Alistair Maclean's Web Site
TechXNY/PC-Expo 02

Hotter than Hell outside, frozen inside

The sun is out, the humidity is high and the air quality is on its way to damnation. In the Javits Center, the annual PC-Expo tech bash is getting into its dying hours, and just as well. The show is the smallest I have ever seen here. I don't know why they did things the way they did, but in a lower hall a bunch of software companies was doing the Web Services Edge show, it could easily have fitted into the space not filled by TechXNY in the main hall. What do I know about these things, afterall this year I got a free pass, so the day cost me just parking and ferry ticket.

So, the Tech Industry is in a funk. Less vendors, less computers, and little thought went into this show. PC-EXPO may be close to its last agonizing steps.

Well, what did we see in our long 3 hour visit?

Actually there were a few things that took my eye.

Intel were actually showing an Itanium Two prototype system (thats the written number Two, not II as best I can determnine which brings up the question... there has been an Itanium One?) It was a quad processor system running the formerly named Mckinley (sp?) chips in a 4U box with hot swap fans and PCI bus, it also has hot swap processor cards but only if it's in some sort of cluster. The system was running an early release of Microsoft's new 64-bit .NET server (Win 2K Server + XP + .NET framework). The Itanium Two has more cache, less pipeline, better instruction flow and overall better performance than the older Itanium, the one we couldn't get anyway. The new system box is intended as a showcase for OEMs, it can be sold directly to them, or they can take features of it and package the way they want. When I mentioned the recently reported price ($41K) for such a system, the Intel guy shook his head, it seems this number was a bit inflated, but these system will still clear $20K. Asked when the desktop system will appear, he pointed out that HP already sells a Workstation based on the chips.

Viewsonic had in one corner their new tablet computers. They were showing 3 versions (CE 2.0, CE 3.0 & Win2K for Tablets versions). The product seemed quite light, the screens were bright and they seemed quick enough. The pricing started in the $1200 range and went to $1800. Not sure about tablets in general as they don't have any screen protection, but they are a neat idea that has been recycled several times since the mid-80's.

Print Me is a new service provider that aims to provide road warriors with the ability to print from their handheld computers. Handheld computers were much in evidence at the show with large stands from Blackberry (RIM) (which I note now owns the domain) and Palm. The Print Me solution seems to allow a handheld owner to sign up for the service and, with a little box that fits on a network, can allow their handheld to print to a network printer. But these are road warriors, so Print Me is working with several chains (hotels and office services shops) to provide the boxes in more locations. This struck me as a neat idea.

Associated with the PrintMe guys were the printers, of course, and we were close to a rather nice Colour Laser printer by Genicom. The printer is the cL160. It's a small workgroup color printer that does all you might want for really good colour output, including double sided output. The toners can be replaced individually, and the rep suggested it cost about $400 per 6000 pages (7c a page). The printer costs about $2500. Unfortunately Genicom has not updated their website with the printers detail. But a nice looking printer, all the same.

Disc Storage had a product called eCabinet, a massive (255 disc) DVD jukebox. It must have been 4 feet tall. Inside, it had an arm that moved between the storage area and what looked to be 6 players, but was in fact only 2. Neat nonetheless!

Other items that seemed to be prevelent at the show where things like heat sinks (!), now in copper; new PC vendors (A Open were there. Who? You ask!). I had a long chat with some guts from a company called Cirquet who were promoting their Java based toolset for building distributed systems.

Kodak were showing a couple of image scanners and attachments that looked pretty good, these included a high speed, multipage, scanner called the i260 (i200 series), again their web site needs updates.


Trends are a feature of the computer industry and this year there seemed to be two main trends in evidence:

  • Handhelds
  • The much reduced participation of the big boys


Hand helds were everywhere. Much of the card scanning was done into Palm Pilots (in prior years - even last year - this was often done on Apple Newtons), there were places all over the show floor providing infra-red uploads of materials and guides. Even larger vendors were showing a variety of subsiduary products that fell into the handheld market place.


In previous years we could expect vast IBM and Microsoft stands, other vendors did their best to create lavish backdrops to their products, but clearly those days have retreated. The IBM stand was hardly bigger than some of the stands showing new forms of mouse mats. The Microsoft stand was larger but mainly because Microsoft had invited its business partners to display from three rows of stands on their turf, because MS themselves were showing little, even the brand new Visual Studio got all of 6 feet of space.

And one final little note: I heard one vendor say that next years show will take place in september, just a couple of weeks before Comdex. While it will not hurt East Coast vendors to go to both shows on the trot, it will be hard for some West Coast vendors to schlep all the way here, then return. So expect a still smaller show unless the economy as staged a remarkable recovery.

AM © July 2002
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