Thursday, January 1, 2009
Thursday, November 13, 2008
In any collection of similar laptops, the one with the Sony Vaio logo is likely to be the most expensive in the group. So, imagine our pleasant surprise to find the Vaio AW125 to be less expensive than the other 18-inch, Blu-ray equipped laptops we've seen.
Our Blu-ray HP HDX18 was $2,149, while the Blu-ray version of Acer's Aspire 8920 was $2,499 (both have cheaper non-Blu-ray versions). In comparison, the Vaio AW125 was a mere $1,849 (although fancier models from the AW line can get up as high as $3,200).
We're big fans of the 18-inch 16:9 screen concept, which matches the resolution of HDTV screens and works perfectly with HD content. Our only real knocks against the Vaio were its insistence on including the usual assortment of proprietary Sony stuff, from a Memory Stick slot to all kinds of Sony-branded media software (just stick with iTunes or the VLC player).
Geeks and nerds need not apply, but if you're still one of those facing your 10-year-old analog TV every night, I have some news.
On Tuesday, Best Buy announced that it will host workshops in 25 of its stores around the country to educate consumers about the transition to digital television broadcasting and help them choose the best solution for their television needs.
The workshop will help you understand the difference between the two technologies and, most likely, encourage you to buy a new digital TV. Best Buy, of course, will be ready to facilitate the purchase of said digital television right there in its store, though no purchase is required for you to participate.
The workshops are the collaborated efforts of Best Buy and the National Association of Broadcasters. During the event, local broadcasters will also be available to answer questions.
The workshops will take place at at 10 a.m. on November 17--exactly three months before the switch. You can participate at Best Buy stores in following locations: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington D.C.
Most new laptops have built-in Bluetooth these days, but if yours doesn't, you might want to get what CallPod introduced on Thursday, theDrone.
The Drone is not a regular Bluetooth adapter. It's a high-powered device that offers a range of up to 300 feet; that's 10 times the range of regular Bluetooth devices.
Designed mainly for audio purposes, once plugged in, the Drone is recognized by a computer as a speaker. The Drone's built-in firmware then streams the computer's audio feed to Bluetooth headsets or speakers.
For this reason, the device is perfect for computer-based VoIP calling, and works with Skype, right out of the box. If you are listening to music when a Skype call arrives, the Drone automatically switches over the the call.
As an audio device, the Drone is 100 percent plug-and-play; software installation is only required for advance functions, such as data transfer.
The Drone Bluetooth adapter is A2DP-compliant and compatible with both PCs and Macs. It's available now for $49.95, which is significantly more expensive than other regular Bluetooth adapters.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Ever wanted to view a 52-inch screen from nine feet away in the comfort of your own home, without the 52-inch screen? If you answered "yes," then you're in luck. If you answered "no," then you have no soul. This should not, however, stop you from continuing to read this article.
On Tuesday, Vuzix announced the iWear AV310 Widescreen. While there have been other video eyewear products, this purports to be the first with wide-screen (16:9) viewing capabilities.
The AV310 projects a virtual 52-inch screen nine feet away from your eye, which is about four feet too close, according to the recommended distance.
Perhaps the physics of viewing distances, screen sizes, and resolutions are different in the virtual world within the glasses. Perhaps it is a non-Einsteinian universe full of vast potential energy where the rules have been flip-flopped. Where cockroaches are the dominant species and the human race is the species that darts to dark corners when the light come on. Yeah, that's probably it.
The poor HTC Touch Diamond and HTC Touch Pro; the two smartphones just made their CTIA Fall 2008 debuts, and we've already moved onto the next big thing. But can you blame us? On Monday, HTC introduced its newest Touch model, the HTC Touch HD, and it's a stunner.
The Touch HD features a 3.8-inch (diagonal) VGA touch screen, which is the largest display on a smartphone that I can remember to date. Given the spacious screen, it's no surprise the company designed the Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone for heavy Web and multimedia usage, hoping to replicate what you might get on your desktop.
The quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) handset does offer HSDPA speeds for a faster browsing experience, but currently only works on the European 900/2100MHz bands. We imagine U.S. support will be added when and if brought to the States. The smartphone also comes equipped with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a 5-megapixel camera.
Like the other Touch series models, the Touch HD will feature the TouchFlo 3D interface and has integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, and GPS. There's 512MB of flash memory and 288MB of RAM with a microSD card slot for expansion capabilities. According HTC, the Touch HD will be available through major European carriers in Q4, while other markets should follow shortly. No word yet on pricing.
The video game industry is a hotly contested space that's currently being dominated by three major companies: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. And although companies like Sega and others have tried to solidify their brands in the console space, they've failed in the face of those three giants.
But just because the past is littered with companies that have failed miserably at trying to capture a place in the world of hardware, does that mean that no company ever will do it again? Microsoft is a late entrant into the space and Sony came on the scene in a big way when columns were being written about the same basic premise: companies can't break into the console war.
Sorry, but I just don't buy the logic.
That said, I don't think any company can break into the console space. In fact, I would say that only one company can do it. Not because it has worked in the video game business for such a long time or that it's uniquely positioned to break in. No, the real reason why I believe this company could make a splash in the video game business (and why it possibly will) is because it commands the kind of hype and respect that no other company in the space does.
If you ask me, Apple could (and should) release a video game console. And not just because it'll be a success, but because it's the only company that could make a dent in the market.
The App Store has taught us a few things about Apple. It has taught us that the company is ready and willing to work with developers trying to create sound businesses and it's taught us that Apple can create a device, albeit a bit small, that can provide users with a powerful gaming experience.
But because of the App Store, everyone is looking in the wrong direction. Everyone believes that the App Store is how Apple will break into the gaming business and make the iPhone a compelling gaming platform.
I think that argument is pure rubbish.
In reality, the App Store is the first step in Apple's would-be plan to dominate the video game market by providing a service that can handle the console business and capture a significant portion of the market that it's trying so hard to be a part of: home entertainment.
Rest assured that Apple is a hardware company. If Apple was really concerned about software, it would have licensed Mac OS X again and it wouldn't have spent so much time trying to find unique ways of bringing Apple products to people in different ways. There would have been no iPhone, no iPod, and Macs may have been irrelevant.
Suffice it to say that Apple is inexorably tied to hardware.
But Apple's vision for the future is also tied to its obsession with controlling all the facets of your life. It already controls the music enjoyment part of your life and has taken a significant slice of the communication pie. It has Macs for those who want to be productive and an Apple TV for those who want to extend the capability of their home entertainment rig. But what about gaming?
The gaming market is one of the largest and most important industries in technology. But it's also one of the few key markets where Apple doesn't have a presence. Beyond that, it's one of the few places in the technology space that may actually be receptive to an Apple device.
One of the key success factors in the console market is playing well with developers. And although Apple has been less than ideal in that space in the past, its work with video game developers on the App Store is the ideal entree into coaxing them to support Apple's game console.
Even better, Apple has the infrastructure in place through iTunes to create a real value proposition for those who want to extend the capability of their console beyond gaming. Also, the company has the cash--about $20 billion--to not only invest in the best components on the market, but in an online gaming experience that could rival Xbox Live.
That cash could also be put to good use by acquiring major developers (did someone say Take-Two?) that could go from third-party powerhouse to Apple's first-party publisher.
And all the while, Apple can solidify its position in the space as the de facto "cool company."
Apple has a number of things going for it: it's successful, people love the brand, and people will buy its products regardless of their usability. And although the Apple TV could have performed a bit better, a video game console is the kind of product that would make Apple zealots and hardcore gamers flock.
That's not to say that it'll be easy for Apple to solidify itself in the gaming business; it's a tough industry, after all. But Apple's track record of working with game developers, its unprecedented control over the general population, its cash on-hand, and its ability to understand what people want make it the ideal company to break into the video game industry and supplant the major players.
Will it happen? Who knows. But if you ask me, it should. And soon.
Monday, July 21, 2008
As much as we complain about the high prices of standalone Blu-ray players, in some ways the high prices of Blu-ray movies are even more frustrating. Today, Warner Home Video has taken a step in the right direction, by announcing that the company will offer discounted pricing on select titles this fall. Blu-ray buyers can expect prices between $17 and $20, which is a lot more than DVDs sell for, but less than the $20-$30 prices Blu-ray discs currently go for.
While there isn't a complete list of movies that will be available at this lower pricing, Video Business reports that The Fugitive, Enter the Dragon, Clockwork Orange, The Shining, The Aviator, Road Warrior and Swordfish will get the discount. Additionally, some newer movies will get a smaller price cut, including 300, The Departed, I Am Legend, Ocean's 13 and We Are Marshall.
While this certainly won't make everyone run out and buy a Blu-ray player, it's definitely good news that studios are hearing complaints that Blu-ray movies are just too expensive at their current levels. Of course, we'd prefer if the prices fell below the $15 mark, which would make them feel comparatively-priced to DVDs, but we'll probably have to wait until at least 2009 to see those prices. In the meantime, at least there's always Netflix.
The E3 conference opened Monday in Los Angeles with a press conference from Microsoft. Here are some highlights.
Microsoft showed off first-ever game play footage from the post-apocalyptic title Fallout 3Resident Evil 5, shipping on March 13. We got a peek at the new co-op feature in the game, where players will be able to team up and make their way through together. Developer Square Enix also made announcements that included the release of four titles for Xbox 360 including Final Fantasy XIII. and announced that there will be downloadable content exclusive to Xbox Live. We saw real-time action from
As for console exclusives, we saw in-game action from Fable 2, shipping in October. Players will be able to seamlessly invite other friends who are also playing the game. Finally, we were blown away by the impressive game demo of Gears of War 2 shipping November 7. The game actually looks better than the original and will feature a five-player online co-op mode.
Microsoft will be releasing a new dashboard interface this fall that incorporates an avatar system--the Xbox answer to Nintendo Mii characters. The new feature allows you to join up with other friends to form a "party," a group of up to eight people where you can share multimedia items or start a game. A new mode called Primetime will actually incorporate real-life TV shows like 1 vs. 100 and allow Xbox Live members to play and watch these game shows and possibly even win real prizes.
Microsoft also announced ... Read more