10 Things You Need to Know About Gadgets
1. Pinnacle Studio 11($50)
Prepare to have all your previous notions of user-created content vaporized. The basic flavor of this $50 (there are premium models available for more) editing and production system turns almost any PC into a full-on production studio. Expect 2008 to be the year that the lines between consumer and professional content blur into oblivion.
2. Runco WP-42HD ($8,995)
Don't let the absurd price and/or Runco's techno pedigree fool you: Big-time panel maker Planar bought out this company last year, so Runco will have more mainstream clout. And it looks like watching TV in the great outdoors is its fresh offering to the wider market. The WP-42HD is a weatherproof, dust-proof LCD panel that can stand up to life in the wild. Consider it a done deal that there will be other outdoor TVs by the 2008 holiday season. Talk about a new marketing niche.
3. The Solio ($100)
You think iPhones and iPods are hot now - just wait until the pain of having to recharge the things goes the way of the cassette. A new line of legitimately mainstream solar chargers is coming out now. And these power sources are completely bereft of green spin: Sure it may not be the stuff of Nobel Prizes, but the Solio looks good and saves money on batteries.
4. Windows Home Server (approximately $1,000)
When it finally crawls out of beta at the end of this year, the Microsoft Home Server will be just that: a server for the home. The unit is essentially an all-in-one digital fridge that stores all your movies, music and content. Considering push chip makers like Intel and AMD are making in-home servers - and the serious lead blood-rival Apple has in the home-media environment - expect Windows-based home servers as a product line to get cheap fast. You'll see a terabyte of local storage in some homes by the end of 2008.
5. VUDU ($399)
Don't make the mistake of labeling the VUDU as another Web media flop à la Microsoft TV. Not only is the VUDU the most elegant and easiest-to-use way to connect to the Web - no pc required - and get video content (5,000 titles!) on your TV, but it is backed by the take-no-prisoners folks at Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital, among others. The bottom line here - upper-tier cable marketers, listen up - is that the VUDU will cut into traditional cable - and telecom-dominated pay-per-view and premium channel business. The product is that good.
6. MeezMaker (free)
The synthetic versions of people found in places like Second Life can now travel on mobile phones. Two companies, one called Meez and the other Vringo, announced in late September the ability to create and host their customers' avatars on cell phones. As of now, about two dozen phones are supported. But expect that number to grow. And Meez already claims about 2.8 million users.
7. The Airspan WiMax data card (price TBA)
With WiMax getting into real deployment in 2008, it should come as no surprise that data cards that can connect laptops and other mobile devices up to these networks will be hitting the market as well. The MiMax USB card from Airspan will bring roughly 2-megabyte download speeds to any USB-enabled device within range - which is just about everywhere on any of the growing number of WiMax networks nationwide. Getting connected becomes a no-brainer.
8. GE InfoLink DECT 6.0($180)
GE wasn't satisfied with rolling out the new DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) cordless phones, which smokes cordless standards like 5.8 GHz. The company created a base station which connects the phone to your home network and Internet. That little private screen built into your home phone can be fed content just like any pc, portable device or cell phone. Actually, it can be fed better content on many levels, since the telephone is already built right in. If there is a more attractive emerging marketing environment, we would like to see it.
9. Microsoft Office for Mac 2008 (price TBA)
In the strangest coda to the Apple/Windows pc battle, Microsoft is gearing up for a major new product launch for - get this - the Mac. Early whispers say Microsoft Office for Mac 2008 is being reimagined for Leopard, Apple's new operating system. If Apple plays its cards right, Office could emerge as the killer app for the fast-growing small-business computer category. If so, expect Apple's share of the pc market to finally break the 10 percent barrier in the Windows-dominated market.
10. Netgear HDXB101 ($180)
Despite the rollout of WiMax, expect yet another broadband player to emerge in 2008: data offered over existing power lines. Yes, data over power lines has been the classic networking non-starter. But with every major router company shipping power-line routers, and several network providers offering access to the Internet via power lines, by the end of 2008 there will be commercially available - if rare - TVs and other appliances that plug directly into the Web via the wall outlet.