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M-Audio today announced its entry into the headphone market with the Studiophile Q40 closed-back dynamic headphones. The Studiophile Q40 headphones make use of professional-grade dynamic drivers -- which measure 40 millimeters in diameter -- that deliver full-range specs and sonic detail, according to the company. A combination of vented diaphragms made of low-mass treated mylar, neodymium magnets, and copper-clad aluminum voice coils are designed to deliver efficient performance for enhanced bass. The new headphones are already available for $180.
LaCie today unveiled an update to its USB/FireWire peripheral Hub alongside a new version of the device that offers USB connectivity only, and announced that it has received a 2008 Designer Observer Award for the device. The company's Hub was developed by French industrial designer Ora-¤to, featuring a glossy white polycarbonate finish with flexible cables. The re-designed Hub ($80 and up) also offers an entirely round base that allows it to wobble back and fourth for ascetic pleasure, according to LaCie, while the new version provides USB 2.0 connectivity only (pricing was unavailable).
Even though enthusiasts knew the phone as the Elf, the HTC Touch emerged as a surprise when it was announced this spring in part because of its less-than-subtle touchscreen interface changes and naming scheme. For many, these were a sign that HTC was hoping to ride the wave of iPhone publicity. If so, it worked: the device sold more than 800,000 units during its first three months on sale. That it should not be ignored is beyond doubt; whether it really offers the same qualities as the iPhone, however, is another matter. Read ahead for our full review of the phone running with Canadian cellular provider Telus.
The happiness of Canadian cellphone users is actually on the decline, a J.D. Power and Associates study concludes. Rating on a 1,000-point scale, the satisfaction of subscribers with contracts has fallen 18 points since last year, to sit at 657; overall satisfaction is down 12 points to 702. These figures are so terrible that the average Canadian would prefer to deal with car repairs, traditionally a high-stress affair, than cope with cellular companies. J.D. Power's senior director of research, Charles Schade, says that Canadians believe they are typically paying more than they would in other countries, while receiving little to nothing new.
Indie record label Sub Pop, home to artists like Patton Oswalt, Iron & Wine and The Postal Service, has begun selling select albums in MP3 format. As of press time over 200 albums were online; many of these are already available on other online stores, but Sub Pop is charging $9.90 per release, making them 9 cents cheaper than the average iTunes cost. The files are also in a 192kbps, DRM-free format, meaning that they can be used with any software or media player.
Blockbuster is considering opening download stations as a way of shoring up its failing rental business, according to company chief Jim Keyes. The executive says that the company will launch an experiment which brings kiosks which could download movies directly to a portable media player, bypassing the need for a DVD or for transferring videos from a computer. The stations will appear at Blockbuster's own stores and may also branch out into malls and other areas where the chain typically does not operate.
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has challenged the significance of Google's future Android operating system for cellphones. Android contrasts with Microsoft's Windows Mobile in that it is an open platform; while developers can write third-party programs and layers for Windows, Android should allow cheaper and easier customization, better suited to the requirements of phone makers. The problem, says Ballmer, is that Android is merely in its beginning stages.
Samsung today revealed that it had begun mass production of the circuitry for the world's first active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) displays, opening the door to their use in cellphones, media players, and other devices in the near future. Based on conducting electricity between two organic layers, the technology allows Samsung to power a 320x240 screen that can still reproduce 16.7 million colors at once -- enough to match much larger displays. As the organics are luminous on their own, they suffer none of the ghosting effects seen with LCDs in scenes with fast movement.
The absence of digital rights management lockdowns on tracks is spurring a renaissance of legal online music downloads, according to a report from British direct-download service 7Digital. The company observes that the introduction unprotected MP3 versions of songs for sale through its site has encouraged users to buy more music than they would have in the past, including full albums. About 80 percent of tracks bought through the store now omit DRM; 70 percent of those sales are now for full albums rather than individual songs, company managing director Ben Drury says. The change comes despite a relatively limited catalog of DRM-free songs made available almost exclusively from music label EMI.
DVR maker TiVo today announced a special deal to jumpstart sales of its recorders for the holidays and to simplify subscriptions for other users. Resurrecting a plan that had previously been available only to early members of the subscription service, the company is offering a $399 lifetime plan to existing customers; those with existing devices will receive the service free of charge regardless of the length of use. These should also transfer to new TiVo devices in the future, based on the company's past history. The discount lasts until February 2nd and will be accompanied by a temporarily lowered $13 monthly rate for one-year subscriptions (down from $17) and drops in the cost of prepaid subscriptions to $129 for one year (from $179) and $249 for two years (from $279).
AT&T has agreed to settlement talks in its lawsuit against VoIP carrier Vonage, according to the Associated Press. AT&T had made the accusation that Vonage violated a patent for connecting traditional phones to Internet services; the companies had actually attempted to negotiate a license for the patent for two years, but the issue was never resolved. Under a proposed deal, Vonage would compensate AT&T with $39 million over the course of five years. Word of new talks caused Vonage stock to rise 23 percent (to $2.70) in premarket trading.
Verizon today posted pre-order information for the LG-made Venus and the Voyager, providing a glance at the final pricing and features for the touchscreen phones ahead of their fall launch. The Venus will use the cost advantage of a partial touchscreen interface to bring its price to $200 when bought with a two-year plan, or $369 without a contract; new in the updated details is news that the slider will include a special pink version with side trims and a keypad in the new color. The standard black version ships first on November 19th and will be followed by the pink edition on December 11th.
Although parent company Rogers has had HSDPA in limited fashion for a while, and recently expanded its service area, Fido has only now joined the ranks of Canadian cellular companies offering 3G broadband. Some 25 cities are being covered at launch, including Calgary, Montreal, and Vancouver, as well as most other major urban areas; Toronto is conspicuously absent from the list, but the region is among those covered by Rogers. Services available through Fido's HSDPA include video calls, mobile TV and XM Radio streaming.
AT&T today introduced its own version of Pandora, giving users a customized music streaming service from cellphones. Like the desktop version as well as the mobile edition for Sprint, AT&T's new feature automatically creates an Internet stream of music based on a user's initial selections and listening habits. Frequent use will result in as many as 100 stations that accurately reflect tastes without the user having to add songs by hand, AT&T says. Songs that aren't already owned can be flagged and downloaded later through the carrier's mobile music store.
Pharos today sought to drive down the prices of GPS units by unveiling two no-frills GPS navigator units. The GPS Drive 150 and 250 provide mapping on their respective 3.5-inch and 4.3-inch touchscreens without some of the features that add to the price but with a few unusual advantages: the larger 250 is capable of running for up to seven hours on a single battery charge versus the three to five of competitors, Pharos notes. Each is based on Microsoft's Windows CE and includes modern GPS features such as a 3D view for a more natural perspective on the route ahead.
Just a day after its XO notebook began production, the One Laptop Per Child project today announced a deal with Electronic Arts that would see a Linux version of SimCity preloaded on to each system, giving children in developing countries as well as Western participants in the Give 1 Get 1 program an opportunity to play an educational game out of the box without having to install software. The city building and management game should make the notebook entertaining for children while also teaching them skills, EA boasts.
AMD today became the first company to launch a video card specifically tailored to users who need to process both graphics and hard data from the same system. The FireStream 9170 (not yet pictured) uses an enhanced version of ATI's stream computing technique to process general calculations with the unused shader units on the card, potentially accelerating work well past what would be possible with one or more extra CPUs; up to 500 gigaflops are possible with the very first model's 320 shaders running at 775MHz, according to AMD's estimates. The new model also rivals NVIDIA's Quadro FX cards in its ability to handle double-precision floating point math, ensuring that very accurate calculations can be done without turning to the CPU.
Sprint today announced that it would be the next to take on customer complaints by changing the way it handles switching plans or canceling its service. Following in the steps of carriers such as Verizon, the company from Monday onwards will allow customers to change their rate plans without extending their contracts, giving subscribers the option of stepping down to a more affordable plan or one with better services while still giving the option of jumping to a different service provider at the same time as before the change. Agents will also call customers after they sign up and if they run over their allotted minutes or other data within the first six months; these will make sure that customers are not overcharged by choosing a plan below their actual needs, Sprint claims.
Signaling the first regularly available custom graphics treatment for the VAIO FZ series notebook, Sony on Thursday launched the Graphic Splash Eco Edition to both spur sales and improve its enviroment-friendly standing. In addition to the nature-themed outer shell designs of Bloom, Caribbean Water, Clay Earth, and Spotted Life, each system contributes one percent of its sales to the 1% For the Planet foundation to reinvest some of the cost of the system back into the ecosystem. The material savings of a relatively thin notebook and computer recycling programs (including for non-Sony PCs) are also important, Sony claims.
Iomega this morning revealed that it had just begun shipping a new range of drives catering to Mac users and ideally matched with Mac OS X Leopard's Time Machine backup feature. The MiniMax as well as the UltraMax and UltraMax Pro drives all come pre-formatted with the HFS+ file system, allowing Leopard to instantly recognize them and use them as Time Machine drives without converting from a Windows file system like FAT32. All the drives are designed to fit in alongside modern Macs, with the MiniMax stacking underneath a Mac mini and the UltraMax line designed to resemble the Mac Pro and PowerMac G5 towers.
Hewlett Packard on Wednesday announced that it will no longer be designing or manufacturing its own digital cameras, but it would continue to sell branded cameras from other OEM manufacturers. HP will be shifting company resources to focus on its Print 2.0 growth initiatives, but confirmed that it is looking for an original equipment manufacturer to produce digital cameras for the HP brand. The company, which will continue to sell its current line-up of cameras through the holiday season, said it expects to have a partnership arrangement in place during the first half of 2008.
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