Strange New World: Picks of the Week

You know it is going to be a long year here in the Strange New World when pink iPods, faster chips and Federal Communications Commission maneuvers are the big shakers of the week.

Actually, pink gizmos aside, two of these seemingly mundane announcements are darned important. Dual-core processing traveling down to the lower end of Intel's line means the performance in portable devices will improve dramatically over the coming year. And the FCC opening up more bandwidth means that there could be a new set of players in the wireless game.

Of course, all these crucial details will probably get lost in all that pesky election news … and whoever Oprah is stumping for this week.

Either way, here are our picks for the top tech stories of the week:

This Is Its Idea of a Big Announcement?

For the past month, as Apple's annual MacWorld show drew near, the tech world breathlessly awaited the company's inevitable big announcement. But the show came and went, and all Apple introduced was the Macbook Air, "the world's thinnest laptop." Is that it? Come on, Steve, there must be something more!

This week the other shoe finally dropped. Apple introduced a brand new iPod Nano. It's pink. Yes, a new iPod! In pink! The 8GB Nano is available worldwide for $199 and was totally worth the wait. We suspect Steve Jobs was waiting for just the right moment to launch this pretty little gadget, and when the Dow dropped 500 points he knew his tiny pink miracle was just what the market needed for an instant rebound.

He was right. Thanks, Steve.

Intel's High-End Technology Drops Within Reach of the Regular Guy

Intel has begun to ship 1.6ghz Celeron dual-core computer chips.

"Thanks, Nerd. What's that mean to me?" you ask.

We'll tell you: The Celeron line has long been Intel's bargain-basement offering. Now that the company has extended dual-core technology across its entire product line, you should be able to get a cheap and fast dual-core PC very soon.

Right now, the chips are selling for $53 apiece to manufacturers willing to buy 1,000 of them. Intel's top-of-the-line dual-core chips sell for $999 a pop (also with sales of 1,000). This also means that quad core is all set to become the new dual core in 2008. It looks as if dual core is becoming the norm, quad core technology will replace it as the fastest chip available to the consumer.

Biggest. Auction. Ever.

Thursday, the FCC will begin to auction off a huge swath of the radio band spectrum that had been leased to broadcasters and is due to be returned to the government in February 2009.That's when the nation completes its switch from the analog to the digital spectrum.

Basically, the old UHF channel band will be up for sale to the highest bidder. Why is this attractive to major communications companies? Remember how easy it was to get a UHF signal with an old TV and a coat hanger antenna? Now imagine what today's technology will be able to do with it. We are talking a major step up in wireless signal strength. Companies can use this spectrum to send signals farther with less power, and will be able to go through thick walls more easily.

Now, before you cash in your 401(k) with dreams of becoming the next Verizon, word on the street is that opening bids on this spectrum will be around $10 billion to $13 billion. But if you want to join the fun, here's the link.

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