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Microsoft is hoping to distinguish the Zune MP3 Marketplace from other DRM-free stores by eliminating the digital watermarks that trace songs back to their individual buyers, according to the company. The Redmond-based firm will sell its unguarded MP3 files that should be the same for every user. This contrast sharply with Apple's iTunes Plus songs, which drop copy protection but add account data that could theoretically be used to track a pirated copy to its original source. Other stores selling MP3s, including the eMusic audiobook service, either use similar watermarks or less direct forms of fingerprinting to follow their paid downloads.
Several top companies in the mobile hardware and software business today announced work on a new, Linux-based platform for ARM processors that would serve as the foundation for cellphones, media players, and other pocket devices. Chipmakers Marvell, Samsung, and Texas Instruments would be joined by software developers such as Mozilla to develop a common base that would use the open-source nature of Linux, the Gnome Mobile user interface, and Mozilla's Firefox browser to let hardware makers quickly add Internet and media features to handhelds.
Through its South Korean Cyon brand, LG is planning a near-future release of a new slider phone, the KH1600. The company has so far kept mum on its specifications -- the focus is on its WCDMA receiver, which will reputedly allow it to connect in over 120 countries. This claim may, by extension, suggest that it has HSDPA, and that it could come to North America in a different incarnation. In terms of design, close examination reveals a front-mounted video camera, as well as a metallic frame and large-buttoned keypads. The price is confirmed to be 300,000 won ($328). [via Akihabara News]
Garmin today updated its Garmin Mobile offerings with Mobile XT, a new software package for smartphones that provides navigation without the subscription fee that often comes attached to similar services. A preloaded microSD card comes with not just the program but a set of preloaded maps of North America and Europe. Any compatible phone can use its GPS hardware to plot driving routes and locate points of interest as though it were a dedicated Garmin device; users are even presented with the same opening screen as on a Nuvim the company boasts. The software also takes advantage of its inherent connection to the Internet and lets users share either their immediate location to any phone or the coordinates for a new route to a fellow XT user. Gas prices, weather, and other information is also updated live, Garmin adds.
Following a North American debut through Canada, Sony Ericsson's W580i (reviewed here) is at last coming to the United States through AT&T. As a Walkman phone, the 580i focuses heavily on music, featuring special playback software, an FM tuner and higher-quality earbuds; the battery can provide up to 20 hours of music playback, or nine hours of call-time.
On its new network, the phone can identify songs through either Sony Ericsson's TrackID or AT&T's own Music ID service, and it will come preloaded with an AT&T music folder and a MEdiaNet web browser. The phone is expected to be available across the US this month, at a cost of $270 list or as low as $80 after a rebate and two-year contract.
US cell provider Verizon will soon let its subscribers change their plans without forcing them to pay more in the process, the company has revealed this week. A policy change set to take effect on October 7th will allow customers to scale their level of service up or down in mid-contract without signing a new agreement, allowing customers to bypass the extra monthly fees or else the early termination fee required to end a contract early. The change would bring Verizon's cellphone subscription policies on a similar level with those from Alltel, which already allows these changes, but would provide an improvement over incumbents such as AT&T.
Duracell on Wednesday released the Mobile Charger for travelers who regularly need to power USB-based handhelds regardless of where they might be. Said to be a step up from most chargers of its kind, the new device is the only one to offer three different power delivery methods. Loading NiMH rechargeable batteries will power iPods, cellphones, and other low-power devices in almost any location; as a unique alternative, owners can either plug the Mobile Charger into a wall plug as a substitute for the device's normal power source or into a car's 12-volt (cigarette) port to recharge from the car's battery. If used with Duracell's bundled pre-charged NiMH batteries, the charger is not only ready to work immediately but can be left alone for up to a year while retaining a charge, the battery maker claims.
Record label Sony BMG's current stance on piracy would label even typical fair use practices as illegal, according to testimony from one of the company's legal experts in an anti-piracy lawsuit. Litigation head Jennifer Pariser remarked during the case that any instance of copying songs from one medium to another was considered stealing, regardless of whether the listener had already bought the music or a common understanding of fair use, which is not enshrined in law but has been established as a legal precedent.
Previously seen only in FCC filings made public in July, official photos and details have been released for Vertu's ultra-luxurious Ascent Ti phone. Its name derives from a titanium chassis, but the phone also has sapphire face layer and a cowhide back, the latter being available in black, red or brown. Performance features include quad-band GSM and unspecified 3G, along with a three-megapixel camera; the biggest addition however is "Vertu Fortress," the ability to sync notes, contacts and calendars with a server located in an English bunker.
Canada's Research in Motion is rumored to be working on a new BlackBerry which would combine several advancements into the same phone. Most prominent among these is the addition of "true" 3G broadband, in the form of HSDPA, which typically supports speeds up to 3.6Mbps. By contrast, the recently-launched Pearl 8130 (pictured) is limited to speeds of 2.4Mbps and lower. The other major advancement is a switch to a 600MHz processor, which is substantially faster than the chips in most cellphones, which average between 200 and 400MHz. This should eliminate any interface lag.
Palm's first major mobile OS release in years has been pushed back even further, the company's chief Ed Colligan has revealed to the press. While it continues to base the new Centro and other smartphones on the Palm OS, the anticipated Linux-based version of the software is not set to launch with a shipping phone until late 2008 -- several months later than planned and the first significant change to the OS since 5.4. Palm OS 5 was originally released in 2002 but has received only minor feature upgrades since then to support new displays and other technology.
Although Microsoft's announcement of the new Zunes targeted only November for their US debut, the devices now have an approximate release date, according to a listing by Amazon. The online retailer expects the Zune 80 as well as the flash-based Zune 4 and Zune 8 to be available by November 13th, almost exactly a year after the original launch. Pre-orders are already being accepted at Microsoft's asking prices ranging between $150 and $250. The Zune 30 is already available as it remains unchanged from the initial version aside from an expected software upgrade.
Samsung today announced it was shipping the US version of the 940UX, the company's first display to offer USB as an alternative to conventional video input. The 19-inch screen draws on both its own hardware as well as the CPU power of a host PC to drive the display without the use of an internal video card. Even a notebook can run up to six of the displays if its processing power is fast enough, according to Samsung's technical details. Both DVI and VGA connections let any computer or device use the 940UX without the performance overhead.
Helio has quietly dropped the Drift from its lineup and may be replacing it with one of Samsung's more popular phones in its Korean homeland, according to a combination of leaked data from the US government. Now back to three devices, Helio last month filed a new trademark for the word Mysto that would apply to a cellphone, indicating the future name for one of its handsets. While the name does not immediately apply to any known model, a recent FCC filing has revealed a Samsung-made device for Helio's network which will most likely bear the name upon its release in the West. Few clues have so far been revealed other than its support for Bluetooth and EV-DO Internet access.
Verizon today launched its most concerted effort yet to respond to the iPhone and to improve its music phone lineup with four new devices. The carrier began with its most ambitious device ever, the LG Voyager. Also known as the VX10000, the handset is one of LG's first touchscreen phones to target the US and includes a more iPhone-like interface based on that of the Prada phone; users can place calls, play AAC/MP3/WMA music, and take 2-megapixel photos almost exclusively from the screen. However, the device is also one of the first LG touch models to offer a keyboard alternative: flipping open the device reveals a lengthwise QWERTY keyboard and a secondary screen for e-mail, text messaging, and games. It also supports V CAST TV for live digital TV viewing and stores as much as 8GB of media on a microSDHC card.
Apple may switch from a custom architecture for the iPhone to an Intel reference design once the technology falls into place, according to early reports from part makers. Although a teardown of the first run of the iPhone revealed that it uses an ARM-based processor and a custom mainboard, the company is said to be investigating a switch to Intel's future mobile Internet device (MID) architecture known as Moorestown. The new platform is based on a much cooler 45-nanometer manufacturing process than the chips in today's handheld PCs and would not only be ten times more power-efficient in active use than the first Intel handhelds but would consume ten times less power while idle -- which could allow for nearly all-day battery life, according to Intel.
As part of its sweeping changes to the Zune line, Microsoft today greatly expanded the social aspects of its media players. A new addition, called simply the Zune Social, aims to bring social networking to the digital media player space. Accessed from the Zune's rewritten media player software, the service lets fellow Zune owners share music across the Internet rather than just each other's WiFi networks; members can not only create profiles but view recent playlists and buy their tracks, send and receive recommendations, and show the biggest fans of a particular artist to find new friends. The service is currently in beta but will be available to any Zune user with the updated software, which launches this fall.
Microsoft on Wednesday released its promised update to the Zune, adding a completely new flash-based series as well as a major upgrade to its hard disk model. The entire range now becomes one of the first major media player lines to support media sync over WiFi and will receive music, photos, and videos over a local network. Microsoft's controversial restrictions on wireless sharing between Zunes have also been partially lightened, according to the company: while shared songs are still limited to three plays, users can keep shared songs for an unlimited amount of time. All players now also get podcast subscription support (including WiFi sharing), native support for H.264 and MPEG-4 video, and a from-scratch reinvention of the Zune media player software which more closely matches the Zune's own interface and provides quicker access to the store and new social networking features.
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