Sling Media very early Monday heated up the challengers to the Apple TV and other media hubs with a finalized announcement of the SlingCatcher, its first device designed to bring computer content to a TV. Using a feature named SlingProjector, the device can output any video on a computer to a TV -- including web video or even video from a Slingbox accessed from the Internet, says the company. A USB connection lets it manually load video or else provides an 802.11g Wi-Fi connection as an alternative to the built-in Ethernet jack. The long-delayed SlingCatcher now has a formal release window and should ship in the spring for $250.
Besides the VAIO TP with Blu-ray, Sony tonight also became the first PC maker to announce notebooks using Intel's 45-nanometer mobile Penryn processors as well as those equipped with 4GB of RAM. Sony's showcase 17-inch desktop replacement, the VAIO AR, adds a 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo with the new ultra-dense chip and its media instructions that greatly improve speed for encoding videos or playing future games. Appropriately, the system comes with the full 4GB of memory, a Blu-ray burner, a 512MB GeForce 8600M GT for video, and two 200GB hard drives. A CableCARD tuner also lets it capture cable-borne HDTV feeds. Shipping under the AR790U Premium moniker, the top-end VAIO will be available soon for $3,300.
At its chief executive Bill Gates' final CES keynote, Microsoft tonight made a pair of significant expansions of its Xbox and Zune handhelds. The company's Xbox Video Marketplace has now signed on content from Disney-ABC as well as MGM. This places TV shows such as Desperate Housewives and Lost on the console for purchase despite Disney-ABC's connection to Apple through board member Steve Jobs; for MGM, it also provides movies for rent such as the Terminator series. The catalog update takes place later this month and will supply HD content for shows produced in a higher resolution.
Sony has continued its succession of releases with its first major update to the VAIO TP as well as a new Blu-ray drive for computers. The updated TP home theater PC now includes a Blu-ray reader that can play HD movies at a full 1080p when attached to an HDMI-equipped HDTV or computer display; it also becomes the first home theater PC to switch to Intel's 45nm Core 2 Duo and runs a 2.1GHz processor instead of the old 1.83GHz chip. On a premium model, a dual-CableCARD tuner allows it to watch and record cable HD at the same time.
Sharp has upgraded its AQUOS sets for CES with a top-to-bottom replacement of most models. The E94U series is Sharp's first connected HDTV line and will pin its hopes on AQUOS Advantage, a new support system: users needing help adjusting the TV or troubleshooting it can pop up a menu that contacts Sharp directly. It also upgrades contrast ratios to a brighter 27,000:1 with a fast 120Hz refresh rate and a thinner backlight. These specs carry across 46-inch ($3,199), 52-inch ($4,199), and 65-inch ($10,999) editions that will start shipping as early as this month for the largest two sets and February for the 46-inch system.
Sony this evening is hoping to rekindle interest in its Mylo communicator with its completely overhauled COM-2 model. The new version has a much sharper 800x480, 3.5-inch touchscreen display and comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera for snapping photos to upload and share with friends. It also recognizes the reality of Web 2.0 content, according to the company; it now supports basic web browsing with Flash video and includes widgets for Facebook, Google, YouTube, and RSS reading. AIM instant messaging is added to the original mix alongside Skype calling.
Not content to hold until the Mobile World Congress in February, Sony-Ericsson tonight took the wraps from three phones, all of which are destined to reach US shores. The pictured W350 is unique in the lineup with an unusual flip that covers the keypad when not in use, covering it instead with an extra-simple navigator that gives basic music controls. Despite this, the device measures just 10mm (0.39in) deep, Sony-Ericsson says. It also claims a 1.3-megapixel camera, an FM radio, and the latest Walkman software with AAC and MP3 track support. The device will ship in several black, blue, and white color schemes during the spring and will come packed with a 512MB Memory Stick Micro card. Versions for China, the US, and the world will be available.
Ending doubts that the products would be released in the US, Sony began its CES time by announcing US versions of the XEL-1 and the Rolly. The former is the Americanized version of the world's first production organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TV and uses the technology to produce an exceptionally high 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio from a panel just 0.1 inches thick. Switching to OLED also reduces power by about 40 percent from a 20-inch LCD, according to Sony.
Panasonic opened CES with a thorough reworking of its Viera HDTVs and a new Blu-ray home theater to match. The new line now includes both LCDs and plasmas under the Viera name but is topped by Panasonic's traditional focus on large-screen plasma screens. Joining other HDTV makers, Panasonic's PZ850 will be Internet-connected and have access to Google features such as Picasa photo albums and YouTube videos directly from the set. It will also match the best sets at CES this year with a 30,000:1 contrast ratio, four HDMI connectors, and pro-grade image adjustment. Versions will be available in a smaller 46-inch size along with 50-, 58-, and 65-inch parallels.
Pioneer's contribution to CES 2008 is headlined by new technologies that will form the basis of its KURO plasma HDTVs for the near future. Nicknamed the Extreme Contrast Concept, the first technology is the only flat-panel set known to have a theoretically infinite contrast ratio: unlike any other LCD or plasma, the ECC can completely shut off lighting to parts of the screen. This provides an absolute black where virtually every other set can only reach dark grays, Pioneer claims.
Like many electronics makers at CES, Samsung today launched a major update to its HDTV line, including its first explicitly Internet-connected sets. The flagship 6- and 7-series LCD sets both add a "touch of color" look with gapless design and translucent color effects but are more important for what they contain inside: each has built-in Ethernet connections that allow them to pull news from RSS feeds and the potential of more in the future. Each also touts an upgraded screen with a faster 4ms pixel response time, higher contrast ratios, and reduced glare alongside a motion artifact-free 120Hz output. It also expands the number of HDMI 1.3 inputs to four. The Korean firm expects the 40-, 46-, and 52-inch models (under the LNxxA650T name) to ship in March.
Monsoon tonight stepped up competition in the TV media hub field with its simply-titled HAVA. This new version adds 802.11n Wi-Fi and is the very first to stream greater than 720p HD video wirelessly, according to its creator. Unlike the wired-only Slingbox PRO-HD, the HAVA box can pipe 1080i video from a TV or movie player source to multiple local systems within reach of an 802.11n network. This makes it an ideal fit for users hoping to watch TV on their notebook elsewhere in the house without sacrificing the quality of the outgoing image.
JVC today launched a major update to its HDTV lineup that includes four of the first full-size HDTVs to include their own iPod docks. The LCD P-series incorporates a cradle for the Apple player in its base that not only plays music, photos, and videos directly from the device but integrates with the TV as though it were a native device. A special menu appears to control the iPod's content using the remote; users can also fine-tune playback and adapt video either to expand the video to fit the set at each clip's native aspect ratio or use a special "small mode" that maintains the pixel resolution of the source. The dock will also charge any connected iPod whether or not the TV is switched on.
Helping to kick off CES, Casio today released a sweeping change to its Exilim cameras aimed alternately at budding professionals and home users invested in the iTunes and iPod ecosystems. Previewed in early form at German's IFA last year, the Exilim Pro EX-F1 is not only the company's first semi-professional camera but also the fastest in the world, according to the camera maker. In still photo mode, the EX-F1 can shoot at an unprecedented 60 frames per second; though it cannot hold this rate, it can adjust the frame rate on the fly, extending shooting time while still offering a frame rate as good or better than more expensive pro models. It also offers a 1,200 FPS video recording mode for very slow motion photography without specialized equipment, Casio notes.
VUDU today unwrapped the VUDU XL, an extra-high capacity version of the company's movie streaming and rental device. The company is hesitant to provide exact storage but indicates that the new model can hold a full 500 standard-definition movies, allowing it to serve as a stand-in for many users' whole DVD collections; the claim suggests 500GB of internal drive space. It also improves home automation with network-based setups and better compatibility with universal IR remotes that control multiple devices. The XL is capable of outputting surround sound and should ship in February for $999.
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Cirrus creates Lightning-headphone dev kit
Apple supplier Cirrus Logic has introduced a MFi-compliant new development kit for companies interested in using Cirrus' chips to create Lightning-based headphones, which -- regardless of whether rumors about Apple dropping the analog headphone jack in its iPhone this fall -- can offer advantages to music-loving iOS device users. The kit mentions some of the advantages of an all-digital headset or headphone connector, including higher-bitrate support, a more customizable experience, and support for power and data transfer into headphone hardware. Several companies already make Lightning headphones, and Apple has supported the concept since June 2014. http://bit.ly/29giiZj
Apple Store app offers Procreate Pocket
The Apple Store app for iPhone, which periodically rewards users with free app gifts, is now offering the iPhone "Pocket" version of drawing app Procreate for those who have the free Apple Store app until July 28. Users who have redeemed the offer by navigating to the "Stores" tab of the app and swiping past the "iPhone Upgrade Program" banner to the "Procreate" banner have noted that only the limited Pocket (iPhone) version of the app is available free, even if the Apple Store app is installed and the offer redeemed on an iPad. The Pocket version currently sells for $3 on the iOS App Store. [32.4MB]
Porsche adds CarPlay to 2017 Panamera
Porsche has added a fifth model of vehicle to its CarPlay-supported lineup, announcing that the 2017 Panamera -- which will arrive in the US in January -- will include Apple's infotainment technology, and be seen on a giant 12.3-inch touchscreen as part of an all-new Porsche Communication Management system. The luxury sedan starts at $99,900 for the 4S model, and scales up to the Panamera Turbo, which sells for $146,900. Other vehicles that currently support CarPlay include the 2016 911 and the 2017 models of Macan, 718 Boxster, and 718 Cayman. The company did not mention support for Google's corresponding Android Auto in its announcement. http://bit.ly/295ZQ94
Apple employees testing wheelchair features
New features included in the forthcoming watchOS 3 are being tested by Apple retail store employees, including a new activity-tracking feature that has been designed with wheelchair users in mind. The move is slightly unusual in that, while retail employees have previously been used to test pre-release versions of OS X and iOS, this marks the first time they've been included in the otherwise developer-only watchOS betas. The company is said to have gone to great lengths to modify the activity tracker for wheelchair users, including changing the "time to stand" notification to "time to roll" and including two wheelchair-centric workout apps. http://bit.ly/2955JDa
SanDisk reveals two 256GB microSDXC cards
SanDisk has introduced two 256GB microSDXC cards. Arriving in August for $150, the Ultra microSDXC UHS-I Premium Edition card offers transfer speeds of up to 95MB/s for reading data. The Extreme microSDXC UHS-I card can read at a fast 100MB/s and write at up to 90MB/s, and will be shipping sometime in the fourth quarter for $200. http://bit.ly/294Q1If
Apple's third-quarter results due July 26
Apple has advised it will be issuing its third-quarter results on July 26, with a conference call to answer investor and analyst queries about the earnings set to take place later that day. The stream of the call will go live at 2pm PT (5pm ET) via Apple's investor site, with the results themselves expected to be released roughly 30 minutes before the call commences. Apple's guidance for the quarter put revenue at between $41 billion and $43 billion. http://apple.co/1oi1Pbm
Twitter stickers slowly roll out to users
Twitter has introduced "stickers," allowing users to add extra graphical elements to their photos before uploading them to the micro-blogging service. A library of hundreds of accessories, props, and emoji will be available to use as stickers, which can be resized, rotated, and placed anywhere on the photograph. Images with stickers will also become searchable with viewers able to select a sticker to see how others use the same graphic in their own posts. Twitter advises stickers will be rolling out to users over the next few weeks, and will work on both the mobile apps and through the browser. http://bit.ly/29bbwUE