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Microsoft today finally announced the availability of DreamScene, the long-delayed extra for Windows Vista Ultimate users. Originally intended to launch at or near Vista's January release, the feature gives any Ultimate owner the option of replacing a static desktop with a looping video scene such as a fire or fish swimming underwater. The feature requires a system capable of handling the extra demands of a large video texture along with the Aero Glass interface and should be a free download for any Vista Ultimate user.
Beleaguered VoIP carrier Vonage must pay Sprint Nextel at least $69.5 million, a federal court judge has ruled. The Associated Press writes that Vonage has been found guilty of infringing on six telecommunications patents, and must now pay Sprint damages as well as a five percent royalty on future revenues. Sprint first sued Vonage in 2005; at the time, the case involved a full seven patents, all relating to VoIP technlogy. Vonage denied any wrongdoing -- not for having broken the patents, however, but by saying that the patents were faulty and should not have been granted in the first place.
The Italian phone carrier 3 Italia has adopted a new LG cellphone, the U960. The handset places heavy emphasis on TV viewing, not only through a digital DVB-H tuner, but also by snapping the sliding screen horizontally, enabling widescreen video while allowing access to the numberpad. The phone has other high-end features as well, among these 3.6Mbps HSDPA, which is accompanied by a VGA front-side camera for video calls. A two-megapixel rear camera records stills and regular video.
Users can link devices through Bluetooth or USB 2.0, and play numerous audio and video formats including AAC and H.264; the phone has just 45MB of internal storage though, requiring most media to be held on microSD cards. 3 Italia is selling the U960 for €102 ($144) as part of a plan. [via Unwired View]
Sony Japan followed up its notebook updates with an upgrade to its all-in-one VAIO L desktops. In addition to the computing-focused, 15.4-inch LJ, the 19-inch LM and 22-inch LT have now been redesigned to share the same backing parts as Sony's BRAVIA LCD sets and will wall-mount using an optional VESA kit, completely eliminating the horizontal footprint of the computer. A digital tuner for over-the-air TV broadcasts is now standard even with the slower 15-inch systems, Sony notes, fulfilling the role of the L as a hybrid media center without the extra cost.
Phone carrier AT&T, and Frontline, a recent start-up, are the latest out of a batch of 10 companies to petition the FCC over its upcoming 700MHz wireless auction. InfoWorld reports that the companies are upset about several requirements; among these is the stipulation that prior to even bidding, companies must reach an agreement with US public safety departments, giving them access to frequencies needed for a nationwide broadband link. This is described as "an extreme penalty," according to AT&T's petition.
AT&T has promised to unveil an upgrade to its mobile network with a six-fold upload increase, but those improvements won't include Apple's iPhone until the Cupertino-based company unveils a newer model with support for the carrier's quicker service. AT&T wireless network services president Richard Burns told Reuters in an interview that the cellular carrier expects to perform most of its planned upgrades in October and November, ramping upload speeds to help meet higher bandwidth demand from customers. "The ability to upload is becoming more important," Burns said. "Everybody in the street is becoming a reporter so the desire to be able to upload is growing. That's become a much bigger part of consumer demand than it was just a few years ago." The network upgrades will increase speeds to 500-800Kbps from the current 120Kbps, but Burns points to AT&T surveys that suggest iPhone owners are happy with their slower EDGE service.
As one of its multiple announcements on Tuesday, Toshiba unveiled one of its most flexible projectors ever: the TDP-EW25U includes a unique DLP projection system that casts a usable 41-inch picture from as close as 1.6 feet, and scales up quickly to a 60-inch picture at 2.4 feet. When ceiling mounted, the unit actively eliminates visible glare and prevents shadows from the projector itself from falling on to the screen, Toshiba says. A 100 percent optical offset makes this possible and also makes it an ideal fit for unusual presentation angles at work or movie viewing at home. The EW25U's native 1280x800 resolution also helps in both situations, accommodating many widescreen notebooks as well as 720p HD video feeds.
Pinnacle Systems released Pinnacle Video Capture for Mac, a USB 2.0 device that eases the process of capturing video in an iPod-native format from any analog source. The system enables users to transfer home videos, record TV shows or movies, and record gameplay from a game console while automatically adding the content to iTunes. Pinnacle Video Capture for Mac plugs into a USB 2.0 or 1.1 port to enable high-quality video streaming directly to the system with support for multiple inputs -- including S-Video, Composite video, and stereo audio analog. The device features hardware video encoding and onboard compression as well as MPEG-3 compression support. Pinnacle Video Capture for Mac is slated for release in mid-October of this year, and is priced at $100 requiring Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
Motorola today backed its wi4 WiMAX efforts with the company's first truly mobile WiMAX chipset, allowing its devices and other companies to use the Intel wireless technology in a handheld. The unnamed processor is small enough to fit in tighter environments but also consumes less power at 4G (fourth-generation) speeds than the hardware for today's 3G connections, such as EVDO or HSDPA. It also supports MIMO (multiple-in, multiple-out) antenna setups to pick up signals at very long distances or at higher speeds when space allows. WiMAX in handhelds using the chip would offer multi-megabit, "DSL or cable-like" speeds, according to Motorola.
Toshiba continued its successive launches today with the release of two notebook lines that expand the company's still-young AMD lineup. Topping the list is the P205D, the company's first 17-inch AMD notebook. While similar at its heart to the Intel-based systems, the new model keeps costs down by using lower-cost CPUs with near-identical 64-bit support and dual cores. The base S7438 version is set at a relatively low $850 with a 1.9GHz Athlon 64 X2, 1GB of memory, and Radeon X1200M integrated graphics that can drive Windows Vista Home Premium's more advanced Aero interface. Permanent storage is handled through a 160GB disk.
Sony Japan is nearing the release of two updated VAIO notebooks, both intended for high portability. The VAIO G2 is an extremely thin 12.1-inch system, and makes the switch to a 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo processor equipped for ultra-low voltage; power consumption is efficent enough that the battery should be able to run up to 12.5 hours. RAM defaults to 1GB, with a maximum of 1.5; while the system is limited by integrated graphics, it sports a number of other highlights, such as the ability to swap out an 80 HDD for a 32, 48 or 64GB SSD flash drive. It also includes a DVD super multi drive, 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth 2.0, and slots for SD and Memory Stick cards. The computer should ship October 6th starting at 154,800 yen ($1,339).
Texas Instruments today celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first handheld calculator by introducing the TI-Nspire, an advanced set of graphing calculators for both students and professionals. The series takes advantage of the advancement in technology by being one of the first calculators to show multiple versions of the same equation on screen at once: users can see the common numerical view as well as a representative graph, the algebraic formula, its geometric form, or even a written model. Values can be changed on the spot (including graph points) and updated across the entire set.
WD today introduced its My Book Studio Edition external hard drives designed for creative users. The drives come pre-formatted for Mac computers, and feature quadruple interfaces that include USB 2.0 as well as FireWire 400/800 and eSATA connectivity. WD's drives come in capacities from 320GB to 1TB with automatic continuous backup functionality, data synchronization and encryption, a capacity gauge to present available space, a drive activity light, and an environmentally friendly power saving design. WD's "SmartPower" feature accompanies a fan designed to run quietly, and the company is offering a new smaller My Book collectible design with a silver metallic finish. WD is demonstrating its My Book Studio edition drives at the Apple Expo in Paris, France (Stand E 014).
Amazon today launched its long-delayed digital music store, offering one of the first major, completely DRM-free music stores beyond eMusic. Now known as Amazon MP3, the service offers every one of its songs as 256Kbps MP3s, allowing both owners of iPods and Zunes alike to buy music from the store with knowledge that it will work on their players and with audio quality above many competing stores. In contrast to some DRM-free outlets, the store will also have a large catalog courtesy of EMI's new DRM-free policy as well as Universal's pilot project that trials DRM-free content. Over 20,000 independent labels are also onboard, while major labels include previous holdout artists such as Radiohead, Amazon says. To streamline the process, the company lets its 1-click buying process work with tracks and offers an MP3 Downloader program that automatically shuttles songs to either iTunes or Windows Media Player.
NVIDIA today promised to cure the performance problems associated with integrated graphics on Intel systems. The GeForce 7000 for Intel is said to give Celeron, Pentium, and Core 2 Duo systems better performance than Intel's own offerings while providing virtually the same visual features as modern, dedicated video cards. Every chipset includes full DirectX 9 shader support and accelerates Vista Home Premium's Aero Glass interface. Mainboards can also fit an HDMI output with HDCP encryption to play some copy-protected Blu-Ray and HD DVD movies at high resolution.
Toshiba on Tuesday released some of its first-ever notebooks to run dual graphics processors. The X205-SLI series is based on two 512MB GeForce 8600M GT chips that should deliver strong gaming performance even for the most recent games, including DirectX 10 titles. Every system also ships with an HD DVD combo drive and uses its video decoding prowess to smoothly output 1080p video either on the native 17-inch screen or to an HDTV through HDMI. Each notebook has the room for games and video with dual hard drives as well as quicker 802.11n wireless and a webcam.
Making a presence at Paris' Apple Expo 2007, Iomega has revealed several new Mac-compatible external hard drives. The top of the line is the 1.5TB UltraMax Pro Desktop, which houses two SATA-II drives in a meshed enclosure resembling the Mac Pro. The drives can be set to RAID 0, 1 or JBOD configurations, and interfaces in the primary version include two FireWire 800 ports, one FireWire 400 port, and a USB 2.0 connector. Buyers can also pick an alternate version with eSATA and USB 2.0 interfaces, the former allowing speeds up to 3Gbps. The drives are now available for $600 each, and require Mac OS X 10.3.
Sony today confirmed leaks by introducing the VAIO NR, the company's least expensive VAIO notebook since the line began but also one of its most stylized. The outer shell includes a unique, fabric-like textured surface that adds a sense of quality to entry notebooks, which are often dominated by hard plastic. Systems even ship in designer colors such as wenge brown, the company says. Similar to the MacBook, the edges are also rounded off to make it easy to hold without catching on a bag. With a 15.4-inch screen, each system is large enough to be truly functional and holds an ExpressCard/34 slot as well as Memory Stick and SD card readers.
Toshiba this morning released a wave of new devices and began with the early import of one of its most advanced, flash-based music players. The gigabeat T400 closely follows the release of the Japanese version and promises the same use of H2C decoding to produce superior audio quality compared to most players: the new gigabeat's chipset can restore many of the details lost in the compression of MP3 and WMA tracks. A 1-bit digital amp and filter also help reduce background hiss and other noise that sometimes intrude into music. The T400 is also one of the few media players to support Windows Media Lossless, Toshiba adds.
DISH Network operator EchoStar today announced that it had agreed to acquire Sling Media. The deal is estimated at $380 million in cash and stock options and will give EchoStar its first truly direct control over Sling since investing and collaborating with the smaller company shortly after its 2004 launch. The deal will let satellite TV subscribers more readily stream their shows over the Internet to a computer or a cellphone, EchoStar said. Sling itself responded that the deal would let the fledgling company expand the distribution of its Slingbox media hubs.
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