Comdex picks and pans
PC World's intrepid reporters wrap up the giant show, and none too soon.
November 20, 1998
by the PC World staff
LAS VEGAS (IDG) -- Take hundreds of thousands of computer connoisseurs, plop them down in the world capital of not-so-harmless vices for a week, and you've got Comdex. Here are highlights and lowlifes from the Show That Knows No Shame.
MOST INNOVATIVE GROUP OF PRODUCTS. Sony's Memory Stick prototypes, in particular the photo stands: desktop photo frames with LCD screens that display a constantly changing series of digital images. --Karen Silver
BEST NEW HANDHELD DEVICE. NaturallyOrganized from Dragon Systems. Dragon puts its acclaimed voice recognition engine to ingenious use in this hardware-software package, expected in December. Users of the Act contact manager will be able to dictate tasks and appointments into a pocket-size digital recorder -- then zap them via serial cable right into their Act schedule. --Harry McCracken
SLICKEST TINY NEW HARDWARE COMPONENT. Cell Computing offered a complete Pentium motherboard the size of a business card. --Eric Bender
COOLEST GRAPHICS PROGRAM. Amorphium, Play's innovative 3D graphics package, promises to do what no other package has managed: Let anybody who can wield a mouse create cool 3D scenes in minutes. The software is scheduled to appear in January, and looks both easy-to-use and addictive. --Harry McCracken
APPLICATION GOING MAINSTREAM. Voice recognition, appearing in everything from voice mail to talking parrot "assistants." Some products actually worked, despite the constant screaming on the show floor (much of it from rival exhibitors desperately trying to demo their offerings). --Eric Bender
DUMBEST PRODUCT. Interactive print magazines: You put the magazine inside a special binder, then press a "button" on paper and it launches a Web page on your system. --Yael Li-Ron
SLICKEST NEW SOFTWARE TECHNOLOGY. Microsoft's ClearType provides strikingly readable text on any digitally driven LCD and should appear within months. ClearType manages to address screens at a subpixel level, Microsoft researchers say. Finally, some results from those multi-billion-dollar Microsoft R&D budgets. --Eric Bender.
TOOK OVER THE WORLD WHILE YOU WEREN'T LOOKING. LCD screens, big and small, expensive and cheap, were everywhere. --Eric Bender
BEST NEW OS THAT WILL NEVER TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Be's BeOs 4.0, which runs video and graphics stunningly well on plain-vanilla PCs. --Eric Bender
MOST EXCITING DEMO OF A REALLY BORING PRODUCT. Seagate offered a cool movie (complete with fifties-style 3D glasses and effects) on a giant screen -- to promote (yawn!) enterprise backup. --Bill Snyder
BEST EVENT. The B-52s at The Beach, part of Conextant's Monday night party. Wall-to-wall geeks, shaking their cosmic things. --Daniel Tynan
MOST UNPRONOUNCEABLE COMPANY NAME. Conextant, which is apparently a division of Rockwell. I went to the company's booth to try and figure out what it does, and I still don't know. --Daniel Tynan
WORST FREE CHOTCHKE. (Unanimous decision by the PC World judges.) Agfa was passing out software boxes turned into hats. Scores of otherwise reasonable-looking people were spotted wearing them around town; I even saw a few at the airport. People, get some self respect, OK? --Daniel Tynan
SCARIEST MOMENT. A software developer from a small Middle Eastern nation told me that his product was originally developed for use in his army's antimissile system. "You can't print that," he said, then added with a smile, "Well, you could try." --Daniel Tynan
BEST GIVEAWAY. Microsoft won again with its SQLServer deluxe canvas backpacks, lavish party, and entrée into the $100-per-ticket Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio Hotel, the newest and most luxurious hotel on the Strip. --Michael Lasky
BEST VENDOR QUOTE. "People hate everything." Dennis Quiggle, marketing vice president for Cyber-Sign, talking about how hard it is to get people to use his company's signature identification software. --Daniel Tynan
LEAST LIKELY STATISTIC. Softbank's attendance figures for the show. These are always "optimistic" estimates, but especially this year, when attendance was clearly down. --Daniel Tynan
MOST UNFORTUNATE RETURN FROM LAST YEAR. Iomega clickers. --Karen Silver
ODDEST BILLIONAIRE SIGHTING. Bill Gates was seen knoshing at the Association of PC User Groups party on Sunday night after his keynote address, apparently attempting to cozy up to actual users. Maybe nobody else would talk to him. --Daniel Tynan
BEST PR GIMMICK. CyberOffice's promise that if you visit the booth the company would donate $250 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. --Karen Silver
MOST ELEGANT (IF OVERDONE) BOOTH. Xerox's Roman temple ruins, complete with characters in togas. --Karen Silver
WHERE DO WE WANT YOU TO GO TODAY? Microsoft stacked the front of its massive booth with kiosks that promised a unique Web experience but mainly delivered Microsoft product info -- oh joy! -- only after you gave away personal information (not advised). --Eric Bender
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