Gadgets galore

Line between business and consumer blurs as users demand better displays, storage and mobility

Online forum

Join Staff Writer Doug Beizer at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday, Feb. 21, for an online forum. He'll discuss and take questions on the latest technology trends on display at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Michael Bechetti

Booming surround sound and a 108-inch plasma screen TV might be the perfect setup for a Final Four party, but like much of the technology found at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the line between consumer electronics and business electronics is blurring.

Here's a roundup of some of the technology that might find its way into your office, living room or backpack.

Ultra mobile PC

Portable and wireless ? big themes at this year's show ? are embodied in OQO Inc.'s latest ultra portable. The San Francisco handheld PC-maker's model 02 PC weighs less than a pound and can run Windows Vista. Faster and brighter than its predecessor, it features a shock-mounted hard drive and drop detect technology.

With EV-DO Wireless WAN, WiFi and Bluetooth support, it can connect wirelessly to other devices and the Internet. The small unit has a backlit thumb keyboard, track stick and capacitive TouchScrollers for input and navigation. Its price starts at $1,499, and the 02 is available with a 1.5-GHz processor, 60G hard drive, 1G of RAM and integrated mobile broadband data capability.

USB Fingerprint Reader

Fingerprint readers such as Upek Inc.'s TCRE3C Eikon on display here could end midnight calls on password lockouts, passwords scribbled on sticky notes and some user memory failure: What was it I changed my password to? Plug it into a notebook PC's USB port and, combined with Protector Suite QL security software from the Emeryville, Calif., company, it provides an "always-on" experience. It can be used to log in to Windows with the single swipe of a finger; to establish a password bank for storing login information for registered Web sites and applications and to lock and unlock the system.

Quartics PC2TV

The market for melded technologies ? like mobile phones and digital music players ? continues to grow. Quartics Inc. of Irvine, Calif., has a family of products that lets video content from a PC play on a TV. The PC and the TV communicate wirelessly via Quartics' processors.

Quartics PC2TV technology lets users wirelessly stream content from a desktop or notebook PC to any of several displays, including a television, projector or a second monitor. As a PC with a WiFi connection picks up the signal from the Quartics device, it can download the Quartics software to the computer, letting the user wirelessly send the content to the display without buffering. The PC and the TV communicate wirelessly via Quartics processors. A Quartics-enabled TV display provides instructions to a PC user to download a simple driver wirelessly directly from the Quartics processor. In less than a minute, the driver is installed and the user can watch any video content from the PC on virtually any display.

Sony VAIO UX Micro PC

Thumb drives, flash memory digital music players and solid state external drives. Could such products hint at an end for technology with moving parts such as hard drives?

Advancing the trend, if it is a trend, Sony Electronics Inc. introduced a flash-based version of its VAIO UX Micro PC. The newest version, the UX Premium Micro PC, comes equipped with an Intel Core Solo processor, wireless LAN and WAN access capabilities, a 4.5-inch widescreen display and a complete keyboard, -all in a size small enough to fit in your pocket.

The key differentiator for the UX Premium Micro PC however, is the unit's 32G flash memory drive. It makes for faster boot-up, program access and data saves. Sony boasts of reliable data storage, ensured by the tough little device's lack of moving parts, which are susceptible to damage from falls and collisions. And no spinning disk means less power consumed and longer battery life.

TDK 200GB Blu-ray Disc

While there is still some dispute as to what will be the next-generation disc technology, Blu-ray could still be found all over the Consumer Electronics Show. TDK Corp. displayed its latest Blu-ray Disc technology, highlighting a 200G blue laser disc. The prototype 200G blue laser disc stores about 18 hours of high-definition video, encoded at 24-Mbps. These massive capacity discs are ideally suited for backing up high-definition editing sessions and archives.

Philips Plasma HDTV

Giant flat-panel TVs were easily one of the brightest stars of the show. Sharp Electronics Inc.'s new 108-inch LCD TV garnered lots of attention. A good example of a high-definition TV that will surely find its way into conference rooms as well as living rooms this year is the 63-inch Plasma HDTV from Philips International Corp. The neck-bending monitor has 1080p ("p" for "progressive scan," which provides the maximum lines of resolution and best image quality in HDTV) resolution designed to work with 1080p Blu-ray discs. The TV also uses Philips' Pixel Plus 3 HD technology, which enhances content from already pristine sources such as HD signals and DVDs. Pixels of an incoming picture are altered to match surrounding pixels resulting in an image that is brilliant and natural looking.

Dell Gaming PC

Gaming is a cornerstone of consumer electronics and an important tool for training. And this year's show featured a wide array of consoles, controllers and monitors for use with gaming applications. Dell Inc.'s new XPSTM 710 H2C High Performance Gaming PC [$5,499] incorporates a two-stage cooling process. First, a liquid-to-air heat exchanger works like a car's radiator and fan system to remove heat from the processor. Then, ceramic thermoelectric cooling modules like those used in space shuttles remove additional heat. Sensors help keep the processor slightly above ambient room temperature, preventing condensation and frost from forming. An optional dual NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card provides up to 86.4-Gbps of graphics performance for clarity.

Westinghouse 3-D monitor

Powerful gaming consoles and computers need top notch displays, and there was no
shortage of flat panel/high definition offerings in Las Vegas. Westinghouse Digital Electronics previewed a 22-inch, 3-D monitor. Combined with special glasses, the monitor is designed to be an immersive experience that causes little fatigue even after hours of use. A release date has not been announced yet.

Currently available is the Westinghouse 22-inch LCM-22w2 LCD multifunctional monitor. It has multiple A/V inputs, an HD-Grade panel, wide 1680 x 1050 resolution, a 90-pixels per inch, 700:1 contrast ratio, and an ultra-wide viewing angle.

NetGear Skype WiFi Phone

Voice over IP is quickly becoming the norm for telephones and communications. NetGear Inc.'s Skype WiFi Phone approaches the technology in an interesting way. It looks like a standard cell phone but it is actually a wireless Internet phone that can make free calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world, anytime the user has WiFi access, without a PC. Up to 200 contacts are shown on the phone's color display, indicating who is online. Calls to ordinary phones can be made using SkypeOut for pennies a minute.

Heatsoft Synchronizer

As storage hardware leads toward a "no delete" world, software will be needed to manage all that data. Heatsoft Corp. of Las Vegas displayed a Windows utility that lets users compare multiple folders side-by-side, and synchronize folders' contents. Heatsoft Automatic Synchronizer is designed for an automatic synchronization, backup, replication and mirroring of important files on most storage media or even between two computers on a network. Files can be synchronized between servers, desktop or notebook PCs, LANs, ZIP disks, secondary hard disks and more. Comparison and sychronization of multiple folders simultaneously can be done in manual mode with a single mouse click or in automatically by using the scheduler.

Staff Writer Doug Beizer can be reached at

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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