Lower-cost Mini-iPod Rumoured

Rumours, even covered by Reuters, are growing about a new, lower cost addition to the super successful Apple iPod range. Thoughts are that Apple CEO Steve Jobs will announce the so-called “Mini iPod” during his keynote speech at Macworld Expo on 6 January.

Pundits are guessing that they will have a capacity of between 2 and 4Gb and will cost from $100, and are designed to take on the lower-end MP3 players from Creative and Rio.

Most speculators think that the players 400-500 song storage will be based on Flash-memory, but we suspect that could contain tiny 1-inch mini-hard drives, or microdrives. Hitachi have already announced their intention to bring out 4Gb drives by the end of 2003 which uses their fantastically named, patented “Pixie Dust” media technology.

Reuters story

T-Mobile Launch TV to Mobile via GPRS

T-Mobile, the worlds second largest mobile phone service provider, has launched a service in Germany enabling their subscribers to watch television over GPRS to their mobile phones. A first for Germany, the service with the very catchy name, “n-tv mobile live TV”, will initial be offering a live stream of news direct to the handsets that have the Real player installed. Currently their Windows-based PDA offerings, T-Mobile MDA or T-Mobile MDA II and Symbian Series 60-based platforms, Nokia 3650, a Nokia 6600 and Nokia 7650 support this.Interestingly there will be no additional charges made on top of the cost of GPRS data transmission, although it should be noted that video is the most dense and bandwidth hungry form of data.This new service follows hard on the heals of a deal between T-Mobile and Kodak that enables their subscribers to send MMS-photographs or other digital photos to be printed at Kodak then deliver via post. To use “Fotoservice”, some software has to be installed on the Symbian-based handset that uploads the images to a private storage area. Given the current low resolutions of phone-based camera, there is an option to place a number of photos on the same 10×15 print.

Vodafone Knock Microsoft Phone OS

The Financial Times (FT) is reporting that Vodafone do not feel Microsoft’s phone OS is ready for mainstream use. Arun Sarin, Vodafone chief executive was quoted as saying “In our view, it’s not quite ready for prime time.” sighting Vodafones need for assurances about reliability before taking it up.

Given Vodafone is the largest mobile phone operator, offering services in 28 countries around the globe; this is a serious setback for Microsoft.

When Digital-Lifestyles.info contacted Microsoft to get their response one of their spokespeople said “Microsoft is working with Vodafone on a number of areas including a mobile web services standards initiative and we look forward to working with Vodafone to offer Windows Mobile-based Smartphones to their customers in the future. To date, neither Vodafone nor Microsoft has announced plans to offer Windows Mobile-based Smartphones on Vodafone’s network.” We took this as the need to say something rather than nothing.

Elsewhere in the paper, in a full-length interview, Sarin also says that Vodafone want to have their own branded handsets, so they don’t loose their customer relationship to companies like Nokia, who currently provide one in every two mobile phones sold in Europe.

“Brand is a very big issue for us,” he says. “When you think about fast food, you think of McDonald’s. When you think about a soft drink, you think of Coke. What we would like is when people think mobile products and services, they go to Vodafone.”

Vodafone want a standard feel to handsets, starting when it is switched on by displaying a Vodafone graphic and each handset having a single-touch button that takes the owner to Vodafone Live, their content offering. They are already pursing these with a growing number of Asian manufacturers willing to compromise on product branding.

All of these contentious comments come from Mr Sarin first formal media interview. With an opening with controversial comments like this, it should be interesting to hear what he has to say in the future.

The full Sarin interview on FT.com (subscription req.)

PSX Spec Downgraded but Still Sells Out

Following the recent launch of Sony’s PSX, which combines the functions of a PlayStation 2, PVR and DVD burner (full details), there have been a number of dissenting voices over the reduced specification of the released product. Despite this, the first shipment to shops is reported to have nearly sold out on launch day, with long queues on the day of its release. The size of the initial shipment has not been disclosed. A spokesperson for Sony added that they plan to ship one million PSX systems by the end of 2004.

Quite a number of what would appear to be vital functions and features of the PSX have been downgraded or removed, which Sony say is to time pressures in hitting an xmas released date. The most surprising omission is of a functioning Ethernet port, clearly vital for accessing online content and sharing content between rooms in a household.

A number of formats will not initially be supported. MP3 playback will be missing, but Sony’s copy-protected ATRAC will be and TIFF and GIF graphics formats, although JPEG will continue to be supported. Two disk formats, CD-R and DVD+RW have also been dropped. The speed of the DVD recording has been halved from x24 to x12 which should have too much of an impact.

Financial analysts have been damning in their views of the changes with Kazumasa Kubota of Okasan Securities has described the PSX as a “publicity stunt”, while Kazuya Yamamoto of UFJ Tsubasa has claimed that “lowering the specifications of the PSX hurt Sony’s image”.

We feel the removals have been more about anti-piracy than a need to “rush” the release and are probably victims of the long-running struggle between Sony’s content and CE division.

Sony PSX site

First Wireless Broadband Videophone Launches

D-Link have launched the first wireless broadband videophone, which plugs into a television and communicates using either 802.11b (WiFi) or 802.11g, working without the need for a PC. The DVC-1100, otherwise know as the AirPlus i2eye VideoPhone complies to ITU-based H.323 protocol for video streaming and can operate at up to 30 fps.

Its support of H.323 protocol which enables it to be used other similar compliant devices or software like Microsoft NetMeeting and requires no service fees, contracts, or subscriptions.

If having a wireless video camera in your lounge makes you nervous, there are several privacy controls, enabling either the audio or video to be turned off independently or to reject all incoming calls by switching to Do Not Disturb.

It is expected to have a street price of $229 (~€185, ~£130).

We feel there is an interesting future for this kind of device, connecting increasingly globally-distributed families. As VoIP comes further to the attention of the general public, and they become more familiar with the idea, the addition of video will be a logical progression for them

DVC-1100 AirPlus i2eye VideoPhone

BT Extends Radio Broadband Trial

Following satellite coverage, but this has not been taken up due to its very high costs.

Their new approach is to provide high-speed connections to a central point, then distribute to households that have uninterrupted, line-of-site to the antenna (picture right) mounted on top of the subscribers rooftop. Labelled as P2MP (Point to MultiPoint), it provides a two-way connection that will, in their words, supply connections of a similar speed to 512k ADSL.

For the trial, they are working with Israel-based company, Alvarion, using their BreezeAccess product that operates in the 5.8GHz Band C radio spectrum.

Other similar services have been available around the UK for some time. Firstnet (who were bought by Pipex in August this year) have been running a similar service in densely populated areas around cities including Leeds, Bradford, Nottingham, Reading and Coventry for locations up to 10km away from any of its base. They are offering two-way 512Kbps, 1Mbps or even 5Mbps services.

Porthleven trial site

BreezeAccess from Alvarion


Apple Hits 25m Song Downloads

Further success for Apple have been announced as they declare they have now sold 25 million downloaded song through their iTunes music store, which is currently only operating in America. At this rate they are selling at an average of 1.5 million downloads a month.

Appropriately for this time of year the 25th million track was “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” by Frank Sinatra.

One of the new features introduced into iTunes 2.0 was the ability to purchase online gift certificates for others and to give download allowances for children, who do not have their own credit cards. Over $1 million dollars (~€812,420, ~£572,600) worth of these, vary between $20-$200, have been sold since October.

This announcement comes on the heals of US Time magazine naming iTunes Music Store as the Invention of 2003.

Apple iTunes

Time – Invention of 2003

Canada OK’s P2P Music Downloads

The Copyright Board of Canada has decided that the downloading of music for personal user from peer-to-peer networks is legal, but uploading files to them is not. Canada’s copyright law allow making a copy for personal use and does not address the source of that copy or whether the original has to be an authorised or non-infringing version.

Clearly the recording industry does not like or agree with the opinion. Richard Pfohl, general counsel for the Canadian Recording Industry Association said, “This is the opinion of the Copyright Board, but Canadian courts will decide this issue.”

Currently Canadians, and a number of other countries, pay a levy on recordable media; audio tapes (29¢C, ~$0.22, ~€0.18, ~£0.13), MiniDisc (77¢C, ~$0.59, ~€0.48, ~£0.34) and blank data (21¢C, ~$0.16, ~€0.13, ~£0.09) and audio CDs (77¢C, ~$0.59, ~€0.48, ~£0.34). Non-removable memory permanently embedded in MP3 players have now been added to this list, with C$2 (~$1.52, ~€1.24, ~£0.87) up to 1Gb of data, C$15 (~$11.41, ~€9.27, ~£6.54) for between 1Gb – 10Gb and C$25 (~$19.02, ~€15.45, ~£10.89) above 10Gb.

Interestingly, Digital Audio Tape (DAT), micro-cassettes, rewritable DVDs, removable memory cards (such as SmartMedia, CompactFlash and Secure Digital Memory cards) and removable micro hard drives are not currently covered.

The levies will be collected from the manufacturers and distributed to music companies and rights holders via the Canadian Private Copying Collective, a non-profit agency. It is expected that the levies will be passed on to the consumer.

Copyright Board’s Private Copying 2003-2004 Decision

Canadian Private Copying Collective

First US WiFi City

Cerritos, a city of 51,000, 26 miles (41 kilometres south east of LA, California will be the first city in America to have complete WiFi coverage. In a deal between the Cerritos and the provider, Aiirnet, will involve Aiirnet installing transmitters all over the city, placing them on public buildings, traffic lights and other structures covering the 8.6-square-mile (22-square-kilometer) area.

The residents of the city has had problems getting broadband access as DSL doesn’t extend over the whole city and their cable service has remained analogue, so has been unable to provide Internet access.

The city authorities have agreed to purchase sixty access accounts for some of their field-working employees. Residents who want access will have to pay $34.95/month.

The City of Fredericton in Canada announced back in November that it would be offering a similar service to its 81,000 residents, but being Canada, access will be free.

Yahoo/AP story

City of Cerritos Web Site

Fredericton in Canada goes WiFi