January 03, 2001, 1:28 PM — The annual Comdex fall trade show held in Las Vegas is similar to a medieval fair, inasmuch as it's one part freak show, one part meeting place for the industry elite, and one part showcase for coming technological innovations. The freak show element of Comdex is usually provided by companies with a background in the consumer electronics industry.
In fact, this year's event was pretty hard to distinguish from similar shows in the consumer electronics industry. But even old line companies such as Electronic Data Systems (EDS) were not immune from indulging in some excess. EDS went so far as to sponsor an evening concert with both Macy Gray and Barenaked Ladies just to prove how hip they can be in the digital age.
But behind all the glitz lie some interesting trends that will change the role of IT people in corporate environments.
Arguably, this year's event was the first Comdex of the post-PC era. That's not meant to say that the PC is going away anytime soon, but rather that the PC is now just one of many devices we use to interact with services on the Internet.
Today, those devices, all of which were in great abundance at Comdex last week, consist primarily of mobile phones, handheld systems, and the latest generation of two-way pagers.
In the immediate future, these devices will be joined by a broad range of appliances, including the new Sony PlayStation 2 game platform.
Even Microsoft is beginning to show off future technologies with a strong mobile theme -- namely a tablet device with support for wireless connections and a new screen display technology that allows people to input data in the same way they use a pen on a piece of paper.
We'll also soon see a broad number of ASPs (application service providers) using technology from companies such as Viair or BmyPC to integrate these devices. As a result, people will have the ability to manage and manipulate files from their device of choice, regardless of whether that application resides on a PC running Windows or a handheld running PalmOS.
This will be a big leap forward because rather than having to do the integration work themselves, IT managers will be able to use service providers to weave all these devices into a unified IT fabric. In addition to integrating theses devices at the server level, individual users also will see these devices integrated at a personal level.
For example, at Comdex, a company called SyberSay showed off an ear piece that makes use of wireless technologies and noise reduction algorithms to control various personal devices.