Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week

This was a pretty huge week in the Strange New World of technology. For some reason, Christopher Columbus is the favorite explorer of the laptop industry, Sharp has decided to equip its new HDTVs with Blu-ray players and presidential contender Barack Obama is "In The Game." Here are our picks of the week.

Obama, the Video Game?

We usually don't talk about politics in a tech column, but this news was definitely up our alley. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is going to place ads in several popular video games. The ads are appearing as billboards in the online versions of Xbox 360 games. The ads show the candidate's face and say, "Early Voting Has Begun" and "Vote For Change." The ads appear in "Burnout Paradise," "NASCAR 09," "NHL 09," "NBA Live 08," "Need for Speed" (Carbon and ProStreet), "NFL Tour" and "Skate." EA, the publisher of the games, said it was open to any credible candidate's ads, but so far the McCain campaign has not expressed such interest. We can totally see GOP candidate John McCain showing up in "Call of Duty" or "Brothers in Arms."

The Next Level

Remember that old TV/VCR combo that was standard issue in college dorm rooms in the 1990s? Well, Sharp is trying to take that idea to the next level. Their Aquos DX line of products will combine LCD HDTVs with built-in Blu-ray disc players. The units range in size from 23 to 52 inches and will be available in Japan starting next month, and will eventually make their way to the United States. Usually, we frown on the combo device, but this might actually be a good deal. Blu-ray players are still very expensive, and when tossed in with an already pricey TV, you do seem to get a bit of a deal. Well, OK, not too big of a deal because the TVs start around $1,900 and go all the way up to almost $5,000.

HP's Touch-Screen Laptop

We are not really sure what it is about Columbus Day and the laptop industry, but it seems like the holiday could also be called "New Laptop Weekend." Apple chose to relaunch its MacBook laptop line, and Toshiba and Samsung also decided to debut their new laptop efforts. All looked pretty swell, but what we're looking forward to most is the new HP touch-screen laptop. Its "Touchsmart" desktop computer is like a giant iPod Touch, and the same technology in a laptop is going to be so much easier to use than a tablet PC. HP won't say exactly when the units are coming to market, but we will probably start seeing samples next year. We're moving ever-closer to that awesome display that Tom Cruise had in "Minority Report."