International CES - Convergence Hits Home Page 2

The desire of computer companies to be more like consumer-electronics companies was evident around CES, which for the first time in years surpassed the size of Fall Comdex, the computer show held annually in November at the same Las Vegas Convention Center. (That's according to the cabbies. We're still awaiting the official count.) Compaq Computer, for example, was showing a prototype of a server device that can sit on a home theater rack but be used to stream music, images, and video from a computer connected through a home network to big speakers and a TV. Rob Masterson, consumer marketing manager for Compaq, declared: "People want to look at their photos on a TV and listen to their music on their stereo." This from a computer guy.

While Gates expects that people will start seeing Mira and Freestyle products from several companies by the end of the year, one example of a thin-client combo for the home that's already available is the Icebox Flipscreen. The TV/DVD player/Web browser can be attached underneath a kitchen cabinet over a counter or sink. The 12.1-inch LCD pivots or can be swiveled out of sight. The Icebox also has an input for a security camera so you can easily switch between a soap opera, movie, or recipe online and a live picture of whoever's ringing the doorbell. Since you're likely to get peanut butter on the supplied keyboard or remote, both can be submerged in dishwater. Like Microsoft's Mira, the newest version of the Icebox uses CE.Net. All that versatility comes at a Bill Gates-friendly price: $3,000.