Amazon.com Kindle wireless e-book reader
Why you must have it: E-book readers have always sounded like a great idea. But until now, they've generally fallen short. The Amazon.com Kindle is the first e-book reader you might actually want to use in real life. What makes Kindle different from predecessors such as the Sony Portable Reader and various PDA-based software readers is that it doesn't need a computer. Instead, it uses Sprint's EvDO (evolution, data optimized) 3G cellular connection to download the books you buy or the magazines, newspapers, and blogs you subscribe to, such as the New York Times, Le Monde, Time, Atlantic Monthly, and the Huffington Post. About 88,000 titles are available. You don't pay for the wireless access, just the books you buy or publications you subscribe to, as their price covers the wireless charges.
The reader is about the size and weight of a paperback book, with search capabilities, adjustable text size, and a nonbacklit screen, so it can be read in daylight. We didn't get our hands on a Kindle in time for this piece, but its resolution is similar to that of e-book readers that have gotten good marks for readability. It has a few bells and whistles such as free (that is, no data charges) access to Wikipedia, a built-in copy of the "New Oxford American Dictionary," and some annotation capabilities, including bookmarking and notes. Each Kindle has a customizable e-mail address through which you can receive HTML, ASCII, and Microsoft Word documents and pictures in a variety of formats for 10 cents each. With its USB port, the Kindle lets you transfer Audible.com audiobooks from your PC; it should be noted, however, that the audiobooks are too large to send over the EvDO network.
Your chances of having the first one on the block: High, as the Kindle was just released in late November.
What you should know: The biggest issue for most tech-savvy buyers is that the Kindle does not support the Adobe PDF format. The battery life is good for about two days of "normal" use, and it takes two hours to recharge The Kindle holds about 200 titles (books cost about US$10 each), so you're not likely to run out of reading material in a hurry. The inventory of books is relatively low, though Amazon says it is adding several dozen a month. Books and publication subscriptions can be purchased through Amazon.com's Kindle Store only. Books with images that are complex or that require color reproduction, will not be made available, given the Kindle's 167-pixel, grayscale display.
What you need: A PC with a USB 2.0 port if you want to transfer audiobook files. The Kindle costs US$399.
Fujitsu PalmSecure PC Login Kit biometric mouse
Why you must have it: Biometric security is both easy to use and hard to defeat, so it's no surprise that finger scanners are popping up on notebooks and as PC peripherals. But once you've swiped them, anyone can use the computer. Fujitsu has taken the biometric protection concept one step further, making it continuous. It's done so with its PalmSecure mouse, which has an infrared scanner that reads the pattern of the veins in your palm as you hold the mouse, all without adding more desktop clutter or replacing your biometric-less laptop.
Fujitsu has had its PalmSecure technology available for a while, but only in a version that required an authentication server. That tended to limit its uses to enterprises such as hospitals, where users might work on multiple PCs during the day. What's changed is the availability of the PC Login Kit, which has translated that authentication server into software that can run on your PC.
Your chances of having the first one on the block: Extremely high, as Fujitsu has not yet begun selling the PalmSecure PC Login Kit.
What you should know: The PalmSecure works only on Windows XP and Vista. If you want to have managed multiuser authentication across an enterprise's PCs, you'll need the authentication server edition.
What you need: A Windows XP or Vista PC with USB 2.0 port. Pricing is not yet available.