- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2006

Come back next week for specific last-minute gift ideas, but if you are shopping now, let me nominate some favorite companies whose products make great gifts:

• Apple Computer is the most significant technology company this year. Of the IPod, what needs to be said? It is flawless technology that just works when and where it is called upon. Just about anyone should enjoy getting one this year.

But it’s the firm’s desktop and notebook computers that truly shine, having made the leap to Intel Corp. processors earlier this year. These computers, though higher-priced than bargain-basement personal computers, are exceptionally strong performers.

Just about every time I open a Mac portable or rev up a Mac desktop, I’m pleasantly surprised with what happens and what I discover. Switching from Windows to Mac has never been easier, it seems, and the ability to run Microsoft Windows on Intel-based Macs is a good safety net. Shop these people seriously.

• Canon USA, a maker of cameras and printers. What grabs me here is the stylishness of the Canon line. These people don’t build products, they sculpt them. Sleek lines, low profiles and pleasing contours mark Canon printers as items that would blend in to a home office, rather than just fit in one. Look for a review of one of their newer printers here, shortly.

On the camera side, I have yet to work with one of their new models but, again, it’s impressive to see the range of features packed into relatively low-cost models. This is a nice thing to see in an era when some makers seem to want the most money for the least improvements.

• Hewlett-Packard, its image roughed up by recent corporate skullduggery, deserves to have its product line considered apart from the machinations of some former executives and directors.

HP essentially reinvented its notebooks this year, making them into super-powerful and super-affordable workhorse computers and multimedia stations. A week on the road would be made far easier by having an HP or Compaq notebook along. Their desktop systems offer a tremendous “bang for the buck,” delivering great quality and capacity at super-reasonable prices.

It would be temptingly easy to count HP as being down, if not out, because of its corporate woes. However, this is a company that I believe will not only demonstrate resilience at the top, but also continue to show quality at the product level.

• Logitech. If you need a keyboard or mouse for your PC or Mac, or if you need a usable remote for your new flat-panel TV and other gear, check out Logitech. Not only does this Swiss-based firm, which has a large U.S. presence in Fremont, Calif., have the design thing down pat, it also stands by and updates its products.

Example: I was able to reprogram and refresh a year-old Harmony 550 remote control with a few clicks on a software screen. Now, what used to run my old cable box and TV runs the new gear without missing a beat.

That’s impressive in an era where planned obsolescence, as noted here before, seems to be a business staple in some quarters. Bravo to Logitech for bucking that trend.

Thus, if you’re still shopping, you now have four brands to look at.

In each case, I’m impressed not only by immediate quality, but long-term potential.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Technology Blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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