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Canada now officially allows wireless number portability (WNP) -- more simply, the ability to use the same phone number while switching between cellphone carriers. Though this has been commonplace in the United States for some time, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) only ruled on the matter in 2005, and set an implementation deadline for March 14th of this year. Furthermore, the decision applies strictly to the wireless realm unless local landline rules also enable portability.
Aside from increasing the convenience of cellphones, the main outcome of the switch is expected to be increased competition: since customers can avoid the hassle of a new number, they may well migrate to providers with lower fees or better service. However, as Ken Wong of the Queen's School of Business notes, many cellphone companies make it difficult to leave even with WNP. [via DailyTech]
Chinese company Teclast has just released the C280 media player. Immediately noticeable is the control scheme, which uses the seamless red-under-black design initially made popular by the LG Chocolate phone. While the only audio files supported are MP3 and WAV, it can also play MPEG-4 video, as well as tune in and record FM radio. It holds 2GB of content and should last 12 hours per battery charge. The price of the player is not yet available online. [via Teclasters]
Canadian retailer Future Shop has taken the unusual step of discounting its iMac prices, according to an e-mail distributed to customers. While potentially tied to a larger desktop promotion, the discount is largest for Apple's most inexpensive model, dropping the price of the 17-inch 1.83GHz system instantly by $100 to $1,000 Canadian ($850 US).
The move is uncharacteristic for Apple, which seldom allows significant discounts of its computers at retail chains and usually matches the size of any price drop to the normal cost. Such promotions are historically used to clear stock in advance of new models and may herald an iMac update in the weeks following the campaign, which ends March 22nd. Apple has updated the all-in-one computer in a similar timeframe in recent years.
Among its other products hidden at CeBIT, Samsung has revealed the Ultra Music F200. The handset is a spiritual successor to the company's narrow, pocket-friendly X830 swivel phone but shifts its attention to music with a digital amp and enhanced 3D audio. In contrast to the US-bound F300, however, the F200 won't rely on internal storage for its media library; Samsung drops the internal storage from 1GB to 5MB and reliea instead on an easily accessible microSD card slot to keep the bulk of owner's collection of MP3, OGG, or WMA tracks.
Mustek at CeBIT introduced the PMP 638. Similar in style to the Meizu M6, the media player is one of the only devices of its type with a camera, snapping 2-megapixel photos that it can store on its internal 1GB of flash storage or on removable SD cards. Format support is unknown but should include music, photos, and videos; an AV output will give the 638 support for TVs without requiring an intermediary cable.
Its introduction is currently slated for April at a price of 200 Euros ($266). Mustek hasn't pointed to a North American release but does sell existing portable media players in the continent. [via T3]
Headplay has announced its Personal Cinema System. Composed of three parts, the unit creates the equivalent of a 52-inch screen six feet away through its goggles, serving as an alternative to seatback screens on passenger planes or for viewing at home.
What makes this different from other systems that have tried the approach before is a breakout box dubbed the Liberator, Headplay notes. Besides allowing both PCs and TVs to attach to the visor, it has a video decoding engine that plays photos or videos directly from one of several inputs: a Dock Connector handles video directly from iPods, while full and mini USB ports as well as a CompactFlash card slot handle input from cameras. RCA and S-video jacks accept most analog video sources.
System builder Rock on Friday launched the Meivo, a new-concept LCD set that it hopes will satisfy both present-day TV viewers and Internet-based viewing in the future. The 22-inch screen contains a full Core 2 Duo system in back, as well as a TV tuner that turns the computer into a full-fledged PVR for capturing shows. Onboard Wi-Fi also turns the set into an IPTV hub, Rock says. The slim profile still allows for two hard drive bays that can be used to either expand available storage or mirror it as a backup.
Appropriately, a wireless keyboard and mouse will ship with the system when it goes on sale in April, as will side-mounted USB ports to attach peripherals while the TV is flush against a well. Prices start at the equivalent of $1,943 in the UK with prices going up for added performance or storage. [via Tech Digest]
Children can no longer use cellphones in class, the Italian government announced today. The ban is meant to stop abuse of cameraphones and disruptive rings in classes, officials said. Although seemingly harsh, the clampdown comes after a string of violence in Italy filmed using cameras, including the bullying of a student and the sexual harassment of a teacher.
The first such ban in Europe will also have severe consequences for those caught in the act, the government says. Punishment will range from anything as relatively mild as confiscating the phone to barring students from taking their final exams. Schools in Europe and North America have been known to issue their own limited bans in the past but have rarely if ever seen government-wide limits.
Samsung's booth at CeBIT has quietly provided an early look at the latest addition to its 17-inch M series notebooks. Though still unofficial, the M60 was visible at the convention and was known to use equally unannounced technology. The demonstration system uses Intel's Santa Rosa chipset, sporting a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo with an 800MHz bus. Graphics in turn are handled by a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 8000-series mobile chips, similar to those used by the Aura notebooks revealed at the start of the show.
Also confirmed by the leak are 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, and a 1440x900 screen resolution. The M60 should make its first official appearance in May or June, shortly after Intel's new platform is made public. The system is likely to remain on sale only in Asia and Europe. [via NotebookReview]
TecnoVISION set records at CeBIT by exhibiting the Luxio. Beating even the Sharp 108-inch LCD, the Italian-made set is the world's true largest HDTV at 205 inches diagonal, boasts the company. This size is reached by using LED backlighting instead of cold cathodes, guaranteeing a more uniform brightness even across such a large screen.
Neither the precise capabilities of the screen nor its price have been revealed, but TecnoVISION says the panel is HD-ready and should ship internationally to those who can justify its premium price. [via Tech Digest]
Japanese outfit Rana has released a 2GB iPod nano themed around Mickey Mouse. Though it's unknown if it was actually approved by Disney, etchings of Mickey are everywhere in the product, from the special packaging though to the engraving on the back of the player. Also included in the box are special decals to place around the clickwheel, and a leather case, which comes with a removable strap and carabiner. Officially-sanctioned or not, the Mickey Mouse nano will not be around for much longer; only 500 have been produced, selling for 33,600 yen ($287) apiece. [via Akiharabara News]
AMD's recently acquired ATI will be the first video card maker to use its HDMI output for audio, a presentation by the company at CeBIT has revealed. The RV600, likely to become the Radeon X2600 on its release, will include its own HD audio controller. The addition will let AMD cards used in home theaters connect both video and audio to an HDTV through a single HDMI cable, rather than require a separate cable for the audio feed. Such an addition also means that the audio stream will also be guaranteed to work with protect movies such as some Blu-Ray and HD DVD clips, AMD says.
A formal release timeframe for cards using the X2600 chip and the previously leaked X2800 hasn't been announced, but is expected by April or May. [via Beyond3D]
Creative conributed its share to CeBIT today with a duo of PC add-ons. Foremost is the Live! Cam Optia AF, the company's new premium webcam. The company claims that the device is the world's first with auto-focus as well as a 2-megapixel sensor to properly center on a subject without affecting image quality; as with the Logitech QuickCams introduced earlier this week, the Optia AF also has glass lens elements to avoid the dull look found in plastic. Images can be captured at up to 1600x1200 resolution with automatic face recognition, and a dual microphone array cuts down on unwanted background noise.
Not long after Kingston's launch of one, SanDisk has followed suit with its own 8GB SDHC card, which should be capable holding roughly 2,000 songs, 4,000 photos, or 15 hours of MPEG-4 video. While it will come with its own MicroMate USB 2.0 reader, the card will not be especially fast, as it is rated at only Class 2 speeds -- approximately 2MB/s. It should ship in April for $190.
Mobile phone users may, however, appreciate SanDisk's forthcoming Mobile Premier microSD cards. Designed as high-performance models, the cards will come in 1 and 2GB capacities, and have a read speed of 10MB/s. Writing is done at 9MB/s. The Mobile Premier line will also bundle an adapter, enabling use with full-sized SD slots. The cards should launch in the spring for $45 and $70, respectively.
One of the ASUS entries at CeBIT is the T83, a rare example of an ultra-mobile PC from the company. Its primary feature is a seven-inch touchscreen, which rotates 180 degrees to close over the keyboard and become a tablet. Inside is a 1GHz Via C7-M processor with 512MB of RAM (expandable to 2GB), running Windows XP Tablet at resolutions up to 800x480. A 30GB hard drive is included, and the machine also packs in a Bluetooth, WiFi, a webcam and a GPS receiver. Battery life is said to be six hours. A standard T83 will ship in the third quarter for $899 to $999, but ASUS is also working on a ruggedized version for industrial use. [via Engadget]
ASUS has used its presence at CeBIT to showcase updates to two of its notebook lines. The 15-inch W1 and 17-inch W2 are now some of the very first notebooks to ship with HD DVD-R drives, the Taiwanese company says: the top models in either line can now create the extra-large discs as well as CDs and DVDs. Both systems continue to hold on to other media-savvy features, including a digital TV tuner and HDMI output for linking the notebooks with HDTVs.
Unmentioned for North America so far, Toshiba has unveiled its third HD DVD player for Europe. The HD-EP10 follows the HD-E1 and HD-XE1, and like the latter, supports output resolutions up to 1080p. Standard DVDs can also be upscaled to match. CD, DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-ROM discs can be read as well, and several forms of audio decoding are built-in, including Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, and DTS HD. Though the launch date of the EP10 is unspecified, it is expected to retail for €699 ($926).
Acer today announced the Aspire L320. The Xbox-shaped PC is ten times smaller than a standard mid-tower, Acer says, and works just as well as a home theater as on the desktop. To help with this, the computer is one of the first to support Intel's newer GMA 3000 integrated graphics to bolster its Core 2 Duo processor; the chipset ensures that Vista Home Premium and the company's own eMode media center both play videos at full speed. Every model comes with an hybrid analog and digital tuner for recording TV shows and Wi-Fi for linking to a home network.
Prices and availability for the L320 will depend on the specific region, according to Acer, but an AMD-based Aspire L100 will be available with Athlon 64 X2 processors and GeForce 6150 graphics for more budget-conscious home theater enthusiasts. [via The Register]
GPS producer TomTom has revealed the GO 715 at the CeBIT expo in Germany. The new device is the first from the company to integrate its own GPRS modem, complete with a SIM card slot: it can not only receive data through the Internet but send it as well, allowing a vehicle to geo-locate itself relative to others and engage in two-way text chats. Bluetooth is also onboard for hands-free calling.
The 715 will be ready by April for Western Europe; prices are unknown and will generally be reserved for the work market that TomTom says is the primary focus of the new GO model. A US launch is very likely after an FCC filing revealed that the device was already in testing for the country.
Retailers may be resorting to major incentives to sell the Zune, an Office Depot flyer has revealed. An insert in Thursday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution has listed the 30GB Microsoft player as selling for $200 after a mail-in rebate, dropping the price by 20 percent versus its normal $250 price tag. The discount comes only five months into the Zune's short history and points to frustration with sales for the relatively new device.
While discounts are common for music players sold at these stores as they are replaced or fall out of favor, few are as large or come as early in the player's life cycle. The cut is also unexpected given the apparent success for the Zune in January and a lack of definite plans for new Zune models until late this year. Apple is an exception in frequently refusing to discount its iPods before they are replaced with new editions.
Indie music labels will soon have a simple way to bypass major music labels, according to an announcement made today at the SXSW music festival. A service developed by the Independent Online Distribution Alliance and DownloadCentric will let labels and individual artists easily plug albums into their own websites without having to recreate any of the information they've already submitted to the group -- a first for online music, the IODA says.
The system, which has already gone live for labels such as Six Degrees and System, could potentially threaten larger stores such as eMusic and iTunes by letting independents set the terms of how they sell their music without having to build a store from scratch. This includes choosing to sell DRM-free MP3 tracks, the record group says. The service should begin beta testing for the rest of the IODA's members in May with a formal launch to follow later.
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