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Smaller than a laptop, more powerful than a PDA

The OQO computer is the much-anticipated mobility solution for people who until now had to choose between the bulk of a laptop and the limited capability of a PDA. 

I take computers with me when I travel, just like millions of other people on this planet.  I prefer small, light portable laptops but when you add the peripherals, cords, AC brick and the computer bag — carrying even a thin, 3 pound notebook computer gets to be a drag.

If I were creating a new computer I’d make one that can run modern-day programs at modern-day speeds. I’d also make sure that it would work in my home, office and while on the road – plus – it could fit in my pocket. Was I surprised when I saw my ideal computer at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

The OQO ultra personal computer (let’s call it a uPC) is a fully-functional Windows XP PC small enough (4.9 by 3.4 by 0.9 inches, 14 ounces) to fit in your pocket, yet powerful enough to replace your laptop. The OQO computer is the much-anticipated mobility solution for people who until now had to choose between the bulk of a laptop and the limited capability of a PDA. 

The OQO has all the functionality of a ultra-portable notebook computer, with a 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor, a 20GB hard drive, 256MB of RAM, a 5-inch color transflective display, built-in 802.11b (WiFi) and Bluetooth, a removable, rechargeable lithium-polymer battery (said to last 2-6 hours), plus FireWire and USB 1.1 ports. For data inputting there’s a thumb keyboard with a TrackStik pointing device, mouse buttons as well as a digital pen and thumbwheel. When attached to an external monitor you get 3D accelerated, 1,280 by 1,024 VGA video.

You can also think of OQO as a media player that can hold thousands of songs or maybe three feature movies.
The designers put it best: “The OQO is as portable as a PDA.  With the docking cable, it is no different than a laptop in its ability to connect to projectors and Ethernet networks. In the desktop stand with the docking cable, it is a desktop computer. As a Windows PC, the OQO computer moves seamlessly from one mode to the other with no synchronizing.”

The only thing keeping me from carrying one home from Las Vegas is that they’re not available yet. OQO says expect to see them later in 2004. No official price has been decided on – but I’m told trhey should sell for less than $2,000.

Kitchen gadgets go high-tech

On the other hand, do you remember all those stories we read a few years back about how our refrigerators would soon be talking to our toasters which would be sending instructions to our dishwashers? I thought it was just a pipe dream. Not so! The people at Salton Inc., best known for items like yogurt makers and the ever expanding line of George Foreman grills (doesn’t everyone own at least one by now?) have also been hard at work creating a new line of kitchen appliances for the 21st century.

Salton's Beyond™ Connected Home line is a group of networked home products designed to make life simpler, more convenient and fun: the Beyond Microwave, Beyond Bread Maker, Beyond Coffee Maker, and Beyond Home Hub.

For example, the Beyond Microwave cooks evenly every time with the swipe of the built-in barcode wand on a package of food. Salton experts spent two years testing different recipes to make sure their microwave came programmed with 4,000 barcode settings in its memory.  And, because it’s networked, the product can also update itself with thousands more over the Internet. Users can even add their own UPCs and program cooking times so favorite meals are heated to perfection time and time again.

Salton says the Beyond microwave will sell for $179 –- not bad for all the technology inside.