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When it comes to full-size Windows smartphones, the Motorola Q has few competitors. This may be about to change: an image of what's purported to be the HTC Excalibur has leaked to the Internet. In addition, a few key specifications accompany the rumor. The Excalibur would be a quad-band GSM phone with WiFi and a unique interface twist. Instead of a jog dial (as seen on Blackberries and other smartphones), there's a touch strip to the right of the screen that should make for less wear on people's thumbs as they scroll through menus and media. No tentative release date has been given other than "soon."
Vertical integration between music player hardware and software is currently in vogue as a means of trying to regain marketshare from the iPod, and Microsoft's Zune player and software strategy is only a latecomer to the party. Napster just recently released a music player line of its own and hopes to lure people to its music service by offering discounted hardware for people who subscribe to Napster To Go. The recently released DMPJ-250c is the higher-end model of the bunch, holding 1 GB of songs and packing a color display and FM tuner. Is it worthwhile? CNET tested the 250c recently and finds that the discount is the main selling point: while the sound quality is good and there's an abundance of features, the included earbuds are sub-par and the player is otherwise resolutely average. Still, for an additional $50 beyond subscription fees it's an inexpensive way to carry your all-you-can-eat music service with you.
Much attention has been given lately to integrating digital music playback with cars, but it's not often that people think of getting music alongside GPS, photos, and videos in the same box. Mio Technology did, and the company is betting that people are willing to buy a single unit for their car that handles almost everything. The company today pulled the wraps off the Digiwalker C710, which is a GPS unit that also plays MP3 music, JPEG photos, and DivX videos stored on SD or MMC cards. There's even an integrated Bluetooth chipset that can pair with a cellphone for hands-free calls. Not everyone wants a jack-of-all-trades, but for $649 it should be less expensive than the combination of a GPS unit and a portable media player.
Though price and technical details are currently absent, Sirius on Tuesday announced that it plans a "personal live satellite radio" device launch later in August. Its current codename is "Stiletto." While Sirius already has a handheld, the S50, the unit can only play live satellite radio if connected to a PC set to use the service; without this, users are limited to transferring content they've recorded. The addition of a truly live portable player should help Sirius in its fierce marketshare battle with XM, as for months Sirius has had nothing to counter live XM radio players such as the Pioneer Inno.
Sony's latest bid to compete with Apple's dominance of the US digital audio player market was unveiled today when the company announced the launch of its NW-E00 series of Walkman players, which compete directly with the iPod shuffle. The flash-based lineup ranges from $69 for 512MB to $129 for 2GB of storage. Each player has an FM tuner, a one-line OLED screen, and a fast-charge feature which offers 3 hours of playback after 3 minutes of charge time. Sony claims a battery life of 28 hours, though this is only at a low-quality 48Kbps data rate. The players are available for preorder today at the Sonystyle website and are expected to ship by August 15th.
The latest studies by Nielsen/NetRatings show that video host YouTube is now getting a larger share of Internet traffic than the social networking site MySpace. An article by Guardian Unlimited shows that YouTube commands an Internet viewing share of 3.9% of all Internet visits per day, compared to 3.35% for MySpace. The article also states that YouTube's growth is extremely rapid while MySpace appears to be slowing down. Researchers attribute the difference in popularity mainly to the more "universal appeal" of videos.
PodTech employee and former Microsoft tech evangelist Robert Scoble said today that Windows Vista might not be ready for a release to manufacturing in October 2006, as Microsoft has previously planned. In his blog entry, he compares Vista Beta 2 to earlier Windows betas and observes that while Vista is solidifying, Beta 2 suggests that the future OS is still relatively rough and won't be truly finished in Microsoft's current schedule. Scoble's comments echo prior doubts expressed by analysts and suggest that Vista may well need to be delayed until mid-2007, giving rival Apple an opportunity to steal the limelight with Mac OS X Leopard, expected to be announced later this month and set to be release in late 2006 or early 2007.
As most any audiophile can tell you, truly deep bass usually requires a big subwoofer to push out massive quantities of air. While that's all well and good for your home theater, it condemns anyone tight on space (or just afraid of clutter) to a kind of audio purgatory where everything sounds tinny and weak. Enter Tymphany: as Wired News reports, the company's Tymphany LAT (Linear Array Transducer) design has small diaphragms in a series that push and pull on each other, rather than a single, massive cone. This, says the company, will let them put woofers and subwoofers into computer speakers, MP3 player docks, and flat-panel HDTVs that previously had to go without. What's more is that Tymphany has also eliminated the vibration that could rattle apart that very same gear.
Even though Microsoft has confirmed basic information about its Zune project, rumors continue to circulate about just when and what we'll see from the project by year's end. The latest from Gizmodo claims Microsoft wants to ship the week before Thanksgiving in U.S. in order to catch buyers right as holiday shopping reaches a fever pitch. The same tip claims that there may be a 60GB model on tap (in addition to the previously rumored 30GB) and that there will be a wide range of accessories and Zune colors to choose from.
It finally looks as though the One Laptop Per Child project is finally taking off. According to DesktopLinux.com, four countries - Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, and Thailand - have committed to orders of a million units each of Nicholas Negroponte's laptop for the developing world. The OLPC project has previously stated that it wants at least 5 million orders before it begins manufacturing the systems in earnest, which leaves only one major buyer left to go before the concept becomes reality.
The NPD Group lists the online music store eMusic as having 11 percent of online music sales, despite a lack of support from major labels. Both iLounge and USA Today cite the unrestricted MP3 format as a key factor in this success: the lack of digital rights management means eMusic customers can easily transfer purchased music to their iPods or any other player they choose without using proprietary software. While a distant second to iTunes' 67 percent market share, eMusic is well ahead of challengers such as Napster and Real Rhapsody, which are tied at 4 percent and are saddled with DRM as well as iPod incompatibility.
As of Monday, subscribers to Verizon Wireless can use LG's VX8500 phone, better known as the Chocolate phone for its dark and velvety looks. The Chocolate is a slider phone with a 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth 1.1, and a microSD slot. It's also a music and video phone which can play MP3 and WMA songs. In Verizon garb, users can also purchase music and videos through the company's V Cast service, which is now free following its decision to discontinue the $15 monthly fee (downloads are still $1.99 apiece) The phone is expected to cost $150 (after rebate and a two-year contract with Verizon).
The House of Representatives last Thursday voted in strong favor of the Deleting Online Predators Act, which would require that libraries and schools funded by the federal government block social networking sites in an attempt to protect children from predators who might exploit the personal information on those sites to their advantage. However, opponents (which include the American Library Association and many MySpace users) say the new law is too far-reaching in scope: it could easily block any site that allows communication between users or personal profiles, which would in effect restrict access not just to social networking sites but also blogs, forums, and wikis. The bill still needs to pass the Senate vote in August before it can be signed into law by the President.
LG has dropped the idea of releasing a hybrid player that can handle both of the competing high-definition disc formats, according to Ars Technica; the company will, instead, return to its earlier focus on players that can only load Blu-Ray discs. Ars notes that there are multiple hurdles to overcome before hybrid players are even possible, including chipset development and the exclusivity of manufacturers' licensing terms (e.g., Blu-Ray licensees can't develop hybrid players).
The lithium-ion batteries that power laptops have been coming under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks. MacNN reports Apple has announced a battery exchange program for 15-inch MacBook Pros with specific battery models, saying that they do not meet the company's "high standards for battery performance." It's unclear as to whether the recall was prompted by news of inflating MacBook Pro batteries. Regardless, affected owners can get a free exchange through Apple's support website. Users on the other side of the computing fence are faring even worse: the Sydney Morning Herald claims that Dell battery fires are more common than was previously thought, and highlights the story of an Illinois man whose Latitude D410 battery caught fire just last week, effectively destroying the system. Dell issued a battery recall in December: it appears that the manufacturer's troubles aren't over yet.
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