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Technology Barometer

Solid-state storage: Dell, Fujitsu, and Sony (among others) already offer notebook models carrying Solid State Disks based entirely on flash. Models providing 32GB of storage have reached a semiaffordable $450 premium over 60GB hard drives on ultraportable machines, while 64GB notebook-size drives are also available. Even 128GB models have been announced, and some might even be affordable for the military and governments of most industrialized nations.

LED backlights: Compared with standard CCFL backlights, LEDs improve color reproduction while lowering power consumption. Formerly seen only in super-high-end monitors and HDTVs, LED backlights are poised to go mainstream over the next couple of years. Sony uses them on its VAIO SZ laptop line, and Samsung plans to introduce an entire LCD monitor line with LED backlights this year.

Ajax/Web 2.0: On the one hand, Ajax and Web 2.0 have clearly revitalized the Web. On the other, Web 2.0 security concerns are just beginning to rear their ugly heads. At the same time, many rich Web applications like Zimbra have begun to add offline capability.

DRM: EMI hopped off the bandwagon this April, announcing that it would offer DRM-free music through iTunes and other music stores. Plus, hackers are already all over the AACS system that protects Blu-ray and HD-DVD movies. Hollywood and the RIAA won't give in anytime soon, but the writing is on the wall.

Powerline networking: As many people seeking to stream media through the home have already realized, 802.11b, -g, and -n wireless networks just don't cut it, especially in a crowded urban environment. Powerline networking in general, and the HomePlug AV standard in particular, is poised to profit from the inevitable consumer discontent--especially as electronics vendors begin to incorporate powerline adapters into products such as set-top boxes.

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