LAST year, technology consumers saw the launch of a host of new products and services that promised to make lives better. In fact, many world’s firsts were seen. Some were so awe-inspiring that demand for them has outstripped supply, so much so that consumers have been made to wait for the products to ship in this first quarter.

More importantly, 2006 was a reasonably good year for consumers because things were reasonably priced. In the mobile phone industry, Nokia, Samsung and LG, among others, showcased their innovative communications devices: Nokia had the N95, which is the first mobile multimedia computer with an integrated global positioning system that can give “voice” directions to a user who needs to get to a specific location; Samsung unveiled the Ultra series comprising the world’s slimmest slider, flip and candybar phones; and LG showed off the KG800, deliciously dubbed the Chocolate, which sold millions within a few months of its launch.

In the consumer electronics industry, manufacturers tried to outdo each other with their latest offerings. For example, Panasonic launched the world’s biggest 102-inch plasma TV while Sony introduced its Bravia series of high-definition (HD) TVs and the first Blu-ray DVDs and notebook PCs with Blu-ray drives.

And in the silicon industry, Intel introduced its Core Duo and Core 2 Duo processors that promised unprecedented processing power and durability. Soon after, the company unveiled its quad-core, which means more speed and processing power. Hardware manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo introduced notebooks and desktop PCs that were more powerful and capable of carrying out a multitude of tasks.
For this year, these manufacturers have so much more in store. Here are some of their comments.

Philips plans to bring new healthcare and lifestyle products to our shores this year. Also promised are more green products in line with the company’s sustainability initiatives and products that fulfil its brand promise of sense and simplicity at affordable cost of ownership.

Rajah Kumar, chairman and chief executive, Philips Malaysia, says the company will continue to invest in innovative products and make sure that they are launched in the Malaysian market. “Consumers expect a lot when they buy a Philips product – it comes with a high brand reputation, guarantee of quality, reliability, a level of technological advancement and above all, satisfaction. We believe in offering products and services that address their needs and provide them with value for money,” he adds.

2007 will see Microsoft splashing “LOVE” (Launch of Office 2007, Windows Vista and Exchange Server 2007) on customers, says Ananth Lazarus, director, business marketing organisation, Microsoft Malaysia.

And the company is expecting strong consumer acceptance. “The visual sophistication of Windows Vista helps to streamline users’ computing experience by refining common elements so they can better focus on the content on the screen rather than on how to access it.

“Windows Vista allows users to easily access all their photos, music, movies and recorded shows on other PCs in their homes and even through the Xbox 360. There is also a built-in e-mail program and enhanced instant messaging to stay in touch,” Ananth says. Vista will be available in six editions to meet a wide span of user needs: Home Premium, Home Basic, Starter Edition, Business, Enterprise and Ultimate.

As for Office 2007, the software will be essential for home PC users as it is designed to help people save valuable time, organise their workload, manage information, stay connected and collaborate better with colleagues, family and friends. Office 2007 will come in eight packaging options: Enterprise, Professional, Professional Plus, Ultimate, Small Business, Standard, Home and Student, and Basic.

Sony will continue to promote its HD technology on a full scale, says Nobuyasu Nozawa, product market division head, Sony Malaysia. The company has already introduced HD-related products such as the Vaio AR series notebooks, a HD Handycam, the Cyber-shot T50 series digital cameras, a HD home projector and the Bravia LCD TVs. To strengthen the HD presence in the market, it will launch its first Blu-ray disc player this year.

“We believe these products will gradually create HD content, be it from home videos or commercial videos recorded by production companies. With the trend shifting towards HD and the arrival of Sony’s Blu-ray disc player soon to our market, Malaysian customers can now look forward to watch their favourite movies for the first time in HD conveniently in their homes,” Nozawa says.

Look out for a more visible presence of Lenovo in the consumer retail market and more face-to-face customer relationships, says Thomas Teng, country manager, Lenovo Malaysia.

Lenovo believes that notebook adoption will increase, with students leading the way, and more businesses investing in their mobile workforce to increase productivity, reduce employee idle time and enable quicker decision-making. And with greater adoption of such mobile devices, users will be more concerned with data security.

“This is a high priority area for us. We recently tied up with Utimaco to incorporate their technology into our ThinkPad notebooks, enabling users to fully encrypt the contents of their hard drive with a single swipe of their finger,” Teng says.

Lenovo has also ensured the durability of its notebooks with features such as roll cages, shock-mounted hard disk drives and active protection system. The latest range of its consumer notebooks and desktops also come with innovative features such as Jog Dial and Digital Media Platform software, which allows easy switching between entertainment applications.

WITH the quad-core Core 2 Duo, which puts four cores in one die, Intel claims that it has at least a nine-month lead in processor technology. So, how does Intel intend to keep that lead?

Debjani Ghosh, country manager, Intel Malaysia, says, “We will bring quad-core to the mass market and then continue to push the envelope with ever-more cores. In 2007 and beyond, we plan to extend our manufacturing and product leadership with accelerated micro-architecture development cycles and constant manufacturing advances.

“We will continue to set the pace as the industry’s technology leader. For example, our work on silicon photonics, including our recent announcement of a hybrid silicon laser, is leading the way to a new generation of fast chip interconnections, circumventing a future barrier to faster computer designs.

“We will also push beyond today’s 65 nanometres towards next-generation 45nm manufacturing process. While the rest of the industry is yet to begin producing 65nm processors, we expect to ship 45nm processors in the second half of 2007.”

He also points out that performance and energy efficiency have become critical in all market segments and aspects of computing, and this trend will continue this year. As such, the gigahertz number of clock speed will cease to become a main measurement of true processor speed.

Although Nokia emphasises that it will continue to offer a wide range of products, its Nseries range of multimedia computers will continue to pioneer new ideas.  “As Internet convergence, Web 2.0 and a growing mobile-broadband base continue to be driving trends, we see the integration of more Internet services to our devices, giving us the competitive edge. Currently, customers can already use Internet services like Flickr! through selected Nseries phones,” says Andrew Cheong, general manager, Nokia Malaysia.

He adds that with the introduction of a selection of its mid-range third-generation-enabled mobile phones to the market such as the 6233, 6280 and 7390, users will be able to get 3G experience at an affordable cost. “This opens up exciting possibilities for customers in this segment. In addition to the applications built into the phones, customers can use the phones as modems to wireless access the Internet through their notebooks or PCs, giving them seamless mobile broadband wherever they go.”

This year HP will offer more products and services that will better serve users’ needs.
“We will provide a more seamless integration between entertainment and mobility, and we already have several events that will exhibit great synergy between the two,” says Danny Lee, country general manager, personal system group, HP Malaysia.

HP also expects both businesses and consumers to ride on Microsoft’s new Windows Vista and follow up with hardware-based upgrades. “HP is well-positioned to capitalise on this as it has an upgrade program in place for selected customers,” Lee says.

Besides that, the company sees multi-function printers getting an even wider usage as offices of all sizes realise the cost savings (monetary and space) that such devices offer.
So, look out for the Edgeline in the first quarter. “With its unique blend of the best of inkjet and laserjet, the technology delivers top-notch performance and precision at unheard of speeds and efficiency,” Lee claims.