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COMDEX Fall: the view from the Cab

from our favourite Vegas taxi driver

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Guest Opinion As a veteran Las Vegas Taxi Driver and someone who has played with PCs even longer (I once even owned a Commodore Pet), I have always looked forward to the Fall COMDEX Show coming to town. This year was no exception, but even with the lowered expectations after last year's post-911 debacle and the continuing bleeding out of the Tech Industry, it seemed to be an anemic shade of what was once the largest trade show in Sin City.

Where were the valiant defenders of the Gates? I did not have the pleasure of meeting one Microsoft staffer, nor one from Real Networks, Apple, Dell, Sony or Sun. And not one young cheery bright-eyed geek, zealously peddling a worthwhile new product.

There were no hotels shrouded in gigantic corporate logos. There was no plethora of advertising on/in taxis, on billboards, or on bus shelter signs. My taxicab company's official receipt for the week was still branded Nordstrom, which had their grand Las Vegas opening two weeks previously.

There were a few occasions I conveyed Key3 personnel, and after talking with them, I wonder if it is possible to short a delisted public stock, when said stock's value is... well... effectively zero.

Take me to your Leaderene

I did drive several groups of HP'ers. They all had on a public face of subdued optimism, but then they had become drones to the Mothercorporate years ago. The Vegas HP meetings since the ascension of Fiorina have been weirdly homogeneous for a tech fete. All wear the same branded T-Shirts with the same lame slogan du-jour on it.

All come out of meetings chanting the same fervent mantras (HP good, Gateway bad). A dressed down version of a REMAX cheap blue polyester blazer meet. Ah, the warmth and fuzziness of the corporate Tao. I did pick up a lucky one who had been at COMPAQ and had managed to evade the subsequent downsizing. His piety had a slight tang of bitterness when he talked about his laid off friends.

A Finnish Nokia employee had to be told that it was a joke when I queried him about their new product, The Nokluia Irradiator Cell Phone. Is it just my arrogantly naive American ethnocentrism, or do the Finns have the same sense of humor as Swiss bankers? An Ericsson Swede would have understood immediately.

One upper-end IBM lifer, definitely limo calibre, rode with me. This type of rider has become nearly extinct in the era of the ostentatious stretch, but it seemed that he'd worked himself up the ladder and preferred the utility of a taxicab over the big show of a limo. He'd worn his share of gray suits, and wouldn't be caught dead showering behind a $6,000 piece of plastic.

He was polite and confident wearing his expensive dark-blue board room uniform, and was sure that IBM was on the right track with their reentry into the PC market, and the pushing of their Linux servers. He was surprisingly honest when discussing Linux security .

Many Taiwanese were in attendance at COMDEX, and I may have improved my ear for Chinese linguistic differentiation. I think that I've progressed beyond discerning the difference between the White, the Mainland, and the Hong Kong variants; I can now tell the difference between Taipei and Tainan affectations. Care to celebrate with me? Bloody OEM hell!

Now on to the darkside... The U.S Postal Service had their own exhibit, and announced a partnership with Microsoft. The end is near.

Telecoms is back

For two years, the upside of the tech economic downturn has been the demise of the bestial telecommer. The vultures are back, looking for fresh carrion, and believing once again that they are pre-ordained to rule the world. Listen up you technofools, Mozart coming out of a cheesy speaker in low-fi digital monotones isn't "cool", and either is some 80's new wave hook that sucked in realtime twenty years ago.

But the telecom employees I picked-up at the recent CTIA show were a lot less arrogant than they had been at the various trade show in previous years, with the exception of a Cingular Clown. He bragged a little bit about their acquistions and a possible IPO next year. I guess the telecom meltdown and the subsequent layoffs has made them agreeable.

A couple of years ago it was almost impossible to get through a trade show of any kind without running into some suit working for a TeleCorp, even shows that were not tech orientated.

The ever insolent investment banker was here again this year, too after a no-show last year.

As a final note, I would like to warn the poor Sys-Admins and IT Security personnel of the world about the inherent dangers of the handheld devices. Get out your clue sticks out and set them to heavy stun.

Even at high tech shows like COMDEX, I am amazed by the lack of security awareness. Your lusers are drooling network info all over the place. PDAs with network access should be password protected, as should all sensitive work product and personal data. Important papers should not be left in the outside pouches of valises that are thrown unceremoniously into the boot of a taxi.

Database info should not be shared with others while in the presence of strangers, even if that stranger is a driver of a hack. I am not malicious, but I am curious, and when the cells and PDAs get left in the taxi, I will push some buttons before I return them to their owners.

Now only if Key3 Media can save themselves from the black hole of a $400,000,000 debt, maybe I'll see you next year at Fall COMDEX 2003. ®

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