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Motorola gained considerable good press by becoming one of the first cellphone manufacturers to make multiple colors a staple of its model range beyond simple faceplates. The PEBL in particular defines Motorola's current approach: several bright colors contrast sharply against the tepid blacks and silvers of rivals. The most desirable PEBL, however, is one that may only exist in a very limited production run. The company recently began a sweepstakes for US residents which is giving away fifty special PEBL models with a laser-engraved autograph by tennis star Maria Sharapova. While functionally similar to the regular model, only the Sharapova version is available in white and could easily become a collectible. Motorola has not said whether or not the PEBL will be available in white to regular buyers after the contest ends on September 29th.
Microsoft recently released official Windows Vista pricing which, at an initial glance, appears to match Windows XP pricing. A full version of Vista Home Basic, for example, will retail for the same $199 as Windows XP Home Edition. Such practices belie an attempt to increase the overall pricing, according to a report from Business 2.0. The publication notes that Microsoft is making a concerted effort to drive buyers of both stand-alone copies of Windows Vista and PCs bundled with the new operating system towards Vista Home Premium, which adds $40 to the price regardless of how it is bought. This will drive the overall cost of Windows higher despite falling PC component prices, says author Owen Thomas. He urges buyers dissatisfied with the move and the relatively modest features of Vista to refrain from buying the OS as a form of protest, even if it means holding to an older PC. Vista Home Basic is noticeably reduced in features versus Home Premium, omitting features such as the Aero Glass interface and DVD authoring.
The unveiling of Amazon's Unbox Video store marked the highest-profile movie download launch to date. Regardless of this fanfare, there are signiicant quality issues and teething problems, according to various members of the press. Purchases require intrusive and imperfect custom Amazon software to work, says CNET's Tom Merritt. The program automatically loads on startup and would not properly play at least one downloaded television show. Underlying issues also potentially hurt the long-term success of Unbox Video, reports BusinessWeek. Aside from the common but glaring inability to burn to DVD, rental restrictions are especially limited: rented movies must be played in their entirety 24 hours after playback begins or else must be rented a second time. Amazon additionally suffers from the longer-term conflict of interest that might arise from its existing movie sales; as it benefits from purchases of physical DVDs, the online retailer has little incentive to extend its usage rights or lower prices.
Few FM tuners have any music playback functions of their own. The Merconnet CS FM 07 is different through its design as a car-oriented player, according to the company. Playback is possible not just through a conventional minijack input for digital audio players but also a built-in SD card slot and a USB port that accepts flash storage and hard disk drives. FM tuning takes place on one of seven preset frequencies. Its power options are flexible: in addition to a 12-volt car charger, the CS FM 07 can be powered by an AC adapter or seven AAA batteries. Merconnet claims shipping times of 2-5 days from its online store, where the tuner is available for $60.
Cellphones and broadband Internet have irrevocably affected the popularity of wired phone service. Many urban dwellers now use cellphones as their sole avenue for phone calls or choose VoIP as a backup. Service carriers are often frightened of the mix, however: Internet calls through Skype and similar services removes the incentive to subscribe to more expensive cellular plans with extra talk time. Rejecting conventional wisdom, T-Mobile in the US is expected to soon introduce what could be an ideal compromise for both providers and their users. The company's T-Mobile At Home plan will take advantage of dual-mode phones that can connect both to cellular networks as well as VoIP through WiFi: if within range of a WiFi access point, T-Mobile subscribers could switch seamlessly to Internet calling to improve reception and save minutes on their cellular plans. The link between methods would also provide the distinct advantage of a single phone number. T-Mobile has not set a formal launch for its At Home feature, but the existence of promotional material (pictured) reveals that the service is close at hand.
Recent direct-download movie stores have been almost exclusively dependent upon Microsoft's Windows Media Player technology for copy-protection; without a viable alternative from Apple or other software developers, Mac users and those averse to the Windows Media format are forced to go without. EZTakes avoids this platform dependence by copy-protecting the content only during the download phase. Videos purchased at the store are initially encrypted and are then decrypted by custom software once the download is complete. The resulting file is a large but unprotected disc image that can be played directly on a Mac or Windows PC, or written to a DVD - the combination of which is a first for the industry. Content providers are protected by watermarking, the company says. Each video file is traceable to an individual account, linking potential pirates to their copies but granting fair use rights to legitimate customers. Most titles in the current catalog cost half as much as regular DVDs, but are often older movies and television shows. Notable exceptions include TLC shows such as Overhaulin' and Rides, which sell for $3 each. The service is currently in beta and is limited to US customers.
Computer display manufacturers rarely publicize the type of LCD panels they use, which can cause serious difficulties for both artists and game players whose choice may hinge upon the choice of faster TN (twisted nematic) or more color-accurate PVA (patterned vertical alignment) panels. The new Gallery TNX Performance displays help buyers make that distinction, Formac says. Available with black, silver, or white bezels, all three displays use the same 19-inch TN LCD panel that trades a slight amount of color reproduction for an extremely low 3ms response time that eliminates ghosting in fast-action games and movies. A single cable to the display provides data to the integrated two-port USB hub, DVI video, and power. Formac is currently shipping the Gallery TNX in the UK for £237.21; North American availability has not yet been announced.
The bulk of a cellphone carrier's profits reside in plans. This reality encourages many cellphone providers to charge extra for virtually any data services they offer. A recent introduction by Mobileplay, however, promises to remove the binds between data services and specific providers. Taking a cue from Universal's music service, Mobileplay's self-titled service delivers a large set of free content subsidized by ads that display onscreen. Mobileplay primarily focuses on articles and news, including unconventional sources such as The Onion and Wonkette, but also promises games and other software. Approximately 80 phones can currently run the Java-based software with more expected in the future. The service is available now through online registration.
While cellphones and iPods may merge in the future, the two devices are rarely compatible separately. Listening to an iPod frequently involves ignoring caller ID on incoming calls in the hurry to pause the iPod or missing those calls altogether. Zenecom's recently announced Blupod is designed to alleviate these issues and also provide extra features. Attaching to the iPod through the Dock Connector, the Blupod pairs with a cellphone via Bluetooth to notify the user about incoming calls. When the phone receives a call, Zenekom's adapter displays the caller ID on the iPod screen and automatically lowers the iPod's volume to let the owner answer (or decline) any call they choose. The Blupod also serves much the same role as Apple's Radio Remote, offering basic song controls and FM radio reception. No launch details were mentioned during the unveiling in Berlin, but European and North American releases are pending.
The restriction of the Motorola Q to CDMA networks has left few options for the many North American users looking for a similar GSM-based smartphone: BlackBerries and Treos are available but carry their own restrictions, especially for those who prefer the Symbian OS interface. North Americans now have a direct competitor to the Q in the form of the Nokia E62. Based on the E61 already available elsewhere, the E61 has a wide 320x240 screen, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot for extra data. It also supports "push" real-time e-mail from carriers that support it for non-BlackBerry devices. Surprisingly, the phone is available first on the continent in Canada, through Rogers Wireless; it had been largely expected that Cingular would be the first provider in North America to receive the E62. Its price is fairly affordable at $249 CDN ($224 US) with a three-year contract and $449 CDN ($404 US) with one year.
Apple's Power Mac G4 Cube was an example of design conflicting with market demands. While the company was heralded for the small computer's size and shape, buyers ultimately rejected the Cube for the limited expansion and high price relative to full-sized towers: it ultimately sold no more than 150,000 units and was discontinued a year later. A recent patent filing, however, indicates that Apple continues to rethink the Cube concept more than five years after its removal from the marketplace. Filed on May 5, the "Ultra compact computer arrangement" illustrates a design that addresses flaws in the original Cube. The casing as described would have two removable panels, allowing for greater access to the inside of the case for hard drives, memory, and multiple expansion cards. It would also incorporate a CPU fan in tandem with a heatsink - a significant departure from the fanless 2000-era computer. Click through for more details and additional images from the patent.
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