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Plans by Internet retailer Amazon to launch a direct-download movie service have been public knowledge for some time. Nevertheless, much anxiety was put to rest late today when the company formally launched its first venture into direct video downloads. Titled Unbox Video, the store offers full-length movies, television programming, and other content from over 30 networks and studios. Pricing compares directly to existing stores such as CinemaNow and MovieLink, but is characterized by its flexibility: movies are available at $15 for new releases and $8 for older titles, while any movie can be rented for $4. Television shows are available for $2 each. Buyers receive two separate Windows Media Video files in a single purchase, one of which is intended for portable media players such as Microsoft's future Zune. Amazon's store launches almost immediately ahead of Apple's movie-related special event on September 12th, which is expected to mark the debut of a widely anticipated iTunes movie store that will challenge Amazon directly.
Owners of recent Mac laptops who need wireless control of music jukeboxes and presentations from a distance already have the advantage of an Apple Remote. Windows users have long had remotes as options, but few have been made that avoid special receivers or prevent the loss of the remote after a long meeting. Interlink Electronics may have devised a particularly useful solution through its ExpressCard Media Remote for Bluetooth. The remote, which officially requires Windows XP, uses a laptop's built-in Bluetooth receiver as a base, removing the necessity of plugging in a proprietary adapter. Users can quickly control track functions in most media-related programs such as iTunes, PowerPoint, and WinAmp. More convenient still is the remote's ability to fit into and charge from both ExpressCard 34 and 54 slots, eliminating the need to replace batteries. Interlink is shipping the Media Remote today for $50.
Product naming is a significant problem for electronics manufacturers Many settle for model numbers that often bore or confuse users looking for a simple name with meaning. The cellphone industry is particularly infamous for its dependence on arbitrary naming schemes; Motorola was struggling in the cellphone market until its iconic RAZR stood out against competitors. By contrast, Nokia continues to give its phone models numeric labels and is notorious for four-digit model numbers that could easily be ignored. While the Finnish cellphone maker is not in as dangerous a position as Motorola once had, it announced on Thursday that it recognized the problem with its generic titles and would start giving its cellphones more tangible naming schemes, hoping to capitalize on the success of the RAZR and LG's recent Chocolate phone. Specific models were not announced, but the popularity of Nokia's N-series phones makes them likely candidates for a reborn product line.
Microsoft has repeatedly expressed its frustration with the European Commission's antitrust regulations ever since the 2004 imposition of a 500 million Euro fine for anti-competitive behavior, arguing that the necessity of opening source code or removing Windows Media Player is neither necessary nor effective. The company brought this dissatisfaction with the EC to the forefront today when it threatened to delay the European launch of its upcoming Windows Vista, according to Reuters. Microsoft claimed in a statement that the release of the much-delayed operating system for the continent depended on the EC's antitrust requirements, prompting multiple EU parliament members to critcize the Commission for risking the competitiveness of European companies, who may need Vista for software development in the near future. The EC flatly rejected the threat. "It is not up to the Commission to give Microsoft a green light before Vista is put on the market; it is up to Microsoft to accept and implement its responsibilities as a near-monopolist," a spokesman said. Microsoft has been historically reluctant to address its dominance: in 1998 the company alluded to disastrous consequences from any legal challenges to its practices.
LG became the first cellphone designer to overturn Motorola's virtual monopoly of style-oriented phones in North America with its Chocolate music phone. It will soon have an opportunity to prove itself again with the anticipated release of the MG810, known more readily as the Black Sapphire. The phone recently started shipping in Brazil and bears the hallmark of the Chocolate's checkered number pad and red-on-black controls while exchanging the slider design for a RAZR-like flip-phone shell with external music controls. Inside, the phone is largely similar to the existing Chocolate and has a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, FM radio, and AAC/MP3 playback on 128MB of built-in memory (no immediate mention is made of a microSD card slot). GPRS data support is part of the design, which indicates that the Black Sapphire is a GSM phone and will debut with carriers other than Verizon (which uses CDMA and thus EVDO for broadband). LG has not announced its plans for a North American introduction; expect the phone to retail near the Brazilian price of $465 US without a contract. Complete photos of the new phone are after the jump.
The market for 30-inch computer displays is comparatively small: Apple and Dell effectively create a binary choice between design and price. A third option will soon become available that should strike a an appropriate balance between the two. Advance details of HP's upcoming LP3065 (PDF) reveal a 30-inch screen with better performance than has been seen before. The 2560x1600 screen will address 92% of the NTSC color gamut, making it better for color-sensitive work. It should also have an 8ms typical response time that outperforms the 14ms of Apple's current 30-inch Cinema Display. Release details have not been formalized, but the LP3065 is expected to ship in November for under $2,000.
The Mac mini has developed a small but loyal following of hobbyists who have taken advantage of its small shape for car computers and other tasks that would be impossible with larger systems. One of the more impressive feats was recently achieved by hobbyist James Mullins, who teamed with a partner to develop a four-wheeled robot as part of a MacMod design challenge. The completed machine uses a 1.66GHz Core Duo Mac mini as the core of its control system, interacting with a camera, IR sensors, and motor controls to steer the robot around obstacles. Mullins also took advantage of the computer's included Apple Remote, IR port, and WiFi to give the user an easy way to manually navigate the vehicle, which has a 7-inch touchscreen mounted on the back for direct control. Click through for a video demonstration from the perspective of the robot camera.
Yesterday's announcement of the iPAQ rx4000 revealed HP turn away from a conventional PDA design to the concept of a companion device - rather than try to fulfill every need, HP is shaping its new handhelds around simple functions. A second model in the rx series, the rx5915, has surfaced today and sheds some light on both the HP strategy and features that that were previously unknown in the rx4000. The new version is dubbed the Travel Companion and includes a SiRF Star III GPS receiver for navigation. HP has expanded the features of to match: the touchscreen size has increased to 3.5 inches, and a set of physical navigation controls sits in the previously empty front space. Beyond WiFi, the rx5915 includes Bluetooth 2.0, an SD card slot, and 2GB of internal flash memory to help it accommodate both mapping and music. Its shipping date has yet to be announced, but its GPS unit helps justify a $600 retail price.
HTC is quickly becoming the main rival to established smartphone makers such as Palm and RIM. The Taiwanese firm helped cement its position in the field today by announcing four new smartphones using Windows Mobile 5 as their foundation. Two of the new models, the P3300 and P3600, include TomTom's new NAVIGATOR 6 software for finding directions through 2D and 3D maps. Both feature 2.8-inch screens, Bluetooth, microSD slots, and WiFi, but use different control schemes: the P3300 uses a trackball and iPod-style scroll wheel, while the P3600 implements a touchscreen. Network support is also different with the P3300 supporting EDGE broadband and the P3600 using HSDPA. HTC additionally released the S620 (also known as the Excalibur), the much-anticipated challenger to the Motorola Q with a unique touch-sensitive navigation strip alongide the display, and the S310, a simple candybar smartphone with Bluetooth and EDGE. All four models ship first to Europe: the P3600 and S310 will arrive in September, while the P3300 and S620 follow in October. North American announcements are pending for at least some models as the FCC has recently approved the S620. See photos of all four models after the jump.
Despite the steady increase in availability of cameras, HDV remains in its early stages: technologies which have existed for years in standard-definition digital video are only now arriving in HD form. One of these is three-chip sensor technology, which Sony is introducing today through its HDR-FX7 prosumer video camera. The new 1080i-capable model features Sony's ClearVID CMOS sensor, which uses three chips to improve transfer rates and visual quality when combined with an enhanced imaging processor. These improvements allow for such special features as burst shooting, which can play back six seconds of footage in 24 FPS slow-motion, and taking 1.2-megapixel still shots during live video capture. A three-chip sensor also improves power consumption, according to Sony: up to 8 hours of recording time is possible with an optional high-capacity battery. The camera uses a 37.4-748mm lens with a 20X optical zoom and a digital extension feature that promises 30X total zoom without degrading the picture. Shipping in October, the HDR-FX7 will be available for pre-order from the SonyStyle HandyCam site on September 8th for $3,500. Click through for a larger photo.
Its existence had already been established weeks earlier by leaked photos and unofficial details, but today the BlackBerry Pearl was officially announced by its developer Research In Motion. The Canadian company's new smartphone breaks from traditional BlackBerry duties by shifting attention towards its media functions, including music and video playback of content on microSD cards as well as a 1.3-megapixel camera. Significantly, the Pearl abandons the scroll wheel for a trackball that the company claims is better-suited to the phone's expanded role. A relatively new addition is BlackBerry Maps: users can get directions to most locations in North America, including for contacts listed in the phone address book. The BlackBerry Pearl will be available September 12th for T-Mobile customers in the US, a week earlier than expected; Canadians will have the phone as an option from Rogers Wireless in October with European and Latin American carriers following shortly afterwards. Click through for full-size profile photos of the new phone.
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