The 'Book Review

Linux Creator Loves MacBook Air, Ivy Bridge MacBook Update Expectations, and More

This Week's PowerBook and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.04.27

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

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

Linus Torvalds Loves His 11" MacBook Air

Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux

In a lengthy email interview with TechCrunch's Scott Merrill, Linux creator Linus Torvalds allows that he's a bit baffled at how nobody else seems to have done what Apple did with the MacBook Air - even several years after the Air's first release.

Torvalds pronounces the Air "special" and "ahead of its time", elaborating that he wants his office to be quiet, with the loudest thing in the room the occasional purring of the cat, and that when he travels, he wants to travel light, contending that a notebook weighing more than a kilo (2.2 lb.) is less than ideal, but at least his 11.6" MacBook Air comes very close to the magical 1 kg limit.

Torvalds attributes Apple's hardware success to focus, noting that Apple has rather few SKUs compared to most big computer manufacturers, and this allows the limited variety of machines Apple does build to be better than average - a kind of focus that takes guts. He says he's not an Apple fan, because he thinks they've done some really bad things, but that he has to give them credit for not just having good designers, but the guts to go with it, adding that Steve Jobs clearly had a lot to do with that.

The Linuxmeister expects the MacBook Air form factor will be taken for granted in a few years. His love for thin-and-light notebooks long predates the MacBook Air, and it's not like Apple made up the concept, Apple just executed it well. We could say the same of the iPod, the smartphone, and the iPad.

Link: An Interview with Linus Torvalds

Blogger with Failed MacBook Pro Takes on Apple in Court - and Wins

Blogger Seattle Rex reports that a while back Apple sold him a $4,000 MacBook Pro with a defective Nvidia 8600M GT GPU, and when it was discovered that the machine was defective, Apple refused to take it back and issue a refund, instead promising to replace failed 8600M GT boards up to four years from date of purchase, and when the board did fail after three years, Apple refused to replace it, using the fact that the machine wouldn't boot (due to the failed logic board) to deny the repair and tried to charge him a tidy sum to have the GPU replaced notwithstanding that Nvidia pays for the full repair cost.

Rex sued Apple and, to make a long story short, prevailed in court. However, the details of what transpired are fascinating and a cautionary insight on what a consumer is up against in product liability disputes with Cupertino. For one thing, Rex came to a realization that Apple has a strong expectation that its users will not be tech-savvy and, consequently, seems used to infantilizing and bamboozling its customers with silly and nonsensical explanations of highly technical matters.

Even though he's glad things turned out the way they did, one question still nags: "Why did it have to come to this?" - especially since one of the Apple lawyers admitted to the judge that it wouldn't have cost the company anything to fix his computer, since Nvidia foots the bill for every defective GPU board they replace. So why did Apple send two presumably highly-paid representatives to court to try to make sure Rex got absolutely nothing? And why did Apple fight so hard against him when they were clearly in the wrong.

"As far as I can tell," says Seattle Rex, "Apple spent all of this time and money, solely to be a bully," asserting that "Apple has become the Orwellian nightmare that it warned us about some 30 years ago. A huge vehicle of sameness backed by legions of newthink practitioners, gleefully cheering as Big Bully annihilates one thoughtcriminal after another."

Link: Seattle Rex vs. Apple: The Verdict Is In

AnandTech: Ivy Bridge CPUs 'A Bridge to a New World of Notebooks'

For definitive and authoritative reviews of Intel's new Ivy Bridge CPU offerings, check out what AnandTech's Anand Lal Shimpi and Ryan Smith have to say, citing "a reasonable increase in CPU performance, a big step in GPU performance, and a decrease in power consumption," and noting that while the previous generation Sandy Bridge silicon was a bridge to a new architecture, Ivy Bridge connects a different set of things and will serve as a bridge to 22nm technology to come with the next generation Haswell - a bridge to a new world of notebooks that will be significantly thinner and more power efficient than what we have today, and nothing less than the next chapter in the evolution of the PC.

Link: The Intel Ivy Bridge (Core i7 3770K) Review

Rumor Roundup

Next MacBook Pro's Battery Life May Improve with New Power Management Technologies

International Business Times' Lisa Eadicicco reports that in addition to speculation about an overhauled design and Intel's latest generation Ivy Bridge CPUs for the anticipated MacBook Pro redesign, improved battery life may also be in the offing. Ms. Eadicicco cites an AppleInsider report that Apple is exploring new power management technologies that would allow devices to be "more efficient and run even longer on battery power," and has advertised a new job position for a "Senior DC-DC Power System Design Engineer," whose duties would primarily involve "(advanced) DC-DC power design and development for Apple's next generation Macintosh platforms, spanning from notebook computers, desktop computers, servers and standalone displays."

Link: MacBook Pro Release Date 2012: Battery Life May Improve with Apple's New 'Power Management Technologies'

'Heavily Redesigned' Mac Laptops Coming with Ivy Bridge

International Business Times' Dave Smith observes that it's been quite some time since Apple overhauled its MacBook Pro laptops, but several sources close to Apple are currently telling customers to hold off on buying a Mac, as Apple is expected to roll out "heavily redesigned" laptops in the coming months powered by Intel's latest Ivy Bridge chip, as well as featuring second-generation Thunderbolt I/O connectivity, a lighter and thinner frame, better battery life, and possibly even a full surface trackpad.

Smith cites Wall Street Journal columnist and veteran Apple watcher Walt Mossberg advising: "If you're thinking of buying a new laptop this spring, my advice is to think again. Apple is overdue for redesigned laptops, especially in its MacBook Pro line, and it is a good bet that new, possibly heavily redesigned, models will begin appearing later this year. Current Macs will likely be upgradable to [Mac OS X 10.8] Mountain Lion, but if you buy now, you'll miss out on the likely new hardware." '

Mr. Mossberg is quoted noting that Ivy Bridge CPUs are claimed to offer much faster graphics performance without sacrificing battery life, and that "While some Ivy Bridge laptops will be available very soon, the new chips won't show up in large numbers of consumer laptops until around June. So, even before Windows 8 appears, many consumer laptops you buy now will be outclassed by similar machines that will be introduced this summer."

Smith also reports that Ivy Bridge silicon will not only boost graphics power and multimedia processing by some 65% over the last generation Intel chips, but is also the first CPU developed by Intel to employ 3D transistors and the first to natively support USB 3.0. Sources from Apple's Asian supply chains claim the new MacBook Pro laptops will feature a Retina Display resolution of 2800 x 1800 pixels compared with current MacBook display resolutions ranging from 1680 x 1050 to 1280 x 800.

Link: Apple MacBook Pro Release Date 2012: 'Heavily Redesigned' Mac Laptops Coming with Ivy Bridge, New Thunderbolt

17" MacBook Pro on the Way Out?

New rumor/speculation buzz this week suggests that the 17" MacBook Pro model will be discontinued later this year after being passed over for the anticipated redesign its 13" and 15" will soon receive.

KGI Securities Ming-Chi Koi analyst is cited predicting on Monday that Apple will drop the largest MacBook Pro model due to recent slow sales. Apple has offered a 17" professional laptop model since the 17" PowerBook G4 debuted at Macworld Expo in 2003, evolving through several PowerPC iterations and two distinct Intel-based form factors. The current 17" Unibody design was originally released in October 2008 and has received several speed bumps and updates over the past three and a half years.

Publisher's note: Despite ongoing rumors that the desktop Mac Pro will be discontinued due to poor sales, it hasn't happened yet. With prices starting at $2,500 and rapidly shooting skyward, it's a very profitable machine that also keeps pros buying Macs, so Apple has no good reason to discontinue it. Ditto for the 17" MacBook Pro, which has the same starting price as the Mac Pro. dk

Link: Apple Will Finally Kill Off the 17-Inch MacBook Pro This Year - Analyst
Link: Apple Predicted to Discontinue 17-inch MacBook Pro

Tech Trends

Could Ultrathin 'Value' Notebooks Threaten Intel Ultrabooks' Success?

PC Mag's Tim Bajarin suggests that PC vendors will release cheapo thin-and-light laptops that will undercut the price of Intel's Ultrabooks.

Bajarin notes that major Windows PC makers are using Intel's Ultrabook spec to design some of the best laptops ever seen in the Windows space, models that represent the future of all clamshell-based laptops, but that vendors can't use Intel's Ultrabook trademark unless their laptops conform to the chipmaker's established specifications, which include Intel chipsets, and that means Ultrabooks come at steep prices ranging from $699 to $1,199.

However, he says says that some of PC vendors are planning new sleek and relatively thin laptops they're calling "ultrathin value notebooks" that should be priced somewhere in the $349 to $599 range, further noting that laptops selling in the $299 to $599 price range currently represent 70% of all laptops sold around the world. Bajarin also notes that these "ultrathin value notebooks" will not be just upsized netbooks, but that many of the designs he's seen - especially ones powered by certain AMD processors - are actually pretty powerful, and while a bit thicker than the Intel Ultrabook's maximum of 22nm, they represent a vast improvement over today's thicker laptops, although perhaps with not quite the battery life you would get in a real Ultrabook.

He also expects some Windows on ARM (WOA) notebooks to debut priced at no more than $599 and cites obvious concern that if a raft of low-cost ultrathins come out about the same time as Ultrabooks, they could undermine Intel's target for Ultrabooks to become 40% of the notebook market over the first year they're available.

Or not.

Link: Could Ultrathin Value Notebooks Threaten Intel Ultrabooks' Success?

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