Who do VUDU?

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Spring has sprung round these parts, bringing with it the promise of new life: trees are blooming, birds are singing, and most importantly , new gadgets are presumably on their way. There’s just something about this time of year, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of the latest in technological innovation. Maybe it’s the smell of plastics in the air. Or the ever so faint call of the wild microprocessor. Whatever it is, I think that it’s got my eyes tearing up. Oh, wait, no, that’s pollen .

On this week’s expedition into gadgets unknown, we’ve got some quality time with the Xbox 360 Elite; a new competitor for the Apple TV; and finally , a device that combines my love of clip art with my love of breakfast foods.

Like the Xbox 360, I am totally leet

Despite being Macworld’s resident Gadgetologist, my consumption of gizmos and doohickeys is pretty modest. However, I’d entered into a blood pact with several friends that we would all purchase Xbox 360s in order to play games with each other online. Knowing as I did about the forthcoming Elite model, I opted to hold out until it arrived in stores this past Sunday, with its capacious 120GB hard drive.

Unless you count my Nintendo DS portable, the Elite is the first game console I’ve ever bought for myself. Comparing the two is far beyond the scope of this article, so let’s say that a) the 360 is much, much bigger, b) the DS has a touch screen and Wi-Fi, and the 360 doesn’t, c) the 360 presumably features fewer games based on Pokemon.

Even though I’ve had the 360 for a few days, I’ve logged relatively little time on it. But I do have some initial impressions. For one thing, signing up for an Xbox Live account is cumbersome, to put it politely (memo to Microsoft: game controllers the ideal interface for text entry? not so much ), but once you’re on, there’s a wealth of content available (most of it, unfortunately, for an additional cost). Also Microsoft’s insistence on charging for something as banal as icons is a little galling, but that’s not surprising, given that they’re losing mucho dinero on the 360 itself, but there are free demos and movie trailers galore.

The Elite doesn’t solve one problem that many previous 360 owners have complained about, and that’s noise. Seriously, the console is so loud I thought that someone had left the fan in our bathroom on full blast. I presume that the fans need to be on constantly, and it’s not just some lazy schlub at Microsoft thinking: “let’s not bother ramping them up and down, just leave ‘em on full blast the whole time.” Because that would be irritating.

I’m looking forward to putting the Elite through its paces in the weeks to come, especially involving games that require shooting things. Preferably evil , zombie-like things.

Who do VUDU? You do VUDU!

The meshing of traditional video content with Internet distribution is rapidly becoming a major battleground. Apple made their entry into the fray with the Apple TV, but there are plenty of competitors out there, and more arriving every week.

The latest force to join the battle for the living room is a new company, VUDU, Inc., with their eponymous set top box. Like the Apple TV, the VUDU box has outputs for connecting to your TV, such as HDMI, S-video, and composite connectors, as well as an Ethernet port for connecting to your network. But that’s roughly where the similarities end: the VUDU box doesn’t require a PC to deliver fresh, steaming content right to your TV. Rather, it takes advantage of a distributed network to let you purchase content directly from the nifty scroll-wheel remote and start playing it nearly instantly.

All of that, of course, means little without content, so VUDU’s been making deals left and right with providers like Disney, Lionsgate, Paramount, Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. When the box is released, later this summer, VUDU hopes to have more than 5,000 titles available (that vastly dwarfs the just over 500 movies available on iTunes). No price has been announced yet, but the box itself is expected to be close to the Apple TV’s $299. Content will presumably be priced competitively to iTunes and other download services, though an all-you-can-eat subscription model, à la Netflix, would be most tempting .

Oh, and one reason Apple fans might be interested? VUDU Chairman Alain Rossman is an Apple vet, having worked on the original Macintosh. Presumably he learned a thing or two there. [via New York Times ]

Pop-Tarts meet Pop Art

You know I can’t resist indulging my delight for all sorts of culinary devices. Besides the 360—which was, in part, a birthday present to myself—most of my birthday presents this year were kitchen-related. I now, for example, possess a whisk, which is certainly not something I would have envisioned desiring a scant five years ago.

But enough about me; let’s talk about toast. One of my very favoritest foods in the whole wide world. We’ve seen plenty of toasters here in the Gadgetbox, but as far as I’m concerned, you can never have too many that sear images into the bread itself. Witness Target’s $35 Pop Art Toaster (oh, because the art pops up! So clever !). Six interchangeable design plates can imbue your breakfast with images of a flower, hearts, a snowflake, a smiley face, a cake, or, for the texters among you, the message “LUV U.” Honestly, I’d like to see the ability to write your own messages, such as the ever useful “INDIFFERENT U” or “WASH DISHES, PLZ.”

Better yet, you can get the toaster itself in your choice of black, white, red, or aqua, and if you want just two plates (a smiling sun or a coffee cup), you can pick up a black or white model for $5 cheaper. [via Shiny Shiny ]

And that’s just about enough out of me. Now it’s back to committing unspeakable acts via the Xbox 360. See you next week.

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