Author: Yogi Schulz

I’ve wanted to attend a Comdex Trade Show for some years now. Finally the demands of various client projects aligned sufficiently to create a gap into which I could sneak a trip to Comdex in Vancouver.

The huge waterfront Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Center created a great venue. The spectacular canvass sail-like structure above the Convention Center is not purely decorative, as I had assumed. The structure truly is the roof. The substantial noise of floatplanes taking off from the water of the neighboring Coal Harbour regularly interrupted conversations on the exhibit floor.

What’s hot?

Sharp showed off the sleek Zaurus SL-5500, a Linux-based PDA in a beautiful mat chrome case. The PDA sported a higher resolution, color screen like the Pocket PC, two expansion slots and a slide-out two-thumbs keyboard alternative to the usual stylus for the touch-sensitive screen. In addition to a soft keyboard and handwriting recognition, the PDA offers word-completion based on the leading characters that are input.

I believe the combination of Linux and Java will lead to the creation of innovative enterprise applications such as distributed inventory update for retail and listing query for real estate. At JavaOne 2002 in San Francisco, Sharp sold out all 2000 units. The Zaurus appealed to many techies because of its attractive price, many features and implementation of Java.

Handspring showed off its latest communicator, the Treo. Handspring positions the Treo as the leading contender in the StarTrek-inspired category of communicators. It’s a combination Palm OS PDA, GSM cell phone and SMS device condensed into the same small, light form factor we’ve come to expect from Handspring. The Treo sports the same two-thumbs keyboard we first saw on the Blackberry. This personal communicator makes anywhere, any time phoning, web surfing and e-mailing more practical than previous devices I’ve seen. I expect we’ll see the Treo in use by many IT executives and techies.

What’s cold?

For my tastes, WorldCom and BEA win the prize for the most bland, cold and unattractive booths. In contrast, many software suppliers and the telcos made better use of their booths with effective text and graphics. Many other exhibitors created at least some buzz with a wacky game, a draw or some video footage. If you’re going to spend the money to rent a substantial booth and pay for the staff, make it work for you and the audience with a visually attractive message and some pizzazz.

What’s interesting?

Mr. Robert Mountain, the Chief Operating Officer of Sympatico-Lycos gave a terrific keynote speech about the challenges of achieving profitability as an Internet portal. His message was directly relevant to IT management wanting to build Web site traffic.

Sympatico-Lycos builds revenue through a three-tiered model. At the first level, they attract an audience with appealing free content. At the second level, Sympatico-Lycos builds loyalty by insisting surfers register in return for free access to additional content. Then to build revenue, Sympatico-Lycos offers premium subscription-based content to those who have registered. Their surveys suggest that up to 10% of the surfer audience is willing to pay for content assuming it’s timely, value-added and appealing. Sympatico-Lycos, a new media company within the Bell Globemedia empire, operates such sites as TSN.CA, CTV.CA and

Wireless applications for PDA’s and cellular phones are gaining momentum,  A considerable number of hardware vendors, software developers and telcos displayed these devices. I saw several innovative applications for data entry and database query that will appeal to enterprises.

What’s disappointing?

Major vendors of hardware and software, who have participated actively in Comdex in the past, were conspicuous by their absence. The reduced revenue and losses that are the fallout of the recession and the dot-com crash have caused many vendors to re-examine their marketing priorities.

As a result, Comdex Vancouver did not even fill one large exhibit hall, when in the past, exhibits have spilled into the corridors. The audience was dominated by small IT entrepreneurs and businessmen with few enterprise executives.

What’s new?

The Microsoft .Net Boot Camp was packed. With Microsoft’s .Net vision now being expressed in developer tools, the vision has become more tangible and intriguing to the developer community. Microsoft is making a determined effort to ensure these tools exhibit the scalability and robustness that enterprises see as essential.

Making the Boot Camp free assured an audience to Microsoft and added appeal to Comdex. Free continues to draw a crowd and continues to be a difficult expectation to manage for businesses that are after all in the business of creating a return for their shareholders.

What’s downright boring?

The number of exhibitors hawking server racks, enclosures and technical furniture amazed me. I can’t get excited about these products. However, we do rely on them.

What’s fun?

The demonstration of the Animation Master software drew big crowds all day long. The skillful demo guy made creating humorous animation sequences look incredibly simple. Watching Homer Simpson walk and wave his hand after a small number of commands was impressive.


Comdex was a worthwhile experience for a Newbie like me. The incessant spiels of the competing hawkers in every aisle gave the event needed buzz and energy. For the enterprise, the message is:  Think about how wireless can improve your business.