An array of Mac solutions greeted visitors as they entered the hall – Computer Warehouse's large Apple stand dominated the exhibition entrance. The stand also showcased a selection of third-party products designed to emphasize the Mac's position at the centre of the digital hub.
Other exhibitors included Microsoft (showing its X-Box) and Creative Labs. Some felt the show's focus on consumer electronics gadgets left space in the exhibitor's list for mail order gadget retailers like Firebox.com, or iwoot.com.
Product exhibits of interest to Mac users included those from Epson, Binatone, Archos and Imation. Other consumer-electronics gadgets included video projectors and widescreen plasma TVs from Toshiba.
Epson demonstrated its latest home-cinema projectors and photo printers. These included its recently-announced Stylus Photo 950, 925 and 830 range of photo printers, as well as four video projectors – the EMP-51; EMP-720; EMP-TW100 and EMP-30.
Binatone introduced new products aimed at the burgeoning UK broadband market. The company is now offering a combined USB/Ethernet ADSL modem, and a wireless network receiver (BB1000) using the Wi-Fi spec known to Mac users as AirPort.
Binatone is offering both solutions with a PCMIA wireless card for £249. The BB1000 offers 256-bit data encryption at speeds of 22Mbps (using compression technologies). Its maximum range is 150 metres indoors, or 500 metres outdoors. It costs £139, and is compatible with Wi-Fi-equipped access cards, such as AirPort cards, a Binatone representative said. The USB and Ethernet ADSL modem costs just £89.
"The UK wireless broadband market is set to explode following the footsteps of other countries, but to achieve that consumers need to be offered products that provide the best value for money", said Bhalaji Kumar, CEO of Binatone Broadband.
Imation demonstrated its DataPlay storage format, early versions of which attracted attention at Macworld Expo San Francisco in 2001. Under an inch square, the storage medium holds up to 500MB of data on a single disk. Imation currently offers a non-Mac compatible MP3 device that uses the media, but is preparing an external storage product – the MemUS-B – that will be Mac-friendly.
MemUS-B is a USB-powered storage device capable of multi-session recording. It weighs just 101 grams and supports most popular file formats. The device is also battery powered (8-10 hours).
"We hope to fill the gap in the market left by floppy disks", confirmed a company representative at the show. "We’ll be officially launching this product later in the year, and are working on Mac support for it," she said. "We don't produce our MP3 player for the Mac, because Apple already produces the iPod, and we don't want to compete in that space," she explained.
Archos showed its innovative Jukebox Multimedia 20 product.
This USB 1.1 device costs £350, contains a 20GB hard disk, and combines MP3 player/recorder facilities with a built-in microphone. It also performs as a portable digital photo album – images can be viewed using its built-in 1.5-inch LCD screen. It carries headphone and line in sockets. The headphone socket carries both audio and visual signals so the unit can be plugged directly into a TV, for viewing images and video on the big screen. Unfortunately, the technology to transform Mac video into Archos-supported standards isn't ready yet, though company representatives said this is in development.
A number of expansion modules are available to add extra utility. These include solutions to download images from memory cards, a still camera and (soon) a video camera capable of capturing VHS-quality MPEG-4. Also in the pipeline are add-ons to bring FireWire and USB 2 connectivity to the device. Finally, the company intends releasing a module that shall record TV signals directly to the unit's hard drive.
Other show highlights included home-cinema speaker systems, a bevy of video projectors, PDAs and MP3 players, and Scalextric, which displayed its next-generation racing systems.