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'Twas the Month Before Lion and All Through the Lair, Not a Mac Was Stirring, Not Even an Air

'Twas the Month Before Lion and All Through the Lair, Not a Mac Was Stirring, Not Even an Air

Apple's been throwing tidbits of new hardware into the market lately -- a Base Station here, a Time Capsule there. But it's about due for a Mac refresh, including a new MacBook Air. Rumor is that Apple's waiting for Lion to come out of the cage this July before it budges on new Macs.

Apple's been relatively quiet in terms of product releases ever since its Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month. Though it's refreshed some peripheral hardware products like its Time Capsule and given a boost to Final Cut Pro, the real anticipation centers on the company's next round of Macs.

However, Apple seems to be pulling off one of those patented moves which leave observers cross-eyed trying to figure out whether it's being canny or shooting itself in the foot: It's reportedly holding off introducing new Macs until Mac OS X Lion is released in July.

Rumor has it that Cupertino has delayed introducing two new MacBook Airs for the same reason.

Meanwhile, Facebook could pose a serious threat to Apple in coming months. The social networking giant's rumored to be working on an HTML 5-based platform code-named "Project Spartan" to distribute apps to iDevices. It's also reported to be working on a homegrown iPad app.

Elsewhere, a survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets has reportedly found that 76 percent of iPhone users are likely to use Apple's recently launched iCloud service.

Also, tablet shipments will surpass shipments of e-readers by the end of the year, In-Stat predicts.

Finally, Apple has settled a patent suit with Nokia, agreeing to pay it an undisclosed sum of money. It's also amended another suit, against Samsung, dropping some allegations and adding others.

Apple closed on Tuesday at US$325.30, up nearly 10 percent.

Apple's Got an Unfriend in Facebook

Rumors emerged last week that Facebook is working on an HTML 5-based platform code-named "Project Spartan" to distribute apps to iDevices.

With Project Spartan, Facebook will be able to run apps within its service directly on top of the Safari browser without needing to go through Apple.

This will let it exert more control over consumers as they increasingly go to their mobile apps.

Another rumor has Facebook working on a native application for the iPad.

This "sounds like a stepping stone to HTML 5 as Facebook continues to perfect the HTML 5 version of the application," Dmitriy Molchanov, an analyst at the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld.

Facebook has always emphasized HTML 5, and leveraging that technology would help it create cross-platforms with greater ease, Molchanov indicated.

"Facebook's Android app doesn't begin to offer as much functionality as its iOS app," Molchanov pointed out. "Using HTML 5 would help prevent similar problems on tablets," he suggested.

"You can have both -- HTML 5 apps that are going to look the same no matter what phone they run on, and apps that are more closely integrated with the handset because people want apps that have a particular flavor -- an iPhone app or a Windows app," Al Hilwa, a research director at IDC, told MacNewsWorld.

Facebook spokesperson Jaime Schopflin declined comment on these rumors.

Implications of Facebook's iMove

The mobile apps market is screaming hot -- people spent more time every day on mobile apps than on the Webb, whether on their desktop or mobile device, according to Flurry.

Users now spend more than 81 minutes on mobile apps daily, Flurry found. In contrast, consumers spend 74 minutes on the Internet daily.

Facebook takes up 14 of the 74 minutes spent on the Internet, which makes its extension into mobile apps a natural move.

Having native mobile apps would give Facebook a foot in both the Internet and mobile camps. And with its huge membership base, Facebook has the clout to take on Apple.

"Facebook has what, 700 million users? That makes them the one company that could potentially pull it off," Josh Martin, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, told MacNewsWorld.

How Cupertino will respond to this threat remains to be seen.

The Long and Grinchy Road

At a time when vendors are announcing and shipping new products as fast as they can for fear they'll be caught up in the global economic recession, Apple has allegedly decided to do the opposite.

It's reportedly holding off introducing two new MacBook Airs, as well as other new Macs, until Mac OS X Lion is released. The upcoming Apple OS has spiffy new features including automatic backup and connection to the iCloud, and it hits the Mac App Store in July.

Apple's also taking a counter-intuitive approach to the back-to-school season.

Most vendors offer freebies to lure customers; Microsoft is offering a free Xbox 360 to college students buying a PC, for example.

Apple has gone the other way -- it has stopped offering a free iPod with the purchase of a Mac and is offering a $100 gift card to be used on the Mac App Store, the iTunes App Store, the iTunes Store or the iBookstore instead.

Crazy Like a Fox

Substituting the gift card for the free iPod could be a good strategic move, Barclays Capital told investors in a note.

This is probably aimed at focusing students on using the Apple ecosystem for downloads, including the download of books for classes, Barclays said.

It also shows that fostering an iOS ecosystem with other devices is "far more important" than pushing iPods, Barclays stated.

Nevertheless, Barclays expects an iPod refresh in September, when a new iPhone could be launched and iOS 5 and the iCloud will be available.

Many iOS Hands Make the Ecosystem Work

The iOS ecosystem formed the core of Apple's announcements at its World Wide Developers Conference, held in San Francisco earlier this month.

Apple announced the iCloud, iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion. The operating systems will link back to the iCloud, which will automatically sync any iDevice.

Content on any of a user's iDevices will be replicated on all the user's other iDevices. This will allow the user to access content any time anywhere.

Eventually, this focus on the iOS ecosystem will help Apple share prices recover, Barclays stated. The ecosystem could also boost the penetration of Apple into the enterprise.

"We're already seeing runaway cloud consumerization, and the iCloud is just going to tear the brakes off entirely, accelerating the process of cloud services already pouring into the corporate environment," Geoff Webb, product marketing director at Credant Technologies, told MacNewsWorld.


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