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Monday, 13 November, 2000, 15:58 GMT
Gates hands down his tablet
Bill Gates AP
Bill Gates giving the keynote speech at Comdex Fall 2000
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Gadgets have retaken the centre stage at the Comdex Fall 2000 computer trade show.


The browser model, which has been the focus for the last five years, really is showing its age

Bill Gates, Microsoft
The most talked about events and exhibits at the autumn Comdex are expected to be novel types of personal computers, webphones and chips rather than dot.com companies.

Many of the net companies that dominated the last two Comdex shows have gone bust leaving older names in the technology industry to show off their wares.

Dot.coms might be in decline but networks, both phone and computer-centred, have become key to many of the products being shown off in Las Vegas.

Dot.com demise

The twice-yearly Comdex show has been dominated in the last 12 months by dot.coms eager to establish their name.

Last year's autumn show saw stands by 600 dot.coms. Now, many of those showing off last year have gone bust or cannot afford to splash out on lavish stands.

But Comdex Fall 2000 has seen a return to the roots of the show, and the biggest announcements have come from established companies showing off their new gadgets.

As in previous years, Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, gave the opening address of the show. This time he focussed on the importance of the PC and said news of its imminent demise were exaggerated.

In Mr Gates' view of the future, desktop computers play a dominant role. As might be expected for the head of a company that sells more software for desktop computers than anyone else, Mr Gates had no time for views that saw little role for the PC.

Networks and nodes

In his opinion, powerful desktop computers will be needed to make sense of the huge amounts of information residing on networks we are calling on more and more. He saw no future in trying to access or make sense of this information with a low-powered device such as a smartphone or a palm-sized computer.

Tablet AP
The Microsoft tablet computer
Microsoft's recently announced dot.net strategy demands relatively powerful personal computers that will be able to interpret and use the seamless slew of Microsoft applications sitting on networks ready to be rented and used.

To support his vision, Mr Gates showed off a tablet PC that is as powerful as many of the deskbound computers available today.

The slim PC can do basic handwriting recognition but users will have to enter and manage large amounts of information by typing or talking. Microsoft's tablet PC is due to be available in 2002.

"The browser model, which has been the focus for the last five years, really is showing its age," said Mr Gates.

Industry figures at odds with Mr Gates, such as the outspoken head of Oracle, Larry Ellison, are expected to strike a different note when they address the show.

Tablet races

Microsoft will be launching its tablet PC very late. At Comdex Fall 2000, partners AOL and Gateway unveiled a wireless web tablet that gives subscribers access to the AOL internet service. The web browsing machine uses chips from Transmeta and is due to go on sale early next year.

Separately, Sonicblue, Honeywell and Netpliance are expected to unveil similar devices.

Although dot.coms are fading away, the internet, and networks generally, remain central to the plans of almost all companies. Almost all of the devices being unveiled rely on having a network connection, be it phone or data-based, to get the most out of them.

The show is also expected to see the unveiling of many smartphones, plus extras for existing ranges of PDA and palm-top computers.

Also expected to be unveiled at the show are many internet-connected appliances that people can interrogate and manage remotely provided they have access to an internet connection.

Also at Comdex, chip giant Intel is expected to show off its 1.4 and 1.5GHz Pentium 4 processors that will go on sale inside desktop machines later in November.

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See also:

30 Dec 99 | Business
1999: the year of the net
03 Mar 00 | Business
Living the W@P life at CeBIT
22 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Windows embraces the web
13 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Sony holds up its palms
19 Apr 00 | Business
Microsoft's third try to go mobile
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