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Mobility Overtakes Comdex

LAS VEGAS— Comdex, the IT industry's largest trade show, is fast becoming a wireless and mobility show. Whether or not you believe the personal computer is a dying dinosaur, it certainly took a back seat on The Strip last week.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and a host of other keynoters, including Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers, Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila, Openwave Systems Inc. CEO Don Listwin and Handspring Inc. co-founder Jeff Hawkins, talked about the age of mobility. The show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center featured pavilions and showcases devoted to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, eMobility and Palm solutions. The MGM Grand housed an eMobility Conference all its own, and numerous wireless devices were on display at Sunday's MobileFocus mini-show.

Because of economic and travel uncertainties, this year's Comdex drew the smallest crowd in years–an estimated 125,000 compared with last year's 200,000–but the wireless industry has never had better representation. Much of the interest was prompted by a host of product announcements for Bluetooth, 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless local area networks and the faster 802.11a WLAN standard.

"You couldn't walk anywhere without running into wireless this and wireless that," says analyst Andrew Seybold, publisher of Outlook 4Mobility. "The amount of wireless stuff at Comdex has dramatically increased. It is clear that wireless is the mainstream of the computer world."

Hawkins highlighted the importance of wireless communications in his keynote when he said the cellular phone has become the most successful mobile computing device on the planet.

"Wireless is the buzzword today," the Handspring executive said. He cautioned, however, that wireless communications are ripe for attacks by hackers, which would wreak havoc because of the technology's ubiquity.

Nokia's Ollila, making his first appearance at Comdex, drew applause from the audience when he announced that the Finnish wireless equipment giant was leading an initiative of 21 handset manufacturers and carriers to promote open standards and interoperability for handset architecture on the GSM platform. Ollila also said Nokia will license some of its source code for smartphones.

Ollila said wireless communications when combined with the Internet will help lead the global economy out of its current downturn and that providing open standards will allow carriers and developers to concentrate on services that will drive growth.

Openwave's Listwin added that wireless technology faces a dramatic shift that will bring to the United States what has been so successful in Japan: a messaging evolution that Openwave wants to lead.

The technological advancements that are bringing about this evolution include devices that feature better color and graphics in a package attractive to users, an improved applications environment and the always-on, higher data rates from 2.5-generation and 3G networks, Listwin said.

Cisco's Chambers talked about his company's vision of providing technology that will enable workers to take their offices anywhere they go. Chambers said the mobile office would increase productivity as well as save enterprises money.

In his opening keynote, Gates unveiled several prototypes of the Tablet PC. The pen-based devices, about the size of a flat laptop computer, are digital writing tools that have wireless communications built in.

The only thing at Comdex that drew more attention than the mobility industry was Microsoft's new Xbox game player, with lines forming in front of several demonstration models set up in the convention center lobby. But who knows, maybe the Redmond, Wash., computer software giant has wireless plans for the Xbox, too.

Source:  Mobility Overtakes Comdex, By Brad Smith, WirelessWeek - November 19, 2001

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