Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sony Vaio VGN-FE11S laptop

  • List price:£1299 inc VAT
  • Buying advice: This is a solid, well-built and stylish laptop. However, it lacks that extra something a product needs to be truly outstanding – perhaps if it was slightly faster or had a longer battery life it could be up there with the best.

Sony's FE11S, should you choose to buy one, will win you many admiring glances. It's light, but the 15.4in display makes it a genuine desktop-replacement PC. The screen is very impressive, giving deep, true colours without too much reflection, although we'd like to have seen it stretch to a higher resolution than 1,280 x 800.

The Intel Core Duo T2400 processor has two cores running at 1.83GHz and there's 1 Gbyte of DDR RAM to back this up. Given that this is the case, we'd have liked to have seen a higher score than 87 in our WorldBench 5 processing-speed test suite.

However, the storage and backup options are as good as anything you'll find in a laptop system right now. You can't argue with 160 Gbyte of space on the hard drive and a multiformat DVD burner that can write to DVD+R DL (double-layer) and DVD-RAM, as well as the more common formats.

Although the GeForce Go 7400 is one of the latest mobile graphics cards that nVidia has to offer, it's a long way from being among the best. The 256 Mbyte of memory is shared with the main system and the frame rates achieved in our Doom3 and Halo tests, suggest the Vaio would struggle with some of the latest games.

Connectivity options are good, with built-in 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi facilities and Bluetooth. Sony claims the battery should last for three-and-a-half hours, although we managed to get only 180 minutes out of it. This isn't that bad, but if you're someone who likes to work a lot while travelling, there are definitely better options available.


  • 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 processor;
  • Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005;
  • 1GB DDR RAM;
  • 160GB hard drive;
  • 15.4in 1,280x800 TFT display;
  • 256MB GeForce Go 7400 graphics card;
  • 802.11a/b/g;
  • Bluetooth;
  • 1-year warranty;
  • 366x275x35mm;
  • 2.8kg


Vaio VGN-FE11S - Ben Camm-Jones

$100 laptop: 'Fundamentally flawed'

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) scheme is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the history of the IT industry, according to Tony Roberts, chief executive and founder of UK charity Computer Aid International.

Speaking to site ZDNet UK last week, Roberts claimed that although he would be delighted if the OLPC scheme proved a success, he had severe reservations about the strategy underpinning the project.

He said: "The real reason that this won't be successful is a misunderstanding of the history of technology. They are looking to introduce a non-standard, untested platform... which they will only sell to governments. The decision to buy will be made by politicians who are elected every five years, and politicians generally don't take the decision to risk their political future on non-standard technology."

The project aims to develop a portable PC for use by children in the developing world for around $100. The price has risen since the scheme was first announced to around $135 to $140.

Speaking at the Red Hat Summit earlier this month, the head of the OLPC project, Nicholas Negroponte, said past attempts to give children in developing countries access to PCs have failed because the children did not see the computers as their own, and as a result did not engage with them as expected.

Negroponte said: "People say, 'we just gave a hundred thousand PCs to schools, and they are still sitting in their boxes'. The problem is that you gave them to the wrong people - the kids don't think they are theirs, and see them as government property, or they are locked up after school."

But Roberts, who as well as heading up Computer Aid spent time as an academic lecturing on the historical introduction of new technologies into societies, said that the OLPC project was also distracting attention from other worthwhile technology projects in the developing world. Roberts said: "At the UN World Summit [where the OLPC prototype was first displayed last year] there were so many exciting projects that didn't get any attention because all eyes were on the OLPC."

Computer Aid has just celebrated shipping its 70,000 PC to the developing world. The organisation, founded in 1998, refurbishes used PCs, routers, printers and other technology. It then ships them to a network of organisations in the developing world where they are distributed to schools, universities and community groups.

The organisation is looking to expand its remit to include working with local health clinics to provide e-learning systems for nurses, and tele-medicine capabilities. Medical specialists in the developing world are often limited to the capital city, so by providing more detailed patient information, medical staff can reduce the need to move critical patients.

Computer Aid is also involved in a joint project with the UK Met Office to create the infrastructure to allow weather information to be collected and analysed locally in the developing world. At the moment, information collected from local weather stations is sent to a central office to be analysed and the information is then fed back.

But, according to Roberts, the centralised system takes too long, so Computer Aid is helping to equip the local stations with the means to interpret the information and relay it to the community more rapidly. "This information is critical, it can be the difference between life or death or someone's livelihood but, at the moment, the systems just don't work," he said.

If you would like to donate your businesses PCs you can find more information through the Bridge the Digital Divide project being run by Computer Aid and's parent company, CNET Networks. - Andrew Donoghue


The Sony VAIO VGC-RC310G ($2,249 direct, without monitor) is the latest version of the company's well-received RC series of Media Center desktops. Following on the heels of the RC110G and the RC210G, the new RC310G notably features the first Blu-ray optical drive I've seen on a PC. Blu-ray drives, in addition to DVD and CVD recording, are capable of burning data-rich optical discs in capacities of 25GB (single-layer) and 50GB (dual-layer). This is a potential boon to film students and other home-video enthusiasts, since it means that you can now download your HD content from a camcorder and then burn it to BD (Blu-ray discs). Unfortunately, like all emerging technologies, the Blu-ray drive and associated software in this machine are very "version 1.0."

The RC310G sits in a case similar to those of the RC series systems before it: a dark tower with slick chrome accents. I particularly like how the backlit "VAIO" logo shines through the case while the system is powered up and virtually disappears when it is off. The only outward indication that this is a Blu-ray PC is a subtle logo sticker on the drive door.

Like its forebears, the RC310G has a separate prewired compartment for SATA hard drives. Though my test system came with only one 300GB drive, the VAIO's hard drive area is easy to access and can hold up to three more drives. You can use the included Intel Storage Matrix software to link these drives together in a RAID 1 array for data integrity or in a RAID 0 configuration to glean more drive speed. Since the RC310G uses a tower-style case, it has the expansion room that a digital-living system like its sibling, the Sony VAIO XL2, lacks. It is, however, still a tower, so shoehorning the system into your A/V rack will be difficult.

The RC310G is powered by a dual-core Pentium D 940 processor running at 3.2 GHz and a 256MB nVidia GeForce 7600GT graphics card. Both are improvements over the last-generation RC210G model (a 3.0-GHz Pentium D 930 and 128MB ATI Radeon x300), though the faster graphics card is the system's biggest boost. The combination gives you the power to encode your own video from various sources, including the latest-generation 1080p HD camcorders and plain old standard-def TV content from the Media Center Edition DVR. Thanks to the graphics card, the RC310G is able to run games without stuttering. In testing, I got a smooth 108 frames per second on the Doom 3 test at 1,024-by-768, so you can certainly play 3D games at modest resolutions. Results on other tests, such as on Adobe Photoshop CS2, were above average, and the RC310G's Windows Media Encoder score of 8:35 is very good for a media-oriented dual-core system. Overall, the system is a content-creation workhorse.

Burning Blu-ray discs (BDs), though, was trickier than I expected. One of my first attempts at minting one proved unsuccessful. The included Roxio DigitalMedia SE program works in the typical fashion: You choose which files to burn, click Record, insert a disc, and then wait around for a while. I chose a mix of files (22GB in all) to burn on the single-layer BD and started the burning process. (The drive in the RC310G is dual-layer, but so far, we've received only single-layer media from the vendors.) DigitalMedia SE reported accurately that a 2X BD burn takes approximately 44 minutes, so I walked away for a bit. About 20 minutes later I came back to check the system, moved the mouse, and closed a few background windows I had inadvertently left open. After this, DigitalMedia SE stopped burning and gave me an ominous message that the burn had been interrupted by a background process, and that all applications should be closed during operation. I was shocked, because this isn't an issue with DVD or CD burns—at least not since the early days of DVD and CD-RW drives.

To my dismay, I had my first BD coaster! This regrettable event may have been caused by quirks within the DigitalMedia SE software, or, since the Blu-ray drive is a first-run piece of hardware, it may have unresolved or undiscovered problems. Still, a system shouldn't spit coasters fresh out of the box. Anyway, a subsequent burn to a Blu-ray rewritable disc worked just fine, as did other BD-R archive attempts; I'm assuming this is because I left the system alone and had no extraneous software running. My initial mistake was a painful one, with 25GB and 50GB BD discs costing $20 and $60 a pop. And the post-burn data-verification process was just as tedious as the burn (it took about 44 minutes).

Sony included Ulead's BD Disc Recorder for converting HD video from a camcorder to HD-quality Blu-ray video discs. (Sadly, at the time of testing I couldn't get my hands on an HD camcorder, so we couldn't try out the HD video aspect of the RC310G, but stay tuned.)

If you accept that BD is a great backup medium, then the RC310G is a fine MCE PC for media hounds who want to live on the bleeding edge. It is also notable that the BD-drive equipped RC310G is ahead of HD DVD−equipped PCs such as the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV650, since for now HD DVD is read-only. So far, however, commercial BD video titles are few and far between, and since home players are scarce, it may be a while before you can burn an HD title onto BD for your family and friends. Once media prices go down and more living rooms have BD players, the RC310G and its successors should become more attractive.

See how the Sony VAIO VGC-RC310G measures up to similar systems in our desktop comparison chart.

Benchmark Test Results
Check out the Sony VAIO VGC-RC310G's test results. - Joel Santo Domingo

Sony HDR-HC3E - HD Camcorder

Sony seems intent on dominating the High Definition camcorder market before any other company has even joined in. Although Canon has released a competitor to Sony’s top-of-the-range professional HVR-Z1 (the Canon XL-H1), there’s nothing at all to compete with Sony’s offerings below that in the UK. We thought Sony’s first attempt at consumer HD was pretty stunning (see HDR-HC1E review But scarcely six months later, Sony is upping the ante once again, this time breaking below the magical £1,000 barrier – well below. So what has been removed to get the new HDR-HC3E’s price nearly £300 lower than its predecessor?

The HDR-HC3E is considerably different in appearance to the HC1E. It’s a lot more compact, and weighs 600g, which is 180g less. The image sensor at its core is different too. Although it’s still a 1/3in CMOS rather than the more usual CCD found in camcorders, the gross pixel count has dropped from the 2.97Mpixels in the HC1E to 2.1Mpixels. That’s still more than enough for full-resolution HDV, which has a resolution of 1,440 x 1,080 so only requires about 1.56Mpixels. Despite the lower-resolution CMOS, Sony is actually claiming 4Mpixel stills quality, which clearly uses a hefty amount of interpolation. These stills are captured to MemoryStick Duo, although none is supplied in the box. But more on that later.

The HC3E has lost most of the HC1E’s prosumer-oriented features as well. Where the latter offered microphone and headphone minijacks, for external audio sources and sound quality monitoring, the HC3E has neither. It does still have an accessory shoe, but like the HC1E this is of the Sony proprietary ‘Active Interface’ variety. So only Sony-branded video lights and microphones can be attached. All of its AV connections bar FireWire are output only, but you do get quite a selection. Proprietary connections provide composite, S-video and audio AV in one, plus a second socket for analog component. A USB plug can be found under the LCD for downloading still images or using the HC3E as a tremendously expensive webcam.

But the HC3E has one entirely new connectivity trick up its sleeve, or rather under a plastic flap. This is the first HDV camcorder ever to incorporate the consumer digital AV connection, HDMI. This will allow you to connect the HC3E to your HD Ready TV or projector using a digital link, and is also backwards compatible with DVI using the appropriate adapter. We hooked the HC3E to a DiBoss 40in HDTV and an Optoma HD72i projector, with stunning results in both cases.

Leading Digital Home Entertainment and Network Solution Announces New Models and Features New 300 GB DigitaLife™ System Models and IP/network Camera S

Dedicated Devices, Inc. today announced that new DigitaLife Server 300 and DigitaLife Storage 300 products are now available for its award-winning DigitaLife System, the first digital home entertainment and network solution that is designed specifically to be built into new homes In addition, the DigitaLife System now includes support for network cameras. The new products and the network camera feature are being showcased at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, June 21-23.

Boise, ID and San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) June 21, 2006 -- Dedicated Devices, Inc. today announced that new DigitaLife Server 300 and DigitaLife Storage 300 products are now available for its award-winning DigitaLife System, the first digital home entertainment and network solution that is designed specifically to be built into new homes In addition, the DigitaLife System now includes support for network cameras. The new products and the network camera feature ( are being showcased at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference at the Leviton Manufacturing exhibit, booth 7710, in the North Hall of Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco.

New DigitaLife Server 300 and DigitaLife Storage 300
The DigitaLife Server 300, which sits at the center of the DigitaLife System, provides expanded capacity to securely store digital media files. The DigitaLife Storage 300 module easily adds storage capacity to the DigitaLife System. Available in 120GB and 300GB models, the DigitaLife Storage modules can easily be setup as a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID). The RAID can be setup to provide mirrored redundancy or can be configured for more than a terabyte of storage. With the expanded storage, the DigitaLife System can store over 1 million photos, 1,000 movies, or 200,000 songs.

New Support for IP/network cameras
Support for networked cameras, which allows users to view and control the cameras from any TV, web browser or Internet connection, is now part of the DigitaLife System. The system records in a 24-hour rolling loop for each configured camera. Initial camera models supported include the Panasonic BB-HCM311A wired network camera and the Panasonic BL-C10A wired network camera. Support for additional models will continue to be added.

Matching a Family’s Changing Digital Lifestyle
The DigitaLife System is a complete, integrated system for home entertainment, networking, remote access and Internet access. With the DigitaLife System, families can securely and conveniently store their digital media files in one central location and connect their PCs, stereos, televisions and other audio/video equipment.

Key system features include:
• Centralized management, distribution and control of digital content, in all of the most popular formats, to anywhere in the house.
• Convenient private home network for sharing internet access, files, printers and other equipment throughout the home.
• Built-in residential gateway to the internet.
• Handles up to 8 streams of audio and photos, or 4 streams of video, independently and simultaneously.
• ActivLink software that automates the copying of digital media files to the DigitaLife Server.
• Gracenote Media Management software, which automatically names and categorizes a music collection by artist, album and genre.
• Network Manager, a browser-based control console for managing network and media settings.

Current owners of the DigitaLife System can obtain the latest updates to the system by using the automatic firmware update feature in the Network Manager. For questions about the update process, contact DigitaLife Technical Support at e-mail protected from spam bots.

The DigitaLife Server 300 and DigitaLife Storage 300 ( are available from Authorized DigitaLife Dealers and DigitaLife Builder Partners.

About Dedicated Devices, Inc.
Founded in 2003, Dedicated Devices, Inc. delivers innovative and easy-to-use digital home entertainment network solutions for the residential home market. The company's DigitaLife System is marketed primarily by home builders as a built-in feature in new homes and installed by professional installer/integrator partners.

Dedicated Devices, DigitaLife System and ActivLink are trademarks of Dedicated Devices, Inc. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Three free programs for home video editing

Today's video editing software makes it relatively easy to remove bad scenes and create one great production. You can add music, narrations, and Hollywood style transitions. Better yet, there are free programs made for the job.

You don't even have to have a video camera. You probably have video capabilities on your digital camera or even your cell phone. These programs can link together short video clips.

One caveat: Video editing demands a lot of computer resources. Each hour of video requires 13 gigabytes of hard drive space. And you'll want at least 512 megabytes of RAM. Anything less will slow down your computer considerably and frustrate you to no end.

Free editing programs don't have all of the bells and whistles of pay programs. But they have enough to do the basics and are easy enough for beginners. Here are three free programs to get you started:

1. Windows Movie Maker. If you have Windows XP, you should have Windows Movie Maker 2. Just click Start>>All Programs>>Accessories>>Entertainment>>Windows Movie Maker. If you don't find it, you can download it from Microsoft's Web site (

Windows Movie Maker 2 (Windows XP only) lets you trim the fat and keep the good stuff. Beginners can assemble clips using the storyboard view. This allows you to drag and drop clips into little boxes at the bottom of your screen. Don't like the order? Drag the boxes around.

When you find the order you like, you can add over 50 transitions (fades, dissolves, wipes, etc.) that will seamlessly link your clips together. More than two dozen video effects will slow down, speed up or blur your video. There's even an effect that can turn portions of your video into a watercolor painting.

The timeline view allows you to add music, titles or narration. And Microsoft's Web site offers a number of tutorials.

2. Avid Free DV. Avid's free version (, Windows XP; Mac OS X 10.4.2 or later) can't hold a candle to Avid's other (and costly) video-editing programs. However, it does have some nice features and the feel of a more powerful program.

You may find Avid Free DV's interface intimidating at first. However, there are over a dozen free video tutorials on Avid's Web site. They'll help you get the most out of the program.

Avid Free DV allows you to trim video, edit audio and create titles. Its timeline utilizes two video and two audio tracks and 16 video effects.

3. VirtualDub. Don't be fooled by VirtualDub's (; Windows 95 and later) basic interface. It's a full-featured program that is very capable. It is also very fast.

Its video-editing capabilities are limited, but it allows you to trim video and adjust audio. However, VirtualDub's filters really shine. You can fix bad video by adjusting the brightness or sharpening the picture. Other filters allow you to blur clips together, rotate pictures and more. Two windows show the before and after effects. If you don't like what you see, simply cancel the filter.

After you've mastered the basics of video editing, you can always graduate to a program with more features. Video-editing software from Adobe (, Pinnacle ( and Ulead ( are geared toward consumers and cost less than $100.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Anthem Intros AVM 50 A/V Processor

Anthem has introduced its AVM 50 audio/video processor, boasting all of the features found in its predecessor, the AVM 30, but adding “broadcast-quality” digital video processing, the same processing incorporates in the Statement D2.

Designed and manufactured in North America, the AVM 50 uses the Gennum VXP Digital Image Processor, which uses broadcast-quality image processing algorithms to convert any SD or HD video to other video standards, up to a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080p. The unit is equipped with four HDMI inputs for digital video, digital audio, and multi-channel high-resolution audio. S-video and component video inputs can be digitally processed and enhanced, then routed through the component video and HDMI outputs.

Set-up, status update, and video processing menus are displayed on the component video and HDMI outputs at any resolution up to 1,080p, the latter two of which are superimposed onto the picture so that adjustments can be seen as they are made. With the AVM 50, VHS tapes can be processed and output through HDMI; and letterbox and pillarbox effects can be removed. The second set of component video outputs can be used for HD video switching of sources for the second zone video.

12-Volt trigger options allow homeowners to automate as much of the system as desired: a system can operate in four separate areas of a home simultaneously. Any source can play in any of the four paths, and users can watch one source, while listening to another.

The AVM 50 is compatible with future Blu-ray and HD-DVD players.

Anthem will make software/hardware updates available as new features are introduced; and plans are underway for all AVM 50 features to be made available as a factory upgrade (cost TBD) for existing Anthem AVM 20 and AVM 30s.

Onkyo Delivers World's First THX Certified Integrated Home Theater System

Onkyo has introduced the HT-S990THX, the world's first home theater package system to carry THX certification. Consisting of an XM-Ready 7.1-channel A/V receiver and complete 7.1-channel speaker package, the HT-S990THX combines the performance of much higher priced separate components with the convenience and affordability of an all-in-one system.

The HT-S990THX A/V receiver features a precise 32-bit DSP and is capable of decoding Dolby Digital EX, DTS-ES, and DTS 96/24. Additionally, it includes processing for Dolby Digital ProLogic IIx, DTS Neo:6, THX Cinema2, THX Music, and THX Games which enable it to derive convincing surround sound from any two- or five-channel audio source. All audio channels feature 192kHz/24-bit digital to analog converters for clear, detailed reproduction, and the receiver's amplifier modules feature Onkyo’s exclusive WRAT (Wide Range Amplifier Technology) for outstanding reproduction of even the most demanding audio sources.

For ease of integration, the receiver has a wide range of connectivity options, including HD-capable component video switching for up to three high definition A/V source components such as HDTV tuner, DVD player, and gaming console. There are also three composite/S-Video inputs and two outputs, as well as four assignable digital audio inputs. Additionally, the HT-S990THX boasts Onkyo’s exclusive RI control system, enabling command of numerous components through a single remote and allowing for use with the company’s DS-A1 iPod dock.

In addition to a built-in AM/FM tuner, the receiver also features a rear panel XM Connect and Play port, allowing users to connect a portable XM Passport portable antenna and receive their XM Satellite Radio subscription directly through the home theater. The HT-S990THX even includes integrated Neural Surround processing, making it compatible with the service's XM HD Surround programming for 5.1-channel surround sound radio broadcasts.

The HT-S990THX’s powerful receiver is accompanied by an impressive speaker package that has been designed with ease of installation in mind. It features a set of seven two-way speakers that are perfectly tonally matched to each other. The front and center channel speakers each include a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter and dual 5-inch woofers constructed from Onkyo's acclaimed A-OMF (Onkyo Micro Fiber) cones. The front and center channels are also magnetically shielded to prevent interference with video reproduction when placed near a TV. Side and rear surround speakers all feature 5-1/8 inch a-OMF woofers and the same tweeter found in the front channels to deliver a seamless 360-degree soundstage. Deep bass reproduction is handled by a powerful 12-inch subwoofer with integrated 230-Watt power amplification module. The Onkyo HT-S990THX home theater system is currently available with a suggested retail price of $1099.

Onkyo, which takes its name from the Japanese "On" meaning 'sound' and "Kyo" meaning 'harmony,' has been producing precision audio components for over a half-century. The company's philosophy is to deliver products that are superbly designed and built to a consistently outstanding standard of excellence. Today, Onkyo is at the forefront of the home theater and digital revolutions. For more information about this and other fine Onkyo products, visit or call 800-229-1687.

Cerwin-Vega Unveils VE Series Speakers

Cerwin-Vega has unveiled its VE Series speakers, comprised of six models, including a bookshelf, three tower speakers, a centre channel, and subwoofer.

"The VE Series fills a void left by the previous V and E Series of products that needed to be addressed,” commented Steven Freytag, Market Manager for the Consumer Division at SF Marketing, Cerwin-Vega’s exclusive Canadian distributor. “In fine Cerwin-Vega fashion, they have delivered a product whose performance far exceeds its price point, all with the exceptional bass that Cerwin-Vega is certainly known for."

The VE Series consists of : the VE-5M bookshelf speaker (MSRP $199/pr.); VE-8, VE-12, and VE-15 tower speakers ($499/pr., $699/pr., and $999/pr., respectively); VE-5C centre channel ($149/ea.); and the VE-28S dual 8” 125W powered subwoofer ($499/ea.)

Circuit City Swings To Profit In Q1; Backs FY07 Outlook - Update

Virginia-based retailer of consumer electronics Circuit City Stores Inc. (CC | charts | news | PowerRating) announced profit for the first quarter of fiscal 2007, compared to a loss reported in the year-ago quarter. The company's earnings performance in the recent quarter was favored by higher sales, on account of comparable store sales and strong domestic segment results. The company also reaffirmed its fiscal 2007 consolidated net sales growth target range of 7-11%.

The company reported first quarter earnings from continuing operations before income taxes of $7.8 million, compared to a loss from continuing operations before income taxes of $19.2 million in the year-ago quarter. The company's net earnings from continuing operations were $5 million or $0.03 per share, up from a loss from continuing operations of $11.9 million or $0.06 per share in the prior-year period.

For the first quarter, the company's net earnings reached $6.4 million or $0.04 per share, turning around from a net loss of $13.1 million or $0.07 per share reported in the prior-year quarter. For the fourth quarter, the company posted net income of $141.1 million, or $0.80 per share.

On average, 27 analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial expected the company to report earnings of $0.01 per share for the first quarter. Quarterly sales increased 17.5% to $2.62 billion from $2.23 billion in the same period last year, with consolidated comparable store sales rising 14.6% from the prior year period. The company's fourth quarter sales were $3.91 billion, driven by a comparable store sales gain of 11.6%. Analysts expected first quarter sales of $2.47 billion.

Domestic Segment Sales

For the first quarter, the company's domestic segment generated sales of $2.49 billion, a 17.5% increase from $2.11 billion in the prior-year period, with a 15.3% year-over-year growth in comparable store sales. The segment's Web-originated sales grew 85%, while revenues from domestic segment services surged 175% for the quarter.

The video category supplied 44% of the segment's total revenue, with a double-digit comparable store sales increase for the quarter. Total television comparable store sales and digital imaging products and accessories comparable store sales increased by double digits.

The information technology category contributed 29% of the segment revenue, with a low double-digit comparable store sales growth for the quarter. PC hardware and notebook computers and printers reported double-digit comparable store sales growth, while comparable store sales of monitors increased by single digits. However, growth in the category was partially offset by a low single-digit decrease in comparable store sales of desktop computers.

In the Domestic Segment, the audio category represented 16% of revenues, with a double-digit comparable store sales increase. Portable digital audio products reflected double-digit growth in same-store sales and portable digital audio accessories posted a triple-digit increase. However, a mid-single-digit decline in the comparable store sales of home audio products partially offset the sales growth achieved by portable and mobile audio products.

The company's entertainment category achieved 11% of the total segment revenue, with a single-digit comparable store sales increase in the first quarter. It included a double-digit comparable store sales increase in gaming products and PC software and a low single-digit increase in video software. The entertainment category's sales growth was partially offset by a double-digit comparable store sales decrease in music software.

International Segment Sales

Circuit City's international segment sales were $131.5 million, a 16.1% increase from $113.2 million in the same period last year. Comparable store sales grew 2.4% for the quarter in local currency. The fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates accounted for approximately 9 percentage points of the international segment's first quarter net sales growth.

Other Metrics

Circuit City's consolidated gross profit margin was 24.5% for the quarter, compared to 25.0% in the prior-year period. While the domestic segment's gross profit margin decreased 32 basis points, driven primarily by increased promotional financing costs, the international segment contributed 25 basis points of the decline.

Selling, general and administrative expenses were $639.37 million, up from $583.01 million in the year-ago quarter. As a percentage of sales, the S,G&A expense were 24.4%, compared to 26.2 % in the same period last year, driven mainly by leverage of payroll as well as rent and occupancy expenses in the domestic segment.

Analysts' Comments

Brokerage Credit Suisse said on June 16th that Circuit City would have a strong first quarter, defined by strong comparable store sales. The brokerage expected the company to report a 13% increase in sales, fuelled by 10% comparable store sales and strong demand in key product categories. Credit Suisse also noted that the company's expenses de-levered 184 basis points in the first quarter, mostly due to international resets, weak comps and consulting services.

FY07 Outlook

Looking ahead, Circuit City continues to expect full-year earnings from continuing operations before income taxes, as a percentage of sales, of 2.0 to 2.4. The comapny also sees consolidated net sales growth in the range of 7-11%, with domestic segment comparable store sales growth of 5% to 7%.

Further, the company anticipates a $50 - $100 million reduction in domestic segment net-owned inventory from February 28, 2006, to February 28, 2007. Circuit City also expects to open 32-36 superstores in the year 2007.

Circuit City said that its fiscal 2007 outlook is based on assumptions of continued sales growth in key product areas including flat panel televisions, notebook computers, digital imaging and portable digital audio players as well as related accessories and services. The company also assumes continued growth in Web-originated sales and store traffic is expected to be relatively unchanged from the prior year. The company expects increased sales from domestic segment new store openings, relocations, store refreshes and category resets.

Peer Best Buy

On June 13th, Richfield, Minnesota-based Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY | charts | news | PowerRating) said that its first quarter earnings rose 38%, boosted by new store openings, a 14% rise in sales and profit margin expansions. The company reported net earnings of $234 million or $0.47 per share for the quarter, compared to net earnings of $170 million or $0.34 per share for the prior-year quarter. Revenue for the quarter was $7.0 billion, compared to $6.1 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2006.

Best Buy also reiterated its full-year earnings guidance range of $2.65 - $2.80 per share. Analysts expect earnings of $2.72 per share.

Stock Trend

CC is currently trading up $0.20 at $29.68, on a volume of 2.7 million shares.

Micro Moules Standardizes on NX, UGS' Digital Product Development Solution, to Increase Global Collaboration and Reduce Time-to-Market

UGS Corp., a leading global provider
of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, today
announced that Micro Moules, Inc., a leading Canadian manufacturer of
rubber and plastic moulds, has standardized on NX(TM) software, UGS'
comprehensive digital product development solution. NX will replace
CATIA(R) software, Micro Moules' existing computer-aided design (CAD)
solution, as the standard CAD solution.
UGS made the announcement today in conjunction with its annual industry
analyst conference in New York. (See separate UGS announcements from
The agreement marks an expansion of a relationship between UGS and
Micro Moules that began in 2000 and creates a framework to deploy NX
throughout Micro Moules' global innovation network to enhance collaboration
and reduce delivery times. The decision enables concurrent engineering by
providing a common design platform around the world and supports the
expansion of development teams in low-cost countries.
"Micro Moules decided to standardize on NX because of the complexity of
our mould designs and the capability of NX software to adapt to our design
process," said Jack Karczewski, president, Micro Moules. "UGS is known for
helping its customers transform their process of innovation to enhance
collaboration and efficiency throughout the enterprise. UGS' NX solution
will allow us to expand our development team globally to better serve our
growing customer base."
"UGS is pleased that Micro Moules, a company that shares UGS'
commitment to absolute customer satisfaction, has standardized on NX to
further enhance global collaboration throughout the enterprise," said Phil
Taylor, vice president and general manager, Canada, UGS. "UGS is focused on
providing customers a full service digital product development system based
on an open platform that will enable customers to leverage their global
innovation networks to bring better products to market faster."
Micro Moules, based in Saint Hubert, Quebec, Canada near Montreal,
serves the Canadian, European and American markets. It specializes in the
making of rubber and plastic injection moulds, extrusion blow moulds,
compression moulds and metal alloys (die-casting) moulds. The company's
moulds are used in the production of a variety of commercial and domestic
use products including automotive body sealing systems (weather stripping),
gas tanks, sporting goods, toys, and protective equipment.
NX is a next-generation digital product development system that helps
companies transform the product lifecycle. With the industry's broadest
suite of integrated applications, NX touches the full range of development
processes in product design, manufacturing and simulation. To meet the
increasing demands for global teams to collaborate on projects, NX enables
products to be developed from initial concept layout to manufacturing.
About UGS
UGS is a leading global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM)
software and services with nearly 4 million licensed seats and 46,000
customers worldwide. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, UGS' vision is to
enable a world where organizations and their partners collaborate through
global innovation networks to deliver world-class products and services
while leveraging UGS' open enterprise solutions, fulfilling the mission of
enabling them to transform their process of innovation. For more
information on UGS products and services, visit
Note: UGS, NX, and Transforming the process of innovation are
trademarks or registered trademarks of UGS Corp. or its subsidiaries in the
United States and in other countries. Catia is a trademark or registered
mark of Dassault Systemes or its subsidiaries in the United States and in
other countries. All other trademarks, registered trademarks or service
marks belong to their respective holders.
The statements in this news release that are not historical statements,
including statements regarding the expected benefits of the customer
relationship, the successfulness of the implementation and other statements
identified by forward looking terms such as "may," "will," "expect,"
"plan," "anticipate" or "project," are forward-looking statements. These
statements are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties which could
cause actual results to differ materially from such statements, including,
among others, risks relating to loss or downsizing of customers,
competition, international operations and exchange rate fluctuations,
changes in pricing models, and intellectual property. UGS has included a
discussion of these and other pertinent risk factors in its annual report
on Form 10-K most recently filed with the SEC. UGS disclaims any intention
or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether
as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

Digital sector comes into sharp focus

VietNamNet - Vietnam will boost its digital content industry through streamlining its legal environment and upgrading its broadband network this year.

A master plan drafted on digital content industry written by the Department of Information Technology Industry under the Ministry of Post and Telematics was released at a seminar in Hanoi last week. The draft is to submitted to the government later this year.

Vietnam hopes the industry will generate $400 million in the revenue by 2010 with an annual growth rate of 50 per cent. The country will give training courses to around 300,000 digital content industry experts.

Digital content industry covers e-learning, games including games for computer, online game, interactive game and game for mobile handset, internet e-content such as online newspaper, websites, searching, library; value-added services for mobile consisting of logo, ring tones and digital movies, television and cartoon.

“Digital content is a digital product in which content part is much bigger than code one,” said Nguyen Trong Duong, an official from the department.

He said the new content products have been present in Vietnam for two years with high growth rate.
They include online games, primary e-learning, value-added services for mobiles, internet protocol television with the total labour force of around 10,000 staff.

According to the ministry, there are 50 enterprises providing online training materials, 20 others value added services for mobiles and 10 online game providers.

Of which, value-added services for mobiles are most bustling with VND1.5 trillion ($94.3m) in revenue last year. Meanwhile, online games are expected to bring a revenue of $10-15m this year.

“There is a need for supporting the industry to further develop in Vietnam,” said Duong.

Department of Information Technology Industry director Nguyen Anh Tuan told Vietnam Investment Review the content industry was predicted to surpass software industry in terms of revenue by then.

The first things needed to support the industry are legal corridors and copyright protection. Of which, the ministry will issue legal documents on state management on launching digital content services and documents on copyright protection.

“Digital content is a convergence of internet, telecom and information technology. However, there is no legal management documents on the industry while internet and telecom have already been supported by legal ones,” said Tuan.

“The third problem is developing broadband infrastructure including fixed lines upgrade and third generation (3G) deployment for mobile service and then the progress of enterprises with support from venture investment funds,” said Tuan.

Duong said the ministry cooperated with a consultant company to give measures and initial online content to be sold next month.

Hoang Le Minh, deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City Post and Telematics Department, said broadband in Vietnam is not developed enough for serving the industry development while network security has been ignored by internet service providers, which will create a low capability network with spam attacks.

He said up to a half of network traffic was occupied by spam and Trojan mails, which need higher-quality security measures.

“We need the government to outline a strategy for broadband development in Vietnam to be determine in content industry development,” Minh said.

The Vietnam information and communication technology (ICT) development strategy to 2010 and forward to 2020 approved by the government last year aims to reach an annual information and communication technology (ICT) revenue of $6-7 billion by 2010 including $3bn in the hardware industry, $2bn in electronics production and $1.2bn in the software industry.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Apple MacBook 2.0GHz

Just when you thought it was safe to buy a new MacBook Pro, Apple unleashes a product that is possibly one of the company's best, fastest and least expensive portable systems ever.

The MacBook replaces a long, proud line of iBook laptops that have traditionally served students and consumer-level Mac users; the iBook being the ideal budget portable that upheld the integrity of Apple's hardware and software architectures. And though it is a direct replacement of the well-loved and iconic iBook and an indirect replacement of the 12" G4 PowerBook, the MacBook effectively defies its own ancestry and surpasses all anticipated performance levels for a sub-14" laptop. It has even outclassed the MacBook Pro on more than one occasion.

Best of all, the MacBook is one of the most affordable high-performance laptops on the market today.

Motorola MS600 Z is the sleek new slider in town

n Korean town that is. The new Motorola MS600 Z looks absolutely gorgeous, and we wonder if it will be the next hottest Moto phone ever since RAZR V3. The features include an ultra-thin 14.8mm sliding form factor, a RAZR-like keypad, a 2.2-inch 240×320 262k color display, MP3 playback, 2 hours talk-time, 160 hours standby, and a 1.3 megapixel camera.

The Motorola MS600 Z will be available through Korea’s SK Telecom at a price between 500,000 and 600,000 won (US$513 to US$616).

We don’t know if the MS600 Z will ever be released in other parts of the world. So meanwhile for the rest of us, let’s just salivate at the wonderful images

Stanley Cup notebook, Oilers’ Smyth digs up lucky charm

RALEIGH, N.C. – Ryan Smyth jammed his stick into the ice in the middle of the Carolina Hurricanes’ home rink Wednesday morning and dug out an embedded good luck charm.

Smyth and the Edmonton Oilers were already down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup finals and didn’t want the Hurricanes to have any other advantages heading into Game 5 on Wednesday night.

With minimal effort, the fan favorite winger from Edmonton extracted a golden dollar coin that depicts Sacagawea – an American Indian woman who aided Lewis and Clark – on one side and an American eagle on the other.

“It was not very deep in the ice,” Smyth said. “I thought some guys might trip over it, so I dug it up. Now the luck will probably go in their favor.”

Smyth knows the power of the coin. He was on the 2002 Canadian Olympic team that won the hockey-crazed nation’s first gold medal in 50 years, a victory accomplished after a Canadian ice maker placed a $1 coin into the playing surface at the Salt Lake City Games.

The Lucky Loonie – a Canadian coin named after the country’s national bird, the loon – was held up by Wayne Gretzky after the team broke the long Olympic losing streak. Gretzky displayed the coin as a symbol of luck, and many held the belief that it was the difference for Canada.

It was then sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Canada didn’t have any such good luck charm in the ice at this year’s Turin Games, not medaling.

Oilers coach Craig MacTavish had little to say about Smyth’s handiwork, but didn’t seem to mind that the coin was removed.

“As Ryan is prone to do, he doesn’t miss a lot out there,” MacTavish said. “He surveys every inch of the ice and he did that today. Might have found a nickel or loonie or whatever, I don’t know.”

PRESS RELEASE: 3 Coca Cola branded applications released for cell phones

Upstream S.A, a leading Digital Marketing agency, announces the release of 3 Coca-Cola branded applications for mobile phones. The games have been created exclusively for Upstream S.A. by Touchlink Mobile, the Danish mobile content developer and publisher, and are to be published by Upstream S.A. in Greece.

The 3 new applications, Coca-Cola 90, CC Football Game and Football Trivia are part of the latest mobile marketing campaign of The Coca-Cola Company in Greece.

Coca-Cola 90 is a network application which gives users an opportunity to get the latest information about the 2006 World Cup. This application enables users to stay up-to-date with the news and events of the 2006 World Cup!

CC Football Game is based on Touchlink Mobile’s Football 2006 game engine. Players can choose their favorite team and win the Championship! Users can improve their football skills playing the game in training mode or test them by playing a friendly match.

Trivia Football is a quiz application which enables users to test their football knowledge by answering a number of questions within a specified amount of time.

Torben Majgaard, the CEO of Touchlink Mobile said: “We are proud to have developed these applications for Upstream S.A. and look forward to our further successful cooperation”.

About Touchlink Mobile

Touchlink Mobile ( is a Danish mobile content developer and publisher. The company is publishing products among major operators like Vodafone, Orange, O2, and others.

TLM Development Department is located in Kiev, Ukraine and offers a number of outsourcing services like custom development, porting, localization and quality assurance.

About Upstream S.A.

Upstream S.A. ( is one of the top 10 Digital Marketing agencies in Europe, having launched hundreds of successful campaigns in its five years of operations. It specialises in mobile marketing and personalised one-to-one communication.

Upstream S.A. designs and implements interactive campaigns and services in over twenty countries for its clients - including such companies as Nestlй, Coca-Cola, Shell, Sky Sports and Sky News.


If you're only using your Personal Digital Assistant to store addresses and appointments, you're missing half the picture. Turn your PDA into an information resource that's always changing and always current.

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Supported devices: 3Com Palm Pilots, Handspring Visor, IBM Workpad PC Companion, Windows CE based devices.

Available Times content: Local News, Business & Finance, Opinion, Letters, Sport, Exchange Rates, Contact Information...just browse


Internet enabled mobile phone

Is your mobile phone WAP-enabled? Phones built to take advantage of the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) can access web content using a "mini browser" application built into the phone's interface. The content streams in via the cellular network and appears in your phone's display window. Consult your service carrier for information about monthly fees or restrictions. Note that phone models vary. The directions below are meant to be a general guide.

How it works: Any web-enabled mobile phone can access breaking headlines and stories from Once you've tried it, use your phone's bookmark feature so returning in the future will be easy.

Visit The Times on your WAP phone...

On any phone, you can use the "Go To" option and key in


N.Z. Plans Digital TV Service, Boosting Channels (Update1)

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealand will start converting to free-to-air digital television next year, allowing companies to offer more channels, interactive TV and broadcasts via the Internet and mobile phones.

State-owned broadcasters Television New Zealand Ltd. and Radio New Zealand alongside TVWorks, a unit of CanWest Mediaworks (NZ) Ltd., expect to start digital broadcasts next year, Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey said today. The government will invest NZ$25 million ($16 million) over the next five years, he said.

Digital television is ``essential to securing the future viability of free-to-air broadcasting,'' Maharey said at a news conference in Wellington. Without it, free-to-air broadcasters' audience share may fall to 50 percent or less from 80 percent currently, he said.

Television New Zealand and TVWorks want to compete with Sky Network Television Ltd., the nation's largest pay-television company, which already has a digital service. The introduction of free-to-air digital TV will slow revenue growth at Sky, according to a report by Spectrum Strategy Consultants prepared for the government.

Shares in Sky TV fell 5 cents, or 0.9 percent, to NZ$5.60 as of the 5 p.m. market close in Wellington. Mediaworks rose 3 cents, or 1.9 percent, to NZ$1.61.

Pay-TV Impact

``The main impact on current and future pay-TV operators is from the potential loss of subscribers,'' which will crimp subscription revenue, Spectrum said. ``Pay-TV operators will also see an impact on advertising revenues'' as free-to-air broadcasters gain a greater share of viewers, the report said.

The launch of free-to-air digital TV will probably crimp pay-television revenue by NZ$70 million in 2010, according to the report.

Still, Sky TV expects increased interest will boost demand for its service.

``This conversion is happening everywhere,'' Sky Chief Executive Officer John Fellet said in an interview in Wellington. ``We can't go to one place and find this caused a problem to pay television. It seemed if anything to grow it.''

The free-to-air broadcasters plan to start a satellite service early next year, followed by a terrestrial service. Analogue signals will be switched off in six to 10 years, Maharey said.

``The more satellite dishes on top of the roof, that benefits Sky, so we're pleased about that,'' Fellet said. The change may also allow Sky to free up space on its satellite to add more channels, he said.

Internet, Mobile

The move to digital will allow telephone companies to send television services through high-speed Internet and to mobile telephones, Maharey said in an interview.

``All of the telecommunications companies have backed this because they want access to the content,'' Maharey said ``Maybe the whole thing will shift a whole lot faster.''

Internet television may be available by mid-2007, according to the Spectrum report.

Consumers will require a NZ$200 set-top receiver to access the digital signal from either satellite or land-based transmitters, Maharey said.

New Zealand can expect a net benefit of NZ$230 million from the development of free-to-air digital television, Maharey said, citing the Spectrum study. Failure to offer the service may cost the nation as much as NZ$156 million, he said.

Analysts divided on digital home trends

Despite agreeing that consumers are interested in home networking, non-voice mobile content and digital home entertainment platforms, market research groups are divided on the extent to which convergence is actually taking place.

Research released this week by IDC suggested customers were heading towards a converged digital world, characterised by seamless connectivity between the Internet, home entertainment, computing systems and appliances.

"Customers are changing the consumption behaviour and preferences," IDC market analyst for consumer digital markets, Sophie Lo, said. "Consumers want to access the Internet through their television, and enable their plasma screen to work with their personal video recorder."

Lo said the digital entertainment sector was currently worth about $3.5 billion in revenues each year, a figure set to double by 2010. Over the same period she forecast revenues generated by the sale of digital entertainment equipment to grow from roughly $2 billion to more than $5 billion.

"Revenues going to digital entertainment service providers will grow slowly over time, while revenues to CE and IT vendors will fluctuate as new products are released," Lo said. "But it doesn't really matter what way you look at the revenues, they will be huge."

Having recently completed a survey into the technology usage habits of 3500 Australians, managing director of digital home entertainment research group Connected Research Services, Graeme Philipson, said the market for digital entertainment goods was segmenting rather than converging.

"We are seeing four separate markets emerge: information technology, consumer electronics, home automation and devices," he said. "Sure, consumers are enthusiastically embracing technology in each of these areas, but they are not looking for ways to make it all work together." Philipson said its research findings, which are set to be released next week, would demonstrate a market enthusiastically embracing digital entertainment technologies as discrete offerings. This was at odds with the view of consumers implementing converged home entertainment networks.

"They're enthusiastically embracing into the different technologies, but they're not buying into the overall picture," he said.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Panny camcorder eats extra fat SD cards

Panasonic has unveiled its latest SD camcorder, which sports an intriguing new feature – support for the forthcoming next-gen SD card.

The S150 is otherwise a minor update on the S100, offering the same 3CCD sensor, optical image stabilisation and video recording in compressed MPEG2.

There’s also a reasonable 10x optical zoom, 700x digital zoom and a speedy start-up time of 1.5 seconds.

Its support for SD High Capacity (SDHC) is an intriguing future-proofing addition, though. The new format will initially be available from August in 4GB form, which is good for over 3 hours of video in the lower quality LP mode, or 50 minutes in high quality XP mode.

Panasonic has also said that capacities could soon rise to a high-def friendly 32GB, which would make SD camcorders a more rugged alternative to hard-drive models such as JVC’s tasty Everios [see our camcorder Top 10].

Although SDHC cards won’t work in standard SD camcorders, the S150 will also take today’s cards if you don’t fancy splashing out on the next-gen versions.

Like the new cards, the S150 will be available from August – we’re just checking pricing info and will update this story when we get it.

source - By Mark Wilson

Business notebook

Toy deal: Cartoon Network, whose programs include ``Powerpuff Girls," has signed a worldwide licensing deal with Mattel Inc., the world's largest toy maker, to produce action figures, puzzles, and other toys tied to its children's TV shows.

IPO: J. Crew Group Inc., the casual clothing retailer majority-owned by Texas Pacific Group, said it plans to raise as much as $367.5 million in an initial public offering of stock.

Application: Danvers-based Medwave Inc. applied to the Food and Drug Administration for marketing clearance for its Fusion noninvasive blood pressure and vital signs monitor.

AMD chips: Dell Inc., the world's largest personal computer maker, is expected to offer a desktop PC using a microprocessor from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in September, Citigroup Inc. analysts said.

Named: Hudson, N.H.-based Presstek Inc., a maker of digital imaging equipment, said it named lead director John W. Dreyer chairman.

Narrower roaming: Walt Disney Co. started selling a wireless phone service that lets parents limit when children can use their handsets and the numbers they are allowed to dial. The phones use Sprint Nextel Corp.'s PCS network.

Not so yummy: A consumer advocate group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sued Yum Brands Inc. division KFC over the use of trans fat oil in the chain's fried food. The class action lawsuit seeks to stop KFC from using partially hydrogenated oil.

Ad search: News Corp. said its website plans to tap one of the three leading Internet companies to provide its popular youth-oriented network with search-based advertising. The global media conglomerate run by Rupert Murdoch plans to solicit bids from Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., and Yahoo Inc., News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin said.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Microsoft introduces LifeCams

Citing consumer research showing that people would use webcams if they were easier to operate and provided better audio and video quality, Microsoft today announced a new line of webcams, called Lifecams, which the company says simplifies the video communications experience.

The first two available webcams, the Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 and Microsoft LifeCam VX-3000 are optimized for Windows Live Messenger and features include: built-in acoustic noise-canceling microphone, a Universal Attachment Base, one touch call button, a dashboard for greater control and the ability to post LifeCam pictures directly to their Windows Live Space blog with one click from within the LifeCam window.

The top of the line LifeCam VX-6000 and the LifeCam VX-3000 will retail for $99.95 (U.S.) and $49.95 (U.S.) respectively and will be available in August.


Palm Treo 700p Review

Palm's Treo 700p is the latest in a now long linage of Treo smartphones. The Treo 700p combines the benefits of a full featured mobile phone with the Palm OS mobile computing platform. From a visual perspective the design changes are small, evolutionary refinements of a proven smartphone form factor. Most of the improvements to Palm's flagship smartphone come in the form of new software innovations, a big boost in memory and fast, broadband like data speeds.

Beginning with the large aerial bulge, the top of the device contains the memory expansion slot, IR window and the famous silent mode switch and the stylus silo. The silent mode switch now vibrates when activated, giving you a physical confirmation when engaged. Compared to its successful predecessor, the Treo 650, the 700p has a much darker grey plastic casing with with a more subtle silver finish. On top front of the device above the screen are the LED and phone earpiece. The LED on the Sprint version now only blinks when you have a waiting notification alert such as a missed phone call or voicemail and remains on when charging. Curiously, the Verizon version still retains the old behavior of inanely blinking to indicate network status.

At first glance, the Treo 700p is almost identical to its Windows Mobile counterpart, the Treo 700w. The main differences between the two units include the operating system (obviously), a higher density 320 x 320 pixel display and a few distinctive icons on the buttons. On the back of the device is a possible sign of things to come. The usual Palm powered circular logo, has been replaced with a new ACCESS Powered stamp, reflecting the new owners of PalmSource.

The keyboard now has a more square thumb keyboard arrangement instead of the rounded oval keys on past treos. They keys are now angled towards the sides of the device in the usual smile pattern. After using it for a few weeks I can't say I either dislike or prefer the new keys. My personal thumb typing speed and accuracy feels about the same with both styles. The backlighting on the keyboard and buttons has been improved with blue outlines on the app keys and a brighter, more consistent white illumination on the qwerty keypad.

The 700p has two new dedicated send and end call buttons just below the display. The rectangular green and red buttons are devoted to initiating and ending phone calls. The red end key also turns the screen off and activates the keyguard. Activating and using the keyguard is nicely implemented and is pretty mostly a transparent process. You simply tap the red button to turn off and it locks the keys. The on-screen keyguard display now has a larger notification bar that now shows the current time and date whenever you activate the device.

The center 5-way navigator is also a bit larger and is a lot easier to grip and thumb around with. The row of application buttons below the screen are user changeable and by default take you to the Phone app, Agenda view (calendar) and email. Hitting the blue option key before tapping a button gives you a few more shortcuts which you can also customize.

The menu key has been moved to the bottom right of the keyboard and gone is the former convenient home and menu key arrangement from the 650. The home key is part of the application buttons on the far right and can't be changed by design. The menu key has been awkwardly relocated to the bottom of the keyboard next to the infrequently used alt key. This reshuffling of the key navigational array is a disappointment. it is a little more clumsy to access common functions and menus. I also ran into trouble with a lot of games and a few apps. Often the home key is over-ridden by the games and there is no way to quit out of the current app and you can get stuck. Fortunately, there is a third party utility that lets you remap the buttons to your own preferences and you can revert to the more efficient 650 style.

Size wise, the Treo 700p has dimensions of 5.08" x 2.28" x 0.89" inches (129 x 58 x 22.5 mm) and weighs in at 6.4 ounces (180 g). It pretty much shares the same dimensions and weight as the Treo 650 and 700w.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Next Generation

Welcome to real life my little doughter..May Allah Swt Bless u forever