Hope for Helio

No two MVNOs seem to be going more directly head-to-head than Helio — the JV between EarthLink and Korea's SK Telecom — and Amp'd Mobile, Verizon Wlreless's hipper half. I suppose CDMA is the official network infrastructure of youth. Whereas Amp'd seems to be focused more on entertainment, though (albeit "cooler" entertainment), Helio CEO (and EarthLink co-founder) Sky Dayton offers a cool head when it comes to cramming convergence down acolytes' handsets in another great Engadget interview. On digital photography:

We’re not going to integrate technology just for the sake of technology, like putting a ten megapixel camera on a phone. We could do that — we know where to get ‘em, you know — but it’s a little bit of a freak show as a handset, right? I mean it’s not a very good phone, it’s huge and it’s not really a very good camera. If you want ten megapixels, go get a D50, you know; that’s a great camera.

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Game over for Gizmondo?

With all the intrigue surrounding its former executives and their cars, I’ve been surprised to see no coverage regarding Gizmondo’s Web site being down for weeks. I fear this may be the end for what one of the few reviews I read described as the taco-shaped portable console. While the little handheld that couldn’t followed in the footsteps of Tapwave, another handheld gaming failure based on a PDA operating system, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before some of Gizmondo’s unique features such as WAN and GPS data support appear in products from more established companies.

Reminder: Tactile feedback is good

The Odyssey 2 was not only one of the earliest videogame consoles, but one of the first devices outside of a typewriter to bring a keyboard into American homes. Unfortunately, it was a flat membrane keyboard that offered no tactile feedback. Technologies such as DialKeys and projection keyboards seem to be repeating this mistake.

Adobe’s bagging it

This wasn't quite what I had in mind, when I suggested that Adobe should get into the hardware business, but accessories may be the closest you can get to software margins in the technology business and it may be the best looking leather mega-murse I've seen this side of Kenneth Cole, even if it is "for creatives and designers." The bag's exclusive brick-and-mortar retailer will be Barney's New York.

From the PDF (of course) press release:

The carryall balances form and functionality with style and elegance. Produced in striking black leather and outlined in red stitching, it’s designed to hold a 17-inch laptop, folders, PDAs, keys and cell phone.

I don't think even the most mindful "creative" would tote the space-wasting box used by most software as Adobe shows in the interior shot.

Universal apps arriving at a good clip

Of Apple's three main transitions (the other two being PowerPC and Mac OS X), the switch to Intel has been going the smoothest. Just this week, we've seen Aperture 1.1, a new Firefox release, and an update to the WMV plug-in for QuickTime all arrive with Intel-native code. And via Boot Camp, Apple has opened its Intel-based computers to a few Windows programs that can take advantage of Intel processors as well. It's ironic, if not embarrassing, that the fastest version of Photoshop you can run on a MacBook Pro is available by booting into Windows, However, the path to a "Universal binary" when using Apple's development tools doesn't seem too rocky.

Prediction: Leopard may be a feline, but it will run like a dog on PowerPC.

iPod: The new media center

Ultramobile PCs are certainly not iPod killers although ithey are among the smallest devices capable of running iTunes. With a UMPC, you should be able to take all your tracks purchased at the iTunes Music Store and play away with a semi-mobile form factor. The main difference is licensing. While tracks purchased at the iTMS can be transferred to an unlimited number of iPods (luckily for Karl Lagerfeld), the UMPC would have to count as one of the five computers on which you're allowed to authorize iTMS downloads.

As iPod popularity has exploded, though, third parties (and to some extent, Apple) are now stretching its role from digital spoke to digital hub. Belkin, Logitech and others have enabled it to transfer its music across a house. And now, with video output, DLO, Xitel and others are creating living room docks that increasingly sophisticated interfaces. I haven't seen anything yet that can turn the iPod into a DVR, but that seems to be a logical jump from the many video editing packages from Pinnacle, Intervideo and others out now that can export movies to the new "small screen."

So, forget the Mac mini. Apple's leading media center fits in your pocket, and is a lot cheaper and easier to use than the VIIV avant garde from Microsoft's customers.

Sony Ericsson’s surge

Sony Ericsson continues to turn itself around. That's great news for the entire North American handset market as it shows that consumers are willing to embrace more media-rich (and I don't mean in just the carrier-fed J2ME/Brew way), functional handsets that have been increasingly well-designed. And take note, Nokia, they're doing it without having to create a complex retail infrastructure. Despite criticism that the Walkman brand has lost its luster, those branded music phones have been selling well. Perhaps the wireless world will boost the brand instead of leveraging it.

At CTIA, I was impressed by the M600 — a keypad-based handset that combines two keys on each button, similar in appearance to handsets such as RIM's Blackberry 7100 series. However, unlike a similar offering from Samsung, it actually enables you to specify which key is pressed rather than licensing RIM's SureType predictive text system. While many users say SureType works well, I would still have a hard time placing my trust in it. The M600 keyboard seems to be an improvement over the flimsy flip of the P910.

Text input is starting to get better. In addition to these SureType-based systems, offerings from LG and others will finally use Digit Wireless's Fastap. I was briefed by Digit Wireless many years ago and always thought it was a very clever system, although perhaps not suitable for extended text input.The M600 may be the sleekest full-featured QWERTY smartphone in the market when it hits the States.

Between this and Sony's Bravia success, Sony looks like it's starting to address some of its many challenges. Of course, much hinges on the PlayStation 3's reception.

Averatec’s UMPC: Getting warmer

Reg Hardware breaks news of a T-Mobile Sidekick-inspired high-resolution, low-cost, fully loaded UMPC that Averatec plas to offer in the fall. Well, it won't be all those things at the same time, but that's ok. A $600 price point would go a long way toward helping consumers overlook the lack of a killer application for this platform.

The concept drawings Averatec's offering has a dedicated keyboard, which is generally good. However, I don't think the typing while standing usage scenario will prove very popular. Flat surfaces are plentiful, and having to type more than a sentence of two on a device as heavy as the UMPC s just palnful. I learned that a while back.

In other news, the Samsung Q1 bundle that will go for about $1,400 in Korea — with its wrap case that includes a detached keyboard — brings back memories of a Newton 2000/2100 package that appeared near the end of the line for Apple's uber-PDA.

A fool and his money…

…may not be parted soon enough at "only" $399 per month. C'mon, guys, you don't even take the Centurion Card? Looking at the features page illustration, I can just picture the direction to the graphic artist/stock photo scrounger. "I need something that says 'pompous.'"

Still, this isn't so different in spirit from what Sony tried with Qualia and Nokia is still trying with Vertu. On the other hand, Dell sold out of its $10,000 XPS Renegades. Yep, they sure needed Alienware to crack flashy high-end systems.

Kicking Boot Camp when it’s downloaded

Charles Cooper at CNet, after an abbreviated history of Apple’s Windows outreach efforts that is similar to one I detailed a few months ago, writes that Boot Camp is a gimmick. I join him in decrying Wall Street’s overreaction. However, he then seems to validate Apple’s reasoning, that is, that Boot Camp is essentially a bridge to allow tire-kickers to run Windows apps or at least postpone painful data conversion. That sounds like something that has real value, not a gimmick.

My colleague Steve Baker also points out that not everyone — and certainly not every Mac user — has a full copy of Windows XP lying around. Macs make for pretty expensive PCs especially after the $200 Microsoft tithe. He argues that Boot Camp will appeal to the lunatic fringe of Apple zealots that can’t stand the notion of buying PCs, and that perhaps that’s how Apple will expand market share. Continue reading