Mobile Buzz at Comdex

Although most of the interesting mobile products at Comdex already will have been announced before the trade show starts, there will still be plenty of interesting things to see at the Las Vegas show. Mobile Devices Center Editor Rob Enderle te

Although most of the interesting mobile products at Comdex Las Vegas 2003 already will have been announced before the trade show starts, there will still be plenty of interesting things to see at the show. Two prominent vendors will have coming-out parties, the most powerful vendor in the PC segment will showcase its newfound consumer electronic strength, and the hottest laptop on the floor wont even be on the floor—providing the show with some extra drama. And not to be left out, the dominant software vendor will redefine how we interact with our mobile devices, again.

There will be new form factors; this will be the first time youll see the new performance category of notebooks. These notebooks—ranging from around $1,700 to nearly $3,000—sport 17-inch wide aspect ratio screens, desktop processors and performance that will toast 95 percent of the desktop machines on the market eight months ago. This also will be your chance to see the new productivity class of notebook computers, with 15-inch wide aspect screens, Pentium M processors, about a third less weight than the monsters above, and a better balance of performance and battery life. Pricing for these ranges from $1,400 to $2,500.

Youll also see the second generation of Tablet Computers—which mark a significant improvement over the initial crippled products—with processors that have both good performance and good battery life (as compared to the first generation where you had to choose between the two). Prices remain above $1,800 for the preferred clamshell form factor.

Next weeks show will be a coming-out party for the new HP and the new Gateway. HP has released hundreds of new products over the last few months and will be showcasing them collectively for the first time at the show. This will be your first chance to see notebook products that blend the design skills of the Compaq and HP shops as well as the impressive number of accessories now offered by the company. Watch out for my favorite: a vertical scanner that looks more like it should come from Apple than from HP.

Meanwhile, Gateway will tout its new hardware designs, which are much more traditional and attractive than the stepping-stone designs it previously offered. Particularly impressive is Gateways new accessories lines, with flat-panel TVs, plasma displays and CE devices unmatched in the space even by HP, which still leads in total products in the segment.

Im currently working on my annual buying guide, and what Ive discovered is that with the new performance and productivity classes of laptop computers, Gateway and HP are providing the best values right now (read: lowest price for a given configuration). This is always good news as we enter the holiday season.

Dell refreshed its mobile lines some time ago, but it will be showing off its new LCD TV line, which actually prices below Gateway initially (competition is good thing).

But perhaps the most exclusive laptop at the show wont be at the show at all. Acer, which has been driving the larger vendors nuts in Europe of late, will have a suite off the show floor to showcase its new Ferrari laptop computer. I want this thing so bad I can taste it: Painted Ferrari red, running the AMD Athlon mobile processor, and sporting one of the cleanest industrial designs I have ever seen, this puppy is sure to turn heads wherever it goes (not that this matters to me at all). It has sold out in Europe and is expected to enter the U.S. market in a few months.

Microsoft, who last year gave us the tablet and introduced many to the pen method of interfacing with a laptop, will be showcasing voice command. Much more reliable than voice recognition, this technology will allow us to more easily navigate our laptops, tablets, handheld computers and smart phones.

Some of the buzz coming into the market right now is the growing shortage of LCD displays and mobile hard drives, something to be aware of as you consider your fourth-quarter business or personal purchase plans. Get your orders in early—or you may be waiting awhile for them to show up.

Ill be at the show Tuesday and Wednesday; look for the drooling, hunched-over guy mumbling, "My precious, my precious," and lusting over that Ferrari laptop.

Rob Enderle is the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a company specializing in emerging personal technology.