Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NOT Sent From a Wireless Blackberry

By Gary Kayye, CTS

Last week, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from BlackBerry maker Canada-based Research In Motion (RIM) to review a patent infringement case against them brought by US-based NTP. NTP contends that RIM infringed on its patents in the design and operation of BlackBerry. NTP is now asking for the RIM BlackBerry service to be shut off until they are compensated for the patent infringement – a claim that even after every court in the US has agreed with NTP on, RIM still denies. A shut-off is looming – at least here in the US where the case has been heard.
In an article last Wednesday, Reuter’s Carmel Crimmins declared in the headline that a “BlackBerry blackout threat leaves CEOs aghast”. And, she even quotes Lloyd’s of London insurance chairman, an obvious BlackBerry user; Peter Levene as saying a shutoff is “just nuts. The idea that someone is just going to switch off in three or four weeks, even if it’s only in the United States, it’s crazy.” However, in the article RIM’s VP of corporate marketing, Mark Guibert, claims, “Our software workaround designs remain a solid contingency.”

Yeah, right. If that were totally true, wouldn’t they have already gone to the contingency plan?

And, as far as the CEOs are concerned: Boo-Fricking hoo.

Look, this story’s been all over the trade, technical and mainstream press for years. Virtually everyone’s known, but maybe never believed it, that RIM was being sued by a company for violating patents - this was always a possibility.

Point is, the BlackBerry’s an awesome tool – in fact, it probably created a new industry. And, to be realistic, it’s doubtful that service will actually be cut off – even if NTP receives its injunction hearing scheduled for US courts on February 13th. Heck, the jury trial award to NTP in the original case in 2004 was only $23.1 million. So, don’t fret, you’ll probably still have service. RIM can probably pay that from petty cash with all the BlackBerrys I see when I travel around the country.

But, who knows. It’s happened before. There is a chance that they could, in fact, be shut off. In case they are, and I’m not in my office when it happens, I’ll send you an e-mail from my Trêo.
Oh, I just thought of something, if you have a BlackBerry, how would you get my e-mail?

Long live the Palm!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

CES - Is It Really Worth It?

By Logan Enright
Principal, The Enright Company

Show or CES - you have to wonder whether navigating Las Vegas with 200,000 people in town for the show is worth it. Permit me to vent a little – it took two and a half hours to arrive on the show floor from my hotel parking lot with parking and the badge ordeal. On departure, it took me one hour and forty minutes to drive from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the airport (about 4 miles). Honest. Yes, I will have some cheese with my whine.

This year’s event marked the second year since the demise of COMDEX, the giant computer expo. That means Microsoft, Apple, HP and Intel, to name a few, use CES as a major launching point for new products along side non-computer manufacturers of home electronics.

Speaking of Microsoft -– the next operating system replacing XP, Vista, had its first mass public unveiling. Five years in the making, named Longhorn while in development, Vista boasts many new video and TV-related features. Vista Media Center, which succeeds Media Player 2005, is a great looking software package that will support scrambled digital signals and DIRECTV, thus replaces set top boxes. Many long awaited security features promise to be incorporated in Vista – especially in Internet Explorer 7. Digital Imaging Gallery is a very impressive new digital photo tool for Vista ($129 less $30 rebate) – watch out PhotoShop Elements. Vista is to be shipping by mid-year.

Internet Explorer 7 will have such features as tab browsing, inline search and shrink-to-fit printing. They say you will just open a web browser to check the weather, open an application to view your calendar, and open a calculator program to do arithmetic.

In other Microsoft news, the new Windows Mobile package for the all new Treo 700 was unveiled – Verizon has a lock on it for now and it looks very good.

The CES announcement from Intel was that of the Core Duo Processor. This powerful number-crunching component will sport 1.6-2.1Gig dual 667 Mhz processor with 2Gig cache. The gaming industry is driving this sort of power, and the full motion video market, including editing manufacturers and digital signage providers, will accept these new high-speed processors with open arms.

This year, Panasonic surpassed last year’s 102” plasma from Samsung at the last CES, and upped the ante by one inch. Panasonic showed off a 103” unit, and the image quality of this piece was nothing short of astonishing. No price or delivery date was quoted by a Panasonic spokesperson. Panasonic also introduced a new proprietary, control-over-HDMI connectivity. Called HDMI-AV, this will support digital video, audio and control between source and display within the Panasonic product line.

ViewSonic launched their new Integrated Network Display series 42 and 50” plasmas. These network-based displays have dual RJ45 connection for daisy chaining and onboard USB 2.0 connectivity. Perfect for digital signage, these plasmas allow MPEG 1, 2 or 4 to be streamed via Cat 5/6. Tivella software package is utilized and allows custom configuration. The new XX60 series LCD TVs from ViewSonic offer ATSC-ready, improved refresh rates (6-8ms) and better contrast ratios.

The Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD war raged on at this year’s CES as more industry pundits call for a truce. These two DVD formats are vying to be the home/commercial archival delivery standard for HD. Gary Shapiro, President of CE Vision Magazine in Resolutions for the New Year calls for manufacturers to “swallow pride and do what is right for the customer.” This modern-day VHS vs. Betamax war has major manufacturers lining up on separate sides of the compatibility isle. A Phillips person produced a document showing more Hollywood studios aligned with HD-DVD. A Toshiba spokesperson claims Blu-ray disks have more capacity. However, both are claiming 50G which is plenty for the longest feature film with director’s cut and more.

On the not so controversial side of the biz, Chief Manufacturing rolled out three new electro-mechanical lift/swivel units, called the Cinematic Series. One unit will raise/lower/pan a plasma or LCD on a pedestal. Others extend horizontally from the wall and pan. All include a wireless handheld remote control.

Sampo showed a variety of plasmas and LCD/TVs. ServoTV, a 42" WXGA plasma that incorporates an 802.11a Wi-Fi transmitter that allows a user to broadcast any of the unit's analog signals to a Sampo Client TV, a 10.2" battery-powered LCD, or to any wireless enabled PC or laptop. ServoTV users are then free to enjoy HD or analog media on the main screen, while others watch entirely different analog sources upon the Client TV. This will have distinct applications in the educational and training markets.

eBay, which recently announced the $2B purchase of Skype, the internet phone company, was at CES. With revenue of a scant $7M, Skype allows free internet phone calls. The business plan is to charge non-Skype participants who are on the other line. eBay offered four seminars for retailers to learn how to sell on their site.

And just for fun, Sony rolled out a slick new version of their PSP (Play Station Portable) handheld which handles games, video, MP3, MP4 WAV or ATRAC3plus music files. The landscape-oriented unit with 5” screen uses two types of removable storage: Memory Stick Duo, or full video on UMD cartridge.

Bleary eyed, tired and about done with all these trinkets, I came around a corner late in the day and found Ellen DeGeneres on the floor wrestling with a Sony robotic dog right in front of me. They were shooting a promotional video of her.

So with all the headaches of getting around town during CES, I ask again, “Is it worth it?” Heck yes.

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Logan Enright is a hopeless gadget freak and principal of The Enright Company in Tustin, CA. Mr. Enright is current chair of the Independent Representative Council for InfoComm International. logan@enrightcompany.com