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Apple may have accidentally tipped its hand on two imminent hardware releases this week, with support pages from the company referencing both new Mac mini and 27-inch iMac models listed with a "mid-2014" launch.
A reference to an updated Mac mini was first discovered on Tuesday, and French site ConsoMac chimed in on Wednesday with a separate mention of a mid-2014 iMac. Like the Mac mini, the reference was included in a chart detailing which versions of Microsoft Windows are compatible with Apple hardware.
Other than that, nothing is known about the mid-2014 iMac, such as internal specifications or screen resolution. Customers have been clamoring for a revamped iMac with a high-resolution Retina display for some time, but there has been no concrete evidence that such an update is imminent.
Apple's page has since been updated, but a Google cache still shows a reference to two new iMac models in 2014.
The company did introduce a new low-end model last month with MacBook Air components. That new 21.5-inch iMac reached a lower starting price of $1,099, a savings of $200 off the next nearest model in the same size.
But the 27-inch iMac has not seen an update yet this year. It's currently available in two default configurations: A model with a 3.2-gigahertz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and a gigabyte of video memory for $1,799, and a higher end 3.4-gigahertz Intel core i5 model with twice the video memory for $1,999.
While Apple's new 2014 low-cost iMac was rumored before its launch, there have been no such indications of an impending refresh for the 27-inch variety before the listing appeared on the company's website. The same goes for the Mac mini, which hasn't seen an update in two years.
As such, it's possible that both references may have been errors on the company's part. Or it could be a rare slip-up for Apple, which is known for its legendary secrecy regarding future product plans.
Apple on Tuesday launched an updated informational page, and corresponding email campaign, detailing how consumers in nine U.S. states can take advantage of back-to-school sales tax holidays for substantial savings on Macs and iOS devices next month.
During the promotional period — which varies on a state-by-state basis — Apple will automatically lower sales tax charges for eligible purchases made both in-store and online. Tax-free purchases are also eligible for Apple's own "Back to School" promotion, compounding consumers' return with the addition of an Apple Store gift card for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Tax holidays occur in:
Eligible purchases include Macs, iPads, and most accessories, including mice and keyboards when purchased alongside a computer. iPhones, educational software, and AppleCare may be included as well, but consumers should review their state laws.
It should be noted that most states place a cap on the portion of each purchase that is exempt from sales tax — the limit is set at $750 in Alabama and Florida, $1,000 in Georgia and New Mexico, $1,500 in Tennessee, $2,500 in Massachusetts, and $3,500 in Missouri. There is no such cap in South Carolina.
The sales tax holiday period runs from Aug. 1 to Aug. 3 in every state but Georgia — where it ends on Aug. 2 — and Massachusetts, where it has yet to be set by the legislature for 2014. While consumers in North Carolina could take advantage of the sales tax holiday in past years, that law has now been repealed.
Former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and late Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Russia's Ministry of Communications and Mass Media has suggested that Apple should open its source code for government inspection to ensure that the iPhone maker is not complicit in enabling U.S. intelligence services to spy on the world's largest country.
Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov made the same proposition to German firm SAP, one of the most prominent software consultancies in the world, according to Reuters. The suggestion came during a meeting between Nikiforov, Peter Engrob Nielsen — Apple's top Russian executive — and SAP managing director Vyacheslav Orekhov.
"Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013 and U.S. intelligence services' public statements about the strengthening of surveillance of Russia in 2014 have raised a serious question of trust in foreign software and hardware," Nikiforov said in a statement.
"Obviously, companies which disclose the source code of their programmes are not hiding anything, but those who do not intend to establish cooperation with Russia on this issue may have undeclared capabilities in their products," he added.
Microsoft agreed to a similar proposal in 2010, granting the Russian Federal Security Service access to source code for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SQL Server. The FSS is roughly equivalent to the Central Intelligence Agency in the U.S.
The documents revealed by Snowden have caused substantial concern on the part of foreign governments when it comes to trusting the security of U.S. technology, much of it directed at Apple thanks to the massive popularity of the iPhone and iPad. Most recently, Chinese state media called iOS's location tracking features a "national security concern," accusations that Apple vociferously denied.
"Apple is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of all our customers," the company said in a response to the Chinese reports. "Privacy is built into our products and services from the earliest stages of design. We work tirelessly to deliver the most secure hardware and software in the world."
Apple can now count the Ford Motor Co. among those who are embracing its iOS platform, as the automaker has revealed it will equip more than 9,000 workers with iPhones over the next two years.
A spokeswoman for the company told Bloomberg that Ford will replace 3,300 workers' BlackBerry phones with iPhones by the end of this year. And over the next two years, 6,000 employees will see their "feature" flip phones upgraded to Apple's best selling handset as well.
Ford representative Sara Tatchio said the company plans to get "everyone on iPhones," citing advantages in security and simplicity.
"It meets the overall needs of the employees because it is able to serve both our business needs and a secure way and the needs we have in our personal lives with a single device," she said.
Ford's announcement comes on the heels of a new partnership between Apple and IBM, in which Big Blue will provide customized services, support and applications for Apple's iPhone and iPad. Apple is hoping the partnership will allow it to capture an even greater share of the enterprise market.
Apple routinely touts the fact that almost all Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying iOS devices. But the company also recently revealed that penetration rates among employees in those companies are extremely low.
As of 2013, Ford had about 181,000 total employees, so the more than 9,000 iPhones the company plans to distribute won't put a huge dent in its workforce. But it is another high-profile example of Apple capturing on the decline of former enterprise king BlackBerry.
Those losses are also occurring in the public sector, as the U.S. Air Force announced earlier this year that it would deploy 5,000 Apple iOS devices to replace BlackBerry devices. The Air Force is planning the eventual retirement of all BlackBerry products carried by USAF personnel.
Ever wonder how badly graphics and gaming performance gets compromised in the hottest apps on older hardware? As it turns out, not very badly at all. Maybe that’s why iOS has become a major gaming platform.
One of the ways in which the iPhone has managed to turn itself into a capable gaming platform is backwards compatibility. Although the newest games on iOS are virtually indistinguishable in terms of graphic performance from games on next-generation consoles, they still run just fine, with few compromises, on older hardware.
To see just how good iOS game developers have become at harnessing the graphical power of even older iOS hardware, look no further than Gameloft’s recent Modern Combat 5. A Modern Warfare clone for iOS, Modern Combat 5 looks like it belongs on an Xbox One or PS4 on the iPhone 5s.
But even on a three-year-old iPhone 4s, it looks great, as the side-by-side video above comparing the two amply proves. Maybe not Xbox One quality, but definitely Xbox 360 quality. Completely remarkable.