Comdex: New Xerox products for the wired worker

In his Comdex keynote today Xerox president Rick Thoman promised 20 new highly-targeted products for 1999 in a bid to expand the company's foothold in corporate information and document management.

Although Thoman declined to "pre-announce the products" by detailing specifics, he did say one such ware would focus on data mining and offer one-to-one marketing in huge database settings. Another product, says Thoman, will aim to take the guesswork out of book publishers' printing orders.

Thoman also expounded on Xerox's belief that the copier is quickly emerging as an intelligent portal to archived information, networked in with computers, fax machines, pagers, telephones and other office devices. But there's still a long way to go, conceded Thoman: "We're still in the dark ages of sharing and using [knowledge]."

Accompanying Thoman on stage was Xerox chief scientist John Seely Brown, who outlined a number of future technologies that the document company is currently hashing out. Perhaps most impressive to the Comdex crowd was a demonstration of Xerox's hyperbolic browser, a search technology that lets users visually fly through folders of online materials. According to Seely Brown, this technology is important because it lets users see what's on the periphery of documents and folders, giving them a better understanding of how information is related.

In addition, Seely Brown outlined a new smart staple technology, where a new breed of staple is programmed to request a certain Web address. When the user waves the stapled document in front of a special monitor, it automatically brings up the staple-specified Web site. "This bridges, very carefully, the virtual and physical worlds," he says.

Rounding out Seely Brown's technology demos was a sticker, or "glyph" that can be attached to any given document. The sticker contains coded information that, when scanned, directs the machine to send a copy of the document to the user's e-mail box.