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Apple will end weeks of speculation tomorrow when it holds its "Showtime" special press event at 10 AM Pacific on Tuesday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The company's introduction last week of the 24-inch iMac and updated Mac minis has shifted attention primarily towards potential movie-related iPod and iTunes announcements. Strong candidates include the introduction of full-length movies to iTunes, widescreen video iPods, and a video-capable Airport router that could stream purchased videos to a television. Electronista will provide coverage of any major announcements at the event and will obtain live updates when possible.
Amazon is best-known today for its electronics and its new video download store, the Internet retailer earned its early reputation as an online bookstore. This emphasis on literature is likely the inspiration behind the company's first branded portable device, known as the Kindle in its current prototype form. An eBook reader, the Kindle would compete directly with the Sony Portable Reader but gain an added level of independence, according to an FCC filing. It shares the same 6-inch, 800x600 screen as the Sony reader, but adds a full keyboard and 256MB of internal memory. An SD card slot provides extra storage. Interestingly, the Kindle also includes an EVDO modem for mobile broadband, raising the possibility that it will download new eBooks independently of a host computer. The presence of an FCC filing indicates a release within the next few months that will likely be priced above Sony's more modest device.
Tomorrow's opening of the 2006 Apple Expo in Paris is expected to see the introduction of numerous Mac- and iPod-related devices targeted at European customers. Announcing early is EyeTV Hybrid manufacturer El Gato, whose EyeTV Diversity (not pictured) is a USB 2.0 adapter that can play and record over-the-air digital television in the European Digital Video Broadcast - Terrestrial (DVB-T) format. The new 3-band tuner adds dual built-in antennas that improve reception indoors by as much as 50% by internal amplification of weak signals, El Gato says. The EyeTV Diversity includes El Gato's EyeTV 2 software to record and manage incoming video. Further details about the new adapter should follow after its formal demonstration at Apple Expo.
Webcam manufacturers routinely measure the image quality of their video by referring to the megapixel count of the sensor. Logitech has responded to this by developing the QuickCam Ultra Vision camera, which the company says has twice the optical clarity of other webcams. This is achieved by expanding the typically small lens of most webcams to a large 11.1mm (0.44 inches), preventing chromatic aberration and other problems associated with small glass elements. Logitech's 1.3-megapixel design also includes automatic light and sound adjustment that keeps the subject properly lit and eliminates background audio interference. Though its release date has not been announced, the QuickCam Ultra vision will ship for $130 when it becomes available.
Acer frequently touts its Ferrari line as an alternative to the largely conservative laptop designs of other system builders, but its latest introduction may reflect a new advance in technology as well as style. The 12-inch Acer Ferrari 1000 relies on not just visual cues from the supercar manufacturer but also its emphasis on lightweight materials. Acer's new system uses a carbon fiber body that reduces the traveling weight to 3.6 pounds. Performance is also as quick for the size courtesy of a 2GHz Athlon 64 X2 TL-60, 2GB of RAM, and up to 160GB of storage. Bluetooth 2.0, a 1.3-megapixel camera, and a 5-in-1 card reader are also standard. The only concession made in the design is the optical drive: the included DVD rewritable drive is an external Firewire unit rather than built-in. Official pricing and availability have not yet been announced.
Complementing its earlier announcement of exponentially improved flash capacities, Samsung on Monday announced the development of a new memory type that promises to eliminate many of the problems associated with both flash memory and RAM. Named Phase-change RAM, the technology offers transfer rates comparable to standard computer memory without losing the non-volatile quality of flash. This makes it a "perfect" form of RAM that would be ideal for handhelds and any other flash-based device that can benefit from the additional speed, says Samsung. The company also notes that PRAM should last ten times longer than current flash memory. The new storage medium is currently being demonstrated in 512 megabit (64MB) capacities and should reach the marketplace sometime in 2008.
iPods have been used in the creation of music as well as its playback: Numark's iDJ garnered attention for replacing vinyl records with the small music players. Those who would prefer to use iPod-based music for karaoke or as part of a multi-instrument performance now have the option of the MusicJam Mixer, announced today by Virginian company Cerventis. The device features both standard electric guitar and microphone inputs, allowing musicians to sing and play over music from the iPod, relaying the resulting output through standard RCA connections. MusicJam owners will also have access to KaraokeVideos, a program that can convert songs into karaoke music videos that complement the MusicJam Mixer tiself. Cerventis expects to take orders soon for $229.
As Apple's September 12 "Showtime" event looms, actions by retailers are suggesting updates to the California company's iPod line. Reports surfaced on the weekend that retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Target did not advertise iPods in their flyers for the coming week - a highly unusual act for companies that regularly sell the digital audio players. Preliminary investigations in these same reports indicate that iPod supplies at one or more retailers are low or non-existent, and that the American online Apple Store is selling refurbished 30GB iPods for the same $199 price as 20GB fourth-generation models. Additionally, online movie store 4Flix.net briefly published a press release claiming that its unrestricted Free*Pass subscription service would be available for a 6th-generation, 16:9 widescreen iPod. This release was later edited to remove mention of the product. Such changes in Apple product distribution and marketing have historically foreshadowed new releases.
American cellphone maker Motorola has recently expanded its successful, RAZR-inspired phone line to different formats, including the upcomping RIZR slider phone and the MOTOFONE F3 for the developing world. The company is set to introduce yet another format soon with the E690, details and photos of which have surfaced from a Chinese source. The E690 trades a built-in keypad for a large touchscreen that replaces most controls. All that remains are basic navigation buttons on the front and dedicated music controls on the side. The Linux-based phone is appropriately friendly to media playback and can play AAC, MP3, and WMA audio as well as 3GP and MP4 videos. A 2-megapixel camera is also standard. In China, the E690 connects to GSM-based networks and can transmit data through GPRS. Motorola will debut the phone in the Asian country during October; information about a North American version and release is still unknown. Click through for additional photos.
Flash storage currently lags significantly behind hard disk drives in capacity. This is in large part due to the relatively old foundations of the format. Even today, flash memory uses floating gates first developed in 1989 to control data. This consumes a significant portion of the chip and is unreliable as storage increases. Samsung revealed today that it had introduced a successor technology called Charge Trap Flash (CTP) that literally holds data in a layer of the chip until ready to be used. It allows for much more dense chip designs; in its current form, 40 nanometer processes are possible and drastically outperform the 65 nanometer process we know today. The extra space and reliability allows these CTP flash chips to store dramatically larger amounts of data: Samsung has demonstrated CompactFlash cards capable of storing 64GB, rivaling the 1.8-inch hard drives in many digital audio players. The company has not formally announced products or a timeframe for availability.
Adoption of next-generation video disc formats has been sluggish. One prominent barrier to this has been the fear of buying movies prematurely: customers may be hesitant to buy a new DVD release knowing that it will soon be outdated by a Blu-Ray or HD DVD version. Toshiba has potentially given HD DVD an edge today with news that the company has developed a hybrid DVD and HD DVD disc that can play in either format. Up to three layers are sandwiched together in a way that lets DVD players view content without any updates, while HD DVD players only require a firmware upgrade to support the new feature. Discs can be a blend of either format: for example, a dual-layer 8.5GB DVD can be combined with a single-layer 15GB HD DVD. The technology requires minimal changes to the manufacturing process and should be available in shipping discs very soon, according to Toshiba.
Mobile television is a common sight on the streets of Japanese and Korean cities, but in North America video has been limited to pre-recorded clips. A suite of announcements Monday indicate that the technology will soon spread much further. The DVB-H format, or Digital Video Broadcast - Handheld, is capable of streaming video at a full frame rate despite the relatively limited bandwidth of celullar networks thanks to extremely efficient compression: mobile video chipsets such as NVIDIA's GoForce series can decode the video signal in a way which is virtually impossible for the actual cellphone processor itself. The technology saw its debut in mid-summer during the Italian release of the Samsung P910 (pictured); today, NVIDIA announced that US customers would get their first DVB-H mobile television through the HTC Forseer smartphone set to launch by the end of 2006 through the Modeo service. A parallel announcement was made by Motorola and Nokia today, which are partnering together to ensure that handsets from both companies can play DVB-H videos from each other's devices and services. The two cellphone makers expect services using their own phones to either deploy or begin testing in North America before the end of the year.
Compact keyboards are favored by many who use handhelds for extensive typing in business meetings or classes. The devices that can use these keyboards are often limited, however, as the attachments regularly depend on special connectors or else are too large to be carried with the user. A new option exists in the form of the Mini Bluetooth Keyboard from Hong Kong vendor Brando. The keyboard connects wirelessly to almost any device with a Bluetooth receiver; Brando says the keyboard can interface with Palm, PocketPC, and Symbian devices as well as computers. It folds up for travel into a small unit that is less than half an inch thick. The Brando online store is selling the Mini Bluetooth Keyboard to US customers for $56.
Hinted at in August, Sony today formally announced two new Cyber-Shot cameras that focus equally on capturing and sharing photos. The DSC-N2 (pictured) has a unique photo capture method that takes both a full-resolution image as well as a small, VGA-sized version of the same image that is transferred to a special pocket album that can be kept separate from regular photos on the camera, turning the N2 into a portable photo album. The N2 also features a high-density 10-megapixel sensor, 25MB of internal memory, and a high ISO 1600 sensitivity for photography in lower lighting. Further announced today was the DSC-T50, an update to the existing T30 ultra-compact model. It specifications are largely similar to the 7.2-megapixel earlier model with blur reduction, 56MB of internal memory, and ISO 1000 sensitivity. It and the DSC-N2 gain Sony's new Clear Photo Plus LCD technnology that adds a more intuitive touchscreen interface while also increasing the display resolution to 230,000 pixels. Both models will begin pre-orders on September 12th at the SonyStyle website and are expected to ship in October at prices of $450 (DSC-N2) and $500 (DSC-T50). UPDATED Click through for photos of both new models.
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