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Hot on the heels of its Zune refresh, Microsoft is changing leadership at its portable digital music player division. The company has appointed Rick Thompson to corporate vice president, who will replace most of the biz dev duties previously performed by J Allard, according to Microsoft spokesman Brian Eskridge. Allard is a corporate vice president with Microsoft's entertainment and devices unit, and will reportedly continue to oversee design aspects of the Zune. According to MarketWatch, Lee had been tasked with attracting music companies to provide content for the Zune, "a challenge, given that the Zune has so far garnered a relatively small number of users."
A relatively unknown Chinese company, Ocean Leader Development, has devised an unusual design approach to its OL-18H media player. Similarly to the external display on the Sony Ericsson z610i, the 1.8-inch screen on the 18H uses a "magic mirror" design, seemingly vanishing when not in use. The player is otherwise fairly unremarkable: it plays MP3 and WMA audio files, as well as MPV, MPEG-1/2 and AMV video -- the last being a format typically limited to China.
The player also has a built-in speaker and FM radio tuning, as well as voice recording. Red, blue, black and silver colors are mentioned, but oddly, storage capacity is not. No prices are publicly available. [via PMP Today]
JVC has used its time spent at Japan's CEATEC technology show to demonstrate what it says is the first LCD panel with a 180Hz refresh rate. The 32-inch sample display uses a custom algorithm that can successfully interpolate a typical HDTV feed, which runs at 60Hz, and insert two frames of its own. This improvement cancels out much of the blur in fast movement, even when compared to today's premium 120Hz sets. Images often appear sharper even if the TV runs at a lower resolution, according to JVC.
Samsung's P2 and T10 players, which were confirmed to be US-bound in late August, now have official prices and dates attached. The foremost of the players, the P2 (pictured), should ship later this month, costing $199 and $249 for 4GB and 8GB versions. It will be available in black, white and burgundy colors; its primary attraction though is the use of a three-inch touchscreen, putting it into competition with devices like the iPod touch. It is also capable of 30fps video and stereo Bluetooth, the latter being usable for taking calls.
HP on Friday quietly updated its Pavilion media center PCs with the option of mixed-format Blu-Ray and HD DVD drives that let the towers read either format without fear of their becoming obsolete. The d4995t, as well as the system builder's m9000z and m9000t Pavilion Elite models, all have the option of two HD-ready optical drives. A basic version of the drive is capable of full Blu-Ray burning but will only read its rival HD DVD format. A top-end drive will write both formats. Both drives also incorporate HP's LightScribe feature for burning a label graphic directly to each disc; each also records to legacy CD and DVDs.
Yamaha has developed the YSP-500, one of an increasing number of speaker bars designed to simulate surround-sound without occupying the space of a 5.1 system. While the 500 does not come with a subwoofer, it has two 15W main channels, and a sizable 16 2W microchannels, these meant to bounce sound around a room for a proper dimensional effect. Supported codecs include Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS and DTS Neo:6. To produce ideal sound, owners must calibrate the bar using the automatic IntelliBeam feature; reports suggest however that this works best in an uncluttered room. The 500 should ship to Japan later this month for 75,000 yen ($642). [via Technabob]
Apple may be planning to consume the highest-end Penryn-based Xeon workstation CPUs when they launch in the fall, according to reported Japanese insiders. Although Intel has routinely demonstrated a 3.16GHz, quad-core Xeon model known as the X5482 since its spring Developer Forum in April, the company is said to be reserving this as well as some additional steppings of the 45-nanometer Xeon processors almost exclusively for Apple's Mac Pro systems. Dell, HP, and other top-tier workstation vendors will only get just enough processors at first to make their shipping claims honest, according to the sources.
Breaking away from the portables that made its name, Xtreme Notebooks has released the 22-inch Xtreme XN1, a direct challenger to Sony's VAIO L. The all-in-one is billed as both a power-saving alternative to a full-sized desktop and as a media center PC: basic versions can ship with more miserly integrated graphics and a basic 1.86GHz desktop Core 2 Duo but ramp up to a GeForce Go 7600 mobile video chipset and a 2.93GHZ Core 2 Extreme when gaming and HD video viewing are more important. An HD DVD drive is an option in the new system as is dual digital TV tuners that can pick up one show while playing another.
Targeting its home Korean market, LG has announced a new home theater kit, the HT972TR. Like the J10HD, the 972 package takes its design from the Chocolate cellphone line, similarly featuring red-on-black touch-sensitive controls. The five speaker satellites in the system produce 155W each, while its subwoofer is even more powerful, rated at 255W; LG claims that with its Virtual Sound Matrix technology, it can emulate a 10.1-channel setup.
Japan's I-O Data has begun selling the LCD-MF241X, a 24-inch widescreen LCD. While the monitor is notable for supporting resolutions up to 1920x1200 (beyond 1080p), its most unusual feature is the inclusion two HDMI inputs, where many screen are limited to one or none. Owners can also display HD content from their computer via DVI-D, and input more conventional video signals through composite, S-Video and D5 ports. Rounding out highlights are three USB ports, picture-in-picture and a remote control. Prices for black and white versions of the monitor have been set at 138,000 yen ($1,183). [via Akihabara News]
Sony Europe today revealed the long-expected 40GB PlayStation 3, promising a much lower-cost version of the Blu-Ray game console than before. The new starter edition doubles the 20GB storage of the basic launch model from Japan and the US and also keeps the Wi-Fi access found in the costlier 60GB and 80GB editions. To achieve its new price, the 40GB version drops hardware PlayStation 2 compatibility like the 80GB model and also sheds both the card reader and two of the four USB ports, which are less needed given the console's reliance on wireless controllers.
Confirming long-standing rumors in the gaming industry, Microsoft has announced that Bungie Studios, developers of the popular "Halo" game series, will officially be returning to independent status. Under the terms of the break-up Microsoft will retain ownership of the Halo intellectual property, but it will only be guaranteed as the publisher of the series, along with any upcoming Bungie titles in the forseeable future. Microsoft says it intends to continue working on a new "interactive series" in the Halo universe, along with existing projects such as the upcoming "Halo Wars" strategy game and the movie produced by Peter Jackson.
ASUS has just updated its sound adapter range with a unique hub that steps up the audio quality for notebooks and other PCs with basic integrated sound. The Xonar U1 becomes a USB alternative to the PCI-based Xonar D2 and offers both the traditional features of a sound card as well as help for travelers. Hardware acceleration for DirectSound, EAX, and Dolby surround helps game and home theater enthusiasts; notebook users are helped by a headphone amp that increases the volume on less easily-driven headphones as well as an array microphone that eliminates the feedback and other noise that often plague built-in notebook and webcam audio.
Turning its design skills to those who can go without digital music, Sony today quietly launched its ICF-M55 radio. The AM/FM device is just smaller than most user's hands and is designed to be fully totable thanks to a speaker that covers nearly all the front face, an internal battery for listening away from an outlet, and a headphone jack for private listening. A collapsible antenna tucks directly behind the radio to boost reception without easily falling off.
Nike on Friday unveiled the Nike Amp+ Sport Remote Control, a wristwatch and remote control for Nike+iPod Sport Kit users. The watch provides instant voice feedback of a runner's time, distance, calories, and pace when added to the Nike+iPod Sport Kit and Nike+ Ready shoes. Nike also touts the watch as a stylish, unique timepiece when worn without the Sport Kit. Nike is offering its Nike Amp+ in a series of four color combinations that include a black band with a red time display, a red and black band with a red time display, a blue band with an orange time display, and a black and orange band with an orange time display. The Nike Amp+ is priced at $80.
iRiver's recently acquired brand Siren today launched the DP350, a new entry player that brings relatively advanced features. The 1.8-inch LCD is home to MPEG-4 video as well as photos. Listeners also have an expanded range of audio format support; besides MP3 and WMA, the new player supports AAC songs (including those from iTunes Plus) as well as the more open OGG format. Users looking for more music can also listen to FM radio or capture their own using direct line-in recording.
Verizon on Friday released the Gleam, its own variation of Samsung's Ultra U700. The flip phone is the first from Verizon to come with what the carrier dubs a "living wallpaper" interface. Like Sony-Ericsson's T650, the Gleam's background changes over time: a desktop image of the city or the countryside changes in brightness depending on the time of day, Verizon says. Samsung's device also offers a media emphasis with a 2-megapixel camera, Bluetooth audio with stereo output, and media playback from microSD cards up to 4GB in size.
Research in Motion's profits from its BlackBerry smartphones have doubled in the first financial quarter of competition with the iPhone, the company revealed late yesterday. Although Apple said it had sold more than one million iPhones weeks before the end of the September quarter, the California firm's Canadian rival said it had shipped about 3 million BlackBerry units worldwide and established nearly 1.5 million new BlackBerry "push" e-mail accounts. This translated to earnings of $287.7 million during the same period, more than twice the $140.2 million from the same period a year ago.
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