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Mac Bloggers Get Leg Up on OS X Update, Scratch Heads Over ARM's Future

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 19, 2008 4:00 AM PT

Now that Apple is reaching out into so many areas lately, bloggers following Cupertino's every move are looking at topics all over the map.

Mac Bloggers Get Leg Up on OS X Update, Scratch Heads Over ARM's Future

However, there were a few important subjects that rose to the top this week: Apple's notebook share in the U.S. has surged, speculation over the next MacBooks and MacBook Pros is heating up, Apple has dropped the OS X 10.5.5 update, and PA Semi might be working on ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) iPhone processors.

With a Bullet

DisplaySearch, a research organization that's part of the NPD Group, reported that Apple's North American share of the notebook PC market had jumped up to 10.6 percent in the second quarter of this year -- up from just 6.6 percent a year ago. To put this big leap in perspective, Dell's share grew just 0.3 percent, HP's grew 0.2 percent, Acer's dropped 4.2 percent, Toshiba dropped 2.4 percent, and all other manufacturers picked up 2.1 percent. Apple came away with some relatively massive gains.

Mac bloggers, of course, were more than happy to share the news. Surprisingly enough, the original report from DisplaySearch barely mentioned Apple, but hey, Apple aficionados noticed anyway.

On the post on the subject, G5power commented, "Just think with 'new' versions and possibly more aggressive pricing how this could trend."

The next response?

"Up, up, up, and away!" added mobilehaathi.

Noted deannnnn, "I switched from Toshiba to Apple in 2004 =) Best decision I ever made."

One key question, however, is whether this growth in market share was a tremendous yet short-lived spike or part of a broad upward trend?

"This has been a consistent trend for Apple in North America," John Jacobs, DisplaySearch's director of notebook market research, told MacNewsWorld.

Interestingly, one of the key points to Dell's difficulties in busting loose with consumer sales in North America may be something Apple used to share but has since turned into a strength -- the Apple retail stores.

"Brick and mortar is a key because many consumers want to 'look and feel' before they buy -- form factor is one of the top 5 most important things that consumers care about in a notebook PC," Jacobs added, noting that Dell has been recently growing its physical presence through a number of agreements with retailers.

MacBook Hunger

The notebook market share increases only seemed to stoke the hearts and minds of the Mac faithful looking for the next iteration of the popular MacBook and MacBook Pro, which are widely expected to hit some time in October. Some had hoped for a September roll-out, but that's less likely given Apple's very recent iTunes and iPod news.

A German Web site, posted a photo of a purported new MacBook Pro. Bloggers quickly jumped on it as a likely fake, though some held out to a small measure of possibility. The photo seemed to show an iMac-like glossy black bezel around the perimeter of the screen, no latch, no obvious iSight camera, and a thinner base.

Mark Rowland, posting on Appletell, noted, "There is little chance of this being an actual leaked image, as Apple holds its secrets very closely, and it is rare that 'leaked' shots are 100% correct, especially this early in the speculation game."

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, writing for Fortune's Apple 2.0 blog, joined the fray by writing about Apple's MacBook success and possible Oct. 14 roll-out of new models. He gave a nod to Computerworld's Seth Weintraub's Apple Ink blog and echoed some of Weintraub's educated guess/wishful thinking new features, among them a rounder fame, 3G wireless technology, a multitouch glass trackpad, Blu-ray, and an HD camera, all without a movement in price points.

On Weintraub's Apple Ink post, commenter Stephen Steele noted that he agreed with most of the new features -- but is more bullish on Blu-ray.

"The most important feature which you are on the fence on is Blu-ray. Even if Apple wants you to buy content from itunes, they have to acknowledge this is the new standard, and to leave it off when every other manufacturer is including it would be a serious mistake. This Holiday season will be the Christmas of Blu-Ray in the U.S.," Steele commented.

Meanwhile, OS X 10.5.5

On Monday, Apple released a 321 MB OS X 10.5.5 update, which was primarily a batch of more than 100 bug fixes and over two dozen security enhancements. The update fixed issues with Address Book, Disk Utility, iCal, Mail, MobileMe and TimeMachine.

Some early adopters noted that 10.5.5 made Leopard feel snappier and that waking from sleep was faster, too.

"After I installed and rebooted, I opened Safari and Mail and they opened and ran very quickly. 'Snappier' indeed!" commented DCJ001 on the post on the subject.

Not all was happiness and sunshine, however. Some noted problems with their 10.5.5 Macs recognizing external displays properly.

"I'm reinstalling Mac OS 10.5.2 that came with my macbook, since the update buggered a few things up -- the main thing being that my Mac does not detect any external displays," commented atmx.

Apple Engineer Reveals Too Much?

The wonderful world of social networking brought the Apple blogosphere a great little gem this week: apparent confirmation that Apple's recently acquired semiconductor company PA Semi was bought for more than just some smart engineers.

The New York Times reported that an Apple engineer, Wei-han Lien, the senior manager of Apple's chip team, posted on his LinkedIn profile a little detail about this current job with Apple: that his job was to "Manage ARM CPU architecture team for iPhone." The profile has since been removed from the site.

The post sparked some speculation that Apple might be able to not only stop buying ARM chipsets from other suppliers but also create something entirely new and improved for the iPhone.

One person, commenting on the post on the subject, noted that custom ARM chipsets might give Apple more than just a cool new performance boost.

"Here's hoping that Apple will finally be able to put a stop to hacking and jailbreaking the iPhone. With a custom processor it would seem this is a possibility. Jailbreaking has done enormous damage to the Apple brand reputation not to mention lost revenue and profits," commented lkrupp.

Others thought lkrupp was joking, if not misdirected.

"I'd argue that Jailbreaking of the iPhone increased sales of the EDGE iPhone dramatically, has sped up the development of Apple's SDK and has made the iPhone better because of it," added solipsism.

Still, what's the key benefits of Apple going it alone?

"The benefits and risks of such a strategy are closely linked," Charles King, principal analyst for Pund-IT, told MacNewsWorld.

"On the benefit side, developing processors specifically for the iPhone would allow the company to link chip design to device capabilities. Potentially, that could lead to better performance and enhanced features in future iPhones. The risks of Apple taking processor development in-house mainly revolve around cost. Creating and updating processors is an expensive process in the best of times. So long as iPhone sales continue to grow, Apple should be able to easily defray those costs," he explained.

"But if the iPhone ever hits the skids, the benefits of processor development could erode quickly," he added.

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