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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

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Lego viewfinder created for Sony NEX-5, lincoln log enthusiasts feel left out

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 10:28 AM PST

Do you spend your days pining for a viewfinder with some Danish building-block flair for your shiny new Sony NEX-5? Well, your camera woes have been solved -- while appealing to your childlike aesthetic sensibilities -- by a DIYer who fashioned just such a viewfinder out of some Lego blocks and parts from an old CD-ROM drive. Its complexity doesn't quite match that of an all-Lego camera, but it's a slick little solution for those who want to add some pizazz -- and functionality -- to Sony's favorite not-quite-Micro Four-Thirds shooter. Hit up the source link to see how to build one for yourself.

Google said to be hiring 'dozens' to boost Android app development

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 09:54 AM PST

We've already heard of some changes that Google's planning to make to boost app purchases in the Android Market, and it looks like it's now also undertaking a considerable in-house effort to increase the number of quality apps that are available. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google is planning to hire "dozens" of software engineers, product managers, user-interface experts and "others who have ideas for mobile apps," and it's apparently already shifted some of its current employees to work in this new "apps lab." As you might expect, that's being done at least in part to close the so-called "app gap" with Apple, and it looks like the new apps will reach far beyond Google's usual properties -- the WSJ even specifically mentions games as one area they'll focus on. The apps would also apparently all be free (but possibly ad-supported), and Google is said to be trying to woo developers with its distribution power, noting that it will be able to promote the apps in the Android Market and even have them pre-installed on many phones.

Native Instruments Maschine review and 1.6 beta first look

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 09:30 AM PST

Since it first caught the world's attention at NAMM '09, Native Instruments' Maschine has made quite a stir in the world of electronic music production and performance. A modern re-imagining of Akai's legendary sampling sequencers, it takes the MPC's raison d'être -- recording and editing samples, sequencing samples to create tracks -- and uses it as the basis of a MIDI interface / software package that is both very familiar and quite unique. Maschine can run as a stand-alone application or integrate with your DAW (digital audio workstation) as a plug-in, and the company promises quite a bit as far as sound quality and improved workflow over the Akai's legendary instruments. But does it stack up? We've recently taken a good, hard look at the latest version of the software, 1.6 beta -- and we can't wait to share our thoughts with you. Check it out after the break.

If you've ever been in a studio where hip-hop was being made, or taken in a live performance, you've probably seen an MPC. Originally designed by Roger Linn, the MPC60 (1988) combined a 16 voice sampler (12-bit / 40 KHz) with a ninety-nine track MIDI sequencer that could control up to sixty-four devices. Not only could one use this as the heart of their studio, but the thing could be used to construct the main share of an entire track, if not the entire track itself. Still very much in use today, the MPC is near and dear to the hearts of an entire generation of producers.

Maschine, however, takes this concept and throws a computer into the mix. More than just a groove box, this is essentially the MPC re-imagined to integrate seemlessly into your production workflow. It includes a stand-alone software-based sample sequencer, and through it one can program patterns, sequence patterns into songs, record and edit samples, and control your effects and audio routing. What makes Maschine special, however, is its hardware controller that features sixteen velocity-sensitive pads, two displays, transport controls, and enough knobs and buttons to give you control over any of the functions available on the software side. And the hardware serves two extremely useful purposes: as a live performance tool and as a way to combine the rough'n'ready tactile nature of a groove box with the power of modern digital audio workstations. And not only can it run as a stand-alone app, it can also be used as a plug-in (VST, AU, or RTAS) with your workstation. There is a lot this guy can do!


Using Maschine

First of all, the Maschine hardware itself is a MIDI controller -- and that's it. (OK, it isn't just a MIDI controller, it's a hardware controller that uses a "high resolution protocol allowing for advanced control possibilities and full visual feedback," according to Native Instruments; but you get the idea.) Unlike the hardware it was meant to replace, this merely acts as controls for the Maschine software residing on your computer. That said, the thing is surprisingly sturdy. The housing of the unit is plastic, with a metal faceplate up top. But in no way is this thing "plastic-y." The buttons and pads are solid as well, and don't have a ton of "give," which makes for a better experience when triggering samples than the chunkier, looser feeling pads we've seen on some samplers. Besides the USB port 'round back, this thing also sports standard MIDI input and output ports.

The best way to get comfortable with Maschine is to jump right in, in stand-alone mode. The sequencer in the application itself will probably be more than enough for a lot of you: within a few minutes, you'll be hammering out loops and arranging them into larger patterns. With eight available groups, each of with can hold up to sixteen samples, you should have enough sounds to get your ideas across.

Each sample in a group corresponds to a numbered pad on the controller's grid, for assembling drum kits (or any other sort of sample set) that can be played by hand. Once you assemble the group, there is a few things you can do: in the default mode, each pad triggers each individual sample (one for the kick drum, two for the snare, and so on). In piano roll mode, when a single sample is selected the pitch changes according to which pad you pressed (so you can hammer out simple melodies with one sample). Or you can plug in a keyboard and play an individual sample in the more traditional way. Anything that you play can be accessed through the software and fudged with their, so if you're like us and the music in your head often outpaces your performance abilities, your patterns can be quickly and easily edited and sequenced with just a few mouse clicks.

Once you get used to Maschine's way of doing things, the next step is to explore its integration with your DAW. When assembling our track, the first thing we did was come up with a few patterns in Maschine's stand-alone mode. Once we had something we liked, we created a session in Ableton Live, opened the track we created in Maschine, dragged the audio from Maschine into Live, and sequenced our track in Live. Yes, you can drag and drop both audio and MIDI from the plug-in into your DAW of choice (this feature has been available since version 1.5).

If you're going to start with the software in plug-in mode, however, you have a few more options: samples can be routed to separate channels in your DAW (to be mixed or effected from within Logic, for instance) and MIDI recorded to channels in your DAW can be used to play Maschine sounds. If you're already accustomed to making music on a computer, bringing Maschine into the mix couldn't be any more painless. And once you get used to the basics, there are plenty of options to explore.


One complaint we did have, however, was that the Maschine app was pretty crowded and hard to navigate when compared to traditional DAWs. We found ourselves moving audio and MIDI patterns into Live just so we didn't have to look at the at times cumbersome Maschine interface!

The only other major disappointment we had when playing with Maschine was that, as a stand-alone hardware controller for Ableton Live (that is, when we tried to use it as a controller for the Live software itself, without the Maschine software running) it came up a bit lacking. The idea is that, when in Ableton Live clip view, each of the sixteen squares in the controller grid corresponds to sixteen clips in Ableton. That way, instead of fumbling with a mouse you can trigger samples with the grid. If you have more than four clips across or down, you can move the whole sixteen block selection by navigating with the B, E, F, or G keys. Unfortunately, there is no way to force the clip view in the Ableton software to reflect the changes you're making on the controller, making this a non-starter for anyone who's serious about using the hardware as an interface for Live. Of course, this isn't exactly being billed by Native Instruments as such, but judging by the comments we're seeing by Maschine customers and would be customers all over the Internet, this is actually a much coveted functionality -- and one that would take the sting out of a $600 purchase for many users. We have had much better luck with Propellerhead's Reason, however. We made a pretty straightforward MIDI map for the Reason 5 Kong controller, and the two played quite nicely together. In fact, having the ability to power up our default Reason template and bang out a quick idea when we're even too lazy to bring up the Maschine stand-alone app almost took the sting out of the shortcomings of its Ableton integration.

That said, the hardware is solid and the software will likely integrate nicely into your existing DAW setup, whichever package you might use. But how does the thing sound? Well, in many cases a sampler is only as good as the sounds you use, and the six gigs of loops, patches and drum hits are all really rather impressive. The library is immense, and as you would expect from NI the selection is top-notch. Seemingly every current genre of electronic music is represented to some degree, and if there is something that you're looking for that you can't find here you can always find it elsewhere and sample it.

Maschine version 1.6 upgrade

One of the most heartening things about this device is the dedication that Native Instruments has put into upgrading the software. Of course, one of the primary advantages of using a MIDI controller / software-based setup is that, unlike stand alone hardware, the company can upgrade the product as often as it wants. And already, we've seen one major upgrade: Version 1.5 added, among other things, vintage sampling modes that emulate sound of either the MPC60 or the E-mu SP-1200; the ability to import data from various older Akai MPCs; REX 2 support; the aforementioned ability to drag and drop audio and MIDI from the app into your DAW, and more.

As for Version 1.6, the big change here is the ability to use outside VST and Audio Units plug-ins. Both effects and instruments plug-ins can be used, greatly expanding the sounds available to what is already a generous offering here. Another feature that might seem small but which was actually incredibly useful for us was the ability to drop audio files right from the OS into Maschine: rather that browsing through your directory structure in-app, you can grab that loop off your desktop and drop it into your project, the way nature intended. Trust us, it's a lot more fun than it sounds!


Conclusion

When Maschine was first introduced, people wondered what Native Instruments was thinking: Akai's MPC line was not only revolutionary when it first appeared way back in 1991, but it has continued to be immensely popular, both in actual hardware sales and in mindshare. Perhaps NI took a bit of a gamble, but they were right to do so: there is more than enough room in the market for a device that admirably fills the role of an MPC, yet has the functionality and workflow of the latest DAWs in mind. And if that weren't enough, the thing is quite a bargain: the $600 you'd spend on Maschine would only get you the most entry-level hardware in the MPC line, while something like the MPC5000 costs around $3,500 new. Right now, the biggest complaint we have with the device is that the software layout is a little cramped and can be frustrating: in this instance, it doesn't seem that the company has found the balance between a large feature set and the "everything in one screen" design that Ableton and Propellerhead have proven adept at. That said, the minor design awkwardness here is nothing compared to that of the old hardware-based sequencers that this hopes to replace. Additionally, the way that the updates have been flying fast and furiously gives us hope that Native Instruments is committed to supporting the device for some time to come.

For all of Machine's virtues, it probably isn't for everybody: its strengths lay not only in its quality (both in hardware and software) but in its ability to integrate with your existing audio workstation. If you're already an Akai sampler aficionado looking for more of the same, but better, Maschine is definitely they way to go. And if you're looking for a product that is as useful in the studio as it is for live performance (and you don't mind bringing a laptop into the club), the build quality, quality of its sample library, and its price definitely warrant that you take a second look. There are software packages (Propellerhead's Reason comes to mind) that deliver a more complete, in-the-box music production setup, but sometimes software isn't enough. And that's where Maschine takes center stage.

If you are already a Maschine user and want to sign up for the 1.6 Beta version of the software, hit the Coverage link to get started.

Google Latitude joins check-in game with Maps 5.1 for Android

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 09:11 AM PST

We're honestly surprised it took this long, but Google is finally employing a social hook that so many of its peers (Foursquare, Facebook, Yelp, and so on) have long embraced: the location-based check-in. Coming to Google Latitude with today's Maps 5.1 for Android, the company hopes to set itself apart from the competition with features like check-in notifications (disabled by default), automatic check-ins for your most frequent establishments (case-by-case activation), and "check out" that detects when you leave a location.

So what's the incentive to use the service? Not much at this point -- no badges, no sharing through third-party services like Twitter (Latitude-only at the moment), no support for simultaneous check-in with other services, no special vendor discounts (Google told us there's nothing to announce yet), and no ability to create a venue like your apartment (Places only). What it does right is a tiered system of special statuses based on check-in frequency -- you can become a regular, VIP, or Guru (Google says it's not definite yet on how many check-ins each status bump will require). iOS Latitude users will be able to see where their Android friends check in, but at this point the option to pimp your specific location is for Google's platform only. If you're a fan of Latitude already, this is probably a no-brainer, but for everyone else, don't expect mayoral coffee discounts just yet.

Motorola's Blur-flavored Gingerbread update for Droid X in the wild?

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 08:44 AM PST

You could argue that Motorola still has some work to do to emerge the hole it dug itself while pushing back major version updates for its early Android devices time and time again, but it's definitely improving -- and it looks like a Blur-ified build of Gingerbread for the Droid X is already starting to leak. As you might recall, Moto's 4.3-inch beast launched on Eclair before getting Froyo a few months later, so the fact that the company is seemingly preparing its second big update already is notable to say the least; it looks to be basically the same thing they've already shown on the Atrix, which is definitely a marked improvement from the Blur of old. No word on how the source got these shots, but we can only hope it means the over-the-air update isn't too far off.

[Thanks, Andrew]

Apple rejects Sony Reader app, really doesn't want you buying content from others (update: Apple says it needs official in-app purchases)

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 08:39 AM PST

It's been quite a while since Apple's tight reins on the App Store were a subject worth discussing, but they're back in the spotlight now following the company's rejection of Sony's Reader app for iOS. The reasons given to Sony were that Apple will not no longer accept applications that permit in-app purchases of content that don't go through Apple itself, and, moreover, will not tolerate apps that access material purchased through external content stores. So the Sony Reader Store is out -- but wait, doesn't the Kindle app spend its time serving up Kindlebooks? No comment has been offered on the matter from either Apple or Amazon, while Sony's Reader Store page describes the situation as "an impasse" and promises to seek "other avenues to bring the Reader experience to Apple mobile devices." In the mean time, you can get the Reader app for Android or just read your ebooks on a device dedicated to that task.

Update: As noted by Harry McCracken over at Technologizer, it has actually been Apple's longstanding policy to forbid in-app purchases -- the Kindle and Nook apps send you to a browser -- so Sony's desire to do so will have been the major cause for the Reader application's rejection. That doesn't invalidate the second concern expressed in the New York Times article, that Apple will no longer tolerate content brought in from external stores, which is a displeasing development, if true.

Update 2: Looks like McCracken nailed it -- Apple's come out with a statement pointing out that the App Store guidelines require that apps that allow content purchases must also allow them in-app through Apple's official iTunes-backed system. We can't imagine that Sony is thrilled with the idea of cutting Apple in on Reader content, but if they want to play ball, they should be able to score an approval. Notably, Apple says that they are "now requiring" this even though the guidelines haven't changed, suggesting they're just now getting around to enforcing it; the effect on iOS' Kindle and Nook apps isn't yet known, but we wouldn't be surprised if Apple started nudging them in the direction of pushing updates. More on this situation as we have it.

Google accuses Bing of 'cheating,' piggybacking off its search results (updated)

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 08:21 AM PST

You could say Bing is taking a cue from its competition, but it seems to be more literally taking search results as well. Google Fellow Amit Singhal is claiming so much and has provided some amusing (if not totally clever) results from its "Bing Sting." Here's how it works: find a search term that returns no matches for either site, make a "honeypot" page manually appear for the term, then have about 20 Google employees make the search (and click the top link) using Internet Explorer with both Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar on. Within two weeks, Singhal claims, a handful (about 7 to 9) of the 100 or so "honeypot" results were popping up in Bing. Bizarre choices, too, like mbrzxpgjys, hiybbprqag, and indoswiftjobinproduction.

So, is this "cheating," as Singhal specifically alleges? The experiment had to be run with Bing's toolbar and / or Suggested Search feature activated, which it explicitly says are used to collect data and improve services. And more popular search terms do return different results, It's not as if Microsoft is using non-public information, but is this an example of taking an unfair shortcut? That's a debate we imagine with rage for quite some time.

Update: Microsoft's been sending out the following statement from Stefan Weitz, director of Bing:
We use multiple signals and approaches in ranking search results. The overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search so we can provide the most relevant answer to a given query. Opt-in programs like the toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites.
That's pretty ambiguous, so ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley pressed for a followup and was flatly told "We do not copy Google's results." We're sure there's going to be a lot more analysis and discussion to come -- this ought to be fun.

Exclusive: A day trip to Meizu's factory (video)

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:58 AM PST

Jack Wong is a very lucky guy. Or you can say he's very unfortunate. On one hand, his eight-year-old Meizu label -- literally meaning "the captivating tribe" -- has rapidly become one of the most popular brands amongst Chinese gadget lovers, yet all he's producing right now is just the one phone: the M9. On the other hand, the now-discontinued M8 had notoriously caught unwanted attention from Apple, and even the recent M9 launch saw accusations of Meizu hiring people to stand in line. But the latter points are irrelevant for now -- what we're really interested in is how a teensy MP3 player factory managed to outpace its numerous competitors to become a reputable smartphone maker with a huge fan base. To help us understand what drives the company, we decided to pay Meizu a visit. Go on, you know where to click.

A humble beginning

Before we delve into the inner workings of Meizu, we should talk a little bit about how it all began, starting with the enigmatic CEO himself. Rumored to be raised in a farm village, the now 36-year-old Jack Wong never graduated from high school, but he did start his career as a factory worker and possibly as a chef as well. Fast forward to 2002, Wong somehow became the general manager of a Singaporean electronics company called Soken, where he successfully introduced a range of personal audio products. Alas, Wong fell out with his shareholders over how their products should be promoted -- Wong believed in reaching out to customers via the company's forum, whereas the others simply wanted to blast out commercials. Being branded a mad man, Wong sold his shares and went off to set up Meizu in 2003.

What followed then were various MP3 players that didn't aesthetically stand out from the crowd, yet Wong stayed faithful to his belief and put minimum effort on commercials for his new company. Even though Meizu only produced one or two devices a year (discounting its OEM clients in the early years), it continued to thrive by engaging with its customers on its forum, as well as keeping them in the loop of product development and frequent firmware updates. Hell, we've even seen Wong teasing us with the M9II before the M9 was even released, and at one point he also simultaneously dished out multiple M9 firmware releases for his geekier fans.

Promotion Manager He Wen, Marketing Manager Wan Zhiqiang, and Marketing Director Hua Hailiang.

Word of mouth

With Wong's active online engagement, Meizu's fan base grew steadily over the years. A quick glance on the forum will reveal all sorts of shout-outs for the big cheese: "JW," "J.Wong," "Big Brother," "Boss," or even just his Chinese name "Huang Zhang." With a bit of luck, you might get a colorful response from Wong, but don't be alarmed if his words are too raw for your eyes -- he's known to be very direct and personal when ranting about certain news, dealers, or even customers. It's no wonder that the company doesn't need commercials -- the forum itself is colorful enough to attract public attention.

Like his boss, Marketing Director Hua Hailiang believes that word of mouth comes before marketing. "We used to have TV commercials, but hardly any," said a proud but casually dressed Hua, in sandals. "The sum of all the money we've spent on ads so far is nowhere near any company's annual budget for that. We had two in 2005 or 2006, which is significantly fewer than other MP3 or mobile phone companies. We haven't had any ads over the last two years, not even a penny spent there. Maybe some sponsorship for the odd media events, but that's it."

But that's only one side of the story; Hua frankly admitted that Meizu also doesn't have the cash to spare on ads. We don't doubt this, considering Meizu has offered some attractive trade-in discounts in the past, and it's also known to be pretty liberal when it comes to replacing faulty units, regardless of their warranty status. Still, Meizu occasionally supports regional gatherings organized by its fans aka Meiyou, who'd use these opportunities to show off their various artistic skills, namely martial arts, dancing, singing, etc. From what we've seen, it looks like these events had high turn-out rates, too.

Another area where Meizu does spend money on is the welfare of its employees, and this leads us to the factory.

Factory

Meizu's located in Zhuhai, a small city that's just a 70-minute ferry journey west of Hong Kong. It's actually not that hard to make your way from the ferry terminal to the factory -- just go north along the city's beautiful coastal highway (which is appropriately named "Lovers' Road"), then make the first left turn after Sun Yat-sen University and you'll eventually see Meizu on your left. All that was just a 20 minute journey for us. Even though Meizu only houses about 900 employees -- about 100 designers, 600 workers, and 200 staff in the executive office -- the three-and-a-half-year-old building was much bigger than we expected, and it sure looked trendier than most of the factories we've seen in Shenzhen.

Coincidentally, our visit was actually only five days before the M9 launch (we weren't told this prior to our arrival), so it was a good chance to see Meizu running in full capacity. But before we got to the assembly lines, we were first shown around the executive office on the fifth floor. We were asked not to use our cameras there, but there wasn't much to see anyway. Like any standard corporate office, you could see all the cubicles across the room, and the only section that was isolated behind glass was the design room, which was understandably out of bounds for us. Interestingly, Jack Wong doesn't have his own desk, let alone a room. "He doesn't come in much these days," said Marketing Manager Wan Zhiqiang. "He only comes in for meetings to plan new products. He works from home most of the time."


There wasn't much else on the executive floor. The only other rooms we saw were a meeting room (where we interviewed our hosts) and a large lecture room for training. Our top-floor tour was cut short thanks to a meeting in the remaining room, so we headed down to the ground floor. First stop: an "experience center" that, frankly, reminds us of an Apple store -- large maple wood tables and white surrounding were all it took. The only notable difference was the stash of trophies that Meizu put next to the window, but really, they don't mean much to Jack Wong and co. "We just want to make good products that we like," said Wan.

It should be noted that the actual Meizu stores -- as shown in our Shenzhen feature and the video above -- look nothing like Apple's, and likewise with the rest of the factory. Even though the small customer service center (yes, there's such a thing at Meizu HQ) next to the experience center was still in operation that day, the latter and the lights in the corridor were all switched off until we entered. The folks told us this was to reduce the chances of a power failure while electricity is in high demand at the assembly lines. We know from first hand that this power-saving tactic is in fact very common amongst Shenzhen factories, especially during the summer when the offices are using air-conditioning. We guess the solar-powered water heaters are also for the same purpose, if not to reduce the electricity bill.

Our next stop was the SMT (surface mount technology) workshop right next to the experience center. As the name says for itself, this room was dedicated to aseembling logic boards. Sadly, no photography was allowed inside, so we'll do our best to be as descriptive in words. In fact, you can have a look at our More Coverage link for a glimpse of Meizu's assembly line in its old factory.

We dropped off our gear at a security checkpoint where we were given a lab coat, a hat, and some funky blue bags that a machine wrapped around our shoes for hygienic reasons (yes, we totally filmed this device in action). After stepping through a metal detector, we found ourselves stood in a sterile-looking room no larger than a basketball court. In front of us were two long SMT machines that were taking in blank printed circuit boards, placing solder onto the appropriate points, then carefully placing tiny components onto the boards, and finally lock them in place by running the boards through an oven. Of course, there were workers present to ensure the machines were running fine, as well as checking the soldering points under magnifying glasses.

Next we went upstairs to a much bigger workshop where two long lines of workers were assembling the M9s at their workstations. Despite the rush for the launch, they seemed relaxed and were chatting to one another. On the other side of the room we saw workers with their heads down for a quick 15-minute break, but otherwise they would've been testing the software and cameras on the freshly made M9s -- we spotted their color calibration checkboards stuck onto their workstations. Meanwhile, we got up close to a rack full of M9s that were undergoing hours of testing -- most were playing movies -- before they got boxed up for the shops. At the other end of the workshop was a dust-free room that we could only observe behind two layers of glass -- the room changes air about every hour or so, which is necessary to create a fairly sterile environment for working with LCDs and other sensitive components.

The only floors that we missed were the storage facility and another workshop that was developing Meizu's next generation device. Sorry, no scoops here, but it's probably just the M9II for the time being. What we do know, though, is that Meizu currently has no interest in expanding to the overseas market, which would explain its absence in CeBIT and CES in recent years. "Right now we just want to do well in the Chinese market," said Hua. "We never wanted to compete with the other big players -- there's no way for us to do that, so we'll just focus on our products and after-sales service. We are definitely more diligent when it comes to customer service, compared to most other Chinese manufacturers."

We then touched upon the sensitive topic of lookalikes, and this got Hua fired up. "We're already doing our best to set our own style on our products. Of course, we don't want to clash with anyone, and as a small player, we don't want the trouble. We really don't. If anyone insists ours is like Apple's, I'd agree that they both have big screens, but wouldn't the same apply to Motorola? And Sony Ericsson? And Samsung? There are bound to be similarities between cellphones." We could tell the recent M8 lawsuit's been very troubling for these guys; but in our opinion, the M9 is well away from this danger zone.

Welfare

A more interesting aspect of Meizu is the welfare of its employees. Hua said since Jack started off as a factory worker himself, he cares a lot about taking care of his own team. For starters, each worker gets between ¥2,200 ($334) to ¥2,700 ($409) as their base salary, which is significantly more than Foxconn's ¥2,000 ($303) that only a select few qualify for. On top of that, everyone in Meizu -- including the cleaners and security guards -- also get a monthly ¥800 ($121) food allowance: ¥300 ($45) credited to their NFC cards for use at the canteens, and the remaining ¥500 ($76) directly added to their salaries so that they can spend it on home cooking or in restaurants. When we shared this info with our other Chinese manufacturing contacts, they were also surprised by how generous Meizu is. "Not all Chinese companies run like Foxconn," Hua stressed. "Foxconn is just an extreme example. There are many good companies out there."

Just to give you a rough idea on how long ¥300 can last you in Meizu, here are the charges at its canteens: the main one (pictured above) charges between ¥3 ($0.46) to ¥5 ($0.76) per dish, and you can help yourself to as much rice and soup as you want; whereas the quieter buffet canteen -- serving similar dishes from the same kitchen -- charges ¥20 ($3.03) for lunch and ¥15 ($2.28) for dinner. So assuming you spend about ¥6 for two dishes per meal at the main canteen, you can easily get up to 50 meals there, with ¥500 of cash left to spend on evening entertainment, like karaoke perhaps.

We recall Jack Wong once boasting about the food quality in his factory, so we stayed on to get a taste of some fine Meizu cuisine. Our hosts were intrigued by our motives, but they happily obliged and sat down with us at the buffet canteen. While we have little experience in factory dining, what we had was pretty good and the range was just as impressive: roast duck, steamed egg, stir fried pork, stir fried beef, two soups, etc. "I usually go to the main canteen, though," Hua told us. "The dishes there usually suit my taste better." Too bad there was a long line and we had a ferry to catch.

Like most factories in China, Meizu also has optional in-house accommodation for the workers. We didn't get to see the inside of the rooms as the workers weren't around at the time, but according to Hua, each are about 270 square feet large, comes with a balcony and an en-suite bathroom, and is shared by four to six workers. Doesn't sound too bad at all, plus the outdoor badminton court, table tennis room, and computer room are nearby. As for those who live outside or for those who want to head out, Meizu provides a free shuttle bus service that go into downtown.

With these many benefits, we can imagine joining the Meizu's family is no easy task, and to make matters worse, the company favors Meiyou before everyone else -- we're guessing the HR department checks the applicants' activity on the Meizu forum to begin with. To our surprise, Wan is one such example: he was just Meizu's forum moderator before he took up his current position. "We want to hire people who truly understand our company," Wan said, while taking us back to the ferry terminal. After a friendly farewell, he returned to the factory to join Hua for the late shift.

Wrap-up

Our four hour tour around Meizu was certainly an eye-opening experience -- not only did it provide a different perspective on the once notorious company, but what we saw also sets a good example for the rest of the industry to follow. Even though we didn't get to meet Jack Wong, we could sense that he's genuinely passionate about his company and doing what's right for his team. But will Meizu ever be free from accusations of stealing ideas? Probably not, but bear in mind that this kind of catfight is quite the norm amongst the big companies. Regardless of the past, it's safe to say that Meizu is no shanzhai.

Our Hong Kong editor Stone Ip contributed to this report.

Samsung's Lee Young-hee was misunderstood, Galaxy Tab sales are 'smooth' not 'small'

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:54 AM PST

Samsung's Lee Young-hee was misunderstood, Galaxy Tab sales are 'quite smooth' not 'quite small'
The word "whoops" is probably a good place to start with this one. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal ran a story quoting Samsung's Lee Young-hee as stating that initial sales of the Galaxy Tablet were "quite small." Turns out that wasn't exactly the right adjective. As you can hear in the audio clip below, she actually said sales of the thing are "quite smooth," just like the chins on most of our interns. This mix-up is being blamed on a transcript provided by Samsung, but rather than point fingers we'll just smile ruefully, shake our heads, and go back to writing posts about robots and things. And the Galaxy Tab? Well, sales may be moving right along, but it looks like returns are progressing quite smoothly as well.



Audi CEO Ruper Stadler taking time with EVs, refuses to feel "euphoria for electric vehicles"

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:43 AM PST

Audi CEO Ruper Stadler taking his time with EV development, refuses to feel
How do electric cars make you feel? We won't give you explicit details of just what sort of sensations standing next to the Audi e-tron Spyder at CES inspired in us, but let's just say they were very good ones. However, the CEO who stepped out of that very car, Rupert Stadler, is refusing to be swept in by all the EV excitement. The company is working on a battery-powered R8 supercar that will come toward the end of next year and plenty of other electric and hybrid models are in development, but Stadler is taking the slow road to adoption, saying:
We are still in the early phase with the electric vehicle, in terms of commercialization and whether the cars will be sold or leased, or will just be a collector's car... We should not overplay euphoria for electric vehicles.
Overplaying euphoria is something that consumer electronics companies have evolved to an art form, whipping up a frenzy among fans, inspiring pre-release camp-outs on a regular basis. We haven't seen anyone camping at a car dealership since... ever. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned there.

Panasonic prices its 2011 HD and 3D camcorders, options for budgets great and small

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:21 AM PST

Panasonic prices its 2011 HD and 3D camcorders, options for budgets great and small
Panny dumped a truckload of camcorders on us at CES this year, and now that we've finally dug ourselves out the company just piled on the MSRP and release information for the lot. It's okay, we can deal, and here are the highlights:
  • The new 1MOS full HD models, the HDC-HS80, HDC-TM90, HDC-SD90, HDC-TM80, HDC-SD80, HDC-TM40, and HDC-SD40 (phew) are priced between $350 and $600, all offering 1920 x 1080 recording, but only the HDC-TM90 and HDC-SD90 will do 1080p60. All write to SDXC and the HDC-TM40 and HDC-SD40 are the lightest full HD models the company offers, weighing just .39lbs.
  • The company's new 3MOS models, the HDC-SD800, HDC-TM900, and HDC-HS900 are priced at $850, $1,100, and $1,400, all managing 1080p60 and, if you add the $350 VW-CLT1 conversion lens, will shoot in 3D as well. All write to SDXC, while the TM900 has 32GB of storage internally, and only the top two models offer a 20x zoom lens with manual focus for "increased creativity."
There are a few SD shooters as well, the $250 SDR-S70, $270 SDR-T70, and $350 SDR-H100, all also sporting SDXC support. Full pricing in the PR after the break, and lots more details in the earlier announce post from CES.

Show full PR text
Panasonic Announces Pricing for 2011 Line of Camcorders, Including 3D-Capable, Full HD Models

SECAUCUS, N.J., Feb. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Panasonic today announces pricing for its 2011 line of full-High Definition (HD) 3MOS models, the HDC-TM900, HDC-HS900 and HDC-SD800; as well as its Full-High Definition 1MOS models, the HDC-TM90, HDC-SD90, HDC-TM80, HDC-HS80, HDC-SD80, HDC-SD40 and HDC-TM40; and the standard definition models, HDC-H100, HDC-T70 and HDC-S70. All 13 models, in addition to a new optional 3D conversion lens (VW-CLT1), will be available in March 2011.

The Panasonic Full-HD camcorders will be available for suggested retail prices (SRP) of $1,399.95 for the HDC-HS900; $1099.99 for the HDC-TM900 and $849.99 for the HDC-SD800. The new Full-HD camcorders feature 1920 x 1080 resolution with 1080/60p recording to create crisp, detailed videos, and can also shoot 3D videos when used with Panasonic's optional 3D conversion lens (VW-CLT1). The 3D conversion lens has an SRP of $349.99 and can capture vivid 3D imagery, which can be played back on a Panasonic VIERA 3D TV* or AVCHD-compatible player/recorder. The HDC-TM900 and HDC-HS900 both feature a manual ring for increased creativity, a 20x zoom and an intuitive 3.5" touch-screen LCD. All three models can record to SDXC/SDHC/SD Memory Cards, while the HDC-TM900 has 32GB** of internal memory and the HDC-HS900 has a hard disk drive that holds up to 220GB.

Panasonic's Full-HD camcorders with a 1MOS sensor will have SRPs of $599.99 for the HDC-TM90 and HDC-HS80; $549.99 for the HDC-SD90; $499.99 for the HDC-TM80; $449.95 for the HDC-SD80; $399.99 for the HDC-TM40 and $349.99 for the HDC-SD40. These camcorders have 1920 x 1080 resolution with wide-angle lenses. The HDC-TM90 and HDC-SD90 are capable of shooting Full-HD video with 1080/60p recording and can also record 3D video with the optional 3D conversion lens. The HDC-TM80 and HDC-HS80 both feature exceptional zooming power with a 42x Intelligent Zoom. The HDC-TM40 and HDC-SD40 are Panasonic's lightest Full-HD camcorders, weighing approximately 0.39lbs. All seven models can record to SDXC/SDHC/SD Memory Cards, while the HDC-TM90, HDC-TM80 and HDC-TM50 also have 16GB of internal memory, and the HDC-HS80 has a 120GB hard disk drive.

Panasonic's standard definition cameras will have SRPs of $349.99 for the SDR-H100; $269.99 for the SDR-T70 and $249.99 for the SDR-S70. These camcorders pack advanced features including a 33mm wide-angle*** and a powerful Enhanced Optical Zoom of 78x. Like the HD camcorder models, all three models can record to SDXC/SDHC/SD Memory Cards, while the SDR-H100 has an 80GB hard disk drive and the SDR-T70 has 4GB of built-in memory.

For more information on all Panasonic camcorder models, please visit www.panasonic.com/dvc.

About Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company

Based in Secaucus, N.J., Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company, is a Division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation (NYSE: PC) and the hub of Panasonic's U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. Panasonic is pledged to practice prudent, sustainable use of the earth's natural resources and protect our environment through the company's Eco Ideas programs. Company information for journalists is available at www.panasonic.com/pressroom.

* Some VIERA 3DTV models may require a firmware update to play 3D images from an SD card.

** GB = 1,073,741,824 bytes. Usable capacity will be less.

*** 35mm lens equivalent

SOURCE Panasonic

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Self-balancing Anybots QB now shipping, the future of telepresence is now (video)

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:00 AM PST

Self-balancing Anybot now shipping, the future of telepresence is now
First they came for our telepresence, and we did not speak because we couldn't afford them. Then they came for our physical presence, and there was no one left to speak out for us. Yes, Anybots are coming, the self-balancing QB robot available for purchase and shipping now, but at $15,000 we're thinking not too many of you will be jumping on this bandwagon to start. As we saw in our hands-on in December the self-balancing bots enable you to be somewhere that you aren't, controlled through a simple web interface and enabling executives to remotely monitor and run over the toes of their peons toiling in the office while said execs sit comfortably at home. There's some footage of one of the bots in action below, which you'd better watch before one of them captures footage of you maintaining a state of inaction.


Show full PR text
Anybots Starts Shipping Business Robots
Anybots Ship with a Slew of New Features, Business Travel Changes Forever

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., February 1, 2011 – 8:00 a.m. PT

News Facts:
· Anybots, maker of telepresence business robots, today announced that it has begun shipping product.

· Customers who pre-ordered an Anybot will begin receiving their orders this week. Customers who order today will begin receiving their units in March. To order an Anybot, go to www.anybots.com/#buy.

· The Anybot is the first professional-quality telepresence robot to allow you to work remotely through a simple web interface.

· Here's how it works:

· You are sitting on your sofa, enjoying your morning coffee.

· At the same time, you can be the eyes and ears on the ground at a remote office or factory via an Anybot.

· You control the Anybot from anywhere in the world via the web, letting you work effectively and personally without ever having to step on an airplane.

· You can leap into an Anybot in just one-click of the mouse and immediately be interacting with your team.

· And, when you are done, you can jump out and be back on the couch enjoying your coffee in no time. Meanwhile, another colleague located somewhere else around the globe, can leap into the Anybot for a meeting at the office.

· The Anybots telepresence business robot will ship with new features:

· High definition zoom

· Seamless roaming on wireless

· Two-way streaming video

· Touchscreen enabled Wi-Fi configuration

· Anybots also feature:

· High quality audio and clear, stabilized-video (five megapixel high-resolution video camera) for a great interactive experience

· Two wheels so it can run at 3.5 mph to keep up with groups of people and provide a safe way to get around that prevents damage to walls and other objects

· Collision avoidance technology that guides the Anybot around obstacles, such as doors

· A lightweight design (35 pounds) to be easily pushed, carried or adjusted to fit in a car seat

· A professional and friendly appearance so people pay attention and take you seriously

· Easy and inexpensive installation, all you need is Wi-Fi and a computer (currently available on the Mac and PC-compatible by March)

· The ability to sit in a corner when idle and charge

· Sharing capabilities so it can be used by company users at a time

· Eight hours of battery life and support for 802.11n Wi-Fi


Quotes:
Attributable to Trevor Blackwell, Founder & CEO, Anybots
After years of work and months of beta testing, we're looking forward to seeing the various uses the market comes up with for Anybots. Beyond just letting you be in two places at once – which changes the world of the business traveler – we're seeing a lot of use with industry verticals. Everyone from a cookie manufacturer looking to manage remote factories to a CEO who simply can't make it to every meeting in person – teleporting via an Anybot has already given these people a new perspective on work.

Attributable to Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote
After a few months of beta testing for Anybots, I'm completely in love with it. At first I thought the bot would pay for itself if it could just replace one international trip, but now I realize that the real value is letting me preserve spontaneous interactions at the office even when I'm thousands of miles away. I can jump into the bot at any time and work casually with my team. There's no need to schedule formal meetings or herd everyone around a speaker phone. It's easy to use and it keeps me connected. And it's got a laser beam attached to its head - which, let's be honest, is just good product design.

ABOUT ANYBOTS:
Anybots is a telerobotics company that offers a one-click way to work with others from anywhere. With Anybots, users are no longer geographically constrained and can jump from place to place with a click of the mouse. With Anybots' web-based interface, collaboration can happen at light speed without the cost and wasted time of business travel. Anybots can also be personalized to match the people they represent. Anybots was founded in 2001 by Trevor Blackwell, PhD, and is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. For more information, please visit www.anybots.com.

HTC Inspire 4G hits AT&T on February 13th, does HSPA+ for $99.99

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 06:54 AM PST

HTC Inspire 4G hits AT&T on February 13th, does HSPA+ for $99.99
AT&T subscribers, it's time to finally get a taste of Android on HSPA+. Well, almost. On February 13th the HTC Inspire 4G will release, bringing not-quite-4G speeds and Android 2.2 for a quite affordable $99.99. It'll feature AT&T's Mobile Hotspot service, so you can share that bandwidth, while offering a generous 4.3-inch WVGA display up front and an eight megapixel camera on the back, all packaged in a "premium" unibody aluminum design. We know, it's all very exciting, but don't get so enamored that you forget to make reservations for you and your special someone on the following day.

Show full PR text
HTC Inspire 4G Arrives for AT&T Customers on Feb. 13

AT&T 4G Smartphone is the First of Many Planned for the Nation's Fastest Mobile Broadband Network

DALLAS, Feb. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

Key Facts

AT&T* will begin selling the HTC Inspire™ 4G on Feb. 13.

The first 4G mobile phone offered by AT&T, the HTC Inspire 4G is the first to run the Android 2.2 platform and AT&T Mobile Hotspot application.

The 4.3-inch super LCD display on the HTC Inspire 4G will be the largest in the AT&T portfolio, and the first to offer the next-generation HTC Sense experience.

HTC Inspire 4G will cost $99.99 after a two-year agreement beginning Feb. 13 in company owned retail stores and online at www.wireless.att.com.



4G Portfolio

AT&T is the leader in smartphones and expects to widen that lead in 2011. In January, AT&T committed to an industry-leading Android portfolio in the U.S. in 2011 and said it plans to offer two 4G smartphones in the first quarter. The HTC Inspire 4G is the first of more than 20 4G devices AT&T plans to deliver in 2011. AT&T has completed the deployment of HSPA+ to virtually 100 percent of its mobile broadband network, which enables 4G speeds when combined with Ethernet or fiber backhaul.

HTC Inspire™ 4G

The HTC Inspire™ 4G will be the first 4G smartphone in AT&T stores and will have the largest screen of any AT&T smartphone, with a 4.3-inch super LCD display, and will offer an 8-megapixel camera with HD video recording. Running on the Android 2.2 platform, the HTC Inspire 4G will be the first smartphone in the U.S. to feature the next-generation HTC Sense™ experience with cloud services. The HTC Inspire 4G will also be the first to introduce AT&T Mobile Hotspot service built into the smartphone, allowing users to connect additional Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

Exclusively available to AT&T customers for $99.99 after a two-year agreement, the HTC Inspire 4G will include a 1 GHz processor, Dolby® Mobile and SRS WOW HD sound, and a premium, aluminum unibody design. HTC Inspire 4G comes preloaded with a Blockbuster and eReader application to keep users entertained on the go. For more information, visit www.att.com/inspire4G.

With the next-generation of HTC Sense, the HTC Inspire 4G offers even more ways to stay connected, including FriendStream™, which delivers Facebook, Twitter and Flickr updates in a consolidated view. The HTC Inspire 4G also offers customers the ability to pinpoint the location of a lost phone on a map and send a command to make the phone sound an alert – even while on "silent" mode – through the htcsense.com website. If needed, owners can also remotely wipe all of the phone's data with a single command in addition to forwarding calls and text messages to a different number.

Quotes

"We are kicking off an exciting year for AT&T's smartphone portfolio, and leading off with our first 4G phone," said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president, Devices, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. "With its iconic design, 4G speeds and awesome features, Inspire 4G is going to attract new customers and please existing AT&T subscribers."

"With a 4.3 inch screen, latest version of the HTC Sense experience and a sleek unibody aluminum design, the HTC Inspire 4G is the first true superphone to launch at under $100, bringing unparalleled power to more people than ever before," said Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC Americas.

1 Mobile broadband coverage is not available in all areas. 4G speeds delivered by HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul. Will be available in limited areas. Availability increasing with ongoing backhaul deployment. Learn more at att.com/network.

2 Limited time offer. Two-year contract required. Qualified customers only. Early Termination Fee up to $325. HTC Inspire 4G requires a minimum data service starting at $15/mo.

3 Mobile Hotspots requires a DataPro Tethering Plan. Devices connected to your Mobile Hotspot use data from your DataPro Tethering Plan. DataPro Tethering Plans are not unlimited and significant charges may be incurred if the included data allowance is exceeded. Performance may vary depending on the number of devices connected and other factors.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

About HTC

HTC Corporation (HTC) is one of the fastest growing companies in the mobile phone industry and continues to pioneer industry-leading mobile experiences through design, usability and innovation that are sparked by how the mobile phone can improve how people live and communicate. The company is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange under ticker 2498. For more information about HTC, please visit www.htc.com.

About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is a premier communications holding company. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation's fastest mobile broadband network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet and voice services. A leader in mobile broadband, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T |DIRECTV brands. The company's suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world. In domestic markets, AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive are known for their leadership in local search and advertising. In 2010, AT&T again ranked among the 50 Most Admired Companies by FORTUNE® magazine.

Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at http://www.att.com. This AT&T news release and other announcements are available at http://www.att.com/newsroom and as part of an RSS feed at www.att.com/rss. Or follow our news on Twitter at @ATTNews. Find us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ATT to discover more about our consumer and wireless services or at www.Facebook.com/ATTSmallBiz to discover more about our small business services.

© 2011 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. Mobile broadband not available in all areas. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

SOURCE AT&T Inc.

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Samsung experiencing a 16 percent return rate on the Galaxy Tab?

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 06:48 AM PST

Just a few days back, Samsung announced it had moved around 2 million Galaxy Tabs in the latter part of 2010. According to new data released by ITG Investment Research using tracked point-of-sale info, however, the story is a little more complicated. The company tracked about 6,000 retail stores in the United States from the November date of release of the tab through January 15th, and the return rate hovered around 13 percent, rising even further -- to about 16 percent -- with holiday sales returns. Now, rates of return estimates are just that -- estimates -- but 6,000 locations is nothing to shrug off. We'll have to wait and see longer term what this means for the Tab's legacy, but let us know your thoughts in the comments: have you returned a Galaxy Tab, or are you still in love?

Samsung offering refunds for PCs affected by Sandy Bridge glitch, NEC looking at delays

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 06:28 AM PST

Samsung offering recalls for PCs affected by Sandy Bridge recall, NEC looking at delays
We finally received full details on the issue affecting Intel's Sandy Bridge chipsets this morning, and now we're hearing of what looks to be the first confirmed recall. Samsung is indicating it will offer refunds for affected computers and, while it isn't saying exactly which models will be affected, it did give a number: six models sold in South Korea and one available in the US will be eligible for return or refund, about 3,000 total machines. NEC, meanwhile, who just went all-in with Lenovo, is indicating that it may push back the release of four separate models. Naturally we'll keep the updates coming as we get more details.

[Thanks, Peter]

Panasonic announces Lumix GF2 pricing and availability, plenty of other models too

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 06:04 AM PST

Panasonic announces Lumix GF2 pricing and availability, plenty of other models too
Today is the day that budget-minded Panasonic lovers have been waiting for, when the company finally announces what it's going to charge domestically for the Lumix GF2 and a suite of other models it's announced in the past months. The Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens GF2 will ship this month for an MSRP of $499.95, body alone. If you want the new 14 - 42mm GF2K lens you'll be looking at $599.95, the 14mm prime GF2C lens will cost $699.95, while the 12.5mm/F12 Lumix G, which captures pictures in 3D, is a relative bargain at $259.95. Pansonic also unleashed a flurry of MSRPs for other Lumix compact models unveiled at CES, with the FP5 and FP7 costing $200 and $230 respectively, the FH2 and FH5 priced at $140 and $150. More details and numbers in the pair of PR after the break.

Show full PR text
Panasonic Announces Pricing For New LUMIX GF2, the Company's Smallest and Lightest Digital Interchangeable Lens System Camera With Flash

Panasonic LUMIX GF2 Digital Camera Available in Mid- February 2011

SECAUCUS, N.J., Feb. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Panasonic today announces pricing for the LUMIX GF2 – the latest addition to the company's compact system camera (CSC) lineup. The LUMIX DMC-GF2 will be available in mid-February 2011 and will come in black, silver, red, and white models. The LUMIX GF2 (body-only) will have a suggested retail price (SRP) of $499.95.

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF2 is Panasonic's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens system camera – complete with a built-in flash. The LUMIX GF2 is compatible with lenses from the Micro Four Thirds standard, meaning the system is small and compact, while not compromising ease of operation or image quality. The LUMIX GF2 is also compatible with Panasonic's new 3D interchangeable lens, the LUMIX G 12.5mm / F12, so users can take their own 3D photos anywhere.

The LUMIX GF2K (14-42mm) lens will have an SRP of $599.95 while the GF2C (14mm) lens will have an SRP of $699.95. Also available is Panasonic's new 3D interchangeable lens, the LUMIX G 12.5mm/F12, which will have an SRP of $249.95.

For more information on the Panasonic LUMIX GF2 and all its accessories, please visit: www.panasonic.com/lumix.

About Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company

Based in Secaucus, N.J., Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company (PCEC), is a Division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation (NYSE: PC) and the hub of Panasonic's U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. Panasonic is pledged to practice prudent, sustainable use of the earth's natural resources and protect our environment through the company's Eco Ideas programs. Company information for journalists is available at www.panasonic.com/pressroom.


Show full PR text
Panasonic Announces Pricing for LUMIX Point-and-Shoot Models Introduced at 2011 CES

SECAUCUS, N.J., Feb. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Panasonic today announces pricing for the eight LUMIX digital camera models the company introduced last month at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show, which includes the LUMIX DMC-PF7, LUMIX DMC-FP5, the LUMIX DMC-FH27, LUMIX DMC-FH25, LUMIX DMC-FH5, LUMIX DMC-FH2, LUMIX DMC-S3, and the LUMIX DMC-S1. All eight digital camera models, available in March 2011, feature Optical Image Stabilization, High Definition video recording capabilities and Panasonic's iA mode, which makes them extremely easy-to-use to help take high-quality photos.

Panasonic's ultra-slim LUMIX and fashionable FP-Series will have a suggested retail price (SRP) of $229.99 for the LUMIX FP7 and $199.99 for the LUMIX FP5. Both models maintain their slim profiles by incorporating an ultra-thin 4x optical zoom lens with folded optics. The LUMIX FP7 features a new 3.5-inch 16:9 touch-screen LCD.

The Panasonic LUMIX FH-Series are sleek and stylish digital cameras that feature a 28mm-wide-angle lenses. The LUMIX FH27 has a 3-inch touch-screen LCD with an SRP of $229.99 while the LUMIX FH25 has an SRP of $199.99. Both the LUMIX FH27 and LUMIX FH25 also feature an 8x optical zoom. The 16.1-megapixel LUMIX FH5 (SRP: $149.99) and the 14.1-megapixel LUMIX FH2 (SRP $139.99) feature a 4x optical zoom with a new retractable lens.

Finally, the company's entry-level digital camera models, the LUMIX S-Series, are extremely easy to use, making them ideal for consumers wanting an extremely intuitive experience. The 14.1-megapixel LUMIX S3 has an SRP of $129.99 and the 12.1-megapixel LUMIX S1 has an SRP of $119.99. Both models have a 28mm* wide-angle 4x optical zoom lens.

For more information on all LUMIX digital cameras, please visit: www.panasonic.com/lumix.

About Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company

Based in Secaucus, N.J., Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company, is a Division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation (NYSE: PC) and the hub of Panasonic's U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. Panasonic is pledged to practice prudent, sustainable use of the earth's natural resources and protect our environment through the company's Eco Ideas programs. Company information for journalists is available at www.panasonic.com/pressroom.

SOURCE Panasonic

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Ericsson does HSPA+ plus some, achieves 168Mbps downloads

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 05:41 AM PST

Back in 2009, we squealed like giddy schoolgirls when the hotshots over at Ericsson crushed standard HSPA+ speeds with 56Mbps downloads, but even then we wondered if the standard would last much longer. Two years later, HSPA+ is still around and Ericsson is still crushing records -- three records, to be exact. At a recent demonstration in Stockholm, the company showed off multi-carrier HSPA with 168Mbps downlinks and 24Mbps uplinks, dual-carrier HSPA with peak speeds of 84Mbps, and single-carrier HSPA sporting 42Mbps. We'll admit, we're impressed, but considering Korean researchers have hit speeds of 600Mbps on LTE, we're afraid we won't be busting out the Cristal for this one. Ericsson expects to roll out single-carrier HSPA with 42Mbps and dual-carrier HSPA with 84Mbps sometime later this year.

Visa brings contactless payments to Euro iPhones, dongle required for now

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 05:15 AM PST

Visa begins contactless payment trials on European iPhones, presumably ahead of NFC-enabled iPhone
We're still some time away from iPhoners being able to tap cellies onto payment pads and walk off with purchases, though rumors and analysts and job postings all say that won't be for long. The lack of an NFC-equipped iPhone isn't stopping Visa from launching its Visa Mobile application for trials in Europe, which for now requires an external attachment, the (somewhat aged) iCarte accessory from Wireless Dynamics. With the app and the dongle users can start trying out phoney payments at various NFC-enabled terminals in Europe, presumably ahead of the release of a proper NFC-supporting iPhone sometime in the coming months. For now, though, is adding an extra inch to your handset more convenient than fumbling for a credit card? We'll let our European readers make that call.

Show full PR text
Visa Europe and Wireless Dynamics Inc bring contactless payments to iPhone

Visa Europe mobile contactless payment solution brings the convenience of mobile payments to iPhone users across Europe

London, 25 January 2011 – Visa Europe and Wireless Dynamics Inc. (Wireless Dynamics) today announced that they have developed a mobile contactless payment solution that will bring Visa contactless payments to iPhone users across Europe.

iPhone users simply attach the Wireless Dynamics iCarte accessory, available through their bank or mobile operator, to their iPhone and download the companion Visa Mobile application for iCarte App from the App Store. The iCarte accessory contains an antenna and an embedded Secure Element where the Visa mobile card is safely stored. This "card", in turn, works with an app from the App Store to enable payments on the iPhone. Once the Visa mobile card is activated, consumers can start making purchases by simply launching the app and touching their iPhone on any contactless-enabled point of sale terminal across Europe, without the need to enter their PIN*.

The iCarte accessory is designed to equip iPhone users with the tools they need to buy goods using mobile contactless technology from a growing number of European retailers. Visa Europe's first deployment has been launched in collaboration with Yapi Kredi bank and Turkey's largest mobile operator, Turkcell. Yapi Kredi customers equipped with a Turkcell mobile plan will be the first who can purchase directly from their iPhone at 40,000 contactless point of sale terminals in Turkey using their iCarte payment accessory. The product is also being used in the UK with Visa staff in London with partners FIS, a leading provider of prepaid platforms, and Coventry Building Society. To further commercialise the accessory, Visa Europe will engage its member banks and partner mobile operators in Italy, France, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK, all of which have rapidly maturing contactless payment infrastructure.

Sandra Alzetta, SVP, Head of Innovation at Visa Europe said: "It's clear from trials across Europe that mobile contactless payment is a strong and compelling customer proposition. Visa recognises that consumers who use smart phones like iPhone are more likely to be early adopters of advanced payment technology. Given that the availability of a wide range of mobile devices supporting contactless services remains a key hurdle for take-up, we are overcoming this by bringing the capability to the iPhones already in their pockets."

Ambrose Tam, President and CEO at Wireless Dynamics commented: "Working with Visa Europe to commercialise our iCarte accessories is a leap forward in increasing the number and types of mobile payment solutions. We've worked hard to design and build a feature-rich and appealing product for our partners and iPhone users across Europe."

European consumer research** conducted by Visa Europe in Italy, Poland, Turkey and the UK has confirmed strong consumer demand for mobile contactless payments with 41 per cent of respondents stating that they "definitely would" or "probably would" sign up to use Visa mobile payments. Critically, this percentage increased to 57 per cent when directed at iPhone users, which demonstrates that the device is the ideal cross-over of target mobile users and consumers with positive attitudes to new payment technologies. The research also indicated that 87 per cent of iPhone users surveyed would be willing to use an accessory to enable their device for mobile contactless payments.

The Wireless Dynamics iCarte accessory is compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPhone3G on iOS 3.1 or higher. The iCarte Secure Element can be associated with multiple Visa accounts.

** The research was conducted by Incite Marketing Planning during the months of September and October 2010. Almost 4200 people were interviewed in four different countries: Turkey, the UK, Italy and Poland

Modder adds FPS-style ammo counter to automatic weapon

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 04:47 AM PST

It may not be the first time than an actual weapon has been equipped with an FPS-style ammo counter (or Aliens pulse rifle-style, if you prefer), but this add-on device built by the DIY-minded Michael Ciuffo is certainly still plenty impressive enough to garner some attention on its own. It simply uses an accelerometer to detect the recoil from the gun, and it can apparently be adjusted for use on a variety of different weapons. What's more, Michael says that he's already gotten so many requests for one that he's planning on putting it into production. Head on past the break to check it out in action.




Motorola's Atrix 4G HD Multimedia Dock spotted online next to a $60 price tag

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 04:19 AM PST

We can't say we make a habit of checking out Fommy.com or Mobile City Online's digital shelves when searching for our mobile gear, but these obscure retailers look to be the first to come out with pricing for the Atrix 4G's HD Multimedia Dock. Fommy lists it as a straight up $59.95 charge, whereas its direct competitor is already discounting the cradle down to $49.99. Both are offering pre-orders only at this point, with no known dates of arrival, but at least we've got a ballpark figure to play with.

Another firmware update grants Roku owners USB channel, MKV containers come along

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 03:55 AM PST

Another firmware update grants Roku owners USB channel, MKV containers come along
If you have a Roku player with a USB port, like the XDS above, you've been able to play media directly from USB storage for some time now using third-party channels. For whatever reason it's taken Roku this long to get an official USB playback channel on there, allowed in the latest firmware (2.9 build 1529) and finally available for download in the Channel Store. We're told that MKV playback has also been added, which might make watching those downloaded Top Gear episodes a little easier.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]

British airports now beaming holographic security agents (video)

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 03:22 AM PST

They've brought you presidential election coverage and promoted worldwide access to PCs, and now they're telling you to take off your belt and throw out your hairspray. Starting today, London Luton and Manchester airports will beam in images of holographic agents to prep passengers for the security line. Holly and Graham -- you heard right -- and Manchester's Julie and John are meant to cut queues, as well as human inconsistency. According to Luton's Glyn Jones, "Holly and Graham are not going to have a hangover; they're not going to have a row with their partner the night before." Just what we need: an army of holographic squares taking our jobs and making us all look a drunken mess in comparison. Thanks, technology.

Update: So it appears these aren't traditional holograms -- they're actually huge sheets of glass that are cut out in the shape of people, with the projection beamed on them. It's the same tech that Gorillaz use on stage, made by a company called Musion. Check out another video where the camera moves around the side.


Google Art Project offers gigapixel images of art classics, 'indoor' Street View of museums

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 02:40 AM PST

Google's been hard at work over the past 18 months on something not many of us have been paying attention to lately: art. Specifically, the search giant has hooked up with 17 art museums around the world to offer tours of their internal galleries, using its familiar Street View tricycles, while also doing high-res images of 1,061 artworks that may be viewed on the newly launched Art Project web portal. Also there, you will find 17 special gigapixel images -- 7,000-megapixel versions of each participating venue's proudest possession. The resulting level of detail is nothing short of astounding and we've got videos of how it's all done after the break.
Show full PR text
Google and museums around the world unveil Art Project

LONDON, Tuesday 1st February. Today Google unveiled the Art Project, a unique collaboration with some of the world's most acclaimed art museums to enable people to discover and view more than a thousand artworks online in extraordinary detail.

Over the last 18 months Google has worked with 17 art museums including, Altes Nationalgalerie, The Freer Gallery of Art Smithsonian, National Gallery (London), The Frick Collection, Gemäldegalerie, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, Museo Reina Sofia, Museo Thyseen - Bornemisza, Museum Kampa, Palace of Versailles, Rijksmuseum, The State Hermitage Museum, State Tretyakov Gallery, Tate, Uffizi and Van Gogh Museum. The results of this partnership, which can be explored at www.googleartproject.com involved taking a selection of super high resolution images of famous artworks, as well as collating more than a thousand other images into one place. It also included building 360 degree tours of individual galleries using Street View 'indoor' technology.

With this unique project, anyone anywhere in the world will be able to learn about the history and artists behind a huge number of works, at the click of a mouse.

Each of the museums has worked in extensive collaboration with Google, providing expertise and guidance on every step of the project, from choosing which collections to feature; to advising on the best angle to capture photos; to what kind of information should accompany the artwork.

Works of art included in the project range from Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus' to Chris Ofili's 'No Woman, No Cry', Cezanne's post impressionist works to Byzantine iconography. From the ceilings of Versailles to ancient Egyptian temples, a collection of Whistlers to Rembrandts all over the globe. In total, 486 artists from around the world have been included.

Key features:

Explore museums with Street View technology: using this feature, people can move around the gallery virtually on www.googleartproject.com, selecting works of art that interest them and clicking to discover more or diving into the high resolution images, where available. The info panel allows people to read more about an artwork, find more works by that artist and watch related YouTube videos.

A specially designed Street View 'trolley' took 360 degree images of the interior of selected galleries which were then stitched together, enabling smooth navigation of over 385 rooms within the museums. The gallery interiors can also be explored directly from within Street View in Google Maps.

Super high resolution feature artworks: each of the 17 museums selected one artwork to be photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution or 'gigapixel' photo capturing technology. Each such image contains around 7 billion pixels, enabling the viewer to study details of the brushwork and patina beyond that possible with the naked eye. Hard to see details suddenly become clear such as the tiny Latin couplet which appears in Hans Holbein the Younger's 'The Merchant Georg Gisze'. Or the people hidden behind the tree in Ivanov's 'The Apparition of Christ to the People'.

In addition, museums provided images for a selection totalling more than 1000 works of art. The resolution of these images, combined with a custom built zoom viewer, allows art-lovers to discover minute aspects of paintings they may never have seen up close before, such as the miniaturized people in the river of El Greco's 'View of Toledo', or individual dots in Seurat's 'Grandcamp, Evening.'

Create your own collection:
The 'Create an Artwork Collection' feature allows users to save specific views of any of 1000+ artworks and build their own personalised collection. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends and family. It's an ideal tool for students or groups to work on collaborative projects or collections.

Nelson Mattos, VP Engineering, Google
'The last 20 years have transformed and democratised the world of art - with better access to museums in many countries and a proliferation of public artworks. We're delighted to have been able to collaborate with leading art museums around the world to create this state of the art technology. We hope it will inspire ever more people, wherever they live, to access and explore art - in new and amazing levels of detail."

Amit Sood, Head of Art Project, Google
'This initiative started as a '20% project' by a group of Googlers passionate about making art more accessible online. Together with our museum partners around the world we have created what we hope will be a fascinating resource for art-lovers, students and casual museum goers alike - inspiring them to one day visit the real thing.'

Find out even more about Art Project on YouTube.





Intel and Capgemini to develop tablet for home energy management

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 02:35 AM PST

If Google and Microsoft can get in on the home energy management wave then hey, why not Intel? Chipzilla is teaming up with Capgemini SA to create a "tablet-style computer" that lets humans control the power consumed by their appliances. Later, presumably when there are enough of these smart devices on the grid, it could allow utilities to more intelligently manage its electricity allocation. According to Intel's Joe Jensen, general manager for low-power embedded processors, "energy is a big part of our project to extend the fringe of computing out to the next thing." Indeed, under Paul Otellini's lead, Intel is targeting fuel pumps at the corner gas station, advertising signs, and even exercise equipment as it seeks opportunities beyond traditional computing devices -- a market Intel believes to be worth about $10 billion. The goal of the Intel / Capgemini initiative is to offer a full-service smart-grid solution, according to Steven Harris, head of smart home services at Capgemini. Mind you, Intel's involvement shouldn't come as a total surprise here, seeing as how it was showing off wall panels for real-time utility management in the -- groan -- "digital crib" way back at CES in 2010. That's one such device, pictured above.

Update: Corrected spelling from "Cap Gemini" (as Businessweek presented it) to "Capgemini" -- this isn't 2004 anymore. We also managed to unearth the official press release announcing Intel's Home Energy Dashboard reference design built around the Atom processor. You'll find that after the break.
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Capgemini Supports the Utilities Sector in the Deployment and Running of Intel® Architecture Based New Home Energy Dashboard

Capgemini, one of the world's foremost providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, today announced a new offering for its utility customers using the Home Energy Dashboard, a device based on Intel® architecture that enables utilities to interact directly with consumers in the home.

Paris, February 1, 2011 – Capgemini's Smart Energy Services team will support utilities in the deployment and management of the Home Energy Dashboard, enabling them to offer new and enhanced energy services and improve their customer acquisition and retention performance.

This next generation In-Home Display will allow utilities to better manage their demand response programs by shifting residential customers' peak usage without impacting their comfort. It will allow utilities to offer preferential tariffs to their customers, as they seek to reduce energy consumption, and to deliver new services, such as solar panel monitoring, electric vehicle battery management and storage management. Bundling these value-added services together with tariffs to make them more attractive to new and existing customers will also allow utilities to improve customer acquisition and retention in competitive markets where switching rates are high.

Capgemini will build applications that support secure communications between the device and utilities' existing systems and develop consumer applications that allow them to deliver next generation energy services to the end user. Capgemini will also provide technical and customer support on behalf of the utility company, in addition to project management and deployment services around the Home Energy Dashboard.

Joe Jensen, general manager, Low Power Embedded Processor Division, Intel, comments: "The Intel(R) Home Energy Dashboard reference design, based on the Intel Atom™ processor, has the potential to change the game in the home energy management space by intelligently facilitating a change in consumer behaviour, without the need to sacrifice comfort or convenience. By offering this new solution, Capgemini enables its utility customers to gain a firm foothold in the smart energy market and deliver an enhanced service to the end user, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty."

Perry Stoneman, global leader for Capgemini's Smart Energy Services, says: "Home energy management is expected to grow rapidly with ON World predicting global revenues for HEM equipment and services will reach $3.3 billion by 20141. Utilities are acutely aware of this, and are seeking to bolster their offerings accordingly. We believe there will be a great appetite for this kind of solution in the market and Capgemini's Smart Energy Services team is delighted to be taking Intel's Home Energy Dashboard to utilities and providing the required value-added services."

A leader in the smart energy market, Capgemini launched a dedicated global service line called Smart Energy Services (SES) in 2010. This global service line is providing the full spectrum of smart metering, smart grid, smart home solutions and smart analytics to utilities across the globe. The offering leverages a range of proven services and best practices successfully developed by Capgemini since 2004 whilst working with leading utilities across the globe.

About Capgemini
Capgemini, one of the world's foremost providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, enables its clients to transform and perform through technologies. Capgemini provides its clients with insights and capabilities that boost their freedom to achieve superior results through a unique way of working, the Collaborative Business ExperienceTM. The Group relies on its global delivery model called Rightshore®, which aims to get the right balance of the best talent from multiple locations, working as one team to create and deliver the optimum solution for clients. Present in more than 35 countries, Capgemini reported 2009 global revenues of EUR 8.4 billion and employs over 100,000 people worldwide.
More information is available at www.capgemini.com.

Google, SayNow, and Twitter team up to make Tweeting from Egypt possible via voicemail

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 02:19 AM PST

Google's announced on its official blog a small project they've quickly cobbled together to help Egyptians (who --in the midst of protests -- are having serious connectivity issues) communicate via Twitter. With almost no connection to the internet through normal channels, Google has made it possible for anyone to send a Tweet simply by dialing one of several international phone numbers (+16504194196, +390662207294 or +97316199855) and leaving a voicemail. What happens next? The service Tweets the message using the hashtag #egypt via the Speak to Tweet account.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]

Honeycomb for Nook Color released for download (update: video)

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 01:47 AM PST

Android Honeycomb on a humble e-reading tablet? Why yes, it's not only possible, it's downloadable. Deeper-blue, the chap who's been spending the past few days porting the Honeycomb SDK over to the Nook Color, has today decided to release his latest work out to eager users and fellow coders. He's enabled the accelerometer, touchscreen, buttons, graphics acceleration, and wireless connectivity, but other things like sound remain on the to-do list. Hit the source link for all the code and info you require to be among the first to run Android 3.0 on their tablet.

Update: Video walkthrough after the break!

[Thanks, Forrest]

Cowon D3 Plenue priced at $370, or $100 per inch of AMOLED

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 01:28 AM PST

Want yourself a "Prestige" portable media player to make even legit smartphones blush in envy? Then the D3 Plenue from Cowon might just be for you, what with its 1080p video playback, 32GB of storage, Android 2.1 OS, and 3.7-inch, 800 x 480 AMOLED display. It's just that today we're finding the Prestige label also extends to its price, which Amazon has set at a mighty $370. That's not terrible when contrasted against unsubsidized pricing for comparable smartphones, but then this isn't a smartphone. Availability of the D3 Plenue is limited to an undated pre-order for the moment, giving you at least a little more time to deliberate on the value this souped-up PMP represents.

Intel Sandy Bridge chipset flaw identified as a rogue transistor affecting SATA ports

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 12:56 AM PST

Intel raised quite a few eyebrows yesterday by disclosing that its Cougar Point chipsets suffer from an incurable design issue that would potentially degrade Serial ATA transfers over time. AnandTech has gone to the trouble of getting in touch with Intel to seek more information and the problem, as it turns out, is a single transistor that's prone to a higher current leakage than tolerable. This can not only diminish performance over the 3Gbps SATA ports, it can actually make them fail altogether. There is more comforting news, however, in that the pair of 6Gbps SATA ports on the chipset are untroubled by this ailment, so devices and users that never plug into the 3Gbps connections can just carry on as if nothing's ever happened. For everyone else, a repair and replacement service is taking place now, with Intel's budget for dealing with this problem said to be a generous $700 million.

PlayStation Move headed to PCs under official 'Move Server' project

Posted: 01 Feb 2011 12:23 AM PST

Oops. Looks like Sony's plans to make its PlayStation Move controller an official PC accessory have been unceremoniously revealed in a description of a Sony Computer Entertainment America talk scheduled for Game Developers Conference 2011. According to the synopsis, John McCutchan, SCEA's lead for Game Systems and Developer Support, will be on hand to discuss the "Move Server project that will make it possible for academics and hobbyists to develop software using the PlayStation Move controller on their own PCs." Hmm, sounds like somebody feels left out by all of the unofficial Kinect hackery which could be treated to official Microsoft support sometime this summer. Now go hit up the source link below to read the description for yourselves.

Motorola Xoom lands in Chad Ochocinco's safe hands, is 'pretty awesome'

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 11:51 PM PST

The Motorola Xoom's release is close, very close. How do we know that? Well, Moto has just handed one to Chad Ochocinco -- one of the NFL's most recklessly loquacious players -- and you don't do that with an unfinished product. For his part, Chad's finding the Honeycomb tablet to be "pretty awesome" and regretfully informs Motorola that it "won't be getting this back." Tracking Chad's tweets reveals that he's just landed in Dallas, site of this year's Super Bowl, where he's received the Android-driven hardware. Something tells us neither he nor Motorola's tablet will spend the next week hiding in the shadows -- look for a lot more screen time for both in the buildup to the big game (and Moto's big halftime ad). One last note? Chad's image above was taken using an iPhone 4. Guess he's holding out for the Atrix 4G.

[Thanks, Zizo]

Satin Silver PS3 Rolls into Japan on March 10th

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 11:22 PM PST

It's not white, titanium blue, or even the traditional black -- this PS3 is Satin Silver (or is it Silver Satin?) and headed to Japan on March 10th. No specs have changed as far as we can tell with the 160GB model CECH-2500A SS selling for ¥29,980 (about $366) while the 320GB CECH-2500B SS weighs in at ¥34,980 (about $427). There's even a matching vertical stand for ¥2,000 (about $24) because Sony knows how important it is to coordinate your game center with the finish on your Rolls-Royce Ghost.

Samsung sucks at Photoshop: The next Galaxy S (video)

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 10:18 PM PST

Photoshop is hard. Hell, we're just hacks ourselves, using the tool as a means to help convey a story. But we don't have BAs in graphic design and we're definitely not operating within Samsung's multi-million-dollar advertising budget. So pardon us while we tease Sammy for failing to add a starburst to cover the reflection of its super-secret next-generation followup to its Galaxy S handset. The grab above comes at the 13 second mark of the official "next Galaxy S" teaser video (posted after the break) released in the runup to the big Mobile World Congress event. We guess some secrets really are meant to be shared.

[Thanks, Shavar]


Sony's DSC-HX100V and HX9V superzooms get official, headed to shelves this April

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 09:44 PM PST

After being leaked just a few days ago, Sony's high-end 16.2-megapixel HX100V and HX9V cameras are now official. According to the press release, the DSC-HX100V is the first of the Cyber-shot line to include a 27mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonar T lens with 30x optical zoom, while its smaller compact brother, the DSC-HX9V, is also the first to sport a 24mm Sony G lens with a 16x optical zoom. That's certainly great news for lurkers or folks who like shooting from a far, especially when considering both cameras are capable of recording 1920 x 1080 60p HD video. Their new "Exmor R" back-illuminated CMOS sensor also is the first to support a so-called Intelligent Sweep Panorama HR mode, which lets users capture up to 42.9 megapixel scenes with a whopping 10480 x 4096 resolution. Speaking of panoramas, the new camera's have also picked up the same 3D Sweep Panorama Mode, GPS, and Dual Recording functions found on other cyber shots announced back at CES. If you're dying to get your hands on that crazy zoom action, their official release is set for April with pre-sales starting in February. Price wise, the DSC-HX100V and DSC-HX9V cameras will cost about $450 and $350, respectively. For more details hit up the PR after the break or browse through the gallery below.
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High-Zoom HX100V and HX9V Models Offer 3D, New Intelligent Sweep Panorama High Resolution Mode and GPS/Compass

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 31, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Sony today unveiled two new 16.2-megapixel Cyber-shot® digital still cameras that offer Full HD video shooting capability at the touch of a dedicated movie button. Recording video at 60 progressive frames per second (1920x1080 60p), both cameras can capture fast-moving action with exceptional smoothness and clarity.

The DSC-HX100V and DSC-HX9V Cyber-shot cameras are the company's first compact digital still cameras to include a 27mm Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonar T* lens with 30x optical zoom and a 24mm Sony® G lens with 16x optical zoom (respectively) combined with full HD (1920 x 1080/60p) video capability.

Another Cyber-shot camera first, the 16.2-megapixel "Exmor R" back-illuminated CMOS sensor inside both cameras supports a brand-new Intelligent Sweep Panorama™ HR (High Resolution) mode. Just press the shutter button and sweep the camera, and it captures up to 42.9 megapixel panoramic images with crisp 10480x4096 resolution. Images can be viewed on the cameras' 3-inch 921,000-dot Xtra Fine LCD™ display with wide viewing angle.

"These new H Series cameras are a great addition to the already explosive high zoom market, loaded with cutting-edge innovations by Sony to shoot stills and video," said Kelly Davis, director of the digital imaging group at Sony Electronics. "With these unique Sony technologies, including GPS, 3D, AVCHD™ video as well as increased zoom, Sony is offering consumers the best of both worlds."

High Zoom for Stills and Videos

Ideal for travelers and photo enthusiasts, the flagship DSC-HX100V packs an ultra-powerful Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonar T* lens with 30x optical zoom range for crisply-detailed close-ups of distant subjects. Comfortable to hold and carry, its design echoes the style and control layout of larger DSLR models. Smaller and lighter still, the DSC-HX9V offers a high-performance G Lens with powerful 16x optical zoom range with 24mm wide angle to accommodate virtually any photo opportunity.

Borrowed from the Handycam® camcorder line, the new cameras feature Dual Record mode which can shoot video, while simultaneously capturing 3-megapixel digital still pictures (2-megapixel in 4:3 ratio when recording in MP4). The cameras also offer a dedicated still image button and a dedicated movie capture button to make it easy to use for consumers (Dual Record feature is not compatible with 60p mode).

Despite their powerful zoom range, DSC-HX100V and DSC-HX9V can capture crisp, blur-free images with significantly reduced handshake, even while you're walking along. Featured on both cameras, Optical SteadyShot™ with Active Mode image stabilization is a powerful image stabilization system with '3-way shake cancellation' as found on premium Handycam® camcorders by Sony. You'll be rewarded with clearer results when you're shooting handheld, even at telephoto settings where camera shake is most pronounced.

Create Personal 3D Content

Sony makes it easy to create personal 3D content that can be viewed on an HDTV with 3D home theater system. 3D images are captured using 3D Sweep Panorama™ mode or the 3D Still Image mode. In this mode, the camera takes two consecutive shots in different focus positions to calculate the depths, and then it creates left-eye and right-eye images to produce a 3D effect. These images can be enjoyed in 2D or stunning 3D on compatible 3D televisions (3D-compatible HDMI™ cables and 3D glasses are also required and are sold separately).

The 3D Sweep Panorama feature lets you take panoramic pictures in one press-and-sweep motion. The high-speed burst of frames is stitched together using innovative processing techniques to automatically create detail-packed 3D panoramas.

These 3D images can also be saved and viewed on a PlayStation3, using the "Play Memories™" application software downloadable from the PlayStation® Network.

The new models will let you view images in a completely different way. Unlike 3D Sweep Panorama mode, which lets you view 3D images on compatible 3D television systems, Sweep Multi Angle™ technology lets you view images in simulated 3D on the cameras' LCD screen. This shooting feature captures 15 images at different angles and then compiles them into one photo. By tilting the camera back and forth, it creates a 3D-like effect on the display.

DSLR Speed

With the high-speed auto focus feature, these cameras provide a smarter way to focus with DSLR-like speed. High-speed autofocus locks onto subjects in as little as 0.1 seconds, letting you grab the most fleeting photo moments with ease.

In addition to speed, these cameras' GPS/Compass function makes them ideal for travel and holidays. The enhanced GPS/Compass function captures your location and shooting direction and allows you to enjoy the results after shooting as online maps with any Internet-connected PC.

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V camera also features a manual control ring that can be assigned as desired to adjust focus or zoom. It's ideal for applications like macro photography, where focus can be adjusted precisely while viewing a magnified portion of the image.

Easy Menu Selection Technology

The advanced imaging possibilities of both H Series cameras offer fuss-free operation. Superior AUTO mode recognizes a wide range of shooting conditions, automatically adjusting settings and shooting a high-speed burst of multiple frames as required in low-light conditions. These are automatically combined within the camera to create beautifully-exposed, low-noise results with virtually any subject-even in challenging low light conditions without flash.

While most cameras compile two images in Backlight Correction HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode, enabling crisp details in difficult lighting, these models utilize an HDR feature that compiles the highlights, mid-tones and shadows from three separate shots to create one realistic-looking photo. With Backlight Correction HDR in the Scene Selection Shooting mode, getting the best shot in difficult lighting conditions is simple.

Designed to help users learn about the cameras' features and how to use them on the spot, the "In-Camera Guide" is accessible from the menu button on the camera. Users can search by purpose or keyword and easily access the functions they seek.

The cameras also have Background Defocus mode, which highlights your subject like a DSLR; Soft Skin mode, which reduces visible blemishes and wrinkles, and Natural Flash, which corrects color balance for more natural shots. They also offer fast capture with up to 10fps at full 16.2-megapixel resolution.

Images and videos can be easily viewed on the cameras' 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD™ display with TruBlack™ technology, which provides deep blacks and more color variation on the thin display.

New accessories for Cyber-shot Cameras

There's a choice of elegantly styled carry case options for the DSC-HX100V and DSC-HX9V models. Giving easy access to your camera, the design avoids electromagnetic interference with the GPS/Compass function of both cameras. Both cases feature a quality leather-like finish, with a handy pocket for a spare memory card – ideal if you're shooting lots of HD video. Crafted to protect the Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V, the LCS-HG case offers extra carry space for an additional battery.

Compatible with the DSC-HX9V camera and several other Cyber-shot models, the Party-shot™ IPT-DS2 dock automatically captures smiling, relaxed portraits of everyone in the room – including you. Just touch a button and the Party-shot™ dock starts 'on demand' shooting. There's also support for Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode with compatible Cyber-shot models. The Party-shot IPT-DS2 dock comes supplied with a protective cover and dedicated stand.

All new Cyber-shot models are compatible with the latest range of premium-quality SDHC cards by Sony. The perfect partner for your Cyber-shot camera, they're also a great match for SD/SDHC-compatible cameras, camcorders and devices from other manufacturers. The affordable Essential Series and value-added Experience Series are joined by the flagship Expert Series (Class 10) for photo users who demand class-leading capacity transfer speeds.

Personal, Secure Online Sharing with Personal Space Site

The Personal Space™ site is the network service by Sony that makes it easy and secure to share photos and video clips captured on your Cyber-shot camera. Upload your images from any Internet-enabled PC with the cameras' supplied Picture Motion Browser software, or using pre-installed PMB Portable software. An email sent with an embedded link ensures that invited family and friends can view your pictures. Videos and photos shared via the Personal Space site can also be viewed on Android™ smartphones such as the Xperia™ X10 by Sony Ericsson or iPhone®, via a dedicated application that can be downloaded from Android Market™ or iTunes® app store. Xperia users can also upload images directly to their own Personal Space account from their smartphone.

Pricing and Availability

The cameras and a range of accessories will be available in April online at Sonystyle.com, at Sony Style® retail stores (www.Sonystyle.com/retail) and at authorized dealers nationwide. Presales will begin in February. The DSC-HX100V and DSC-HX9V cameras will be available in black and will cost about $450 and $350, respectively.

Boxee delays Netflix integration again, cites security requirements as the culprit

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 09:07 PM PST

We hoped Boxee would surprise us at the eleventh hour and announce it had finally added Netflix to the service -- technically making good on its end of January deadline. Instead, the company's blog is now reporting that the service is "anticipated soon." Apparently, the service is running fine on the device in the company's offices -- which, mind you they said back in December too, -- but it still failed to satisfy Netflix's security requirements. While that sounds like a big thing to miss in our books, a comment by Boxee's VP of Marketing, Andrew Kippen, suggests the company just discovered the issue only an hour before midnight. This marks the second time users have been asked to re-adjust their expectations for when the big red box might pop up on their favorite media manager, but to Boxee's credit, we were glad to see the company come right out with the situation instead of leaving us all on pins and needles. Now, let's just hope this whole incident gets sorted out pronto, so we don't have to break bad news to our Watch Instantly lovin' hearts ever again.

Windows Phone 7 'phantom data' leaker unmasked as Yahoo Mail, fix due in 'coming weeks'

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 08:25 PM PST

J'accuse... ! Remember the unnamed third party that Microsoft had found to be abusing 3G data on Windows Phone 7? Secret's out, and the culprit is none other than Yahoo Mail. According to a statement obtained by Microsoft guru Paul Thurrott, a fix is expected in the "coming weeks," but in the interim, you can mitigate the pain by going into settings and choosing less taxing options for "Download new content" and "Download email from" -- say, for example, "manually" and "the last 7 days," respectively. At least now you know exactly at whom you should wag your finger.

APX Alarm becomes Vivint as it expands into Z-Wave home automation

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 08:01 PM PST

Heard of APX Alarm Security Solution? Probably not. But that's ok, it's par for the course when discussing home automation, a market segment mostly ignored by the big boys of consumer electronics. Today APX is making a grand entrance into home automation thanks to a $443 million investment by Goldman Sachs. The company's new lineup of Z-Wave-based automatic door locks, video surveillance, lighting and small appliance controls will be sold under the new Vivint identity. Better yet, the new Z-Wave modules are designed to work with the APX Go!control alarm panels already purchased by some 170,000 customers, according to APX. Look for products to be generally available on March 1st.

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APX Alarm Expands Business Focus, Enters Home Automation Market as Vivint™
PROVO, Utah (February 1, 2011) – APX Alarm Security Solutions, Inc., one of the nation's largest residential security and home services companies, today announced its entry into the home automation market with the launch of new products and services (see Vivint Expands Product Line) and the introduction of its new identity under the name Vivint™. The name change from APX to Vivint is a reflection of the company's expanded direction and capabilities. With this move, the company has transitioned from a residential security company to a provider of simple, affordable home automation services that deliver increased safety, improved energy efficiency, and greater convenience for customers.
According to IMS Research, "The number of smart homes-households that can control their appliances as well as manage their energy consumption via home networking and smart metering technology-is expected to reach 14 million worldwide by 2014."

The name Vivint is derived from the word "vive" meaning "to live," and the word "intelligent." In using this combination, Vivint's mission is clear: to help families "live intelligently" by creating simple, affordable, home automation systems where all devices work together to enhance safety and convenience and improve energy efficiency.

Incorporated in 1999, the company quickly became one of the fastest growing residential security companies in North America. Vivint has consistently climbed the rankings of the Security Dealer Magazine's (SDM) 100 list of largest security installation and monitoring companies. In five short years, the company has gone from being unranked to its current position at number four, and is still rising.

In anticipation of the move into home automation, the company began installing its Go!Control panels for all new customers in 2010. The LCD touch screen panel centralizes all features, and gives customers remote control access via the Internet or smart phones. Today, there are 170,000 customers with the panel. Of those customers, more than 15,000 are already enjoying the benefits of home automation by using energy management features also introduced in 2010.

Vivint will also bring excellent customer service into the home automation industry. With a business model designed for ongoing service and support, Vivint employs certified technicians throughout North America typically available for next day service, as well as 24x7x365 monitoring and customer service support. Because of this excellent service record, the company has been recognized for two consecutive years by J.D. Power & Associates, and was recently selected to join the International Customer Management Institute's "Top 50 Call Centers for Customer Service."

"Vivint is a result of our company's evolution. We have a corporate culture of continual innovation and our new name and identity are a reflection of that innovation," said Todd Pedersen, chief executive officer. "Until now, home automation has been considered a luxury for the elite rather than smarter living available to everyone. We are excited to bring our focus, direction and unique business model into the home automation industry."

For more information on Vivint, visit the company website at www.vivint.com.

About Vivint
Vivint, Inc. is one of the largest home automation companies in North America. Operating throughout the United States and Canada, the company retains more than 5,000 employees and services close to 500,000 customers. With award-winning customer service and smart technology, Vivint is dedicated to enhancing security, increasing energy efficiency, and creating simple, affordable home automation solutions for its customers. For more information, visit www.vivint.com

Clover SunBook offers 'first sunlight ready netbook,' questionable graphic design

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 07:11 PM PST

When we first made contact with Clover System's SunBook, it was but a glimmer in Pixel Qi's transflective eye, but today, the little guy is ready to step out on its own. Like Notion Ink's Adam, "the first sunlight-ready netbook" packs dual lighting displays, allowing you to shut off LCD backlights while under direct sunlight and cut your power consumption in half. You can also leave both functions on for easy indoor-outdoor transitions. It's sporting a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, a 10.1-inch display, 1024 x 600 screen resolution, USB 3.0 as well as WiFi and Ethernet capabilities. So basically, it's a perfectly acceptable netbook (on paper, at least) and it's packing a promising display, but we have to admit Clover's marketing for SunBook leaves something to be desired. In fact, if we hadn't seen this thing at CES we'd advise you to proceed with caution. Being that it's got the Pixel Qi seal of approval, however, we'll leave the decision up to you. You can purchase the sunlight-ready netbook for $795 via Clover's website, handily linked below in the source.

Apple job posting calls for another LTE expert

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 06:44 PM PST

"iOS Cellular Protocol SW Engineer-SH/BJ" doesn't have the sex appeal of "chief designer" or anything, but someone is being sought for that very position, to work under the Haus of Apple. And what does the job entail? Among other duties, "Implementation, Integration, customization, enhancement and maintenance of L1-3 Protocols for one or more of the following air interface: GSM/UMTS, CDMA (1x/EVDO), LTE etc." You read that right, LTE. It's not the first time we've seen such the technology listed (hello there, since-removed "Cellular Technology Software Manager" job posting), but at the same time, it's not surprising that Apple's looking to the future. Just don't get your hopes up for an LTE iPhone or iPad in the near future.

NAVY SEALs getting fancy LCD sunglasses, will surely show up as DLC in next SOCOM game

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 06:11 PM PST

NAVY SEALs getting fancy LCD sunglasses, will surely show up as DLC in next SOCOM game
We're still a few years away from getting some consumer-friendly LCD sunglasses, but wouldn't you know it the military's already rocking a pair. The Office of Naval Research TechSolutions department has delivered the first 30 sets of what it calls Fast-Tint Protective Eyewear (FTPE). They can change tint automatically based on exterior light, much like currently available prescription glasses, but thanks to their LCD construction can go from dark to clear in just a half-second. This means a SEAL squad could blow a door and infiltrate a room without having to ask the terrorists to hold their fire while everyone takes off their shades. Initial reports are good and SOCOM is planning on buying another 100 sets. Maybe by the time they're delivered someone will release a picture of the things and we won't have to use a random photo of camouflage shades like this one.

Update: Travis wrote in with a link to James Vaughan Photography, which has a few photos of prototype versions of these glasses. We've grabbed one.

[Image Credit: James Vaughan Photography]

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ONR's TechSolutions Providing SEALs with New Glasses That Change Lens Color on the Fly

By Geoff S. Fein, Office of Naval Research, Corporate Strategic Communications

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Office of Naval Research's (ONR) TechSolutions department is set to deliver to Navy Special Warfare Command personnel later this year new protective eyewear that will eliminate the need for warfighters to stop to change out colored lenses to accommodate differences in light levels.

The Fast-Tint Protective Eyewear (FTPE) changes color quicker than transitional lenses commonly found at an optometrist's office. "Transition time is less than 0.5 seconds," said Stephanie Everett, ONR's TechSolutions program manager.

"Currently, warfighters are using a set of interchangeable lenses that require them to stop and manually switch lenses to adjust the goggles to a particular light environment," Everett said. "But they can't take the time to stop and remove and replace the lenses."

Instead, they often simply remove their sunglasses when moving inside, leaving their eyes unprotected. The FTPE was designed to enable them to maintain ballistic protection under all lighting conditions, without interrupting their operational tempo.

Liquid crystal solutions within the lenses contain customized dyes that transition to amber, blue, dark gray or clear when an electric charge is applied. Lenses can change color automatically as wearers move in and out of varying environments, or lens colors can be altered manually by pushing a small button on the side of the glasses. Additionally, the lenses meet the American National Standards Institute's ballistic impact safety requirements.

The request for new eyewear came to TechSolutions from warfighters in July 2009, and the project is almost complete. The initial delivery was for 30 pairs of the new eyewear, which have already gone out for evaluation with warfighters who will use them in training. "They will provide structured feedback on the glasses," said ONR's Command Master Chief Petty Officer Charles Ziervogel, who oversees the TechSolutions department.

After this evaluation, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is expected to take delivery of the FTPE glasses. "SOCOM is buying 100 units based on the initial assessment and seeing the results from the current evaluation," Ziervogel said.

Last August, an earlier prototype was assessed, which led to design changes, which are incorporated in the current eyewear. "The user feedback made this prototype even better," Everett said.

Results from this round of assessments are expected in April, and the feedback will be forwarded to Ohio-based AlphaMicron. The company, along with Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Ind., was selected to develop FTPE.

"We expect additional minor design changes based on the results of the current assessment," Everett said. AlphaMicron will incorporate any changes into what will be close to a final product.

TechSolutions accepts recommendations and suggestions from Navy and Marine Corps personnel working at the ground level on ways to improve mission effectiveness through the application of technology. It is solely focused on delivering needed technology and moving the sea services toward more effective and efficient use of personnel. TechSolutions uses rapid prototyping of technologies to meet specific requirements.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

LG confirms Optimus 3D for MWC 2011: glasses-free screen and 3D camera

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 05:37 PM PST

We've had a feeling that LG was going to tackle 3D smartphones heads-on sometime in February, and after a spat of rumors today purported to be showing off the Optimus 3D (pictured above, via Phandroid), the company's flat-out confirmed its Mobile World Congress debut. The Optimus 3D sports a dual-lens 3D camera, a glasses-free LCD display, and HDMI / DLNA for sharing on whatever 3D sets you have. A live demo will be at Barcelona, but whether that means we'll get to hold it in our own hands. Other specs? We'll have to wait and find out. Press release after the break.
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LG TO UNVEIL WORLD'S FIRST FULL 3D SMARTPHONE AT MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LG TO UNVEIL WORLD'S FIRST FULL 3D SMARTPHONE AT MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2011

3D Recording-Viewing-Sharing of Life's Precious Moments Anytime, Anywhere

SEOUL, Feb. 1, 2011 – At this year's Mobile World Congress, LG will unveil the LG Optimus 3D, the world's first 3D smartphone offering consumers a full 3D experience right in the palm of their hands.

The LG Optimus 3D addresses the lack of 3D content issue -- one of the biggest problems facing the 3D market -- with a complete platform for a one-of-a-kind experience on a mobile device. LG's most advanced smartphone to date will feature a dual-lens camera for 3D recording, a glasses-free LCD panel for 3D viewing and diverse connectivity options such as HDMI and DLNA for 3D content sharing anytime, anywhere.

Further details and a live demo of the LG Optimus 3D will be offered at Booth #8B178 at MWC in Barcelona from February 14 to 17.

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