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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 17:52 GMT
Taste of tech in 2006 from CES
Chris Long
By Chris Long
Click producer

Chris Long went out and about at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to try to map out the path technology will take in 2006.

Windows Vista
The prospect of Windows Vista has triggered other developments
In the wonderful world of technology every year is a special year, an anniversary, a new launch, a new colour/version/logo.

But this year is different: we have a new Intel, we are getting a new Windows, and everything is just about wireless.

We even have Palm, that bastion of "we can go it alone, thank you very much", releasing a device running Windows CE. So what is going on?

The first and obvious place to start is Windows Vista, previously called Longhorn.

It is a brand new version of Windows that is launching at the end of the year, and everyone in the business is writing compatible software and beefing up their hardware to take the inevitable strain the new software will create.

Intel is one of the companies making the hardware to take that strain, and has spent an awful lot of money redesigning its logo.

It is also spending a lot of money moving up the power graph by showing off its new dual-core processors for notebooks.

But the big Intel news was Viiv - a specification to drag video entertainment systems well and truly in to the 21st Century.

The media centre - the PC as a home entertainment hub - is developing apace, and joining the fray is Google, which has announced a video download service.

However, it is the launch of Google Pack - a collection of freebie software, even including an anti-virus package - that is taking Google's bid for world domination to a new level.

It is heartening to see the industry trying to develop our own creativity, and at least one result of that means more pictures to file.

All the same, it is apparent that digital imaging is not that hot at the moment.

Storage wars

But if the megapixel war is slowing, the battle for the storage media inside the cameras is definitely hotting up.

Flash memory is getting faster, smaller and denser, whatever the format.

But it is the ubiquitous USB sticks that are changing the game.

Ed Morrow, from SanDisk, says: "I believe you're going to see everything move to USB, especially as USB becomes a smarter device.

USB device
USB devices are changing the way we use our data
"As you have software engineers writing the ability to launch applications, you're going to see USB becoming a much smarter device as people are able to walk around and launch applications.

"Yes, it also holds memory. So I really believe that's going to be the device of choice for travelling and backup."

So it looks like we have a growth in media centre technology but a slowdown in imaging developments, with storage going hell for leather.

Racing ahead

Wireless has got so far into the soul of computing that it has now taken on USB.

Current USB is easily fast enough to handle video streams and, while this new technology is perfect for printers and digital cameras, the simplicity of the wireless technology, and the sheer number of USB devices, suggests it is here to stay.

Then there is wireless networking. Yes, it is old news - but 2006 is the year where the new, faster, and very much better, N standard is supposed to be released.

The problem is the standard has taken so long to get sorted that the manufacturers got itchy and launched loads of non-standard kit, normally called pre-N. And one pre-N device does not always work with other pre-N kit.

So connectivity is blossoming, but the ensuing standards confusion is likely to make everyone's head spin.

Plus, it almost goes without saying that Voice over Internet is changing the telecoms world.

Perhaps the biggest development is Skype's new software supporting the Pocket PC, meaning VoIP calls on your mobile phone.

The other big mobile phone news is from Palm, the company that effectively created the PDA market by building its own hardware and writing its own software.

Palm has launched a Treo handset that runs Microsoft pocket windows. So we started with Microsoft and end with Microsoft - there's a trend that we all recognise!



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