“There’s no place like
home”, “There’s no place like home”. That saying has never had such
a meaning as it does to someone returning from a week at COMDEX. Picture
the Circus, the Rodeo and the Rolling Stones, being at the same place at
the same time, and you will have a pretty good visual picture of what it
is like at COMDEX. Each year, COMDEX touts as being the largest convention
in the US, and I have no doubt that it is true. This year’s meet brought
an estimated 225,000 attendees.
However, on the brighter side, this year’s COMDEX was very profitable
in both knowledge and benefits to us as a leading PC User Group. I made
a great many contacts with people in a position to provide us with things
that we need, including presentations and software to keep us abreast on
this ever-changing industry.
On the COMDEX floor this year, a couple of new (old?) buzzwords were
making the rounds. Most prominently was connectivity. Many new strides
are being made in the attempt to enter this realm of the industry. Just
about anything that you can imagine can be had on the Internet. From information
sources to complete home shopping can be found at the touch of a keyboard.
Dot-Com websites are being developed for all types of things. One of
the hottest genres of E-Commerce sites in the industry today are ones that
deal with jobs in the industry. There is a distinct shortage of people
to fill positions in the areas of web commerce and database programming.
The days of going door-to-door looking for a job are gone. Now, you log
onto one of these sites, fill out an application, submit your resume and
watch the offer come in via e-mail. Sounds easy? According to one source
close to 75,000 jobs were secured in just this fashion. Some sites even
aid you in re-locating to the new jobsite, by putting you in touch with
moving companies, travel planning agencies, realtors and financial institutions
to help with your new mortgage.
Staying with the connectivity issue, wireless networks have been making
great strides this year. Although, ( my opinion ) not quite ready for mainline
corporate America, they will be shortly. Based on infra-red and UHF technology,
wireless networks allow you to instantly connect any number of computers
together and share information and output devices. Imagine walking into
your office, turning on your laptop and immediately start working, and
knowing that all of the information on the laptop has been synchronized
with the rest of the computers on the network and is up to date. And if
this is not fast enough for you, cellular technology has matured to the
point that you can actually keep your system updated wherever and whenever
Another of the new buzzwords that has made it to the top of the industry
is MP3. For those readers that are not familiar with MP3, it is
a compression format that was originally designed and used by hackers in
the Internet arena, which allowed CD music to be compressed to a size that
made it economical to transfer digitally. After compression, most MP3 files
are approximately one-tenth the size of the original audio file. Lately,
the MP3 format has been adopted for use in legitimate enterprises including,
of all people, the music industry. Although not very popular yet, you will
be able to “buy” your favorite songs direct from the record company in
MP3 format and have them instantly. Or, you may purchase the right to listen
to a particular song only once, for a very small fee.
MP3 audio is also being used, in conjunction with MPEG-2 ( the same
as MP3 but for video) for new types of video conferencing. Originally,
video conferencing was haphazard at best due to the enormous amount of
audio and video data that needed to be transmitted between the users. Now,
with the new technology, the transmitted data is only about 10% of the
original size. This allows a much higher quality connection between the
users, not to mention a much better picture and sound quality. I expect
to see the “video-phone” to be commonplace in the next couple of years.
Along the same lines, I was present at a demonstration of some of the
new cell phones that are being marketed. One really caught my eye. It is
called the MP3 phone. Not only does it use MP3 in the transmission of the
call, it also allows reception of MP3 music files so that when your phone
is not in use, it can be used as a CD player. It doesn’t sound like much
now, but, I think it is the writing on the wall as to how much the Internet
will become a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives.
Remember the part about the writing on the wall? Well, here is
another example. There is a huge amount of time and money being invested
in the area of Internet appliances. One example that I saw was a refrigerator
that was programmed to know exactly what should be kept there at all times.
Whenever something was used up, the refrigerator would log onto the Internet
and place an order with the local store to replenish it. The store would
then dispatch a delivery service to bring the order to your door. The refrigerator
kept track of everything in it by the use of very small chips that were
implanted in the label of the item. In addition, it continuously ran self
checks on itself to optimize the temperature inside that depended on the
total amount and type of items that it contained. It would also notify
a repair service if it detected any type of a problem with itself.
This is just one example of the types of things to come in the near future.
Another item of interest that I came across was something that practically
eveyone can use. Zerox Corporation ( yes, the copier people) have
introduced a consumer line of inkjet and laser printers. One of these,
the PD950, really caught my eye. This is a printer, scanner, and fax machine,
all in one. However, it has two major differences. First, it’s fast. A
full page color scan took only 18 seconds and, it made a copy of the picture
on the printer almost simultaneously. Second, it is a color fax machine.
When the color standard is finally decided on, this machine will do the
job. And most startling was the price. The MSRP of the printer is $399
and will probably be sold at the large computer stores for $300. This is
something that I invite everyone to take a look at if you are considering
a new printer in the near future. I was impressed.
Probably one of the biggest advances in the industry this year has been
in the area of security. This has always been a very intense subject of
discussion whenever the need to implement some types of applications on
the Internet. There has been a big push in corporate America, to make the
Internet more secure, with tools like high level bit encryption and multi-level
password checking. Very soon, we will start seeing another level of security
be introduced, called bio-metrics. As the name implies, your security key
will be you yourself. This may take the form of fingerprints, retinal scan,
voice recognition or even brainwave recognition. We have all seen these
types of security devices in movies, but soon, you may see them in your
home or workplace.
There seemed to be a much larger presence of Linix based companies this
year. Linix, as we all know, is a alternative to the Microsoft Windows
environment. Based on an open source technology, Linix offers application
developers a more robust environment in which to develop large scale applications.
And in addition, all source code to the Linix OS is freely available. This
reduces the costs of application development by not having to re-invent
the wheel each time a program is written. Most of the leading software
development companies like Corel and Adobe, are releasing versions of their
products specifically written for the Linix Operating System. In addition,
since Linix is based on the original Unix operating system, it is much
easier to develop Internet based applications.
OK, enough of the esoteric stuff. One piece of advice that I came back with. If you are thinking of splurging on that new flat screen monitor, dont. You might want to wait a little while. Flat panel monitor technology is changing. There have been quite a few new developments in this industry that are making the manufacture of flat panel and plasma screen monitors more economical to produce. This should relate to a somewhat lower end user price and added functionality in the near future. This also includes the new HD (High
televisions. The price on these types of things basically dropped by 50%
over the last year and I expect them to continue to drop. And, as the flat
screen prices drop, so do the conventional tube type monitors. I will not
be surprised to see 20” monitors under the $250 range by the middle of
next year. I also heard a rumor that 15” monitors will be out of production
soon, and 17” will be the entry level.
While we were attending COMDEX, we all attended the events that were hosted by APCUG (the Association of PC User Groups).
The APCUG is a non-profit organization that is comprised of member user
groups such as Alamo PC. Each year, the APCUG makes it possible for user
groups to send representatives to COMDEX by negotiating special rates with
the hotel and by enlisting major industry leaders into sponsoring meals
and events. This helps keep the cost to the individual user groups to a
This year, as in the past, the APCUG also organized several round tables
to help the officers of the user groups learn how to better benefit their
members. >From subjects such as Managing the Finances to Give
the Members What They Need, these roundtable discussions are one of
the best methods for user group officers to share and exchange ideas, in
an attempt to make each user group as beneficial to it’s members as it
can possible be. The Alamo PC has been a long time sponsor of this fine
organization and will continue to be so in the future.
All in all, I felt that this year's COMDEX was a very satisfying experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed touring all of the exhibits and learning of the new
trends in the industry. I was very proud to have represented the Alamo
PC Organization and to have heard of our reputation from many of the industry
leaders. I urge anyone who is interested in the computer industry to make
at least one trip to COMDEX. You will not be disappointed.