When is Apple going to release a Retina MacBook Air? More signs point to ‘soon’

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Following a forum post from a Chinese website, Digitimes is reporting that Apple will indeed ship a brand new MacBook Air with Retina display in the second half of this year.

The Digitimes article offers no specifics on what the new MacBook Air will feature, aside from the Retina display. A forum poster (who has a track record of accuracy) from last week said that the new model of laptop would feature a fan-less design in an even thinner form factor than the current MacBook Airs’ enclosure.

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12.9-inch iPad rumor is back with launch date, early launch for larger size iPhone included

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Mockups: T3

Rumors of a larger iPad have been bouncing around since May (complete with the world’s silliest name). They gained credibility (minus the name) when reported by the WSJ in July, and our poll certainly suggests there would be demand for it, with 24 percent of 9to5Mac readers declaring that they love the idea. There have, however, so far been few supporting specifics.

Digitimes is not always the most credible of sources, but it is today suggesting that the 12.9-inch iPad will be manufactured by Quanta Computer, launched in October and targeted at the education market, citing its usual anonymous “supply chain sources” …  Read more

Apple lists Quanta Computer in Fremont California as Final Assembler for Macs

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In a recent update to its supplier responsibility pages, Apple has listed Quanta Computer USA as a final assembler of its Macs.

Final Assembly Facilities

These are facilities where Apple products are assembled and packaged for distribution.

One of the locations of Quanta’s final assembly is 44350 Nobel Drive Fremont, Calif., indicating that some Macs are or will be built in the facility.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook noted in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams late last year that Apple would invest $100 million to move at least one of its product lines to the United States. Quanta has assembled Macs for Apple for a long time in Asia.

Fremont may sound familiar, because we recorded more than a few of the new iMacs originated from Fremont after the November launch. These iMacs were delivered via FedEx and had the ‘Assembled in the USA’ moniker not only on the package but also on the actual machines. It now appears that Apple is confirming these products are indeed being assembled in Fremont.

Quanta, it should be noted, has U.S. assembly plants in both California and Tennessee. Previous package slips and Origin labels below.

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FLA president says Apple/Foxconn agreement raises bar, but will it raise prices?

The results of the Fair Labor Association’s investigation into Apple’s suppliers beginning with three Foxconn facilities officially published yesterday. While finding excessive working hours and many violations of Chinese labor law, Foxconn and Apple agreed to reduce workweek and overtime hours within Chinese law to 49 hours per week and 36 overtime hours per month based on the FLA’s recommendations. Foxconn will also hire tens of thousands of new employees and implement a compensation package to make sure workers’ salaries remain the same amid reduced working hours.

In the interview above with Reuters, head of the FLA Auret van Heerden talked about the investigation and noted the agreement could set a new standard for working conditions throughout China. One unanswered question is whether the agreement will lead to higher prices for consumers (which is not necessarily a bad thing)…

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Pegatron: Apple hasn’t informed us about forthcoming labor audits

Apple’s contract manufacturer Pegatron Technology of Taiwan is unaware of any forthcoming labor inspections at its Asian plants because its client has not officially tipped them about labor audits, according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Lin tells to Bloomberg. Lin was reacting to yesterday’s announcement by Apple of California that the first audits in cooperation with the Fair Labor Association have started at Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China.

Pegatron Corp., a maker of Apple Inc.’s iPhones, said it hasn’t been informed of any pending inspections of factory work conditions by labor groups, a day after the U.S. company said checks would start this spring. Pegatron is aware of Apple’s corporate social responsibility policies, Charles Lin, chief financial officer of the Taipei-based company, said by telephone today. The client hasn’t informed him about any upcoming audits, Lin said.

Apple previously confirmed that audits at Pegatron and Quanta Computer, the company assembling Mac notebooks, are due this spring. The company said the results of FLA audits will be made available on its website at the end of March. In the wake of the Foxconn scandal, a month ago Apple became the first technology company admitted to the FLA. That announcement followed Apple’s release of 2012 Supplier Responsibility Report that for the first time named 156 companies currently supplying components for Apple products, which left only three percent of suppliers absent from the list.

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Apple’s buddy Foxconn to make a tablet for Amazon?

Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes quotes unnamed industry sources who claim Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer for gadgets, will produce a rumored Android-driven tablet from Amazon, said to sport a 10.1-inch display, with shipments to begin in 2012 at the earnest. Quanta Computer, another contract manufacturer from Asia, has already begun shipping a smaller seven-inch device to Amazon, the report notes:

Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry) has reportedly landed orders for 10.1-inch tablet PCs from Amazon with shipments to begin in 2012, while Quanta Computer has begun shipping a 7-inch model to Amazon. Foxconn declined to comment on market speculation.

Foxconn of course is Apple’s long-time manufacturer so it comes as a surprise that Apple did not exercise its influence and billions to block rivals from tapping Foxconn’s manufacturing potentials. That’s not entirely unheard of, however…

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