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Desktop, Notebook PCs Seek Spotlight At CES

PC makers are expected to show systems with snazzy designs and features that turn computers into jukeboxes and libraries for video and photos.
Lenovo plans to showcase at CES its first full line of consumer notebooks for the U.S. market. All three new products, the IdeaPad Y510, Y710 and U110, are packed with features geared for video and music, including an embedded five-speaker Dolby Home Theater system.

The new notebooks are powered by Intel's dual-core Centrino mobile platform, and include an embedded 1.3-megapixel camera, which is used in conjunction with the systems' face-recognition software as an alternative to remembering a password to access files. The 17-inch Y710 is available with a 500-Gbyte hard drive, and the 15-inch Y510 has drives as large as 250 Gbytes. Both come with 2 Gbytes of memory and pricing starts at $799 and $1,199, respectively.

Details were scarce on the U110, which has an 11-inch screen and won't be available until April. But the ultraportable notebook is an example of the next wave of innovation expected from the computer industry. An increasing number of people are expected to take their computers with them, assuming that wireless Internet access becomes ubiquitous through emerging technologies, such as WiMax.

As a result, notebooks are expected to get smaller, and analysts are predicting the emergence of a uniquely designed "mobile Internet device," or MID, which will fall between a notebook and a smart phone. The 7-inch Asus Eee PC and the Sony Vaio UX Micro PC are examples of where the industry is heading.

MIDs are expected to play a bigger role in CES 2009. "We're still 18 months or so out from vendors being able to deliver products that really are focused on the small mobile device segment," Baker said.

Nevertheless, as people's digital music, video, and photo libraries grow, so will the need for desktops and notebooks to store and organize the content, and stream it to a digital TV or download it to a handheld device, such as an Apple iPod or Microsoft Zune.

More than three in four U.S. households have a PC today, and by 2012 that penetration will reach 85%, according to Forrester Research. A third of households have a notebook today, and that number is predicted to reach 50% by 2010.

By the end of 2009, the majority of households will own more than one PC, Forrester said in a recent report on consumer technology. "This is not just because the PC has become a personal device, but because it is taking on more functions, such as media repository or a home server to enable the digital home."

Asus apparently has this trend in mind in launching at CES what it's calling the first 1-Tbyte notebook. The computer maker has integrated in its M series multimedia notebook PCs two of Hitachi's new 500-Gbyte Travelstar 5K500 hard drives, which will also be showcased at CES. By offering the dual 2.5-inch drives, Asus says its getting ready for when consumers start collecting large amounts of high-definition video.

Along with PCs, vendors at CES are also expected to showcase lots of peripherals. Samsung, Sony, ViewSonic, and Westinghouse Digital are expected to show off new displays, and Western Digital will debut a line of environmentally friendly hard drives.

Western Digital's GreenPower drives for desktops and digital video recorders use as much as 40% less power than standard drives in the same class, according to WD. The new drives come in 500-Gbyte, 750-Gbyte, and 1-Tbyte models.