MANILA, July 26, 2005
 (STAR) By Eden Estopace - "What do you call this?" David Steel, Samsung’s VP for digital media, waving what looked like a clamshell phone, asked an IT reporter from Russia in a rare interview with foreign journalists one fine June day at the Samsung headquarters in Suwon City, an hour’s drive from Seoul.

"A mobile phone?" the reporter answered, and everybody in the audience seemed to be in agreement.

"Why do you call this a phone when it is also a camera, an MP3 player, a videocam, a PDA (personal digital assistant)?" the Samsung executive said.

Point taken.

The age of the multi-function device is here. And in the blurring of distinctions between digital functions, why do we insist on the primacy of one function over the other? Is this a holdover of the mindset of that long-ago era when a phone was a phone and a camera was a camera and never shall the twain meet?

It started with the phone. And this trend is now evident in other gadgets as well. Steel admitted that Samsung is moving more and more from stand-alone devices to multi-tasking gadgets that are part of a network and a networked life.

The Samsung Miniket is your typical multi-tasker, a six-in-one gadget that fits into the pocket. The point is that it tries to transcend a unitary identity and conform to what Steel described as a company strategy that aims to "meet particular needs rather than a one-size-fits-all solution."

Voice Recorder & Digital Camera

A journalist has many reasons to adore the Miniket. In press interviews, you record a conversation and take photos. No need to bring along two separate gadgets – a recorder and a digital camera, the usual tools of the trade.

The Miniket packs in a 512 MB built-in memory, which is enough to last several interviews and short photo shoots. A 45-minute interview consumes about 41.1 megabytes and one image shot on an 800x600 resolution is roughly 85 KB. A three-hour conference, plus as many as 10 shots of the VIPs in the roundtable, will take only about 50-60 MB of memory.

For a one-hour lunch interview or a three-hour session on a given day, the Miniket suffices. However, for a whole day and half-night on the road, this multi-tasker bows out sooner than expected. Even on a fully charged battery, the power is gone by lunchtime, if you start the day on the road at 8 a.m. The essence of its multi-functionality takes a heavy toll on this aspiring six-in-one device such that you find yourself a partner with no more energy left to take more tasks.

There is an easy solution, though. If you can find a socket by lunchtime, you just plug in the Miniket for an hour while having lunch, and it will spring back to life soon after.

If you are bringing your laptop with you, transfer the files right away to the desktop so you start the built-in memory again on a clean slate in the afternoon when the flurry of activities start again. Or you can purchase a memory stick so you don’t consume the memory way too soon.

Video Camera & MP3 Player

The Miniket is a lifestyle product. If you are a pro, it is always advisable to bring along professional gadgets such as a real video camera and a stand-alone MP3 player. The Miniket, even with its 10x zoom, can only approximate the depth of focus of a regular videocam. On the MP3 side, stand-alone players which can store 10,000 songs – your life’s soundtrack actually – is no comparison to what the Miniket can store on its 512 MB memory, not to mention its limited battery life.

But when you’re just cruising along life’s digital highway and you’re traveling light, the Miniket is a worthwhile companion.

Four hours in an international airport with only your handcarried luggage for company can be extremely lonely. When you’re dead tired to ever want to read a book, you can curl up at the boarding gate with music as soothing company. Don’t dream of packing the Miniket with a thousand songs. From the PC, you can transfer about two dozen songs on your Miniket, which is enough to last the long wait.

Throw in the bonus that when you see something interesting worth capturing on video, you have this option as well in your hands. Airports, they say, is a microcosm of a global world. Now and then, you see snippets of this cultural heterogeneity as when you hear toddlers chirping in rapid Mandarin, Japanese youth lining up the counter with their Armanis and Guccis, men in dark suits busy with their notebook computers and overseas Pinoys on the last leg of their journey home. Now and then you are also gifted with the sight of a Boeing 747 taxiing down the runway against the backdrop of a vermillion sunset.

Taking snapshots of the pathos and beauty of everyday scenes that travelers normally take for granted is what the Miniket is for.

Data Storage & PC Cam

The essence of a digital life is that digital content can be moved across platforms. From the Miniket to a desktop PC to a notebook computer to a PDA to a mobile phone and back. Files are transferable and interchangeable.

Pay attention, though, to the conversion guide. The Miniket supports a wide variety of file formats but moving files to another device requires a rudimentary knowledge of the difference between a jpeg and an mpeg file and the slight deviations of .avi, .wav. and .mp3. Or else you will find the device muted to your discontent.

There’s one function though of the Miniket that we have not tried but sounds totally cool. When you are not using your own machine and therefore not customized according to your taste and preferences, you can actually connect the Miniket to a PC via USB cable and it becomes a Web cam.

Now what is a Miniket? Trying to find an apt definition is still an exercise in semantic confusion. It is not fair to call it a mini-videocam because it is actually more and less than that. But it is easy to bond with it because it mimics our fragmented everyday tasks and connects the dots of our digital realities like a multiply narrated story. But at the end of the day, it is how a particular function is used in a particular way that will make up for a good definition.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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