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Griffin's iPod speakers
Griffin Technology today announced shipments of two new speaker systems for iPod: its Amplifi and Journi (pictured at right)-- marking the company's official entry into the expanding portable media player speaker business. Journi is Griffin's personal mobile speaker system housed in a "rugged, tuck-under-your-arm & go-anywhere package." The company says the innovative Wrapstand exterior protects 2.0 stereo system and the iPod while on the go and flips open to create its own stand. It features high-efficiency internal Lithium-Ion batteries recharge with the included AC adapter or through any computer's powered USB port ("Dual Fuel" technology).
Macs in enterprise IT
Enterprise-level companies deciding to switch to Apple's Mac platform are likely to encounter several roadblocks, but business IT magazine CIO is helping to ease the transition for larger businesses. Christian Anschuetz of the Publicis Groupe suggests that Macs may actually require more support technicians, partly due to less enterprise support and partly because creative employees (the primary users of Macs) may be more demanding. In a similar vein, Mac software is not always as complete as PC equivalents, and databases or clients may not be Mac-compatible in the first place. These factors may require porting data over, or finding an improvised solution, according to the report.
iSymphony Bluetooth stereo
British company iSymphony has released a new Bluetooth-equipped home stereo system, the V1BLUEe, which (inaccurately) is said to be the first in the world that is A2DP-ready. This allows the streaming of audio to Bluetooth headphones, and for external music sources such as cellphones to do the reverse. Particularly important is the inclusion of the Bluetooth Wireless Universal Dock, which uses adapters to allow any type of iPod to charge, sync and play at the same time.
Other audio sources include an FM radio, an SD/MMC slot, and a CD player able to read MP3 and WMA files. The system is equipped with two 10W speakers and a 25W subwoofer, and when a phonecall comes in, music is paused, and the stereo can be used as a hands-free speakerphone. The product should be out in the UK in June for £250 ($500). [via Tech Digest]
Reviews, iPod food guides
In brief: MacNN has reviewed the Cerulean XLR Earbuds from iSkin as well as the Vyper XS Laptop Sleeve from Booq, and several new restaurant guides have surfaced for Apple's iPod detailing the Seattle, Vancouver, and Toronto areas. Bombia Design has released two new add-ons for a total of 20 icons in four different sizes, and the WOWODC has just announced its first meeting in San Francisco. MacNN has reviewed the Cerulean XLR Earbuds ($30, shown at right) from iSkin, a small set of colorful earphones with thin cords designed to offer good sound for a low price. MacNN has also reviewed the Vyper XS sleeve for laptops (on sale for $5) from Booq Bags, providing functionality as well as protection for an iBook via a high-density foam exterior with a nylon feel and appearance.
Darkwind launches May 4th
The developers working on Darkwind: War on Wheels -- a free racing game that runs on Mac as well as Windows systems -- have set a launch date after several months of closed testing. The driving game features racetrack as well as arena-based racing, combat leagues, ladders, and newly added out-of-town travel. Multi-player squads can conduct wilderness battles with NPCs and other players between three towns which are already live. Developers plan to re-open the game on May 4th, and is offering reduced pricing on pre-release subscriptions. While the game remains free to play, many more advanced gameplay features are only available to subscribers (system requirements were unavailable).
BenQ FP93GP LCD
BenQ on Thursday added the FP93GP to its growing stable of 19-inch displays. The LCD tops its predecessors through a heavily upgraded MVA-based panel that greatly increases the image quality over earlier models and most of its rivals. The contrast ratio is a far superior 1,300:1, BenQ claims, and is backed by near-perpendicular viewing angles of 178 degrees both horizontally and vertically. Pixel response times are rated at a modest 8ms capable of handling most movies and games, but the thin half-inch bezel is ideal for multi-LCD setups, according to the display maker.
Philips mice and keyboard.
Though generally not known for its computer hardware, Philips is releasing four new solo mice, plus a mouse/keyboard combo. The most preeminent mouse is the SPM8713, which is a wireless unit devised for laptops. It uses Philips' unique "twin-eye" laser sesnor, and has very high resolution, rated at 1,600dpi. Reflecting its purpose the mouse is also geared to save power, shutting off automatically when it not in use. Battery life is thus estimated to be a full year.
IconBuilder 8.5 released
Iconfactory today released IconBuilder 8.5 for Mac OS X, an update to the professional Photoshop & Fireworks filter for creating icons on the Mac that fully supports Adobe's new CS3 set of tools. The latest edition is re-engineered from the ground up in Xcode, according to the company, and takes advantage of CS3's new plug-in structure with optimization for use with Intel-based Macs. IconBuilder allows artists to harness the feature sets of Adobe Photoshop and Fireworks to create professional icons for both Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. The tool is available for $80, and users who purchased IconBuilder 8.x after January 1st of this year are entitled to a free upgrade. Upgrades from prior versions are available for $30, and the software requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
Radeon HD Launch Change
The formal announcement of AMD's forthcoming Radeon HD 2900 have been moved up, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. Previously set for May 14th, the 2900 XT will launch on May 2nd and has had its price set at $399, placing the card in direct competition with the 640MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS that AMD hopes to outperform. The 740MHz core clock speed and 1.65GHz effective memory outlined in earlier leaks should remain in place, the sources said.
The change will mean that the release may become a "soft launch" where official details are published before availability; however, the cards and the mainstream HD 2600 and 2400 versions should be available by the originally scheduled May 14th introduction.
MS Denies Zune Phone
Microsoft won't produce a Zune-branded cellphone, company CEO Steve Ballmer has told inquisitive journalists. The executive suggested that the idea of grafting phone functions on to its recent music player was impractical and would be better-served by adding the interface to Windows Mobile, which is more universal and adaptable to special controls.
"It's not a concept you'll ever get from us. We're in the Windows Mobile business," he said. "We can put Zune into Windows Mobile, we can put Xbox into Windows Mobile. We can pour everything in."
OWC USB2+eSATA drive ships
Other World Computing (OWC) today launched its new Mercury On-The-Go USB2+eSATA portable hard drive with transfer rates faster than those supported by USB or USB 2.0 Bus interfaces. The impact-resistant acrylic enclosure boasts a sleek design, and incorporates shock-isolation technology while weighing less than 11 ounces. The enclosure itself utilizes the latest SATA 2.5-inch hard drives, and draws power from a USB cable which negates the need to use the included AC adapter. Users connecting via eSATA must use the AC adapter to power the enclosure, which ships with cables for USB 2.0 as well as eSATA with full retail licensed versions of Prosoft DataBackup III for Mac OS X and NovaStor NovaBackup for Windows. OWC's Mercury On-The-Go USB2+eSATA portable hard drives are priced from $120 with storage capacities ranging between 80GB and 200GB. The company also offers a USB 2.0-only version starting from $100 without eSATA port support.
Papers reaches version 1.0
Two Mac developers have released the first complete version of Papers 1.0, an application designed for scientists that supports finding and organize research texts on a Mac. Users can add PDF-formatted journals and papers to a database, which organizes them similarly to iTunes with categories such as Year, Rating and when they were last read. Users can also download new papers directly through PubMed, and read via print-out or from within Papers where the documents are viewable in tabbed or full-screen modes. Single user licenses for Papers 1.0 are priced at $40, requiring Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
LG Dual Touchscreen Patent
LG has published a pair of US patents that may affect Apple's ability to produce future iPhone designs. The first, titled "Mobile Communication Terminal Having Multiple Displays," would take the exclusively touchscreen-driven interface of the Apple handset and LG's own Prada and convert it to clamshell form. A second touchscreen would replace the conventional keypad, according to the patent. The change would not only allow a more dynamic finger- or stylus-based interface that could use either display, but could let data elements swap between screens.
Apple in subscription biz?
Apple may enter the subscription services business in the future with one stop shop for music, TV, movie, and video game content, according to American Technology Research senior analyst Shaw Wu. "Apple again showed its unparalleled ability to think and execute the unconventional," the analyst wrote in a research note obtained by MacNN. "In our analysis, we envision Apple entering the subscription services business in a bigger way with music, TV, movie, and video game content truly becoming the only vertically integrated play and one stop shop for hardware, software, and services for the digital lifestyle." American Technology Research maintained its 'buy' rating on Apple shares with a $145 price target.
Samsung Ultra 5.9 Ships
Samsung today at last released the Ultra 5.9, also known as the C210. Introduced as far back as January, the phone still delivers on its record-setting, namesake 5.9mm (0.23-inch) thickness though has made a slight sacrifice in camera quality compared to the original plans: a 2-megapixel sensor replaces the ambitious 3.2-megapixel version first set to appear in the wafer-like bar phone. Nevertheless, the design still finds room for Bluetooth, EVDO Internet, and 80MB of flash to store a modest amount of MP3 music.
Parallels tech network
Parallels today launched the Parallels Technology Network, a medium dedicated to consolidating the efforts and activities of third party developers who create Parallels Virtual Appliances. The company's new network includes the Parallels Virtual Appliances Directory, Knowledge Base, and Community Forum to bring developers together. The Parallels Virtual Appliances directory is the official list of virtual appliances that run under Parallels Desktop for Mac or Parallels Workstation, and the Parallels Knowledge Base is a library consisting of documents on a wide range of topics regarding Parallels products. The Parallels Community Forum serves as a place to discuss topics related to Parallels Virtualization Technology, according to the company, and focuses on the best practices of using virtual appliances as well as tips and tricks for creating those appliances.
Red Rover's Scrambled
Red Rover Games has released Scrambled, a new word game that combards players with groups of seven letters. The goal is to create the best-scoring word possible, much as in Boggle or Scrabble, but in Scramble's central Timed Mode the amount of time decreases with each successful choice. Countdown Mode uses 15 sets of letters, while Replace mode only swaps out the letters users have picked. The game also features a presentation made to look and sound akin to a game show. Interested Mac users can download a demo or purchase the full version for $20 (system requirements were unavailable).
ATT Messaging Unlimited
AT&T today added a new option to its usual mix of phone and data plans. Called Messaging Unlimited, the new plan lets subscribers send messages to any computer or phone in the US without worrying about adding too much to monthly expenses -- including for data-heavy video messaging and Internet-based IM chats, AT&T is keen to point out.
The plan takes effect immediately and adds $20 per month to whatever phone service a customer might already have. Those who know that most of their recipients will be fellow AT&T customers can drop the price to $10 per month.
UBS ups estimates, target
Research firm UBS today raised its earnings estimates for Apple shares through fiscal year 2008 due to higher margins, and upped its price target from $124 to $133 based on the firm's new 2008 earnings-per-share estimates. Apple yesterday reported a record March quarter with a gross margin of 35.1 percent and earnings-per-share of $0.87, well above Wall Street's consensus of $0.64. The company saw better than expected margins, with revenues of $5.26 billion beating out the research firm's estimated $5.12 billion. "Mac units of 1.517 million beat our estimate of 1.495 million with the upside driven by strong desktop sales," said UBS analyst Ben Reitzes. "We believe Macs will continue to have solid momentum through fiscal year 2008 as the Multiplier Effect continues." UBS reiterated its 'Buy 2' rating on Apple shares.
Audiovox XpressR Radio
Audiovox today previewed the XpressR, a receiver it claims is the world's first satellite radio to have a split-screen interface. Its widescreen LCD provides headroom enough to browse the channel guide while still viewing the existing station's track data. The R in the product name also hints at the radio's replay function, according to the company: buffer memory gives the XpressR as much as 30 minutes of audio to pause or backtrack through the recording. Listerns alternately have the option of checking stocks, weather, and other news regardless of station and can set the receiver to automatically switch to stations when a favorite musician or sports event goes on-air.
MacDraft, Interiors update
Microspot has updated two of its architectural design programs, MacDraft and Interiors. The latest revisions of the applications are Universal Binaries run natively on Intel-based Macs, vastly improving performance on those systems. Interiors 4.0 features a redesigned interface, reducing the required palettes down to four. One A new "inspector" palette provides access to the functions of ten earlier palettes, according to the company, and the software includes an extended furniture library with more than 400 new items. Interiors is available for $116 via digital download, while MacDraft Personal also priced at $116 and MacDraft Professional is available for $314.
Kutaragi Leaves Top Spots
Ken Kutaragi is leaving his main positions at the head of Sony's PlayStation division as of June, the company announced today. Though staying on with the company as a senior technical advisor to CEO Howard Stringer, Kutaragi is leaving his CEO and chairman spots at Sony Computer Entertainment, which handles all of the company's console-related efforts. SCE president Kaz Hirai will assume the CEO role in his coworker's place.
Officially described as a retirement, the departure is widely believed to be a response to the poor sales of the PS3 since its November debut as well as the hardware design choices that caused shippind delays and inflated the Blu-Ray system's price.
Barbie raids music players
Not content with its dominance of toys and DVDs, Mattel is taking the Barbie franchise online this week with Barbie Girls, which it positions as the first virtual world designed specfically for young girls. Subscribers will be able to engage in a number of stereotypically female activities, including customizing appearance, designing a personal room, and shopping at a virtual mall. Much of a user's time will be spent earning "B Bucks," needed to use all the available options.
The service is essentially a promotional vehicle however for an upcoming music player called the Barbie Girl, launching in July. Shaped like a doll, it will have its own optional clothing and accessories, and will behave as a "key" to unlock new items and locations in the online realm. The player itself is limited to playing only non-DRM encrypted MP3 and WMA files, which are stored on 512MB of internal memory, or else on a miniSD card. Pricing should be $60 for the player and $10 for each Accessory Pack.
MBCO 1Seg/MobaHO player
Japanese outfit MBCO has released a new media player, the MBR0501A. Perhaps more accurately described as a portable television, its main purpose is to display Japanese broadcast channels, whether they come through the 1Seg mobile format or through MobaHO. MobaHO is a digital satellite service that serves Japan exclusively, and offers video, audio and data channels. Notably, memory on the player (expandable through SD) allows DVR functions wherever an owner goes; MBCO claims that as much as 78 hours of MobaHO video can be saved to disk.
Mac model train software
TrainPlayer Software has released Mac versions of its TrainPlayer and TrackLayer software for model railroader enthusiasts. Users can operate virtual trains on hundreds of prepared track plans, including all of the "101 Track Plans for Model Railroaders" contained in the classic layout book by Linn Wescott. The TrackLayer module enables enthusiasts to draw and operate custom plans in Mac OS X, simulating operating of a model railroad. Each track plan comes with a layer of electronic track, a modifiable assortment of trains, and a control panel resembling an old-fashioned power pack. Four versions are available which include TrainPlayer ($30 with 10 Westcott layouts), TrackLayer ($50 with TrainPlayer and 10 layouts), TrainPlayer Deluxe ($60 with all 101 layouts), and TrackLayer Deluxe ($80 with TrainPlayer and all 101 layouts). All software versions require Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
Sharp Aquos Three In One
Sharp on Thursday revitalized its AQUOS video recorders with the DV-ACV52. The Japanese firm's hybrid device can record and output most video in just about any modern storage format: a digital TV tuner captures over-the-air HD broadcasts to a 250GB hard drive, including on a schedule for DVR functionality; the same drive can be used to store video recorded from its DVD drive, VHS deck, and DV or HDV cameras attached through an integrated FireWire (i.Link) jack. The system can also write to either DVD discs or VHS tapes.
New Leopard iChat feature
Apple has unveiled a new iChat feature that will make its way into Mac OS X Leopard when the operating system ships in October, noting that 'iChat Theater' will enable applications to communicate with audio and video during an iChat conference. "Since its introduction iChat has become the de facto Instant Messaging client on Mac OS X, allowing users to communicate using text, audio, and even video chat," writes Apple. "The new version of iChat in Leopard opens up these capabilities to other applications on the system, allowing those applications to provide content through an iChat session." The company offers examples, such as a user displaying a photo slide show while chatting with parents and two people collaborating on a document, discussing the details as one person makes changes and the other observes the result. The new features are made possible by a new Instant Message framework that ships with Leopard, allowing developers to access iChat 4.0 features from within applications, according to Apple.
Klipsch iGroove SXT
Klipsch has recently unveiled the iGroove SXT, its smallest-ever iPod speaker dock. The home theater designer hopes to bring the sound quality of the iGroove HG and larger bookshelf speakers into a more compact form without sacrificing quality. The SXT has the same true stereo speaker arrangement as its larger cousin and also shares dual 2.5-inch, long-throw woofers for the company's historically strong bass; its 3/4-inch tweeters are also the only in the class to use horns to better reproduce upper ranges without requiring more power.
Joost Scores IPTV Ads
The unique peer-to-peer TV service Joost has landed a new set of ads for its channels, the self-titled company revealed today. While most of these services run with small-scale ads or none at all, the service developed by Skype's creators has today secured ads from some of the highest-profile companies in worldwide ads, including Coca-Cola, Intel, and Nike. Different areas will see different ads, Joost said: US viewers will see ads for Microsoft, for example, while Europeans may see ads for Opel or Vodafone among other firms.
Apple TV Canadian Success
The Apple TV media hub's best market may actually be Canada, according to a member of the Apple Independent Retailers Council. Associate and Carbon Computing president Ron Paley notes that the device has been "selling as fast as we get them" at his store chain, which is one of the largest unofficial Apple reseller networks in the country and competes with three Apple-run stores in the Toronto area. The success is especially notable given the lack of content in Canada, as the region's iTunes Store currently goes without the full-length movies and TV shows that form the backbone of Apple's selling tactics in the US.
Smart Loops drum libraries
Smart Loops has released three new MultiTracks libraries, which can be downloaded in either the ACID or Apple Loops format, and are thus compatible with a range of programs from Logic and GarageBand through to Pro Tools and SONAR. The libraries are entirely themed around drum samples, and are labelled Slow Rock 1, Slow-Medium Triplet Rock 1, and Military Snares Grooves 1; they are further segragated by whether the drums and cymbals are mixed, allowing producers to quickly insert complete loops or create their own custom ones. A single library costs $15, but all three are available in a bundle for $30.
Sony B100 Walkman Leak
Sony is ready to abandon some of its most cherished habits for the sake of a new digital music player, according to an anonymous tipster. The B100 line will be the first Walkman to use drag-and-drop song transfer, avoiding use of Sony's preferred SonicStage for synchronizing music. The company is also set to shock by dropping its jealously guarded ATRAC format, according to the source, rendering it incompatible with Sony's Connect online store and other proprietary software. Support will be limited to MP3, unprotected WMA, and potentially AAC as well, the source claims. An FM tuner with recording should be part of the design.
Analyst raised AAPL target
Apple's stock surged past $100 in post-market trading on Wednesday evening after the company announced record March quarter profits of $770 million. The company's stock was up nearly 8 percent to $102.89 in pre-market trading, according to the latest data with several analysts expected to raise their targets. Setting a $140 price target, analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray noted that Apple reported 38 percent upside to analyst expected earnings-per-share (EPS) based on higher gross margins and that the company shipped 1.52 million Macs, ahead of the 1.45 million estimates. The firm believes that Apple is not at the peak of its EPS upside following the three strongest quarters in the company's history. The upside, Munster said, will be driven by three catalysts: the forthcoming iPhone, new product introductions expected in the June and September quarter -- which could include an video iPod, tablet Mac, or other new consumer product -- and continued Mac market share gains.
Sony PLAYSTATION Eye
Sony today brought its PlayStation camera into the current generation with the PLAYSTATION Eye. A match for the PS3, the Eye is a near-complete overhaul of the PS2's EyeToy. A newer sensor helps lower-light scenes and dramatically improves the frame rate for improved tracking in motion-sensitive games: a VGA-resolution image runs at a game-friendly 60 frames per second, while a smaller QVGA image runs faster still at 120 frames per second. The camera's microphone is also a major improvement that adapts specifically to voices and filters background noise for chats and voice commands.
Mozy backup client beta
Berkeley Data Systems has released a public beta of its Mozy backup client, which offers 2GB of backup for free or unlimited backup for less than $5 per month. The client works on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs and offers 448-bit Blowfish encryption, 128-bit SSL encryption, automatic or scheduled backups, new and changed file detection, block-level incremental backups, bandwidth throttling, file versioning, and public or private key encryption. "We've done our best to work out any bugs we could find, but like any beta software, there's always a chance you could find one that we've missed. If you do please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org." Mac Mozy requires Mac OS X 10.4 and is a free download. (A separate Mozy Pro for business offers centralized administration/billing and several other business features.)
"American Idol Gives Back"
Apple's iTunes Store is offering exclusive music and video performances from "Idol Gives Back", a charity television event designed to raise awareness and funds for children and young people living in extreme poverty in the United States and Africa. "TV phenomenon American Idol has given many a starry-eyed hopeful singer a chance to realize their dreams of fame and success. Now the show has given back with a special broadcast aimed at raising awareness about extreme poverty in America and Africa." The iTunes Store will feature a selection of "amazing, unique audio and video performances" taken from the 'Idol Gives Back' charity show that aired on April 25th, including the "Idol Gives Back Ford Music Video" with an exclusive celebrity performance of 'Stayin' Alive.' Apple said the proceeds from the purchase of the exclusive material will go to CPEF (Charity Projects Entertainment Fund) to help children living in extreme poverty.
No iTunes subscriptions?
Ahead of final negotiations with the big four music labels, Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Wednesday said that he is unlikely to give in to calls from the music industry to add a subscription-based model to Apple's iTunes store, despite comments by analysts to the contrary. "Never say never, but customers don't seem to be interested in it," Jobs told Reuters in an interview after Apple reported record March quarter profits of $770 million. "The subscription model has failed so far.... People want to own their music."
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