Demand improving for LCD TVs

Thursday, December 31, 2009
di 4:20 PM

always update the gadget information from

Yet another consumer electronics segment is bouncing back from the recession--demand for LCD TVs is showing new signs of life.

Third-quarter shipments of LCD TVs rose for the first time in a year, according to DisplaySearch's "Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report," released Wednesday. That upward motion suggests that TV sales for the first quarter of 2010 could surpass those of the first quarter of 2009, the first gain in six quarters.

Total TV shipments will climb 6 percent in 2010 to reach 218 million units, versus 205 million for 2009, according to DisplaySearch's forecast. LCD TV shipments specifically will account for around 170 million units in 2010 versus 140.5 million this year.

TV manufacturers and vendors can thank North America, Japan, and Western Europe, where consumer demand continues to grow. But emerging markets have also developed more of an appetite for flat-panel TVs.

"China is a hot growth engine for the global flat panel TV market as the transition from CRT to LCD and plasma TVs continues to drive market growth," said Hisakazu Torii, vice president of TV market research for DisplaySearch, in a statement. "Government stimulus activity is having a positive effect on demand for flat panel TVs in both China and Japan, while several upcoming analog-to-digital broadcast changes in 2010 are likely to increase demand in Western Europe for digital TVs. Meanwhile, large price declines in North America have been driving strong unit demand, especially for 19" to 32" sizes."

Price declines of 9 percent this year for all flavors of TVs have hurt revenue but boosted demand, with 2009 revenue likely to drop 10 percent to $101 billion from $112 billion last year. But prices will not fall as much in 2010, says DisplaySearch, and so continued consumer demand will reward the industry with some sales growth next year.

Around 14.6 million plasma TVs are expected to ship next year thanks to growing demand in China. Meanwhile, the older CRT (cathode ray tube) TV continues to hang in there, with 32 million units likely to ship in 2010, predicts DisplaySearch. But that forecast is lower than the company's previous estimate based on declining demand and a dwindling supply of key components.

Alternative technologies like LED-backlit LCDs and 3D TVs will play a role in driving growth for the industry. Demand for LED-backlit TVs will jump in 2010, according to DisplaySearch, with just about every TV manufacturer bringing a variety of models and sizes to the market.

LCDs with higher frame rates will catch on as manufacturers add higher performance features to their TVs, DisplaySearch said. TVs with 100/120 Hz frame rates will capture 26 percent of global sales in 2009, while those with rates of 200/240 Hz will soak up only about 5 percent. But by 2013, 100/120 Hz TVs will account for 31 percent of global revenue, with 200/240 Hz TVs winning nearly 20 percent.

AT&T resumes online iPhone sales in NY

Tuesday, December 29, 2009
di 7:58 PM

Iphones is one of our hottest gadget.

AT&T has resumed selling iPhones through its Web site to New York City customers, with no indication as to what prompted the halt.

Over the holiday weekend, New Yorkers who tried to order an iPhone through AT&T's Web site were left out in the cold. Making matters worse, explanations ranged from network congestion problems to online fraud to this fine example of corporate-speak: "We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels."

But at some point on Monday, sales could once again be processed for New York City ZIP codes through AT&T's site. An AT&T representative did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on what knocked out online iPhone sales for Gothamites.

Nokia N86 8MP

Saturday, June 20, 2009
di 8:50 PM

This last part can be much Nseries try and May enough to everyday needs in the digital media and connectivity. But one thing is sure - it was a time when we have seen, the last time a camera phone so revolutionary as the Nokia N86 8MP.

Goodies on the Nokia N86 has just 8MP, including but not limited to a 2.6-inch AMOLED display, dual form factor slides, the active Kick Stand, 8 GB internal memory, a slot for microSD card, FM Transmitter , Wi - Fi and digital compass and GPS, a 3.5 mm audio jack and TV output. There is also a quad-band GSM and tri-band HSDPA, to really enter the world of voice and data services abroad.

This last part can be much Nseries try and May enough to everyday needs in the digital media and connectivity. But one thing is sure - it was a time when we have seen, the last time a camera phone so revolutionary as the Nokia N86 8MP.

Goodies on the Nokia N86 has just 8MP, including but not limited to a 2.6-inch AMOLED display, dual form factor slides, the active Kick Stand, 8 GB internal memory, a slot for microSD card, FM Transmitter , Wi - Fi and digital compass and GPS, a 3.5 mm audio jack and TV output. There is also a quad-band GSM and tri-band HSDPA, to really enter the world of voice and data services abroad.

* General: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, UMTS 900/1900/2100 MHz HSDPA 3 / 6 Mbps
* Form Factor: Dual-Slide Design
* Dimensions: 103.4 x 51.4 x 16.5 mm
* Display: 2.6 inch QVGA 16M color AMOLED display against scratches surface
* Memory: 8 GB of memory, hot-swappable microSD card slot (up to 16 GB)
* Operating system: Symbian OS 9.3 with S60 user interface 3rd Edition with FP2
* Platform: ARM 11 434 MHz, 128 MB RAM
* Camera: 8-megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash, 28 mm wide Carl Zeiss lens, a shutter with variable speed, mechanical shutter, geo-tags, time-lapse images @ 30fps VGA and Video
* Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth with A2DP, Micro-standard port, audio jack 3,5 mm standard GPS with A-GPS and the map settings
* Others: acceleration sensor to rotate the screen automatically activated Kick Stand, FM Radio with RDS FM transmitter, digital compass
* Battery: 1200 mAh battery

Twitter plays key role in DoS attacks in Iran

Friday, June 19, 2009
di 3:15 PM

Computerworld - The unrest in Iran is serving as a warning on how easy it is for individuals and groups to use a social networking tool like Twitter to mobilize a cyber-army against a political or commercial target anywhere in the world.

Over the past few days, news media reports have described how Twitter is being used by ordinary Iranians to receive and broadcast real-time information on the political unrest in the country after recent elections.

But a still developing and less benign use of Twitter in Iran has been its application in denial-of-service attacks against key government officials, including those affiliated with President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Initially, the tweets directed users to online locations with links that users could click on to participate in a DoS attack against a particular Iranian Web site, said Richard Stiennon, founder of IT-Harvest, a Birmingham, Mich.-based consultancy.

A Google Doc circulating on the Web, for instance, lists several URLs pointing to Iranian Web sites listed by categories such as "Governmental and HARDLINE NEWS," "Police, Ministry of Interior," "Central Bank," "Commerce Banks" and "Office of Ahmadijenad and Khameneie." When a user clicks on any of the links, it initiates a continuous stream of page refresh requests to the targeted Web site that will eventually overcome the site if enough people click on the link.

More recently, tweets have begun circulating that allows users to achieve the same result by simply clicking on the embedded URL in the message. As soon as a user hits the page, as many as 24 frames open up simultaneously and refresh continuously, causing a DoS attack against the 24 separate Web sites Stiennon said.

"Once you click on what you see in Twitter, you immediately become part of the cyber-army," in Iran, he said.

Another tool that is available via Twitter is called bandwidth raep (bwraep), which is also a sort of DoS attack. This attack works by bombarding a Web server with fake requests to serve up content-heavy images.

Tweets are also circulating that offer information on where to find malware capable of initiating so-called Ping and Syn flood attacks, which are designed to overwhelm servers with an incessant flood of useless requests, Stiennon said.
A Cyberwar guide for Iran elections reposted on BoingBoing exhorts would-be cyber warriors to be careful about using Twitter to launch such DoS attacks.

"If you don't know what you are doing, stay out of this game," the guide writes while asking volunteers to only target sites that "legitimate Iranian bloggers" pinpoint. "Be aware that these attacks can have detrimental effects to the network the protesters are relying on. Keep monitoring their traffic to note when you should turn the taps on or off."

DIY amphibious bicycle revitalizes floating experience

Sunday, June 07, 2009
di 3:37 PM

These marvelous bicycles are constructed from recycled water gallons. This recycled plastic is capable to make this fashionable bike a floatable vehicle. Made in China, this DIY amphibious bicycle was designed by Li Jin.

Being powered by biker, this dual bike is capable to both running on the ground and floating in the lake. Eight water gallons were used to make this miracle which are closed enough to prevent this sailing bike from drowning. Its driving power is provided by vane wheels which can be adjusted.

This fantastic bike can be generally used on the public road without any changing. This amphibious bike appears to be a state of the art vehicle with brigh outlook for the future. This fabulous bike was presented on May 30 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Unix turns 40: The past, present and future of a revolutionary OS

di 1:28 PM

Computerworld - Forty years ago this summer, a programmer sat down and knocked out in one month what would become one of the most important pieces of software ever created.

In August 1969, Ken Thompson, a programmer at AT&T subsidiary Bell Laboratories, saw the month-long departure of his wife and young son as an opportunity to put his ideas for a new operating system into practice. He wrote the first version of Unix in assembly language for a wimpy Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) PDP-7 minicomputer, spending one week each on the operating system, a shell, an editor and an assembler.

Thompson and a colleague, Dennis Ritchie, had been feeling adrift since Bell Labs had withdrawn earlier in the year from a troubled project to develop a time-sharing system called Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service). They had no desire to stick with any of the batch operating systems that predominated at the time, nor did they want to reinvent Multics, which they saw as grotesque and unwieldy.

After batting around some ideas for a new system, Thompson wrote the first version of Unix, which the pair would continue to develop over the next several years with the help of colleagues Doug McIlroy, Joe Ossanna and Rudd Canaday. Some of the principles of Multics were carried over into their new operating system, but the beauty of Unix then (if not now) lay in its less-is-more philosophy.

"A powerful operating system for interactive use need not be expensive either in equipment or in human effort," Ritchie and Thompson would write five years later in the Communications of the ACM (CACM), the journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. "[We hope that] users of Unix will find that the most important characteristics of the system are its simplicity, elegance, and ease of use."

Apparently they did. Unix would go on to become a cornerstone of IT, widely deployed to run servers and workstations in universities, government facilities and corporations. And its influence spread even farther than its actual deployments, as the ACM noted in 1983 when it gave Thompson and Ritchie its top prize, the A.M. Turing Award for contributions to IT: "The model of the Unix system has led a generation of software designers to new ways of thinking about programming."

Of course, Unix' success didn't happen all at once. In 1971 it was ported to the PDP-11 minicomputer, a more powerful platform than the PDP-7 for which it was originally written. Text-formatting and text-editing programs were added, and it was rolled out to a few typists in the Bell Labs Patent department, its first users outside the development team.

In 1972, Ritchie wrote the high-level C programming language (based on Thompson's earlier B language); subsequently, Thompson rewrote Unix in C, which greatly increased the OS' portability across computing environments. Along the way it picked up the name Unics (Uniplexed Information and Computing Service), a play on Multics; the spelling soon morphed into Unix.

It was time to spread the word. Ritchie and Thompson's July 1974 CACM article, "The UNIX Time-Sharing System," took the IT world by storm. Until then, Unix had been confined to a handful of users at Bell Labs. But now with the Association for Computing Machinery behind it -- an editor called it "elegant" -- Unix was at a tipping point.

The Palm Pre's Price Tag Depends on Where You Buy It

Sunday, May 24, 2009
di 11:23 AM

When Palm Pre's pricing and availability was officially announced earlier this week, one thing looked particularly unusual for a high-end mobile phone launch these days: an annoying mail-in rebate. But savvy shoppers can avoid the rebate roulette and can get better prices by shopping around.

If you want to buy the Palm Pre for the advertised $199 price (after a two-year Sprint contract) you will actually have to shell out $299 at the register and then redeem a $100 mail-in rebate. It will take you generally between four to eight weeks to get your $100 rebate on your Palm Pre. That's unless you don't want to go through the tedious process of claiming your rebate, which is something many retailers using this marketing technique count on.

Fortunately, you can save yourself the pain of buying your Pre from a Sprint store. If you go to a BestBuy or Radio Shack store, this mail-in rebate will be deducted instantly at the register, it has been confirmed.

BestBuy is preparing a big push for the Palm Pre by training some of its employees for a Walk Out Working program, which aims to get Pre customers using their new phone before they leave the store.

But this rebate affair is not the only pricing annoyance that may plague the Palm Pre when it ships June 6. A $199 8GB Palm Pre would go head to head with a new 16GB iPhone for the same price (as per yesterday's iPhone 3.0 rumors). That might have some potential Palm Pre customers hesitant to pull the trigger on buying the Pre.

As for call and data plans, my colleague Ian Paul compared the hefty contracts to come with new iPhones and the Palm Pre yesterday.

Chrome 2.0: Google's biggest yawn

Google's upgrade of Chrome to 2.0 is exceedingly underwhelming --- there's so little new that if you blinked you'd miss the changes. It's baffling that a company that keeps fully featured software like Gmail in beta for years has jumped to 2.0 for a browser with so little to offer.

After the upgrade, you won't notice a change in Chrome at all --- it looks just like the previous version, and largely behaves like it as well. There are a few little tweaks, though, such as a full screen mode available via the F11 key.

There's also a form filler for filling in Web forms, something other browsers have had since the Dark Ages. You can also remove thumbnails from the "New Tab" pages that launch whenever you open a new tab. And you can zoom better.

The only substantial change is speed. Google claims that the new Chrome is 30% faster than the previous version, and I can believe it. It loads pages lightning fast.

But there's more to browsing the Web than fast-loading pages. That's where Chrome 2.0 is still far inferior to Firefox and Internet Explorer.

It's hard to understand Google's plans for Chrome, because it's so bare-bones that it will never gain significant market share. It may be, though, that Google considers its browser little more than a front end for Web-based applications such as Gmail or Google Docs, and figures that the applications themselves, not the browser, is where most functionality will reside. But the ubiquitous cloud-based world is still far away, and until then, Chrome will languish.

Windows 7 RC Download

Thursday, May 21, 2009
di 4:43 PM

Microsoft have made the Release Candidate of Windows 7 available for download. This is hopefully the final public release in which any remaining bugs can be fixed, but it should be very close to the version we will see in the shops towards the end of the year.

You can download both the 32 and 64 bit versions on this page:

You can try it out using VirtualBox if you don't want to perform a full install or dual boot.

A+ for Dell's new Ubuntu Linux netbook

Saturday, May 02, 2009
di 11:35 AM

I was lucky enough to have a friend at Dell who let me play with Dell's new Latitude 2100-N for a few hours. After he chased me down, he pried it out of my fingers. I didn't want to give it up. This is one nice Ubuntu Linux-powered netbook.

The Dell unit I looked at came with an Intel Atom N270 CPU running at 1.6GHz. This one had 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, an 80GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, and integrated Mobile Intel 950 GMA graphics chip set. It also had a 6-cell battery. Like most new netbooks, it comes with a good-sized display: 10.1". As equipped, this unit would sell for $444.

The base Ubuntu Linux 8.10 equipped unit comes with 512MBs of RAM, a 16GB SSD (solid state drive) and a 3-cell battery. This version of the netbook sells for $369. If you wanted to get the same netbook with XP Home SP3, it would cost you $399. It's always nice to see a vendor offer you the Linux cost savings.

It's also worth noting that while Dell also offers Vista Home Basic on this netbook, they also point out that "if you choose Microsoft Vista and also would like Microsoft Office productivity software, you will need to select a hard drive option with at least 80GB of space." I'd add that you'd also need to upgrade the RAM to at least a gigabyte if you expect to run Vista without screaming in frustration.

One of the features I like about this netbook is that, unlike most of its breed, Dell makes it easy to upgrade the Latitude 2100-N's RAM. While Ubuntu runs great in 512MBs of RAM, and XP does decently in it, the netbook comes with a SO-DIMM (small outline dual in-line memory module) slot that, combined with the memory on the motherboard, will let you give the PC up to 2GBs of RAM. Nice.

Ubuntu 8.10 ran like a charm on this system. It came with Dell 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and I was immediately able to find and use the local Wi-Fi. I used the net for almost the entire time I had my mitts on the netbook, and I was really pleased to find that with the pumped-up battery I wasn't even close to out of power after four-hours of zooming around the Web.

What I really liked best about this unit though wasn't really computer related at all. It comes with a hardy plastic body, which they tell me is made of PC ABS (polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), which gives it a very solid feel. It also has a rubberized lid and base. The over-all effect is that you feel like this is one laptop that could take a licking and keep on ticking.

Best of all, with this rugged exterior, the Latitude comes with the option of a shoulder strap that connects directly with the netbook. At just over 3-pounds and with great battery life, this is a netbook that you can just slip on your shoulder and run from class to class, or, in my case, from home to library to coffee shop without a thought.

I like this strap idea a lot. Seriously. A netbook gets lost in most laptop bags, and you sure can't put any of them in your pocket. Now, if you're a woman with a good-sized purse, you're set. But, for most of guys, this shoulder strap makes a great way to cart a computer with you without pulling out a laptop bag.

I expect to see many other netbook vendors picking this feature up. It really makes a lot of sense. Portable, powerful, and Linux: the Dell Latitude 2100-N makes a great netbook for students and workers on the go.

Motorola Hint QA30 (MetroPCS)

Monday, April 20, 2009
di 3:05 PM

The Motorola Hint QA30 ($249.99 direct) is an unusual-looking texting phone for MetroPCS, Cricket, and Alltel. (I tested the MetroPCS version.) It's got some real pluses, such as threaded text messaging and good media players, but its troublesome phone performance leads me to caution you if you want to use this for heavy calling.

The Hint is odd-looking, but not hideous. Closed, the 4.2-ounce phone is very rectangular, measuring 3.2 by 2.4 by 0.7 inches (HWD). It has a 2.5-inch, 320-by-240-pixel screen, a big cursor pad, and several buttons on the front, including a dedicated music button. Slide the screen up to reveal a small QWERTY keypad with extremely pointy keys, like little mountains—designed to help you type in view of the keyboard's reduced size. There are dedicated messaging, speakerphone, camera, and WAP-browser buttons along the bottom.

This isn't an outstanding voice phone. Its reception isn't quite as good as that on the Samsung Finesse. The earpiece gets quite loud, and there's plenty of side tone (the sound of your own voice piped into the earpiece, which many people like). But transmissions, especially from noisy areas, sounded indistinct and occasionally staticky; the speakerphone has the same problem. One big advantage is that you can send MP3s to your phone via Bluetooth from a PC or Mac and then use them as ringtones, which saves you money. The ringer is loud enough for most situations, and the vibrating alert is both noisy and vibrant. Battery life, at 3 hours 49 minutes, is a bit short.

I tested two Hint units and experienced some serious problems connecting with Bluetooth headsets on both. Both units succeeded in making calls using the Motorola H700 mono and the Plantronics Pulsar 590A stereo headsets, but both failed through the Plantronics Voyager 520, the Plantronics Voyager Pro, the Iqua 603 SUN, and the Altec Lansing Backbeat 503 headsets. If you intend to use a headset, be sure to try it with the Hint in the store before buying it.

The Hint is the best texting phone we've yet seen on MetroPCS. The innovation here is threaded text messaging: It groups your messages into "conversations" so you can see all the chatter you've had with a specific person—this is ideal for heavy texters. The Hint also has an IM program that supports AIM and Windows Live Messenger.

For e-mail, the Hint uses MetroPCS's standard Mail@Metro application. This app is much easier to set up here than it is on the Samsung Finesse—it's designed to be used on a phone with a keyboard—but it supports a very short list of ISPs (plus generic POP/IMAP e-mail). I got it working with a Gmail account and was able to view messages in a simple, text-only format without attachments.

There's no real Web browser on the Hint, just Openwave's WAP browser, which can load a limited set of mobile-formatted Web pages. WAP pages, which load slowly, were hard to read because of a very condensed, poorly designed text font. Although the Hint is a 3G phone, MetroPCS has a 3G network in only two cities, Dallas and Detroit. (If you're getting your Hint from Cricket, by the way, it will work at 3G speeds in most Cricket cities. Cricket uses the same WAP browser and text-messaging software but has its own e-mail app, which we haven't tested.)

MetroPCS somewhat compensates for the lousy browser by including a bunch of fun Internet-based applications. Handmark Pocket Express gives you news stories, weather, stocks, and movie showtimes in a relatively efficient, easy-to-use way. Loopt helps you track your friends via GPS location. And the MetroNavigator GPS navigation software properly generated maps and driving directions.

The Hint makes a pretty good media player. You remove the back cover to pop in a microSD card up to 16GB in capacity (I had no problems with my 16GB SanDisk Mobile Ultra card). The Hint comes with a 256MB card preloaded with three Wyclef Jean songs. The phone doesn't play AAC files—so, nothing from iTunes—but MP3 and WMA files played fine. You can navigate by artist, title, and the usual criteria, but you can't easily transfer playlist data from your PC. Video playback was especially good: MPEG-4 videos at 320-by-240 resolution looked fine, and the phone plays 3GP and WMV videos, too. The 3.5mm headphone jack lets you use any standard pair of wired headphones.

The phone's 2-megapixel camera takes rather soft photos, with some blurring in low light and hypersaturated colors in daylight—it's not the best we've seen. The video mode records somewhat jerky 320-by-240-pixel videos at 12 frames per second. You can store your photos on a memory card or in the phone's 154MB of free RAM.

The Motorola Hint QA30 is just the ticket for messaging fiends who want to take advantage of MetroPCS's unlimited plans, and the strong MP3 and video playback features are nice bonuses. But since the Hint isn't a great voice phone, it's more for folks who text more than they talk. If you're looking for an all-around MetroPCS phone with a keyboard, there is the Samsung Messager SCH-R450, which has much better voice performance but lack the Hint's threaded SMS application and video player.

Benchmark Test Results
Continuous talk time: 3 hours 49 minutes

Government backs 2Mbps broadband

Friday, April 10, 2009
di 5:19 PM

Almost 40% of the UK will have access to speeds up to 40Mbps by 2012

The UK government has signalled its commitment to ensuring everyone in the country has access to broadband speeds of two megabit per second by 2012.

Earlier this year Lord Carter set out his interim recommendations for Digital Britain, in which he proposed a Universal Service for broadband.

He recommended a minimum of 2Mbps, which the government has now backed.

The Treasury said the cost would be met in part by underspend from the BBC's promotion of Digital TV switchover.

The government's backing of 2Mbps was contained in the Budget Report.

Speaking to MPs at the House of Commons, the chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling said: "It is vital to ensure the entire country and economy benefits from the digital age.

"So I am allocating extra funding for digital investment, to help to extend the broadband network to almost every community."

2Mbps - will that be enough to count as broadband by 2012 when around half the country will have access to 40Mbps or more?
Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technology correspondent

Read more on the Dot.Life blog

That speed would "allow virtually everyone to experience the benefits of broadband, including the increasing delivery of public services online".

It added: "It will also offer advantages to UK businesses, both those located in areas that will benefit from the network upgrade and those that make use of online channels to engage with their customers."

The government said Universal Service would be complemented with "further support to improve basic digital skills and promote broadband take-up".

Widening access

The Budget report said the cost of Universal Service could be met in part by the Digital Switchover underspend.

The National Audit Office has calculated that as much as £250 million of a larger £803 million might not be spent.

The government said it would be discussing with the BBC Trust on the best use of this money.

In a statement the BBC Trust appeared to broadly welcome the move.


Complete Budget report [2.59MB]
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What the Budget means for you
Budget measures for business

It said: "The BBC Trust can accept the prospective value of universal broadband access and take up, consistent with the public purpose of helping deliver the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services to the public."

The government said other costs associated with widening access to broadband could be met as per Lord Carter's recommendations.

They were that the cost be spread between "communication providers, and those who provide communication services over the network", namely the owners of the networks and the Internet Service Providers.

The Digital Britain report also said the consumer would have to contribute to access "beyond a certain point".

It is not yet clear how the Universal Service will be delivered technically - either through fixed line, satellite or wireless broadband access.

The government said the details of how Universal Service is rolled out will be contained in the final Digital Britain report, due in the Summer.

In a statement, a BT spokesperson said: "We are looking at the details of the announcements made by the chancellor today.

"Significant investment will be required to keep the UK ahead of the game in communications sector and BT is already playing its part. Today's announcement sounds encouraging and we look forward to receiving further details."

Apple's pending harvest

Thursday, April 09, 2009
di 11:36 AM

If you believe rumors and industry analysts, Apple is getting ready to bring some big products to market.

First and foremost, the company is likely to launch a tablet that's similar to the iPod Touch, but larger, in the first half of 2010, marking the company's entry into the Netbook race, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. In a research note, Munster handicaps the gaps in Apple's product lineup. The gaping hole: there's nothing between the iPod Touch and the MacBook. Enter this iPod Touch on steroids for $500 to $700.

Apple's game plan will revolve around its multitouch patents to cook up something different from your generic Netbook. Munster's theory makes a lot of sense. A Netbook would tarnish the Mac's average selling price and potentially cheapen the Apple brand. A tablet wouldn't. Double bonus: a Mac tablet would compete with's Kindle e-book reader.

Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook called Netbooks junky, but he never dismissed the consumer demand for them.

We can also expect the next version of the iPhone on July 17, according to, which cited a source who is "closely connected to Apple's hardware development team." The Web site posted some details on just what the third-generation iPhone will offer.

Meanwhile, as part of the ramp-up toward releasing this software to the public, Apple began running a stress test of push notifications--the hallmark feature of the new operating system. This system sends notifications to your phone whenever there's an update from an application, even when it's not running.

The newest data from Gartner shows that Apple's share of worldwide smartphone sales grew from 5.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 10.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009. In terms of unit sales, Apple jumped from 1.7 million in the first quarter of 2008 to 3.9 million during the same period in 2009.

While the quarter's iPhone adoption metrics may be impressive, Apple wasn't the only smartphone maker with big gains. Research In Motion saw its BlackBerry market share rise from 13.3 percent in first quarter of 2008 to 19.9 percent in 2009. The company's unit sales grew from 4.3 million to 7.2 million over the same period.

Thursday, March 19, 2009
di 5:07 PM

Many companies turn out SD-based camcorders in compact designs, simply because the flash-based technologies allow for much smaller models than those based on tape, hard disks, and mini DVDs. While Canon continues to offer compact AVCHD models, the Vixia HF20 and the HF200, the company's branching out with slightly more "pro" prosumer offerings in the Vixia HF S100 and the Vixia HF S10.

These two models, which record 1,920x1,080 60i video, feature a larger, faster f1.8 10x HD lens and a relatively large, high-resolution 1/2.6-inch 8-megapixel CMOS sensor, along with higher-end capabilities, such as SMPTE color bars, the ability to manually boost gain up to 18dB, fixed 70 and 100 IRE zebra stripes, and a user-assignable button/control dial combo. They differ only by internal memory: the HF S100 has none, while the HF S10 has 32GB.

Though it weighs a bit over a pound, the camcorder feels kind of light for its 2.8-inch-by-2.7-inch-by-5.4-inch dimensions. Still, it's no featherweight, and while I fit it into a loose jacket pocket it's not very compact. With only a few exceptions, the camcorder has a nice, functional design, with intelligently laid out controls and a streamlined user interface. The larger size makes it a bit more comfortable to hold and operate as well.

Looking at the camcorder head-on, one of the first things you notice is the odd built-in lens cover that uses a closing-eye type rather than aperture-blade type of design we usually see. It wouldn't be notable except that when closed, the two plastic pieces tend to rattle against each other; since the camcorder is off it's not a problem, just a minor irritation. Instead of putting the video light in the typical location on the side of the lens, Canon put it on the pop-up flash. The stereo mics sit on either side of the lens barrel. While they may be more susceptible to wind noise in that location (though I didn't have any problems), it allows for larger mics with better separation than the typical positioning above or below the lens. If that's not adequate, you can attach a mic via the mini accessory shoe on top of the camcorder. There's a 3.5mm mic input on the grip side of the unit, and the other connectors--USB, component, and miniHDMI--sit in a covered compartment underneath the strap. The strap does get in the way a little when you're hooking stuff up.

To one side of the lens Canon placed a new Custom dial, which looks, feels, and operates similarly to the control dial on Sony's prosumer models. You press the button to enable it, then use the dial to adjust whatever setting you've programmed it for--choices are exposure, focus, assist functions (70/100 IRE Zebra and peaking), mic level, and automatic gain control limit (0 to 18dB). I like it in the Sonys and here as well; it's a comfortable interface for adjusting options like exposure and focus, though I'm not fond of it for cycling through the Zebra and peaking options.

As usual, the zoom switch and photo button lie on top of the camcorder beneath your forefinger, with the mode dial right behind where an eye-level viewfinder should be; one of the biggest drawbacks of this model, geared toward enthusiasts, is the lack of an EVF. The power connector and 3.5mm headphone jack flank the mode button. One of the two record buttons lies under your thumb on the back. To the left of the zoom switch is the small, recessed power button which is a little to difficult to manipulate.

Most of the shooting controls live on the LCD bezel. The function button pulls up both the frequently used settings as well as the full menu system another level down. In addition to the usual--white balance, image effects, digital effects, video quality and still photo size, program and a handful of scene modes--the HF S10/100 offer real shutter- and aperture-priority shooting modes with a shutter speed range of 1/8 to 1/2000 second and aperture options ranging from f1.8 to f8, giving you more control over depth of field than you generally see in a prosumer model. It also offers Canon's Cine mode for adjusting color and gamma to go with its 24F progressive modes, though it and 30F get recorded as 60i. In still mode you can select metering and drive modes as well. Other high-end features accessible via the menus include three fixed or variable zoom speed, x.v.Color mode, color bars, and a test tone.

The menu system itself has been updated for a smoother feel and the ability to choose font size. Since the 2.7-inch display is the typical low-resolution model, the small fonts look pixelated and would be hard for some to read. It does stand up pretty well in direct sunlight, however.

Navigating down on the joystick while shooting triggers a fly-up menu to pop up the video light (which works in still photo mode), digital effects, 3-second prerecord, backlight and exposure compensation, manual focus, mic level, face detection, and a digital teleconverter. The options are slightly different in still mode: you gain flash and lose the mic and teleconverter. It's especially nice that you still have quick access to functions that you don't assign to the custom dial.

The HF S10/S100 also incorporate this year's features, which include Video Snapshots, 4-second clips used to create a "highlights reel" effect (the camcorders ship with a music CD). I like the idea, but the implementation can be annoying. You enter Video Snapshot mode by pressing a hard-to-feel button on the left side of the camcorder in the LCD recess. A blue outline appears on the display. When you press record, a highlight travels around the blue outline counting down your 4 seconds. It stays in Video Snapshot mode until you switch to playback or press the button again. While I like the way the display feedback works, I think I might have preferred a separate record button, or a choice on the mode dial rather than the have the isolated button. (For a complete accounting of the HF S10/100's features, you can download the PDF manual.)

Performance and quality are top notch at both its maximum 24Mbps bit rate and 17Mbps. (Recording capacities are about 5.5 minutes per gigabyte and 7.8 min/GB, respectively. Canon recommends a Class 4 or better SDHC card.) The camcorder focuses quickly and accurately, even in low light. While battery life is pretty average for its class, it recharges fairly quickly; Canon claims it takes 10 minutes per half hour of battery life. The optical stabilizer, as usual, works well out to the end of the zoom range. The video looks great: sharp, with saturated colors, and excellent exposures with relatively few blown-out highlights. The DigicDV 3 processing does a solid job maximizing the dynamic range. Living-room light-level recordings look quite good as well. There's a bit of noise and softness, but that's to be expected. The audio records crisp and clear, too. The camcorder's not perfect, however. Outdoor shots do show a bit of purple fringing on high-contrast edges, and there's some color shift in reds and blues. Still photos have a slightly overprocessed look as many camcorder stills do, and the flash does odd things to the saturation, but overall they're not bad.

If you're a video hobbyist or a pro looking for something cheap and portable to complement your workhorse equipment, the identical twins Canon Vixia HF S10 and HF S100 deliver a much better shooting experience than the current crop of $600 HD camcorders--as long as you can live without the EVF. The HF S100 is probably the better deal, since the price of a 32GB card should be less than the price differential between the two models.

Ballmer: We're ready for the Google operating system

Saturday, March 07, 2009
di 10:47 AM

Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols notes that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been hinting that Google may release a Google netbook based on its mobile operating system, Android. That's old news to Microsoft: In late February, Steve Ballmer told Wall Street analysts that he fully expects Android-based netbooks.

Back in January, I wrote that I expect netbooks to be released with an operating system based on Google's Android. In fact, some people believe that such netbooks already exist, in use by Google employees, because Net Applications reported that a third of Google employees appeared to be running an operating system whose identity is hidden from traffic monitors. People assumed it was Android, running on netbooks.

In late February, Steve Ballmer spoke to Wall Street analysts, giving an overview of Microsoft's challenges and plans. Here's what he told them about Google and netbooks:

I assume we're going to see Android-based, Linux-based laptops, in addition to phones. We'll see Google more as a competitor in the desktop operating system business than we ever have before. The seams between what's a phone operating system and a PC operating system will change, and so we have ramped the investment in the client operating system.

You can get the entire presentation here.

Ballmer wasn't specific about how Microsoft planned to combat Android-based netbooks. But you can be sure he's got something in mind. Most likely, it's Windows 7, which has been designed to run on netbooks, including taking advantage of touch capabilities. He hints at that when he says "we have ramped the investment in the client operating system."

Will that be enough? For now, it's hard to say. But I do know this: It's all good news for consumers. If Microsoft and Google are slugging it out in the netbook arena, expect to see lower prices and more features.