Vaio U: Sony’s Tiny Tablet Media PC, US Launch

Sony VGN-U750P1The latest addition to Sony’s VAIO range of personal computers is really, really different. The VAIO VGN-U750P (around US$2,000) is a palmtop computer that also goes under the more firendly name of the Vaio U and weighs considerably less than the average laptop (167x108x26mm, 550g), yet boasts a fully fledged Intel-based environment running Windows XP Professional SP2 as opposed to the specialised platforms powering other handhelds, such as Palm OS, Windows Mobile or even Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

Empowering you to actually work and view photos and video on the move – rather than simply manage e-mails and calendars – the diminutive system boasts a 1.10GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 512MB of system RAM, an accommodating 20GB hard disk drive (4,200rpm), as well as an Intel 855GM graphics card with 64MB of shared video RAM. In addition, it has a touch-sensitive, 5in. colour display with XBrite LCD technology that has a relatively high native resolution of 800×600 pixels (16-bit colour depth) and can output to an external VGA display, courtesy of an add-on port replicator. Of course, similar to any handheld worth its money it’s heaviliy connected, there’s also built-in 100Mbit/s Ethernet and 802.11b/g connectivity, as well as single FireWire and Memory Stick ports, four USB 2.0 ports and a CompactFlash Type II card slot for importing files or digital photos from a variety of digital cameras.

Sony has thought about productivity, too. Utilising proprietary software, the VAIO VGN-U750P supports handwriting recognition and other features similar to those found in Tablet PCs, such as a virtual keyboard and a multi-point navigational stick to control the system. There are also a few dedicated buttons to perform frequently-used commands, and thumb controls let you change the display orientation on the fly, from landscape to portrait mode and back. You can also connect the supplied foldable keyboard for ‘rapid’ text input on the move, or hook up the bundled headphones with remote control capabilities for audio and video playback.

It’s encouraging that Sony is actually releasing this after the many rumours that it had been shelved.

DVR Wireless Kit for Police from Avalon RF

Avalon Rugged Police Tablet PCDesigned for law enforcement, perimeter security and long-range video links, AValon RF’s new wireless range includes receivers, transmitters, remote display units (RDUs) and a variety of specialised antennas. The company’s technology provides broadcast quality, interference-free video links over the frequency spectrum of 56MHz to 2.5GHz, allowing security personnel to use a rugged PDA and Tablet PC to wirelessly view video from remote cameras while driving in a patrol vehicle.

For instance, the AValon ICV04 is a four-channel video recorder that lets you record streaming audio and video on an internal hard disk drive at 30fps. It is designed to fit under a vehicle seat and receive commands through a remote control, a computer, or a remote smart display. Recording is triggered manually or automatically by an external signal, such as a siren, flashing light activation, or code 1-2-3 in a police patrol vehicle. The recorded streaming video can be read via a USB port or archived on a standard CD-RW media.

Other features of the neat device include four video/audio inputs for a wireless LC618M lapel camera (or MX416 microphone), windshield camera, back seat camera and a trunk camera, VITC time/date stamping on all recorded video, support for up to 1 hour of recording on a 400MB Dataplay CD, and a USB 2.0 interface-to-vehicle computer/gateway. It utilises standard 12-volt powering and comes in ruggedised enclosure.

AValon RF

Treo 650 Launched by PalmOne

PalmOne Treo 650A finer, mellow blend of phone and PDA, PalmOne launched the Treo 650 in the US yesterday. There are changes on the outside and changes on the inside – some cosmetic, some ergonomic, and some fundamentally technical. I’d be happy to ditch my current phone if I won this in a raffle!

PalmOne plans to make two versions of the Treo 650. A dual-band version will support CDMA/1XRTT cellular networks, used by Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless. A quad-band version will run on GSM networks, used by T-Mobile, Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless. The GSM model will also support AT&T’s EDGE, a higher-speed data network. But built in Wi-Fi support is still missing as is, we understand, support for PalmOne’s own add on WiFi cards. We expect this is bowing to pressure from cellular providers who are terrified of Voice over WiFi eating their high-charging services for breakfast.

The Treo 650 has a higher-resolution screen – 320 by 320 pixels compared with the Treo 600’s 160 by 160 pixels.  It’s faster with a 312MHz Intel processor compared with the Treo 600’s 144MHz Texas Instruments chip, while memory capacity remains the same at 32MB.  An improved VGA camera can record video as well as still images and should work better in low-light situations. Storage is provided by Flash memory enabling expansion. The Treo 650 has a removable battery, which gives up to five hours of continuous digital talk time and over two weeks of standby time

A new e-mail application, VersaMail supports Exchange Server 2003, POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP, so 650 users can now connect remotely to corporate networks to get e-mail. Furthermore, built-in Bluetooth Wireless Technology allows you to wirelessly synchronise with Bluetooth-enabled desktop or laptop computers.

Software applications include Documents To Go 7 with native MS Office support allowing you to View and edit Word and Excel documents, an audio player for MP3s, and the new palmOne Media suite from Zire 72.

With all that improved technology on the inside, simple ergonomics have not been forgotten. The 650 has an improved backlit QWERTY keyboard with larger, flatter keys, and strategic button placement for easier one-handed access. 

A touch too far might be the vanity mirror for self-portraits, while a community service to movie and theatre buffs might be the hardware silent switch. Sprint will be the first carrier to offer the smart phone from mid-November, and pricing is expected to be in the $400 (~£217, €312) to $500 (~£271, €390) range.

PalmOne Treo 650

Pocket Streets 2005 Now for Smartphones and Pocket PC’s

Microsoft Pocket Streets 2005Microsoft recently announced Pocket Streets 2005 as a stand-alone product, although it still remains a component of their Streets and Trips 2005 package. There are two separate stand-alone versions ¯ Pocket Streets 2005 for Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs, and Pocket Streets 2005 for Windows Mobile-based Smartphones.

If you own a Smartphone, you can toss away the compass since the Smartphone version now has GPS support. Previous versions of Pocket Streets only had GPS functionality in the Pocket PC version. If you are looking for routing and driving directions though you will still need to consult Microsoft Streets & Trips or Microsoft MapPoint.

You can generate directions and maps for Pocket Streets using the 2004 or later versions of MapPoint, Microsoft Streets & Trips, and AutoRoute, or you can download Microsoft’s maps of major cities. Pocket Streets 2005 includes more than 300 maps of North America and more than 275 maps of Western Europe, as well as Microsoft ActiveSync 3.7. New maps are available for Australia, Brazil, and Greece, but these will only be compatible with Pocket Streets 2005.

This is an ideal companion for any tourist visiting a city for the first time.  You can locate the nearest ATM or service garage, in fact Pocket Streets has an extensive in-built list of bank ATMs and public transportation sites. You can customize maps with personal points of interest, and a new measurement scale feature is expected to determine the distance between locations more accurately.

Two useful features will help the more absent-minded traveller. Pocket Streets 2005 opens with the most recently used map already loaded, and you can search for destinations and addresses by using only partial names.

Pocket Streets is currently only available in English, but you can download maps that are in any language. It will sell for an estimated retail price of $24.95 (~€19.63). 

Pocket Streets 2005

Robbie William’s Flash New Album

Robbie William’s new Greatest Hits album will be available on MMC memory card, the first major album ever to be sold on the format. Designed for use in PDAs and mobile phones, the cards will be available from Carphone Warehouse stores next month for UK£29.99 (€43.14).

The publisher, EMI Music, are in talks with Carphone Warehouse to bring out more albums on MMC before Christmas, under CW’s ‘playmobile’ brand. Isn’t that a range of plastic figures? Oh, I see the connection.

EMI claim that the sound quality will be comparable to a CD – though as the album also features video, the content is sure to be heavily compressed. Since mobile phones and PDAs are far from high fidelity devices, I suspect it doesn’t matter to most of the people who will buy the card anyway – though I predict that 25% of sales will be to nosy music execs from other labels.

Carphone Warehouse are modestly saying that the introduction of Robbie’s new MMC is the beginning of a new music era, and that it will ‘delight the iPod generation.’

I seriously doubt it will delight people with iPods – no technical details are available on the file encoding scheme, but I doubt if they’ll be compatible. In fact, I will give the first person who manages to get the tracks from the MMC to play, natively, on an iPod an original, vinyl, 12” of Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’, the track that Williams shamelessly ripped-off for his new single Radio. No transcoding allowed, and using kit available to your average Robbie William’s fan.

The MMC format will be fraught with problems – not all phones or PDAs use MMC cards and consumers may avoid it when they realise that they won’t be able to use the music on other devices like their home or car stereo. At two or three times the cost of a CD. The value added features will have to be compelling.

The Carphone Warehouse’s Director of Group Business Development Kevin Gillan said in a statement: “2004 has undeniably seen a massive, and very mainstream, shift towards digital music. We see pre-loaded music memory cards as the next step and part of a general consumer hunger for more mobile content. playmobile will go beyond this and provide our customers with a quality experience at real value for money.”

CW intend to introduce many other types of content on the playmobile brand, including games, ringtones, wallpaper and video.

Robbie Williams

OQO’s Ultrapersonal Computer Hits the Shops

OQO have launched their ultrapersonal computer, the OQO Model 01. At 4.9” x 3.4” x 0.9”, it’s the size of a largish PDA, and has a 5” touch-sensitive 800 x 480 screen. Inside, though, it’s definitely not a PDA – it’s built around a 1ghz Transmeta Crusoe chip with 256mb of RAM and a cushioned 20gb hard drive. The sort of specification seen in laptops three or so years ago, though Bluetooth and WiFi (b only) are built in. OQO claim around three hours of usage on a single charge.

The screen slides back over the unit in a sort of rack and pinion arrangement, revealing a 52 button keyboard. Graphics are handled by a 8mb 3D accelerator. A docking unit is available so that your OQO can be connected to a DVD drive, external monitor and a keyboard you don’t have to be an Ewok to use.

All this miniaturisation comes at a cost – the Model 01 will set you back US$1900 (€1533!), so you’d better have a really good reason to justify buying this over, say, one of the smaller notebooks.

The Model 01 will run Window XP, though reports on performance are not good – the 1ghz processor struggles with Microsoft’s behemoth of an operating system. Since the 01 will run some Linux distributions, users following the path of the penguin might get better results. It could be handy for those who regularly give presentations – it can be attached to PC projectors, and Mandrake with OpenOffice might be a good solution for this sort of work.

OQO Model 01

Palm’s T5

Palm have announced the latest in their popular line of PDAs – the T5. There have been months and months of speculation over what features the T5, may or may not have, but the most interesting thing about the new handheld is its memory configuration.

The T5 is built around 256mb of Flash memory – 215mb is available to the user: 55mb is system memory, leaving 160mb for storage. As it’s Flash memory, data is much safer from sudden hard resets or the occasional month away from a power socket. Palm are clearly capitalising on the success of USB key drives and their ability to carry large amounts of documents between the home and the office. No doubt security managers everywhere will be shaking their heads in woe again.

The PDA runs PalmOS5.4, and whilst it features the T3 320 x 480 screen, there is no slider on the new model. Cunningly, there is a little groove where the screen might have slid apart, though this might just baffle some people.

No WiFi (that caught a few people out), but Bluetooth is still in – expect a WiFi SDIO card in due course. Street price is about US$399 (€322).

Palm T5

Sidekick ll has Arrived

SideKick IISideKick II, Danger’s successor to its Sidekick “smart phone.” hits the US shops running on Wednesday.  The launch happens today though in Santa Monica where you can also buy the 25 percent slimmer version a day earlier.

This is a portable office, and not only because the screen swivels open to showcase a full QWERTY keyboard.  What else would you call a device that incorporates instant messaging, email, web browsing, a phone service, and a personal organiser, which stores up to 2,000 personal contacts, all accessible through a simple interface?  Not to mention a built-in low-resolution digital camera with flash, and built-in speakerphone, and enhanced battery life giving approximately 4.5 hours of talk time.  Retailing at $299 (~£166, ~€244) with a one-year contract also makes it a very affordable moveable feast for the mobile professional.  Furthermore, each Sidekick II owner gets a personal Web site, run by T-Mobile and Danger, that automatically synchronizes with the device.

T- Mobile Sidekick II owners get their own email account and can set up as many as three external accounts to deliver email directly to their inbox. Yahoo! Messenger is now available for download to the T-Mobile Sidekick II, in addition to the fully integrated version of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service, meaning users can IM their friends and colleagues while surfing the Web.
The T-Mobile Sidekick II, based on Danger, Inc.’s hiptop Wireless Solution, will be available through T-
Mobile at T-Mobile retail stores, selected national retailers, and online at  Along with the launch of the T-Mobile Sidekick II, T-Mobile and Danger plan to introduce software that will enable Sidekick customers to wirelessly synchronize their desktop contacts and calendar information with their T-Mobile Sidekick. This synchronization software will be available for the T-Mobile Sidekick II and previous Sidekick generations.

Danger Inc.