Monthly Archives: October 2006

HD DVD and Blu-ray advocates come to blows

AVZombie: Proponents of the rival HD disc camps confronted each other at a recent CEA Industry forum, to trade predictable verbal blows.

On one side of the divide stood Mark Knox, spokesman for the HD DVD Promotion Division, on the other Pioneer’s senior VP of product development and the chairman of the Blu-ray Association USPromotion Committee Andy Parsons.
Somewhere in between perched Chris Crotty, an analyst from CE research outfit iSuppli and NVIDIA’s Patrick Beaulieu.

Everyone appeared to stick to their scripts.
Crotty set the tone by declaring this “the most pointless format war ever,” adding that for consumer, migrating from DVD to HD disc “is not as big a stretch as going from VHS to DVD.” Beaulieu predicted that the format war would be won in the PC domain.

Parson teased that if consumers buy HD DVD they would live in “fear of not having content” while Knox countered that HD DVD was “cool and well-priced.”
Interestingly, both Knox and Parsons did not rule out a universal player compatible with both formats, saying that there is nothing in the licensing agreements for either format which would preclude such a product.

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Garmin Zumo 550: ‘biker-friendly SatNav’

T3: Garmin’s ace new bikers’ SatNav system is the best system of its kind we’ve seen. And it’s not just a boon for dead-head motorbike couriers. It works excellently for all sorts of bikers, from trans-Euro tourers to Superbike rocketeers, as we found out when we test-rode it last week.

Garmin have spotted all the difficulties of using a regular satnav on a bike (they’re not waterproof, they are fiddly to set with gloves on, you can’t use them with you throttle-hand, etc) and come up with answers to almost all of them.

A great performer, but add in a Bluetooth lid and you’re looking at a big spend to avoid getting the map out. And at a whopping £330 (almost 500 euro) more than TomTom’s Rider, have a think about whether you actually need the best.
Garmin Zumo 550

(more…)

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George Lucas sees home theater future

About: With rising feature film costs and lower profits, coupled with the growth in home theater, George Lucas is changing his emphasis away from big-budget feature films and will concentrate on entertainment for the home screen. Some observers feel that as home theater increases its penetration into the homes of average consumers, the future of going out the local cinema could become a thing of the past. For a further look into how George Lucas sees the change in how we experience film and video, check out the post from TV Predictions.

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Cellphone acronyms demystified

Gizmodo: We bandy about acronyms like EDGE, GSM, and EV-DO all the time when talking about cellphones and smartphones. We like to pride ourselves on the ability to explain what we’re talking about concisely for the newcomer while not going too slow for the veteran. Nevertheless, sometimes a UMTS slips by without explanation.

These can help you out:

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Samsung demonstrates 4G mobile technologies

NE Asia: Samsung Electronics recently hosted the 4G Forum in Cheju, Korea. The focus of the event was on demonstrations of several 4G (4th-generation) technologies.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines 4G as a wireless telecommunication technology which allows seamless data transfer at 1Gbps during “nomadic” use and 100Mbps during mobile use. The spectrum for 4G is expected to be decided at the World Radio Communication (WRC) conference in October 2007, while the 4G mobile communications format is expected to become commercially available in around 2010.

“Discussions on standardization are expected to be accelerated once specifications, such as frequency, are settled in 2007,” said Lee Ki-tae, president and general manager of Information Communication at Samsung Electronics.

During the 4G Forum, Samsung demonstrated a 4G handover implementation which allows subscribers to use high-speed mobile telecommunication services at data rates of 100Mbps in a car moving at 60km/h. Also demonstrated was a 4G trial service that allows multi-users to access and download 32 high-definition (HD) broadcasts at 1Gbps, while simultaneously running high-speed Internet, making video calls and participating in a live forum.

The trial 4G service was operated for 15 minutes on a bus journey during which speeds of 60km/h were reached along the Joong-moon tourist complex in Cheju. HD image downloads and high-speed Internet were shown on one side of the bus, while the quality of the signals received and handover spot indications were shown (in real-time) on another side.

The trial service showed that 4G is capable of providing a higher data rate (100Mbps) than that provided by WiBro (wireless broadband, 20Mbps).

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Cobra buys UK sat nav, speed camera detection firm

TWICE: Cobra Electronics has entered an agreement to purchase Performance Products, a privately held, UK-based consumer electronics company for about €17 million plus two earnout payments totaling €12.5 million.Performance Products makes GPS devices and speed camera detection systems that alert drivers when they are approaching a roadside speed detection camera. The acquisition is expected to help Cobra enter the speed camera detection market in both the U.S. and Europe and to gain distribution for all its products in Europe.

Performance Products, a family owned business since 1995, was originally a radar detector supplier but transitioned into speed camera detection and GPS because radar detection is in the process of being outlawed in the U.K.

Cobra believes that some of Performance Products’ distribution in Europe will carry traditional Cobra products.

In the U.K., France and Denmark, Performance Products markets Snooper brand GPS devices that also offer speed camera detection when the user subscribes to a special service. The subscriber then gains access to Performance Products’ continually updated database of speed camera locations.

The use of speed cameras is growing exponentially in U.K and is beginning to proliferate in France and Denmark as well as the US where speed cameras are used in 161 cities, said Cobra president and CEO Jim Bazet.

In the US, Bazet said, “There’s no doubt in our minds that this is where detection is headed.”

Cobra SVP and CFO Michael Smith said that portable GPS devices and camera locators will likely merge in the future.

TomTom also offers a GPS model with speed camera detection in Europe, although Performance Products says it is the only company that updates its database 24-hours a day. “And thousands of these camera move around per week,” Bazet said.

Cobra said it currently has a six percent market share in GPS devices in the U.S., a 60 percent share in the radar detector and CB markets and close to a 30 percent share in 2-way radios.

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Games already filling 25GB Blu-ray discs?

GamesIndustryBiz: Launch titles for the PlayStation 3 are already “getting up close” to the 25GB limit on current Blu-Ray discs, according to Sony’s worldwide studios boss Phil Harrison.

“Already, we’re getting up close to the 25GB limit that we have on our Blu-Ray discs this year,” he claimed. “Next year we’ll raise that to 50GB, and I’d expect that we’ll be getting close to that in the fairly near future as well.”

Harrison decried suggestions that the Blu-Ray drive had been included in the machine purely to push Sony’s agenda with regard to Blu-Ray movies.

“It’s got nothing to do with movies,” he responded. “DVD is not sufficient capacity to power the kind of data consumption, or to feed the data consumption needs of Cell and RSX – just purely as a gameplay device, we need Blu-Ray to supply the kind of data that PS3 games use.”

Harrison also responded to questioning about the claim that the capacity of Blu-Ray will be used simply to provide more high definition movie sequences, effectively filling the discs – and games – with non-interactive content.

“It’s not just about graphics,” he said. “It’s about 7.1 audio, it’s about speech, it’s about having up to 1080p movies built into the game; it’s high res textures, it’s animation, it’s everything that goes into making a very rich and varied next-gen experience. Partly it’s visual, partly it’s sound, and partially it’ll be down to gameplay benefits as well – more levels, more detail, richer experiences.”

However, he also defended the right of developers to include rendered video in their – a key feature of many titles, even on next-generation systems.

“I see nothing wrong with having non-interactive, full HD sequences as part of the game,” he said. “That’s all part of the production value and the experience that you get when you buy the game. I don’t see that as a weakness at all.”

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Get Garmin Sat Nav with your new Hyundai

TWICE: Garmin has confirmed that Hyundai America will offer the Garmin nuvi 360 portable GPS through its 725 U.S. car dealerships.Hyundai car dealers starting this month will sell the nuvi at prices determined by the dealer and with the option to roll the purchase price into the financing of a car.

Garmin, which has about a 50 percent share of the portable GPS market, said that in less then a year the nuvi has become its most popular line.

The agreement with Hyundai is significant because it is Garmin’s first such U.S. arrangement with a car company and it allows the car dealers to offer state of the art portable GPS to consumers “when they are in a buying mood,” in the words of a Garmin spokesman, and at a price that can be negotiated along with the price of the car. “Customers see the Garmin kiosks at the dealership and it becomes really easy for them to say, let’s roll that into the deal,” he said.

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Tiny projectors make video iPod make sense

Wired: The main problem with the video iPod is that there’s no video equivalent to headphones, as Steve Jobs has pointed out before.  I’ve tested goggles that let you watch movies on a virtual widescreen TV; not only can they make the viewer nauseus, but their “space age” appearance can have a nauseating effect on those around the viewer as well.

I’ve long said that the solution is the ultraportable video projector. Slap one of these on the back of a video iPod, point it towards a white wall, connect the sound to some speakers, and you could be up and running. (…)

We’re one step closer to this scenario, now that palm-sized video projectors such as the $700 (550 euro) Toshiba TDP-FF1AU have become available. “Using light-emitting diodes instead of a traditional bulb, the 1.1-pound projector is small enough to fit in a hand and lacks a noisy cooling fan. It also sips power so that it can run on an included battery pack for up to two hours,” says Toshiba.

Toshiba TDP-FF1AU mobile projector

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Sony Walkman with video ‘coming soon’

Anythingbutipod: Sony announced that it has begun development of a new Walkman with video capabilities. In classically vague fashion, Senior VP Hiroshi Yoshioka divulged that the upcoming device will “handle images” but pleaded the fifth when asked to reveal specific details. He also alluded to doubling Walkman’s share in the global DAP market (from its currently measly 10 percent to a more respectable 20 percent) but again declined to elaborate.
Not much to go on here, but at least Sony will abandon, if only temporarily, its love of the monochrome and OLED display.

Walkman logo

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Mobiles ‘to help track diseases’

BBC: Mobile phone technology is being developed to help manage the spread of diseases such as HIV and bird flu. The software is designed to allow field workers using handsets to send and receive data on disease outbreaks along with patient and drug information.

The project is a collaboration between technology firm Voxiva and the trade association for mobile operators, GSMA.

Trials of the relatively low-cost application are underway in Rwanda and in Indonesia. The program works by sending the data through the GPRS network, and if this is unavailable, it can divert to an SMS data channel (…). It is programmed using java language, so can work across different handsets and operators.

This means a doctor working in the field can send information to a central database about how many people are affected by a disease, patient status, drug inventory levels and receive information such as alerts, treatment guidelines or lab test results. (…) The cost of rolling out the technology in Rwanda, including setting-up and implementation costs, is about $1m.

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Sony sticks with UMDs for PSP

T3: It’s dabbled with memory stick movies, and realises there’s a problem with portable films, but Sony says it’s standing by the UMD.
That’s according to Sony’s UK chief, Ray Maguire. He says the troubled disks are a good way of shoehorning content into the PSP, and reckons Sony’s “pretty pleased with UMD” so far.

Maguire admitted that UMDs have seen less success as a movie medium than they have with games, but says they are still a strong carrier for short flicks.

UMD

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