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Hot for '98

The new year is upon us: a time to take stock, make resolutions, and plan for the future. While most folks take this time to concentrate on changes to their personal lives, at Computer Shopper we've got our sights on the computing market - and casting our glance three, six, and even 12 months out, we see lots to celebrate as 1998 unfolds.

This is going to be a year of unexpected innovations, unprecedented performance improvements, fulfilled promises, falling prices, and big values.

This special issue is a glimpse at the bright future ahead, based on interviews with vendors about their product plans for the next year and beyond. It should help you plan your purchases both for the near term and over the long haul.

One of the most exciting product categories to keep an eye on in '98 is the system market, which will lose no momentum as it rounds the corner of the new year. For instance, Intel's Pentium II family should completely usurp the MMX Pentium's desktop role in the first quarter, relegating the latter to a midrange portable option.

Furthermore, the arrival of 333MHz and 350MHz Pentium IIs will push the 266MHz Pentium II to the entry-level desktop class, and later in the year, second- and third-generation Pentium IIs will drive the CPU speed limit to 450MHz or even higher.

Rival chip makers like Cyrix and AMD plan to keep pace (or at least stay no more than a couple of baby steps behind), with Pentium II equivalents at competitive prices. And improvements in motherboard design, graphics subsystem architecture, system bus speed, hard drive capacities and transfer rates, and system memory technology promise to keep performance on a constant upswing as the year progresses.

Many of these improvements will ripple through the portable market as well, where vendors are aiming to deliver desktop-caliber performance in most mobile units. You can also expect an array of new--and sometimes revolutionary--form factors that cater to various price/performance/poundage combinations, as well as larger, brighter screens.

Of course, not just PCs but all computing categories are revved up for a fast-paced, improvement-packed year. For the scoop on what's coming down the pike in terms of multimedia, the Internet, software, displays, printers, and communications, you need look no further than this Buying Guide. We hope it proves valuable.

Abigail Crain is the Editor of the

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