CeBIT to dazzle America

The first CeBIT show in America may be all work and little play, but plenty of business-savvy gadgets abound at this confab hosted by the German conventioneer.

CeBIT America takes over this week as a broad selection of vendors, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and PalmSource, turn up the buzz on business tech wares amid a tech slump.

Between chatter over total cost of ownership and other enterprise issues, attendees will also peruse pedestrian products like a Table PC, a souped-up Handspring smartphone, and a selection of ever-faster wireless 802.11g products.

An estimated 20,000 CeBIT attendees are expected at the conference, about half the number originally forecast for the event last year. Attendees will be able to prowl 360 companies' exhibits. CeBIT America pales by comparison to the eight-day CeBIT über-show held each spring in Hanover, Germany.

"CeBIT will not be like other shows," says Mark Dineen, CeBIT America, managing director. Dineen says CeBIT America is purposely avoiding the fanfare of similar shows like PC Expo and Comdex. "We are trying to lower the volume on convention hype and allow people to get down to business."

Instead of aisles of booths lining the show floors, exhibitors will be clustered within related technologies, with lounge areas liberally available, Dineen says.

Product Parade

The most talked-about products among lounging attendees will likely be business-friendly hardware, such as a pair of lightweight HP notebooks. Under the Compaq brand-name, HP is unveiling its 4-pound Nc4000 and 6.5-pound Nx7000 notebooks, each featuring the latest Intel Pentium M processors, wireless 802.11b support, and price tags around US$1700.

Portability goes to the next level with a sub-US$1000 Tablet PC from TDV Vison. The company will tease show-goers with its NVision 1000 and NVision 1500 Tablet PC that convert into laptops.

TDV Vison says both will be priced at US$999, but the company won't say when it expects the products will actually become available for penny-pinching Tablet PC buyers.

Handspring may raise eyebrows with its release of its Palm OS 5-based Treo 600 series smartphone. The souped-up PDA-cell phone combo comes with a QWERTY keyboard, Web browser, a secure digital or MMC expansion slot, a built-in camera, and enhanced audio playback support.

Also on the PDA front, HP and Gateway will be showing off handheld Pocket PCs based on Microsoft's upcoming Pocket PC 2003 software.

Burning for More Storage

Iomega is introducing its Super DVD Drive, a DVD burner that supports an alphabet soup of standards. The US$330 internal DVD drive that is making its debut at CeBIT supports all major DVD and CD formats, including DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R/-RW, and DVD-RAM.

Optical storage news will also come from Ahead Software, creators of DVD/CD authoring software Nero. The company is turning up the heat on its latest burning software, Nero 6, by expanding its support for video standards support and adding authoring features.

Three storage firms, Adaptec, HP, and Seagate Technologies, are demonstrating new devices. Sony is also getting down to business with storage product introductions.

Wireless Wonders

On the wireless front, several companies are rolling out hardware that supports the newly ratified 802.11g wireless standard, which doubles the bandwidth speed of the 802.11b spec.

3Com is using CeBIT as a launching pad for its OfficeConnect Wireless 11g Access Point and Gateway (priced at US$125) and its OfficeConnect Wireless 11g PC Card (US$80). Each is outfitted with 3Com Wi-Fi Protected Access technology for securing Wi-Fi networks.

Products Hodgepodge

Positioned for a place in the boardroom and in your living room are Mitsubishi projectors, being shown at CeBIT. Among the most affordable is the HC2 ColorView home theater projector with six-color access control, priced at US$1999.

For US$4000, you can step up to Mitsubishi's 3-pound ultra-portable XD50 Mini-Mits projector.

For gamers, StarTech.com is introducing the US$80 Video Game Jockey. The device allows you to play any console video games, such as games for Sony PlayStation II and Microsoft Xbox, through your PC monitor--freeing up the TV for other endeavors.

Eizo is rolling out two LCD flat-panel monitors. The company says these are the first to offer CRT monitor color quality.

Small Products

CeBIT also will mark the much-anticipated release of a PDA wristwatch that runs Palm OS 4.1, by watchmaker Fossil. The ballyhooed product is expected to ship at the end of June for US$300. While Fossil won't be on the show floor, the vendor is participating in an offsite media reception, Digital Experience.

Also kicking off a product launch at the CeBIT offsite event is Toshiba. The vendor is introducing its postage stamp-size 512MB Secure Digital Memory Card, which is expected to sell for US$200.

Also scheduled at CeBIT are keynote speeches from notables, including David Nagel, chief executive officer of PalmSource; Craig Conway, PeopleSoft CEO; Nobuharu Ono, president of NTT DoCoMo USA; and Michael Capellas, chief executive of MCI (formerly WorldCom). Capellas is the former Compaq chairman who saw through the merger with HP and left the company within a year.

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