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  • The Apple Hardware Report: Believe it or Not!

    September 26th, 2006

    It’s a little late for the silly season, and the unannounced vapor product of the year, the iPhone, is still missing in action. But that hasn’t stopped some people from suggesting that there is more than meets the eye to some of Apple’s potential plans in the foreseeable future.

    Now you just know that the iPod will get better, that there will be faster and faster Intel-based Macs over time. Apple’s latest and greatest solution to stretch its reach to your living room, the iTV (or whatever it’ll be called) has already been demonstrated, although there could be features that you and I won’t know about until it is really released in 2007.

    But there is more, and I will provide a few links for you to consider, and then a few comments about whether the stories have any traction. But, no, the Night Owl isn’t going to go out on the limb with any more one dollar bets one way or the other. I don’t want to get a reputation about such things, even if the risk to my modest bank account is minimal.

    Take the Apple flat-panel TV. The what? Well, according to one published report, Apple can really gain traction in your living room if it could build your next, or your first, high definition television. Now I want to remind these people that the consumer electronics stores are just brimming with such devices, from lots of manufacturers that are both large and small. This isn’t an emerging market in the sense that the music player market was when the iPod debuted.

    Yes, choosing LCD or plasma might be a tad confusing, although the latter tends to have a larger screen, and the quality differences are becoming less apparent. Yes, making sense of the various complicated specs, the HDMI ports and all the rest, might seem daunting, but they are fundamentally commodity products. The “glass” is all sourced from the same handful of Asian manufacturers, and the core designs are more similar than different.

    Maybe Apple could make a difference in design and usability, but this is hardly entering a market at the ground floor.

    In recent weeks, I’ve suggested that Apple will use the next generation, or 802.11n, technology to stream high definition video through the iTV. Now there are stories that the AirPort chipset used in the newest iMac is already “n” ready. The report has it that if you install a prerelease build of Windows Vista under Boot Camp, the iMac’s wireless components are identified as a “Broadcom 802.11n Network Adapter.”

    If this is true, it would seem that all Apple has to do is update its AirPort drivers and firmware and your Wi-Fi speeds will soar; that is, if you are connected to a computer or base station that supports the same draft standard.

    Understand that the technology is very much a moving target. Apple might indeed have a jump in this new arena, but they may simply be benefiting from the same parts used in other recent Intel-based products. However, it’s premature to assume anything, and the most important factor is whether this alleged new wireless chip can actually be upgraded to the final standard.

    Finally, less than a year since the first release of a MacIntel, there’s a new furor that Mac users may actually find an AMD inside in the near future. The reports are based on the recent optimistic statements from AMD CEO Hector Ruiz that Apple will use its parts “at some point in the future.”

    Of course, with AMD’s acquisition of ATI, that may already be true in one sense.

    In any case, this is one story that might have a chance of coming true someday. Right now, the consensus is that Intel has a leg up over AMD with its newest chip designs. That could, of course, change over time, and so it would seem sensible that Apple would pick and choose among x86-compatible processors depending on their needs at the moment.

    In addition, I’ve no doubt that AMD was also actively courting Apple during the mad dash to ditch Freescale and IBM. If, and I say if, Intel has problems meeting its roadmap at any time in the future, Apple will have an alternative. Anything beyond that is pure speculation.

    And since Apple won’t comment on future products unless there is an important strategic reason to do so, all we’re left with is gossip, at least for now.

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