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Previously hinted at by anonymous sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Google today confirmed that it was buying the Internet video provider for $1.65 billion in stock, according to an official press release. The deal will see YouTube retain its existing identity without any expected job cuts or relocation, Google says, as it prefers to keep the younger company's ad hoc culture intact. While exact details of the companies' future plans were not released, the buyout is expected to give YouTube a considerably wider reach than it has had in the past, integrating the video site with Google's extensive advertising and search resources.
In acquiring YouTube, Google now becomes the single largest distributor of online video and thus a tremendous influence on content providers as well as video stores such as iTunes. Google and YouTube expect the deal to be finalized by the end of 2006 pending government approval.
Finnish cellphone maker Nokia has been conservative as of late, preferring to update its phones for exercise and music instead of introducing completely new models. The company's Aeon its a step in the opposite direction, demonstrating a likely direction for future Nokia phones. It replaces virtually all of the front face of the handset with a touchscreen LCD interface. Little else is known about the prototype, but the photography reveals clear advantages to the design. Beyond a much larger display, an Aeon-based phone could change its entire interface to suit the user's needs and use virtual faceplates to change the look on a whim. Nokia hasn't issued a press release to accompany the Aeon, which leaves its practicality a mystery.
Almost every computer owner with an external USB hub is likely to know the difficulty of connecting devices without blocking other ports or tangling cables. Online importer Brando has devised a simple solution in the USB Twister Hub. The first two ports can rotate 180 degrees, clearing room for large devices or cables that might run in separate directions. Brando adds that the hub can be powered by an optional AC adapter for printers and other devices that typically require a direct connection to the host computer. The Rubik's Cube-inspired hub works with both Macs and Windows PCs and can be imported through Brando for $26 with the AC adapter ($22 without).
The release of Windows Vista RC2 led many to believe that Microsoft would indeed ship its upcoming OS to manufacturing for the scheduled October 25th date. Testing over the course of the weekend has called into question the status of this final beta release, according to separate journalist reports. Scot Finnie of ComputerWorld notes that commonly available hardware such as SoundMAX integrated audio still doesn't have drivers, preventing many participants in the beta program from using Vista for everyday tasks.
"There's just no excuse for this," Finnie said.
Similar problems were encountered by PC Magazine's John Clyman, who writes about performance and visual problems that affected a test system despite the near-final state of the OS. "It's not there yet," says Clyman of RC2's quality. Despite the increased refinement over earlier versions, he says, Vista is likely to require an interim RC2 update or even a full RC3 revision before Microsoft can declare the software complete and ready for mainstream use. The OS is not expected to be available to the general public until January.
In August, Sonic's Roxio brand announced that it was testing a new DVD burning system that would let businesses and home users alike record DVDs with built-in copy protection. The first official products of this testing were unveiled on Monday with news that Sonic would be including the latest Macrovision copy protection in its DVD-on-Demand creation program. Though not available for public consumption, the program effectively changes the way movies can be sold online and in stores. Because the technology can be used to create an exact copy of a movie with protection intact, Sonic envisions retail stores where the back catalog of movies is available simply by burning a disc at the store; the company also sees direct download stores that can finally promise physical copies of movies which work properly in DVD players. As with the home-oriented Roxio Venue, DVD-on-Demand will be ready later this year.
The two predominant hosts of online videos, Google and YouTube, have been in a heated battle to legitimize their unintentionally dubious catalogs: Google previously launched sales of TV shows and other programming while YouTube has begun signing music labels to host every music video made. The plans of both companies were accelerated today by separate announcements of deals that will see officially sanctioned videos gradually replace the bootleg versions that are often uploaded without permission. In the Google agreement, Sony-BMG and Warner Music will put their own music videos on the search company's website and tie them into the AdSense network, placing related ads next to the videos as they play. Click through for details of the YouTube deal and its unique filtering system.
Samsung earned significant attention in the crowded flash music player market by introducing a model with built-in Bluetooth. However, the newly released version of the device, named the YP-T9, appears to shed this important feature. With the version released to Asian markets, known as the T9B, owners could connect their jukeboxes to Bluetooth headphones as well as sync data wirelessly with their computers. The American T9 reduces the list of advantages over Apple's players to FM radio and MPEG-4 video support, putting it roughly on par with SanDisk's newer Sansa models. Battery life is rated at 30 hours for audio. Best Buy is the first to carry the YP-T9 in the US and is matching other companies' pricing, shipping the 2GB version for $150 and 4GB for $200.
Owners of video iPods who need car chargers and other power adapters are often looking to extend the amount of video playback time for a family vacation or during idle moments at work. The Japan-based company Princeton decided that its new PMP-BP18 battery pack ought to target these viewers by making the user more comfortable. In addition to providing significantly longer battery life for the iPod or any USB-equipped mobile device through its lithium-ion battery cells -- Princeton estimates double the battery life for cellphones with mobile TV support -- the BP18 has an adjustable stand that can be used to rest the media player at a more natural angle for watching video at a desk or another stable surface. Princeton has not yet planned to ship the new battery pack to North America.
Although Blu-Ray movies were prepared to launch shortly after the introduction of HD DVD, the novelty of the technology betrayed itself through the discs themselves. Every Blu-Ray movie to date has been stored on single-layer, 25GB discs -- which has often been large enough for the movies themselves at the native 1080p resolution, but rarely enough to include all the special features normally found on regular DVDs or to include them at the same quality as the movie itself.
The situation will improve dramatically on Tuesday when Sony Pictures releases a Blu-Ray version of Adam Sandler's "Click" as the first dual-layer, 50GB Blu-Ray movie. Viewers will not only get every special feature at HD quality but also include raw, uncompressed audio.
Two other movies from Sony, "Black Hawk Down" and "Talladega Nights," are similarly expected to get the improved quality when they release in November and December respectively. "Black Hawk" in particular will mark the introduction of a technology called Blu-Wizard that can create playlists for special features. Outside studios are also planning to ship enhanced movies by the end of the year: Lionsgate's "The Descent" will arrive by the end of October, while "Kingdom of Heaven" from Fox will ship in mid-November. The movies will be ready just as second-generation Blu-Ray players from Panasonic, Philips, and other companies ship to stores.
While appealing to many, ViewSonic's just announced Cine5000 could be excessive for those who simply want to watch DVDs or deliver presentations. The company today announced a much more reasonable DLP projector, the PJ558D. Its maximum resolution is 1024x768, but unlike some other entry-level projectors, it supports 720p and 1080i signals and can scale them to fit. The input options are similarly scaled down but are well-suited to more modest home theaters and business presentations, with VGA input and output as well as RCA and S-video. Support for ViewSonic's own 802.11g wireless presentation adapter is also present for those circumstances when it becomes difficult to string cables from a laptop to a projector at the opposite end of the room. The PJ558D ships today for $999, less than half the price of its Cine5000 sibling.
Serious music listeners regularly invest thousands of dollars into their speaker systems, but those with particularly large collections may also want to invest in organizing their collections. The Soolos Music System is designed for just these users. At its core is a 17-inch touchscreen control system that lets users choose music by its album art and create playlists without having to use traditional computer controls. The main system, in turn, broadcasts its music wirelessly to as many as 32 different control zones which are accessed by separate 7-inch touchscreen remotes.
While this could be considered impressive by itself, Soolos also intends the Music System as a replacement for the faithful audio reproduction of luxury CD players: the minimum available storage is 1TB with drive mirroring, allowing every album to be transferred to the hard drive in a lossless format and backed up in case of a failure. The company will even volunteer to transfer albums to the system in advance and personalize it with song picks and reviews. As the features suggest, the Music System is far from a trivial expense at $12,000 for a one-zone, 1TB system, but with storage for at least 2,000 albums it will clearly satisfy the most dedicated music collectors.
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