Toshiba HD-DVD Player: First Release In Japan

Toshiba HD-DVD Player: First Release In JapanToshiba has today released the first HD-DVD player.

The Japanese release will be a big PR boost for the HD-DVD camp in their long running battle for the next-gen High Definition DVD format with Blu-ray. Toshiba said they plan to release the HD-DVD player in the US by the middle of next month and computers equiped with HD-DVD in April-June this year.

It will retail for 110,000 yen ($934, £539, E772) and Toshiba are hoping to sell 600,000 to 700,000 of the new machines globally in the fiscal year ending in March 2007.

As we’ve all learned, it’s not just the hardware that is important, it’s the amount of content available. Toshiba said they expected to have 150-200 films available in the format by December.

The next-gen DVD players offer considerably larger levels of storage, needed because High Definition video content is much higher resolution, therefore bit-hungry. They are also taking the opportunity to store lots more content on them, in an attempt to add value. The current DVD format does not have enough storage available to hold a feature film.

Toshiba HD-DVD Player: First Release In JapanWhere the Toshiba-lead HD-DVD will win with the public is in the simple extension of the DVD name, incorporating HD which everyone either does know about, or will do after the advertising frenzy around this years World Cup.

The battle between the two formats has astounded many people, many of whom simply throw their eyes to the ceiling wondering how Sony could re-live the VHS vs Betamax headache for them. It’s quite clear that Sony and their partners are determined not to loose this argument, apparently at any cost.

Sony, who have been selling Blu-ray equipment in Japan since 2003, plan to start selling their next-gen player, Blu-ray in the USA starting in July with a price of around $1,000.

Palm TreoAlarm with Weather Forecast:Review (90%)

Palm TreoAlarm with Weather Forecast:Review (90%)Palm’s PDA sales may be falling on lean times, but their hugely successful Treo650 smartphone continues to do brisk business, supported by an army of passionate developers producing a vast range of applications.

TreoAlarm is a neat program designed to replace the basic alarm functionality that ships with a Treo, letting users configure up to eight different alarm schedules, with the ability to set different sounds depending on the time and/or day (so maybe you’d select a particularly stubborn alarm for a Monday morning and something more relaxing for a hangover-laden Sunday morning).

Any way you like to be woken up from your slumbers, this application can offer it (within reason!), with options to set how long the alarm tone sounds, whether the phone should vibrate or not, how many times it should repeat, how long the gap should be between each repeat, and the minimum starting volume.

What’s the weather, Kenneth?
Although the smartypants alarm gizmos are pretty impressive, TreoAlarm’s got a better trick up its sleeve.

Minutes before its due to wake you up from your sheep-counting, the Treo can wirelessly download an up-to-date weather report and five day weather forecast, letting you know whether it’s worth getting out of bed or not.

Palm TreoAlarm with Weather Forecast:Review (90%)The information is presented on TreoAlarm’s clear and simple interface, with weather icons displaying sunny, cloudy, rainy or stormy conditions. Underneath a text box offers more detailed weather information.

The program comes with some other useful tricks, including the option to turn the phone on and off at predetermined times to save battery life (and avoid early morning calls from your boss).

With full support for the 5-way directional control on the Treo, the program makes a practical and easy-to-use travel/home alarm clock and weather forecaster and represents excellent value for $18.50 (£11, E15).

Our verdict: 90% – Must-have Treo application!


O2 Adds Palm Treo 650 Smarphone To Line Up

O2 Adds Palm Treo 650 Smarphone To Line UpThe highly rated Palm Treo 650 smart phone has won the support of another major mobile phone operator in the UK.

The Register is reporting that O2 will be offering the handset to its business customers “from next week”.

Up until now, Orange has been the sole big boy European telecom company to include the Treo 650 in their smartphone range, despite the phone’s huge popularity in America.

Rivals Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2 have preferred to only offer a selection of Windows Mobile-based devices made by HTC – including the imate JAM- as well as models from RIM’s BlackBerry range.

O2 Adds Palm Treo 650 Smarphone To Line UpWith Orange the sole Treo supporter up until now, rivals Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2 have preferred to offer a selection of Windows Mobile-based devices made by HTC – including the imate JAM – as well as models from RIM’s BlackBerry range.

The deal is good news for Palm who are looking to reproduce some of their TransAtlantic success in Europe, with the October 2005 opening of a R&D centre in Ireland reflecting their intent.

Helped by continuing uncertainties surrounding Research in Machines’ legal fisticuffs with NTP, shipments of both the Palm versions of the Treo smartphone have been flying off the shelves, accounting for around 75 per cent of Palm’s revenues and device shipments

O2 Adds Palm Treo 650 Smarphone To Line UpPalm – who are currently celebrating the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Palm Pilot – is reported to have shifted 564,000 Treos in the last quarter (and we’re soon to join the throng after giving up on the fiddly complexities of our Windows Mobile handset).

Pricing from O2 is yet to be announced, but we reckon they’ll be knocking them out for something between £235 (~$408, ~€367) and £325 (~$581, ~€480) depending on the tariff/contract.

02 website
Treo 650

Agenda Fusion v7.85 PIM for Pocket PC Review (80%)

Agenda Fusion v7.85 PIM for Pocket PC ReviewWith the under-whelming Pocket Outlook PIM that comes bundled with Windows Mobile, it’s not surprising that third party developers have been busy serving up their own offerings for users seeking more power.

We’ve already reviewed Pocket Informant, so we thought we’d take a look at its main rival, Developer One’s Agenda Fusion.

Proclaimed (by its makers, natch) to be the “#1 time and information management solution for your Pocket PC,” Agenda Fusion is a comprehensive suite of applications designed to replace the built-in appointments, tasks, notes and contacts tools on your Pocket PC.

Installation was straightforward enough with the option to either double-click on the self-installing .exe file on your desktop or download the CAB file directly to your Pocket PC.

Program files can be installed in the Pocket PC’s memory or on a storage card.

Once installed, you can assign your hardware buttons to work with Agenda Fusion’s views so you need never cast your eyes on the built in PIM tools again.

Calendar view
Agenda Fusion v7.85 PIM for Pocket PC ReviewPredictably, the calendar application served up a feast of different views, including Today, Hourly Day, Hourly Week, Week, Agenda, Month, and Year, and you can jump from view to view via a drop down menu.

The interface seemed straightforward enough, although some screens looked like they were trying to pack a bit too much functionality in, making some elements of the interface a little confusing at first.

For example, whenever we tried to input a new appointment in the calendar view, the words, “ would appear in the subject box.

It was only after a while we realised that it was inviting us to select an appointment from a template menu by pressing a hardware button on the Pocket PC.

This then offered preset appointment selections like ‘Lunch with’ or ‘Visit’ before letting us tick off attendees from the contacts list. Neat.

Colours and icons can also be added to the interface to spruce up the week ahead, with the option to have the calendar’s colours highlight your working hours.

Contacts view
Agenda Fusion v7.85 PIM for Pocket PC ReviewAlthough we didn’t find Agenda Fusion’s Contacts interface to be a vast improvement over Pocket Outlook, it does have a few extras, including a preview pane at the top and the ability to attach a mugshot to any specific contact.

Contacts could also be associated with appointments, tasks, and documents via the Linking feature, with category icons offering quick visual cues.

Notes view
Agenda Fusion v7.85 PIM for Pocket PC ReviewWe’ve never been particularly impressed with the way Pocket PCs handle notes – the Palm OS does it much better, in our opinion.

Mind you, Agenda Fusion’s Notes has a good stab it at, organising notes and alarm notes in a split screen view, with a preview at the top and a folder view below.

There’s also a handy Alarm notes feature that takes care of quick notes or voice recordings that can be set to pop-up at any time as a reminder.

Agenda Fusion v7.85 PIM for Pocket PC ReviewWe were pleased to see that Agenda Fusion had included an integrated project management tool, which lets you organise contacts, tasks, notes, appointments and documents into Projects with the ability to track time and create reports.

Usefully, projects can also be linked together to create a larger project, making it easy to track individual phases.

In the competitive Pocket PC market, we reckon this feature could prove very compelling to some users. Nice one Fusion!

Just like Pocket Informant, there’s a baffling array of customisation choices available, letting you adjust anything that could possibly be adjusted, tweaked or fiddled about with – colours, fonts, displays, backgrounds, working days, categories – the lot.

Although this amount of control will no doubt appeal to pernickety types that like to have things looking just so, we suspect that many users will be totally overwhelmed by all these choices and thus be deterred from using the program to its full potential.

We liked Agenda Fusion, and although it’s not perfect, found it to be a very capable and powerful application, with the excellent Projects tool, adding real value to the package.

This definitely isn’t a program that reveals itself quickly, and its complexity may put off some users, but for those willing to to stick with it and discover what it’s got to offer, there’s enough productivity benefits on offer to easily justify the $30 investment.

Features: 85%
Ease of use: 70%
Value For Money: 80%
Overall: 80%

Agenda Fusion

Crazy, Gnarls Barkley; First Electronic-only Chart Number 1?

Crazy, Gnarls Barkley; First Electronic-only Chart Number 1?It’s thought that the forthcoming UK chart show, released on Sunday, run by the terribly formal sounding Official UK Charts Company, will be the first time a Number 1 will be a non-physical product. Translated – Crazy by Gnarls Barkley has only been released electronically, as a download.

Downloads have been around for ages though haven’t they? Why hasn’t this happened before, I hear you cry? Well, it’s only been a few weeks since they changed the way the charts were calculated. Previously downloads were counted if they also had a physical release, but since the change hey don’t have to have to be rendered on atoms, to be included.

Crazy, Gnarls Barkley; First Electronic-only Chart Number 1?Those Chart cat’s are exactly what you’d call ‘with it’ are they? But I guess we know that given how long it took the music companies to pull their fingers out and start to grab hold of the digital revolution – actually there’s many who’d argue that they still haven’t.

As ever, we tried to dig further into this story, but found it very clear that this isn’t a company familiar with having press inquiries, so dear reader, this story ends here.

Numark CD Mix 1 DJ Player Review (88%)

Numark CD Mix 1 DJ Player Review (88%)Aimed at aspiring superstar DJs, bedroom mixers and club jockeys, Numark’s entry level CD Mix 1 combo is a convenient package offering dual CD transports and a basic mixer.

The all-in-one unit is a breeze to operate, with its no-nonsense controls making it easy to professionally mix tracks, with additional features onboard for the more adventurous.

The wedge shaped unit houses two matching CD players, each offering the basic cue, track skip, play/pause controls, with advanced features letting wannabe Fatboy Slims fiddle about with the pitch, search backwards and forwards through songs at variable speeds and program a sequence of tracks.

Numark CD Mix 1 DJ Player Review (88%)A large pair of LCD screens above each of the CD’s controls offers useful information on the modes selected and time remaining/elapsed for the playing track.

Herds of wildebeest
Mentalist DJs wishing to bring da house down with a banging set of beatmatched tunes can avail themselves of the BPM display feature which, combined with the pitch feature, should help avoid the embarrassment of a ‘train wreck’ mix.

This is when a new track is faded in slightly out of synch with the previous one. The resultant unholy cacophony of mismatched beats is often likened to the sound of a herd of wildebeest rampaging across the dance floor. Not cool.

Numark CD Mix 1 DJ Player Review (88%)Although it has to be said that the beatmatching facilities on the CD Mix-1 are unlikely to thrill ‘ardcore drum’n’bass heads looking to mash it up bigstyle, it’s certainly a good place to start on.

Sliders galore
For controlling output, the Numark comes with four sliders for adjusting microphone levels (for making those all-important dedications), channels one and two and a master output control.

A row of three tone controls lets you tweak the EQ levels with a matched row of coloured LEDs indicating output levels.

Both mix channels have a toggle switch for selecting CD or turntable input with a switchable cue channel for preparing the next tune – DJs will appreciate the provision of both 1/8″ and �” output sockets for headphones.

Numark CD Mix 1 DJ Player Review (88%)Our verdict
In use, we found the CD Mix1 to be an exemplary performer – the CD controls were responsive with no discernable lag and the sound quality was impressive for an entry unit.

The CD decks managed to play any CD we threw at it (including CD-Rs), with a handy CD auto- fader start feature making basic mixing a piece of cake – even for drunken wedding DJs.

Hooking up some turntables and blasting some vinyl through the Numark revealed some decent quality phono pre-amplifiers onboard – our old 45s sounded great!

With a street price around £240, the Numark CD Mix 1 represents remarkable value for money and, to be honest, a whole load of fun.

Numark CD Mix 1 DJ Player Review (88%)Hook it up to your home system, your hi-fi or zillion watt soundsystem and you’re off!

Dual CD player and mixer combination
+/-12% pitch control with pitch bend wheel
True continuous play, track sequence programmable
External inputs for 2 line, 1 mic, 2 phono
Fader start
Balanced output, master EQ, stereo/mono control
Power Requirements DC 12V, 2.5A
Dimensions 17 1/2″(W) x 10″(D) x 6 3/16″(H)
445mm(W) x 255mm(D) x 157mm(H)
Weight 11.5lbs. 5.2Kgs

Overall rating: 88%


Orange Get Animalistic

Orange Get AnimalisticUK Mobile company, Orange, is to abandon their numbered Talk plans to replace them with ‘types’ – Dolphins, Canaries, Racoons and Panthers.

We’ve covered this before when it first hit the news, but from Saturday it all starts to happen in the Orange’s shops.

OK … we understand that this is a PR-driven story, but given Orange’s past, we think it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Orange Get AnimalisticOrange has always been a pioneer in dealing with customers. This started with their name, which back in 1994, was extremely adventurous – as was tying it in with a colour and trying to associate it with emotion.

This combined with leading the field in customer service, gaining them significant number of users – despite the early problems they had with the quality of the actual mobile call service.

Orange Get AnimalisticOn a personal note – I’ve been with Orange since they started and was highly impressed in the early days. Over the years I found that the quality has gone south a little – people you speak to there are a little less helpful; the flexibility that made you glad to be with Orange and started to atrophy shortly after Wanadoo (France Telecom) took over in 2001.

Back to the story – Orange’s research has brought up that 68% of the British find mobile phone tariffs confusing. When they’re labeled 100, 200, 300 & 500, we find it baffling that people can’t understand what they getting.

Orange Get AnimalisticInstead we will be categorised as Dolphins, Canaries, Racoons or Panthers. Here’s the explanation …

  • Fun Loving Dolphins – Dolphins are fun loving, extrovert characters that enjoy the spontaneous and impulsive. Thrilling new experiences are always welcome
  • Chattering Canaries – Canaries love to indulge themselves with the small pleasures of life � relaxing hot baths, great haircuts, and maybe the odd facial
  • Dilligent Raccoons – Raccoons can turn their hands to many things, and will always show commitment to the hobbies and interests they settle on
  • Proud Panthers – Panthers are careful time managers, hungry to squeeze the most out of life. These cats aren’t afraid to search out and enjoy the unusual

Worthless nonsense or a world leading move? Only time will tell.

Mobile Music Download Market Explodes

Mobile Music Download Market ExplodesGlobal revenue from music downloaded onto mobile phones went through the roof last year, with pundits predicting that the only way is up for the next five years.

ABI Research’s “Mobile Music Services” surveyed world markets for downloads of full music tracks, ringtones and ringback tones and revealed that the market for full track music downloads to mobile devices had ballooned by 2,000% in the twelve months to the end of 2005.

Compared to sales of $12.4 million in 2004, last year saw an explosive growth in the market, with handset owners shelling out a thumping great $251 million on music downloads – and that figure is expected to reach $9.3 billion by 2011.

The report notes that the high penetration of home PCs in North America has limited over-the-air downloads compared to overseas markets like Asia where mobile phones enjoy greater popularity than PCs.

Similarly, the absence of a Japanese iTunes store until Q4 of 2005 also helped telecom operator KDDI shift 30 million mobile tracks in Japan last year.

Mobile Music Download Market ExplodesHow to make a mint from mobile music
If you fancy chancing your arm in the music download market, Arthur Daley’s of the world will appreciate the list of ‘prerequisites for future success in the music-download business’ dished out in the report.

These include a 3G network capable of supporting the product, agreements between carriers and record labels and a distribution system that checks that handsets can accept the content and, crucially, ensures that punters fork out for the product.

Moreover, there must be robust copyright-protection software in place which allows mobile phone users to shunt tracks between devices with no bother.

Finally, the handsets themselves must come with enough memory to store an ample selection of banging tunes and be capable of supporting music downloads and transfers.

And with that, we’re off to launch the Digital Lifestyle Music Download service from our lock-up under the arches.

ABI Research

Takeaway Festival Of Do It Yourself Media

More and more people are transforming themselves from media consumers to producers – using the new tools, software and technologies now at their disposal.

From the expanding realm of free and open source software (FLOSS), to peer-to-peer (P2P) distribution and ‘pervasive’ mobile and locative technologies, the possibilities exist as never before to create and disseminate our opinions and experiences through our own media.

TAKEAWAY, the Festival of do it yourself Media, will help you to understand what it’s all about and how to take part in the revolution.
The Dana Centre – Science Museum 165 Queen’s Gate South Kensington London SW7 5HD

Google Increases US Search Dominance

Google Increases US Search DominanceAfter reporting Google’s huge dominance of the UK search market, new figures reveal that it also looks set to grab a gorilla-sized chunk of the US search market.

According to the latest statistics from ComScore Networks, Google is increasing its lead over rivals Yahoo and Microsoft, with its US domestic market share soaring to 42.3 percent in February, up from 36.3 percent in the same period last year.

While the vintage champagne corks popped (or water, if we know Google’s public modesty) in Google’s San Francisco’s offices, it was Woodpecker cider for the fading stars at Yahoo who saw their market share slump to 27.6 percent from 31.1 percent a year ago.

Elsewhere, Microsoft’s MSN share of the search market tumbled down to 13.5 percent from 16.3 percent , while Time Warner’s America Online saw their popularity ebb in a downwards direction, falling to 8 percent from 8.9 percent.

Only the newly rebranded could muster any cheer, with the Jeeves-less company seeing their share rising to 6 percent from 5.3 percent.

Analysts reckon that that Google could be on an unstoppable roll, with RBC Capital Markets analyst Jordan Rohan commenting, “We see little to stop Google from reaching 70 percent market share eventually; the question, really, comes down to, ‘How long could it take?”

Google Increases US Search DominanceMerrill Lynch analyst Lauren Fine predicted that, “Google’s increased market share and better monetisation of queries will lead to an increased share of ad dollars relative to competitors in the first half of this year.”

Fine also said that Google’s clear strategic focus on search will continue to give the company a competitive edge in the coming months as leading competitors “struggle” to improve their search platforms.

Microsoft fightback
Although Google looks to be running away with the search market, things may get interesting later in the year when Microsoft roll out their new search and Windows Vista and IE7 packages.

“Microsoft is making a business and technology transition that could affect search in the short term. The company has placed its bets on long-term gains,” commented Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox.

“Strangely, Microsoft seems to deliver best when the pressure is greatest. So, Google gains might actually benefit Microsoft over the long haul,” he added.