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Two music label titans, Sony and Warner Music Group, are increasingly being pressured to follow in the footsteps of their peers are remove the DRM restrictions on digital download versions of tracks in their vast catalogs. The pressure stems partially from the planned announcement of a free download promotion sponsored by Pepsi that will take place through Amazon's online music store. The download promotion will be included in 5 billion of Pepsi's soda bottle-caps, with customers needing to collect 5 caps in order to receive one free download. Pepsi ran a similar, but much smaller-scale promotion in conjunction with Apple's iTunes Music Store in 2004, offering 100 million free tracks, of which about 5 million were redeemed. Amazon's store is DRM-free.
The ASUS Eee PC, currently available in 4GB black and white versions, is about to be joined by two new editions, according to various sources. Online retailer Dynamism claims that it will have the promised 8G Eee before the end of December, at a price of $499; this will include not only an expansion to 8GB of storage, but also a doubling of RAM to 1GB. There is as yet no sign of an Eee with a 10-inch screen, hinted at by the Austrian press.
In its attempt to stand out from the typical GPS crowd, Medion today updated its GoPal GPS mapping units with the P4425. The 4.3-inch widescreen navigator is the first to include a biometric fingerprint reader built into the device for security. Users just swipe their finger to gain access, Medion boasts. The measure lets drivers leave the device in a car for brief intervals knowing that a thief could not make use of the system. It also prevents having to enter a text password using a more cumbersome touchscreen keyboard.
Both AT&T and Sprint are set to receive unique 3G phones from Samsung in the near future, according to a pair of leaks. The Access for AT&T (pictured) would adopt a candybar shape reminiscent of the UpStage but drop the dual-sided design in favor of a larger screen and directional pad. It will have only a 1.3-megapixel camera but will also support HSPA broadband for AT&T's streaming music and video services. Other specifications are uncertain but are likely to include Bluetooth and a microSD slot for storage. Its release date is uncertain but anticipated for the near future.
The FCC may be nearing the imposition of a cap on the size of cable companies, reports say. A proposed plan currently has the vote of FCC chairman Kevin Martin, as well as the two Democrat members of the Commission, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. This may virtually guarantee the passing of the resolution, although the two remaining commissioners have not declared their opinions. If it passes muster by the rumored December 18th deadline, the cap will limit corporations to controlling 30 percent of the cable market.
Apple has made a rare concession to movie studios and will raise the average selling price of a movie at the iTunes Store in a bid to gain extra support for its service, according to a report (membership required) by Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield. The company will reportedly boost the average wholesale price of a movie to $15, only $3 below the average selling price of a DVD. This is a necessary condition to lure in studios such as 20th Century Fox that have been hesitant to embrace iTunes in the past, Greenfield says. Fox in particular would roll out both its latest titles and earlier movies in exchange for the deal.
Accompanying the launch of the AT&T version of the Motorola Q9 is Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard, which introduces important changes to the Microsoft operating system. Among the most important of these is the ability to copy and paste; while theoretically simple, the feature has long been absent from Windows Mobile, and may ease entering complicated information such as names and e-mail addresses. Users can also perform domain enrolling under Settings, and take advantage of a new home screen where users pan left and right to check call and message notifcations.
Nokia has developed a unique way of incorporating a camera into a phone that can adjust for different shooting modes while improving quality of the resulting shots, a patent filing published late last week reveals. The design would rest the camera in a bar mounted sideways at the top of the phone, taking up no more space than an average camera; it could then swivel when the user wants to capture photos to face both outwards for everyday images or inwards for self-portraits and video calls. Such an invention would allow more advanced sensors and lenses to fit with the same flexibility as many other phones, Nokia says.
(Updated with US launch info) Creative today became the first mainstream firm to launch a 32GB media player using flash memory instead of a rotating hard disk, outperforming Apple and similar firms that remain at 16GB. Ending a series of leaks, the company's ZEN 32GB reaches its capacity while weighing just 2.3 ounces and sharing the same surface area as a credit card, Creative says. Its battery life is also long at 30 hours of music and five hours of video; the extra space allows it to hold as many as 8,000 standard-quality tracks or 120 hours of video clips. An SDHC slot allows dropping 8GB or more of storage into the player when it runs low on free space.
Samsung and Toshiba have announced an unusual deal connecting the companies' memory technology. Through a new agreement, Samsung will be able to produce and sell memory using Toshiba's LBA-NAND name and specifications, while Toshiba will in turn gain the rights to Samsung's OneNAND. Device builders will thus be able to turn to either company for either memory format. Although normally a move not conducive to profit, the deal should be mutually beneficial in the unique conditions of the NAND market, which recently recovered from a crippling shortage.
Accessory maker Belkin has released a new AV product, the HDMI 2-to-1 Video Switch. The device lets users connect two HDMI devices -- such as Apple TVs and HD DVD players -- to a single HDMI or DVI port, whether on a computer monitor or an HDTV.
Resolutions between 480i and 1080p are available on any of the supported connections, and the switch always defaults to the highest single-link video resolution. Inputs are not chosen automatically, but an infrared remote is bundled in the package. The switch is available now in Canada and the US for approximately $50 to $55; Asia, Europe and Australia will receive it in March of 2008.
MSI today added a twist to its smallest notebook with the PR200 Crystal Edition. Looking to appeal to a certain side of its female audience, the system builder's version of the 12-inch portable switches from black to pearl white and adds 120 crystals to the ring around the MSI logo to provide a pseudo-upscale appearance; it also comes with a color-matching mouse and a 1GB USB flash drive also topped with crystals to match its host system.
In an aggressive step, Qualcomm on Monday announced the RTR6570, the first new cellular chipset designed with upcoming 700MHz wireless networks in mind. The transceiver explicitly supports the longer ranges and higher speeds made possible through the new frequency, even if they use competing standards: a device using the chipset could connect both to a CDMA network (such as Sprint or Verizon) as well as an HSPA or UMTS (AT&T and potentially T-Mobile) networks adapted to the newly opened airwaves.
IOGEAR on Monday introduced new Serial ATA (SATA) and External SATA (eSATA) products, including PCI and PCI-Express card adapters, enclosures, and cables. The new storage upgrades and accessories offer a faster, cost-effective option for increasing their disk drive speeds, the company said. The new product line facilitates data transfers at speeds up to 3Gbps -- six times quicker than USB 2.0, while the SATA PCI and PCI-Express solutions also add RAID (redundant array of independent disks) capabilities to existing laptops and desktops. IOGEAR's new enclosure converts internal SATA hard disk drives into durable external USB 2.0 or eSATA drives that can take full advantage of the robust SATA feature set.
Western Digital today raised the threshold for its external notebook drives with the Passport 320GB. Taking advantage of its self-made Scorpio drive, the updated Passport stores its extra content without sacrificing size or weight. The entire piano-black case and drive weigh less than five ounces and is powered solely over the USB bus, the storage maker notes.
AT&T today revealed that it would leave the public pay phone business by the end of 2008, marking the near-end of the device in the US. The carrier points to the rapid growth of the cellphone in recent years as well as other "personal communication devices." There is no incentive to continue making and supporting fixed pay phones when that market is shrinking and likely to disappear altogether, according to the company. The provider poitns to a sheer drop in the past ten years which has seen the number of phones drop from 2.6 million as recently as 1998 to 1 million in 2007.
TiVo today revealed that its digital video recorders will all support streaming photos directly from online image sites such as Photobucket and Picasa, allowing subscribers to its service to view and distribute images to TVs without buying a second media hub. The feature supports viewing one's own collection and viewing others, but also allows users to view customized feeds regardless of the owner. A subscriber can view photos from either service by keyword tags that automatically update as new images are posted online.
Wacom today greatly expanded its Cintiq tablet displays with its first widescreen models and also its first screens in the US smaller than 21 inches. The 20WSX is claimed as the world's only 20-inch widescreen stylus display and matches the same 1680x1050 resolution as a view-only LCD while still offering the same programmable shortcut keys and dual touch controls for scrolling and zooming. This effectively mirrors a modern desktop display for artists and other visual editors, according to Wacom. The 20WSX ships for $1,999.
Nokia today gave owners of its 3G smartphones a new alternative for music with the launch of its self-run Internet Radio service. The software is built not just to stream radio directly to the phone but also to encourage finding new music through filtering radio stations: users can not only sort the "hundreds" of stations Nokia says it lists by their names or genres, but narrow them down to specific countries or even languages; top ten lists also let users find stations based on their popularity. Like many streaming services, Nokia's service also features track data whenever available.
Samsung began the week by revealing GDDR5, the latest incarnation of double data rate memory built specifically for video cards. The technology is billed as the fastest memory available of any kind and provides information to a graphics chipset as quickly as 6 gigabits per second -- nearly twice as fast as the 3.2 gigabits found on the more commonly used GDDR3 format, Samsung says. On a typical 512 megabit design with 32 stacked chips, this amounts to 24 gigabytes of bandwidth that the firm claims is enough to play 16 DVD videos at once. This memory is also 20 percent more power-efficient than the earlier graphics technology.
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