A bevy of new storage, input, security, accessory and other devices—free-standing or for PDAs and notebooks—were on display at the CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany, this past week, appropriate for everyone from enterprise users and field/emergency personnel to “prosumers” and multimedia consumers.
Here are a few of the highlights:
User interfaces show flexibility: When a rigid user interface wont do, think flexible fabric, e.g., a keyboard you can fold around your PDA, or MP3 controls on the sleeve of your jacket or on your phone case … and able to survive a few dozen cycles through your washing machine.
London-based Eleksen (formerly Elektex) was showing preproduction samples for integrated fabric touch pads and concept demos for audio controls, joysticks and others. The products are expected to have both civilian and military applications. A Bluetooth product will ship at the end of June, according to a booth spokesperson.
Computers of various shapes and sizes: Wearable-computer maker Xybernaut showed at CeBIT the latest iteration of its Windows CE and Windows XP “touchables”—including local-partner demos for health, retail and other verticals, like MedDVs mobile emergency management and documentation system, a voice-enabled warehouse management system, and QRS Diagnostics Mobile Emergency Vital Signs Kit.
Sony, meanwhile, has joined the “pocketable PC” crowd with its new Vaio Ultra Portable PC line. Running Windows XP and with a 30GB hard drive, 5-inch color display, 802.11b/g, and slots for Compact Flash and Memory stick, you can treat this as a large-PDA-sized full-function computer or a portable media player.
Next-generation sneakernets: Got files you want to move between USB devices? You dont need a computer anymore as a go-between; you can now use products like Sunixs new pocket-sized OTG Bridge, or the OTG Enclosure, which also can accommodate a Compact Flash card. Available late April or later, it has an estimated price in the $50 range.
Speaking of sneakers, Adidas was showing its “Intelligent Shoes”—sneakers with enough processors and other doohickeys to adjust the firmness for walking versus running, and do all sorts of other mysterious things short of a GPS to make sure youre always going where you want to.
Flash RAM storage updates: In the flash RAM memory arena, Pretec Electronics Corp. introduced at the show its new hot-swap-removable, or embeddable, C-Flash flash memory card/module—up to 256MB now, with 1GB coming in the third quarter. The C-Flash is similar to, but slightly smaller than, the CU-Flash the company introduced at the CES show in January. Estimated pricing is about 10 percent higher than comparable-capacity Secure Digital.
SanDisk has added to its high-speed Ultra II line, with 512MB and 1GB Secure Digital flash memory cards that have regular pins on end for use in digital cameras, PDAs, MP3 players and mobile phones. In addition, it there is a hideaway USB 2.0 high-speed connector under a hinged cover plate that can snap away to let the card plug directly into a standard USB port, eliminating the need for a separate reader. Just dont lose it.
Sundry personal storage: Plextors European division announced at CeBIT three new products: the Portable HDD, the Professional Network HDD for small-business networks and the Portable Floppy Disk Drive.
The microdisk versus flash RAM battle continues. Latest sallies include a rumored 80GB version of the one-eighth-inch (thick) hard drives that fit in iPods, from Toshiba, along with 0.85-inch (wide) hard drives and a 4GB one expected to ship midyear. In addition, the company will be applying Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) technology, so watch for 6GB to 8GB Microdrives in this size by 2006.
DataPlay, the quarter-sized DVD with up to a half-gig capacity, now has burners—the Topy Mini Writer from Ritek and its Photocopier device also include an SD/MMC/Memory Stick slot. It can also be an MP3 player, FM tuner, and voice or line-in recorder.
Samsung, meanwhile, showed the first mobile phone to include an internal had disk drive (1-inch diagonal 1.5GB).
PCMCIA, CF and other card stuff: The PCMCIA was at CeBIT to show and promote the ExpressCard, the next-generation replacement for Cardbus. Suitable for use in both notebook and desktop computers, ExpressCards can be narrower, faster and lighter than current PCMCIA cards, according to Manny Pitta, PCMCIA marketing chair. Vendors already shipping ExpressCard-equipped notebooks include Compaq, Fujitsu, HP, IBM (ThinkPad T43), LG and Toshiba.
Hitachi, Intel, Marvell, Nokia, Seagate and Toshiba have started the CE-ATA storage interface initiative, for devices that meet the CE/handheld market needs for low voltage, low pin count and power efficiency. Expect to see products support CE-ATA by possibly the end of this year.
Security and accessories: UK-based DeadMans Handle Ltd. showed its notebook data security program (for Windows 95 and up). Deadmans Handle provides a challenge query that looks like a normal update or other pop-up query … but fail to answer it right, and the system will freeze, or even wipe out all data designated as confidential. The program is now available free trial downloads.
Targus brought along a shopping cart full of new I/O, security, travel and other accessories, including the Defcon VPCL lock, which secures to a notebook through the video port; a 4-in-1 laser pointer, presenter, multimedia and trackball mouse; the Mobile Dock Station, with video-through-USB and ventilation feet; a number of new professional, midrange and student-budget backpacks, rolling cases and other casual/formal cases—some including “flow-through” holes for headphone wires.
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