COMBINATION gadgets are sure to top next year’s consumer list, as maximum-usability features dominate handsets, like camera phones with image editor plus music and video players. These gadgets are more convenient, having everything in a single handset, and convergent, having evolved from multiple products of singular purposes.

According to Anne Michelle Santos, Information and Computer Studies Department professor of the Faculty of Engineering, the emerging 2007 gadgets and software would have the ability to do a lot of things like checking e-mails, taking and sending pictures, interacting with Internet messengers, reading computer files, and making calls using video conference, via only a single handset.

‘Fit’ is in

Combination and class are the features to look for the newest phones soon to be swarming the tech market.

Nokia will be launching early next year two new phones from its roster of trend-setting gadgets: the Nokia 7390 and N95.

The compact and sophisticated Nokia 7390, a member of Nokia’s fashionable L’amour Collection, is the company’s first third-generation (3G)-capable fashion phone. The handset, encased in ceramic-inspired covers and leather panels, has dual screens. The external 18-bit screen comes with a 160 x 128 resolution, giving it an elegant look when closed; while the larger, 240 x 320 resolution internal screen can display up to 16 million colors. Of course, with a high resolution screen, the handset comes complete with an autofocus 3-megapixel camera.

The stylish N95, on the other hand, also boasts of its 3G capability, along with the usual Bluetooth, Universal Serial Bus (USB), and wireless data transfers, plus a 160-megabyte internal memory and an external memory card slot. But this unique, two-way slider phone is capable of Global Positioning System, the only fully-functional navigation system through a satellite. Also, it has a five-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, the leading feature in the digital imaging, and a 2.6-inch screen with 320 × 240 resolution.

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Motorola will also launch a new mobile phone in 2007, RAZR MAXX V6, which brags of a more flexible data transfer mechanism and touch-sensitive controls on its exterior. The super slim mobile phone has the same Bluetooth capability plus an onboard music player, and supports video capturing and playback with its two-megapixel camera with eight times digital-zooming capacity.

Samsung has a phone to launch, too. Samsung’s Ultra Edition 13.8, the thinnest 3G slider phone capable of High-Speed Downlink Packet Access is a technology that allows higher data transfer speed. It has two cameras, a three-megapixel one and a clear Video Graphics Array dual camera able to zoom three times for video calling. It also has a 2.1-inch, 240 x 340 display, an onboard music and video player, speakerphone and offline mode, and a digital power amplifier for better sound quality.

“Mobile phones are starting to be of major use, now as music and video player, storage device (for different computer files), and 3G video calling,” Santos said.

Vista to the future

Prior to the announcement of a new Microsoft product in July 2005 codenamed Longhorn, Windows has finally completed its latest release: Windows Vista. It will be released out January next year, five years after the release of Microsoft’s current consumer and business operating system, Windows XP.

According to Santos, Windows incorporated new features, one of which is the Internet Explorer version seven, with its improved security since its operating system has been the primary target of viruses, spyware and malware.

“Longhorn is just the codename for Vista, similar to the previous releases of Windows. Companies have been using codenaming schemes to protect (their products) from sabotages and leaks,” she said.

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One of Vista’s most significant and convergent features is Windows Aero–acronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open, a redesigned user interface and visual style intended to appeal aesthetically to Microsoft patrons. It includes tabs for applications, transparent effects, short animations, streamlined style of wizard (step-by-step instruction software of Windows), and eye candy icons.

Moreover, Windows Vista has significant changes in computer file management. It now allows any file to have graphical thumbnails to summarize, if not symbolize, its contents. Additional effects on the thumbnail tell the types of files present, like a picture frame around an image file and a filmstrip border for a video file. Also, like digital cameras, thumbnails can be zoomed to increase effectiveness.

Another improvement in Vista is “Windows Sidebar,” a new panel where users can place desktop gadgets which are small software components of specialized functions like Calculator, Clock, Notes, and even the Recycle Bin.

Other improvements in Vista include redesigned networking, audio, print, and display; improved Windows built-in games like Minesweeper and Spider Solitaire; increased machine communication and data sharing through peer-to-peer networks; better searching features for files and folders; and enhanced state of security through filters like user account control, parental controls, network access protection, and graphical authentication and logon.

Bye bye, Office Assistants

A new operating system is always accompanied by a new set of productivity suite. In the case of Window Vista, Microsoft will release its own Office 2007.

With Vista’s graphic interface enhanced through Windows Aero, Office 2007 features “Ribbon,” a panel that houses the commands arranged as tabs like folders. However, Ribbon is only available in the core applications of Office 2007.

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Office 2007 introduces “Live Preview,” which allows users to have a preview of how an option would affect the appearance of an object or text, without actually applying the change. When the mouse pointer is over a formatting button, the temporary change is done to the text or object, giving the user a feel of the changes that might occur. When the mouse pointer is moved away from the button, the temporary formatting is removed.

A significant change in Office 2007 is the absence of the infamous Office Assistants, which is replaced by “Mini Toolbars,” a list of menus and help tips available for a chosen object. It pops up near a text being selected, and like Live Preview, when the pointer is moved away from the text, the toolbar becomes semi-transparent to view the underlying document. When the pointer is over the text, the toolbar appears.

Lastly, the new Office highlights Document Themes and Quick Styles. Document Themes define the colors, fonts, and graphic effects for a document, and can be shared between the fundamental Office applications. Quick Styles, on the other hand, are galleries of styles based on the selected Document Theme, for a wider range of productivity and creativity.

“Gadgets are getting smaller, which makes them more handy and powerful. You could do almost everything with the touch of your fingertip,” Santos said.

Gadgets are starting to be a ‘need’ more than just a ‘want’ as they not only invade the tech market but also the everyday lives of people. Prepare and get ready for technology’s evolution from gadget to utility. With reports from asia.cnet.com and www.microsoft.com

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