Going gadget crazy at CES

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place last week and has left gadget freaks with plenty to lust after.

One of the early developments just before the show was that Warner Bros committed itself to releasing its high-definition DVDs in the Blu-ray format only. The company had been a major supporter of the competing HD DVD format and their move may have the eventual effect of blowing it out of the water.

I freely confess to not knowing the fine differences between the two technologies but I do know that having two formats did sow many seeds of confusion in consumers’ minds. The choice of player was especially complicated by the fact that film studios supported their own pet formats.

You either had to take a chance that the movies you would want to see would work in the player you chose, or you waited to see which format would win. Now, with Warner’s announcement, the balance seems to have tipped the way of Sony’s Blu-ray format.

It will simplify things for consumers if there is only one high-definition DVD format to choose from. Some might argue that HD DVD is a superior format but Blu-ray has the coolest name and I suspect that could be the differentiating factor which has led to its success.

Also on the show are two GPS systems for tracking the location of pets and others. The tiny devices, by Zoombak and Pocketfinder, transmit a position signal via cellpho nenetwork to a central point and allow users to view an Internet map showing the dog’s current location.

I guess that the units will only work in the USA for the foreseeable future, due to the fact that they use the mobile network. There is monthly service fee of about $15 on both product offerings, but it should be worth it to be able to keep track of treasured pets or the more forgetful members of the family.

There were also a wide variety of digital video recorders including some which can receive electronic program information over the air and be set to record programs based on selections you make. Of course, DSTV’s PVR decoder does the same thing but the company has steadfastly refused to bring out a slimmed-down service for households that don’t need to view two channels and record a third at the same time.

On the show were gadgets with fancy features and price tags and there were ones which sounded impossibly cheap. The SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 player offers 4Gb of memory and an FM radio for $79; I wonder how much it’ll be by the time it gets here.

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