I've been going to Fall Comdex in Las Vegas for the past three years and I fought my way out there again this year. I made it through the rain, wind and snow storms and did get to see several interesting sections of Route 66. I have brought back seven boxes of printed material from over 750 vendors and have read through about a third of this material so far.
Wow! Comdex -- It seems to get bigger every year. Almost too big. Overwhelming! Comdex filled up the Las Vegas Convention Center, Sands Convention Center, Bally's, Hilton and the South Annex. (This is equivalent to nearly 60 football fields!) Tents were everywhere, and half of the multimedia booths were in these tents. The multimedia area appeared to be larger in size than the entire PC Expo show in Chicago. This layout was somewhat better than having the show scattered all over Las Vegas, as has been in the past. Because the keynote addresses were more difficult to get to at the Aladdin Hotel (probably because Starlight Express was at the Hilton), I missed them all.
Here is a quick summary of the important products and trends in the industry:
Mobile technology - Multimedia is on the move. Many new products from PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) to laptops have sound capability. A color laptop capable of displaying three dimensional virtual reality images was announced. PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) cards were shown from a large number of vendors. These small portable cards are the size of a stack of credit cards and are used to add options to mobile computers. Fax/modems, Ethernet boards, GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers, pagers, scanners, video boards, multimedia sound systems, memory, hard disk drives and wireless messaging systems were shown in this PCMCIA format. Pentium based and fast Sparc based notebooks were also announced.
Sound - The entire multimedia area was full of sound. Too much sound. You could barely hold a conversation. Many of the major multimedia vendors are showing second and third generation sound boards with wavetable musical sound synthesis and three dimensional sound reproduction. First heard at Comdex last year, three dimensional sound allows you to experience a more natural, airy and spatial sound.
"Green" products - Monitors, computer systems and automated shutdown systems which are energy efficient and environmentally friendly were displayed.
Business card entry - Getting all those business cards laying around in your desk drawer organized has been perceived as a major need by several OCR vendors! Several portable business card-only scanners are now available.
Office Suites - The war of the Office Suites is on. Bill Gates (CEO Microsoft) announced the new version of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Access, etc.) and fired the first shot at PC Expo in Chicago. Philippe Kahn (CEO Borland) returned the volley with the announcement of Borland Office (WordPerfect, Quattro and Paradox) at Comdex which will sold by both Borland and WordPerfect. Rumors of WordPerfect and Borland merging appear to be false.
Games - The games are becoming very visual. Interactive X rated CD ROMs are now becoming very prevalent and are quite realistic. (And everybody thought the computer nerds weren't having any fun at their computer.)
CD ROM - Multispeed CD ROM drives (some at 3x speed) and multispeed CD writers were displayed. The CD is replacing diskettes as the preferred method of software distribution. Software packages will start to be distributed as low cost "demo" CDs. If you like the "demo" version of a program, you can then call a phone number, they will charge your credit card and give you an access code so you can "unlock" the real version which is included on the CD. Are software stores becoming obsolete? Several magazines are including CDs inside.
Patents - It will be interesting to see how the Compton's "Multimedia Search System" patent may restrict multimedia developers. Too early to tell.
Video - Affordable, lower cost 24 bit high resolution (1024x768) video boards are being readied for the marketplace. Video compression boards and software abound. Video Editing tools abound and many more will be ready in 1994. Some work in an all digital format and other can control external video tape recorders.
Input Devices - A variety of relatively expensive ergonomic keyboards were shown. Handwriting recognition software is improving, dictation software products are better and wireless messaging systems are available.
This new technology has been accused of encouraging "de-personalizing" communication between people. People have become so dependent on e-mail that they will e-mail the office next door instead of getting up and walking over. Faxes are being sent instead of personal visits or phone conversations.
Its much too early to tell how society will react to this changing format of human and computer communication and how it will affect our lives.
© 1994 Rick Smith All rights reserved.