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DigitalLife 2007: Showstoppers

Date: September 26, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams

Although Showstoppers had only 32 exhibitors, we found many cool products to write about. Included in this article are quick looks at the wireless speaker lamp, Eye Clops, Iomega’s 3TB NAS, magicJACK and much more.

Introduction, D-Link, Kingston, Slingbox, Griffon

Although DigitalLife will be the main attraction for tech enthusiasts in NYC this week, Showstoppers helped kick things off with a pre-show at the new New York Times building, complete with 32 exhibitors. Though it was a small event compared to DigitalLife itself, we had some good chats and learned about some cool new products on the horizon.

First stop was D-Link, who were showing off their upcoming Wireless USB hub, two N-based routers and a bulky, yet sturdy webcam. Also on display is their single NAS product, the DNS-323, which we took a look a few months ago. Their only real announcement at the show however, was the fact that they’ve upgraded their MediaLounge product to support more than 200 channels of internet video to the TV. I didn’t have a chance to take a deep look at any products while there, but we will more than likely be taking a look at a few of them in the months to come.

If there is one company that doesn’t like to miss any press events, it’s Kingston. We had a chance to meet with them just last week at Intel’s Developer Conference, but I had to check up again to see if anything else had been unveiled. Luckily enough, there were three new products on display.

The first is a high-density Micro SDHC card, offering 4GB of storage at your perusal. With it comes two adapters, so that you can use it in other devices if need be, such as an MP3 player or digital camera.

In a continuing effort to cater to those who thrive on the digital lifestyle, they also showed us a simple thumb drive that can be “skinned”. Skinned is in quotes because it’s not a true skin, but rather paper print-outs tucked in behind a protective plastic covering. Though more of a niche product, the ability to print out your own designs is nice. You can expect these to launch in the next few weeks, with 1GB – 8GB models available.

Lastly, their 1GB Mobility Kit is similar to the Micro SDHC above, except this one has a 1GB density as the name suggests. What makes this kit special is that you can plug the card into the included USB connector to allow accessing on your PC. Pricing is currently not known for this product.

Slingbox also had a showing at Showstoppers, which was great since I’ve never actually had the opportunity in the past to see it in action. For those unaware, Slingbox allows you to stream your television and other video-feeds to your computer on a remote internet connection. My first thoughts of advantages is being in a hotel room that offers horrible channel selection. If the internet connection is solid, you could simply ping your machine at home and watch TV from there.

On display was their new Pro version, which brings both HD-component capabilities and also quad A/V sources. Though the Pro model can accept component cables, the outputted video will still be in 480i, though it will have a finer quality over streaming video from a standard composite connection. HD video is currently not possible for a variety of reasons, one being bandwidth.

Our favorite defragging gurus Diskeeper had their two new products on display, Diskeeper 2008 and Undelete 5. Diskeeper 2008 adds a few new features to the fray, but the most important is more in-depth and accurate prediction of what should be done on your drive. Depending on various factors, the program can decide which engine to use. Undelete 5 offers a few new features as well, including capabilities to have multiple versions of the same file, which is one feature that really seems to be catching on lately.

Though I am not an iPod fan personally, the cool factor of Griffin’s latest iPod dock can’t be ignored. As you can see in the photo below, the iPod docks as it always has, but now, all of the speakers are accessed wirelessly. While the kit includes two, you could upgrade your setup to include additional speakers, essentially giving you a completely wireless experience.

Due to the commotion in the room, sound quality was difficult to gauge, however, they sounded like they had some reasonable power behind them.

Iomega, magicJack, Mitek

Iomega didn’t have any “70x that of a floppy” products on display, but they did have some interesting offerings littered around their desk. The first are external hard drives, that can be plugged into your computer via USB. Currently, 160GB models are offered, but 250GB is on the way. On top of that, Firewire connectors will be added to upcoming models as well.

What makes these enclosures different than the competition is that the hard-drive cannot be removed, and because of this, the enclosure was designed to for ultimate drive protection. While other enclosures on the market are not considered safe at a drop from two feet onto carpet, Iomega’s drives are tested up to a drop of 52″.

If there were doubts that Iomega were still fans of Apple, check out their latest NAS boxes:

Similar to a Mac Pro, no? I don’t recall much information on these, except that one offers support for a single drive and the other two allow two. For an even beefier NAS, their StorCenter Pro might be for you.

This product is not new, but the 3TB model is. Yes, 3,000GB. This NAS uses a version of Linux and can also act as a printer server, should you choose to plug one in. This is a NAS targeted straight at the small business, and retails at around the $600 – $800 mark.

With VoIP and telecommunications technology being a hot topic lately, magicJack immediately caught my attention. But what really grabbed me was the fact that they touted a $19.95 per year fee. The idea is “simple”. Plug the device into a USB port, and then plug in your phone line into the end of that device. You will acquire a phone number through magicJack, who is an official provider of such, just as AT&T and others are.

For initial setup and the first years services, the product is $39.95. Each year afterward is $19.95. How do they make money off such a cheap product, and YOU get such cheap phone service? We were told that they make money on incoming calls from the phone companies of those who call you, though I’m not quite sure how that works. Regardless, I left a tad confused, but it’s an intriguing product nonetheless.

I am far from being an audiophile, but that didn’t mean that a few products on the floor didn’t immediately catch my interest. How about a lamp with a built-in speaker?

Before you jump to conclusions and consider the product to be a joke at best, I think it’s safe to say that it was easily one of the best products at Showstoppers. This lamp not only looks good, but can pump out 90db with a single large driver. As the sound gets pumped out, the top diffuses it to give the effect of true stereo. As you can see in the picture below, you could pair up more than one if you wanted.

One of the coolest features might be the price: $299, or $379 with a transmitter. From what I understand, only one transmitter is needed. This unique lamp is not all that Mitek had on hand though. In continuing of their “bang for buck” standards, they showed off an iPod dock that is capable of spitting out music at around 105db.

While it’s difficult to truly experience how a product sounds in the middle of noisy crowds, it definitely had some boom. One can be yours for $99.95.

Meridian, Shure, Nickelodeon, Zipit, Jakks

Following in the audio theme, UK-based Meridian was showing off their high-end result of a collaboration with Ferrari, the F80. Style is one word that immediately comes to mind, and also… wow. Once again, it’s hard to tell how great a speaker sounds in the middle of a large crowd, but I loved what I did hear. Three drivers are implemented for 80W total power.

It’s a solid product as well… quite mobile but heavy at the same time. It’s not a product you would want to move around that often… it was FAR heavier than it looks. The price tag is not for the faint of heart: $3,000.

Lastly on the audio front, Shure was promoting their $99 earbuds, the SE110’s. These are designed to be for the budget-concious consumer, though I was mildly impressed with how they sounded. Bass is something that lacks in many earbuds, and the SE110’s are no different. What was impressive was that while wearing them, the background noise almost completely disappeared. Great for an airplane, I’m sure.

Oct 15 Addendum: The Shure earbuds pictured below are the SE420s, not the SE110s mentioned above.

Being close to the holiday season, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see a slew of child-oriented products on hand as well. Some, even I wanted to play with. As sad as that may be. Nickelodeon displayed numerous products that are designed to intrigue kids and handle a little bit of a beating. Spongebob was the primary figure portrayed throughout most of the offerings, including a cool alarm clock that pops Spongebob up at the alarm time, and can be pushed back down to act as a Snooze.

Many cameras were on display as well, and since these products are designed for kids, the price ranges are kept reasonable. The solid-looking gray digital camera in the middle offering 3.0 megapixel resolution and should retail for around $70.

Zipit was also on the floor showing off their latest product, which is an all-in-one solution for kids who want to IM on the go. The product is developed for both parents and child however. Parents will have access to what kind of language can be passed through and also block other features they don’t want their kids to use.

Priced at $150, the unit would essentially replace a cell-phone for most kids (though having a cell phone is a smart idea for obvious reasons). Studies done by the company showed that 90% of kids are online and ~75% were on instant messengers. The Zipit allows them to keep in touch with friends while on the go and offers up to six hours of battery life on a single charge. Another notable feature is that the device can be put into an idle mode when not in use, but is still able to receive messages while in that mode. The user will just recognize the fact that they have received an IM and can deal with it accordingly.

Lastly, one of the coolest kids products was produced by Jakks Pacific. Called the Eye Clops, the product consists of a huge ball and a handle. The idea is to run along the bottom of the ball on any surface and what’s seen at 200x zoom will be displayed on your TV. This… was amazing, and something that anyone I know would have some fun with. The demonstrator showed examples of carpet, money and even skin. Rolling over her sweater, you could see the individual fibers on the screen.. quite impressive.

While walking around the show, I overheard a distinctive and enthusiastic voice and knew it could only be Dick DeBartolo. I also learned that he takes great candid shots!

Showstoppers is over, but that doesn’t mean the action stops. Heck, it hasn’t even begun! Stay tuned to the site as we continue to update as the show progresses.

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