Wave Issue 0340 12/05/03
September 22 - 26
It would be hard to correlate last year's Computex with this one - yes it is that different. Now there are three halls, major American companies are here and the whole tenor of the show is different. This is the most important PC hardware show - bar none.
Computex has grown up. The floor is packed. Gone are the slapstick antics. There is even a hotel shuttle. The pressroom was the best we have see it. But most important this is where the PC hardware action is. Competition is everywhere. The Taiwanese are closer than ever before to the cutting edge. In some 4 hours all we did was walk the floor, which we estimate to be at least 50% larger than last year. Half of the Second floor of the WTC is full of booths. There are 1,248 exhibitors. The organizers are proud to claim that Computex is now larger in booth count than COMDEX.
Major American companies had significant floor booths. This included Microsoft, Intel, AMD, TI, and Broadcom.
Microsoft was on the main floor at the corner of the software pavilion. I believe this is the first time it has exhibited at Computex.
Intel had one of the most impressive booths. It was all white and the exhibit elements, both for Intel and its partners, well done. Intel had organized groups walking the floor under the sign - Intel Important Buyer Tour. Cool marketing.
Broadcom had the only sealed booth. It was basically a thick black foam wall all around the exhibit floor. I asked them:
Since you have the only closed booth at Computex does this mean you have nothing to show?
Response: No Comment
Then I take it that my observation is correct?
Not clear why Broadcom bothered to come to Computex.
The competitive jostling between AMD and Intel is everywhere. Intel has planted is signs all over booths of companies using its products and the same with AMD.
For the first time we see Taiwanese companies making a major push into the server space. This takes the form of blade servers and disk array systems (SAN).
The impact of Taiwanese production of TFT LCD panels is striking. Last year we saw a few stands with just displays and now they are everywhere. This was the last missing link where a Taiwanese Inc can now claim all the pieces of the PC hardware puzzle.
Much expanded from last year are the special pavilions. These included.
Presentations at Computex
Linksys Lays Out Future of Home Networking
Victor Tsao, VP and GM, Linksys, Division of Cisco, gave a presentation on "The Next Generation of Consumer Electronics: Wireless Home Networking." The central theme was:
Everything will be wirelessly connected. All home networks will have an intelligent gateway at the center.
The talk was laden with market numbers.
Today there are 22m home networks by 2006 there will be 65m
In 2006 the number of wireless networks will be 36.2m for an annual sales rate of $3.7B. At that time, wireless will represent 70% of all the home networks.
In 2003 consumers buy 48% of the wireless network equipment and 43% by the enterprise.
The geographic distribution is:
The number of home network connections will rise from
The types of connections say a lot:
A central focus of the Linksys view is that there will be a wireless
home that combines:
One element of the Linksys view of home networking is the integration of entertainment equipment, that is, consumer electronics. The presentation showed home entertainment vendors of:
There are many possibilities for home networking and CE. Victor listed many devices from set top box to DVD to entertainment centers to televisions. In this respect the Linksys view is quite similar to that of Sony.
The future home showed this end game. An interesting point is that Linksys sees the need for NAS within the home. This would certainly drive up the bandwidth needs.
Victor closed by saying that the value of Linksys Cisco is being able to connect end-to-end.
Mark Yuan, COO of CyberTAN, gave the Taiwanese perspective of the WiFi industry. In many respects his talk complemented that of Victor's. Some of the details included.
"WiFi in the home is a solution looking for a problem." He
then asked the question - What do consumers want? The answer is:
In the evolution of home networking the end game was with an intelligent wireless gateway.
Mark stated that 40m pieces would be shipped from Taiwanese companies
Craig Barratt, President and CEO, Atheros Communications gave an interesting talk.
Atheros provides the chips to Sony. In June 2003 Sony began shipping models of the WEGA televisions that have 802.11 built-in, just shipping now is a total Sony flat screen system. This included the monitor and a hand held device, similar to the Air board. This new device is a hand held LCD panel that allows for independent television watching and television control.
Two major issues, which must be addressed in this wireless connected home, are:
Property rights protection; and
It is hoped that progress will be made on this over the next year.
Craig went so far as to assert that WiFi could, in dense urban areas, become ubiquitous. To support this notion he claimed that techniques to increase the range of WLAN beyond small areas would transform how it is used. He made passing reference to 802.16 but only in terms of back haul.
A curious statement was also made:
It was predicted that by 2006 telematics would be a major application area.
Atheros ships 70% of its chips to Taiwanese companies.
From the Show Floor
We noted a significant rise in products in the following areas:
We should not assume that the core competency base has fully shifted here. We probed in two areas and found weaknesses.
IP KVM switches are a category dominated by US companies. Prices are artificially high at $2,500 but the BOM is much less. We spoke with a Taiwanese company, Uniclass Technology, who has an excellent first product in this space. So far they only OEM their product but are considering broader distribution. The cost of their box is only $600. It was fun discussing what it took to enter worldwide markets. The Marketing Manager at Uniclass Technology was in full agreement that much remains to be done with both product and how it is marketed. Translation - technology alone does not earn a position in WW markets to collect market share.
iSCSI is the other area, which stands to significantly shift the PC landscape. There are many disk array cabinet companies here, many providing SCSI interfaces for IDE internal drives. However, every single company I spoke with did not have an iSCSI product. They all hinted next year but this can mean anything.
FIC Media PC that Looks Like CE
In the FIC booth, under glass, was a Consumer Electronics PC. There was no literature; it is under "NDA" and basically a media PC. The ID was well done and form factor was close to that of an LCD television but has many of the PC attributes included a KB and mouse, which are wireless. There is also a remote control, which appeared to be IR. The product is due to be released in the US in October.
Their top end intelligent broadband gateway, the WL-500g includes the
The price is $100 FOB Taiwan.
It's called the V-Mouse (model VM-101). It looks like an upside down pen with the pointing end of the pen opposite the surface. It uses a blue LED for illumination for this corded product. Moving the "pen" along the mouse pad does the tracking - it is like an eraser pointer but the actual mouse surface is flat and slides along the surface. The one we saw in the booth had a black patch in the corner of the mouse pad. This actually contained a magnet that allowed the mouse to dock and remain upright when not used. The mouse buttons are accessible with the forefinger and a rocking switch. Price is $17 FOB.
I was impressed by how ridiculous this product is. Hard to use, anti-mouse in feel and function and entertained by its total lack of utility.
As PC trade shows decline this is one of the few which is growing. We could see no signs of a SARS impact. It should be noted that Computex moves back to the first week in June for 2004 to be better positioned for the buyers that come purchasing for back to school and the holidays.