High-tech holiday picks for beginners

iPods

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

BRIAN WATT: Today in Japan, the president of Nintendo said the company was investigating problems with the strap on its video game machine, the Wii. He also said because the console was flying off store shelves really fast. Video game consoles are obviously a hot item this holiday season. The guy I like to consult on such matters is Brian Cooley of CNET.com. To him, there's no doubt which one would make a good gift for (AHEM) a novice like myself.

BRIAN COOLEY: When someone asks me what they should buy, I tend to immediately go to the Nintendo Wii as opposed to the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360 and here's why: The Wii is more accessible, not just in cost and the fact that it's more easy to find on the market, but the fact that the games don't require the same learning curve that the top games on the Xbox and PlayStation do. In other words, Xbox and PlayStation are more hardcore, and the Wii is more of a casual gaming console. And if you have to ask someone what console you should have, you're probably a casual gamer. This console has these wireless motion controllers so instead of pushing buttons you stand up in many cases and actually move your arms around and actually play the game. It comes with sports games, for example. So when you play the tennis game, you actually make tennis strokes and this wireless controller you hold in your hand translates that motion into game play. That's also a really nice breakthrough. Now to say, in the PlayStation's favor, the PlayStation 3 is a beautiful gaming console in high-definition. You won't get high-definition gaming from a Wii.

WATT: Let's talk about another obvious hot item: the MP3 player. And you can't talk about that market without dealing with the iPod's dominance.

COOLEY: Of course, the iPod still remains the dominant player out there this holiday season. It holds 80 percent of the market share, the iTunes music store roughly about the same market share, an enormous elephant in the room.

WATT: So are there any alternatives out there that look like they might even make a run at the iPod?

COOLEY: There are a lot of great alternatives. I don't know why, well I do know why they haven't made a run at the iPod and it's not necessarily for rational reasons. If you do strictly a rational assessment, you might very well buy a Toshiba Gigabeat, you might buy a Creative Zen, you might buy one of the Samsung or the Cowon players. But all of them combined plus the new Microsoft Zune, don't even have 20 percent of the market. That's how dominant the iPod is. So it's a matter of people buy the iPod because they know everyone who's savvy about music around them has an iPod and they feel real nervous about buying something else.

WATT: Now there's another player out there that you guys seem pretty excited about. It performs a lot of the same functions as other MP3 players but it comes in the form of a very small cube.

COOLEY: Yeah the mobiBLU Cube is a little bit bigger than a die. If you took a pair of dice and threw one of them away and the remaining die you made a little bit bigger, that's the mobiBLU Cube. It's tiny. And of course it has a video screen which is even smaller than two-thirds 'cause it has to fit inside that device and it's on one side of the cube is where the video screen is. It is a music player, a photo viewer, a video player as I mentioned, and it's also an FM radio. And it's $119. Now this is not a device you buy strictly for its performance. There is a big gadget G-factor here. And it works quite well.

WATT: Brian Cooley is an Editor at Large for CNET.com. And in Los Angeles, I'm Brian Watt. Thanks for joining us.

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