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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Apple brings iTunes Movie Trailers app to Canada
After five years, Apple has expanded its iTunes Movie Trailers app for iOS to Canada. As of Saturday, the free app allows movie buffs to see HD movie trailers for new studio and independent features, and explore some other movie-related extras such as photos, behind-the-scenes footage, or clips from upcoming films. Users can save trailers for quick access, read reviews from RottenTomatoes.com within the app, use AirPlay to send them to an Apple TV, share trailers, and peruse the top movie charts. http://apple.co/1UUKtwr
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