Christmas for computers

Tips & Hints

With Christmas approaching, there are a lot of gifts suitable for the computer or geek in your life.

Posted 15 October, 2004

Christmas is just over two months away so it's time to look at what's available for this year's gifts. While we don't have many major releases of new technology, there are a number of interesting products and trends. The buzzword for this season is probably convergence, with Microsoft, Apple, HP, Dell and Sony all releasing products that combine technologies.

Personal Media Players

Almost certainly the biggest sellers will be Media players. The iPod will probably be the biggest seller but many other players are available. Sony have released a Vaio player which will probably not be available in Australia before Christmas and Dell have released their Pocket DJ.

The strategies of Apple, Dell and Sony are good examples of converging technologies. The Sony media player will integrated with their Vaio portable computers. Apple's new iMac G5 is intended to merge with the iPod and Airport systems and to take advantage of Apple's iStore and iLife services.

Digital Cameras and desktop photography

Printers and digital cameras continue to improve in quality while prices drop. Hewlett Packard's strategy is to combine the two. We're currently seeing HP marketing their printers and camera's heavily.

HP are not the only people who sell cameras and colour printers. Most brands of printers and cameras will work fine with modern computers, it's a matter of mixing and matching the products that work best for you. Operating systems like Mac OS X and Windows XP handle photography and printing well.

Microsoft Media Centre

Probably the biggest marketing campaign this Christmas will be for Microsoft's Media Centre. This brings the computer into the lounge room as an entertainment hub. Microsoft's convergence strategy is to offer an all-in-one TV, DVD, Photos, Stereo and Internet system.

The interesting aspect with Microsoft's strategy is they are only supplying the software. Media centre computers will be assembled by the various suppliers in much the same way PCs are. We will see some interesting products come out of this, but the advice at the moment has to be to hold off buying until the product matures .

LCD Monitors

Like cameras and printers, LCD monitors continue to drop in price. These will be big sellers this year. It's important to be careful when buying an LCD monitor as not all monitors are created equal.

When comparing monitors, try to get demonstrations of them. Don't rely on demonstrations that just play cartoons, check how the black looks in text documents and movies. LCD monitors are also very resource hungry so older or cheaper computers may have trouble displaying the picture.


A great gift for the kids, but games can be one of the most frustrating aspects of computing. Check the game will work with your computer's specifications. Ignore the minimum specifications and only pay attention to the recommended specs, it's also a good idea to confirm with the shop that you can return the software if it doesn't work.

Other Software

Games aren't the only programs available to computer users. There are thousands of other programs for all types of applications. Like games, you must make sure your computer will work with the software.

Check your computer

There is no point in buying anything that won't fit or work on your computer. Before you go to the shop, note how much memory you have, how much hard drive space, your video card and what operating system you are using, a good program for getting a summary of your computers is Belarc Advisor, print out a system report and take it with you to the shop. If you are buying hardware, check it will plug into your computer, you may have to buy an additional USB hub or a Firewire card.

Upgrading Your Computer

One common problem we're seeing is Windows 98 and ME support is being withdrawn. A lot of new Windows compatible hardware and software will only run on Windows 2000 and XP. We strongly discourage people from upgrading Window 98 and ME systems to XP.

If you must have something that will only run on XP and your computing is running ME or 98 then it is time to buy a new computer. Like most other computer hardware, the cost is falling while quality rises. You can buy a basic Windows XP Home system for under a thousand dollars, we'll be looking at what to buy in new systems later this month.

Christmas Day is no time to be swearing at a computer. If possible, test your new purchase will work on your system before the big day. By making sure everything works, you'll make your computer gift a much more enjoyable experience.

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