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Wal-Mart has shut down its fledgling movie service with virtually no announcement, according to user reports. Visitors to the official site are greeted with a message that the site has shut down as of December 21st and redirects users to information about the closure. Videos and other content remain playable but will still include the copy restrictions of before, which prevent the videos from transferring to non-purchasing computers but allow their use on as many as three portable media players that support guarded Windows Media content. No refunds are available and customers will have to visit a Wal-Mart store to buy more videos, the retailer warns.
The Taiwan-based A-Data is the latest company to release a 64GB solid-state flash drive (SSD). In particular the company has actually released four drives with the capacity, in 1.8- or 2.5-inch sizes, and with a choice of SATA or PATA (parallel ATA) interfaces. Each is said to have special anti-shock protection, and use multi-level cell technology technology to fit its storage. Like all SSD drives, the A-Data models consume less power and have faster access times.
Google has won a lawsuit in China that could have significantly affected its success in the country, Pacific Epoch reports. The American search engine firm had been sued by Beijing firm Gu Ge Technology for using the words "Gu Ge" to represent itself in China; by registering its name first in late April 2006, GGT had the exclusive rights to use the name for its online retail store, the complaint reads. The presiding judge has stricken own this argument and ruled in favor of Google, noting that actual use of the Gu Ge name by Google started a week earlier -- indicating that Google could not have knowingly infringed on another company's patent, according to the court.
The looming Service Pack 1 update for Windows Vista has deteriorated the Microsoft operating system's disk and networking performance beyond the already slow launch version, according to a series of tests conducted by Gizmodo. The software is notably faster than its six-year-old XP predecessor in general performance on a new quad-core Xeon system, besting the earlier OS in CPU-heavy tasks such as video encoding as well as 3D tasks. However, the Vista update is also shown to suffer dramatically in heavy network use: a transfer that would take just over 3.5 minutes in XP takes nearly 13 minutes with Vista circa January 2007 and actually deteriorates further to more than 15.5 minutes for the SP1 fix, the tests show.
Google is making even deeper in-roads into the Japanese cellular market, reports say. Citing anonymous sources, Reuters claims that Google has signed a new deal with NTT DoCoMo, the country's largest wireless carrier, permitting a variety of applications to appear on DoCoMo's i-Mode network. These may include the likes of Gmail, Picasa and Calendar, according to Reuters.
If confirmed, the move may give DoCoMo a temporary edge in its home market. While both DoCoMo and number-two carrier KDDI are a part of Google's Open Handset Alliance, KDDI has not announced any Google features for existing phones. National business paper The Nikkei notes that DoCoMo is trying to forge the closest possible link with Google, to the exclusion of competitors.
Samsung's impending F490 and P720 touchscreen phones have been spotted outside of official press events with new details to match, says Russian site Mobile-Notes. The F490 (shown) is now known to include haptic feedback, vibrating the phone when a user touches a control on its 3.2-inch display; though slim, it has a 5-megapixel camera and (currently Europe-only) HSDPA 3G access. Its interface is better than that of the LG Viewty it will challenge on launch, the Russian report says.
A Yahoo patent application, currently making its way through the US Patent and Trademark Office, is facing serious scrutiny as part of a new public review process. Peer to Patent is co-sponsored by the USPTO and the New York Law School, and as a pilot project is using over 1,000 public participants to review roughly 250 technology patents. The aim is specifically to test them against standards such as "prior art," or whether they are merely "obvious" extrapolations of current technology.
Digital Foci this afternoon previewed several updates to its Image Moments digital photo frames that promise better image quality and features than most displays of their type. The Image Moments 6 (pictured) and 8 are some of the first frames to include an LED backlight in place of the typical cold-cathode fluorescent (CCFL) version. The technology improves color accuracy -- a crucial component of any photo frame -- while also reducing the power draw and eliminating toxic chemicals like mercury, the company says. The range-topping Image Moments 15 also brings a 16.2-million color LCD into the line and achieves a 700:1 contrast ratio while still using CCFL to light its image.
Further reducing the rapidly shrinking Japanese HDTV market, Fujitsu on Thursday said it would halt production of its AVIAMO HDTV line, signaling the end of the company's display business. The company argues that its focus for the sets, which primarly included a set of high-end plasmas built for custom and luxury home theater setups, has effectively squeeze the company out of its own market. As pricing in North America and the UK has become cutthroat, there is little money to be made in continuing the business, Fujitsu claims. Business will continue in these areas until March, when the display business will focus on Japan alone.
The launch of Nokia's N95 8GB for North America may have been confirmed along with its likely price and launch window, according to a store listing by online reseller Mobile City. The site lists the device as the N95 8GB NAM (North American Model) and appears to confirm rumors that the device will contain support for HSDPA on AT&T in the US and Rogers in Canada. Like many Nokia smartphone releases for the continent, the new N95 will be sold unlocked and allow users to switch to rival networks or else use local SIM cards in Europe and other GSM-friendly areas.
Known best for its Averatec notebooks in the US, Trigem today has released the LLUON Crystal, a new desktop it will balance the difference between the size of ultra-compact PCs and the performance of larger towers. The system is just 1.8 inches deep but comes with a desktop-class hard drive as well as a 256MB GeForce 8400 GS video card that helps drive Windows Vista and HD videos. Notebook Core 2 Duo processors are the key to the slim size and also render the system quiet enough (below 30 decibels) to sit in a living room, Trigem explains.
Dell's recently-launched XPS One computer may pose a serious threat to Apple's iMac, says popular columnist Walt Mossberg. Like the iMac or the Gateway One, the XPS One combines the internals of a computer with an LCD monitor, making for an extremely compact system. Mossberg notes, however, that the XPS comes with features even the iMac does not, such as a TV tuner and a built-in card reader, as well as a wireless mouse and keyboard bundle which Mac users must pay extra for.
Apple may have tipped off its plans to introduce a notebook at Macworld through its staff holiday celebrations, claims a rumor from BGR. The news cites rap artist and website ally Just Blaze as having received word of a company-sponsored music event for Apple's employees which had several major artists perform without their usual compensation; instead, each individual in a group was promised a free notebook to be announced at the Macworld San Francisco expo, according to the claim. Details of the systems themselves are unknown, though they will reportedly go on sale just a week after the expo opens.
Samsung, said to be the world's biggest producer of large-sized LCD panels, is launching a countersuit against major rival Sharp, Reuters reports. Sharp filed its initial case against Samsung in August, with a second suit coming earlier this month, through a court in Seoul, South Korea; the company is accusing Samsung of multiple patent infringements, though these have not been specified.
Samsung's motion is a direct retaliation, also alleging patent infringement in two different suits filed through courts in Delaware and Tokyo. It is moreover requesting an investigation by the US International Trade Commission, a procedure which could mire Sharp in yet deeper legal work.
Cowon today finished its device upgrades for 2007 with the launch of the N3. An upgrade to the N2, the N3 is built to be used either at home or in the car as a multi-purpose tool: though it includes a GPS unit with full navigation tools, the device also uses its 7-inch screen for playing back music and video. A picture-in-picture feature allows users to watch a smaller video window while keeping track of the route ahead, Cowon says. At 800x480, the display is sharp enough to play DivX, MPEG 1/4, Windows Media, and XviD movies at greater than DVD resolution. It also includes a DMB tuner for digital over-the-air broadcasts and will even accept input from a portable DVD player or rear-view camera through a video-in jack.
Panel designers should have notebook-sized touchscreens that are virtually indistinguishable from their view-only counterparts in the second half of next year, say tips from Taiwan firms. Local business AU Optronics is reportedly developing a 12.1-inch LCD that would use in-cell touch input, escaping the need for a separate layer just to sense contact from the user. The technique allows displays that are as thick as today's LCDs and contrasts sharply with existing tablet PCs, which often gain bulk with the need for a touch-capable display.
Sony this morning confirmed that it will quit the rear-projection TV field, ending its longstanding involvement with the technology. The Japanese firm will discontinue its SXRD line and other large sets in favor of direct view flat panels, such as today's LCDs and the company's still-young OLED technology, began with the launch of the XEL-1 this month. The move is necessary as sales of larger, heavier rear projectors are declining sharply while LCDs boom. Sony only expects to sell 400,000 rear-projection sets this fiscal year compared to 1.1 million in the period before; this was at least partly responsible for a roughly $526.3 million loss in Sony's TV business, the company says.
Amazon today landed a coup by announcing the availability of Warner Music Group albums on Amazon MP3. The store becomes the first to offer music from the label in a universal format withoutdigital rights management (DRM), permitting buyers to copy tracks an unlimited number of times and to play them on most any device, including those with limited access to online music stores such as the iPod and Zune lines. The addition brings Amazon's library up to 2.9 million songs, all without restrictions and at a relatively high quality 256Kbps bitrate, according to the company.
Shipments of touchscreen panels may indicate the timing of Apple's planned 3G iPhone. The Taiwanese newspaper Economic Daily News cites unspecified sources in the display industry, who say that local company Innolux will begin shipping touchscreens to Apple in the second quarter of 2008. If true, this would be just in time to build new iPhones for a mid-summer launch; the first phones were released on June 29th of this year, and have so far relied mainly on panels from Wintek.
Gearing up for the Consumer Electronics Show, Sony today provided an early look at the Cyber-shot S730. The 7.2-megapixel compact is considered a new baseline for Sony's camera line and is designed for first-time photographers who may not have the experience to set camera settings. The mode dial includes a high sensitivity preset that automatically forces the camera to its ISO 1250 peak, ensuring a stable shot in some darker situations or in fastaction scenes. This improves over the ISO 1000 of other starter cameras and is supported by a more intelligent multi-point autofocus system.
Samsung's SDI division on Thursday morning announced that it had developed a 31-inch TV using active matrix organic LED (AMOLED) technology. The screen is the largest to ever have been completed, eclipsing a 27-inch Sony OLED demonstrated early this year. As OLEDs need no separate backlight, the Samsung set measures just 4.3mm (0.17 inches) deep -- a tenth of the size of a contemporary LCD display, Samsung boasts. Nonetheless, the technology also has a far better contrast ratio than typical flat-panel displays and consumes half the power of a 32-inch LCD.
Panasonic has revealed today that it has begun shipping samples of the world's thinnest Blu-ray drive. Advanced optics let the Japanese electronics firm reduce the drive height from 12.7mm (half an inch) to just 9.5mm (0.37 inches) tall; the slim profile allows it to fit in thin-and-light notebooks which have previously been locked out of the HD disc format, Panasonic notes. The drive is nonetheless fully capable and will write BD-R or BD-RE (rewritable) discs at 2X while also supporting dual-layer, 50GB discs and upcoming low-cost, organic dye discs.
Despite earlier suspicions that British band Radiohead would release its new album In Rainbows on the iTunes music store, digital shopping mogul Amazon is first to announce digital distribution of the new album, through its online MP3 store. According to Silicon Alley Insider, the band will be promoting the physical release of the album by streaming a free, hour-long concert featuring music from the CD, which frontman Thom Yorke says is a "wee celebration". Pricing for the album and tracks has been released, but prices typically sit at about 90¢ to $1 for tracks, while albums sell for around $10.
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