image: Siemens phone
This was the coolest item not at TechXNY. Siemens was showing off this phone at last night's Digital Focus press-only event. You have to hold it in your hand to believe it.
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msnbc.com

These are horrible times for computer shows. Unless there is a miraculous turnaround in November, Comdex will be much smaller than last year, much smaller than 2001, and a whole lot smaller than in 2000. CeBit NY was very small, and this week, what used to be called PC Expo (now a part of TechXNY) is gasping for its last breath.

TECHXNY OPENED Tuesday for a three-day run at Manhattan’s Javits Center, but despite all the hoopla and signs the actual show was spread out over only one-quarter of one floor, about the size of a large high school gymnasium. The remaining three-quarters of the floor was just plain empty, except for a few people using the space to take rides on an electric scooter. They were having the most fun at the show.

Some of the companies are getting smart. Instead of spending something like $55 a square foot to show their stuff on the floor, they’re hosting the press in meeting rooms on other floors or buying space at one of the mini-shows held at night — also press only. (To make sure the press shows up at these evening events, there’s free food and open bars. Needless to say, turnout is usually great.)

So, for a comparatively small price, companies can get their new items noticed by people like me — and in turn by people like you. And indeed, I was shown some very interesting stuff at these alternate venues, stuff you should know about.

COMPUTER STUFF

image: Samsung 173P
Samsung's new 17-inch LCD monitor not only pivots, but allows you to make all adjustments via your computer.
I saw a number of great looking video displays, but the one that really caught my eye was a new pivoting LCD screen from Samsung. The SyncMaster 173P is being called the first “hands-free” flat-screen monitor. It’s hands-free thanks to some very neat software built inside that allows you to control all the screen adjustments via your mouse. No adjustments anywhere on the monitor. I didn’t get a chance to put the monitor through all its paces, but what I did see knocked me over. The picture quality was breathtaking. The 173P will be available beginning next month for a suggested retail price of $549.

It seemed as if every company that makes wireless access points was there to show off their new 802.11g high-speed models. I was particularly interested in two very small items from Buffalo Technology: a new, small antenna to increase wireless range indoors and a repeater which receives and retransmits the wireless signal between your computer and the access point.

The people from Microsoft were showing off a new Xbox wireless adapter that allows you to attach your Xbox to an 802.11b or 802.11g wireless network. The small box will carry a retail price of $129 when it begins shipping in October. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Speaking of wireless, how about the new little digital projector, from Hewlett-Packard, the MP3130? There’s actually an attachment that lets you hook the projector to its video source wirelessly. 1,800 peak lumens, XGA resolution — and it weighs less than four pounds. When you’re done giving your presentation for work, you can plug the device into your HDTV source at home at watch a very large high-definition picture. Suggested price is $2,699.

VIDEO STUFF

image: Sharp Wireless
The world's first battery operated, portable LCD TV -- and Sharp also allows you to broadcast your digital video signals to it.
Sharp was showing off two of their new AQUOS LCD TV monitors. Its 37-inch model, the LC-37HV4U, retails for $7,499.95 and is the largest liquid crystal set on the market (although I was told Sharp is building a new manufacturing facility that should be able to produce up to 65-inch LCDs). Beautiful picture.

Then there was the LC-15L1U, which Sharp calls the ultimate holiday gift. I call it the first totally portable liquid crystal TV. Not only does this 15-inch set run for three hours on its built-in rechargeable battery, but it comes with the Smartlink device that attaches to your video source (DVD player, cable box, etc.) and allows your digital signals to be transmitted to the TV anywhere in your home. The coolness factor is overwhelming. Sharp says the 15L1U will be available for this holiday season with a suggested retail price of $1,799.95.

image: Dsnap
Panasonic's D-snap video recorder lets you store hours of video or thousand of stills on one SD card.
One of those sources could be Panasonic’s top-of-the-line D-snap video camera, the SV-AV100. Tiny in size, the AV100 records video and stills onto an SD card instead of tape. With the 512MB that comes with the unit, you can get up to 10-20 minutes on MPEG2 video (DVD quality) or 1-10 hours of MPEG4 video (depending on the resolution) or 3,520 to 7,040 photo stills. Can’t wait to play with one of these. Suggested retail price is $999.95.

There were plenty of new digital still cameras to see too, including the new Casio EXILIM 4-megapixel EX-Z4U: slim on the outside with an optical zoom lens and a two-inch LCD screen on the back. It’s amazingly large for such a small camera. Retail price: $399.

image: Gateway
Gateway's 5-megapixel camera sells for a mind-numbing $299. The camera body is large - but that's a lot of megapixels per dollar.
And then there are all the new Gateway bargain-priced digital cameras: a two-megapixel for $129.99, a four-megapixel for $199.99, a five-megapixel for $299.99 and a slightly more compact sized five-megapixel for $399.99. I hope to be testing the $300 model in the next few weeks.

MOBILE STUFF

image: Smartphone
Motorola's Smartphone which runs a special version of Microsoft Windows. It's due out in the 3rd quarter of this year.
Many cellular phone companies were showing off their newest items. Motorola showed off their newly-announced MPX-200 smartphone which runs on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform on the AT&T Wireless network in the United States. Last fall, when I was in England, I played with the only other Windows smart phone to hit the market. It was nice, but didn’t work here. Microsoft, Motorola and AT&T are promising an October release for the U.S. phone.

The Sony/Ericsson Z600 cell phone looks like many other clamshell designs and comes with a color screen, interchangeable front and back covers and an integrated camera. The best part of the phone is the optional Multi-Action keypad which allows for simultaneous key presses for gamers, meaning you can move and shoot at the same time. On my way to work each day, I always see youngsters using their phones to play games. I think this device could be a big winner.

And finally, there’s the Siemens SL56. This is the phone that’s being given away to the beautiful people in Fashion Week goodie bags on the runways of New York.

The picture at the top of this page doesn’t really do it justice; this is the smallest, cutest phone I’ve ever seen. It features dual-bands (850/1900 MHz), Java and GPRS, up to three hours of battery life along with rapid battery charging in a slide-out package that weighs less than three ounces. Hot, hot, hot. Check it out at a Cingular store near you.

With big computer shows going the way of the dinosaur, the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is becoming the big industry event. It incorporates the computer, consumer electronics, and hi-fi industries into one major happening that takes hours and even days to see everything. That’s why it’s the next show I’ll be attending. Why waste my time or yours?

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