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Thursday, March 01, 2007, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

Briefly: Mac Web use climbs, doubleshot patent, iPhone memory

A study of Web traffic published on Thursday suggested Apple's influence is on the rise. Simultaneously, a company patent borrowed a cue from Microsoft's Zune, and flash chips from Samsung could be the first step towards finished iPhones.

Mac's Web effect grows

Net Applications began March by reporting yet another increase in the amount of traffic the stats firm saw online. A poll of its over 40,000 customer sites worldwide showed that 6.38 percent of surfers were using some variant of the Mac OS. The majority of those, 4.29 percent, were using PowerPC-based Macs, Net Applications said.

The increase was a modest but tangible boost to Apple's impact over recent months. Use grew slightly over the 6.22 percent reported in January, but represented only a small climb compared to the more impressive 0.55 percent spike seen as 2006 drew to a close.

While not conclusive figures by any means, the regularly released numbers have often served as unofficial barometers of Apple's marketshare by Net Applications and the industry. Last month's statistics appear to support claims that Mac sales had doubled year-over-year in January.

Doubleshot casing patent creates enigma

More puzzling was the surfacing of an Apple patent for an "electronic device formed with doubleshot injection molding." Apple's famous product designer Jonathan Ive was listed as one of the inventors.

The patent, granted March 1st but originally filed in August 2005, refers to the process of creating a handheld's shell by injecting plastic into a mold twice, producing two layers that ultimately form one layer.

The immediate benefit is to produce thinner walls that allow for new construction techniques. A first-generation iPod shuffle was used as an example and is likely to be the impetus for the patent's existence.

However, the new grant also raised eyebrows by recalling Microsoft's Zune, perhaps the best-known example of doubleshot injection used in a music player. The Redmond-designed device uses the extra layer as a hidden contrasting color that only manifests itself at sharp angles, producing a "glow" around the edges.

Apple never tried for such an effect itself using the precise methods described in the patent, but the curious timing — seven months after the iPod shuffle launched at 2005's Macworld Expo — pointed to a desire on Cupertino's part to guard its particular idea for later use.

Flash memory headed to Apple's iPhone factories?

Meanwhile, DigiTimes claimed to have word that some of the very first components of the iPhone's hardware would soon be shipping to Apple.

The Taiwanese trade publication said on Thursday in a discussion of rapidly tumbling memory prices that recent orders made with Samsung for flash chips from Apple would be the Korean electronics giant's saving grace, freezing flash memory prices for the near future. Initial shipments were scheduled to begin soon, the report said.

No mention was made of an exact timetable for the deliveries.