I knew Comdex had changed forever when my cell phone worked and, surprisingly, never stopped working—I received calls and called others without fail. My success rate at previous Comdex shows was 1 in 5 calls at best. But the lack of crowds left hotels with vacancies, restaurants open, taxi companies with a huge loss of revenue and apparently plenty of cells open for mobile phones to work. Welcome to the Age of Wireless, made possible by lack of participation.
On the other hand, I saw signs that deals were being negotiated with more fervor than in previous years, perhaps bringing Comdex back to the dealers exposition that it was when it started.
It was also possible to spot trends: Wireless, security and, oddly, e-mail seemed to be the strongest trends, although the Xbox seemed to have grabbed some attention, too.
With wireless, the most important event was that 802.11a made a splash. Proxim—the company that stumbled around with 802.11b while it was fumbling with HomeRF (unfortunately derided by the wireless snobs of the world)—has 802.11a cards that work now and an 802.11a access point coming next week.
802.11a will be an important standard, but its incompatible with 802.11b, which has broad acceptance and provides "good enough" speed at 11M bps. Its here, but it will take another 18 months to work out the interoperability kinks.
Meanwhile, theres a certain amount of overhype with security lately, but for the most part, the stuff at Comdex was down to earth. SecuGen and its partners, for example, had an impressive display of fingerprint biometric systems. Unfortunately, the category of biometrics still seems to be a hodgepodge, containing products that dont necessarily work together and may not work altogether.
Strangely, e-mail was a big topic, mainly because Larry Ellison lambasted Microsoft Exchange/Outlook in his keynote. Hes probably got a good reason, but I dont know if Oracles the answer. You should have heard ex-Oracle employees blasting Oracles first attempts at it just a few years ago.
Meanwhile, Samsungs software division has bought HPs OpenMail, indicating that: a) HP is completely getting out of the applications business; b) Samsung is becoming a stealthy player in the enterprise software market; and c) OpenMail might actually be the answer to Larrys lambastings.
Will my cell phone work at Comdex next year? Write to me at email@example.com.