Innovative Products, Numbers 16 through 20
16. Yamaha Tenori-On
Innovation: Inspired and intuitive handheld instrument redefines music-making.
Benefit: Nothing else even comes close to Japanese media artist Toshio Iwai's digital instrument.
While the Tenori-On is likely to appeal to a fairly specialized audience, the device screams innovation. Consisting of a 16-by-16 grid of LED-illuminated buttons that a user touches to manipulate sound in a variety of intuitive and eye-catching ways, the Tenori-On--designed by the creator of the cult-hit Nintendo DS music game Electroplankton--is like nothing you've ever seen (head to the Tenori-On clip on YouTube for a product demonstration video). It has 256 built-in sounds, and an integrated SD Card slot lets you copy original samples from your computer. You can also use its MIDI-out port to connect with your PC's music software or your other hardware instruments. Currently it is sold only in Great Britain, but anybody willing to pay
17. Zoho Notebook
Innovation: Web-only app stores just about any kind of content and allows you to share it with anyone.
Benefit: More full-featured than competing online tools.
AdventNet's Zoho tools include everything from wiki software to customer relations management and project management applications, many of them free. Zoho Notebook (free, in public beta) continues the winning streak. You can enter text, graphics, audio, video, and embedded content from other sites onto your notebook's pages--or use the page as a single word processing document or spreadsheet. Put together everything on a certain subject, and you're ready to share your work with online compatriots.
18. 'In Rainbows' by Radiohead
Innovation: Band allows its fans to pay whatever amount they want for this new album, starting at zilch.
Benefit: Approach calls the bluff of illegal downloaders, who say they're happy to pay artists but not music studios.
The recording industry is desperate for new ideas about how to sell music. Radiohead's pay-what-you-want approach may not work for all acts--and the band has remained mum on reports that 62 percent of early downloaders paid nothing for the group's new album--but the strategy certainly does one thing that most music companies seem loath to do: It respects fans. And all of the voluntary fees go directly to Radiohead, not to a publisher.
19. IOGear Wireless USB Hub and Adapter
Innovation: USB-speed connections without cable spaghetti.
Benefit: Presents none of the flakiness and proprietary technology that hobbled previous wireless USB products.
IOGear's hub and adapter are based on an industry standard that should soon be built into laptops and other devices. Setting up IOGear's Wireless USB Hub and Adapter ($160) was tricky, but once we had everything arranged, our data flew, thanks to its streaming, HD-capable, 250-megabits-per-second throughput. Wireless USB will become more versatile once it's built into devices.
Innovation: Web site aggregates your financial account transaction data, alerting you to any unusual activity or to a rapidly dwindling balance.
Benefit: Takes most of the work out of keeping on top of your money.
Signing up for Mint requires a leap of faith--you must give the site the numbers and passwords for your bank and credit card accounts. But once you do, it acts as your personal-finance lackey. Mint downloads your latest transactions for all accounts and does its best to categorize them. You decide when you want to receive an alert, such as for when a bill is due, a big purchase appears on your credit card, or you just got a nice, fat deposit.