new features:

  • Favorites: Now you can mark copied items as favorites and they will became accessible with a new hotkey, and shown in a different list for easier management. Also you can clean your history keeping only your favorite items.
  • Ignored Apps: With this option you can select any app to be ignored by Clipboard History. Very useful for sensitive apps like password managers.
  • Paste as Plain Text: This is the end for TextEdit as a plain text transformer :) You can now paste any copied item as plain text directly from the menu bar menu or the context menu by pressing the Shift key.
  • Better storage, more capacity: Now you are able to store up to 500 items in your history.

"We develop apps that we need in our daily work. It's an acid test for a new idea, but it's also our mantra," say the developers. "That was the origin of Clipboard History, and that's the origin of a new suite of small utilities combined into CPU LED. We found annoying that our Mac missed a simple way of knowing what's going on inside it. You need to open activity monitor to look for a very detailed list of process, memory, or whatever accounting info you need. Even with all that information you can't see the disk activity. So we decided to create a very simple suite of apps that show your computer's activity with LEDs. Just simple colors: green, yellow, orange, red. You know them, you understand them."

CPU LEDCPU LED is a lightweight, unobtrusive app that adds a led in your status bar indicating your CPU activity (coded as disabled, light, medium, or hard). You can have only one light for all your processors or one for each core (your choice).

Sometimes, opening a complex activity monitor while your computer is heavily loaded is too late (or too much).

CPU LED has two in-app purchase add-ons: Disk LED and Memory LED. Both share the same philosophy: simple, unobtrusive, and clean LEDs that indicate what's going on with your Mac.

  • CPU LED Price: free, with two in-app purchases (Disk LED $1.99 and Memory LED 99¢)
  • Clipboard History Price: $4.99 or

River Bible: Read the King James Version on Your Mac

River BiblePR: Jolon Faichney's River is a Bible viewer, Strong's Concordance, and Journaling Tool. that offers a variety of features and is designed to let you live with your Bible. River is based on an SQLite backend accessed through Core Data allowing for fast searching and retrieval. A simple table-based interface is provided to browse and search the Bible.

River Bible Viewer includes two great translations; the King James Authorized Version (with Strong's Concordance), and the World English Bible

River Features

Powerful Search And Verse Look Up

  • Search is provided by a fast Core Data backend.
  • Search terms can be excluded by preceding with a minus sign (-).
  • Verse references can be entered into the search field, e.g. Matt 13:9

River BibleDaily Journaling Tool

  • Keep a daily Journal with the built in journaling tool.
  • Custom fonts and colours supported.

Typesetting And Layout

  • Christ's Words in red.
  • Click a word in the KJV to view the Strong's definition in a popover.
  • Beautiful typesetting.
  • Clean simple user interface.

River BibleNew in version Version 1.4.1:

  • Christ's Words in Red can now be toggled from the Edit menu.

System requirements:

  • Intel
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or later

$4.99

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