Enterprise Insight: Gadget envy? Just give in

Sometimes, around this time of year, it's good to set practicalities aside and remind yourself how fun technology can be. That's why we got into IT to begin with, right? Not because of budgets, audits, and Gantt charts.

I got a reminder of this last week watching the Wall Street Journals' Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher -- along with special guest Chad Hurley, cofounder of YouTube -- demo their favorite geek gadgets at a Churchill Club event in Silicon Valley. Mossberg opened by saying that 2006 was a weak year for new tech gadgets, dominated by incremental improvements rather than breakthrough devices. But he expects 2007 to be a great year, and he backed it up by showing a parade of cool and wacky toys:

For the office: a USB hamster wheel, with fake hamster, you can plug into your machine. The faster you type, the faster the hamster wheel spins.

For the airplane: a video headset the size of a wrap-around pair of sunglasses, which apparently simulates the quality of a 50-inch hi-def display (although as Mossberg joked, "People always exaggerate size").

For the family: a true high-def 1080i camcorder (I seem to recall Sony or Panasonic) that can record 7 minutes on a 4GB memory card, and will be introduced next month at a retail price of US$1,000. To which I can only say ... Wow!

For the bedroom: a furry alarm-clock size Linux-based device called a Chumby, which downloads widgets via your laptop and uses them to display weather, news headlines, sports scores, and so on.