Connected Home EXPRESS--Macworld, CES Wrap-Ups--January 21, 2004

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1. Getting Connected
- Macworld, CES Foreshadow an Exciting 2004

2. News and Views
- Microsoft Sues Teen Over Web Site
- Google Moves into Email
- Illegal Music Downloads Jump Despite RIAA Legal Action
- Napster Goes to Europe
- CD Singles on the Chopping Block
- PalmSource Ships Palm OS 6.0
- Consumers Spend $3.5 Billion on Cell-Phone Ring Tones

3. Announcements
- New Web Seminar: Email Is a Service--Manage It Like One
- Need to Get Your Hands Wrapped Around SQL Server?

4. Quick Poll - Results of Previous Poll: Home-Theater Investment
- New Poll: Digital Media in Your Connected Home

5. Resource
- Tip: Lighten the Load with a Smart Phone

6. Event
- Free Web Seminar--The Costs of Spam

7. New and Improved
- Low-Priced 4-Megapixel Optical-Zoom Digital Camera
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

8. Contact Us
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

==== Sponsor: Connected Home Survey ====

Connected Home Magazine is Offering You The Chance to Win a Portable DVD Player - Simply Answer Our Super-Quick 10 Question Survey!


==== 1. Getting Connected ====
By Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

Macworld, CES Foreshadow an Exciting 2004
Like 2003, 2004 began with two trend-setting trade shows: Macworld San Francisco 2004 and the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both shows are heavily tilted toward the merger of personal computing and consumer electronics--a hot trend that's now sweeping the computer industry. CES also features a strong contingent of traditional consumer-electronics companies plying such high-tech toys as home-theater systems and High-Definition Television (HDTV) displays. As in previous years, both shows offered a fascinating preview of the consumer-oriented technology advances we'll see in the coming year.

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs is a master showman, capable of rallying his company's loyal fans into a tizzy over the company's products. Sadly, Macworld 2004 showcased one of Jobs's least compelling moments on stage, mostly because Apple has so few new products. But the company is pushing further from its computer roots into digital music--a move that will resonate for months to come.

But first, Jobs celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Macintosh, the computer that took GUIs and the mouse mainstream. "Literally, \[the Mac was\] a decade ahead of anything else," Jobs noted. "It was the computer for the rest of us." He didn't announce any new or updated Mac systems, however, choosing to instead focus on innovative new software that distances the Mac from its PC competition. First up was a new version of the company's midlevel Digital Video (DV) editing package, Final Cut Express 2.0 ($300, or $100 for the upgrade version), which includes real-time filters and effects--two features that typically bog down the free iMovie tool. Microsoft even showed off its Mac Office 2004 suite, due later this year, which will include Mac-only and Mac-first features such as a Project Center for centrally tracking different types of information and a OneNote-like note-taking and audio recording add-on for Microsoft Word.

Apple updated its iLife suite of digital-media applications with new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD (iTunes remains unchanged), and a new music-making application called GarageBand. Priced at just $50, iLife is a must-have package, offering better performance, better stability, and a slew of new features, such as network-based photo sharing, photo ratings, and numerous new video effects and transitions. "It's like Microsoft Office for the rest of your life," Jobs said, "for when you're not a work."

The big news at Macworld was the new iPod mini, due in February in the United States and in April elsewhere. Essentially a scaled-down version of the world's most popular portable digital audio player, the iPod mini features Mac and PC compatibility, a choice of five colors, a 4GB hard disk--good for storing 1000 songs (which I take to mean 128Kbps Protected AAC songs)--and a disappointingly high price of $250.

CES is typically split evenly between traditional consumer-electronics companies and PC companies. CES 2004 got off to a strange start when computing giant HP announced a blockbuster deal with Apple, in which HP will sell rebranded iPods and bundle Apple's free iTunes for Windows software with all its consumer-oriented PCs. The HP deal raises some serious interoperability concerns, because none of its many existing hardware products are currently compatible with the proprietary Protected AAC format that Apple uses on its iTunes Music Store. HP also abandoned the more compatible Microsoft Windows Media Audio (WMA) format used by competitors such as Dell, MusicMatch, Napster, Wal-Mart, and, leading me to wonder how the company will keep its customers from sinking into a quagmire of incompatibilities. But you can't deny that the HP/Apple deal is a lightning strike of publicity for HP and a huge endorsement for Apple's digital media strategy.

HP wasn't the only PC company bucking the Microsoft boat. Streaming media technology company RealNetworks announced at CES that it, too, was abandoning WMA for its own online music store, and although the company chose an AAC-based audio format, the format is completely incompatible with Apple's Protected AAC. The announcement raised eyebrows and cast another shadow over any hopes that the format wars would soon be over.

In his preshow keynote address, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates touted his company's recently released MSN 9 Internet software, which includes a Premium version suited to broadband users; the new Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) smart watches; Windows Powered Smart Phones; and a host of Windows Media-based products and services, including Windows Media Center Extender devices, which remotely display content from Media Center PCs on any TV in your home through a network connection. Microsoft's vision was called "Seamless Computing," an apt description for the ways the company sees technology expanding into every area of our lives. "We're making it so you don't have to do a lot of work to get your calendar to show up on the different devices, making it so that your email is wherever you go," Gates said. "We are developing software that's in the car, in the phone, of course in the PC, the set-top box, the watch--all the places where software can run. We want to make sure that we do the best we can to make \[them\] connect and to make it seamless."

But CES wasn't just about Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft didn't even have a particularly big presence at the show, compared with some companies. No, you could sum up this year's CES with the term "connectivity." We're at the beginning of a new age in consumer electronics, an age in which devices work together over home networks. Many companies are offering set-top boxes, for example, that connect to powerful PCs in the home office, displaying the digital photos, movies, and music you've stored there through your home stereo or home theater. Other devices remotely access content from powerful set-top boxes, such as the TV, letting you enjoy recorded TV content in other rooms. In both of these cases, the idea is that you can enjoy your media at any time, in any room. Maybe Microsoft's "seamless computing" concept isn't so far off after all.

Some of the companies at CES were showing off interesting and innovative products. HDTV satellite provider VOOM, for example, recently dramatically reduced the cost of its exciting, high-quality service and is introducing in 2004 a set of secondary set-top boxes that let you view HDTV programming (recorded or live) on other TVs around the home. A company called Beatsounds is offering tiny MP3 players that you can wear as decorative necklaces; the devices are so small you could almost wear them as earrings, and yet they offer 128MB to 256MB of storage. Texas Instruments, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, and others are offering a wide range of wide-screen TV displays at a variety of price-points. Tube sets still dominate the low end, but rear-projection sets are coming on strong in the low-to-midpriced range. DLP displays are making headway in the midrange, and high-priced LCD and plasma displays, with their flat form factors and brilliant screens, are selling better than ever at the high end.

Sony's off-floor booth was characteristically impressive. The company was touting everything from PC-convergence devices with integrated DV recording capabilities to Network Walkman portable audio players, disk-based personal DV recorders, digital cameras, and smart phones through its partnership with Erickson.

CES was so big that I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it. We saw traditional computer equipment, quarter-sized hard disks, customizable bezels for wide-screen TVs, iPod accessories, car stereos and car modifications, and photo-printing paper. We saw booth babes, bikini models, walking and talking robots, and vendors that sold different flavors of oxygen to confused attendees. Temporary booths were even set up in tents in the parking lot to handle the companies that couldn't get space inside the enormous Las Vegas Convention Center. CES was just that kind of show.

==== 2. News and Views ====
An irreverent look at some of the week's Connected Home news, contributed by Paul Thurrott and Keith Furman ([email protected])

Microsoft Sues Teen Over Web Site
Microsoft's legal embarrassments reached a new low this week when a 17-year-old named Mike Rowe revealed he's the target of a lawsuit that the software giant filed. The subject of the suit is Rowe's Web site,, which is phonetically identical to "Since my name is Mike Rowe, I thought it would be funny to add 'soft' to the end of it," Rowe said. You know what, Mike? It is funny. In fact, it's so funny, we laugh every time we think about it. What's not funny, however, is the reaction Microsoft has had to your name. Specifically, Microsoft is suing Rowe for copyright infringement. Shame on Microsoft. The company should have to pay the poor kid damages for threatening him in the first place.

Google Moves into Email
Internet search giant Google is reportedly working on extending its lucrative Web-based advertising to email and will soon launch an email service. Google's email service will likely be Web-based and include sponsored links similar to those on and many other Web sites. Google, of course, faces serious competition from companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo!, both of which already offer sophisticated email services and Internet searching.

Illegal Music Downloads Jump Despite RIAA Legal Action
Americans downloaded more illegal music in October and November than in previously tested periods (the previous test took place in May 2003), despite the best efforts of the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA's) lawyers and legal music services such as the Apple iTunes Music Store. An NPD Group study notes that the number of US households using peer-to-peer networks to illegally download music rose 6 to 7 percent during that time period, with 12 million people downloading illegal music. The development marks the first time since May that the figure rose. "It's important to keep in mind that file sharing is occurring less frequently than before the RIAA began its legal efforts to stem the tide of P2P \[peer-to-peer\] file sharing," an RIAA lawyer said. "We're just seeing the first increase in these numbers."

Napster Goes to Europe
The Napster music download service is on its way to Europe, the company announced recently. Napster is offering its library of more than 300,000 songs to European consumers starting in April. Currently, only US consumers can access the service, which started its new lease on life last fall. Previously, Napster was home to more than 50 million music thieves and the catalyst for the seemingly never-ending series of music-related lawsuits we've seen over the past few years.

CD Singles on the Chopping Block
Say what you will about online music stores and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, but declining CD sales thanks to these two technologies will soon see the end of the CD single, which record companies will discontinue over the next 3 years. Sales of CD singles fell 30 percent in 2003, and industry experts expect the high-priced disks to suffer a similar fall this year. With broadband more commonly available, consumers can easily download single songs in just seconds from legitimate online music stores. And recently, for the first time, sales of downloaded songs have outpaced sales of CD singles.

PalmSource Ships Palm OS 6.0
PalmSource recently finalized its Palm OS 6.0 software, paving the way for a new generation of PDAs that companies such as palmOne and Sony will release in 2004. Palm OS 6.0 features better multitasking capabilities than its predecessor, Palm OS 5.0, letting devices based on the system run more applications simultaneously. The new OS also includes native support for landscape and portrait display modes, as well as several multimedia-oriented features.

Consumers Spend $3.5 Billion on Cell-Phone Ring Tones
Sales of cell-phone ring tones exceeded $3.5 billion worldwide in 2003, calling into question the sanity of everyone on the planet. That figure means that those annoying little jingles you hear every time some clown in a restaurant, movie theater, or other public space answers his or her phone generated 10 percent of the amount of money that the entire music industry earned. The saddest aspect of this news is that cell-phone makers anticipate strong growth, which means even more sales this year. But fear not--ring tones aren't even the sales leader when it comes to cell-phone services: Cell-phone-based text messaging generated a whopping $40 billion in 2003.

==== 3. Announcements ====
(from Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

New Web Seminar: Email Is a Service--Manage It Like One True end-to-end management of the messaging infrastructure requires an integrated, service-oriented approach. This free Web seminar introduces service-driven management and best practices for managing and monitoring the key elements crucial to ensuring email health and performance, including Exchange Server, Active Directory, network, and storage. Sign up today!

Need to Get Your Hands Wrapped Around SQL Server? Subscribe to the SQL Server Magazine Master CD and get 5 years worth of SQL Server content in one place. Search by keyword, subject, author, or issue and get high-speed access to all articles, code, tips, tricks, and expertise ever published in SQL Server Magazine and T-SQL Solutions. Subscribe now!

==== 4. Quick Poll ====

Results of Previous Poll: Home-Theater Investment
The voting has closed in Connected Home Online's nonscientific Quick Poll for the question, "How much money have you invested in your entire home-theater setup?" Here are the results from the 157 votes:
- 10% Less than $500
- 15% $500 to $1000
- 14% $1000 to $2000
- 30% $2000 to $5000
- 32% More than $5000

(Deviations from 100 percent are due to rounding error.)

New Poll: Digital Media in Your Connected Home
The next Quick Poll question is, "Do you share digital media (music, photos, videos) throughout your connected home?" Go to the Connected Home Online home page and submit your vote for a) Yes, in a couple of rooms, b) Yes, in three or more rooms, c) No, but I plan to give it a try this year, or d) No, and I have no immediate plans to do so.

==== 5. Resource ====

Tip: Lighten the Load with a Smart Phone
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Gadget freaks who cart around a portable digital audio player, a cell phone, a digital camera, and a PDA would do well to consider a smart phone such as the Handspring Treo 600 or the Motorola MPx-series for their next phone. Such a device can perform all the duties of the previously mentioned devices--all in one simple package. You can use most of today's smart phones to play digital music, audio books, and videos; view and even take digital photos; integrate with your Microsoft Outlook-based contacts, tasks, and calendar; read and edit Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and other common formats; read eBooks; play video games; connect to the Internet for email, browse the Web and perform instant messaging (IM); and engage in a myriad of other activities. And smart phones are reasonably priced: Although they often retail for about $500 when new, most units are available for next to nothing within weeks of their introduction when you sign up for a typical cell-phone plan with a major carrier.

==== 6. Event ====
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine)

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In this free Web seminar, learn how to identify and measure the costs and savings of spam activities by investigating the impacts that spam has on bandwidth, storage, and server-processing costs. Discover the impact of implementing antispam solutions and how other IT pros like you found rapid time-to-value solution. Bring back cost-saving information to your CEO. Register today!

==== 7. New and Improved ====
by Jason Bovberg, [email protected]

Low-Priced 4-Megapixel Optical-Zoom Digital Camera
Concord Camera announced the Concord Eye-Q 4360z, a 4-megapixel point-and-shoot digital camera. The Concord Eye-Q 4360z features advanced optics, a 3x optical zoom, a 6x digital zoom (18x total zoom), exposure control, and 30fps AVI video capability. The camera's user-friendly interface permits easy and intuitive access to sophisticated photographic controls, such as exposure and white balance control. The Concord Eye-Q 4360z includes two rechargeable NiMH AA batteries, a four-battery charger, and a power meter that continuously displays battery-life on the 1.5" TFT LCD screen. The camera offers 16MB of internal memory. For detailed information about the Concord Eye-Q 4360z, which costs $199, contact Concord Camera on the Web.

Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!
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==== 8. Contact Us ====

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