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Jessica Chesher

Managing Editor

Innovation eReview
Tech Talk
by Marian Berda

This month Tech Talk begins another great tradition with our First Annual Tech Talk Trends column.  Yes, we pull out the old Ouija Board, consult the Magic 8 Ball, dust off the Tarot Deck and have at it.  Just kidding.  Actually, we read a bunch of techie trade journals and Web sites, talk to our fellow geeks and browse the web sites of some of the large tech companies to glean the latest techie news, and we hope you find it interesting.
In 2006, look for great technological advancements, especially in the gaming and graphical markets.  And lest you think those improvements are, well, all fun and games, they are definitely not.  Most of the new and improved products stemming from the gaming industry find their way into practical applications rather quickly, driving product innovations and improvements in many areas outside the Playstation and Xbox realms.  Microsoft has certainly embraced this notion in the development and evolution of its products and led industry to continuously improve the supporting technologies.  Here are a few examples.

Microsoft Expressions Studio…
With Microsoft’s truly phenomenal Xbox hitting the market for the Christmas 2005 holiday season (confess, were you one of the folks waiting in line at the mall just for the chance to buy one of these babies?), can significant improvements in the other graphics software products from Microsoft be far behind?  In a word, no, as  Microsoft is readying at least two new products aimed at professional designers as part of their aggressive push into the graphic markets.  A product code-named Acrylic was pre-released in June 2005 and Microsoft hopes that it will marry the best of both vector and pixel based processes and allow designers to easily create art for Web and print projects.  Upcoming for 2006, Microsoft is working on a separate graphics product suite called Microsoft Expressions Studio that will include innovative animation tools and incorporate the technology of Acrylic. 

Microsoft Vista…
Due out during the fall of 2006 is the next Microsoft Windows operating system, the much anticipated Vista.  Windows Vista allows you to control information that you see, find and organize on your desktop.  With a new GUI (graphical user interface), Windows Vista is able to streamline many processes, making a useful and efficient environment in which to work.  Some more notable features are the ability to see what your files contain without opening folders, find applications and files instantly, navigate within open windows with precision, and negotiate wizards and dialog boxes with ease.  Two entirely new features, called Flip and Flip 3-D, provides management and navigation throughout Windows.  Flip allows you to flip through open windows by using Alt+Tab, providing a live thumbnail of each window (rather than just a generic icon and filename).  With Flip 3D, you can use the scroll wheel on your mouse to flip through open windows in a stack and quickly locate and select the one with which you want to work. This feature is even handier when you use it with the new Flip 3D key that manufacturers are adding to many keyboards. Most importantly, this new product’s claim to fame is its significant advancements in the graphical presentation system known as Windows Presentation Foundation, which will be available separately as an add-on to Windows XP and the Windows 2003 server.  By making it easier to build Web applications on top of Windows Presentation Foundation, Microsoft hopes that Acrylic and Microsoft Expressions suite will lead to even greater sales of Vista.  Look for more information on Microsoft Windows Vista product later on this year, and we’ll keep you posted as well.

New Display Standards
The implementation of new video standards by The Video Electronic Standards Association (VESA) is expected for 2006.  VESA is currently reviewing a proposal for newly developed standards that enable more color, higher resolutions, and higher refresh rates as well as simplification of the way computers connect to LCD, plasma, CRT, and projection displays.  If a new technical specification for monitors passes its final test, consumers will soon see PCs, televisions and projectors with brighter pictures and fewer wires.  The specification, called Displayport, lets high-quality audio share the same cables as video signals, and allows for data-transfer rates of up to 10.8 Gbps using a total of four lanes.  With higher bandwidth and refreshing of images instead of reloading them, Displayport improves picture quality which results in better onscreen performance. 

Intel, Next Chip
Subsequent to the success of Centrino technology for mobile communication, Intel, the leading manufacturer of microprocessors, is set for an early 2006 introduction of Viiv, a new platform for digital entertainment.  Intel’s Viiv technology is said to create the ultimate entertainment experience by making it easier for people to interact with their PC and to move content through and around a variety of networked devices in their homes.  Viiv will include a dual-core processor and chipset platform software that will make possible the translation of media formats between Viiv-enabled devices without the need for user intervention.  Another improved function will allow a PC to be turned on and off with a touch of a button instead of the cumbersome start up procedures with which we now have to be satisfied.  If you are like me and find the inoperability of devices frustrating, well, we may have a reason to cheer, for the goal of Intel’s Viiv processor is to create an environment that connects devices “on the fly” (so to speak).  Hurray, finally, entertainment will be instantly at our fingertips. 

So, that’s enough of a peek for now.  What products do you think you’ll have by the end of 2006?  What will be the next “must have” technology?  Email us your predictions and we’ll put them carefully in a time capsule and bring them out in the future, when we can marvel at your prescient tech forecasting abilities or just have a good chuckle over the lack thereof. 

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