Be first with the hot new products that will hit the mainstream next year with the January 07 issue of PC Advisor – but prepare for envious glances.

This article appears in the January 07 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents.

Forget the TV adverts, billboard posters and in-store promotions. One crucial factor plays a huge role in helping people choose computer equipment, and suppliers have no control over it whatsoever. Word of mouth between customers is just as important as anything the PR machines of Apple, Dell and Microsoft can throw at you, and companies have lived and died by it for years.

When Apple released the first iPod in 2001, the non-PC enthusiasts that make up the wider public didn’t hear about this technology breakthrough in an IT magazine. Rather, they witnessed fellow commuters on public transport wearing those intriguing white earphones. And what was that they were attached to? The rectangular device was too small to hold a CD, and too flamboyant to be a run-of-the-mill radio. They were intrigued, and it wasn’t long before hordes of commuters were following the early adopters’ lead.

Of course, you probably read about the iPod, and many other innovative products besides, in the pages of PC Advisor way before your peers picked up on it. We always keep our readers well versed in the most important technologies on the horizon, and this month we’re upping those efforts. As well as providing a one-stop shopping guide ahead of the festive period, our Hot for 2007 feature gives you the opportunity to make sure you’re ahead of the pack in picking up one of next year’s must-have products, highlighted in the article by our Hot Stuff logo.

As well as the UK’s first review of the tiny new iPod shuffle (yes, it really is that small; look), we look at quad-core PCs, mobile phones with TV functionality, the first laptop with an HD-DVD drive, and much more. Head to page 79 to make sure you’re the person people peer at in envy when you whip out your next technology purchase on the bus.

Windows Vista for free

When considering the technologies that will take over the world next year, you can’t ignore Windows Vista. As we were going to press, Microsoft was putting the final touches to the official US launch event for the business versions. The consumer release will happen at the end of January, but if you’re thinking of holding off a home PC purchase until then, Microsoft’s latest scheme may change your mind.

Under the Vista Express Upgrade programme, which we cover on page 14, UK PC manufacturers are offering buyers a free or discounted upgrade to Windows Vista when they buy an XP machine. In principle, you can buy a new system between now and March, then collect an upgrade disc when the consumer versions of Vista are released.

It sounds like a great way to enjoy the benefits of the new operating system without having to delay your purchase. But we’re sceptical as to how straightforward this process will be. On page 30 we look at the hidden costs, and ask whether Express Upgrade will be as trouble-free as Microsoft claims. Vista PCs are certain to fly off the shelves next year, but this could be one technology you can afford to wait for.