Jeff Yang asks why does all the cool stuff come out in Asia first.: “Call it the gadget gap or the device deficit — call it what you will, as long as you recognize that, where cool high-tech stuff is concerned, America is light-years behind its counterparts in the Far East.”
He lists out his favourite Japanese gadgets:
1. Sony PSP (Playstation Portable): It’s only the most anticipated handheld gaming device ever — a portable wonder that packs all the power of the original PlayStation in one palm-size package. And it doesn’t just play games: according to Sony, it’ll also deliver music and MPEG-4 video, display photos and offer 802.11 Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless gaming and messaging. It’s going on sale in Japan this weekend. The United States, however, doesn’t get it until March 2005 at the earliest. Envy factor: 4.5 out of 5.
2. Sharp Zaurus SL-C3000: For the hardcore gadget geek, the SL-C3000 is the latest in Sharp’s heavy-duty Linux-based handhelds; more of a palmtop computer than a PDA, the SL-C3000 has an internal hard drive, a razor-sharp full VGA screen with zoom-in capabilities and a full QWERTY keyboard to go along with its swiveling touch screen. Plus, it looks damn good. Get it in a full-English version at Dynamism now. Envy factor: 4 out of 5.
3. DoCoMo “Mobile FeliCa” Payment System: A product, not a service, this e-payment system lets you buy stuff from convenience stores, software publishers, concert-ticket kiosks and train stations by transmitting virtual cash from your i-Mode-equipped phone. The system works in Japan because it’s riding on the back of FeliCa, an existing, wildly popular smart-card payment system; here in the United States, we don’t even have smart cards, much less i-Mode. Envy factor: 3.5 out of 5.
4. The NEC V601N: Sure, it’ll display live broadcasts for only about an hour before its batteries give up the ghost, but this first-ever combination TV/cell phone also lets you grab screen shots and video off programs being played on its bright but tiny screen and browse TV guides to schedule programming, and it can even be used as a remote control for external devices. Japan gets it later this month; we get it, uh, never. Envy factor: 3 out of 5.
5. SONY Clie VZ-90: Sony gave up on making PDAs for the U.S. market but has continued to build new versions of its best-of-breed Clie in Japan. This edition is the first PDA to offer an OLED screen, producing brilliant, neon-sharp colors that can’t be duplicated by LCDs. Sony has positioned the VZ-90 not just as an organizer but also as a portable media storage and playback device, with stereo speakers, multiple types of memory slots and integrated Wi-Fi; Dynamism has it, but, unfortunately, not yet in an English-language localized version. Envy factor: 3 out of 5.
6. Takara’s Dream Factory: The geniuses behind the Bowlingual and the Meowlingual (universal translators for dogs and cats that turn woofs and purrs into human-intelligible speech) have created a product that allegedly helps you turn your nightmares into delightful dreams using musical tunes, sweet perfumes and prerecorded, whispered phrases. We’ll be dreaming of the Sony PSP. Envy factor: 2.5 out of 5.
7. Sony HMP-A1 Portable Media Player: Wish your iPod could play back movies? Sony hopes you do. Its new HMP-A1 PMP offers 20 gigabytes of MP3 and MPEG-4 playback goodness; it even has a video-out jack so you can watch your flicks on a big-screen TV instead of its embedded sharp but tiny 3.5-inch screen. Envy factor: 2.5 out of 5.