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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is stingy with its information and does not take well to leaks. Apparently it’s even building a cafeteria that will be strictly Apple-only so that employees can discuss company plans without the risk of being overheard by competitors. Talk about a moat around the fort.
But consumers who line up outside stores on chilly mornings of product releases are hungry for any itsy-bitsy detail, and so, as soon as expectation of an impending product perks up, so does the rumor mill. With WWDC just around the corner, there’s even more buzz than usual, and we’ve all been hearing word of a spectacular new MacBook line, an iPhone update, and Apple’s long-awaited answer to Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire: the iPad Mini.
But with so much buzz doing the rounds — coming from product supplier sources, analysts who watch the company day in and day out, and tipsters — it can be hard to keep track, and even harder to separate the realistic from the fantastic. Of course, until Apple confirms, rumors are only rumors, but we’ve sorted them out as best anyone can to give you an idea of what to expect in the coming months.
With increasing signs that the Worldwide Developers Conference is not likely to see an iPhone launch, speculation is that the annual Apple event will play host to another major hardware release: an upgraded MacBook line. From various reports, it seems the new MacBook Pro will include a high-definition retina display like that on the new iPad, powerful Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Ivy Bridge processors that improve processing power and reduce power consumption, the Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) GeForce GT 650 M card for superior graphics, and a thinner design. Overall, it sounds like a thinner, faster, more powerful laptop with much better displays. Some reports also suggest that accompanying the new Pro line will be a cheaper version of the MacBook Air, with Barclays Capital’s Ben Reitzes writing that Apple may reduce the price of its slender laptop to $800, from the current $999.
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If there’s a laptop, it ought to come with a refreshed operating system, right? Apple is thought to be fairly close to releasing Mountain Lion, which is expected to add some features from iOS, such as Notes, Reminders, Messages, Notifications, and the Game Center, according to the Washington Post.
Apple itself has spoken of a Twitter integration and the addition of AirPlay to the Mac. The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system may also be released at WWDC, or at leased previewed.
Apple’s next iOS is said to include an in-house 3D-capable map app, with Apple possibly ending its partnership with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps. It may also have an built-in photo sharing and commenting utility, as well as better Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) integration and an improved version of Siri, Apple’s voice-based assistant program.
The next-generation iPhone is not expected before the fall, but supplier sources are talking about a larger screen, though it’s not expected to flaunt a flexible OLED display just yet. Apple is reportedly working with a new company called Japan Display, Japan’s Sharp, and South Korea’s LG Display (NYSE:LPL) on the screens. One report had also claimed the new iPhone 5 may have a changed dock connector that features fewer pins than the 30-pin option of now and a pill-like shape. Apple would, of course, have to make the phone 4G LTE-enabled with competitors such as Samsung already selling phones that can utilize the faster wireless network.
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While the third-generation iPad was only launched in March, some analysts are predicting that Apple will come out with a smaller version of the tablet to take on lower-price competitors like Amazon’s Kindle Fire and other Google Android-run tablets. Barclays’ Reitzes says a mini iPad “in the 7-inch range will boost Apple’s presence in the textbook market and in video games. We do not feel that a smaller, lower priced tablet will dilute the quality of the iPad brand and iOS ecosystem, either, despite prior comments by the company,” he wrote. A report from DigiTimes had said that Apple manufacturing partners in Taiwan were preparing for smaller iPad as well.
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Ever since Steve Jobs was reported to be thinking of a high-definition television from the company, speculation on when such a product may be launched has been growing. Last week, it was reported that the chief of Foxconn, Apple’s largest manufacturing partner, had spoken of getting ready to produce the rumored device. However, the company quickly backtracked, denying the existence of any such device. A Cult of Mac source had earlier claimed to have seen a concept and said it had Siri controls, a built-in iSight camera for making FaceTime calls, and AirPlay to let people stream music and movies from other devices.
But as always, no word from Apple yet. With the developers’ conference less than a month away, a host of other “sources” are likely to crop out with wilder and wilder rumors, but hopefully Apple will soon sort fact from fiction at its San Francisco event.
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