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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dell XPS M1530 ,,Starts at $999

Dell's new XPS M1530 notebook features a 15.4-inch screen, a Core 2 Duo CPU, Nvidia GeForce graphics, HDMI output, a 2 megapixel camera...and a $999 starting price.

Dell has taken the wraps off its new XPS M1530 notebook computer, a slim new system with a 1-inch profile and a design largely inspired by the XPS M1330 Dell introduced earlier this year. But it's not so much the similarities to the M1330 that might attract customers to the M1530: instead, that'll be the 15.4-inch display range of Core 2 Duo processors, Nvidia graphics controllers, storage updates, a 4 GB RAM ceiling, an optional Blu-ray drive…and a starting price of just $999.

"The enthusiastic reception of the XPS M1330 demonstrates that Dell's focus on design and performance resonates with customers seeking a premium notebook experience," said senior VP of Dell's consumer product group Alex Gruzen, in a statement. "We're building on that success by broadening the product line, and the XPS M1530 will bring the XPS experience to the most popular 15.4-inch widescreen market segment."

Under the hood, the XPS 1530 is available with a range of Core 2 Duo processors (from 1.5 to 2.6 GHz), up to 4 GB of RAM, 200 or 320 GB hard disk drives (or an 64 GB SSD), HDMI and VGA output, three USB 2.0 ports, an 8-in-1 media card reader, an ExpressCard slot, and an integrated 2 megapixel Web cam. Dell is also offering a range of wireless connectivity options (including Dell and Intel 802.11g/n Wi-Fi, Dell long-range HSPDA and EVDO options, and Bluetooth 2.0), 6- and 9-cell batteries, and either a slot-loading DVD±RW drive or a slot-loading Blu-ray writer. The systems ship with Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate, and can be configured with either a 128 MB Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS graphics controller, or the 256 MB Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics controller.

Outside the hood, the XPS M1530s will be available in either alpine white, crimson red, or tuxedo black, and they offer Dell's MediaDirect 3.3 functionality with external media buttons so users can tap into DVDs and media without booting Windows.

Prices for the XPS M1530 start at just $999, but a system with a Blu-ray writer, 2 GB of RAM, and a speedy Core 2 Duo processor is going to run around $2,000.

Dell unveils the new XPS M1530 notebook

In a move to expand its existing hardware range yet further, computer manufacturing giant Dell Inc. has this week whipped the covers of expectation off its new M1530 notebook, which it is offering up as a sleek and stylish 15.4-inch entrant to the popular XPS line.

According to Dell, the new XPS M1530 comes packed with all the same "award-winning design and features" first bundled into the company’s highly acclaimed XPS M1330, which was released to retail a little earlier in the year.

In particular, the M1530 comes equipped with a built-in Web camera, fingerprint reader, touch-sensitive multi-media buttons, and an exterior design that boasts brushed aluminium accents and a selection of "sophisticated" colour choices.

"The enthusiastic reception of the XPS M1330 demonstrates that Dell’s focus on design and performance resonates with customers seeking a premium notebook experience," enthused Alex Gruzen, Dell’s senior vice president, consumer product group. "We’re building on that success by broadening the product line, and the XPS M1530 will bring the XPS experience to the most popular 15.4-inch widescreen market segment."

While customers can, of course, customise the XPS M1530’s internals to suit their specific needs at point of purchase, the little 15.4-inch notebook weighs in at a little under six pounds while also delivering a skinny 1-inch physical profile. Other features bundled with the M1530 include Wi-Fi wireless networking (optional Bluetooth), a slot-load optical drive, DirectX 10 graphics capabilities, and HDMI support. It also comes with an optional high-definition Blu-ray drive, which includes noise cancellation earbuds and a travel remote control that can be stored in the notebook’s ExpressCard slot.

Dell’s latest attempt to loosen consumer purse strings comes with a starting price of $999 USD, which secures the following technical specifications:* Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 (2MB cache/1.5GHz/667MHz FSB)

* Windows Vista Home Premium Edition

* 1GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz (2 Dimms)

* 120GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive

* 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS

* High Definition Audio 2.0

Prices reaching as high as $1,499 USD duly offer more bang for consumer bucks.

Judge Denies Request for Amazon Bookseller's Customer Data

The Associated Press reports that prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through "The withdrawal came after a judge ruled the customers have a First Amendment right to keep their reading habits from the government." Prosecutors sought the information as part of an investigation into a third-party bookseller on Amazon Marketplace who allegedly failed to report his income.

The AP quotes the judge's June ruling: "The subpoena is troubling because it permits the government to peek into the reading habits of specific individuals without their knowledge or permission. It is an unsettling and un-American scenario to envision federal agents nosing through the reading lists of law-abiding citizens while hunting for evidence against somebody else."

Jury selection and trial against the bookseller is set for February 25, 2008, in the Western District of Wisconsin, according to court records.

Feds lose bid for customer records

Federal prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to force to identify thousands of innocent customers who bought books online, then abandoned the idea after a judge rebuked them.

In an order that was sealed but has now become public, U.S. District Judge Stephen Crocker rejected the Justice Department's subpoena for details on Amazon's customers and their purchasing habits. Prosecutors had claimed the details would help them prove their case against a former Madison, Wisc., city official charged with tax evasion related to selling used books through Amazon.

"The subpoena is troubling because it permits the government to peek into the reading habits of specific individuals without their prior knowledge or permission," Crocker wrote in June. Amazon filed the lawsuit to quash the grand jury subpoena.

The case is reminiscent of last year's attempts by federal prosecutors to wrest sensitive search-related information from Google through a subpoena. A California judge eventually rejected the request for users' search queries (and allowed only an excerpt from Google's index of Web sites).

In both cases, the judges worried about public perception. California's Judge James Ware was concerned about the "perception by the public" that Google search terms are "subject to government scrutiny." In the Amazon case, Judge Crocker predicted that "rumors of an Orwellian federal criminal investigation into the reading habits of Amazon's customers could frighten countless potential customers into canceling planned online book purchases, now and perhaps forever."

Instead of giving the Bush administration what it wanted, Crocker split the difference, saying that Amazon could send letters to its customers asking them whether they voluntarily wanted to contact the Feds.

After losing the subpoena fight, Daniel Graber, the assistant U.S. Attorney in Madison, gave up and rescinded his request for the customer records.

The onetime Madison city official who's facing tax evasion, wire fraud, and money laundering charges is Robert D'Angelo. He was indicted in October on charges that he ran a sizable mail order business from his city office, using city computers, and city storage facilities. The business allegedly generated $238,000 in revenue through the sale of music CDs, costume jewelry, and--through Amazon--used books.

Initially, prosecutors demanded "virtually all" records from Amazon dealing with D'Angelo, including "the identities of thousands of customers who had bought used books" from him, according to court documents. Prosecutors subsequently narrowed the request to 120 book buyers, 30 per year for the four years under investigation--on the theory that FBI and IRS agents could then contact those 120 customers.

David Zapolsky, vice president of litigation for Amazon, told the Wisconsin State Journal that his employer tries to protect its customers' privacy rights from governmental fishing expeditions: "When we don 't know what the government wants the information for and we have a doubt whether it violates privacy or First Amendment rights, typically we will dialog with the government and try to understand what their perspective is or we'll make a motion and have a judge decide whether the government has any need for the information."

This subpoena, even more than the one directed at Google, highlights the tension between law enforcement's desire to assemble information--and the privacy rights of Americans who have that information stored by search engines or e-commerce sites.

If the Wisconsin subpoena had been directed at a credit card company or bank, the customer records would probably have been handed over without a fuss (and without any publicity). But booksellers and libraries have unique First Amendment protections under U.S. law that can shield them from some overzealous demands by police for personal information.

In an important 2002 case, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that police could not serve a search warrant on Denver's Tattered Cover Book Store. Two years earlier, a judge denied the Drug Enforcement Administration's attempts to get sales records from a Borders bookstore as part of a grand jury investigation. And perhaps the most famous case came when independent counsel Kenneth Starr tried unsuccessfully to obtain Monica Lewinsky's purchase records from Kramerbooks, a popular neighborhood bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Greenpeace Speaks

Its environmental ranking of Sony, Nintendo and other electronics makers raises consumer awareness—but does it factor into buying decisions.

Greenpeace is smacking Microsoft and Nintendo for using toxic chemicals in their video game consoles, while applauding longtime target Apple for improving its green credentials. But the group's latest quarterly ranking of electronics vendors, issued Nov. 27, in the thick of holiday shopping, also spotlights the difficulty in measuring the environmental impact of such products—and raises questions about whether customers really care.

Greenpeace's sixth "Guide to Greener Electronics" ranked Nintendo (NTDOY) last among 18 companies, criticizing the Japanese company for its failure to offer a recycling program for its old video game consoles or disclose any information about chemicals used to make its hot-selling Wii machine. Microsoft (MSFT), another newcomer to the list, ranked 16th for setting a comparatively late date of 2011 for eliminating the use of toxic plastics and flame retardants from its hardware, which includes its Xbox game machine and Zune digital music player.

Flexible Yardstick
Apple (APPL), which Greenpeace has assailed repeatedly in surveys past (, 10/26/07), moved up one notch to 11th place in the latest ranking on the strength of its pledge to eliminate certain chemicals by 2008. Top honors went to cell-phone maker Sony Ericsson and electronics conglomerate Samsung (SSNLF). The two companies tied for first, each scoring 7.7 out of a possible 10 points, on the strength of their recycling programs and the absence of some harmful chemicals in their products.

Greenpeace ranks electronics makers on the speed with which they're phasing out brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride, a chemical used to make plastic more pliable for wiring. The rankings also reflect companies' willingness to take back old products for recycling. The latest report comes amid the post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping rush (, 11/26/07), in which consumers are expected to snap up millions of laptops, iPods, printers, digital cameras, and other electronic goods.

But the rankings also underscore the wide array of environmental impact yardsticks—anything but consistent in their parameters—that consumers and businesses are confronted with when making purchasing decisions. In addition to Greenpeace, industry groups and government regulators in the U.S., European Union, Canada, and Germany all have issued metrics and rules governing the use of toxic chemicals in products, energy consumption by those machines, and recycling of discarded equipment. "There are a lot of tools out there; and maybe too many," says Dave Stangis, Intel's (INTC) director of corporate responsibility. "There's no doubt it's tough" for consumers to make sense of all the ratings, he says. But, "the Greenpeace list is definitely driving awareness."

"Cynical" Consumers
When you factor in the way electronics makers promote every environmentally friendly move they make, and the fire that Greenpeace has taken for picking a fight with Apple to publicize its agenda, it's not surprising consumers may have a hard time sorting out competing claims. "It always seems to be certain companies that get targeted first," says Chris Crotty, analyst at industry researcher iSuppli.

And given the apparent lack of strong consumer demand (, 9/10/07) for eco-friendly products when buying computers and electronics, a manufacturer's production costs still tend to count for more than its green bona fides at the cash register. "The bottom line is, [consumers] are quite cynical about it," says Roger Kay, president of industry researcher Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Everybody is hopping aboard the 'We've got to be green' train, and there's a lot of lip service."

Kay puts vendors' eco-friendly initiatives into three categories. Some manufacturing changes, such as replacing a harmful material with a nature-friendlier one that costs less, are "no-brainiers," he says. Then there's commonsense global compliance with stringent local regulations in places such as Germany and Scandinavia. Such moves can prove cost-effective for large PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) by reducing the need to produce different products for different markets. Last, there are "feel-good" efforts, such as PC maker Dell's (DELL) offer to plant trees for buyers of its PCs to help offset the carbon dioxide emissions of those products. "That's the category that's squishiest," says Kay.

Costly Changes
Greenpeace gave Dell a strong 7.3 rating, citing the company's pledge to stop using brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride by 2009, as well as its aggressive recycling program. It gave HP a 6.7 rating for its pledge to eliminate the chemicals from computers—but not all its products—by 2009.

Whether companies are cleaning up their acts to get ahead of tough regulations or for better public relations, such efforts are very expensive. On Nov. 11, Intel said its new 45-nanometer chips eliminate the use of lead and will soon exclude halogens, a class of materials that includes brominated flame retardants soon to be prohibited by EU regulations. Intel's efforts to stop using lead alone has spanned hundreds of engineers' time over five years, according to Stangis. "It's definitely more expensive," he says.

Greenpeace's quarterly pounding on the electronics industry's biggest companies has no doubt raised consumers' awareness of what's in their gear. What's less clear is how eco-savvy shoppers will navigate the thicket of pronouncements and criticisms coming from both sides.

Greenpeace Survey Ranks Nintendo Last

Activist group Greenpeace has released on Tuesday its last environmental ranking of the 18 most popular electronic companies that scored Nintendo 0, as the first company that did not get any points out of the possible 10.

Along with Nintendo, Microsoft also was criticized due to the fact that it failed to remove toxic chemicals from their game consoles, joining all the newcomers that reached the bottom of the list, which was rarely accused of unfairness, but usually it weights a lot in the eyes if customers, so companies cannot afford to ignore it.

The ranking is made according to several ecologist standards, while it supervises the efforts made to eliminate PVCs and other hazardous chemicals and to gather the used hardware. Greenpeace also declared that from next year it would introduce the energy efficiency criteria.

Greenpeace’s ranking comes after Microsoft previously announced that it expects that only in 2011 it would finish the removal of all toxic chemicals from their products, and does not accept old hardware.

Nokia, the leader of the last list, and Motorola were also penalized for not keeping their word regarding their promises of taking back used hardware.

Sony Ericsson and Samsung were ranked as the most eco-friendly companies, scoring 7.7 points each.

While Philips, whose green policies are allegedly too old as they were set up in 1970, ranked the 17th, the former bottom of the list, Apple, managed to reach the 11th place, due to its pledge of removing vinyl plastics and brominated flame retardants from its products by 2008.

Japan: PSP Slim Hits 1M Mark

Japan: PSP Slim Hits 1M Mark

While Sony's shiny black handheld has been doing reasonably well in the marketplace, it's been hard for most gamers and pundits to focus on its relative success while Nintendo's dual-screened handheld lumbers through sales statistics like Godzilla, toppling buildings and wrestling Mothra.
It's not as if PSP is doing poorly though, and the report from two months ago regarding a strong Japanese launch of the PSP Slim was heartening. Today, there's more good news for Sony, as reports that to date the handheld has topped 1 million sales of the Slim PSP. This is no doubt partly thanks to it launching with Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, which has the words "Final Fantasy VII" right in the title and thus guarantees success.

The report also points out that the Slim has reached the million mark earlier than its predecessor by two weeks, meaning it's off to a stronger start than the original PSP.

PSP Slim Hits 1 Million in Japan

It wasn't so long ago that gamers worldwide were doubting Sony's ability to compete with Nintendo in the handheld market. Since the PlayStation Portable Slim launched in September, however, sales of Sony's multimedia gadget have surged. The redesigned machine sold almost 600,000 units in its first 14 days.

Sony Japan today reported that the little console that could has shipped 1 million copies since losing weight, a figure reached two weeks faster than with the 'PSP Fat' as gamers now refer to the original system.

The 1 million units include Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII bundles.

Sony says gamers are obviously enjoying the 33% of weight sliced off the new units, the more efficient battery and the faster loading times of the Slim. The 1seg TV tuner, available in Japan (and known as the DS TV for Nintendo's DS) has also been pushing sales.

Sony will release a new glossy red version of the PSP Slim in Japan on December 13.

PSP-Slim or PSP-2000 Comes in Girly Colors Too!

Female gamers can now geek away in style because not only is the PSP-Slim (PSP-2000) 19% thinner and 30% lighter; it comes in chic new colors too! Aside from the standard black, white, and silver, they're also available in rose pink, lavander purple, and felicia blue. The PSP-Slim hits stores in Japan on September 20 for 19,800 Yen ($162). No word on when it'll be released to the rest of the world yet, but something tells me I'd better start saving money soon.


Gaming Front: Sony Ericsson PSP Phone in Q1 2007

PlayStationPhones may be coming to stores come February of next year under the cell phone brand Sony Ericsson. Manufacturers like Sony Ericsson will have to go back to the drawing board a lot after Apple's recent iPhone price cut. A PSP phone has been rumored for some time now. The mock up above seems to be a direct blending of Sony Ericsson camera phones and PSP and whets one's appetite for the real thing, or at least for more rumors. Peter Ahnegard, Partner Manager Games and Graphics from Sony Ericsson, recently and practically confirmed that the handset manufacturer is planning another convergence device to follow Cyber-shot and Walkman phones.

Peter Ahnegard on an interview with PocketGamer last month: "Up until today we haven't felt we could launch a PlayStation phone because it wouldn't be recognised as a true continuation of that brand of products…. It's obviously something that we're looking at but right now I can't really comment. Before Christmas, certainly… but exactly which Christmas I can't confirm!" But now Mobile Entertainment claims the PSP Phone is set for a February 2007 announcement at the Mobility World Congress but it won't be a PSP Phone!

PSP Gets Video Downloading Service, VoIP

Sony, in collaboration with the UK's Sky, will be bringing a Go! branded video download service to the PSP in early 2008. The available programs will include a mix of Sky content, such as sports, entertainment, movies, music and animation. PSP owners will also be able to purchase pay-per-view programming, and downloads can be transferred from the PSP to a PC without additional charges. In case you aren't a Sky fan, plans to offer video content from other channel brands and content providers are in the works.

January 2008 will also see the release of Go! Messenger, which uses VoIP to let you to text- and voice-chat with other PSP users with the same program. A future firmware upgrade for the PSP will place an application on its XcrossMediaBar. For video calls on Go! Messenger, Sony has also announced the Go! Cam, which attaches to the top of the PSP.

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