The Microsoft showdown with MacWorld & the Apple Phone

Lots of action this week, as two technology conferences compete for attention. Here’s the latest:

–At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that started last night, Micrsoft’s Bill Gates announced Windows Home Server software, to be made available in the second half of 2007. It wants to become the center of a home’s computer network, from photo and video storage to television, to accessing computer files at the office while away from home. (More details here and here, at the Mercury News, which also summarizes seperate plans by Micrsoft to make the Xbox 360 console a set-top box for Internet protocol television, or IPTV, by the end of the year.)

–This sets up a showdown with Apple Computer’s MacWorld in San Francisco beginning tomorrow, where Apple’s Steve Jobs is expected to provide more details on its iTV set-top box.

–The big question is whether Jobs will also unveil a rumored Apple phone, dubbed by some the iPhone, but unlikely to be called that. See review of other most likely stuff to be announced at MacWorld. And regarding the phone, evidence that something was up showed up a couple of months ago, with some more speculated details here last month. Now, the expectations have reached frenzied levels: “Apple is about to touch off a nuclear war,” Paul Mercer, a designer of software for hand-helds tells the New York Times: “The Nokias and the Motorolas will have to respond.”

–HP has a new HP Pavilion tx1000 Entertainment Notebook PC with high-speed cellular technology EVDO built-in, available in February for $1,2999, giving users a way to get online without needing WiFi.

Sling Media, of San Mateo, has unveiled a new device, called the SlingCatcher, which will take video and audio from you PC or from your TiVo recordings in your living room, and transfer them to another TV in another room in your house. It will sell for under $200 by mid-2007. The SlingCatcher attaches to TVs, and comes with both wired and wireless networking. It lets you transfer just about anything online — from YouTube videos, or Flickr photos — to any TV.

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