Friday, February 29, 2008

US finally gets "smart"

After being available in 36 other countries, the itty-bitty two-seater "smart fortwo" from Daimler Benz is now available in the US. Several models are here, including a convertible, with prices starting at $11,590.

Smart is a member of the Mercedes Car Group. To date, over 800,000 smarts have been sold. Cars are being distributed in the US through a dealer network operated by Roger Penske's UnitedAuto Group. There are currently 74 dealers. Initial availability is limited, and $99 deposits are being taken online for future delivery.

Despite its size, the car meets all Federal safety standards, but try not to get hit by a train or a tank. Safety technology includes a "hard shell" safety cell and multiple airbag.

The smart fortwo that is available in the United States is:
o 8.8 feet long (you can usually fit two smart fortwos in an average parking space!)
o 5.1 feet tall (the smart still has as much headroom as most luxury vehicles!)
o 5.1 feet wide (two six foot, five inch plus people can sit side by side with plenty of shoulder room to spare!)

The top speed of the smart fortwo is 90 mph.

The vehicle is designed to achieve 40 city/45 highway mpg according to 2007 EPA standards and 33 city/41 highway mpg according to 2008 EPA standards. 2008 standards are tougher for all vehicles.

The fortwo has 8 cubic feet of storage space – 12 feet if you load up to the roof line. This area can easily fit numerous bags of groceries, gym bags and other items that are commonly transported every day, including golf clubs! The rear storage area can also accommodate many sizes of luggage for trips to the airport, but it's probably not the right car for a cross-country trip. The front passenger seat also folds down creating additional space for other items such as skis.

The car is powered by a 1.0 L, 71 HP, 3 cylinder engine with a 5-speed "automated manual" transmission. You can get air conditioning, an alarm and a CD changer, but no rear seat.

The current issue of Motor Trend has an excellent and positive review of the car. More info is also available at
This is a preview, not a review.

Vista prices dropping

Microsoft announced Thursday that it will cut the price of some versions of Windows Vista. The move came a day after court filings revealed internal dissent over which Windows XP computers would be considered capable of running the new operating system - and a feeling on at least one executive's part that the company had "botched" the marketing of computers as "Vista Capable."

Only copies of the year-old operating system that are sold in boxes directly to consumers are affected by the price cuts - not the versions pre-loaded on personal computers. The cuts will range from 20 percent to 48 percent. The reductions are to coincide with the late March release of Vista Service Pack 1, a collection of security fixes and other improvements.

Microsoft said the new prices will apply to the Home Premium and Ultimate versions of Vista, in both their full editions and the editions that upgrade an older or more basic operating system. Both versions serve the tiny percentage of users who install an operating system on their own; most people get the latest version of Windows only when they buy a new PC.

Windows Vista's January 2007 launch was plagued by delays. To keep consumers buying PCs in the holiday season of 2006, Microsoft and PC makers promised free Vista upgrades later to shoppers who bought Windows XP computers.

At the launch, Microsoft was widely criticized for offering too many versions of the operating system - including Home Basic, which didn't have the snazzy new signature look called "Aero" - and for setting the price too high for the high-end versions.

Brad Brooks, a corporate vice president for Windows marketing at Microsoft, said in an interview that the company has since tested lower prices and found "product was moving much, much faster." Brooks said he expects so many customers to buy Vista at the new prices that the price cuts will increase Microsoft's revenue, not subtract from it.

A federal judge recently said consumers could pursue a class action suit against Microsoft for labeling PCs as "Vista Capable," even though many were not powerful enough to run all of Vista's features, including the Aero interface.

Company e-mails produced in court chronicle Microsoft settling on a plan to market a wide range of XP-based PCs as "Vista Capable" after company officials realized in early 2006 that 30 percent or fewer of computers on the market could run the full-fledged version of Vista with Aero.

That realization apparently caused computer makers like Dell Inc. (DELL) to worry that people would stop buying PCs for almost a year - until Vista launched. The e-mails also showed Microsoft lowering the bar for "Vista Capable" to protect Intel's sales of some widely used chips that weren't powerful enough for the full Vista experience.

Microsoft employee Anantha Kancherla was particularly blunt in his March 2006 response to a question about whether a certain PC configuration would be considered Vista Capable. "Based on objective criteria that exist today for "capable," even a piece of junk will qualify," he wrote. "For the sake of Vista customers, it will be a complete tragedy if we allowed it."

According to the e-mails, Jim Allchin, the executive in charge of Windows at the time, wasn't involved in the decision to brand a wide swath of XP computers as Vista Capable. Upon learning the details, Allchin wrote, "We really botched this." (info from The Associated Press)

CLICK for a report on my agonizing three-hour-and-twenty-minute Vista installation.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

HP touts long print life from new kiosks

Last week HP started competing in the Kodak-dominated self-service photo-printing business with the introduction of a photo kiosk and in-store photo "studio" software for retail chains. The company clams prints will last much longer than typical dye-sublimation-based retail systems.

Albertsons, Longs Drugs Stores, Bashas’ Supermarkets, Dan’s Camera City in Allentown, Pa., and Rush Hour Photo and Wireless in Corvallis, Ore., will be among the first with the new kiosks.

HP says its "Photosmart Express station is the most advanced standalone, self-service photo kiosk dedicated to producing 4 x 6-inch prints quickly – in as fast as five seconds. The HP Photosmart Studio is the first and only in-store solution where consumers can design creative products in about five minutes – without having to crop or place photos into individual templates – and pick them up in one hour or less."

Both products are supposed to make more money for retailers while offering their customers improved flexibility and speed.

The HP Photosmart Express station uses inkjet printing system to deliver 4 x 6-inch photos in as fast as five seconds. Consumers simply select, print and pay in a few easy steps. According to permanence testing, these prints will resist fading for well over 50 years – two to 10 times as long as typical dye-sublimation-based retail systems.

The HP Photosmart Express station works seamlessly with HP’s Snapfish so consumers can upload their photos at home, place an order online and, at their convenience, use the HP retail photo solution for fast and easy processing.

The HP Photosmart Studio is the first in-store solution on the market developed to help consumers transform anywhere from one to 200 images into ready-to-share albums, calendars, CDs, greeting cards and posters in less than an hour. Simple and quick to use, the process does not require people to select, crop or place photos into templates on each individual page. Instead, hundreds of photos are laid out in minutes using proprietary image management algorithms developed by HP Labs.
This is a preview, not a review.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jeep light guards from J. C. Whitney

I confess. I don't own a Jeep. I do like them. If I had room for a fourth car I might get a Jeep, unless I could afford a Tesla.

Anyway, J. C. Whitney, producer and marketer of an amazing collection of automotive enhancers, has some really nice light guards that can make your Jeep even more Jeeplike. You get style and protection for front, back and sides, and they're on sale now. Prices range from $29.99 to $129.99 per pair, and you can get black power coat or stanless steel. They fit recent Wranglers. CLICK.

J. C. Whitney has specialized catalogs for Jeep and other vehicles, and general auto gadget catalogs, too. If you like to drive and play with cars, get on their mailing list.

They have tools, engines, tires, audio gear, fuzzy dice, pretty much everything. Over the years, they've had some wacky stuff, too. Even fake CB radio antennas, fake cellphone handsets and fake four-on-the-floor shifters for folks who need to enhance their image at minimal cost. Many years ago, they supplied me with a genuine walnut cover for my '64 Corvair Corsa dashboard. Very classy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

BlueTooth video Walkmen coming from Sony

Sony today announced new Walkman video MP3 players that support noise-canceling and Bluetooth technologies for the first time in the US. They also support common audio formats, including MP3s.

According to Sony, the new Walkman video players offer high video resolution and brightness, along with high-quality sound and an extended battery life. They come with Sony's EX series in-ear-buds with 13.5 mm drivers that passively block out ambient noise and help create a better listener experience.

"Sony's clear audio technologies significantly improve sound quality when playing back digital music files. They fill in the high tones that can be lost during file compression, enhance the bass, minimize distortion and maintain a consistent channel signal," according to the company.

The players have a standard user interface that makes it easy to enjoy songs, videos or pictures. They have a large Quarter Video Graphics Array (QVGA) LCD screen that displays video at 30 frames per second. QVGA is a display mode for small screens in which the resolution is 320 pixels vertically by 240 pixels horizontally.

Battery life is up to 33 hours of music playback for NWZ-S710F and up to 36 hours for NWZ-A720 and NWZ-A820. Battery life is also up to 9.5 hours of video playback for the NWZ-S710F and up to 10 hours for the NWZ-A720 and NWZ-A820.

These Walkman players have a built-in noise-canceling system that can reduce up to 75 percent of the ambient noise. Five clear audio technologies are built in to maintain the same quality of the original source. Because the system diminishes intrusive noise, listeners can avoid turning up the volume. Travelers can turn on the noise canceling feature and get peace and quiet even without listening to music.

The compact and lightweight NWZ-S710 players have a 1.8-inch QVGA (320 by 240 pixels) LCD screen (measured diagonally). They include an FM tuner with 30 presets that make it convenient to listen to the radio on the go.

The NWZ-A720 series has a bigger 2.4-inch QVGA (320 by 240 pixels) LCD screen (measured diagonally). With the same look and feature set as the NWZ-A720 series, the NWZ-A820 and NWZ-A820K series adds Bluetooth technology. This technology
eliminates the inconvenience of wires while streaming tunes to headphones or other devices with Bluetooth technology. It also makes it easier to listen to music virtually anywhere, anytime: in the living room, bedroom, office or even outdoors.

These Walkman(R) players have a 2.4-inch QVGA (320 by 240 pixels) LCD screen (measured diagonally). For NWZ-A820 and NWZ-A820K series, users can manually delete videos directly from the devices' internal memory without connecting to a PC.

For fitness enthusiasts, the NWZ-A820K Walkman player comes bundled with both the EX-series earbuds and the DR-BT21G Bluetooth wireless technology enabled headphones. With a wireless behind-the-neck style, the DR- BT21G stereo Bluetooth headset has built-in remote control features that play, pause and forward tracks. Fully charged, this headset offers hours of listening to music, watching videos or hands-free talking while connected to a compatible cellphone.

These devices use stereo Bluetooth Stereo technology with Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) to deliver high-quality sound. The Walkman players support multiple digital music devices and accessories, including headphones, headsets and speakers with Bluetooth technology.

The Walkman players support an open platform, providing many choices for downloading and managing music and video collections online. The devices support security-enhanced Windows Media Audio (WMA), as well as non-secure AAC, linear PCM and MP3 music formats, plus JPEG files for photos, in addition to the AVC (H.264/AVC) Baseline Profile and MPEG-4 video codecs.

The Walkman video players store up to 3,800 songs on the 16GB models, 1,850 songs on the 8GB models and 925 songs on the 4GB models, for songs an average of four minutes in length at 128kbps in the MP3 format.

All of the new players are compatible with most subscription music services. The new players are Certified for Windows Vista, meaning they have passed a series of compatibility tests including "Plays For Sure" verification.

To help manage digital music libraries, the new players come with Microsoft Windows Media Player 11 to make transferring music very intuitive.

The NWZ-S710F Walkman players comes in two different capacities and three colors:

-- The NWZ-S716F player has approximately 4GB of internal storage; comes in silver, red and black and will cost about $150.
-- The NWZ-S718F player has approximately 8GB of internal storage; comes in black and will cost about $200.

The NWZ-A720 come in three different capacities and two colors:

-- The NWZ-A726 player has approximately 4GB of internal storage; comes in black and pink; and costs about $150.
-- The NWZ-A728 player has approximately 8GB of internal storage; comes in black and pink and costs about $200.
-- The NWZ-A729 player has approximately 16GB of internal storage, comes in black, and costs about $300.

The NWZ-A820 and NWZ-A820K Bluetooth players will initially be available in the following configurations:

-- The NWZ-A828K comes in black, has approximately 8GB of internal storage, and costs about $270.
-- The NWZ-A829 comes in black has approximately 16GB of internal storage, and costs about $320.

Presales have begun for the new Walkman(R) models online at Sonystyle and at Sony Style stores. The players will be available in March at authorized dealers nationwide.
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, February 25, 2008

New ThinkPad fits into Apple envelope,
and has DVD drive

Last month Big Mac Steve Jobs caused celebration and salivation at MacWorld when he opened a basic manila business envelope and revealed a sexy, sleek and silver MacBook Air. It was lightweight, gorgeous, and minimalist -- lacking even a DVD drive and replaceable battery to save thickness and weight.

Now Lenovo, the Chinese company that took over IBM's PC division, has revealed its long-anticipated competitor in the envelope-size laptop market. Its not quite as thin as the MacBook Air, but it does a built-in DVD burner and other 21st century conveniences that Apple left out. It may lack some of the Apple sex appeal, but it's a more useful machine for most people.

The ThinkPad X300 has 13″ display with 1440 x 900 resolution, Intel Core 2 Duo processor operating at 2.0GHz, full keyboard, network jack, WiFi, four-hour battery life, and three USB ports. Options include GPS and cellphone modem. Base price is $2500. Manila envelope is not included.
This is a preview, not a review.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Full house! Paramount quiety goes with Blu-ray

It was not a surprise. Paramount Home Entertainment quietly backed Blu-ray a day after Toshiba pulled the plug on HD DVD and Blu-ray became the standard for hi-def DVDs.

Paramount is part of Viacom, along with MTV, BET and the National Amusements movie theater chain.

Strangely there was no press conference or fanfare to accompany the move to Blu, just a statement sent exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday: "We are pleased that the industry is moving to a single high-definition format, as we believe it is in the best interest of the consumer," the statement reads. "As we look to (begin) releasing our titles on Blu-ray, we will monitor consumer adoption and determine our release plans accordingly."

No further details were given.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment, in contrast, cast its lot with Blu-ray within hours of Toshiba's announcement Tuesday morning that it was ending the format war by ceasing the development, manufacture and marketing of HD DVD players by the end of March. Universal made a big splash with its announcement, sending media outlets a statement from division president Craig Kornblau in which he said, "While Universal values the close partnership we have shared with Toshiba, it is time to turn our focus to releasing new and catalog titles on Blu-ray."

Ironically, Universal had been exclusive with HD DVD since the format's launch in April 2006, while Paramount had initially supported both HD DVD and Blu-ray. Paramount and its DreamWorks affiliate switched to HD DVD-only in August, reportedly after receiving a $150 million payment from the format's supporters for "promotional consideration."

Neither studio has announced specific titles earmarked for early Blu-ray release, though both are expected to start with new theatrical releases coming the same day as the standard DVD, beginning in late spring or early summer.

The four other majors committed to Blu-ray are Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (along with its distributed MGM Home Entertainment label), Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video (including distributed labels New Line Home Entertainment, BBC Video and HBO Video). Mini-major Lionsgate also has been an exclusive Blu-ray backer since the start. (info from Hollywood Reporter)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Save big on HP Vivera ink at silly Staples

I've often been amazed and amused by inconsistent pricing. One of my favorite ways to pass the time while waiting for food to arrive at a restaurant table is to analyze the menu.

In many Greek diners, the same slice of American cheese can have prices ranging from a dime to 75 cents, depending on what kind of sandwich it is plopped onto.

Chinese restaurants seem to be the worst offenders of erratic arithmetic. The price "delta" among chicken and pork and beef varies without rhyme or reason; and the delta between side dishes of fried rice and lo-mein seems to depend on which main dish it goes with.

The funniest example of Chinese arithmetic is common in many small restaurants in New York City, where a small order of pork fried rice costs $2.95. HOWEVER, if you are willing to accept four fried chicken wings along with the same size portion of fried rice, the total price drops to $1.95! Maybe there's a surplus of wings tha tthey need to get rid of.

I recently had to visit Staples to buy sets of Vivera ink cartridges for two HP Photosmart printers (wonderful printers, by the way). The store had several packages, with prices that could have come right out of Foo Chow's Hong Kong Garden.

You can get a pack of five ink cartridges for $44.99. It has no black ink.

And, you can get the black ink alone for $14.99, $19.99 or $29.99.

OR, if you pluck your purchase from a different pegboard hook, you can get a pack of six Vivera ink cartridges (with large black cartridge), PLUS ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SHEETS of 4 x 6 photo paper (worth about $22) for just $35.99.

AND, if you're in the Staples Rewards program, you get a 10% rebate on ink purchases, so you save another $3.59.

Would you like chopsticks or a fork? Fortune cookie or almond cookie?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Epoq watch phones

Titan Global Commerce, the marketer of Epoq brand TVs and portable media players, has announced two new quad-band unlocked-GSM cellular watch phones. Both feature touchscreen dialing keypad, stereo Bluetooth, embedded microphone and speaker, MP3 and MPEG-4 playback, and digital image storage. They operate in the US 850/1900MHz bands and foreign 900/1800MHz bands.

One of the new phones, the $599 EGP-WP88, features stainless-steel band and an OLED display that switches among displays of an analog clock, MP3/MPEG-4 player, alarm, and cellphone. It has a more watch-like appearance than other models from the company.

The unit comes with Bluetooth headset, stereo Bluetooth, and built-in kinetic recharging systems to recharge two lithium-ion batteries that deliver 120-150 minutes of talk time or 70-100 hours of standby time. It also features a speakerphone, a voice recorder, GSM/GPRS data, handwriting input, and a Web browser. It should be available in late February at and

The other new phone, the $449 EGP-WP-54-S, features a 1.5-inch rectangular touchscreen in a slightly larger form. It has many of the same features as the WP88 but includes a smart stylus and lacks kinetic recharging. Talk time is quoted as 100-180 minutes, with standby time of 80-100 hours. It will be available with a leather strap or stainless-steel band. (info from TWICE)
This is a preview, not a review.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The fat lady sang. The other shoe dropped.
HD DVD is dead. I predicted it right.

This report has been updated several times since the original posting early Tuesday morning.
The New York Yankees' most quotable catcher Yogi Berra said, "it ain't over 'til it's over."

Well, it's over for HD-DVD, and it's time for me to brag a bit. In December, 2006, right in this blog, I predicted that the Blu-ray hi-def DVD disk format backed by Sony, Panasonic and most of the movie makers would defeat the competing HD DVD format developed by Toshiba and backed by a few studios, plus Intel and Microsoft.

During 2007, Hollywood and the consumer electronics product makers were horrified when sales of DVD movies and players dwindled as consumers waited for the format war to end. The industry had hoped and expected shoppers to buy the new hi-def movie players to use with the very popular flat screen hi-def TVs.

Both hi-def disk formats could provide excellent pictures. Blu-ray players were more expensive, but Blu-ray disks could play longer. People were afraid to invest money to back the loser, in a replay of the VHS vs. Betamax VCR format war in the 1970s and 80s. Back then, Sony lost to Panasonic.

A few players were introduced that could provide some insurance against obsolescence by playing both formats, but they were much more expensive than single-format players. HD DVD players were made only by Toshiba, not an important name in consumer electronics. OTOH, Blu-ray players were available from big names like Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, LG, Mitsubishi, Sharp and Samsung. Blu-ray disks could also be played in millions of Sony PlayStations that were bought by people who did not particularly care about movies, but ended up with the ability to play Blu-ray anyway. Eventually, many PS3 owners bought the new movies.

Toshiba said about one million HD DVD players were sold globally, including players that can be attached to Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 videogame console. That was still far short of Blu-ray's 6.3 million players, including PlayStation 3. In the fourth quarter of last year, Blu-ray made up 96 percent of hi-def DVD player sales in Japan.

Many writers (BUT NOT ME) wussed-out and sat on the fence, advising readers to hang onto their credit cards until one side won.

Last year, movie renter Blockbuster decided to cut back on HD DVD and back Blu-ray. Then Target stores did the same. Early this year, Warner Bros. -- the huge studio that had been making movies in both formats -- grew some cojones and decided to back Blu-ray exclusively to try to give a jolt to the business. And this month, Netflix, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart and Best Buy joined the growing Blu team. Outside the US, Blu-ray has had a wide lead over HD-DVD. Porn film makes initially backed HD DVD, and now blue movies will be on Blu-ray.

Toshiba kept a stiff upper lip during the growing defections, made huge price cuts, and aired an expensive Super Bowl commercial; but it couldn't stop the bleeding.

Finally, this morning Toshiba announced its withdrawal from the high-definition DVD business, conceding defeat to Sony. Paramount and Universal were the only major movie studios still supporting HD DVD at the end, and now they're free to make Blu-ray flicks.

Universal (like NBC, part of General Electric), wasted little time. Just a few hours after Toshiba’s concession statement, the studio’s home entertainment unit president said Universal will now begin Blu-ray production. “The path for widespread adoption of the next-generation platform has finally become clear,” stated Craig Kornblau. “Universal will continue its aggressive efforts to broaden awareness for hi-def’s unparalleled offerings in interactivity and connectivity, at an increasingly affordable price. The emergence of a single, high-definition format is cause for consumers, as well as the entire entertainment industry, to celebrate. While Universal values the close partnership we have shared with Toshiba, it is time to turn our focus to releasing new and catalog titles on Blu-ray.”

Don't be surprised to hear a similar announcement on Wednesday from Paramount and its affiliate DreamWorks Animation, which makes the popular Shrek films. They came out in support of HD DVD last summer.

Toshiba said it planned to end sales of its HD DVD machines by the end of March, clearing the way for the Blu-ray format to become the industry standard. "We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called next-generation format war and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," said Toshiba chief executive Atsutoshi Nishida. Toshiba will still make laptops and nuclear reactors and other products, but had hoped that HD DVD would make it a power in the consumer electronics business.

Besides ending sales of stand alone hi-def players, Toshiba said it would stop volume production of HD DVD disk drives for computers. It will also assess whether to keep making PCs with integrated HD DVD drives. The company will continue to provide support for people who have already bought HD DVD players and recorders.

For those of you unfortunate folks who made the wrong decision, you'll still be able to use your Toshiba boxes to play your collection of HD DVD and standard DVDs, but they'll never be able to play the winners.

It's another failed format, like Circuit City's nearly forgotten DIVX (Digital Video Express).

Back in 1997 the company and some movie studio shysters devised a Pay-Per-View scheme for watching movies on your DVD player. Circuit City hoped to collect money every time a movie was played at home.

The players were sold by CC and a few other retailers and were more expensive than regular DVD players. The actual movies were less expensive than buying. Prices were as low as $4.49, and that price paid for unlimited viewing in a 48-hour period. To watch the movie after that time, a person had to reactivate the viewing period with the DIVX player connected to Circuit City's computer though a phone line, and enter a credit card number. The advantage over regular rentals was that no return trip was necessary, and the dead disk could be used as a drink coaster,or to shim up a wobbly table.

Whether due to public pressure, or lack of industry support, Circuit City announced the demise of DIVX in 1999, after blowing through $114,000,000. Customers could still view all their DIVX discs and were given a $100 refund for every player that was purchased before June 16. Disc prices dropped from $4.49 to $1.99, and then to 99 cents. All discs that were unsold at the end of the summer were destroyed. I wonder how low HD DVDs will go.

All is not rosy for Blu-ray, however.

During the nearly two years that people avoided investing in either format, other competition appeared. The big advantage of the DVD over broadcast and cable has been that the viewer can choose when to watch which movies. This advantage has been eroded by video-on-demand from cable companies, and many VOD movies are now in hi-def. Comcast, for example, is the country's biggest cable company, and plans to offer more than 1,000 hi-def movies this year. Many cable companies, and the satellite video services, offer a constantly expanding array of non-VOD hi-def channels, too.

Last week Apple improved its Apple TV box to handle hi-def rental movie downloads from the Internet. Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console can shows downloaded hi-def movies. However, with present technology, it takes a long time to download a hi-def movie, and lots of people still like to have rows of plastic boxes on the movie shelf.

So, until downloads become a big threat, and with no need for Blu-ray makers Sony and Panasonic to compete against HD DVD, they can compete against each other, just like they did in the days of Betamax vs. VHS.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Perfect for Presidents Day:
White House Hot Line Phone

Imagine people's reactions when your bright red phone rings, with the presidential seal on the face plate, and you pick up the handset and say, "Yes, Mr. President."

At that moment, you are probably the second most important person in the world.

Suitable for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Whigs, Tories, anyone. Used in movies made by Paramount Pictures and Disney Studios.

SADISTIC or SARCASTIC?: Send them to Al Gore, John Kerry, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, Bob Dole, Mike Dukakis, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Alf Landon, Wendell Wilkie.

This is not an empty shell or a fake phone. It's a real high-quality made-in-America phone, warranteed for SEVEN YEARS (nearly two presidential terms), and ready to plug in and ring. Price is $90, with FREE shipping to any destination in the 50 states. CLICK

Friday, February 15, 2008


Valentine's Day has passed. And that means that most stores have marked down their remaining stock of red heart-shaped candies to 50% of the price they were selling for less than 24 hours ago.

This is great news for munchee addicts. So before the weekend is over, do some shopping. The sooner you get to the stores, the better your chances of getting what you crave.

I hit CVS and Rite-Aid early this morning and wiped out their inventories of my favorite Ju Ju hearts. The reduced price wasn't as good as what my Grandma Del paid when I first got addicted to them around 1950, but the price was better than yesterday.

I'll scarf down a couple of bags over the next few days, and the rest of my precious cargo will get stashed in the freezers, to be gradually defrosted until a fresh crop appears in the stores shortly after New Years Day, 2009, when the 2008 Christmas candy is marked down and cleared out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

HeadsetHouse BN25:
I review a headset that I designed

OK. I admit this is weird.

It seems like a case study in conflict-of-interests, a prime example of what journalists aren’t supposed to do.

But, I’ve recommended lots of products designed and sold by others, so why shouldn’t I share the spotlight? Besides, it’s my blog, and I’m not the only one who likes this headset, and I'm "confessing" to my readers in advance, rather than being discovered by an investigative reporter after publication.

My company has sold over 1,000 of these headsets, even to someone who works for Plantronics, probably the world’s largest headset maker. He says it sounds terrific, but I won’t tell you his name because I don’t want to embarrass him.

Here’s the story of how I accidentally became a headset designer:

In my "day job," after I write four blogs each morning, I run a company that sells phones, phone systems, and phone stuff. I lost a battle with the "Big Two" headset makers, Plantronics and GN Netcom (now called Jabra.) They think that headsets with 2.5mm plugs are used only by people driving cars, so they make single-ear models to let you hear horns and sirens while you talk and drive.

I knew that lots of 2.5mm headsets are used outside of cars: some with cellphones, some with cordless phones, and more and more with wired phones in offices and homes.

If you're in a quiet spot, a single earpiece is fine. But if your home or office is less than quiet, or if you're in a train, airport or convention center, or walking down the street or standing in a park or playground, or sitting in a stadium; it's much better to hear voices with both of your ears, and knock out the noise.

I arranged for Chameleon -- one of the top headset manufacturers -- to produce a binaural model just for my company to sell.

We dictated the specs and the features.

We evaluated each prototype generation with corded, cordless and cellular phones.

The resulting comfort and sound quality are absolutely spectacular. There's nothing like it anywhere else. Even the guy from Plantronics said so.

The HeadsetHouse BN25 has a noise-canceling microphone on a long, strong, moldable boom that can be positioned close to your mouth for the strongest possible voice pick-up, with minimal background noise. (Short booms may be stylish, but they're lousy for communications unless you're in a very quiet spot.)

It's lightweight and secure; and comfortable, with or without eyeglasses. It's deluxe in sound, construction and feel; and warranted for two years.

The BN25 weighs just 2.3 ounces -- less than a small order of fries at McDonalds. It's easy to wear, all day long.

It comes with two sets of ear cushions: foam and leatherette. Wear whichever type you prefer. Or get freaky: put foam on one ear, and leatherette on the other.

The BN25 is built to be a 2.5mm headset. There's no clunky adapter or converter that can come apart or snag on something.

The microphone can be positioned on your right side or left side.

Audio Clarity Technology™ (ACT) and Acoustic Shock Protection provide premium quality sound with safety and comfort. You won't get blasted by a sudden loud sound with the BN25.

The receiver elements are extra efficient for higher volume. They'll give you an extra boost in noisy environments, and work well with phones that have low headset output, like the Panasonic KX-T7600 and KX-T7700 series.

Our Voice Trap™ noise canceling microphone is equipped with a wind screen like pilots and broadcasters use, to block Mother Nature's noises and your own heavy breathing. The microphone in the BN25 is designed to respond to the frequency range of the human voice, and reject everything else.

Each earpiece can pivot both horizontally and vertically in our new GyroFloat suspension. Each earpiece in the BN25 is free to float to match the contours of your face. It stays positioned perfectly on your ear, with very gentle pressure.

There's no cable yoke around your neck -- a single lightweight cord connects to both earpieces. The cord is half-coiled, and extends to about six feet.

The 2.5mm plug is gold plated to minimize corrosion and ensure strong signal transfer for the best possible sound. With the BN25, you'll hear voices, not crackles.

The cord has an adjustable clothing clip to help keep your headset on your head as you move around. If the cord gets caught on something, the headset won't fly away or flop on the floor.

The microphone boom on the BN25 is a strong metal gooseneck, yet it is very thin, lightweight and flexible. It's like magic. It can be molded to stay in almost any position, and will withstand thousands of bends without breaking.

The BN25 is an important piece of business equipment, built to last for a long time; it's not a throwaway from the dollar store. You'll have a "No Questions Asked," abuse or accident, two-year warranty. If it breaks, it gets fixed or replaced, quickly.

I’m very proud of this product, the first one to carry the HeadsetHouse brand name. Price is $96. Shipping is free in the USA. Even to Alaska or Hawaii. It’s available at It's also available in a monauural version for one-ear listening, for quieter environments, or safer driving.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Kodak chip could improve camera phones

Eastman Kodak said it has developed an image sensor that greatly improves the quality of pictures and video captured by camera phones. The technology could be incorporated in mobile phones and other smaller point-and-shoot cameras as early as next winter.

"Most camera phones - even though there's 700 million or so produced every year - unfortunately still behave like toy cameras," said Fas Mosleh, a marketing director in Kodak's image sensor business. "The pictures usually come out dark and fuzzy, and video clips are full of unwanted noise and blurriness."

The KAC-05020 Image Sensor, the world's first 1.4-micron, 5-megapixel chip, is at least doubly sensitive to light than current devices. It produces crisper images even when light conditions are not ideal - such as at a candlelit birthday party - or when shooting a moving target, Mosleh said.

The innovation is part of Kodak's widening effort to boost profitability by tapping its rich portfolio of imaging patents. Chief Executive Antonio Perez told analysts he expects Kodak to earn between $1 billion and $1.4 billion in patent-licensing royalties by 2011.

In December, Kodak wrapped up a four-year, $3.4 billion overhaul aimed at transforming itself from the world's biggest film manufacturer into a leader in digital photography. It slashed its work force to 26,900 from 64,000. Its stock has tumbled to near 30-year lows, and many Wall Street analysts have expressed unease over whether its transformation can succeed.

Kodak plans to provide samples of its new sensors to camera manufacturers this spring. It expects the chips will begin appearing in upgraded cameras in about a year's time without adding to manufacturers' development costs. They will be sold for around $5 each in quantities of 1 million or more, Mosleh said. (info from The Associated Press)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Two more big nails in the coffin of HD DVD:
Netflix and Best Buy back Blu-ray

With the video industry having picked an apparent winner in the face-off between the two competing high-def DVD formats, Netflix, the world's largest online movie rental service, yesterday said that it will move toward stocking Blu-ray, and no HD DVDs.

Citing the decision by four of six major movie studios to make high-def DVD titles only in Blu-ray, Netflix said that it will purchase only Blu-ray discs and will phase out the competing HD DVD high-def format, developed by Toshiba.

Since the first high-definition DVDs came on the market in early 2006, Netflix has stocked both formats. But the company said that in recent months the industry has stated its clear preference for Blu-ray and that it now makes sense for the company to initiate the transition to a single format.

While only a portion of Netflix subscribers have elected to receive high-def DVDs, a majority of those subscribers have chosen Blu-ray over HD DVD. As part of the transition to Blu-ray, the company said it will acquire no new HD DVDs but that its current HD DVD inventory would continue to rent until the discs' natural life cycle takes them out of circulation in the coming months.

When Warner Home Video announced last month that by mid year it will release high-def titles exclusively in the Blu-ray format, it joined fellow majors Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox and Buena Vista in endorsing Blu-ray. Currently, the two remaining majors, Paramount and Universal Studios, publish in the HD DVD format.

Netflix currently stocks over 400 Blu-ray titles, having recently added popular releases such as "Across the Universe" (Sony), "Gone Baby Gone" (Buena Vista) and the Academy Award nominated "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.). Blu-ray titles scheduled for release in the next month or so include the Academy Award nominated "No Country for Old Men" (Walt Disney), "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (Sony) and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" (20th Century Fox).

Also yesterday, giant electronics retail chain Best Buy announced that starting in March it will begin “prominently showcasing” Blu-ray Disc hardware and software in its stores and online.

They said the decision was made to give consumers direction and clear up confusion that remains in the ongoing HD disc format war. The will continue to carry an assortment of HD DVD products for customers who want them.

“Consumers have told us that they want us to help lead the way,” stated Brian Dunn, Best Buy president/COO. “We’ve listened to our customers, and we are responding. Best Buy will recommend Blu-ray as the preferred format. Our decision to shine a spotlight on Blu-ray Disc players and other Blu-ray products is a strong signal to our customers that we believe Blu-ray is the right format choice.”

Dunn added that “Best Buy has always believed that the customer will benefit from a widely accepted single format that would offer advantages such as product compatibility and expanded content choices. Because we believe that Blu-ray is fast emerging as that single format, we have decided to focus on Blu-ray products.”

“With the explosion of HDTVs, customers are hungry for quality, high-definition content. We believe our move to feature Blu-ray should help consumers feel confident in their hi-def content choices,” said Mike Vitelli, Best Buy’s home solutions senior VP. “Best Buy is excited by the next generation of digital products and we know our customers are too. We are excited about helping customers find the right mix of products and services to make the next generation of high-definition entertainment technology come alive for them. We believe that Blu-ray is the right solution for consumers.”

Editor's Note: Back in 2006, right in this blog, I predicted that Blu-ray would win. As Nelson Muntz would say, Haa-ha.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sony Ericsson announces iPhone fighter

Last week Sony Ericsson launched the XPERIA™ X1, an arc slider phone designed to "address the growing need for a premium, converged mobile experience." It combines a 3-inch clear and wide VGA display and a full QWERTY keyboard within a metal-finish body. Using Windows Mobile, the XPERIA™ X1 lets you choose from a range of activities anytime and anywhere; from enjoying entertainment to working on-the-move. You can access a world of experiences simply by touching the XPERIA™ panel on the screen.

“XPERIA™ represents the first brand that is truly borne from within Sony Ericsson. It represents our vision for a premium, energised communication experience,” said Dee Dutta, head of Mmrketing.

“Our vision for the XPERIA™ X1 is to deliver a seamless blend of mobile Web communication and multimedia entertainment within a distinctive design,” said Rikko Sakaguchi, head of portfolio and propositions.

XPERIA™ X1 lets you interact with your phone in different ways. Touch, full QWERTY keyboard, 4-way key and optical joystick navigation. Switch seamlessly between operation modes.

The arc design gives a distinct and unique feel. Slide the screen upwards to reveal the wide pitch QWERTY keyboard. Ample distance between keys makes writing fast and easy.

With Windows Mobile, the highest data transfer rate (HSDPA/HSUPA) and WiFi support, you can enjoy your favorite entertainment and work efficiently on the move. Mobile access to everything that is important to you. A GPS gives you the freedom to explore the world.

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA™ X1 will be available in the second half of 2008. Price has not been announced.
This is a preview, not a review.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Now everyone can have a flashing red phone like Batman

When there’s trouble in Gotham City, Police Commissioner Gordon calls caped crusader Batman, the secret alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne.

At Wayne Manor, the flashing red Batphone is answered by Alfred the butler, who tells Wayne about the trouble. Then Wayne and his young ward Dick Grayson put on their superhero costumes. As Batman and Robin, they race from the Batcave in the Batmobile to battle evil-doers, or rescue citizens in distress.

Now everyone can have a bright red flashing Batphone just like a superhero. When an emergency call - or even an ordinary call - comes in, a bright red light centered in a shiny chrome ring starts flashing to attract attention.

This new phone, just developed by AbleComm, Inc., has classic sixties styling, with heavy-duty construction, and a two-year warranty. It gets all of its power from the phone line, and doesn’t require a power cord or batteries.

The phone rings when the light flashes, unless a purchaser prefers the bell to be disconnected, or an optional buzzer to be installed instead of the bell. Price with the bell is $112, including shipping to all 50 states.

Order online at, or call toll-free 1-888-225-3999.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New iPhone and iPod have doubled storage

Yesterday Apple added new models of the iPhone and iPod touch which have double the memory, doubling the amount of music, photos and videos that people can carry.

The iPhone now comes as a new 16GB model for $499, joining the 8GB model for $399. Meanwhile, iPod touch now comes as a 32GB model for $499, joining the 16GB model for $399 and the 8GB model for $299.

Both iPhone and iPod touch feature Apple’s Multi-Touch user interface and pioneering software that allows users to find and enjoy all their music, videos, photos and more with just a finger touch.

All iPhone and iPod touch models include the latest software enhancements announced last month including the ability to automatically find your location using the new Maps application; create Web Clips for favorite websites; customize the home screen and watch movies from iTunes Movie Rentals.

The new 16GB iPhone is available immediately for a suggested retail price of $499 through the Apple Store, Apple’s retail stores and AT&T retail and online stores. The 32GB iPod touch is available worldwide immediately for a suggested retail price of $499 through the Apple Store, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

iPhone and iPod touch require a Mac with a USB 2.0 port, Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later and iTunes 7.6; or a Windows PC with a USB 2.0 port and Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (Service Pack 2) or later and iTunes 7.6. (info from Apple Insider)

My prediction: By holiday giving time (or maybe back-to-school) the new models will have $100 price drops, and the old models that had been $100 less, will be dropped.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Compact hi-def camcorders coming from JVC
with up to 10 hours HD recording on hard drive

At last week's PMA trade show in Las Vegas, JVC announced a pair of new high definition Everio hard disk camcorders that offer high picture quality in a dramatically reduced size. The new JVC GZ-HD6 and GZ-HD5 HD camcorders are 45 percent smaller than JVC’s previous top-end HD camcorder, the GZ-HD7, without any sacrifice in image quality.

To provide the best possible quality, both new HD camcorders feature a Fujinon HD lens, a progressive scan 3CCD imaging system and JVC’s HD Gigabrid engine that delivers 1920 x 1080 Full HD recording. In addition, they offer 1080p 60 frame per second output via HDMI 1.3 with x.v.Color™. Collectively these technologies capture and maintain optimum image quality for videos and stills through every stage, from the lens on through to recording. Both camcorders offer a long recording time in 1920 x 1080 Full HD – 10 hours for the 120GB GZ-HD6 and five hours for the 60GB GZ-HD5. They record up to 24 (GZ-HD6) or 12 (GZ-HD5) hours in the 1440 LP mode. Recordings are stored on either the built-in hard disk drive or on an inserted microSD card (optional). Both models also offer a microphone input and a wide range of manual controls. The black GZ-HD6 also features a lens hood and headphone jack. The smaller silver GZ-HD5 weighs just 1 lb 3.9 oz with battery.

The GZ-HD6/HD5 also come supplied with Windows® applications for editing and authoring to DVD and Blu-ray disc, as well as plug-in software to facilitate data import into various Macintosh applications. And to make it easy to share and archive recordings, JVC will continue to offer the CU-VD40 Everio SHARE STATION for HD which enables one-button burning of video data to DVD.

The HD Everio GZ-HD6/HD5 feature an F1.8-F1.9 10x zoom lens that offers nearly the same brightness throughout its 39.5~395 35mm equivalent (f=3.3mm~33mm) zoom range by virtue of its three aspherical lens elements, one made of indexed glass. In addition, the lens surface is coated with a new Electronic Beam Coating (EBC) that greatly reduces degradation caused by light reflecting off the lens surfaces, leading to greater light transmission and reduced flaring and ghosting. This HD lens was specifically designed by Fujinon, a leader in the professional camera lens market for HD moving images, in conjunction with JVC engineers to offer optimal characteristics for the camcorder’s Progressive Scan 3CCD system.

For bright, realistic colors the HD Everio camcorders use three 1/5-inch CCDs – one each for the primary colors red, green and blue, incorporating 16:9 progressive scan CCDs. This voluminous raw information is then processed using pixel shift technology to essentially quadruple the pixel count to create an even more detailed image, providing 2.27 Megapixels total and 2.14 Megapixels effective resolution.

Using the highest quality FHD recording mode, the user can record approximately 10 hours (120GB model) or five hours (60GB model) of full HD 1920 x 1080 MPEG2 Transport Stream video with MPEG 1 Layer 2 audio. This is truly native HDTV resolution that requires no conversion on the part of the display device to show high definition images.

Also, because it records in the MPEG2 Transport Stream video format, HD Everio recordings can be archived onto Blu-ray discs using provided software and a high definition Blu-ray recorder.

JVC’s new HD Gigabrid video engine, which processes in full 1920 x 1080 progressive video, is the result of years of experience in signal-processing technology, and uses five digital noise-reduction algorithms as well as signal processing to improve vertical scan resolution by approximately 30 percent over JVC’s previous interlace technology for an extremely clear and sharp image.

By enabling output of a 1080p 60 fps progressive signal, this function enables HD Everio’s recordings to be enjoyed on high-end displays. Using the same high-power Genessa technology as in JVC’s advanced displays, conversion to 1920 x 1080p at 60 fps provides seamless natural video, free of motion judder during fast action, jaggy lines on angles, and moiré patterns on fine detail when zooming. 1920 x 1080 HD discs played back via the camera from the CU-VD40 SHARESTATION are also converted to 60 fps progressive.

JVC HD Everio Camcorders record using x.v.Color™ technology. In this universal standard x.v.Ycc, known as x.v.Color™, provides more accurate color reproduction with more detail and shades that looks more natural to the human eye. It can display 100 percent of the colors that the human eye is capable of perceiving, whereas the traditional sRGB system can display only approximately 55 percent. The difference in color reproduction performance is especially noticeable in greens and yellows. These new HD Everio camcorders output to televisions directly using HDMI™ (V.1.3. with x.v.Color™).

To preserve the Full HD quality, the HD Everios feature optical image stabilization, avoiding the signal degradation caused by electronic image stabilization, which might be particularly noticeable in HD footage. In short, HD Everio matches its high-definition recording capability with a proven HD lens section that has proven its value in the broadcast industry.

While HD Everio camcorders offer fully automated operation for point-and-shoot simplicity, they also offer a wide range of manual controls. These include a manual focus ring, manual white balance, exposure control, shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode and sharpness control. In addition, a Focus Assist function displays the edge of the in-focus elements in color while the rest of the image is black-and-white, making it easy to check which image elements are in focus. And a Zebra function displays a striped pattern across highlight areas on the image in the LCD monitor, making it easier to manually set the exposure.

Depending on the model, HD Everio camcorders feature either an embedded 120GB or 60GB hard disk drive, allowing upwards of 10 hours (120GB model) or five hours (60 GB model) recording at the highest quality FHD mode. In addition to this mode, three more are offered to let the user choose the appropriate mode for any situation. There is an SP mode with a resolution of 1440 x 1080 and maximum bit rate of 22 Mbps., an LP mode offering the same resolution but at a slower maximum bit rate of 15 Mbps., and an HDV-i.LINK streaming compatible constant bit rate 1440 CBR mode.

By connecting the GZ-HD6/HD5 directly to the optional CU-VD40 HD Everio SHARE STATION via USB, the user can burn HD 12cm DVD discs to make backups and permanent archives of selected scenes in any desired order with just a few simple steps. There are several options for selecting clips to be burned to disc — all clips, manual selection of specific clips, clip files not yet copied, by date, video playlists created in-camera and comprised of multiple user-selected clips, or by event type for those clips that have been tagged with an icon representing an event category (e.g. birthday, baby, graduation, vacation, etc.).

HD Everio camcorders are equipped with three digital interfaces – USB, HDMI and Firewire/i.LINK. USB is primarily for file saving, HDMI for digital viewing on large screen displays, and Firewire/i.LINK streams high definition video in full resolution or the 1440CBR mode. High definition video streamed by Firewire/i.LINK in the 1440CBR mode is HDV-compatible and allows footage to be edited using HDV-compatible software (functionality might be limited with some applications). HD recorded material is down-converted for output in DV over Firewire/i.LINK, or in standard definition via the analog component/ S-Video/ composite output.

For editing and archiving via PC, the HD Everio comes with the CyberLink BD Solution software suite for Windows. This includes PowerDirector for HD video editing, PowerProducer for authoring high definition Blu-ray discs and DVD-Video discs, and PowerCinema for HD file management and playback. Also included is a plug-in that works up to 1920 x 1080i with Apple iMovie HD and Final Cut Pro video software for the Macintosh.

The JVC GZ-HD6, offered in black, and the GZ-HD5, offered in silver, will be available in March for $1,399.99 and $1,199.99, respectively.
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Now you can get VOD and DVD on same day

Cablevision has begun offering on demand movies from Universal Studios and Warner Bros. the same day they debut on DVD, but you must also purchase the movie on DVD.

Universal's The Bourne Ultimatum, The Kingdom, Eastern Promises and upcoming American Gangster all debuted or will debut on the new service simultaneous with their DVD release, 30 to 45 days before they debut on traditional video-on-demand.

Cablevision is offering the films to subscribers through a deal with Popcorn Home Entertainment, a newly launched company. Cablevision is offering the Popcorn service to its customers in the New York city metro area. Popcorn has deals with Universal and Warner for all new releases and select older titles and says it is talking to other studios.

The company buys and ships DVDs to customers, paying Cablevision a split for each movie sold. Users sign up with a credit card for the service at and then order films with the cable box. Once an order is placed, they have 24 hours to watch the film on VOD with the DVD arriving days later.

All new releases sell for $19.95, and older films are priced between $9.95 and $15.95. There is also a charge for shipping.

Cable company and VOD proponent Comcast first pushed the idea of combining a VOD viewing with a DVD sale in 2005, but the company has yet to make such an offering. Since that time, Comcast has run a test in two markets with five major studios, releasing films on demand the same day they debut on DVD. Popcorn’s deal with Cablevision isn’t exclusive, and the company wants to offer the VOD/DVD combo to other cable companies. (info from TWICE)

Friday, February 1, 2008

GPS-maker Garmin will make GPS-phone

Garmin International announced yesterday its entrance into the cellphone market with the nüvifone, an all-in-one, sleek and slim, touchscreen device that combines a premium phone, mobile web-browser and personal navigator. The nüvifone is intended to transform how individuals connect, communicate and navigate.

According to Garmin, "the nüvifone is an innovative mobile phone that has a wide range of advanced yet easy-to-use features. The all touchscreen device is the first of its kind to integrate premium 3.5G mobile phone capability with an internet browser, data connectivity, personal messaging, and personal navigation functions in one device. When powered on, the 3.5-inch touchscreen display reveals three primary icons – “Call,” “Search,” and “View Map” which allow the user to effortlessly master the nüvifone’s functions."

"The nüvifone is the ultimate multi-tasker. Calls are easily initiated by tapping the “Call” button and selecting a name from the contact list or by using the on-screen keypad. When the user is trying to juggle talking on their phone while entering their vehicle to start a trip, the nüvifone makes the transition simple. When the nüvifone is docked onto the vehicle mount, it automatically turns on the GPS, activates the navigation menu, and enables hands-free calling so that the user never misses a beat in the conversation and is able to begin routing to their destination with ease."

It includes preloaded maps of North America, Eastern and Western Europe, or both, and allows drivers to quickly find a specific street address, establishment’s name or search for a destination by category using the nüvifone’s built-in database with millions of points of interest. Turn-by-turn, voice-prompted directions guide the user to their destination. If they miss a turn along the route, nüvifone automatically recalculates a route and gets them back on track, speaking the names of the streets along the way.

The nüvifone is Garmin’s first device to include Google local search capability, which harnesses the vast point of interest information available from the world wide web. Nüvifone users can search for locations like “coffee shops” and Google will sort the results based on the user’s current location and relevance. Information provided by Google includes a web-based rating so that users can select the most appropriate destination and route directly to it. In addition, the nüvifone includes a web browser incorporating premium features and touchscreen operation for an optimum mobile browsing experience. The nüvifone also includes personal messaging functions, including email, text, and instant messaging.

For enhanced safety, the “Where am I?” feature lets users touch the screen at any time to display the exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals, police stations and gas stations. The nüvifone also helps drivers find their car in an unfamiliar spot or crowded parking lot by automatically marking the position in which it was last removed from the vehicle mount.

In addition to navigation, the nüvifone includes access to Garmin OnlineTM, an online service offering constantly-updating information such as real-time traffic, fuel prices, stock prices, sport scores, news reports, local events and weather forecasts.

The nüvifone also includes numerous mobile entertainment applications. The built-in camera allows individuals to take a picture that will automatically be tagged with the exact latitude and longitude reference of where the image was taken. The user may then save the image so they can navigate back to the location, or email the image to a recipient who can navigate directly to the location. The nüvifone also provides direct access to millions of geo-located landmark and sightseeing photographs available through Google’s Panoramio picture sharing site. The Panoramio photo search feature enhances the enjoyment and adventure of sightseeing in an otherwise unfamiliar location. Other multimedia functions of the nüvifone include a built-in video camera, MP3 and MPEG4/AAC.

Garmin anticipates that the nüvifone will be available in the third quarter of 2008. Specific details about pricing and sales partners will be announced in the future.
This is a preview, not a review.