Group to Work on Wireless Laptop-charging Specification

The Wireless Power Consortium said Monday that it will start working on a new specification for wirelessly charging laptops.
The consortium will develop a medium-power wireless charging specification with a maximum output of 120 watts, said Menno Treffers, chairman of the steering group at the Wireless Power Consortium. That should be enough for wireless charging of devices like laptops and netbooks, he said.
Wireless charging entails placing rechargeable devices on mats or pads containing transmitters that put out a charge. The devices contain coils that wirelessly receive the power.
The consortium's initial goal was to tackle charging for low-power devices, said Treffers, who is also director of standards at Koninklijke Philips Electronics. On Saturday the consortium finalized a low-power standard of up to 5 watts of power for charging devices like smartphones, Bluetooth headsets or power tools, Treffers said.
Work on the new medium-power specification will begin soon, Treffers said. He said that devices adhering to the consortium's specifications would carry the Qi certification logo.
The low-power standard took about 18 months to complete, and Treffers said the technology will initially be implemented in mats, but also could be embedded in furniture such as tables. Energizer has said it would release a mat to charge as many as two devices, for about US$100, and charging sleeves for iPhone and Blackberry devices, for $30 to $40.
Right now there are multiple wireless charging technologies, and standardization could prevent consumers from getting locked into any single technology, Treffers said.
"If we don't standardize, the volume of these products will stay.... niche. By standardizing we can [push] it into every household," Treffers said.
iSuppli is predicting the wireless charging market will grow quickly. Shipments of wireless charging products could total 3.6 million this year and grow to 234.9 million in 2014, the market research firm said in a June 30 study.
For now the low-power specification is being distributed to consortium members, and will be opened up to other companies on Aug. 30. Products can be certified through tests by independent labs.
The consortium is not working on over-the-air wireless charging as the technique is inefficient, Treffers said. There are also concerns about bodily exposure to a magnetic field. By placing a device on a pad, the magnetic field stays with the receiver, and the charging can be quick and efficient.
Some notable Wireless Power Consortium members include Energizer, Fulton Innovation, ConvenientPower, Philips, Nokia, Research in Motion, Texas Instruments, LG Electronics, Verizon and HTC.

by pcworld

Lenovo to Release Tablet PC at Year's End

After releasing its own handset to compete with Apple's iPhone, Lenovo looks like it may be preparing to take on the iPad. The Chinese company plans on releasing its own tablet PC at the end of the year.
The device will be called the "LePad" and will use the Android mobile operating system, according to recent comments made by Liu Jun, senior vice president and president at Lenovo's Consumer Business Group, and confirmed by the company.
The product's development comes as Lenovo's chairman said earlier this month that Apple CEO Steve Job hasn't been focused on the Chinese market. "If Apple were to spend the same effort on the Chinese consumer as we do, (Lenovo) would be in trouble," Liu Chuanzhi told the Financial Times.
This year, Lenovo began selling its own smart phone called "LePhone." The company has said in the past Lenovo's strategy is to "win" in China before Lenovo begins selling the phone abroad. Lenovo also believes the mobile Internet hardware and services could become 10 to 20 percent of the company's business over these next five years.
Other Chinese companies have also developed their own tablets, with some even billing their devices as imitation iPads. But Lenovo would be one of the larger companies to take on building such a device.
"Lenovo has a strong brand name that resonates with local buyers. That's something that's in their favor," said Bryan Ma, associate vice president for IDC Asia-Pacific, of the company's plans.
IDC predicts that in 2011, shipments for media tablets will rise to 1 million for both China and Taiwan combined. In 2014, that number is expected to grow to 4 million. But how the tablet market in China will develop still remains to be seen, Ma added.
"There are still questions about what applications are (these tablets) going to be used for. What kind of interest will they attract," he said.
As for Apple, the company will start selling its iPad in Hong Kong this Friday. It has yet to announce plans to sell the iPad in mainland China.

By PcWorld

HP Lists HP Slate 500, Requests PalmPad Trademark

Hewlett-Packard has listed the Windows-based HP Slate 500 on its website, and also applied to trademark the term Palmpad, fueling speculation surrounding the company's tablet plans.

HP, the world's largest PC maker, earlier this year announced plans to offer a tablet called the HP Slate, with Microsoft's Windows 7 OS. However, HP later acquired Palm for US$1.2 billion and said it would put Palm's WebOS mobile OS on a range of devices including tablets. This led to speculation about HP scuttling its Slate plans, as power-hungry Windows 7 is more suited for PCs. But current listings hint at the company launching tablets with both the Windows and WebOS operating systems.

HP has listed the one model of the HP Slate 500 on its website. The device includes an 8.9-inch touchscreen and runs on Windows 7 Premium. The device also has two cameras -- one video and one still -- for users to do "web conferencing," according to the listing.

The HP Slate 500 is also listed on HP's website as being Energy Star qualified in a document dated July 12. The Energy Star website lists the tablet having a 1.6GHz processor.

According to a page from HP's website archived on Google, the tablet is listed in multiple models.

HP's plans to launch a WebOS tablet also may have taken a step forward with the company's application to trademark the term Palmpad with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The trademark is related to goods and services for a range of hardware including "handheld and mobile computers, PDAs, electronic notepads, mobile digital electronic devices," according to the USPTO document.

HP did not immediately return requests for comment on its HP Slate plans or PalmPad trademark request. HP in the past has only vaguely stated that it intends to retain its strategic partnership with Microsoft. HP already offers Windows netbooks, and also offers iPaq mobile devices based on Windows Mobile.

HP will be an entering an increasingly competitive tablet market led by Apple's iPad. iSuppli on Tuesday predicted that Apple will ship 12.9 million iPads in 2010.

By PcWorld

Laptop Tips: Add RAM, Recycle a Hard Drive, Tweak Power Settings

It's been almost a year since I served up some nice, hot laptop tips (see "Laptop Q&A: Power Off Quickly, Fix Sticky Keys")--and that's inexcusable. I'll make it up to you this week with some useful advice on adding memory to a laptop, turning an old laptop hard disc into an external drive, and using your laptop's power settings effectively.

Add RAM to a Laptop

So my dad was griping that his Acer Aspire 9300 laptop takes forever to boot. I inspected it for spyware, excessive startup programs, and the other usual suspects, but everything checked out.
Then I remembered that the machine is about three years old and wasn't a powerhouse to begin with. So I checked the RAM. Bingo: It has only 1GB. Windows Vista needs at least 2GB to run smoothly. (So does Windows 7, but I've seen it run reasonably well on less.)
Upgrading a laptop's RAM may sound like a big deal, but it's actually the single easiest upgrade there is. The only challenge lies in determining how many RAM modules your system currently has and what kind they are.
To find out, turn off your system, unplug it, remove the battery, and flip it over. You should see at least one panel that can be removed with a small screwdriver. Consult your manual if you can't find the one covering the RAM sockets--or just open them all. Here's what you're looking for:
Most laptops have two sockets. If only one is occupied, just buy a module that exactly matches the existing one and drop it in. That'll effectively double your RAM.
If both sockets are filled, you'll have to replace both modules. In the case of Dad's Aspire, for example, it had a pair of 512MB modules for a total of 1GB of RAM. We elected to replace them with a pair of 1GB modules for 2GB total. (What to do with the displaced RAM? EBay, of course!)
Not sure what kind of memory your laptop takes? Head to a site like Crucial, which can identify nearly every make and model. (Of course, once you know what you need, you can shop around to find the best price.)

Recycle an Old Laptop Hard Drive

Inexpensive hard drive enclosures are ideal for recycling old laptop drives that have been replaced by higher-capacity models.
An enclosure is essentially an external case for that internal drive, one that lends it a USB interface. When all is said and done, you'll have a compact USB hard drive you can use for backups, extra storage, transporting files, and so on.
More immediately, an enclosure lets you easily restore your data onto the new drive--a simple drag-and-drop operation. With that done, you'll have to decide if you want to wipe the drive or keep it intact (you know, "just in case").
When shopping for an enclosure, make sure to choose one that offers the proper kind of interface for your old drive. Again, if it's more than a few years old, it's probably IDE. Any newer and it's more likely to be SATA. In either case, you should be able to find one for just $10-15. I recommend hitting sites like Meritline and Newegg.

Learn Your Laptop's Power Settings

My aunt recently told me about a problem with her new laptop: Whenever she'd step away from it for more than a few minutes, she'd close the lid. Upon returning, she'd open the lid, only to be faced with a blank screen and no response from the mouse or keyboard.
Want to know why? The default lid-closing action for most laptops is to put the system in Sleep mode, and Windows is notoriously bad at waking up properly. I advise most laptop users to use Hibernate mode instead, as it's much more reliable when it comes to waking up.
You see, Sleep (aka Standby) puts your system into a low-power state, allowing you to pick up where you left off (in theory, anyway) after just a few seconds. However, a PC in Sleep mode continues to consume battery power, so it's not uncommon to return to a "sleeping" PC to find that it's just plain dead. Or, in my aunt's case, unresponsive.
Hibernate, however, saves your machine's current state to a temporary hard-drive file, then shuts down completely (much like Off). When you start it up again, it loads that file and returns you to where you left off--no booting required.
Both ends of the Hibernate process take a little longer than sleep mode (usually 10-20 seconds, in my experience), but you avoid any of the issues that can arise when Windows suddenly loses power.
And as noted, sleep mode is notoriously flaky. If your system refuses to wake up properly, you'll end up losing whatever documents and/or Web pages you had open. Consequently, I recommend using hibernate most of the time.
By PcWorld

Genius Bar Adventures: a Follow-up

Some of you may have read (and, more than likely, commented on) a story I wrote a few days ago about my experiences with getting my MacBook Pro repaired. (The short version: MacBook Pro, less than three months old, hardware problems, multiple repair attempts, conflicting information, frustrated customer.)
It appears that at least one employee from the downtown San Francisco Apple Store was among the readership as well, based on a call I received Thursday afternoon from the manager at said Apple Store.
The manager told me that an employee brought my situation to his attention--although he didn't specifically say so, it seemed clear that it was someone who reads and came across my article--and asked if I'd be interested in a replacement MacBook Pro. He told me that, considered the newness of the laptop and the difficultly they seemed to be having tracking down what was wrong, a replacement was a reasonable option (also, he told me that my MacBook Pro was still several days from being repaired). I told him that a replacement would be great, and he arranged to have a Customer Replacement Unit (or CRU) ready for me to pick up in an hour or so.
We talked a little more and he told me that he'd make the same offer to anyone in the same situation. For obvious reasons, there are very few people in an Apple Store who are authorized to hand out replacement Macs to customers, and he said that if he'd been made aware of my situation while I was in the store itself, he would have taken care of it.
I mentioned the last contact I'd had with the store (a phone call in which I asked about a replacement and was told flatly it was "not a possibility") and suggested that a better response would have been, "I can't help you with that, and you'll have to speak to a manager--would you like me to transfer you?" He agreed and said he'd already spoken to the person.
So I stopped by the Apple Store, picked up the replacement computer, and was able to get it up and running from a Time Machine backup of my previous MacBook Pro in just about an hour once I powered it up at home--a very satisfying conclusion to my saga.
Now, a cynical view of the situation might be to say that I got special treatment because I'm an editor at Macworld and this is more about PR than customer service. But I do honestly believe that had I been a more irate in-store customer and demanded to speak to a manager, the situation would have been resolved in a similar fashion, and perhaps more quickly too.
The point is--and this is something the manager conceded--that a customer has to know that the Genius behind the counter doesn't have the authority to fix some problems and in many cases it's the customer who has to the be the one to escalate a situation because an employee either doesn't or won't. And you shouldn't have to lose your temper to have your problems taken seriously. (And obviously, my comments could apply to almost any company--this structure isn't in any way limited to Apple.)
In any case, I'm thankful that I once again have a healthy, happy MacBook Pro on which to edit, tweet, read, and watch. And I'm also very thankful that I keep good backups of my data.

Remains of the Day: If You Can't Beat 'em, Bribe 'em

Remember those free Windows Phone 7 devices Microsoft employees were getting? Yeah, turns out there's a catch. Also, Samsung tries to capitalize on annoyed iPhone 4 users and LG steps up and takes some blame. Remainders for July 23, 2010 start now.
Samsung offering Galaxy S phones to frustrated iPhone users (Wired UK)
Seems Samsung is trying to capitalize on customer's frustrations with the iPhone 4. The UK branch of the company is scanning Twitter for disappointed users and offering them a free Samsung Galaxy S smartphone--no strings attached! In case anybody's listening, I'm really really disappointed in my lack of a million dollars.
Microsoft urges its workers to be Windows Phone app hobbyists (TechFlash)
Turns out that Microsoft's gift of Windows Phone 7 handsets to its employees comes with an ulterior motive--*gasp*! Redmond was kinda sorta maybe hoping those employees would use their spare time to make applications for Windows Phone 7. You know, all that time they spend not working for their giant monolithic employer. Guess you should cancel your windsurfing plans, people.
LG Display unable to fill all iPad orders (Wall Street Journal)
Apple COO Tim Cook didn't want to point any fingers on Tuesday's quarterly conference call when asked about iPad shortages. But the folks at LG Display have unhesitatingly stepped forward to say that they have been unable to meet the demand for the tablet's LCD screens and probably won't be fully able to until second quarter of next year. Huh. Don't think I've ever seen a company throw itself under a bus before.

Dell Inspiron 14R: Finding the Sweet Spot in the Inspiron Line

Just in time for the back-to-school season, Dell has released its new R series of Inspiron all-purpose laptops. Though the stylish silver accents are the first thing you'll notice, the Inspiron R series is more than just a cosmetic upgrade. The Inspiron 14R may have fewer configuration options than the Inspiron 14 and may carry a higher starting price, but its improved hardware and refined design more than make up for the difference.

You can get an Inspiron R laptop in any of four colors: Mars Black, Peacock Blue, Tomato Red, or Promise Pink. Anything other than black, however, will cost you an extra $40. The cheapest Inspiron 14R is $479 (as of July 14, 2010), just $30 more than the least expensive Inspiron 14, but that particular model includes a 1.86GHz Pentium 6000. The real reason to select an R model is to obtain a Core i3 or i5 processor, which you can't get in a regular Inspiron 14. Selecting such a processor bumps the minimum price up to $649, but it means a substantially faster CPU and better Intel integrated graphics.

Our test machine, which cost $779 at the time of this review, came with a Core i3-350M processor (2.26GHz, two cores, and four threads), 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 with 1GB of graphics RAM. It also carried a 500GB, 5400-rpm hard drive. The R series doesn't give you many configuration options: You can choose from several models with somewhat different specs, but once you pick a system you can only change its color and upgrade to 6GB of RAM. By way of comparison, when I tried to configure a regular Inspiron 14 that matched the specs of our review unit (as close as I could get, at least) the result cost about $40 more.

Beyond the internal hardware, the Inspiron 14R differs from non-R laptops in other important ways. The lid hinge is offset about half an inch forward from the back of the machine, and the internal keyboard-tray surface is a nice brushed-silver tone. The power plug extends from the back-right corner of the machine, next to a USB port (non-R units have the power plug on the left side, and nothing on the back). The left side of the Inspiron 14R includes the ethernet jack, the exhaust vents, an HDMI output, a combination eSATA/USB port, and a multiformat card reader. The right side has another USB port, headphone and microphone jacks, and the 8X CD/DVD burner. In addition, 802.11n networking is standard (an upgrade over the non-R models), and the SRS Premium Sound definitely produces better audio quality through the speakers than you get on the non-R Inspiron models. In all, the Inspiron 14R is quite an attractive package for a 14-inch, 5.1-pound laptop.

Performance is quite reasonable for a sub-$800 notebook. Its WorldBench 6 score of 94 is a little on the low side, but typically you have to spend more to break past the 100-point barrier. The Mobility Radeon HD 5470 graphics board makes playing games on this all-purpose portable a real possibility. I had no problems running Left 4 Dead 2 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 at the display's native resolution of 1366 by 768 with just a few minor tweaks to the graphics settings. More-intensive games will require more sacrifices, but the 14R's vibrant screen and reasonable graphics performance make it a pretty capable entertainment laptop, given its size and price. The biggest drawback to playing modern games on this system is the fan noise: The fan is fairly quiet in regular use, but spins up to a loud whir when you play a graphics-intensive game.

When it comes to getting work done, the Inspiron 14R is no slouch. Core i3 and i5 processors offer more than enough performance for everyday Web surfing, e-mail, word processing, and light image editing. With 4GB of RAM, the system is pretty responsive.

The keyboard has great key action and is easy to type on, save for one annoyance: The spacebar sits too low and flush against the inside surface of the laptop, making it a little harder to press with your thumb than it should be. The large touchpad tracks smoothly and evenly, and the two distinct buttons make it easy to click what you want to, when you want to, with no accidental misclicks.

Dell missed a serious opportunity in not making the graphics switchable between the discrete Radeon card and the Core i3's integrated graphics. The option would have enabled users to get a lot more battery life out of the machine--our test model petered out in just about 3 hours, which is disappointing. Despite that flaw, and the somewhat annoying spacebar, the Inspiron 14R is an appealing system overall. It's the right "does everything well enough" laptop at the right sub-$800 price for the back-to-school crowd, and it isn't large, bulky, or ugly.

Theo Pc World