CES - Vendors push multimedia connectivity for the masses

CES exhibitors are touting products that make it easier to manage multimedia content across difference devices

Facing an explosion of content for PCs and handhelds via Internet, cable and wireless technologies, vendors at CES are spotlighting products designed to make it easier to transmit and manage multimedia data across many types of devices.

Some 2,700 exhibitors are vying for the attention of an estimated 140,000 attendees this week in Las Vegas, at the biggest technology show this year in North America, according to show organizers. The vendors include some of the biggest names in IT, television and entertainment production studios. Many of them acknowledge that transmitting and storing multimedia information among the wide variety of phones, PDAs, TV set top boxes and PCs is still daunting.

"Whenever you have multiple devices, including multiple PCs that you want to share information with, it's always been a bit complicated," said Microsoft Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Gates in an interview with the IDG News Service, hours before he kicked off CES with his traditional keynote speech Sunday.

But Gates and other executives say that they are making strides with the products announced in the show at Las Vegas. During his keynote, Gates announced that service providers would be offering the Xbox as a set-top box alternative, allowing users to watch TV and movies, surf the Net, and play games. He also announced Windows Home Server, which lets users connect their Windows Vista computers and secure, store and back up data.

Motorola and Microsoft announced that they have been working together on new music mobile devices, and will develop handsets made especially for downloading music over 3G (third generation) networks.

Among devices Motorola announced is the MOTORIZR Z6, due out in the first half of the year and designed to incorporate Microsoft Windows Media technologies including Windows Media Digital Rights Management.

Dell Chairman Michael Dell said in his keynote that not only is it still difficult for users to make devices work together, but that "broadband isn't where it needs to be for reliable performance." He said network operators should bring fiber-optic broadband Internet links to homes, and lauded Verizon Communications for starting to do so.

Dell also announced a Home Media Suite desktop PC, the XPS 410, which sports an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2G bytes of memory, 1T byte RAID storage array, Vista OS and a digital cable TV tuner. It will be available later this month.

For its part, Hewlett-Packard -- which overtook Dell last year as the biggest-selling PC vendor in the world -- announced the Pavilion tx1000, an entertainment-focused notebook for students sporting a 12.1-inch screen. The first version of the device is due out Feb. 28 priced at US$1,299.

Chip rivals Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) also are battling it out at the show. Intel launched three Quad-Core processors on Monday, reaching out to gamers and multimedia application users. The two new models in the Xeon 3200 line are aimed at low-end, single-socket servers: Intel is pricing the 2.13 GHz Quad-Core Xeon X3210 at US$690 and the 2.4 GHz Quad-Core Xeon X3220 at US$851, both per unit in lots of 1,000. The 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 is also priced at US$851.

Meanwhile, AMD announced a notebook version of its AMD Live package, launched for the desktop in 2006. AMD Live PCs are designed to let users take content off the Web, and display it on various devices such as video iPods. The company specifies hardware and reference designs and uses partnerships to have the devices built. Notebook versions of AMD Live are expected later in the quarter.

Yahoo made a splash at the show by unveiling a beta version of Yahoo Go for Mobile 2.0, which can be downloaded for free to more than 70 mobile devices from various vendors, from http://go.yahoo.com. Handset makers announcing support for the new service include Research In Motion, Motorola, Samsung Electronics and Nokia. A key feature of Yahoo Go for Mobile 2.0 is oneSearch, a new search engine designed to return results tailored to the geographic location of the user.

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Marc Ferranti

IDG News Service

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