- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2002

LAS VEGAS (Jan. 7 to 11) — Last week's Consumer Electronics Show was not only a welcome (and needed) contrast to the supersecure (and underwhelming) Comdex computer trade show of two months earlier. I saw much that was new and much that was innovative, and I think you're going to like some of the products that surface as a result.
The big angle is the convergence of digital media onto your desktop. Hewlett-Packard blew me away with its announcement and demo of the $1,599 HP Pavilion 780n. The computer is powered by an 1.8GHz Intel PentiumTM 4 processor and includes 512MB of high speed "DDR" RAM, a 120GB hard-disk drive, as well as an HP DVD+RW drive, 64MB GeForce2 MX graphics card and 10/100 Base-T network interface. There are also plenty of USB and FireWire (IEEE 1394) connectors on the front and rear of the unit.
When considering the included video editing and DVD-burning software, the HP Pavilion 780n offers a device that will deliver the elements of a digital media production studio for literally peanuts. The system doesn't include a monitor, but flat-panel and conventional displays can be attached to the unit.
"With the DVD+RW technology at this low price point, plus increased memory, everyday PC users can now own a photo lab, movie theater, production studio and jukebox through a very affordable PC," says Rob Wait, worldwide business manager, HP Consumer Business Organization. Mr. Wait was fairly beaming throughout the demonstration, and with good reason. This market segment is hot and it's getting hotter.
Just look at the cover of last week's Time magazine: Apple Computer, separately, is offering the same thing with its new iMac, bundling DVD burner and a flat-panel display (albeit only 15 inches) for about $200 more than the HP unit, though offering far less in the way of RAM and hard-disk storage. But the message is clear: multimedia and "rolling your own," as it were is now within the reach of everyone. HP is to be congratulated, I think, for making this a possibility in the Windows-using arena at such a low price. A 790n is said to be on its way to "On Computers Central" and a review will follow, forthwith.
The other big news related to making your own movies using a computer is the convergence of digital media within the home. I saw amazing monitor/TV tuner combos from Samsung Electronics some in the sub-$800 range and supersized 24-inch wonders costing just under $7,000 that blend a TV tuner, computer display, and the ability to blend the two. The large monitor/display units will likely appeal to businesses and the super-rich first, but the trend here is clear, and that is that prices for fancy flat-screen displays are falling and more features are on the way.
Moving that media around the home from computer to living room to bedroom could be the bailiwick of advanced 802.11g technology, which should come online within the year. Here, speeds run up to 54 mbps, more than enough to send that DVD of "Shrek" to the children's room from your PC and have the sound and image recognizable at the other end. A Florida company, Intersil, is driving this technology with chips that lower the cost of making the transmitters and receivers while increasing the reliability and quality. Another plus: the "new" 802.11g units will be compatible with existing 802.11b cards, which means older wireless notebooks and devices can use the same network.
Once you get your digital media, how do you print it? One way may well be with two new laser printers from Samsung Electronics. Of these, the $299 ML-1450, with a 500-sheet paper tray and an Ethernet networking connector, seems the most incredible value, particularly for small offices and home offices.
A word of thanks must go to the Arlington-based Consumer Electronics Association, whose staff created and operated a wonderful setting for people to explore the multitude of technologies that were on display. In sharp contrast to Comdex, which was run much more like an armed prison camp, the CES show was relaxed, friendly and accessible, a perfect model for what trade shows should be to those who attend.
* Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; sende-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mr. Kellner on www.adrenalineradio.com every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. EST.

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