Coms F1000/F3000: WiFi VoIP Handsets

Coms F1000/F3000: WiFi VoIP HandsetsUK VoIP company, Coms, has just launched two WiFi VoIP handsets in advance of their service which is going live on 9 October.

Coms claim their service will be the first in the UK that let people choose their own phone number from 178 UK geographic area codes.

Don’t forget, all you need to use these handsets is a WiFi connection, either yours, or any open connection. We think these services will be big and eventually seriously dent the income of mobile phone companies, especially roaming minutes when people are abroad.

We’ve had our hands on a few VoIP WiFi phones of late or VoWiFi as we’re referring to them, and have generally found them pretty easy to use – despite them clearly being at the early stage of their development.

Coms F1000/F3000: WiFi VoIP HandsetsWhile we’ve not had our hands on these particular handsets (yet – watch this space), we seen shots of them and had sight of the specs. Both work on 802.11b & g and use SIP which will allow them to work with most IP-PBX kit.

The F1000 is much like other VoWiFi handsets that we’ve seen and a little reminiscent of early-ish mobile phone handsets. Couple of stats on it. Talk time, up to 4 hours, with a 2-3 hours charge time and a standby of 80-100 hours. It’s 11 x 4.5 x 2.2 cm and weighs in at 111g. The cost? RRP £128 ($239, €189).

The upscale F3000 is a first to us, a VoWiFi handset that is a flip phone. Stats: Talk time, up to 3 hours, with a 2.5 hours charge time and a standby of up to 75 hours. Size: 85 x 43 x 22 mm and weight of 90g. RRP £175 ($326, €258).

Differences between the F1000 and F3000 include the F3000 have a 65k colour 1.8″ screen, polyphonic ringtones.

Shared features are

  • Roaming between Wi-Fi access points
  • Up to four stored SSIDs with individual security settings
  • Up to four hours talk time, up to 100-hours standby time
  • Call hold, call waiting, call transfer, call conferencing
  • Call logs – made, answered, missed calls
  • Caller ID
  • Personal address book with auto dial
  • Built in Web server for administration
  • Automated provisioning – up to 256 byte encryption
  • TFTP
  • HTTP

Tune in later for reviews of the handsets and the service.

Coms

Microsoft Zune: $249: 14 Nov

Microsoft Zune: $249: 14 NovThe buzz has been around for months and finally we get to hear the pricing. Retail pricing will be $249 and it will hit the shops in 14th November in the US.

What will people get for the money?
A 30Gb digital media player, with a three-inch LCD video screen; WiFi for passing music around and … wait for it …. an FM tuner. There’ll be three colours – black, brown and white.

Each device will come with songs (9), music videos (12), film shorts (3) and images loaded onto it.

Microsoft have learnt from Apple and will be releasing some new software to select content and load it on to your Zune.

Microsoft Zune: $249: 14 NovAlong side this will be the Zune Pass subscription service, which for $14.99/month will give access to “millions of songs.” The downside on this one is that once you stop paying, your stop getting access to the music.

If this doesn’t appeal, you can buy tracks individually at 79 Microsoft Points per track (Yes, less than iTunes). If you’re unfamiliar with Microsoft Points, they’re like pre-paid phone cards.

Microsoft Zune: $249: 14 NovThere’s going to be a ton of accessories available at launch, which are listed at the bottom of the press release and are prices between $20 and $100.

As to whether Microsoft will pursue current Apple customers to drop their iPods for a Zune, or more significantly, waste the money they may have spent buying music or videos on Apple iTunes, is quite another thing. As we all know iTMS customers would’ve had to burn all of their purchased tracks to disk and re-rip them to play them on a Zune.

Large screen grab of Zune PC software

Pace Micro Shipping 1st Motorola-based PVR To Comcast

Pace Micro Shipping 1st Motorola-based PVR To ComcastGood news for UK Tech firm Pace Micro as it receives confirmation from number one US cable company, Comcast to ship combined Set Top Box (STB) and PVR.

The dual-tuner SD PVR, known as the Vegas TDC575 in the US market, has been through trials and is now being shipped out to regions (or system as Comcast call them) across the US.

This is the first time that a non-US company has shipped Motorola-based systems in to the US. Pace have been shipping Scientific-Atlanta-based boxes to the US for a while.

Pace Micro Shipping 1st Motorola-based PVR To ComcastComcast is mighty, being the largest provider of cable services in the US, with 23.3 million cable customers, 10 million high-speed Internet customers and 1.6 million voice customers. Their business extends beyond simple cable TV provision, in their own words, they’re “focused on broadband cable, commerce, and content.”

Pace Micro
Pace Vegas TDC575
Comcast

Lastolite Cubelite Portable Studio Review (83%)

Lastolite Cubelite Portable Studio ReviewProducing high quality, well-lit, studio-style photographs can be quite a challenge if you don’t happen to have access to a studio set-up at home or be the proud owner of an expensive camera.

Although half-decent pictures can be obtained courtesy of some Blue Paper style bodging about with white paper, desk lamps and sticky back plastic, it’s hardly the best solution if you need to be able to consistently take professional looking photos.

The Lastolite Cubelite kits look to provide a handy solution here, bundling all the components you need to knock out fab shots from the comfort of your own home.

Lastolite Cubelite Portable Studio ReviewThe Cubelite cubes come in a range of sizes, from two foot up to six foot six inches, with each package including a 500w tungsten light and tripod, two-sided silver and white reflector, white background and carry case.

We plumped to review the 2 foot kit and the first surprise was the size of the box it all came in – it was enormous!

On unpacking the contents, we were suitably impressed by the pro-looking lamp and the tripod that extended all the way up to our ceiling.

Lastolite Cubelite Portable Studio ReviewUnleashing the beast
Releasing the Cubelite from its natty blue bag was fun: a quick shake of the thing and – wooowargh! – a white mini-tent pops out!

Although we chose the smallest size, it was still quite a large beast, and you’d need a fair size table to accommodate the set-up – we reckon you could probably take the 6 foot tent to Glastonbury and provide accommodation for a few friends.

Lastolite Cubelite Portable Studio ReviewFollowing the straightforward instructions, we stuck the lamp on the tripod and set it up so that it shone it through the fabric from a distance of 18 inches.

Inside the light tent, we used the elastic loops and supplied clips to fix the white background and then positioned the reflector inside, on the opposite side to the lamp.

We grabbed the nearest object we could find (an apple), lobbed it into the middle of the tent and then angled the reflector about until we got the light looking jus’ so.

Lastolite Cubelite Portable Studio ReviewA useful, albeit minimal, single sheet of A4 paper advised us on how to sort out the colour balance on our camera, and before long we were knocking out some s-s-s-studio style photos with ease, with the diffusing material making it a cinch to grab attractive, shadow-free results.

Verdict
We liked the Cubelite a lot, and it’s a great product for people who need to be able to take high quality images without the hassle of erecting a permanent studio.

Lastolite Cubelite Portable Studio ReviewWe found the Cubelite easy to lug about, although the towering tripod and heavy duty lamp may have bordered on overkill for such a small set up.

It’s not cheap at £256 (excl VAT) either, but for working photographers and mustard-keen eBay sellers, it could prove a wise investment and it’s a product we’re happy to recommend.

Lastolite Cubelite Portable Studio ReviewRating
Ease of use: 85%
Build: 80%
Features: 80%
Value for money: 80%
Overall: 83%

Cubelite

BBC Signs MoU With Microsoft: Disaster For Open Media?

The BBC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft. Areas of the potential investigation and collaboration that the non-exclusive agreement includes, covers “search and navigation, distribution, and content enablement” (what ever that means in English).

It was signed in a meeting that sounds like it was designed to massage the egos of Mark Thompson (BBC Chief) and Ashley Highfield (BBC Head of Tech), held with Bill Gates (queue trumpets) at Microsoft’s office in Seattle.

Highfield is quoted as saying “Microsoft is not just a key supplier to the BBC, it is also a key gateway to audiences that the BBC needs to reach through Web services it runs like MSN and Windows Live Messenger, and hardware such as Xbox® and the Windows Media Center.” Apparently trying to balance this, he continued “The BBC needs to work with all players in this space to make sure our programmes and content are enjoyed by the widest possible audience, without always having to come to bbc.co.uk to find it.”

It’s with horror that we read this news. It’s hard to imagine that the BBC will stay format neutral following a deal like this.

Microsoft has been creeping into the BBC’s online media for a long time now. It first came to light when we broke the story near the start of 2004 that the BBC’s interactive media player trial (as it was then) would be using the Microsoft’s media format and DRM. At that point, the story BBC spun, was that they weren’t committed to using Microsoft’s DRM, but each stage of the trial beyond that, did.

The news today doesn’t go a long way to changing our view that it won’t be a permanent feature.

Of course Gates and Highfield shared a stage at Mix06 back in March this year

Quite why the BBC is tying its colours to the Microsoft mast is beyond us, especially as the announcement focused alot on Web 2.0. It’s widely thought that Microsoft has lost the dominant position it used to hold and is struggling to catchup with the developments that have gone on in the Web 2.0 world – expect bloggers to rip this one apart.

A move like this could take the BBC from an organisation held in high regard with the high tech grass roots, to one of ridicule.

BBC Press release

ViaMichelin X-980T Mini-Review: The Michelin Man Guides You Around Town (69%)

ViaMichelin is the part of the Michelin group that designs, develops and markets digital travel assistance products. They already have a successful Website that uses information from the Michelin Guide allowing visitors to plan their travel and routes utilising the Guide info.

They have also moved into providing the information into other areas such as mobile and SatNav products, the latest being the X-980T Europe.

The X-980T has a bright 4.3 inch display surrounded by about a 1 inch plastic border, making the unit about 6 inches long and 4 inches deep. It’s just under an inch thick. It’s quite big, however it will fit into a pocket unlike TomTom, their main competitors.

The unit is due for release mid October and will have an RRP of £449.

Why get a X-980T?
It’s not the prettiest unit out there, but it comes packed with lots of features. There’s a complete set of European maps on the provided SD card, as well as the complete Michelin Guide which lists 51,000 European hotels and restaurants and the Green Guide which has 19,000 tourist and cultural sites. There’s quite a bit of information about the entries including the guide’s rating.

It uses the latest Sirf Star III GPS receiver, which acquires satellites quickly and maintains a lock on them. While testing the unit (inside a bus, in central London) it managed to lock on to 6 GPS satellites which is pretty good.

The system also comes with an RDS/TMC traffic decoder built-in (it needs an external aerial for it to work though) allowing it to update traffic in real-time without paying for any subscription services. The navigation software can be set to prompt the user if a traffic alert comes in that will effect the route, or it can automatically re-navigate to avoid the problem.

There’s also a speed camera database for the UK (which isn’t actually available yet, but will be in late October) and other countries. Again it’s included in the price (as are updates).

Bluetooth is also included and the system will act as a hands-free kit for a Bluetooth enabled phone. This also ties in well with the Michelin Guide information, by choosing a restaurant the system can navigate there, and as the phone number is also included – dial through the phone and you can reserve a table.

The voice directions are pretty normal, but there’s also a text to speech engine which can be used instead which will read out the names of roads and points of interest (in the language the device it set to).

An “infinite” number of stop-offs may also be included in a route for visiting all those tourist attractions.

Overall Verdict
Even as a straight SatNav it boasts a lot of extras, like the included subscription free traffic and camera databases, but it’s the Michelin Guide that makes it something different. However that won’t appeal to a lot of people just working out how to get from A to B. If it’s going to be used for business or fleet use, or planning a holiday, then the Guide may prove invaluable.

The screen doesn’t seem as crisp as on some SatNavs, but it’s definitely pocketable so could be used when leaving the car and navigating somewhere on foot.

Though it’s a good unit, it’s just not quite ergonomically right.

Overall score: 69%

Sony Vaio C Series Notebooks Announced

Sony Vaio C Series Notebooks AnnouncedWe love a good laugh at overblown press releases that get carried away with themselves, so we certainly cheered up when we got our hands on Sony’s latest artistic offering describing their new Sony’s new Vaio C range of laptops.

After a flurry of flapping flipcharts, mind-storming mood-boards and envelope-pushing, Sony’s visioneer team decided that the fact that the laptops come in five “hip colours” wasn’t enough; they needed to explain the significance of each colour to us mere mortals.

Graciously declaring that “what you choose depends on who you are,” the creative team declared that the silver white model was just the ticket for the “modern, sophisticated man or woman who wants to reflect calm, cool, karma,” with its “natural, lighter tones suggestive of inner peace.”

The pink model was apparently designed for “the free spirit who likes to be noticed,” while the green laptop is for “the explorer who wants to feel at one with nature.”

Meanwhile, the grey and orange combo is for the “jet-setting nomad,” apparently offering a, “catchy hint of an active, mobile lifestyle,” while the black model was for those who want a “classic understated look that offers timeless elegance” with the “luxurious olive blacks” being “suggestive of subtle chic and sophistication.”

High on triple-shot, low-fat buzzword-uccinos, Sony’s press release went on to insist that the C in the C-series stands for “Choice, Colour, Cosmopolitan and Chic.”

Sony Vaio C Series Notebooks AnnouncedOr maybe, “Cor blimey, who writes this Cobblers?”

Once we managed to waft away the noxious fug of marketing-spiel, we could see there’s a lot to like about Sony’s new machines.

Weighing in at 5 pounds, the Vaio C laptops are powered by Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66Ghz processors with the lappie proclaiming its future-proofing as, “Windows Vista capable” and” Windows Vista Premium ready”.

Flipping open the Vaio, there’s a 13.3-inch WXGA (1280 x 800) widescreen display employing Sony’s energy-saving XBRITE-ECO LCD technology.

Sony Vaio C Series Notebooks AnnouncedConnectivity options come in the shape of an integrated 802.11a/b/g wireless LAN, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick Pro or ExpressCard media slots and i.LINK (IEEE 802.11) and USB ports.

Hard drive capacity runs from 100GB to 120GB, there’s a healthy 1 GB DDR2-533 SDRAM onboard and a built-in DVD+/-R Double Layer/DVD+/-RW/-RAM drive for your multimedia pleasure.

The new range should be available at the end of October, priced from £999 upwards, and customers looking to “complete the look with panache” can shell out for a custom carrying case created exclusively by a “trendsetting” Italian bag designer who regales under the fabulous name of Mandarina Duck.

[From SonyStyle]

Kodak Z710 EasyShare: Photokina

Kodak Z710 EasyShareWith the Photokina 2006 photo fair opening its gates for business, the big guns are rolling out new product announcements at a rate of knots, and Kodak has offered details of their budget-priced 7.1-megapixel EasyShare Z710 Zoom.

It’s unlikely to win any beauty competitions, but the Z710 has a reasonable feature set, sporting a beefy (but non-stabilised) 10x optical zoom and advanced manual controls including programme, aperture and shutter priority, as well as a full manual mode -a nice addition at this price point.

Point and shooters should feel suitably pampered with no less than 19 pre-programmed scene and colour modes to attend to their every photographic whim, including candlelight, fireworks, party and beach settings.

Kodak Z710 EasyShareAt the rear there’s a (now) rather miserly 2″ LCD, plus the standard array of controls and an optical viewfinder (we like them).

The display also features a live histogram and a capture grid line display helping punters keep their horizons level and their verticals upright.

Kodak Z710 EasyShareKodak are claiming that the 7.1 megapixel image sensor and ‘professional quality’ Schneider Kreuznach Variogon 10X optical zoom lens are capable of capturing high-quality prints up to 30 x 40 inches (76 x 102 cm), helped by their Kodak Color Science imaging processing chip.

Available this month, the Kodak Z710 camera is set to retail for £279 (RRP) ($530, €415).

Kodak Z710

NTL 4 for £40 quad-play announced

NTL 4 for £40 quad-play announcedNTL, UK Cable provider, has announced a quad-play offering for £40.

The ‘4 for £40′ service (with the inevitable Virgin-inspired foreplay joke to come) is the first product of the tie-up between Virgin Mobile and NTL.

As we’ve reported extensively, all of the communication world is bringing out packages that bring together various elements of communication as mobile phone companies get together with fixed-line broadband providers. The additional part with the NTL deal is the Digital TV.

The ‘4 for £40′ package includes:

Broadband

  • Up to 2Mb with no limits on downloads
  • Firewall and anti-virus software included
  • Installed by an expert and modem included

Digital TV

  • Over 30 channels, including Sky One, UKTV Gold, E4, Film4, ITV2 and LIVINGtv
  • On demand access to a huge library of programmes and films – watch what you want, when you want
  • Set-top box included and no need for a dish

Home phone

  • Unlimited weekend calls to any UK landline
  • Highly competitive mobile rates and simple tariffs at other times
  • Standard features including 1471 and 1571 voicemail

Mobile

  • A Virgin Mobile SIM
  • 300 texts and 300 minutes a month, plus free voicemail
  • Access to Virgin Mobile Bites entertainment service
  • One interesting feature is that the broadband offered is unlimited, which is bound to appeal to the tech savvy.

    NTL 4 for £40 quad-play announcedBigging the service up and attempting to create extra excitement for the future, Neil Berkett, chief operating officer of ntl Telewest, enthused: “Quadplay demonstrates the unique power of the cable-Virgin Mobile union and this is just the beginning. Our new package represents unbeatable value while meeting a wide range of consumers’ entertainment and communication needs.

    Current subscribers to NTL won’t be left out in the cold, they’ll be able to take advantage of the new service for an additional £10/month on top of their current packages.

    NTL. (Strangely for such a big launch, the NTL site hasn’t been updated with details of the 4 for £40, at the time of publishing.)

    Expanded Euro Regulation Repudiation By UK’s OFCOM: TWF

    Expanded Regulation Repudiation By UK's OFCOMThe UK’s broadcasting and telecommunications regulator OFCOM last week made clear its opposition to potential EU regulation. It fears it will straight-jacket the emerging new wave industries aiming to propel high tech growth in the EU zone over the coming years.

    Currently regulation of broadcasting in the EU lies within sovereign states but the overriding policy is subject to the famous 1989, Television Without Frontiers Directive which is likely to be updated and widened in 2007. At the time of the drafting of this legislation, TV was considered as a linear broadcasting method of distribution. The danger is that now the bureaucrats have an inkling of what convergence means, they want to manage its development.

    OFCOM commissioned the respected Rand Corporation to look at how the proposed changes would affect Europe’s emerging IPTV networks alongside new-fangled mobile multimedia and online games. The findings mirror the concerns of OFCOM.

    The report, “Assessing Indirect Impacts of the EC Proposals for Video Regulation” makes a powerful case for the online games industry to be excluded from the new legislation, seeing a risk of the development of fresh gaming, moving to countries unfettered by cumbersome legislation, ie. Outside the EU.

    Expanded Regulation Repudiation By UK's OFCOMThe study also makes clear its’ worries that excessive regulation could mean that countries outside of the EU would benefit from the expected growth in non traditional delivery of multimedia content, before it has established itself in Europe.

    The model of broadcast intervention could impact much of the new wave Internet traffic; judging Youtube and Myspace by similar criteria to traditional linear broadcasters

    Lobbying is expected to continue with the entrenched traditional media industry hoping to protect dwindling revenues and state players keen to politicize the situation. Some solace can be taken that the UK regulator has at least identified the danger of over regulation.