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Promising tech gear at CES

A new Smartphone, networked storage and a buzz-worthy camera from Canon among products on display at CES.
The Voq is the first second-generation Smartphone.
The Voq is the first second-generation Smartphone.Sierra Wireless

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is expected to attract more than 200,000 attendees. I think they’re all standing in my hotel lobby. But in addition to the crowds, high prices and lines for just about anything you might want or need, there do seem to be some very interesting items being announced at this year’s confab.

Sierra Wireless, a company usually known for its wireless PC cards, is now in the cellular phone business. They’re introducing the Voq — the first second-generation Smartphone — running on the newest version of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 2003 software. What sets the Voq apart from most phones is that although it looks like many other cellular handsets, right beneath the keypad is a flip-open QWERTY keyboard that is actually very usable.

A world phone that works on GSM/GPRS networks, the Voq also allows you to use VPN to reach your company's network and servers to send and receive mail. (Perfect for establishments like MSNBC.) Sierra Wireless plans to release the Voq in the first half of the year.

One company, Roku, has the answer for all the people who have brand-new, digital flat-screen HDTVs and not enough HDTV media to watch.  In addition to being able to look at your digital photos, their standalone, $499 high-definition HD1000 media player can also play Roku Art Packs — media cards with hi-res photos of famous art works. There’s also a HDTV aquarium simulation which looks amazing on a good plasma. The art packs run $50-70 each.

For all you avid film camera buffs who swore off digital cameras until you could use all your old lenses — you’ve run out of excuses.

While many companies at CES are showing all-new digital cameras — nice, standalone models, not the crappy ones built into some cell phones — one camera in particular is creating a big buzz: Canon's Digital Rebel is the first affordable single-lens reflex digital camera for non-professionals.

This 6.3-megapixel masterpiece lets you use all of your trusty Canon lenses from your 35-mm SLR as well as their new line of lenses. I could go on and on about the Rebel’s features, but I’ll wait until I can get my hands on one to put it through its paces.  I can tell you the camera body (plastic) retails for $899 — with a nifty zoom lens kit (18-55mm, f3.5-5.6) available for an extra 100 bucks.  Last year, a similar semi-pro camera would have set you back more than $2,000.

All the networking companies are showing off their new wares – with many figuring out their proprietary ways to get 802.11g to work faster than its standard speed.  I’d wait until the industry agrees on higher speeds before shelling out my money on these new items.

What did catch my eye were some new combinations of networking and storage.  Netgear is introducing the WGT634U Super Wireless Media Router, a wireless home networking solution that supports storage access off a router via a USB interface.

And the people at Buffalo Technologies have come up with a LinkStation Network Storage Center: 120 gigs of network-attached storage via wired or wireless connections. You can instantly store and share your music, videos, images and other files via a Web browser from PCs and Macs.

There are also smart watches, and new portable video players, and all sorts of digital radios that I can’t wait to tell you about.  Stay tuned.