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Apple may face £323m fine
Despite a landmark agreement with EMI to offer DRM-free music via iTunes, European Union regulators are investigating Apple's iTunes Store for possibly violating competition laws, and said that they object to the Cupertino-based company's practice of forcing consumers to purchase songs from its iTunes Store only in their home country. The European Commission sent a letter outlining the accusations to Apple as well as major record companies -- including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music, and EMI Group, according to the Associated Press. A spokesman for the EU competition commissioner says Apple's arrangements restrict music sales because "consumers can only buy music from the iTunes store in their country of residence." Companies that breach competition law face a fine of up to 10 percent of annual turnover, which according to the Times Online would total roughly £323 million.
ModBook gets upgrade
Axiotron today announced that it has doubled pen pressure sensitivity on its ModBook Mac tablet line to 512 levels, but pushed back the shipment date to May of this year. The updated pen offers users of applications such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter improved sensitivity and control of pen strokes. Axiotron is offering the free upgrade to new customers and is retroactively applying the change to all ModBook orders placed since its introduction, which accounts for moving first customer shipments to May of 2007. Axiotron's ModBook features Wacom Penabled hardware, the same technology used in Wacom pen tablets and interactive pen displays. The ModBook's Digitizer Pen boasts 133 position updates per second and supports 20x display resolution. The Axiotron ModBook enables users to draw and write directly on the screen, and the handwriting recognition built into Mac OS X Tiger turns hand scribbles into text in every application while providing extended control of the system through gesture recognition. The ModBook is priced at $2,280, and will now ship in May of 2007.
New Nokia phone photos?
Images have emerged of a new, unidentified Nokia phone. Posting on HowardForums, a user called "micrors4racer" has shared a pair of photos depicting a previously unseen product, which can also be seen below. Current speculation suggests it is a successor to either the Nokia 8600 or 8800, but if so, it has been upgraded to use a larger LCD, as well as a more stylish control panel. The rear shows plastic casing and some form of still camera. Electronista will present more information as it becomes available.
Xupport 3.3.2 ($20) is a multipurpose utility for Mac OS X, allowing users to configure hidden options, improve security and performance, and run maintenance and backup tasks. Version 3.3.2 fixes file permission settings when restoring a disk image, and enhances the rebuilding of launch service caches. The program also has better support of non-Phoenician alphabets (Arabic, Cyrillic, etc.). Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later is required.
[Download - 2.7MB]
Twitteromatic 1.0 (free) simplifies the posting of "useless information" to the Twitter website, such as uptime, US weather, the current iTunes track, and the day's historical anniversaries. Users need only click a button for the appropriate category. To further ease the process, the app automatically extracts login info from the Mac OS keychain. [Download - 45KB]
DB Solo 2.1 ($80) is an SQL query tool with features such as diagrams, database comparison, and database object scripting. Supported DBMS products include Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL and more. The v2.1 update enhances the Schema Comparison Tool, adding things such as the Synchronization DDL Script Creator, and the ability to run schema comparisons from the command line. The DAO Code Generator has also been changed to improve MySQL and PostgreSQL support. [Download - 16.5MB]
BeerAlchemy 1.5 ($30) aids in the creation of homebrewed beer recipes, managing them and calculating how much of each ingredient should be used. Version 1.5 improves the Batch and Recipe Editors, and better integrates the Suggest-a-Beer feature, for instance moving it to the main toolbar. Users can now also export recipes to the REC and BeerXML formats. Though the app is a Universal Binary, PowerPC Macs must have Mac OS 10.4, and Intel Macs must be running 10.4.4. [Download - 4.9MB]
DeltaGraph 5.7.4 ($300) performs data analysis, charting and graphing, and can render the output natively in Mac OS X with Pantone-matched colors. The new release improves performance on Intel Core Duo Macs, and likewise has better file compatibility with the Windows version of the software. The program is further able to automatically scale charts and graphs to any size the user demands. [Download - 27.4MB]
Alpha Link Duo ($425) is a program for mortgage brokers, designed to streamline the task of filing residential loan applications. Users enter data into a representation of standard Fannie Mae forms, and can send their submissions through the latest DO/DU electronic systems. The program is a Universal Binary and runs on Mac OS X 10.4; unfortunately, there are no preview versions available. [Download - None]
An unnamed Chinese company has launched the BW-A888, a cellphone that can double as a main house phone through a unique attachment: plugging the handset into its brick-like cradle boosts its battery life, reception, and speaker quality when inside. A sculplted design for the cradle also keeps the digital camera usable while docked; a small touch in the form of a compass on one side helps those who bring both pieces with them on a hiking trip.
No details have escaped regarding pricing or availability, though such a device is unlikely to reach North America through usual channels. [via SlashPhone]
Virgin on Monday presented an alternative for its Virgin Central digital TV service. A new device, dubbed the VBox, will let subscribers to the provider's British TV service tune into what the company hopes is the best of both worlds: while free of the need for a cable or satellite TV link, the content protection allows Virgin to beam TV channels (as many as 40) that aren't currently available with the country's Freeview over-the-air broadcasts or are out of range in rural areas. The VBox itself is also a wonder, Virgin claims, taking up as much space as a VHS tape but only consuming a small fraction of the power of a light bulb.
Apple Worth 200 Per Share
Apple's stock should double its current value, financial expert Stephen Coleman said today in a bold prediction. Despite the company's shares topping $90 in recent weeks, Coleman notes that its prospects are a "screaming buy" compared to what they have been in the past, pointing to both the 100 percent surge Mac sales compared to a year ago as well as the 50 percent increase in iPod sales. The Apple TV, iPhone, and Mac OS X Leopard were also bound to drive the firm's worth well past what it has been at the start of the year.
Apple lax in security?
Apple is falling behind in keeping Mac OS X as secure as it should be, according to InformationWeek. The author's latest article cites several sources as evidence, such as a recent Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec, which notes that it now takes an average of 66 days for Apple to patch a vulnerability; conversely, Microsoft is averaging three weeks. This is also substantially slower than what was noted in the last Threat Report issued six months ago, which gave Apple an average of 37 days.
Aigo Media Players
Aigo hopes to please older children with its just unveiled F989 media player. Though patterned after handheld game systems and loaded with games to play, the system is mature enough to include several serious features: a 1.3-megapixel camera encourages photography, an FM tuner and recorder cover radio, and the 2.4-inch screen handles AVI video at a full 30 frames per second. Media is stored on SD cards.
Details of a second player can be read after the jump.
Cycore Effects HD 1.5
Cycore has released an update to its plug-ins for After Effects, Adobe's video graphics program. The CycoreFX HD 1.5 update runs natively on Intel-based Macs as a Universal Binary, and adds an improved version of PowerPin as well as support for "HDR light probes" in Environment. The latest release also includes a better dust shader in Plastic, and a collection of obsolete 16-bit versions of PS Classic and PS LE Classic to help backward compatibility with the standard CycoreFX package. The HD plug-ins work with After Effects 5.5 through 7.0, as well as Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. The v1.5 upgrade is available for $300 new, and is available for free to current plug-in users.
Rogers Vision 3G
Rogers today announced VISION, a service it says is the first cell provider on the continent to offer true video calls. The technology takes advantage of the company's third-generation HSDPA network to chat with each other in real-time using phones that include a forward-facing camera; the first device on offer will be the Samsung A706, a clamshell phone with both a front VGA camera and a 2-megapixel rear camera as well as a microSD slot for music. Bluetooth and legacy support for EDGE Internet are also part of its hardware design.
Analyst on DRM-free iTunes
Apple's choice to offer DRM-free tracks from major record label EMI is a positive move for the company that will drive further iTunes sales and potentially increase the number of iPod purchases, according to senior analyst Gene Munster of research firm Piper Jaffray. "We believe the success of the iPod is dependent upon the total experience of the device and the music store, vs. the fact that the iTunes music only play son iPods," Munster wrote in a research note obtained by MacNN. "We estimate that less than 5 percent of the music in the average iPod user's library includes music purchased from iTunes." Piper Jaffray maintains its 'outperform' rating on Apple shares with a price target of $124.
Poll Clamors for iPod FM
iPod owners are most likely to want an internal FM radio, according to a new survey by Jacobs Media. The study group says that 43 percent of all its iPod-owning respondents (and a third of all respondents) wanted the ability to tune broadcast music without requiring Apple's Radio Remote, even when given the choice of more conventional expansion -- including higher capacities and video playback in smaller models, the report says. Almost half (49 percent) used their iPods in their cars, however, suggesting that many were using the device as a replacement for car radio rather than as an add-on.
Norway applauds Apple, EMI
Following EMI's announcement today that it will launch new high quality DRM-free downloads via Apple's iTunes Store, senior advisor Torgeir Waterhouse of the Norwegian Consumer Council immediately came forward to applaud the move. "It's with great interest [that] I've listened to the webcast from EMI & Apple today," Waterhouse told MacNN. "No matter how the digital music market develops, today will always stand out a very important date, the day when two of the really big market players finally took responsibility that follows from the position and made an interoperable solution available to consumers." The advisor told MacNN in early February that Italy had officially joined other European countries to apply pressure to Apple and the iTunes store to open up its musical tracks, enabling consumers the freedom of choice to choose their own medium for playing iTunes tracks. "I applaud [EMI and Apple's] move, and encourage all the other contenders in the digital music business to make the same important move."
'Most powerful' laptop?
CompAmerica has begun selling what it calls "the most powerful laptop on Earth," the Orca Extreme 9191. In its most expensive configuration it uses a Core 2 Duo Extreme processor rated at 2.93GHz, and not one but two GeForce Go 7950GT video cards, linked together in SLI mode. Combined video RAM is 1GB. Buyers can also have up to 4GB of system RAM, a 200GB SATA drive, and a 17-inch LCD with resolutions up to 1900x1280 (1080p). The screen does highlight one of the computer's deficiencies however, as there is no option for a Blu-Ray or HD DVD drive, only an 8x DVD-R/RW burner. Miscellaneous features include four speakers, memory- and ExpressCard slots, plus DVI, FireWire and USB ports. Prices for the 9191 start at $2,604.
UBiQUiO 503G Pocket PC
Lesser-known maker UBiQUiO will be releasing a new Pocket PC phone this summer, the 503G. It features a QWERTY keyboard layout similar to the Palm Treo or Motorola Q, but makes the switch to Windows Mobile 6, and is accompanied a 520MHz Intel processor. Also notable is a two-megapixel camera and the use of HSDPA broadband, which should allow download speeds up to 3.6Mbps. Other connection options include Bluetooth 1.2 and 802.11b/g WiFi. Memory meanwhile features 64MB of RAM and 256MB of ROM, with a microSD slot expanding storage by up to 2GB. The 503G will launch in England on June 20th for £395 ($777). [via CrunchGear]
Glimpse of Office 2008
Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MacBU) is testing the latest revision of Office 2008 for Mac via private betas, but let slip some details about the new software to ease Mac users' fears about user interface changes and rumored similarities to Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system. The MacBU is unable to speculate on a timetable for a public beta or targets for a release to manufacture, APC Magazine notes that a demo of the alpha build shows that the revised user interface is moving in a "very appealing and Mac-like direction." "Our peek at the alpha build [...] showed hints of a streamlined look with a modern black sheen, at times similar to the elements in recent Apple applications such as iTunes 7 and iLife 06. Rest easy, Mac-fans -- this is not Office for Windows."
Microsoft Bleeding Cash
Microsoft's cash reserves are less than half what they were two years ago, according to a report. The Redmond developer, which once had as much as $64.4 billion in 2004, is now down to $29 billion at its most recent tally. The company claims that the shrink been a deliberate choice to buy into smaller companies and to reward investors.
"We're focused on striking the right balance between investing in the company's growth and returning capital to shareholders," said Microsoft's investor relations manager Colleen Healy.
160Gbps optical networks
Optical technology developed by IBM may drastically improve the speeds of even the current fastest networks. The company has developed a new transceiver chip that uses materials such indium phosphide and gallum arsenide, and is capable of bandwidth as high as 160Gbps -- eight times as fast as Verizon's fiber-optic FiOS service. This is said to be fast enough to download 30 minutes of high-definition video in a second.
Perhaps more importantly, the cost of the chip is estimated to be cheaper than even slower modern technologies: whereas a 40Gbps transceiver presently sells for $25,000, the IBM chip may cost $500-600. Its first application is expected to be in the backbone of the Internet, located in routers, switches and network servers. Use within desktops and set-top boxes may come later, however. [via SCI FI Tech]
BenQ SP830 DLP Projector
BenQ today upgraded its DLP projectors with the SP830 series. The two 720p-capable models introduced today are designed with brightness in mind for those who might screen in large rooms: the SP830 manages an unusually bright 3,500 lumens, while the SP831 boosts available light even higher at 4,000 lumens. Its contrast ratio is also relatively vivid at 2,000:1 thanks to the company's Hollywood-Quality Video processor which also cleans noise and scales video for two sources at once.
The SP830 line carries DVI input (with HDCP encryption), component, RCA, and S-video to hook up to most any analog or digital video feed. BenQ hasn't revealed pricing or availability but should offer the projectors both in Asia and the US.
Garmin Mac support
In brief: The first Apple Store in Italy, which has opened at the ROMAEST mall, is offering shoppers 5 percent off all goods in the store. Garmin has released WebUpdater for Mac 220.127.116.11 Beta, and Seagate may be preparing to unveil its promised 1TB hard drive by the end of April. Italy's first Apple Store opened with a 5 percent discount to shoppers in the ROMAEST mall, a tactic that is rarely seen with Apple Store openings. New photos have surfaced of the store from setteB.IT, depicting the 5 percent off sale and the long shelves of software, games, accessories, and other Apple-related products. Desktop and portable Macs adorn many table tops, while iPod accessories stand waiting for purchase on others. Supplies are apparently high as customers make purchases without hindrance or "out of stock" notifications.
Icron WiRanger Hub
Icron on Monday launched its WiRanger Cable Free USB 2.0 Hub. Rather than wait for the relatively short-range Ultra-Wideband (UWB), the company has instead chosen 802.11g Wi-Fi; this lets both Mac OS X and Windows computer owners attach less demanding USB 2.0 devices to a host PC as far as 100 feet away -- several times the distance of a UWB device, Icron says.
Targeted primarily at pro and serious home users, the WiRanger should be available for $395 soon; future versions should support UWB as well as 802.11n for greater speed.
Apple's 1984 spoof redux
The political anti-Hilary Clinton spoof based on Apple's legendary 1984 television ad may be violating copyright laws and could face a lawsuit from the copyright holders of George Orwell's classic novel '1984'. Rosenblum Productions, which acquired the rights to the Orwellian imagery, said that it is "monitoring the situation," but was unclear whether it was focusing on the creator of the video, YouTube, or both parties. The company, however, said that it has defended its rights successfully at least twice before, including a cease and desist to Apple over the original SuperBowl ad more than 20 years ago. "When the Apple 'Big Brother' television commercial was aired during the 1984 Super Bowl telecast, we immediately objected to this unauthorized commercial use of the novel, and sent a 'cease-and-desist' letter both to Apple and to its ad agency," said Gina Rosenblum, president of Rosenblum Productions. "The commercial never aired on television again."
Dell M1710 Drive Option
Dell has begun shipping the XPS M1710 and other portables with Seagate's just-introduced Momentus 7200.2 notebook drive. The hard disk option is both one of the largest-capacity drives at its size at 160GB but is also one of the fastest, matching the 7200 RPM speed of desktop storage. The choice helps gamers and other performance users who may demand both features.
The feature is currently an exclusive to Dell, the company says, and is available for any current XPS notebook as a $250 extra beyond the base 80GB disk included with most models.
Panasonic LX70 LCDs
Panasonic this morning touched on some of its smaller TVs today with two new updates to the LX70 series. The 26- and 32-inch screens provide less expensive features than the LX75 but at a larger size than the company's current LX70 models: either is capable of 720p but uses a standard 60Hz panel, dual HDMI inputs, and a digital TV tuner for over-the-air broadcasts. Either is still vivid with 6,000:1 and 7,000:1 dynamic contrast ratios respectively.
The two sets will ship first to Japan on April 20th at prices of $1,444 for the the 26-inch LX70 and $1,711 for the 32-inch version. US equivalents are likely to ship later this year.
ATO iSee 360i Recorder
ATO today unveiled the second generation of its iSee 360i video recorder for iPods. The portable media player allows most Click Wheel-enabled iPods to capture, store, and play video from any analog video source -- including some iPods that normally can't play video, the company says. The updated version includes adapters to allow both first- and second-generation iPod nanos as well as the 30GB fifth-generation iPod to play video in MPEG-4 format on a 3.6-inch screen nearly 91 percent larger than the largest available on Apple's current devices. Even a 2GB iPod nano can store up to four hours of footage, according to ATO.
iSkin SOHO laptop sleeves
iSkin today announced SOHO, its new line of laptop protective sleeves for MacBook, MacBook Pro and similarly sized PCs. Made from premium synthetic leather and dyed using only environmentally safe inks, the sleeves offer "sturdy protection that mates couture looks with rock star flare." The SOHO features a multi-layered design that combines the protection of a durable outer layer, a reinforced padded center and a plush inner lining--designed to encapsulate a laptop and keep it safe from everyday hazards. The SOHO is offered in a variety of flavors, including two separate sizes for the 13" MacBook ($60) and 15" MacBook Pro ($65). The two sizes also accommodate older PowerBooks, iBooks and similarly sized PCs. The SOHO line features five black sleeves with color accented zippers and stitching: Azure (Black with Blue), Graphite (Black with Grey), Magnum (Black with Red), Sahara (Black with Orange) and Amazon (Black with Pink).
EALbasic 2007 Release 2
REAL Software has released REALbasic 2007 Release 2, bringing 18 new features and over 100 bug fixes, including significant improvements to the incremental compiler and debugger. REALbasic is a rapid application development (RAD) environment that runs on and creates software for Windows 98, NT, ME, 2000 and XP, Mac OS X and Linux. The popular developer tool now compiles only the parts of the project that have changed since the last compile, resulting in faster compilation and improved developer productivity. In addition, REALbasic now supports collapsing and expanding blocks of code in the code editor and also offer debugger Improvements and RTF Support. REALbasic 2007 Release 2 is built and developed with REALbasic 2007. The REALbasic Standard Edition for Windows or Mac is priced at $200, with an introductory price of $100.
DRM-free music on iTunes
At the special event in London on Monday, EMI Music announced that it is launching new premium downloads for retail on a global basis, making all of its digital music available at a much higher sound quality than existing downloads and free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions and that Apple iTunes Store will be the first retailer to offer the higher quality, DRM-free music. The Cupertino-based company will make individual AAC format tracks available from EMI artists at twice the sound quality of existing downloads and without any digital right management (DRM technology). Pricing will be $1.29/€1.29/£0.99; however, iTunes will continue to offer consumers the ability to pay $0.99/€0.99/£0.79 for standard sound quality tracks with DRM still applied. Complete albums from EMI Music artists purchased on the iTunes Store will automatically be sold at the higher sound quality and DRM-free, with no change in the price. The new higher-quality, DRM-free songs will be available in May.
ThinkPad T61 Enroute
Lenovo will be shifting its flagship T-series ThinkPads to widescreen displays, a company salesman has claimed. The representative noted that the next version of the notebook, known as the T61, will need to use 14-inch widescreen displays as the majority of the market no longer uses the 4:3-ratio screens that have been the staple of the ThinkPad line; the screens simply aren't available, the agent said. The update to the computer in late November brought the first, 15.4-inch widescreen model to the line but still contains the company's historial 14- and 15-inch standard-ratio displays.
While specifications and a precise release date are unavailable, the T61 is expected to use Intel's faster Santa Rosa platform with a faster 800MHz system bus and should be available within the next several weeks. [via ThinkPads.com]
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