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What I Hope to See at CES and Macworld

Monday, January 3, 2005;

Hope the holidays treated you well. Mine did too. However, I should note that my own Christmas gift-receiving glee was dimmed by the fact that the computing and electronics industries have yet to bring a few items to market yet, such as:

* A new Palm handheld that sells for under $300 but includes built-in WiFi. (Almost eight months after a PalmOne marketing rep showed me a slide in a presentation touting WiFi as one of the core technologies it supported, this still doesn't exist.)

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* A 30-in. LCD or plasma HDTV or a bigger-than-40-in. microdisplay HDTV -- each with a built-in over the air "ATSC" digital tuner and a street price of under $2,000. (I'm probably three months early for this.)

* A desktop Mac that sells for under $500 and lets me use any old external monitor. (For years, Apple has said it's had no interest in pursuing this market, but if the latest rumors are true, I'm probably two weeks early for this.)

* A home-theater receiver that includes HD Radio support to pull in high-quality digital FM and AM broadcasts, and which doesn't cost over $500. (HD Radio support has been confined thus far to car stereos, on account of some marketing rationale that eludes me.)

I'll be on the lookout for gadgets like those and many others over the next two weeks. First I'm flying to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, four days of nonstop marketing hype, traffic, schmoozing and receptions. I expect to leave the show with a clearer sense of where things like HDTVs, digital video recorders, high-definition DVDs and other high-tech, high-budget items are headed.

My next stop will be San Francisco, where Apple will host its annual Macworld Expo trade show starting Jan. 11. Macworld is unlike every other trade show, in that a big chunk of what happens surprises everybody. No computer company is more secretive about upcoming products than Apple -- and unlike its competitors, Apple usually knows how to keep its secrets. (Much to the annoyance of journalists everywhere, as well as buyers who sometimes find their new purchases have become suddenly obsolete.)

Over that week, I also hope to visit a few companies in the Bay Area. I just don't get my fill of traffic around here, so a few hours running up and down 101 and 280 ought to suffice.

Be sure to check back at washingtonpost.com for regular updates from CES and Macworld. My plan is to file a few Web-only updates from both shows, and two of my Post colleagues will be filing updates from CES.

iPod-mania

While I'm at Macworld, I also figure I'll be seeing plenty of iPod-related products. I think the iPod is a pretty good music player, but I had no idea it would spawn such a variety of accessories and related products.


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