Mac News Review

US Mac Sales Down 16% in February, Opera Turbo Available for Testing, New iMac Benchmarks, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2009.03.20

MacBook, PowerBook, iBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Reviews

Apple Updates

Products

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

US Mac Sales Down 16% in February, Windows PC Sales Up 22%

OS News' Thom Holwerda reports:

"During these financially dire times, it's always interesting to keep en eye on the sales figures of computes, to see if the downward trend is still running. Sales figures from February analysed by NPD indicate that while Mac sales went down, sales of Windows PCs went up. Mind, though, that these figures are US-only.

"The cold hard figures are clear. February sales in the US of Apple Macintosh computers went down 16%, while sales of Windows-based computers went up 22%. In the laptop department, Apple's sales dropped 7%, while Windows-based laptop sales increased by 36%. Netbooks play an important role here, since if you take the netbooks out of the total figures, Windows laptop sales went up 'only' 16%. The figures are all year-over-year, so February 2009 is compared with February 2008.

"Desktops continued to lag behind laptop sales. Apple's desktop sales dropped by a staggering 36%, while Windows-based desktop sales declined by 10%."

Editor's note: Apple's desktop line was well overdue for a refresh in February, which should help explain the 35% drop. An updated Mac Pro was introduced in January 2008, which could also have contributed to higher sales in February 2008. New desktop models were introduced on March 3, so we can expect a spike in Mac desktop sales when March figures are released. dk

Windows Slaughters the Mac in February Sales

Silicon Alley Insider's Eric Krangel| reports:

"February computer sales numbers are in, and Microsoft is kicking Apple's ass.

"Over at the Microsoft Watch blog, Joe Wilcox crunches recent computer sales numbers from NPD and sees:

  • Windows sales in Feb are up 22% y/y, with revenue up 1.4%. (In this economy, that impresses us)
  • Apple (AAPL) Mac sales are down 16.7% y/y, with revenue down 23.3%....

"Joe makes a secondary point that's an intriguing idea - he credits not only the economy and netbooks, but Microsoft's 'I'm a PC' ad campaign for putting Apple on the defensive."

Recession Breathes Life into PC Sales as Apple Gasps for Air

CIO's Shane O'Neill reports:

"Recession-weary consumers and Apple played another game of chicken last month, and once again consumers didn't budge and Apple swerved off the road. Mac sales fell 16 percent year over year in February, according to research firm The NPD Group.

"The Mac sales drops in February were a 10 percent decrease from the month before. Sales of Windows PCs, however, increased 22 percent in February year over year, helped along by surging sales of lightweight, inexpensive netbooks, according to NPD.

"At this point, I'm going to stop asking when Apple will acknowledge these dark days we live in because I think the answer is never. Maybe Apple should just be a bull market company. When times are lean, it should pack up like a traveling carnival or disappear like a baseball team in winter and not come back until everybody's rich and happy again...."

Opera Turbo for Slower Connections Available for Testing

Opera's Roberto Mateu says:

"At Opera, we love speed. We work hard to make our browser faster with features that speeds you up, but your connection also plays a big role on how fast you can go.

"Some people have fast connections, a lot have slow connections. Many are always on the run from one place to another - making it hard to find regular fast connection points. Even if you do, it might be that too many people are on the Wi-Fi in the cafe or that you are browsing through your mobile phone when commuting on the train.

"That's why we've been working on Opera Turbo, a server-side optimization and compression technology that provides significant improvements in browsing speeds over limited-bandwidth connections by compressing network traffic. This does not only make you surf faster, but also lowers the cost of browsing when you are on a pay per usage plan.

"Today we start our time limited test phase for Opera Turbo, please read . . . to learn a little about how Turbo works and where to download it.

"You can also see it in action in a video."

Opera Turbo to Speed up Slow Web Browsing

Cnet's Stephen Shankland reports:

"Browser maker Opera Software has released a test version of software called Opera Turbo, designed to use compression and the company's own servers to speed browsing over slow Internet connections.

"Opera Turbo is useful when grappling with overtaxed wireless networks, slower broadband wireless cards, or Net connections through a mobile phone, the company said.

"Opera Turbo runs on a person's PC, fetching data not just from the original Web site but also from an Opera server that compresses that site's text and images on the fly, Opera's Roberto Mateu said in a Friday blog post about Opera Turbo...."

Farewell, Sweet FireWire and Sony Handycam

Wired's Steven Levy says:

"At one point during last October's introduction of the latest MacBook laptop, Steve Jobs made a telling remark: 'We are just as proud of things we leave out.' He was talking about toxic chemicals. But when the MacBook's specs were detailed later that day, it became clear that Apple had left something else out that customers would be less happy to lose: the FireWire port.

"Can I shed some eye water here over the demise of FireWire - aka the IEEE 1394 interface? Introduced in 1995, it was touted as a panacea, speedily transferring information to and from gear like disc drives, other computers, and especially video cameras....

"Losing FireWire got me thinking about all the ports and standards that have vanished over the years, leaving behind a trail of memories and a dumpster's worth of orphaned peripherals . . . One day, USB paraphernalia will join them. It'll probably be Apple that pulls that plug, too."

Editor's note: Except for the Unibody MacBook and the MacBook Air, all current Macs have FireWire - even the $999 MacBook White. dk

Reviews

Mac mini 'Deliberately Neglected' to Keep from Cannibalizing iMac Sales

Register Hardware's Stephen Dean says:

"Someone at Apple must have a soft spot for the Mac mini. Despite its superb design, the mini has always been a bit of an under-achiever, and rumours of its poor sales and imminent demise have been going around for a couple of years now. Yet, as the song says, 'good times and bum times, I've seen them all, and I'm still here'....

"It . . . makes a darn fine media centre system. In fact, we currently have the last-generation mini hooked up to a Samsung HD TV at home where it does sterling service as an all-in-one music system, DVD player and video recorder - with a little help from Elgato's EyeTV tuner.

"Yet the Mac mini had an evil arch-nemesis - and, lo, its name was 'iMac'. Apple doesn't do 'cheap' - never has, never will. It would far rather get you to buy an expensive iMac than ten low-cost minis, so to prevent the Mac mini from cannibalising iMac sales it has quite deliberately neglected the poor little thing over the course of its four-year lifespan....

"The only problem is that the price of the mini is still steadily moving upwards....

"Hopefully, this latest update will prove that there's still some life left in the Mac mini. However, it's a shame that Apple doesn't really take off the brakes and allow the Mini to fulfil its true potential, even at the risk of challenging the almighty iMac."

New iMacs Benchmarked

Macworld's Roman Loyola reports:

"Macworld Lab has been a benchmarking madhouse lately. First, the Lab tested the new Mac minis, and then there was the new 15-inch 2.66 GHz MacBook Pro. Now we have benchmark results on the four new iMacs. The speed improvements over the iMacs released in April 2008 are significant, and there are also some interesting performance observations between the new iMac models...."

Apple Updates

Apple Releases Mini DisplayPort to VGA Firmware Update 1.0

Firmware update addresses flickering, compatibility issues.

"The Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter firmware update will be downloaded to the Utilities folder and will automatically launch to update the firmware on the Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter.

"The Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter must be plugged into your Mac and a compatible VGA display. The Mac power adapter must be plugged into a power outlet.

"System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later.

"Platform Support: PPC/Intel"

Products

OWC Offers First Memory Upgrades Up to 32 GB for New 'Nehalem' Mac Pro Models

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced the first available third party 1066 MHz DDR3 ECC memory upgrades up to 32 GB for the new Mac Pro "Nehalem" models announced last week by Apple. OWC Memory Upgrades offer new Mac Pro users savings of up to $1,620 on same size upgrades, as well as upgrade options not offered by the factory. Internal hard drive upgrades are also available from OWC with savings of up to $540 versus same size factory installed upgrades.

OWC First to Announce Memory Upgrades for Mac Pro

OWC Memory Upgrade Kits for the new Mac Pro were engineered with premium quality components for cool, reliable operation, fully tested and ready to ship. With this announcement, OWC continues its first-to-market streak as the first independent provider to ship Mac Pro memory upgrades that fully meet AppleDesign Specifications, including specific required thermal EEPROM, board design, chip components; and are fully RoHS and JEDEC compliant. In addition like all OWC Memory, these new Mac Pro Upgrade Kits are backed with a Money Back Guarantee and OWC's Lifetime Advance Replacement Warranty.

OWC Offers More Memory Upgrade Options at Lower Cost than Factory

OWC's Memory Upgrade Kits for the new Mac Pro "Nehalem" models offer thousands of dollars in savings over same sized factory kits and configuration options not available from the factory. For example, the 32 GB factory installed memory upgrade for the Mac Pro 8-Core costs $6,100, compared to the OWC 32 GB Memory Kit priced at only $4,479.99 - a savings of $1,620. Mac Pro 8-Core owners can also choose three 4 GB module-based upgrades not offered by the factory: 12 GB (3 x 4 GB), 16 GB (4 x 4 GB), and 24 GB (6 x 4 GB) - and keep memory slots open for future expansion. In addition to the savings offered by OWC Memory Upgrades, Mac Pro users also retain their original factory memory modules that can either be set aside for future backup or be sent to OWC for a cash back trade-in of up to $19 per Apple factory memory module.

Pricing for OWC Memory Upgrade Kits up to 8 GB for new Mac Pro 2009 Quad-Core 2.66 GHz and 2.93 GHz models:

  • OWC 6 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $119.99 (3 x 2 GB matched memory modules) 20% lower price than factory 6 GB upgrade.
  • OWC 8 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $154.99 (4 x 2 GB matched memory modules) 38% lower price than factory 8 GB upgrade.

Pricing for OWC Memory Upgrade Kits up to 32 GB for new Mac Pro 2009 8-Core 2.26 GHz, 2.66 GHz, and 2.93 GHz models:

  • OWC 8 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $154.99 (4 x 2 GB matched memory modules)
  • OWC 12 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $229.99 (6 x 2 GB matched memory modules) 23% lower price than factory 12 GB upgrade.
  • OWC 16 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $299.99 (8 x 2 GB matched memory modules) 40% lower price than factory 16 GB upgrade.
  • OWC 12 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit -$1729.99 (3 x 4 GB matched memory modules) Not available as factory memory upgrade option.
  • OWC 16 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit -$2299.99 (4 x 4 GB matched memory modules) Not available as factory memory upgrade option.
  • OWC 24 GB (6 x 4 GB matched memory modules) DDR3 ECC Memory Kit -$3429.99 Not available as factory memory upgrade option.
  • OWC 32 GB (8 x 4 GB matched memory modules) DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $4479.99 26.5% lower cost than factory 32 GB upgrade.

Fujitsu Introduces 2 New ScanSnap Scanners

PR: Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc. has introduced two new ScanSnap scanning solutions for PC and Macintosh users.

The ScanSnap S1500, for PC, and the ScanSnap S1500M, for Mac, are engineered with the same ease-of-use as its predecessors, while providing additional productivity features to help streamline organization and business operations. The devices feature a new sleek design, offer advanced intelligent technology, faster scanning speeds, and provide a newly designed software interface to unlock the most productive scanning experience.

"Since the launch of the first ScanSnap device six years ago, Fujitsu has rolled out multiple generations, each with new features and increased performance, to meet the growing demands of our customers. Over the years, we've learned that productivity and efficiency is of paramount importance to our users" said Scott Francis, senior director of product marketing, Imaging Products Group, Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc. "The newest ScanSnap S1500 and S1500M underscore the company's commitment to building strong products based on what our users need. With the newest intelligent scanning features and enhanced scanning speeds, users can be more productive without requiring excessive time to process documents."

Simple, Versatile, Robust

New to users, ScanSnap S1500 and S1500M come bundled with advanced features to make scanning easier and more intuitive. The intelligent processing allows users to scan a variety of documents without having to adjust scanner settings. With the simple push of a button, ScanSnap transforms stacks of paper into digital images automatically, selecting the page size, the page orientation, color setting and whether it's a double-sided or single-sided scan. At the same time, new intelligent paper feed detection, which is based on ultrasonic technology, senses multi-feeds and provides users with an additional layer of security in avoiding lost images.

Image quality has always been a priority feature in the Fujitsu ScanSnap family. With a new automatic image quality adjustment feature, the ScanSnap evaluates the document size and adjusts the resolution accordingly, as well as identifies a document as color, black & white and now grayscale. This is especially important for small images or text within business cards and small receipts that typically include fine print. ScanSnap automatically adjusts the settings for each page so that the operator doesn't have to.

The new scanners feature higher resolutions and faster scanning speeds of up to 20 pages per minute (ppm) or 40 images per minute (ipm). With the newly designed ScanSnap Manager and Quick Menu, users can choose to scan documents directly to email, save scans to selectable folders, send scans directly to a printer, or to an application bundled with ScanSnap.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 New Productivity Features

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 for PC comes bundled with Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard and new versions of ScanSnap Organizer and CardMinder software to help users control and secure paperwork more efficiently, while also maintaining all of the rich features and capabilities that have made the ScanSnap line an award-winning device.

The new ScanSnap Organizer 4.0 enhances the ease-of-use, organization and productivity of PDF scanning with the introduction of three new features users can drag and drop customizable keywords into thumbnails, use a standard highlighter pen to automatically embed searchable keywords directly into files, and perform advanced cropping operations. Business card scanning has also become more versatile in the new S1500 through the enhanced CardMinder business card software 4.0 to capture and export contact information into Outlook, Act! or Goldmine.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M What's New for Mac Users

Supporting Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger!" and Intel or PowerPC based computers, the S1500M comes bundled with Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional and Cardiris Business Card software. Business card scanning has just become easier. The new software seamlessly transforms business cards into editable information and can be saved to text, HTML and vCard formats, or exported to other contact managers. In just a few clicks users can digitize their paper-based rolodex and update the content of their electronic address book directly into their favorite contact management applications like Address Book, AppleWorks, Entourage, Now Contact and iSync.

The ScanSnap Manager for Mac adds a new auto keyword feature that converts highlighted text into searchable PDF keywords using a standard highlighter pen, making the device an even more ideal productivity tool.

Additional Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 and S1500M Features

The ScanSnap push button scanning approach eliminates elaborate scanning applications and the need for cumbersome driver interfaces. Appealing to home office and business users, ScanSnap provides a simple, fast and easy-to-use method for converting information contained on paper into digital PDF files at the push of a button. The resulting files can be easily stored locally, on the network, or within an internet based storage service such Microsoft Office Live or Apple's iDisk. Additional innovative Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner features include:

  • One button searchable PDF, PDF and JPEG scanning
  • Dual 600 dpi color CCD optical scanning array
  • Automatic color and grayscale detection
  • Automatic blank page detection and deletion
  • Automatic paper size detection
  • Automatic image deskew Business card scanning and export capabilities
  • "Always On" Fujitsu ScanSnap Manager software
  • Integrated, power-saving automatic document-feed cover
  • USB 2.0 support
  • Integrated ENERGY STAR and Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) compliance

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 and ScanSnap S1500M are available for $495 through the Fujitsu web site, via mail order catalogs, and via Fujitsu authorized resellers.

The Fujitsu Service Advantage

The Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner comes standard with a 1-year depot limited warranty. Additionally, the Advance Exchange!" service offering, the Fujitsu overnight replacement program, provides the customer a replacement scanner prior to shipment of any malfunctioned scanner back to Fujitsu. The Advance Exchange offering is available as an upgrade to the standard limited warranty for $59 covering 12 months from the date of purchase and $99 in the post-warranty years when purchased at the same time as the scanner.

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