The idea is simple: a home computer that acts as a kind of dispatcher, translator, and organizer for all your digital devices. A computer that can download and edit data from PDAs, digital cameras, the Web, MP3 players, DVDs, and CDs without the nightmarish struggles over compatibility that have made many users want to hang themselves from the nearest beam with a USB cable. Sony, which manufactures gadgets for almost every digital need, has been preaching this "convergence" for years, hoping consumers will buy Sony, Sony, and more Sony. Apple, which makes a limited number of products (computers, and the iPod MP3 player), launched the new iMac earlier this year by emphasizing a software package that turns its cartoonish-looking desktop into the ultimate digital "hub." Ladies and gentlemen: In one corner, the Vaio MX computer, operating on Windows XP, costing a hefty $3,400. In the other, the iMac, at a slimmed-down $1,800. If convergence is the promise, which one gets us to the promised land?
THE HUBS WE COMPARED
(Both systems include a built-in 56K modem and Ethernet support.)
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.