Archive for September 2007

Palm’s Foleo: This era’s answer to Microsoft Bob

September 12, 2007

Give this to the folks running Palm: At least management had enough insight to realize the company was about to commit one of the biggest blunders in recent tech history.

Palm late Tuesday announced its decision to cancel its Foleo mobile companion only four months after its co-founder, superstar developer Jeff Hawkins, gave the product’s first public demonstration at the D5 conference. A $500 mobile companion for e-mail was going to be an impossible sell, so maybe this is a good contrarian sign to Palm investors that the company isn’t as brain-dead as some of its harsher critics suggest. 

 Of course, you would never guess this was anything less than a bold and brave strategy move after reading the talkback postings on the Palm blog announcing the Foleo cancellation. The gist of the comments: Gee you’re brilliant. What insight. And you smell like fresh lavender.  

When you consider the flame wars that regularly attend even minor technology events, what’s to explain this singular lack of passion? Maybe someone was sharing a big post-Labor Day mix of acid-spiked Kool-Aid. For the record, a PR spokeswoman told me Palm doesn’t edit out negative comments. 

 So it goes. But why mince words? The Foleo very well may go down in history as this generation’s equivalent of Microsoft Bob, another ill-considered flop that so traumatized its chief product manager that she decided to quit the business and marry Bill Gates.  

by Charles Cooper

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LG’s new combo HD DVD/Blu-ray player

September 12, 2007

LG was the first company to come out with an HD DVD/Blu-ray combo player–the LG BH100–which made a big splash at CES 2007 and won CNET’s “Best in Show” award. At CEDIA today, LG announced its second combo player, the BH200, which looks to improve on many of the shortcomings of the BH100. The most significant failing of the BH100 was its limited support for the interactive features available on HD DVD discs, also known as HDi. According to the press release, the BH200 will support HDi functionality, along with network-enhanced HD DVD features, available on some discs such as Blood Diamond. On the Blu-ray side, it should also support BD-Java functionality (as seen on the newer Pirates of Caribbean discs), as well as picture-in-picture functionality. (While picture-in-picture functionality is standard on all HD DVD players, it is not required on Blu-ray players until October 31.) 

LG BH200’s key features

  • Full HDi support on HD DVD discs
  • Picture-in-picture support for both HD DVD and Blu-ray
  • 1080p output at 24 frames per second
  • Onboard decoding for Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD
  • HDMI 1.3 output, with Deep Color support
  • Ethernet port
  • $1,000 list price, mid-October release date

Of course, with a $1,000 list price, you can buy both the PlayStation 3 and Toshiba HD-A2 for less than the BH200, but you won’t get the convenience of a single player. The price is definitely too high for the average consumer, but the BH200 could be popular in the enthusiast community, depending on the specifics of its functionality. For example, the press release doesn’t mention support for Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio–either via onboard decoding or bitstream output–but we have to imagine there will at least be two-channel Dolby TrueHD support, since that is required in the HD DVD specification and the BH200 features the official HD DVD logo.

The BH200 will also have to compete with Samsung’s combo player, the BD-UP5000 ($1,000), which has a very impressive feature set including HQV upconversion (which can improve both DVD and high-definition disc playback performance), 1080p/24 output, and what looks to be support for all of the high resolution audio formats, including DTS-HD Master audio–although it will take a firmware update before DTS-HD Master Audio is enabled.We’ve contacted LG regarding some technical questions about the BH200’s high resolution audio capabilities, whether it meets Blu-ray profile 1.1 and its exact connectivity, and we will update this post if we receive more information.

The Most Boring $35,000 Speakers Eever!!!!!

September 12, 2007

Considering all the interesting forms that loudspeakers can and do take, the latest pair from Snell is almost inexcusably boring. Then again, this is the same company that has deliberately tried to conceal other products, so maybe it’s just not interested in appearances.

Electronic House gushes over the Reference Tower A7 Loudspeaker’s “dual 5.25-inch magnesium midranges mounted over and under a silk dome tweeter, combined with twin 10-inch long-throw woofers for exceptional smoothness and dynamic range.” Still, at a price of $35,000, one might expect a little more effort applied to the aesthetic factor. Instead, the speakers–the first in a new line amusingly dubbed the “Illusion Series”–reminds us of A/V equipment from our high school auditorium. But we really shouldn’t complain; at least Snell didn’t produce more floating eyeballs to keep us awake at nights. 

by Mike Yamamoto

 

Locking Doors Never Looked so Good

September 12, 2007

Samsung may not have an iPhone, but it’s determined to maintain the best-looking design in one undisputed category: home door-lock remotes. The “EZon SHS-1110” is a handheld device that controls Seoul Commtech’s EZon Home Network System, according to Newlaunches, but it looks more like one of Samsung’s sleek handsets or other gadgets. 

After all, how many domestic security systems have a remote control with a touch screen housed in a case of alluminum alloy and tempered glass? (For that matter, how many have remotes at all?) Certainly none in the United States, anyway, at least from Samsung–the EZon is available at present only in South Korea. But fret not: With all the applications being crammed into the iPhone, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it unlock doors too.

24 Million Yacht…or…Floating Prison???

September 11, 2007

Judging by its photos, the “118 WallyPower” doesn’t look like a luxury yacht. If anything, it has a post-apocalyptic design that gives it the appearance of a maximum-security prison on the high seas, kind of like a water-borne “Badonkadonk” tank we featured recently. But for those who have the means to purchase one–for $23,903,925 (be sure you have exact change)–we suppose it can look like anything they want.

And if its fortress-like exterior doesn’t provide enough security, the vessel can outrun any potential perpetrators with three gas-turbine engines that pack 16,800 HP capable of reaching 60 knots. Accommodations inside the seagoing monolith are apparently far less foreboding, according to BornRich, with “solid teak decks, a full kitchen, six Panasonic LCD TVs and an all-glass dining and lounge area.” For the price, though, we’d expect the yacht to carry more than the recommended six passengers. After all, that comes to roughly $4 million per head. (Or $2 million, if you include the six-person crew.) 

By Mike Yamamoto

Apple drops iPhone price by a third…Early buyers not amused

September 11, 2007

In addition to today’s iPod updates and the intriguing new iTunes Wi-Fi Store, Apple also made a controversial announcement concerning the iPhone. After nearly six months of hype and marketing to Apple enthusiasts, average Joes, and even your grandmother, Apple enjoyed a strong iPhone release at the end of June—only to retire the 4GB model two months later and knocked a third off the price on the 8GB. That’s right: instead of $599, customers can now pick up an 8GB iPhone for a mere $399. I sure hope Apple prepared their customer service reps with some great answers as to why the company just more or less flipped the bird to their early adopters, especially since the meaning of “early adopters” isn’t exactly what it used to be.

 

 

 

In case it isn’t obvious, I’m a bit stung by this move because I was right there in the lines on June 29th for an 8GB iPhone, right alongside Apple enthusiasts and regular John Does alike (hey, at least I had an excuse for being an iNerd that day: I write about this stuff for a living). Of course, in a big way I’m happy about the price drop because I really dig my iPhone, I want to see it gain traction in the industry—the new price significantly lowers the bar for more folks to pick one up.

 

But this isn’t about the enthusiasts who stood in line on June 29th—it’s about having a good business decision look bad because it came just a little too soon. A price reduction on a high end product that was so hyped to the general public (not just hard core fans) a mere two months after release reeks of the stereotypical Apple arrogance that so many have tried to diffuse and defend over the years. I understand that things change, costs lower and product interest fluctuates, but dropping the price by that much so close to the initial launch is going to hit a lot of customers the wrong way. The kind of customers who were willing to spend $600 on a phone, and who are also likely to warn their friends and family about Apple’s practices after getting stung like this.

 

Do I think Apple needs to do something for their early buyers? You bet. Do I think they will? Probably not, at least not unless those buyers work their way up the phone support tiers or make a scene in a physical store, but it shouldn’t come to that. Then again, Apple shouldn’t make promises, deliver a product and then pull the carpet out from underneath both their loyal customers and—in this new world where Apple is a household brand—the general public either. 

 

Update

A reader just e-mailed us to remind us of Apple’s return policy. If you purchased an iPhone from Apple in the last 14 days, you get a refund of the price difference:

Should Apple reduce its price on any Apple-branded product within fourteen (14) calendar days of the date of purchase, you may request a refund of the difference between the price paid and the current selling price. An original purchase receipt is required, and you must request your refund within fourteen (14) calendar days of the price reduction.

That’s small consolation for those who bought an iPhone prior to August 22, but those who have succumbed to the lure of the iPhone in the last 2 weeks can get $200 back.

 

Update 2

To clarify: this was more about the price drop happening a bit sooner than expected, and not at all surprise that a price drop happened in the first place. Tech products drop in price all the time, but two months simply felt a little early. 

By David Chartier