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July 10, 2002—In this issue:
1. GETTING CONNECTED
- Palm vs. Pocket PC: Two Mobile Challengers Improve in 2002
2. HOT OFF THE PRESS
- Over 1 Billion Served
- Not for Apes: The Simputer
- Music Industry Ready to Attack Individuals
- US Army Releases PC Game
- Web Sites Say Later, Gator
- Get Valuable Info for Free with IT Consultant Newsletter
- July Is Hot! Our Free Web Seminars Are Cool!
4. QUICK POLL
- Results of Last Week's Poll: Music Subscription Service
- New Poll: First Computer
- Tip: Keep Media Players Updated
- Featured Thread: GHz with Letters
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Use a Pocket-Sized Camera
- Carry a Light Notebook
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Portable computing devices based on the Palm OS have long dominated the market, thanks largely to the simplicity of the underlying software and a wealth of available add-on software and hardware products. But devices based on Microsoft's competing mobile platform, Pocket PC 2002, recently have made strong gains in the market, especially with enterprises. The Pocket PC is known primarily for its powerful Windows-like environment, its compatibility with Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel, and digital media features such as video and music playback. To counter Microsoft's gains, Palm and its OS licensees have advanced the Palm OS platform to include many of the most popular Pocket PC features. So as we move into the second half of 2002, let's evaluate these products to see which platform is best for the connected home.
Palm first launched the Palm OS and the original PalmPilot devices in 1995. At that time, Apple Computer's Newton sales were fading, triggering fears that handheld computing was dead. But the PalmPilot was a huge success, and when Palm began licensing its OS to other companies, such as Handspring and Sony, the market expanded dramatically. Today, the Palm OS is still the dominant handheld platform, although the best innovations, arguably, are coming from Palm OS licensees, and not from Palm.
Handspring, a company the ex-founders of Palm started, addressed the platform's biggest problem by adding an expansion slot called the Springboard. Since then, however, other Palm OS licensees have added expansion solutions as well, unfortunately using a confusing array of incompatible technologies. Palm opted for the Secure Digital (SD) card, a stamp-sized, wafer-thin technology with blazingly fast speeds. SD cards can add memory, functionality such as Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and add-ons such as digital cameras. Sony, meanwhile, uses its proprietary MemoryStick expansion, which adds similar features. Handspring, however, is moving away from organizer-oriented devices toward phonelike PDAs such as its new Treo, so the outlook for the Springboard, ironically, is poor.
Functionally, the Palm OS is simple, simple, simple. However, Sony provided the best multimedia enhancements, and if you're looking for digital media functionality in a Palm OS-based device, I recommend Sony's CLIE devices. I use a CLIE PEG-T615C (about $300), which offers a vibrant, full-color screen that out-performs any but the latest (and most expensive) Pocket PC screens, thanks to the screen's superior transflexive technology. And Sony devices offer much higher resolutions than other Palm OS devices, often at 320 x 320 pixels or 320 x 480 pixels, making the 160 x 160 Palm-based devices look like toys by comparison. These screens make viewing photos and even short movies viable, and reading e-books equal to, or even superior to, the experience on a Pocket PC. Sony's bundled multimedia applications (e.g., gMovie, PG Pocket, PhotoStand) are first rate.
Sony also does music playing right. My CLIE PEG-T615C requires a $100 add-on to play MP3s, but newer models, such as the CLIE PEG-T665C (about $400), include this capability out of the box. And Sony's best Palm devices, the NR series ($500 to $600) offer flip-around screens, integrated keyboards, and—in one model—a built-in camera.
After a rough start, Microsoft's Windows CE-based handheld devices found great success with the Pocket PC line, mainly because of the Compaq iPAQ, which Hewlett-Packard (HP) now sells. Pocket PCs tend to be more expensive than most Palm devices, and few noncolor models are available. Pocket PCs also offer a much wider range of functionality, although whether that functionality is beneficial in such a small form factor is debatable. In fact, the Pocket PC's biggest problem is that it too closely resembles a desktop PC, with far too much information onscreen, too many confusing or hidden choices, and a hard-to-discover interface. However, the Pocket PC is successful with businesses because of this PC-like interface, I suspect, and its compatibility with Microsoft's desktop applications.
Pocket PCs expand in a variety of ways. HP iPAQs (about $500 to $750) require a bulky sleeve to add PC card or CompactFlash (CF) expansion, but newer models include SD expansion right on the device, which is a step in the right direction. All sorts of add-ons are available for Pocket PCs, but many are model-specific, so be careful when considering which add-ons to buy. Toshiba recently entered the Pocket PC market with a stunning line of products (about $400 to $600) that offer thin form factors, transflexive screens (for indoor and outdoor use), and even integrated Wi-Fi wireless capabilities, a first for any handheld device.
From a digital media standpoint, all Pocket PCs can play Windows Media Audio (WMA) and MP3 files, and can play Windows Media Video (WMV) movies through the bundled Windows Media Player (WMP). The devices display still images in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) by default, which is weak, although some manufacturers bundle small image-viewing applications as well. Overall, the Pocket PC's digital media support blows away anything from Palm or Handspring, but lags behind what's available on the Sony devices.
Making the Choice
These days, you can't go wrong with either a color Palm OS-based device or a Pocket PC, although the price of a decent Pocket PC will probably scare away a lot of people. I recommend the Sony devices above all, but if you want a Pocket PC, take a look at the Toshiba and HP iPAQ models.
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
(An irreverent look at some of the week's news stories, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman)
Consulting firm Gartner released a report last week declaring that the PC industry has shipped 1 billion PCs since the first PC, the Altair 8800, was produced in 1975. The original Altair shipped with 256 bytes of RAM, cost $400, and required customers to assemble the device. Hobbyists (or, as we call them today, geeks) primary used and built early PCs. The PC industry has changed dramatically since the first PC, too: It's now a multibillion-dollar industry, and Gartner predicts PC shipments will hit the 2 billion mark by 2008.
Although we have more than 1 billion PCs, a huge digital divide still exists throughout the world. But a company in India hopes to bridge the digital divide with a new low-cost handheld PC (H/PC) called the Simputer. A nonprofit trust and professors from Bangalore's prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc) designed the Simputer, which looks like a PDA and includes easy-to-use applications, including voicemail, text-to-speech capabilities, and Internet access. The Simputer has an Intel StrongARM processor that runs off two AA batteries. The device will be available with 32MB or 64MB of RAM and will sell for about $200. The average annual Indian per capita income of about $450 will make the device an expensive investment, however.
Watch out, music pirates. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) might soon file a lawsuit against you. After devoting most of its resources to going after file-sharing services such as Audiogalaxy, MusicCity.com, and Napster, the RIAA is getting ready to go after individuals. According to The Wall Street Journal, the association will target the highest-volume music providers on music-sharing services. According to the paper, the lawsuits would be part of a larger campaign that will use music artists to urge fans to respect copyright laws. With the increase of industry-supported music Web sites, the industry might finally understand digital music.
The US Army has a new recruitment tool that will reach a whole new audience of young people, most of whom aren't in shape to fight a real war. On July 4, the Army released a PC video game, America's Army, on its Web site. The game includes two parts: a role-playing game called Soldiers, and a first-person shooting game called Operations, which is similar to Quake III Arena and Unreal. The game is available as a whopping 220MB download and will ship later this year on CD-ROM. Go Army!
A group of Web site publishers have filed a lawsuit against software-maker Gator Software to prevent the company from serving pop-up ads on the publishers' Web sites without their permission. Gator's software lets users manage passwords and fill out forms automatically. The 10 million users of the software also get a surprise bonus with Gator—a program called OfferCompanion that monitors the user's Web surfing behavior and delivers targeted pop-up ads. The publishers, which include Dow Jones, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and seven other publishers, allege that the ads that Gator's software generates violate their copyrights and steal revenue. They're seeking a permanent injunction against Gator and monetary damages for any advertising dollars Gator made from their Web pages. Go get 'em, guys.
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4. QUICK POLL
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "Have you used an online music subscription service?" Here are the results (+/-2 percent) from the 122 votes:
9% Yes, many times 2% Yes, but not often 3% No, but I plan to soon 86% No, and I don't plan to
The next Quick Poll question is, "When did you get your first computer?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Before 1985, b) 1985 to 1990, c) 1991 to 1995, d) 1996 to 2000, or e) 2001 or later
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, email@example.com)
With a lot of computer software, you simply install and use the software without ever worrying about updates and patches. But Windows-based media players such as Windows Media Player (WMP), RealNetworks' RealOne, MusicMatch's Jukebox, and Apple Computer's QuickTime have frequent upgrades, and keeping these players updated with the latest functionality is usually a good idea. In some cases—especially with WMP—these updates will even keep your system more secure. Here's how to keep the major media players up-to-date:
You can update WMP 7.1 and Windows Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) through the Windows Update service or directly from the player by choosing Help, then choosing Check For Player Updates.
RealNetworks' best media player yet includes an automatic updating capability that you can configure by clicking Tools, Preferences, then clicking AutoUpdate. You can also trigger a manual update by selecting Tools, then selecting "Check for Update Now." This second option will also let you add features to RealOne, including media support and various plugins.
MusicMatch Jukebox 7.x
MusicMatch Jukebox is set up by default to automatically look for updates periodically. To manually trigger an update, select the General tab and click Options, Update Software. To add new capabilities, select the General tab, then click Options, Add New Features. This process launches a Web site that lets you add new plugins, support for portable MP3 players, visualizations, and Windows Media Audio (WMA) support.
QuickTime will automatically look for updates periodically, and you can configure this feature by clicking Edit, Preferences, QuickTime Preferences, Update Check. The Update Check dialog box also lets you manually trigger an update. To add new features to QuickTime, launch the QuickTime Update application, which Apple includes in the QuickTime program group.
Got a question or tip? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and email address so that we can contact you.
In recent computer magazines, Gabriel is seeing notations such as "P4 2.2A GHz" and wants to know the meaning of the letters in the GHz ratings. Can you help? Join the discussion at the following URL:
Do you have a question about connecting the technology in your home? Do you have a tip for others? The Connected Home Online Forum is the right place to ask for help or share what you know.
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Jason Bovberg, email@example.com)
Olympus America released the CAMEDIA D-550 ZOOM, a 3-megapixel digital camera that features Virtual Mode Dial, a five-scene program mode that lets you take clear shots. The camera costs $399 and comes with a 16MB SmartMedia card, USB cable, video cable, carrying strap, four alkaline batteries, and CAMEDIA Master 4.0 software. Contact Olympus at 631-844-5000 or 800-622-6372.
Sharp Electronics announced the PC-UM20, a 750MHz Intel processor slimline notebook with 256MB of standard memory and your choice of OSs. The PC-UM20 replaces the PC-UM10. The new unit weighs less than 3 pounds and is 0.65" thick. The PC-UM20 costs $1699. Contact Sharp Electronics at 800-237-4277.
7. CONTACT US
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
- ABOUT GETTING CONNECTED — firstname.lastname@example.org
- ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL — email@example.com
(please mention the newsletter name in the subject line)
- TECHNICAL QUESTIONS — firstname.lastname@example.org
- PRODUCT NEWS — email@example.com
- QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR Connected Home EXPRESS SUBSCRIPTION?
Customer Support — firstname.lastname@example.org
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