Mac News Review

Apple's Most Loyal Fans Now Aged 35+, DVD and Blu-ray Movie Rentals Top Streaming, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.08.17

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.

Purchases made through links to Amazon.com and Apple's iTunes/iBook/App/Mac App Store support Low End Mac.

News & Opinion

Rumor Roundup

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple's Most Loyal Supporters Now Age 35 and Over

PR: A YouGov BrandIndex finds that since mid-July 201 and the introduction of the new MacBook Air line and OS X Lion, adults 35+ have been bigger supporters of the Apple brand than the 18-34 demographic, a reversal of the positions the two age groups occupied prior to July.

The report also says BrandIndex Buzz scores track an evolution in Apple's brand popularity over the past year, noting that when the iPhone 4S was introduced last October, Apple's perception with adults aged 35+ skyrocketed while perception for 18-34 year olds enjoyed a solid but unspectacular rise, then trended downward for four months afterward.

Over Age 35 Demographic Now Apple's Most Loyal Supporters

Before July 2011, the 18-34 demographic Buzz scores lead those of the over 35s for the Apple brand. At the beginning of 2011, the younger demographic led the older one with a 35 buzz score compared to 30.

However, beginning in mid-May 2011, the 35+ demographic began a steady perception ascent that peaked shortly after the release of the iPhone 4S, soaring from a 25 Buzz score on May 17 to a 48 score on November 1st the highest perception score this group has held for Apple in at least four years.

The 18-34 demo made a significant ascent in the two weeks leading up to the mid-October iPhone 4S release, jumping six points from 30 to 36, and then began a long backslide down to a 22 score by mid-February.

When adults 35+ hit their peak score of 48 on November 1st, the 18-34 Buzz score was 13 points lower at 35.

The 35+ demos current Buzz score is 32, compared to the 18-34 Buzz score of 24.

DVDs and Blu-ray Discs Still Top Streaming for Movie Rentals

PR: According to The NPD Group's VideoWatch VOD report, even as more consumers adopt subscription streaming from Netflix and other services, the majority of feature-length movies are still rented on physical discs.

The report found that rentals of physical DVDs and Blu-ray discs (BDs) from kiosks, brick-and-mortar retailers, and Netflix Movies by Mail accounted for 62% of movie rental orders during the first half of this year. Digital movie rentals - including subscription streaming, pay TV VOD, and Internet VOD - accounted for the other 38%.

Movie Rental Shares 2012NPD's VideoWatch VOD report also revealed that overall movie rentals through all of these sources declined 10% since last year. Rentals of physical discs, while dominant, are becoming less so; in fact, year-over-year disc rentals from all sources declined by 17%, as digital movie rentals increased by 5%.

Within the physical disc market, kiosks continued to extend their lead, with rental orders growing 5% over last year. Kiosk rentals accounted for 45% of the physical market, as rentals from brick-and-mortar stores continued to fade. DVD and BD subscriptions also declined, due to Netflix' focus on digital-video streaming.

Total digital-movie rental orders increased 5% - growth largely attributable to Netflix Watch Instantly, the flat-fee subscription movie and TV streaming service. Although the vast majority (80%) of Netflix rental activity was for TV shows, movie rental activity was still sufficiently robust to make it the leader in movie rentals for the digital segment (66%). Pay-TV VOD accounted for 28% of digital orders, while Internet VOD (iVOD) accounted for 6%.

"Kiosk and subscription Internet streaming are generating strong user satisfaction ratings, including future rental intent, price, and value, which is reflected in market-share gains," says Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis for The NPD Group. "Netflix is frequently the most popular video application on connected devices, so an increase in households with Web-connected Blu-ray Disc players, tablets, and smart TVs will lead to still more video streaming activity."

The above information was derived from The NPD Group's VideoWatch VOD report. The final report is based on approximately 21,752 completed responses from US consumers. Survey data was weighted to represent US population of individuals (age 13 and older) and tested for statistical significance at 95% confidence level.

Publisher's note: It's a shame Apple has never supported Blu-ray on Macs, preferring to push its HD iTunes Store content. For those interested in watching Blu-ray discs on their Macs, see our recent reviews of Mac Blu-ray Player v2.4.0 and the internal Matshita UJ-267 Blu-ray drive that works in unibody MacBook Pros. You can currently buy Mac Blu-ray Player for $39.95 (a $20 saving), and it will also work with a wide range of external USB Blu-ray drives as well. dk

Apple Offers $100 Gift Card to College Students with Mac Purchase

PR: A new Apple coupon bestows a $100 gift card upon college students with their purchase of a Mac computer. Featured on CouponBuzz.com, this special offer from Apple is attracting consumer attention as a nice perk for Mac buyers resigned to paying full price on the rarely discounted computers. The $100 dollar gift card can be used for apps, books, music and movies, all essential entertainment staples of a college student.

Increasingly, a laptop has become an essential centerpiece of back-to-school supplies. Professors email homework assignments, and class groups meet online. Assignments are submitted to websites and information saved on the Cloud. Library books are reserved online, and well-built power point presentations are becoming de rigueur in the modern classroom. The standard of quality Apple builds into their Mac computers guarantees a hassle-free college year, and an ease of use that allows users to pursue their passion; be it gaming, media editing, word processing or content streaming.

"We are getting a lot of returning students and prospective freshman clicking through on our link to this Apple coupon," says Justin Bowen, one of the senior directors at CouponBuzz.com. "An extra $100 dollar gift card to spend on the hot new single, the latest popular app, or a best-selling ebook is proving to be a very attractive offer."

In order to utilize the Apple coupon offering the $100 dollar gift card, the consumer must be a current college student, accepted at a college, the parent of a student, or faculty and/or staff. Almost every Apple computer qualifies for the offer, including configure-to-order purchases. The Mac mini and refurbished Apple computers are exceptions worth noting. To utilize the coupon and find a link to the full line of qualifying Mac computers, online shoppers can visit the dedicated Apple coupon section at CouponBuzz.com.

Consumer Reports: Mac Desktops Among Most Reliable

Consumer Reports' Carol Mangis says the organization's newest reader survey data for frequency of repair and serious problems with desktop computers is in, and once again Apple was among the most reliable brands. The survey covered desktop computers purchased from 2009 through the middle of 2012, a 3-1/2 year period.

Writer Regrets Buying an iMac

"The iMac is a great machine until something goes wrong. Here's why you might think twice about buying one." says Cnet's David Carnoy.

iMacs
21.5" and 27" iMacs

Carnoy notes that two years ago he dropped close to two grand on a 27" Core i5 iMac with some extra RAM, replacing a 2003 Quicksilver Power Mac G4.* He explains that while he's mainly a Windows guy who has built all of his Windows machines (save for his Lenovo laptop), he was happy with his iMac purchase - until the hard drive failed last month, around 21 months after he bought the machine.

He further explains that he's usually pretty adept at fixing these things, and although he had backed up most of the drive's contents to a network drive, but he did have some family photos he hadn't backed up and wanted to save.

A bit of Googling led to the discovery that Apple had actually recalled some iMacs thanks to a batch of "bad" Seagate 1 TB hard drives, but the recall was limited to some 2011 models.

Fortunately, AlSoft's DiskWarrior was able to retrieve the unbacked-up data in a marathon 10 hour recovery session, but to make a log story shorter, Carnoy hadn't purchased AppleCare extended warranty coverage for his iMac, and it would cost $265 to replace the drive at the Apple Store.

After reviewing online video instructions for performing hard-drive surgery on the iMac, which was not straightforward and required some extra tools (including suction cups for removing the glass from the screen) that would cost close to $40, Carnoy decided to take the machine to a third-party repair shop, which installed a replacement drive he'd secured directly from Seagate, at a cost of $120 for two hours of labor, but it rankles him what a pain in the butt the iMac was to deal with and wishes he'd just bought a MacBook Pro and a separate monitor, summarizing: "alas, the iMac, in its current form, is truly a triumph of design over practicality. Apple made it easy enough to add RAM on the iMac, which is good. But the company also should have made replacing the hard drive as simple, especially when you consider that iMacs do run very hot, which probably doesn't help hard-drive life."

Editor's note: Unfortunately, Apple seems to be headed in the diametrically opposite direction as regards do-it-yourself user serviceability. cm

* Publisher's note: No such model. The original Quicksilver was introduced in July 2001, and the updated Quicksilver 2002 in January 2002. It was replaced by the Mirrored Drive Door Power Mac G4 in August 2002. There was no 2003 Quicksilver. dk

HyperCard Turns 25

TUAW's Kelly Guimont notes that 25 years ago last week, Apple released HyperCard at Macworld Expo Boston, and Apple's software construction kit "for the rest of us" began shipping on every new Mac as of August 11, 1987 (you could also buy it separately for $49).

HypeCard Home Card

HyperCard required 1 MB of memory and a pair of 800K floppy drives or a floppy drive and a hard disk. It was a delightful application where you could develop (or download, share, or buy) all manner of "stacks" - a stack of cards being HyperCard's metaphor for a package of information. By linking cards together in stacks, you could build applications.

HyperCard help screen

HyperCard, which Apple unceremoniously dumped in 2004, also had a decent set of basic graphics tools.

Editor's note: I still love the look of that one-bit pre-System 7 Mac OS user interface. cm

Rumor Roundup

Mountain Lion Clues Point to Forthcoming iMac and Mac Pro Redesigns

AppleInsider's Daniel Eran Dilger reports that internal configuration files in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion appear to make references to yet-unreleased generations of iMac (iMac13,0) and Mac Pro (MacPro6,0) and addressing enhanced USB booting options that indicate new Mac desktop designs could drop built-in optical drives, as Apple has done with the Mac mini, MacBook Air, and Retina MacBook Pro.

Config File in Mountain Lion Foretells Demise of Built-In Optical Drives

The Register's Chris Mellor reports that the .plist file in the latest version of OS X, Mountain Lion makes reference to future iMac and Mac Pro machines and includes options for booting, say, Microsoft Windows from a USB stick - presumably because a DVD drive may be absent in future Mac desktop models.

Mellor notes that the config file is part of Boot Camp, Apple's software technology that enables booting Intel-powered Macs with non-OS X operating systems, and that the file lists Mac models with EFI firmware capable of booting an operating system from USB storage, such as current Apple laptops that already ship without optical drives. He cites speculation by AppleInsider that a coming sixth-generation MacBook Pro will lack an optical drive and likewise a 13th generation iMac.

Software

Pixelmator Adds Support for OS X Mountain Lion and Retina Display, on Sale for $14.99

PR: The Pixelmator Team has released a major update of Pixelmator, easy-to-use and feature-packed image editing software for the Mac. Designed to take full advantage of OS X Mountain Lion and the new MacBook Pro with Retina display, Pixelmator 2.1 adds support for iCloud, a new Effects Browser with new Vintage and Miniaturize effects, smart Alignment Guides and several other enhancements.

Pixelmator

"Pixelmator continues to be a big hit among both professional and amateur image editors, and we're thrilled to deliver even more features at a very affordable price," says Saulius Dailide of the Pixelmator Team. "With support for Mountain Lion, iCloud and the new Retina display, Pixelmator 2.1 is ideal for Mac users looking to tap into their creativity with a full-featured, easy-to-use image editing app."

In 2011, just four short years after the company was founded, the Pixelmator Team was honored with an AppleDesign Award, and Apple named it Mac App Store App of the Year in December 2011.

The new Effects Browser takes the guesswork out of selecting effects by collecting, organizing and providing an animated preview of all of Pixelmator's Color Adjustments, Blur, Distortion, Tile and dozens of other effects, together in one helpful palette. Users can also use the browser to tag and access Favorites in one place.

Pixelmator 2.1 also introduces several brand new effects, including the Vintage, Miniaturize, Black and White, Snow and Rain effects. With the Vintage effect, users get eight new photo filters that give pictures the look of old image processing and bring to mind photos from other eras. Meanwhile, the Miniaturize effect makes real-world scenes appear scaled down to size with a few clicks. It's an optical illusion that gives ordinary objects in photos the endearing look of a toy model only inches tall.

Building precisely aligned image compositions is now short work in Pixelmator 2.1, with the new smart Alignment Guides. This new feature lets users position objects with pinpoint accuracy and build compositions quickly by using individual objects or image elements. The Alignment Guides gracefully appear and disappear onscreen as they are needed, while Object Spacing automatically shows when objects are equally spaced on the canvas.

Pixelmator

Pixelmator includes:

A powerful, pixel-accurate collection of selection tools

  • Quickly and easily select any part of an image
  • Edit and apply special effects to portions of your pictures
  • Select and remove unwanted elements of your photos
  • Cut out objects from one image to place in another

Top-notch painting tools

  • Paint with Pixelmator as you would on canvas
  • Use different brush sizes, shapes, hardness and blending modes
  • Cover any area with beautiful gradients and color fills

New drawing tools

  • Easily add, create, combine and edit shapes
  • Pre-drawn shape tools allow quickly adding lines, circles, rectangles, polygons and stars into your compositions
  • Effortlessly add shadows and adjust fill and stroke settings for shapes
  • Create buttons, icons, web page elements, illustrations and much more

Retouching tools

  • Correct wrinkles and repair scratches
  • Make flaws vanish from your photos, or improve compositions
  • Remove unwanted objects seamlessly from their backgrounds
  • Blur, sharpen, lighten or darken specific areas
  • Get rid of the red eye effect with just one click
  • Combine different tools and filters for an endless number of ways to refine your images

A real filter-machine

  • Over 150 breathtaking filters and special effects
  • Combine different effects for unique, near-effortless artistic creations
  • See the stunning results in real-time

An elegant collection of professional-grade color correction tools

  • Adjust exposure, hue, saturation, shadows and highlights, brightness, contrast and much more
  • Replace and remix colors
  • Dramatically improve less-than-perfect images with one click
  • Designed for intuitive ease of use

Compatibility

  • Send your images directly to iPhoto or Aperture
  • Open and save images using PSD, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, PDF and many other popular formats
  • Open and save Photoshop images with layers

iCloud, sharing, and saving for the web

  • Let iCloud automatically store your edited images and seamlessly take your work to all your Macs
  • Email your photos and image creations right from Pixelmator
  • Publish your images to social applications like Flickr, Twitter and Facebook
  • Optimize and save images for use on your web pages, blogs, photo albums and more

Built exclusively for OS X

  • Pixelmator uses all the latest OS X technologies: Cocoa, 64-Bit, OpenGL, Core Image, iSight, Automator, Quartz Composer and much more

New in Version 2.1:

Pixelmator 2.1 is a major update introducing several new features and improvements, including the following:

  • Retina-Ready: Both Pixelmator's friendly user interface and its powerful image editing engine are now optimized for the Retina display.
  • iCloud: Built right into the app and keeps your Pixelmator work up to date across all your Macs.
  • Effects Browser: The best and the most fun way to browse: instantly preview and quickly apply special effects or add color adjustments to images.
  • New Effects: Use the new Vintage, Miniaturize, Black and White, Rain, and Snow effects.
  • Alignment Guides: Quickly position, align, and evenly distribute objects in your Pixelmator compositions with pinpoint accuracy.
  • OS X Mountain Lion Support: Pixelmator takes full advantage of all the latest and greatest technologies.

System requirements: OS X 10.6.8 or later

Pixelmator 2.1 is available exclusively from the Mac App Store for a limited-time price of $14.99 - a substantial savings off the usual price of $59. It is also available as a free update for existing users.

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