Mac News Review

HP Overtakes Apple in PC Market, iPad May Save Desktops, New Mac Pro Could Come Soon, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.05.04

Mac notebook and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

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News & Opinion

HP Retakes Top Spot in PC Market from Apple when Tablets Are Included

PR: According to the latest figures published by analyst firm Canalys, which unlike some of its competitors includes tablet computer sales in its overall PC sales metrics, HP retook the worldwide client PC market lead in Q1 2012. Apple had ousted the longtime PC market leader in Q4 2011, thanks largely to holiday-season boosted record iPad shipments (in excess of 15 million units).

In Q1, however, Apple shipped 11.8 million iPads, bringing its total client PC sales for the quarter to 15.8 million. HP's shipments were higher by around 40,000 units, according to Canalys estimates; just enough to give it the lead. Lenovo took third place, logging impressive year-on-year growth of 50%. Acer and Dell took the remaining top-five places, but with shipments down from the same quarter a year ago. The total client PC market grew by 21% to 107 million units. Importantly, while the pad category exhibited the highest growth more than 200% year on year notebook and desktop PC shipments were up too, rising 11% and 8% respectively. Netbook shipments, however, were down 34% on the year-ago quarter the sixth such fall in succession.

"Most of the leading PC vendors have done a reasonable job of offsetting the declines in their netbook shipments over the past year with increased pad business," says Canalys Research Analyst Tom Evans. "Samsung and Lenovo are two that stand out in terms of substantially increasing overall volume, though Asus has performed well too. The challenge is breaking out into the really big volumes to challenge the leaders Apple and Amazon. So far, only Samsung has shown it can routinely ship more than a million pads a quarter."

Globally, Canalys reports that pads (its term for tablets) represented 19% of all client PC shipments in Q1, up substantially from 7% a year ago, but down on the 22% recorded in Q4 2011. Netbooks have fallen to 5% from a high of 13% two years ago. Notebooks represented just under half of the overall PC market by units.

Looking at overall client PC shipments by region, Canalys estimates that North America grew 31% year-on-year, compared to 19% for both EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Asia-Pacific. Latin American growth lagged at only 10%. But Canalys points out that the growth in North America was being boosted by pads much more than in the other regions.

"If you look at the US, pads are approaching 40% of all client PC shipments," Canalys VP and Principal Analyst Chris Jones notes. "The rest of the market here was down slightly in Q1. The pad proposition for US consumers is very strong thanks to the wider choice in content and apps and the impact on the other categories is more severe."

In summary, despite some positive signs in Q1, PC vendors face ongoing uncertainty in the coming quarters. Turbulence in the economy means the consumer market in many countries remains a cause for concern. Q2 is expected to be soft, with Taiwanese notebook ODMs having reported a decline in shipments in April. This will improve as the channel sells out older products and vendors refresh their portfolios with models based on Intel's Ivy Bridge processors. The big transition will take place in the second half of the year with Microsoft's launch of Windows 8. This will lead many consumers to delay new PC purchases into Q4. But by then thin and light laptops will be approaching mainstream price points and a new wave of pads, based on Microsoft's new OS, will be hitting the market. Positive reception to Windows 8, on all PC form factors, is critical. Assuming this scenario plays out as anticipated, PC vendors will be able to look forward to 2013 with renewed optimism.

A big question for Apple, however, is how profoundly Window 8 tablets will change the game and eat into the iPad's current overwhelming dominance of the category.

iPad May Kill Laptops and Save Desktops

Tech.pinions' Steve Wildstrom thinks that the iPad and other tablet computers pose an existential threat to the laptop, but ironically may provide a new lease on life for the recently largely-ignored desktop PC.

Wildstrom argues from a premise that a good tablet is all the computer most people need, and that the biggest weakness of tablets - lack of local storage - is in his estimation being solved in the Cloud, while for times you want to write more than is comfortable with the onscreen keyboard, a lightweight Bluetooth keyboard does the trick.

Wildstrom acknowledges that he frequently works on complex documents with a large number of windows open at one time, does a fair amount of research, edits video, and works on databases, and he concedes that these are tasks that range from inconvenient to impossible on an iPad, so he still has both a Windows 7 desktop and a 27" iMac - but uses his laptops less and less.

Mac Pro Delay Foreshadows Update Next Week?

Hardmac's Lionel thinks that because Apple is still not ready to release a new Mac Pro model, it remains unclear if the current professional desktop Mac will ever be updated. However, he says he's received a a tip indicating that the shipping delay for the current Mac Pro has been extended from "immediately available" to around 5-7 days, and he wonders if that could be the sign of a Mac Pro update next week.

New Intel Xeon CPUs: Missing Component for the New Mac Pro?

Hardmac's Lionel also notes that last March, Intel released its Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs, which were expected to find their way into a future hypothetical update of the Mac Pro, and cites a list of available Intel processors posted by CPU World as evidence Apple has more than enough choice in Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs to finally deliver the new Mac Pro.

Intel Xeon E5-2400 CPU Availability and Prices

CPU World's Gennadiy Shvets reports that this quarter Intel will launch the first two Xeon E5 families for socket 2011, followed by E5-2400 series next quarter. E5-2400 processors will work in single- and dual-CPU systems, and they will utilize socket 1356, which supports only three memory channels (one fewer than socket 2011) and only one QPI link. He had already reported on specifications of Xeons from E5-2400 series, and now he has more details on their pricing.

Prices and specifications of E5-2400 processors, expected in Q2 2012
Prices and specifications of E5-2400 processors, expected in Q2 2012.

Third-Party Thunderbolt Cables Still Expensive

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler notes that Apple's $49 2m (6.6') Thunderbolt cable has been criticized as expensive, but a new one available from Elgato (see below) is in fact more expensive.

Faulty GeForce 8800GT? Bake It!

Hardmac's Lionel says that with the Nvidia GeForce 8600M and 8800 GPUs used in certain model MacBook Pros, customers drew bad numbers. One of the materials used by Nvidia in manufacturing those GPUs turned out to be unstable and did not last long enough. The soldering material becomes degraded, contacts are lost, and the card doesn't work anymore.

He notes that Apple forced Nvidia to recognize this issue and subsequently took care of a recall of numerous faulty MacBook Pros, but nothing has been done for users of Mac Pros that shipped with GeForce 8800GT graphics cards that have stopped working with time. One user posted a video explaining a rather radical and extreme - but in his case successful - procedure to revive such cards using his kitchen oven.

Your mileage may vary. If so inclined, proceed at your own risk.

Products & Services

2.5" Hard Drive/SSD Install Kit for 2011 Mac mini

PR: Running out of storage space in your 2011 Mac mini or looking to improve performance OWC SSD/2.5" Hard Drive installation Kit for 2011 Mac miniwith an OWC SSD? Now you can add a second 9.5mm (or smaller) 2.5" SATA hard drive or Solid State Drive (sold separately) to your 2011 Mac mini with this OWC upgrade kit.

Note that technical support for this DIY product consists only of a video linked from the product page.

OWC SSD/2.5" Hard Drive installation Kit for Mac mini 2011 Models sells for $49.99.

Elgato Thunderbolt Cable Now Available

Elgato Thunderbolt Cable

PR: Thunderbolt delivers the fastest and most advanced input/output technology for personal computers while relying on a connector only half the size of a standard USB port. However, it's more than just a cable. Behind the scenes, the Thunderbolt interface features sophisticated cable technology in the form of specialized embedded microchips that enable the cable to actively ensure optimal throughput at all times, making it essentially a tiny computer in its own right.

Elgato Thunderbolt CableThe Elgato Thunderbolt Cable integrates sophisticated Thunderbolt technology in a highly flexible cable specifically designed for mobile use. With a length of only 0.5m/1.6', it is an ideal companion to the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD or any other Thunderbolt-equipped peripheral that you want to connect to your Mac or Windows PC.

The The Elgato Thunderbolt Cable will be available on May 4th for $59.95, and additionally will included for free with every purchase of Elgato's Thunderbolt SSD until May 6, 2012.


Free GrandPerspective App Graphically Displays Your Disk Usage

PR: GrandPerspective is a small utility application for Mac OS X that graphically shows the disk usage within a file system. It can help you to manage your disk, as you can easily spot which files and folders take up the most space. GrandPerspective uses a so-called tree map for visualization. GrandPerspectiveEach file is shown as a rectangle with an area proportional to the file's size. Files in the same folder appear together, but their placement is otherwise arbitrary.

GrandPerspective 1.5.0 has been released and is available for download. It features much requested new functionality: the ability to color files based on their creation time, modification time, or time of last access. For other improvements and bug fixes included in this release, check out the release notes.

System requirements: Mac OS X (Universal Binary)

GrandPerspective is freeware/donationware.

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