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Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 03:45 pm PT (06:45 pm ET)

10.5.3 Server details; Apple updates; iPhone exclusivity in question

Apple is reportedly winding down updates to its 10.5.3 Server update, AppleInsider has learned. Officially, Apple has released updates for iMac graphics and its Java engine in Leopard, and Microsoft has finally updated Messenger for Macs. Unofficial reports have Apple changing its mind on exclusive carrier deals, and say that iPhone users have very different tastes than BlackBerry owners.

New Leopard Server 10.5.3 seed

Similar to its progress with the client version, Apple's testing process for 10.5.3 Server is quickly coming to an end, according to people familiar with a new test build.

Labeled as build 9D25, the new seed reportedly fixes only a handful of unresolved bugs, including issues with the Mail and Web Server components, the Server Assistant, and Slapconfig.

Those aware of the update also tell AppleInsider that developers have been asked to center their testing primarily around these areas as well as multiple server manager components, Directory functions, and servers for both podcasting and Wikis.

Apple is still expected to finalize and release 10.5.3 for users within the next two weeks.

iMac ATI Radeon HD Graphics Firmware Update 1.0.1

Apple has issued version 1.0.1 of its ATI Radeon HD firmware update (848KB) for its new iMacs released yesterday.

The minor fix increases system stability for systems using either the Radeon HD 2400 XT or Radeon HD 2600 Pro, the company says.

Java for Mac OS X 10.5 Update 1

Also launched is Update 1 for Leopard's Java engine (57MB).

The upgrade installs Java SE 6 1.6.0_05 for all compatible Macs, bringing them up to date with the more recent codebase. The update doesn't replace J2SE 5 or override earlier Java preferences.

Microsoft releases Messenger for Mac 7 with video

Ending a relatively long quiet period of development, Microsoft on Thursday released Messenger for Mac 7.

Video support is the highlight of the update, the company explains. Although currently limited to corporate environments, the feature allows multi-user audio and video chats and is the first in the Mac history of the product.

All users also receive support for automatically finding other Windows Live users through Bonjour local networking, a contact list search function, and the ability to rename contacts.

More details on video chat for home users will be available in "coming months," Microsoft notes.

Apple rethinking exclusivity deals for Europe, Latin America?

Apple could break from its current practice of choosing an exclusive carrier when it brings the iPhone south of the US, the Spanish-language business paper Cinco Dias reports.

The California electronics giant is reportedly having doubts after witnessing poor sales in Europe, which have often seen customers unlock the phones themselves for use on unsanctioned carriers.

Alleged sources close to negotiations say the company may allow the phone to be sold through multiple providers in Latin American nations. This is likely due to the different cellular service climate in the region, according to the paper: while large carriers like Telefonica Movil dominate in some countries, they only hold on to minority shares in others.

Future European deals may also see Apple breaking its mould, the report adds. Discussions with Telefonica in Spain have been ongoing for months, while Apple may use Italy as a testbed and include more than just Telecom Italia as a provider.

Apple has declined comment on the claims, but earlier this year made it clear that the company isn't married to its one-carrier-per-country model.

Study: iPhone, BlackBerry appeal to very different audiences

Although they compete in the same market, the iPhone and BlackBerry lines appeal to two very distinct groups of users, a new study from ChangeWave finds.

Users of Apple's touchscreen device typically skew towards its interface. About 36 percent of respondents who use an iPhone most like the overall integration of the iPod, phone, and web functions, while 27 percent like the touchscreen interface specifically and 16 percent talk up its overall ease of use.

BlackBerry owners, however, are almost exclusively devoted to e-mail. A full 56 percent of users cite e-mail as the appeal of their devices, with virtually all other factors falling well under the 10 percent mark — including the physical keyboard, at 5 percent.

What users complain about also varies sharply, the researchers point out. Despite its reputation, RIM's BlackBerry is more likely to generate complaints about its keyboard (11 percent of users), especially on the small Pearl series. Among iPhone owners, the most common yet unique complaint is being locked to AT&T in the US, with the lack of copy-and-paste text coming next.

Both are united in their dislike of being limited to slow EDGE data speeds with GSM-based versions of their devices, ChangeWave says.

As much as iPhone advocates may enjoy their devices, however, the group is also much more likely to draft wish lists for a new model. About 19 percent of users want 3G Internet speeds, with 18 percent seeking third-party native programs and 15 percent hoping for GPS navigation. Business e-mail support and voice dialing come next at 10 and 8 percent respectively.

Most of these features are likely to be resolved in June, when Apple is predicted to launch its 3G handset and new iPhone firmware.

BlackBerry users, by contrast, are said to be conservative and have little to demand.

"The bottom line for RIM [BlackBerry] owners continues to be, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,'" ChangeWave observes.