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Dell touts gaming netbook; Sony, Samsung fight for 3-D dominance

Dan Gallagher and Jeffry Bartash
MarketWatch (MCT)

LAS VEGAS — Dell Inc. unveiled on Thursday what it called the smallest and most powerful gaming laptop, and it gave a sneak peak at its first so-called tablet, a handheld device with a 5-inch screen based on Google's Android operating system. It's bigger than a smart phone, but much smaller than a compact netbook.

Dell says the tablet will launch this year. The device looks like a somewhat longer, more rounded version of the iPhone.

Other companies also unveiled tablet devices at the Consumer Electronics Show and chip developer Nvidia declared that 2010 would become the year of a tablet revolution.

The Dell Alienware M11X gaming notebook, meanwhile, sports an 11-inch screen, powerful processors and extended battery life. It also includes three ways to hook up video, including an HDMI port that lets users connect it to an HDTV screen.

"We think this is a category creator," said Alex Guzen, senior vice president of the consumer product group. He also called it a "radical new product not conceived before."

Other new Dell laptops in the company's Inspiron and Studio lines include Intel's powerful mobile processors, the Core i3 and Core i5. Dell also upgraded its Mini 10 netbook with more power and features such as GPS, a high-definition display and a TV tuner.

At Dell's CES event, the company displayed a new wireless smart phone that will be sold by AT&T later this year. The Dell smart phone was quite light and attractive with rounded corners. It has a touch screen like the iPhone that was quite responsive to the touch.

In television developments, Samsung Electronics Co. declared it would be the leader in 3-D television in 2010.

But Sony Corp. didn't get the message. Just like its Korean rival, the vaunted Japanese conglomerate unveiled a series of 3-D TVs, a 3-D Blu-ray player and a 3-D-compatible surround system with wireless speakers.

Sony also said all PlayStation3 gaming devices would be upgradable to 3-D with downloadable firmware. The company has partnered with Imax, Discovery Channel and ESPN to produce some programming in 3-D, including the 2010 World Cup and PGA Golf.

"We intend to take the lead in 3-D," Sony CEO Howard Stringer said at the company's presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Samsung executives said the same thing.

Sony also displayed several other innovative products such as the Sony Dash, a sort of bedside clock-radio for the 21st century, and its "transfer jet" technology. Transfer jet allows devices to exchange information wirelessly simply by being put next to each other. Sony PCs, for example, will be able to copy photos off a Sony camera automatically once the camera is placed next to the computer.

The smallish Dash also connects to the Web, plays video and music, and is designed for simple tasks such as looking up Internet sports scores or displaying the weather. It can also be taken into other rooms, such as the kitchen to view recipes as you cook.

Sony calls the Dash a "Personal Internet Viewer."

South Korean tech giant Samsung introduced a dazzling display of new HDTVs, including an LCD as thin as a pencil and a number of models with 3-D technology. It also showed off its own e-book reader with writing capability.

The company vowed to make a big push in 3-D and lead the way for the electronics industry, enlisting DreamWorks and Technicolor to fulfill its vision. The animated theater hit "Monsters vs. Aliens" will be among the first DreamWorks productions to become available in 3-D.

To prove its commitment, Samsung also plans sell a 3-D-capable Blu-ray player and a 3-D surround audio system. Its 3-D technology can even "up-convert" traditional two-dimensional TV and movies into 3-D until more native 3-D video becomes available. Samsung is among several TV makers — others include Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba — that are betting heavily on 3-D.

The company's new line of TVs, meanwhile, is wireless, Internet-capable and ultra-thin, with a highly attractive brushed metal frame and fashionable four-leg stand. In its most expensive models, Samsung also includes a high-end remote control with a video screen that can also play TV. The remote can even simultaneously play a different program than the TV. The newest TVs are gorgeous and full of innumerable new features.

Samsung's North American president, Tim Baxter, said the company's focus is on creating stylish designs, new ways to use a TV and products that are easy for consumers to use. The company's new products appear to achieve those goals.

Among the smorgasbord of other products Samsung unveiled was a Kindle-like book reader, a wireless-capable digital camera and what it billed as the world's first mobile TV, a device that looked somewhat similar to an iPhone.

Unlike the Kindle, the book reader can be written upon and includes more computer-style features.

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