Wednesday, July 28, 2010

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  • How-To: Access Media on a Mac With a PlayStation 3

    For Mac users who want to access media with their PlayStation 3, life just got a little easier.

    One of the many features of the PlayStation 3 is accessing media such as photos, video and music from other devices via Universal Plug and Play (UPnP). Using a Windows PC with a PlayStation is very easy — the PS3 recognizes the computer instantly. However, up until now, it’s been extremely difficult for Mac users to get a UPnP server set up and have the PS3 recognize it. That’s where Playback by Yazsoft comes in.

    After you download Playback and run it for the first time, the application automatically integrates with your media applications such as iTunes, iPhoto and Aperture. With a simple click of the Start button, the application sets up a UPnP server which your PS3 can connect to straight away by going to Video, Music or Photos on the XMB (sometimes called the Home screen).

    However, it doesn't stop there. You can customize exactly what Playback sends to the PS3, including specifying drives and folders on your Mac to share, and even streaming EyeTV recordings. To do this, open Playback and go to the Movies, Music or Photos tabs and use the boxes to check on or off how you want to stream.

    Playback can also use Growl notifications to tell you when a device connects to its server, and you can allow and deny access for individual devices under the Access tab of the application window. It also allows for even more precise access control by allowing you to set exactly what media you want to be available to each device. For example, you could only allow movies to be streamed to one PlayStation, while another is allowed all three media types.

    Playback is available as a 7-day trial, which limits streaming to 30 minutes per session, or a bundle of three licenses costs $15 from the Yazsoft website. You can also obtain a license for free by reviewing the software on your website, or get a $5 discount simply by posting a message about Playback on Twitter.

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  • From Hot to Not: How Component Shortages Will Stifle the Smartphone Market

    A handful of the hottest smartphones are at risk of losing their sizzle due to supply issues, and the overall problem is likely to get worse, not better. The most recent issue is a lack of handset displays, causing HTC to announce a switch from AMOLED screens to SuperLCD on two of the phones it builds, for example. But such component swaps are just stop-gap measures; they don’t address the long-term issue. The real problem is that technology product cycles are starting to outpace parts suppliers’ abilities to quickly produce new components.

    Ashok Kumar, managing director and senior technology analyst at Rodman & Renshaw, agrees that this is a potential problem for mobile technology, where products are maturing at increasingly fast rates. ”Shrinking product cycles combined with increasing product complexity are bringing a perfect storm” to this supply-chain challenge, he said. If the technology maturity cycle and the supply-chain production cycles aren’t running in tandem, how can a parts supplier keep up with wave after wave of new products?

    Part of the issue, Kumar told me, is consolidation among players that supply inventories of key mobile device components. Supply chain risks, Kumar said, increase when just a few main companies provide certain specific components. When fewer manufacturers produce a particular product component, a shortage becomes a much larger issue, introducing choke points into the overall product assembly.

    One band-aid solution is to alter the product at some point during its life-cycle, which is starting to happen. LG and Samsung, for example, build the bulk of smartphone displays currently used for handsets and iPads alike. Verizon hasn’t stocked HTC’s Droid Incredible for several weeks, reportedly due to a lack of Samsung AMOLED screens. As a result, HTC will build the phone with a substitute LCD screen from Sony. Samsung is expected to invest $2.1 billion in a new AMOLED assembly line, but it won’t be ready until July 2011, illustrating the differential between technology cycles and production timelines.

    I’m sure this type of swap has happened before, but I don’t recall such an action in the smartphone market. And from a customer perspective, this adds a new wrinkle to the situation; the product originally advertised — and reviewed — with certain specifications or features has changed. HTC claims that Sony’s Super LCD panel is comparable to the original AMOLED display on the Incredible, but potential buyers may wonder if that’s true. Most consumers don’t care about LCD or OLED displays of course, but once they hear about a change in the display, it could lead them to purchase an alternative device or further scrutinize the product.

    More importantly, though, substitutions don’t address future supply constraints. It takes time and money to build new production lines or to make changes to existing lines for large scale production. By the time Samsung’s new AMOLED plant is online, for example, there could be newer and better screen technologies in demand by the Apples, HTCs and Motorolas of the world. And given how quickly mobile technology products are changing, such a scenario of component obsolescence is a real possibility for parts suppliers.

    The supply-chain side of the problem is only half of the issue, however. The other side — which component suppliers have little control over — is the accelerating pace of device innovation and the consumer demand such advanced mobile technology brings. For example, in the high-end smartphone space, the current crop of devices really arrived with the first 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processors in late 2009. Once the CPU became more capable, handset makers started to mature other functions and features: higher resolution cameras with high-definition video recording, larger screens for a better visual experience and faster 3G or 4G radios bringing the web even faster to our handset. As a result, the top-end smartphones of today look nothing like those of just 9 months ago because of the rapid technology cycle, and component manufacturers are being stretched thin as they try to keep up.

    This pace of mobile product advancement isn’t expected to slow either, as the smartphone market is ramping up for growth, putting increased pressure on the supply-chain to try and keep up. Top-tier parts manufacturers of today need to adapt or risk losing their market dominance. If the supply chain doesn’t adapt to the technology development cycle, consumers will have fewer products to choose from, or the products that are available aren’t as ground-breaking as prior models. And that would the be worst situation for everyone involved — the smartphones of 2011 would only be as advanced as the parts of 2009.

    Related GigaOM Pro Content (subscription required):

    There’s No Such Thing as a Killer Feature for Smartphones

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  • Where is Apple's 30″ LED Cinema Display?

    Today, Apple sells just one monitor and in September, it’ll be selling two. But is it too little, too late when competitors already have an edge on a yet-to-be released, smaller upgrade?

    The history of Apple’s flat panel monitor offerings is pretty dry, but as we’ll see, shows a pattern. Apple’s first LCD was a 15″ monitor that came in July 2000 and had a max resolution of 1024×768. It was a beautiful, very expensive display that weighed 12 pounds and had a viewing angle of 120 degrees. Soon, similar models in 17- and 22-inch configurations arrived. Finally, in 2002, we long-time Apple fans were caught drooling over the 23″ Apple Cinema HD display that pushed a 1920×1200 pixel resolution and was available directly from Apple for $3499.

    Design-wise, updates have also been rare. Even after Apple went all aluminum with its PowerMac G5, and more recently, its Mac Pro, the plastic and translucent Cinema Displays remained unchanged. It wasn’t until June 2004 that Apple updated the design and went aluminum with displays bearing the same Cinema Display name in 20-, 23- and 30-inch configurations costing $1,299, $1,999 and $3,299 respectively. You were paying about the same as you did back in 2002, but for slightly larger monitors in sleeker packages with a viewing angle of 170 degrees and a much higher brightness (400 cd /m2 versus 200 cd /m2 in the old models). These monitors were pretty good, but still insanely expensive compared to comparable monitors from Viewsonic and Dell.

    In October 2008 (nearly two years ago), Apple released the 24″ LED Cinema Display with a 178-degree viewing angle, IPS display and a 100:1 contrast ratio besting the previous model that only offered 700:1. The 20″ and 30″ Cinema Displays with old specs are still readily available, but only from eBay and a few resellers, so Apple is technically selling one monitor to replace a previous offering that included three: a 20″, 23″ and 30″ model. What gives?

    Yesterday, that changed when Apple announced that a 27″ LED Cinema Display will go on sale in September for $999.

    Where is the 30″ Model?

    We don’t cover non-Apple news very much, but yesterday, HP released a new 30″ display that leverages IPS technology and has a 7-millisecond respond time, which is two times faster than Apple’s current 24″ display for $1399. The HP offering is only $400 more than Apple’s 27″ display that isn’t even shipping yet. What’s the holdup, Apple?

    I covered the past Apple offerings because it’s obvious that Apple takes its sweet time with display releases, but there’s absolutely no need. I understand its withholding of cool features like FaceTime and bluetooth multitouch trackpads to fuel demand and excite Mac users every few weeks with a new toy, but display technologies universally offer exactly the same function.

    Apple’s CRT, LCD and now LED monitors are exactly the same as monitors from every other manufacturer aside from the pretty aluminum-and-glass casing and nice additions like MagSafe ports or a built-in webcam, but Apple somehow charges a premium on identical technology (something we’re all used to as Mac users). Apple gains nothing by holding back on larger monitor releases. The fact that Apple released a 24″ model in October 2008 and in September 2010 is finally getting around to releasing a 27″ display gives me the impression that we’ll see a 30″ LED Cinema Display with a $1999 price tag sometime in July 2012. Of course, I’m doubtful of that, but the Adam of 2008 would have laughed when you told him he’d be waiting two years for a 27″ LED Cinema Display.

    My point is that Apple’s withholding of larger monitors only makes power users like me buy a monitor from another manufacturer. My 30″ Dell 3008WFP that I bought two years ago has a higher contrast ratio, response time and brightness than Apple’s unreleased 27″ LED Cinema Display with a similar viewing angle. It also uses IPS technology which Apple acts as if it invented or as if using it is, somehow, cutting edge. The truth is, the 30″ Dell monitor released three years ago that costs only $1599 has the exact same specs as HP’s $1399 30″ that came out yesterday and will probably have the same specs as Apple’s $1999 30″ LED Cinema Display that may come out sometime in the next 24 months.

    What Apple is doing is making pros buy monitors elsewhere. I wish the 30″ display sitting next to my iMac was an Apple-branded one and not a Dell, but I need the screen real estate and Apple has left me hanging.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Blogging on the iPad: A Sad State of Affairs

    When I was tasked to write a roundup of iPad blogging apps, I figured this would be the usual pros and cons of four or five apps. Instead, I found only two, one of which is specific to WordPress (see our disclosure below). Since neither of the two apps made me all that happy, the multi-app roundup I was hoping for instead became a case of “two apps enter, no app leaves.”

    Blogging on the iPad is a sorry state of affairs — I’m also coming at this from the angle of a prose blog, not a photo blog. Both WordPress and BlogPress allow you to do the same basic features: type in your thoughts and press publish. Neither of the apps let you define links or format your text — you’re limited to plain style. Some of this, I am led to believe from researching other apps with the same problem (Evernote), is how restrictive Apple is on its rich text features. On the other hand, all of the Office-style apps out there let you format text, so I don’t know what’s up. What I do know is, neither of these two apps even come close to the feature set most bloggers need.

    WordPress (Free)

    As the official app for WordPress, it’s a sad commentary when the best I can say is, “Some of the time, it doesn’t crash. And it’s free.” A quick five minute double-check of some features yielded four crashes. It crashed inserting a picture. It crashed while canceling edits. I wouldn’t be surprised if it crashed while crashing. When I was able to successfully insert a picture, it didn’t show up in the local draft; I had to go out to the local view to see it, and even then it was just code, not a visual. You can, however, manage comments, pages, and assign categories within the WordPress App.

    I was also impressed with its offline features. It cached previous posts which made it handy to reference what I’d  said about a topic.

    BlogPress ($2.99)

    In addition to the hearty, “It crashes less” feature, BlogPress also connects to Blogger, MSN Live Spaces, Movable Type, TypePad, Live Journal, Drupal and Joomla in addition to WordPress. If you’re not using WordPress, BlogPress is the only game in town for you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t connect to Tumblr. I had a lot more success with this app, even within my WordPress-hosted sites. For starters, the only time it crashed on me was when I connected it to Live Journal, and when I relaunched it everything was OK. Inserted pictures showed up inline where I wanted them to, and I could adjust their alignment, but not their size. I was also unable to manage comments or edit static Pages in BlogPress. Still, I found BlogPress to be worth the $2.99.

    My recommendation for BlogPress is somewhat grudging. It’s not a bad app, but I’m hard pressed to find many blog posts I’ve ever written that I could do entirely in either of these apps. Almost every post has bolded or italic text, an image, and a link or two. Of those three things, both apps only let me embed the image. Unless I’m writing a rare text-only post, I’ll need the web front-end of each site to wrap up the post. Sure, the apps are good for throwing a post together on the iPad and tossing it in the online Drafts folder for later editing, but it’s pretty sad I can’t rely on either of them to start-to-finish an average blog post.

    Hopefully, at some point we’ll see a better selection, as well as the ability to format text and insert links. Until then, BlogPress earns my enthusiastic “At least it sucks less than the WordPress app” seal of approval.

    Disclosure: Automattic, maker of, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

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  • Apple Releases Safari 5.0.1, Turns on Extensions Gallery

    Apple today announced the release of Safari 5.0.1. What’s significant in this point release is that Apple has turned on support for the Extensions Gallery. When Safari 5 was released in June, it included support for extensions so that developers could start building them, but without access to the Extensions Gallery, users had no easy way to find and install those extensions.

    The Safari Extensions Gallery is accessible from the Safari menu or via Users can download and install extensions from the gallery with a single click, with no need for a browser restart. Extensions can be automatically updated and are managed within Safari.

    Safari Extensions are built with HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript web standards. Every Safari Extension is signed with a digital certificate from Apple to prevent tampering and to verify that updates to the extension are from the original developer. Safari Extensions work in a sandbox, so they can’t access information on a user’s system or communicate with websites aside from those specified by the developer.

    While the Safari Extension Gallery is launching with a range of extensions from the likes of Bing, the New York Times, Twitter and eBay, it’s nowhere near to matching the usefulness of Chrome’s extensions, let alone Firefox’s gigantic range of add-ons. Apple's decision to include extension support in Safari is a smart one, but until developers start porting the most useful extensions to Safari, I'll find it tough to switch from my favorite browsers.

    You can download Safari 5.0.1 for both Mac and PC for free from Apple.

    What Chrome or Firefox extensions would you like to see ported to Safari?

    Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): What Does the Future Hold For Browsers?

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Apple and the Future of Computer Mice

    Apple has released a Bluetooth peripheral that completely replaces the computer mouse as we know it. It’s not like we didn’t see this coming. Apple’s hatred of buttons and love of touch that began as early as 2003 with the 3rd generation iPod and continued with iPhone, iPad and multitouch trackpads should have clued us in that the mouse wouldn’t be here forever.

    Apple’s not going to just release a $10,000 touchscreen table computer (ie. Microsoft Surface) and hope people will line up to buy it. Instead, Apple will slowly shift our computer mannerisms $199 at a time (iPhone) until we’re completely touch. Buttons will be a distant memory like typewriters and Windows Me. This dream of using computers, Minority Report style, starts with the death of the computer mouse.

    A simple truth is that my 10-year-old sister has grown up never using a computer mouse. She’s used notebook trackpads with her index finger and the touch-sensitive glass on my iPhone and iPad. The Magic Trackpad will be her input device of choice no matter what device she uses and the mouse is simply foreign in the way that the keys of a typewriter never felt right to me. Apple’s taken the steps necessary to remove the mouse forever, including making the Magic Trackpad compatible with Mac OS and Windows Vista & 7.

    The Magic Mouse comes with the iMac and Mac Pro which are two out of six computers that Apple sells. One out of three Macs comes with a Magic Mouse, and for $69 more, you can swap that out for a Magic Trackpad and never have to use the mouse at all. The Magic Trackpad is the same height, depth and length as the Apple Keyboard and fits snugly right next to the keyboard or a foot away, depending on your preference. The trackpad is the button and the box has a list of gestures to get started.

    Of course, this isn’t a review of the Magic Trackpad since I haven’t used one yet, but I’m trying to weigh in on the future of how we interact with our Apple computers, or at least how Apple wants us to interact with them. The keyboard still reigns supreme and I prefer a physical keyboard to the one on my iPad or iPhone, but there are small changes I see that are making it obvious that change is coming faster than we think. Keyboards of today require very little pressure compared to keyboards of the 80′s and typewriters in the 40′s and 50′s. Pushing today’s keyboard keys are so easy that a child can type without issue. This decrease in pressure requirements is preparing us for touch keyboards that require no pressure, just as improvements to Apple’s trackpad have eventually turned into a dedicated peripheral that we will happily buy because we love the trackpad on our MacBooks.

    I have to think big picture, though, and make that claim that iOS will soon make its way to our laptops and desktops, and soon the keyboard will be obsolete. Then, Apple will announce the last iteration of the Mac OS as iOS becomes a unified standard for how we get work done. The App Store will be the only way to get apps on your devices, software pirating drops, we touch instead of click and our fingers become the only input device you need.

    Wow, that was quite a glimpse into the future in the length of two posts to Twitter, but that’s where I see it going.

    This future is both far off and not so far when you look at where we’ve been in the past four years. In 2006, the Mighty Mouse had more than a few buttons and our keyboards had many keys and our phones were all keyboard from Windows Mobile to Palm OS to Blackberry and touch was something we did on notebook trackpads. This was before the glass trackpad and our trackpads had physical & clickable buttons. Today, Apple’s product line is 50 percent mobile and we do the majority of our “mobile input” with our fingers on iPods, iPhones, iPads and MacBook Trackpads and soon (let’s say a year from now) Apple will say that it has sold millions of Magic Trackpads and we’ll learn that a majority of desktop users use their finger as the primary input device. This shift is happening fast.

    The computer interfaces depicted in Minority Report are still a decade away, but we’re prepared now and our fingers are moving more than ever, controlling objects on retina displays and interacting with 30″ displays via trackpads. We’re doing it all right now and, once again, Apple is ahead of the curve, but still tip-toeing. Apple isn’t ditching the mouse completely but it’s testing the water to see how we react. Judging by yesterday’s buzz around the Magic Trackpad, I’m confident we’ve sent a message to Apple that iOS is ready for the mainstream and we’re ready to make touch the default input for tomorrow’s computers.

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  • Buying Guide: Apple's New iMac

    Apple updated its iMac and Mac Pro desktop line today with little or no design changes, but the technical specifications of these two machines are finally in line with what you can get from their Windows-running counterparts.

    Let’s take a look at these two machines side by side for anyone looking to upgrade or switch.

    First of all, if you’re looking to buy one of those shiny new 27″ Apple Cinema Displays to go with a new iMac, wait to make your purchase as those won’t be available until September. In my opinion, Dell’s monitor offerings are priced very competitively to Apple’s, but you lose out on that Apple touch such as an aluminum enclosure and built-in MagSafe adapter. I have a 30″ Dell LCD hooked up to my 27″ iMac and it performs perfectly with Apple’s Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter.

    The 27″ & 21″ iMac Side by Side

    For nearly every user reading TheAppleBlog, Apple’s new iMac is the perfect machine both in performance and price. It will make your wallet happy compared to the Mac Pro and is a versatile machine with a small footprint and speeds that most users have never experienced. It also uses far less energy than the Mac Pro, which is good for your electric bill. Here’s my recommendation for a top of the line Core i7 iMac:

    • 27″ Monitor
    • 2.93GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
    • 8GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 4x2GB
    • 2TB Serial ATA Drive
    • 8x double-layer SuperDrive
    • ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5 SDRAM
    • Magic Mouse

    Final Price: $2,549

    For this, you’re getting eight total cores since the quad-core i7 processor has hyperthreading and the 8GB of RAM is far from the max of 16GB that the new iMac can handle while still being more than enough for most users. Remember, the MacBook Pro can take a max of 8GB of RAM. I’d recommend 16GB to any aspiring filmmaker, CGI artist or science geek doing complex computations that require a ton of RAM. Besides, you can add more RAM a couple of years from now as the price drops and your needs grow.

    The lowest-end iMac I’d recommend would be the following:

    • 21.5″ Monitor
    • 3.60GHz Intel Core i5
    • 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2x2GB
    • 1TB Serial ATA Drive
    • ATI Radeon HD 5670 512MB GDDR3 SDRAM
    • 8x double-layer SuperDrive
    • Magic Mouse

    Final Price: $1,699

    This is a great machine for people who don’t need a spacious monitor or the performance gains of 8 CPU cores. There is a cheaper Core i3 available at $1,199 but jump to this model if you can for a machine that will keep up with your day-to-day activities a year or more down the road. The Core i5 is a dual-core machine with hyperthreading so you get a total of 4 cores. Of note, the clock speed on this machine is much higher than the i7 but comparing the Core i5 and the Core i7 is night and day when it comes to performance.

    CPUs Compared

    The most notable difference is that the Core i5 has 4MB of L3 cache while the Core i7 has 8MB for twice as much memory per core and a faster front side bus. This article may be a bit dated but PCWorld had an excellent run-down comparing the two chips that is worth a read. The short story is that the Core i7 is much faster in nearly every aspect.

    Remember, more cores isn’t always faster. It’s easy to say the Core i7 has 4 physical and 4 virtual cores so it’s better than the i5, but so many applications don’t even know the other cores are there and I have some apps that max out one or two cores but leave the others alone. Snow Leopard’s Grand Central Dispatch makes it easy for devs to take advantage of those cores, but the extra time involved doesn’t make a task manager or note taking app move any faster. Apple’s page showcasing discrete graphics and more cores is convincing but don’t get caught up in its sales pitch when choosing the machine that’s right for you.

    In actuality, it’s the i7′s faster front side bus, enhanced memory architecture, larger cache and features like TurboBoost that truly make for a worthy upgrade.

    SSD & HDD Available

    Another observation that Apple didn’t spend too much time highlighting is that you can have SSD and HDD drives in the new iMac. The previous model only supported a single 1 or 2 terabyte hard disk drive. Now, buyers on can configure a new iMac with a 1 or 2 terabyte drive in addition to a 256GB SSD. If you can afford it, do it. My 15″ MacBook Pro has an HDD but my MacBook Air is SSD and the speed and overall performance of having an SSD is phenomenal. Apple is letting users have their cake and eat it too because SSD is still very expensive so you have to choose performance over storage capacity. Now, you can have the speed of SSD and the storage of a 1+ terabyte drive in the same machine but you’re playing an additional $750/$900 for the privilege. This option is only available on The 27″ iMac.

    The Value Proposition for Switchers

    To understand the true value of this new machine, let’s compare it with a similarly equipped Dell. With the 27″ iMac, you’re getting a $999 monitor built into the machine. Subtract that number from the price tag and you’re getting a blazing fast Core i7 machine with 8GB of RAM for just over $1500 which will beat any similarly configured Dell Desktop. The Studio XPS 9000 desktop from Dell had a $1,799 price tag pre-tax after I configured it as similarly as I could to Apple’s 27″ iMac – and this is before adding a Dell monitor. Apple’s iMac is so competitively priced that it’s a no-brainer considering you can install Windows 7 on it, if you want.

    The Magic Trackpad

    We’ve already provided a run-down of the Magic Trackpad here on TAB but I wanted to emphasize that this is a big deal. Apple is bringing the tech that makes its notebooks so much better than other PC notebooks and making a standalone input device that everyone can enjoy. In my post discussing the Trackpad two weeks ago, I said:

    “A Bluetooth trackpad that I've eloquently dubbed "MagicPad" (Magic Mouse = Trackpad) would be Apple's next step into a buttonless world that it so desperately is striving for. The Magic Mouse has fewer buttons than the Mighty Mouse and this would be one button as the entire trackpad is, exactly like we are used to on Apple's notebooks.”

    I still agree and it’s a $69 add-on when buying your new iMac. But I say go for it; there’s always eBay if you really don’t like it. Apple notebook owners will see this as a no-brainer way to interact with the desktop computer. My friend, who does graphic design, loves the trackpad over a mouse and she’s already ordered one of these for her iMac.

    Final Thoughts

    The iMac is the most affordable iMac ever as it blows the pants off any previous desktop Mac under $3,000. If you can afford it, the top model I recommended is perfect and will function as a capable Mac for the next 3+ years without buyer’s remorse. The Mac Pro has its place but it can’t compete in price and packaging with the iMac. Even the normally affordable Dell machines can’t compete in price and that makes this machine perfect for home users, pros and switchers in a way that no other Mac has before.

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  • Apple's New Battery Charger

    Mixed in amongst all of the other Apple product updates this morning was an unassuming little battery charger. At a cost of $29 and including six reusable AA batteries, this little white charger offers you the chance to power all of your wireless desktop accessories with a clean conscience knowing that you’re doing your part to help the environment.

    According to Apple, the charger sets a new industry standard for lowering standby power usage by sensing when its batteries have achieved a full charge and then automatically reducing its power consumption. Each charger comes with six high-performance AA NiMH batteries with an estimated lifespan of up to 10 years per battery. With six batteries,  you should be able to power your wireless keyboard, new Magic Trackpad, and still have two replacements left at full charge. It’s worth noting, though, that the first generation of the aluminum wireless keyboard actually requires three AA batteries.

    Apple’s sales pitch offers us the chance to “..finally break the cycle of buying and disposing of those toxic, single-use alkaline batteries.” This is undoubtedly the natural continuation of Apple’s ongoing effort to improve its image as an environmentally responsible company. Energy efficiency has been one of the company’s primary avenues for reducing the impact its products have on the environment.

    While scoring relatively well in the most recent Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics for efforts to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals in its products, Apple still took some knocks for waste and energy. Whenever it builds a product with an internal battery, Apple goes to great length to ensure it’s the most efficient it possibly can be in the space available. I suppose it’s only natural, then, that it has now extended that design philosophy to batteries that are removable as well.

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  • Apple Updates iMac Lineup

    This morning, Apple updated its iMac lineup along with the Mac Pro and the new 27″ LED Cinema Display. The iMac now sports faster processors, memory, and graphics chips across the line, and some new options like SSD drives that make them even faster. The 21″ models were upgraded from Core 2 Duo to Core i3 (Core i5 is also an option) and the Core i5 and i7 chips in the 27″ iMac have been bumped up a few GHz.

    The graphics processor range now includes the ATI Radeon HD 4670, HD 5670, and HD 5750. These graphics chips are decent, and a nice upgrade over last year’s iMacs, but are still middle-of-the-road.  Tom’s Hardware has a nice Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart that illustrates how these processors stack up against the latest graphics hardware. One change that will be welcome to videophiles is the addition of audio to the Mini DisplayPort connector to match the latest Mac mini update.

    The new iMacs also have faster memory that runs at 1333 MHz, a good improvement over the previous 1066 MHz. A 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD), while an expensive option from Apple, is available on the 27″ model as either a replacement of the internal hard drive or in addition to a large 1- or 2TB drive. An SSD boot drive for the system, and apps with a 2TB hard drive for storage would be a killer system for many professionals.

    "We took the world's best all-in-one and made it even better," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "With the latest processors, high-performance graphics and signature aluminum and glass design, customers are going to love the latest iMac."

    All of the new iMacs have 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 RAM, 8x SuperDrive, Mini DisplayPort with audio and video, 802.11n wireless networking, iSight video camera, Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, four USB 2.0 ports, SDXC card slot, and are bundled with a wireless Apple Keyboard and Magic Mouse. The new Magic Trackpad is available as an option, but does not replace the Magic Mouse.

    Base price for the updated iMac falls between $1199 and $1999. It can also go up from there depending on how you configure things.

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  • New Mac Pro Gets 12 Cores, ATI Graphics

    The Mac Pro was the product on Apple’s line that most needed a refresh, and it’s finally here. The new Mac Pro features Intel’s latest quad-core and 6-core Xeon processors, giving you up to 12 cores and offering 50 percent greater performance over its aging predecessor. Clock speeds on the quad-core model are up to 2.8 GHz, while the 8-core model gets bumped to 2.4 GHz for each processor.

    In addition to the dodeca-core upgrade, the Mac Pro also features new ATI graphics with the help of the ATI Radeon HD 5770 or HD 5870 graphics processors. Memory isn’t neglected either now that buyers have the option of maxing out their RAM to 32GB and their HDD space to 4TB. Buyers also have the option of configuring it with up to four 512GB SSDs, which should be insanely fast — and insanely expensive.

    Speaking of expense, the baseline quad-core model costs $2499, while the 8-core model costs $3499, and the 12-core a whopping $4999. I hope any of you potential buyers out there just got your paycheck.

    No word yet on when this monster will be available. These new monsters should be available for purchase sometime next month. You can read the full press release for more specs.

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  • ZumoCast Streams Media to iPad, iPhone From a Home Computer

    The ZumoDrive folks are at it again, but this time, they’re taking the cloud storage to your home computer so you can stream media files right to an Apple iPad using ZumoCast. The new ZumoCast service is a take on my “personal cloud” thought — instead of storing data on a third-party web server, ZumoCast shares the files already on your PC or Mac. You just tell ZumoCast which files or folders you want remote access to and the software does the rest. The company is wise to go after the iPad market since the device makes for a great mobile media player.

    DRM-protected files won’t play on an iPad or iPhone using ZumoCast, but that’s about the only major limitation aside from requiring your home computer to be powered on. However, you can sync media files with ZumoCast for offline playback on a mobile device — in that case, the home computer can be sleeping peacefully. The ZumoCast desktop software handles all file-sharing aspects and it supports adaptive transcoding. That means the audio and video quality will adjust on the fly to offer the best experience based on your web connection.

    Initially for iPad and iPhone, ZumoCast is planned for additional mobile platforms. That makes sense as ZumoDrive, the cloud storage service, is also supported on Google Android and Palm webOS handsets. The company also says that “video sharing and enhanced music and photo interfaces” are in the works. ZumoCast is in an open beta, so you can sign up to try it. At this time, no pricing has been announced for the media streaming service.

    Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req'd):

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  • Apple Unveils Gorgeous New 27-inch Cinema Display

    The Apple Store went down early this morning. When it came back up, what should we find but a new 27-inch Cinema Display?

    The last time Apple refreshed the Cinema Display was in 2008 when it unveiled the 24-inch LED model, so it’s been a long time coming. The new one has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which should make it perfect for watching movies. The resolution is 2560×1440, meaning a whopping 60 percent more pixels than its 24-inch predecessor (which had a max resolution of 1920×1200). The new display is IPS-based, giving users a much wider viewing angle, up to 178° horizontal and vertical. This follows Apple’s trend with the iPad and iPhone 4 towards IPS technology.

    The rest of the features are standard fare: three USB 2.0 ports (sadly, no 3.0), built-in iSight and microphone, and a Kensington security slot.

    The new Cinema Display will set you back $999. No word on when it’ll be available to purchase. It should be available sometime in September. In the meantime, the 24-inch model is still available for $799.

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  • Apple Introduces New Magic Trackpad

    In line with the wide-ranging speculation taking place on the Internet yesterday, Apple this morning made a number of updates to its store including the introduction of a brand-new magical product, the Magic Trackpad. A $69 multitouch trackpad with a bluetooth connection for pairing with your Mac, the Magic Trackpad gives you “a whole new way to control what’s on your desktop computer.”

    The new device promises to offer desktop users the chance to take advantage of all the cool multitouch gestures that MacBook users have been enjoying for a while. Slightly larger than the trackpad found on the MacBook Pro, but made of the same touch sensitive glass, the entire surface of the Magic Trackpad also clicks, allowing it to be used as a complete replacement for your mouse.

    This will be an interesting option for those of us that have been relying on third-party apps to add additional multitouch gestures to the Magic Mouse. Complicated gestures on the Magic Mouse have never quite felt right as it’s rather small, curved and the whole thing is meant to slide along your work surface. A trackpad seems like a much more natural option for four finger swipes and other advanced gestures.

    At the moment, it’s not clear exactly what gestures will be supported nor how customizable the options will be, but according to the product page, “a full set of gestures” will be available, including Exposé and application switching. One might assume that the same apps we’ve been using to add our own gestures to the built-in trackpads and the Magic Mouse will also work with the new Magic Trackpads.

    Will you be buying one?

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