Small is beautiful for PCs at Cebit

Small is beautiful for PCs at Cebit

At first glance, this year's Cebit looked more like an Ikea store than a high-tech trade show, with several of the stands featuring sofas, low tables and large TV screens.

At first glance, this year's Cebit looked more like an Ikea store than a high-tech trade show, with several of the stands featuring sofas, low tables and large TV screens. But these were not mere chill-out areas for tired visitors at the Hanover, Germany, show: They were the main exhibit, as PC and peripheral manufacturers attempt to take PCs out of the home office and into the living room, where they are more likely to be used for playing music or watching HDTV (high-definition television) than for balancing the household accounts.

Typical of such products is Elite Computer System Co. Ltd.'s EZ-Buddie 2. It's a PC that looks more like a small hi-fi system -- it even has a built in FM radio, buttons to change channel and a big volume control on the front panel. There's also a DVD drive, up to 2G bytes of RAM and a Pentium 4 processor running at up to 3.2GHz, all cooled by a low-noise fan so as not to disturb you when you're watching a movie. The Scaleo C from Fujitsu-Siemens Computers (Holding) BV is similar in form, and comes with up to 1G byte of RAM and a 200G-byte hard disk. With an optional TV tuner card it can also record shows to DVD. Best of all, for those impatient to watch their favorite show: You don't have to boot into Windows to activate the multimedia functions.

If Elite's EZ-Buddie 2 is small, there are even smaller machines, with several exhibitors disputing the title of world's smallest PC. Netbox Ltd. of Stroud, England, has one of the most stylish: its Nanode measures 94 millimeters by 150 millimeters by 160 millimeters. The Nanode will be the first computer built on Via Technologies Inc.'s Nano-ITX motherboard, which will go on sale in the second quarter.

Not so long ago, digital cameras with over 6-megapixel resolution were reserved for professionals only, but they're now entering the consumer market. Eastman Kodak Co. showed its Easyshare DX7630, which will go on sale next month with a suggested retail price of €529 (US$650). The DX7630 a 3x optical zoom, weighs 219 grams, and stores its 6.1-megapixel images on MultiMediaCard or SD (Secure Digital) memory cards.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC1 digital camera from Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. doesn't quite meet the 6-megapixel bar, but it stands out in another way. In addition to the fully automatic mode usually found on digital cameras, a fully manual mode allows photographers to adjust zoom, focus, aperture and exposure time by hand. The DMC-LC1 has a Leica 3x-zoom lens and a 5.2-megapixel image sensor, and will go on sale later this month for €1,499.

Camera-phones have until now placed more emphasis on the phone than the camera, but megapixel devices from Nokia Corp. and Siemens AG are tipping the balance toward better-quality pictures. The Nokia 7610 shoots pictures at a resolution of 1152 pixels by 864 pixels, has a 4x zoom, and can even edit the images before sending them via MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) or to a local printer using the Bluetooth short-range radio technology. It should be available in second quarter for around €500. The Siemens S65 stores photos from its 1.3-megapixel camera on a removable 32M-byte memory card. It's not all play, though: You can also answer your e-mails with the S65, which can be synchronized with IBM Corp.'s Lotus Notes or Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook. It will be available from the third quarter, along with an optional detachable flash unit. -- IDG News Service

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