Best new tech
Published: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 11:46 p.m.
Many of the most intriguing technologies at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas didn't promise digital nirvana. The coolest things at the show were simple devices that addressed a problem with clever ideas.
They won't change the world, but they can make your life better. Here are some:
1. The Hewlett-Packard TouchSmart PC gives the home computer a much-needed makeover. It has a touch screen and applications that are useful in the kitchen or living room. You can write a virtual sticky note on the screen to tell family members you went to the store. It sells for $1,799 starting in February.
2. WildCharge helps get rid of a bunch of tangled-wire chargers in the home by allowing you to put your cell phones and other handheld devices on top of a thin charging pad that delivers up to 90 watts of power. The devices absorb electricity from the pad even if they aren't connected to it. A 15-watt mini-version sells for $40 and the 90-watt WildCharger sells for $100. Available in the first half of 2007.
3. Dash Navigation could set itself apart from other global positioning system, or GPS, navigation devices. Its portable device for the dashboard, called Dash Express, can show you where to drive based on up-to-the minute traffic information.
If you slow down because of heavy traffic, it suggests an alternate route. It also will find anything nearby through Yahoo Local Search. You can send addresses from any computer to the Dash device, and get updates on maps and software. Priced at about $700, Dash will be available in Northern California in the first half of this year.
4. Most users of Skype Internet phones don't want to give up their old landline phones just to get free long-distance. Netgear accommodates those folks with a combination Netgear SPH200D phone that is both an Internet-based Skype phone and cordless phone at the same time.
When you make a call, such as a 911 call, you can choose to make it on the landline via the cordless phone. Or you can choose to make the call as a Skype call, which uses the broadband Internet and thus skips any long-distance fees. It is available now for $199.
5. Hewlett-Packard's MediaSmart Server is a great way to take all of the networked devices in your home and manage them with security and backup. The server is a box of hard drives that uses Microsoft's new Windows Home Server software, which enables you to manage your digital content and home devices from a Windows Vista PC. The good thing is that it can hit the market later this year for prices as low as $1,000.
6. Microsoft raised an intriguing promise when it said its Xbox 360 video game console will be able to serve by the end of the year as an Internet Protocol TV set-top box.
IPTV, which uses high-speed phone lines to send movies, TV and music to your TV set, makes the Xbox 360 as functional as an entertainment PC in your living room. And service providers such as AT&T conceivably could give away an Xbox 360 to get you to subscribe to IPTV service. The service provider will announce pricing when it launches later this year.
7. The HydraBrush is for the laziest of people. From Oralbotic Research, this eight-headed toothbrush can clean much of your mouth at the same time with eight microbrushes that operate at 810 strokes per minute. Oh yeah, this makes brushing your teeth faster. It can even massage your gums as you brush your top and bottom teeth at the same time. Available in the fall for $129.
8. The OQO Model 2 is a cool new handheld PC starting at $1,499. I used it at CES a lot because I needed to send news stories from inside hotel ballrooms where there was no wired or WiFi broadband access.
The OQO uses Sprint's cell phone broadband service to keep you connected anywhere you can get a cell phone signal. It looks nice, it can use either Windows XP or Windows Vista, and it's small enough to fit in a back pocket or a purse.
9. Sony Ericsson and Fossil teamed up to create an attractive MBW-100 wristwatch that connects to your cell phone via a Bluetooth wireless data connection.
You can read text messages on your watch face, and if you leave your phone behind, the watch will beep an alarm because it knows the phone isn't within the 30-foot Bluetooth range. Available now for $399.
10. The Total Hi-Def disc from Warner Bros. is a smart way to end the next-generation DVD format war. The company has figured out a way to put HD DVD on one side of a disc and Blu-ray on the other side.
Consumers have stayed away from buying the next-generation DVD players that only run incompatible HD DVD or Blu-ray discs, even though the images they can depict on big TVs are stunning. It may cost more than either disc by itself, but the solution will do: two 0.6 millimeter discs bonded together. They will be available in the second half of 2007. This means that if you buy either player now, it won't become obsolete because future discs will be guaranteed to have a format that will work in your machine.
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