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OS X 10.10.2 Includes Fix for 'Thunderstrike' Hardware Exploit Affecting Macs

Apple is readying a fix in OS X 10.10.2 for the so-called "Thunderstrike" hardware exploit targeting Macs equipped with Thunderbolt ports, iMore has learned. According to the report, Apple patched the vulnerability by making code changes in the upcoming software update that prevent a Mac's bootrom from being replaced or rolled back to a previous state in which it could be attacked.
To secure against Thunderstrike, Apple had to change the code to not only prevent the Mac's boot ROM from being replaced, but also to prevent it from being rolled back to a state where the attack would be possible again. According to people with access to the latest beta of OS X 10.10.2 who are familiar with Thunderstrike and how it works, that's exactly the deep, layered process that's been completed.
Thunderstrike is a serious vulnerability discovered earlier this year by security researcher Trammell Hudson, enabling an attacker to replace a Mac's bootrom with malicious code without a user knowing. Since the malicious code is stored in a low level inaccessible to the user, the problem would remain even if the bootrom was replaced.

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The proof-of-concept attack is limited in scope, however, as an attacker would require physical access to the Mac or savvy social engineering skills in order to trick a user into attacking his or her Mac themselves. Apple has already addressed the issue in its latest hardware, including the iMac with Retina 5K Display and new Mac mini.

OS X 10.10.2 has been in pre-release testing for over two months and should be made available to the public in the coming days. The most recent OS X 10.10.2 beta was seeded to developers for testing last Wednesday. In addition to the Thunderstrike fix, the upcoming software update addresses security vulnerabilities exposed by Google's Project Zero security team last week.

According to 9to5Mac, the latest OS X Yosemite release will also add iCloud Drive in Time Machine and resolve issues related to Wi-Fi, VoiceOver and security. In particular, a recently identified glitch causing Spotlight on OS X to expose system information to spammers through remote content loading will reportedly be patched. Safari will also gain improved performance and security.

No public instances of Thunderstrike attacks have yet to be reported.

Related roundup: OS X Yosemite

Rumored 'iPad Pro' and Companion Stylus Imagined in New Renderings

Following an influx of rumors surrounding the "iPad Pro" and a possible stylus accessory launching around the same time, well-known 3D modeler and designer Martin Hajek has created a series of concept renderings for each device on his blog.

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Hajek's models include several details rumored for the iPad Pro, which has been claimed to carry a 12.2 - 12.9 inch display and fall in line with the rounded design of the current iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3. The renderings are based on some design drawings that surfaced last November, with Hajek noting the design brings back the larger bezels seen in earlier-generation iPads. Consistent with the schematics and other rumors, he also places speakers on the top and bottom and edges of the device, allowing for stereo sound when used in landscape orientation.

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Otherwise, the iPad Pro sticks by most of the current-generation standbys, including volume rockers on the right side of the device, a lock button on the top right, a Lightning charger on its bottom center, and a Touch ID capacitive home button sitting in its normal central position.

Beyond the iPad Pro itself, Hajek also imagines a possibility for Apple's rumored in-house stylus. Borrowing "the design language of the iPad Pro", he added in a capacitive +/- slider for additional operations, and also elements of the Apple Watch as well, including biometric sensors and a digital crown. While the stylus renderings are interesting, a lack of leaks or even specific details about the accessory means the images are not based on any actual information.

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The new renderings show off the iPad Pro mostly in the Silver option, though it's likely to receive the other two usual color options of Space Gray and Gold. The latest rumors suggest the iPad Pro may launch sometime in the late spring or early summer of this year. The full suite of renderings featuring the iPad Pro and stylus can be found on Hajek's blog.

Related roundup: iPad Pro

Apple's AuthenTec Acquisition Left Nexus 6 Without a Fingerprint Sensor

The dimple on the back of Motorola's Nexus 6 would have featured a Touch ID-like fingerprint sensor if Apple had not acquired sensor firm AuthenTec in 2012, according to former Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Woodside states the company had plans to include the finger-sensing feature in the Nexus 6, which was launched late last year, but due to Apple's poaching of "the best supplier" for the technology and other suppliers not meeting quality expectations, Motorola decided to remove the feature before launch.

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“The secret behind that is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier. So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren’t there yet,” says Woodside. Nonetheless, he adds, the addition of fingerprint recognition, “wouldn’t have made that big a difference.”
Woodside, now CEO of Dropbox, expresses relief at freedom from these "uncontrollable market forces" in his new position. "We're not trying to serve ads or sell hardware," he told The Telegraph.

Apple's introduction of AuthenTec-based Touch ID on the iPhone 5s sparked much interest in fingerprint-sensing technology, and the company continues to work to improve upon the technology. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus introduced a more sensitive version of the sensor and it is now being used to authenticate purchases made with the company's new Apple Pay mobile payments service.

Samsung to Produce Majority of Apple's A9 Chips for Next-Generation iPhone

Samsung will be the main supplier of Apple's upcoming A9 chip that will power the next-generation iPhone, reports South Korean newspaper Maeil Business (via Reuters). The newspaper notes that Samsung will supply around 75% of chips for the next iPhone, and that the processors will be produced at the company's factory in Austin, Texas.

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Apple's A8 chip

Last month, a report from Korea's ET News said that Samsung had begun work on the processor in Texas. Previous reports noted that Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) would be producing the A9 chip, although Samsung was chosen to be the primary supplier in a deal that was said to be worth billions. BusinessKorea reported last month that Apple would be relying more heavily on Samsung for iPhone 6 and Apple Watch components including RAM, NAND flash storage, and batteries.

Apple's A9 chip is expected to power the iPhone 6s and presumably the next-generation iPad Air and iPad mini. Apple is also expected to launch a larger-screened iPad Pro at some point this year, although that device has been rumored to utilize Apple's A8X processor.

Related roundups: iPhone 6, iPhone 6s (2015)

Apple Reported to Begin Shipping Apple Watch in March, 12-Inch MacBook Air in Early 2015

Apple will begin shipping the Apple Watch in March and will also look to launch its new 12-inch MacBook Air during this quarter, according to a new report by KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo. The analyst also predicted that iPhone shipments would beat expectations for Q1 2015 with over 61 million units shipped, while iPad shipments are expected to total to 10 million units.

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Kuo notes that Apple may reveal more details about the Apple Watch before its official launch, revealing specifics on battery life and the start of pre-orders. Most components of the Apple Watch will see high shipments during the quarter, but other key components are expected to see low production yields which may cause a constrained supply. Kuo predicts that Apple will ship 2.8 million Apple Watch units in Q1 2015, and his estimate for a March launch falls in line with previous reports.

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Rendering of 12-inch MacBook Air done by Martin Hajek

Kuo's estimate for a Q1 2015 launch of the new 12-inch MacBook Air falls in line with a report earlier this month which stated that Apple supplier Quanta Computer was ramping up production of the notebook for a release this quarter. The 12-inch MacBook Air is expected to feature a new ultra-thin, fan-less design with a high resolution Retina display and a low-power Intel Core M processor. The notebook is also said to be one of the first to take advantage of the new reversible USB Type C connector, which may also be used for charging.

Related roundups: MacBook Air, Apple Watch

Apple 'Excited' About HomeKit Partners Despite Slow Rollout

It's been more than six months since Apple first introduced HomeKit at its June 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference, but HomeKit-compatible products have yet to hit store shelves and may not do so until this spring, almost a year after Apple first detailed its home automation system.

HomeKit's launch has gone slower than expected, and according to sources that spoke to Re/code, the two major reasons were a "slower-than-expected" launch of the HomeKit MFi program, which began in November, and the late launch of chip specifications, which weren't sent out to chip makers until October. Apple's high performance standards for hardware manufacturers and chip makers are also said to be a factor.

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Elgato's upcoming line of HomeKit-compatible products

January's Consumer Electronics Show saw the debut of several HomeKit-compatible products, including the iDevices smart plug, Elgato's range of connected home devices, and the Schlage Sense smart lock, all of which may begin hitting store shelves in a few months. Apple gave a statement to Re/code on the upcoming HomeKit products, expressing the company's excitement.
"We are excited to have a growing number of partners committed to bringing HomeKit products to market, including several announced at CES," said Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller. "HomeKit offers a set of common protocols making it easier for customers to control HomeKit-enabled accessories using Siri or iOS apps. HomeKit is built on a secure foundation with end-to-end encryption which provides customers a secure connection between their iPhone or iPad and HomeKit accessory. "
HomeKit was announced more than six months ago, but many details about the home automation platform remain murky on the consumer end. It is not quite clear if and how it will interface with existing products or if consumers will be expected to purchase all new connected home items to take advantage of HomeKit. Details about the HomeKit MFi specification that leaked out earlier this week, however, suggest few existing products will be able to be used with HomeKit.

Apple's OS X 10.10.2 to Fix Security Vulnerabilities Exposed by Google's Project Zero

Google's security team, Project Zero, this week disclosed to the public several security vulnerabilities in OS X, some three months after the issue were shared with Apple (via Ars Technica). While Apple has not commented officially on the issues, it appears one has already been patched and iMore reports the remaining two are fixed in OS X 10.10.2, which is currently in developer testing.

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Project Zero works to discover security vulnerabilities of various operating systems and software, giving their owners 90 days notice to patch the issues before publishing their findings to the public. In their markup of Apple's OS X, problems involving memory corruption, kernel code execution, and a sandbox escape were all discovered by the team. Ars Technica notes:
At first glance, none of them appear to be highly critical, since all three appear to require the attacker to already have some access to a targeted machine. [...]

Still, the exploits could be combined with a separate attack to elevate lower-level privileges and gain control over vulnerable Macs. And since the disclosures contain proof-of-concept exploit code, they provide enough technical detail for experienced hackers to write malicious attacks that target the previously unknown vulnerabilities.
As the 90-day deadline hit during the week, the group began posting its findings online. Google's notes suggest one of the vulnerabilities was fixed with the release of OS X Yosemite, while the other two remained unaddressed.

But as pointed out by iMore, Apple's incoming OS X 10.10.2 update does indeed include fixes for the remaining two vulnerabilities exposed by Project Zero.
[B]ased on the latest build of OS X 10.10.2, seeded [Wednesday] to developers, Apple has already fixed all of the vulnerabilities listed above. That means the fixes will be available to everyone running Yosemite as soon as 10.10.2 goes into general availability.
Google's Project Zero has been disclosing significant security vulnerabilities for a number of months now, previously discovering a few significant Windows issues and sharing them online. The project shines light on much-needed fixes to various operating systems, but sometimes undercuts the point of security, as in that Windows case that's left users' systems more vulnerable with the publicized knowledge before Microsoft could properly fix it. Still, the 90-day window before public disclosure is intended to give companies time to fix the issues while also giving them incentive to do so in a timely fashion.

Apple Took Half of U.S. Phone Activations in Q4 2014 as Demand Stays Strong

Both analysts and metrics are suggesting Apple will report record-breaking iPhone sales for the just-ended December 2014 calendar quarter, and new data released today by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners reveals the Cupertino company may have set a high bar against its competitors, grabbing half of all phone activations in the United States.

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While CIRP's survey included only 500 users and thus may include a significant margin of uncertainty, the data shows Apple's U.S. activation market share increasing from 28 percent in the July-September 2014 quarter to 50 percent in the October-December quarter. The significant jump was clearly fueled by strong consumer interest in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
"The strength of the September 2014 launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus fueled Apple’s dominance in US mobile phone sales this quarter," said Josh Lowitz, Partner and CoFounder of CIRP. "Apple had virtually double the sales of Samsung, and five times that of LG. No other brand accounted for as much as 5% of US sales."
CIRP's survey also found that most of the quarter's iPhone purchases (86 percent) came from loyal Apple customers who upgraded from older iPhones. While Apple retained its customer base, Samsung and LG lost customers, with 25% of Samsung owners and 18% of LG owners who activated a new phone switching to an iPhone.

Sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus may continue to be strong in early 2015, with a high numbers of consumers intending to buy an iPhone in the next three months. According to 451 Research’s ChangeWave December survey, more than half of early adopters plan to buy an iPhone when they purchase a new phone in the next 90 days. While the number is down significantly from the previous quarter, it remains high considering the new iPhones have been available for several months already.

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"This is the highest level of Apple demand ever recorded in our smartphone survey three months after a major new release," said Andy Golub of 451 Research.
The ongoing demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus reflects growing consumer interest in larger phones with 60 percent of future buyers looking to purchase a 5-inch or larger smartphone. This 2014 figure is a significant jump from the 40 percent ChangeWave recorded in the same quarter of 2013.

Apple released the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in September 2014 with long lines for the phone and delayed ship times shortly after the phones went on sale, and Apple announced record-breaking sales of 10 million units in the first weekend of availability. Apple will announce the results for its first fiscal quarter of 2015 (fourth calendar quarter of 2014) on Tuesday, January 27. The quarterly earnings statement will be released around 1:30 PM Pacific/4:30 PM Eastern, with a conference call to discuss the report following at 2:00 PM Pacific/5:00 PM Eastern.

Related roundups: iPhone 6, iPhone 6s (2015)

Apple May Allow Product Security Inspections by Chinese Government Officials

Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly consented to security inspections of the company's products by Chinese government officials, reports The Beijing News [Via ITworld]. The inspections will look for backdoors that provide third-party access to sensitive and private data stored on Apple devices.

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These spot inspections were part of an agreement forged between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Lu Wei, director of China's State Internet Information Office. The pair met last year to talk about the security of Apple's products, including the upcoming Apple Watch. Wei expressed concerned that Apple's devices may compromise the security of the Chinese government and the privacy of Apple device owners in China.

During their conversation, Cook reportedly told Lu that Apple's devices do not contain a backdoor to share data with government entities or other third-party services. Despite these assurances, Wu supposedly insisted on these security assessments so the Chinese government can examine Apple's products firsthand.

China increasingly is an important market for Apple with sales in the Asian nation projected to continue to rise in the coming years. Apple recently confirmed plans to open five new retail locations in China over the next five weeks. The company has been heavily promoting these grand openings, making retail head Angela Ahrendts available for interview by Chinese media sources and hiring renowned calligrapher Wang Dongling to design a mural for the upcoming West Lake store in Hangzhou.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Photos of 12-Inch MacBook Air Display Show Black Glass Cover, Polished Apple Logo

Just days after a report claiming Apple supplier Quanta Computer has begun ramping up production of the upcoming 12-inch MacBook Air, Chinese site iFanr shares some photos [Google Translate] of what it says is the display assembly for the machine (via SlashGear).

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The photos depict the claimed display and metal shell from the upcoming 12-inch machine alongside both a 13-inch MacBook Pro and a 9.7-inch iPad, with its sizing appearing to measure up to previously reported dimensions. The display does, however, have two noticeable differences from current MacBook Air. First, instead of a backlit Apple logo on the back of the display assembly as is typically seen on Apple's notebooks, there is a polished metal logo more like those seen on iPads, with iFanr speculating the change could be tied to the device's thinness.

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Additionally, the display lacks the grey bezels current MacBook Air models have, instead opting for an apparently all-glass edge-to-edge cover for the display as seen on Retina MacBook Pro models. Paired with black bezels underneath, it is difficult to see where the display ends and the bezels begin unless the screen is turned on. Earlier renderings of the 12-inch MacBook Air based on information from within Apple had shown gray bezels similar to those seen on the current MacBook Air.

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Claimed 12-inch MacBook Air display assembly with 13" MacBook Pro

The 12-inch MacBook Air will reportedly have roughly the same footprint as the 11-inch MacBook Air, relying on smaller bezels to compensate for a larger display size. The comparison photos shown by iFanr demonstrate the significantly smaller footprint for the 12-inch machine compared to a 13-inch MacBook Pro

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Claimed 12-inch MacBook Air display assembly with 9.7-inch iPad

The next-generation MacBook Air is expected to feature a high-resolution display (perhaps classified as Retina) and new Broadwell Core M processors that will enable a thin, fanless design. Other reports have claimed the 12-inch MacBook Air will do away with nearly all the ports typically found on Apple's line of MacBooks, offering only a headphone jack, a pair of microphones, and a USB Type-C port that may handle both charging and external connectivity.

Related roundup: Retina MacBook Air

Apple CEO Tim Cook Earned $9.2M in Fiscal 2014, Doubling 2013 Compensation

tim_cook_headshot_glassesApple CEO Tim Cook's compensation for fiscal 2014 was $9.22 million, according to a newly released SEC filing. That breaks down to a salary of $1.7 million and non-equity incentive compensation of $6.7 million, double the $4.3M compensation he received in 2013.

Apple's newest executive hire, Angela Ahrendts, received $73 million in cash and stock. That includes a $400,000 salary, a $500,000 bonus, and $70 million in stock. Ahrendts, who joined Apple in May of 2014, was previously making $37 million at Burberry, and her offer package included an RSU award with a value of $37 million to compensate her for her unvested Burberry awards along with an RSU award of $33 million as a new Apple hire.

As for other Apple executives, Eddy Cue and Jeff Williams made over $24 million in stock awards, salary, and non-equity incentive plan compensation. Peter Oppenheimer earned $4.5 million, and Luca Maestri, Apple's new CFO, received $14 million.

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Apple had a record year under the guidance of Tim Cook, generating $182.8 billion in sales with $38.5 billion in net income in fiscal 2014, a new high for the company. According to its October forecast Apple expects to see revenue between $63.5 and $66.5 billion for the first quarter of 2015.

Apple will announce its earnings for the first fiscal quarter of 2015 on Monday, January 27. MacRumors will provide live coverage of both the earnings release and the conference call.

Apple Aiming for 19 Hours of Apple Watch Battery Life With 'Mixed Usage'

One of the biggest mysteries about the upcoming Apple Watch is its battery life. Previous rumors have hinted that it will need to be charged once a day, and Apple CEO Tim Cook himself said that users will want to charge it on a daily basis, but concrete battery life information has yet to be revealed.

New details on the Apple Watch's possible battery life have now surfaced from inside sources that spoke to 9to5Mac, revealing information on the battery life Apple was aiming for and what it may actually be able to achieve.

As of 2014, Apple was reportedly aiming for 2.5 to 4 hours of active application use with 19 hours of active/passive use, plus 3 days of pure standby time and four days if the watch was sleeping. That's somewhat in line with early rumors, which suggested Apple was targeting a three to five day battery life for the device. Though Apple was aiming for three to four days of standby time, it may only reach two to three days. Apple is hoping the Apple Watch will last for 19 hours of mixed usage, but it "may not hit that number in the first generation version."

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The Apple Watch is equipped with a tiny but powerful S1 chip, and its performance is similar to that of the A5 processor from the iPhone 4s and the iPad 2. It also has a 60-FPS Retina-class display, which, along with the S1 chip, results in a significant amount of power usage.
Apple has also been stress-testing the Apple Watch’s battery life with pre-bundled and third-party applications. Our sources say that Apple is targeting 2.5 hours of “heavy” application use, such as processor-intensive gameplay, or 3.5 hours of standard app use. Interestingly, Apple expects to see better battery life when using the Watch’s fitness tracking software, which is targeted for nearly 4 hours of straight exercise tracking on a single charge.

As Apple is positioning the Apple Watch as a timepiece, the company has conducted numerous tests to determine how long it can run purely in time-keeping modes. We’re told that the Watch should be able to display its clock face for approximately three hours, including watch ticking animations, if nothing else is done with the device.
These usage numbers make it sound like the Apple Watch will need to be charged multiple times a day, but it's unlikely that Apple Watch users will use apps and games continuously for hours, allowing the Apple Watch to last for approximately a day before needing to be charged. When not in active use, the Apple Watch goes into a battery-preserving sleep mode.

Apple originally hoped to launch the Apple Watch in late 2014, but delays with software optimization ultimately caused the company to push back the release of the device until 2015, giving it time to eke out as much battery life as possible. Apple is also said to be perfecting the Apple Watch's MagSafe charger, improving its recharging time.

Current rumors suggest the Apple Watch could launch in March of 2015, at the tail end of "early 2015." While complete pricing remains unknown, the entry-level model will sell for $349.

Related roundup: Apple Watch