In brief: Microsoft may offer free Zunes with a subscription, Lego Star Wars goes Universal, and Epson develops a new head for inkjet printers. The lead of the Zune marketing division at Microsoft, Jason Reindorp, hints that some future versions of the player may be sold at a discount, or possibly even for free. The key to this is the Zune Pass option at the Zune Marketplace, which unlike the iTunes Store, offers an unlimited music subscription. Much as cellular networks discount the price of a phone with a long-term contract, Zune buyers may be able to sign up for a particular subscription plan and receive a player at a lower cost. At the earliest, such a strategy is most likely to be announced towards the end of 2007.
News that Best Buy would expand its pilot program to carry Macs in 200 of its retail stores across the U.S. backs recent checks on Mac demand by research firm UBS. "Our checks suggest that Mac sales held up well in fiscal 2Q and could be poised for acceleration into the launch of Leopard this Spring (also Adobe's launch of its Creative Suite 3 should help)," wrote UBS analyst Ben Reitzes. "We note that Apple also launched a new Mac Pro today that features eight processor cores via two Intel Xeon quad-core 'Clovertown' microprocessors." Reitzes estimates year-over-year Mac unit growth of 34 percent, down 7 percent quarter-over-quarter to 1.5 million units in the second quarter of 2007. UBS maintained its 'buy 2' rating on Apple shares with a price target of $124.
Paravue has announced the development of Turbo Mask, a plug-in for the newly-released Photoshop CS3. The application is designed to simplify the process of creating masks in Photoshop, isolating the most obvious elements of an image that a user might want to remove. In some cases removal may be possible in a single click. Some other features of the plug-in will include "jigsaw" cutting, real-time mask previews, and enhanced detection of both edges and overall subjects. Turbo Mask is being demonstrated today and tomorrow at Photoshop World in Boston; the final product goes on sale in late May for $250.
Studio Network Solutions (SNS) is set to demo its new hybrid video storage system named Evo (site not updated) at NAB 2007. Evo enables creative teams to share projects, media, and other large files using connectivity ranging from 3Gbps Fibre Channel to 10Gbps iSCSI and NAS. The base Evo package ships with 4TB of high-throughput storage accommodating up to six direct-connect Mac and PC clients via 4Gbps Fibre Channel and iSCSI over Gigabit Ethernet. Upgrade options will be available to add more storage into the system or increase the number of direct-connect Fibre Channel and iSCSI clients. A 10Gbps Ethernet option will also be available, according to Studio Network Solutions, giving a 10x increase in network bandwidth for NAS and iSCSI (pricing was unavailable).
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has released a new line of Shell cases for the second-generation iPod nano. Each matches one of the colors of Nano available and is made of polycarbonate thin enough that it is not much thicker than a skin. The Shells also come with two interchangeable backs: a translucent one for fitting in pockets, and a more solid opaque one with a belt clip. Jacks and controls remain exposed while the screen is protected with a transparent layer. Each Shell costs for $20.
Microsoft is considering subsidizing future versions of its Zune player, the company's Zune marketing lead Jason Reindorp has said. The executive observed that the Zune Pass unlimited subscription service, which is a key difference between it and the a-la-carte downloads of iTunes, could give Microsoft a means of undercutting the pricing of the iPod. Buyers who attach a long-term contract to the player could see some if not all of the price eliminated, much as cellphone carriers do today.
The video site HungryFlix, already selling videos formatted for the iPod and Sony PSP, today announced new video content specially formatted for Apple TV. The site specializes in independent media of various forms, ranging from TV shows and music videos to shorts and feature films. The first video to be converted into an Apple TV-compatible format is a B-movie martial arts film called "Wages of Sin," directed by Nathyn Masters, which can be downloaded now for the cost of $4. Other prospective releases have not been mentioned; current prices for content range anywhere from 50 cents to $12.
SintraWorks has officially released version 2.5 of its PDFClerk application. The program handles a variety of tasks with PDF documents, such as joining them together, rearranging pages, and simplifying the creation of books, magazines and other publications. The new edition introduces several features, among them being drawing tools, and the ability to create and edit links. Users should also be able to interleave documents, and exercise more control over impositions and layout. Some bug fixes have been implemented as well. PDFClerk runs on Mac OS X 10.4, and a single license is priced at $41.
Suggestions that the iPhone will release on Rogers Wireless in Canada are only speculative, the cell provider said today. Contradicting an earlier e-mail the company reportedly sent early this year, Rogers corporate communications head Odette Coleman told journalists that no announcements had been made, and that most of what had been heard was conjecture. "Everything in the media has been speculations to this point," Colemain said. "The only fact is that we are the only GSM carrier in Canada. That's the only fact."
Computerworld has listed Apple's dated Newton as a top contender for the biggest technology flop, and will gauge each nominee's hype-to-success ratio. Apple introduced its Newton PDA in 1993 and hyped the device with clever advertising as well as word-of-mouth campaigns. Despite its large size by today's standards, the Newton offered numerous features and is considered by some to be have been ahead of its time. The publication points to ridicule by talk show comedians as well as comic strips such as "Doonesbury" that focused on the alleged inaccuracy of handwriting recognition as one reason for the Newton never catching on. Additionally, the device was expensive -- costing around $700 for the first model and as much as $1,000 for more advanced units. [corrected]
BeLight Software today released Live Interior 3D, an application enabling users to design building interiors such as houses and offices. Live Interior 3D includes a library of more than 1,000 objects that includes brand name content, as well as Google 3D Warehouse integration and the ability to import Google SketchUp objects. The software offers a Virtual Reality Walkthrough mode, and comes with over 50 templates. Users can view projects in 2D or 3D with realistic light/shadow rendering, and the application can import 3DStudio or Ogre XML objects. Live Interior 3D can export 2D plans in PDF, JPEG, TIFF, or PNG formats, or export 3D views in JPEG, TIFF, or PNG formats. The new software is priced from $80, and requires Mac OS X 10.3 or later.
The newly unveiled Milk Desk -- an actual desk with an electronic base that raises and lowers to accommodate either sitting or standing -- is intended to address the concerns of a number of computer users, but is specifically aimed at the minimalist aesthetic of the Mac world. Gearlog notes that while the desk's surface is just 55 by 25 inches, it features exits and a drawer to minimalize cable clutter, as well as a file slot on the front to store items such as papers and small electronics. The left-hand side holds four compartments that open up to store anything from pens or pencils to devices such as iPods while still retaining in-desk wire routing. The Milk Desk -- which was designed by Soren Kjaer and Holmris Hansen A/S -- is already avialable in Europe, but should soon come to North America.
Clevo has showcased an all-in-one PC it hopes can replace TVs as well as its fellow competitors. The LV220C resembles a Sony's seemingly floating VAIO L-series but ramps up size and performance. A larger 22-inch LCD and the desktop version of the Core 2 Duo processor help the Clevo interpretation handle HD video as well as the increased demands of Windows Vista. The system is also ready for other media with a front webcam, dual TV tuners, and an iMac-like DVD drive hidden on the side of the display.
Collanos Software today introduced Free Team Collaboration Suite in the U.S. Free Team Collaboration Suite is a peer-to-peer team collaboration suite that provides an easy-to-use set of tools that allow internet users to form teams to work together on shared goals or projects. Users can invite colleagues, friends, or partners to a team workspace where members share as well as organize files, notes, and links. The software supports leading discussions as well as assigning tasks, and keeps members' workspaces in sync by storing a copy of the shared workspace locally on member's computers. Collanos is available for free, and doesn't require a server to run. The software is also platform independent, working on Mac, Linux, and Windows systems.
In brief: MacNN has reviewed the Griffin Elevator laptop stand, Adobe is offering a series of live events as well as online activities to educate users about its Creative Suite 3 software, and CRJTools ebooks has released a new course book on Mac OS X Tiger with 24 lessons on six topics. The National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) has announced the Guru Award winners for the east coast Photoshop World Conference & Expo, ByDesign Games has launched a blog with a new teaser for its upcoming game "The Late Call," and The VESA group has ratified a new standard that may end up replacing many video ports. Griffin's Elevator ($40, shown at right) is designed to raise a portable notebook up higher to reduce the need to tilt the head to work, suspending the notebook via a brushed aluminum frame with two U-shaped arms featuring rubber strips.
Mozilla is developing a new social networking component for its Firefox browser titled The Coop that could streamline the way people share info, the organization announced today. The add-on will borrow the concept of a chicken coop for organizing a user's friends: each friend portrait will serve as the gateway to an RSS news feed of everything a person chooses to publish, flashing when a friend updates a blog, Flickr photo gallery, or favorite YouTube videos. The aim would be to unify as many social networking tools as possible under one umbrella, Mozilla says.
Some interest has been aroused in a concept phone imagined by a 15-year-old Korean studying in Canada. Called the Butterfly, the phone would have a compact white "brick" shape with an elongated touchscreen on the front, enabling access to functions like music, the camera, and receiving calls. Of particular note however is a larger, 3.5-inch AMOLED screen, which would slide out from under the phone to a 30-degree angle. This would allow access to a variety of functions, including dialing, web browsing and videos. Due partly to the minimal interface and the ability to forego a stylus, the Butterfly has been compared to the Apple iPhone. More images can be found below.
Sony should soon bring one of its most advanced GPS units to the US. A recent FCC approval has shown that the company will bring its previously Europe-only NV-U81T to the country, offering features rarely seen in the NAV-U line or other GPS devices. A 4GB hard drive offers more space than an SD card for maps and points of interest, while the U81T also brings gesture-based shortcuts to common searches and acceleration/pressure sensors to better locate the car on a trip. The 4.3-inch touchscreen device wasn't confirmed for a release date in the FCC papers, but has now had the path cleared for an introduction later in the year. Pricing will likely rise above the current U70. [via NaviGadget]
Brick-and-mortar retail giant Best Buy is for the second time expanding a pilot program that began in late May of last year, bringing Apple computers to 200 of its stores by this fall. "We'll be expanding our relationship with Apple in 2007," said Best Buy president Brian Dunn during the company's latest earnings conference call. "We'll be offering Apple computers in 200 stores by this fall." The nation's largest consumer electronics retailer began with a select number of stores to test drive selling Mac systems, which grew to 50 stores across the U.S. in mid-October. The most recent pilot expansion reveals the success of its predecessors, increasing the exposure of Mac computers at Best Buy locations by three-fold. Circuit City also said it would begin selling Macs in a small number of its stores in the Eastern U.S. in early September to test the waters of Mac sales in its retail outlets.
Based at Darmstadt University in Germany, three researchers are suggesting that WEP is no longer a reliable security standard for wireless, InfoWorld reports. Their findings have been published in an official paper, which describes how a 104-bit WEP key can be extracted in approximately three seconds, with the necessary data being captured in less than a minute. More importantly, perhaps, this can done with a 1.7GHz Pentium M processor -- substantially less power than has been needed in the past. While WEP vulnerabilities were first exposed in 2001, an attack required the accumulation of four million data packets, which took a substantial amount of processing to crack. Subsequent analysis reduced the packets needed, but only now has WEP become critically exposed. The Darmstadt group is recommending the use of two countermeasures: the first is an intrusion detection system, while the second is a cloak of "dummy" WEP keys, which hampers any predictive methods in an attack.
RouteBuddy has released RouteBuddy 1.2, an update to the GPS navigation software for Mac OS X that features Geocoding or "Address Lookup" as well as a proprietary compression engine. The latest release enables RouteBuddy users to type an address, town, or city in the Find sheet to discover a location. The new feature will become more refined in future versions of the software, according to the developers, with user-suggested features as well as pre-planned options. RouteBuddy 1.2 is priced at $100, and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
Microsoft is the target of a new class-action lawsuit, this time over its marketing of Windows Vista. Started by a PC buyer from Washington state, Dianne Kelley, the suit alleges that Microsoft knowingly deceived computer shoppers with its "Windows Vista Capable" stickers, designed to keep sales steady in advance of Vista's release. PCs bearing the sticker can indeed run Vista; the problem, according to Kelley's lawyer, is that Microsoft was not clear in saying that the sticker only guarantees compatibility with Vista Home Basic, and not the more heavily-promoted Premium versions. Only Home Premium, Business and Ultimate support features such as Media Center and Flip3D window-switching.
Intel this morning added the Centrino Pro to its mix of mobile platforms. The design calls for not only 802.11n wireless as standard but for the use of the company's Active Management technology for portables, giving IT managers a built-in way to control the network without being tied to a desktop. Owners of any Centrino Pro-based notebook can administrate other powered systems on the network while on Wi-Fi; systems physically attached to the network can even be checked while turned off. The formal rollout of Centrino Pro is due to take place at the same time as Intel's "Santa Rosa" general Centrino platform is made public, which should take place within the next few weeks.
Memeo today released LifeAgent, its high performance automatic backup software for Mac. Memeo LifeAgent is designed to help Mac users manage, track and safeguard digital files in a simple and natural way. A 3-step setup process identifies which files are important, working quietly in the background to automatically share, sync, and secure digital content while saving changes made to any document. The software works on all storage mediums, and enables users to share photos online through Shutterfly. LifeAgent also features a Smart Picks set-up wizard, allowing users to easily locate important files and Mac-specific applications such as iTunes or iPhoto. The user interface shows the status of all continuous backups, and built-in search functionality locates anything from one file to an entire data backup when failure occurs. Memeo LifeAgent is priced at $30, and requires Mac OS X (specific system requirements were unavailable).
Lenovo is preparing a performance upgrade to its X60 tablet, according to detais that were briefly revealed on the system builder's website. The convertible will soon have an option for a 1.5GHz low-voltage Core 2 Duo, running faster than the 1.66GHz Core Duo from before while keeping the low power and heat needed for the extra-slim chassis. Other components should be the same with a base model claiming 1GB of RAM, 60GB hard drive, and Windows Vista Business. The speed will add $75 to the $1,994 base price when other features remain he same. A formal introduction wasn't specified in the leak, but should take place soon after company's current $300 discount ends on April 16th. [via GottaBeMobile]
BLU:SENS stepped up the abilities of its media players with the G40. Like the earlier G14, the new handheld has Bluetooth for wireless headphones and Wi-Fi for sharing tracks between players and PCs without the DRM restrictions of Microsoft's Zune. New in the G40 is a 1.3-megapixel camera for snapping JPEG photos as well as a larger, 2.5-inch LCD for viewing DivX, MPEG-4, or XviD videos. Audio is provided in MP3 or OGG. Up to 4GB of storage is built inside but can be supplemented with an SD card. The Spanish firm sells the G40 in 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB models in its home country, but hasn't released its pricing or an official ship date. Launches in Europe and other areas are also a mystery. [via Ubergizmo]
The VESA group has ratified a new standard which may end up replacing many video ports. Called DisplayPort, the technology supports twice the bandwidth of a DVI cable, but yet uses a much smaller connector piece, making it easier to use with portable devices such as laptops. It will further remain compatible with the HDCP standard, which allows a variety of electronics to pass DRM safeguards imposed on HD optical discs. DisplayPort is likely to affect the computer industry the most, gradually replacing both DVI and VGA ports over the next few years. While it could in theory be used to replace HDMI on televisions, the entrenchment of HDMI and the longer timescales of TV ownership are likely to make DisplayPort an accompaniment rather than a new standard in that realm.
One Windows user who was fed up with the visual appearance of Microsoft's Windows XP coupled together several pieces of software to change the look and feel of the Windows desktop to resemble Apple's Mac OS X operating system. An instructional video by dim-blog.com posted on metacafe depicts the new Mac OS X look on top of Windows XP, and contains the steps necessary to achieve the effect on a local system. The software required to achieve the effect includes Yahoo! Widgets -- Mac-like widgets for Windows systems, RocketDock -- producing a Mac-like dock, FlyakiteOSX -- changing the look of Windows, and 3RVX -- software to produce a Mac-like volume bar.
Singapore-based GAJAH has shown a new, screenless media player for runners. Dubbed the Snafu, the flash jukebox borrows the same overall principle as the iPod shuffle and is shaped like a clip, allowing its owner to hook the device to a pocket or a shirt collar. A pair of new features make the player more accommodating, GAJAH adds. Built-in Bluetooth links the player with a cellphone and pauses playback for incoming calls; the device also responds with voice feedback to give a status update without having to glance at the device itself. Precise features weren't revealed, but should include MP3 and WMA music support as well as syncing with a PC through a mini-USB-to-USB cable. The Snafu should be available soon in southeast Asia, though North American availbility is unknown. [via AVING]
Winter Wolves Games has released its first puzzle game titled Spin Around as freeware. Spin Around features simple but addictive gameplay, according to Winter Wolves, and online scores accompany three play modes. Those play modes include "Time Attack," "Top Score," and "Puzzle Game." The first mode challenges players to clean the grid in the shortest time possible, while the second charges players with achieving the highest score. The third and final play mode presents puzzles with increasing difficulty. The title is available as a free download on the official website, requiring Mac OS X (specific system requirements were unavailable).
Following the introduction of its eight-core Mac Pro, Apple has also lowered the price of its Cinema Display LCD line. The greatest price decrease affects the 30-inch Cinema HD display, which drops from $1,999 to a more affordable $1,799. The computer company has also lowered the price of entry for the 20-inch Cinema from $699 to $599 and has applied a similar change to the mid-range 23-inch Cinema HD, dropping its price from $999 to $899. All three displays maintain their current designs, including dual FireWire 400 and dual USB ports, and ship today from the online Apple Store.
Creative aimed squarely at music fans with the introduction of its Aurvana DJ headphones. The Singaporean company claims that the design is a perfect match to its X-Fi sound cards or its Zen music players with a pair of tuned, 40mm neodymium drivers as well as copper-sheathed aluminum wires that it says more accurately represent audio sources. Leatherette pads help make listening more comfortable. Good looks are also important, Creative says, with a brushed-metal design on the outside. The headphones are already reaching Singapore stores at a price equal to $111. US launch details haven't been released but should follow shortly with relatively similar pricing.
Apple on Wednesday added a new eight-core option to the Mac Pro. Buyers of the new professional workstation can now choose two of Intel's 3GHz quad-core Xeons, nicknamed "Clovertown," alongside the 2GHz, 2.66GHz, and 3GHz dual-core "Woodcrest" processors currently offered by Apple in its systems. Other features of the desktop are unchanged and include a base 1GB of memory expandable to 16GB, 250GB of storage (up to 3TB), and a choice of video cards ranging from a 256MB GeForce 7300 GT to the 512MB Quadro FX 4500 for professional 3D modeling and stereo imaging. Customizing the Mac Pro with the 3GHz eight-core option adds $1,498 to the base $2,499 price and ships within three to five days from the online Apple Store.
Samsung this morning launched the SpinPoint S166, its newest upgrade to its quiet hard disks. The drive emphasizes noise reduction over capacity: although storing at most 160GB of data, the drive's newer seeking method and hardware cuts the peak noise by as much as 15 percent, topping out at a sub-whisper 27.5 decibels at full speed. The near silence makes the drive an ideal fit for a home theater or office computer where intrusive noise is a real problem, the company says. The drive's price and availability vary by region, according to Samsung, but include both the flagship 160GB model and a simplified 80GB version for less demanding users.
D-Link on Wednesday grew its Xtreme-N line of Wi-Fi cards by two. The DWA-643 is built for owners of newer notebooks with ExpressCard slots, giving draft 802.11n speeds in an ExpressCard 34 adapter that works both with its native card slot or the wider 54 slots found on some portables. Also available is the DWA-556 for desktops: plugging into a PCI Express X1 slot, the adapter not only provides the speed but includes three antennas to capture signals from further away. The quality lets Wi-Fi work for gaming, D-Link says. Both cards currently require Windows and are shipping today at prices of $120 for the notebook-bound DWA-643 and $150 for the DWA-556.
Google on Wednesday will introduce Google Desktop for the Mac (direct download), a new "Universal" application that indexes the contents of a Mac's hard drive, including applications, files, PDFs, and Web histories from Safari, Firefox, and Camino. The application, which will be released as a beta, will support Spotlight plug-ins and leverage Spotlight privacy features to prevent some documents from being searched. Google Desktop for Mac launches using the Command key (double-tap) and features "live search" that displays the last 10 results instantly, including the file name, a brief description, and highlighted search term. In addition, users can view other extended results in a Google-like webpage in the default browser.
GizMac Accessories today announced its new XRackPro2 design is now shipping. The new version of the 12U size XRackPro2 server rack provides better cooling and more noise reduction than the previous model, according to the company; it incorporates the same design that the recently released 4U, 25U and the upcoming 6U XRackPro2 server racks are built around. The new 12U XRackPro2 server rack also improves noise reduction. Re-locating the air intake to substantially increase cooling allowed the new design to use one less fan for moving air through the XRackPro2. With this change and a few other modifications, the company says, the newly re-designed 12U XRackPro2 reduces noise up to 80 percent. The new 12U XRackPro2 is available in black or platinum for $1,800.
Now AAPL Stock: 94.02 ( -2.58 )
Apple expands CloudKit API, provides web interface
On Friday, Apple notified developers that it was expanding a feature of CloudKit to allow for server-to-server web service requests. "In addition to providing a web interface for users to access the same data as your app, you can now easily read and write to the CloudKit public database from a server-side process or script with a server-to-server key," Apple said in its announcement. Previously, interaction with the CloudKit public database was limited to apps and web only. http://apple.co/20h1RwP
Remote S for Tesla Apple Watch app drives car out
Developer Allen Wong has created the Remote S for Tesla app, which can be used to remotely activate the Model S electric car via an Apple Watch, and drive it a short distance. Aside from providing data about the car and some basic function controls, the unofficial app uses the manufacturer's Summon command to allow the car to turn on, exit the garage, and park near to the user's location. The app is available to purchase from the App Store for $10. http://apple.co/1PprF4t
Seagate 3TB unreliability suit expands
The Seagate 3TB class-action hard drive lawsuit has been expanded to more devices. The expanded suit, filed today, now includes Seagate's Barracuda 3TB Hard Disk Drive, Desktop HDD 3TB, Backup Plus 3TB External Hard Disk Drive, GoFlex 3TB External Hard Disk Drive, or any other Seagate hard drive with model number ST3000DM001. The law firm, Hagens Berman, is seeking information from consumers such as time in service, purchase price, and the nature of any drive received in return from Seagate as a replacement for a failed unit. http://bit.ly/1Pc34Cq
BlackBerry Canada, Florida hit with layoffs
The BlackBerry campus has reportedly been wracked with layoffs. Sources familiar with the company's Waterloo office staffing claim that close to 35 percent of the local workforce has been laid off, with the deepest cuts being made in the BlackBerry 10 OS and hardware teams. Additionally, the state of Florida has been officially notified that the company's Sunrise facility will see 75 people fired. Enthusiast site Mobilesyrup puts the layoffs at around 1000 total. http://bit.ly/1Pc1Rep
Instagram tests multiple account support for iOS
Instagram is trialling support for multiple accounts in its iPhone app with a small number of users. The Facebook-owned photo sharing service confirmed the reports of the tests to TechCrunch, which will allow a single user to manage more than a single account within the app, transferring between two or three accounts with a few taps. It is unclear when the feature will roll out to the public, but it has previously tested it with the Android version of the app since November. http://tcrn.ch/1SPKEKh
Foxconn CEO declares Sharp deal near done
The Foxconn bid for Sharp is allegedly only waiting on specific details of the deal. Foxconn CEO Terry Gou has declared that his company has privileged negotiation rights for the Apple iPhone screen supplier, saying that "we have a consensus, the rest is a process ... I don't see a problem completing this process." Gou hopes the deal, worth up to $5.6 billion, will be formalized by the end of February. http://reut.rs/1SPEQjN
MIT demoes 'Eyeriss' AI chip for mobile
At the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco this week, MIT researchers presented a new chip designed specifically to implement neural networks. The researchers claim that "Eyeriss" is 10 times as efficient as a mobile GPU, so it could enable mobile devices to run artificial-intelligence algorithms such as Siri or Cortana, rather than uploading all data to a remote server for processing. http://bit.ly/1TISJBe