Small, fast, flat, slim and Web-enabled was the thread running through most of the hot products of Comdex. Not all of the products in our top five are shipping now, or are confirmed for a UK launch, but they are here because Comdex provides a good road map for the direction in which the digital world is heading. If the products listed are as hot as ZDNet believes them to be then you will see them in the UK in the not too distant future.
1 Vadem Clio
Based on the latest version of Windows CE operating system, Clio has the 'pocket' versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and Internet Explorer on board. But what is truly innovative about Clio is not its software (make up your own mind about CE) but the hardware. It switches between a keyboard and tablet -- to allow for very easy note taking at meetings, and switches back to keyboard for text-work. Like other CE devices it out performs Windows notebooks for battery life -- about twelve hours with a Clio. The handwriting recognition software seems at least as good as 'Graffiti' on a Pilot, and you have a much larger space to scribble in. Clio made a big splash at Comdex and is currently features on the front page of Business Week.
2 Hewlett Packard Jornada
Not quite as innovative as the Vadem, but a very attractive CE-based notebook just the same. With ten hours battery life it out performs most Windows notebooks by several hours, is light, robust, and just as importantly, it is built by HP, which means huge resources for further R&D and a good life expectancy for the Jornada product line. The UK version will ship with a 56K modem on board, and Jornada will make good use of GSM penetraton in Europe. Infra-red connectivity will enable Jornada to talk to your cell phone without wires. USB-devices are promised, but few were in evidence on HP's stand. Jornada offers a lot of functionality in a small, attractive, and cheap box.
3 LCD screens
It would be unfair to award this to any one manufacturer, since LCD displays were in evidence everywhere and all monitor vendors have them. This should mean that they will start to come down in price, enabling home and small business users to benefit from the space saving advantages of LCD.
4 Home Networking
Unlike LCD screens, which are now in the transition from niche to mass market, home networking devices have a long way to go before they go mainstream. Indeed, they have huge hurdles to climb due to the different standards that apply from country to country from safety standards of electical cabling to telecoms compatiblity. But the various home networking devices on show at Comdex offer a glimpse of ubiquitous computing in the home. Some of these offerings use the home's standard telephone wiring, others use a wireless server, but however they do it the need for home networking grows stronger by the day as many homes now have several PCs in different form factors, and aimed at different members of the family in the home.
5 TV Web surfers
As with the home networking devices I am not going to mention specific products because UK launch dates are unclear. But generally there is so much activity in this area, and the product offerings are so cheap ($200-$400 £125-£250) that the appeal of Web surfing and email from the TV in your front room, using you existing ISP account, must be a compelling offering for many people. The other positive thing about these kind of devices is that they can help break the access bottleneck to the Web, i.e you need to own a computer to go to get to it. TV is developing a natural affinity with the Web as we start to see many more TV commercials and TV programs trail Web addresses for more information, we can expect to see a Web-enabling black box market take off. Of course the TV makers could always kill it in its infancy by simply building in Web surfing. If they combine it with existing TV technologies, things like picture in picture, then that too could be very compelling.
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