It is definitely a new age. Yesterday, I was sitting in a comfortable chair and reading my book dejour at Borders when I noticed a new display being setup. On a two-sided kiosk, a RCA Small Wonder Camcorder, a Matsunichi 7″ Digital Photo Frame, a Sansa 1GB Express Music Player, a Sony Clock Radio w/iPod Speaker Dock, a Sansa Music Shaker for Kids, and last but not least, a Sony Book Reader were displayed and ready to test drive. The reader even came with a 40% discount on your first downloaded Audio-book. As I walked over for a closer look, an eager clerk intersected my path with a smile and an invitation to help. I nodded no and went closer.
The camcorder fit snugly in my hand and immediately brought to mind how easy it would be to turn this on an unsuspecting world. But that world would need to be deaf to not hear the audible clicking sound of its operation. And that thought brought me to thinking about the way our world has yielded its sense of privacy. Like Bill Maher has pointed out we can go back to worrying about that when the idiots give up their cell phones. Or as this review at C-Net pointed out “While its video quality is only so-so, RCA’s Small Wonder EZ101 will appeal to technophobes looking for an idiot-proof way to quickly send video e-mail clips to friends and family.”
Next in line was 7″ digital photo frame that implored the user to insert a memory card loaded with pictures and let the auto-slideshow begin. You know I actually remember a time when people rolled their eyes at the boredom of watching someone’s home movie. Now apparently we can’t wait to see what naughty little blooper some friend has caught on film.
Meanwhile, the Sansa 1 GB Epress music recorder was waiting for me to eagerly put the ear pads in place and listen to my favorite songs, record my own songs, or simply plug it into my computer to get ready for my next youtube/facebook, whatever.
For a small and inexpensive player, the Sansa Express offers an impressive array of features. As noted above, there is voice recording and memory expansion. The Express also has an FM tuner with autoscan, recording, and up to 20 presets. It supports MP3, WAV, WMA (including subscription), and Audible files as well as playlists. You can even create an on-the-go playlist on the device. Alternatively, use Windows Media Player or drag and drop to transfer those and other files. Music is arranged handily into the Creative step-down interface structure. Menus are basic, but the top one is icon-driven–a nice touch. You do not get album art or photo viewing with the Express, nor is the player technically compatible with Macs, but we were able to transfer an MP3 from a MacBook Pro (the player did not dismount properly, though).
What the world really needs though is another iPod speaker dock which Sony seems ready to offer with its new 2 alarm clock radio. Not only will you be able to iPod your listening and control it with a wonderful labor saving remote but it charges your iPod while you sleep. Just think you’ll be able to go everywhere white noising out your world and making more money. Oh wait, did that sound too cynical?
It wasn’t that long ago (or maybe it was) that one could enjoy your own battle of the bands as each group of beach goers brought their own boom box to share the joy. Nowadays that problem is solved with headphones or earjacks and now Sansa has added a way to keep the kids occupied with its new Shaker device. This one is great on oh so many levels, first it’s for the little kids to start their lifetime appreciation of music even earlier than when they use to dance to the commercials on tv. Second, it has great built in obsolesence since the memory size is only 512 MB and the battery needs changing every 15 hours. And finally, it’s rumored to be child proof but that flap at the base doesn’t look that sturdy. Ah well, with a price range of $27 to $35, don’t worry it’s easy to replace.
Last on the list was the item that originally caught my eye – the Sony Reader. Unfortunately, the kiosk setup was not actually online so there was no way to test drive the reader myself. One confusing note was provided when I discovered that the specs for the Reader were printed out on the back of the promo literature for the RCA camcorder and reverse but once that was cleared away I could still take a look and decide whether this like the other items listed above was worth its $300 price or just another in the seemingly endless stream of needless but consumerist advances that today’s economy seems to demand.