Wednesday, November 30, 2005
RadioShack and Skype announced that they have entered an agreement that allows RadioShack to distribute Skype-ready products in about 3,500 RadioShack retail outlets across the US.
For those three people who have not yet heard of Skype, it is a leading Internet communications firm which has successfully brought free Internet calling to more than 66 million people worldwide since its inception in 2003. Currently, Skype is clocking in about 175,000 new users every day. To use Skype, you only need to download the free software, which enables unlimited calling to other Skype users wherever they may be.
The uniqueness of Skype lies in the fact that it directly resides on your PC or mobile phone to facilitate calling operations. Skype does not only offer Skype-to-Skype calling. It also offers paid, subscription based services enabling you to call regular phones for as low as US $0.02 per minute.
The RadioShack-Skype agreement serves to further push Skype as a leading Internet communications firm in the US, exposing Skype to even more potential users. Moreover, RadioShack's retail stores offer consumers an outlet where they can buy Skype-certified products such as the Motorola Wireless Headset and Internet Calling Kit, which is the first Skype-certified Bluetooth offering.
Here's a rundown of other Skype-certified phones and headsets you can get at RadioShack.
- New Motorola H500 Bluetooth headset and PC850 USB Adapter bundled in the Internet Calling Kit (a RadioShack limited offer with an MSRP of US $99.99
- Linksys CIT200 Skype-enabled Cordless Internet Telephony Kit, MSRP US $129.99 (with a limited time US $15 mail-in rebate)
- Logitech Premium USB Headset 250 with an MSRP of US $39.99
- VoIP Voice Cyberphone K USB Internet phone, MSRP of $39.99
- Skype Starter Packs: the Skype Starter Pack, priced at US $4.99 until Dec. 24, 2005, allows anyone to get started with free Skype software, a Skype-enabled headset and 30 SkypeOut minutes to call any number anywhere in the world.
Source: BBC News technology Nov 17, 2005
A prototype of a cheap and robust laptop for pupils has been welcomed as an "expression of global solidarity" by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The green machine was showcased for the first time by MIT's Nicholas Negroponte at the UN net summit in Tunis.
He plans to have millions of $100 machines in production within a year. The laptops are powered with a wind-up crank, have very low power consumption and will let children interact with each other while learning.
"Children will be able to learn by doing, not just through instruction - they will be able to open up new fronts for their education, particularly peer-to-peer learning," said Mr Annan. He added that the initiative was "inspiring", and held the promise of special and economic development for children in developing countries.
The foldable lime green laptop made its debut at the World Summit on the Information Society, which is looking at ways of narrowing the technology gap between rich and poor.
Nicknamed the green machine, it can be used as a conventional computer, or an electronic book. A child can control it using a cursor at the back of the machine or a touchpad on the front.
It can also be held and used like a handheld games console and can function as a TV.
"The idea is that it fulfils many roles. It is the whole theory that learning is seamless," said Professor Negroponte, who set up the non-profit One Laptop Per Child group to sell the laptops to developing nation governments.
"Studies have shown that kids take up computers much more easily in the comfort of warm, well-lit rich country living rooms, but also in the slums and remote areas all around the developing world."
There has already been firm interest in the machines from governments, though no laptops have yet been manufactured.
Professor Negroponte said he had asked the most enthusiastic countries, Thailand and Brazil, not to give written commitments to buy the machines until they had seen the working model, likely to be produced in February.
There has also been interest in the machines from five manufacturers and three big brand name technology firms, but no firm commitments had been made.
Big name supporters
The laptops will be encased in rubber to make them durable and their AC adaptors will act as carrying straps.
They have a 500MHz processor, with flash memory instead of a hard drive which has more delicate moving parts, and four USB ports. They link up and share a net connection through "mesh networking".
Plans for the global domination of the children's laptop are ambitious.
"The initial plan is to start with countries that are big and very different to each other," said Professor Negroponte.
"We are launching with six countries initially, then six months later, as many countries as possible." Those include countries in the Arab world, two Asian, one sub-Saharan, and South American nations.
The project also has some big name supporters on board, including Google, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
But it will rely on open-source software so that support for local content and languages can easily be built.
Although the laptops will initially be available to government only, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is in talks with commercial manufacturers to make it available on the open market.
To take part in the initiative, governments have to commit to buying a million machines for around $100 each.
Mr Annan urged leaders and stakeholders at the summit to do their utmost in ensuring that the initiative was fully incorporated into efforts to build an inclusive information society.
"We really believe we can really make literally hundreds of millions of these machines around the world," Professor Negroponte said, as costs continued to drop.
He added that it was critical that children actually owned, instead of loaned, the machines.
To overcome the potential problem of secondary "grey markets" for the machines, Professor Negroponte said the idea was that they would be so ubiquitous and prominent it would deter potential re-selling.
"I hope there would be community pressure so it does not appear in the secondary market. The technology is in it so that the machine is disabled if not connected to the network after a few days," he added.
Sharing and collaborating
Technical breakthroughs have already driven the prototype design, but every technical breakthrough in the next five years would mean costs would continue to fall, he said.
Michail Bietsas, MIT's director of computer systems told the BBC News website that laptops benefited primarily from mesh networking, as a way of sharing scarce net connections.
One computer with a wi-fi or 3G net modem, for example, would share the connection with others in a classroom.
He explained that the display did not have a backlight or colour filters that more pricey LCD laptop displays used, so saved power. Instead, bright LEDs are used which reduced power consumption by a factor of 10.
The screens are dual-mode displays so that the laptop can still be used in varying light conditions.
Although children will be able to interact with each other through the machines, education was still the priority for the laptops.
But by using mesh networking, the vision is for children to interact while doing homework, and even share homework tips on a local community scale.
Collaboration will also be encouraged by using open-source software, which the children could develop themselves and use in local communities.
"Every single problem you can think of, poverty, peace, the environment, is solved with education or including education," said Professor Negroponte.
"So when we make this available, it is an education project, not a laptop project. The digital divide is a learning divide - digital is the means through which children learn leaning. This is, we believe, the way to do it."
Nokia identifies five phases of workforce mobility to help companies gauge and guide their use of mobile technology
Key stages help companies measure the value of their own approach to mobile technology and outline the building blocks necessary for a successful strategy
The five stages start from an organization's idea of mobile technology and the integration of mobility into an overall IT strategy, and play out the course of mobile technology to the point where the way business is done is forever changed. That shift is still ahead, but in between the two extremes lay several phases many companies can identify with now - from starting to mobilize workers as more of a matter of convenience, to taking the notion of mobility for granted and focusing on increased productivity.
Integral to getting the most from mobile technology are several building blocks Nokia has identified that companies should keep in mind when developing and implementing a mobile strategy. These pieces consist of much of the same components that make up any IT strategy, including leveraging existing assets and infrastructure, addressing diverse user needs, and ensuring security, scalability and support is in place.
"No one would consider ignoring security or support in their desktop environment, so why should it be any different for the mobile environment? Considering most employees that have a corporate PC or laptop are likely to have mobile phones as well, you can see how important the mobile world is becoming to business," said Bob Brace, vice president, mobile solutions, Nokia Enterprise Solutions. "The phases of workforce mobility we've identified are valuable in that businesses can see the large-scale impact mobile technology holds for the future, and if organizations aren't thinking about significant pieces today, they can adjust their planning to make getting there that much easier."
"Most companies today are in what we've termed the first two phases of workforce mobility. They're either working to include mobile technology as part of their IT planning and procurement, or they've accomplished that and now they're working to mobilize their workforce through voice and applications like email. Even in these early stages, taking a comprehensive approach to mobility will help avoid headaches down the road," continued Brace.
The introduction of the "phases of workforce mobility" is part of a continuing initiative for Nokia to provide businesses with the reference materials and resources they need to successfully enable mobile technology within their own organizations. To read the detailed report, visit http://www.nokia.com/nokia/0,8764,330,00.html, and for more information on Nokia's workforce mobility initiative and the latest offerings for business, visit http://www.nokia.com/business.
Nokia is a world leader in mobile communications, driving the growth and sustainability of the broader mobility industry. Nokia connects people to each other and the information that matters to them with easy-to-use and innovative products like mobile phones, devices and solutions for imaging, games, media and businesses. Nokia provides equipment, solutions and services for network operators and corporations. www.nokia.com
Survey: What Do Symbian S60 Device Users Want?
For the uninitiated Symbian Inc has renamed Series 60 to S60 to encompass the everchanging game of Mobile device.
What do smartphone users want? According to a new survey of S60 device users, conducted by Nokia, their strongest smartphone interests are personalization, ring tones, and imaging. The survey used special software on the devices of roughly 600 users in the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, and the United States to collect hard facts on how smartphones are used. Some key findings follow.
Smartphone use goes well beyond basic voice calls and messaging. In fact, on average, the U.S. panelists employ 13 applications a week. Among those applications are browsers, camera, media gallery, profiles, and Bluetooth interfaces.
Personalization and ring tones are popular. More than 60 percent of U.S. panelists have configured thumbnail photos for their contacts, and two-thirds use photos they took with their smartphones. More than 95 percent have changed their ring tones, and about 85 percent have changed them more than once. All but 2 percent of European panelists take at least one photo each with their devices each week. About 70 percent of European panelists shoot at least one video a week. Their favorite way of moving photos from the device: Bluetooth technology.
Are there any takers ?
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
On June 3, 1880 Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated what he considered one of his greatest inventions, the photophone. By using the sound of a human voice to vibrate a sunlit mirror towards a receiving device, Bell was able to transmit sound over an invisible beam of light.
In 1964, The Bell System showed off the first video phone at the New York World's Fair. At $21 (about $120 in todayÂs dollars), for a three minute PicturePhone call, the service between New York, Washington and Chicago was short lived. A new boxy version was released in 1969. But videophones didn't get far in the 60s when each party needed a T-1 line.
AT&T tried again with the VideoPhone 2500 introduced in 1992. It was billed as the world's first full-color, motion videophone. It worked in any home using regular phone lines. But the resulting low frame rate made awful pictures and the $1500 units were too expensive.
Forty years later, the technology may be catching on. Or not.
Thepacket8 desktop phone (below) is giving it a shot. Their one-piece videophone uses a broadband connection to transmit audio and video. It was initially listed for $299 plus a $29.95 monthly fee. It uses Packet 8's VoIP service.
Motorola's $600 OJO Videophone (right) includes a 2.4 GHz cordless phone with DSL and image compression Video4skype, allows anyone with a VoIP Skype account to make video-calls. And then there's Flash Meeting software which offers a free download of their easy-to-use videoconferencing application.
The upstream capacity of cellular's EV-DO and HSPDA networks (about 56Kbps) may limit mobile video calls for the immediate future. Mobile users may need WiFi or WiMax, which is capable of 256 Kbps or faster upstream. Soon MPEG-4 AVC chips could deliver high quality images, indoor and out.
Now it's Sony's turn.
Sony's new Instant Video Everywhere service is said to replicate the traditional telephone experience, making IP-based video and voice communications similar to placing a phone call.
The IVE service features personal video numbers, multi-person calling, video call mailbox, and live video operators.
Sony is partnering with Glowpoint to offer free, unlimited video and voice service for consumers worldwide.
Like Skype, IVE also will feature a premium service
that lets users dial traditional wireline phones and cell phones from their computers. A monthly fee of $9.95 for the premium service includes a 10-digit phone number so IVE users can receive calls from regular and mobile phones.
IVE allows customers to place video and audio calls to cell phones, telephones, and any other traditional conferencing system, and communicate face-to-face from any broadband enabled location or WiFi "hotspots".
Sony IVE is a Windows-based application that works with Windows 2000/XP software. No ÂMacÂ version is available yet. The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323 standards are used in the network. The GlowPoint Network uses an MPLS (Multiple Protocol Layer Switching) backbone, while the GlowPoint Video is a managed QoS IP-based system. Resolutions of 640x480 or better are possible with enough bandwidth.
With the IVE service, customers are not limited to talking only to other video users on the same proprietary service. The IVE service allows all users to directly contact all other standards-based video users and even those who do not have video access or Webcams.
Sony's video conferencing service features:
- Personal Video Numbers: IVE users each get their own personal video number with which they can easily place and receive video and audio calls.
- Multi-Person Calling: Users can include up to six people in an audio or video conversation.
- Video Call Mailbox: Video and voice callers can leave a video or voice message when an IVE user is not available. IVE users can also personalize their full-motion video outgoing messages.
- Live Video Operators: Users have Âone-clickÂ access to a Live Video Operator available for directory assistance, call transfer and more.
- MyIVE User Portal: Allows real-time online call detail, access to Video Call Mailbox messages, and more.
- ÂLisa,Â the IVE Video Call Assistant: With ÂLisa,Â a friendly face alerts you when your outgoing calls can not be completed because the person you're trying to reach is unavailable or the number may not be correct.
- IVE Video Portal: Instant access to previews of feature motion pictures, special romotions for new Sony products, IVE service updates, video customer service and more.
Sony said the IVE service replicates the traditional telephone experience, making IP-based video and voice communications similar to placing a phone call. The service features include personal video numbers, multi-person calling, video call mailbox, live video operators and more.
Sony also has a product called LocationFreeTV which consists of two pieces, an untethered 12-inch or 7-inch LCD screen, and a Âbase station.Â The LCD screen displays video programming that it receives over a WiFi link from the base station. It also works with Sony's PSP.
Enterprise level video conferencing has been around for a while.
High definition videoconferencing, is alive and well in a hospital in Norway (right), which is the first customer of the LifeSize Room product. It features 1280x720 resolution over a 1 mbps
connection, and promises to connect to any high definition display. It uses h.264 compression and can also stream content from PC's to be shared over the connection.
Polycom is introducing a high def conferencing system. The company plans a US$6,000 upgrade kit for its high-end VSX 8000 group conferencing unit in the second quarter of 2006.
Judy Reed Smith, founder and CEO of Atlantic ACM, told TechNewsWorld she is somewhat skeptical about the demand for Sony's new service. After all, she said, AT&T debuted a video phone at the World Fair in the 1960s that got plenty of attention but never went anywhere.
Meanwhile, Skype, bought by eBay this September, will make a national rollout on Monday. More than 3,000 RadioShack locations nationwide will begin
offering a Skype Starter Kit, which includes the software that enables a customer to use Skype's free computer-to-computer telephone service, a headset and 30 minutes of Skype's premium service, with
which a user can call a landline or cell phone, reports C/Net.
The move is an attempt by Skype, the world's largest provider of voice over Internet Protocol, to introduce its service to mainstream America. Before this deal, U.S. consumers could only get Skype service by downloading the software from the Internet. SkypeOut's 1 million paying customers represent a bit less than 4 percent of current registered users for its free Skype service.