Wi-Fi Product Watch, March 2009

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

March 31, 2009

Skype for iPhone available today; new photosharing app for iPhone; a netbook from Verizon?; Actiontec adds WPA2 to GT724WGR DSL modem; new iPod touch accessory; BlackBerry App World store goes live this month; iPhone OS 3.0 software revealed; make video calls with Skype; low-cost netbooks outsell pricier laptops; and more.

Skype released its highly anticipated Apple iPhone application today, putting the Voice over IP (VoIP) company in a position to leverage the Apple App Store's broad reach to find new users while callers get the benefit of free and low-cost VoWi-Fi calls.

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Seattle, WA-based Zero260, which calls itself  "a mobile experience studio" announced today a new photosharing app for iPhone. Available at the Apple App Store, Zero260's Feedds concept is somewhat Twitter-like in its approach, allowing users to quickly share nuggets of experience publicly, but in this case, without even 140 characters.

Feedds allow mobile users to rapidly upload themed photos in any of three categories. TravelFeedd is for people who want to share their travel shots; CarFeed is for auto enthusiasts; and PhotoFeedd is for "people who like to view and share their everyday life experiences." In other words, based on the examples currently at the site, it includes images from the base (bleach-blonde girls snapping grainy, borderline profane self-portraits), to the gruesome (dead animals lodged in windshields), to the tedious (two unimaginative shots of someone's last piece of foreign currency, several mediocre shots of palm trees in what looks like a strip mall, etc).

"A picture is worth a thousand words and often no amount of texting can convey the same spontaneity, inspiration, information or even humor as a picture," said David Bluhm, President and CEO of Zero260 in a press release today. "While there are many photo sharing applications, Feedds are about building an experience around the photos themselves. For instance, users can search for their favorite topics, follow topics that are particularly interesting, funny, or relevant to them and also post comments on other people's photos."

March 26, 2009

Rumor has it, Verizon Wireless will start selling netbooks. According to Web reports, the devices are being developed with more than one PC maker.

Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications and Britain's Vodafone Group , competes with AT&T and Sprint Nextel in the wireless carrier market.

Verizon wouldn't be the first non-traditional vendor to get in on the netbook craze. Last December, RadioShack announced it would be selling an under $100 netbook. The Acer Aspire One sold at RadioShack through Christmas Eve 2008 for $99.99. [Click here for a full review of the Acer Aspire One.]

The catch was a contract with Verizon competitor, AT&T (formerly Cingular). Customers wishing to get the RadioShack/Acer device had to sign up for a qualifying two-year AT&T DataConnect mobile broadband service agreement. (Plans start at $60 a month.)

According to a Reuters report today, "Verizon Wireless and AT&T see devices used mainly for data rather than voice as the next phase of wireless growth as the vast majority of the U.S. population owns mobile phones." 

For  more on netbooks, read:

March 25, 2009

Actiontec announced today new firmware for its GT724WGR DSL Modem. [Read our review of the modem--pre-updated firmware--here.]

The 4-port Wireless DSL Modem integrates a full-rate ADSL2+ modem, 4-port Ethernet switch, and an 802.11g Wi-Fi router into one device. The new firmware adds WPA2 support and a new setup wizard.

March 19, 2009

Released today, the mophie Juice Pack  for iPod Touch 2G ($99.95) from mStation offers second generation iPod touch users a rechargeable lithium polymer battery in the form of a non-slip, soft grip case. The Apple-certified accessory ships fully charged and includes a USB cable, which enables users to simultaneously charge thier touch and sync with iTunes without having to remove it from the juice pack. More details at the mStation Web site.

For more on iPod touch, read, "Review: iPod touch 2nd Generation," "New Tech Adds Voice to iPod Touch," and "Review: iPod touch."

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Research in Motion plans to go live with its BlackBerry App World store this month as scheduled. App World is the mobile device maker's answer to Apple's phenomenally successful App Store for the iPhone, which already offers over 25,000 applications following its release last year.

"We're excited, very soon it'll be out there," said Alan Brenner, senior vice president of BlackBerry Platforms at RIM. "There's a huge pent up interest in simpler discovery and acquisition of applications for the BlackBerry."

Brenner was interviewed as part of a keynote luncheon presentation at the Dow Jones Wireless Innovations conference here. He declined to get into much detail on what applications will be available at launch, but did note they cover a broad range of categories from business and productivity to entertainment.

"The market expects volume and quality," he said. "We have a history of solutions that are very sticky; applications that people spend a lot of time with." For more details, read "RIM's App World Store Ready to Rock" at InternetNews.com.

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Apple officials and third-party developers dazzled a packed hall here at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, CA, showing off a beta of its upcoming iPhone software that will introduce some long sought-after enhancements. [To view a video of the event at Apple's Web site, click here.]

Version 3.0 of the iPhone operating system, now at version 2.2.1, will usher in a slew of features that users have been asking for, like cut-and-paste and "push" updates--which create a persistent connection to Apple's servers, so things like news, traffic, stock and sports alerts can be delivered in real time.

The push feature had been expected last fall, but Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, Scott Forstall, admitted it was late. More details here. 

March 17, 2009

Making a Skype video call is not only free but also remarkably easy. If you’ve got an Internet connection and a Webcam, nothing stands in your way.

But be warned: this means the age of video calling has arrived. When a phone call means your caller sees you, it’s now rude to be doing 18 things as you talk. (And please, no personal hygiene maintenance.) Oh, and it’s easy to record a video call--meaning any of your calls could end up on YouTube. For instructions, read our tutorial, "How to: Make Video Calls with Skype."

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Research group NPD said on Monday that U.S. retail sales of Apple Mac computers fell 16 percent in February on a unit basis, even as low-cost netbooks helped Windows-based PCs sales rise 22 percent.

According to NPD, unit sales of Macbook laptops dropped 7 percent, while Windows laptops jumped 36 percent. Without netbooks, Windows laptops rose 16 percent.

NPD figures are a closely watched measure for Apple sales, but they do not include data on direct sales from PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc. The figures include sales from Apple stores, retailers such as Best Buy and e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com. Data from Wal-Mart is not included.

NPD analyst Steve Baker told Reuters that Apple's high-priced products are proving to be a tougher sell as U.S. consumers struggle through a crippling recession. For the full story, click here.

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Research in Motion is likely to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in a big way--Irish rocker Bono just broke up with the iPod and his new mobile babe is the BlackBerry.

Apparently, RIM said "walk away, walk away, walk away," and Bono followed, switching his allegiance from Apple's iPod to RIM's BlackBerry, which is now the corporate sponsor of the super-group's 360 tour kicking off in June in Spain.

The news comes at a time when the competition in the smartphone market is heating up, even as sales cool off--and new players such as the T-1 Mobile Android phone are also certain to change the landscape--so any edge, whether having a namesake guitarist or not, may be prudent.

At U2.com, you see an artsy black-and-white photo of Bono and company and an orange icon bearing the group's current tour title, but what's surprising is the BlackBerry company name right below it in popping white-on-black contrast. For more, read the full story at InternetNews.com.

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Dell today unveiled its "luxury" Adamo laptop ($1,999), calling it the world's thinnest notebook--throwing down the gauntlet for Apple, which has boasted its MacBook Air is "the world's thinnest notebook."

Shipping today, the sleek, aluminum-encased notebook from Dell is 0.65-inches thick and comes with a 13.4-inch screen and a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive.

Starting at $1,999, the Adamo is positioned as Dell's new high-end brand. Another configuration will sell for $2,699.

The device comes packed in a clear case along with an optional branded sleeve or tote bag from designer luggage and handbag label Tumi. For more details from InternetNews.com, click here.

March 16, 2009

We like the looks of IPEVO's wireless digital picture frame, the Wi-Fi-enabled Kaleido R7 ($199.99). In particular, we like the visually appealing (and practical) design, which includes a special hinge feature that allows the frame's screen to rotate 90 degrees to accomodate landscape and portrait images. We haven't reviewed this one yet, but to read reviews of other Wi-Fi picture frames, see "Review: Sony Vaio Frame CP1," "Review: D-Link 10" Wireless Internet Photo Frame (DSM-210)," and "Review: eStarling ImpactV Wireless Clip Frame."

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Taiwan- and San Jose, Calif.-based IPEVO last month joined the ranks of companies that have developed ways to cut the cord that binds Skype to the computer. The So-20 Wi-Fi Phone for Skype ($129.99) is a compact, lightweight device that connects to the Internet over Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 b/g) networks, and has all of Skype's telephony functionality built into its firmware. Read our full review here.

March 12, 2009

Google recently released software that allows users of mobile phones and other wireless devices to automatically share their whereabouts with others. Google Latitude enables users in 27 countries to broadcast their location constantly. Controls allow users to select who receives the information or to go offline at any time.

Learn more at InternetNews.com.

March 11, 2009

ASUS, the company that launched the netbook category with its Eee series products, announced Monday immediate availability of its new Eee Top ET1602 ($599) touch-based computer.

Designed as an "intuitive Internet device and central communication hub," the Eee Top integrates a 15.6" touch screen, an Intel Atom-based system, wireless connectivity, and an "easy to use" graphic interface. 

A companion external DVD drive ($64) is also available. More details at the Asus site. Check back for our review.

March 4, 2009

Google may have its own skin in the mobile software game--after all, it's the prime mover behind the Android mobile operating system. But when it comes down to it, the search giant doesn't really care which handset or operating system comes to dominate the market.

Instead, Google thinks it's found a win-win situation, because it sees cloud-based services, such as Gmail making the mobile world go 'round.

That was the sentiment expressed by Vic Gundotra, vice president of mobile and developer platforms at the company, who spoke on a panel at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco.

With much of the buzz at last week's Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona centering on upcoming Internet-centric phones, it's hard to deny that advanced mobile apps and services--and the phones that support them--are on everyone's mind. But Gundotra said he was surprised to see the optimism for the smartphone industry continue in the current economy, a fact he attributed to mobile phones' transition to personal computing devices. Read more at InternetNews.com.

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Amazon today made good on hints that it planned to release a Kindle-compatible e-book reader for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch, expanding the market for its digital library by tapping into the devices' booming growth.

While the news might seem counterintuitive--surely a free application will eclipse a $360 purpose-built device?--Amazon's betting that the app and the Kindle won't compete with each other.

Instead, the e-commerce giant expects customers to want both the free application, which is downloadable from Apple's  App Store, and the Kindle, the second generation of which it released only last month. To simplify the task of using both clients, Amazon said it's turning to a synchronizing feature it calls Whispersync.

"Whispersync technology saves and synchronizes a customer's bookmark across their original Kindle, Kindle 2, iPhone, and iPod touch, so customers always have their reading with them and never lose their place," the company said in a statement. For more, read the full story at InternetNews.com.

March 3, 2009

Avaak is among the 40 companies hoping to make a splash at DEMO this week. Monday, the company today launched its Vue Personal Video Network, a network of small, battery-powered wireless cameras that stream videos directly to the Internet.

The $299 package includes two of its tiny "peel and stick" cameras and a network hub designed for easy installation and set up.

"What we solved is that people want video, but it's hard to get the cameras where you want them without extension cords. And then there's all the network configuration hassle that we do automatically," said Dan Gilbert, vice president of marketing for Avaak.

The biggest application is video surveillance, which is a niche in the overall video market but a very fast growing one. The do-it-yourself home video surveillance market alone is expected to grow from just under $300 million in 2008 to nearly $1 billion by 2012, according to the research firm MultiMedia Intelligence. For more on this from our sister site, InternetNews.com, click here.

For more on Wi-Fi video surveillance, click here.

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MSI Computer announced Monday its new GT725 Gaming Notebook. 

The GT725, designed to "create the ultimate mobile gaming experience," ships with an Intel Centrino 2 processor (Intel 45nm Penryn P9500), an ATi Radeon HD4850 video card, a Blu-ray player, and a 17” 1080P HD LCD. 802.11b/g/n also comes built-in.

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Telecommunications provider JAJAH has announced the availability of a new technology platform that will transform iPod touch devices into fully functional mobile phones. Read more here.

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When we saw the AVerDiGi EB1704HB WiFi-4 at CES 2009 ShowStoppers, we were intrigued. At first glance, this plug-and-play Network Video Recorder (NVR) with four Wi-Fi cameras seemed to be ideal for no-frills-no-fuss video surveillance in homes, "mom and pop" shops, and small offices. But when we took the EB1704HB WiFi-4 home for a test drive, we encountered a few surprises that prevented this innovative bundle from realizing its full potential. Read a full review here.

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Our friends at LinuxPlanet took a look at an early version of Ubuntu Mobile Edition. Conclusion? Overall it represents a good start toward making Linux a viable alternative to Windows for ultra portable devices. Read more here.

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The powerful Fujitsu LifeBook A6210 ($1,149) delivers all the creature comforts you would expect for a daily workhorse--fast processor, large screen, full-sized keyboard--in a package that's light enough for occasional travel when duty calls. Read a full review here.

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Vapps' HiDef Conferencing service is so good even Skype (the company) uses it for large-scale calls. Learn more here.



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