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Comdex Opens Today Under Tighter Security

The 2001 Comdex/Fall will have a new look and feel with returning attendees having all the exhibitors under one roof for the first time, shorter cab lines, and dramatically increased security measures.

When the doors of Comdex/ Fall 2001 open today, the 150,000 anticipated attendees will have more to consider than visiting the 2,000 exhibitors. With attendance expected to be at least 25 percent lower than last year and the show floor reorganized, visitors should find it easier to navigate their way around the booths. Countering this and possibly causing some on-site delays are the tougher security measures being implemented due to the ongoing terrorist threat in the United States. These include a ban on bags of all types from the convention center and a requirement that attendees carry photo ID with them at all times.

The keynote speaker series, which is also being conducted under tight security, continues today with four speakers, starting with Cisco CEO John Chambers speaking at 9 a.m. followed at noon by Kunitake Ando, Sony’s president and COO. Jorma Ollila, chairman and CEO of Nokia, speaks at 3 p.m., and Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, closes out the day at 7 p.m. Chambers will speak on the impact of the network-enabled business structure, while Ando discusses what Sony is doing to take the home network to the next level. Ollila will speak of lessons learned in the wireless industry and Ellison’s keynote will be on software powering the Internet.

Tuesday’s lineup will consist of Dick Brown, CEO of EDS, Jeff Hawkins, Handspring CEO, Don Listwin, president and CEO of Openwave, Darin Richins, vice president of corporate marketing for Novell and Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates officially started the show last evening with his keynote on how future developments in computing will continue to help create opportunity for the next decade.

Show organizer Key3 Media said it tried to emphasize the enterprise and business aspect of the show this year, but with many products now appealing to this sector and consumers, those on the show floor can expect to see just about every type of high-tech product on the market.

Sony added to its EZ family of video recording kits with the introduction of EZ Editor for Digital 8 camcorders. Like the original EZ Editor DV camcorders, this model comes with a 1394 iLink PCI card, editing software and two blank digital 8 tapes. It is shipping this month with a $99 street price. Also new to the EZ line is the EZ Audio and EZ Memories. EZ Audio, $49, allows analog recordings to be digitized and cleaned up with the bundled editing software. EZ Memories, shipping in January and not yet priced, helps digital camera owners organize their photos.

Sony also unveiled the Micro Vault, a removable flash-memory device that plugs into any USB port. The cigarette-lighter size Micro Vault comes in 16MB, 32MB, 64MB and 128MB capacities with prices ranging from $49 to $299 and can hold data, music and digital images. When plugged into a USB port it appears to the PC as a new drive and the user can drag and drop files in and out of it. A 256MB version is expected next year.

Sony also launched its first DVD+RW PC drive today. It is shipping this month with a $599 suggested retail price.

Compaq today unveiled what it is calling the smallest, most innovative desktop to date in its Evo business PC line, and is also showcasing futuristic design concepts of other PC products.

Samsung Telecommunications America is showing the new N105, its first GMS-based mobile phone. The N105 has a voice-activated dialing feature that understands English, Spanish and French, Internet access, a four-line graphics display and 50 ring tones. Pricing and availability were not available. STA will also display six other recently introduced phones in their booth.

Ectaco today unveiled its UT-103 universal translator. The handheld device translates English to French, German and Spanish and has a bank that holds 3,000 pre-recorded phrases that a vacationer might need. The UT-103 user speaks into the device and it recognizes the phrase and pronounces the translation to the other person through a small speaker. Pricing and shipping dates were not available.

ViewSonic is showing at the show its newest CRT and LCD monitors, along with LCD projectors and plasma displays.

SanDisk today will officially take the wraps off its 1GB CompactFlash card and its new Memory Stick cards in 16MB, 32MB and 64MB sizes. The 1GB CompactFlash card will hold 20 hours of digital music, 1,000 digital images and about two hours of video. The company expects to start shipping the card in the first quarter of 2002. It will carry an $800 suggested retail price.

The SanDisk Memory Stick offering is on hand today at Sony’s Memory Stick pavilion. The Memory Stick cards will launch this month, pricing has not been set, said Bo Ericsson, SanDisk’s vice president of OEM marketing. The pavilion also will house 50 other companies displaying their Memory Stick wares. Some of the firms in the booth are Kenwood, Hewlett-Packard, Epson, Pioneer and Fujitsu. While most of these are still not sold in the U.S. market, Dulcie Neiman, Sony’s Memory Stick marketing manager, said the company does hope CE Memory Stick CE products are introduced here next year.

The SD Card Association will have a variety of SD-ready products on display. This will include Panasonic SD audio players, a “Toughbook” PDA with an SD slot, digital cameras, camcorders and even a microwave oven with an SD card slot.

Xybernaut unveiled the Mobile Assistant V (MA V). It is a wearable Wintel-based handheld computer that has the user view all the data through a heads-up display that hangs over the person’s eye. The data is accessed through a handheld remote. This allows the MA V to be used on the go, without the need to look down onto an LCD screen. It is expected to ship in the first quarter of 2002 with a $1,500 suggested retail price.

Memorex is showing its new Microsoft Windows XP compatible peripheral devices. This includes the RF5700 keyboard and mouse bundle kit, suggested retail price $59.99. This package includes an RF wireless 5-button mouse and keyboard with multimedia and Internet hot keys. The company’s newest wireless mouse is the RF ScrollPro Optical Mouse, $49.99. Featuring wireless RF and optical scrolling technology, the mouse has programmable buttons and a MousePort docking. The line will start shipping this month.

KeySpan’s new USB 2.0 CardBus card was shown for the first time today. It allows any notebook computer to connect to USB 1.0 and 2.0 devices. It will ship on Nov. 27 with a $99 suggested retail price.

Nvidia today will hold a press conference unveiling a new more powerful graphics card.

Electric Fuel is showing two rechargeable batteries for camcorders and digital cameras in its Instant Power line. The batteries will power Sony Handycam camcorders, Mavica and CyberShot digital cameras, JVC camcorders, Nikon CoolPix digital cameras and digital cameras from Kodak, Olympus and Polaroid. These will be shipping by December. Pricing was not available.

Vivastar reported today that it will start shipping its PC-based DVD recorder line into the U.S. retail market in early 2002. The company will bundle software to all the recording of movies, music and data with the drives. Internal and external versions will be available, each uses the 4.7GB DVD-R discs that can hold about two hours of video. The company said BrandsMart, DataVision, RCS Computer Experience and Electronic Boutique will carry the products.

The Recordable DVD Council will put on a product demonstration today focusing on the state of the DVD Forum’s standard for recordable DVD, which covers DVD-RAM, DVD-R and DVD-RW.

Image Arts, a retail franchise company, will attend Comdex for the third time looking for technology savvy people who are interested in opening their own digital photography studio. Blaine Roberts, Image Arts’ CEO, said 13 franchises are now operating with seven more expected to open by mid-December. Each franchise costs $22,750 and the company helps the new owner set up a digital portrait studio, frame shop, graphics center and art gallery located in a 1,500 square foot store normally located in a strip mall.

This year Roberts believes Comdex attendees who are disillusioned with the downturn in the technology sector might be interested in owning their own business. Roberts said the Image Arts stores are modeled on the MailBoxes Etc. model, which he helped develop. The franchise owners can sell anything that fits into the basic imaging/photo category. A few of the locations selling Kodak digital cameras, he said.