June 20, 2012

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The Tumblr blogging service has launched a completely revamped version of its iPhone and iPod touch application. The new Tumblr application is re-built from the ground up and includes a redesigned dashboard interface for organizing blog posts, high-resolution image support, offline mode, and more. The new application is more intuitive and the process of writing and posting Tumblr posts is shorter. We’ve been testing the new app for a short amount of time and it is incredibly well built. Here are some of the other new features:

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In late January, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced to employees that a new major Mac and iPad discount program for employees would kickoff at some point in late June of this year. Keeping that promise, Apple, today, has started the new employee Mac and iPad discount program. Apple employees are able to purchase Macs with a $500 discount (excluding the Mac mini) and iPads with a $250 through Apple’s internal employee portal. These discounts come on top of the already-existing 25% discounts. (By the way, bad news for employees: Retina Display MacBook Pros apparently aren’t on the purchase list at this time)

As we reported in January, employees are able to take advantage of this offer every three years, and employees must be with the company for at least three months. Separately, as we previously reported, Apple has moved up scheduled retail raises from September to late June. Some store employees have already been rewarded their raises and we are hearing of raises up to 30% of current salaries. The general average seems to be between $2 and $4. This average changes depending on store performance and the performance of individuals within each stores.

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Arizona’s iStores close up shop as another Apple reseller bites the dust

Liquidation sale

Apple Stores are an unmitigated success. Unfortunately, that is bad news for those who sold Apple products before the stores came along. Yet another Apple retailer is closing this month, as Arizona’s iStore Owner Steve Walker told patrons on its website.

Walker cites an unfair playing field provided by Apple:

“We had a lot of fun over the years working so closely with the Apple product and loyal Apple product users. Unfortunately, since the introduction of the Apple Corporate Stores in 2001, dealers have continually struggled with fair inventory allocation by Apple along with a horribly uneven playing field in relation to the independent’s ability to service our customers in the same way the Apple Stores are able to provide service. As an example, Apple will swap iPhones, iPads, iPods and oftentimes Macs that are not functioning properly, but do not provide the ability for Independent’s to offer the same level of service. These problems existed even though iStore has consistently met all metrics as measured by Apple to be a distinguished and high-performing Apple Specialist and AppleCare Premium Service Provider. For these reasons and others, I have made the tough choice to close our stores.

The note on the website is pasted below:

To Our Many Valued Customers and Friends,

We have enjoyed assisting you with all your Apple needs over the past 17 years here in Arizona. I feel blessed to have been able to provide for my family while being entangled in all the cool Apple products. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with some of the most talented Apple people around – those who have helped you with everything from your complex issues to your simple problems or helped you figure out exactly which Mac, iPod or iPad was right for you.

With the gradual opening of what is now 5 corporate Apple Stores here in the Phoenix area and corresponding changes at Apple with their reseller relations, Apple has made it nearly impossible to sustain profitability while providing great customer service. As many of you have experienced (most recently with the 3rd Gen iPad), Apple consistently withholds product from their independent dealers while providing abundantly to their own corporate Apple Stores. For this reason and many others that would take too long to enumerate and, quite frankly, you probably don’t care about, we have chosen to permanently close our stores.

As is the case with all businesses, we have made our fair share of mistakes. We could have done better at many things. If you were ever caught in the crossfire of those situations, I hope you were made whole by us (except the crazy ones like that guy that expected us to give him a refund for a product he purchased at our competitor’s store).

I thank you for your kindness, tolerance, patience, humanity, business and friendship over the years.

Sincerely,

Steve Walker

President

iStore

The question is: Should Apple have some compassion for retailers that have been with Apple for decades? Or is this just part of business?

Tom Bihn Ristretto bag for 11-inch MacBook Air or iPad review

The new Ristretto by Tom Bihn is a regularly talked about case made from a strong ballistic 1050 nylon and its stiffness gives it a very structured and detailed look. Great care has been taken in making the bags, and you can see this in the stitching detail; the bag feels really well made, and looks great.

When opened, the Ristretto presents you with an alternative color inside which is refreshing.There are 3 compartments – 2 main foam divided inserts which can give you quick access to a MacBook Air or if you are carrying an iPad (or similar). In terms of these two compartments, the foam divider is very strong. The third compartment is a zipped pocket at the front which, when opened, has pen pockets and room for chargers. The ruggedness gives the Ristretto a divided look, being part “man bag” crossed with “messenger bag”.

The strap is comfortable even when the bag is loaded to the tip with gadgets and the buckle on the front is also very strong. The tight buckle is important for those who like to pack their bags with several gadgets and not have them fall out. Some other bags that we have tested have unreliable buckles that are prone to snapping.

While we never reviewed the first Ristretto, we understand that the bag has been redesigned mainly to adapt the pockets and the way the cover flap works, but if this was indeed a problem previously, this did not ever happen on this updated model.

The bag comes in a choice of color and also other configurations for example with the strap. The ‘standard strap’ and a sturdier ‘absolute” option are a worthy upgrade. The color options are blue, black, steel, and two shades of green. These all come combined with other colors for $125. We recommend this bag for those who want a stylish place to keep their smaller computers (11 inch Airs or iPads) and some smaller accessories. The main attraction to the bag is its stylish design, colorful options, and excellent build quality.

According to several local reports, Foxconn’s Terry Gou made some pretty bold statements at Hon Hai Precision’s annual meeting of shareholders on Monday. While there are a few translations, all seem to claim Gou urged customers to wait for the iPhone 5, “saying that the new model will put Samsung’s Galaxy III to shame.” A report from Focus Taiwan quoted China Times:

Gou said he has made it a lifetime goal to defeat Samsung — “a company with a track record of snitching on its competitors.”… He was referring to Samsung’s action in 2010 of snitching on four Taiwanese companies in an investigation by the European Commission on price-fixing in the flat panel industry…Samsung was exempted from the investigation by serving as a “tainted witness.” … Gou also urged consumers to wait for the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5, saying that the new model will put Samsung’s Galaxy III to shame.

Gou also apparently claimed that Foxconn’s Sakai plant “has an exclusive agreement with Corning Inc., an American manufacturer of glass, on large panel supply,” and his “competitors will not be able to secure any such material if they wished to.” We are going to wait to see if Foxconn issues a statement regarding these quotes, because we know a couple of stories in recent months misquoted Gou… expand full story

Picture by Gabor Cselle

While Apple already recognized in its support documents for Thunderbolt that the new Retina MacBook Pro supports up to three external displays (as pictured above from Other World Computing’s recent tests of the setup), it has yet to confirm official support for the refreshed Ivy Bridge MacBook Airs. Today, we get word that the new MacBook Airs indeed support two external Thunderbolt displays thanks to the recent “Mac OS X Lion Update (Mid-2012 MacBook Air)” update that “improves external display support.” Apple has not updated the device’s specs page to reflect support for dual external Thunderbolt monitors.

The image below from OWC shows two iMacs running at 2,560-by-1,440 as Thunderbolt displays, and it shows an LG monitor at 1,920-by-1,200 via HDMI. The post noted “moving images and media didn’t create any lag and we were able to play video on all four displays simultaneously.” This makes the new MacBooks the first to support up to four displays at their native resolution. Note: You could theoretically add even more space with AOC DisplayLink displays.

The refreshed MacBook Air with dual external Thunderbolt displays is pictured above, while the MacBook Pro with three displays is below: expand full story

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