Daily Apple: Makeover, Market Loss, Marriage, Make-Believe

Marble Interface To Be The New Face of OS X? – According to MacRumors, Snow Leopard could bring a facelift to OS X, one which bring a more consistent look across the operating system. They don’t name their source, but they do cite John Gruber as a corroborating piece of evidence.

Apple PC Market Share Slips to Acer – A drop of 1.5 percent from 9.5 to 8 in the fourth quarter of 2008, as compared to the third quarter, found Apple losing ground to computer maker Acer. Did netbooks have something to do with the slide? Yes. Definitely, obviously, most assuredly.

For Your Wedding? Seriously? – It’s a neat cake, there’s no denying that. The care that obviously went in to such a faithful reproduction is obvious. But is it really the cake you want to have when you’re celebrating one of the most important days of your life? Apparently yes, for some.

Apple Losing Its Education Appeal? – Not the usual news bite, but rather an extended essay on why Apple may lose its position of grace in the education market if it, and the economy, keep going the way they’re going.

Wired Removes Hackintosh Video After Apple Asks – At first, CNET jumped the gun and was calling “Suit!” They haven’t gone that far yet, but Apple did send a letter to Wired asking them to remove the video they’d created detailing how to to turn your netbook into a hackintosh.

4GB iPhone Coming Soon, According to Ever-Imaginative Analysts – It might happen, right? After all, “checks indicate” it. Via the “build rates.” Sounds rock solid to me.

If James Bond Drove a Hybrid

Freescale Semiconductor said today that it is teaming up with McLaren Electronic Systems to build regenerative braking systems for Formula 1 race cars. The energy would be released with a special “boost button.” Think Knight Rider meets Prius.

Freescale to Spin Out MRAM Business

Today Freescale said it would spin out its MRAM business to a consortium of venture investors under the name EverSpin Technologies. Such a move makes sense for Freescale, which doesn’t have the resources to focus on developing a competitor to Flash memory, but is also somewhat of a shame; MRAM has the potential to be a large moneymaker if it can scale.

MRAM is one of many fledgling attempts to create better non-volatile memory that can retain information even after the power is turned off. Like Flash, MRAM could find a home in portable computing devices such as laptops or MP3 players. Compared to Flash, MRAM is faster and requires less power (hello, longer battery life). Freescale made news in 2006 when it introduced a 4 Mb MRAM chip. That doesn’t hold much, but it was the result of a decade of research into the technology.

The creation of EverSpin follows similar memory spinouts, such as Numonyx, set up by Intel and STMicrosystems to research PRAM, and the less research-oriented Infineon from Qimonda. AMD and Fujitsu spun out their Flash memory operations as Spansion. Memory is a commodity business that requires large economies of scale to become profitable. Freescale does need to focus on a few core businesses, but I hope its stake in EverSpin gives it plenty of upside if MRAM becomes a market success story.

One-Net Open Source Software Ready For Wireless Home Automation

Just when you think you know all the flavors of home networking standards, along comes One-Net. Joining ZigBee, Z-Wave and Insteon, One-Net is another home automation standard for connecting your lights, security cameras and other home functions to one another. It, much like the existing standards, is unlikely to ever be widely adopted, but I applaud Threshold Corp. of Petaluma, Calif., for shaking things up a bit with its open-source platform to manage One-Net devices.

Threshold is the company behind One-Net, and has developed an open-source software to manage devices using the standard, to which chip companies including Texas Instruments and Freescale are building chips. The idea is to sell a One-Net router that will then communicate with a wide array of other devices such as security cameras, motion detectors and light dimmers. Read More about One-Net Open Source Software Ready For Wireless Home Automation

For Freescale, It’s Beyer to the Rescue

When Freescale Semiconductor named Richard Beyer as CEO on Wednesday, many of my friends at the company felt the faint stirrings of hope. Freescale, which was spun off from Motorola in December 2004, is a kind of wallflower in the chip world.

It has some good products, but it also has some real problems that need solving before it can live up to the expectations set by its $17.6 billion buyout in September 2006. The buyout left Freescale saddled with $9.5 billion in debt. That’s a lot for a company that reported sales of $5.72 billion last year, down from $6.36 billion in 2006.

Freescale has three big problems. The first is that about a quarter of its sales come from its former parent, which is having a tough time all its own. The second is that it’s in so many markets — some of which are growing — while Freescale is standing still. The third and final problem lies in the fact that former CEO Michel Mayer was not the kind of leader needed to take a newly independent company down its own road.

Beyer may solve the third problem if he can step into his job in mid-March, listen to managers and figure out a strategy (likely involving a push to analog) that gets Freescale growing in step (or even ahead of) the markets it dominates.

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