Info appliances main thrust of Computex

Are we barking, up the wrong tree?

Computex 2000 Everywhere you went in this year's bustling Computex show, the emphasis seemed to be on information appliances. Whether it was set top boxes you wanted or handheld devices, it seemed that the entire Taiwanese industry is gearing itself up for a convergence revolution.

Personally, we prefer a TV set to stay a TV set, without all of this surfing stuff muddying up our living room, but the industry may be right and this new revolution could be the best thing since sliced bagels. Once again, and for the third year in a row, National Semiconductor with its Geode seemed to be making most of the running, although the Intel stand also had some devices and displays, based on its StrongArm offering.

The star of the Info Appliance offering, however, was clearly the Transmeta device shown at the FIC (First International Computing) stand. It had two models there -- one pinned to the wall, and the other in the hands of a dummy dressed in a revolting suit. A dummy holding a dummy? Well, a close examination of the FIC Aqua did seem to reveal that it was a dummy too, made of wood. Transmeta is pushing the boat out at PC Expo in a fortnight where, no doubt, we can expect to see yet more dummies, and even more suits.

Quite a few of the firms were showing FlexATX designs and boxes on their stands, but that was the case a year ago, and despite Intel's best attempts to push the Concept PC design, there still seem to be rather fewer legacy-free designs around than we would have expected, given the level of continual hype these designs have received.

This year, Computex was split into three areas (four if you count the suites in the Hyatt), with the organisers, Cetra, expanding into Hall Two, where many of the larger and smaller mobo firms, including FIC, Gigabyte, Asus and Acorp, had set up camp. The main hall was packed with a multitude of other firms, including monitor companies like CTX and ViewSonic, and more esoteric booths from firms such as the unfortunately named Assman and companies selling everything from harness clips to mice.

Cetra was strangely coy this year to give figures for the number of buyers that had tipped up at Computex -- we asked for those figures on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday -- but they were not to be had for love nor for dosh, apparently.

But we found out eventually. European buyers registered a 120 per cent increase over last year, with 1,448 tipping up. Central and South America saw 152 buyers, compared to 75 last year. Asian buyers rose to 3,501 from 2,136; African buyers numbered 63, while Oceania delivered 297, compared to 139 last year.

The USA was top dog, sending 1,341. Korea delivered 964, Hong Kong 725, Japan 715, and Germany 297. If Red China carries out its threat to prevent direct flights from Hong Kong to Taipei, there's going to be far fewer buyers from there next year. As it is, there are no direct flights from the Philippines to Taiwan -- and that means a seven hour detour via Hong Kong. The rumours are that it is Red China pressure that prevents these flights from happening.

Taiwan is an IT powerhouse and Computex proves that. In 1999, Taiwan exported something over $46 billion of IT related kit. Organisers of Computex say that the 23 September quake last year failed to dampen output, and IT related exports represent a huge chunk of the country's wealth. More on this later.

Meanwhile, the show goes on. Tomorrow the 2000 World Congress on Information Technology starts, with Bill Gates, winsome Carly Fiorina and John Chambers speaking. The Register will be there to record what these bloominaries have to say. ®

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