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Forwarded by a call center employee, a tip suggests that Microsoft may be dealing with an unusual number of cracked Zune screens. According to the anonymous account, a number of callers have been complaining about Zunes whose screens cracked after being left to charge overnight. The source believes that this could be due to the position of the lithium-ion battery in the player, which is directly behind the LCD, and may be expanding far enough to put pressure on the screen. This is unconfirmed however, and Microsoft does not consider the problem to be within warranty coverage. Other Zune owners have also disputed the claim, noting that their own Zunes have been charged for hours or days at a time without trouble. [Via Engadget]
Polaroid is continuing its return to the consumer market with an upcoming portable printer, made by a spinoff subsidiary called Zink. Like the cameras that made Polaroid famous, the printer will not require any ink of its own; users will instead need to buy special Zink paper, which contains dye crystals that only activate at the right temperature. The printer should be roughly the same size as an iPod and will connect via USB or Bluetooth, enabling cellphones and other portable devices to print directly. No timeframe for a release has been set, but Polaroid is hoping to keep the cost under $100. [Via The Next Big Thing]
Cellphone makers have misjudged the market, says a new report by New York-based ABI Research. While many designers are focusing on HSDPA and other 3G wireless Internet connections, most of the buyers looking beyond basic phones are more interested in media playback and style, the analysts say. Though sales of cellphones reached one billion units in 2006, Internet-focused phones such as the Nokia E61 actually suffered from lower sales in the year, baffling many expectations. Phone owners are also "fickle" when it came to fashion, ABI's Stuart Carlaw notes: while Motorola's RAZR may have saved the company years ago, it no longer has its early appeal.
Predicting the future, the researchers specifically singled out the iPhone as one of the phones standing the best chance of success. The Apple handset not only emphasizes its iPod-like media functions but should also do well because it breaks from the conventional lineups that no longer interest them, ABI writes. In contrast, the report bodes ill for the recently unveiled RAZR V3xx and other devices that rely almost exclusively on their 3G support as a selling point.
Swedish design firm Mousetrapper today announced the Mousetrapper Advance, a unique mouse replacement that builds a trackpad into a palmrest. This gives a notebook-style control scheme to almost any desktop keyboard. The design is specially crafted to keep a computer user's hands on the home row of the keyboard while they type and reduce the cramping or other repetitive stress, its creator says. The position suits both left- and right-handed typists and is a straightforward USB add-on that works with both Macs and Windows PCs. It ships today in the UK for £170 ($333) and should spread to other regions soon. [via TechShout]
With advertising for the Super Bowl having become more culturally significant than the game, Google executive Rich Godwin has announced that all of the new commercials will be hosted on YouTube, following the airing of Super Bowl XLI this Sunday. The videos will be hosted on a special Wrap Up section of the website, but should otherwise be treated like any other YouTube clip, with the ability to rate and watch them as often as desired at no cost. Should users forget, the Wrap Up will also be linked from the Google frontpage. Godwin points out that for advertisers, YouTube is an ideal method of ensuring continuing airplay for an otherwise short-lived campaign.
Microsoft on Wednesday agreed to make changes to Vista to avoid further retaliation by European Union over anti-competitive practices, according to news from Tech Digest. Bowing to pressure from Real, Symantec, and other firms, the Redmond company has agreed to rework its next service pack to meet its challengers' expectations. Higher-profile developers will have the option of a special software kit that will let them bypass Vista's PatchGuard, a technology meant to prevent malware from changing the OS itself but which has been attacked for shutting out non-Microsoft security tools from the deeper layers of the OS. Microsoft is also set to use Service Pack 1 to fulfill its earlier promise of a Vista edition stripped of Windows Media Player and will also give greater control over Internet Explorer 7's search engine choices, the report said.
The OS developer has been repeatedly asked to change the preloaded software for Windows in recent years, adding a program default control panel to Windows XP and allowing system builders to change browser and e-mail programs.
Intel has narrowed down the official launch of its next mobile Core 2 Duo and the chipset to accompany it, sources speaking to DigiTimes have said. The combination of processors and mainboards, which Intel has already codenamed Santa Rosa, should arrive in May instead of the less determinate second-quarter timeframe the company has officially listed. The platform adds a much-needed 800MHz system bus (up from 667MHz), the option of caching system information on flash memory, and better integrated graphics with hardware support for the shaders used by both OS X and Windows Vista.
The Taiwanese publication has also revealed that there will be four models -- the T7100, T7300, T7500, and T7770 -- though it did not mention clock speeds or other differences. All four chips are expected to cost less than their current iterations. Bulk prices should drop from $241 to $209 for the least expensive models while high-end chips will see an even steeper discount, dropping from $637 to $530. If substantiated, the news points to both an exact launch period and price drops for new notebooks from Apple, Dell, and other major companies which are normally quick to adopt faster Intel technology in their portables.
Taiwanese company OKWAP has introduced its first Windows Mobile smartphone, the S868. While the company has yet to disclose much about the product, it should have Skype support, a 2.4-inch screen and a two-megapixel camera, as well as another pair of features that are virtually unseen on other cellphones. Foremost is a touch dial built into the keypad, which lets users control the on-screen menus much as if they were using an iPod. This is likely necessary given the lack of a touchscreen. The other feature is an apparent full-sized SD card slot, which actually opens at the top of the phone, rather than the side or the bottom. OKWAP expects the S868 to ship in Taiwan sometime after February 18th, for the local equivalent of $450. [Via Phone Daily]
HP today demonstrated a new design for its Pavilion Slimline small form factor PCs. Its casing exchanges silver for a glossy black to better blend with TVs and other home electronics, and replaces the built-in 9-in-1 card reader with a multi-slot version. Most importantly, the updated Slimline supports desktop processors -- a performance increase previously unseen in earlier models, says HP. Component options are unknown but will very likely consist of both AMD's Athlon 64 and Sempron processors as well as Intel's desktop Core 2 Duo chips. Official release information has yet to be revealed.
The system builder also previewed a new look for its LCD displays. The unnamed display similarly gains a glossy black around its bezel and has a thin, flat stand reminiscent of Apple's Cinema Display. A new mounting system, dubbed HP Easy Clip, has made its appearance. Owners can attach items to the top and sides of the screen, ranging from strictly practical items such as documents to decorations and photos. As with the just-announced computers, prices and ship dates have not been unveiled. [via AVING]
Korea's electronics giant LG said today that it intends a special edition 60-inch plasma TV with a wooden bezel instead of the more common metal or plastic, catering to home theater enthusiasts who would like their set to blend more discretely with its environment. Currently known as the 60PT1, its exact technical features are unavailable but are likely to approach those of today's 60PC1D set, which is a 720p-capable model with a 7,000:1 contrast ratio and dual HDMI inputs.
Only 1,000 of the 60PT1 will be made, LG says. Sales of the luxury plasma will begin as soon as March and will start in South Korea, though other regions should have the option to place orders as well. Pricing has not been discussed but is likely to float about the $5,200 of the present model. [via DigiTimes]
The cost of an album at the iTunes Store is likely determining the overall cost of physical CDs, an anonymous industry contact has told SeekingAlpha. The benchmark $10 price for an album through Apple's online shop is said to have forced major labels to heavily discount their higher-profile releases to compete, with many of Amazon's bestsellers seeing a dramatic 47 percent price drop. Brick-and-mortar retailers have also felt an intense pressure to compete more directly with iTunes, the source said, pointing specifically to Wal-Mart's persistent fear of losing its dominance over low-cost album sales to Apple.
Some of these prices were spurred on by the lower costs of indepdendents and special promotions, according to the industry expert. However, the drops also mirror the steady decline of major labels' physical sales. EMI in particular is in "such bad shape" that it has taken to price reductions on most of its newest release in an attempt to prop up its flagging business, the source said. Conspicuously, some of EMI's largest back-catalog artists -- including Radiohead and The Beatles -- are also those who have so far declined to sell their music through direct downloads.
Envision today released a duo of smaller sets in its LCD TV line, each geared towards college students and others who want digital TV in a smaller space. The 19-inch L19W661 sports a 1440x900 widescreen panel with a relatively high 800:1 contrast ratio and a 5ms response time; the 15-inch L15X661 is built for those who prefer standard ratios and uses a 1024x768 display with 500:1 contrast and 8ms response times.
Importantly, the company adds, both sets can properly receive HD signals. An HDMI input is included for the video and audio from the PlayStation 3 and other HD-capable video players, while a combination ATSC/NTSC tuner receives both HD and standard over-the-air broadcasts. A VGA input is also present for attaching directly to a computer. The sets reach stores before the end of March at prices of $399 for the 19-inch model and $299 for its 15-inch equivalent.
Avid has announced three new TV tuners, which the company says are certified for both Windows Vista and Media Center -- the latter allowing PVR-style program recording. Of the tuners, the most interesting to Americans is likely to be the Pinnacle PCTV HD Tuner Kit, which receives ATSC and NTSC broadcasts and works with any Vista machine that has a USB 2.0 port. Because of this, the tuner should be ideal for TV-addicted travellers, who can simply plug the device into their laptops. The kit will ship in March for $129, coming bundled with a Media Center remote.
The other two tuners are aimed at a European market. The first is another USB 2.0 product, ready to receive PAL, SECAM, and DVB-T signals, while the second is a PCI kit, which can only handle PAL and SECAM. Like the American tuner, Media Center remotes will come standard out of the box. No prices or release dates have been mentioned for these products.
Canon on Wednesday unveiled the HV20, its second HDV camera for the mainstream. The companion to the earlier HV10 brings features normally reserved for professional cameras, according to the camera designer. The HV20 adds HDMI output, allowing it to display a native 1080i widescreen image with audio on an HDTV through a single cable. Sensitivity has also been increased on the 3-megapixel sensor for low-light shooting, jumping from 5 to 3 lux even with a short 1/30 second shutter speed.
Equally improved over the HV10 is a special 24p recording mode. Rather than shoot at the full 30 frames per second of TV, the HV20 can optionally shoot at 24 frames per second with progressive scan, avoiding the pulldown frame rate conversion needed for most handheld cameras. An optional CINE mode will also reflect the colors and tones expected in professional film, Canon claims. The camera's 10X optical zoom and instant auto-focus are continued from the earlier model. An American launch of the HV20 is set for April at a price of $1,099.
Sony Europe this morning launched three additions to its VAIO notebooks, including a model previously unavailable anywhere beyond Japan. The G11 (pictured) is the first version of the VAIO G available outside of southeast Asia and is one of the lightest portables in the market thanks to its carbon fiber shell, weighing under 2.5 pounds despite its 12-inch screen and dual-layer DVD rewriter. In contrast to the Japanese model, however, the European version has been tuned for 9 hours of average battery life due in part to its ultra-low voltage 1.33GHz Core Duo. A launch date and price are unavailable, but Sony Europe expects to deliver the G11 with a base 1GB of RAM, a 100GB hard disk, a fingerprint reader, and Windows Vista Business.
Revealed during the announcement was the AR30, a European equivalent to the North American AR390E with a 2GHz Core 2 Duo, Blu-Ray, dual 120GB hard drives, and Vista Home Premium. The 11.1-inch widescreen VAIO TX5 has also received the performance boosts of its Japanese TX equivalent with a faster 1.33GHz ULV Core Duo, 100GB of storage, and Vista Business. Exact release details as well as North American equivalents for the G11 and TX5 also remain unannounced.
Panasonic today overhauled its Lumix cameras with eight new models across its entire American range. Leading the announcements is the DMC-FZ8, an update to the FZ7 which increases the sensor of the 12X zoom camera to 7.2 megapixels alongside a new ability to shoot directly in RAW instead of TIFF or JPEG. An enhanced version of the Venus III engine also lets it shoot at ISO 1250 sensitivity without adding excessive noise, the company says. Optical image stabilization and an 848x480, full speed widescreen movie mode carry over from its predecessor. Panasonic anticipates shipping the FZ8 in February for $350.
Click through for a full image of the FZ8 as well as details and photos of the additional Lumix models. [images courtesy DPReview]
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