Though not yet on sale, Sony's new PlayStation Vita portable game system is already available for consumer testing at your friendly neighborhood Game Stop outlet. That's good news for gamers, and also got me to wishing for a couple other "try before you buy" opportunities. Can I hear an "amen," Canon and Vizio?
Vita-lized: While hardly a spur of the moment buy, starting at $249, Sony's PlayStation Vita has a lot going on. Start with a great looking display, a nice light feel and some nifty new performance features - including rear mounted touch controls (!) - that gamers will want to try out. And far more than its PlayStation Portable predecessor, the PS Vita will be marketed (starting next week) as an all-in-one media player, connecting wirelessly on Wi-Fi or 3G (at added cost) to the newly unified Sony Entertainment Network for streaming and downloading of content. Not just games but also music and video.
Vita video games will cost less if you download rather then buy the titles at stores packaged on a new generation memory card. But how long will that download process take, and how much internal memory will it consume?
Not all of this is verifiable at Game Stop's um, play stations, though I'm told as many as eight launch games have been preloaded onto the in-store test units. That's a start.
Vizio's Big Play: While it's made quite the mark as a value TV brand, Vizio is about to plunge into another world - high end electronics - with the very first super widescreen (21:9) format TV to ever be sold in the United States. (Philips sells models in Europe.)
Contrary to posted reports, however, Vizio's 58-inch CinemaWide TV will not be "hitting retail stores" in March. Priced at $3,495, this luxury item is way too rich for the blood of Wal-Mart and Costco, where Vizio normally rules. And on the other side of the biz, high end audio/video retailers like World Wide Stereo which certainly could sell the product if they wanted, won't touch it with a ten foot pole, WWS exec Bob Cole told me. Vizio is the bane of their existence!
So how will Vizio sell the product? Directly to consumers at www.vizio.com. Therein lies the rub. Would you buy a $3,500 TV without seeing it first?
Reviewers will get their hands on a few test units (I've put in a request.) But I'm thinking Vizio really ought to take the plunge and set up kiosks in very public spaces, like shopping malls. to introduce people to the 21:9 TV concept. Explaining how even ultra-widescreen movies will no longer require "letterboxing" and CinemaWide sets also allow you to simultaneously watch a 16:9 ratio movie or game and (with the left over real estate) surf the net.
Canon Shots: In the camera world, Canon has a terrific reputation. Still, it's venturing into virgin territory with its soon coming (next month), digital point-and-shoot PowerShot ELPH 530 HS ($349.99) and ELPH 320 HS ($279.99) models. These are Canon's first to offer wireless sharing of images and videos. Yes, rival makers like Samsung and Panasonic already have Wi-Fi enabled cameras in their inventory, likewise for moving captured images to "the cloud" and your favorite social networking site.
But Canon's newbies will be the very first which also let users move images directly to an iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch via an app called Canon CameraWindow downloadable (soon) from the Apple App Store. This suggests a "best of both worlds" solution for shooters, skirting around the limitations of image capture directly on an iProduct.
Thing is, will the Canon sales force at Best Buy and Target stores be ready and willing to demonstrate this nifty image transfer feature and how it could change our lives? Should I phrase that "pretty please"?