Showcase 99: new products demonstrated in San Diego

Anyone looking for news of where the PC and the Internet are headed had plenty to chew on at Showcase 99, which kicked off on Monday in San Diego. Cool products that tap into the Internet made up most of the highlights.

Third time even luckier

Intel previewed features of its upcoming Pentium III processor. The combination of Pentium III systems connected to broadband technologies (cable, satellite, and Digital Subscriber Line) promises to enhance Web site content, according to Intel Senior Vice President Ron Whittier.

Using the popular eToys Web site (http://www.etoys.com) as an example, Whittier showed a smooth 3D animation of a toy train set -- the kind of lifelike simulation of products that could make e-commerce even more popular.

Shutterbug nation

Beaming live images to a Web site isn't new, but Perceptual Robotics takes the idea of "telepresence" to another level. The company lets individual users steer a remote camera to the images and views they want to see and zoom in and or out. "We timeshare the camera so quickly that before one person is aware of it, ten or twelve other people have already captured other images," says Perceptual Co-founder and President Paul Cooper.

Microsoft used the Perceptual system to broadcast live images from the recent Detroit Auto show to its Carpoint Web site. Users had a choice of eight camera views. In less than a week, some 44,000 unique visitors accessed the system, viewing 650,000 live images. Perceptual also lets users forward images as part of an e-mail postcard feature.

Office wars

Don't try to tell Corel Chief Executive Officer Michael Cowpland that the battle of desktop suites is over. Corel has big plans for the next release of its WordPerfect Office 2000 due out in May (see "WordPerfect fights back" ). In a preview, Cowpland showed impressive formatting capabilities in the suite's word processor.

You can, for example, preview different fonts and column formats within a document without having to click to a preview screen. In addition to spreadsheet and presentation software, Corel will include Dragon Systems' speech recognition program and Trellix software that's designed to make long documents easier to navigate on the Web.

Medical info you can trust

Getting information on the Web is never a problem, but getting accurate information, particularly on health-related subjects, is often a lot harder. Dr. Dean Edell, a respected broadcaster on U.S. television and radio, touted his Healthcentral Web site as one solution.

"There's a lot of snake oil on the Internet," says Edell. As an example he mentioned a caller to his radio program who had read about a liquid breast enhancer on the Internet and wondered if getting it on her hands would make them larger.

Edell is able to post more questions, answers, and resource information on his Web site than he could ever cover in a television or radio broadcast. Plus, he's able to refer his audience on the Web to more information without having to use up air time on lengthy explanations. "HMOs don't give you the details you need to make informed decisions," says Edell. "The Internet will change the way medicine is practiced."

Get a jump on your calendar

Another company leaping to exploit the Internet is Jump Networks, which previewed its free address, calendar, and e-mail service. While Jump's functions are similar to Microsoft Outlook, Jump is designed for the Internet. Your personalised Jump data can be accessed from any PC with a Web browser. "The user should not have to change sites, views, programs, or services to take action on the most important information of their day," says Jump Chief Executive Officer Bill Trenchard. "It should funnel (information) to them based on their schedule and interests, making online content truly personal." A test version of the service is available at Jump's Web site (http://www.jumpnetworks.com.)VCRs: The next generationDon't be surprised if your next VCR has a hard drive in it. Two companies faced off to demo products that essentially act as next-generation VCRs.

Replay Networks' ReplayTV and TiVo's TiVo both store programs on an internal hard disk, but they also go several steps further than a conventional VCR. With either product, live programs can be paused and rewound for viewing an earlier segment, even as the entire program continues to be saved for later viewing. Both feature customisable on-screen program guides. You can, for example, select a favourite show and have the system record the latest episode every time it airs. An instant replay feature lets you instantly jump back seven seconds to see a segment again.

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