March 4, 2006 -- Sure they get to wear a gorgeous clothes and jewels, walk the red carpet and maybe walk away with a little gold man. But for the nominees -- and presenters -- another thrill of the Academy Awards is the Oscar gift bag.
In this year's treasure trove, a bunch of gadgets highlight a few trends that have taken hold for the stars and their fans alike.
This year's bag for nominees is valued in the neighborhood of $75,000. For presenters, the bag is a little swankier, topping out at $100,000 dollars worth of swag.
Technology items are not the most prevalent gifts in the bags -- spa gift certificates, five-star hotel stays, custom clothes, jewelry and perfume are traditional fare.
Still, the technology in the baskets tells an interesting marketing story. But maybe next year they should offer computer-geek-on-demand service. With all these gadgets, somebody's going to have to install them.
Of course, most celebrities already own one, but who can have too many iPods? This year, the Oscar iPod is being packaged with an armband holder from Digital Lifestyle Outfitters. It has a neoprene protective case and is made for running or lifting weights with your digital music player. The DLO armband retails for $29 and it may be a sign that the iPod/workout partnership works for all of us, even those that can't afford a personal pilates instructor.
Harman Kardon has two products in the swag bag -- the Drive + Play automobile iPod adapter and the JBL On Stage desktop speakers and docking station. The trend of "music everywhere" is a natural fit for movie stars: Who wouldn't want a personalized soundtrack to follow them from their workout, to the car to their home? One note about the Drive + Play system: It has been highly praised by industry analysts for its intuitive controls: They are more like the actual iPod controls than many of the car adapter systems. The $199 price tag on the system is reasonable, but even the stars will have to pay around $300 to get the Drive + Play system properly installed and integrated into their car stereos.
Blackberry 8700c Wireless Handheld Oprah has been seen scrolling through her e-mail via Blackberry, and in Hollywood, that's the biggest endorsement you can get. The good news for us mere mortals is that cellular phone manufacturers and networks have built many of the Blackberry's communication features into lower-priced phones. Especially robust are the new VCast phones from Verizon -- TV, e-mail, music, Internet access, and, oh yeah, phone calls all on one device.
Firefly Mobile: Cell Phone for Kids Even celebrity children with nannies and house servants need to stay connected. The Firefly Mobile is a good-looking cell phone that restricts access on both incoming and outgoing calls. There are no number keys: Buttons are preprogrammed by mom and dad with important numbers. Incoming calls can be similarly restricted. It's a great safety device, but the voice quality is a little lacking, which could make negotiations for the budding child star's next movie a little murky.
Canon Photo: Suite of Products Canon PowerShot SD30 Digital ELPH camera, SELPHY CP510 printer and Canon DC10 DVD camcorder. The paparazzi may constantly take pictures of them, but now the stars can fight back. This Canon collection lets the photogenic elite take their own pictures and print them at home (no chance a sneaky photo-tech can sell the pics to the National Enquirer). Plus a DVD camcorder lets our leading men and women practice their director skills so they can move behind the camera for their next film.
Vonage Voice Over Internet Phones and Service
In a clear sign that the Academy doesn't quite understand this technology, they've included a penny-pinching technology in a gift basket valued at $100,000. Voice Over Internet (Internet Protocol) service allows you to make long-distance calls at a fraction of the traditional cost. Now why does Reese Witherspoon need this? The good news for the rest of us is that VOIP is becoming much more user-friendly. Vonage offers cordless phones that plug into your Internet connection -- no more headsets tethered to the computer.
12-Month Subscription to Netflix
If you love obscure movies and aren't so good with return deadlines, Netflix is the perfect solution. You order DVDs online, they arrive by mail, you return them whenever you want, and then the next movie arrives. With movies on demand available from many cable and satellite providers, Netflix is not the salvation it was in the past. But it comes to a diverse inventory. The on-demand movie services have only recent releases to offer, while Netflix has a deep library that appeals to even the snootiest movie buff.