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The Mystery Of Apple’s Missing MacBook

With the release of the Mac Pro this week, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro last month, Apple’s deskbound MacOS machines have been pushing the price point higher and higher, with increased specs for professional users.

What about those at the lower end of the portfolio, looking for an alternative to a Windows 10 laptop, those who want to keep their mobile devices in the same ecosystem, those who have a long relationship with Apple’s MacOS computers but find the rising price is too high for them to upgrade? And how can Apple bring new users to the platform

In short, where is the entry level MacBook, the point where everyone can start their journey? Right now, there isn’t one.

The lowest priced MacBook in the current portfolio is the MacBook Air, with a starting price of $1099 for 8 GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD based storage. I’m pretty sure that a laptop with prices starting at over a grand would not be considered an entry-level laptop by many customers.

Why should Apple be looking at a lower price point for a MacBook? It’s worth taking into account the amount of effort that Apple is putting into cloud-based services and applications. Perhaps the answer to an entry-level MacBook would be to follow Google’s path with the Chromebook options, push everything into a new branch Apple’s walled garden with improved services to match the offering from Google, while keeping the option of local applications and processing power for intensive tasks.

Arguably Apple has already something similar on the books. Take an iPad, add the Smart Keyboard Cover, and you have your equivalent of the Chromebook. The advantage of this solution is that Apple brings the consumers closer into Apple’s garden, with almost every transactions pushed through the App Store and the thirty percent rake, more opportunities to upsell users into Apple’s subscription-based services, and a good chance of locking them into Apple’s hardware eco system for the medium- to long-term.

Whether you consider a tablet and keyboard combo running the closed iPad OS a suitable replacement for a entry-level MacOS powered laptop is the big question.

I suspect Apple believes the answer is yes. Personally I’m in the no camp. While the iPad can hit some of the same functions as a laptop, the MacBook range is about delivering more power, more flexibility, and more customisation than the restricted options present in the iPad.

The MacBook family addresses and solves different problems than the iPad family. Not all of these problems are $1099 problems, but they are problems that countless consumers need addressed. By keeping the entry point to MacOS at such a high level, Apple is ignoring a significant market.

A software and services approach requires the widest possible user base. The wider the base you have, the more you can upsell. Apple needs a diverse product range that meets the needs of as many potential customers as possible. It doesn’t need to fight in the $199 Chromebook market, but Tim Cook and his team should consider the need for a competent laptop in the $799 to $999 range.

Now read how Apple turned the iconic MacBook brand into a supporting player…

Check out my website.

I am known for my strong views on mobile technology, online media, and the effect this has on the public conscious and existing businesses. I’ve been following this space for over ten years, working with a number of publishers, publications and media companies, some for long periods of time, others for commissions, one-off pieces or a series of articles or shows. As Scotland’s first podcaster, I continue to be a prominent voice in the rise of podcasting and new media online, and picked up a British Academy (BAFTA) nomination for my annual coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, alongside contributions to Radio 5 Live, the BBC World Service, presenting Edinburgh local radio’s coverage of the General Election. You’ll find me on Twitter (@Ewan), Facebook, and Google Plus.

Source: The Mystery Of Apple’s Missing MacBook

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Watch more Top 5: http://bit.ly/1N5SGJ6 Sure there’s a touch strip above the keyboard, but Apple’s new MacBook Pros are lacking in a number of ways. Apple’s new mainstream MacBook Pro: http://bit.ly/2eW6gWX Does the new Macbook Pro revolutionize laptops?: http://bit.ly/2eQbdmr Watch more Apple News: http://bit.ly/1X0DYcp Read the CNET review: http://cnet.co/2efTYra Subscribe to CNET: http://bit.ly/17qqqCs Watch more CNET videos: http://bit.ly/1BQxrGw Follow CNET on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CNET Follow CNET on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cnet Follow CNET on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cnet/ Follow CNET on Snapchat: CNETsnap

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Nasty New Malware Waits Until You Visit A Pornsite, Then Starts Recording

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At the end of last week, ESET’s security researchers disclosed the discovery of a new strain of malware that takes the trend for sextortion to a new level. Varenyky, as the malware was named by its finders, monitors the activity on infected computers, watching until a pornographic website is visited, and then starts recording the screen.

According to the ESET team, Varenyky first came to light in May, when a malware spike was identified in France. And this is the other twist with Varenyky—it has been designed to specifically target French computer users. For now.

Varenyky is aimed at Orange customers in France, sending out fake invoices as Microsoft Word attachments to load the malware. When those documents are opened, a macro is executed which ensures the computer and its user are indeed French, if not the malware slips away with no damage done. But if the targeted computer ticks its boxes, Varenyky checks back with its C&C to determine what elements of malware to download, executing further macros to install software that can “steal passwords and spy on victims’ screens using FFmpeg when they watch pornographic content online.

When trigger keywords (a myriad of common and more specialised sexual terms) or websites (including YouPorn, PornHub and Brazzers) are detected, “the malware records a computer’s screen using an FFmpeg executable—the recorded video is then uploaded to the C&C server.” The clear risk is for advanced levels of sextortion or even blackmail. And while the current findings appear relatively generic (at least to the French), there is the potential for the malware to be targeted at individuals.

The spam emails—as many as 1500 per hour have been sent—focus on “win a smartphone competitions—an iPhone X, a Galaxy S9 or S10.” The victim is asked for personal information and then, as the scam progresses, credit card details as well. None of this is related to the video capture of sex sites, it is a broad-brush approach.

Varenyky is interesting because of its specific national targeting and its mix of credential theft and sextortion campaigning. The triggered screen recording, though, is grabbing the headlines. Not because of this particular campaign—there is no evidence of the videos having been used maliciously yet, but because it’s a nasty twist on a theme, and we can expect to hear more about it. As ESET warns, “this shows that operators are inclined to experiment with new features that could bring a better monetization of their work.”

A week ago, I reported that phishing defense specialist Cofense had published more than 200 million email addresses, that the company says are “being targeted by a large sextortion scam.” You can actually search the database for your own email address here. The usual sextortion concept of operations is to take breached email accounts—user names and passwords—and include those in a large-scale mail-out campaign to attempt to trick account holders into thinking they have been compromised, with passwords used as a convincer. It’s a numbers game. Small percentages returning lucrative rewards.

Now there is the potential for the use of video as a twist on what we have seen before—shades of Black Mirror episodes coming to life.

And so, the usual advice pertains. Don’t fall for scam promotions. Think before you click on attachments from unfamiliar senders. Don’t share personal information and definitely don’t share credit card details. And always keep your software and virus protection up to date.

There are many functions of Varenyky, ESET warns, “related to possible extortion or blackmail of victims watching pornographic content.” And the hackers behind the malware are already in the sextortion business even though the videos have not yet been used. ESET reports that Varenyky “is under heavy development and it has changed a lot since the first time we saw it,” which suggests functionality and sophistication will increase.

What we know for sure, though, is that this malware is now out there, and so the risk is very real.

Find me on Twitter or Linkedin or email zakd@me.com. Disclosure: I cover security and surveillance, the sector in which Digital Barriers operates. Direct conflicts are highlighted.

I am the Founder/CEO of Digital Barriers, a provider of video surveillance and analytics technologies to security and defense agencies as well as commercial organizations. I cover the sectors in which DB operates, potential conflicts are highlighted.

 

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