- The Washington Times - Monday, January 12, 2009

LAS VEGAS — Banking on the idea that consumers want new ways to tap their ever-growing collections of music, photographs and videos, Cisco Systems Inc. unveiled a media hub that lets people access and share songs, pictures and movies all over the home - and from afar, over the Internet.

Cisco unveiled the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub at the International Consumer Electronics Show. The hub can automatically synchronize, store and play content from numerous computers and devices.

The hub, which includes 500 gigabytes of storage space, is available in the U.S. for $300. A model that includes a memory card reader and LCD screen that shows such information as the amount of storage space available costs $350 to $430.

Palm plays catch-up with Pre

Palm Inc. unveiled a new touch-screen smart phone and operating system Thursday, marking its latest attempt to catch up with competition from Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry and Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show, Palm executives touted their Pre, which looks similar to the iPhone, with a face dominated mostly by a 3.1-inch touch screen and single button. The body of the Pre is black and slightly curved, with a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the bottom.

In an effort to capture business and consumer users, the Pre will come loaded with features including WiFi, stereo Bluetooth and GPS, as well as 8 gigabytes of storage space, a 3-megapixel camera and music and video playback. The Pre also has a variety of sensors, such as an accelerometer so images on the screen will rotate when a user turns the device on its side.

Many of these features are already available on rival phones, including the iPhone, the latest BlackBerry models and HTC Corp.’s G1 that was released in the fall by T-Mobile and Google Inc. Palm has been overshadowed in the last several years by the success of these products - especially by the growth of BlackBerry smart phones among business customers and, since its June 2007 release, of iPhones among consumer users.

According to data from comScore Inc., as of October, Palm devices accounted for about 15.6 percent of the U.S. smart phone market. Some of Palm’s smart phones run on its own operating system, while others use Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile operating system.

Palm, a pioneer in the market for hand-held digital assistants, now hopes its latest offering can stand out.

“We think it’s the one phone you can use for your entire life and you’ll really enjoy using it,” Palm CEO Ed Colligan said at a news conference.

The Pre will be available in the second half of the year, exclusively on Sprint Nextel Corp.’s wireless network. Palm did not disclose the price.

The device comes with Palm’s new operating system, Palm webOS, which the company also debuted Thursday. It is meant to connect various applications .

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