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Microsoft has released the Xbox 360 Messenger Kit, an integrated chat and game control device that attaches as an appendage to Xbox 360 controllers. The kit is designed for chatting via keyboard with other users through Xbox LIVE and Windows-based PCs while maintaining game-play functionality. It includes the Chatpad keyboard, which sports backlit buttons for typing in dark environments, and and an Xbox 360 Headset. The kit is priced at $30. In April, Microsoft announced new instant messaging functions for users of the Xbox 360, allowing users connect and chat directly from their television with a network of more than 260 million active users. At that time, the Redmond-based company announced plans for a "QWERTY text-input device (pictured), which will connect directly into the Xbox 360 controller to support text and instant messaging," embodied in the new Chatpad.
In late May we reported that Aspyr Media plans to publish id Software's Enemy Territory: Quake Wars for the Mac in the second half of 2007. During this week's E3 conference, the title was rumored have received a shipping month of August. Aspyr Media however clarified that no shipping date has been set for the Mac version of the game, but that the title is still under development. Enemy Territory is licensed by Activision and is being developed by its in-house Aspyr Studios game development team. The game is built using id Software's MegaTexture rendering technology, featuring strategic team play, persistent character promotions, and powerful weapons and vehicles in heroic objective-based battles as the Global Defense Force faces off against the alien Strogg invasion. [updated]
Apple is still offering one refurbished configuration of its Mac Pro top-end professional desktop system, and is selling reconditioned Cinema Displays for less than half of their original prices when the screens debuted. The company's only professional desktop offering consists of the Mac Pro Quad 3.0GHz Intel Xeon workstation with two 3.0GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors for a total of four CPU cores, 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 fully-buffered ECC memory, and a 250GB SATA 3Gbps 7200rpm hard drive. The Mac Pro comes equipped with a 16x SuperDrive DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW optical drive, as well as an ATI Radeon X1900 XT graphics card with 512MB of video memory. Refurbished Apple Cinema Displays currently include the 23-inch flat panel HD display for $749, as well as the mammoth 30-inch flat panel HD display for $1,499 with a 2,560 x 1,600 pixel resolution.
In brief: A Plantronics headset has been certified for use with iListen, a Photoshop CS3 white paper offers detail on Camera Raw format and Adobe has posted a virtual tour of its headquarters, the iPhone has been reviewed from a gamer's perspective and SmartSound has debuted a set of corporate communications audio tracks .... MacSpeech has announced the certification of the Plantronics Audio 510 USB Ultimate Performance Headset for use with iListen speech recognition software for Mac OS X. iListen allows users to dictate, edit and format text with the power of voice, offering continuous speech recognition capabilities for convenient dictation in normal tone of voice and at a normal pace as well as direct dictation so users can dictate, edit and format text directly in any application. The Plantronics headset includes 40mm speakers for dynamic bass response and a noise-canceling microphone.
MSI today produced one of the smallest notebooks to date with home theater support as a goal: the MEGABOOK MS-1221 is more closely in tune with ultraportables with a 12-inch screen but includes the performance necessary for larger tasks: the use of Intel's Santa Rosa-based GM965 chipset lets it include HDMI output for displaying images on an HDTV, GMA X3100 graphics able to handle most HD and Windows Vista, and the fastest Core 2 Duo processors. A 1GB Turbo Memory cache also unique to the platform should help loading times.
WiebeTech has begun shipping 200GB and 250GB 2.5-inch hard drives, marking the largest capacity 2.5-inch drives on the market today, according to the company. WiebeTech's ToughTech mini (shown at right) and ToughTech XE mini pocket drives use 7200rpm (200GB) and 5400rpm (250GB) hard drives. ToughTech mini with a 200GB hard drive is available for $415, while the ToughTech mini with a 250GB hard drive is priced at $400. WiebeTech's ToughTech XE mini with a 200GB hard drive ships for $425, and the ToughTech XE mini featuring a 250GB hard drive is priced at $405.
A new lawsuit filed in Florida alleges that Microsoft's Xbox 360 console has been damaging game discs, making them unplayable. The attorney for Jorge Brouwer claims that discs are being scratched by the console's optical drive, specifically when users attempt to change the position of the console from horizontal to vertical, or the reverse. "They don't tell you not to move the tower," says Jeffrey Ostrow. It is even suggested that scratches sometimes occur when the console isn't touched, but these are less likely. Ostrow's suit asks for Microsoft to not only fix consoles that are causing damage, but to replace games for free, something Microsoft is currently charging $20 for. Class action status is being sought for the lawsuit.
Danger's Motorola-produced Zante is a working device and has been given a different name for its shipping form, a new photo and accompanying details show. Now rechristened the Sidekick Slide, the horizontal slider includes slight differences from the concept images leaked in the past and includes an offset, more ergonomic keyboard as well as larger call answer and ending buttons to prevent accidental hits. Other features such as EDGE and the 1.3-megapixel camera are hidden, though the on-screen graphic appears to confirm Bluetooth through a small icon in the menu bar.
A new FCC proposal could prevent the carrier lock-in that plagues US cellphone access, argues the agency's chairman Kevin Martin. The FCC head is set to propose that any wireless service using the 700MHz frequency being abandoned by analog TV must give customers the option of using any device and any "mobile broadband application" on the network. This choice would prevent cellphone carriers or Internet providers from carrying exclusive handhelds that only work with one service or deliberately throttle Internet phone calls to force use of more profitable cell services. Such artificial limits "hamper innovations," Martin says.
Better known for its receivers and speakers, TEAC is nevertheless pushing farther into the "entry-level" media player market with the MP-600. It comes in 1, 2 and 4GB capacities, with an SD/MMC slot permitting expansion. File formats are limited to JPEG photos, XviD movies, and MP3 or WMA/WMA-DRM audio; this is however compensated for, somewhat, by the presence of an FM radio with recording functions. And unlike many low-end players, the 600 has a 3.5-inch screen, an e-book reader, and a copy of Tetris. Battery life is 10 hours for music or 5.5 for video. A 4GB player is now on sale in Germany for €169 ($230). [via Anything But iPod]
Sony's latest console may soon have the ability to buy and download HD movies, according to a passing comment made by a spokesman for the PlayStation division. The company hopes to take advantage of the 80GB PlayStation 3 and the lower price on the 60GB model by letting users buy both full-length features as well as TV shows. Rental options and other details weren't revealed, but the future service is expected to make good use of Sony's role as a movie studio and offer at least its own content on launch.
JiWire, an advertising network that targets mobile broadband, says it has released a new version of its Wi-Fi Finder guide that is optimized for the Apple iPhone. Both the iPhone and regular guides list 150,000 Wi-Fi networks, public and private, in 135 countries; for convenience, users can also get maps, phone numbers and driving directions. Like similar applications, the iPhone guide uses a simplified interface in keeping with the device's overall shape and aesthetics.
HANNSPree today brought more of its unusual displays to North America through the local release of its recent XM-series LCDs. The HANNSboston (shown) and HANNSnewyork each abandon the conventional plastic look of most LCDs for a more artistic design: the boston includes a simulated woodgrain front to reflect the more colonial look of the Massachusetts city, while the newyork takes its cue from industrialization with a metallic look and a brushed aluminum base. Even buttons and other minor touches change, HANNSpree says.
Property asset management company Capital & Regional may turn to Mac desktops as well as Linux systems in an effort to reduce its dependency on Microsoft. The UK-based firm has roughly 700 PC users and is currently running Windows XP Pro as well as Office XP Pro, according to News.com, but CIO Richard Snooks is criticizing Microsoft's approach to licensing its software. "I feel we are being railroaded, and the market generally forced (us) into a corner or even a cul-de-sac," Snooks said. "In a free market, we have made Microsoft dominant, and now we have the collective responsibility to reverse this situation to re-establish balance and competition. If I am being driven down the Vista route, then an Apple Mac is smarter money and cheaper."
Samsung Mobile became second company today to offer a YouTube device in the form of its new L760 phone. Nicknamed the "Mobile Blog" phone, the slider comes preloaded with upload tools for YouTube as well as other sites such as Ublog and Buzznet. This lets moblog writers and other bloggers quickly post photos or videos directly to the web using its built-in Internet access. Appropriately, the phone packs a 2-megapixel rear camera, a smaller front camera for personal blogging, and a microSD slot for storing movies on the road.
One Popular Mechanics blogger who posted a review about Apple's iPhone is suggesting that other cellular phone makers follow Apple's lead by bundling functionality that is easy to use. "The iPhone isn't accomplishing much that's new for its users, but what it does do is package and deliver its functionality better than any other phone," wrote Popular Mechanics blogger and senior technology editor Glenn Derene, who adds that the iPhone is another example of why interface matters. "Apple gets that millions of people are willing to pay more for a device that is a pleasure to use. And now that the iPhone is out (and sold out), other manufacturers are going to have to start paying attention to the way they design their operating systems." The blogger notes that cramming new phones full of even more functionality won't suffice to please consumers any longer, and that manufacturers will have to either simplify their handsets or make them more intelligent.
Yesterday JP Morgan analyst Kevin Chang, based in Taiwan and perhaps gaining access to manufacturing channel sources, speculated that Apple plans to build a $300 iPhone akin to the iPod nano. The rumor is backed up by a patent filed July 5th, which details telephone and text entry interfaces for a cellular-capable device via a click-wheel. Other analysts have now chimed in, saying that the speculation makes sense. Gartner analyst Hugues de la Vergne told MarketWatch that offering a $300 phone would give Apple the ability offer a product with a price premium above the core iPod nano product, but with a more reasonable price than the current iPhone. Vergne said that $199 is really the "sweet spot" of the market, with the RIM Pearl, Samsung BlackJack currently being offered at that price point. "This is what Apple has done with previous product launches," he said in an audio interview. "Apple has to adapt to the pricing of the market."
LapWorks this afternoon released the Laptop Desk Futura. Its design is made to work both as a solid surface for a user's lap and also as a desktop stand; unfolding the unit creates a large surface, while locking it into one of five partly-folded angles creates an elevated position useful for a desk or a table. Careful study of earlier stands has also led to several changes that help create space underneath the notebook and the stand that ensure even large widescreen notebooks are cooled properly.
Myvu today launched myvu solo, a personal media viewer that users wear like eyeglasses designed to provide everything needed for watching videos on a fifth-generation iPod. The myvu solo -- which offers a viewing experience comparable to a large screen TV from six feet away -- includes a new charging feature that powers myvu directly from the iPod, and two separate accessories are available to boost battery life and protect the myvu as well as the iPod on-the-go. Myvu's power pack is an 8-hour slim Lithium-Ion battery USB charger with a protective case for an iPod, while the myvu premium travel case offers room to stow both the myvu and the iPod when traveling. Myvu solo is priced at $200, while a Myvu Made for iPod fully loaded edition is priced at $300 with the myvu eyewear along with all the accessories.
The Unbox on TiVo service, which allows Amazon Unbox movies to played on TiVo's DVR units, has just received an important expansion to its abilities. The Associated Press writes that users can now order movies directly from their TiVos, complete with catalog searches using the remote control, and the choice of either renting or buying. While Unbox on TiVo has been available since March, the service previously required ordering from a computer, and then downloading to the TiVo separately. Only Series 2 and Series 3 TiVos are compatible.
Phantom Entertainment, the developers of the never-released Phantom Game Console, has made two announcements indicating conflicting directions for the company. The first is the resignation of Timothy Roberts, the company's Chairman of the Board, who states that he is moving on to "an exciting new opportunity." Roberts has presided over the company since 2004, when the company had first promised the Phantom and was known as Infinium Labs; Roberts was deposed as CEO after May of 2006, when the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of artificially inflating stock value by hyping the Phantom prematurely.
NEC today revamped its MultiSync 5-series displays with two models that aim to be as unobtrusive as possible on a desktop. The 20-inch LCD205WXM and 22-inch LCD225WXM each build on the company's 3-series by integrating downward-firing speakers; the technique adds stereo sound without the conspicuous "chin" needed for front-facing speakers. Each of the screens further sees three-way adjustments for angle, height, and tilt.
GameTap today announced that it is expanding its offerings to the Mac community by providing Intel-based Mac users access to its Lite Player, which offers more than 500 new and classic game titles as well as more than 600 streaming videos of original programming from GapeTap TV. "Mac users will now be able to enjoy hundreds of games that have never been playable on a Mac before," said Stuart Snyder, Turner’s executive vice president and chief operating officer of Animation, Young Adults & Kids Media. The expansion to the Mac community brings access to games like Metal Slug, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Sonic the Hedgehog, Space Invaders, Neo Turf Masters, and King of Fighters '95. Original GameTap TV content includes interview segments with My Chemical Romance, Akon, Evanescence, Fall Out Boy, and GameTap's Digital Downlow daily news show. GameTap works on Intel-based Macs via TransGaming's Cider portability technology, which enables PC games to run on Intel-based Macs.
Although an increasing number of home phones allow for options such as e-mail or video calls, the Flet's Phone VP2000 -- carried in Japan by NTT -- promises to go beyond these in several respects. It is first of all an upright tablet, operated using a finger-controlled, 12.1-inch touchscreen, with resolutions up to 1024x768. When not making standard voice calls, it can handle video through a 0.3-megapixel webcam; e-mail is composed using an onscreen keyboard, and websites can viewed using a fully functional browser. Perhaps most importantly, speeds should be smooth thanks to support for NTT's FOMA 3G broadband. The VP2000 is on sale now for 69,000 yen ($559). [via Akihabara News]
Belkin this morning shook up its approach to its USB hub range with three models that put extra ports in unique locations. The Hub-To-Go (pictured) is a rare convertible device that changes its role on the fly: while it includes a stable base with a tray for an MP3 player or other small devices, the 4-port hub detaches entirely to stow away for portable use. Its swiveling connector also lets it fit into notebooks and other systems without blocking nearby ports, Belkin says. The Hub-To-Go will sell in late August for $50 along with the Swivel Hub, which eliminates the base to lower the cost to $30.
Belkin has unveiled six new cases (site not updated) designed to dress up as well as protect iPod, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle players from everyday scratches and scuffs. The company's Statements for iPod nano "Charm" and "Style" cases ($25) feature a heart or line-are pattern laser-cut into high-quality leather, as well as a wristlet for easy carrying and an interior mirror that doubles as a picture frame. "Fitted" Pocket Blues for iPod and iPod nano ($25) includes a carabiner clip and features a functional denim click-wheel protector. "2Face" Reversible for iPod ($25) offers an interactive reversible 2-in-1 design with a graphical pattern throughout while providing full screen protection and navigation access to the portable player.
Joining the rush to iPhone cases is Sena Cases, which has announced five new product lines. The Dockable cases are said to be the only ones on the market which allow iPhones to be docked while protected; the MagnetFlippers, meanwhile, have a hinged cover that can be flicked open. The LeatherSkin cases simply protect against scratches, but the Elega Pouches have belt clips, and the UltraSlim Pouches are designed to be as thin as possible for easier pocket storage. Only the Elegas are currently available; prices for these range from $40 to $50, with nine different color options. Other cases should cost anywhere between $30 and $52.
Exorbitant data pricing could be the primary barrier to the iPhone launching in Canada, according to University of Ottawa Internet research chair Michael Geist. The professor and expert notes that a distinct lack of rivals in the Canadian cellphone business has let providers effectively monopolize pricing for accessing mobile Internet services, creating a situation where the companies can charge exceptionally high rates and refuse to offer unlimited data plans. The situation is particularly dire for the iPhone's likely carrier Rogers, which is the only major GSM network provider in Canada and has no incentive to discount its services.
FileMaker today officially launched FileMaker Pro 9, updating its entire line of database products with more than 30 new enhancements. The new FileMaker 9 product line includes FileMaker Pro 9, FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced, FileMaker Server 9, and FileMaker Server 9 Advanced. FileMaker Pro 9 includes numerous users for end users as well as developers to simplify creating, automating, sharing, and reporting from databases. A new Quick Start screen for new users aims to aid productivity, while Conditional Formatting highlights data based on parameters set by users. FileMaker Pro 9 also adds the ability to email a link to other FileMaker users which they can click to instantly access a database. FileMaker Server 9 Advanced ($2,500 or $1,500 to upgrade), FileMaker Server 9 ($1,000 or $600 to upgrade), FileMaker Pro 9 ($300 or $180 to upgrade), and FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced ($500 or $300 to upgrade) are all already available for purchase via FileMaker.com.
Apple is, reportedly, demanding so much NAND flash memory that it is causing problems for other companies using the same suppliers. According to the Taiwanese publication DigiTimes, both Hynix and Samsung (Apple's largest supplier) began stockpiling memory for Apple earlier this month, sharply reducing the amount available to the rest of the industry. Apple is said to be gathering the flash chips so it can meet a forthcoming seasonal upturn; but even major module houses such as A-Data, Kingston and Transcend are claiming insufficient NAND to meet their demands. A number of so-called "second-tier" houses are receiving no stock at all.
Lenovo this morning boosted the speed of its T61 widescreen notebook with the T61p. Its design represents both a performance and ergonomics boost to the popular design with the addition of a new-generation, Quadro FX 570M for better graphics; completely new to any of Lenovo's lines is the option of Ultra-Wideband for connecting wirelessly to a peripheral dock while still retaining the same speed as a physical link-up. Changes have also been made to the notebook design itself, Lenovo says: a new layout improves Wi-Fi and cellular broadband reception while simultaneously quieting the system by three decibels and dropping temperatures by ten percent in nearly all conditions.
Casio on Tuesday tried to capture the web generation by launching two uniquely upgraded cameras in its extra-thin Card and Zoom lines. Both the EX-S880 (pictured) and the EX-S77 share a YouTube Capture mode that streamlines the process of getting video to Google's premier website. Video is optimized to a web-friendly 640x480, H.264 format and is accompanied by a special tool that helps upload the resulting clips to the web; the full process takes no more than three steps and as little as two, Casio says. Either camera can also produce an eBay-optimized shot and includes software-based motion compensation as well as face detection.
In brief: Google acquires the web security firm Postini, EasyPrint makes its Mac debut, and a new beta of The Missing Sync for Palm OS appears. In an acquisition valued at $625 million, Google has now absorbed Postini, a web-based security company. The group's specialty is mainly in providing encryption, whether for e-mail, instant messaging or other Internet communications. Reuters observes that this will help Google support larger organizations with more web-based tools. Despite the cost of Postini, it is still relatively inexpensive compared to the total of Google acquisitions this year, valued between $750 million and $1 billion.
InFocus today unveiled what it believes is its best single-chip projector to date. Its Play Big IN82 achieves the native 1080p needed for Blu-Ray and HD DVD but also incorporates a newer DarkChip3 image processor that extends the contrast ratio; while static contrast is strong at 4,000:1, the ratio can climb up to 12,000:1 with dynamic adjustments from the iris. Color is further given help through 10-bit color management and HDMI 1.3 input with deep color for sources with subtler color grades. Skilled home theater enthusiasts and pro calibrators can also fine-tune settings and establish separate daytime and nighttime presets.
QuickerTek has introduced an new 802.11n wireless adapter for desktop Macs: the nQuickly, is designed for PCI-based Power Macs and is priced at $150; it delivers up to 300 Mbps of theoretical throughput across the 2.4GHz frequency while retaining IEEE 802.11 b/g compatibility. The PCI card is compatible with any Power Mac with a free PCI slot, including the Power Mac G3, Power Mac G4 and Power Mac G5. It requires Mac OS X version 10.4 or higher. The nQuicky PCI is backed with a one-year warranty on parts and labor. QuickerTek previously introduced an 802.11n CardBus upgrade for Apple's PowerBooks going back to the "Pismo" models.
Dell has introduced its first new computer label in years, targeting small business with its new Vostro desktops and notebooks. Most are virtually identical to the Inspiron portables and towers but allow the option of no trial software, come with a 30 day money back guarantee with no restocking or shipping fees, and 10GB of online backup for 1 year. A document leak in early June revealed the new Santa Rosa-based portables, which are cased in all-black and feature a sleeker design than the home versions along with a subtler row of media keys for playing DVDs and music without starting Windows.