Tokyo’s Akihabara district is a never-ending electronics-geek carnival, drawing in tech enthusiasts to check out stores brimming with both vintage and cutting-edge electronics. All manner of otaku come to purchase anime, manga, and other items to feed their nerd obsessions, and hordes of tourists come to raze duty-free shops and gawk at cosplayers.
But Akihabara—the geek-culture center of Japan, if not the world—hasn’t always been such a tourist draw, nor an otaku enclave. Since its origin as a black market for radio parts in postwar Japan to its current incarnation, the shopping district has always reinvented itself. Most recently, a push to sanitize the area has done much to change the feel of the neighborhood, leaving many to wonder if corporate interests and a freewheeling vibe can coexist.
Despite a million and one rumors, Verizon still doesn't an iPhone. Big whoop, we can do without the janky antenna design anyway. Perhaps more appealing than an iPhone is the limited edition Droid R2-D2 by Motorola, which we're told will be available online through Verizon on September 30.
The specially designed phone will come in a custom box resembling carbonite and include a Star Wars media dock and wired stereo headset. You can also expect a spattering of exclusive pre-loaded content, including R2-D2 notification sounds and ringtones, four live wallpapers, R2-D2 clock widget, "The Best of R2-D2" video with the original Cantina music, and an exclusive binoculars app.
If you already own a modern smartphone, don't fret, you can still get your Star Wars fix.
"To celebrate 30 years since the film hit theaters, customers with Android devices running Android 2.1 or higher will soon be able to get the Empire Strikes Back app from Android Market," Verizon said. "The app, only for Verizon Wireless customers, allows Jedi Masters to browse, preview, and download Star Wars content related to Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back."
The premium content carries a one-time charge of $2.99. As for the R2-D2 phone, that will run $249 after a $100 mail-in-rebate and with a new two-year service agreement.
What if you could go back in time and beat Apple to market with an iPhone device. Would you do it? Every smartphone maker on the planet would say 'yes,' including Nokia, which would probably like to take a mulligan on saying 'no' when it had the chance.
According to a fascinating report in The New York Times, research engineers at Nokia prepped a prototype of an Internet-ready, touchscreen handset with a big display a few years before Apple launched its iPhone. Who knows if it would have been a success, because management killed the project on fears that it would flop and cost the company too much money, claims former employee Ari Hakkarainen.
"It was very early days, and no one really knew anything about the touchscreen's potential," Hakkarainen said. "And it was an expensive device to produce, so there was more risk involved for Nokia. So management did the usual. They killed it."
During that same year (2004), Nokia also rejected an early design for an online app store, another decision that ultimately hurt Nokia in the long run. Fast forward to today and Nokia is playing catch up, not just with Apple, but with every major player in the smartphone market.
"I am sure there are things we could have done better and innovations we missed," said Arja Souminen, a spokeswoman for Nokia. "But that happens to all companies. We have been very successful with some other innovations."
Amazon figured out a way to make its Kindle software compatible with just about any Internet-ready platform: Shuttle the software to the Web.
That's part of the idea behind Amazon's "Kindle for the Web" project, which was released in beta form this morning. It's incredibly easy to use, just click the "Read first chapter FREE" button on selected eBooks and you'll receive a sample directly in your browser without having to download or install anything.
Bloggers and website owners can also embed samples of Kindle books on their sites and earn referral fees whenever someone clicks through and completes a purchase.
"With Kindle for the Web, it's easier than ever for customers to sample Kindle books - there's no downloading or installation required," said Dorothy Nicholls, Director, Amazon Kindle. "Kindle for the Web is also a great way for bloggers and authors to promote books on their websites by letting visitors read a chapter without leaving their site."
Acer opted not to play favorites with its newest batch of all-in-one (AIO) PCs, offering up both an Intel-based (Aspire AZ5700) and AMD-based (Aspire 3100) setup.
The Z3100-U3072 sports a 21.5-inch LCD and a redesigned look Acer describes as "clean." There's an AMD Athlon II 170u (2.0GHz) processor inside, as well as 3GB of DDR3 memory, a 500GB hard drive, Nvidia GeForce 9200 graphics, built-in 5.1 audio, Gigabit LAN, Wireless-N, HDMI, and half a dozen USB 2.0 ports. This one's available now for $600.
Acer saved the stronger components for its 23-inch Aspire AZ5700, which comes built around an Intel Core i5 650 (3.2GHz) processor and Intel HD graphics. There's a TV tuner inside along with an IR blaster port on the outside. Other upgrades include 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 1TB hard drive. This one's also available now, but for $1,100.
Recent surveys suggest that one of the biggest barriers to adopting 3D technology into the mainstream is cost. Even if consumers are willing to put up with wearing 3D glasses, most are just not willing to pay a premium for 3D technology. But is the premium as high as you think?
According to the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the price difference between 46-inch and 55-inch 3D and 2D LED TVs is just $150, which is certainly a much lower number than we would have expected. ITRI says 120MHz 46-inch 2D LED TVs sell on average for $1,143.8 in the U.S. compared to $1,284.9 for 240MHz 46-inch 3D LED TVs.
In the 55-inch territory, 120MHz 2D LED TVs run $1,539.90 on average, compared to $1,697 for 240MHz 3D LED TVs, ITRI said. That's not a huge price difference, though the ITRI doesn't factor in the cost of additional 3D glasses, a necessary evil until glasses-free 3D displays come into their own.
Depending on the size of your home, a professional security system may not come cheap. And once you're finished paying for the hardware, there's the monthly fee to contend with. Swann Security has another, less expensive option.
If you can do without the "high-priced hassle of professionally monitored systems" and are willing to bank on loud sirens fending off would-be crooks, then you might be interested in Swann Security's new Home Series Alarm range. The Home Series Alarm Range is an entire line of window, door, and general motion detection alarms that can be used by themselves or in conjunction with a Swann home surveillance solution.
Each alarm emits a 110db+ siren when activated and run as low as $10. The basic Window Alarm, for example, costs a single Hamilton and comes with a self-adhesive pad for tool-less installation. If the built-in sensor detects the vibration of a window during a forced entry, the alarm goes off.
There are several options available, including a $30 wireless ceiling alarm with 360-degree monitoring up to 9 feet. For the full rundown, see here.
The recipe for a successful nettop is fairly easy -- make it small, mix in enough horsepower to tackle 1080p video without any hiccups, and garnish with svelte trim. That's exactly what Acer claims to have cooked up with its new AspireRevo AR3700.
Described as roughly the size of a book, the AR3700 can be mounted on a small foot stand or hidden behind the back of an LCD TV with a VESA mounting system. Inside the small package sits an Intel Atom D525 dual-core processor and Nvidia Ion graphics, which Acer promises is enough to handle some light gaming, 1080p videos, and a bit of photo editing.
"The AspireRevo AR3700 is an excellent pick for consumers desiring an affordable device for enjoying digital media that won’t take up much space and will integrate well with the home entertainment center," said Steve Smith, senior business manager of consumer desktops for Acer America. "When you consider the flexibility in mounting options, quiet operation and performance for the price, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more practical secondary computer for the home."
Rounding out the spec sheet is 2GB of DDR3 memory, a 250GB SATA hard drive, media card reader, six USB 2.0 ports, Wireless-N, HDMI, and Windows 7 Home Premium.
The AspireREvoe AR3700-U3002 is available now for $350.
Motorola would have you believe its new Oasis behind-the-ear Bluetooth headset is the "most comfortable and lightest" around, and while we can't back that claim without having first tested it, Engadget at least seems to agree.
The funky-looking earpiece sports a rotating boom mic and a lightweight battery that tucks behind your ear. Motorola says it's good for up to 6 hours of talk time, or up to 7 days of standby time.
Other features include echo cancellation, advanced voice prompts, and noise cancellation capable of suppressing wind to 12mph.
The Motorola Oasis goes on sale October 3 for $80.
The rumors have been swirling for months that BlackBerry maker RIM would be launching a tablet device. Today at the RIM developer event, that rumor became reality with the introduction of the BlackBerry PlayBook. This device will sport some serious specs and an all new RIM operating system based on the QNX system.
The PlayBook will run on an ARM Cortex A9 dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, and will have a 7-inch 1024 x 600 capacitive touch screen. There will be both HDMI and USB ports, with the former capable of full 1080p output. In the camera department, we're looking at a 3 MP front facing, and 5 MP rear facing sensor. There will be A/B/G/N Wi-Fi, but the PlayBook will be capable of Bluetooth tethering to Blackberrys for internet connections as well.
This new QNX-derived OS will have slick webOS-like app switching, and a WebKit browser with Flash. In teh media department, there will be support for MP3, AAC, and WMA for audio; video support comes in the form of H.264, MPEG, DivX, and WMV. No exact release date or price was given. Just that a launch was expected in the coming weeks. A mention was made of working with developers, so hopefully, we can expect some sort of app ecosystem here.