The 'Book Review

Year of the MacBook Air?, Can Ultrabooks Compete with MacBook Air?, IDrive Online Backup, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.01.20

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

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Will 2012 Be the Year of the MacBook Air?

T-GAAP's Karl Johnson notes that the MacBook Air had a great year in 2011, with its available 256 GB solid state drive (SSD) and Sandy Bridge processor allowing it to finally became a mainstream computer and one of Apple's top selling Macs for 2011 - and it showing no signs of slowing down.

Johnson predicts that the MacBook Air will enjoy even greater success in 2012, with new Intel Ivy Bridge processors and more powerful graphics support anticipated.

He also thinks there will be a 15" Air in 2012. This will fuel even more interest in the MacBook Airs, which will bleed sales of users upgrading from old MacBook Pros and other PC laptops, and rendering the "Pro" models a niche product for video editors, 3D artists, 3D gamers, and other scientific computing tasks, or, if Thunderbolt gains traction, a new paradigm of one-port-for-all external devices may eventually make the MacBook Pro obsolete.

Johnson contends that the MacBook Air has already changed the way we think of computers due to its size and weight, noting that at 2.4 lb., the 11.6" Air is only a pound heavier than the iPad, and at less than 2/3" thick it can fit in almost any bag and takes up almost no space - light and small enough to take along wherever one goes.

Consequently, Johnson predicts that MacBook Air will define Mac computing for 2012 and outsell all other Macs combined, making 2012 the year of the MacBook Air.

Article from 1394 Trade Association Explains How to Use Target Disk Mode with FireWire

The 1394 Trade Association has published a new technical article describing how to use FireWire in Apple target disk mode (TDM) applications.

Authored by Brian Karr, a 15-year engineering veteran with extensive audio experience, the article describes the various uses of TDM beyond copying files between machines including system backup and restore, disk troubleshooting and repair. Also, TDM will present any optical drives, to another Macintosh, which can be useful for MacBook Air owners or for Mac PCs that have older optical drives that do not support dual-layer DVDs, for example.

TDM also incorporates a timesaving feature for users who want to upgrade to a larger hard drive, or to migrate files and settings to a new Mac. Most, if not all, of the tools users will need for all of this are included in OS X, according to the article.

Publisher's note: Low End Mac has covered Target Disk Mode, which was first available over SCSI, numerous times over the years:

Note that Apple's new Thunderbolt port also supports Target Disk Mode. dk

Tech Trends

Can Wintel Win the Ultrabook Market?

ZDNet has posted a "head-to-head" feature moderated by Jason Hiner pitting two veteran commentators in a debate over whether Intel-powered Ultrabooks can beat Apple at the game it created four years ago with the first MacBook Air.

PC advocate Ed Bott makes the case for the affirmative, while longtime Apple fan Robin Harris argues the contrary.

Bott acknowledges that Apple has been kicking ass in the high-end portable PC market over the last couple years and that the MacBook Air has become deservedly popular for its exquisite engineering, but he predicts that ultrabooks will be a big hit with PC buyers who like the MacBook Air form factor but prefer Windows to OS X.

Harris counters that Apple dominates over-$1,000 PC revenue with a 90% share, and that the same tired "cheaper, not better" strategy that lost PC vendors the profitable market segments in high-end PCs in an Ultrabook iteration amounts to another profitless bit of me-too-ism.

AMD to Launch Lower Cost Ultrabook Competitor Platform

DigiTimes' Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai report that as Intel gears up to launch its next-generation Ivy Bridge platform for Ultrabooks (and the MacBook Air) in April, hoping to lower the average Ultrabook price to $799 to $999 with enhanced performance, AMD is getting set to launch its Trinity-based platform compete in the Ultrabook/MBA market in June. They say that AMD has code named its light-and-slim laptop category "Ultrathin" and is projecting an overall cost 10-20% lower than for computers built to Intel's Ultrabook spec, and to compete against Intel's Ivy Bridge CPU family in 2012 and the next generation Haswell in 2013. Chen and Tsai note that the new AMD platform is expected to attract vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Acer, and Asus.

The DigiTimes reporters say that 75 new ultrabooks based on Intel's platform are expected in 2012, plus another 20 units based on AMD's Ultrathin spec, although the latter are not anticipated to offer any significant innovations in terms of performance or function compared to Intel's Ivy Bridge-based ultrabooks - just a cost advantage of $100 to $200 lower than Intel's Ultrabooks.

Asus Expects US Notebook Shipments to Grow 30% in 2012

DigiTimes' Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai report that despite seeing the PC market experiencing decline, and economies of the US and Europe weakening, Asustek Computer (Asus) still expects its notebook shipments in the US to grow 30% in 2012, according to Asustek US president Steven Chang.

Chang noted to DigiTimes that Best Buy is the company's first retail channel partner in the US, and the company added Office Depot as its second partner in 2011. In 2012, Asustek will also add Walmart and Staples as marketing partners to help achieve its US shipment goals.

However, 2012 is not exactly getting of to an auspicious start for Asustek. Lee and Tsai note that in January the company expects its consolidated revenues for the month to drop 25%.

Notebooks Increasingly Important in Samsung's Business Plan

DigiTimes' Max Wang and Steve Shen report that its notebook product lines are becoming increasingly important to the overall product mix of Samsung Electronics, with the company's ultimate goal no less ambitious than to capture the top-rank status in the segment, according to the company's executive vice president Gregory Lee.

Samsung unveiled a series of new notebook lineups at CES 2012, some to hit the market starting in February, Lee told DigiTimes, and that in addition to stressing product designs and high-end applications, Samsung will also optimize vertical integration resources available in-house, including Samsung's manufacture if flat panels and memory.

Products & Services

IDrive Universal Online Backup for PCs, Macs, Smartphones, and Tablets

PR: IDrive has made public the latest versions of its Windows, Mac, and mobile software - home users and small businesses can now protect as many computers, iOS, and Android devices as they own with one easy plan.

"We're excited about the latest updates to IDrive," says Raghu Kulkarni, founder and CEO of Pro Softnet Corp. "With a single account new customers can back up as many computers and mobile devices as they want and then view their files from any of those connected devices or on our website. Plus, the mobile app can now back up contacts, photos and videos and make them available online as well."

Those interested can create a free account and store their first 5 GB at no charge.

IDrive offers two plans for home users: 150 GB for $4.95/month or 500 GB for $14.95/month, with no limits on the number of Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android devices that can be protected or the length of time for file retention. For businesses, plans range from 50 GB to 1 TB starting at $9.95/month with priority customer support. Customers can receive two months free by paying annually, and IDrive also offers 50% discounts for teachers, students, and faculty.

Not All Backups Are Created Equally

"Many backup services offer 'unlimited' storage space for a single computer at a flat rate, like $50 per year per computer - it sounds like a good deal at first, but back up 100 GB from that one computer and you pay $50/year, back up just 50 GB and you still have to pay $50/year: that's where they get you," says Stephen Gold, Business Development Manager. "Not only that, 'unlimited' storage plans almost always have very limited file retention, meaning they automatically remove data from your backup after you delete the files from your computer, usually just 30 days later. The question is, 'What use is a backup that doesn't contain files you accidentally deleted, say, six months ago?' On the other hand, IDrive allows people to actually use all of the online storage they are paying for."

A quick summary of IDrive's features and benefits:

  • Get full access to files from any PC, Mac, iOS or Android device,
  • Share any file/folder using an email address - easily swap large files with others,
  • Intelligent incremental backups/restores over a secure connection,
  • Available private key encryption for maximum security,
  • "True Archive" storage - data is never automatically deleted and the last 30 versions of each file are held without counting against GB stored,
  • Continuous Data Protection for real-time backup of commonly used files,
  • No file size or type limitations - no bandwidth throttling,
  • Rapid Serve Restore - large restores can be physically shipped for quick disaster recovery,
  • IDrive builds its own hardware and software; the speed and performance can rarely be matched,
  • Live phone and 24-hour chat support.

IDrive Online Backup Mobile App Gets New Features

The IDrive mobile app makes it possible for users to access their account and share files while on the go. New updates bring the ability to back up contact information, photos and videos over a WiFi or 3G connection to the IDrive cloud from iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices running iOS 4.0 or later as well as Google Android devices running 1.6 or later. The information is then made available via other connected computers and mobile devices as well as on the IDrive website.

IDrive is available for home and server editions of Windows and Mac OS X and for mobile devices in the Apple App Store and Android Market.

Why EVS (Encrypted, Versioned File System) for developers?

  • EVS was built to be faster, easier to secure and more affordable than other cloud platforms like Amazon S3, Rackspace and others.
  • As low as $4.95/month for 150 GB of storage and no bandwidth fees - build and test apps using the free 5 GB IDrive Basic plan,
  • Efficient and built-in 256-bit AES encryption with the option for a private user key for maximized security,
  • Upload/download thousands of files and folders with a single line of code,
  • The past 30 versions of each file are archived indefinitely - storage is calculated only for the most current version,
  • Incremental and compressed data transfers make uploads and downloads quick.
  • The EVS development team actively assists developers and partners with integrating APIs into their applications and new API codes can be created based on special needs.

DriveSavers Dedicated to Solid State Data Recovery

PR: DriveSavers Data Recovery has announced that it has formed a dedicated research and development team to conquer the challenges of solid state drive (SSD) data recovery. DriveSavers began working with solid state storage technology around 1995 when SmartMedia cards were introduced with some of the first consumer-priced digital cameras. Since then, DriveSavers has aggressively researched and developed unique techniques for SSD and NAND flash recoveries, as well as partnered with premier SSD manufacturers including Samsung and SandForce.

Storage manufacturers currently use nonvolatile flash memory for portable USB drives, camera cards, SSDs, Apple iPhones and iPads. One of the greatest benefits of flash memory is that it doesn't require power to retain data it stores, unlike other types of memory chips such as DRAM or SRAM. Because SSDs have no moving parts, they eliminate common problems experienced with typical hard drives that employ flying read/write heads such as: head crashes; bad motors and damaged head stacks.

"As SSDs continue to grow in popularity and market share, everyone wants the speed and quick boot times, but have questions about reliability and trusting a new technology with their precious data," says Chris Bross, Strategic Technical Alliance Engineer at DriveSavers. "Having years of experience in achieving early data recovery success with SSD technology, DriveSavers can provide a safety net should the unexpected SSD failure happen and data loss occurs."

"Nevertheless, for all that you gain from a SSD; data is still at risk. The technology is still relatively new and failures do occur. These devices are susceptible to problems such as bad chips, directory corruption, virus attacks, accidental file deletion, impact damage, electrical spikes and fire or water damage.

"SSD data recovery can be challenging for a number of reasons. Data is stored across multiple memory chips, similar to the way data is striped across multiple hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration. The SSD controller is the brain of the device and determines how and where the data is to be written on the flash media via complex proprietary algorithms. And many of these SSDs are self-encrypting as well. For a successful recovery to be achieved, we must understand the controller technology and be able to access all the NAND chips on the drive. Some or all chips may be removed from the printed circuit board and make repairs as needed. One-of-a-kind solutions must often be developed very quickly to satisfy our customers needs.

"We have a long history of understanding complex data structures, overcoming technological challenges and generating successful SSD recoveries. We continually invest in SSD data recovery research and development to ensure our engineers and technology are ahead of the curve as these devices continue to gain market share."

Sumo Laptop, Tablet Combo Backpacks

PR: Mobile Edge has introduced two new Ultrabook/Tablet Backpacks under the Sumo brand. These new backpacks are designed to accommodate laptops up to a 15" MacBook Pro in a tailored padded pocket plus a separate fleece-lined pocket specifically for iPads or other computer tablets.

Designed for smaller profile laptops (Ultrabooks) and an iPad, the stylish Sumo Combo Backpacks are built to suit the current evolution in computing hardware. The lightweight (only 1.7 lb.) design features lots of storage space for everyday items, front and side pockets for quick access items and a unique drawstring opening with a secure flap to ensure user convenience. A convenient front zippered pocket makes storing a phone or other gadgets quick and easy. The adjustable padded shoulder straps and ergonomically padded back panel make carrying your gear comfortable.

"Based on user feedback and the recent explosion in tablet sales, our design team created a stylish backpack that is ideally suited for toady's active women," says G. David Cartwright, President & CEO, Mobile Edge. "Combining protection for a Tablet and an Ultrabook, our new Sumo Combo Backpack reflects the changing environment in mobile computing."

The Sumo Combo Backpack Collection comes in two colors, Red and Black with Pink stitching. Both carry an SRP of $79.99 and are backed by the Mobile Edge Lifetime Warranty.

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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