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Wal-Mart Axes Videos
Wal-Mart has shut down its fledgling movie service with virtually no announcement, according to user reports. Visitors to the official site are greeted with a message that the site has shut down as of December 21st and redirects users to information about the closure. Videos and other content remain playable but will still include the copy restrictions of before, which prevent the videos from transferring to non-purchasing computers but allow their use on as many as three portable media players that support guarded Windows Media content. No refunds are available and customers will have to visit a Wal-Mart store to buy more videos, the retailer warns.
Reviews, CompUSA, Zannel
In brief: A CompUSA in Lexington, Kentucky is discounting its entire stock of Apple merchandise, Zannel has optimized its web-based multimedia sharing site for the iPhone, and MacNN has posted reviews of a website creation app called Shutterbug, and the leather Cobra iPod CoverCase. CompUSA is offering discounts of 5-percent on Apple desktops, laptops, and iPods, 10-percent off of Apple Cinema Displays, 15-percent on Apple software, and a 20-percent discount on Apple accessories. While CompUSA is currently having a sale on its website, it is unclear if this is the same offer, or if this is being offered outside of Lexington.
JAVOedge, iSkin iPod cases
JAVOedge recently unveiled some new leather cases for the iPod nano 3G, Touch and Classic [80GB|160GB], while iSkin released a new incarnation of its eVo3 lineup for the iPod classic. The JAVOedge cases are made from hand-stitched, designer-grade leather that provides a soft, but durable case for the iPod. The cases feature a color-coordinated pull-out loop made from soft fabric, with a matching lanyard. Ports and most controls are accessible even when the player sits in the case, while other controls can be used by pulling slightly on the loop to sortie the iPod from its protected state. The cases are available directly from JAVOedge, with prices ranging from $25 to $30, and come in black, red and pink.
A-Data joins 64GB SSD fray
The Taiwan-based A-Data is the latest company to release a 64GB solid-state flash drive (SSD). In particular the company has actually released four drives with the capacity, in 1.8- or 2.5-inch sizes, and with a choice of SATA or PATA (parallel ATA) interfaces. Each is said to have special anti-shock protection, and use multi-level cell technology technology to fit its storage. Like all SSD drives, the A-Data models consume less power and have faster access times.
Google Wins Vs Gu Ge
Google has won a lawsuit in China that could have significantly affected its success in the country, Pacific Epoch reports. The American search engine firm had been sued by Beijing firm Gu Ge Technology for using the words "Gu Ge" to represent itself in China; by registering its name first in late April 2006, GGT had the exclusive rights to use the name for its online retail store, the complaint reads. The presiding judge has stricken own this argument and ruled in favor of Google, noting that actual use of the Gu Ge name by Google started a week earlier -- indicating that Google could not have knowingly infringed on another company's patent, according to the court.
Vista SP1 Slows Down
The looming Service Pack 1 update for Windows Vista has deteriorated the Microsoft operating system's disk and networking performance beyond the already slow launch version, according to a series of tests conducted by Gizmodo. The software is notably faster than its six-year-old XP predecessor in general performance on a new quad-core Xeon system, besting the earlier OS in CPU-heavy tasks such as video encoding as well as 3D tasks. However, the Vista update is also shown to suffer dramatically in heavy network use: a transfer that would take just over 3.5 minutes in XP takes nearly 13 minutes with Vista circa January 2007 and actually deteriorates further to more than 15.5 minutes for the SP1 fix, the tests show.
Google is making even deeper in-roads into the Japanese cellular market, reports say. Citing anonymous sources, Reuters claims that Google has signed a new deal with NTT DoCoMo, the country's largest wireless carrier, permitting a variety of applications to appear on DoCoMo's i-Mode network. These may include the likes of Gmail, Picasa and Calendar, according to Reuters.
If confirmed, the move may give DoCoMo a temporary edge in its home market. While both DoCoMo and number-two carrier KDDI are a part of Google's Open Handset Alliance, KDDI has not announced any Google features for existing phones. National business paper The Nikkei notes that DoCoMo is trying to forge the closest possible link with Google, to the exclusion of competitors.
Analyst: $600 Apple
Apple's stock price repeatedly rose this week to finally break the $200 mark yesterday in afternoon trading, but one financial analyst expects the Cupertino-based company to reach $600 within 18 months. "There's so much growth to look forward to for the iPhone," said Stephen Coleman, chief investment officer at Daedalus Capital. Coleman said Apple gets roughly 30 percent of iPhone fees charged by carriers, according to Bloomberg, while Wall Street estimates place Apple's slice of the revenues somewhere between 5 percent and 20 percent.
Samsung F490 and P720 II
Samsung's impending F490 and P720 touchscreen phones have been spotted outside of official press events with new details to match, says Russian site Mobile-Notes. The F490 (shown) is now known to include haptic feedback, vibrating the phone when a user touches a control on its 3.2-inch display; though slim, it has a 5-megapixel camera and (currently Europe-only) HSDPA 3G access. Its interface is better than that of the LG Viewty it will challenge on launch, the Russian report says.
Yahoo drag-and-drop patent
A Yahoo patent application, currently making its way through the US Patent and Trademark Office, is facing serious scrutiny as part of a new public review process. Peer to Patent is co-sponsored by the USPTO and the New York Law School, and as a pilot project is using over 1,000 public participants to review roughly 250 technology patents. The aim is specifically to test them against standards such as "prior art," or whether they are merely "obvious" extrapolations of current technology.
Digital Foci Image Moments
Digital Foci this afternoon previewed several updates to its Image Moments digital photo frames that promise better image quality and features than most displays of their type. The Image Moments 6 (pictured) and 8 are some of the first frames to include an LED backlight in place of the typical cold-cathode fluorescent (CCFL) version. The technology improves color accuracy -- a crucial component of any photo frame -- while also reducing the power draw and eliminating toxic chemicals like mercury, the company says. The range-topping Image Moments 15 also brings a 16.2-million color LCD into the line and achieves a 700:1 contrast ratio while still using CCFL to light its image.
Fujitsu Drops HDTVs
Further reducing the rapidly shrinking Japanese HDTV market, Fujitsu on Thursday said it would halt production of its AVIAMO HDTV line, signaling the end of the company's display business. The company argues that its focus for the sets, which primarly included a set of high-end plasmas built for custom and luxury home theater setups, has effectively squeeze the company out of its own market. As pricing in North America and the UK has become cutthroat, there is little money to be made in continuing the business, Fujitsu claims. Business will continue in these areas until March, when the display business will focus on Japan alone.
iPod replaced with book
A little girl in Maryland this Christmas opened a box that was supposed to contain an iPod classic, only to discover a book and a strange note in place of the portable player she thought she had received, according to myfoxdc. The box, which her father purchased at a local Wal-Mart store, contained "Awakening Loving-Kindness" by Pema Chodron accompanied by a strange letter, which reads: "Reclaim your mind from the media's shackles. Read a book and resurrect yourself. To claim your capitalistic garbage go to your nearest Apple Store."
N85 8GB NAM due in Feb
The launch of Nokia's N95 8GB for North America may have been confirmed along with its likely price and launch window, according to a store listing by online reseller Mobile City. The site lists the device as the N95 8GB NAM (North American Model) and appears to confirm rumors that the device will contain support for HSDPA on AT&T in the US and Rogers in Canada. Like many Nokia smartphone releases for the continent, the new N95 will be sold unlocked and allow users to switch to rival networks or else use local SIM cards in Europe and other GSM-friendly areas.
Trigem LLUON Crystal
Known best for its Averatec notebooks in the US, Trigem today has released the LLUON Crystal, a new desktop it will balance the difference between the size of ultra-compact PCs and the performance of larger towers. The system is just 1.8 inches deep but comes with a desktop-class hard drive as well as a 256MB GeForce 8400 GS video card that helps drive Windows Vista and HD videos. Notebook Core 2 Duo processors are the key to the slim size and also render the system quiet enough (below 30 decibels) to sit in a living room, Trigem explains.
Mossberg on Dell XPS One
Dell's recently-launched XPS One computer may pose a serious threat to Apple's iMac, says popular columnist Walt Mossberg. Like the iMac or the Gateway One, the XPS One combines the internals of a computer with an LCD monitor, making for an extremely compact system. Mossberg notes, however, that the XPS comes with features even the iMac does not, such as a TV tuner and a built-in card reader, as well as a wireless mouse and keyboard bundle which Mac users must pay extra for.
Mac Notebook Concert Rumor
Apple may have tipped off its plans to introduce a notebook at Macworld through its staff holiday celebrations, claims a rumor from BGR. The news cites rap artist and website ally Just Blaze as having received word of a company-sponsored music event for Apple's employees which had several major artists perform without their usual compensation; instead, each individual in a group was promised a free notebook to be announced at the Macworld San Francisco expo, according to the claim. Details of the systems themselves are unknown, though they will reportedly go on sale just a week after the expo opens.
Samsung countersues Sharp
Samsung, said to be the world's biggest producer of large-sized LCD panels, is launching a countersuit against major rival Sharp, Reuters reports. Sharp filed its initial case against Samsung in August, with a second suit coming earlier this month, through a court in Seoul, South Korea; the company is accusing Samsung of multiple patent infringements, though these have not been specified.
Samsung's motion is a direct retaliation, also alleging patent infringement in two different suits filed through courts in Delaware and Tokyo. It is moreover requesting an investigation by the US International Trade Commission, a procedure which could mire Sharp in yet deeper legal work.
Cowon today finished its device upgrades for 2007 with the launch of the N3. An upgrade to the N2, the N3 is built to be used either at home or in the car as a multi-purpose tool: though it includes a GPS unit with full navigation tools, the device also uses its 7-inch screen for playing back music and video. A picture-in-picture feature allows users to watch a smaller video window while keeping track of the route ahead, Cowon says. At 800x480, the display is sharp enough to play DivX, MPEG 1/4, Windows Media, and XviD movies at greater than DVD resolution. It also includes a DMB tuner for digital over-the-air broadcasts and will even accept input from a portable DVD player or rear-view camera through a video-in jack.
Slew of Apple patents
No less than 10 Apple inventions surfaced today at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, with three new applications filed alongside seven documents that were officially granted to the Cupertino-based company. Apple's latest inventions include 'Pulldown correction for progressive display of audiovisual recordings,' as well as two patents related to iPhoto that create computer generated mosaics and touch up photos to remove blemishes. Seven previously-filed patents detail technology for DVD Web system, MagSafe, speech synthesis, and more.
Video, clickwheel patents
A number of patents proposed by Apple, or already awarded to the company, were this week published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Two of these revolve around correcting video images; these include Pulldown correction for progressive display of audiovisual recordings, and Color correction of digital video images using a programmable graphics processing unit. The first of the two relates to the framerate and interlacing of videos, and detects any cadences or duplicate frames in order to first determine a video's format, and then process it properly while converting to progressive scan where possible.
12-inch Touch in 2008
Panel designers should have notebook-sized touchscreens that are virtually indistinguishable from their view-only counterparts in the second half of next year, say tips from Taiwan firms. Local business AU Optronics is reportedly developing a 12.1-inch LCD that would use in-cell touch input, escaping the need for a separate layer just to sense contact from the user. The technique allows displays that are as thick as today's LCDs and contrasts sharply with existing tablet PCs, which often gain bulk with the need for a touch-capable display.
Sony Quits Rear Projection
Sony this morning confirmed that it will quit the rear-projection TV field, ending its longstanding involvement with the technology. The Japanese firm will discontinue its SXRD line and other large sets in favor of direct view flat panels, such as today's LCDs and the company's still-young OLED technology, began with the launch of the XEL-1 this month. The move is necessary as sales of larger, heavier rear projectors are declining sharply while LCDs boom. Sony only expects to sell 400,000 rear-projection sets this fiscal year compared to 1.1 million in the period before; this was at least partly responsible for a roughly $526.3 million loss in Sony's TV business, the company says.
Brooklyn Apple Store site?
A new location has been suggested for Apple's long-rumored retail store in Brooklyn, New York City. Added to the list of possible sites is 345 Adams Street, a formerly city-owned plot bought for the creation of upper-class shops and restaurants. Sources in the real estate industry claim that Apple is one of several retailers considering a portion of the 40,000 square feet being made available for retail, located inside a former court building.
Amazon MP3 Warner Music
Amazon today landed a coup by announcing the availability of Warner Music Group albums on Amazon MP3. The store becomes the first to offer music from the label in a universal format withoutdigital rights management (DRM), permitting buyers to copy tracks an unlimited number of times and to play them on most any device, including those with limited access to online music stores such as the iPod and Zune lines. The addition brings Amazon's library up to 2.9 million songs, all without restrictions and at a relatively high quality 256Kbps bitrate, according to the company.
Hint at 3G iPhone date?
Shipments of touchscreen panels may indicate the timing of Apple's planned 3G iPhone. The Taiwanese newspaper Economic Daily News cites unspecified sources in the display industry, who say that local company Innolux will begin shipping touchscreens to Apple in the second quarter of 2008. If true, this would be just in time to build new iPhones for a mid-summer launch; the first phones were released on June 29th of this year, and have so far relied mainly on panels from Wintek.
Sony Cyber-shot S730
Gearing up for the Consumer Electronics Show, Sony today provided an early look at the Cyber-shot S730. The 7.2-megapixel compact is considered a new baseline for Sony's camera line and is designed for first-time photographers who may not have the experience to set camera settings. The mode dial includes a high sensitivity preset that automatically forces the camera to its ISO 1250 peak, ensuring a stable shot in some darker situations or in fastaction scenes. This improves over the ISO 1000 of other starter cameras and is supported by a more intelligent multi-point autofocus system.
Samsung 31-inch OLED
Samsung's SDI division on Thursday morning announced that it had developed a 31-inch TV using active matrix organic LED (AMOLED) technology. The screen is the largest to ever have been completed, eclipsing a 27-inch Sony OLED demonstrated early this year. As OLEDs need no separate backlight, the Samsung set measures just 4.3mm (0.17 inches) deep -- a tenth of the size of a contemporary LCD display, Samsung boasts. Nonetheless, the technology also has a far better contrast ratio than typical flat-panel displays and consumes half the power of a 32-inch LCD.
Panasonic 9.5mm Blu-Ray
Panasonic has revealed today that it has begun shipping samples of the world's thinnest Blu-ray drive. Advanced optics let the Japanese electronics firm reduce the drive height from 12.7mm (half an inch) to just 9.5mm (0.37 inches) tall; the slim profile allows it to fit in thin-and-light notebooks which have previously been locked out of the HD disc format, Panasonic notes. The drive is nonetheless fully capable and will write BD-R or BD-RE (rewritable) discs at 2X while also supporting dual-layer, 50GB discs and upcoming low-cost, organic dye discs.
In Rainbows on Amazon MP3
Despite earlier suspicions that British band Radiohead would release its new album In Rainbows on the iTunes music store, digital shopping mogul Amazon is first to announce digital distribution of the new album, through its online MP3 store. According to Silicon Alley Insider, the band will be promoting the physical release of the album by streaming a free, hour-long concert featuring music from the CD, which frontman Thom Yorke says is a "wee celebration". Pricing for the album and tracks has been released, but prices typically sit at about 90¢ to $1 for tracks, while albums sell for around $10.
Apple high on satisfaction
Apple's holiday customer satisfaction through its online and brick-and-mortar stores remains high this year, leading both sales categories, while experiencing a slight dip since last year. According to a recent study by ForeSee Results, Apple received a 79-percent overall satisfaction rating out of the top 40 companies in the report, showing no loss or gain from last year's numbers. In terms of of satisfaction by sales channel, Apple netted 75-percent satisfaction in the "Manufacturer Direct" sales and 73-percent with its physical retail locations. These numbers are down 1.3-percent and 1.4-percent from last year, respectively, but were still high enough to earn Apple the top spot on the ForeSee study.
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