RealTime IT News

For Tech Trade Show, Tough Times Call for Drastic Measures

NEW YORK -- PC Expo, now known as the TechXNY show, kicks off with a week-long series of conferences beginning Monday and the exhibition floor opening to the public Tuesday morning. But after nearly two decades, this hallmark IT trade show is being held amid the harshest conditions in its history.

TechXNY/PC Expo is coming at a time when PC sales for the first time are forecast to decline year-over-year. The next generation of Microsoft Corp.'s industry-leading operating system (OS), Windows XP, -- albeit highly touted -- isn't nearly ready for shipment. And consumers generally have no motivating reason that would spur them to run out and buy a PC, especially given the horrific economic climate which has already been well-publicized.

As one long-time observer noted, show host CMP Media's move to rebranding its hallmark show speaks volumes about the renewed focus.

"The focus of the show is focusing away from the PC to general devices...alternative access devices," said Roger Kay, director of Client Computing at International Data Corp. "There will be a lot of little companies showing the infrastructure pieces that need to be put in place. The big companies really aren't there."

In fact, what was the last "killer app" driving PC usage? Napster? Broadband is still a myth to many. Worse yet, no standards have been agreed upon yet for digital delivery of multimedia files. Nor for the wireless transmission of data -- another hot button for today's IT professional. But perhaps the greatest irony is that, in the end, these uneasy times in the IT sector may very well turn out to be the perfect backdrop for a trade show of this caliber.

"I think it's going to be a reality check for what people have been reading about lately...wireless, handhelds, synchronization across the enterprise," said Eric Grevstad, managing editor of Hardware Central and the former editor-in-chief of Home Office Computing.

Intel will show off its next-generation mobile processor, the Pentium III processor-M, based on 0.13 micron process technology. Aimed at the notebook segment, the market leader is clearly responding to the likes of AMD and Transmeta. But the success of mobile computing clearly still depends on wireless networking and, to that extent, many issues will remain unresolved.

Surely, Carl Yankowski, CEO of Palm Inc., will shed light on that subject during his keynote speech on Tuesday, June 26, as will Intel's own Executive Vice President Mike Splinter who is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, June 27.

Show attendees will be attuned to exhibitors of IEEE 802.11, Bluetooth and HomeRF technologies or even to wireless connectivity via cellular. Novatel Wireless will introduce two new wireless data modems: the Minstrel m500 for the Palm m500 and m505; and Merlin G100 for Windows and Pocket PC OS. Attendees will see a slew of mobile services from ZFrame browsers to whole software platforms from Everypath and Analysts International.

For the consumers, Keyspan, which is a leading provider of USB gear, will announce a new credit card-sized USB mini-hub on Monday. Scanners that are the size and shape of an ordinary ink pen yet still incorporate Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology will be exhibited by C-Pen. In fact, an entire pavilion is dedicated to the various technology (broadband, iTV, etc.) converging in your living room. Hewlett-Packard is adding fuel to that fire with its Digital Entertainment Center, also to be on display.

To be sure, because this is no longer a show for just PCs but all of technology, attendees will also encounter enterprise-level developments such as Intel's Itanium chips (which are designed for servers) or Storage Area Networks (as opposed to, say, Network-Attached Storage). Linux supporters will be touting their wares while IBM will be there with its middleware (Tivoli and WebSphere) on display.

Now if everyone can just stop referring to it as "PC" Expo.