Organizers of the Consumer Electronics Show say the products appearing at the show this week are making the world a better place. They apparently had yet to see the faux leopard...

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LAS VEGAS — Organizers of the Consumer Electronics Show say the products appearing at the show this week are making the world a better place.

They apparently had yet to see the faux leopard fur coats for your desktop PC that Candace Yu, sales director of Taiwan-based Amacrox, was demonstrating in the international pavilion.

But there was a dizzying array of new products that will make it easier to use computers and more convenient to enjoy music, photos and movies at home and on the go. The 120,000 attendees also saw just how many choices consumers will have when they embrace the digital era that’s transforming the entertainment and electronics industries.

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Here’s a sample of interesting and unusual items seen on the 1.5 million square feet of showroom floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center:


Companies at CES
have been saying for years that TVs, PCs and stereos will “converge” into an easy-to-use system for home entertainment. One benefit is that consumers may eventually have just one remote control, instead of a handful lost under the sofa.

The array of semi-compatible products on the market suggests that convergence is still under way, but in the meantime companies are introducing some really cool remotes in hopes that that one remote you use will be theirs.

Philips, for instance, unveiled the Philips RC9800i. The $599 gizmo will control both old and new home-entertainment products, using standard infrared signals and commands sent over home Wi-Fi networks.

The Wi-Fi connection allows users to browse PC content from the remote’s color LCD display screen. It’s intended to work with plug-and-play digital devices designed to be easy to hook up to a PC or home network.

Philips hopes to begin selling the remote in the first or second quarter of this year.

Peter Liu is manufacturing what may be the next must-have item at Starbucks, a little heating pad for keeping coffee warm. What’s different about his HT2001 CAFE Pad is that it gets its power from a USB cord that plugs into a laptop or desktop computer.

Retail prices aren’t set yet.

Liu makes a large one for mugs and a small one for demitasse cups, although it’s unclear how long someone would want to keep a dainty shot of espresso warm next to the computer.

If you’re shopping for a digital video recorder and a TiVo just doesn’t seem big enough, hold tight because large manufacturers are releasing a string of new products with massive hard drives.

The Franklin SAT-2400 is a portable device running software for preparing for the SAT exams.

Sony was demonstrating a 500-gigabyte recorder called the Sony DHG HDD500 that goes on sale this spring for an estimated retail price of $999.

The low silver box is about the size of a DVD player but it can store 400 hours of standard television or 60 hours of high-definition programming. It comes with the free TV Guide on-screen programming guide and it also functions as an HD tuner and digital set-top cable box.

A 250-gigabyte version is expected to sell for $799.

Several companies introduced new twists on old technology such as the calculator, although the calculator display at Hewlett-Packard’s booth was generally vacant, overshadowed by the wall of flat-panel TVs and a thumping SUV packed with stereo equipment and digital-imaging products.

Texas Instruments’ bid to invigorate the calculator business is a small white box that creates a wireless network in the classroom, the TI Navigator 2.0. Students using wireless-enabled calculators can work together on problems and communicate with each other and the teacher over the network.

Handheld game consoles like Sony’s PSP handheld game console received a lot of attention at the show, but parents of high schoolers may be more interested in the Franklin SAT-2400.

The device looks like the paperback-book-sized game players, with a large display screen flanked by little controls, but the SAT-2400 plays SAT-preparation software instead of video games.

Franklin says the SAT-2400 “lets students prepare anywhere with proven techniques and custom progress reports that increase test scores.”

Those who score well on their SATs may ask to be rewarded with some of the new game-playing accessories that debuted at the show, such as the Speedster 3 racing wheel and seat for the Xbox that Endor will begin selling in February.

The wheel vibrates with the game action and attaches to an actual racing seat for the complete automotive game experience. It will cost $149 for the wheel or $399 for the wheel-and-seat combination, and it probably won’t do much for college preparation.

Apple Computer wasn’t at the show but competitors to its iPod were everywhere on the show floor. Digital-music storage and playing systems ranged from massive home music servers with a terabyte of capacity to lipstick-size, brightly colored MP3 players. In between were a range of hard-drive-based players, some with bright color displays.

Kazuharu Shimoda, a Toshiba senior engineer in Tokyo, gave attendees a preview of the iPod killer he designed for release by the end of 2005.

Shimoda and his team displayed a prototype portable media player that used a wafer thin, super-bright organic light-emitting-diode (LED) display screen.

The 170-gram device uses stamp-sized SD memory cards and is about a quarter-inch thick by about 5 inches long, with a bulge on one side for the six-hour battery.

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The Texas Instruments Navigator 2.0 creates a wireless network for calculators in classrooms.

Shimoda said it should sell for less than $600.

All the new stuff on display raises the question of what will happen to everyone’s old stuff, so manufacturers are taking steps to make it easier to recycle and dispose of their electronic products.

One motivation is new European environmental regulations; another is that consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere are interested in the issue.

Panasonic won a show award for its environmentally friendly Panasonic SV AV50 camcorder. It uses a new, less-toxic battery; it’s designed with an easy-to-recycle magnesium case; and it doesn’t have hazardous chemicals inside.

Panasonic representatives said one of the key reasons the product is easier to dispose of is because it’s so small — it’s about the size of a small cellphone.

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com