Comdex '99: "Dot com" companies rule Comdex

Forget everything else -- if you're not a dot com, then at Comdex you're nobody, writes ZDNet editor in chief Eugene Lacey

They don't have the biggest stands -- the software and hardware firms still do. In fact some of the biggest dot com companies aren't even here. Yet it seems like there is just one topic of conversation at Comdex '99 and it is the Internet and the continuing march of the dot coms.

This is not entirely new. The Internet has been the big thing at Comdex for the last three years, but where you really notice the difference this year is in the various small-stand pavilions. Two or three years ago, the small stands, the startup stands, would typically belong to software developers -- people who hoped to make it big by selling shrink wrapped software on CD-ROM. Now they are dominated by Internet startups -- dot com something or others hoping to clean up in the Net gold rush.

The dot com takeover of Comdex is illustrated by a promotional poster for the show at various sites around the Las Vegas Convention Centre, with the line "We should have called it .Comdex". The theme is taken up in keynote after keynote, with Gates stressing how XML technology will enable companies to get more out of the Web to improve their products, HP's Carly Fiorina emphasising e-services as the way to improve devices, and Linus Torvalds explaining how the open source movement is empowered by the Internet.

Europeans visiting Comdex are struck by the absence of any discussion of alternatives to the ".Com" model. Nobody is talking about WAP, interactive television, the European and Asian cell phone phenomenon and its potential for e-commerce, or Web-enabled PDAs.

Comdex 99 is all about dot com, and the rest of the world better get online, or get outta town.

For full coverage, see the Comdex '99 Special Report .

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