Comdex: Tracking the product trends Pt II

Internet and content provision will be big factors at a show that is traditionally hardware-biased

Typing may be tough with the tiny keyboards on two-way units, but it's easier for many than scratching notes with on a PDA screen or multi-tapping on an Internet phone keypad, and the mid-sized displays and message pushing are another plus. Personal and business users are being won over by generally superior coverage and unobtrusive text message services -- look for new models and promotions for two-way messaging.

Wireless devices, particularly those that can reach the Internet, aren't terribly sexy without compelling content. While Comdex/Fall is traditionally a hardware show, you'll see companies that promise to convert, package, and deliver Web content, email, B2B services, and e-commerce capability to wireless PDAs, Internet phones, and two-way pagers and message units

Shared Internet access continues to be the driving force behind the growth in home networking, a fact that benefits small and large businesses as quantities and competition increase and prices drop. Residential gateways for home networks will be a big deal on the show floor, promising easy network configuration, essential security features, and, in some cases, interoperability between different networking technologies. No one yet has delivered a single gateway or switch that combines wired Ethernet, HomePNA (phoneline), and wireless networking in one box -- but such products may be in evidence at Comdex.

Wired network component prices are one of the best deals in computerdom, but wireless is the rage in this category as well. HomePNA doesn't really count as wireless since it uses existing phone cables, but if "no new wires" is close enough, than the fuller potential of the HomePNA 2.0 standard (look for demos of new 20Mbps components) is proving ever-more compelling, especially as entertainment-oriented peripherals are coming to market. Look for Dell, Diamond, and 3Com all to tout their HomePNA audio peripherals.

The more truly wireless technologies aren't sitting still. HomeRF finally delivered its first products this year with more vendors in the wings, and you'll see them on the Comdex show floor. Since the FCC has now approved 10Mbps rates for HomeRF (from the original 1.6Mbps rate) the argument for HomeRF is stronger than ever. Current 802.11b wireless networking, the corporate and campus standard, is rated at 11Mbps, so speed isn't the issue. One great result of the competition is price depression for traditionally expensive 802.11b NICs and access points -- look for new deals and products in this field of play.

Representatives of other network technologies, including Sharewave and HomePlug, will likely be somewhere at Comdex, but because they still won't have products until 2001, you won't find much of a presence on the show floor.

The second wave of Internet appliances, more evolved and likely to be more successful than the first wave, will show up at Comdex in strong numbers. The Gateway/AOL Internet appliances announced before PC Expo haven't yet made it to market, but will likely be in evidence at least in prototype form.

Other models from large and small companies will be displayed -- with hardware that's sturdier and service plans hopefully more aggressively priced than the systems that pioneered the category earlier this year.

Take me to Pt I/ Looking in the Comdex crystal ball

See full coverage at ZDNet UK's Comdex Special.

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Take me to the Bluetooth special

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