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Next month Dell will begin phasing out four of its popular XPS gaming systems, in favor of the high-end PCs that are part of its recently acquired Alienware PC line. The surprising move is part of its continued turnaround efforts--along with an expected design overhaul in its Inspiron line-- after slipping behind rival HP in overall PC sales and struggling to achieve profits in consumer PCs, the Wall Street Journal reports. With the focus on the Alienware line, Dell says that a combined gaming design and development unit will focus on the seven current Alienware models, which has lost some "mojo," according to one analyst. Dell also noted that the gaming market, which focuses machines with high-end processors and GPUs priced at nearly three times the price of the average consumer PC, is strategically important because gamers' purchasing decisions influence other PC buyers.
Microsoft is launching a mystery device nicknamed "Lips" as part of a gaming event tomorrow, says a rumor reportedly confirmed by 8Bit Joystick. Nicknamed "Lips," the device is expected to be a voice communication add-on for the Xbox 360 but is unlikely to be a typical headset, which is either packed into higher-end Xbox models as a wired headset or sold separately for wireless versions. Speculation has the device offering some level of voice recognition or else a dedicated microphone for music games.
The Magnavox and Sylvania brands are already selling a Blu-ray player that breaks past the $300 price range, according to tips passed along by Blu-ray.com forum members. Made by Japanese company Funai, the Magnavox NB500MG9 and Sylvania NB500SL9 have both been found selling at Wal-Mart stores for $298, or a full $100 less than Sony's PlayStation 3 and other more common players.
SK Telecom has no plans to merge Helio with Virgin Mobile to create a major new carrier, the Korean company says. SKT spokeswoman Mina Ryu rejects reports of discussions and claims there aren't "any sort of talks" to either merge its Helio brand with Virgin or else buy out Virgin directly. The rumors are "groundless," Ryu says.
AMD on Monday sought to push the limits of its high-end processors and launched new quad-core versions of the Opteron HE processor. All five new entries consume an average of just 55 watts, or much less than the 75 and 105 watts of power used by existing Opterons and less than some of their Intel Xeon equivalents. The cooler-running chips allow the system to run in both smaller workstation PCs as well as blades and rackmount servers, where many Opterons are often too hot for the tight spaces.
Sony Ericsson is patenting a system that would tie songs to specific locations, says a new filing within the US. Proposed technology for a "location dependent music search" would use GPS or a similar mapping method to determine the phone's location and promptly find music associated with the area, whether on the device or on an Internet server. The feature would let users cue songs they associate with favorite areas or download songs from local artists.
Creative expanded its lineup to the underserved notebook audience with the Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1. The USB device is claimed as the first to both boost audio quality and output in full 5.1-channel surround sound; Dolby and DTS movies, as well as games that support surround through DirectSound or OpenAL, automatically have their video processed and split across a speaker setup. Compressed audio is also cleaned up through the Crystalizer hardware that Creative says restores lost details.
For anyone who needs a low-cost smartphone that still offers advanced features, take a look at the Samsung BlackJack II smartphone. The BlackJack II may lack fancy features found in more expensive smartphones, such as a touchscreen, but its still more than functional. Since the BlackJack II uses Windows Mobile, it's especially handy for synchronizing data with a Windows PC (but less desirable for Mac users).
Catering to a niche of mobile pros, Eurocom today updated the PHANTOM-X to give the 17-inch desktop replacement its first quad-core workstation chip. The notebook is rebranded as a mobile server a 2.8GHz Xeon in place of its normal Core 2 Quad and Extreme processors to help handle professional-grade loads. The Canadian company also spins its multi-drive hard disk setup as a business option and lets users team up as many as three drives for up to 1.5TB of space in a RAID stripe or mirror. The larger bulk of the notebook also allows up to 8GB of memory.
Artificial limitations are being imposed on some forthcoming low-cost Windows PCs, according to documents Microsoft has sent to PC builders. Although the company plans to offer a sharp discount to ultra-low cost PC (ULPC) builders on the price of Windows XP Home, in order to foster the adoption of Windows over Linux on devices like the Eee PC, vendors are being asked to limit screen size to 10.2 inches, and hard drives to 80GB. Furthermore, no qualifying ULPCs with XP will be allowed to have a touchscreen, more than 1GB of RAM, or anything better than a single-core processor running at 1GHz, except for certain chips like Intel's Atom N270.
Japanese electronics giants JVC and Kenwood have announced plans to merge, Reuters reports. The two companies will come together under a holding company on October 1st, in what they say is an attempt to fight price competition, as well as increasing costs in development. Even together the companies' sales for the financial year ending March 31st would only have been 823.7 billion yen ($8 billion), less than a tenth of those for Panasonic owner Matsushita, which made approximately 9 trillion yen (over $87 billion).
As promised, ASUS' Eee PC 900 micro notebook today went on sale in the US. The 8.9-inch computer's specifications remain the same and take the Eee slightly further upscale with a sharper 1024x600 resolution, a basic multi-touch trackpad, and a 1.3-megapixel camera. Versions hold either 12GB of flash storage on Windows XP models or else 20GB on versions with the less expensive Linux operating system, though either can accept SD and SDHC cards. Launch models continue to use a 900MHz Celeron M processor rather than the Intel Atom planned for later editions.
XM expects its proposed merger with Sirius to be approved by the summer, the satellite radio provider said today during a conference call discussing its latest quarterly results. President and chief executive Nate Davis now claims that the winter 2008 quarter is XM's last "as a standalone company" and goes so far as to drop its financial guidance for the upcoming quarter, saying the prediction won't apply to a unified company. Recent government steps to greenlight the deal are signs approval is close, according to Davis.
Vita Audio this morning revealed plans to take iPod stereos upscale through the R4. Where most tabletop units stand out, the R4 is said to blend in as a piece of high-end audio equipment and offers the sound to match with 2.1-channel, 80-watt speaker system that adds bass lacking in most such audio systems. Its iPod dock is its central feature, but the device also serves as a DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) radio that catches digital stations in the UK and pulls RDS data from analog FM channels. A CD player supports both raw audio and MP3 or WMA tracks.
AT&T will be the first to carry the BlackBerry Bold when it goes on sale this summer, the company confirmed today. Company official John Kampfe says the provider will be the "only" one in the US to offer the phone and will carry the Bold in the summer. As it's the only model to support WCDMA, it will also be the only BlackBerry to roam properly in Japan, Korea, and other countries that don't support either regular CDMA or GSM phone calls.
Sanyo on Monday bolstered its projector lineup with two X series portable LCD projectors. Both the XC50 and XC55 are built to be bright with 2,600 and 3,100 lumens of brightness respectively, giving them enough clarity to be useful without a dark room. Either is also built to be easy to run and lock down; an active maintenance filter lets owners easily swap in a new filter without dismantling the projector, while a security bar permits anyone to easily tie the unit to a table with a cable lock.
Eye-Fi this morning rolled out two new SD camera cards that alternately expand and curb the limit of their wireless technology. The Eye-Fi Explore builds in support for map positioning using Skyhook's triangulation of Wi-Fi hotspots and will automatically geotag photos saved to the camera wherever the card can identify its location; it also gets free access for one year with Wayport-owned wireless access points, including all McDonald's restaurants. The 2GB card works with any SD-compatible camera and ships on June 6th for $129.
Research in Motion today continued a string of announcements for its Wireless Enterprise Symposium with word that it will start offering Microsoft's key Windows Live services on its smartphones. Both Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger will be available from the software and will only require a single sign-in to access both services when they sign in. The BlackBerry's trademark "push" technology will apply to Hotmail and will deliver mail almost in real-time to the phone, complete with full HTML and an optional separate inbox; Live Messenger in turn will have the same multi-chat and emoticon options as with other clients.
Sprint this morning reported its results for the first quarter of 2008 and has revealed continued severe losses in its cellular business. The carrier says its net revenue declined nine percent year-over-year to $9.3 billion and that it lost a total 1.09 million wireless customers in the most recent period. The company says the poor results were "expected" but that it's continuing to rework its strategy, including more focused advertising, cost reductions, and larger strategic decisions. Its news last week of a team-up with Clearwire for nationwide WiMAX also points to a turnaround, according to the company.
Research in Motion early Monday confirmed rumors with the launch of the BlackBerry Partners Fund, a venture capital pool meant to rival the iFund for the iPhone. The $150 million pool eclipses the $100 million for the Apple device but shares the same goal of spurring growth in app development: promising young companies at any stage of development for their BlackBerry software can apply for capital to help their apps reach completion.
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