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Electronics makers hawk solid products



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The items meant to enhance consumers' digital lifestyles.

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The world's premier consumer electronics show wouldn't be complete without the fanciful and outlandish: A smart oven preserved and cooked meals based on remote commands, while a 102-inch plasma TV -- taller than the 8-foot walls in many homes -- inspired ooohs and aaahs from couch potatoes. But manufacturers at this year's gadgetfest generally took a more modest approach: They eschewed the flamboyant and futuristic in favor of relatively affordable devices that will debut within weeks or months, not years.

Many of the 2,400 exhibitors at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week hawked simple, elegant, sub-$1,000 items meant to enhance consumers' "digital lifestyles."

Examples

Universal remote controls, hand-held computers, digital camcorders, MP3 players and TVs that can be programmed from cell phones help users stay plugged into a world of digital music, video, games, television and Internet.

"We're encouraged by the real-world products at affordable price points this year," said Mike George, chief marketing officer at Dell Inc.

Although the 2005 show is light on breathless enthusiasm, the realism thrills skeptics who have been hearing technologists' gush about the "wired home" since the mid-1980s.

"It always remained something that was likely to happen tomorrow," said Michael Greeson, founder of The Diffusion Group, a consumer electronics think tank based in Plano, Texas. "The problem was that tomorrow never arrived, and the digital home was becoming a vacuous concept, somewhat of a pipe-dream. But this is no longer the case."

Among the interesting gizmos on display at the show running Thursday to Sunday:

UThe NevoSL universal remote control from Universal Electronics Inc. Even Microsoft Corp.'s chairman, Bill Gates, complained Wednesday that consumers are bogged down with too many remotes for TVs, DVDs, VCRs and stereos. UE's device, expected to debut in the second quarter for about $800, can control all home theater and stereo equipment. It features a 3.5-inch diagonal LCD color display, 17 programmable keys and a scroll wheel.

UA gaming-video-music console called Gizmondo by Tiger Telematics Inc. It fits in your pocket and can play games, send text messages, snap photos and perform other digital feats, but it doesn't act as a cell phone. Launched in the United Kingdom in October for $420, Gizmondo will be available in the United States within three months, but U.S. pricing hasn't been finalized.

UOjo personal video phone from Motorola Inc. It will begin shipping in early spring for about $700 and features video at 30 frames per second and virtually no latency. The phone can make calls over the Internet and will require a broadband connection. Unlimited domestic and international video calls will cost about $14.95 per month, making it ideal for far-flung grandparents and small business owners who can't afford to travel. The Ojo acts as a traditional cordless phone if the person called doesn't have an Ojo.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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