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It may look like a vase, but it's a USB/FireWire hub - with a bonus fan and light.
Okay, so the LaCie USB FireWire Hub ($59) may not qualify as a world-changing technological development, but its mere existence is yet another proof that Macs equal design, and that design appreciators are Mac lifers.
This stylish li'l device was designed by designed by Ora-Ïto, the same designer that created LaCie's Brick stackable hard drives. It provides four USB (2.0, of course) and two FireWire 400 connections; plug into any of them and a different color LED lights up around the base. In addition to the six ports, the Hub also provides a light and a fan. According to LaCie spokesperson Melissa Logan, it was "designed to look like a flower pot." We're thinking sea creature, but, hey, all art is open to interpretation, right?
Also being showcased by LaCie - in addition to their normal raft of storage devices - are the LaCie FireWire Speakers ($79), designed by Neil Poulton, the same I.D. whiz who whipped up LaCie's durable d2 case design years back. These speakers are connected to your Mac over FireWire - you don't connect them using your Mac's audio line-out port. The advantage here is that FireWire ports provide plenty of power (far more than that of USB), so you don't need a separate power brick. The FireWire Speakers sound remarkably good considering that the set doesn't include a subwoofer.
Oh, and if you were at that previous Expo when these speakers were originally "announced," and are wondering what took LaCie so long, Logan told me that "We didn't really announce them, they just accidentally got into the catalog," and that " We actually had to start over ... we had to go from one manufacturer to another." After listening to these speakers, the wait seems to have been worth it - though I look forward to hearing them in an environment devoid of the din that is Expo.