Even for gadgeteers, the general availability of Windows 7 beta (download) is big, strapping news. After all, those slick new monitors only frame the operating system--it's what's on the screen that counts. Microsoft's first update to the much maligned Vista operating system adds a slew of visual and security tweaks and new services. Here's what we think of them.
Speaking of operating systems, everyone is going ga-ga over the new Palm Pre, Palm's comely new touch screen phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard--including us. If the Pre's software brains are as good as its looks, Palm could succeed in snagging developers' interest in filling up its newly released AppStore with sweet new apps. That is, if Palm nails down a strategy first.
Slacker made good on its word given in September to produce a mobile version of its streaming Internet radio for BlackBerry. The special sauce? Slacker Radio for BlackBerry caches songs as they play, allowing you to store stations on your Micro SD card and play them back sans Internet connection, while you fiddle with e-mail, texts, and games. Yowza! Slacker Radio for iPhone should be available any day.
Sure, P2P file sharing may sound social, but how much do you actually interact beyond a cursory 'please' and 'thank you'? A lot less than you might if LimeWire's vision pans out. LimeWire 5.0 beta will let you make your photos and such available to just pals on your contact list, or to any other LimeWire user. Right now it works for Jabber-compatible services like Gmail, but if it takes off, other chat clients could follow--good news if your multinetwork app doesn't do file transfers yet.
Skype has got heavy competition, but the popular VoIP client that made a big splash in 2003 has made a necessary move in Skype Lite. The 'thin' Java client takes a back-to-basics approach with calling and instant messaging on five big phone brands: Nokia, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Plus one to grow on--the T-Mobile G1 running Google Android.
Opera's new SDK for device manufacturers won't blow your socks off by itself, but it could benefit consumers with set-top boxes and connected TVs in the future, and possibly even Wiiheads indirectly (but don't hold your breath.) The new release boosts scrolling and zooming sppeds, and Opera Link, which syncs bookmarks on the fly with what you've got on Opera Mini, Opera Mobile, or the Opera desktop browser for Windows and Mac.
The more you know about a company, the greater chance you'll make a sale. That's the idea, anyhow, behind Hoover's two new mobile apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile phones. Both the free and subscription versions will give suits in the field in-depth details about the companies around them, including earning, executives' phone numbers, and key competitors. That's a lot of corporate data on demand.