Technology has moved off the desktop and under the tree, with gifts
that fit on your wrist or in your pocket ... or sit on your nose or on
in case having Microsoft operating systems on your home and office
PC and on your kid's Xbox aren't enough for you, this holiday season
you can give someone a Microsoft operating system for their wrist.
That's right, a Microsoft-powered SmartWatch, with models from watch
manufacturers including Swatch, Suunto, Fossil, and Tissot at prices
ranging from $200 to $2,000.
Displaying a series of user-selectable faces, the watch uses a built-in
FM receiver to make sure its always showing the right time (at least in
major metropolitan areas). Optional subscriptions to MSNDirect let the
watch download additional features. The $55-a-year base plan includes
news, local weather, sports, stock prices, horoscopes, and more. An
additional $25 a year adds reception of MSN Messenger instant messages
and the ability to sync Outlook Express appointments.
to disprove the allegations that the company lacks a sense of
style is Microsoft's Optical Mouse by S+ARCK ($55), a sleek silver
(with choice of orange or blue racing stripe) mouse from well-known
designer Philippe Starck. Along with the flashy looks, the ovoid design
works equally well left or right-handed. Like Apple's standard mouse,
the whole body clicks; unlike Apple's, it sports Microsoft's standard
set of two buttons and a scroll wheel.
No wireless version, but it works equally well with Windows or Macs.
The other MP3 players
Even though Apple's iPods currently hold a Microsoft-like share of the
market for MP3 music players, Apple did not originate this product
category. Creative Labs was one of several companies innovating in this
area before being overshadowed by the iPod phenomenon. Now, however,
Creative's CEO Sim Wong Hoo has declared war, promising to spend US$100
million in 2005 to bring the company's updated music players to the
public's attention. Challenging Apple's iPod Mini, for example,
Creative's Zen Micro ($350) offers more drive space (5 GB compared to 4
GB), longer battery life, and 10 vivid colours at the same price as the
iPod Mini. As well, an FM radio tuner and voice recorder are built in
(both features are available for the iPod, but require extra cost
third-party add-ons). A vertical touch pad offers easy navigation
through long lists of songs.
offers a wide range of MP3 music players. The tiny flash-memory MuVo
Micro players (ranging from $120 with 128 MB to $280 with 1 GB) offer a
choice of eight colours in a unit that measures a mere 3.35 cm wide by
6.55 cm high and 1.30 cm thick.
the high end, the Zen Touch challenges the larger iPod, with 20 GB of
hard drive storage ($380). Its promised 24 hours of battery life is
almost double iPods', and it shares the Zen Micro's easy-to-use touch
pad. Like the Zen Micro, both the MuVo Micro and Zen Touch models
include FM tuners and recording capabilities.
nice little flash-memory unit is Samsung's Yepp YP-T5. About the size
of a tube of lipstick, it comes in 128 MB (YP-T5H: $200) and 256 MB
(YP-T5V: $250) models, each including FM radio and recording functions,
along with MP3 storage and playback, good sound and easy navigation.
Tunes and shades
music players are cool, but perhaps the ultimate in cool this holiday
season is the Oakley Thump MP3 sunglasses (available at Radio Shack),
offering high-end optics with speakers attached to the sunglass frames.
Adjustable booms let you swing the speakers away from your ears when
they're not in use. 128 MB ($550) and 256 MB ($700) models are
available. Listening to your tunes indoors? No problem. The lenses flip
Something for Mac fans
its iPod success, Apple finds itself in the unusual position of being
big kid on the block. More often, the company's customers are used to
being perennial outsiders: loving their Macs and loyal to the company
that builds them. If you have a Mac fan on your gift list, get them a
copy of Leander Kahney's The Cult of Mac (NoStarch Press, $56). A
loving look at Mac culture ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous,
from Mac-themes jack-o'-lanterns to Apple tattoos to Hollywood product
placement to PowerBook cases hand-painted with exquisite traditional
Japanese designs. It's the ultimate Mac-lover's coffee table book.
(Have you ever heard anyone claiming such affection and loyalty to
for the ultimate Mac-lover's gift, consider Apple's new G5-powered
iMac. This all-in-one computer looks like an iPod on steroids; where
the previous generation houses the computer guts in a base that looked
like half a cantaloupe, the new ones manage to fit everything into the
somewhat thickened case for the 17-inch or 20-inch LCD display. The
understated clean look hides an easy-to-use, virus-free, but powerful
computer. From $1,750.
Oh, I'm a travelling man
you travel for business. Other times, you may still want to bring your
laptop along, but a businesslike attache case just doesn't work. For
those times, Kensington offers the Contour Backpack ($140), a pack with
an internal compartment to safely cradle your laptop (up to 17-inch
models), while also including a strong but lightweight frame and padded
straps for comfortable and ergonomic carrying. Lots of pockets, an
expandable bottle holster and headphone port for your MP3 player make
it a practical but informal way to take your laptop traveling. (For
those more formal times, Kensington also offers a full range of more
businesslike laptop cases.)
finally on the plane, and you've got your laptop loaded with a DVD
movie. Or your MP3 player with your favorite tunes. All ready for the
long flight. Can you tune out the incessant roar of the jet engines?
Kensington's Noise Canceling Headphones ($70, battery included), while
bulkier than those handy earbuds, have a built-in microprocessor that
analyzes background sounds and cancels them by creating an inverse
It really works, effectively blocking out noise, especially
low-frequency sounds like jet engines. You can even safely use them
when driving; they muffle the background traffic roar while still
letting enough sound come in to let you respond to emergencies. An
airplane jack is included so you can use them to watch that in-flight
movie if you have no better alternatives.
Cuts like a (Swiss Army) knife
on, this is a Swiss Army Knife, from Swiss knife-maker Victorinox. But
the SwissMemory twenty-first century version includes your standard
pocket knife blade, nail file, and scissors, and adds a geek-friendly
ballpoint pen, LED light and a USB flash drive (64, 128, or 256 MB
capacity: $100-$150). Can't bring your knife on board a plane but need
access to your stored files? No problem--the flash drive is detachable
(and includes a short cable for easier connection to sometimes
hard-to-reach USB ports). All with that genuine Swiss Army quality.