School is back in session, and that means you or someone you know is probably in the market for a TI-83 or TI-84 graphing calculator. Never mind that Texas Instruments released a more high-tech version last year called the TI-Nspire. The problem, some math teachers say, is that the Nspire is more complex than it needs to be, even if it does function more like a computer than any calculator you've used before.
"TI-Nspire is a bit of a different model. It is taking us more time to have the market understand that," said Melendy Lovett, head of TI's education technology unit.
While the five-year-old TI-84 Plus remains Texas Instruments' best selling calculator, the Dallas-based company hopes the Nspire will solidify its position as the market leader in the oft-overlooked, yet highly profitable calculator business.
So what makes the Nspire so different? An OS that makes the handheld number cruncher function more like a PC, for one. Students and teachers can run spreadsheets, take notes, view multiple representations of a problem on a single screen, create, save, and review work in electronic documents, and more.
"It sings, it dances, it does the dishes for you," said math tutor and retired teacher Lucinda MacKinnon, who also owns an Nspire. "I can't imagine getting teachers to use that thing in the classroom. There is way too much going on."
Forget about figures of speech - if Texas Instruments comes up with a program that would allow the Nspire to do the dishes, it could charge double the $135 asking price.
Sherwood today announced another set-top box the company hopes will vie for a place in your home theater. Towards that end, the new 700W R904-N NetBoxx AV receiver serves as both a 7.1-channel AV receiver and an internet media portal for streaming online content.
The 700W box measures just 17 x 10 x 2.5 inches and includes three HDMI 1.3 inputs, a Toslink input, two coaxial audio inputs, and support for Dolby Volume, Dolby TruHD, and DTS-HD Master high-res audio formats.
Once connected, you'll have access to Internet content from CinemaNow, YouTube, various TV channels, SHOUTcast audio "Internet radio" stations, and the ability to stream personal media and content from Hulu, Netflix, CBS, CNN, ESPN, Rhapsody, and Amazon Video On Demand, Sherwood says. You'll also find a USB port in the mix.
Sounds groovy, but it's anything but cheap. Slated for release later this month, the NetBoxx carries an MSRP of $650.
Microsoft today unveiled what it claims is its thinnest keyboard ever, the Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000. As the name suggests, the new plank is aimed exclusively at Bluetooth notebooks and desktop PCs, with Bluetooth-enabled notebooks projected to account for more than 55 percent of all laptops by the end of 2010, Microsoft says.
"The design tenets of compact, clean, and refined really set the state for the success of the keyboard," said Chris Kujawski, industrial designer for Microsoft Hardware. "There is nothing extraneous about the design. We removed everything that didn't fit with those ideas and ended up with something we're really proud of -- a compact, sophisticated keyboard that pairs perfectly with Bluetooth computers."
Measuring "just a few millimeters thicker than a AAA battery at the back," the Bluetooth 6000 sports an ergonomic design with a 6-degree curve, a design Microsoft says is preferred by 94 percent of users who have ever owned a Comfort Curve keyboard.
The Bluetooth plank will be available in October for $90. There will also be a separate Bluetooth Number Pad, which is also be available next month, and priced at $45.
More details have started to emerge regarding Asus' rumored e-book reader, and what we're finding out could spell bad news for Amazon and Sony. According to the Times Online UK, Asus' version is coming soon and will be the world's cheapest digital reader, undercutting the competition without skimping on features.
Citing a spokesperson for Asus in the UK, the upcoming e-book reader will sport a hinged spine so that it more closely emulates the experience of reading a book. Users will be able to see text on one screen while surfing willy nilly on the web over on the other. It's also possible that one of the screens may end up with a virtual keyboard. Perhaps best of all, Asus has decided to ditch a monochrome display in favor of full-color.
According to the report, Asus said it is considering a budget and premium version, the differences of which have yet to be determined. Either way, look for at least one Asus-branded e-book reader to surface later this year for around $150.
Forget about fumbling for batteries in your kitchen junk drawer once your remote loses its juice. If you owned Logitech's new Harmony 700, you could just plug it into the wall with the included adapter to bring it back to life. According to Logitech, the Harmony 700 can go several weeks between charges.
Other tricks include one-click activity buttons for tasks such as "Watch a DVD," a color LCD screen, support for more than 5,000 brands and over 225,000 devices, online setup so you don't have to punch in codes on the remote, and the ability to replace up to six other remotes.
Logitech is taking pre-orders for the $150 rechargeable Harmony, which the company says will ship this month.
Rather than let Amazon, Sony, and a handful of others have all the fun, Asus plans to dive into the e-book market with an e-book reader of its own. According to company president Jerry Shen, Asus will market the device under its Eee brand
According to un-named industry sources, MSI is also mulling whether or not to release an electronic book reader, reports news and rumor site DigiTimes.
This could be just the beginning of an influx of new e-book readers, suggest said sources, who pointed out that the requirements for entering the e-book market are lower than they are for netbooks. The real challenge, the sources say, is in establishing a content delivery platform.
According to news and rumor site DigiTimes, Asus plans to keep busy this fall launching a number of new products. Among them are an Nvidia Ion-based Eee Box, Eee Top all-in-one PC, and two ultra-thin notebooks under its U/UX series.
The 20-inch Eee Top will come with an Intel dual-core Atom 330 processor and cost around $670. Details on the Ion-based rig remain sparse, though it will reportedly sell for a little over $300. Both of these -- along with the ultra-thin notebooks -- will launch in September.
A month later, Asus plans to launch the Eee Keyboard for somewhere between $400 and $500. The Eee Keyboard will work as a fully-functional PC and sport a wireless connection hub.
Last week, Corsair announced its new 128GB Voyager flash drive, a super-capacious thumb drive with a super-high price tag ($400). At the exact opposite end of the spectrum, OCZ today announced a new line of USB flash drives, dubbed Zee, aimed at users on a tight budget.
"Designed for the consumer on the go, the compact Zee is an economical USB drive that makes it easy to transfer images, multimedia, and essential data between multiple computers," commented Alex Mei, CMO of OCZ. "The Zee is designed to be affordable to the complete range of consumers, and is available in large capacities up to 16GB yet is both lightweight and compact so that it is highly portable."
In addition to 16GB, the Zee is also offered in 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB capacities. Other details remain sparse, including rated transfer speeds, price, or availability.
Let's face it, most webcams leave a lot to be desired, including some of the higher end models boasting fancy lenses and advanced features not found on entry-level models. But the picture still ends up being grainy, which almost makes that live striptease performance not worth watching. Almost.
Enter the LifeCam Cinema, a high definition webcam Microsoft hopes will shake things up. The LifeCam is the first consumer webcam to support 720p video at 30fps, boasting 1,280x720 compared to most 2MP webcams topping out at 960x720.
But high resolution isn't the only thing the LifeCam has going for it. Other goodies include a glass lens, auto focus, 4x digital zoom, and a digital noise canceling microphone. It sports Windows 7 compatibility out of the box, though only those with a comparatively hefty system need apply - nothing less than a dual-core 1.6GHz, and Microsoft recommends a 3GHz dual-core chip and 2GB of RAM.