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All posts tagged "toshiba"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Toshiba's Gigabeat T401: Is This the Next Zune?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 07:01 PM


"Toshiba this morning added a new mid-size flash player to its Gigabeat line. The T401 balances the differences between the small Gigabeat U and the company's hard disk players, sporting a 2.4-inch tall LCD and 4GB of flash storage that cuts the thickness to under 0.4 inches. Unlike most of Toshiba's players or even the Microsoft Zune, however, the T401 supports not just 802.11g Wi-Fi but also an Internet connection; listeners can download podcasts directly from websites without first synchronizing with a PC."

There's a lot of speculation about the T401 being the future Flash-based Zune we all know is coming. Because the first-generation Zune was an off-the-shelf Toshiba product that the Zune team just grabbed and slapped their logo on, most people seem to be speculating that the next Zune will be the same. I'm not so sure - it really depends on how quickly the Zune team has been able to get started working with the manufacturers in China to design their own product from scratch. Given the lack of new features coming via ROM updates, I sincerely hope that's the case and they'll have a unique product to bring to market this fall. If not, and we see this Toshiba Gigabeat T401 with a Zune logo on it, then I for one will be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Toshiba's Gigabeat V: Zune 2.0?

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Talk" @ 03:00 PM


"Toshiba’s original Gigabeat is among the most successful non-iPod portable media players (PMP) out there, boosted by the fact that Microsoft used it as the basis for the Zune. Whether or not this new Gigabeat, the Gigabeat V, will be the basis of Zune 2(or Zune Too, or whatever hip, focus group-tested name Microsoft gives it) is yet unknown, but Toshiba’s player does its best to stand out from the crowd. The big draw here is its 4-inch 480 x 272-pixel resolution screen. And on that screen you’ll be greeted with a Windows Media Center-like interface, which is good or bad depending on your point of view."

Well, since the Zune v2 is supposedly going to be an in-house design, this is probably not the Zune v2. That being said, I sure hope the Zune v2 is a lot like this Gigabeat V!

Tags: toshiba, gigabeat, v, v2

Friday, January 5, 2007

The Zune "Death Crash": Say Goodbye To Your Content

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 11:00 AM

[2 MB high-resolution image also available]

Know what that is? Something you never want to see on any gadget you ever own that's full of your content. On November 14th, the day I purchased five Zunes, I saw that error come up on one of the Zunes I was testing. I had just plugged it in to recharge (you can see the power is almost gone) and picked it up to use it when I saw that error. As you can see, selecting OK is the only option. The Zune then rebooted itself, and all the content was cleared from the device. Because I had just taken it out of the box, there wasn't anything on it other than the pre-loaded content, so the error was more one of curiosity than anything else. But can you imagine if you were on vacation, or a business trip, had your Zune loaded up with all your music, photos, videos - and it all just vanished? That's what I call an extremely inconvenient scenario - and one that would likely result in the customer taking the Zune right back to the store for a refund.

What causes the error? Good question. First, I know that it's a Toshiba hardware error, because the same thing can happen on a Gigabeat S device. I don't know if I should feel lucky that I saw two rare errors, or feel cursed. Both of the errors happened under similar circumstances: a device with dead or nearly dead batteries, being moved or held as they were plugged in and powered on. A source I have told me that this problem occurs on the Zune when the hard drive is accessed from the power being turned on, and moved at the same time. The Zune thinks there's potential damage to the hard drive, so it re-initializes everything and wipes out the content in an effort to recover from the error. The Zune 1.1 firmware update supposedly addresses this issue, so it may be a non-issue because most people will cradle the Zune and update the firmware pretty quickly. I haven't seen this reported elsewhere, so it would seem (thankfully) to be a rare issue. But if it happens to you, and you lose all your content...now you know why.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Toshiba Releases 100GB 1.8" HDD

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Hardware" @ 08:30 AM


100GB. 1.8". Toshiba. Hey, they all add up. So, Microsoft, can we expect a 100GB Zune in the future, or will Apple beat you to it?

Tags: toshiba, drive, hdd, 1.8, 100, gb, hard

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Microsoft and Their History of Hardware Design

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 06:22 AM

In the lead up to the official Zune launch, there's been much discussion around Microsoft's history of hardware design, and how some feel they don't have any experience designing hardware. I disagree with that, and here's why: compared to their ventures in the world of software, Microsoft has had relatively few hardware products, but for the most part they've all been quite impressively designed. A quick breakdown off the top of my head:

  • Microsoft Keyboard and Mice: I don't know the market share numbers, but the market is essentially ruled by Microsoft and Logitech. I'd say that Microsoft's designs are strong, and I've been pleased with many Microsoft keyboards over the years. Lately I've switched to Logitech because they seem to have more robust wireless connections, but I still recommend Microsoft wireless products to those with a single PC and single mouse/keyboard. Microsoft keyboards and mice are quick and easy to set up - great out of box consumer experience.

  • Microsoft Networking Products: After using D-Link, Linksys, and other mainstream networking vendors products for years, my first Microsoft networking product was a breath of fresh air. I've owned an MN-500 (802.11b wireless router), an MN-700 (802.11g), and several of their Ethernet hubs. All were superbly designed from a hardware point of view: they looked great, had excellent functionality, and the out of box setup experience was light years beyond what any other vendor was offering. Netgear is the only other networking vendor that comes close in out of box experience. Microsoft is no longer making their networking products, but that doesn't diminish the quality one bit.
  • Webcams: This is a brand-new hardware realm for Microsoft, and not having used one of their products yet, I don't have much to say. The reviews I've read say that their Webcams are functional enough, though apparently they don't reach the same overall quality levels as Logitech. First gen product blues? Perhaps. I'd say too early to call them a failure though. The design of the cameras themselves look strong, and I'm sure the out of box experience is solid.

  • Xbox and Xbox 360: Although the Japanese market may not have dug it, everyone I knew liked the way the original Xbox looked - like a muscle car. More than the hardware design itself though, the overall Xbox experience was one of quality. The controllers felt good, the software dashboard was well-designed. and the original Xbox was a solid product that made decent inroads against much more established competition. The Xbox 360 was a huge leap ahead in the design department, both from a hardware and software point of view. The dashboard user interface is fantastic, the functionality of the hardware is excellent, and the out of box end user experience was very high-quality: everything from the packaging to the instructions were top-tier.
  • Cordless Phones: Does anyone else remember the MP-900, Microsoft's entry into the cordless phone market in 1999? I bought one, and believe it or not, it was damn impressive! The hardware itself was fantastic; much higher quality overall than similar cordless phones at the time, and no product on the market could match the functionality. After installing the software on your PC, and connecting the phone to your computer (via a serial port I believe), you could use voice activation on the phone to cay "Call John" and the PC would initiate a call from your address book and hand it off to the phone. The product mustn't have sold very well though, because Microsoft never released a newer version, of even any drivers for Windows 98.
  • Gaming Products: Microsoft has released a variety of joysticks, game pads, and other gaming products over the years. I owned several iterations of the Sidewinder joystick back in the day, and all were excellently designed and executed upon - I had zero complaints about the hardware design or functionality.
  • Other Products: Looking through the Microsoft Hardware Site, there are a smattering of other products, including a wireless "clicker" for presentations, but I haven't used their other products. I can't recall having read a negative review about any of the remaining products though.
  • Concept Designs: I've seen PDA and phone concept designs, from in-house Microsoft design teams, that would make your jaw drop. I can't say much do to NDAs, but it's very clear to me that Microsoft employs people that really care about hardware design. For the launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft has created a hardware design guide for OEMs to use if they wish. Microsoft knows that hardware design matters just as much as software design. We no longer live in the era of the bland beige box - design matters.
So what's my point here? I believe that Microsoft has a better track record with their in-house hardware designs than most people would care to admit. This gives me hope that the Zune effort as a whole will be guided by some of these same principles that previous hardware designs have tapped into. That hope is bolstered by the fact that the Zune team is made up of some ex-Xbox 360 team members; one would hope they'd bring much of the same design ethos that guided the Xbox 360 into the Zune project.

My enthusiasm was tempered somewhat when I read that Toshiba was manufacturing the Zune for Microsoft - I wouldn't say that Toshiba has the most impressive hardware designs I've ever seen, though their laptops have certainly improved in the past couple of years. I don't know how much input the Zune team had over the design, but we can hope they did. The FCC pictures we've seen of the first Zune haven't been very impressive - I'm concerned about the thickness of the unit - but I've yet to see any product look impressive in FCC pictures. Later today there should be some significant Zune news, so the shroud of mystery will be lifted - at least a little.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Zune Eye-Candy

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Hardware" @ 09:37 PM

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, we have 28,000 of them for you, courtesy of the FCC.

The FCC report is legitimate, so there are no question marks here. On the front, you can see a circular control pad, flanked by a "Back" button and a "Play/Pause" button.

The bottom of the Zune features a sync-and-charge connector. The top houses a headphone jack. The rear has an all-too-familiar Zune logo printed on it.

Above, you'll find a series of shots of the Zune's system board from all angles.

Attached to it is Toshiba's 30GB 1.8" HDD.

Yeah, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, baby!

The Zune includes a reasonably-sized 3.0" low-temperature TFT-LCD, great for viewing album art, browsing your media library, and watching videos (for those who doubted it, an FCC document indicates that the latter is supported).

Proof, once again, that the Zune contains a spinning platter.

Housed within the Zune is a 3.7V Li-Ion battery. It looks to be non-user-replaceable, but we'll learn more about this in the coming weeks.

The FCC's product testing environments are never visually appealing, but thanks to their provision of Zune-related images, we forgive 'em.

Black is back.

And apparently, so is chocolate brown.

Seeing images like this prompts an important question. Will the Zune only connect and talk to Windows-based PCs, or will it befriend Macs as well? iTunes' compatibility with both Windows and Mac OS has helped the iPod transform into a raging success worldwide. Microsoft owes it to itself to follow suit.

Storage Matters: The Zune's 30 GB Toshiba Hard Drive

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 02:27 PM

Pictured above is the 1.8 inch Toshiba hard drive that, according to the FCC documents at least, is going to come in the Zune when it's released later this year (I should note that Toshiba is making the Zune for Microsoft, in case earlier posts weren't clear on that point). The size of the hard drive is 30 gigabytes, and I wanted to discuss that for a moment. The question is, is 30 GB big enough for the first Zune on the market? According to a 2004 study by Jupiter Research, 90% of people who have a digital music collection have less than 1000 songs. Two and a half years later, one could bet that number has risen - let's be generous and say it has doubled and the average consumer has a music collection of around 2000 songs. Let's say roughly 3 MB per song (again, over-shooting the size a bit) and we have around 6000 MB of total storage required.

But wait, you say, what about video? That's something that is a bit of a mystery - I'm not aware of any consumer studies involving how much of a digital video collection people have, and how much of that they'd want to take with them on a device. I'd be willing to bet that it's not very big. Let's factor in another 2000 MB of video files, giving us 8 GB of total media storage. [If those numbers seem small, remember that by reading this site, you're not average by any means.]

Where am I going with this? Even though as an early-adopter type, 30 GB doesn't impress me much and I'd love to see more storage, I think the Zune team knows 30 GB is the sweet spot between keeping the price of the Zune low and the amount of storage the average consumer needs. Toshiba makes an 80 GB drive that would fit in the Zune, but it would drive up the overall cost of the Zune.

Here's what I think Microsoft should do: release a high-end version of the Zune in parallel with the 30 GB Zune, say a "Zune Extreme", that has a massive 80 GB drive. Why? Several reasons. First, it would trump the current iPod lineup by 20 GB. The Zune is going head to head with the iPod - make no mistake about it. For early adopters, the people willing to take a chance on an unknown product, specs matter. Early adopters are also less price-sensitive than mainstream consumers (these are the people who drop $900 USD on a Qtek 9000), so even if the 80 GB Zune sold for $449 I think people who want the most high-end Zune they can get would pay for it. Early tech adopters also tend to be quite different from the average consumer with their media collections, so in many ways 30 GB just won't cut it for these users.

Will the Zune only come in a 30 GB version? Right now, it's looking like it. We'll have to watch the FCC for more documents, because if there is another version, it will go through the same clearance process the first one did. What do you think - would you be willing to pay $449 USD for an 80 GB Zune?

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