Many of the gadgets and gizmos that will help entertain us will be on display this week at the CeBIT trade exhibition in Hanover, Germany, which attracts more than 600,000 people each year.
Nokia will be showing off its Media Terminal, a souped-up set-top box for the living room, which enables full Internet access over TV broadcast networks. Features include a split screen that can show both TV and the Internet, a remote with built-in keyboard, the ability to pause or replay live broadcasts, digital TV that records to a hard disc, video on demand, a file audio player, e-mail, 3D games, digital radio and connections to devices such as printers and cameras. For its part Hitachi will be showing how smart cards can be inserted into set-top boxes to purchase music from the Internet via the TV.
Meanwhile, Philips, Panasonic and LG are all exhibiting flat-panel lcd monitors with built-in TV tuners, making it easy to view television programs on your computer screen. "We don't see people watching TV for hours on end in front of their computers but they might like to watch a quick bit of entertainment or a sports event, says a Philips spokesman.
Integrating mobile phones with TV is the next step. Once Bluetooth a short-range radio technology that allows electronic devices to communicate with each other automatically is widely deployed, viewers who order tickets to a pop star's concert via their TVs could arrange to have the electronic tickets sent directly to their mobile phones. That's what they would present at the door.
Or, instead of going to the concert you could just download MP3 music files from the Internet on mobile phones like the latest model from Samsung being shown at CeBIT.
And once faster data services are introduced, handsets like one from Sendo, which uses Microsoft's smart phone platform, will be able to receive streaming video, allowing movie trailers or a soccer goal to be beamed to fans on the move. Meanwhile, Palm's next generation of handhelds allows users to view and edit images taken with compatible digital cameras. These applications and others can be accessed by inserting Secure Digital Cards or MultiMediaCards into a slot in the Palm no PC necessary. In addition to digital cameras, future add-ons include video recorders and global positioning systems. And Kodak is introducing a portable device that doubles as a digital camera and an MP3 player, evidently for adding a sound track to your pictures. If these product launches keep up, using every form of media simultaneously may become as easy as watching TV.