What to expect at CES
The 1999 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, opening today, has moved far beyond its roots in television and hi-fi equipment.
by Jason K. Krause
(IDG) -- The 1999 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which opens Wednesday, Jan. 6., has moved far beyond its roots in television and hi-fi equipment. This year's show will cover more than 1 million square feet occupied by more than 1,800 computer and Internet industry exhibitors showing the latest in gadgets, business strategies, software and convergence technologies for an estimated 90,000 attendees.
Because vendors roll out more new releases incrementally, trade shows have become increasingly less relevant as showcases for new products -- which means fewer surprises are launched on the trade show floor. Occasionally, however, real fireworks happen when companies announce products in arenas they've never played in before.
One big surprise this year is the presence of Internet portal companies at the show. Digital Hollywood, a show within the show, is featuring many big portals. Representatives from Excite, Lycos and Infoseek will speak on e-commerce and Internet networks, and Infoseek CEO Harry Motro will give a keynote speech on Thursday night. But what's in it for them at a consumer electronics show? While most portals will be pitching the time-worn concept of convergence, don't be surprised if more than a few deals are hatched over the Vegas buffets.
Also at this year's show, home networking, which has been one of those perennial technologies that never quite make it out of the realm of futurist imaginings, looks like it could be reborn. A number of big players are putting muscle behind home networking technologies, with an eye toward fostering wired homes. Compaq already unveiled new PCs with built-in network adapters aimed at turning a home's phone wires into a Local Area Network. And on Thursday Microsoft will announce that its software will support small home networks.
On Friday, John Chambers will address how his company, Cisco, will support network connectivity for consumer devices. Cisco, which has long been a dominant player in building Internet backbones, has been making moves toward consumers, but details remain murky.
One big question at the show concerns alternative platform vendors. WebTV had disappointing sales last year, and players like NCI have moved away from consumers and are showing more offerings aimed at capturing partnership deals with cable companies. This year, WebTV and other platform companies will try to make some noise, so as not to be drowned out by the cable industry.
Jim Evans contributed to this report.
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