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Back to Contents of Issue: February 2003

The Best of J@pan Inc's Newsletters: Gadget Watch, Wireless Watch and Music Media Watch

Sony's Portable Audio NW-MS70D
Lord, how sweet is this? Sony has just announced a totally beautiful Network Walkman and, while I wouldn't normally say this in mixed company, I lust after it. With a passion. It's unbelievably sexy in chunky titanium with a sweet, organic-looking USB-compatible docking cradle that looks like it's been born rather than molded. Only the decidedly unsexy name that Sony's chosen -- "MS70D" -- can ruin the mood. Anyway, got to snap out of it and get down to details: 256 MB of onboard memory means up to 11 hours and 40 minutes of ATRAC3 musical bliss and much more if you take advantage of the player's Memory Stick Duo slot. And if that wasn't good enough, Sony's "Virtual Mobile Engine" technology used in the player means a vast improvement in battery life, giving 33 hours of ATRAC3 playback and 28 hours of the ATRAC3 plus variety. I could wibble on with all the tech specs and other details, but trust me, take a look at it on Sony's site and you'll want to buy it. Seriously. It works with Windows 98 SE, Me, 2000 and XP. Open price, but approximately 40,000 yen. To be released on February 10, 2003.

More info: www.sony.jp

Mouse Computer I-FRIEND-51YB
If you're in the market for a high-end PC but don't want to get another loan against your house to buy it, Yodobashi Camera has just the thing for you. On the retailer's direct sales Web site, you can take advantage of a special discount plan and get a PC powerhouse for under 100,000 yen if you get your reservation in early.

Very nearly a cube in shape, the computer's dimensions are 185x300x200 mm, but it's not the neat shape that's really impressive; it's the punch the thing packs. With a 2-GHz Pentium 4CPU, 512 MB of DDR SDRAM (a drop of the good stuff), a massive 80-gig hard drive, a multifunction combo DVD/CD-RW drive that could probably put out the trash at the end of the day as well if you asked it, an onboard 5.1 channel-compatible sound chipset, Firewire, optical digital out, VGA, Ethernet and two USB 2.0 ports, to name just a few of the options round the back and running on Windows XP Home Edition, this is a seriously loaded machine. And it's finished in a super-cool jet black casing. Put it on a shelf against a wall and not even your geometrically gifted friends will realize it's a bit deeper than it is wide and tall. Open price, but order for 100,000 yen with discounts.

More info: www.mouse-jp.co.jp

GM, FedEx to Test Fuel-Cell Vehicle on Tokyo Streets
IN BRIEF: General Motors (GM) and Federal Express (FedEx) announced in December a joint program to advance fuel-cell technology by conducting the first commercial test of a fuel-cell vehicle in Tokyo.

FedEx will participate in GM's HydroGen3 fuel-cell testing program for one year by operating the HydroGen3 on its normal delivery schedules in the Tokyo area from June 2003 to June 2004. GM's HydroGen3 is the first fuel-cell vehicle fueled with liquid hydrogen to run on public roads in Japan.

COMMENTARY: Tokyo is becoming a major international spot for fuel-cell vehicles. Already, five fuel-cell-powered cars hit the road in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district in December, the first official use of the eco-friendly cars on public roads. Toyota Motor is leasing four of its FCVH fuel-cell vehicles to four government bodies, while Honda Motor is renting one FCX fuel-cell model to the Cabinet Office. Toyota charges 1.2 million yen a month for a 30-month lease, while Honda charges 800,000 yen a month over one year.

Fuel-cell vehicles are one of Japan's "national projects" envisioned by prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. Japanese auto executives have been saying publicly that fuel-cell powered cars won't be a real option for most consumers until 2010 or so. But privately, those same executives have been bearing down on their top engineers to bring out this technology faster. Honda and Toyota are especially eager to stake their claim in the global market for fuel-cell cars, and so far, they've been out in front of other carmakers.

No Japan Impact as CEO Sir Chris Gent Leaves Vodafone
Vodafone's chief executive, Chris Gent, announced in December that he is to resign from his position in July. His successor is the 48-year-old Arun Sarin.

CSFB telecoms analyst Mark Berman said in December that, given the fact that the triumvirate that runs Japan Telecom/J-Phone (Bill Morrow, John Durkin and Darryl Green) are all Americans and not apparently closely tied to Gent, "We see little near-term impact on the Japan operations from this leadership change at Vodafone."

Berman also stated that Gent was a "big-picture type of leader, and thus the aggressive move into Japan was largely his doing." He concludes that so long as Japan Telecom/J-Phone continue to execute on the turnaround in profitability, he sees no reason that the new president would try to interfere with Japan operations. He adds, "Japan Telecom is now Vodafone's golden goose."

Sharp Auvi Excellence SD-SG40
Sharp's championing of 1-bit audio continues unabated, as the SD-SG40 is revealed to the world. With an integral 1-bit digital amp, the new "Auvi Excellence" gear samples at 5.6 MHz, which is 128 times higher a sampling rate than regular CDs (as opposed to 64). Clearly, this will make the music sound at least 128 times better than anything you've ever heard before and generally be utterly astonishing. The system has an 80-W combined maximum output and combines an MDLP-capable MiniDisc player, CD player and AM/FM tuner.

It may not be the study in silver a lot of folks are used to seeing with new AV kits these days, but the stylishly mini-malist black exterior and (with the exception of the supplied subwoofer) the "all-in-one" one-box setup would make a great centerpiece in anyone's home. 150,000 yen.

More info: www.sharp.co.jp

Kumazaki Aim NE-388 audio system
For a company that appears to be able to provide a veritable Aladdin's cave of products, knocking out everything from battery chargers to air conditioners and window cleaners, Kumazaki Aim has miraculously produced a pretty stylish touch-panel CD system with a credit card -- size remote. The big deal with this system, however, is that there are no buttons on the fascia at all -- users simply prod their pinky at the LCD display to operate the various functions. Very neat. The NE-388 has a CD player that will play all your (perfectly legal, officer) CD-R/RW discs, a built-in AM/FM tuner and -- you're going to love this bit -- seven different colors for that backlit LCD touch panel display, which you can hopefully turn off. It's a shelf-type mini-system, weighing only 2.5 kg and with dimensions of 470x145x205 mm -- small and light enough, claims Kumazaki Aim, to hang it on a wall. You go first. 14,800 yen.

More info: www.kumazaki-aim.co.jp

IO HVR-HD240S "Data Rec-POT S"
The Rec-POT S is a smart little silver box with some purty little LED lights on the front panel that uses its built-in BS tuner to stream BS digital broadcasts via iLINK to the hard disk and, using the special remote control that comes with the unit, displays an easy to understand GUI (Graphical User Interface) up on your TV screen just like Sky does at home in the US (or UK). In fact, the software uses exactly the same "Broadcast Markup Language" (BML) as standard BS digital units, so you'll find your way around easy enough. The hard disk is huge -- the product's full name kinda gives it away -- at 240 GB, which makes the 20-gig Sky boxes look very weeny indeed. This warehouse-size capacity allows up to 21 hours of high-vision BS-satellite recording in HD mode and, thanks to an additional D-VHS mode and a disc mode that is compatible with Sony-made tuners, it will act just like a VCR, too. Open price, but approximately 120,000 yen.

More info: www.iodata.co.jp

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