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A Glimpse into the Future

Mon, 12/02/2002 - 6:24am

By Kim Stokes, Editor-in -Chief, kstokes@cahners.com
     Comdex has earned a reputation of showcasing the industry's latest and greatest technologies, gadgets, and trends. With Comdex Fall 2002 only half over at press time, this year promised nothing short of what we've come to expect. At the half-way mark, there have already been some interesting announcements, introductions, and predictions of the future.

     The opening keynote, by Bill Gates of Microsoft, set a positive, upbeat tone for the start of the show. Reaffirming that the world has become too far entrenched in the digital age to stop now, Mr. Gates discussed several developments on Microsoft's horizon.

     A new category of Microsoft software, called SPOT (smart personal object technology), is designed to make everyday objects "smarter." For example, an alarm clock uses a wireless Internet connection to automatically update the time by an online atomic clock. It could be programmed by the user to provide weather reports and other information. Mr. Gates also provided a glimpse into some other Microsoft innovations, including smart wristwatches and Media Centers. These centers would incorporate remote-controlled PCs for the living room, allowing users to watch TV, view digital images, and organize digital media.

     As the Wi-Fi Alliance gears up to begin certifying products that will support 802.11a and 802.11b standards, it recently announced rules for managing handoffs and is striving to make sure these tests will ensure that products from different vendors will work together smoothly.

     At Comdex Fall 2002, companies including Buffalo Technology, SMC Networks, and D-Link Corp. introduced products and prototypes that will take advantage of the 802.11g standard. With tougher security plans announced in late October by the Alliance, certain products could evolve to be promising vehicles for M-Commerce and the networked home. With 802.11g still waiting to be named an approved standard from IEEE, many companies don't want to miss the boat.

     Even with the dismal climate of the industry, and early reports of a decline in attendance, there was one announcement that many have been anticipating. It seems that someone has found the magical crystal ball that holds the key to when the industry will begin its upswing. And the lucky man to possess this information is Brian Halla, chairman and CEO of National Semiconductor. After studying economic cycles, historical trends, the development of the American Railroad, and citing new product developments and ventures that National Semiconductor is involved with, Mr. Halla generously shared the exact date in which the next technology boom will begin — June 21, 2003. What a great way to end an otherwise depressing year in the industry! If he's wrong, so what? Others have said its coming back, put on the breaks, saw it coming again, and saw it retreating again. If Mr. Halla is right, we're almost out of the woods, folks and we just need to hang in for six more months.

     If the innovative products coming out of Comdex are as widely adopted by consumers as they are expected to be, then the road from economic slump to technological rebound could indeed be closer than we think.

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