Comdex Fall, Las Vegas: USB devices wait in the wings

Martin Veitch live from Comdex, Las Vegas

Universal Serial Bus (USB) is getting ready for prime time, judging by a raft of products being shown at Comdex this week.

A host of vendors showcased wares at the Intel-backed USB village and the much-hyped technology finally looks ready to move into mainstream computing, following Microsoft's recent shipment of a Windows 95 service release that adds USB support to the operating system. Most vendors said products would ship within a few months.

Among products shown at the USB village:

Mitel showed its Personal Assistant, a telephone with integral 33.6Kbit/sec voice-modem that recognises callers and comes with software that automatically calls up contact management information. In the US, the device will cost $349 when it ships in the second quarter of 1997, and Mitel also expects to ship in Europe next year. The Personal Assistant connects to the host PC using either a parallel port or USB connection.

Canon showed an inkjet printer that can also be used as a USB hub.

Philips showed its top-end line of Brilliance monitors with USB support and said it planned to introduce USB across lines throughout 1997. The Brilliance monitors will be available early in 1997. Separately, Samsung showed a monitor that doubles as a USB hub.

NEC and AMP showed USB hub controllers for shipping in the first quarter of 1997.

Cherry showed a prototype of a USB keyboard that can also act as hub for other peripherals. The keyboard has a socket for a Miniature Card flash memory device so that digital images and audio can be played back almost instantly on the host PC screen. Separately, Keytronic showed a USB keyboard.

Thrustmaster showed a version of its Top Gun joystick that supports USB. Separately, Logitech showed mice, scanners and joysticks that support USB.

Altec Lansing showed speakers and demonstrated audio streaming technology with high-quality speakers that it will release after the 'Memphis' version of Windows ships next year. The product - to be priced at around $400 - will remove the need for a separate sound card.

Phoenix and Award were among firms showing BIOSes that support USB.

In total, over 200 devices are being designed for USB, an Intel spokesman said.

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