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PC Expo busy for business as well as consumers

PC Expo, once an exclusive party for the buttoned-up CIO and MIS crowd, is now attracting consumers and less stuffy IT pros. Mike Jackman gives the lowdown on the newest gear and gadgets.

Pandemonium reigned at PC Expo, the giant computer trade show held at New York City’s Jacob Javits convention center through June 29. On the floor, a carnival atmosphere prevailed. Attendees vied for prizes and clutched plastic shopping bags stuffed with literature and “gimmees”—pens, puzzles, posters, and t-shirts. But the main highlight, as always, was the tech.

The tech came in all forms. Veteran conference goers remarked that this year’s expo had a mixed identity. Long gone are the days of all-male, corporate-suited expo goers who were refused entrance unless they were CIOs, MISs, and wore a tie. But the general business climate prevailed—until this year. Booths did feature e-commerce, enterprise, and network administration solutions. Gateway, for example, had a line of network servers as well as their newest workstations. But crowds lined up at Handspring, Casio, and Palm to see the latest PDA lines, and Kodak and Sony were as crowded as a subway in rush hour as people craned their necks to see the latest in digital imaging products.

Adding to the expo’s identity crisis between consumer and corporate tech, Linux had a pavilion tucked into one corner where Red Hat sold its 6.2 version, and both Linux Magazine and Linux Journal gave away free samples. Nearby, eSoft hawked its black box—a network server called Team Internet that runs on Linux. Not far away, BellSouth demonstrated a line of data-packet based, wireless Web browsers. Between Palm, BellSouth, and Linux, it’s not clear anymore that PC Expo is all about PCs.

The following short list of products will be of interest to IT departments. Though business users would no doubt go gaga over Sony’s new MP3 player, the list “wears a suit”—it restricts itself solely to business tech.
  • VMware has a beta out of its new virtual server product codenamed, appropriately, “workgroup server.” Currently, VMWare 2.0 allows your PC to run Linux and Windows NT workstation as virtual machines working simultaneously. The new product can run NT and 2000 servers. The host OS can be either Linux or Windows NT/2000. This is a great solution for troubleshooting installations, as a development platform, as well as for simultaneously running more than one OS.
  • Crusoe, which won Best of Show, manufactures a specially engineered processor tuned for reduced power use. Machines using their OEM solution can double battery life.
  • Open, founded by Andover, is a new magazine to be released in August. It will focus on “Linux and open source for e-Business.”
  • ZF Linux Devices promoted its MachZ PC-on-a-Chip, now in production. The chip is targeted to information appliances, SOHO networks, and other “post-PC” products.
  • Frequent business travelers may find the partnership between Palm and Rand McNally useful. New Streetfinder software allows users to download customized, vector-based maps off a PC. The maps provide points of interest as well as directions. A snap-on GPS receiver provides your location.
  • ORB has made some advanced removable media drives. They intend to give Iomega a run for their money. 2.2-GB drives in many specifications are available now and retail for about $40 per disk. The next generation will store over 5 gigs.
  • While I’m not a Windows CE fan, the new Casio handhelds are very impressive. The EG-80 is even slightly ruggedized. The EM-500, which will retail for about $500, has a 65,536 color TFT display, pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Internet Explorer, an MP3 player, and a 150-MHz processor (which it will need to handle those programs). With a snap-on lithium battery, Casio’s marketing material claims the device should last seven hours.

Mike Jackman is an editor-in-chief of TechProGuild, an editor of PC Troubleshooter and Windows Support Professional, and also works as a freelance Web designer and consultant.

Is PC Expo your source for the latest tech tools and gadgets? Do you attend any other trade shows or conferences to stay informed about new products? Give us your thoughts by posting a comment below, or send us a note.

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