Staying happy and cool at CES

Staying happy and cool at CES

A canceled flight, big crowds, long cab lines and even lost luggage couldn't deter my enthusiasm at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show, the annual trade show that gets bigger each year. Among the large TVs (Samsung was showing the world's first 102-inch TV screen), digital cameras and home theater speakers were some pretty cool network and storage devices. While some of these products might not be out for a few months, the following devices and technologies got me pumped up:

SanDisk, a leader in the portable storage market, impressed me with its innovative Secure Digital Flash memory card that also includes built-in USB connectivity. Within the form factor of the Secure Digital card sits a USB connector, eliminating the need for a Flash card reader. For example, a digital camera user can take the Secure Digital card out of the camera, snap open the USB connector and insert the card into a USB port for instant access to the photos. Simply amazing. SanDisk says products with the new design will be introduced in the first quarter of this year. Storage capacities are expected to be as high as 1G byte for the new card.

Buffalo Technology continues to raise the bar with some of its products, and this year's CES offerings were no different.It was hard to pick one favorite from the three new products Buffalo launched: an 802.11g wireless version of its LinkStation Network Storage Center (between US$350 and US$550, depending on storage capacity, due in February), a 1T-byte (yes, terabyte) network-attached storage (NAS) system (the TeraStation HD-H1.OTGL/R5, about US$999, due in February), and the LinkTheater high-definition wireless media player (PC-P3WG/DVD, US$350, due in February), which not only streams music and photos wirelessly from a computer to a TV but also includes a DVD player and can stream Windows Media Video high-definition files.

Archos always has led the way in portable media players and has come out with another impressive device. Its new Pocket Media Assistant combines audio and video playing capabilities with a wireless connection (802.11b), a Linux platform and personal information management features such as a calendar, contacts and to-do lists.

The PMA430 includes an LCD touchscreen and 30G-byte hard drive, and can act as a USB host for attaching other storage peripherals. For example, users can directly connect their digital camera to the device to transfer photos, or attach a USB-enabled keyboard and use the device as a miniature laptop (at least for the personal information manager functions). The wireless connection provides Internet access at public hot spots and other wireless locations, and the Linux platform allows for additional applications (Archos says it will soon release a software developer's kit for the device.) The Pocket Media Assistant is expected to ship by the end of this month for about US$800.

Maxtor has entered the NAS market with its Maxtor Shared Storage device (US$300 to US$400, depending on storage capacity, due in February), which connects to a home network and provides the ability to store and share all a user's music, photos, videos and other documents among all of the computers on a network.

While NAS is not a brand-new category, marketing it toward consumers is new, and Maxtor seems to have done a good job with its user interface (we haven't tested it yet) to make installation and management a simple task. For example, a user can take all the files he wants to transfer to the device, and the system will automatically sort the files by file type, and organize them in different files.

We've got more CES coverage online - check out our Giant Big Box of CES Fun, and the CES Report on Network World Fusion Radio, highlighting the products and trends from the show.

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