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Christmas Wish List


Vonage In Print News

Christmas Wish List

December 7, 2004

By Bambi Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) - On Sunday evening, I was exasperated. I attribute it to spending both Saturday and Sunday holiday shopping!

Besides providing quality moments with friends, shopping is draining. I could bike ride two centuries over the weekend and have far more energy left over.

The honking horns; the parking-lot madness; the bustling crowds; the 10-people long lines at the registers; the aching arms weighed down with bags of presents.

These are the feelings of shopping discontent during the holiday season. Thank goodness for the Web, where the experience doesn't change no matter how busy those virtual registers are, especially over the next five days.

This week, online shopping is set to hit its peak traffic as consumers put in their orders early enough to ensure they'll be shipped before Christmas.

Yep. Better to be early, then frantic. For instance, I just ordered a camcorder on Amazon.com (AMZN). With the retailer's free super saver shipping deal, I'm looking at a delivery estimate as late as Dec. 18. By the end of this week, if you don't place your orders in for the better shipping deals, you may end up getting your presents shipped after Christmas.

If the Monday after Thanksgiving is any indication, this week should ring up the biggest sales on the Web during the holiday shopping season. On that day, consumers spent $400 million, up 30 percent from last year, according to comScore Networks. Why not? The convenience, the easy checkouts, the selection -- there are 377,000 Web sites devoted only to shopping, according to Websense (WBSN) -- the bargains, the price-comparisons, are reasons consumers go online.

Tech gadgets are improving every year -- likely at a rate faster than mainstream consumers can adapt to them. There are technology gadgets and services that are plunging in price and are pretty affordable and accessible on the Web.

If you need some shopping ideas, here are some of mine. I'll start with some of the fun technology service and gadgets out there.

Audible's books on tapes

Do you know anyone who drives a lot and likes to listen to books on tape? If you live in San Francisco and have driven to Lake Tahoe, you probably do know someone who fits this profile. With the Audible (ADBL) service, you can download audio books and listen to them on a variety of handhelds, like the Apple (AAPL) iPod or various PalmOne (PLMO) devices.

You can get $100 off some of these devices, like the iPod, if you join Audible for a year at $15 per month. At that price, you can listen to one book. At $21.95, you have access to two books. It's not bad considering the 180,000 books you can access, like Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, which takes about 34 hours and 33 minutes to listen to. If you don't want to spend on the iPod, Audible is giving away an MP3 player called Muvo, which isn't bad as a present. Unfortunately, this device only holds 34 hours of audio (So much for listening to the last 33 minutes of Anna Karenina, oh well.)

Apple iPod, and accessories

Speaking of those iPods, the one that holds 20 gigabytes, or about 5,000 songs, is available for $227.50, in recent trading on eBay (EBAY). This device goes for about $300 on Amazon.com and HPshopping.com, Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) shopping site. For the money, this iPod is far better than that Apple mini, which holds only 4 gigabytes and goes for roughly the same price! A nice add-on to the iPod is the mini-speaker set. If I had an iPod, I'd want this.

The Altec Lansing inMotion M3 portable audio system is a nice add-on accessory. The iPod just slips into the portable, battery-operated compact-speaker, much like a handheld into a cradle. The audio speaker system costs $179 on the Apple store online. But if you look around, you'll find you can get it cheaper. For instance, the Altec Lansing inMotion is also available at HPshopping.com store for $149, or it's available at Pcmall.com for $100. Check out this site.

Linksys wireless network

Everyone should have a wireless network at home. It's easy and convenient to roam around each room with a mini PC, like the OQO (review below). Importantly, prices are dropping. Go to comparison shopping sites, like Shopping.com (SHOP), Google's (GOOG) Froogle or MySimon and you can compare prices at hundreds of stores that carry the Linksys wireless network. I found one at the Dell store online for $80. See Dell's site.

On Buy.com, there is a Linksys phone adapter that let's you get phone service over your cable or DSL lines. With Internet telephony, you can get far better phone rates than what you currently get from traditional local phone provides. The adapter costs $50. You can receive $50 back if you sign up with Vonage. Check out Buy.com.

Blackberry 7100t

The 7100t phone made by Research In Motion (RIMM) is relatively reasonable at $199 (with the rebates). The "t" stands for T-Mobile, the only carrier in the country that sells this phone. This phone is very lightweight. At just over 4 ounces, it's much lighter than the Palm Treo 600, which is nearly 6 ounces. The Blackberry 7100t also lets me retrieve my e-mail, as do all the handhelds in the Blackberry family. But the color screen is crisp, and calling up pages is pretty fast. I raced my friend to see who could find a movie show time and theater location faster. He had the newspaper and I looked up Moviefone on the Blackberry 7100t. I won.

Additionally, the ease of the Suretype Qwerty keyboard makes the inputting experience enjoyable and tolerable. After typing in an atypical word, or an unusual name, the phone remembers what you're trying to write. There are only a few instances, when logging onto Web sites, like my Yahoo (YHOO) e-mail, where the phone took multiple attempts to recognize my password. I had the hardest time getting the phone to accept a capital "J." The 7100t also has Bluetooth compatibility. Unfortunately, the Bluetooth capability only works with an earpiece, not with a personal computer, like the OQO.

OQO - the mini PC

The mini personal computers are here. I've been testing out the OQO mini PC for a couple of months now, and I'm addicted. OQO is named after the start-up in San Francisco that developed the tiny PC. OQO's two founders came from IBM and Apple Computer, where they left to pursue their dreams: Build a palm-sized personal computer with the power and functionality of a PC. From my experience, they've done it. Check out OQO.

This mini PC can literally fit in a pocket. It also fits nicely into my small purse. Whoever has one of these is a well-informed, well-equipped and unencumbered fashion-forward tech geek who's not weighted down with the insanely heavy ancient laptops. It's expensive at $1900. But for the convenience factor, the functionality, the storage and power of a PC, it is hard not to find this product compelling, especially for women (who often can't lug around the same weight as men). The OQO is 5 inches by 3.5 inches with a full-size screen. It weighs 14 ounces; it runs a full version of Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows; it has a 20 gigabyte hard drive, 256 megabytes of memory and a one-gigahertz processor made by Transmeta. The keyboard is so tiny, you have to type as though you were typing into a Blackberry or PalmOne (PLMO) Treo. But there is a USB port for a separate keyboard.

Unlike the Blackberry 7100t, which runs on cellular networks, the OQO has Net access limitations. The OQO can only call up the Internet wherever there is a Wi-Fi network. But the mini PC is extremely convenient where there is a Wi-Fi network. Since my home is Wi-Fi networked, I had typically walked around with a laptop. Now, if I need recipes, I don't bother lugging my big laptop - I use the OQO to look them up in the kitchen. In bed, I'll often grab the OQO just to see what recent news popped up right before I go to sleep. In hotels where there are conferences being held, the OQO would be extremely useful for reporters filing stories. Finally, if you have a Power Point presentation to deliver, and you need access to other documents on your personal computer, the OQO is extremely convenient. Oh, and, by the way, you don't even have to take it out of your bag for security purposes at the airport. Airline security considers it more of a handheld PDA.

Innovage keychain mini digital camera

Do you have a nephew or niece, or little people you need to buy a gift for this holiday? I found this Innovage mini camera on Overstock.com (OSTK). This tiny camera is $24.99 on the online discount site. OK. It doesn't take great pictures, but it's a nice way to introduce someone to taking pictures. This camera holds roughly 250 pictures. See Overstock.com.

Other interesting items across the Web...

Red Envelope (REDE) has a neat little gadget for wine lovers for $25. Red Envelope, the online shop with a signature red-envelope packing, created an electronic pocket guide with Wine Enthusiast magazine. This pocket guide gives you access to more than 10,000 wine ratings and reviews. It's pretty tiny at 3.5 inches by 4.5 inches. So, it's easy to carry around.

The Logitech (LOGI) cordless mouse is available for less than $15 at Buy.com. This is a fun present for a colleague or relative. It's also a good stocking stuffer. Of course, I wouldn't give it to anyone who doesn't go online. It'd be as useful as a fruitcake. But if you give this to someone who likes computers, like my Tita Melvi who likely sits in front of the computer longer than I do, I'm sure it'll be appreciated.

Speaking of the tech enthusiast, many people are getting into blogging. Blog just entered the Merriam-Webster dictionary this year. Read my Net Stocks column. Your daughter, son, niece or nephew may want their own blog. Typepad.com is offering a special deal to Typepad subscribers. The blog hoster, which hosts my blog at www.bambi.blogs.com, is offering a two-for-one-blog special!

It's not a bad gift idea. Journals are popular gift items. Just think of this item as a hipper, cooler, more advanced journal. They may not only appreciate it, they'll think you're not so behind-the-times if you know what a blog is.
Happy holidays and happy shopping!



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

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