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Several months ago, Dell acquired gaming-oriented PC builder Alienware as a means of improving its standing among enthusiasts, who typically choose custom or locally-built PCs over mainstream OEMs. Late Thursday, HP announced that it was following suit: the large American firm is expected to finalize a deal that would see it buying the small, Canadian-operated Voodoo PC. The deal (PDF) would see much tighter integration than the Dell acquisition, which saw Alienware largely independent of its new parent. Voodoo PC will continue to exist as a company, but its current heads -- Rahul and Ravi Sood -- will take the lead at a new gaming computer division within HP that should revitalize the company's budget-minded image. The buyout is expected to complete by the end of October.
Many computer and home theater users know the trouble associated with locating a power strip close enough to a given device without tangling cables. The EUBIQ Power Track is a clever alternative that may simplify the power connections for several nearby pieces of electronics. Using special plugs, power adapters can be attached and moved anywhere along a special conductive track, regardless of how long the track may be. Up to 16 devices can be powered from a one-meter strip, and tracks can also accept Ethernet, telephone, or TV cabling. Accidental shock is also virtually impossible thanks to a grounding system that prevents anything but one of the company's own sockets from making an electrical connection. This fact makes it ideal for placing a Power Track underneath a computer desk or in other areas where it might be easy to touch the track. Prices vary, but Dionics is carrying EUBIQ's power system in the US now.
The Intel Developer Forum is used not just as a showcase for new processors but also as a demonstration of future design concepts. A recent example of this has been ASUS' external laptop display, which has been previewed at earler IDF events but is now on display at the conference show floor in a prototype (pictured). Much as with the external display on a flip-phone, the external laptop display lets the owner check essential information without having to open the system itself. The current example gives access to e-mail, music, and other content on the system's internal hard drive that doesn't depend on using the full capability of the computer inside. Windows Vista is expected to eventually support this feature in all laptops.
Artists and animators used to traditional drawings often have difficulty adjusting to tablets, even direct-to-screen models such as Wacom's Cintiq. The smooth surfaces of these input devices rarely have the same tactile feel as paper, leading to mistakes as users adjust. The Korean company Easy Systems has developed its uPlus Pen as a way of easing these artists into digital creation or even replacing a conventional computer tablet entirely. The pen translates the pressure applied to a special paper format into art for a program such as Photoshop, allowing artists to see the immediate results of their work while producing an exact digital copy. The uPlus can also adapt the on-screen output to different art styles: it can mimic ballpoint pens, pencils, writing brushes, and even highlighters. Pricing and shipping information aren't yet available.
In spite of Motorola's reputation for cutting-edge cellphone design, the company has been slow to embrace mobile TV, which is already popular in Japan and Korea and has seen an explosion of TV-ready handsets in those two countries. This makes US-based Motorola's recently announced MOTOVIEW phone a relative latecomer to the field. The company hopes the sleekness of its new design, launching initially in Korea, will draw users away from more established phones made by LG and Samsung. The MOTOVIEW supports the ubiquitous DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) TV format and has a swiveling screen to let owners watch TV in its native wide aspect ratio. Motorola has also given its cellphone a reasonably strong feature set that includes a 1.3-megapixel camera, 1GB of built-in memory, and external controls that let users change songs or TV programs when the phone is closed with the screen facing outwards. Those interested in experiencing Motorola's first attempt at a DMB-capable phone will find the MOTOVIEW available today in Korea through SK Telecom. Photos of the phone are available after the jump.
Sony has come under intense scrutiny after a critical flaw in its batteries was found to be the root cause of fires in Dell and later Apple laptops. The latest worry for the Japanese company comes in the wake of a ThinkPad fire several days ago at Los Angeles International Airport. Lenovo, maker of the ThinkPad line, announced on Thursday a new battery recall covering 526,000 batteries made by Sony between February 2005 and September 2006. The recall covers most R-, T-, and X-series ThinkPads but doesn't affect the more mainstream 3000 series. Lenovo is being as cautious as Dell and has warned users to immediately stop using the dangerous batteries until replacements arrive.
In turn, Sony issued a press release today saying that it would issue an even larger global battery recall of its own, working with system builders to exchange batteries for any company that might have used the fire-prone units in its portable systems. No specific plans were announced, but Sony says it will work with laptop producers on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they receive enough new batteries in time.
Sony-Ericsson rarely devotes its attention to business users, preferring instead to make music-friendly media phones. As part of its phone announcements today, the cellphone designer made a concession to international businesspeople by introducing a new phone that caters to their needs while still carrying some signature media features for moments outside the office. Owners of the K320i will have access to a number of features rarely seen from Sony-Ericsson. Automatic Bluetooth pairing is a completely new feature from the company: synchronizing a headset for a conference call now happens without any intervention on the user's part. The new phone also supports "push" e-mail from networks that offer it and can read RSS feeds for live news. A VGA camera and AAC/MP3 music playback are also available for less serious moments. The K320i should be available in October for certain markets; a North American version has yet to be announced. Click through for a larger photo.
Cellphone carrier Verizon had tipped its hand early on its use of the Motorola KRZR K1m by posting an instructional guide in advance, but left the actual release open to speculation. In practice, the delay has been short. Verizon today began taking orders for the KRZR K1m through its website. The music-oriented successor to the RAZR is narrower, has an enhanced 1.3-megapixel camera, and music controls on the outer shell to simplify pausing or skipping tracks. Verizon in particular is tying the phone closely to its VCast music and video download services. KRZR orders are being limited to online visitors only until October 5th; retail stores will start carrying the phone soon afterwards. Prices start at $250 with a one-year contract.
Acer is frequently seen as a close competitor with Apple: although the designs are clearly different, the two system builders have shared some similar laptop specifications ever since Apple began using Intel processors. Acer has continued this tradition to a degree with multiple new TravelMate systems that share the Core 2 Duo processor. Perhaps the closest match is the TravelMate 8210. A 15.4-inch screen, 256MB Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics, 1.3-megapixel webcam and Bluetooth compare closely to the MacBook Pro. The 8210 also has a carbon fiber reinforced lid and a SmartCard security system that can prevent others from using the computer without permission.
More varied are the 15.4-inch TravelMate 6410 and 6460. Both of these are treated as media hubs for those who may not need the performance or carbon lid of the 8210. The primary difference between the two is their graphics prowess. The 6460 has a Mobility Radeon X1300 that should improve performance in Windows Vista, while the 6410 uses only Intel integrated graphics. Both retain the Bluetooth and webcam of the higher-end model. Acer has not formally announced official prices for these or the TravelMate 8210, as prices can vary depending on what configurations resellers are willing to carry.
Extended batteries are a regular option from some laptop manufacturers, but MacBook and MacBook Pro owners have largely resorted to second batteries to get more than the stock amount of battery life. On Thursday, these Apple laptop owners were given a second option by power accessory maker Battery Geek. The 140 Watt/hour Portable Power Station is an external battery that now has an optional connector that supports both MacBook models and extends their portable runtime significantly: the company claims that even the power-hungry MacBook Pro can last up to 6 additional hours on the lithium-ion based adapter. The device can also charge iBooks and PowerBooks, most Windows laptops, and USB-powered devices, including the iPod. The Portable Power Station is currently shipping at an official price of $399.
Microsoft has previously said that it would not let the iPod undercut Zune pricing, even though it has similarly denied that the new iPod's $249 price had caught the Redmond-based company by surprise. The truthfulness of Microsoft's claims was tested today by the company's official announcement of pricing and launch details. The Zune is now slated to ship on November 14th for a price of $249.99, rising only slightly above the price of Apple's 30GB music player despite the addition of an FM radio and WiFi music sharing. Microsoft explained that the price cut meant it would now take a loss on every Zune unit sold in order to gain market adoption. "We had to look at what was in the market and offer a competitive price," says Scott Erickson, the senior director of marketing for the Zune project.
Additionally, pricing in the Zune Marketplace will be similar to the iTunes Store but adopts a points system similar to the Xbox Live Marketplace. Zune owners will buy Microsoft Points rather than pay directly for songs or albums; 80 points will cost $1, while individual songs will be available for 79 points each. Listeners will also have the option of subscribing to a $15 monthly Zune Pass that gives unlimited access to the over 2 million songs expected to be ready for the combined player and store launch.
Sony-Ericsson has released several new cellphones today, two of which are designed with international callers in mind and which bring some extra style to the relatively plain mid-range. The Z550a shown here is a quad-band GSM world phone built for North Americans with Bluetooth, a 1.3-megapixel camera, and support for up to 1GB of Memory Stick Micro storage for songs in an AAC or MP3 format (25MB of internal memory is also present). The Z558i is a more advanced version that drops the built-in memory to 18MB but also adds a touchscreen, which is a rarity in a mainstream flip-phone. Sony-Ericsson says the feature is helpful for handwriting recognition when composing messages or editing the address book - an important consideration for the Chinese who will be the first to adopt it in October. The cellphone developer has not announced a definite launch for the Z550a other than the near future. Photos of both phones are available after the jump.
Attempts to make 'smart' watches usually result in devices that are very expensive, but have only a limited appeal; weather updates from a watch are not as essential as getting the time. Sony-Ericsson and watchmaker Fossil have chosen what might be a wiser alternative. The two companies announced today that they are releasing four new Bluetooth watches that act as companion pieces rather than computers. The most advanced example of these is the pictured Sony-Ericsson MBW-100. Instead of replacing the wearer's cellphone, the MBW-100 wristwatch acts as a remote for several current Sony-Ericsson handsets: the user can accept or reject calls, display caller ID, and receive notifications about new text messages or when the phone slips out of range. The music functions of those phones are similarly controllable from the watch. This particular model will launch first in Europe for 300 Euros ($380 US); however, three new Fossil watches will be released in North America with similar features and a lower price. Two will receive the Abacus smart watch brand and should be available for $200 each in mid-October with either a metal or rubber strap; the all-black Fossil version will be available for $250 in late October. Click through for a photo of the three Fossil-made watches.
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