Comdex 2001 preview

Attendance is likely to be down on last year, but there willl still be plenty to see at Comdex 2001
Written by James Corrigan, Contributor

After 12 months of poor sales and painful job cuts, the IT sector is gearing up for another Comdex Fall in Vegas. But the aftershocks of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the US have led to predictions that this Comdex will be much smaller than those of previous years.

Amy Groden, spokeswoman for Key3Media Events, which organises Comdex, predicts a 25 percent drop in attendance from Comdex Fall 2000, down some 50,000 from last year's figure of 200,000.

Security at Comdex this year will be much heavier, with the most visible form being security officers patrolling the floor. Also, no bags will be allowed into the venue, and there will be no storage area for people to hand in their bags. All attendees will be required to carry on them a valid form of identification, such as a passport or driving licence.

Attendees have also been asked to allow more time for getting into the venue, with security checks being a high priority. At the keynote speeches, bags and cameras will not be allowed into the presentation area.

Security is not the only problem facing exhibitors and exhibition-goers this year. Low attendances and less money floating around is also taking a toll. Over the years, an annual visit to Comdex has been a must-be for many thousands of vendors, but Donya Ekstrand of Key3Media thinks that the global recession plus possibilities of lower attendances are worrying businesses. "The size of the show will be the same (as last year), but we are unsure what the attendance will be like," she said.

And economic problems aren't just keeping visitors away. Companies such as Philips and NEC have reduced their presence at Comdex this year due to tighter budgets.

A spokeswoman said that it was hard for Key3Media to put an exact number on the number of companies that had pulled out or scaled back, as an exact number was too difficult to track. Even with these pull-outs, the event is still a must-see for some. Michael Hughes, director of research, at Tradeshow Week, North Hollywood said that "Comdex's influence is unparalleled -- it is still worth going to."

Although there have been many companies scaling back or pulling out of this years event, there are just over 2,200 exhibitors who will be at the show, and all eight of the keynote speakers have re-confirmed they will be present. The keynote speakers are Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Cisco chief executive John Chamber, Sony chief executive Kunitake Ando, Nokia chief executive Jorma Olilla, Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison, EDS chief executive Dick Brown, Handspring founder and chairman Jeff Hawkins, and Don Listwin, chief executive of Openwave. As well as the eight keynote speeches, there will be 39 tutorials from top universities across America, as well as around 350 conferences.

There will also be many pavilions at the event, including a pavilion for Bluetooth (with this year being a make or break year for the product), and a pavilion for Memory Stick, and a pavilion on Palm solutions. There will also eight technology zones, software platforms and solutions, networking, digital imaging and publishing, information appliances, Web works, IT services, E-Mobility, and an Other Equipment Manufacturers zone.

Products on show

  • Browse3D's Web browser is a product for graphically searching and viewing the Web. The browser lets people find, organise, save and share Web-based content in virtual 3D rooms.
  • Funmail provides animated and visual messaging solutions for wireless carriers and network operators. FunMail currently works in English, Japanese and Korean, and will soon support all major European and Asian languages.
  • Honest Technology International's Honestech are digital video communication and entertainment solutions, "transforming the way digital video is created, managed, delivered and experienced".
  • PlanetWeb's Digital Photo Manager allows people to create and view slideshows, and email slideshows to family and friends.
  • Brain Boxes' Bluetooth USB adapter plugs into laptop or desktop PCs, creating an easy way for exchange files. If you are on a client site, wirelessly transfer copies of presentations or datasheets direct to their Bluetooth PC or printer. The company will also be showing its
  • Bluetooth CompactFlash Card, which will let you wirelessly synchronise all your data with your Bluetooth-enabled PC, or exchange phone numbers and address book with your Bluetooth cell phone. You can also wirelessly access the Internet from your PDA using a Bluetooth cell phone. It's Bluetooth Adaptor, meanwhile, is capable of full speed Bluetooth communications when plugged onto an RS232 serial port. You can use the Bluetooth RS232 adaptor to enable any laptop or desktop PC that doesn't have a USB or PCMCIA connection to connect to any other Bluetooth device. And the company's Bluetooth PC Card is suitable for situations where the PC Card needs to be enclosed, such as ruggedised computer. With the Bluetooth PC card from Brain Boxes in your laptop or PDA you can go to a meeting anywhere in your building and still send/receive emails and access the Internet via Bluetooth Ethernet access points.

  • Handspring's Visor Neo is based on the Palm OS, but has a springboard expansion slot that takes a range of optional modules such as phone, GPS and digital camera.
  • Hassnet's JazzBlue combines a Bluetooth access point with a home networking solution.
  • Tatung's TWN-5213 Web Pad is a wireless Internet terminal featuring light weight, long battery hours, broadband wireless and full Web browsing capabilities.
  • DataFab Systems' FA-CFMS converts Sony Memory Sticks to the standard CompactFlash form factor, allowing files to be transferred to computers that don't have a Memory Stick slot.
  • Largan's digital camera is a digital still camera, PC Camera, and video camera rolled into one. This 640 X 480 VGA quality three-in-one camera is powered by two AAA batteries or connected to USB port.
  • Pocket Armor's Left Handed Keyboard has a re-arranged number pad for left handers. The USB version has a USB hub, and foreign language layouts are available too.
  • iDVDBox'si2DVDBox combines Internet, DVD, MP3, and even interactive television technologies, all in one device. The i2DVDBox offers all the same features as a conventional DVD, including digital Dolby and composite and s-video outputs. The digital outputs are both optical and coaxial for compatibility with other home entertainment devices.
  • Pacific Star Technologies' Mobile Cruiser is an industrially hardened computers for work in harsh working environments. The computers can withstand 4ft drops and are water and temperature resistant.
  • Arkon Resources' PDA Multimedia Car Mount allows Pocket PC handheld computer users to listen to their MP3 music, digital books, and GPS commands through the existing FM car stereo system. Arkon's SoundFeeder wireless transmitter broadcasts the audio to a blank channel on the FM dial.
  • This text clarifies an earlier version of the story, which stated incorrectly that the I2DVDBox was made by Apple Computer. ZDNet UK apologises for the error.

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