Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Microsoft unveiled plans to integrate its Zune digital entertainment service with the highly popular Xbox 360 platform, in a move designed more to confirm rumors than to provide specifics. The company will also bring a new Zune device to market this fall, called the Zune HD.

The company has talked about integrating Zune with the Xbox 360 since the service's launch, so the evolution to finally doing so carries significance. However the content included at first is limited to video, not music or games. Exactly what kind of video content will be shared between the two services is not yet clear; details are expected next week.

However Chris Stephenson, GM of global marketing for Zune, tells that the Zune video service will essentially replace the current Xbox Live Video Marketplace feature. All Xbox Live members will have access to the new content and the expansion of Zune into the Xbox 360 allows Microsoft to offer the service internationally.

The new HD Zune, meanwhile, is also focused heavily on video, with a high-definition LCD screen and widescreen viewing mode. The WiFi connected device allows for instant music and video streaming directly from the device, a newly added Internet browser, as well as compatibility with the growing HD-Radio standard. But overall, Microsoft's new Zune details are focused on video, which Stephenson insists does not reflect a distancing from music.

"It's absolutely about music as it is about video," he says. "As we prioritize the things we need to get to market, video was the thing that really lit up. The Xbox experience is a living room experience. So it's important to think of this as a first step."

Digital video delivery - either to portable devices or within the home - is a wide open market that no single provider has yet dominated the way Apple has in the music space and Nintendo has in the handheld gaming space.

To be sure, this represents a baby step for Microsoft's broader effort to merge the Zune, Xbox and, eventually, Windows Mobile communities into one. The vision is to deliver content to the PC, the TV and the mobile phone. Microsoft wants to unify that experience through coordination of the backend technology that power content delivery to each.

"It's really allowing your content to flow across the different screens you have," Stephenson says. "Everything feeds back to a single ID. If you think about the backend all of this is built on, whether it's the content or the billing or the identity, it's all on a common infrastructure. At a technical level, it allows those experiences to happen."

But a "connected entertainment" strategy has been a core part of the Zune pitch from the start, which the company has yet to implement in a meaningful way from either a content or a device level. Details on how it will integrate video content between Zune and the Xbox 360 are expected next week, during Microsoft's press event at the E3 videogame convention next week.

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Research Triangle Park, N.C. — Lenovo has released several new computers across their laptop, netbook and all-in-one lines (AIO).

The new netbook is the next-generation 12-inch IdeaPad S12. It is the follow-up on the S10-2 released earlier this month.

In addition to the larger, 12-inch display, the new netbook features a thinner and lighter industrial design, said Charles Farmer, Lenovo’s consumer marketing manager, all of which was done at the behest of the company’s customers.

The S12 has a $449 suggested retail, but consumers can buy add an Nvidia graphics card for an extra $50. Other features include an Intel Atom N270 processor; 1GB of DDR2 h33MHz memory; 160GB, 250GB or 320GB hard drives; and a 3-cell or 6-cell battery option.

The S12, and the other new models, will be available in late June through Lenovo’s online store. Other retailers will be announced at that time, Farmer said. The Nvidia option will not be available until late summer.

Lenovo’s new thin and light laptop offering is the U350. It has a 13.3-inch display and will be available with several different Intel processors options, including the ultra-low voltage and small form factor chipsets. It can support up to 8GB of DDR3 1,066 MHz memories, a 500GB hard drive and an eight-cell battery. It weighs 3.5 pounds. Suggested retail is $649.

The G550 will be available in several configurations, including versions with a 15-inch or 14-inch display, an Intel Centrino2 Core2Duo 2.26GHz processor, Nvidia GeForce G105M graphics, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a $599 price tag.

The C300 is Lenovo’s latest all-in-one offering. The unit is based on a 20-inch LCD, uses Atom 230 processors, has up to 2GB of DDR2 memory and will have hard drive options ranging in capacity from 160GB to 640GB.

Source: Read More


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yahoo Inc is looking to buy companies that will allow it to become a bigger player in social networking and revamp its family of products, Chief Technology Officer Ari Balogh said on Wednesday.

"It's a good time to be buying now," he told the Reuters Global Technology Summit, pointing to valuations that have come down from levels six to nine months ago. While declining to give specific names, Balogh said Yahoo has had conversations with companies about partnerships and "more interesting" possibilities, such as on building out its platform and basic computing in addition to search.

"I can guarantee you there will be some acquisitions, and we will do some stuff in-house," Balogh, who is executive vice president of products at Yahoo, said by videolink.

Yahoo will introduce new products this fall that will give users a more unified experience across its network of websites and showcase the company's strategy to grow again, after much of 2008 was marred by the failed deal talks with Microsoft Corp.

Yahoo is striving to revive its fortunes as sales decline because of the recession and competition from other Web heavyweights, including Google Inc and Facebook. While conceding that Google has "won the game" of search as we know it today, Balogh says search will be about much more than "10 blue links" in the future. "The thing I will tell you is that, core to great experiences for people online may not necessarily be this version of search," Balogh said. "I believe search is going to be far richer...there's a whole other round or two to go in the search game and that's where we intend on playing.

The future of Yahoo's Internet search business is a big question for investors. Yahoo Chief Executive Carol Bartz and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer have talked about partnering on search, according to a source familiar with the matter. Balogh said any decision about a search deal was up to Bartz and Yahoo's board. But he said that whatever happens, Yahoo will continue to invest in its own search capabilities. Balogh said search technology is a vital part of the consumer experience that Yahoo delivers, "and having leading edge scientists and technologists who understand search technology and where search is going is critical to Yahoo."

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Dell launches its first "netbook" designed for young students at a time when adult consumers and businesses have cut back on technology spending.

Dell's new Latitude 2100, which is being unveiled today in Sydney, is part of a newly popular category of computer that's much like a laptop, but cheaper, smaller, lighter and less powerful.

Unlike Dell's other netbooks, the 2100's shell is made from brightly coloured, easily gripped rubber, not slippery plastic. Its underside is free from vents and other openings, so plopping the computer on spilled milk won't do any damage. And a light on the lid of the computer tells teachers when kids are connected to the internet.

The extent to which laptops improve academic performance remains debatable, but Dell Chief Executive Michael Dell, perhaps not surprisingly, argues that computers in classrooms are a key ingredient to better schooling.

"There's no question that technology can play a role in improving outcomes for students," Michael Dell said in an interview. "This is not to say that putting computers and (information technology) systems in schools solves all problems - there's no chance of that. But it is to say that, look, these are required skills that people need to be successful."

The 2100, aimed at students in kindergarten through eighth grade, has a 10-inch screen and a keyboard that's a little bigger than regular netbooks.

It can be configured with a touch screen, which Dell says is useful for kids' small hands, and an anti-microbial keyboard, because those hands are often grubby. A web camera add-on is also available. It can run basic versions of Microsoft's Windows XP and Vista operating systems and the Ubuntu version of Linux.

Unlike the still-mythical "$100 laptop" envisioned by the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child organisation, Dell's machine starts at $706 and includes 1GB of RAM, 80GB HDD and runs on the Ubuntu operating system. It goes on sale tomorrow through Dell's online store.

Dell would not say how much money it makes selling computers to schools. Michael Dell said the company's public sector segment, which also includes governments and health care institutions, takes in $US14 billion a year, about 23 per cent of Dell's 2008 revenue.

PCs for schools and universities made up just 6 per cent of the total shipped last year worldwide, according to IDC, with about a third going to theUS. Worldwide, Dell was the top player with nearly 20 per cent of the market.

In the US., its grip was even tighter - about 36 per cent for kindergarten through 12th grade and 43 percent at the university level.

Source: Read More


Monday, May 11, 2009

Let's take a test drive through the new XP Mode and Virtual PC under Windows 7.

XP Mode is Microsoft's solution to legacy application compatibility under Windows 7. I won't get into the details a second time, but if you're curious how it works, check out the previous post on the subject.

With the Windows 7 RC Release, we have been able to now download and install the Virtual PC Beta, as well as the XP Mode package included with it. The first thing we will notice is that running the XP Mode Virtual Machine prompts us to create a password and let the initial setup start.

On the first 32-bit system I attempted to start up the XP Mode VM I was met with an immediate blue screen and reboot. On the second system, this one a high powered Core i7 64-bit edition I found myself stuck in an endless Initialization cycle. So far I'm 0-2 and this new XP Mode/VPC Beta is not looking so hot. Both cases I had made an upgrade from Beta to Release Candidate and that may have something to do with the problems encountered.

A clean reload on the first system with a fresh copy of the 32-bit RC presented a fully functional XP Mode system. XP Mode is fast and defaults to a mere 256MB of RAM during setup and use. You can of course adjust this but for now it seems to do just fine as is. Unfortunately, the XP Mode can be a little tricky to utilize and trips over itself if you don't shut it down after messing around inside it. Shutting it down however proves tricky because the standard Shutdown button in the Start Menu is missing, replaced with a simple "Disconnect" button.

The easiest way to handle switching from container to apps is to treat this XP Mode as you would a Remote Desktop or Remote Terminal Session with a Windows Server. Use the "Log Off" as you would in Remote Desktop, and simply close the container window once the login prompt shows up. Unlike Remote Desktop, logging off doesn't close the container, presumably to allow for the usage of multiple accounts like an ordinary XP installation. Once the system is logged out, you can safely utilize the XP applications once again seamlessly from Windows 7.

Possible problems you might encounter would include not logging out before closing the container. Should this happen there's no need to worry, unless you left something unfinished running on the VM. Attempting to launch one of the applications published to Windows 7 will merely give you a prompt asking if you want to launch the app anyway or go back into the VM to do a proper log off. Launching the application will force log off the XP session, losing any unsaved work you had there.

One thing I noticed during all this testing was the insane amount of CPU utilization during the startup and shutdown of the VM. During the initial startup or initialization when running an app the first time the CPU usage took a solid 80-100% of a Core 2 Duo core, giving it a 40-50% total system draw. Memory demand seemed low during the entire process but clearly launching the VM and getting it running in the background takes significant CPU power to accomplish. Once the system loads and sits in the background ready to handle your requests CPU usage drops back to around 1-2%.

At this point I'm fairly impressed but want to see just how far this pass-through goes and what the limitations are. To test this I created a shortcut to the Administrator's account desktop (Any folder will work it seems). I placed this shortcut in the All Users"Start Menu directory and closed down the VM. I found the shortcut and was able to access it from Windows 7. Opening the shortcut gives me the familiar Explorer window navigated to the path I specified in the shortcut, as well as access to all of its files. Furthermore it appears I can utilize it for navigation, file creation, modification, and more.

In fact I was able to kick off an install of 7-zip from within this environment and have it ready for use without messing with the host container at all. The only caveat to this is that the container seems to prevent dragging and dropping files to and from the window, regardless of having the VM Additions loaded. In VMWare, Virtual PC, and other products it was always possible to drag files from the host to guest systems and vice versa. This functionality is locked out unless you explicitly launch the XP container as a standalone VM. Any applications seem locked behind bulletproof glass preventing direct interaction with the host system. This is handy for security purposes I suppose as nothing gets in and nothing gets out.

The normal Virtual PC window for managing all of your Virtual Machines is no longer present. Instead, navigating to your user directory will present you with a "Virtual Machines" folder. Inside this folder you will find all of your virtual machines with the management program integrated right into the explorer shell much like Music, Video, and Pictures are with their respective programs. Given this trend it's safe to assume Microsoft is trying to back off from opening full applications for simple common tasks and merely integrate most of those functions into the shell whenever possible.

There are three options on the shell that are required to make the VM's work. One is the "Create new VM" and it operates exactly like VMWare, VirtualBox, and VirtualPC did before. The "Settings" button can be clicked at the top or you can alternatively find it on the right-click menu of each VM. The Settings page hasn't really changed. The addition of a few new options such as "Auto Publish" are present but otherwise it's the same ever popular VM Properties panel. Something else to note is the "Open" button near the left side. Clicking this allows you to open the VM's with something other than VirtualPC, potentially allowing other vendors to plug in here as well. To use this, simply select the VM you want to open, click the "Open" dropdown button and all of the VM programs installed can be selected. Selecting one causes the VM to immediately launch from the selected application.

XP Mode is a solid product and definitely something I look forward to Microsoft expanding in the near future. So far XP SP3, and Vista SP1 (or 2 if you have the RTM) can be loaded as guest systems according to Microsoft. Software to allow the usage of pass-through utilities in both versions is available from the Virtual PC webpage, under the download types for the VirtualPC Client it's in the box marked "Developers".

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Word has it that Verizon Wireless’ first netbook offering in the guise of the HP Mini 1151NR will be arriving on May 17th through all channels - virtual and conventional. It is also the day where Verizon’s MiFi personal hotspot drops. There is no word on pricing, though there are whispers of a $199 price tag to accompany the 2-year contract alongside a mail-in rebate. Of course, bear in mind you'll still need to fork out anywhere from $40 to $60 monthly for data access, which means across the span of two years, you'll still need to spend a fair bit.

Source: Read More


Thursday, May 7, 2009

dell android netbookLoose lips sink ships. Or, in the mobile space, they lead to juicy rumors.

This morning, software maker BSquared released a press release that hinted PC maker Dell was involved in launchig a new netbook powered by Google (NSDQ: GOOG) lightweight Android operating system. The press release seemed to confirm that Dell is indeed working with Android over the past several months.

This is where it gets interestin., Dell fired out a statement later today to announce that the press release was a mistake. There was no mention of whether it was the timing of the press release or the reference to Dell’s Android plans, only that the PR was accidentally published.

Dell has been rumored to have an Android device in the works, and this latest leak seems to confirm as much. What we could be looking at here is a case of a PR director’s itchy trigger finger announcing Dell’s Android plans before Dell. Now that would be interesting!

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First face transplant recipient steps out in US
An Ohio woman who was the first US recipient of a near-total face transplant unveiled the results of her surgery which restored key features after she was shot by her husband five years ago.

Connie Culp, 46, who was left without a nose, a palate or lower eyelids following a shotgun blast in 2004, underwent a procedure last December that lasted 22 hours at the Cleveland Clinic in the state of Ohio.

Surgeons transplanted about 80 percent of Culp's face using facial tissue from a dead woman that was placed like a mask atop her own. Almost her entire face was replaced, except for the forehead, upper eyelids, lower lip and chin.

The team of 11 surgeons who performed the operation said Culp, who was missing bone support and had been unable to eat or breathe without a tube in her windpipe, could now perform functions normally.

"We think this ... procedure has changed her life dramatically," Maria Siemionow, the clinic's director of plastic surgery research, told a news conference.

Although the clinic had revealed the surgery in December, Culp's identity and the incident that had disfigured were kept under wraps.

"Well, I guess I'm the one you came to see today," Culp said after being helped up to the podium.

But, she added, "I think it's more important that you focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this person's face."

When Risal Djohan, a plastic surgeon at the clinic, first looked at Culp's injuries two months after she was shot, "he told me he didn't think, he wasn't sure, if he could fix me, but he'd try," the patient recalled.

"Here I am, five years later. He did what he said -- I got me my nose," she said with a laugh.

Siemionow said the transplant "was the most complex functional restoration in the world today."

"We have transplanted for the first time in the world the largest scheme of the face, which was combined with the bones, with the entire nose and functional units, including lower eyelids, upper lip and including also her palate" she said.

The world's first partial face transplant was conducted in France in 2005.


Connie Culp stepped forward Tuesday to show off the results of the nation's first face transplant. Five years ago, a shotgun blast left a hole where the middle of her face had been. Five months ago, she received a new face from a dead woman. (May 5)

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Microsoft Windows 7 is the next release of the Windows client operating system, built on the secure foundation of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Performance, reliability, security, and compatibility are core tenets of this release as we collect your feedback to meet our engineering goals of making Windows 7 the best-performing and most stable Windows operating system to date. New innovations in the product are designed to augment your ability as an IT professional to better provision and manage increasingly mobile PCs, protect data, and improve both end-user and personal productivity.

This is the 64-bit version of Windows 7.

You can directly download from this URL, but you'll need to paste it into your browser's address bar.

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Google has launched a contacts manager that users of services like Google Docs, Picasa, and Calendar can use, without having to be a Gmail users.

Aimed at letting users share contacts more easily between different services, Google Contacts works like any other contacts function. You can import and export your contacts from other sources such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo, or Hotmail. For Apple you must use a utility called "A to G."

If you are part of a business, school or other organization using Google Apps, the administrator will have to enable this functionality within the control panel by clicking on the "add more services" link, finding the "Contacts" option and clicking the "add it now" button.

You can find the stand alone contact manager here.

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Asustek Computer plans to launch an 11.6-inch Eee PC later this month, but will still consider 10-inch the mainstream specification for 2009, accounting for 50% of total shipments, while 11.6-inch models will account for 30%, according to company president Jerry Shen.

The company will launch a 15.6-inch mid-range to high-end CULV-based ultra-thin notebook, the XS15, priced at 799-999 euro (US$1063-1330) and a 13.3-inch model priced at 599-699 euro in July. The company also plans to launch 14-inch models this year, Shen noted.

Shen also pointed out that panel supplies will have a chance to suffer shortages in May and June, while DRAM may see price increases, but is unlikely to face a shortage.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

How long does Microsoft plan to keep selling copies of its Windows Vista operating system after the upcoming launch of Windows 7? The company isn't saying.

With previous versions of Windows, Microsoft used a transition period when old and new versions of Windows were available to help corporate customers manage their transition to the new version of the operating system.

This time Microsoft aims to put the ghosts of its Vista troubles to rest as soon as possible, and could stop selling Vista as soon as Windows 7 is released.

"We are still not sure if [computer makers] will be able to ship Vista once Windows 7 is made available. Having said that, an enterprise customer that purchases a PC with Windows 7 pre-installed is allowed to downgrade to Vista should they desire, similar to what we have today on Vista to XP," wrote Richard Francis, general manager and Windows client business group lead at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, in an e-mail.

Microsoft will stop supporting all versions of Vista in April 2012, Francis said.
The launch of Windows 7 could take place within a few months from now. Last week, the company released the final beta version of the software, one of the last steps before locking down the code and sending the finished operating system to computer makers.

Microsoft had high hopes for Vista, but users found the OS sluggish on some computers and they complained about the number of permission prompts required for some tasks. Dissatisfaction with Vista kept user demand high for Windows XP, but many companies -- including Eastman Chemical and Continental Airlines, among others listed on Microsoft's Web site -- decided to roll out Vista within their organizations.

Microsoft appears to be betting that Vista won't be missed once Windows 7 is released.

"It's been a long time since we've had a version of Windows that will actually run better [than the previous version] on the hardware that most customers have," said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Windows product management group at Microsoft, during a conference call with reporters last Thursday.
Compared to Vista, Windows 7 will be faster and work better on systems such as netbooks, which have less powerful processors and less memory than other computers, he said.

While Microsoft hasn't detailed plans for Vista after the launch of Windows 7, Nash said Windows XP will continue to be available on netbooks for one year after the launch of the new operating system.

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Apple Prepping Cheaper and More Affordable Macs

Owing to the soaring popularity of cheap netbooks in ongoing economic situation, Apple is gearing up to slash prices of some of its renowned Mac models, according to a report from AppleInsider.

The new set of rumours suggests that Apple is all set to come up with less-expensive versions of its 13-inch Macbook and iMac devices in as early as in a month. As of now, the cheapest Macbook model costs $999 and the iMac range starts at $1,199.

“It’s believed that the first batch of more affordable Macs could turn up as early as this spring as part of a restructured MacBook line”, the report says.

The report further stated that the expected price-cut isn’t actually a response to Microsoft’s recent ad campaign that targets Mac as overly cool and expensive device, but it is tailored to get some space in netbook market that saw incredible rise in sales during past year.

Apple doesn’t have any presence in netbook domains, saying that these are compromised systems sporting “cramped keyboard, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens, and a [a poor] consumer experience”.

But, with around 3 percent decline in Mac sales in the first quarter from a period year ago, coupled with a significant rise in netbook sales, it seems that Apple has finally acknowledged the significance of these small-sized systems.

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