The 'Book Review

MacBook Air Shortage as Replacment Rumors Persist, iPad Devouring Netbook Market, and More

This Week's MacBook, PowerBook, and iBook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.10.08

General Apple and Mac desktops is covered in The Mac News Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Products & Services

Bargain 'Books

News & Opinion

MacBook Air in Short Supply as Rumors of 11.6" Replacement Persist

AppleInsider's Neil Hughes and Kasper Jade report that supplies of Apple's MacBook Air subnotebook are drying up in the distribution and sales channels, adding fuel to rumors that have been swirling about since July that a major makeover to the lightweight notebooks is in the pipeline.

Hughes and Jade note that all but one of the Apple Authorized Resellers that AppleInsider tracks as part of its Mac Price Guide have run out of low-end 1.83 GHz MacBook Air units, including Amazon.com, Mac Connection, MacMall, and J&R, and at least two of those resellers are also reporting no stock of the high-end 2.13 GHz configuration. Apple has indicted to wholesale buyers that it won't be replenishing supply of MacBook Air products until Oct. 12 through Oct. 16 at the earliest.

If a new MacBook Air is in the offing, it's not before time, the machine having been changed little since its January 2008 introduction.

Scuttlebutt consensus of the rumor mills is that a revamped MacBook Air is likely to be somewhat downsized, possibly with an 11.6" display, powered by an Intel i3 CULV low-wattage CPU with integrated Intel HD graphics, and it is hoped sell for a significantly lower price than the current Air's $1,499 entry-level.

But don't call it a netbook, a category that has been the object of withering scorn from Steve Jobs and other senior Apple execs.

Two-thirds of AppStorm Poll Respondents Use Notebooks

AppStorm's David Appleyard says he uses a MacBook Pro personally and has been thinking about upgrading his system at some point over the next six months or so - his dilemma being whether to stick with a notebook or opt for one of the 27" iMacs. Appleyard says he really likes the idea of a portable computer, but in reality he very rarely uses it for that purpose, so maybe his investment would be better made in an Mac that also comes with a gorgeous screen.

I've mused similarly in the past - and even acted on it back in 2001 when I purchased a G4 Cube for the purpose of replacing my WallStreet PowerBook as my production machine. I really liked the Cube, but I discovered that deskbound most of the time or not, a desktop is no substitute for a portable when you need portability. And then there's the issue of carrying on through power outages, which are unfortunately not uncommon where I live. After about five months, I swapped the Cube for a Pismo PowerBook in excellent condition and have never regretted it.

AppStorm's poll asked "what sort of Mac do you use?" The last time I looked, the running vote tally was:

  • MacBook 14.29% (242 votes)
  • MacBook Pro 52.13% (883 votes)
  • MacBook Air 0.65% (11 votes)
  • iMac 23.2% (393 votes)
  • Mac Mini 2.42% (41 votes)
  • Mac Pro 5.67% (96 votes)
  • I don't use a Mac! 1.65% (28 votes)
  • Total Votes: 1,355

That works out to 67.07% of respondents being Mac laptop users, so I guess that these days I'm in the majority. Remember when skeptics used to scoff at the idea that notebook sales would ever approach parity with desktop machines?

Apple Wins Key Multiband Cellular Antenna Patent for MacBook

PatentlyApple reports:

"The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 17 granted patents for Apple Inc. today. Amongst them are several major design patent wins pertaining to the original iPod touch and the all-metallic iMac which has received registered status in both Europe and China. Yet the most notable granted patents issued today in our opinion would have to be one that relates to Apple's notebook trackpad assembly and perhaps more importantly, two strategic patents relating to the notion of a future telephonic MacBook."

iPad in Tablet Sector Vanguard as Netbook Shipments Plummet

Editor's note: DisplaySearch persists in calling netbooks mini-notes, a term I find annoying and out of step with the rest of the industry. In this press release, we have substituted the more widely used netbook label. dk

PR: According to a new DisplaySearch Notebook Report, shipments of netbooks and tablet PCs in Q2 2010 were down 4% Q/Q, but up 29% Y/Y. However, without the 3.3 million iPads shipped in the quarter, shipments of netbooks/tablets would have been down 14% Q/Q and 13% Y/Y. Clearly there was an "iPad Effect" in the portable PC market, DisplaySearch observes in their Quarterly Advanced Notebook PC Shipment and Forecast Report, which also tracks tablet PCs 5.0" and larger. The effect might have been even more pronounced had Apple not struggled to fulfill demand, with shipment times listed as 7 to 10 business days for all of Q2 10, and shipments into Japan and China just beginning at the end of the survey period.

Netbook and tablet shipments, Q2 2010Overall, the portable PC market posted strong Y/Y unit growth in Q2 10, surging 32% to 50.4M units. However, not all market segments were equal, and it's apparent that the combination of iPads and falling ASPs (average selling price) took share from other parts of the netbook/tablet PCs segment and from the ultraportable segments of the market.

Buyers chose iPad as a thin, lightweight device but buyers seeking more functionality chose larger notebooks, with only slightly higher ASPs. The price gap between the average 11.6" ultraportable notebook and the average 15.6" portable notebook PC fell to less than US$60 in Q2 10.

Revenue in the netbook/tablet PC category was also positively impacted by the higher ASP of the iPad. Despite the Q/Q drop in unit volume for the category, revenues surged past US$4 billion as ASPs increased 21% Q/Q and 14% Y/Y.

Mobile PC shipment forecastDisplaySearch expects netbooks to continue to sell well in emerging economies to first-time PC buyers. However, looking forward, they expect tablets like the iPad will continue to take market share from netbooks and the ultraportable segment in regions where PCs have high penetration rates. The industry consensus is that a successful business model for tablets will center around an a la carte method for selecting the software capabilities (apps) for the device and content consumption (though the ability to create some content will certainly be possible), as opposed to the typical PC market trend that is built upon a Windows operating system and office suite applications for content creation.

"The end of 2007 witnessed the launch of netbooks. The first quarter of 2010 signaled the birth of the tablet PC, and possibly, by extension, the beginning of the end of the netbook market, especially in developed regions," says John F. Jacobs, Director of Notebook Market Research. "Apple has leveraged their successful iPhone business model onto the iPad. More than 50 other brands have tablets in varying stages from development to mass production. Unlike the netbook/netbook model, which was not much more than a low-cost, basic mobile PC based on the Wintel platform, the majority of tablets have, or will, choose a combination of next generation Intel Atom CPUs or ARM-based CPUs paired with a version of Android, or in the case of HP, WebOS."

Jacobs adds, "Although Apple now holds the vast majority of tablet PC market share, the plethora of other brands that have, or will soon be launching, their own tablets are sure to capitalize on what at this point appears to be widespread consumer demand for very thin and very light devices with exceptional battery life and a primary focus on portability and content consumption."

DisplaySearch defines netbooks as clamshell style devices with display sizes ranging from 7.0" to 10.2"; also commonly referred to as netbooks, and Tablet PCs as Tablet-style devices like the Apple iPad with display sizes from 5.0" to 10.2"; also commonly referred to as slates.

The DisplaySearch Quarterly Advanced Notebook PC Report is now available, with other report highlights including forecasted notebook and netbook PC shipments by region, display size, and resolution, along with insightful analysis of the state of the notebook PC industry, including the breadth and depth of netbook and notebook PC demand in the major geographic regions, and identifying the key variables influencing changing demand patterns in these markets.

Products & Services

Hitachi Launches Industry's Highest Capacity Notebook Hard Drives: 750 GB

PR: Hitachi Global Storage Technologies has announced the highest-capacity 2.5" format hard drives available, with their 375 GB/platter density giving them a slight edge on 2.5" drives from competitors Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital.

The 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM, 2.5" hard drives (the Travelstar 5K750 and the Travelstar 7K750 hard drive families respectively) feature the industry's highest capacities in a standard 9.5mm two-disk design. The new drives come in capacities of 750 GB, 640 GB, and 500 GB. The drives are built with Hitachi's proven hard drive technology that delivers high shock protection, low power, and fast performance for a variety of notebook computers, external storage solutions, gaming consoles, and other mobile devices.

The Travelstar 5K750 and 7K750 drive families are the first Hitachi GST hard drives that feature "Advanced Format," which increases the physical sector size on hard drives from 512 bytes to 4096 (4K) bytes. This helps utilize the storage surface area more efficiently, allowing for increased drive capacities and improved data integrity at higher storage densities.

5400 RPM Travelstar 5K750 Family

The Travelstar 5K750 family is the next generation of Hitachi's mainstream mobile hard drive line engineered to achieve high capacity, reliability and low cost per gigabyte. It is a 5400 RPM hard drive offered with an 8 MB buffer and a Serial ATA 3 Gb/s interface for fast data transfer rates. The Travelstar 5K750 family has been designed with superior low power consumption for energy efficiency, offering 0.5 watts low power idle and 1.4 watts power during read/write operations, which contributes to longer battery life in notebooks and other unplugged applications. The new Travelstar 5K750 is also claimed to offer the best nonoperating shock at 1000G/1 ms to protect against bumps and rough handling in mobile environments.

7200 RPM Travelstar 7K750 Family

The Travelstar 7K750 is the latest hard drive in Hitachi's growing 7200 RPM family, that meets the growing demand for performance computing. With a 16 MB buffer, 3 Gb/s SATA interface, and excellent media transfer rates, Hitachi Travelstar 7K750 series allows quicker access to data and faster system performance, especially for multitasking, and other high performance office and home applications. With the lowest read/write power specification in its class at 1.8W, users don't have to sacrifice battery life for fast 7200 RPM performance.

Both the Hitachi Travelstar 5K750 and 7K750 families feature exceptional operating shock, Thermal Fly-height Control (TFC) for better soft error rate and improved reliability, and Hitachi's TrueTrack Technology™ for tracking accuracy in high shock or vibration environments. Fluid dynamic bearing motors also deliver a near silent operation. The drives use halogen-reduced components to support the green computing initiatives that are of increasing importance in today's end users. Hitachi Travelstar 5K750 and 7K750 have also earned the Hitachi EcoTrac classification, used to describe products that minimize environmental impact in the areas of product design, manufacturing, operation and disposal.

Self-encryption Options

Travelstar 7K750 is a self-encrypting drive (SED) designed to meet the industry-standard Trusted Computer Group (TCG) Opal Storage Security specification. This drive is the fifth generation to feature Hitachi's Bulk Data Encryption (BDE). These self-encrypting drives encrypt data using protected keys in real time, providing users with the highest level of data protection available. It also speeds and simplifies the drive redeployment process. By deleting the encryption key, the data on the drive is rendered unreadable, thereby eliminating the need for time-consuming data-overwrite.

Enhanced Availably Options

Designed specifically for use in blade servers, network routers, and video surveillance systems, the new Travelstar 5K750 and 7K750 EA models bring together a host of features such as high capacity, durability, and low power for applications needing 24/7 access to data. Based on a proven platform for quality and reliability, the Travelstar drives help system designers, integrators and IT managers build and maintain their storage systems, achieving greater storage density in the same 2.5" footprint, while maximizing performance, and improving data integrity in always-on applications in lower-transaction environments.

Travelstar Retail Hard Drive Kits

Hitachi Retail Hard Drive Kits are designed for Mac and PC users who want to replace or upgrade their internal hard drives in their notebooks or compact desktop systems. Providing solid warranty protection, service, and support, Hitachi Retail Hard Drive Kits give users the additional capacity and/or performance needed for demanding multimedia applications such as games and video, or for those who want to upgrade to a new operating system such as Microsoft Windows 7 or Mac OS X. In capacities up to 750 GB, Hitachi Retail Kits include simple step-by-step instructions making it easy to upgrade.

"Our new Travelstar 5K750 and 7K750 offerings address the growing demand for high-capacity and low-power hard drives, which are at the heart of today's notebooks, external storage devices, gaming consoles and other mobile computing applications," says Brendan Collins, vice president of Product Marketing at Hitachi GST. "Couple this with our proven design platforms and broad 2.5" portfolio, and Hitachi GST continues to demonstrate its leadership in the 2.5" mobile hard drive market."

The Travelstar 5K750 is currently shipping in volume. Hitachi Travelstar 5K750 Retail Hard Drive Kits will be available in November with a suggested retail price of $129.99. The Travelstar 5K750 EA version will be shipping to OEMs for qualification by the end of the year. The 7200 RPM Travelstar 7K750 family, including EA versions and retail kits, will be available in Q1 2011.

The Travelstar 5K750 and 7K750 hard drive come in three capacity points: 500 GB, 640 GB, and 750 GB.

Toasted Skin Syndrome - a Quick and Easy Fix That Costs Less Than a Visit to Your Doctor's Office

PR: LapWorks Inc., designer and vendor of ergonomic laptop desks and accessories, responded today to news articles this week regarding laptop computer induced "Toasted Skin Syndrome." According to one article, "People who work with one of today's hot-running notebooks on their lap can develop 'Toasted Skin Syndrome,' an unusual-looking mottled skin condition caused by long-term heat exposure." These reports went on to say that the condition looks like "a sponge-patterned skin discoloration" and, in very rare cases, it can cause damage leading to skin cancer.

The medical term for "Toasted Skin Syndrome" is "Erythema Ab Igne," also known as "laptop-induced-dermatosis." These articles quote Drs. Arnold and Itin from University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland: "to be safe, place a carrying case or other heat shield under the laptop if you have to hold it in your lap."

LapWorks has long been an advocate of protecting the user from the "Hot Lap" affect. The company's line of four lap desk products were designed exclusively to prevent hot lap and protect the user. The desks act as a heat shield under the laptop when using the device on your lap. Overheating laptop or notebook computers have been a source of discomfort for their owners for years.

It is now obvious that hot lap isn't the worst of the potential problems with overheated notebooks. Reports surfaced a few years ago that some notebooks were spontaneously combusting due to overheated batteries. At about the same time, a study by the State University of New York concluded that overheated laptop usage can lead to low sperm count and infertility in young men. If that wasn't enough, now there is proof positive that using an overheated notebook on the lap repeatedly for extended periods of time can lead to "Toasted Skin Syndrome."

Laptop Desks from LapWorks not only prevent dreaded toasted skin syndrome but can also prevent other injuries that are common with extended notebook usage. Persons who squeeze their legs together to support a notebook on the lap or who hunch over a notebook while typing on the lap can develop serious shoulder, neck and back injuries. Proper posture ergonomics is key to preventing long-term musculoskeletal injury, and a 22" long, lap-spanning laptop desk from LapWorks can be the simplest solution for less than $30.00.

Those at greatest risk from injury are:

  • Students who typically use poor posture because they are young and feel indestructible
  • Mobile Professionals who travel with their notebooks and don't often have a desk available
  • Couch Potatoes with their notebooks on their lap while watching TV
  • Video Game players who don't consider their posture in the heat of battle

José Calero, President of LapWorks and a strong advocate of proactively preventing injuries related to notebooks, says that they "routinely cause ergonomic related injuries . . . injuries like Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or Cumulative Trauma Disorders. Ask any back specialist and they will tell you that four in five patients have chronic nerve damage caused by working on a laptop incorrectly."

Mr. Calero adds: "Our Lap Desk products can prevent ergonomic related injuries and they've been lab tested to reduce heat build-up in notebooks up to 20%, summarizing that "the problem is getting much worse as ergonomic related injuries are rising at an unprecedented level due to incorrect laptop usage."

Bottom line? - it's prudent to protect yourself against overheated notebooks and other laptop ergonomic issues, making yourself familiar with proper notebook posture and how to improve ergonomics with the use of a Laptop Desk from LapWorks, Mr. Calero advises.

The Laptop Desks retail for $29.95 and are also available from Amazon.com with free shipping.

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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