- Summary -
Global Emerging Technology Institute
It was billed as the largest technology trade event on the East Coast and was recently held in New York City. TECHXNY was considerably smaller than last year's event, and several symposia were dropped, including one on Mobile Connections (replaced by a small seminar) and "Storage & High Availability." The continuing problems with the U.S. economy, especially in the telecommunications sector, led to tighter IT budgets and hence the more toned down atmosphere with a smaller number of exhibiting companies. Due to the collapse of IT spending and concerns that the U.S. economy will take much longer to recover than was first proclaimed by many market analysts, many attendees believed that there was little ground breaking made in the way of displaying new, innovative products. Yet, there were some interesting new products and technologies that were introduced. There was a distinct emphasis on enterprise applications, wireless accessibility of corporate networks, related security issues and enterprise data storage solutions.
One of the most interesting new products was Microsoft's new Tablet PC. Windows XP for Tablet PC edition (a morph of handwriting recognition software, PC, and paper) will be available in early November. The Tablet PC will use a superset of Windows XP Professional, along with an Office XP Pack for Tablet PC that has pen capabilities. The interesting thing about the Tablet PC is its ability to change from regular laptop PC into tablet form, which allows one to write directly on the screen as if writing on a pad of paper. Fujitsu PC Corp. showed a Tablet PC that clicks into a quick-release dock with an optical drive bay and keyboard, mouse, and other ports for desktop duty (and can pivot between portrait and landscape display in both modes). Though there were introductions of new desktop machines and advanced flat displays, more interest was paid to PDAs.
Palm, the PDA maker, introduced mobile products related to the enterprise market by showcasing its next O/S 5 geared for enterprise applications. Sony had a major presence at the event in this area, showcasing the company's new CLIE personal entertainment organizers with the introduction of the PEG-N610C and PEG-S320 models for the U.S. market. Increasing competition led Canada-based Blackberry to introduce the new line of its two-way pager products, in an effort to protect its share of the corporate PDA market. RIM said the BlackBerry device would include new handhelds, network standards, enterprise software, international expansion and partnerships. Considering the past success of the Blackberry in the corporate market, it is reasonable to believe that much more attractive and functional handsets coming from other foreign makers will eventually eat into Blackberry's U.S. business.
Regarding one of the key, main themes of the conference, mobile wireless, things did look more promising considering the fact that the U.S. is clearly still at least three years behind Japan in this area, which is ahead of the typical U.S. wireless industry benchmark, Europe. That goes for systems and related equipment, especially the commercial introduction of next-generation mobile wireless systems and related handsets. What was promising was the planned introduction of new types of converged PDA/phone devices, which included the Kyocera 7135 Smartphone and T Mobile pocket PC phone. Both of these phones double as a PDA and a cell phone, both are relatively small, but not as compact as what you would expect in Japan. Both have a color screen and boast the fastest connect speeds to the internet by a wireless device, with speeds of at least 20-30kbps. The Kyocera phone incorporates CDMA2000 1X technology, which supports both voice and data services over a standard (1X) CDMA channel, and provides many performance advantages over other technologies, including supporting peak data rates of up to 153 kbps (and up to 307 kbps in the future), without sacrificing voice capacity for data capabilities. Kyocera considers CDMA2000 1X in the U.S. "3G", the pre-cursor to 1xEV-DO, which will provide peak rates of over 2 Mbps, with an average throughput of over 700 kbps - comparable to wireline DSL services and fast enough to support even demanding applications such as streaming video and large file downloads. The T Mobile phone, on the other hand, runs on the country's only nation-wide GPRS network at speeds up to 56K. Though the above are touted as example's of America's 3G networks, some would argue that they have a long way to go before reaching what is currently offered in Japan.
More than the issues of mobile 3G, security for wireless networks was emphasized in relation to Wireless LANs. Many people, including corporate presenters during individual meetings, claimed that the U.S. will focus on developing Wireless LANs and attempt to by-pass 3G mobile wireless directly and develop 4G by the end of the decade. Currently advertised 3G mobile networks in the U.S. were scrutinized. Though this may sound understandable considering the financial difficulties of the wireless carriers, it is clear that many observers are concerned about the security of the broad variety of wireless LAN systems in the market, and the issue is even more pronounced when most of the LAN talk was about pushing propriety data to end users through a secure channel.
Speakers were critical of 3G cellular nets, along with various fixed and/or broadband wireless solutions linking together 802.11 wireless LAN "hotspots." These critiques cited bandwidth, reliability, and coverage constraints. For example, 802.11b users are already encountering interference from microwave ovens, in both home and office settings according to one panel discussant. The panel agreed that more advanced versions of the above will face the same type of potential problems. There also seemed to be a competition going on between which technology standard is the best and most secure. For example, Nextel recently tested OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing) WWAN technology, which reportedly offers much higher bandwidth than competing CDMA, along with "end-to-end IP security and completely seamless wireless roaming", quoted a company spokesman which continued to claim that OFDM was a "4G" (fourth-generation) cellular architecture technology. Expect more debate and similar claims until a truly dependable, secure network is deployed and used by the corporate sector.
According to a poll of the attendees, wireless technologies and security were picked as the hottest areas for corporate IT budgets. Even though security and data recovery planning were big themes this year at TECHXNY, attendance at security and data recovery seminars and conferences was light. Harold Hendershot, head of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), appealed to the private sector to work more closely with government agencies on critical infrastructure security and the development of standards. Mr. Hendershot reminded attendees that the U.S. is a favorite target of hackers due to its dependence on IP networking. Gilman Louie, the president and CEO of In-Q-Tel, the technology venture arm of the CIA, re-iterated this concern during his keynote address.
Japanese firm participation was significant, as firms such as Sony, Kyocera, Panasonic, Casio, Olympus, Pioneer and others seemed to have helped to provide the backbone for the entire gathering, other than the leading U.S. firms such as Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Xerox, Hewlett-Packard, and Palm. Most advanced hardware, including those introduced by U.S. firms, was produced in Japan or Asia. Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies included not only large consumer electronics firms, but also interesting smaller companies with data storage solutions, no-name MP3 manufacturers and miniature card reader technology companies. New miniature flash storage products were a draw in regard to new computing device offerings, which will lead to the certain quick demise of the use of floppy disks in the near future. With an onboard CPU, these personal storage devices simply connect with a computer's serial bus (USB) port for data usage without the need to install drivers. Other slightly larger hard drives which do require drivers were introduced but were extremely small, thin and portable, about the size of an MP3 player. Small hard drive and flash disk data storage products are growing in popularity with corporations, government officials, and educators who need to carry spreadsheets around from department to department and other large data files. All of the above made its way to the event via the East, the Far East.
TechXNY 2003 is already planned for next year. It is still unlikely that IT budgets in the U.S. will quickly recover by then. Yet, the promise of the U.S. market in the wireless area is great, especially, on the business application side, which is where most U.S. firms are putting most of the energy into developing new products. Many of the key areas of potential growth will provide tremendous opportunities for foreign manufacturers, since it was clear that U.S. innovation, especially on the design side, must seek production and manufacturing partners in Japan and Asia in order to bring commercialized new technologies to the market place.