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Report: iPhone 3rd Gen Details Revealed

A new iPhone is on its way according to reports

One general expectation in the tech community is that Apple will release a new iPhone sometime in 2009. After two years of consecutive hardware releases, people would likely be more surprised if Apple didn't release a new phone this year.

Still, Apple and its U.S. service provider AT&T have remained coy about upcoming hardware updates. The iPhone OS v3.0 preview came with not a hardware mention to be seen, after the last two OS updates accompanied new hardware.

However, recent reports cite a high-level source at AT&T as saying that a new iPhone may indeed be coming. The source says that yearly iPhone hardware releases are "becoming a tradition" and comments that in mid-June (around the time of the OS v3.0 release) , Apple and AT&T will have a big announcement.

They also hint that customers soon will not have to choose between the iPhone or high end smartphones with more features. This indicates that new features may be added to the iPhone with the next hardware update, such as autofocus/flash for the camera, video sharing, etc.

Furthermore, the reports say that the source hinted that a new Infineon chipset may be used in the hardware successor, possibly a faster HSDPA (7.2Mbps) chipset. This chipset would speed up the iPhone's network connections to run even faster than the current 3G model.

While rumors have the tendency to not come true, Boy Genius, who originated the reports, claims that the comments are "100% confirmed." If indeed true, things may get even more interesting in the smart phone market in just a couple short months.

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New Xbox 360 Hardware Failures Being Reported in Significant Numbers Stephen Kamizuru

Xbox 360 failures are on the rise since the launch of the New Xbox Experience

A known Xbox 360 hardware issue is beginning to surface in significant numbers recently based on research conducted by video game site Joystiq. Tentatively called the Xbox 360 E74 error, one of the lights on the “Ring of Lights” on the front of your Xbox 360 console flashes red and you receive the error code and message: "E74. System Error. Contact Xbox Customer Support". The symptoms involve the bottom right portion of the indicator ring repeatedly flashing on and off and lines or snow will become visible across the screen.

According to the initial Joystiq article posted on March 13, the Microsoft representative Joystiq contacted told them she wasn't familiar with the problem and that they were looking in to the issue. The E74 error is a known issue that is recognized by Microsoft and is documented on Microsoft’s own support site complete with diagrams. The support site has a last revised time stamp of March 3, 2009 as of this writing, predating the Joystiq article that broke the story.

Microsoft’s support site provides no explanation for the error other than to state, “This behavior occurs when the Xbox 360 console experiences a hardware failure.” Joystiq theorizes the E74 error is related to a hardware video problem where the ANA/HANA scaling chip on Xbox 360s equipped with HDMI functionality has come loose.

The main theory put forward that tries to explain why this particular hardware issue is being seen more frequently is the increased graphical stress caused by the introduction of the New Xbox Experience. The New Xbox Experience was launched on November 19 and provided Xbox Live users with a complete rework of the user interface.

One of the significant changes introduced by the New Xbox Experience was the removal of the blade interface. The blades allowed users to access pages of information and features quickly due to the fact they are stacked on top of each other. The new interface uses full windows to spread out the screen.

Another significant change introduced by the New Xbox Experience was the implementation of a graphical avatar system. Users are allowed to choose their avatar from a large group; each avatar is dressed differently, has a unique hair style, and skin color. Once you have chosen your avatar, you are allowed to customize it with new clothing, accessories, and hair. The stress caused by these visual changes may be what is taking many Xbox 360s to the breaking point for unlucky customers.

An interesting pattern can be seen on a Google Trends chart that shows a noticeable spike in users researching the E74 error in November 2008 right around the launch of the New Xbox Experience.

Joystiq’s analysis of survey respondents show a similar pattern of increased E74 failures starting in November of last year. A conspiracy theory making the rounds speculates Microsoft may have changed the system diagnostics test to report Red Ring of Death error as E74 instead to save money. For errors reported as E74, it would force customers to pay $100 for the repair if the error occurs later than 12 months after purchase. The E74 error is not covered under the 3-year extended warranty set in place for the Red Ring of Death malfunction. Joystiq points out that this theory is unlikely because survey respondents are still reporting Red Ring of Death errors after the launch of the New Xbox Experience.

On March 19, Joystiq posted Microsoft’s official response to the E74 issue where they stated:

E74 is a general hardware error on Xbox 360 indicated by a single red flashing light in the Xbox Ring of Light and an error message visible on the television. This error is unrelated to the three flashing red lights error and there is not a single root cause. We encourage anyone who receives this error to contact Xbox Customer support through www.xbox.com/support or 1-800-4-MY-XBOX. The majority of customers who own Xbox 360 consoles continue to have a terrific experience from their first day, and continue to, day in and day out.

As pointed out by Joystiq, Microsoft’s response fails to adequately answer what causes the E74 error, if there has been an increase in incidents, and why it is not covered while the Red Ring of Death is. The evidence is mounting as Joystiq has posted an update on March 23 showing E74 errors have definitely increased since the introduction of the New Xbox Experience. It remains to be seen how long it takes Microsoft to acknowledge there is an issue and deal with in a way that satisfies their current customers. As past history shows an adequate response may take time.

Microsoft’s top game executive, Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment & Devices group, said at a dinner in July 2008 that Microsoft’s own research shows that gamers have largely forgiven the company for defective Xbox 360s. Depending on how this issue is handled current customers may not be so quick to forgive.

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Windows Vista SP2 Hits RTM

Microsoft's latest service pack will bring the ability to record Blu-Ray, numerous Wi-Fi updates, and other tweaks and bugfixes

On the tails of the release of the Windows Vista SP2 Release Candidate to the masses, only a couple weeks later Microsoft has delivered the RTM Escrow build to its Connect beta testers. Microsoft had already released this build several days ago, reportedly, to its internal testers.

Beta testers can find the new build on Windows Update via Windows Connect. It has been packaged with multiple install options to test, including Slipstream versions and Standalone installers. The new build string is 6002.17043.090312-1835, so if you are a tester or have a copy you can check its authenticity against that.

The new service pack delivers many much anticipated features, along with numerous tweaks and bug fixes which should strengthen the Vista experience. Among the hottest additions in the new pack is the ability to record in Blu-Ray format for the first time in Windows. Other key additions include Bluetooth v2.1 connectivity, Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi Configuration wireless functionality, faster Wi-Fi resume times after hibernation, Windows Search 4.0, and the ability to configure the maximum number of TCP connections.

For those outside the testing community eager to get their hands on the final version of SP2, it should be available within a couple weeks, as the RTM build typically is the last step before a public release. Stay tuned for more details.

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Canon Unveils EOS Rebel T1i D-SLR

T1i D-SLR records full 1080p HD Video at entry-level price

For a long time, the biggest problem facing many digital photographers who were moving from the point-and-shoot market to the D-SLR market was the inability to record video. Thankfully, Nikon changed that last summer.

In August 2008, Nikon introduced its D90 D-SLR that was capable of recording 720P HD video, a first for the D-SLR world. The D90 recorded at 24 FPS in 720p resolution and offered a Live View LCD. Shortly after the D90 broke cover, Canon unveiled a high-end D-SLR called the EOS 5D Mark II that offered full 1080p HD recording at 30 FPS. The big downside was that the 5D Mark II retailed for a hefty $2,699 for the body only putting it out of the beginners reach.

Canon has now announced a new entry-level D-SLR camera called the EOS Rebel T1i that is the first Rebel capable of recording HD video. The T1i can record in 1080p resolution at 20 FPS, dropping the resolution down to 720p gets you full 30 FPS recording and SD recording at 640 x 480 is supported as well. Video is recorded in .MOV format using MPEG-4 compression.

The camera has a 15.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and uses Canon's DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor. A 3-inch rear LCD offers Live View shooting and has a resolution of 920,000 dots. A wealth of automatic features makes using a D-SLR easy for first time users.

Automatic features of the T1i include Auto Lighting Optimizer and Creative Auto Mode. The Auto Lighting Optimizer helps ensure that the subject of each picture is well light and visible by analyzing the image brightness and automatically adjusting dark areas so they appear brighter.

Creative Auto Mode is a full auto setting on the camera that allows for automatic adjustments to exposure compensation, aperture, or shutter speed through a simple navigation menu on the LCD. The menus allow users to do things like blur the background of a shot or lighten or darken an image with automatic modes.

The Rebel T1i has an integrated cleaning system that cleans the sensor for crisp photos. ISO sensitivity for the camera is ISO 100 to ISO 3200 in whole stop increments and two additional high ISO settings are included with H1 offering ISO 6400 and H2 offering ISO 12800.

The camera is also capable of shooting continuously at 3.4 FPS for up to 170 shots in large/fine mode or up to nine RAW images. Three Live View shooting modes are offered including Quick, Live, and Face Detection mode. All the Live View modes can be used on images and video.

Canon's EOS Rebel T1i will be available in early May with a body only Kit selling for $799.99 including a battery pack, USB cable, a neck strap and other accessories. Those looking for a kit can get the T1i body along with an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Zoom lens for $899.99.

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Apple iPhone 3G May Only Cost $100 to Make

Apple profits for hardware will drop but software sales and market share will climb

Last year when the first generation iPhone was announced by Apple, the bill of materials for the device was estimated to be in the area of $170. According to recent analysis the new iPhone 3G could be costing Apple significantly less to make than the original iPhone.

According to teardown analysis from Portelligent Inc., the new iPhone 3G could have a bill of materials as low as $100. This reduction in the cost to build the device takes into account the increased prices for the addition of a 3G chipset and a GPS chip.

“Gen2 iPhone pricing is aggressive enough that it made me think Apple's really taking the gloves off on this one," noted Portelligent president David Carey. "They are probably not as worried about iPhone hardware profits as they are about getting a piece of the action on service revenues and getting more Macs in homes and offices all around the globe.”

This aggressive pricing is taking some money out of Apple’s coffers on hardware sales. However, Apple will likely make up the losses on hardware sales in revenues for software sold via the App Store. DailyTech reported that the App Store could be a billion dollar business for Apple by 2009.

Will Strauss from Forward Concepts told EETimes that he believes the iPhone 3G is using an Infineon baseband and RF transceiver along with a Samsung applications processor. Samsung launched a handset with these same parts recently and pointed out that the cost of the Infineon chips were about 20% less than similar chips from Qualcomm.

According to Carey, the addition of the HSPDA chipset adds $15 and the addition of the GPS chip adds another $5. Those additional costs are offset in part by the reduced memory pricing compared to last year. These cost figures, of course, don't take into account development, marketing, and software costs.

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