I'm just back from the annual Computex trade show in Taipei, where I got an inside look at what might be coming in consumer electronics in the next year.

The show, now in its 25th year, brings together Taiwan's huge electronics industry with commercial buyers from around the world. Many of the products on sale in stores near you probably have their roots in Taiwan, and a lot of those can be traced back to deals or relationships formed at Computex.

Like last year, the digitization of consumer electronics was a big theme, and looking at the products on display, it seems the industry hasn't come very far in a year. There were countless examples of existing hit products, such as digital music players, but some of the new products seen last year, such as portable media players and media extenders, aren't out of the gate yet.

So let's look at these products.

If you think of a portable media player as an iPod with video, then you've got the idea. One of the things holding these back is that most consumers don't have a ready source of video files to play on them. Copy protection stops you from transferring a DVD onto the embedded hard-disk drives, and about the only way you can get TV shows onto them is if you record them on your PC.

Philips Electronics thinks it has an answer. The company's latest reference design, which is an almost finished player available for companies to customize and put on sale, has a built-in tuner for DVB-T, the dominant digital terrestrial television format in Europe and most of Asia. With the addition of multiple digital TV channels, getting your own video onto the device won't be so important, the company said.

Media extenders are perhaps selling a little better than portable media players, but they still haven't really made it big. Yet for PC users, they're almost a natural addition to the living room set-up. These gadgets hook up to your home network and allow you to play media stored on the PC via your living room entertainment set-up. You can stream video onto your TV and MP3s into your stereo and run TV slide-shows from your PC photo album.

An additional bonus is that many support high-definition video, so you can route downloaded HD content onto an HDTV without having to wait for Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD players to appear.

Whether these will be successful this year remains to be seen, but the emergence of standards such as DLNA, which allows consumers to transfer protected content between devices, can only help their chances.

Even away from Computex, the month saw a host of new products. Here are what I think are some of the cooler ones:

BenQ storage products

Until a few years ago, Taiwan didn't have much in the way of well-known IT brands, but companies such as BenQ are changing that. BenQ has been promoting its name worldwide in the last few years and concentrating on design to catch the consumer's eye. At Computex it announced several new portable storage products based on 8-centimetre optical discs, which are smaller than regular CDs and DVDs but should work in most drives. The devices can be plugged straight into things like digital cameras and data can be burned to the disc without the need for a computer. There will be two versions initially, the Pocket Writer PW100 with CD-R support for $179 and the PW200 with DVD-R support for $249. An 8cm CD can hold 200MB of information and the equivalent DVD can store 1.4GB. But in an age of portable hard-disk drive and flash memory storage, it might be difficult to persuade consumers to go the optical disc route.

Epson 9-ink printer

Epson has come up with a new ink-jet printing system that requires nine ink cartridges. In addition to the cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta and yellow colour inks, the system has four types of black ink. Who'd have thought? Different types of black! The basic black is user selectable to match the paper being used - either matte black or photo black - and then there are two additional inks, both of which are new: light-black and light-light-black. Epson says the new inks have different densities and can be utilized to get richer blacks and better contrast, especially in photos. There are four printers compatible with the system, one of which is aimed at consumers. The Epson Stylus Photo R2400 is a desktop model that can handle resolutions up to 5,760 dots per inch (dpi) by 1,440 dpi and borderless printing on paper up to the "Super B" size of 13 inches by 19 inches (33 cm by 48.2 cm). It went on sale worldwide from late May and costs $849.

Sony HD camcorder

You're got HDTV, you have the HD cable channels and you're waiting for the HD movie discs - what about upgrading that old camcorder? At present there isn't much selection in the HD camcorder market, and the few products that are on sale are big and expensive. Sony's HDR-HC1 won't do much to expand the selection, but it is considerably smaller and cheaper than anything on the market. Through a lot of work on miniaturization, the camera is about one-third of the weight and less than half the size and price of Sony's HDR-FX1 that went on sale late last year. The new camera is based on the HDV format, which means you can use existing DV tapes, and it will be available worldwide from July. At about $1,685, it's still expensive, but I think it brings the HD entry barrier down from the independent filmmaker level to the very serious amateur.

Sharp 65-inch LCD TV

Are you ready for some serious channel surfing? Before the end of the year, Japan's Sharp plans to put on sale worldwide an LCD TV with a 65-inch (165 centimeter) screen. It can show high-definition TV at 1,080 lines and has a digital tuner and HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface). Sound good? Well, here are some numbers that might frighten or impress you: The LC-65GE1 weighs 58.5kg (128 pounds), it consumes 550 watts when in use, and it will cost ¥1,680,000 ($15,560). If you're still interested, then you might want to get your order in quickly. Sharp says it's going to be making about 300 sets per month for Japan and between 1,000 and 2,000 for international markets.

Sony PlayStation 3

It won't be available until some time during the first half of next year, but Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 3 already has people salivating. Mock-ups of the game console and preliminary specifications have been released by Sony, and the console looks like one mean little machine. There's the Cell processor, which has 7 processing cores, and an nVidia graphics processor that together deliver performance of 2T Flops (floating point operations per second). In other words, the Cell has about 35 times the performance of the PlayStation 2's processor and the entire system offers double the performance claimed by Microsoft for the Xbox 360. It's likely to take a year or two until we see games that are truly taking advantage of all this power - the programmers need some time to get familiar with the system - but the days of my PS2 are already numbered. There's no word on price or precise launch details.

Samsung flash disk

Samsung Electronics has developed a replacement for conventional hard-disk drives that is based on flash memory chips. The new 'disk' is faster than HDD, consumes less power and has a much higher resistance to shocks. But such products, though technically possible for years, haven't been commercially produced because flash memory works out per-byte much more expensive than hard-disk drive storage. So the big question is how much ... and it's one Samsung hasn't answered yet. It looks like Samsung will be targeting the industrial and military markets because of the disk's higher resistance to harsh environmental conditions and shock. It will be available in 2.5-inch and 1.8-inch form factors, so it can easily replace a conventional drive in a laptop. Commercial production is due in August.

R&D Corner: Samsung 40-inch OLED

This month's news from the research and development labs comes from Samsung Electronics. The South Korean company has developed what it says is the world's first organic light emitting diode (OLED) display that measures 40 inches across the diagonal. OLEDs have been viewed as a potential replacement for LCDs (liquid crystal displays) and PDPs (plasma display panels) in some applications for several years. They don't require a power-hungry backlight and so are viewed favourably for portable applications. The generally faster response rates of OLED screens means they are also being considered for use in televisions. So Samsung's development could be important, especially as the company managed to make the screen on an existing LCD production line. Until now the largest OLED was a 20-inch model developed by Seiko Epson Samsung hasn't said when or if it hopes to commercialize the screen.