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Techno-baubles

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Microsoft is no more interested in building hardware now than it was before. But Gates would still like to see his software running inside every possible device on earth—as you can see from the array of gewgaws he’s using to tout Microsoft’s move into the home electronosphere. Some of these items are so new we haven’t been able to test-drive them, so consider this Gates’ beta vision of the future of entertainment. Still, that home-radio-station thingie looks cool. — NR

Set-Top Box Gates’ opening shot in the cable-modem and digital TV wars. Along with improving the quality of audio and video for regular cable, these digital boxes will include blazingly fast Net access that, with the help of Microsoft software, will allow you to use sites like Intertainer (www.intertainer.com) to buy and download feature-length movies onto your TV. They will also offer commercials that are targeted to your interests—which is supposedly a good thing.

Clarion AutoPC One pitfall of the Sonicbox (below) is that you can’t take it on the road. Solution: This next-gen car stereo uses Windows software to let you load digital music files from your PC onto a memory card and then listen to them in rush-hour traffic. Along with the standard radio/CD player combo, the AutoPC responds to voice commands and acts as your navigator. But for the whopping price of $1,669, it could have at least included a radar detector. (www.autopc.com)

SonicBox Now that your Windows computer has a jukebox inside, this under-$50 remote controller will turn it into a micro-radio station. Start by cuing up a playlist on your PC or connecting to a netcasting radio station. The Sonicbox’s tuner software — which works only on Windows PCs — transmits the audio from your computer to, say, 93.1 FM. After that, any radio in the house becomes your personal NPR/classic rock/Top 40 jam session. (www.sonicbox.com)

Windown Movie Maker This software, a standard feature in the new Windows 2000 OS, runs the video feed from any camcorder through a converter box and loads it onto your PC in digital form. Using a palette of drag-and-drop editing tools, you can rearrange shots and mix in background music, then send your masterpiece to Grandma via e-mail or put it onto the Web for viewing through the digital set-top box.

Casio Color Cassiopeia Tired of showing off those wallet-crumpled photos of the kids? This handheld organizer, which runs on Microsoft software, can play a short segment of that home movie you made using Windows Movie Maker. Your coworkers will be impressed by the gadget, but just as bored by the pics. (www.casio.com)

Portable Music Players Once you’re at work, there’s no need to leave all your music in the AutoPC. Just remove that memory card full of songs and plug it into a digital music player like the I-JAM (right). Microsoft’s audio format runs on other players as well, including the Rio 500. (www.diamondmm.com; http://www.ijam.com)