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Though Boeing is discontinuing its Internet service and British airports have banned almost all carry-on small electronics out of anti-terrorism precautions, two airlines today announced that they would permit cellphones on some of their flights. Australian carrier Qantas said it would start a three-month trial in early 2007 on domestic routes serviced by Boeing 767 passenger jets. The majority of business passengers Qantas has surveyed said the service would be "a good idea, particularly [for] e-mail access," according to Qantas General Manager of Customer Product and Services Lesley Grant. Irish carrier RyanAir will be more aggressive pending regulatory approval, launching its new OnAir cellphone service on 50 Boeing 737 aircraft in mid-2007 and outfitting its entire fleet with cellphone support by 2008. Both RyanAir and Qantas will share similar levels of service, charging global roaming rates for data and voice features.
Though the likelihood of the pen ever being used in its marketers' intended context is slim, the Japanese SpyDisk ballpoint pen could be valuable to anyone concerned that a standard USB flash drive is too conspicuous to be left alone in public. Unscrewing the pen cap reveals a hidden USB drive with between 128MB and 512MB of flash memory that can plug directly into any computer. An SD card slot concealed in the pen clip offers room for extra storage as well. No plans are currently in place to sell the SpyDisk in North America, but a $24 US entry price for the 128MB version places it within reach of importers.
The recent influx of Skype-capable phones shows a clear shift towards VoIP as a practical reality for home telephone users. Nevertheless, almost all of these phones share the glaring limitation of an inextricable link to a PC. Philips claims to be the first major manufacturer to break from this trend. Announced today, the VOIP841 does not require a computer to send and receive Skype calls at all. Its base station connects to the Internet and gives the handset the ability not just to handle Skype calls, but also to sign up for the service directly through the device. The base unit transmits data over a 1.8GHz DECT signal to avoid wireless interference and can also connect to a regular phone line for traditional calls. Prices were not available on launch, though Philips expects the VOIP841 to ship before the end of the year. A full photo of the handset and base station is available after the jump.
The use of Intel processors and the development of Boot Camp have both helped Apple sharply increase marketshare after years of slight decline, giving switchers the option to continue running Windows-only applications as they transition to MacOS X. A consistent requirement of Boot Camp and other multi-OS solutions, however, is that owners must have a stand-alone copy of Windows to install. Codeweavers' newly released beta of CrossOver for Mac eliminates this requirement, allowing emulation of Windows programs without installing Windows itself. The 60-day free test version currently runs a limited selection of Windows software with a compatibility list receiving periodic updates as new programs are verified. CrossOver currently supports any Intel-based Mac.
Sharp added to its prior 52-inch LCD announcement by presenting two new DLP projectors on Thursday. At the forefront of the presentation was the XV-Z21000 (pictured), Sharp's first full 1080p projector with a high 12000:1 contrast ratio. The new high-end system has component, DVI, S-video, and two HDMI inputs. It ships as soon as October for Europe, but is clearly meant for the most dedicated enthustasts and professionals with a 10000 Euro ($12793 US) price. A more mainstream model, the XV-Z3000, was also announced today and provides a native 720p signal with a 6500:1 contrast ratio. It includes one HDMI and one VGA connector and should be available immediately in Europe for a relatively affordable 2300 Euros ($3070 US). Both projectors are likely to see North American introductions in the near future.
Having previously released its N80 as a general-purpose smartphone, Nokia today unveiled a new version targeted specifically at cellphone users who depend on Internet utilities as often as phone calls. The N80 Internet Edition follows Nokia's earlier slider design but improves its usefulness for online communication. A larger 2.1-inch, 352x416 display fits more data onscreen at once. Software functions are also greatly expanded. The N80 Internet Edition supports VoIP calls through third-party software such as Skype and ships with a suite of tools including Yahoo Go for instant messaging and Flickr photo gallery uploads, Amazon Shopper, and a MobiPocket eBook reader. Connection options remain as extensive as before and include Bluetooth, EDGE mobile broadband, quad-band GSM, and WiFi. Nokia's updated phone should go on sale during September with prices determined by carrier service plans. See full photos of the new N80 after the jump.
Manuals are intended as essential guides to every aspect of a product - but electronics manufacturers are quickly learning that end-users are daunted by their increasing size, reports The Asahi Shimbun. Where a Matsushita television manual was only 68 pages long as recently as 1996, by 2002 a later version of the set included a much larger 216-page text. Companies in Japan and abroad have realized that overly complex manuals are ineffective in teaching users about special features and add to the price of each new system. Paper is being replaced with visual cues onscreen and on the system to indicate next steps for a given command. Even the paper itself is being revised: new Olympus cameras include a manual that focuses on the actions needed for a particular photo technique, rather than describing the controls in isolation. Ultimately, electronics designers hope to make a device's ease of use as important to potential buyers as the feature set.
Shortly after the Sprint announcement of enhanced EVDO Rev. A broadband for its cellular network, Sierra Wireless has announced USB adapters that take advantage of both the new EVDO connection speeds as well as its HSDPA counterpart on GSM networks. The AirCard 595U is built for both the original EVDO and its latest update; in turn, the AirCard 875U can transmit data from HSDPA networks as well as EDGE and GPRS. Both new cards have GPS support for location-based functions and include internal batteries to maintain connections at the very limits of wireless signals. A cradle (pictured) is included with either card to simplify swapping a single card between desktops and portables. AirCard 595U models ship in the last quarter of 2006 to coincide with the Sprint network launch, while 875U cards are not expected until the first quarter of 2007. All cards are compatible with either MacOS X or Windows.
One potential danger of a Bluetooth Skype phone is interference: Bluetooth operates on the same 2.4GHz frequency as WiFi and some conventional cordless phones, which could result in choppy audio. USRobotics is aware of this in releasing its new USR9630 Skype phone. The new handset's choice of DECT 6.0 instead of Bluetooth prevents most wireless signals from affecting call quality, according to the company. Phone range is also substantially better than Bluetooth: users can roam as far as 150 feet away from the main transmitter while indoors. USR9630 callers are also free to use the phone for conventional phone lines, as the base unit plugs into an analog phone line as well as the computer's USB port for Internet-based Skype calls. USRobotics' system depends upon a Windows 2000/XP PC and will reach the market in September for a price of $120; additional handsets (up to three more) will sell for $70 each starting in October.
An unusual but inventive method of portable music listening around the home has been announced in Tokyo, reports Japan's Mainichi Daily News. At a press conference today, startup company ZMP and stereo manufacturer Kenwood released the Miuro, a small robot with an integrated iPod dock and speakers. Owners can command the two-wheeled robot to move from room to room broadcasting audio from an iPod docked at the top of the unit; camera and sensor accessories exist to help the robot map locate itself and take familiar routes. Those without iPods can also stream audio wirelessly to the Miuro through programs such as iTunes. ZMP is already accepting Japanese sales for the $990 US shipping price and hopes to sell internationally by the second half of 2007.
Holiday shopping in southeast Asia will be particularly ruthless for home theater enthusiasts, as the major LCD television manufacturers from the region are all releasing larger, higher-definition displays this Fall. Yesterday, Sony expanded its Bravia line to include a 52-inch LCD and smaller 1080p sets; Samsung added a 52-inch set of its own that should be the first to arrive in North America. Joining the competition is Sharp, which is today introducing new Aquos LCD televisions at sizes of 42, 46, and 52 inches. All are capable of 1080p and are available with or without side speakers. Where the panels are truly unique compared to rivals, says Sharp, is the use of eighth-generation LCD glass. The new manufacturing process can obtain eight 46-inch panels from a single sheet of glass where earlier techniques get only six, dramatically reducing the final price. Sharp says its 52-inch set should sell for the equivalent of $5115 US in Japan when it ships October 1st - a stark contrast to the $6833 price for the Sony Bravia model of the same size.
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