Apple Rumor Roundup: New MacBook Airs, The Perilous Future Of MobileMe, And More

Apple fanatics are timing the arrival of the new MacBook Airs, mulling the meaning of the new browser-only boot, and pondering the future prospects of MobileMe and iWeb in the iCloud era. Plus more on new iPhone cameras and this year’s somewhat disappointing Back To School promo.



New MacBook Airs

We’ve wondered when the MacBook Air was going to get some attention with new CPUs and Thunderbolt, and now it seems they’re pegged for a “late June” arrival. 380,000 units will be shipped this month, with production ramping up slightly after that. The same source for this rumor also suggests that an iPad 3 with screen resolution six times higher than current models is in the works–but it’s plausible these stats could relate instead to a misunderstanding about possible higher-resolution displays for the next iPad which we’ve covered before.

New Mac Mini Servers, Mac Pros

Reports are that the supplies of Mac Mini Servers and Mac Pros are getting very tight in stores, and there’s no imminent re-stock due. This is typical before an entire Apple line gets refreshed, but we’re in the dark as to what may be en route. Earlier rumors had hinted at a smaller, possibly rack-mountable Mac Pro, which may suggest there’s no room in the Apple catalog for a future Mini Server.

OS X “Chrome Mode” Safari-Only Boot

One thing we’ve just recently learned about OS X Lion is that it can boot into a browser-only mode. This has the tech world aflutter with suggestions that Apple‘s aping Google Chrome OS in a way, but the explanation is actually more simple. A Safari-only boot mode, perhaps enabled by default if a user password is incorrectly entered, could allow Apple’s “Find My Mac” system to more quickly locate a stolen or lost PC–simply because it could find a network and “ping” its location as the browser pops up. It also enables a “kiosk mode,” where Macs could find more tightly-controlled uses in schools, stores, or businesses.


The Future Of iCloud And MobileMe

Much gnashing of teeth has surrounded the future of some of Apple’s MobileMe services in an iCloud era. Steve Jobs sent one of his brief emails to say “yep,” no new version of iWeb is incoming, suggesting web hosting on iCloud is not possible like it was in MobileMe. Joshua Topolsky of ThisIsMyNext was told by Apple there’d be no web apps for calendar, emails, or photos in iCloud the way there are in MobileMe … but other camps have heard differently, and some evidence has surfaced that there will indeed be web apps and they’re already under testing. Watch this space: The news is likely to develop for months.

iPhone 5 Testing, 8-Megapixel Cameras, Panoramic Mode

We know the iPhone 5 is now arriving later than usual, as it’s not been shown even as a preview by Apple. But there’s word it’s now in advanced testing, and is being carried around by field testers (who are presumably under threat of excommunication or possibly dismemberment if they leave a prototype in a bar). Suppliers Omnivision and Sony are tipped to provide 8-megapixel cameras for it, up from the current 5-megapixels, and a purported leak of data from the UAE suggests it may even support LTE protocols.

Meanwhile, iOS 5 is tipped, probably in combination with the iPhone 5 (and maybe iPhone 4, too) to sport a native panoramic camera app, which will surely grate on developers of existing apps that do the same trick.

Back-To-School Promo


Apple’s been later than usual revealing its Back To School promotion. In the past, Apple has given away free hardware like iPods, ususally worth around $200, with the purchase of a Mac, to qualifying students. It’s a nice way to drive sales and free up inventory before the usual fall upgrade to the iPods. But rumors now suggest the Back To School promo for 2011 will only come with a $100 iTunes Gift card, which won’t buy an iPod Touch and is aimed at iTunes music and video content.

iPod Updates?

The new iPhone update schedule would seem to clash with Apple’s usual iPod refresh, and the fact they may not be in the Back To School promo could hint Apple’s delaying an upgrade to its iPods. It makes sense, as they’re now diminishing in financial importance to the company.

[Image: Flickr user johnny_d_mitchell]

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I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)