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Comdex coverage by CNN and

Comdex goes consumer

This year's supershow emphasizes cool handhelds, home networks and other slick consumer items.

November 16, 1998
Web posted at: 3:46 PM ET

by Elinor Mills

(IDG) -- LAS VEGAS -- Mobile communications systems and home networking are among the hottest technologies at Comdex this year, practically turning the traditional information-systems show into a consumer event, a group of analysts said during a show preview on Sunday.

At first glance Comdex attendees will notice new flat-panel technology, particularly in the Hitachi VisionDesk 1330, and the Sharp Electronics Actius notebook, which features transflective technology, giving it the best screen of any portable computer, said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Consulting.

Other portable devices of note at the show are the Vadem Clio tablet, a full Windows CE-device selling for less than $1,000 that offers a keyboard or pen to navigate when connected to the Internet, and the Cyrix WebPad, a wireless Internet access appliance, Bajarin said.
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Also in the consumer aisles at the show will be megapixel digital cameras, which have dropped in price to less than $500, said Bajarin. And it's worth noting a Kodak 64MB card that offers 118 pictures per card, said Cheryl Currid, president of Currid & Co.

Panasonic is showing its Palmcorder videocamera, which shoots to DVD (digital video disc) and includes a FireWire port that allows users to remove the recorded content at 200 megabits per second, according to Currid.

Vendors are also showing TV tuner cards that can deliver digital TV to the PC, Bajarin said.

In storage, the hot consumer items are DVD rewritable discs and CD-RW (CD-rewritable) that "have the potential to be the next floppy," Bajarin said.

Currid also highlighted some small, wearable devices, such as a transceiver from Hewlett-Packard that allows a user to scan in information and beam it into a PC, personal digital assistant, or phone through an infrared port. At $699, "[it's a] little pricey, but if you've got the need, when you think of the steps you can save you can probably justify it," she said.

Home, home on the network

One of the hottest trends at Comdex is a convergence of technologies in home networking, analysts said.

Home nets will connect all appliances in a home or office to a common network maintained by a service provider such as a telecommunications company, said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects. Phones, PCs, lights, air conditioning, and security systems eventually will all be attached to one network, he said.

Comdex attendees will see only the tip of the iceberg of the first-generation of home networking products, Bajarin said. The standards and other issues that must be worked out before the concept is brought to fruition will be fleshed out over the next year.

Cable modems will soon begin entering the market in mass quantities from retail stores or service providers, and the cable infrastructure will start being rebuilt to handle two-way transmissions by 2000, Bajarin predicted.

However, Dzubeck predicted that the rival DSL (digital subscriber line) technology offered by phone companies will be the "connector to the house."

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