Strange New World: Picks of the Week

We kick off a new fall tech season with a top pick that promises to be a legitimate replacement to the dreaded TV remote control: your tabletop. So-called surface computing is coming to your home.

Also, Apple appears poised to become not just a phone maker but a phone company. And finally, a couple of neat gadgets that put a whole new spin on mp3 players.

Here are our picks for the week.

The Ultimate Remote

Every year it seems one company or another unveils an "ultimate TV remote." Usually these are multibutton nightmares, strictly for geeks only. Well, this year's claim to the new remote crown might just be able to keep it on for a while.

Savant Systems has built a large, touch-screen controller right into a tabletop as part of its ROSIE line of home A/V equipment. We saw the table in a nice, black walnut-like finish, but most any color is possible. This means couch potatoes across the land can look forward to controlling all of their TVs, lights and gadgets right from their sofa-side coffee table via easy to read, absolutely ginormous visual icons. No more trying to poke those teeny, tiny remote buttons with one's big, beefy fingers.

Plus, no more lost remote. If you manage to lose this baby in the couch cushions, you have bigger problems than missing "Desperate Housewives."

If production ramps up and the price falls -- right now this ROSIE coffee table starts at a staggering $35,000 -- we could see tabletop remotes and controllers actually seeing a wider market. A simpler panel version could be developed to go on top of existing surfaces.

We can't wait. The sooner we get rid of that pile of remotes, the better.

The iPhone Company?

Apple looks to be getting into the phones business. According to BusinessWeek, Apple Inc. might be planning a bid for a piece of the public airwaves in order to offer its own phone and data service. And we think the world is more than ready for Apple, the phone company.

Having its own network will let the company ditch AT&T when the next iPhone launches. And it will allow the company to offer connectivity as part of the package for customers who can no longer resist those cool ads. How sweet would it be if every Macbook, iMac and MacPro came with a built-in EVDO-type connection that let us all jump online anywhere?

The world may be our oyster, but it could soon be Apple's hot spot.

Innovation in the World of Music and It's Not From Apple? That's Crazy Talk

The rest of the world may be ready to consider that great new ideas can come from companies beyond Apple and Nintendo. Sony just launched a new music player called the Sony Rolly in Japan. And this love-child of a Furby and an iPod shuffle looks to be a whole lot of fun.

The football-shaped Rolly mp3 player scoots around in time to the music played and can hold about 600 songs. It has five hours of playback time, but only four when she/he/it (?) is dancing. It might be one of those products that does not catch on in its first generation, but in the second or third it could be cute enough to find a market.

In other music news, the company behind HD Radio (iBiquity Digital), has announced that future HD Radios will have a "tag" feature for iPods. This will let the listener "tag" a song or radio show (no pressure from us whatsoever) and buy it from iTunes later when they sync their iPod online.

Soon, you're just a click away from owning that song you keep hearing in the car but you aren't sure who sings.

Jonathan Blum and Dan Evans co-host "Strange New World," a weekly syndicated radio show. Blum hosts the blog Blumsday.com and Evans is a features editor at PC Magazine.

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