Archive for November, 2008

Video demo: Nokia XpressMusic 5800's media playback features

Nokia’s new touchscreen phone, the XpressMusic 5800, is being pitched as an affordable music and video centric phone — it’s the third handset to support the company’s all-you-can-eat music subscription service, Comes With Music — rather than being an outright iPhone killer (it isn’t). On that note, after playing with the device for a few weeks — see my first impressions — here’s a hands-on video I shot walking through the 5800’s media playback features.

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Zune phone anyone? Windows Mobile partners look away

Last February when Microsoft announced it had purchased Danger, makers of T-Mobile’s consumer friendly smartphone the Sidekick, I suggested that rumors of a Zune-branded phone would quickly resurface. Today, CNBC’s Jim Goldman claims that a new device from Microsoft, codenamed ‘pink’, is indeed in the works and that it will combine the company’s Zune with technology from Danger, with an end goal to develop a viable competitor to Apple’s iPhone.

All of which seems perfectly plausible. Both the Zune and Danger teams fall under the company’s Entertainment and Devices Division, which also overseas the XBox 360 — Microsoft’s most successful foray into the consumer electronics space — and is all about what the company calls “connected experiences”. As I wrote at the time, it’s in this context where the Danger acquisition made most sense, with Microsoft citing Danger’s mobile Web browsing, instant messaging, games, multimedia, and social networking applications, which in combination with MSN, Xbox, Zune, Windows Live and Windows Mobile technologies, would help it deliver “industry-leading entertainment and communication experiences”.

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Finally, Blockbuster's Internet set-top box unveiled

We knew it was coming. First, video rental chain Blockbuster purchased the movie download service MovieLink — originally a joint venture between Hollywood studios Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. and MGM — and then the company, through a series of leaks to the press, began hinting at related plans to release a set-top box. A few denials later, followed by an outright confirmation, and today the company best known for its bricks and mortar stores finally unveiled the hardware itself.

Here’s what we know about the new Blockbuster Internet set-top box and accompanying On Demand service:

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HP’s Magic Giveaway – your chance to share the magic

We’re one of fifty blogs that have been chosen to participate in another super duper giveaway from HP. This time round, it’s bigger and better, with a new twist: we’ll ask the eventual winner to share the magic — $6,000 in HP gear, Microsoft software, and accessories. Included in that bundle are a few items that will particularly resonate with last100 readers, including the new HP netbook and a neat looking media extender. That’s in addition to a couple of other laptops and more.

(Visit the official HP Magic Giveaway site.)

The full list of kit:

  • HP TouchSmart IQ816 PC with Windows
  • HP HDX 18 series Premium Notebook PC with Windows
  • HP MediaSmart Connect
  • HP Pavilion dv4-1145go Entertainment Notebooks with Windows
  • HP Mini 1000 series with Windows
  • HP Photosmart C6380 Wireless AIO
  • HP 564 Series Photo Value Pack
  • Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007
  • Kung Fu Panda widescreen DVDs

Stay tuned for details on our contest and be sure to check out each of the other sites — after the jump — to enter their contests too.

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Video demo: SkyFire's S60 mobile web browser accessing Hulu and YouTube

In my first attempt at a video demo — something I hope to do a lot more of — I’ve been putting SkyFire‘s new mobile web browser through its paces, running on my S60-powered Nokia e71. What sets SkyFire apart from other mobile browsers, the company claims, is its ability to display the web in its full desktop glory, including Flash, Quicktime and AJAX-heavy content. To achieve this, web pages are processed by the company’s own proxy servers before being served up on the phone.

Check out my video demo after the jump, in which I try visiting last100 (Flash ads included), a page with a YouTube video embedded, and more ambitiously, the online video site Hulu — it played but was out of sync. I also tried accessing the web version of BBC iPlayer, but due to SkyFire’s use of a proxy server, I was blocked from accessing the UK-only service as it presumably thought I resided outside the country…

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Weekly wrapup: TiVo, Vudu, Apple TV, Zune and more

Here’s a summary of the week’s digital lifestyle action on last100. Note that you can subscribe to the weekly wrapups, either via the special weekly wrapup RSS feed or by email.

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Internet TV

TiVo bridges the pizza to TV gap

Not content with trying to solve the PC to TV problem, TiVo has teamed up with Dominoes Pizza to “give broadband connected TiVo subscribers the ability to order pizza for delivery or pick-up, and track delivery timing, right from their TV sets.”

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Zatz Not Funny: Neuros, Slacker, XBox Live, VuNow and more

A periodic roundup of relevant news from our friends at Zatz Not Funny

Neuros unveils next gen hardware

Dave Zatz: Another day, another media extender. However, the new Neuros Link ($300) tackles the issue of moving web video to the television in a unique and more practical way.

Evaluating Slacker Premium

Mari Silbey: I’m a well-documented Slacker junkie, but it’s only recently that I’ve started testing Slacker’s premium service on my first gen player. The subscription cost is just high enough to make me squeamish, but a free trial can’t be ignored. And, in true Slacker form, I’m finding the latest update to my music experience addictive.

See also: Slacker Internet Radio Extends to the Television

The New Xbox Experience is here

Dave Zatz: The New Xbox Experience (NXE) has finally arrived. And I imagine many will be rushing home from work to check it out tonight. Some thoughts, after living with it a few weeks

Giving up pay TV for web video?

Dave Zatz: While I know several who have indeed gone down the web video path, we’re nowhere near mass market adoption. Dumping pay television may accelerate but, for most, online content remains a supplement not a replacement. There’s just too many compromises.

VuNow launching December 15th

Dave Zatz: Hot on the heals of the Neuros Link unveiling, Verismo announces their VuNow video-to-the-TV solution will be available December 15th.

Why the latest iPhone update should worry the competition

Upon first unveiling the iPhone, Apple CEO Steve Jobs proclaimed that the company was five years ahead of the competition. And while that is debatable — although I think he had a point — the latest iPhone software update, and those than came before it, prove one thing for sure.

However far ahead the iPhone was when it first launched, Apple isn’t resting on its laurels, with the company continually improving the phone’s software at a pace that the competition can’t keep up with. This is in no small part due to Apple’s unique relationship with its partner carriers, which enable both incremental improvements and major new features to be delivered direct to customers without the networks getting in the way.

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Steve Jobs finds time for hobby (Apple TV software update)

It’s nice to know that Steve Jobs and his faithful army of Apple engineers are still able to find time to spend on the company’s hobby. I’m talking about the Apple TV of course, which today received a minor software update.

The Apple TV Software Update 2.3 adds the following features to the company’s set-top box:

  • the ability to stream music via AirTunes to Airport Express-connected speakers or other Apple TVs connected to same local network
  • improved support for third-party remote controls
  • playlists in iTunes that contain Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, and Music Videos can now be seen on Apple TV
  • support for volume control in Music

Although this latest update is a minor one, it’s at least proof that Apple hasn’t abandoned the Apple TV completely. Having said that, the company’s Internet TV set-top box is starting to look really long in the tooth with it’s closed nature (the 2.3 update breaks existing hacks) and nearly sole existence within the iTunes eco-system.

See also: AppleTV 2 breaks free from the PC, remains under Apple’s lock and key

As I’ve argued many times before, Apple should open up the Apple TV to third-party developers or at least take a page from TiVo’s book and partner more aggressively, something that the company seems loathed to do in order to protect sales of movies and TV shows through the iTunes Store.

On that note, I wonder how Steve Jobs feels about the prospect of YouTube, a third-party video service the Apple TV does support, adding full-length movies and television shows from major Hollywood studios.

Zune Pass now offering rent to own music subscription model

Do you like to rent your music collection or own it outright? With the updated Zune Pass, Microsoft’s subscription service for its Zune line of portable media players, you can now have the best of both worlds. Sort of.

For a monthly fee of $14.99, Zune Pass subscribers get access to millions of tracks on a rental basis — once the subscription ends, access is shuttered — but with today’s changes they can also keep ten DRM-free tracks on a to-own basis to add permanently to their music collections.

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