This week in
Tech Watch: DVDs, Home Entertainment, and, yes, Comdex 2003.
Editorial from this week’s Tech Watch
There’s not much sense in going on and on about the death of
Comdex. Either you were there and you have your own opinions or
you weren’t there and you’re too pleased with yourself to give
a rat’s patootie about what we think.
This is probably the third year or so that we swore we’d never
go again, though the reasons are different. One year we whined
that the show management, K3 Media, were such condescending jerks
that we couldn’t be bothered. Then we complained that there was
nothing new to see. We probably made a big deal about how crowded
it was and you couldn’t see anyone, and then of course we said
there was no one there to see. We kept going though, didn’t we?
For that reason, if no other, we’re not going to go on and on
about the death of Comdex because we’re liable to wind up going
next year for some reason or another and then we’d have nothing
to write about.
This year we were kind of interested in the evolution of new
form factors as seen at Comdex this year. As most of us expected,
Microsoft is dogged in its support of the Tablet PC, kind of an
endearing trait in a giant, unfeeling, monopolistic company that
tramples on the rights of the helpless. And indeed, Microsoft’s
partners in the Tablet PC market have repaid that trust with their
own dogged introduction of new products and more companies have
signed on. One of the interesting things we noted was that most
new designs feature a keyboard of some sort—most of them
are attached and we also saw more ruggedized versions, a feature
that’s as useful in the home as it is on the shop floor.
While we wandered around Comdex we stumbled upon an Alias representative
who was demonstrating Alias Sketch on a Dell Tablet. We were enthralled.
We had read about Alias Sketch, but we were impressed with its
fluidity and easy interface when we saw it in person. This product
has a double appeal if Alias can just get the word out. It’s a
wonderful tool for creative consumers, but it’s also a first-rate
sketching tool for industrial designers and artists who are looking
for that digital connection between hand-eye-machine. Sketch looks
like it might be it.
Another interesting angle in the intersection between business
and commerce is the handheld. We do business on the phone and
we do business on the move. The field has all but been conceded
to handheld devices with communication capabilities. It’s all
over but the screaming for the straight PDA. PalmOne, the hardware
company, is putting its hopes in the Treo and the Tungsten. PalmSource,
the software company, is most grateful for customers Samsung,
Kyocera, and Palm, all of whom offer phones with PDA features.
The exception to this rule is the new segment of handheld device
that’s taking shape as an entertainment device for big kids. Taking
up where the Nintendo GameAdvance leaves off, devices like the
Tapwave Zodiac keep their users entertained.
John Zeglis, president of AT&T wireless, took up the theme of
always connected, always in touch with his keynote speech that
suggested the mobile phone is soon to become our point of contact
with the world. In the past, said Zeglis, the phone was the point
of connection to our home. Now, as long as we have a phone, we’re
Interestingly enough, both Zeglis and Nagel called for a world
where devices can interoperate. Zeglis went so far as to say that
interoperability, or the lack of it, is the one thing that’s holding
the door against the advance of the telecommunications industry.
Nagel took a slightly different view, saying that the inability
of devices to interoperate in the same way that all Palm devices
run Palm applications is the key to success for Palm-based devices.
That’s not too far a cry from Nokia’s approach, which is that
Nokia phones interoperate just fine as long as you buy phones
in the same product family.
It would be nice to see true interoperability so that we can
play games with anyone, exchange photos, and make calls from anywhere
in the world, but we don’t see this brave new world coming in
the next 12 months. If any of you do, please let us know. We’d
like to know why.