Comdex '99: Sneak Peek at the Hottest Trends 1

Internet apps and wireless networking look interesting

Seeds planted in the fertile ground of Comdex 98 will finally begin to flower at this year's Comdex. Last year we saw lots of new initiatives and directions, and this year those new capabilities will start really hitting home.

Internet appliances look interesting. We showed you the first reference design from Cyrix, last year. Even though National Semiconductor sold its Cyrix division, it kept the chip that powered that webpad. This year, we expect to see more than 40 devices featuring the new Geode chip. The webpad, Internet terminal, smart phone, and connected refrigerator are all right around the corner, and we'll see the first sets this year.

Wireless networking was also in its infancy last year. Sure we've had high-cost, wireless networking for a while, but it's been proprietary and best left to corporations with big bucks. This year will highlight an exciting catfight, as two industry groups try to build their own standards. Intel and Motorola stand on one side, pushing their Home RF. Lucent and Apple stands on the other side, featuring the 802.11 wireless networking standard. At first glance, the Home RF group seems to have the upper hand, given that they're attempting to follow the successful HomePNA phone line standard. But my money is on the 802.11 group because it's broader, and they've upped the speed to 11 megabits per second. At any rate, it'll be an interesting fight.

Another type of wireless networking will make its debut at Comdex and ought to be a big player at Comdex 2000. Named Bluetooth, this is an RF-based, low-power network designed to connect all the peripherals in your life together. You've heard of Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs). Well, Bluetooth is a Personal Area Network (PAN). With it your cell phone, notebook, PalmPilot, home PC, and PC for your car will continuously synchronize together, whenever they're within about 10 feet of each other. There are technology demos this year at the Bluetooth pavilion, and real products should be available by next fall.

Take me to Sneak Peek at the Hottest Trends Part 2