November 23, 1997

from the Friends-of-the-Revolution dept


By Brian Day - November 23, 1997
Comdex 97

The tone of this year's Comdex was set in Bill Gates' keynote address. Besides the random spattering of celebrities that joined Bill onstage the only other highlight was when they passed out the "I love my PC" t-shirts. I thought that was kind of odd... but even odder was the absence of Sun, Netscape, SGI, Oracle, NCI and Apple. This year's Comdex was indeed a PC "love fest". It was a time to get together... pat each other on the back... and talk about how to rule the rest of the world.

Since I was not invited to any of the "World Domination" meetings I spent most of my time on the floor. Here is what I found.

Great Products -- These are the product that I think are cool or will be big.

1. Feel-It Mouse(Immersive) - This forced feedback mouse allows you to "feel" the screen. I tested it out and it works. Buttons feel like they are raised and sliders actually slide. I went to a web page where I could feel the texture of a tennis racquet, an ice cube and an idling engine. The most impressive display was the Pong game that you could feel when the ball hit your paddle. Microsoft has added support for the mouse into their next Office version, and will probably buy the company.

2. Hydra (Microsoft) - Microsoft has spent the last year making fun of the Network Computer, only to unveil one of the coolest technologies to enable network computing. They have incorporated Citrix's WinFrame technology into an add on to their NT4.0 product. This allow Windows applications to run on the server, and displayed on NT Terminals (like an XTerminal exporting the display). Terminals can be either old PC's (286-486's) or new WinCE devices (like NCD's new CE NC Device). This will allow companies to keep using older computers and reduce maintenance expenses. It will also allow Microsoft to add this capability to Wireless WinCE PDA's and WebTV. It wont be long before we are running the latest version of Word on our Television.

3. Picasso (Citrix) - Even cooler than Hydra is the technology that Citrix kept for itself. Picasso is a product that plugs into Hydra and allows the server to connect to virtually any device. They currently have clients for...

  • Java Machines
  • Unix Machines
  • X Terminals
  • Macintosh
  • Win3.1, 95, NT
  • DOS

The clients are incredibly small (~300K) and require a connection of about 28.8 to run real applications (like Photoshop).

4. WYSE 2397 (WYSE) - The type of devices that will be created around Hydra and Picasso are already appearing. The first really cool device is from WYSE. It is a wireless, Picasso client that will allow you to roam an office and do everything you could do at your desktop (because you are looking at your desktop). The product works well, and looks good... too bad they don't have any marketing people to give it an appropriate name.

5. U.are.U (Digital Persona) - Sick of logging in every morning? Just put your finger on Digital Persona's U.are.U product, and it will identify and log you in to any system. The product looks good, and works well (you can have your finger sideways).

6. One Touch (JP Systems) - Want to connect your Palm Pilot from a traffic jam? Well now you can thanks to JP Systems and Skytel pagers. This adapter (Pilot to Pager) and the software will allow you to get your messages and appointments remotely.

7. Buzz Word 2000 (Compaq) - Compaq's CEO announced a new product called the Buzzword 2000 in his keynote address. The product will record and save audio (like "We need to expand our strategic goals to leverage existing products, lowering inventory and increasing our bottom line"). Later you can play the clip back and it will translate the phrase (san-buzzwords) (i.e.. "SELL MORE PRODUCTS!"). This product is pre-alpha. ;-)

8. Click Drive (Iomega) - Iomega continues to impress me with their creativity, vision and marketing genius. They have released a new drive called the Click that is the size of a half-dollar and stores 40MB of info. It will be used in digital cameras and PDA's.

9. Naturally Speaking (Franklin) - Speech recognition is here, and Dragon Systems (not IBM) are the people that are leading the way. Their product, Naturally Speaking has a vocabulary of about 50,000 words and can do 160 words a minute with about 98% accuracy. There are two versions of the product available now, and they are going for $150 and $650.

10. Inferno (Lucent) - I would rank this product higher but frankly I have not determined what the product is. It is a new programming language (limbo) and a new virtual machine. It runs on everything (phones, computers, pens), and further blurs the like between client/server. What would you expect from a company that brought you UNIX, C and C++. It is a desert topping AND a floor wax.


What is that sound! - In order to promote their new Click drive Iomega handed out key chains with a clicker on them that was the size of the drive. Everyone at the show was clicking away, constantly reminding me of the new product.

Sit Down! - In order to catch the attention of Conference go-ers Interact hired 3 leather wearing women to grab passing people, throw them in chairs and tattoo them (OK they were temporary tattoos).

Wig Out - Connectix is eager to find new uses for its desktop camera. I think they have it this time. With their new software product called Wig Out, you can try on any hair-do you like -- digitally. You take a picture of yourself and you can select from thousands of hairstyles.

Free Colored Pilot Styluses - Pilot software developers Chapura were giving out cool red styluses (with their URL on it) and were letting you dock your Pilot and down-sync their software. I hope they didn't take my address book!


Microsoft NT Mgr. at the Exchange Press Conference - "Mission Critical means you never crash, mission critical means you are fault tolerant, mission critical means you are scalable... We have several years UNTIL... I mean... We have been working several years toward this goal." (OOOPS...)

Cisco CEO John Chambers during his Keynote after talking about the dismal state of the US school system and several programs Cisco has set up with high schools to teach students networking skills. -- "We may have to look elsewhere to find talented people at reasonable prices -- Like India"

DirectPC Representative after I asked him if they planned on enabling upload capabilities into their satellite delivery mechanism - "We did research on what people use the Internet for today and we determined that people only needed a 28.8 modem for uploading information." I pointed out that people aren't doing higher bandwidth things (like video conferencing) because they only have 28.8. He responded with, "VideoConferencing? Nobody wants to video-conference."

TV Convergence - Besides all the cool plasma display digital TV's, there were many interesting devices in the PC/TV category. Here are a few.

  • TV Phones - Call your friends and make funny faces.
  • ViaTV (8x8)
  • InfoView (Inno Media)
  • TV Terminals - Control your PC from your TV via a wireless connection
  • Wireless PC @ TV (RFLink)
  • PC/TV Airlink (AITech)
  • TV PC's - Put a PC in your TV
  • PC Theatre (Compaq)
  • TV Internet Devices - Hook your TV to the Internet.
  • uniView (Curtis Mathis)
  • HomePilot (PCTVnet) - Internet and Home automation control
  • ViaTV (8x8)
  • WebPal (NewCom)
  • Internet TV Appliance (Zilog)
  • Web Surfer (WebSurfer Inc) - Features Intel Chip


Zip vs SparQ - The most visible competition was for the future of removable media. Obviously Iomega has a huge lead over Syquest with their Zip (100MB for $100) and Jaz(1G for $350) drives. However Syquest was advertising in a huge way their new SparQ drive (1G for $199) which they hope will push the smaller Zip right out of the market. Iomega was also advertising heavily with a campaign that highlighted the many things that could be stored on a Zip drive (i.e. "Enough room to..."). They also launched a new Jaz drive that features 2G. I think that Iomega will win but not until Syquest starts a price war.

Friends of the Revolution
by Brian Day

A column that comes out every so often, and talks about something or another... To subscribe to Friends of the Revolution email

The information contained in this newsletter reflect the opinions of Brian Day, and do not represent actual fact. Any decisions made based on these opinions is your own fault. Yadda...Yadda... Yadda...

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Comments on “November 23, 1997”

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1 Comment
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