I'm sitting on a comfortable chair with a new device in my hands from a San Diego company of the same name. It's called Chumby, a cute name for an equally cute little product. It looks unlike anything I've seen before, sort of a small softball-sized leather beanbag with a 3.5-inch color screen just begging to be picked up. You wouldn't know that it's a tiny, but powerful computer.
Thin and light notebooks are not new, but they've recently become big news with the introduction of Apple's new MacBook Air and Lenovo's new ThinkPad X300. Sony, Toshiba and Fujitsu have had models with similar weights and dimensions, albeit with more compromises, but haven't captured the attention that these products have. I've been using the X300 and the Air for two weeks and like them both. Since they each use a different operating system, they really don't compete with one another, but it's interesting to see the vastly different approaches taken.
This is an amazing time for new gadgetry of all sorts -- everything from flat panel TVs to printers to digital cameras to computers. But along with the rapid advances are much shorter product lives. Many of us are on to our third printer or second flat-panel TV. In fact, we purchased 22 million computers last year, and will buy 32 million digital TVs in 2008.
It's never been easier or more affordable to back up your computer online. You have insurance for most things, why not for all your files, photos, music and important documents as well? You never know when your hard drive will fail or your computer will be lost or stolen.
While many companies make universal remote controls designed to combine all your separate remotes into one, few are both easy to set up and simple to use. Many of them are so complex that you need an audio-video specialist to program in the settings.
Microsoft vs. Google
We've grown up reading magazines such as Popular Science that predicted robots would cook us dinner, fetch our newspapers and vacuum our homes.
At both MacWorld and CES, scores of companies were showing all sorts of accessories for the home, office and car. They were striving to create products that you never knew you needed, but once you buy, you can't do without.
Even after an exhausting week at CES, I was looking forward to attending MacWorld in San Francisco to see what new products Steve Jobs would announce. An ultra-compact notebook was rumored and I had a personal interest in it.
I attended a Saab driving school a few years ago where the instructor stressed the importance of driving with two hands properly positioned on the steering wheel, eyes concentrated on the road occasionally scanning left and right. He emphasized the need to be prepared to make a sudden maneuver to avoid an accident. If that's considered safe driving, then what are we to make of those, myself included, who with a phone in one hand and the other hand on the wheel try to maneuver the car around a corner?
If you have a PC that's running slower and slower, what can you do? Conventional thinking says back up your data, wipe your hard drive clean and re-install Windows and your applications. Or if your computer is three or four years old, it might be better to buy a new computer.
I'm at CES in Las Vegas along with other Daily Transcript reporters, bringing you the latest news from the world's greatest gadget show. There's an estimated 150,000 people wandering over 1.7 million square feet of space, spread among two different convention centers and a half-dozen hotels. Here are some of the trends and examples I'm seeing as CES gets under way.
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Phil Baker is an expert in new product development and market development for large and small companies. He has held senior product development and marketing positions with Apple, Polaroid, Seiko, Proxima, ...About the author