Monday, April 16, 2007

iPhone Work Delays Leopard

By Michael Santo
Executive Editor, RealTechNews

Apple's finding it's not quite as easy to complete a cell phone as they thought. In order to make the June date that previously was announced , Apple's had to pull people off the next release of their OS, code-named Leopard.

"iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard as planned," said Apple in a rather brief statement. Source: InternetNews

We Say: Also known as, "this was a lot harder than we thought" or "we have a lot more bugs than we expected". Of course, it could be that what I just said … applies to Leopard rather than iPhone … and this is just a way to save face at WWDC. Assuming it is really an iPhone issue, BTW, those buyers who bid on iPhones on eBay … as I said then, I don't know what they were thinking. That was 3 weeks ago, which is a long time in cell phone ROM time … there's no way the phone would have worked well even if those bidders had gotten a "real deal".

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Microsoft to also offer DRM-free music

Redmond (WA) - Microsoft is jumping on the DRM-free music bandwagon and will be offering unprotected EMI songs in its Zune Marketplace.  Jason Reindorp, Zune's head of marketing, announced the move, but didn't add any specific pricing or timeline.  He added that Microsoft has been advocating DRM-free music for quite a while.

This is surprising because one of  the main tenets of the Zune MP3 product was the strict adherence to DRM.  Music transferred to the Zune follows the rule of three, that is three plays or three days whatever comes first.

In recent months, Microsoft officials including Bill Gates have been softening their stances on DRM.  Back in December 2006, Gates told bloggers in Redmond, WA that there are "huge problems" with DRM and even advocated just buying CDs and converting the music tracks to MP3s.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Behold the Terabyte Disc


By Alice Hill

The optical disc is supposed to become obsolete any day now, but maybe there's hope in store from the folks at Mempile. The TeraDisc is the first-ever 1TB optical disc capable of holding 250 Hours of HD Programming on a single disc . No word on pricing, and the technology won't be out until 2010, but it's great to see storage always moving forward.

"Existing optical media store the data through the use of light-reflective semi-transparent technologies. While increasing in capacity, even the newer blue-laser technologies are nonetheless limited to a very small number of layers. The partial reflection from the multiple layers leads to signal reduction simultaneously raising background noise and coherent interferences.

"Mempile's patented non-linear two-photon technology allows for 3D recording of transparent virtual layers on the entire volume of the disc. Mempile's recent demonstration proved that more than 100 layers could be recorded and read – showing storage capabilities of slightly less than 300GB over a thickness of 0.6 mm of active material. By increasing this active material to the thickness of a DVD, 1.2 mm, Mempile will be able to demonstrate the recording and reading of at least 500GB of data. Future optimization will allow the recording of 200 layers and of up to 5GB of data per layer." Source: Mempile via Fosfor

Bottom Line: More proof that HD DVD and Blu Ray are doomed. That or we have yet another format to contend with.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Samsung considers cheaper version of Ultra Mobile PC

March 15, 2007 (IDG News Service) -- HANOVER, GERMANY - Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. may produce a cheaper version of its new Q1 Ultra ultra-mobile PC in a bid to boost sales, a senior company executive said Thursday.

"In order to have more users who can afford this kind of product, we are thinking of coming up with a second version," said H.S. Kim, executive vice president and general manager of Samsung's computer division, speaking at the launch of the Q1 Ultra at the annual Cebit exhibition in Hanover, Germany.

Samsung won't yet disclose the price of the Q1 Ultra, which will hit store shelves around the world in May. But executives said the device will be priced similarly to its predecessor, the Q1, which retails for around US$1,300, depending on the processor and system configuration.

Samsung is counting on the Q1 Ultra to sell two or three times more units than the Q1, which has so far sold less than 100,000 units, Kim said. This is where the possibility of a second version comes in to play: lower costs could make the device appeal to more users, driving up sales.

Kim declined to comment further on the successor to the Q1 Ultra. Given the high-end specifications of the model announced this week, there are several areas where costs could be cut.

For starters, the device uses an ultra-low voltage processor from Intel Corp. that has not yet been announced, Kim said. Buying chips from a second supplier or using a different Intel chip could help reduce system costs. Indeed, some Q1 ultra-mobile PCs were based on a processor from Via Technologies Inc., which specializes in low-voltage processors that are generally cheaper than chips from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

In addition to considering a Q1 Ultra that is more affordable, Samsung is also planning to equip some Q1 Ultra units with its hybrid disk drive, which includes both a hard disk and flash memory. "We are planing to have this hybrid drive some day in the near future," Kim said.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sony Gets Second Life with 'Home'

Sony looks like it will follow in the footsteps of Linden Lab and other such - with the launch of 'Home', its 3D virtual world exclusively designed for the PS3, and another 3D game, 'LittleBigPlanet'.

Showing off 'Home' at the Game Developers Conference this week, Sony Computer Entertainment's President of Worldwide Studios, Phil Harrison, explained how it gels with the PS3 ecosystem, and what Sony calls the 'Game 3.0' era, or the era in which power will be put back firmly into the hands of gamers.
Sony's 'Home' sounds almost like Linden Lab's Second Life, which has around 4.5 million residents. But 'Home' is said to be deeply scaled back.

Available for free to PS3 users, 'Home' offers a way to connect in multimedia space, and interact with various forms of media available on PS3.

Like in Second Life, 'Home' players can create animated proxies or avatars, and further customize them as they wish. A small private space is allocated to each member, which can again be customized as per individual tastes.

Players can buy clothing, furniture, and videos to play on virtual screens in their virtual apartments. They can meet each other in the main public area, and communicate with each other.

But unlike in Second Life, 'Home' offers video games, virtual arcades, music, movies, and a whole lot of Sony approved media downloads.

Also unlike Second Life - where users create nearly all of the content with almost no limits, 'Home' promises to be much more of a controlled environment.

For instance, users might be able to design their own avatars, clothing, and so on, but Sony would step in as moderator in case of public spaces.

To observers, 'Home' seems almost like a new reason being given to consumers to buy the PS3, which is lagging behind the other consoles.

The 'Home' beta version is slated for launch next month, and the official debut is scheduled during Fall this year.

'LittleBigPlanet', Sony's other 3D offering, allows players to build obstacle courses, puzzles, and other games for avatars who resemble beanbags or 'sack boys' as Sony calls them.

This game is slated to debut early next year. A sample version will likely be available during Fall. Sony remains incommunicado about pricing of both new offerings.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

UFO science key to halting climate change: former Canadian defense minister

OTTAWA (AFP) - A former Canadian defense minister is demanding governments worldwide disclose and use secret alien technologies obtained in alleged UFO crashes to stem climate change, a local paper said Wednesday.

"I would like to see what (alien) technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation ... that could be a way to save our planet," Paul Hellyer, 83, told the Ottawa Citizen.

Alien spacecrafts would have traveled vast distances to reach Earth, and so must be equipped with advanced propulsion systems or used exceptional fuels, he told the newspaper.

Such alien technologies could offer humanity alternatives to fossil fuels, he said, pointing to the enigmatic 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico -- which has become a shrine for UFO believers -- as an example of alien contact.

"We need to persuade governments to come clean on what they know. Some of us suspect they know quite a lot, and it might be enough to save our planet if applied quickly enough," he said.

Hellyer became defense minister in former prime minister Lester Pearson's cabinet in 1963, and oversaw the controversial integration and unification of Canada's army, air force and navy into the Canadian Forces.

He shocked Canadians in September 2005 by announcing he once saw a UFO.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Competition forcing YouTube to pay

The internet's booming social-networking trend has reached a new milestone: websites are beginning to pay for content.

That means all those web-savvy creative types, the people who post skateboarding videos or write a review about the neighbourhood dry cleaner, could be compensated for their contributions.

The move to pay people for content had been developing slowly but reached a critical new phase when, the internet's bellwether video site, confirmed that it has plans to pay for user-generated content.

The decision sets up the potential for a monumental shift in how people use and view networking sites.

Until now, as user-generated content on the web has grown, the only people making any money have been the site operators.

YouTube, for instance, rose to prominence thanks largely to the goofy homemade videos ordinary people created and posted.

But when Google purchased it last year for $US1.65 billion ($A2.1 billion), the people responsible for those videos didn't receive a single cent from the mammoth Google payout.

Paying individual users for content also follows deals that Google, Yahoo Inc. and Apple Inc., among others, have been signing with networks and Hollywood studios for the right to sell and promote original content on the web.

YouTube didn't provide details of why it wanted to start compensating individual creators.

But a number of industry executives suggested that with both the internet audience and ad revenue growing, competition for the best user-generated content also is intensifying.

So those looking for an edge have started offering money.

By the end of this year, "almost every big site that focuses on viral video will have a revenue-sharing component to it," said Keith Richman, chief executive of, a site that pays $US400 ($A508.36) to $US2,000 ($A2, 541.78) to contributors about 100 times a month for the exclusive rights to some videos. is paying between $US3,000 ($A3,812.67) to $US5,000 ($A6,354.45) a day to pools of people who create videos or other original materials, while is sharing revenue from advertisements placed at the end of videos.

If viewers click on the ad, the video's creator gets paid.

YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley disclosed the site's intentions over the weekend at an economic summit in Davos, Switzerland.

"We are getting an audience large enough where we have an opportunity to support creativity, to foster creativity through sharing revenue with our users," Hurley said.

Sony to Pay in Patent Dispute


The Sony Corporation, the consumer-electronics maker, agreed to pay the Immersion Corporation, a software developer, $150.3 million to end a patent dispute over technology used in the Sony PlayStation video-game console.

Immersion will get a $97.2 million court judgment, plus royalties totaling at least $53.1 million, the chief financial officer of the company, Stephen Ambler, said yesterday. Immersion shares rose as high as $9.87 in after-hours trading, after closing at $7.23 in regular trading.

A jury in Oakland, Calif., found in September 2004 that Sony had infringed on two Immersion patents for so-called haptic technology, used in PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles to make game controllers vibrate with the on-screen action. The jury awarded $82 million, which grew to $90.7 million with interest and costs.

With interest, that figure increased to $97.2 million, Mr. Ambler said. Sony also paid about $30.6 million as a compulsory license for the last two years, money that Immersion treated as deferred revenue. Sony will make 12 more quarterly licensing payments totaling $22.5 million through the end of 2009, Mr. Ambler said.

Sony's American depository receipts rose 14 cents, to $51.87.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Blu-ray Getting More Popular than HD-DVD

While the HD-DVD was initially leading the race concerning the catalog of movies and video available on this format, thanks to cheaper standalone player, its adoption rate seems to slow down significantly.
According to Nielsen VideoScan, Blu-ray-based movie sales surpassed HD-DVD ones for the first time.
The launch of the PlayStation 3 could be the explanation for such results. Despite the lower than expected sales, the new SONY game console will dramatically increase the number of BD players.

SONY already won the battle concerning the availability and performance of blue laser-based drives for our computers; mostly because manufacturers released BD burners much faster than for HD-DVD format.
SONY might successfully develop a format that will be fully adopted by the consumer electronic market, after its previous failure in this quest with Betamax and Mini Disc.
Even if HD-DVD had a head start on Blu-ray in the HD movies format race, mainly due to the lower price of HD-DVD players and also to lower manufacturing costs for the discs, the Microsoft-backed format is now lagging behind.
For the first time since the launch of both formats, last month saw more sales of Blu-ray movies than HD-DVD.
This shift is supposed to be related with the wide availability of the PlayStation3, which sports a Blu-ray drive. And that represents a couple million units out there, probably more than what HD-DVD can claim, even with the late release of an add-on HD-DVD player for the XBox360.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Google Apps Premier Edition: Another Way to Get Things Done

Google Apps has taken the step forward from a non-commercial application, geared towards individual users, to a business software package: Google Apps Premier Edition, which is being offered primarily to small and medium businesses for an annual fee of $50.

Google Apps has been available as a free service since August 2006. It includes the large storage-capacity service Gmail (where you can store not only emails, but chat history and even files from your desktop, with the help of a Mozilla plug-in), Google Calendar (shared calendaring), Google Talk, which is an instant messaging and voice-over-IP application, and the Start Page feature for creating a customizable home page on a specific domain.

What exactly has Google Apps Premier Edition to offer over its free precursor?
- 10 GBs of storage per user: Offers about 100 times the storage of the average corporate mailbox, eliminating the need to frequently delete email.
- APIs for business integration: APIs for data migration, user provisioning, single sign-on, and mail gateways enable businesses to further customize the service for unique environments.
- 99.9 % uptime: Service Level Agreements for high availability of Gmail, with Google monitoring and crediting customers if service levels are not met.
- 24x7 support for critical issues: Includes extended business hours telephone support for administrators.
- Advertising optional: Advertising is turned off by default, but businesses can choose to include Google's relevant target-based ads if desired.
- $50 per user account per year: Simple and affordable annual fee makes it practical to offer these applications to everyone in the organization.

Google also is adding mobile access to e-mail accounts through BlackBerry wireless handheld devices.

As was the case last year, when Google Apps was launched, the analysts' dilemmas aren't revolving around the intrinsic value of the Google Apps Premier Edition suite, but rather they consist of whether this is an attempt to challenge the Microsoft's domination in the office space. Is Google Apps Premier Edition being developed as an alternative to MS Office, the software suite which managed to indisputably dominate for years the work environment of virtually any kind of business? Let's see!

Which are Google Apps Premier Edition's advantages:

1. It's not dependant on a specific OS. No matter if the PC runs Linux or Windows, Google Apps is only reliant on the Internet connection and a browser, which is certainly an entirely different approach when compared to MS Office, which works in symbiosis with Windows (and recently, MacOS)
2. Availability. No matter where you work from, Google Apps offers instant access to the documents, calendar appointments or e-mails you need. This means yet another step forward from the mobile office concept, which still needs a notebook in addition to an Internet connection.
3. The possibility to develop new functionality. As is the case with Google Maps, the companies using
Google Apps Premier Edition can access the APIs for data migration, user provisioning, single sign-on, and mail gateways. What does that exactly mean? Starting off from basic functions, any company can eventually adapt and develop new functionalities, according to its operating specifics.
4. Collaboration is simpler. Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Spreadsheets allow, in a very simple and neat way, the collaboration between many users, who can work together to create, modify and develop documents.
5. Web presence creation. Google Page Creator is one of the most interesting applications geared towards the fast development of a Web presence for any company which doesn't need a very complicated website.

Obviously, as is the case with any software, Google Apps Premier Edition is not perfect and there still are many downsides to it. Which would then be Google Apps' disadvantages, noted by its critics?

1. The lack of an alternative to Microsoft's PowerPoint application, a software much used and appreciated in the business environment.
2. The dependence on an Internet connection can also be a vulnerability, because today not anywhere on the globe you can find a reliable and stable connection. Google Apps does not run offline, which raises many problems for people who don't have an always on Internet connection.
3. The fact that all documents are stored on Google servers can make some worry about their data's confidentiality or about the possibility of a hacker's attack. This can be especially sensitive for companies dealing with business secrets, such as research companies, which are always worrisome about commercial espionage. However, it's certain Google will do its best to ensure the data's security.
All these things considered, we must ask ourselves again if Google Apps Premier Edition is really an attempt by Google to replace Microsoft Office. If you were expecting a yes or no answer, you're in for a disappointment.

First of all, Google Apps relies on an entirely different concept from Microsoft Office. In Google Apps, the PC is considered an extension of the Internet, merely an access point towards it. That is not the case with Microsoft Office, which was developed with the PC as the center, having the Internet connection as an extension. In other words, comparing Microsoft's Office with Google Apps is much like comparing apples and peaches.

Secondly, we should keep in mind that Google Apps has not reached age 1, and it would be unfair to compare it with a software suite which was in continuous development for almost 15 years.

What we have to admit is that Google Apps is a serious contender, and its most important strength is that it tries to do things differently. That could make it carve in the sales of Microsoft's Office.

All things being equal, Google Apps still needs a few development cycles before being a full-fledged replacement to Microsoft Office, but for Microsoft, Google Apps should set off alarms. There are other ways to get things done, and Google Apps Premier Edition proves the Internet offers new means which the Redmond company should take much more seriously if it wants to maintain the upper hand over its competition.  

Monday, February 05, 2007

Apple asks iTunes users to wait before updating to Vista

Apple said not all Vista systems are affected, but asks users not to upgrade to Vista until they release a patch for iTunes that corrects these bugs. EPA/HAN MYUNG-GU
Every new operating system, no matter the vendor, will always have quirks. Most often, those quirks come in the form of driver issues. The inability to run certain programs or applications on the new system until a patch is released. This is the situation currently with users of Apple's iTunes on the recently released Windows Vista.

Apple is aware of several issues, most of them minor, that stem from drivers and codec's in iTunes 7.0.2. The problems reported result in the loss of the ability to play video files ordered and downloaded from the iTunes store, address, and contact synchronization.  Another issue is the loss of the calendar functions, and a seriously slowed down runtime. Most users are complaining of the slow systems, and program response than the other two on several forums and public support groups. One other issue Apple reports is corruption of an iPod if it is plodded into a system running Vista.

Apple said not all Vista systems are affected, but asks users not to upgrade to Vista until they release a patch for iTunes that corrects these bugs. The patch from Apple is still a few weeks off. They have provided some advice and created a repair tool for users to download. This tool will fix some of the permission issues, but Apple maintains the best fix is to wait until iTunes is patched before the update to Vista.

The nature of the DRM used in iTunes, and the complex nature of drivers, and kernel patching inside Vista, makes this issue a serious one for users who simply can't live without their iPod or the iTunes store. Apple's iTunes is the largest online retailer of DRM media, and has several million members worldwide. Users of iTunes will get an auto update notice when the patch to correct issues in Vista is released.

Apple has setup a website with information about issues in Vista here:

Users who want the repair tool will find it here along with usage instructions:



Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tamagotchi Party On!

Namco Bandai Games America Inc. announced today that Tamagotchi Party On! for the Wii will be coming to North America this Spring 2007. This 3D party game based on the Tamagotchi franchise promises tons of fun as up-to-four players can go head-to-head in the most comical and cute campaign race to become the most popular Tamagotchi on Tamagotchi Planet!

"Tamagotchi Party On! is a seamless blend of both party game and board game as players swing, shake, and turn their Wii controllers in order to control their favorite Tamagotchi," said Naruo Uchida, Namco Bandai Games America Inc.'s Vice President of Localization. "It's the wackiest and cutest popularity contest ever as up-to-four players compete in fun mini-games to become the president of Tamagotchi planet."

Swing your Wii controllers and turn the whole planet into your playing board. Tamagotchi Party On! allows players to choose their favorite virtual pet and engage in a hilarious campaign to become the next president of Tamagotchi Planet. Earn your popularity by going up against three friends or solo in over 15 unique and totally addictive mini-games including shaking hands, finding lost children, and testing your public speaking skills! In order to succeed at each of these mini games, players will have to swing, shake, point, turn and twist their Wii controllers in order to increase their popularity.

Gamers can also use Gotchi points that they earn along the way to level up their characters and customize their very own campaign headquarters. With over six different towns to win over and tons of popularity points to be earned in a number of fun and quirky mini-games, Tamagotchi Party On! brings out the fun in politics without all the mudslinging! Be happy! Be popular! Be president!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sony's Blu-ray woes may lessen in 2007

By Justin Mann,
Published: November 30, 2006, 8:47 PM EST

One of Sony's biggest problems has been supply. Not just with the PS3, but many core components of their hardware business, most especially with Blu-ray devices. In particular, the blue laser diodes they are manufacturing with others have come much slower than expected, resulting higher costs and slower adoption. According to some, that'll start to decline considerably in 2007. Sony will definitely need it if they want to even approach their goal of 6 million PS3's by March, especially since they have not even reached 350,000 sold. Sony's secondary source of the diodes, Nichia, is meeting with very high failure rates. As a result of this, another company is stepping in:

Sharp, in light of the large market potential, announced in November that it is producing blue laser diodes mainly for use in BD PUHs with an initial monthly capacity of 150,000 diodes, the sources pointed out. Sony, in order to attain a goal of selling six million PS3 units globally by March 2006, has to expand its production capacity of blue laser diodes as soon as possible, the sources noted.
Sony is keeping their lips sealed about additional Blu-ray devices, which makes sense considering the difficulty they are having with just the PS3.

Wizard of Oz returns to cinemas

Judy Garland, Jack Haley and Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz
Judy Garland (l) was 16 years old when she made the film
A digitally restored version of 1939 Hollywood classic The Wizard of Oz is to open in UK cinemas next month.

Working from the original three-strip Technicolor negatives, experts at the Warner Bros studio have removed dirt, dust, debris and scratches.

The result, according to the British Film Institute, boasts "amazing image clarity and breathtaking colour".

Based on L Frank Baum's 1900 novel, the film stars Judy Garland as a farm girl transported to a magical kingdom.

Winner of three Academy Awards, it opens in 40 cinemas across the country on 15 December.

Lavish costumes

The three-strip Technicolor process - which combined three strips of coloured film - yielded excellent colour quality but was expensive and difficult to handle.

That, combined with the lavish sets and costumes, swelled the budget to a then enormous $2.7m.

Judy Garland was 16 years old when she won the part of Dorothy - a role she won after MGM decided Shirley Temple's talents were not extensive enough to do it justice.

Wicked, a musical based on the witches in The Wizard of Oz, is currently running in London's West End.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

SanDisk’s New All-White SD Gaming Cards for the Nintendo Wii

By Alice Hill

wii_2.JPGOk - so maybe you can't buy a Nintendo Wii gaming system, but the folks at SanDisk are all geared up to offer your phantom Wii some custom SD storage. Designed to match the all-white look of the Wii the new SD cards come in three capacities: 512MBs, 1GB and 2GBs at a cost of $35 - $90 USD. Source: SanDisk via Gearlog

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

PS3 Blu-Ray DVDs wont display in HD

"Many games made for 1080p won't scale properly to 1080i, and sometimes 720p. I'm having a huge issue with Blu-Ray movies. It shows as 1080i (even though I have my HDTV setup as 720p in the Media Bar), but it's very grainy and looks like standard DV
Sony says this is a "known issue" and is "working on it," and perhaps there will be a firmware update in the coming days (read: months)...Can Sony blow this thing any worse? I mean..come on! One of the most highly touted functions doesn't even work!

VHS dead at 30

By Chief Gizmateer
Contributing Writer, RealTechNews

It’s official, Variety reports that VHS has died at the age of 30.
Once a groundbreaking media format, VHS has been suffering from loneliness for several years now and died of natural causes in 2006 survived by DVD, TiVo, VOD and DirecTV.
Consumers can continue to morn the passing of VHS by purchasing a piece of history at Toys’R'Us where you can still purchase “Barney” video tapes or you can find a multitude of VHS tapes at eBay.
Born Vertical Helical Scan to parent JVC of Japan, the tape had a difficult childhood as it was forced to compete with Sony’s Betamax format.
After its youthful Betamax battles, the longer-playing VHS tapes eventually became the format of choice for millions of consumers. VHS enjoyed a lucrative career, transforming the way people watched movies and changing the economics of the film biz. VHS hit its peak with “The Lion King,” which sold more than 30 million vidcassettes Stateside.
The format flourished until DVDs launched in 1997. After a fruitful career, VHS tapes started to retire from center stage in 2003 when DVDs became more popular for the first time.
Since their retirement, VHS tapes have made occasional appearances in children’s entertainment and as a format for collectors seeking titles not released on DVD. VHS continued to make as much as $300 million a year until this year, when studios stopped manufacturing the tapes. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sony MZ-M200: MiniDisc Is Not Dead

Pocket-Size Recorder Supports Multiple Formats, Includes EL Display and Is Mac-Compatible

by Charles Dubé, 11.22.2006
Charles Dubé is chief engineer at WFCR(FM), Amherst, Mass.


Sony MZ-M200

Hi-MD MiniDisc Recorder


The most evolved Sony Walkman MD

Flexible and adaptable

USB2 transfer

Long battery life

High capacity



Mini jack for input and output

PRICE: $439.95

CONTACT: or Sony dealers

When I mentioned to a co-worker that I was going to have a look at Sony's new MiniDisc offering, the MZ-M200, he looked at me with a grimace and let me know exactly how he felt about the previous generation of MiniDisc. Apparently, some folks had misgivings about recent MD products and might have given up on MD as a dead technology.

With MP3 players and Flash recorders as common as Kleenex tissues, why would anyone want to use the seemingly anachronistic MD format anyway?

We know there are strengths and weaknesses to any format; Sony has given cynics a reason to rethink the MiniDisc format with the MZ-M200.

The MZ- M200 is a compact digital audio recorder/player that can play files downloaded in LinearPCM, Sony's ATRAC (including ATRAC3 & ATRAC3plus) or MP3 format. It features the ability to record or transfer legacy recordings onto a low-cost (less than $10) 1 GB Hi-MD MiniDisc. The 1GB MiniDisc theoretically can store up to 675 songs, 45 hours of music (or 13 hours of music on a standard MD media). The 1 GB Hi-MD media also can be used to store 1 GB of data as well.

Users of legacy MD devices will enjoy the MZ-M200's ergonomics. There's no doubt Sony put a lot of thought into how this recorder will be used in a professional environment. Little about the MZ- M200 resembles earlier MD recorders, except perhaps the size. Pocket-sized as expected, the MZ-M200's display has been moved to the top of the unit, making it perfectly readable in one's shirt pocket for instance.

If placed flat on a counter, such as in a recording studio or newsroom, the slightly angled display allows for easy reading as well. Used like this, Sony has added four small runner feet to prevent it from sliding around. It's almost as if someone ran your full-size MD player too long in the dryer. In your hands, the rubberized surface keeps it from slipping away.

The MZ-M200 feels like a piece of professional gear as well. Although small, all buttons are spaced enough for even the clumsiest of fingers, and the solid metal chassis rivals that of most MP3 devices around. The Record switch is simple and not likely to be accidentally triggered. Stop and Pause buttons are clear and accessed easily. On the side, a jog lever — again, difficult to unintentionally engage — steps you through the tracks on the disk. The multifunction Display/Menu button gives easy access to the device's many features.

The feel of the M200's controls is solid and intentional. There are no sloppy switches or soft gooey pushbuttons. Input and output jacks remain standard fare (mini), the difference here being the addition of a USB port greatly enhancing upload capability to a PC. The port also functions economically as a DC power input. The MZ- M200 also can function as an external PC drive using the USB 2 port as well.

Back to basics

Sony has brought back many of the earlier MD features that were coveted but unfortunately dropped in previous incarnations. For instance, the ability to use regular MD disks has returned, good news for those who have amassed an archive of standard MD recordings.

The MZ-M200 can use these disks for recording should one have a stash of blanks kicking around, although at a reduced capacity as compared to the Hi-MD's capabilities (using the line-in jack, you can transfer old MD format material to the newer high-capacity discs, minimizing your library space).

If you take a moment to set the time and date on your MZ-M200, it will time- and date-stamp your recordings. This certainly could be a useful feature for those interested in archiving interviews, for example. The ability to change playback speeds of recordings is back in the guise of the Digital Pitch Control feature, useful when replaying speech recordings and hunting for certain passages.

The player's headphone jack is switchable as a line-out jack, relieving the necessity of having to shuttle volume levels all over the place to facilitate other playback equipment you might wish to connect to.

If losing your record settings caused you grief with past MD recorders, the MZ-M200 remembers these settings for you, even for a short duration after removing the Li-ion battery. For use in the recording studio, where so many computers are of the MAC variety, Sony has made the MZ- M200 MAC-compatible. In particular, this means Sony supplies Hi-MD music transfer software, which comes standard with the MZ-M200.

Sonic Stage is Sony's WIN PC program, which enhances the transfer and conversion capabilities of the MZ-M200.With it you can shuttle audio back and forth between the recorder and your PC's hard drive, convert files for playback purposes, burn CDs or use the MZ- M200 as an external drive. As mentioned, the recorder connects to your PC via the supplied USB2 cable. The software display is reminiscent of an FTP transfer program and user-friendly. A "Simple Mode" program allows you to record tracks to an MD disc from an audio CD in your computer's D: drive without storing it first on the hard drive.

Sonic Stage is a multifeature program designed to manage your PC audio needs, whether you are retrieving sound from the Internet, MP3 recorder, MZ-M200 or a finished CD. You can organize your library, and of course move audio to and from the recorder itself; Hi-MD recordings can be saved in the WAV format using Sonic Stage.

Crisp, cool display

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the EL display. It is rather cool and heads above earlier portable MiniDisc products. As I stated, it is positioned in a way that makes the recorder a good fit for pocket or tabletop operation. But wait until you see this window.

The characters, although small by necessity, are brightly displayed and crisp, for lack of a better word. During playback you can toggle though various descriptions of what you are hearing: group number, number of tracks remaining along with current track, the record time and date, even a somewhat cheesy but definitely fun pair of spectrum analyzer displays.

Even without reading the manual (as many of us are wont not to do), I was able to navigate about the MZ-M200 intuitively without much strain on the cerebellum.

Sony hasn't forgotten that despite the serious uses to which this little recorder can be applied, we like to have a little fun on the way. There is a remote control included that provides its own LCD display. It is simple to jump through the menu to select record modes, levels, mic AGC or sensitivity, mark time or activate any of the other features.

Okay, so we have the ability to select various record modes (of various quality), move audio about to a PC and store large quantities of sound on the MZ-M200. But that "moving parts" issue is always in the back of my mind. You do indeed have moving parts, which of course are subject to failure at some point; but you also have a high-capacity storage medium — the Hi-MD disc — which is removable from the recorder, meaning that in the event of device failure there is a good chance your files will be safe.

As for the price, a professional using the MZ- M200 might consider buying more than one so as to have a backup unit.

One aspect I do not like about MD recorders has been the mini jacks used for the mic/line input and headphone/line output. Although understandable to a degree in a device of this size, they simply do not hold up to repeated stress over time. I do not consider these adequate for professional use unless Sony has come up with a way these can be easily field-serviced. Unfortunately, this Achilles Heel has contributed to many folks considering the MD recorder "disposable" devices.

Finally, the MZ-M200 comes with some useful accessories, such as an AC power adapter designed to work with the USB cable; a remote control; a set of ear buds; and a compact stereo microphone, which is actually a lot of fun for field recordings. A Lithium-Ion battery provides 5–10 hours of record time and 8 to 19 hours of playback time depending on the format.

It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the details regarding the different formats and features of which this portable MD recorder is capable. Suffice it to say, it was designed for the broadcast or studio professional. Those looking for a way to archive high-quality sound will find the many aspects of this recorder attractive. Those wishing to archive music such as home studio recordings or live concerts, i.e. in the uncompressed LinearPCM mode, also will discover much to like about this palm-sized wonder.

Friday, November 17, 2006

RealNetworks, Napster Swap Fortunes

Before Apple (AAPL - commentary - Cramer's Take - Rating) had its iTunes, Napster (NAPS - commentary - Cramer's Take - Rating) was the cool kid of online music, while RealNetworks (RNWK - commentary - Cramer's Take - Rating) provoked user frustration with its clunky, ad-infested media player.
But the companies chasing the Apple online-music kingdom have swapped reputations, at least on Wall Street: Real has made nice strides to grow its diverse media business (and declutter its media player, thankfully), while Napster is losing favor after bleeding cash and customers.

The two companies, both vying to lure music fans from Apple's tight grip, are at a disadvantage without a seamless connection to the iPod, the No. 1-music digital music player on the market.

Likewise, "they're both dealing with the fact that the subscription model is still looking for its legs," says Mike McGuire, an analyst with Gartner. Subscription services charge about $15 a month for unlimited music, as long as the customer continues to pay, while iTunes sells music downloads for keeps by song or album.

With the oomph of its brand behind it, one would've expected Napster to have a leg up on Real. But now it looks like it barely has a leg to stand on, short of getting acquired. The company soared 38% in the weeks after hiring a banker to explore its options, but the lack of news regarding interested shoppers has started to weigh on shares, and the stock has fallen about 11% this month to $4.37.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Saving Sony, one console at a time - News at GameSpot

By Daniel Terdiman,

No doubt, there will be lines of hardcore gamers waiting outside retailers across the country late Thursday night, and all expectations are that every PS3 available will be sold before Christmas. That certainly would be good news for Sony, a company that could use a dose of holiday cheer.

Simply put, the PS3 is about more than just gaming for Sony: It's about selling high-definition DVDs and televisions. It's about making investments in cutting-edge technologies pay off. Most of all, it's about improving a once-admired brand that's been badly tarnished over the past year by the recall of hundreds of thousands of laptop batteries, the controversial installation of so-called rootkit software on music CDs, and a government investigation into the company's static random-access memory (SRAM) business.

"They've been kind of beaten down by all the different things going on," said Adrienne Downey, a senior analyst with Semico. "They've really been hoping that the PS3 would be a turning point for the company. If they can get a successful launch of the PS3, they can begin to rebuild mindshare among consumers who were beginning to think that the Sony brand is not what it used to be."

For more than a decade, Sony has dominated the game console business. Between its original PlayStation, which launched in 1994, and its PlayStation 2, which arrived in 2000, Sony has sold well more than 200 million consoles and overtaken the previous leader, Nintendo.

"The PS3 is hugely important for the company right now," said Richard Shim, a senior analyst with IDC. "They're reeling from a series of events [and the PlayStation] has really been the go-to product for them for the last few years."

Holding on to the game console market won't be a cakewalk. Sony has to contend with Microsoft--whose own next-generation console, the Xbox 360, has been on the market for a year and which has already sold more than 6 million units--as well as with Nintendo, which is launching the much-hyped and well-regarded Wii early Sunday morning.

The PS3 is seen in many circles as a technological marvel with stunning graphics, a motion-sensitive controller, a Blu-ray player, and impressive networking capabilities. But the console has also been beset by its own set of blunders--release delays, problems with its blue diode lasers, compatibility issues with older games, and expected supply shortages that could last until spring.

And some worry that its price--$599 for a top-end model--is too high to appeal to a wide audience, even as Sony has had to subsidize the machine's $800 manufacturing price tag. Like Microsoft, Sony is willing to lose money on the console with the hope of making it up on games sales.

There's little doubt that the PS3 will sell like gangbusters in the early going. But the question remains as to how it will sell in the long haul. Some believe it is well-positioned to ultimately win the console war with Microsoft and Nintendo due to intense brand loyalty from video game players and due to new technology.

But if it doesn't live up to expectations, the PS3 could put a real hurt on several other elements of Sony's overall strategy.

First, the company is counting on the PS3 to put Blu-ray players in millions of households and drive sales of Blu-ray movies and other content. Some even think that Blu-ray buyers may choose PS3s because its price is significantly lower than standalone Blu-ray players are expected to be.

"The PS3 is critically important to the future of Blu-ray," Semico's Downey said. "Sony's been betting on the PS3 to launch Blu-ray for some time now, so they're really hoping [it] will sell well and take off and get Blu-ray into all those households."

If the PS3 doesn't sell well, "would Blu-ray still win?" asked Ted Schadler, an analyst with Forrester Research who has predicted the format's ultimate victory over the competing HD DVD. "My bet is that it would. But it would be a slower victory. The PS3 is like an accelerant [for Blu-ray], like gasoline on the fire. It could delay the clear winner [of the Blu-ray/HD DVD war] by a year if this thing bombs in the market."

Similarly, Sony and partners IBM and Toshiba have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the creation of the Cell processor, the PS3's brain. Some industry watchers believe that the investment is riding on the console's success.

That said, Tony Massimini, chief of technology at the analyst firm Semico, said he sees the importance of the PS3 to the processor and the infrastructure but believes that the companies behind the Cell will push it regardless of PS3's fortunes.

"Initially, the PS3 is important. But in the long term, it's [just] one of several markets," said Massimini, referring to high-definition video equipment and other products that can use the Cell. "I don't think it would necessarily [be a problem] for the Cell [if the PS3 fails]. Too much has been put into it."

Sony also hopes the PS3 can play a big role in the digital living room.

Richard Doherty, president of the analyst firm Envisioneering, said the PS3, which ships with high-speed, gigabit capability, could be the device that enables consumers to bring in all manner of multimedia content to their homes for years to come, much of which Sony will surely try to sell directly or at least get some revenue from.

Sony acknowledges the importance of the PS3 to its future. "I think we've [the PlayStation group] contributed up to half of the bottom line profits to Sony," said Jack Tretton, vice president of sales and marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America. "We're a key pillar in the Sony strategy. [But] with that comes a lot of expectation and a lot of pressure."

The console could have a big effect on sales of Sony high-definition TVs, Sony's movies on Blu-ray DVDs, and the company's music library, he said.

"In the past, we were in the gaming business, and the gaming business had very loose ties, if any, to other [Sony] divisions," Tretton said. "With PS3, we have very direct ties."

Ultimately, Sony has great hopes for the PS3. But the ragged lead-up to the product launch early Friday morning has reminded many of how much the electronics giant has riding on this release.

Sony's "legacy is that they're an engineering company, and that's what they hang their hat on," Shim said. "So if they're unable to put out a product that doesn't have bugs, then that hits them right in the heart of their competency."

Planes to Use Apple iPods - New York Times

Airline passengers will soon be able to connect their iPods to in-flight entertainment systems and watch their favorite videos while traveling on any of six major carriers, the iPod maker Apple Computer said yesterday.

Air France, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, KLM and the United Airlines unit of the UAL Corporation will begin offering passengers iPod seat connections, which power and charge iPods during flight and allow video on the devices to be viewed on seat-back displays.

The service will begin in the middle of next year. Other terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Apple said it was working on introducing the iPod service on other airlines.

To date, Apple has sold nearly 70 million iPods and more than 1.5 billion songs through its iTunes music store. It has also made popular TV shows and movies available for purchase and download through its Internet store.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chipidea Audio Codec IP Provides High Performance on Small Chip Area for Low Power Applications

Portable Multimedia Applications Benefit from High-Quality Sound and Broad Range of Features

LISBON, Portugal--November 15, 2006--Chipidea®, the world's leading provider of analog/mixed-signal silicon intellectual property, today announced the most complete portfolio of audio codec IP for mobile applications. The IP exhibits a unique blend of audio features, audio performance and risk-free integration for System-on-Chip (SoC) devices and multi-chip modules (McMs) targeting mobile audio, communications and multimedia systems. The low power consumption and range of features included by this line of IP offer the semiconductor industry unprecedented versatility and ease of integration.

The most compelling features of Chipidea's audio solutions are the low power consumption, and very low area for a complete stereo codec featuring microphone, line-in/out, headphone and speaker analog interfaces and high-fidelity audio performance up to 100dB in dynamic range. In addition, the codec IP is designed with sigma-delta technology, which has low sensitivity to interference and cross talk from power supplies and substrates.

Chipidea's audio family has two unique offerings: High-end, full-featured audio codec IP and optimized cost-performance audio codec IP. The high-end audio solutions offer both high-fidelity and full range of features including digital sound effects, jack detection, audio PLL, and more. The variety of features enables the integration of audio functions on McMs and SoCs that were previously only available from standalone ICs.

The optimized cost-performance audio codec IP enables high-fidelity audio quality with multiple analog interface capabilities, such as microphone, line-in/out, headphone and loudspeaker. The IP is very compact in area at around 2.7mm2 to help SoC designers keep their die sizes small and keep manufacturing costs low. It also offers very low power consumption of 12mW for 96dB DR in playback at 48 kHz.

"Manufacturers need to deliver a high-quality audio experience while assuring long playback times for battery-operated devices, under competitive pricing in the market," said Joao Risques, product line manager of Audio and Power Management Solutions for Chipidea. "Our optimized cost-performance audio codecs are affordable SoC-ready IP meaning they are optimized for low area and low power while still allowing designers to select precisely the features they need. In addition, Chipidea can offer to designers high-end, hi-fi audio codecs that are directly comparable with market IC products from leading IC vendors, a solution that to our knowledge has no match in any other IP vendor portfolio."

Chipidea's staff has worked closely with customers to develop the new features in the latest generation of IP and they can be adapted for a wide variety of applications, which helps reduce risk in the integration process.

A full range of feature, cost and performance options gives Chipidea's audio codec IP the flexibility to be configured for the specific needs of any Integrated Device Manufacturer (IDM), Application-Specific Integrated Circuit vendor, Application-Specific Standard Product vendor, fabless IC provider, IP provider or design center. Chipidea's audio codec IP is ideally designed for MP3 players and recorders, multi-format players and recorders (AAC, WMA and others), CD and MiniDisc players and recorders, DVD-R players and recorders, PDAs, mobile phones, smart phones and Portable Media Players (PMP).

Designers can achieve fast time-to-market with Chipidea's audio codec IP family as it is available in several foundry process technologies ranging from 0.18-micron down to 65 nanometers. Previous generations of Chipidea codecs have been widely adopted by the industry and the company has used this experience to develop this new codec IP.

The Chipidea CI7819pg is a high-end audio IP and the CI7825tl is an optimized cost-performance audio IP.

About Chipidea

Chipidea Microelectronica S.A. is the world's leading provider of analog/mixed-signal silicon intellectual property, according to market researcher Gartner Dataquest Inc. The company is a key supplier to system-on-chip designers targeting fast-growing market segments in wireless communications, digital media and consumer electronics. With the industry's most comprehensive portfolio of silicon-proven technology across a variety of product lines, Chipidea offers the widest breadth of intellectual property solutions for the world's multi-function integrated circuit industry. Chipidea works hand-in-hand with its customers to ensure that its unique analog/mixed-signal expertise results in silicon success. Based in Lisbon, Portugal, Chipidea employs 230 people in research, development and sales and marketing offices across Europe, Asia and North America. Information about Chipidea can be found at

PlayStation 3 Unable to Play Some of Sony’s Earlier Games - New York Times

TOKYO, Wednesday, Nov. 15 (AP) — Sony’s new PlayStation 3 cannot play some of the games designed for previous generations of the popular console, the latest misstep for the company as it faces off in a crucial three-way war with Nintendo and Microsoft.

Sony, which has fallen behind in crucial products like flat-panel TVs and digital music players, badly needs a best seller in the PlayStation 3. The console went on sale here to hordes of eager fans over the weekend, ahead of its release on Friday in the United States.

On Tuesday, the company acknowledged the console would not run some of the 8,000 titles designed for previous PlayStations — even though the PlayStation 3 was billed as being fully compatible with older-generation games.

For instance, the console might not play background music to the popular Tekken 5 combat game, and some scenes from the Gran Tourismo racing game might freeze, Sony said. The game Suikoden III cannot read data from a first-generation PlayStation, while a virtual gun in one of the Biohazard games will not fire properly.

Some older games will not run on the console at all, said a spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment, Satoshi Fukuoka. Online upgrades of the PlayStation 3 software will be offered, but it is unlikely that all the problems will ever get fixed, he said.

Mr. Fukuoka insisted that the company anticipated the incompatibilities and outlined them on its Japanese Web site on Nov. 11, when the console hit stores here. The Microsoft Xbox 360, which made its debut last year, has had similar problems with older games.

The compatibility problem is the latest in a series of setbacks for the console, which will compete with Nintendo’s Wii and the Xbox 360. The Wii goes on sale Sunday in the United States.

PlayStation 3 was initially promised for worldwide sales for spring this year, but was postponed in March to November, and the European sales date has been delayed by another four months.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Up Close and Personal With Zune, Microsoft's 'iPod Killer'

Nov. 10, 2006 — What looks like an iPod, acts like an iPod, plays music, videos and photos like an iPod but isn't an iPod? If Microsoft has anything to say about it, the answer is Zune.

The 30-gigabyte Zune, a portable media player created to unseat the reigning king of digital media players, Apple's iPod, arrives in stores Nov. 14.

"It's coming into the market at the cusp of the holiday buying season, and I would expect some aggressive advertising," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for the NPD Group. "But the iPod remains a very strong competitor. It's a smaller device, has a longer battery life, is well-marketed and, arguably, has more media support out of the gate."

Priced at around $250 to compete with Apple's 30 gig iPod, Microsoft will launch a digital download store à la iTunes, where Zune owners can buy songs for about $1 each and albums at prices comparable to iTunes'.

With Apple in firm control of more than 70 percent of the digital media player market, Microsoft has its work cut out for it, even though close to 70 percent of Americans don't even own a player yet. A recent survey by ABI Research showed that 58 percent of existing iPod owners and 59 percent of the people polled who owned other players said they'd consider buying a Zune instead of an iPod or another player — all good news for Microsoft.

"Micrsoft is a very strong global brand. It's going to help the consideration factor, but ultimately, it's just a factor," said Rubin. "People are going to make choices on features, on form … and on the quality of the integrated experience."

At a private event in New York City — hidden from the prying eyes and ears of gadget geeks and audiophiles — Microsoft rolled out the welcome mat for and other journalists for a hands-on look at the Zune and music download store it hopes will be the next big thing.

'Welcome to the Social'

With images of coolly dressed 20-somethings gleefully playing with their Zunes projected on the stark white walls of a Chelsea loft, the target audience for Zune is obvious. So is the company's urge to make Zune a social movement rather than just a way to listen to music.

The slogan "welcome to the social" appears on Zune Web sites and was prominently displayed throughout the event room, further evidence of the company's intentions.

Sony PlayStation 3 Debuts in Japan to Long Lines, Short Supply

By Stuart Biggs

Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Akihiro Okawa waited all night to be among the first to buy Sony Corp.'s Playstation 3 game console when it went on sale at 7 a.m. in Tokyo.

Okawa, a 25-year-old office worker, was the first of more than 1,000 fans who queued overnight to buy Sony's latest game machine at Yodobashi Camera Co. in Akihabara, an area of Tokyo famous for its electronics stores.

Demand outstripped supply at the store because Sony, which halved its 2006 shipments forecast to 2 million because of a shortage of parts, limited initial deliveries in Japan to 100,000. The company said last month it would cut the new machine's price to 49,980 yen ($425) from 59,800 yen after complaints from gamers. The Playstation 3 goes on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 17.

``When Sony announced the Playstation 3 I really wanted one, but thought I should wait because of the high price,'' Okawa said. ``When they cut the price, I decided to go ahead.'' The Tokyo resident told reporters he bought the console along with the ``Gundam'' game.

Yodobashi's Akihabara store had 1,980 consoles available, the most in Japan, according to store manager Shinichi Adachi.

``Even if we had 4,000 we'd still sell out today,'' Adachi said. ``I'd like to know when we'll get another delivery from Sony, but they're not saying.''

The Playstation 3 employs a new Cell processor 40 times faster than the chip in its predecessor. Sony is also betting game fans will prefer the PlayStation 3's souped-up graphics and more lifelike characters over a competing console from Japanese rival Nintendo Co.

Digital Home

Sony spent 200 billion yen ($1.7 billion) to develop the Cell processor with International Business Machines Corp. and Toshiba Corp. making it faster than rival chips thanks to nine processing cores that let it carry out more instructions simultaneously.

The Cell chip is part of Sony's strategy to beat Microsoft Corp. and Apple Computer Inc. in controlling the digital home, a future network in which appliances are connected to each other and to the Internet.

Nintendo's Wii console, which goes on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 19 and two weeks later in Japan, uses less-sophisticated graphics but woos game fans with an innovative wireless control system based on hand motions.

The PlayStation 3's ``graphics capability is probably two generations ahead of the other consoles,'' Hirokazu Hamamura, chief executive officer at researcher and publisher Enterbrain Inc. told reporters in September.

Battery Woes

Sony will need all the help it can get. The company is in the process of recovering from a 51.2 billion yen recall of 9.6 million laptop batteries on concern they catch fire. The cost contributed to Sony cutting its net income forecast for the year ending March 31 to 80 billion yen from 130 billion yen.

The games business generated 918 billion yen in sales in 2006, 12 percent of Sony's 7.48 trillion yen revenue. Sales at the games unit gained an average 31 percent in the past two years, the second fastest after financial services, which averaged 34 percent. By contrast, Sony's consumer electronics business shrank by an average 0.9 percent during the past two years.

At 49,980 yen the Playstation 3 is almost double the cost of its rivals. Microsoft sells a version of its Xbox 360 for 29,800 yen, while Nintendo will offer the Wii console for 25,000 yen.

Cupertino, California-based Apple plans to sell a $299 device called iTV in the first quarter of 2007 that lets viewers see movies on their TV sets by using a connection to a computer.

High Cost

``It could be expensive if you think this is just a games machine,'' said Yuuki Sakurai, who oversees investment planning at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Tokyo.

Sony and Toshiba have talked about building televisions and home-networking boxes using the Cell to pump several video channels to different outlets in the home.

The Cell would be unable to compete on price with chips from STMicroelectronics NV or Zoran Corp. which can already handle the most processor-intensive video compression rates, said Paul O'Donovan, Gartner Inc.'s London-based analyst on emerging technologies and semiconductors.

``Home networking won't reach the mass market for another four to five years,'' O'Donovan said. ``These companies talk about products that will contain the Cell in the future but none of them will hit the mainstream anytime soon.''

Parts Shortage

The processor isn't the only hardware Sony gambled on with the PlayStation 3. A shortage of laser components for its Blu-ray DVD device, which offers at least five times the data storage capacity of earlier DVDs, caused the company to delay the PlayStation 3's debut in Europe until March.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has sold more than 6 million Xbox 360s worldwide since introducing the console a year ago, helped by its Xbox Live online service. The company is targeting 10 million units this year.

Microsoft this week said users will be able to rent and own high-definition movies and television shows from CBS, MTV Networks and Warner Bros. on its Xbox Live service from Nov. 22.

Kyoto-based Nintendo will get exclusive games from Walt Disney Co. for its Wii console.

``Giving rivals a head start in an industry like this gives them an opportunity to come out with an even more competitive product,'' said Fukoku Mutual's Sakurai. ``Sony will make up the lost ground only if its rivals remain stationary, and that is wishful thinking.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How “The Mobiles Show” Uses MiniDisc For Everything » blog » Blog Archive

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Blu Ray Demo

I have seen the future of home entertainment and its name is Blu Ray. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Blu Ray is one of the two new formats that are set to replace DVD, probably completely by the end of the decade. The other format vying for the consumer’s hearts and minds (and don’t forget wallets) is HD-DVD. Estentially both formats are high definition ‘DVD’ type discs the difference being far superior picture quality and the ability of the discs to contain much more information that we are currently used to. The big players are currently squaring off against each other in a battle, which will remind older readers of the fight between the VHS and Betamax video formats back at the beginning of the early 1980’s.

This correspondent attended a demonstration of the capability of the Blur Ray format last week in the Irish Film Institute and boy was it impressive. Sony had flown in a number of their tech experts from Germany and the US to regal us with how wonderful their format is. Personally I could have done without the seemingly unending lecture from one of the European engineers on how the format was developed but otherwise it was a very instructive morning. I can’t comment on how Blu Ray compares to HD-DVD (purely as I have not seem the other format in action) but if it’s on a par with Blu Ray, and I believe it is, then the forthcoming battle in the high street retailers should be interesting. The biggest single difference between the two formats is that Blu Ray discs can hold 50 GB as opposed to 30 with HD-DVD. However I understand that the first generation of HD-DVD players will be cheaper. How much so is unclear at present.

Ultimately the victor in the forthcoming war to take over our living rooms i.e. the company that sells the most units of it’s home player, will be the one that has the greater number of the big studios suplying them with movies. If you have the right titles then surely you will sell more players. Oh, and for those of you wondering what will happen your existing DVD collections, rest assured. Both formats will play CD and DVD. If you’re interested in upgrading to this system you should seem them turning up in shops windows any day now, just in time for Christmas, natch. Be warned however don’t expect to get much change from €1,500. Will it be worth it? You tell me.

P.S. A wee note to the first person to buy a player in either format. Drop us a line here at IrishDev and we’ll be around to yours with a six-pack and a pizza. What do you drink?

Since this piece was written it seems that the arrival of Blu Ray has run into problems. The player, which has been plagued with problems ranging from software glitches to parts shortages, has seen numerous delays this year. The official Sony website posted a notice over the weekend that the "targeted availability" of the player will be "on or about December 4, 2006."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

ATRACLife | Pink, Silver and Metallic Blue PSP Set to Debut in Japan this Fall/Winter 2006

The Pink (PSP-1000 PK), Silver (PSP-1000 SV) and Metallic Blue (PSP-1000 MB) PSPs as shown during Tokyo Game Show 2006 will finally be available for retail sale in Japan beginning November 22, December 14 and December 21 respectively for 20,790 yen (approx. USD$177) each. The new color variation will set the Japanese domestic market with five standard PSPs.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sony Releases Silver PlayStation2 - Electronic House Magazine

If you don't feel like fighting holiday shoppers for a Nintendo Wii or the new PS3, you can give the gift of flash with a silver PlayStation2. GameSpot says that Sony plans to release a limited "silver edition" for $130.

The silver edition sounds exactly like the one you've come to know and love deeply, except it's a different color. In other words, if you don't have the cash to blow on one of the newer consoles, your money is still good with Sony!

The new model is in stores now. Get 'em while they last! -- Rachel Cericola

In stores now
DVD/CD playback
Digital surround sound
2 memory card slots
Integrated Ethernet port

Audio News for October 24, 2006

Japan Gets New Audio Products; Consumer Electronics Show for 2007 Expands; CEA Industry Forum Held in SF

Japan Gets New Audio Products - But not the rest of the world - at least not yet. The following items were introduced at the recent CEATEC show in Japan: A D-Dock HDD shelf system from Panasonic, which records CDs and transfers audio to a docked SD memory card. The card can be used in D-Snap MP3 portables as well as other similar portable devices. An earlier D-Dock unit lacked the internal hard drive but could transfer content to the SD card at 4x speed from its five-disc changer. (In the U.S. Philips offers an HDD-equipped shelf system, part of a wireless multiroom audio system.)

JVC showed two HDD shelf systems - a 40GB model with both a CD and a MiniDisc recorder and an 80GB microsystem without the MD - more likely to be offered in the U.S. eventually since MiniDisc is mainly popular just in Japan. This UX-HD9 has a CD player, USB capability, and can download protected music files directly from the Internet. Pricing was not mentioned.

Consumer Electronics Show for 2007 Expands - The world's largest annual consumer technology trade show (no doubt about it - it is LARGE!), the 2007 International CES, runs from January 8 to 11 in Las Vegas. It has grown so much that to accommodate all the displays and events the Las Vegas Convention Center is being augmented with Halls B, C & D at the Sands Expo and Convention Center and parts of the adjoining Venetian Hotel, as well as the Las Vegas Hilton. The entire show will cover 1.6 million square feet. Keynote speakers will be heard at the Palazzo Ballroom of the Sands/Venetian rather than at the former Convention Center. The Alexis Hotel is no longer the "specialty audio" venue, and over 200 audio and home theater exhibitors will be found at the Sands/Venetian. Early signups include Sumiko, Musical Surroundings, Thiel and MBL. The same location will be home to Innovations Plus, featuring more than 12 emerging technology-related TechZones, Innovations Honorees displays, conference sessions and select CES Partner Programs. Attendees will be able to use touch-screen voting kiosks to vote for their favorite Innovations product. More information, including registration, at: [It is interesting that in the three-page news release, the word "audio" appears only twice and only one sentence mentions the audio exhibits.]

CEA Industry Forum Held in SF - Last week's Industry Forum, held by the Consumer Electronics Association in San Francisco, focused on consumer purchase patterns, trends in the digital home, recruiting employees and international trade. One panel was on "Understanding How Consumers Use the Internet to Research and Shop for CE Products." Another was titled "Digital Home: Enabling the Next-Generation Multimedia Experience." It discussed the results of a survey of 10,000 global consumers to better understand consumer needs and wants regarding technology. Mark Cuban, chairman and president of HDNet, was featured speaker at the member meeting and luncheon. He spoke on the opportunities which HDTV is presenting to consumers and the industry: "People are fixated on the Internet - which is what the past ten years have been about - when a great deal of change and opportunity will be generated by the HDTV reality."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

PS3 will win say Yankees

Some of us believe that the future of the videogame industry is impossible to predict due to the unthinkable myriad of demographic, economic and developmental factors that contribute to the varying fortunes of different platforms. But we're wrong. Research companies know what's going to happen and thankfully they're willing to tell us.
This time The Yankee Group has issued a report announcing that Sony will hold off the stern challenges from Microsoft and Nintendo to once again dominate the world of interactive entertainments. The company's press release makes the following ardent declaration (if you would like the future of the videogame industry to remain a fantastical mystery please look away now:
by 2011 the PlayStation 3 will have sold about 30 million units and account for
44% of cumulative third-generation console sales in North America.
Comparatively, Microsoft will have sold nearly 27 million units by 2011,
accounting for 40% of the market and Nintendo will have sold just over 11
million units, accounting for 16% of the market.
I'd love to know how they come up with these figures - so precise, so assured. There must be complex mathematics and computers involved. I would hate to visit their offices and find a room full of smoking chimpanzees locked in cages and forced to point at pictures of different videogame consoles.
Unperturbed by the seeming impossibility of the task, they make more prophesies later in the release:
Overall, fewer consoles will be sold this generation. Yankee Group anticipates
that as a result of higher console prices, overall unit sales will lag the
previous generation of consoles (i.e., PS2, Xbox and GameCube).
will put significant price pressure on Sony during the PS3's lifecycle. In
addition to starting at a lower price than the PS3, Microsoft is well positioned
to make a large price cut in the spring of 2007 and each year
thereafter--putting significant price pressure on Sony.
Thank you for that Yankee Group. Thank God someone knows what's going on.

Sony 50GB Dual Layer Blu-ray Discs Hit U.S.

Sony Electronics on Wednesday started shipping its 50GB dual layer Blu-ray Discs (BD) that feature its AccuCORE technology, though the discs can only be recorded onto once, according to a August 16 Sony press release on
Sony said it will ship rewritable, dual layer 50GB discs by the end of the year.
Mike Lucas, director of marketing with Sony Electronics’ Media and Applications Solutions Division, said, “The arrival of 50GB Blu-ray Disc media is an important step in the evolution of this new format.”
Lucas also said the 50GB dual layer BDs can record up to four hours of HD quality video content at a transfer rate of 24 Mbps.

The discs feature Sony’s AccuCore technology, which provides such features as a scratch protector surface, strong archiving capability to prevent data corruption, and temperature safeguards to help protect against extreme heat or cold, according to the release.
Related Links:
U.S., Japan to Share Blu-ray Region Code
Report: DVD Format Wars to End in Draw

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hi-MD specs

Hi there
I invite you all to read the specs of'll be surprised!

Minidisco and Planet Minidisc Merge

David Karon, owner of Minidisco, has lifted the veil off the new version of his company. The aesthetics of the redesigned site is quite keen and general usability has improved greatly.

Monday, August 07, 2006

CDs will remain the main format

CDs will remain the main format

In commercial terms, music certainly generates a higher market value than the other arts, although a comprehensive market size for music in all its manifestations is impossible to calculate. Key Note has put a value of £3.03bn on consumer spending on music in 2005, derived from three sectors: recorded music ( which accounts for the bulk of the market ), live music and musical instruments. However, data for other related markets are included, such as equipment for home listening and viewing.

Amateur participation in music is on the increase generally and one in five adults describe music as their 'main hobby'. However, despite the interest in music, only 18% of adults go to concerts regularly, and Key Note believes there is great potential for the live music market. Encouragement for live events comes from public funders, such as the Art Councils, although funding is biased towards the more intellectual or minority types of music ( classical, jazz and world music ).

In mainstream music, recording and marketing are now dominated by just four 'majors' worldwide, one of which is the UK's own giant record company, EMI Group PLC. The other majors are Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, based in the US, and Sony BMG, a Japanese/German joint venture only created in 2004.

One of EMI's major strengths is its historic catalogue of recordings — and copyrights — which includes The Beatles and many other enduring acts of the last century. Although the music headlines tend to be dominated by new artists — for example, the Arctic Monkeys, whose first album shot to number one in 2006 — the fact is that most people's music tastes are fairly conservative and are rooted in the music they grew up with. Key Note's survey of artists that the public would take to a 'desert island' was topped by Abba, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Madonna, although Beethoven came fifth.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

ATRACLife | Gracenote® Security Update for Sony

ATRACLife | Gracenote® Security Update for Sony: "Gracenote® Security Update for Sony
Recently, a security vulnerability has been identified within the Gracenote® CDDB (CD Database) lookup service application utilized by certain versions of Sony music management software. The Gracenote CDDB lookup service provides music-related information such as artist, title and tracklist through the software. As of the date of this update, neither Sony nor Gracenote has received reports of any customers being adversely impacted by this issue. However, we take all security issues very seriously. If you use any of the Sony music management software listed below (e.g., in connection with a VAIO computer or with a Walkman® portable music player), we recommend that you download the Gracenote Update and install it on your PC.
What is the issue?
A security vulnerability (in this case known as a “buffer overflow”) has been identified in an ActiveX® control for the Gracenote CDDB lookup service. This vulnerability could allow an attacker to load malicious code onto a user’s system and then execute the code, potentially resulting in loss or misappropriation of data on your PC.
Affected Software Applications
Sony CONNECT Player
Sony SonicStage Ver.3.3/3.4
Sony SonicStage Mastering Studio Ver.2.1/2.2
Sony Do VAIO Ver.1.6
NOTE: If you do not have any of the specified versions of the Sony software applications listed above, this notice does not apply to you. Similarly, if you have SonicStage CP 4.0, you do not need to execute the update.
The installer is named GracenoteUpdateForSony.exe and is 2.9MB in size. If your browser offers a RUN or OPEN option you may select it when you click the download link, otherwise please take note o"

Kotaku Confirms Rumor: UMDs Pulled From Target Stores - Gizmodo

Kotaku Confirms Rumor: UMDs Pulled From Target Stores - Gizmodo: "Kotaku Confirms Rumor: UMDs Pulled From Target Stores
Following up a post from yesterday, we heard a Target employee noticed prerecorded movies distributed on Sony UMDs (an acronym meaning UnMitigated Disaster, um, rather, Universal Media Disc) were suddenly absent from the store where he worked, and from other Target locations, too.
Now our beloved brothers at Kotaku have found confirmation from another reader, saying the chain has decided to devote shelf space to other products, but noted that Target will keep trying to move those slow-selling PlayStation portable UMD disks on its web site.
Kotaku sleuths further confirmed by calling a couple of local Target stores, which admitted that the doomed UMD products were indeed no longer on sale at Target retail outlets. Can every other store in the world be far behind? Die, UMD, die! And every other proprietary format! And the horse you rode in on! – Charlie White
Rumor Confirmed: Target Pulls UMDs From Stores [Kotaku]"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Apple left fearing the iPod backlash

Apple left fearing the iPod backlash
Mark Prigg, Evening Standard
11 July 2006

THEY are the must-have gadgets for thousands of music-loving Londoners. But there is increasing evidence that the iPod could go the way of the Betamax video and the MiniDisc.

Some owners of the Apple MP3 players are reporting a series of serious technical faults with their machines and are turning their attentions to other brands.

They claim:

• The batteries in older iPod models - which cost up to £300 - refuse to recharge after only a year of use, rendering the gadgets useless.

• The newly launched iPod Nano has a faulty screen that is easy to scratch. Appl e admits there is a problem and has had to issue protective carriers.

• On Apple's internet chatroom, owners of the iPod Shuffle are complaining that their players have simply crashed altogether. A website devoted to this particular problem has had 40,000 visits.

Ethical issues are also emerging. Apple is investigating claims of sweatshop conditions in the Chinese factories where they are made. Meanwhile rival models,which cheaper and look slicker, are entering the market. Sony has had success with its Walkman phones and Microsoft is said to be preparing a rival for Christmas.

Adam Vaughan of gadget magazine Stuff said: 'People are looking for the next big thing and the iPod is suffering. They seem to be facing a backlash and their competitors are all doing well.'

Apple denies it has a problem with quality. Greg Joswiak, vice-president of iPod marketing, said it had a first-year failure rate of five per cent: 'A lot of products don't enjoy such a low failure rate. Mobile phones can be up to 30%.'

The glitches

iPod Nano, - £169, introduced in 2005 - scratches easily forcing Apple to include a free case in the box.

iPod Shuffle - from £69, introduced in 2005 - some users report machine freezing up.

iPod - £299, first introduced in 2002 - battery problems common.

Microsoft's 'secret' handheld named

Microsoft's 'secret' handheld named
Staff reporter
Tue, 11 Jul 2006
It seems that the more Microsoft tries to keep the lid on the handheld media-player reportedly being developed by the software giant, the more information is leaking, including a name for the project.

According to the daily newspaper the Seattle Times, Microsoft's corporate vice president, J Allard, is heading up a secret project titled "Argo", which is a reference to the warship used by Jason in Greek mythology.

Apparently what Microsoft is working on will be more than merely a single "iPod-killer" device, but rather a series of devices: "What's being developed is actually a complete line of Xbox-branded digital-media products, including a device that plays media, a software media player and an online media service," the Seattle Times reports, citing an insider "close to the project" as a source.

The devices will also feature wireless Wi-Fi capability according to the daily, which will give Microsoft an edge over rival Apple's iPod, which relies on traditional wires.

Given Microsoft's history with using rumour to build hype, there is probably a lot of truth behind the rumours. The Seattle Times hints at an announcement from Microsoft on July 27th at the company's annual financial meeting.

One can only hope.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Microsoft is developing its own handheld music and video player to take on the iPod

You didn't think Microsoft would sit on the sidelines forever as its longtime rival Apple Computer grew into the 800-pound gorilla of portable music, did you? After years of allowing other manufacturers to make MP3 players that used its software, Microsoft is developing its own handheld music and video player to take on the iPod, according to a report in The New York Times.

And it will have at least one thing the iPod doesn't: WiFi capabilities that would let users download music without connecting to a computer.

The unnamed device is expected to be in stores by the holidays, and would also have a more advanced video screen than the iPod, according to unnamed executives who spoke to the Times. In another bid to rival Apple, Microsoft is in the midst of negotiations with major record companies and some TV networks to reach an agreement that would allow it to sell music and video content online through an iTunes-like download store.

Bloomberg News reported that Microsoft has hired music industry executive Chris Stephenson to meet with music and movie companies to seek licenses for their content. So far he's talked to the EMI Group (Beatles, Coldplay, Gorillaz) and Universal Music Group (Ashlee Simpson, Fall Out Boy, Jimi Hendrix), as well as NBC, Fox and CBS, according to the report.

Though Microsoft has licensed its software to companies including Samsung, Sony and Creative Technology for use in portable MP3 devices, the new player would be its most serious challenge yet to the iPod, which has more than 75 percent of the digital player market, to go along with the 72 percent of the digital download market held by iTunes.

Experts said the decision to develop its own device is a sign that after six years Microsoft is no longer content to let other companies try to cut into Apple's seemingly insurmountable lead. "If this is true, then this is them trying to take more control over the situation," Mike McGuire, vice president for research on mobile devices at Gartner, which tracks the electronics market, told the Times. "In effect, they're basically saying, 'We think we can do something better' " than existing hardware manufacturers.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment to the Times on the report, but a senior executive at a major TV network said that even though Microsoft had not yet received commitments from the networks to supply programming to the online store, they were open to working with a rival to Apple's iTunes, which has been criticized by the music industry for refusing to offer multi-tiered pricing in favor of 99-cent per-song prices across the board.

Bloomberg reported that Microsoft's device is being developed under the eye of Robbie Bach, head of the unit that produced the Xbox game console, the software company's most significant — and successful — venture into building its own hardware.

For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.

— Gil Kaufman