Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week

Are we looking at a strange new Apple computer?

Maybe so.

Apple Inc. announced plans this week for the latest operating system for its iPhone: OS 3.0. And instead of doing the usual Wizard of Techno Oz thing, Cupertino announced its intentions at a normal news conference, just like a normal company.

It was all sort of ... shocking.

Speaking of shocks, there is some data that shows prices for TVs are actually rising. How does that happen in the worst economic times since the invention of the lightbulb?

And, finally, there was an interesting trade show last week: the Electronic House Expo had some pick-worthy gadgets down in Florida.

Here, then, are our Picks of the Week.

Apple Comes Clean With 3.0

You know 2009 is a change year when Apple Inc. decides to think different. The upscale computer maker came to market this week with an outline of software improvements for its iPhone operating system, OS 3.0.

Besides being a boon for developers who say the software will allow for powerful new Apps for the device, Cupertino showed a new cut in company style.

Gone is Steve Job's theatrics and rumor mongering.

Instead, company officials calmly met the media, explained the new features for the software and, get ready for it, answered questions. In other words, Apples provided facts. And that is great news for normal folks who find Apple's brand to be expensive and confusing.

TV Prices Are ... UP!?

You know Depression 2.0 is entering the nut-job phase when prices on TVs go up even though nobody is supposed to have money to buy them. But that is what's happening. Sunnyvale Calif.-based electronics shopping and research service Retrovo says TV prices jumped more than 10 percent in the first week in March.

The culprit here is failed big-box store Circuit City, which finally closed its doors. So downward pricing pressure has eased. Retrovo said the TV price increase was the first since May of 2008. Prices have fallen more than 35 percent between then and the beginning of 2009.

And besides being bad news for cash-strapped consumers, there is a much larger, more troubling question that classical economics must answer.

Could somebody explain how prices for TVs fall during boom times? But rise during recessions? Isn't it supposed to work the other way around?

Getting Some Electronics in the House

The hip, little, for-pros-only Electronics House Expo wrapped up in Orlando last week. And even in these dark days, there was gadget news. Onkyo showed a very neat receiver, the TX-SR607.

Besides being a dang good receiver, which starts at just about $600, the unit supports Dolby's fancy new home entertainment standard, called ProLogic IIz.

ProLogic IIZ takes surround sound to a new level, above you head. The system adds a right and left speaker over the viewers seat to create the illusion of sound passing over the listener, although the market for such capability is probably small.

Not only are not many films mastered in the standard, it means that yet more speakers must be finagled into crowded living rooms.

Regardless, it is interesting that now some home theaters have better sound that some theaters: Not many multiplexes have invested in speakers in the ceiling.

Going out to the movies will soon be a disappointment.