Microsoft ships non-functional Zune HDs, promises software later?

Microsoft’s iPod-contender, the Zune HD is shipping now in the US, but the company has played another of its PR master strokes – the products are shipping without software installed.

You’ll have to wait until later – perhaps today – for the world’s biggest software developer to get the code you’ll need to actually use the new device. Though you will get to look at the demo movie on the Zune HD’s OLED screen.

“It’s a pretty unusual move for a company like Microsoft to put devices into the hands of consumers with no functionality at all, but it seems the Zune team was cranking till the last minute,” EnGadget explains.

Now that’s what we call an open public beta test!

Taiwan Economic News: 9.6-inch, PA Semi Apple Tablet due in February, cost $800-$1000

We went a few weeks without a tablet rumor – which was scary – but the Taiwan Economic News chimes in today with a bunch of parts information on Apple’s forthcoming Tablet.  From reports from Dynapro, a battery supplier, they expect to build 300,000 units/month.  Wintek is again said to be the supplier of the touch panels, which they also build for the iPhone.

The tablet PC features a 9.6-inch screen, finger-touch function and built-in HSPDA (high speed download packet access) module, and adopts a P.A. SEMI processor chip and long lasting battery pack, selling for between US$799 and US$999. DynaPack International Technology Corp. has been exclusively contracted to supply up to 300,000 units of long lasting battery packs a month for Apple`s newest tablet PCs.

The HSDPA module also seems to indicate that it would have to be on AT&T/Tmobile, not Verizon.  It has been widely speculated that the tablet would also work on Verizon’s network.

Worst Apple Product Ever? DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter

Apple makes great products.  That’s probably part of why I am writing this and you are reading it.  Apple’s MacBook Pros are the best in the business,  their support is second to none.  The Mac Pro workstations are incredible.  Their displays (while overpriced) are the best there is.  Etc etc. 

But Apple has failed so incredibly miserably on one very important piece of Pro equipment.  For anyone who needs to use a 30-inch monitor with any new Mac, you’ll need to purchase a certain notoriously horrific Apple part – the DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter.

Here’s the timeline of events for this particular piece of …. Apple equipment:

Early-October 2008 – Unibody MacBook Pros released.  Instead of having the built in ability to work on 30-inch monitors like previous DVI MacBooks and G4 Powerbooks, the new products use a new DisplayPort technology.  Apple sells the new solution, DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter, for $100.  It is relatively bulky and requires the use of a USB port to power the device.  People with 30-inch displays who want a new MacBook have no choice to to pay the extra $100 for the spawling mess of wires.  The product is supposed to arrive by the end of the month.

November 2008 – product is delayed for 2 months until after Christmas.  Those who bought new Apple MacBooks anticipating the adapter to be shipped within weeks are now forced to wait almost 3 months without using their $1000+ monitors.


Late December 2008 – Apple finally ships the DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter with Firmware 1.01.  Immediately, Apple’s message boards are alight with complaints of distortion without a known cause.  The issue goes on for months.  Apple tells people with 3rd party displays that the Displayport adapter doesn’t support them.  People with Cinema displays are sent new adapters which still don’t work.

March 2009 – Apple isues firmware version 1.2 replacements to affected users alongside new Mac Pro/DisplayPort and Mini/DisplayPort introductions.  Users of 1.2 adapters are still having problems.

Today –  Those with 30-inch displays (often high end customers) are still getting the distortion (though it has been reduced somewhat), almost a full year after the DisplayPort is introduced in Unibody MacBooks.  Apple has never issued a reason why these parts are defective, nor totally fixed the problem, nor issued an official recall. 

Currently on Apple’s Store, it is hard to find someone who has had success with the product Third party retailers are no different.  It is a dud.  And not just a failure but a failure to Apple’s most high end subset of customers.

Those with 1.01 firmware devices can get a 1.02 device exchange from Apple free after spending an hour or so on the phone with Apple support  – who incidentlly claim no knowledge of such issues.  They can also make a reservation at a genius bar at an Apple Store to get an exchange part.

In my 25 years with Apple products, this is by far the worst experience I’ve ever had. 


iPod Nano video vs. Flip

In the battle for the low end video recorder, Apple’s iPod nano is staking its claim vs. the Flip. But is the video out of the Nano as good as the Flip?  NewTeeVee did a side by side and you can see there are some differences:

While the Nano is good for its size, there are obvious areas where the Flip and its bigger lens grab better quality video. Perhaps this is the reason that Apple kept this camera out of the iPod touch?

iTunes U coming to AppleTV, more?

AppleTV day continues here at 9to5mac…Loopinsight has found some localization strings inside AppleTV which refer to iTunesU syncing.  Currently, AppleTV doesn’t play content from iTunesU which leads them to believe that there is an update to AppleTV arriving in the near future. 

While this isn’t a monumental update in functionality, it does mean that something (anything?!) more may be put into the AppleTV in Apple’s future.  Perhaps AppleTV will see and additional life as a university dorm kiosk or a medium to communication for eLearning.

Many have wondered what is in store for Apple’s hobby, whether it is going to turn into a home gaming system, an App Store compatible WebTV, or simply be shelved.  We think this might be a good sign that there are some more good updates in the pipe.


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Apple page describes its home work opportunity

Apple has at last published a dedicated page recruiting home workers to add their strengths to its tech-support provision.

The company in May began recruiting home workers to act as remote tech support operatives, offering numerous benefits (and pay) to tech-savvy users able to deliver their services across a 40-hour week.

The dedicated page (which currently only seeks an operative in Kennesaw, GA), bids to interested potential recruits as follows: “What if you could enjoy all the comforts of home while working with the coolest new technology? What if you could tap into great employee benefits without even leaving your bedroom? What if that job also happens to be with America’s technology innovator? Now you can redefine work – your way – as an Apple At-Home Expert. Welcome to your future.”

The job involves providing telephone-based tech support to customers having problems. In typical Apple style, it offers numerous benefits, and ends, “You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by working from home for a green company. You can wear your bunny slippers to work, every day. You’ll redefine work.”

In May, it was reported Apple is seeking 450 such operatives, with ads then appearing through some ads networks and recruitment websites.

iTunes 9 audio, streaming problems claimed

Initial problems with use of iTunes 9 are beginning to emerge, now the software has emerged from internal testing into a wider user base.

The first problem is described within a series of posts on Apple’s discussions forum, where customers claim some loss in audio clarity once iTunes 9 is installed.

As described, users complain that bass-heavy audio played back through the software is muddy or muffled, a problem they have not experienced before. Others complain at loss of clarity and detail when playing existing music files.

However, some customers are denying this, saying music playback has markedly improved.

The second problem appears more common. Customers are complaining that iTunes 9 appears to suffer from intermittent drops when streaming music to AirTunes using an Airport Express or an Apple TV.

That problem isn’t consistent, not everyone is complaining of it, but it has been reported and experienced by at least one user at 9to5Mac. It appeared first in the days following installation of iTunes 9, and doesn’t appear to relate to the strength or otherwise of a user’s WiFi connection.

Some claim the problem emerged on upgrading to Snow Leopard, but we’ve seen situations in which these dropped connections are occurring on systems not running that OS.

Some report success in fixing this issue by simply selecting ‘multiple speakers’ in iTunes, in which music is pumped out of the Mac’s speakers as well as via iTunes. A year-old Apple tech note describes other potential approaches to solve this problem.

All of this appears to imply that for better or worse, iTunes 9 has changed the AirTunes sound output.

Apple slashes Apple TV prices, abandons 40GB model

We were curious, now we’re convinced Apple has some big, big plans for Apple TV – the company this morning dumped the 40GB model of the product and slashed the cost of the 160GB version of its TV set-top box. (or it might just be component price drops)

The company has slashed prices on the product, too. The US Apple Store now offers the 160GB model at $229 – that’s $100 less than it cost yesterday, and follows Amazon’s move to slash prices on the product, as we reported last week.

This price discount follows hot on the heels of revelations the company’s new iTunes LP/Extras format supports the resolution output by the Apple TV so closely we’re becoming convinced at some future plan for the product.

The news also follows another recent revelation that new Apple TV SKUs were being reported among resellers – could the new SKU simply refer to Apple’s plan to cut the range down to one – cheaper – model?

Meanwhile, games industry chiefs seem moderately convinced Apple will extend its success in mobile gaming to a raft of differing products at some point, potentially including its touch sensitive tablet, which has been long-speculated at at this point.

Via: MacRumors

Apple's iTunes Extras/LP aims at high-def, alternate DVD for Apple TV, tablet

Apple’s all-new iTunes Extras/LP format appears aimed at high-resolution devices, including Macs, PCs, and potentially in future, the Apple TV and iPod tablet.

The format is developed using tools Apple’s christened TuneKit, a JavaScript framework that’s perfectly capable of delivering Adobe Flash-like media sequences, without Flash, Roughly Drafted first informed us.

Apple’s extended media delivers its content at a width and height of 1,280-x-720 – exactly the same resolution as video output through an HDTV using an Apple TV. It’s also potentially high-res enough for an Apple tablet device.

The limitation of this format is it doesn’t yet play on an iPhone or an iPod touch. And while it can scale down for playback on a MacBook’s 13-inch screen, it’s clearly targeted at full native HD.

“iTunes Extras supply the missing link between Apple TV and the DVD: a TV-friendly user interface presenting rich interactive bonus content,” Roughly Drafted writes.

Just as Apple built its MobileMe apps using the SproutCore framework, TuneKit provides media developers with a familiar JavaScript framework for creating interactive bonus materials.

Developer Jay Robinson has done a very thorough kick at the tyres of the new format, uncovering a series of nuggets, including proof the format saw some changes during its pre-release development and the revelation that the software contains no DRM, reflecting the industry’s more liberal attitude to paying customers.

Also interesting – the new format renders in WebKit, so you can visualise a wave of creative expression as fans and artists use Apple’s new – and free – format to create immersive multimedia experiences for playback through a compliant Web browser (which includes Google Chrome, by the way).

The lack of a licensing fee and the relatively non-complex nature of creating content using Apple’s solution has driven one developer to speculate, “iTunes will soon establish a record amount of computers on which WebKit is the conveyor of premium Web experience. It won’t be long until WebKit rules the PC world too.”

We don’t believe Apple’s plan stops here. We’re speculating the company has already put together software to enable selected iPhone game developers to build products capable of playback at 1,280-x-720.

We anticipate the next Apple TV software release may introduce support for some of these elements, including a browser capable of handling content built using the new iTunes Extras/LP formats. We expect some selected games to also be made available, once Apple figures out how to create a fast gaming interface (will that USB port at the back become something?)

More importantly, we suggest Apple has focused on this work in order to ensure some of its existing customers already have content of the right kind and quality for immediate playback by early adopters of its forthcoming tablet product range.

Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster recently predicted sales of 6.6 million Apple TV’s by the end of this year. Munster also predicted launch this year of new Apple TV hardware equipped with a TV input and DVR functionality.

He said: “We expect Apple to design a connected television over the next two years (launching in 2011) with DVR functionality built in. These recorded shows could then sync with Macs, iPhones and iPods over a wireless network. The device would push Apple further into the digital living room with interactive TV, music, movie, and gaming features. With its iTunes ecosystem, Apple could develop a unique TV without any set-top-boxes or devices attached.”

While you wait to see if this is true, you may want to explore Amazon’s currently discounted Apple TV.

The Steve Jobs diet, chocolate ice cream and lots of Italian

We all know Apple CEO Steve Jobs is eating lots of ice cream at the moment, now we’ve even learned which ice cream he likes the best.

SetteB.IT has set its best sleuths to work to uncover this information, revealing that along with lashings of good Italian food (well, it’s an Italian site) he also likes to chomp his way through a decent portion of vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

According to the report, super-secret sources in the Apple canteen have seen the legendary tech industry leader make a hard choice between dark chocolate ice cream and vanilla.

Also seems the former vegetarian has moved to adopting a pescetarian diet, eating seafood risotto, fish soup, salmon and sushi. Kind of like what this particular writer eats, also a pescetarian.

It does potentially strike us that perhaps Jobs should just write his own autobiography, rather than have elements of his life revealed willy-nilly. We know his life story and the evolution of his thinking would make interesting reading for decades to come. And we’d rather he got the choice to write it in his own way.