Contact Me By Email

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sharp releases W-ZERO3 / WS003SH qwerty Pocket PC - Engadget -

Sharp releases W-ZERO3 / WS003SH qwerty Pocket PC - Engadget - www.engadget.comSharp releases W-ZERO3 / WS003SH qwerty Pocket PC

Posted Oct 20, 2005, 9:40 AM ET by Ryan Block
Related entries: Cellphones, Handhelds

Sharp W-ZERO3 / WS003SHSharp W-ZERO3 / WS003SH

Take one dash HTC Wizard / Apache, a heaping spoonful of HTC Universal, a pinch of Zaurus, mix liberally with Japanese engineering, bake at 375°, and you’ve got Sharp’s new Universal killer, the W-ZERO3 / WS003SH being released on Willcom. Hm, “Universal killer,” didn’t think we’d be saying those words so soon, eh? But this sucker runs Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC, and has a 3.7-inch VGA touchscreen, 416MHz Xscale processor, 128MB of flash, 64MB of RAM, a MiniSD slot, mini-USB, 802.11b, W-SIM, and a 1.33 megapixel camera. Ah, this fickle heart, how easily swayed we are. Oh, and if you thought the Universal was hugemongous, well, the W-ZERO3 is still freaking ginormous at 70 x 130 x 26mm (2.75 x 5.1 x 1.0-inches) and 220g (7.75oz), but that’s a bit less than the 127 x 81 x 25mm/285g size n’ weight on the HTC, so chew on that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

An iPod Worth Keeping an Eye On - New York Times

An iPod Worth Keeping an Eye On - New York TimesOctober 18, 2005
An iPod Worth Keeping an Eye On

Call it the iPod Paradox: with each successive version, Apple’s 30-million-selling music player gets thinner and thinner, but its feature list grows longer and longer. By next year, no doubt, the iPod will act as a radio, remote control and coffee stirrer, but will be thin enough to roll up into a tube.

The latest model, unveiled last week, is deliciously thin (4.2 by 2.4 by about 0.5 inches). In addition to its usual repertoire (presenting music, digital photos, calendar, address book and song lyrics), it can now play video.

Now, there’s no such thing as a Video iPod. The new model is simply called the iPod; its thicker, videoless predecessors have gone off to the great eBay in the sky.

All the debate about “Will anyone buy a video iPod?” is suddenly moot, because the new model is the same excellent music player plus video.

The biggest surprise: watching video on the tiny, 2.5-inch screen (320 by 240 pixels) is completely immersive. Three unexpected factors are at work. First, the picture itself is sharp and vivid, with crisp action that never smears; the screen is noticeably brighter than on previous iPods. Second, because the audio is piped directly into your ear sockets, it has much higher fidelity and presence than most people’s TV sets. Finally, remember that a 2.5-inch screen a foot from your face fills as much of your vision as a much larger screen that’s across the room.

Many people — including Apple’s chief, Steve Jobs — have predicted that video on the iPod would never be as popular as music. One crucial reason is that watching requires your full attention. You can’t do something else simultaneously, like driving or working.

In practice, these predictions turn out to be absolutely accurate. (I established this fact through scientific hands-on testing. Unintentionally absorbed in an episode of “Lost” while walking through Grand Central Terminal, I marched directly into a steel support girder.)

Watching iPodvision also requires one free hand to hold the device, which feels awkward after a while. Remember, too, that in urban settings, where iPods are muggers’ favorite delicacies, you have to hold the thing out in full view.

You feel like you’re wearing a bumper sticker that says: “I’m an idiot. Rob me.”

In less public situations, though, pocket video is a delight; it’s escapism on demand. Waiting for the plane, waiting for the doctor and waiting for the waiter come to mind. Long car rides are a natural, too (passengers only, please).

Plane rides are somewhat less successful candidates for video, because the battery life is so poor. The 30-gigabyte model ($300), which can hold 75 hours of video or 7,500 songs, plays video for just over two hours on a charge. The 60-gigabyte model ($400) holds twice as much, but manages three hours of video playback. (Apple says that battery life is far better when playing music: 14 and 20 hours, an iPod record.)

With a $19 video cable, you can connect the iPod to a TV for a bigger picture, but don’t expect high definition. The 320 by 240 pixels of video quality, which look so pristine on the iPod’s screen, get magnified four times on a TV. The result is blurry and VHS-ish, barely tolerable from couch distance.

You load up the new iPod the same way you loaded up the old ones: by connecting it to a Mac or PC that’s running Apple’s free iTunes jukebox software, which now handles videos.

And where are you supposed to get the video in the proper file format (H.264 or MPEG-4)? You can export home movies directly from Apple’s iMovie video-editing program.

You can convert existing video files using software like QuickTime Player Pro ($30, for Mac or Windows). You can even convert commercial DVD movies, if certain Web sites are to be believed.

You can also download videos from the iTunes Music Store, which is suddenly in need of a name makeover. And here’s where things get much, much more interesting — maybe even more interesting, in fact, than the video iPod itself.

This music store offers free video podcasts, which are short, usually homemade Internet broadcasts. Pixar animated shorts cost $1.99 each. You can also buy any of 2,000 music videos for $1.99 apiece; of course, the price includes the song itself (which costs 99 cents when sold separately).

There are plenty of places online to watch music videos, but Apple has assembled the first legal centralized place to download and keep them.

But the biggest news is that Apple now sells TV shows: name-brand, day-old, network TV shows.

Incredibly, Apple has persuaded Disney, which owns ABC, to make available all episodes of five TV series, including “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “That’s So Raven.” Each show costs $1.99 — an easy impulse buy if you missed an episode.

They play back beautifully, with no network logo in the corner, no yearlong wait for the DVD, and no commercials. (One 43-minute “hour” of TV takes 12 minutes to download with my cable modem, and about two minutes to transfer to the iPod over its U.S.B. 2.0 cable. The TV shows, music videos and short films are lightly copy-protected: you can play them on up to five computers and an unlimited number of iPods, but can’t burn them to a CD or DVD.)

Selling shows the day after they’ve been broadcast may seem like an obvious money-recouper for the TV networks. But until now, TV and movie companies have been terrified by the prospect of Internet distribution; their executives still wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares of file-swapping teenagers. That Mr. Jobs persuaded Disney to dip its pinky toe into these waters is an impressive development — and a very promising sign.

Now, the new iPod is the smallest, simplest and best-looking pocket video player, but certain people should steer clear. Don’t buy the iPod if you want to buy pop music at online stores other than Apple’s; their tunes won’t play on it.

Don’t buy the iPod, either, if you’re convinced that video cries out for a bigger screen; Archos, Creative Technology, iRiver and Samsung make music/video players with 3.8- to 7-inch screens and better battery life. As a bonus, most Archos players can record directly from a DVD, TiVo or cable box, and you can load up the other brands with shows recorded from a TiVo.

But that’s not an apples-to-Apple comparison. Those players are more expensive, much bulkier, two-handers that don’t slip into a pocket unless you’re a kangaroo. (The Archos GMini 402 is only slightly larger than the iPod, and also costs $300 — but offers a smaller screen and much less capacious hard drive.) And loading them up with TV shows is infinitely more technical and awkward than Apple’s nearly effortless, one-click procedure.

Of course, most people aren’t likely to be bowled over by the breadth of Apple’s video catalog at the moment. Five TV series only? United States only? Big deal, right? Then again, the iTunes Music Store itself was an equally tiny experiment once (Macintosh only, United States only). Today, it’s a wildly successful international phenomenon.

Here’s hoping that Apple’s video trial is similarly successful — not for Apple’s sake, but for TV and movie fans. If so, the new video-capable iPod might turn out to be the crowbar that cracked what was once an uncrackable problem: how to deliver cheap, fast, convenient, economically feasible, piracy-resistant, Internet-based movies and network TV shows, on demand, to the masses.

Monday, October 17, 2005 - Magazine Article - Magazine Article'Breathtaking': Gates Gives $15M To Tech Museum
Greg Levine, 10.17.05, 1:03 PM ET

Two coasts divided by a common country.

Boston has the eclectic Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. New York City has "the Met," the Museum of Natural History and, of course, the Museum of Sex.

But the U.S.' Pacific coast is not without its cultural monuments, too.

The Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, Calif., was opened in 1996. Perhaps the cataloging of silicon chips doesn't move you as does, say, the enormity of a brontosaurus' skeleton, the eerie awe of an Egyptian tomb or even a clinical exegesis on the importance of leather apparel in pre-WWII bawdiness.

Well, Bill Gates wants to change your outlook. The chairman of Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) naturally takes all things cybernetic to heart. And the billionaire--ranked No. 1 on our Forbes 400 Richest Americans list--is taking action.

The charitable group he founded with his wife, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has pledged a $15 million gift to the museum. Officials of the Silicon Valley-based shrine to zeroes and ones, said the foundation's gift was the largest donation the museum has yet received. Further, they said the generous gift means the Computer History Museum now requires only an additional $50 million to reach its goal of $125 million--enough to allow the creation of a full range of educational programs and exhibits and establish a long-term endowment.

"The impact on our society of the computing revolution is simply breathtaking--it has changed the way we work, play, learn and communicate," The Associated Press quoted Gates as enthusing. "It's our responsibility to collect the artifacts and stories today that will explain this incredible change to future generations."

"Breathtaking" may be an adverbial description in the eye of the beholder. But hey, while we were all gasping at the tyrannosaurus rex or that special-someone's curvaceousness, Gates was busy becoming the world's richest man: $46.5 billion can make you hyperventilate.

Palm Inc. and BlackBerry Maker Will Sign a Licensing Agreement - New York Times

Palm Inc. and BlackBerry Maker Will Sign a Licensing Agreement - New York TimesOctober 17, 2005
Palm Inc. and BlackBerry Maker Will Sign a Licensing Agreement

SAN FRANCISO, Oct. 16 - Palm Inc., maker of the Treo smartphone, and its rival Research In Motion, the maker of the wireless BlackBerry device, are expected to announce on Monday a licensing agreement that could alter competition in the market for phones that offer e-mail and other functions, one of the fastest-growing segments of the cellphone industry.

As part of a broad strategy to become a software company as well as a device maker, Research In Motion, or R.I.M., will allow Treos to use its e-mail and communications technology, called BlackBerry Connect.

The deal is significant because it gives Palm, a 10-year-old Silicon Valley company, a greater opportunity to sell Treos to corporations that have spent substantial sums outfitting their workers with BlackBerrys, which are still big sellers among business users.

Treo has gained momentum in the corporate market because thousands of business software programs can run on its devices. Over the last several months, some cellphone makers, like Nokia and Sony Ericsson, have also licensed BlackBerry Connect, but they have only recently started promoting that service.

For R.I.M., the deal with Palm takes the company further down the strategic path it announced more than two years ago, after it became clear that the company needed to reinvent itself if it wanted to maintain its growth rate.

While R.I.M. continues to sign up new subscribers - in its last quarter it added 620,000 accounts, for a total of 3.65 million, its growth is starting to slow.

"It would have been a bigger deal if they hadn't done it," said John Jackson, an analyst with the Yankee Group in Boston. "It's a must-have."

In 2004, the makers of smartphones - cellphones with advanced e-mail, calendar and other computing functions - sold about 3.2 million units.

This year, that figure is expected to nearly double, to 6 million, and to reach 11 million units in 2009, according to Jupiter Media, a research group.

"It's a highly lucrative market that is widely perceived as being under-addressed," Mr. Jackson said. R.I.M., based in Waterloo, Ontario, was one of the first companies to introduce a hand-held e-mail device, and throughout the late 1990's the name BlackBerry became synonymous with mobile e-mail.

But in recent years, Palm, Dell and other device makers, along with phone companies like Nokia and Motorola, have entered that market.

At the same time, R.I.M. has been under pressure from cellular carriers and its corporate customers to strike a deal with Palm so that they can offer a variety of devices with the BlackBerry software.

"Quite frankly, we've had a very strong demand for BlackBerry on Treos," said James L. Balsillie, chief executive of R.I.M. "Our biggest interest is going in and fulfilling that pent-up demand."

Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Media, said, "It's a good idea for them to let the market decide" what software and hardware combinations customers can have. "You don't want to back your customers into a corner."

A big challenge for smartphone companies is to make sure that their products can communicate with other companies' handsets. This is particularly important for corporate customers, whose employees need to be on compatible systems.

According to Ed Colligan, Palm's chief executive, the deal with R.I.M. shows that companies must form partnerships with their rivals to meet their customers' needs. In late September, Palm announced an agreement with Microsoft to use the Windows operating system on a version of the Treo to be offered by Verizon.

Initially, BlackBerry Connect will be available only on the Treo 650, a popular version of the Treo that runs the Palm operating system. Palm plans to make it available later this year or early next year, as soon as it completes deals with cellular carriers to sell it.

One challenge that could thwart R.I.M.'s plans, however, is a legal battle that the company has been fighting with NTP Inc. for nearly four years.

NTP, a patent holding company based in Arlington, Va., says that some R.I.M. products infringe on patents held by NTP that cover the use of radio frequency communications in e-mail systems.

A federal jury found R.I.M. in violation of several of NTP's patents, and earlier this month a federal appeals court denied R.I.M.'s request to reconsider the ruling. R.I.M. executives say they are appealing the case to the Supreme Court.

Which one to pick: HTC Apache, HTC Wizard or HTC Universal?

Which one to pick: HTC Apache, HTC Wizard or HTC Universal?I imagine cellular connectivity and price are the two points users will have problems deciding between these new Pocket PC devices.

I am just testing the HTC Universal and I have now a HTC Apache for testing too. I have just played a little with a HTC Wizard as well.

What are the differences?

First, connectivity options. Users will have to decide between GSM/GPRS/3G UMTS (HTC Universal), GSM/GPRS/EDGE (HTC Wizard) or CDMA 1xRTT/EV-DO (HTC Apache). Where available this is easy: the CDMA EV-DO is faster, but for tasks such as Exchange ActiveSync even GPRS will do ok, meaning that for OTA (over-the-air) synchronisation any of these devices will work just fine.

The problem is that EDGE is available in the USA only, and a few countries in Europe. It means that anyone deciding on a HTC Wizard will have big chances of being stuck in GPRS (slow) land and the next option up for these users is the pricey HTC Universal.

In terms of prices, the HTC Universal, here in New Zealand distributed by Vodafone New Zealand as i-mate Jasjar, will cost NZ$1999 (US$1395), while the HTC Apache (via Telecom New Zealand as "Apache") will cost NZ$1199 (US$836). Granted, neither are cheap, but consumers will probably tend to the choose the HTC Apache on this criteria (if the HTC Wizard is out due to data speed limits).

For comparison, the HTC Wizard (i-mate K-Jam) will be available through Vodafone New Zealand for NZ$1599 (US$1116), but it will be an option I wouldn't look at if fast cellular connections are something that interests you.

I think the HTC Universal will be purchased by companies that want to give executives an easy to use, with fast mobile data alternative to laptops.

But don't go too fast: at least the models I've tested don't come with the new Messaging and Security Feature Pack in ROM (at the time I am writing this, check the date). This software is an add-on announced by Microsoft that, when used together with Microsoft Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2, allows push e-mail and remote device management.

It means that while OTA Exchange ActiveSync works (and I tested it fine) and the SMS-initiated AUTD is also an option, users will not be able to use the new push e-mail system introduced to eliminate the dependency on SMS-initiated mechanisms.

This will be added later by the manufacturer, but it will depend on the mobile operator or distributor to actually release the update. So check with your distributor first if this functionality is a requirement.

And by the way, just using the HTC Apache for a few hours, and it's so much faster than the HTC Universal!

PS. Just to make it clear: the HTC Apache will be sold as TNZ Apache, Sprint PPC-6700. The HTC Universal is the Dopod 900, i-mate Jasjar, O2 Xda Exec, SPV M5000, QTEK 9000, T-Mobile MDA Pro, Vodafone VPA IV. Confused? Yes, that's why we created the Smart Devices Database.