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Live From Macworld: Slick Podcasting, Tricked-Out Tablet, Awesome Display

By Paul Hartsock MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jan 15, 2008 3:23 PM PT

Apple CEO Steve Jobs made big news Tuesday, taking advantage of the Macworld keynote spotlight to announce of his company's latest hardware offerings, including a wireless hard drive backup system and an incredibly skinny laptop computer.

Live From Macworld: Slick Podcasting, Tricked-Out Tablet, Awesome Display

However, Macworld is much more than Jobs' 90-minute speech. Hundreds of companies representing the many industries that are part of the Apple universe come to Macworld to display their newest -- and, in some cases, not quite ready-to-sell -- offerings.

Here are some that caught my eye as I ambled around the conference floor.

Belkin's Podcaststudio

Technically, the so-called act of podcasting can be done without an iPod at all. Just stick a microphone in your computer, start up a recording program, and put the sound file online. There, now you're a podcaster.

However, iTunes makes it easy to find and organize podcasts for listeners and creators alike. This summer, Belkin will release Podcaststudio, a two-channel recording unit with an iPod dock that fits classic and nano models. It features a lot of different input options: combo jacks, 3.5 mm or its built-in set of stereo mics.

One possible disadvantage, though, is an odd shape that makes it look like it would be a little awkward to stuff into a pocket, so those looking for a simple and easily portable voice recorder may want to look elsewhere.

That same shape, though, makes it look like a good option for meetings or any other sort of desktop use.

Axiotron's Modbook

As I played around with Axiotron's Modbook Mac tablet, I asked one of the company's PR reps whether anyone was worried about rumors (now put to rest) that Apple was about to announce a tablet of its own.

His response: Not at all. The Modbook, he explained, is designed for graphic artists, incorporating a pen-input system.

Judging by the touchscreen technology under its belt, should Apple ever go ahead and actually make a tablet of its own, it would likely operate by finger and hand touches, and having a touch-sensitive screen would irritate artists who rest their hands on the surface of what they're drawing upon.

The Modbook I used ran OS X Leopard with all the same software you'd find on a regular MacBook, as well as some special software built for its role as a tablet -- such as a sliding image of a keyboard that comes into view when the user needs to type (of course, a USB (Universal Serial Bus) keyboard can be used as well).

The pen-input system is very accurate for drawing -- different pressure levels yield different line thicknesses, for instance. The screen also senses when the pen is close to -- but not quite -- touching it, which activates a small indicator icon. The unit I used required a little more pressure then I'd naturally apply to perform basic click functions, though.

NEC's Cool Curves

Gamers usually aren't Apple's biggest market, but NEC Display Solutions has something that will send them into convulsions -- if they can afford it. The company came to Macworld with a concave widescreen display that the rep told me is 48 inches in radius.

It basically does the work of two large monitors but seamlessly blends them into a curved screen that's designed to fill up your entire field of view. The resolution is 2880 x 900 -- that's two WXGA+ monitors laid side-to-side, but with no seam between the two.

If this sounds at all familiar, it's because Alienware showed something very like it at CES. Both NEC and Alienware have teamed with Ostendo to deliver similar products aimed at different markets.

Alienware's target is (financially sound) gamers, while NEC says it's setting its sights on commercial applications like graphic design and video editing. It says it's hoping to have it ready to go in about nine months. Price is unknown at this time.

Click here to e-mail Paul Hartsock.

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