Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sleek devices

In this post I’ll present you a few cool gadgets that are not yet available on the market. If you are interested in any of them please drop a comment and I’ll post detailed information about the producer and if possible availability date and planed price. Any other question is welcomed.

Sleek devices – Media Center PDA

In the last two years, PDAs started to loose terrain in front of smart-phones and portable media players. Big players on PDA’s market announced their intention to discontinue some of the most popular PDA lines (see Sony Clio and Dell Axim stories)

While everybody sees the PDA as a dead device, a newcomer company is planning to launch in the near future a sleek PDA on the market. It will not be marketed as a PDA but as a portable media player. Look for it in media players section at your local store and not in PDAs section.

When I first saw a prototype of this new gadget, I thought that it’s a clone of an Apple iPone or Apple iPod – or something between them. The device has a sleek look and feel, a big touch screen and a navigation wheel.

The only difference is the user interface. While very polished and fully accessible from the navigation wheel it is still different than the iPhone interface. Clearly, the company doesn’t try to create an iPone/iPod clone but a very sleek portable media player. From the main interface you have access to device main features: music player, video player, photo browser, voice recorder and FM radio.

Media can be transferred from your PC or Mac very easily using a piece of software similar to Apple iTunes. Besides the basic media management functions, this software has also the ability to transcode on the fly the media that you have on your computer or even standard DVDs. Other functions include the ability to download on the device videos from popular sites such as youtube and sleek integration with online music stores. All this content will be stored on the internal 16GB memory flash.

Now take a deep breath are read further! Until now you thought that this is the presentation of just other cool PMP. At a closer look at one side of the device I noted a stylus – just like in my Axim. I pulled the stylus and touched a very tiny symbol in the upper right corner. The flashy interface disappeared and I was in front a regular PocketPC! I was able to play with the usual Pocket PC applications (tasks, contacts, etc) and even read emails and browse the internet via the integrated wireless card.

It is amazing how a bit of hardware redesign and a sleek full screen media interface changed completely the look of an otherwise boring PocketPC. Media lovers will get the advantages of a full featured PDA for free, while the PDA lovers will not have to carry 2 devices (a PDA and a PMP) with them.

Sleek devices – PDA Notebook

The same company that is working on the Media Center PDA is planning to launch also a device that will sit between a traditional PDA and a notebook computer.
Basically it will look like a small 7’’ notebook with a screen resolution of 1024x768 and a notebook like keyboard. Other than that, it will have integrated WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G.

At this moment all similarities with a notebook stops here, because under cover the device is actually a PocketPC – priced like a PocketPC (some may comment that this will not be PocketPC but Windows CE).

With a price tag of a PDA but capabilities of a notebook, the device will certainly look appealing to customers looking for a lightweight, rugged notebook that will be used mainly for text entry, emails and web browsing (eg. students and managers).

Sleek devices – Enhanced portable DVD player

If you ever visited a local electronics store you certainly noticed all those models of portable DVD players. People are using them on the plain or in the car to entertain themselves of their kids.

This new device, that will hopefully make it to the market, is actually an enhanced portable DVD player with the following cool features:

- DivX/XVid player
- MP3 player
- TV and FM tuner
- Embedded games

Imagine yourself in transit at airport X, waiting for the next flight and in the same time watch news on a local TV station. People from Florida may also use it like an emergency TV/Radio during hurricane season ;-). And if you still don’t find anything to watch then switch to game mode and play one of the 10 embedded games.

Sleek devices – Sleek Media Center PC

The offer of Media Center PCs (a special PC that can sit in the living room, next to the rest of your AV equipment) is for sure very big.

Still all available offers have two things in common: bulky and pricey. And all this because the producers are trying to put inside only the latest processors and huge amounts of RAM and HDDs.

A newcomer company found out that the average person doesn’t want to pay more for a media center PC than his paying for a regular DVD player. Basically, the average person wants a sleek, cheap and lightweight media center PC.

After this research this company decided to lunch a niche media center product. With a VIA mini-ITX motherboard, 500MHz processor and 256MB RAM this PC has just enough power to run Windows Media Center OS. The media decoding (eg. your DivX or DVD movies) is done via a secondary hardware processor.

With this architecture the company is trying to offer the best from both worlds: a sleek and cheap (~$100) media center PC with a regular DVD player profile but in the same time an opened platform powered by a Microsoft OS. Regular users will use it like a media player, while advanced users will be able to customize the interface via additional plug-ins or run special server type software (web servers, FTP servers, etc.). The possibilities are endless.

Sleek devices – Networked Kill-A-Watt devices

Let me clarify from the beginning – the device presented in this post is not related with Kill-A-Watt or produced or endorsed by P3 international. It even doesn’t have yet a name! I used Kill-A-Watt in the beginning of this post to make myself better understood.

As compared to Kill-A-Watt, this device one great feature: the ability to network several devices and then download their measured data in a PC. Just buy one of these devices for each electrical/electronic device you have in your house and a USB module for your computer.

From the moment you connect an appliance to one of this devices, it will start log, with 1 minute resolution, in its internal flash memory the instantaneous power consumption and the frequency. The internal memory is big enough to collect data for more than 3 months, time after will start removing older entries.

Next install the supplied software on your computer and connect the USB module to an available USB port. This will start poling all devices in the home and download their internal flash memory content into your PC. All this information will be used by the software to draw graphs and make statistics on different devices in your home. Since all devices have their own internal memory you don’t have to keep the PC opened at all times. Just remember to poll the devices at least ones at every 3 month to avoid losing older data.

Sleek devices – Networked battery operated lights

Make a visit at your local hardware store and go to illumination section. You’ll find there several solutions for adding battery operated lights under kitchen counters or in attics or closets.

Most solutions consists in simple battery powered LED light fixtures that you can install yourself using double sided adhesive tape. The only problem with all these solutions is that you have to touch several points if you want to turn on or off all the lights in a closet.

A newcomer company is proposing to launch a wireless networked battery operated light kit that you can install yourself in a closet or under a cabinet. The kit consists in 5 lights and 2 switches: a magnetic switch and a wall applicable switch. All pieces can be putted in place using adhesive tape.

Just put all these lights in a closet and place the magnetic switch at the door. In the moment you open the closet door all lights will turn on. When you close it they’ll turn off. A very simple wireless protocol is implemented in each switch and light fixture. By selecting a channel number on the back of each device, you can create up to 10 light networks in your home.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Isn't the Kill-a-watt wireless device related to P3 International?