CES Also Sports Business Tools

Brand names familiar to corporate IT will play a major role at CES 2004 -- Microsoft, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard among them -- but for the most part, they're making noise about their consumer electronics initiatives and products. And that, according to a recent study by Allied Business Intelligence, won't be easy: PC vendors will have to hoe a tough row to compete with consumer electronics giants such as Sony, Sharp, and Philips, the research firm said.

Instead, the business angle at CES is coming from less prominent players.

RealNetworks, for instance, rolled out the newest version of its popular, for-free media player, RealPlayer 10, at CES on Wednesday. Now available for download from Real Networks' Web site, RealPlayer 10 boasts a 30 percent increase in quality of its audio and video playback over the previous edition, said Real Networks. On a 1Mbps connection, video playback now rivals DVD quality. Other new features of interest to corporate users -- RealPlayer and its rival, Microsoft's Windows Media Player, rule the market for playing Web-based audio and video content -- include the ability to pause, fast-forward, and rewind live and on-demand video and audio streams, such as those used by companies to broadcast news events and conferences to employees and customers.

Ximeta, a maker of network attached storage hardware, unveiled a new storage appliance for enterprise workgroups, home office users, and small businesses at the trade show. NetDiskOffice, which plugs into a local area network (LAN), provides eight Ethernet ports to connect computers to its 250GB capacity for storing and sharing files. Workers can use the appliance as a low-cost alternative to storage servers, said Ximeta, for back-up, local mirroring of crucial data, and, of course, sharing files. Scheduled to ship in February, the NetDiskOffice will sell for $450.

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Also on Wednesday, NewsGator Technologies announced version 2.0 of its NewsGator news aggregator at CES. NewsGator 2.0, which pulls news feeds in RSS or Atom syndication formats from sources such as online news Web sites, blogs, and newsgroups, now lets users synchronize their news collection efforts on multiple machines, such as their in-the-office desktop and their on-the-road laptop. The new edition also offers an application programming interface (API) that corporate developers can use to build customized news apps for employees. NewsGator 2.0, which collects news feeds and then displays them within Microsoft Outlook 2000 and later, will ship Jan. 19, and cost $29 per user.

InFocus, a Wilsonville, Ore.-based manufacturer best known for its digital projectors, unveiled its newest technology Wednesday at CES for ultra-thin displays targeting conference rooms, digital signage, and retail displays. Dubbed InFocus Engine, the technology will appear in business-oriented thin displays in the second half of 2004, said the company, as alternatives to bulky rear-projection displays while boosting contrast and definition, even in environments filled with ambient light, such as data control rooms, meeting rooms, and indoor retail signage.

Brother, meanwhile, launched a sub-$1,000 color laser printer that spews out pages at a clip of 31 black-and-white pages per minute, or 8 color pages per minute. The HL-2700CN, which will retail for $899 when it ships later this month, works with either Windows or Mac systems, and includes a 10/100 Ethernet port for connecting to a network. Brother's pointing the new color printer at the small business market.

This story courtesy of TechWeb .