Although the annual COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada usually centers on PCs, this year’s edition is displaying a wide range of alternatives that provide Internet connectivity without a computer.
“This is the wave of the future,” said Adam Grill, president of Odyssey Group, a consulting and investing firm. “If vendors can’t grasp the information device, computing beyond the PC, they will not survive into the millennium.”
International Data Corp. (IDC) an Internet research firm, predicted a rapidly growing market for wireless Internet appliances. IDC forecasts a $15.3 billion (US$) market by 2002, up from $2.3 billion in 1998.
IDC expects that 18.5 million Internet appliances will ship in the U.S. in 2001, compared with 15.7 million home PCs.
Own Area at COMDEX
National Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: NSM) is hosting an Information Appliance Pavilion at COMDEX, where attendees can view the debut of Internet devices of many sizes, shapes and colors.
Most of the new devices are stand-alone, dedicated appliances with a single function — much like a set of appliances in a kitchen — with the aim of providing fast, easy access to the Internet.
Microsoft Jumps In
Not to be left behind, Microsoft unveiled an inexpensive Web companion that several hardware manufacturers have agreed to produce.
The device emulates the cellular phone model and offers instant Internet access via Microsoft’s MSN service. Companies can either charge a low price for the device or give it away. MSN will charge $21.95 per month to subscribers.
To get a jump on the coming device market, Microsoft is also investing in voice recognition technology. Voice-activated enhancements are expected to be part of the future of Internet access devices for autos.
PCs Not Down for the Count
Most analysts agree that the PC will not die. Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates emphasizes that PC sales shot up 20 percent in 1999, on par with its continual growth. Gates forecasts that the home PC will soon also act as a server, storing data and networking a number of Internet devices.
Microsoft is aiming much of its PC marketing at business instead of home computing. Windows 2000, which is set to ship in February 2000, is designed for the office, not the home, since it is not retro-compatible for home software.