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Sun, Jan 08, 2006 - Page 12 News List

New products vie for attention with bells and whistles

Laptops powered by methanol fuel cells and digital cameras with wi-fi are just some of the offerings at the Las Vegas gadget show


With over 2,500 exhibitors stretched out over three massive convention centers, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the biggest gadget festivals in the world.

Featuring everything from massive televisions to tricked out cars and boats, there's hardly an electronic gadget on earth not represented in Las Vegas. But several devices stood out for extraordinary innovation, usefulness or efficiency -- or sometimes just for being madly over-the-top.

One laptop that every road warrior was drooling over came from Panasonic and boasted a fuel cell instead of a chemical battery. The new cell uses methanol and can run a laptop for up to 20 hours, throttling the flow of the fuel depending on the power needs of the device. Fuel will be provided in cartridges, though Panasonic has not determined how they will be sold or if they will be disposable or returnable for recharge.

While everyone was hoping that Sony would unveil its hotly awaited Playstation 3, the company confined itself to releasing new televisions, digital cameras and an electronic book reader that might one day do away with the need for paper books.

Easy on the eyes

The eReader will go on sale in April for about US$400, features a battery life of 7,500 page turns and a screen that uses technology from a company called E-Ink to minimize the glare and flicker that typically cause eye strain. The reader device will hold about 80 books in its internal memory, and Sony will sell digital texts at an online store.

Kodak was once considered a company on the verge of extinction as the emergence of digital photography undermined its main film products. But in a turnaround that will be studied for generations at business schools, the company changed direction and re-emerged as the market leader in creating powerful but easy-to-use digital cameras.

Its latest offering is the EasyShare V570, which includes a wide-angle lens and a regular lens that combine to make a 5x optical zoom that doesn't protrude from the body of the camera. The camera also carries built in wi-fi to allow images to be downloaded, printed or emailed without a computer.

Another company reinventing, technology bellwether Hewlett Packard (HP), underwent years of management upheaval as it struggled to cope with the massive changes in the tech world over the last decade.

Recent months have seen HP's financial results improve, and things will keep getting better if the company's first foray into flat-screen televisions is any indication.

At CES, HP introduced nine new high-definition TV models, including a 37-inch LCD television with built-in wired and wi-fi capability. That means owners can use the monitor to stream audio, video and photo slide shows from their PC and or the Internet.

Internet phones

Netgear Inc showed off the first wireless voice-over-Internet-protocol phone that doesn't require a computer. The networking equipment firm said it is working with Internet phone pioneer Skype to develop the Skype Wi-Fi phone, which can be used to make free calls over the Internet. Skype was purchased by eBay last year.

Bluetooth has long been touted for its ability to connect machines without the use of cables. One of its most popular uses has been to link headsets to mobile phones, with the drawback that such headsets have been relatively large to hold all the necessary Bluetooth technology.

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