Tag Archives | LG

AT&T's Fifty-Buck Laptop

att_header_logoWhat do you do after everybody in the country has already signed up for a two-year contract to get a cheap cell phone? Looks like AT&T thinks that signing them up for a two-year contract to get a cheap netbook might be the next step. The company has announced that it’s experimenting in company-owned stores in Atlanta and Philadelphia with various package deals for mobile broadband and DSL service, some of which involve subsidized netbooks (or “mini laptops” in AT&Tspeak). Sign up for both mobile broadband and DSL for two years, and the cheapest of AT&T’s netbooks goes for $49.99.

The deal reduces the cost of the computer to half of what RadioShack charges for its discounted netbook. Of course, since AT&T’s offer requires both mobile and home data plans, the monthly cost is a lot higher.

The most interesting thing about AT&T’s test–other than the prospect of buying a computer for less than the price of a high-end steak–is that it’s not limited to one model from one company: It’s selling an Acer Aspire, two Dell Minis, and the LG Xenia, as well as Lenovo’s ThinkPad X200 (a full-sized ultraportable laptop). If it likes what it learns in Atlanta and Philly and rolls the offers out nationwide, your local AT&T store could end up devoting a meaningful amount of its floor space to computers. I’m still wary about committing to contracts to get cheap hardware–especially cheap hardware in categories that are evolving as rapidly as netbooks are–but I’ll be interested to see if these offers make sense to enough consumers to make them worth AT&T’s while.


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Samsung Releases the First Yahoo Widget-Enabled TV

[UPDATE: I credited Walt Mossberg with the column I mention below–wrong! The column’s called The Mossberg Solution, but it’s by Katherine Boehret. Corrected, and sorry about that.]

Walt Mossberg Katherine Boehret of the Wall Street Journal has reviewed Samsung’s LED TV 7000, the first set that supports the Yahoo Widget Engine platform for Internet-enabled applications that run right on the TV. Walt Katherine is impressed with Yahoo’s system, which is based on the cool Konfabulator, the application that started the whole widget craze a few years ago. I was impressed, too, when I visited Yahoo and got to try out the Widget Engine on a Samsung TV a few weeks ago. (Unfortunately, the Samsung set wasn’t ready for review in time for an article I recently wrote for PC World on ways to bring Internet TV into the living room, although I did squeeze in a mention.)

The Widget Engine is slick–the applets I tried reminded me of iPhone apps that happened to live on a TV rather than a phone. And the best thing about it is that it’s open: Anyone who wants to can build applications for it, and any application that anyone builds is available on any TV that supports the platform. That’s a far cry from most previous approaches to putting the Web and Web services such as Internet video onto TVs, most of which have been highly proprietary. (Panasonic’s Viera Cast is conceptually similar to what Yahoo is doing, but it’ll only deliver the services that Panasonic signs up–which means, so far, YouTube and a couple of others, with Amazon Video on Demand on the way.)

I’m not going to have a Widget-enabled TV in my living room any time soon, unfortunately–I don’t need a new TV, and Samsung’s set, at $3,000, isn’t an impulse item. But Yahoo has signed up not only Samsung but also Sony, LG, and Vizio to make Widget-ready sets. Those four companies are responsible for a sizable percentage of the TVs sold in this country, so chances are good that Yahoo’s software will be showing up on plenty of sets. If developers are as enthusiastic about the platform as electronics manufacturers are, the Widget Engine could end up being reason in itself to be tempted by a new TV.

yahoowidget1


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5Words for February 26th, 2009

5wordsGood morning–news is served:

Lots of Windows 7 tweaks.

Nokia might make Symbian laptops.

Google Street View’s user photos.

Google News gets ads. Finally.

Find iPhone vulnerability, get money.

The president isn’t Tweeting nowadays.

LG phone sports detachable keyboard.

Jeepers, more Microsoft-Yahoo speculation.

Rumors about PSP successor persist.

Is Windows Mobile 6.5 obsolete?

Vista SP2 release candidate imminent.

Dell’s 10-inch netbook arrives.

Intel: Psion doesn’t own “netbook.”

No feeware for unlocked G1s.


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Mobile World Congress: One Day, Sixteen New Phones

cheatsheetPhones. More phones. Phones that look a lot like iPhones, except for the ones that don’t. Phones that may never show up in the good old US of A. Phones that are full of style, and ones that seem to be devoid of discernible personality. That, in short, was my Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where I spent the entire day bopping from press conference to press conference, learning about new handsets from most of the major manufacturers (as well as laptop titan Acer, which announced today that it’s getting into the phone biz).

I wrote about some of the day’s debutantes as I encountered them, but missed others. And while the show is teeming with journalists who are cranking out a surging sea of stories on all the announcements, I’m not sure if anyone’s trying to put as much as possible in one place.

So here’s a stab at a convenient, concise guide to nearly every new phone I encountered as of Monday evening (I left off a couple of far-off models which Acer mentioned only fleetingly and cryptically). Most of these phones have been announced only in GSM models, except for the two HTCs. Nobody revealed anything about American carriers today, although in some cases you might be able to make educated guesses.

The fact that a spec isn’t mentioned doesn’t indicate a phone doesn’t have it–in some cases, the manufacturers provided something less than full information, and I’m not trying to provide all the ones they did mention (all these phones have basic stuff like Bluetooth, and I stopped short of listing info like their dimensions and the media formats they support). If you know more about any of these models than I do, please speak up.

And one last note: Yes, I know that it’s increasingly tough to judge phones by their hardware specs. In the post-iPhone era, it’s the software that gives a handset much of its functionality and character. I didn’t get to touch most of these phones at all today, and certainly didn’t spend enough time with any of them to come to conclusions about the quality of their interfaces. But even today, specs and other basic facts mean something–and after the jump, I’ll give you plenty of ’em to chew on…

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LG’s S-Class User Interface Enters the Arena

Arena TeaserAfter LG did its phone watch demo, it focused most of its Mobile World Congress press conference on its new Arena phone–especially its interface, which LG calls S-Class. It looks reasonably slick, and features innovative 3D navigation, with a rotating cube you can touch to…oh, let’s not pretend. The most striking thing about S-Class is the degree to which it mimics the iPhone, down to the rows of icons (some almost identical to iPhone icons) on a black backdrop. There are some places where LG may have introduced certain improvements to Apple’s idea–S-Class goes into landscape mode when you rotate the phone, and you can swipe one row of icons at a time to bring more into view–but it deals very heavily in the sincerest form of flattery.

S-Class is an interface rather than an OS: LG also announced the GM730, which runs Windows Mobile 6.1 but has the S-Class look and feel.

Hardwarewise, the Arena has a generous 800-by-480 pixels of real estate, both 8GB of fixed memory and the ability to take up to 32GB of MicroSD memory, and an FM radio, among other features. It ships in March in Europe (for US$600, presumably unsubsidized), and will show up in the U.S. eventually. Fuzzy photos I took at the press event after the jump.

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Video Conferencing on Your Wrist, LG Style

I’m at the LG Mobile press conference at Mobile World Congress, where an LG exec just made the first public video call from one of the company’s watch phones (or is that phone watches?). Who’s that on the display? It’s a tad fuzzy in this image, so I understand if you guess Dick Tracy…but it’s really none other than Mr. Steve Ballmer.

LG Watch


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LG to Debut 3G Wrist Phone at CES

wristphone1Okay, this excites my inner nerd to no end — probably because it is one of those things seen in science fiction movies becoming reality. Korean cell phone manufacturer LG plans to debut a wrist-worn cellular phone at CES next month.

The phone will have 3G and HSDPA support, along with Bluetooth and MP3 playback capabilities. Since there is obviously no room for a keyboard on the 1.43 inch color screen that is the watchface, the device would also support text to speech as well.

Want even more geek? This puppy got a video camera on the watch face. Why you ask? For video conferencing of course. Sounds like something right out of Star Trek, don’t you think?

Availablity will come first early next year for Korea and Europe. Details on any US launch, as well as pricing, have not been announced as of yet.


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The Feds Bust Open an LCD Price-Fixing Ring

If you ever thought that you overpaid for a device containing an LCD screen, your suspicions were correct. It turns out that there was a global conspiracy to set LCD prices artificially high, and the culprits were some of the biggest manufacturers in the marketplace.

Chunghwa Picture Tubes, LG Display, and Sharp have all been found to be in violation of the U..S’s Sherman Act. Lawyered up and doubtlessly looking for an easy out, the terrible trio plead guilty on Wednesday to charges filed under an ongoing Department of Justice antitrust investigation into price fixing and have agreed to pay a combined $585 million in criminal fines.

The scope of the DOJ’s investigation was truly impressive. It cooperated with enforcement officials on three continents: North America, Europe and Asia, according to a statement by US assistant attorney general Thomas O. Bartnett. He noted that the case, “…exemplifies the need to prosecute and deter international cartels that harm American consumers and businesses.”

The list of sins compiled by the government included engaging in bilateral meetings, regular conferences and other communication, in addition to exchanging sales figures in a coordinated conspiracy to fix prices for LCD panels worldwide. In doing so, the trio managed to fool the hardware manufacturers they sold panels to, including Apple, Dell and Motorola. Now, that would even make Vito Corleone proud.

Of course the plea agreements are subject to court approval, and the trio will remain under the watchful eye of regulators. However, the damage to our wallets has already been done. Expect some civil actions to be filed on behalf of consumers. Where’s a good trial lawyer when you need one?

In an era where corporate governance has been an afterthought and high-powered Wall Street executives were all too willing to play roulette with default credit swaps, forgive me if I question whether the aforementioned manufacturers of monitors and PCs would have passed on any cost savings to customers anyway. Executive bonuses are another story.

I attempted to reach an IDC analyst to discuss the matter and offer you something other than my own pithy remarks, but was unable to do so before press time.


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