Thursday, January 11, 2007

Friday Tech files - CES special

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the salmon returning to the spawning grounds of their youth, technical buyers descend on the CES conference in Las Vegas every year to see the newest gadgets. This year CES was deftly overshadowed in most of the press by the announcement of the iPhone, and presumably the techies get less spawning opportunities than salmon... but still here's a rundown of some gadgets that have a lot of people talking.

== Verizon TV service ==

That's not internet streaming video but actually a real, normal TV channel being shown through the Verizon MediaFLO service. MediaFlO is a fancy word for 20 channels of analog TV transmitting in the old UHF spectrum (no joke!) is what is reportedly good quality. The screen is much smaller than the iPhone screen, at least on the LG and Samsung phones shown so far. The phone above is the LG VX-9400, a 4 ounce VCast music phone with camera, MP3 player and memory slot.

I suppose the real questions will be how easy it is to watch TV on a 2 inch screen (iPhone has a 3.5 inch screen), and how good a job Verizon does of getting the signal into subways and elevators.

== The iRiver Unit 2 blows people away ==

IRiver has turned up on the Tech Files here a number of times and they are clearly a company to watch. The so called "Unit 2" was apparently a last minute addition to the CES lineup and since the company hadn't thought they were going to introduce it there is no official product name yet. "Unit 2" is just what everybody was calling it.

Surprise, it was a hit!

The base station plays CDs, DVDs (on the screen you see, which docks on the speakers), all sorts of multimedia files, and even television signals. The video screen pops off to become a portable media player at 800x480 resolution so you can take the video with you or do whatever you want.

As if that wasn't enough it has a remot, GPS, and it's a phone! It has 30 GB onboard to store your movies and photos (set it to slideshow when you're not using it and it can play background music and show photos until the phone rings).

As if that isn't enough it also has wi-Fi so it connects to the network in your house, network radio so you can listen to any radio station in the world over the internet, streaming and dowload services, and it can read SD memory to view pictures or transfer files.

Good grief! No wonder it drew a crowd. The slick design is pretty promising as well.

== Vista's overlooked feature ==

One often overlooked feature in Windows Vista is the poorly-named slideshow mode. In this mode the computer is in a powersaving state while still accepting limited inputs and providing video through the external monitor port.

As conceived the mode is for displays or presentations but Eleksen, the people behind the iPod Jacket and the rolling keyboard, have come up with a concept laptop bag with an external display and some fabric buttons.

In principle the screen could show you recent emails as they arrive (by wifi or cellular modem presumably) or could be the display of your music player program while you use the buttons for control.

Neat, but won't we all be using iPhones by next year ? :)

Have a good weekend,

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