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Monster Cable has always existed at the periphery of home theaters in the literal sense of the term: most know it only for its cables and other accessories that play only a minor part. Not content with this role, Monster intends to get attention with its first proper home theater equipment by targeting luxury buyers, says CRN's Jeff O'Heir. The company is planning a home theater ecosystem codenamed Einstein that would ease the process of sending high-definition audio and video throughout a large home. At its heart will be the Nucleus, a $4,000 device that would serve as a media hub and home automation box; this would in turn connect through gigabit Ethernet or WiFi to local Electron devices ($2500) that would serve as the owner's direct controls over everything from home lighting to videos. Click through for more, including launch details and the extravagant DVD and satellite players that form part of the Einstein system.
Sources within the Apple reseller network have indicated that a long-awaited update to the MacBook Pro line is imminent, according to AppleInsider. Stores that have tried to request custom configurations of the laptop are being told that they will not receive their systems for another two to three weeks, according to the report. In the past, these shipping delays have frequently been signs of updates: the denial of bulk Mac mini orders in late August previewed the eventual release of the new dual-core models in early September. AppleInsider in turn claims that the new models are likely to remain similar to current models with the exception of the faster processor.
Despite its aggressive performance updates to the professional laptops in the first half of 2006, Apple has taken a more cautious approach to the Core 2 Duo processor, allowing system builders such as Dell and Lenovo to capture early attention with updated portables instead of launching simultaneously with the new chip.
Analysts in recent days have been conflicted over the possibility of further delays to Windows Vista, with both Gartner and Goldman-Sachs providing contradictory reports on the readiness of Microsoft's future OS. The software developer addressed these worries Friday afternoon by officially distributing Vista Release Candidate to testers. This latest build is the final prerelease version to ship before the officially scheduled release to manufacturing on October 25th. Testers must currently be part of Microsoft's official beta testing group or developer program to download the new version. The number of known flaws is said to be falling rapidly and is expected to pass Microsoft's quality requirements for a final release, according to journalist Paul Thurrott.
Google is in sensitive discussions to buy the video host YouTube, an anonymous source has told the Wall Street Journal. The deal [note: link expires after Friday] is reported to be valued at $1.6 billion and would give Google an effective monopoly over web-based video, according to journalist Kevin Delaney. YouTube, which serves over 100 million videos per day, has been considered a problematic takeover prospect by many as its popularity stems from both legitimate amateur and official videos as well as the illegal clips from movies and TV shows that are often uploaded without YouTube's knowledge or consent. Google Video by contrast retains a significant but considerably smaller share of Internet video streaming.
If accurate, the move may also have substantial consequences for Apple, whose Board of Directors includes Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The absorption of YouTube into Google would give Schmidt a strong influence over Apple's own recent movie initiative and could result in the merging of web-based video with Apple's largely closed system.
Those who prefer Sony-Ericsson's interpretation of music phone functionality in the US have generally either turned to the expensive market for unlocked phones or settled for the middling phones that are sold through service providers. Help has come on Friday with word that Cingular is now offering the W810i to subscribers. The Walkman variant has been in shops for several months but still has features that are considered high-end today, such as a 2-megapixel camera, FM radio, and EDGE broadband. Like most phones in the Sony-Ericsson music line, it has a dedicated button to switch to music controls and comes with a Memory Stick (128MB) so that it can be used for listening right away. Cingular is offering the normally costly phone for $150 with a two-year contract.
Next-generation mobile broadband in the US -- that is, 3G and beyond -- has so far been scarce, dominated largely by Cingular's 3.5G HSDPA network and only now seeing competition from Sprint's EVDO Revision A. Today, the American division of T-Mobile announced that it would offer a third option for 3G access through a major deployment of a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) network. The carrier says it will spend $2.66B rolling out the option to all its users over the course of the next two to three years. UMTS is similar in many ways to HSDPA (though it uses W-CDMA instead of GSM towers) and can offer a theoretical maximum speed of 2Mbps downstream; numerous European smartphones already work with either standard, opening the possibility of phone launches in the US that would previously have been impossible. No devices were launched with the rollout, though T-Mobile states that the early network and accompanying devices should be ready by mid-2007.
Instant messaging is now an expected feature of many cellphones, but the availability of IM networks is often tied directly to a particular carrier or handset. This can frequently cause grief for travelers who regularly use multi-IM clients such as Adium or Trillian at home. Choosing the EQO Mobile service provides that same level of multi-IM support on the road, according to its creator EQO Communications. Signing up for a free beta account and installing the Java-based software keeps a particular phone updated on several different networks at once and in real time, including the VoIP-oriented Skype. The service works on over 300 phones, EQO says, and lets users add new contacts without a computer. The company is investigating pricing for the software once it completes beta testing and notes that outbound Skype calls to physical phones carries its normal fees.
Phantom Entertainment (originally known as Infinium Labs) has been vilified for years for promises of unreleased hardware. In what may be a surprise to many, the company on late Thursday committed to a near-term launch for its new Phantom Lapboard. The device was originally intended as the central controller for the now cancelled Phantom Game Console but has since been reworked as a keyboard/mouse hybrid for Macs and Windows used in the living room as a home theater PC. The keyboard tilts upwards and rotates to reveal a mousing surface underneath; Phantom says that the USB-based device rotates a full 360 degrees so that left-handed mouse users and others can get a comfortable fit.
In the announcement, Phantom revealed that the Lapboard will ship in November for $129, but is available for $99 through pre-orders from the company website.
While the Slingbox line of media hubs are meant to stream TV signals to the Internet, the sometimes overlooked Akimbo service works in reverse, delivering Internet content to a TV. Most of its content has been specially offered through subscriptions; today, however, Akimbo revealed that it is releasing a new RCA Akimbo Player which now includes 100 hours of standard-definition video storage and, most importantly, support for purchases from online store MovieLink. Subscribers to the $10 per month Akimbo service can buy classics as well as new releases and view them directly on a TV through the new RCA-made equipment. Akimbo notes that the improved hardware also has component video out and an optional WiFi adapter.
Existing subscribers can upgrade to the new device for a $30 shipping fee when it ships the week of October 23rd, Akimbo says. New subscribers can purchase the Akimbo Player for $180.
The significance of the announcement is magnified by its similarity to Apple's as yet unreleased iTV hub. As viewing movies purchased online forms a cornerstone of Apple's upcoming TV strategy, the Akimbo update represents a threat by delivering this feature months ahead of the iTV's anticipated early 2007 release.
Braun is known for its kitchen and shaving products, not entertainment products -- but a recent announcement by the German photography branch of the company will see the company more aggressively pursue digital cameras. Rather than compete directly against the high-end models of established companies, Braun has opted to target newcomers. The lead models are the 6.2-megapixel D600 and D800 cameras. Both have 32MB of internal memory and feature a unique interpolation feature that claims to increase the effective resolution of an image to 8 megapixels without losing image quality. They are primarily separated by LCD size: the higher-end D800 has a 2.4-inch LCD while the D600 uses a smaller 2-inch screen.
Also part of the launch were three ultra-compact, budget cameras with 16MB of flash memory: the 3.1-megapixel D312 without optical zoom, 4-megapixel D410 with 3X optical zoom, and the 5.3-megapixel D504. Pricing and launch details are unavailable. Click through for photos courtesy of Let's Go Digital.
The portability of media hard drives such as the Unibrain iZak is somewhat muted by their need to attach to a home stereo or video system. The situation is different with the Onkyo Wavio MP-1000J, which is surprisingly flexible for those who simply want access to a large amount of content wherever they may be. Onkyo's drive enclosure is likely the first to include a 12-volt car adapter that can power the unit while it feeds audio or video to an in-car entertainment system. Likewise, the MP-1000J doesn't limit the user to a factory-installed hard drive. It ships with an empty 2.5-inch hard drive bay that gives the choice of as much storage as needed or even using different drives for different purposes. Support for 720p, optical audio, and rarer audio formats such as OGG round out its features. Onkyo is releasing the enclosure next week in Japan for the equivalent of $125; as the J label indicates, this initial version is Japan-only but should be followed in the future by a North American equivalent.
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